Friday, July 28, 2017

Looking for Hightowers

Last Wednesday I drove to Kentucky to look for my illusive Hightower family records. Just to break up the trip, I stopped in La Grange, Kentucky, which is just north of Louisville. I had seen the town listed on the website Roadside America. This website, by the way, is great if you are going on a road trip and want to stop and see oddities or attractions along the way. In fact, I use it to find interesting things to see around my own city. You enter the state where you will be traveling, and a list of attractions pops up. You can also look at a map view so you can see what is along your route.

La Grange, KY
La Grange has the distinction of being one of only a couple towns in the U.S. where trains come right down Main Street. So if you hear that train a comin', you better get the heck out of the way! La Grange is a pretty little place, and it was nice to get out and stretch my legs. But sadly, none of the 20 plus trains that pass through daily chose the time I was there to make an appearance.

Melbourne, KY
My final destination was Alexandria, where I would be visiting the Campbell County Historical Society as well as the Campbell County Clerk's office. I stayed at an AirBNB for two nights in nearby Melbourne. Of course I had to take a picture of the sign. Who gets to visit Melbourne twice in two months?

I found a great little diner in Alexandria for breakfast on Thursday morning, thanks to Yelp. TripAdvisor totally let me down this time. It showed no places to eat in Alexandria. The Spare Time Grill was just what I was looking for so I could get my goetta fix. I passed the time talking to the owner and his daughter while waiting for the historical society to open at 10:00.
Spare Time Grill
Campbell County Historical Society
At 10:00 on the dot I was on the front steps of the old Campbell County Courthouse. I believe that it was constructed in the 1840s, but was heavily remodeled in 1928. It is still an impressive building, nonetheless. On the second floor lies the collection of the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society.

There was one volunteer in the building, and she was extremely helpful. Many of their records are online, and I had searched their site extensively before coming on the trip. But family files and some church files are not online, so I looked through those. She helped me brainstorm other areas that I might look, and probably most importantly indicated what records would and would not be located at the other Campbell County Courthouse in Newport (yes, Campbell County has two courthouses, just to make things even more difficult and confusing), as well as the holdings of the Campbell County Library in Newport. She saved me a lot of time looking for genealogy love in all the wrong places.

county clerk's office
Unfortunately, I found nothing new in their archives, and she sent me on my way to the county clerk's office. Though mostly used for licensing cars and drivers, this office also has old documents such as marriage bonds, deeds, wills, etc. It's a rare situation in that you are allowed to pull the books off the shelves and look through them. As the shelving area was right across from the license renewal desk, there were interesting conversations for me to listen to as I looked through the materials. I will say that the staff was much more friendly and helpful than any of the license offices I have had to go into around here.  While I found deed information for the man who may or may not be my 4 times great-grandfather as well as some other Hightowers who may or may not be brothers of my 3 times great-grandfather Thompson Hightower, there was nothing to tie them all together definitively. I took scans of all the deeds just in case.

I did find the original the original marriage bond that was posted for Thompson Hightower and Elizabeth Hopper. Marriage bonds were popular in the 1700s and early 1800s. It was essentially a declaration of an intent to marry. The groom-to-be would go to the courthouse with a bondsman, typically the father or brother of the bride-to-be, and posted a bond indicating his intention to marry. No money was paid at the time of the posting, but if the marriage did not occur then the would-be groom would pay the amount stated on the bond, in this case 50 pounds.

Marriage Bond
The Campbell County bonds had been indexed and that index appears online, so I knew the substance of the document. The bondsman in this case was J.P. Piner, an uncle of Elizabeth's, with whom she had lived from the age of 6. I had assumed (and you know what they say about assuming) that her parents were deceased. I do not know their names, so I have no idea if Piner was her mother's brother, or he could have been a brother-in-law to either of Elizabeth's parents. But when I saw the original document, there was a hand-written note that stated Elizabeth's "father is willing that a marriage license might be issued..." Her father was alive in 1838! For whatever reason, he had not been able to care for Elizabeth since she was about 6. Maybe his wife was ill or deceased, or maybe he was simply too poor to take care of her. Either way, it gives me another clue in looking for her father. Too bad they didn't list his name.

