Showing posts with label Spiral Staircase. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spiral Staircase. Show all posts

Third Monday of November

 Today is day to have fun, tell stories and enjoy the view; only two Mondays left in this epic amazing semester. 

Also today we find out about new contract at work that many expect to be insulted by but will probably ratify anyway. 

Plant rows of creativity, harvest bouquets of laughing sunflowers, plow through craziness.

Today’s food: crispy baked chicken thighs

Today’s exercise: the excruciating slow warm up 

Pandora's Safe Part 1: Where is Fear?

(first published 11/24/17) 

I can’t stop researching, and so I don’t. 

I spent most of today clicking away in between cleaning the oven and cooking leftovers into new things and buying Fanta and figuring out what smells like sad wet dog in the laundry room (it was the dog’s blanket. I guess she put it there for me to wash? Go figure).

Every single ancestor in my ancestry tree has to be matched up with their parents, and if possible, their grandparents.  I can’t leave any orphans, I can’t leave hints unfollowed. The tree keeps growing exponentially and my mind gets a little numb but I can’t stop until I find* it.*

I don’t know what that “it” is, but it is waiting. 

Maybe it’s a resolution to my grief, pushing me to find more family as I learn to let go of Abuelo. 

Maybe it’s trying not to face how December 1 will mark ten years since Abuela jumped into the sky.

Maybe it’s also the review I heard for the new movie, “Coco,” where the ancestors live until the living forget them.  The idea of ancestors disappearing  brings me to tears and I want to list and name every single person ever.

 Yes, now that it’s in the sunlight this is probably displaced grief, but feelings have to go somewhere and right now these feelings are making me drill away through history, mining for the treasure I will surely recognize.

I just know it is waiting for me.  Perhaps gamblers feel this way, but I assure you I’m not gambling because there is nothing to lose.

There will be a story. There will be many.

My aunt read what I wrote yesterday and asks me a few questions that I am sure I will answer, but first I have to keep going back up Temperance Avery’s family, back to her mother, Thankful, and her grandmother, Fear. 

Imagine being a devout Puritan living in colonial New England and naming your child “Fear.”

Were all the good names used up?

Or was it about facing Fear? About Fear bringing forth treasure? Because the actual fruit of Fear was Temperance, who then bore Thankful and together they tell a story of large colonial families tangled with cousin marriages and widow marriages.

I imagine leaning out a window (it doesn’t have glass, y’all, not in 1645 and also all the neighbors listened in on each other and testified about it and you can read all that stuff but I digress) and calling, WHERE IS FEAR??


DON’T WIGGLE AT CHURCH FEAR, THEY WILL BONK YOU ON THE HEAD WITH A STICK (I have certified PhD read about this and am authorized to add that detail).


My dog can’t stand seeing me sit still and demands a walk.  I make her run so she’s get tired faster, and also to punish her for the fact she still won’t go anywhere near the 16th, 17th and 18th holes on the golf course, the pretty part with the lake that is so purple lilac butter cream orange on shimmery water at sunset.  

Ever since she ran away from me on Halloween I don’t push her, but I am deciding to take walks without her if she’s not going to let me go my way.  

After the walk I settle back down to get the answers I knew I could easily get for my aunt, but first I had to go a little farther back looking for new treasure.

Then I admitted it to myself. I wanted to be related to someone who came on The Mayflower.

That sounds like treasure, right? Once I found a generation of ancestors that marry and die in the 1630s and 1640s in Plymouth, I just have to know when and how they came over.  

Were they part of the Great Migration of almost 20,000 to the large joint-stock funded Massachusetts Bay Colony? Or were they part of the original few hundred who lived in Plymouth and may or may not have known Samoset and Squanto?

I see page after page of information that tells me  I am descended from some of the earliest British colonists (Virginia, Plymouth, Connecticut, Rhode Island, North Carolina), and it doesn’t feel right to only be finding this out later in life; don’t ask me how it would’ve have mattered if you’d told me.

 Maybe I wouldn’t have cared.

Maybe someone did try telling me and I had nowhere to put it.

 I’ve tried telling both of my kids but so far they mostly smile at me and ask for more mashed potatoes and if we are out of mashed potatoes can I make more later please?  I have mastered mashed potatoes this year, check that off my life list of things to do and back to researching.

