The Shinbone Star

This blog is named after the newspaper in the old John Wayne movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" which also starred James (Jimmy) Stewart and Lee Marvin. This is a place for my mind to wander and who knows what else. {smiling}

Location: Central Texas, United States

I am a Christian, born and raised in Texas. I attend church as my health allows. I am coordinator of the church food pantry- The Bread Of Life Pantry. It's a blessing to me. I am a cat person (I have nothing against dogs, I just purrfurr cats). I have 2 cats: Junior b. spring 1999, Petunia born spring of 2000. I am a Fox Fan! I enjoy old movies! I can in no way list favorite actors and actresses, it's too long a list. I also love cemeteries, reading headstones. I would love to write obituaries.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In a Monster's Way

On Friday, September the 12th, a monster of a storm was headed for the Texas coast. No one could be for certain, for days prior, just where 'Ike' would land. Corpus? Freeport? Galveston? If he went more westerly, he could have landed between Brownsville and Corpus Christi. More easterly, between Galveston and Southeast Louisiana. Ike didn't have his mind made up and that was a clear case of playing mind games with weather forecasters, hurricane experts, and the coastal communities of Texas.
A few days before folks in low lying areas, such as Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula, were told to evacuate. No maybe about it. You would think after his sister Katrina obliterated New Orleans, folks in the coastal regions of the country would be ready to move. Their sister Rita wasn't a good girl, either. Brother Gustav proved an orderly, and thus successful, evacuation was possible when set his sights on the South's party town. He had a hankering for jazz and jambalaya and their was nothing to do but get out of his way. And he wasn't that big, physically speaking. New Orleans, and the surrounding area, passed the evacuation test. While Gustav tested that capability, Ike chose to test Texas on the aftermath test. Time will tell if that test was passed or not.
I live in Central Texas, hundreds of mile inland. I watch weather events like most watch racing or ball and stick games. I am simply facinated by weather. I've never experienced a tornado much less a hurricane. With the former, you may get minutes to run and hide. The latter, days. Katrina woke me up, shook me up, and broke my heart. Enough said about her. So I've become more attentive. She was huge in physical size, but her brother Ike was larger. At 45, Ike is the largest hurricane I've ever seen. His western most edge was near Brownsville, Texas and his eastern most edge was near Pensacola, Florida. He was almost as big as the state he targeted. The uncertainity of his destination led to the call for evacuations in Texas from Corpus Christi to Beaumont. The closer he got, the smaller the area for mandatory evacuations became. A tremendous and meanacing monster, Ike had the central coast of Texas in his sight.
In the days since Ike landed, we have seen the amazing devastation and destruction he wrought in the counties of Galveston and Harris, two those hardest hit and most reported on. The west end of Galveston Island was reported early on as flooded. The fate of that end of the island was unkown. Fires that broke out on both Galveston Island and in Houston had to burn themselves out. On the island, the San Luis Hotel, a renown fortress like building, was home to the city government and other officials that stayed, including the media. I recall they stayed there during Rita's rampage. Despite it's reputation as a fortress, the San Luis even took a few noticable hits from Ike. The historic Balinese Room, built out over gulf waters, defiantly withstood sisters Carla and Alicia but their brother Ike was too much for the night club to handle. As stout as the Flagship Hotel looks, it suffered from Ike's blows. Ike tossed and scattered boats, big and small, like a child throwing a temper fit. Like swats from a child's angry hand, waves knocked houses down off of their stilts. Those obilterated totally appear to have been the victims of an angry's child's stomps. While Ike swatted and stomped hardest on Galveston Island, and later, we learned, the Bolivar Peninsula, he didn't leave surrounding communities untouched. Kemah, San Leon, Tiki Village, Bacliff, and many other places, were left ravaged by Ike. The televised pictures show a truth: a picture is worth a thousand words. I think I know why that is. When words fail to adequately describe, a picture speaks best, and often in volumnes. It took a while to get the images, but pictures confirmed what those rescued from Crystal Beach had said: "It's gone. It's all gone." From the ferry landing on the peninsula through Crystal Beach and Gilchrist, whole subdivisions are wiped out. Many didn't intend to stay but were just caught. A couple of days before landfall, Ike was sending out a storm surge, a surge that would purge both parts of Galveston Island and the majority of the Bolivar Peninsula. Those intending to leave the peninsula seemed to have been genuinely caught off guard. I've never heard of a storm surge arriving so far ahead of a storm and don't think they expected it. A far preceding storm surge was just one of Ike's quirks. He danced and dodged like a boxer. While some truly meant to leave before Ike arrived, many foolishly and purposely stayed. When the full extent of the damage was revealed in the light of day, I couldn't imagine why anyone intentionally stayed.
Ike was a Goliath of wind and water. Anyone with a television, or computer, could see the mammoth size of the approaching storm. I don't know about any of you, but if I see a monster coming at me, I am getting out of the way! Sitting here in my inland home in Central Texas, in McLennan county, I wondered if I should high-tail it. Originally, we were under a hurricane wind warning! I don't recall such a warning in the past, not even with Rita and at one time she was predicted to ride up I-35, and I am just a few blocks from the highway. As Ike moved inland, we were warned to be aware we could feel hurricane force winds and become drenched in torrential rain. Ike, as he was wont to do, dodged right, and we were spared the worst he could offer inland residents.
While I was dismayed at Ike and his antics and unpredictability, my mother was not. While I found myself alarmed at the prospect of that monster coming inland, my mother was not. At 71, she has lived long enough not to be so surprised, not that she can't be. She has said for many, many years Texas was long overdue for a major hurricane, ala Carla. She remembers Carla and she and dad didn't live on the coast! She says Carla stalled and, as she puts it, "Ducked her head and hit Texas on a dead run." They lived in Beverly Hills, a community surrounded by Waco, and Carla ripped off shingles from their new roof without a care in the world. Mother knows full well how a hurricane can march inland and what it can do. And that brings me to another point.
Comparing the present to the past, I've heard folks reflect how they have never seen a storm and it's devastation so bad. Those who ignored evacuation orders declared they didn't think the storm would be that bad. They determined they could ride it out because they rode out other storms in the past and survived. God only knows for sure just how many of those rode this storm right into eternity. I can't tell you how many times I've heard forecasters, and hurricane experts, say no two storms are alike. Did those folks not hear that? Katrina was no Carla who was no Alicia who was no Andrew who was no Allen who was no Rita who was no Fran and so forth and so on. Do all the children in a family act the same and have the same characteristics?
So to those who survived Ike, don't think you can survive the next storm. Don't be quick to assume "it won't be that bad". Survivors of Katrina probably thought she was a bad as it could get and likely that was the same thought of survivors of Carla, Allen, Andrew and the others. Ike will be outdone, just as his baddest sisters and brothers were. Don't expect the storm surge to arrive hours ahead of the landfall as Ike proved the surge can preceded the landfall by days. Don't assume it will go one way, staying on one path. Many storms have changed their minds and quite a few at the last minute. If tornadoes are the fingers of God, then hurricanes must be his hands. As sure as his fingers can flick away this place and that, this person and that, his hands can wipe away coastal property and wash lives out to sea. Natural disasters, in my opinion, are the most obvious power and proof of God. Who ever said "Don't mess with Mother Nature" was wrong. Acutally, you shouldn't mess with God, especially when he arrives in the form of a powerful storm.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


