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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

One of my favorite online sites to explore regularly is Findagrave.comLike most super websites, Find A Grave was started by a guy with a weird hobby and nerdy tendencies.

His name is Jim Tipton

Jim created the Find A Grave website in 1995 because he could not find an existing site that catered to his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. He found that there are many thousands of folks around the world who share his interests. What began as an odd hobby became a livelihood and a passion. Building and seeing Find A Grave grow beyond his wildest expectations has been immensely satisfying for Jim. Every day, contributors from around the world enter new records, thousands use the site as an educational reference tool, long-lost loved ones are located and millions of lives are fondly remembered. In what other line of work would Jim have met one of the last living munchkins, spoken to a gathering of grave enthusiasts in a Hollywood mausoleum and acquired treasures like his antique coffin screwdriver (it only screws in)?” reprint from Find A Grave bio.

Nowadays Find A Grave has evolved into one of the major genealogy sites. Thousands of volunteers all over the world go to cemeteries, record the graves and the information on the stones. Then they record it all on FindAGrave in an easily searchable format. Absolutely free. Of course it’s a lot more complicated than that but basically that’s how it works.

Using my elusive ancestor George from a couple of posts ago, this is how I found where he was buried. George had 12 kids. Well, his wife Sabina had 12 kids. One of them was my grandfather who family lore said was the first generation to come here from Germany. BUT, a census said he was born in Philadelphia and that his father’s name was George. If that was the case then his father had to have come to this country and was buried somewhere in Philadelphia. Just guessing of course, but I always work my hunches. Sometimes they are successfully, other times – not so much.

So I jumped on FindAGrave.com put in his name, state of Pennsylvania and found several George’s. Narrowing it down to cemeteries in Philadelphia there were still several Georges. But, buried alongside someone named Sabina, I knew I had him.
And someone had kindly photographed the gravestone so I got that too. The FindAGrave information gave me a death date which led me to getting a notice of death.

What really amazed me about the whole discovery was that the cemetery was only a few blocks from where I grew up and I had passed it hundreds of times. I even rode my bike through it as a short cut home on summer evenings when I was late for dinner.  Now that’s spooky.

I like to call this approach, back door genealogy. I’ve since become a volunteer for FindAGrave and go all over my surrounding area taking pictures for other genealogists.  There’s so much to FindAGrave that space here does not permit me to cover it all. I can only suggest that you go to the website, explore it and make your own discoveries.  Happy hunting.

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Have you ever felt sorry for your genealogical self because Aunt Pinch Your Cheek  never left a diary for you? How about Grandpa Drum His Fingers On The Table? Did he have the nerve to die and never tell you where the family papers were if there were any? I always fell extreme regret that when I finally decided to research my family history, everyone who knew anything about it was already gone. No, they didn’t move to Florida. They were permanently gone. Like, forever. Sometimes I just want to sit down and cry over my own lack of foresight. You too? All you ever got was a sentence here, a tidbit there? Why oh why didn’t they ever write that stuff down?

Well Pumpkin, how about you? You know those sentences and tidbits. Have you ever written them down? Remember how scared you were riding your bike through the cemetery at sunset? You remember that family get together when your aunt ate almost the whole chicken by herself, don’t you? Did you write it down for your descendants? Well of course not! Why not?

Time, Sweetcheeks, time. No one ever has enough of it they aren’t making more of it and it races by like a horse who smells the barn. No, we can’t make more time, but yes, we can use it better.

Let’s get tecky, huh? Digital recorders are so small, portable and easy to use. Even old folks like me can follow the instructions. Check out one of the great chocki emporiums or online sites to find the right one for you. I checked several places and prices run from $25.00 to $125.00 and every price point in between. A simple Google will get you tons of hits. Maybe a flea market trip would scare one up also.

If you get one, learn to use it. Carry it with you everywhere. I come up with some of the most creative blog post ideas when I’m zooming along in the car. Never remember them when I get home in front of the computer screen though. With a digital recorder you can just click it on, babble for awhile and click it off. Even if you never transcribe it, you’ll have those words for future generations. They can listen to them. And pass them on to the next generation.

My brother is six years older then me and he seems to remember more then I do about our childhood in Philadelphia. I’ve been nagging him to write the stuff down but he never has the time either. Maybe I should get him a digital recorder too and between the two of us we can piece together some family stories to leave to our children. Not that our children care about them. Not yet anyway. But one day they will and they too will regret that they never asked us who, what, where, when and most importantly, why?

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Our ancestors had so many traditions it’s hard to keep up with them. They all did so and so for Christmas. They all ate such and such on Sunday after church. They all had naming patterns and we could just troll along down to our deepest roots if we only knew what their pattern was.

Fortunately for me, the Germans strickly kept to their naming patterns until the past few generations.  And someone very kindly posted that pattern online several years ago. Yahoo for me.

Basically this is how it goes. Try to keep up.

1st Son – Father’s Father; 2nd Son – Mother’s Father; 3rd Son – Father; 4th Son – Father’s Father’s Father; 5th Son – Mother’s Father’s Father; 6th Son – Father’s Mother’s Father; 7th Son – Mother’s Mother’s Father.

1st Daughter – Mother’s Mother; 2nd Daughter – Father’s Mother; 3rd Daughter – Mother; 4th Daughter – Father’s Father’s Mother; 5th Daughter – Mother’s Father’s Mother; 6th Daughter – Father’s Mother’s Mother; 7th Daughter Mother’s Mother’s Mother.

Got all that? If you had more than seven sons or daughters you were on your own. My father was the ninth son out of eleven children, and the baby, so as far as I know his name was pulled from a hat.  Or more than likely from the family Bible.

