Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas Eve

Each Christmas Eve my mother would always read us the Nativity story from the bible before we went to bed. I can always remember looking forward to hearing it. It was something that her mother did for her when she was a child. When my children were small I continued the tradition and read them the story of Christ's birth. I can only hope that my own children will do the same with their children each year.

Merry Christmas to all of you and may the blessing of the Lord be upon each and everyone of you in the coming New Year!

This is the twenty fourth in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas Sweetheart Memories

Evey year for Christmas I hoped to get that special thing all girls dream of.....the diamond of course!

The first Christmas my husband and I were together I was not thinking of getting a diamond yet, but I sure wasn't expecting twins! He gave me a set of the ugliest babies ever, Cabbage Patch dolls. Ugh. Not exactly what I was expecting. Every year after that however I would ask "What did you get me, give me a hint?" Out of worry for the repeat of the ugly doll incident. He would always just answer it is bigger than a breadbox and it won't fit in the mailbox. It never failed. This was always the answer. So I left hundreds of hints. Finally after five Christmases, I opened a box that had a radar detector on the box. I didn't even bother to open it. Who wants a radar detector for Christmas? He asked aren't you going to open it? I said no and finally after about an hour he said, "OPEN the dang box!" So, I did and inside was a smaller box. A ring box with that diamond inside!

He then asked me to marry him. 

This is the twenty third in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Every Christmas my family and I always stop by the cemetery to visit with my grandparents. One year we had a wonderful Christmas surprise. It snowed on Christmas day. Not a huge white Christmas kind of snow but a little snow that covered the ground in a light blanket. Just enough to give us all a thrill here in South Mississippi.

My children and I had just stepped out of the car at the cemetery. We were all silently standing there before my grandparents graves when the snow began to softly fall. It was such a beautiful moment that I had to take a picture.

This is the twenty second in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent Calendar- Religious Services

My whole family would always go to the Christmas vigil mass together. My grandparents, aunt and uncle usually sat in the pew in front of us. Sometimes I would sit with them if it were crowded. 
To me there is nothing more beautiful than Christmas Mass. With the candles all glowing and the lights dim. The creche would be lit by twinkling lights, the smell of the incense burning and the music was played so beautifully. There was a man named Mack who sang in such a deep beautiful voice each Christmas that he sent thrills up your spine just  to hear him.

I always would find myself staring at my grandmother's silver hair in the candle light. I would memorize the way she was in that moment so I would never forget her at Christmas. I can still close my eyes and see her sitting there in that pew with her rosary in her hands, my grandfather standing tall beside her, his cane hanging over the side of the pew. He would be grinning from ear to ear the whole mass. He loved Christmas.

We would all be dressed up in our Christmas best, stuffed in the pews with family and friends. Sometimes it would get too hot and Father would have to go turn the air conditioner on so we could get through mass without anyone passing out from the heat while wearing their Christmas sweater. His signal would always be the ladies using the hymnals as fans.

After mass was over the children would be dying to go, we wanted to get home and have our Christmas dinner and open gifts. The adults would stand around talking, and it never failed that my mother would call me over to talk to the priest to wish him a Merry Christmas. Then my grandmother would send me to the car to go and get a special gift of some sort, maybe a cake or food that she had made just for the priest for his Christmas gift.

This is the twentieth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas Shopping

The day that the big Sears and J.C. Penney Christmas catalogs would arrive was the ultimate thrill in our lives as children. This is where we would spend hour upon hour for the next few weeks, buried in the Christmas catalogs. We would have them so worn out that the pages would start falling out. Looking, hoping, and dreaming of the perfect gifts seen inside those glossy pages.

My mother was not a shopper, she ordered gifts from the catalog. We made our lists and she ordered the important things plus a few of the not so important. The huge boxes would arrive and sit in the garage until she started the wrapping process. We never dreamed of peaking into those boxes.

This is the nineteenth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas Stockings

My grandparents often told of their Christmas stockings. They always contained a piece of fruit, usually an orange, a stick of peppermint, nuts, and small toys. Sometimes maybe even a silver coin could be found inside.

As a child I had a red velvet stocking with my name embroidered on it by my mother. Since we didn't have a fireplace, we always hung them on the wall. The stocking was actually always one of my favorite parts of Christmas morning. All those secret small gifts inside, and candy galore!

I would always get up before everyone else on Christmas morning. I sat there with the Christmas tree lights and would first feel all the lumps and bulges in the stocking then silently I would dump out the contents of my stocking. I can still remember the feeling of seeing each little thing appear.
Marshmallow Santa's, a bag of chocolate coins, Avon lip gloss in cute shapes, Tinkerbell perfume, bracelets, rings, jacks and all kinds of fun little trinkets. Then after looking at it all, I would put it back inside as though I had never seen it and wait for everyone else to get up.

This is the eighteenth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas at School

December and the last month of school are the must fun for kids. Those two months are always brimming with excitement. At Christmas time the halls are decorated, you can hear children singing carols from their classrooms, and the teacher's are wearing their Christmas sweaters. All seems so merry and bright.

As an adult working in the school system I love December, we get out two weeks early and everyone is in a festive mood. I felt the same way as a child, except one year. The year my class was chosen to put on the Christmas pageant at school. I was a shy quiet kid. I did not want to be in the spotlight at all. Thankfully Mrs. Nobles, my teacher, put me in the background as one of the chorus members. We had to sing between acts. Except as we sang we had to perform hand movements that went along with the songs. I can still remember them. Everyday I stood there practicing, scared out of my wits about all those people looking at me. On the day of the play, I had myself so worked up that I came down with a migraine and they had to call my mother to come get me. So, I did not have to perform after all. I was not faking it, I suffered from migraine headaches and still do so today. Stress often brings them on. It was the last day of school before getting out for the Christmas holiday's so I did not get to partake in my class party or anything.

