Tag Archives: Genealogy

Cover Reveal of Kin Types

 

Finishing Line Press has revealed the new cover of my chapbook Kin Types. They put it on their website with my headshot, taken by my friend Renee Rivers.

PRE-ORDER HERE

Release date: June 23

A little background on the cover image: this is a tintype from my family collection. It was handpainted, and the jewelry was painted in gold leaf. We don’t know exactly who the photograph is of, but believe it is of the Remine (Remijinse) branch of the family. My great-great-great-grandmother was Johanna Remijinse De Korne, born in Kapelle, Netherlands. I love how the Dutch spelling conjures up the word “reminisce.”

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Get It Now! (Pretty Please with Sugar On Top)

It’s time!!!

It’s time to preorder Kin Types from Finishing Line Press.

Press here to order my book of poetry and flash nonfiction. Why Kin Types?

  • Wide variety of creative poetic styles
  • Insight into the lives of the women who have come before us
  • Flash nonfiction–what is life like for these men after their wives have died?
  • Quick but indepth glimpses from the history of women: infant mortality, vanity and housewife skills, divorce in the 19th century, secret abortion, artist versus mother, mysterious death, wife beating, and my favorite: a brave hero(ine) saving a family’s home
  • Much more, but you get the idea

Why preorder?

  • You won’t miss out when you’re busy
  • You want the book to go to press
  • Only way to ensure getting a copy!
  • You are supporting the arts
  • The press run of Kin Types is completely dependent on the preorders
  • You don’t want to hear me whining every week
  • I will love you forever ❤️

 

ORDER HERE

Unidentified ancestor from Cadzand, Netherlands

WHAT IS SHE REALLY THINKING?

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Coming Soon from Finishing Line Press

Maybe you thought I am only interested in cats and books and writing and wine food, but my love of local history was fueled by the vintage photographs (that are now antiques) and glass negatives my grandfather gave me. Many of them are interesting shots of locations and people in actions, but more of them are portraits and Grandpa assigned names for every person he knew. Another thing that reinforced my history interest was that my father was a “collector” of old buildings, especially downtown. He would buy old unloved commercial properties and rent them out, usually to young people who wanted a start in business. Since my mother’s great-grandfather had built some of the old buildings in our city, I came to believe that I was meant to coordinate the family photos and documents and to see where the family fit into our hometown.  I’ve documented some of the information I’ve uncovered on my other blog.

But you know I’m also a poet and writer of the more lyrical sort. So it wasn’t enough for me to write blog posts about people long dead. Where the more typical family history research left off, I wanted to add the power of imaginative research. That’s when I started writing my Kin Types poems. These poems are meant to uncover and reveal the lives of women in my family who are long gone. But they could be women in anybody’s family. That’s what family history really should be: the history of the world as seen through the lives of “regular” individuals. The women in these poems endure difficulties and tragedies: the death of an infant, waiting to hear about the fate of a soldier brother, a clandestine abortion, emotional illness, inability to pursue art, a mysterious death, a horrific fire, and more.

My chapbook also contains two prose pieces–flash nonfiction–and, strangely since all the poems are about women, the viewpoint of both these stories is from two men in my family. They are men who, in some ways, lived the male American immigrant story of the late 19th century. But they also had their own troubles and tragedies, and they too cried out (in my head, at least) to have their stories told.

So it’s super exciting to announce that Finishing Line Press is publishing my book, and the stories of the people who have come before us will be available in poems and lyrical prose. Kin Types will be available for pre-order soon, so stay tuned!

My great-grandmother with Grandpa

circa 1910

(yes, she’s in the book)

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Nonfiction Published in In Parentheses

A lovely magazine called In Parentheses published my piece “The Weight of Smoke” in their Summer 2016 issue. This piece falls somewhere between prose and poetry as it alternates between direct quotes from a 1902 article from the Kalamazoo Gazette and my creative interpretation after researching the story.

In “The Weight of Smoke,” my great-great-grandmother Alice Paak’s only brother’s house is on fire. His wife had passed away two years before. He and his children each have their own reactions to the loss of their home (which is not insured).

You can purchase a print copy of the magazine at the following link for $9.80. You get a free digital issue with that. Or you can purchase a digital issue for $2.00.

Volume 4 In Parentheses

Photo from thefamilykalamazoo.com

George Paake

“The Weight of Smoke”: The story of George and his children and the house fire of 1902

I’ve been gone for quite awhile and am now back. Woohoo! So glad to be home. I’ll tell you more about my travels later, but I can tell you that the five kitties are thrilled we are home. Kana was kept in her own room so she wouldn’t bother Tiger, and this morning she and Pear kissed. That was so nice to see because Pear used to be a little hissy to her. But not any more :)!

