18 April 2014

North York's Golden Lion

This display case fascinates me every time I go to the North York Central Library (home of the Ontario Genealogical Society Library, among other genealogical collections and resources) in Toronto. Meet the "Golden Lion" created in the 1820s:
North York's Golden Lion concerns an inn, an innkeeper's family, and a skilled woodworker. The site was Yonge Street at the southwest corner of what became Sheppard Avenue. Thomas Hill had a tavern there, selling it in 1805.[1] On the same site, Thomas Shepard (the surname spelling varies) built the Golden Lion Inn by 1825 or perhaps had expanded it from the previous owner. It was a large building for accommodating twenty guests and the enterprise included stables, barns, and driving sheds.

But its most visible claim to fame was over the main entrance: the "life-size lion carved out of a pine stump."[2] A man from Scarborough called Paul Sheppard was the craftsman. Historian Patricia Hart makes no mention of a relationship or the coincidence of the two men's names. Earlier writers have referred to Paul as Thomas Shepard's son.[3] Apparently Paul Sheppard also carved wooden adornments for area churches, including St. James in York.

The inn not only hosted travellers: it became a destination for entertainment because Thomas Shepard and his sons were lively musicians. A hall was built above the capacious driving shed, becoming a popular venue for all-night dances; groups of young party-goers would regularly come north from the town. The Shepard family were also known for their doggerel verse. Their Reform political associations during the 1837 Rebellion led to the arrest of four Shepard brothers along with many others and a sentence of transportation to Van Dieman's Land.[4] Before that happened, Michael and Thomas Shepard Jr. escaped from interim incarceration at Fort Henry in Kingston. Those who took refuge in the United States were later pardoned.

Some twenty years after the original work was installed, the carver made another life-sized lion sculpted from oak, using putty to create the lion's mane.[5] Perhaps the pine lion was deteriorating. On what did Paul Sheppard base his design? We will never know the answer, but curiosity made me wonder if his lion resembled that of the Upper Canada legislature, the carving plundered in 1812 (we don't know who carved this one):
Canadian War Museum
Resemble? Not so much after all!

The lion, of course, is a British heraldic symbol and because it's so greatly admired, variations have been imitated every-where.

Often they guard a prominent public building or a grand estate (Royal York Hotel, Toronto):

So how did the Golden Lion come to the North York Library? And yes, it is the original oak lion, now at least 150 years old.[6] Although the carving had numerous homes over the years, and at one point acquired the nickname "Henry," the re-gilded king of beasts is being treated royally now.

Long may he reign!

[1] Patricia W. Hart, Pioneering in North York (Toronto: General Publishing Company Limited, 1968), 86. Many details are from Hart's well-researched book.
[2] Hart, ibid.
[3] Catherine, Canadiana Department, North York Central Library, to Brenda Dougall Merriman, e-mail, 28 February 2014, "Golden Lion statue." Catherine cites articles by Jeanne Hopkins in York Pioneer and old newspapers.
[4] Hart, 161-2. Hart cites John Ross Robertson, Old Toronto, 120-121.
[5] Hart, 86.
[6] Catherine, North York Library, e-mail, 28 February 2014.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

12 April 2014

The Book of Me (10)

Note to self: playing catch-up gives short shrift to each prompt; it would be fitting that I sink my teeth into something occasionally. Is this one of them?

Technology (Prompt 26)
Technology is. I don't like or dislike it, it's just there. Swiftly changing, moving, improving, upgrading, dazzling, and inevitably intimidating the crap out of me. New technology is not necessarily embraced in this cave.
blinking>> Luddite! Luddite!

Say what you will about you or your ancestors living through dramatic new technology changes, the World Wide Web and the Internet win these days, hands down. This is not to disparage the industrial revolution, space travel, or the flush toilet. Nor do I ignore the safety pin, the zipper, velcro, plastic, crazy glue, duct tape, and spandex which are definitely underrated, powerful inventions (that I classify as technological). But let's face it, every generation thinks its new technology is the most significant. And they are right.

So back to the Web and all that, including computers. Failure to adapt to initial steps could potentially leave you behind forever. Or that's how it looks some days. My computer technology curve began with the excitement of a brand-new Family Roots software program. It was shortly after being the recipient of an office discard ― a 1980s IBM computer. What a grand companion this software would be, my cutting edge new BFF! Together we would go places I'd never gone before. My family genealogy would be professionally assembled, charted, preserved.

