A 4-H Genealogy Event Unveils the Truth

Courtesy of ROI-NJ

You learn a lot when you attend a genealogy event but I had no idea that I was going to learn something that changed my understanding of a situation that personally happened to me in childhood.

Recently I served as a Summer Judge Assistant for our local 4-H organization in the Genealogy category. I was in both Girl Scouts and 4-H in my youth but in neither organization did I participate in any genealogy badges or projects.

My parents were divorced so my mom was my Assistant Girl Scout Leader for my Brownie Troop 345 and my step-mother was a 4-H Leader.

In 4-H, I participated in the sewing category at the Porter County, Indiana Fair in the mid-1960s. I can’t recall exactly what the item was; I think I sewed an apron but that might be wrong. What I strongly recall is that I received a Blue Ribbon.

Over the years the item I sewed and the ribbon has been lost but I remember receiving the ribbon. I was proud of earning that award.

Imagine my surprise when I just discovered that EVERYONE who enters a project on time receives a blue ribbon. Um, this seriously burst my bubble! My family thinks this is hysterical.

Now I’m not even sure that my item was entered at the Fair, which I didn’t attend. The ribbons are awarded by a judge at a pre-fair event, which is what I assisted with. My now local Fair is not until September. The items will then be brought back for the Fair display. I now suspect that I didn’t have visitation on the day that the item was to be judged so my step-mother must have just submitted it on my behalf. Since I never spoke with a judge it didn’t go to the Fair. Sigh. At 9 years old I would have had no understanding of the rules or the ability to get myself to the judging event alone.

This brings up something we must all think about. When we are recording our memories, even those we personally experienced and didn’t just hear about, we must keep in mind that we didn’t have the full understanding of the situation as a child. When looking through an adult perspective the events are colored. Compound that with remoteness to the event and like me, not really remembering what I sewed, the event becomes less historically accurate.

Think of how that impacts the oral history that has been passed down to you. Yes, there is truth in it but it is likely not the whole truth.

Thanks, 4-H for the reminder of this hard truth.

Way Down Upon the White River…

Photo by Lori Samuelson

Earlier this month, hubby and I joined other Society of Indiana Pioneers (SIP) at an Intergenerational Day at Mounds Park, Anderson, Indiana.

We had never been to the park and after a short hike, the ranger explained research findings about the constructed mounds on the premises. We then trekked back to the nature center and had an informative hands-on wildlife experience with reptiles and amphibians. After a box lunch, pioneer activities were scheduled – butter churning, broom making, weaving, flint knapping, candle making, archery, and visiting a historic home. We also observed volunteers who were making a dugout canoe for a museum exhibit.

SIP’s program is helpful in getting a younger generation interested in history.

It wasn’t just the kids who were excited nor was intergenerational just for attendees. My husband’s Hoosier Pioneer was Jacob Troxell, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on 2 October 1797. By 1810, he had emigrated with his parents to Bear Creek near Miamisburg, Montgomery, Ohio. There he married first Catherine Ranck/Raunk on 29 December 1819.

By 1822 Jacob, Catherine, and their first of eight children, Elizabeth “Betsy” moved to the then-new state of Indiana. They settled in Harrison Township, Fayette County, one mile north of Waterloo.

Jacob first farmed his property that was adjacent to the White River. The growing community had a need and he met it by erecting a saw and grist mill. Later he opened a dry goods business and became a County Commissioner.

After Catherine’s death, he married widow Mary Jane Carlton Port. The couple had one daughter.

Jacob died on 6 April 1885 in Fayette and is buried in Robinson Chapel Cemetery there.

Of my to-do plans is to visit where Jacob lived. Between speaking engagements, renovating our landscaping with native plants, and volunteering, it’s not likely we’ll get to visit this summer. The SIP program, however, enabled my husband to experience the White River for the first time. In this preserved park setting, it likely looks much as it did when his 3rd great-grandfather came in the 1820s. Wow, 200 years ago. Five generations ago. Now that’s really intergenerational!

Boots on the Ground Library Search Turns Up Gold

Dr. Charles Landfair’s home once sat between the two trees in Bluffton, Indiana. Photo by Lori Samuelson

I’m positive you’ll laugh at how I ended up on a genealogical journey that was unintended.

My car needed service and I was asked to drop it off for the day. Since I no longer live close to the dealer my husband decided to follow me in his car. Our plan was to stop at a few stores and then return home, waiting for the mechanic to call to inform me that the work was done. Then, we’d go back and retrieve the vehicle.

