Thursday, March 19, 2009

Genealogy, the economy and me

For the last year and a half, my drug of choice has been genealogy, double stacked with a heavy dose of blogging. Every odd slivered moment that I could scrape together, was blithely spent on getting that next “high.”

The ability to peek into what was happening in the world of other geneabloggers, people who felt and wrote about genealogy, like me, was a heavenly respite from a world where people rolled their eyes the minute the subject of anything deader than their nightly dinner came up in conversation. Ah, the pure joy of finding such a world.

But about the time that Facebook became the new nerve central for the genealogical blogging world, I realized that I had taken a wonderful hobby, and managed to make it into a blind obsession. So realizing this new step would take me, now a mainlining Internet junkie, to a new level of addiction, I wisely abstained.

Then those sly dogs at Blogger, who must have seen the signs of waning addiction, figured out a way to ramp up my need for a fix by creating the innocuous gadget “Followers.”

My whole day would hang on the number of followers that my blog had. If someone added themselves to my following, I was in heaven. If someone deleted themselves from the group, I was in despair. Why or why had they left me? Up and down, like a kid on a runaway roller coaster, my emotions hinged on the “love” that readers gave me. (And it was such great love!)

But something happens to you when you start assigning your own self worth based on the views of others. You get a little nutty - okay, maybe a lot nutty. Realizing all of this, I started backing off.

And then, the unthinkable, the economy collapsed, making my little obsession seem like, a trivial self-indulgence. I watched all around as family and friends lost jobs or were laid off. In my own case, wages were frozen, bonuses evaporated (if only I had been an AIG gangster), and I now I faced the week-to-week terror of hearing, “I’m sorry but your services are no longer required.”

A brown bag and an index card that said, “Just breathe,” sat at the ready as I checked my ever-shrinking retirement portfolio. (It’s become so small that I don’t think portfolio is the proper term – maybe pofo?)

And God bless the ever present cable news, which by now had become my new preoccupation. The media continually told me, lest I forget, how bad things were. I would listen on my lunch hour, at supper time, and before I went to bed. It was like watching a train wreck. You knew better than to watch, but you were still irresistibly drawn to the spectacle.

I did then, what I always do when things get rough; I became a turtle, pulling into my shell. I didn’t want to read, I didn’t want to write, I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted to mope. (Have I mentioned I need long periods of reflection time to figure things out?)

And then, I don’t know, the sun came out the other morning, and I looked at the tiny daffodil shoots popping up through the ground, and I said “enough, already.” It’s time for action. It’s time to do something. It’s time to breathe.

So I’m looking for some balance - a little bit of writing, a little bit of genealogy, a little bit of exercise. I want to spend some time with family, some time cleaning out my office, some time figuring out how to work smarter, some time to plant flowers and maybe even some time to read a book.

And that my friends, is what I intend to do. If I am MIA from blogging and the geneablogging world for stretches of time, I hope you’ll understand.

I leave you with two quotes for this week’s positive thinking. The first by Thomas Merton, who said,

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

And this one by Frank Herbert,

“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves”

Here’s hoping that each of you can “feel the waves” and find your own balance.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Year of Positive Thinking - Week 9

It hung there, on my bulletin board - forgotten underneath the doctor’s appointment card, a receipt of a long since mailed certified letter, and some important reminders about the changing status of things at work. Bulletin boards are like that, an accumulation of daily minutia and formed layers of time that can, to the trained eye, be read like the rings of a fallen tree.

I vaguely remember printing it and hanging it there, but the twenty-eight pin holes decorating its surface will attest to the fact that it was hung quite some time ago. I have always been a fan of Maya Angelou’s poetry, a particular favorite, “On Reaching Forty,” gets trotted out every time some poor soul reaches that magic number.

But this one, “What I Have Learned,” speaks volumes to one who is on the shady side of fifty. I think it captures the essence of my quest for “Positive Thinking.” I’m glad I was wise enough to save the words, though the fact that they are obviously in need of dusting off, speaks volumes to my best laid plans.

What I Have Learned

Maya Angelou

"I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life
does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she
handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled
Christmas tree lights.

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll
miss them when they're gone from your life.

I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a life."

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on
both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.

"I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually
make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People
love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what
you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Have a good week!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Year of Positive Thinking - Week 8

I’m not sure if you can ascribe this week’s quote to positive thinking, but it highlights what I see as a personal flaw in my own psyche. For this week, I am making it my mantra, and my reminder.

We rest here while we can, but we hear the ocean calling in our dreams,
And we know by the morning, the wind will fill our sails to test the seams,
The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore,
For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.
(Tom Kimmel & Michael Lille)

Have a great week!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Seneca County Ohio Roots

Whether we know their names or not, each of us has 16 sets of third great grandparents who served their own specific role in our existence. The decade of the 1830’s played a pivotal part for a quarter of these individuals in my own family tree.

