Organizing Your Genealogy Documents

Courtesy of Amazon.com

You’ve heard of Marie Kondo and Swedish Death Cleaning. You probably have participated in Spring Cleaning. If you’re like me, you never gave much thought to cleaning and organizing your genealogical treasures.

I originally set up my genealogical documents in paper file folders, all of the same, manilla flavor by surname, and filed the paperwork in a bottom desk drawer. When I first began accumulating paperwork back in the 1980s I didn’t have many pieces of paper so the system worked if I needed a quick retrieval. Those were early computer days – no cell phone and no home internet.

Life has changed dramatically tech wise since then and spilled over to genealogy. You’d think computers would have made fewer papers but I have not found that to be the case. By the mid-1990s I joined America Online and began connecting with distant kin scattered around the world. The family began snail mailing me copies of their records so my manilla file system became stuffed. I moved to color-coded file folders with everyone with the same surname getting the same color folder individualized by the first name. I moved from housing the collection in a desk drawer to a small file cabinet.

The generation older than mine began to pass and younger family members deemed me the archivist so I began to assume more documents. I’ve blogged about receiving boxes left on my doorstep and photos mailed to me. I outgrew the file cabinet and was concerned about how I was historically preserving the items.

I invested in acid-free sleeves to house the growing hoard and in hindsight, should have monetarily invested in the companies that make archival products as I bought loads of them. I moved from file folders to binders that I placed upright on a shelf in my office closet.

As the internet took off so did my collections. I began printing interesting items I discovered with the intent that one day (ah-hem) I’d look into that rabbit hole more closely. I changed emails and decided to print much genealogical-related mail I had received from family members who had passed. All of this went into the binder system.

I continued to organize by surname and then alphabetically by the first name. Women stayed with their maiden name family. This led me to have to make duplicate marriage records to house with both surnames. Ditto for divorce decrees.

I’ve blogged a great deal this year about my ongoing scanning project; I decided in January it was time to clean a closet where I housed items I obtained from my deceased father. After I scanned each photo and a diary I carefully preserved it, boxed it up and placed it in an interior storage area in my home that is high, meaning secure from floods, temperature-controlled, and as dust-free as possible. We have a humidifier and pest control so the items are as safe as possible. Sure, fire and tornadoes could occur which was why I scanned the items before packing them away.

I’m talking here about three boxes of memorabilia and four photo boxes. When I pass, my kids can pitch it all if they like; I can’t bring myself to do that.

The housed items DO NOT INCLUDE the binders. Sigh. I decided to tackle that this week. I had thought most of the contents had been scanned over the years but upon opening the first binder, discovered that wasn’t the case. My heart sunk. So many binders – so little time!

I made the decision to go through each binder this week and scan the vitals (birth/baptism/Bible entry, marriage, death/obit) for everyone that I’ve accumulated. This allows me to see what I’m missing and need to obtain. So far, it doesn’t look like I’ve missed much. After scanning, these items will then be saved in the acid-free sleeves and returned to a binder. Note: 1 binder. I have a pile of other stuff to go through. Enter Swedish death cleaning and Marie Kondo. . .

My kids will not see any value in my email correspondence from 1999 with their dad’s second cousin who they met once. Her memories are important as she is long dead so I’ll scan and attach them to my personal tree. I’ll attach it to the individual she was memorializing and the scanned email serves as the citation. The paper can be recycled. My kids won’t have to dread going through any of this. I will be able to readily find anything anytime anywhere. Except if I can’t.

I’ve mentioned my projects to my friends and they think I’m nuts, though they haven’t said it verbally. I’ve gotten eye rolls, sideways glances, and one vocal doubter of the value of the project. The doubter has validity – what, she mused, is the point if the apocalypse comes? Yes, the world is a hot mess but I’m not preparing for an apocalypse. If only there were scanners available before the Library of Cairo was sacked! My purpose is for my kids to have an easier time going through my stuff after I die. I’m organizing again so I can find items quickly while I’m on my tech. This will be helpful when I venture out into the world again to do boots-on-the-ground research. I’m also at peace knowing that I have a backup to the item in case a disaster does hit my home. Plus, I’ve got lots more space in my closet!

As several dear readers noted earlier this year – make sure if you are scanning that you save to several locations. Mine is stored in Dropbox which I can access from anywhere and will be saved to three stand-alone hard drives. I will retain one and each of my kids will get one. That way, I’m lessening the chance of the information being lost.

