My Family Hangs Onto Things!

It’s great to be back after a busy hiatus. I had the privilege of coaching talented students over the last several months as they worked on writing their memoirs. It’s a thrill to help them bring their stories to life! Don’t worry, I’ll be starting a new class this fall, stay tuned. Plus, I’ll share two new memoirs in the works, so excited to help bring these book babies to life.

Hope you’ll come along on the journey for a new run of interesting stories here on the blog, as well as family history and memoir writing tips. May they inspire you to share your story. Family historian Dianna Hunter Snyder shares as our Guest Blogger:

“I am so thankful to come from a family that hung onto things. I have hundreds of old photos dating back as far as 1860. Different family members have so many items, including two sewing machines and a jigger that was used to make my great grandfather’s hot toddy every night.

The keepsake I love most is the old family Bible, printed in 1841. It contains many family records of marriages, births, and deaths. My family has been so blessed with so much information to start with in our family history research. In recent years two of my 2nd cousins, who have both passed away now, and I worked to fill in some of the holes.

One of those missing bits of information was the burial place of our 3rd Great Grandfather & Grandmother. Jacob Shuff was born in about 1782 and died in 1824. We found the list of his estate in the county records of Scott County, KY, but nothing else. Finally my cousin Janice found a cemetery record for Hanna Houston Shuff in Scott County. She drove to the area and spent hours trying to find the cemetery to no avail.

Finally, a county worker stopped and asked if he could help her.

She was a bit uneasy about that as there was NO ONE ELSE around but at last explained about her search. The man said if she would follow him, he thought he could help her. Fearful, she went anyway. He unlocked a gated area where they kept work supplies and asked her to come see something. Near the back of the enclosure on a small mound of dirt sat the three pieces of Hannah Houston Shuff’s headstone. She took a great picture of it to share with the family.

The county had, some years past, put in new roads along section lines, etc. Hannah’s headstone showed up in the rubble, but no one knew where it came from. But it is the only real record we have of her death date.

Keep looking for your missing piece of information.

You never know where it may show up, even in cemetery storage. We have had a lot of surprises in our searches, but this was one of our most exciting ones. Happy Hunting.


I can’t help but wonder, did Dianna’s great grandfather’s headstone ever turn up as well, or is it lost to history and road construction? Dianna has shared many wonderful stories from her family history in the Family History and Memoir Writers FaceBook Group. Here’s another:


“One of the stories handed down is when my Grandfather Hunter made the Oklahoma Land Run on April 22, 1889. He staked a claim in what is now Okarche, OK. That night a couple with a family drove their wagon in and asked permission to spend the night. Grandpa said yes. By the next morning, Grandpa had sold his claim for a $20 gold piece, a rifle & one of the first ever made stem wound pocket watches. Grandpa Hunter went south to just above what is now Piedmont, OK, and found a claim there. It was there that he found a pretty lady, Lizzie Luella Shuff, and married her. The $20 gold piece is long gone, but the other items are carefully cared for by my brother’s sons.”

Thanks for sharing your stories, Dianna. For the rest of you with memories and family history to share, get in touch with me, and let’s talk about bringing them to life. I’m looking forward to sharing more guest posts. Follow Remembering the Time on FaceBook, Instagram, and Pinterest for more personal history tips, inspiration, and help.
Karen

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The Mystery of Moses Jordan

My fellow family historian Patricia D’Ascoli is stepping in to share her own family history mystery. She is a skilled writer and researcher and I’m delighted to share her work with you. She’s also an active member of the Family History and Memoir Writer’s Fellowship FaceBook group. Her story is a fascinating read and we hope it will prompt you to write about the stories in your own family. Patricia can be reached at Patriciafdascoli@gmail.com and welcomes talking with you about bringing your family history to life.


