History, Genealogy and a Festival, Oh My!

Robert LeRoy Leininger. Leininger Family History and Genealogy. Columbia City, IN:  Self Published, 1971, 7f.

What a busy week it’s been for me! The Association of Professional Genealogists conference is wrapping up today. It was wonderful – timely topics, fun networking events, and it was great to see colleagues again. I highly recommend you attend next year if you are contemplating going Pro.

Today, however, I want to focus on an item I finally crossed off my bucket list. Last Sunday, I attended the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was on my to-attend list since I first learned about it years ago.

I fell in love with John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, when my mom read me a library book about him when I was in pre-school. I don’t recall the title but I do recall one of the pictures. Granted, I now know the information wasn’t 100% factual but it did make a major impression on my young mind. I can still picture the book page depicting him in blue pants with ripped hems, suspenders, scraggly brown hair, tall and thin with forest animals following him as he threw apple seeds from a beige bag slung across his body.

I wanted to be him! How cool to be able to walk barefoot, plant seeds, and have all the animals be your friend!

Fast forward to 1985 when my father gave me a necklace that belonged to my grandmother and an old toolbox he had inherited from his father. He wanted me to pass them along to my children someday.  Inside the toolbox were newspaper clippings, undated and the paper unknown, mentioning a reunion for relatives of Johnny. Unfortunately, since I’m still unpacking, I can’t put my hands on it and I could have sworn I scanned it but I can’t locate that, either. Sigh.

The clipping intrigued me. Why would my father have saved it? Was he as enamored with Johnny as I was? I wasn’t close to my father so I had no idea. I should have asked but I didn’t.

In the late 1990s, after my father’s death, I linked up with a Leininger researcher who kindly sent me an electronic copy of two books he had written in the 1970s about the family. That’s where I discovered that Johnny was connected to me through marriage. The map above shows the location of Johnny’s farm.

My “relationship” with Johnny is through my paternal line. Although Johnny had no children, and it’s in dispute whether he had ever married or not, he was close to one of his siblings, sister Percis (1793-1859), who had married William Broom (1792-1848). Percis and William’s daughter, Elizabeth (1829-1863) married John George Leininger (1826-1917). John George is my 2nd great uncle, brother of my 2nd great grandfather Theabald (1824-1900).

Genetically, I’m not related to Johnny. When Johnny was in the area, he stayed with Percis, as Elizabeth fondly recalled as an adult. In his older years, he visited Elizabeth and her family, as her children remembered.

I always wanted to grow an apple tree but Florida is the only state where apple trees won’t grow. I tried, however! I once brought back seeds from a wild apple tree growing in a Pennsylvania cemetery where my husband’s Harbaughs were buried. A cemetery caretaker claimed the tree was the remnants of one of Johnny’s orchards which he had scattered throughout the then wilderness. I did get the seeds to sprout by placing them in a wet paper towel, inserted into a baggy, and kept in the fridge. As soon as I planted them in the dirt in a Solo cup, however, they shriveled and died. Now that I’m in Indiana I will definitely plant that tree! I won’t be using one of Johnny’s, though, as his trees produced fruit best for hard cider which was medicinal for the pioneers. I’m leaning towards Albermarle-pippin, a favorite of Ben Franklin, Queen Victoria, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. I plan on visiting a local orchard this week to get details on when I should be planting. A neighbor told me it’s best to plant fruit trees here in months that end in “R.” I love hearing these old ways to successfully garden. So much of that knowledge has been lost. I wish there were a book about farmer wisdom from days gone by.

But back to the festival – It was a beautiful warm late summer day in Archer Park, on the bank of the St. Joe River. It is the final resting place of Johnny who is buried on the top of a hill. So many vendors were selling homemade craft items, antiques, produce, and food typical of pioneer life. My hubby said this was his favorite festival he ever attended. Since much of the food was made on site, the smell of the campfires filled the air. Craftspeople demonstrated their skills in metalworking, sewing, photography, etc. They were so knowledgeable and I learned so much.

