Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Library Phantom? Oh My!

So I was going to blog about something completely different tonight, but then I came across this story about the Library Phantom in Scotland. It is too cool of a story to pass up. Apparently, somebody has been leaving sculptures made from books at various different libraries, museums, and repositories in Scotland. When I say sculptures, don't envision those newspaper sculptures you made in elementary school. These sculptures are works of art, lovingly made, and then left anonymously for the world to enjoy.

I can't help but think that this sounds like something from a novel, or that an author somewhere must already be hard at work writing a story around this phenomena. The artist of these sculptures has left notes, that in short, express the love of the written word, the inspiration words/books bring, and a gratitude towards libraries. There are more photos at This Central Station that display the various wonderful details of these sculptures. They are truly delightful.

As genealogist we know how important libraries and repositories are for our research, and for the preservation of history and documents. More importantly, it is a place for children to become inspired, leave whatever troubles they have and lose themselves in a book. My kids love "the big quiet library" and I have to bring a bag to carry out all the books they have picked. Sadly, during economic downturns, these are some of the first places budget cuts are made. Hours or even days become slashed and staff are layed off. The artist of these sculptures gets it and hopefully the message is heard.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The House of WIN!!!

The birds and the pigs.

Okay, so this past weekend was a family effort to create an Angry Bird cake for my oldest son's Cub Scout cake decorating contest. Many hours were put into this cake starting with its inception, research on creation, shopping for various random items, and creating. It all paid off as my son won the contest. He was very happy, and as a parent there is a special joy when you witness your child's excitement. The rules were simple; everything on the cake needs to be edible and no peanut products are to be used.

The other win was for me today. I received an email saying that I won a prize from BlogHer Inc's NaBloPoMo contest. The prize, apparently, are books from Penguin. I don't know what the books are, but it's fun to win stuff. It's been an exciting few days.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Are Your Ancestors Or Their Homesteads In Google Books?

Have you ever checked out Google books? There is some great information to be found there. If you are lucky you might have an ancestor mentioned in a book, but at the very least you could find a history on the township or county your ancestor settled in. Within this history will be other settlers mentioned who could very well have been part of your ancestor's social circle. In turn these people may have done business with your ancestors, attended church with them, had children that married your ancestor's kids,  or kept journals that your ancestors are mentioned in.

One day I searched for my four times great grandfather Jefferson Fry who was born about 1808 in Shelby County, Kentucky. At some point he moved to Clinton County, Missouri. The book that came up in the search is The History of Clinton County, Missouri. There was tons of wonderful information! It turns out Jefferson was among the first settlers of Clinton County in 1831 to an area called Clinton Township. The book goes onto name his parents with their death dates and exact ages. There is a description of Solomon Fry, who sounds like quite a character, with a lot of information. The book also goes onto say that Jefferson recently moved to Colorado with the year 1881 in parentheses.

Pretty cool, huh? Google books is a great resource. You never know what you might find there or how it could help your research.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More Family Traditions-Fact or Fiction?

Well, I've spent this Sunday consumed with creating an Angry Bird cake with my son for Cub Scouts. When it came time to think about a blog topic I was stumped. All I could think about were Angry Birds! So I walked into my office for inspiration, stood in the middle of the room, looked at the piles of stuff and for some odd reason my 5th great grandfather, Jesse Balieu/Bellew Alderson popped into my head. I guess he wants his story told, so here goes.

As family legend is told Jesse Balieu/Bellew Alderson was born some time around 1790, place unknown (at least for now). He was orphaned as a baby or small child, during an Indian raid in Kentucky. His parents identity remains a mystery, although family legend says they were from Ireland, and arrived in America around 1790. It is thought that the circuit-riding preacher Reverend John Alderson adopted Jesse.

Jesse would grow up (it is said) to be tall, red-haired, and "obstreperous". At some point he married Rachel Wooldridge, although the date and place are unknown. Their son Jesse Woolridge, my fourth great grandfather, would eventually become a preacher (giving a very slight credence to the Reverend theory), and marry Louvina Williams.

