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Twenty seven years ago today, I was at work when my boss, the owner of the printing company for which I worked, opened the door to the graphics room and told me I had a phone call.  It was early afternoon and I still had an hour or so of work yet. No one usually called me at work.  As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew.  I knew because that was how I had envisioned it happening a week or so before.  It wouldn’t be my mom calling me or anyone else – it would be my brother.  The words he spoke brought forth too many polarizing emotions.  I didn’t have to wonder anymore about when it would happen.  I knew that a life lived had been to the absolute fullest.  I knew that while everyone else in the family would be falling apart, that I would draw on my inner strength and remain strong for them.  This woman we spoke of had been a constant in my life since birth – the only grandmother that I knew.  When it seemed that my life was falling apart throughout different periods, she was my champion. When I was at my absolute lowest and disappointing everyone else, she hugged me and let me know that no matter what she wouldn’t be mad at me and would love me unconditionally.  Walking into my grandparents’ apartment later that evening and seeing my grandfather all dressed up in a suit – for he had been waiting to go see his beloved wife – stabbed my heart.  My mother expressed that my grandmother had really wanted to see her newest great-granddaughter, my baby, just a little over a month old, and had never gotten to.  I broke down in grief.

Within a week the family gathered to remember this matriarch of our family.  We laughed and we cried.  Six of us – grandchildren and great-grandchildren – were pallbearers.  It was such a cold day – the day we carried the casket out of the church into the waiting hearse.  Snow covered the ground.  We traveled to the cemetery and had a final service in the chapel.  It would be several more years before I went to the gravesite.  When I did return, it would be to visit not only my grandmother and my mom’s baby sister, but also my grandfather, who wasn’t able to go on after the love of his life was gone.  He passed away a year less a day after she did.

Like me, my grandmother was a child of divorced parents.  When I was young and going through the rough patches of my parents animosity, she would always comfort me and tell me she knew what I felt.  As a young child, I used to spend weekends with my grandparents.  I was the youngest of their eight grandchildren – by fourteen years – so to say that I was spoiled by them is an understatement!  In my defense, I never asked for them to spoil me and in their defense, during the time the others were young and growing, my grandparents lived in Germany and were always traveling due to my grandfather’s military duty or for pleasure.  They missed a lot of holidays and birthdays with my siblings and cousins.

Vesta Christena Wilt was born on May 7, 1898 in Noblesville, Indiana to Joseph N. Wilt and Martha Jane Stern.  She was the oldest girl and fourth child.  Another daughter and son followed her.  Before she was 12, her parents had divorced.  Her mother married her widowed brother-in-law, Frank Clawson.  The family moved from Noblesville to Anderson, Indiana and on Easter Sunday 1916 she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with.  Vesta dated Glen Roy Johnson for several months and the two got married at Martha and Frank’s house on Christmas Eve 1916.  The following December their first child, a son named after his father, was born. As the years went by the family added their first daughter, Genevieve, and then a second daughter, Mary (my mother), and lastly baby Lois Evelyn who was born prematurely and died just a little over 2 months later.

 

My grandmother knew her own heartache. She was separated from her beloved Glen for quite awhile while he went to training for the Signal Corps and then went overseas to France during WWI.  She had been separated from her mother and two youngest siblings after Martha moved to Oregon before my mother was born.  She lost a baby and then much later watched her oldest daughter suffer from a brain tumor and ultimately succumb to another inoperable one.  She lost the father that she hadn’t seen for so long without having that estranged relationship mended.  As the years wore on, she watched her youngest daughter struggle and grieve for the end of an almost 30 year marriage.  She lost her mother and three brothers.  She sat by her husband’s hospital bedside for months as he recuperated from a blood cot on his brain that he had suffered in a fall.

