Odds and Ends

Finding your roots. Why chasing your ancestors is an important lesson in self-discovery. Part I of III

 

~Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still”, they say. Watch and Listen. You are the result of the love of thousands. ~

 

I cannot tell a lie. I am a history nut. I love it. But more importantly I have always loved family history.

Even from an early age I can remember having interesting people around… All of them family members. I was fortunate as a child to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I loved looking at the photographs that they took throughout their lives and hearing their stories.

It’s no secret to anyone in my family that my paternal grandmother and I had a very close relationship. I was in high school when my grandfather passed away and as a result Grandma Jean moved closer to us. While my high school friends were at soccer practice, or out at the mall, I was at her house. I spent every afternoon I could with her. My only regret is not asking her about her family history. As a teenager I never thought to ask the important questions. The questions that would have helped in my genealogical journey now.

I picked up my journey again last year when I made the decision to start archiving family photographs. Now, in our family that is quite an undertaking. Between prints and slides we have to have thousands of photos. Undertaking this project sparked yet another. We have documents, photos, and letters dating back to 1845! Who were all these people? What were their lives like?

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I fell down the preverbal rabbit hole! I wanted to know more! No… I HAD to know more! What I found is leading me on some spectacular journeys.

I spent a lot of time asking my mom questions. I spent a lot of time looking at photos with my dad. I have a close relationship with my mom’s cousin now because of asking her questions. I also know more about my dad’s side of the family… things I never could have imagined.

My dad’s eldest brother had created a family tree for our “McKee” side of the family back to 1180 in Scotland. With this family tree in hand I went to Google.

As I searched for databases that might help me find out more about these ancestors I came across the Genealogical Research System (GRS) provided by the Daughters of The American Revolution (DAR). Not expecting to find anything I typed in “McKee”. To my surprise I was very wrong. All of a sudden I found a huge chunk of my family tree! Cross-referencing the names and dates on the tree, I found my six times great-grandfather Robert Dunlap. Next to his name PATRIOT.

Wait, what?! What did this mean? How is this possible?!

For those not familiar with the Daughters of The American Revolution they are a national society of women who can trace their lineage back to an individual who directly supported the cause of American Independence. Along with that they work with veterans, are unwavering champions for historical preservation and education, volunteer in their communities, and so much more. Click HERE to learn more.

As it turns out Robert Dunlap served as an Ensign during the Revolutionary War under the command of General Nathanael Greene. He ignored an order to stand down at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina and was killed in action. This was a pivotal battle in the American Revolution.

I was stunned, excited, and practically jumping out of my skin! Did this mean I could join the DAR? As fast as I could, I printed out all of my evidence and contacted my local DAR Chapter.

To my delight I was quickly invited to the next chapter meeting. These lovely women offered me more help in tracing my ancestors then I possibly could have hoped for!

Now a few months later I am preparing to send in my official paperwork and waiting to become a full member of the DAR! These women are some of the kindest, most fascinating, and most knowledgeable women I have ever met.

Their advice on tracing your ancestors will be coming up in the next instillation of my “Finding Your Roots” blog. This will include a list of important questions to ask your relatives.

Something amazing happens when you start piecing together your family history. You start to recognize similarities between yourself and your ancestors. You start to care for these people. They have long since passed but they are just as much a part of your family as any living relative.

This journey, inevitably, becomes an emotional one. But that emotion comes with a great sense that your roots are getting deeper and wider. It brings you closer to those you are not able to talk to anymore. In a way it’s very comforting.

Every tear and laugh is well worth the journey!

Coming up in the next two blogs will be questions and tips on starting your genealogical journey, how to preserve family pictures and documents, and more about my journey.

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I found this on pinterest from 4yourfamilystory.com… I LOVE THIS!!

 

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For my best friend on her birthday!

As Carrie said in the second to last episode of Sex and The City to her three best friends…

“Today I had a thought… What if I… what if I had never met you?”