Nothing else is known about Jesse Balieu/Bellew, which I think is a little sad. I have focused a lot of time on other lines, but may turn my attention to this line for a while. At the very least I would like to find out what his occupation was, certainly who his parents were, and if there is any surviving report about what happened to his family. Or if the story is even true!

*Please note that this story is a family tradition and that I have NO documentation to support any of it! Therefore, it should not be taken as fact and passed on as such.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Fun

Every Saturday, Randy Seaver posts a mission. Tonight's mission is Historical County Boundaries, with a link to the Historical U.S. County Maps on Randy Majors website. The idea is to pick a place of interest and key it into Marjor's site, then note the changes from 1790 to 1900, and blog about it.

I chose Barree Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. The line that I have from there are the Brumbaughs, and the only line I know of mine that stayed put for any amount of time. Anyway, I discovered the county stayed the same but the boundaries changed.

1790: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (created from Bedford County in September 1787)
1800: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (lost some area to Mifflin County)
1810: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (lost some area to Cambria and Clearfield Counties)
1820: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (gained some area from Mifflin County)
1830: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (gained some area from Mifflin County)
1840: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (lost some area to Mifflin County)
1850: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (lost some are to Blair County)
1860: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (no change)
1870: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania
1880: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania
1890: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania
1900: Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania

So you may be thinking, well the county never changed so I don't have to look at any other county for records. Not true. Traveling from anywhere back in the day was not as simple as today. There were no roads or transportation like we think of today. If you wanted to go somewhere to file paperwork of any kind, you needed to either walk or ride a horse there. It could take hours or days. Also, if it was a busy time of year on the farm your ancestor would not up and leave the crops. Their livelihood depended on those crops. Our ancestors would have conducted business, such as submitting paperwork to a courthouse regarding land ownership, sales, deeds, wills, etc. when it was convenient for them (unless of course it was urgent). The same holds true for what courthouse they would conduct business at. Sometimes the closest or easiest courthouse or clergy to get to were in a different county.

It's important to look at maps and terrain of the area where our ancestors lived. We think nothing of hopping in our car, driving over bridges and mountains to get to our courthouse or lawyer. Our ancestors may have looked at that a little differently.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow Friday- The Educated Genealogist

Okay, so Sheri at The Educated Genealogist posted a very funny Thanksgiving video. I just have to share it with you. Sheri often has very amusing posts and insights.

Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving and a successful Black Friday (with either shopping or sports viewing).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Graphic courtesy of

I just wanted to wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. May the weather work in your favor, the company you keep be delightful, and the food delicious. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday's Tip- Dinner With Pilgrims

Okay, so this isn't really a typical genealogy site, but in honor of it being Thanksgiving week here in America I thought this was appropriate. I first learned about Plimoth Plantation a few years ago while browsing through the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. What caught my attention was the Thanksgiving Day Feast that is offered in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I think this is really cool and want to take my boys to do this when they are older. That way it will be remembered, and it's pricey so it requires some planning.

Want to know how the Pilgrims spoke, they have a page about that too on the site. There is also information about the history, crafts, animals, and customs of the time period. So if you have pilgrims in your ancestry or even if you don't, it's a cool site to check out.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Plethora Of Gunters

Lately I've been finding a lot of Gunters. The only problem is I'm not sure most of them have anything to do with my line. It seems for every one I find a few more come along with that person. I'm a little overwhelmed. The only way I can really explain it is like this; somebody just handed you a large bag of puzzle pieces and some of the pieces belong to another puzzle with a similar design--good luck putting it together! Argh.

