John McCain: Maverick

The last time I cried when a politician died was, well, never.

I feel for Senator McCain’s family of course, but my true grief is for the American people who so sorely need his leadership now…as he has slipped away from us.

Today, in Berlin, I stood in front of the American embassy and saw our flag, my flag, the flag John fought for, served for and nearly died for, at half staff as his body lie in state in Washington. Being so far from home, in a foreign country, standing on land that had once been held behind a wall by the Communist Party, I openly wept.

The Brandenburg Gate, standing beside the American Embassy, divided Berlin into communist East and free West and stands as a historical reminder of the grimness of division. Bullet holes are still in evidence on the columns, standing in silent testimony to those who sought to escape to freedom – and failed.

The remnants of the Berlin Wall stand as silent witness to what humanity can never allow to happen again. How did humans ever hate this much? Ever sanction those atrocities?

As the graffiti on the wall asks WHY, I too wonder why, and how this atrocity ever came to pass. Why didn’t someone, many someones, step up and stop this train before it became an avalanche.

I was sorely reminded of why we so desperately need John’s vision to unite. To refuse to hate simply because villianization is easy.

He respected those with whom he had political divisions – as he did President Barack Obama when John was questioned on the campaign trail about then-candidate Obama’s religious affiliation. The easy answer and easy road was never the path John selected by default.

We need what John stood for. His dignity, his statesmanship, his honor and humanity. John McCain was a Maverick alright, standing tall when others failed to do so.

We need heroes to look up to.

We need hope that we as a nation, can heal. John gave us that.

I didn’t always agree with John.

I didn’t always disagree with John.

I always respected John.

A prisoner of war who was willing to lay his life down for America, every single day for many, many years, through unrelenting torture that surely seemed unbearable, through disfigurement, throughout every humiliation he endured.

For you.

For me.

For all Americans, of every color, faith, gender and every combination of all of those.

We are all diminished by John’s passing.

In John’s final statement that would become his legacy beyond the fact that he asked both Republican and Democratic former Presidents to provide eulogies at his funeral, he said this to the American people:

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”

Now that John is gone, it’s up to all of us, personally, individually, to make it so.

Rest in Peace John McCain. You already saw Hell in Vietnam and deserve nothing less.

May each and every one of us carry your torch.

Facebook and Psychographic Warfare – You ARE the Product

And I thought the Equifax security breach last year was bad.

The situation exposed this past week with Facebook is not a breach, it’s intentional, has lasted for years and it’s called “psychographic research.” If you are a Facebook user, and what genealogist isn’t today, it has already affected, read targeted, you. Facebook intentionally collected and allowed the collection of various types of information from their user’s profiles that enabled “others” to construct an extremely accurate psychological personality profile for each Facebook user. Those profiles allowed bad actors to tailor content intended to manipulate each individual Facebook user for their own nefarious purposes.

Facebook exploited the trust of every single one of their 1.8 billion users. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Of those, 214 million are located in the US.

Most genealogists use Facebook routinely to maintain links to family, share photos and participate in various groups that support our genealogy addiction. Unfortunately, while Facebook users receive camaraderie and social media makes our world smaller – we have been being used as unwitting pawns in a heinous psychological experiment.

I’ve always said there is no such thing as “free,” and I know full well that Facebook supports the “free” platform with advertising revenue from advertisers hoping to reach people who like cats, for example, are in my age group or perhaps my geography. I never knew that they were stealthily gathering my information and selling it to unethical companies and organizations whose intention was to manipulate me psychologically and more specifically, attempting to manipulate my vote.

The full intention of these manipulators is to do whatever is necessary to mold your mind, including distribution of incorrect information, remaining blind to infiltration by “bots” and allowing Facebook users to be targeted with the intention of sewing divisiveness. As a result, we have the most polarized, hate-filled and divided country I’ve known in my lifetime.

This wasn’t an accidental security breach, nor even a security breach due to negligence. This was a planned act, sanctioned and even abetted by Facebook. They are complicit.

Without allowing this article to dip into the toxic brew of politics, suffice it to say that the intention of various “bad actors” was full well to sway our election and undermine our democratic system by whatever methods worked, regardless of ethics or morality, and Facebook was a full-on willing partner. User information was sold not just to the highest bidder, but every bidder, who just happen to be the devil(s) incarnate. Not one of the people who did this had “your” best interest at heart, which in and of itself is enough to tell me whatever they want is a bad idea.

What Happened?

If you’re unaware, please educate yourself on what has happened and fully understand that this DOES affect you. Even if you personally have never played a seemingly innocent Facebook game, like Farmville, or clicked on one of those “personality profiles,” “what is your movie star name” links or answered those “tell me 10 things about yourself” postings, one of your Facebook friends surely has…and your data has been collected and used both against you and the underpinnings of our very democracy. While I’m an American, there is evidence that these same shady characters were also involved with manipulating the highly volatile Brexit vote in the UK along with elections elsewhere in the world.

Even more unfortunate, many of the people on Facebook, especially those focused on genealogy, are of or near retirement age. 26% are age 55-64 and 21% are over 65. These people tend to be the most trusting, the least technologically savvy and the most likely to click on those fun links or answer those “20 questions” challenges posted by friends – never suspecting that they are exposing themselves to targeted psychological manipulation by people who are willing to pay to have their poison information planted in your newsfeed.

That total of 47% means that the private data of over 100 million US people of AARP age has been gathered. In 2017, the entire population of the US was 325 million, including children, so roughly 30% of the entire US population has been targeted and unknowingly manipulated by God-knows-who-all.

Think about this for a minute. Look at the things you’ve “Liked” on Facebook over the past few days. For me, it’s been cats, quilts, wildlife, photos, genetic genealogy, DNA articles and my friends and cousins’ feeds. To many Facebook users, a “like” is the online equivalent of waving at your neighbor when you see them drive by.

Nothing revealing in what I “liked”, you might say, but that’s not true. You can tell that I’m both empathetic and science focused. You can tell by looking at the race of my friends along with articles that I “like” that I’m certainly not prejudiced. Combine those things together, along with whatever else Facebook has collected by reading my posts and private messages, and you can easily tell what kinds of propaganda to plant in my news feed to upset me.

Think not?

Post just one article about animal abuse in my feed, and I’m on the phone calling someone to emphatically demand change. For example, the dog last week who died on a United Airlines flight. I’m certainly not flying United if I have any choice whatsoever.

Racism, discrimination, domestic violence or child abuse…same reaction. Now, do you still think you’re not predictable by the trail of psychological breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind?

Ever forward one of those, “If you love Jesus, you’ll forward this” pictures because you certainly didn’t want anyone to think you didn’t love Jesus, or felt obligated or guilty if you didn’t forward?  Well, you were psychologically manipulated and you just told the exploiters about your religious beliefs so you can be targeted and so can everyone of your downstream friends and family members.

Up until now, the viruses we worried about were viruses implanted on your computer.  What Facebook did was to pave the way for these exploiters to plant viruses in your brain without your knowledge.

Even worse, Facebook recently made changes in their algorithm to limit the things you see in your feed, and the ONLY way for you to increase the things you like to see is to “like” even more, or tag the page or account to “show first,” providing Facebook with even more information about you to sell to whomever.

I feel somewhat responsible at this point, because I wrote an article just 10 days ago telling you exactly how to do just that – never suspecting the clandestine information collection that was occurring, or why. So yes, I’ve been exploited too. And I’m furious.

If you thought “Big Brother” was the government all along, you’re wrong. It’s Facebook who will apparently sell to anyone including the devil himself.

Is Psychographic Profiling Accurate?

If you’re doubting the accuracy of psychographic profiling, as I was, take into account the compiled research information about Facebook “likes” by a grad student at Cambridge University. The inspiration for this whole debacle was inspired by this research which indicated that by gathering:

  • only 68 Facebook “likes,” your skin color could be predicted with 95% accuracy
  • 68 likes – your sexual orientation predicted with 85% accuracy
  • 70 likes – they would “know you” better than your friends
  • 150 likes – know you better than your parents
  • 300 likes – know you better than your partner

Massive surveillance designed to capitalize on your emotional and psychological vulnerabilities in the hands of those who do not have your best interest at heart.

Take this one step further and imagine that if it’s obvious that you are strongly opposed to sex trafficking of children, someone who wanted to deter you from voting for a particular candidate might make up a story about that candidate engaged in a sex ring trafficking children. Would you dislike that candidate? If you were on the fence, would it knock you right off? If your answer is yes, then psychographic profiling and manipulation worked. Does it matter whether the information is true? No, not as long as it works. A vote now is worth being caught in a lie later – or at least that’s the theory.

And we were worried about what our DNA might divulge. Absolutely nothing, comparatively speaking.

Educate Yourself

I’m listing a few articles here that describe, in horrifying detail, the inside workings of the stealth Facebook operations by shady operators and the companies, like Cambridge Analytica. They utilized harvested user data by collaborating with Facebook to control what users see and targeting users through their emotionally vulnerabilities. In other words, you were fed information specifically aimed at making you feel one way or another.

