When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

 

I suppose before I jump into what I did on my trip to Ireland, I should give you a little background on how all this came about.  The short story is that it was all divine intervention.  The (shortened) long story is a little more random.

Like a lot of my best stories, social media played a big role.  It all started with an Instagram post.  I saw a posting talking about a program called SALT (Serving the Aged Lovingly Today) that was sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm.  Now here is where I should tell you that I’m not Catholic.  Yes, I have some interest in the Catholic faith, but I was raised as Baptist as one can be living in the South.  Anyways, here was a program that was based around serving the elderly, something that is very near and dear to my heart.  I immediately filled out the application, but took pause when it asked me my interests/hobbies.  I put the basics down.  You know the ones: reading, spending time with my friends/family, etc.  The only problem was do I list genealogy.  Genealogy is a huge part of my life, but how could I possibly use it to help the elderly?  I continued and finished filling out the rest of the application and then right before I hit submit, I went back and added genealogy to list.

Okay…I’m going to skip a large chunk of the story here.  One, because this will be a really long post if I don’t and two, it’s just details.

The fact that I added genealogy to my “hobbies” list opened a huge door and an even bigger opportunity.  The suggestion was made to use my genealogy knowledge and make “memory books” for the residents at the nursing homes the SALT volunteers would visit.  That way, the residents would not only have their stories written in a book, but they would also have something they could pass down to future generations.  I thought that this was an amazing idea!

Fast forward a couple of months and I find myself on a plane to Dublin, Ireland…the first stop on the SALT “tour”.  I had never been to Ireland.  Sure I had heard family folklore stories about Ireland, particularity from my Grandpa who was very proud of his Irish heritage.  To say I was excited would have been an understatement.

Myself, along with seven other girls, would be staying at a nursing home located in Dalkey, Ireland.  We would “live” there for the week and serve the elderly the best way possible, by just being there for them.  We would go to Mass with them daily, play games and have sing-a-longs with them, and most importantly work on their memory books.

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My view from my room at the nursing home.

The “memory book” project started day one.  I found myself explaining to the other girls who were there volunteering what exactly these books needed to be and how to put them together.  I had worked on a list of questions to ask the residents for their books just in case any of us got stuck during our one-on-one time with the residents.  To say I was a little intimidated would have been an understatement.  Sure, I had done other projects like this before, but never in a group setting and never at a nursing home.  I just prayed that God would show us the best way to tackle this project.

Oh boy, did God show up!  Each of the volunteers were assigned two residents, with the hopes that at least one would be willing to participate.  We had some residents that didn’t feel comfortable sharing their life stories.  We had others that didn’t think they had done anything worthy of a “memory books”.  Then we had the residents where we didn’t even have to ask a single question because they were that eager to share their story.

At the end of the week, we presented our residents with their “memory book”.  All of the girls had done an amazing job.  Each book was made not only out of the love we developed for our resident, but out of what we discovered they needed most.  One book was made as a sensory book for a resident who was losing their sight.  One book was made as a remembrance for the family members that a resident had lost.  One book was made as a family tree so as not to lose the ancestors who came before.  Each book was unique to the experience and each book served as a genealogy treasure, either to remember the past or to not forget the present.

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The “Memory Book” project.

 

I think as a Genealogist we sometimes forget the human connection.  That those living are creating history as we speak.  We get so involved in those who have already passed that we forget the importance of recording what is happening now.  My week in Ireland reminded me to not only record the stories of my Grandparents (and those older generations), but to also start making notes of my own history.  All any of us wants someday is for somebody to listen to the things we have experienced and how those moments made us feel.  Yes, the majority of the time spent doing genealogy is research, but we shouldn’t forget the importance of listening.  Hidden gems are there just waiting for us to take the time to listen.

There is so much more I could write about this experience.  My fellow volunteers, the Sisters, the staff, and of course, the residents, made this a week that I will never forget.  I highly suggest that if you have the time to sit down with the elderly and just talk about their lives, you will not regret it.  Also, if you looking for more information about the SALT Program or the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, I’ve posted some links below.  Lastly, if you have any questions on the “memory book” project, feel free to email me at coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

 

Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm

SALT Program

George Thompson Baker: Age Doesn’t Matter

This week’s “Sunday Spotlight” is George Thompson Baker, the son of Brice Baker and Mary Arthur.  Thompson Baker was born in 1809 in Knox County, Kentucky and was the youngest of seven children.

Thompson married Nancy Henderson on October 31, 1829 at her father’s (John Henderson) home in Knox County.  Thompson and Nancy would have a total of 11 children: John (m. Elizabeth Rogers), James Madison (m. Martha Agnes Butcher), Mary, Andrew Jackson, William (m. Emily Martha Tompkins), Emily (m. William Clark), Mahala (m. John Clark), Elizabeth, Pleasant Martin, Eleanor, and Nancy.

