The Evolution Of A Person

I’m personally at a point in my life where I’m thinking a great deal about what plans I’d had when I entered my 20’s, where I am in my late 30’s, and what shape I want to start carving out for my future given the truths I’ve discovered in this elusive stage called “adulthood.”  The changes that we make in a life are amazing.  Have you ever thought about your best friend in elementary school who was so painfully shy?  How shocked were you to learn that her path took her to become an increasingly famous actress?  Or the little boy who didn’t like to get his clothes dirty that is now a wilderness survival guide?  How did these changes happen?  What key moments influenced those individuals to emerge into the radically different personalities we enjoy today?

As I gather these bits and pieces about my clans and their people, these moments keep striking me.  How a person started out seemingly one way, but ended up another.  Then I wonder, too, is it really that they changed or is it just that my understanding of them changed?

The one person most on my mind where changes are concerned is Esther Lillian Hookanson.  This woman of my Hookanson Clan was also my paternal grandmother.  She was a first generation American, her parents having immigrated to Los Angeles from Sweden.  Her high school senior portrait is one of the four photos that make up this blog’s banner.  Her story is one of the few that I’ve been privileged to know personally, rather than on paper only.  Interestingly, I’ve also learned her story backwards- the woman I knew was old and frail and I had definite views about her.  Claiming Our Clans and its research has helped me know her better, and perhaps in a better light.

The Esther I knew, as I said, was old already by the time I was born- 73 that year.  She was past the point where she was able to take her granddaughter to the zoo, or teach her to bake the family recipes.  To talk about the troubles that her granddaughter was having with her father and offer insight about when Esther’s son was a boy.  The Esther I knew was someone I was obligated to, my love for her was duty rather than experience.  I have lamented this over the years, but I don’t waste much time with the feelings.

Now, having said all this, I have started to wonder at the course of her life that led her to be the quiet and somewhat sorrowful old woman I knew.  Her early days certainly didn’t seem lacking in adventure and action!

Esther started out life in a family that was well-off in an era where that wasn’t easy.  Her family owned a high-end laundry service in Los Angeles.  She was a lovely young woman with a soft smile.  She grew into a lady who seemed gregarious, posing in men’s clothing while camping around California, showing off daringly for a camera with her friend in a swimming suit.  She didn’t marry until she was 28, in an era when the median age for a woman to marry was 21.  She met her husband at a golf club and continued outdoor adventuring into her adulthood.  She was active with her grandchildren when they came along, almost always living near to them.  When did the change happen?  When did the joy of life leave?  How could the daring Flapper Gal of the 1920’s evolve into the diminutive woman who would stop the car at an intersection regardless of the color of the light?  What events happened that changed her into the woman who’s face was lined with apathy?

I likely will never know what took her from happy-go-lucky and adventurous to fearful and sad; probably I don’t want to know.  But I am glad that I’ve seen photos to prove she once smiled and had a full, surprising, life.  I am glad that I’ve seen the bits of paper that show her larger story and support that she was actually a dynamic person. I am glad that I have re-learned the lesson to not judge a book by its battered cover. I am glad to be reminded that we’re all on a journey and it’s a blessing to know a person’s story from start to finish, we don’t always get that chance.

Esther Hookanson on right, hamming it up with a friend circa 1920.

Esther Hookanson on right, hamming it up with a friend circa 1920.

Esther Hookanson circa 1925.

Esther Hookanson circa 1925.

Esther Hookanson on left circa 1920.

Esther Hookanson on left circa 1920.

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Fun Facts! vol.1.5 Frith

It finally happened!  I shouldn’t be surprised, the idea of “six degrees of separation” and the nature of genetics and all… but I admit my heart beat a little faster at this latest uncovering…

President Jimmy Carter, photo credit Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

President Jimmy Carter, photo credit Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

The Virgil Frith Family is POTUS adjacent!  That’s right, all ya’ll… our Virgil Frith is a cousin to former President Jimmy Carter.

