17 July 2013

Wisdom Wednesday - Things I Wish My Mom Had Told Me to Pack

So, you've decided to go to FGS2013 and it’s the first time you've attended a Conference. You’re excited and nervous all at the same time, right? The sessions for this year’s conference are full of incredible resources, and the fact that it’s moments away from the amazing Allen County Public Library makes it the next best thing to going to Salt Lake City.

Then it hits you: what in the Sam Hill do I pack? Is there something I should or shouldn't bring? How do I know what to have with me and what to leave at home? Well, speaking as an Archivist, I think I’m uniquely qualified to help you out. I don’t have the gift of working in one of those fancy, well funded Archives, nuh huh. Nope, I’m a consultant and often work with clients who are just starting their Archives, or re-starting their Archives. They’re underfunded and often in places no one wants to actually go. So, the places I work are either stifling hot or Nanook of the North cold. There's no supplies, no technology to speak of so, like I said…uniquely qualified.

Here’s my Top 10 ‘Must Haves’ for any conference:

#1 – A great top layer sweater or jacket. I like the kind that is wrinkle resistant so I can just throw it in my bag (see #2) when (not if, when) I don’t need it. It’s also great to have one with just in case you’re sitting in your seat with perspiration on your brow while the friend (or soon to be friend) sitting next to you has chattering teeth. Not that that would ever happen. Heh.

#2 – A soft sided shoulder bag, like a canvas bag or yoga tote. I thought a purse would be a good idea, but then I found that I was collecting business/calling cards, stuff from vendors, and various and sundry other items. Add to that the technology stuff I lug around and suddenly a purse wasn't enough. And there wasn't room for my sweater. There's only so much room when sitting in conference room chairs, so having the soft sided bag allows you to put it either under the chair in front of you or at your feet. Also, please be a conscientious conference goer and don't place your materials on the seat next to you; the person who sits there could be a cousin! 

#3 – A refillable water bottle. You wouldn't believe how dry it gets in some of those convention centers. And why pay a couple of bucks a pop for bottled water when you can (usually) refill a water bottle for free?  Fits in your bag too, no problem.

#4 – A note pad and pencil. Don’t own one anymore? You might want to pick one up just for this occasion. I have a cool ‘journal’ style book that I take whenever I go on personal research trips and to conferences. Not only can I keep notes when my technology doesn't work (see #6), but it’s a great little ‘keepsake’ to look back at the conferences and research facilities I've gone to and what I've found there.

#5 – Comfy shoes. While some of us are style hounds, that doesn't mean we don’t want to be comfortable. There is an incredible amount of walking that’s done at conferences, as well as a lot of standing. Heck, just the Vendor Hall alone can take a couple hours of your time without realizing it and by the time you do sit down, your feet and legs are saying, ‘Enough’s enough!’

#6 – Chargers and/or batteries for technology.  Let’s face it, there’s never enough power. Depending on what technology you’re using (laptop, tablet, mobile phone or combination of these) you want to make sure that you have enough power. I generally do a test a week or so before I go to find out just how long my stuff will run on a single charge. That helps me know what I need to carry for backup power. You can’t be certain that electrical outlets will be available at the conference site; often they aren't, or if they are, there’s a line waiting to get at them. 

#7 – Business or calling cards. Yes, this ‘old-fashioned’ tool is alive and well. Don’t have the money for fancy ones or don’t think you’ll use them? Oh, think again! I bought 100 cards for NGS because several people suggested it would be a really good idea. Guess what? It was a REALLY good idea. Even if it’s just your name and email address (you could also add Surnames to increase your chances of a cousin connection), they save time and effort when it comes to exchanging information. I collected at least 3 dozen cards while I was there and gave away probably twice that many. And, I had plenty of people contact me, so I know it works!

#8 – Clif Bars. With all the early sessions, dashing around between sessions, squeezing in a little research (or blogging) and the late nights hanging with geneacquaintences, eating habits can really take a hit. So, be sure to pack a few energy bars for when you don’t have time to grab breakfast or lunch. You can’t concentrate if you’re hungry and trust me, you’re gonna NEED all your synapses firing on all cylinders.

