Echoes of our Ancestors

Gilbert Cayetano Huesca (1915 – 2009)
Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca (1928 – 1987)

Gilbert and Joan Huesca. 1958, Chicago, Illinois.

If you’ve ever thought about writing down your family stories, don’t overthink it or wait until the “time is right.”  Just do yourself and your descendants a favor.  Get busy and start writing.

Though I have been writing this blog for a dozen years, it took me six years until I was able to write about my parents, Gilbert and Joan Huesca. By then, my mother had been gone for  25 years, and my father had been gone for three. It is not easy to write about someone you love and miss deeply, so I expected to write three or four stories at the most over a couple of weeks.

But first I struggled with all the reasons not do it.  The hardest part was the sadness I felt when I sat down to write my parents’ stories. When you sit down to write about someone you miss so much, you risk letting your emotions get in the way and quelching your efforts from the start.  While it might be easier to sidestep the sadness by not writing about them at all, it was also healthier to work through it.  Moreover, it was reassuring to think there would be a lasting record of their lives, something that could endure, even if one day my memory were to fade.

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Amanuensis Monday: “Nuptial Blessings of Our Very Illustrious Lord”

Marriage Record of
José Cayetano de la Trinidad Huesca (1815 – after 1860)
María Josefa Rodríguez (1821 – 1897)


My paternal great-great-grandfather, José Cayetano de la Trinidad Huesca. Date unknown.

[Note:  Amanuensis is an ancient word meaning one who performs the function of writing down or transcribing the words of another.  Derived from the Latin root manu-  , meaning manual or hand, the word also has been used as a synonym for secretary or scribe.]

The above photograph (or is it a drawing?) of my great-great-grandfather, José Cayetano de la Trinidad Huesca, holds pride of place on a wall in our home.  Under his watchful gaze are photographs of his son, José Enrique Florentino Huesca, his grandson, José Alberto Cayetano Huesca, and his great-grandson – my father –  Gilbert Cayetano Huesca, along with others of our extended family.

My father received a 12″ x 24″ oval version of this portrait of Cayetano, as he was known, and another of his son, Enrique, from cousins during a visit to Jalapa, Veracruz, over thirty years ago.  It may be a crayon enlargement, which was a technique used to enlarge a smaller photograph.  It is hard to date the portrait, but based on his graying hair, and the fact that crayon enlargements were available beginning in the 1860s, I would estimate him to be at about 50 years old or more.

His lively eyes and his slightly parted lips suggest he wants to share something with us – perhaps the wonder of witnessing the growth of his eight children, or the joy he felt as he finished some of the wood furnishings he crafted for the grand Cathedral Basilica of Puebla in his profession as a carpenter.  Maybe he wants to share the insights he has learned about faith and family and life, insights into the wisdom and values that have flowed through the veins and permeated the conversations of subsequent Huesca generations to the present day.
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Happy Birthday, Mamma!

Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca
   1928 – 1987

My mother, Joan Huesca

Today, on this Fourth of July, as the United States turns 242 years old, my mother, Joan (Schiavon) Huesca, would have turned 90.

We lost her 31 years ago this Fall.  Sometimes it seems as though I saw her only yesterday. Other times it feels like it was a lifetime ago.  But I always smile when I think of her on this day.

Having a birthday on Independence Day was an important part of my mother’s identity.  She used to say she was born with a bang; her uncle John McGinnis was so excited that he set off firecrackers under some of the overpasses in his neighborhood to celebrate.  As a little girl, she believed for many years that all the parades and firecrackers were just for her.
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It’s an Honor to Meet You…

(Originally published April 23, 2013, and updated June 1, 2018)

I am a proud member of Geneabloggers Tribe, and before that a member of its predecessor,  Geneabloggers, Thomas MacEntee’s web-based group of family history writers and genealogists.  It includes over 3,000 members – that’s 3,000 blogs –  from all over the world.  I joined in 2012 but have been fortunate enough to read hundreds of inspiring stories by some very talented people.

Thomas’ website was a rich repository for genealogy news, research and tech tips, writing prompts, and links to some of the best articles about genealogy you could read on the web.  One of the popular features on the site was called “May I Introduce to You…” written by fellow blogger Gini Webb of Ginisology.  Gini’s profiles on Geneabloggers were always a good read, like her blog.  Her interviews introduced me to fascinating new blogs, some of which I now follow regularly.
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He Gave Not Some, but All

John Francis Mattarocchia (1948 – 1969)

John Francis Mattarocchia, 1948 – 1969, from the Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall of Faces