My favorite part was the cannon salute that opened the day. It was in commemoration of the opening of the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1832. Theabald and John George, along with their parents and some siblings, emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine to Ohio in 1827 via a canal to Canton, Ohio. That was likely the Ohio and Erie Canal. It reminded me of how important water travel was back in the day.

History, genealogy, and the festival were intertwined for me which made it so memorable.

October is around the corner and I’ll be writing my annual coincidence blogs. I’ve had some really weird things happen in the past few months that I’ll be sharing. See you next weekend!

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.

Fantastic Photos! MyHeritage.com Does It Again!

Do you have DAMAGED PHOTOS that break your heart because you can’t appreciate the picture while fixating on the ugly part?  I do and I was never able to use the photos in family projects because I couldn’t restore them to their former glory.

Thanks to MyHeritage.com, it is now simple, quick, easy and free (some limitations apply) to return the photos to better than new.  Here’s how:

First, upload your photo to be repaired by logging into MyHeritage.com and click on Photos in the ribbon, then click the Upload box on the right.

Once uploaded, the photo appears with your media items.  Now, click the photo needing to be repaired.

Above the photo on the right hand side, the following options are shown:  Repair, Enhance, Colorize, Animate.  To correct the photo it’s recommended you select options from left to right.

Once I click Repair and MyHeritage.com does it’s magic, the photo will be shown as follows:

Much improved but still not perfect.  Sure, I can clip out the damage to the upper portions of the photo but I want to restore the picture to as close as new as possible so here’s what I’m going to do – On the upper left hand side of the photo, click on the gear icon which is the settings option.  The photos are first repaired Gently – that’s the default setting.  I’m going to click the box Extensive Repair Option and Preview. Now look at what it does:

Isn’t that AMAZING?! You can stop there but I wanted to make the photo even more defined so I next clicked on Enhance.  Here’s what the result was:

Due to the size limitation on my blog, the subtle improvements are not as apparent as on my larger computer screen but when you try it you’ll notice the difference.
Next I decided to go ahead and colorize it. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of colorizing because I like to know FOR SURE if what I’m presenting in my research is accurate.  It is fun, however, to imagine what the original outfits looked like so I decided to click the Colorize button to see what the program would select:

I again used the Settings (gear icon) to tweak the saturation manually as the first colorization picture showed a pink hue on right side of the dress.  Knowing the individuals as I did, that wouldn’t have been the color choice.  The brown/silver grey was more in keeping with the time period (1917) fashion and the wearer’s preference.  
In my excitement to get the photo corrected I neglected to tell you who the people are!  This is a photo of my paternal grandparents, Edwin and Lola Landfair Leininger, and their oldest child, my dad, Orlo Guy Leininger.  He was born June 4, 1917 so I guess this must be a photo that commemorated his first Christmas.  Nothing was written on the photo back (of course).  I received the photo 5 years after my father’s death in a box that was kept in a damp unheated northern Indiana basement for probably at least 10 years.  I’m fortunate that the photo survived, albeit damaged.  I’m thrilled that it has been restored.  Thanks, MyHeritage.com for your new feature!
For the ethic minded, I also appreciate that MyHeritage.com acknowledges that the photo was altered.  You can see the After written in the upper left hand corner of the photo and on the bottom left, icons appear showing exactly what features were used to change the original picture.  
I’ve blogged before about the animation feature but it has since added many new features, too.  I couldn’t resist animating my Dad, I’m sure he would approve:

All About Surname, aka One Name Studies

Several times a month, I’m contacted by someone who is interested in the findings of my surname studies.  If you haven’t embarked on a surname project or want more information on what a one name project is all about, today’s blog is for you.

A Surname or One-Name study is a research project recording ALL individuals with the same surname.  That differs from the intent of a typical genealogy project of identifying the parents of someone with a particular surname.  The results of a surname project may provide relationships but the main purpose is not to determine descendancy or pedigree. The purpose of a surname project is to identify everyone with the shared surname.

