In Honor of Veteran’s Day

Today, the world remembers the end of World War I. Although no veterans or civilians are with us to recall the atrocities, the record of their experiences lives on through letters, diaries and recordings. I am in possession of a collection of letters and wanted to mark the 100th anniversary by sharing one with you.

With the United States Congress declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917, 2.8 million American men were soon to be drafted to serve in what was then called “The Great War.” Hoosier born George Bryant Harbaugh, a 22-year-old Deputy Sheriff with the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in Gary, Lake County, Indiana, was sent to Camp Taylor, Kentucky for basic training. Army Private George left behind his sweetheart, Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson, a 21-year-old Mother’s Helper living in Miller, (now Gary), Indiana.

Elsie saved every letter and postcard received from George. Only 3 letters from Elsie to George survive. The following is a scan and transcript of the letter detailing his experiences when the Armistice was called on November (11) 11th at 11 AM:

ON ACTIVE SERVICE
WITH THE
AMERICAN RED CROSS
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

NAME
Geo B Harbaugh D

Infantry
U.S. Army.
Dec. 16, 1918
Allerey, France

My Dearest Elsie.-

Your most welcome letter of Nov. 17 received about an hour ago and I can’t tell you how tickled I was to get it. I am expecting a lot more soon for the last one I got before this was dated Aug. 24 so I must have lots more somewhere. I expect though, that they are at Tours at the Central Office and I’ve notified them of where I am so maybe they will reach me after awhile

You ask when you may expect me back. That is hard to tell. We may leave here tomorrow and may be here a month yet. My Division the 28th , is in the Army of Occupation and is in Luxemburg I believe, but they say we can’t get back to our old companies anymore but are to go in Casual Companies and go home but just how soon, we don’t know. But I think I’ll be back before March and when I get to New York, I’ll send you a telegram about when you can expect me.

I’m sure anxious to get back and I’m sure we can be nicely settled in that little cottage of Ours before next winter. I’m glad you got the money all right as I didn’t get to see the chaplain after I gave it to him. You see, we got paid off one day and we went into battle in a couple of days. I didn’t know what might happen so I thought it best to send it to you. I’ve got 5 months’ pay here now and if I get it before coming back, I’ll send it to you as I don’t want to spend it over here. I wanted you to get something for your Xmas, though.

So, you are looking for a house for us, are you? ha. ha. The place below Gertie would be fine. I didn’t suppose you would tell Gertie our happy secret but my only regret is that you haven’t the ring, too. So Gertie was willing to have us for neighbors, was she? Tell her for me that when Bob and I get together there will be some stories to hear. I never heard where any of the other Miller boys were, but Bob was in the 26, or “Yankee Division”, from the New England states and the 28th was from Pa. We relieved the 26 Div. on July 25 and they went to St Mihael, then Argonne Forest so I never got a chance to see Bob. I hope he came through the war all right.

You speak of getting a letter from Ed Lemert. Yes, Dear, he’s an awful good friend of mine and is almost as much as a brother. I wrote to him quite often but I haven’t wrote for several weeks so guess I will write tonight. I expect lots of my letters get lost but there was times it was impossible to write for a week or two at a time. Conditions here are not what you folks imagine they are. I haven’t saw any real American Y.M.C.A. huts and as for a Y.M.C.A entertainment for the Infantry at least, is something unheard of. I believe there is a nice Y.M.C.A.in Paris but we aren’t allowed there.

I haven’t heard from Raymond Clemons since about Aug 1 and I believe I’ll have to write and see if he’s still alive. I’ll have to write to Mrs. Clemons, too, I guess. The 111th Regt. lost lots of men at Chateau Therrey. The Huns used liquid fire on them and that is horrible. We got gas, shells, grenades and machine gun fire but the 112th never got any liquid fires used on us. Did you ever get the letter I sent that had a little pressed pansy in? I picked it in the city of Fismes and the Germans were shelling it to beat the band. We had two companies of our regiment captured there but they sure did pile up the dead Huns before they were overpowered.

