Family Photos & Stories – Tommy

I’m a photography lover. I blame 10th Grade Driver’s Ed. The class was only 1 semester and I had to pick a class for the second half of the year. I choose photography. Loved it. So, on the 3rd Friday of the month, I’ll profile a photo.

To start: my brother Thomas Michael Morrissey (1962-2008). Tommy would have been 54 years old yesterday. So to honor him, here’s a little of his story.

Mary and Tommy at our family home.
Mary and Tommy at our family home.

Born the third of four boys, Tommy always seemed to me to be full of energy. Always moving. Tommy started sports leagues when he was a young boy. He excelled at sports; primarily baseball and football. He played multiple positions – quarterback, cornerback, pitcher, first base. Particularly in football, Tommy was a star.

My mother tells me that when I was a toddler, I would stand up in the car (before car seats) to cheer and clap as we passed by the “three fields” baseball complex not far from our home. I was used to cheering on my brothers from an early age! I learned the Hail Mary (the prayer, not the pass) from mom during high school football games. Mom apparently thought the Blessed Mother was going to help the Rebels win games. They won a lot of games, so maybe She does. I learned to throw a spiral because my brother was a quarterback. It’s a requirement of all little sisters, right?

There is a large scrapbook of newspaper articles from Tommy’s time in high school sports. Photographs of Tommy at first base, stretching to catch a ball before the runner tagged the base. My parents were so incredibly proud of him.

Academics were not his thing though. After a year at Virginia Tech where he was a walk-on for Hokie football, Tommy realized that college life wasn’t going to be for him. He returned to Richmond and eventually started his own painting company.

Tommy got his perfectionism about his work from our father. He joked frequently about how he would have to fix someone else’s shoddy work; “jack-legged,” he would call it. Painting houses is highly physical as his frequent trips to the chiropractor attest. Painting ceilings ruins your neck. And the drywall dust alone would have eventually taken it’s toll on his lungs and sinuses. But Tommy was strong, lean and fit.

He also loved fishing. “The Hook” at Hatteras, NC was almost a second home. He’d pack his pick-up truck with camping and fishing gear, then head to the drive-on beach for long weekends. It was a passion and an escape. In a lot of ways, Tommy was the quintessential southern red neck.

Tommy fishing at Outer Banks, NC
Tommy fishing at Outer Banks, NC

He had no children. But after our father died, Tommy stepped up for our family. He committed himself to caring for our mother’s home. She, in turn, made sure he had good healthy meals. For a single son and a widow, the arrangement worked. Both of his dogs lived with her. I think Tommy knew they would keep her company and provide protection. Don’t get me wrong, Tommy wasn’t a saint and he had some serious struggles over the course of his life. But his love and care for mom in those years was the truest testament to his character. He overcame his weaknesses and loved his family well.

I was on vacation with my husband, kids and in-laws when I got the call. I won’t ever forget that moment. It’s a memory like the Space Shuttle Challenger or 9/11. It was while painting a home’s exterior that his ladder contacted high voltage wires nearby while he was moving it. His death wasn’t quick and it wasn’t painless.

At his funeral there were family, friends and coworkers to offer their support, presence and prayers. I was most surprised by how many of his former Freeman football buddies were there. Many I remembered because my mother prepared pre-game steak dinners for the teams on Friday nights. I would go along. My job was to prepare and serve the lemonade and iced tea. These guys had stories and memories that I couldn’t have shared because they knew Tommy as a leader and teammate.

Son, brother, teammate, friend, dog lover, small business owner, fisherman. That’s a good life.



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My Favorite Sites #1

There are genealogy websites in the vast interwebs that are not the big tree creation/databases like Ancestry or FamilySearch. Those are awesome and I use both daily. But, those don’t provide all that you’ll need. I have other favorites that I visit regularly. They are invaluable and I’m sharing.

The very FIRST I want to tell you about?

Map of US

Let’s change the metaphor and call in a family skelton. The bones of the skelton are names, dates and locations. And when it comes to places in the U.S., is the best. Easy to use. Easy to navigate. Easy to find answers.

Here’s why:

1. Is it possible that an ancestor lived, married and died in the exact same house but he was born in Virginia and died in Kentucky?

Yep. Check out the Virginia maps and click through the timelines. The state of Kentucky was founded in 1792. Pre-1792 all of that Kentucky bluegrass was Virginia’s.

2. Why would my family live in one county in Virginia for years, but their marriage records are in Ohio?

West Virginia was founded in 1863. Looking at the Virginia map, folks in the panhandle often went to the nearest courthouse to get married or file a land deed. That closest courthouse may have been in Ohio.

3. I can’t find the county that my relative’s records say that he lived!

Not only due map boundaries change for states, but localities as well. Some counties changed their name or were eliminated all together. has them all.

Check it out especially if you love maps. Bookmark it for later. You’ll need it.


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Welcome to Our Family Bio!

The Biography and Biology of Our Family Histories

My husband has friends over to our home every Tuesday night. So the kids and I disappear upstairs and leave them to their “man date.” One night, the kids asked if we could watch tv together. It was Summer and no school, so sure, I said. The only condition – no kids shows. So I turned on PBS. For two weeks we watched a documentary about Queen Elizabeth II of England’s parents and their steadfastness during World War II. The third week, my daughter excitedly asked if we were going to watch the Queen again. No luck on that count, but Finding Your Roots was on.

Professor Henry Louis Gates was profiling the documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns. I had watched his work on the National Parks and loved it. At the end of Mr. Burns’ segment, Dr. Gates asked him who, in all of history, would he be most excited about being related to. Mr. Burns answered, Abraham Lincoln. Well, it turns out that Mr. Burns is very distantly related to President Lincoln.

My kids went berserk! You have to find out if we’re related to anybody cool.

I have family historians on both side of my family – my aunt Bertha Morrissey and my grandfather-in-law Robert Sanner. But I knew very little of our stories. I had a vague memory that my dad’s family had someone who was at Valley Forge with George Washington (it was my mom’s family.) And that there was a rumor that my husband’s family was  related to Bing Crosby (untrue.) My kids asked that I find out with certainty.

So I created an account on and was completely confident that I could answer all of my family mysteries within the 2 week free trial time frame.

Then I found the story that would change my life. You can read about Benjamin Fisher on his profile page.

Then I found the family secret. I was addicted.

I’d love to help you find your story and the story of your family. So, explore the site. Check our our services for more information.

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