Friday, September 28, 2007

John, Mary topped Social Security Administration list of boy, girl names in 1907

Ya gotta love the Social Security Administration. If you want to know the most popular girl's name for 2006, (It was Emily. Jacob was number one for boys) all you have to do is look on their Web site: In fact, you can access a list of the 1,000 most popular first names for each year starting in 1880 up through 2006. In 1891, the year my grandfather, Frank Hoy, was born, his first name ranked sixth. When my grandmother, Anna Schrader was born in 1911, her first name also sat in spot number six. Social Security has created the ranked lists based on card applications for each year.

One hundred years ago, in 1907, the following were the top 10 names for boys:
1. John
2. William
3. James
4. George
5. Robert
6. Charles
7. Joseph
8. Frank
9. Edward
10. Henry

The top 10 names for girls in 1907 were the following:
1. Mary
2. Helen
3. Margaret
4. Anna
5. Ruth
6. Dorothy
7. Elizabeth
8. Mildred
9. Alice
10. Marie

My first name (which is Teresa and not Terry) was ranked 42nd in popularity the year I was born. In 2006, my name's popularity was down to 535th. C'est la vie!

Until next time — Happy Ancestral Digging.

Note this post first published online, September 28, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Linkpendium — For The Easily Distracted

I am an information junkie. I collect useless information like some people collect coins. As someone recently reminded me, time is a very precious commodity and when you get those rare moments when you can actually work on your genealogy, you want to make that time pay off. All of which, is my way of telling you that my clicking onto Cyndi's list ( is like a 3-year-old finding momma's secret chocolate stash — You dive in gobbling up as much as you can as fast as you can until you pass out in an orgy of information (or chocolate as the case may be).

All those categories, how can I ignore them? I may start with the intention of looking up marriage records in Jasper County, Missouri, but oooh, let me just take a peek at that “Lost and Found” category. And wait, I've always wanted to know who has the copyright to e-mail — the sender or the receiver? And what's this category, “Hit A Brick Wall?” — Cyndi must have added that one just for me. And so it goes. I keep clicking on link after link, until, and I'm not really sure how, I've ended up on a page about West Indian Manatees with all my "free" time consumed.

That is why I've resorted to using another list when time is short and I need to focus on the task at hand. Linkpendium ( is actually a complementary rather then a competitive list to Cyndi's Web site. When Rootsweb was gobbled up by, the founders, Karen Isaacson and Brian Leverich began putting together a directory of Web sites related to genealogy. The number of links is now well over 6 million. It's divided into two categories, surnames and localities.

Right now, the localities category only encompasses locations in the U.S. It is broken down by state, then by county. Jasper County, Missouri, where I was hypothetically looking for marriage records has 231 links, with 24 categories — two of the links relate to marriage records. Sandusky County has 421 links, spread over 26 categories, with our own Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center being mentioned as one of the links.

Linkpendium comes in handy for two reasons. First, I store my census records by census year, state and county, so when I am focusing on an individual I just look to see where he or she was living at a particular time and then I start my search in the appropriate county.

Second, because all the links on the page relate to one county, even if I do start clicking like crazy, I usually can find the information I seek, or at the very least, find other interesting genealogical information related to the individual I am working on.

So, if like me, you need to make the most of your “genealogy time,” you might consider giving Linkpendium a try. As for me, I have to go back to Cyndi's List and check out that “Hit a Brick Wall” category.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging

Note this post first published online, September 27, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Civil War Pensions and More at NARA

If you want to order a federal Civil War pension packet (confederate civil war pensions are not held by NARA), you will need to know the following information:

1. Soldier’s Name
2. The Union state from which he served
3. His unit and company

Where can you find his unit and company?

1. Sometimes the veteran's obituary will have the information.
2. Sometimes the veteran's tombstone will have the information.
3. Ancestry's Pension Index (subscription required)
4. Footnote's Civil War Pension Index (currently only 60% complete)
See my Blog “New Website for Genealogy and History Buffs” for information on their 7-day free access proposition.
5. County history books will sometimes mention this information. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library contains many county histories as well as Civil War information. To search the library's catalog go to this link: (This will explain where the online catalog is housed.)
6. Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System
The site contains a searchable database for both union and confederate soldiers and gives regimental histories. The best part? Access is free!

