Thursday, March 29, 2012

The 1940 Census and YOU

The release of the 1940 census on Monday, April 2 is exciting. Why? For me, I'll be able to see 3 of my 4 grandparents on a census record for the first time. This is pretty cool. The census record will give me a really good snapshot of those families, where they were living, who else was living with them, occupations, ages, etc.

The reality check of course is that one of my grandparents passed away a few years ago. Mary Lou (Brumbaugh) Gunter Kiphart was born 21 April 1931. So seeing her name will be a little sad. I'm not exactly sure where she was living by 1940. In 1930 her parents were living in Ohio, where she was born a year later, and they eventually moved to California. So once the census is fully indexed I'll be able to find out. Which means I'll have to wait a while.

If you are interested in participating as a volunteer to index the 1940 census, then go here. The more people who index the faster it will get completed, which means the faster we can all see our relatives/ancestors. Even if you get only one or two pages done, it's one or two pages that somebody else will not have to do.

So, who are you excited to see in the 1940 census?

Friday, March 23, 2012

1940 Census- Why Volunteer for Indexing?

It is just 10 days until the 1940 census is released. Genealogists everywhere are chomping at the bit. Really. I've seen all sorts of blog posts from bloggers who have figured out where their ancestors were living at that time, and have even gone so far as to figure out the enumeration district (ED) so they can get right to it. Why do they have to figure out the ED and not just type in their ancestors name? Well, although the 1940 census will be released on April 2nd, it will not be indexed.

What does indexing mean? It means that volunteers, like myself or hopefully you, go line by line through thousands of census pages typing out the names and other required information. Thus creating a searchable index by name, to find your ancestor. This of course will take time, months in fact. So if you are like me, whose ancestors couldn't seem to stay put, you will have to wait until some fabulous volunteer gets to the page with your family on it, indexes it, and it goes online. That is why you should volunteer. Each page you index means one less page for somebody else to do, and the quicker the information is available for all! How do you sign up? Simply go to the official 1940 U.S. Census Project page, follow the directions to download software, set up an account, and you are ready to index! It is very easy to do. This is also a great way to give back to your community at large, plus it will just give you a nice sense of warm fuzzies on the inside.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Follow Friday- Elyse's Genealogy Blog

I've been in a genealogy slump the past --- well more than I'd like to say. I'm not really sure why. Partly I've gotten a little frustrated with my ancestors. Their dodge and evade tactics have gotten to me. Personally I think they are all in cahoots together. Seriously. I know it sounds a little weird. However, I can't help but think of "The Muppets" and the old guys who sat up in the balcony yelling out their one liners. Except it's my ancestors trying to one up each other. You know something along the lines like, "I've got a doozy for her! I was never in the same location for any given census year in my lifetime!" or "That's nothing! In my part of the tree my dad and his brothers used the same naming pattern for all of their children. And then their children used it too. She's going to have a time sorting all that out!" Har har har!!! You get the idea. Then I have the Italians on my husbands side, who can't seem to figure out what name they want to use or how they want to spell it. Sometimes it just gets to you, and then you spiral into a slump. It turns out I'm not alone.

Apparently Elyse Doerflinger has been going through a slump too. On her blog, Elyse's Genealogy Blog, she talks about her two month slump and being stuck in "blah-land." I know the feeling and I fully empathize. Elyse goes on to suggest inspiration to dig your way out of a slump and she has some really good suggestions. We both get inspired by Who Do You Think You Are? and I'm sure joining the list this weekend will be Finding Your Roots.

So if you are in a slump you should check out Elyse's blog, maybe it will un-slump you. Even if you aren't in a slump, check it out for future inspiration. It's helped push me out of Slumpville.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gravestones-Fact, Fiction, or Somewhere In Between?

A couple months ago when my mom was visiting with her father and aunt they took a trip to the cemetery. Specifically, it is the cemetery where my grandfather and his sister plan on being buried. Her husband is already buried there, so there is a space next to him for her when the time comes.

Anyway, the purpose of the trip was not to search out relatives, but for my grandfather to check on his grave sight. He wants to make sure all of the information is correct and placed as it should be. You see, he already has his name engraved with his birth date and a photo placed.

So while my grandfather was checking on all of this, his sister (my mom's aunt) was walking around looking at all of the graves of people she knew. While Auntie was doing this apparently she was making comments such as, "This person's name is spelled wrong.", "That date isn't right.", "This information is wrong.", and finally "Why don't people make sure their information is recorded right before they die?" Like her brother, my grandfather, was doing at that very moment.

All of this got me thinking about the various discussions I've participated in about gravestones being primary or secondary information. This has led me to the brilliant conclusion of... wait for it.... it depends. Most of the time we do not know who put the information on the gravestone, so it has to be considered secondary information. However, in my grandfather's case, aside from an end date, the information is primary. He has made sure his name is spelled correctly, his birthdate is correct, and his photo is place on his sight. How many other people have done this I wonder? Occasionally I see grave sights set up this way, but not many.

I thought about this situation further and realized that descendants a 100 years from now will not know he went to these lengths. I of course am aware of it, and eventually my children will be (cause I'll tell them) but will they remember? Will my children tell their children, etc.? In a 100 years will this information still be considered primary? Probably not. Unless the future generations stumble across this blog, or I write about it in a family history.

Yet another reason to record your family history and your own stories/experiences. Or else some day, somebody you once knew, will look at your gravestone and say, "That's not right!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Italians

So I've been doing a little work here and there on my husband's Italian side of the family. A while back I posted about the feisty Italian grandma which you can read about here. There is a lot of confusion over the spelling of the surname DeCiutiis. Apparently when James DeCiutiis came to this country from Italy he changed the spelling of his last name. This in itself is really not that unusual. The problem is that the family isn't really sure what the name was before he changed it. This makes searching immigration records a challenge.

