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Posts Tagged ‘Carol Chidlow’

I have to admit, I’m not a real good genealogist. So far I haven’t checked out any wills, deeds, property sales or anything like that. And I hop around a lot. When I get bored not finding anything on one ancestor I hop over to research another. All the books tell you not to do that. It’s a genealogy no-no. But I have a lot of fun with my family research. I mean, it’s all out there somewhere and as far as all that boring stuff is concerned, it’s not going anywhere. I am confident that it will still be there if I ever get around to going after it.

But talking to people, finding obscure jewels of gossip and factoids about the family makes me smile. It’s the detective spirit in me I guess. I love a good mystery. Here’s one thing I did early on in my journey that really paid off. At the time I didn’t have a lot of information. I knew where my grandparents were buried because I’d been to several family funerals there. My father is buried alongside them and his were the only dates I had.  One Saturday afternoon I got out my paper with the names on it and called the Blandford Cemetery office in Petersburg, Virginia. A very nice lady named Jackie answered the phone and I asked her if by any chance I could get some information from their files. She said “sure”.

I gave her the surname I was looking for and boy, did she give it to me! Every person in that cemetery with the same last name was fair game. Apparently it was a rainy Saturday afternoon in Petersburg and Jackie was bored. She gave me the names of all of them, birth dates, death dates and more information then I could have hoped for. Before the 1950s the cemetery records contained the place of birth and the cause of death for the deceased. The German tradition of everyone being buried together meant that most of the children were buried in the family plot. That is how I found out that my grandmother and several of the older boys were born in Rockingham County, Virginia. Never knew that. I thought they came from Petersburg,  Philadelphia or North Dakota. That’s the only  places I ever heard of when I was growing up.  She also gave me all their addresses when they died, funeral homes that took care of the arrangements, birth dates, etc. I ended that afternoon with a new best friend and tons of data to include in my family tree. I spent the rest of the day grinning like an idiot.

A few weeks later, trying to get my hands on my grandfather’s death certificate was proving to be a complicated chore. But because of my new friend Jackie, I knew the funeral home so I called them and asked if they had records that went back that far. Apparently they keep those records forever and the gentleman I talked to informed me that I wouldn’t find a death certificate in Virginia because my grandfather had died in Philadelphia and was shipped home to be buried in Petersburg. Well that little tidbit made all the difference in the world. With it I was able to find a death certificate. Never did find an obituary though.

So the next boring afternoon you’re sitting around wondering which direction to take your research, back up, regroup and do some thinking outside the box. The least normal idea just might pay off.

Grandmother Volz

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Facts and figures make up the bulk of information that genealogists collect, chart, and savor. We’ve got those dates memorized, got the family names etched in our memories and we’ve got city, states and street names documented solidly on our family trees.

You may know that grandpa was a miller. Or grandma could have been the first female doctor in her county. But unless you are blessed with diaries and family papers, you don’t know much about the day-to-day lives of all those people who make us who we are. And you may never know. But with a little detective work you can find out what was happening around them while they went through life.

As an example let’s look at my great-grandfather who was a private in the Confederacy. I did find his army records in the national archives and paid a handsome price to get a copy of them. What I learned was shocking. It appears that every so often during the whole war, he went AWOL, then came back. What? How could that be? My ancestor a deserter? No way.

Enter a great magazine named Civil War Times. My local library has this magazine and it’s full of Civil War history as well as what was happening in communities both north and south during the war. What I found out was that in the South they thought the war would be short-lived. They only signed up for one year so they had to have all kinds of incentives to keep the boys fighting. I discovered that my ancestor like a lot of farmers, went home every spring to put a crop in the field. So he wasn’t a deserter after all. He was just a farmer who needed to provide for his family.

Another ancestor of an extended family member migrated from Ireland along with so many of his relatives. What was happening in his life to encourage them all to immigrate at the same time? A short history lesson about the potato famine answered that question fast. So now I had insight into his life. He lived in a rural area, probably a farmer and couldn’t feed his family because of the potato famine. So many Irish immigrated to the United States and Canada for the very same reason. Second only to the Germans, the Irish immigration was one of the largest groups of new citizens to North America.