Former Facebook operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, yesterday, in a Newsweek article stated that most of Facebook’s users likely had their information acquired by companies exploiting the same terms and conditions that allowed Cambridge Analytica’s data gathering through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” While only 270,000 people had played that game on Facebook,” the data of over 50 million was collected from the friends (and friends of friends) of those 270,000 people through exposures exploited by that app with Facebook’s full knowledge and consent – in just 3 months time.

This is both terrifying and nauseating.

The NYT podcast is especially enlightening and explains the timeline and methodology of how a bright young man devised a methodology to harvest Facebook data with the explicit intention of influencing voting behavior to reshape American politics. Realizing his discoveries had become a monster out of control, he resigned in 2014. Now he has become the whistleblower that blew the lid off of this scandal of unprecedented scope and scale, a magnitude undreamed of…at least by most of us. This is the most detailed of all of the resources I’ve found and explains the path from what seemed a relatively innocent and interesting discovery initially to a weaponized massively deployed fear-based political exploitation tool just three years later.

Protect Yourself

Ok, now that you know what’s happening, what can you do?

Many people are leaving Facebook and deleting their accounts. The #DeleteFacebook movement is growing.

Be aware that this doesn’t mean that what you’ve already done is gone. Your postings and comments on people’s pages and in other groups will still exist. It’s just your own account that is removed. At least you can’t be manipulated by what is fed to you anymore, but you also won’t be able to connect with family members. For many, and especially older people, Facebook is where friends are and connections make people feel a lot less isolated, especially when mobility or distance is an issue.

Furthermore, the cow has already left the barn, and “they” already have a psychological profile of you, meaning whoever has gathered or purchased your data. Believing “they” will delete that information and never use it is foolhardy.

Yes, you can leave Facebook. That’s clearly the easiest and most direct approach and I’ll show you how to do that in the next section.

If you don’t want to leave Facebook, there are precautionary steps you can take.

First, stop interacting, meaning “liking” things. Yea, I know. Double edged sword.

Second, don’t take any quizzes or post any personal information, at all. Ever. There’s a reason why people with high level security clearances aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts.

Third, do not, EVER click on those “clickbait” things that give you something interesting for free. I don’t care how great you’ll look airbrushed and all glamoured up on the cover of a fashion magazine, and yes, my friend did look fantastic, BUT – DON’T DO IT! It’s an entryway for the rats. Same with “what would you look like as a woman?” or man, or bald, etc.

Ask yourself when you see something like this – why would someone want to give you something for “free?” Free is often a clandestine trap for the unsuspecting. The more interesting it looks, the more suspicious you should be.

Just. Don’t. Click.

Fourth, take steps through Facebook settings to protect yourself from application platform sharing. Of course, this does nothing to affect what Facebook itself is collecting in order to target you with focused ads. Ever wonder why something you googled outside of Facebook now appears in your Facebook ad feed almost immediately? It’s not coincidence. It’s your digital trail of breadcrumbs.

Here are some great articles about Facebook security and privacy, and how to shore yours up.

I strongly recommend the following FaceCrooks article that not only tells you what to do to protect yourself, but why.

Fifth – do not sign in to applications through Facebook, which provides your Facebook user data to that application, potentially exposing your friends’ data too. These articles explain how to get rid of those pesky apps, including an article by Facebook itself.

Strengthening or Deleting Your Account

I’m going to check my own privacy settings, so come along and then use this same technique to check your own.

Go to Settings by clicking on the down arrow on the top right of your blue bar. You’ll see a dropdown list that includes “Settings.”

Click on Settings.

If you are going to leave Facebook, you can download a copy of your data through the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” link, at the bottom of the list.

By clicking on “Manage Account,” you can delete your account.  Note that delete means permanently.

Don’t want to delete your account and leave Facebook?  Then let’s improve your privacy.

On the left hand side, click on “Privacy” which shows your various selections.  Lock this down to only your friends and allow “only me” to see your friends list.

Next, on the left hand sidebar, click on “Apps.” At the top, you’ll see which applications have access to your Facebook account. I didn’t think there would be any other than WeRelate, the Ancestry app, but I was wrong.

It appears that I have indeed logged into a few sites through Facebook.

Most of these I at least recognize, except one. Who the devil is Hub One and why are they in my account?

Clicking on the pencil icon by the app shows you your options, below.

Looking at what the apps have access to is enlightening. Apps have access to both my profile photo and other public profile information, plus my e-mail address.

Neither the link titled “Choose the Info This App Can Use” nor “Learn How Apps Can Use Your Info” tell me what this app is doing or even “who” this app is.  Both just link to an article. Not useful.

The “Remove Info Collected by the App” simply tells me to contact the developer by clicking the X in the bottom right corner after opening the app. Three strikes, Facebook.

I still don’t know who Hub One is, nor what they are doing, nor any way to find out what data they’ve collected. I couldn’t contact them if I wanted to, because I don’t know who they are.

I resorted to Google and discovered that a company called Hub One says they are a document management company, but Googling a little further, look what I found.

Interesting, a company that says they are an “integrator of mobile and tracking solutions for 4500 enterprises” shows up on my Facebook account and I have no idea why.

Of course, this might not be the same company. The logos don’t look the same, and I have absolutely no way to know. Facebook certainly isn’t telling.

Furthermore, how does one figure out HOW to contact the company that has weaseled their way into my Facebook account. Clearly Facebook knows, because they approved this app for their platform, but they aren’t divulging AND they are putting the onus back on you to figure out who they’ve allowed to weasel in.

Hub One, whoever you are, you’re gone!

I certainly don’t want Bing collecting data about me from Facebook either, which probably explains about those ads mysteriously appearing on Facebook right after I googled “witch costumes” for my granddaughter. To delete, I click on the little X by their app, then continue in the box in the corner.

I use Skype, but why would it want access to my Facebook account? Same question for Norton Safe Web.

Next, click on the square box labeled “Apps, Websites and Plugins.”

You can disable all of the applications. I would suggest doing so by clicking on the bottom right on “disable platform.” That means no application can interact with Facebook by effectively shutting the door entirely. If you’re a blogger, and your blogging platform interacts with your Facebook account to post, you might not want to do this.

Next, click on the square box “Apps Others Use.”

By now, it should be pretty obvious that you’re really only as safe as your most exposed friend – same concept as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

I suspect I’ve disabled some of these options in the past, but look at what’s exposed now. This is the data that can be (and probably has been) scraped from my account through the accounts of my friends who use those apps that allow me to be targeted.

Not anymore, they are all gone now. Don’t forget to “Save.” For some reason, I had to repeat this process two or three times to get it to “take,” so check your selections afterwards. I’ll be generous and call it a glitch or a bug and not cynically suggest that maybe Facebook is trying to retain my “open door” settings.

Dear Facebook

Bottom line.

There is no excuse. Period.

You knew and intentionally betrayed every single one of the people who trusted you by luring your subscribers into a false sense of security. You never told us that WE, our minds, are the commodity that you are selling. You never disclosed the truth. Your behavior is utterly reprehensible, especially given that your small act of contrition in your Facebook posting today only occurred after you were called onto the carpet, very publicly, years into this deceptive behavior.

Kind of reminds me of the unfaithful spouse who has been sleeping with half the town for several years. Finally caught, they’re very sorry, of course. Much like the betrayed spouse, I have lots of questions.

  • I want to know what has been harvested from me.
  • I want the history of what apps, if any, I interacted with, ever, that gathered or might have gathered my information. Don’t make me hunt for it like you made me hunt for the Russian bot information. Put it right there in my feed where I can’t miss it, you know, like you put the other articles you planted for me to read.
  • I want to know who exposed my data.
  • I want to know the identity of the apps on my account. You owe that much to your users, instead of making the victims attempt to figure out who that app is and how to contact them.
  • I want a list of which apps you’ve determined to be acceptable for any Facebook user, who they are and what they are really doing. I want full transparency. Now.
  • I want you to stop manipulating me either through ads or targeted psychological profiling as a result of surveillance designed to determine what to “serve” me in my newsfeed. Stop making me the unwilling victim in your information meat-market.
  • I want to know what you’re doing for your users to right this wrong?

Just like I used to tell my kids, remorse after getting caught isn’t remorse about your behavior, it’s only remorse that you got caught.

Kindergarten rules:

  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
  • Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.

I guess Facebook and their compatriots in this psychographic war have removed any question about integrity. Now all that’s left is the cleanup, or divorce, your choice.

As for genealogists, make your decision about Facebook. If you stay, spruce up your privacy, protect yourself and one way or another, continue with your valuable genealogical research.

Please feel free to share the link to this article with anyone; friends and family, groups, and especially any Facebook page!

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FIRE!!!!

Did that just strike terror in your heart?  Is your pulse racing right now? It should be.

Fire has played a transformative role in the lives of our ancestors, especially since they built houses and tried to heat them, meaning their home could burn to the ground, killing the occupants or best case, rendering them helpless and reliant on other community members for food, clothes and other sustenance.

And sometimes, fire strikes very close to home – or at home.

Yesterday, my friend nearly lost her home.  She lit an advent candle on her kitchen table that was surrounded by evergreen boughs.  Then she forgot about it and went to bed.  Her religious devotional tribute combined with fatigue nearly cost her dearly.

