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Archive for July, 2009

As I did further research on my BLAZER line this past weekend, I went to Find a Grave to check out any new submissions that might help. There weren’t any recent postings so I decided to submit a photo request for the grave of Malissa Goul Blazer, my maternal g-g-grandmother. On the request form, I also asked for pictures of other BLAZER or GOUL graves located close to her’s.

Imagine my surprise when I received a notice that someone had accepted the photo request and had already taken pictures of the graves!  Not only did this wonderful Find a Grave volunteer post Malissa’s – but also other Goul and Blazer stones.  She also found Malissa’s husband’s stone – Franklin Blazer – my g-g-grandfather!  I was very thrilled to actually be able to see that on Franklin’s stone, the inscription listed him of a child of J & M Blazer (John and Mary).  That is what I had discovered but it was great to have further confirmation of that!

A day or two passes when I received an email from the kind woman who had posted the photos.  She had gone to the library to see if she could find more information about Franklin for me.  Unfortunately, she didn’t find any but she did find some articles on the deaths of two of his family members.  She is mailing them to me so I am very excited. 

Have you performed a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness lately? Or at all?  How many people have offered to help you?  Have you sent an email or posted a message thanking those who have helped you? 

And to all those who have helped me – if I haven’t said it lately – thank you very much!

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I had intended to write a series of posts on Wading Into the Unknown (Death, Dying and the Legal System) – however, I’m changing my focus a little bit. Much of what I had thought about writing was too personal.  Therefore, I’ll dispense with that and give some things that I’ve learned as I dealt with my mother’s health crisis, death and all that stuff that comes afterwards.

  1. Make sure your loved one (parent, in-laws, grandparents, spouse) has a LEGAL will.  Not a form book they have filled out.  Not something they’ve written.  Not something they’ve videotaped.  They need to see an attorney and have one drawn up!  And if you haven’t done this yet – let your fingers do the walking TODAY!
  2. Do NOT under any circumstances make the beneficiaries of your life insurance policies – your estate!  This complicates things like you would not believe!  Make sure your loved one has listed their spouse, surviving children or grandchildren, just SOMEONE!
  3. And if you really want to make sure your loved one’s estate (or your’s) stays out of probate – make sure all property (real estate, property, cars, etc.) is Transferred On Death.  Bank accounts should be Paid On Death.  If not – the whole world can find out how much you (or your loved one) was worth at death.  Probate records are open to the public.
  4. Have your loved one make a list of items in their home along with who they are to go to.  Do not under any circumstances write something like “if they don’t want it, sell it.”  (If you do #1 this will not happen – however, if you don’t want Brother A to get the antique toy truck and you want it to go to your grandson – you better put it in writing.)
  5. And for this – I’m talking directly to you – start cleaning out all that “stuff” you’ve been keeping.  Do you use it?  Have you used it recently (like the last 6 months – 1 year)?  Does it still have a use?  Does anyone want it?  Each time something comes in – something must go out.
  6. Keep items that go together – together!  It is very frustrating to clean out one room and either trash an object or send to charity only to find several days later in another room a part that went with Object #1! 
  7. If you do #1 – have an attorney draw up a legal will – make sure that you (or your loved one) makes it clear who the executor (or executrix – if it’s a woman) is and that they do not have to post a bond.
  8. Review and update your will as situations change – you sell your home, you add or subtract insurance policies, etc.
  9. Keep ALL important documents – insurance policy numbers, safe deposit box information, bank account information in a safe location – at least all in one location – along with where the actual policies are. Do not put one thing here, the other in a another closet, etc.  Make it very clear if a policy is still in force or if that annuity is still active.
  10. Ask – or write down – final wishes.  Just because you’ve mentioned it (or heard it from loved ones) in passing, doesn’t mean it will be remembered or executed.  Where exactly will the final resting place be? 

Yes, these are difficult things to do or talk about.  Some people are afraid if they bring it up to their parents, it will appear as if they are greedy or fishing for how much money or possessions they will receive.  Alleviate that concern by letting your loved one know that you don’t need to know that information – just that it’s done.  Explain the ramifications if these items above aren’t taken care of.

  1. The estate will go to Probate
  2. The person who they expect to execute the estate probably will not be appointed unless they happen to live right there. (Some states will not allow an out-of-state resident to execute the estate).
  3. All tangible and intangible possessions and property will be appraised and sold in order to pay off debts, the attorney, the administrator, and then dispersed to the family – the way the law of the state requires.
  4. Arguments can ensue over who should get the china, the linens, the silver, or even that dusty old statue that has sat on top of the buffet forever.

I hope some of these suggestions have helped – or at least begin a conversation.

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The marker for my maternal grandparents – Glen and Vesta Johnson.  They are at rest at Glen Haven Memorial Gardens, New Carlisle, Clark County, Ohio.  I took this picture on May 13, 2009 after my mother’s graveside service.  It had rained on and off that morning – so the dark spots on the marker is rainwater.  The inscription reads:

   Vesta C.                                              Glen R.
1898-1984                                       1898-1985

                      Together Forever

                             JOHNSON

The symbols are for Eastern Star and the Masons.

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They are buried in the Veterans area.

At the edges of the family plot are markers with the initial “J”.

Next to my grandparents is their baby daughter, Lois Evelyn, who died at 6 weeks of age – due to being premature and not being able to gain weight.

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Also buried in the family plot are my mother’s brother and his wife.  The picture below is of my grandparents’ marker after I put flowers in their vase.

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Rest in peace, my family.