The Mystery of Moses Jordan – Patricia F. D’Ascoli

Every family historian comes across the unknown—a gap to be filled, a missing puzzle piece to be found. This is the story of my journey to uncover the truth about the disappearance of my paternal great grandfather, Moses Jordan. I had very little to go on when I began my search:

Facts: Moses Jordan b. 1844 married Sarah Kuykendall b. 1853 in 1870. They had a daughter, Margaret, in 1873 and a son, Alvin in 1881. Moses worked for the railroad and the family lived in Port Jervis, New York.

Lore: My grandmother Margaret told my father this brief tale: One day when she and her mother Sarah were walking in the park, they saw Moses with another woman.

At some point following this sighting, Moses vanished and never returned.

There was no date, no place or any other names attached to this story. Despite this limited information, I felt confident I could solve the mystery.

Before I began my search, I examined a tiny photograph of Moses and Sarah. Neither of my great grandparents is smiling. Moses is sitting, and Sarah is standing behind him with her left hand placed on his shoulder. Moses, who has dark wavy hair and a mustache, wears a suit with a bow tie. Sarah wears a high neck gown; her hair is up.

Researchers must have a desire to dig deep and think critically. Although I had little to go on, the search was not as difficult as I imagined it might be. Through Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com I was able to solve the mystery of my great grandfather’s disappearance. And in doing so, I uncovered a dirty secret: Moses Jordan was a thief, an adulterer and a liar. He was also very, very fat.

I started with the 1875 New York census where I discovered the family in Port Jervis, New York. Moses worked as assistant yardmaster for the Erie Railroad. Research revealed that in 1880 Moses was appointed assistant dispatcher at Bergen, New Jersey. The 1880 US census confirmed that the family lived in Jersey City. City directories showed they continued to live in Jersey City until 1890.

I wondered whether there might be a newspaper account of this event. Once upon a time, newspapers were replete with the intimate details of ordinary individuals’ lives so there was a good chance such a story would appear in the papers.

Two newspapers reported on the disappearance in November 1890. These articles gave me all I needed to know about my great grandfather. He was a scoundrel of the worst kind.

“Moses Jordan, the yardmaster of the Erie Railroad, has eloped. On November 11, payday, he borrowed all the money he could get from storekeepers along Pavonia Avenue, and after ordering his trunk to be shipped from his residence, 283 Pavonia Avenue, to 106 River Street, Hoboken, he skipped. About the same time, it is rumored a well-known woman disappeared from the city. While the elopement was being planned and carried out, Mrs. Jordan was at Wurtsboro, New York, attending the funeral of her father. The runaway leaves her and a nineteen-year-old daughter and ten-year-old crippled son behind him.” Jersey Journal 11/20/90.

“Jordan has been practically separated from his wife for some time past, owing to the latter’s suspicions of his intrigue with another woman. Who she was could not be learned except that she was a married woman who was not living with her husband. The deserted wife declined to give her rival’s name or impart any particulars concerning her.” Tri-States Union 11/27/90.

Sarah’s departure for her father’s funeral was a fortuitous occurrence for Moses, as he and the mystery woman were able to leave Jersey City without her knowledge. I imagined my great grandmother grieving her father’s death in New York, returning home with her two children only to discover that Moses had left. She was then questioned by the police. And saw her shame laid bare in the newspapers.

I was determined to find out the identity of the woman who had destroyed three lives. A little more searching gave me the answer. On June 6, 1891, the New York Tribune published this short piece:

“Master of Chancery Romaine made a report in favor of granting a divorce to Sarah D. Jordan from Moses S. Jordan. Jordan was yardmaster for the Erie Railroad in Jersey City. He eloped November last with Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe, a married woman.”

Bingo. The identity of the mystery woman was revealed: Elizabeth Rowe—the woman who stole my great grandfather away from his wife and children. I wanted to know more about her. A search revealed that Moses Jordan married Elizabeth Roe on January 13, 1904 in Manhattan. They were married 14 years after their disappearance. Hmmm. Where had Moses and Elizabeth lived between 1890 and 1904?

