Boots on the Ground Remains Important

Courtesy of Aunt Becky on Findagrave.com

Do you have a family line that just fascinates you? Mine is the Duers who emigrated from England to New Jersey, moving on to what is now West Virginia and then into Ohio.

I’ve blogged before about the difficulty of identifying individuals as each generation reuses names – John, Thomas, Daniel, Joseph, and John(athan). I have been trying to prove for years that patriot John Duer (1758-1831) had a son, Thomas, who predeceased him. Thomas had a son, John, whose burial location was unknown. Both of grandson John’s wives, Jane and Margaret, were buried in Kessler Cemetery, aka Liberty, in Chattanooga, Mercer, Ohio.

Several years ago I contacted the cemetery staff and they kindly sent me a handwritten listing of burial plots. John Duer was shown buried in row 6 space 23. Unfortunately, that’s not the John I’m seeking; that John was the man I’m seeking’s son John Fred (1836-1939).

While I was in Fort Wayne recently at the genealogical library, I asked my husband to check books for cemetery records in Mercer County, Ohio. John died in Allen County, Indiana, across the border from Mercer as that is where he owned property later in life and had his will probated. No obituary has been found for him. His will omitted many of his children from his first marriage. My theory was that he was buried in an unmarked grave either in Adams County, Indiana, or in Kessler Cemetery.

My husband is not interested in genealogy and sometimes, not having a background makes for the best finds. He didn’t bother using the indexes provided in the back of the books. He scanned every page for the name John Duer. He also was looking for alternative spelling as he was aware that the original spelling was Dure. In Judith Burkhardt & Gloria Schindler. Mercer County, Ohio Cemetery Records of Liberty Township (1987) he hit gold! The last entry on the last page (52) noted in Row 15: “Next several stones missing, sunken in ground or unreadable John Duer – Unreadable”

Wow! It’s likely this was the John that I was trying to find. He wasn’t listed on the Kessler Cemetery sheet sent to me because the document only went to row 8. I had no idea I hadn’t been sent the entire cemetery listing.

I definitely need to take a trip to Kessler to see the stone for myself. I’m not holding out hope I’ll be able to glean information from the stone that was unreadable 34 years ago but I still need to make the attempt.

Interestingly, the Burkhardt & Schindler book also noted that the first wife, Jane’s, tombstone death year was 1888 which is a mistranscription. Her stone is shown above. Actually, that death year on her stone is probably also in error. John married second 11 December 1864 to widow Margaret Martz Searight. It is likely that his first wife Jane died in July 1861-4; no divorce record was found by staff who searched in Mercer County.

I definitely need to check for myself and also search divorce records in Adams County, Indiana, where John purchased a property in 1860, leaving Jane off the deed. When they lived in Holmes County she was listed as an owner with him.

I suspect her tombstone was not added until after the Civil War as the family had several sons and sons-in-law fighting for the Union. I’m thinking 1866 was the year they had the tombstone installed. Or, there was a divorce I haven’t yet found.

Boots on the ground are still necessary and it’s definitely exciting to step away from the computer to make a find in person. Kudos to my husband who made this exciting discovery for me. Happy Hunting!

Changes for Genealogy at Heart

Dear Readers, This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever written.

My family and I have decided to make some significant life-altering changes. It all began a month ago when I attended my first in-person conference since the pandemic started.

I was so excited to be “back to normal.” Little did I know how it would rock my world!

As a board member of my local historical society, I was asked to attend a conference hosted by my county on preservation. I assumed it would be about preserving buildings and artifacts and discussing the typically Florida issues of mold, humidity, insects, and so on. I was so very wrong.

The speakers were professors from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, a preservation architect, a state archaeologist, two leaders of historical nonprofits, our county’s planner who specializes in preservation, and a tourism guru (it’s Florida, this makes sense).

Whether you believe in climate change or not, you have to admit the weather has just been kooky. We get minor flooding in Florida on a sunshiny day. We have built on just about every piece of land. Citrus canker has decimated our groves and because of the population growth, farming has shrunk dramatically. There is no longer a dairy in my county or any of my neighboring counties. We’re a beef state but the high humidity and temperatures are making that even more difficult.

