Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Genealogy Project

I started working on my genealogy project a number of years ago for a school assignment. Ever since then I've been taking advantage of free offers and picking the brains of my family members. Each year I learned a handful of new facts that I could use to fill in the branches of my family tree.

This year however, I hit the genealogy jackpot! I discovered that some of my grandmother's cousins were in possession of a book, published in 1862 and dedicated to the history of one of our family lines. After months of pestering this poor relative whom I had never met, he agreed to meet me and let me borrow True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family. As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I was positively giddy with the idea of being able to read and handle this document. We met at my home away from home, Starbucks, and flipped through pages of this amazing piece of history. I felt as if I were on my own episode of Who Do You Think You Are.

I took the book home, got my gloves out and began scanning in the 82 pages. I did a lot of my scanning late at night. I read along as I scanned and when I came across something that gave me history goose bumps I just had to send my family members an email about the latest discovery. They received many an email from me, time- stamped way past one in the morning, rambling on in a delirious, gobsmacked state about so and so who fought in this army or died in this strange way.

I was delighted to learn that the Dwinnel Family were among the first settlers of Topsfield, Massachusetts. I was ecstatic to see that my ancestors were in America far before the French and Indian War. My super great grandfather born in 1670, was noted as the town's first "physician and chirugeion."  I was amazed to think about not only how long they've been in this country and their numerous accomplishments but, all of the amazing historical events that they were around for and had experienced first-hand.

Having access to this book meant that I had more information which I could use to search for even more family members. In such a search I was able to learn that two of the women in my family were hanged in the Salem Witch Trials. My direct ancestor Mary Towne Estes, and her sister, Rebecca Nurse, were both victims of the hysteria; something I wish I had known a few years earlier when I visited Salem.

Some family lines have been easier to trace than others. The family of my maternal grandfather has proven to be quite the mysterious bunch. I've been able to find such little information on them. I've struggled across the various lines over family members using middle names instead of first names as well as contradictions in records versus what relatives have told me.

I've learned a couple fundamental things this year in my quest to learn about who I come from. The first is the importance of staying organized! A good, solid spreadsheet can be your best friend. And it is so helpful in terms of keeping relationships straight, quick references and making notes. The second is to take advantage of local historical societies and libraries. If you're having trouble finding a document, reach out to one of them! I've found that they have access to a variety of information. And if they are unable to help, they may be able to put you in touch with someone they think may be of assistance.

Many thanks go to my various family members past and present, for having provided me with hints and facts about where we come from. I'm also grateful to them for their colorful, interesting lives, regardless of whether or not they were of good or poor character, for they are my family, my blood and my history!

Special thanks to Henry Gale Dunnel, MD for doing much of the work for me and leaving behind an incredible wealth of information. I wouldn't have been able to do it with out you- especially since our family spelled Dwinnel/ Dunnel about twenty different ways!

"Ohana means family. And family means no one gets left behind!" - Lilo and Stitch (That's one of my favorite quotes of all time!!!!!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Is it Summer or Fall? I'm Confused.

Its Labor Day weekend and I'm so pleased to have had an extra day off from work. On the news these past few days, they have repeatedly mentioned that this weekend marks the unofficial end to summer. However we still have about another two weeks before the actual end of the season. While we are all in a holding pattern in the wait for fall, I've been feeling as though I've been in this liminal position between seasons since the first of August.

At the beginning of the eighth month, I returned back to work in preparation for a new school year. The perks of summer were over and I was back to making my lunch and setting my alarm every night. This while people in my circle were still sleeping in and on vacation. I traded late nights, swimming and middle of the day visits with friends for new copy machines, GATE results and registrations.

The approach of fall has been evident in stores for awhile with the endless aisles of "Back to School" supplies. It was even present in my backyard with the fallen leaves everywhere needing to be raked and disposed of. Those leaves never stop coming! I've already received a few notes in the mail about Halloween Time at Disneyland. And fall decor has begun to make its way onto store shelves once again.

Meanwhile here in Southern California, it is still hot enough to wear tank tops and flip flops everywhere. On weekends I do my best to maintain my tan (tan for a freckly Irish girl,) that I achieved for my friend's wedding in July. And at night all the windows in the house are open and the fans are put to work.

Now school is back in session. The phones are constantly ringing, the tardy slips are being written and the health office is seldom empty. I already miss the ease of summer. I'm still finishing up my summer reading selection, still listening to the songs that became my soundtrack for the season and still laying on the chaise in the backyard.

While the ease of summer reading and music is still something that I'm trying to hold onto with a firm grasp, I'm slightly anxious for it to actually be autumn. I can't wait to wear a sweater outside and not die from heat exhaustion. I can't wait for the local pumpkin patch to open, to buy a Halloween costume for my dog and to walk down the street and hear the crunch of leaves below my feet. And although most people like to say that we don't have seasons in California, we So. Cal. girls have a terrific way of determining the change of seasons: The Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. When that arrives you know that fall is here and that I'm in autumnal heaven.

Long story short, I haven't decided whether or not it's more summer or fall right now. My entire summer was great: NKOTBSB concert, family fun at the Hollywood Bowl, a good book, and a great friend's wedding. While the relaxation is over and the temperatures are quite unpleasant, I'm eagerly awaiting : picking out pumpkins with friends, snuggly sweaters and the excitement over upcoming holidays.

My Summer Books:
El Dorado by Baroness Orczy (The sequel to The Scarlet Pimpernel)
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (I'm about 150 pages from the end but, I love, love, love this book!!!!)

My Summer Soundtrack:
Don't Turn Out the Lights- NKOTBSB
Paris (Oh La La) - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Hot Summer Night- Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Pause (Zumba Mix)- Pitbull
Run the World (Girls) - Beyonce
Streetwalker- Michael Jackson
Moves Like Jagger- Maroon 5