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When a Wall is Built

When I began this quest to delve into family history, especially by creating a genealogical website and writing a blog, I knew that there would be three types of people that I’d run into.  The “We Are Related!” people are those cousins – distant and close – who want to know what has been found and will share stories and pictures and be open. The “Why Bother?” people are those who do not understand what all the fascination is about dead ancestors or relatives that you’ve never met.  Cemeteries bother them. Skeletons in the closet are NOT to be dug out. And don’t ask them any questions because they don’t remember – but (and this is a big but!) – they will respond to here and now topics – just not ones that have anything to do with genealogy.  Then there are the “Not Talking To Anyone on THAT Side of the Family” because of real or imagined slights. And yes, this is real – this is current and this happened to me a few days ago. And since I am not one to shy away from controversial family skeletons or issues – although I will keep that person’s anonymity because of their children/grandchildren – who hopefully have nothing to do with their parent’s unbalanced nature!

My father comes from a large family – he is the youngest of seven. As is usual, coming at the end of the children meant that at least one or more of the siblings were already adults. Even though there was eighteen years difference between him and his oldest sibling, they grew close as adults – though the older one did seem to treat him as a “child” – probably because Sibling A took care of him quite a bit when he was an infant. Sibling A married, had children, and stayed somewhat close to their hometown. My dad joined the military, moved away, married, had children, visited often, moved out of the country, moved back to the home state (yet still far from the hometown), attended reunions, stayed closely connected to all the siblings, retired from the military and then had a child at middle age (that child being me!)

So as a child born when my father was 40, and he being the youngest of seven, most of my first cousins on the paternal side were much older – some were already married and Sibling A’s daughter – my oldest first cousin – was even a grandmother by the time I was a few years old. So not only were our ages a couple of generations apart but our interests were different, the times we lived through were different, and we lived a good distance apart. I saw this woman – whom I will call Cousin A – at least twice a year – sometimes three times.  I never really had an opinion of her – she was just another adult who told me what to do, how to behave, and to play nice.

Several years down the road, my parents divorced. I didn’t see Cousin A after that due to circumstances that I had nothing to do with. I would hear about Sibling A and Cousin A from my dad but nothing earth shattering.

My dad remarried and after fifteen years plus, his wife passed away.  About that time, he’d returned to where he had grown up to visit his few remaining siblings still in that area. Apparently, Cousin A was in the process of building a wall – brick by brick – between her parent – Sibling A and every one of the other Siblings – including my dad. Apparently, there was a lack of communication between my father and his sibling and the next thing anyone knew Cousin A was spreading gossip and rumors that my Dad treated Sibling A horribly. What?! So Dad decided that he was done – done trying to correct the wrong. He stopped speaking to his eldest sibling. Consequently, Sibling A with the help of Cousin A began to build a wall, too. Cousin’s A’s brother wasn’t even allowed to speak to his own mother! My dad’s sister, my Aunt Marie (who I’ve written about and spoken so fondly of), tried time and time again to reach out to Sibling A and even Cousin A but was treated horribly.

When Sibling A passed away in 2003, the obituary didn’t even list my dad or the other siblings still living. It was as if there weren’t anyone on that side of the family – that they were all “dead”. I guarantee that Cousin A’s brother wasn’t allowed to write that obituary because at the end Sibling A told the son, that there were many regrets – especially about cutting my dad out.

In the interim – since 1999 – I’ve mailed letters to other cousins on that side of the family and now enjoy wonderful relationships with first cousins. However, Cousin A has never written me back nor acknowledged my condolences when my dad’s sibling died. So a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Cousin A’s cousin on the other side (no relation to me). I explained about the falling out and how I hadn’t had any contact with that person. So the very nice gal said she would contact Cousin A for me – and she did.

Imagine my surprise on Monday when I arrived home from work to find a letter from Cousin A!  And guess what that letter basically said?  That our side of the family never treated Sibling A right so therefore Cousin A wanted no contact.

And guess what else? I am just as stubborn as Cousin A so I will be sending a follow up letter because for one thing – I always treated Sibling A correctly and another – life is too short for grudges. I really want to build a bridge and tear down that wall!

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There are some blogs and geneabloggers that I want to introduce to you. They aren’t new to me as I’ve been reading their columns for quite some time; however, I want to put them in the spotlight this week.