There is a comment section on the order form to give more information. For example, in the military records of my great-great-grandfather Edward Jacobus, he is sometimes known as Edward Jacobs thanks to transcription errors. Adding pertinent information like this can save you from paying $37 ($75 plus after Oct. 1) for the wrong man's file.

If you are interested in finding where Confederate Pensions are kept, go to this link on NARA:

To find more information about compiled military service records available at NARA, go to this link:

For a general discussion on all military records and resources at NARA, go to this link:

See yesterday's blog for more specific information on how to order.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, September 26, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Placing an Order with NARA

It's taken a little bit of time to figure out what the limitations are for the Web design on our blogging format. In the body of the blog I can't:

1. Italicize the print

2. Underline the print

3. Apply bold formatting to the print

4. Add hyperlinks (unless the Web address is spelled out and then only if you have clicked into the actual full entry of the blog — seriously, that's really a pain.)

Because of this, I am a little worried that the news of NARA's rate increase effective this coming MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, might have been missed.

So, on the off chance, that someone might be interested in placing an order before the big rate hike, I'm going to give you some steps for accomplishing this. Now maybe all of you are a lot smarter than I am, and you can go to NARA's Web site and figure it out in a snap, but I have ordered several times since they first allowed online ordering last year, and every time I have to start from scratch figuring out what in the heck they want me to do.

First, go to this Web address: (If you have clicked on the full entry button, you will see this as a blue hyperlink that you can just click on to go to the correct page.)

1. You will need to log in, or if you haven't already registered you will need to do this first. (If you are only “looking” you can skip this part.)

2. Then you will need to click on the “made to order reproductions” tab. This will take you to a second screen.

3. There are seven choices on the menu:
a. Census
b. Court Records
c. Immigration and Naturalization Records
d. Land Files
e. WW I Draft Registration Cards
f. Military Service and Pension Records
g. Native American Records

4. Clicking on any of these menu choices will take you to a page that will give you a description of the record choice, the current cost of the item and frequently asked questions.

5. Once you decide what you are ordering, it is very similar to ordering from Amazon or JC Penney. There is one exception. Each item must be placed on a separate order. However, you can have multiple orders placed at the same time.

6. An order confirmation page will appear with the following items on it:

a. Order Number
b. Order Date
c. Product
d. Total Charge

7. Print this confirmation page. That way if there is any question on whether or not you will be paying the pre October 1 rate, you have all the proof you need. Believe me, depending on the order; we are talking a significant difference.

Should you order great-great-grandpa's land entry record or his Civil War pension record? I don't know. The problem with the system is that you don't know exactly what you are getting until the package arrives. Paying $17.75 to get four ambiguous pieces of paper that constitute Joseph's land entry package is probably not a good bargain, unless you need to prove some disputed dates. A distant cousin and I ordered the same ancestor's pension package at different times. There were 27 pages in the packet. (NARA says the average is 105, but you can't prove it by me. The most I have received was 92.) The cousin was disappointed. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. But then again, I tend to be sentimental and sappy. Information to me is pure gold.

Tomorrow, I will have a short blog about ideas on how to find the information needed to order a Civil War veterans federal pension packet.

Until then — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, September 25, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Ain't Nobody Listenin'

My feelings were bruised the other day when I read an entry in one of the News-Mess forums. The poster said, “Not to mention I am really disappointed with the blogs so far. Not that many people have an interest in genealogy …” In a later post, the individual went on to say, “… I simply stated that not very many people are interested in those topics. I think we need a wider selection of topics that 'more people' would find interesting. And it isn't just me, I have talked to a lot of people who feel the same way.”

Talk about being dissed! So I did what I normally do in these situations, I sulked. Then I stewed, and if my left upper molar hadn't been bothering me, I would have eaten half a bag of Ballreich's Potato Chips and Toft's French Onion dip with a Pepsi chaser. Lord, do I know how to sulk! And stew.

After a day of ruminating, I told my husband “I think I'm going to blog about this.” And my omniscient husband said, “I know.”

