Correcting Records Is A Feat!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 3 Sep 2015.

Recently I’ve been ranting about the problem of looking for a record that never existed or once existed and has since vanished.  Today, I’m going to share a frustrating story about trying to correct an error in a record.

As genealogists we know that it’s common to find discrepancies in records.  One census may show a person born in one year and the next census may show a different birth year.  A marriage record may state a person was born in one state but the census record may show a different state.  We know it’s a best practice to try to find primary sources but sometimes even a primary source isn’t correct and it becomes a herculean task to try to fix the error.

Daughter recently moved and was trying to have her power turned on.  Power company told her they couldn’t do it because she had a discrepancy in her birthdate through one of the credit services they used.  She called the credit service (and I use the term service loosely!) and they refused to tell her which company had reported her birthdate wrong.  She was told to fax 2 of the following 3 documents to the credit card company to prove her correct date of birth:  a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, or social security card.  Since daughter didn’t have power she couldn’t fax the documents (duh) so she took a picture of them on her phone and emailed them to me to fax.

Immediately I thought this was a scam but I checked and found that the number she was supposed to fax to was legitimate and lots of other people have encountered the same problem.  I faxed and got confirmation that the documents were sent.  Daughter called the power company back and informed them the information had been faxed but it could be 10 days before the situation was investigated.  Power company turned on the power (hooray!).

A few weeks later daughter received via US mail a letter from the credit service stating she had to refax the documents as they were not readable.  Daughter refaxed and then sent a hard copy via US Mail.  Another few weeks went by and daughter received another document from the credit service in the mail stating they had re-investigated and would update the record if she sent them either a birth certificate or driver’s license.  This will be the fourth time they received copies of those documents.  Frustrated, daughter again tried to find out which record was in error so she could go directly to the source to get it corrected.  Although it is her credit record, the credit service again refused to divulge the information.  Daughter contacted her bank and credit card companies to see if they had the birthdate wrong.  Nope, their records were correct.  So, for the fourth time, daughter resent proof of her birthdate.

I’ve noticed when looking at US Public Records Index that too many individuals have conflicting birthdates in comparison to my other sources.  I don’t know if you’ve notice this, too, but I’m guessing there must be a date of birth field where someone is entering the digit 1 instead of the actual date of birth.  Since the month and year are correct, I don’t know if all the fields must be complete and if they don’t have the day of birth they enter a 1.  No way to correct the error, either!

It’s important to remember that clearly, even today, record accuracy isn’t going to happen 100% of the time.

More Inaccessbie Genealogical Records

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 30 Aug 2015.

I’ve been mentioning that several events occurred recently that really brought home the connection for me between education and genealogy, along with the impossibility of trying to find a nonexistent record.  The records that I’m looking for today did exist once but is not easy to find.

The illustrious Florida legislatures (and I mean that with all the sarcasm that I can muster) passed a bill called Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship last spring which is not the best or brightest idea IMHO!  Eligible teachers can earn an additional $10,000.00 bonus.  Florida teachers are way underpaid compared to most of the rest of the states so this is a big chunk of change.

To “earn” the scholarship a teacher must be considered “highly effective.”  Hubby and I get a great big check mark on that requirement.

Next eligibility condition is “…by October 1 official ACT or SAT documentation either that their score on the ACT was at or above the 80th percentile based on the rank in effect when the assessment was taken or that their scores on the SAT were at or above the 80th percentile based on the rank in effect when the assessment was taken” be provided to our school district.1

Hubby and I can’t find our Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) documentation.  We took that exam, which wasn’t a requirement to enter college back in our day, about 43 plus years ago.  I found copies of our Graduate Record Exam, National Board Certified Teacher scores, middle school achievement test results, report cards for every grade beginning in kindergarten, opened and sealed transcripts, and lots of awards but I can’t find our SAT scores.

This post isn’t about how idiotic it is to base a bonus on a test that was designed to measure success in college that was administered almost a half century ago.  Not to mention how that particular test has been shown to be historically biased against many of the test takers, particularly minorities, women and those raised in lower income households.  Nor is this post to discuss why the results of an obsolete test could demonstrate how accomplished at work an individual is today.  Nope, this post is just about the difficulty in trying to obtain the record.

I called the College Board to see if I could get another copy of our test results.  The automated message said the cost was $15.00 and for a $30.00 investment, hubby and I could receive $20,000.  Wow, what a deal!  After 45 minutes on hold I thought maybe we should just retake the exam so I looked up the next test date.  Problem is, the next administration is October 3 so it’s too late for the October 1st deadline.  I continued to wait on hold.

