Monday, September 27, 2010

Memory Mondays: Living on the Farm

2007 Photo: Just outside Warsaw, NY in the fall
I recently received my long form birth certificate in the mail.  Aside from my slight disappointment in finding nothing surprising or new in the form (what did I expect?), which is actually a very good thing - the record starts out as a good segue into Memory Monday, a weekly blog post where I aim to bring up memories of my own or of a family member.  Today, I thought I'd go with a few bits of childhood memories of living on the farm.

Up until I was five years old, my parents, my older brother, and I lived in Wyoming County of western New York.  For the first year of my life, that was in a small house in the village of Warsaw.  After that, we moved to a farm on Dillon Road just a few miles northeast in Pavilion, NY.
My older brother and me (I look cranky) on the farm

On the farm, we had a little house on the edge of the road, with several acres of land.  We had some crops - my dad had a tractor he'd use to plow the land.  We had a barn with a silo next to it, lined with a fence.  Within the borders of the fence, we had several bulls and cows that were notorious for jumping the fence and getting loose.  My parents would then have to head out and round up the cattle.  Once one of the calves must have been feeling ill, and I vividly recall the calf was sitting in the house with some hay strewn about.  How many folks can say they had a cow living in their house?   My mom gave them some creatively morbid names such as Hamburger Patty, Big Mac, Angus (Gus), and Sir Loin.  They were ultimately sold for meat, poor things.

In the barn (no longer standing, sadly), we had some chickens.  There was a bottom level of the barn, but there was a ladder that led up to the top level.  I remember at some point in time, I was up at the top of the barn with my brother.  The radio was on, specifically playing the song "Flashdance" by Irene Cara (check out the official music video on YouTube!).  It's funny how songs can stick with your memories so intensely.  My brother would take pleasure in jumping off the top level of the barn onto a big stack of hay outside.

We also had some pigs on the farm, and I must say, I have a lingering mild dislike of pigs.  I had a little plastic pool filled with water, and at one time, the pigs decided to use the pool for some unsanitary business.  I couldn't use the pool anymore, thus a part of my childhood was somewhat ruined... by pigs.  Perhaps their escapades have influenced my love for BBQ pulled pork.  Bacon tastes pretty good, too.  Enough of that disturbing rant.

2007 Photo: Of the farm where we lived from 1980-1984

Onto a more pleasant thought, my dad would sometimes take the tractor into town.  There was a frequently occurring auction in town, and I suspect my parents got some good stuff at those auctions.  I remember sitting in my dad's lap taking one of those tractor trips down the hill into Pavilion.  It's a simple but happy memory!

The farm holds plenty of good memories for me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Memory Mondays: Pepa

Memory Mondays: A tradition I intend to solidify on my genealogy blog.  Every Monday, I will post a memory either of my own or of a family member.  I begin Memory Mondays out of thankfulness for my paternal grandfather's efforts in researching the Goodhart family history and thus the inspiration he effected for my own interest in genealogy and family history research.

The following is the eulogy I wrote and delivered at my grandfather's memorial service on Friday, December 11, 2009.  I wrote this eulogy just a few hours before the service.  I have made just a couple small changes, such as a date of genealogical significance, to reflect historical accuracy.

A Eulogy in Loving Memory of Frederick Wilson Goodhart

For the last thirty years, my grandfather has brought many treasured memories into my life.  Many of my memories include both my grandfather and my grandmother, so it is easiest to share many of my thoughts today to include both of them.

We all tend to have certain nicknames bestowed upon us by different people in our lives without our asking, and at a young age when my older brother was a toddler and was attaching names to the grandparents, it started with my grandmother - Mema, which is a traditional grandmother name in the Goodhart family.  But in my brother's toddler logic, he took the word "Mema" and gave my grandfather the name "Pepa."  When I came into the world, I continued my brother's naming choices.  "Pepa" is an unusual name for a grandfather, but that was my brother's and my gift for him, even if Pepa didn't ask for it.

I recall many wonderful get-togethers over the holidays for Thanksgiving and Christmas at the Goodhart household at 224 South Main Street in North Wales, Pennsylvania, with Pepa at the head of the dinner table and Mema on the other side.  It was always nice when the family got together for our holiday dinners.  And the lively discussions and debates that we had over dinner certainly initiated some excitement, though meaningful, for various family members.  But these entertaining dinners are memories for which I am entirely grateful.  I recall after one particular family debate, when I first voiced my own opinions on the topic of the night, Pepa sat me down afterward and told me that he was proud of me for standing up for my thoughts, and that we live in a world where standing up for our beliefs is an exceptionally important trait to have.

I remember warm sunny vacation days at the condo in Ocean City, Maryland with Mema, Pepa, and my family.  The taste and aroma of crab meat still lingers in my senses today.  Eating crab was a Goodhart tradition, so I was informed, from when Pepa and my dad and uncle lived in Baltimore.  I miss Ocean City.

I am thankful that Pepa and Mema helped to pay for my way through private school at Norfolk Collegiate and college at Radford University, and I was so happy to be gifted with their presence at both my high school and college graduations.  Without Pepa's and Mema's assistance, I would not be where I am today in life.

