Mad About Maps

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For as long as I can remember, I have always loved maps.  Even from a fairly young age, I understood that a dot on a map represented something out in the world; a city, a place that I could travel to and explore.  I would consult maps whenever the family planned a vacation.  I wanted to see what roads we’d travel, and what cities we might go through.  Even for lesser journeys, I might check a map.  Our family would go to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio every few summers, and especially as the park added more and more rides, I would check the map to find the quickest way to get to the next roller coaster.  Even at the mall, I would consult a “You Are Here” map to see how to get to the new shop that just opened.

As you can see, there are lots of coasters.  It seemed like every few years, another one would open.

As you can see, there are lots of coasters. It seemed like every few years, another one would open.

In my family, I typically took the task of the navigator on long trips.  I would keep the road atlas with me, and would look at it from time to time, and let whichever parent was driving (usually my Dad), know when the next turn was coming up.

In a genealogical journey, you don’t necessarily have a map to follow.  You might get some data that might point you in the right direction, but the final destination can be ever elusive.  However, maps do have their use in genealogy.  In particular, I’ve found that historic maps can be quite helpful in finding out more about the places my ancestors lived.  Today, I’m going to share with you a few resources that I’ve found helpful in my own research.  Clicking on any map will take you to its source.

Old Maps Online

From 1000 AD until the present, there are maps available from several sources that can be viewed online.  You can use a map feature to find what you’re looking for, or you can type in a place to search for it directly.  The maps show everything from topography and resources, to city streets.

Screen shot of a map of San Francisco.  This shows San Francisco as it was prior to the 1906 earthquake.  This was the San Francisco that Bill's grandmother was born in.

This map shows San Francisco as it was prior to the 1906 earthquake. This was the San Francisco where Bill’s maternal grandmother was born.

David Rumsey Map Collection

While the maps of the David Rumsey collection can be viewed through the previous link, I wanted to make special mention of this group of maps.  Many of these maps are rare maps of North America (the map above is part of the collection).  The interface is virtually identical to that of Old Maps Online, however, I prefer the darker background of the Rumsey site for viewing.

My paternal great-grandparents migrated from West Virginia to Nebraska.  Five children were born in Nebraska, and I believe their first born, Annie died there.  A draft card pinpoints the birthplace of one child in Central City, Nebraska.  Click on the map to be linked to its source.

My paternal great-grandparents migrated from West Virginia to Nebraska. Five children were born in Nebraska, and I believe their first-born, Annie died there. A draft card pinpoints the birthplace of one child in Central City, Nebraska.

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Borders have a way of changing through the years.  As territories became states and states sometimes spawned new states or disputed ownership of land with other states, the lines that designated where one place ended and the other began evolved.  Even within states, counties grew, shrank, were created, or disappeared.

You can view these changes on this atlas.  Choose the state you are interested in, type in a date, and you can view the borders at that time.  You have the option of also comparing them with the current county borders.  I have found it useful when trying to track down relatives when they haven’t moved, but the borders did.

My maternal great-grandparents resided in Putnam County, Tennessee, and I believe the family stayed in the same area for several generations.  This is a map of the borders around the time of the county's original formation in 1842.  The black lines represent the county boundaries as of that date; the white lines indicate the current county borders.

My maternal great-grandparents resided in Putnam County, Tennessee, and I believe the family stayed in the same area for several generations. This is a map of the borders around the time of the county’s original formation in 1842. The black lines represent the county boundaries as of that date; the white lines indicate the current county borders.

As you can see, this map, showing the borders as of June 1, 1850 doesn't show Putnam county.  That's because its initial formation was declared unconstitutional.

As you can see, this map, showing the borders as of June 1, 1850 doesn’t show Putnam county. That’s because its initial formation was declared unconstitutional. I would need to look in the counties that took over the land to see where the family is. A hint on Ancestry.com leads me to believe that in 1850, they were enumerated in White county, which comprises a big chunk of southeastern Putnam county’s future borders.

In 1854, Putnam County was officially reestablished and back on the map.  This map as of June 1, 1860 shows that the shape was redrawn differently than it originally looked in 1843, and its shape was a lot closer to that of its modern place on the map.