I have very few heirlooms and am not quite ready to turn them over to the next generation yet. I’ve put a label on the bottom of two knickknacks, a lamp, and a carved wooden box that notes who the items originally belonged. I’d like those passed along to the next generation and pairing down to so few items makes that doable.

If you are a senior or you live in a disaster-prone area of the world, take the time now to preserve your years of research. Your effort will not be lost and your future family will much appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Tips for Archive Visits

istock.com

Like me, it’s probably been a while since you have visited archives for research purposes. Last week I mentioned I had returned to two local to me archives and I’d provide some tips this week.

You know that old saying, you never forget how to ride a bike. The same goes with researching in archives, however, there is a learning curve to get back to peak performance. I say that after deciding I would resume riding a bike during the pandemic and falling off in the street. I was fine, with a few minor scratches but a driver passing me was panic-stricken thinking he was the cause of my accident. Nope, my cell rang and I was trying to remove it from my pocket while maneuvering around a parked car with an oncoming car headed towards me. Not a brilliant decision!

Last week I found myself in the same euphoric feeling I had when taking my joy ride. It was so awesome to be going back to do boots-on-the-ground research. The anticipation colored reality.

I’m hoping my lessons learned or should I say, re-remembered, will help you when you start traveling again.

  1. Baby Steps First – I recommend you get those boots wet locally before embarking on a cross-country trip. You’ll be ready if you’ve practiced a bit closer to home first. Remember, if you miss something nearby you can always return but not so much if you’re far away.
  2. Pack Smartly – I always took a mid-sized plastic bag to contain my needed supplies so I took it out and thought I was ready to go. I use the see-through bag so archivists can tell I haven’t brought in any banned items – like pens. Pens are a no-no in archives! My bag contains a small magnifying glass, gloves, a small ruler, a few engineering pencils, a tiny notebook, a couple of quarters if I need a snack during a break, small stickees, and a thumb drive. Except, I didn’t check before I went and had removed the post its. I use them to tab pages that I want to copy or photograph. So, I had to take photos as I went through. Not a major issue but it changed my typical process. I also had taken out the thumb drive which I didn’t need at the first archive so I hadn’t realized it was missing until I showed up at the second and could have used it. There is a workaround – email yourself whatever you were going to save to the drive.
  3. Dress Professionally – We’ve been home for years now so we’ve become a tad, how should I put it, too comfortable. We’ve also aged and perhaps put on some pounds so make sure your outfit fits comfortably before the day you’re leaving. I usually wear long pants that are a step up from jeans but not super dressy. I pair it with a short-sleeved top or blouse and bring a business jacket or sweater. Archives are often kept cold to preserve the artifacts. Shivering is not conducive to researching! Side note: You might be mistaken for a staff member due to the way you are dressed; that happened to me twice one day. That validated my outfit was appropriate.
  4. Hydrate – water is usually not permitted so check ahead to see if you can store a bottle in a locker, with a snack if you have blood sugar issues. I didn’t think this would be a problem but my trip lasted longer than I anticipated. I’m still leery of using water fountains and the first archive didn’t have a vending machine.
  5. Call or email to verify what is on the archive’s website. As I mentioned last week, I missed clicking a button that would have taken me to schedule a visit. Since I was the only one there I was permitted to schedule on the spot but if that hadn’t been available, I would have wasted two hours as it was an hour each way from my home. This gets me to think about driving again. You may have just driven on local streets for the last few years and now you’re back on an interstate during rush hour. Taking it slow isn’t an option as people will be changing lanes around you. I witnessed some road rage, thankfully not directed at me. People have become more impatient or perhaps, we just forgot what commuting was like. Just be careful.

Enjoy your archive visit!

A Return to the Archives

Courtesy of ideas.ted.com

I’m calling what happened a two for one. This week, I was able to resume visiting local archives. Oh, what a feeling!

I scheduled a visit with the first archive to review their holdings on a pioneer of my town who I’m writing a journal article about. After spending three hours reviewing the documents I was stymied by one that was a bibliography missing the previous page. I took a note to find the information elsewhere.