Can’t wait to get back to blog reading once I plow through a couple (10, 20) piles of paper that were deposited in my mailbox in my absence. UGH.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Literary Journals, Nonfiction, Poetry, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk

Our Cemeteries

In the past, when we’ve visited Michigan, hubby and I visited his parents’ graves. This time, we went with my mother to the veteran’s cemetery where my father is buried. When we got to Toronto, we also visited hubby’s grandparents’ graves.  Sherri Matthews gave me the idea to write about our cemeteries.

In Michigan, it was “pouring rain,” (is that a Michigan expression where pouring is used as an adjective meaning the rain is coming down in a downpour?) and we had left the umbrella back home.  There is a government building on the very large property, and I stopped by to see if they had an umbrella to borrow. A nice young man ran about looking for one, even running out to his own car, but alas no umbrella.

The cemetery feels very spacious because there are a lot of grounds with a curving road that cuts through. All the newer sections use flat markers, rather than gravestones, so the illusion is as if one is in a park. It looks clean and contemporary.

When we got to my father’s section, the rain stopped.

Graves are dug in the order of date of death, and many have come after my father. There is an institutional feel. Everything is large and impersonal. Big equipment just beyond my father’s grave is carving out room for more of our dead veterans, and in some cases, their spouses.

I’m grateful for the sacrifices of our veterans, and I am glad that this national cemetery is well cared for and in a beautiful setting. But it’s not where I would have liked my father to be buried. Originally, my parents had plots in a family section of a local cemetery. He would have had a regular headstone, where we would not have been limited by government rules. I also don’t like this idea for my mother because eventually (she’s in very good health and a very young 80, to be clear) she would have to go in the same grave with him, I believe. But near the end my father became more and more focused on his military service in the Korean War, and he changed his funeral and burial plans.

In Toronto, we found old traditional cemeteries. We were told the name of the Jewish cemetery where we would find hubby’s grandparents, so we followed my iPhone directions to get there. We were told it was on the north side of the road, and when we got there we discovered two cemeteries–both Jewish–one on each side of the road. We went to the appropriate side, but we couldn’t find any of the relatives, although we searched the names on every stone. I kept thinking we were in the wrong place because in general the dates appeared too old to me. Although there were a few where the deaths were past 2000, for the most part I thought these plots had been bought 100 years ago.

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I felt bad about this cemetery because although someone was taking care of the grass, many stones were falling over. I didn’t know how much vandalism had to do with this and couldn’t help but wonder why nobody had fixed them!

Jewish cemeteries are sometimes subjected to vandalism. Quite recently in France hundreds were vandalized. But these are old stones and maybe they have fallen over on their own?

Eventually I wandered across the street to the very neat and orderly, but crowded, cemetery.

I searched for some time, as the sun was moving down in the sky, creating shadows. Finally, hubby reached a cousin on the phone. He drove over and showed us that there was yet a third cemetery just up the street! That’s where we found hubby’s grandparents.

Although this cemetery had the right feel and was quite beautiful and old, I won’t show you my photos of hubby’s grandparents’ gorgeous stones because his relatives are what hubby and I think of as superstitious, and I don’t want to annoy anyone.

These Toronto cemeteries all had the look of big city cemeteries where the rows of gravestones are quite close together because land is precious.

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Filed under #AmWriting, History, Memoir, Photographs, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing

New Poems and Old Ancestors

Although I haven’t been writing this spring–on purpose, I might add–when I started my new poetry project last fall I focused on creating poems out of the genealogical research that I do for my family history blog The Family Kalamazoo. It makes sense to narrow in this way, as I am always spreading out in too many directions. However, it’s difficult to write poems about a subject that is so personal to my family. It makes sense to write a poem about a maple tree or a new baby because these subjects are universal, but what makes someone else’s dead ancestors interesting to readers? That is a difficulty.

So far I’ve had one poem from this small grouping published, and that was in December. It was in the online journal Blast Furnacebut here is the poem, a prose poem:

When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother

You identify yourself in the antique image. Long slender neck, narrow torso, your face tipped to avoid the light. Your hands rest in the valley between your thighs sharp under yards of stiff calico. Your face long, well-sculpted by a lean diet and youth, nearly but not ascetic. Blue veins clutch the temples under translucent skin, a milky film that just contains you. In the next photograph your black dog Carlo poses at your side.

