Back in the Saddle

1313906_76897595After an incredibly long hiatus, I am feeling the pull of my ancestors again.

It’s been three years since I’ve last posted anything genealogy related, but now that my two year old is a little more independent, I find myself itching to do some more digging around my roots.

For my birthday in February, my husband got me a new ancestry subscription AND a DNA kit! I’m hoping to get those results in a couple of weeks, and am so  excited to see what gems that information holds.

In the mean time, I have transferred my old blog from blogger over here to wordpress, and will be doing a lot of tweaking. I’m noticing several missing pictures and broken links. So bear with me, as I shake off the cobwebs and get this blog up and rolling again. I hope to reconnect with some distant cousins I had met on this journey, and possibly meet some new ones.

More Weekend Photo Restoration

Tackled a bit more of a challenge this afternoon, while watching NFL. This picture did not have names on it, but I am pretty sure it’s my grandma, Nellie, and her sister, Darlene. I chose it because of the tears and mold stains. It was a small picture, just a little over 1in, but I scanned it in at 300dpi, and then resized it to a 4.5x6in picture (I was afraid to go larger, as this picture was already pretty grainy.) Fortunately, the photo had a plain background, so to save time, I cropped it out entirely, and replaced it with a canvas photoshop background. There are few details I am not totally happy with, but this was a two hour project… with a little more time, I think I could be really happy with the results. But alas, it’s bedtime, and I want to post it! So here it is:


Photo Retouching and Colorization

As I said in my last post, I’ve been getting re-interested in restoring some old family photos. I’ve started pretty simple, and am working my way up to a very badly damaged photo of who I believe is my grandmother’s cousin. Today, I played around with a lovely photo of my grandmother, Nellie Joyce Tomblin Cummons. I will show you three versions of the picture, 1) my original scan, 2)cropped to 8×10 with black and white levels adjustment and blemishes removed, and 3) a colorized version of the photo.

(resized, b&w adjustment, blemish removal)
I’m always torn between color and black and white photos. I love black and white, it softens features and gives everything a romantic feel. Sometimes, however, I forget that although pictures were black and white, life very much happened in color! When I started working on this picture, I only noticed Gran’s lovely white dress and strappy shoes. It was only when I started to colorize the photo that I realized her dress was not indicitive of the time of year the background suggests. I noticed the bare trees, the empty fields, and the leaves around her feet. So, I created a color pallete of fall colors from this picture on flickr to try and recreate an accurate background. What do you think?

Reach For The Stars!!

I’ve been recovering from some health issues the past week, and spent lots of time looking through old pictures and such. I found this one of my dad (the one with the hair dryer – thingy on) and my uncle, Steve (the one holding my dad at gunpoint), and it just makes me giggle everytime I see it. It reminds me of something off A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!!”)
 Anyway, I played around with some simple color adjustments in photoshop. A while back I had gotten pretty good at photo restoration, but like so many other things, I get sidetracked and things get put on the back burner. I hope to work my way back into some tougher projects… I have several photos that need serious work, and maybe someday I’ll be able to offer my services to other genealogists.

Grandma’s Treasures

My last blog post was on April 9th. In it, I stated that grandma was doing very well, and we all hoped she’d be home from the nursing home soon. As it turned out, the only time she left the nursing home was to go to the hospital, and there she passed away on April 18th. She had suffered for the past two years, and we were glad for her sake, that when the end came, it came quickly. We held a beautiful memorial service for her, a celebration of life, with many of her children and grandchildren singing her favorite songs. Then we drove 4 1/2 hours to “take her home” to her the place she was born and raised; the place she wanted to be laid to rest.

As weeks passed, my mom and I began going through grandma’s things, (she had lived with my mom and stepfather for the past year, when she wasn’t in the nursing home) and oh, the treasures we found! While putting away her “underthings’ we ran across her marriage certificate from 1947, that she swore she had lost! We discovered pictures in recipe boxes, newsclippings stuffed into nooks and crannys. Each of these items was like a little kiss from grandma, and slowly helped to heal the sadness of our loss. I miss you grandma, but am so glad your suffering has ended!

(This picture was among our finds… the first picture I’ve ever seen of grandma’s mother-in-law, my great grandmother, Vernon McFann Malone.)

