Saturday, December 15, 2018

Smell of Wet Woolen Mittens in the Early '50s

It was snowing lightly recently. There was a slim chance of actual coverage to make the roofs in our neighborhood white, but that didn't stop me from thinking about playing in the snow when I was a little girl.

My doggie came in from the yard with some snow on her back. She smelled like wet wool. It was a distinctive smell I will never forget... It brought back a few memories from days gone by one of very wet home-knitted brown snow-packed mittens dripping on the living room floor. Grandma said, put those mittens on the heater to dry. I minded her; the water dripped on the hot metal of the heater with a sizzling sound.

I always put my brown rubber boots in back of the heater but not until the packs of snow inside the boots were emptied. My wet socks also were taken off and put on the heater along with my hat and scarf. My coat and leggings were draped on the rocking chair next to the heater. By the time all was dry and I warmed up, I had them on again. As soon as my hat came on, I was out the door for more fun. We didn't have TV to watch the day away. We didn't have iPhones and electronic games to while away the time. There was only the big out doors to play in.

My brother and I would get busy building snow forts for that inevitable snow fight. Neighbor kids would show up to help build and fortify the walls. There was always a stockpile of snowballs that each of us would put aside ready for the onslaught. I don't remember if we broke up into sides, but I remember throwing and ducking, getting hit, throwing and ducking, but never getting hurt. There was a time or two when a snowball was packed a little too tight and would sting when it hit.

On newly fallen snow I couldn't wait to go out in the school yard during recess and make a large circle, tamping down the snow into a wagon-wheel figure with a safety circle in the middle. My friends from school would play fox & geese. There was a designated "fox" and the rest of us were geese. We were actually playing tag but only on a grid. We would all race around the circle, some cutting through to reach the middle safety zone taking care not to go off the grid. I don't remember all the rules, I'm sure most of them were made up as the game progressed. It was fun none the less.

I found this online at Family Reunion Helper

Of course we made snow angels. Didn't everyone? Snowman?...yes, but not Frosty-type. Ours never come to life. Remember we didn't have TV back then and I don't remember hearing about Frosty until later when there was TV in our house. We wouldn't find the hat or scarf until a day when the snow was melted.

Sometimes if the snow was deep enough and our driveway was packed, we would get our sleds and coasters out and have fun going up and down the incline from the front yard to the back.

I don't remember if we would get a treat of hot chocolate and cookies when we would finally decide we were done goofy around in the snow. I'm sure we did because that is what grandmas do. I remember sitting by the heater to warm up.

As I got older, we also had our backyard garden flooded and enjoyed ice skating.

I wish I had pictures of my days gone by, but you know most were lost in a house fire.

Happy memories of rosy cheeks and noses with all-most frozen fingers and toes. It was a simpler life for sure. It was just fun.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Tetney Church: 7x Greatgrandparents, William and Syllina Portas

One of the churchyard stops we made during our latest trip to Lincolnshire was to Tetney's parish church St. Peter and St. Paul. This church's churchyard is where my 7x great grandparents are buried. It was a fairly hot day so we headed inside of the church. As it turned out, there was no need to cruise the churchyard looking for headstones because the earliest ones are from the 1800s according to a listing shown to us by one of the praishioners. William Portas would have been buried 1716 and wife Syllina 1720. I wrote about their wills in previous blogs... about William  about Syllina.
St. Peter and St. Paul is Tetney, Lincolnshire parish church.
According to "The Buildings of England Lincolnshire" by Nikolaus Pevsner and John Harris, published 1964, St. Peter and St. Paul church in Tetney, Lincolnshire, England is "an impressive Perp Marshland tower, high, of grey Lincolnshire oolite ashlar, with a high three-light w window and very high bell-openings in two-light twins under one ogee arch. The lowest part of the openings is blank and panelled. Blocked small s doorway E.E. The N aisle has windows of 1861 (Withers) except for the E window with its flowing tracery. The s aisle E window is Perp and pretty. The chancel was rebuilt in 1861. The interior is wide and spacious but not particularly poetical. Four-bay arcades, octagonal piers, not very hight, double-chamfered arches. On one N pier that rare thing an inscription commemorating the date of the church or this part. It states that this work was done in 1363, Robert Day being vicar. The pier bases, except for two with Dec moulding, have the characteristic Perp bell moulding. The capitals might be of any date. – Screen. Parts now displayed under the tower. Cusped ogee arches with small panel tracery much like Marsh Chapel. – Plate. Chalice, London, 1787."

The church has a very long history. It has gone through many renditions, renovations, and repairs. Its history goes beyond what we saw. When back home, I was reading about the history on the web and there was so much we missed when we were in the building. I guess that is what happens when you visit somewhere and then later you wish you had done your homework.
Paper angels flank the alter. For a history of this church click here.