So you’re thinking, I can’t even identify my 3rd time great grandmother’s maiden name, why would I focus on researching unrelated people of one particular surname?  A surname study might help you discover relationships since, back in the day, people tended to marry distantly related family members or siblings frequently wed the neighbor’s siblings.  Embarking on a surname study to discover a maiden name would be a waste of time, though, as the results are hit or miss.

People begin surname studies for a variety of reasons.  My first surname study was identifying all the Leininger surname in the U.S.  My interest was because it is my maiden name and I didn’t know much about my father’s family.  In middle school, I discovered another Leininger family living in my community and I asked my mom how they were related to us.  Her reply, “They’re the rich ones.” clearly didn’t answer my question. When I pressed for more information she said my dad had asked them and a common ancestor could not be identified.  This was long before DNA.  Fast forward to relocating 1200 miles away and discovering another Leininger, this one a priest who was the spitting image of my father.  When my mother asked him about the relationship he had no interest in a discussion.  My surname project to record every Leininger in the US resulted from these two situations. If a connection was found, great, and if not, that was okay, too.  I was more interested in identifying everyone with this uncommon surname.

Before you begin, let’s review surnames.  Typically, surnames are derived from the family’s place of origin.  Although Kos is not a common surname in the U.S., it is well used in Croatia.  Kos translates into blackbird or crow.  Croatians call themselves “Cro’s.”  See the connection? 

Besides place of origin, surnames may also denote a historical occupation, like Smith or Baker, or historical title, like the [House of] Leiningen, a title for Princes of the Holy Roman Empire.

Sometimes they are derived from a location, such as Harbaugh. The family was thought to have originated in Denmark or Switzerland but most likely the name is derived from the German words, har for master and bach for brook as the original spelling was Harbach.  Their origin appears to be in a small village outside of Kaiserslautern and you guessed it, the farm was located alongside a stream.  My Hollin[g]shead family lived by the “head” of the hollin bushes. Hollin is middle English for holly.

Surnames are sometimes descriptive, such as Small or Shortt. That description might not hold true today as it once did!

Sometimes a surname will change with each generation.  The ancient Nordic practice of patronymics, adding “son” or “dotter” to the father’s first name resulted in each generation having a different surname.  Jon’s son, Carl,  had a last name of Jonson.  When Carl had a son, that son’s last name became Carlson. 

Keep in mind surnames evolve for other reasons, as well.  My maternal Kos became Koss because it looked more Anglocized.  Herbach became Harbaugh possibly because a teacher insisted that was the correct spelling, as the family story goes, or because the dialect changed once the family relocated. 

Sometimes a surname is made up, think Elton John whose given name was Reginald Kenneth Dwight.  I have two cousins who legally changed their surnames, one to make it more Anglicized and the other make it more ethnic. 

Children who were adopted also have a surname change. 

If you are thinking about beginning a surname project, UNCOMMON is the key to selection!  You would not do a surname project on a common surname hoping to find relationships.  Sure, all homo sapiens are related but trying to record every Johnson or Williams would be so time consuming you would never finish.

Once you’ve identified an uncommon surname you are interested in researching, do an internet search to see if others have already begun a surname study group.  If they have, you can join and begin sharing your acquired information. If there isn’t one, you can create one. With DNA now available, you can make many more connections than I could have when I did my studies in the early 2000’s. 

Did you know there is  a society called the Guild of One-Name Studies that has resources and education available? Their website has a surname index of their members’ surname studies.

Before I explain how I did my study – a word of caution!  A study group is different than simply Googling a surname.  A study group is composed of those interested in genealogy and research.  They differ from the many websites that offer questionable  information about surnames for a price.

I’m not suggesting to not do a simple internet query of a surname.  The information can provide you hints but be aware that the information may not be relevant.  Remember – correlation doesn’t equate with causation!  In the case of Harbaugh, Google states it is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon names in Britain and was derived from herebeorg, an Old English word for a person who ran a lodging house.  It does not state that the word is probably older and derived from the Teutonic dweller at a shelter.  Perhaps the English line of Habaugh’s originated with the man named Harbo who purportedly accompanied William the Conqueror to Britain or an earlier Viking (in Scandinavian, baugh means poor).  None of that applies to the U.S. gateways of the surname I wished to research.  The majority came from the Palatinate region.  I have found one Harbaughs from Great Britain emigrating to the U.S.

