Last night I attended a joyous, long-anticipated wedding at our church. As I sat in the pew between my son and daughter, we listened as the bride, and then the groom, declared firmly and unmistakeably: "I WILL!" During the ceremony there was laughter and then tears, as the bride's deceased father was remembered in prayer. And all who were there will remember singing the recessional ("I'm a Believer") along with the band, and laughing as members of the family danced in the aisles. Such stories, that will be handed down for generations.
And I recalled the stories I've heard and read about my own parents' wedding. They were married in a candlelight ceremony at the Mayflower Congregational Church in Detroit on 8 June 1951.
Although the wedding announcement was written up in the community newsletter, perhaps the best record of the wedding is to be found in my Grandpa Reed's journal: [my comments in brackets]
June 8. Chase is to be married in Detroit tonight at 8 P.M. Then we have to stand in a receiving line for an hour or so. We leave here [Lansing] at 1:30, have dinner at 4 with the Stoelts, wedding at 8, reception & home about midnite.
June 9, '51. The following is practically a copy of a letter to Lewis & Jane. [Jane was my dad's oldest sister, and she and her husband were missionaries in Bolivia at the time].
Well, last night we saw our second child and only son married. We were on our way at 1:40, having orders to be at Stoelts for dinner at four - pardon me - an invitation. From Mrs. S. they are somewhat the same. I forgot anything to read, so stopped in E. Lansing, bought a copy of Time and read 3/4 of it going and waiting.
Ruby drove first shift, to about Brighton, & mine took us in. Stoelts live well out toward Farmington in the edge of Detroit and it is open country along Grand River Ave. until the last 10 or 15 min.
It was our first meeting and we had to introduce ourselves as Mrs. S., following ancient custom, had banished Chase all that day. He was across town with friends and though he telephoned & talked to us both, we never saw him until he entered the church with his ushers for the ceremony. But the Stoelts are very friendly and intelligent people and we got on well from the first.
The date, June 8, is of course Ruby's and my anniversary, our 33rd. We met another couple during the evening who were also celebrating their 33rd the same day.
At Stoelts, we chatted some and I read my Time when I had a chance. Mr. S. asked Ruby if she liked television and seemed a bit disappointed when she said no. He had one of the biggest & finest sets I've seen anywhere and would have liked to show it off. He didn't ask me, but after she left the room he turned it on and we saw the last inning of a ball game. Then there was some advertising and a sports announcer gave a long description of the game we had just seen. Mr. S. went out during the advertising and came back to find me reading, so he turned it off.
Dinner was actually served at 5:00, a roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, hard rolls, coffee, frozen fruit salad. [All homemade by Grandma Stoelt herself , no doubt - she loved putting on dinners!] Had been dieting stiffly but put it on ice when I saw the dinner. Mrs. S. wants to be friends, but Ruby will have none of that, treats them as acquaintances only.
After dinner, went to the basement and saw the gifts, on a table in their rumpus room, finished in painted ceiling, knotty pine walls, asphalt tile floor. A table 10-12 feet long was loaded: 2 flatirons, Toastmaster, Mixmaster, bun warmer, large copper skillet with cover suitable for Dutch oven or chicken fryer, small pressure cooker, the coverlet & rug we gave them [which I still have], seven double cookers five of them really devices to keep food hot on the table with a hot water bath, 2 sets silver candlesticks, silver salt & peppers, two silver colander holders with Pyrex colanders, two blankets, 11 pair pillow slips, a whol drawer full of sheets, 6 tablecloths, a pair of yellow checked aprons labelled "Chase" & "Mary", 5 place settings of Castleton china, and a long, long list of other things I cannot possibly remember.
I cannot describe gowns, but Ruby's was really beautiful, almost overshone the bride's.
The church was several miles away, so we followed the Stoelts. It had sounded easy, but in such heavy traffic, cars kept getting between us, then slowing down until there was constant risk one would stop at a traffic signal and leave us nowhere to go. I didn't know the way either forward or back, the name of the church, or address, or anything. I went through some lights on amber but kept on his tail, and had to make some very hasty stops when he did besides.