Then her health began to fail.  She wasn’t a stranger to health issues – having one ailment and surgery or another throughout her adult life.  But after she broke her elbow in the early 1970s, she was never as healthy as she had been.  All too soon she was experiencing a heart attack every three months.  I was very scared about losing her – not only for myself but for what it would do to my mother. After hospital stays and a change in her diet and medication, it seemed she rallied from the heart issues (although they were still there). 

The family would gather for a surprise birthday we had for her at our house.  She was so surprised when she walked in through the garage to the dining room and most of her family.  Then there was the 60th wedding anniversary celebration at their apartment complex.  Long time friends, church friends, military friends, and the family and extended family came to honor them.  We were only missing one of my cousins and her family.

I moved away for awhile and when I returned back to my hometown, I realized just how she had aged – my grandfather too.  I knew that as the years had ticked by, time was winding down for their life among us.  My grandfather had been the one who had several health issues before I had moved away and I guess I had thought that he might be the one to go first.  Then she was hospitalized and then again several weeks later.  That visit was one she wouldn’t return home from.  I learned later that she had told the apartment manager as the EMTs were wheeling her to the ambulance to make sure her husband would be okay.  Did she know she wouldn’t come home? Did she decide that it would be okay to go if it was her time?

My grandmother – Vesta Wilt Johnson – born on May 7, 1898 – died on January 19, 1984.  My grandfather – Glen Roy Johnson – born November 21, 1898 – died on January 18, 1985.  They were the glue of the family.  There are times during holidays and celebrations, the family left an empty chair – in honor of our grandmother.  Our Beloved Nana – the woman whose “grandmother” moniker I have assumed for my own grandchildren – the woman whom I will never live up to as a grandmother – the woman who is always beside me in times of trouble – smiling and cheering me on.

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(Photographed by Gene Amore; digital scan owned by Wendy Littrell)

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Today’s date marks the anniversary of the births of:

  • Silas Hills – 1739
  • Josiah House – 1814 (first cousin, 4 times removed)
  • John  H. Caylor – 1827 (2nd great grand uncle)
  • George K. Blazer – 1862 (first cousin, 4 times removed)
  • Florence Ethel Loveland – 1883 (fourth cousin, 1 time removed)
  • Berney Frank Rivers – 1883
  • Myron Ricker – 1907
  • Lannie O. Rhodes – 1908
  • Roger W. Gerwing – 1928
  • And 6 other people who are still living.

It is the anniversary of the death of 12 individuals:

  • James E. Davis - 1882 (2nd cousin 3 times removed)
  • Henry Goul – 1898 (3rd great grand uncle)
  • Jesse James Stern – 1935 (2nd cousin 3 times removed)
  • John W. Bushong – 1940 (4th cousin 4 times removed)
  • Joseph Napolean Wilt – 1944 (maternal great-grandfather)
  • Harry Martin Blazer – 1957 (2nd cousin 3 times removed)
  • Agnes E. Lynn – 1971
  • Harvey M. Macy – 1972
  • Jenny Elora Stephens – 1975
  • Albert Keeney – 1977 (7th cousin 1 time removed)
  • Mary Helen House – 1994 (first cousin 1 time removed)
  • Mary Arlene Amore – 1996 (2nd cousin)

Seven couples married on this date and one couple is still living.  The others are:

  • Austin Harvey and Anna Bushong, 1818 in Kentucky (wife is 3rd cousin 6 times removed)
  • Jehu Hendren and Elizabeth Combs, 1833 in Wilkes County, North Carolina
  • Earle Kinsey and Mary Shideler, 1835 in Preble County, Ohio (husband is 2nd cousin 5 times removed)
  • David B. Crawford and Elizabeth Ann Davis, 1907 in Logan, Cache County, Utah (wife is 7th cousin 1 time removed)
  • Grover Johnson and Esta Fern Rinker, 1907 in Perkinsville, Madison County, Indiana (husband is 2nd cousin 2 times removed)
  • Wilmer E. Keeney and Mabel Buell, 1914 in Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut (husband is 6th cousin 2 times removed)

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Genea-Santa (otherwise known as my darling husband) brought me the brand new Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum edition software for Christmas.  I was thrilled and excited to use it.  The first order of business was to check my computer’s memory and space against the software requirements. I had enough space but not enough RAM.  After the holidays my husband went to Fry’s and bought more memory.  After installing that (so lucky I have a techie husband and don’t have to pay to have this done), I installed my new FTM software.  And I get 6 months of Ancestry.com! I’ve only used the “free” aspects of this site as the full subscription fee is not in the budget.

