Two Blogs With Helpful Research Hints


Happy Daily Savings Day! With the extra hour, I’ve got a big day with family planned so I’m going to make this blog quick. If you missed some recent blogs I’ve done for other genealogical organizations, please enjoy these posts:

4 Big Genealogy Mistakes That May Be Hurting Your Research (And How to Avoid Them) published by Family History Daily (Please note: my bio has an error in it – I am currently not “On the Clock” and I’ve asked that the statement be removed.)

Investigating Your Family Legends published by Genealogists.com

Enjoy!

Using Your Genealogical Info To Make You Healthy


Maybe due to Halloween being just around the corner, I was engaged with friends in a conversation about life expectancy. The Social Security Administration has a life expectancy calculator available. Mine happens to be exactly to the age that my great grandmother was when she died. Now this calculator does not take into account your current health, habits and genetics.
I decided to make a mini-pedigree chart based on just my husband and my ancestor’s names, age at death, and cause of death. I went back 5 generations as that takes me to some of them being born in the late 1700’s. I chose that time period because it was pre-industrial revolution and most were living an agrarian lifestyle across the pond. I was trying to do pluses and minues, such as that was not a rushed society, however, if the crops failed it was extremely stressful. We have antibiotics but we also have pesticide residue. I decided the benefits and losses were about equal.
I truly only had 3 generations of definitely known causes of death with a few several times great grandmothers clearly dying during childbirth. Since that’s not going to be my cause of death I zeroed in on the remaining possibilities. Most I could do something about – I could take the flu shot every year; my maternal great grandfather died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. When I get to age 65, I can take the pneumonia vaccine as I’ve had several grandparents die from that. I can watch my diet and exercise to keep my heart in good shape. Not much I can do about the Alzheimers Disease other than keep my mind stimulated.
What really surprised my husband and I, though, was the proof that we descend from a family of klutzes. I’m serious! We have had several grandparents die due to accidents – falls from platforms, falls from ladders, and two railroad accidents. Being careful really isn’t something you think about in regards to longevity but in our cases, it is important.
I challenge you to look through your data between now and the New Year as it’s almost time for those genealogical resolutions. Analyzing your ancestor’s cause of death is an important legacy. Learning from their mistakes can result in a long and happy future for you.

Genealogy Finds in Your Own Home


With our interior home renovations just about finished, it was time for hubby and I to clean the garage. Yuck! Everything we didn’t know what to do with, weren’t sure if we wanted to keep or it really belongs there got left in any available space. We were going to start working on it last month but we were just too busy. Last Friday was D-Day and we’re still plugging away. The heat, mosquitoes and never ending rain have made progress slow, not to mention the Craig’s List postings and removals that helped us feel better about tossing stuff.

I never thought cleaning the garage would unveil genealogy tidbits but it has. Our first “find” was an ancient mahogany chair that we’ve been dragging around from house to house for close to 40 years. My husband stripped it but never finished it as we never knew where to put it. I’ve got space now in the living room and told him I wanted to have it professionally refinished. He reminded me we have a mate in the attic. Completely forgot about that! That will go into the entry as it’s smaller. And this will be the only item we’re bringing back into the house (famous last words).

The chairs belonged to an unknown Harbaugh family member and we’re guessing it would be his great grandparents, George Frederick.and Margaret “Maggie” Long. I was hoping whoever I found to refinish them would be able to give me a rough age estimate, however, the price I got was $900.00 so it looks like I’ll be doing them myself. One chair hubby stripped 45 years ago so that’ll be a quick finish; the other, not so much.

For Father’s Day I bought my husband a large tool chest. He’s got a zillion tools, many that have been handed down. As he cleans and places them in his new chest, I’m hearing recollections of their original owners. He comes from a family of builders so there were lots of tales. It’s funny how objects – dusty, rusty and stained – can stir old memories from the brain. His dad’s WWII ammunition box held his extra trowels which reminded him of his dad’s attempt at securing bricks to build a fireplace right after the war. Dad enlisted the help of his youngest sister who helped him carry bricks nightly until they had enough to complete the job. Stuck to the ammo box was a magnet. I was surprised to learn that Uncle Carl once worked for a magnet factory and gave some to my husband to play with when he was a child. That was the first time I ever heard that story!