At any rate, there is one Gunter I've been chasing after for a while, Henry J. Gunter a brick mason. I have no proof he is a relation (I'm thinking brother) of my ggg grandfather Richard William Gunter, just a sneaking suspicion. Why do I think this? Well, they were both living in West Ely, Marion County, Missouri in the late 1840's. They both got married a year apart in the same town, show up together as neighbors in the 1860 and 1870 census, and both enlist in Iowa with the same regiment for the Civil War. I requested the enlistment papers for both, only Henry's was found, and his birthplace is listed as Guilford County, North Carolina. Richard was born in North Carolina too. I can't find him on the 1880 census, and lose his trail. Incidentally, there is a Louisa Gunter that shadows them around, also born in North Carolina, who married the brother of Richard's wife. Again, I have no proof, but I suspect she is a sister (I've been chasing after her too). At the very least they could all be cousins to each other.

So last week, when I was chasing down Nancy Gunter's grave, which I blogged about here, I came across a snippet about an H.J. Gunter. It was transcribed/abstracted from the Pueblo Colorado Weekly dated 19 February 1874, stating that the widow of H.J. Gunter of Denver arrived in Pueblo that afternoon with the body of her husband. Richard ended up in Pueblo, Colorado sometime after 1880. Is this H.J. my Henry J. Gunter? It's possible, but I have to do more digging around.

Either way, what has been on my "to do" list for a long time is to look at probate/deed/land records for the areas where the Gunters lived in Missouri. I just need to sit down and figure out which ones to order from the Family History Library first. (sigh)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Day At The Local Genealogical Seminar

On Saturday I spent my day at the 25th Annual Genealogical Seminar hosted by the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society and Tennessee Historical Society. I went last year and learned a lot, and this year was just as informative.

The first session was presented by Elizabeth Shown Mills titled, "Problem Solving in the Problem-Riddled Carolina Backcountry." Elizabeth is a wonderful speaker and a wealth of information. It is impossible to attend any of her presentations without walking away more knowledgeable. Although the talk was focused on the Carolinas, many of the research techniques for finding information could be used elsewhere. One idea she presented a few examples of, is to always look at the original document. Many times there are abstracts or indexes that don't include information that could be key to solving questions or problems regarding your ancestors.

Next, after a quick break, was "Inheritance Laws and Estate Settlements in the Carolinas" presented by J. Mark Lowe. I'm always impressed at the variety and knowledge of topics Mark presents. Again, although the focus was the Carolinas, there was much discussed that could be applied elsewhere. The main idea being that when conducting research it is important to understand legal lingo, the laws, and how they apply to the area you are researching.

After lunch two sessions were presented by Charles A. Sherrill titled, "Service Records are Just the Beginning: Finding Your Family's Whole Civil War Story" and "The Late Unpleasantness: Research in Civil War Records Created After 1865." Chuck discussed many different resources for finding information on your Civil War ancestors; Union, Confederate, and civilian. There are just too many sources to list or discuss in this post. However, if you like maps then you may want to take a look at "Official Military Atlas Of the Civil War" by George Davis. It contains detailed maps of the areas where battles and marches took place. Another obscure source was "The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (1861-1865)" published by Broadfoot Publishing Company. There is a 3 volume index listing the case studies of wounded soldiers by name and unit too.

By the end of the day my brain was full of new information and ideas. I have all sorts of new research plans forming in my mind. My list of things to read, sites to explore and microfilm to look at has grown. It was a good day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Smaller Archives and Holdings Have Hidden Gems

I spent a couple of hours at the Williamson County Archives today. It's very convenient and at the most a 5 minute drive from my house. I don't have any known ancestors in Williamson County, Tennessee. So why do I go to the county archives? Although the holdings are not as large as a state archive or a big city library, they have sources there that are very useful, a few of which are not at the state archives. It is the same with Williamson County Library, which is maybe a 10 minute drive from my house. They have a wonderful Special Collections room.

When I go to either of these locations it is with the purpose of covering the basics or getting preliminary information. Maybe to get a history on a particular area, discover what sources they have for transcriptions of marriage documents, wills, or land records. I have found some very random collections at each repository. The library has quite a few books on Pennsylvania, the county archives has a nice collection on Virginia and North Carolina. Not exactly what you would expect of local holdings is it?