In 1854, Putnam County was officially reestablished and back on the map. This map as of June 1, 1860 shows that the shape was redrawn differently than it originally looked in 1842, and its shape was a lot closer to that of its modern place on the map.

Data Visualization:  Journalism’s Voyage West

Stanford University compiled data from the Library of Congress‘ “Chronicling America” project to create this unique map.  Over 140,000 newspapers in over 3 centuries are represented.  What I like about this map is it helps me to determine what newspapers were in print for a particular place at any given point in time.  There are also links that will show where archives of these papers can be found in libraries across the country.  Best of all, several papers are available digitally and be searched and viewed for free.

Bill’s paternal great-grandparents settled in Columbus, Ohio after immigrating from Hungary. This image shows how many papers they would have had access to in 1920. There was at least one publication that was printed in both English and Hungarian. I wonder if they were subscribers.

As you can see, maps can help in our research of our ancestors.  They may give us a better view of the land as it was when they lived.  Maps can show the surroundings and give us a better understanding of how things looked before modern streets, roads, and buildings became part of the landscape.  Maps can show the changes in boundaries between counties and states, and perhaps help us track down a relative.  Maps can even be used to give us a visual representation of data that might help us discover records unlocking key clues in our genealogical journeys.  I hope that some of these resources might help you as much as they have helped me.  If you have other map resources that you have found, please share them.

Video

The Happiest Place on Earth

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And no, I’m not talking about Disneyland. In fact, I’ve never been to Disneyland (or Disneyworld, for that matter).  That’s not to say I’ve never SEEN it.  After all, growing up watching Disney each weekend, every once in a while, you would get a feature about the park or, in the case below, plans for a new park.

But, for me, the happiest place on earth wasn’t an amusement park.  For me, the happiest place on earth was a farm about a half hour’s drive from our home in Flint:  the home of my Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil just outside of Lapeer, Michigan.

My Aunt Georgia in front of her home in Lapeer, Michigan.

My Aunt Georgia in front of her home in Lapeer, Michigan. Laying down is Litska, and Walter is sitting.

Now Aunt Georgia did not always live out in Lapeer.  Originally, she lived in a small house near Averill Avenue in Flint.  However, Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil owned property out in Lapeer, and they had plans to build a house on it.

Aunt Georgia's house in the process of construction.  To the right is a covered pump that was already on the property.

Aunt Georgia’s house in the process of construction. To the right is a covered pump that was already on the property.

The property was quite large.  Even the aerial shot that was taken does not show the full extent of it.

This picture only shows the buildings on the property.  It does not show all the land or the woods that Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil owned.

This picture only shows the buildings on the property. It does not show all the land or the woods that Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil owned.

You can see on the right side that train tracks ran along side the property.  The road that Aunt Georgia lived on ended at the tracks and her driveway began on the other side.  The tracks at that point were up a small hill; there was no warning signal for the crossing.  You would have to drive onto the hill enough to look both ways, and then cross over.  Sometimes in the winter, it was too slippery for the car to cross and so you’d have to park and walk to the house (which was also up a hill, so it wasn’t easy if it was slick).  I can remember at least once where we had to stay the night because we got snowed in.  Of course, I didn’t mind. 🙂

The farm in Winter.  This is a rather mild day, but you can see how pretty a place it could be even when there was just a little snow.

The farm in Winter. This is a rather mild day, but you can see how pretty a place it could be even when there was just a little snow.

The seasons were always beautiful out there.  Autumn was always a wonderful time to be visiting.  Fall color in their woods was able to be seen from the house, and a walk on the property allowed you to see the variety of the season.

Caption on back written by Aunt Georgia:  1994 - Color just starting at our home

Caption on back written by Aunt Georgia: 1994 – Color just starting at our home

I spent many nights with Aunt Georgia in November.  Uncle Neil liked to go hunting up North on weekends during deer season, and Aunt Georgia preferred not to stay alone.  She would ask me to come stay for a few days, and of course, I would.  During those visits we would sit for hours in her living room and  talk of many things, including family and family history.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t think about writing any of it down at the time.  Aunt Georgia was the family historian, and between her and my Aunt Jeanette, I learned quite a bit, but much of it is locked away in memory that I cannot access.