“How do you know? I just decided to blog about it right this second.”

“Because, any time you stew on something this long, I know you well enough to know that you won't let it go.” Lord, what a smart man I married.

So here's what I have to say to you, gentle poster — you're right. You had an opinion and you have every right to express it. (Although I must confess Larry Flynt's quote about opinions did flicker across my temporal lobe. Hey, I said it just flickered.) I say to you, and your “lot of people,” I'm sorry that you don't find my topic of choice interesting. It makes me sad and I'm sure if enough people share your opinion, I'll be disappearing from the blogging scene pretty darn soon.

I will say in defense of my subject that several articles have said that genealogy is the fastest growing hobby second to gardening. Having said that, I haven't found any hard statistic that backs that statement up. It could have been a case of somebody spit-balling the idea, and hey, you know the Internet, once it's out there it keeps being quoted as if it's the gospel truth.

Personally, the things that attract me to genealogy are (in no particular order):

1. I suffer from RCS (Rampant Curiosity Syndrome) and genealogy makes good use of this particular character flaw.

2. My brain, unlike my personality, is organized and logical. It likes all those wonderful statistics — dates, names, places.

3. I'm a sucker for a good mystery — and mysteries abound when you start mucking around your family history. I love all that sleuthing.

4. I meet the most fascinating people from all over the world. I communicated with one very nice German gentleman who didn't speak much English. I only know one German phrase — Das ist gut, ja? We used a Google translator. Now that was fun. Somehow, we managed. It was darn satisfying and entertaining.

5. Finally, it's all about me — well at least in a limited sort of way.

So for all of you who don't find my subject interesting, I say that's cool. Write about what interests you. Do it as a blog, an opinion, or however you want to express yourself.
Life is way too short to worry about whether other people are interested or not. William Zinsser says, “You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.”

If my writing doesn't interest enough people, the plug will be pulled. If I still feel the need to blog (after I am done stewing and eating Ballreich's), I will create my own blog. Maybe I won't restrict myself to just genealogy in a new blog. Maybe I'll call it, “Over the Hill — Ain't Nobody Listenin'” Blog. But that's just me spitballin'.

Until Next Time …

Note this post first published online, September 25, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's All in the Details

Sooner or later, when people find out that I “do” genealogy they will ask the inevitable question, “How far back have you gone?” Invariably they will know someone who has taken their family history back to William the Conqueror, the Mayflower or some other very old, very proper family line. The question always makes me squirm, though it's a perfectly logical and valid question. Early on, my goal was to take each family line back to when they had “crossed the pond”, but something funny happened along the way. I started getting absorbed into the daily minutia that was each ancestor's life. With each newly found ancestor, I was unable to move on until I had devoured every stray detail. As a child, I used to imagine that if I colored the picture of Sleeping Beauty perfectly, with the right colors, staying in the lines, the picture would come to life. Apparently, I operate under that same principle when it comes to genealogy. If I can just fill in enough details, add the color of their daily lives, then maybe my ancestors will “come to life” for me. The approach didn't work at four, but ever the optimist, a half-century later my heart still believes it can happen. Above is the only picture that I have of either my great-grandfather, John Perry Lynch or my great-grandmother Laura Jane Feasel Lynch. It was taken in either 1923 or 1924, a few short years before Laura Jane's death. In the picture, JP and Laura Jane are surrounded by their four living children, a daughter-in-law, and some of their grandchildren. John Perry is the grumpy-looking man on the left and Laura Jane is seated directly in front of him. John Perry was a creative man — he was an amateur artist and a musician. As a creative fellow, JP found it difficult to make a living. He was, at various times, a farmer, a laborer, a merchant and a telegrapher. I don't think he found joy in any of those professions. He was always restless, ready to move on to something else. He lived in Seneca County, Ohio; Crawford County, Illinois; Greer County Oklahoma; Washington County, Arkansas; before finally moving back to Fremont, Ohio where he died in 1930. His obituary appeared in The Fremont Messenger, May 20, 1930 with a caption that read, “Poison Fatal to John Lynch”. (A typed account of the obituary appears at this link — Somehow, JP always came back to Northwest Ohio. I think that it was Laura Jane, who acted as the rubber band that pulled the family back each time. I know from postcards and letters that even when the family was living in other places, Laura Jane would make extended visits back to Seneca County where her mother and siblings lived. The visits would be so long that young Katie, my grandmother, would be enrolled in school for the duration of the visit. Laura Jane died before my mother was born so mother has no first hand memories of either JP or Laura. My Aunt Florence, the little blondie in the back row of the picture, has filled in some of the blanks. Florence tells stories of Laura letting the children play and run around on the front porch. There apparently was a music room in the house where JP had his musical instruments including a piano. The grandchildren were not allowed in this room. However, when JP was out in the fields working, Laura would open up the door to the room and let little Florence go in and bang on the piano to her hearts content, all the while Laura was watching out the door for any signs of JP. When she would see him coming she would tell Florence to close up the keys, and they would close the door. Florence was wise enough to know this was a secret shared only with Grandma. In this picture, I can almost feel the sun caressing Laura's face, the casual swinging of a foot back and forth, and the contented smile of a woman surrounded by the family she loves. For me, this is where the research leads. For a moment, I feel connected to this woman, my great-grandmother. Just a moment, but for me that is enough. Until Next time — Happy Ancestral Digging Note this post first published online, September 21, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Blog Version of ‘A Dog Ate My Homework’