My mother had the honor of performing in her high school Nativity. She was chosen to be the Blessed Mother and her infant cousin was the baby Jesus. She had a photograph of her kneeling before the manger with Joseph that we used to love to look at when I was growing up. The local paper had taken it she said. Later years when I was doing research I came across the very same photo in the newspaper with an article about the Nativity play.

This is the sixteenth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Calendar- Holiday Happenings

This is for my daughter whose due date was on Christmas day. I felt conflicted when I was given this due date. I wanted to have a Christmas baby, I mean what better day to be born? Then I knew how hard it would be to separate her own special day of birth from the celebration of Christmas.

I was to have her by c-section, so I knew her birth would not be on Christmas day itself but rather near that, they were talking the 22nd. Then a small miracle happened. My obgyn went on vacation with his family and forgot to schedule me. I went to my appointments and never said a word to the doctor filling in. I was so hoping I could go past Christmas a few days at least for the birth.

 Christmas came and went and the next week I went in for my appointment. My doctor was so upset that I had not had the baby yet. However, he agreed that all looked well and since she was small she could have used the extra time, and they scheduled me for the next week in January. The day they gave me was my wedding anniversary. 

So now I share a special day with my daughter each year. Sometimes the hassle of Christmas, her birthday and our anniversary are a little stressful, but we manage. We always put off our anniversary dinner together until the weekend after her birthday celebration. Although she still complained the year that we actually went away without her for her birthday on our 20th anniversary, it has worked out.

She does get short changed on the gift department however since most of her gifts tend to be after Christmas markdowns. But hey, she gets more that way!

This is the fifteenth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Calendar- Fruitcake

I can remember coming home from school seeing all the little pieces of colored fruit cut up on the table. I knew what was about to happen. Mom was making the dreaded fruit cake. First of all I do not like anything with nuts in it, and fruitcake has them. So that made it that much more unlikeable to me. Next I could not understand why for the life of me they bothered to color cherries green. That turned me off as well.
But mother apparently made a good fruitcake because everyone always wanted her to share with them. She made it in a bundt cake pan and would slice it in portions to share with friends and neighbors.
It never failed that my father's mother would show up with a heavy store bought version that my mother always politely accepted and then later gave away, claiming the were inedible. We were sworn to secrecy as not to hurt Grandmother's feelings.

This is the fourteenth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Calendar- Charity

My family has always been involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at our church. At Christmas everyone picks a gift for a needy family. My children always enjoyed being able to shop for another little boy or girl. They would happily search through the clothes to find just the right outfit. Then of course they had to find just the right toy or game for the child as well. The gifts are always left in the back of the the church until they are distributed to those in need.

I can remember my grandmother always being charitable and one Christmas I especially remember that she had bought a checkers set for one of the alter boys at our church. We had just walked out the door with our bags in hand when we saw the Marines standing there with the barrel for their Toys for Tots. My grandmother stopped and reached into her bag and pulled out the checkers set that she had just bought and dropped it in. When we got to the car I said to her, "But MaMaw you just bought that for Danny." She replied, "I will buy him something else, another needed it more today."

My sister was just a six year old child the first time she realized that there were others not as lucky as she was at Christmas. There was a little girl whom she was friends with down the road. On Christmas my sister wanted to go show her friend all that she had gotten from Santa. When she went to the girls house she found out that Santa had not come to their house at all. She came home crying. My grandfather made some calls to the Salvation Army and they were able to bring some things to the family, but my sister added her own doll that she had just gotten from Santa. The one she had just wanted to go show off.
Many years later the Catholic News published my sister's story in their Christmas edition.

I hope everyone remembers those less fortunate at Christmas time and throughout the year.

This is the twelvth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent Calendar- Other Traditions

Each year my mother put out the manger that was hand made by my grandfather. She then added the figures of the Blessed Mother, Joseph, the shepherd boy, sheep, cow, donkey and the three wise men.
Wait a minute. Where is the star of the show? The baby Jesus?

Not in our house, not before Christmas. On Christmas Day we would add the baby Jesus to the manger after wishes of Happy Birthday. I used to try to be the first one up so I could place the infant Jesus into his waiting manger.

When I had children, I carried on the tradition of adding the baby Jesus on Christmas Day. My daughter took over my duty of being the first one up on Christmas to add him to his waiting manger.

This is the eleventh blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Calendar- Gifts

A child's favorite part of Christmas is most likely the gifts. I spent many hours each night sitting on the floor shaking and rolling the boxes over and over trying to guess what was inside the wrapped packages.

My mother hated wrapping the gifts and I loved to do it. So she and I had a great system where I sat on the floor in the hall outside of her door as she sat inside putting things in boxes and writing who it went to on the box. Then I was allowed in the room where I was supervised in case I decided to peek at my own presents, and I then wrapped each gift and piled them up.

We always had wrapped gifts under the tree that were from family members. The gifts from Santa all came unwrapped and assembled. There would be small gifts in our stockings as well.

My favorite gift of all time was a doll that could crawl. She was called Baby That a Way. I got her in 1974. In fact I still have her and love her just the same as that Christmas 38 years ago.

This is the tenth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Calendar- Grab Bag- Grandfather's Christmas

Once many years ago my sister and I recorded my grandfather telling us about life back in the early 1900's. He told us many fantastic and interesting stories about his life growing up and among the stories was one about a Christmas tree. So, here is my grandfather Vic Ladner's recollection of his Christmas tree as a child.

