Monday, March 4, 2013

Fearless Females: Cousin Hattie Carter Becton

Hattie Carter Becton
Have you ever felt an overwhelmingly close bond to someone you've only just met and you can not tell why? Perhaps you've corresponded a few times...or spoken on the phone a time or two...and then, when they die unexpectedly, you feel a deep sense of loss?

This is how I felt about my husband's first cousin once removed, Cousin Hattie Carter Becton. We had only communicated several times in our lives, but the bond was as if we had know each other forever.

As I was preparing the images for this post, I suddenly realized why this might be so.

Hattie Carter Becton, the daughter of the late William H. and Josephine Dove Carter, was born on May 27, 1918.
May 27th...we shared the same birthday...forth-three years apart!

And now I wonder if what we shared was not a soul tie.
Two are better than one because they have a good [more satisfying] reward for their labor; For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10, AMP)
We were both family historians for the Carters and Georges of North Harlowe, North Carolina. In addition to this bond, a covenant had been struck: a promise made to her on our last day together that I would indeed write my personal memoir in relation to the death of our youngest daughter, even as I was already preparing to write the memoir of the Carters of Craven County.

I have researched the origins of the family church, Piney Grove African Methodist Episcopal Zion where Hattie accepted Christ as her personal Savior...I have seen the second William Henry home place, situated next to the second Hezekiah home place in North Harlowe, North Carolina...but until reading her obituary, I had no idea that she became affiliated with a Baptist church once removing to Yonkers, New York.

During our last visit, I had asked Cousin Hattie about her marriage to Jason McKinley Becton who grew up in her own back yard, yet whom she married in New York. Of their marriage, she said, We didn't stay together that long. She wanted to continue her education to advance her career in elementary education, while he didn't see the need for it, and did not support her efforts. According to her obituary, she became the first African American principal in the Yonkers School System.

I knew Hattie's address in Yonkers from her letter, dated March 29, 2005, as being on the eleven-hundred block of Warburton Avenue. Not till today did I look it up on a map and note that the street lies closest to and runs parallel with the Hudson River in Northeast Yonkers...just across the river from New Jersey, where I was born in Philippsburg...88.9 miles west of where she resided at that time...4.6 miles west of  Sadore Lane, where she lived in Yonkers in 1974.

Unfortunately, any further information seems to be hidden from view for the time being. I had hoped to write a series during the month; but, it now becomes apparent that unless I make some new connections, I may never know the details of the northern migration of our Carter family.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Final Day-A Family Excursion

This is the final day, or should I say, the final evening of the Family History Writing Challenge for 2013. Have I met my goal Yet, I have made a start.

The past week has proven a tremendous challenge as work issues mount, my schedule is disturbed in its early morning slumber just before rising to write....and rather than putting words on a screen, I am putting casseroles into an oven, the creativity of cooking for the hungry squelching every bit of creativity of words for the reader....and every bit of energy wrung out of me like soapy water from a dish rag.

And so, this piece was begun on the 23rd day of February...and look, tomorrow begins a new month already! I am determined to complete this work to its ultimate ending.

This is not farewell, but it is most likely the final post of this nature till next year. I will continue writing...and at times I will offer you glimpses of what I am working on...perhaps a character study, or a scenic description...but, most of my writing will appear again on the main blog, or on the family history journal.

I hope that you will drop by from time to time and offer a comment....

And now, A Family Excursion, Part I


The Mystery Tours Inc. "Ultimate Lunch Cruise" from Beaufort, North Carolina, was not scheduled to depart until noon on Saturday, July 18th. This was an optional reunion activity which cost an additional twenty-five dollars per adult. My husband and I have always enjoyed historical cruises of local areas. So naturally, we awoke early, got showered and dressed, and came down to the Hampton Inn cafe for breakfast.

I had expected to see more family members seated or at least grabbing that first cup of morning coffee...then I realized, that first cup was most likely brewed in the bedroom, to arrive less bleary-eyed at breakfast. But in fact, most of our extended family were still snug in their beds, enjoying a chance to sleep in a little later than usual. Of course it had been a temptation, but when you're away from home, there is always so much to experience that my husband and I never sleep in much later than seven o'clock.

After surveying the fare, I got some yogurt, a muffin and an omelet, a glass of orange juice and a cup of hazelnut coffee, and located an unoccupied table. Around us, parents coaxed their sleepy children to take another bite while their energetic siblings bounced from the chair to the floor, around the table and back to the chair again. It is interesting to see how even from childhood, a morning person can be spotted within a crowd.

I am definitely not a morning person. My husband learned after the first ten or so years of marriage, that it was best not to speak to me any more than a brief Good Morning before I had my first cup of coffee. Any more would either not penetrate the grog of sleepiness, or might even evoke a grumble or two. And sometimes any more than Morning is more than I can bear. Unlike the virtual optimist who expresses any morning that we're alive...vertical...and moving as good, I usually reserve that commentary until I have fully experienced the wake-up ritual.

Across the room sat a sofa and cushioned chairs before a large screen television, mounted on the wall above an ornamental fireplace. A few sat comfortably, sipping their coffee...or in my husband's case, reminiscent of Jean-Luc Picard aboard the Enterprise-D: Tea, Earl Gray, hot...and watching the morning news, weather and sports review. At the tables adjoining the cafe and the television area,  several businessmen read their morning newspapers.

By the time the families had nearly finished their breakfast, the channel changed to Saturday morning cartoons...unlike the cartoons of my childhood....

To be continued...

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Days 19-22-In Search of a Familiar Face

NOTE: Since several years have elapsed since this reunion and my memory has faded, the following draft was assembled by viewing digitized photos taken by multiple family photographers. I assembled them in order based upon groupings within the room, and used the variations of sunlight and darkness from the windows to attempt some sort of chronological order. I "tell" this story in its rough draft, but later on I will go back and develop the "show" element that is lacking in my attempt to reconstruct the events coarsely.

