Thursday, November 24, 2011


 Note- For Some strange reason, whenever I've split a link 
between two lines of text, the first part of the link doesn't work.
But if you click on the part on the next line, it does. Don't ask me 
why; I'm a genealogist, not a techie! 

1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region
one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local
animal. It can even be a poem you or one of your ancestors have written!
Or if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video
of someone performing the song.

2. Post the poem or song to your blog (remembering to cite the source
where you found it.)

3.Tell us how the subject of the poem or song relates to your ancestor's
home or life.

4.Submit your post's link here to me by November 20thth and I'll publish
all the entries on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th!

We've got a great bunch of genealogy based poems this year. There
are posts covering every area and era in American history and

I opened the Challenge to entries from other countries which widened 
the scope. Australia is represented by a strong showing of seven entries,
one of which, "Said Hanrahan" is the winner of this year's "Willy Puckerbrush
Award" for most humorous poem.

So without further ado, here are the entries to the Third Annual Great
Genealogy Poetry Challenge:

Pam Beveridge of Heirlooms Reunited starts us off with her post,
"Poem Written by F. P. Ormsby, Fayette," Maine, on Her 85th Birthday".
There's a bit of a genealogical mystery with this wonderful poem. Perhaps
our readers can help solve it!

I'm fascinated by the many old stone walls I find on some of my walks in
the woods. You can find them all over New England. Maine poet Holman
Day wrote about the back breaking labor that went into building them in
the poem "An Old Stun' Wall". I posted it here on West in New England 
along with some pictures I've taken.

Facebook friend Michelle Qualey doesn't have a blog but wanted to take
part in the Challenge. She's sent me a poem from her boyfriend's family
that epitomizes the pride in family that many genealogists have. I've posted
it here on my blog as "`The Green Murphy Tree ' by Gilda Rae Murphy

New Hampshire
Heather Rojo sent me this poem that was posted by TJ Rand
at the Epsom, NH  blog..  "Welcome Poem by Nellie F. Sherburne" 
was written to welcome a new minister and his family to his new church
and does so wonderfully.

Then at her own Nutfield Genealogy Heather tells us that two of her
relatives celebrated America's Bicentennial in 1976.(Can it really be 35
years since then already??). You can see where Heather gets her own
writing talent from in  "Bicentennial Poems by Family Members" .

New York
Barbara Poole asked if she could resubmit her entry from last year. It
was such a great poem, how could I say no? As Barbara says, "A Long
Life Ended" is as much an obituary as it is a poem. You can find it in
"Obituary Poem for Bill West's Second Great American Local Poem
 at Life From The Roots.

North Carolina
During World War I, Francis Allyn Newton wrote a letter home to
his mother in November 1917, he added as part of a postscript
a humorous poem written by his tentmate "Pvt. Van Zandt". Now
his granddaughter  Debra Newton-Carter shares that poem with us
at her blog, In Black and White: Cross-Cultural Genealogy. Learn
all about it in `The Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge:
"The OD Pill"'

"Bascomb Falls: A Family Portrait" is described by Ekizabeth Swanay
O'Neal as being a "quasi-autobiographical poem" by her uncle Dr. John
Lee Swanay, PhD. It's set in a mythical Tennessee town and Elizabeth
shared part of it last year. This year she's posted "Another Excerpt From
Bascomb Falls:A Family Album" entitled "The Kitchen"  at the Little Bytes
of Life blog.

There are hundreds of poems written about the battles and heroes from
both sides of the American Civil War, so if you know which regiment or
brigade your ancestor served in,  there's a chance you can find a poem
about it. Becky Wiseman of Kinexxions hit paydirt with "Wilder's Brigade
at Hoover's Gap"

Indiana resident Sue McCormick brings us a poem from "Hoosier Poet"
James Whitcomb Riley that she associates with her grandmother's cousin
Lide who had a rough childhood. It's the classic "Little Orphant Annie"
that Sue posted in "Poem for Bill West's poetry `collection'"
at the FrustratedGenealogist blog. By the way, this brought back some
memories for me of learning the poem at the Frank V. Thompson school
in Boston when I was 9 or 10 years old!

Linda Gartz' father wrote a poem to his wife on the occasion of their
10th anniversary.You can see the actual poem and read the details
of their wedding day at Family Archaeologist in Linda's post
 "Happy Anniversary, Fred and Lil, 1942- 2011"

Despite losing his sight Kristin Cleage Williams' relative James McCall
was a successful newspaper publisher in Detrot. He was also a poet
One of his poems was about an area in Detroit. It's title is
 "Winter in St. Antoine by James McCall" and it's posted at Kristin's
Finding Eliza blog

America has often used poems to commemorate anniversaries of
historical events. At her Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay blog,
Dorene Paul shares "The Islands of Erie by Dr. Robert R. McMeens" 
which was first read publicly in 1858. Read her post and find out what
event it memorializes.

Al Dawson saw my comment on Facebook that at the time entries for
this years Poetry Challenge was down from last year. So the spur of the
moment he wrote a short humorous genealogy poem to submit even
though he didn't have a blog. I've gladly posted it here on West in New
England as "Two Ancestors From Limerick by Al Dawson" . Thanks, Al!