"The Christmas Tree"

   Boy, we had a Christmas tree, I'll never forget it! We had a big cedar tree as tall as this ceiling. You know what they had? Candles! Lit! I'd think a many a day, in a wooden building like that! To take that chance! They got on a step ladder and lit all them candles. Later years, I'm thinking,, there's alot of times now, I'm thinking what a fire hazard that was! And that cedar would've burnt like gasoline if one of them candles would of touched it! They had it fixed where the candles,, But still! We didn't have electric lights though, see.

This is the ninth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas Cookies

There are some cookies that are only made once a year in my family, generally at Christmas time. We call them the "Good" Peanut Butter cookies. My aunt still bakes them and gives them to my children and family as Christmas gifts. They have become a special tradition in my house.
I can remember making them and bringing them to Christmas parties and everyone exclaiming over them because they just melt in your mouth.
My Great Aunt DeDe always made us Mexican Wedding cookies each year at Christmas. They were her specialty and my father's favorite. She is gone now and last year I made some for my father at Christmas. He was over joyed and we were all reminded of DeDe once again.
My favorite was the almond spritz cookies. I used to love to use the recipe to put in the cookie press and make all kinds of designs. I decorated using colored dough and sprinkles. Then there are those kiss cookies that you make with rolled peanut butter cookies and a Hershey kiss in the center. Yum! It wouldn't be Christmas without those!

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1  1/4 cups  all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm. Heat oven to 375ºF. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped into flour. Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

This is the eighth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Calendar- Holiday Parties

Each year we attend Christmas parties held by various branches of the family and then of course there are those wild and crazy office parties.

As a child everyone came to my house on Christmas Eve for our family Christmas party. We had lots of food and drinks, exchanged gifts, and generally had a good time. We still get together today each Christmas Eve and eventually everyone ends up sitting around telling the favorite stories that no one seems to get tired of hearing. Usually they are told by my husband or my brother and are generally at my expense, but it is okay because I thankfully can laugh at myself. The favorite all time holiday get together story is the time it actually snowed in south Mississippi. My husband and I were then dating and we were all out playing in the snow, throwing snowballs. He made a snowball which was mainly ice and I ran screaming, zig- zagging through the yard and suddenly with perfect prescision WHAP I was knocked in the back of the head so hard I did a flip in the air head over heels. He thought he killed me, but I jumped up screaming, I am going to kill you for that!! For some reason this story delights young and old and they never tire of hearing it retold.

When I began dating my husband we then had three places to be on Christmas Eve. My parents, his parents, and his grandparents. His grandparents had a huge party each Christmas Eve for their large family and it was always a festive time to go from party to party with theirs being the last stop of the evening.

This is the seventh blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Calendar- Santa Claus

I do believe! I do believe in Santa Claus!

I can remember going downtown to see Santa Claus as a small child. I was terribly afraid of him, but I wanted the candy cane he handed out and I wanted to make sure he knew what I wanted. Yet, when it was my turn to sit upon his lap I always froze and could not remember what I wanted. Barbie doll, was all I could get out. I was like the kid in the Christmas Story. 

My brother and I always made a list and mailed it off to the North Pole. Sometimes we got a letter in return reminding us to be good. Santa would always list some personal things that made me know he had been watching. 

Once Christmas Eve, I had gone to bed and I was just so keyed up that I could not sleep despite the warning of Santa won't come if you are not asleep. Suddenly the bedroom door opened and I shut my eyes tight and tried to breathe as though I were asleep. I dare not move a muscle as I felt a presence standing over me checking to see if I was indeed asleep. Was it Santa? My frantic mind was racing. I was sweating in my long flannel nightgown. It seemed to last forever, but finally satisfied that I was fast asleep the presence moved away and closed the door. I lay there listening to noises coming from the living room. I was so afraid I would be found out and off my presents would go. I curled up and did not move. I must have dozed off because I awoke around 5 am. I got up and grabbed the flashlight that I had stashed before going to bed and saw that my pink fuzzy slippers that were on the floor next to my bed were smashed flat where Santa Claus had stood on them when he was checking on me. 

I slowly crept into the living room and there was such a fantastic sight for my young eyes. I turned on the Christmas tree and lay there on the floor not daring to touch a thing, I just looked. I stayed there until I felt it was a reasonable hour to drag my parents out of bed so we could open our gifts and see what all Santa had brought.

I told everyone who would listen that Santa Claus had crushed my slippers. My parents just chuckled each time I said it. 

This is the sixth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas Cards

Well, this must be a reminder that I need to sit down and start addressing those cards!

I can remember my mother getting out the red book from the kitchen drawer. In the book were names and addresses of family and friends. Some were crossed out several times with newer addresses underneath. Some were sad reminders of family members who were now long gone, yet their name and address still remained in mother's little red book.

Each day the mail box would be full of envelopes of different sizes and colors. I could not wait to see the card inside. My mother would then tape the cards around the doorway so all could see. Sometimes the cards held letters and photos. I especially liked those and hearing my mother on the telephone calling her mother to say, "Did you know I got a card from so and so today. You should see the kids. They have grown."

When I got married this was one of the things I looked forward to the most. Getting Christmas cards in the mail and sending my very own. I bought my own little book and wrote the names and addresses of friends and family inside. Now 24 years later, I too have many lines marked through with new addresses underneath.

I  have a box full of cards that I have have kept from the first Christmas of my marriage. They are the ones that I have received each year. At the end of the season, I date them and place them in the box with the others. It is a fun journey of sorts to sit and go through the box each year and look at all the cards again.

In tradition of my mother's style of display, I too hang the cards up for all to see. Though sadly in the age of the internet and email, there are not as many as there once were. I however will continue to send my Christmas Greeting to all via the Christmas Card.

