30 October 2011

Sunday's Obituary - Henry Wersel

In several of my posts I've written about Henry Wersel, my great grandfather. As I was gathering material for my genealogical research, a picture of this man was emerging that honestly surprised me. My mother didn't know her grandfather, just as I didn't know mine, so I think that the surprise was more that she knew nothing about him, or said that she remembered hearing nothing about him. The piece that stunned me was the obituary that was written for him; it was filled with fascinating tidbits of information, some of which I've used to further my research. From the Cincinnati Enquirer, September 22, 1936 (p 9 22:5) in its entirety:

 O'er For Wersel
Veteran Enquirer Employee
Stricken on Street Car.
Editor of "Why and Wherefore"
Column Is Victim of Attack
On Way to Work

  Henry Wersel, an employee of the composing room of The Enquirer for the last 54 years and editor of "The Why and Wherefore" column, suffered a fatal heart attack when on his way to work yesterday.
  In Mr. Wersel's pocket was his last column, one which will not be published, but which contained the lines:
"For, alas! alas! with me
The light of life is o'er."
  They are from Edgar Allan Poe's "To One in Paradise.
  Mr. Wersel was 71 years old. He had been an employee of The Enquirer since he was 17 years old. He lived at 3715 Woodland Avenue, Hyde Park.
  Becoming ill on an Oakley street car, Mr. Wersel was placed in a police patrol at Madison Road and Woodburn Avenue and taken to General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
  One of the first residents of Hyde Park, Mr. Wersel had lived at the Woodland Avenue address since 1890. He was a native of Cincinnati.
  Mr. Wersel was one of Cincinnati's best-informed men on the history of Cincinnati and its people. He was an ardent student of history. Among other volumes he collected rare books on the history of Ohio.
  At one time Mr. Wersel was day foreman of The Enquirer composing room. In recent years he had been a proof reader and compositor. For the last 12 years he had edited "The Why and Wherefore" column as a hobby. He was a member of the Typographical Union No. 3.
  His widow, Mrs. Laura Richards Wersel; a daughter, Mrs. Virginia Baer, wife of C. S. Baer, President and Treasurer, Baer-Bigler-Van de Mark Advertising Company; three sons, Victor H. Wersel, Brokau, Wis., and Horace R. Wersel and Roger R. Wersel, both of Cincinnati; a sister, Miss Stella Wersel, La Habre, Calif., and three brothers, Frank, Charles, and William Wersel, all of Cincinnati, survive him.
  Rites will be held at Rohde's funeral home, 3183 Linwood Road, Hyde Park, at 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Burial will be at Maineville, Ohio.

27 October 2011

Thriller Thursday - "Former Village Clerk of Hyde Park Has Thrilling Experience"

OK, so a bit of disclosure here: my great-grandfather, Henry Wersel, worked at the Cincinnati Enquirer for 54 years. Yep, that's right, fifty-four. The only reason he stopped working there, in 1936, is because he died on the streetcar on the way to work. He started out working in the press room, but eventually wrote for one of the columns. So, he not only had writing abilities, he had access to a typesetter. Heh.

I received, a few years after I had started my genealogical research, photocopies of the pages from a scrapbook in the possession of my mom's first cousin, Tom Wersel. Tom couldn't remember how the book came into his possession, told me via our phone conversation that it was in deplorable condition, but that he would make some copies and send them along. This is only one of the treasures I found among newspaper clippings (1896-1908) in the scrapbook:

In a Snow Wrapped Mountain Pass
Former Village Clerk of Hyde Park
Has Thrilling Experience