Once I've exhausted the local repositories for information, I can make better use of my time at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), which is at least a 25-30 minute drive. Once at the state archives I can focus on more detailed work like the manuscript collection, surname vertical files, books that aren't available at the local archives and newspapers. Even better, since I found a transcription in a book at the local archives, I now know what microfilm to focus on when I get to TSLA.

Basically it all comes down to making better use of my time and the resources offered at the state level. So the moral of the post is; state archives are wonderfully vast in their holdings, but don't ignore or discount the holdings of your local repositories. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Follow Friday- Olive Tree Genealogy Blog

In keeping with the unexpected theme of gravestones this week, I thought I would mention November's Genealogy Challenge at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. The challenge is a spill over from October's challenge, which is to spend 15 minutes photographing tombstones at a local cemetery, then post them. Finding a photo of an ancestor's tombstone can give you valuable information for your research, such as death dates, birth dates, and if you are lucky names of other relatives.

There are a couple of cemeteries that I want to photograph. I'd like to do this challenge, but I'm not sure I'll make the November deadline. Next week is Thanksgiving week and my kids are out of school the whole time. We have quite a few things scheduled for the week. On an up note the boys don't mind looking around a cemetery and causing general havoc, so it might be a good opportunity for an outing. We'll see how the weather holds up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gravestones, Obituaries, and Surprises

I've been trying to find more information on Nancy Ann (Beard) Gunter. Specifically her grave. Nancy is my ggg grandmother who was married to Richard William Gunter. I knew she was living in Pueblo, Colorado when she died in 1903. However, I didn't know what month, day or what cemetery she was buried in. I finally found a tip on that she was buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Vineland, Pueblo County, Colorado. So I looked up the cemetery on FindAGrave. There are over 8,000 internments listed for this cemetery--no Nancy. Why did I look up the cemetery and not her name? I've looked for her name before with no results, and thought that maybe Gunter was listed as a different spelling that I would recognize better by scrolling through.

My next step was to google Vineland, Pueblo County, Colorado cemeteries. I found a great Pueblo County, Colorado Resources page. This site listed cemeteries and sure enough Roselawn was listed, with a very interesting history. After scrolling down the page I discovered a transcription for "Gunter, Nancy Ann died 1-25-1903." The notes mention a McCarthy Funeral Home. I also found a surprise! A listing for "Gunter, Katie died 8-21-1899," with notes saying she was the daughter of R.W. Gunter and McCarthy Funeral Home. For some time I have wondered what happened to Katie, so now I have my answer... sort of. What did she die from? Maybe the McCarthy Funeral Home will have the answer to that. The search continues.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Death Certificates

I was thrilled to finally receive two death certificates that I had ordered from Colorado, after a little back and forth that required me to send them a family tree. Strange, I know, but whatever it takes right? Anyway, one thrilling fact was that neither of these two ancestors died from cancer. It seems lately I've been making the grim discovery of an increasingly large amount of cancer related deaths in my heritage. Which reminds me, I need to make that doctor's appointment (I'm a little paranoid now).

Tiery/Tirey Curtis FRY was my great great grandfather. In most documents I find he usually goes by the name Curt or Curtis, hardly ever Tiery/Tirey. He was born in Missouri on 18 November 1870, and died in Paonia, Delta County, Colorado on 10 May 1949 from chronic congestive heart failure. All of the information on the death certificate matched with the information I already had, which is great. I thought that was curious though. Why? Well Tiery's mother, Anna (Berryman) FRY died when he was about 3 years old. So who was this informant that supplied the correct name of a mother for him? The informant (person who supplies the personal details for the death certificate) was listed as Mrs. Jess BARROW. Don't you just love that women are identified by their husband's name (argh)?! After a little searching of census records I determine it is his daughter Marguerite, and (bonus!) I now have her husband's name!

