Neat Ideas from the National Genealogical Society Conference


Here are a ten of my most favorite experiences, most of which were FREE, at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh:

FamilySearch for more writing ideas.
Palatines to America had a useful handout containing a What is the Relationship? Form. If you get confused between Great Nephews and 3rd Cousin Once Removed this handy dandy template would be helpful.
National Archives’ (NARA) updated handout listed the links to their most used records. I sometimes get lost on their site so this “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was nice.
History Hub, an online site with blogs, discussion boards and community pages for anyone interested in history. That was news to me and a place I plan on checking out.
Federation of Genealogical Societies publishes a quarterly electronic magazine for only $15.00/year? That’s just $3.00 per issue!
ew York Genealogical and Biographical Society as I want to get back into researching some of my hubby’s Long Island folks. As a member, besides the wonderful journal, you get access to Findmypast AND the New York Public Library online.
USGenWeb Project had a laminated postcard with the 88 Ohio counties – very useful for me to track my people from Trumbull to Stark to Darke to Mercer and finally, to Van Wert. I learned from an attendee I’ve been mispronouncing my dad’s birth city my whole life – Celina is pronounced Seh lie nah and not Seh lee na. Who Knew?!
Fun Stuff for Genealogists had cute t-shirts, inexpensive jewelry, archive materials and historic map reproductions. See their full catalog online. I bought a tree bead and a brass tree charm.
Ohio Genealogical Society gave me a few ideas about my darling Duers who left so few records in their travels across that state. The volunteer even consulted his own resources to see if my folks were named (they weren’t but it was a valiant attempt on his part).
Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas Jones with the plan on working through it this summer. You can purchase a copy through the National Genealogical Society.

I’m hoping to be able to attend next year, too. Paths to Your Past will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan May 2-5, 2018.

Genealogy Connection at the Car Dealership


On the way to the Croatian Picnic, Hobart, Indiana, 4 July 1923. Left to right: Frank Trputsis, Mary and Joseph Koss

So here’s my Serendipitous Saturday event of yesterday…

Hubby’s 10 year old car was ready to bite the dust. In the past week the gas cap refused to come off, the driver’s visor fell out, the windshield wiper fluid wouldn’t pump out and the air stopped working. Definitely time for a trade in!

He absolutely loved the car so he considered getting those things fixed but when we started tallying up the price, decided to invest that money towards a new vehicle. He wanted the same make and model since it had been such a low maintenance car but we couldn’t agree on a price at the dealership, which was ironic because the by line is they never let a customer down.

We drove to another dealership where I had purchased a car two years ago and as we were negotiating, I heard a deep voice say, “I’m Croatian.” This totally distracted me from the sales person for several reasons. First, I am Croatian and I only know of one other person of Croatian descent in a three county area adjacent to where I reside. Second, in the 45 years I’ve lived in the area, I’ve never heard anyone make that statement. Third, entirely unexpected, it surprised and startled me to the point of losing focus on the the sales person’s conversation. Fourth, what was really weird, though, was that my husband and I had just had a side conversation about my Croatian grandmother and her love of new vehicles so much so that she would buy a new car every year. My grandfather never drove because of his poor vision and rarely went with her when she negotiated prices. I had just remarked to my husband how I would have preferred to be anywhere else than in a car dealership and I didn’t understand how Grandma could possibly enjoy the experience annually.

I looked at my husband after hearing the voice from no where and asked him if he had just heard “I’m Croatian.” Sitting right next to me, he hadn’t. For a second I thought I was hearing things but the sales person said, “That was Boris, he works in financing.” I told her I had to meet him so after we agreed to terms (HALLELUJAH!), she introduced us.

