Betsy Cross

Dr. McClane’s Worm Specific

In Family History, Genealogy, Passionj on July 30, 2012 at 11:26 am

“So, did I tell you about my bottle project?”  I’d only known her a week and we’d barely spoken. She gripped the steering wheel and stared straight forward, paying attention to the traffic, but I knew that look. What she had really meant to say was, “Ask me to tell you! PLEASE!”

I laughed and answered, “Bottle project? No, you haven’t.” And with that I knew she was gone. You know how I knew? I could relate to the feeling…the unrelenting need to share your passion with anyone with ears because you know there’s only so much room in your body and soul for never-before-shared stories, and if you don’t tell them something bad will happen for sure.

I’d found a kindred spirit of sorts.

So, here’s the story. Her story, and what it means to me.

A couple of weeks ago, shards of glass started poking through the grass near her hammock in her back yard - a lawn that her husband was very proud of and had spent considerable time, money and energy on. Well, THAT’S not safe, she thought, and decided to dig it up and get rid of it. Two weeks later we’re sitting in her truck on the way home from work and she’s describing the pit she has created while excavating – the hole that calls to her, but torments her husband as he watches it grow in width and depth every day.

She can’t wait to get home to dig up more treasures. She has found 18 medicine bottles, including Dr. McClane’s Worm Specific, a full-size cast iron stove, brass rings of lanterns, and 8 huge buckets of broken glass from the 1800′s. No piece of glass slips through her fingers unnoticed. She’s addicted to the search of the small. I told her that she should be an archaeologist! I guess she already is. She’s older than I am by a few years and has done a lot in her life. I wondered if this was her first go-’round with passion?

She told me that it’s all she thinks about. I nodded and tried to wedge in an “I can relate!” to the monologue. But she was in the zone. She couldn’t hear me. She didn’t want to hear me. She made me laugh so hard with her enthusiasm.

Her husband and children think she’s a bit nuts, she told me. When she’s not digging, she’s scouring the Internet to identify her finds.

I get it.

Was it just last week that my friend and I’d made a similar discovery at the Family History Center? I’ve read  files, newspaper clippings, and hand-written journal entries, and am full to over-flowing with excitement. Sometimes someone will catch me teary-eyed or giggling, and for a minute I’ll have someone who’ll listen to me as I recount the latest uncovered tale.

But, for the most part, just like my new friend, I enjoy an alternate universe alone, digging deeper and deeper, uncovering voices that share their dreams, joys, sorrows, and memories like a sunrise that peeks over the horizon – appreciated by those who come to behold in silence and awe,  a light that exposes a hidden and sleeping world.

Some things you just have to see and experience for yourself.

And you know by a look in the eyes, and the sound of a voice when somebody else has hit pay dirt whose reward is passion – an inexplicable need to stick with a task that is felt like a gift by those who possess it and seen as a curse whose “back yard” is being “destroyed.”

Buried in a manila envelope, tucked between thirty photos from the late 1800′s, I found this newspaper clipping. Maybe you can relate? Maybe you have a passion that makes you feel like this?

Serendipity…My Favorite Word to Live

In Family History, Family History Center, Family Search, Family Tree, Historical Society, Legacy Stories on July 25, 2012 at 11:14 am

Have you ever had a gift so completely unexpected fall in your lap that time stands still and you have no words to express the shock and awe? Something that threatens and promises to suck up all of your time and energy, and you can’t help but shout “thank you!” to the Universe for its well-orchestrated conspiracy to put you right where it needed you to get something magnificent done?

Isn’t that serendipity?

Could a starving man stumbling upon a banquet be more grateful than I am?

Last night the heavens opened and dropped a project through the dark night into a stagnating life. Mine.

“Betsy, have you seen what’s in these file cabinets?” my friend called to me from the office. I had the keys in my hand ready to lock up and was hurrying because I was already over half an hour late getting home.

I figured that they were full of useless and out-dated papers that we’d throw away as we made time to get better organized, freeing ourselves of the clutter that had accumulated over the years and had survived the scrutiny of several directors of the Cape Cod Family History Center.

