Writing An Ancestor Short Biography

Courtesy of Clipart Library

Two weeks ago I blogged about the discovery I made regarding submitting a short biography to my state genealogical society about my pioneering ancestor’s life. I’ve had several readers request ideas on how to get started.

First, relax! You aren’t writing a book so there is little time involved. I think the hardest part is to decide who to select to begin with. For my project, I decided to start with my husband’s lines and select the ancestor that was the earliest pioneer in the area. I then wrote a bio on his wife, their daughter that is my husband’s direct relative, the daughter’s husband, and so on down to his parents. I then did the same for my lines. But that was just me! You can pick anyone you like and go in any direction. Sure, typically in genealogy it’s best practice to go backward in time from present to past but if you already have the research done it makes no difference in who you select to highlight.

Second, if you are submitting the bio to a website then make sure you understand and follow their directions. If you aren’t sure, send a query before you waste your time and theirs.

If the site has a form filler, as mine does, it’s simple to bring up your tree and just type in the info that the form requests. I have two screens on my computer and can definitely use a third (hint, hint hubby!) so this makes the writing easy. If you have one screen only, you could toggle between your tree and the site or borrow a laptop/iPad/kindle to bring up the tree on that device. You can also do a screen print of the ancestor’s information and print but let’s keep that as a last option since we really don’t want to be killing trees for this project.

Next, you are writing in the third person which means you don’t use the word “I.” This is a biography and not an autobiography, which is about you. I’ve written earlier this year about writing your memoir. Biographies are all in the past tense because the person lived then and not now.

Keep it short and simple! Begin with the person’s start in life, such as “James Edward Jones was born on 1 May 1800 in what is now Trumbull County, Ohio. He was the third son and fifth child of Harold and Margaret Ann Hodge Jones.” It’s easy to switch to the next bio by just shuffling the facts presented. Here’s an example:  “On 1 May 1800, in what is now Trumbull County, Ohio, James Edward Jones, the third son of five children, was born to Harold and Margaret Ann Hodge Jones.” 

If you have information about James’ early life add it. You might not and that’s not a problem; just write next whatever you’ve discovered. It might be a marriage and children that follow. Look at census records to determine the career and location. Review the property records you’ve found and include where the family resided. Perhaps a big event occurred during the individual’s life, such as war, famine, pandemic, etc. that should be included. If the ancestor made a significant accomplishment in his community or the world make sure to note it. Most of our forebears did not so don’t feel that the individual isn’t worthy of memorializing.

End your biography with information from the death certificate, if available, obituary, family Bible, or community death index. Note where the person is buried, if known. If a significant contribution was made to the world, then note that as a reminder to the reader of the valuable service that the person made. One of my husband’s ancestors, Samuel August Samuelson, was injured during the Civil War, continued to fight for the Union with a gunshot wound and broken shoulder, was taken as a POW, and overcame his disability to farm 439 acres. He met an untimely death, being killed on his sleigh by a train that was not following safety guidelines. His community was in an uproar and legislation was enacted at the state level because of the accident that killed him. Due to the unfortunate accident, we’re all a little safer around train tracks these days.

Most of our ancestors, however, were simple, hard-working folks who paid their taxes, voted, and left few other records. I believe they should be remembered, too, for doing the best they could during the trying times in which they lived.

Next week, I’ll begin a two-part blog on how I broke through a 44-year brick wall.

Genealogy Holiday Gift Guide

Photo courtesy of Nordstrom

It’s that time of the year again; the dreaded question of what do I get my ancestor-hunting family member for the holidays? Here are 10 gift ideas:

1. Clear Research Bag – I love mine as I can keep everything I need for boots-on-the-ground research in one place. Guards like it, too, as they can readily see you are not bringing in a dreaded ink pen, red especially, into their precious collections. Available on Amazon.

2. Genealogists like to take notes, make lists, research plans, and remember hints that are discovered that don’t quite fit with what they’re currently working on. These notebooks, available in two sizes, are perfect for jotting down ideas and odd finds. Available on Amazon and in a larger format.

3. For the home office, a desk organizer is so helpful! Fill it with the right stuff – mechanical pencils so no sharpener is needed, red pens for underlining important info on lineage society Apps, a transparent ruler to keep those lines straight, plastic clips to hold papers without worrying about rust, a magnifying glass for those hard to read old documents, calculator to determine age, and post-it notes for flagging finds in books. Yes, all are available on Amazon but it’s less expensive at Staples.

4. I’m really trying to save trees but sometimes you just have to print. A ream of acid-free paper, print cartridges, and a packet of sheet protectors are definitely useful. Throw in a binder and your gift is complete.

5. I love my Dymo label maker. I can print out an address quickly for snail mail connections. I’ve labeled binders and file folders so everything can be found easily. In the past, I  even used them for citations, then placed the label on a notebook page so when I went to the library, I could take notes under the citation. I use tech now but if your genealogist is old school, a Dymo is a good way to get them started using tech as it’s simple to install and use.