The other death certificate is of my ggg grandmother, Mary Caroline (Risenhoover) Alderson. She was born in Arkansas on 17 September 1855, and died in Paonia, Delta County, Colorado on 7 November 1933 from cerebral hemiplegia. Again the information matched with what I had and I was struck by the accuracy of it. Mary's father, Asa Risenhoover, died about 1855 or 1856. The informant this time was Mrs. Gus W. Roeber (again with the man's name!). So back to the census search and my lineage software to determine that it is her daughter Fannie. In my notes (taken from a cousin's information) I had recorded that she had died many years before 1933, so I was thrilled to discover proof of her still alive. Yay!

I never know what to expect when I receive death certificates and tend to keep my expectations low. How thrilling to make these discoveries! I'm also deeply impressed that two children of the deceased were able to provide accurate information, especially on people that their parents most likely had no memory of to pass on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday's Tip- Gravestones

As genealogists we usually end up spending some time in cemeteries. Sometimes it is just to wander around looking at the various headstones, and many times it is with the purpose of finding an ancestor. Ever wonder what the symbols mean? Ever think about making a gravestone rubbing but not sure how to do it? Want to get a better photo of the gravestone?

Well I've got just the site for you to check out. The Association For Gravestone Studies has a website that answers many of these questions and more. They give tips on how to clean gravestones without damaging them. There are also explanations about the different stone types and the symbolism. The website also has a tab dedicated to preservation. I could tell you more but grab yourself a coffee and spend some time checking it out. It's a cool little site!

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Who Do You Think You Are?" Is Back In February

NBC announced their mid-season line up today. One addition that I'm very excited about is the show "Who Do You Think You Are?" It is scheduled to begin February 3rd 8-9 p.m. EST. Although the show can be a bit glossy at times, it is fun to watch and engaging. I also think this show is responsible for a surge of interest in family history.

The only drawback of the show would be how they make the research process look somewhat easy, and how the information you find has a simple flow from one step to the next. I've found myself on several occasions explaining to people that there are a team of professional researchers around the world conducting this research. This is their full-time job and the show has the budget to pay them.

At any rate, I've marked my calendar. I have something to look forward to on those cold winter nights in February. Yay!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Blog Reflections

After a stint of chores this morning and a quiet house, I decided to take a look at the new genealogy blogs that Geneablogger listed on Saturday. There are a few that caught my eye and are off to a good start. I should say here that I have not blogged for very long and am by no means an expert on what makes a good blog. In fact I'm still trying to figure out the gadgets for mine.

What surprised me were the number of bloggers who did not include a name for themselves or some sort of photo/picture. I understand the desire to protect one's identity, but for goodness sake throw me a bone! Go by a first name and put a picture of your great aunt. In general genealogists are pretty nice people and friendly. Part of relating to people is giving them a name to go by and not just a blog name. Dear Myrtle's blog has done this very nicely. She goes by Myrtle or Ole Myrt and has a lovely drawing of a woman as her id photo. This is not her real name but it works. I am able to relate to her and have a sense of who she is.

I was also surprised by the lack of joining/following options. Some of the blogs only offered one way to follow them as a RSS feed. Everybody has a preferred way to follow the blogs they subscribe to. I think if you only offer one or two ways you limit your readership. Case in point, there was a blog I thought would be interesting to follow. However, there was only one option given to follow, that I don't use, so I didn't sign up. Life is busy, I can only remember to keep track of so many sites on a daily basis.

If you are looking for advice or help on genealogy blogging Amy Coffin of The We Tree Genealogy Blog has just written and released The Big Genealogy Blog Book. Amy has been blogging for a long time and has written about blogging in her blog many times. It is on my list of reads.

*Amy has not asked me to review her book nor do I get any compensation for the mention. I just thought it noteworthy and useful.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Follow Friday (a little late)

Since yesterday was Veteran's Day I posted a blog appropriate to that day. However, I read a blog earlier this week that was thought provoking and I have continued to think about it since. So I decided to share it a day later than I normally would. Greta at Greta's Genealogy Bog (yes Bog) wrote a blog earlier this week titled Why I Want To Remain An Amateur.

