Here's a preview of one of last season's episodes:
With NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" in its third season, I'm finding that I can't get enough of genealogy on TV! A good complement to that show is The Generations Project, which is produced by BYU-TV. Rather than following celebrities, they take an ordinary person like you or me, who has a compelling reason for exploring their ancestry, and follow them through that journey.
Here's a preview of one of last season's episodes:
According to the count-down calendar on Ancestry, it's only 40 days until the release of the 1940 census! What will you find there? Who will you look for, and where will you look for them? To get a start, you can view the introductory video on the National Archives website here.
After you see the video, you can visit the National Archives website to read about finding your relatives and ancestors on the 1940 census returns, even before they're indexed. You can start by making a list of parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, and note where they were living in 1930, and where you think they were living in 1940.
Here's my list:
Arnold and Ervilla Stoelt - Detroit, Michigan
Maurice and Ruby Reed - Lansing, Michigan
Henry Hickox Chase - Traverse City, Michigan
Percy and Mary Reed - Beulah, Michigan
Herbert Kenny Randall - Detroit, Michigan
Stacy and Marian Thompson - Manistee, Michigan
Of course, they're just the beginning of the list of people I'll want to find. For all the cousins, aunts and uncles who I've found on the 1930 census, I'll use my genealogy software (Legacy Family Tree) to generate a list. It's as simple as asking it to find everyone who was born before 1940 and died after 1940. My search of my database (with over 3000 names) yielded an 18-page list of over 500 people!
Another thing I'm doing to get ready is indexing for FamilySearch. You can sign up here - it's easy and fun, and contributes to all of us who are searching for our ancestors!
Living in Maple Valley, just southeast of Seattle, Washington, we are generally safe from major weather events. We don't get hurricanes or tornadoes or blizzards. We don't even see much snow; our winters are generally more rain than snow. We've had snow on Christmas Day for 2 out of the past 33 years.
But when we do get a major snowstorm, it's a news event. This past week we've been hit with snowstorms and ice storms, prompting our governor to declare a state of emergency.
I'm very grateful to still have power, light and warmth - and a good internet connection! I've been remembering times past, when we've lost power for days at a time, and kept a fire burning in the fireplace while my children did homework by lamplight. We have documented in our photo albums the Inaugural Day storm of 1992, when trees came down in our back yard, and the local grocery stores had generators going until power was restored. In my Christmas letter of 2003 I told of the high winds that hit our area and blew part of the roof off the elementary school: "Steven's school was badly damaged, and was closed for a week for repairs to the roof. His classes are meeting in the gymn until after Christmas break." My children will undoubtedly be telling their children about the "olden days", when they had to do without TV, computers and internet because of severe weather.
In thinking of how my ancestors coped with severe weather, I immediately thought of the great Blizzard of 1888 that hit New York City. Grandma Stoelt's great-grandfather John Christopher Varran and his wife Margaret, both in their 60's, lived in New York City, at 301 S. 121st St.
I wonder what their experience was, living through the blizzard. Obviously they survived - although John Varran died just two years later in 1890, Margaret lived until 1918. Did they have a wood or coal stove to warm their home? Did they have enough food? In some ways, looking out at the snow and ice surrounding them was very similar to mine, 124 years later, on the other side of the country.
But most of my ancestors were living in Michigan, and the worst storm there was the Big Blow of November 1913.
In 1913 my great grandparents Henry and Ruth Chase were living in Bear Lake, Manistee County, just a few miles from Lake Michigan. My great grandparents Percy and Mary Reed lived in Beulah, also close to the Lake Michigan shoreline. Their children, Ruby Chase and Maurice Reed, were attending Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti (Ruby) and Michigan Agricultural College (Maurice) in Lansing, but I'm sure they were affected by the storm as well.
As for my maternal great-grandparents, Herbert and Claudia (Thompson) Randall were greatly affected by the storm - they lived in Manistee, right on Lake Michigan, and Herbert worked as a ship's engineer. Herbert's father Augustus Randall and Claudia's father Stacy Thompson lived in Manistee, as well. As for the Stoelts, my grandfather Arnold Anthony Stoelt was 12 years old and living in Sebewaing, Huron County, with his parents Johan and Catherine (Dorsch) Stoelt. In fact, looking at the dates, I see that Johan Stoelt died just weeks later, on 26 December 1913.
So in dealing with the weather, stocking emergency supplies and coping with power outages and downed trees, we have a lot in common with our ancestors. Today's ice storms are tomorrow's stories ~ just as I tell stories of living through hurricane watches and warnings in Florida in the 1970's, someday my children will be telling their grandchildren about the high winds they experienced in Western Washington, lo these many years ago.
When I was a little girl, living with my family in Cincinnati, we used to drive to Michigan several times a year to visit relatives. My favorite destination was the little village of Beulah, on Crystal Lake, where my Grandma and Grandpa Reed had built a cottage in the 1940's and named it Columbine Cottage for the wildflowers that grew there.