Found in the church, a stone carving of a woman. Could have been part of an interior grave. This door looks old, but I don't know if it is from when William Portas was buried in this church yard in 1716.
All in all, our visit to this church was very pleasant. There were no PORTAS graves accounted for on the listings we saw. The parish register entry I found at Salt Lake City for Syllina proves she was buried 1720 in this churchyard. I'm sure William was also buried here in 1716, but I haven't found the entry in the church register yet.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Ancestors' Headstone: I Finally Got The Image Four Years Later!

Back in July 2014, Bob and I visited my ancestral haunts in Lincolnshire, England, after a couple weeks in Europe. I wrote in a post 26 July 2014, "Don't Do What I Did When Visiting A Parish Church and Graveyard,"  that I didn't get a picture of Alan's and my 4th great grandparents' headstone in the North Cotes parish churchyard.

Well on this trip -- four years later -- I was determined to get that picture! And I did. It wasn't easy though. We got to the churchyard and started to hunt for the headstone. Of course, I had left a not-so-good picture of the headstone back in Illinois, so I had to go by memory of what I saw in the image that could point to its approximate location. I remembered seeing a corner of the church building on the left side of the face of the headstone image. So around we went to each corner of the church. We looked and looked and looked at headstones. Nothing. Bob took another approach and yelled out "It's here!"

Low and behold, there it was under old chestnut trees in shade. Looking at the headstone's face, the church's corner was just where it was in the picture. 
Arrow shows where 4th great grandparents William and Elizabeth (Knight) PORTAS' headstone was found in
the St. Nicholas parish churchyard, North Cotes, Lincolnshire, England.

Over the years the shade has put a lot of green mossy smeary stuff on the headstone and it was a little hard to read, but that didn't matter, at least I was there and I could get a picture of it. I don't try to clean headstones because these old ones are fragile and any cleaner could damage it worse than that green stuff.
WHO DIED JULY 19th 1827


Cousin Alan and me with the headstone of our 
4th great grandparents William and Elizabeth (Knight) PORTAS.
We all took pictures of it. I guess we wanted to make sure I didn't go back to Illinois without one again! 

Bottom entry is the burial record for
William PORTAS, North Coats, 19th July, 74, T. Harris Curate.

Bottom entry is the burial record for
Elizabeth (Knight) PORTAS, (living at) Binbrook, Oct 21st, 86, L. Curs Curate.
The church wasn't open. I would liked to have gotten a picture of the baptismal font. It would have been nice because all of William and Elizabeth's children were baptized in that church which includes Alan's and my common ancestor, 3rd great grandfather Joseph was baptized 1786. [Joseph and Mary (Dennis) PORTAS are both buried in St. Helen's churchyard in Mareham Le Fen. There is no headstone for them so Alan and I can't get a picture.]

First entry in North Coats Register for the year 1786,
is Joseph son of William and Elizabeth Portas was bapt May 7th
With this adventure behind me, I can finally check the box I couldn't in 2014. Now I'd like to get into that church to get a picture of the baptismal font. Yet another box on my "To Do" list to check off. I guess I'll just have to go back!

Monday, July 2, 2018

July Memories

Almost all our family pictures of when my brother and I were little were destroyed in a house fire, so there is little left except memories. Periodically one or two will come out of hiding like the one below. My memories aren't as sharp as they were years ago, so I will try my best to recollect.
I don't know what stage of the annual Mundelein 4th of July Parade this was...were we waiting for it to begin or is it just ending? I was about 4 years old and my brother is sitting next to me. We are both barefoot...our shoes weren't worn in the summer. The bottoms of our feet were conditioned to walk on stones, gravel, dirt, grass, cement, but not on hot coals...although brother John had tried it once or twice.
It wasn't long after WWII ended. Mundelein wasn't very big then and we kind of knew everyone in town. Showing our patriotism was everywhere; all over town there were American flags, banners, and red-white-blue everything...but not a "Hallmark" movie decorated town.

On the day of the big event, it seemed like everyone in town waited along Lake Street waving American flags in anticipation of the big parade which would include fire engines, town officials, marching bands, baton twirlers, veterans dressed in their military uniforms marching with the flag held high, and the throwing of hard candies at the kids. I don't remember all who participated except for my mom who belonged to the local American Legion Auxiliary post and rode in one of the bannered cars. I think the American Legion post sponsored some of the parade. There were several floats and I believe there was one for the Mundelein queen, but sure if my memory is right.

The same type of parade happened year after year for a long time. I think Mundelein is still having one, but not like the ones I saw when I was a little girl. One of the many parade memories was the Oscar Myer wiener mobile and all us kids got the infamous wiener whistle souvenir and a tour of the vehicle's inside. What fun that was! I also think it was the original mobile since Oscar Myer was a Chicago company.