I decided to look for Mr. Roe. In the 1885 New Jersey census I found Lewis C. Roue living in Jersey City. Also living at that address were Jeremiah, Ella and Lizzie Hulick. Lizzie is a nickname for Elizabeth—was this Lizzie the future Mrs. Roe? A marriage record for Lewis Roe and Annie E. Hulick dated July 29, 1886, confirmed that she was. I assumed Elizabeth must have been her middle name. Further sleuthing showed that Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Roe had a daughter Sarah born August 25, 1887.

My search continued. In the 1900 U.S. census I found Moses Jordan, who stilled worked for the railroad, living in Susquehanna, PA. The scandal had not impacted his career apparently. His wife—of 10 years per the census—was Anne E. Jordan. I felt certain this was Annie E. Hulick Roe, as subsequent censuses showed her as Elizabeth Jordan. In 1900 the Jordans had three children: Harry (b. 1891 NY), Mae (b. 1893 PA) and Harold (b.1896 PA). Sarah Roe lived with the Jordans as well.

The story might have ended here. Like every family history sleuth, however, I knew there was more information to be found. From a brief newspaper account, I learned Moses had suffered a serious injury. The headline read:

“Mishap Due to Too Much Fat. Stout Yardmaster was Rolled Along Fence by Train and Perhaps Mortally Hurt.”

“Moses Jordan, who for many years was yardmaster on the Erie at Bergen, New Jersey, then at Hornellsville, and of late in charge of the yards at Dundee, where the branch lines to the Passaic Mills are located, was probably mortally injured yesterday. His extreme corpulency was responsible for his misfortune. Seeing a freight train approaching Jordan stepped off the tracks and backed up against a board fence. But the three cars brushed against the stout yardmaster and rolled him along the fence nearly thirty feet. His shoulder was broken, and it is feared he is hurt internally.” The Morning Call 8/29/02.

My first thought was that Moses got his just desserts. But I hated to think my great grandfather died as the result of such a brutal accident. I learned in subsequent accounts that Moses survived. The Jordans moved back to Jersey City where he continued to work for the Erie Railroad.

A death notice appeared in the Jersey Journal:

“JORDAN – On February 3, 1927 Moses S. Jordan, widower of the late Elizabeth Jordan. Relatives and friends are invited to attend funeral service at establishment of Mark M. Fagan at 527 Jersey Avenue on Sunday, February 6 at 1:00 PM.”

I do not know where my great grandfather is buried. But I do know that his secret is not buried with him. Thanks to my research, I was able to solve the mystery of Moses Jordan.

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Have a story of your own to share? I’d love to hear from you, you can reach me at karen@rememberingthetime.net.

Karen

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What do You Treasure?

A year ago I wrote about priceless possessions. The world has revolved 365 more times and so much has changed. Some things, however, never change, like the power of sharing our stories. So I want to revisit the life-changing importance of saving memories.

Back in 1905, the discovery of an enormous 1.33-pound rough diamond made for impressive news. It started out as just a rock in a pile of dirt. Today, select cut gems from this behemoth are displayed in the Tower of London in a place of honor on the Royal Scepter and the Imperial State Crown. All because someone had vision. A tremendous amount of effort and expense is invested in protecting these treasures. However, if you’ve lived for any length of time on this planet you know that objects can be lost, stolen, or destroyed.

Memories too can be lost and can’t be recovered like a piece of stolen artwork or jewelry. Perhaps, like me, you’ve experienced the sad reality that those who could tell you the stories behind those old black and white photos in the ornate photo albums, who could connect the dots in your family’s history, or relate their eye-witness take on world events they’ve experienced, are long gone.

No one thought to not just ask for the story, but to write it down. The photos are still here, but the story is gone. We’re left guessing at missing pieces, trying to put the puzzle together and understand the big picture.

The truth I wrote last year still holds, “Memories are yours, to replay, to cherish, to share…they are the only thing that is uniquely yours.” Your memories are your precious treasure.