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That scene always gets me. I choke up a little every time I see it. Around this time of year I start to think about that very question.

I met my best friend the first day of college orientation at F.I.D.M. in Los Angeles. I sat across from the coolest girl… with long wavy hair, a larger than life smile, and a Bostonian accent that was almost not there. It just so happened she ended up sitting right next to me in Textile Science the first day of class. I knew immediately that she was someone different. I couldn’t have imagined then how much she would mean to me now.

Ten years later, through school, boyfriends, breakups, jobs, adventures, and living 3000 miles apart, we are still the best of friends! She means as much to me as any member of my family. She is my family!

I love you more than anything! Happy birthday to my best friend in the world! a5c614c1cc28d0515ba6ebac03caf2ce

The Book That Found Me

I come from a long line of… shall we say… Book hoarders.

We love books. I LOVE books!

My particular love is for books about history, fashion, and food. Sometimes history of food, sometimes history of fashion.

So you can imagine my surprise when a vintage cookbook seemed to have found me.

While I was home for Christmas I went to a local used bookshop with my mom. Of course the two of us ended up in the cookbook section. We can’t help it. I’m convinced it’s in our DNA.

While I was searching for the Les Halles cookbook and having a slight meltdown when I found a book on Truffles (the mushroom) in the candy section; I came across what appeared to be an old leather bound novel.

Thinking that yet again there was a book in the wrong section… I sat down on the floor prepared to rearrange the books and take the vintage book back to it’s proper home. The glass enclosed vintage book case.

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I carefully pulled the book from it’s resting place between Ina Garten and a gluten free cookbook. The cover was so unusual. Shiny black and orange leather, slightly worn on the corners.

It felt different. It felt comfortable.

Like Alice, curiosity got the best of me and I fell down the rabbit hole.

The cookbook was published in 1931 for “The Household Magazine”. Having an affinity for all things vintage and food I started to flip through the pages.

The smell, the tiny bits of flour left in the bread section, and the notes clearly written on the pages by someone who used the book frequently gave me the most giddy feeling.

 I turned a page and picked up a note written on a calendar page in beautiful handwriting.

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Monday Oct. 15th. 1951

“Bonnie’s Pumpkin Pie”

2 Eggs

1/2 can of pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk

1 t. salt

1 cup sugar

1 t. cinnamon

3/4 t. nutmeg

1/4 each cloves and nutmeg

Expecting to find the rest of the instructions on the back I turned the page over.

What I found seemed to be a little more than a coincidence.

Sunday October 14th 1951.

“Home from Pullman”

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Wait… what?!

Yes, the page said “home from Pullman”. For those that don’t know from previous posts, I’m currently living in Pullman, Washington. I attend Washington State University finishing my degree in Apparel Merchandising.

So imagine my surprise that I found the book 300 miles west of Pullman at one of my favorite used bookstores.

The coincidence was just too much… I took it as a sign and bought the book.

I like to think that like my collection of cookbooks passed down from my mother and grandmother, this book was looking for another owner to care for it.

And care for it I will. It has a home next to my other food books and a beautiful copy of “Alice in Wonderland” from 1920.

It will remain with me for the rest of my life. I think I might add to the notes hidden in the book and leave one about graduation day next spring 2016.

“Last day in Pullman. Happy Graduation day! Go Cougs! – May 2016

Who knows maybe it will find it’s way in to the hands of another coug some day.

I plan on making a trip to our archives at WSU to see what kind of information they can give me about life in Pullman in 1951!

My fascination with The Oscars

“There is no end. There is no Beginning. There is only infinite passion for life.” – Federico Fellini

I have always been fascinated with The Oscars.

It started very early on when my mom introduced me to classic films. I met Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers for the first time when I was about five years old in “Top Hat”.

 I fell in love with film immediately.

Watching the red carpet was always an event for me. Loving fashion and wanting to design evening gowns made the experience that much more important.