So many magazines like Civil War Times, Military History, Colonial Times, WWII or Wild West will give you a peek into the life styles of our ancestors. You’ll find occupations, hair styles, fashion, and lots of little details that you just don’t know from reading facts and figures.  The larger bookstores like Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble have huge magazine sections. You can sit there for hours, making notes and not spend a dime. But it is nice to buy at least one magazine so you don’t appear a total cheapskate.

Libraries also have many, many magazines of interest to the genealogist. And some libraries will get a subscription to one that you want to read if you ask them.

Civil War Wife

I know it’s not as great as finding diaries, family Bibles, journals and letters but magazines that tell the history of different periods when your ancestors were alive can help you put a little flesh on the bones of your research.

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I just love the digital age, don’t you? Technology improves, information on the internet swells and genealogy research becomes easier. A birth certificate here, a family tree with your ancestors in it there and your own tree grows and grows. It’s like watering weeds.

But can you trust the data you gather? If it proves to be wrong, how can you get it corrected? For several years I’ve been trying to get another generation back on a gg grandfather who lived in Virginia but was born in Maryland. In checking records on another ancestor, I found where this one was listed in several public family trees. I was so excited. It listed his parents, grand parents and siblings, etc. Then I noticed something that didn’t quite jibe. North Carolina was given as the birth place for this guy. So I started going forward and found that someone had taken my great grandmother and plugged her and her husband into their tree, showing her as the daughter of their gg grandfather with the same name as mine. John Hedrick’s a pretty common name. Especially in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Apparently in North Carolina as well.

So I checked several others and found they had all done the same thing. After contacting one of the owners of the tree, she responded that she had just copied the information from another tree. Advising her that the information was not correct and everyone descending from that mistake were now listed in her family tree and we were not related. Her response amazed me. “Oh well, I got it off the internet, so it must be right. I think you are wrong.” Really? I have asked her to remove it from her tree and have contacted several other tree owners but so far, no luck. I guess I’m going to share granny whether I like it or not, but I am sad for other researchers who will be misdirected.

Another case of misinformation that I contend with just cracks me up every time I think about it. I had heard rumors that my mother’s birth certificate was wrong so I got a copy of it for my records. Oh boy was it ever wrong!  According to the State of Pennsylvania, my mother was born in June, not July, and spelled her name with an i instead of an e. It also says she is a male. Yes, you are reading this correctly. It says she is a male. Please believe me when I say my mother was not a male and did not have a sex change. I don’t even think they had sex changes in the early 1900s.

Frances Claire Craven

Have you ever tried to convince the State of Pennsylvania or any other state for that matter, that they were wrong and could they please, just this once, correct a century old mistake? Forgetaboutit! 

So I live with these little gigglers, make notes on my own tree and not let it worry me. I can always use a good laugh.

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Genealogists are a ghoulish bunch. We talk about dead people all the time, we spend hours in cemeteries where we rarely know anyone buried there and we get absolutely silly about obituaries. If you find a printed obituary about one of your ancestors you may have hit pay dirt for information. One thing to remember about obituaries is that the person who gives the information out usually knew the deceased well and the data is pretty accurate. Mostly.

Looking for inspiration to make a hit one boring day, I called the library in the town where most of my father’s family are buried. I found that the library had copies of all the old newspapers and the research librarian spent about two hours on the phone with me, finding all the obituaries she could based on death dates I gave her. I immediately sent off a check to cover copies, postage and a small donation for the library since they didn’t charge for genealogy help. In a few weeks I received a large envelope full of goodies. I spent the better part of a day reading all the obituaries. It was just like Christmas. You know that feeling. You know you do.

A good example of serendipity is the obit I received for my Aunt Agnes (my father’s older sister). My aunt Agnes was a character. She was one of the oldest of the eleven kids and my father being the youngest, she practically raised him. She drove an automobile before you had to have a license in this country, picked wild Muscadine grapes and made wine every year, held every office a woman could in the VFW auxiliary, USO and always won the best hat award at her Half Century Club meetings. Her and my Aunt Mabel went to funerals for people she didn’t even know, and when one of my uncles died, she would stay at the funeral home all night long so they wouldn’t be alone. And when the funeral was over, she would go back to the cemetery and spend hours just sitting and talking to her brother.