Guess you must have had a grand time Nov. 11 from the clippings you sent. We did here. They have a bulletin board and on Nov. 11 it read “At 4 P.M raise H-l and I guess they did. I was in bed yet then but we sure yelled 4 P.M here would be about 6 A.M. back there. Bells all over France rang and everybody was happy, believe me. I’ve only been here 7 months but that seems an awful long time but the other Allies have had 52 months of it so they sure was cause to rejoice.

Well, Pres. Wilson got a big reception when he came here and if it wouldn’t have been for the Yank soldiers. He would never have come to France for it would have all been Germany by now. But that will wait till I get back. I won’t tell you too much else; I can’t tell you anything new when I get back.

Well, I will have to close, Dearest, if I am to write another letter tonight so I’ll close hoping I may get more of your ever welcome letters real soon.

With Oceans of Love and Kisses and hoping I’m back with you by Feb. 22.

Your Own and Always,

George

Convalescent Camp
A.P.O. 785
G .Company

A.J. Bruggeman
(unreadable)

I am currently compiling the letters into an eBook with the working title, Thanks to the Yanks – World War I Letters from a Soldier Boy to his Sweetheart.

Haunted Rose Cemetery

Branch found behind my car between 10-10:45 AM on 11/3/18

I actually planned on writing about an awesome find by using an index that happened to me while I was researching last weekend but an event just occurred that I must get out of my mind.

On this beautiful cool fall morning, a World War 1 Centennial Commemoration service was scheduled at Rose Cemetery in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I typically don’t attend these types of ceremonies because my schedule doesn’t allow it but I got an email message from a neighborhood list that I’m a member of Thursday afternoon apologizing for the late notice and something just made me want to go. I’m not sure if it was because it was an Eagle Scout dedication for installation of a memorial stone and flag pole that piqued my interest since my children had achieved both Eagle and Gold Award in the past. Earning those recognitions are a major accomplishment for a busy teen and I well remember all the work that was involved. I’ve been working on a book about my husband’s grandfather in World War 1 for the last few years and my goal had been to get it epublished this year but life got in the way of that happening; the ceremony’s tie in to a project I’m working on was definitely a draw. I also always wanted to visit historic Rose Cemetery, the African American burial site in my region, but every time there was a clean up planned I had to be elsewhere.

Last evening at dinner I told hubby my plans of attending the event. He was going to be helping out a family member prep for painting. I arrived about 5 minutes before the ceremony was to begin. As it’s an old fashioned cemetery – you drive on the grass and park on the grass, I parked in the closest space next to the table set up for volunteers for a local club who were going to perform some maintenance after the event. I walked a short distance to where others were gathered for the ceremony.

Towards the end, hubby called telling me he needed the garage door opener I had in my car for the family member he was helping as he couldn’t access the house without it. He asked where I was parked and I gave him directions. The ceremony ended minutes later so I quickly called him to make other arrangements for him to get the opener as I didn’t want him to try to pull in when the dignitaries that had just spoken were pulling out. There’s only one path and if someone is driving the “wrong” direction the only way to get out is to drive backwards which I didn’t want anyone to have to do as it’s a curve with stones close to the edge. He told me he hadn’t left home yet so I told him I’d deliver the opener.

I had just hung up and was walking fast when I noticed a late attendee had parked parallel to the road directly behind me. There was room for me to pull out but just barely. As I walked into the dirt drive I noticed the branch pictured above gently laid between my car and the late attendees. Now there are lots of trees and we had a cold front come through yesterday bringing severe weather – a tornado had hit to the north and south of us and 60,000 people had lost power – so a fallen branch was not unusual. What was weird was the faded plastic flowers that appeared to be gently placed adjacent to the limb where it had broken from the tree. This did not look like a random fall of a tree branch. It had landed right smack in the middle of the small dirt drive and the flowers were standing upright as if someone had planted them in the dirt. There were no loose leaves or sticks. There was no obvious place in the tree above where the branch had broken off. In this small space of just a little over the width of a car, the branch had fallen without touching either car. The plastic flowers were not stuck in the leaves so yesterday’s wild winds did not blow them up into the boughs. The flowers were standing straight up as you’d normally see a bouquet with the metal stems stuck in the dirt at the end of the broken limb. It made me shiver.

