26 September 2012

Wednesday Worry - Hear that Clanging? It's Your Freedom Calling...

While on my lunch break today, I saw Michael Hait's post updating the situation regarding the State of Georgia's Archives. A link to that post is here. After reviewing it and posting a comment to it (it's currently waiting for moderation), I thought, 'what happens if he chooses not to post it?' So, fortunately, I was able to copy and paste it here. For those of you who don't really know me, it takes a lot to get me fired up. But, once something gets to me, I have to DO something. Yesterday was a great example, and I can't tell you all how excited and proud I was that a question I asked was answered by the Director of the Modern Records Program of NARA as well as the Archivist of the United States. Wow. Anyway, here's the content of my comment on Michael's blog. Please do take a few minutes to go and check it out if you don't already follow him.

Yesterday, NARA held its annual Records Administration Office Conference, it's 24th. The main topic of discussion was the Presidential Records Management memoranda announced November 28, 2011 in which the President of the United States requested the Chief Records Officer set out "to develop a 21st-century framework for the management of Government records.  This framework will provide a foundation for open Government, leverage information to improve agency performance, and reduce unnecessary costs and burdens." (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/28/presidential-memorandum-managing-government-records accessed 26 Sept 2012) What does this have to do with Georgia? Everything. Let me explain.

During the morning, there was a Q&A session. In that session, questions are taken from the audience as well as those participating in the conference virtually. As an Archivist, and a Genealogist, I took the opportunity to ask what, if anything, NARA or the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, had to say about this situation, framing it in the context that the State's actions are counter to what is happening at the Federal level. The 'non-answer' that both Paul Webster, Director of the Modern Records Program, provided, along with the answer of David Ferriero, only underscores how dire this situation has become. You can see their answers in the video ( http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25699469) starting at 1:22:19 and ending at 1:23:37.

Additionally, as was noted on the Facebook page "Georgians Against Closing State Archives" yesterday, Linda Davis met directly with Georgia's Secretary of State, Brian Kemp. (apologies for not providing the link; I'm working on a computer that does not allow access to Facebook). I will quote the final words of her post (which I was able to access via my cell phone): "We will not get anywhere through the Secretary of State, even though he is ultimately the one running this show. I suggest we move on to another source. I am not sure who that would be. I am open to suggestions."

The consequences of the State of Georgia closing its Archives cannot be stressed enough. While, as a genealogist, I would hate to see us all take a giant leap backward in our ability to access records, the more dire fact remains our government was formed to be OPEN to everyone, and by shutting off access to ANY records of the State, the government is being closed to the People. It isn't about history; we're talking about the day to day functioning of our government. THIS is the point that those outside of the genealogical realm can understand, and the one that I hope your readers will take to their family, friends, co-workers, and whomever else will listen. If the State of Georgia can shut off access to its daily business, other States will follow.

I hope all of you can genuinely appreciate what concerns me so greatly about this. I would HATE to see access to any Archives cut off because of a funding issue. As an Archivist, I've been directly affected by all these cutbacks. However, my greater concern is the cloaking of the government's daily business, done under the guise of budget constraints. I'd love to hear your comments on this subject.

24 September 2012

Amanuensis Monday - We Start in the Middle

I realized while reorganizing all my old documents that I'd been doing research for about six months before I started. That is to say that I had already started when I received a document that helped me really start my research. What do I mean? Well, read on and you'll discover this wonder piece I received from Tom Wersel back in early 1997. Tom is my mom's first cousin, the son of Roger Rowland Wersel and his wife Myrtle; Roger is the brother of Victor Wersel, my mom's dad. My mom suggested, when I started my research in 1996, that I give Tom a call since he grew up in Cincinnati, the root of my mom's family. Tom was so happy to hear from me, and was able to provide me with many clues. But he also provided me with copies of documents as well. He wasn't certain about the origins of the documents (i.e. who wrote them, or who'd owned them) but he thought that perhaps Nancy Baer Strubbe might know. When I spoke with Nancy the first time, she was unfamiliar with the documents and their origins. And, just to show how you never know what's going to happen in genealogy, I've included this document exactly as the copy looked that I received: with a page missing.

