Genealogical Fence Mending

I’m not talking about farmers who must mend their fences regularly to insure their livestock and produce remains safe; I’m referring to the idiom regarding improving or repairing a relationship that has been damaged.

This week, I’ve had several situations that could be termed coincidence, synchronicity, or just considered odd. You be the judge.

The first occurred on Sunday when I was researching a pioneer family in my city for possible inclusion on an upcoming cemetery tour that my local historical society will be hosting in the fall. One of my town’s best sources is a work by Gertrude Stoughton who retired here and established the historical society. Her work is thorough and my only recommendation would have been to include footnotes as I often have difficulty tracing her information.

Above you’ll see a clip from a Google search I did to find the McElroy family who established the second drug store in town; their unnamed daughter in Stoughton’s book was purportedly the first female pharmacist in our location and probably the state of Florida.

I had searched for nearly 2 hours and was finding NOTHING about the McElroys; I located a Black family in the southern part of our county who operated a lab but the dates were way later than I was researching. I found a family of that name who once owned a pharmacy in Orlando and thought they may be related but that investigation turned up nothing. In desperation, I decided to just Google “Tarpon Springs” and “drug store.” Lo and behold up pops the clip above. Notice how McElroy is spelled? MCAROY. Hmmm. Clicking the snippet view gave me a completely different excerpt. I have a hard copy so I turned to the glossary to find a McAroy. None listed. Only one page for the McElroy’s. Somewhere, buried in that book was another sentence about the family I was researching. Skimming page after page I discovered it on page 29:

Clearly, McElroy is written and not McAroy. I went back to the online snippet and checked the copyright date of Stoughton’s book. Same as mine. There have been NO updates or newer editions with revisions.

So, tell me, how did the internet show me the correct spelling of the family I was searching when the source it was citing did not have the correct spelling anywhere in the book? Beats me!

Also on Sunday, I sent an email to an acquaintance regarding a lineage society application I had submitted 3 years ago but still had not received a resolution about. The genealogist I had been working with stopped communicating with me in July 2020, I assumed because of the pandemic. I asked my colleague to forward my request for a resolution to whoever was currently involved with that organization. The following day I received an email from the current genealogist. We wrote several exchanges and Tuesday evening, I decided to call him to make sure I was clear on the direction we were going. When I told him who I was on the phone call he replied, “Hi, cousin.” I was stunned. Sure enough, I’ve done a surname study of several family names and he is my cousin from a line I’ve never met in person. Odder still, he lived not far from me for the last 50 years but recently moved out of state 3 months ago. He moved to an area close to where we also own property and planned to visit this summer. We’ll be getting together then.

We had a wonderful conversation on many genealogical topics and he let me know about two Sons of the American Revolution applications he had done for Florida families. Florida wasn’t a colony in Colonial America and I really never thought much about its involvement in our Revolutionary War.

The following day, I was getting my hair trimmed and shared the coincidences with my stylist who is interested in history. He had to step away from me to take a phone call for a reschedule and when he returned he informed me that somehow, my appointment wasn’t scheduled for today but someone named Renee was supposed to have been there instead. He didn’t know a Renee. I told him I only knew one. Seconds later that Renee’s mom happened to walk into the shop. We laughed about the coincidence.

I had planned after my haircut to visit a local funeral home (as a genealogist, this makes sense, right?!) as I got a tip that the owner was a descendant of a man who local stories claim lynched several men locally during the Civil War. The problem is I have found records showing the man wasn’t even in this area at the time the purported lynching occurred.

The descendant wasn’t available so I left my card with the couple who was in the office. I told them why I wanted to speak with the owner. The woman informed me she was from a pioneering family in the county north of mine and the story I was interested in didn’t occur during the Civil War but during the Revolutionary War. I thought about the story my newly met cousin had told me about the previous evening. Weird.

Since I’ve had such an odd week I decided to just spill the next part. . . A woman who I met who is involved in a lineage society informed me that dead Rebel soldiers speak to her and one named Parker told her that he had been killed on Deserter’s Hill and was buried under a museum.

I will investigate any tip I get so I asked her if the dead man had told her if Parker was his first or last name. She didn’t know. I asked where the museum was located as there wasn’t one on the site. She didn’t know. So much for that hint.

The woman at the funeral home looked at her spouse and they stared at each other for a bit. Were they thinking I was a kook? I just let the quiet hang. She then said there were Parkers in the area and they were involved in the Civil War and they were buried in Anclote Cemetery. Wow. But that’s not all – one was buried in an unmarked grave that they later discovered happened to be under a sign for an RV company. Very odd.