Sandwiches, chips, a variety of salads, two-liter bottles of soda and bottled water sat on a table to our left as we first entered the room, and family members (we had not yet met) were busy preparing dessert platters.
"Come on in, family. Help yourself."
Since so few relatives had yet assembled, we decided to take a seat and wait a bit; but, as people we knew entered the room, my husband and I got up to greet them. Dorothy and her daughter descend from Malachi Carter, who was my grandfather-in-law's younger brother by three years. She linked arms with me and beamed,
"Hello, Cousin!" 
Three years older than my mother, and like her, Dorothy does not show her age...a petite lady wearing a royal blue t-shirt and jeans, her short cropped black hair is only edged with gray.
"I want you to meet someone," she says, waving on a tall slender gentleman dressed in white to come join us. "This is your cousin, Walter. He comes from Elijah's line. He lives in Virginia." 
Our small group descends from three brothers: Hezekiah, Malachi and Elijah...born in that order. While there were only three years between the older brothers, seven years had separated the younger two of nine surviving children born to Isaac Carter and Martha Ann (George) Carter. When the family historian is visiting with living descendants, her mind becomes, at times, a whirlwind of attempts to make connections, but seldom is there time enough to capture those moments on paper. I had thought of recording conversations, but soon discovered that in this family it usually brings the natural flow of chatter to an abrupt halt.

The five of us gathered in the far corner of the room near a window, framed with burnt orange, jacquard drapes. Outside, the afternoon sunlight faded in a blue-gray haze of approaching dusk. We talked, catching up on recent family events, and at times looked off into the crowd, seeing new family faces entering the room.

Just behind my chair, along the wall, a man wearing a white polo shirt, khaki shorts & ball cap carried in several large pedigree posters. I had heard that a descendant of the Nathaniel Carter branch would be attending the reunion for the first time, and that he would be sharing his research with us. He sat the first two down against the wall below the banner: GEORGE FAMILY REUNION: Keeping the Tradition Going.

People were curious to see where their leaf of the branch connected from the trunk. One surprising note was that this genealogy confirmed my findings that the father of the five siblings was Theophilus George, as reported in my 2007 presentation, The Land Deeds of Theophilus George, father of Emanuel, James Bland, Nathaniel, Martha Ann and Nancy George. I had thought that the deed was proof enough that the children listed in deed were the children of Theophilus and not Emanuel. Apparently, family myths are hard to part with, and to this day, no one knows why our early family historian had written in his notes the parents of the "original" siblings as Emanuel and Matilda George.

Cousin Eula Mae walked over slowly to our little group in the of the matriarchs of the Moore family and my husband's third cousin. She appeared as always, very dignified...composed...well dressed, yet casual in her purple and white pants suit. Her smile expressed such love...and something was different in her eyes. A sort of tiredness...or pain, that she would never let on about...the same age as my mother, she carefully took her seat next to Cousin Dorothy.

After my husband posed for a few photos with his cousins, he ventured past our little group to the next one over...the family of the Nathaniel George historian. By this time, a few cousins brought in a large collage of family photos and placed it between the banner and the pedigree charts. I got up to look at them...but at a disadvantage. When you're an outsider...or, one married into a family...adopted, you might say...unless you have been living in the ancestral community or have close ties to your husband's kin, unidentified photos appear as just a collection of nameless...connection-less faces. How I wished I could just photograph every photo, and find someone to identify the faces I did not recognize...but people were more interested in spending time with those in the room than in looking at the collage. And if they did glance at it, they would comment on a few and then move on.

The same thing had happened at the Peter James Hyman Family Reunion we had attended in Beaufort, North Carolina. Our Cousin Margaret had enlisted my help to  preserve the photo collages with clear contact paper...working so closely with untold time to ask questions in a hurried frenzy of last minute activity.

As the night wore on, one of the cousins from the reunion co-historian's niece, assembled us to play a game of family history jeopardy. She looked about the room, trying to find volunteers and then selected Cousin Eula Mae's son-in-law, Billy...a tall, slender cousin dressed in green with a broad smile showing several gold teeth...and myself. How did I get selected? I have no idea. Certainly I would not have volunteered...perhaps it is a test to see how much this outsider knows about the family history.

The questions seem to be more related to black history for several rounds until finally, some familiar Craven County questions pop up...and then, finally, a few questions about family ties.

Written on each person's face is the weary of travel catching up with them as the night wears on, and soon after the game, we disband for the night, going back to our hotel rooms to rest for the next day's boating excursion, shipboard lunch, tour of Beaufort and Neuse River.

Word Count: 1065

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 13-Pushing Through Emotional Writing Blocks

Over the past few days, I felt an unsettled sort of disorientation. It has happened every year about this time for the past twenty-three years. At first thought I was tempted to write "twenty-two years"...the number of years since our youngest daughter's death. But that would not be entirely correct, for her conception and birth played an equally unsettling time for me as well as the years following her death. And for that very fact,  great inner turmoil clouded my mind in the days preceding the anniversaries: first of her birth, and then of her death, only eight and a half months later.

Beginning about a month before the anniversary, the event is clear in my thoughts. Awareness. Clarity. No great emotion. Then, as the day creeps its way into the present, a gradual unawareness overcomes me. Perhaps it's not so much unawareness as an unconscious, instinctual survival tactic to enable me to function in the here and now. Suddenly, days of the week become confused, jumbled up as a calendar with its numbers scattered randomly across the month. I find myself asking, What day is it? with greater frequency, until suddenly the day arrives...seeming like it's still at least twenty-four hours away...until the realization becomes heavily apparent: It's today...not tomorrow!

With this year's birthday anniversary behind me, I am now freer to approach whatever task lies ahead. As clouds dissipated by the rushing of a strong wind, as quickly as it came, it leaves me, and skies are blue and filled with brilliant sunlight once again.


Of all the activities a family reunion offers, perhaps the Meet & Greet is the most intimate. For a family historian, it is the time to finally put faces to the records we have so diligently assembled for the family history journal, and a time to get reacquainted with those special family members...those revered elders...the keepers of treasured stories, myths and legends. 

And so when we entered the conference room at the Hampton Inn-Havelock, I searched for those familiar faces. 

