27 February 2016

PHILOMENA : ANCESTRY WORSHIP FILM REVIEW (Irish Catholic Unwed Mothers and the Sisters of the Good Sheppard)

This film got 4 Academy Award nominations
and is based on a book by Martin Sixsmith.
Obviously well regarded, the true story based on the book by Sixsmith, that was up for Academy Awards such as Best Picture and Best Actress (Judi Dench), is a heartbreaker.
Philomena Lee was an Irish girl sent away to a Catholic charity run by the Sisters of the Good Sheppard to have her illegitimate baby.  Many of these girls were from very poor families and very underage.  Some did not survive childbirth.  Let me be clear that as portrayed some of these nuns have a punishing attitude towards women who got pregnant without marriage, in Philomena's case a first love, but it goes without saying in the film that some of them were probably pregnant by rape and incest.  That Philomenia had been searching for the son she gave up and her son, also for her, and that these sisters LIED to both of them, keeping the separation between them, and that by the time Philomenia and Sixsmith did identify her son, it was too late because he had died young of AIDS is especially horrifying.
Yet, I need to tell my readers that this experience is not ALWAYS the experience with Catholic Archives and nuns or members of Holy Orders, even as I have waited many years for a branch of the Sisters of the Good Sheppard's to respond to a request.  I've also asked the Catholic Archives to intervene with them for me without success.  Simply, their numbers have dwindled down and they do not have the time to look up old records for me, and I frankly do not think I could speed anyone up with the promise of unasked for pay, not even if it was a significant donation.  The attitude that the nun in the film has was not just her own, but often the attitude of the culture at the time. Perhaps Irish Catholicism was especially punishing.  Certainly you would not find our present Pope Francis with such an attitude.
But as a genealogist I was watching the film hoping for more clues as to how exactly Philomenia's son was found by Sixsmith, and I think I'm going to read the book in case there are some research lessons to be gained by reading it.  All films tend to cut through a lot of information in order to get the essence of the story down.  I watched a special feature about the real Philomena Lee. and I realized how courageous she was to let her story be told in a journalistic article written by Sixsmith.  I take it that funding the travel that he did with this woman may have been funded by a news business and that he was under pressure to reveal what happened, even as Philomenia had mixed feelings about doing so.  She also has forgiveness, which for her is healing.
For those of you who are BIrth Parents or Adopted Children looking to find one another, the various REGISTRIES where you sign up to be matched are probably the first thing to do, and can be quickly successful.  Philomenia as portrayed had her mind made up and her head on straight during the search, even as she encountered terrible disappointment; many of you need to be in therapy to deal with the search.  I say that because it is not a genealogists place to be leaned on to the point of having to play therapist or be a persons great support through this process and I've had searchers waver and cancel on me unable to handle the process.
Depending on where you live, what COUNTY and STATE you were given up for adoption, various rules may apply.  In some cases getting identifying information on a parent after a Closed adoption is near impossible BUT the registries cut through all that.  A Closed adoption was sometimes how ALL adoptions were done and does not necessarily imply that the situation in which a child was born was especially bad.  There are even families who simply gave children they knew they could not support up for adoption because they already had so very many!

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23 February 2016


Question for Ancestry Worship - Genealogy

I would like to do family history research and genealogy, but I'm getting nowhere with my screwed up family. There is no cooperation and I don't even think they're much interested. When I go to research at my local Family History Center I'm surrounded by people who have decent families that are happy, helpful, and excited to learn more about their people. I say not a word, since I don't want to lie, but I also don't want to tell the truth, that in my family no one says I love you, there's no sharing at the dinner table, and the only thing that can be counted on are crazy scenes.  It's lonely.

Should I just forget it?


Answer from Ancestry Worship - Genealogy

Elizabeth, you're not the only person who's embarked on the exciting adventure of learning more about your family history and ancestry without cooperation.  Seems to me the one thing you cannot count on is that your research work will heal your family.  But since there are so very many reasons why people do get into their research work, I urge you to stick with it, just for YOU!  Maybe you'll achieve a greater understanding of your people, which will be interesting for you, if not healing. 

At Family History Centers and other research libraries, though many people do share about their families and their research, and you can learn a lot from each other on how to, it's best to keep to a professional attitude.  Pretend the family you are researching isn't yours!