Okay – software installed, registered, and now for the task of importing an existing tree.  I have a very large file – since I combined two trees (one for my paternal side and one for my maternal side) into one single family tree.  At one point the downloading progress box showed 57% but wasn’t moving anymore and the Individuals or Family numbers weren’t changing. I waited about 5 minutes and figured it got stuck so I closed it all out and tried again.  I’m not sure if it got hung up because I was watching videos in another window or not.  I thought I’d not do any computer work until my tree imported completely – just in case. 

Finally it was done and opened up with the Home Person – in this case, me!  My first impression with the screen was that it was very different from my previous version of FTM (v. 16).  There were 4 distinct sections: Index of persons on the left, the individual’s pertinent information and marriage information on the right, a 4-generation tree of ancestors of an individual in the top center and their spouse and children information at the bottom center.  Below is a screenshot with my 4th gr-grandmother, Rebecca Risley, as the selected individual. (I blanked out my full name for privacy reasons.)

(Fig. 1)

From there I could double-click on Rebecca (information in center with black box) to get the Individual (Person) view.  This screen had three distinct parts.  At the top was the “Individual and Shared Facts” – listing Personal Information, Individual Facts, and Shared Facts with the spouse.

(Fig. 2)

I can go to the + (Plus) sign on the upper right of the highlighted area to add a new fact.  The only facts that pop up at first are birth, death and marriage.  In order to add a new fact – such as christening, also known as, etc. – I need to click on EDIT > MANAGE FACTS.  A window opens listing all the facts currently available.  If a fact I want is not listed in that window, I click on NEW on the right hand side and fill out the boxes in the new window.

On the right hand side is information about the individual tied to whatever is highlighted under the Individual and Shared Facts with Source and Notes tabs under that. 

(Fig. 3)

In the lower half of the screen is the tab area.  Here is where Notes, Media or Tasks are displayed for the individual.

(Fig. 4)

Back at the Family view (Fig. 1), I could see little leaves on several of the boxes.  This was an indication of a hint found on Ancestry.com.  For Rebecca Risley, it pulled up 9 different hints – 8 of them were for other trees uploaded to Ancestry and one was a vital records index.  The problem I have with this part is that when I click on one of the databases, I have no way of checking facts with my tree because I can’t navigate (or haven’t discovered how to do so) to a spouse or child in my tree and keep the ancestry database open.  Most of the time, I have Ancestry running in another window so I can click back and forth to compare facts, documentation and sources.

One other area of a learning curve for me occurred when I wanted to generate a report – it didn’t matter what type (registry, chart, custom) – was how to do that.  I went to the very top of the screen and clicked on PUBLISH to bring up the types of publications I can generate.  For me, it just seems to take awhile to generate some of these reports or charts. 

(Fig. 5)

I also had to learn how to find specific information.  In my new “On This Day” column, I wanted to highlight individuals in my tree that were born, married, or died on a certain day.  It took awhile, but I realized I could use the “Find Individual” under the Edit menu and then filter it by birth, death or marriage date (and more) and enter the terms I wanted.  Today it will be 08 Jan.  For some reason I kept trying to find someone using the Find and Replace menu – which only finds the search terms in the notes. 

I am still learning this new software but enjoying it immensely although I’m not sure what will happen when my 6 months free trial is over and my Ancestry subscription expires.

