Earth, Wind & Fire and Me

MAURICE WHITE
1941 – 2016
“The light is he, shining on you and me.”

When I heard the news that Maurice White, the founding member of Earth Wind & Fire, had died peacefully in his sleep on my drive home from work last Thursday (2/4/2016), I was shocked. Like so many EW&F fans, I had no idea that Maurice was ill and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. I never noticed that he stopped appearing in public despite the band’s sold-out concerts around the world. By the time I made it home, the news of his death had set in, and I felt somber that another musical genius in the music industry was gone!

One of the Most Successful US Bands of All Times

That's The Way of the World by Earth Wind & Fire, 1975

With some 90 million albums sold, I can say with certainty that Earth Wind & Fire is one of the GREATEST American bands of the 20th century! Their musical talents have spanned R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, Latin, and African musical genres. My love affair with them was the results of listening to my brother’s EW&F collection since the 1970’s. On the weekends, you would find me grooving to hits like “Energy by Earth, Wind, & Fire” (1971), “They Don’t See by Earth, Wind & Fire” (1972), “Keep Your Head to the Sky” (1973) and “Devotion by Earth, Wind & Fire” (1974) during my early teens.

The Impact of Earth, Wind & Fire on My Life

The day I became a die-hard EW&F fan was when my brother took me to see them in concert in 1975 when they released their sixth successful studio album – That’s the Way of the World! The dynamic sound of their horn section was so hypnotic that I stood mesmerized by them throughout the concert — LOL! Their energy and elaborate stage show were nothing I had ever experienced before. The interplay between Phillip Bailey’s falsetto and Maurice’s tenor voice had me and everyone there celebrating and singing right along with them. That song and album of the same name put them over the top, and they have never looked back. As a budding pianist, I just had to experience the title song for myself. So a few weeks after the concert, my mom took me to the music store and purchased this hit song for me to play on the piano.

Liv at the keyboard in 1975

In Memory of the Elements — Earth, Wind & Fire

It has been 41 years since my first Earth Wind & Fire Concert and since I sat and played that hit song on the piano. Even though I no longer play or even have a piano in my home (the family piano has been passed down to my grand-daughters), I still have the 1975 sheet music of That’s The Way Of The World that mom bought me in my personal music collection. Maybe one day I will enjoy hearing this timeless song played by one of my grandkids.

(Click below for lyrics & piano accompaniment)

That’s The Way Of The World. Saggiflame Music, 1975.

My 3 Words for 2016

Since 2013, I have chosen three words to kick off my genealogy endeavors for the New Year. I credit this “three word” exercise to Chris Brogan who has challenged business bloggers for the past ten years to “replace resolutions with something a bit more useful” and attainable. I’ve learned so much about myself as a genealogy hobbyist and about my family from a historical perspective because of the “three words” I’ve selected each year!

My 3 Words Over the Years

2013:  First. Proof. Publish.
2014:  Serendipity. Collaboration. DNA.
2015: Preserve. Stretch. Connection.

So without further adieu —

My 3 Words for 2016 are . . . 

Personal. 

One of the first steps we share in the genealogy process is — record everything about “yourself” and members of your immediate family. Even though I have dates and milestones about my life documented in my files, what’s missing are the personal stories I want future generations of my family to know about me when I’m an ancestor in the tree one day. Therefore, I plan to add personal stories about my life in my files and share some of them on this blog this year.

“Go-Over.”

Family and friends who follow this blog know that I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the past two years. Why? Life! Yes, the daily grind of life and tending to the needs of an aging parent took priority over any free time I had for research blogging. As I turn my attention to blogging again, I find a “go-over” is a must! What exactly is a “go-over?” It involves a careful review of all research I’ve completed to date. Being away from my files for a couple of years gives me an opportunity to “go-over” everything step-by-step with a fresh pair of eyes. I will be looking for any inconsistencies and mistakes I may have made or missed. This will allow me to update my research with new information that may not have been available for various ancestors when I first worked on their branch of my tree.

Believe.

I believe in my research. And the best part of all is that my family believes in my research too! I have a few history buffs in my family. So when I’m stumped by research leads or information I’ve found, I’m so glad to have family members willing to help me put facts and turn of events in order so that I’m able to move my family research forward. Their knowledge of our ancestors and memories of the past have been the support I’ve depended on through these years!

Happy New Year, Claiming Kin Turns 5

Happy New Year Everyone!

I am so excited that this is the first day of 2016 because . . .
Claiming Kin turns 5 years old today!

That’s right, my blog here in cyberspace is growing up and I owe my growth to everyone who continues to support me. I’m so thankful to have a mom and brothers who get a big kick out of my passion for genealogy. As a result, I can call them any time of the day (or night) with questions and information about our family without them checking caller IDs to screen my calls — LOL!

I want to (((THANK))) Zachary Montz (Ph.D. student at University of Texas) and Thomas McWhorter (grad student at University of Houston), for contacting me to learn more about my dad and the class action law suit he and others filed against the discriminatory practices of the labor seniority system at Houston Armco Steel Corporation. Yes, I have an activist in the family that I will be blogging more about this year.

