29 March 2012

Memories of My Dear Cousin Babe

Ora Viola Benson--My Cousin Babe
Every so often I meet someone with whom I immediately bond, heart to heart. One such person in my life is my cousin, Babe (Ora Viola Nay Benson). She’s not a close cousin. In fact I didn’t even know of her existence until she was 84 years old, living in a nursing home and unable to speak because of cancer surgery on her throat. I was only able to visit her one time, since she lived over 850 miles away from my home, but she was definitely my family. We are both Nays, and the Nays love family.

The way we met is a story. This month marks the 3rd year anniversary of her death and I’ve been thinking about her. My sister, my cousin Joan, and I had just finished a book about the Nay family. It was a herculean task, but we had help from our other cousins on the “book committee” and from God. Now our names were “out there.” The internet wasn’t nearly as big back then, Google+ wasn’t yet thought of, nor was FaceBook. But back in those days we did have ebay. As I mentioned, Babe was in a nursing home and her only son, Larry Lee, was not well. He was increasingly worried about paying for Babe’s care, especially should something happen to him. Larry was a veteran and he had a computer. He knew a little bit about ebay and reluctantly, he decided to put the family’s Bible up for sale there.
Family Bible given to Ormus B Nay by his mother Thirza

This Bible was not the kind of Bible with scores of names, dates and places in it. It wasn’t even very valuable. But Larry hoped to make a little extra money for Babe. Another Nay cousin, Allen Nay,  busy writing a book from his vantage point as a motorcycle preacher, saw the ebay listing. He contacted my sister and the rest is history. Family history.

You see the only names in the Bible are the names of Thirza Angelina Marly and her son, Ormus B. Nay. Ormus B is Babe’s grandpa and my great-great grandpa. What a treasure! On so many levels. The date revealed even more—March 26, 1887. Ormus B was serving time in the Nevada State Penitentiary at that time. And Thirza was reportedly dead! Now we knew that, just as we thought, she was not dead in 1887, and the Bible proved it.

Ora Viola Nay Benson was a writer, an observer of people and a person who loved people. Our visit with her is one of my most memorable experiences and I treasure the letters she wrote to me before and after our visit. I’m re-reading those letters this month and I’m missing Babe. RIP dear cousin or as she and Larry would say, Mizpah.

06 March 2012

Interesting Links

Taking a leaf from the weekly Dan Curtis round-up of links, I thought I would pass along a few this week that I've found interesting and helpful. Feel free to add to the list.

1              Preserving Love Stories
A little late for Valentine's Day, but always appropriate, here are some prompts for extracting stories from your lovd ones. http://www.genetree.com/newsletters/13

2              Before the Archive: Trash or Treasure
I so relate to Suzanne's dilemma--how to sort the inherited archive we receive. We can't say no, but can we afford to say yes? One hint I hang onto is to keep a particular archive together and rough sort first. Later you may fine tune, but get the general sorting all done before tackling the specific files.

3              Save Every Step
"SaveEveryStep is about the passion for family nostalgia. We are relentless in our mission to encourage the world to preserve their personal memories for future generations." Save every step is an ongoing story site. See what Helen Spencer says about her own memoirs and then you may accept her invitation to write your own.

4              Get Your Book Written in Little Chunks
Another invitation this time from a powerful mentor, Nina Amir, to use the "power of the little bit" to complete a memoir or a history in small pieces. Divide and conquer!

5              Barry's Forgotten Recipes
Free collection of recipes to spice up your family history writing. Barry Ewell has many resources available on his blog. "Barry’s Forgotten Recipes is about sharing cookbooks and recipes of our ancestors. From generation to generation, family and friends came together for the main meal of the day and for conversation. Renew the powerful memories of smell, taste, and sharing food. Remember the traditions that linked generations."

03 March 2012


Ah, an easier way to “scrapbook.” I love and admire the scrapbooks my nieces and others are putting together, both digital and in paper form. However, I have 9 children and 25 grandchildren and I’m just not motivated enough to create family history in this way. I’ve started plenty of projects, but as I tell my daughters, tongue-in-cheek, “I’m nothing if not inconsistent.”

Thus, when I recently attended a class entitled “Smashbooking,” I was intrigued. The instructor was apologetic over how easy her method was. “I just carry stapler, some glue and a pair of scissors with me and stick stuff in this cheap notebook I bought at the first of the school year sale,” she said. “I like to doodle, so I put little drawings in here too. That’s it.”

An example that I did on our trip.
That’s it? This technique reminds me of my daughter’s version of journaling. She is an artist, so she occasionally puts gum wrappers and other found objects in her sketch book and draws little cartoon type people around them. My daughter is a smashbooker. And I saw the possibility of me being one too. I had long kept ticket stubs and programs along with various other miscellanea in my journal file. I have boxes of what I call keepsake items. Not valuable, but things that bring back memories. After you get to be my age, though, those boxes and files multiply and never organize themselves. They haven’t yet turned into the nice orderly row of journals on my shelf. Instead I have rows of miscellaneous notebooks and journals, most of them not quite filled. (See disclaimer above regarding inconsistency.)

So I started a smashbook. My husband and I took a trip to Texas. I kept the smashbook for several days. Then I reverted to my old methods of sticking stuff between the pages of the notebook and waiting for another day to glue, staple and label. I’m waiting for me to print out some photos, I tell myself. Well, I’m still not consistent, but my plan is improving!