As the family historian, I thought I knew just about all of the stories but I was wrong. Next time you’re trying to learn more about your family I highly recommend cleaning the garage.

Snapping Stones – Tips for Photographing


Each Memorial Day when I was growing up, I’d accompany my family to tend the graves of ancestors I never knew. Small flags stood at attention on the graves of veterans and the scent from flowers filled the air.

My grandmother had a “cemetery box” in the trunk of her car; it contained hand clippers, a trowel, garden gloves, a rag and a paper bag. Grandma would don the gloves and clip any tall grass growing around the stone, putting the clippings in the paper bag. If weeds were sprouting my mom carefully pulled them out or used the trowel to remove before tossing them into the paper bag. Finally, the stone would be wiped down. I don’t remember seeing either spraying the stones with a cleaning product but I had usually lost interest by that time and was wandering around looking at the pictures on nearby markers.

In the older part of the cemetery where my great grandfather lay, many stones contained photos of the deceased. Frozen in time, I was fascinated by the faces staring out at me. Many were in uniform having died during World War I. Others were like my great grandfather who had died in the 1919 flu epidemic. Who knew from which others had succumbed? My imagination would kick in and I’d make up stories about their demise. I was usually in the middle of some epic made up tale when I was called to return. Back into the car we drove to yet another area of the cemetery to pay respects to family friends and former neighbors.

In all those visits it never once occurred to me to take a picture of the stones. Assuming they would always be there, why would a photo be needed? By the time I had entered by teens vandals had toppled many stones in the older part of the cemetery and those that couldn’t be moved were damaged by having the picture obliterated by blows. My great grandfather’s picture was one that was destroyed. We had a copy of the photo but the stone was never repaired.
Thank goodness for Find-A-Grave, Billion Graves and individuals who have posted gravestone photos on other sites. If you’re planning an upcoming cemetery visit, make sure you snap a picture during your visit and upload to preserve the record. Although we don’t think of a tombstone as a record, they are and need to be cited just like paper documents.

Here are a few hints for photographing stones:
It’s okay to tidy up the stone a bit but avoid major scrubbing. I’ve added a spray bottle and bleach tablets to my cemetery kit. Placing one tablet in the bottle and adding water, I can spray the stone to remove algae and dirt quickly. I sometimes need to use a soft bristle brush, too, but be gentle!

vIf someone has placed flowers or other adornments in front of the stone it’s alright to move them for the photo but please carefully replace when you’re done.

For upright standing stones – get down in front and level with the stone. It reduces distortion and if the photo is taken close up, minimizes your shadow.

For flat stones – try to take the picture from directly above making sure you don’t include your feet. If you can’t do that, please crop the photo before uploading.

Back up and take a photo of stones adjacent to the one that is of interest to you. Possible relatives, neighbors or friends may have been buried close by and might be of help when you are researching paper documents when you return home. This method may alert you to a child who died between census years or an uncle who came for a visit and passed away unexpectedly.

Remember, just because it’s engraved in granite doesn’t make it so! Conflicting evidence does occur; an error could have been made just like with paper. If the cemetery office is open, stop in and ask for a copy of the records. To save the staff time I often photograph them in lieu of having a photocopy made. Being thoughtful goes a long way!

Preserving Your Genealogy

At the recent National Genealogical Society conference, there was a lot of chatter about preserving your genealogical records after you’re gone. I have to disagree with those that say if you don’t cite your work it will be tossed. I don’t know about you, but my family could care less where I find what I find. Unless the finder has been bitten by the genealogy bug, no one will understand the importance of citing and analyzing sources.