Boris emigrated at age 18. He was born and raised in the same city my grandparents were from. Knowing the area well, he corrected my pronunciation of the small neighborhood they where they had resided. When I mentioned how much I missed my grandmother’s cooking he let me know that there is now a group meeting locally for those of Croatian descent. My first question, “Do they have lamb at their meetings?” With summer coming, I’m really missing those old picnics from my youth. I do live in a Greek community where cuisine close to my upbringing is readily available but those small nuances in ingredients make a difference and it’s just not quite the same. He said, “Yes, and they have kolaches, pita, and other desserts.” Oh my goodness! I have the recipes but they just don’t taste the way grandma made them. I blame Florida humidity but that’s probably not it – I just don’t have the knack for baking the way she and my mom did. So today, I’m heading to meet some folks and possibly kin.

This experience got me thinking about a different way to build your tree. It had never occurred to me to try to find a Croatian group locally. Whatever is your ancestral origins, it’s possible they are meeting near you. Check them out! Even if you don’t find a connection to your family you’ll be able to enjoy the culture and cuisine that will give you a better idea of what made your ancestor tick. Happy Hunting!

Musing About Life Lessons Learned That Apply to Genealogy


It’s been a slow week genealogywise for me as I’ve been consumed with the house renovations and an increased workload at my educator job. I thought I’d have difficulty coming up with a blog but instead I’m bursting with lessons learned from those situations that apply to genealogy.

With renovations, there is a lot of moving of “stuff” around as we empty one area of the house with the goal of making it an improved place. It’s a total pain to have to physically move items. I also realized I have a lot of things that I no longer use so I’m donating or pitching as I go (or pawning off on my children). This got me thinking about genealogy practices…

I used to have alot of stuff I took with me when I researched; I carried my clunky laptop, notebook, charts, lots of pencils, a camera, phone, stickees, and thumbdrives. It was a workout just getting into an archive. I’ve streamlined considerably and find I can simply take my Kindle, phone, a mechanical pencil and stickees. Instead of many thumbdrives that contained my surname info and individual thumbdrives for my clients, I now just take one for microfilms in case I can’t email it to myself and use the ap on my phone, Office Lens, to take a picture and immediately send it to One Note, for everything else I used to save to a thumbdrive. I can view that from my phone and Kindle to make sure it looked the way I want before I leave so I never get home and realize I needed to get a better view. Also on the Kindle is Evernote, which has my research log template. I still carry the stickees to flag book pages I’m interested in. These changes have made my research life much saner and safer. I don’t have to worry about someone walking off with the laptop if I have to go back to the stacks for another look. I have more flexibility in where I park myself down to research and I lost weight without having to diet. Very cool! Have no idea why it took me so long to figure out I needed to do this room by room in my house.

After a room is finished I find that I might be better off moving items around for increased efficiency. For example, my drinking glasses used to be in a cabinet closest to the sink. I realized it’s a better idea to move them in the cabinet next to the refrigerator as that’s where we go to get cold, purified water, ice and lemon. This practice definitely applies to genealogy. Just because you used to do something doesn’t mean you should continue to do so. Back in the day, I organized my genealogy files by lines. As the data grew I found that it was too complex so I took the time to reorganize by surname. A binder system works well for me today but may not in the future and that’s ok! Change is good although I must admit, as a creature of habit, I do tend to go back to the old cabinet to seek out a glass when I’m exhausted. Habits may be difficult to break but can be done. Investing time to make a task better is time well spent. You may be in for a happy surprise, which gets me to my next lesson learned.

Ironically, last Wednesday I blogged about my recent Dropbox experience. At my educator job, a decision was made right after I wrote the article that our team was going to only use One Note. I spent all day Thursday and part of Friday dropping and dragging files from Dropbox to One Note. Although I wasn’t thrilled to have to readjust my work priorities during a busy time, the situation did give me a big Ahaa! In Dropbox, I saved by event but in One Note, the decision was to save by date. Same situation as moving my drinking glasses and reorganizing my genealogy files! The data is the same but where and how it’s stored is different. So here’s where I learned another lesson – looking at the older files was quite enlightening. I was able to identify some holes in our program which we’ll be discussing this week. Try this with your brickwalls. If your found records are in timeline order, shuffle them up and place them by type of record or location where they were made. You might identify where your gap is and be off and running to locate overlooked events or places where they occurred. It sure is the same stuff but my looking through a different lens you might make a new discovery.