Word Count: 338

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 12-Family Reunion

Family reunion is a time for members of different branches of the same tree to come together from near and far to rekindle that spirit of connectedness. We had first learned of the George Family Reunions in March of 2005, when Cousin Hattie sent us a long-awaited, handwritten letter from her home in Yonkers, New York.
March 29, 2005
Dear Cedric and Debbie,
At long last I am able to write you a few lines. You have tried so hard to connect with your roots and family members. I'm very happy that you are doing this. I am enclosing a Family Reunion Booklet that covers to the fourth generation. Several of the children of the fifth generation are anxious to extend this to the fifth and sixth generation. In fact they have scheduled a Family Reunion for July 22, 23, and 24th of this year. I am enclosing all the information regarding this event....
....I hope that you and your family will travel to Havelock, N.C. very soon to see the place of your ancestors....
Cousin, Hattie C. Becton 
That year proved to be one of great happiness and many challenges. We were unable to attend the reunion because both our children would be graduating: our daughter from college, and our son from high school; one in the morning and the other in the afternoon on the same day. But one of my husband's brothers was able to attend with his wife.

On a picture post card canceled from Macon, Georgia on July 25, 2005, he told us that he was able to see "the old Carter land" and took some photos. Later on he mailed me a disk of grave stone photos from the Carter Family Cemetery and a copy of the family reunion booklet.

In September, Cousin Letitia wrote to me about the success of the reunion and how glad she was that my brother-in-law and his wife were able to attend. She enclosed a revised version of the family reunion journal as a "thank you gift for all your dedicated research and help with the family history information." She adds, "There is still much family history to be researched and discrepancies in the history that have to be solved. I look forward to working with you on this history real soon."

The 2007 family reunion was the first we were able to attend, and we were no longer living in Western Massachusetts, but had relocated to Western North Carolina in February of that year. We had hoped to move closer to my husband's family, and had really wanted to live further east...closer to Whiteville where cousins from his mother's side of the family lived. But during the ten year period of waiting for a transfer from the VA Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts, his cousin Renee died of complications of Type I Diabetes and kidney disease on August 7, 2004. And seven months later, her husband John, forty-years-old, followed her in death on March 17, 2005...just twelve days before Cousin Hattie had written to us about the George Family Reunion. While he had been struggling with some medical issues of his own, we have always believed that when his wife died, he lost the will to live.

My first time meeting Renee was when my mother-in-law died. I had never been further south than New Jersey...and north Jersey at that...but I fell in love with North Carolina upon my first visit, back in August of 1997.

It is said that funerals are always better attended than family reunions...and I consider this a sad truth as well. I had met my husband's aunts when they had come to visit their sister in Erie, Pennsylvania years before; but, the time surrounding the funeral of their baby sister proved to be the time for true acquaintances.

Then, in July 2004, the Livingston Grand Reunion of the descendants of Frank Livingston of Little River, South Carolina, was held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We stayed with Renee and John and spent time with them and my mother-in-law's family members; and, during that time Renee told me the story of how she and John met and became engaged, which was in reality an answer to a very special prayer that her grandmother had helped her formulate, and then told her to put it in God's hands. What a blessed time that was, not just for us, but for our children, too.

While planning the move to Asheville, we offered our daughter and son the choice of moving with us or staying in New England. They chose to remain, and so my husband and I "relocated the nest," as he sometimes says.

Five months later we would be attending our first George Family Reunion in Havelock....little did we know that the 2009 Reunion possibly would be the last.

Word Count: 800

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 9-From Asheville to Havelock

My frustration continues because of the chaos that is packed within boxes from our moving in November. It is amazing how such great care was taken to pack like things together (binders with binders, books with books, etc.); and yet when it gets down to finding the elusive item needed, I realize now that perhaps people have it all backwards when labeling boxes. Instead of noting the category of items packed and the location where we want them taken, we really should label them based on where we found them.

For instance, all the journals and taped reunion messages that were located in the entry closet with the surname binders should have been labeled:
Items from entry closet: Binders, Journals and Tapes.
I am in search of one journal...the one I wrote in when traveling from Asheville to Havelock in July 2009. Three and a half years later, it seems like it has been more like five or more years, and my memory for detail fades.

My greatest impression of the trip are the differences in the land. From the mountainous terrain and winding roads of the Smokies to the flat land and straight roads that seem to stretch ahead for miles and miles without end until we come to the coast.

For now the details are faded, but I know that when I eventually do find my travel journal, I will be able to insert my observations and thoughts here.

We arrived at the Hampton Inn of Havelock early in the early evening, perhaps around 5:50 pm, on Friday, July 17, 2009. I estimated the time based on what I remember about checking in at the hotel. Letitia, our co-historian, and her husband arrived a short time after we did. She told us they would be using the conference room down the hall for the Meet & Greet (6-10pm), and that there were family in there already, setting up refreshments. 

After taking our luggage up to our room and freshening up, we went back down to the conference room.
At this point, I must refer to the family photos posted by our Cousin Chris. I remember the names of some of the faces represented in them, but many I had just met for the first time and their names escape me. I will have to ask our co-historian for assistance in order to preserve them for posterity.

But the photos themselves aid my failing memory of the events of that night, and of the banquet the following night....

Word Count: 421

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 8-As the Reunion Approaches

It is amazing how during the sabbatical year, even up to six or five months before a reunion, family history research takes on a more leisurely, methodical approach.  Then, suddenly, March first arrives and the research requests start to trickle in...then building up momentum...until the final crescendo of frenzied cries for help to gather as many details for the reunion booklet as possible. Each year the volumes of binders and loose papers multiply exponentially until the day the booklet goes to press.

2009 starts with requests for the co-historian's family, beginning with her grandmother, Sarah Jane (Moore) Moore's four babies who died young. From Moore to Harkley and Hardesty...
Always on the back burner~hoping one day to find the death certificate for David Henry Moore - b. July 1869.... (16 Mar 2009)
On the 18th, a request for Cousin Hattie's longer in Yonkers, NY...she has returned to the home place.

Interwoven between family history requests is a conversation between myself and another cousin. He is a young and tenacious researcher, whose father introduced us one night on the telephone because of a connection to our Hyman family. My husband's grandmother, Hannah Jane (Hyman) Carter, is the only ancestor for whom we have a photograph.

This is another reason Cousin Hattie is so adamant about meeting with the children of Chester Carter, Sr. Within the walls of the home place, once designated as Bert Carter Heirs land (the oldest son of their father by his first marriage). lies the answers to unsolved family mysteries, the truth about family legends, and the artifacts and pictures of those who predeceased us.