This is the fourth blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Calendar- Christmas Tree Ornaments

When Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on the Gulf Coast, I packed many of my precious belongings into my car. One of the boxes that I packed was the Christmas tree ornaments. My husband thought I was crazy. "Why the ornaments?" he asked.  I told him that each and everyone of them meant something special to me and I could not bear to part with them given the choice. So they went and it was a good thing because a pine tree came crashing down just where they were stored.

Among my ornaments is a little pink glass pine cone with white paint on the edges like snow. It was always a favorite of mine growing up because it belonged to my great grandmother. When I got married my mother gave me all of my childhood ornaments and allowed me to choose one of hers, this is the one I chose. It is always the first to be hung upon the tree near the very top.

Then there is an ornament that I made in kindergarten in 1974. It is now a dull red and most of the glitter has flaked off, but it is still special to me. Mostly because for fifteen years my mother faithfully hung this ornament upon her own tree as though it were one of the most beautiful among all her ornaments.

The old ornaments from my own childhood that hang upon my tree all hold a special place in my heart. They are old friends of mine. I spent many hours gazing at them throughout my life. Some were bought, but many were made by the hands of my relatives. They are heirlooms that I eagerly unwrap each year to display. Hopefully one day they will be handed down and cherished with the same love and care that I have had for them.

This is the third blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Calendar- Holiday Foods

Each Christmas Eve my family would go to Mass and afterwards everyone would head over to our house. Everyone brought a dish of some kind. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve feast.

My sister and I had spent the days before getting ready by making all kinds of sweets, one of which was whiskey balls. Oh how I hated rolling those cocoa balls in the powdered sugar. It was such a mess. The press cookies were always  my favorite. I loved to pop those little Christmas trees out and add sprinkles and non perils to them.

My great aunt always brought baklava. We were not Greek so I never really understood why we had baklava each year. But it never failed that she brought it. There was always a ham, dressing, and little sandwiches filled with pimento cheese, my father's favorite. Olives, and pickles, dips of all kind, chips, deviled eggs, and best of all my Aunt Janice's fried chicken wings. My grandmother would have made her master piece, a coconut cake.

We ate until we were stuffed. My grandfather then always sat back and had his high ball, and told us of Christmas back in the early 1900's.

This is the second blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Calendar- The Christmas Tree

 The Christmas tree has always been one of my favorite parts of  holiday decor. I would beg my parents to take down the tree from the attic and all the wonderful boxes of ornaments that would accompany it. My father would sigh and eventually give in and climb up into the attic where he would then hand down the boxes into my eagerly awaiting hands. My mother would then spend the next few hours agonizing over the lights. Sometimes breaking into tears of frustration after just getting them all onto the tree and then having a strand go out somewhere. Which then would cause my father to have to get in the car and make a trip to TG&Y to buy some more. It never failed. Each year a strand would go out despite my mother making us plug each one in before hand and do the jiggle test to see if they stayed lit.
My Parent's tree

When the tree was finally lit we then got to pull out all the satin balls, the homemade ornaments from school, the crochet ornaments, the elves, the santa's and the angels. After we had decorated my mother would often do a little rearranging and then came the sparkly icicles. I can still hear my mother say to remember to hang them straight. She loved the icicles. As she put them on she would worry that it would be a warm Christmas and we may have to turn the air conditioner on and that would ruin the icicles because they would be blown about and become tangled.
We would turn off the lights and sit there in silence staring at the tree. I loved this. It was so beautiful. I spent night after night laying under the tree staring up the branches. It was so pretty looking up the tree this way. I can remember the lights would get so hot and burn you if you were not careful. When I was dating my husband I would drag him under the tree with me and together we would just lay there looking at the lights.

My Grandparent's tree
My Mother's parents had the tree with the big bulbs and the tin reflectors. I loved to go see their tree. They had fluffy tinsel wound around the tree and all of the ornaments were old. I loved to look at them and hear the story of each of them. They had the same tree as my children were growing up and it was always a special treat for my kids to go and see their MaMaw and PaPaw L.'s tree. Today they are long gone, but my Aunt still has the tree and still puts it up in the same way. My daughter says it would not be Christmas without the tinsel.

My Father's mother was not too big on Christmas decorating. She often did not put up a tree at all. That is until I found it while I was playing hide and seek in a closet. I saw the boxes labeled ornaments and what I found when I opened them was a great surprise indeed. They were all the beautiful glass mercury ornaments that many collect today from the 1940's. Then I found the most amazing tree of all. It was a 6ft aluminum Christmas tree with the color wheel. I begged to put it up. She allowed me to and even to place the ornaments on the tree. It was such a beautiful sight that shiny silver tree with all those glass balls. Each year until she remarried and moved away, I put that tree up for her. I just wish I had thought to ask for the tree and the ornaments.

I did however receive the best Christmas gift from my husband a few years back. My very own shiny aluminum tree. It is only a four foot one. But it is all I need to bring back those memories of my Grandmother's house at Christmas. I even have been able to purchase some of the same mercury glass ornaments that I used to carefully hang on my Grandmother's tree.

I have no less than five trees in my house during the Christmas season. My husband groans each time that he catches me looking at some in the store, fearful that I may purchase another. I tell him that to me Christmas trees are not just a form of decoration, they are my memory keepers. Because each ornament hanging on them tells a tale. Each light lit upon the tree holds warm thoughts and memories of Christmas past and future. The tree gives us a reason in this busy age to all come together and gather round. It prompts memories and stories of childhood's long ago by those who sit near. For this reason I will gladly fill my house with Christmas trees.
My Christmas tree

This is the first blog in the series by GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday- Family Visits

Isaac Trimble Preston- Catherine Lawn Layton

Isaac T. Preston was born in 1793 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of Francis Preston. His mother may have been a Campbell. He graduated from Yale in 1812, and then continued his studies in law at the Litchfield Law School in Connecticut.

