16 December 2013

Amanuensis Monday - Introducing Aunt Edeliza (Richards Hunt)

                                                                                                                                  St Louis Dec.

My dear Ginnie

We have had a bride here for some time, and a house full of company, which has occupied our time, and we are now alone. This is election day, and all is quiet, but I fear McClellent has no chance from what I can learn, the bayonet rule's our country. I never felt so gloomy. I don’t see any thing to hope for, we have been in great trouble in our state and God only knows when it will end, but you see our papers and it is not necessary for me to speak of the blood shed in our city.
I have heard of your uncle Bishop Cavanaugh who is now in St Louis, and [next page]

[Continued from prior page] I told Mr Lefton to invite him to see us, but I have not had the pleasure of seeing him yet. I received your kind and most acceptable letter after your return from Laura’s but your other letter you speak off I did not receive. Your visit was very short to Laura I would have enjoyed being with you very much; it has been so long since I have seen dear Laura. I regretted hearing of Mr Richards making a change in his business. I thought he was doing well, when you write to Laura give much love to her for each one of us, and tell her we would love dearly to see her and her husband, and her sweet children.
I am too [next page]

[Continued from prior page] sorry to hear Charley has been unfortunate in his business. I hope in this he has made up all his losses. How I would love to have a good chat with you both this evening. I am thankful my dear child to hear your health has improved. I long to see you both, tell Ida she must not forget me. Does Charley hear from friends in Georgia? I have not had a line from Mary for months__ you say you expect a visit from Helen. I expect she is a very sweet girl, you must tell me all about her. I regret to hear of Hattie, expectations, is Mr Wade in business? I had a sweet little not from Mollie, tell me how they boy’s are doing and how your Ma get’s along? Do you ever see aunt Burnet? or Mrs Bliss [next page]

[Continued from prior page] I wrote the latter a long time since but have not had a line from her. When you see her give my love to her. Brother William is much improved in health, his family are well except Edeliza, her health is not very good. Jimmy is still with us altho he has been expecting to go on a boat for some weeks, that is still unfinished, he often speaks of you both. Belle and Nellie are in their usual health, the family one, and all join me in much love to you both. Give my love to all friends.
Kiss Charley and Ida
For yours
Truly attached

Aunt Edeliza

28 November 2013

Thankful Thursday - Thankful and Happy

I woke up this morning with the "Meow? Meow?" of Conway in my ear and then, before I opened my eyes, the loud purring of Villy as she sat next to my pillow. It was clearly past the time I was 'supposed' to be up; it's Thanksgiving morning. 

What a difference a year, or two, can make. Here's a link to last year's post : Thankful Thursday - Thanksgiving Redux

If we're thankful in our hearts, not just in the words we put on paper (literal or virtual), life's bounty is endless. As I re-read last years post, the first thing that popped off the page was my statement about "four feline friends"; sadly, Tootsie is now at the Rainbow bridge with our beloved boys, Butch & Kid. 

Conway, Villonia (Villy) and Goober are very much alive and kicking. We were just discussing, this morning, our "thankful" list and they are at the top. Not only are they amazing creatures but they awoke Love in our house. At a point in our lives when Love had fallen into a deep sleep, they none-so-gently roused It by bringing in laughter, which woke up Love.

And so, today, we have much to be thankful for. We've stripped out the unhealthy, be they people, habits, or things and in their place are now more healthful choices. We have added things that make us laugh and smile; these are the things we now cultivate more passionately. We never forget the challenges behind us, because they help to prepare us for the challenges ahead. There are many: some short term, and some much longer-term. But we'll be taking them on as a team.

We're going to be celebrating, as we did last year, spending this afternoon with Cas's family in Chicago. We're having 'non-traditional' food this year, including the fabulous goat we took into the City last weekend, other yummy Filipino food, ham and my Gram's famous oatmeal cookies I made yesterday. Oh, and the little steamed cakes I made this year, they're called puto in Filipino, and I realize it's a not-so-nice word in Spanish. But that's what it's called, and I decided to try to make it so that when we visit my mother-in-law I'll be able to show her that I learned how to make it! 

Saturday, part of my family will be here to celebrate, and I'll be cooking the turkey and making Granny's fabulous potato coquettes (mashed potatoes rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried; a once-a-year treat that is really too good for words). I am looking forward to having a house full of guests enjoying good food and the warmth of sharing what I have with others.

There is so much going on, for which I am incredibly thankful, in both my personal genealogy and work, but that will have to wait for a future post. Has to wait, which will be explained hopefully very soon. What I will say is that, other than my family and fur-babies, there is nothing I'm more thankful for than my work. I am so blessed. 

Thank you, especially, to those of you who continue to read this blog. It's been a bit of a herky-jerky year; I'm very glad to say that will be ending very soon. Please, enjoy the holiday. It's only once a year we officially take the time to be thankful, and I fear this day is being diminished by the commercial nature of our world. So, take a moment to hug a family member, share in the hospitality of the day, and be thankful. 

Tomorrow is another day.

04 November 2013

Motivation Monday - Let's All Go Fishing!!

On more than one occasion I’ve discussed the benefit of ‘starting over.’ It can be something as simple as transcribing a document you’ve had for a long time to completely recreating a genealogical database. I understand the trepidation in doing this: it takes time and energy in large quantity. However, effective problem solving requires perspective and the application of critical thinking skills and, because we work alone more often than not, reviewing information is part of what we must do. This is how we uncover the mistakes we make; yes, we ALL make mistakes.

What’s the payoff? The more critically you review materials, the better you get at it. It’s a skill. A skill that serves us really well as researchers. Rather than having to go back over materials time and time again to gather the tidbits that are *right there*, those clues wave their little hands saying, “Lookit me…lookit me!!” (You didn’t know they had hands, did you?)

So, as I’ve been processing the material I gathered while on my research trip to Ohio, I realized that I can only look at the same stuff for so long before I stop ‘seeing’ what’s there. I’ve been working to analyze a LOT of material, but even switching between photo editing, transcribing and analyzing …well, I was getting tired. I decided a ‘fishing expedition’ was in order to spice things up a bit and to give myself a much needed break.