But the friendship was torpedoed at birth when the stubborn thing erased itself with a little accidental help from me. Disappeared right off my screen and the floppy disk it lived on, away on its own bloody-minded trip to the clouds or wherever. A pivotal moment that forever unhinged me: abused and abandoned. A very kind Steve Vorenburg in Massachusetts listened to my inarticulate weeping on the telephone (another expedient technological invention) and replaced the unrepentant software, but our relationship was never the same again. It's my considered opinion I never recovered from PTSD.

What I'm really missing is the spark or the patience to focus on learning technology that has no interest for me but ironically offers bits and pieces that could make my life easier. Or so they say. Truth is, I find it boring. Bigod, it must be an outright miracle I can even manage a computer. Three quarters of the time, that is. 
Luckily I can limp along thus far using a computer, a scanner, and a digital camera. It will take one of my kids and and a good day's intensive training to operate one of those newfangled cell phones.

Now my grandchild is in the hand-held generation. As far as I can tell, her life revolves around that glowing little screen. Unlike her, I was not born instantly wired. My excuse is that I'm a writer and I write.

Cars and Transport (Prompt 27)
CARS! This takes me back, way back!

At first I was going to post some conventional drivel but instead, my four-wheeled life looked something like this. Like my children later, I don't feel like I'm driving unless it's four-on-the-floor. Some are not precisely as pictured! The old family slides are only now slowly being digitally scanned.
MGA: Poor car got burgled often downtown when in grad school
Daimler SP250: BEFORE (only it was painted bronze)
Daimler SP250: AFTER ((hill climb competition accident after a friend bought it from me)
TR4: Input from the other half
Porsche S90: Much more manageable than a Daimler!
Corvettes(s): No photos; everyone knows what they look like anyway.

Jaguar & GTO: Not exactly the best photo (of the cars, that is)
Formula Ford: The other half gets serious
Formula B: More serious; the Watkins Glen NY, Lime Rock CT, St-Jovite QC, Mosport circuit. The Canadian Race Drivers Association held wonderful dinner dances off-season.
BMW 730: There was also a BMW 630
Dodge Caravan: It was all downhill after that
I think that's enough on cars for a lifetime. Nowadays I prefer driving a camel.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

05 April 2014

Cemeteries Part 18: Qingming Festival in China

The fifth of April arrived so soon after I left China, I acknowledge this in haste. Today, throngs of people will visit cemeteries to honour their ancestors. The customs include sweeping and tidying the plot, if there is one. Descendants will make offerings of food and flowers, burning incense and paper money at the memorial. This is only one part of the annual QingmingFestival.

The deceased in urban China are always cremated now, so visits are made to the memorial walls. Only in preservation for historical purposes and rural parts of the country did we encounter actual burial plots.
Monuments to Buddhist monks, Shaolin Temple near Zhengzhou
We were aware of Qingming's imminence while there. Besides, one cannot miss the signs of regard that the Chinese have for their ancestors. Practices and observances are cultural, rather than religious. At any time of the year messages offering and seeking happiness (colour red) are posted to ancestors. 
Burial site at a farm near Guilin
It is somehow comforting to know that such traditions honouring the dead are observed in so many widely different areas and cultures of the world.  

Tartan Day

Get your kilt on ... tomorrow is Tartan Day, April 6th.

Here’s to it!
The fighting sheen of it,
The yellow, the green of it,
The white, the blue of it,
The swing, the hue of it,
The dark, the red of it,
Every thread of it.
The fair have sighed for it,
The brave have died for it,
Foemen sought for it,
Heroes fought for it.
Honour the name of it,
Drink to the fame of it -
(Scots-Canadian poet Murdoch MacLean; from Celtic Guide, April 2013)

And prepare ye! May is Whisky Month ... http://www.visitscotland.com/info/events/homecoming-scotland-2014-whisky-month-p691851 ... just one part of Homecoming Scotland 2014!

05 March 2014

RIIS Ancestors (Estonia) Part Five

When I began to write about Estonian ancestors I did not envision it spinning into a series of posts. As I said, a life of its own ...

The area in question, the location of the Swedish knight and the Riis descendants, is an expanse of intermittent marsh, thickly forested three hundred years ago and more. Rather forbidding, I would think. It did and does have meadows on the banks of meandering streams where no doubt the first farms were created. But much of that land appears to be flood plain. Fishing, trapping, and hunting were also part of the old way of life in "Riisakula."