Denise Spurlock's great grandfather managed sawmills in Missouri and
Texas. The lumber business is a dangerous one (as I remember from seeing
the fingers missing from my own grandfather's hands when I was a kid) and
Denise chose one of Robert Frost's poems, "Out, Out!" to illustrate just how
perilous a sawmill can be. You can hear it recited and read the words at her
"Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge" post on Denise's Life in
the Past Lane

Denise has contributed a second post, a poem she found in a scrapbook
kept in a scrapbook. It was written by her brother, Denise's granduncle,
and it's entitled Of Friend-Ships

People of all nations have marked the passing of a loved one with poetry
since ancient times. Southwest Arkie on Genealogy Junkie brings us a
poem written by Eller Fitzhugh after his mother's death, "Mother- Mary 
A. Schoggin".

Another form of poetic memorial are the epitaphs found on grave markers
and gravestones. In the American West, they tend to be laconic and to the
point.Judith Richards Shubert of Genealogy Traces details one such
instance with  " He Was Accidentally Shot on the Banks of the  Pacus River"

A relative of Michelle Goodrum often wrote poems on whatever scrap
of paper was at hand. One of them was titled "The Snob" and Michelle
shares it with us, then discusses how to source something written on
scrap paper on The Turning of Generations  "Great Genealogy Poetry 

 As I said earlier, poems of grief are universal. When Maria Northcote's
great grandmother died, three of her sons published memorial poems
in the newspaper every year on the anniversary of their mother's death.
Maria's posted them in "Memorial poetry about a much-missed mother"
on her Wishful Linking Family History Blog

On her Geniaus  "Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge" post
Jill Ball shares a bit her Irish and Australian heritage with "Said Hanrahan"
by John O'Brien. I have to say that this and Michael John Neill's submission
are my favorites in this year's Challenge.

For her submission Cassmob chose a poem to honor her father's service
during WWII with the Australian munitions trains. Read all about it at
 "Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge to honour my father:
 The Trains by Judith Wright on her Family history across the seas blog.

Marilyn Terlich is another genealogist without a blog yet but she's written
a terrific poem about how physical characteristics link generations. It's
called "Mixed Blessings" and yu can read it here.

Meron R's roots run deep in the Australian Western District of Victoria
with many of her ancestors being farmers. She chose a poem by  C.J.
Dennis, "When The Sun's Behind The Hill" to honor that heritage. It's
a great poem and it's at "Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge"
at Meron's Western District Families blog.

The author of  Anglers Rest  had an early 19th century ancestor who was
an officer in the East India Trading Company, a poet, and a watercolor
artist. Go to  "Description of the Island  of St. Helena" where you can
read a poem and see a painting that resulted from his visit to the island.

Like Jill Ball, the author of the A Rebel Hand  is an Australian of
Irish descent. In her post  "The Song That Inspired `A Rebel Hand ' 
she shows how a song about an Irish rebellion has ties to her ancestor
Sharon Brennan is another Australian with Irish roots. Her visit to the
Broagh region of Ireland where her 2x great grandfather came from
prompted her choice of Seamus Heaney's poem "Broagh" posted at
The Tree of Me in "The Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge".

When Michael John Neill told me on Fb that he was working on a unique
post for the Challenge, he wasn't kidding! Michael has ancestry from
Ostfriesland  in Germany and it was while researching in an Ostfriesian-
American ethnic newspaper from 1903 that he found an "Ostfriesian 
First Name Poem" . (It has me pondering a poem out of the first names
of my ancestors!) Read it out at Michael's

Jasia of Creative Gene feels a special affinity with Polish poet Stanislaw
Jachowicz because he came from the same region of Poland that her
ancestors did. Jachowicz wrote many children's poems such as "Sunset",
the poem Jasia chose for "Jachowicz, Poet of Poland, Poet of Children".

John Newmark over at the Transylvania Dutch blog  recently concluded
that some of his ancestors cane from the Vollhynia region of Russian and
selected a Vollhynian poet for the Challenge. You may remember "After
My Death" from the Colunbia Space Shuttle tragedy memorial service
in 2003. Go to John's "Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge"
post for the poem and a short biography of poet Chaim Nachman Bialik.

Finally to close out, we return to Heather Rojo's Nutfield Genealogy for
a story and poem about a Thanskgiving tradition .Even though the story
 it's based on turned out to be a myth, I think you'll agree that "Five
Kernels of Corn for Thanksgiving" is a great tradition anyway.

And that concludes the Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge.
I want to thank all the participants for finding so many great poems to share
with us, and I look forward to seeing what folks will find for next year's


Becky Wiseman said...

FYI - Some of the links don't work...

Dorene from Ohio said...

Thanks for hosting the third annual great genealogy poetry challenge! And Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

Julie Goucher said...

Just reading this initial posting it looks great. I am just off to make a cup of tea, then heading to bed with my iPad and this will be my bedtime reading. Thanks for hosting this Bill. Best wishes Julie

Bill West said...

Becky-For Some strange reason, whenever I've split a link
between two lines of text, the first part of the link doesn't work.

But if you click on the part on the next line, it does. Don't ask me
why; I'm a genealogist, not a techie!

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Bill, when you wrote me after reading my entry that Western poems, even epitaphs, were so
distinctive in their humor from those written in the East, I couldn't help but agree.

They are so very different. Sometimes when I am reading the poems and songs of the New England states or even of the area around the Great Lakes, I find that they feel so foreign to me. I wonder how that could be!

I enjoyed the Challenge so much. Thank you for hosting it every year.