In 1813 he left his law studies behind and entered the Army as a Captain of the 35th Infantry during the War of 1812. Isaac was honorably discharged in 1815 after which he continued his law studies. He then moved first to Virginia and then to Louisiana.

In New Orleans, Louisiana he married Catherine Lawn Layton the daughter of Robert Layton and Susan Gilchrist on November 20, 1828. They had six children.

In New Orleans Isaac became one of the leading attorneys of the time. He went on to be the Attorney General of Louisiana from 1824 to 1829 and then again in 1843 to 1846. In 1844-1845 he was a member of the Constitutional Convention of Louisiana. He served the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1845-1846 and became a Supreme Court Judge in 1850.

Isaac was one of the key promoters for the  construction of the railroad from New Orleans to Jackson, Ms. He was a well respected and prominent land owner. He contributed to many charities among which was the donation of the land for the Methodist Episcopal Church in Carrollton, La.

Isaac remarried in 1845 after the death of Catherine in 1842 to Margaret Hewes. Who was the step mother of his deceased wife, Catherine Lawn Layton.

Isaac died in 1852 aboard the steamboat the St. James, which was involved in a race. The steamboat exploded and burned on Lake Ponchartrain.

The children of Isaac Preston and Catherine Lawn Layton were:

Francis Preston

Isaac Trimble Preston who died as an infant

Robert Layton Preston

Thomas Layton Preston

Buxton John Preston

Isaac T. Preston

The Prestons of Smithfield and Greenfield in Virginia by: John Frederick Dorman
 The Litchfield Historical Society
The Louisiana Advertiser- Historical Newspaper

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sentimental Sunday- Remembering the Veterans

In honor of Veteran's Day I would like to add photos of a few Gulf Coast natives who have served our country.

Moise J.Pete Ladner

Clarence Saucier

Francis Ladner

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Surname Saturday- Lawn/Layton

Buxton Lawn and Mary Dawson of England had a large family of ten children. Of those children we know that at least six of them came to America, where they married and raised large families themselves.

Robert the eldest son in America changed his name to Layton. He along with one brother and three sister's settled in Louisiana. The sister's were Anne Lawn McKittrick, Elizabeth, and Mary Lawn.

Anne was widowed while still in England, she had one daughter from this marriage, Mary. Anne later married Samuel James Stephens in Louisiana. They had three daughters. Ann, Catherine, and Cecelia.

Elizabeth Lawn married William Blackman Ligon and they had eleven children.

Mary Lawn married Charles K. Porter and they had two children.

Robert Layton first married Susan Gilchrist and later Margaret Newman Hewes. His first marriage produced four children and the second, six children. He owned Layton and Co. and was a ship's chandler. Robert had a hand in building the St. Tammany Parish courthouse. He is listed in the roll of enlisted men for the War of 1812 as Quarter Master, 1st Regiment DeJan's Louisiana Militia.

His grandson was Dr. Thomas Layton of New Orleans. Thomas studied medicine in Paris and was received his M.D. in 1868. He returned to New Orleans where he practiced. He wrote the Transmission and Transformation of Nervous Diseases Through Heredity.

Friday, November 2, 2012

An All Saints Traditon

There is nothing in the world like pulling up to the cemetery in the dark of the night and seeing hundreds of glimmering lights. There is something so serene and beautiful about those flickering  lights.

Many cultures celebrate All Saints on November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd by cleaning and adorning the graves with beautiful flowers, and when the darkness falls, lighting multiple candles around the headstones of loved ones.

Here in South Mississippi we still carry on this tradition. Last night I went to Wolf River Cemetery to light the candles on my father in laws grave. There is such beauty in the lights. There is nothing creepy about the cemetery on this night. It is transformed into a beautiful tribute to those who have gone before us.

There are hushed voices and people everywhere. They are all out lighting their candles, showing their love and remembrance in this small but beautiful way. People stop and greet one another, talk about the old times when so and so was still alive.

Slowly the people melt away into the night, and all that is left is the quiet and all those lights in the darkness.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Little Lillie and the Tapeworm

While doing some research on a cousin I came across an incredible story about her in 1909.  I can remember hearing something about this while growing up, and it terrified me that something like that could really happen. I never knew until now just which cousin of my grandfather's that it happened to. 

Kind of gruesome! Just think though that some people used this as a medical cure during those times. The drug store mentioned still exists today! I can't image them displaying a tapeworm for all to see in these times.

Lille went on to live a happy healthy life. She married and had several children.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

History in the Cemetery

Each October several local cemeteries host cemetery tours. Some are even planned on Halloween night. Local folks and members of historical societies get together and dress in period costume as some of the cemeteries occupants from the past. As visitors stroll about the cemetery in the evening dusk they are able to meet and learn more about specific individuals. The donations taken help maintain and repair the graves in the cemeteries.

Even the local schools get into the act with students having a day of history in the cemetery. They dress as local historical figures and portray the story of their lives. A few even portray their own ancestors.

What a great way to honor our dead, by bringing them to life once more in retelling their stories and keeping their memories alive for all generations.

 Be sure to check out the Cedar Rest Cemetery Tour!
The Hancock County Historical Society will hold it’s 19th Annual Halloween Cemetery Tour on Halloween night, Wednesday October 31st  2012 at Cedar Rest Cemetery.
The cemetery is located at 200 S. Second Street in downtown Bay St. Louis. Guided tours will be conducted between the hours of 5:30 and 8:00 p.m.  Admission is free.  Donations are accepted.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sentimental Sunday- Halloween

 The cool crisp evenings near the end October always make me think of Halloween. I still get the little excited feeling inside. I think back to those days of brainstorming for the perfect costume. Only to have my mother cut holes in an old sheet and throw it over my head.