The next morning I bid my AirBNB adieu and drove north to Newport. Here I found The World Peace Bell, one of more than 20 peace bells located around the world. It was the world's largest free swinging bell from 2000-2006. It weighs 66,000 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. I found out about it through the above-mentioned Roadside America. It was pretty impressive to see, though I did not hear it ring while I was in the area.
World Peace Bell
After I grabbed a quick lunch in Newport, I went to the Campbell County Library, which had little genealogical information, and then headed over to Covington. The Kenton County Library has a lot of good stuff, but I have spent quite a bit of time there in the past. This visit I was focused on seeing if I could find out anything about the Baptist churches that were in the area in 1838 as I had found that Thompson Hightower and Elizabeth Hopper were married by a Baptist minister. Unfortunately the Baptists are not as organized as the Catholics, so I struck out there as well. It was time to get the heck out of dodge, and so I traveled across the river to Cincinnati, where I spent the rest of the weekend with my cousins and aunts. More on that in the next post.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Hunting I Will Go

Thompson's Civil War unit
There is one ancestor that is hiding so far behind a brick wall that the brick wall has a wall. Thompson Hightower is my three times great-grandfather on my dad's side of family tree. I have created a solid, documented trail from myself to him, but his ancestry remains elusive. There are numerous family trees on that indicate his father is George Hightower, Jr. and his mother, Frances Ann Hall. The problem is that none of the trees has one piece of evidence to back up that connection. I can place both Thompson and George in Cambell County Kentucky at the same time, but that is it. George's family is extremely well-documented back to the early 1700s in Virginia. If I can ever prove the relationship between Thompson and George, I will have quite a robust tree. Not to mention the ability to become a member of the DAR as well as numerous other prestigious associations.

The problem is that Thompson had the audacity to be born around 1815, long before Kentucky kept birth records. He compounded the problem by dying in 1866 before death records were recorded in Kentucky. He was of age when he married in 1838, so no parent's names are listed on the marriage license, and he left no will. George also died intestate, and research in Adams County, Ilinois where he died offered no clues regarding his children.

A week at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, despite the assistance of the highly qualified staff there, yielded no new information on Thompson. So my Hail Mary is a trip to Alexandria, Kentucky this week. When Thompson was born the area was all Campbell County, so records before 1840 are in the courthouse in Alexandria. Or they might be in a second county seat in Newport. In 1840 the area where Thompson lived became Kenton County, so records after that date are located in the courthouse in Covington. Or are they in a second county seat in Independence? It is all very confusing, and I have my work cut out for me.

My game plan is to first start at the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society, conveniently located in the old courthouse in Alexandria. They have limited hours, so I need to be there when they open at 10:00 on Thursday. In addition to looking at their collection, I feel like they will be able to direct me on what records are held at the various courthouses so I'm not wasting time at the wrong place.

Thursday and Friday I'll do research in the area, and will be staying at an AirBNB in Melbourne, Kentucky. I'll need to take a selfie with the sign since I was just in Melbourne, Australia in May. The cottage where I am staying is located on 20 acres. Apparently mountain lions have been spotted on the property! Maybe I can get a picture of one without being eaten.

Betty, Margie & me
Friday afternoon I will head north to Cincinnati to spend the weekend with my cousins. My mom's sister turns 95 on Friday, and she doesn't know that I am coming over. I'll also see her sister, who turned 90 last month. I can't wait to see them - they're the best! The picture on the left is of the three of us two years ago. I always have a great time in the city where I was born, and hopefully I'll have a genealogy find to celebrate in addition to a milestone birthday.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Breast Biopsy Results

Early this afternoon the home phone rang, and caller ID revealed that it was St. Anthony's calling me. I thought that was odd as I had the mammograms and biopsy done at Missouri Baptist. I picked it up anyway, and it was my primary care doctor's office. She asked if I had been given my pathology results yet, and I said I hadn't heard a word yet. She said they had just gotten them, and that the results were BENIGN!!!! What a huge relief, and a blessing not to have that hanging over me the whole weekend. She asked that I call their office back after I heard from Missouri Baptist regarding what kind of follow-up they were recommending.

About a half hour later, Missouri Baptist called me with the same report. She said the biopsy had come back with the cells being identified as stromal fibrosis. Fibrosis refers to an increase in dense connective breast tissue. It is a very common finding, occuring in up to 7% of suspicious breast lesions examined by biopsy. According to the American Cancer Society, fibrosis does not increase your risk of developing breast cancer later on. More good news.

They do want me to come back in six months for a repeat mammogram and ultrasound of the right breast. When I asked why, since the biopsy came back negative, I was told it was to make sure nothing had changed. I have to admit that I am a little concerned about all the x-ray exposures on this one breast. There were the two views at the routine mammogram, three views at the screening mammogram, and two more views following the biopsy. It is something I will be asking questions about, especially since they established a baseline mammogram after the biopsy was performed.

