Genealogy Pronunciation Trick

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

My blog is late today as I had unexpected tech issues, the bane of my existence!  This past week, first my husband and then I, noticed an “enter code” button that appeared on any Microsoft product we were using on our desktops.  It finally dawned on us that the educator license we had with Microsoft was being removed since we both retired from our academic careers this month.  This was a totally unexpected situation as we had paid for a license for our computers that didn’t expire.  Microsoft only allows military veterans to continue and not educators.  Who knew?!  Took the time this morning to buy two new licenses – one for my business and the other for home use.  The Microsoft site was not working well and wouldn’t allow me to save my domain info so I’m going to have to go back on later.  After the slow download I freaked out when I opened Word and only documents from 2019 showed up.  I was able to open two docs from my desktop I just created in the last two weeks and once they opened, they showed in the list when I reopened Word. I then went to Dropbox and opened a pdf from January and a doc from last August.  Once opened, they show in the Word list.  I don’t understand this at all but as long as I can open older documents as I need them, I’m good.  

Here’s an update on my Bible blog from last week – got a heartwarming thank you from my distant cousin who will be receiving the Landfair Bible.  I’m so glad it found a good home, away from hurricanes, humidity and mold.  Remember this story this week when you run into a rude person – there are a lot of good people out there, just not everyone!

Now, for today….

I had a wonderful 2 day Professional Management Conference hosted by APG.  It was just awesome reconnecting with other professional genealogists in the break out sessions and the lectures were informative.  I plan to be adding a page to Genealogyatheart.com with my lectures soon.  Unfortunately, the terms of my retirement do not allow me to “teach” in any format for the next 6 months so that’s all on hold for awhile.  The conference did nudge me into making proposals to my state genealogy group with ideas for journal articles.  I’ll be writing 3 for upcoming issues.  Working on the first, along with the Bible interaction last week, gave me the idea for today’s blog.

Let’s think of the Louis Armstrong song, You Say Tomato.  Genealogy is fraught with pronunciation problems.  When I spoke to the lady from Ohio about the Bible, I told her I did not live close to either Lima (lee mah) or Celina (Seh lee nah).  She replied she didn’t either and then laughed.  In Ohio, those places are known as (lie mah) and (sel lie nah).  

This got me thinking about why it’s sometimes so difficult for us to find an ancestor’s former residence.  We aren’t seeing it in print – we’re hearing it.  Same issue with census enumerators hearing our ancestors and misunderstanding their English as a second language pronunciation. This week, I’ve been researching a local family from Greece.  Their name evolved from the original spelling from the first generation to how the name is pronounced in English for the second generation.  Loved the Find-A-Grave note that was added by the memorial creator explaining why the names were different!

To complicate the situation, the same word can be pronounced differently depending on the location.  One of my children spent time in both Grenada’s.  That would be Gre nae dah, West Indies and Gre nah dah, Spain.  

Next time you are stuck on a location or surname, try thinking about it in a variety of ways.  Type the word in Google and add “pronunciation.”  Try this for “Lima Ohio pronunciation” and Lima Peru pronunciation.” Pretty neat trick!

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.

IMPORTANT-Ancestry.com Term Changes

Nothing like having a limited time to make an important decision during the Dog Days of Summer.  Thanks a lot, Ancestry.com!

You may or may not have received an email message from Ancestry.com earlier this week noting that they have updated their terms of conditions. You may have noticed the message under the ribbon (shown above) on Ancestry.com this week.  

Interestingly, Ancestry.com never mentioned what the change(s) was/were in the email.  I thought that odd and had decided I would check it out this weekend.  Usually noncommunication is a tipoff that the change is important.  Organizations know that most folks don’t take the time to read the fine print so sending an email with limited information makes the change more likely to pass quietly.

Before I had a chance to review the document I began receiving emails from family members that bordered on hysteria about the changes.  

I would not do the situation justice in explaining the term changes so I’m referring you to blog articles found here and here.  It is vital that you read these ASAP as there is only a small window of time for you to make a decision and act.

My decision was to remove all photos/documents I had uploaded to Ancestry.com of LIVING people.  My reason is that, although the photo was given to me by family members, I do not have explicit permission to give Ancestry.com permanent permission to own the picture.  