I looked around and there were two women standing by the table talking. They were oblivious to the limb. How they had not hear it fall was beyond me. I didn’t think to take a picture. I thought to get out of there but I could only do that if I removed the branch. I reached down and picked up the flowers with one hand and dragged the branch over to rest beside my car and the table. Both women watched me but said nothing. I said, “This was weird, the branch and these flowers were right behind my car and I couldn’t back up. At this point, the late attendee and her husband arrived and she asked where the branch was. I pointed to the empty space between our cars. She said, “That wasn’t there a few minutes ago.”

Even stranger, although the marks where I dragged the branch were visible in the dirt, there was no impression made as you would expect when a heavy branch fell onto dirt. It simply looked like it had been gently laid there.

The women at the table just shook their heads. Now it’s a well known story in my town that this place is haunted. You can read about some of the happenings here and here and here. You an also check out YouTube for more info. None of us wanted to say ghost but it was clearly what we were all thinking. I said, “It’s okay, weird things happen to me all the time.” One lady walked away and the other just stared at the branch. I didn’t want to offend anyone as the place I put the branch was the closest empty space but it wasn’t a good location since many of those who had been at the ceremony were going to be arriving at the table and the branch would be in the way. There just wasn’t anywhere else to put it. The table lady just looked at me and said, “Things happen here.” I replied, “I understand, I’m a genealogist and I’ve had many strange things happens to me when I visit cemeteries of my family members.” But I have no family members, to my knowledge, buried in Rose Cemetery and I’ve visited lots of cemeteries over the years and have not had anything odd happen. I have no idea why what I said even popped out of my mouth. I was blabbering. “I’m just going to leave the branch there,” I said. She nodded a yes.

I got in my car and took the picture as I drove away. All I wanted to do was go home and take a shower. I’m thinking that comes from an old family tradition; my grandmother always entered the house after a cemetery visit refusing to speak to anyone until she went to the kitchen sink and washed her hands. I asked her about it once and she said it was just a family custom to wash the spirits away. I’ve never felt the need to do that but today I did.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to Rose Cemetery. Maybe my mind is just making a mountain out of a mole hill. This past week was Halloween, All Saints and All Soul’s days. I’d like to think that perhaps those holidays were influential and made me lose my rational side.

I just would like to understand how a large branch can suddenly appear on the ground with plastic flowers upright and no one saw or heard anything. Strange, indeed.

A Creepy Weird Family Story


Every October I like to blog about a family story passed down to me that I consider spooky. The odd thing about the story I’m about to tell is that I can find NO DOCUMENTATION to support the facts. Zero – Nada – Zilch! Since this occurred in my lifetime I find the lack of proof frustrating and a little strange. You’ll see why at the end of the tale.

I come from a large extended family on my maternal side. My grandmother, Mary Kos Koss, was the family matriarch who loved to entertain which greatly contributed to people keeping in close contact with each other. After her death on 5 Jun 1985, the relatives, for the most part, lost touch with each other. I witnessed the retelling of this story in the presence of my mother and grandmother from the individual it happened to and they are all now deceased. One of my aunts also had knowledge of the event, along with two of my cousins. My aunt is deceased and I have lost touch with my two cousins.

Here’s what I recall…

On school days as a child, I awoke every morning at 7 AM so that I wouldn’t be tardy to school which began at 8 AM. I lived a block from my elementary school and about 6 blocks from my high school so the walk was quick unless the snow was deep. During my late middle and high school years, my mother worked a few blocks from our home and also had to be at work at 8 AM. She liked to listen to the radio and catch the 7 AM news report that included the weather report because weather was fickle in our area; a warm morning could change to snow dusting by afternoon.

While mom was listening to the radio in her bedroom I was getting dressed in mine. I heard her shriek and I quickly came out to find out what was the matter. She was running down the stairs to the first floor, something I rarely witnessed, so I ran after her. My grandmother was in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee and toast. Mom ordered my grandmother to turn on the kitchen radio. Mom never ordered anyone to do anything so this was strange, indeed.

