Connecting with family reunions

Summer is a great time for family reunions and we had the opportunity to reconnect with my mom’s family in August.  There are 62 of us (four generations), but only 28 of us were able to attend this year. It was a lot of fun to catch up with family we don’t see very often.Family_reunion

My sister and her husband hosted the reunion at their home, which has plenty of space for large groups to eat and play. They also had a brilliant idea to ask a friend who does photography as a hobby to come and hang out for the day and take some candid and formal shots. We have some great photos to help us remember the day! Most of us are so busy talking, eating and playing that we often forget to take pictures.

We were also supposed to attend a family reunion on my husband’s side of the family. We were really looking forward to this event, because we had never met these family members. My husband’s great-uncle’s family has been having family reunions for decades, but they were unaware that there were extended family members who lived close enough to attend. We connected through and because their relative was the oldest in the family, they have a great deal of old family photos and documents. Unfortunately, we were unable to attend due to my being quite ill with a “bug” and subsequently, a migraine. They hold their reunions annually, so we hope to attend next year.

My dad’s family has been scattered and distant due to the death of his mother when most of the children were school-aged. They were raised in different homes, and to the best of my knowledge, the last time all eight were in the same location was at their mother’s funeral in 1936. They have all passed away, but we cousins are beginning to connect through social media.

Pat_meI recently located my dad’s brother’s oldest daughter through a combination of searches and Facebook. She was anxious to meet her cousins and traveled from Chicago to Portland for a visit last week. I shared old photos I’ve acquired and it was interesting to hear her tell stories about her dad, step-mom and siblings. It helped fill in the blanks for both of us, although I suppose there will always be questions about how our dads and their siblings coped (or failed to cope) during those childhood years after their mother died. We hope to connect with the other cousins from our dads’ side of the family next summer with a reunion and discover more about our shared history.

I’d love your suggestions and tips for organizing family reunions. What would make you attend a reunion? Have you hosted a reunion?

Presidential relations

white houseBefore anyone get’s the wrong impression, this blog post is NOT a Monica Lewinsky-type confessional. Neither the husband or I can brag about being direct descendants of Presidents or First Ladies, but since we are celebrating Presidents’ Day, I thought it might be interesting to explore how we might be connected (if at all) to those who have occupied the White House. has a cool feature that allows subscribers to find famous relatives, and this is what I discovered.

Speaking of Monica, President Bill Clinton is the husband’s 5th Cousin 1 times removed on his mother’s side of the family.

RBHayesHis paternal side of the family is a little better connected:
First Lady Elizabeth Kortright Monroe – 5th Cousin 5 times removed
First Lady Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison – 6th Cousin 3 times removed
President Millard Fillmore – 8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Jane Means Appleton Pierce – 5th Cousin 5 times removed
President Rutherford B. Hayes  – 6th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Lucy Ware Webb Hayes -6th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Ellen Louis Axson Wilson  – 7th Cousin 2 times removed
President Richard M. Nixon – 7th Cousin 1 times removed

My connections on my dad’s side of the family:
First Lady Jane Means Appleton Pierce – 5th Cousin 7 times removed
First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley – 6th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt – 7th Cousin 3 times removed
Teddy_RooseveltPresident Theodore Roosevelt – 7th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Ellen Louis Axson Wilson – 7th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge –  8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Lou Henry Hoover –  9th Cousin 2 times removed
First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy – 10th Cousin 2 times removed (Hey, Caroline! Can I drop in on the family at Hyannis Port?)
President Richard Nixon – 7th Cousin 3 times removed
President Jimmy Carter – 6th Cousin 4 times removed

My connections on my mom’s side of the family:
President Rutherford B Hayes – 6th Cousin 6 times removed
First Lady Lucy Ware Webb Hayes – 8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt – 8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Ellen Louis Axson Wilson – 8th Cousin 4 times removed,
First Lady Elizabeth Wallace Truman (or Bess, as the family calls her) – 8th Cousin 3 times removed
President George H.W. Bush – 8th Cousin 1 times removed
President George W. Bush – 9th Cousin (Get the BBQ goin’ in Crawford, Cousin, ‘cause I’m comin’ by for a visit!)

If only our common ancestors had kept in touch! Do you have any presidential relations?

2013 goals

I learned quite a bit reviewing 2012, and used that information to make a plan for 2013. However, it’s time to stop looking back and start moving forward!

Writing Goals
Post blogs three days a week:  I realize that blogging five days a week is not realistic for me, and trying to do so was causing more stress than pleasure.
Write 1000 words per week: I want to finish a writing project this year, but it’s a little overwhelming. I’ve decided to tackle it chunk by chunk.