None of us know when we might be robbed of the ability to share them with those we love, through a variety of
events outside our control.

What If…this was the year you mined those raw gems of memory and family story? What if… you brushed off the debris, shone a beautiful, warm light on it to bring out the colors, and polished it just so to gleam in a place of honor as the treasure it rightly is?

What if…you made a commitment to treat those memories with the care and honor you might give to your most priceless physical possession? Does thinking about your memories this way give you clarity and purpose?

Next year, next decade, 100 years in the future, will those unmet generations be able to sit down and read a keepsake treasure about your life, the experiences you’ve longed to share, the history you witnessed, or the beauty and knowledge you’d impart if only they could be right here with you?

Back to the shiny rock. That diamond, like most precious things, was shaped and polished to bring out its beauty. So too with your story, your memories.

Do you see only a raw, grubby little ordinary rock?
Oh, my friends, I don’t!

I see what it can truly become and I want you to have the joy of experiencing that treasure for yourself.

While it’s true that only you have the raw material of memories, once they’re mined, there are many tools to help polish the beauty, remove the dross, and reveal the priceless keepsake hiding within.

Your story will be more intensely relevant and interesting to your family than any shiny rock, I promise you!

Contact me today for a free consult to find out how this experienced memory miner can help you begin your story mining journey. Let’s make sure your real family treasures, your stories, will be unearthed and polished so that they can be shared and honored as they deserve.

Karen

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In Praise of Small Beginnings

You’ve heard some people say, “Go big or go home”. Many other times I’ve watched the opposite thought arc like a shot across the bow of a project, acting as an impetus to action. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, ““Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin….” (Zech. 4:10a NLT). I love the concept of small beginnings! They’re full of potential, they are the “starter“ if you’re a baker, the seed if you’re a farmer, the empty canvas for an artist, the tiny embryo if you’re longing for a child, the single journal entry if you’re a family historian or that idea jotted down on a napkin for songwriters, scientists, and writers.

Before you can celebrate a milestone you just need to start!

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated

day-in and day-out.” ~Robert Collier

You have everything you need to begin, whether you’re blessed with loads of family mementos and archived photos, or you’re beginning with your own memories.

Start with one small thing, a memory, journal entry, letter, recipe, photograph. What is that that just grabs your imagination by the shoulders and demands, “Tell me more!”? Take a macro look at it, write a thorough, sensory filled description of that object close up. Ask it questions? I know this sounds a little weird, but trust me, it’s just a method for helping your brain to unlock different ways to see that thing with new eyes.

This object is your starting block, it will propel you, just like a relay racer, down the track to the next prompt, the next memory, the next clue. Before you know it you’ll be gathering the pieces and noting how they fit together to drive your story.

I have a news alert set to anything family history or memoir related. It is astounding to see the variety of ways this topic can be addressed and the common interest worldwide in understanding ourselves and our families, remembering and sharing what makes us tick with the future. Connecting with the generations that came before and those that will come after is a human drive, it’s how we learn.

In case you missed seeing this free offer on our FaceBook page, let me give you the link here. I’ve been hard at work creatively bringing a few of my best tools and helps together in one place.  This amazing package will give you the resources you need to share your life legacy with those you love. Just click this link to get your FREE gifts today: 

https://offer.rememberingthetime.net

Remembering the Time is all about helping you and your family save the unique stories and memories that make you who you are.  Reach out and take that small step of starting your story, you have nothing to lose and great things to gain by this small beginning.

Karen

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Family Photo Challenge Begins!

Challenge: Take 5 favorite photos from your family’s collection. Collect them all in one day but just do the exercise with one per day. Write a 6-word memoir about each.

