Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Holy Grail

I have been very busy with my genealogy projects. Busy working on family trees, researching records, attending workshops and meetings. Even organized a few field trips.  What I need is some uninterrupted time to spread all my paperwork on a big table, organize it, scan it, and try to make sense of it all. Instead I spent my evenings catching up on blog reading.  I have added several genealogy blogs into my mix. 

Recent postings at "A Family Tapestry" triggered an old memory. The story starts with a foggy memory from when I was maybe 10 or 12. Gramma was cleaning out her attic and putting "junk" out for trash pickup. Mom took me over and we picked up trash bags that missed the first round. Mom told me there was a book self published by twins that served in the civil war that was missing. We did not find the book. When the internet was invented and when I was working somewhere with good internet, I researched on line and found the possible existence of the book. I made notes and lost them over the years. 

Family Tapestry is looking for her own legendary booklet. She inspired me to go on line one night and search for the book. And found it. There is a copy in the "closed stacks" of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland and I have to write a request to see it, leave any belongings in a locker, wear gloves, etc. I was trying to figure out when I could make the trip. Meanwhile I was going to Rutherford B Hayes Presidential library this past weekend and wondered if they might have a copy that I did not find online. The librarian looked and they do not have a copy, however she did find a copy in the Ohio History Center in Columbus and another in a library that will not share their location.
I worked out who published the book. It was written and published by who I believe to be one of my great grandmother's cousins who served in the Civil War with his identical twin brother.
I then wondered if our Genealogy Society might have a copy in their research library that was not listed on the Hayes database. Our meeting was tonight and the program was a tour of the library. The last section we came to was shelves of self published materials. I asked if there was some kind of index and they said "not yet". Then they showed me a section of self published books from the civil war. I knew the book would be small as the description in Cleveland described it as a 30 page booklet.
I was scanning the shelves and spotted this book. I was staring at the shelves and one of the guides said we were allowed to remove books to look at them. I pulled it out from the shelf.
I placed it on the counter and could not believe my eyes. I was afraid to even open the book. This is the exact title, the exact author of the book I was not even sure existed. I was looking in the book and then asked if I would be able to photocopy it. Sure, they said, but the library will not re-open until Spring. I will need to come back in May. Meanwhile, they suggested, why not take some pictures with your phone. I was so stunned that this had not even occurred to me. Plus I was still in shock that I could even touch it. The book had several pictures. These were printed separately and affixed to the pages somehow. I did not want to handle the book too much as it was very fragile. I just am so excited to find this book .I wish I could share this news with my mom!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Happy New Year

Well, I did it.  I finally did it.  After taking a genealogy class about seven years ago, retaking the genealogy class last year, working with free resources at several local libraries. creating masses of paper, I did it.  I signed up for six months of Ancestry.com.

For any beginners, I actually recommend my method. Our local libraries offer a free library edition of ancestry and I also used the free site, Family Search. Both allowed me to download and make copies of census records, birth, marriage and death records, and even more data. This allowed me to compare information and make sure what I was saving actually applied to my ancestors.  

This is was even more helpful to me since my ancestors like to name people the same names over and over.  Pick a name like John Doe and you might have a grandfather, a father, a nephew, a cousin, an uncle; all in the census. I really needed to establish time lines to make sure the correct John was in my paperwork. 

By the time I subscribed to ancestry and began creating my family tree, I was able to sort through all the "hints" and find which ones absolutely apply to "my" family.  I have found several trees posted with information I know is incorrect. I am hoping to avoid this. 

I have only had the service since January 1 and you can tell how much time I am spending on it by the fact I still have my Christmas tree up! 

I am doing my tree privately for now until I am sure that everything is correct. I also need to merge some people - I saved some with different last names since we seem to be pretty flexible with how we fill out census forms and records. My husband's family actually used completely different last names and both Polish and American versions of their names with various spellings. They can be very challenging.  I believe my great grandmother's family was illiterate and every form I have ever seen has spelling her unique first name differently. 

Eventually I want to pay the help I am getting from other's research by posting photos. I am the family museum for all the old photos on both sides of my family and I know I have photos that no one else has. I have all the poses from a family photo shoot prior to the flu epidemic in 1911 including uncles, grandparents, great grandparents. There were several survivors in the bunch (not my great grandmother or great great grandfather) and I know there are descendants out there that would value these photos as much as I do. 

I also purchased DNA kits for my husband and myself. We have not sent them in yet; I am a little nervous about it. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

PBS Cookie Swap

I don't believe that I shared the event my daughter-in-law and I attended several months ago at our local (one hour and forty five minutes away) PBS station. They were premiering the last PBS episodes of the Great British Baking Show and were having a viewing party prior to the first episode featuring a cupcake baking contest! We had such a good time and when the station introduced a Holiday Cookie Swap party prior to the showing of the final PBS Great British Baking Show Master Class, Christmas edition - I rounded up the whole crowd!