6. Renew their online subscription to a loved genealogy company – in alpha order, Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, Fold3.com, GenealogyBank.com, MyHeritage.com, Newspapers.com, etc. Go to their website to obtain an eGift Certificate. Many of these companies allow you to purchase now and extend the existing subscription to a future date but check that out before you purchase.

7. Boots-on-the-ground research is still necessary. Get family members together to chip in cash to contribute to the genealogist’s dream archive visit site. In the U.S., it may be Salt Lake City, Utah, Fort Wayne, Indiana, the National Archives in various locations, or perhaps an in-person conference. This gift will just blow them away.

8. Techie, are you? Then use your skills to video record an interview with your genealogist. Flip the tables – they’re always asking you and now it’s time for you to ask them. You can refer to my blog article here for question ideas or make it more personal – ask them “When did you begin your interest in family history?” “What has been the most difficult line you’ve researched?” “If you could meet one deceased ancestor you’ve discovered, who would it be and why?” “What ancestral home location would you love to visit?” “What ancestor just confounds you?”

9. If you’re artsy, then make a gift. My oldest decorated a mug so I can enjoy a cup of tea while I research. I’ve also been gifted over the years with t-shirts and my business logo on the bag noted in item 1. I’d even appreciate a gift basket of healthy snacks. Get creative!

10. Your time – the cost is nothing but the gift is priceless! Sure, you could care less about Great Uncle Waldo who discovered gold in them there hills but your genealogist family member would just love to tell you all about what they discovered. Humor them and schedule an hour or two after the holidays to listen and learn about your ancestors. You might surprise yourself and realize that this gift of heart was also meaningful for you.

Next week, tips on writing a short ancestor biography. Stay tuned!

Checking Your Genealogical Records

Courtesy of Nostalgic Impressions

After building your family tree you most likely have lines that you haven’t researched in a while. With every research hour you put in, you gain expertise. It’s time to go back to the far-flung branches and recheck your initial work.

Sounds like a pain, right?! Nope, I have a fun way to do it.

Since relocating to Indiana I’ve discovered that my state’s genealogical society supports a biography project. It’s called Once A Hoosier. I was surprised to see that not one of my husband or my pioneering ancestors had been included. How did that occur? Well, no one submitted a biography. If you check the location of your pioneering ancestors you’ll probably discover what I did. That means it’s time to get busy!

First, make sure your ancestor qualifies. In Indiana, the ancestor must have been born before 1950, is deceased, and lived in Indiana for part of his/her life or been buried there.

The society makes entry simple as they have a form filler to add the pioneer’s name, vitals, children/their spouses, and a space to type in a biography. You aren’t writing a book here so it’s not intimidating which makes this fun. It’s also a wonderful way to memorialize your ancestors. Most importantly, it’s a great way for you to check your records.

The form filler has no place to add citations. This could be problematic but I’m looking at it positively. We should always check out sources so, if you find an ancestor listed and you’re not able to find a source for the “fact” that was written, you can always contact the submitter for more information. This should be our best practice anyway. Not adding citations to your bio is also saving you time from having to type in a citation. As long as you can support the fact with your personal records, you’re good to go.

As I enter bios I’m fact-checking each of my citations. My husband, obviously by our surname, has a lot of Swedish ancestors. As I was writing a bio for his second great-grandmother Anna Elisabet “Lisa” Torstensdotter Erickson I questioned several pieces of information I had found for her. I had a Swedish baptism certificate and census records that never listed Elisabet as one of her names. Instead, Lisa was recorded. I checked with a Swedish genealogist to make sure I was understanding the records and discovered a lot about Swedish names. You can read more about Swedish names here. Unless you read Swedish, click Google Translate in the upper right-hand corner of the screen for English. Thank you, Annika Höstmad of Find A Swede Genealogy, for translating Lisa’s baptismal certificate and sharing this site.

We really don’t know what family called each other. After careful analysis I discovered where the name Elisabet came from – one immigration document that originated in the U.S. Elisabet was a well-used name in the family so I suspect that she may have formally been named Anna Elisabet but went by Lisa so the parish minister recorded Anna Lisa on the baptism record. Perhaps when she came to America she felt obligated to provide her formal given name. I can identify with that as it’s happened to me; I use my family’s pet name but after September 11th, I had to have many governmental records changed to reflect my formal given name on my birth certificate. So, I have an aka on most of my records now. In Anna Lisa’s case, in 1797 there were no formal governmental records so we’ll never know for sure what her given name was. I included that info in her bio.

If you’re wondering how you can get started on a bio project, simply do an internet search of the location where your pioneer ancestors resided. If a program isn’t offered or charges you and you don’t want to pay for that, then search for a larger regional society that may offer the program. I’ve discovered besides at the state level, that several Indiana counties also accept bios, too.

If you discover that your ancestor resided in a location that does not currently take bios, no worries. You can still write one up. Use any format you like or take one from a society that does offer the program. Then, .pdf it and save it with your ancestor’s records. Easy Peasy!