That said, I’m definitely in favor of following the standards. I think you should do the right thing but that is not going to save your years of effort from other destruction by surviving family members. I firmly believe there is only 3 ways to make sure that your research is preserved but you must plan ahead:

Donate your work locally and/or electronically so that future folks you don’t even know can benefit. These are the people who will not value your work if you didn’t follow the standards soundly.
Publish now and get your work in as many hands as possible. It’s quite simple to publish an eBook or you can print from whatever word processing program you use and have copies made at one of the big box office supply stores. Just type “how to publish an eBook” in amazon.com’s search engine and many free books are available to get you started. The holidays are around the corner and who knows?! A recipient might just get interested.
Getting a family member hooked is not as difficult as it sounds. The idea here is to match the living person’s passion to an ancestor. My kids could care less about their Great Grandma Elsie’s china. I understand that; we’ve used it for years as they’ve grown so it’s not so special. Will it be preserved? Most definitely, but it’s just not that exciting to them. On the other hand, they’re into medicine and research so learning about the life of that great uncle doctor in the 1800’s and a 5th great grandfather who was a chemist really gets them listening. The old tool box is a draw for our son while the old thread is a tie for my daughter to her 2 x’s great grandmother. An attachment develops when you can relate so find the connection and you’re work is safe!

Neat Ideas from the National Genealogical Society Conference


Here are a ten of my most favorite experiences, most of which were FREE, at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh:

FamilySearch for more writing ideas.
Palatines to America had a useful handout containing a What is the Relationship? Form. If you get confused between Great Nephews and 3rd Cousin Once Removed this handy dandy template would be helpful.
National Archives’ (NARA) updated handout listed the links to their most used records. I sometimes get lost on their site so this “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was nice.
History Hub, an online site with blogs, discussion boards and community pages for anyone interested in history. That was news to me and a place I plan on checking out.
Federation of Genealogical Societies publishes a quarterly electronic magazine for only $15.00/year? That’s just $3.00 per issue!
ew York Genealogical and Biographical Society as I want to get back into researching some of my hubby’s Long Island folks. As a member, besides the wonderful journal, you get access to Findmypast AND the New York Public Library online.
USGenWeb Project had a laminated postcard with the 88 Ohio counties – very useful for me to track my people from Trumbull to Stark to Darke to Mercer and finally, to Van Wert. I learned from an attendee I’ve been mispronouncing my dad’s birth city my whole life – Celina is pronounced Seh lie nah and not Seh lee na. Who Knew?!
Fun Stuff for Genealogists had cute t-shirts, inexpensive jewelry, archive materials and historic map reproductions. See their full catalog online. I bought a tree bead and a brass tree charm.
Ohio Genealogical Society gave me a few ideas about my darling Duers who left so few records in their travels across that state. The volunteer even consulted his own resources to see if my folks were named (they weren’t but it was a valiant attempt on his part).
Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas Jones with the plan on working through it this summer. You can purchase a copy through the National Genealogical Society.

I’m hoping to be able to attend next year, too. Paths to Your Past will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan May 2-5, 2018.

Genealogy Connection at the Car Dealership


On the way to the Croatian Picnic, Hobart, Indiana, 4 July 1923. Left to right: Frank Trputsis, Mary and Joseph Koss

So here’s my Serendipitous Saturday event of yesterday…

Hubby’s 10 year old car was ready to bite the dust. In the past week the gas cap refused to come off, the driver’s visor fell out, the windshield wiper fluid wouldn’t pump out and the air stopped working. Definitely time for a trade in!

He absolutely loved the car so he considered getting those things fixed but when we started tallying up the price, decided to invest that money towards a new vehicle. He wanted the same make and model since it had been such a low maintenance car but we couldn’t agree on a price at the dealership, which was ironic because the by line is they never let a customer down.

We drove to another dealership where I had purchased a car two years ago and as we were negotiating, I heard a deep voice say, “I’m Croatian.” This totally distracted me from the sales person for several reasons. First, I am Croatian and I only know of one other person of Croatian descent in a three county area adjacent to where I reside. Second, in the 45 years I’ve lived in the area, I’ve never heard anyone make that statement. Third, entirely unexpected, it surprised and startled me to the point of losing focus on the the sales person’s conversation. Fourth, what was really weird, though, was that my husband and I had just had a side conversation about my Croatian grandmother and her love of new vehicles so much so that she would buy a new car every year. My grandfather never drove because of his poor vision and rarely went with her when she negotiated prices. I had just remarked to my husband how I would have preferred to be anywhere else than in a car dealership and I didn’t understand how Grandma could possibly enjoy the experience annually.