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Roma Goul – that is!  I wrote this post on December 8, 2008 about my search for her. She was a cousin of my maternal grandfather. My information about her was very limited – approximate birth year and place, siblings and parents. After the 1910 census, when she was 6 years old, I couldn’t locate her.

Thanks to new records added to the Family Search Labs, I found her in the Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947.  Roma Dell Goul was listed as having died in Chenoa, McLean County, Illinois on December 7, 1938 as the wife of Raymond Herman.  Her residence was listed as Jackson County, Michigan so she must have been in Illinois for some reason – perhaps visiting someone.  Her birthdate is listed as January 15, 1904. 

From that record I searched for Raymond Herman in any of the other databases and found their marriage record in Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925.  They were married on September 4, 1920 in Jackson County, Michigan.  Roma’s birthdate is listed as 1900 and her age as 20, however the 1910 Census and her death record is in disagreement with this.  I believe Roma’s birthdate and age were “fudged” so that she could marry 25 year old Raymond.  She would only have been 16 years old on her wedding day.

I have yet to discover if there were any children born to the couple or why Roma went to Michigan from Ohio.  I do know her older sister, Geraldine, lived in Jackson, Michigan at one time.

I will keep searching for more information on Roma and Raymond!

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Recently our family took our annual vacation to visit relatives in the midwest.  During the trip, I gave my first cousin’s granddaughter a gift for her baby that is due this fall.  When I was thanked for it, it was mentioned that she and I were third cousins.  That’s not exactly true but that is how my family calculates.

Mom was never a fan of the “first cousin removed” type of saying – probably because it was never explained how one can be “removed” as a cousin.  I finally “got it” after seeing a consanguinty chart.  The key to any calculation is the closest ancestor to both.

There are several sites to determine how you are related to someone else.  I like to use the relationship tool in my Family Tree Maker (v. 16) software.  At It’s All Relative, there is an actual chart you can print to take to family reunions and gatherings to show relationships. Another site to check out is Cyndi’s List – Cousins & Kinship.

In order for me to show my relationship with the above mentioned cousin, I have included my chart below.

Despite the “distance” of our relationships within our family as well as the miles between us, I’d like to think that we are “close” – in heart, in common heritage, and in communication.  Thanks to Facebook, we are able to keep in touch weekly or even daily if we choose – and more times than not, we find out interesting tidbits about each other and our families that we might not have even thought to relate in a phone call or a visit.

Have you calculated your consanquinity?

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College classes are done for the semester (maintained a 4.0!! Yay, me!) so hopefully I’ll be able to start posting again on a somewhat regular schedule. So sorry I’ve been silent for too long.  Have also had quite a bit of personal upheaval going on – so that doesn’t bode well for focusing on genealogy, research & writing. 

I’ve recently heard from a new-to-me cousin; related through the Goul line of my family and hopefully she & I can start to compare notes and see if we have any new information between the two of us.

I’m excited by the recent upload on Familysearch Indexing of so many new records.  I’ve already found some marriage records and a baby that I never knew existed.  I’ve looked at the records but haven’t had too much time to absorb what I’ve found.

And as many of you know, I lost my mother a year ago this month.  Her estate is still not settled and now the reverse mortgage company wants to foreclose on her property since the real estate broker and the estate attorney decided to list the property for WAY too much to begin with and in this economy (& the fact that the property is in a depressed area of the country), nothing happened in the way of potential buyers.  So now we are just waiting . . . some more. 

I’ve not had a lot of time either to read most of the genea-blogs I am subscribed to – sorry about that.  I’m not ignoring you – believe me! 

And I’ve been thrilled to hear of the geneabloggers getting together recently in Salt Lake.  Love looking at the pictures.

I watched each episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and my personal favorite was Susan Sarandon’s episode.  Looking forward to the 2nd season.  Are you?

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Been So Busy

I want to apologize to my faithful readers for not posting as often as I have in the past.  I am taking two classes at the local community college – one via online – so between studying, going to class, my part time job, and caring for the home, I’ve been a little too busy to write articles.

