On This Day in 1836

On This Day in 1836 my 3rd great grandmother Sarah Ann Elvira Dollar was born.

Don’t you find the name “Dollar” to be a little strange? Well, her father was Ambrose Dollar, her grandfather was Reuben Dollar who came to America from Wales and fought in the Revolution, and her great grandfather was Edward Dolier – probably French Doh-lee-AY or Irish D’Olier. Either one of those makes more sense than Dollar.

Sarah Ann’s mother was Jemima Clearman, whose father was Jacob Van Clearman, whose father was John William Clearman from Germany.

Well, that’s just a crazy European mix, isn’t it?

Let’s go back to her dad’s side for just a moment. This is the transcription of the sworn statement of Dr. J.M. Dollar, the great grandson of Reuben Dollar.

betsy-ross-flag-usa-united-states-of-america-americaGause Texas, August 4th 1913
This is to certify that my great grandfather Reuben Dollar told me of fighting in the Revolutionary War when I was a boy. He came from Wales and fought in the war. He returned to Wales and was disinherited by his father for having fought against the British Crown. After which he returned to America and settled in Edgefield S.C. He died in Miss. in 1858 at the age of 113 years.
Signed J.M Dollar
State of Texas:
County Of Milam:
subscribed and sworn to before me this August 4th. 1913
J.R. Fraim, Notary Public, Milam co. Texas

I find these old records fascinating!!

Anyway, back to Sarah Ann…

pickensShe was the 6th born of 8 children, half boys, half girls. She was born March 11, 1836 in Pickens County, Alabama. Pickens County is right on the Mississippi border, and at some point between 1840 and 1850, the family moved west to Mississippi. At the age of 17, on October 6, 1853, she married William Lafayette Brown, Jr. in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. Keep in mind, the above Patriot grandfather was still alive until 1858 and died in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, so he might have been living with them. If not living with Sarah Ann and her husband, at least with a nearby family member.

Sarah Ann gave birth to her first child at the age of 18, James Floyd Brown in 1854. He was followed by John Ambus Brown in 1857, Angeline Brown in 1859, William Harrison Brown in 1860,  Sarah Elizabeth “Bettie” Brown in 1862, Warren Brown in 1865, Franklin Carlton Brown in 1867, Charles Berry Brown in 1871, Pinkney Earlie Brown in 1874, and Martha Catherine Brown in 1877.

Do you notice anything strange about those birth dates?

Page 1When the Civil War broke out in 1861, her husband was about 25 years old. Yes, he went to fight for the Confederacy. As a matter of fact, he was a sniper who guarded Mississippi bridges in the area. At one point, he was captured by the Union. He escaped. He went back and allowed himself to be captured again to help others escape, which he/they did. After that, he had a bounty on his head for the rest of the war.

It doesn’t look like the war or the captures between 1861 and 1865 stopped him from visiting home at least a few times. Obviously he stopped by the house long enough for some hanky panky. The girl born in 1862 was my second great grandmother. Her birthday is the same day as mine, November 19.

One thing for sure, these people didn’t back down from a challenge! I look forward to doing more research on the Dollars and Clearmans very soon.

Sarah Ann died in Mississippi July 18, 1915 at the age of 79.

Happy birthday, Grandma Sarah Ann!!

brown william L and Sarah A at goodwater cemetery

This post brought to you by “On This Day,” a perpetual calendar for family genealogy.

My Family Tree Held Together with Tape

I’ve been talking for years and years about painting a cool family tree in my house and putting family member’s pictures on it. I’ve researched trees, both stick-on vinyl types and painted ones. I’ve looked at wallpaper. I’ve investigated some artists. I’ve counted the number of ancestors I have pictures of and realized it needs to be a pretty big tree and will cost an arm and a leg to buy that many frames. I also realized that that many frames probably won’t fit on one wall. And for clarity, the pictures probably need to be all different sizes. I don’t know how to make this look good.

Planning how to put it together, I couldn’t make heads or tails of how to display the pictures. Mom’s family on one side and dad’s on the other? That’s logical. But we’re not just talking immediate family. I want to put most of the pictures I have, and that goes back to my 4th greats, not to mention the paintings of my family in the 1600s in England. Do I put grandparents lower and greats higher and so on? What if I have more on mom’s side than dad’s side? Also, I’m from Mississippi, so some of mom’s side intertwines with some of dad’s side. LOL.

