Blast from the Past – Holiday Photos

Season’s Greetings!  You may be feeling like the folks were in the photo above after your Thanksgiving feast.  Their enthusiasm for the holiday is well, a little underwhelming.  Maybe a smaller family gathering would have been a good thing back then.  

Whenever I think of all the work that goes into a family get together I think of this picture from my husband’s side of of the family. Taken about the mid 1930’s, from left to right is Clifford Thompson, George Harbaugh, Bert Thompson and Ruth Johnson Thompson.  In the midst of the Great Depression, the decorations were scant.  Don’t know if it was a heavy meal or the numbness of having to spend the holiday with extended family that put them to sleep.  

The picture was taken in the living room of George’s parent’s home.  Ruth was George’s maternal aunt.  We’re missing the rest of the extended family who lived there – George Sr., his wife, Elsie, and their other children Bob and Betty.  Ruth and Elsie’s mother, Louisa, also lived in the household.  Where was Bert and Ruth’s daughter, Jeanne? Maybe upstairs playing with cousin Betty.  Did Helen Johnson Chellberg, sister to Elsie and Ruth, also come with her husband and three children?  Beats me – somethings we will never know.  

I’ve been reading a lot in the past week about people being thankful for not having to travel this holiday season.  I can relate to that as I dreaded the holidays when our home was cramped with 40 plus people. All those dishes long before dishwashers!  No quiet space at all!  Lines for the bathroom!  Cigar smoke and alcohol breath – yuck!  Although I loved those people a bunch I liked them a lot better a little at a time.  

This weekend I’ve spent looking at old family holiday photos.  Some years were prosperous and others, not.  No matter what your holiday plans are for this year your experience will be long remembered not just by you, but by those who know you.  If you can’t be all together, keep in touch – via phone, Zoom, letter/card/text – as best you can.  Ask the questions you always wondered about, like where was Helen Chellberg in the mid-1930’s?  Although the pandemic made this year seem to move slowly, next year just might be too late to get your family questions answered.  

I recommend you each out – reconnect – and remember those far away loved ones.  Now is the time!

Genealogy Thanks

 As we all prepare to have a less than typical Thanksgiving, I want to pause and reflect on all the genealogy things that I am thankful for this year.  Sure, it’s been difficult with all the archive closures, Zoom conferences and the inability to visit far flung relatives but let’s look at the bright side for a moment.  

I am thankful that the pandemic allowed me to:

1.  Reorganize my office.  I took the time, since I had lots of it this past summer, and made my work space more efficient.  I replenished supplies, pitched those pencil nubs and found items I didn’t even recall I had! This was always on my to-do list and now it’s not.

2.  Pitched old family records.  Don’t gasp – I scanned many of them.  I found my deceased mom, 2nd cousin and sister-in-law’s health records. I had tax returns from the 1970’s that we lugged from house to house over the years.  Before the tax code changed, we kept the receipts for improvements made on a home we haven’t lived in for 30 years.  Found the flood insurance settlement when we lost everything in Hurricane Elena in 1985.  I think going through these old documents of other difficult times in our lives made the current situation more tolerable.  It was a testament that this, too, shall end one day.

3.  Cleaned my Cloud backup storage.  Cuddled up on the sofa with the laptop and on a week of rainy days, spent some time each day moving files around or deleting them entirely.  Now I’ve got even more space for when I am able to get back out into the world to research without having to pay for more space.

4.  Attended Conferences from my backyard.  I know that virtual conferences aren’t the same as in-person but if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I would have had to miss many that I was able to attend this year.  I don’t think I’ve ever sat through a lecture and not learned something or been reminded that I should try what I already knew to solve a research problem.  I’m so looking forward to Roots Tech, too!  

5.  Save $!  As a long time reader you know I’m a frugal person and look for genealogy deals whenever I can.  Although my business did take a hit this year, I was fortunate that my first quarter was larger than in previous years.  Can’t explain how that worked out and am thankful that it was. Another way I saved was the organizations that made their records available for free or lowered the price for a limited time at the start of the pandemic.  I looked in places I never was able to search before and found lots of info.

6.  Researched my own family.  Since business was down, I was able to spend time on my own family.  In the past few years, this has been severely limited so I was glad for the time to do this. The value of a research log cannot be emphasized enough; I didn’t have to waste much time in picking up where I had left off by reviewing where I had previously searched.

7. Made many new virtual “friends.”  Thank heavens for the archivist that continued to answer queries, search a vertical file or scan and email a page from needed text.  Although never considered essential workers, they most definitely are to a genealogist and I greatly appreciative of their dedication.  I also reached out to relatives I had never connected with before and together, we worked to solve family mysteries.  

8. Caught up on my reading. All those journals, magazines, books and pamphlets/flyers/brochures I’ve picked up from past trips have been examined, noted in my tree or pitched.  I have a pile in the garage ready to donate to our local library as soon as they begin to accept material again.  Finally went onto websites and requested that I stop having journals mailed to me when I certainly can download and read them on a tech device.  