Our first shopping errand was to purchase a few garden tools for a family member who was working and couldn’t take advantage of a very good sale. Unfortunately, the hoe was not available and the great computer in the clouds found only one, in a town called Bluffton, about an hour and a half from where we were.

My husband and I visited there last year when we were searching for a new home but hadn’t been back since. It’s on my list of places to research, however, and since there’s no time like the present, I thought I’d try to fit some research into my schedule.

I Googled the historical museum address as soon as we had the hoe in the trunk. Unfortunately, it’s only open on Sunday and Wednesday and it was Tuesday. Sigh. The next stop was the Wells County Public Library.

We arrived at the Genealogy Department on the second floor and were immediately assisted by Jason. I was totally unprepared – no thumb drive, no notes, not even a research question. I asked for any information on Dr. Charles Landfair who had resided in the city from the late 1800s to 1936, with a break for jail time in Michigan City.

Yep, Charles is one of my black sheep ancestors that I always wanted to learn more about. My father was quite proud of his great-uncle who had been a physician. What no one in the family conveyed to me was the character, or lack thereof, of the man known as Uncle Charlie.

Charlie had serious addiction issues and was a violent alcoholic. His patients loved him, though, and after his jail stint, re-established care with him as their doctor.

This fascinates me and I wanted to learn more about him and his brother, my great-grandfather, who shared many of the same characteristics as Charlie.

Jason readily asked me if I’d like a copy of the obituary which I believed I had. He helped me sign on to a computer so I could bring up my tree info as I was having difficulty seeing it on my phone. While I was doing that, Jason was looking on a microfilm index for newspaper records that aren’t available online. Small-town newspapers have the space and the knowledge of their community members so the articles provided me with much richer details of Charlie’s life. I hadn’t known he had first been a schoolteacher, where he attended and purportedly the date of his graduation from medical school, and other towns where he had practiced medicine. I had guessed which medical school he had attended, however, they had no record of him. Hmm, now that I have a graduation year I plan on rechecking with them.

Jason also found burial records that listed medical conditions I also hadn’t known about.

Jason didn’t stop there; I had the census records and therefore, addresses of Charlie’s home. Jason checked Sanborn maps and then helped me find the addresses by using Google Maps as he was aware that the addresses had changed since 1920-1930. The picture you see at the top is where the house, long gone, once was and where Charlie died. I confirmed with the business in that back that now owns the lot that was once the address I was searching for. Charlie lived right across the street from the Wabash River and what is now a city park. The business behind where the house stood was there when Charlie was alive and the founder likely knew his neighbor. After Charlie’s death, the neighbor purchased the lot and tore the home down as it is in a flood plain.

I wish I could get Jason a raise, as he is a valuable asset to the Bluffton Library, however, we all know that for some reason, money for pay raises for librarians and teachers is hard to come by. My blog today is to celebrate Jason and all those other librarians out there that work tirelessly and respectfully to those unprepared patrons who like I did, walk in looking for what they don’t even really know what they want. Thanks, Jason, I greatly appreciated your help!

And I can’t wait til the next time I need an oil change; no telling what genealogical discovery I’ll make.

Newspaper Research Tip

Newspapers.com Hammond Times,3 Feb 1941 p. 2. c. 6

I’d like to pass on this awesome tip provided by Andrea during a recent Genealogy Club meeting at the Garrett, Indiana Public Library. Andrea was informing the group about Newspapers.com, which is free in Indiana through local public libraries.

Andrea suggested searching by address. I never tried that before and thought it was a novel idea. I immediately put in my childhood address and was shocked to learn that my grandparents had placed an ad in the real estate section of a local newspaper in 1964 to rent out the home that I lived in. I had no idea!

I recommend also typing in your old phone number. That showed up in the classified ad.

I also discovered the clip above about my uncle who had been involved in a car accident in 1941. I would have never found that without the address as the article misspelled his last name.

When I entered my husband’s home address, up came his father who was a political delegate in 1971. By law then, delegates names, addresses, and phone numbers were publicized.

I tried the tip with chroniclingamerica.loc.gov but wasn’t as successful. I’m planning to use it with other sites, as well.

Give this a try and let me know of your wonderful finds!

Finding Family at Genealogy Conferences

My “New” Cousin and I

It’s definitely a small world and I have to blog about my newfound cousin, Gerhard. I didn’t even realize that the man in the background in the photo, Roland, was in this shot until I uploaded seconds ago. He’s a part of this story, too. Warning you, this is one of my weird genealogy encounters. . .