Thankfully, due to a WORKING SMOKE DETECTOR, she is alive today and her house only needs a thorough cleaning and new carpet – not to mention a new kitchen table, of course and a few other items that burned.

Candles look so innocent and beautiful, but they aren’t.

Another friend lost her son, house, pets and all belongings except for the clothes she was wearing to escape and her car in the driveway a year ago August.  I can’t even begin to explain the devastation to this woman.  And the great irony – she was (and is) a firefighter.

Fires move so quickly, once they start.  There is often no prayer of containing the fire or for escape.

I’m a third generation fire daughter, wife and mother.

My son retired last week and I must tell you, I won’t miss that constant underlying nagging worry.

Being third generation, and having had a house fire of my own about 25 years ago, let me share with you my house rules:

House Fire Prevention Rules

  1. No open flames in the house. Nada.  Not ever.  No candles.  Period. Yes, my kids hated me, right up until one of them became a firefighter himself. Try these flickering battery operated candles instead.  You can find them at places like WalMart. They are beautiful and much safer.
  2. My fireplace does not burn logs, which create chimney residue. My fireplaces are gas and the flame is always contained behind a glass door. Never go to sleep or leave with the fireplace burning.  Keep your emergency shutoff key in the valve.
  3. No real Christmas trees. If I was going to have a real tree, and I did for awhile, no lights.  Lights get hot and electronics short out.  Ever see how quickly a dry tree goes up in flames?  Is it really worth the risk?  My mother tells of when my grandfather grabbed their burning Christmas tree and ran out the door with it, throwing it in the snow outside.  Everyone was lucky in their case.  No so for others.
  4. Fire extinguisher resides in the corner in the kitchen. If you need it, you don’t have time to hunt for it.  Mine is in view, not terribly stylish, but safe.
  5. No leaving things cooking in the house unattended. That means no oven autotimer meals, no crock pots when an adult isn’t home.  Nada.  It can’t burn or malfunction if it’s not turned on.
  6. No cars starting in the garage for warmup, or running inside even for a couple minutes, EVER.  My neighbors accidentally killed three family members this way and it’s a sight I never forgot.  This includes, by the way, remote start. Remote starts should require two separate buttons to be pushed simultaneously or some safety feature that does not allow you to accidentally start the vehicle without being aware that the vehicle was started. Never, ever, remote start a vehicle in a garage.  Why?  Ever get distracted? Me neither!
  7. Battery replacement and testing of smoke alarms every Easter. See the here for information about a new type of 10-year smoke alarm with a sealed battery compartment.
  8. Carbon monoxide sensors/alarms. Preferably in both the furnace area and the sleeping areas. These make great, if not exciting, Christmas gifts.  What better way to say “I love you and want you around.”
  9. Irons should have auto-shutoffs. I personally hate this because I’m a quilter.  But I want to be a quilter with a house and without my quilts going up in flames because I forgot to turn the iron off and the cat knocked it on the floor.
  10. Matches are secured. That means from kids and from pets. One of my husband’s acquaintances’ young grandsons was fascinated by matches, took them to bed and hid under the covers while playing with them…and you’ve already guessed the rest. They wound up filing bankruptcy in addition to the loss of their home and pets.
  11. No smoking on the property. That means anywhere on the property, not just in the house. Why?  Guess what happened a few years ago when a well-intentioned smoker put their cigarette “out” and threw the butt in the trash that was sitting beside the house.
  12. No outside fires close to the house, and none without a hose close by, just in case.
  13. No outside fires at all when it’s dry – like a drought in the summer or the early spring before things turn green.
  14. Unplug appliances not in use. They can’t short out if they aren’t plugged in.
  15. Be very vigilant of dust near extension cords and such. If an electrical short should occur, dust, as in dust bunnies or lint near an outlet combusts immediately. This is actually what caused my own house fire back in the 1990s. Fortunately, I was home at the time and the fire started in the basement laundry room which had a concrete floor. You don’t have any dust bunnies, right???
  16. Clean out the dryer vents and vent pipes. If you have a plastic vent pipe, replace it with metal.. Lint combusts too, and dryers involve a heating element. Yes, I have another family member whose college-age son came home to do laundry and the dryer caught fire.  The apartment did burn, but not to the ground and the people and pets escaped with only about 6 months of inconvenience.  Of course, his laundry escapades are now the family joke that he will never outlive – but that’s only funny because no one died. (See you Christmas Eve, Firebug.  Trying to find a smoke alarm ornament for your Christmas tree.  Just sayin…)
  17. No going to bed or leaving with the clothes dryer running. By the time you realize there’s a problem, it’s too late.
  18. No plug in type air fresheners.  They heat up, which is how they dissipate that lovely smell, but sometimes they catch fire and burn.
  19. Have your furnace checked and serviced regularly. Change the filters twice a year.  Not only does this protect you, it saves money on heating too.
  20. Do not grill, as in BBQ grill, right beside the house.  Yes, I know this should be intuitive, but sometimes it’s just not.  You don’t really want “grilled house,” melted siding or worse, now do you?

Call me paranoid if you want – but I’d prefer the term alive and vigilant😊

I want you to be too.

I don’t want fire to be your legacy.

Fire – A Sad Family Legacy

My father’s Camp Custer military record during WWI refers to him as a fireman.  When I saw that detail, I couldn’t help but wonder if my father remembered the house fire that took his brother’s life when he was a mere child?

Did my father remember running terrified from the flames that consumed everything? Of course he did. How could you ever forget that?

Was I named for the memory of that child?

Robbie, whose name was Robert, was born in June of 1898 while the family was living in Arkansas.  By 1900, they had moved back to Tennessee, to Estes Holler, in Claiborne County.  The census tells us that my grandfather had fallen on hard times and not worked for 6 months of the previous census year, meaning from June 1, 1899 to May 31, 1900, according to the census instructions.

Did this have something to do with why they moved back from Arkansas?  Possibly.  The family story was that William George Estes, my grandfather, was a hard drinking man who loved to fish but who didn’t much care to work.  In Springdale, Arkansas, Ollie Bolton Estes, his wife, ran a boarding house and Will fished.

By 1900, Ollie was probably pregnant again, and if not, would be shortly. In any case, my father was born in October of 1901.

After returning to Claiborne County, Will, Ollie and family lived in a cabin along the little creek that ran through Estes Holler.  A holler, for those not from Appalachia, is the little valley between two small ridges.  The entire area IS hills and hollers.

Sometime around 1907, the cabin caught fire.  Some people said Ollie was outside in the yard.  Some said she was at a party.  Oddly, no one commented about where William George might have been, only the mother.

This is a picture of a Ollie, whose son had recently burned to death in that fire.  The look of sorrow on her face is palpable. We know the photo was taken between the births of her two daughters, Margaret born in 1906, in arms, and Minnie who was born in 1908 and not in the photo.  We know that the boys are Estel, the oldest, my father in front, about 5 years old and Joseph Dode, two years younger than my father.  Robbie was dead by this time, so the fire happened before this 1907 photo.

Reportedly, the family Bible was also burned in this fire. Along with any other records and photos.

Everything burned, including Robbie.

Surely Robbie was buried in the family or the church cemetery, but there is no stone, at least not one that is carved, to mark his short life.

His little body lays here someplace in an unmarked grave, probably near his brother, Sammie who died in 1893.

Estel, the oldest child, was about 9 or 10 at the time, and he tried his best to get Robbie out, but Robbie crawled under the bed to hide, where he burned to death.

The family said that Ollie in particular, was never right after the fire, never the same. She was probably pregnant at the time with Minnie, born in 1908.

I know the fire and Robbie’s death haunted Estel as well throughout his life, in various ways, none of them good. He blamed himself.  Estel drank throughout his life, affecting his entire family – a truly sad story told by his daughter.

My father would have been about 5 at the time and surely remembered that horror.  He escaped those flames, but I don’t think he truly ever escaped entirely.

Years later, Uncle George (who was really a cousin) would come to own the land where the cabin that burned once stood.

George planted a willow to honor the child who died four years before he was born.

When Uncle George told me the story of Robbie’s death, standing on this very spot about 1990, I stared, transfixed, at this willow, fallen, it’s life spent too soon.  It too was dead.  Was nothing to ever live here?  Is this land cursed?

I realized that in that moment, in that place, my family’s life was forever transformed here. The horrible reality sunk in, like swampwater seeping into my soul with icy fingers.

I felt sick.

Sick for Robbie, for my grandparents but especially my grandmother who was blamed by at least some, for Estel, and for my father.

My uncle died here, a child who suffered a horrific death, on that very spot. Right where that willow lay.

My father ran out of the door, but never, ever discussed that day.

The family left the area not long after.

This fire also killed what was left of my grandparent’s already ailing marriage. Escaping the geography couldn’t cure the pain.

That fire was a fork in the road, in so many ways, sending the survivors on paths they had never anticipated and surely didn’t want to travel.

My father drowned his sorrows with alcohol as well, many times, creating new problems. He also drowned his marriages, as did my grandfather, and eventually – he drowned himself. I was 7 and heartbroken.

Grief kills over and over again.

A generation later, my (former) husband would be a volunteer firefighter, with me being known at the station as 928 and a half.  That’s the nod to the wife (or spouse – some public servants are females) for her important but often nearly invisible role in supporting the firefighters.