Reconnecting With Long Lost Family

Courtesy of Pinterest.com

As I write, we’re experiencing our first snowfall of the season. Grab a cup of cocoa and enjoy reading blogs this weekend.

In late September my husband was contacted via Facebook by his first cousin who he had not seen in 50 years. We were not Facebook friends with this line so the message wasn’t expected. In August, after relocating, I wrote on Facebook explaining why we had suddenly pulled up roots in Florida and relocated to Indiana. Another cousin who is a Facebook friend told the cousin which is how my husband got the message. You know family, always playing telephone!

The cousin asked us to let her know when we had settled in our new home so we could come for a visit; the family lives about an hour and a half from us. We made that visit the first weekend in October which was timely, as the family was relocating to Florida for the winter the following week. We had lived in Florida for almost 50 years and never knew that they were coming down for 6 months each year for the past 13 years.

It certainly could be awkward to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years, even if there had been no falling out. In our case, we simply moved away from where the majority of the family lived and raised a family, working, and maintaining a home, life just got in the way of keeping up a long-distance relationship. When my husband’s parents were alive they would keep us updated on family events but since they passed we just lost the connections. By the time Facebook came to be, it had been over 10 years since we had any information on the extended lines.

Yes, Facebook and other social media are very good tools to keep in touch with relatives but I’m just not into it. I don’t enjoy learning vicariously about friends and family. I go on it maybe twice a year to catch up. I much prefer text, phone, and face-to-face contact, even if that means Zoom or another service. If you want to reconnect, a message on a social media site is a great way to do that, however. After the initial few messages going back and forth and the exchange of emails and/or phone numbers, someone needs to be brave and make the phone call.

The call doesn’t need to be long, in fact, it’s better if it’s not. After exchanging pleasantries, get down to basic updates, such as we are fine and love (fill in the blank). Being positive is a good way to begin. I’m not saying don’t share bad news. If you’ve just been given a terminal diagnosis and want to reconnect quickly, by all means, share that.

In my case, I asked what a good time for our visit would be and was told any time after 10 AM. I said 11:30 AM would work for us and so the meeting was set. We arrive a few minutes early. I knew that lunch would be prepared for us but I wanted to bring a little something. If you don’t know the family well enough bringing a gift could have been problematic. I decided on a box of chocolates made by a local company. Alcohol, flowers, a desert, or memorabilia that belonged to that line could all work.

Let the person you’re visiting take the lead in the initial hellos. Some families are huggers and others aren’t. Some may still need you to mask up. Whatever the host family requires makes you a good guest.

We started with a handshake and smile that evolved quickly into hugs. Then we got a tour of their beautiful home on a lake. My husband has spoken of this lake for our entire relationship but I’ve never been there. He spent his preschool summers there. It was where he first fell in love with a nameless older girl who was about age 6; he tried to catch a perch with his bare hands for her birthday present. He loved climbing up on a chair to play on an old pinball machine in the family-owned store. The beach house had an upstairs with mattresses strewn on the floor for the children and he loved hopping from one to the other. There was an older man who made funny faces when he thought; my husband imitates him to this day.

Like most visits as an adult, hubby was surprised the lake was as small as it was. It seemed like an ocean to him at age 3.

After the outside/inside house tour, we grabbed a plate and sat at the table for some eating and reminiscing. You can ask if anyone objects to the conversation being recorded or not. I did not record. I also did not take photos. You could also take notes. Since we are living nearby we agreed we’d meet in the spring when I returned to their area to research. Perhaps then I may record and photograph.

The family knows I’m a genealogist so it wasn’t surprising that the talk turned to ancestors early on. I had to laugh when a second cousin remarked that one of his cousins who were not present had done a fantastic amount of research. Yep, I agreed, I sent it to him.

I should have brought my laptop to have my tree readily available but I didn’t. I promised to send two of the second cousins’ info about the Civil War and various other lines we discussed. Keep your promise!

We also caught up on what everyone had done in the time since we last met. Photo albums were passed around.

We were in for a surprise as one of the second cousins was going to take us out on his pontoon for a ride around the lake. We learned that there had been three stores during my husband’s time there; his aunt owned the one he recalled. I asked how the family came to the lake and was informed that the first cousin’s uncle on an unrelated line to us had discovered a cottage there and decided it was a wonderful place in the 1950s to spend the summer, away from the heat and congestion of the Chicago area. Other families came to visit and as property became available, more families made purchases. I learned my father-in-law encouraged his sister, a widower with two young children, to purchase a cottage and then one of the stores. Both sides agreed to help her out which is how my husband came to spend his summers there.

My husband and his older male first cousin laughed at how my husband loved Alley Oops and being held high by the cousin so my husband could dive off him into the lake. Good times! By the time my husband was 6 the cottage and store had been sold. So, how did these first cousins have property there now?