I did ask Tom if he had the missing page (page 2), and he said that he did not. The transcription follows: 

 Penn (1)
“Edward Penn of pure English extraction and a collateral branch of the family of which Wm. Penn the founder of Pennsylvania was the most distinguished in historic annals, came to Baltimore Md. He was a planter and largely identified with the growth + progress of the colony.”
His wife was a … Taylor (this seems an error perhaps as James Sargent’s wife was Nellie Taylor)
Benjamin Penn son of Edward born 1740 in Fredrick Co. Maryland; died 1834 in Clermont Co. O. Came to Clermont about 1810 with eleven children.
Mary Sargent (his wife) born 1755, Frederick Co. Md. Died 1817 in Clermont Co. Ohio.
They were married 1774 in Maryland.
Their  children.
I Joseph – Nov. 16.  – 1774 – unmarried
II Benjamin – Apr. 16 –  1776 = Anna Phillips
III Eleanor – Dec. 10 –  1777 = Richard Tucker
IV Nancy Ann – Apr. 12 – 1779 = Geo. Richards
V Elizabeth – Sept 15 – 1780 = Nathaniel Hines
VI Rachael – Mar 12 – 1782 = R. C. Lanham
VII Rebecca – Nov. 15 – 1783 = Benj. Thrasher
VIII Mary – May 7 – 1785 = John Richards


** Missing Page **

6.  John – married Caroline Rice
                                A Dr. in Tomah Wisconsin.
                (I have no record of his family, but here again
                Jennie may help you. – I know there were at least two daughters and one son)
                7.  Thompson – died in California
                8.  Ann – married John S. Lane
                She was born June 13 – 1818
                Died Feb. 1 – 1901 at Williamsburg O.
                Their children
                (one) Eugene born Oct. 1 1848
                Died June 1918
                Married Abbie Dexter – 1870
                (two) Rebecca Evelyn – born Dec. 9 1849
                Died Oct 4. 1865 at Delaware O.
                Edward Thompson – born Apr. 25 1855
                Married Maria L. Shearer June 27. 1889
                (four) Joseph Randolph – born Oct 10 1856
                Died Nov. 1929 California
9. Evaline married Henry Goodall
Their children
(one) Lula – mar. Cyrus Broadwell
(two) John – in St. Louis.
10. Caroline – married Joseph Van Dyke
Went to Illinois – had one son
(one) George – of whom we know nothing.
11. Randolph – married Laura Green
Their children
One – Walter – Julia Williams
Two – Virginia – Wallace Burch
Three – Randolph – Effie   ?
Four – Laura – Henry Wersel
Five – Charlie –
I have not enlarged upon these as you all know more than I
I have only sent notes on the immediate
Family of Mary Penn who married John Richards.
I will be glad to send all the data I have
On all the other children of Benj Penn and
Mary Sargent, if you care for it. There is quite a bit and rather interesting to any one with the genealogy bug.

Sargent  1

James Sargent was born at Snow Hill England near London.
Died Frederick Co. Maryland aged 107 yrs.
Nellie Taylor born England, married England
Came to Frederick Co. Md. 1745
Their Children.
1. Richard – Priscilla Austin
2. William = Sarah Aldridge
3. Snowden = Mary Hethman
4 James = Philena Pigman
5. John = Mary Fraser – Hester Camden
6. Elijah = Margaret Fraser
7. Mary = Benjamin Penn
8. Sarah = Hugh Larkin
9. Eleanor = Jonathan Fraser
10. Nancy = Samuel Phillips
The large Estate so often spoken of consisted
Of this tract of land (Snow Hill) belonging to Snowden Sargent brother of James. He was a
Bachelor and when he died his property was very valuable and increased until it was worth
Millions. The heirs in American never alluded to it and at the end of 67 yrs. It reverted to the Crown.
It is now in the city of London but still called Snow Hill.
I have notes on several families of these children beside that of Mary who married Benj
Penn. It is through this line that the connection
With the McNeal boys is traced
As I said of the Penn line – I will be glad
To send all I have if you are interested beyond
The immediate family line.


Hardly any thing is known of the Richards
Line. It was supposed to go into Maryland from Pennsylvania in 18th century.
Two Richards men (brothers most likely) married
Two Penn sisters.
John Richards married Nancy Ann Penn (You see my mistake there [arrows point to opposite spouses])
George Richards “ Mary Penn
From a great grand daughter of Nancy, I quote
The Richards who married Ann a daughter of
John and Nancy had eight uncles all with large
Families who scattered over U.S.A. and Canada
Some are still near Baltimore.
Hanson Richards a brother of Ann moved from
Felicity to Hillsboro Ohio during Civil War.
Perhaps Jennie can tell more of this family
Some of whom are still in Hillsboro
The husband of Mary Penn (John Richards)
Died when many of the children were young.
The mother raised her family on a farm between Bethel and Felicity Ohio. The house is still standing.