I started with MDLandRec.net: Maryland land records. I was going to be *good* and only look for my Richards surname going back beyond the generations I *know* are mine to gather evidence to use later when beginning to prove the next generations. And I did, locating a long list of records that I’ll be able to analyze later to determine if any of them are mine. Once I was finished with the Richards surname, I decided I had a few extra minutes and that I’d look for my Penn family as well. The three lines, Richards, Penn and Sargent are intertwined, intergenerational (same first names among multiple generations that overlap one another) and confusing as all get-out. I’m determined to unsnarl them to the best of my ability in the next oh, 50 years or so, heh! Then…uh, what’s THIS?!

The yellow arrow shows what I was looking for; an entry with the Penn surname. That tidbit waving? Yeah, that’s a nugget from my mom’s maternal line, not the paternal ones I’m focusing on. Yep, good old Cornelius Poulson, right there in Frederick County, Maryland. Only trouble is that the Poulsons lived in New Jersey, NOT Maryland. Or, that’s what all the compiled genealogies I’ve read say, and we all know that everything we read is true, right? Wait…what?

This piece of evidence is going into my Evidentia database for when I shift to researching and analyzing that Powelson/Poulson line. In looking with fresh eyes, not only did I see what I was looking for, but I also saw what else was on the page. 

I'd love to hear if you've gone on fishing expeditions or taken a break and then located something that helped to break down a brick wall, or even just knock out a brick. Any other suggestions for ways to more critically analyze research (beyond the GPS)? 

31 October 2013

Thankful Thursday - Guides from the Past

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen, in my genealogical research, more than one child born to a set of parents that shared a name with a sibling who predeceased them. Honestly, as a newbie family historian, I remember being pretty befuddled when I saw on the Richards page of a family ‘letter’ this:

Ann – killed in swing – 7 years of age

Then farther down the list, on the next page, there was this:

Ann – married John S. Lane

Here’s the image:

I received this letter, or rather a photocopy of this letter, from Nancy Richards Baer Strubbe – Nan. Nan responded to a letter I’d sent her in 1996, shortly before her husband, John Lewis Strubbe, passed away. I don’t typically have regrets, but I do regret not having had the privilege to know their family better. Of course, that regret is eased by the fact that I’ve come to know Nan’s children, all of whom have been generous and warm to me. And, without Nan having held onto our family treasures, this letter would have never come into my possession.

Fast forward to just a week ago and I was sitting at Nan’s table in her house, the one her daughter Mary now owns and generously let me camp out at for a week of research in Ohio. I was looking at the original of the letter and I was no longer befuddled by the two Anns. It’s not as if the living Ann replaced the one who had died; no, it was really more about keeping family names alive. Honoring our ancestors by sharing their names for the future.

Along with a number of other very important clues, it has been the pleadings of Ann’s sister, Eveline, that has moved my research on this line forward in leaps and bounds this week. While I was transcribing a letter from Eva, written in July 1863 to Ann, she names a number of people who I would not have been able to connect to this family by other vital records. She shed light on the death of her sister, Caroline, who they all called Carrie, which I wouldn’t have known without the letter. I started to dig deeper into Ann herself, which lead me even farther down the road to proving these family ties.

As I was putting the pieces of this their family together, for some inexplicable reason I felt the urge to go over to the DuPage County Clerks office to look into getting copies of the birth and death records for the set of twins my mother delivered between my brother and I. I've thought about doing it in the past, but for some reason I just hadn't done it. So, I did.

Mom had told me they were born in 1960; as it turns out, it was 1961. She’d told me that she ‘knew’ something was wrong in the wee hours of the morning of February 15th, waking my dad and telling him she thought she should go to the hospital. At 8:11 a.m. the first twin was born followed at 8:29 a.m. by the second twin. They were fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, but they were two months early. The boy died 2 hours and 19 minutes later, the girl lived 30 hours.

The clerk handed me the first birth certificate:

And then the second:

I have to admit, I got goosebumps. Not because they’d named her Laura, but because her middle name was Ann. It’s as if Ann Richards, my 2nd great grand aunt lead me to this information. That she was saying to me, “It’s OK…I had a great life with my sister’s name…I wore it well and made it my own.” 

I hope I can do the same for my sister. And who knows, maybe she'll be the one that leads me to the next great thing in my family history.

So, do you have someone in your family that has the name of someone who died before them? What about the naming conventions in your family; anything unusual? I'd love to have your comments...

28 October 2013

Motivation Monday - My Family History Cheering Squad

“You’ve motivated me to really get going on my family history research!” I’ve had the great fortune of hearing this several times over the last few months both from researchers and relatives.

Motivation is such an individual thing. My husband, Cas, has always said, ‘I just do it [whatever it is he’s talking about] because it needs to be done.’ For me it’s about what I get out of something that motivates me; while financial gain is good (it’s nice to eat occasionally), it’s how others respond to my help that pushes me to want to do more. I believe it’s important to be honest with yourself about what motivates you; when you know what it is, it’s so much easier to trigger it into action.

I also believe that as individual a thing as motivation is, the act of genealogical research is equally individual. Yes there are guidelines and suggestions for the most efficient ways to research. There are best practices to ensure that those who pursue it as a profession are acting in the best interest of their clients and these guidelines can be used by non-professionals who choose to use them. But it is still up to the individual to apply their own skills to the process of family history and genealogical research.

Last week I went to Cincinnati, Ohio on a research trip. I stayed with my 2nd cousin, Mary; the house she lives in was originally her mother’s and it was her mom who was one of my first family history connections (via letters!). I visited with my 3rd cousin Nancy to return the family documents I’d archived for her and which launched the bulk of the research on my Wersel and Wagner lines. 

I visited with both of Mary’s brothers, Chuck and Bill. It was Bill’s wife Kim who reached out to me in 2011, which lead to their invitation to come and stay with them in Cincinnati so I could visit the place my maternal grandfather was born and do ‘a bit’ of hands on research including a trip to the famous Spring Grove Cemetery where at least 39 of our ancestors are buried. 