Since it’s been a long time since I visited the museum part of the archive I decided to take a look around. One of the docents saw me pondering an exhibit and we got to talking. I mentioned how I was confused by the display as I’d never seen a setup like it was (a barbershop in the same room with a post office in the back and a general store adjacent to the barbershop). He said he thought it was off, too, and said he assumed it was due to space limitations.

One thing led to another and the topic turned to a Super Fund site located in my city. He was knowledgeable as to what had occurred as he had been employed there for 10 years as a chemist. Honestly, I don’t recall many details as I was living in another part of the county when the plant closed so I hadn’t followed the story closely.

The man claimed that the company had followed all federal guidelines and explained the process that had been used to work with the lower grade phosphate; they incinerated it at a high temperature so it would form a softball size structure. He did say that when the plant first opened in the late 1940s that process hadn’t been used and some chemicals had been discharged into the ground. Over the years, he claimed, the company had corrected that problem.

The clincher to the story is that he claimed the company was shut down when a finding of arsenic was discovered when an elementary school across the street from the plant was going to install playground equipment. The company was blamed for the arsenic though they never used it.

I asked how the arsenic possibly got there and he didn’t know. Then it hit me; it was the site of a former sawmill from the late 1800s. Arsenic was used to treat wood to preserve it from insects.

I told the gentleman that I thought he should record his memories of working at the plant but he declined. My take is he was still bitter over his job loss. I decided to blog the story, keeping him anonymous at his request, because there should be a record of his insider view of what occurred.

I discovered after I got home that the missing bibliography page was housed in a book in a university’s special collections department. Two days later I arrived to find the information.

Somehow, when I went online to check holdings I did not see a button that I was now supposed to make an appointment to view the book. Luckily for me, the kind student who was tending the desk helped me so I was able to find the information. Eureka! The page contained a name of an author for a book I had at home that had reported the story I was writing about but added where she had found the information – in an unpublished, undated manuscript held at a museum that was now permanently closed. The author mentioned it was missing when she was seeking it, probably in the late 1960s. So, now I’m on the hunt for a missing manuscript.

While I was at the second archive, the student brought out a book I hadn’t asked to see and said he thought I might be interested in it. I looked through it and got some ideas for future research.

Boots on the ground enabled me to get additional information about topics I might investigate someday. That was value-added that I find well worth the trip.

Asking the Right Genealogical Questions

Courtesy of skiprichard.com

“Ask and you shall receive and your joy shall be complete” (Matthew 7:7) was a Bible quote my mom used often. As a child, I sometimes had a difficult time speaking up to those to that I wasn’t close. When I would come home and complain about an injustice that had occurred at school mom would suggest I communicate what I needed. I would return the next day with a practiced speech; I can’t say speaking up always rectified the situation but it was a valuable life skill to practice.

Side note: When speaking up didn’t work and I’d come home and complain to mom her next response was always, “When you have as much education as your teachers then we’ll listen to you.” In other words, suck it up and move on.

Asking for the right information is critical in genealogy. Years ago, I interviewed my maternal grandmother about her early life. I asked where the family lived when they first moved to Gary, Indiana. She replied, “On the corner of Adams and Ridge Road; we rented the top floor.” It didn’t dawn on me that I should have drilled down further. There are four corners, which corner? What was the address? Rented from who? How long did you live there?

Unfortunately, my family lived in that location between the census years. There are City Directories, however, none mention them, likely because they were renting. Because I didn’t ask the right question I will probably never know the answer.

My husband’s maternal great-grandfather’s obituary states he was a “long-time teacher and principal.” What was the name of the school? Where was it located? What subject did he teach? What grade level did he teach? What years did he teach? When did he become a principal?

I have pieced together some of his work life through the usual means – censuses, City Directories, county school records, and his maternal aunt’s diary, however, there are large gaps. For a time, he worked in a private school that has long since closed. Again, I’ll likely never get a complete picture.

I decided to Spring Clean a document storage bin yesterday and found in a folder with my husband’s name on it that he had submitted several employee suggestions to US Steel in the 1970s. One contained a way to filter the air to reduce pollutants. We’ve been together nearly 50 years and were together when he submitted his idea but I had no idea he had done that. Attached to the idea was the company’s response which I’m sure you won’t be surprised about – they didn’t think it was needed.

Keep these lessons in mind when you embark on interviewing your family members. Better still, make sure you’ve recorded your life events for your descendants. Rummage through your saved documents to jog your memory of events or perhaps, like me, discover new information you already had. Seeing your family this Easter – Passover – Ramadan – is a great time to ask the right questions.