Let that soak in a bit.  🙂

To put it precisely, Virgil Frith’s maternal grandfather, Sterling Gardner Carter, had many (half) siblings, one of whom was Littleberry Walker Carter- the great grandfather of Jimmy Carter who was POTUS from 1977 through 1981.  This makes President Carter a 3rd Cousin of Virgil Frith’s own children (or the 2nd cousin once removed of Virgil).  Pretty cool, eh?  But with 12 children issuing from Sterling and Littleberry Carter’s father, Wylie, in total, there are *a lot* of people that can claim such relationship with the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

It’s only a little ironic that the peanut farmer from Georgia was cousins with the peanut salesman from Missouri.  Can we say it was in the blood?

I hope you’ve been taking notes!

For Amber Waves Of Grain…

For Amber Waves Of Grain…

One of my grandmothers, Nellie Cole Frith, made sure that I was a Hayley Mills fan as quickly as was decent for my intellect to handle.  “Pollyanna” was and remains one of my favorites of the movies Hayley Mills starred in.  As a “wannabe” singer when I was a young girl, Mills’ scenes in Pollyanna where she and some cohorts dress up to be the U.S. flag and sing a lovely rendition of “America The Beautiful” entranced me and sticks in my memory. My mind has wandered to thoughts of what it took to get this many-peopled nation to this point in history.  We are truly a nation that runs the gamut- no matter what attribute you’re looking at in particular.

Synonyms for the word “gamut” are: range, spectrum, span, scope, sweep, compass, area, breadth, reach, extent, catalog, scale; variety…

America the Beautiful indeed.

We are a nation of explorers, invaders, invaded, refugees, new to the continent, established, red, yellow, old money, new money, black, white, orphans, greedy, healers, giving, hunters, gatherers, seekers, thieves, farmers, innovators and dreamers.  And that’s just where we START.  What comes next is even better!  We arrive and we mix and mingle and create something new, every generation bearing the brunt and the hope of the one before it.  We don’t just sit in a melting pot, we bubble and brew and become what no one could have expected.

In looking at my four clans, I’m consistently struck by how my genetics display this classic intermingling of experiences.  From my father, my generation is only the second one born in the United States.  On my mother’s side, the stories and lives stretch back to the struggle for independence and further.  There’s even whispers that we’ll find solid Mayflower ties one day.

So, tonight, as the idiots are blowing off fireworks 24 hours early, I am reflecting and grateful for Joseph and Rebecca Frith of colonial Virginia; for Matthias and Judith Kessinger and Mat’s documented service in the Revolutionary War; for William and Sarah Easley; Vachel and Susannah Stogsdill; Moses and Mary Couch; Amos and Mary Justice; William and Dorcas Nettles; to Daniel and Hannah Polen; the family of William Denning; Nathaniel and Abigail Couch; Joseph and Mercy Lupton; John and Elizabeth Pickering; Thomas and Ann Cromwell; John and Mary Scarborough; Joseph Allen and his mate; Tristram and Blanche Hull; Thomas and Mary Durbin; William and Honora Logsden; Martin and Hulda Fraza; Carl and Anna Maria Hookanson.

This amazing array of names is not complete and has gaps… but they’re the people we can name who were the first of their lines to live in the land that we’ve come to know as the United States.  Some were colonial, some were children when the Declaration of Independence was penned.  Others were more recent immigrants.

It’s a vast collection of people who lend their stories to create what we see in the mirror.  I am exceedingly lucky to be able to know the names of so many of them.  I hope that the life I lead, that all of us who carry pieces of them in us lead, makes them proud and gives them added peace.

Happy Independence Day, United States.

This One’s For The Ladies…

Blog-Image-FrazaBanner

The result of a patriarchal society is that I feel like the women get *a bit* over looked from time to time in this genealogy adventure. (Read that with some sarcasm, please.)  Even when I’m researching my mother’s lines it’s the men that I tend to focus on, I’m guilty of the habit too.  Well, not today!  For the Fraza family, it’s interesting to me that they had more daughters than sons, but those daughters have been MUCH harder to find information and photos of.