It was interesting to read Greta's thoughts on why she does not want to be a professional genealogist and is happy being an "amateur." I liked that she supports remaining an amateur but pursuing quality work and learning. There have been many people that I have met through ProGen, institutes, and conferences that want to learn the proper techniques of research, but have no interest of working for anybody other than themselves. I admire this dedication.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day Remembrance

Inside Hoover Dam

Today is a day of remembering those who have fought so bravely for our country. As I continue on my journey of family research, I discover more ancestors who enlisted for various wars or skirmishes. I applaud their bravery. Although I have never met them, on this day they are remembered.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Marina Gunter, 3 Bushwhackers, and An Axe

As I've written in other blogs, I descend from a line of Gunters, so anything regarding the Gunters is interesting. A couple weeks ago I looked at the Gunter surname vertical file at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. It was a nice little treasure trove of information. Not only had two separate people given the archives information they had on their Gunter lines, but there was an interesting copy of a newspaper article. Actually it was two different articles on the same topic, Marina Gunter. One article is dated 3 July 1969 without the name of the newspaper, and the other is undated but includes the name of the newspaper. The reported event took place in March 1865, a time when this country was in turmoil due to the Civil War.

Marina Gunter lived with her family in Putnam County, Tennessee when she was 17. Her father was Larkin Gunter, a Southern man, and for what ever reason was at home instead of fighting in the war. One evening three men Maxwell, Patton, and Miller claiming to be Federal soldiers came to the Gunter home set on killing Larkin Gunter. According to the article the men informed Larkin, "...that his time had come" and proceeded to drag him from the house. Hearing the groans of her father being beat up, Marina raced to the woodpile, grabbed an axe, and rushed to the scene. She proceeded to attack the three men on this dark and drizzly night. Marina killed two of the men and broke the arm of the third who escaped, but later died from his wounds. She then lifted up her father and helped him home.

My favorite quote, because it is so dramatic, in this article is the following:

"This is the greatest achievement of female heroism of
its kind that has ever been recorded, and places Miss Gunter
on the pinnacle of glory that belongs not alone to patriotism,
but to the grandeur of filial affection the tie that stretches
from the cradle to the grave, spans the heavens, and is riveted 
through eternity to the throne of God on high."

Later, Marina would recount that she grew frantic hearing the groans of her father, and does not know how she managed her father's rescue. Eventually Marina would marry Joseph Harris and move to Fentress County, Tennessee. She died in 1926.

I don't know if my line connects with this branch of Gunters at all. It's just a cool published story of a woman in history, doing something other than getting married, having babies, or dying.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesdays Tip- Ancestors And The Weather

Our ancestors were just as concerned about the weather as we are today, if not even more so. A lot of my ancestors were farmers and in farming weather is crucial. It can destroy crops for the year, or bring a bountiful harvest. Modern conveniences weren't at hand, so a rainy day could delay walking a mile to visit a friend or going into town. Rain could delay doing laundry or at least the outcome of dry clean clothes.

If you have ever wondered about the weather and your ancestors then you might want to check out the American Meteorological Society website. They have the weather reports from 1872 to present day. I looked up the weather from November 1872 and a pdf of a map came up. It was pretty cool. So if you want to fill out your ancestor's story with some nice details, like what the weather was like on the day they got married, now you can do it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Marriage Record and Witnesses

Sarah (Sallie) Luttrell and Richard Sanford Gunter were married 1 May 1894 in Pueblo, Pueblo County, Colorado. The certificate lists Sallie's middle initial as "M". However, her middle name was Louise. It's an odd mistake, but the rest of it seems to jive with the information I already have. What I'm really curious about are the witnesses, G.S. Hawley and Adam Walk. Who are they? Why weren't there any direct family members as witnesses? Both Richard and Sallie had siblings. Were Hawley and Walk spouses of their siblings? Guess what is next on my research plan. To find out who G.S. Hawley and Adam Walk were and how they came to be witnesses for my ancestors' marriage.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Week 45 High School

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History is a series of weekly blogging prompts started by Amy Coffin. The purpose is to record your memories and insights about your own life and experience. This week is to discuss your experience in high school.