Today, the Riis origins are part of Estonia's Soomaa National Park. Geographically it is between the towns of Viljandi to the east and Parnu to the west. The Halliste river is the main waterway, fed by the Raudna river and other small streams.
The chronicles via Urmas Haud give a strong sense that the Riis created their own isolated wilderness "domain." Considering the topography, one can understand why this was a close-knit community. Haud states that at a certain point (possibly a census of 1890) sixty percent of the surnames in the area were Riis and variations, Riisman being one (it's worth noting that surnames as such were not recorded until the 1826 revision lists, as in Latvia). Here and there are hints of disputes not only with the landlord and other authorities (not uncommon in the Baltics) but also amongst the burgeoning family itself. Nonetheless, their overriding theme seems to be:
"RIISAKULA — Riisa, we are born, we Noorusemaa."[1]
Noorusemaa, apparently being a proper noun, absolutely refuses to translate for me.

The word Tõnistua also had previously eluded me. More hints (translated), relating to early practices:
"They had their own holy sacrificial places where they sacrificed to that of the harvest. Also tõnnivakk the village. This was the seat of Tõnistua, which all went to St. Anthony's Day holy mind - Tõnn sacrifice, and to ask him to create happiness.[2]

The old pagan gods were alive and healthy long after Christianity reached the Baltics; indeed today the northern Baltics are still permeated with great sensibilities toward nature. "Tõnistua" or a place of sacrifice, is said to be the only place that survived the wartime destruction of Tiit Kolgis' house in the early 1700s. I can't find a god called Tõnn or something similar but Wikipedia says Taara was the god of nature. Wrapping Tõnn and his seeming relevance to agriculture and/or happiness in the cloak of St Anthony, patron saint of lost things, is an interesting concept!

An ideal map of Estonia showing all villages did not materialize until the Soomaa Park revelation. Finding historical farms seemed nigh impossible; the few villages that get a token mention in Google searches have populations of less than one hundred. It doesn't help that historical maps are either in German or Russian, where place names are quite different. 
This gem of a map is from the Soomaa Park website, at 1:50 000 scale. The villages of Sandra and Tõramaa are shown at the south edge of the park. Vastemoisa village, site of the former manor, lies just to the east of Sandra (off the map). Hoolmiku (Oolmiku) and Riisa are all shown; not all the streams are named, one of which may be the Sillavilla. 
"Riisa Hall stands in the lower reaches of the river's seat of forests, swamps and marshes behind so that in the old days during the summer when the rest did not make it out alone along the river. In winter, when the bogs and fens was on top of the bridge, it had all the external services, and time to get errands."[3]
"Riisa Hall" is not explained, of course, but was presumably the home of a line of descendants. For all I know, some of the eighteenth century houses may still stand. "Ruins of an old farmhouse" are marked at Tõramaa on one of the Park's nature trails.

Knowing the church parishes of the time will point to potential marriage and baptismal records. Saaga is the indispensable online database of digitized Estonian church registers if one is proficient in German. One might expect that this independent Riis clan did not always bother with ecclesiastical formalities in early days! 
Suure-Jaani parish church

Vastemöisa estate was in the parish of Suure-Jaani in historical Viljandimaa county; the church is St. John's, located somewhat north of Vastemöisa village[4] — an obvious place to begin searching. Then again, the Riis settlements were on the eastern edge of Saarde and Tori parishes in Pärnumaa county. Familiar place names for our Jurikas ancestors (a marriage between the families ca.1813) are a mere stone's throw away in Tori which pre-dates Suure-Jaani as a parish.

Urmas Haud's website also has a family chart following my direct line in early days.[5] That, plus the "folklore" narratives could well be the source for much of the information on the Geni trees. Haud has obviously researched extensively in local parish and other extant records, concluding that confirmation of the exact original lineage order is not possible. However, there is documented evidence in Swedish tax rolls that farms existed here since 1624.[6] The names Hants, Ewerdt, Tiit, and Gert appear in sporadic records of the 1600s.
"Riisa Rantso" at a Riis farm on the Halliste Trail, Soomaa Park
Sweden, as the seventeenth century master of Livonia, was more or less constantly at war. Almost hidden in his website, Haud includes the (possibly more accurate?) story of a Riis ancestor called Hants from Sandra village. During wartime, this man went north to Tallin to buy salt. There, a "senior Swedish military official" was so impressed with his great size and strength he was recruited into their army.[7] He was given a "knight's outfit, sword, helmet, and even a horse with a saddle." Interpreting the story's remainder is difficult* but it seems to indicate Hants fled his new job to go home — at what point that happened is unknown. His original sword, helmet, and saddle were preserved for a long time, becoming symbolic and synonymous with progenitor of the Riis family.