Health Goals
Research and try migraine treatments: I saw my neurologist in November and there is nothing new on the horizon for the treatment of migraines. However, I am always receiving kind messages from caring friends who have heard that this or that worked for someone. I’m open to trying anything with the approval of my doctor.
pilatesConsistent exercise: I enjoy my treadmill and Zumba, but both tend to bother my tennis elbow. Yoga is challenging and I usually feel like a complete klutz, so I stopped exercising for a few months. An acquaintance mentioned her love of Pilates and gave me a couple of DVDs to try. So far I’m liking it!
PT for tennis elbow: Speaking of tennis elbow, I need to get back to doing the physical therapy. No excuses!

Household Goals
Organize every room and closet in the house: This shouldn’t be too difficult since there are just two of us living in our home. It’s really not too bad, but there are a few things in every area that are driving me a little nuts. There are 12 rooms and closets, so organizing one per month seems very doable!

Personal Goals
Read two books: For those who are voracious readers, this may seem like a very small and silly goal. I love to read, but it’s always something that gets shoved to the end of my priority list. I love history and set out to read a biography of every president before I leave this world. I’ve only read two so far, so I need to pick up the pace. The husband and I have chosen to eliminate some television so we can both spend more time reading.
Document family history: Again, I love history and what better way to explore it than by discovering the roles my ancestors played. I hope to keep scanning photos and documents my mom and I uncover while organizing her house (that’s another goal!) I’m limiting this to one day per week as it can burn a LOT of time.
Plan 34th anniversary trip: The husband and I take turns planning long weekends to celebrate our anniversary. It’s my year and I have some great ideas for a memorable getaway!


Spiritual growth: This is an ongoing goal. Truthfully, nothing else is very successful and I’m out of balance if I neglect to nurture spiritual growth.

I have a few other goals I’m considering, but for now, these seem realistic. And as always, I plan to accomplish them with *finesse!

What are your goals?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Sharing memories

A rare photo of my dad with his dad

The last of my dad’s siblings passed away recently. Aunt Bunny and I weren’t particularly close, so I had no idea how many family photos and memorabilia she possessed. Possibly because she outlived her siblings, many cousins and two of her three children, she became the logical repository for such family treasures.

Her son Mark and his wife Alice encouraged family to make copies before they took the photos back to their home in another state. My cousin and I scanned photos and genealogy information for several hours, but didn’t quite finish before Mark and Alice were scheduled to hit the road. I’ve continued scanning off and on for several weeks and have just a few more photos left to scan. Whew!

My dad’s mother with some of his older siblings (abt. 1924)

I’m grateful that my aunt kept the photos and documents in good shape, but there are two things she could have done to make these treasures more valuable for the next generation.

Labeling: Most of the photos have some sort of writing on the back, however, some of the writing was faded or illegible. Most of the information was first names only, which isn’t very helpful if you’re trying to connect them with a certain family. Dates and locations would also have been great information.

Share: As the oldest member of the family, it would have been very helpful if Aunt Bunny had shared the photos and documents before dementia faded her memory. It would have been so interesting to hear the stories that accompanied the photos. We also could have been enjoying family history and posting information to instead of it being stored away in boxes.

My dad’s sister Goldie with his soldier brothers Russell and Orville. (abt. 1943)

I plan to work with my mother (who is the oldest of her siblings and the oldest of the remaining cousins on both her mother and father’s side of the family) to not only label photos with names, dates and locations, but include relationships. We need to scan photos and documents for other family members to enjoy now.

What history and memories do you have stored in boxes? Sharing them would make an excellent Christmas present!

Writing research

I wrote about doing some research on the history of our property back in April (Playing detective).  I mentioned that it was requiring a “HUGE amount of *finesse,” but that finesse has paid off!

I was researching the family that had lived here in 1930 on, and was having difficulty following the information due to the number marriages between the two prominent family lines and similar names. I’d contacted two family members that had posted trees, but they did not have any helpful information.

However, I did receive an email from a family member I had not contacted. He turned out to be the great-grandson of the previous owner. He said his mother was anxious to speak with me regarding the horrific events that took place on the property that involved her mother’s family. Since that time I have exchanged many emails with various family members who all live in the Mid-west. I even received a packet of family photos, some taken on the property!

This afternoon I’m sitting down with two elderly ladies who lived in the area during the period of time that the previous family lived here. Funny, but I would have never known to speak with these two ladies (one still lives in the area, the other is here visiting relatives) without receiving that contact through

My research finesse level:  Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your research finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Organizing payoff

My dad at 10 years old. Probably a class photo from Binnsmead Elementary, Portland, OR.

