This summer I spent the entire month of July looking at every county in the US (over 3000 of them) for libraries and historical societies that have newspaper indexes on their websites. Here's a sample:
Just a few days ago I published my second book, Searching for Your Ancestors in Historic Newspapers. This book was written fairly quickly, given that I was just beginning to put together my ideas for it in March. A big part of my reason for writing it was to emphasize the availability of historic newspapers in other places than the most widely searched online databases. I have been reading newspapers on microfilm for years. Here's a look at the beginning page of my chapter on Microfilm and Interlibrary Loan:
I make bread several times a week - homemade, from scratch, smell-the-yeast-rising bread.
I got into the habit last Christmas, when (after some experimentation) I found a Panettone recipe that we all really liked. And now that it's just me and my husband, having fresh bread studded with candied fruit and anise seed (I love the taste of anise and can't get enough of it) with our coffee in the morning is a treat.
Here's the recipe; I've made it so many times now that I know it by heart:
Bread Machine Panettone
3/4 cup warm water
6 T. oil
1 tsp. almond flavoring
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup candied fruit (I use part citron)
1 heaping T. anise seed
2 tsp. (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
Measure the ingredients into the bread pan (generally in the order listed here), and bake on a medium setting.
Tonight as I measured (not forgetting the yeast, as I almost did last time), I thought of my great-great grandmother, Mary Ann Hickox Chase, who with her husband Marshall Chase set out in a covered wagon for the wilderness that was Michigan. Even though they lived in northern Ohio and they were heading for Clinton county in southern Michigan, it still took several days riding over rough corduroy roads. I thought of her baking bread over a campfire, and then later in their farmhouse, in the kitchen (if she had an oven) or on the fireplace hearth. When she and her family moved north to Bear Lake, she had a new-fangled tin oven that was the envy of other women, who would sometimes travel a mile to do their baking in it. The oven was in great demand while their new log cabin was being built. (Were her skirts ever in danger of catching fire?)
This tin oven was handed down to her granddaughter, my grandmother Ruby Chase Reed. She and her husband Maurice used it on their many camping trips, in Michigan and trips out west. In July 1930 Maurice noted in his journal, "Baked 6 loaves of bread, 3 dozen cookies, a loaf of cornbread and a lot of pancakes at this stop." It was the marvel of the entire campground.
In the early 1940s, before their cottage was built, every summer Maurice and Ruby would set up camp on the shores of Crystal Lake. Although they probably used their tin oven, Ruby would also frequently take the car or the boat, and go into town to do her week's baking at her mother-in-law's house.
Tonight, as I measured the ingredients into the bread machine, I thought of Mary Ann, and Ruby, and my own mother. I smiled as I thought how easy life is for us women nowadays, and then I thought down the years to the future - at the thought that my someday great great granddaughters might marvel and exclaim at how primitive my kitchen is.
I am the bridge between the generations - making a loaf of bread.
Any court records resulting from a case in federal court will be found at the National Archives in Washington D.C. or one of its branches. These kinds of cases can cover things from mail fraud, theft from a U.S. agency, a lawsuit against the United States, kidnapping across state lines, forgery, and others.
Just to give you an idea of how much material is stored at one branch of the Archives, here is a glimpse of just a fraction of their holdings.
The National Archives branch in Seattle, Washington has rows of shelves of federal records, and over 70,000 rolls of microfilm, some of which are not yet digitized or online. It is the record retention center for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
Bankruptcies are always filed in federal court, and generally include a list of the creditors the plaintiff is seeking relief from. Some of these bankruptcy cases can be quite large, resulting in a stack of paperwork that has been preserved.
There are many laws in the U.S. Code that can be (and have been) broken, causing people to be brought to trial. In 1878 Clara Newsom was accused in the Oregon District Court of making counterfeit gold two dollar coins. In 1896 Julius Hurel was subpoenaed to the Montana District Court and accused of selling a quart of alcohol to an Indian. In 1875 John Madlock was brought before the court on charges of cutting timber on federal land for his own use.
And in 1897 C.A. Wasson was accused of “depositing in the United States Mail for transportation and delivery a certain letter containing obscene, indecent, vulgar and filthy matter, in violation of Section 3.895 of the Revised Statutes of the United States.” In this particular file are depositions from various mail carriers who handled the letter, including one, who when the letter was handed to him, stated, “I remember this letter. I soiled this letter by carrying it in my pocket with a piece of buttered toast.”
Court records of every kind and at every level can be great sources of information about your ancestors – how they lived, how they treated their neighbors, and how they kept (or broke) the law. Court records are worth exploring for the information they contain!
This is the eulogy I gave at Craig's memorial service, Saturday, February 15, 2014 at St. James Episcopal Church in Kent, WA.