#9 – Flash drive or portable hard drive. This is the greatest step that technology has made; portable hard drives in the 1 terabyte size for around $60! Mine has ALL my files (with the exception of financial information) on it, and it’s partitioned so I can keep my personal material separate from my genealogy material and client material. The best part? It’s USB compatible, so I can plug it into any USB port (including those awesome microfilm machines at ACPL!) and download to it directly. What’s more, there’s no way that I’ll ever fill it up, so I don’t have to worry about space. (Note: the minute that I get home, I back up the portable hard drive to a separate hard drive I have to ensure I don’t lose anything when there’s a technology failure. Note if…when…).

#10 – An open mind. That’s right; this is really one of the most important things to pack when going to any Conference. Things are going to go wrong. Travel plans get befuddled, the Library is going to be just nuts, and the morning after you didn't get enough sleep there’s always that ONE person who’s one of those ‘shiny happy people’ in the morning that you just want to…well, you get my point. You’ll also have your brain crammed full of more information than you think it can possibly hold, meet so many cool genea-peeps and  hopefully eat some great local food (if you haven’t heard me talk about O’Donnell’s Pub then I know you've never read my blog before. Go there. Just GO.) So, keep your mind open and let the experience happen. You’re gonna love it!

See you all in a bit more than a month! Yowza!!

13 July 2013

Surname Saturday - A Shorter List?!

Good Saturday, Everyone!

Well, I thought it was time for an update to my list of Surnames. I'm getting ready to head to Ft. Wayne, Indiana for the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference 2013, so I'm working on a Research Plan that will focus on filling in the direct lines I haven't researched before. For the foreseeable future, I will not be working to actively gather evidence on collateral lines; my goal is to finish my complete tree, four generations out, by the end of this year. Going forward, my plan is to tackle one line in the 5th generation coming forward to the present every six months. I may need more or less time, but since I haven't used the genealogical proof standard in my research in the past, I feel like it's a reasonable goal.  

Having said that, I'm keeping the lines of communication open for ALL my lines. I'm very happy to say that I have some new cousins in my Leatherman and Barnes lines; I'd love to add more! So, if you would be so kind to share this post out to your extended social media network, I'd be very grateful. And, if you leave me a comment with a link to your blog, I'll be sure to reciprocate! 

The surname list is in two parts: the first part are my direct proven lines, those that I've satisfied an exhaustive search or have complete evidence to ensure accuracy. The second part are my direct lines that I'm still gathering evidence to prove. 

Direct Line Surnames of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana (proven; p = paternal, m = maternal):

ALSTAETTER (ALST√ĄTTER) p - origin from 1827, Darmstadt, Germany
BARNES p - origin from 1846, OH
BEIGHTLER p (also BEIGHLER, BEIGLER, BIGLER) - origin from ~ 1803, PA
COSGROVE p - origin from 1860s, Ireland (confirmed through paternal DNA)
DURKIN p - origin from 1863, England (line to Ireland, paternal DNA)
GARRETT (GARRET) m - origin from 1824, NY (location not confirmed) (matrilineal DNA)
GREENE m - origin from 1753, RI
JEFFREY m - origin from 1829, Scotland (location not confirmed)
LEATHERMAN p - origin from 1825, OH
NICOL (NICHOL) m - origin from 1837, Toronto, Canada (Canada West)
POWELSON m - origin from 1785, NJ
RICHARDS m - origin from ~ 1790, (may be OH/KY, location not confirmed)
WAGNER m - origin from 1806, Moselle, Lorraine, France
WERSEL m - origin from 1805, Utrecht, Netherlands

Direct Line Surnames of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana (researching; p = paternal, m = maternal):