Mary and I got to meet our 3rd cousin Carolyn who I started corresponding with via email back in the early 2000s; she shared with us an incredible group of photos mostly from about the 1870s to 1890s and was so excited to have the information from our line.


Several years ago I was only partly aware of the depth of my family’s roots in the State of Ohio; today I’ve uncovered a number of my lines who were in Ohio in the late 1700s with the rest coming shortly after in the early 1800s. I’ve found a fascinating new twist in a paternal line with possible Mennonite roots and am honing my research skills on a maternal line without vital documentation that requires more creative ways to compile evidence to prove they are mine.

My motivation? The interest my 2nd and 3rd cousins have in the genealogical work that I’m doing to compile our family history. The excitement they’ve shown each time I’ve uncovered something we didn’t know before, or that triggers a memory of something a relative said to them. I’m motivated to look at my own research with a more objective eye and not to let my emotional attachment to what I ‘know’ cloud out other possibilities.

And there’s this, which I would not have ever seen had I not opened my mind and my heart to where motivation can take you:

What's YOUR motivation?

11 September 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Happy 59th Anniversary Mom & Dad!!

Image courtesy of private collection, Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana. 

(L to R): Frances Jeffrey Wersel, James Patrick Cosgrove, 
Flo Margot [Florence] Leatherman Cosgrove, Victor Henry Wersel, 
Joan Marilyn Wersel Cosgrove, James William Cosgrove, 
Virginia Natalie Wersel Ill
September 11, 1954, First United Methodist Church, Evanston, Illinois.

09 September 2013

Amanuensis Monday - Tobias Beightler [Bigler], Death Announcement, 3 December 1890

Tribune, Marysville, Ohio, Wednesday, December 3, 1890

  Tobias Beightler, an old and well known citizen of Paris township, died at his residence, on West Sixth street, in this city, on Saturday last [29 Nov 1890], shortly after noon, aged 85 years, 4 months and 28 days. He has been in poor health for some time, brought about by old age and trouble, and while his death was sudden it was not unexpected. The deceased was until a few years ago possessor of a good farm and considered well-to-do. He was treacherously caught in security matters and lost all he had and recently has been living upon the charity of friends. He was in the TRIBUNE office a few days before his death, and unfolded a sad story of his misfortune in the loss of his property through the infidelity of those who should have been his best friends. No doubt this had the effect to rapidly break down the bearings of nature which hastened his death. 

  Funeral services were held at the Amrine church on Sunday afternoon at three o’clock, conducted by Rev. Baumgardner, after which his remains were laid to rest in the Amrine cemetery.

Anyone else find this a bit strange?

01 September 2013

Sentimental Sunday - Getting My First Baer Hug

I love my family. Oh, heck, let's be honest...I have a weakness for people in general. I love meeting new people, talking with them, getting to know them, and sharing who I am. My hope is that I'll somehow leave those new people with some spark of lightness, a bit more happiness, a smile. It's one of my greatest strengths but also, an incredible weakness. Putting yourself out there like that leaves you vulnerable and on more than one occasion I've been burned. Again, on more than one occasion. Some of us never learn.

The learning is hard because there are those moments when any not-so-nice experience is completely forgotten. I had a number of those experiences while I was at FGS: several while I was out with larger groups, a few with smaller groups and even one or two when I was working alone. Moments when everything just fell into place and the laughter and camaraderie felt like it'd always been there. Having spent the week rooming with someone who generously donated her personal space so I could attend FGS, I got up Sunday morning completely exhausted but at the same time extremely nervous. As I did when I went to NGS in Cincinnati, I was leaving Ft. Wayne and driving south to a place about 20 miles North of Bloomington, Indiana to meet my second cousin, Matt Baer. 

Matt is the son of Stephen Burrows Baer who I went to visit after NGS 2011 in Cincinnati. Steve lived in Bloomington, Indiana and was a genealogist. He was the one kind enough to allow me to take a digital image of a photograph of my second great grandmother, Laura Louisa Greene Richards that he had in his collection. He's also famously (well, to me at least) named after our ancestor Stephen Burrows who settled in Cincinnati. 

Matt and his wife, Jan, had agreed to have me stop by to see materials Steve had left after he passed away in December, 2012. (They didn't actually invite me; I asked if I could come and see the material and they agreed. They may or may not be regretting that choice. Heh) In more than one email, Jan had alluded to how remote the place is where they live and that I might need for them to come into town to meet me so they could direct me in. I left Ft. Wayne about an hour later than I'd intended. I grabbed a coffee for the road and hightailed it out of town. I wasn't in a big hurry, but fortunately the weather was clear and beautiful and there was relatively little traffic on the road. My nav told me it'd take about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get there, and I sent Jan an email letting her know I was on my way. 

At her suggestion, I called Matt when I pulled off the main highway and we discussed whether or not I'd be able to find my way to their place. Keep in mind, I spent a couple weeks every summer up in a remote part of northern Wisconsin and although I may be a 'city girl', I can find my way in remote places. Having given me some very important clues about the route up, I decided to try it on my own. The first, and most important, clue Matt gave me was that the road they live on isn't paved. We're not talking about a driveway; it's a five mile long gravel road. I was so fortunate to have a 'local' (or at least I think the person was local) driver in front of me so I could follow them instead of having to focus on the twisting, winding road. A couple of miles in, the car turned into a driveway, and I was on my own.

Again, I think of my ancestors who traveled through this kind of country to find the place that they'd call home. And, after a few miles and a false "Your Destination is Here" on my GPS, I pulled into the driveway of Matt and Jan's home.

What an incredible place! Built in 1930 as a vacation cottage, this remarkable house is just fabulous. Jan greeted me with their shy but lovely lab, Jelly, and I'm sure I yammered on about how lovely the place is. The inside has all the quirks and oddities of a cottage of its era, but with all the trappings of a modern home. I told Jan that, in a parallel Universe, their house is the one I'm living in! 

