Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas

My most treasured Christmas decoration.
Nativity made by Mama in 1988

I've been on a blogging break...I think the year caught up with me.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior I wish many Christmas Blessings for you in the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

Another treasured decoration is the beaded bell below. The same year Mama made the Nativity set for us [pictured above] she also gave me a box filled with bells, crosses, candy canes, wreaths, little people, and 2 different types of stars. All hand made from beads of different colors. They will be passed on to Clayton one day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

39 forever

Dear Teresa,

Happy birthday. Today you should be 44 years old. You should be here. It won't be long before January marks 5 years we have been without you. Life isn't fair. Sigh.

I think of you often. We are sisters and that bond lasts forever. I still smile when I think of my little tomboy sister that took forever to do her make-up, hair and get dressed. Maybe that is why I asked for buttons from your clothing. Something tangible.

I wish this old photo wasn't so faded. It is one of my favorites of us. This was the time when Mama and Daddy were getting divorced and we were getting lost in the custody battle. We had each other.

I hate that I have to visit you at the cemetery. And being so far from home I don't get to do that enough. I do talk to you often, though, and hope that you know that.

I love you,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Great research resource

[Cross posting from Digital Cemetery Walk]

Family Tree Magazine DVD 2000-2009

Our genealogical society board met recently to plan our 2012 monthly programs. Instead of pulling out back-issues, of which I only have half, I opened my laptop and searched by keyword for topic ideas. Now, we don't violate copyright by copying the article, but rather use it to create our own program content. Sometimes the topic is the hardest thing to come up with. Many articles include other / online resources that we can share with our members or use in our planning.

The DVD covers 2000 - 2009. I have the 2010 DVD on my birthday list, even though I have the paper issues. I downloaded the issues on my iPad using Dropbox. I love having access at my fingertips.

I got mine at a great price but you can get it for a better price:

accessed 10/26
Disclosure: I have not received any compensation or products based on my sharing this. I just love Family Tree Magazine.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The other half

In 2008 I wanted to learn to quilt. The first thing I did was buy some fabric and learn to cut using a rotary cutter. I ended up with a lot of squares that I sewed together - see below.

This was bigger than I desired so I cut it in half and made 2 lap size quilts. I knew I would give one to my older sister, Denise and keep the matching one. 

The day I took them to be quilted, [I only did the top piecing], we found out she had cancer. Sadly, she would leave us six months later. We spent those 6 months talking and reliving a lifetime.

I mailed her quilt to her once I had the binding finished. She kept it near.

What I did not know was that she had made a wish known and that was for the quilt to be buried with her. She entered eternal slumber covered with my love. I miss you, Denise.

Soon it will be 3 years since she said goodbye. The pain never dulls. The void never fills. I've just learned to live around it.

The other half? It's here. I plan to pass it down with memories I shared with Denise.

When I get sad I look at this photo. Left to right: Teresa, Denise & me. What was Mama thinking when she fixed our hair? 

Teresa, Denise and Mama are gone. I never imagined growing old alone. It's up to me to to pass on what I can for our family.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homestead in a Jar

Family History on Display

I am always looking for {creative} ways to display my family history in my home. To everyone else this is a jar of dirt. To me it is a reminder of my great grandfather's homestead in Holmes County, Florida and close proximity to where I spent many of my summer days.

My Great Grandfather, George Washington Stafford, homesteaded 160 acres. On my last visit in 2004 these acres remained in the family [of his 3rd wife].

I have a photo of George on the cap.

I have one other display for my homestead dirt and will share it, more details on the land patent and about George in a future post.

George Washington Stafford

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sweet Gum Head

Sweet Gum Head is a magical place. A place where the fairies dance at twilight; and trolls live
under the bridge. It is a place where the imagination of a child knows no boundaries. It’s not an
imaginary place, but a tiny community nestled in the panhandle of Florida, in Holmes County. It
is a place where time moves at a different pace.

I can barely remember living there for a brief time before the rest of my memories were captured
through visits. Summer-time visits were my favorite. We could hardly wait for the car to come to
a complete stop before we tumbled out in our excitement, already breathless from the anticipation of the adventures to come. There was much wonder to be found in the places waiting to come to life through the eyes of a child.  