What’s a 6 word memoir? These short memoirs are the brainchild of writer Larry Smith, editor of the online SMITH Magazine. The idea was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who was asked to tell a story in just 6 words. He came up with this: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

Here’s how to use the technique with this challenge:

Start with an extensive list of words that describe your photo. Include anything you remember about it, the people, place, time, objects, feelings. Don’t cross anything out and don’t worry punctuation or spelling, just write! It helps to set a timer for 5 minutes and write as much as you can in that time.

Then circle three or four words that describe the photo and what you want to say about it. Now, write a phrase, sentence or list that is your 6 word memoir.

When you’re done with the Family Photo Challenge you’ll have 5 prompts for your memoir or family history. These can make great chapter titles too. Develop each of your five 6 word memoirs further and you’ll have a chapter before you know it.

Fun tip: Make this a family activity and you’ll have even more material for your story.

I’d love to read your 6 word mini memoirs and see your photo prompts, feel free to share on the Remembering the Time FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/RememberingtheTime, or join our private FaceBook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/familyhistoryandmemoirwritersfellowship and share it there. You can also just drop me a note at karen@rememberingthetime.net. #familyhistory #familyhistorymatters #memoirwriting #genealogy #familyphotos

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Small Steps to a Finished Memoir

I truly hope you are having a great day!

This past weekend I took a road trip with my grown children to a family celebration In New Orleans. You may have seen a couple photos I posted to the Remembering the Time FaceBook or Instagram pages. It had been ages since any of us had traveled and we stocked up on road trip food, a crossword puzzle book and a new audio book. We had fun, shared driving, and ate enough bright orange Cheezits to pave a parking lot. Because, well that’s what you do on a road trip.

We also celebrated life and learned more about each other through a fun ice breaker app on the phone. Trust me, this is a great way to connect even with people you’ve known their entire lives! “Really, I didn’t know that!” was repeated often.

Each mile we drove, each special event we participated in with cousins, aunts, uncles, and in laws once we arrived was a small step to building a stronger family. We laughed, we cried, we ate and toasted to life together and remembered our family history.

I am a firm believer in taking small steps to build progress toward a goal. It’s one of the best ways to chunk down a big one. Making incremental progress toward your goal is encouraging, these steps keep you moving as you see progress and help keep you from becoming discouraged.

This is not only an excellent life lesson, it works fantastically for family history and memoir projects too. The beautiful old staircase photo in this post, taken in New Orleans reminds me of the importance of taking small steps.

For example, if you are looking to curate, organize, and  make sense of a collection of family mementos, letters, and photos so that others can enjoy them too, you need to do more than just stare at the boxes in frozen overwhelm and frustration.

*Think in categories as you look at your collection

*Begin by choosing 5 examples of each category just to get you started and move past the inertia

This is where a set of outside eyes, skilled in separating the gems from the “stuff” can help you make real progress with your story. I can help with that and get you on track! Want to tackle it yourself first? Here’s a couple easy step choices you can make to get started:

*Try my Quick Start a Memoir class for free on Skillshare. Here’s the link: https://skl.sh/2YUDbkf

Take 30 minutes to watch the class, then do the fun project to help you cut through the fluff and organize your story. Questions? Send me a message and we’ll chat about it.

*Give me a call for a free consultation to inspire and motivate you with ideas and action steps to write your family history or memoir.

Maybe, just maybe, you need to stop thinking about this and take a small action step. I want to encourage you, doing this will build momentum and be one of the most satisfying things you can do to seize the day with your story.

Taking incremental action-steps to tell your story will make sure that it is shared with those you love, not relegated to a dusty box stuffed in the garage. Don’t let that happen to you!

You can bless and serve your family well by taking these small steps. No one ever regretted sharing the wisdom they’ve learned and their precious life memories with their family.

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Top 5 Free Classes to Help You Write Your Memoir

Occasionally I curate a few excellent resources that I’ve found helpful and highly recommend. If you’re serious about sharing your memoir or family history here’s my top pick of short classes that will give you the necessary tools, confidence, and encouragement to begin telling your unique story. Each of these can help you make amazing progress writing your memoir or family history.  Two of these classes are specifically about writing memoir. The others contain tools and ideas that will help you craft memorable stories, a key element in any writing.  

