Nice – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Nice. Some people are just naturally nice – optimistic, caring, considerate, polite, and full of an inner joy. Others know how to make their way through, doing and saying the right things. But it’s just not the same. I think the key to “nice” is the inner glow and sense of caring that you can feel from a nice person.

Bettie Higgs Finney (b. 24 Nov 1903, Arkansas, d. 2000, Oklahoma) – Be sure to zoom on that cute face.

When you think about your ancestors, “nice” is likely lost a lot sooner than “naughty”. We just don’t spend as much time passing down the stories of the person who, day in and day out, cared about folks in very ordinary ways. But, the naughty ancestor? There are *always* stories about them that come down the years.

Maybe we need to do a better job of telling the stories of the nice people in our families.

One of my nicest ancestors is my great-aunt Bettie. Bettie Higgs was born 24 Nov 1903 in Dequeen, Sevier County, Arkansas. In 1911, her family moved the 50 or so miles to Idabel in the new state of Oklahoma where her father was editor of a newspaper. And there, she stayed.

Bettie married Thomas Dunn Finney on 15 Mar 1924 in Idabel. Uncle Tom was an attorney in Idabel. He served for a time as the assistant Attorney General for state of Oklahoma in the 1930s. And in the 1940s, he served for several years as a state senator in Oklahoma. And then, they came back to Idabel.

Aunt Bettie and Uncle Tom had a single son, Tom Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps and became an attorney, active on the national stage. They had four grandchildren, three of whom are still living.

Of course, my experience of Aunt Bettie came later in her life. I barely remember Uncle Tom. He died in 1968, while Aunt Bettie lived another 32 years. She died in 2000. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long.

But, Aunt Bettie was always cheerful and nice when I was around her. “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul! And forget not all His benefits” was something I heard her say over and over. That and “Oh, foot” as her multi-purpose punctuation mark saying.

Aunt Bettie lost her father when she was a teenager. Her mother worked as a teacher and things were not very easy for them in those days. Living in southeastern Oklahoma wasn’t easy for anyone, especially not then, and especially not for a widowed mother with five children. But Aunt Bettie, by my experience, always had an inner joy about her that allowed her to persevere.

Bettie Higgs Finney, 1989

Aunt Bettie lost her father when she was a teenager. Her mother worked as a teacher and things were not very easy for them in those days. Living in southeastern Oklahoma wasn’t easy for anyone, especially not then, and especially not for a widowed mother with five children. But Aunt Bettie, by my experience, always had an inner joy about her that allowed her to persevere.

In the 1980s, Bettie had a stroke while visiting her sister, Mary. She worked hard to regain all of her mobility. She would carry her cane around and forget it places since she really didn’t need it.

I remember driving Aunt Bettie from Idabel, Oklahoma down to Plano, Texas to visit my mother. As we crossed over the Red River in to Texas, Aunt Bettie exclaimed, “There’s old Red!” and said that that was what they always said in her family as they got to the river and crossed over. She told me stories along the way of being a young person in that part of the country years ago. Very cool day.

It’s funny, though. When we think about how someone is, and our experience of someone, everybody knows a person in different ways. Last January (I think), I was in New York City and was able to have dinner with Deedie, one of Aunt Bettie’s grandchildren and my second cousin. After dinner, Jenny, Deedie’s spouse of thirty years, met us for dessert. Jenny asked what memories of Aunt Bettie we had in our side of the family that might be different than the experience of their part of the family. I said how she was so nice and positive. Both Jenny and Deedie laughed a bit at that, I guess Aunt Bettie had a bit of fire in her, too. The niceness only would go so far! That’s certainly the case with her younger sister, Mary, my grandmother, too.

Aunt Bettie had a great letter that her grandfather sent her the day she was born, but more about that another day. I think that this is a good place to stop. Part of being nice is not overstaying your welcome! I hope we can all remember to share our stories of Nice ancestors instead of just the naughty ones.

Until next time, Merry Christmas!
–SCott

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Author: Scott Dickson

I've been doing family history research since the late 1980s. Almost all of my family came into the southern colonies and worked there way across the South. Lately, I've started to look at my wife's New England, Irish, and French Canadian ancestry. My tree is online at http://wrenacres.com/genealogy.

2 thoughts on “Nice – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”

  1. She would always chastise Nannie for sneaking open the wrapping paper on her Christmas presents before it was her turn, but I saw Aunt Bettie do that once, too. She was just sneakier at it than Nannie was.

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