After a whole year of staring at the blank wall in my office, one day I just grabbed a quart of paint, a handful of paintbrushes, and started painting.


tree 1The tree is about a foot wide at the bottom, so I started with a big, fat paint brush and some really scary black paint. I aimed for the middle of the wall, fighting with the corner of my desk that was too heavy for me to move. Next, I grabbed the next size smaller brush and started painting random branches. This is the point where my trophy husband came home from work, walked into the office, stared at the wall for a minute, shook his head, and walked out. Yeah, I know it doesn’t look that great, but just wait! I’m an artist. You have to trust me. Then again, he’s been here before. Poor guy.






tree 2Step two. I used a smaller paint brush to extend the branches and then another smaller one. Starting to look like a tree, no? A little skimpy, but still, a tree! It’s going to need to be a lot bigger than this for all my pictures. I’m thinking taking it all the way to the ceiling and as wide as it’ll go.









tree 3Step three. I used even smaller brushes. The tree’s getting bigger. Of course I’m climbing across my desk and standing on a chair to reach this high, so I have to keep getting down and backing up to make sure it’s symmetrical. I don’t want it perfect, but I do want it to at least look like a healthy tree. My knees may be getting a little tired. Trophy husband’s also asking about dinner. Umm, I’m in the middle, you’ll have to order a pizza. Poor guy. But in my defense, he already knew we were having pizza when he came home and saw the beginning of the tree.







tree 4Step four is a smaller brush and a smaller brush. Need. More. Branches. My arm is getting tired now.












tree 5Step five is the smallest brush I could find, like one of those out of a paint-by-number box. I’m not sure the branches go as small as I want, but my next step would be to use a Sharpie. I don’t think trophy husband would approve, and I’m not sure you can re-paint over a Sharpie. Sounds like that might be a problem if this thing doesn’t turn out.

I stared at it for a while, wondering if I should make it even bigger, maybe take it across the ceiling. For art, that would be cool, but for a family tree, I don’t know how I’d put pictures up there. I decided to stick with the wall.





tree 6Step six. The next day, I randomly taped pictures to the wall to figure out how I wanted to display the photos I have. It’s kind of looking cool just doing it randomly.














tree finishedStep seven. After living with it for a couple days, I decided to stay random. I also decided to not frame anything. I like the freedom to add and move the pictures as needed. I used two rolls of cellophane tape.

So, there it is.

My family tree.

Painted by hand and held together with tape. That seems fairly philosophical.

There are over 9000 people in my family tree. Thankfully, most of them weren’t photographed.


Quilting. What was I thinking?

IMG_20150908_180218183_HDRWhen I was a young girl, my paternal great grandmother made me this quilt. When I was at her house, I noticed her sewing in the evening while watching television. It was done completely by hand. It never occurred to me that she was sewing it for me.

At the age of fifty, I still have the quilt and I treasure it. At some point, she made me a second one, and my maternal grandmother, who was a professional seamstress made me a third. I should probably pass them down to my children, but I can’t bear to part with them.


I have long been an artist. I make music professionally. I write novels professionally. I’ve made all of the artwork in my home, from paintings to rugs to throw pillows. Well, I was bored and decided to take on the time-consuming project of making a quilt. What was I thinking??

quilt piecesIt started with cutting out 680 pieces. Sigh. That took a couple weeks. Then, fortunately, I had house guests, so I put it all in a box and ignored it for a couple weeks.





pinwheelsWhen I pulled it back out, I began making pinwheels for the center of the blocks. Twenty pinwheels seemed daunting, but using a sewing machine, (not sewing by hand, you silly rabbit!) the pieces came together fairly quickly, but still….there was twenty of them.





octagonsNow, I had to cut these square pinwheels and turn them into octagons. Not owning a special ruler or being able to find one at JoAnn Fabrics, I spent hours figuring out how to do this. After I had a total meltdown, my husband quietly worked on the computer constructing a template for me. In the meantime, I found a video on Youtube showing an easy way to turn a square into an octagon. When I cut one in two seconds and showed him, he was awestruck by the simplicity. “Well, if you want to do it like that,” he said sarcastically.

The original pinwheels were 7” squares, and after I turned them into octagons, I needed to sew corners on them, making them 6.5” squares. At the time, I was thinking this was some kind of cruel joke, but as the pinwheel got new corners, it began to change shape. It looked like a cross. Weird illusion.



starNext, I started working on the star points. They were time consuming, but they came together easily. The octagon/square was placed in the middle of the star points. Notice in this photo, the octagon still looks like a cross, and the completed square has two star points pointing up. Well, that’s also an illusion and won’t look like that for long.

I was supposed to cut these completed squares into large circles, but as with cutting octagons, that was just too much work. So instead, I sewed together frames, sewed them onto the completed squares, lining up the seams with each star point and creating a whole new angle on the original square. I flipped it over and trimmed off the excess corners on the square. That was so much quicker than trying to cut a perfect circle, hoping I didn’t cut it too small. From the wrong side of the quilt, it’s pretty sloppy, but from the right side, you can’t tell, and it saved me tons of time and probably a half bottle of whiskey.


one finished squareSince the octagon and the star points shifted with adding the frame, you can see in the finished square that the cross is gone and the star only has one point sticking up. This whole quilt is one big illusion.

