Posted in challenge, Fearless Females, letters, personal, postcards, tagged Fearless Females, genealogy, letters, old letters, Women's History Month on March 18, 2013 |
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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 8: “Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.”
As I’ve reported many previous times, I have a large – (read that LARGE) collection of letters that include:
- My grandparents (Glen and Vesta Johnson) wrote to each other during their courtship.
- My grandparents wrote to each other during the time my grandfather was in training with the Signal Squadron and overseas in France during WWI.
- My grandparents wrote to each other whenever they were apart (for military or visiting other relatives).
- My great-grandmother (Martha Stern Clawson) wrote to my grandmother (Vesta).
- My grandmother’s (Vesta) brothers and sister wrote to her as they lived in Oregon/Washington and my grandmother was somewhere else (usually Ohio).
- My parents and my grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to each other when my parents were stationed in Japan in the 1950s.
- My grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to my parents when my grandparents were stationed in Germany.
- Postcards several members of the family sent to each other.
Postcard my grandfather sent to my parents on January 28, 1951 from Washington D.C.
Postcard from my grandfather to my parents on December 6, 1950 from Paris, France
I feel immensely fortunate that I have this collection of letters from the past because it gives me a glimpse into their lives during a time before my birth.
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Posted in letters, tagged Christmas, letters on December 13, 2011 |
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As Christmas approaches, I realize that soon I will need to write my annual Christmas letter and get the Christmas cards addressed for the mail. I have a list of addresses I use for my holiday cards, adding and removing from year to year. That led me to wonder how technology has changed the way we send Christmas greetings and how we store addresses.
My approach each year is to pull up the previous year’s Christmas letter that I save in my word processing program. I use that as the template for the current letter as it keeps me on track. The letters are printed out on special 8.5×11 holiday stationery. Some of my Christmas cards don’t require letters – generally those go to church friends or others who I see on a regular basis and know what my yearly activities have been. Distant family members and friends get a letter and a card. Then I pull out my address book to address all the cards. There are those who have moved and lacking a current address, I attach my Christmas letter to an email.
So I have mixed both current technology – computerized Christmas letters -and old-school address book to complete the Christmas card task. There are some people who have all of the addresses and information in their smart phones or tablets. If their phone gets lost or suffers major damage, all of that information could be lost. Future generations would never have an old-fashioned address book to look through, perhaps with clues as to their parents’ or grandparents’ friends or relatives.
I’m fairly lucky in that respect. My mom had kept my grandparents’ address books after they passed away. When my mother passed away, I got her address books and those of my grandparents. In those pages are names that I know, reminding me of times in the past. There are also names of people I had never heard of, which gave me pause as to what the relationship was. There are also notations by names – death dates, the word “cousin”, etc. Those clues have proven very useful in my family research.
I worry that the digital age will change all of that. As our ancestors kept journals or diaries – we write blogs and websites. In high school we passed notes in class and between classes. Today, students text each other. My grandparents and mom wrote letters daily and weekly when they were apart due to military transfers. We write emails or update our Facebook status. Even if everything in cyberspace will remain for eons, there is no tactile experience. The feel of the leather address book covers, the brittle onion skin typewriter paper, or the embossed stationary can bring the past into the present. The handwritten words of a beloved ancestor or family member long since passed can shed light on what was important to them at that time in their life.
In contrast, words in an email – sentence fragments, texting language, upper caps “shouting”, and short messages don’t say much about the writer, other than they used technology. Even in this hurry up world we live in, perhaps it is important to revisit our ancestors’ (even parents’) use of the handwritten word – especially when it comes to addressing our cards, keeping our address books, and a long distance letter or two.
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Which is where I’ve been for the last week! As I was “googling” and searching for some information, I decided that some more “clean-up” of my gedcom was in order. Or more precisely – better documentation. Since I was doing research on the Goul (and for all of those not in the know – it rhymes with Owl!) line of my tree, that is where I focused my work.
I don’t have subscriptions to any of the online “pay” genealogy sites, so thought I’d work with what I could. I started on HeritageQuest – which I can access from home thanks to my local library. I wanted to find every single census record I could that included a member of the Goul family in order to “source” it in my family file.
While doing so, I ran across “extra” Goul folks so added them into the family file as non-related people just in case. The documentation took quite a bit of time. Not only did I add the information on where everyone was in the Census records but the Series, Roll and page numbers.
After I finished with HeritageQuest, I went to FamilySearch labs and entered information I found from there. Then on to Rootsweb family trees and the Social Security Death Index. Then I did a Google search to see what “distant” cousins had entered.
In the middle of all of this, I received an email from a distant cousin – one who had posted some queries awhile back to one of the message boards. We wrote back and forth and she mentioned that she had some things to mail to me. I received the package on Saturday and it was a rather large package with quite a few family group sheets, copies of letters she had received from another distant cousin (who has since passed away). One of the letters was actually a letter written to this other cousin that he had sent to her, and you’ll never believe who the author of that letter was – my grandfather! Talk about the “circle of genealogy”! This is the second time a cousin has sent me copies of letters my grandfather had written to other people.