Our destination was the home of my grandfather’s sister, Aunt Gypsie. Her home could be found down a narrow dirt lane secluded from the rest of the world by the piney woods standing guard around it. Those piney woods, draped in moss, were kingdoms waiting to be conquered and the hiding place of those brave enough to be enveloped by the cover of their darkness after sundown. It truly was a magical place.

Mornings began with breakfast that included eggs collected from the hen house. My favorite part of breakfast was a homemade biscuit covered with tomato gravy. The name tomato gravy has been known to crinkle a few eyebrows but the simple southern dish graced our breakfast table often. Aunt Gypsie always had enough left over biscuits for our sugar biscuit snack. To prepare, all you needed to do was poke a hole in the biscuit with your thumb and fill it with sugar. The older kids knew to wiggle your thumb around a bit to make the hole bigger so it would hold more sugar.

After breakfast we were ushered outside with instructions of not slamming the screen door and to
watch out for snakes. Those words reached our ears long after the door had already slammed. It
didn’t matter that these were the same places we explored last summer, our days were filled with
laughter and mischief as we reacquainted ourselves with our surroundings. Some places were off
limits but surely that didn’t mean us. The dark corners of the corn crib held new treasures beyond
the spider webs and all good adventures included a make believe trip on the big tractor. Chickens
needed to be chased; the troll that lived under the bridge needed to be defeated and the new piglets needed names, even if the mama sow didn’t think so. Of course, we had been warned to stay out of the pig pen, but rarely did we listen. She wouldn’t really eat me, would she?

As the daylight faded we’d take our place on the back porch to wash away the grime from our
tired little bodies in a washtub filled with water drawn from the well. Aunt Gypsie and Uncle
Willie had no indoor plumbing during my childhood years and I never gave much thought about
leaving those amenities behind during our visits. As the sun bid us good night we waited for the
arrival of the fairies and would watch them dance among the pines before we settled down for
the night. The next morning we awoke refreshed and ready for new adventures.

At the end of each visit we knew Uncle Willie’s departing gift for each of us was a palm full of
quarters. Those quarters never left Sweet Gum Head, for as soon as we reached the black top the
general store was our first stop. I would buy a bottle of Coke and bag of salty peanuts which I
poured into my Coke. So began my journey home, sipping my sweet and salty treat as I day
dreamed of my next visit.

I’ve been back to Sweet Gum Head many times as the years have passed. Each visit greets me
with change. Aunt Gypsie and Uncle Willie along with many others have passed on. The old barns and corn crib are no longer there. The fields have been dormant far too long and the earth has reclaimed them. Everything seems much smaller than before, but the piney woods stand as tall now as they did many years ago. When I close my eyes I can hear the yesteryears calling me. It’s the magical whispers of Sweet Gum Head.

May 2009
One of my family stories from a writing class

Taken with an old polaroid camera many years ago. It wasn't a good photo before I scanned it. This is how I remember my Aunt Gypsie and Uncle Willie.

Friday, August 5, 2011

3 Generations

This photo was taken in May, a few weeks after my son, Clayton, returned home from Afghanistan. We made a quick trip south to visit my Daddy.

The next day Daddy broke his hip and hours after his surgery he suffered a stroke. It has left him with some mobility limitations and robbed him of most of his speech ability. I am in the process of moving him from GA to KS.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Funeral Card Friday

When my little sister, Teresa, died in 2007 it was winter. Since she was cremated our family decided to wait until the spring to bury her and hold a memorial service.

During that time I knew the boiler plate memorials from a funeral home were not what we wanted to use.

I designed this version. Immediate family received a color copy and others a black and white copy. It is 8 1/2 x 11, printed on both sides and folded in half with half sheets for the insert. I created it in Microsoft Publisher but you could do the same with other software options.

With this we were able to share more about her than the traditional memorial card would offer.

Includes her drawings and signature
Inside: Notice the T
Includes many family photos we liked to make fun of.
Mama - did you really think our hair looked pretty like that?

Insert page
With family information

Printed copy

 My world, as I had known it, cracked that day. In 2008 my older sister, Denise, died. Three months later my precious Mama would also leave me.


Circle Me!

I posted this earlier on my G+ stream.

Raise your hand if you have more than one blog.

I do! I blog about cemeteries, genealogy and photography. To organize myself online I decided to create a master blog to refer others to and let them decide which of my blogs they want to read. It also gives me a place to share something that isn't specific to my other blogs.