The Penn and Sargent lines have both been proved and descendants are eligible for the D.A.R. if interested.
I hope you can read all this. I find I do more scribbling than writing.
Just let me know if you want the whole "lay out" as I copied it from the notes of Colonel Frambes, and you shall have it.

Fast forward to 2012, 15 years after I first received the copy of this document with page two missing. I'm in the home of Mary Strubbe, the daughter of Nancy Baer Strubbe, who kindly offered to have me stay for a few days before the National Genealogical Society meeting began in May. Mary is now the keeper of most of the family documents, thank goodness! While going through the boxes, what do you think I found? That's right, I found the original of the document! I simply had to flip over the first page and there was the 'missing' information from the copies Tom had generously sent me:


IX Nackey – Sept. 2 – 1787 = 1st Joseph Pigman – 2nd – Teeters
X Rhoda – Aug 5 – 1789 = - Molen
XI Elijah – Dec. 27 – 1782 = Philena Walraven
XII Sophia – Jan 8 1795 = James Prather.

Benjamin Penn (1740) was in Revolutionary War.
The early home was in Arundel Co. Maryland on Halland (Holland) River – afterward in Frederick Co. on Monocassy River.

VIII. Mary Penn married 1805 John Richards in Md.
Their children

  1.       Lloyd – died aged 22 yrs.
  2.       Ellen – married Wm. Brown. And lived at Chilo. Clermont Co.
  3.       Ann – killed in swing – 7 yrs of age.
  4.       Eliza – married Lewis Pierce (a yankee school teacher
Who took her East where she soon died)
  5.       Warren – married ---- Goodwin
Their children (a twin sister of Warren died – infant)
1.       William married Lizzie Elsberry and their children
Are Marie wife of Dr. Owen Davidson of Bethel
Warren – of Cincinnati
Georgie – died
2.       Tom – a doctor
3.       Georgie – married Al Lane
4.       Belle – “ James Robinson
Jennie can perhaps tell more of these people, or Warren Richards

There's so much great information here, and I've referred back to this document many times for clues. Have you ever received a document like this, that helped you start in the middle?

19 September 2012

Wednesday Worry - A Guest Post by Processing Archivist Jeremy Brett, Texas A&M University

Update: 25 Sept 2012 08:40  During the NARA Records Administration Conference, I was able to ask the Record Management Office's stance on the closing of the State of Georgia's Archives. A verbal dance ensued, with moderator Paul Webster, Director of the Modern Records Programs passing the question to the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero. He said (paraphrasing) that while Governor Deal had indicated the Archives would remain open, that he hadn't told Mr. Kemp (Secretary of State; responsible for the budget of the Archives), and that they're taking a 'wait and see' position. This did NOT promote confidence that this issue has been resolved; on the contrary, if the AOTUS and the Office of Records Management of the U.S. Government can't influence this issue, who will? We will, the People. PLEASE continue to reach out to others regarding this issue. Contact OTHER government officials, not just the Governor. Thank you.

Update: 19 Sept 2012 18:00  Today, Governor Deal stated that the Georgia State Archives would remain open. Secretary of State Kemp, however, indicated that the Governor would have to 'find' the funds to do so. This issue is far from over, and now more than ever, we need to keep pressure on the stakeholders to let them know that we are taking this issue very seriously. Here is a link to the Clayton News Daily article regarding the update.

I'm pleased to have the opportunity for Jeremy Brett, the co-chair of the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable Steering Committee of the Society of American Archivists, to be my guest blogger today. Jeremy is a Processing Archivist at Texas A&M University. Once again, I'd appreciate it if you'd take a moment to read what Jeremy has to say about the pending closure of the Georgia State Archives. As an active member of the SAA, Jeremy is working to ensure that not only are members informed about this issue, but that we reach out to everyone. If you'd be kind enough to pass this information on, I would be very grateful. And, of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this situation. 
Here's Jeremy:


You may be aware of a recent dire situation that is poised to cripple the Georgia State Archives. Last week Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose office is the authority for the State Archives, announced that the GSA would be closed to all public access beginning November 1, 2012. Kemp has stated that this is due to a 3% budget reduction across the board for all state agencies. In the case of Kemp's office, the amount required is $750,000, and Kemp has chosen to make this cut ENTIRELY at the expense of the GSA.

