Racing and Genealogy

5K Award

Typically I blog on Saturday mornings but yesterday I participated in a very special event for me; I took part in my first 5K. I do like to walk but not run. My husband signed us both up to be in the race that we were already going to be attending to cheer on a family member who was entered into the marathon category.

It was a long drive to and from the event and that gave me time to reflect on how much racing is like genealogy.

One might disagree with me as running is all about getting somewhere quickly and genealogy is the opposite. Yet, there are striking similarities I’ve noticed.

I have never been a runner and really had no desire to become one. Our family joke is I would rather stand and fight than run. Pretty much. The truth is initially I really had no desire to be a genealogist. I had an interest in discovering answers to family questions. That interest, over time, became a passion. Successful runners have that passion to get up at the crack of dawn in all sorts of weather to hone their skills. Genealogists stay up into the wee morning hours doing research online. I would even go so far as saying genealogists get a version of runner’s high when they locate that long-lost document or solve a family mystery.

When runners are patiently waiting for the start of the race, they swap stories of past races. Runners also encourage each other to continue on the course. Genealogists cannot help themselves, when they get together, sharing their past finds and supporting their colleagues to continue on to a victory when researching a brick wall.

Runners have tricks of the trade that the novice would have little awareness about – like pickle juice. Genealogists have many of their own tricks, I enjoy sharing mine via my blog.

As I jumped into racing yesterday I once jumped into genealogy. I learned to warm up, wear my broken in gym shoes, and make sure I stayed hydrated. The destination is often not close to my home. Not much different than preparing for a genealogical research trip!

Getting to the finish line is difficult for both runners and genealogists as there are so many unexpected obstacles that pop up. One of the shared ones is the pandemic. We pivot, we adjust, we have our workarounds to reach the end. We eventually get there.

The biggest surprise I learned about racing was the sloth award. Who knew there was a coveted award for coming in last place! The point is that endurance is more important than speed. I like that. That should be running in the back of every genealogist’s mind. Happy Hunting!

GenealogyAtHeart’s Top 10 Posts of 2021

Looked at the calendar this morning and realized this will be my last Genealogy At Heart post for 2021! I will be taking a hiatus due to the holidays for the next 2 weeks. Hoping you have a delightful time – enjoy, reminisce, and stay safe.

10 Fantastic Photos! MyHeritage Does it Again!

9 Resolving Genealogy Tech Issues

8 A Unique Genealogical Find Christmas Night

7 Your Town’s History – A Treasure Hunt

6 Lessons Learned From Exhaustive Research

5 Reconnecting with Taboo Family

4 Remembering the Forgotten Ones – A New Project

3 Extra Special MyHeritage.com Announcement

2 Genealogy Acts of Kindness or Scam?

1 An Unusual Source to Find a Deed

Upcoming Genealogy Changes You Don’t Want to Miss

You might not want to miss the following:

Elizabeth Shown Mills lecture on Legacy Family Tree Webinars is offered FREE through October 31st. This is Elizabeth’s LAST LECTURE as she is retiring from lecturing. I will greatly miss her.

Special thanks to reader Tess who responded regarding my earlier blog mentioning problems I encountered with RootsMagic 8. She recommended posting on the RM Users Group on FaceBook so I’d like to pass that tip along if you are having difficulties. Before doing that, I viewed the FREE webinars that are available on YouTube and that solved my issue. More will be coming so here’s the link to register in advance.

The root of my problem was I was trying to reconnect to Ancestry.com due to a pop up on RootsMagic 8. I did not need to do that as the webinar stated if you were already logged into Ancestry.com on RM 7 you would automatically be connected in RM 8. That would explain why the program froze for me. My tree is very large which doesn’t help. I logged out and waited a day. When I logged back in I followed the directions provided on the video and have had no problems since. I absolutely LOVE version 8 – kudos to the RootsMagic staff for their hard work.

If you are doing French research, two changes are in the works. Geneanet.org has been purchased by Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com has acquired 90% of Filae.com. I’m not sure when databases will roll from the old company to the new one or what you do if you were a member of the old company. I recommend contacting the company for details. MyHeritage did blog about the new content so check that out here. I had a free Geneanet membership and never subscribed to Filae.

