History Is a Bore, or Is It?!

So, I have these three lovely daughters.  Two are in elementary school (and the other boasts that it’s her last year of preschool).  The older two are both studying various aspects of Virginia history this year in their respective classes and I’ve been keeping tabs on what they having been learning and keeping my fingers crossed that they find it interesting and absorb as much as possible.

History as a school subject was soooo boring to me.  I mean, start talking about the names and dates of white men and their battles and my mind turns off in an instant.  Sure, I could memorize the dates and names and retain them long enough to spit them back out on a high school history test.   Have no doubt, though, that I would just as quickly erase that material from my brain and make that real estate available to something more important, like who asked whom to the prom or where my friends and I were meeting to “hang out” that weekend.  They were never going to light my fire for history using the same old approach.

This kind of stuff - not at all interesting to me.

See this kind of stuff – not at all interesting to me.

Year after year, we learned about U.S. and world history in a cyclical nature.  Every couple of years, we’d rehash old topics, supposedly building upon what we’d already covered.  You would think this constant cramming (I think they called it reinforcement) of data would have worked.  I can tell you that in my 13 years of grade school (and we might as well add college here, too, since I managed to take as few history classes as possible and insisted on not retaining anything from them as well) I learned very, very little.  Like, embarrassingly little.

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Entrepreneurs of the Past – Pine Street Barber Shop


Joseph Thomas is pictured in the foreground here along with my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (McKenney) Thomas and my father’s three older sisters.

As a small business owner myself, I love learning more about the businesses and financial ventures of my ancestors.  From farming the land, to owning the neighborhood restaurant or barbershop, I want to know how they made ends meet.

My great grandfather, Joseph Thomas (seen above), owned the Pine Street Barber Shop in Richmond, Virginia’s historic Oregon Hill neighborhood.  Oregon Hill at the time was known for it’s plucky, blue-collar residents and I’m sure Joseph heard his share of neighborhood gossip.  He was a religious man and attended Pine Street Baptist church, which was within walking distance of the home he shared with his wife Florence Funai Trent Thomas, and I have heard stories of how family gathered at his home every Sunday after church for a big meal.

Joseph was born in Amherst County, Virginia in 1885 and records of his employment range from a teamster (someone who drives a team of horses for the purposes of making deliveries) at the age of 14 to a waiter, a barber, and the manager of a barbershop before eventually coming to own his own business.

Here are a couple of pictures of the shop:


Pine Street Barber Shop at 324 S. Pine Street in Richmond, Virginia


Pine Street Barber Shop at 324 S. Pine Street in Richmond, Virginia. The door to the left of the shop led to an apartment upstairs.

The shop has changed hands two or three times since my great grandfather’s days.  I’ve been in touch with the current owner and am hoping to visit soon to see any old pictures or memorabilia he has.  Can’t wait!

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New Dementi Book Showcases Goochland County’s Stories and Residents

Wayne Dementi, of the notable Dementi family of photographers, and Aynsley Fisher have published a new book called “Facts and Legends of Goochland County” showcasing some of the people and stories from the area.  I have yet to get my hands on one of these newly released books, but have enjoyed the photo-rich, historic books offered by Dementi Publishing in the past.

The authors recently met with members of the Goochland Historical Society to promote the book.


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What’s in a name?

One of the best and most fun ways to make genealogy discoveries is the share with others.  Some of my best finds have been through distant cousins that I’ve met or chatted with online and many more have been made through family tree connections on Ancestry.com.


Recently, I found a 4th cousin living in the next town over who had a binder full of information to share on our common ancestors, the Denton family of Goochland, Virginia.  I also met in person one of my father’s second cousins and a clue he had about my great great grandfathers’ nickname, which had been unknown to me, lead me to an elusive marriage record.  How exciting!

I’m currently focused on my father’s side of the family as some of his Virginia roots run back over 400 years.  I’d like to share some of the surnames those people:

Blaylock (Blalock)
McKenney (McKinney, McKenny, McKinny, etc.)

Do you and I have any names in common?

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Starting at the end

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca



Whether you consider yourself to be climbing the family tree or digging into its roots, researching genealogy is an exciting hobby.  It allows us to see how our particular ancestors fit into the larger historical picture of years gone by and how they shaped it as well.  Looking at the past helps us to understand who we are today and how we got here.  And the result is that we are better able to pass down this information to future generations.

I love finding and analyzing the evidence to connect my family to names and dates of the people who came before me and I enjoy developing my research skills.  It’s the thrill of the hunt that roped me into genealogy in the first place!  I have become equally interested in learning about the everyday lives of the people who came before us — where they lived, what things were like, who they knew, and what they did on a daily basis.

This blog is about sharing my research and the details of my ancestors’ lives, including all that happened between the dates on their headstones.



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