Aunt Georgia in her living room.  The rug covering the bench of her organ was originally my Grandma Taylor's and it is in my care for the time being.  Her cat, Felicia, is laying on the floor near her.

Aunt Georgia in her living room. The rug covering the bench of her organ was originally my Grandma Taylor’s and it is in my care for the time being. Her cat, Felicia, is laying on the floor near her.

In Spring, things would begin to bloom.  On the hillside, a garden would be planted.  Typically, there would be corn, green beans, tomatoes, and carrots.  One year, Aunt Georgia put in some grape vines, and after a few years, she yielded Concord Grapes.  There were also some fruit trees on the property.  There was one apple tree in particular that I remember.  It was old and eventually died off.  I seem to recall that out of the dead stump a seedling came up.  I seem to recall us calling the old one ‘the pregnant tree’ because of it.

This picture of the garden (which appears to be late Spring because the corn isn't that high) gives a good idea of the length of the hill, but it doesn't seem to give as good an idea of its steepness.

This picture of the garden (which appears to be late Spring because the corn isn’t that high) gives a good idea of the length of the hill, but it doesn’t seem to give as good an idea of its steepness.

In Summer, everything was green and beautiful.  Aunt Georgia also kept a flower garden which made use of an old feature on the property.

Caption by Aunt Georgia:  small - Walter  German Shep. LitskaRemember the covered pump I mentioned in the construction picture?  Here it is, cover removed and built into a raised planter.

Caption by Aunt Georgia: small – Walter German Shep. Litska
Remember the covered pump I mentioned in the construction picture? Here it is, cover removed and built into a raised planter.

As you can see, animals were a big part of life on the farm.  I can always remember my Aunt Georgia having a dog, even from before when she lived in Flint.

Rags was the first dog of my Aunt's that I remember.  This was taken in Flint at her old home.

Rags was the first dog of my Aunt’s that I remember. This was taken in Flint at her old home.

When my Grandpa Taylor died, he had owned a dog called Yeller (he looked a little like the dog in the movie “Old Yeller“).  Walter, if I remember right, was a stray, as was, I think, Nickla.

Caption by my Aunt Georgia:  Nickla - 1994  Just came from the beauty shop.

Caption by my Aunt Georgia: Nickla – 1994 Just came from the beauty shop.

Litska was another matter.  Litska was a retired show dog.  Her owners asked Aunt Georgia to take her because they were working with their newer dogs.  Even a retired dog needs to be put through its paces now and again, and they knew Aunt Georgia would give the dog both the structure and attention needed.  Every one of my Aunt’s dogs were well-trained.  She took each one to obedience training, and I remember watching her work with each one.  I learned a lot of things from her by observation that I eventually used in training my own dogs.  I can still hear her praising the dogs.  “Very nice!” she would say in an approving tone, and work time would end with a rub behind the ears, or a good petting. Even Felicia, the cat, was trained.  She would not come onto the furniture unless called, and even then, I believe the only furniture she was allowed onto was Aunt Georgia’s chair.  She also had taught her to sheath her claws when she was on people.  A soft tap on her paw if the claws came out was enough to get her to bring them back in. Only the cat was indoors full-time.  The dogs, with the exception of Rags, all slept outside.  They had their dog houses or kennels, of course.  However, in Winter, if it was bad outside, the dogs were brought in.  They were all well-behaved, and it was nice having them in with us. However, dogs and cats were not the only animals on the property.

Left to right:  Shannon, Goldie, and Sand

Left to right: Shannon, Goldie, and Sand

I think the horses were one of my favorite things on the property.  When I wasn’t with Aunt Georgia, I would be out with the horses.  I would pull grass and clover for them, I would talk to them and pet them, and on occasion, I was able to go to the corn crib and bring them corn, or give them apples that had fallen from the tree.  There were five in all.  Goldie was the oldest, and I believe was mother of both Shannon and Sand.  She later had Kelly.  The fifth was a pony that was a Shetland/Welsh mix called Toby.  Toby is the only one I ever ‘rode’ (which my uncle leading me around).  He could be an ill-tempered beast; even Aunt Georgia called him a ‘booger’ on more than one occasion.