October Weirdness

Hurricane Sam courtesy of thehill.com

I had a Freaky Thursday. I volunteer at my local historical society on Thursdays and when it’s quiet, I read from their library. I had just discovered a thin paperback, almost of pamphlet size, called The Oldtimers that looked interesting. It was written about 1996 (no publication date) when the group was founded and it contained unsourced responses to the following statement, “You know you’re an Oldtimer when you remember…” I had no idea my small city once had an airfield adjacent to what is now a county park. I didn’t know about the house of ill repute, either. It was a quick read and before I was finished a guest arrived. He was an elderly gentleman who after I greeted him, thanked me for volunteering (I wear a badge). He asked me what I was reading and when I told him he was startled. Evidently, his father had started the Oldtimer group and he didn’t know there had been a book written. He left the area nearly a half century ago and only came back recently to finish the estate of his brother who had recently died. I told him we had a copy in the gift shop but he declined as he was trying to make arrangements to donate and not acquire.

If that wasn’t odd enough, I finished the book and retrieved another one, Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise. I had seen excerpts from this book in a cookbook I looked at last month that had been written by the granddaughters of the Paradise author. The story takes place on an island in the Gulf of Mexico that is south of where I live. I had wanted to write a journal article about a family tragedy in 1921 that happened during a hurricane and thought I might be able to find some information in the book. The title page wasn’t helpful and there was no index (of course). No endnotes. Scanned and found no footnotes. I sighed. I randomly picked a page and Wow – my eyes landed right on the paragraph that named the family I was looking for! I could not believe it. I had to immediately share the news with the museum coordinator.

I first heard the story of this family in September 1995. My youngest was selling the typical junk for his school and we were going door-to-door in our neighborhood. It had been a busy hurricane season and although I don’t recall which hurricane was out there, I decided we needed to get the sales out of the way quickly just in case.

We had moved to our then house in the spring so hadn’t yet met all of the neighbors on our street, which was a long winding drive. About 10 homes from our own, we met an elderly woman who asked what school the fund raiser was for. When my child told her, she said, “The school was named for my family.” We both thought that was pretty neat and I asked her if she was interested in visiting and maybe speaking to the students about her own education in the area. She smiled but declined. Then she began to tell me of the family tragedy. The story haunted me for years.

As with most stories you hear, if you don’t hear them or re-read them again the details become fuzzy. I couldn’t remember if the family was a Garrison or a Jones. This was on my to-do list since it’s the 100th “anniversary” of that great storm but I wasn’t scheduled to submit the article until next spring so I hadn’t looked into it yet. To find it by chance in this large book was just strange.

I also discovered in this brief paragraph why the family was on the island. I’m not disclosing at this time but it was timely to things happening today which gave me even more eebie-jeebies. I am glad I found the information, even if it was rather spooky.

Genealogy Acts of Kindness or Scam?

Yesterday I received an Ancestry.com message from a woman in Ohio who had found a Bible that had a name that appears in my public tree – Landfair.  She said she would mail it to me if I would pick up the cost.  I was warned that the Bible was heavy.

Unfortunately, there are so many scams today how do you know if the offer is legit or not?  She provided a phone number.  I Googled it and it was for Ohio but not for her.  She had provided her first and last name and checking that out, she was a member of a genealogy organization to which I also belong.  She did live in the area where she reportedly found the Bible.

I first messaged her back on Ancestry but after several hours, she hadn’t replied.  I decided to give her a call.  

I’m glad I took the risk…she was a sweet woman who said she finally was able to get out and enjoy an interest that she pursued BC (before covid) – reuniting found items to descendants.  She said she found my public tree first because I had the most citations for the family.  She also reached out to a few others who had the name in their tree.  

The oldest documented individual in the Bible was my first cousin three times removed.  I knew of a closer descendant so I texted the kind woman an email address and told her to mention my name. That individual lives close and would save the finder the issue of mailing.  

It was an absolutely important find for that line as there is NO marriage record to be found other than what was recorded in the Bible.  

Kudos to all of you wonderful people who spread genealogy acts of kindness!  