My ground zero hint is reading that my way back grandmother Susanna Ring being born in Leyden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands in 1606. 

In case you skipped class or if I went too fast that day, be reminded that the original Puritans were challenging the church-state-king and were so persecuted that they left and went to Leyden.

 Google "Scooby Separatists" and "Puritans in Leyden" if you don’t believe me. 

And yes this will be on the test.  

Anyway, their time in Holland wasn’t what they’d hoped for so then they get a boat then another boat and then, well, you know what comes next. 

If you don’t, then OK. Their first boat, the Speedwell, got only as far as Plymouth (England) where it was sold and they moved on to get the Mayflower.  The Mayflower had permission to go to Virginia (Jamestown was chartered in 1607) but it ended up much farther north, oops. 

 But back to the story.  I kept researching and I think I have tripped on a very funny very awesome story for you. But not yet. I still have to answer the questions my aunt gave me!! Is this how students feel when they need to study for a test but they really prepare by relaxing by watching Netflix?

Also, I researched a bit more and found William Penn, which under normal circumstances would be reason to love this journey, but it isn’t the best treasure today. 

Nope. I found it a minute later, and when I found it, I knew. 

It was something that you might not have recognized If you didn’t know what you were looking at.   It’s perfect, it’s everything, it is the story I want to tell in a book that unfolds over 7 chapters. 

So, anyway, I still have to answer my aunt’s questions, so here we go.

First of all, regarding my grandmother’s real official name. Is it Rosanna?

My answer is to look back in Mama Rosie’s family tree to, Rosanna McCrea, born on 12/8/1838 in County Cavanaugh, Ireland.  Three guesses on why she’d leave Ireland and be in the US and married before her 20th birthday and the first two aren't "famine."

Rosanna marries fellow Irish refugee/immigrant Henry Davis in New Orleans, gives birth to Mama Rosie’s grandfather James Bernard Davis in 1858 and in dies in New Orleans on 1/29/1896 and is buried in Saint Joseph Cemetery #1 in New Orleans. I have found records calling the wife of Henry Davis “Rosanna McCray.” I can’t find Rosanna’s parents but I’m admittedly not connected to Irish sources online.

In every official mention of Mama Rosie (census, marriage to Papa Jerry) her name is Rosanna, just like her grandmother.  

So yes, Mama Rosie’s name is 100% Rosanna.

The next question goes back to Achilles Jean Soldani, son of “Jean Salami” and Clementine Mutt or Moti. Family lore has it that both of Achilles’ parents were from Sicily and drowned on a boat. 

I can confirm that they each died in New Orleans but I cannot find their actual death certificates which contain all the juicy stuff like how they died and where they were born. 

Jean Goldani dies in New Orleans in 1868 (unless he is the other Jean Soldani the pastry chef who runs away to Missouri) and Christine/Clementine Moti dies in 1869. 


I know for sure that Achille lived at St. Mary’s orphanage (I found him on their roll, god bless the internet!!!) and ends up on an orphan train but I cannot confirm that he was an orphan because Jean Soldani either is dead in 1868 or is the 50-year-old who pops up in Missouri in 1870.  

I found a passport application from Anthony G. Soldani who went to Oklahoma with the Osage – perhaps on an orphan train like the one that took Achilles Jean Soldani to his destiny in Avoyelles Parrish. Anthony G. Soldani may or may not be related to all of us but then again, his passport application lists his father as “Jean Soldani” born in France.  Not Sicily. Hmm.

My dad pushes back at this information, wondering why Achilles and his descendants looked Sicilian. shows that Christine/Clementine Mutti/Moti was born in Sicily, but I lose her there. I think for an extra $15 I could chase this lead but I'm already going as fast as I can before my free trial expires. 

Here is why I officially doubt Jean/Giovanni is the person I find online (Johann Soldani) who was born in Alsace and ends up dying in Missouri.  

I don’t think Christine/Clementine spoke anything but her native tongue which was probably Italian when she arrived in New Orleans, and so I don’t know how she would meet and marry someone who came to New Orleans from France. I think someone who arrived in New Orleans speaking French would have found a Francophile community and maybe learned a little English before learning Italian.