The organist, a high school boy, but thorougly competent, played a couple of numbers and the vocalist, also young about 25 sang a couple. He had a nice baritone voice that just went silent on the low notes, however. Then Chase, best man and 3 ushers came in from a side door, the minister (young, about 30) from another. The organ rollwed out the Wedding March and one by one three bridesmaids and the maid of honor came up the aisle, Lois third. [Lois was my dad's youngest sister]. Each walked the full length of the church alone (in the traditional slow step) and took her place before the next one started. Then the organist turned up the volume until the floor shook and the bride came in on her father's arm.
There was a sort of preliminary service on the steps and front of the rostrum - "Are you willing to take this woman - this man....who gives this woman" and the father gave the bride away (with the words "Her mother and I do"), then the party went back to the altar, the soloist, facing them, sang another song and the marriage was completed including the double ring ceremony which I had not seen before. There was another burst of music and the party went down the aisle, everybody remaining seated. After some time two ushers came back and led the mothers of the bride & groom down the aisle, followed by the husbands, ankling along by themselves. They should send in a couple of bridesmaids to walk with them, I say.
We went to the church house next door and Mrs. S. lined us up in a reception line and we shook hands with the approximately 250 guests, 242 friends of the bride, 8 of the groom, though most of the bride's friends had become Chase's too. I was next to Mary in line, as Mrs. S. placed me though I believe I should have been next to her. But my task was easy for practically all knew Mary & she them, except our family friends. Quite unexpectedly, I had a good time in the reception line. I talked until I was so hoarse I almost lost my voice; three or four women I'd never seen before kissed me; and I met one woman who was a weaver and we contrived little weaving chats two or three times during the evening.
The refreshments were coffee, tiny cookies, little paper cups of ice cream, punch and wedding cake, the latter about 3 feet across and same high. Men in the wedding party wore tuxedos, white coat & dark trousers. I was not with them except in the line, and wore dark coat & light trousers.
L to R: Ervilla Varran Stoelt, Arnold Stoelt, Mary Stoelt Reed, John Chase Reed, Ruby Chase Reed, Maurice Reed
One of the ushers took Chase & Mary back to Stoelts in his car & we followed again, the only way we knew to get there. It was then about 11 P.M. and the goof drove down Southfield at 45 and up to 60 miles an hour. I felt like going down a mountain highway blindfolded and no brakes! Soon Lois, Chase, Mary, the usher and some friends and a family who live across the street were there, standing around outside waiting for Mr. and Mrs. S. to come since they had the only key. The house was locked and Mr. S. had asked the police to watch it because of the gifts. We could have carried the place away brick by brick for anything we saw of them. Other cars came and the party grew, but all said the same, - as long as there was anybody left at the reception, Ervilla would be there talking. But of course they came at last, everybody changed from tuxedos & formals, suitcases were carried out, a weary Lois followed and at 12:45 we began the long drive home. I didn't trust the eyesight of either of them for after-dark driving and did it myself. A weary family, down to three members now, turned in about 2 A.M.
That was my Grandpa Reed's story of his son's wedding, and a very good one it is. But I remember another story, told by my father often over the years as I was growing up. He said that when the minister pronounced them man and wife, he heaved a great big sigh of relief, and a little ripple of laughter spread among the seated congregation. What perhaps most of those present did not know was that my mother had suffered from epilepsy since she was a child, and had grand mal seizures during times of stress. Because she was brought up in a Christian Science home, she had never seen the doctor or received medication. My dad was sighing because he was so relieved that she'd not had a seizure during the ceremony.
Whatever later difficulties presented themselves in this marriage (and there were plenty), I will be forever grateful that shortly after their honeymoon, my dad took mom to the doctor and got her started on medication, which she would take for the rest of her life.
There are lots of stories still to be told from the stack of family memoirs I received from my Grandpa Reed back in 1974. One of those stories, about his cousin Grace, caught my attention: Stephen Curtis married Belle Willard and they were separated after many years of marriage during which they had the four children listed, Grace, Mavis, Doris and Wallace. Grace married William Weber and they had two children, Frederick and Reginald, after which, while she was still young, William shot and killed her. He was acquitted in court, but there is no doubt in the minds of those who knew about the circumstances, that it was a cold-blooded murder. He was a German, born in Germany, and regarded his wife more as a chattel than as a companion. He was hard and cruel, taught his little boys to endure without crying such torments as being lifted by the ears, was very cruel to his wife during the years she lived with him, and her life was a very unhappy one. They lived in Grand Rapids.
