Friday, February 20, 2009

Genealogy Gave Me Roots And Patterns

Genealogy is one of my hobbies. My husband inspired me to give it a try about ten or so years ago. I never knew that finding out about my ancestors would really give me roots, a feeling of belonging to somebody, a history that could actually be traced through many people and to many places. I am excited by finding out about the famous, infamous and the common folk that I came from. I haven't actually traced my lines to anybody who is famous yet. Someone actually traced one of my husband's lines back to being related to most of the kings and queens of Europe in the 1700's.

Something else that I found from genealogy is that with some of the stories that my aunts have shared with me is how the line of abuse has come down from one generation to the next. With that knowledge, I can see why some of the abuse was done. It was what each generation before was taught.

Some things are passed down generation to generation. One good example of this would be the value of being thrifty that was taught by the generation that lived through the Depression of the 1920's and 1930's. I see this trait in my mother-in-law who was born in 1922. Thriftiness can be a good thing especially with the economic problems that the U. S. is beginning to experience today.

One of the things that I discovered is that the abuse didn't start with my dad or grandfather. It goes all the way back to my great-grandfather. It makes me wonder how much farther back the abuse went.

My great-grandfather William Thomas Caldwell was married three times. The first wife died shortly after giving birth to a daughter. At the burial of his wife, Thomas wanted to put the baby in the coffin and bury her with her mother. The baby girl was taken and raised by a neighbor family. I wonder if that baby girl was ever told the story of her birth. How horrible that story was. The first born son of this marriage was raised by the parents of his mother.

Next Thomas Caldwell married and had five children before the second wife filed for a divorce. This was in the early 1900's before divorce was popular. With the divorce, the lady also filed for a restraining order to keep him away from her and the children. I had no idea that you could even get a restraining order that long ago. I know this because I have a copy of the divorce papers that were on file in the Magnolia Courthouse from Columbia County, Arkansas.

My great-grandmother was the last wife of Thomas Caldwell that I have found evidence of. Someone at posted that Thomas went to Texas and married a fourth time while he was still married to my great-grandmother and that he got arrested for it. I haven't been able to prove this marriage.

The story that my aunts shared with me about my great-grandparents were that they separated when my grandfather was a small boy. The reason for the separation was that Thomas had tried at least twice to poison my grandmother. When she found out about it, she kicked him out. One of the boys stayed with my great-grandmother and the other one went with Thomas. A few years later, my great-grandmother died and both boys from the marriage to Thomas lived with Thomas. Thomas was my great-grandmother's second husband. The two boys from her first marriage were raised by her parents after her death.

The last time that my grandfather saw his father was on my grandfather's wedding day. The few times that my grandfather talked about his father, he didn't have anything good to say about the man.

I hope that you understand the reason for me sharing this family history with you is to show you that abuse can be generational. If it is, it is your responsibility to not pass the abuse on to the next generation---your children. The abuse can be stopped.


Jannie Funster said...

I certainly agree abuse can be stopped! I'm living proof too.

What interesting stories from your history. Kinda creepy about the baby that could've been buried with her mother, but luckily ended well for her.

And nothing wrong with being thrifty!

Patricia Singleton said...

Jannie, the story about the baby is creepy. As a mother, I can't imagine doing that to a child. Thomas was definitely not a nice man. He raised my grandfather who became an alcoholic and raised my father. Unless we are aware, history can repeat itself over and over again until someone says, "Stop."

Corinne Edwards said...

Patricia, this is absolutely fascinating.

What a storyteller you are!

It grabbed me and I did not want it to end.

And such an example of how we must stop abuse right where it is -


Patricia Singleton said...

Corinne, thank you. Something that I just thought about this morning was the fact that my dad's maternal grandmother was a bootlegger in the 1920's and 1930's or later. She had at least one son who may have died from poisoned or bad moonshine. So the chances to become an alcoholic were right there in both sides of my dad's family tree. She was also very mean to her grandchildren when she visited according to all of my aunts.

Lance said...

Thanks for sharing your story, and your history, Patricia. Like Corinne, I was pulled in by your storytelling.

And what an important message to spread - about abuse - and that it CAN be stopped.

Patricia Singleton said...

Lance, thank you for your comments. Stopping abuse through awareness is one of the reasons that I blog.

Davina said...