We were told that for 15 years after the sale the family frequently recalled the wonderful times they had there and wanted the same experience for their young children. It took them a year but finally, a cabin came up for sale. They’ve owned a place on the lake since 1976; as other lots/cabins became available they made additional purchases so now they and two of their children have a summer place. The daughter of the aunt who originally bought there also owns a place, along with one of her children. But there was more. . .

As we toured the lake I learned that they hadn’t been aware that there was even more distant kin that was neighbors. Right before the pandemic, a neighbor was having a garage sale. The female first cousin went to check it out and somehow, the conversation turned to funny family names. She remarked that she didn’t think they could top her husband’s cousins’ names – Milnut and Elzine. The garage sale folks were stunned and replied that they, too, had cousins with those names. They also had a number of other cousins who owned cabins around the lake. I’d say, a quarter of the lake cabins are owned by two lines who had become united through a marriage in 1941. And none of them knew they were related until one cousin met another at a garage sale. Weird!

When we returned home I immediately checked to make sure I had the garage sale man’s name in my tree and I did so I was able to let all of them know how they are related. I also was able to explain how Milnut (really Milnett Rosinda Emelia) and Elzine (really Edna Gladie Elzene) were related to all of them.

By reconnecting with a known line, we were able to connect with three other lines that had been disconnected probably prior to the 1960s. It is indeed a small world and finding all of this family in one location was a pleasant surprise.

Now comes the hard part, staying in touch! Make it a point to reconnect every so often. You’ll be glad you did.

More Psychic Roots Book Review

Photo by Lori Samuelson

Genealogy At Heart’s second blog article today is a book review of More Psychic Roots: Further Adventures in Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997). You can read here about my first blog today which covered Henry Z. Jones, Jr.’s Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993).

Again, here’s my disclaimer – I’ve read both books several years ago but not for the purpose of a book review. After my October 1st blog, October Genealogical Coincidences Part 1, was posted, I was contacted by a reader who requested I write the book reviews. I thought that was a wonderful way to end my series. I received no monetary compensation for these reviews, however, I did receive a free copy of both books.

Although Further Adventures is the sequel, the books may be read in any order. There are nearly 300 more uncanny genealogical experiences highlighted. Unlike Psychic Roots, the stories in Further Adventures were obtained from family historians who had either read the prior work or seen an episode of Unsolved Mysteries that featured Jones and several genealogists whose stories had been highlighted in the first book. Jones refers to the self-reporters as “grassroots” genealogists who bravely shared their odd experiences. He acknowledges that there are those who mock others who have had strange incidences occur, likely because the events happen unexpectedly and can’t be reproduced at will. He reminds the reader that many unexplained phenomena were once considered supernatural but as science progressed, are now understood.

Further Adventures is subdivided into different types of occurrences, such as dreams, researching at the archives, visiting a bookstore/cemetery/ancestral locale, mistakenly ordering the wrong material, or looking in an unlikely location, such as reading the first book, recognizing a surname, and finding a distant family contact with whom to connect. In the back of both books is a surname index. One of the surnames that I research, Harbaugh, was found in the sequel; I was familiar with the ancestor but not the contributor who has a different last name. I also recognized two stories included by one of my blog readers, Linda Stufflebean. Perhaps, you too will recognize a connection.

Further Adventures contains more than just odd reports, there are solid genealogical practices noted. My favorite is a story of a father and daughter’s attempt to find a remote cemetery location of an ancestor. They were thrilled to report to a family member that they accomplished their goal only to be asked by the relative, “Why didn’t you ask me?” Clearly, the importance of doing family interviews could save us time and travel.

The book also reminds us of the need to examine records in the counties surrounding where our ancestors once lived. This is definitely a sound practice. The value of documenting sources, staying abreast of current practices, and double-checking all evidence is emphasized.

Another recommendation is to trust our intuition. That little voice that nudges you to examine a hunch just might be correct. Flexibility in our research plan, a positive attitude and a sense of humor can lead to discovering the unexpected. As Jones points out, our immigrant ancestors gambled “their lives on the unknown” and took a great risk. Getting out of our comfort zone by picking a book at random might just lead us to a new discovery.

I especially like the idea “that when you help someone else, the favor is always repaid in full measure – maybe not by the recipient, but from somewhere a bonanza falls into your eager hands!” p. 186. I can attest to that.

This work does focus more on ghostly encounters and unconventional techniques, such as automatic writing, than the prior book. It was emphasized by a contributor, however, that serendipity does not come without research.

Although DNA was not as prevalent at the time the book was written, there is a broad mention of it. The work of philosopher Emmanuel Kant regarding gaining a priori knowledge is attributed to perhaps genetic programming we do not yet fully understand. LaVonne Harper Stiffler’s work on genetic connections of adoptees to their birth parents was also explored.

Jones’ final chapter is a mini-memoir of his relationships gained through his careers as an entertainer and a genealogist. It is here where the reader learns the root of Jones’ personal philosophy and genealogical practices. A touching tribute to his longtime collaborator, Carla Mittelstaedt Kubaseck, concludes the book.