I created a QR code for the master blog [and placed it on my other blogs]. I plan to have a card made with this code, my email and cell phone number. Now it will be easy to share how to find me.

With the ease of creating QR codes I have some other ideas...more on that later.

Here is where I made my code:

Stop by and see what I'm talking about!

Oh, I downloaded my reader "Scan" for free from the app store for my iPad. When I upgrade my BlackBerry to Android this weekend I'll find a reader for it.
~cross-posting on my blogs~

No smart phone with a QR reader? Click Here

Farm Home

My husband is the 3rd generation of his Wall line born in the United States. His great grandfather, Klaas Wall, immigrated from Prussia.

Here is the family farm home in Buhler, Reno County, Kansas. His grandfather, John Wall, was born in this home. It was torn down some years ago.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Jar of Forks

To you this is just a jar of mis-matched forks. To me it is a walk down memory lane. I don't really remember if Mama had a set of matching flatware when I was growing up. I do know that in the drawer of mixed flatware was MY fork. While I can no longer recall the pattern or much else about it I do remember that I would only eat with a particular fork. I guess I got over that somewhere along the way.

When Mama passed away in 2009 I was faced with the task of emptying her home. In the kitchen she had a drawer of mixed flatware. As I sorted everything to be devided among her grandchildren I couldn't help but keep a few for myself. It was a memory I wanted to keep.

Funny how something as ordinary as a fork could awaken long forgotten memories.

Blog Header Photo

I'm so disappointed. I found a photo I wanted to use as my header photo and it won't work because it won't fit across the top of my entire blog. I think I remember cropping it.

Oh well! The one I have used, until I find a better one, was taken from my backyard. The field is now planted with wheat but was used for alfalfa before that.

Here is the one I wanted to use, also taken from my backyard:

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Books

I've spent a lot of time in my hometown of Columbus, GA in the last 2 1/2 months. I picked up two new books and my cousin gave me a copy of Columbus, Georgia; What Progress Has Preserved.

On my cemetery blog, Digital Cemetery Walk, I have my cemetery bookshelf list and plan to add my genealogy bookshelf list here soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Family Treasures

When I decided to create this blog I was thinking of all the information and photographs I could share on my ancestors. After I posted about the tomato gravy and shared photos of the few dishes I have that belonged to my Aunt Gypsie I thought of the other treasures I have of loved ones.

Some are sprinkled throughout my home while others are tucked away in drawers and a cedar chest. I am comforted by the thought of my family here with me every day.

This also reminded me of a program I gave for my genealogical society called "Creative Ways to Display Your Family History." I will try to dig that up and share with you.

What treasures do you have on display?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Is it true?

One of my favorite records to research is the census. They are little time capsules. One of the lessons I learned early on is that you have to prove what you find. Sometimes even in a record.

An example is this 1900 Federal census taken in Dale County, Alabama. While it shows my Great Great grandparents, Wilburn and Mollie Snell, as being married 9 years, which is true, I can tell you those are not her 8 children. I would not know this until I had also documented Wilburn's first marriage. In fact, only the last 4 are from this marriage to my ancestor, Mollie.

And there is my Great grandfather, Jamie Wesley, as a 6 year old. I barely remember him, mostly his funeral, when I was a small child. I always thought of him as old, but there he is, a child himself.

Mystery Monday

Who are we?

Photos were given to me after the death of my great aunt Lucille in 2003. Lucille Howard was born 1912 in Geneva County, Alabama. She married Mikle Oran Register in 1928. He died in 1972. In 1981 she married Ernest Boyett. He died in 1990. Aunt Lucille lived most of her life in the Slocomb, Geneva County, Alabama area. I know she lived in Columbus, Georgia for some years and worked at Tom Houston. Please help me identify these people.
GeneaBloggers Daily Blogging Prompt
...Mystery Monday is where you can post about mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in your genealogy and family history research which is currently unsolved. This is a great way to get your fellow genealogy bloggers to lend their eyes to what you’ve found so far and possibly help solve the mystery...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kansas Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

I have no Kansas roots, but my husband does, so this is a nice online resource.
The Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas, houses and provides access to an extensive collection of Sanborn maps for 241 Kansas towns and cities covering a period from 1883 through the 1930s. With funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the maps from 1883 – 1922 are now digitally available to researchers everywhere through this website.