Grandma got up from the table and turned the radio on but all that played was big band music. My mother reached over and changed channels but my mom couldn’t find whatever she was looking for. After stopping at several stations she turned the dial off and told my grandmother that the news reported that there had been a plane crash at the home of George Kos. My grandmother paled.

George was my grandmother’s only son. He lived a short distance from us in a small home he had purchased after his second divorce. At the time, Uncle George worked for US Steel as a laborer. As was typical, his work schedule varied; days, nights or midnights as the three shifts were commonly called. We didn’t know what shift he had been assigned so we didn’t know if he had been in the house when the plane hit.

Grandma immediately dialed his landline phone number but it was out of service. I suggested we call the news room for further information. While I looked up the number in the phone book, my grandmother tried to reach another of her daughters who lived in the area. No one answered. My mother called the radio station but no one answered, probably because the office didn’t open until 8 AM. My grandmother then called the police station; she was informed that there was no information to disclose. I remember thinking we should call the hospitals but I kept that thought to myself. Grandma called my aunt again and still there was no answer. It was now about 7:25 AM and the adults decided they would drive to George’s home to see if he was there. My mother told me to get my shoes on and as we were heading out the door, the phone rang. My aunt told my grandmother they had just been awoken by the phone and figured we had called. George was safe and had slept the night at her house.

I was glad Uncle George was fine but certainly disappointed I had to go to school that day. My aunt told my grandmother George was going to sleep in and meet with the insurance agent that afternoon but they’d all be over for dinner that evening.

Over dinner that night, Uncle George said he after he had gotten home from the day shift, he showered and turned the television on. He had fallen asleep in the living room and was dreaming that his grandmother, Anna Grdenic Kos, was shaking him. Anna had died on 14 Feb 1966 and had doted on George in his youth. Granny, as we called her, was whispering in his ear and shaking him to get up and get out of the house right away. In his dream, George told Granny he was tired and needed to sleep but she was insistent that he rise and leave. He awoke, startled. The dream had seemed so real. As he sat in the armchair, he could still hear her voice in his head telling him to go now. He arose, grabbed his truck keys and wallet and decided he needed a drink at the local bar. He was there when the plane crashed into his home. The living room had been destroyed. He believed Granny had saved his life. We all believed it, too.

I’m foggy about the exact time period the event occurred. It happened after Granny’s death in early 1966 and before I met my husband in 1972. A cousin had lived in George’s home after her marriage and at the time of my grandfather’s death in 1970 as I stayed with her while my grandfather was dying. I don’t recall my grandfather being at the dinner table when Uncle George told us his dream so I’m inclined to think this happened in 1971 or early 1972 as my cousin had relocated from the area and George would have returned to the house. But if Gramps had been there, it could have occurred between 1967-1969.

Now here’s the frustrating part with the records. We used to get the local newspaper, the Gary [Indiana] Post Tribune but I don’t recall an article about the crash. My family were newspaper clippers so I would think I would have inherited the story but I have not. Sometime during this time period, we did purchase the Chicago Tribune instead so that could be why I don’t have a clipping. I wanted to check the Gary Post but those years are not online. The newspaper had changed ownership and those years are missing. The local library has been closed due to funding cuts. On to the next record –

I know my Uncle’s address as I do have a US Public Records Index from 1987 listing it. (The house was rebuilt and he continued to live there until he retired and moved from the area.) I tried to search property records but the city claims they have given the records to the county who claims the city did not do so. I was hoping the property records could show when my uncle purchased it to narrow the earlier dates and possibly, to show when permits were pulled to rebuild. Onward with the search –

I have no relatives to help me recall the dates further. Next –

Could not find the event online, although there are several websites that record plane crashes in Indiana. Some do not go back into the 1970’s; those that do have missed it.

Trying to think outside the box, I thought of possibly contacting the present owners but the street view of Google from 2013 (above) shows the house was abandoned. The living room was the front window on the right.

For now, I have no proof of the event. As the only surviving witness to the story, I wanted to record it. Perhaps someday the missing records and newspaper story will surface to add support to the my tale. Even if documents are never found, I will continue to take heed of dreams involving my ancestors. I just wish they’d tell me the winning lottery numbers!