AMRINE (AMERINE) p - origin from ~ 1807, possibly PA (with Beightler)
BRINKMAN m - origin from 1790s, daughter born in Utrecht, Netherlands (with Wersel, Valkenburg)
BURROWS (BURROWES) m - origin from 1712, NJ (with Greene)
GEERLING m - origin from 1750s, Netherlands (with Wicart, Wersel)
HENSGEN m - origin from 1808, France (with Wagner, Wersel)
MEEKER m - origin from 1750s, NJ (with Burrows, Greene)
MESSLER  m (may be derivative spelling) - origin from 1780s, location unknown (with Powelson)
METSELSER m (may be derivative spelling) - origin from ~ 1720, location unknown (with Powelson)
PENN m - origin from before 1789, MD (with Richards)
TUNIS m - origin from 1750s, location unknown (with Meeker, Burrows)
VALKENBURG m - origin from 1771, location unknown (with Brinkman, Wersel)
WALLACE m - origin from 1780s, unknown location (with Greene)
WATERS m - origin from 1720s, location unknown (with Burrows)
WICART m (WIKART, WIEKART) - origin from 1750s, Netherlands (with Geerling, Wersel)

I hope everyone has a fabulous Saturday. It's a gorgeous day here in cow country and I'm heading out into my yard to do some much needed cleanup. Seems to be a trend...

Have you created a surname list to share? Do you like to 'hoard' names, or do you have a plan you follow? How do you find cousins to share the evidence you've acquired with?

11 July 2013

Thriller Thursday - Will a Trust Prevent Identification of Heirs?

A bit of an update about my search for a Probate record in California from the large estate of my great aunt Estella Anna Wersel: my Mom found the letter my grandmother received explaining the disbursement from my grandfather's aunt's estate. The letter is dated in 1966, is from Bank of America's Trust Office in San Diego, and states that she will receive 1/27th of the proceeds of the estate at a cost basis from the date of death of Stella (as she was known) on 9 July 1956.  That's not a typo; there was a 10 year span between her death and the execution of the Trust after the death of the Trust's original beneficiary, Stella Piper.

Here's a partial transcription of the letter (as I'm to understand it; it was dictated to me over the phone by my father, James Cosgrove on 9 July 2013):

Bank of America
San Diego District Trust Office
PO Box 1631
San Diego, CA 92112

Mrs. Victor Wersel
Elmhurst, Illinois 60126

Elmhurst National Bank
Mr. M. W. Huey
Vice President
Elmhurst, Illinois 60126

June 23, 1966

Enclosed is our trust ….[redacted]

In the matter of the Trust of Estella A. Wersel: [redacted]...you will receive a 1/27th share of the Trust. The cost basis was determined on July 9th 1956 the date of her death.

[Letter was signed by]
H E Johnson, Jr

Bond form number #1083567 (list of assets)

[Signed by] Sally Cuff

I 'know' that, according to two separate sources (unknown to one another), the person who wrote the original Trust for Estella Anna Wersel did so with a potentially nefarious intent. He was, again according to both of these sources, a 'cousin' or 'relative' of Stella Wersel's. The fact that the document ensured that Stella's long time companion, Stella Piper, was cared for until her death was a bit of a surprise. However, I have to believe the bigger surprise was the fact that, although Stella Piper was two years Stella Wersel's senior, she lived nearly 10 years longer and was 92 years old when she died in 1965.

It was only because a fairly well-to-do relative (my grandmother's sister-in-law) had hired an attorney in San Diego to follow up with regard to the Estate that my family even learned there WAS an estate. The attorney notified the Bank that there were living heirs and provided contact information for my grandmother and relatives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I was able to uncover that the same person who wrote the original Trust also made arrangements for Stella Piper, and that he'd written a 'no obituary, no service' clause in her Will. This seemed strange to me at the time I found out (through the Funeral home that took care of her body) and I don't know (and doubt we'll ever find out) whether Stella really knew he'd done this. What I do know is that, by eliminating the obituary and any services that a notice would've been published for, it would've been close to impossible for the relatives outside of California to know of Stella's passing and thus the disbursement of the Estate. I've come to believe that he intended to passively keep Stella Piper's passing secret, which would ensure the Estate (which I've heard from different sources was between $100,000 - $1,000,000 in 1966) would have gone to him as the 'sole' living heir. Obviously, this is entirely conjecture on my part, which is why I have not named this person. It is also entirely possible that he was simply following the wishes of the Stellas and that he would have contacted the family eventually.

As the document states, there were 27 recipients of funds from the Estate. I have only been able to identify, at most, 11 of those 27 recipients. This is the reason I'm pursuing this document so rabidly. There are 16 other recipients who are currently unknown to me all of whom were most likely related to my family. 