Actually, I don’t think that those drawers had been opened in years.

Three file cabinets stuffed with file after file of original and copied photos of people and places of the area dating back over a hundred years were tucked in the corner of our office. And if it had been a living, breathing thing it would have done a happy dance as we started looking through its contents.

I get the chills every time I think about it.

I really wish we could camp out in the Center and work every day ’til we are done. But, we’ll never be done. Not really.

We will scan the pictures, organize the files as we look for the descendants of the people on the pictures who I know still live nearby. We’ll call the Historical Society and see if they’re interested in copies.

It boggles my mind that we stumbled upon this treasure that has sat right under our noses and those of our predecessors for so long!

Has anyone been wondering where some of their family photos went? How are they going to feel when they get our call telling them that we found them? Are they going to be as excited as we were? Those questions have been hounding me since last night. We can take our time contacting the owners, making sure that the work to preserve them is done before we hand them over. Someone obviously felt that they were important enough to share with the Center that they were filed away for safe keeping. We’ll honor that trust by making simple family trees that we can prepare for Family Search, as well as a free, private account with Legacy Stories that will stay private until we receive permission to make it public.

There are even hand-written and typed family stories in some of the files!

I’m so excited. So is my partner in crime! She and I will probably open up the Center every night of the week until this work is done.

We’ve been sucked in!

If Your Momma Ain’t Intrigued, Ain’t NObody Gonna Be Intrigued!

In, Family History, Family History Center, Family Search, Genealogy, Legacy, Legacy Stories, Living Legacy Project, Pedigree, Record Keeping, Uncategorized on June 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm

(From The Princess Bride)

Inigo Montoya: “I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?”

Man in Black: “Do you always start conversations this way?”

I love Inigo. He’s focused, passionate, and funny.


Sort of like my new friend, Cathy. In just three meetings with me she has “completed” her 4-generation pedigree and is well on her way to filling in the details of the fifteen family groups.

I always give homework and rarely remember what assignment I gave. I should probably write them down? I’d be a fun teacher. My students would get away with a lot. But we’d also have fun learning, too. Exciting subjects drive themselves. Don’t you think?

Cathy has surprised me two times now by coming into the Family History Center having done hers. She’s amazing. She needs no reminders. We laughed about how tired she was. On Tuesday night we both left the Center and worked on some of her family history puzzles late into the night. She admitted that she had the next day off from work and spent the whole day looking for the link between two great grandparents with the same last name. That was the homework assignment she’d been given that she was so excited to share last night.

“You did?!” I squealed.

“Yup. I found them.” She started talking to herself as she fingered through her files, looking for the one with the goods in it while I peppered her with  distracting questions.

I switched chairs to sit at her right, explaining that I sleep on the left side of the bed, but I’m used to sitting to her right. My friend got a chuckle out of that declaration.

“You mean they were sisters?” I asked.

“That means that their great-grandchildren, one a boy and the other a girl, got married?” I looked at her, waiting.

“”They’re a few logs removed from the wood pile,” she said matter-of-factly, staring straight ahead at the computer screen. Oh, my! She makes me laugh!

 I had to get my cousins chart out to figure out what to call them. From now on it’s going to be hanging in the Center.”Cathy! Your mom and dad are third cousins!” No big deal, but really fun!

It was 8:30 and my ride  had arrived, so we wrapped things up and I went home . While unwinding on the couch, Kyle asked, “What do you DO with people there?” which he followed up with, “I have NO interest in that at all!”

To which I replied, “It’s in the stories, Kyle. You get hooked in the stories. We (Cathy and I) opened up a World War I draft registration record and found out this guy had three fingers on his left hand.”

Kyle just stared at me with a squinched up nose. Guys love blood and guts and action! The kind that Inigo Montoya delivers. I think my son was starting to get it, but he just laughed and shook his head.

But my mind was already off imagining about how it had happened.

‘Cause in the end, that’s what intrigued me the most. And if  Momma ain’t intrigued, ain’t NObody gonna be intrigued!

Ha! What intrigue have you found in your ancestors’ closets?


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