History of the Maps

The Sanborn Map Company, of Pelham, New York, began surveying the business districts of cities and towns across the United States in the late 1860s. Their intent was to provide insurance underwriters with detailed information about the locations of businesses, the structures they were located in, and any information needed to assess their liability for insurance purposes.

Surveyors noted the size, shape, and construction of homes, commercial buildings and factories, the location of windows and doors, the existence of sprinkler systems and fire walls, the types of roofs, the widths and names of streets, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers.

Tomato Gravy

Willie & Gypsie
 Tomato Gravy

While growing up summertime meant visiting relatives. Some of my favorite childhood memories take me back to the dirt roads in rural Holmes County, Florida to visit my Great Aunt Gypsie and Uncle Willie Smith. Aunt Gypsie was the 9th of 18 children, born in 1906, to George Washington Stafford with his second wife, Nancy Commander. Uncle Willie loved to tell stories and hand out quarters to us children.

Aunt Gypsie’s table offered a full tummy and left over sugar biscuits for between meal snacks. She often served tomato gravy at breakfast time. A few family members, including my Mama, cooked it with a little flour to thicken, but I like it plain. Most people outside of the south have never heard of it.

After her death I received a few of Aunt Gypsie’s dishes. Each time I use her bowl I am drawn back to those dusty summer days filled with family, love and the comfort of home cooking. I have never seen this dish, or many others, measured out and she used home canned tomatoes.

These are my measurements to serve over 2 homemade biscuits. It’s very forgiving and you can tweak it as needed for the amount desired. The simplicity of the bacon and tomato flavors together are what I love about it.

What you need:

• 3 slices of thick bacon, diced
• 1 15 ounce can of diced or stewed tomatoes [use home canned if you have them]
• Salt and Pepper to taste
• 2 homemade biscuits, sliced in half

Fry the bacon to render the fat [several tablespoons]. Set bacon aside. Pour tomatoes into the bacon fat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add bacon to skillet. Cook for 10 minutes breaking the tomatoes down with a wooden spoon. Serve over biscuits. Enjoy.
What is a sugar biscuit? Take a left over biscuit, poke a hole in it with your finger and fill the hole with sugar! Yum!

Gypsie & Willie

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wilburn H. Snell

My Great Great Grandfather

Willie Levi, Alto Lee & their father: Wilburn H. Snell

Name: Wilburn Helton SNELL
Birth: 20 Jun 1853 Alabama
Death: 23 Apr 1923 Chipley, Washington County, Florida
Burial: 26 Apr 1923 Glenwood Cemetery, Chipley, Florida
Father: Wesley I. SNELL (1825-1900)
Mother: Mary DUBOIS (1830-1906)
1: Martha Ellen PETERS
Birth: 11 Jun 1860 Dale County, AL
Death: 25 Nov 1889 Dale County, AL
Burial: Asbury UMC, Dale County AL
Father: Josiah "Joe" PETERS (1813-1893)
Mother: Catherine E. JONES (~1814-1864)
Marriage: 11 Jul 1878
  • Era Mittie (1879-1921)
  • Willie Levi (1881-1937)
  • Alto Lee (1883-1967)
  • Della Argussie (1886-1918)
  • Donie Mae (1889-1973)
2: Maryann "Mollie" Rebecca SMITH
Birth: 4 Oct 1867 Alabama
Death: 31 Oct 1911 Alabama
Burial: Tabernacle United Methodist, Geneva County, Alabama
Father: James "Jim" (J. F.) SMITH (1844-1909)
Mother: Frances Caroline "Callie" LAMMONS (1841-1925)
Marriage: 11 Sep 1890 Dale County, Alabama

  • Jamie Wesley (1894-1973) - Gale's Great Grandfather
  • Naomi Elizabeth (1896-1972)
  • William Elias "Baud" (1898-1980)
  • Callie Mae (1899-1974)
  • Martha Ellen "Mattie" (1902-1991)

3: Ella HILSON
Marriage: 18 Jan 1918 Washington County, FL
Census / Time Line Notes for Wilburn Helton SNELL

-1860 Dale County, Alabama Census, Newton: "William" H. 7 years old. Born in Alabama.

-1870 Dale County, Alabama Census; Skipperville, 16 years old. Born in Alabama. Can read and write. Works on farm. 1 of 4 children listed.