I think it is fitting to house both of Jones’ works on my bookshelf next to Mills’ Evidence Explained. How does one cite the illogical occurrences that led us through a brick wall? I will ponder that on another day. For now, I appreciate all of the contributors, and especially, Jones, for revealing their strange encounters. I am also very thankful to have experienced many of my own coincidences and synchronicities. Personally, I don’t particularly care how they occur, I just hope they keep on coming!

Psychic Roots Book Review

Photo by Lori Samuelson

With the extra hour you gain from this weekend’s time change, Genealogy At Heart has a 2-for-1 special today! As I conclude my synchronicity series I’ll be reviewing two books that are filled with genealogical coincidences. The first blog will cover Henry “Hank” Z. Jones, Jr.’s Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993). The second blog today is Jones’ follow-up, More Psychic Roots: Further Adventures in Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997).

Here’s my disclaimer – I’ve read both books several years ago but not for the purpose of a book review. After my October 1st blog, October Genealogical Coincidences Part 1, was posted, I was contacted by a reader who requested I write the book reviews. I thought that was a wonderful way to end my series. I received no monetary compensation for these reviews, however, I did receive a free copy of both books.

Psychic Roots is a compilation of professional genealogists’ stories of their odd experiences while performing research. Most occurrences happened when the ancestor was a family member, however, some transpired while research was being performed for clients. One of the book’s strengths is its reliance on input from professional genealogists, many renowned such as current or former fellows of the American Society of Genealogists, such as Henry Lines Jacobus, Helen F. M. Leary, John Insley Coddington, and Francis “Jim” Dallett. GRIP co-founder Elissa Scalise Powell is also included. Jones contacted 300 genealogists requesting they share any unusual experiences encountered while researching. Over 200 replied and many of their responses are contained in the book, including a few who had no strange occurrences at all.

The book begins with a tale of how Jones got bitten by the genealogy bug as a youth. Like many of us, genealogy was Jones’ second career. Some of you may recall seeing him on the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, in Disney’s Blackbeard’s Ghost, or on various television situation comedies before he left entertainment for family history.

Jones is a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. Psychic Roots was not his first authored work. He is well-known for The Palatine Families of Ireland (1965) and the two-volume The Palatine Families of New York – 1710 (1985) for which he received the prestigious Jacobus Award. It was a result of those works that Psychic Roots came about; Jones could not let go of his passion for the emigrating Palatinates and he desired to explore why he was called to spend much of his life investigating them. Upon reflection, he recalled the many strange occurrences that led him to research findings.

Jones stresses “scientific methods” or as today, we would follow the guidelines in the Genealogy Standards. He delved into other disciplines to better understand the unexplainable events he had experienced. His research took him to the works of author Horace Walpole, who purportedly coined the word serendipity, psychologist Carl Jung’s collective unconscious, chemist Dr. Louis Pasteur’s view of chance, physician Dr. Jonas Salk’s intuitive thinking, physicist Wolfgang Pauli’s study of non-physical and non-causal events in nature, physicist Albert Einstein’s belief in intuition, and NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s ESP studies. He attended lectures by individuals, such as Ramond Bayless and Dr. Elizabeth McAdams, who investigated psychics. Jones examined Dr. Raymond Moody and Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ works on near-death experiences. He also looked for precedence in the field of genealogy and found it in “Randall-Pease-Hutchinson-Warner:  A Study in Serendipity,” an article published in The American Genealogist by Winifred Lovering Holman in 1957. He includes a bibliography for further reading.

The types of nonrational experiences are explored in depth by chapters, divided by synchronicity, numeracy, intuition, and genetic memory.

The title, Psychic Roots, is a bit deceiving. If you’re expecting woo-woo, spine-tingling creepiness you aren’t going to find it here. You are more apt to have a belly laugh. This is one area that I think makes the book so successful; when dealing with sensitive situations, appropriate laughter can be useful and some of the stories are hilarious.

I found this book is much more than just the uncanny experiences of genealogists. There are many other discoveries to be made in Psychic Roots. For example, I found it interesting how Helen Leary researched; she did not use Write as You Go. No spoiler alert here; you’ll have to get a copy to find out her method.

Henry Jones reinforces other tips that genealogists can find helpful, such as researching the FAN Club, although that term wasn’t used at the time the book was published, collaborating with colleagues, and boots-on-the-ground research. If you attended Thomas Jones’ 2023  National Genealogical Society lecture, “It Gets Even Better Offline,” he stated in one of his examples that “This incident also illustrates how serendipity can play a role in genealogical research and in my experience there are more serendipitous findings in genealogical research offline than there are online.” The tales in Psychic Roots support that belief.

I could relate to many of the stories as I’ve found myself in similar frustrating situations when hitting a brick wall. One memorable account related how a researcher, in desperation, began speaking to a photo of the son of the man she was unable to find information about. Her family thought she was losing touch with reality until a few months later, after repeated requests directed at the photo, the information she sought was found. If only I had a photo of my Thomas Duer! Jones believes that both thinking and feeling about your ancestor, along with immersing yourself in their customs and societal norms is what leads to successful finds.