I plan to be checking out this Parker family. But here’s the clincher of the ending.

I asked for both of their names. You probably already figured this out. Her name was Renee. I laughed. Asked her if she had an appointment at my salon today. She didn’t.

So now I know 2 Renees. I’d love to meet the woman who was supposed to have been having her hair cut at the same time as me with the same stylist. Maybe she doesn’t exist and it was a message for me that I should have gone to the funeral home first as that Renee wasn’t planning on staying much longer.  I’m glad we connected.

The connections we make as genealogists and the records we leave behind are important historical truths. An innocent man has been linked to crimes he never committed. A woman before her time was largely forgotten because of the misspelling of her name. My parent’s divorce has led me to not know my father’s family. In 48 hours this week, all of those fences were fixed because of a chain of weird occurrences.

Genealogists don’t think of themselves as fence menders but it is what we do, it’s who we are. And I sure appreciate a little help from the Universe to get over those fences!

Genealogy Challenge: Research Your Town’s Founding Ladies

Fidelia Merrick Whitcomb Photo from Henry Wells Hand. Centennial History of the Town of Nunda. Rochester, NY: Herald Press, 1908.

My local historical society is preparing for a fall cemetery tour and decided to focus on pioneering women. My city isn’t very old; it was incorporated in 1887. There are old-timers alive today who still remember some of the founders.

Women are often difficult to research as the norm was to be called by their married name. Today I’m focusing on hunting down the identity and story of Mrs. Edward Henry Becket[t], who founded our first hospital.

Sometimes clues are left behind but we don’t recognize them. In my town is an area known as Whitcomb Bayou. I never thought much of who the bayou was named after. A few weeks ago, a visitor to our museum mentioned that it was named after a woman. That intrigued me and I decided to dig further to uncover the story.

Fidelia Jane Merrick Whitcomb (1833-1888) would be considered unconventional even today. Raised in Nunda, Livingston, New York by parents Hiram and Esther Richardson Merrick who believed in educating their daughters as well as their sons, she ultimately became a teacher of elocution. She married Walter Bruce Whitcomb (1828-1898) and the couple had two children – Clara (1852) and Silas (1859). A member of the Universalist Church, Fidelia became involved at the national level where she met other women who were leaders in their own community, like Dr. Mary Safford, a Boston University professor.

Fidelia and her husband, who was a merchant in Nunda, decided to send their children to Boston for a better education. Fidelia accompanied them while Walter remained in New York. It’s likely that Fidelia called upon Mary Safford when she relocated as soon after, Fidelia applied and was accepted to the first Boston University class for female homeopathic physicians. Mary became Fidelia’s mentor.

Fidelia’s daughter Clara married a lawyer, Ernest C. Olney, in Massachusetts. The couple had no children and divorced. Olney remarried and started a family with his second wife, Hattie. Clara remained childless.

Fidelia’s son, Silas who went by the name Merrick, was accepted to Harvard and completed his degree. He married Zettie Stone Fernald and the couple had one child, Eva Fidelia Whitcomb.

Meanwhile, Fidelia returned to live with her husband in Nunda and opened a medical practice in her home.

She retained contact with her friend and mentor, Mary, who had relocated to Tarpon Springs, Florida to serve as a physician. Mary’s brother, Anson P. K. Safford, former territorial governor of Arizona, had been hired by the Butler Company to develop the company’s Florida holdings.

Fidelia soon joined Mary in what I term a travel medicine partnership. The two physicians advertised in medical journals recommending doctors send their ill patients to recuperate in balmy Florida. Fidelia would spend the winter season helping Mary and return to Nunda in the spring to serve her community during the summer months.

Fidelia died on April 1, 1888, in Tarpon Springs. Per her wishes, she was buried in the town’s cemetery, Cycadia. Her husband survived her and is buried in Nunda. Sadly, there is no gravestone for Fidelia. Her obituary in the Nunda newspaper reported that if she had been buried there, she would have had a large memorial.

My local historical society wants to have a stone erected on Fidelia’s grave but by city requirements, the permission of a descendant must be given. I traced grandchild Eva and discovered she had two children, Louise and Elizabeth, with her first husband, Reginald Worthington. Eva, like her Aunt Clara, divorced. She remarried William Cordon Walton but they had no children.