Family History Research – The Backstory of the Document

Clip of 1950 US Federal census

Like me, you were probably interested in exploring the 1950 US Federal census that was unveiled by NARA on April Fools Day. Finding my maternal grandparents, the joke was on me!

Above you can see under Charles and Theresa Bauer, their next-door neighbors, that my family wasn’t found at home by the enumerator. No surprise there since I knew my relatives so well. My mother was still living in the home and she and my grandfather were likely at work.

My grandmother had a weekday routine that never varied. Monday she would rise early and wash clothes in an old wringer Maytag and then hang them outside to dry. By the next census, she had an electric washer and dryer but never used them, preferring the wringer washer until she moved from the home in 1973. Tuesday was baking day. Wednesday was mending day. Thursday was grocery day. Friday was cleaning day until I got older and the task was turned over to me to do on Saturday mornings.

After Non was done with her “job” for the day she would begin cooking dinner. She had a gas stove with a well so whatever she made stayed warm until supper.

As soon as the food was done the rest of the day was hers to enjoy. Unless there was a snowstorm you wouldn’t find her at home. She loved to visit her many friends and shop till she dropped. Occasionally, she would have the “ladies” come over to her home to visit; I know that didn’t happen on 25 April 1950.

My husband knew my grandmother well and when I said, “Guess where Non was on the day of the 1950 census.” he replied, “Not home.” Yep, pretty much.

By looking at the page number I can gauge that my grandparents’ house was not one of the first stops for the enumerator that day. He likely came by after 11:00 AM that Tuesday. If he had come back by 4:30 PM someone would have been home.

Not surprising, my paternal grandmother was home that day and provided the enumerator with the information; my dad and grandfather were at work. She was likely reading when the enumerator stopped by. I’ll never know that for certain but I did know here routines. My husband’s grandparents seem to have been missed. Sigh.

Looks like many people were out and about the day the census was taken. If you find yourself in that situation, don’t despair. Look at the notation after “No one at home.” It refers you to another page (sheet) in that document. All I had to do was go to page 74 to find the information. Remember, the sheet number is in the upper right-hand corner of each page; it is NOT the image number. My image number happens to be 29 of 31. Here’s what I find:

1950 US Federal census – We’re Home!

Surprise, surprise – there is one person I hadn’t expected to find living in the household! Frank Trputec was a boarder. During the Great Depression, my family turned their old farmhouse into a boarding house to make ends meet. I had thought all the boarders had left by 1950 but apparently not.

I vaguely remember Mr. Trputec. I was told he bought my favorite stuffed animal, a spotted dog that would squeak when you pinched his tail, for my first Christmas. It’s the only stuffed animal I ever kept. I remember him coming to parties at my grandparent’s home when I was young. I can still visualize him sitting at the kitchen table next to my grandfather. He was a quiet, gentle, and kind man.

Mr. Trputec, however, was not a “cousin” as listed on the census. Well, not in the genealogical sense. In my family, everyone was considered a cousin. Sure, we’re all related so close friends and neighbors of my family were given the endearing titles of cousins. My grandmother’s closest lady friends were often called, Kuma, Croatian for Godmother. Except they hadn’t been officially deemed as Godmother for my grandparent’s four children by the Roman Catholic Church on any documents I’ve ever found. Likely, they were just good role models for the children growing up. My family really believed in “It Takes A Village.”

Mr. Truputec never married or had children so as he got up there in years, I can understand why he remained in my grandparent’s household. They kind of sort of adopted him. He became pseudo-family.

My point here is that any document we find does not tell the whole story. In 50 years a descendant will look at the 1950 census with a different perspective than I do because they had no intimate background knowledge of the individuals listed. They may wonder why no one was home and how Frank Trputec was related. If they discover he wasn’t related they may think my family was trying to hide that they were renting out a room. His relationship can easily be identified as “lodger” in the 1940 US federal census. In the intervening 10 year time period, he became “family.”

Keep this in mind when you are analyzing documents for the family members you do not know well. Do your future family a favor and write down your interpretation of documents you find for people you know well. There’s often a back story that is just as important as the “factual” documents you discover. Happy Hunting!