My grateful thanks to Urmas Haud and the Estonian Genies for an intriguing journey into a rich epic, still superficial on my part. Please forgive my neophytic attempt to understand and interpret. I would be so grateful if some of my Estonian cousins pick up on these posts!

*☺ Difficult, as for example: "Finally, be prepared dagger sword on the helmet to be broken, and if the kids do Sandra a house in 1912. was burnt down, it may be destroyed in the horse's saddle."

[1] "Riisaküla," Urmas Haud, http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja2.html. Sometimes the website allows English translation and sometimes it doesn't.
[2] "Riisaküla," http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja2.html.
[3] "Riisaküla," http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja2.html.
[4] "Suure-Jaani Parish," Estonian Manors, http://www.mois.ee/english/parish/sjaani.shtml.
[5] "Family Tree," http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/gen/t01255.html.
[6] "... and documents," http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja1.html.
[7] "... and documents," http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja1.html#jadokumendid.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

27 February 2014

The Book of Me (9)

Memory Board (Prompt 23)
How do you see the point of a memory board? Why keep one? Do you keep one? Or will you?
This could be a cork board in your office, kitchen or regular space? If you do what do you keep on it? And why?
I wanted to say I'm skipping this because it's an unfamiliar phrase. It makes me think of keyboard or motherboard, computer terms which any sane right-brain writer avoids knowing more than superficially.

My "board" is the (paper) daytimer on my desk. It reminds me, alerts me, tells me everything. As long as I remembered to write things down in the first place. I tried Google calendar but kept forgetting to look at it. So I have to coordinate this daytimer with a portable pocket diary and believe me, that's enough challenge. Ever have those days when the two are out of synch and you miss a meeting/ appointment/ class/ webinar because of it?

The diagram that Julie drew was likely discussed in a Google Hangout that I was not attending.[1] However, you can see that it literally draws connections on a chosen topic, much like collective verbal brainstorming. You are triggering personal memories in a visual way. As I was not in the discussion, I'd better stick to the above suggestions.

So no, I don't have a tangible board or fridge reminders. I'd likely ignore them. After all, I go to the fridge with a preoccupied mind, blindly seeking food. My desk is the nerve centre. Sometimes food considerately appears on my desk by itself with no recall of a trip to the kitchen. Really, this should happen more often.

Favourite Colour (Prompt 24)
Do you have a favourite colour? and if so why? Do you like vibrant colours or darker colours? Do you associate anyone with a particular colour?
If so who and why ? Does your favourite colour reflect your personality?

This topic is only difficult in that I don't have one all-time favourite colour. My inner Leo makes me go for bold. RED is racy and glorious. PURPLE is powerful and comforting (but it has to be a blue-purple, not a red-purple). TEAL is therapeutic and rich. And so on.  

When I was young and not in charge of selecting my own clothing, I was told that redheads can't wear red (a colour clash too horrific for ordinary eyes). Guess what I did as soon as I had spending money? Now that I am grown up and mature, BLACK and GRAY have a way of filling my wardrobe. Go figure.  

LOVE (Prompt 25)
Love comes in varying shapes and sizes; I love my (insert your family member, pet etc); there is no right or wrong way to love....or is there? Define what love means to you.
OMG, Julie (The Book of Me creator) this was a sneaky one. Let's shamelessly skip it, I said to self. Lazy shirk, self said back to me. Some bloggers made lists of people and things they love, that make them happy. Waxing sentimental and lyrical is not in my tool box today. Having said that, how can I then say I simply love life without sounding like a vacant beauty pageant contestant? Just about everything in the whole concept of life?

Sure, I don't like mean people and liars and corrupt politicians and incurable diseases and rice pudding and rap music and stop right there. Wrong way to start a memory board of love!

Love can have disappointments like George Clooney and Richard Branson not answering my emails, but on the whole it makes the world go way 'round better than its opposite. The crux of the matter is not failing to voice love for the people and events that keep me uplifted!

[1] "Prompt 23 — Memory Board," The Book of Me, 1 February 2014, Anglers Rest (http://anglersrest.blogspot.ca/search/label/The%20Book%20of%20Me : accessed 23 February 2014).

