June Carter Cash and Your Genealogy: What is a klediment?

June Carter Cash entitled her autobiography Among My Klediments (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979).

June defines klediment in this way:

I’ve got to go home among my klediments I’ve heard them say–those precious mountain people in southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee.
A klediment can be almost anything that has earned a right to be a part of things close to you. It can be precious antique furniture gathered from grandmother, pieces of china, little handmade doilies, straw mats on the floor, or the Priscilla curtains you made yourself.

A klediment can be a thing you love. An old ace bandage that saw you through two months of a sprained ankle, a faded parking ticket, a jar of screws collected from your grandad’s shop. A klediment can be a thing you just can’t throw away.

A klediment is a keepsake. It evokes your deepest memories bringing a flood of emotions into your heart and recall of specific parts of your family history background–personal, intimate, special.

Genealogy klediments include your grandmother’s Swedish rocking chair, that she carried herself, on her back, all the way to America. Bronzed baby shoes of the soldier who did not come home. An Appalachian hair chart, locks of hair stitched onto parchment in pedigree descent–black and gold, fine and long. A family group photo or painted portrait–with or without identifications written on the back.

These objects trigger genealogy memories. These klediments also provide tangible evidence of genealogical significance.  When your 18th- and 19th-century Tennessee and Kentucky ancestors compiled their hair chart, they were saving a tangible part of their heritage, as their Scots-Irish forebears did.  Little did they know that in the 21st- century, you and I could test the DNA in these sample locks of hair.  And use the evidence to track them to their origins!

Consider the Smith conch shells and the legend connected to them. Two brothers, sea captains who traveled first with their father, then together, had come to the parting of their ways:

Since this is our last voyage together, there should be something to remind us of the years we have shared–the good and the bad, the lean and the prosperous, the storm and the calm. Here it is–a giant conch shell, or rather twin shells. May I suggest these shells are the perfect memento. We shall break them apart where they are joined like Siamese twins, and each keep one shell as souvenir of our years together.

We shall prize these shells highly and they will be handed down from father to son amongst our posterity. They shall become treasured heirlooms. There will be a legend built up around these shells and they may be a means of bringing our children and our children’s children together at a far future time.

The conch–just to say the word over to myself brings the long distant past back into my imagination. Did our ancestors, those two brothers who were sea captains of old commercial sailing ships of two hundred fifty years ago, find this shell? Or were they given it by natives, or a pretty, dark-eyed maiden? We do know that the lovely spiral shells were brought back from one of their adventures.

Our shell was used as a trumpet, a foghorn to sound warnings of danger, and blown to summon everyone from the fields when our grandfather, Thomas Sasson Smith, died. When we heard the horn-like shell, we knew something was wrong. The shell became a part of our heritage and was passed on to each eldest son to be treasured and preserved.

The two conch shells have descended through the generations in two separate and distinct Smith families–each with the same tradition, each with a tradition that the two families are related. Careful genealogical research to date has not discovered the precise relationshp. The shells have, however, given staying power and motivation to several generations of Smiths to find the answer.

When tested by a molusk expert at the University of Utah before the 1980 World Conference on Records, the shells were found to be of the same molecular structure and dated 250-300 years old. They come from the waters of the Caribbean. (See Jeremiah Smith Family Reunion, 1996, The Conch Shell Reality and Tradition. Copy available in the Genealogy Library Center, 62 West Main Street, Tremonton UT 84337.)

What klediments do you have? Even though the term is Scots-Irish, every family has these evidences of the past. What did your family bring with them? Ask! These tangible, family objects and heirlooms give assurance, that the people you are trying to find, are real people. ASK! The holiday season is an ideal time to ask!

Genealogy HEADS UP for the New Year!

In early 2007–not so far away now–I will launch a monthly newsletter mailed to each of you who send me your postal address. If you ordered the FREE report, “Cutting Edge Documentation,” I already have your postal address. You won’t want to miss this brand new genealogy publication: What You Can Learn from Genealogy Celebrities.

If you enjoyed this post, you will love the newsletter. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

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One Response to June Carter Cash and Your Genealogy: What is a klediment?

  1. fcspatti says:

    I would love to receive your new newsletter. This list has been a pleasure. Your articles are interesting, well-written, and very informative. Please keep up the good work.

    My mailing address is: Patti Martin, 4501 SW 62 Court, Miami, FL 33155-5936

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