My son would join the ranks on his 16th birthday, officially, because he couldn’t volunteer before then.

My son devoted his career to public service, both as a firefighter and police officer on a Public Safety Department where the officers served in both capacities.  I’ll be writing about him soon, but for now, please simply incorporate the lessons learned by decades of being a “fire family” and heed those warnings this holiday season and year round.

Fire is quick – much quicker than you are.  One tiny misstep can have devastating and deadly consequences.

Forever is forever. The results trickle down through generations.

Please, please be vigilant this holiday season.

No open flames.

Share the word!

Jacob Kirsch’s Deposition and The Abandoned Wife – 52 Ancestors #174

Over time, tidbits continue to trickle in about Jacob Kirsch, the infamous one-eyed lynching saloon keeper from Aurora, Indiana. And yes, he just happens to be my ancestor.  I love them colorful!

Recently, a gentleman, David, contacted me inquiring about Jacob and asked if perhaps I knew anything about Jacob’s relationship with his ancestor, Henry Hahn (Haun).

Henry, it seems, had served in the Civil War, came home to Aurora, Indiana and lived with his wife, Barbara, until sometime after the 1880 census.

Henry subsequently left, abandoning his wife and children.  In 1911, after Henry died and was buried, his wife, who had never in the ensuing 25 years divorced her deadbeat husband, filed to collect a widow’s pension based on Henry’s Civil War service.

The Deposition

In Henry’s pension file was a deposition from Jacob Kirsch given on January 11, 1911 that Henry’s descendant very generously offered to share with me.

Not only is the deposition in and of itself very interesting, but it also contained Jacob’s signature – a wonderful find!

This deposition is the only existing narrative in Jacob’s own words. I’m presuming that his deposition in the 1887 lawsuit that stemmed from Jacob’s role in the lynching of an itinerant bricklayer that brutally murdered a man in Aurora was actually written by his attorneys.  The preamble of that deposition says, “Now comes Jacob Kirsch…by his attorneys, and answer to said plaintiff’s complaints says that he denies every allegation…”

So, while that 1887 deposition clearly states Jacob’s position, I doubt seriously if it’s Jacob’s own “voice.” It sounds like “lawyer speak” to me.

However, the 1911 deposition given for Barbara Vogel Hahn reads differently.

I am 69 years of age.  I am a hotel keeper by occupation.  My post office address is Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana.  I have resided in the City continuously for the last 45 years.  I first became acquainted with the soldier, Henry Haun, late in the sixties, and knew him intimately from that time until he left here.  He left here a little more than 25 years ago.  I have not seen him since he left.  I also knew his widow, the claimant, Barbara Haun, before their marriage.  Neither one of them had been married before their marriage to each other.  I know this from having have known them both intimately before they were married.  I knew the families of both of them.  She was a Vogel before her marriage, and I knew her father well.  From the time of their marriage until he left they lived here as man and wife.  During that time I would see him as often as nearly every day.  He was in business just a few doors below me and we were great friends.  I have known and seen Barbara often since he went away.  I know that she has lived by herself with her three daughters and that she has remained a good, true wife to him during all the time of his absence.  She worked hard and made a great struggle to hold her little flock together.  She has been highly respected in this community as an honorable, hard working woman.  She has had a mighty hard time of it, and deserves credit for the struggle she has made.  I do not know and do not believe that she has ever sought for any divorce between herself and him but that she has remained during all the years of his absence his true and honorable wife.  I remember the occasion of his body being brought home here for burial last July.  The body was taken to the house of her son-in-law, Louis Baker, where she now lives and has for a number of years.  From there it was buried in Riverview Cemetery here.  I have known her since that time and know and believe that she has remained and is today his widow. 

You have just shown me B.J. #6.  The signature is mine.  You have read it to me.  It is absolutely true and correct and I do not want to make any change or correction in it.

I am not related or interested.

I have heard this statement read.  I understand it.  You have correctly recorded all my answers to your questions.

Jacob Kirsch (signature)

Lending further credence to the fact that this is Jacob’s actual narrative is the statement at the end that says “You have read it to me.  It is true and correct and I do not want to make any change or correction in it.  I have heard this statement read.  I understand it.  You have correctly recorded all my answers to your questions.”

And one last tidbit, just in case there was any doubt. “I am not related or interested,” meaning of course, a financial interest.

After rereading this a number of times, the realization finally dawned on me that while Jacob could clearly speak English, he couldn’t read English.  That’s why the document had to be read to him.  His native language, of course, was German.

Jacob’s signature.  Be still my heart.

Seeing my ancestor’s actual signature just takes my breath away.  Signatures are so intimately personal – a last vestige of their presence on this earth.

As a bonus, Henry’s descendant also included a second signature where Jacob signed in addition to two other witnesses to another deposition given the same day.

For me, Jacob’s signature is the Holy Grail.  It’s personally his, he wrote it, and it still exists today – the only thing of his personally that remains. Except of course for the DNA carried by his descendants. I’m still trying to find someone who descends from this line to test in order to determine which pieces of my DNA came from Jacob.

I know that Jacob touched this paper when he signed it, and part of me wonders if there isn’t just a smidgen of his DNA someplace, still lurking.  Of course, even if there was, there would be no way to separate it from the DNA of the other people who handled this document. Nor would the National Archives be willing to let me do anything destructive to the paper – nor would I want to.  But it’s a nice fantasy for a minute. 

It seems like we’ve been so tantalizingly close to Jacob’s signature so many times, but never managed to capture one.  Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, Jacob’s wife, even provided a “likeness” when trying to collect her own widow’s pension, after Jacob’s death, but we don’t know what that “likeness” looked like, because it wasn’t included in his file that was sent from the National Archives. For all we know, she might have traced this signature, although she would only have had access to this signature if a copy of this deposition was retained locally. 

This deposition provides other valuable tidbits waiting to be excavated by the archaeologist in every genealogist. 

It tells us that Jacob lived in Aurora continuously for 45 years, dating to 1866, after his own service in the Civil War.  In May of that year, Jacob married Barbara Drechsel who lived in Aurora, and apparently, they never left.  The couple and their young family were living in Aurora in 1870 and purchased a home there in 1871.  Now, thanks to this deposition, we know that they lived in the City from the time they married in 1866 until the 1870 census catches up with them. 

Friends and Abandonment

This deposition states that Henry was Jacob’s friend. Jacob refers to Henry as having “left” and “went away,” with no mention of stronger words like abandonment.  I wonder why. Clearly Jacob understand the ramifications of Henry’s actions on Barbara and their children.

It’s interesting that Jacob painted longsuffering Barbara with a different brush, suggesting that she did what a “good wife” should do by not divorcing Henry after he “left.”

Jacob did say that Barbara lived by herself and “worked hard and made a great struggle to hold her little flock together.” Also that “she has had a mighty hard time of it.”

However, Jacob also says that, “I do not know and do not believe that she has ever sought for any divorce between herself and him but that she has remained during all the years of his absence his true and honorable wife.”

True and honorable wife?  Is that how a woman betrayed by her husband is supposed to act, or was between 1885 and 1910? What about Henry? But then, this deposition really wasn’t about Henry, but about Barbara’s behavior. What did Barbara’s behavior after he left have to do with his pension and her ability to receive it?

My next question, of course, is why the heck she didn’t divorce the scoundrel?  Perhaps she would have been vilified for the divorce while he got somewhat of a free pass for “leaving.” Times were different 132 years ago, and Jacob may have been answering questions in a way such that there was no doubt about Barbara’s fidelity.  Jacob surely would not have wanted any stray rumors, if there were any, to cost Barbara that valued pension.  Henry may have abandoned her in life, but in death, there was at least some amount of value left in the relationship.  Barbara assuredly deserved that, even if it was nothing more than a consolation prize.  At least she had the pension to help her through her elder years even though she appears to have sacrificed any possibility of happiness with a second husband or even a comforting relationship. Small consolation, I know, but certainly better than nothing.

What Happened to Henry? 

Out of curiosity, I dug a little deeper and discovered exactly why Jacob testified as he did.  It turns out that Henry Hahn was a resident at the US National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1909, just a few months before his death, where he is listed as both currently single and divorced. He listed his daughter as his next of kin, so he clearly knew she had married. He might have been absent, but he wasn’t entirely disconnected.

Barbara was probably required to provide proof that indeed, they were not divorced. 

Had Henry not already been dead, she probably wanted to kill him, several times over, but I don’t think that counts. 

Henry’s Leavenworth record also notes that he was discharged to Oklahoma, a long way to ship a body back to Aurora, Indiana.  I wonder why Henry went to Oklahoma, who cared for him there and why he wasn’t just buried in Oklahoma.

Why Did Henry Leave?

Jacob testified that he met Henry in the late 60s, which of course meant 1860s, and that Henry “left more than 25 years before,” so before 1886.  This suggests that Henry and Jacob were friends for about 20 years, owning similar establishments just a few doors apart on the main street of Aurora for approaching two decades. No wonder they were in Jacob’s words, “great friends.”  It must have pained Jacob for Henry to run off and leave his family destitute. Did Jacob know more than he was telling?  I’d guess so.