-1880 Dale County, Alabama Census: listed as 26 years old, born in Alabama. Father born in Alabama, mother born in South Carolina. Wife Martha and daughter Eron (Era)

-1900 Dale County, Alabama Census: listed as 46, born June 1853 in Alabama. Father born in Alabama, mother born in South Carolina. Married 9 years. 8 of 8 children living.

-1910 Geneva County, Alabama Census: 56 years old. Married 19 years. Born in Alabama. Father born in Alabama, mother born in South Carolina.

-1920 Washington County, Florida: 66 years old. Born in Alabama. Father born in Alabama. Mother born in South Carolina. Farmer. Married to Ella. Baud and Mattie live at home.

His Florida death certificate lists his parents as "don't know" by a M. Philips [hard to read]. It was ammended in March 1979 to list his parents, by Ida Holley. It is possible this was done to prove the generation for Creek Indian research. I have been told we have family members that have proven our Creek heritage through the line of Mary DuBois, but they refuse to share with others.

Glenwood Cemetery -  Chipley, Washington Co., FL

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Meet My Ancestors

I'd like for you to meet some of my ancestors. I will be sharing about them on this blog. Most of my research is centered in Southeast Alabama, Southwest Georgia and the Florida panhandle, along with parts of North and South Carolina.

BATEMAN, Priscilla
BENTON, Catherine Rebecca
BENTON, James M. "Bomp"
CARLISLE, Susannah "Sookie"
CRUMPLER, Maude Amanda
CRUMPLER, Jefferson Davis
CRUMPLER, Josephine "Jo" Ilena
ELLIS, Experience "Exey"
GOODMAN, Zilpha Mary "Emmer"
GOODMAN, Malachi Dennis
GRANT, Julia Mary
GRANT, John Calvin
HELMS, Eunice "Unicy"
HINSON, Abraham S.
HOLMES, Sarah Lodella
HOLMES, James "Jim" M.
HOLMES, Nathanial James
HOLMES, Stephen
HOWARD, Jessie Nell
HOWARD, William Benjamin
HOWARD, William Jasper "Buck"
HOWARD, Simeon
KNIGHT, James "Jim"
LAMMONS, Frances Caroline "Callie"
McCOLOSKY, Nancy Ann
McDANIEL, Eliza Priscilla "Sillar"
McDANIEL, William J.
McDANIEL, William John
McDANIEL, William
McLEAN, Lucy
McLEAN, Alfred Lovick
McLEAN, Lovick Pierce
MEARS, Ellender
PRESCOTT, Elizabeth "Lizzie"
RIGSBY, Alice Virginia
RIGSBY, Martha "Matt"
ROGERS, Frances
SAWYER, Agnes Lizelle
SAWYER, Carlie Leon
SAWYER, Charles Carter
SMITH, Clara Estelle
SMITH, Henry Dennis
SMITH, Maryann "Mollie" Rebecca
SMITH, James "Jim" (J. F.)
SMITH, Benjamin Franklin "Frank"
SMITH, Daniel Ulysses
SNELL, Cleveland H.
SNELL, Jamie Wesley
SNELL, Sara Estelle
SNELL, Wilburn Helton
SNELL, Wesley I.
SPEARS, Bryant
STAFFORD, Daniel Union
STAFFORD, Daniel Haywood
STAFFORD, George Washington
VARNUM, Narcissa Emaline "Emma"
VARNUM, Aaron Daniel
VARNUM, Reddin
WALLS, Mary Jane
WHITE, Helon
WISE, Zilpha
WISE, William

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Love of Cemeteries

I didn't always enjoy spending time in cemeteries. Genealogy came first. Visits in those early years were to find a specific person, take a photograph for my records and leave. Somewhere along the way that all changed.

Cemeteries can offer an afternoon of discovery. There is beauty and art to be found in the old stones and epitaphs. Stop by and visit me.

Digital Cemetery Walk


It's only appropriate that my first genealogy post be in honor of my Mama. I never could have imagined how she shaped the person I am until she was no longer with me. I miss you, Mama. You left us much too soon.

Mama 1943

Sara Estelle Snell Stafford
b. January 13, 1943 - Columbus, Muscogee Co., GA
d. February 27, 2009 - Columbus, Muscogee Co., GA
buried: Riverdale Cemetery, Columbus, Muscogee Co., GA


May 2007

Mama had 5 daughters. Judine and Joycine died at birth. I am the only daughter living. The rest of my journey will be lonely without them.