The most notable aspect of Thompson Baker was his support of the Union army during the Civil War.  It is noted that in his community in Knox County, he was known as a staunch Unionist.  His views on the War would cause him to do something that most men his age wouldn’t dare.  At the age of 54, Thompson would accompany his son, Andrew Jackson, to Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky to enlist in the Union army.

Shortly before he was mustered into the Army, Thompson wrote his will.  In it he stated, “Expecting in a short time to be exposed to many dangers and being desires to settle my worldly affairs have made and ordained this my last will and testament…”  It seems that Thompson knew how dangerous the war would be for a man his age.  Thompson and Andrew would be officially mustered into the Union army on September 22, 1861.

Thompson and Andrew, along with the rest of the Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, would see action in not only Kentucky, but also Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi.  In 1863, Thompson would fall ill to smallpox and be treated at a hospital near Louisiana.  A few months later, Thompson was transferred to the R.C. Wood Military Hospital Steamer on the Mississippi River just outside of Memphis, Tennessee.  According to documents, Thompson would die in June of 1863.  The official cause of death was listed as dysentery.  It seems that Thompson knew his fate was sealed when he wrote his last will and testament.

Thompson’s widow, Nancy, did not find out about his death until a year later.  It is noted that the body was never returned home.  It is more than likely that Thompson is buried at one of the “unknown” sites in the Memphis Military Cemetery.

While there isn’t too many details about why Thompson was such a staunch Unionist, you have to respect a man who will stand up for what he believes in.  I would be interested to know if he joined the army because his son Andrew did, or maybe it was just something he felt strongly that he needed to do.  While we may never know what led to his decision, George Thompson Baker is definitely an ancestor to be proud of and one that did not let his age stand in his way.

George Thompson Baker’s lineage is:

George Thompson Baker – Nancy Henderson

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John Baker – Elizabeth Rogers

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John William Baker – Melissa Charity Tompkins

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Stella Alice Baker – Frank Martin

 

 

Eve Weidner: Revolutionary Woman

The first “Spotlight Sunday” belongs to Eve Weidner.  She was an adventurous woman who seemed not to be afraid of anything.

Eve (or Eva) Weidner was born to Ludwig (Lewis) Weidner and Barbary Boyer on January 31st, 1751 in Lincoln County, North Carolina.  While little is known about her mother, Ludwig was of German descent and held his German traditions close to his heart.  Growing up, the Weidner’s were known revolutionaries living in a county full of loyalists.  This more than likely made growing up challenging for Eve.  This is why the Weidner family started moving towards western North Carolina and the Tennessee border.

Records for Eve become a bit scarce until she marries John “Raccoon” Miller on March 1st, 1776 in Haywood County, North Carolina.  The Millers would move on to Hawkins County, Tennessee and eventually settle in Union County, Tennessee.  Once settled, Eve and John would have seven children: John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Rachel.

If legend is true, John Miller seems to be a lot like Eve’s father, Ludwig.  They were both revolutionaries and participated in battles with local militia.  One of the most notorious stories of Eve is when she was left at home with the children while John was off on one of his excursions.  The story says that the family dogs started barking and going crazy while Eve and the children were inside.  Living in known Indian Territory, Eve immediately had the children hide while she grabbed a shotgun.  Eve then went outside to defend her home against the said Indians.  While not much is known about the actual encounter, I think it’s safe to say that the Indians probably thought twice before messing with Eve again.

Eve passed away on August 12th, 1853 in Union County, Tennessee.  She was 102 years old.  Just a few years earlier, Eve had attempted to get John’s pension from when he fought in the Revolutionary War.  I’ll post more about that on “Throwback Thursday”, but I will tell you that people thought that a woman her age (near 100) attempting to get her dead husband’s pension was crazy!

Just a few years ago, a local Daughter’s of the American Revolutionary chapter in Knoxville, Tennessee, recognized Eve for her efforts and support during the Revolutionary War by giving her a new headstone.  A picture of the new headstone is attached.

If you’re still trying to figure out how Eve Weidner Miller is related to you…here is her lineage:

Eve Weidner – John “Raccoon” Miller
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Nancy Miller – John “Fisher” Loy
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Elizabeth Loy – Alford Sharp
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Rachel Irene Sharp – Elias S Carroll
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Susan (Susie) Jane Carroll – Abraham (Abe) Benjamin Price

Check back on Tuesday for “Tuesday’s Tips” where I’ll give some research tips that I learned while researching Eve Weidner.