We are about a week out from the launch of RootsTech Connect 2021. Yesterday, I had a chance to meet with the other ambassadors and RootsTech staff …Ready, Set, Go! RootsTech Connect 2021!
I never go to Disneyland without a spin or two on the Mad Hatter’s Teacups. Now, I know that they are not everyone’s cup of tea. (Dang, that was …Spinning out of control
Someone in my Grandmother Nells’ family wants to be found! I had the strangest experience today.
I am researching a different family line and, for some reason, could not get thoughts of my grandmothers’ sisters out of my head. They are actually her cousins, but from the age of 6, she lived with them after being orphaned, and for all intents and purposes, they were her sisters.
I could only remember the names Lettie and Dixie at the start. I hauled out her handwritten memories and wracked my brain for anything that I could remember as I searched her writings. It’s been years. She died in 1981, and I certainly haven’t seen any of them since quite a while before that.
I wasn’t having much luck at all, as she only ever refers to them in the third person in her writing. I remembered that my aunt called her “grandmother” (actually grandaunt) Ouma Hough.
I searched for records on Ouma Hough and found her husband’s surname. He had predeceased my gran joining their family.
Suddenly my mind remembers that Lettie’s surname was Ackerman. I remember visiting in her home in Newlands, Johannesburg. I do some searches and find her marriage record, followed by a baptism record for one of her children. Lo and behold, her sister Isabella is a witness. The floodgates open, and I remember adults talking about Isabel Naude. A bit more research, and I find her marriage records too.
The one person I remember the most is Aunty Dixie. Man, she could talk the hind leg off a donkey, and my memories of her are the most vivid. However, I cannot remember anything relevant to her name or married surname.
I start wondering what Dixie could be a nickname for???? I have a vague suspicion that her married surname may have been Grobler, but I am not really sure why I think this. I ask on a Facebook group and then keep on searching. I follow hints from within my Rootsmagic database……..
BOOM……… suddenly there it is. I find her listed on someone else’s My Heritage profile, along with her siblings and parents, in the right town and dates.
What a win. I just know that my gran wanted me to find them and add them to our family story. They were a big part of her life and were not included anywhere. I feel so relieved and grateful that my old brain can still help me recall obscure things from my past. I am again grateful for all the people who have digitized records for so many years, and those others who have indexed them, making them searchable and available to us today.
the poem by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
© 1996-2020 Southwestern Inspire Kindness, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
So here it is – “THE DASH,” – well, some of it.
My mother, Lesley, was born in 1943, in the middle of World War II (OK, siblings, our mother 😋.) Lesley was born just before Christmas in the same year that saw Mussolini deposed, the Pentagon finished, Nelson Mandela complete his BA from Fort Hare University, and Richard E. Folland, President of the South African Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 1938 to 1944, presiding over a total of only 50 missionaries during his entire tenure because of World War II.
Lesley was raised in her parents’ home at 4 Mallard Street, Kensington, Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa. She lived there until her marriage in 1968, when she relocated to the brand spanking new house in Mindalore, Krugersdorp, that she and Louis purchased shortly before their wedding. She lived in that Krugersdorp home for the remainder of her life, except for one year, in 1970, when the family resided in Paarl, Western Cape, while Louis worked on an electrification project far from home.
According to her brother Peter, who was born three years after her, their father was quite demanding of Lesley. He sent her for ballet and piano lessons as well as elocution lessons. Proper English decorum was always expected.
Both Lesley and her brother were involved in school sport. Lesley in diving and swimming, and Peter in cricket and rugby. They spent many afternoons and weekends playing at the park down the road from their home, called Rhodes Park. Lesley attended Jeppe Preparatory School in Kensington and then Jeppe Girls High. She left school to study at Modern Methods Business College in 1960 and attained her National Commercial certificate. While there, she purportedly went through a rebellious phase, running with a “wild crowd.” This “bad” behavior continued for about a year until she met Harold Williams, aka Harry. They dated for a while, and in 1963, Lesley found out she was pregnant. Her father refused to permit them to be married, and so when Debra was born in September 1963, Lesley and Debra stayed in the home with her parents and brother. The relationship with Harry lasted for another 18 months. It eventually ended, most likely due to Lesley’s new religion and the consequent drifting apart of their chosen lifestyles. Lesley met two of those 50 missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints while pregnant with her daughter, and she was baptized a member in January 1964. This decision shaped the rest of her life.