Genealogical Fence Mending

I’m not talking about farmers who must mend their fences regularly to insure their livestock and produce remains safe; I’m referring to the idiom regarding improving or repairing a relationship that has been damaged.

This week, I’ve had several situations that could be termed coincidence, synchronicity, or just considered odd. You be the judge.

The first occurred on Sunday when I was researching a pioneer family in my city for possible inclusion on an upcoming cemetery tour that my local historical society will be hosting in the fall. One of my town’s best sources is a work by Gertrude Stoughton who retired here and established the historical society. Her work is thorough and my only recommendation would have been to include footnotes as I often have difficulty tracing her information.

Above you’ll see a clip from a Google search I did to find the McElroy family who established the second drug store in town; their unnamed daughter in Stoughton’s book was purportedly the first female pharmacist in our location and probably the state of Florida.

I had searched for nearly 2 hours and was finding NOTHING about the McElroys; I located a Black family in the southern part of our county who operated a lab but the dates were way later than I was researching. I found a family of that name who once owned a pharmacy in Orlando and thought they may be related but that investigation turned up nothing. In desperation, I decided to just Google “Tarpon Springs” and “drug store.” Lo and behold up pops the clip above. Notice how McElroy is spelled? MCAROY. Hmmm. Clicking the snippet view gave me a completely different excerpt. I have a hard copy so I turned to the glossary to find a McAroy. None listed. Only one page for the McElroy’s. Somewhere, buried in that book was another sentence about the family I was researching. Skimming page after page I discovered it on page 29:

Clearly, McElroy is written and not McAroy. I went back to the online snippet and checked the copyright date of Stoughton’s book. Same as mine. There have been NO updates or newer editions with revisions.

So, tell me, how did the internet show me the correct spelling of the family I was searching when the source it was citing did not have the correct spelling anywhere in the book? Beats me!

Also on Sunday, I sent an email to an acquaintance regarding a lineage society application I had submitted 3 years ago but still had not received a resolution about. The genealogist I had been working with stopped communicating with me in July 2020, I assumed because of the pandemic. I asked my colleague to forward my request for a resolution to whoever was currently involved with that organization. The following day I received an email from the current genealogist. We wrote several exchanges and Tuesday evening, I decided to call him to make sure I was clear on the direction we were going. When I told him who I was on the phone call he replied, “Hi, cousin.” I was stunned. Sure enough, I’ve done a surname study of several family names and he is my cousin from a line I’ve never met in person. Odder still, he lived not far from me for the last 50 years but recently moved out of state 3 months ago. He moved to an area close to where we also own property and planned to visit this summer. We’ll be getting together then.

We had a wonderful conversation on many genealogical topics and he let me know about two Sons of the American Revolution applications he had done for Florida families. Florida wasn’t a colony in Colonial America and I really never thought much about its involvement in our Revolutionary War.

The following day, I was getting my hair trimmed and shared the coincidences with my stylist who is interested in history. He had to step away from me to take a phone call for a reschedule and when he returned he informed me that somehow, my appointment wasn’t scheduled for today but someone named Renee was supposed to have been there instead. He didn’t know a Renee. I told him I only knew one. Seconds later that Renee’s mom happened to walk into the shop. We laughed about the coincidence.

I had planned after my haircut to visit a local funeral home (as a genealogist, this makes sense, right?!) as I got a tip that the owner was a descendant of a man who local stories claim lynched several men locally during the Civil War. The problem is I have found records showing the man wasn’t even in this area at the time the purported lynching occurred.

The descendant wasn’t available so I left my card with the couple who was in the office. I told them why I wanted to speak with the owner. The woman informed me she was from a pioneering family in the county north of mine and the story I was interested in didn’t occur during the Civil War but during the Revolutionary War. I thought about the story my newly met cousin had told me about the previous evening. Weird.

Since I’ve had such an odd week I decided to just spill the next part. . . A woman who I met who is involved in a lineage society informed me that dead Rebel soldiers speak to her and one named Parker told her that he had been killed on Deserter’s Hill and was buried under a museum.

I will investigate any tip I get so I asked her if the dead man had told her if Parker was his first or last name. She didn’t know. I asked where the museum was located as there wasn’t one on the site. She didn’t know. So much for that hint.