After I discovered how much the internet could contribute toward researching my family history, I decided to try to find out if this story was true, and when and where it happened. First I went to the Western Michigan Genealogical Society database
page and searched the Western Michigan newspapers, which covers 1910 to 2011. There was only one entry for Grace Weber, which was an obituary published in the Grand Rapids Herald on 3 March 1913.
Being on a budget, instead of ordering the obituary for $5 from the Western Michigan Genealogical Society, I requested it as an interlibrary loan from my local library system. In a few weeks I received a copy of the front page of the Grand Rapids Herald for Monday, March 3, 1913.
I knew the story didn't end there, so on my next trip to the Library of Michigan in Lansing, I read through several weeks' worth of microfilmed issues of the Grand Rapids Herald. I was rewarded by a photo of Grace and a mug shot of William.
(Grace Curtis Weber was born in Michigan in November 1881, the daughter of Stephen and Belle Willard Curtis. She married William R. Weber, who was 16 years her senior, on 19 Feb. 1905 in Battle Creek, Michigan. William was born in Germany in 1865, and had been married once before. They had two sons, Frederick (Fritz) and Reginald, who were 7 and 5 years old at the time of the shooting.)
Grand Rapids Herald, March 4, 1913
As my grandfather had noted, William was acquitted of murder. But that wasn't the whole story, by any means. The citizens of Grand Rapids followed the details of the trial, as day after day the drama was enacted in court. The journalists reported that Grace Curtis Weber's mother had written a letter warning her against her husband, that they had been separated, and that Grace had started divorce proceedings. At the time of her death she was working as a housekeeper in a private home, when William appeared (carrying a loaded revolver in his coat pocket) and asked to see her. They were alone in the front parlor when three shots rang out, and Weber ran for the street. He was soon apprehended, and brought to trial.
As usual, my grandfather's notes only told part of the story. William's first trial ended when the jury couldn't agree on his guilt or innocence, and the judge ordered another trial for May. This time around, over 120 prospective jurors were carefully examined. Once again, expert witnesses were called in, and the shooting was again enacted in the courtroom. The newspaper reporters, the attorneys, the judge, and the wider community fully expected to hear a verdict of "guilty".
When the jury announced their verdict, the reaction was stunned outrage. The Herald ran a front page article that said,
William R. Weber, charged with the murder of his wife, was declared not guilty by a jury in superior court which for the last two weeks has been trying the case. The verdict was rendered at 10 o'clock yesterday forenoon and jury and respondent were promptly discharged.
But so far as the court was concerned the case did not end here. Showing his anger and disgust in every word, Judge Stuart bitterly arraigned [sic] the jury for what he termed an outrage upon the city of Grand Rapids. He followed this by excusing three members of the regular panel who had been upon the jury because he said he did not think they were competent to try cases in court.
Verdict Was Absolutely Unexpected
The verdict was unexpected by practically every man and woman in the big crowd in the courtroom. E.N. Barnard, attorney for the defense was perhaps the only man who really felt confident all through that he would win. When the words "not guilty" were pronounced by the foreman of the jury, something like a gasp of astonishment swept around the room. Weber dropped into his chair and sobbed a moment and then began shaking hands with his friends and tried to shake hands with the court.
For just a moment, Judge Stuart looked the jury over then he turned loose the things which had been accumulating within him.
"Gentlemen," he began, "this is an outrage upon justice in this community. Aside from all other considerations, you have taken the story of the respondent as entirely true. You apparently have had no regard for what any one else has said or of the surrounding circumstances. I am frank to say to you that this community has been outraged by such a verdict and I cannot but express my feelings to you at this time.
"Unfortunately, there is no appeal on the part of the people. The verdict must be accepted, but I do hope that if this system of wife-shooting without
punishment continues in this city the people will awake to the fact that something must be done to insure certain punishment for crime and that every story told by a respondent in a courtroom cannot be accepted as a fact.
"I might suggest that men contemplating the shooting of their wives usually do not take two or three witnesses with them. Gentlemen, if this verdict is your view of justice I differ with you very decidedly."