But setting all that aside for the moment, I am one lucky lady!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Breast Biopsy

flowers from the breast care center
Yesterday morning I left the house at 6:35 a.m. to get to Missouri Baptist Hospital by the 7:00 requested arrival time. My biopsy was scheduled for 7:30, but they needed to check me in and all that. Due to it being a holiday week, traffic was light and I got there at 6:50. More time to wait - yippee...

The front desk gal checked me in shortly after 7:00, and I went back to a room for the nurse to go over my information again, and to repeat what was going to occur. Then I slipped on my beautiful pink ball gown, and waited for the radiologist to come in. We have known each other for many years as our kids went to school together. He is the same doctor who drained a couple of breast cysts, and he has been reading my mammograms through the years. I was grateful that he was scheduled for July 5th, and that he had an opening for my procedure.

Dr. H. stated that he wanted to do another ultrasound himself as he wanted to see exactly what the spot looked like. At that point I think he was still hopeful that it would turn out to be nothing, or that perhaps an MRI would do the trick instead of putting me through a biopsy. I didn't realize that was even a possibility, and it was probably just as well.

Once in the procedure room, the nurse and technician went over my name, date of birth and which breast we were looking at - for the third time that morning. As someone who was once Vice President of Marketing and Risk Management for a medical malpractice insurance company, I appreciated all their efforts to make sure they were a) treating the right patient and b) treating the correct body part on the patient. The doctor then came in and performed the ultrasound, and decided he need to go in after all.

While I was told that the local anesthetic could be likened to what you get in a dental chair, that it not exactly accurate. This one went much deeper into the tissue. I am used to needles and anesthesia due to all my skin cancers, but I'll just say that this smarted more than any of those have. On the plus side, it was not as bad as a cortisone shot, so there is that.

Under the guidance of the ultrasound, Dr. H. guided an instrument through the side of the breast to get to the area of distortion. He warned me that I would feel pressure, but should feel no pain. That was the case. Then he said I would hear a sharp noise, so I shouldn't be startled. I took that to mean, don't move. What he didn't say is that I would hear four sharp noises - one for each of the tissue samples that he removed. The sound reminded me of what the ear piercing gun sounded like.

After the tissue was removed, a ceramic marker was inserted into the breast so that any radiologist who reads my mammograms in the future would know that the area had been biopsied. Normally they would put a metal marker in, but since I have had allergic reaction to different metals in my earrings, they decided to be safe and go with ceramic. Then the nurse kept pressure on the entrance site for ten minutes to minimize bleeding. She said that I hadn't bled much during the procedure. Then she said I needed to go and have more mammograms taken. While they had told me I would have a followup mammogram, I presumed it would be after the biopsy site had healed. Not right after it was done! They assured me that rarely does anyone bleed nor does it dislodge the marker they had put in.

The mammography technician reassured me that she would not be putting as much pressure on the breast as she would do during a normal screening, and said this was just to give everyone a baseline of where the biopsy had been done and where the marker was located. While I was in there, I asked her to explain the difference between the 2D and 3D tests as it seems like they are done by the same machine. She explained that a 2D mammogram was like taking a picture of a lump of bread that had been squished. You might see something, but you don't know exactly where in the loaf to go and look for it. A 3D, on the other hand, offers slices of the loaf of bread, so if something appears they can go and look at that slice. I thought it was an interesting way to describe the difference. I had asked Dr. H. if he thought a 2D mammogram would have picked up the architectural distortion. He said, "No way." At any rate, the technician was correct. The squishing in two directions wasn't bad, and did not hurt.

The entrance wound was dressed with steri-strips and then topped with a gauze pad covered in tape. My instructions were to leave the dressing on for 24 hours, with no shower until it came off. They sent me home with two small ice packs to place inside my bra over the wound, 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off to minimize swelling and bruising. The nurse told me to take it easy and load up on Netflix for the rest of the day. Sort of lends a whole new meaning to the phrase "watching the boob tube", doesn't it?

ice pack

I slept pretty well last night, and removed the bandage this morning. There is a small bruise but no swelling, and not even a drop of blood on the dressing. I continued to use the ice packs off and on today as well since they seemed to help. I took it pretty easy, and should be back to most activities tomorrow.

They said two to three days to receive the results from pathology, and they will call me once they get them. I'm hoping since my test was so early in the morning, that Friday I will hear something. Otherwise, it will be a long weekend. I'm trying to stay off of Doc Google and relying on Doc H. instead.