Finally, Russell #443 answered the call and was clearly confused when I asked him how far back records were kept.  He didn’t know.  I told him I need a copy of an exam I took in Spring 1973 as I wasn’t sure if I took the test in March or April.  He stuttered a bit, clearly taken aback that someone would need the test results from that long ago, especially since no college would accept a test that old.  I explained why I needed a copy.

Russell said the cost for an archival search was $31.00 with $11.00 for mailing and would take a minimum of 4 weeks.  That might not make the October 1st deadline, either.  Money is not refunded if they can’t find the test results.

I hate to spend money for the archiving fee because the College Board lost my son’s entire junior class’ PSAT scores a few years ago.  I still don’t understand how that happened and I was really not happy that he wasn’t able to qualify for National Merit Scholar.  School blamed College Board and College Board blamed school.  Just another example of a record that should exist that unexplainably doesn’t any longer.

I can understand missing records due to war, fire, flood or other disaster but I can’t understand why an entire school’s paper records just vanishes.  I bet they’re out they’re in cyberspace with the delayed text messages, lost  postal mail and missing socks.

The State of Florida will be able to hold on to the bonus checks as I suspect few will be able to come up with their requirements.  Laws like this just make me long for my next career as a full time genealogist!

A Family’s Change of Mind

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 27 Aug 2015.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the decision of one of my clients to pull the plug on further research because of adverse pressure she was receiving from her children (see An Update on Becoming a Certified Genealogist 30 Jul 2015).  I had uncovered preliminary information that had unsettled the family and the client requested that no further research be done.  I offered to meet with the family members who were upset but she refused.  I then informed the client she could contact me whenever she was ready to move forward. Next, I began searching for another client to fulfill one of the portfolio requirements to become a Certified Genealogist.

Surprise, surprise!  Former client and I passed each other last week and we said hello.  After a little small talk (we’re in the deep south, it’s how we do things here!) client stated she had really thought about the kernel of information I had provided her and was ready to learn more.

I was greatly surprised.  One part of me wanted specifically to ask what made her and her family members change their minds but I didn’t.  Although as a genealogist we work in the past, my query wasn’t pertinent to moving forward.  Maybe I’ll get that answer later.

Before she changed her mind again, I obtained her signature on death certificate forms that I just happened to serendipitously have with me and the following day, I submitted the paperwork.  Those documents are needed to obtain the medical records we will ultimately be securing.

After watching Sunday’s Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) episode with Bryan Cranston I began to think that my client and her family must have been processing information similarly.  If you didn’t see the show, Mr. Cranston was first informed that his grandfather had deserted his wife and child to enlist in World War I and then claimed to be single, probably so he didn’t have to share his earned income. Initially, Cranston scoffed at the divorce documents that the soon to be ex of his grandfather submitted to court.  Cranston tried to defend the man’s action and then remarked he knew he was doing so even though he hadn’t met him.  That’s interesting since his father had also left the family and this looked like the beginning of a family pattern.  It’s also pertinent that Cranston felt the need to defend a relative he didn’t know.  Reminds me of the stink about Ben Afflek’s difficulty in dealing with the idea he had slave owning relatives so that information was not disclosed on his Finding Your Roots episode.

What I believe both Cranston, possibly Affleck, and my client were experiencing was a grief reaction outlined by Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969.  Kubler-Ross identified the following process that one experiences after a loss:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining/Compromise
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Initially, Kubler-Ross’ work was in regards to only death but was later expanded to include losses of any kind, such as job, divorce, health or incarceration.  There’s no studies on the grief process as it relates to genealogy but I believe it’s applicable.

If you’ve been actively researching your family tree for years think back to how you felt when you identified your first Black Sheep relative.  EVERYONE has one, most have more than that.  I have many.  Some are more benign than others; such as their poor choices hurt themselves and their close loved ones while others negatively impacted a larger number in their community.

My first Black Sheep was a great grand uncle on my paternal side that was imprisoned in Indiana for performing an illegal abortion in 1905.  He was also a notorious alcoholic and abusive which resulted in his first wife divorcing him.  His relationship with his second wife wasn’t much better.