In all, Hezekiah Carter had six surviving children...three by his first wife, Stella, and three by his second wife Hannah Jane, pictured above. While Hezekiah's father, Isaac, died intestate, he had divided his land among his children while he was still living. Hezekiah, though, died intestate...without a will. And according to the family stories, the oldest son, Bert, tried to claim all the land for himself.

The home place sat on a parcel of land 5.34 acres. The deed for the family land across the street where the original two-story house sat before it burned down around 1920 was not in Hezekiah's name, however. It was in his mother's name, for she had inherited it from her father, Theophilus George. To this day it is still designated as Martha Ann Carter Heirs land (17.4 acres). And this is the property that straddles both sides of Blades Road.

As Letitia fires research requests to me on a near daily basis during this period, she tells me that in speaking with a cousin, they reveal that Bert's oldest daughter, Eleanor, did not die within the past six months as Cousin Hattie recollects, but over a year ago. Hattie had believed that Eleanor was in possession of the key to the home place. She had tried to contact her, but with her failing health, Eleanor died before Hattie could speak with her.

My membership to had run out in October, so I began taking the bus downtown to Pack Memorial Library every chance I could get to use the computer in the North Carolina Room. I would take print-outs of the emails, make notations on them, and then print the requested information to send to the co-historian. But by November, my bus route was eliminated due to a lack of funding and ridership. On my days off from work, I would ask my husband to drop me off on his way to work, and then pick me up on his way home.

Much of the assignments I received seem to be the descendants of Thomas Moore, our cousin's own family branch...birth certificates, death certificates, marriages, census documents showing the names and reported ages of children. By the end of March I was working on the descendants of James Bland George...also part of the co-historian's branch....then the Godette and Bell families.

April brought research on Hoyts, Bectons, Harkleys and Richards. I was gathering so much information so quickly that my binders used for those surnames related to my husband's family connections became overfilled, and piles of sorted loose papers sat stacked about my desk. On April 10th Letitia writes:
Hello Bizzybee: I am trying to keep up with you. One day you are looking at Harkleys and the next day back to the Georges and the next day the Moores.
By May we were working on editing the family history pages for the reunion booklet, based on the descendants of the George ancestors recorded in the first reunion booklet in 1989: Emanuel, James Bland, Nathaniel, Martha Ann, and Nancy. At this time, more of my husband's close ancestors' descendants were added or corrected.

On May 13th I emailed Letitia:
You're gonna laugh when you hear this one! I actually have filled a 2-inch binder with Godette information for the first two pages of the To Do List. Then I got to the bottom of page 2..."this is for the future." You should've heard me laugh!!! I got most of the info requested in 2 DAYS!!!....

She replied the very next day:
Debra: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! You were right~I was Laughing Out Loud. That was a good one. Perhaps I should have put the note at the top of the email. Oh well~the best part is you found the information we needed....
The end of May brought the request for help on double cousins. Then, in the beginning of June, all the reunion committee members' contact information was released. Requests for specific pages of the reunion journal were announced, and I began to look for a poem which expressed the heart of family reunion.

On June 1st, the reunion announcement letter was printed and released to the family. Still, the research continued through mid-June. And then, on June 14th, a request for the committee to vote on the ancestor who died the previous year for whom the reunion would be dedicated. There was a choice between two family members, and the one selected had been a member of the first reunion committee, and had served with Cousin Hattie.
James Modica George, Jr. was one of the pioneers who spearheaded the George Family Reunion. In addition, he assisted in the original genealogy research of the George family descendants and provided the first George Family History Report. 
In one month we would be traveling across the state to Havelock, North Carolina for the long awaited George Family Reunion.  While Cedric and I were excited about meeting with the family, we were especially hopeful to meet with Cousin Hattie at her new home.

Word Count: 1107

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 7-Why Preserve Heir Land?

This morning during my writing reflection time, I realized that one way I could personalize all the data I had posted in the previous day's writing about the heir land court case was to calculate the amount of interest in dollars and cents.

When I went back to the post and calculated what the smallest value was, a mere $36.51 out of a total value of $115,000.00, I began to realize the detriment of heir land as well as the benefit.

What benefit would that be? When I think about the Hezekiah Carter home place, and the Martha Ann Heirs land, I can see in my mind's eye the toil my husband's ancestors endured in order to be able to attain such a land to build their homes, to farm, to earn their living through turpentine distillation and pulp wood lumbering...raising cattle and hogs... And I recall visiting the family cemeteries along the banks of Mitchell's Creek...driving along a rutted path through what is now a soy bean field.

How could we allow that land to fall into the hands of developers? So long as the land remains intact, without subdivision, the more secure it the family's mind. It would take quite some effort, even for me as the co-historian, to determine each and every living descendant of Martha Ann (George) Carter, to locate them and begin a dialog.

At one time, my husband and I had talked about the land, hoping that there would be someone, we did not know who, that would be able to continue paying the taxes on the home place should something happen to Cousin Hattie. We had the desire...the deep, deep earnestness to preserve that ancestral land...yet, not the finances in order to continue paying on a 17.4 acre empty field valued at $93, 730. If ever a time should come when developers would buy up the properties along the Neuse as Cousin Hattie feared, just as had been done in the North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area, where numerous elite golf course communities sprang up, my desire would be for some marker to preserve the memory of those free persons of color who settled that area and made their claim to the land.

So many times I have wished that Cousin Hattie had shared with not wanting to possess the land, but desiring someone to preserve it and its memory...the history of the family that scratched its existence from that land.

But what good is a piece of wasted, mosquito infested creek land? Certainly we would never desire to live there! And would there ever be another Carter who would desire to farm the land? Any answer to that question would be speculation.

I drafted a short email to the siblings, stating our elder cousin's desire to meet with  all of us, in what foreboded of her imminent death. One sibling responded with concerns about court costs and attorney's fees...the next was interested in preserving the land, but like ourselves, had not the finances to pay the property taxes...and the last desired to relinquish whatever claim she had on the land as a descendant. No one saw the opportunity to gather information, or understanding about their heritage. The value that would come just from speaking with their father's fist cousin.

Perhaps that is too harsh an estimation. In this fast-paced world, we all have obligations which prevent us from doing as we please. We must often choose between desire and need.