This surely begs the question of what happened to Henry Hahn to cause him to leave.

Yes, yes I know that Henry isn’t my ancestor, but I just can’t keep myself from digging.  There’s a lot to be said for researching your ancestors acquaintances and neighbors, because you just never know what you will find, plus it allows you for just a few brief moments to become part of the neighborhood microcosmic environment where your ancestor interacted day to day.

“Hello Henry, how’s it going today?” 

“Not so good Jacob.” 

“Sorry to hear that.  What happened?” 

“Those danged well-drillers from Pennsylvania drank too much again.  Barbara is cleaning up the mess now.  I sure hope they pay their bill. It’s a whopper!” 

“Ahhh, the joys of being an innkeeper.  I sure hope they don’t come to my place.”

“I saw one of them flirting with your daughter…”

Note that in 1888, one of the danged Pennsylvania well-drillers would become Jacob’s son-in-law while still married to a wife in Pennsylvania, but that’s another story. Neighborhoods and the people in them are intertwined like vines.

While digging, I did find some hints as to why Henry might have left – and no, it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with another women – just in case you were wondering.

A tree on Ancestry carries a note that says, “March 4, 1885 – Left after losing everything.  He was in saloon business. Left to find work as a cooper, his trade.  Lived with his brother Charles and his wife Minnie in Louisville, KY for a few months.” 

A few months apparently stretched to years, because Henry is still living In Louisville in 1891 and in Nelson County, KY in 1900 as a fisherman, although I’m not quite sure where he’d be fishing as a profession in Nelson County.  

Henry’s parents died in Aurora in 1892 and 1893, and I wonder if he returned for their funeral and to see his family.  Were his wife and children glad to see him, or angry? What about his siblings? What did his parents think of him leaving his wife to fend for herself with 3 small children? Was Henry shunned by the community, or welcomed as a prodigal son returned?  Why did he leave again, assuming he returned for his parents funerals?

Did Henry send money home to Barbara as he could?  It doesn’t seem like he was making any effort to hide if he lived with his brother. Louisville isn’t terribly distant – about 90 miles by road and both Aurora and Louisville are on the Ohio River.

Ironically, Henry may have been gone, but was still closely enough connected for his body to be brought back from Tulsa County, Oklahoma to his daughter’s home, which included his wife, and buried in Aurora after his July 1910 death. This just seems odd.

These various tidbits of information cumulatively make me wonder if Henry didn’t scheme to maliciously leave, but was suffering and perhaps unstable.  Maybe he never intended to be gone forever.  Maybe Barbara prayed for years that he would get better and return.  Maybe the situation was simply sad, not intentional abandonment. Maybe that’s why she never divorced him, and he never remarried or had another family. Maybe Barbara loved him regardless and never entirely gave up hope.

Maybe that’s the Barbara that Jacob knew. Not angry, just sad – and maybe Jacob was simply sad for his friends too.

No matter how damning things appear at first glance, it’s always best to reserve harsh judgement of our ancestors, and their neighbors.  By now, I simply feel sympathy for all involved and a little guilty about what I first thought of Henry.  Of course, he still might be a scoundrel, but that jury is still out.

The Neighborhood   

Curious, I was able to reconstruct some of the neighborhood and residents living in the various houses listed on the 1880 census in-between Henry Hahn and Jacob Kirsch.  Next to Henry, we found Nelson, the photographer, then a railroad conductor, which makes sense since the depot was adjacent the Kirsch House.  Next, we found a laborer, a cooper, a woman who kept a rather large boarding house, another cooper and a night watchman.  Finally, we have Jacob Kirsch.

We also have a map of the area from about that time.

On this map, the French House is what would be renamed as the Kirsch House, beside the Depot, and I believe that Henry Hahn’s might have been lot 33 on Second Street, just a few properties south of Jacob Kirsch’s residence.  Today, I think that’s the library.

An 1880 Indiana Gazetteer and Business Directory has this to say about Aurora:

AURORA. Pleasantly located on the Ohio river, in Center township, Dearborn county, 4 miles below Lawrenceburgh, the county seat, 25 below Cincinnati, and 90 southeast of Indianapolis. The place was laid out in 1819, was incorporated in 1848, and is now a flourishing business city, traversed by the O. & M. Ry. Owing to its superior transportation facilities, Aurora is quite an extensive manufacturing place, having the largest distillery in Indiana, and that, together with a large brewery, nail factory, brickyard, two saw mills, one furniture factory, two flour mills, a stave and heading factory, chair factory, and one foundry, comprise the principal manufacturing interests. Among the chief features of the place are its ten churches of different denominations, two handsome school buildings, seven hotels, a national bank, two weekly newspapers—the Independent and Saturday News—and a handsome opera house. The city, from its beautiful location, is very attractive and has an excellent fire department, is well lighted by gas, patrolled by police, and is, in fact, a very pleasant, thrifty place. Population 5,441. Liquors, hay, furniture, iron, nails, chairs and grain are the leading exports. Express, Adams and O. & M. Telegraph, Western Union. Mail received 8 times per day by rail, and 3 times by boat. John Walker, postmaster.

Among a long list of businesses we find:

  • Epicurian Hotel, Henry Hahm (sic), proprietor
  • Kirsch, Jacob, saloon and hotel

In the 1884 Gazetteer, Henry’s business isn’t listed, but Jacob’s is.

I wonder if Jacob felt badly that his hotel succeeded while his friend, Henry’s, didn’t.

The 1890 census is missing of course, but in 1900, we find Lewis Baker, the husband of Henry Hahn’s now-married daughter living what appears to be just 4 doors away from Jacob Kirsch, and next door to Jacob’s son, Edward Kirsch.  I’m betting that Barbara Hahn tried to run the saloon and hotel herself until her daughter, Elizabeth, married in 1894 and then her new son-in-law moved in to help with the hotel.  Barbara must have been relieved after trying to handle everything herself for more than 9 years. Being a single Mom is difficult under the best of circumstances, and Barbara’s clearly weren’t. Jacob obviously saw that, based on his deposition.

By 1910, the Louis Baker family had moved to another part of town and Barbara Hahn was living with them. I’d bet she was incredibly relieved to leave the innkeeper/saloon days behind her. Enough cooking and cleaning sunup to bedtime day after day with no end in sight. 

Back to The Civil War

One last piece of information that did not prove terribly useful, but is interesting nonetheless, is that while both Henry Hahn and ostensibly Jacob Kirsch both served in the Civil War, they did not serve in the same unit. 

According to Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, Jacob’s wife, he served in the Indiana 137th and Henry Hahn, according to his Fold3 index card served in the 134th.

There was a method to my research madness.  While Barbara Kirsch claimed that Jacob Kirsch served, and she should have known, her pension application was denied.  It appears that two different Jacob Kirsch’s Civil War records may have been combined, so some doubt about Jacob’s service still remains. 

Therefore, if Henry Hahn had indeed served in the 137th, the unit Jacob supposedly served in, it would tell us that very likely our Jacob Kirsch had not.  Why?  Because in his deposition for Barbara Hahn, Jacob says that he met Henry in the late 60s, not in 1864 when Henry Hahn and presumably Jacob both served in the Civil War. Had Jacob served in the same unit with Henry, he would surely have said so. However, since the units in which they are reported to have served are different, it proves exactly nothing at all. Still, it’s a path I had to tread in search of those fantastic tidbits!

However, finding Jacob’s deposition for Barbara Hahn does give me hope that maybe there are other depositions yet waiting to be scanned and indexed at the National Archives, and someday the juicy tidbit that we need may yet surface to prove Jacob’s military service beyond any doubt. That would certain vindicate Barbara Kirsch’s denied pension application and allow me to honor Jacob appropriately for his service.

Today, I’m just incredibly grateful for Henry Hahn’s descendant, David, who was gracious enough to share Jacob’s deposition and signatures with me. David and I both learned things about our ancestors by combining our efforts that we would never have learned individually.

Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains

Sometime in the night, hurricane Ophelia departed Dublin, like an unwelcome guest. Her banshee shrieking ceased, and in the morning, the day broke on my second full day in Ireland with glistening sunshine, like Mother Nature was trying to sooth the wounds Ophelia imparted yesterday.

The day began with a leisurely drive along the coast to the south of Dublin.

I knew Brian and I were going to the Wicklow Mountains, but I didn’t realize there were really two ranges, the Dublin Mountains and the Wicklow Mountains, and they hug the coastline in many places. Truthfully, before this trip, I never realized that Ireland had mountains. I think of Ireland, green fields and Shamrocks.

The nice thing, for the Irish, is that these ranges of stunningly beautiful mountains aren’t remote – meaning they are only an hour or an hour and a half away from Dublin – but feels like a million miles.

Keep in mind that yesterday was a hurricane, and this morning’s temperature was 45F, with a real feel temperature of 42 – so I really wasn’t sure what we would find.

I was floating on the edge of sleep again, as Brian drove along in the glorious, warm sunshine when I heard his voice in the distance say something about swimming. Surely, I was dreaming…

The Forty Foot

The first place we stopped was the “old swimming hole.” Of course, I thought Brian was kidding when he suggested that I look to see if someone was swimming today. No one in their right mind would be swimming. It was freezing cold. Both in the water and out, PLUS, all that storm debris was everyplace. Brian has a great sense of humor.