One particular memory I have of Pepa is when I was about fifteen years old.  Pepa brought me up to his office and showed me printed pages several inches thick, full of thousands of names.  Pepa researched the Goodhart family history to such depth and detail, and this was the first time that he opened this magical world for me.  Pepa showed me all of these names of Goodharts - people's husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, sons, daughters, cousins - all truly numbering well over 1500 names that Pepa lifted off of pages that he copied down in courthouses and family research centers around the state for the last few decades.  And these names he himself brought forth into a pattern of the Goodhart family history.  Pepa traced the Goodhart family history all the way back to Germany in the late 1600's.  The first Goodhart to step foot on American soil was Heinrich Guthard in 1737 in the city of Philadelphia.  Our ancestry moved forward in time through the hills of Berks, Lancaster, and Lackawanna counties.  Farmers most of them were.  You see, Pepa planted a seed that day when I was fifteen.  A great passion - just three years ago, I chose to follow in Pepa's footsteps, to be not only the keeper but also the continual discoverer of our ancestry.  But not just the Goodhart ancestry, but also along all trees and branches of Mema's as well as my mother's side of the family.  I feel this is the greatest gift my grandfather gave to me.  In 2006, Pepa gave me access to the names, dates, places of birth, marriage, and yes, death - but most importantly, memories.  The memories of those 1500+ people will continue to live on.

There is a general concept about family history that goes like this: if your parents didn't meet up the way that they did and conceive you into the world; if each of your parents' parents did not come across each other perhaps one day spontaneously for the first time on a city street; if your parents' parents' parents didn't choose to board a ship across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States - and so on and so on, you would not exist or at least not as you are.  And so I look at my family history, and I am thankful for every single ancestor - every single person.  But today, I am most grateful for my grandfather, Frederick Wilson Goodhart.  His legacy lives on in all of us, and will continue to do so for all of time.  Pepa, thank you for everything that you have given to me.  I love you, and I will always miss you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Green, Natural Burials

Planning for one's burial or a family member's burial isn't the most upbeat thought. But in my opinion, considering it in advance rather than waiting until death seems to be the smart thing to do, logistically and financially. I pondered whether to post about this topic on my personal blog or my genealogy blog, and I chose to go with the latter. After all, the location of an ancestor's burial site is one we usually tend to research as genealogists. We strive to visit an ancestor's grave and/or obtain vital information from a tombstone.

I recently had a brief conversation with my family about what we'd want done with our bodies when we die.  How morbid, right?  I think exploring the topic is somewhat fascinating.  This type of discussion doesn't come up often, but again, I think it's important. People usually consider two options (or a combination of the two): a) traditional burial in a cemetery plot or b) cremation. What many people don't know is there's a third option: natural burial.

What is natural burial?  The Centre for Natural Burial defines it as "an environmentally sustainable alternative to existing funeral practices where the body is returned to the earth to decompose naturally and be recycled into new life."  Typically, one's body is: a) not embalmed, and as a consequence, buried rather quickly after death, and b) buried in some form of biodegradable material.  It's not a new method historically, although as far as I know it's not common to most western European cultures.

I originally heard about the concept of natural burial from the HBO TV series Six Feet Under (in which the main character, Nate, is buried this way).  Additionally, there's a great book entitled Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (it's referenced in Six Feet Under, as well).  I highly recommend both - they are a bit morbid but very entertaining!  I soon plan to read Grave Matters by Mark Harris.

Photo from Cedar Brook Burial Ground web site
There are only about thirteen places in the United States where one can be naturally buried, though more are in the works.  The only natural burial ground in New England is the Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington, Maine (just west of Portland).  A green cemetery, as it is often called, must be created in agreement with a private land-owner.  Grave markers are sometimes permitted, but only if they lie flat against the landscape and the stone is natural to the area (which means you'd still be able to visit a family member/ancestor there and/or retrieve vital information).  Sometimes a tree is planted at the burial site as a memorial.  A natural burial is much cheaper than a traditional burial or even cremation.  It's also more sustainable and environmentally friendly.  

From my personal perspective, a natural burial is a beautiful and spiritual connection with the earth.  Your body acts like a fertilizer, returning nutrients to the surrounding landscape, and while it wouldn't be a pretty sight to see the decomposition process, it certainly seems better than lying in a somewhat impermeable coffin (that would be an even worse sight over time).  I wouldn't want to embalmed - nor would I want an open casket as that's not the last memory I want people to have of me! - and while I often thought I'd want to be cremated, a natural burial seems to be, well, the most natural and "green" way to go.

Here are a couple informative web sites on natural burials:

The Centre for Natural Burial -
Green Burial Council -

So, what are your thoughts on natural burial?  Would you consider it?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Quick Note - "One Record a Month"

It has been quite a while since I last posted, and this one will be brief!  Work and life have been very busy over the last month, so I haven't had any time to devote to genealogy.  But things will begin calming down now, and posting a blog note is a good way to get back into things.

It's been about a year (possibly more) since I last sent out for any documents related to my (or any) family history.  Before that, I'd often send out for documents in large bunches and spend loads of money at once.  For the sake of my budget, but also to keep a steady and manageable research plan, I plan on requesting one document every month related to one of my family members.  No more, no less.  Considering I have many, many years ahead of me (hopefully) to continue my research, there really isn't a hurry! 

So the first record I'm requesting should probably have been the first record I ever requested when I started my research in 2006.  I'm forking out some dough to get the long form version of my birth certificate.  N.Y. State's processing fees are not cheap.  Presently I do have an abbreviated certificate that just lists my name, date and place of birth, and parents.  While I highly doubt I will find any new information in my long form birth certificate, I think it's good practice to have the most detailed available primary source that begins my genealogy.