Marian Pierre-Louis

Marian is the author of several blogs: Marian’s Roots and Rambles, The Symbolic Past, and The New England House Historian. According to her “About Me” page: she “is a full-time House Historian and Professional Genealogist who focuses on New England research.” Marian “specializes in probate, deeds, New England town records and brick wall research.” She is the “Publicity Chairperson for the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) and is actively involved with the New England chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists. Her Roots & Rambles blog was nominated to the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Top 40 Genealogy blogs contest.” Recently, she posted a question to others on her Facebook page that asked how others manage to attend genealogy conferences all of the time. Some 70 responses later – and after many requested that she blog about that subject – Marian did just that. How Do Y’all Manage to Go to Conferences All the Time? is the article she wrote. I suggest you head over there to read it and the comments she received. Perhaps you have your own suggestion. Marian’s twitter is @marianpl.

Carolyn Pointer

Carolyn is the author of Your Family Story. She writes her family’s stories and says, “I like to listen and write their stories down. Sometimes their stories are sad. Sometimes they’re happy. And sometimes they’re downright naughty [if I'm lucky].” Earlier this week (ok, yesterday!), Carolyn wrote A Baby Boy!. She was looking for someone and ended up receiving information about a baby she hadn’t known about.  She gives some links to helpful sites that she used to figure out what the Latin records meant. Carolyn also authors Pearl’s Day Books. Her twitter is @FamilyStories.

Jenna Mills

Jenna is the woman behind Desperately Seeking Surnames. She says that losing both of her parents in 2001 prompted her to start searching for her ancestors. Jenna says that, “While going through their belongings the questions started to pile up, who was this? who was that? etc. Ultimately, I decided I would try to get the answers to the question and find our ancestors. I have been working my way back in time ever since.” One thing I like about this blog is the banner for her title – it looks like she scrapbooked it!  Her Independence Day post is beautiful! You can find it at Happy Independence Day America. Jenna’s presence on twitter is @SeekingSurnames.

Lisa Alzo

Lisa is well known throughout the geneablogger world (as well as those who read genealogy publications and books)!  She speaks at conferences and has published many articles as well as several books. You can find out everything you want to know about Lisa at Lisa Alzo. Her genealogy blog is The Accidental Genealogist. Recently, Lisa’s written articles concerning her return trip to Slovakia: Sojourn in Slovakia: The Sequel; Sojourn in Slovakia: The Sequel. Preparing for the Trip; Sojourn in Slovakia: The Sequel. Departure Day; Sojourn in Slovakia: The Sequel. Day 1. Stay tuned – I’m sure Lisa has future articles that she will post concerning her trip. You can find her on twitter at @lisaalzo.

 

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ImageDo you recognize the image above? If the answer is yes, then you know I’m going to talk about Twitter. If you don’t know what the bird represents, what a “tweet” is, or shudder when you hear people talk about “Twitter,” “Facebook,” or Social Media, then please stick around and keep reading. Perhaps I can alleviate your concerns!

The first thing everyone should know is that no matter how strict you set your privacy settings, you should act as if the whole world is reading. If you don’t want your parents, children, co-workers, spouse, boss, friends, or the world knowing your deepest, darkest secret (that you would otherwise post for “strangers” to read) – then just don’t post it. Things have a way of getting back to the people you are trying to hide something from (and yes, I just realized I ended a sentence with a preposition!) Second, if you don’t want someone judging you due to your political, religious, ethical, or moral opinions – then what are you doing posting them? I guarantee that not everyone on your friends list has the same opinion/belief that you do – even if you think they do – they just hide it better! Third, due to all the changes that social media makes day in and day out, you will at one time encounter urban legends (ten gazillion likes will NOT help that poor child get a new heart/liver/kidney and unfortunately the child has probably died in the few years since the posting has been making the rounds); your closest friend may have clicked “like” on something (Facebook) and it has shown up on your newsfeed – unfortunately whatever they “liked” has offended you in some way – do not, I repeat Do Not believe that your closest friend has done this intentionally. Sure, they could have remembered rule #1 (see above) but things happen. Just either click the little x so you don’t see similar things in your newsfeed, or just keep scrolling, or even contact your friend in person and explain that you were offended before you jump down their throat and decide that there is no way in the world they can ever be your friend again (what are you – 8 years old in elementary school?)

Now that we got that out of the way – there are those who post on Facebook all of the time but Twitter freaks them out. I guess it’s the 140 or less thing – whatever you “tweet” on Twitter, it must be 140 characters or less. Trust me – it can be done!  You may have to learn some “texting” or “tweeting” language, but it will become comfortable after awhile. I’ve been on twitter for awhile, tweeted sporadically up until about a month ago, and now I have made 180 tweets and have 33 followers – some are my friends/family and most are via geneablogging. Why, yes, I will probably tweet about this post when I’m done!