I’ve been here for nearly 50 years – graduated from high school, and college, married, raised a family and retired after a 44-year education career. I’ve written before about my love of gardening which I hoped to spend more time on when I retired as an educator last year. Spending just 2.5 hours in my garden is now my limit due to the excessive heat.

Sure, I can stay indoors as I did with the pandemic but that’s not the lifestyle I envisioned when I retired.

The conference had no solutions to preserving Florida’s heritage. Models were shown of the damage that would occur with various hurricane categories descending upon my area. FEMA has a new Ap and it was encouraged that buildings of “value” 1975 and before are photographed and uploaded to FEMA, with additional paperwork to complete, of course. That way, they can be “preserved” once they are destroyed.

Floridians are a hardy bunch; we know what to do when a storm is heading our way. Perhaps we have the Jimmy Buffet mentality but we don’t tend to spend much time worrying about what may happen someday. The conference, however, reminded me how long overdue we are for a direct hit. Last fall, I wrote an article for the Florida Genealogist that will be published this month on a no-name storm that caused heartbreak for a local family in 1921. We lost everything once to Hurricane Elena; I do not want to go through that again at my age.

The traffic was fierce when I left the conference and because of congestion, a car fire, accidents, and road construction, it took me 1.5 hours to get home. Back in the day, that would have taken less than 30 minutes.

The next morning I spoke with my husband about my concerns. He processed our conversation that day and by the next day, thought we should relocate. I felt awful as I was the one who made such a big deal when our adult children came back to live here shortly before the pandemic. How would they take the news?

You have to love those millennials! One child said, “I’ll start packing” and the other replied, “I’ve always hated Florida.” Husband and I looked at each other, stunned.

The next decision was where to relocate. One adult child works from home but the other will need a worksite. We all contributed to what was important to us – less congestion, four seasons, access to the amenities we are used to like shopping, and a place that is accepting. My husband and I were then sent on a mission to find that place.

Last week, we flew to Fort Wayne, Indiana. We rented a car and drove throughout Indiana and Ohio looking for a home. Originally from Lake County, we were familiar with some of the areas we were investigating.

Of course, I did some stops just for genealogical purposes. My family settled in Ohio before it was a state, around 1802. I visited where my paternal grandparents were married and the town where my dad was born. They relocated to Fort Wayne when he was a toddler and so I checked out the churches they attended and the home where they resided. My grandfather returned there after my grandmother’s death and I found his last home. I was not close to my father’s side after my parent’s divorce so seeing these locations were new to me.

My husband’s family was in what is now Indianapolis by 1829 when they built a mill race on the west fork of the White River. His second great grandfather, John Anderson Long, married the mill owner’s daughter, Elizabeth Troxell, and they were the first white settlers in St. Joseph County.

So, our roots run deep there.

This is a bittersweet change for me. I was doing fine emotionally until I saw the menu at a Mad Anthony’s in Warsaw, Indiana. I teared up when I realized I could still order shrimp and grits, get a gyro, or a Cuban.

I realize home is where the heart and family reside and I’m blessed that my adult children would like to remain close to us as we age. Still, I will greatly miss my small Florida town, my local FAN club, the beaches, and my exotic plants. Sure I can visit but it won’t be the same.

Our houses will go up on the market next week. I have no idea how long until we move; we have three towns we are looking at in Indiana but decided to hold off on looking at property until our homes sell.

With the upcoming move, I may miss out on a blog or two.

If you have a need for a Tampa Bay Florida area look-up, please let me know ASAP.

Next week, I’ll share a great genealogical find my husband made and why boots on the ground is still so valuable.

Cloud Storage for Your Genealogy

Courtesy of TechCrunch

We don’t take much time to think about clouds. As a tropical storm passes to my south, I notice only grey skies today. Genealogists sometimes look to the heavens and think, where did you leave that record, great-grandpa? Those aren’t the clouds we’ll be discussing. I’m talking about tech servers that are accessed “out there” on the internet. It’s a place where your data is kept for you to retrieve anytime, anyplace.

Technically, the cloud is a misnomer; your internet-stored data is housed in a physical place somewhere on earth and not up in the big fluffy grouping of water vapor. Why is paying a company to keep your data a good idea? If you only store your data in one location, such as your lap or desktop, you risk losing all of it if the device fails. It’s unpredictable when that may occur – spilled beverage, power surge, or just system age can make your hard work disappear in a heartbeat.