Like Google, Wikipedia often lists names of unrelated individuals under a surname but beware of the name’s description which is often not cited.  Sure it’s interesting but not necessarily relevant or connected to your surname of interest.

When I decided to do my Leininger surname study I looked for surname projects but didn’t find any as the internet was still young.  I then took genealogy books I found that listed Leiningers and Harbaugh and entered that information into my tree.

All of the information is public in my Main Tree on Ancestry and MyHeritage.  You can add people without connecting them to others in your tree.  To do that, enter the name and information under anyone, then under “Facts” click “Edit” on the upper right.  Next click “Edit Relationships” and click the X next to the father and mother’s names.  You will now have the individual in your tree but not connected to anyone.  You will then research their line as you would your own.  If you find they are connect to your line, you will add them to wherever they belong by selecting “Select someone in your tree” option.  If you never find a connection, no worries!  They are still visible and you can easily find them by using the search feature.

To help identify what I call my “loose lines,” I maintain a table housed under Gallery of all the gateways with that surname. If I’m contacted by someone inquiring how we are related and I do not see a notation on the heading under the individual’s death (such as 3rd great-grandfather showing in the above picture), I know that the inquiry is regarding a loose line. 

Since completing my Leininger study, I’ve identified 27 Leininger/Lininger gateway individuals born between 1742-1830, who emigrated from the Palatine and settled in Pennsylvania or Ohio.  I am unable to connect them to my line.  DNA has shown that 3 of the gateways were distantly related to me but the key to discovering a common ancestor for probably all of these lines lies in Europe at least 500 years ago. 

Of the Harbaugh/Herbach/Hurbach study, I have 13 individuals I cannot determine a connection to my husband’s line. I have not reached out to descendants for DNA but perhaps will in the future.

Surname studies are an investment in time but the energy is worth it if you are interested in stretching your genealogy skills and leaving a legacy of research that provides a bigger picture of a family surname.   

DNA Ethnicity Surprises

Ancestry.com has again updated their DNA Results Summary.  Sure, it’s only as accurate as the number of people who have tested.  What my latest results tell me is that Ancestry has had a whole lot more Swedish, German and Slavs testing and not many Balkans.

I know this because the updated results show I am 42% Eastern European and Russian and 41% Germanic Europe.  

In Ancestry’s last update, I was considered French; today I am of German ancestry. 

My paternal line would not have thought much of that finding; with a name like Leininger they would have accepted the Germanic Europe as fact.  The truth is more complex – the ancestors that were forgotten most likely would have been livid with the designation as they considered themselves French. My two times great grandmother was christened as Marie Marguerite not the Germanic Maria Margarette.  Her spouse was christened Jean Leininger and not Johan.  They resided in the Palatinate, the region that flipped several time between what is now Germany and France. They wisely spoke both French and German. Funny that the land has stopped switching but the ethnicity indicators haven’t.  Ancestry would be smart to have a Palatine region noted instead of moving ethnicity results every update.

Interestingly, the results do include 5% of an ethnicity estimate as French and the region is the Riviera, where my Lamphere’s (Landfairs) did reside in the 1600’s prior to fleeing France for London and then Ireland and then Virginia.  It appears they intermarried with relatives and others who fled with them and that is somewhat supported in that I now have no Irish identified.  Well, that’s not quite true, either…

My Irish is encompassed under my Scottish designation.  

I also find it interesting that I have Welsh separated from England (which encompasses Northwestern Europe now).  I am most definitely Welsh with my people moving to Cheshire for a time.  That is shown in the map, along with the northwest section of France.  That is also correct as I have some William the Conqueror folks originating in that French region.  

My maternal line, though, would have my grandmother in requesting her money back.