My week’s worth of work has been very productive and successful. I’ve been able to attach some of those non-related people to my line.
Even though I’ve used every combination of spellings to find the Goul family in the census, I’m not quite done. I’ve located them under the variations of Coul, Gowl, Gaul, Gowell, and Goule. But I’m sure there’s more!
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Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, challenge, Inheritance, letters, Life and Death, tagged Carnival of Genealogy, census, CoG, Johnson, letters, personal, Stern on January 31, 2009 |
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The 65th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is “The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy” and will be hosted by Becky Wiseman (one of my distant cousins!) of Kinexxions.
I’ve had several “Oh, Yeah!” moments. One of them I wrote about in A Goldmine – about discovering a box of letters written by my grandparents to each other when they were courting in 1916 and during 1918 when my grandfather went to Signal Corps Training and during his overseas duty during WWI.
Another moment I had was when I was looking for my maternal 2nd great-grandfather, Emanuel Bushong Stern. As I was going through the 1850 Census looking for him in order to get information on his parents and siblings, I wasn’t having any luck. Obviously, they had disappeared during the Census. And then just by chance, I came across Peter Sterne living in Clay Township, Hamilton County, Indiana. The last name was spelled wrong – with an “e” at the end of the surname but the names for known siblings was correct. I think I jumped out of the computer chair at this find!
Another “happy dance” moment came a couple years after I had posted a query on a message board giving names of my paternal g-grandfather’s half-siblings and their children. I received an email from the daughter of one of his nieces. She had quite a bit of information about the Johnson line including the first wife of the man I was researching (James Wilson Johnson) who was my 2nd great-grandmother. And my cousin was actually descended from James’ 2nd wife. Since that time several years ago we have exchanged (with a couple other Johnson cousins) more information.
It doesn’t take much for me to do the Happy Dance! Each tiny rock I turn over or piece of information I find that leads to bigger and better finds, is reason for me to stand up and shout “Oh Yeah!”.
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Denise at The Family Curator has posted a Treasure Hunt Challege for Genea-Bloggers. The course of action is simple:
- Select Your Destination
- Make a plan (treasure map)
- Post the plan on the blog before September 30 with an email to Denise that includes a link
- Tackle the project
- Post an article about finding the treasure
- Send Denise an email with a link to the final post by October 20
As I began to think about all the ephemera and research notes in my file, on the computer, and elsewhere, I wondered where I could begin looking. My plan of “attack” is this:
- Go through the big box of letters I have
- Locate papers on land transactions (I’ve seen them but haven’t paid that close attention to them)
- Look for the names of property owners/sellers and the dates and research them
- Gather information about the property – where it’s located, if I can get a satellite (or any) image of land
- Post my findings
Hopefully I’ll learn some fascinating new information!
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Julie Cahill Tarr at GenBlog started a meme on the topic of what heirloom(s) you would save in the event of a disaster. You can read her story here.
As I’ve had a couple weeks to think about this, I think I’ve actually answered this question in some of my posts. In this post I described the christening gown made by my maternal great-grandmother. And in this post I told you about the CDs I’d received that were made from some reel-to-reel tapes recorded between the late 1950′s and late 1960′s. Here I wrote about the hundreds of letters in my possession that were written by my grandparents when they were courting and after my grandfather was in training and then overseas for WWI and other letters including the Letters from Germany my grandparents wrote while they were stationed in Wiesbaden in the early 1950s. All of those items I would save.
I would, of course, save every photo that I have in my possession (and negative and slide), the videos of my wedding, the sonogram I had when I was pregnant with our youngest, the church musicals the kids were in, and other family type films.
One thing that has gone with me no matter where I’ve gone, is the box containing all the poetry and other stuff I wrote years ago. Other items include my Sister-Belle doll (which still “talks” when you pull her string!) and a teddy bear that’s lost most of its fur. There is also the flower girl dress my mom made for me to wear in my cousin’s sister’s-in-law wedding made from red velvet; shoes worn by my children when they were babies; my wedding dress. A Hummel I inherited from my grandmother would also have to be saved as well as the German Tea Set she gave me. Also from my grandparents would be the German Woodcut kitchen scene they bought in Garmisch and the Christmas Bell that plays “Jingle Bells”. I would also grab the scrapbooks I’ve made over the years documenting my childrens’ school years, my parents’ travel to Japan, and other events.
Hopefully, I will never have to evacuate due to a disaster and if I do, I hope that most of my “copy-able” items will have been scanned and saved to a disk, flash drive, or external hard drive that is somewhere else to weather out such an emergency.
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In the 1950s when my parents lived in Japan, they bought a reel-to-reel tape player and recorded oral letters which they sent to my grandparents in Ohio. There weren’t many that survived as they were erased, recorded over or became so bad no one could understand what was recorded on them. Those that did survive were compiled into CDs by my cousin and sent out to those of us who were there. I really wasn’t there as it was many years before I was born. I’m on one or two tapes that were recorded at my dad’s family reunions.
Yesterday I received these seven CDs in the mail and hurriedly put one in to listen. I had never heard my sister as a young girl or my brother’s voice as a young man. All of them – including my parents – sound so young. Then today I listened to another CD that included the voices of my grandparents.