Backing up to a portable hard drive or a stick is a good idea, but are you really going to do that after every new task you are working on? Will you take that bulky drive with you when you are researching in an archive? Will you carry it to your family reunion this summer to show your kin what you’ve been working on? Not likely. Both storage methods are useless without the computer itself.

The cloud enables you to access your information from any device, even if it isn’t yours. I’m not saying that is smart or safe to do that; the best practice is to only sign in to a secure device! The option, though, is available and at times, might be lifesaving.

For example, your family member was just injured and is in the emergency room. They want to know when the individual’s last tetanus shot was given. I can’t remember that stuff, especially under times of stress. I can access the cloud on my phone and retrieve the record if I have saved it there.

You probably have been using cloud technology and don’t realize it. Apple iCloud, Netflix, Yahoo, and Google Mail all keep your data in cloud storage.

There are many cloud storage companies, known as computing service providers, available to choose from. Which should you select? Whichever meets your needs and budget. The big 3 are Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. I’ve used them all but like the Dropbox app on my phone. I can scan a sales receipt, upload photos I’ve taken, or retrieve anything I’ve saved to share quickly with just a few clicks.

Saving to the cloud is easy from your computer. You can download the software to use on your desktop or you can sign in via the internet to your account, then drop and drag your information. I have noticed a slight time delay between my desktop and laptop. The transfer is not instantaneous but fairly quick. When I used to work away from home, I would place my unfinished documents in the cloud and by the time I drove home, about 45 minutes later, they would be there for me to pick up where I left off.

If you’ve uploaded a family document to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, or any other genealogy program, you’ve used the drop and drag feature. It’s quick, easy, and secure.

How secure? I did take my laptop with me when I volunteered a few weeks ago to finish up a task for the organization where I was volunteering. I signed on to the shared internet from that location. A few days later I decided it was time to update my Dropbox password. When I logged on to the site through the internet, I noticed a sign on to my account from a location I had never visited. I panicked, thinking someone had hacked my account. I updated the password and through an option on the site, blocking the unknown location from accessing my account again. What I hadn’t realized in my panic was that the organization I was at used their own cloud servers that happened to be in the location I wasn’t familiar with. Duh! My data had been safe all along; Dropbox was simply letting me know where the servers I had used were housed.

I highly recommend saving your genealogy documents to a cloud environment. Definitely back up periodically to a hard drive, as well! The more you save the more options you have to retrieve your hard work.

I will be taking a hiatus from blogging. We have some major life-changing news brewing that I’ll be writing about in the upcoming weeks. Until we reconnect, you can always reach me at genealogyatheart@gmail.com. Happy Hunting and hopefully, we’ll be back together soon.

You’ve Scanned – Now What? More Genealogy Organization Tips

Courtesy of Google

You’ve successfully scanned all of your genealogical research and are quite proud of yourself. Definitely pat yourself on the back because you’ve accomplished a task that is mundane (as you’d rather be researching), frustrating (when the hardware glitches) and at times, confusing (should I keep the paper or should I recycle it?!).

I hate to break it to you but you aren’t done. Here are the next steps to think about:

  1. Where have you stored the scans? If the answer is on your desktop or computer hard drive then you must think of a backup location. If your computer fails your work was all in vain and you’ll really be upset if you’ve thrown away the originals. I have saved it to a Cloud and to a stand-alone hard drive. I intend to copy the files to two other stand-alone hard drives and distribute them to my adult kids. Why? If the internet goes down and I can’t access the Cloud and my hard drive isn’t working, then I can “borrow” the secondary drive from one of my kids. If this sounds paranoid to you, think again. When a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire hits there often isn’t time to take everything important to you. You may be seeking shelter in a location with minimal internet. When the world is tumbling down I sometimes retreat to my genealogy. We aren’t the only ones living in troubled times, your ancestors did also. Having a backup to a backup is sensible and may lessen your stress level. The cost is minimal for peace of mind.
  2. When do you backup? I’m thinking December holidays and Mother’s Day the kids can bring their hard drives back and one of my “gifts” is that they’ll backup their devices to mine. Remember, you’re never finished! You’ll be adding files as you continue researching so you want all your backups to reflect your newly added finds.
  3. Wouldn’t it be easier to save to a stick? Sure, if you don’t have a huge amount that is a good solution. I have stick issues. Seriously. I was cozying up in my favorite armchair with my laptop and the cat jumped up on me. As I tried to adjust the laptop with the cat on it the stick hit the side of the chair and bent. I couldn’t retrieve anything. I took it to a computer repair place and was told they couldn’t get the data, either. I tried another place, nope. So, if you don’t have cats you may be okay with a stick but for me, I only use them when I travel to give a lecture. I also tend to lose small objects. If you don’t have those problems you’re fine with saving to a stick.
  4. Help, how do I find the info I scanned? The key here is how you named your file. There are many different organizational tips so you have to find what works best for you. Many people save by date. For example, it’s a marriage certificate from 1888. With this technique, the file name would be 1888.Marriage Certificate.Samuelson Family. This method allows you to save in a timeline fashion with little need for folders. Personally, this wouldn’t work for me as I have too much stuff! I’d be scrolling down to the year and then zeroing in on the item and then the person. When I’m researching I tend to think first of searching by the individual and unfortunately, we’ve got a zillion family members named George! I made a folder for each individual by last name dot first name middle name. That helps me differentiate my same-named folks. I also use Jr. or Sr. if it’s appropriate and added a birth year and death year in a few cases. All the scans for that particular person are saved in that folder. Example: Harbaugh.George Frederick.Marriage Cert. I don’t need the date because I have timelines for my people. If you use any genealogy software (RootMagic, Legacy, etc.) or an online program (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com) you’ve got the timeline built-in. To find an item I just need to open the folder with the person’s name and scroll down. Cloud storage often has a search bar so I can type in “marriage” and the files in that folder that contain the name marriage will magically appear.
  5. What do I do with the info that I want to save that isn’t necessarily for one individual? I created a file folder of a few surnames, such as Leininger Family. This is where I keep scans of documents that I’m not sure belong to my line or not. I also included geographic and historic info I discovered about the place where the line resided. My Leiningers emigrated to Ohio and then moved on to Indiana. If I have an article about researching in Celina, Ohio, I would save it to the family surname folder. This is my catch-all for all those hints we discover but aren’t sure if they are meaningful or not. I also have files for lecture syllabuses saved by lecture title.presenter.organization. This way I have additional research ideas to consult readily without having to dig through a mound of paper.

Next week, I’ll discuss Cloud options.

Genealogy This and That

Courtesy of 123rf.com

Last week was the first time I skipped posting a blog; it was so hectic in my part of the universe I just couldn’t find the time. If you were looking for me, my apologies!

Today’s blog will be short and sweet as I have my area’s historical society’s annual picnic to set up for in a few minutes. The weather here is frightful so we’ll be picnicking INDOORS. Sigh.

I’m happy to announce I did complete the organizational project I mentioned two weeks ago. It’s hard for me to recycle my paper files but I’ve already found how much more useful and quick those files are to recover once they’ve been scanned.

The past week I had a rush project; trying to find a descendant of a female pioneer from my area so a tombstone could be placed on her grave. You know how it is when you email someone for info and you wait and wait and wait for a response. This time, the lovely woman wrote back within an hour. The city approved the project on Monday but rescinded its decision on Friday. They wanted to connect with a descendant so I’ve just finished providing them with my contacts with the caveat that I haven’t fully researched those kinship claims.

I attended an interesting in-person local conference on preservation on Wednesday. I thought it would be about preserving buildings; instead, I learned some disturbing (to me!) information about my county’s “plan” in the event of a weather disaster. The plan isn’t a plan of prevention, it’s of how they plan to spend the federal and state dollars once the area is obliterated. I think I’m going through the stages of grief. I seem to have been the only attendee that was bothered by the slides presented. I came home and did further research and I understand where they were coming from – Florida lies on limestone so there is no way to prevent saltwater intrusion. Dikes aren’t going to work here. I discussed this with my family and we’re making our own plans. My thoughts are with the oldest genealogy book in existence, the Bible. Noah and his ark are definitely on my mind!

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!