But then, he suggested again.

Did Brian think I was born yesterday and fell off the turnip truck?

Well, OK, I’ll look, just to humor Brian.

Ahem…

Yep, those things bobbing around in the water are people. By the way, in the background, the church spires of Dublin in the distance. I barely noticed the spires.

Now I don’t know exactly how to mention this politely, so I’m not going to try.

It’s nude swimming. Now, if this was the south of France in the summertime or the Caribbean perhaps, I wouldn’t have thought anything about nude swimming,.  But Ireland, in October?  Seriously?

And these swimmers aren’t kids either. There was no one under 60. I met one man today, Patrick, who was 86, and yes, Patrick was swimming, or at least he was on his way to swim…in his speedo which I think got removed at water’s edge. And Patrick claimed he wasn’t cold. I touched his arm, and he really wasn’t cold. He bid us a quick goodbye and said he had to hurry up and get into that frigid water before he got cold. HUH???

Do these people have antifreeze in their veins.

And they do this every single day, rain, shine, sleet, snow, hurricane.

This area used to be for gentlemen swimmers only, but a few years ago, women staged a protest, a swim-in, for lack of another word, and now both genders swim daily, year round, 365 days a year. In their birthday suits.

They do try to be quite modest when “changing,” so not to cause traffic accidents or shock American tourists.

Then there was this guy who was dancing, for lack of any better description. Actually, kind of dancing and yoga combined with a very loose towel hula skirt. Or maybe this was interpretive dance. I took a video of his great reveal, but I can’t share it with you. 

You can swim in the buff, however, you CANNOT take your dog swimming, so don’t even think about it. Rules are rules, after all.

By now I was fully awake and in desperate need of coffee, but none was to be found. Is Ireland, between hurricane Ophelia and our recycled teenaged swimmers, actually an alternate reality? I was beginning to wonder.

And you want to hear what’s worse? Brian knew them. All of them. By name. Except for the dancer who Brian says is new. But Brian swears he doesn’t know how to swim.

I, I , I just don’t know quite what to think😊

The Coastline

Nature continued to amaze and delight today.

In this picture, you can see Howth across the bay. I was standing on top of that hill taking photos of the lighthouse below in a hurricane 24 hours earlier. So, we’ve literally come full circle. What a difference a day makes.

This Napoleonic watch tower, built around 1804, was later the home of James Joyce when he wrote Ulysses. These watch towers, all within sight of each other, dot the coastline.

Our next stop at Colemore Harbour was punctuated by beautiful old boats on the ramp among homes of the rich and sometimes famous.

Another watchtower, this one on an island.

This view looking south shows the Wicklow mountains, where we were heading. I never realized that Ireland had mountains.

Mary Herrell’s death wish makes a lot more sense now. She said that when she died, she wanted her body to be placed on top of Herrald Mountain in Wilkes County, NC so her soul could fly back to Ireland. It’s no wonder Appalachia felt so much at home to these transplants.

Now, if Mary would just have told us her maiden name and where she was from in Ireland….

The Wicklow Mountains

Castles, old and new line this route. This is where Enya lives.

Most roads in the mountains are small and only wide enough for one car. People simply go slow and share, with no honking of horns or road rage.

Then there’s your obligatory ram standing beside the road. Better than in the road. By the way, in many places, there are no fences.

Sugarloaf Mountain.

The Powerscourt Hotel complex was originally a castle. Can you tell?

Beautiful, sheltered courtyard.

Look at these spider-stompers!

The formal gardens were beautiful, but the tea and scones beckoned me.

We had a proper tea. I had a pear and vanilla scone, and Brian had a currant scone. No wonder we didn’t eat lunch until 2:30.

Sheep grazing in the shadow of the mountains, beside the hedges of rosebushes. You’re looking at the rose hips. This area looks a LOT like Scotland.

Unlike Appalachia, there are few little creeks and brooks here, so imagine my surprise when we came around the corner to this beauty. I think Brian said this waterfall is 420 feet high and it’s stunning.

The rock at the bottom actually has a large hole where you can see the water on the other side.

Next, we drove along the bog fields where little grows except heather.

Here’s a closeup of yellow heather.

Brian knows the horses and they come to the fence when he makes whinnying sounds. He’s pretty darned good and says he has known these horses for 20 years now. The white horse, Mr. Ed, does not allow you to feed the brown horse nor does the white horse like to be petted. “Feed me, but for heaven’s sake, don’t touch me…or anyone else either.” Reminds me of my cats.

This amazing highlands property is owned by the Guinness family. The lake has actually been engineered to actually look like Guinness beer.

The black granite at the bottom of the lake makes the water look black, and the family had millions of tons of white sand brought in to look like Guinness “foam” around the edges when it’s drawn from the tap.

What do you think? Did it work?

This entire valley is owned by the Guinness family and is breathtakingly beautiful in it’s stark ruggedness.

Did I mention Braveheart and the Viking series were filmed here? I need to watch Braveheart again.

It’s simply stunning everyplace you look.

On to the pub for lunch. I just love this painting on the ceiling above the fireplace. And I love Irish pubs too!

And the Guinness stew, to die for. No picture of the stew. I thought of it too late.

A monastery, now in ruins, was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin in Glendalough.

A chiseled cross was supposed to offer protection and stop everyone…except the Vikings didn’t understand apparently.

The cemetery is still in use or at least was until 1900 or so.

However, the abbey is in ruins.

One man lived to be 106. Imagine that in a time before antibiotics or any other type of modern medicine. He had to have been both lucky and genetically predisposed to longevity – not to mention a lack of Viking invasions during his lifetime.

I love that tree line on the far hill.

This stone tiled building may have been a kitchen.

The tower as viewed through the ruins of the monastery.

It seems that life in this part of Ireland revolved around sheep, land, the church and either whiskey or beer.

I hope that someone has cataloged these stones for Find-a-grave.

This area of Ireland is known for its woven wools.

Headed back to Dublin at the day’s end.

I can certainly see why Mary Herrall wanted her soul to fly back to “sweet old Ireland.”

Tomorrow, New Grange, Knowth and Tara, land of Niall of the Nine Hostages, my ancestor.

Meeting Ophelia in Dublin

If I was an Irish lad or lass,
I’d think today was a blast.
Ophelia was a gift
No working on my shift.
Of course.
Of course.

I’m no fool.
There’s no school or car pool
No busses or planes.
Too windy to ride,
I’m taking this in stride.
Must stay at home,
For safety’s concern…
Of course.
Of course.

Too unsafe to go out
And walk about.
Except to the pub
For some grub,
Good company,
And Guinness
Of course,
Of course.

Ophelia’s winds are harsh
And will blow you right into the marsh,
So don’t walk or ride,
Just kinda slide,
Holding onto whatever you can
Or find yourself a stout man.
On the way to the pub
For that lovely pub grub.
And to discuss why you have to stay home
Cause it’s too dangerous to roam…
Of course.
Of course.

Ok, so my Irish ditty writing could use some improvement, but go easy on me.  After all, I did survive a hurricane in Ireland. And, I learned exactly how the Irish handle a weather event like this.

First, they refer to the windy day as being a “fresh day.” Yea, it’s fresh alright, it’ll blow the stink right off of you, along with exfoliate at least the top layer of skin.

I’m sitting back in my hotel room now, listening to the wind batter the side of the building, blowing objects from other buildings into this one. I swear, the rafters are lifting up and down, slamming like the screen door just before my mother yelled at me, “don’t slam the screen.” Too late! Wham, again.

Many places, especially along the coastline, were shuttered with plywood today and noplace, and I do literally mean noplace except for a couple pubs, was open. It’s not like Brian and I didn’t try.

I know I’m part Irish now, because I was determined to make lemonade out of lemons.

You see, that’s what the Irish do. That is pretty much their approach to life. Not just Ophelia.

Ophelia Makes Landfall

This is by far the weirdest hurricane I’ve ever weathered.

While the hurricane was striking, there were bands of rain, which is typical, interspersed with bands of sunshine, which isn’t.

The wind was very warm – also very unusual.

There were no thunderstorms or tornadoes, at least not yet.

But the wind.  My God, the wind. It was truly brutal – registering gusts as high as 119 MPH. The worst storm Ireland has seen in 50 years.

Brian and I discovered an elderly man laying on the sidewalk. Brian pulled over, stopped, we got out and tried to help the man by recruiting two other men walking along to try to help him to his feet. The man was in quite a bit of pain, and it became evident that he had badly hurt himself. We gently lowered him back on the sidewalk, as there was no place else to put him, and called the ambulance. Of course we stayed with him and tried to bring him some comfort. The police and firetruck arrived within a minute or so, and about that time a huge gust of wind came along and blew me into a police officer who was standing beside me, nearly knocking us both over.

I apologized profusely. I mean, assaulting a police officer isn’t something I normally do.

Enter the Irish sense of humor.

His partner, who witnessed the event, of course, says, “Brian always has that effect on women.” I was embarrassed. Brian (yes, the third Brian of the day) then very kindly took ahold of my arm so that I wasn’t blown elsewhere with a much less soft landing.