Lesley met Louis after he returned from his mission, for the same Church, to the Netherlands. After dating for approximately a year, they were married in 1968. They purchased a house in Krugersdorp, where they spent the rest of their lives.
Louis and Lesley saved for a year after their marriage to buy airplane tickets to London, England. They took me and my baby sister, Tracy, to the London Temple to be sealed as a family. This was an essential step for them, as a family, in their religious beliefs. She also received her patriarchal blessing from Church Patriarch Eldred G. Smith at that time. We toured London and later rented a Dormobile and went over to Holland. We spent about a week touring Holland (mom and dad slipped away to Switzerland for a weekend) before returning home to South Africa. A further eight siblings and one miscarriage followed between then and 1981. Lesley made no effort to disguise the fact that she loved babies and that when they became more independent and could walk and talk, she longed for another baby. She planned to have 12; however, this was not to be.
Lesley loved to make things fun for her children; perhaps she was just an adult-child. She was a fan of “Laurel and Hardy” type movies and would laugh long after the show had finished. She enjoyed slapstick comedy and teased Louis mercilessly. Her giggles would always get the children going, and chaos would ensue.
Lesley was meticulous about writing out budgets and plans. Her food storage system was legendary, not to mention planning meals and groceries for her large family. I still use a variation of her grocery list to organize my shopping.
Going on holiday in the caravan was like being marshaled by a general, as she planned clothing, meals, snacks, sleeping arrangements, bedding, towels, and trips for the three weeks.
If she were planning to move a room around, she would use graph paper and measure out furniture pieces cut to scale to plot the space before moving anything. I inherited her penchant to move furniture around often. She always said a change was a good as a holiday, and sometimes a holiday at home was necessary. I am grateful for her example; it is a trait I am proud to have inherited.
Mom’s organizing skills even extended to having VHS tapes available for each night of the week, to record her favorite shows while she was busy running around for her children or Church. She would ensure to watch these recordings before the next week’s episode was aired.
Lesley and Louis loved to dance, and throughout their lives, they tried to ensure that they had a date night at least once a month (sometimes when times were good, once a week) and attended any church hosted dances they possibly could. They especially enjoyed the annual Green and Gold Balls that were so much a part of church life in those days. They loved movies and going to live shows. We often rented 16mm movies, and I am almost positive that the “Carry On” movies were almost always one of the films each time 🤐. They also played cards with friends, often having Canasta nights, on rotation, if I recall correctly, at either the Louw’s, Donly’s, Swanepoel’s, or at our home. I seem to remember lots of picnics and day trips to resorts with friends.
Playing the piano was something else that Lesley loved to do, with syncopation being her favorite style. I loved to watch her hands glide across the keys as she lost herself playing.
Of course, all the children thought we could do it too, and we would forever hear her calling from another room to “stop banging the piano,” “take your foot off the pedal,” or other such phrases. Only Michelle ever really got to find out that she could play as well. Over many years, mom learned to play the hymns and primary songs, and eventually, she even learned to play the organ for church meetings.
Family traditions were important to mom and dad. Family prayers and Family Home Evenings were a vital part of their family life, and we never missed Church. She held numerous callings and assignments, mostly in the Primary and Relief Society organizations of the Church. She did not enjoy public speaking but was often called upon to speak and provide training.
Birthday parties with “outsiders” were only for special birthdays, like 8th, 12th, 18th, and 21st birthdays. We did not need outsiders for all the other birthdays, as we always had enough people to feel like it was a party anyway. There was almost always a cake on one’s birthday. One did not get out of bed until the family snuck into the room to “surprise” you with a rendition of “happy birthday” and your gift. Some family members still carry this tradition on with their families today.