Then my mother-in-law (MIL) found out from her mother that the gravestone where he is buried in  Newburgh, New York has the correct spelling. Great! This was exciting news. As it happens my husband was making a trip to New York and would visit with some relatives who would show him  Calvary Cemetery. They told my husband and MIL that James is buried in the Rocco plot along with James' mother Rose, and his sister Lucy who married Giacomo Rocco. This was getting better and better! I was about to hit pay dirt with all sorts of information.

Before my husband went to the cemetery I gave him all sorts of instructions about what to photograph.

  1. Make sure to photograph the entrance.
  2. Get lots of photos of the gravestones.
  3. Get photos of the surrounding gravestones.... they might be related.
  4. If a name seems familiar.... take a photo of the gravestone.
  5. If a name doesn't seem familiar but looks like there is somehow a connection.... take a photo of the gravestone.
  6. When in doubt... take a photo.
With this list in hand he was ready, and I was confident in his abilities. After all, he has been to cemeteries with me before so he knows the drill. So the day comes to go to the cemetery, of course it is bitterly cold in New York with the threat of snow later in the day. Classic. The entire time he is there I'm checking my phone constantly for updates, photos, anything. I get more anxious. My fingers are ready to start flying over my keyboard in search of these elusive Italians. Finally, I get an email with photos and here is what I got:

This is the Rocca plot. Notice the surname for Giacomo is not Rocco but Rocca. There are five people buried in this plot. The only one with an individual headstone is:

Are you kidding me!!???!! Where is James? Where is Rose? Where is Lucy? Where is MIL's baby sister? ARGH! I feel like Charlie Brown in The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. So not only was the oral telling of Giacomo's last name incorrect, but the belief that the correct spelling of James' surname supposedly located on the gravestone was incorrect too. At this point my hair hurts.

The silver lining..... my husband got in touch with the cemetery office, and a couple days later they faxed him the information they have on file. It includes James' last name spelled..... DeCuitus. He died about 6 July 1953. I now have a lead and my fingers are flying over the keyboard.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Music Monday- The Monkees and The Banana Splits

Many people have memories associated with music. A song you heard on your first date, music that your grandparents always played, a song that made you smile, or one that made you cry. Music Monday, is a time to share those memories.

Two of my favorite shows when I was a kid were The Monkees....

and The Banana Splits.

These two shows came on after school and on Saturday mornings. The Monkees often made an appearance on The Banana Splits. It was great! (My husband says this explains a lot.)

During second grade one of my best buddies was a boy named Scott. We would race into school the day after The Monkees appeared on The Banana Splits show and discuss in detail the episode. At one point during the school year I was out sick for a couple weeks, and Scott sent me a card with a drawing of The Monkees with all of their instruments. It was a prized possession for a very long time. I moved at the end of second grade and never saw Scott again. I don't even know what his last name was. In second grade you just aren't very concerned about those things.

I was sad to hear of Davy Jones passing. However, it made me think of my antics with Scott in second grade and smile. All these years later I wonder if he remembers them too.

RIP Davy Jones.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Psychology of Our Ancestors

As a genealogist it is not our job to judge, but rather to remain impartial. Like a reporter. Our ancestors lived in a different time, and usually a different place. Each time period had its own code of conduct, social expectations, and laws. Having said that, sometimes as you are studying a document on your computer it's hard not shout out at the screen, "What were you thinking!??!" In fact if you watched Friday night's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? Reba McEntire, went through that emotion a couple times.

Recently, I was at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) researching my four times great grandfather, James Churchwell Luttrell, who was from Knox County, Tennessee. I was on a limited time frame so I really needed to stay on task and not get tempted by other nuggets of information. Hard to do. When searching through the deed index, I couldn't help but notice deeds listed involving William Luttrell, my five times great grandfather. Many of them were land deeds but the ones that caught my eye were deeds for slaves. It's a sobering dose of reality. I didn't have time to look at these deeds, but plan to on my next research trip to TSLA.

It's hard not to judge William Luttrell. He was born in Virginia in 1760 and died in Knox County, Tennessee in 1813. During this time slavery was an accepted practice. Without having studied in depth his slave owning practices, I can say that on the surface, William was living within the social parameters.  However, I can't help but wonder if he really thought it was okay to own a person, and then treat them like the rest of the farm inventory. I have trouble wrapping my head around it.

As you research you may discover things about your ancestors that do not make you proud, or that you just don't understand. However, there are some things that your ancestors may have done that can't be held up to today's standards (aside from murder.... I don't think that was ever okay). So try not to judge them, instead try to understand their time period and psychological mindset. It will fill out their story and give you a better snapshot of the world they lived in.

Friday, March 2, 2012

How's 2012 So Far?

Busy. I thought once the holidays were over, I could catch up and things would calm down. Boy, was I wrong. It's March and I don't know where the time has gone. I'm still trying to dig myself out of the backlog of emails accumulated over the holidays.

On the upside, I've completed some client work that required quite a bit of digging. I've also worked on and completed a huge assignment for my ProGen group. March is the last month for this group, with one last assignment. ProGen is a 19 month program and I'm pretty thrilled to be in the home stretch. This program has been a wonderful experience and very beneficial. 

My own research has kept me busy when I have time for it. Well, technically... it was research done on my husband's side of the family. He made a trip up to New York and we made some interesting discoveries. This of course leads me to blogging. I plan on blogging about that adventure and a few others. I'm hoping that I'll find a little more time... somewhere.