Take for instance in the newspapers of the day… a woman was always “Mrs. John J. Jingleheimerschmidt.” She did not have her own identity after marriage and sometimes even “Miss Jane Widget” was referred to in terms of her father and mother.  When my husband and I first started to try and track down the 13 siblings of my paternal grandfather, this was the problem… not knowing married names (in addition to the nicknames they all went by).  When we came across a 1945 obituary that named ALL of the siblings and most locations they were at, it was GOLD.  Only because when the daughters were widowed did they “get” their own names back were we able to puzzle together who was who and what married names were, the locations they lived at in the time were an additional boon.  To explain further, if Mr. John J. Jingleheimerschmidt was still living, she was called Mrs. John J…  If Mr. Walter Widget had died, his wife was named as Mrs. Jocosta Widget.  Confused?  Yeah, I know.  I feel ya.

But, between that obituary and a handful of other such nuggets along the way, I feel very confident in who became who over time and where they ended up.  The few relatives I’ve found and developed friendships with have helped confirm a lot of information and I’m grateful for it.  Even though I tend to identify myself more with my mother’s line of people, I still have wanted to know these women of my father’s heritage.  We had their names as children, we had their names as young women, and finally, we had a glimpse of who they became as grown women with families of their own (or not).

As always with me, though, I wanted (want!) more.  Pictures and stories please?!

Ask and ye shall receive?  Cousin Bea saves the day again.  I have been gifted some treasures that put faces to many of the Fraza women for me and I eagerly share them with you here.

Emma Field, Hilda Petersen, a cousin, Kao King--- Setting out from Hollywood for an adventure in Tia Juana.

Emma Field, Hilda Petersen, a cousin, Kao King— Setting out from Hollywood for an adventure in Tia Juana.

Betty/Bessie and Adoph Apel.  Betty died fairly young, but goodness- she lived!  She and husband Adoph loved Hawai'i so much, they moved and made a life there.

Betty/Bessie and Adoph Apel. Betty died fairly young, but goodness- she lived! She and husband Adoph loved Hawai’i so much, they moved and made a life there.

1961- Fraza Women: Hilda Peterson, Mayme Fraza (a sister-in-law), Harriet (the eldest daughter!) Wiggerman, Lydia Fraza (a sister-in-law), Alma Fraza (a sister-in-law), and Martha Parke (the youngest of all the siblings).

1961- Fraza Women: Hilda Peterson, Mayme Fraza (a sister-in-law), Harriet (the eldest daughter!) Wiggerman, Lydia Fraza (a sister-in-law), Alma Fraza (a sister-in-law), and Martha Parke (the youngest of all the siblings).

I’ve found Emma and Martha to be easy with smiles; Hilda always looks fashionable and put together; Harriett is stately in all the photos I’ve seen and Kao’s look seems serene to me. I’d love to have known Betty- the image of her and Adolph makes my heart beat.

Missing from this growing collection are images of Anna Fraza Quaas and Hanna Fraza Herbert.

I see their father, Martin, in some of the smiles, but all in all the women look far different from the men of the family… I have to wonder if I’m not looking into the face and features of my great grandmother Hulda when these images look back at me…

Thank you for your smiles, ladies.  I hope my judgments are fair and at least a bit accurate!

Unexpected Mail

Unexpected Mail

I may be in love with the United States Postal Service… after an adulthood of distaste for the institution, this is saying a lot.  A LOT I tell ya!  Why all the love for the folks in blue shorts and weird utility vehicles?  They brought me a present.  Sure, that’s nothing terribly new, as a lucky and loved person I’ve been on the receiving end a time or two…  but today’s mail pick up included and lovely green envelope that was weighty and a bit chunky.  Are you itching to know what was in it?  Sure you are, that’s why you’re reading this!

Pictures.  I got PICTURES!  I have faces for many names now, WE have faces for many names now!  Cousin Bea, I know you won’t read this, but thank you SO MUCH for this unexpected treat in the mail box today.  I’m just beside myself and I keep looking at these faces.  I want to will them to talk to me, to tell me about themselves, but I will be content with these frozen moments of time for now.

