Tag Archives: family history

Buried Alive

This story um… is from our Paine side of the family and it goes back to I believe around 1727, the year 1727. And we had a relative named William Winston and. . . he wasn’t a wealthy man, but he worked hard, but he was relatively poor. And he lived up in Northern Virginia and he met a woman who he fell deeply in love with. She was. . .she became his paramour. She was all he had hoped for in a mate and he decided this is going to be the woman that. . . I. . . I am going to marry, and her name was Sarah Dabney. And, so he started courting her as they did back in that day, and the courting process went on for quite a while. Um. . . long enough for him to save up a lot of the money that he had and he had made from work in order to buy her what was going to be one of the most beautiful rings that anyone in Northern Virginia had ever seen as an engagement ring. And. . .they were going to get married in mid spring, and it had been a terrible winter, and William Winston lived in a small, small house. You know back then it was probably a shack. But, the poor weather continued and it snowed and then the snow to rain and sleet for quite a while but he and Sarah went ahead and got married. I think it was. . . late. . . late April of 1727 if I am correct on the date, and word got out that she had this incredible engagement ring that he had gotten for her that was (you know) a sign of their betrothal. And, the word got out. . . and she fell sick with pneumonia and he thought um she became really really sick and. . . to the point to where the doctors pronounced her dead. And this was like a month. . . this was not long after they had been married. And he was devastated, he was totally traumatized. And he buried her . . . I guess he buried her in a somewhat shallow grave and the word had gotten out that his wife who had this beautiful ring. . . that this–this laborer who had married a woman and given her this just almost priceless wedding ring–that she had died.

And  three–I guess they would have been equivalent to highway men,robbers, grave robbers–after she had been buried, they dug her up, and because the ring fit so tightly on her finger that they couldn’t slide it off of her finger, and they cut her finger off! Well he was back in his home, and they dug her up in this dark and stormy night, and he’s (you know) probably sitting at his little table in his little shack with the candle flickering and the wind howling and the rain beating and the roof leaking and you know just crying into his hands. . . and there was a scratching at the door! And he’s– and he (you know) he’s just just sobbing and the scratching continued and it got louder and louder and louder and he finally realized somebody or something is scratching at my door! And he got up and he went to the door and he opened the door and there was Sarah and she hadn’t died, she had been buried alive! When they dug her up and cut the ring off of her finger it. . . it. . . it resuscitated her enough, along with the oxygen that she was able to breathe again. . . and that’s the story. And they lived happily ever after after that.

Chinese New Year Superstition

Context: My informant is a 26 year-old woman who is of Chinese descent. She grew up in Hong Kong and lived there until she moved to Pasadena at the age of 7. Listed below is an account of a Chinese holiday called “Harvest Festival”. She detailed her experience of Chinese New Year and specific beliefs and practices her family had. She knows and loves these stories from personal experience. She knows and loves these stories from personal experience.


“On Chinese new year, you are not supposed to wash your hair or your clothes because it is thought to be washing off the good luck. You are also only supposed to wear red, even your underwear. The elders also give the younger people money in red envelopes as a sign of good luck and prosperity. On the first day of the year you only eat dumplings, second day you eat fish and vegetables, and on the third day you eat ‘longevity noodles’ because it’s supposed to give you a long life.” 


The superstitious aspect of “washing good luck off” was one thing that I found particularly interesting. It is believed that one possesses a high amount of good luck on Chinese new year and you will wash it off if you wash any of your things. The connection to red in Chinese culture is present in many stories that this informant told me and I am curious to know where red ties into their history and how it came to be such a symbolic color. I love the way that food ties into this holiday over the span of several days. It almost seems as though one is preparing the two days before in order to eat the “longevity noodles”, noodles that promote a long life. 

Remembering your roots

Ther informant talks about her family saying that has been passed down from generation to generation of the family-owned lumber mill would tell to their children using very philosophical views to teach.

Informant: In 3rd grade, my grandfather came to stay with me when my parents went to Japan for 2 weeks. I heard my grandfather singing, when I went to compliment his singing, he scolded me saying that it was poetry. And he said my education was a disgrace, and he decided to teach me Tang poetry. He was incredibly well educated and opened his own school. They taught a lot of famous philosophers and martial arts. He began instructing me how to pronounce this poetry, but it was incredibly difficult for a little girl like me to learn.

he told me a story from Zuangzi 莊子, everyone should know their own ancestors and such. Just like the trees that our lumber mill production. We would cut the trees and put it into a river and pick them up downstream. However, when you put the tree in the river, you had to put the tree in the right way, the tip of tree trunk pointing upstream. This is so that it would go down smoothly if you don’t do it properly, then the tree will be confused. Even the trees know where their roots are, so all human beings need to know their roots/ancestry. As a tutor in traditional Chinese, everything with him was didactic, loaded with right vs. wrong, good and better, righteousness and all those Confucius values. This is a story that has been told by our family for the past I think 6 or 7 generations.

Just like trees, us humans need to know our roots and continue the legacy.


This was interesting, learning a little about my one’s ancestry and family teachings that have been passed down for many generations and knowing that using very philosophical views from a very famous philosopher in ancient China to be applied to a family that used to produce lumber in the past 2 centuries is somewhat amazing for me. I feel like the message that was mentioned really is important to not forget one’s ancestry and roots.