The woman at the funeral home looked at her spouse and they stared at each other for a bit. Were they thinking I was a kook? I just let the quiet hang. She then said there were Parkers in the area and they were involved in the Civil War and they were buried in Anclote Cemetery. Wow. But that’s not all – one was buried in an unmarked grave that they later discovered happened to be under a sign for an RV company. Very odd.

I plan to be checking out this Parker family. But here’s the clincher of the ending.

I asked for both of their names. You probably already figured this out. Her name was Renee. I laughed. Asked her if she had an appointment at my salon today. She didn’t.

So now I know 2 Renees. I’d love to meet the woman who was supposed to have been having her hair cut at the same time as me with the same stylist. Maybe she doesn’t exist and it was a message for me that I should have gone to the funeral home first as that Renee wasn’t planning on staying much longer.  I’m glad we connected.

The connections we make as genealogists and the records we leave behind are important historical truths. An innocent man has been linked to crimes he never committed. A woman before her time was largely forgotten because of the misspelling of her name. My parent’s divorce has led me to not know my father’s family. In 48 hours this week, all of those fences were fixed because of a chain of weird occurrences.

Genealogists don’t think of themselves as fence menders but it is what we do, it’s who we are. And I sure appreciate a little help from the Universe to get over those fences!

Genealogy Challenge: Research Your Town’s Founding Ladies

Fidelia Merrick Whitcomb Photo from Henry Wells Hand. Centennial History of the Town of Nunda. Rochester, NY: Herald Press, 1908.

My local historical society is preparing for a fall cemetery tour and decided to focus on pioneering women. My city isn’t very old; it was incorporated in 1887. There are old-timers alive today who still remember some of the founders.

Women are often difficult to research as the norm was to be called by their married name. Today I’m focusing on hunting down the identity and story of Mrs. Edward Henry Becket[t], who founded our first hospital.

Sometimes clues are left behind but we don’t recognize them. In my town is an area known as Whitcomb Bayou. I never thought much of who the bayou was named after. A few weeks ago, a visitor to our museum mentioned that it was named after a woman. That intrigued me and I decided to dig further to uncover the story.

Fidelia Jane Merrick Whitcomb (1833-1888) would be considered unconventional even today. Raised in Nunda, Livingston, New York by parents Hiram and Esther Richardson Merrick who believed in educating their daughters as well as their sons, she ultimately became a teacher of elocution. She married Walter Bruce Whitcomb (1828-1898) and the couple had two children – Clara (1852) and Silas (1859). A member of the Universalist Church, Fidelia became involved at the national level where she met other women who were leaders in their own community, like Dr. Mary Safford, a Boston University professor.

Fidelia and her husband, who was a merchant in Nunda, decided to send their children to Boston for a better education. Fidelia accompanied them while Walter remained in New York. It’s likely that Fidelia called upon Mary Safford when she relocated as soon after, Fidelia applied and was accepted to the first Boston University class for female homeopathic physicians. Mary became Fidelia’s mentor.

Fidelia’s daughter Clara married a lawyer, Ernest C. Olney, in Massachusetts. The couple had no children and divorced. Olney remarried and started a family with his second wife, Hattie. Clara remained childless.

Fidelia’s son, Silas who went by the name Merrick, was accepted to Harvard and completed his degree. He married Zettie Stone Fernald and the couple had one child, Eva Fidelia Whitcomb.

Meanwhile, Fidelia returned to live with her husband in Nunda and opened a medical practice in her home.

She retained contact with her friend and mentor, Mary, who had relocated to Tarpon Springs, Florida to serve as a physician. Mary’s brother, Anson P. K. Safford, former territorial governor of Arizona, had been hired by the Butler Company to develop the company’s Florida holdings.

Fidelia soon joined Mary in what I term a travel medicine partnership. The two physicians advertised in medical journals recommending doctors send their ill patients to recuperate in balmy Florida. Fidelia would spend the winter season helping Mary and return to Nunda in the spring to serve her community during the summer months.

Fidelia died on April 1, 1888, in Tarpon Springs. Per her wishes, she was buried in the town’s cemetery, Cycadia. Her husband survived her and is buried in Nunda. Sadly, there is no gravestone for Fidelia. Her obituary in the Nunda newspaper reported that if she had been buried there, she would have had a large memorial.

My local historical society wants to have a stone erected on Fidelia’s grave but by city requirements, the permission of a descendant must be given. I traced grandchild Eva and discovered she had two children, Louise and Elizabeth, with her first husband, Reginald Worthington. Eva, like her Aunt Clara, divorced. She remarried William Cordon Walton but they had no children.

