Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The event shocked the population of a nation who had been enjoying a typical American Sunday…until they received news of the attack that damaged or sank the entire U.S. fleet which resided in Pearl Harbor.  The devastation that occurred wasn’t contained to property or the immediate aftermath of the attack.  Many military personnel were injured or died and collateral damage was widespread, stretching from the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans to the tragedy of years of war.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view (Wikipedia)
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view1

Among those military personnel serving in Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack was my husband’s grand uncle, James M. Newell.  Uncle Jimmy served as a “lookout man in the crow’s nest on one of the American warships.”2  He was on board one of the fleet ships when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.  Soon after news of the attack was published, his death was reported on 12 December 1941 in The Wichita Eagle3 and also in The Emporia Gazette.4  But unlike many military personnel, Jimmy’s story doesn’t end there.  He was not one of the many casualties of Pearl Harbor, though for at least five days his family thought he was.  On 3 January 1942, The Emporia Gazette reported: “Mr. and Mrs. Harry Newell, Wichita, have official word their son, James M. Newell, 18, was not killed in the Pearl Harbor attack as they previously had been notified.  Five days after being notified the soldier had been killed, the Newells received a card from him.”5

What an emotional roller coaster that must have been for the family.  It must have been devastating to receive the news of his death.  And how joyous it must have been to receive Jimmy’s subsequent card.  And what an experience for young Jimmy.  Newspapers say he was 18 when Pearl Harbor occurred.  He couldn’t have been in the Navy for very long and must have just finished his training not long before December 1941.

An original copy of the newspaper containing the front page article announcing young Jimmy’s death hangs, framed, in the hallway of my in-laws’ house.  It was quite an eye-catching piece for a confirmed genealogy-addict like myself and I couldn’t resist asking for details about it.  My most-wonderful-father-in-law very much enjoys telling a good story and was happy to share Jimmy’s tale with me.  What perseverance it took for the men and women of that time period to gather the shattered pieces of the world they knew and move forward.

“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.” Mark Twain6

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve7

Please take a moment to remember all military personnel today.  If you see one, thank them for their service.  “All gave some and some gave all.”8

American Flag from Unsplash by Jake Ingle
Photo by Jake Ingle9

1 “Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view” by Unknown – Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –

2 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

3 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

4 Unknown Author, “Wichita Sailor Killed at Sea,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, ( accessed 7 December 2015), p.8, col. 5.

5 Unknown Author, “Good News,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, ( accessed 7 December 2015), p.1, col. 2, para. 1.

6 Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Albert Bigelow Paine, The Mark Twain Autobiography + 3 Biographies (e-Art Now Editions, 2014); digital images, Google Books, ( acccessed 7 December 2015).

7 Christopher Reeve, Still Me, (New York, The Random House Publishing Group, 1999), p. 267.

8 Cyrus, Billy Ray. Some Gave All. S.n, 1992. CD.

9 Untitled Photo of American Flag, Unsplash, digital images, ( accessed 7 December 2015).

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Surprisingly…No Surprises!

I had a few minutes today to take a look at my AncestryDNA results and surprisingly…there were NO SURPRISES! Between my grandparents’ knowledge and stories and the work the family has done on the genealogy already I was well prepared for what Ancestry told me. Which, I have to say, was almost disappointing, LOL. I’d heard of so many people being surprised by their DNA tests I was almost hoping for something really out of the ordinary.

I was a little sad that the DNA test didn’t show any Native American ancestry. I know that the little tiny bit of that genetic material that I might possess is so small that current DNA tests probably wouldn’t pick it up but I was really hoping for a definitive answer on the question of whether we really do have Native American ancestry or if those stories were simply incorrect. I’ll just keep plugging along on my attempt to prove or disprove that history.


I’m looking forward to diving into the DNA a little deeper when I get home. I’m like a little kid at Christmas right now 🙂

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Mid-Year Check-In

In January I posted about some of my previous-year accomplishments and current-year goals for my genealogy.  I decided to do a mid-year check-in to see where I’m at on meeting my goals for this year.  Here’s the list I began the year with:

  • Continue the research I’ve begun on D1′s family and start collecting proof of lineage (on a side note, it’s pretty amusing to me that I discovered D1 and I share a common ancestor around 8 generations back, LOL!)
    • Status: Progress made.  I’ve been collecting digital copies of census records, military records, obituaries, etc.  I’m very excited about what I found this weekend!  When I originally talked to D1’s parents to get some preliminary genealogy information it was mentioned that D1’s paternal great-grandmother was known by several different versions of her name and that no one really ever knew what her name was.  This weekend I ran across what I suspect is her legal given name.  I started the weekend with the name Leona or Lena and discovered she’s been known as Leona, Loney, Laney and finally…drum roll please…Appalonia!  Wow, what a name!  AND I now have some potential family connections to contact thru  I hope I get some cousin-bites 🙂
  • Once my application to DAR has been accepted, start work on adding one additional patriot to my file, submitting paperwork for the additional paperwork by the end of 2014.
    • Status: No progress made.  Hmmm, I don’t know if I’ll make much progress on this since I’ve been so focused on D1’s family.
  • After acceptance of my DAR application, obtain my first DAR pin.
    • Status: No progress made.  I’m hoping to get my first pin within the next couple of months.  I really want a patriot state pin!
  • Make a genealogy trip to Danville, Illinois to see the grave of my third great-grandfather and visit the genealogy library to see if I can find any information on my family there.
    • Status: No progress made.  I’m not certain this one will get completed this year.  It doesn’t help I keep adding things to my list of genealogy to-dos.
  • Make a trip to North Dakota to visit family and obtain more genealogy information on my paternal family.
    • Status: Partial progress made.  D1 and I made it up to North Dakota and spent several hours with my family up there but we didn’t discuss much about the family history.  We had a ton of fun talking to them though!
  • Increase my participation in the Billion Graves transcription project
    • Status: No progress made.  And no excuse for it either 🙁
  • Get a new copy of my great-grandmother’s obituary
    • Status: No progress made.  This is a fairly straightforward thing, not a lot of searching involved since I know either Mid-Continent or the Johnson County Library will have the microfilm that contains the obituary.
  • Get the genealogy document hard copies sitting in piles around my house organized
    • Status: Progress made.  I still have a loooooong way to go on this but I’ve made a good start.  I’ve gotten my hanging folders and file folders made, tracking labels made and affixed to the folders and a nice stack of printouts and copies filed in those folders.  Next piece of the project: making sure all those printouts are filed under the correct person and that they all contain source citations.  I’m really trying hard to make sure all my documents have citations not only printed on or with them when I print them but that the electronic copies also have the source citations included in the file somewhere.
  • Print and organize all electronic copies of genealogy documentation
    • Status: Partial progress made.  I keep running the printer out of ink…LOL
  • Finish attaching electronic copies of records to applicable persons in my genealogy database
    • Status: Partial progress made.  I need to be more active on this goal.  I haven’t gotten very much done on it.

Well it seems as though I need to get my rear in gear on my to do list, doesn’t it!  I feel pretty good about what I have gotten done though.  I think a mid-year check-in was just what the doctor ordered.  Time to get moving on some of these items!

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Around the Town Thursday: Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building

Happy Friday eve everyone and welcome to another edition of Around the Town Thursday!  Today we’re back to exploring Kansas City and we’re highlighting the Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building.

Front of Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building


Entrance to the Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building

Originally built in 1910, the Livestock Exchange Building was the headquarters of the Kansas City stockyards.  According to the National Register of Historic Places application: “At the turn of the century the stock yards covered 207 acres with accommodations for 70,000 cattle, 40,000 hogs, 45,000 sheep and 5,000 horses and mules daily. By 1871 seven railroads were operating in the stock yards; today there are over ten miles of track inside the yards excluding acres and acres of track to the east and west.”

The stockyards themselves were originally established in 1871 in Kansas City, Kansas along the Kansas River and Missouri Pacific railroad tracks.  According to the Kansas City Kansan newspaper article “How KC became 1 of great stock markets of world”: “In the heyday year of 1923, 2,631,808 cattle were received at the Kansas City yards.”  The stockyards originally contained five acres and by 1883 another 125 acres had been added.  While there were earlier buildings erected on the grounds of the stockyards, the brick building that currently stands is considered the highlight of the period from 1871 to 1909.

Currently (after a thirteen million dollar renovation in 1991) the building serves as an office building, containing everything from restaurant facilities to a post office to a health club.  While not ornate in decor the building has beautiful original oak woodwork and a simple, yet beautiful Grecian key floor border.

This important piece of Kansas City history has withstood time, floods and the closing of the Livestock Exchange.  It’s now a part of the National Register of Historic Places, which will provide the opportunity for future generations to actually see this beautiful building.

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Around the Town Thursday: Machu Picchu

In my last post I left you with a little teaser for my next Around the Town Thursday post.  I promised you something special so here it is:

Machu Picchu

Okay, so it’s not exactly around THIS town but my intention was to expand my Around the Town radius, although the original plan was to expand little by little.  So, um…yeah, that brings us to this week’s post on my travels to Machu Picchu!