The horses had a lot of property to range on.  There was a large pond that was always a fixture on the property.  The fenced area allowed them to range between several fields.

You can see the pond behind Sand and Shannon in this picture.

You can see the pond behind Sand and Shannon in this picture.

We had a lot of fun at the pond, too.  There was an old raft made of oil drums and wood that floated around out there for several years.  My brother and I would swim out to it and the jump off.  The bottom of the pond was in places mucky with silt, so it wasn’t that great to come out.  I think we sometimes had to wash our legs off with the garden hose before we could go into the house.

Uncle Neil built a small dock later.  Usually, he had a cane pole sitting next to it, so it was easy to get some bait (he usually had some worms he’d dug up already), and go out and fish.  Even as kids, we used to fish at the sides of the pond, but growing up didn’t make fishing less fun.

1992 - I still had fun fishing even when I got older.  I never cleaned a fish, but I did bait my own hook and I did take the fish off the hook.

1992 – I still had fun fishing even when I got older. I never cleaned a fish, but I did bait my own hook and I did take the fish off the hook.

You can see I was having a good time in this picture, and why not?  I was at my Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil’s farm; for me, the happiest place on earth. 😀

A Quick Look Back

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A road on the interior portion of Mackinac Island, Michigan

A road on the interior portion of Mackinac Island, Michigan

‘Travelling down the road, I look back’ – opening line of a poem I wrote several years ago

I just thought I’d share the 2012 Annual Report with some comments by me.

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

I’m impressed, especially after taking such a long hiatus (darn writer’s block).

In 2012, there were 32 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 93 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 534 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

I’d be more impressed with the post total if they had been consistently posted.  For a while I was posting like a mad woman, and then I posted a little less often, and then I started running out of ideas and then…nothing for months. 😦

My writing resolution this year is to post at least twice a month.  If I find inspiration to do more, that’s fine, but I want to focus on having a blog that is updated regularly with quality content.  Even if it’s just a photo, I want you to know why that photo was so special.  What image did it capture, and why is it important in our family history?

The busiest day of the year was June 11th with 76 views. The most popular post that day was In Search of…Baby Taylor.

That particular post was a favorite of mine, and I’m glad it was well received.  Thank you for all those who took time to read it.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012. You can see all of the year’s most-viewed posts in your Site Stats.

I really liked the combination in this top five.  The first deals with family trees in general, and my reflection upon them.  The second deals with my father’s side of the family.  The third is about my own branch of the family tree, my husband and I.  The fourth talks about my mother’s side of the family.  The final item in the top five gives me a chance to highlight Bill’s side of the family tree.  It was a very well-rounded collection, and gives a good summary of what this blog is all about.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for tree branchesoak tree branches,tree with brancheshappy anniversary poems, and mike sabados jr.

Wow…other than the family member name, these are not the search terms I would have expected.

Thank you very much for all the referrals, especially to Sheryl!  I’ve been a big fan ever since I discovered her blog, and I hope she gets lots of referrals through me as well. 🙂

Most visitors came from The United States. The United Kingdom & Canada were not far behind.

There were visitors from over 60 countries in the world.  I’m glad you stopped by!

Mom

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It is appropriate that I began writing this post on December 30th, and I will complete it on December 31st (or just after).  Those two dates mark the lifespan of my Mom.

My Mom was born Billie Sue Newell on December 31st, 1940.  She was born in Letcher County, Kentucky, the second born daughter of my grandparents.

This is a picture of my grandparents from back in the 1940's.

This is a picture of my grandparents from back in the 1940’s.

My grandparents and my Mom and her older sister Anna Mae lived in Kentucky for a few more years, long enough for one more sister to be added to the Newell clan.  According to my mother’s cousin, Bobbie, Anna Mae would have died about two weeks before this aunt was born.

Whether it was the promise of a better life, a chance for a better job, or possibly to get away from the memories, my grandparents left Kentucky and moved to Michigan sometime between the death of Anna Mae (and birth of her sister), to the birth of another sister in the late 40’s.  In the early 1950’s, the only boy of the family was born.

