What a great summer! No, I didn’t travel back in time to Myrtle Beach and get locked in jail. Nor was I eating country style steak for $0.35 in 1946 or have boys fawning over me on the beach! I was collecting all these new photos to share, thanks to my mom’s cousin who shared quite a treasure with the family this summer. That’s my Gran, Wilma Mae Watkins, in the pictures, with her sister Lois and a friend, Joyce, the summer of 1946.
As you may have noticed I took an unplanned hiatus from the blog this summer. There were a few reasons for this. First, the last blog I wrote on my third great-grandfather took a lot of research and was labor-of-love intensive. I had not spent a lot of time researching anyone else and wasn’t prepared to continue posting on the blog. In many ways I use this blog as an organizational tool for my genealogy research. It helps me go back one generation at a time through each family and research each family member as indepth as I can. I try to share the highlights of their lives here. The next ancestor’s story was stumping me a little so I held off for a while and went in different directions. I took more time to research this summer than write.
In addition, my husband, the kids, and I have been making memories of our own, taking trips to the local amusement park among other things. Best of all my parents, myself, and the kids took a trip “back home” to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for the Watkins family reunion and a bit of a Sebastian one too. The very best thing about researching family history and writing this blog has been distant and not so distant cousins contacting me when they find it and sharing stories and pictures and sometimes even getting to meet them.
I believe the first family contact I received through the blog was from the son of my great-grandmother, Eva Taylor Watkins,’ first cousin. We have swapped stories and pictures and I can’t wait to share his grandfather’s (Eva’s brother’s) story someday. I have also heard from several Bailes cousins and a Comer cousin who tipped me off to a family reunion I knew nothing about. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it down there this year but I’m making plans for next and this cousin shared more great pictures and stories I knew nothing about. I have also been in contact with a few distant cousins on the Bemis side which is wonderful as I have shared we were so removed from this family due to my great-gradmother’s adoption and untimely death. And, last but not least, I was contacted by the grandson of my Poppy’s first cousin, still living in North Carolina. We went for a visit before our Watkins reunion and she shared stories, identified pictures, and took us to my great-grandparents’ grave and former church. It was a wonderful experience, both to hear these stories, as Poppy didn’t talk about his young life much, and to meet the southern Sebastians as I had not gotten that opportunity before other than once as a young girl which I cannot remember. We are now in the process of trying to plan a small get together for next summer. One of the best parts of doing genealogy is gaining family.
If these experiences were not enough, we arrived at the Watkins reunion to find treasures galore! My great-aunt had brought a photo album filled with wonderful pictures of days gone by and a cousin of mom’s had brought a treasure of a scrapbook made by my Great-Aunt Lois. We sat in the lobby of the hotel, eating peaches from the farmers market and homemade chocolate chip cookies, gently turning the pages of this beautiful book that gave us a glimpse into the lives of the 7 Watkins children, their parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. A great-uncle was on hand to share some stories about some of the photos. Some told stories on their own. Others had stories dying to be known. Everyone looked so glamorous. We decided it was because everyone wore a dress and tie then. Laughter was heard all night as we reminisced about the fun they must have had and the stories they had shared.
When I arrived at the reunion dinner, one last treasure awaited me. The beautiful 99-year-old Bible of my great-grandmother, Eva Taylor Watkins, saved by a cousin of my mother’s and given to me. Inside: pressed corsages, her oldest daughter’s marriage certificate, a letter from a friend, a court document naming Eva Executrix of my great-grandfather’s estate, and my great-grandparents’ marriage certificate. Words truly cannot express the depth of what such a gift means to me. I will treasure it always a make sure the person who receives it in the next generation understands the treasure it is as well.
After I got home and looked through the pictures I had scanned at the Watkins reunion, I realized these pictures taken at Myrtle Beach the summer of ’46 might have been like a great last “hurrah” for my Gran and her sister Lois. My Gran moved to Cleveland and married my Poppy in January 1947. I know these sisters treasured all their childhood memories as they often spoke of good times growing up with smiles and laughter, yet they kept this little secret to themselves. I never heard about their trip to Myrtle Beach. Even when Gran and Aunt Lois took my sister and I to Myrtle Beach many years later, they never mentioned the fun they had their years before. Maybe it was a special memory just between sisters.
How about you? What have you been up to this summer while I’ve been away? Any great family reunions, family vacations, or family research finds? Let’s catch up in the comments.