Lesley was a dedicated and hardworking person. Her first job was at Barclays Bank DCO from 1960 to May 1963. After her first child’s birth, she worked for A Reyrolle & Co, Elandsfontein, from 1965 to 1966. She then moved to the employ of Louis Witken, the Johannesburg stockbroker, from 1966 until 1969, shortly before her second child’s birth. I attended a creche at the time, and many a night, my father and I would eat and play games on the office floor, waiting for her to balance her ledger cards, often looking for just 1 cent. It drove my father mad that she was so persistent and meticulous about this, but secretly I think he was proud of it.
Many years later, in 1974, after the birth of her first son, she returned to the workplace and worked at the same company her mother worked for – Clyde Trading Company. She was employed there full-time for about a year, and sporadically after that whenever they needed her assistance. Much later, she would join the Spar Group Distribution Centre based in Industria, Johannesburg, and progressed to Credit Manager’s level. She filled that post until she died in 2005. A measure of her success was how her employers handled the last year of her life as she faced a second bout with cancer and its vile treatments. They were supportive and encouraging and so caring of her and her family.
Education was essential to mom, both for her children and herself. She never stopped learning. She started piano lessons again as an adult; she went back to school at Damelin College. She earned a National Certificate in Credit Management Administration in 1990, followed by a Practical Accounting and an Advanced Credit Management Diploma in 1991 and 1998. She was also a voracious reader and could tune out the world while reading, like no one else I have ever met.
There was nothing half about Lesley. She gave one hundred percent to any task she undertook, be it for an employer, making an outfit for herself or a child, helping her husband dig foundations, managing the cement-mixer, planning a vegetable garden, or building the walls of the extensions to the house. Lesley could do it all, and if she did not know how, she learned and then did it.
I used to sigh (inwardly) when she started a project, as no one got to sit aside and watch. It was always all-hands-on-deck. For example, I remember that she and dad talked about getting a pool. When he came home from work the next day, she had drawn out the perimeter of the pool with a spade, and she, along with all us children, had already started digging the hole. I am not sure how many years that hole was in the back yard, getting bigger and deeper every school holiday. It was an excellent place for childhood adventures and was even home to some pet bunnies for a while. The sand from that hole reshaped the entire garden over time. Dad eventually got a pool company to finish it for us. The day they filled it was in the middle of July, but we all jumped in to celebrate anyway.
Lesley was a loyal friend and never gossiped, but she did not tolerate fools lightly and was quite a vocal driver in traffic, talking to the other drivers as though they could hear her. Lesley almost always avoided conflict and would rather work something out in her mind than vocally.
Lesley was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer in 2002 and was subjected to a mastectomy and chemotherapy, which seemed initially to be successful. However, after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, Louis, in November 2003, cancer returned and metastasized into her liver and lungs. On 5 January 2005, shortly after she agonized over the television footage of the devastating December 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Lesley passed on to what she called “her next mission,” surrounded by her brother and children who sang softly and tearfully as she passed.
She was survived by her brother, Peter, six daughters, four sons, and at the time sixteen grandchildren. That number has now grown to 29 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with two more greats on the way in 2021.
As part of my research, I glanced over the Eulogy notes that her brother gave at her funeral. Here are some extracts from those notes; they sum our mother up perfectly……
“Lesley was very particular about spelling, especially of her name.”
“Lesley was organized, she called a family Indaba, to handle who would get what upon her death. This epitomized her approach to life.”
Some “S” words to describe Lesley…… Sister, strong, solid, sensible, simple (what you see is what you get), sincere, spiritual, special, and most important of all SUPERWOMAN.”
“Lesley and Louis raised their children to be wonderful adults and parents.”
“Lesley was every employer’s dream. She took personal responsibility and accountability for what she did. She did things to her very high standards.”
“As a young girl, there was a bit of James Dean in her, but as she matured, she changed, in particular after she joined her church.”