Hi Patricia. I can appreciate your story, thank you for sharing. The picture you have painted is fascinating, although I'm sorry to hear of the abuse in your family. It is true what you say, change has to happen with each one of us.

Patricia Singleton said...

Davina, thank you. I truly believe in the Gandhi saying, "Be the change you wish to see in the world. . ." We can each make a difference. When we change, the Universe changes too.

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Albert | UrbanMonk.Net said...

Hey Patricia, I agree with Corinne. A fascinating story and chilling at the same time. You're 100% spot on that abuse is generational. Many many things are.

Like you suggested, if we don't deal with our own pain and suffering, we pass it on, intentionally or otherwise. I was talking to a teenage boy recently and he told me of the things his mother always says to him when she is angry - "I wish I never had you", "you're the biggest mistake I've made in my life" etc.

Now obviously this is not as bad as physical abuse, but what struck me is that I know his mother quite well and I know she wouldn't say things like that with an intent to hurt. It was her own past pains that drove her to say things like this, perhaps in a moment of anger. The scary thing is, I can see how the way she talks to her son is slowly changing him too. And unless he deals with the pain from statements like that, there's a good chance it will be passed on.

Patricia Singleton said...

Albert, from my own experiences the emotional abuse that comes about because of words said and unsaid by both of my parents was much more difficult to heal than the physical abuse. Because my dad was never physically violent, I had no physical scars to heal.

Some of the emotional scars are still waiting to be healed even after all this time. Most of the time, today, they don't bother me.

In times of stress or in times of anger and hurt, I find the scars that are still present. In times of anger or hurt, I can still find myself repeating words that either of my parents said to me as a child. These words automatically come to my tongue without me thinking about them. Then I have to apologize and/or explain why I said them. When I become conscious that they are still programs in my mind, then I can work on releasing them. Awareness is the first step to change.

I have been in your friend's mother's place of hearing myself say words that I didn't mean and wouldn't have said if I had taken the time to think first. Until I acknowledged and felt my pain, I wasn't really to change. Unfortunately a lot of people never acknowledge their pain. Burying your pain doesn't mean it isn't there.

Albert | UrbanMonk.Net said...

Thank you for that perspective Patricia. It's interesting that you say emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse, because it is also true in my limited experience. But according to some survivor accounts, physical abuse is worse. Do you think that is a result of individual differences?

Maybe things get complicated because you can't usually have physical without emotional abuse.

Definitely - burying your pain, in fact, makes it more likely to control you. I see people who have these pains and don't even know they have it - they blame other people for their anger or for whatever.

Patricia Singleton said...

Albert, I have not met anyone that thought the physical abuse was worse than the emotional abuse. I would think that the person just wasn't in touch with their emotions in that case. I may be wrong but that would be my guess.

For many years, I stuffed and buried the emotional pain of the incest experiences. I was determined to be happy at any cost.

My body paid the price of the denied rage with stomach aches and migraines and outbreaks of crying that happened about every 3-6 months. My body was like a pressure cooker holding in the emotions until it couldn't any more.

Albert | UrbanMonk.Net said...

Aaah! I think that is where the confusion lies. My apologies - I'm guessing you refer to emotional abuse as the emotional part of it. In that sense, incest had both emotional and physical components.

I had a slightly different categorisation - I saw incest (even the resulting emotional trauma) as physical abuse (because it was a physical act), and emotional abuse as name-calling, ignoring, humiliation etc, but nothing physical being done. Would I be right in saying this is the difference?

Patricia Singleton said...

Albert, I guess I have never really separated the physical actions from the emotional effects. Name-calling, ignoring, humiliation went hand in hand with the physical abuse. My parents did all of those.

The emotional abuse of not feeling good enough which affects your self-worth and the emotional abandonment had the most effects upon the rest of my life. Some of the emotional abuse came from unspoken attitudes of self-disgust and shame that I got from my dad. The feelings of love/hate that I felt for my dad, I passed on to myself and my body.

I believe that any time that you have physical abuse, you also have emotional abuse. Can you separate the two?

Patricia Singleton said...

Prateek, I hesitated to publish your comment. If you had added it to one of my articles on Incest, I might would have felt that your article was more appropriate to be included. I don't feel that way about the article being added here.

I went ahead and published the article because after reading it and others that you have written on your blog, I decided that my readers might benefit from checking out your blog if they feel so inclined.