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

21 February 2014

RIIS Ancestors (Estonia) Part Four

Further clarification and appropriate credit: The "folklore" and the "narratives" I have been following are the online work of Urmas Haud, Estonian astronomer and genealogist.[1] His profession explains the initial confusion with the Tartu Observatory website. I've no idea why I had such difficulty finding the root site other than general technical ineptitude. However, the website is huge and navigation is not the easiest. There is more to be explored.
Now let's see if I can pull together information about the next generation, drawing largely from the extensive website pages. I will somewhat re-phrase the site's translated introduction:
The following is basically a memorial to the folk tradition, drawn on the written story of one family's formation and expansion. As the Riis clan grew in quite long isolation from the outside world, it also coincided with the development of two of Estonia's forest villages; the family and the villages are inseparable.[2]

Hans "Riis" is my alleged sixth great-grandfather. His wife is named Kai on the Geni family trees but her name does not appear in the online narrative.

Hans had three sons; each of them had many sons. The narrative has no dates associated with Hans' sons: Peet, Jan, and Tonis. Two of them chose separate parts of their grandfather Tiit's lands on which to live. I'm working on spotting all the location names, which were mostly on the large Vastemöise estate ― an estate that existed from the Livonian Order period. The aristocratic Von Stryk family was the landowner in the 1700s; as of yet I have found nothing more about them.

The Geni trees give Peet's dates as ca.1727-9 June1783. "Hantsu eldest son Peet gone up along the edge of the river and made a house. Thus emerged Oolmiku farm."[3] That description is about the clearest of all farm names mentioned. "River" probably refers to Raudna. A son of "Oolmiku Peet" married a woman from Oolmiku village, a place named after her mother (or her maternal family?). It appears that Peet's descendants were associated with Oolmiku, aka Hoolmiku, farm until at least the early twentieth century. 

Middle son Tonis seems to have stayed at his father's location, Adutuaa? on the Sillavilla? probably still near Sandra village. He was known for maintaining his father's (and grandfather's) lifestyle of admirable clothing and horses. Two of Tonis's sons founded farms called Aadujaani and Sõõru.

Youngest son Jan aka Jan Tõramaa (ca.1725-12 January 1800: year of birth precedes elder brothers?) is deemed the direct ancestor. He "come to the creek and the forest has a house here ... So could be Abaja farm ... inherited from his father-spirit and pride."[4] The nominal "Tõremaa" and variations (e.g. Teramane, etc) seem to indicate his location and there is a village of that name now. 
"Riisa Hall stands in the lower reaches of the river's seat of forests, swamps and marshes behind so that in the old days during the summer when the rest did not make it out alone along the river. In winter, when the bogs and fens was on top of the bridge, it had all the external services, and time to get errands." 
Riisa "Hall" (or something similar) would appear to be the name for his home. Perhaps "the creek," is connected to the Raudna river.

More interesting garble from the story: "He received a full Tõramaa lust ...". Seems he had some dispute with older brother Peet, perhaps resulting in one ousting the other from somewhere. But "Tõramaa will come back, and it started to work well. Father, Father's fortunes remember wearing boots and spurs sincerely loved riding horses." Regarding Jan's location, one Geni tree has a slight variation: Jan "... come Tõramaa creek forest and made it into the house. Only the house was a place for the stream section of land was treeless, otherwise all the fat Laan. Both were born Teramane (Abaja) farm."[5]
Part of Soomaa National Park; photo by Aivar Ruukel
An explanation of "isolation from the outside world" is necessary. The lands occupied by Tiit Kolgis and his descendants is a very large, once heavily wooded, marshy area. Clearly it had discouraged much settlement before Tiit's time. The entire area of Riis habitation for generations is now part of Soomaa National Park ("Estonia's Wilderness Capital"), dedicated to protection of its special ecological environment. Wilderness is a significant word. More on this in the next installment — lengthy searches have finally produced a very relevant map.

Our Jan had two sons including the direct ancestor Andres Riis (ca.1764-21 November 1843). Andres' year of birth is up in the air. The Geni trees show his precise date of death, most probably from a written record, occurring at age 79, hence the calculation back to 1764. On the other hand, one researcher adds, "According to the Book of the Church was born in 1756."[6]

From what I can gather, Andres was not much of a farmer. He always planted his rye early and never had a good harvest. One year a son argued strongly with him about the appropriate planting time, so each did their own thing on different parts of the land. The son proved a bountiful rye crop while Andres failed again. His father was suitably impressed and said to him, ""Sow, son - I can see that my work is not in it." One wonders at the ability to cultivate in a difficult environment for almost three hundred years! It's not clear (again) but the farm seems to have been Jan's Tõremaa. Andres' other son Tiit apparently went further off to an "island marsh dwelling."