Jan was an extremely generous and gracious hostess and, as a family historian herself, we started to talk 'shop' before Matt returned from a quick errand. When he arrived, I was struck by how much he looks like his Dad. He also has some of that reserved countenance that is a trait passed through their grandmother, Virginia Wersel who is the sister of my grandfather, Victor. My Mom often speaks of how quiet and reserved her father was, so this trait is clearly a family one. It's just not one that I got. Heh. Oh, and at one point Jan alluded to the fact that the drive from Ft. Wayne 'is three and a half hours.' Um, let's just all agree that I made it safe and sound, albeit more quickly than usual. 

We spent the next few hours going through the material that Matt's Dad had acquired and I'm still working through filing and naming all the digital images I took before I start the process of analyzing it. There was a box we didn't get to (not enough time) but hopefully we'll find a convenient time to get to that and share what we've learned about our respective families and our mutual one. 

Before I left, I asked that Jan take a picture of Matt and I together. As we stood side-by-side, I said, "I'm a hugger." and we put our arms around each other.

We actually look like we're having a good time! And, I hope that we can share more of our family with those who don't yet know they are 'our family.' It's in that Estate document from Stella Wersel. I just know it. ;-)

29 August 2013

Thankful Thursday - Putting the FAMILY in Genealogy and Family History

While I was away on my trip last week, I was both a Genealogist AND a Family Historian. I'm beginning to embrace that there is a difference between the two, even though they are inextricably linked together (think Accountant and Bookkeeper or Doctor and Physician's Assistant.) They are two distinctly different things. One is not better than the other; they are just different activities with different outcomes. I was alternately a Genealogist inbetween bouts of being a Family Historian sprinkled with a healthy dose of Archivist (and I even momentarily channeled my Financial Management self when discussing a stock market issue with someone.)

The OED defines the word 'genealogy' as "...a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor...(mass noun) the study and tracing of lines of descent...a plant's or animal's line of evolutionary development from earlier forms." I'd really like for everyone to note that last definition, "a plant's or animal's line of evolutionary development from earlier forms." In my small albeit skewed opinion, I believe that the word 'genealogy', along with its grammatical iterations, implies a pseudo-scientific approach. It is simply the tracing of a line back to its origin. [Insert your Charlemagne reference here].

As I sat in the Allen County Public Library, or in some of the Intermediate/Advanced sessions at FGS, I was at different times both Genealogist and Family Historian. While digging through books of Indices attempting to find any hint of a link between my known ancestors and possible ancestors, I was working as a Genealogist. I was seeking evidence that proves that the man who I know as Tobias Bigler was the son of George M. Beighler. Because if you're a Genealogist, you don't go from Tobias Bigler to Urs Graf without proving the connection. It's not snobbery or elitism or an "I'm smarter than you" thing, it's Genealogy by definition. It's not me taking someone's money to do a job, it's me making sure that I don't spend days, weeks, months or even years, researching a family line that's not mine.

You only have to go back to my "Holy Crap!" moment while I was working on my very first genealogical proof argument for my ProGen group to know that I've experienced first hand that rock-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach moment when you realize you've been researching the wrong line for, oh I don't know, about TEN years. And the evidence was staring me in the face the whole time. Here's the document I used from Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio:

For some still-to-me-unknown-reason, when I originally got this copy of her burial card in 1997, I wanted Sarah's parents to be Patience Tunis and Nehemiah MEEKER. She was, after all, Sarah MEEKER Burrows, as the card indicates. And, I mean, how many Nehemiah and Patience Meekers can there be, right? So, I found Nehemiah & Patience Meeker who had a daughter Sarah born in 1778 and away I went. I found compiled genealogies with all kinds of information about the Meeker family and its history. For YEARS I continued to look at the Meeker line. What's more, Sarah Meeker is nicely typed out on my DAR application as the wife of Stephen Burrows, the son of my American Patriot, Waters Burrows. 

Except there's one tiny, little problem. This Sarah, the one buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, in Section 54 Lot 93, born on 15 Aug 1778, who died of consumption on 25 Oct 1845 and was first buried in the Presbyterian Family Vault on Elm Street in the City and then interred in Spring Grove on 22 Nov 1850? Yeah, she's actually the daughter of Nehemiah TUNIS, Sr. and Patience Camp and her name is Sarah Meeker Tunis. She married Stephen Burrows on 26 Sept 1797 and they settled in Ohio sometime before one of their children, Nehemiah Tunis Burrows, was born there on 13 May 1817. 

How do I know all this? Because as a Genealogist, I locate evidence to prove the vital information about a person. I locate evidence to prove the person existed and then no longer existed. In some cases, the individual connected with another individual and new individuals were created. I document everything I learn, carefully, to ensure that anyone else who reads my documentation knows where I found the evidence I used to prove my case. We don't live in a vacuum, so if new evidence surfaces that changes my case, I accept that, alter my documentation and go on. 

As a Family Historian, however, I seek the story of Sarah, who was also known as Sally. I want to know how it was she survived moving so far away from her family into what was dangerous country at a time there was virtually nothing there. In her lifetime, the place she died changed from a camp called Losantiville into a thriving City. It was so large, frankly, that only a few short years after her death, they had to disinter her body, and the body of many of her family members to move them to the new Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum to make way for a park. Yup, that's right, Cincinnati's Washington Park is where one of the two original cemeteries was located.

Sarah's husband, Stephen Burrows, was a founding member of many of Cincinnati's institutions including the Fire Department, its first lending institution, a number of Fraternal organizations, the Lane Seminary, and a number of others. Their life appears to be full of interesting firsts for Cincinnati, and although he must have been a very prominent citizen (at one point he was an Alderman) I'm puzzled by the fact his name doesn't have more cadre. With everything that he did, you'd think his name would be among those of the other founding families of Cincinnati. But it's not.

It is the Family Historian in me that asks the question, "Why?" It's the Family Historian in me that wants to know what they wore and how they got all the way to Cincinnati when there were no real roads. Did they go by river? How? How did they do it? 