A Little Help from "Big Nuts" (Evans of Jackson County, Ohio)

Friday evening, I spent a couple of hours with my maternal grandmother at the nursing home she has been in the past two weeks (we are all hoping that she will be able to return home soon.) We’ve chatted in the past about her family, but grandma really doesn’t have a lot of memories outside of her immediate family. We have especially been lacking when it comes to her father, Harvey Evans, and his family. Harvey died when grandma was a teenager, and she did not know who his parents were. I’ve tried looking up his name, and what few details I had, but the Evans name is big in southern Ohio, and I was always reluctant to say for sure that the Harveys I turned up were indeed her father’s family.
On Friday, I asked her again if she happened to remember any of her dad’s siblings, or perhaps any cousins that she had, and we managed to get a little gem! She told me about her dad’s brother Elmer (Big Elmer) and his son (Little Elmer). Grandma used to run Malone’s Bar in Oak Hill, Ohio and she told about the time when Little Elmer came into the bar and said, “I don’t know if you know this or not… but we’re cousins!” She also recalled another time when Little Elmer was entering the bar at the same time she was throwing out dirty cleaning water, and she dumped it on him.
Then, with a twinkle in her eye, my 80 year old grandmother told me one other little tidbit about her cousin, “He had a nickname, you know… they called him Big Nuts.”
Armed with that little bit of information about Little “Big Nuts” Elmer, and more importantly, Big Elmer, I got online and added a sibling to my Harvey Evans search parameters. And whaddya know… I think I found him!

According to this 1900 census:
Name                   Relation     Birthdate         Age    
Evans, George      head          May 1840       60
     Mary A           wife           Apr 1848        52
     Elmer             son            Feb 1887       13
     Pearl               son            Feb 1887        13
     Harvey          son            Jul 1890           9
    Warren            son            Feb 1895         5

I think I’ve found my great grandfather, and his parents as well! My next little discovery will confirm my suspicions… Harvey’s death certificate.

I don’t know how I’ve missed this document in previous searches, but sometimes there’s no explaining how things come together like they do. However, it confirms that George and Mary Ann were indeed Harvey’s parents, so at last I have a line to follow… and it’s all thanks to “Big Nuts”.

I’m a Winner!

I’ll share more information as I am able, but I just had to share the news that I just won a one year pro account at!! I have entered so many contests, and never have I won a single thing, so I am absolutely ecstatic right now!

In other news, I haven’t blogged properly in a while, but it’s that I haven’t been busy! I am currently compiling all the information I have gathered on the ancestor of my obsession, James Hamilton Cummons. I am organizing, confirming sources, and building a timeline. My hope is to get a clear picture of the gaps I have in his story, and hopefully get some direction on filling in those gaps.

I am super excited right now, because next week, I am going to visit my Papaw for his 77th birthday, and I am taking an extra day off work to go digging around Cabell County, West Virginia, the place where James settled and raised his family. I have never been to a courthouse or genealogical society to do hands on research before, and that was one of my genea-goals for 2011. If anyone has an advice, direction, or encouragement… I would love to hear from you!

Sitting in a Snowstorm, Thinking of Summer

It’s been a beautiful day today, watching the snow fall from the window of my office, and now, cozied up at home in my pjs… but I can’t help but think ahead to the warm days of summer. One of my genealogy goals for 2011 is to go “on location” somewhere. The closest option was Cabell County, West Virginia… about a 6 hour drive (but only an hour or so from my grandfather’s house in southern Ohio.) I’ve also considered North Carolina, in hopes of uncovering the parents of James Hamilton Cummons. However, over the past few days, a little idea has been forming, and it seems that my husband is in favor of it (after all… I can’t haul him off to Timbuktoo, then leave him stranded while I do research the whole time, can I? Hmmm… can I? heehee).

I’m thinking of Maryland. In particular, Point Lookout, Maryland… site of the confederate prison camp where the before-mentioned James Hamilton Cummons was held POW before pledging his allegience to the Union army. You can read about Point Lookout at

What gave me the idea was a web page I ran across this weekend for the Descendants of Point Lookout POW Organization. In May, they are hosting a “pilgrimage” to the site, which could be interesting, or admitedly cheesy… so I’m not 100% sold on going THAT weekend. I think I need more information. However, the location is gorgeous, and from the sounds of it, there is plenty of interesting things to see and experience there.