Volunteer at a Family History Day


Yesterday was a beautiful crisp fall day (okay, that would be by Florida standards) and our county genealogy society’s semi-annual community help day. Ten of us volunteered to assist and we were busy for 6 hours with no break. That’s awesome! Clearly there is a growing interest in genealogy and I met several people who shared delightful stories of their family and had burning questions needing answers.

If you contemplated becoming a volunteer at a genealogical event but feared you couldn’t because you weren’t a professional genealogist you’re sadly mistaken. That old saying “Two heads are better than one” is a classic example of why you would be helpful. Here’s some tips for first time volunteers:

Be prepared as time is limited. I always arrive early so my work area is ready. My society furnishes plenty of extension cords but yours may not. I bring my research baggie (see Research Tips), laptop with power cord, Kindle, and pad of paper. Make sure an empty chair is set up next to yours for the visitor. As soon as I’ve brought my computer up, I set up tabs with various sites (Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Fold3, NewYorkFamilyHistory, AmericanAncestors, FindMyPast, Findagrave, BillionGraves, Google) and login so I can go from one to the other quickly. As soon as one visitor is done I just need to clear the search engine and I’m ready for the next.
Connections are everywhere! The first two people who came for assistance didn’t know each other but their families evidently did back in Martinsville, West Virginia as they lived there at the same time in the late 1800’s. Strange that they were researching the same place and both came in within minutes of each other. If you overhear similarities play matchmaker! It’s an especially good technique for newbies to meet someone researching the same region even if it isn’t the same family. Think the “N” in FAN Club.
Patience is key. Many of the folks seeking help have no understanding that genealogy is a painstaking process. All they know is what they see on TV – instant family and travel across the pond. After introductions, I immediately say, “I hope I’m able to get you started on answering your family question. In real life, genealogy isn’t done in a one hour time slot. If we aren’t able to find the information online, I’ll give you additional resources where you can follow up.” Sometimes I have to remind them again when the online clues are scant.
Don’t take their disappointment as a personal failure. Yesterday, I spoke with two community people that had been referred to me because the prior genealogist couldn’t find the information they sought. After giving them my Patience is Key disclaimer, I asked what sources the prior researcher had checked and both said, “I don’t know. Just look again because they didn’t see it online.” This may sound silly but it really isn’t as it’s coming from people whose internet experience is limited. We’ve all used the refresh button and discovered an updated page. Of course, that isn’t going to happen on Chronicling America but they wouldn’t know that. I explain that I trust the prior researcher didn’t miss the obituary or emigration information minutes ago as not all info we seek is online. I then ask the prior researcher where he/she looked. I then check other places and make a list for the person to follow up on in the future. Because she didn’t get the obituary she wanted, one person stated she was done with genealogy forever. Okay, that’s her choice as this isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t make you feel your skills are inadequate.
Skill levels will vary. Be prepared to meet people that may have had more experience than you and folks that have never done any research. After introductions and my disclaimer, I ask what information they are seeking. The advanced will have a specific question, research logs and copies of documents. Several club members told me they paled when they saw other long term club members coming in for assistance as the volunteers felt they couldn’t possibly be of help to someone who had more experience then they did. Hogwash! Genealogy is not a spectator sport. All you need to do is listen to what the person wants to discover and where they’ve looked. Sure, sometimes the answer isn’t going to be found but there’s often an overlooked place just waiting to be discovered. For the individual seeking emigration information I recommended checking newspapers for Philadelphia for the late 1700’s bringing in indentured servants from Great Britain. Will it have her several times great grandfather’s name included? Probably not but it will give her more places to check as the immigration list for that particular ship may not have been digitized yet and she very well could find her ancestor listed on the original filed in an archive somewhere. She was quite happy with being pointed in a new direction.

These five simple tips can help you help others. I find it rewarding to share the genealogy bug and learn something from every person I meet. Give it a try!

Ancestry Ghost Hints

It’s October and my surroundings are beginning to look creepy with Halloween quickly approaching. One thing that greatly disturbs me more than the skeletons and witches on every corner is my Ancestry.com ghost hints.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, a ghost hint is the term used for those pesky hints that were once available and no longer are. There are several reasons for their occurrence – an individual may have uploaded media and then removed it or made it private or Ancestry may have discontinued the database for the hint.

