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Posts Tagged ‘life’

Here we go again. 2014 gave way to 2015 and I am no closer to becoming a consistent genealogist, a consistent blogger nor am I any closer to unraveling my family’s mysteries. Sound familiar? And now it’s August, 2015 and I have no idea where this year has flown to.

I once watched an Alan Alda movie called “Same Time Next Year”. The general story was that he met a woman at a resort/motel, fell in love, he was married, she was married, but they made a plan to meet at the same place, same time every year for their annual fling. So every year they met, every year a little different with each other and every year vowing to meet again the next year.

Well, this sounds like my commitment to my genealogy. Every year I get juiced up, make the right overtures for awhile and then fade away until the next year. So how can I and a lot of family historians keep going, making progress and not get sidetracked so easily?

First I think you have to write it down. Make yourself a note about your goals, post it on the refrigerator just like your diet goals and look at it every time you open the door. Everyone goes in the refrigerator at least once a day. Sometimes twice.

Tell someone what you plan. No, not the checkout girl at the grocery store. She doesn’t care. Tell someone who you talk to often, someone who will ask you about it and hold you accountable. You will get so tired of telling them, “no I haven’t had time”, that you will make time and get going.

Find a few new websites that you haven’t spent much time on but have bookmarked to get to “later” and make an appointment with yourself for a time and day that you can be online for a few hours. Wander around the sites, have some fun with your surnames and you will have good luck.

Go to your local library and check out their reference section. They may not have anything you need but the practice of researching is good exercise.

If there’s an LDS Library near you (and I am hoping there is) take some notes with you and go spend the afternoon going through their subscribed sites that you don’t own. A minor tidbit that you may find will whip you back up into a frenzy of action.

These are only a few ideas. I know there are dozens of inspiring tricks to get you going and keep you going. I think that’s good advice. I think I’ll take it.

 

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You can’t go home again. Well….. you can but it’s a pretty bumpy trip. Things have changed, people have moved and you feel the disappointment of discovering that childhood is just a memory and you really are that old woman in the mirror. But I digress.

Last year when I visited my daughter in Pennsylvania, I also spent a few days with my brother and sister-in-law. Of course my brother and I had to do the sentimental journey and visit the old neighborhoods.

First row House

First place we visited was the house we lived in when my brother was born. The sad little row housewasn’t as big as he remembered. It was run down, in need of paint and the postage stamp sized front yard was full of weeds. It was just a big disappointment. But I took pictures for remembrance. I had never lived there but he had so that was important to me.

Second Row House

The second place we visited was the house where the family lived when I was born. I marched right up to the door to ask the resident if it would be o.k. to take some pictures. I was hoping he would ask us in but it was obvious from peaking in the door that he was awaiting the Horders TV production team to arrive any minute to start filming. We did chat for a while and I told him that the tree out front was planted by my father the year I was born. He said there used to be a lot of trees on the street but they had all died except for the one in front of his house. I took pictures of the house and the tree. We moved from there when I was about two years old.

Finally we went back to the old neighborhood, the house that I remembered growing up. It was gone. Just……  gone. It had been torn down years ago. I wasn’t shocked because my brother had told me it was gone. But it was startling to see that vacant lot where once a home had stood. I remember my Dad used to say that if they ever tore our house down the rest of the block would fall since we had a three store and the rest of the block was all two-story. But our house was gone and the rest of the block or row houses still stood. I saw that the first house’s address proved that three houses had been torn down, not just mine. They must have been very narrow houses even though I remember our house as being big. Very big. I scooped up a brick left behind on the vacant lot where my childhood home had been, (that gave TSA cause to pause when it showed up in my luggage x-ray), took a bunch of pictures, got back in the car and turned my back on the old neighborhood. I won’t go back.

Sad for sure, but a good way to remember that the people hold your heart and memories,  not the places. My brother and I spent the evening doing the  “remember whens” and the “remember whos” until tears ran down my face with laughter. It was a good journey down memory lane but I guess you really can’t go home again.

My Tree

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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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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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