My paternal grandmother, Hazel Cunningham Butler, raised my interest in my family’s history in the few years prior to her death. She died August 15, 1986. With a handful of information, the following year I embarked an amazing, and frustrating, journey.
I had no idea what to do or how to do it. My first trip to the genealogical department at the Waco-McLennan County Library was daunting. The shelves were towering ramparts laden with history about people and places. The readers for the microfilm weren't that hard to use. Once I was shown how to thread the microfilm on the reels, it was a cinch. Resources were quite primitive. I didn’t get a computer for home until 2003, sixteen years after I first started. My research hasn’t been the same since. In the beginning, I also had to overcome my timidity of calling up folks I didn’t know, or were just ever so slightly acquainted with, and asking them questions. I could rightly have been called nosey. Like learning to ride a bike, I soon got the hang of it and never looked back.
My great-great grandfather James Cunningham had been twice married. He had nine children by his first wife and ten by his second. I am descended from the second marriage. For years I hunted for information and descendants from the first marriage, to no avail. I only had my computer a month, when I received a snail mail letter in response to a query posted on a genealogical site. It was from a descendant of the first marriage. While still joyfully reeling from that, another snail mail letter from another first marriage descendant came. “BINGO!” The first family opened up to me. I soon, within months, had distant cousins from the first marriage coming out of the woodwork!
More recently, in 2005, I finally got into my mother’s Miller family, her mother’s maiden name. My maternal grandmother, Addie Mae Marie ‘Missy’ Miller LaFrance Whitaker, died October 31, 2005. After her funeral I met the son of one of my mother’s cousins, James Miller. We exchanged emails and addresses. He sent me information and pictures that I treasure. Then in the early summer of 2006, after making an inquiry of the LaFrance family, mom’s maiden name, I got an email from her cousin Jimmy LaFrance. My mother’s side of the family opened up wide, real wide. The delay of getting into mom's family was due to the fact she didn't know much about them, having not grown up around her family. She has reconnected with many of them, though she'd always been in touch with her three sisters. Things happen out of a child's control. Don't let a lack of information hold you back. It may take time, but it'll come.
In and around these triumphs there has been frustration and brick walls. Nothing was as it seemed. Censuses, though most helpful, proved the most perplexing. Handwriting ranges from the clear to the horrendous. In some cases, the census taker just recorded initials for the first names. If you don’t already know the first names, how are you suppose to figure out, for example, who D, K, Q, S, B, and R, are?
You cannot always count on birth places for a clue. It may be right for a census or two, and wrong for two or three. One born in Germany, and so listed on a census, may on another census be listed as born in Bavaria or Hanover. A little googling for German history and maps will show both places were parts of Germany. My great-great-great grandmother, Philipena Bothme Wilcox, was born in Germany. There is another census that says Hanover.
Ages cannot always be counted on either. They tend to always be a few or so years off more so than right. I came up with a formula, on my own, and it didn’t take a PhD. to do it. Just when I think I am lacking common sense, I find more to spend. Knowing an ancestor’s, or related individual’s, birth year, I write it down. I list every census year between their birth and death, if that year is known. Using my computer’s calculator, I subtract that birth year from the census year. The result is their approximate age for a given census, approximate because it depends on the individual’s birthday in relation to the date of the census and whether or not I have the month or day. If you don’t know the death year, that’s okay. You know when you get to 80 and up it’s likely they’ll disappear from census records. At best, you can get a range. What is especially helpful is when other research can narrow that range down. That was the case concerning my great-great grandmother Fanny Holloway Bible, wife of William A. Bible, on my mother’s side. We don’t know when she died or where she is buried. I discovered they had their last child, John Frank Bible, May 11, 1898. Then I discovered a death record for their daughter Myrtle. Myrtle, at age 15, died of Typhoid March 20, 1910. I also discovered, though not to my surprise, on the 1910 census William’s wife’s name was Emma. We always heard he was either married before Fanny or afterwards. More searching turned up a marriage date for W. A. Bible and Emma Fisher, March 17, 1910. We now know Fanny died between 1898 and 1910, a broad expanse, but it’s better than what we had.