I remember discovering this information and being in disbelief.  The newspaper articles of the day were sickening.  I didn’t want to be related to him. My father had proudly mentioned that he had a great uncle who was a physician but he never told me the rest of the story.  Here’s what my thinking was at the time I discovered the newspaper articles and how I processed the info:

  1. Denial-There’s got to be a mistake here.  There’s two sides to every story.  I bet the “victim” wasn’t telling the whole truth. (Much like Cranston, I felt the need to defend the relative I’d never met and discount the victim’s statements.) When I learned about the alcoholism and abuse, though, it became impossible to defend the man (Think Bill Cosby and Jared Fogle).
  2. Anger-Why didn’t my dad tell me about this?  He spoke fondly of the man’s accomplishment of being a physician.  How could dad have been proud of this man’s character?  My anger was displaced from the man I didn’t know to the person I did.
  3. Bargaining/Compromise-Maybe dad didn’t know about what happened since his great uncle would have been imprisoned before he was born.  Perhaps the sordid details were withheld from him as a child.
  4. Depression-I stopped looking for new information about the man.  I “withdrew” from searching.  I wasn’t ready to deal with more bad news.
  5. Acceptance-After discovering that my 2nd great grandfather, the grand uncle’s brother, also made some poor choices I realized I wasn’t the one who had made those decisions and I certainly wasn’t accountable for their actions.  No big deal that we shared a similar gene pool! Coming to the realization that I am not responsible for someone else’s choices, especially someone who died long before I was born, allowed me to move forward in this line.  It was interesting to discover there were quite a few “bad boys” who had difficulty following norms of the times in which they lived and experienced problems with alcoholism.  Discovering family secrets is part of the fun of genealogy, right?  The more I discovered, the easier it was to see the family pattern and accept what I was finding.

There are some counseling researchers who dispute that those experiencing a loss go through the grief stages outlined above.  I would agree that over time, a resiliency develops. Practice does make perfect!  In genealogy, I think resiliency occurs after you stumble upon subsequent Black Sheeps. The celebrities on WDYTYA and my client haven’t had the time to work through the loss.  Most were probably thinking that their ancestors were salt of the earth wholesome people who strived to make their part of the world a better place. Give them some time to process the negative information and the celebrities are able to move forward to learn more about their history.

Although I caution clients initially that some information may be difficult to accept I don’t think that’s enough.  Since everyone processes unexpected news differently, I’m thinking of discussing these stages are our initial meeting.  That may be beneficial and help a client who doesn’t have the grief resiliency developed better work through the newly received information.

Want to help a Ph.D researcher from the University of Sheffield, England who is studying Black Sheeps?  Complete the following anonymous survey at http://acriminalrecord.org/surveys/  It doesn’t take long and you’ll be contributing to an interesting research project.

The Nonexistent Genealogical Record

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 23 Aug 2015.

This past week I had several interesting situations occur that really drove home to me the connection between education and genealogy.

The first was an email from my division superintendent that requested everyone bring a photo of their high school graduation to post as a visual reminder of our district’s goal of increasing high school graduation rates.  Problem is, I don’t have a grad photo.  If you’re one of my loyal readers you know my parents were divorced when I was young.  I attended 1st through 11th grade in the Lake County, Indiana school district where my mom and I lived with my grandparents.  In June of my rising senior year I sat for senior picture; the custom at that time was girls had to wear a crew neck grey top- no mortar boards.  I have a copy of the photo which never appeared in a school yearbook because in August, my mother, who was employed by Montgomery Wards Department Stores, which was then owned by Mobil Oil, was given a transfer to Florida.  Mom gave me the option of going with her or moving in with my dad and step-mother to complete my senior year in Indiana.  Either way, I would have had to attend a different high school so I opted to move to Florida.

My first day of my senior year at St. Petersburg High School was a disaster.  I had to retake classes I had already passed because Pinellas County Schools did not have a work-study program that I was scheduled to take in Indiana. They wouldn’t let me attend school part time, either.  I had wanted to work my senior year to save money for college so that goal was shot.  In addition, no one spoke to me the entire day, even when I asked for directions.  I came home that evening and announced that I was quitting school.  My mother insisted I return so the next morning we met with the guidance counselor.  I don’t remember his name but I remember his complete lack of concern.  He suggested I enroll in a school for drop outs where I could complete assignments at my own pace and hold a job.  My mom drove me to the new school.  As we entered there was a fist fight in the hall and we had trouble getting into the office.  No adults were around although this was adult education.  I only needed 3 classes to graduate but the school only allowed enrolling in 2 classes at a time.  I finished senior English and Business Math in two weeks.  I then enrolled in Americanism vs. Communism.  Back in the day, the state of Florida was fairly certain Fidel Castro was going to storm the shores so every Florida senior had to be prepared by taking this ridiculous course.  Even though I finished the actual course work in another 2 weeks I was forced to sit for the entire school day in the class for an additional two weeks as there was a requirement that students must be enrolled for a certain number of hours.  The teacher was kind and told me I could bring anything quiet to do so I read a book a day.  No one spoke to me at this school either.  At the time, doctors, judges and other leaders in the community were so afraid that their children would become drug addicts that they enrolled them in a now defunct program called “The Seed.”  Anyone enrolled was not permitted to speak with anyone outside of the group.  The organization decided to enroll all of their students at the adult ed program probably because there would be less opportunity to interact with other teens.  I completed my entire senior year in 6 weeks.  When I went to the school counselor to turn in my completion paperwork she informed me the district would mail my diploma to me by the end of the semester (which they did but spelled my name wrong which is another story).

