Monday, February 23, 2015

Family History—we are doing it

Tonight for FHE we played a little game with our family tree. I wrote four generations of our family on piece of paper (the kids, me and Andrew, our grand/parents, and our great-/grandparents) and let the kids take a turn drawing a name out and figuring out where they fit into our family tree. My original plan was to also have everyone (who had one) tell a quick memory of the person but we got off to a late start and had to cut things short.

Still, the kids enjoyed it and they did a pretty good job. The names that were tricky for them were their great-grandmothers since I used maiden names instead of married names.

Here are the kids sitting "kiss-koss-appy-sauce" on top of our family tree:

And here's another picture where Rachel's not showing you her tonsils, Benjamin's not screaming, "Don't touch me!" while trying to keep a smile glued to his face, and Miriam's not giving the camera the lazy-eye look:

Both pictures are cute for different reasons. Part of me likes the first one better, really, but sometimes it's probably important to prove that my children can be normal for the .5 seconds it takes to snap a photograph.

We also read some excerpts from an address Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander delivered in the April 1999 General Conference, called Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes. First we found a few things in our house that are keepsakes—the afghan Oma crocheted that is on the back of our couch was the most obvious one in the room. Then we talked about what an eternal keepsake might be.

Elder Neuenshwander said examples of eternal keepsakes are "genealogies, family stories, historical accounts, and traditions. These eternal keepsakes also form a bridge between past and future and bind generations together in ways that no other keepsake can."

He said that "bridges between generations are not built by accident. Each member of this Church has the personal responsibility to be an eternal architect of this bridge for his or her own family."

When I asked the kids how we do this Rachel said, "By doing what we just did!" because we'd just finished piecing together our family tree. We talked about a few other ways—not just looking at names, but sharing stories, so that we can learn to love our ancestors, even if we haven't met them or, in the words of Elder Neuenshwander, "I alone am the link to the generations that stand on either side of me. It is my responsibility to knit their hearts together through love and respect, even though they may never have known each other personally."

Family history work is so important! Not just knowing the names and dates, but knowing the stories.

To be perfectly honest, my original plan was to tell the kids about my great-great-grandmother Zilpha Zobedia Curtis but I couldn't find her story in my book of stories! I've been thinking about my Z ancestors recently, kind of feeling that Zoë is somehow a tribute to them. I didn't name her Zetta after my grandmother or Zilpha Zobedia after my great-grandmother, but she's got that little-used Z in her name that my grandmother was always so ashamed by (my grandmother went by Pearl, her middle name—and my middle name, which is how the kids figured out which side of the tree she went on (little detectives, they are)). Zoë is perhaps a little less obscure than Zetta (in fact, it's getting quite popular so Zoë should feel comfortable with it).

Anyway, I remembered after I put the kids to bed that I had asked my mom's cousin Helen for the history last year (she compiled everything with my grandma) and she said I must have gotten a misprint edition because Zilpha Zobedia should have been in there (she's not even in my index). So, in my inbox there's a three-page story of Zilpha Zobedia's life just waiting to be read (in an email dated February 25—so it was seriously almost exactly a year ago).

(Update: I just ran the PDF through a free OCR program and—ta-dah!—here it is!)

I could have sworn I typed it up last year and put it in Family Search but...that must have been someone else's history.

Isn't Zilpha Zobedia the kind of name that must always be together? I always refer to her as Zilpha Zobedia—kind of how you always have to say 'Amelia Bedelia' and 'Mary Poppins' and 'Rebecca Dew.'

At this point I'm going to quote a bunch of lines about Rebecca Dew from Anne of Windy Poplars even though I've been at a hold up in that book because I lost it (obviously I could just read it here, but I haven't yet because somewhere in this house (or *gulp* somewhere in the wide, wide world) there is a copy of Windy Poplars with a bookmark keeping my place and it's eating me up a little)!

We knocked and Rebecca Dew came to the door. We knew it was Rebecca Dew because it couldn't have been any one else in the whole wide world. And she couldn't have had any other name. 
You can't separate those names, Gilbert. It's impossible . . . though the widows do it. They call her Rebecca when they speak to her. I don't know how they manage it. 
 I called Rebecca Dew 'Miss Dew' . . . once. 
'Miss What?' quoth she. 
'Dew,' I said meekly. 'Isn't that your name?' 
'Well, yes, it is, but I ain't been called Miss Dew for so long it gave me quite a turn. 
You'd better not do it any more, Miss Shirley, me not being used to it.' 
'I'll remember, Rebecca . . . Dew,' I said, trying my hardest to leave off the Dew but not succeeding.
And that's exactly how I feel about Zilpha Zobedia. It's always Zilpha Zobedia in my mind, though I know if I had been alive back when she was I would have called her Grandma Hancock, since it seems the entire town did! She was one of Raymond's oldest residents when she passed away in 1948 at the age of 97.

I suppose I'll have to tell the kids about Zilpha Zobedia a little later when I have more accurate information to share. I always feel more comfortable checking my facts before I go off spouting family history.

Anyway, it was a good family night; I think we all enjoyed ourselves. In fact, I don't even think anyone I'd definitely call it a success.

* Title taken from this song, but when I learned that song it was called "Genealogy—I Am Doing it" and the words were a little different.

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