Another perplexing issue is the name game. Folks would use whatever name suited them at any particular moment, flip-flopping like a politician. A couple of fellows on my Cunningham line on my father’s side introduced me to the name game. Either a person is so inconsistent with what name they use it makes locating them almost impossible or they are so consistent no one knows they have a different name than what they are using. Fortunately, my aforementioned paternal grandmother did tell me her father’s name wasn’t just Neal. He was named Cornelius Madison Cunningham. Such openness was not the case in his brother Lee’s family. Lee’s youngest daughter, the late Mary Evelyn ‘Dutchie’ Cunningham Howell, always knew her father’s name as Lee. In some instances he is found as Lee A. Thinking it was actually Lee Andrew she suggested the two names for her only grandson. She was quite surprised when I told her he was actually Leander Alexander Cunningham, and proved it with copies of records. Neal’s and Lee’s brother Joseph Daniel Cunningham was the inconsistent one. He went by Joe, Dan, Joe Dan or J. D. He was so hard to find, until Dutchie Howell recounted her memory of his funeral to me in either the late 1980‘s or early 1990‘s. She said it was in the early 1930’s and cold as the dickens. She remembered the curtains on the car being down. It’s not rocket science to figure out the cold months are October through March, the coldest being November through January. She told me he had hung himself with a telephone wire on the front porch of the McLennan County Poor Farm. Until then, I didn’t know there was such a place. Using what she told me, I went hunting. I finally found my grandmother’s Uncle Joe. He died November 8, 1930. I even obtained a copy of his death certificate and had to quickly sit down and shake my head. His own brother Neal named him on the death certificate as Dan W. Cunningham! W! I’ll never know why or where that came from.
Misspellings were the next problem, both first and last names, the two that matter most. Middle names rarely show on censuses. In other records they may appear, wholly or just the initial, either correctly or be a different middle name, or initial, all together. I’ll start with the first names. Mom’s maternal grandfather was Burtis Samuel Miller, however, the first name can be found a Bertis or, as in the case of her brother named for him, Birtis. Burtis’s father’s name was just as bad, Cerilus Miller. Cerilus can be found as Serilis, Serilous, Cyrillos or Cyrillous. Also on my mom’s side, is the issue of Philipena Bothme Wilcox. She is found as Phillipina, Philipina, Philipene, Philopena and on her marriage record she is Tellycenia! Since I do not have actual proof of just how she spelled it, I’ve adopted Philopena. Because of the handwriting on the license, we aren’t too sure of her maiden name. Surnames are more frequently misspelled. Mom’s maiden name of LaFrance can be found with the two parts together or separate or as one name- Lafrance. An older half-sister of Neal, Lee, and Joe Cunningham, Margaret Cunningham, married Hosea Hammonds. That surname can be found as Hammons, Hammon, Hammond, and even Hermann and Harmon. Another older half-sister, Sarah Cunningham, married Thomas J. Dearman. That surname can be found as DeArman, DeArmand, DeArmond, Dearmon, Dearmond or Dearmand. The maiden name of my great-great grandmother, Rebecca Vermel Oliphant Miller, on my mother’s side, is another victim of misspelling. I have found it as Oliphant and Oliphent.
As if the name game and the misspellings are perplexing enough, there are the nicknames and abbreviations. Until I began my research I didn’t know Sally was an old nickname for Sarah. Here are a few other’s: Margaret- Maggie, Peggy, Betsy, Peg or Meg; Martha- Patsy; Catherine or Katherine- Cathy, Katie or Kate, with either C or K; Elizabeth is abound with nicknames- Eliza, Liza, Lizzie, Bess, Bessie or Beth, to name just a few; Mary- Mollie or Polly; Josephine- Jo or Josie; Johanna/Joanna/Joanne- Jo, Anne, Ann, Anna, even Hanna. The boys prove easy: James- Jim or Jimmy; Joseph- Joe or Joey; William- Will, Bill, Billy or Willie, to name just a few. I quickly figured out both Jhn. and Jno. are the abbreviations for John. Here are a few others: Chas.- Charles; Jas.- James; Danl.- Daniel; Rbt.- Robert.
Perhaps the names you encounter aren’t ‘English’. Recently there was an inquiry into my Miller branch. In a nutshell, there are equally similarities and differences between our Miller families. The 1850 Bastrop county, Texas census was referenced. It was one with first initials with only a child actually named. The point of interest was the daughter- L. Well, when all was said and done, L was Louise Miller, as the inquirer thought, but on her marriage record she was listed as Ludviska. It’s the German equivalent of Louise. In the end, the 1850 Miller family is not mine, and likely not the inquirers either. Such early censuses may reflect the family’s origins, such as Germany France, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, China, Ireland, Mexico or others. The sister of my great-great grandmother Johanna Wilcox LaFrance shows up in one census as Margaretha. Well, Margaret is so obvious. Margaretha is the German variation of Margaret. Margaret is even used on her marriage license and in the first census her and husband, John Valentine, appear in. My Margaretha was easy to figure out, while the unrelated Ludviska was not.