Wills and Probate

Did you know that August is Make-A-Will month?!  I had no idea until I received spam this morning that it was time for me to make a will. I checked it out and sure enough, this is the month to complete this important but disdained task.

Funny how as family historians/genealogists we LOVE wills and probate but personally, not so much.

Earlier this week I was volunteering at my local hospital when I overheard a family discussing a terminal family member.  The individual hadn’t yet died but the family members present, 2 grandchildren and 3 siblings of the patient, were in a discussion over who was going to get what after the death.  I tried really hard to ignore the conversation as it was not only none of my business, it was disheartening.  

A grandchild reported that the patient had expressed what items was to go to what individual.  One of the patient’s children said, “Fine,” but then went on to state they were going over to the patient’s home later that day to pick up items believed to be inherited.  The other adult children then decided they were going to go, too.  

I have no ending to the story.  Perhaps the patient recovered, went home and discovered items missing.  Maybe the family members would have returned them before the patient returned home.  More likely, the individual died and family members arriving after the death discovered items they thought belonged to them were gone.  

Personally, hubby and I have experienced family issues after a loved one’s death.  It is not pretty and can destroy relationships.  These events happened even though there was a will in most cases.  

Although I still miss my mom who passed in 2001, I was fortunate that she had planned well for her final days.  When she was first diagnosed with Alzheimers, she asked me to attend a meeting she had scheduled regarding disposition of her remains as she wanted to be cremated.  She had previously made a will.  The only problem was she couldn’t decide where the cremains would be housed.  I never got an answer so my husband and I decided to inter them in the family plot where she grew up and where her parents and grandparents were buried.

Several years ago, I convinced hubby we needed to make our final arrangements to spare our adult kids the task.  We updated our wills and added a Living Will, Power of Attorney, and Designated Health Care Surrogates.  The kids each received a copy.  We had both children notarize the form regarding our body’s donation to science.  We purchased a space in our city cemetery and selected a funeral home that will receive our cremains once medical school students are done with them.  The funeral home has our obits.  We placed our children’s names on our property and bank accounts so that they can close out any debts or make needed repairs seamlessly.

To avoid the scenario that I overheard at the hospital, I have placed stickers on the bottom of several items that have been in the family for years and I want passed down to the next generation.  The labels state who was the original owner of the item.  I don’t care which of my children get what items and there isn’t a lot to fight over.  Unlabeled items they can keep, sell or donate.  

The death of a loved one is never easy.  The lack of a will makes the situation even more difficult. Make time to make your final arrangements soon.  You’re not only helping your closest family members, generations to come will discover your will and thank you for that.

Emancipation Day

Today is Emancipation Day to commemorate those who were freed from slavery.

Emancipation has another meaning, that of liberation typically from a legal, social or political restriction.  When my husband and I decided to retire as longtime public school employees we hadn’t been aware that the day we selected, August 1, 2021, that we termed our “emancipation” day was actually already memorialized as the day to remember those who had been enslaved.  

Reading the news this morning about emancipation made me realize this was an extra special day to celebrate freedom!

For those of you who follow my blog you know my life often has some odd coincidences occur.  Someone told me that happens to me because I tell everyone I know about the weird situations so they just keep coming. I guess the theory is that by talking and writing about them I become a magnet for more. I don’t know about that but I do think this is kind of strange… Friday, March 13, 2020 was my last day working onsite at a school.  The following day I was supposed to be volunteering at a library with my local genealogy society to help patrons with their brick walls.  The event was cancelled at the last minute because of covid-19.  Although the monthly meetings and trainings moved to Zoom, the brick wall event was not rescheduled until yesterday.  Friday, July 30 happened to be my last day forever in education and the following day, the brick wall event which was supposed to be back at the library got moved to Zoom because I live in the fasted growing covid area in the country.  

Too bad we couldn’t meet in person as it would have been a wonderful bookend of the beginning and termination of the pandemic. 

Although I’m leaving the K-12 education field permanently, I’m definitely not abandoning genealogy.  I’ll continue to blog, consult with clients, volunteer at my local historical society and provide research.  Due to my termination contract, I’m unable to “teach” for the next year in any capacity but plan to return to genealogical lectures eventually.  