The book is a quick read and difficult to put down. While reading it I did have one strange occurrence. Somehow, my new smartphone decided to change my keyboard to Deutsch. I have no idea how that happened. It could have been a fluke or, it could have been Jones’ Palatine families wanting to communicate. Who knows what odd situation will happen to you when you pick up a copy! Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

October Genealogical Coincidences Part 5

Clip from one of my many FamilySearch.org emails

This is the 5th blog in my personal synchronicity series. If you find what I’ve written weird, I will definitely agree with you. I can’t make stuff like this up!

I had put genealogy on a back burner with the move and after July 5th, temporarily stopped accepting clients. My last day of research in Tampa had been a duesy! I started at the Circuit Court looking for property records and found a very interesting document for my Client. I was going to then go to the University of South Florida, on the other end of town, to look at funeral home records. I decided it would be nice if I took pictures of the former home and business of the Client’s grandfather since I had to pass them anyway.

I was turning onto Florida Avenue and looking for an address that had been changed over the years. I was trying to judge the location I needed from a business that had been in the same place. Out of nowhere, a car was on my tail so I quickly turned into the first drive I saw. I stopped at the side of the building and determined the place I was looking for was directly across the street.

As I got out of the car I noticed a man looking at me with a confused expression on his face. I decided to let him know I was a family historian who was only going to park for a second to take a picture for someone who lived in New England and whose grandpa used to live across the street. The man said, “And then you’re going to take care of your flat.”

Huh? What flat? Evidently, I had turned so quickly that I hit a sharp spot on a curb and sliced open my front passenger-side tire. Oh no! I was supposed to be at USF in 15 minutes. I am not good at changing tires. The man understood my panicked look and said it was a good thing it happened where it did. What was he talking about?

Turns out I did this in front of a tire store. Weirder still, the Client’s grandfather had owned a tire store and I had just taken a picture of that building. The kind man put on my spare and I made it just a few minutes late to my next appointment.

When I got home I told hubby what happened and he said he was glad as he had meant to tell me he was concerned that my tires would not make the long trip from Florida to Indiana. We had new tires put on the following day. Someone in the universe was definitely looking out for me!

Our oldest adult child closed on their new home at the end of July while we were all still in Florida. Since there is a law in Indiana that sellers have a week AFTER closing to move out, we all decided not to move out of our Florida home until we knew their new home would be unoccupied. We didn’t have a lot of time as we would be closing on our Florida home later in the week.

We decided that we would all drive up to Indiana on August 1st. Accept, things don’t always go as planned. Hubby was going to drive a U-Haul but our youngest decided at the last minute not to drive my husband’s car up. We left hubby’s car at the realtor’s home until we had unpacked the Pods in Indiana, with the idea we would fly back to Florida and then drive the car up.

We thought it would be a great idea if the rest of us left in the middle of the night – not many people on the road and cooler temperatures for the wheels. We packed my car and our eldest’s car. A few minutes later we discovered our eldest’s car had a flat tire. Hubby decided he would leave in the middle of the night and the oldest and I would remain to get the tire fixed and then head out. We ended up leaving Florida at about 10 AM on August 1st instead of midnight. Those 10 hours made a huge difference!

It was a horrendous drive. There was smoke in Florida from a brush fire that made visibility poor. The check engine lights came on; we almost ran out of gas in Atlanta as we were stuck in a major traffic jam during rush hour. The tire light came on and we had difficulty finding a tire store open at 6 PM. Turns out, the tires were just overheated and after waiting an hour, we were back on our way. There was road construction through the mountains of Tennessee. It rained through all of Kentucky and it was now dark again. We also were traveling with 4 cats between us and they were starting to lose it after 12 hours, barely halfway in our journey. And it was unbearably hot, at 10 PM in Tennessee it was still in the 90s. Our car air conditioners were struggling.

We made it driving straight through, driving for 20 hours. The following two weeks were a blur of remotely closing on our Florida home, dealing with Pods, flying back to Florida, and then driving back to Indiana again.

By the middle of August I was exhausted, bruised from lifting boxes, and really missing genealogy. I had my laptop and decided to pull it out and check my email.

Sure, there was lots of spam, missed sales, and several emails from FamilySearch.org.

I don’t know about you but I don’t get a lot of mail from FamilySearch, maybe monthly. But there were lots of emails notifying me of new finds. All of the discoveries were in regard to my Leininger and Landfair lines. These were the folks who I was now following in their footsteps by relocating to where they once lived.

In the many years that I’ve had a FamilySearch account, I only recall receiving one email about a Leininger find. Why was I suddenly getting all of these notices now?

I have no idea. Perhaps the spirits were trying to use the internet to let me know that they were glad I had returned to Indiana. Perhaps not.