As I was starting to type this blog today, my keyboard started confusing Z's for Y's. Just like that — out of the blue — the first sentence now read: “As I was starting to tzpe this blog todaz, mz kezboard started confusing Y's for Z's.” Panicked, I started searching for clues in Google. I typed in the phrase “swapping z for y.” (Except, of course, I had tapped the letter y first then z, well, you get the idea.) A few hits told me that people sometimes wanted to do this on purpose because European keyboards, especially those made for German speakers, did this very thing. So great, I had somehow managed to succeed in doing what others had labored diligently to do, ON PURPOSE. Except of course, hello, that wasn't my goal.

Because I had an extended warranty on my Hell Computer, I could always call customer service and see if this type of issue was covered. Early on, I had purchased a special 30-day, “you can call us anytime” package when I had first received my Laptop in November. An issue of it not being able to read scripts when I was on AOL had prompted me to call them. Since that call had gone so “swell” (i.e., not only the problem wasn't fixed but also my AOL software had developed even larger problems than the original one.), I was loath to try that route.

Of course, some of that may have been my fault. Now, I am all for a global economy — I believe large middle class citizens in any given country spells stability, so I try to be patient when I get “Hank” on the line with a strong Indian accent. Maybe it's just me but when someone starts off lying to me and telling me their name is Hank or Bert or whatever when their name is really Rashid, etc, then I have trust issues popping up all over the place. Additionally, I find when you have to explain the meaning of S-O-L, as in my response to him — “So Hank, then I'm just S-O-L?” well, you've already lost the battle.

Being cranky from a variety of other sources already (a really crummy work project and my head pounding from a high pollen count) I was clearly not up for one of these extended encounters. So I went into my Control Panel, opened the keyboard icon and pressed buttons. I don't know if the pressing of buttons helped, but just as suddenly as the problem appeared, it disappeared. See, zzzzzzz and yyyyyy — they work.

I'm sure there is a moral to this story, but all that worrying about how I was going to retrain my fingers to reach for z when I really meant y, has knocked any objectivity I may have had, right out of my head.

So, anyway, that's why you're not getting a Genealogy/Internet Blog today. I know, it sounds a lot like “my dog ate my homework,” but that's how my day is going.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging

Note this post first published online, September 20, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eight 'Gotta Haves' for a Desktop Genealogist

Well, Duh. No, I'm not trying to insult anyone's intelligence, but sooner or later whatever computer you are now using to surf the Web, there will come a day when it needs replaced. Now is the time to start thinking about the features you want the next time you purchase.