Last December I was applying to the Society of Indiana Pioneers (SIP) and needed a German translation of a newspaper record I found for my Leininger family. Husband was stumped by the script used and some of the words; the translation wasn’t making sense and online translation programs weren’t helping, either. I posted a request for help on a Facebook page and the Transitional Genealogy Forum (TGF). Roland responded and saved the day. A few weeks later, I was accepted into the SIP and Roland posted about the upcoming International German Genealogy Partnership (IGGP) that was to be held in Ft. Wayne June 9-11.

I have German ethnicity on my paternal side and have never attended a conference specifically for ethnicity. Since I now live in the greater Ft. Wayne area, I was saving time and money on travel, hotel, and meals. I decided the price, date, and location were perfect for me so I signed up with no expectations.

The conference used the WHOVA app which I used for the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) conference last year. I wasn’t too active on the app last year as I was in the process of moving and had limited time. I highly recommend using whatever social media is available pre and during a conference to get the most out of the experience. Go back after the conference and save links/chats from the app as it is usually only available for a limited time period.

I set up pre-meetings virtually (the conference was hybrid) based on family surnames – Leininger, Kettering, Kable, and Kuhn. Gerhard recognized the surname Kuhn and messaged me that he had information he wanted to share with me in person. We agreed to meet between conference presentations. The message arrived a few minutes after I left Kessler Cemetery where I had just cleaned graves for these ancestors. Weird, I thought.

We met up on Saturday and he brought with him a transcription of military records and a copy of my 4th great-grandparent’s marriage registration. The 4gg’s were the immigrants and are buried in Kessler. I’m a member of the Daughters of Union Vets of the Civil War based on one of their son, Henry’s, service. For my long-time readers, Henry married Maria Duer, daughter of John who is buried in Kessler with no surviving marker.

Gerhard looked up from the table we were at and recognized one of my cousins, who I had never met, passing by. He called her over:

Renee and I

We had messaged each other on the app earlier but her immigrants settled in a different part of Ohio and we weren’t sure we were related. Gerhard knew that we were and explained how.  I brought up my family tree and she recognized another line we share, the Anstatts. 

Gerhard also informed me that another one of my German families that I hadn’t even thought to include in my surname post was having a 200-year immigration reunion in Brazil next summer. Evidently, my Bollenbacher ancestors left Germany, my line settled in Ohio and a brother went to South America. Who knew? Gerhard, thankfully!

This brings me to point out the value of doing surname studies and/or chasing all of your lines’ immigration routes, including their siblings. I have done that with many of my Great Britain families and my Croatian lines but not my French/German. That’s now on my to-do list.

Excluding my three first cousins, I have never met anyone related to most of my French-German lines. Although Gerhard and Renee are not close genetically, we do share a common 4-5th great-grandparent.

I have connected with relatives through DNA matches, online family trees, and the Roots Tech app but I never met with anyone face-to-face at a conference. It is an extra special occasion. My husband and I are now planning a trip next year to tour the region my ancestors and his came from on our way to Sweden to follow in his family’s footsteps. BTW, my husband’s Harbaughs are from a village close to where my Leininger family originated – probably even knew each other back in the 1600s. Yep, small world!

As if that wasn’t enough, here’s another reason to attend an ethnic-oriented genealogy conference – I found information on my British and Croatian lines, too. My Daniel Hollingshead purportedly served in the British military and fought in the Battle of Blenheim where one of his brothers was killed. No info anywhere in Great Britain because neither brother was an officer. I asked for help and was given several sources in Germany to research. Hoping I find a Hollingshead buried there.

I had no expectations I would find any information on my Croatia relatives at a German conference. It didn’t dawn on me that dear old Napolean would have made that connection. Croatia was once part of Austria-Hungary and we all know what Napolean did to that area and what is now Germany. My biggest mystery after researching in Croatia remained to find my great grandfather Josip Kos’ military records. Croatia says they were sent to Vienna; the Austrian State Archives says they are all on FamilySearch. I can’t find them there and haven’t gotten an answer from FamilySearch on where they reside or if they are ever going to be available online. A researcher who attended the conference and is familiar with the records is checking for me in Vienna. Hopefully, I will one day discover the truth behind the family story of why Josip separated from the Calvary.

By attending IGGP and using the Whova app, I was able to get hints for further research on all of my ethnic origins and meet relatives I didn’t know existed. The reasonable fee to attend was priceless!

IGGP has a conference every two years and I plan to attend in Columbus, Ohio in 2015. Perhaps you’ll join me. At the last conference, Hank Z. Jones was honored and I’ve blogged about his books previously. Yes, this was definitely a Psychic Roots encounter.