I am not concerned over photos of the DECEASED as they don’t have rights anyway.  I consider them part of history.  I don’t like it that Ancestry.com “owns” the photos for perpetuity but I’d rather the photos be available somewhere rather than lost forever.  

Like me, you’ve probably uploaded photos to Ancestry.com and have had them saved by others without giving you credit.  I can always identify mine as I have a unique way I save them.  Although I would prefer if someone asked permission first, I understand that by my uploading to anywhere on the internet the possibility that someone will use the photo, claim it as their own, etc, exists.  I accepted that risk. The Ancestry.com change will make Ancestry.com the owner forever.  

Forever is a long time!  Does this mean that Ancestry.com may someday take me to court for using a photo I have uploaded, even though I have the original in my possession?  I doubt it.  Personally, I don’t even think Ancestry.com will last “forever.”  Who knows what the world will look like next year, let alone in 5021.  

The audacity of the term change did make me consider deleting my Ancestry.com tree.  I calmed down and emailed my concerned family members what my decision was regarding photos/documents.  

I thought that would have been the end of it but it turned out it was the tip of the melting iceberg.  I began receiving responses that they wanted various information they had shared with me over the past 20 plus years removed.  I always cite my sources and that was what the bone of contention was.  The requests were for removal of their name/email address.  Since it’s typical to cite an email exchange with the sender’s name [email address} to receiver’s name [email address] this request totally threw me.  I did agree to alter the citation to remove the individual who requested the information be stricken.

I then got a request to remove correspondence from someone who was deceased by a two down the line family member.  The deceased was well aware that I had posted the information as she had requested my help in finding documents.  She once had permission to make changes to my tree.  Her email address is no longer active.  

I could have pointed all this out to the requestor but I decided to just take the high road and remove the information.  

Which gets me back to a blog article I wrote in June about saving your tree.  Here’s another reason to keep a tree somewhere completely updated that you and you alone have access.  My article was about synching Ancestry.com to RootsMagic which resided on my computer and is saved in a Cloud as a backup.  I did remove everything from Ancestry.com that was requested of me which took several hours.  I DID NOT remove it from my RootsMagic tree that is still synched with Ancestry.  

If I open RootsMagic and click the Ancestry leaf motif on the ribbon, any changes made on Ancestry.com will appear as an option to update my RootsMagic tree.  I don’t want that to change RootsMagic as I want the citations and the pictures of the living all in one place.  

My “Main Tree” on Ancestry.com is no longer that.  I did consider renaming it to Sort Of Main Tree but decided I don’t need to waste more time because of Ancestry.com’s decision.  

Please take some time to review the blog articles and the new policy.  Consult with your family on the way to go forward.  Do this soon before the policy takes effect.

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!