All that great information you're finding needs to be recorded somewhere!
If you are thinking about purchasing new genealogy software, TopTenReviews
( has done a side-by-side comparison for 2007 versions of the most well known genealogy programs. Family Tree Maker has just come out with their 2008 model. You can read about it at Family Tree Maker 2008 at The Hayes Presidential Center recommends and sells Roots Magic for $29.95 at its gift store,

This has been on my Christmas wish list for the last two years, but something else always beckons. I have an old Sony that is HUGE by today's digital standards and takes a floppy disk — yeah it's that old. But it's great for doing fieldwork at cemeteries. (And our three-year-old grandson likes looking through the viewer, taking out of focus pictures of grandma's left sleeve, and then admiring his clever handy work. But ssshhh, don't tell papa Al - he wouldn't approve.)

My husband purchased a scanner for me a few years back when I needed it for a Christmas project. I can scan, copy, or e-mail with a couple of computer clicks. A real plus to having a scanner has been scanning copies of obituaries, probate records etc. into my computer. The benefit is two-fold. I can easily share the info with other researchers and just as important, I can blow up the image so that I can make out words or phrases that are difficult to read in the actual copy.

Whether it's DSL or cable, a high-speed connection makes looking at online documents much less frustrating. I remember with dial up trying to download a census image — I could make a cup of tea, put in a load of wash and still be drumming my fingers waiting for the image to appear when I returned to my computer.

To be sure, there are other subscription services worthy of consideration, but for my money, Ancestry tops the list. That is not to say I don't have “ISSUES” with the big mac daddy of genealogy database services. But for all that, I have just two things to say — EVERY NAME INDEXED ONLINE CENSUS and WORLD WAR I DRAFT REGISTRATIONS. If, like me, the $299.40 annual price tag is too high for your pocket book (it's ONLY $155.40 for the US deluxe version), the Hayes Presidential Center ( subscribes to Ancestry's Library Edition. HPC has a DSL connection and in addition to Ancestry, they also have Heritage Quest and Newspaper Archive subscriptions. Seven computer stations make access easy. Computer generated print outs cost $.25 a piece and for $.50 you can purchase a floppy disk to save a census page or any other digital image to take home.

This is one I haven't figured out yet! (Stop laughing Al — I know what the verb “to organize” means!) Here are ideas others have proposed:

Well, there you have it. My top seven things I want for my dream genealogy office. Oh yeah, I said eight. No. 8 IS EASY — as a woman of a certain age, a magnifying glass comes in mighty handy. As my sister recently said to her optometrist, “I've noticed they are making the print a lot smaller now.”

Until next time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, September 18, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, September 17, 2007

For Your Viewing Pleasure — Family and Local Histories

One hundred thousand digitized family and local histories will be coming soon to a computer near you. On August 15 FamilySearch, the nonprofit service sponsored by the Church of the Latter Day Saints announced a joint project by The Allen County Public Library of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library and FamilySearch's Family History Library in Salt Lake City. To read more about this ongoing project go to:

Currently, over 5,000 histories are already online. You may search by Surname, Author, Title or do a keyword search of the full text. In this small sample, I was able to find a biographical sketch of my great-great-grandmother's brother, George Washington Armstrong, in the digitized copy of The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois. I also found a brief reference to my great-great-great-great-grandparents William and Susannah Good in Eastwood/Pote Lineage, Vol. 2.

The records are stored as PDF files so you will need an Adobe Reader to view them. The reader can be downloaded from the Web site, and access to these first 5,000 plus records is free and will continue to be free, according to the press release of August 15.

You can search the collection at

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging.

Note this post first published online, September 19, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cracked Up — Footnote to Yesterday's Blog

Crisis! My spouse took an immediate dislike to the title I wanted to use on yesterday's blog, “How an Internet Cousin Shattered a Brick Wall and Made Me Want to Kiss Her.” The original title was “How an Internet Cousin Shattered a Brick Wall and Made Me Want to Kiss Her on the Lips.”

“You're not going to call it that!” my normally calm, but uber conservative spouse said with an actual look of HORROR on his face.

“Why not?”

“Can't you just say, “hug” instead?”

“Hug? That's boring. My title makes me laugh!”

Masculine Groan.

So we compromised, I lopped off the last three words, and he dropped the hug suggestion.