I never had a graduation ceremony so I never wore a cap and gown which is why I don’t have any pictures to contribute.  Hubby offered to photo shop my senior pic to add a mortar board but I nixed that idea.  I don’t want to fake history.  I submitted a photo of my college graduation instead.

Technically, I’m a high school graduate as I had the diploma conferred to me via US Mail but since this didn’t occur with pomp and circumstance I have no photo.  Several of my co-workers did attend a graduation ceremony but it wasn’t a custom to take a picture of the diploma being conferred so they don’t have pictures, either.

I think the practice of taking a picture as the diploma is being awarded must have occurred in my area after the early 1980’s.  My bachelor’s and first master’s degree photos were taken by my mom and husband.  By the time I received my second masters in the 90’s, photographers were on stage snapping away during the ceremony.  By the 2000’s you could get the whole event on DVD.

My point is you may be looking for a record or photo that doesn’t exist because it was never recorded. Next time you’re searching for that wedding photo or birth certificate think about the possibility that it never was!  This will save you time and frustration – just look for an alternative, like the marriage license of a baptism certificate.  In my case, I have the transcripts and diploma – just no picture.

Education Across State Lines

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 20 Aug 2015.

Education was extremely important to my Leininger lines and I have an interesting story to share about my gateway 3 times great grandparents, Jean “John” (20 Nov 1801-1 Dec 1868) and Margueritte “Margaret” Gasse (27 Jan 1801-4 Apr 1886) Leininger who emigrated from Endenhoffr, Alsace-Lorraine, then Germany to America in 1827.  Previously, I’ve blogged about what a difficult trip it must have been for the family but the following story illustrates how quickly they acclimated to the “rules” of America and bent them for the benefit of their children.

The family emigrated with 2 sons – Theobald and John George.  Settling in Stark County, Ohio the family grew, adding sons John and Jacob.  In 1835, the family relocated to Mercer County, Ohio.  GGGgrandpa opted for a career change from blacksmithing to farming.  Sons Henry and Samuel were born after the move.  On July 1, 1839, John purchased 128.60 acres of land in Wabash Township, Jay County, Indiana with an additional 8 acres of land on the adjoining Ohio side.  John then built a home across the state line. This benefited the family greatly as they could easily relocate from Ohio to Indiana and back to Ohio without ever leaving their home.  They simply moved their furniture from one side of the house to the other.  Why would someone do this?  Family lore says it’s because of the variation in educational opportunities.  When the school teacher left Mercer, the children could easily continue schooling in Jay, and vice versa.  Personally, I think this was ingenious and says so much about how the family valued education.  They were in the forefront of the School Choice movement!

I’d love to visit the home but it was destroyed by fire in 1970.

My dad pulled the same stunt in the 1960’s.  His farm was on the county lines of both Lake and Porter in Indiana.  He preferred the Porter County school district so my step sibs were sent to Porter County schools. Technically, the house was built on the Lake County side so I’m not sure how he got away with it.

My great great grandfather, Jacob Leininger (11 Nov 1832-Jul 1908), served as town trustee and a long term school board member in Mercer County, Ohio.  I guess he preferred the Ohio to the Indiana schools after he grew up!

My great grandmother, Emma Kuhn Landfair (20 Jun 1864-21 Feb 1914) and grandmother, Lola Landfair Leininger (27 Apr 1891-30 Jan 1964) were teachers for a short time before their marriages.  School must have been important to them as they saved their remembrance cards and all of my dad’s report cards.

john-d-kable

The above school Souvenir was for my grandmother Lola’s 1st grade year.  Her teacher, John D. Kable, would become her 2nd cousin through her marriage to my grandfather, Edwin Leininger. Edwin’s parents were Theobald Leininger, son of Jacob the School Board member and Caroline Kable. Caroline’s brother, John, had a son, John, who was the teacher at Wild Cat School (above).

My grandparents were in the same class – Eddie Leininger (1st column # 1) and Lola misspelled as Lora (2nd column #16):

eddie-leininger

My husband and I are high school sweethearts.  It’s an awesome thought to think that my grandparents were grade school sweethearts!

leininger-landfair-wedding

All grown and graduated, Eddie and Lola (above) married in 1914.