On one of these trips - and I'm not certain if it was before my Grandma Ruby Reed died in 1963, or afterwards - I was given something magical, that delighted my reader's heart. It was a scrapbook that Grandma Ruby had put together of some children's stories about Santa Claus, that were published in ladies' magazines in the 1920's. They were written by Sarah Addington and illustrated by Gertrude Kay.
The stories had been cut out of the magazines and carefully pasted into a homemade scrapbook between stiff cardboard covers. The lined notebook pages are yellowing with age, and the masking tape binding is disintegrating, but the newsprint is as readable as ever. Some of the stories were too large for the page, so my grandmother had taped and glued these sections so that they would fold out and up, just like a pop-up book.
The first story was "There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane", subtitled, "A True Account, if Only You Believe it, of the Life and Ways of Santa, Eldest Son of Mr. and Mrs. Claus". In these stories the author seamlessly and believably (at least to an 8-year old girl) interweaves her version of Santa Claus with all the Mother Goose nursery rhymes and stories. This one begins:
Once upon a time in the kingdom of Old King Cole there lived a father and a mother and a fat little boy who always dressed in a bright red suit. The father, whose name was Mr. Claus, was a baker, and he lived on Pudding Lane, between the butcher and the candlestick-maker.
Mr. Claus was really about the best baker in the world. He knew so well how to make little cake puppies with red currant eyes. And he knew so well how to make funny gingerbread Brownies with black raisin eyes. He made great fat loaves of bread, warm and golden and crusty. And he made little plum tarts that a boy could eat up in one gobble, and a girl could eat up in two.
The story goes on to tell how Santa grew up, with his younger brothers (who arrived as two sets of twins and named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and younger sister, how all the children of the village loved Santa because he would give away cookies from his father's bakery, and that he was especially loved by his grandmother, Mother Goose herself. And it tells how Santa saved all the village children from following the Pied Piper by promising to make every child a toy for next Holy Day. It tells how he married Bessie, the candlestick-maker's niece, and how Old King Cole set him up in the North Country with sleighs, reindeer, and a great workshop.
All year long Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus worked to make toys. Santa cut down straight pine and spruce trees. He carved dolls and horses and rabbits out of wood, and Mrs. Claus painted them until her arms ached. He made dolls of sawdust and linen, and Mrs. Claus dressed them in the latest doll styles, in blue and pink silk, with lace on the edge of their bonnets. Santa made a roomful of rocking horses; it seemed that every little boy in the world wanted a rocking horse. And Mrs. Claus made candy until she said she thought she'd turn into candy. Whereupon Santa told her she was sweet enough for that anyway!
And so it is that Santa Claus has come every year since that first Christmas, and will keep on coming - forever.
Citation: Addington, Sarah. "There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane. Ladies Home Journal, December 1921, p.12.
Some of the bloggers I read have been posting "If Our Ancestors Wrote Christmas Letters", and I have been thinking about doing the same. However, until I do, here's a blast from the past - a Christmas letter my dad wrote from Cincinnati, Ohio in December 1960:
Dear Kinfolk and friends,
I have so enjoyed "annual family status reports" received from friends and relatives at this time of year in the past that I'm trying it out myself this year. First, let me start off with a hearty, "BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON," to all.
Since November 19th of 1959, when Craig Cameron was born, we have been a family of five. Christopher Chase (3 1/2) and Claudia Catherine (6) are the other children, with Mary and myself completing the roster. A split level house in Forest Park (a suburban development about 5 miles north of Cincinnati) is the place we call home. At the present time we are all healthy and happy and sharing the childrens anticipation and excitement about Christmas.
A year ago, things were not as settled. Mary and Craig came home from the hospital the day before Thanksgiving. I took "vacation" to help Mary at home. With an "innocence is bliss attitude" prepared a huge turkey. About the time I got a dozen eggs, a quart of oysters, a dishpan full of breadcrumbs and all the sage I could find in the house mixed together for the stuffing, I began to have a few misgivings. For the first attempt, the results were nearly amazing...the bird was delectable.
With the hubbub connected with adjusting family routine to a new baby, last Christmas was kind of hectic. But for the young ones, it was the culmination of their weeks long dreams. For Mary and me, it was somewhat of an anti-climax since our big present (Craig) had already arrived.
Between weather, work, and the baby, we saw little outside activity during the winter. Occasional weekend evenings playing bridge with friends furnished diversion and pleasant entertainment during those months.
The arrival of Mom and Dad Reed en route from Florida to Beulah was an indication (even more welcome than the first robin) that spring was coming. They parked their trailer at a nearby court and stayed about three days. Bridge, visiting, and resting was the comfortable, unhurried, unharrassed agenda.
