Monday, July 25, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation

In a conversation on google+ a few days ago, Megan Smolenyak asked whether or not two cousins could be connected within 6 degrees?  To quote Wikipedia, "Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, "a friend of a friend" statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.

One of my favorite ancestors, and the one who piqued my interest in genealogy, was my paternal gg-grandfather, Britton Wainright.  He died of heatstroke on July 9, 1863 when, as a member of the Indiana Home Guard, he and others marched to confront John Hunt Morgan of Morgan's Raiders.  I've written extensively about Britton in a series of posts

Click to enlarge

Over the years, Morgan's story has become larger than life.  It seems like everywhere I go, I am confronted with reminders.  The bike trail I ride on has an historical marker recalling the spot where Morgan and his raiders attacked a train.

Last October, my cousin Barbara and I, traveled to Mt. Sterling, Kentucky to research our Probert ancestors and attend a meeting of the Mongtomery County Genealogical Society.  Following the meeting, we were able to get in the Historical Society.  They had a traveling exhibit of some of Morgan's artifacts on display, including his saddle. One of the members helped hold out part of the saddle where Morgan's information was embossed.

General John Hunt Morgan
2nd Kentucky Cavalry
So last Friday, I traveled to the Lexington Cemetery to track down the grave of a gg-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Dimond Probert, from a totally different paternal line.  I had forgotten that this cemetery was also the burial location for John Hunt Morgan, his parents, and many other Morgan family members.

Grave of John Hunt Morgan
(Note the Confederate flag at the base)
Morgan Family Plot

The parents of Morgan have a substantial monument and are surrounded by a circle of graves of their children. This memorial is not 100 yards from the gravesite of my grandmother where a Union fatality of the Civil War is buried.  When we were in Mt. Sterling, we were told of both Union and Confederate forces being in Mt. Sterling at the same time shooting at each other.  As a result of one of these encounters, the Court House was burned.

So back to the six degrees of separation game.  I guess I can connect my gg-grandfather, Britton, to my gg-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth.  1) Britton died marching to confront Morgan. 2) Morgan is buried in Lexington Cemetery. 3) Mary Elizabeth Probert is buried about 100 yards from Morgan.  And an additional link -- Morgan was in Mt. Sterling when my gg-grandfather, Thomas Probert, was living there.  Does the game work for dead people?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A "Diamond" in the Rough

As mentioned in the previous post, I had the opportunity to travel to Lexington to research my gg-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Dimond Probert. I'd only known about her for less than a year.  She was the first wife of my gg-grandfather, Thomas H. Probert, and mother of my g-grandmother Lucy.  In a search of the online Lexington Herald newspaper, I had found a marriage announcement for my gg-grandparents.

(Spelling:  Dimond)

A search of the Lexington Cemetery turned up a burial record for Mary and her newborn son, Thomas. Thomas was buried in the same plot a week earlier.

I was able to find a census record for Mary Elizabeth's father, Joseph, in the 1840 Census. (Spelling:  Dimond)

Same for the Marriage Record from the Kentucky Marriage Index. (Spelling:  Diamond)

A trip to the Lexington Cemetery found everyone in the plot using the "Diamond" spelling.  Yet a review of the Lexington City Directories from the early 1800s to 1902 showed members of the same family with the surname spelled both ways.

Thanks to correspondence with a member of the community, I felt like I would be able to identify the branch of the Diamond/Dimond family from which Mary Eliz. descended.  I set up a spreadsheet and logged in every person whose surname was spelled either way. Then I was able to narrow my data base to those "Diamonds" that descended from Joseph and Mary Elizabeth.

I knew who Mary Elizabeth's siblings were.  The list posted above is comprised only of her siblings, their spouses, and in a few cases, their children.  I noted that both A.C. (Augustus Charles) and his brother, Richard, made their living drilling wells. David, a member of the next generation, got into the family business.

With this information in hand, my next job will be to research other family members. The cemetery record listed James L. Diamond as the owner of the plot.  There is evidence that James lived in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and then returned to Kentucky.  One census document states that James' father was born in Massachusetts.   I'd say that is quite a lot of clues for one day's work.