Eva’s daughter, Louise, married a Harry K. Tucker in Pennsylvania where the family had relocated but the marriage did not last. By 1940, Louise was living with her mother and step-father. The US census reports she was married but she was using her maiden name. She died in 1954; her death certificate stated she was married but her husband’s name did not appear on the form. The couple likely had no children.

Louise’s sister, Elizabeth, married a Mr. Hay[e]s about 1974 when she was 56. It is likely they had no children.

It appears that Fidelia Merrick Whitcomb has no living direct descendants. I haven’t traced her sibling’s children; it looks like there is some family alive today through those lines.

As for the headstone, it’s up to the city to decide.

Regardless of the decision, Fidelia has not been forgotten. We’ll be honoring her in October and every time I pass the bayou named for her I’ll think about her.

This spring, do some digging into your town’s past. An amazing story just might be waiting to be uncovered.

New Genealogy Tips and Tricks

Courtesy of en.Wikipedia.org. Thinking of you, Ukraine!

I’ve been Spring Cleaning so I’m a tad late on posting today. I’m really supposed to be in a local genealogy society’s Zoom meeting but they are having tech issues so I decided to blog while I wait to be let in.

I’m excited to write that I have FINALLY finished scanning my older genealogy collection from my family. I had so much dust, bits of dried brown paper, even glitter from old greeting cards around that I spent the last week plus majorly cleaning. Amazing how those documents permeated nooks and crannies throughout my home!

After I get the outside pressure washed, my favorite job, I decided to scan additional documents, such as medical records, too. I’d like to go as paperless as possible going forward.

Here is some new genealogy news you might find interesting:

ROOTSTECH may be over but if you attended, you should be getting an email notification of your “cousins” that also logged on for the conference. Follow the link (which expires on March 25th) and then click “Roots Tech Relatives.” My relative number is 8,944 – those would be the people who also have a FamilySearch.org tree that matches the people I have in my tree. A map appears and you can click to see folks from your area and be able to contact them if you like. Another alternative is to scroll down the page and click in the Surname box – adding a surname you are interested in connecting with. The default is your current surname and if it’s like mine, Samuelson, is not going to find you much. There are loads of Samuelsons that aren’t related to us because of Swedish naming patterns. I plugged in my top 3 family surnames – Koss, Leininger, and Landfair and discovered that there were 5 Leiningers in attendance but no one with the other two names.

Have New York City families? Then you’ll love the fact that the vital records are 70% digitized and available for FREE. Check out the link. A list of all available records can be found here.

MyHeritage.com continues to improve its site. If you love timelines, you’ll enjoy their new color-coded ones with graphics. This blog article will explain it.

I’m not sure how I feel about their new Live Story which is a tool for you to make animated videos of your ancestors telling their stories. Personally, it’s a little too creepy for me but if you are into AI and liked Deep Nostalgia, this is definitely for you. Try it out here.

On the more traditional genealogy path, MyHeritage.com has increased its French records by adding Filae’s family trees. That 269 million! Read about it here and there is a link in the article to start researching the records.

Sigh, so many records, so little time. Have a wonderful week searching!

Family Historians Must Talk About the Memories

John Leininger State Line House. Photo courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger. Leininger Family History and Genealogy, Columbia City, IN: Self Published, p. 4.

Today’s blog wasn’t my intended topic but as the week evolved, I felt the need to write about recent laws in my state (and maybe yours!) that matter to family historians and genealogists.

Long-time readers know my first career was as an educator; I retired as a Public School Counselor last August. My paternal grandmother taught briefly in Ohio before her marriage. My husband is also a retired educator. His great grandfather was a lifelong teacher and principal in rural Indiana. Although not educators, my Leininger line certainly valued education as they built their house across the Indiana-Ohio state line for the purpose of being able to have a choice option of where to send their children to school. Even back in the day school funding was problematic so when one district had cuts, they simply moved their belongings to the other side of the house and enrolled in the other school district. A novel way to ensure their children were well educated.

I am in favor of the community having a voice in schools and that schools are critical for a region’s future success.

This week, the Florida legislature passed two bills that affect schools. The first allows parents to sue teachers if school personnel “instructs” a student in third grade or under on sexual orientation. On the surface, you might think that discussion isn’t age-appropriate. Children notice EVERYTHING and they ask for information when they don’t understand something. What is a teacher supposed to say when a kid asks why does Jack has two mommies or two daddies? I always replied, “Because each family is different which is what makes them so special.” I can see that today, a parent with an agenda might take that statement to the court.