Recording Memories – Some Ideas

Photo from Shutterstock

The recent pandemic was a wake up call for many parts of our personal lives.  Perhaps you are now a member of your family’s “oldest” living generation.  Maybe your grandparents or great grandparents are in failing health and you have questions about their history. Possibly you are reflecting on the events of the past year and a half and want to preserve your experiences for posterity.
This would be a wonderful time to capture the memories!  
In the past week, I’ve received emails requesting how to info on this topic.  Here goes…
The simplest way is a face to face interview with a loved one.  They know you and you know them – that relationship has already been established and trust is vital when sharing of personal information is about to occur.  
If you have a video recorder and a tripod you are ready to go.  If not, check the capability of your smart phone.  Mine has an awesome camera but a so-so recorder.   There are work arounds in that situation; record with your phone and use a separate recorder for the sound.  It’s not a wonderful solution but it’s better than not preserving the memory. 
Before you begin, think of who you plan on meeting with.  This isn’t about you – it’s about them – so make sure you get permission to record the interview.  Keep in mind, like the past year, a person’s life is not always rosy.  Some of the memories may be painful.  Some may cause hurt feelings to relatives that are still living.  I’m not saying to avoid touchy situations.  I’m cautioning you to think about what you plan to do with the recorded memory.  Posting it online could be a major privacy problem.  Make sure you inform the interviewee what your intent is with the finished product.  You may want to even get written permission.  As a professional genealogist I would most certainly do that.  If it is between you and a close family member, you may, instead, mention that your interviewee has given consent for the interview and what you plan to do with the recording on the recording itself.  The interviewee can acknowledge the agreement.
Here’s how my family handled that situation in the 1980’s – When video recorders first came out my husband and I couldn’t afford one to film our first born.  As a surprise Christmas present, my in-laws purchased a recorder for us.  They were shipping it to us from the Midwest and my father-in-law wanted to make sure it worked.  He then got a brilliant idea to go around to various relatives in his area and record them so that our child would be able to “meet” the family.  He contacted the family members and arranged for a day/time that was best for them.  Some of the filming was outside their home, others wanted to come to his house.  He started every interview with “This is Dad.  I’m at Uncle Bob’s house.  Today is November 16, 1985.  Uncle Bob is your Mom’s brother.”  Then Uncle Bob is filmed and he says, “Hi.” He goes on to tell us about his day – some were planning on going to work, others mentioned that they just got home from church and the church’s name is given.  Lots of genealogical breadcrumbs were given for future family historians who might not know this information.
The important piece above is that you record who is interviewing, who is being interviewed, the date and place of the interview and the relationship.  God bless my father-in-law!  He had NO GENEALOGICAL background and he did an awesome job for posterity.
That tape was done on the old clunky large VCR Beta format.  Keep in mind whatever you are using will eventually become old tech.  You will have to keep reformatting it to the latest and greatest in the years to come.  I’d make a few copies.  Give one to the interviewee.  With the interviewee’s permission, you can give some to other family members.  Why?  Because bad things happen to good people!  Houses burn down, weather disasters occur, people lose items.  The more copies out there in different parts of the world the greater the likelihood that one will survive.  Think of that old family Bible you are searching for.  If there was more than 1 family Bible recording those birth dates from 1730 you’d be in great shape, wouldn’t you?!
Now that you know who you will interview, you have permission and you have arranged a day/time that is best for the interviewee, it’s time to think about interview questions.  Below are some ready made questions to choose from:

https://blog.myheritage.com/2017/03/questions-to-ask-your-family/

https://www.familytreemagazine.com/storytelling/interviewing/interview-questions/

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/20-questions-capture-grandmas-story/

https://www.loc.gov/vets/kit-generalquestions.html

Or you can devise a list of your own questions.  Some folks do better with a prompt instead of a question.  For example, instead of asking “Where did you go to school?”  you may prompt for school information by stating, “It’s almost back to school time, I’m interested in learning more about your school experiences.”  
Try to avoid asking a lot of closed questions which are questions that have a specific short answer.  Asking for the interviewee’s date and place of birth is important.  You would expect a few words to answer that query.  Asking “Do you remember the location of where you first lived as a child?” will give a response of either yes or no.  If the answer is “Yes” then you want the interviewee to elaborate and provide more information. 
Be cognizant of your interviewee – is he/she/they getting tired?  If so, end the interview and arrange to meet again later.  The length of the interview is determined by the interviewee.  The content of the interviewee provided information is determined by the interviewee.  If you ask about a topic that is uncomfortable for the interviewee – let it go. It is true you may never hear the individual tell you that “secret” information you are asking about.  That’s hard, I know that from personal experience, but you must respect the interviewee.  If they are not ready to share it you must accept it.
I also recommend that you have tissues and water available.  Your interviewee or you may not need them but it’s best to be prepared.
At the conclusion of the interview, end the recording by stating “This is the end of the interview with (insert the name of the individual) on (insert the date) at (insert the place).  If the information gets cut off at the beginning, you’ve got it at the end.  It also lets listeners know they have the complete interview.  
Sure, all of this sound fairly easy but there may be some kinks in your plans.  If you don’t have a recorder or are not able to meet face to face with the interviewee, consider using aps for ZoomGo To Meeting or Teams.  A video meeting can be scheduled and will record the interview.  That’s a nice feature if you have permission to send other family members the recording – you will just need to send them the link of the recorded “meeting.”  If you aren’t familiar with one of the companies I linked to, you may know of another that hosts meetings.  I’ve used the three I mentioned and all are simple to use.  Check out their FAQ page to get started.  
If you would like the interview saved with the Library of Congress, another option for recording is using StoryCorps.  I have not personally used that program but think it is an awesome idea.  Recording are limited to 40 minutes. 
Lastly, don’t forget you can interview yourself.  Your story is just as important as your family members.  Have I done that?  No, but it is on my to-do list.  Put it on yours, too.