Even with all I thought I knew about her, the obituary gave up some great stuff. I learned that she was born in Baltimore, MD, and I always thought she was born in Petersburg, VA. I knew her grandfather was from Maryland but didn’t know the city. On a hunch I started searching Baltimore and made a few connections. I also learned that she belonged to many more groups than I had thought.

Obituaries can reveal real treasure for the family historian. Read them carefully, they’re solid gold.

Agnes Whitt

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Of all my ancestors I’d like to go back in time to meet it would be my paternal great grandmother Catherine (Hedrick) Sipe. She married my great grandfather Archibald Hewston Sipe shortly after he came back from fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. She gave birth to my grandmother in January of 1869 and died in March the same year. I wonder if she died from complication of child birth. Seems possible but without documentation I’ll never know.

Catherine F. Sipe

A few things about her tombstone leave me with more questions than answers. For one thing it says Consort of Archibald  Sipe.  Unusual to use the word consort instead of wife. I do have a copy of their marriage bans so I am pretty sure they were married. Or did she change her mind and not to marry the man? Soon after she died the baby was left with Catherine’s parents to raise. Archibald moved on, finally marrying his third wife and settling in North Dakota not very far from the homestead of Catherine and her husband, my grandfather. But that’s a story for another day.

Also she is buried over by the fence of the cemetery instead of with her mother and father which is the German custom. Burials along the fence of cemeteries sometimes indicate a suicide, witch, harlot, take your pick. Several years ago the DAR mapped the entire cemetery but made no note of Catherine. What’s that all about? I only found it because another relative went to the cemetery to look for it and sent me the information.

In the dark and wondering why, I will continue to try to find the answers.

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I love Ebay.  I’m always amazed at the stuff ( junk) people buy. And what they pay for it. Now don’t get me wrong. I really do love Ebay and I’ve bought my share of stuff (junk) at some ridiculous prices. And I’ve sold some.

Antique bottle embossed with family surnames

With that said, I admit I get giddy when I  find things on Ebay containing my surnames. I’m always looking for Family Bibles hoping that there will be one that belonged to one of my ancestors. Rather than go through hundreds of new Bibles or Bibles with no genealogy information I just put “family bibles and genealogy” in the Ebay search engine, so the results are minimal. So far I’ve never found  a Bible for any of my families, but I keep on hoping and keep on trying.

Antique bottles from the early part of the last century will usually have embossing on them and humans being forever vain put their family names on their products. I’ve found bottles with Caldwell, Rothwell,  Shrader, Sipe, and Craven. I got a cigar box or most of a cigar box (no lid) with Sipe on it. That was a rush.

But by far the most exciting thing I ever got on Ebay  is a muscle shirt with Chidlow on it. Now Chidlow is the name of a town in Australia, near Perth. The story is that two brothers stopped there in their travels, dug a well, settled down and the area became known as Chidlow’s Well.  These days it’s just called Chidlow. Through a Chidlow in Virginia I’ve got pictures of some of the Australian Chidlows. Don’t know yet if they are related to my husband’s family but they all sure have the same nose. The muscle shirt was to commemorate a Motorcycle Fair in 1990 at the Chidlow Tavern.  I would have paid just about anything for it but I was lucky to win the auction for $4.50 US. However I had to pay $25 for shipping. Yeah, they got me.

But I was overjoyed.

Of course there is  no connection between any of the people’s names on my bottles and my actual family. The possibility is slim to none. Now the cigar box has more promise. The Pennsylvania Sipes and the Virginia Sipes are related several generations back but I haven’t tried to find out what that relationship is yet.

The thrill of seeing a family name on a bottle, post card, cigar box or muscle shirt is a fun sidebar to the craziness of genealogy. So next time you are on Ebay looking for another salt and pepper shaker to add to your collection, give your family surnames a search and see what pops up.

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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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