Fourth of July was always a special time, not only because of the parade, but because of what all came after –– the water fights, the crazy "costume" baseball game, and the carnival in back of the school next door, and most of all fireworks. 

A couple days before the big celebration, the "Carnies" would show up along with the trucks carrying the rides and gaming booths. Since our property was at the edge of the ball field in back of the school, the carnies would park their trailers and hook up to our electricity or the poles in the back. It was fun sitting around listening them tell stories of carnivals in far away places.

On those celebration days, a few carloads of our relatives from Chicago would come out to enjoy a picnic/corn roast in our backyard. Dad would have a half barrel of beer chilling in a tub of ice for the men, soda pop for the kids and ice tea "the women." Earlier he had put fresh corn on the cob in another tub of water to be ready for the roast. He would then get the fire started in the fireplace and pit and the coals were getting red hot. Mom would be busy making potato salad, baked beans, and other good things to eat. Some of the aunts would be bringing stuff, too. I don't remember if we had hamburgers or not. I do know we roasted hotdogs over the open fire. That was fun and so delicious, too. 

The roasting of corn was a special event. Dad would use a garden hoe to pull the hot coals out of the pit and place the water-logged corn -- husk and all -- into the pit. He would then push the coals back over the corn. A few minutes later the corn was done and with heavy gloves on, he would pull the corn out of the hot coals and shuck the ears. We would butter and salt our chosen ears and pretend it was a typewriter as we, eat, eat, ding and start on the next row of kernels. Now-a-days kids don't know what a typewriter is, so that doesn't work anymore. Even now, 60 some years later, some cousins comment of how wonderful the roasted corn was.

Of course with the carnival virtually in our backyard, some of the adults would wander off to play bingo and us kids would try our luck at some of the game booths or get free rides because the carnies used our electricity. The men stayed back to drink beer and watch the antics of grown men dressed in all sorts of funny outfits playing baseball. I don't remember who played in the game or if it were for charity or just the fun of it. I know it was a lot of fun for those participating.

Our house back about 1910. You can see the school on the left. The orchard is very young.
When I was growing up there were mature trees. My aunt Violet is standing in front and chickens are feeding.
Our house was large -- an old Victorian two-story -- and our yard was large, too. To little me, it was gigantic and a lot of fun. There was a good-sized orchard, a massive vegetable garden, several huge flower gardens, and a "little forest" of firewood trees. Yet with all that there was still room for a bunch of cars in the driveway, a screened-in summer house, a fairly large lawned area for tables and lawn chairs, and of course a chicken coop with a little yard.

As kids, we had free run of the yard -- playing tag, climbing trees, playing in the tree house, playing hide-n-seek, and running around the yard ultimately driving the adults crazy. Later when it was getting dark, my dad would break out the sparkles and we had fun lighting them and running around trying to get the sparkling stick to leave a lighted trail in the night sky. Someone would bring some minor fireworks and cherry bombs. I didn't like the noise of those bombs, but it was fun anyway.

We also had a bonfire in the unused part of our large garden. We roasted marshmallows which are best when they were burned on the outside and melted on inside. We would use them as short-lived torches, too.

As darkness approached we would all pick our spots in the back yard to watch the fireworks. A few of us kids would sit on top of the chicken coop to get a better view. For days the pyrotechnicians were busy setting up the displays in the northeast baseball field. The displays were beautiful. There were blazing displays of American flags and patriotic things along with the overhead fireworks and the bombs sounding that scared me most.

All this came to an end when the school's addition ruined the ball field and the village decided it no longer wanted the carnival in the schoolyard. But it didn't stop our corn roasts and fun.

I'm sure I am leaving a lot out, but it's been over 65 years ago...I'm doing the best I can.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Memories of Our Doggies: Dusty and Freddy

A while back my brother sent me several pictures he found of our doggies Dusty and Freddy. These images brought back a few warm memories.

Dusty was a mixed breed who gave us a couple litters of pups. Freddy was a cocker spaniel my brother got in Aspen, Colorado, when he was out there in 1956.

Dusty was the matriarch who took Freddy in and they became good friends except when he needed to be reeled in for doing something Dusty didn't approve of. But all in all, they got along. Oh, the bunny was a friend of Dusty's.

1957 Freddy, Bunny, Dusty
We lived in a large house next to a grade school. There was a minimal playground just inside the schoolyard bordering our backyard. It had a multi-swing set and a slide. The slide was the taller of two slides gracing the schoolyard. It had been separated and moved away from the older slide on the other side of the building in the older play yard.

Since my brother was always trying new things to get our dogs to do –– e.g., Freddy snuffing out a lit match –– he taught our dogs to ... well you will see... not only did he get Freddy to climb up the slide and slide down, he also got the old dog Dusty to do it to! We all cheered and laughed as they took to the ladder, then the platform, then the slide. Of course one of us was at the bottom of the slide to stop the doggie from hitting the ground. No. The bunny never had a chance at it; legs too short, but I'm sure if he could, my brother would have gotten bunny up there.