There are a fair few I could share with you, but one that feels terribly precious to me is this one.

Fraza Men, 1936.  L-R: Robert "Bert", Gustav, Martin (Father), Bob (Bert's son), Otto, August "Gus", and Harlan (Gus's son).

Fraza Men, 1936. L-R: Robert “Bert”, Gustav, Martin (Father), Bob (Bert’s son), Otto, August “Gus”, and Harlan (Gus’s son).

I adore how the grandsons are standing with the same crossed arms.  The only two Fraza sons missing are Emil, who had already passed away in 1934 and then my own grandfather, John “Jack”, who was in California by this time.  I don’t know what month this was taken, but I doubt it is a coincidence that Jack is not present and his first/only son was born that same year.

I just keep staring and looking for the parts that are my own father… that forehead!  That hairline!  Those noses!  The wide smiles…  And, for as keyed into the idea that I’m a cookie cutter of my mother… do I see some of these features in me?

I hope they were kind men who loved their families and could spare a smile for anyone.

Yes, indeed, today was a special day.

Brick Walls

Brick Walls

A brick wall is a stopping point for most.  An immovable force.  Something that cannot be overcome.  A brick wall will stop your journey or, at least, seriously derail it.

It is imagery that is commonly used in the amateur genealogy hunt and it suits.  I’ve noticed that not only do the brick walls of the hunt stop me or derail me, I often will beat my head against them and act insane hoping for a new result as I review the same information again and again looking for the kernel I missed before.

My current brick wall is named John P. Cole.  This fellow was my great-great-grandfather.  He lived most of his life in Kansas City, Missouri- but the census sheets say, consistently, that he was born in New York.  There’s no mention of what city in New York and only his death certificate notes his father’s name was also John Cole.  No where does his mother’s name appear.  Too, the census forms vary wildly in reporting where his parents were from… twice they’re said to be from Germany and Pennsylvania, one year it was said John’s parents came from Canada and Ireland (seriously?)… my favorite one says simply that his parents were from “United States” (that one I believe least).

I’ve been combing through the Kansas City yearly directories (think phone book but with a bit more personal information like job and if you reside or board) looking for my John P Cole.  He first shows up in 1883, the 1882 directory has the pages where he would be missing and the 1881 book does not have him (the only John Cole in the book does not have a similar job).  It doesn’t matter that the pages are missing, I really don’t think he was there yet.  It was just about 1860 when the transcontinental railway was finished and Kansas City became a hub for train travel and cattle speculation.  The city had an explosion of growth and drew hoards of people to it’s little metropolis- plenty of work for a man who did construction his whole life.

I have an email sent to the church where John P and his wife Lizzie were married to see if the church records might have a little more personal information in them… the Missouri state marriage licenses did not ask for parent names at that time.  I hope they can help me long-distance, but I’m betting I’ll have to show up in person to look at the books- if they exist.

I’m just not going to be able to get any further with John P Cole’s history unless I can find a hint as to what his path between 1860 New York and 1883 Kansas City Missouri might have been… his mother’s name would be a boon to the search as well.  I’ll bet dollars to donuts too that his name wasn’t Cole at birth- my best guess is Kohl.  But speculation and guesses don’t get a person too far in this game.

This is the wall I’m facing now, the bricks I’m beating my head on.  The immovable force just makes me feel more stubborn, determined to find a chink in the mortar and scratch at it until a brick comes free and information can flow again. Until then, I really need to change tack and focus on another person so my head doesn’t find permanent damage!

DNA and Adjectives

Sometime back I had a touch of writer’s block where this blog was concerned.  Odd, since I’d only just started it and frustrating because there’s a wealth of information and learning to report on.  I reached out to my Facebook connections to hear about what they wanted to read from me.  Predictably, I didn’t use any of their ideas and one theme, in particular at the time, made me quite nervous;  I had several suggestions that I reflect on my weight loss efforts and how it has affected the research- or the effect the research has had on me in relation to weight loss.