Family stories shared by my grandmother say her side moved to the what is now the outskirts of Zagreb, Croatia around the time of Christ because of overpopulation on the island to the south where they once resided.  That would most likely have been Kos Island, part of Greece today.  The now defunct National Geographic project did route my ancestry on that trail.  Grandma said my grandfather’s people had already been in the Zagreb region when her people arrived and they had been Gypsies. National Geographic’s results showed that, too.  Using records, I can show that my maternal line was in the Zagreb region as far back as the 1600’s.  Based on a title the family was awarded, I can show some were in the region as early as the 1100’s.  For 900 years, they resided in a small area in what is now known as Croatia.  According to Ancestry, I’m 3% Balkan.  

Explaining to my grandmother how Ancestry obtains their results would have been maddening.  I’m sure some of you are going to have to try with an older relative.  I send you good thoughts in doing that!

I am quite impressed, though, with Ancestry and their Swedish results.  Look above as I have shown how Southern Sweden is shown by region.  I have worked very hard to get most of my husband’s Swedish lines identified and they are from the area Ancestry identified.  I’m looking forward to someday seeing a trend like this for my other ethnicities.

Ancestry has also released a section called StoryScout.  It’s housed under DNA and includes information that you may have provided in a tree.  I didn’t spend much time on this but I did take a look and it reminded me of something that is important to do and I honestly fail at it.

The section is based on census and military records from the 20th century.  Sure, I’ve saved those records to my ancestors 20 plus years ago.  I know where they lived, who they lived with, blah blah blah.  What gave me pause, however, was that it correctly showed my maternal grandfather and noted that his income was nearly twice that of an average man at the time.  He made $1400.00 per year when the average was in the mid $700.00’s.  Wow.  This explained to me why my immigrant family could afford a car in the 1920’s, a phone in the 1930’s, travel to California in the 1940’s and to Europe in the ’60’s.  Now I understand why grandma, when babysitting me, would drag me to the nice stores and dress shops and had her hair done each week.  Duh!  They never flaunted their wealth and dutifully shipped supplies several times a year back to the old country.  Thanks, Ancestry, for taking one small data point in the census and giving me an insight I hadn’t he thought about.  Try it, it might work for you, too.

Finding Photos and Memorializing the Fallen – A Unique Volunteer Opportunity

Last blog I mentioned Joseph Reid, the father-in-law of my husband’s 5th cousin twice removed.  You may be wondering why in the world I would have someone in my tree that is not related and so far removed.  Here’s the deal…I have done several surname studies which includes everyone by the same surname in a particular area.  My purpose was twofold; I wanted to try to connect all the Harbaughs in the U.S. and updated the last attempt to do so, the 1947 Cooprider & Cooprider Harbaugh History book.

As was common until the 20th century, the Harbaugh couples had many children so my tree became quite large.  (I’ve also did a surname study of the Leiningers but they immigrated later and didn’t have quite as many children in each generation but that, too, added non relatives to my tree.)

Since I have so many Harbaughs in one place and I documented each one as best as possible when I added them, I am frequently emailed about our connections.  Usually, the question is, “How are you related to my (fill in the blank) Harbaugh?”  Actually, I’m not, my husband would be the relation.  I guess folks don’t see the Ancestry.com relationship info at the top of the page:

I try to always respond and let the the person who is inquiring know that all the information I have is public and posted.

When doing the surname study, if information was available, I would include the parents of the person who married into the Harbaugh family but I didn’t research that distant individual.  That’s why Joseph Reid, the father-in-law, was in my tree.  Joseph Reid’s son was Joseph Shortridge Reid (26 Aug 1889 MO-5 Jan 1938 MO) who married Ruth Arelia Harbaugh (11 Feb 1891 MO – 29 Jun 1969 MO).  The couple had 2 daughters and a son.  The email I received regarding the Harbaugh-Reids was inquiring if I had a photo of Joseph Shortridge Reid Jr. who died on 17 Apr 1945 as a casualty in WW2.

The Fields of Honor Database is an organization devoted to memorializing the 28,000 American service personnel that were killed or missing in the line of duty.  They are planning a memorial service in 2020 and were hoping to find photos of those killed in action.  Joseph Reid Jr. was one of those individuals.