The first of July we took our vacation. Mom Stoelt volunteered to care for Craig. Since there seemed to be adequate and eager hands to help her, we left him with his Grandma in Detroit, thus enabling Mary to have something of a vacation too. The rest of us went on to Beulah for about ten days. What with Crystal Lake to swim in, cousins to play with, and ideal weather all the time, we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Mary and I took a day by ourselves to drive up to the Straits of Mackinac to see the bridge. This added to our pleasure and Claudia and Chris enjoyed their day with Aunt Jane, Uncle Lewis, Dorcas, Cherith and Teresa.
On and off for many months, Claudia had been troubled with tonsillitis. She had a tonsillectomy in August that hospitalized her for a day. Several more days were spent recuperating, but by the time school started this fall she was raring to go.
Since she had attended the Forest Park Cooperative Nursery for two years, she was eager to start kindergarten. It seems to be everything hoped for since she enjoys it, and what's even more important, is actually learning a fascinating number of things. "Like a duck to water," would be the proverbial description of her adjustment to her first formal schooling.
Chris, in retrospect, seems to have had a mischievous, but rather uneventful year. The most significant event seems to be the day he arose early and busied himself in the kitchen. Goodness knows what he was making, but when one dumps popcorn, sugar, flour, cake mix (chocolate), cleanser, and Cheerios in a pile and mixes it up, it is best described by a four letter word (or a series of them). Although extremely upset about such activities, I am reminded of similar actions of my own some 25 years ago and am therefore inclined to be tolerant (after disciplinary action, though.)
Craig has been occupying himself by cutting teeth (ten of them already) and learning to walk. He's not yet walking without hanging on, but it's going to be a toss up between whether he walks first or cuts another tooth.
Until recently I had occupied my spare time serving as President of the Forest Park Cooperative Nursery Center for children in the area. The organization employs a teacher, rents quarters, and has daily classes (organized play) for preschool age children. The mother-members assist the teacher two or so at a time on a scheduled basis. My activities with the nursery school permitted me to become acquainted with many other families in the area. I found the job to be quite interesting even though we didn't have a child in the nursery school this fall. I resigned last month since I'd filled the post for a year and was beginning to find it difficult to devote the time necessary to do the job.
My regular job is in the Marketing section of General Electric Co. where I assist with selling improvements on one type of the large jet engines we make here. My primary responsibility is for the engines used on the B-58 Hustler bomber, but my duties are only limited to jet engines which the US Air Force orders (as opposed to US Navy, foreign, commercial airline and turboshaft engines). The work is interesting, challenging, and enjoyable.
Thanksgiving this year was spent with relatives on Mary's side of the family in Lake Orion, Michigan. With 15 adults and 6 children we sure had a big meal. Everything worked out beautifully and it far surpassed my attempts at "turkey with trimmings" the year before.
Well, that's the year in review. I hope you feel better acquainted now. To complete the picture, we're sending along a family portrait taken about a month ago. Wish we could drop in in person. It would be much more fun to say,
"MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR."
As a genealogist, I'm not going after just names and dates. I'm looking for anything that will place my (or my clients') ancestors into historical context. What were their lives like? What was it like to homestead in Oklahoma Territory? How did it feel to sail on Lake Erie, or to travel north to Michigan from Ohio in a covered wagon? What was it like to live in Lansing, Michigan, during the years of World War II?
My grandfather kept a journal, where he wrote about daily life in Lansing during those war years. He talked about their backyard garden, and even inserted some of the rationing books into the pages of the journal.
For a riveting, first-hand view of what it was like to live in London during the war years, I can highly recommend World War II: London Blitz Diary, by Ruby Side Thompson. These are excerpts from the journal that she kept all her adult life. Reading it, I'm taken back to a time and place when it was normal to hear air raid sirens and the "incessant noise of incendiaries falling" all night, every night; to cook with no eggs, butter, milk or meat and to put oatmeal water in your tea; to wait for the all-clear siren before going outside and to know the location of every bomb shelter in the neighborhood; and to pray for the end of "this hellish destruction".
And so tonight, as I stand in my kitchen baking Christmas cookies, I look outside at the darkness, and give thanks that I don't have to use blackout curtains, and for the bright Christmas lights decorating our neighborhood. I am thankful that I have butter and eggs, sugar and chocolate to cook with, and that we have no shortage of food. I am thankful for the safe return of my nephew Jason, serving in the Marines, from his overseas deployment this year. Most of all, I am thankful for peace.
I have found that one of the most important things I can do as a genealogist is to keep up with current events. I like to hear about new technologies, new websites and databases, and news around the US about the records that are available - or being restricted. I like to read about other genealogists' work, and how they solve problems, and about where they research. All of this information helps me to help my clients.
