begatsy

13
Welp, I finally got my hands on some of the columns written by Maude Newton Simmons, my mysterious self-given namesake whose writing ambitions were a complete surprise to me when I learned of them a few years ago, and my fears came true.
I can’t bring myself to post screenshots of the truly offensive things she wrote, though I’m sure I’ll get into it all in my book. Let’s just say it’s definitely a lesson in being careful which long-dead barely-known relations you fetishize.
Because Maude/Maud* was almost the Emily or Molly or Haley or Sophie or Jennifer or Betty of its day, I have another great aunt Maude, too. I would like to think I slightly resemble her, if only because she looks amazing in a sexy lacy black dress that I would totally wear. She’s standing next to my great-grandfather, Zone, the guy with the umbrella, aka the self-declared Texan communist. 
I don’t know much about Maude Johnston Baldwin except that according to the census she worked as a seamstress in a dress factory and according to my mom she and her mom and the rest of her siblings “dipped snuff.” (“I remember each Johnston carried a can around to spit in and after a meal we all would sit in the living room and each one would spit from time to time and argue and fight,” says Mom. “Zone’s family was a striving, hell-raising bunch!! I hated being there.”)
* I prefer the unornamented form of the name.

Welp, I finally got my hands on some of the columns written by Maude Newton Simmons, my mysterious self-given namesake whose writing ambitions were a complete surprise to me when I learned of them a few years ago, and my fears came true.

I can’t bring myself to post screenshots of the truly offensive things she wrote, though I’m sure I’ll get into it all in my book. Let’s just say it’s definitely a lesson in being careful which long-dead barely-known relations you fetishize.

Because Maude/Maud* was almost the Emily or Molly or Haley or Sophie or Jennifer or Betty of its day, I have another great aunt Maude, too. I would like to think I slightly resemble her, if only because she looks amazing in a sexy lacy black dress that I would totally wear. She’s standing next to my great-grandfather, Zone, the guy with the umbrella, aka the self-declared Texan communist

I don’t know much about Maude Johnston Baldwin except that according to the census she worked as a seamstress in a dress factory and according to my mom she and her mom and the rest of her siblings “dipped snuff.” (“I remember each Johnston carried a can around to spit in and after a meal we all would sit in the living room and each one would spit from time to time and argue and fight,” says Mom. “Zone’s family was a striving, hell-raising bunch!! I hated being there.”)

* I prefer the unornamented form of the name.

854
cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo. cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo.

cultureunseen:

Happy Mother’s Day to Big Momma (great or great-great grandmother), who laid the family foundation. From share cropping in her adolescence, doing white folks laundry and floors, to holding down two jobs to help transition us from the projects to a house of our own. We salute you for keeping us together, clean, in church, on a straight course and doing the absolute best that you could with the little that you had. Rest in perfect peace…
Long Live Big Momma!

Another favorite great grandma photo.

staytrueorgtfo:

This is my great grandmother, she’s 94 years old, her name is Edith and she means a lot to me. I really love her, she’s a great and special person. I don’t know what I’d do without her in my life.
P.S: Yeah, she has blue hair! ♥
R.I.P. 1/17/2013 You’ll be forever in my heart

One of my favorite things to do when I’m trying to account to myself for my ancestry obsession is to search for posts about great grandmothers on Tumblr. Amazing. A bounty.

staytrueorgtfo:

This is my great grandmother, she’s 94 years old, her name is Edith and she means a lot to me. I really love her, she’s a great and special person. I don’t know what I’d do without her in my life.

P.S: Yeah, she has blue hair! ♥

R.I.P. 1/17/2013 You’ll be forever in my heart

One of my favorite things to do when I’m trying to account to myself for my ancestry obsession is to search for posts about great grandmothers on Tumblr. Amazing. A bounty.

8
genealogy-watercooler:

I made a circular genealogical chart!
I played a little with a traditional ancestor tree, but those get unwieldy fast, and I don’t think they’re particular intuitive to read.  I like the circle, because it’s easy to see at a glance exactly who begat who and how each person relates (or doesn’t relate) to each other.
I also like that it doesn’t place an obvious emphasis on any particular branch of the family.  Well, I suppose the people at the top get priority since they’re, you know, not upside down.  But that’s a side effect of being a circular.  Interestingly, my software (Gramps) did not put my direct paternal line on top.  The right-side-up position goes to dad’s mom’s and mom’s dad’s families.
I could have made a smaller circle and cut down on my blank spaces, but, honestly, I find the blank spaces inspiring.  Look how much I’ve learned!  Look how much is waiting for me to learn! 
Two printing errors and three trips to the the craft store later, I have my poster sized chart.  So I put it on the wall of my, uh, genealogical office.  Which is also my corner next to my side of the bed. 
My husband says it looks like I have put some sort of Mayan calendar on our wall.  But whatever. 