I looked at my husband after hearing the voice from no where and asked him if he had just heard “I’m Croatian.” Sitting right next to me, he hadn’t. For a second I thought I was hearing things but the sales person said, “That was Boris, he works in financing.” I told her I had to meet him so after we agreed to terms (HALLELUJAH!), she introduced us.

Boris emigrated at age 18. He was born and raised in the same city my grandparents were from. Knowing the area well, he corrected my pronunciation of the small neighborhood they where they had resided. When I mentioned how much I missed my grandmother’s cooking he let me know that there is now a group meeting locally for those of Croatian descent. My first question, “Do they have lamb at their meetings?” With summer coming, I’m really missing those old picnics from my youth. I do live in a Greek community where cuisine close to my upbringing is readily available but those small nuances in ingredients make a difference and it’s just not quite the same. He said, “Yes, and they have kolaches, pita, and other desserts.” Oh my goodness! I have the recipes but they just don’t taste the way grandma made them. I blame Florida humidity but that’s probably not it – I just don’t have the knack for baking the way she and my mom did. So today, I’m heading to meet some folks and possibly kin.

This experience got me thinking about a different way to build your tree. It had never occurred to me to try to find a Croatian group locally. Whatever is your ancestral origins, it’s possible they are meeting near you. Check them out! Even if you don’t find a connection to your family you’ll be able to enjoy the culture and cuisine that will give you a better idea of what made your ancestor tick. Happy Hunting!

Musing About Life Lessons Learned That Apply to Genealogy


It’s been a slow week genealogywise for me as I’ve been consumed with the house renovations and an increased workload at my educator job. I thought I’d have difficulty coming up with a blog but instead I’m bursting with lessons learned from those situations that apply to genealogy.

With renovations, there is a lot of moving of “stuff” around as we empty one area of the house with the goal of making it an improved place. It’s a total pain to have to physically move items. I also realized I have a lot of things that I no longer use so I’m donating or pitching as I go (or pawning off on my children). This got me thinking about genealogy practices…

I used to have alot of stuff I took with me when I researched; I carried my clunky laptop, notebook, charts, lots of pencils, a camera, phone, stickees, and thumbdrives. It was a workout just getting into an archive. I’ve streamlined considerably and find I can simply take my Kindle, phone, a mechanical pencil and stickees. Instead of many thumbdrives that contained my surname info and individual thumbdrives for my clients, I now just take one for microfilms in case I can’t email it to myself and use the ap on my phone, Office Lens, to take a picture and immediately send it to One Note, for everything else I used to save to a thumbdrive. I can view that from my phone and Kindle to make sure it looked the way I want before I leave so I never get home and realize I needed to get a better view. Also on the Kindle is Evernote, which has my research log template. I still carry the stickees to flag book pages I’m interested in. These changes have made my research life much saner and safer. I don’t have to worry about someone walking off with the laptop if I have to go back to the stacks for another look. I have more flexibility in where I park myself down to research and I lost weight without having to diet. Very cool! Have no idea why it took me so long to figure out I needed to do this room by room in my house.

After a room is finished I find that I might be better off moving items around for increased efficiency. For example, my drinking glasses used to be in a cabinet closest to the sink. I realized it’s a better idea to move them in the cabinet next to the refrigerator as that’s where we go to get cold, purified water, ice and lemon. This practice definitely applies to genealogy. Just because you used to do something doesn’t mean you should continue to do so. Back in the day, I organized my genealogy files by lines. As the data grew I found that it was too complex so I took the time to reorganize by surname. A binder system works well for me today but may not in the future and that’s ok! Change is good although I must admit, as a creature of habit, I do tend to go back to the old cabinet to seek out a glass when I’m exhausted. Habits may be difficult to break but can be done. Investing time to make a task better is time well spent. You may be in for a happy surprise, which gets me to my next lesson learned.