The news continued for the next few weeks. The judge proclaimed his disgust with the jury system, which enabled competent men to be excused for cause, because they didn't want to take the time to serve their civic duty. Weber demanded his revolver back, and the clerk of the superior court refused. In June, Weber happened to see Judge Stuart at the Kalamazoo train depot, and rushed up to him, shaking his hand and proclaiming his innocence. The judge made his distaste very evident and said coldly, "I have no desire to try the case again here in a railroad station."
And there were several outraged letters to the editor, one of which, from Mrs. Mary E. Hay, ended with:
"The cruel injustice of the whole thing, a devoted mother lies in her grave, two sweet children robbed of their mother, and the man that carried a loaded revolver walks the streets a free man."
As a genealogist, I am devoted to telling my ancestors' stories. And as long as I tell stories such as this one, of Grace Weber's untimely death, my ancestors will live on.
It's not in the same league as the Edmund Fitzerald, and with a happier ending (all hands saved, not all hands lost), but there's no doubt that shipping on the Great Lakes was a precarious enterprise. I grew up hearing stories of the wreck my great-grandfather Herbert Randall survived in 1916, arriving on his doorstep in Manistee, Michigan, after a telegram had informed his wife Claudia of his death in Lake Erie. I have the good fortune to be in possession of the original front page of the Manistee News-Advocate of October 21, 1916, torn and yellowed by time.
The headlines were biggest in Manistee, but news of the shipwreck was published all over the country, from Vermont to Iowa to Ohio. Most of them reported merely that the crew was safe, having been picked up by two different ships, but the Manistee paper had a long interview with Herbert Randall:
Arriving home in the clothes in which he was saved, without vest and in his working cap, Herbert K. Randall, chief engineer of the Marshall Butters which went down in Lake Erie last week, tells a thrilling story of the rescue of the crew.
"It was a terrible thing, but I don't think that a man of us entertained fear. We were too busy, each man working for himself, to be afraid of the possible ending." said Randall last night.
"When we passed through Detroit there was a fresh southeast wind blowing, but not strong enough to detain us any until we had passed the southeast shoal by about 45 minutes. It was at 12:30 Friday afternoon that the squall struck us. We were six or eight miles from the shoal light at the time. When it was first noticed that a storm was coming the captain came aft and asked us to work her up stronger. This took us about 20 minutes. Heavy seas began to roll about this time and we noticed that the ship was leaking, taking in water fast.
"I understood what this meant and went forward and asked Capt. McClure to put her into the sea or before it. Instead of doing this Capt. McClure put her in the trough, in an attempt to throw her deck load off and lighten her. We were loaded with lath and a small amount of lumber above decks and had we been successful in getting rid of this load we might have ridden the gale longer. As it was she would not throw and we ran in the trough for a few minutes longer, watching the water meanwhile. We had the pumps going but the water kept gaining on us steadily and I again reported to the captain.
"We had seen the steamer Billings about five miles to leeward and Capt. McClure blew the alarm signal. They apparently did not hear us, for they paid no attention. In about 15 minutes another alarm signal was blown and then another. Finally the watchman on the Billings saw the steam from our whistle and the boat came about and started for us at once.
"The steamer Hartwell had been in the distance all this while and seeing the Billings was heading for us, she also changed her course and came towards us, standing to shortly after the Billings had arrived.
"By now the wind was blowing a hurricane, the seas were tremendous and our deck load was going by the board. Heavy pieces of planking were lifted off the deck and sent hurling through the air. Pieces of boards and shingles caught in the whistle, causing it to blow continually. It was a horrible sound and when I could stand it no longer, I risked my life and climbed up to where I could cut the cord.
"About this time we got the starboard boat launched and eight of the crew, including myself, got in and cast off. The captain of the Hartwell hollered, "Come on with your boat," and we headed for the steamer. It was a terrific pull to get to her. The seas were rolling higher than the house tops - the wind so strong that you had to yell to a man only a few feet away to make him hear you.
"After about 20 minutes we were able to get aboard the Hartwell. Looking back to the Butters we could see the rest of the crew, five men, standing on her deck. I guess we all lost our nerve then. It was awful to see them standing there helpless.
"It was just one-half hour after this that the Butters broke up and went down. A few minutes before she went under the captain and one fireman took to the yawl and the other three jumped into the water.
"The steamer Billings after being compelled to make three circles, picked up three men who were in the water and the captain and fireman got aboard without serious difficulty.