This decision will make the GSA the only public archives in the United States without any public access hours whatsoever, which as you might imagine is not only a disservice to the people of Georgia and interested researchers everywhere, but a disgrace and a blot on the reputation of the Georgia state government.

Not only will public access be eliminated at the GSA, but the budget cut means severe staff reductions at well. We've just heard that seven full time Archives employees will be fired, leaving only three for the entire institution. (6 of the 7 fired were women, by the way. Only one male has been let go.) 

This short-sighted decision deprives citizens of regular and predictable access, as mandated in the Georgia Records Act , Title 50, Chapter 18, Article 4, section 70(b) of the Georgia Annotated Code that all public records “shall be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.” It is contrary to the practice of government transparency by depriving citizens of predictable and ready access to the records that are essential to providing evidence of government accountability. It deprives citizens, as well as Georgia’s own government, of access to records needed to support due process of law.  It is, in short, a horrible decision with grave consequences for the future of Georgia's archives and its commitment to democratic government.

A great many archivists and archival professional groups have banded together to protest this decision. The more people we can contact, the more letters will get written and calls made. For additional information, you can check the Facebook page that's been set up to deal with this crisis: Georgians Against Closing State Archives, and Kate Theimer's website with a collection of links on the issue.

Also, consider adding your name to the online petition currently circulating HERE

Make your voice heard on this crucial issue!

Jeremy Brett

15 September 2012

Does This Shift Concern You? Perhaps it Should...

I'm going to voice my opinion about the closing of the State of Georgia Archives to the public. Obviously, as an Archivist and Genealogist, I have a lot riding on what's happening there. While it doesn't affect me directly (yet), the implications of this are wide spread and at the least very concerning. At the worst, it is indicative of something far more nefarious. This is my opinion only, and not a reflection of anyone I've worked with past, current or future.

Here is an interesting piece about the Georgia Historical Society and its concern regarding what is happening in Georgia: Budget Cuts Forcing Close of State Archives The CEO alludes to MY greatest concern, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with old stuff and everything to do with open government, the bedrock of our Nation. 

The founders of this country worked diligently to craft a Constitution that protected the citizens from a hidden government, opening up the process to everyone. In a similar fashion to a public company that is required to provide information to its shareholders, our Government should provide information about its process to the People. 

By closing the State Archives to the public, the State of Georgia is denying access to its government. THIS is what concerns me the most, and I believe THIS is the key element to getting the Archives to remain open. It's not about access for historical researchers or genealogists, but rather access by citizens to ensure their government is acting in their best interest. 

Do I worry that wonderful historical documents will be lost to those of us who may need them for research? Absolutely. But far worse is the subtle shift in the closure of access to a portion of this Nation's government. It's an incredibly slippery slope, and there are States in far more dire financial straits who will now be emboldened to take the same course of action. 

What do we do? First, write to your Governor and State Representatives and Senators letting them know you have a concern about this happening in your own State. You can find contact information to them here. Then, write to your U.S. Congressman. Not the POTUS, but those who represent your State in the Congress. If you don't know who your Representative is, you can find him or her at this website. Senators can be found at this website. While signing an online petition is quick and easy, our government representatives of all kinds have indicated that a personal email and or letter holds far more weight. Please think about taking action to keep our government open and transparent.

09 September 2012

Sentimental Sunday - A little Past and a little Future

I’m back! I apologize for being away so long…I have an anniversary and then pull a disappearing act…<grin>  The last month was just crazy busy and I simply didn’t have the energy to devote to writing more about genealogy or archives. But I do have a lot to tell you, so here goes:

First, we (my hubs and I) finally closed on the short sale of the condominium I’d purchased with my ex-husband back in 1990. The process was slow and excruciatingly painful; not only were we losing a place we thought we’d have in our retirement, but the years of scrimping and working two jobs to pay two mortgages seemed to all be a waste. At the 11th hour the condo association forced us to come up with even more money for assessments we honestly shouldn’t have had to pay (according to my none too happy lawyer) making the situation nearly unbearable. But, as seems to happen all too often for us, the dust settled and we’ve weathered the storm. Although we won’t have this place to live when we retire, we will always carry with us many happy memories of Sunday mornings with the newspaper, listening to Smooth Jazz, with two very content little boy kitties lounging right along with us:
Sunday morning brunch spot