My Brother Craig
Once upon a time, there were three of us – Claudia Catherine, Christopher Chase, and Craig Cameron. That was undoubtedly my dad’s idea, and the fact that we all had the same initials (CCR) proved to be both blessing and curse, as the three of us discovered, growing up.
Craig was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in November 1959, just after I turned 5. We lived in a yellow house in Forest Park, a suburb of Cincinnati. I remember toting him around in our red wagon, and greeting him with hugs when I got home from kindergarten. When he was little, he couldn’t pronounce my name, so I became “Cree-ia”. We got our first of a series of dachshund puppies, and I have lots of photos of him asleep on the couch, with a puppy curled up next to him.
He and my next youngest brother Chris were only two years apart in age. Once he asked, “Mom, are we twins?” Her answer was terse, “No, Thank God – that’s why you’re alive today!”
The three of us enjoyed trips to Michigan to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins several times a year, and with us he enjoyed picking wild blueberries and wading in the surf of Lake Michigan. Like the rest of us, Craig had fond memories of the Hiawatha Sportsmen’s Club in the upper peninsula, going fishing early on summer mornings to catch perch or trout, and piling in the car to go to the dump in the evening, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bears who would come foraging.
When Craig was eight years old our family moved to Florida, which opened up whole new adventures for him. Our dad worked for Boeing at the Kennedy Space Center, and Craig fell in love with all things scientific, especially astronomy. In junior high he was in a gifted program, developing a report on fiber optics. In high school he enjoyed classes in computer programming, science fiction, and mathematics, continuing those interests in his classes at Bellevue Community College and the Lake Washington Vocational Technical Institute. When dad got his first Osborne computer in 1977 (with a wonderful 16K of memory, which he was excited to expand to 49K the following year), Craig was actively involved in working with it.
In his part time jobs working as a delivery driver for a Bellevue pharmacy, and Fleet Delivery Services, he had the opportunity to explore the back roads all around this area, enjoying the scenery – the tall pine trees and the snow-covered mountains, and the water that surrounds us here. The job gave him some measure of independence, the chance to be on his own away from home, and the opportunity to explore.
Craig felt the loss of our parents more than any of us, I think. I was touched beyond words when, while cleaning out his apartment, I opened a bin and found in the bottom the yellow nightgown and robe, looking brand new, that had belonged to our mom. It’s now hanging in my closet. Throughout his many moves Craig managed to hang into Dad’s chess set that he made in Lansing High School in the 1940’s, and a scrapbook from the Apollo Space Program of the 1970’s, complete with an autographed picture of the Apollo astronauts. And he had Dad’s pith helmet, which had been handed down to Chris, and then Craig. Now it’ll be handed down to Jason.
I feel that the last 4 or 5 years of Craig’s life were his happiest, even though he had experienced a heart attack, the onset of diabetes, and required dialysis 3 times a week. He had a good place to live. He had his computer and the whole wide world of the internet to keep him entertained and informed. He had some good friends in Robert, Leroy, John and Jerry, and a wide circle of friends in several online communities, who expressed their sorrow at his death. The emails they sent to me at the news of his death mentioned him as being “a bright light, and a kind and generous soul, who will be very much missed.”
Craig had a caregiver who cared about him as well as for him, who spoiled him rotten. He had nurses at the Northwest Kidney center who cared about him. He was surrounded by his books, and he had enough money to live on. What more could he ask for?
Even though throughout his adult life he professed a disbelief in God, I like to think that he saw what we know as God in those of us who cared for him. In his friend Robert, who would come down to his apartment and keep him company, or invite him upstairs to enjoy the fireplace during an ice storm that took out the power. In me, who would drop everything at a moment’s notice to take him to the hospital, or the kidney center, or the pharmacy. In the beauty of nature that surrounds us here in the Pacific Northwest. In the music that he loved to listen to, and in the educated minds of his online friends and his favorite authors. And in the stars that were placed in the heavens, so beautiful and so scientifically exact.
It used to be the custom, almost the fashion commandment, that when you lost a loved one (as happened much more frequently in those days before germ warfare and penicillin), you donned mourning clothes. Back in Victorian times, there were strict social customs, especially for women, that dictated the type of clothing (crepe or some other dull, lusterless fabric; nothing shiny), the accessories (a "weeping" veil, no jewelry for the first year) and the length of time (depending on who was deceased & their relationship to you, it could be six months to four years). Entire businesses made a good living by creating and selling mourning clothes, wreaths, window drapings, and there was a cottage industry in England of those who could dye regular clothes for the poorer folk, who could not afford a separate wardrobe.