"Remember that all this time the wind ws blowing 75 miles an hour and that the seas resembled small mountains. The Billings rolled terribly while standing by to pick us up. It was hard to get aboard without being smashed to pieces against the ship's side.
"The Hartwell turned about and began a run before the wind. She was consigned to Fairport, but it was impossible to make the harbor and she went on to Erie. She turned here and went into the wind. It was 5:30 Saturday afternoon when we finally made the Fairport harbor.
"We had all lost everything we had but were mighty glad to get in as we were."
As I said, I'd given up on genealogy. Permanently. Or so I thought. Through the 1990's and into 2000, I refused to get interested, even when I saw books on Genealogy and the Internet on my library shelves.
In 2003, my 99-year old grandmother, who lived in Michigan with her daughter, my Aunt Ethel, was beginning a long, slow decline. Aunt Ethel called and asked me if I could do some online research into assisted living or adult family home facilities in their area. Being the librarian that I am, I immediately went to the Library of Michigan website. I did find a state-wide review of facilities, and was able to give my aunt some names and phone numbers of places to check out. In the process of exploring the library website, I noticed a sidebar that said, "Search the 1870 census index for Michigan." Immediately I thought of my great-great grandfather Stacy Clay Thompson, whom I'd never been able to find, either in Pennsylvania, where he was born, or in Michigan.
So, not expecting much, I typed his name into the search box. In seconds I had my answer - 14-year old Stacy Thompson was living in Blair, Grand Traverse County (where I never thought of looking for him), boarding with another family and attending school.
To say that I was impressed was putting it mildly! Immediately I thought, "Ooooohhhh - this has possibilities!" So I plugged in another name, that of another great great grandfather, Marshall Jackson Chase, who (according to family notes) had taken his small family from Ohio to Michigan in the 1850's. Once again the search found him in seconds - living with his wife Mary Ann, their two children George Carlos and Florence, and his sister-in-law and niece, Louisa and Eva Catlin. I had no idea they ever lived in Lansing.
It didn't take me long to swing into action. I knew I needed an up-to-date genealogy software program, so I went online to read some reviews, and chose Legacy Family Tree, because it was available for download immediately, was user-friendly and a reasonable price. I decided early on that I would be entering all my information from the beginning, using the binders of original records and family papers that I'd collected. I subscribed to Ancestry, and started reading online genealogy newsletters.
I was on my way!
By 1990, I had been researching my family history for about 16 years. I'd made a couple of research trips to Michigan, written countless letters to libraries, archives, distant relatives and courthouses, and spent endless hours at the Seattle Public Library and National Archives on Sand Point Way, cranking the handles of microfilm machines.
I had determined that my parents were sixteenth cousins three times removed (or something of the sort), and traced certain lines back to the 1400's, plugging in names and dates from printed books and genealogies on the shelves at the Seattle Public Library. I was a member of the National Genealogical Society for a year, but the NGS Quarterly was way, way above my head. I was entering all this information into my database, the DOS-based Roots III, and printing out pedigree charts and narrative reports on my dot-matrix printer.
Then I had to stop everything to cope with a difficult pregnancy. After my son was born, I now had to find someone to watch both my children (not just one) in order for me to go research. The problem was, there wasn't really anything else for me to find. I was tired of brick walls that would never get torn down, and my heart just wasn't in it any more. I figured I had found all I was ever going to find. When my computer crashed, I didn't bother to replace Roots III, and though I kept all my records and printouts, they just gathered dust, packed away in boxes under my bed or in the closet. Genealogy had lost its fascination, and I figured that was more or less permanent.
In all of my 16 years of research, I had not yet learned that there is ALWAYS something more to find!
This happened many years ago (probably before the concept of indirect evidence was really embraced by the genealogy community), but I still remember it clearly. My children were small, and occasionally I used to leave them with my mother or mother-in-law so that I could go do research. Still on the trail of my Prosser ancestors, I knew (courtesy of The Luggage Tag
) that my great-grandmother Ruth (Prosser) Strunk Chase had a brother named Charles Prosser. On one of my many visits to my local Family History Center, I had seen (probably on the microfiche IGI) a marriage record for a Charles Prosser and Amanda Qua in Gaylord, Otsego County, Michigan. I didn't really expect there to be any connection, because none of my Prossers had ever lived in Otsego County, but I sent for the microfilm of the original record anyway. When I threaded the microfilm into the reader, and came to the record, it was all I could do not to squeal my delight. For not only was this Charles Douglas Prosser born in Hillsdale, but one of the witnesses to the marriage was Crawford E. Strunk - my great-grandmother Ruth's first husband, and Charles' brother-in-law.