Several months ago I wrote about the effort to help my mother organize her nearly 80 years of collecting ( We had made some progress in her kitchen, living room and family room before taking a much needed break from the enormous task.

Last week she had a leak around her water heater, so the husband stopped by to take a look. The sight of her garage filled with boxes made my heart sink. Now I fully understood why she was under the impression her garage was not really a two car garage. It was clearly time to take a stab at organizing again.

It was a little difficult to decide how to tackle the gargantuan amount of stuff. Because she had help when she moved from her late husband’s home, I don’t think she really knew what was in each box. We decided to start in one corner and work our way around. My sister joined us for a few hours and we worked together with great *finesse, keeping each other on task, which can be difficult when you come across “treasures.” My goal was to get a space cleared in front of the electrical panel so mom could check a breaker without breaking her neck and hopefully get as far as the cabinets, which I’m guessing is about 8 feet from the corner.

My dad, Richard and his older brothers, Russell and Del

We didn’t quite meet that goal, but we did get an unexpected payoff. Mom found some old photos of my dad from his childhood. There was a great photo of him at maybe six to nine months old with his two older brothers. What a treasure! We also came across letters from his sisters and other documents that will be a great addition to my genealogy research on still have a LOT to do, but with every load we haul to recycling and thrift shops, we are making progress!

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)


I love history, so it’s probably no surprise that I also love digging into my ancestry. When I’m able to connect a family member to a historic event, it makes history come alive. While researching my dad’s line, I came across such a connection. My great-grandfather’s great-great-grandfather was a Colonel in the American Revolutionary War.

Sunday, April 23, 1775, Joab Houghton, Sr. was worshiping in the Hopewell Baptist Meeting-house when he received the first information of Concord and Lexington, and of the retreat of the British to Boston with such heavy loss. His great-grandson gives the following eloquent description of the way he treated the tidings:

“Stilling the breathless messenger he sat quietly through the services, and when they were ended, he mounted the *great stone block in front of the meeting-house and beckoned to the people to stop. Men and women paused to hear, curious to know what so unusual a sequel to the service of the day could mean. At the first words a silence, stern as death, fell over all. The Sabbath quiet of the hour and of the place was deepened into a terrible solemnity. He told them all the story of the cowardly murder at Lexington by the royal troops; the heroic vengeance following hard upon it; the retreat of Percy; the gathering of the children of the Pilgrims round the beleaguered hills of Boston; then pausing, and looking over the silent throng, he said slowly: `Men of New Jersey, the red coats are murdering our brethren of New England! Who follows me to Boston?’ and every man of that audience stepped out into line, and answered `I!’ There was not a coward or a traitor in old Hopewell Baptist Meeting-house that day.”

A memorial to Col. Houghton and the events of April 23, 1775 erected July 4th, 1896 by the people of Hopewell.

Mr. Houghton was chosen leader of a party of volunteers who later left for Boston, the scene of the war. October 19, 1776, he was made a captain, and March 15, 1777, Lieutenant Colonel. Colonel Houghton was afterwards a member of the first Legislature of the State in 1784 and 1787, and also of the Baptist Church.

(Baptists and the American Revolution, Cathcart; 1876 rev. 1976)

I’m proud to be connected to such a great man who inspired and led men to fight for our independence. However, I’m equally as proud to be connected to my ancestors who took advantage of the opportunity to immigrate to this country. Whether famous or unknown, my ancestors helped to weave the fabric of our nation as officers and soldiers, teachers, preachers and farmers.

If you wonder what role your ancestors may have played in the development of this great nation, is offering free access to search 65 million records from the 13 original colonies, plus other patriot record through July 8.

Happy Independence Day!

*Just across the street in front of the church edifice, there stood a mounting block, consisting of a large stone six feet long, four feet wide, set on stone mason work three feet high, used especially by ladies in dismounting and mounting their horses as they came to or left church. The top of the stone was reached by steps.

Playing detective

I’ve been researching the history of our property and it’s requiring a HUGE amount of *finesse!

I’d heard stories of a murder-suicide involving the owners in the 1930s, and was able to dig up the account from The Oregonian. It’s a pretty interesting read, especially the style of writing, which would never pass for journalism today.

I wanted to find out more about the family, so I plugged their names into I wasn’t having much luck until I entered the name of the half-sister of the owner listed in the newspaper account. I was really excited until I started finding the same two surnames repeated over and over again. It appears this German family wanted to maintain their blood lines and married cousins.  

I was able to contact two of the family members that posted the family trees by email, so I’m hopeful they will respond and help me unravel the tangled twist and turns.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

My research finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert   

 What’s yours?