1910 seams later, the quilt top is finished. I need to sandwich it and start quilting. But I think I need to take a break for a couple weeks first.


finished top



Won’t it be fun if my great grandchild won’t part with this quilt?

Mother’s Day Gratefulness

I read a blog yesterday written by a woman who was condemning Mother’s Day. She said it makes women who are not mothers feel bad. She also said she’s raising her son to not observe Mother’s Day because she doesn’t want him to feel obligated to buy her anything.

First, I think the woman is a gigantic twit. What about all the other kids making special construction-paper gifts at school for their moms? Is he supposed to sit in the corner and not make one, because she doesn’t want a gift? She’s obviously got emotional problems that need to be addressed, and she’s teaching her son to be ungrateful. If we’re not grateful for what we have in our lives, then we are doomed to be chronically unhappy. Perhaps he can find another nurturer to give his dandelion bouquet to.

lambSecond, there are also maturity issues here because Mother’s Day is not about buying gifts or getting gifts. It’s about giving. It’s also not about being a biological mother and feeling bad if you’re not one. It’s about thanking the person who nurtured you, who pointed you in the right direction, who loved you unconditionally. Hopefully, we all have someone who did that for us.


From a mother’s viewpoint, raising children (even furry ones) is not an easy job. It’s often painful and sometimes feels futile, but we do it. Do you know why we do it? Because we love. And love is the most important thing on the Earth. I don’t expect or need anything from my family in return, but I know what they will do on Mother’s Day. My daughter will send flowers and/or chocolate-covered something because she knows I love chocolate. My son will call late in the day and claim he forgot it was Mother’s Day. He will simply say, “I love you.” I raised them. I know what they’re like. My husband will buy me something to show he’s thankful for the way I raised the kids. Obviously I’m not his mother, but he’s showing his gratitude. I don’t need anything from them, but the moments of acknowledgement are sweet. They tell me the pain and futility of the job was worth it.


lionBack to the woman’s blog. If you haven’t done that painful job, why would you feel bad when other women who have done the job get special treatment and you don’t? Doesn’t make sense. The holiday is not about getting, remember? Get off your immature, egocentric horse, and go find someone to be nice to. Buy them a flower. Give them a hug. Call them late in the day and claim you forgot it was Mother’s Day but you just wanted to say, “I love you.”


Sure, some people, like me, don’t have a mother any more. Some mothers have lost children and grieve them on Mother’s Day. Some people have mothers who they wished they didn’t have. No one’s life is perfect. But, that’s no reason to squash the love that comes out on Mother’s Day.

To all you nurturers out there in the blogosphere – Thank you for loving someone and making the world a better place. Happy Mother’s Day!



Egocentric Genealogy


Me.-Center-of-the-Universe-T-ShirtsEgocentric: regarding the self as the center of all things.

As with most people tracing their ancestry, my research and conclusions always revolve around me. How far back? How many generations? Where did my family migrate to and when, and how did I get here?

A few years ago, I had trouble tracing past my maternal great grandmother. (Keep that maternal word in mind for a moment.) She lived in the back hills of Mississippi and didn’t leave a paperwork trail. No census. No education. No land grants. Her family lived on the same land since the 1830s, or maybe even before as there is a Choctaw Indian connection. Members of my family still live on the land today.

A few years ago I found her brother, whom we called Uncle Sug (as in Sugar), and the family opened up. He left a paper trail. I could trace him. I didn’t realize (or care) who he was in my childhood, but now, he became extremely important to my research. He married Aunt Zeffie in 1918. He was 18, she was 13. I imagine him marrying such a young girl because of his raging hormones. He was always a flirt, a sweet-talker, a ladies man, traits I’m sure he didn’t create in his sixties. He was probably always like that.

Okay, stay with me here. The reason I found him was he was listed on my paternal great grandmother’s obituary. Yep, here’s where my family tree stops forking. He was listed as her son-in-law. Aunt Zeffie was my grandfather’s sister. Uncle Sug was my grandmother’s uncle. (This is the point where I had to explain to my mother that her Uncle Sug was also her mother’s Uncle Sug. Welcome to Mississippi.)

Here’s where the egocentric part comes in

Upon finding that info, I always assumed Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie met because of my grandparents. I pictured them having cocktails at family gatherings, since my relationship with my grandparents was peppered with numerous family gatherings at their country house. I pondered if other members of the family questioned their attraction. Wouldn’t you wonder why your sister liked some distant relative? I wondered if anyone on either side disavowed their marriage.

This morning, my egocentric view swiftly collapsed into a smoldering pile all around my feet.