My paternal grandmother’s contributions were living presumably somewhere in Pomerania. On my paternal grandfather’s side, not all of the players had yet been born. Of those that were living, some were in Ohio, and some were in Pennsylvania. It would be three decades later, before the all the necessary parties had made their way to Southern Ohio’s Appalachian region, playing their own part in my eventual existence.

My maternal grandfather’s family were scattered about in New Jersey and Ohio, and it would take two additional decades before for the “right” people would find themselves in Henry County of Ohio ensuring that my siblings, cousins and I would eventually come to be. But the early birds to this party were my maternal grandmother’s people.

All four sets had found their way to Seneca County by the mid 1830’s and they had all settled in Liberty Township.

The Lutheran contingent had come from Shenandoah County in Virginia by way of Fairfield County, Ohio. The German Baptists were also from Shenandoah County, although there is no reason to think the two groups had ever known each other, it is interesting that they both had made their way to Liberty Township.

The Armstrongs came from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, and the final piece of my genealogical puzzle, the Lynches, were also originally from Pennsylvania with stopovers in Fairfield and Franklin Counties in Ohio.

If you had family that spent any significant time during the last seven decades of the nineteenth century in Liberty Township of Seneca County, Ohio, we are, quite likely, related.

If you aren’t related to the Lynches (Daniel and Margaret Anderson Lynch), then you are probably related by the Armstrongs (William and Leah Shupe Armstrong.) If not the Armstrongs, then we are certainly related by the Goods (Joseph Good and Magdalena Click Good.). But if you still haven’t found the connection, then may I suggest the Feasels (Henry Feasel and Jane Kendall Feasel) as the source of our mutual genetic inheritance?

For the Feasels came to the county in full force. Brothers George and Henry both took out land patents in 1831, George on August 12 and Henry on November 14. Both had large families and with the later addition of a nephew, Samuel Cotter Feasel, who located near Bascom, Ohio, it is fair to say that the county was awash with Feasels.

There were so many Feasels, that the area in which they lived was called, Feaselburg. While to my knowledge there was never such a place on a map, to this day there is a cemetery located on what was once old George Feasel’s land, called Feaselburg Cemetery.

Below is a partial plat map of Liberty Township in 1865, showing where all the Feasel plots were located. The red dots stand for the various Feasel holdings, with the Green dot indicating the location of Feaselburg Cemetery.

While tracking done errant Goods, Armstrongs, and Lynches is difficult business because of the commonness of the name, there is no such problem when it comes to my Feasel relations. According to Feazell researcher, Don Feazell, who maintains a website dedicated to all things Feazell (Feazel, Feazle, Feasel, Feezel and Feezell), almost all individuals who use the F-E-A-S-E-L spelling of the name descend from Michael Feasel Sr, with the a large number descending from his son Jacob Feasel, who was the father of Henry and George. According to Don, “Only a few family lines are known to use this spelling today.”

Which is why, anytime a new database comes online; I plug in the Feasel name just to see what interesting tidbits I can find. I solved a little family mystery in this very manner when the Family Search’s Pilot Site program added the database for Michigan Marriages 1868 – 1925.

I plugged in the name Feasel, and surprisingly enough I found 39 matches for the name. The most interesting result was the name Ross W. Feasel, my great grandmother Laura Jane Feasel Lynch’s brother.

Ross and Gertrude Betts were married in Seneca County on August 25, 1896. Their eldest daughter, Bernice was born that same year. In looking at family records I noticed that their next living birth happened February 16, 1914 when twin daughters, Evelyn and Vivian were born 18 YEARS LATER! That had always seemed odd.

Odd, until I found the wedding of one Ross W. Feasel and Gertrude Greak married December 21, 1912 in Monroe County, Michigan. Gertrude’s father, listed as Isaiah Betts, confirmed that this was the same Gertrude who had married Ross 14 years earlier.

Obviously, there was a divorce and a second marriage for Gertrude, but in the end, the two of them remarried, and in addition to the twins, they went on to have daughters Irene and Mildred before Gertrude died in 1923. Interesting to note that their second marriage occurred three months after Mama Feasel’s death.

As a student of family history, I am always amazed at the confluence of events that had to take place for my own existence to have been made possible. The more I study my own roots, the more I realize how heavy the word “if” floats atop my head. All the events that had to happen in precise order, with the correct people and at the perfect time make me shake my head in wonder.

The next time you are feeling low, or are angry with the moron who just cut you off in traffic, it might be wise to remember this: Each of us who have made it here, to this often troubled world, did so because we beat the odds and won the most important lottery of all – life. And that’s gotta count for something.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging

Note: For more on the Feaselburg Cemetery, see the posting I have done at Great Black Swamp Graveyard Rabbit website.

Some of you will notice that I took an unintended two-week hiatus from the Geneablogging world. A quick thank you to all of you who nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award (including the first to nominate me – sista crankypants.) I have some catching up to do on responding to comments. The Monthly Mélange for February may be a little later than planned this month because I also have to do some major Geneablogger reading!

PS If you found this post by googling one of my family names, please feel free to get in touch with me. I always love to do some mutual sharing when it comes to the family tree.