Genealogy is about the When. When an individual was born and died. That's what a Genealogist seeks out: the evidence of the When. That is not to say that a Family Historian doesn't seek the when as well; a Bookkeeper ensures that the Debits and Credits always equal zero. However, Family Historians seek the stories of the Who and How and Why their family came and went, lived and died, shared joys and sorrows. Family Historians want to know the human side of our genetic connections. Genealogists are there, in all of us, to ensure that we are careful in our research; that we verify the When. So we can embrace the right family (even though some of us will embrace pretty much ANY family.) Heh.

27 August 2013

Tuesday Tip - FGS2013 Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors

Having made it to Thursday at FGS, I thought the rest of the time would be just as fun and easy and my expectations were right on target. This self-professed morning person didn't make it to a single 8 o'clock session. Between socializing with new people I'd met and then recapping our days with my roomie there was just no way it was going to happen. A week of 6 hours of sleep per night (or less) was starting to take its toll.

I approached Friday very differently in the morning than what I'd planned earlier in the week. I decided to spend some extra time in the Exhibitor Hall, taking advantage of the resources that were available. I started at the Bureau of Land Management booth. I had no idea so few people knew this resource was available. If you haven't had a chance to look at their site, you can check it out here. I'd stopped by the booth before, but wanted to get the certified copy of my ancestor's land patent they were providing:

I then visited both the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society and the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society to get pointers on how to start researching two of my brick walls. My fourth stop was the charm: The Southern California Genealogical Society. I'm a member, and it was such a pleasure to get to meet Paula Hinkel in person. But, that wasn't the real pay-off (sorry Paula but I know you understand). As I was explaining to Paula my difficulty with locating the Probate/Trust documents for my Stellas, she strongly urged me to talk with Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist. Of course, who should appear but none other than...Judy Russell! Paula introduced us (although Judy and I met each other on social media.) Judy was kind enough to take a few minutes to listen to my dilemma and quickly recommended a course of action. No session could have given me the clue I needed to move forward the way that Judy did. I'm crossing my fingers that there's some form of payoff.

I was so excited that I decided to head back to my room and ran into a few new genea-friends. They were interested in grabbing some lunch before the 2 pm session, so the three of us walked up to the Dash-in (my new favorite place to get a meal in Ft. Wayne)! I love the opportunity to talk with researchers from areas other than my own, mainly because their research happens in places I'm not familiar with (yet). In this case, one researcher lives and researches in a State I hope to be able to start researching in in the not too distant future; I just want to get the closer lines done before I start on the ones that go back a lot farther.

We made it back to the Convention Center with a few minutes to spare. I finally ran into the incredibly talented Kathleen Brandt of A3 Genealogy. If you don't know Kathleen but her name is familiar, it's because she performed the research for much of the Chris O'Donnell segment for Who Do You Think You Are, including uncovering the family sword in the Smithsonian. I can only aspire to the quality and level of research skills she has and she's a fascinating person as well. She decided to join me in Judy Russell's session "Roadblocks, Red Lights and Detours: Records Access Issues." This subject is near and dear to my heart, and Judy is a phenomenal speaker. You've gotta love a Zombie Apocalypse reference, seriously. Heh. Best take-away from this session was that we need to reach out to and invite our legislators to our genealogy society meetings so that they are more invested and have a better understanding of our concerns with regard to information access. Hallelujah to that!

After getting such a charge out of Judy's session, I decided to go back to my room, switch my bags and head over to the Library. Friday night was the Evening at the Library event, and I was a little concerned that it would be as busy as it was on Wednesday. It was busy, but I have to admit that at least there wasn't a line to get a seat. I found a nice location, plugged into one of the few working plugs (my power-strip was a much sought-after commodity) and started to work. I was joined by a few genea-friends who were getting as burned out as I was. There really is a limit to how much new information one brain can absorb. I kept thinking back to my college days feeling like I was cramming for a final exam...LOL.

At a little after 6 I went downstairs to the appointed spot the ProGen group was meeting for our group photo. I still can't believe that I made it through the program and am now an alum! Where did the time go? Unfortunately, there were a lot of attendees who were missing from the group; but we managed a decent picture (I think). And then it was back to the books.

I took a break to go down to get some of the promised 'light desserts'. I have to say, the brownies, cookies, sweets breads (not to be confused with sweetbreads...we had THAT conversation) and little fruit cookie/tarts were exactly what the doctor would have ordered. Oh, and I ran into some of the Indiana ladies and a librarian local to my area. We had a lovely chat and it was nice to have the break. 

On the way back up to the Genealogy Center, I had the pleasure of seeing some of the people who had come dressed in Civil War era clothing participating in the 'dancing' portion of the evening. Oh, wait...look who's in there! None other than the (apparently) incredibly multi-talented Amy Johnson Crow. She definitely knows how to cut a rug!! 

I went back upstairs and continued to research until I was pretty bleary-eyed. When I saw it was 11:30 and was fairly sure I'd read the same sentence about 10 times, I knew it was time to pack it in.

I somehow managed to get myself up and out of my room in time to meet the usual suspects for Dr. Tom Jones' "Creating Family Histories for Future Generations." One of the first points he made really resonated with me: harvest what future generations can't. I tell everyone who will listen that we MUST ACT, as genealogists, to protect primary documentation that is at risk. Whether it's a repository that's in danger of closing, a piece of legislation that may close access to records or an elderly neighbor who we know has primary material and no one willing to take it, as historians, researchers and family storytellers, it's our responsibility to act to protect the information we can when we can. (OK, getting off my soapbox...back to Dr. Jones) He spoke about learning and improving our skills and sharing what we learn. He also discussed the acronymn B-E-A-D: Accuracy, Biography, Documentation and Explanation. He states, "Accuracy is invisible." It's so true.

And this is the point that I have to admit that I don't remember what I did between that session and the afternoon session. Heh. I may have gotten my Friday and Saturday lunches mixed up; oh, no I didn't! However, I DID go BACK to the Dash-In, this time with the Hamilton County Genealogical Society folks (omigosh, I can't believe I didn't remember that right away...lol...I'm STILL tired). Not too tired to (now) remember the fabulous gourmet grilled cheese and soup I had for lunch, nor the terrific time I had talking with the group. They're working so hard to get their Society polished up for the 21st Century, especially as they mark their 40th anniversary this year. Way to go, and keep up the great work you're doing for those of us who have deep roots in the southwestern portion of Ohio!