That is how it is. I have learned some names spelled in the family’s original language may be hard to figure out, while for others the English equivalent is obvious. So while researching, don’t be surprise if your Mary becomes a Polly, your Elizabeth a Lizzie or Eliza, your Catherine a Katie, Joseph a Joey or William a Willie. Further, don’t be surprised if your German great-grandmother Hilda began life as Brunhilda, a Czech Aunt Ann as Aneta, a Spanish great-uncle Joseph as Jose, an Italian Uncle Benny as Benito or a French great-grandmother Bea as Beatrix. I've not only learned names weren’t always cut down, but that they weren't always Anglicized either. The latter would happen either inadvertently or purposely. In the case of the latter, it could have been to simplify the name or to distance oneself from their heritage. For instance, in both world wars, especially the first, all things German were out of favor. You can research names at the following websites, the two I have used and with satisfaction:
Another thing I have learned along this journey is to document even the most trivial piece of information. It may or may not relate to your family, but if it has the faintest hint of a connection, write it down! If you’re at the library and don’t have copier money, write it down. I have overlooked information only to find myself scrambling later on to find it again. I have usually been good at retrieval, but there have been times when I have kicked myself. On my father’s side of the family, my great-grandfather William L. Butler, lost a brother and sister due to burns from fire the 1870’s. At one time, at the library here, I found an article about it in a book pertaining to Coryell county, Texas. I had no copy money, and I just wasn’t sure so I didn‘t bother to write it down. We’ll, years later I kicked myself because there was a connection. I’ve yet to find that same article. Documentation can either settle or create disputes within the family. My Cunningham kith and kin heard our James Cunningham was at San Jacinto and on the monument. Well, there is a Cunningham on the monument, but not ours. In Fayette county, Texas there were at least two different Cunningham families, and some with the same first names. One came down from Tennessee and ours from England. I traced the other family and copied information in the hopes of settling the matter. Even with proof in hand the San Jacinto Cunningham wasn't ours but of the other Cunningham family, I still faced scoffers. Don’t let the possibility of hardheadedness from family members sway you. Find the truth and show the proof. If they don’t want to get it, as mine didn’t, oh, well. If they want to remain disillusioned, fine. At least you know the truth.
When I embarked on the path to my family’s history, I never imagined how handy a calculator would be. That simple tool settled an issue on my Cunningham line. It was believed James Cunningham came over at the age of 12 or 13, or thereabouts. He did not and I could prove it. He served in the Texas Volunteer Army and in documentation for his pension the date of his emigration is March 1835. James was born in November 1818. Doing the math indicates he was 16, just 8 months shy of his 17th birthday, when he arrived in Texas. This was easier for the family to digest. The calculator also helps in determining if a woman is a second wife or not. In some cases it may be obvious such as she is 30 and the oldest child is 20 and there are children younger than, say, 8 in the household. My James Cunningham was married twice, as previously stated. As I said before, he had nine children with his first wife and ten with the second. I am descended from the second marriage which was to the widow Lucinda Jane Bolton Jones. She was 17, and he 44, when they married in March of 1863. Her oldest step-child was 16. Lucinda was born in August a few weeks after James married his first wife, Rebecca Fitzgerald, on July 31, 1845. The oldest child of James and Rebecca was born in June of 1846. Lucinda, thus, was August 1845 to June 1846 older than her oldest step-child. I couldn’t have figured all that out without a calculator. Well, you may not need a calculator, but I certainly do.
It’s been over 21 years since this journey started. I’ve not ceased to be amazed or perplexed. The lessons I’ve learned have made it somewhat easier. Once you embark on the journey to your family’s history, you'll find more surprises than you thought. Revelation sheds light on your ancestors, makes them real. You may find achievements you never imagined or scandals. You may uncover unfathomable sorrow, as in the loss of many children. Remember, that sweet smelling roses come with thorns. And even in a flower bed choked with weeds, there may be a bright blossom or two. With information technology ever growing and changing for the better, I encourage you to start the genealogical journey if you have an inkling to. You’ll have an easier start than I did.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Pumpkin Does A Tango