So, to get an idea of where I get my news, here is a list of my favorite genealogy blogs:
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter: http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/
If you have time to read only one blog, this one should be top priority. Dick Eastman has been writing this newsletter since 1996, and it's full of news and helpful information.
Midwestern Microhistory: http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com/
My friend Harold Henderson writes about "Genealogy and family history in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and neighbor and feeder states". Since I have ancestors in Michigan and Ohio, and have done research for clients in all of these states, this is an important one for me.
Planting the Seeds: http://michaelhait.wordpress.com/
Michael Hait, a certified genealogist in the Delaware/Maryland area writes about the process of becoming a professional genealogist.
Genealogy Roots Blog: http://genrootsblog.blogspot.com/
As someone who uses Online Searchable Death Index and Records (http://www.deathindexes.com) on a regular basis, I need to know when updates are published. This blog notifies me of updates.
I've found that watching webinars is another good way to learn something new, on my own time, at home on my computer. This blog lets me know about upcoming webinars and how to register for them.
Randy Majors: http://randymajors.com/
Randy Majors is all about maps - he has some great tools on his blog that I need to use more often!
Clue Wagon: http://www.cluewagon.com/
Kerry Scott (who used to be a Human Resources executive) is hilarious and down to earth.
Up Front with NGS: http://upfront.ngsgenealogy.org/
The official blog of the National Genealogical Society - this keeps me informed about new videos & publications.
Marian's Roots & Rambles: http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/
Marian Pierre-Louis has done some great webinars for Legacy Family Tree, and writes interesting and informative articles on her blog.
These blogs represent a fraction of the 38 blogs I subscribe to on Google Reader. Which is informing me that I have 163 articles still unread, and more are being added every day.
Now, if you'll excuse me - I have some reading to catch up on!
For every estate inventory you find online (for example, those of Revolutionary war veterans) there must be thousands, if not millions, of others in files, in boxes, in books, tucked away in dusty (or well-kept) corners of courthouses and state archives. Among the 476 pages of photocopied material I brought back from my visit to the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh is an estate inventory for Mary Stacy, deceased, widow of Buckner Stacy, who lived in Montgomery County, North Carolina. This was dated March 31st 1849, and is a fascinating look at a time and place long vanished:
1 pot, oven & hooks
2 baskets of grind stones
11 bushels cotton seed
5 bushels corn
1 sow & 8 choice shoats [young hogs]
1 coffee mill
1 lot crockery
1 pr. sheep shears & scissors
1 pr. steelyards & candle moulds
lard stand & contents
1 Bed & furniture
100 lbs. bacon
1 lot sugar & coffee
Most of these items sold for just a few cents; the most expensive item on the list was the wagon, which sold for $22. The names of the community members who bought these items are illuminating, too - many of them were the sons-in-law of Mary & Buckner, and a granddaughter, Eliza Stacy, bought a looking glass for 92 cents.
Along with this inventory, I also brought home an inventory and a will for Buckner Stacy, who died in 1842. His much shorter inventory included:
1 black mare 24.60
1 bay mare 70.85
1 dark red cow 7.00
1 black heifer 2.26
10 head of sheep 9.00
These last items were obviously slaves. One of the stipulations in Buckner Stacy's will was "that my executor should expose to publick sales my negro man West and the proceeds be applied to pay my debts".
Yes, it was a different time and place.
As of today, we're just 140 days away from the release of the 1940 US census on April 2, 2012! This release is historic for a number of reasons, first and foremost is that it will be the first census released as free digital images at the National Archives website. The images will be there, but until the census is indexed you'll have to browse the images to find the families you're interested in.
FamilySearch is now recruiting volunteers to help with the indexing of over 132 million names. You can sign up here. And you can even pick the state you're most interested in! I picked Michigan. (You had to ask?)
This is the second post in my series about records that are not online, and perhaps never will be. In preparing to start compiling my portfolio for certification, I decided on the family I want to write about: my paternal grandmother Ruby Chase Reed, her father Henry Hickox Chase and his mother Mary Ann Hickox Chase. Each of them have fascinating stories, and I'm fortunate to have lots of original records that I received from my grandfather's estate in 1974. In looking over the records, I realized that I didn't have some basic information - such as wills or probate records. So I wrote, and then called the Manistee County Probate Clerk to see about getting those.
I had known that Henry Hickox Chase died in the Traverse City State Hospital in 1940; what I didn't know was that the Manistee County Clerk had a treasure chest of papers, waiting to be discovered. She described it on the phone as a packet of guardianship records, and just said that there were "lots" of papers. It would have cost me $1 per page to have them photocopied, so I emailed my cousin (who lives in Benzonia County, the next county north to Manistee County), and asked if she could do me a huge favor and go the courthouse to take digital photos. She and her husband drove down that very afternoon, and took 75 digital photos of the papers, some of which were too fragile to be photocopied.
Courthouses all across the country are filled with papers like these!