Sunday afternoon: Chillin' with Butch & Kid
 Second, I had another wonderful trip to Michigan to work with my personal Archives client and do a little research for myself. My clients, Sharon and Ralph Neely (they were kind enough to allow me to use their names), both have long and interesting family histories. Sharon’s maiden name is Streeter, and yes, there is a Streeter Family Association. My role though is to manage all of the personal pictures, documents and ephemera they’ve acquired over the years. As a significant part of that, Sharon has a black photo album that she wanted to share with everyone, but wasn’t certain how she could do that without tearing it apart. I resolved her dilemma in the same manner I did for the Elburn Lion’s Club: a photo reproduction of the book. I’ve scanned all the pages exactly as they are, and after a bit of work to create an appropriate file will have a printer create a replica of the original. This allows Sharon to share copies with as many people as possible, while keeping the original intact. I’ll have an update with photos of the book when it’s complete. This weekend though was devoted to the Neely side of the family. There’s lots going on and with the possible move of one of their children my work took on a new sense of urgency. I worked with Ralph and their son to capture lots of interesting family stories and to go through the large stack of pre-1919 photos his sister had lovingly collected.  With not much time to work, I still managed a great trip out on the lake with the Neely’s son, his 5 year old triplets and 4 year old daughter and a close family friend. I tell you, swimming with triplets is quite a feat, especially when you’re not so hot a swimmer yourself. But we all had a wonderful time, and I know they’re very happy to have had the opportunity to capture so many great stories. 

Just a bit of the Neely material before processing

I ended my weekend by heading back to the Riverside Cemetery in Kalamazoo. I’d had an ongoing conversation with the Cemetery manager, and she was going to meet me at a section in one of the oldest parts of the cemetery. I’d posted a picture of the receipt for the sodding and graves; their location is just awful. There are two headstones in the lot; I still don’t know if the people are actually related to me or not. But I couldn’t stand the fact that an eight year old’s headstone had fallen over and been partially buried, with his father’s buried nearly half way. I spent two and half hours digging to uncover them. In the end, at least the base can be seen on the one stone, but the stone that had tipped over will need stronger means than my arms to get it uprighted. The Cemetery is aware and I’m going to try to continue to work with them. In the meantime, I (we) realized that there is no less than a foot of eroded earth on top of what may or may not be markers for my family member’s graves. The reality is that, even if we took the time and effort to uncover them, gravity will work against us and in another 20 years, they’ll just be covered again. I’m the last person in our family, literally, who has the time to go all the way to Kalamazoo. Once I’m gone, there simply won’t be anyone left to worry about them. I’m taking the pragmatists route on this and simply letting Nature take its course.

Riverside Cemetery, Kalamazoo Michigan. Owner Mrs. G Rathbone, Section E Lot 176. Graves of Henry Fletter and C. H. Fletter. Taken 04 Sept 2012. Before. 

Riverside Cemetery, Kalamazoo Michigan. Owner Mrs. G Rathbone, Section E Lot 176. Graves of Henry Fletter and C. H. Fletter. Taken 04 Sept 2012. After.

Last, but certainly not least, August was Research Report month for our ProGen Study group. For those of you who are unfamiliar, ProGen is a group that studies Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book “Professional Genealogy” through an 18 month course. It’s extremely challenging in that, along with all the other life things that are going on, you still have to find time to get the work done. And, I was wise to start early in the month. Except that I have had a building challenge with ‘test anxiety.’ I thought that I was done with it when I completed my Bachelors’ Degree, but when I started to take courses for a Masters Degree a few years back, I found it reared its ugly head. Now I’m finding that assignments that are due once a month have become anxiety laden obstacles. And this month’s work, combined with the challenges of my personal life (a bit more next), simply stopped me in my tracks. Fortunately, I may have worked out the issue preventing me from moving forward; this month will be the test for that (no pun intended). Good news is the Research Report was completed although it was turned in a few hours late and now we’re on to the editing portion of the course. Moving forward!

One last item. I ‘usually’ don’t stick my nose in other people’s business, but if you’re a smoker, STOP IT. Just STOP. There is no good reason to continue a habit that will kill you. It’s not a matter of if, but when. My 45 year old cousin missed having a heart attack by 1%: his right coronary artery was 99% blocked. He is not morbidly obese, although the doctor told him he needs to lose 30 pounds, and a dietician was surprised at the high quality of his diet. As the doctor said, “it’s just the smoking.” So, please, if you smoke, stop. If you need help, just ask. There are tons of programs out there. Yes, I know there is a cost; but is smoking worth dying for?

Yep, I’m back…