Even in this 7th grade photo, you can see Mom's hair is dark.

Even in this 7th grade photo, you can see Mom’s hair is dark.

My Mom went to school at Northgate Elementary.  It was the very same Northgate Elementary that both my brother and I attended as children.  I do not have a copy of it (I hope my brother does), but there is a picture of my mother standing on the steps of the school with her classmates.  I can remember my mother showing me that picture, and I can recall not really believing it was her at first.  The girl in the picture had blonde hair; my mother was a brunette.  However, there was no mistaking the features, so I knew it had to be her.

Mom's Senior Picture

Mom’s Senior Picture

Mom attended Mount Morris High School.  She graduated in 1960.  A year later, she was married and was starting her own family.

As far as I know, the births of my brother and I went smoothly.  The birth of my brother Michael though, was anything but.  Michael had problems right from the start.  My father told me that he had several procedures done within hours of being born.  Meanwhile, my mother was fighting a battle of her own.  What complications there were, I do not know, but my mother was able to survive the ordeal.  My little brother though, was not strong enough, and he died when he was only a few days old.

My parents did try to have a child again, and I’m told that she had a daughter that was stillborn.  I was also told at one point she had a miscarriage.  My brother and I never had another sister or brother that we grew up with.  We have each other though, and trust me, one brother is enough! 😉

Though Mom had held jobs prior to marriage, once she started having kids, she was a stay-at-home mom.  A few years after both of us started school though, a program started in our district that allowed Mom to stay at home and work.

It was called “Cottage Nursery” and it was a cross between in-home daycare and preschool.  I remember having two little tables in our dining room where the kids did their activities.  I can also remember a few times being home sick and straying out of my bedroom and into the hallway so I could peek into the living room and dining room to see what the little kids were doing.

The Cottage Nursery program only existed for a couple of years, but my mother found that the work was very fulfilling.  She started working as a teacher’s aide in the district, and later worked for the Head Start program.  By the time she retired, she was teaching a few grandkids of people that she had taught as a teacher’s aide.

Mom might have retired, but she never stopped being active.  She took up golf, and was on a few regular leagues.  She had a regular Bunco group that she had played with since I was in my teens.  She got involved with the Red Hat Society.

At least two of the members of this Red Hat group were folks that my Mom knew through work.

At least two of the members of this Red Hat group were folks that my Mom knew through work.

Mom had a lot of spirit and perseverance.  She started working on an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education when I was in my teens.  She had a lot of delays due to many things, including a divorce from my Dad, financial issues, and even a medical issue or two along the way.  She made it through though, and they even did a write-up about it in our local paper.

Mom was a fighter.  She was a five plus year breast cancer survivor.  Some people think that it was the cancer that brought her life to an early close, but it was something much more unexpected.

On Christmas Day, 2008, my mother was having family over for dinner.  When my brother and his family came over, Mom had mentioned falling from her step-ladder as she was trying to get something from over the refrigerator.  She seemed fine at first, however, after dinner she started complaining of not feeling well.  She wound up vomiting, and was having complaints of her head bothering her.  They took her to ER, where her condition worsened.  She was having more and more difficulty, and becoming less coherent.

The diagnosis was a neural hematoma.  While there was no exterior signs of trauma, it was likely that the fall had shaken something loose, and my mother was bleeding in her brain.  They wanted to operate…but they couldn’t.  You see, my mother was on a blood thinner (Coumadin) for blood clots in her legs, and they could not safely operate until she was weaned off the medicine.  By that time, she was in a coma, and the prognosis was not good for recovery.  After discussing it with all the family, the decision was made to take Mom off life support.

The last time I talked to my Mom on the phone, it was a few days before Christmas.  As usual, we talked of little things.  We talked of food we were going to cook, and the family we were going to see.  As was usual, we signed off saying “I love you.”  At that point, I didn’t know I would return from Christmas with my husband’s family to an urgent message from my brother to call.