Of course, on the way to Point Lookout, we would pass through the nation’s capitol, which I’ve only been privileged to see once before (and that, for only a short afternoon during my college years, with friends who were more concerned with finding the Hard Rock Cafe, than taking in American history. Thankfully, the Hard Rock was just down the street from Ford Theater, so at least I got something out of the experience.)

But for now, it’s all just a snowy evening dream. By the time warm weather comes, and it’s actually time to plan a vacation, I may have uncovered a new piece of family history, and decided on a new place to haul my dear husband!

Genea-Goals for 2011

It’s time I get some direction with this blog, and decide where I want to go, and what I want to accomplish this year!

1. I would like to organize my blog by family names, if possible. I tend to jump around with my research, and I think it gets confusing when going back and reading through my blog. I see that you can add stand alone pages, but I’m not sure if that’s what I need or not. Does anyone have any suggestions?

2. I need to branch out. I rely so heavily on that when, like now, I have an expired subscription, I flounder, and my research comes to a stand still. I’ve been to other sites, had some good finds with a free trial on, but I keep coming back to ancestry.

3. I want to blog at least once a week about my ancestry. Even if I haven’t uncovered any new information, there are stories to be told, people who need to be remembered. They deserve my attention.

4. I want to research “on location” for my Cummons ancestors, firstly in Huntington, WVA, and then on to Guilford County, North Carolina. I’ve never done any hands on research before, and won’t even know where to begin searching court house records and such like, but I can’t help but wonder what treasures are out there that haven’t made it to the internet yet!

5. Hopefully, if I can achieve goals 1-4, it will lead me to goal number 5… find concrete information on the parents of James Hamilton Cummons, and with any luck, be able to pinpoint where in Ireland my Cummons ancestors came from, and when they made it to the states!

Well, that’s a lot to accomplish, but seeing it all spelled out gives me hope that I’m moving in the right direction! It’s time to get my genealogy boots back on!

My Gran

This holiday season, my thoughts keep turning to my grandmother, my dad’s mom, Nellie Joyce Tomblin Cummons. Physically, she’s 5 hours away from me, but with alzheimers quickly eating away at her mind, she’s really much further away. On December 26th, she and my grandfather will have been married, I believe 57 years. Papaw has not always been the gentlest of men, not always the husband that women dream of marrying, but now, as the sun sets on their life together, I see him struggle to care for her and recognize the love that he’s kept tucked away for so long. Any day now, it’s going to get to the point where he can’t take it anymore, and Gran will have to be placed in a nursing home, and without the familiar things that surround her everyday, I’m sure that she will not last long. I wish that I were closer, so that I could soak in those last fleeting moments of clarity that she seems to have in the middle of the day.

I would tell her about what a thrill it was as a young girl to go with her to the laundromat, and watch all the close spin around. I’d tell her that it was all I could do, not to beg her to let me take a spin in one of the giant dryers… it looked so fun! Instead, I would settle for climbing into one of the carts you put your laundry in, and propel myself back and forth, pretending I was in a boat, with a shirt hanging from the tall metal hook for a sail.

I would tell her about how “cool” it was to have a Gran who worked for Geno’s and would bring home huge bags of imperfect pizza rolls that my cousins and I knew were in the freezer any time we got the munchies.

I would tell her thank you for allowing my cousin, Kelly, and I to pilfer through her makeup and jewelry, so that we could get dressed up and perform concerts on the back deck of her tiny trailer.

I would tell her that of all her possessions (which really weren’t many, Gran was never blessed with fine things), the things that I remember most, and would love to have someday, was her collection of Avon perfumes… the ones that come in bottles made to look like beautiful women in long, bustled dresses, and elaborate hair-dos. I would stare at those for what seemed like hours at night, dreaming up stories about the women.

I would tell her that one of the best memories of my childhood was of her, packing up Kelly and I (I was probably 14 or 15, Kelly was around 10), and taking us to Myrtle Beach for a week! I remember the thrill of driving through the tunnels that ran through the Appalachian mountains, stopping at HoJos for biscuits and gravy, and the little green, beachfront motel we stayed in. Everyday, Gran would bake in the sun, (and sleep!) while Kelly and I ran up and down the beach, knowing that we had the best grandmother in the world!

There are so many other things I would tell her, but more than anything else, I just pray that I have one more opportunity to tell her how much I love her. Merry Christmas, Gran!