Also, we have no marriage documents for Giovanni and Clementine, which makes me wonder if they were either married before they came to the US (which is why I have no church documents) or lived in a civil marriage arrangement unable to afford a ceremony.  I imagine that if they met in New Orleans, they came together as quickly as two “paesanos” from Sicily and didn’t foresee that they would die young and leave their small children to the mercies of the charities Catholic Church.

 If they hadn’t have died, Achille Soldani would not have been sent on an orphan train with the world SOLDANI tied around him with a string.  Archille wouldn’t have ended up living with the brother-in-law of his future wife, Ella Mae English.  

I’m going to keep pushing this to find the death certificates for Jean Goldani and Christine Moti so we can see what is listed as their places of birth, their parents, and the causes of their deaths.  All and all, they don’t seem to have died on their way to the US, but that story probably has roots in a grain of truth that I still haven’t found.

Until then, I’m going back to the treasure I found today, to the ancestor I want you all to meet, the one whose life is so perfectly crazy and historically accurate but not normal that it calls me back. 

I can’t keep writing this for you, I have to go back and keep researching. 
My grief is bearing fruit, and that alone makes it bearable.

Would You Like to Teach Today?

The best part about research is following whatever shiny fact catches my attention.

There is no right or wrong on this journey, only information.

I am thirsty for more and more, and I will keep going until I get the signal to stop.

In between all of this, life goes on.

 I am on the phone with my Mom telling her this and that and the other thing, then saying how I just have to know more about our DNA.

If you didn't  know, in case I don't discuss this, I was obsessed with DNA as a pre-teenager, reading everything I could find about it at the (tiny) Pompano  Beach library.

 I remember taking a Health class in summer school which was being taught by a coach who mostly read out of a textbook.

One day he read to us that an amniocentesis (pronounced by him "Ammocensus") "was a disease pregnant ladies got."

I threw my 14 year old hand up into the air and explained how it was a procedure to collect amniotic fluid to be used for.... before I could finish my articulate explanation of my life passion the teacher interrupted me to ask, "Oh well, would you like to teach today?" and I think I might have said YES but I equally might have known to look down with shame and just sit in the chair and make the time pass quickly earn the credit to graduate.

Maybe some of you guys had awesome science teachers as teenagers, but I remember being the girl in the back of the room reading the textbook while the biology teacher talked football with people walking in and out of his classroom.

One day the teacher stopped his football talk and asked "Soldani! What are you reading back there??" and I held up the book and said "Chapter 8, there are cells dividing and I love it!" and he said, "Don't let me interrupt you!" and talked more quietly about football.

So then last night I am pretty sure I found -- was given??? ---  the biggest, shiniest treasure in my family history.

 I  might have found the thing that is making me see myself and my ancestors' place in all of this differently.

I am following every lead on this, and I will bring it back to you when I'm sure (meanwhile I'm like YES YES THIS HAS TO BE TRUE LET THIS BE TRUE).

It wasn't what I was looking for and it wasn't even where I was looking and as a history professor I laugh at myself for not seeing this sooner.

I  have been lecturing on this topic for years (omg decades, what?) but I  never once considered it was my story, too.

Our story.

Reverend Carman

I don't want to write, I want to go back to my research because I just found my ancestors who lived in Harlem New York in 1662, when it was New Amsterdam. This is a win in some family history Bingo game I am playing which has no rules and will probably never end.

This isn't enough, of course, I need to find out more -- where they came from, who their neighbors were and whether they quickly left Harlem.  I would rather have too much to do than ever be bored, so I am grateful for this shiny happy productive distraction.

One of the biggest outcomes of my research is seeing the relentless forces pushing people around from generation to generation.  Sometimes I can give the event a name (look dad! 17 of your relatives left during the French Revolution!) and sometimes I just can't (why did both of these parents die in 1698? who raised my orphan ancestor?).  I can also see family size crash from 10 and 12 babies to 2 or 3 babies across the centuries, but that's for another discussion.

I have continued to compulsively line up rows and rows of ancestors making sure everyone has parents and grandparents and have found more than one set of cousin marriages in Colonial New England, 19th century Creole New Orleans and on the Kentucky frontier.

Each time I thought I was tired, that my brain was numb and the all the names started blurring together.