Several months ago, when Pumpkin was around 5 or 6 months old, I captured his playing with the wrist strap of my cane. He was so determined. He gripped it in his teeth, he tugged, oh, he tried so hard to walk away with it. I am surprised the pics came out as good as they did since I was prone to giggle now and then.

Get a gander at that bite of determination!

He's got the matter well in paw!

Pondering the matter.

Look at that paw, poised to strike!

He's got a toothy grip on it now!

He's is bound and determined to walk the cane.

Here, for the sake of the wrist strap, I cut in and put my cane out of reach. There is no greater joy than watching a playful kitten!

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Value of a Medical Genealogy

When we hear the word 'genealogy' the thought of ancestors come to mind. We may wonder where they came from, what kind of life they had (were they outlaws, preachers, doctors, etc.), where were they went historic events like the Revolutionary War, Civil War, the Dust Bowl, and others occurred. Many people spend thousands of hours upon hours over many years delving into their family's past, usually at a financial cost. Many spend less time. Many reach across the pond to Europe. Just as many people don't care about their family's history, and that's fine. To each their own, as the old saying goes. I am among those interested in my family's past. I am amazed when I can look at past birth, marriage and death dates and realize they lived during an historic event which makes history come alive and be more real. This is the exciting genealogy, despite it's headache rendering let downs and brick walls.

The most important genealogy, I have learned, is the medical genealogy. This means finding out the addictions, causes of death, disabilities, and diseases that have occurred in your family. Start with your parents, then your aunts and uncles, then your grandparents. Working up this type of genealogy enabled me not to be surprised when diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes as it runs on my maternal grandmother's side of the family and with high blood pressure which runs of both sides of my family. Share the information with your siblings, even those estranged from the family. The knowledge is worth the cost of a stamp and, afterall, (as I thought when mailing such information to my sister) it's not an invitation for a day of reconnecting and lunch.