I also must (((THANK))) Amanda Fishel for contacting me last year when she discovered  my mtDNA GedMatch kits were a match to her great-great Aunt’s kit, to one of her cousin’s kits, and a small match to one of her own kits. Even though I was excited to have this DNA match, I was a little hesitant about responding to her at first. Why? I wasn’t sure how Amanda (who is not black) was going to feel about her connection to me and my African/African-American Ancestry. Well, it was a relief to know that she was not only cool with our connection, but willing to collaborate with me to find out how we’re related. I have a strong feeling this is the year we find that connection!

To all my genealogy friends who visit my blog and interact with me regularly via Twitter, Google+, and Facebook — THANK YOU! I appreciate your friendship, guidance, and your family’s history very much. I wish you and yours a — Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Claiming Kin Turns 4!

2015 is finally here!
Not only is it a new year, but it’s also the 4 year anniversary month of  — Claiming Kin . . . . woo-hoo!

2014 was filled with challenges that kept me from blogging as regularly as I would have liked. But having little time to blog, thankfully did NOT keep me from squeezing in some quality research time. How was I able to do that? I was able to do that by staying connected with other genealogists at the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research and via my membership with the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society’s Wille Lee Gay, H-Town Chapter. I’m excited about my genealogy journey in 2015 and I look forward to sharing that journey right here with you!

I send virtual (((((hugs & well wishes)))) to my ‘genealogy & Downton Abbey bestie’ – True Lewis – who sent me a happy blogiversary tweet on New Year’s Day!

And to all my genealogy friends who visit this blog and interact with me regularly via Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn — THANK YOU! I appreciate your friendship, guidance, and support very much. I wish you and yours a — Happy New Year!

My 3 Words for 2014

Thanks to Chris Brogan, CEO of Human Business Works, I adopted a new tradition last year that involves choosing 3 words that would be the action steps I take in my genealogy endeavors for the year. My 3 Words for 2013 were — First. Proof. Publish. 

What went well in 2013?

  • I was very successful in creating those “First” experiences here at Claiming Kin! Adding the “New Here?” page to my blog definitely made everyone who surfed in feel welcomed into the family and given a reason to stick around and connect with me. Therefore the engagements and discussions I had with newly found cousins (online and offline) and visiting researchers who thought the lives of my ancestors were fairly intriguing enough to want to know more about them was — PHENOMENAL!
  • Providing valid “Proof” of my family connections in my research process and citing my sources (APA Style) definitely played a major part in why I had active engagements and discussions here throughout the year!

What didn’t go well in 2013?

  • I didn’t get to “Publish” the eBooks I wanted to. BUT, one of my eBooks for “the beginning genealogy hobbyist” is in progress now. If all goes well, the e-book will be ready Fall 2014 . . . woo-hoo!

My 3 Words for 2014 are:

Serendipity.

I believe Lawrence Block, a popular American crime writer, said it best when he penned —

Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.”

I cannot begin to list all the “unexpected” discoveries I made about one ancestor while searching for another last year. Therefore, I want more of those experiences! But for that to happen, I must remember NOT to make assumptions about any of the resources and records available, online or offline, because I don’t believe my slave ancestors would be found in them. I must explore ALL resources and records with no preconceived ideas about what I will, or won’t, find in them. Genealogy, in a nut-shell, is problem-solving work. So as I go about reconstructing the lives and identities of my ancestors this year (and beyond), I want some serendipity thrown in there for good measure . . . for without it there would be no cool surprises waiting for me along the way!

Collaboration.

Slave Ancestry is challenging work and to fully understand the process requires that I have knowledge about the African Diaspora and the slave experience in America! One thing my association with the African American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research Group (AAGSAR) has taught me is how necessary “active” collaboration with like-minded researchers is to my slave research success! Collaborating in this grassroots group has allowed me to help some incredible new family historians with their research, as well as, learn strategies for moving my slave ancestry work “back” beyond the 1870 census. AAGSAR is an interactive genealogy community I’m proud to belong to and more collaboration at this level is a MUST for me!

DNA.

I believe the time has come for me to learn how to use my DNA data (and my brother’s recent Y-DNA data) to expand my family research! There has been a lot written about genetic genealogy last year; a number of  advancements in this area of study has made it possible for me to decide if I’m related to others with the same surname and to identify my geographic/ethnic ancestral origin. But my real inspiration for wanting to learn how to use my DNA data comes from closely observing the family connections AAGSAR members Kristin Williams, True Lewis, Maurice BellTeresa Vega, and others in the group have blogged about because of DNA testing.  I want to learn as much as I can about this field so that I can use my results to enhance my experience with relatives. Yes indeed! I’m ready for all my genetic testing has to offer!

Have you set some genealogy goals for yourself this year? Yes?! No?! Feel inspired to choose *three* words that would help focus your goals and efforts with your family research this year? If yes, what three words would you choose? Let me know your thoughts, but most of all Happy Ancestor Hunting to you this year!