Here’s why I gave that reply to my elementary students . . . When I was their age I was the only child with divorced parents in my parochial school. Not until I was in 6th grade did another child with divorced parents enroll. Pre-Vatican II divorce was a serious offense by Roman Catholic Church standards. We learned that in religion class. I was penalized because my father never came to school functions – the PTA awarded points for parents who attended monthly meetings. Moms got 1 point and dad’s got 5 points. A dad only had to show up once a year and the mom every other meeting to exceed my mother’s perfect attendance number. In May, any student who had parent participation above a certain number would get an ice cream treat. I never got one.

Those were painful times. I thought the world had changed towards acceptance of differences but in my state, we’re slipping backward. Instead, the governor embarrased responsible high school students because their belief system is different than his. But that’s not all that’s happening in Florida.

Teacher training on diversity is being canceled and teacher lessons that imply someone is responsible for actions “committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.” that makes a student feel uncomfortable is forbidden. Again, parents can sue the teacher for the lesson. Here’s my problem with this. I’ve blogged about the KKK targeting my maternal grandparents. I’m white and obviously, the KKK hoodlums were white. A parent not liking my lesson or blog can sue me for telling the truth about the past! The law doesn’t protect the victims but the perpetrators. My mother’s trauma as a child enduring the long night she thought she would die is irrelevant in Florida because we don’t want to hurt the feelings of a white child today whose ancestor may have been responsible.

My family is far from perfect and I’ve written about my own ancestor, Daniel Hollingshead, who upped his social standing at the expense of others. I’m not proud to have an ancestor who was complicit and tolerant of his second wife who had inherited enslaved people.

We must remember the past, the good, the bad, and the ugly, or we haven’t learned the lessons. Suing is not the way to deal with uncomfortable topics. My former school district has had nearly 9% of its teachers resign in the past year. How many more will be driven out because they can no longer speak the truth?

Weekly I volunteer at my local train depot museum. The building has two doors; built-in 1909 the law was Separate but Equal. The title of the law was half correct – the facility was separated by race but it was anything but equal. People of color had to share one small restroom while white people had larger, separate facilities. Whites had heat on their side of the wall and a larger ticket window. Their space was also much larger. Equal? Nope! Unbelievably, the building remained separated until Amtrack shut it down in the late 1970s. The law may have been off the books but its effect lingered much longer.

That’s not the only place the law lingered. As a teen, I worked for the City of St. Petersburg. In City Hall was a racist mural and the water coolers had painted above “whites” and “colored.” I had learned about Jim Crow laws in U.S. History class in the north but it never occurred to me that a visible reminder remained in my lifetime. When I questioned it of my director, her response was “You’re a carpetbagger; you wouldn’t understand.” She was entirely correct. I’ve lived in my county for 50 years and I still don’t understand people refusing to accept differences and acknowledge the mistakes of the past.

If the schools aren’t going to be able to do the job then we, as the remembers, must step up and speak out. I’d be interested to know how you take on the challenge.

Rootstech 2022-Last Day!

Photo courtesy of Family Search

Fear not, you haven’t missed Rootstech, the online FREE FamilySearch.org conference. Today is the last day and you can sign in to attend here.

If you are short of time and can’t attend lectures, don’t worry. The 1,000 talks will be available on YouTube. I know that I missed a keynote I had wanted to hear due to a commitment and plan to catch up on that soon.

I highly recommend, if you have only limited time today, to definitely check out the Expo Hall. Organizations, start-up companies, and well-known businesses are available at a virtual booth. Many offer discounts. Visit 20 and you can enter a Priceline drawing for a family trip.

Have a tree on FamilySearch.org? Then you might want to click the Find Relatives section of the event. Your tree is compared with other attendees who have their tree on the site. When an individual is matched, you and your kin can send each other a message. Last year I conversed with a Landfair descendant who lived not too far from me. This year, I found a second Leininger cousin. Who knows what absolute goodness that relative may have for you genealogically in their attic, basement or brain!

Heirloom Preservation

I have been so busy the past week! My family and I attended an archaeology camp all week and today is my local genealogy society’s annual conference. I’m blogging today on a previously written article that an organization had no space for as a sidebar. Enjoy!