Word Count: 580

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 6-Moore Interests in Heir Land

In order for heir land to be sold, each and every heir needs to be identified, and their fraction of interest in the land determined. The more children, grandchildren and great grandchildren an ancestor had, the lesser the fraction of interest they may claim from the heir land. Not only must they be identified and served by the court, they must all agree to sell the land, unless it is confiscated by the government as when Cherry Point USMC base was established at Little Witness community in Havelock, NC.

March 20, 2008. Cousin Letitia, my co-historian on the family reunion committee, had sent me a manila envelop containing a copy of court land document entitled, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. 124.44 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, IN TOWNSHIP 5, CRAVEN COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA; EULAH MOORE FRAZIER, et al., Defendants. In the report of the Special Master which followed for Parcels No. 141 and 143, forty-nine descendants had been named as defendants, followed by "et al.," denoting perhaps even more unidentified descendants. The names were known by me. Names representing the lives I had researched, some of whom are now deceased, some I had met at family reunions.

Section three in the report stated that "Parcels 141 and 143 are two separate parcels of land which were condemned together because of an uncertainty concerning the proper dividing line between properties."

While the researcher could not locate any deed of record, it was acknowledged that the community recognized Thomas Moore to have been the owner. From there,  a list of his children provided a framework for extending the branches to living descendants.

Another related case for 118.77 acres of heir land included thirty-two descendants, which was divided into ten sub-parcels. The fractions of interest the descendants held varied between 1/6 to 1/54. For example, one parcel was divided up between four individuals and the heirs of another, their names not yet known, and the interest varying: 11/18, 1/9, 1/9, 1/18, and 1/9. In another parcel, four individuals each had a 1/120 interest, and another eight held a 1/480 interest. The smallest interest was two women's claim of 1/3150. The total amount of money offered by the government was only $115,000.00. (The final claims recorded would calculate to an interest valued at thirty-six dollars and fifty-one cents each.)

From all the many names and relations accounted for in these documents, it it possible to sketch their branches onto the existing family tree.


As I write these facts, I am trying just to get the general information on the page. It is still difficult to see just how this piece will fit in smoothly with the narrative. I've decided to let it rest, and after observing how other authors treat explanations of factual information, I will consider how to approach month or after.

Writing the email to my husband’s siblings would seem like a simple task, one of mere conveyance of information, Your first cousin once removed wants us all to gather at her home following the reunion to go over land records and family history with you. Each sibling had their own take on it, however. The oldest and youngest wished to relinquish their rights to any land…the second born son was interested, but wary of any cost involved. I replied that this meeting had nothing to do with purchasing land, and if there ever was any money involved in a transaction following Hattie’s death, it would be to locate an heir who would choose to voluntarily pay the taxes on the property. No lawyers were necessary…I just wanted to learn more about the family and the pattern of inheritance. I wanted to see the old documents, to touch them…read them…and try to understand how my father-in-law…Hattie’s favorite cousin…might have felt about this.

Several times he had made trips from Erie, Pennsylvania to North Harlowe and New Bern concerning family lands. One such trip was upon the death of his half-sister, Gertrude. She had lived in the city of New Bern when she died, and her estate had gone up for public auction. Chester and his brothers gathered, prepared to pay a sum…however, less than the sum finally paid for the property.

He had also gone south with his sons…the first time with his two oldest boys, the second time with my husband, the third and last son. My brother-in-law remembers sitting in the car while his father entered the house from a rear or side entrance. Every one we have ever spoken to about the subject of family land refers to Mean Uncle Bert…and one cousin who had paid taxes on her father’s portion of the land for many years, referred to him as “the devil himself.”

Word Count: 773
Word Count: 790

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesday's Tips: The Family History Writing Challenge--Days 3-5

Day 3
Sunday. I have realized that Sunday is probably one of the most difficult days for me to write. I get up at 7am, stumble into the kitchen to brew a solitary cup of coffee (as my husband prefers tea...Earl Gray, with raw sourwood honey), and try to access the laptop. To my dismay, my husband is already checking email...and rightly so...looking for a song list for the worship team. He plays a three-tier rack of  electronic synthesizers, and is so grateful for the opportunity.

I walk back to the kitchen and open the laundry closet door to find his pale blue dress shirt that needs pressing. Setting up the ironing board, which I purchased in 1984 from the S&H Green Stamps store in Erie, Pennsylvania during our first year of marriage, and pouring water into the iron...preheating...I think to myself how much I really do not like ironing men's shirts, and remember, as always, that summer Mom taught me to iron.

We were living in Southern Tier New York State in a town not far from my father's boyhood hometown. He grew up in Binghamton and Johnson City, and after serving in the Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps and attending college at George Washington University and the Corcoran College of Art and Design, he began teaching art in the public schools...eventually to return to Broome County, and set up house for his small family. And so, I grew up in Vestal. Lived there from the time I entered Kindergarten till I graduated from High School in 1979.

Oh...where was I...yes, back to ironing!

I had owned a dressmaking business in Florence, Massachusetts for five years and seven months following college...and family... Our children were in high school and middle school respectively, and I worked out of the front room of our townhouse...a bright and cheery office with walls covered in thread racks, arranged by color, size and material. A massive wicker trunk which sat directly beneath the wide, triple windows, held quilting fabrics and bolts of interfacing. Along the next wall sat an immense oak desk with computer, bounded by two black, steel file cabinets and six-foot oak veneer bookcase, loaded down with books and binders of family history research. The next wall housed a full-length pedestal workshop table and peg board, and to the right of the doorway sat the sewing machine and serger. Working as a subcontractor for textile designers who hired me to create couture fashions of hand-dyed silks and velvet...and for a short time, hand-loomed chenille...pressing became an exacting ordeal.

Again...back to the simple shirt collar, yoke, sleeves, cuffs and body. Remembering...

After a long hot shower and dressing for church, I gathered my Teen Sunday School materials for the class I teach, my Bible and purse, and sat down for a moment to reflect.

Time to go...

Following services, we came home and it was time to prepare a pork chop dinner with Lima beans and cinnamon applesauce... I just wanted a nap! But, I thought perhaps I should try to write some. Of course...the laptop was in use again. I can't say enough it's really becoming time to save up for a second computer!

Time for evening service...or at least, sitting in the sanctuary, reading the last part of The Gravedigger's Daughter, as the worship team warmed up. And by the time we arrived home, exhaustion had set in and it would soon be time to get up to go to work.