The wind was just that strong.

Jim Cantore strong.

The. Irish. Are. Such. Genuinely. Nice. People.

Brian

Let me introduce you to the first Brian, Brian O’Reilly. You can’t get more Irish than that!

He’s amazing.

I found Brian through a series of referrals before my arrival in Dublin.

He’s a professional tour guide, taxi owner and driver.

In other words, if he’s not working with individuals, or hotels, he fills in the time by doing general taxi work.

He drives a nice mini-van with the driver’s seat on the “wrong side” by American perspective.

The perfect person to make lemonade with.

Unfortunately, many of the things he had planned for me today, we couldn’t do. We had already regrouped once from the countryside to Dublin city, because of the weather. Brian said they never get hurricanes here, so he truly didn’t think this one would strike.

Many people felt the same way initially, but last night the TV was full of doom and gloom, trying to convince people to stay home and be safe. This storm hasn’t deposited a lot of rain, but the winds have been devastating. It’s like straight-line-winds for hours on end.

Trees, branches, roofing materials – all flying around.

So, in essence Ireland shut down and told everyone to stay home. Of course, everyone welcomed “Holiday Ophelia.”

That means that there were only two places people were…home and the pub.

The Pub

The local pub in Ireland is a public gathering place.

And just because you’re not local doesn’t mean that you’re out of place. They just immediately adopt you and inside of 10 minutes, you’re one of them, exchanging stories like you’ve always been there.

Ok, here’s proof.

This is my new friend, Edna. We had SO MUCH FUN. I drank my first Guinness. Yes, that’s it in the baby glass. I wasn’t at all sure that I liked Guinness, but I do.

She was an experienced, expert Guinness drinker.

The Irish have traditions for everything, and drinking Guinness is no exception.

For women, newbies or “pansys,” (their word, not mine), they add a couple drops of black current to Guinness. It makes the Guinness slightly sweet and more palatable for those who have not yet acquired the taste. Edna, my new friend, asked the bartender to do that for me.

He looked at me deadpan and said, “No. You drink Guinness neat or not at all. It’s against our religion here to sully our Guinness with anything.” He paused for a minute, then looked at me and said, “Well, drink up.” I did, and liked Guinness. It tastes like a slightly smoky beer. He smiled and said, “See, you didn’t need any of that pansy stuff,” turned and walked away, leaving Edna and me in stitches and shrieking peals of laughter.

Yea, I know, all of you who know me are saying to yourself, “I can’t believe this, Roberta, in a bar.” However, pubs are not the same as bars. Pubs are local and safe gathering places, probably originating as fires around which our very ancient ancestors gathered in the evenings to share some fermented something-or-other and revel in tales about the wooly mammoths they had seen that day.

Plus, I had Brian with me, or better put, he had me with him.

Now here’s a shocker. Not all of the pubs were open, which simply made the ones that were more crowded, and more interesting. Somehow ironic that everyone was gathered around the TV, moaning about damage and danger reports and discussing why it was too dangerous for them to go to work.  Of course, going to the pub was just fine.  Why would you ask? Makes perfectly good sense.

And friendly?  You haven’t met friendly until you’ve met the Irish. Let’s put it this way, I got hugged and kissed goodbye (on the check) by Edna’s lover (her word, not mine), Brian, (the second Brian), on the way out the door.

They don’t do the cheek kiss thing as much here as they do on the European mainland, but they obviously have adopted that custom at least partially. Or Brian was getting cheeky with me, one or the other. Pardon the pun.

Ok, enough about the pubs.

Howth

Ophelia was scheduled to arrive in Dublin between 1 and 3 today. She was a prompt guest and is obviously staying overnight because she’s still here and the winds have not abated one bit, as of midnight.

Brian is a native Dubliner and we decided, based upon his experience, to visit a beautiful fishing village north of Dublin in the morning, because a fishing village in driving rain isn’t fun – and that’s what we expected in the afternoon.

Howth is on the Bay of Dublin and where the fishing fleet is located. Seafood doesn’t get fresher than at this famous restaurant, literally at the end of the dock. Of course, it was closed.

On the wharf, the warehouses are interspersed with little shops.

I desperately wanted to eat at the Octopussy Seafood Tapas restaurant, but they weren’t open. And weren’t planning to open, given the weather, although they did have to stand outside and discuss it for several minutes.

Another local place that looked like a lot of fun!

I wonder how much this storm cost Ireland.

One place warned visitors that they had only a skeleton crew today.

The Pier West Art Studio was open, albeit boarded up. Perhaps this cupid’s head is a good luck piece. My friend who lives on the Outer Banks in North Carolina has a good luck angel strapped to one of the support stilts of her house. Maybe this is the same kind of protection.

Speaking of art, we saw this beautiful chain saw carving along the way.

The views from Howth were spectacular.

I love seaside villages anyway, but today, with the weather event, Mother Nature was truly putting on a show!

I must admit, I found this warning to be quite humorous, especially since it was cobblestones that laid me low previously.

The red sign tells people that the pier is close today due to weather. Well, duh, you can barely walk and stand upright, but somehow, people managed and walked the pier anyway.

Brian and I kept to the edge away from the water and didn’t walk beyond the sign. Neither of us was interested in pulling the other out.

No fishing boats out today.

As the day wore on, about noon, the sea and sky became more menacing. Brian said he has never seen waves like there were today, although they don’t look bad in this little cove.

Given the wind on the top of the hill where I was standing, I couldn’t get closer to this lighthouse by the sea. By this time, the wind was driving the sand mixed with rain in sheets that felt like sandpaper on your skin. Dublin city was across the bay, if you could have seen that far.

Brian knew all of the good places to stop for photography.

On the way out of town, we drove up into the village of Howth itself and discovered this stunning old church ruin with its cemetery intact.

This is just so Irish. A church ruin, a tiny old cemetery and it’s all tucked quaintly beside modern homes and utilities on a steep hillside just above the sea.

Have I mentioned that all signs here are in Gaelic as well as English? A dual language provision is actually in the Irish constitution, based on the fact that the English had tried to eradicate the “Irish heritage” by eliminating the Gaelic language, not to mention the Catholic religion.

Today, Gaelic is taught in the schools and Brian’s grandchildren attend a school where the children are taught 75% of their studies in Gaelic and 25% in English.

Many Irish buildings are quite ancient by US standards.

Everything in the old country is, well, old. They literally use everything until it can’t be used anymore. At that time, depending on the structure, what it is and where it is, they either tear it down or abandon it. Buildings currently in use are often hundreds of years old.

If these old pub steps could talk…

And these steps, across from the ruined church, literally leading no place. However, at some time they clearly led someplace and I’d love to know that story.

It was time to head back to Dublin. Even though we were only about 10 miles north, it felt extremely rural, like we had crossed a time barrier into an earlier domain.

Back in Dublin, we discovered that all of the Starbucks were closed. Heresy, I tell you. Chocolate shops all closed too. Imagine! What’s a woman to do?

Find a pub, of course. The Irish answer for everything. We did find a nice pub for lunch.

Deviled Lamb Kidney’s anyone?

I’ve already introduced you to Edna, of course. Ahh, our lunch was too short but what a fun experience. In Ireland, everyone speaks to and talks to everyone else. It’s catching. I’m doing in too, but in the US the same behavior would be view as borderline predatory.

Next, we tried to visit various gardens, museums and even the Guinness Brewery, but everything was closed. So we drove to see the sights.

I think Brian told me that this was the Irish Parliament building, but I was fascinated by the gate.

Notice that there are many green leaves on the ground because they are being stripped from the trees by the wind today.

Notice too that right this minute, the sun was out, but the wind was still intense and unrelenting. It was a very, very odd weather day.

Brian says this is the most photographed door in Dublin.

The Irish refer to this as the “Pepper Canister Church,” smack dab in the middle of the street.

Today, no tourists or competition, so opportunities for wonderful photos – and no traffic either, which was rather uncanny. Brian indicated that normally traffic during the week is neck to neck all day long in the city. Did the Rapture come to pass and I got left behind in Ireland with Brian?

Did you notice the rainbow? I can’t find the words for how bright and intense this rainbow was. It was actually startling as we turned the corner, like fire in the sky. 

I suggested to Brian that perhaps we should find the pot at the end. I mean, after all, we ARE in Ireland.

This rainbow lasted for quite a long time, but then, was gone as quickly as it had appeared.  A beautiful end to an exciting day, making lemons out of lemonade!

Ophelia wasn’t an invited guest, and hasn’t left yet, but she assuredly didn’t ruin the day and perhaps made it more memorable. How many other people can reminisce about their Irish hurricane?

Right now, aside from the actual physical danger of the winds blowing you over, like that poor man, and flying debris, the biggest problem is that almost half a million people are without power. Trees blowing over have taken many power lines with them. Furthermore, phone carriers are impaired and TV and internet are spotty, at best. The mast that holds the equipment is snapped in half outside the hotel.

Tomorrow, if possible, Brian and I will visit the coast south of Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains. From the sounds of the wind right now, maybe not. Unless it stops, we may have to find a way to make more lemonade!