So how exactly does social media further genealogy research? Besides the networking angle, it can provide tips and tricks on better research strategies or even connecting distant cousins.  Recently, the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree held in Burbank. The fact that I am not a member nor do I live anywhere in the vicinity of Burbank did not deter me from eavesdropping on the event. Unfortunately I didn’t participate in any webinars, but I did keep up via Twitter.  Below I’ve listed my favorite tweets (mainly because, these are hints that will help me!)

Tweets (or retweets) from Missy Corley:

  • Schedule time every 6 mos or so to organize your bookmarks.
  • When you’re stuck, re-examine the records you already have.
  • Unsubscribe from the email lists and newsletters you don’t read.
  • The CountyCheck feature in RMS is great!

Tweets (or retweets) from Amy Coffin:

  • Some free map sites: NYPL, David Rumsey, LOC, Perry Castaneda at UTexas
  • Don’t forget Cyndi’s List map page.
  • Arons is now playing with HistoryPin.com, and so should you.
  • Hovorka: new genealogists need seasoned genealogists too, for guidance, where to find info.
  • Hovorka is saying the same thing Witcher did at RootsTech 11 about getting them in the door, not cramming citations down them.
  • Hovorka: we need tools that foster mentoring and collaboration.
  • Hovorka: scholarizing is a brick wall to reaching new genealogists. #scgs12 Yes, it is. Preach on, sister.
  • Hmmm…mugshots.com, not your typical genealogy records set.
  • If you’re into frugal curating, @familycurator has a book coming out about it in a few months.

Tweets from Randy Seaver:

  • Thomas talked quite a bit about affiliate programs on geneablogs Made up to $200 in one month
  • Ancestry Insider says to write geneablogs for yourself. Ought to use images in every blog post.
  • Thomas says Wikimedia Commons has copyright free images available for use on blogs.

Tweets (or retweets) from Elyse Doerflinger:

  • Bubble.us is like a giant whiteboard and you can type anything down – get ideas out of your heard @drewsmithpa
  • (Original tweet by Amy Crow) That’s the key: “If I look at your citation, can I get back to the original?” – C Witcher (The comma doesn’t matter!)
  • (Original tweet by Tonia Kendrick) Be committed to ANAYLYZING your data. #Witcher

All of the tweets about Steve Luxenberg’s presentation on “Secrets” by Susan A. Kitchens!

Tweets from Tonia Kendrick:

  • NewsLibrary.com can be used a la carte – no subscription necessary. Contemporary content, not historical. @megansmolenyak
  • Create timelines whenever you can. #Witcher

I kept all spelling/hashtags/capitalization the same however, most of these tweets included the hashtag for the conference which I did not include above.

Social media allows distant cousins – who would never be able to meet any other way – to get to know each other better and share valuable genealogical data and information. It also gives family historians the ability to learn from each other. So use it – but use it with care!

If you would like to read more about the folks above:

Personally, I want to thank all those who tweeted from the Jamboree as well as the presenters and the sponsor!

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GEARING UP TO INDEX AND SEARCH THE 1940S CENSUS!

Are you ready for Monday, April 2nd? Do you have all of your tools ready? What about your work schedule? Where are you sending the kids?

Wait a minute – you don’t know what happens on Monday? You must have just returned from another planet or out from under a rock!  It’s the release of the 1940s Census!  A whole army of volunteers (but we need MORE!) has registered to index!  Have you? What are you waiting for? Stop reading (but please bookmark this post) and go register at The 1940 Census – Getting Started!

Let’s get the list in order!

What to tell your employer (or employees if you own the business!)

  1. National 1940s day – they must be able to tell you why April 2 is important in order to get off work.
  2. You don’t need an excuse – you requested this day off a very long time ago (about the time the 1930 census was released!)
  3. You will be “out of pocket” all day and unable to be reached.

