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Showing posts with label Mayflower. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mayflower. Show all posts

Monday, August 8, 2011

Glimmers from the Past

I was recently asked what country or regions my birth family came from.  I have some answers and alot of blanks!

I only wish had early known the questions I now have and asked them while those who might have answered were still alive! There are, however, glimmers from the past, and some apparently accurate passing down of ancestral origin. I was born to Opal Terrell Teal and Howard Teal in Tyler, Texas in 1940. My father's mother, Ida Mayfield Teal,  took care of her parents until their death, and only then married, "late in life" was the phrase I always heard. My father, the oldest of 4 children was born when she was 41. I know very little about her background save that she drilled a hole in a memorial coin (given to her father William Mayfield in the Spanish-American war) put the coin on a string for her babies to teeth on! Her husband, my paternal grandfather was a stout man, deaf as a post, red faced and according to family story, Irish, and Protestant.

The information about my maternal grandparents is definitely more detailed and full of stories. I have an ancestral chart which shows my maternal grandfather's maternal line back to the Mayflower and beyond to England and Scotland. I have heard many stories about my Methodist Great Grandfather, John Wesley Terrell. He was an East Texas farmer with a large family, but he was known for generosity.

My maternal grandmother was born to Ernestine Matilde Augier Curley, who was born in Marseilles, France, and  immigrated from southern France with her parents, Bienvenue Pascal Augier and wife Clara Orthinet to a southern Parish in Louisiana when she was a child. Their Catholic past is evident from a small holy water font that was passed down and currently rests in my china cabinet. Just yesterday I was sorting through the stacks of family papers and memorabilia. I can only do this in intervals, a little at a time. Partly because I feel a deep connection to all these letters and kept things and feel a heaviness of decision making as I sift through. I think "if my grandmother and my great grandmother kept these things, who am I to decide they are or are not worth keeping?" I am approaching my 71st birthday and have been avoiding all these boxes and stacks for one reason or another for far too long. I need to organize, pass on what is meaningful, and store in the most efficient way what needs to be kept for the time being. But lest I sound resentful, let me say there is great honor in being the designated keeper of these things, and there is story in nearly everything I touch. Yesterday I unfolded a long piece of delicate handmade lace from the box I marked "Great Grandmother Curley's Things" many years ago. It was probably used as a covering for a library table or dresser. I haven't yet made myself put it away. Touching it evokes a world of question. Did she make this lace, or did her own mother, who would have been my French great great grandmother? As I think these thoughts, I know I will wait until my granddaughters are here so that I can show it to them. Think about it....holding something that your great great great grandmother loved and used.

When they are ready, I will tell how this grandmother lived through a traumatic period in her adopted country's history: the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Spanish-American War, World War 1, and Hitler's invasion of Europe. How during this time, she birthed 10 children by 2 husbands, neither of whom lived to see all their children born. A story is told that her second husband, James Curley, (my great grandfather) was later found to be a fugitive from justice, but no word of what he had done to claim that status. They were married only 5 years, but 3 babies were born during that time, including twins one of whom was still born. My grandmother, Mary Clyde Curley Terrell, was born shortly after his death. When Grandma Curley could no longer live alone, she lived with my grandmother and her family, but she was present at the birth of every grandchild.  With 10 children, that is alot of grandchildren!

"Grandma, I look at your picture. You look so stern and strong. I know that you loved to crochet and do fine needlework because I have boxes of intricately patterned crochet and lace pieces that you used for "go-bys". Even though you died when I was 3 months old, I was told that you rocked me and held me and loved me.  I see in my own granddaughters some of your independence and ability to endure. You modeled faith and faithfulness. They have a deeply rich legacy."

I am indebted to my cousin, Jane Hill Pirtle, for much of the information here. She included this in a story about her own grandmothers published in Filtered Images, women Remembering Their Grandmothers.