There is so much more that could be written. I am sure my siblings are already lining up to remind me of things I overlooked or forgot. Our mother was a treasure, and I am grateful for all that she was and is to us. Did she make mistakes? Of course, she did. We all do. She probably castigated herself about those mistakes in a way we will not understand, but she sure tried her best to be who she believed she needed to be: a wife, mother, child of God, and an all-around good citizen of the world.
On the anniversary of his birth I am reposting this blog post from 2017
John James Cook was born 3 January 1907 in Cape Town, South Africa. He was called Jack. When I asked him why once, his answer was, “all John’s are called Jack”, and that was that.
He was the firstborn child of Arthur Charles Cook (1869-1950) and Sarah Emma Louise Cooper (1883-1926). He had 5 siblings, Arthur Frederick (1913-1913), Lilian (1916-1939), Charles (1918-1991), Jean (details unavailable) and Patrick Kingsley (1926-1975)
The following is a transcript of his dictation to my mother when she asked him for an account of his life:
“I was born in Cape Town on the 3rd of January 1907. The early part of my childhood was spent in Cape Town where I attended Marist Brothers School. After this, I attended school in De Aar and later we moved to Mafikeng where I finished my schooling. Later on, I took a correspondence course in accountancy.
I started work on the South African Railways at Mafikeng. In 1932, I went to work in Lobatsi, and in 1933 moved on to Johannesburg.
Since then I have remained in Johannesburg.
I met my future wife while working at Lennon Limited, and we were married on the 10th Nov. 1937. We started our married life by staying in a flat in Mackay Mansions and in 1943 we moved out of town to a house in Kensington. In December 1943 our first child, a daughter, was born. About 2 years later, in August 1946 our son, Peter was born.
During my life I have taken interest in different sports, the main ones being tennis, golf, cricket and soccer.
I can also remember that at the time of my living at De Aar in the Cape I had been a choir boy in the Anglican Church there. Another thing that comes back to my mind is that the parson there used to lend me his bicycle to ride at times.”
How grateful I am for this glimpse into his memories! How I wish there was more recorded!
Jack and Mabs (my grandmother’s nickname made up of the initials of her names) were both educated and diligent workers. They both worked until after retirement age. I always had the impression that he was held in high esteem. Politics was not something you wanted to engage him on. He was a vocal liberal with an intense dislike of the apartheid government of the day. The only time I ever saw him angry was if someone tried to debate the merits of apartheid with him. He always encouraged his children and grandchildren to get as much education as they could and to be solid citizens. He was extremely proud of his children and their families.
My memories of him were of a quiet but very determined man quite set in his ways. I don’t remember him as being very demonstrative but never once did I doubt his love for me. He was an avid reader with an extensive library. He read all the important newspapers like the Rand Daily Mail and The Star, and clipped articles and dated those clippings diligently. He always did the crosswords in those newspapers. Next to his armchair in the lounge, there was always a book and a newspaper, an ashtray and a glass of something. He drank beer in a very strange pattern that I never quite understood – Lion Lager had to be at room temperature, then a cold Castle or 2 and finish off with a cold Black Label. Last a small glass of whiskey as a nightcap.
He belonged to the Union Club and the Rand Club in Johannesburg central and both are places I remember us meeting him before taking the bus back to their home.
He always brought us treats when he came to visit. Mine was usually a Kit Kat, Jelly tots or Smarties.
He had an appreciation of the arts. I do not remember him attending many productions with us but I know we always got tickets to musicals, plays, and ballets from him. He had a substantial music collection made up of 78’s and 33 LP records. His radiogram was his pride and joy and when it was given to me I treasured it long after it stopped working. I still have some of his record collection, and I know that my love of a wide variety of music comes from growing up listening to his collection, which included the likes of Engelbert Humperdink, Burl Ives, Ruby Murray, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Mantovani and much more. He gave me a tape recorder and my first cassette tape for my 13th birthday which I used well into my 20’s. He also purchased a television soon after they were introduced in South Africa and always watched the sport and the news. I remember him owning a Rover V8 and a Triumph motor car and treating his cars very well.