I was not familiar with the organization so after checking them out, I decided to try to find a picture of Joseph.  The organization had already contacted Ancestry.com tree owners who had Joseph in their tree but no one but me had responded. 

I don’t frequently research Kansas City, Missouri but I thought I’d accept the challenge.  I checked the typical online sites for a photo – Fold3, MyHeritage, Newspapers.com, Chronicling America, Google, etc. but came up with nada.  I then emailed the American Gold Star Mothers to see if they had a repository that could be accessed.  Unfortunately, the reply I received said they don’t.

Next I contacted the genealogy section of a Kansas City public library and the research librarian did find a photo, albeit of poor quality, that had been placed in the Kansas City Star newspaper with his obituary:

I provided the obituary and photo to Fields of Honor and was asked if I could help with missing photos for Indiana men.  I agreed to do what I could and selected Lake and Elkhart counties.  

Lake County, Indiana is a particularly tricky place to research as many of Gary’s records have disappeared with the city’s decline.  Of course, most of the men I needed photos for had resided in Gary.  I again did a preliminary online search as I had for Joseph and came up with nothing.  I then went to the Lake County, Indiana obituary database that the public library system has available online.  NONE of the names appeared in the database.  I know that database contains names of people who have died elsewhere, like my grandmother for example, so why were all of these men missing?  Then it hit me – I recalled during the Vietnam War that those killed in action had a special write up in the local paper, the Gary [IN] Post Tribune. Could it be possible that this was also a practice in other wars?  

Before emailing the library research team I decided, as a backup, to find more information about the men.  I turned to the 1940 US Federal census to try to get an address of where they were residing. Knowing the area, I thought I could turn to school yearbooks to find a photo.  I could narrow the search to the nearest zoned high school based on the 1940 address.  A few men were not found in the census in Lake County.  That’s not surprising as many men moved to Gary after graduating to secure work in one of the steel mills.  That newly acquired info just gave me another place to look if the newspaper didn’t have a photo.

I then contacted the research library staff and am happy to report the following Gary men have been found:

Cloyce Neal Blassingame served in the first integrated Army unit:

Robert E. Cook:

Robert W. Ferguson:

Robert Ferguson was also found in Emerson’s school year book:

and Gordon Miller in Lew Wallace’s school year book:

(The year book publication date was 1946 and Gordon died in 1944.  There was not a 1945 year book, possibly due to the war.  Gordon was pictured with the class of 1944 but I’d like to find verification elsewhere like I did with Robert Ferguson.)

I am still in need of finding photos of the following men:

  • George Fedorchak Jr. (son of Mrs. Mary Fedorchak, 1428 W 13th Avenue, Gary; in 1940 he lived with his widowed mother, Anna, and sisters Marguerite, Genevieve and Helen at 800 “This South Avenue” probably Harrison Street, Gary.  He born about 1920.  Perhaps mother’s name was Mary Ann?).  
  • Edward A. Gooding
  • Mike Zigich (son of Pete & Annie, 2077 Grant St., Gary, born about 1926.  His only sibling predeceased him as a child.  Parents and sibling buried in a Russian Orthodox Cemetery on Ridge Road.  I wrote the parish for a possible church directory photo but did not get a response yet.)

The Zigich name is driving me crazy because I seem to remember Zigich’s when I lived in Gary as a kid.  I’m thinking Mike’s father was a friend of my grandfather.  Their burial place was only a mile from where I lived.  (This is off topic but my dear readers know how my brain works – I know I’m not alone in having a hazy memory from my youth so this is another reason TO WRITE EVERYTHING YOU DO REMEMBER DOWN NOW about your own family.)

So, this gets a little creepy – as the pictures were discovered it slowly dawned on me that people I knew would have known these individuals.  My mother-in-law would have attended Emerson High School with Robert Ferguson.  My aunt and uncle would have attended Lew Wallace with Gordon Miller.  I do recall that Lew Wallace had a memorial to the fallen; I even read the names once when I was waiting for a ride home before I had my driver’s license but the names on the memorial were meaningless to me.  As a teen in the 1970’s, the 1940’s seemed to be in the olden days.  The names listed were just names, not real people to me.  

