Tracing Our Irish Ancestors

St Patrick’s Day is over for this year, but it isn’t too late to get in touch with your Irish roots. The last few years I’ve really gotten hooked on genealogy and I’m learning more about my roots to Ireland.
ancestry dna map
One of my family lines is Kennedy that goes back to Ireland in the 1700s. I also have Scots-Irish ancestors on my mother’s side, the McGhee line. More recently, I’m traced my father’s Joy line back far enough that it appears to cross to Ireland where it was originally Joyce.
Perhaps you have ancestors from Ireland. More and more information is being made available on the Internet to research your family history. Take advantage of it. Watch a  YouTube video features genealogy expert Helen Kelly who provides some advice on tracing your Irish roots.
smilebox mcghee family photos

Graphic created with our family photos and Smilebox.

Read More about Our Roots in Ireland in the Following Pages

  • Scotch-Irish Ancestry: My Family Roots – I learned about the Scotch-Irish while researching my McGhee and Kennedy family roots. It’s a heritage that you can be proud to claim. Learn more about these immigrants to America and their background.
  • Clarence McGhee – My Grandfather’s WWI Years – My grandfather served in France in the first world war. Learn about his experience and the family memorabilia from this momentous time in his life. I’m sure it parallels that of other young men of the time.
  • Ruth Vining McGhee – A tribute to Ruth Vining McGhee, my grandmother. She grew up in Oklahoma and Kansas. She married a young man just as he went off to WWI. This is their story.
  • Bertha McGhee – Missionary from Kansas – This is Clarence McGhee’s sister who dedicated her life to ministering to Indian children in New Mexico and later in Alaska.
  • The Kennedy Family Desk – My sister researched this family heirloom that traveled with the pioneers from Pennsylvania to Kansas in the 1800s.
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1918 Postcard from France

As World War I raged in France, Clarence McGhee sent a postcard home to his bride, Ruth. It is part of the family memorabilia that his daughter, Gail Lee Martin, preserved and passed along to the next generation.

In sorting the papers, cards, and photos, I found myself having a hard time reading his handwriting. “I wonder if it is as hot in Tyro ? or is — ? This has been the warmest day without ? ? this is the picture of the church I was in the other Sunday. (can’t read the rest.)

Clarence’s granddaughter, Karen, came to the rescue. She deciphered the handwriting. Here’s what the postcard says,
“Somewhere in France. July 16, –18. Dear Ruth: I wonder if it as hot in Tyro today as it is here. This has been the warmest day we have had yet. This is the picture of the church I was in the other Sunday. This is just the center for there is another section on each side. Good by dear. As ever, Clarence”

It looks like he didn’t have to pay postage. “Soldiers Mail” is in the top right corner where the stamp usually goes.
I feel so fortunate that Mom saved this card that her father sent to her mother.  Wish we knew where the church was located in France and if it survived the war. 

Gail’s CarePages – January 2013

CarePages is a website that family can use to keep everyone up-to-date on a loved one who is in a care situation. After Gail Lee Martin broke a hip in November, CarePages became sort of a diary with a running commentary by family and friends. The family did a lot of texting, emails, Facebook updates, and phone calls during that time as well.
I saved the CarePages messages as a record of that stressful time.

Gail’s CarePages – January 2013

Posted Jan 4, 2013 9:40pm by Karen Kolavalli – “I’d never actually seen a Bluebird before, but the birds I saw this afternoon around an evergreen there at Regent Park Rehab were obviously just that! Three pairs of them!”
bluebird pixabay

Bluebird photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted Jan 7, 2013 1:56pm by Cynthia Ross – “Getting to see the Bluebirds had to be a special treat! I’ll watch for them the next time I’m there to visit Mom. Mom has a south facing window in her room, maybe she’ll get to see them as well. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.”

Blood Clot

Posted Jan 8, 2013 7:15pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom had been complaining of sharp pain in her groin, where they went in for the heart catheterization. Yesterday Regent Park’s doctor ordered an ultrasound to be sure there wasn’t a hematoma. Susan reports that the ultrasound showed a blood clot. It will be treated with bed rest and medicine.”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 10:15pm by Carol Garriott – “No wonder she was in pain!”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 10:03pm by Sandi Edgar – “She just can’t get a break it seems! Hope the meds work….hugs!”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 8:43pm by Melba Hauser – “Thanks for the update, I really appreciate them.”
Gail Martin at rehab

Gail Lee Martin at Regent Park Rehab Center after breaking her hip, having surgery, and then a heart attack.Blood Clot

Mom back at Wesley in Surgical Intensive Care Unit

Posted Jan 14, 2013 9:46pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom is back at Wesley in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. She woke up this morning at Regent Park with chest pains, which didn’t improve after 2 nitroglycerin pills.

They’re not able to do a heart catheterization to see what’s going on because she’s been on blood thinners for the blood clot, so they’re having to wait 2-3 days for her blood to get thicker before they can do the procedure. In the meantime, they’re using meds to keep her stabilized. They also plan to do a sonogram of her heart.

They did an EKG when she first got to Wesley. In comparing it with the one she had at the time of her other heart attack, there are changes that seem to indicate that she’s developed more blockages.

The cardiologist thinks she did probably have a heart attack this morning.”

Posted Jan 15, 2013 11:41am by Sandi Edgar – “I am so sorry to hear she is having yet more problems. I will keep her in my prayers for a complete recovery from this new problem. Hugs!”

Gail Lee McGhee Martin (Sept. 13, 1924 – Jan. 17, 2013)

Posted Jan 18, 2013 8:22pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom passed away last night in Wesley ICU after another heart attack. We are planning a celebration of her life for Saturday, February 2, at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 430 Eunice, El Dorado, KS. Everyone is invited to join us after the service for a meal provided by the ladies of the church. Karen”
Posted Jan 19, 2013 12:30pm by Sandi Edgar – “Karen, I don’t have the words to tell you how sorry I am. My heart goes out to you and your family. Please keep in touch and call if you need to talk. Love you.”

Use Photos to Jog Your Memory

Post by Virginia Allain: Next week, I’m teaching a series of classes on memoir writing. Here’s some of the advice I’ll give the participants:

Trigger Your Memories with Old Photos

Get out your old photos to serve as memory joggers in writing your memoir. Look at them, really look at them. Probably you’ve seen these photos dozens or even a hundred times. This time you will look beyond the surface.

The technique to extract the maximum amount of information can include making lists of things you see in a photo. Here would be my list: dark car, gravel driveway, light colored house with a porch, 4 curly-haired girls in shorts/pedal pushers.

The next step would be to use those clues to set the time. In this case, by estimating the ages of my sisters, remembering the time I got glasses, and when we lived in town, gives me the likely date.

sisters March 59

Martin kids – Ginger, Cindy, Susan & Karen in summertime

An Analysis of the Photo Shown Above

In this line-up, I see myself and three of my sisters. I’m guessing it is around 1960 before our youngest sister was born. The house must be the one on Carr Street where we lived when I was in 4th and 5th grade. We are barefooted, so it must be summer and we are probably at home. If we were visiting someone, we’d have shoes on.

I could ask a car buff about the car, as I don’t recognize it. Perhaps it belonged to a visitor and the occasion of their visit is the reason we’re getting photographed.

I can’t deduce much from our expressions. We’re looking into the sun and that’s causing us to look down or squint or close our eyes. No sunglasses back in those days.

I’m surprised by all the curly hair. Maybe Mom had tried out some home perm kits. I started wearing glasses in the 4th grade. I wonder when the two younger girls got their first glasses?

Look at those tans! That’s from lots of playing outside. I’m the pale one, probably because I spent hours reading.

This was a rental house and too small for our family of 7, soon to be 8. After that, we moved to the country, to a 4-bedroom farmhouse.

Clyde Martin family on carr street, El Dorado, KS

The Martin family. Clyde holding Karen, Gail, Owen, Cindy, Ginger, and Susan. We all look a little younger in this photo but it is the same house.

 Making Use of Your Discoveries about the Pictures

OK, I’ve deduced quite a bit from the first photo. I’ve written a sentence or two about the elements in the photo. The next step would be to rearrange those into more of a narrative describing my feelings about that time in my life.

After examining the details, tune into the feelings evoked by the picture. How happy were you at that time in life? How did the siblings get along? Tell about a typical day at that time in your life.

Tips for Late Christmas Cards

Sometimes Christmas sneaks up on me and the Christmas cards aren’t sent in a timely manner. Maybe it has happened to you too. Perhaps you’ve been ill or had to work extra hours at your job or had some other disruption to your plans.

Here are some ways to deal with tardy holiday cards.

late xmas cards

  • Facebook Greetings

    Just posting “Merry Christmas” on your Facebook status is a little lame. It’s better to compose a reasonable Christmas letter that’s newsy and send it using Facebook’s message capability.

  • E-Greeting Cards

    There are plenty of sites that have cards to send to your e-mail recipients who aren’t on Facebook. These cards are quite colorful, often sing and dance and let you add a thoughtful message. One company for free Christmas e-cards is Blue Mountain Cards. To find more, just Google “free Christmas ecards.”

  • Phone Calls

    Hopefully, you have unlimited long distance calling on your phone because this is the way you can reach all your offline friends. It takes time to ring them all up and have a good chat, but that’s what happens when you don’t work on your Christmas cards earlier.

  • Mail Out Christmas Cards After Christmas

    This is an alternative to the first three suggestions. Send the cards with a “Happy New Year” or “Best wishes for a great year” penned in after the Christmas greeting. Try to get them in the mail right after Christmas.

  • Skip Christmas Cards This Year

    You can get away with this if you are right in the middle of moving, getting a divorce, have been sick, or are coping with a major family upheaval. Next year, send your cards early and explain what happened.

(Originally posted on List My 5 by Virginia Allain)

The Christmas Gazebo

Some years back, I added a miniature gazebo to my Christmas decorations. Although I don’t set up a Christmas village, I couldn’t resist getting the piece. Every year, I bring it out and add the fir trees and the tiny fawns carved of wood.

Christmas village gazebo

Ginger’s Christmas scene with the gazebo and deer.

This small replica honors my brother, as it evokes memories of the gazebo that he built for the city of El Dorado. There are actually two gazebos. He was an accomplished cabinet maker who custom built cabinetry for homes in the area and some businesses too.

Owen Martin and Gazebo he built in Eldorado

Owen Martin in the gazebo he built for the city of El Dorado, Kansas.

After his stroke, he had to give up that work. I noticed once that he was watching a home remodeling program on House and Garden TV, so I’m guessing he misses his tools and projects. He can take pride in his handiwork being on display in these gazebos.

I imagine the city decorates them with lights for the Christmas season. I’d love to see a photo of that.

Cindy’s Christmas Memories

Cindy Ross, our guest blogger for today, is Gail and Clyde Martin’s fourth child. She shares her Christmas memories with us.

As a child, it seemed to take forever for Christmas to arrive. I remember the anticipation while waiting to open gifts early that morning. 

It could be very cold if Dad hadn’t stoked the fire in the potbelly stove. So, if you arrived downstairs too soon, you’d be scampering back to that warm bed.

Our stockings hung along the staircase and you could almost peek into them from up above. We were lucky to get an apple or orange, ribbon candy, or a candy cane.

I loved the wooden bowl Mom placed on the table holding the English walnuts, cashew, Brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, and peanuts to be cracked open. The slender metal picks in the center of the bowl helped get the nutmeat out of the shell.

For fun, we played Fox and Geese in the snow, but only after we finished feeding and watering the rabbits and chickens.

rustic wooden nutbowl with cracker and picks

This is what the nutbowl looked like.

Comment from her older sister, Ginger: “Thanks, Sis, for writing this. I’d forgotten where we hung the stockings and about the bowl of nuts. Now, I remember how exotic those nuts seemed and how difficult it was to crack the hard shell of those Brazil nuts. There were hazelnuts too. Christmas was the only time we had those.

I hadn’t forgotten how cold it could be in that uninsulated Kansas farmhouse. We would huddle around that woodstove in the living room while hustling into our clothes. Upstairs there would be ice on the inside of the bedroom windows.”