Moon Festival

The informant is my father who has always grown up in Taiwan but came to America for grad school. Understanding both cultures, he has a very wide understanding of the traditions in our household and its practices.


中秋節 (Zhong Qiu Jie) – It is a celebration of when the moon is the biggest during the year. We celebrate it by eating 月餅 (Yue Bing) which is moon cakes. We also have a tradition to go outside and have barbecues with friends and family while enjoying the beautiful moon. In our family, we do not go do barbecues outside because it is too much of a hassle, so we usually just go to a barbecue restaurant to eat. After that, we always go home and eat fruits, one particular fruit we eat is pomelo. When you were a child we used to eat the fruit and use the shell of the fruit as a hat for you to play around with. As a kid, we even used the fruit shell as slippers to save money. It also has a great smell so we always leave it outside as a fragrance.

I have sometimes been in Taiwan during this time, I for one personally love this holiday because I get to eat delicious barbecue. I definitely do not remember doing such a tradition of putting fruit on top of my head, but it does sound like something I would do as a kid.

Bath Song and Family History

A is an 18-year-old woman. She is currently studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She considers her nationality to be American, but more specifically she is one quarter Greek Cypriote, one quarter German and half Argentinian. that being said, she strongly identifies with her Greek roots. She is fluent in both English and Greek, and is currently learning Mandarin.

A: Um, I don’t know if this is a me parable or family parable but I really hated taking baths when I was little, so they used to sing a song about a little kid who wouldn’t take baths and would turn into a pig. Cause she was so dirty. But I think its real because it actually has a tune, like I don’t think my Grandmother actually made up a song, but the song is like “I’m a little piggy, cause I stink a lot,” basically in Greek. And it goes like “well you’ll turn into a piggy too unless you take a bath.”

Me: Aww

A: So yeah, I was afraid I was gonna turn into a barnyard animal. It was fun.

Me: But you took the bath!

A: This is true.

Me: Did they sing this to your siblings? Do you have other siblings?

A: I don’t, I’m an only child. And this was with my grandparents too, and I’m the only grandchild as well.

Me: Aw. But you’ll probably do it with your kids too.

A: Oh yeah. It was so much fun. It’s got it’s own song! My grandfather told me a lot of stories about donkeys, I don’t remember exactly what they contain, but every story that had a moral always involved a donkey. Like a donkey on an adventure.

Me: Your grandparents liked farmyard animals is basically…

A: You know what, my grandparents grew up in the village with farmyard animals, so I’m sure this is how their parents told it to them.

Me: So the songs and the stories are like based on that?

A: Oh yeah. And it’s definitely based on the old village, which is like way the heck up in the mountains, like I’ve been there.

Me: Is there a name for it?

A: Yes, Ayiosgiannis. So my last name is the name of the village, just shortened. The name of the village is St. John’s in English. Um, Ayios is St. in English and that’s where Ayiotis, my last name is from.

Me: Ohhhh

A: So the last names were very frequently based on the area where you are from or like what you were called in the village. So I’m pretty sure my great-grandfather made up that name.

Me: So that’s generally where Greek last names come from?

A: I believe so. A lot of them, like a couple of them, are professions, but a lot of the ones are places.

Me: So places and professions but mostly places?

A: Actually let me rephrase. If you got out of the village then it’s a place cause you wanted to honor your village, but for people in the village, why would they all have the same last name as the village?

Me: True.

A: So it was in the village it was by profession or by nickname or sometimes you will genuinely find people name “Andreas Andreou” like “Phillip Phillipou,” like people with the same last name as their first name, and it’s very funny. Um they’ll do like men’s first names as well as last names cause that was your dad’s dad. So basically common ways to distingush between people with the same name in a village.

Me: So your last name, does it change?

A: It can. We didn’t have last names until the British came and were like “why the heck do you not have last names?” And that was in the 30s, um the 20s. Yeah, Cyprus was a British colony up until the 60’s.

Me: Wow.

A:  Um that’s when they gained their independence.

Me: You didn’t have last names until the 20’s?

A: Yeah, why would we need it? We’re farmers, we’re farming.

Me: That’s true.

A: I remember my grandfather was born in like 1934 and he told me he saw a car in his village once when he was like nine years old and that was probably the only car on the island of Cyprus, driving through all the villages like “oh my god I bought a car!” So it was very…

Me: Secluded?

A: Yeah. And it’s still very farm-heavy. Its still agricultural.

Me: Is Cyprus an island off of Greece?

A: It’s an island actually closer to Lebanon than it is to Greece. It’s north of Egypt and south of Turkey in the Mediterranean Ocean, but since that area used to all be ethnically Greek in the Greek, Egyptian, and Ottoman Empire and since Cyprus is an island it saw less change over time as more people moved in and out because it’s harder to conquer an island. So the people who are Greek there, like our dialect of Greek is more similar to ancient Greek.

A talks about a song that her grandparents used to sing to her when she was little to get her to take a bath. This is a fond memory that she has and she said that it works, the song was effective in making her believe that if she were not to take a bath, she would turn into a pig. A also explains that the song might have to do with her grandfather’s origins, which are especially important to her as the root of her last name is the name of the village. Her grandfather lived in a very agricultural, farm-heavy village, and this is likely where the song originated. The dirt being the result of farming all day, and turning into a pig being the result of not cleaning yourself, so turning into one of your farm animals. The name, the village, and the song are all connected in one way or another.