I think one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was to fly from California back to Michigan to say good-bye to my Mom.  My brother said he would not take Mom off life support until I had a chance to say my good-byes.  I remember going in the room and seeing Mom laying there, hooked up to the machines that were keeping her breathing.  My Grandma was there, my Mom’s mom.  This woman had already lost her oldest child in the 1940’s, and then in the 90’s she had lost her youngest, her only son, to cancer.  She was clinging to the hope that my mother would wake.  Each small movement brought such hope to her.

The family left for a short time so I could have some time to myself with Mom, to be able to talk to her.  I hoped as I told her I loved her, and whispered to her to let her know I was OK with her leaving this world, that she could hear me, and that she was ready to cross over from this life to the next.  When my family returned, I could tell that Grandma knew of their decision.  The hope was gone, and she wept, knowing that another of her babies was leaving her for a time.

Mom's Headstone

Mom’s Headstone

I try not to dwell on the tragedy surrounding Mom’s death.  Instead, I try to focus on the wonderful life my Mom lived, and the legacy she left to us, her family.

This is a four generation shot.  In the front is my Grandmother Newell.  Behind her is my Aunt Faye and her husband.  My brother Tim and his wife flank my Aunt and Uncle.  The young man in the back and the young lady graduating are my niece and nephew, my Mom's two grandkids.

This is a four generation shot. In the front is my Grandma Newell. Behind her is my Aunt Faye (one of Mom’s two living sisters) and her husband John. My brother Tim and his wife Laurie flank my Aunt and Uncle. The young man in the back and the young lady graduating are my nephew Tim and my niece Tiffany, my Mom’s two grandkids.

My Mom and I when we took her to see the Redwoods.

My Mom and I when we took her to see the Redwoods  We had taken her specifically to have the experience of driving through this tree.  When we got there, we started to go through.  She hollers at us to stop, goes out, takes a picture of US going through the tree, and then proceeds to wave us through.  We should have known!  A few days before this, we had taken her to San Francisco to give her the experience of being driven down Lombard Street.  She says she wants to get out and take pictures from the top of the hill, so we let her out as we’re in the car line waiting our turn.  We get to the top…no Mom.  We can’t sit there forever, so we have to go.  Mom’s nowhere in sight until we get down to the bottom of the hill.  She was taking pictures of US coming down! Grrrrrr….

A favorite photo of mine.  I took this of Mom when she visited us in 2000.  This was taken at the Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa, California.

A favorite photo of mine. I took this of Mom when she visited us in 2000. This was taken at the Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa, California.

One side note:  I know my Mom well enough that I think I can say she would have been amused by the fact that the obituary had to put her age at 67 and not 68 because she was a day short of her birthday.  Talk about shaving points, Mom…. 😉

Sidetracked

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Sometimes, on a journey, you veer off the path you had chosen to take.  Perhaps you saw a sign offering you a chance to see some great local sight.  Maybe you just happened to look over and see something to the side of the road, and you wanted to check it out.

In one instance, my husband and I, while on our honeymoon trip, were enticed by a tape.

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Though the Polaroid I took was slightly damaged, it still shows the “Sky Blue Journal” set of tapes that offered us insight into history and sites as we traveled through Minnesota. In the background, you can see one of those sites. You can also see our travelling companion, Blue. That’s another story. 😉

The tape happened to mention there was a statue of the Jolly Green Giant just a few miles away from where we were travelling.  Of course, I wanted to see it.  So, we went, and sure enough, there he was!  You almost expected to hear the “Ho, ho, ho!” from the massive, 55 foot tall guy.  We didn’t stay long, but we got pictures and enjoyed a quick break from our cross-country trip.

Lately, with my research, I’ve felt pretty much the same way.  I try to focus in on one person, but I might catch a glimpse of something that leads me off my path.

For instance, I started researching my great-grandmother, Bessie Mae Layne Newell Massey.  I was hoping to find some additional records about Herbert Newell, her first husband and my great-grandfather.  Instead, I wound up getting more information about George Massey, her second husband.  While interesting, it was not what I was looking for.

I did find one item today on one of these side trips that gave me some additional information on my grandmother’s family.  I was looking for information on another great-grandfather, Manford Lawson, and came upon a death certificate for one of his sons:

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You can see that James died of whooping-cough. This is just about the time that the whooping-cough vaccine was developed. Too bad it didn’t save him.