The reason I have found my medical genealogy so valuable, beyond not getting caught off guard when given a diagnosis, is that it helped to me make a most important decision last fall (2006) that I feel very well saved my life. Had I not known what I had learned over time about my family's medical history, I might have hesitated. My paternal grandmother had Ovarian Cancer in about her 50's, which is the guessed age range I was given. My mother had cervical cancer in her late 40s or early 50's, I can't recall just which. Both survived those bouts of cancer. In addition I had heard that women who have never had children were at a higher risk for female cancers. I have never had children.
In mid-August 2006, after not having a period in July, I started my period, expecting it may last a little longer after playing hookey in July. Thus, when it went passed the sixth day (when I'd usually stop) I didn't worry. Then came day nine. Then day 12. Then I began count weeks, it had been two. I discussed the matter with a couple of close friends, not wanting to concern moma if it turned out to be nothing. Yet in the back of my mind was the memory of her bleeding for weeks at a time, with a little break now and then, for almost two years. We were a low-income family and it was hard enough getting us kids to the doctor as daddy would balk not just because of money but questioning the necessity. Moma fought for us and got us cared for, but unfortunately it was at the sacrifice of her own health. She eventually got to a doctor, eventually learning she had cervical cancer. Knowing what she went through, I just didn't want to concern her. Finally, after about 4 weeks, I got a 3 day break. Whew! Thank God. I spoke too soon. I went from counting days to counting weeks. It was mid-September, school was in session and I was working my eighth school year as a bus driver. I stayed tired, literally drained of energy. I finally had to tell moma, she knew something was wrong. Of course she pitched a fit for me to get to a doctor. I did. My Ob-Gyn confirmed what I had heard about women who never had children being at a highter risk for female cancers. I gave her my family medical history where this type of problem is concerned. A D & C was scheduled in October so my Ob-Gyn could get some tissue samples to biopsy. She was concerned because, despite the heaviness of the bleeding, she couldn't get any tissue samples to biopsy. "Well, if you'd see what I'm flushing you'd know why you couldn't get anything!", I joked with her. No emotion is going to change any situation, so you may as well laugh as opposed to getting yourself in a dither. She brought up surgery, a hysterectomy. I had already made up my mind, based on family medical history, that if surgery was an option I'd go for it, afterall, I had three strikes against me. She suggested my keeping my ovaries until I reminded her of my paternal grandmother's Ovarian Cancer. On December 19, 2006 I was 'gutted' 'house was cleaned out', so to speak. My Ob-Gyn done a freeze biopsy on what she removed. I had the seeds for cancer in my uterus. Without knowledge of my family history regarding female cancers, I might have hesitated. I might have put off doing anything. I could very well be in the early stages of uterine cancer by now. Here's a kicker: I found out after my surgery a couple of months later that one of maternal aunts and her oldest daughter both had survived Uterine Cancer! Two more strikes against me and I didn't know it! But, I knew enough anyway to make an informed decision. Family history beyond the cancers also helped me to turn down hormone pills. Studies can't decided if they increase the risk of stroke or breast cancer or both. I have an inherited risk for both as heart disease and high blood pressure run on both sides of my family. In addition, both are risks of Diabetics which I am. I wasn't going to further increase my risks with a pill.

I am going to be frank with you. Researching your family's medical could very well be easy. However, it may well prove difficult, even causing you to get discouraged. The fact is, there are barriers that can hinder your research.
A lack of record keeping, or poor job of it, and lack of knowledge about certain conditions will not allow you to go way back say, into the early years of the 20th century or even further back. The only way you can get that far back is if health information has been handed down by word-of-mouth or there was an epidemic of some sort in which the event and the names of those affected were recorded. The date deaths began to be officially recorded will vary from state to state in which case there'll be no death certificates from a certain year and years preceding it. In Texas, if I recall correctly, deaths began being officially recorded around 1920. Yet it does not guarantee you a death certificate for that year or some of the following years as some deaths got by with being recorded. For example, during my first marriage I ventured into my then husband's family history. There was someone who was known to have died around 1925 and there should have been a death certificate, but there wasn't. I found no official proof at that person was dead. The practise of recording deaths was lax. I don't know when strict enforcement came about, but thankfully it did.
Another problem can be tight lips, that is, there is a generation (from my experience anyone born in the 19teens thru the 1930s) that will not speak on much of anything but especially of things unpleasant or, for the times, were scandalous. Mental disorders, physical deformities, alcoholism, drug addiction and suicides were family embarrassments with the latter three also being scandalous. A family member with any of the first two would most usually be put away and rarely spoke of, and even if the latter occurred, it would be in hushed tones. I know for a fact Texas had an Epiletic Colony in Abilene (now the Abilene State School) as a brother of one of my great-grandfathers was sent to live there. According to the papers from his insanity hearing, he'd have upwards of 25-30 fits a day. At some time or other I am sure most states had institutions for those with mental disorders and physical disabilities. Though not inherited through our genes (as far I know), alcohol, drug, physical, emotional and sexual abuses give a person who grew up in such households a predisposition to commit such abuses. These abuses are said to run in cycles, generation to generation. Family members may opt to shun 'the family drunk' or 'dopehead', and it could go as far as flat out denying they are even kin to the person. While alcohol and drug abuse can become evident, even obvioius, the latter three above, especially the last, in the past were taboo and never spoken of, even if known. They would become family secrets. A suicide was shameful and most likely became a family secret as well (such as a leaf on a branch of my family tree). Suicide, too, isn't inherited through our genes, but there are family histories riddled with suicides. The cause of suicide, usually depression, can be handed down. By genes or predisposition, I am not sure. You may even have heard clues growing up and didn't realize it. Haven't you ever heard mention of a 'family secret' or someone say 'we don't talk about that/them' regarding a question about something or someone? You may've overheard something before being found out. Were people inclined to suddenly become quiet or change the subject when someone, usually a child or non-family member, entered a room?
Another problem is exclusive to adoptees, even to those who just grew up in foster care that were never adopted. To the former, information can be unobtainable. For the latter, information on the biological family can be scarce or limited. In the distant past adoptions, to the best of my knowledge, were closed. Policy regarding accessing adoption records will vary from state to state. In the recent past, starting late in the 1980's I'd guess or 1990s, adoptions could be open. That is, there is access to information. I know of adopted children who have met their birth mothers. I know of a couple who has adopted children and they prefered the process closed. Therefore, some adoptees may not have any problem getting medical information and others will just have to wonder about their medical history.
Regardless of any barrier, don't let it discourage you! I have learned there are some family members that will talk, it's just a matter of finding the right one(s) and your persuasion techniques. Even if your family medical history is doomed to remain unknown, with health issues you encounter, you can begin documenting them so your children and future generations in you family won't have to wonder.