  William Wersel, former Village Clerk of Oakley, who has been prospecting for gold in the Thunder Mountains of Idaho, has just been heard from, with one of the most thrilling stories of adventure that has come out of that region. In a letter to his brother, Henry Wersel, he narrates the experience of himself and a party of gold seekers who had left the mountains and were wending their way through the foothills to a section of country that had not been invaded by searchers for wealth. They had reached the New Percez Pass when, one night, there was a fall of snow two inches in depth that completely obliterated all traces of the trail they had been following. Unfamiliar with the country, knowing nothing about the landmarks that would have been a sufficient guide for the natives, they were panic-stricken when they realized their perilous situation. They went through that experience so common to travelers in the Arctic regions - attempting to advance, but soon deviating from a straight course and returning to the original starting point. For six days they wandered about in the foothills, hopelessly lost. On the sixth day their supply of provisions was exhausted. They had not run across any game in their wanderings, and unable to replenish their arder, starvation stared them in the face. Despair seized on several members of the party, and, wrapping themselves in their blankets, they lay down and resigned themselves to a terrible death. Mr. Wersel, undaunted by this misfortune, continued the search for an outlet to the plains beyond the pass. On a day when the situation of the party had become desperate in the extreme he discovered a log cabin on the mountain side that looked as if it had not been tenanted for months. Searching in all parts of the structure he soon found a supply of provisions which had evidently been "cached" by the mountaineer, to be drawn on at some future date. Leaving money on the table sufficient to pay for the articles he took and a note of explanation, he hurried back to the camp. The famished gold seekers were in the midst of a feast when the owner of the provisions put in an appearance. He refused to accept the money left at the cabin, but as soon as he had heard their story tendered his services in piloting them out of the desolate country to a place of safety, which, of course, were eagerly accepted. 
  After a ride of 1,000 miles on horseback Mr. Wersel has returned to Butte, Mont. He has secured options on three mines there that five great promise of handsome returns when fully developed.

Oh, as far as I know, or was able to research, there was no record of the mine options this article spoke of; no family fortune was passed down. Only thing that got passed down? Tenacity.

26 October 2011

Technology Tuesday - What's the fun, if the Search is Easy?

As I've come along in my own genealogical research, and as my network of genealogical friends has grown, there's something I've heard a LOT: "OMG, I can't FIND anything...but the searching is SO fun..." 

I would've thought these two things would be mutually exclusive, but there seems to be a certain joy in the pain of having to dig with a proverbial toothpick to find the deeply buried treasure that are the details of our genealogical roots. 

I give as an example, my ONE GUY, Randolph Richards. When I started to look for him in earnest back in about 2001, there was nothing. Oh, of course, I could've gotten in my car, driven to Ohio (or Kentucky...or Wisconsin...still not sure yet) and started physically going from place to place to try to find the records. but I had neither the time nor the finances to take a trip like that!  So, I guess the 'search' I'm talking about is the "new" generation of research, where materials are located via computer and then you have the option to physically go see the record. 

So, when I put his name into Ancestry.com (I received a free trial with my new FTM 2011...yes, I'm a version behind) about a month ago, there were about 20 or so records with his name, all of which were actually him! I was also able to use a few of those records, which pointed in new directions, to uncover other clues. I then went to FamilySearch.com and had a similar experience. 

What's truly remarkable is the amount of newly digitized material out on the Web. As an Archivist, one of the most challenging aspects of our current work is the desire by our clients to have everything digitized. When collections are digitized, the material can be used for marketing purposes to drive traffic to a repository, just as a virtual search drives traffic to a website. But a very large percentage of Archives maintain a backlog of unprocessed material and if there's not enough time to get the material processed where is the time going to come from to digitize? What's more, it's not as if you can take material and run it through a high-speed scanner; great care has to be taken when handling archives material for scanning. So I respect the heck out of the fact that so many places have found the resources to get this vital information digitized, indexed and out there.

And this brings me to the "cool places you would've never thought to look." Naturally, there's Google. You can even use Google Alerts to automatically send you an email if a name has been recently posted on the Web. But my new favorite? That would be Geneablogger.com. What? That's right!! How many times have you been on Thomas MacEntee's awesome website and missed the fact that there is a 'Search' function? Well, I'm here to tell you that there's one on the right side bar and it's sole purpose is to search the nearly 2,000 blogs for whatever term you want!! How awesome is that! And easy! I don't know about you, but I have trouble finding time to read the blogs I really want to read, let alone trolling 2,000 to see if one of my names comes up.  

So, get out there and try some new places for searching. There may be one that really makes things easier. I'd love to know if you've found one that's particularly helpful and/or easy. Happy searching!