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maureen_newJust hearing her name causes some in the genealogy, photography and history circles to say “oooh!”  Maureen Taylor, aka the Photo Detective, has appeared on The Today Show and RootsTV. She’s a photo curator and an expert in photo preservation and identification.

How many of us “regular” folks have come across a photographic mystery while exploring attics, basements, and other areas our family has kept photos?

While I was in Ohio, I came across a group of photographs that can only be described as big.  These are remarkable enlargements for the time.  One is poster size and is a photo of my grandfather and his family.  I’m interested to find out if this enlargement was made in more recent history as my grandfather looked to be about 10 – making the date of the photo about 1908.  Included in this stack were photos that actually looked more like charcoal drawings.  Are these really originals or photos of drawings?  They are on thick stock.

Needless to say, these photographs are much too large for me to scan. I will have to actually take a digital photo of them in order to post them.  For the age of these pictures – they are in pretty good shape. 

I’d love to pull out these pictures and see Maureen’s expression.  Would she be as excited as I was to see them?  What type of storage should I place these precious heirlooms in so that they will survive?  What can she tell me about the history of these enlargements?

I guess for now I’ll have to keep reading the Photo Detective Blog, her articles in genealogy magazines, her books, and wondering if someday I’ll be as lucky as some of my geneablogger friends who actually got to meet and talk with her at the Southern California Jamboree!

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I’m taking a break from writing – or thinking – about the series of articles I want to post concerning Death, Dying and Wading into the Legal System. There are other things to write about for the time being.

New Geneablogger stuff – I guess I’m a little behind the times (please read: too busy dealing with personal issues) to realize that Thomas MacEntee of Destination: Austin Family (and other great blogs) fame, has been hard at work on the GeneaBloggers blog/website. There’s a wealth of great information and a list of ALL of the Geneabloggers! It’s been around for several months so if you’ve been a little busy or preoccupied (like me!) – go check it out and bookmark it! I think it’s great that each week, new geneablogs are mentioned.

There’s also a new Social Networking site “just for genealogists” – GenealogyWise. Several of the geneabloggers have hopped on the new bandwagon in town – so far not many have abandoned Facebook. Are you on GenealogyWise? I haven’t signed up yet. For the time being, I have way too much on my plate to try to keep up with another network! Perhaps sometime in the future.

Another item I wanted to mention was the recent SoCal Jamboree that was attended by many of the geneabloggers – especially those who live in the Southern California region.  To read more about this event (sounds like it was quite a party!) – head over to Southern California Genealogical Society 40th Annual Jamboree. Then check other geneabloggers postings to read about all the good stuff they learned, the new friends they made, how they met their “idol”, and see all the great photos! I’ve enjoyed the Jamboree vicariously – since I’m not in Southern California and not able to participate in person!

Elyse Doerflinger has pondered why Genealogy Societies Need to Look Torward the Future over at Elyse’s Genealogy Blog. Wonderful content and she’s received tons of comments! Have I mentioned that Elyse is one of our “younger” sisters in the geneablogger world? She has an excellent perspective on so many issues!

Don’t forget to participate in several of the upcoming Carnivals and prompts! If you have writer’s block – or just keep bumping into that genealogical brick wall and need a break – these are wonderful ways to get inspired.

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Over the last several months, I’ve found myself in a similar position as that of my ancestors prior to me.  The reality that a loved one’s life will be ending.  Of course we all know that death will be the final outcome for all of us and for all of those we love, and when it is an expected death, we generally have the knowledge we can say our good-byes and have one last visit.  The expectation is still very difficult to face as we begin to second guess the doctors’ treatments, the guilt of not being there more often, or for not having more control over everything.

Guilt usually plays a larger part than we like to think it does.  Should I have called more?  Should I have tried to visit more often?  Should I have made sure all the final arrangements were made?  Should I have made sure all the legalities were addressed?  How long do the questions continue?  For what length of time should I dwell on the negative?

Not wanting to seem unfeeling or cold or that it didn’t matter, I had to put the guilt aside almost immediately after my mother’s death.  I chose to live 900 miles away.  I did call every day.  I couldn’t have taken a more active role in her health care unless I had lived closer.  Now, the legal stuff – well that’s another question altogether.

Thanks to my sister (especially), my mother was able to die at home – just where she wanted to be.  She did not linger on for days and days – something she truly did not want.  She had her family at her side – obviously what she wanted.  And she wasn’t in any pain and was very peaceful – something she had hoped.

Knowing death is imminent and being there when it happens, is two very different things.  However, we were able to rejoice that she was no longer suffering; no longer fighting to hang on to life where the quality had decreased; no longer frightened of death.  As Christians, we know she is with our Lord and Savior, and is now one of our many Guardian Angels who has gone on before us.

I have extended my sympathies to others who have lost a parent.  I have dealt with the loss of a sibling.  Yet, until the loss of a parent happens to you, there is no amount of empathy you can have – because you have not felt that pain or loss.  It has been almost two months since my mother passed away.  I miss talking to her each day.  I want to tell her about my daughter’s new home, the heat we are experiencing, or how ridiculous I’m discovering the legal system can be – but I can’t do that in person anymore.  I really am okay – even though some have told me that I’m not okay.  I know where Mom has gone, and I know she is with me each day.  I know she’s in a much better place.  Will I miss her for the rest of my life?  Of course I will.  But being okay is what she would have wanted for her family.

I owe my mother thanks for the courage I have found in the face of her death.  Due to the strength she had modeled for me amidst the storms life had thrown at her over her lifetime, I found my own strength to prepare for and move forward at the time of this crisis.

Coming: The Journey (Part 2)

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