Each time I zoomed back and checked names and shook my head at the connection.

Notice one set of grandparents for the couple Jacob LaRue and Phoebe Hodges

Today's treasure is that I can officially announce that I found two ordained Reverends.  This is a big deal because  I always have believed our family has been Roman Catholic since the church was founded.   Seeing ancestors in Colonial New England shook my certainty, and now seeing actual Baptist preachers in my family seals the deal. 

My favorite ancestor discovery today has been Reverend Joshua Carman who was preaching in Kentucky in the late 1790s and early 1800 and decided to kick all the slaveowners out of the church. 

 This got  him in a little trouble and it made him new friends, I'm sure.  Abolition didn't become a HUGE movement until the 1830s, so this man was (in my humble fan-girl opinion) waaaaay ahead of his time. 

He continued to stand firm for the immediate abolition of slavery and apparently moved to Ohio and or Pennsylvania where his fervent anti-slavery, immediate emancipation  preaching is more welcomed.  

One document claims that Joshua Carman preached to Abraham Lincoln, but I'm not to sure about that.  I think my connections to the Mayflower and William Penn (which you are patiently waiting for, thank you) are more solid and possible and also interesting.   Today's research showed me that one of my relatives definitely said he saw Daniel Boone's brother once.  That was a moment.  Yay for him.

My research keeps going back to someone I'm not related to by blood, but whose story calls to me and whose name I refuse to tell you so you won't get ahead of me as the story unfolds.

 Let's call him him Louis Gastinel.

 In 1860 he was in a workhouse in New Orleans, listed as a mulatto; by 1865 he was in Law School in St Louis (how? who sent him? the church?) and in 1880 he listed in the New Orleans  city directory is a lawyer not listed as a mulatto.

 In 1890 he marries my Cuban-born, New Orleans raised 3rd great grandmother, Rosalie Elizida Santo Domingo who was widowed in 1870 and lost both of her French-born Creole parents by 1880.

Rosalie and Louis were only married for two years before he dies, but I'd like to think this marriage was a huge deal for both of them because they liked and respected each other very much and the  time together was some of the happiest two years of their lives. 

But I digress. 

My research has also took me off of ancestry and in one of my adventures I found listings of impoverish orphans brought to the church or to the city and where they were sent (St. Mary's, St. Vincents, etc).   

I felt pulled read the column listing who brought the orphan/widow, and one name kept coming up, Rosalie Santo Domingo's second husband. 

This is an example of what I found, but this screenshot doesn't show L. Gastinel bringing kids.  You get the point, right?

I am guessing he did this as part of his work as a lawyer and counselor, and because he was a professional this is a life path he chose.  

I am guessing he chose to be a man of service, a helpful good man who connected people who needed help with people who were called to help.  

There is a moment in 1870 that my father's ancestor Achille Soldani (spelled Achall Soldom Soldoni in 1870 archive) is listed as being at St. Mary's while Louis was a fixture,  coming and going from several orphanages, giving hugs and asking kids if they're saying their prayers and brushing their teeth (because what else could he ask them? whether they want to live in an orphanage??).
Rosalie Santo Domingo Michot Gastinel never met her great-grandson -- my grandfather -- Gerald Michot Soldani, but she really might have met the orphan Achille Soldani, and in my heart, they  laughed together when they met.  

Spiral Staircase Part 5: The Circle of Life

I turn the radio on in my hot car and out blasts that song, The Circle of Life. I laugh. It's a coincidence. There are no coincidences.

Everything feels like the end of a mystery movie where the pieces fall together and everything and everyone looks a little different.

I call Abuela from my car phone, the one I only had about 100 "primetime" minutes for and had already used because I didn't understand the concept of "primetime" minutes.

Whatever this call cost, it was worth it.

She answered Hallo.
Abuela, I said, listen. 
What. What 'chu want? she replied.

I just went though this thing, I can't explain, but Abuela, remember how your Mom died right after you were born?

She answers me with silence.
Who expects a call like this?
In the middle of the day?

Abuela, I know this is crazy, but I'm your Mami.  What do you think about that? 

She laughed.

I can't tell you how much she understood, if she understood, or if she thought I was just playing a two-year-old game, but her answer was a delightful, "Maaaammmmiiiiii! Te quiero!!"