James was another of the family’s “One Hit Wonders”.  He made his one and only appearance in 1920 on the US Census.

James in the 1920 Census.

Sometimes, being sidetracked can be fun, but at other times, it can be frustrating.  I’ve had a particular post in mind, and it just seems like every time I start the research for it, I find myself on tangents.  Even fruitful moments like finding the death record for James don’t make up for the fact that, right now, I should be finding other records for other family members.

Have you ever been sidetracked like this?  If so, how do you break away from the side trips and get back to your genealogical path?

A Milestone and Some News

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In my email today, I received a note from FamilySearch Indexing.  Apparently, last night, I indexed my 50th batch of information.  Most of the batches that I’ve indexed have been for the 1940 US Census.  I’ve indexed over 1,700 names since I started.  It’s probably not all that much, but every bit counts.

If you don’t believe that, check out the numbers from a few weeks ago on July 2nd:

Over 46,000 people indexed and arbitrated over 10 million records in one day!  Pretty impressive, especially considering that they had set the goal at 5 million.  In 16 hours, we had surpassed that goal.  Yes, I participated that day, and I was able to post 400 names that day, all from the 1940 Census.  So far, I’ve indexed records in 11 states, as well as in the District of Columbia.  Most of the states I have indexed are those in which ancestors of myself or my husband have lived.

If you’re a regular visitor, you may see that the picture of my header has changed.  The person that took the photo is Bobbie Creech, my first cousin, once removed.  He has been a wonderful ally in my genealogical journey.  We have shared many pieces of information back and forth, primarily on the Newell and Whittaker lines.  In an email the other night, he said, “I think all this Genealogy should be open to all and you do have my permission to reproduce any and all of the photos I send to you.”  I am very excited about this!  I really don’t have any of the family photos myself, other than what my Dad or others have sent to me via email.  Bobbie allowing me to share photos he has shared with me allows me to introduce other family members to you in both words and pictures.

The cemetery above is Henry Cemetery, located in Putnam County, Tennessee.  Many of my relatives are buried there, including two of my great-great-grandparents, and several of their family members.  It sounds like it’s not an easy place to get to.  According to Bobbie, “It was so far back in the woods they had to pipe sunlight in…”  It looks like such a wonderful place though; I’d love to visit it one day.

I’m going to post a Wordless Wednesday this week.  I plan to introduce you to my Mom’s oldest sister, whom I’ve mentioned a few times before.  So get ready to meet Anna Mae shortly.

The Nature of Trees

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I’ve been home getting over a stomach bug the last couple of days, so I’ve been able to keep up with my blog reading (love that Google Reader allows me one easy place to keep up with all of them).  I was reading today’s post of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree“.  There were several quotes collected from various sites, each making claims of famous ancestry, being able to trace their lineage to Adam and Eve; in other words, people who have probably not done a lot of research on their own, and have taken at face value trees other people have created.

One quote in particular stood out:

I don’t need ancestry at the moment because my tree is complete.

This sparked a comment from Lianne Lavoie, who wrote:

Also, people who say their trees are “complete” are hilarious. I’ve never understood quite what they mean. I guess if they don’t care at all about “sideways” genealogy, and every one of their direct lines has reached a point where you can’t reasonably go back any further (eg. with Acadian ancestors, you usually can’t go further than the original immigrants)? I guess there’s a point at which I would call my tree “complete”, but I doubt I’ll get there in a lifetime.

This got me thinking of the nature of trees, and how trees and family trees share many of the same traits.  To LLG70 and LinnaeLavoie, my thanks for inspiring this rare midweek post.

I think one can never call a tree “complete”.  A tree is a living thing.  It has roots that go down deep into the earth, drawing from it water and nutrients to sustain it.   From its sturdy trunk, branches come forth, sprouting new growth each season.  It is the nature of a tree to grow.  A tree without growth will eventually die.

In the same way, a family tree is a living thing.  Its roots are our ancestors.  They go down through the ages.  They are the foundation of the family.  Our ancestors, like roots, provide through their lives and histories sustenance, maintaining our place in this world.  Their descendants spread out through the years, each generation providing new branches, new leaves, and new growth.