Best part – you can listen to all of these free for 2 weeks. Take mad notes, listen again, dream big, and take action. Here’s how it works: try all of these premium classes for free for 14 days via Skillshare. If you decide you’re loving the great value this teaching platform provides, you can join for a low annual fee that will pay itself back in value many times over. While you’re trying out the platform explore a few other topics from their extensive offering of over 27,000 premium classes and more than 2,000 free classes. (as of March 2019)

For example, the technique of taking an event from your life and flipping it into a fiction story will give you an entirely new slant on the events. Excellent teacher Adam Janos will walk you through how it’s done with examples that are sure to get your own creative thoughts flowing.

Author Roxanne Gay will show you how to create short memoirs, also known as personal essays. These can stand alone or be part of a larger work but you’ll learn from a pro about what will resonate and how to write it.

Rebecca Livermore will walk your through an encouraging and very doable writing challenge that you can use over and over again to boost your writing sessions. Try her 7 day challenge in conjunction with one of the other classes and just see what kind of progress you can make. I think you’ll be thrilled!

Ready for the nuts and bolts of how to start writing your memoir? Best-selling memoirist Kathy Karr shares “the processes she relies on to write beautiful, visceral scenes.”

How about a jump start on your memoir writing? My own class on how to Quick Start a Memoir will give you a fun, creatively practical project and easy directions to help you begin .

  1. Autobiographical Fiction: Write a Short Story from Personal Experience, by writer/reporter Adam Janos

Adam will teach you to brainstorm ideas from your life, transform yourself into a character, and write details. You’ll learn about conflict and pacing with excellent examples. This class can help memoir writers think beyond their ideas for standard memoir and expand their storytelling skills. Click this link to try the class: https://skl.sh/3ss2WY8

2. Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays with Impact, by Roxanne Gay

Roxanne’s course is full of “practical guidance, actionable tactics, and example essays” She’ll lead you through the important step of “finding a specific purpose for telling your story”, then how to “connect your work to a larger theme”, and inspire you with how to use your “personal memories to write your story.” Click this link to take Roxanne’s class:  https://skl.sh/3rhQ9X2

3. 7 Day 15 Minute Writing Challenge by Rebecca Livermore

Developing a daily writing habit, for even just a few minutes at a time, will set you up for success in completing your story. This short challenge can launch you into storytelling productivity with 7 daily writing prompts, help in “setting personalized writing goals”, and tips and tools for writing quickly in short time chunks with minimal distractions. Click here to enjoy Rebecca’s class: https://skl.sh/2QwebRg

4. Writing the Truth, How to Start Writing Your Memoir, Mary Karr

Through a series of memory-focused writing exercises, Mary guides you through a clear, actionable plan to help you write your memoir. She “shares her wisdom and perspective on life, writing as a craft….” Mary’s class will help you develop your personal writing voice and hone your storytelling skills to connect with readers. Don’t miss this class, click here to jump right in: https://skl.sh/3cniCq3

5. It’s Time to Tell Your Story: Quick Start a Memoir, Karen Ray

Yup, this one is mine and I’ve seen these tips, tools, and techniques work wonders! You don’t have to be a “writer” to share your story in a meaningful way. This class will jump start your memoir or family history project, helping you clarify the 5 W’s of your story, the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. You’ll create a foundational framework to build your personal history project  and have fun in the process. This can even stand alone as a mini-memoir. Click here to make fast progress with your memoir or family history: https://skl.sh/2YUDbkf

Start today — Celebrate your life and begin saving those important family memories!

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Contact Me

Please contact me for more information or to to schedule a free consultation. I look forward to visiting with you.






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    Karen Ray

    Address: 2877 Willow Creek Lane, Las Cruces, NM, 88007

    Phone: 575-323-1048


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