Gorgeous. I’m inspired! genealogy-watercooler:

I made a circular genealogical chart!
I played a little with a traditional ancestor tree, but those get unwieldy fast, and I don’t think they’re particular intuitive to read.  I like the circle, because it’s easy to see at a glance exactly who begat who and how each person relates (or doesn’t relate) to each other.
I also like that it doesn’t place an obvious emphasis on any particular branch of the family.  Well, I suppose the people at the top get priority since they’re, you know, not upside down.  But that’s a side effect of being a circular.  Interestingly, my software (Gramps) did not put my direct paternal line on top.  The right-side-up position goes to dad’s mom’s and mom’s dad’s families.
I could have made a smaller circle and cut down on my blank spaces, but, honestly, I find the blank spaces inspiring.  Look how much I’ve learned!  Look how much is waiting for me to learn! 
Two printing errors and three trips to the the craft store later, I have my poster sized chart.  So I put it on the wall of my, uh, genealogical office.  Which is also my corner next to my side of the bed. 
My husband says it looks like I have put some sort of Mayan calendar on our wall.  But whatever. 

Gorgeous. I’m inspired!

genealogy-watercooler:

I made a circular genealogical chart!

I played a little with a traditional ancestor tree, but those get unwieldy fast, and I don’t think they’re particular intuitive to read.  I like the circle, because it’s easy to see at a glance exactly who begat who and how each person relates (or doesn’t relate) to each other.

I also like that it doesn’t place an obvious emphasis on any particular branch of the family.  Well, I suppose the people at the top get priority since they’re, you know, not upside down.  But that’s a side effect of being a circular.  Interestingly, my software (Gramps) did not put my direct paternal line on top.  The right-side-up position goes to dad’s mom’s and mom’s dad’s families.

I could have made a smaller circle and cut down on my blank spaces, but, honestly, I find the blank spaces inspiring.  Look how much I’ve learned!  Look how much is waiting for me to learn! 

Two printing errors and three trips to the the craft store later, I have my poster sized chart.  So I put it on the wall of my, uh, genealogical office.  Which is also my corner next to my side of the bed. 

My husband says it looks like I have put some sort of Mayan calendar on our wall.  But whatever. 

Gorgeous. I’m inspired!

image

Ancestry.com’s updated terms of service clarify that users are legally responsible for anything they do on the site — or on any related site — that inspires a lawsuit. 

Of course you can’t defame the dead, but as someone who’s had relatives hide their trees from public view after I’ve posted embarrassing discoveries, I’ve wondered if there have been or eventually will be attempted lawsuits over damages suffered because of relationships revealed and pedigrees refuted. And with stories like “With genetic testing, I gave my parents the gift of divorce" on the rise, it’s not too surprising that they’re spelling this out more clearly now.

The legal genealogist takes a look at Ancestry.com’s new terms:

we are now much more clearly and directly on the hook for anything we do that ends up getting one of these Ancestry websites sued. The prior terms just said that we would indemnify Ancestry “against all liabilities, claims and expenses that may arise from any breach of this Agreement by you or otherwise as a result of your use of the Services or Website.”8

Today, the provision says:

You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Ancestry, its affiliates, officers, directors, employees and agents from and against any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or expenses (including but not limited to attorney’s fees) arising from: (i) your use of and access to the Websites and Services; (ii) your violation of any term of this Agreement; (iii) your violation of any third-party right, including without limitation any copyright, property, or privacy right; or (iv) any claim that your User Provided Content caused damage to a third party. This defense and indemnification obligation will survive this Agreement and your use of the Websites and Services.9

What that means is that if Aunt Mabel decides to sue Ancestry because you uploaded her copyrighted picture of Uncle Homer wearing a grass skirt, and she wins, you could end up paying not only the full amount of the copyright award and your own legal fees and Aunt Mabel’s legal fees, but all of Ancestry’s costs and legal fees too.

Image taken from the PLOS genetics blog.