I attended a small high school in New Jersey with a long name, Delaware Valley Regional High School. It was surrounded by fields and had a student body of approx. 815 people, with my graduating class at that time being the largest around 240 people. It was mostly a jock high school, meaning sports were very supported and revered. I was a drama geek. Everybody knew everybody or at the very least knew of them.

My sophomore year I was an exchange student to Australia. It was a great year. I was able to break out of the small community and experience life beyond cornfields and farms. Australia is a beautiful country with lovely people. In high school there I played soft ball and cricket. Coming back to my high school was a challenge. While I was away my friends had made friends with others in various different groups. It was also tough to come back to such an insular experience.

The one class I took in high school that I still find useful today was a typing class. Algebra was the toughest, I voluntarily stayed after school many times with the teacher trying to understand it. I think she took pity on me, I passed by two points getting a C. My senior year I spent half the day at my high school and then travelled to another for their drama program.

In hind sight, I would have done things just a little differently. I would have taken art classes during all my years and not just the year in Australia. I've discovered I enjoy running, so I probably would have done track. That's it really, I still would have done everything else. High school for me was not the defining moment of my life like it is for many others. I was glad when it was over, and I didn't look back.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My New Obsession

My newest obsession is watching "Deadwood" on HBO GO. I just finished watching the first season and can't wait to watch the second. The show started in 2004 and only ran for three seasons. So I'm catching up and I can't get enough of it! The setting is the late 1870's in Deadwood, South Dakota. It is raw, gritty, and the language is bit rough. However, this all got me to thinking about my ancestors living in the same time period. Was Hollywood making an accurate portrayal of the times? Was the show holding true to actual events?

Being the curious person I am, I googled Deadwood, South Dakota and got a lot of results. I looked at photos of the town now and it still looks pretty rural. There was even an old photo online of how the town looked in the late 1800's. Like the show portrays, it looks dirty, muddy, and rough. I would think most towns looked very similar and had the same conditions. The costumes are also pretty accurate. It is hard for me to imagine being a woman dressed in a full skirt with petticoats, a corset, full blouse coming up to the neck with long sleeves, boots, stockings, and hat slogging through the mud and muck just to cross the street. Yuck! How would your outfit not get ruined every time?

As far as historical facts, the show has bent some of them, as many shows will do. However, many of the major characters in the show, Wild Bill Hickok, Seth Bullock, Charlie Utter, Calamity Jane, and Al Swearengen, were in Deadwood during this time period. Regarding the graphic language....I question if people (certainly not my ancestors!) actually swore this much and so graphically all the time. Maybe I'm naive but I don't think they did. Out of curiosity (again) I looked up one of the frequently used words, which is too vulgar for me to type here (starts with a "c" ends with an "r" and is a compound word), it turns out that particular word didn't enter the American vernacular until 1940.

So what does this have to do with genealogy? Well, as we go along collecting facts, dates, stories, and the occasional photos if we are lucky, it is important to think of the atmosphere and psychology of our ancestors. Nothing was simple! The constant battle of dirt being tracked into the house, the store, on clothes, hair, and your skin. How uncomfortable it was to wear all of those clothes in the heat. When it was cold to heat a home with no insulation required enormous amounts of wood or coal.  To cook required wood to be chopped for the stove, and the skills to make a meal from scratch without burning it or undercooking it. Now imagine a bunch of little kids running around this wood burning stove! The list could go on.

All I can say is, I'm a huge fan of indoor plumbing, heat, air conditioning, and modern medicine. I'm glad to be living during this time period. Although I can't help but wonder if our descendants will say the same thing when looking back on how we lived.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Follow Friday-They Came To Montana

I needed a little something to pick up my spirits today (it's just one of those days), and so I went to Geneabloggers to check out Friday Funny posts. I came across Jennie's blog They Came To Montana. She has posted some very amusing photos on her blog.