Loving Lexington - Mary Elizabeth Dimond Probert

It's only in the past couple of years that I have been able to trace my family to  Lexington, Kentucky. I discovered that my great-grandmother, Lucy Probert, was born there to Thomas H. Probert and Mary Elizabeth Dimond. Tragically, her mother died of consumption and complications of childbirth at the age of 29. 

I've only been able to prove that Thomas and Mary Elizabeth had three children:  Addie, Lucy, and baby Thomas. However, another online genealogist insists that they had a first-born son, William, in 1848.  Based on Irish naming patterns and the fact that Thomas father was named William, I think she is probably right.

In searching for death information on Lucy, I discovered her mother and newborn brother were buried in the Lexington Cemetery.  They are both listed in the Lexington Cemetery online database. This past Friday I had the opportunity to take a day-trip to Lexington and explore my Probert/Dimond roots.

I cannot describe the beauty of this historic cemetery.  It includes a National Cemetery with veteran graves, a mausoleum housing the remains of Henry Clay and his wife, and the family of John Hunt Morgan of Morgan's Raiders fame.  I was surrouded by old-growth trees that made it pleasant on a day with a heat index of more than 100 degrees.

The people in the office graciously assisted me with records pertaining to my family.  Much to my surprise, the unreadable yet unmistakable graves of my gg-grandmother and her infant, Thomas, were worn but visible.  They provided me with a plot of the cemetery and a list of additional names of family members buried in the plot.  Taking this information to the library and using City Directories, I was able to confirm that an online family tree was, in fact, accurate.

There were so many clues!  I now know that another family member died as a result of his participation in the Civil War.  He was in a Kentucky regiment that fought for the Union. Another grave memorialized a young man who died in the Spanish-American War in 1898.  I also learned that the family spelling for "Dimond" was interchangeable with "Diamond".  The lot was purchased by James L. Dimond.  I believe he was Mary Elizabeth's uncle and the brother of her father, Joseph.  I can find no record for Joseph beyond his second marriage in 1844 and I presume he was dead at the time of his daughter's death in 1854. 

But wait . . .  there's MORE!  Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My 16 GG-Grandparents

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings offers a challenge every Saturday night.  Tonight's challenge was to list your 16 GG-Grandparents, their date and location of birth and death, and their date of marriage.  Here is my list:

Paternal Side

Maternal Side

It should be noted that although Mary Ellen McInerney was born in England, her parents are both from Ireland.  Therefore, I'll count her as Irish for the second part of the challenge.  Also, although Rose Becker was technically French at the time of her immigration, she was ethnically German and lived in the region of France that constantly moved back and forth between France and Germany.

The presumed ancestry of my five gg-grandparents born in the United States is as follows:
  •  Britton Wainright - English
  • Alexander Jones - Welsh
  • Thomas Probert - English or Irish
  • Elizabeth Kinley - Pennsylvania Dutch (German)
  • Mary Elizabeth Diamond (Dimond) - English or Irish
I really enjoyed the opportunity to look at the all-American me by way of my diverse ancestors. What a great country I live in!  Thanks, Randy, for the idea.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Wedding That Was - April 2, 1976

 Wedding Day - April 2, 1976

In a previous post, I discussed the "wedding that wasn't."  My fiancee and I called off the wedding one week before it was to take place in July 1974.  He seemed to be remorseful from the beginning that we did not marry, even though he was the one with cold feet.  I promised my Dad that we would never get married -- I believed it when I said it. 

Over the next two years, however, my "ex" made a lot of changes in his life to convince me that he regretted the decision and wanted to get married.  There is so much I could say (but choose not to) because I believe that he is entitled to his privacy and may see things differently.  I'll just say that my large family had become his family and that he really cared about all of us. 

So nearly two years after calling off our wedding, it was on again.  This time it was very much scaled-down and happened within two months of our decision.  We still had unused contracts with the photographer, florist, etc. and just called and rescheduled.  The date was practically determined by my sister, Karen.  She was scheduled to be married on April 10th and knew that she would be moving permanently to Florida.  I wanted her in the wedding and she said it would be impossible to turn around and return to Cincinnati any time soon.  So she suggested we get married the week BEFORE her scheduled wedding. 

