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Thursday, April 17, 2014

What I should have said

Posted by Dawn-Ann on May 16, 2010

Bonnie Janine Kirkpatrick
Born: September 23, 1964
Died: November 15, 2009

School photo, age uncertain

After three months of struggle, my beautiful sister Janine passed away late one dark November night. Her hospital room was packed with people who cherished her – her father, her sisters, her daughters – and as she took her last breaths different ones would bend over and kiss her forehead, murmering soft words of love to her.

Thinking of an amazing road trip we took with our kids once, along with years of birthday parties, BBQs and family gatherings, I quietly thanked her for sharing her life with me. “We sure did have us a time,” I whispered. I like to think she heard me.

The funeral was simple but moving. Janine was laid to rest with our grandparents, George and Inez Kirkpatrick, in the family plot. Different ones got up to speak and we all stopped to watch as a small flock of Canada geese flew low, directly overhead, honking a farewell. Family legend has it that an eagle always soars overhead when one of our own is buried, but Janine got a special salute, flying in formation, on that bitter, windy day.

As a young teen

I had fully intended to say a few words at the service. We had invited anyone who wished to say something to do so. Amanda had us all laughing and crying with her loving tribute to her mother. Karen, who is probably the most introverted of all of us, spoke bravely, voice trembling, about her love for her sister.

I meant to put some words together to share. I had the best of intentions and had started a few scraps of notes – things I remembered here and there. But it had been a very long three months and there was too much to do to prepare for the funeral. Excuses, I guess, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

So now, six months later, as spring flowers bloom in the sunshine and sweet breezes blow, here is what I should have said…

Lovely lady (at a sister's wedding)

Being six years older than Janine, I remember a wee girl with big brown eyes sucking her thumb, a chubby little foot crossed over her thigh, her blanket with the silky edge (her “soft”) held up against her cheek. I recall that she tried so hard to be involved with the big kids’ play but was often too young or too little for our games. She would cry bitter tears about that sometimes, but with four girls there was usually someone willing to play. She tried so hard to keep up…

Janine was such a sharp little girl! School was a breeze for her in her first years (she got bored in high school). She had a sunny personality and a cheerful laugh, which developed in adulthood into an irreverent, quirky, ribald sense of humor. There was always much hilarity when Janine was around. We rarely argued, the two of us, and we enjoyed hanging out together whenever we could.

If I had given my talk, I would have told everyone about Janine’s inventiveness and creativity. She often had to struggle to get by, so would come up with ingenious ways of making do. For years I’d tease her about her campfire coffee. She hated instant coffee, so when we were on our road trip she invented a way to make “real” coffee by wrapping the grounds up in a coffee filter, tying it up with thread, and dangling it into boiling water. It wasn’t half bad, truth be told, but I had to tease her anyway.

My 45th birthday

She’d often mock people irreverently as a passtime, but inside Janine was loyal and loving. She sometimes had difficulty expressing her love in so many words but I never doubted it. I was tickled and moved when she threw me a surprise birthday party on my 45th birthday. The cake said, “You old bat!!” in blazing red letters. Ironically, Janine was in ICU for her 45th birthday. I brought her a bright bouquet of balloons but it just wasn’t the same.

Janine was the one who went back and forth to Montana with me, time after time, working tirelessly and loyally by my side as we helped clean out years of clutter for mom. We worked like dogs but (and this should be no surprise) we laughed a lot and shared a lot of family history together, finding treasures amongst the junk. Finding treasure in each other’s company.

Janine's red curtains

For someone who was as photogenic as she was, Janine hated getting her picture taken. My shots of her are few and far between. She seemed to have a sixth sense about where camera lenses were pointing and made a point of looking the other way. My favorite is a grainy one of a young teen in a lacy dress, beautifully made up, smiling naturally into the camera.

We became very close over the last couple of years of working together. I had edited some video of us as wee children, growing up throughout the movie, and she so treasured that little production. She watched it again and again, taking still shots of several of the scenes and cleaning them up and printing them out. We talked a lot about how things were then and what she could see in those images. She’d say over and over that she was so happy to have been given that video; that now she understood a lot more of what things were like all those years ago. This gratified me to no end.

There’s a lot I should have said that day but better late than never. We sure did have us a time, didn’t we sis. I love you.

Take back the ‘Net, take back your privacy

Posted by Dawn-Ann on May 12, 2010

I’ll be leaving Facebook soon, so am looking around for fun alternatives. After all, I kinda like staying in touch with everyone. I’m playing around with Google’s Orkut, but not too many of my friends are there yet.

In my searching, I came across Diaspora. A group of four enterprising young men have come up with the brilliant idea of creating a collaboration of resources to host your data, so you can display what you want when you want.