Without a doubt, heirlooms are loved. Some are valued because they are a tangible connection to a deceased loved one. To others, the object reflects a simpler time or awe that the item survived a specific event. Heirlooms are important to us because they belong to our personal past, marking our family’s social group and reminding us of those caring individuals who came before us. Holding a book that your grandfather used to read to you can ignite a sense of security. Using your great-grandmother’s recipe can provide your whole being comfort. Heirlooms deserve to be treasured! 

Here’s how to keep your priceless object preserved for future generations:

Research the item:

  • Gather and place in chronological order all stories that have been written about the object. After reading each account, list discrepancies, noting who made the claim. Tales written closest to the time of the event may be slightly more accurate as memories can fade. Keep in mind that eyewitnesses aren’t always credible. A very young child may not understand the situation they are observing; an adult may embellish or fill in what they can’t clearly recall.
  • If no stories have been written, write it down! Ask family members for their memories; record or have them write down their version of the item’s history. 
  • Research names, dates, and places associated with the item as you would while researching your family tree. Think of the heirloom as an extension of your family history. 
  • Know that some items cannot be fully researched. My great grandmother’s hurricane lamp, purportedly bought in the summer of 1913 at Marshall Field’s in Chicago, had been passed to me with no receipt. I can pinpoint my family to Chicago, have personal knowledge that my grandmother shopped at the store and have the lamp appraised to identify a time range of its origin but it’s unlikely I will ever know for certain where the item was purchased.

Store your item safely:

  • Items last longer when stored in climate-controlled conditions that monitor temperature (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity (not to exceed relative humidity of 75). In Florida, this likely means don’t store your precious belongings in your garage, attic or shed. 
  • For paper, photographs, or fabrics, store items in acid free containers.
  • Use cotton gloves when handling items that may be damaged by skin oil, such as old photographs, film, or metal. For other items, make sure your hands are clean before touching.

Have an emergency plan:

  • List your most irreplaceable items and their location. In an emergency evacuation, your list will be invaluable in making sure you don’t forget a priceless item in your panic. Keep the list with your important papers that you would take with you so you can easily remember what to pack.
  • If your item is too bulky to take, have a backup plan to keep it as safe as possible. Place your smaller items in durable plastic storage containers. Wrap larger items in a waterproof tarp. Elevate objects to avoid flood damage. Place them along an inner wall away from windows and doors.
  • Make sure items you want passed to the next generation are identified. Keep a copy of your evacuation list with your will, noting the name of who you are bequeathing the object. An alternative is to place a label on the bottom of the object with the name of the original owner, year it was acquired if known and who you’d like the new owner to be. When your loved ones are cleaning up after you, they can easily identify a family memento from a tchotchke. In the meantime, your treasure can be kept in its usual location where you may continue to enjoy it.

Research Challenges and How to Overcome Them

I’m blogging a day early as I will be out of town giving a lecture tomorrow. Yep, back in person. With a Mask. Hooray!!

I’m reflecting today on what should have been simple research tasks locally that turned out to be anything but. I’m avoiding using specific names and places as I don’t want to cause further problems; I do think you need to be reminded, however, on how to get over, under, around, and through to discover your research goals.

My two research goals were: 1. Find the name of an individual who lived on a street in an unincorporated area of a county in the late 1990s. 2. Find living members of a pioneer family who once held the first bounty land in the area in the mid-1850s.

Here’s the backstory – in the late 1990’s I met a neighbor who told me a horrific tale about a local family. The tale has haunted me since and I was determined to now research it fully. Problem was, I couldn’t remember the neighbor’s name. I was hoping to discover that and see how that individual was connected to the event. That neighbor had told me the name of the family who had experienced the event and claimed they were descended from the first pioneer family in that location. A quick internet search showed me that was correct. Their last names are common, however, so finding a living family member in an area that had grown exponentially over the years wouldn’t be quick. The neighbor was elderly so I didn’t think I would be able to find her, 27 years after we had met.

Now think about my goals and how you would quickly and ACCURATELY reach them. My thought for goal 1 was to locate City Directories. I first checked the public library, in person, for the area where the person had resided. They had no directories. I then went in person to the historical society who happens to be located within a block of where the individual I was seeking lived. They don’t have directories, either.

I also checked with the society about the pioneer family. One of the members knew of the goal 2 family and of the event that I was researching. Since it was the holidays it was suggested that we meet again in January.