Tools needed:

  1. Download indexing software (I downloaded mine several weeks ago!)
  2. Viewed the tutorials (I did too!)
  3. Participated in the 1940s Indexing Simulation (I did that the day it was available)
  4. Have indexed other images already (yep – about 1000 names so far!)
  5. Computer (You will want to make sure to clean out your cache/cookies; do a defrag so you’ll get optimum speed)
  6. A gedcom or .paf or some sort of family history program or report in front of you with the names of those you are searching
  7. Steve Morse’s One Step Unified 1940s ED Finder so you can find those Enumeration Districts
  8. Along with the names you are looking for, you also have as much information as possible next to the names: what enumeration district(s) you hope to find them in, a street address in order to find them in the ED; who was possibly in the household.
  9. Water bottles and snacks – because you have to keep up your strength so you can search AND index constantly.
  10. An accurate clock – so you can begin as soon as possible!
  11. A charged phone (or battery laptop!) – just in case there is an emergency and you must be reached or you need to reach someone – especially if you need to call someone (a parent/aunt/uncle/cousin) to ask where they or their parents/grandparents were living in 1940!
  12. Big sign on your front door that requests visitors not knock or ring bell or solicit. Mail or package deliverers are to leave items at your door but not announce themselves.
  13. Several Barney, Caillou, Dinosaur Train, or Sesame Street DVDs to keep the itty bitty ones busy all day.
  14. Several Camp Rock, Hannah Montana, iCarly, Wizards of Waverly, Power Rangers, Victorious, Star Wars, etc. DVDs to keep the not so little ones busy after they get home from school.
  15. Prepared meals in the fridge with step by step instructions on how to heat so no one bothers you.
  16. Ear buds/Ear phones and tons of music so you can listen all day long instead of being distracted by the television, children’s voices, etc.

And don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep the night before so you won’t get worn out on Monday. After all – we have a lot to do!

And most importantly, please INDEX while you are searching!  After all, it’s not every day that history like this happens, and we all should want to be front row center when it does!  You never know where serendipity happens!

PS – I’m supposed to tell you that this post enters me in a contest for prizes – gift cards (and who doesn’t love gift cards!)

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As I sit watching “Finding Your Roots” hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., questions pop out at me. Harry Connick, Jr. wonders why his 3rd great-grandfather, James Connick, enlisted to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War. That led me to wonder why my great-grandfather, James E. House, enlisted as a soldier in the Union Army. Did he disagree with slavery? Was he afraid Ohio and the North would be over run with “those Southerners”? James hadn’t yet married so he didn’t have a wife and a family to support. Perhaps he wanted to help his parents, Florus and Julia.

I realized that I can’t quit asking questions as I research – the answers to those questions enable me to flesh out my ancestors.

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27 Days!

No, it’s not the countdown for Easter.

No, it’s not how many days are left before tax filing is due.

No, it’s the day after Palm Sunday.

Give up?

It’s the amount of days before the 1940 US Census is RELEASED – FREE!!! 

That would be images – not an index.  How do we make sure the index is completed as soon as possible?  We ALL step up and volunteer to index!!!  You can go here. Just fill out the information and voila!  You are registered!  If you have a blog and want to promote the 1940s Census, you can sign up to be a 1940 Blog Ambassador. Just click on the registration link and sign up! 

Image

I did!  And I have this cool looking badge (above) to show that I’m an Ambassador!

“I don’t have time index!” (What you are thinking to yourself, right?) If you have time to search – by Enumeration District – or Browsing through pages and pages of census records, then you do have time to index!!!  Give it a try!  Just index ONE PAGE.  After you do that one page, someone else will also re-index in order for the arbitrators to check for errors and clarity. I guarantee that if you do one page, you’ll realize that it is not that time consuming and you’ll soon find yourself downloading another batch, or two (or more!).  And if you download a batch and realize that there is just no way you can 1) read anything or 2) you don’t have time just then to index or 3) you don’t understand what to do – it’s ok!  There are links you can use to get help – to fill out the index, tips on reading handwriting, or you can save your batch & work on it later, or send it back and ask for another batch. 

If you belong to a genealogy society – recruit the members to help index the 1940 Census.  The more people who start indexing on April 2nd – the faster the complete index will be available!!!

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After FamilySearch began digitizing records, I signed up to index records. Then, I took the tutorials and reviewed the instructions. But I didn’t start indexing. I was afraid that a “batch” of records would take too long for me to do. At the time, I had too much on my plate in my personal life.

Lately, I’ve been on a mission to reclaim some ” fun” during the work, study, & regular “stuff” of family life. About a week ago, I saw the teased on the site about helping index the 1940 census when it’s released on April 2nd.  And that’s how it started.  . .

First, it was just a couple of batches that I did one afternoon. Those Texas death certificates are pretty easy! Then I started dowloading 2-3 batches at a time. Even tried some marriage & birth records – the intermediate ones! And I was having fun & learning a few things. There have been too many infant deaths I’ve run across – from premature births to ancephaly to illness.

I hope I’m contributing as much as those who indexed records I’ve used. I want to give back because I’ve received so much. And I am very excited about the release of the 1940 census. The sooner its indexed, the better for all of us!

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