However, I’ve been following several of the other genea-blogs and am so excited that genealogy is going “mainstream”!  Some examples:

  • “Faces of America” - the four-part PBS show hosted by Dr. Gates that focused on the ancestry of several celebrities (Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, Stephen Cobert, Queen Noor, etc.)
  • “Who Do You Think You Are?” - the U.S. equivalent to the BBC series.  From Executive Producer, Lisa Kudrow, this series on NBC focuses on one celebrity per episode.  The first took Sarah Jessica Parker on a trek via her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio to California and then to New England and the second episode took Emmett Smith from the Deep South in search of his slave roots and then across the ocean to Africa.  I’m excited by this program and enjoy the “AHA” moments each of them have!
  • “Generations Project” - on BYU Television.  If you don’t have this, you can view the episodes online.  This series follows “normal” people in their quest for their roots.

And all of this comes just in time for the Census to be filled out.  I’ve read so many issues debating this.  People don’t want to give this information out (you think they don’t already know?), that it will be used for the wrong purpose, why is it important, etc.  I, for one, know that some of my ancestors probably didn’t like it either – or I’d have found them by now!  In 72 years the genealogists in your family (your grandkids or great-grandkids or even a great-niece or nephew) will thank you for filling this out and sending it in. 

I hope to be back to posting regularly in the weeks to come so please – don’t go away!

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Volunteer as a noun is defined by Dictionary.com as:

a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking or a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.

Volunteerism is defined by the same source as above as:

the policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, esp. in one’s community.

I pondered how being a volunteer and volunteerism correlated with my family history and genealogy.  I can remember many activities that my mother took part in that would qualify as “volunteer”. 

  1. Girl Scout Leader
  2. Church Council member and President
  3. Church committee member
  4. Parent Teacher Organization member
  5. Substitute Teacher (when it was all volunteer)
  6. Working at school carnivals and community festivals
  7. Helping to coordinate her alumna banquets
  8. Driving elderly friends or church members to church, church functions or back home
  9. Hosting women’s or club functions or bridge parties
  10. Driving her teenage daughter (me) and friends everywhere

As a member of several organizations (Parents Without Partners, American Legion, FOE Auxilliary, and a Square Dancing Club), I’m sure she put in a good many volunteer hours.  Through the church, even when she was ill and couldn’t do very much, she still volunteered to cook chickens that would be used for the Tuesday night dinners the church held for the community.

My mom saw volunteerism modeled by both of her parents who were very active in community organizations.  My grandparents either separately or together were members of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (N.A.R.F.E.), American Legion, Eastern Star, and Daughters of America.  My grandfather served on the Council for the Village he resided in and worked hard toward the merger of the towns of Fairfield and Osborn in Greene County, Ohio long before they did merge to become Fairborn.  He also was a Boy Scout leader for many years and a member of the Masons.

My mom’s brother also saw the modeling of this type of volunteerism of his parents and became very active in the community as an adult.  He helped organize the Battle Creek (Michigan) Hot Air Balloon championships; was a member of the Masons and the Lions club; member of the Battle Creek chamber of commerce who started the Leadership Academy; helped with Battle Creek’s sesquicentenial celebration leading to the formation of PRIDE INC., of Keep America Beautiful; and many other activities.

Researching the many volunteer activities and the organizations my family members have been involved, has led me to the conclusion that they were very giving people and have passed on this sense of helping others.  I have spent a good number of years wondering if “no” is part of my vocabulary. 

At the age of not yet 50, I have been a Girl Scout Leader for two of my daughters; spent many years on the Christian Education board at church and the Cemetery Board; have now sat on the PTA as a board member and officer for 4 years; helped with one of our community organizations via our church by helping to make lunches for low income families during the summer; as a coordinator, treasurer and public relations chair for a parent organization; and other activities.