The Bakers-Kuhns-Landfairs-Leiningers all intermarried for several generations so many of the classmates were also related.

wm-kuhn

In 1904, William Kuhn was on the School Board:

William Kuhn was my grandmother, Lola Landfair Leininger’s uncle.

Below, School Board member Henry Bollenbacher was another relative – he was my grandfather Edwin’s 2nd cousin:

henry-bollenbacher

It’s an amazing thought to reflect on the amount of impact the Leininger line had on education at the turn of the last century!

Student Discipline

Originally published in genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 16 Aug 2015.

Just as teachers had rules in the 19th century, so did students.  What was inappropriate in the 1800’s is mostly considered inappropriate today.  What differs is the punishment method used to correct the misdeed.  Schools have banned lashing/swatting/spanking.  I used to get my hands slapped with a ruler and I ducked once when the principal tried to slap me in 5th grade due to being mouthy, though what I said that was inappropriate I have no recollection of.  We didn’t have a cafeteria so we had to eat lunch in our classroom and milk monitors would be selected to bring in the pre-ordered milk cartons for the class.  I was monitor of the day and talking while the principal was counting out milk cartons.  As she went to slap me I ducked and she hit the girl standing next to me who let out a wail like the world was ending.  The best part of the story is that the girl was a real brat whose mom was very active in the school so the girl typically got away with murder.  The principal was so upset that she immediately hugged the child and took her to the office to get her ice.  I escaped back to class with our milk and for some reason, never got called back to the office to be disciplined.  I actually became a class hero when the story got around.

Back in 1872, the following was considered inappropriate student behavior, just as it is now:

Fighting/Quarreling/Wrestling

Lying/Telling Tales

Swearing/Name Calling

Gambling/Betting

Drinking Liquor

Wetting each other when washing (yep, water fights in the                           bathroom are still a big deal!)

Mischief Making (spitting, vandalizing, littering, being noisy)

Tree climbing over 3 feet (don’t think we have a height limit –                     tree climbing totally prohibited)

Leaving campus

What differs is that in our country, boys and girls are now permitted to play together which was an offense in 1872.  I’m not sure why making swings and swinging on them was prohibited but I suspect it was more of a liability issue for the school than bad behavior on the part of the student.  Maybe it was tied in with not climbing trees.  Reminds me that some districts today have banned Dodge Ball and Red Rover due to student injuries.

Wearing long nails was also a no-no but could be considered a distraction or weapon today so that still may be applicable.  Back in the day coming to school with dirty face and hands would be considered a punishment for the student but if it was often, today it probably would warrant a call to Child Protective Services.

In 1872, students could be disciplined for misbehaving on the road.  Until recently, my school district couldn’t discipline a child for an infraction committed off campus – such as at the bus stop.  That’s recently changed, however, with the advent of bullying via social media.  A student may have texted/posted something inappropriate outside of school but since it’s viewable at school, school personnel can now address it.

What’s most interesting is that kids have made poor choices for a very long time.  I didn’t get into much trouble in school because I knew I would disappoint my mom and I that would have been a horrible punishment for me.  My mom told a story of stealing a box of crayons when she was in first grade.  She knew it was wrong but wanted to make a picture for her mother so she snuck them out of the classroom one Friday afternoon.  As soon as she got outside the guilt overcame her and she vomited.  The teacher came to assist her and my mom confessed.  After cleaning her up the school sent her home with three packs of crayons, extras for her two younger siblings.  Her teacher told her if she ever needed anything to just ask next time.  That nameless teacher made a tremendous difference by teaching a valuable life lesson in a kind way.  Teachers do the same every day every year often without seeing the positive results.  Developing good people is more important, to me, than any other curricula that a school tries to instill.  As teachers in my school district return to work tomorrow for a few days of planning and training before students arrive the following week, I hope the realize the impact they have on their students.  It’s an awesome responsibility not only to the individual student, but to the future!

Teachers’ Rule

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 13 Aug 2015.

I come from a long line of folks who love to learn – whether it was formally in school or on their own.  My paternal grandmother and great grandmother both taught for a short time before their marriage.  Since I had limited knowledge of my dad’s side growing up I discovered this as an adult and was surprised that I shared this commonality.  My husband changed careers in his late 30’s  and we were astounded to discover after he became a teacher, that his maternal great grandfather had also taught for years.  Guess it’s in our genes!