24 October 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Letter to George Jeffrey 1889

Waubano August 23 1889

Dear George

I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and that you were all well as this leaves us the same I was pleased to hear that you will be home John will meet you at Courtright as he says it will be handier for him than Sarnia you can send word when you will be and what time to meet whether by boat or train I'll not expect to hear from you till you write when you will be  love to all from your Mother

Letter from Margaret Nicol Jeffrey to her son George Jeffrey, my great grandfather. This letter helped uncovered the fact my grandmother's family did not immigrate directly to the United States, but rather spent several generations in Canada before my great grandfather settled in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

22 October 2011

Saturday Surnames - PENN and RICHARDS

Ah, the joys of returning to genealogical research after taking a hiatus. This last one lasted about 3 years; I strongly doubt there will be a time in the future when I'm not doing some kind of genealogical research. 

I've been doing research on and off for more than 15 years, and I like to think that I fit into the 'advanced' range of researcher. At the same time, a lot has changed in the last few years, which opens doors and creates the opportunity to get even more information in a wide variety of formats. It's really clear to me that there is more awareness of genealogy as a whole; out of four blind emails I sent requesting information from potential family connections, I've received three responses. It's awesome!

Of course, there's that ONE GUY. Yes, you're sitting there nodding in agreement. Man or woman, makes no difference. This person alludes you no matter what you do. *Just* when you think you've found them, you realize you were searching on the wrong line. Or the courthouse burned down. Or they're in the Witness Protection Program. So frustrating! Which makes this SO much fun!!

My 'one guy' is actually the relationship between RANDOLPH RICHARDS and MARY PENN RICHARDS. I know he was born in 1830 but have no birth documentation. Census records show he was born in both Kentucky and Ohio, with his burial record showing his place of birth as Felicity, Clermont County, Ohio. I know he was married in 1857 to Laura Louisa Greene in Cincinnati, Ohio and died in 1870 in Cincinnati, Ohio. What I need to locate is the EVIDENCE of his connection to his parents, who I BELIEVE are John R. Richards and Mary PENN. 

One of the first documents I received when I started this 15 years ago was a handwritten 'genealogy' chart of this Richards family, but nothing to properly prove the information. I recently uncovered an 1850 Census record showing Randolph, his sisters Eveline and Caroline, living with their mother MARY, who was 61. Randolph and Laura also had an infant daughter who died who they had named MARY P. Richards. Still, nothing to prove the connection.

So, I'll put it out to all of you wonderful genealogy fans: Connection or Witness Protection ?

21 October 2011

Friday Funny - Laughter Truly IS The Best Medicine

One of the most ardent debates going on today revolves around the use of Social Media. Be it MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Klout...the list gets longer and longer. The debate stems around whether we're detaching from face-to-face communication to spend time sitting in a corner clasping our smartphones in our hands, tapping away. And while I found myself spending just a *wee* bit too much time on each of these platforms when I first got on them, I like to think I've found some balance in it.

For those of you that don't know me, I've been a vocal advocate of getting away from Facebook, due to privacy concerns. I'm not going to go into the hows and whys now, but I got rid of my account several weeks ago and haven't regretted it. At the same time, I have a Twitter account that I use regularly. I had a 'personal only' account several years ago; I had a negative experience and ended up killing my account to avoid someone that I was having difficulties with. I had a friend, who doesn't use Twitter, ask me why I would bother to try another account. My response, "Because there are crazy people no matter where you go."

So, I started my @ArchivalBiz account with the hopes of keeping it more business than personal. This is a very, very challenging thing to do. But I also realized, the wonder of Twitter is YOU decide who you follow and what information you get. I found lists to be a great way to manage the people and organizations that I follow, and I think I gave them some cool names: In A Family Way are all my genealogy/genealogical friends and organizations; Its All About History are all my Archives/Archivists/History/Librarian tweeps; You Are What You Eat are my Fitness/Running/PoleDancing follows; you get the idea. As a resource, Twitter is an amazing place to find curated content; information that's specific to a topic that you're interested in.

This the where the 'Friday Funny' part comes in. My blog posts have been sporadic because my life has been, well, very challenging lately. There is not a single major aspect of my life that hasn't had some sort of setback from physical ailments, to sick parents, to financial challenges, to losing clients and possibly losing my job as an Archivist...again, you get the point. So, what's funny?