Every so often I go through the hints as sometimes I miss a new database that Ancestry has added and the hints can give me some information I may have missed. The ghost hints, though, remain and give a false number of the hints that are available. I’ve clipped below the grayed out hints that appear on my All Hints page:

As you can see above, there are 7 and all of them are records. When I look at the hint counter, however, it shows that I have 14 hints, 8 of which are records and 6 that are photos.

Clicking on Records or Photos just gives me the message ” You currently have no photo hints for Reset filter to see all hints ”

Also, look at the count over the leaf of 99+ on the upper right corner. I don’t have over 99 hints as I actually have zero. That count has stayed the same even after leaving the program and signing on a different computer the following day.

This lack of accuracy scares me; how many other data counts are off that we aren’t aware of? How do we know that filtering we set when doing a search is correct?

Ghost hints aren’t a new phenomena; I first noticed them in June a few years ago and when I called Customer Service was informed the problem must be on my end with cache in my computer. Yeah, sure. The following May, at an NGS Conference, I asked one of the Ancestry reps about the situation as my ghost inhabitants had grown. He explained the reasons which I mentioned in my first paragraph and said the company was working on cleaning up the problem by periodically doing a refresh. The problem is the refresh does not work for all the hints as I’ve had the 7 above for YEARS.

I’d really love for Ancestry to stop being a ghost host and send these phantoms to parts unknown.

Why Sharing Your DNA is Important

There has been much controversy lately regarding law enforcement’s use of DNA results from public sites to solve crimes. I’ve even had a Client who requested the removal of results due to media coverage. Here’s my top five reasons to keep your DNA public:

You’re reconnecting with close family that may hold the key you otherwise wouldn’t ever uncover
You’ve gained collaborators who care about the line you’re interested in learning more about
You gain health information that you otherwise wouldn’t obtain so you can make better lifestyle changes, if needed, to enhance your quality of life
By sharing your information, you’re being altruistic in helping others
You’re leaving a footprint for future genealogists
I understand the cons. No one likes to snitch on family but the real truth is that withholding your DNA results is not going to alter people who make poor choices need to make restitution for their actions. The serial killers who have recently been outed continued to make bad choices that negatively affected others. If DNA results had been available years ago, think of how many families would not have suffered the loss of a loved one.

My long time readers will know from past blogs that my family has made some really awful choices – abusive behavior and law breaking readily come to mind – and I’ve found that other families I’ve researched have a few bad apples or black sheep, too. All humans share DNA, obviously some more closely than others. Just because you share DNA genetically with someone who committed a crime does not make you more likely to do the same. Hiding your DNA is not going to change their actions at all.

No one appreciates Big Brother nosing in on you and your loved ones. A few nights ago, however, the importance of using technology to catch a criminal was really driven home to me. Because their is currently an open police investigation I’m going to be vague in details. Suffice it to say that we were able to possibly prevent a future homicide due to a Fitbit, security cameras and a cell phone record. Giving up a little bit of privacy for the common good of a community is the right thing to do.

If you’re thinking about removing your public results, seriously think again. The information you withhold may save a life.

Lineage Society Application Tips


Most of my client work this past summer has been for assistance in joining a lineage society. The reasons for the interest varied; one elderly gentleman wanted to give memberships to grandchildren as holiday gifts, several had affiliating with an organization on their bucket list and decided the time was right to pursue membership, and a few wanted to memorialize an ancestor.

In most of the cases of the clients who contacted me, they didn’t need much help. They actually didn’t need me at all which I told them. Joining a lineage society is not difficult although some have more stringent requirements than others in validating the provided evidence.

If you’re thinking of joining, you will first need to establish a relationship from yourself to the ancestor who would qualify for the society. That means, proving you’re connected to your parent and your parent is connected to your grandparent and so on until you reach the qualifying ancestor. For most people, obtaining vital statistics aren’t difficult; they just require completing a form, submitting payment and being patient to wait for the document to arrive. Creativity comes into play when the ancestor lived prior to required vital records being available. In those cases, church, Bible, cemetery, immigration, pension, and wills might be used to prove the relationship.