Not only is this indirect evidence, it is also primary information. This was the first record that provided Charles' full name and the name of Lottie's mother. It also led me to additional information - such as the fact that Ruth (Prosser) Strunk had been appointed postmistress in Gaylord in 1887!
Genealogists get to be good at reading between the lines - and in seeking out historical and cultural information about those people that we are researching. I've been researching one William M. Kiker, from Anson County, North Carolina, and it was only a few days ago that I found his compiled military service records (CMSR) online at Fold3
(formerly known as Footnote). There are about 23 cards online, digitized images of the muster rolls that were taken every few months. Most of them just note "Present", and it's only by reading the regimental history of the 43rd Regiment, North Carolina Infantry, that I discovered that William Kiker fought at Gettysburg in July 1863. One card, dated July/Aug. 1864, says simply, "hands of enemy".
William was captured in May 1864, and according to another card, was transferred to Elmira, New York, on July 8, 1864.
I started wondering - what was in Elmira? Why take him there, instead of one of the other prison camps? So (naturally) I looked it up. I discovered that Camp Elmira (known as Hellmira by the Confederate soldiers) was opened just two days before William arrived there, and housed over 12,000 prisoners. Over the following year (which included a particularly harsh winter) one quarter of those soldiers died from disease, malnutrition, or exposure. On William's North Carolina pension application was noted the fact that his eyesight was failing, and he was in very poor health. No wonder.
But William wasn't the only one in his family who was involved in the Civil War. His brothers Louis J. and Frank D. Kiker also served, in the same unit. Louis, although wounded, survived the war. Frank did not. He died of a fractured leg at White House Landing, Virginia, June 10, 1864, a month before William was taken captive.
Reading between the lines helps to put faces to these names; to start wondering what life was like for them before, during, and after the war. Although all of my Civil War ancestors fought for the Union, my children have ancestors from Mississippi who fought for the Confederacy and were also taken prisoner.
Sometimes, instead of the stories driving us to find the records, it's the other way around.
They've been in a box in my closet, under my bed, and now in my office, for well over 20 years now. I am fortunate indeed to have the complete set of my Grandpa Maurice L. Reed's journals that he wrote in almost daily from 1927 to 1957. Written on yellowing lined paper, between cardboard covers tied with string, these are treasure chests of genealogical information.
Back in 1974, when I first had access to the journals, I decided to read them straight through, and make notes along the way. I just found the list of notes I made on that first reading:
1928: Ervilla Varran & her mother Mrs. Van Wagoner visited [Ervilla Varran would be the future stepmother of the not-yet-born Mary Stoelt, who would marry the not-yet-born John Chase Reed, son of Maurice & Ruby Reed]
1932: Dad Chase is living in Grand Rapids. Maurice used to live in Sturgeon Bay, and left when he was 8 years old.
1935: Ruby & Mabel attending their high school class reunion in Bear Lake
1936: wrote of the life & family history of Henry H. Chase
1937: reminisces about their wedding day in Columbus, Ohio
description of Percy and Mary Reed's golden wedding anniversary
sent birthday card to Grandad Reed in Miami, 98 years old this month
1938: Beem family reunion in Hillsdale
1941: wrote up history of the Beem family
1942: registered for the draft
1943: describes rationing (and includes some ration books)
1945: youngest daughter in hospital with pneumonia; saved by penicillin which was on sale this week for the first time
1946: bombing of Hiroshima
1948: knowing how to type kept him from going to war in Europe during World War 1
1949: oldest daughter & her husband sail for Bolivia as missionaries
1951: wedding of John Chase Reed & Mary Stoelt (this is really funny to read, as Grandpa had some pithy observations to make!)
1952: sold house [in Lansing] for $9950; "not one regret"
1952: Reed family reunion in Beulah
Reed family reunion in Beulah, 1952: my mother Mary Stoelt Reed is 2nd from left in dark dress (my dad, Chase Reed, is looking over her shoulder); Percy and Mary (Beem) Reed are in the center, and Ruby (kneeling) and Maurice Reed are to the far right.