Day 4
Monday. computer, but the early morning news. And then, before I was aware that it was time to dress and leave for work, it was 7:40am. Fortunately, my husband offered to drive me so I wouldn't have to walk the long three or four blocks to the grocery store where I manage the deli.

After a surprisingly good day, I walk home, change clothes, and it's time to go out. You see, Monday is my husband's day off. But I'm not complaining! After shopping for a new outfit at Belk's and a leisurely dinner at Cheddar's, errands at Walmart, we return home in my early Valentine's Day surprise...a "new" 2010 metallic blue Toyota Camry LE. What a day! Full of blessings and surprises...but no writing...yet.

I sat down at the desk and picked up from where I had left off on Day 2....

(continued from Day 2)

The problem still remained: I had no idea of what Cousin Hattie meant by "heir land." What could a lower middle-class white girl raised in Southern Tier New York in the 1970s know about southern black land ownership? 

I began searching for articles that would explain this situation, and discovered two things. First, heir land was originally instated as a means of protecting poor black farmers' land from often times unscrupulous carpet baggers, Jim Crow land grabs, and developers. If a black farmer died intestate, which many of them did because of the literacy affects of slavery and Jim Crow, the land was held by all their heirs, and designated heirs land. The land would be preserved until a descendant in a latter generation decided s/he wanted to farm the land.  In a time when over fifteen million acres of land was owned by African-Americans as compared to today's pittance of a mere 7.7 million acres (in 1999). One source cited that of that land, less than one percent is privately owned rural land, sixty percent of which is owned by non-farmers (Thompson, Pennick & Gray, What is African-American Land Ownership?, 2004).

The next thing I learned was that what was intended to preserve land has become the first step toward losing family lands today. As generations pass, especially following the great migration when our ancestors in my father-in-law's generation made their way north in search of jobs, families grew apart...children were born, and then grandchildren...and somehow, the connections between cousins, and in some cases even siblings, weakened and dissolved.

Day 5
As I said earlier, yesterday I finished reading Joyce Carol Oates' The Gravedigger's Daughter, which was a work of fiction based on the life of her grandmother. I can say that while I felt quite angry and cheated after reading the final page of the book, I realized that this is how Freyda must have felt...

...when we wait too long to be ready to talk with our distant family connections, it is often too late, for they are departed and we have lost our only opportunity to form a loving which ultimately leads toward a better understanding of who we are and from where we came.

Last year during the Challenge I viewed a 2007 book promotion lecture for The Gravedigger's Daughter where Ms. Oates spoke to a book club in Corte Madera, California, which you can view here. Her discussion of character formation offers one of the best illustrations of how she transformed her grandmother's story into the character and life of Rebecca Schwart.

Today I picked up her very own memoir, A Widow's Story, which tells what she experienced at the time of her husband's death. I started reading it on my lunch break, between bites of rotisserie pork and gravy, macaroni and cheese, dressing...interrupted by intermittent conversation with colleagues...and I was taken with Oates' details and description of her emotional state, depicted by her actions and reactions to events taking place around her.

As I entered the entrance to our apartment following my workplace duties, I could not even change my clothes before sitting down before the laptop and begin to pour out the words floating in my head before they grew distant and elusive.

I discovered...or should I say, rediscovered, that my writing had somehow fallen into the telling, and not the showing. So many personal interjections must be added to the narrative. But, for now, have chosen to continue and focus on re-writes at a later date.

As I walked home this afternoon, I could see in my mind's eye, the land plat of the Carter home place in Township 5. The plot belonging to grandfather-in-law Hezekiah looked like an angry cat, standing on stretched limbs and hunched-up back.

Once I began searching for the neighbors who lived in the surrounding lands, I found that Hezekiah's mother's land, Martha Ann Heirs land, stood across the street where the original two-story home place with adjacent family store. It was amazing to see how this creek-side geography had been carved up into irregular pieces inside of pieces, their angles jutting in this direction and that. But as the eye moves away from the home place, the boundaries become more regular and rectangular.

It was this central group of parcels, formerly belonging to Carters and Georges, that had lapsed into heir land, and parts of which had been subdivided among the children of Isaac and Martha Ann (George) Carter. It wasn't until three or four generations later that the descendants were so numerous and scattered that it would take a handful of family historians to combine efforts to identify and locate surviving heirs. And even now, I am finding heirs who had descended from Isaac's oldest son, Elisha, who had fled Craven County for Berrien County, Georgia during a time when he had gotten in some sort of trouble. What that trouble was, we have yet to discover.
And so I have discovered that if you do not write when the words are yet floating in your mind, when they are delayed of springing forth as words on a digital page, they dissolve and return to the recesses of your brain...never to come out in exactly the same manner again. So, do not hold on to these thoughts for long without releasing them to print, or the process will have to develop once more, in perhaps a different shape than once experienced. Be prepared! 

Word Count: 1644

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge--Day 2--The Home Place

(continued from Day 1)

At first I thought I had heard her wrong. Heir land. My thoughts lingered on that phrase, but Cousin Hattie's words continued on as though they were far away...hearing, yet not hearing.

Suddenly, it was as though my mind caught up with those words...
"What was that? I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear that."

"I said, I've been paying the taxes on the family land for quite some years now. And on the home place, too."

"But I thought Bert's granddaughter was paying the taxes on that..."

"Where'd you hear that," she snapped. "I've been paying on the home place. No one else."

"You mean the aqua house on Blades Road? Where Hezekiah and Hannah lived?"


"I read on the Craven County GIS site that..."

"On the computer? Oh, you can't go by that."

"Yes, Cousin Hattie."

"You know, it's a shame. Your Uncle Bert had tried to claim all the family land. We didn't know where Chester was living. We had tried to look for him, and I was determined that he would not lose his inheritance because of his half-brother. You know they had different mothers."

"Yes. Bert was Stella's oldest son."

"That's right. And Bert had always treated him badly.... Well, now. Like I said, you get all the siblings to come to the reunion and I will show you the land deeds. You know I'm having a house built right next to Mattie's trailer where you saw us last reunion. All my things are in boxes, but we'll find them. And there's still so many things up in Yonkers. There's a painting I had done of our family tree. It's beautiful! I want to make copies of the family papers. We'll do it!"