They struck me not only because I love photography, but they are just so unusual. Not often do we see "old timey" photos of people acting silly let alone even smiling! They capture great personality. I hope she posts more of these photos in the future. I enjoyed them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Centralizing and Organizing Your Correspondence

It can be a challenge to keep track of all requests I send out, for various records and information. To help with this I keep a correspondence log in a binder. It's red, to help it stand out from all the other binders on the shelf. Inside I keep correspondence sheets for each surname I'm researching, filed alphabetically. These sheets are not so different than others that can be found online or in genealogy books. However, I did create my own to include a couple of items that were important to me.

For example, I have a space to put the check number or notation for money order. This way, I can track if the check has been cleared and/or form of payment. I also have a space for notes if the request is returned asking for more or other information. Once I receive the requested record, I not only write down the date received, I put a check in front of the row. Why do this? Well, some of the records I request can take weeks if not months to arrive. I have a busy life (like most people), with two kids and their schedules, a husband's schedule, and a house with its own schedule, I have trouble remembering everything. I found myself one time wondering if I sent for a particular record or only imagined sending for it . So I finally created my correspondence binder. It's come in very handy.

I want to make an addition to the binder too. So many websites require a username and password now. They all have different rules to follow making it impossible to use the same username and password, which is probably a security risk anyway. The sites I use often are not a problem to remember, the others need to be written down and kept altogether in the same place. I figured the correspondence binder would be the perfect place.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Ups and Downs Of Ordering Vital Records

I've started to focus on a different branch of my family recently, and have been ordering a bunch of vital records. The records have been as varied as the states they have been ordered from. It seems my people moved around a lot.

So I've been reflecting a lot on the rules for ordering from different states. There are certain states that are impossible, others semi-difficult, a few that are expensive, some that make the process simple but you wait awhile for the outcome, and still others that make it all seem effortless. Honestly, it makes my hair hurt and reach for the chocolate.

The state I've been tangling with recently is Colorado. They want a photo i.d. (not unusual) with the application, along with $17.00 (not too bad), and proof of relationship. The last requirement can make it tricky, especially if you are ordering death certificates for a gg grandfather and a ggg grandmother. Now I understand the public's fear of identity theft, but these are death certificates.... for people who have been dead a long time. So short of sending in a DAR-like lineage application, I sent in the application just stating my relationship. Then I waited to see what would happen. It got sent back (I wasn't surprised) saying that a "family tree would suffice." Really? I think this is strange. Also, what's the point? Couldn't somebody just make up anything? Well my response was to shrug, hit print for the pedigree chart in my lineage software, and send it all back. I'm waiting for the results.

In my personal opinion, I think California has a fairly decent system. When ordering a vital record, you can either order a "certified copy" or an "informational copy." For the certified copy it has to be notarized and you have to provide a little extra information. The informational copy doesn't require much other than your relationship to the person. Each record has the same information, however the informational copy has a huge red stamp across it saying "Informational copy." I'm fine with the big red stamp. I can still read the record and it doesn't interfere with what it contains. The waiting time for records can be long with California being anywhere from 6-10 weeks.

So Colorado and California, I'm waiting......with a large bowl of leftover Halloween candy (sigh).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

National Blog Posting Month-Alrighty Then!

Okay, so the big theme today I've been reading about in various blogs, is that November is National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo. The idea is to post a blog every day in November. It sounds like a daunting task and I'm a little hesitant to commit. Then again the worst that could happen is that I miss a day or two and I don't think the blogging police will come and get me if that happens.

So I'm jumping in. There are plenty of prompts to be had from Geneabloggers and from BlogHer if I draw a blank (which is sure to happen). I was inspired by Michelle at The Turning of Generations and Valerie at Begin With Craft. Sometimes knowing there are others sweating along with you makes it a little easier. Anybody else with me??