I rounded up two daughters, two daughter in laws, a granddaughter and one of my co-grammas, my oldest daughter's mother in law. Four of us, plus my newest 5 week old grandson made the trek while three of them live in the area. Our tickets allowed us to sample coffees from a coffee cart, treated us to two cookies (since we did not actually participate in the swap) and enjoy the big screen presentation of the Master Class with Paul and Mary. 
 Since we had an almost two hour road trip and the event started at 6:00 p.m., I packed Christmas boxed lunches for our journey.
We really cleaned up on the door prizes. Everyone had entered their names and the first winner was my co-gramma, who won the Milk Street cookbook. Next was my daughter in law, who also won a cookbook, Cooks Holiday Entertaining from America's Test Kitchen. The third winner was someone from another table and the fourth winner was my granddaughter who won a t-shirt. And, if you can believe it, the fifth and final ticket for the grand prize was me. I asked that they re-draw for the large book (I am not even sure what it was) since it is a little ridiculous for one table to win every prize LOL. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rememberance Garden

I was awakened one early morning last January by the sound of an ambulance. The lights reflected on my bedroom windows and I jumped out of bed thinking my elderly next door neighbor was ill. As I walked out into our dining room I could see flashing lights in every window of my house. I shouted for my husband and moved to look out the side door. 
A horrific sight unfolded.  The house across from me on the cul-du- sac was completely engulfed in flames stretching 3 stories high in the sky. We would later find out that nonfunctional smoke detectors failed to alert my neighbor Becky, her husband who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, their adult son who was disabled and wheelchair bound and his service dog. All three would perish by smoke inhalation in the few short moments before our firefighters arrived. 
Our neighborhood was devastated. I was "facebook friends" with a few neighbors near me and we messaged all day long. I was recovering from surgery and was really depressed. Their burned house was right outside my kitchen window and there was a constant stream of traffic from my other windows. One teary afternoon, a school bus of children from the Catholic school stopped and prayed in the circle. There has to be something good that could come from this. 
My answer to most things is pie. I decided for Lent that I would do a service. I baked 10 pies each Saturday and took them around my neighborhood. I introduced myself, made them introduce themselves to me, commiserated about our tragedy and invited them to join a private facebook page I created for our neighborhood. I believe I made over 40 pies. 
Sharing and conversations led to a discussion of creating a memory garden in the circle near the house. Here we have Mr. Merry supervising the planting of a weeping cherry tree while preparing our flower bed. 
On a warm May morning, a group of neighbors gathered and planted the garden. Everyone donated flowers and some donated funds for the purchase of small flowering bushes. A nearby neighbor purchased the plaque. 
Another neighbor donated the lighthouse, one of Becky's favorite things and now a focal point of the garden. 
Small annuals provided summer color and we planted perennials to take hold and bloom next year. 
And while we planted, the house - boarded for almost 6 months by then, watched the garden take shape. 
My elderly neighbor donated the sleeping angel, which my grandchildren called "baby napping" as we took buckets over every day to keep the flowers alive during  a very hot and dry July.
In late July a neighbor, who is a disabled Viet Nam vet and felt bad he could not help with the gardening, donated the solar lights to showcase the garden after dark. The house had finally been torn down. 
Our Facebook page organized our very first block party in August. Despite temperatures that nearly reached 100 degrees, we had a great turn out. One neighbor who DJ's on weekends donated his services and the city granted us a permit to close the street. 

I took this picture of our garden in early October while a few brave marigolds still held the fort. I want to remember to plant some again next year for fall color. 

I won't mention the insurance company. It has been a struggle as a neighbor with a vacant boarded shell of a house, home to wildlife for six months, then demolition rubble, and now . . . nothing. It is my understanding that lumber to frame the replacement house will be delivered on November 30th and construction will begin in December. We had our first snow fall last night and I am wondering how that works. I feel so sorry for their surviving children. They are in their thirties with young families and this is never ending for them. 

But if one good thing has come from this horrible experience, it would be that we have transformed our neighborhood into our mini Mayberry.  We continue to "talk" on our Facebook page. People post lost pets, found garbage can lids in the wind, local information. We held a street-wide garage sale, admired everyone's teenagers in their homecoming togs, and lamented the lack of parking when our street was repaved this summer. We have even organized some outings (okay, ladies only). 

Now, when I look out my kitchen window, the memories of that horrible morning are starting to fade. There is still sadness with the loss of life, but I also see new beginnings when I look at our garden. 

Miss Merry