Eerie Happenings Occur When Researching Ancestors

Partial Clip from U.S., Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914, Thomas Thompson, digital image; Ancesry.com:  accessed 17 July 2021, image 402 of 440; citing NARA M233.

One of the things I love about genealogy is the weird occurrences that happen.  I had planned to write about a local mystery but two strange events happened to me this week that I think you’ll find interesting.

Last week, I blogged about The Forgotten Ones project for the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  While researching Thomas Charles Thompson I came across a document that may or may not be his father, Thomas Coke Thompson. 

These folks are my husband’s relatives and whenever I work on that line strange things happen.  The pattern continues…

The document I found is shown above.  Thomas Coke was known to be in the Albany, New York area at the time the document was made.  He married first, Elizabeth and had several children.  Only Thomas Charles lived to adulthood but died before Thomas Coke.  Census and death records state that Thomas Coke was born in New York City but I’ve never found a record for him or his parents.  The document above caught my eye because the same location, name used in other records (he never used Coke) and age.  What stood out to me was that he was a musician born in Great Britain. The Thomas Coke in our family tree was a ship’s carpenter when he moved to Chicago.

I forwarded the document to my husband’s cousins who I have met over the years through online research.  One stated she wasn’t interested.  Another thanked me immensely.  The third replied that she wished her mom was alive to see and ponder it – her mom’s birthday would be 2 days after I made the find.  I replied to the 3rd cousin that I had thought of her mom the prior week when I wrote to a colleague who wanted information for an upcoming book he was writing on cemetery re-internments.  In reviewing my notes I found an email from a cemetery that mentioned the 3rd cousin’s mother who had written to correct a mistake in the cemetery record. 

A few days after I emailed the 3rd cousin, she replied she wasn’t feeling that the document was for Thomas Coke.  After all, Thomas Thompson is a common name.  Although that is true, in the Albany 1830 US Federal census there are only 5 Thomas Thompsons in that area; 3 are Black, 1 is old and 1 is of the age of the man who enlisted.  What doesn’t fit is the name of the next of kin on the form (clip above not showing it).  No record of this individual anywhere and none of the cousins have heard of her.  Certainly more research is needed but for now it’s on hold until I’m able to revisit NARA next spring. 

The 3rd cousin decided to look through her records and found several photos from the 1860’s that she didn’t recall sharing with me.  One was of Elizabeth Williams, sister of Drusilla who had married 2nd Thomas Coke. 

At the same time 3rd cousin was emailing me the picture, I received another email that I had a message on MyHeritage.  I assumed it was a response for WW2 pictures as I had contacted a number of tree owners looking for photos for the Fields of Honors project in the Netherlands. 

I don’t know why but something told me to respond to the 3rd cousin after reviewing all my emails.  I logged onto MyHeritage and was astounded to discover a message from a 3 times great granddaughter of Elizabeth Williams.  She was thanking me for putting info on the tree. 

Before answering, I decided to check my personal email to read the 3rd cousins’ information.  That’s when I discovered the picture of Elizabeth.  I emailed both of my husband’s cousins to connect them and uploaded the picture to Ancestry, which is where my Main Tree is located.  That’s the tree I keep updated.

So, if that wasn’t enough of the eebee jeebees for you, two days later the following happened…

Summer is my family’s lean time as we don’t receive a paycheck.  Unfortunately for us, we’ve had some major expenses.  We had budgeted for the ones we knew about (replacing a deck, renovating the side yard) but not for others (reconstructing a coop, a plumbing issue we didn’t even know was a problem).  After shelling out a couple of hundred dollars to a pest control company to get rid of the varmints that had eaten the deck and coop and infested an appliance, a remembrance of my grandmother, Mary Koss, came to me.

When I was dating my husband in high school I was adamant I was never going to get married.  I had never seen a happy couple.  I’m serious – most of my older relatives were divorced or in miserable marriages.  One day after my then boyfriend left, my grandmother said to me, “You’d be a fool not to marry him.  You’ll never find anyone better.”  I know I though she was nuts at the time but you didn’t argue with Grandma so I didn’t respond.  She has proven to be right.

Grandma loved to be right and was not shy about making sure everyone knew she had predicted what was going to occur.  My thoughts of that day came about because my dear husband never ever has complained to me about spending money, even when it’s tight. 