"Okay, Cousin Hattie. I'll get in touch with Cedric's brothers and sister, and I'll see if we can't get everybody together."

"Alright, girl! And I'll see you then. Good bye."


What a daunting task! Being an only child, I've never quite understood the whole sibling bond people raised in the same home with the same parents can turn out to be so different. Temperaments may clash, yet they love each other just the same.

I decided to write a family email and send it to each of the siblings, and to my husband as well.

(to be continued)

Word Count: 392

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge: Day 1-Hattie's Call

This morning I awoke, made my morning coffee, and immediately looked for the my e-Newsletter. As I read it, I jotted some notes in my journal, which is more like a To Do List in rough outline format.

Number one on the list was "Gather up some pictures and choose one to write about." My goal after work was to search through the rest of the moving boxes in my office closet and find the reunion photos of Cousin Hattie.

Then, I read Lisa Alzo's article, "Writing One Ancestor at a Time." Suddenly, I wondered,
How does one go from being a cousin to becoming an ancestor?
This is one of the questions my memoir will answer. 

Week 1 Assignment: Outline Story
  • "Write a paragraph summary on Day 1." 
As I read this, I was reminded of a blog post I had read during the past year about how to write a dust jacket blurb. Hmmm...I think I'll be in search of another item soon...
  • Create an outline & expand it into chapters and scenes.
  • Looking at the pictures of Hattie, answer the questions Who, What, When, Where, Why & How? Tell as much about the ancestor as possible, as much as you know based on the picture in front of you, your memories and any genealogy data you've collected.

Hattie's Call

In the early evening just a couple months before the family reunion, I was sitting at my desk, working on a family history assignment for the committee when the unexpected ring of the telephone startled me.

"Hello, Debra? This is Hattie."
"Hattie? I'm so glad you called! I've been trying to get in touch with you."
" Yes, I know. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. I've been ill. They found a spot on my lung and I've been getting treatments."
"Oh, no."
"The doctor said it looks good. I'm just so tired all the time. I'm having some problems with my blood pressure."
"Will you be going to the reunion?"
"I'd like to...but I'm not sure if I'll be able to go."

In that moment of silence, a wave of fear seized me. Hattie had been the chairperson of the first George Family Reunion committee in 1989, and as family historians, we share a special bond. 

"I want to meet with you after the reunion at my house to show you family documents...but only if all the siblings come."

All the siblings. That would be difficult. My husband's oldest brother remains in his hometown in western Pennsylvania on Lake Erie. His next brother was in the process of moving his family from Georgia to Florida; and, his sister, the youngest and only daughter, lived in Chicago. How could I get them all to come together in North Harlowe? 

"But what if some can't attend?"
"Only if they all come! I have seen too many times one try to grab the land from the others, and I have gone to court too many times, and I will not do it again. This is heir land. And your husband is an heir. And so are his siblings."

Heir land. I had never heard of that before....

Word Count: 315

I have learned several things on Day 1:
  1. Not having all your information readily on hand slows down the process.
  2. Trying to recall the nuances of tone and emotion from an event experienced several years prior can be difficult.
  3. Working late at night after a full day's work makes my eyes and mind excessively tired.
  4. If I am not able to change my writing routine on a regular basis, I may have to alter my word count goal.
We'll see...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Pre- Family History Writing Challenge: Storyboarding, Outline & Timeline

Two resources yet to be found...
After work today, I started thinking about what might still be missing from my writing sources and came up with three:
  1. an email to my husband's siblings detailing the conversation between myself and Cousin Hattie (or the original notes...if they still exist),
  2. a portfolio of poetry I wrote for my final project in Advanced Composition: Poetry back in the early 1980s, and
  3. photos from this period.
After sorting through sixteen plastic file boxes, I found other bits of memorabilia that will assist me, but these remain the illusive pieces yet to be recovered. Only three more containers to go, and if they're not there, they could be amid the stacks of moving boxes. 
However, I am determined to locate them by the end of tomorrow to be ready for the start of the Family History Writing Challenge on February 1st!
W Storyboard Three Act Structure
5 Islands: 
I came across this video last year during the Challenge, and have decided to use it to help organize my writing. I found it very helpful in placing the major events of my memoir along the story line. Take a look and see if it might not help you as you begin planning your family history book.

Below is how I have initially structured my memoir.
You can see that it acts as a means of outlining the sequence of events.

Act I
1.Triggering Event
Setting up the Problem:
2. First Turning Point
Recovering from the Problem:
  • Hattie's call
  • The family reunion
  • Piney Grove
  • The promise
Act II 
3. Second Triggering Event
Back Story:
Deepening of the Problem:
4. Lowest Point in the Book: Worst case scenario
  • The prayer
  • The harbinger
  • Living with death
  • The anniversary
Solving the Problem (new light, understanding, change)

Act III 
5. Resolution or Epiphany Moment
  • Present, past and future sight
  • Learning from Job 
  • Slowly fading 
  • Branching out
Since the major events of the memoir take place between the years 1990-2009, a period of nineteen years, I have not yet generated a timeline of events. The detail over a shorter time period is astounding; and for that reason, I will work on it as I develop each Act. In that way, I will create three timelines more focused on each island I will be writing.

I hope you'll stop by each day and see the progress I am making, as I participate in The Family History Writing Challenge 2013!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Surname Saturday: A Solitary Surname

We Are Multicolored: USA, Angola, Wales
My first instinct was to write this piece on my online journal, but second thoughts often prevail. Why is that? Perhaps because my surname is solidly connected to this site. And, this site is connected to writing challenges, like the Family History Writing Challenge that I will be participating in this February.

Thinking of my own surname as a family historian would years from now might prove challenging. If anything, they will most likely wonder why I chose to hyphenate my name, while our children bore their father's surname.

In all honesty, it was out of vanity...the vanity of a writer who wanted name recognition from her school chums. Newton-Carter. But more than that, it established my own personal identity...something I had struggled with during my youth.

It is a melding of two families...with distinct and differing backgrounds...coming together as one.

My heritage is one of struggling immigrants: Russian Jewish refugees, Welsh coal miners, English farmers and religious dissidents; while, my husband's family was captured, sold at auction, emanating from a continent, not a nation in our minds, because their origin had been lost within the slave system. My family came to this nation with husband's family came with their hopes scattered upon the waters of the long voyage to an emerging nation called America.