In addition to spending more time on genealogy, I plan to invest time in my local community.  Due to my previously long commute I was never able to do that.  I plan on volunteering at my local hospital and with other community events. 

Hubby and I are so looking forward to this next chapter in our lives.  It is a privilege having you continue to follow my blog as I head off in a new direction.  Stay tuned for my new adventures!

Lessons Learned From Exhaustive Research

Indiana, U.S., Civil War Soldier Database Index, 1861-1865, Isaac Lofton, digital database; Ancestry.com:  accessed 6 Jul 2021.

With Hurricane/Tropical Storm Elsa coming through my neighborhood this week, I’ve spent my days finishing up documentation for the Forgotten Ones project sponsored by the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  The purpose is to identify those who served for the Union but have no descendants.  Their stories are compiled and will be included on the organization’s website so that their service will not be forgotten.

In researching two individuals, I found perfect examples of why EXHAUSTIVE research is paramount.  The first discovery I made was while researching Isaac Lofton (1835-1889), an Indiana native farm laborer who enlisted for the Union.  My heart sunk after spending an hour acquiring documents when I discovered the picture above.

Notice why I was concerned?  Check out the Notes section  –  “Deserted.”

If I had stopped there I would never have learned the true story of heroic Isaac. 

Further research uncovered what happened 2 days BEFORE Isaac left the hospital, which was used as a convalescent center for not threatening gunshot wounds or disease:

Gerald Kennedy. U.S. Army Hospital:  Keokuk, 1862-1865, The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 40, Number 2, Fall, 1969, pp. 118-136; digital image, core.ac.uk:  accessed 7 July 2021,  p.132.

I don’t know about you, but I think it was a wise move on Isaac’s part to take off from that hospital when he did.

It’s what he did next that impresses me the most…he could have returned to Indiana, kept his mouth shut and carried on with his life.  He chose another path, however.  Instead, Isaac went SOUTH, into the war, and re-enlisted with Company K, 1st Infantry, Mississippi Marine Brigade.  I didn’t even know there was a Union regiment from Mississippi!

Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Ohio, Isaac Lofton, digital image; Fold3.com: accessed 6 July  2021, citing NARA Publication Number M540, Record Group 94, Roll 0034.

He served until the war ended as a Marine on the Mississippi River.  Impressive for a man who had little experience with water growing up.

After the war, he married Lydia Harbaugh in 1868; the couple had no children.

I’m glad I continued researching to understand his story as finding one document does not mean it tells the whole truth. 

That point can be further made by the next individual I selected to research, Julius Theodore C. Wilman.  Julius (1838-1885) volunteered as a private in 1861 with the 3rd Regiment, Infantry in his native Maryland.  I was impressed to discover he was promoted to Lieutenant:

Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Maryland, Julius T. C. Willman, digital image; Fold3.com: accessed 7 July 2021, citing NARA M384, Record Group 94, Roll 0128, p. 1 & 2.

He must have received notice of the charges as he sent a second letter stating he was “anxious” to learn if his resignation had been accepted and to correct the record.  He claimed he was not AWOL but had permission from a physician because he was “sick.”  Notice that he never mentioned being ill in his resignation letter? In reviewing his service file, however, on Fold3, I discovered his true character.  Five charges were filed against him and he did not handle the situation well.  Evidently, the commanding officer decided that no man could use his own guns and they were to be collected.  Two privates did not want to part with their revolvers so they cut a deal with Julius; he promised to keep them safe and return them to the men.  Except, Julius didn’t want to part with them when the privates asked for them back.  They reported him to higher ups who confronted Julius.  He denied he had the revolvers though they were found in his possession.  When asked how that occurred, he spewed profanities and threats against the officer who had issued the command.  Then, he went AWOL. He returned to his mother’s residence and submitted a resignation letter stating he was needed at home to take care of his elderly widowed mother, his invalid brother, and his sister-in-law with two small children whose husband, another of his brothers, had been killed at Gettysburg.  He claimed to be the only one who could care for the family since one other surviving brother had important work to do in the government’s service. 