But the love really began when my mom used to tell me stories about going to the Oscars.

Yes, that’s right. Going to the Oscars!

My mom was the first female head usher at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

The Music Center. Where the Oscars used to be held.

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I saw pictures of her in her uniform next to the ABC camera man, saw all of her badges… then one day she brought out the ultimate in Oscar memorabilia.

Her collection of programs! I nearly cried.

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A small portion of my mom’s amazing collection I hope to have framed one day.

She has at least 10 years worth of programs!

Including the 50th anniversary program.

When I opened this program and the accompanying book the first thing you see is a thank you.

To the patroness of the 50th anniversary Academy Awards. Her Serene Highness Princess Grace Of Monaco.

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Golden Anniversary Oscars

Along with all of her programs she had another amazing experience… She was a seat filler in the front row when Jack Lemmon’s wife was late to the show!

I often wonder if my mom feels nostalgic about those times when she watches the Oscars with me. I often wonder if she realizes the kind of obsession she sparked in me with that first film.

Either way, this evening I will enjoy watching the Oscars and texting with my mom to chat about who we think should win, what they wore, and how these talented people will be remembered.

Happy Oscar Sunday everyone!

Where’s home? Take three lefts, you can’t miss it.

Billy Beane once said… “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

I happen to agree with him. I know no other way think about baseball.

With pitchers and catchers reporting for training in about a week, I can’t help but get excited and feel more than a little nostalgic.

I remember the first game my dad ever took me to… a Mariners/Yankees game.

I was six years old.

I remember the hat he bought me, much to big to fit on my head. It kept falling over my eyes while he walked me up the cement tunnel that led to the seats of the Kingdome. I never let him let go of my hand. As we reached the end of the tunnel I pushed the brim of my hat up once more and saw the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my young life.

Standing next to one of my favorite people in the world, I looked out on to a baseball diamond for the very first time.

To this day when I walk up the steps of a baseball stadium to see the vast green field in front of me, I reach for my dad’s hand.

Even if he doesn’t happen to be at the game with me, it is my personal ritual.

I feel six years old again.

 Baseball can make you experience the most overwhelming joy… It can make you experience the most agonizing sorrow… While you can come to appreciate it’s complexity, if you don’t love it right away it won’t ever become part of your soul.

If you are lucky however, it will always be something you love and enjoy.

Below are a few of my favorite pictures I have taken at many games and stadiums.

Please be aware these are pictures taken by me… They are not for use elsewhere.

View Fenway Park from the Green Monster September 2013 by Kira Bottles

View Fenway Park from the Green Monster September 2013 by Kira Bottles

Safeco Field Summer 2014 By Kira Bottles

Safeco Field Summer 2014 By Kira Bottles

Texas Rangers Player In the Seattle Sun 2008 By Kira Bottles

Texas Rangers Player In the Seattle Sun 2008 By Kira Bottles

Jon Lester and David Ortiz 2014 by Kira Bottles

Jon Lester and David Ortiz 2014 by Kira Bottles

A Most Amazing Women

As I get closer and closer to accomplishing something I honestly didn’t think I ever would (graduating from college). I find myself wishing that my grandmother was here. She was such an amazing women. Raised five kids, married for nearly 50 years, a nurse, and loving grandmother.

Violet Jean Bottles

Violet Jean Bottles

I always felt a special connection to her. She taught me to sew, and rip. Grandma always said, “If you are going to learn how to sew… you are going to learn how to rip those seams apart when you mess them up”.  She was most literally the little old lady from Pasadena. She drove her 1969 Camaro until late in her life. And she was perfect in her grandchildren’s eyes.

Grandma Jean and her Camaro

Grandma Jean and her Camaro

So, in a little less than a year as I don my cap and gown and walk with my friends to collect our diplomas, I will be thinking of her. Knowing that she has the best seat in the house with my other amazing grandparents, saying “Go Cougs!”.

Me and Grandma Jean

Me and Grandma Jean