1953: Maurice helps Dad Reed write his obituary (and writes his own)1955: Ruby left her Bible (once her mother's) to be rebound [and here I'd like a respectful silence, with me moaning in the background....A family Bible! With the potential of unlocking a 30-year brick wall! It's been long gone. Oh........]1957: In Flagstaff we drove around a bit. Ruby had received cards & letters from relatives there as a child (see my post on The Luggage Tag)1957: Wrote up "Recollections of an Old Timer" for the Beulah paper And I'm facing the fact that even though I've read these journals through a couple of times, I have not done so recently. It's very possible that there's some genealogically important information that slipped under the radar. I've also discovered that rereading a source I've read many times before can make new information jump off the page. I think I have my reading cut out for me for awhile!
I've come to the point where I've decided on the families I'm going to write about for my portfolio - for the kinship determination, and for the conflicting evidence report. In the last few days I have been looking through the binders I've compiled on those families, and I've had the startling realization that there are big, black, gaping holes in my research.
What? I don't have a death certificate for my great-grandfather Henry Chase? I do have my handwritten transcription of the death record I found in Manistee County, Michigan when I visited in 1983 (odd, because he actually died in Grand Traverse County), and I also have extensive medical records from the Traverse City State Hospital. But not his death certificate.
Off goes an email to the Grand Traverse County Clerk.
I can't believe I never thought of obtaining the will and/or probate records for several grandparents and great-grandparents. Probate records for Ruth (Prosser) Chase MIGHT give me information on her daughter Edna Strunk, who was living in New York at the time of Ruth's 1915 obituary, and hasn't been seen since.
So I'm writing a request to the Manistee County Clerk for those records.
A will for John Hickox, who died in Medina, Ohio, in 1835, might reveal the names of his grown children by his first marriage. It might even reveal names of siblings back in New York, which would enable me to figure out where in New York he lived before coming to Ohio.
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has Medina County, Ohio, wills on microfilm; next time I order film for a client I'll order a couple of films for myself, as well.
Yes, it's past time for me to start treating my own research as I would my clients'!
Several months ago I was talking with my daughter, who was recounting a conversation she'd had with her boyfriend. She told me that they'd been talking about marriage, off and on, for several weeks, and he had asked her what "being engaged" would mean to her. She thought for a moment, and said (since they're both avid computer gamers) that it would feel like "leveling up." The term "boyfriend" just didn't fit any more, and she was ready to reach for the next level. Just last week he proposed, and so she (and I) have reached a new level. I'm now the mother of the bride-to-be!
I've thought about that a lot, over the last year, and I've decided that it applies to me, too, in my search for greater expertise in my genealogical research and reporting. When I decided to intensify my education and try my best to become a "professional", four years ago, I had no idea how much I would learn along the way. The steps I have taken since have felt just like stairsteps, some of them shallow, soft and carpeted, and some of them more like rugged cement blocks half my height!
One of the first things I did was join the National Genealogical Society, and then I took 3 of their online courses. I hesitated at the title of the course called "Introduction to Genealogy" - I'd been doing research for 30 years; would it teach me anything new? I was very surprised to learn some basics, in both that course and the ones on census records. Although I received (and studied) the NGS Quarterly, most of the articles were way above my head. I joined the APG and started attending meetings. I created business cards, and became an Expert Provider with Ancestry Expert Connect. I sent for the NGS Home Study Course on CD's, and began the lessons. That was two and a half years ago, and in that time I have learned about records I didn't know existed. I have learned the importance of correct source citations, and I'm still learning how to write them. I've developed the skill of critical thinking, so that now when I look at a record, I think, "but how do I KNOW this is the person I'm looking for?" I just finished the final lesson of the Home Study Course: writing a biography of one of my ancestors. That was a rigorous exercise in footnoting and citations - and it actually looks almost like an NGSQ article.
There has been a lot of discussion over the last couple of years, online on blogs and Facebook and Twitter and email lists, about the value (or not) of certification. I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks - I'm going for certification purely for myself. I want the assurance that I'm producing quality work, that will pass stringent standards. I can look back at the work I was doing six months, a year, or two years ago, and see how far I've come.
I still have a few more steps ahead of me, but I'm hoping to be able to compile a portfolio and submit it next year. Here's to "leveling up"!