As we begin a new school year I look back upon Teacher Rules that were in place when my great grandmother, Emma Kuhn, first taught.  I received a copy of the Rules for Teachers 1872 when I visited Berkley, West Virginia Coal Camp’s one room schoolhouse earlier this summer.

Back in the day women could teach until wed but could be dismissed if caught in some type of unseemly contact.  In 1915, the rules prohibited a teacher from marrying during the term of the contract.   I don’t know when that rule changed but I suspect it must have been in the 20th century as a child, I had teachers who were married and working.  Having a baby, though, changed the rules and teachers didn’t return to work immediately after maternity leave.  I’m fairly certain the unseemly contact changed in the 1980’s as when I first started teaching in the 1970’s, “living in sin” was grounds for dismissal in Florida.  I had a divorced coworker who lived in fear that our principal would find out she was living with her boyfriend.  When I returned to teaching after my children were born the rules had changed and no one cared any more.

Male teachers were allowed one evening a week to court and if they were regular church goers, could court for two evenings a week.  By 1915, rules stated that both male and female teachers had to be home between 8 PM and 6 AM unless they were attending a school function.

Although the following wasn’t necessarily grounds for dismissal, since teachers were supposed to be role models in the community, these actions could cause “good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty”:

Smoking or using liquor in any form

Frequenting pool or public halls

Getting shaved in a barber shop

Beginning in 1915, these were added:

Loiter in an ice cream parlor

Travel beyond city limits unless permission of the School Board       Chair was received

Dress in bright colors

Dye hair

And just for women teachers:

Ride in a carriage or auto with any man unless he’s your father or

brother

Must wear at least 2 petticoats

Dresses must not be any shorter than 2 inches above the ankle (in  the 1970’s this moved to the knee and hose was required!)

Today, teachers start their day by making sure the technology in their room is turned on.  In 1872, teachers were responsible for the “tech” of their day – filling the lamps, clearing the chimney, bringing a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal into the classroom.  Funny how we aren’t even allowed to touch the thermostat today as it’s controlled remotely by the district office.  No amount of complaining that it’s too hot or cold in your classroom alters the temperature so I think that it might not have been a bad thing to have to make sure that the stove had coal. The 1915 Board of Education in West Virginia added the following duties – sweep the floor at least once daily and scrub it with hot, soapy water at least once a week, clean the blackboard daily and start the fire by 7 AM so the room is warm when students arrive at 8.

Students are responsible for their supplies today but teachers often know who is having financial difficulty and may need assistance.  In 1872, teachers were responsible for making the pens but were given latitude in “whittling nibs” individually for the benefit of their students.  Today, we hand out pencil grips in elementary or allow students to type responses instead so the spirit of the rule remains.

Teaching has never been a lucrative profession.  In 1872, the contract stated that after 5 years of faithful performance a teacher was entitled to a quarter increase weekly.  Teachers were advised to save a “goodly” sum of earnings for their retirement so that they would not someday become a burden to society.

People frequently tell teachers that it must be great having their summers off and so much free time with vacations during the school year.  What they don’t realize is that teachers aren’t paid when they aren’t working.  They are contracted for a specific time period, such as 10 months, but may have that income equalized over the year so that they can have income coming in when they aren’t under contract.  Teachers also work extremely long hours that aren’t covered by overtime or compensatory time.  There are no grading fairies that magically review all of the students’ class and homework!  In 1872, teachers were allowed to spend time reading the Bible or another “good” book after their ten hour school day was over.  During the summer months, my contract is for 10 hour days (7 AM-5:45 PM).  Granted I only work 4 of 5 days in the summer but after my long commute, I tend to read my personal email and call it a day.  I bet (oops, betting probably wasn’t allowed either!) that teachers were just as exhausted then as they are today.  Some things never change!

(West Virginia rules provided by Opal Tolin of the Youth Museum, Berkley, West Virginia)

One Room Schoolhouse

Originally published in genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 9 Aug 2015.

A new school year is just around the corner!  Over the summer, I visited a one room coal camp schoolhouse in Beckley, West Virginia.

Technically, there are very few of what is thought of as a traditional one room schoolhouses still in operation in the United States.  In 2005, there were only 400 left and I suspect that the number has significantly dropped since that time.1

Three weeks after my West Virginia visit I attended a national educational conference in San Francisco, California. Reflecting on these trips, it got me thinking of the old saying, what goes around comes around.

I’ve been an educator for 38 years and I’ve experienced so many fads. (I’ll be retiring in the next couple of years with the goal of working full time as a genealogist.)  Some methods lately aren’t fads, though, but are practices being resurrected from long before than my days spent in a classroom.