1957 Here goes Freddy!

1957 Not to be out done, Dusty heads up.

My brother didn't have any images of them sliding down, but you know they did...there wasn't anyway they could turn around!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Henry Portas 1541 Will / Fulstow, Lincolnshire, England

Why do I do this to myself? I have been transcribing the 1541 Will of Henry Portas of Fulstow on and off for over a month. Ever since I received the images from Lincolnshire Archives I've been curious if I would be able to transcribe it fully. At least I'd want to get the family names so I can enter them in my ever-growing database of Portas families in Lincolnshire, England.

Transcribing isn't that easy when you are going at the mid-16th century writing. Between the spelling and the old handwriting, it sure takes a bite out of the old brain and eyes! I use cheat sheets with samples of various old English handwriting and that helps some.

I start out just trying to read through it — best I can — grabbing the familiar like "my daughter," "my sonne," "my wife," and the place name. I then print out a copy and start marking it up. Below is my working sheet in several stages — red ink, green ink, pencil, and colored highlighter. I thought of making my copy larger so I could write in between, but didn't get to the office supply store...besides, I really only need the family names for my purpose.

Attempting the transcribing holds some challenges and it is fun to see how much I can decipher without help. Well, I found the more I looked at it, the more I could actually see. I also guess a lot and later I come back to correct. So once I felt I had enough to put together, I started typing out what I found.

My transcription is very rough and it is incomplete... I just wanted to show what I have been doing lately in the world of my research. As you can see I did glean out the family names which is most important to me.

Below are a few of the words I'm having problems with. They will eventually get transcribed. I find that if I leave it alone for a few days or so and then come back to it, I see more words and make some changes and add more to it. The 16th-century handwriting has so many abbreviations and markings it is hard to tell what it is. Another problem is the pen used which I'm sure is a quill. I'm surprised throughout the will, the handwriting was clear and crisp. I did enhance the image through Photoshop in order to get more clarity.

The image below is one that I actually asked for help with. I contacted Lincolnshire facebook page and a very nice person responded with the answer and explanation to what was said. You have to understand, back then in England, sheep was a major industry. One of my ancestor's hamlet was moved to make room for more pasture somewhat like the "clearing" in Scotland.

That kind person wrote back saying it is "Half of the shope gerrat. I have seen similar wills when shops had garrets or lofts where stock was stored."

 "ye other halfe of ye shope gerryt"
I'm wondering now if Henry owned a shop of some sort. I don't think there is any mention of one in the will...or is there? I haven't deciphered the whole will yet.

I have no idea when the will was proved, but I do know Henry was buried in the Fulstow parish churchyard as instructed in his will.

Ancient church dedicated to St. Lawrence. It is believed this church dates back to the 1200s. Below in the porch, on either side of the doorway, stand two effigies, one of a knight and the other of his lady. I would have looked for headstones, but the bugs were scaring us away. This church is next to a farm and at first we didn't even see it for the shroud of trees along the road. (Images by me on a 2014 trip.)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"Buried in Woolen" – What? Why?

Have you ever run across the phrase "buryed in woolen" in a 17th Century burial record for your ancestor? Were you curious what that meant? Well, when looking through early parish records for Wold Newton, Lincolnshire, England, I came across that phrase. The phrase jumped out at me. I had never noticed it before.

I didn't want to be ignorant of the phrase so like any curious researcher, I googled it and came upon quite a few explanations...I wasn't the only one who was curious.

Evidently during the reign of Charles II around 1666 it was thought the woolen trade was being threatened by "new materials and foreign imports." A parliamentary Act was written "for the lessening the importation of linen from beyond the seas, and the encouragement of the woollen and paper manufacturer of the kingdom."  [For more on the legislation see The Justice of the Peace, and Parish Officer, Volume 5, 1814 on Google Books.] 

This act required all corpses be buried in pure English woolen shrouds and it must be noted – "buryed in woolen" – on the parish register burial entry, otherwise there was a fine. The fine was for 5£, with half of it going to the "informer" and the other half going to the parish poor. Most of the time the informer would be someone in the family so only 2.50£ was paid to parish. This Act exempted anyone dying from the plague. The Act was repealed in 1814, although long before then it had been largely ignored. Most of the above information came from the website History House.

This is the burial record for Elizabeth Portus daughter of Tho Portus & Thomasin his wife buried in woolen Nov ye 18th .... There is also Thos Portus buryed in woolen Dec ye 3.... just below Eliz, I would think this Thomas is Elizabeth's father.
(1680 Wold Newton, Lincolnshire, England, parish record.)
I thought this was rather interesting. Genealogy and family history research isn't just names and dates; we learn a lot about the times our ancestors lived in when we go beyond the names and dates.