At 2 pm I went to my second session by Dr. Jones: "Organizing Evidence to Overcome Record Shortages." I sat with a new geneacquaintence who, at the end of the session, looked at me and said, "I have NO idea what he just said." I laughed, and pointed at the brand new book she had in her lap and said, "He just gave you a synopsis of the Genealogical Proof Standard." I have to admit, hesitantly, that I was a bit disappointed in this afternoon session. In the syllabus the session was labelled as 'Intermediate/Advanced', but I felt like he'd covered the exact same territory in the morning session, just in a different frame. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the session, just that I wished he'd more directly discussed record shortages and the types of alternate records to be used in their place.

At 3:30 I knew exactly where I was going: Michael Lacopo's "Mennonite Research: The Forgotten Swiss Germans." I so enjoyed Michael's first session that I decided even though I don't have ancestor Mennonites that I might be able to glean some new insight into my possible Swiss ancestors. Boy, was I in for the surprise of my genealogical week. As Michael detailed the history of the Mennonite sect, I came to understand how challenging researching them can be. The tenets they live under are: adult baptism, no oath taking and pacifism. So, nothing to capture a birth date, no military documentation and nothing where an oath would be taken such as naturalization and voter registration. Huh. 
Wait for it ...

The room burst into laughter at this slide, neatly positioned at about the middle of Michael's presentation. Again, he's a great presenter, and knew that at that time of the day, on the last day of the Conference, there were going to be a lot of weary people. There were also a lot of 'cat people' in the audience; I asked to take a picture so I could put it on Social Media. Unfortunately it's a bit fuzzy; the kittehs are named Menno, Ulrich and Conrad, after the founders of the Mennonites. Awesome.

Michael then described the 'typical' migration path of a Mennonite from Switzerland. As he had in his first session, he stressed that very often Mennonites were enumerated or described as "German" rather than Swiss. He then stated that the migratory path was something like this: Switzerland --> Berks, PA --> Ohio. On the screen, he showed a map of Ohio with a number of counties shaded, indicating they were often the places Mennonites settled. My eyes jumped to the center of the State and two of the shaded Counties leapt off the screen: Fairfield and Licking. Oh. My. Word.

For those who would like a refresher, check out this image of Tobias Bigler, and note where he was from and where he went. Yup. And, what's more, it would make COMPLETE sense that I've been unable to find any records for him, other than a few probate records with his name in them from Union County. Whether or not the family was Mennonite, I have to be open to the possibility and now know the resources that I can use to begin this research. Way to go, Mr. Lacopo!

After the session, as I was standing with a geneacquaintance, one of the Certified Genealogists who had been a presenter bumped into us. This CG, who I respect immensely and had really only met peripherally, looked at me and said, "I like what you write. Keep up the good work." (OK. I'm not sure that's exactly what was said because I was too stunned. But it was close to that. Really.) 

For a very long time I've worked directly for someone who doesn't monitor my work as an Archivist. I know that she trusts that, as a professional, if I have a question or need anything from her that I'll ask. The flip side of that is that I cannot remember the last time that she told me that I did a good job or acknowledged me in a positive way, so coming from a CG, well...it just meant the world to me that they'd take that moment to acknowledge my writing. It certainly had the desired effect, as you can tell by this overly lengthy post! LOL

The night, and Conference, closed out for me with a dinner with the usual suspects and some new genea-friends. If I had not been open to going to the Conference alone, open to meeting new people despite my prior experience, and open to new ideas and avenues to be better in all aspects of genealogical research and being a professional in any business, I would not be the happy woman I am at this moment. 

And, believe it or not, that is NOT the end of my week. But that's a tale for a future post...

23 August 2013

Follow Friday - #FGS2013 A Plethora of People to Pursue

I have to admit that I really wanted to get to the Keynote session on Thursday, but I was delayed by a bit of a work-related issue that had to be taken care of so it just didn’t happen. But, as I have always said, everything happens for a reason. I had the opportunity to enjoy breakfast with a great group of genealogists, including Linda and Margel from the Midwest Geneabloggers group. We got into a lively conversation about how genealogical societies need to work with historical societies to leverage one another and to ensure that the level of customer service we receive as researchers is ‘up-to-snuff.’ There are just far too many stories of Archivist’s who seemingly go out of their way to prevent researchers from accessing material they need. I don’t understand this pervading and insidious way of working. We also discussed the importance of securing primary documentation as a source of genealogical material and the best methods for doing that. Is this starting to sound familiar? If not, read on…

I made it over to the Exhibit Hall as it was opening and wandered around checking out the booths. I didn’t do a super thorough job, but enjoyed watching the people and talking to a few of the vendors. I got information on my Dad’s (potential) SAR chapter at the SAR booth; poked around in the books available at several vendors; spoke with another Midwest Geneablogger, Kathryn Lake Hogan at the GSG booth; and had a heart-wrenching conversation with someone at the DAR booth.

I started my conversation with the DAR representative like this: Is there a National edict of what to do with the primary documentation (hand written meeting minutes, pamphlets, committee reports, etc.) held by the individual Chapters? If not, what are you doing to preserve that information from your Chapter? (Note: This particular Chapter is within the range of the Allen County Public Library) As it turns out, they decided to have their materials digitized, and they did. They kept one ‘set’ on several local hard drives and also have a copy on the Cloud.

Are you wondering what they did with those original books lovingly written by their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins? I was too. They shredded them. That’s right, you read that right. They shredded them. Because no one wanted them or had the space to store them. Now, before you get too upset, there was some material that was given to the ACPL, but even they were reluctant to take it. I keep thinking, what is this world coming to when a LINEAGE SOCIETY destroys primary documentation? At the same time, I have a ‘oh, well…’ kind of mind set. I’m only one person and I there’s not a lot I can do alone. But just an hour before I learned this, I was sitting at a table with a half dozen women who were ardently describing their concern about primary documentation being lost. WHAT IS THE DISCONNECT?!!