Next week I’ll be writing two book reviews about synchronicity.  Happy Halloween!

October Genealogical Coincidences Part 4

Photo by Lori Samuelson

This fourth Saturday of October brings another strange story that personally happened to me in July. As I’ve previously blogged, our family decided to relocate from Florida to Indiana and our house went up for sale online on June 29th. By July 1st we had a bidding war and then, both parties decided to walk away from the contract by July 8th.

This was a problem as my husband and oldest child had flown to Indiana the weekend of July 4th and we had a contract on another home. My husband and I decided to cancel our contract until we found a new buyer.

A few hours after the second contract was canceled I received a call from our realtor informing me we had a new contract on our home. I told him that was impossible as it had only been shown to two people. He insisted the person who placed the contract had seen it.

I didn’t want to call someone a liar but clearly, a tour hadn’t happened. I told the realtor I wanted an open house on Sunday and I thought we should accept back up offers, given what had just occurred. He agreed and said he was going to verify with the purchaser’s realtor to find out when the person had seen the house.

I got a call about a half hour later, at 11 PM. Our realtor said I better sit down. “What now?” I thought. The realtor said the man had seen the outside of the home as he and his wife had stayed in my city during the pandemic and he often visited the park across the street from our home. So, the man wasn’t lying exactly. He had seen the exterior but not the interior; he viewed the interior through the internet.

I told the realtor I really wanted him to see the interior in person before we signed the contract as that was the problem with the first two that fell through; one spouse came and wanted it and when the other spouse was brought back, he didn’t. The realtor agreed and said the man had a flight the next day and he would see it in the late afternoon. I asked where he was flying in from. “Chicago,” said the realtor.

My husband and I are originally from the Chicago area so that surprised me; most of the new residents of our then-city was arriving from the mid-Atlantic states. The realtor said there was more . . . the man was from the same small town my husband had been born and raised in.

Wow, what a coincidence, I thought. But of course, that wasn’t all. When we looked at the contract we realized the man lived on the street we used to drive on as teenagers to go to the Lake Michigan beach. There were many beaches we could have used but this beach was considered “our” beach. He lived only 3 blocks from where we used to park.

Stranger, still, I somehow recognized his name. Since my high school annuals were packed, I went on Ancestry.com to check out the yearbook database. Sure enough, I went to high school with a guy with his name. Turns out, he wasn’t the same person.

The purchaser visited the next day and was shocked when he saw that we have a painting of the town in which he lived that my sister-in-law had bought my husband years ago.

We bought our home from an architect who designed it; he, too, was an architect.

This deal went through and it went quickly – in 3 weeks.

I mentioned in a previous blog one of our reasons for relocating was that we couldn’t get our insurance coverage increased. Because he was purchasing it, he was able to get fully insured. He is only going to live in the house for 6 months of the year and go back to his other home for the rest of the time. This made us feel good; he will definitely be someone who will keep the home we put so much effort into in good condition.

So, what does this synchronistic event mean in my life? Jessica Estrada’s blog, “No, It’s Not Just a Coincidence…” suggests that synchronicity “… is an event where needs are met, people are encountered, or things just come together perfectly when we need them. In other words, being in the right place at the right time.”

The house was definitely meant for him and to interpret my cousin Shakespeare saying all the world’s a stage, us players have all gone around the playhouse. My father’s family relocated from Ft. Wayne to northwestern Indiana. My husband and I relocated from northwestern Indiana to Florida. The purchaser follows us to Florida while we move to the Ft. Wayne area where my father’s family had started out. Full circle.

There’s one more Saturday in October and I’ll finish the month out with one more strange story. Or, perhaps, two – strange occurrences seem to be my destiny this year!

October Genealogical Coincidences Part 3

Photo Courtesy of Lori Samuelson 15 Oct 2022

The month of October is moving along and I have another strange personal story to share with you.

In June, my husband and I decided we were going to relocate from Florida to Indiana. We had lived in our home for 18 years so we had a lot of stuff. Summer in Florida is not the time to have a garage sale. We decided we would just pack everything up and squeeze it into Pods. We called it playing Big Jenga.

I helped our oldest pack up their home as they had also sold and was going to relocate. I had gotten the inside of our homes boxed fairly quickly but I really dreaded the garage. In Florida, basements are rare because the water table is so close to the surface. Many subdivisions do not permit sheds so the garage becomes the catch all place for everything that has no other room to go.

Ours was packed as our youngest had moved home at the start of the pandemic so their household items were also out there.

If that wasn’t bad enough, we had been getting a lot of rain so the mosquitos were in full force. It was a hot, dirty, itchy job. And then there was the attic!

We had two small attic accesses that contained items that we couldn’t part with but didn’t know what to do with, like my grandmother’s old wooden ironing board, a folding student desk with an inkwell we once acquired at an auction, our kids’ old treasures, and something I had totally forgot we had – my dad’s wooden toolbox.