In other words, you’ve got to change your practices up to move forward, even if it’s painful. Happy Hunting!

A Tub Full of Memories


Laundry – it stinks if left undone, piles up and never ends. Kind of like genealogy! I had to use the machines in my local laundromat recently due to home renovations. Check out the picture above – it costs $5.00 to wash ONE LOAD. Of course I didn’t have as many quarters as I needed and the change machine in the facility jipped me which made me even more determined to get our laundry room back in order quickly.

I have several memories of laundry from my childhood which is funny when you think of how mundane doing laundry is. My earliest memory is of my mom running among the rain drops to retrieve nearly dry sheets hanging outside on the line when I was about 3 years old. She told me it was God’s final rinse and it smelled delightful. I imagined heaven as scented with a summer rain. We had a washer and dryer but my mom loved to hang out clothes which my father never understood. She never adapted to using dryer sheets.

My maternal grandmother was the same way; grandpa had to make her special laundry stakes – a slit on the end of a long pole – to raise up the wet clothes on the line so it wouldn’t drag across the ground. She was barely 5 feet tall and used a step stool to reach the line, dragging it across the backyard grass from space to open space. On windy days, I would run between the hanging clothes trying to not get slapped by the wetness. If I made it through untouched I got a point. Usually the laundry won.

Doing laundry could be scary, too. My grandparents had an old wringer Maytag washing machine in the basement and occasionally, my mom would drag it across the basement floor to the double cement laundry tub which she would use to “catch” the clothes going through the wringer. I thought it was fascinating to see the water squeeze out until mom leaned too close to the wringer and her headscarf went along for the ride. Immediately, she reached for the wringer arm mechanism and placed it in reverse so she could be free. That was fast thinking and probably saved her life. Mom told me that she knew a woman who had died from a broken neck because she hadn’t been able to reach the lever in time. I’ve never seen that in an obit but I imagine death by laundry wouldn’t be memorialized as the way to go.

Hubby’s dad lost a piece of his thumb as a young man helping his mom do laundry. As he tried to adjust the bulky, heavy clothes going through the wringer his thumb slid forward and caught in the machine. He lived to tell of his dangerous encounter taming wet sheets.

Now when it comes to laundromats, until recently, I had more pleasant memories. My Aunt Betty, for a short time, owned and operated a laundromat. My cousins and I would sometimes accompany her to the business and play around by “driving” the carts, climbing on the tables to be tall and checking out the laundry product machines and the pay phone to see if there was change left. I can’t ever recall a customer while we were there which could explain why she sold the business and moved on to owning a beauty shop (now that was really fun for a young girl!). I suppose the broken machines were another reason for the sale; we thought it was hilarious when suds billowed out of the top and down the sides but Aunt Betty never looked pleased.

My last childhood memory of laundromats is related to this time of year. In late winter or early spring, mom would take our heavy winter garments to the then new concept of Norge Village – an upscale laundromat that housed huge machines from a child’s perspective that not only washed and dried clothes but also dry cleaned. A modern woman in the 1960’s sure had come a long way, baby! Mom would save money by doing her own dry cleaning of the winter coats; I was always glad to see them folded and stored in the attic in plastic tubs with moth balls. Give me hot weather anytime.

And give me my own machines! In our laundry room, we have hanging an old glass National washboard that my husband purchased at his first auction for $10.00 years ago. It serves as a reminder of how far a simple household task has evolved and I’m thankful for that.