In researching Julius’ claims about his need to be home, his story falls further apart.  Although it was true his mother was a widow, she had raised 4 boys as a single mom since 1849.  In the 1860 US Federal census, none of the adult “boys” can be found but mom had found work as a toll gatherer in Virginia.  In 1870 and 1880, mom was living with one of Julius’ brothers.  Julius certainly wasn’t concerned about her at her end of life when he relocated to Wisconsin.  She outlived him by 4 months.

There is NO documentation to show that one of his brothers was an invalid.  That brother, most likely Henry, was quite well when he completed his draft registration.  Henry never was called up for service and married after the war. 

There is NO documentation that brother Frederick Agustus worked for the government.  He did complete a draft registration in July 1863; he was a miller in Fredericks County, Maryland throughout the war.

There is NO documentation Julius ever took care of his sister-in-law or nephews after his brother was killed at Gettysburg.  In fact, his sister-in-law had married Julius’ brother John Lewis in 1857 but was found in the 1860 US Federal census as residing with her parents using her maiden name.  She continued to live with them in 1870, along with her two children who had been born in 1861 and 1863.  She eventually remarried and newspaper articles note the adult children returned to visit their step-dad.  That implies the step-dad took on the parental role and not Julius. 

There is also NO evidence that Julius had remorse for his actions regarding his poor judgement in taking the revolvers, lying about them being in his possession, his angry outburst and threats when confronted with the evidence and his failure to go through proper channels when he became “sick.” 

The only truth discovered was the death of his brother, John Lewis.  It is interesting to note Julius  had been taken as a POW for a short time a few months before the revolver incident.  He was traded quickly back to the Union. No mention of that was made in his resignation.   

Julius had reason to be anxious and depressed; he possibly was suffering from PTSD.  He later became a diabetic so he also may have had underlying medical issues at the time of the incident.  His physical and mental state was stressed yet it disturbs me that he had no remorse for his actions. 

I decided not to submit his story.  Perhaps, there are two lessons learned here.  The first, exhaustive research is a must.  The second, sometimes it’s better to remain a Forgotten One.

To Travel or Not, That is the Genealogical Question!

I have always loved to travel, especially for genealogical purposes.  The past year has taken that privilege away but I discovered, like you, there was always work arounds in most cases.  I relied on others to obtain a document or check a source through Ask-A-Librarian or other email inquiry.  I was surprised to discover how much I could accomplish using those resources.

Now that my closest family has all been fully vaccinated, travel has become a hot topic. Should we or shouldn’t we?  

A week before the pandemic quarantine arrived, hubby and I had planned to travel later that summer to Sweden to mix genealogy research from both his mother and father’s lines with cultural immersion.  This year, we had planned to do the same with Croatia and next year, after a Mediterranean cruise, to stomp through France to explore more of my lines.  We guessed, by that time, Great Britain would have settled down somewhat after Brexit and we’d both explore our Welsh, Scotts, Irish and English roots.  

I realize that Croatia is open for travel now but do I want to do that?!  Is it wise to venture abroad and possibly bring home a new variant?  Do I want to travel wearing a mask and with more hand sanitizer then I usually pack?  On the other hand, am I contributing to Europe’s recession by not going?  

An alternative would be US travel.  After checking that archives have reopened, we could spend some time this summer traveling throughout the midwest or the northeast.  That leads to more questions – should we fly or should we drive?  With the rental car shortages and the great price increase in rentals, is it even worth flying?  Do I want to pack up the car and drive, which would require more frequent stops along the way and the possibility of still getting a covid exposure?  Sure, the chances of infection are small but they remain.

In all my years of traveling I was one of those foolish mortals that really didn’t worry about Montezuma’s revenge.  I swam in cenotes, crawled into caves, ate from food trucks in cities and with local villagers outdoors in rural areas, even consuming uncooked fruits and vegetables.  I was always fine.  The pandemic has reminded me of my own mortality and to not push my luck.

Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I’m reluctant to travel.  Ethics in genealogy go beyond being truthful and accurate.  Ethics include being responsible to others.  No matter how much I miss meeting new people, learning about different cultures and exploring archives new to me, I think I’ll take a wait and see approach to travel for now. 