I always wanted one of those store bought costumes with the plastic mask and the elastic string.

Now that I look back and remember the pile of red yarn my mother cut for endless hours to turn me into Raggedy Ann, I have admit that those homemade costumes were better than the ugly hot plastic costumes to be bought at the store.

Yet at the time you could not convince me of that. Not when all my friends were wearing the store bought ones. So finally my mother gave in and bought me a Brunhilda costume from TG&Y. I was miserable the whole night!

I carried on the tradition of making costumes at home for my own children. They too complained. Though just the other day as I pulled down the box of Halloween decorations, my now 20 year old daughter ooohed and ahhhed over all the old costumes from her childhood. The silver sequined harem costume was one of her favorites. She remembered that I had even made silver shoes with turned up toes to match.

Now you hardly ever see a child in a homemade costume. They have magazines that come in the mail with pages full of costumes. The children sadly don't even know to say, "Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good to Eat. If you don't then beware." (After which my brother and I would often add "We'll pull down your underwear" and snicker and giggle.)

This year I think I will just cut some holes in an old sheet and throw it over my head just for old times sake!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Surname Saturday- Wiese

A German family in New Orleans

My grandmother was one of three children, all girls, born to James Allen Wiese and Edna Cecelia Delherbe. Unfortunately James A. Wiese was the only son in his family with two living daughters. His name died with him. Or so we always thought.

My mother had always told me that there were no other Wiese families in New Orleans. Her grandfather was the only one. Other than family in Germany the name here in the US had died out. My mother would stress that the family spelled their name Wiese not Weise. Ours was pronounced WHEEZ while the other was WISE. They were two different families and we were the only ones. However, when I began the search for the father of James A. Wiese I began to discover there were many others with the Wiese surname living in Louisiana. 

Since my grandmother never knew her grandfather there was not much to go on. He had passed away long before she was born. We knew his name was Joachim, or Joseph. He was from Germany, came over to the US before 1860 and lived and died in Plaquemines Parish, La. He also fought in the Civil War.

I had to sit and go through each page of the 1860 census in Plaquemines Parish before I finally found him. He was born about 1835 in Holstein, Prussia. He also had listed with him a son named John. 

My mother was shocked when I told her this news. She declared that this could not be true. They were never told. They would have know if there was an Uncle John. I then showed her the many other Wiese families also living in and around New Orleans. There was a Wiese Soap Factory in New Orleans itself that burned down in the early 1900's.

By 1870 Joachim Wiese had married the widow Margaret Conrad Booth who had two children from her first marriage. In the 1870 census he was listed with his family and his son John Wiese was living several houses down. Joachim is also listed in the 1880 census with his wife, two daughters, and his son James. He apparently died sometime between the 1880 census and the one in 1900 as Margaret is listed as a widow in 1900.

James A. Wiese was born in 1877. He went on to own several stores, both liqueur and grocery stores throughout Plaqumines and New Orleans. He was an elected board member of the grocer's union. He ran a lotto as did many grocers. He was as my mother remembers a jolly sweet man who liked a good joke.

I continue to work on the little pieces of this German family of mine. I want to know more about Joachim and his son John. I want to know where in Germany he was born, who his parents were. I hope to find out more about John, and what happened to him. Did he have a family as well? Are the other Wiese family in Louisiana somehow connected to mine? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Just Call Me by My Name....

One thing we genealogist know is that our lives are never boring while we are researching. Our ancestors like to keep us busy and often times scratching our heads over how and why they chose the names they did for their children.

As a young mother to be I sat for many hours pouring over names in the baby name book to find the perfect name. One that flowed, sounded nice with the surname. One that had a special meaning. One that other children could not rhyme with something hurtful or mean. My husband liked Dillion. (not that there is anything wrong with the name Dillion) I was worried that kids would call him dill pickle. So I nixed that. Jesse was good. Like Jesse James. Yeah! Strong and tough. I mean I put a lot of time and effort into this name and it makes me wonder just how much time and thought went into the naming process of our ancestors?

Back in the day many children were named for their Godparents and being Catholic most of my ancestors gave their children the obligatory Saints name. However it seems that they never fully intended to use this name when they had to give it in records or other information. Instead they often went by the middle names. Then you have those that named three or more children the same first and middle names, and no none of them had died. So, in order to keep these children straight the parents and siblings called them by nicknames making things even more complicated. I know this happens to other researchers as well and it is a very time consuming and frustrating job to keep everyone straight.

 For example, Jean Baptiste Ladner and his spouse Marie Louis Fisseau who had the following children:

Marie Louise Ladner born 13 Sep 1750
Louise Baptiste Ladner born 1751
Constance Christian Ladner born 1752
Marie Anna Ladner born 1753
Angelique Christian Ladner born 22 Dec 1754
Marie Louise Ladner born 10 Jan 1765
Jean Baptiste Ladner born 16 Apr 1767
Marie Louise Ladner born 18 Jun 1770

They really liked the names Marie and Louise! 

I spent a whole day searching for an ancestor's obit using the first name given on his baptismal certificate. After finally giving up on finding his obit. I then tried one of his sons names. Low and behold when I searched his son's name it came up with his father's obit. Except instead of Pierre Joseph Ladner he was listed as Joseph Pierre Ladner. Lesson learned! Always switch names around. You never know.

 My mother always said that her father as the oldest son was given the special privilege in his household of naming his siblings after they were born. He was just a kid himself. Mom always laughs and says I think he actually did a good job. He named, Hilda, Nora, Lorene, Hattie, Henrietta, Edward, Marie, Doris, and Harold.