Since my recent, and major, experience, I have, and will continue, to urge people, maybe more aggressively, to do a family medical genealogy. If you can't get past your parents, fine. A little information is better than none. With such knowledge there will be no surprise at a diagnosis and you'll be better able to make a major decision as I did because it'll be an informed decision. When something seems wrong you may find yourself suspicious as to what it could be. You'll have reason to be suspicious if you know your family's medical history. Ultimately, aside from incentive to better your lifestyle for the sake of your health, or even saving your life, the information gathered in a family medical genealogy would encourage your children, grandchildren and generations beyond them to live a healthy lifestyle and, perhaps, save thier lives.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Wanted: Family Bibles

There is a certain gospel song that should be a standard and isn't. It should be sung in churches occasionally. It's last verse sends a message we need in the present day and age. This song is entitled "Family Bible", written by Willie Nelson. In my research I couldn't find an exact date when he wrote it, but my best guess is 1959 or 1960. He and his family were living in Houston, Texas. Times were hard and lean for the struggling musician and song writer especially since he had wife and children to care for. He sold "Family Bible" for $50 to Paul Buskirk who operated a guitar school where Willie moonlighted as a teacher. Claud Gray sang it into the top 10 in 1960; however, it didn't have Willie listed as it's author. No matter, Willie was as happy as a pig in a mud puddle. Over time, fortunately, Willie came to get the credit he deserved for authoring the song.

The first lines, "There's a family Bible on the table/Its pages worn and hard to read" indicate the family Bible was handled and read regularly. This song is autobiographical. Willie and his sister, Bobbie Lee, were raised in Abbott, Texas by their paternal grandparents. I think it would be safe to assume the Bible referred to is the Nelson family Bible. Willie was born in 1933, thus growing up in the mid to late 1930s and the 1940s. It was a time when Bibles, whether family or one's personal own, could be readily found on a table, in plain sight, and were read from. Mothers could be heard singing hymns as they went about their housework, thus teaching them to their children. Going to church was a family affair. Speaking of families, the make-up of the families then was different than now. While divorce and illegitimacy occured, they weren't as prevalent and 'in our face' as now. There aren't just as many family bibles, even personal bibles, around whose pages are tattered and hard to read, which is a pity.

"At the end of day when work was over/And when the evening meal was done/Dad would read to us from the family Bible/And we'd count our many blessings one by one" is the beginning of the second verse. How different this ol' world would be if more Dads, and moms if there is no dad, not even a step-dad, in the home, were to take time after the evening meal, after the table is cleared, to read from God's Holy Word with the family gathered around the table. First off, the family needs to get back to eating supper together around a table. Everyone is on a schedule, even the children. There are athletic and other extra-curricular activities which require practices and later the events that demonstrates one's ability, alone or with a team. A friend's house that must be visited. A phone call that just has to be made. The 'net must be logged onto. Late workdays, meetings, a movie or t.v. show that just must be watched. Oh, the things we 'must' do! Supper is most and too often a quickly nuked frozen food. And when was the last time blessings were counted? We are quick to complain and find fault, even litigious over the least little offense. Time spent in those endeavors would be best spent counting the blessings we have. Look around, they are there. Many things are on a to-do list but God and His Word, in too many cases, won't be found there. Is it any wonder our families are in the state they are in? In too many places it is forbidden to speak of God, forbidden to speak of and from His Word, and God isn't even allowed in schools. That's a laugh. He's there, they just refuse to acknowledge him. Look around at the headlines and what is coming out of t.v. and radio. Children should be listening to music that honors God, not that which breaks his heart. The music they should listen to and sing along with should be about praising God, thanking him for the gift of Calvary, about going to home to heaven and salvation, not about sex, killing, drugs, debasing women and children, disrespecting authority with its foul language and violent and vulgar content. Is it any wonder our children aren't any better than we think they should be? God's instruction is made plain in Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in a way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. "