I found out Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie got married (as stated above) in 1918. Never before have I questioned the years, but my grandparents were both born in 1914. They were both four years old at the time of the wedding.

earl culpepper and ina burkePhoto: In my mind, these are not and have never been little kids. —>>>

The thought of my grandparents knowing each other as children blew my mind. I have always pictured marriage beginning with a young couple meeting in their teens and falling in love. Must be the romantic fairy tales pounded into my brain as a young girl. I can’t emotionally comprehend that more-often-than-not people simply married the best person they could find in their small town. My grandparents had known each other for fifteen years before they got married. Did they like each other the whole time, or did they settle for the best person available? I wish I could ask them, but they’ve long been dead.

My egocentric view of my grandparents being the cause of Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie’s marriage is totally and completely wrong. As a matter of fact, since my grandparents probably met because of Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie, I think that makes me the product of my Uncle Sug’s 18-year-old testosterone. How strange… and a little creepy.

A to Z – Tattoos

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m blogging about history.

T is for Tattoos.





tattooTattooing is widely practiced today, and some folks say it’s desecrating God’s work, but this blog is not an argument about their merit or lack of. It is about the history of tattoos. When and where did they start…and why?

The oldest discovered tattoo is found on the body of Otzi the Iceman and is dated between 3370 and 3310 BC.  Otzi’s frozen mummy was discovered in the Alps in 1991 and it is said that he died about age 45. He had 61 tattoos created from fireplace soot or ash. His tattoos may have been related to pain-relief treatments such as those used in acupuncture, for the radiological examination looked as if he suffered from knee and ankle problems as well as problems with his lower back.

India – tattoos were used as cultural symbols among tribes.

Egypt – tattoos were found on women and indicated their status. They were used for healing, religion, and as a form of punishment.

China – tattoos date back to 2100 BC and are possibly related to the art of acupuncture.

Japan – tattoos were used for spiritual and decorative purposes and date back to 10,000 BC.

Siberia – Mummies from 500 BC are tattooed.

Europe – Tattoos date back 40,000 years.

Greece and Rome – Tattooing was common among religious groups for a while but eventually was only used in Greece on slaves.

Persia – Tattooing is mentioned as far back as 550 BC.

The first documented professional tattoo artist in America was Martin Hildebrandt who arrived in Boston in 1846. He tattooed men on both sides of the Civil War 1861-1865. In the early 1800s, tattoos were painful (still are) and expensive (still are) and were a mark of wealth.

tattooNo matter what people say about tattoos, I find them fascinating. I have two tattoos (below) and hope to get a third someday. Mine are in commemoration of my ancestors, the first being the Culpepper family crest on my back honoring my mother’s family, and the second being the Choctaw Indian crest on my leg honoring my great, great grandmother and my Indian ancestors whose way of life was destroyed when the Culpepper part of the family moved to America. I also have Irish ancestors and hope someday to get a claddagh to honor them.

culpepper tat

howington tat

A to Z – Culpeper Garden at Leeds Castle

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge. I’m participating by writing about history.

C is for Culpeper Garden at Leeds Castle.





Leeds-CastleLeeds Castle is located in Maidstone, Kent, England. It was a Norman stronghold in the 11th and 12th centuries, a royal palace in the 13th through 15th, and a Tudor palace in the 16th century. It was also owned by my family at one point. The Culpepers (my mother’s family) owned the castle before the English civil war in the early 1600s. They lost it due to being on the wrong side of the war. If you’re not familiar with the outcome of the war, the king was beheaded and the royalist Culpepers fled to the new colonies to escape the same fate.

In the mid-1600s, the royal family was returned to the throne, and the Culpepers got their house back!!

culpeper_garden_originalWhat is now called the Culpeper garden was originally a kitchen garden and nothing more, but in 1980, a designer transformed it into a cottage garden. It has an informal layout with low box hedges bordering Roses, Lupines, and Poppies. It is said to be named after herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, who is a distant cousin of mine. Nicholas transcribed the pharmacopoeia from Latin to English “so that all men may prescribe for themselves.” He ended up dying in the war mentioned above, but as far as I know, he never lived in the castle. It is still nice that they honored the family hundreds of years later by naming something after them.

The final Culpeper owner of Leeds was Catherine Culpeper. She married Thomas Fairfax in 1690 and the property then transferred into the Fairfax family. Below are photos of Catherine and Thomas. Since their grandfathers were bitter enemies during the war, I’ve always wondered if the families condoned the marriage, if Catherine was being rebellious by marrying the enemy, or if the Fairfaxes were simply out to take everything from the Culpepers. I’m currently writing a story about it called “The Culpepper-Fairfax Scandal.” I’m not set on the end yet, so we’ll see where the characters take me and which scenario plays out.  At some point in the story, I need to include a stroll through the garden.


Thomas_Fairfax 5th baron of cameron, catherine culpeppers husband