I also got to go on a holiday or two with them. They always had an annual holiday and judging from the copious number of photographs, they toured South Africa extensively. Regrettably, almost none of the photos are annotated and so I have little idea of the years or places they are a memory of.
My grandfather was a man of few words but he left an indelible impression on my mind and heart. To me, he was the epitome of a gentleman. I remember he would insist that he walk on the outside of the pavement closest to the road to protect me. He always opened the car door for my granny. He expected children to be seen and not heard unless he called you to have a chat.
I remember that he allowed me to conduct the orchestra’s on his radiogram with granny’s knitting needle. He called me his “pumpkin” or “Gogga”. I remember his corny joke that a hungry horse in 4 letters was “M-T-G-G (Empty Geegee).
He encouraged reading and good grammar. He frowned on boisterousness. He disliked vegetables except for burnt roast pumpkin and peas. There were always cold pork sausages in their fridge for when he wanted a sliced pork sausage with HP sauce sandwich. He insisted that he “ate to live and did not live to eat” whenever my granny tried to get him to eat regular meals (he only ate when hungry).
He used to treat us all to special meals at the Rhodes Park Restaurant or the Blue Room Restaurant, both places where you had to mind your P’s and Q’s and know how to eat the many courses with the correct cutlery.
My grandfather is one of my heroes. I love and miss him. Most especially I am blessed to call him grandpa and have been influenced by such a great man.
2020 commenced with massive excitement as we set off for a two-week holiday on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, at a beautiful place called Banana Beach. We had excellent weather for most of the visit and spent hours in the sea and sun. Little did we know how much that R&R would be needed. We commenced our last semester as a Pathway missionary couple (or so we thought) while on holiday and started our online studies too.
Things were extremely busy with promises of the best year ever for my small business on the work front. New clients had come on board, and I needed to employ a second assistant to cope with the increased volumes. The twins started their last year of primary school, and it was shaping up to be a busy and eventful year.
Early in February, we drove down to Durban again to attend the Open House of the new Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, due to be dedicated two weeks later. The quality of the workmanship and the magnificence of both the structure and furnishings were incredible. We eagerly made plans to return after the dedication to experience it all again.
Mid-February, Allan and I got to spend three days at Sun City, courtesy of a generous sister and brother-in-law. It was amazing. Believe it or not, it was my first proper visit. Previous visits had been for a Mango Groove concert in the ’80s and a Josh Groban concert a few years ago. I loved it all. The monkey troops amused me, and having a few days break before the tax year’s busiest time was a blessing.
In the ensuing few weeks, we realized that the Coronavirus dubbed Covid-19 was inevitably going to reach South African shores. We did an inventory of our food storage. We prepared ourselves to self-isolate as much as possible, given that my sister-in-law, who lives with us, has two auto-immune diseases and falls into the compromised population segment. On 18 March, the twins’ school closed as a precaution against the virus. On 22 March, we held our first home sacrament meeting, and our local missionaries joined us that day. They were repatriated back to their home countries during the following week in a massive evacuation exercise co-ordinated by the Church Missionary Department. 23 March, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced a 21-day lockdown for the entire country to begin on 26 March at midnight. As I write this blog, we are about to complete our 280th day in lockdown.
During this lockdown period, we have experienced highs and lows.
Moments of struggle:
- Helping the thirteen-year-old twins adjust to not seeing their friends and facing their fears over the possibilities of the virus.
- Helping the twins adjust to learning online and only “seeing” their friends and teachers on Teams or WhatsApp
- Dealing with frustrated clients as we could not attend to their tax and other queries generally due to changes forced on us by the lockdown.
- Reduced income as clients lost income and some even their entire livelihoods due to lockdown.
- Feelings of isolation
- The loss of another grandbaby, this time through an ectopic pregnancy (how our hearts ache at each loss).
- The relocation of a child to a location over 1000kms away 😦
- No sport, neither to watch nor participate in.
- Feelings of frustration as we sometimes got annoyed with each other due to 24/7 close confines.