The world must be ready for them. Their goal was to raise $10,000 and as of this writing they have already raised six times that. Go Diaspora guys!

Skull wearing glasses, Part II

Posted by Dawn-Ann on

If you’ve been reading my blog, you may recall an entry I wrote about a carving of a skull I found in a Kirkpatrick mausoleum. The skull appeared to be wearing glasses.

Is this a skull wearing glasses?

I searched and searched online and could find nothing about any other such carvings and thought it was probably just a one-off – a tribute to the great Kirkpatrick sense of humor.

However, some kind soul recently dug up a link for me in answer to a query I posted on Rootschat.com.

Here is a link to the page in question. If you scroll down to the Kirkliston Graveston bit, you can see another carving of a skull wearing glasses – also in Scotland!

Those wacky Scots. What were they trying to tell us? Perhaps the person the skull represented was educated? Perhaps they wore glasses when they were alive? The mystery is far from solved but I find it oddly comforting to think that the Kirkpatrick skull was not the only one thus decorated!

Kirkpatrick timeline

Posted by Dawn-Ann on May 10, 2010

This is kind of neat. I was searching for Kirkpatrick family information and Google produced a timeline for me. It uses several websites and documents as its source to produce an interesting view of Kirkpatrick history.

Here is a link to the timeline. Enjoy!

Click on the image to view a larger version.

The Trail of the Covered Wagon

Posted by Dawn-Ann on March 14, 2010

If these old wheels could talk...

I’m probably spending too much time on genealogy stuff and not enough time on other things I could be doing. It’s how I relax, though, and the “other stuff” will wait until tomorrow.

Stumbled upon this story at the JP Kirkpatrick site. It’s a recounting of how some folks set out west in wagon trains, heading for the gold rush in California. Some made it, some didn’t. This particular story involves my Third Great-Grandaunt, Susan Emily (Kirkpatrick) Stockton and her family.

I found the story to be very moving and my heart hurt for Susan as she left some of her most precious memories behind her. But the story is also full of interesting details about life in the wagon trains. Here is a little bit of it:

We crossed the Mississippi river at Warsaw, on the ferry, The Missouri, at St. Joe, the same way, tho’ we had a long wait for an opportunity to cross.  We had to take our turn, a few among thousands, all setting out on the same mission.  So great was the need that every conceivable kind of boat was pressed into the service.  So anxious was the multitude to get on their way, that they were willing to risk their lives, in an old leaky skiff or raft.  The river was high and muddy as usual, which added to the difficulties.  Sometimes horses and cattle would become frightened and jump over board, upsetting the boat.  I do not recall that anyone was drowned, while we were there, but few outfits got over with all their livestock.  It was nearly the end of May when the long wagon trains began moving out through western Nebraska, on the California Trail.  When we got across the river we thought our troubles were about over.  Really, they were just beginning.  The trail was nearly a quarter of a mile wide – that is, a row of wagons fifteen-hundred feet across, and extending in front and to the rear, as far as we could see – a vast sea of white flapping wagon covers, and a seething mass of plodding animals.

Read the rest of the story here.

More on the Watties Neach debate

Posted by Dawn-Ann on March 12, 2010

I’ve written before on what I have discovered about Watties Neach (there ain’t one). Now I have stumbled upon some fresh evidence that I am correct in my assumption!

In an old edition of the Kirkpatrick Newsletter, dated Jan-Feb-Mar 1990, I found this letter to the editor. It was written by a fellow named Charles Jacobs and reads, in part:

Most of the family information from Scotland states that Alexander and his brother Andrew were born at Watties Neach in Dumfrieshire. In talking with local historians in Dumfries, I was told that there is no such a community in the area and such a name would be meaningless. Before we arrived there, a genealogist ran an inquiry in the local paper about Watties Neach. Several replied that there was a Watties Neuk [Neuch] on property known as Denby Yett. The translation would be something like Walter’s Nook or corner. Watties Neuk is nothing more than a pile of stones in a pasture at this time.

So there you go. Where my previous post says it is Wallace’s Neuch, this one says Walter’s, but in all other details we are in agreement. And the search goes on!

The Kilpatrick connection to the Kirkpatricks

Posted by Dawn-Ann on March 11, 2010

I’ve know for some time that the Kilpatricks were kin, their name being a variation of Kirkpatrick. Tonight I stumbled upon an interesting explanation for the difference. The source is an old Kirkpatrick Newsletter dated Oct-Nov-Dec 1989. It was published by Nathan L. Barlow of Rison, Arizona, whom I have not been able to locate online. If anyone knows of him, please contact me!

Anyway, the article was written by George M. Kirkpatrick of North Syracuse, NY.