I wandered off to go to a session being presented by Kris Rzepczynski, the Senior Archivist at the State Archives of Michigan. He was the first speaker on Librarians’ Day and I really liked his style, so I decided to go and hear some happy news about researching in Michigan. The room was about half way full. Kris did a great job in describing the records that are available in the State as well as a bit of the history of the migration of people into Michigan.  Overall it was a terrific presentation and it genuinely made me want to get in my car and go to Lansing to see what I can find on my Powelson and Garret(t) lines.

I met up with the usual suspects and we went over to a hotel for a light lunch and some great conversation. Diana Ritchie(http://randomrelatives.blogspot.com/) shared an incredibly funny newspaper article she’d found the night before (while the rest of us were downstairs talking shop). Hopefully she’ll blog about it…it’s a hoot!

As the 2:00 sessions were getting ready to start, I was standing out in the hallway with quite the conundrum. Elizabeth Shown Mills was doing her “Smiths and Jones” presentation, Debbie Parker Wayne was doing a presentation titled “Going Nuclear: DNA Discoveries to Trace All Lines of Descent”, and there was a guy presenting on Beginning Swiss Research. As I looked at the syllabus, I realized the only presentation that wasn’t being recorded was the one on the Swiss Research so in I went. Best decision. Ever.  The presentation was given by Michael Lacopo. Oh, did I mention the ladies I had breakfast with were from Granger, Indiana. Michael Lacopo? Granger, Indiana. Small world.

A couple of great take-aways with regard to the research itself, including the 1676 edict attaching the location of the person (gemeinde), at that moment, to the person and their future family permanently. How cool is that? And confusing, because if you ask someone where they’re FROM they’ll answer with that location, but if you ask them where they LIVED they might give the location they were actually living OR the gemeinde. Uh oh…

Michael got a rousing round of applause when he stated that everyone in the audience should hug the Archivists who work so hard to make material available to them even though they don't get paid very much to do it. OK, maybe I was the only one clapping, but still. However, I thought back to the conversation we had in the morning, and it made me wonder how many people in the audience had had a negative experience in a repository. Huh.

Lastly, as I sat marveling at the manner in which Michael Lacopo got his message across, using humor to keep the audience alert and attentive, I was struck by the thought that of any session that should have been recorded, it was his. Not enough of the lesser known speakers get acknowledged through the various Social Media channels. So, please think about that the next time you go to a Conference. Yes, it’s fabulous hearing ESM, Dr. Jones and the individuals in our profession at that level, speak. But the content in the sessions given by some of the lesser known presenters is just as valuable, and in some ways more so. So, if you ever get to meet Michael Lacopo, give him a hug from me. J

The evening ended with another amazing meal at a Ft. Wayne restaurant called Gas House. They seated us in a small room at a large table and the conversation was lively, loud and full of laughter. What an inspiring and invigorating way to end the day, and I truly felt there wasn’t a way that it could be any better.

As we all sauntered back to our hotels (it was a fairly long walk), we saw Amy Johnson Crow and Curt Witcher. For those who aren’t aware, Curt is the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center Manager.  I struck up a conversation, telling him how impressed I was, both as a researcher and as an Archivist, with the way the Center is lead. Not managed, but lead. What ensued was a remarkable conversation about the state of Archives and Archivists, Libraries and Librarians, and education as a whole. I felt like this gentleman, who has an incredible job with immense responsibility, allowed me insight into why the ACPL is such an incredible repository. And, it gave me hope that I may still have a professional future, perhaps not one I expected, but a professional future all the same.

Speaking of futures…I’m late! LOL Off to sessions. If you have difficulties locating anyone I’ve discussed here, please leave me a comment and I’ll get their information for you (sorry, but this blogger has GOT to go!!)

22 August 2013

Thankful Thursday – FGS2013: The ‘New’ Buzzword is Collaboration

Well, FGS is amazing. Or, rather, the people at FGS are amazing. Yesterday was jam packed with research and catching up with genea-friends from far and near. The folks at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center pulled out all the stops and were performing the herculean task of handling all the people who were coming in to do research while attending the conference. It was standing room only at the research tables and I heard that even the microfilm room, which is colder than a Siberian winter, was full. After being in the Library from about 9:30 until 5:30, I dashed back to my room to quickly freshen up for the opening social. That’s where things went a little awry.

I do my best not to be critical unless it can be considered constructive (mainly because I’ve been on the receiving end of criticism that was anything but constructive). It’s not helpful to just hear that you stink at something, so, here’s my take on what I can only say was a customer service fiasco. We entered into the venue for the Opening Social, the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. We were greeted by several people who were handing out raffle tickets and packets of flower seeds, a nice touch, although I ended up with 3 or 4 packets that people didn’t want because they wouldn’t use them. We took a few steps forward ... and stopped. We were chatting among ourselves, so at first it didn’t seem to be an issue. However, after about 15 minutes, having moved only about 10 feet forward (that is not an exaggeration) we started wondering what was going on. We finally moved past the entry way and into the conservatory, only to see the line of people winding through the facility with no discernible end.  After waiting another 10 – 15 minutes, someone from our group went up the line to see if she could determine whether or not we were supposed to wait in the line or not, and she wasn’t really able to find out anything other than it was the line for the food. Keep in mind, we were told it would be ‘light appetizers’ and we hadn’t had dinner prior to arriving, our plan being that we would spend a bit of time at the social and then head out for dinner. Finally, after waiting 40 minutes and not getting beyond the middle of the first room, we decided to go back out the way we came in.

Having had such a great day at the library, it was a real let-down to not know what was supposed to happen at an event we paid to get into. At no time did anyone from FGS, FindMyPast.com or the facility inform the people standing in line what was happening or what was expected of us. All someone needed to do was walk up and down the line informing people that they could go forward into the tent at the back of the facility. I can’t comment on the food or drinks, though I heard varying comments about that as well. What a shame that such a great day nearly ended with a complete downer all because someone didn’t have the wherewithal to let people know.