My husband cracks me up. I, apparently, DON'T crack up him.

Until Next Time — Yadda! Yadda! Yadda!

Note this post first published online, September 15, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Friday, September 14, 2007

How an Internet Cousin Shattered a Brick Wall and Made Me Want to Kiss Her

Dee. What can I tell you about Dee? Dee and I both descend from George Washington Lynch and Catherine Good Lynch. She descends from daughter Laura, and I descend from son John Perry. It was my mom who found Dee, or maybe it was Dee who found mom. Whatever the case, the two connected and collaborated on finding Lynch family information.

Dee was responsible for sending us a picture of Catherine, of giving us an insight into George's raucous character, and in general, filling in the blanks. We in turn contributed information about the Ohio branch of the tree, added parents for Catherine, and helped build a bridge to our mutual Virginia ancestry. All this collaboration and neither side had ever met or spoken a single syllable to the other. Our connection was an Internet driven one, fueled by the magic of e-mail. And oh, what e-mail. Dee has what I think might be the Lynch flair for telling a story. And funny! When Dee's on a roll, her e-mail is down right hysterical, her observations filled with dry wit. Though I have many Internet Cousins that I truly like, Dee's unique. Dee is Dee.

Dee is also tough. I have been trying for years to connect George Washington's father, Daniel Lynch, with a William Lynch that lived in Crawford County, Illinois. William's genealogy went back two more generations and if I could connect the two, I would automatically have two more generations in our Lynch line. I had found a ton of circumstantial evidence. Each new piece of information was sent to Dee.

Dee's response? That's nice. (Yawn.) Not Proof.

Every time. EVERY - SINGLE - MADDENING - TIME! I knew in my heart that they were linked, but Dee kept me honest. Dee kept me working. Dee kept me banging my head against a brick wall!

And just like that the brick wall was broken, shattered to pieces. And not by any of my endless hours of research. A letter, of all things, shattered the wall; a letter that Dee found among her deceased Aunt's papers. Dated September 3, 1944, the letter was from a Hannah Richardson. Dee, bless her heart, didn't abstract the letter for me. Not Dee, she typed every little word in the letter and e-mailed it to both my mother and me. Hannah, as it turns out was William's daughter, and she talked in the letter about Uncle Dan, our Dan! The whole family relationship was laid out in brick-by-brick detail. And just like that, we gained two more generations of Lynch information. Ah, Dee, I could just kiss you!

Until next time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, September 14, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's An Adventure

This past Labor Day weekend my husband, who should know better, asked me if I wanted to go for a drive.


“Where to?”

“Terre Haute Cemetery!” I said without a second’s hesitation. A month earlier, I’d found an online listing for the cemetery. There were old graves I’d been, if you’ll pardon the pun, dying to check out.

Too far, gas too expensive, frown frown, yadda yadda.

So we took off for a short drive. Somehow, I managed to convince my loving spouse that a trip to “two little cemeteries” would be a great start to our drive. “It will be an adventure!” I told him.

I’d use this phrase when Map Quest said to turn right instead of left on a Virginia trip. This put us on a one-lane gravel road that went on forever. It was one of those, if people thought you were trespassing, they could chop you up into little pieces and no one would ever find your body, kind of roads. “It’s an adventure!” I had said, as the tune “Dueling Banjos” popped into my head.

On this day, I used the phrase to spur my husband into climbing over a gatepost, tromp down a gravel lane and plunge into, what turned about to be, a cemetery swarming with dive-bombing bugs. Now I tend to exaggerate, but trust me, swarming is the accurate word. About 60 seconds into this foray, my husband said, “I’ll wait for you there,” pointing to the gravel road. He wisely elected to wait in the car at cemetery number two, which called for another little jaunt.

As we left the second cemetery and started, what we thought would be a relaxing drive, the tire pressure light began to glow inside our Mercury van. Two hours later, after watching Canadian football in the store’s lobby and becoming the proud owners of a shiny new tire (a shredded tire can’t be patched evidently), our “adventure” was over.

Well, not quite. As it turns out, some of those dive-bombing insects were mosquitoes. What they were doing out at high noon, I don’t know. Four days later, we were still scratching.