So how do I pass this on?  Will my volunteerism or that of my mother, my uncle, and my grandparents impact the lives of my children, grandchildren or the great-grandchildren yet to be?  And how does one go about volunteering without it being all about them?  Helping others – either within a structured organization or individually – is not to make a name for oneself.  It shouldn’t be done with the thought that others will think more highly of you.

Volunteering in the name of genealogy should take on the same thought process.  If you are in the position to help someone – whether it is spending an hour at the local libary looking up obituaries or a census index; going to a nearby cemetery to photograph/transcribe a few headstones; or pointing someone in the right direction – you should.  Just because it is the right thing to do.  Someday you may need that type of help.  Very limited. Very specific.

I don’t know how much I’ve contributed to other’s research however I have received communications from very, very distant cousins or people researching the same surname as I am, and I’ve at least responded or sent them my own communication.  If nothing else, I hope they feel that they aren’t out in the genealogy research “world” without a paddle – that someone else has read their query or message board post.

I’ve been helped immensely by volunteers.  Not only has a kind lady taken pictures of the requested headstones for me but she photographed other family members’ headstones and spent several hours at her local library researching the names and sent me news clippings.  And she didn’t want one penny for her time or her postage.  That is a volunteer – being selfless and not thinking about what was in it for her.

Two of my relatives in my Johnson line along with myself have pooled our resources and research and share everything about our shared lines that we find – including questions about whether we are on the right track. 

That is volunteerism through genealogy.

Another definition of Volunteer is someone who signs up, enters, and serves in the military.  Even though our service men and women do receive pay from the government, by offering to sacrifice themselves in order to assure our freedom – that is still volunteerism.

I’ve had many ancestors and family members who have volunteered in such a way.  My grandfather for WWI, and went on to serve until the Korean War.  My dad and his brothers who served during WWII and even beyond.  Cousins who served in the Viet Nam War.  Children of first cousins who served in the first Gulf War.  A great-grandfather who served in the Civil War.  Others who serve now – although not in a battle zone.  This type of selfless sacrifice has also been passed down through the generations.

Humanitarian?  Philanthropic? – they all add up to VOLUNTEER!

This post was written for the 88th Carnival of Genealogy.

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I’m a day late on a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post (thanks for the topic, Randy Seaver, of Genea-Musings!).

Several of my Best of 2009 moments came from items that fell into my lap so to speak.  After my mother passed away, I found many documents and photos that I hadn’t been looking for, but was very excited to find. 

  1. My maternal grandparents’ framed Marriage Certificate, my maternal grandmother’s parents’ marriage certificate and their parents’ marriage certificates!
  2. Birth Certificates for my mother and her siblings and my maternal grandparents.
  3. My maternal grandparents’ wills (I’d seen these when they had passed away but now have the actual documents and all the letters and court papers through probate.)
  4. Very Large Portraits of Ancestors.
  5. Address books that gave me some clues about family residences and my grandparents’ friends.

Looking back on my posts in 2009, I’ve picked a few that I consider my “best”:

  1. January 24 – Meeting Julia. I was able to learn a little more about my paternal grandmother’s sister via this biography.
  2. February 18 – Additional Research Techniques. I highlighted how researching a book on Coshocton marriages enabled me to put some pieces to a family puzzle together.
  3. March 2 – Childhood Enemies – Adult BFFs written for the 11th Edition of Smile for the Camera.
  4. September 30 – The Box, part one of a 2 part post that concluded with the October 1st post –  The Calendar. This was one of the items I found at the bottom of a trunk at my mom’s house and told the intimate story of my “baby” aunt’s brief life from my grandmother’s perspective.
  5. October 17 – Mingling of Families and Murder. This post was very challenging as I tired to untangle how two sides of my family were forever entwined.

I also realized just how helpful others can be.  Not only did a lady take pictures of headstones for me via Find A Grave, but she did some research at her local library and sent me some news clippings.  I also connected with a distant Goul cousin who mailed some very valuable family history information.

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