While there were many with the surname Kirkpatrick in America prior to 1800, it is difficult to find documentation to establish family lines. A further difficulty is found in the use of various surname spellings, particularly prior to 1800. Kirkpatrick and Kilpatrick are used almost interchangeably (and also Killpatrick). It seems likely that Kilpatrick is closer to the original surname spelling and that Kirkpatrick is the anglicized version… The Kilpatrick spelling is still found near Glasgow, Scotland as in the towns of ‘Old Kilpatrick’ and ‘New Kilpatrick’ while the Kirkpatrick spelling is common near the English border, e.g. near Closeburn and Dumfries. All three versions are still in use, however.

Twins of the father

Posted by Dawn-Ann on March 3, 2010

My baby girl (who is now in her 20s) is expecting twins in April. This tickles me to no end, as I had long despaired of ever becoming a grandmother. Robb, her partner, is a devoted dad-to-be and has started a delightful blog about what it’s like to be expecting twins – from his perspective. His observations are disarmingly sweet and refreshingly honest.

Worth a look! Twins of the father’s Blog.

Proving (or disproving) family legends

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 11, 2010

Ira Cram, family ancestor

I stumbled upon an excellent blog post about how to deal with those “family legends” – some of which are true, some not; some of which are good, some not-so-good. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of tact and diplomacy.

Katrina at Kick-Ass Genealogy says this:

When you interview your family, sooner or later you will encounter a pretty tall tale. The novice researcher gets excited at the possibility of belonging to an exotic ethnicity; the more jaded historian dismisses the stories of war-time heroics out of hand. Neither approach is particularly constructive. In this article, we’re going to walk through how to prove (or disprove) a family legend.

Read the rest of her excellent article here.

Kirkpatrick wisdom

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 7, 2010

The more research I do into the Kirkpatrick clan, the more I love and respect ‘em. No doubt there were exceptions, but for the most part I’m finding tales of love, strength, dignity and loyalty. Those who knew them seemed to be unwaveringly devoted to them. The Kirkpatricks as a whole lived life with a wicked sense of humour, strong family ties and a mighty work ethic.

My grand-uncle, Samuel D. Kirkpatrick’s “words for posterity” pretty much sum up the family code: “Live life with enthusiasm, with moderation, with service, and sympathy for less fortunate people in the world.”

More examples of the Kirkpatrick viewpoint:

Family legend tells that when many Native children in Canada were being put into residential schools the B.C. Kirkpatricks refused to break up their families in this way. They chose to remain strong family units, teaching their children how to play musical instruments and become industrious, contributing members of society. (Most of us Western Canadian Kirks have at least a smattering of Native blood.)

Another family legend tells of how some of the first American generations went south to Georgia, then came back north again because they were disgusted with the idea of slavery.

Going back even further to old Scotland, we see this about Sir James Kirkpatrick (d. 1804) in Records of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks by Major-General C. Kirkpatrick:

The Dumfries Weekly Journal of the 12th June 1804 described him as “the representative of an ancient and respectable family, which had inherited that estate in succession, for upwards of seven hundred years. Descended from this ancient race, he was inferior to none of his predecessors in that generous spirit and fortitude by which they were distinguished. Mild, gentle and courteous in his manners, he possessed at the same time that firmness and stability of mind which made him tenacious of his purposes, constant in his friendships, and steady in his principles. His principles were no other than the two great sources of human excellence – piety to God, and benevolence to men”. etc.

In another obituary reference to him it was said:- “His publick character was strongly marked by disinterestedness [free from bias or partiality] by generosity and by a firm determined spirit. Possessing in a high degree all the publick and social affections, he was always amongst the first to promote any measure which he considered as of general utility and never suffered his own private interest to stand in the way of what appeared to him to be a publick good. Warm and stead in his friendships, he never deserted those to whom he once attached himself, nor declined any exertions, however inconvenient for himself, that could [be] beneficial to them.

When I was tramping through graveyards in Scotland, over and over again I saw words like “deeply loved” and “we miss thee, dear” on Kirkpatrick gravestones.

But the story that has moved me the most in my genealogical studies so far is the tale of Alexander Richard Kirkpatrick of Dublin, Ireland (1813 – 1891). He was a scholar at Cambridge and was called to the Bar in 1840, according to Chronicles of the Kirkpatrick Family written by Alexander de Lapere Kirkpatrick.

From the book:

Mr. Kirkpatrick was beloved by all who knew him, rich and poor; the grief evinced by the latter at his funeral was very striking, and many and most touching were the tokens received by his family of their affection for him. Whilst on his other properties it was said by both Priests and others that they had never seen such deep and widespread grief, extending even to the children. He was carried to his grave by his own tenants, several of them quite poor, who had come a long distance, and at no small cost, but they looked on him as a Father and a Friend.

Wow. Would that we all could be remembered this way upon our passing.