But Carlo isn’t your dog. Three degrees separate you across the time dimension. You never beat a man with his horse-whip for using it on his horse, though you wish you had that sort of courage and that sort of hands-on life, or burned all the books except the family Bible, praise her lord. And yet you hold your bodies as both shields and thresholds.

Because a face never reflects the same, every photo sees something else. You’re your father under the red star and your mother’s grandmother in the morning sun. But not your mother who is the image of her aunt. You never did let her kiss you. You see Carlo and his mistress in another photograph, and her smile is so familiar. Now the gauzy mask of your mother’s face floats across her-your features. Another light source and hour. Another shift of the hologram that is you.

If you happen to be one of the three people who read this blog from the first post you might find the subject recognizable. I rewrote that first blog post into this prose poem. I am fascinated with how we look like our ancestors and relatives, but in some lights, various shadows, or on different days, we might look like a completely different person–or share his features. It’s as if our general counteance is always shifting.

This is the great-grandmother I wrote about in the poem. Even I find our resemblance (when I was younger, of course) astonishing. The black dog in the one photo is Carlo.

My idea with the poems is to create a chapbook–a publishable collection that is smaller than a full-length poetry collection. Maybe around 20-25 poems. And I want to focus on my female ancestors. These are the people difficult to research because they don’t show up in old documents and newspapers as shopkeepers, dog breeders, or politicians. What was the day-to-day of their lives really like? I am trying to find out by researching and then allowing the material to develop into poems. At the moment a poem is completed, I feel that I have brought to life the experience of one woman.

It’s difficult to find literary magazines to send individual poems to because the subject matter is not contemporary and only universal in the notion of the project as excavating the lives of generations of women. In other words, I need to find places that specialize in or are sensitive to the intersection of history and poetry.

Are you interested in two unrelated subjects that you have been able to connect in your own life?

In case you are wondering why I am not writing on purpose, it’s because I was writing so much for so long that I knew I needed a period where I don’t take on any old or new projects. I’m resting my brain. Except for blogging, of course, dear peeps.

***

I have a DOLL GOD Giveaway going on at Goodreads right now. Hop on over there and sign up if you want to win a free copy!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR A FREE COPY OF DOLL GOD

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Memoir, Photographs, Poetry, Poetry Collection, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing goals

What Was In Her Mind?

Blogging is the best social environment available online. The positive give and take has been more than I could have ever dreamed.  The support I get for my writing from you has been like food that nourishes me. And the caring I’ve received about my father feels like sunlight streaming through the trees.

Sometimes blogging gives tangible information. I have received a surprising amount of information on my family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo. I don’t talk about it too much over here because I have a lot of other stuff to yap about, but that blog started as a way to share old photos, family stories, and genealogical research results with my family. I soon found a wonderful genealogy blogger community. Sometimes non-bloggers who have an interest in one of my tag words drop by and share knowledge that adds beautifully to my research. I mentioned before here about the antique scrapbook that fell into my lap this way.

Now something else happened that I think is so cool I want to share it with you. I haven’t been very active over there lately because, as you know, I’ve had a few other things on my plate lately (understatement!). So I’ve been posting antique photos from my family that are unidentified. Sometimes bloggers give me tips that help me narrow down to a time period or even a branch of the family.

Last Wednesday I posted this photo. It might be my favorite because of the unusual clothing of the woman that reminds me of Pilgrims or Puritans. And because of her sweet expression.

 

I didn’t have a time period or a family branch, other than that it had to be from my grandfather’s family. Notice that the photographer is based out of The Hague and Utrecht. My family didn’t live in those areas of the Netherlands, although one 2x great grandmother was born in an area south of Utrecht.

Imagine my surprise when I got this response from a new reader:

The photographer, Cornelis Johannes Lodewicus Vermeulen, was born in Utrecht 18.11.1861 and died in Hilversum 05.01.1936. Photographs from the period 1886-1915 can be found at https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/portraits#query=cjl+vermeulen&start=0&filters%5Bcollectienaam%5D%5B%5D=RKD%20%28Collectie%20Iconografisch%20Bureau%29

If you click on the link above and take a look at these cool old photos you will see that most of them are from a period later than my photograph–and the people look early 20th century. But there are a few that are 1890s and more traditional, like mine.

Then he wrote this:

In the Dutch province of Zeeland there is a society for the preservation of traditional costumes. The secretary of that society identified the traditional costume as the traditional costume of Cadzand, a small town in the Dutch province of Zeeland. In 2007 Cadzand had about 800 inhabitants. I believe this information may be useful to you.

