Monday, November 20, 2017

Gratitude Day #20 - My Parents' Journals - 20 Nov 2017

Today I am grateful for my parents' journals they left behind.

Mom and dad were not real educated, but they were two of the smartest people I have ever known. The grammar police would have tremendous anxiety reading through their journals.

But, I can read behind the lines.

Their journals were written many years after events happened; probably during the 1970's. The LDS Church had been emphasizing to all members how important it was to submit four-generation pedigree charts throughout the 1960's. In doing theirs, mom and dad began to reconstruct their own lives.

Here is an example from my dad's:
"My Memory of Yesterdays
By Chester L. Clemens

I was born of goodly parents at Lawton, Carter County Kentucky and lived in that area as well as I remember for two or three years before moving to Olive Hill KY. Which was about four miles from Lawton and my father had a job at the brickyard and I remember carrying his lunch to him at the brickyard along with my brother Dewey who was two years older than I was.

The thing that brings back my memory so much was my younger sister Betty when she was burned so bad by a pot of beans falling off the heating stove in the living room, as well as I remember the stove had a bright chrome plated ring around the bottom of it and Betty my sister was rocking in a rocking chair close to the stove and each time she would rock the chair she would touch the stove with her foot and after doing that for several minutes the pot of beans finally fell off the stove and burned her awfully bad over most of her body and of course the doctors was not trained to treat severe burns in those days and the most the doctor could do for her was to give her Morphine to ease the pain till she died, We lived on Clark hill at that time, a part of Olive Hill."

It took little Betty three days to die. I can only imagine the pain her mother felt for her, as well as her older sister Mary, who must have lived with some measure of guilt throughout her life.

My sister Betty is named for the little one who died.

Dad also recorded his experience during the Battle of Blair Mountain (look it up!) in West Virginia. When the PBS special aired, I contacted them and told them I had my dad's journal, which was a first-hand account of being there.

They asked for permission to put it on their site. Of course!

Later on, as I transcribed these journals into genealogy programs, and on to FamilySearch, I recalled how my mom's journal helped me in achieve my credentials as an Accredited Genealogist.

I was to choose a family where person #1 on a pedigree chart would be born no later than 1875. For some reason, I chose my hardest family. I don't know why I didn't choose an easier one.

One of my requirements was to list the source documentation for each person on that pedigree. I went to work, citing all along the way. Until...I reached a county where there no court records.

I was stymied. This was twenty years ago. What was I going to do?

My dad was living with us at the time. He asked me why I was so puzzled, and I told him about the record loss. He smiled, and said he knew all about it. did he know?

"Because our family burned it down".

He seemed rather proud of the fact, but it left me without needed information...until I re-read mom's journal.

In there, she recorded information about her grandparents, and great-grandparents. She had known them all, and they had lived next to her for many years.

And, she had their vital information.

I explained this during my submission, and they understood. One of them had been an expert on Kentucky research, and knew the county I was referring to. He then suggested looking at school records.

I did. And, that became a presentation that I give quite often.

So, mom and dad's feeble efforts at keeping a journal provided a wealth of information for me to draw from years later.
A page from mom's journal

A depiction of mom's first cook stove

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