I think that only when the life cycle ends could a tree ever be called “complete”.  However, a dead tree will eventually decay; its roots will shrivel, its leaves and branches will fall.  It will become nothing more than a stump which will in time be reclaimed by the earth, all trace of it vanishing.

My family tree I hope will never be “complete”.  Even if I in my lifetime could ever hope to discover every last root, and find the story for each of my ancestors, the story still would not be complete.  For the true story of any family tree lies not only in its past, but in its future as well.  The branches of my family tree spread wide, and there are many leaves among those branches.

My own branch will go no further; when my leaf falls, my part of the story ends.  However, the branches of my brother and my cousins will go on.  Many of their branches have new growth; branches that have forked and started leaves of their own.  While my own branch may vanish into history, I can only hope that what I’ve learned keeps the roots of our family tree strong to nourish generations of new branches to come.

 

A Tale of Two Irons

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I had been struggling today to decide on what to write about.  Not having any particular thing in mind, I turned my attention to my Google Reader, to catch up on the genealogy blogs I follow.  In doing so, I came across a post made earlier this month by Sheryl Lazarus on her blog “A Hundred Years Ago” about ironing.  It brought to mind two pieces of family lore about irons and ironing.

The first story is about my Aunt Georgia and my Grandma Taylor.  When the ironing had to be done, Aunt Georgia told me that to pass the time, she and my grandmother would read poetry to one another.  They would take turns, one of them ironing, and the other reading aloud, until all the clothes were pressed.  My Aunt Georgia’s favorite was “The Fool’s Prayer” by Edward Rowland Sill:

THE FOOL’S PRAYER

by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: “Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!”
 
The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.
 
He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the Monarch’s silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: “O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
 
“No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
 
“‘T is not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
‘T is by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.
 
“These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.
 
“The ill-timed truth we might have kept–
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say–
Who knows how grandly it had rung!
 
“Our faults no tenderness should ask.
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders — oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.
 
“Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!”
 
The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
“Be merciful to me, a fool!”
“The Fool’s Prayer” is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.

The second story of ironing is about my brother, Tim.  At one point in his young age, Tim liked to iron when he would visit my Grandma Newell’s house.  For hours I’m told, he would pretend to iron, using a container of baby powder as his iron of choice.  Back and forth his little arm would go, smoothing out the wrinkles of imaginary pieces of fabric.

At some point, the family decided that since he liked to iron so much, they would get him a toy iron so he could play with a “real” iron.  The gift was given, and the family waited to watch Tim with his new toy.  From what I’m told, he picked it up, set it aside, and went right on “ironing” with his baby powder box!

The toy iron did get some use though; when I was old enough, I played with it. 🙂

Thanks, Sheryl, for inspiring me to share these stories!

A Father is to…

In May, I shared a book I had written in about second or third grade (about 40 years or so ago) about my Mother.  Today being Father’s Day, I wanted to share the book I wrote for my Dad.  I don’t know how long it’s been since he’s seen this.

Again, the cover still looks good, despite its age.

The book formula is the same as the book I wrote for my Mom.  Each page starts with “A father is to”, and then the illustration and words relate to what I felt a father was supposed to do.

It is interesting looking at them side by side to see the differences in what I wrote about.  The roles of Mom and Dad are very different in the eyes of my younger self.

As I did with my post in May, I’m going to present the book page by page.  If you scroll over the picture, there will be my comments as an adult looking back on what I wrote.

A Father is to Let You Bat
by
Pam Taylor

A father is to give you an allowance.

A father is to let you bat.

A father is to watch you when your mother is gone to the store for some groceries.

A father is to wear a necktie to work and on special occasions.

A father is to hold your hand when a lion roars at a zoo.

A father is to let you play baseball with your brothers.

A father is to take you to the Detroit Zoo.

A father is to cook breakfast when your mother isn’t up yet. He is in an apron.

A father is to tell jokes as he gets home from work.

A father is to get a raise from his boss at work.

A father is to get a job is his workshop is on strike. He got a job at Hank’s and Herman’s

Though distance separates us, my Dad is always close in my heart.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  I love you!