As genealogists, we all know that names and places change over time. The location of the event occurred on an island that has since split in half and changed names and geographically, locations, as it has moved apart. The portion of the island where the event occurred has migrated north and is located across from the unincorporated area I visited. The unincorporated area was once incorporated but then unincorporated, thus changing its name several times. The bounty land was located today in the unincorporated area, too, but a city to the south now claims that the family was their first city inhabitants. Although the area is now well-populated, the city to the north of the incorporated area was at the time of the event, the largest city. Today, the largest city is the county seat located to the south of the city claiming the settler as their town founder.

I called the library for the city that claimed the pioneer family and was told they had no city directories for the unincorporated area. I checked the larger city to the north, they didn’t have the city directories, either. I looked online for the county seat’s library holdings and they did not have the city directories for the unincorporated area.

At the end of last month, I reconnected with the unincorporated historical society and was told they had looked but were unable to locate any members of the pioneering family remaining in the area. I had found some descendants through online family trees but they were not local and had no knowledge of the event. They also had no knowledge of any family member ever living on the street my neighbor lived on.

Meanwhile, I used newspapers and books to learn more about the tragedy. I found numerous accounts in the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times. Tampa is in a neighboring county but had been the county where the event had occurred just a few years previously. St. Petersburg was a growing city well south of the event but was trying to become the regional powerhouse paper at the time. Neither newspaper exists today; they have combined and are now called the Tampa Bay Times.

When the event occurred there were many small local newspapers but the remaining issues are not available online. I put in requests with two other historical societies who have been known to have some issues. Nada.

I wrote the article with the information I had found. Like all stories, both newspaper accounts and the neighbor’s version of events vary.

Thursday, on a whim, I decided to stop at the city that claimed the pioneer’s library to check for myself that they didn’t have the City Directories. Imagine what I discovered. The information I was looking for was in a 1998 directory listed under the city that is the county seat. The clip is shown above.

As soon as I saw the page I quickly recognized the neighbor’s name. Internet research then unveiled that the neighbor’s husband had lived next door to the family in the 1940 US Federal census. The road both families lived on was the name of the pioneer and was the homestead land. I then looked for obituaries and discovered that descendants had left the area. Just tie this up and put a bow on it!

After the library visit, I decided to stop by that city’s historical society to see if they had any accounts of the event. I’m sad to say that the two folks on duty had no knowledge of local history. I was given the name of someone who supposedly knew all about the town’s past. I sent an email which was promptly responded to with complete misinformation. I knew it was wrong as I had already checked property records, published journals of a neighbor to the family who had been involved in the tragedy and census records.

I thanked the individual and shared the information I had found. Never got a response as I likely ticked the person off. That wasn’t my intention; I believe it’s important to find the documents, analyze them in comparison to everything found and then write up the findings for future folks so that history is not forgotten or rewritten by whatever the culture of the day believes.

So, my dear readers, the lessons learned are as follows:

  1. You have to do boots on the ground research. Everything you’ve been unable to physically check out yourself during the pandemic you will need to verify in person as soon as you are able.
  2. “Authorities” are not unless they can prove to you how they came to their conclusion. Don’t rely on what was told to you by an expert without evidence.
  3. Widen your net and expand your geographic area to locate information. This was my first experience with researching an event on a land mass that had physically moved and I guess, with climate change, it won’t be my last.
  4. Don’t give up! Somewhere is the information you seek. Persistence pays off.
  5. Make sure you write up your findings for future generations.

Thinking About DNA Differently

Photo courtesy of istock

Often we get stuck in a mindset, for better or worse. I had two DNA conversations this week that helped me broaden my thinking about DNA.

First, I’ve had one of those weeks where everything tech-wise decided to stop operating. Consequently, I spent time on the phone with an IT person who was trying to get an account to accept my password. In the course of our conversation, he asked me what my business was about and as I described what a genealogist does, he said I had reminded him that he needed to upload his DNA results for his primary care physician. Wow, I hadn’t realized that primary care doctors were now taking results from the big DNA organizations!

Now for the divergent thinking part of the story – I asked where he tested and he said 23andMe; he that he was SHOCKED that they knew of his close relationship with his aunt. She was his FAVORITE relative and they shared interests and food preferences. He had no idea that the company would understand how close emotionally he felt to her.

I paused to find the right words. I explained they didn’t know how he felt but they knew how her genes compared to his genes and the “close” relationship meant genetically and not emotionally.

The following day a couple brought their adorable mutt into our local historical society for a tour. Yes, leashed behaved pets are allowed. This was the cutest pup I’ve ever seen. A colleague asked if they knew what breeds he was and the response surprised me – they had his DNA done and he was schnauzer, poodle, shih tzu, and shepherd. I’ve been dogless for a few years now; I had no idea you could have your dog tested.