I balked because, while it’s not a secret that I had weight loss surgery, I still don’t advertise it- and boy howdy… is this ever advertising! Too, I couldn’t really see how it related.  I suppose the concept must have sat in my mind over the weeks though because it’s forefront today.  There is a connection and it does bear discussion.  My family search has indeed impacted my weight loss journey.  I’m not more motivated, I’m not less motivated, but I think a further acceptance of HOW I am is on the horizon now.  Let me explain…

Who hasn’t looked in a mirror and wondered where the freckles, that no one else in the family has, come from?  Who hasn’t watched new parents gush over the chin dimple Junior got from Grandma and how Baby Girl’s eyes are definitely her mother’s?  Are we any less likely to wonder about the (culturally) negative attributes we inherit?  Some folks get tall and lanky genes.  Others sport nose shapes they don’t like or thighs built for moving mountains.  No one brags about those bits, but maybe we should?

One of the most unaccepted things in Western civilization today, in terms of a person’s body, is to be fat.  Barring a few very particular and uncommon medical origins, FAT is not seen merely as an attribute a person would use to describe another person or themselves in relation to others (such as “large hands” or “small feet” or “brown eyes”)… it’s a condition.  To be fat is to be subject to bullying (despite the prevalence of it in our societies), to be thought of as lazy or weak willed.  To be fat is to be seen as out of control or unwilling to “help yourself”.  To be fat is to be subject to scrutiny and speculation everywhere from the doctor’s office to the grocery store.

Are you depressed yet?  There is some change happening recently, but we’re a long way from really living out the idea that “The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity—and the ways our differences combine to create meaning and beauty.” (StarTrek)

So, what am I going on about?  Oh, yeah… I’m fat.  I have had weight loss surgery and lost 200lbs (I’m not kidding).  I’m still fat.  Even when I reach my goal weight, I’ll still be fat.  (Yeah, I have that much to lose.)

And it’s the women who’s DNA I carry that helped make me this way… and who are helping me accept it.

*Author’s note: please don’t confuse acceptance with justification or release of personal responsibility- neither of which are pertinent here.

Take a look at these glorious, plain, creative, warm, flawed, cold, beautiful, tall, short, young, old women.  What do they have in common?

Nellie Cole, Florence Polen, Nancy Jane Lupton, Josephine Durbin, Rachel Garrison.

Nellie Cole, Florence Polen, Nancy Jane Lupton, Josephine Durbin, Rachel Garrison.

They’re all fat.  If you’re uncomfortable with the word think big boned, thick, fluffy, soft, padded, solid… whatever.  It’s just descriptions and so is the word “fat”. And, I’ll be damned, I look like I came out of a cookie cutter.  How does this help me on this mythical journey of self-acceptance and perception?  Well, I know that not one of them could possibly have been nearly as inactive as I am, not one of them had a life-time’s worth of “modern” diet.  They worked on farms, raised a zillion kids, lived HARD lives of little comfort, were generally poor… and they were still fat.  JUST LIKE ME.  There was no fault. The word has no disrespect attached to it.  Their bodies were what they were and had a particular description of shape.  JUST LIKE ME.

They were fat and had love.  They were fat and had kids.  They were fat and did hard labor.  They were fat and had LONG lives.  They were fat and had friends.  They were fat and didn’t hide from a camera.  They were fat and they LIVED!  If they can do it, so can I.

Seeing these women, in all their variations and similarities- culminating in me, helps me accept how I am.  Maybe not entirely, and maybe complete acceptance of my body will never come… but I can see without doubt how my DNA has influenced the way my body shapes itself in spite of my “best efforts” and medical intervention.  Fighting my genetics will only make me sad and loathe my body.  Reminding myself where I came from, WHO I come from, is a significant doorway that has opened into some measure of self-acceptance in recent months.

“Fat” is an adjective.  It’s not a moral judgment. I will be the happier for remembering that.

Thank you Nellie, Florence, Nancy Jane, Josephine, and Rachel for helping to make me how I am and for whispering at me over these many generations that we’re all amazing creatures.