Further information continues regarding the sons of sons; other farms in the vicinity associated with them were Üleoja and Riisa Kangru. But the translation gets even rougher. It is Andres' daughter Liso Riis (10 February 1794 - ??) who is my great-great-great-grandmother.

My stumbling explorations have been interesting the appeal seems obvious (out of the swamps we came?) but still incomplete even from Haud's website alone, and subject to translation errors.

How useful is all this? We shall see ... Part Five has a helpful map!

[1] "Hobby," Urmas Haud, (http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/ : accessed January-February 2014).
[2] "Preposition," (http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja0.html).
[3] "Oolmiku," (http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/aba/abaja2.html).
[4] "Hantsu Sons," (http://www.aai.ee.~urmas/aba/abaja1.html).
[5] Leivo Sepp, Geni (http://www.geni.com/people/Jaan-Riis-Terrama/6000000002648701224).
[6] Leivo Sepp, Geni (http://www.geni.com/people/Andres-Riis/6000000003319166562).

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

12 February 2014

The Book of Me (8)

The Feeling of Home (Prompt 20)
Begging the question here. Home ― now or then? My parents' home or my domestic-era home? My current home? Must wing it, then.

In olden days the start of school holidays was when the train from Winnipeg pulled into the Port Arthur station, signalling I was home. The heart would feel almost like bursting from happiness. Back in God's country. That's what we called it. The feeling never abated.

Then there were these:

Life gifted me.

Home was our century farm where they grew up. Horses, ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, pheasants, peacocks, turkeys, capons, guinea fowl, rabbits, have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, assorted dogs and cats. Summer corn roasts; winter Christmas-tree cutting parties; the MerriMar maple syrup business; 4-H for ponies and sheep; Prince Phillip Games; trucks; tractors; hay baling; rock picking; boyfriends; drivers' licences. Well, they could tell you much more than I.

Now, home is my writing cave of desirable, mostly splendid solitude. Well-deserved rest as I see it. Substituting Lake Ontario for Lake Superior, I'm good.

Hobbies (Prompt 21)
Growing up, ballet school was not exactly a hobby, it was five days a week of hard work after school. No time left for hobbies, I was clearly a social misfit. Maybe school was a hobby. Although I dabbled with writing poetry, drawing cartoons, collecting LPs, and inventing pranks to harass teachers.

Late insertion: Cripes, how could I forget. Sewing. Something good inherited from my grandmother and mother. Never thought of it as a hobby, though. It was thoroughly satisfying craftsmanship, creating half my kids' clothes and some of my own for years. I miss that old sewing machine, especially when I need curtains or to alter ill-chosen fashion mistakes!

Genealogy became a hobby, then a lifesaving job.

Currently could we call camels a hobby? Could be going full-circle to social misfittedness.

Daily Routine(s) (Prompt 22)
Growing up, my father had a routine. Breakfast at 8, lunch at noon, dinner at 6. I'm guessing that was pretty much my mother's routine by default! We kids just fell in line. Now I eat at noon and about 9 pm. Okay, confessing to popcorn/junk food break (cue furtive chortle).

My routine:

That comes close to nailing it. Thank you, free-floating Facebook sources and Genevieve Rhode wherever you are.

Boarding school ingrains two morning things: You make your bed, you get dressed. Or vice-versa. You do it at once, every day. Without fail. Like the army. You don't even have to think when you are putting on the same uniform each morning. Excellent training to become an obsessive-compulsive.

Nowadays, a little variation is required. Getting up is about the same, maybe with a few extra groans. Getting dressed requires coffee for stability on the hind legs and to facilitate decision-making about what exactly to wear. Unless, of course, that was compulsively decided the night before to avoid heavy thinking first thing. Like if you never throw out the clothes from twenty years ago, there are wardrobe choices to debate and slow you down (should do something about that to increase efficiencies). More coffee is required before the bed gets made. Scrolling Facebook is like a tune-up to test how many neurons are blinking. Then to work. Or fitness class, if the daytimer says so.