This jogged my brain into calling our power company as I wanted to change our automatic payment method.  I tried to do this online but I was directed to call the company.  While waiting for a human, I decided to clean out my emails and I saw that Ancestry had sent me one with their latest record updates.  It happened to be for Ellis Island/Castle Gardens.

Since I had thought about my grandmother I decided to enter in her information which I’ve seen before. I just wanted to check if there was something new.  Coincidentally, the date my grandmother had arrived on Ellis Island just happened to be the day I was checking the record.

OHHH – weird – her birthday was coming up in 2 days and I hadn’t noticed before that she had made herself older on the form – claimed to be a teenager of 13 when she was still 12 for two more days.  That made me laugh.

But the weirdness doesn’t end there…The customer service rep came on the line and asked my name.  When I told her she responded by spelling my first name correctly.  No one does that as there is several ways to spell Lori.  I didn’t think much of that but as we got into the call she had to speak to my husband as she couldn’t find that I had access to the account.  This always annoys me but I put my husband on who told her he has given my information on several occasions and to please correct it for the future.  The customer service rep said, “There is someone else on the account, do you know who that could be?”  My husband asked me and then it hit me – it was probably my birth certificate name that I never use.  I gave the woman that name and she said, “Yes, that’s it.  I didn’t think you were the same person as my mother is named (with your birth certificate name) and my aunt with the name you go by.”  So, this explained how she could spell Lori correctly.  I told her that I always asked my mom why they named me as they had when they called me something else.  My mom’s reply was that she didn’t know, I was supposed to be named Patty Ann after her friend but when she looked at me after my birth the other name just popped into her head. She never met anyone with my birth certificate name and can’t explain why she thought of it.

After years of doing genealogy, I was shocked to learn that my father’s family was from a European province that is the same as my real name.  I doubted my mom would know that as she had always told me my father was Germany, English, Scotts-Irish and Welsh.  The province is not located in any of those areas.  I know he never knew of the province as he always told me his ancestry was German and British.

I  thought maybe my mom had heard the name and it was somewhere in her head where the euphoria of childbirth brought it forth. Now, because of what next occurred, I’m thinking that is a real possibility.

After using the Ancestry.com search for my grandmother, grandfather, great grandmother and great uncle I decided to try to find my great grandfather who had emigrated before his wife and two children.  I had a little trouble in that I was entering Croatia as his birth place.  I should have left that blank.  It finally dawned on me he would have said Austria as that was the country at the time.  My grandmother, a vocal almost teen ager and being for Croatia separation from Austria-Hungary, had stated she was from Croatia so I just didn’t think initially to change it.  It made sense he would have provided different information as he had been in the Austrian Calvary.  (HINT TO SELF-When searching, try to think like the individual that provided the record information and not what you know of the individual). His information  tells me he didn’t think of himself as Croatian first; he had allegiance to the governing country probably due to his military service..

When I found my great grandfather Josip Kos’ record I was astounded to see that the ship he sailed to America on was my birth certificate name.  Wow!

I had seen the document before but it never clicked. My great grandfather died during the previous pandemic and I had just thought about him when I got my pneumonia vaccine last week.  He got the flu but died of pneumonia.  Although my mom was a baby when he died, perhaps she had heard this ship’s name and recalled it for who knows what reason when I was born. 

Or, just maybe, he whispered it into her ear and she wrote it on my birth certificate. 

Who knows?!  All I can tell you for sure is that I just really enjoy these creepy coincidences.  Christmas in July? Nope, with my family I’ve got Halloween early!

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.

Independence Day Memories

Happy 4th of July weekend!  Can you believe we are only 5 years from celebrating our sestercenntenial, aka 250 years?  Many of you may remember the 200 year celebration in 1976.  I can tell you what I wore when I picnicked in the city park and got a slice of a giant birthday cake donated by bakeries.  That was the start of our family’s now tradition of eating fried chicken with all the fixins’ instead of BBQing, which we had done when I was very young.

We began this year’s commemoration by attending our city’s First Friday celebration last night.  BC (Before Covid), our town had a street fair every First Friday evening.  Local bands play on the 3 blocks that our closed on the main street through the old business district, with a few side streets also blocked to traffic for the occasion.  It looked like rain so hubby and I decided to arrive earlier than we used to.  There weren’t quite as many vendors or visitors as before but it was early.  As soon as I saw one of my favorite Italian restaurants had reopened we knew that’s where we were eating.  It just happened that was the last restaurant we ate at on March 13, 2020 – our last day onsite at our worksites.  Our adult kids had chastised us the following day for risking eating out the night before but we had been cautious by dining at an outside table.  We got the same table last night and the experience was surreal.  I actually got teary eyed when the first course arrived.  