In hindsight, I think that was an incredibly gracious offer on her part.  I'm not sure to this day that I should have taken her up on it.  Since, of course, we share the same aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, many people would feel obligated to attend two family weddings eight days apart.  It would have been one thing if her long-planned wedding was the first one, but in fact, it was the second. 

I remember being very happy on my wedding day.  There was a lot to admire about my "ex" that I found attractive.  I always had this feeling that we could create beautiful and intelligent children together -- and that we did.

Why we split is one of those things most appropriately discussed in another forum.  I believe that when we married, it was definitely the right thing to do at the time. When we decided to divorce 3 1/2 years later, people would comment that it was too bad that we had not realized it would not work before we had a child.  I'm sure that I can speak for both of us when I say that that is the one thing that neither of us regrets.

Things happen for a reason.  I'm a better person because of it.  And best of all -- I have a beautiful daughter as a result of it who has enriched my life.  What could be wrong with that?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Making of a Family Secret -- Even When It's Not

After posting yesterday's post, I wanted to relate a personal experience that shows how easy it can be for a family "secret" to develop, even when those involved don't think of it as a secret.  Yesterday I discussed the fact that in 1974, my fiancee and I called off our wedding one week before it was supposed to occur.  Two years later, we were married.  This time it seemed like the right thing to do.  My husband and I had one daughter, the love of both of our lives, but unfortunately ended up getting a divorce three and a half years later. 

After a few years as a single parent, I met and started dating my husband, Bill.  My daughter was not quite three when we started dating.  Bill and I have been married almost 25 years and have been together for thirty.  No one in my family in any way thinks of my divorce and subsequent marriage as a "secret". 

But we forget!  A few of my older nieces and nephews knew my first husband.  One of my nieces even traveled with my daughter for a visit my ex and his second wife in another state where they live. 

One family Easter dinner, I realized that many of my nieces and nephews were born after I was remarried.  To them, their Uncle Bill was my daughter's father and had always been my husband as far as they knew. I thought it might be a good time to explain to them that I had been married once before, that Bill was my second husband, that he was not the biological father of my daughter, and that my daughter and I had different last names.  You would have thought I dropped a bomb!  What was a well-known fact to the older family members was totally unknown to the younger ones.  Had I not thought to bring it up, I now wonder if they would have viewed this as a "family secret" once they became aware of the facts.

The point is that it wasn't a secret -- but to them it may have seemed like it was.  It just makes me wonder how many things we think of as "secrets" were not perceived as secrets by the people living their lives. 

I'm glad I had explained this to my nieces and nephews because it made it a little easier when my daughter got married and was escorted down the aisle by both her father and stepfather.  Many of them had never met her Dad since he lives out of state.  I also have to commend both men who have consistently done what was best for my daughter. They were both so proud that day.

Father, Daughter, and Stepfather

"Secrets" Photo Credit:  Unable to Credit, Google Images had over 10,000 "hits".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Wedding That Wasn't -- July 5th, 1974

Kathleen Ann Jones
Background Credit:

Everything was in order.  The engagement picture was published in the newspaper. Flowers were ordered, photographer hired, reception planned, and invitations sent.  I was about to be married!  I was 25 years old and engaged to be married to someone I had known and loved for more than three years.  My five bridesmaids had their dresses.  We were going with a patriotic theme since the wedding was going to be held the day after the 4th of July.  So what could be more fitting than the beautiful (at least so I thought) navy dresses, with small white polka dots, and white hats trimmed in red!

I was teaching 5th and 6th graders science at Bond Hill School.  I invited all of my students to attend the wedding -- though not the reception.  My husband to-be and I had rented our first apartment and I looked forward to moving from my family home and living on my own.  Things were so exciting!

My fiancee and I went to his efficiency apartment to pack up his things and move them to his new place.  As we continued to pack, I sensed some reluctance on his part.  He seemed to be dragging his feet.  I finally stopped to ask him if there was a problem, and it became clear that he had cold feet.  I let him know that I didn't want to get married if he truly had concerns.  He did.