Using Your Senses in Genealogy

First, an important message to those who follow my blog posted on Blogger….In July, you will no longer be receiving my blog directly to your email.  I’m so sorry!  Google has decided to cancel the email subscriber feature.  I’ll continue blogging and you can find me through Blogger or at my GenealogyAtHeart.com website where I also post.  

The photo above, which I discovered accidentally this week, haunts me.  It connects my past to the present in a special way.

Since the pandemic began, my husband and I have sat next to each other almost daily working separately but together from our home office.  When I began my career in the education field 44 years ago, if someone had told me this was how it would end I wouldn’t have believed them.  

I have been fortunate throughout this difficult time when so many have suffered untold losses.  Last Friday, as I was wrapping up the work week, I came across the picture above.  Before reading the caption, I was overcome with a vague memory.  I somehow recognized the building.  I dismissed that thought quickly.  The JSTOR Daily article title, Libraries and Pandemics:  Past and Present could be a photo from any Carnegie library in 1918 since most used the same architectural plans.  Except it wasn’t just any old library building.

The caption identifies the librarians sitting on the steps as protecting themselves from the influenze pandemic in October 1918 in Gary, Indiana.  As a child, I climbed those steps many times with my mother, who would have been 6 months old when the photo was taken.  Her father and maternal grandfather would bring the influenza home to the rest of the family three months later. Joseph Kos[s], who I’ve blogged about previously, would succumb to the disease.  

The last time I visited that library was about 55 years ago.  It has long been closed, not because of age or lack of use, but due to mismanagement of city finances.  Six years ago I was told that most of the holdings were still inside, waiting for the day that funds became available to reopen.  I don’t know if that’s still the case though it appears that it re-opened after a renovation in January 2018 but has been shuttered again.  

I wonder what the librarians pictured above, who worked hard to preserve the library’s contents even during a pandemic, would think about the state of the library today.  No doubt, like me, they would have found it difficult to fathom what the future held.

I also wonder about the condition of the contents remaining in an environment that is unheated in winter or cooled in summer.  As a child, I well remember the annual heat wave in July where temperatures would sore to 100 degrees.  We managed with the windows open and portable fans to catch the breeze blowing off Lake Michigan.  The winters could be brutal with snow falling as early as October and as late as April.  

But this blog isn’t about record loss; my thoughts today turn to sensory memory. After all these years, I still recall those steps that were so hard to climb when I was small.  The angle the photo had been taken no doubt helped me recall the building.  Being short in those days, the view I visualized and stored in my mind would have been from looking up at the entrance.  

Using our senses can help recall those distant genealogy memories we carry.  Smelling and tasting one of my grandmother’s recipe takes me to another time.  For my husband, remembrances of holidays past are easily recalled when we share food around the table held in his maternal grandmother’s china.  Hearing my departed relatives voices recorded on our old movies gives me that goose bump sensation as if they are still here. The sound of those voices helps me remember other events to which I associate them.  

Partaking in a former activity can also help recall long forgotten memories.  Early last year, my husband salvaged a bike that was placed for trash pickup.  We have two bikes which we never ride and he couldn’t explain why he brought it home with its rear flat tire.  I was drawn to the bike, too.  Watching my husband tinkering with the bike recalled memories of my grandfather who had once been in the same position as my husband was, fixing the chain.  After the repairs were complete I decided to take it for a spin.  It was a cool spring morning and I felt like I was 8 years old again.  The only thing missing was my apple red wind breaker my mom had purchased from Montgomery Wards on sale. I can’t explain why that one block bike ride made me remember that long forgotten jacket. Most likely it was due to my sense of macro reception, balance and movement on the bike, that enabled me to think of the past. 

There is also that 6th sense, intuition, that is yet unexplainable.  Somehow, we just know where to find that tombstone or missing document.  Perhaps this sense is a compilation of the others mentioned when we relax and let the thoughts enter.  

Using your senses in genealogy is another asset for your toolbox, however, caution is needed.  Memory alone does not suffice; examination of records and the input of others who may have shared that memory are necessary.