DNA sure has come a long way in a short time!

Genealogy Education

Photo courtesy of teachhub.com

The weather outside appears to be frightful for much of the U.S. and parts of Europe, so my dear readers, nothing like cozying up with your tech device and working your brain muscles to learn additional tips and tricks genealogy-wise.

I live in an area that has the largest Greek population outside of Greece; if you don’t and are of Greek heritage you might think your ancestor hunt is a dead end. Think again! Last weekend the Tarpon Springs Public Library held its 2nd Greek Genealogy Conference. No worries that you missed it – it’s available, handouts and all, on YouTube.

I have to share this story from Tuesday. . . I volunteer at my local hospital which is in the process of renovating. There is a very calming beach scene mural that was placed on the wall in the family waiting area. A woman got off the elevator and gasped. I asked if I could help and she just stared, pointing at the mural. She replied, “That’s the view from my home in Greece!” She then showed me a pic her husband had texted her that morning of the snowfall. Yep, same buildings as in the mural with a light dusting of snow. Definitely a small world and I love how she educated me about the mural that has no identifier as to where it was located.

The National Genealogical Conference registration is now open with a DISCOUNT for their May 24-28, 2002 Family History Conference in Sacramento, California. Your options are to select in-person, virtual, or on-demand so you can view lectures later in the summer. Check out their catalog here. I’m thrilled that there are options available as I love attending but am not yet comfortable with traveling there in May.

MyHeritage.com has introduced a 40 lesson Intro to Genealogy course that takes about 5 hours to complete; you don’t have to do it in one sitting. I haven’t taken it myself but as soon as I’m done with my scanning project (sigh) I plan to take a look at it.

Speaking of scanning, I had two wonderful comments to my last week’s blog that I need to share. Bob recommended that I also save my digitized photos to an external hard drive. He is so right! Randy reminded me that MyHeritage.com has awesome photo software to enhance your old photos. It also just happens to be free through tomorrow. Check it out here if you’re not a member. Thanks, Randy, I sadly discovered my wedding album is fading. Luckily, I did scan those photos years ago but I do have some other photos that could use a facelift. I plan on using those features once I’m done.

MyHeritage has also had some changes to how you can view their historical records, now in a table view. Check out their blog article about it.

Let’s not forget that we, as a genealogy community, are great sources of educating each other. I was contacted on Ancestry.com by my 7th great step-cousin last week on my Hollingshead line. We were discussing her 7th great-grandmother’s will and I shared how surprised I originally was when I saw she had bequeathed her slaves to one of her children. Step-mom lived in New Jersey from about 1720 to 1771. Cousin recommended a good read that her local genealogical society had recommended when she shared the will with them. It’s available on Amazon and I selected the Kindle download for Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills If These Stones Could Talk: African American Presence in the Hopewell Valley, Sourland Mountain and the Surrounding Regions of New Jersey. It is a fascinating read and timely for Black History Month!

Scanned Your Photos? Think Again!

Today’s blog is all about what I wish I had known about preserving my family photos and certificates. Hoping this will help you avoid my mistakes.

The story begins in December 2001. On the day my mom was interred, I met my stepmother to acquire items my father had left to me when he died five years earlier. Step-mother had refused for years to mail me the items even though I offered to compensate her. My emotions were raw from the burial that had to be rushed due to an impending snowstorm. Husband and I, with our two kids, then drove through our old neighborhoods to see our childhood sites. We stopped briefly to visit my beloved kindergarten teacher and then it was on to my stepmother’s home. The visit was what I had expected it to be; I soldiered on with the thought running through the back of my mind, “This will be over soon.” Hubby put the two cardboard boxes of my father’s remaining possessions in our trunk and we drove south towards home. When we had driven far out of town we stopped at a hotel for the night; I looked through the boxes quickly and discovered photograph albums, certificates, a diary, war medals, work pins, and a few toys.

Arriving home on New Year’s Eve, the items went into a closet as I knew I needed time to look through them carefully. My mindset wasn’t ready to do that.

Two years later we moved to a new city and the boxes were placed on the top shelf of a hall closet. Someday I would have time to go through them.

Fast forward to Summer 2008. Hurricanes had hit my area and we had lost a huge oak tree in our backyard. Luckily, it fell away from houses. If it had fallen 180 degrees instead onto my house, the kitchen and closet where these heirlooms were stored would have been devastated. I knew I had to scan and do it quickly.