So, the $64,000 question, no pun intended, is this: 

Would some record of to who the Trust was distributed exist? 

In 1966 California, would a notice have been posted in a  newspaper to allow the heirs time to contact the Bank, or would it have been the Bank's obligation to locate all living heirs? 

Does anyone from California know if BofA has an archives where these documents might reside? 

Would there be ANY court records of this transaction, either when the Trust was originally enforced after 9 July 1956 or after the death of the first beneficiary in 1965? (Note: Orange and L.A. Probate records were checked and no record was found.)

Am I EVER gonna get my hands on any evidence from Estella's estate?

STELLA!!!!!!!  STELLA!!!!!!!

08 July 2013

Madness Monday - It's a Mad and Fearless Birthday!!

Happy birthday, Auntie Lou! God knows we're a tough lot, and you've shown that to us in so many ways over the years. I love you, and hope that you have many more birthdays. 
(all photos courtesy of L C Lorenzana 2013)


  My Aunt Lou is crazy. You know, the cuckoo-for-coconuts kinda wacky that used to only get whispered about when trying to figure out how to care for a relative who'd lost their mind. Of course, it's only been a few decades since people with developmental disabilities, like Down Syndrome, have been acknowledged as not being 'touched.' Menopausal women were institutionalized. The amount of misinformation regarding mental health issues is still staggering, and even today in 2013, diseases of the mind are still spoken about in many families in whispered undertones. Mental illness is truly nothing to laugh about. And yet, if my paternal aunt taught me one thing, it's to speak your mind. Whole or not. 

And, just to be clear, I have several friends with kids with Down's. They're beautiful, bright, amazing kids. Check out the National Association for Down Syndrome for more information.  And, my mom suffers from Alzheimers. There's nothing worse than watching your loved one slowly slip away. But in my family, we choose to use humor to discuss subjects that are 'uncomfortable' so if you're offended by those who do that, you're probably going to want to not read this. Because my family is nuts. Really.

My paternal aunt, Marilou Cosgrove, was born on 8 July 1929 in Chicago, IL[1]. Her mother, Flo ("Florence") Margot Leatherman, and father, James Patrick Cosgrove, were not married at the time she was born[2], though to my knowledge that was not widely known. She never married.

There is so much I’d like to say about this incredible woman, but it’s difficult to know what’s true and what’s not. The photographs capture a seemingly happy-go-lucky person, and I’ve come to believe that she was anything but that. I last saw my aunt nearly five years ago when our family had to make the decision to force her to move into a long-term healthcare facility. She had become a danger to others and herself, allowing her apartment to be emptied (we don’t know by whom or why) while she kept detailed logs of the comings and goings of certain types of people in her inner city building. She believed that several of the men in the building were conspiring against her and were going to try to kill her. She asserted that the Chicago Police had come to her door (in this case they had, but to check out one of her neighbors not her) and told her that she should not have a phone or TV because she would be watched if she did.

She had, several years earlier, vehemently refused to get a cell phone, because it would cause her to get cancer. She also steadfastly refused to use a computer because of the ‘rays’ that emanated from the screen. Without a way to communicate with her (her phone had been disconnected), it’d been weeks since anyone had been able to get in contact with her. Over the course of many years, she slipped from a self-confident, intelligent, loving woman to a paranoid shell of herself. After a call from an extremely concerned friend of hers, a cousin of mine drove into the City and found her, disoriented and living in squalid conditions. She was hospitalized with dreadful wounds in her legs and a generalized infection; she told the nursing staff she’d been poisoned by a particular group of people who lived in her building.

At the point we were all together in her hospital room discussing what was in her best interest (including her in the conversation out of respect) I voiced a concern about how she’d been doing her banking (without a phone or computer, she had always taken her checks to deposit them at the bank and conducted almost all of her business in cash.) She insisted that everything was fine and that she’d managed to get herself to the bank, something all of us had a difficult time believing considering her physical limitations. After I left, my once beautiful and loving Aunt Lou informed my uncle that she was very afraid of the lengths that I would go to find out everything I could about what she had and how she was living and that I was going to try to kill her to get her money (she only received money from her pension; she had a small amount of savings.) After discussing it with the family, I decided that it was in her best interest to simply stop going to see her and I have not seen her since. 