The last verse is the clincher. "Now this old world of ours is full of trouble/This old world would oh so better be/If we found more Bibles on the table/And mothers singing "Rock of Ages, cleft for me" It is as true now as when Willie wrote it, though most of the troubles came after he wrote it. In 1960 this country was at the top of a downward spiral. During that decade there was the Vietnam War, the Cold War and its dangerous possiblities, the Cuban Missle Crisis, President Kennedy's assassination, the Civil Rights Movement of the negroes, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the war protests, the 'free love' concept, escalated drug use, guys had hair just as, if not, longer than the gals, the rock n' roll Elvis created was getting metallic, there was a British invasion unlike the one in the 1700s, hemlines went way up, clothing seemed more like an option than a necessity, and on and on, but the sum of it is, the ol' world of the 1960s was full of trouble. Today's ol' world is in a heap more trouble because of the loosened morals of the 1960s that got even looser in the 1970s as well as because of ever changing political views and global strife which we were often quick to try and relieve. It was in the 1960s Madeline Murray O'Hare was successful in having God kicked out school, taking prayer with him. The Vietnam War demoralized this country. Our soldiers were as much victims as the Vietnamese people. Our soldiers were frustrated, subsequently corrupted, losing all sense of morality, no longer fearing consequences, and forgetting how precious life is all because they were in a war they didn't understand and wanted no part of. On account of all that, the Vietnamese people were affronted, debauched, and insulted. God only knows the actual truth of what crimes were committed there and just what both sides suffered. The point is, there was no longer honor in serving this country, no longer were the men and women serving this country supported by those they fought for. In the 1970s the highest office in the land was a vicitm of it's inhabitant's misdeeds. It was no longer an office of honor and became one the people scorned. There was the women's liberation movement. Bras were burned and equal rights demanded. When the mothers entered the work place and even began climbing the career ladder, the home suffered. Economics also played a big part in mothers going to work and also because, in many cases, father's not in the home for one reason or another refused to accept their responsibility regarding their children. Terrorism, as we know it, was a baby in the 1960s, a baby who went quickly from crawling to taking baby steps in the 1970s. Recent memory spanning from the 1980s until current time reminds us of just how well that baby learned and grew into the monster it is because it wasn't dealt with early on like it should have been. Our precious freedoms and civil liberties have actually worked against us in that we can't tighten them up or alter them one bit without great protest, even though it will mean a more secure enviroment for us. Downward and downward this country has spirialed into political and moral decay until now we wonder just what went wrong. We can't turn back the clock and relive the 1960s and 1970s to get them right, but we can learn from those mistakes by recognizing them and daring to correct them. God and prayer have a place in school. Mothers should be encouraged to stay at home. Bibles need to be out and at the ready not on a shelf gathering dust. If a home is without a bible, then one needs to be bought. Families, whether two parent or not, need to find a truly God loving, Bible believing, church. A church whose official Bible version is the King James, a church where the preacher doesn't sugar coat God's Holy Word to make it palitable and thus preaches from God's Holy Word as it is written and as the Lord leads him, a church whose preacher isn't afraid to preach on sin and hell and judgement, a preacher who preaches of the gospel of salvation, a preacher who is more concerned with what God thinks of him as opposed to what man thinks of him, a church whose preacher is far from 'PC' but rather is close to what's biblically correct (BC), a church that has a Sunday School Program, a Youth Department and other children's programs where our future can learn of God and his Word and be encourage to seek his plan for them, a church which has missionaries it sponsors and has even possibly sent out, a church that is God honoring and not one that not is man honoring. This country is nearing the end of the downward spiral. It can't be stopped but can be slowed, perhaps reversed, if this country and it's people moved closer to heaven and further from hell, closer to God and further from the devil. This could be accomplished if there were more family bibles, tattered and hard read, on the tables in the homes of America.

Family Bibles on tables,
opened and read from,
where God will be sought
and there he will be found;
where his Word is studied,
his teachings learned,
so that we all may have
a better and blessed tomorrow.

Here is a link to one of the places concerning Willie Nelson I found while researching for this article:

To hear this gospel song in midi format, even read it's words in their entirety, click this link:

You may recognize the prose at this site, which is so true: