Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The last resting place for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans --- and some day for Max Hurbut and his wife Hueih-Hueih.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Uncle Ralph Never Wrote To Me

This shoebox of letters was a strange gift and one I never expected. I have lived with this shoebox, and it's mate, for the past two years; reading, transcribing, putting events into chronological order, and now these boxes of letters are morphing into a book. Such a precious gift. As I worked with the letters, the letters gave life to this poem.

My Uncle Ralph never wrote to me.

He was only a dim memory until

my Aunties gave the letters to me.

A shoebox filled with weekly missives

from 1980 thru 1985

to sisters, Verna and Olive,

to be read, shared, & put in a shoebox

then tucked away in a drawer or on a closet shelf.

My Uncle Ralph never wrote to me

Each began the same,

Dear Olive & Norman,

or Dear Verna & Rowe.

Week in and week out

weather reports, 78 degrees,

from the ocean a nice breeze,

heavier than usual rains,

snow in the mountains

above 4000 ft.,

rain caused 12 car pile up

over by Del Mar,

each had a sameness

and ended with Love, Ralph & Sally

Ralph read 6 newspapers a day.

He dinna have much else to do,

what with old age and a bad knee from 1974.

He scoured each page for tidbits

to write about, to entertain his sisters,

a springboard for pages and pages of thoughts

on politicians (crooked),

world events (going to hell),

and the economy (good for the rich, but not the poor).

These were the thoughts

of an everyday kind of man who

read 6 newspapers a day.

Television was his friend.

He was on the pole at Del Mar & Santa Anita,

was in a front row seat

at a Padre’s game,

instant replay for the Chargers,

and San Diego U Aztecs.

He yearned for cable tv,

he then could get all the games,

but said, “I hardly have time

to watch the games on local channels.”

Television was his friend.

He was an everyday kind of guy.

Ranted and raved about crooked politicians,

kept track of cops on the take

and cops doing their duty with courage & bravery.

Sadly shook his head at conniving developers

and the ever increasing population

that clogged the streets, the freeways and malls.

He cried at man’s inhumanity

that sawed off the beaks of Pelicans.

He enjoyed the annual Mother Goose Parade

as though he was yet a child.

He was an everyday kind of guy.

He was in his 80s

when he penned the last

of these boxes of kept letters,

but his memories of childhood,

family, snow storms & mountain roads

kept me enthralled.

Aunts & uncles whom I dinna know

became people with real lives.

Grandparents, who were old in my childhood

now had a history

so different than I ever imagined.

He was in his 80s when he penned these gifts.

His memories he gave to me;

he & his sister going to school,

in Madison’s 5th Ward

where they had real teachers

and one who had taught their Mom too;

one room schools in Minnesota,

Grandpa driving delivery wagons,

buying and selling horses,

taking care of the children,

caring for Grandma when she was ill,

teaching her to walk again.

Memories of long treks from Wisconsin & Minnesota

to sunny California

with all their belongings tied on alongside.

These memories, and more, Uncle Ralph gave to me.

My Uncle Ralph never wrote to me

he never came to visit after my Dad was gone,

he was only a dim memory of a story long told

or mentioned at a family storytelling.

Tho my Uncle Ralph never wrote to me,

his words, more’n million handwritten words,

on thousands of pages, white, pink, blue tablet,

thin see-thru paper so “the postage dinna hurt,”

gave me a front row seat to his thoughts and memories

and came to me in shoeboxes, treasured shoeboxes,

treasured words, treasured stories.

I do believe my Uncle Ralph did write to me.

(Note: I dinna know why, but it seemed important tonite to share my Uncle Ralph with my readers/JGH)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Surname Saturday - McPherson and the connection with Adamson & Stewart

My gggrandmother Mary Burns McPherson has left me with a nagging question, and an itch I canna scratch. She was quite proud of her Burns surname; each of her sons, as well as two of her seven daughters, carried the name of Burns as their middle name. She was also rather traditional in her naming practices for the mid-1800s. The first son was named after the maternal grandfather, William Gibson Burns; second son, for his uncle (brother of Mary Burns McPherson), Jabez Burns; and the third son, for the babe's father James Peter McPherson.

Now comes my problem. Mary Burns McPherson named the daughters as follows:
Ann Adamson McPherson, the first daughter;
Elizabeth Spink McPherson, the second daughter , for the child's paternal & maternal grandmothers (Elizabeth Herrick Burns and Elizabeth Spink McPherson);
Mary Jane McPherson, the third daughter she named after herself;
Jessie Stewart McPherson, the fourth daughter;
Emma Ellen McPherson, fifth daughter
Harriet Burns McPherson, sixth daughter;
Margaret Burns McPherson, seventh daughter.

Everything that I know about Mary Burns McPherson would indicate that the first daughter would be named for a grandmother, and most likely the babe's maternal grandmother. I have looked off and on for the past 5 years for a link to the Adamson family. I do know that a Thomas Adamson emigrated about the same time as the McPhersons and followed them from Dundee,Scotland, to NYC, and finally to Springdale, Dane Co., Wisconsin. Thomas Adamson also bought a small portion of James Peter McPherson's farm in Springdale. But still, I canna find a family-blood link between the two families.

The same situation is true with the naming of the fourth daughter, Jessie Stewart McPherson. The Stewarts left Dundee a year or so before my McPherson gggrand parents sailed to NYC in 1842. The two families kept in contact and by 1850 my McPhersons followed the Stewarts to Springdale, Dane Co., Wisconsin. They even lived in the Stewart's house outside of Madison for the first few weeks after arriving in Wisconsin from NYC, via canal boats, and a steamer through the Great Lakes. ("Jessie" may also be named for a Burns sister or cousin.)

The names, and the meaning of the names, of these two daughters are a nagging, haunting question for me. I leave the question for a while, only to return to review it again and again.

If anyone has some light to shed on this question, I would appreciate the illumination.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Aunt Gail's Carved Creche

My Aunt Gail Sigford died May 5, 2006, at the age of 85 years (and 1/2, as she would be quick to say). For her memorial service, I unpacked and displayed the pieces of the creche set that she carved with us in the winter of 1955. Well, I say that she carved them with us, but she actually carved Mary, Joseph, the Babe, cow and donkey as shown here. My husband and I worked on the remainder of the set which included two more kings, a couple of angels, a shepard, and some sheep, but none of them were as artistically finished as these that my Aunt Gail made for us. For the past 54 years, set comes out of its box every Christmas and has its place of honor on the antique table near the front door.

Gail was my name sake Auntie and had a powerful impact on me as I was growing up. She was an artist, a thinker, and an untamed spirit. I loved hearing her tell tales of places she had been, and things she had done. All of the family especially loved to hear her tales of her days in the WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots). She graduated from the last class of the WASP, December 7, 1944. I think that she always felt wistful that she never got the opportunity to fly as a full-fledged WASP.

In addition to her art, I am grateful that my family has so many memories of her.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Introduction, me & Roots'n'Leaves

As usual, I have pushed off into the rapids, and not sure quite how to navigate the waters. The rush has subsided and calmness has returned. Take a breath and begin. In the late 1970's, I sat enthralled with Alex Haley's mini series, Roots. The very name, Roots, had a visceral connection to me, so when I self published my first book, a family history and cookbook, nearly a decade ago, I chose to self publish it under the name of Roots'n'Leaves. In my brain, it made perfect sense; Roots of my past combined with the written Leaves of pages, and value added as I began to add leaves to my tree, as well as to books.

I am new to blogging, but I am not new to family history, genealogy and writing. So this seems to be a natural for me and I don't know why I waited so long to blog.

For the past couple of decades, I have been researching my maternal lines, which include Sigford, Duty, Brown, Keyes, Doran, Lowery, Gordon, Ward, and, of course, the elusive Cherokee Elizabeth.

A couple of years ago, I came into possession of a couple of shoeboxes of letters that my Uncle Ralph Jabez McPherson wrote in the early 1980s when he in his mid to late 70's. The stories that he told, the people that he remembered were only vauge names to me. As I transcribed the letters, night after night, my Uncle Ralph began to speak to me through those handwritten pages. The stories and people began to become more real to me. So, I began a serious research of my McPherson heritage. Over the past year, I have been reaching out to McPherson relatives and finding family I did not know existed.

I am never sure which is more important to me, the search for the puzzle pieces of my heritage, or the stories that come to me through the search. Ahh, me thinks it is the Roots'n'Leaves.