If you have a known relative who is a member of the lineage society you wish to join, most of your work is already done for you. All you need to do is prove your connection to the member.

What seemed to be my clients’ biggest hurdle was in following the direction of the society’s application. One individual told me he had once had a high security clearance for his job and that paperwork was simple compared to a state lineage society application. If this is your roadblock, here’s some tips to get the job done:

1. Make sure your ancestor meets the society’s requirements. This sounds silly but it isn’t. If you’re trying to join a county Pioneer Program, for example, your ancestor must have lived in that county during the years the program stipulates. Boundaries change and that may make your forefather ineligible. West Virginia was once part of Virginia, Pinellas County in Florida was once part of Hillsborough County. Check out the area’s history before beginning will save you time and money.

2. Make a copy of the application and use a pencil to print the information it requests. This way, you can eliminate the worry of a web fill in the blank document not saving and you can have a hard copy to verify each connection. It’s much simpler to have all the information on one handy dandy form to type into the society’s online application than to try to flip pages of all your proof documents to find the required data and input it at the same time.

3. I recommend checking off each name, date and location that you recorded on the hard copy application by looking back at the record used. For example, if the birth certificate states the name is Mary Ellen then that name should be recorded on the application and not Elle, the individual’s nickname. Nicknames should be included if they are found in official documents. I had a several times great grandmother that completed a War of 1812 widow’s pension under her nickname, Polly. Her birth name was Mary. She was illiterate and didn’t sign the pension application but Mary and Polly were used interchangeably on the document. In situations like this, I would write Mary Polly on the application.

4. If you have questions as you complete the form, simply email the society’s contact person. In most cases, they will be helpful as a good society values new members. My opinion, if they aren’t helpful then why would you want your ancestor’s name affiliated with them?! Save yourself grief and memorialize in a different way.

5. When you submit the application, make sure you’ve kept a copy as there may be a question or two and you can readily have your own set to refer to as you respond to the question.

I have found that awaiting confirmation of membership is often a slow process so patience is required. Most societies are composed of volunteer members so your application is reviewed around their spare time.

Not sure what lineage societies are available? Check out this Wiki list. Warning – that is not a complete list as many more societies are available. Contact historical and local genealogical societies for additional opportunities.

Add Death Cleaning to Your Genealogical Toolbox


I’m sure my faithful readers are wondering why my posts have been scant lately. The summer has just been a whirlwind! Travel, family stuff and work have kept me away from this blog. I’m happy to report that the past month I’ve been doing my own version of Swedish death cleaning.

If you aren’t sure you know what that is, check out this older NBC article. I’m not planning on dying any time soon but the opportunity presented itself (pre death as an opportunity, hmmm) for me to unload many family treasures that have been held on to for generations and pass them along to a younger family member that is interested in them. Hoorray!

It’s a mixed blessing seeing these items go. Holding the old recipes cards of long deceased female family members in my hand always stirred in me that connection of past to present as I prepared a much loved family dish. I’ll miss that but I’m happy to know that not only the past and present are at play with this decision to pass them along, the future is also impacted and that’s awesome from a genealogist’s point of view!

I just began this process so I’ll be engaged in it for a few more weeks. This pace is perfect for me and my genealogy. I’ll be reanalyzing some of my documents as these cherished objects are looked at one more time. For example, we have some old Bibles in German from the 1800’s. Using the copyright date helps be determine the extent of German language usage by the family member who owned it. I know who owned it because of the name recorded on the front page. No, there is no record in the Bible of births/deaths/marriages so this won’t help me with family connections. Why the German language connection is important at a particular time period is because it will help me perhaps discover additional information in a local German newspaper that normally wouldn’t come up through a Chronicling America search. I can also explore churches in the area that had a service in German since I’ve been unable to find church records for that person. Thinking outside the box with a find can help you discover a wealth of valuable information and insights into an ancestor.

