Monday, October 18, 2021

Genealogy - Chapter One

I had a few comments and questions on my middle of the night genealogy quest and thought I would share my genealogy journey.  

I have always been interested in genealogy - interested enough to say that but not interested enough to do real research. At one point I was trying to convince one of my children to do some genealogy research as a 4-H project. She completed the project and that was that.  Gosh, if I could go back in time and ask my family questions. 

The tiny library in the little village next door offered a beginners genealogy class on a week night. Diane, who I volunteered with at our county fair,,  also attends my church and caught me on a Sunday and asked me to come. She was trying to drum up numbers and caught the right person. 

I met with the small group in the back room and the four newbies and the genealogy volunteers wrote down what we did know. Our parents information and grandparents information if we knew that. Right away Jodi from the genealogy group and I discovered her husband and I share an ancestor and she was able to fill in that branch my little hand written family tree quickly. The genealogy people exclaimed, "Why you are one of our county's "First Families". 

I went back for the second session and we logged onto the library's laptops. The library has a subscription to Ancestry and I "searched" a few names. Instantly I saw a photograph of my grandmother! A closer look showed us that it was actually a photograph of my 2nd great grandmother, who raised my grandmother. They are a spitting image of each other! At this point we also found out that my other teacher, Diane, and I shared a relative too!

I feel like a cheater in the world of genealogy. My father's side all came over from Germany in the late 1800's. Their large family all settled on farms in one little area and kept in contact with their families in Germany. When I was a little girl, I can remember visiting my dad's family and looking through the two volume genealogy that was already published in the 1970's. The family still meets every summer at the tiny church built when the parents joined the three oldest sons who traveled here and on alternate years the "cousins" travel to Germany to meet with cousins who stayed behind. Then the next year, the German cousins are hosted here in the Bed and Breakfast in one of the originally constructed farmhouses. 

I was close to my maternal grandmother who never talked about her past (she was orphaned by age 9) but we live in a small community and she did gossip. So I did know that her family had been here since the beginning of time. I knew that some of my classmates were grandchildren of her cousins, etc. When a family member passed, there would be conversation about the obituary. Her family was not close so there were no family get togethers or anything, but I was aware of the family. And I guess I was aware of how far back her family ties were to our community (1830's). 

Our county has always kept very good records and as I was starting my genealogy journey, the folks from Family Search were actually at our courthouse copying records.  As I went back to each generation, I would find death records, marriage records, property records. It was pretty easy. 

My grandfather's family was here for about the same length of time. And my friend had already traced them back to New York where some of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War.  This side of my family is documented in what is now the United States since at least 1710 where we have a marriage record for one of my grandfathers. 

Learning about my ancestors was not a struggle as it is for some. Eventually I succumbed to the DNA offers and joined the website. I had absolutely no surprises, I am related to everyone I knew I was related to for generations and generations and generations.  I did check with my children before testing to make sure no one had privacy concerns. No one did. 

I also talked my husband into DNA testing. His grandparents were all first and second generation to this country. I had over 10,000 matches going back to sixth cousins and beyond.  He has about 300. And looking at them it is pretty easy to figure out where they are on his tiny little tree. No surprises and, unfortunately, no one has searched back any further than the arrival in the United States. 

As you can tell, my favorite part of genealogy is finding family pictures. It really makes people come alive to me and I feel like I have really met them and had conversations with them. I have found out things that they did not know about themselves.  And a lot of secrets.  I just wish that I had developed this interest several decades ago and was able to share with my mother who would have delighted in some of these stories.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Why you don't do Genealogy in the Middle of the Night.

We have a house full tonight. My youngest son's children have a day off tomorrow so they are spending the night. I have a five year old and six year old sleeping in my guest room and a two year old asleep in a pack and play in my bedroom. Tomorrow morning a first grader and a third grader will be here at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast before they get on the bus and another two year old will drop by around 7:20 a.m. to spend the rest of the day while mom is at work. 

What am I doing? Staying up all night chasing those leaves on Ancestry. 

My great grandmother is one of a large family of semi literate farmers. The inconsistent spelling of all their names is a challenge. When I began doing genealogy, my favorite thing was that every single piece of paper or document I found for my great grandmother had a different spelling of her unique name.  I have branched out into her brothers and sisters. 

To further complicate matters, the handwriting and spelling on our county records prior to 1900 is pretty interesting, too. 

There were at least six daughters in this family that I have found county birth records (this was before birth certificates). The four I am struggling with are Ella (1863), Ida (1864), Eda (1868) and Edith (1869). It isn't just me that is confused by the similar names. The website and other subscribers are mixing them up or combining them, too.  I am positive these are four sisters with different birth years. They are listed on census records together as children and I have found marriages for Ella, Ida, and Edith. But what happened to Eda (sometimes Ada)?

Eda was 12 years old on the 1880 census. Unfortunately the 1890 census is the one that burned. She may have already been married by then. Or deceased. I have spent the night reading her sister's obituaries for clues. They mention three other siblings (all leave out the baby boy who was born in 1867 that must have died shortly after birth) and information on the other sisters, but not Eda.  Eda must have proceeded them in death.  I cannot find a marriage record in our county for her - but boy, I came close!  I have been searching for Eda for a while. 

Tonight I thought I found her! Unfortunately I made several mistakes, the first being that I am up too late for this type of investigation.  I found a marriage record for "Ada" to a Mr. Smiley.  My Eda would have only been 12 years old, but that could have happened in this family (my great grandmother married at 15). Her father did sign the license that she was underage. Mr. Smiley did not have a first name, only initials, C. A.  I looked for him everywhere. I did find two references in Ohio newspapers around this time period, but they were quite the distance from here. I also looked in nearby states. Where did he come from and where did he go? I searched obituary lists for him. Nothing. 

Finally I got out the paper and pencil (why do I try to use the internet for everything? I do not have an internet brain).  And, wait.  The wedding month and year are the same as her older sister Ida's. And Ida's husband's name is Charles A.  And his last name does start with an S.  And, I guess if you were sounding it out and mumbling and spitting, you could turn it into Smiley.   

So my marriage register for Ada and C. A. Smiley was actually the marriage registration for Ida and Charles S*****y. In my defense, because this is such a dumb mistake and time waster, all the other trees I have seen for Ada and Charles have them marrying in a nearby county, not this county.  My brain is just fried. And I still don't know what ever happened to poor Eda. 

Now it is 1 a.m. and in six hours I need to feed breakfast to six children and a grandfather and then spend nine hours trying to entertain four grandchildren aged 6 and under. 

I guess I will do what I should have done a few hours back and go to bed. 

* Have I gone to bed? Of course not. I suddenly remembered the gravestone transcriptions for our county which are online. I went through all the spellings of the last name (5) and found a stone in a small country cemetery with a few of these family members. And I am keeping in mind that this family is scattered across a few of these small cemeteries in that area. There is a small stone that says "E. T."  which would be her initials as well as a ton of other people's initials. There is no date or any other inscription at all. I do not believe there are any records for this cemetery either.  I sure hope this isn't all I can find. And I hope that I will really give up for now and go to bed. 

Miss Merry