Me (and Jack, who is located in my belt, haha) in front of the Central Plaza at Machu Picchu

In case you’re wondering about the buffalo in my belt in the picture above, the buffalo’s name is Buffalo Jack and he’s my traveling companion.  Jack was adopted in Fort Hays, Kansas.  D1 and I were there for one of my son’s band performances and I thought Jack was kind of cute.  D1 purchased him for me and we started taking pictures of him in different locations in Fort Hays.  It expanded from there and now he travels with me whenever I go.

Buffalo Jack at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was built by the Incan people about 7,000 feet above sea level in the fifteenth century.  According to UNESCO, “The approximately 200 structures making up this outstanding religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural centre are set on a steep ridge, crisscrossed by stone terraces.”  According to the tour guide I had, Machu Picchu was never actually considered to be “finished”.  There was always ongoing work.  It was called a “Lost City” because when the Incans carved the city out of the surrounding landscape they used the landscape to their advantage and carved WITH the mountain, never destroying what they didn’t have to in order to build this beautiful place.  There are many theories as to what Machu Picchu was used for and no one has yet to learn the real purpose of it.

Terraces at Machu Picchu

Most people, when they decide to go to Machu Picchu, plan for months.  They make preparations well in advance and usually go during the good weather season.  That’s not what I did at all, haha!  I was scheduled to travel to Peru for a work meeting and whenever I travel for work I always try to see at least one interesting site in the locality I’m going to be in.  That’s how I’ve managed to see Tikal, climb Pacaya Volcano, walk the grounds of Chichen Itza, stand on the cliffs of Tulu’um, watch flamingos in Celestun and, now, climb the terraces of Machu Picchu and ascend the stairs of Huayna Picchu (okay, okay, so it was more like crawl up the stairs of Waynapicchu…no judging, LOL).

Machu Picchu – November 2013

Due to some indecision no arrangements for Machu Picchu were made prior to leaving the States.  D1 worked hard to help me make a tentative itinerary, since I’m a person that prefers to have a plan in place when I travel.  For anyone thinking about going to MP this is NOT my recommended course of action.  I strongly recommend you make your arrangements prior to leaving and definitely with a reputable tour company.  You may pay a little more on the front end but you’ll be more likely to get exactly what you want.  If you like a little adventure, go with a tentative itinerary and wing it.  It wasn’t awful but a little pre-planning on our part would have allowed us more time to enjoy MP.

As popular of an attraction as MP is, there is no direct way to get to MP.  From Lima (where my meeting was) I had to take a plane to Cusco, where a car picked us up and took us to a train station in Ollantaytambo (pronounced Oy-an-tay-tahm-bo).

Waiting in Ollantaytambo to take a train to Aguas Calientes!


A better picture of the street leading to the train station in Ollantaytambo

From Ollantaytambo we took a train (I highly recommend taking the Vistadome either going or coming back if you can, it’s really neat) to Aguas Calientes (known now as Machu Picchu Pueblo).  We used Peru Rail because I really wanted to ride the Vistadome train.  The picture of the Vistadome on Peru Rail’s website is pretty misleading (it shows an almost fully glass train car but the actual train cars simply have windows in the ceiling of the car) but it’s still neat to be able to look up and see the tops of the mountains.

Our chariot…I mean train…awaits!


Upper windows of the Vistadome train

The train ride takes about an hour and a half to get from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and the scenery was beautiful.  I was able to mark another item off my bucket list in addition to going to MP…my first train ride!

On the train to Aguas Calientes!

We were served a nice little snack on the train, complete with a llama tablecloth!


When we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we located our hostel and checked in.  I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the hostel was (considering it’s remote location).  They really worked hard to make sure we were as comfortable as possible.  The only issue I had was the toilet was clogged in my room but the staff at the hostel immediately fixed it.  They also offered a baggage hold for guests after check out while the guests toured MP.

We spent a little time shopping in Aguas Calientes, grabbed some dinner and went to bed early since we planned to get up before sunrise so we could (hopefully) watch the sunrise in MP.  It was pretty questionable whether we would actually get to see the sunrise in MP however, because November is the rainy season and MP is so high it tends to be pretty foggy.  But we took the first bus up to MP where we met our tour guide the next morning.  I discovered the joys of having next to no lung capacity at all in Aguas Calientes and it wasn’t getting any better in MP.  What can I say, I’m a Midwest gal thru and thru.  But I kept pushing onward and upward with our tour guide cheering me on until we reached our sunrise viewing location.