Some items I just can’t part with yet so I’ve placed a label on the bottom of the item with who it originally belonged to so when I really am dead, my family doesn’t have to guess as to what items are historical and what isn’t. Maybe I’ll part with those before my death but just in case, they are identifiable.

So as you enjoy your last beach weekend or cookout of the summer, I’ll be happily going through my treasures and creating a new treasure chest for a loved one. Kind of like being a nice pirate!

A Loss for Tampa Bay


The John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa, Florida holds one of the largest genealogical collections in the southeast United States. I visit often and have always found the staff to be professional and helpful. Last month, my visit there saddened me.

I planned to drop off some donated books and as it was thundering, decided to park in the adjoining parking garage. It was mid-day and the lot was just about filled. I thought I was lucky to find one of the few remaining spots on the top floor. I took the elevator to the tube that joins the garage with the library. When I approached the library doors I was shocked to find them boarded up. I guessed that the facility was being renovated. I walked a level down and then half way around the block to enter from the front. Stopping at the information desk, I asked for the acquisition clerk who was expecting me. “I’ll have to take you up because the elevator needs a key for that floor,” was the response. I thought that was odd but with security as it is these days, I wasn’t too surprised.

On the way up I chatted with the staff member about the reason for my donation. When we arrived on the 4th floor, she accompanied me to another information desk. I turned over the materials and then stated I was going to spend the next hour in the Genealogy Department doing some research. Both staff members looked at each other and one finally responded, “This is the Genealogy Department.” Now I was terribly confused. I’ve been visiting this library for over 40 years and the Genealogy Department has always been in the annex and not in the main building.

Evidently, in June, with little notice, the City of Tampa who owned the annex decided that the library must vacate the building. The Genealogy Department was relocated to smaller quarters on the 4th floor of the main building. That floor once held the Administration Department which is why the elevator only stopped there with a special access key.

I understand progress but I’m dismayed that the City decided to relocate this genealogical gem because THEY’RE SELLING THE PROPERTY TO BUILD APARTMENTS. Now if housing was in such a shortage in the Tampa Bay area I could perhaps see the reasoning for the decision but as it is, there is much vacant land adjacent to downtown Tampa just a few blocks away that can be used for apartments. In the past few years, the City has relocated thousands of people as they’ve emptied out public housing high rises. They haven’t even demolished many of those vacant structures that are to be rebuilt for mixed usage someday.

Obviously, the City’s priorities are not the same as mine. Progress is important but not at the expense of the past. The library staff has done a wonderful job on short notice to accommodate the space shortage. Kudos to the library staff; Shame on the City of Tampa’s decision.

The U.S. – A Nation of Immigrants


Although my family lore claimed I had Native American blood, DNA has proven that the legend was not true. I seldom (well, have never) written about current political issues as that is not the point of my blog. That changes today.

If you reside in the United States, you have an ancestor who once emigrated here. You’re probably also a mutt like me – that great melting pot permitting people to marry due to love and not by ethnicity alone has created a wonderful mix of blended cultures, customs and genetics.

I’m blessed that my family has been here awhile. My most recent immigrants were my maternal grandparents, John and Mary Kos[s] who naturalized in the 1940’s. My grandmother visited the Old Country nearly 50 years after she had emigrated here with her parents and was so thankful they had made the difficult journey in her childhood, she promptly kissed the soil when she arrived back in the states. My grandfather had no desire to return, even for a short visit.

Because of my Great Grandparents dream for a better life, they left behind family, friends and belongings to start over. Learning a new language, back breaking work where ever they could find it and facing discrimination because of their ethnicity, religion and acceptance of diversity, my ancestors looked at the positive this country had to offer and steadfastly remained so that their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren could have a better life.

I understand why people from all over the world still attempt to come here. Think back to your family and I’m sure you’ll agree, your forefather’s efforts were worth it.

Due to the present government stance new arrivals have experienced not just a perilous crossing but a breakdown in family structure. I applaud MyHeritage.com for stepping up to help reunify children with their separated families. To my knowledge, no other company has come forward to assist. MyHeritage is providing up to 5,000 free DNA kits to insure that the correct child is returned to the right family. You can read more about their efforts here. Kudos, MyHeritage.com!