I may have to retire my, “It’s an adventure!” Instead, maybe I’ll start using, “At least we’re not being chopped into little pieces and our bodies never found.” Yeah, that works.

Until next time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, September 11, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Friday, September 7, 2007

Random Thoughts of a Family Historian

“You not my best fwiend anymore!”

That’s what our 3-year-old grandson told his grandpa, as we drove back from what had been, up until then, a successful excursion to the Mad River Railroad Museum in Bellevue. Papa Al had been doing what grandfathers everywhere are known for doing – teasing grandsons. While I chuckled under my breath in the front seat, Grandpa Al was a bit taken aback by the comment. How devastating to find out you were your little buddy’s best friend, only to have this special designation taken away from you in the very same instant. I’m sure the little guy had overheard the statement from one of his two big sissies, each a sparkling personality in her own right, and each, I am sure, perfectly capable of putting an errant friend in their place.

The 3-year-old’s comment was one of those delicious moments that are woven into the fabric of family relationships. Too often, these are the kind of moments that are lost forever when we go to our final rest. It’s all very good to find names and dates when we are researching the family tree - these are the skeletons of a person’s identity. But we can never truly understand who the individual was without something more personal in nature.

Though locating names and dates are often difficult, locating personal stories are much harder, much rarer. So, what should you do about it? Well, resolve right now, today, to interview your parents, an aunt, an uncle, or, if you are lucky enough, a grandparent and write down those family stories. While you are at it, be sure to include those stories that you know about firsthand.

For the baptism of my youngest nephew, I put together a notebook filled with pictures and a few stories about his mommy, his grandma and grandpa, and his great grandparents. I wrote in great detail about the story of a hot summer day when my dad, his grandpa, wearing a snoopy hat and rubber banded pant cuffs played bee killer. “Who kissed the mirror,” a longstanding family mystery also found its way into the book. Silly anecdotes, I’ll grant you, but ones that give a flavor and identity to the people involved. (Although, I’m not sure how mom liked being memorialized as navigationally challenged, nor am I sure of my sister’s feelings on including the Bloody Mary/white pants incident – both very good reasons to write your own story!)

The reality of the human condition is that every person reading this blog will someday pass from this life. We are now living, what will one day be, the genealogical research of another. A hundred years from now, do you want the only things that your descendants know about you to be, your name and date of death?

It’s just a thought. I have to stop now. I must go and console my husband who recently found out he lost his “best fwiend.”

Until next time – Happy Ancestral Digging.

Note this post first published online, September 7, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I SEE DEAD PEOPLE. Okay, you got me – I don’t really see dead people, I just spend a lot of time looking for them. I look on web pages, message boards, in libraries, courthouses, cemeteries – if there’s a chance a dead ancestor might be lurking somewhere, I’ll look.

As a kid, I would hold my breath as our car motored past cemeteries (no breathing in dead spirits for this girl). Now, I look longingly as we go past, wondering if anybody I “know” is resting there.
My husband will sometimes catch the look and say with a sigh, “Do you want to stop?”

“Oh yes, could we?”

If you’re nodding in agreement, then you know what bug that has infected me – the genealogy bug. I caught a bad case of it seven years ago, when my mother dragged me to the Hayes Presidential Center under the guise of “bonding time.” She was doing research for an Internet Cousin and knew that it was safe taking me anywhere that housed lots and lots of books. One turn of the reel and a peek at names on a census page and I was a goner. My mother is still apologizing.

The goal of this blog is to focus on the wedding of Internet and genealogy. I know, some of you will be shuddering at using the words Internet and genealogy in the same sentence, but hear me out. Online original records are starting to sprout up here and there on the web. True, most are on subscription-based sites currently, but I think this is just a taste of good things to come. I’m not advocating wholehearted abandonment of genealogical fieldwork, but I am saying that the Internet, when used wisely, can jump-start your family history research.

So pull up a chair, get that second cup of java, and look in on my blog from time to time. I hope you will share your thoughts, your comments and your stories with me, as I intend to share those same things with you.

Until next time, happy ancestral digging.

Note this post first published online, September 4, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online