5
"I have a hard time thinking about it now but I spent a huge amount of my childhood and adult life finding a way to incorporate my family’s ideas into my own," Joan Didion told me when I interviewed her last year.
Her reckonings with forebears stretch far into the past. In Where I Was From, a genealogy-infused reflection on California and her childhood there, she ruminates on her female forbears, women “pragmatic and in their deepest instincts clinically radical, given to breaking clean with everyone and everything they knew,” even their own dead babies. 
As I wrote when her most recent book, Blue Nights, was published, if Didion dwelt in Where I Was From  on her female forbears’ tendencies “toward slight and major derangements” and “apparently eccentric pronouncements,” traits she’d once seen as biologically endemic, Blue Nights, by contrast,  fixates on nurture, on the terrible possibility that a mother’s neuroses might be contagious.”
There’s a Didion documentary in the works, from her nephew, Griffin Dunne, and I can’t wait.

"I have a hard time thinking about it now but I spent a huge amount of my childhood and adult life finding a way to incorporate my family’s ideas into my own," Joan Didion told me when I interviewed her last year.

Her reckonings with forebears stretch far into the past. In Where I Was From, a genealogy-infused reflection on California and her childhood there, she ruminates on her female forbears, women “pragmatic and in their deepest instincts clinically radical, given to breaking clean with everyone and everything they knew,” even their own dead babies.

As I wrote when her most recent book, Blue Nights, was published, if Didion dwelt in Where I Was From  on her female forbears’ tendencies “toward slight and major derangements” and “apparently eccentric pronouncements,” traits she’d once seen as biologically endemic, Blue Nights, by contrast,  fixates on nurture, on the terrible possibility that a mother’s neuroses might be contagious.”

There’s a Didion documentary in the works, from her nephew, Griffin Dunne, and I can’t wait.

4
I’m very excited to be a speaker at my cousin* A.J. Jacobs’ Global Family Reunion next June 6.  Some details:

The Global Family Reunion – coming June 6, 2015 – is the biggest, most extraordinary and most inclusive family reunion in history.
Come meet fascinating cousins you never knew you had — and learn about how we are building a Family Tree of the entire Human Race.
And do it for a good cause: The fight against Alzheimer’s. 

The event will be held at the New York Hall of Science, former site of the World’s Fair, and the full $20 admission benefits the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. Hope to see you there!
* By marriage, with 29 degrees of separation, but still! You can find out how you’re related to him, too.

I’m very excited to be a speaker at my cousin* A.J. Jacobs’ Global Family Reunion next June 6.  Some details:

The Global Family Reunion – coming June 6, 2015 – is the biggest, most extraordinary and most inclusive family reunion in history.

Come meet fascinating cousins you never knew you had — and learn about how we are building a Family Tree of the entire Human Race.

And do it for a good cause: The fight against Alzheimer’s

The event will be held at the New York Hall of Science, former site of the World’s Fair, and the full $20 admission benefits the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. Hope to see you there!

* By marriage, with 29 degrees of separation, but still! You can find out how you’re related to him, too.

55
On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex!  On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex!  On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex!  On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex!  On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex!  On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex!  On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex!  On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 
Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.
Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”
In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)
The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.
I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex! 

On Saturday I sat down with my friend alexanderchee, who recently finished up his second novel, and he shared with me the most breathtaking family history records I’ve ever seen in person outside of a museum. 

Published in a collection of nine bound and slipcased volumes, his family’s JokBo — genealogy records — are written in HanJa, which Alex says is the Korean name for Chinese characters. A friend of his who knows Chinese told him that the characters in these books are an old-fashioned, almost archaic form of the language.

Alex’s family on his dad’s side, the Korean side, are Yangban, members of the traditional ruling class. His records date to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392. Not everyone’s JokBo are this elaborate and beautiful, but Alex explained that in general knowledge of ancestry is so important in Korea that “if you don’t know who your family is, you enter a space of disgrace.” This is especially difficult and painful for Korean adoptees who return to the land of their birth hoping to make a connection with the place they came from, he says. The emphasis placed on ancestry is because of ancestor worship. “Each ancestor becomes a little bit of a house god when they die.”

In the photos above are portraits of three of Alex’s ancestors, three stark and stunning “feng shui grave maps” (I hope I haven’t turned any of them upside-down and in so doing displeased the ancestors), and a couple of photos of the books themselves. (Unfortunately, if you came to this post through a permalink, you may have to click the photo above to view all the others as a slideshow.)

The pictures in the books are a small part of the whole; mostly they’re devoted to detailed family genealogies: birth dates, marriage dates, dates of death, and career accomplishments. A woman who marries “dies to her old family,” and her record becomes part of her husband’s record and starts over again in his book.