Second Act Quilt – 52 Ancestors #169

A second act. Act two. What is it?

Aside from the second act in a play, a more contemporary usage of the phrase is a second career, often undertaken in retirement when one is less constrained by earning a living and putting food on the table each week. Hopefully one feels freer to follow a passion or love, without particular regard for financial reward or gain.

But people aren’t the only “beings” with a potential second act.

The recent hurricane tragedies have been ripe with stories of rescued animals. I’m an unbelievable soft touch for our furry friends and not only do I actively involve myself with animal rescue, and have for decades, I also support several groups, particularly in situations like the recent devastating hurricanes.

Aside from living sentient beings, sometimes inanimate objects such as quilts have a second life too. Although, I have to tell you, making and distributing “care quilts,” I have always felt that a quilt had a special calling to help comfort and cure people. Those of us constructing them are simply hearing that calling and cause those quilts to be born, so to speak. Midwives, in essence – not the story, only assistants in the process.

Sometimes, giving quilts and others a second life or opportunity helps to heal both the recipients and the donor.

In the Beginning…

I grew up quilting with my mother around a quilting frame in the local church basement with the Missionary Circle. Although somehow, in that time and place, the irony of sending quilts to Africa escaped me. I think it was the thought that mattered, at least I hope so.

I also made quilts by hand with the scraps from making my own clothes. I didn’t feel underprivileged at all. I loved the “custom clothes” I could make, generally out of remnants from the sale bin. I also loved using the scraps for things like matching doll clothes made by hand with no pattern. Later, as a teen, I made quilts with those scraps, often taking my quilting bag along when I babysat for after the kids were in bed.

When I was in college, I didn’t have time to either make clothes or quilts, but after I graduated and started a family, a few years later, I returned to quilting. There was something soothing and having moved away, quilting connected me with my roots, both figuratively and literally.

For (at least) hundreds of years, women have made quilts for utilitarian purposes, for warmth, to salvage any possible piece of fabric which was expensive both in terms of labor and cost, and to bestow as gifts on those they loved. Wedding and baby quilts are legendary.

Making a quilt was and still is quite an investment in terms of both money and time. For those who don’t know, quilts cost hundreds of dollars and hours, both. Trust me, it’s a lot easier and much quicker to take half the amount of money a quilter invests in a quilt and purchase a very nice gift card.

If someone makes and gives you a quilt, I guarantee, it’s a gift straight from the heart or they simply would not bother. But not everyone understands, cares or treats quilts as gifts of love.

The Quilt Disrespecter

My former mother-in-law comes to mind.

In the early 1980s, in-between a career, a young family and animal rescue work, I managed to make my former, now-deceased, mother-in-law a quilt, in the colors, fabric and pattern she selected. She asked that it be tied instead of quilted, so I tied it with little knots instead of the more traditional quilting. I enjoyed making the quilt, working alone mostly late at night after everyone else was long asleep, and gave it to her as a family gift for Christmas.

I was the “second wife” in a very conservative, religious family who wasn’t happy about either their son’s divorce or a second wife, and I hoped that the quilt would help thaw the ice a bit.

My mother-in-law put the quilt on the bed immediately, but the next time I saw it, it had a very large prominent stain. I asked her what happened, and when she told me, I was able to help remove the offending substance. The quilt was whole again, none the worse for wear. I was a bit bothered that she hadn’t seemed to care enough about the quilt to ask me about the problem before I noticed and asked her. But I shrugged it off as nothing.

I didn’t see the quilt again, and I wondered about it, but all things considered, was hesitant to ask. I didn’t want to rock the boat and she wasn’t exactly warm and friendly.

Rescuing Sister-in-Law

I wasn’t the only black sheep in the family, and well, us less-than-pristinely-colored-sheep had to hang together.

A few years later, after many slights, such as being “forgotten” at Christmas, even while sitting in the same room as everyone else exchanged and received gifts, I had given up entirely on the idea that I might even be treated as marginally human by my mother-in-law. I attempted to “make nice” as my mother would have said, for the sake of my husband and children.

My in-laws sold their condo and were in the process of moving to a senior facility. My sister-in-law, married to another son, herself a family outcast as well, was helping my in-laws pack and move.

In the garage, she found the quilt tossed in a corner on the floor. She knew I had made that quilt for “Grandma” as we called her, and she picked it up and asked Grandma what the quilt was doing there.

Grandma replied she was either going to throw it away or give it to Goodwill.

My sister in law picked the quilt up, looked at it and stated, “there’s nothing wrong with this quilt,” but my mother-in-law said that it was “old.” It was less than 5 years old, maybe 3 or 4. Hardly old by any measure I can imagine, let alone in quilt-years. Quilts when cared for even marginally last for decades.

My sister-in-law, bless her heart, told my mother-in-law that if someone makes you something and gives you a gift from the heart, the VERY LEAST you could do if you don’t want it anymore is give it back to them. My sister-in-law picked up the quilt, told my mother-in-law that she was giving the quilt back to me and put it in her car.

Hurt Feelings.

I can’t even begin to tell you how hurt my feelings were. Not only was the quilt I had made for my mother-in-law, with the fabrics she selected, so I know she liked them, tossed away like an old rag – by proxy, I had been discarded as well, again.

It was just one more hurtful chapter in a book, but having your gift of love rejected in such a demeaning way was especially degrading.

I folded the quilt up and put it away. It hurt.

Over the years, every now and again, I’d run into the quilt again when cleaning out a closet. I always felt bad, and then I’d find a different place to put it away out of sight. Out of sight never worked for very long, because I’d always find it again a couple years later. DANG!

Fast Forward

In 1993, my life changed catastrophically when my husband, her son, had a massive stoke. She died shortly thereafter. I was dealing with a horrific situation, still raising children, and needless to say, I had absolutely no time for anything except trying to make ends meet for several years.

Nearly another decade later, as I moved prior to remarrying, I found that quilt again. AGAIN! Once again, I felt terrible, for a whole bevy of reasons, and put it away – but it wasn’t going to stay put away forever.

This past summer, I began my own “downsizing” initiative, going through things, giving things away, finishing projects and otherwise taking stock of where I am and where I’m going.

And you’ve guessed it, I found that doggone quilt again.

But things have changed. I can now look back more with pity and sorrow instead of pain. With the cumulative wisdom and distance of another two or three decades, I now realize my mother-in-law’s rejection of me was far less about me than it was about her. I wish I had understood that then.

The quilt was her weapon in a cold war of sorts in which I was an unwitting witness as well as an unwilling participant.  Her own personal ongoing battle in which both me and the quilt were collateral damage.

It was never about me, or the quilt, really. In retrospect, the situation was profoundly sad – but someplace in the past 15 years or so, she lost the ability to hurt me anymore. She had died, leaving an unfortunate legacy, one I certainly wouldn’t want, and I had moved on.

Instead of quickly putting it away, I laid the quilt out on the table this time, took a look and realized it needed some mending. I wondered what I would do with the quilt. I wasn’t going to use it myself, but I wasn’t putting it away again either.

Hurricane Harvey

Then, hurricane Harvey descended on Texas, and in particular, Houston.

I have family and very close friends in Houston, and I prepared a box of “care quilts” to send. I’m sure that they have been put to good use.

That done, a few days later, I returned to my sorting and saw the quilt laying on the table. I realized that the quilt needed a new home, one that would hopefully love it the way it had never been loved, and that correspondingly, hurricane Harvey victims needed assistance. Many had lost everything.

About this time, my friend told me about her cousin and others who had been flooded out of their homes when the reservoir floodgates were opened to relieve pressure on dams. The devastation and tragedy in Houston seemed never-ending.

I told my friend about the quilt and that I would gladly ship it to her if she would find it a good home, someplace where it would be used, loved and appreciated.

Act Two

I opened the quilt and realized that other than a few places where some of the seams had begun to separate, that there was only really one damaged area. One tiny L shaped tear in the fabric, about an inch long.

I cut a “patch” in the shape of a heart and mended the quilt. Somehow, I thought that was appropriate. A broken heart made whole.

I hand repaired a few other locations, reinforced the binding since that too was now 30+ years old, and thought about how much comfort this quilt had been waiting for so long to give someone. Then, I gave the quilt a bath and held my breath that it would survive the washing machine. It did, just fine!

It’s not perfect and it’s not new, but its soft fabric is ready to comfort and warm someone. Maybe it will remind someone of their loving grandmother, or another quilt that comforted them. I hope so.

When I make quilts as gifts, or as “care quilts,” I take their picture when finished, say a prayer for the recipient, and sent them off on a life of their own. These quilts too have a purpose and destiny, just as people do, albeit one that I’ll never know. I give them wings and send them on their journey.

I am blessed and finally healed by being able to send this quilt off on its own healing mission. I was only the technician, although it certainly took long enough for this quilt to find its purpose. I pray that whoever receives the quilt can feel the love that this “pre-loved” quilt has to give, and receives the blessing of the positive thoughts that are sent along with it.

They need it, the quilt needs it, and so did I.

Just like people, and animals, sometimes “pre-loved” is the best.

It’s now known as “The Second Act Quilt.”

Sometimes the second act is far better than the first and just what the doctor ordered!

Bon voyage my friend…