Recent trends in education seem to be towards many of the concepts that were commonplace in the traditional one room schoolhouse that our great grandparents attended.  Today, many “progressive” schools group children based on ability and not age.  Although one room schoolhouses placed children in rows by grade, with 1st graders in the very front and 8th graders in the back, the children interacted on lessons taught based on their knowledge. Multi-age classroom are again becoming commonplace and I’m planning on mixing my7th and 8th graders with 11th and 12th graders this year.  Lucky for me, the 2 school levels (middle and high) are right next door so it’s doable.

Typically, one room schoolhouses held a maximum of 40 students but usually had about 20-25.  In my state, we have an amendment to the state constitution that limits the number of students in a class with some flexibility, usually it’s 18 in grades Kindergarten – 3rd, 22 in grades 4th-8th and 25 in 9th-12th. Gone are the days of the baby boomers with huge classes:

My 1st Grade Class (I’m 2nd row, 5th from right)

To accommodate such large amounts of students, baby boomers had to have their desks lined up in even rows:

Hubby’s 3rd Grade Classroom

The cooperative classroom of today has flexible settings and sometimes resembles more of a family room than what is thought of as a schoolroom:

Once thought to be a classroom of the future!

The one room schoolhouse had its tablets and my school district has a BYOE (Bring Your Own Electronics) policy that allows students to bring their own electronic devices.  Of course, we don’t need chalk with our tablets!

The teacher in the one room schoolhouse often prepared individual lessons for his or her students and the teacher today does the same.  Gone are the textbook series, like Open Highways, that I used when I first started teaching.  We’re lucky to have internet resources available as supplements which I’m sure the one room schoolhouse teachers would have thought was marvelous.

Due to technology, innovative educational programs are springing up all over the United States as alternatives to the typical school environment.  Alt.school in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Brooklyn, New York was developed by a former Google employee and is a micro-school with a personalized education not very different from what our great grandparents received.

My next few blogs are going to be about educational history, both in general and specifically with my ancestors. I’m going to share some exams given to 8th graders back in the day to compare what’s being given now.  We’ll also look at how the role of teachers and types of student discipline that have changed.  In the meantime, I’m going Back to School


1. “The Return Of The One-Room Schoolhouse.” NPR. NPR, Web. 08 Aug. 2015.

Family Pets

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 7 Aug 2015.

My daughter wants to get a dog in the next few months.  Growing up, our kids have had lots of pets as my husband and I believe that the benefits far outweigh the work.  Gaining responsibility and compassion, instilling nurture and playful fun are worth the cost and effort, IMHO.

Lab Mariah, Son holding cat Tinker and daughter holding rabbit Fluffy.  They also had a parakeet, fish and turtles.

Daughter will most likely find an older mutt at the local shelter.  Son thought she ought to get a cat, instead, since she likes to travel.  Hubby is just excited to finally be a “grandparent.”

We’ve been having a large amount of rain lately that limits outside activity so I decided last weekend to look through photo albums of our family’s pets.  I was amazed to discover how far back the interaction of animals in my ancestors’ lives are recorded.

The oldest seems to be this pic of my mom and aunt from around 1923:

I wish I knew the pony’s name!  Living on a farm, we had 12 ponies and a horse but my favorite was Dapple Brownie – I’m about the same age as my mom on her pony:

The oldest dog photo we have is of my husband’s grandmother, Elsie Johnson Harbaugh, from around 1942. The dog’s name has also been lost to history:

Funny how families tend to like similar breeds.  Hubby’s family really liked small dogs; his

parents also had a poodle named Schatze when he was growing up and after he left home, Nano:

Hubby liked larger dogs but his parents drew the line and only allowed him to have a mid size mutt, Henry:

I miss Henry.  He used to sit between my husband and I in the car on dates and hold my hand.  Hubby said he knew I was the one as Henry was very particular about who he liked.

My side of the family liked big dogs.  My dad always had collies:

Friend Debbie, Me and Lassie (not the famous one!)

as did my twin cousins, with Twinks:

Since my parents were divorced, and my mom and I lived with my grandparents, I had Australian sheepdogs there.  Here I am with Toto, as a puppy, who was hit by a car.