What's funny is how my Twitter followers, especially  the genealogy ones, make me feel. I cannot think of another 'industry' where people are so invested in one another. It's sort of a 'duh' thing; it's genealogy dummy! But, at the same time, they don't have to be so giving and caring. The last few days have been excruciatingly difficult, but each morning when I signed into Twitter I would see my 'good mornings' from my 'Family Way' folks and it just makes me feel good. I feel happy to know their day-to-day things, and I know they really do care about mine. I don't share the details of my drama...gosh, even *I* don't like thinking about it. But, as an example, we had the best time this morning teasing someone (who lives on the other side of the world, btw) about a new haircut he had gotten, razzing him about putting up a picture. To outside observers it was probably a bit much, but for me, it was a small joy among so much negative stuff. A tiny little thing that's not so tiny; being able to laugh when you really think there's not anything to laugh about.

So, laughter is, indeed, the best medicine. And I guarantee you, if you need a little support, Social Media can be the gateway to so many wonderful people, both virtually and in person. You just have to get out there.

If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path.    
~ Buddha

19 October 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Laura Louisa Greene Richards

Photo taken at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Cincinnati, Ohio, Section 54 Lot 93 courtesy of Colleen McSwiggin via Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (www.RAOGK.com) with sincerest thanks.

18 October 2011

Tech Tuesday - It Does That? Leverage your Technology

I'll preface this by saying that this isn't going to be some technical discussion of smartphones and/or different platforms on which you can use Tweetdeck...it's more the 'down & dirty' I wish I would've had when I first started using Tweetdeck to manage my Twitter account. I have about 500 or so follows/followers; the number doesn't matter to me, but I have to admit that managing 100 is a LOT easier than 500. 

So, you have your Twitter account, Facebook and possibly Foursquare and you'd like to see them on your smartphone all in one place. There are several platforms you can use; my personal preference is Tweetdeck. When starting up the app, I believe you have to sign in. Once you've done that, it'll keep you signed in and you won't have to do it again. You'll see a bar at the top with the word 'Home' (in white).  The first and most important thing I didn't know: the word will turn yellow when there are new tweets to read, and if you tap the bar it will scroll through everything, bringing you to the top of the list. Oh, how I wish I'd known this right away...LOL. At the bottom of the screen there are four icons: one that looks like a dialog bubble (for creating tweets/posts), an outline of a person, a plus sign, and a compass.

The dialog bubble opens a screen where you can enter text to tweet or post. Above that, there should be icons that correspond to each of your accounts: Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. By the way, for those that have more than one Twitter account, you can add them here, either switching between icons or tweeting to both accounts simultaneously. Simply tap the icon for the account you want to tweet/post to, and that's where it goes!

The icon of a person opens a screen that at first seemed pointless. However, if you have specific people that you want to see, this is where you can put them! There are 12 spaces to use and all you have to do is tap an empty square, select the account from the auto-generated list and you'll be able to access their account with a single touch. I like this for accessing my own account and for some of my Tweeple who have lots and lots of tweets. There is also a place on this screen to lookup a Twitter profile.

The next icon, the plus sign, was the one that Jen was the most interested in. This is the screen where you select what columns you'll have available. When you first start up Tweetdeck, only the 'Home' column is available. As you add columns, using this page, dots will appear on the top bar to show (white or yellow) if there are active tweets on the column. You can either search Twitter, using a hashtag term, or the thing that Jen loved was that you can have your lists on a column! This is how I follow my groups of Tweeple. By clicking on your Twitter icon on this page, a new page opens with options for columns that include @ Mentions, Direct Messages, Favorites and then, Lists. Simply select the list you want, tap the 'Add Column' at the bottom and the follows on that list will show up in a column! Swipe your finger on the screen to move across columns.

A bit about Lists. Twitter allows up to 10 lists to be created, and this is how I manage my account. It allows me to see almost all of the tweets I receive, a vast amount of information. However, but chopping it up into chunks, it's much easier to manage. Also, it's easier to go back if I need to check something that I did miss. I have a list for my 'real life' people (a locked list), one for genealogy people, one for archivists/librarians, one for fitness, etc. 

Each column can be individually set for notifications that include a notification at the top, a blinking light, a quick sound, and/or vibrate. There also is a bar that allows you to decide how often the columns are updated, from a manual update to every 3 minutes.