Ironically, last Wednesday I blogged about my recent Dropbox experience. At my educator job, a decision was made right after I wrote the article that our team was going to only use One Note. I spent all day Thursday and part of Friday dropping and dragging files from Dropbox to One Note. Although I wasn’t thrilled to have to readjust my work priorities during a busy time, the situation did give me a big Ahaa! In Dropbox, I saved by event but in One Note, the decision was to save by date. Same situation as moving my drinking glasses and reorganizing my genealogy files! The data is the same but where and how it’s stored is different. So here’s where I learned another lesson – looking at the older files was quite enlightening. I was able to identify some holes in our program which we’ll be discussing this week. Try this with your brickwalls. If your found records are in timeline order, shuffle them up and place them by type of record or location where they were made. You might identify where your gap is and be off and running to locate overlooked events or places where they occurred. It sure is the same stuff but my looking through a different lens you might make a new discovery.

In other words, you’ve got to change your practices up to move forward, even if it’s painful. Happy Hunting!

A Tub Full of Memories


Laundry – it stinks if left undone, piles up and never ends. Kind of like genealogy! I had to use the machines in my local laundromat recently due to home renovations. Check out the picture above – it costs $5.00 to wash ONE LOAD. Of course I didn’t have as many quarters as I needed and the change machine in the facility jipped me which made me even more determined to get our laundry room back in order quickly.

I have several memories of laundry from my childhood which is funny when you think of how mundane doing laundry is. My earliest memory is of my mom running among the rain drops to retrieve nearly dry sheets hanging outside on the line when I was about 3 years old. She told me it was God’s final rinse and it smelled delightful. I imagined heaven as scented with a summer rain. We had a washer and dryer but my mom loved to hang out clothes which my father never understood. She never adapted to using dryer sheets.

My maternal grandmother was the same way; grandpa had to make her special laundry stakes – a slit on the end of a long pole – to raise up the wet clothes on the line so it wouldn’t drag across the ground. She was barely 5 feet tall and used a step stool to reach the line, dragging it across the backyard grass from space to open space. On windy days, I would run between the hanging clothes trying to not get slapped by the wetness. If I made it through untouched I got a point. Usually the laundry won.

Doing laundry could be scary, too. My grandparents had an old wringer Maytag washing machine in the basement and occasionally, my mom would drag it across the basement floor to the double cement laundry tub which she would use to “catch” the clothes going through the wringer. I thought it was fascinating to see the water squeeze out until mom leaned too close to the wringer and her headscarf went along for the ride. Immediately, she reached for the wringer arm mechanism and placed it in reverse so she could be free. That was fast thinking and probably saved her life. Mom told me that she knew a woman who had died from a broken neck because she hadn’t been able to reach the lever in time. I’ve never seen that in an obit but I imagine death by laundry wouldn’t be memorialized as the way to go.

Hubby’s dad lost a piece of his thumb as a young man helping his mom do laundry. As he tried to adjust the bulky, heavy clothes going through the wringer his thumb slid forward and caught in the machine. He lived to tell of his dangerous encounter taming wet sheets.

Now when it comes to laundromats, until recently, I had more pleasant memories. My Aunt Betty, for a short time, owned and operated a laundromat. My cousins and I would sometimes accompany her to the business and play around by “driving” the carts, climbing on the tables to be tall and checking out the laundry product machines and the pay phone to see if there was change left. I can’t ever recall a customer while we were there which could explain why she sold the business and moved on to owning a beauty shop (now that was really fun for a young girl!). I suppose the broken machines were another reason for the sale; we thought it was hilarious when suds billowed out of the top and down the sides but Aunt Betty never looked pleased.

My last childhood memory of laundromats is related to this time of year. In late winter or early spring, mom would take our heavy winter garments to the then new concept of Norge Village – an upscale laundromat that housed huge machines from a child’s perspective that not only washed and dried clothes but also dry cleaned. A modern woman in the 1960’s sure had come a long way, baby! Mom would save money by doing her own dry cleaning of the winter coats; I was always glad to see them folded and stored in the attic in plastic tubs with moth balls. Give me hot weather anytime.