I spent Memorial Day this year with my cousin, John. I came across him about eight months ago for the first time in the way distant cousins sometimes meet these days, on the Internet.   His name had just popped up, as names do, in the course of researching my mother’s Schiavone family history.  But I was with him in name only, because he was killed in action in the Vietnam War 49 years ago this month.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the eldest of four sisters, I was a young teenager with limited exposure to the war other than my parents’ conversations at the dinner table, my classmates’ occasional references to their brothers’ draft numbers,  and the latest developments on the six o’clock news.  Not until I grew older did I read numerous accounts of the conflict, many of them first-hand.  But I never knew anyone personally who had been there, odd as it might seem.
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Letter to My Great-Great Grandparents


Charles Jacques François Perrotin.        1884, New York
Catherine (O’Grady) Perrotin.         1884, New York









My Dear Great-great Grandparents, François and Catherine,

A reminder popped up on my calendar today that you, Francois, died of meningitis 127 years ago, on May 25, 1891. It prompted me to reflect on your lives and the values you imparted to your descendants, now seven generations strong. As one of those descendants, I write to let you know of the special place we have for you in our hearts even now.

So much of who we are, we owe to you

So much of who we are and why, we owe to you. I can think of three of my father’s brothers, three of my cousins, two of my nephews, and one of my sons whose faces mirror yours, François. Catherine, your name has been passed down to so many women in our family – it is the name I chose for my Confirmation. And your fair features have endured, from my great-aunt Blanca on down, through my paternal aunts, cousins, and even in my immediate family, exquisite reminders of your grace and beauty.
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That Pioneer Spirit

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

In the first half of 1848, as 22-year-old Eduard Baron pressed through the crowd onto the ship that would take him from his native France to America, he must have had been overwhelmed by a rush of emotions.  Whether he felt elation, anticipation, wanderlust, trepidation, or sadness at leaving loved ones behind, one thing was certain: there was no turning back.
California National Historic Trail, Nevada, by Bob Wick, 2006. Courtesy of  Bureau of Land Management. Creative Commons License, in the public domain. Eduard Baron and dozens of other 49ers from all over the world would have crossed this expanse of land on a wagon train expedition to California, hoping to find gold.

For some time, a sense of unrest had swept the country.  France had been in the throes of an economic depression, and the monarchy of Louis Philippe had restricted basic liberties such as the right to work and the right to assemble peacefully.


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Mystery Monday: The Distance between Two Pictures

Selma (Kangas) Tully (1894 – 1949)


Selma (Kangas) Tully, about 24
years old.  Anaheim, California,
November 24, 1919.




In this day and age, it is common to see hundreds, sometimes thousands, of photographs marking the great and small events of a person’s life. In the case of Selma Tully, however, we have a single photograph that leaves us to wonder about her life before and after it was taken.

Born April 22, 1894, in Yliharma, Finland, Selma Justina Kangas lost both her parents, Juho and Susanna (Ruuspakka) Kangas,  by the time she was three years old.  We have no inkling as to what happened to her between that time and the time she came to America. Chances are she probably moved between relatives as she was growing up.

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Motivation Monday: Look Up, Look Forward, and Lend a Hand

Matt Oskar Kangas (1876 – 1971)

Look up and not down; look forward and not back;

look out and not in; and lend a hand.

                      – E. E. Hale

Matt Oskar Kangas was born to overcome obstacles.

“That’s Life for You,” by Madjag.
Creative Commons; in the public domain

Matti, as he was known to all, was my father-in-law, Welner Tully’s maternal uncle. In a short memoir he wrote in his later years, Matti recalled growing up in western Finland during an era of poverty, pestilence, and famine.

By 1876, when he was born, Finland had recovered from the 1866-68 crop failure and famine that claimed some 270,000 lives, or 15% of the population.  However, it seems some areas of the country were still struggling. Matti’s home province of Vaasa was among those wanton areas.

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Thankful Thursday: Legacy of an Ordinary Life

Arthur Raymond Tully (1897 – 1984)

Arthur, we hardly knew you.

Arthur Tully

When your name came up in conversation, as it did from time to time, it was in disjointed bits and pieces, with little to connect them except for the few vital facts about you that most family trees contain.

Those facts tell us you were born the last day of March, 1897, the eleventh of a baker’s dozen to Charles Hoppin Tully and his wife, Adela Baron, in Tucson, Arizona.  They go on to say that a mere six months after registering for the World War I draft, you found yourself in Portland, Oregon, where you had a whirlwind romance with a young Finnish hotel maid, Selma Kangas. You married her on January 15, 1919, before a Justice of the Peace in Vancouver, Washington, just across the state line.

And then there is the 1920 letter from your father, Charles, who had just lost his beloved wife – your mother – Adela, only two years earlier, when you were only 19.  Still grieving her absence, he shared his advice with you for a happy marriage:

TUCSON, ARIZONA, May 20th, 1919

Arthur Tully
     Portland, Oregon.

My dear son:-

 Received your letter yesterday and glad to hear from you. Received the Sunday paper you sent and must say that it is a good proof of the size and importance of that city.

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