After his death, I cared for Toto’s sister, Snowball, until we moved to Florida and Snowball retired to a farm in Indiana.  I also took care of my uncle’s weimaraner, Lucky, for a bit.  Someone stole him from my uncle’s backyard and it broke my uncle’s heart:

Our next door neighbor, Mr. Bauer, had a small dog I played with, too:

Clearly, we aren’t just dog people as many cats have imprinted love on our hearts:

My cat, Blackie, at the farm
Boots and kittens at my grandparents
Thomasina and I at my grandparent’s house

My husband had a kitten for a short time but it was a wild child so his parents had to return it:

Kiitie looks so innocent here but it scratched anyone who came near.  When hubby and I were first on our own we got a cat, Midnight, at the pound:

Mid got into a cat fight when he was about 8 years old and died from an infection.  We were so upset that it took us a year before we could get another pet.  Eventually we got Tinker (the cat) and Misty (the dog).

who were the best of friends as we got them within 2 weeks of each other.  Tinker lived 19 plus years and Misty, 12.  These were the first pets our kids had.

Over the years we also adopted a stray, Cipher, who turned out wasn’t a stray.  When we couldn’t find the owner we took Cipher to the vet – no chip so we got him shots and adopted him.  Cipher slept at our house at night and we later learned was spending his days a few blocks away at a neighbor’s house. When the neighbor decided to get Cipher chipped (she was calling him Ben) she discovered we were his people.  Cipher decided to move in with her permanently after I brought home two kittens who had been abandoned at the school where I worked.

Last but not least are 2 birds that I will never forget.  The first is a wild bird that wasn’t very wild. Every time I went out to play the bird below would join me.

This went on for at least 3 years and as an adult, I realize how strange that is but as a child, I didn’t know that wild birds aren’t supposed to play with you.

When I was three, an elderly neighbor was moving and couldn’t take her parakeet with her so my mother said we’d look after the bird.  The neighbor had had Chipper for about 20 years so my mom figured it wouldn’t live much longer.  Surprise, surprise, Chipper happily chirped for the next 13 years.  He didn’t like to leave his cage; he’d fly from one end of the room to the other and than land on the open door and go back inside.  Chipper’s favorite show was same as that of my grandparents, Lawrence Welk, and later, The FBI.  I don’t know why he liked the latter but he would sing so loudly you couldn’t hear the show.

I can’t wait to see how our two cats, Charlie and Parker, are going to behave when daughter’s dog visits. I’m expecting it will make for some more memorable family stories!

Genealogy Truths

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 2 Aug 2015.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an educational conference in San Francisco, California. This was my first visit to the area and the first time I ever visited somewhere I had no genealogy research to do.  Ancestorwise,  nada!  No cemeteries, court houses, or former residences to explore.

Since I had only a little time to visit with loved ones who now call the city home and even less time to see the sights, I decided to spend Sunday afternoon absorbing San Francisco as a native would. It was too early to check into the hotel so I left my luggage with the concierge, hailed a cab and asked to be delivered to Mission Dolores, the oldest intact building in the city, founded in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra,  My young taxi driver had no clue where I wanted to go.  I shared with him my printed mapquest as originally, I planned to walk from the hotel but upon arriving later than anticipated, I didn’t want to waste time. (I still print direction cause I always have cell issues!)

In 3rd grade I had read about Father Serra although the story is now fuzzy in my brain.  Of course, there are two sides to every story and the childhood version of events that I read was not the whole truth. As a parochial school student I would have read the Roman Catholic version of events.  As a genealogist, I like to look at stories from different perspectives.

Mission Dolores

Father Junipero Serra is remembered as a Roman Catholic priest, philosopher, and mission founder. Those facts are undisputed.  His character, however, is where viewpoints differ.  He is seen by Native American groups as abusive though historians have labeled him as strict instead. Some say he destroyed native culture while others believe he blended it with his own.  Known to beat his breast with a rock and scourge himself at the pulpit, was he mentally ill or just following the practices of his day?  I don’t believe it’s up to me to pass judgement.

After visiting Mission Dolores I took a bus to Golden Gate Park.  I drove through time – seeing the retro Haight-Asbury, Castro and Presidio districts.  Strangely, I sat next to an actor who 30 years ago lived in the same place I did and I had seen him perform.

Haight-Ashbury – 48 years after the Summer of Love

Running out of time I was unable to visit the California Academy of Science Museum but spent the remaining times at the Botanical Garden. What an awesome place!  I especially enjoyed the redwoods.

These trees remind me that often records are silently left to be interpreted.  A forester can determine the tree’s age and weather conditions it experienced by looking at the tree’s rings.  Genealogists uncover an old document that may shed light on an ancestor’s experiences without directly mentioning the individual by name.  Droughts and floods, recessions and bull markets, along with so many other factors, effect families and influence their choices and decisions.  My trip reminded me I need to keep events experienced by my ancestors in mind to better understand them and to remember I’m peering through my current world view and not that of my forebearers.