When faced with a crisis you must prioritize and be on terms with your decision. My priority was my children so I scanned the many scrapbooks I had made for them first. Then I moved on to my maternal side’s two photo albums. Next would be my husband’s family’s photos which were in a large album. The summer was going quickly and I was left with one week before I had to return to my education job. I rushed to scan my father’s photos.

I knew I had a few more items to scan, my mom’s address book, and my dad’s World War 2 diary, but time was up.

I saved the scanned photos to DVDs, Ancestry.com, and to Google Photos. I mailed DVDs to far-flung relatives in the hope that if the originals and my DVDs were destroyed, family in other parts of the U.S. might be able to have a copy I could get back or I could still see them online.

Last Sunday, I got the brilliant idea to buy a cart that was on sale that matched our home office furniture. I intended to clean the office closet by placing stationery items in the new cart. Hubby loved it and thought it would be a good place to move our printer/scanner so we’d have more desk space. Then we decided to move the router. Of course, there were cable issues so my simple organizational strategy turned into much more than I had bargained for.

Once we got back online, the office closet had a lot of space. Hmmm, it was cold and rainy so why not move some of the items from that hall closet into the office as that’s where I keep binders of my family’s records. The hall closet is odd-shaped and tall so I had to have hubby and son get the ladder and hand me down the boxes.

I opened the first of my father’s photo albums and compared the pictures to what I had uploaded years ago to Google Photos. The pages were not there. Neither were the next five pages. I then looked on Ancestry.com and some of the missing Google Photos were on Ancestry but not all of them. I also noticed that none of the photos I had taken with my phone since July 2021 were being saved on Google Photo. What was going on?

At first, I thought maybe I had exceeded space on Google as I blogged last year about their policy change but that wasn’t it; I had plenty of space. I checked with family and friends and they said they had noticed similar gaps. One relative said she had lost a year of her pictures that had been stored on Google Photos. A friend told me she had lost photos when she changed phones and hadn’t checked the settings. I hadn’t gotten a new phone and hadn’t messed with settings; I see that there is now an “upload” button on my Android. I’m thinking this is a result of Google’s policy change in June and they no longer automatically upload. Lesson 1 – check now and upload any phone photos if you use Google Photos. It will only upload a few at a time so be patient.

But what about the missing pages that I had scanned in 2008? I know I didn’t miss scanning all of those pages as some are on Ancestry.com. Lesson 2 – save somewhere where you alone control what’s added. I am now additionally saving to Dropbox.

Last week, I decided to create albums on Google Photos to help me quickly recheck all of my uploaded pictures to the hard copies I have on hand. That took a few days. Meanwhile, my office is now filled with items I have yet to double-check. Lesson 3 – once you scan and upload to where you are going to save, double-check to make sure that the item scanned clearly and was saved where you want it.

This adventure had not been fun; it is boring to have to double-check everything. I can’t stress enough how important it is, though. This time around I’m also scanning the covers of the albums and the inside pages as I have discovered notes my father left there. Lesson 4 – Those written words are as important as the photos contained in the album. It lets me know about his thoughts and feelings.

I decided to save my photos in Dropbox in a different way than Google Photos. Google saves by the date they were uploaded, regardless of the year the photo was taken. In Dropbox, I’m saving by surname.first name.item description. I copy the photos into a Word document so I’m able to include additional information. I’ve typed who the photos belonged to, how I acquired them, the size of the album, its condition, the number of pages, etc. For the few albums that identified the people, I typed under the photo a transcription. Lesson 5 – what’s nice about this is you can use the find (control + F key) to locate an item quickly. That’s how I discovered the picture above. My father had simply written “grandpa” under the photo.

It is not my grandpa; it’s my father’s grandpa meaning it is my great-grandpa, Theobald Leininger. I only had one picture of him, given to me by a distant family member. It was an awful photo – he is on the end of a group picture and mostly cut off but I was happy to have it. Lesson 6 – if I had only rechecked my photo album and thought about the captions from my father’s viewpoint and not my own I would have realized I had this photo for 20 years.

Since the weather outside remains frightful, I’m going to be spending whatever time it takes to get these items all scanned and saved. Trust me, the hardest part is getting started. I have one box completely done. Seeing my progress motivates me to move forward. Perhaps soon, my office will be clean and neat and I can go back to more “fun” genealogy tasks.