Of course, leave it to the group I was fortunate to join to make the most of a bad situation. Ft. Wayne has an amazing little place called the Dash-In that makes the most delicious vegetarian dishes and serves awesome beer.  Once we’d eaten, we decided to head back to the hotel where we found more folks who’d bailed from the Social. We ended up staying up far later than I intended, discussing the challenges genealogists face when going into Archives. So many of you have had negative experiences in Archives, and it really irks me to hear that there are Archivists out there who don’t understand the concept, and importance, of good customer service or the value in the collaborative possibilities with genealogists. It only takes a little bit of communication to right a wrong.

Have you had a negative customer service experience at an Archives, or Conference, that you were willing to ‘forgive’ because you knew the circumstances warranted it? Did you notify someone that a change would make the situation better?

Let’s hope that was just a little hiccup in what will otherwise be a fabulous conference.

21 August 2013

Tuesday Tip - Collaboration and a Behind the Scenes Tour of ACPL at FGS2013

Good morning! I'm having to learn all about brevity...I wanted to write a lovely, long post about the amazing day I had yesterday at Librarians' Day, but I have to get ready to get back to the Library! So, without further ado...

I hit the road from Delphos, Ohio very late. The trip from there to Ft. Wayne was entirely without incident, so I pulled into the parking lot at 8:25. No time for socializing, but Registration got me on my way to the Theater for the opening at 8:30. We heard from Amy Johnson Crow & Delia Cothrun Bourne, the 2013 Librarians' Day Coordinators. They deserve a great round of applause for putting together a wonderful set of speakers and an amazing tour of the facility. Thanks, ladies!!  Jeffrey Krull, the Director of ACPL and Melissa Shmikus, Assistant Director and FGS Director also had some opening remarks. Then...

Kris Rzepczynski, the Senior Archivist at the Archives of Michigan spoke about collaboration to build and preserve collections. All I can say is he's a great speaker who understands that adding a touch of humor can keep the audiences attention while stilling getting your message across. He framed his subject around the dismantling of the Library & Archives of Michigan (which started in 2009) and how, in the end (as of today), the Genealogical Collection has a wonderful home and is available for all researchers. The trouble, as I see it, is that not enough people actually KNEW there was a moment when material might have been moved away or scraped. That's right - scraped. I hope that we all connect in a bit more to the collections, big and small, that we use for our research and stay aware of challenges they have due to budget constraints. How can you know? Just ask. Ask the staff. If they can't/won't tell you, check meeting minutes for public entities and professional forums for private ones. If they're at risk, it's being talked about somewhere and the sooner the genealogical community can come together to assist in providing a solution, the better the chance is that things will turn out like they did in Michigan. Oh, by the way, have you SEEN the website they have? Check it out at www.seekingmichigan.org!

Elaine Kuhn, the Kentucky History Services Coordinator from the Kenton County (KY) Public Library then shared her suggestions on how Libraries can work with local organizations to preserve and make accessible (sound familiar) primary materials at risk of being destroyed because the owners don't know what to do with them. The highlights were images of George Clooney (his family is from that area) and a photo of a gentleman (I didn't note his name) wearing his "Military Order of the Cooties" hat and uniform! Too funny, but an actual organization.

Lunch was sponsored by ProQuest and we had a brief presentation by Bill Forsythe who is the Director of Product Development. For those who go to their Public Library often, ProQuest has some great additions to their products. And, for those who work in Libraries, well, same goes. What caught my attention is they're adding Lesson Plans for Teachers. Love the idea of using the information available to enhance the learning experience.

OK. Here's where I have to admit that the call of my genea-friends (who I hadn't seen for TOO long) and the Library got the best of me. I admit it, I'm weak. I didn't go to the afternoon panel discussion because I heard the siren song of dead people calling my name. Don't judge me. LOL

Now, for the BEST part! We had the privilege of going behind the scenes at ACPL. And this is where the brevity comes in, because I only have an hour to get myself ready, get something to eat and make a beeline over to the Library to be there when it opens at 9!! Here goes:

We had a tour of the Genealogy Center. I've posted about it before; sadly, there's no time at this writing to find the right one. I'll try to edit the post tonight to include it so those who haven't been here can see it.

Then, we went down to the Lincoln Financial Foundation collection. What a remarkable collection of material from and about Abraham Lincoln. You can check out the website HERE.

We then got to see the area where they keep the three-dimensional objects from the collection along with rare book storage. Didn't take any pictures there because most of the material is on-line!! So awesome.

Next stop: genealogical material processing. ACPL is the rare Library where the Genealogical Collection material handling is completely separate from the rest of the Library. Check it out!

I love that the conveyor in the middle is used as a bit of a metaphor to keep material moving forward; to keep the process of working through the additions to the collections moving at all times. For me, this was the highlight of the tour. I'm not afraid to say that I genuinely wish that there was a facility like this closer to me. I would LOVE to work here!! But wait...there's more...

This lucky woman gets to scan material sent in by patrons. In this case, this is a bible from the mid-1700s from an attendee at FGS! How cool is that?! (Yes, at this point I was totally geeking out).

Internet Archives! That's right, this is the actual location where materials are scanned to be added to the Internet Archives website. They're a non-profit organization and they have a TON of material to scan, all so that genealogists and researchers alike can have access to the information contained in the materials they scan. Again, what a cool job.

So, that was my day yesterday. Or, at least the part at the Library, heh. 

I finished up my night enjoying the company of some great genea-friends and acquaintances: Susan Clark, Kathy Reed, Becky Wiseman, Amy Coffin, Lisa Alzo and several others at the FamilySearch Blogger's Dinner. The food was very good (I was late, *sigh*) and it was great to hear about all the incredible things that are happening at FamilySearch. Stay tuned for some big announcements!

I ended the day watching Who Do You Think You Are with an amazing group of Genea-buddies. Oh, and if you weren't on social media to see my tweets, Kathleen Brandt of A3 Genealogy was responsible for the research on the O'Donnell segment that included locating the sword at the Smithsonian. What an incredible job she did - amazing job.

That's all for now...I'm late...and clearly haven't truly learned brevity...LOL.