As the world seems to be forgetting the lessons once learned, “lest not forget” these brave individuals who gave everything they had to end tyrrany.  Don’t let these lives cut short be forgotten!  The Fields of Honor is looking for photos from across the United States.  Click on their database and contribute a picture of a family member or someone from your hometown.  It only takes a few minutes to check your local newspaper archive or public library.  Your help is not only preserving their memory, it’s also supporting society’s fundamental principles in our troubled world. 

DNA Has Changed My Habits…and not for the good, I’m afraid!


I just came to the realization that DNA has made me a lazy genealogist. Here’s why…

I have made public several trees that are quite large. The reason for their size is because I once did surname studies – I tried to link all of the Leiningers, Harbaughs, Duers, Kos[s]s, Landfairs and Kuhns in the U.S. from an identified gateway ancestor. I want contact from far flung relatives as I don’t know these folks personally and needing closer relatives input, I made the trees public.

Due to the many places I’ve placed the trees online, their size, and my weekly blog posts, I get over 500 comments weekly. Granted, many are spam, but quite a few are serious inquiries.

Before DNA, I would go to the tree mentioned, search for the name provided in the inquiry, review what citations I had and then respond.

Since DNA, I find myself instead responding with my own query – Have you had your DNA analyzed and if so, what provider did you use and what is your profile name?

Last evening, after sending the same question repeatedly, it hit me that this is a seriously lazy response to well meaning folks who’ve taken the time to contact me.

My intentions were never to be rude but I’m afraid that’s how it’s appearing. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was the recipient and wasn’t into DNA. I queried colleagues in my local genealogical society and they think my response is acceptable but I’m not so sure. What do you think, readers?! Would you be offended if you emailed someone for more information and received a question in response?

MyHeritage SuperSearch Update


For a number of years, Ancestry.com has provided users with the ability to add their input regarding incorrect info on record indexes. Recently, MyHeritage has devised a similar feature that will allow for corrections of spellings or transcription errors.

Simply click “Suggest Alternatives” and add your info. You’ll need to type the first and last name of the individual to be corrected, use the drop down menu to select the reason and add your two cents in the comments. If you’re like me, your ancestor’s names were never recorded the same as some of them were doozy’s to spell – Leininger, Bollenbacher, and even short ones like Duer seem to have been problematic for those enumerators.

Here’s an additional tip – keep a list of all the many, varied and unusual surname spellings that you find as that could help you in the future when you’re stuck. I add them to an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for my preferred spelling of the surname and a column where I found the name spelled differently. Happy Hunting!