We’re hoping the weather holds up for us to have our traditional picnic tomorrow followed by watching the fireworks.  Independence takes on a new meaning for us this year as we reacclimated ourselves in our community.

In genealogy, we focus on the past without thinking much that our past was our ancestor’s present.  If you have a holiday custom, like our picnic food, it once was done first.  Spend some time researching when the first occasion was and why.  I know we weren’t allowed to bring portable BBQ grills to the park which was why my mother changed the menu.  We wanted to arrive at the park early as a spectacular firework show was planned to mark the bicenntenial.  We wanted a good parking spot and viewing location so we didn’t miss that special event.  

Next is the most important part of the story – WRITE IT DOWN!  It is wonderful that you made the discovery of the custom’s origin but it will be forgotten for future generations if you don’t record it.  You don’t have to write at length.  A brief note in your family tree program added as an event will commemorate your finding and/or memory.  A few family historian will certainly appreciate you took the time to save the memory.  

Your Town’s History – A Treasure Hunt

I’ve lived in my small city for 17 years – longest I’ve been in one place in my entire life.  With all the rain we’ve been having, I decided I would spend time learning more about my town’s history.  Nothing like curling up on the couch during a storm with a good book!

A week ago, I visited my local historical society and spoke with the archivist.  She kindly loaned me two books.  One is sourced beautifully so it’s led me to find more information.  It was written by a former historical society member whose career was in library science.  The other book was a commemorative of the city’s 125th anniversary and was written by historians/archeologists noted in the state. The commemorative book begins with pre-colonization, the other book begins with the town’s founding.

I discovered an online out of print book written by a local in the 1960’s when he was in his 80’s.  He personally knew many of the founders so his perspective is slightly different than those of the other authors.  There is one more book I’d like to locate that will give me a perspective from the immigrants who arrived here circa 1905.  Then I plan to peruse old newspaper articles for additional information.

I’ve learned several things…

  1. There once were two Native American middens – one a kitchen midden that was leveled for home construction and the other, near downtown, was a gravesite that was desecrated by a noted Smithsonian archeologist who decided to have the middle sliced in half so he could quickly see the strata.  He discovered skulls and charred bones.  No one seems to know where those remains have been interred.  
  2. The first burial in the city cemetery was that of a murder victim.  The shooter was never charged as it was determined to be accidental.  Um, sure.
  3. Hamilton Disston was a fishing buddy of the then-governor and was allowed to purchase large tracts of land he selected because the state was insolvent.  He bid .25/acre and then, turned around and told those who were already land owners that they had to pay him $1.25/acre for the land they were on.  No one took this to court?  And we complain about tech billionaires today!  
  4. My city had the first female physician and the first female pharmacist in the state.  
  5. We had electricity early until we didn’t.  The man who supplied it decided to relocate south and not telling anyone, dismantled his equipment and left town.  The residents woke up one morning to discover they had no electricity.  When someone checked they discovered he was gone so a small group of business leaders decided they would take over the building he vacated.  It had been the original ice house and to this day, is a power plant.  If you are a long time reader you know I frequently complain about power outages – now I understand that this is just part of the city’s culture lol.

I’m glad I took this dive into my town’s past.  Wearing my genealogical hat, I have a different lens which I analyze the information presented in what I’m reading.  It’s also led me to question some of the conclusions that were drawn.  Now, when I drive around town I have a better understanding of why buildings were placed where they were and the people who once populated them.  
To get started, visit your local historical society or library.  Use the references provided in any books or pamphlets to lead you to additional information.  Definitely check out online resources but be wary, as they may be wrong!  I discovered last year that Wikipedia claims the location of a nearby city’s first orphanage address to be wrong based on documents I found in a university archive.  Property records supported the archive information.  Like always, double and triple check your findings.  Drive or walk around, if possible, or use Google Maps to get a visual of what you discover.  
I’ve considered this a treasure hunt in my own backyard.  After being home for the past year plus, it’s a wonderful way to reacclimate to your community.