Home Renovations Then and Now


Oh, the joys of home ownership! We started our mostly do-it-yourself project with gutting the kitchen the day after Thanksgiving. I was hoping it would be done by Monday, President’s Day, but it isn’t going to happen because the microwave that was supposed to be delivered Saturday got pushed back to Monday because of a snafu between the store and the delivery person and the window installer who was supposed to install the new windows on Monday had a family emergency so I don’t have a date for when that will be finished. We’re still waiting on four trim pieces for the cabinets that never came in last month with the rest of the order and hubby can’t finish the backsplash and the floor tile until the window is in and the trim is done. And that’s just the beginning of the project!
We’re removing the rest of the tile in the house on Tuesday, installing new sliders, painting and then adding new flooring over the upcoming months. Most of our belongings are in boxes in the guest room and the furniture is piled up in the living room. The chaos is making our cats neurotic and I can certainly empathize with them. When it becomes overwhelming, I try to focus on how lucky we our compared to renovations back in the day.
Sometimes in genealogy we get so wrapped up in finding an elusive record that we don’t stop to think about the life experiences of those we are seeking. Here’s an interesting thought – ever since the first home was constructed, generations of our ancestors have gone through renovating their dwellings. Perhaps it was rebuilding after a fire or flood. Maybe it was enlarging to accommodate a growing family. Possibly it was updating to a newer and better style. No matter the reason, I found mention of home improvements in the diary of Mary Ann Eyster Johnson that I could identify with. Here’s some of my favorites and why:
On 11 June 1884, Mary Ann noted that it was “Clear & pleasant. The Brethren met at Meeting House to enlarge the kitchen and build furnace.” The Meeting House was located across the street from the Johnson’s home. Hmm, we upgraded the air conditioner and heater just prior to renovating our kitchen. I can’t imagine having to build a furnace, though.
We called in a plumber to connect up the new sink after the counter top was installed. I have city water so I didn’t need to hire “…Pump borers came this evening, too (sic) of them.” The borers finished their work two and half days later. Some of my neighbors have wells for lawn irrigation purposes. A typical install now is a half day.
Mary Ann’s home did not have indoor plumbing. On 19 January 1904, she noted that the “Pump frose (sic) up.” Thank goodness, I only went a couple of hours without water in the kitchen when our new sinks were installed. Going outside to pump water must have been miserable. Discovering the pump was frozen, even more so. Makes me appreciate my plumber!
I was without a stove for the last week. Mary Ann wrote on 10 June 1882 “Put stove on porch.” Every summer the stove was moved outside as it was too hot to cook in the kitchen. In September, it was moved back into the house. I am so thankful we don’t have to do that!
Besides the stove, each summer Mary Ann, “Took up the room carpet.” Since we’re going to be putting in wood flooring we’ll be adding area rugs but I don’t plan on taking those up in the summer. There’s no mention of tile flooring so Mary Ann never had the joy of thinset removal.
On 18 May 1882, Mary Ann “White washd (sic) kitchen.” Hubby repainted our kitchen white last weekend. Great color choice, Mary Ann!
Although Mary Ann would not have had a dishwasher or microwave, she did experience appliance delivery. On 7 January 1904, “Andrew brought out our new washing machine. Cost $2.80 cents, freight and all.” That equates to about $72.23 in 2016 dollars.1 If only I could buy a new appliance for that price! Wonder if she tipped delivery man Andrew?
Courtesy of Sharon Kinney, here’s a photo of Mary Ann’s home:

Since I’m now an “expert,” those sure look like standard windows to me.

1 Inflation Calculator, 1904-2016; digital database, in2013dollars.com (http://www.in2013dollars.com: accessed 18 February 2017).