Ah well, structure and discipline are necessary but routines are a rather dull topic. Mine starts disintegrating after the daily walk in a futile attempt to blow off the brain fog. Looking with interest at the FitBit trend. I will say I never leave home without the earrings in. I'm not dressed unless.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

06 February 2014

RIIS Ancestors (Estonia) Part Three

Part One and Part Two introduced "Tiit Kolgis" (born ca.1650).
Clarification: my ultimate source for his legend is a website built on Estonian folk tales, collected by Jaan Kuldkepp, popularly referred to as the Kuldkepp Chronicles and published online by a presumed descendant.[1]
The tale continues with Tiit's descendants. He had a son Hants Ries or Riis; there is no mention of another son in the folklore. According to the aforesaid website the origin of the-nickname-that-became-a-surname has a few unresolved linguistic points:
Riis denotes a rich man;
Ries ("der Riese" in German means something like giants) and Tiit's descendants were all big strong men;
Ries could mean "freeze" if Tiit had perhaps actually been from Dutch Friesland [Frisia/Fryslân].

That last sounds a little lame to me ― it's so dependent on correlating pronunciation among different languages. It seems possible to me that a "knight" called "Swedish" could have been drawn from any part of northern Europe claiming allegiance to the the Swedish king at that time, such as a German state or Friesland, i.e. a knight who knew where his bread was buttered. The word "Rice" also appears as a surname, apparently as a freaky pronunciation match by the translation software.

Hants or Hans flourished like his father "but without his sword and spurs." It was apparently Hans who lived through, and was most affected by, the twenty-year Great Northern War when the invading Russians caused a great deal of destruction. The peasants often fled into the forests to hide. There's considerable detail, albeit garbled, about how the enemy "extortioners" sought to ambush Hans along the river, but he outwitted them. The great house built by his father was all but destroyed in the war; it's said that only the "Tõnistua" room survived ― another one of those problematic words.
From http://www.aai.ee/~urmas/riisa.html
The small red box on this map indicates the specific area of interest within Estonia. The search is still on for a better-scale map with (hopefully) village names.

Hans, already dubbed the "rich man," survived and eventually the village was reconstructed. Hans himself is said to have rebuilt elsewhere on the lands inherited from his father Tiit. He started a new farm that may have been called Aadutua. The Sillavalla River is mentioned. He had three sons which coincides with what is told about the 1690 tax list, assuming only the children are shown on it as per the available transcript.

Hmmm ... if anyone is following this sketchiness, we have to wonder where is "Evert"? Evert ― accepted by all the Geni trees as the son of Tiit and our direct ancestor. The story says after the war Hans "have been looking for a decent place and set up everting (Aadutua?) Farm."[sic, but emphasis added] It was very unclear to me whether the word "everting" referred to a place name (to our eyes it looks like a verb or adjective) and if this is the source for a person called Evert.

The original Estonian: "Hants tulnud Sandralt Sillavalla jõge mööda allapoole Halliste alamjooksule, otsinud sündsa koha ja asutanud Everti (Aadutua?) talu." Note the capital E on "Everti." The context suggests a farm name. Maybe I do need a competent translator. Like now! The proliferation of capitalized words and other nouns throughout the account is a bit dazing, and they are not showing up on the usual search engines, understandable if they are obsolete farm and place names. Also, you see how a name's endings can alter, depending on grammatical placement.

The alleged son Evert (Eiwertil is an alternate name used in Geni) was spotted in 1690 on an estate tax list. Evert's household had, and again I quote a translated source: "two adults (older than 15 years) sons and two daughters and one son, a minor." Could the name on the tax list refer to a farm name rather than the head of the family? It might make more sense if this was Hans, living on the Evert or Aadutua farm. Three sons are attributed to Hans, not to Tiit.

Since the Geni trees have inserted Evert as the son of Tiit and father of Hans, is it possible they have conflated "Evert" and Hans? Although they give ca.1670 as Evert's birth year, and ca.1705 for that of Hans, the latter hardly squares with Hans being an adult and community leader during the Great Northern War (1700-1721). Well, it's not only the translations that make me skeptical!

Disclaimer (again): This is a different kind of research exercise, obviously not a truly genealogical project. At this stage, I seem to be little more than out-guessing the translations.

The story goes to grandchildren of Hans and gets more specific, but thus becomes exponentially more difficult to follow the translations. Undaunted, more to follow.

