Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

This is a day set aside to remember our fallen heroes of the various wars. My family's tradition is like most in the country. We barbeque, relishing the fact that the weather is now warm enough to enjoy eating outside. When I was young, Memorial Day also meant parades. Gary had the best parade on that day. For a couple of years, I was in the parade, part of the Roosevelt High School marching band. I played a french horn--the "pah pah" part of the "oomp pah pah," the musical beat of every marching band. I hated it. I never got the hang of trying to keep my lips on the mouthpiece as I marched and followed the leader. And "pah pah" was so boring. I dropped out. But I digress.

We have now added a new part to our Memorial Day tradition. This is the day we visit the cemetery. It is usually very crowded on Memorial Day. Sadly, there are too many loved ones that reside at the cemetery. My father and my husband are there. Minutes are spent wondering around the graveyard trying to locate various others deceased relatives. Not a happy tradition but a respectful one.

My father, Stanley Cotten, was a veteran of World War II. He was part of the cavalry. When I would tell my fellow high school students that, they would ridicule me. They didn't know that the army still had a cavalry during that time. There once was a photo of my father, his friend Jay and one of the horses. I don't know if it still exist but I will search for it. My father spent a lot of his time in Rome which he never appreciated. Maybe it was because of what he had to do there. He didn't speak much about it except to say "if you've seen one place, you've seen them all." He did not share my love for travel. I do know that he saw the Colosseum. It may be during the war that he developed his hatred for flying too. I'm not sure. Unfortunately he is not here for me to ask him.

Currently, one of my nephews is serving in the Marines. He has made a career out of it. He has been deployed to Iraq once again. He has also been based in Japan and South Korea. I'm sure my father would have been proud of him. Erik Wilson was his first grandchild, a boy after having nothing but daughters. He was the light of my father's life.

So on this holiday I will remember the loved ones that are gone. I will also honor and pray for my nephew and others who are serving this country in the different branches of the armed forces. They are living heroes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Road Trip

It's the Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer. The thing most on my mind is getting out there and physically digging for my roots. Not literally, of course, but I am getting off my comfy chair and going into the archives and libraries of Mississippi and Tennessee.

Genealogy isn't a cheap hobby although the internet has made it more accessible. I had my own personal recession 5 years ago so I am looking for the most frugal strategies to make my trip possible. For example, this July I am taking a bus to Nashville and Jackson and McComb, Ms. I am buying my tickets 21 days earlier. My trip will cost me around $143 round trip! By traveling overnight I will save one night in a hotel. Of course, some may think I'm crazy going by bus. I look at as an adventure and a small price (really small price) that I pay for my hobby.

Unfortunately there are no bus stops near the cities I need to visit in Tennessee except for Newbern. It stops there at three am. That's not a good time to be stopping in a strange southern city. I do draw the line somewhere. The Koonce reunion is supposed to be in Tennessee this September and I will try to get ro some libraries and/or courts around during that time. I'm hoping to get enough new information at the archives in Nashville to update my book in time for the reunion.

All in all, I'm excited about my road trip. It will be interesting. No doubt.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This is on the occasion of Inez Koonce Jacox's 100th birthday. I am standing on the far left next to my mother.


I'm back from my short journey to Tennessee. It was an eye opening experience but not in the way I had hoped. Several things hit me and I'm still processing them.

First, the area where my maternal ancestors lived is still very rural and sparsely populated. For example, my grand aunt Inez lived a few feet from the church where she was eulogized (and a few blocks from Alex Haley's birthplace). However, we traveled 45 minutes and through two counties to get to the cemetery where she was buried. My sister, who was driving, was concerned about running out of gas. She was advised to get gas when she went through downtown Maury City. Unfortunately, we didn't recognized downtown when we went through it. It was one short block of family businesses.

My aunt lived in this area all 102 years of her life. That had to shape her vision of the world. I see that same vision in my mother even though she has lived in an urban area most of her life. The viewpoint is narrow, comfortable and void of inquisitiveness.
That speaks to the other thing that struck me. All the knowledge my aunt had of my side of the family has now gone to the grave. I had accepted that my aunt did not want to talk about her family because that's what my mother and my aunt Adrene told me. Then at the funeral, a woman, a niece of Inez's husband, talked about how she asked questions about the family and how Inez gladly recited family stories to her. It makes me so mad and sad at the same time. I asked my mother if she ever asked my aunt anything to which she said never. My mother is now one of the oldest living Koonce so I will have to unearth whatever I can through circumstantial evidence not oral stories.

I can't imagine not wanting to know everything about my family history. My mother is interested and satisfied with her minute knowledge. She doesn't understand my thirst and my endless questions. I don't understand her nonchalance and acceptance. The worst part and the best part is that I seem to be "that one" in the family that pursues the answers. It's a lonely job but, I believe, somebody's gotta do it.

This summer, I will go back to Tennessee and delve into court documents and look up books in the local libraries and talk to people who may know about my family history. Too bad I wasn't able to do it before my aunt passed away.