Amazing Info Found – The Net As a Beginning Tool

Life has returned to semi-normal after the recent hurricanes. By semi, I mean the county still hasn’t collected the debris, milk and gas aren’t available everywhere and several parks remain closed due to damage. When our power was out for several days, I limited my internet usage to conserve my cell phone battery. It wasn’t until I went to clean my spam filter for my website, Genealogyatheart, that I discovered a message from a distant cousin. He had discovered my site and our connection through our great grandfather by simply Googling the last name.
I replied to his comment and he included one of his nieces on our messages. Between the 3 of us, family puzzles began to be solved quickly. In the past week, I discovered that my paternal grandparents had hosted a small family reunion at their farm in the 1960’s. My parent’s divorce was finalized by that time so my mom knew nothing of the event. Without my cousins input, I wouldn’t have known about it, either.
That got my brain going about unidentified people on an old movie I had inherited from my father. Hubby and I have had all our 8 mm films and VHS tapes professionally saved to a DVD. (Side note: If you think your VHS tapes aren’t so old they need to be saved, think again. The oldest VHS tape from 1984 was fading away while some of the 1950 movies looked as good as new). The DVD contains still photos of some of the movies so hubby took those of the mystery people, along with another CD we had made of all the old family photos we had scanned years ago, and sent them off to both cousins for help in identifying these unknown folks.
We’re fairly certain that the picture above is of my grandmother, Lola, and her older brother, Stanley. Why? I have the photo and they have the photo. They are descended from Stanley and it was in their box of photos of his family. My step mother had placed all the old photos in one box so I was never sure who any of my unlabeled people were. Were they a Leininger, Landfair, Kuhn, Kable, Kettering, Bollenbacher, Adams or Duer? I had tried the old Google Picassa facial recognition feature and it helped somewhat but I didn’t have enough identified photos to have it match effectively.
These cousins sent me a few other photos electronically over the past week to see if it would help but Picassa is no longer supported by Google and it kept freezing so no answers there! I’m hopeful they’ll be able to match some of the photos on the CD to photos in their box so at least we can categorize by surname.
The cousin who initially contacted me stated their tale is that the family originated from Ireland and not Bavaria as my line recalled. I tend to believe them for several reasons. I’ve had another family member misidentified’s country of origin as Germany instead of being born in the U.S. Maria Duer Kuhn’s death certificate states she was born in Germany but she was born in Ohio. Her son was the informant. Her husband was the one born in Germany. It seems like my Great British ancestors assumed the German culture of those they married in Ohio. Additional support for their story is that my DNA has a much higher likelihood of Great Britain then it does of German. Further, Landfair is not a German surname. When I questioned that years ago I was told that it probably had been changed from Lamphere. Could be but no proof of that was ever discovered.
One of the cousins also has a copy of my great grandfather’s funeral program which she will send me. I’ve blogged about him previously – he’s the gentleman who “accidentally fell from a platform” and there was a followup investigation a few months after his death resulting in additional paperwork after the death certificate. The lesson there was make sure you get the complete records you request.
This gets me to the point of today’s blog – there remains A LOT of additional information about your ancestors out there – in attics, basements and the brains of the living who recall the unrecorded stories past down. The internet can help you get to those that hold the key you need but alone, the internet is not enough. Reach out to long lost family and you just might discover the info you seek. Happy Hunting!

Genealogical Kindness Needed

Seriously, folks, I’ve had my fill this week of dealing with difficult people. IMHO, life’s too short for bad manners.

I have a very large online public tree on several sites. The reason it’s large is because I’ve done surname studies over the last 20+ years for several lines with unique names – Duer, Harbaugh and Leininger. Taking the last family history book published, that would be 1947 for the Harbaughs and 1973 for the Leiningers, I’ve add all the info into the tree from those sources and then tried to prove the info was correct by adding additional citations. I then tried to update the original works going forward so that family could reconnect. The Duer information was unpublished; I received it from a family historian about 2010.

The gateway ancestor’s for all of these lines died in the 19th century or earlier so some of those included in the tree are far removed from my direct line. I don’t personally know these people. I made the tree public to help reconnect and aid in correcting any errors.

Three times this week I have heard from distant relatives and the comments/emails were rude. One woman told me my tree was confusing her. I offered to help but needed to know what was confusing about it. She said I had no pictures for a person she was interested in. Huh? I understand visual learning but really, you’re complaining because there was no picture.

Later that day, someone posted a comment that they were sure I was wrong about a gateway ancestor because they had their Y-DNA done. I responded to please share and I’d be happy to look further. No response. I wouldn’t have been concerned if the individual had emailed me privately but to post a comment and then not respond when someone is willing to check further is wrong.

That evening, I hit the trifecta when someone commented on another line that he was certain “you must have made this up.” I was taken aback. Did you not look at the citations? Did you not see my comment that mentioned I concurred with other researchers that it was possible two brothers were confused so I included both names as the possible father?

The old adage we can choose our friends but not our relatives applies here! That last comment ticked me off so much that I considered making my tree private. I haven’t done so because I think the good outweighs the few thoughtless individuals.

Thanks, dear readers, for reading my rant. Please help me spread genealogical kindness this week. It’s sorely needed.

I will be taking a much needed vacation so will not have a blog post until I return the end of July.