- Learning to wear masks and sanitize constantly.
- Not being able to visit friends
- Not being able to comfort friends who lost loved ones or attend their funerals
- Increased pressure to assist some clients gain access to government relief assistance, which resulted in much more administrative work.
- Learning how to facilitate Pathway Gatherings via Zoom. Data issues, etiquette issues, changing the way I teach to the new medium. This was a monumental learning curve for both Allan and me.
- Losing two trees in the garden in massive thunder and wind storms, thankfully with minimal damages to property.
- Finding out family members were infected and affected by the virus. Worrying about their health and the exposure we potentially brought into our home.
Moments of enjoyment:
- The quietness of the neighborhood with no car sounds from the nearby main road for a month.
- Seeing whole families out for a daily walk as the exercise window of two hours was allowed after level 5 lockdown was eased to level 4.
- No early morning rushing to get the children to school on time.
- Having long discussions on a topic that elicited a question during our Sunday discussions on the week’s “Come Follow Me” readings.
- Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the First Vision and participating in my first “Hallelujah Shout”
- Recognizing how many of our life experiences had prepared us for living off what we have stored.
- Not having to adjust too much to online working from home, as we have been doing this for over five years.
- Our first takeaway food ordered in after relaxation of lockdown regulations, delicious ribs from The Diner.
- Laughing as we raked leaves in the mornings for exercise, and then raked more from the exact same places later in the day, only to realize at supper time that the ground didn’t look like we had done any raking. Oh, the joys of a GIGANTIC oak tree in the garden in autumn.
- Spending much more time out in the garden, in the sun, and planting seedlings.
- Completing our Pathway mission, having served extra time. Allan served an additional five months. I finish mine today, nine months extra. I love Pathway Connect. What a blessing it has been in our lives. What a privilege it has been to serve. I have met people I most likely would never have met any other way. They have influenced my life and given me a better understanding of my fellow South Africans. I have learned to love people better, purely because they, too, are children of our Heavenly Father.
- The engagement of one child, and the announcement of a new pregnancy for another.
- Promotion from primary school to high school for the twins.
Moment of growth:
- Teaching clients how to work online and embrace cloud computing.
- Discovering that the twins were growing in leaps and bounds despite their schooling challenges. Even when they went back to school, they handled masks, sanitization, temperature taking, and social distancing like pros.
- Figuring out how to use Zoom – a significant achievement. We used it for Pathway Gatherings, family chats, and client meetings. (I wish I had some shares in that company before lockdown happened).
- Sundays became the best day of the week. Our family discussion progressed from barely 45 minutes the first week to sometimes over an hour and a half. These discussions became some of my favorite memories of the year. It has been a blessing to stop when a question is asked and take the time to adequately address it, not having to worry about a class lesson time or the rest of the class.
- My family history collections have been sorted into files per surname and, in some cases, per person. Scanning of photos and sorting of memorabilia has happened. Praise be. I have carted some of these souvenirs around for over twenty years – the lockdown periods have enabled me to be pro-active and make some real progress. Having time to implement many of the processes and skills I have learned in my BYU Idaho studies has been a bonus.
- Launching my genealogy business has finally become a reality. (cue HUGE HUGE SMILE).
So, here we are…….. New Year’s Eve, and I just feel that I cannot be ungrateful for this challenging year. As always, I look forward to a new year, new beginnings, and continued growth, but somehow I think that in twenty years, we may still look back at this year as a watershed year, one that changed the world as we knew it, hopefully for a much better future.
My brother with Bert. I, of course, had Ernie. There was no Sunday morning blog post – I got distracted. For years we have talked about getting a …We Bought a Scanner…
I am convinced that I cope as well as I do with life because I escape to the nostalgia of family history memories on a regular basis.
Note: In case you missed it, last week was the 25th anniversary of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” A dear blogging friend of mine, …Holding It Up to the Light: The Family: A Proclamation to the World
I have a confession to make…wait for it. As you know, for most of us, we haven’t been attending normal church meetings at the chapel for months now. …The Penitent Hermit