And so, Newton-Carter is a solitary surname, lasting only one generation, held by only one woman. It is my duty to tell the stories to future generations so that our origins might be re-discovered in the telling. The challenge of this vanity is that future generations will have to search for my records among those for three surnames: Newton, Newton-Carter, and Carter.

I hope you will join me here during the month of February for the Family History Writing Challenge, where I will work on telling the tale of our most present generation and begin the journey to uncover the truth of those who came before.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Putting the Writer's Voice in Proper Perspective in the Instant

As I woke up this morning, bleary-eyed and stumbling as the alarm sounded at 5:30am, my first thoughts, other than coffee, were on what voice and perspective I should use to write my family history memoir.

Sipping from a cup that warm hazlenut-flavored liquid that at the same time warms my insides, centers my focus, and allows me to wrap myself in the world of ideas, I sat down at the computer to begin reading my Facebook updates.

After taking a moment to watch a poignant video of Dr. Cornell West, explaining why watching President Barack Obama taking the oath of office with his hand on the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Bible makes his blood boil, I followed the link to a blog post from Life Story Writing: Tinted Memoir and Why You Should Do It.

Available at
The article was on target. Or should I say, at that moment I, too, was on target...writing my family history memoir through the lense of grief recovery. I followed the link to a book. I had heard of the title before, but did not realize how powerful the words were until I read the first few pages on and realized that I could not put it down.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. I see now that this will be a memoir that I must read.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Sorting through the evidence before the Challenge begins

You know how sometimes you can be so sure that all the information you need to do a project is carefully stored in one box, or on one shelf?

And then, when you pull it all out to take account of it all, you discover important pieces of information or artifacts are missing?

To top it all just moved within the past few months and it could be somewhere, packed away, in boxes...upon boxes...upon boxes...

Tip of the day: 
Before starting any large genealogy writing project, make sure you have everything you need before you sit down to write.

I am SO glad that I just checked the contents of my sources for the Armchair Genealogist's 2013 Family History Writing Challenge! If not, I'd have been scurrying around in the midst of trying to write, and that would not work out very well!

So, now I know what's missing:

  • the composition notebook used when interviewing our elder members of the family after our last reunion in 2009;
  • the funeral book and newspaper clippings (the clippings have already been transcribed, but they need to be scanned & archived);
  • photos taken on our last trip to North Harlowe, NC.
With only 9 days left...and a very hectic time in the month it is for me at work...I will have to muster up the energy and determination to pull down boxes from the seven foot stacks (with a little help from my husband), and begin the BIG SEARCH.

Who knows what I'll find in the process!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

First Steps in Organizing for the 2013 Challenge

At this stage in my life, I have built up and purged my personal library several times over; and, now I carefully contemplate the books I read based on my research and writing goals. Many of the books I select are not new releases. And for that reason, I have been fortunate to collect them, in their original hardcover editions, from or affiliated bookstores. Because of their age, perhaps seven to ten years since their release, I have been fortunate to gain them at a significant discount from their original price. This is the library that I will leave to my children, if they want it.

The titles may be found among African-American history, fiction and history and inspirational books...historical fiction, published genealogies, and local histories. 

In addition to these books, are the volumes of binders containing my genealogical research, plastic file boxes of loose papers I gathered, and genealogical files I inherited. 

Somewhere among the boxes are parents' musical wedding album...the letters, post cards and photos my father sent my mother when he was in the Air Force and they were newlyweds...items my cousin gave me that had belonged to my grandmother...boxes of loose photos, envelopes of negatives, boxes and binders of slides my father took to inspire his painting.

All these things must be labeled, preserved, and archived. I have read about family historians who never received their legacy because of some family member's misplaced value upon photos or other cherished items that could potentially give us more clues to our family's past. And for this reason, I want to prepare them so they are available to inspire my writing when I need them, and store them, indexed, so they are easily found when the need arises. But more importantly, so that when they are in the hands of our children when they receive their legacy, they will have a greater understanding and appreciation for these artifacts because of the careful archival treatment they received during my lifetime.

Available at Barnes and Noble
So, today I ordered through Barnes and Noble, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, by Denise May Levenick. As a member, I saved substantially (32%) by placing my order online, and received FREE Member Express Shipping. All together, the total came to $18.00. Not only will my preparation for the Family History Writing Challenge be enhanced, but my bargain-shopper mentality was greatly satisfied. 

Denise is known as The Family Curator. I've been following her blog for a couple years now, but her latest book seems to assemble all the different aspects of caring for various types of family archival collections that she has shared with us over the years. 

I've been following her Blog Book Tour, and you can too! 

My copy is scheduled to ship tomorrow (Monday) and I should have it in hand by Thursday! I can hardly wait! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gearing Up to Meet the Challenge for 2013

Only two weeks left to prepare for this year's Family History Writing Challenge, sponsored by The Armchair Genealogist. Click on the badge to the right to find out more about the challenge and to sign up.

Since moving to a larger apartment this past November, I have shelved most of my surname binders, along with some of the histories, published family genealogies, historical novels and memoirs that I've read within the past year. But until this afternoon, the plastic file box containing most of the journals, newspaper clippings, books and momentoes related to this year's topic sat amid several stacks, pushed into the back corner of my office.

Fortunately, the box needed was found third from the top of the stack closest to my desk! Unfortunately, when I opened the box, I discovered that these items did not escape the mildew problem we had at the old apartment. That means I will need to digitize EVERYTHING pertaining to this year's challenge.

Last year I began working on the family history memoir related to my husband's great grandfather, Sergeant Isaac Carter, who was a Free Person of Color, serving in the 14th Regiment USCT Heavy Artillery, stationed at Fort Macon, North Carolina. This has been a vast undertaking, and you can follow my progress on transcribing his Civil War Pension File on the main blog. I've also been journaling about collateral reading.

This year's project stems from a promise I had made my husband's Cousin Hattie the last time we visited in 2009, just months before her death. It's a story that a dear friend had told me I should write many years ago. I have started several times, but never got very far...mainly because it involves a traumatic event that changed my family's lives forever.

I hope you'll stop by from time-to-time during the month of February and follow my progress on this year's challenge. And feel free to comment on posts...especially as the intensity picks up!