Eva’s daughter, Louise, married a Harry K. Tucker in Pennsylvania where the family had relocated but the marriage did not last. By 1940, Louise was living with her mother and step-father. The US census reports she was married but she was using her maiden name. She died in 1954; her death certificate stated she was married but her husband’s name did not appear on the form. The couple likely had no children.

Louise’s sister, Elizabeth, married a Mr. Hay[e]s about 1974 when she was 56. It is likely they had no children.

It appears that Fidelia Merrick Whitcomb has no living direct descendants. I haven’t traced her sibling’s children; it looks like there is some family alive today through those lines.

As for the headstone, it’s up to the city to decide.

Regardless of the decision, Fidelia has not been forgotten. We’ll be honoring her in October and every time I pass the bayou named for her I’ll think about her.

This spring, do some digging into your town’s past. An amazing story just might be waiting to be uncovered.

New Genealogy Tips and Tricks

Courtesy of en.Wikipedia.org. Thinking of you, Ukraine!

I’ve been Spring Cleaning so I’m a tad late on posting today. I’m really supposed to be in a local genealogy society’s Zoom meeting but they are having tech issues so I decided to blog while I wait to be let in.

I’m excited to write that I have FINALLY finished scanning my older genealogy collection from my family. I had so much dust, bits of dried brown paper, even glitter from old greeting cards around that I spent the last week plus majorly cleaning. Amazing how those documents permeated nooks and crannies throughout my home!

After I get the outside pressure washed, my favorite job, I decided to scan additional documents, such as medical records, too. I’d like to go as paperless as possible going forward.

Here is some new genealogy news you might find interesting:

ROOTSTECH may be over but if you attended, you should be getting an email notification of your “cousins” that also logged on for the conference. Follow the link (which expires on March 25th) and then click “Roots Tech Relatives.” My relative number is 8,944 – those would be the people who also have a FamilySearch.org tree that matches the people I have in my tree. A map appears and you can click to see folks from your area and be able to contact them if you like. Another alternative is to scroll down the page and click in the Surname box – adding a surname you are interested in connecting with. The default is your current surname and if it’s like mine, Samuelson, is not going to find you much. There are loads of Samuelsons that aren’t related to us because of Swedish naming patterns. I plugged in my top 3 family surnames – Koss, Leininger, and Landfair and discovered that there were 5 Leiningers in attendance but no one with the other two names.

Have New York City families? Then you’ll love the fact that the vital records are 70% digitized and available for FREE. Check out the link. A list of all available records can be found here.

MyHeritage.com continues to improve its site. If you love timelines, you’ll enjoy their new color-coded ones with graphics. This blog article will explain it.

I’m not sure how I feel about their new Live Story which is a tool for you to make animated videos of your ancestors telling their stories. Personally, it’s a little too creepy for me but if you are into AI and liked Deep Nostalgia, this is definitely for you. Try it out here.

On the more traditional genealogy path, MyHeritage.com has increased its French records by adding Filae’s family trees. That 269 million! Read about it here and there is a link in the article to start researching the records.

Sigh, so many records, so little time. Have a wonderful week searching!

Family Historians Must Talk About the Memories

John Leininger State Line House. Photo courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger. Leininger Family History and Genealogy, Columbia City, IN: Self Published, p. 4.

Today’s blog wasn’t my intended topic but as the week evolved, I felt the need to write about recent laws in my state (and maybe yours!) that matter to family historians and genealogists.

Long-time readers know my first career was as an educator; I retired as a Public School Counselor last August. My paternal grandmother taught briefly in Ohio before her marriage. My husband is also a retired educator. His great grandfather was a lifelong teacher and principal in rural Indiana. Although not educators, my Leininger line certainly valued education as they built their house across the Indiana-Ohio state line for the purpose of being able to have a choice option of where to send their children to school. Even back in the day school funding was problematic so when one district had cuts, they simply moved their belongings to the other side of the house and enrolled in the other school district. A novel way to ensure their children were well educated.

I am in favor of the community having a voice in schools and that schools are critical for a region’s future success.