The nicknames!! Oh my. We have Beb for the baby Josephine, San San for Mary,  Ledi for Ida, Lul for Lillie, Jenny for Genevieve, Man for Etienne, Mish for Artimese, Sis for Irma, and DeDe for Edith. Just to name a few in my family.

Then there are those that like to name all the children with names that sound the same and start with the same letter or sound. Such as:

Ceville, Cevellia, Cevillan, Seville, Sylvan, and Sylvania

Yes, true story! Those are actual family names in my family tree of siblings. The bad thing is the boys Ceville and Seville went by their initials of C.V. Ladner and S.V. Ladner. Making things all the harder!

I suppose our ancestor's may have not liked the names they were tagged with. Just like many of us who have bemoaned to our parents, But Why Did You Have to Name Me That?? I Hate My Name!

 I suppose Shakespeare's Juliet said it best,
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

But then again Elvis Ladner who was born many years before THE Elvis Presley just doesn't have the same ring to it! Does it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Finding History on Amazon

I thought I would share my personal joy! I just hit the jackpot on Amazon. Through a random search for local books I came across a fantastic find (and at a great price). I can not wait to see what historical notes of worth may be mentioned in this book. The book was printed in 1958 for the Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of the town of Bay St. Louis, Ms.
Bay St. Louis Mississippi 100 Years (1858 Celebrating 100 Years of Incorporation 1958)

 I often check Amazon as well as several other used book sites for old and sometimes rare books on local history and family genealogy. Through the years I have come across many wonderful books  that I have been able to add to my library.

A few of my favorite online used book sellers: 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Surname Saturday- Brier

Pierre Marie Brier was born about 1817 in France. He came to Louisiana and married Margaret Roberts. They had six children:

  • John Peter Brier born 15 Aug 1846 and died 19 Nov 1846, New Orleans
  • Peter M. Brier born 23 Nov 1847 and died 23 Nov 1847,  New Orleans
  • Charles Henry Brier born 11 Sept 1849 and died 17 Sept 1850, New Orleans
  • Louis Phillipe Brier born 22 Jun 1851 and died 15 Apr 1924, New Orleans
  • Georgiana Brier born 06 May 1854, New Orleans
  • Clara Emma Brier born 1856 and died 1944, New Orleans
Pierre M. Brier died 03 Nov 1856 in New Orleans, La. His widow remarried to James Carregee and had three children from this marriage.

Louis Phillipe Brier married Magdelena Buhr January 26, 1874 in New Orleans, La. Magdelena was the daughter of Catherina Hartmann and Phillip Buhr (deceased) and the stepdaughter of John Hoffman. 
They had six children:
  • Margaret Joanna Brier
  • Louis P. Brier
  • Mary Brier
  • Hazel Elvira Brier
  • Gertrude Brier
  • Peter Murray Brier

September 29, 1906

Today marks the day that my grandfather William Victor "Vic" Ladner was born. It was a different era. One where times were less complicated. Horse and buggies were the main mode of transportation. The people still spoke the language of their parents; French. Women worked hard churning butter, hand washing clothes, making bread and soap, all while raising a large brood of children. Men were men, they hunted, fished, raised cattle, worked the land. They did what they could to eek out a living and support their families needs. Children were taught respect, they worked right along side their parents where they learned the values that made them the Greatest Generation.

 My Grandfather often said he wanted to live to be one hundred years old. It was his greatest wish. He loved life. He loved his family. He loved his faith. He especially loved the little great grand children who sat upon his lap and giggled and laughed with him. He would often say, "I wish I could see them grown." He would be so proud of them all if he were still here. Although I know somehow he sees them still. He lived to be 91 years of age.

He was a prime example of what I wish my sons to be. I am often told by those who knew him that, he was a good man, and he was.

My mother often said that he felt he was doomed to die at a young age, since his grandfather and his father both did. He made every moment of his life count I think because if this. His grandmother had died after giving birth to her 12th child and three years later his grandfather followed her after striking his head in a fall. The eldest daughters raised the brood of children left behind. Then his own father was killed walking down the road, being struck by a car. He left his wife and 10 children, the eldest my grandfather at 19, the youngest only 3months old. My grandfather then raised his siblings and supported his mother for the rest of her life.

I miss him everyday, today most of all. His birthday always meant so much to him. I still have a picture that my eldest son made at age two. It was little pumpkins he drew with silly little faces. When he finished he gave it to his PaPaw L. for his birthday. My grandfather was so proud and this meant more to him than any store bought gift. After he passed my Aunt found it among his things. He had kept it all those years.

He instilled in me the love of family. Who we are and where we came from. He often said, "All we have in life is our good name."

In memory of his birthday today I would like to post a story told by him many years ago about another birthday he had in a time so long ago.....

"The Hurricane and Navigational Charts"