Also take heart in knowing that almost every family has some stinkers.  While researching aside other people I've heard many stories about what got dug up... in particular domestic violence.  One researcher learned that her great grandfather had been killed when his granddaughter finally retaliated and he went rolling down the stairs.  There were news articles about it and interestingly, the granddaughter was never arrested or prosecuted because everyone in town knew this man was a monster.

Researching history and genealogies has actually made me more of a feminist than ever. I'm so glad women have more choices about their lives and don't have to marry or stay married to have a place in this world.

I've also met people who were so not politically correct, they didn't even mind being known as bigots. I had networked for one family because of a dead end, and learned that a dozen researchers were working on the same issue, which brother, living in a Carolina compound, had which father.  To know would have meant proofing the link to a well known historical family in Scotland.  DNA had just become available, and this person had reached out to me to locate someone who would be willing to take the test, and I knew exactly where the only candidate lived.  But before I could write to this man and plea the case of the very many researchers who needed to know, it was suggested to me that the family had been Jewish. I put that out there for comment.

I got a railing, seething e-mail that made my heart pound as someone suggested to me this could not be because, to paraphrase, "The family is Christian and loves Jesus Christ and everybody knows Jews are "Christ Killers" so it is impossible!"

So, Elizabeth, get ye down to your local Family History Center and learn to be a genealogist.  It will preserve your intellect far better than doing crossword puzzles, and someday you too will meet others with screwy families!

C 2016

02 February 2016


Today I've been looking for a VALENTINE to post on this blog, sorting through the offerings that come up in Google Images when I add the words "public domain" and "Vintage" or "Old." 

I've seen Valentines that, using the usual cartoonish or highly romantic art, depict, supposedly with humor, the beating of a woman so that she will finally be the Valentine of the man who gifted her with it.  Not funny.  Not loving.

But the idea that a card giver might batter or insult a woman to get her to like him rests in sexism and attitudes towards women that have not entirely changed, very sad to say. 

I, as a writer, reader, literature major, and dogged researcher,
found this one deeply personally offensive.
The idea was that a boy giving this Valentine to a girl
didn't really want an intelligent or educated woman.
(MANY OF US HAVE GRANDPARENTS WHO NEVER LEARNED TO READ AND WRITE, who made their mark of an X on legal documents with a witness there as a result and many of us have parents who dropped out of high school and had to get their G.E.D. or equivalent after they served in the armed forces or got through working at anything during the Great Depression.)
This one was probably considered rather risqué back in the day
but these days with the Kardashian sisters showing off
their booties on a regular basis, we've grown numb.

I also found a few Valentines - very few - that depicted cartoonish or romantic BLACK people.  Since most of these were pretty much in line with the Valentines that depicted cartoonish or romantic WHITE people, I decided that they were not offensive.

But these two, below, did seem to be.  I had to wonder if BLACK people had found it difficult to purchase Valentines and other cards that showed people who looked like them in the stores. 

Of course, the handmade Valentine, especially the ones made by children for their parents and siblings, grandparents, cousins, and friends, are probably most endearing and a way around the offensive.  Right now kids are making Valentines in their school classrooms and at special programs staged at libraries and I'm sure that many handmade Valentines have remained cherished with all those drawings, and all the glitter glue.

This morning I was talking to a stranger about Valentines.  I told her that a couple years ago, because Valentines used to be given to friends from friends, I gave a dozen people who were perhaps more acquaintances than friends, small fun cards with a piece of good chocolate each when we had lunch together about that time.  One of the men, though he was at the table when I distributed these to one and all, unexpectedly took this small offering as a come on by me.  Just what I didn't need.

But I do remember, even if perhaps a parent or a teacher thought that every child in class should receive a Valentine from every other child in the class, the excitement of being seven years old, having a kid crush on one particular boy, and how wonderful and special it felt when his Valentine was delivered to my desk.  I recall the fun of a decorated classroom and a specially wrapped Valentine box that served as a mail box and how it was considered an honor to be picked to be the mail carrier!

C 2016  Ancestry Worship - Genealogy  All Rights Reserved.
Images are from Google Images - search for Public Domain and Vintage Valentines