The last time I spoke to my cousin about Aunt Lou, she was doing “much better” and seemed a lot more herself. She has even started asking about me and my husband, who she always loved and respected. I don’t know if I’m going to go and see her; I worry doing so may cause her to once again think I want to harm her. And the last thing I want is for her to be afraid. Because, to me, she was always fearless.

[1] State of Illinois Department of Public Health, Birth Certificate, [redacted], Marilou Cosgrove; Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, Illinois.
[2] Cook County [IL] Clerk, Marriage Certificate, No. 2251975, 21 November 1952, James Cosgrove and Florence M Leatherman; County Clerk Bureau of Vital Statistics, Chicago, Illinois.

07 July 2013

Sentimental Sunday - Expectations, DNA, Lineage & FGS 2013

Expectations are a funny thing: they can be your best or worst friend. I didn't realize how much I relied on my Expectations until they not only became my worst friend but an enemy worthy of homicidal thoughts. It got to the point where every time one of my ‘little’ Expectations came to fruition, a cascade of Negativity pushed me down and rolled me around in the dirt until I was bruised and bleeding.  I just wasn't going to stand for that kind of treatment anymore, so I killed off Expectation. I learned to live with a ‘meh’ attitude about things: if it was good, I braced myself for the bad; if it was bad, I just accepted that that was how Life was supposed to be.  It wasn't the smartest thing, but I got by.

I’m not sure when my fight came back; when I decided that I was tired of eating dirt and tasting blood. But I remember thinking that maybe if I resurrected Expectation, in the smallest of ways, that maybe I could start impacting the Future in a good way. The reality is, I realized, that you can’t be Disappointed without Expectation but you also can’t be Happy living in the World of Meh.

So, little by little, I started to put my Expectations back together. Like Dr. Frankenstein, I pulled together a rag-tag bunch of mismatched parts, halfheartedly expecting the worst while hoping for the best. This experiment was not without its epic failures, including a not-so-long-ago experience that left me once again dusting myself off and reaching for the Bactine. The difference was that *I* was the one who controlled how hard I fell because I was the one who brought those Expectations back to Life. If they turned on me now, Frau Ich had only herself to blame and accepted that responsibility entirely.

Fortunately, it would appear that my newly enlivened Expectations are significantly smaller and gentler, so when and if they do go awry, they’re still on a firm leash and can’t go on a rampage destroying everything in their path. The only surprises, hopefully and with fingers crossed, will be when they actually bring what I, er, expect. We’ll see.

Who knew that 23andme would open up so many opportunities to connect with potential relatives? After having my own DNA tested last year there was nada. After my Mom’s test came in, I received only one or two inquiries. After my Dad’s test came in last month: holy schmokes!! I've had a deluge of cousins contacting me to connect with two specific branches of my dad’s family: LEATHERMAN and BARNES. It’s so great to have the need to work on lines I've never really researched before and that I’m finding are rich with characters, intrigue and scandal. I’d expect (heh) no less from my Dad’s family.

Amanda Barnes and Daniel Beightler with family c. 1890
 (Photo courtesy private collection of L C Lorenzana 2013) 

I’m going to be spending the rest of this month working on several lineage society applications that I've had languishing for over a year. If nothing else, I want to get my OGS and Hamilton County OGS applications in for First Families, since Hamilton County Genealogical Society is celebrating their 40thAnniversary this year! That’s right…if you’re in Ohio or have Ohio roots, check out the Hamilton County Chapter of OGS. They’re the Awesome and the fact that they've been around 40 years shows how dedicated they are to supporting the genealogical community.

Have you been under a rock? If so, then you haven’t heard that the Federation of Genealogical Societies is having their 2013 Conference in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Why in the heck would they want to hold this important annual event in Ft. Wayne?! Well, because the Allen County Public Library is there, silly!! Check out the conference and library links for awesome information and to register for the August 21 -24 events. Because you know you want to go. You do. Want to GO!!