   But anyway. So, Papa was hauling shells for the county, or the city. He hauled these clam shells for the roads and stuff. And he'd get them out of the Louisiana marshes. So, I'll never forget that when they left, the weather was kinda squally; like this see, and rough out there. But they left. There was five men on the boat and they had the load of shells. They were coming home when the hurricane hit. So, they stayed at St. Joe's lighthouse. Which is past Lakeshore at the end of the road on the beach. You've been that way haven't ya'll?
(Robyn, Mmm, probably many years ago) Never have huh? So they, uh, it was Papa and Uncle Semore Necaise, his name was Simon, but they called him Semore in french (He laughs). But anyway, uh, That evening it got so bad Papa said, "We better make it to the lighthouse" So they were coming, see to the lighthouse and the Kahler's, you know the Kahler's that have the grocery store? His grandpa, Eddie Kahler's grandpa, was a boat Captain, and they were going into New Orleans and Papa and them was coming outta there and they passed one another. And papa hollered at them, they passed real close to one another. He hollered at them that they better come back, they weren't going to make it. They said, "Oh, yeah we'll make it." But they didn't, they made the first bridge, the Rigolets; the next bridge, see back then they didn't have no traffic bridges, or nothing you see. And the second one, they didn't make it. They hit the bridge and the boat went into pieces, and drowned everyone of them, the men. So anyway, that day that the storm hit I watched that water come over the beach road, and you see there's a marsh on the side of our house. A wide marsh. And on the other side of that marsh there was the Catholic church on the beach. Well that marsh; you know the marsh grass is that high, so I watched that water come over the road and into the marsh. And the marsh got pretty soon where you couldn't see that grass. It looked like a bayou in there instead of a marsh. See, and I kept saying, "Mama let's get out!". In the evening when the water started coming in that marsh, I said, "Mama let's get out!" She said,"We will later, we will." So it was getting dark, well it wasn't no sun, it rained all day like it did here. Like it was this morning, that's the way it rained all day, and I said, "Mama let's get out it's getting late!" I was nine years old, that day, 29 of September 1913, on my birthday. So I begged mama all day. I was scared really, and look when it got so nearly dusk, and our family cemetery was on my great grandpa's property, joining ours right there. We had a barb wire fence with these steps you go up over you know. And just then, she said, "Well go on over to Tante Ledi's and get Robert then." Edward Necaise and them's daddy. Uh, he must've been about twenty years old. She said, "Go get him to come help us with the other two kids." And let me tell you when I went down our back steps the water was up to my knees. Already! Boy, when I got to that cemetery;  and I was frightened, I was only nine years old and that wind was blowing me! Ohh, and I know mama must've been excited. I couldn't hardly stand up. It would take me. Just when I got to those steps, Here comes Robert Necaise, with some coats under his arms, to get us. Taunte Ledi said, "Go get mother at the house." y'see. And good thing! Boy, we got to Taunte La Di's and all them kin, Henrietta Dubuisson, her mama and them they all came, they lived right close, half a block, and all the kinfolks, came to Tante Ledi's. ( Robyn, was she higher up?) Oh, they were back from the beach about two blocks. So, uh, we went. And honey, it blew that night! Taunte La Di's house felt like it was about to come off the blocks a couple of times! Everybody was scared, you know, And so the next morning, it blew on out; the next morning bout toward daylight, like Camille did, it started calming down the next morning. The sun came out and it was just as smooth. So we went to see the damage. We went by the house first. My grandpa's house; boy, it was (laugh) one of them old time houses. Look you know it was old when it had one of those dirt chimneys on the outside. They had, the roof was big homemade shingles, cypress shingles. And uh, an old time house. The blocks were cypress blocks. The house stood about that high off the ground. It was off the foundation, but it didn't go to pieces. It was kinda like this (Robyn Laughs) And the flooring was this wide cypress boards about 15 to 18 inch boards. Plain straight boards, ya know. Well they was bowed up, clothes wrapped around like, picture that. Clothes and furniture under the house. Everything, the only thing we had left was the clothes on our backs. Let me tell you all this, those old time houses had high ceilings and you know it was about a foot from the ceiling, the water mark was around. We'd of drowned like rats in that house, everyone of us. We'd of drowned in there, y'see.
So my daddy and them were worried about us, my daddy said. Papa said, "Oh, I hope they got out of that house!" And we were worried about them. We didn't think we'd ever see 'em. But, I got a book on hurricanes, Kenneth gave it to me, from the 1700's. I've got a book on all of them. I read in it about Captain Kahler and them. So I was telling Mr. Guice about this way back, and he wanted me to come to his office. He wanted to get that on tape. I never did go tell him you see. So in this book Kenneth gave me it's got all this about Captain Kahler, and Mr. Guice and his wife when they were young. And I was telling him one day about it and I said, "Doggone, if I'd of come and gave you that my daddy would have been in a book." He said, "I would of gotten it in there." You see. They had about Captain Kahler and they all drowned and his son, Eddie Kahler's daddy, they went over there to Louisiana, and found his daddy where they buried him, and they brought the body back . Okay, so back to Papa now.
The next morning we're all out there after we left the house you see, it was destroyed. We went to the beach, y'see and we kept scanning the water. So after awhile I saw a speck and said, "Ohh, I believe that's them! Look at that boat, it's a skiff coming." And boy, when they got from here, I guess, about to the other end of the street down there. One of them stood up and was shaking his shirt or something in the air. I said "That's Them! That's Them!" and we all got excited. Y' see. Sure enough it was them. But the boat,,, let me tell you what happened. So, when they made it to the lighthouse they didn't get all the way up to it. The schooner sank, it was loaded, it sank. It's still there. And they swam. They had to swim, in all that rough, high waves, the people all could swim. They swam to that light house, see. Okay, that boat that sank in 1915, is on the Navigational Charts today. So I was telling Mr. Ford, F. Ford, the lawyer. I went.., he had a yacht, he had a nice one. He said, "Vic, if you get off a week." That's when I worked for Joe Whittman. He said, "We're going to the rodeo in Grand Isle." That was before we had them here. So I went to Joe and he said, "Sure man, don't miss that opportunity. Go." So I went five days with them on that yacht. I was telling them about Papa's schooner and he said, "We're going to pass right by it." He got his chart out and put it.., he had a big yacht, he put it on the table and I pointed it out. There it is right there. So when we got there he said, "Right here is where it's at."
 Taken from my website: A Lagniappe of Family Stories

Note: The Hurricane of September 29, 1915 was a category 4 Hurricane that hit Grand Isle, Louisiana. It devastated the Louisiana and the Mississippi Coast. Killing 275 people.

Happy 106th Birthday Poppy!