My great grandfather’s name was George. He was born in Germany but I have nothing on this line farther back than that. George’s first son’s name was also George. With that tidbit I could think that George was named after his grandfather, and therefore my great grandfather’s father’s name would be George.

I could…..but I won’t. It’s a good clue, but with further investigation I find that the 1900 Census says that George and his wife has 12 children but only 9 of them survived. They were married in 1856 and son George was born in May of 1859. Were they slow starters or did they have another son who died? Since they only list two daughter and neither are named for George’s wife, I am thinking that if they did have a child who died, it was a son. So I will continue to search for my George everywhere I go.

Now that everyone is confused I will leave you with this advice. Search out the naming pattern of your ethnic group. Work it through the information that you do have and you may find the name of that elusive ancestor who nags at you constantly to be found. Happy hunting.

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God bless Google and all the other search engines for making the internet the amazing electronic encyclopedia that it is . Myth has it that Al Gore invented the internet. I doubt that seriously but he is credited with coining  the phrase “Information Superhighway”.  That’s about it.

I won’t bore you with the details but in a nutshell the first idea came from Leonard Kleinrock in 1961, the internet as we know it by a group of smart guys in 1969, the first email by Ray Tomlinson in 1972 and the first WWW by Tim Berners-Lee on August 6, 1991.

Personally I’d like to believe the internet was invented by two guys in their garage in California during a drunken weekend. That’s where most great things begin.

Google really was invented by two guys, Larry Page and Sergey Brin and the term “to Google” is said to have started in 2004. Google truly was operated out of a friend’s garage in California and the rest, as they say, is history.

Because of the internet and because of Google and other search engines like it, genealogy research has become easier, less expensive and accessible to everyone. It is no longer necessary to travel to foreign lands to see into the lives of our ancestors. Wading through all the information available however is daunting. But it is possible to hone down the hits, reducing your stress level to a minimum.

Using one of my surnames as an example I put Sipe into Google. Results – 239,000. I’ll be someone’s ancestor before I could possibly get through all that. Typing Sipe and Genealogy, making sure to use the “and”,  I reduce the hits to 4,150. Still too many. A little more information for Google – Sipe and Genealogy and Virginia – I reduce the hits to 4,040. Good but not great.

Finally going with Sipe and Genealogy and Rockingham County and Virginia  the hits come down to 612. THAT I can manage. You and I both know, most of those 612 hits will be useless to me, but in there somewhere is a gem waiting for me and me alone. With only 612 I won’t lose patience (which I am known to do) I will find that one  piece of information that will put a smile on my face, maybe a tear in my eye and encourage my conviction to push on.

So God bless Google and the Internet and all the people who post information online. It’s out there waiting for you. Go get it.

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If money were no object, I could hire a professional genealogist to do all my research and I could surround myself with ancestors. Lots of them. If money were no object, a fledgling researcher could hire me to get them started.

But money is an object. A big, big object. And information on the internet usually comes with a price. Subscription sites can be extremely costly for a beginner. But with a little digging, a little good old-fashioned snooping and a little shoe leather you will make a good start before spending a lot of money.

One place I always look is FamilySearch.org.  Free to everyone, this website offers US Census, some  English census and some obscure records that you won’t find anywhere  else. I’ve even found something that wasn’t on Ancestry. Maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, it supports a very simple search engine. You can search either an exact match or a range of matches.

If you are fortunate enough to live near one of the church’s satellite libraries, call them. Find out their hours and get ready for a real treat. The volunteers are helpful and they have subscriptions to many of the payment sites like Ancestry.com and Archives.com. Each library has books, records, some magazines, microfilm readers. For a nominal fee you can rent microfilm, and other records from Salt Lake City. They will be delivered to your library and you will have a week or two to view them before they must be returned.

Google is another source of free information. Put in the surname you’re looking for and push enter. You many find  other people looking for the same name and they may have posted their family tree online. If you can make a connection you may find many, many generations.

GenForum.com supported by Genealogy.com has an incredible selection of surname and location forums. Periodically I go into the forums, put in a surname and look to see if anyone else is looking for the same branch of the tree. I’ve connected with three fourth cousins in one line, one fourth cousin in another and one third cousin in another. Each person had tons of information and were more than willing to share. The three fourth cousins and I are all great-grandchildren of the same couple. So exciting. You do have to register, but to my knowledge it is still free.

Google  state, city and county sites. Many of them are involved in the national GENWEB project and have searchable records online. Each state has a variety of different searchable records. For instance the state of North Dakota directed me to the Bureau of Land Management. I got records of my grandfather’s land that he homestead. Hopefully the state you search will have many for you. All for free.

Local libraries all have genealogy records in their reference section. The main library in the county will have more but each library system is different.  A few regional libraries like the Orange County Public in Orlando, FL have an entire floor devoted to genealogy with rolls of census microfilm, printers interfaced with the readers, rows and rows of books. Also most libraries have agreements with out of county facilities and can get a book for you from another state even.

State Universities allow access  to their libraries but you have to check to see if you need to apply for a temporary card. I’ve found microfilm of early, early census, newspapers and a lot of Civil War books. Living near the University of Florida, I’ve been to their libraries many times and did my earliest census work there. Finding a parking place on campus is much harder than finding ancestors.

There are other free information treasure chests but these are the ones I use the most.  Of course the ultimate is a trip to Salt Lake City, but that would involve air fare, hotels, meals, rental cars, etc. That would not be free. Therefore, that is not for me.

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My daughter saw this on Pinterest.com and told me it reminded her of advice I had given her when she was younger. It’s called Advice From a Tree, but I like to think that it’s also advice from a family tree.

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