[1] While the URL www.aii.ee is for the Tartu Observatory, the Kuldkepp Chronicles has the same URL base (http://www.aai.ee/~tarmo/txt/Intro.html) that confused me at first. The name of the website is unclear. Forward tracking from the URL goes like this:
Click on "chronicle" (/~tarmo/txt/index.html#Sisukord)
Scroll down to Table of Contents, and choose
"Memories of Old Time," (~tarmo/txt/Vana.html#Malestusi_vanast_ajast)
Scroll down to "War Hiding Places" and click on hot link "Riisa Toramaa" (/~urmas/riisa.html)
Click on "rice for children of pedigrees" to /~urmas/aba/abaja1.html

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

01 February 2014

The Book of Me (7)

Toys and Games (Prompt 17)
Yours truly is so old-fashioned I still think chess is the coolest game. But the first game I remember playing is checkers; my Dad was the instructor/opponent for both. The games arrived as gifts from Santa.

In elementary school we were obsessed with playing marbles, but we called them "allies." It was a matter of taking turns to shoot your allie along the ground toward a "pot," that is, a hole you scooped out of the dirt. Any number of kids could play. The eventual winner ― and it quite escapes me now how the system worked ― got to keep all the allies in the pot. Everyone vied to collect the prettiest coloured marbles that we lugged back and forth to school in a cloth whisky-bottle bag with a drawstring.

The unique dolls my Grandma Freibergs made ... how I wish I still had them! Or even a photograph! She made them all of one piece in sturdy cotton, stuffed them, and embroidered the faces. Then, and that's where her seamstress training shone, she crafted a gorgeous dress with a long skirt. The brilliant part was when you turned the doll upside down, a completely new doll appeared in a different full length gown, different hair, different face. I, of course, thought Grandma invented them.

A little research educates me otherwise (another win-win for The Book of Me). They are called "topsy-turvy dolls" and their history goes back to plantation days in America ― not to Grandma's Latvian roots. The original doll babies had a white face and a black face. There's an interesting discussion on Historical Folk Toys http://www.historicalfolktoys.com/catcont/4716.html. In the early twentieth century, commercial companies began selling popular patterns so handy homemakers could make their own.

First Present or Gift (Prompt 18)
Can you remember it? Who bought it for you? Do you still have it?
FAIL here in the memory department. Maybe the first gift was the silver christening mug? ... now gathering dust in one of my descendants' cupboards (instead of in mine). Or the quilt Grandma made for my crib. The patches alternated in pink and blue, a clear sign no-one knew in advance which one I'd be. I think I still have it, if only I knew where to look.

The same Grandma created tiny baby dresses with incredibly detailed stitching. They became very fragile over the ensuing years; lack of proper care was a factor. 

Then there was the handsome red sleigh my Grandpa Dougall made. Was it for me or for my father and his sisters before me? Lovingly crafted and ideal for all that previously-tolerated northern SNOW. It now resides with my niece in Quebec where they also have a winter abundance of SNOW and a few babies to enjoy it.

Who Do You Miss? (Prompt 19)
People who live elsewhere that we will not see over the festive season, people that have passed away; who do you miss? Why?
"Elsewhere" ... nearly all the important people in my life live elsewhere. Foremost I miss my children at odd times ― meaning actually any old time ― because they are all so far away. That means I am ever grateful for the likes of Email, Skype, and Facebook. And the technology helps me understand they are no longer the helpless toddlers I cherished or the fractious teenagers I despaired over.

I miss my long distance friends scattered on diverse pathways to global corners, some from way-back-when. Some intersect electronically on a fairly regular basis; others, regrettably, have gone by the wayside.

If I were to list them all and why I miss each not being 'round the corner to visit, I would still be writing this two years from now. Maybe sometimes they miss me too.

Much sadder is the fact that friends of childhood and later have died. Did they fulfill some of their dreams? Memories of times we shared always warm me. A special loss are those who went far too young ― my "twin" cousin H; my young cousin I; my beautiful cousin C. Family historians have deep roots and wide branches.

When I look back in review, as happens with this prompt, I didn't know I had so many friends ~ Happy Dance ~ Now I'm less and less of a social extrovert, relishing solitude, so it takes determined effort and time to develop new friendships. There are friends who connect through mutual interests. There are those who bond on different creative, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual levels. We are all complex human beings and it's a rare friend who sustains and nourishes you on all levels of your being with reciprocal sharing and trust ― the special few on whom you can count at all times are extra precious.

It may sound trite, but I can only say I am fortunate and blessed. Wherever my family and friends are, their regular presence is missed.