I learned so much more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thank you for sharing your family history with me, Alex! 

4
Sooner or later, religious fervor turns up on just about every line of my family.
Yesterday I found an article from the September 3, 1886, issue of (what was then called) the Atlanta Constitution reporting that my third great-grandfather, Elias Bruce, found “perfect love” at the age of 74, seven years after his first wife died, and was married at a campmeeting.
Bruce was grandfather to Charley, my great-grandfather, who killed the man with the hay hook, and great-grandfather of Robert, my grandfather, who married thirteen times. 

Sooner or later, religious fervor turns up on just about every line of my family.

Yesterday I found an article from the September 3, 1886, issue of (what was then called) the Atlanta Constitution reporting that my third great-grandfather, Elias Bruce, found “perfect love” at the age of 74, seven years after his first wife died, and was married at a campmeeting.

Bruce was grandfather to Charley, my great-grandfather, who killed the man with the hay hook, and great-grandfather of Robert, my grandfather, who married thirteen times

13
I think if he were a little boy today he might be given Ritalin and grow up to be a salesman of some sort and we would never have heard from him again.

Patricia O’Toole on Theodore Roosevelt, as quoted in PBS’ “The Roosevelts.”

Live adventurously.

(via caro)

14
From my Family Tree interview with Laila Lalami, at thetinhouse: 

Maud Newton: In a Lives piece for the New York Times Magazine, you write that your mom was left in a French orphanage in Fez in 1941, and that, over the years, you had many theories and stories about how she might have ended up there. Your thirst for the truth eventually led you to take a genetic test, but in the end, science couldn’t give you the kind of answers you were seeking. “Only stories could,” you said. Do you think the mystery of your mother’s origins is part of the reason you’re a writer?
Laila Lalami: I think it certainly played a part. When I was growing up, I could never shake the feeling that there was something different about my family. All my friends had maternal aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, whereas my extended family consisted solely of relatives on my father’s side. We also did certain things differently at home, like sing French lullabies instead of Arabic ones, or eat pain perdu with mint tea—habits my mother brought with her from the French orphanage. Being different meant that I became more sensitive to detail, more attuned to all the ways in which a person belongs to or is held apart from a group.


For me, the desire to write came from my love of books and my need to tell stories. But I think there’s a connection between feeling like you’re different and wanting to tell a story. When you write you can, at least temporarily, tame that feeling of difference.

From my Family Tree interview with Laila Lalami, at thetinhouse

Maud Newton: In a Lives piece for the New York Times Magazine, you write that your mom was left in a French orphanage in Fez in 1941, and that, over the years, you had many theories and stories about how she might have ended up there. Your thirst for the truth eventually led you to take a genetic test, but in the end, science couldn’t give you the kind of answers you were seeking. “Only stories could,” you said. Do you think the mystery of your mother’s origins is part of the reason you’re a writer?

Laila Lalami: I think it certainly played a part. When I was growing up, I could never shake the feeling that there was something different about my family. All my friends had maternal aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, whereas my extended family consisted solely of relatives on my father’s side. We also did certain things differently at home, like sing French lullabies instead of Arabic ones, or eat pain perdu with mint tea—habits my mother brought with her from the French orphanage. Being different meant that I became more sensitive to detail, more attuned to all the ways in which a person belongs to or is held apart from a group.

For me, the desire to write came from my love of books and my need to tell stories. But I think there’s a connection between feeling like you’re different and wanting to tell a story. When you write you can, at least temporarily, tame that feeling of difference.
2
Here’s a tongue-in-cheek rendering from Amram Scheinfeld’s 1939 book, You and Heredity, of the Kallikaks, a eugenics-era cautionary tale of sloppy breeding.
The story was that a Revolutionary war soldier — Kallikak — bred with both a “worthy Quakeress” and a “feeble-minded slattern” and produced two lines of children, one of “upright, intelligent, properous citizens” and the other of “degenerates, mental defectives, drunks, paupers, prostitutes and criminals.” 

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek rendering from Amram Scheinfeld’s 1939 book, You and Heredity, of the Kallikaks, a eugenics-era cautionary tale of sloppy breeding.

The story was that a Revolutionary war soldier — Kallikak — bred with both a “worthy Quakeress” and a “feeble-minded slattern” and produced two lines of children, one of “upright, intelligent, properous citizens” and the other of “degenerates, mental defectives, drunks, paupers, prostitutes and criminals.”