And give me my own machines! In our laundry room, we have hanging an old glass National washboard that my husband purchased at his first auction for $10.00 years ago. It serves as a reminder of how far a simple household task has evolved and I’m thankful for that.

Home Renovations Then and Now


Oh, the joys of home ownership! We started our mostly do-it-yourself project with gutting the kitchen the day after Thanksgiving. I was hoping it would be done by Monday, President’s Day, but it isn’t going to happen because the microwave that was supposed to be delivered Saturday got pushed back to Monday because of a snafu between the store and the delivery person and the window installer who was supposed to install the new windows on Monday had a family emergency so I don’t have a date for when that will be finished. We’re still waiting on four trim pieces for the cabinets that never came in last month with the rest of the order and hubby can’t finish the backsplash and the floor tile until the window is in and the trim is done. And that’s just the beginning of the project!
We’re removing the rest of the tile in the house on Tuesday, installing new sliders, painting and then adding new flooring over the upcoming months. Most of our belongings are in boxes in the guest room and the furniture is piled up in the living room. The chaos is making our cats neurotic and I can certainly empathize with them. When it becomes overwhelming, I try to focus on how lucky we our compared to renovations back in the day.
Sometimes in genealogy we get so wrapped up in finding an elusive record that we don’t stop to think about the life experiences of those we are seeking. Here’s an interesting thought – ever since the first home was constructed, generations of our ancestors have gone through renovating their dwellings. Perhaps it was rebuilding after a fire or flood. Maybe it was enlarging to accommodate a growing family. Possibly it was updating to a newer and better style. No matter the reason, I found mention of home improvements in the diary of Mary Ann Eyster Johnson that I could identify with. Here’s some of my favorites and why:
On 11 June 1884, Mary Ann noted that it was “Clear & pleasant. The Brethren met at Meeting House to enlarge the kitchen and build furnace.” The Meeting House was located across the street from the Johnson’s home. Hmm, we upgraded the air conditioner and heater just prior to renovating our kitchen. I can’t imagine having to build a furnace, though.
We called in a plumber to connect up the new sink after the counter top was installed. I have city water so I didn’t need to hire “…Pump borers came this evening, too (sic) of them.” The borers finished their work two and half days later. Some of my neighbors have wells for lawn irrigation purposes. A typical install now is a half day.
Mary Ann’s home did not have indoor plumbing. On 19 January 1904, she noted that the “Pump frose (sic) up.” Thank goodness, I only went a couple of hours without water in the kitchen when our new sinks were installed. Going outside to pump water must have been miserable. Discovering the pump was frozen, even more so. Makes me appreciate my plumber!
I was without a stove for the last week. Mary Ann wrote on 10 June 1882 “Put stove on porch.” Every summer the stove was moved outside as it was too hot to cook in the kitchen. In September, it was moved back into the house. I am so thankful we don’t have to do that!
Besides the stove, each summer Mary Ann, “Took up the room carpet.” Since we’re going to be putting in wood flooring we’ll be adding area rugs but I don’t plan on taking those up in the summer. There’s no mention of tile flooring so Mary Ann never had the joy of thinset removal.
On 18 May 1882, Mary Ann “White washd (sic) kitchen.” Hubby repainted our kitchen white last weekend. Great color choice, Mary Ann!
Although Mary Ann would not have had a dishwasher or microwave, she did experience appliance delivery. On 7 January 1904, “Andrew brought out our new washing machine. Cost $2.80 cents, freight and all.” That equates to about $72.23 in 2016 dollars.1 If only I could buy a new appliance for that price! Wonder if she tipped delivery man Andrew?
Courtesy of Sharon Kinney, here’s a photo of Mary Ann’s home:

Since I’m now an “expert,” those sure look like standard windows to me.

1 Inflation Calculator, 1904-2016; digital database, in2013dollars.com (http://www.in2013dollars.com: accessed 18 February 2017).