Now I would not want to go back to those times, of strict, stifling social mores, of staying "at home" and not going anywhere, except for church, or of wearing dull materials or a long black veil. But currently, as I'm grieving the loss of my youngest brother Craig Cameron Reed, I find myself longing for just a little of this custom. For me, what I'm wearing, if it were black or purple, would be an outward expression of my inward feelings. It would explain, without words, why I am not cheerful nowadays, and why my facial expression is somber, my mouth downturned. Wearing black would help me, and others, recognize that I have suffered a profound loss, and that I need to give myself time to grieve.
For instance, it would be nice, going into the local grocery store, if what I'm wearing could be an outward signal. Perhaps the clerk could look at me and just say, "I'm sorry", instead of a chirpy, "Have a wonderful day!" At church, where I am still a newcomer (having moved to this community only two months ago), it would be nice to have people inquire sympathetically about my loss and how it's affected me.
Wearing black does not have the same connotation any more. It's very common for professional women to wear black slacks and a jacket. I wear black or dark blue slacks quite often, especially when I'm meeting with a client, or doing a library presentation. In today's society, clothes of whatever color or style are taken for granted (teenagers in pajama pants, anyone?), so wearing black or other dark colors isn't worth a second glance.
So I think, for the next few days or weeks, I will be wearing black, dark blue or purple intentionally. It can be a signal to myself that I am grieving, and to give myself time and space, and lots of rest, to come through it. Outward appearances do convey a message, even if it's only to myself.
It's an odd sensation, being the last surviving member of the family you grew up with. My mother-in-law, the youngest of six children, was the last surviving member of her family at age 78, and lived for
another ten years before she joined them. But as for me - at age 59, only I remain, of a family who all died at fairly young ages. My mother at 65, my father at 68; my next younger brother Chris at 50, and just three days ago, my youngest brother Craig at age 54. It's a slight comfort to tell myself that I am in better health (if not better shape) than any of them, and to think that at the very least, I can attempt to outlive my mother.
But with everyone in my family gone, who is left to tell the stories? Who is left to share the memories? Memories of growing up in the 1960''s, in the big yellow house on Crenshaw Lane in Forest Park, Ohio. Memories of going sledding down the hill, in our aluminum saucer sleds - the neighborhood kids all looked cross-eyed at us for being "different", but we felt superior in our ability to spin around and around on the ice and snow. The memories of playing caroms in the living room, with its frost-covered picture window, or taking Easter Sunday pictures outside on the back patio next to mom's iris.
There are so many memories of Michigan - the state where my parents grew up, and where we went every chance we got. Grandma and Grandpa Stoelt's big 3-story brick house in Detroit, covered with ivy and holding treasures such as the pull-down stairs to the attic, the screened-in back porch, and (most delightful of all) the laundry chute. Memories of creeping down the stairs on a bright summer morning - no matter how early it was, Grandma would be in her needlepoint rocking chair in the living room, reading her Bible lessons for the day. Memories of the drive north to Beulah, coming down the hill on US 31 from Benzonia, seeing Crystal Lake in its icy blue loveliness. Driving further north and crossing the Mackinac Bridge, on our way to the Hiawatha Sportsman's Club, where we rented a cabin on Millecoquins Lake every summer. I am now the only one who can tell the story of the Curse of Hiawatha, and the mishaps that occurred every single summer, some of them conspiring to keep us there until Dad got a new pair of glasses shipped from Cincinnati (he lost his diving into a wave in Lake Michigan), or our car waited for a new transmission (it went out on us while on a drive deep into the forest, where Dad had to walk two miles to the nearest sign of civilization).
There are memories of Florida, and our move there in 1967 when Dad got a job at Cape Canaveral, working in the space program. Our first walk on the beach, where we made our first (ouch!) acquaintance with sand burrs. Our first experience of a rocket launch, where we watched the launch on TV and then ran out in the back yard to see the white smoke trail towering upward. Memories of the motorboat that Dad bought (and by a unanimous decision, named "Hiawatha"), and that we took out on the canals and waterways, exploring Florida. Memories of driving across the state to Bradenton to visit Grandpa Reed, and of having not one, but two Airstream trailers parked beside our house, when Grandma and Grandpa Stoelt, and Auntie Jean and Uncle David came for Thanksgiving.
Those are my memories. There are also the memories of our parents and grandparents, kept alive through the stories they told to us. My mother's stories of going to the Hiawatha Club with her parents in the 1940's, and having to use outhouses in back of the cabins. My father's memories of his home in Lansing, as the only boy between two sisters. His stories of going to Beulah every summer, camping in tents on the shore of Crystal Lake, on the land Grandpa Reed would buy in 1940 "for a dollar and other considerations". His memories of engineering school at Michigan State University, and of hitchhiking to Beulah on long weekends and breaks.