Actually, the toolbox was my grandfathers and my dad had it passed to him. He had given it to me years ago and asked me to pass it on to any son’s I might have. At the time, I didn’t have any. So, it had been forgotten in the attic.

My husband was in the attic and I was on the ladder, grabbing the items he was handing d0wn. I lost my grip on the toolbox and it fell to the floor. Thankfully, it didn’t shatter but it did come apart slightly where the old glue had given way. I opened the box to see if the contents were ruined. What I found made me gasp.

My husband, still in the attic, asked me what was wrong. I was speechless, which is rare for me. My husband asked me if I was alright. I said yes, with tears in my eyes. He came down the ladder to find out what was going on.

I was holding a brittle yellow newspaper that had been stuffed in the toolbox. I don’t recall ever seeing it before. The headline was meaningless to me and the paper was dated 1933. I knew where my father was living that year, in Lake County, Indiana, where he was attending high school. The newspaper, however, was from Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana. It was the area where we were relocating to.

Although it was insufferably hot in that garage I got the cold shivers on my neck. I knew my paternal grandfather relocated to Ft. Wayne in the mid-1960s but he certainly wasn’t there in 1933.

I have yet to learn who in the Leininger family was in Ft. Wayne at that time or why that particular page was placed in the toolbox.

What I do know is if I hadn’t been a klutz and dropped it, I might not have ever found that newspaper.

I have no idea what the universe was trying to tell me but I felt that my ancestors were sending me a message that our relocation was the right decision. Times were tough during the 1930s and our move was not a fun experience for any of us. What we were going through, however, paled in comparison to the experiences my ancestors lived through during the Great Depression.

And weirdly enough, the newspaper is now back in the area where it once originated.

October Genealogical Coincidences Part 2

Courtesy of Psychologytoday.com

 Yesterday, hubby and I visited his 1st and 2nd cousins who we have not seen for almost 50 years! After my coincidence series ends I’ll be writing about ways to connect with family that has become disconnected. I think it will be helpful to you with the holidays approaching.

As Spooky October continues, here’s another synchronicity that I experienced in May.

I’ve blogged before about issues I was having with a lineage society that I have chosen to not name (Lineage Society Disappointments and Lineage Societies – What gives?!) I was going on three years waiting for a response if my paperwork was going to be accepted or not.

Initially,  the paperwork had been accepted but two weeks after I received a confirmation email and an invitation to attend the annual meeting, I was informed my acceptance was in error as I had not selected an individual that met the criteria for the organization. They also cashed my check for membership.

I asked if there was a list of accepted individuals and I was told there wasn’t. I then provided a few other possible candidates and was informed that one would work. After correcting the forms and resubmitting I waited three months and did not hear anything. I inquired by email if the paperwork had been reviewed. I was told that the genealogist was busy traveling and would let me know by the end of the month.

Another three months passed and I again emailed asking for an update. I was then informed that the genealogist had asked another genealogist to review the  application. I was told to be patient as that individual was extremely busy.

A year passed and I again asked. It was now the start of the pandemic and I was told that more documentation was needed. This was problematic, of course, since archives were closing around the world. I had two questions that needed a response. I could reply with proof for the first question but the second was more challenging. I submitted a response within three months which was amazing, considering I was trying to obtain documents from four countries in the late 1600-early 1700 time period during the global shutdown of archives.

Oddly, one of the organizations I reached out to for assistance was the same one that the genealogist had but I was conversing with a different individual. It turned out my contact’s wife happened to have the same individual in her family tree and he was interested to learn what I uncovered. I promised to share my findings, which I did.

Another year and a half passed and I heard nothing from the lineage society. I decided to reach out to the president of the organization who I knew from another society. She forwarded my email to a gentleman who had recently taken over for the genealogist that was handling my application.

He profusely apologized and said he had never received any of my paperwork when the position was turned over to him. No surprise there! He asked for me to send proof my check had been cashed as that was also not clear to the new treasurer. He gave me his phone number and asked that I call him.

I found my canceled check online and emailed it to him; then called as he had requested. When he answered I told him who I was and he replied, “Hi, Cuz.” Cuz? Turns out he is related to me on my father’s line as he noticed my maiden name on the application and several of the great greats I had included.

My application was approved and my newfound cousin and I have spoken and emailed several times. Here’s some additional weird stuff about us:

  • He lived 50 miles from me in Florida for about 50 years
  • He had just relocated out of Florida for the same reasons we were
  • His new home is 50 miles from where my husband and I own property and considered moving
  • We share very similar views about many things, history in particular
  • I was writing an article about a Civil War myth purportedly that occurred in my former city and told him I was stuck on researching the man who was at the center of the story. He happened to be familiar with the man’s father, who was an early settler in Payne’s Prairie, close to where he lived most of his life.

I’m not sure what lesson I was supposed to learn from the universe but it does drive home the point that genealogy is a study of patience! If my application had been approved immediately I would likely never have connected with my “Cuz” nor obtained the information I needed to complete the article.

Next week – another creepy occurrence that happened to me in June.