Folk Medicine and Genealogy


When I was a little girl I had warts all over the backs of my hands. It was the 1970’s (maybe early 80’s), and so there wasn’t 1001 cures on the shelf of the local drug store. At the time my family lived in a small farming community in southeast Arkansas, though I knew that the family had moved from northern Arkansas when my grandmother was a little girl. Anyhow, my Aunt Jean (my grandmother’s older sister) gave me some kernels of corn and told me to go out to the chicken coop, touch the kernels to my warts, say a particular phrase, and throw the corn to the chickens to eat. So I did it and within a couple of weeks all the warts but one were gone.

For some reason I thought about that this morning and so I googled “getting rid of warts with kernel of corn.” I was amazed when this website actually came back with that term (or one similar to it)! The blogger had written about a different wart folk cure from the Appalachians, but one of the commenters described an experience very similar to mine. (There were many commenters sharing their stories and the thing I found most intriguing is that most of them successfully got rid of all but one wart, just like me!) Now I knew my folks on that side of the family had lived in the foothills of the Ozarks, but no one seems to know where they were before that. I had recently read that north Arkansas is culturally part of Greater Appalachia, so I started digging around in the genealogy of that side of my family. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me to find that a few generations of my direct ancestors are buried about an hour or so north of where I’m living in the Appalachians!

I’ve figured out where their graves are and plan to go visit them soon. I’ve been a world traveler for much of my adult life. I knew that there was something about this place that felt really wonderful, I just never imagined I was coming home.