This “book” is really a collection of newsletters published by Violet White Smith of Chicago IL between 1919 and 1932. Ostensibly about White genealogy, the thrust of the letters is clearly pointed in the direction of Violet’s aspiration to be a “Journalist”. Self-appointed in just about everything she did Violet reveals much of herself and her fascinating character in the pages of the Recorder. It is a publication of her own invention fueled by her strong drive and capability; no matter that her strong suit was NOT English composition and that she seeded her prose with commas and fragmented sentences.
Violet carried a high opinion of herself and tried hard to stretch her White relationships to many rich and famous Whites (even to those who came on the Mayflower). Despite this pretentious streak, the pages her subscribers received covered the births and deaths and poetry of the many common farm folk who populated her true bloodline. Perhaps they enjoyed the brush with significance she passed on to them with this faux genealogy. She linked distant cousins on Nebraska farms with her own high-minded pursuits evidenced in her “unpublished” papers such as “The Beginning of the Aryans, or the Fifth Race, with its Branches of Brunette and Blonde”. The “Kindred”, as she named her readership, responded with accolades in numerous letters to the Editor, or “Scribe”, as she liked to call herself.
At first I thought she must have been insufferable but then I grew to love her adventurous spirit, her warmth for the many “Cousins” of the Kindred who supplied her with countless meals and chauffeured “Auto” rides showing off their chosen turf. I can only imagine the beds she slept in as she visited all those drafty farmhouses. But she cooed over the sausages they sent her and even tried to cop a freebie or two by praising the local produce of a region where a relative resided; as in her reply to one from Tillamook, Oregon -“The Editor would surely like some of that cheese to eat!”
Violet came along after the pioneer era which opened the West but her White family wrote a good part of that epoch and many of them in the Far West who had experienced it were still living. She encouraged and recorded memories of that hard life and the stories are compelling. Scenes of early Chicago and the Great Fire are the best I have ever read and come straight from an elderly eyewitness relative. She gave prominence to women’s issues and far more attention than one usually sees in male-centric genealogy.
The Scribe was no purist in anything she did. She mixed sloppy genealogy with her own inclinations to travel everywhere imaginable and then indulge her descriptive penchant in the Newsletter. Accounts of her “motor trips” are fascinating in themselves but always end up with news from another Henry White descendant (and another free night’s lodging for Mr. and Mrs. Alan D. Smith). She earned her keep and the Fifty Cents she charged for each Number.
We found numerous mistakes in her names and dates and relationships but the wealth of data she supplies more than makes up for these. We tried to leave things as she put them but we did extract many of the commas and correct some of the more obvious spelling errors without notifying the reader. We got sick of inserting “[sic]” but felt we had to leave in some of her expressive jaw breakers for flavor.
Genealogy, history, news, poetry (nearly all doggerel, but the Milkman’s Ode is worth the price alone), travelogue (“Pike’s Peak or Bust” is classic), opinion, and plagiarism – Violet did it all. We don’t know what happened to her but her passion for the Whites – any White- will never be matched and it lives on in THE WHITE FAMILY RECORDER.
Cousin Leslie E. Soper, MD – Las Vegas NV
With Bonne Shane - Springfield IL
And Jeanette and Robert Heil – St. Thomas ON