There are the stories Grandma Stoelt told, of growing up with a brother and three stepbrothers, and how she became a tomboy "out on the farm in Oxford" in the 1920's. She told stories of meeting and marrying my grandfather, who had a motherless one-year-old (my mother) to care for. She told of teaching English to evening classes full of immigrants at the high school, and how she loved those classes most of all, "because they were there to learn!"
I'm the only one left, now, to tell the stories. It's up to me to keep those memories alive, not just to pass along the family stories, but to give my children a sense of what it was like to live "way back when". What it was like to have the doctor make house calls, as he did when I was sick with the measles in 1962. What it was like to have only one car, so that Mom had to call the cab to go to the grocery store. What it was like to have one phone in the house (a black rotary-dial), and to be on a party line, so that we had to take turns with our neighbors down the street, to use it. What it was like for my Grandpa Reed to buy his first car, in order to make his job as a truant officer easier. What it was like to have a "Quarantine" sign slapped on the front door, or (as my Aunt Lois was) be hospitalized with pneumonia and be saved in the very nick of time by the brand-new medication, penicillin.
So from now on, at every family get-together, at holidays, celebrations, weddings and funerals, I will be talking about those stories. I am the Keeper of the Memories, and I will do my best to hand them down to future generations.
I received a phone call yesterday morning from the King County Medical Examiner's office, to let me know that my brother Craig died in his sleep during the night, and was found by his caregiver. Although sudden, this news was not a surprise, as Craig had struggled with significant health problems all his life. Several years ago when a heart attack landed him in the hospital he was informed he was diabetic; more recently he endured kidney failure and the resulting several-times-a-week dialysis. He was a loner all his life, and never married or had children. As the genealogist and family historian, I feel that I need to write an obituary for a print and online medium, foretelling the day a hundred years from now, when my great-great grandchildren will want to know what happened to my brothers.
But I think I have a fairly narrow view of Craig, from my vantage point as older sister and family matriarch and caretaker. When I posted the news of his death and his pre-written message to his favorite listserves, the expressions of sympathy and loss, along with the memories of his friendship and companionship were heartwarming. And it occurs to me that in writing his obituary, I need to solicit memories of him from those who, perhaps, knew him better than I did.
In my book, Genealogy Offline: A beginner's guide to family history records that are not online, I've made a point of describing records that are only found in libraries, archives, historical societies and museums. Here is an excerpt, describing an obituary I found for my great grandfather, Henry Hickox Chase:
A few years ago I was visiting the Manistee County Historical Museum in Manistee, Michigan, a treasure trove of artifacts, photographs and historic information about life in Northern Michigan over 100 years ago. I happened to mention to the director that I’d never found an obituary for my great-grandfather Henry Chase, who had lived in Bear Lake for decades. He asked me the name and date, and disappeared downstairs into the basement. Before too long, he came upstairs with the original copy of the Manistee County Pioneer Press for Friday, September 13, 1940, and right there on the front page was the obituary I needed.
Wills can provide fascinating details of what daily life was like at that time. In Joseph Donaldson’s 1872 will, he made sure to provide for his widow, directing his son thus:
2nd I give devise and bequeath unto my second son James George Donaldson all and singular that piece or parcel of land and premises being comprised of the Fourth lot in the fifth concession of the township of South Monaghan aforesaid Charging and requiring him to pay the following: To his Mother during her natural life or as she remains my Widow yearly and every year to pay unto her the sum of Fifty dollars of good and lawfule money of Canada together with the following produce, viz: Twelve pounds of tea, Fifty pounds of Sugar, Five hundred pounds of good flower, Ten bushels potatoes, Thirty pounds Beef or Mutton, One Barrel pork, Twelve pounds of Carded Wool and milch and butter sufficient for her own use allso all fire wood she shall need.
I also desire that my wife possess during her natural life the east half of the house I now live in together with all furniture thereon and her bed, bedding, Bureau & looking glass and the east half of the garden. I allso desire and require my son James George to provide my wife with a conveyance at all times that she shall desire the same to and from church and at least four times each year to and from Port Hope or Peterborough…
Joseph Donaldson, Last Will and Testament, United Counties of Northumberland and Durham Surrogate Court Records, Microfilm no. GS 1, Reel 1106, File no. 1272, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
As promised, here is an excerpt from my new book, Genealogy Offline: A beginner's guide to family history records that are not online.
Although the final document awarding Riley E. Breland his 160 acres in Mississippi is online at the GLO website, housed at the National Archives in Washington D.C. are 28 pages of documents, contained in this packet:
The file includes his application, with his signature:
As with most applications of this kind, there are depositions from friends who could testify that Riley had improved the land, building a house, kitchen, smoke house, 3 corn cribs and stables, and that he had not been absent from the land more than a day or two in the five years he’d lived there.
When it was time for Riley to make his final application and get the land awarded to him, a notice was put in the local newspaper.
All content (c) Claudia Breland, 2014