Now we had to tell my parents.  We got into the car and drove the couple of short miles to my house to give them the news.  Less than a mile from home, a car pulled out of a side street and T-boned us.  Great. Could this day get any worse?

It was June 28th when we called it off -- one week from the wedding.  My parents were incredibly understanding.  After we all got over the shock of it, my Dad just asked me to assure him that this meant that we were "over" and would never be marrying.  (A promise I did not keep -- but that's another story). 

It's a lot of work to call off a wedding.  I had to contact the caterer, photographer, musicians, and all of the invitees.  The ones that seemed to take it the hardest were my students, who could not possibly understand.  I had to return wedding presents and buy bridesmaid dresses.  Luckily for me, I was registered at Shillito's and they were able to give me a list of everything purchased through them.  I just got out my check book and mailed checks for the majority of the presents.  I was setting up housekeeping and needed many of the items I'd put on my list.

Do I look back with sadness?  No.  It's complicated as all such things are.  I feel that it contributed to me becoming the strong woman that I am.  You can't get strong without being tested. 

With my Mom and Dad's blessing, we actually had a picnic at our house on the day we would have been married with my ex-fiancee and wedding party in attendance. I know it sounds crazy, but it was a good move.

The big news over the weekend was that Prince Albert II of Monaco finally got married at the age of 53 to Charlene Wittstock of South Africa.  Rumors, yet unconfirmed, insist that the bride-to-be tried to leave a week before her wedding after it was revealed that her future husband may have fathered three children during his "batchelor" years. The Prince had already acknowledged two children from previous relationships, but apparently there may be a third.  I hope Charlene does not regret marrying this playboy who only got married to produce a legitimate heir.  She deserves more -- and I can tell you from experience, you can recover.

Note:  My primary reason for writing this blog is to record our family history, as best I can, for my family.  In this light, I do not want a grandchild, niece or nephew to "discover" this about me and wonder what happened.  I'd rather tell them myself.  There are some topics that are too personal or that I don't feel I have the right to share because they involve others who may or may not be happy about it being put out there.  Over time, I hope to write up some of these things and leave them with my daughter.  She can decide what to share after I'm gone.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Livin' the Dream! Becoming an American . . .

On this, the 235th birthday of the United States of America, we need to pause and think about what that means.  If you've never been to a swearing-in ceremony for new American citizens, you really should try to attend one.  First of all, I think you'll be amazed at the diversity of new citizens.  There was a ceremony here in Cincinnati last week, and I believe they said that the new citizens came from 40 different countries.

My son-in-law, Roland, became a citizen in 2008.  He is Hungarian from Venezuela.  Go figure.  He and my daughter met in college and were married years later.  It took him 13 years to become a citizen and jump through all of the hoops.  He does not take his citizenship for granted.

His parents defected from Hungary which at the time was under Communist rule.  His Dad tells stories of friends just "disappearing" from the streets.  Life was good in Venezuela, but now it is ruled by a dictator whose policies very much remind them of the country they abandoned.  It is painful for them to see it happening again.

So as you fire up the grill today and rejoice in the patriotic music and skies full of fireworks, take a few minutes to think of the blessings you have, just by virtue of having been born here. Happy birthday, USA!   May we find a way to live up to the "idea" of you.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Where Are You Going My Little One, Little One . . .

Elizabeth Hellmann Varga and Loved Ones - Click to Enlarge
I guess you have to be of a "certain age" to remember the Kodak commercial with the song that asks, "Where are you going?"  It is called "Turn Around" and it comes to me as I think of the life I've shared with my daughter, whose birthday was yesterday. If you decide to click on the link, stay until the end for a memory of the kinds of camera, flash, and film we used to think were so "cutting edge."

So what can I say -- I'm a proud mother of one.  My husband likes to say that we are "joined at the hip" and I guess we are.  Liz is probably my greatest blessing.  We've done it together from the beginning.  I'm feeling all sentimental when I look at the old pictures of her.  I could write about her forever, but I'm afraid it would just get all mushy.

So I think I'll stop here -- for now.  She knows how much I love her and how proud I am of her as a wife and mother.  Happy birthday, Liz, a day late.