To say that this is like Christmas for me would be an understatement. I’m hearing people whose voices I haven’t heard in many years. Even though I have dozens of handwritten letters, there is something to be said to actually hear family speak about their day to day activities. I hear the excitement of being in a new country, the sadness of being so far from family, the laughter from being silly, and the fear when my aunt became very sick.
My cousin probably doesn’t really understand just how much these CDs mean to me. It’s a piece of time that will never come again – yet it’s been captured forever in the lilting words of my family.
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(I’ve written these posts to be published while I’m away from the computer – so you won’t have to actually live without me!)
Almost 8 years ago I came across a gold mine of genealogical information which I’ve alluded to before in previous posts. My mom told me I could search everywhere for anything pertinent. It was also another way for her to unload stuff on me. In the very back room of the basement – where she keeps the washer and dryer, inside clothes line, freezer and small appliance items she uses rarely – I opened a large box. Inside were a couple more boxes. One had old photos that I pulled out and went through. Another box held my “artwork” and silly letters I wrote as a young child – items that parents try to keep. Another box had more photo albums and papers. Now most of that is in my possession. I came across my mom’s and grandmother’s report cards, pictures of my dad’s family, pictures of my great-grandparents and my mom’s baby sister at death in their caskets (my family is morbid like that!).
Then I went through every single photo album in my mom’s house (at least I think I did!) and removed “old” pictures or photos she told me I could take. We spent time trying to label photos – especially really old ones of people I didn’t recognize.
In another part of the basement is a big trunk. My parents used it to pack clothes and household items when they moved to and from Japan in the 1950s. Inside were blankets, un-cut material my mom had purchased to make clothes, and then in the very bottom was a box. Written on the box was “Letters from WWI”. My first thought was “no!” There was no way any letters from WWI survived or that my mother would have them. I opened it and sure enough there were letters. One was dated May 1916 – my grandparents were still courting! A hundred letters is an understatement.
Then my mother found two more boxes with more letters – her letters from Japan to her parents; letters from my grandmother’s mom and siblings to my grandmother; later letters from my grandparents to each other when one of them was out of town. Then my mom handed me a big manilla folder that contained letters my grandparents wrote her when they were stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany (I’ve posted some of the letters in a previous post).
Then I opened a filing cabinet that had belonged to my grandfather. Inside were my grandparents’ memorial books, their 50th anniversary book, newspaper clippings, and two rather old looking school notebooks. One was filled with minutes from my grandfather’s family reunions – Johnson-Shively – held almost every year since before 1920 until after 1920. Most of the entries were very short and sweet and included the pertinent business meeting information – how much was in the reunion treasury, who was elected President, Vice-President, and Secretary, where the next reunion would be held and quite often the names of those who had passed away, married or born during the year.
When my husband saw the piles of materials that I was going to bring back home, he just shook his head and declared that we were going to have to add another wing to the house! I feel very fortunate that I ended up with all these materials instead of them being lost to a landfill or to someone who wouldn’t know the importance of these items. Each time I look at this memorabilia, I discover something new.
How has your treasure hunting been?
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Posted in geography, letters, Occupations, personal, stories, tagged France, Garmisch, Germany, Holland, letters, military, Wiesbaden, WWI, WWII on June 20, 2008 |
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Yesterday I spent a few hours scanning letters that my grandparents wrote to my parents while my grandparents were stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. It has been several years since I read them so it was a chance for me to re-read while I was scanning. I try not to handle these pages from the early 1950s very much in a way to keep them from picking up too much acidic content. When I received them from my mom, they had been placed in a large manilla folder and kept in her basement. To be clear, my mom’s basement is finished and air conditioned so they haven’t been in damp, musty or too hot conditions. All of them are still readable and intact which is rare since most of them were handwritten or typed on very thin onion skin paper. Remember, they were being sent from Germany to the United States so to pack a lot of pages into one envelope for the regular price of a stamp, they used very thin paper.
My grandparents wrote letters at least once or twice a week and they were in Germany for three years so I have many – MANY – letters to scan. And that’s just of the Germany letters. There are also letters they wrote to my parents when my parents were stationed in Japan twice. Letters my grandfather and grandmother wrote to each other while they were courting, when my grandfather entered military training after they were married, when my grandfather went to France during WWI, and letters from my grandmother’s siblings and mother to her.
Here are some excerpts from the Letters from Germany.
Most of the letters are little more than reciting the more mundane chores of daily life or the functions that my grandparents attended. For genealogical purposes, they provide a window into their lives that I wouldn’t have if not for these letters. My grandparents also took several weekend trips into other regions or countries during their time in Europe. My grandfather took my grandmother to the area he was in during WWI in France and showed her spots she had only read about in his letters. My grandmother saw what was left of some of the concentration camps from WWII. They went to Holland and saw windmills and tulips. They shopped in Garmisch. One thing that was always consistent in the letters they wrote from Germany: they missed their children and grandchildren terribly. No matter where the military sent them, their hearts were always wherever their family was.
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