9.  Planned for the future. I have taken the time to review my findings and know where I want to travel when it becomes safe to do so.  In the past, I’d get a last minute offer to travel and then take an extra day to do my own researching if I had family that once lived in the area.  Now I know what I don’t know and have identified possibly where the answers might lie.  Of course it won’t be 100% accurate but it’s a better way to use my future time then the spur of the moment approach I often had to do.

10. Learned more about myself.  I never knew I could become a homebody.  Last week, a colleague mentioned how much she hated being home.  I’m not there yet.  I am very content and that is the biggest surprise I’ve had.  Prior to March 14th, I came home late most every week night, ate a rushed often take out meal and went to bed, then up at 5 and out the door soon after. Since I was a teenager, this has been the longest period of time I haven’t been on a flight.  I’ve only topped off my car’s gas tank 3 times in 8 months and only then because I wanted to keep a full tank during our hurricane season.  I’m thankful for my close family who I enjoy being with 24-7 who have made this dramatic change of lifestyle doable. 

Adversity truly does reveal character. Our ancestors have experienced life’s turmoil and paved the way for us to have it easier than they did. Although the upcoming holidays will be far different from any I have previously experienced, I’m thankful for knowing their life story.  It gives me strength and hope for better days ahead.  Have a wonderful Thankfilled week!

2020 Genealogy Holiday Gift Guide

With the holidays around the corner and the zingers of 2020 impeding the typical holiday shopping spree, I’m providing my guide early this year to insure the shopper stays safe and the receiver gets the gift on time.  

Most of these items can be purchased locally so do try to support your small businesses and organizations.  Others can be purchased online but please buy soon so that the chain of folks that helps you get the item aren’t stressed even more than they already are.  Let’s show some gratitude we’ve survived this wretched year and spread the kindness!

My gift guide includes items for a few dollars and up into the hundreds as I understand it’s been a tough year financially for just about all of us.  As my mom used to say, “It’s the thought that counts.”  

1.  A comfortable desk chair – Hubby and I purchased two in May as we were spending so much time in ours and mine refused to let me adjust the height.  We had it delivered and assembled ourselves but if that’s not an option use NextDooor to find a local handyperson who can do the assembly on the porch. Your genealogist’s back will thank you. 

2.  A Second Computer Screen – If your genealogist is using only one screen it’s time to add another; I’ve had two for years but I honestly could benefit from more.  Sometimes I put the laptop next to my work area for a 3rd view when needed. Sure, we know how to change the size of what we’re viewing but with old documents, sometimes we just need the whole screen.  Your genealogist’s eyes will thank you!

3.  A Magnifying Glass – If the To Do list includes going through boxes of old family letters or photos, a magnifying glass, with or without a light, is a must.  Think Sherlock Holmes, here – the smallest clue might be missed that could solve the mystery so an inexpensive magnifying glass might just save the day.  

4.  Assorted Coffee/Teas or a reusable water bottle – whatever is the preferred non-alcoholic drink is a well received gift for anyone but especially the genealogist who needs a quick caffeine jolt or calming tea.  I stress the non-alcoholic for a reason – your genealogist needs clear analytical reasoning so skip the booze. A reusable water bottle with a tight fitting lid is also a great idea to stay hydrated without risking a spill.  

5.  A foot massager – which can fit nicely under the work area.  If it has a heat feature it makes it even better on those long cold winter nights of researching.

6. An elliptical for sitting – When in the researching zone, we often forget to get up and move.  This handy exercise device allows for individuals to sit and move the lower legs.  I love to see how many “miles” I’ve gone without leaving my desk.  If your genealogist has a standing desk, the device still works. Until we’re able to go back to running up archive stairs or parking in remote and walking to the library, the sitting elliptical will get a lot of use.

7.  Gift Cards – to your genealogist’s local restaurant, grocery or office supply store.  If you aren’t sure what your favorite genealogist’s office needs are, know they have to eat!  Less time cooking means more time researching and you’re supporting the local economy which makes this a win-win for all.

8.  An annual subscription to a new site – This year I joined Academia.edu and I absolutely love it!  I was trying to research Barbados in the 1600’s  and there isn’t many records that I found useful.  I wanted to better understand what life was like there and Academia.edu helped me with that goal.  Journal articles are available on a wide range of topics and the site also hosts members to have a webpage so others can connect with them.  JSTOR.org is another awesome site that provides journal articles and books that may be of interest. Plans start at $19.50.

9.  Donation to a local genealogy/history society – with long term closures and the deaths of members, many organizations are suffering.  If your genealogist says – “Don’t get me anything!” then follow their directive but give in their name to an organization that they support.  Typically, I’m a doer and not a donator but this year I have given to several organizations that I wasn’t able to support in person.  

10.  Last but not least – Give the recipient time by listening.  I’m serious.  Although this monetarily costs nothing it is probably the most valuable gift that can be given.  We know you could care less about your fourth cousin twice removed who married your third cousin once removed.  Just try to look like you care.  Back in the day when the world was “normal” we could attend conferences and meetings to share with others the great discoveries we made. Simply listening is a wonderful gift to give!