This week, the Florida legislature passed two bills that affect schools. The first allows parents to sue teachers if school personnel “instructs” a student in third grade or under on sexual orientation. On the surface, you might think that discussion isn’t age-appropriate. Children notice EVERYTHING and they ask for information when they don’t understand something. What is a teacher supposed to say when a kid asks why does Jack has two mommies or two daddies? I always replied, “Because each family is different which is what makes them so special.” I can see that today, a parent with an agenda might take that statement to the court.

Here’s why I gave that reply to my elementary students . . . When I was their age I was the only child with divorced parents in my parochial school. Not until I was in 6th grade did another child with divorced parents enroll. Pre-Vatican II divorce was a serious offense by Roman Catholic Church standards. We learned that in religion class. I was penalized because my father never came to school functions – the PTA awarded points for parents who attended monthly meetings. Moms got 1 point and dad’s got 5 points. A dad only had to show up once a year and the mom every other meeting to exceed my mother’s perfect attendance number. In May, any student who had parent participation above a certain number would get an ice cream treat. I never got one.

Those were painful times. I thought the world had changed towards acceptance of differences but in my state, we’re slipping backward. Instead, the governor embarrased responsible high school students because their belief system is different than his. But that’s not all that’s happening in Florida.

Teacher training on diversity is being canceled and teacher lessons that imply someone is responsible for actions “committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.” that makes a student feel uncomfortable is forbidden. Again, parents can sue the teacher for the lesson. Here’s my problem with this. I’ve blogged about the KKK targeting my maternal grandparents. I’m white and obviously, the KKK hoodlums were white. A parent not liking my lesson or blog can sue me for telling the truth about the past! The law doesn’t protect the victims but the perpetrators. My mother’s trauma as a child enduring the long night she thought she would die is irrelevant in Florida because we don’t want to hurt the feelings of a white child today whose ancestor may have been responsible.

My family is far from perfect and I’ve written about my own ancestor, Daniel Hollingshead, who upped his social standing at the expense of others. I’m not proud to have an ancestor who was complicit and tolerant of his second wife who had inherited enslaved people.

We must remember the past, the good, the bad, and the ugly, or we haven’t learned the lessons. Suing is not the way to deal with uncomfortable topics. My former school district has had nearly 9% of its teachers resign in the past year. How many more will be driven out because they can no longer speak the truth?

Weekly I volunteer at my local train depot museum. The building has two doors; built-in 1909 the law was Separate but Equal. The title of the law was half correct – the facility was separated by race but it was anything but equal. People of color had to share one small restroom while white people had larger, separate facilities. Whites had heat on their side of the wall and a larger ticket window. Their space was also much larger. Equal? Nope! Unbelievably, the building remained separated until Amtrack shut it down in the late 1970s. The law may have been off the books but its effect lingered much longer.

That’s not the only place the law lingered. As a teen, I worked for the City of St. Petersburg. In City Hall was a racist mural and the water coolers had painted above “whites” and “colored.” I had learned about Jim Crow laws in U.S. History class in the north but it never occurred to me that a visible reminder remained in my lifetime. When I questioned it of my director, her response was “You’re a carpetbagger; you wouldn’t understand.” She was entirely correct. I’ve lived in my county for 50 years and I still don’t understand people refusing to accept differences and acknowledge the mistakes of the past.

If the schools aren’t going to be able to do the job then we, as the remembers, must step up and speak out. I’d be interested to know how you take on the challenge.

Rootstech 2022-Last Day!

Photo courtesy of Family Search

Fear not, you haven’t missed Rootstech, the online FREE FamilySearch.org conference. Today is the last day and you can sign in to attend here.

If you are short of time and can’t attend lectures, don’t worry. The 1,000 talks will be available on YouTube. I know that I missed a keynote I had wanted to hear due to a commitment and plan to catch up on that soon.

I highly recommend, if you have only limited time today, to definitely check out the Expo Hall. Organizations, start-up companies, and well-known businesses are available at a virtual booth. Many offer discounts. Visit 20 and you can enter a Priceline drawing for a family trip.

Have a tree on FamilySearch.org? Then you might want to click the Find Relatives section of the event. Your tree is compared with other attendees who have their tree on the site. When an individual is matched, you and your kin can send each other a message. Last year I conversed with a Landfair descendant who lived not too far from me. This year, I found a second Leininger cousin. Who knows what absolute goodness that relative may have for you genealogically in their attic, basement or brain!