A very foggy Machu Picchu

Unfortunately we did not get to see the sunrise.  But as I said, with it being November it was pretty questionable.  Our tour guide went out of his way to make sure we knew this in advance so, while I was a little disappointed, it wasn’t unexpected.  After the sun rose and the fog began to burn off, the tour guide took us on a two hour tour of the ruins explaining what different parts of the ruins were and how the residents of MP might have lived, worked and even celebrated.  Interestingly enough, the tour guide told us that nowhere in the Incan language (that had been discovered at this point) was there a word for war or warfare and that the Incan people were known as peaceful, highly intelligent scholars and workers.  The tour was great.  Well worth every minute and every penny spent on the guide.

Considering we barely had a plan for our trip to MP we managed to hit the jackpot and got tickets to climb Waynapicchu, a massive mountain about 1100 feet above MP that the Incas built a trail up the side of and temples and terraces on top of.  The climb up Waynapicchu is a restricted activity.  There are only 400 people a day allowed to climb WP and it’s done in two groups.  The first group must begin their climb between 8:00am and 9:00am while the second group must begin their climb between 10:00am and 11:00am.  If you don’t arrive to begin your climb within the specified start time you’re not allowed onto WP.

Entrance to Waynapicchu with a map showing different routes you can take,
some longer and some shorter.


Waynapicchu, if you look closely you can see the terraces and temples on top

And for good reason.  The trail up WP (and I use the term trail very loosely) is narrow and steep at times.  It was a difficult climb for someone like me who hadn’t make any advanced preparations physically and had little-to-no lung capacity.

Look very closely and you’ll see the train (close to the middle of the picture)


Coming down the train…WHOA that’s steep!


That’s me in the orange shirt at the turn in the trail

Despite the lack of planning going to MP was well worth the time, money and effort.  Here’s some recommendations I have if you’re thinking about going:

  • Make a plan in advance.  Even if you don’t stick to that plan, this is a location you really do want some type of itinerary to refer to simply because of all the different modes of travel you have to take to get there.
  • Use a tour company when at all possible.  It’s possible to maneuver through MP by yourself but it’s so much more enjoyable when you have someone explaining things to you.  It’s also worth the money to let someone else worry about the logistics of transportation 🙂
  • Everyone tells you to stay in Cusco.  I preferred Aguas Calientes to Cusco, even though there was less to do in Aguas Calientes.  Aguas Calientes was not only closer to MP so we were able to get up to MP to possibly see the sunrise but we were also able to relax the night before going to MP.
  • Get tickets for WP.  The 8:00am time slot would have been my preferred time slot because we could have had time to rest afterwards somewhere and then tour the rest of MP but even if you go at the 10:00am time slot it’s well worth the climb.
  • Take your time climbing around the ruins (and if you go) WP.  Enjoy the sights and views, take lots of pictures, and don’t push yourself past your limit.
  • Drink lots of bottled water.  Avoid the tap water at all costs.  Don’t overdo the alcohol.
  • Spend the FULL DAY at MP and return to Aguas Calientes that night.  Don’t go back to Cusco the day you tour MP.  There are tour companies that will sell you what they call a full day tour but before you purchase make sure that tour doesn’t send you to Cusco immediately after touring MP.  Returning to Aguas Calientes instead of Cusco will allow you more time at MP and will allow you to simply return to your hostel after exhausting yourself at MP.  And you will be exhausted.
  • See the Sun Gate and the Incan Bridge if you can.  I missed these sites at MP because we actually ended up with only a 3/4 day tour with the WP climb.
  • Stop to see the llamas (or alpacas)

A local Machu Picchu llama (or alpaca, I can’t remember which has the longer neck!)
  • Take time to acclimate to the altitude.  If you’re not used to the altitude it will take its toll on you.
  • There is ONE bank and ATM in Aguas Calientes.  And merchants charge an additional 10% to use your credit card there.  Plan accordingly.
  • When shopping plan to negotiate with the local merchants
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.  I didn’t have any issues but I’ve heard that pickpockets work in teams and catch their victims unaware by using distractions you might not think of as pickpocketing distractions.
  • Try a pisco sour, the national drink of Peru (and Chile).  I’m not saying their great but if you go to Peru you have to try the national drink, LOL

Above all else enjoy yourself.  Machu Picchu is an UNESCO World Heritage Centre and is absolutely worth the time and effort to see.  I enjoyed the time I was able to spend there and hope to go with D1 one of these days!

View of the terraces of Machu Picchu from the trail of Waynapicchu
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