Lighting the Path to a New Life


I’ve just returned from attending an awesome conference in New York City. I love New York, no matter what season I visit! Usually I think about my husband’s lines that were residents there during the New Netherland years but not this time.
Perhaps due to the current political climate and the fact that one of my colleagues couldn’t travel with us as she was taking her U.S. citizenship exam, I instead thought about a family emigration story on my maternal side.
My great grandmother, Anna Grdenic Kos, arrived in the U.S. with two of her surviving children, my grandmother, Mary, and my Great Uncle Joseph, on 16 July 1913[1].
Anna’s husband, Joseph Sr., had come earlier, on 10 January 1910, to establish himself in America[2]. He was employed by the Pullman Company in Chicago after leaving the military life as a cavalry officer behind him in what was then Austria-Hungary.
Anna was raised as a country girl; a farmer’s daughter who was shy and thoughtful. Anna never spoke about the boat passage; all that I know about the trip was from the recollection of daughter Mary who, as a pre-teen, felt it was her duty to entertain the other passengers with her operatic voice. Personally, having been raised in a household with both Anna and Mary, I also believe the underlying reason was that Mary hoped for fame and fortune in the new world and when she received praise and cash for her songs, she, like many immigrants, seized an opportunity.
Joseph Sr. had traveled from Chicago to meet his family upon their arrival. Knowing the trip was long, he arranged for an overnight stay in a hotel in New York City prior to the family departure via train to their final destination, a Pullman owned apartment in Chicago.
I’d love to know exactly where the family slept on their one night stay in New York City. I do know it had a wonderful bathtub that Mary appreciated.
Anna and the children had never been in such a great city and although Mary was disappointed the streets truly weren’t paved with gold, Anna fell in love with the array of merchandise in store windows. So last Sunday, as I walked down 34th Street and window shopped, I tried to imagine the shock and awe Anna and Mary experienced as they took in the wonderful sights. Having just learned that her new apartment came with electricity, Anna fell in love with a lamp she saw in a storefront. Joseph Sr. informed Anna that the delicate lamp would not survive the long journey ahead. Disappointed, Anna swore one day she would own one. A few weeks later, Joseph purchased the lamp at Marshall Fields in Chicago. The treasured lamp still remains in the family:

I’ve always wondered the name of the store where Anna first spotted the lamp. Mary could only recall that the shop had clothes that she was much more interested in than a lamp. My guess is it was either Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s.
The family and the lamp continued to stay in Pullman housing in Chicago until the spring of 1919. The photo below was taken shortly before they moved to Gary, Indiana; Mary had wed and her husband, John, along with her father, Joseph, had found new jobs at U.S. Steel.

A neighbor, Joseph Jr., Mary with her oldest child, Dorothy, Dorothy’s Godmother

The lamp survived that relocation and several others. It’s light has shown over 5 generations of owners and hopefully will continue for many generations to come.
When I see the Statue of Liberty’s lamp I am reminded of my family’s journey and the story of our very own lamp. Each time I turn on the light I think of the words of Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It is a message appropriate for today and well worth remembering. That little light of mine connects me to my ancestor’s past – the good, the bad, the ugly – and gives me hope and strength for whatever the future might hold.
This Little Light of Mine

[1]New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957, “Mara Kos,” 16 July 1913; digital image, Ancestry (http: Ancestry.com: accessed 10 February 2017), citing NARA microfilm T715_2130.
[2] New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957, “Josip Kos,” 17 January 1910; digital image, Ancestry (http: Ancestry.com: accessed 10 February 2017), citing NARA microfilm T715_1400.
[3] Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love, Cleveland, Ohio: Collins, 1977) 47.

Privacy and the Genealogist – Part 2

My last blog was about ways to find the living who might have the genealogical information you need without making them feel threatened that their privacy had been invaded. Today, I’m thinking about how much more private our lives are then in the past. Thomas MacEntee mentioned this, too, in an interactive webinar he recently did. If you don’t believe that, check out an old newspaper and you just might find something like this:

1

2

3

4

5

These are just a few of the times that George Harbaugh was noted in three local papers between 1900-1909. From the first notice we know that there were two individuals who were professors who traveled together to Missouri. Today, a notice like this would alert burglars and the professors might return home to find a break in had occurred.
The second item confirms that George was an educator. Did they send junk mail back in the day? He’s fortunate that there were no big box office supply stores sending him ads based on his job description.
Next item lets us know not only his residence but that he has a son with the same name and that they visited Plymouth, Indiana. Great information from a genealogical standpoint; we’ve got relationship confirmation! The fourth notice lets us know that George visited nearby Walkerton, Indiana on a Saturday. Together, both notices are kind of creepy. Can you imagine every time you leave your town that it would be published in your local newspaper?! Sure with public figures, every movement is tracked and reported today but George wasn’t famous. Looking at the other statements surrounding George’s show that this was common practice; we know that G.S. St. John of Tipecanoe also visited Plymouth and Ed Cook purchased from William Burger a “fine carriage.” Seriously, when you buy a new vehicle or a major appliance, we certainly wouldn’t expect it to be published in the newspaper.
Today, we continue the practice of placing family relationship information and residence locations in obituaries as item 5 did. We can connect George to his father and two of his brothers. Another clue to finding George’s whereabouts on a Sunday might be the Dunkard church as that’s where his father, grandpa Harbaugh, attended. Since grandpa lived with George more information about George might be found there. Again, nice for a genealogist and even nicer for a crook who knew the family wouldn’t have been home during church service. Don’t think they had robberies in those days? George’s aunt, Mary Ann Eyster Johnson, wrote in her diary on 10 April 1898 that “Today we found that the Meeting House had been robbed. Tablecloths, aprons, dishes, knives, and forks and baskets all gone. No clue to the robbery.”6 Interestingly, I never found the story of the church robbery in the newspaper.
Clearly, it was not just a slow news day but a standard practice to record the comings and goings of residents a century plus ago. Your personal whereabouts is fairly safe these days, although it can be gleaned from public records courtesy of your property appraiser. Don’t despair, so is your neighbors! The only difference between property records now and in the past is we can look the information up quickly using the internet instead of having to drive to the assessor’s office.
Although our privacy is more assured, future genealogists will not find the gems that we do in newspaper archives. All the more reason for you to start writing about yourself!

1 “Lapaz Items,” Marshall County [Indiana] Independent, 27 April 1900, p. 5, col. 5.
2 “Lapaz Items,” The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 2 July 1903, p. 4, col. 4.
3 “Saturday,” The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 1 September 1910, p. 5, col 2.
4 “Saturday,” The Weekly [Walkerton, Indiana] Republican, 14 March 1912, p. 2, col 3.
5 “Lapaz Items,” The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 28 January 1909, p. 5, col. 6.
6 Mary Ann (Eyster) Johnson, “Diary,” 10 April 1898, n.p.; privately held by the Pine Creek Church of the Brethren, North Liberty, St. Joseph County, Indiana.

Genealogy At Heart Website Update

I’ve been writing a lot about technology lately.  I do love it but it certainly is a pain when it glitches!  Last year I created a free website using Sidengo called www.GenealogyAtHeart.com.  I linked my blog posts to it and featured genealogical special offers, photos of recent research trips I’d taken and information for clients who were interested in contacting me.  In July, I received an email from Sidengo that in less than 3 weeks my account was going to be closed unless I moved to a paid option.  I was leaving town for a two week research trip the next day, had a client deadline I had to finish before I left and was returning to my teaching job three days after the research trip ended so I felt rushed into making a decision.  Hubby thought I should just pay up to make my life easier but I didn’t want to do that as I thought it was poor customer service to pressure folks into paying.  During my evenings while I was on my research trip I searched for alternatives.  I settled on another company but wasn’t really happy with it – I was only able to get one page so the website was a long scroll AND I couldn’t link to my blog posts so I had to list them which was cumbersome for readers.

In September, the Association of Professional Genealogists had a webinar about WordPress. I had explored them in July but didn’t find the site intuitive enough for me to figure out how to quickly put together my webpages.  After watching the webinar I thought I’d give it another try and in just a few hours I had my webpages almost back to where it was from the beginning.  It’s officially live so I’ll continue to post my blogs on blogspot and then archive at genealogyatheart.com.  So, if you want to find an older post and you remember the month – you can look on blogger.  If you can’t remember when it was published but are looking for the topic – visit genealogyatheart.com where I’ve tagged and archived by area.