Friday, July 30, 2010

Turning My Heart to the Women in My Past

I just got back from an amazing trip. It was so wonderful in so many ways.

We went to Bandon, a little coastal town in Southern Oregon, for a family reunion. I'd never been to the coast and it completely stole my heart. I am insanely jealous of all of you who get to live near beauty like this. I'd forfeit my mountains in a heart beat for these cold, foggy, rocky, beaches.

Tragically I forgot my camera on this trip. So thanks for this site for the picture that captured exactly where we stayed.

This trip was so healing for me in many ways. The reason for our trip was to meet family that up until two years ago I didn't even know existed. For lots of different reasons I have never been connected to my mother's side of the family. Growing up I barely new my grandparents or my cousins on that side of my family. The only stories I'd heard about my Pettes-Thacker heritage were the two times I interviewed my grandmother in the last few years of her life (praise and blessings on the high school English teacher who made me do it for an assignment) about her experiences living in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor and about how my Great-grandparents fell in love.

That was really all I knew about that side of my family until about two years ago I finally opened a large box full of family history stuff my mother had given me. I'd hauled it around with me through 4 years of college but hadn't ever taken the time to open it. When I finally did I found it was full of letters that my great-grandmother had saved throughout her life, including all the love letters my great-grandfather wrote here when they were courting. It was a treasure.

Through some of the letters and emails I found in the box I connected with my grandmother's cousins who were all in the 60's and 70's and who had been yearning for years to re-connected with my side of the family. I discovered they held a family reunion every year in Oregon and last year we planed to go but I was pregnant, broke my foot and both my parents decided to get remarried -- so we didn't get to go.

This year we made it and even though I was nervous about meeting people I'd never seen or talked to before, my little family and I were welcomed with wide open arms and lots of hugs. It was amazing how quickly through, good food, games, genealogy sharing, and pictures, these strangers quickly became family. Being in such a beautiful place, with such wonderful people who told me story after story about my grandmother and great-grandmother was divine. For several days I literally felt like I was walking in heaven I was so filled with joy.

I realized that not only do I have relatives who are amazing (and very hospitable) but that I have a heritage full of powerful and amazing people.

This week I discovered that I am a decedent of four amazing beautiful, strong, intelligent, kind women who lived hard lives but left an amazing legacy.

The Pettes Family in 1934. Florence Grace Pettes Thacker ( in the middle holding her son William) is my great-grandmother. Louise (far left in glasses) is my grandmother.

That I am a decedent of a Civil War veterans who fought for the Union. The family even has a copy of Fredrick William Pettes' journal he kept the last few months of the war. Mostly it is filled with his frustrations about wanting to go home because he is afraid is sweetheart is going to get married; his commanding officer, who happens to be his father, won't give him leave to go visit her.

Captain Fredrick William Pettes in 1863

But I guess it turns out okay because in the end they get married anyway.

Fredrick Williams and Florence Atkins Pettes on their wedding day

That I can trace my history back the people who crossed the Mayflower, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. They are the ones mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Courtship of Miles Standish." One of my grandmother's cousins has documents to prove our relationship and so if I wanted I could become a member of the Mayflower society!

As they told me story after story I felt, truly from the bottom of my soul, that I came to understand the scripture in Malachi 4:6 that says,
"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
My heart has been "turned" to my ancestors and in the process it has been healed. I love these people so deeply and I don't even know them.

I am especially filled with love for the women in my heritage. I will be eternally grateful to them for their willingness to have children, even in some hard circumstances, so that I was able to be born into the family I was. That is a debt that I will never be able to repay.

When I think about these great women of my past I am so grateful for their faith and their dedication to God.They have left me a great heritage.

It is amazing to look into their faces and see myself, to see my sisters, to see my mother and my grandmother.

What a great treasure to have found them.

And what a beautiful day it will be when I get to meet them.

Charlotte, Mabel, Eleanor and Florence Pettes in 1919

I've been "infected" by the Spirit of Elijah and I think I like it... a lot.


  1. It amazes me how much you can love someone who you've never met, how just the basic facts about their life can awaken this sense of being tied to them.
    I've noticed this in celebrities when they discover their family on 'Who do you think you are' I think I've seen one episode where the person did not get emotionally overwhelmed because of the life of their ancestor.
    I love the old photos you have and how you have names for everyone in the picture. I've approached my family too late and some names and faces are unidentifiable or forgotten.

  2. Just wonderful. Thank's for sharing.

  3. I love your post. Genealogy is an addicitive hobby. Learning about our past helps us to know who we are.