I hope this helps someone who may be new to Tweetdeck, or who hasn't used it as much as they'd like. Technology can truly be our friend, if we let it. Is there anything I've missed? Anything else I can help explain?

04 October 2011

Tech Tuesday - Catstrophic Failures & Graves Galore

I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned as I’ve walked along this sometimes bumpy genealogical path, is that technology can truly be our friend. I’ll preface what I’m going to say with the fact that I have always liked to work with my hands, tinker with machines, and have had a fascination with technology for a long time. So, I have no fear of new technology and often ‘see’ how new technology can be leveraged to benefit the work I do. (Oh, and I was the first woman in the United States to be certified by Detroit Diesel Allison as a diesel mechanic…it’s true.)

As I mentioned when I first started blogging, I’ve been doing research for 15+ years…I started in 1996, the same year that Ancestry.com was born, that Cyndi’s List really started to take off and that Family Tree Maker was digging its roots into the genealogical community. That was back when ‘dial-up’ was still the norm and that my ‘blazing fast’ computer had less power by half than my current cell phone. To me, these are all tools that we use that help leverage us so we can spend our time as efficiently as possible.
What’s bad, really bad, is when technology goes wrong. In 2001, I got laid off from my job and was in full job seeking mode. I was working at home, on that computer, nearly 12 hours a day. And, although I had backup disks, I hadn’t backed up ‘for a while’. I had what I call a ‘catastrophic failure’…I blew the hard drive and realized that the backup disks I’d been storing behind the computer had gotten so hot that they’d warped and were unusable. I was suddenly out 5 years of genealogical research.

Are you queasy? I was. My poor husband thought he was going to have to take me to the hospital I was so distraught. All that work, down the tubes. Then I picked myself up, dusted myself off and bought a new computer. I thought long and hard about how I was going to reinstall the information that I had; of course I had paper records for my most important leaves on the tree and had printouts of the data entered.

It was then that I realized that I had an opportunity to really take a look at my process, and the data I was entering. As I trolled RootsWeb, Cyndi’s List, and other websites for family trees, I came to understand how detrimental it was to simply pull everything I found into my own work. Not everyone was as careful to check the information they were entering. I often found simple yet possibly misleading errors in other people’s trees. I started to see how large sites, like Ancestry, could actually create some harm in genealogical research by not ensuring that people uploading trees to their sites had verified the information in those trees.

Is my tree perfect? Ha! Not by a long shot. But this is what is driving me to learn the technical aspects of genealogy to become a professional genealogist. It is up to each of us, every one of us who creates those trees to ensure the information is as accurate as possible. We then have the benefit of the genealogical community’s collective eyes to find those errors and point them out to us so we can correct them. Unfortunately, not everyone out there cares whether the information on their 5th great-grandfather is accurate; they just wanted to be able to say that they know who it is.

My laptop is 5 years old and sound like an old Chevy when I start it up. I can’t really afford a new computer, so I back it up every day, on two different external hard drives. If one fails, I have two others that I can use to regain lost data. I sleep well at night.

I’m not one to tout websites or products, but I would like to share RestingSpot.com. I’m sorry I don’t remember who it was on Twitter that mentioned it first, but I went to the site, pulled the app onto my Android phone and am hooked. The purpose of Resting Spot is to GPS locate ever gravesite in the U.S. by May, 2013. I believe this is a very lofty goal, but I have to admit, as a techy and genealogical nut I adore this idea, especially for the rural cemeteries I have near where I live. All you do is take your smartphone, start up the app, stand in front of the grave, enter in the name and dates of the person in the grave, snap a pic and upload it to the site. The app uses the phones GPS coordinates to accurately locate, within feet, the exact location of a grave. I’m envisioning how wonderful it would have been when I went to Cavalry Cemetery in Evanston to have had this app on my phone, so the person I took the pics for would be able to go directly to the graves when she has the opportunity to come to Chicago and visit! As an aside, there is a known issue with the Android app, and it’s a biggie; the dates field can’t read anything other than 1900s and 2000s. When I sent an email from my phone regarding this issue, I received a personal response within about 10 minutes, and they also tweeted that the issue was being worked on. So, they also get two thumbs up for customer service!! Check them out at RestingSpot.com.