I’m so excited to know that this lady who was somehow part of my family is from a small town that is distinguished by its own traditional costume. Who knew?!

So here is what I keep thinking about. The woman sitting there smiling for the photographer, probably excited that she will see a photograph of herself when all is said and done. She’s wearing clothing her family has worn for generations. And she’s holding . . .  what else, but a book?! What kind of book is it? It doesn’t look like a Bible to me. What could it be? What if she could have known that one day her photograph would be on something called the internet with the potential (OK, I’m being a “little” dramatic here) of being seen by millions of people? How would she have felt? Would it have boggled her mind? Would she have been thrilled to think of her image captured “forever”? Would she have wondered about her future descendents/relatives like me and what our lives are like?

I feel connected with her across the years. And I want to know what her life was like. Have you ever felt that way about someone from long ago?

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Filed under Blogging, Essay, History, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs

The Motif of Origins

I’ve always been fascinated by origins. In college, I double majored in marketing (to make a living) and history (motivated by that fascination).

When I was a kid, my own origins seemed clear enough on my mother’s side since I grew up in the same town her people had lived for a few generations. On my father’s side, “far away” in Chicago,  there were so many gaps and distortions and puzzle pieces that didn’t fit together.

As I finished my undergraduate degree and entered grad school, I realized that I didn’t really know nearly as much about even my mother’s family as I had thought. I focused my study on local Kalamazoo history and, ultimately, on my family’s history.

More recently, I’ve been writing my family history blog and trying to find answers to the many questions that arise.

  • What branch of the family was made homeless by the fire mentioned in a newspaper clipping I found in my grandmother’s papers? (Answer: the George Paake family–and I’ve made an acquaintance of a shirttail relation and been given copies of many family photographs and documents)
  • What happened to my great-great-grandfather’s sister Jennie when she left Kalamazoo? (Answer: she moved to Seattle with her two adult daughters. A kind stranger’s father found their scrapbook at the nursing home he worked at 20 years ago. After reading my blog, she has now passed that scrapbook on to me so I have beautiful photographs of these women in Seattle)
  • How many Van Liere siblings were there?  (Answer: 8–see photo below)
  • How many DeSmit siblings? (Answer: I don’t know yet!)
A photograph of Jennie with her daughters from the discovered scrapbook

A photograph of Jennie with her daughters from the discovered scrapbook

The VanLiere boys

Surprisingly, people who have found my genealogy blog have shared many photos and enthralling stories of my family.

My very first blog post on Writer Site, “The Study of Faces,” was about my feelings of connection to my ancestors.

While the search for origins in my book has nothing to do with the genealogy I focus on in The Family Kalamazoo, it is also motivated by a curious nature and a search for identity. Issues of inheritance, genetics, and rights to our own stories are part of the subject of origins.

How is it with you? Are you ambivalent or uninterested? Do you care about your origins? Are you obsessed with them?

 

 

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Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

What Were My People Like?

I put a page on here  (see tab at the top of this page) which links to my genealogy blog.  A year ago I barely knew what a blog was, and now I have three blogs (with ideas for more–slap me, please).   The third blog was actually the first one–it’s about adoption and I write it with my daughter.  I had so much fun, I decided to keep going.

Back to the genealogy blog.  Long before I had kids (both of them were adopted), I was interested in family history and genealogy.  For a while I worked on a master’s degree in history, specializing in just that subject.  That’s before I gained/lost my senses and switched over to creative writing and English.  So while genealogy is a strange subject for someone with kids and a brother who were adopted, it’s something I’ve long been interested in.  Because of my interest, family members have told me stories and given me memorabilia.  I feel a great responsibility for this trust.

If you’re also into this subject, or if you just want to see what kind of weird family created me ;), check out my mother’s Dutch ancestors at The Family Kalamazoo.

I keep the focus on the DeKorn and Zuidweg families of southwestern Michigan. On this site, I share old photographs (100 years old), many taken by family photographer Joseph DeKorn.

Flooding at the Water Works Bridge in Kalamazoo, March 26, 1904. That spring, the water got 6″ higher than the photo shows.


I also have many other old photos and artifacts from the family.

Years ago, my grandfather Adrian Zuidweg shared a portion of the collection with Western Michigan University‘s Archives and Regional History Collections. A larger portion is not at the archives, and my goal is to share the rest of the collection on this blog.

At the lake

At the lake

The lives of my family members revolved around their families, small businesses (such as retail and construction), and the many lakes of the Kalamazoo area.

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