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I have moved my blog to sittingunderthefamilytree.com hosted now by hostgator. I have been learning all their ins and outs and trying to move everything over there.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to move my followeres so you haven’t been receiving a notice when a new post is made. Please visit me at sittingunderthefamilytree.com and WELCOME

 

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2012 in Life

 

Black Eyed Peas and Pickles

Holiday traditions connect us closer to our ancestors more than we realize. But why? Is it because they mean something to us personally or because we’ve always done them that way?  Or just because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings should we vier off course and do something different?

When I was little (long, long time ago), the tree was always put up on Christmas Eve after I went to bed and we believed that Santa Claus brought the tree with all the presents. Then my brother and I took the tree down on New Year‘s Day. When my daughter was little I did the same thing. She also thought Santa brought the tree with all the presents.

Now she is a parent herself and her family decorates their tree early. She and her husband sip hot cocoa between attaching the ornaments. Plus they leave some ornaments for their son to put on the tree with them the next day.  She has begun a Christmas tradition of her own.

Some traditions go way, way back into our family history and the origins have long been forgotten.  Being mostly German we have thpicklee pickle ornament tradition which supposedly meant that any child finding the pickle ornament got a special present. We never did that one though. I’ve tried to find a vintage pickle ornament for my own tree but they are costly and so far I have not popped for the price.

Swedish tradition dictates the sprinkling of bird seed in front of the house on Christmas Day for good luck.

Italians have a good tradition of seafood on Christmas. Six or seven courses of different fish. Sounds yummy to me.

Holding money in your hand at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s indicated prosperity throughout the year.

Having one parent from Virginia but living in the north I believe we  were the only citizens of Philadelphia who ate black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck throughout the new year.  Every ethnic group and geographical location has some tradition for the holidays.

One tradition I heard of recently was that of a new wife cutting off the end of the Christmas ham before baking it. When asked why, the answer was, “We always do it that way. It’s tradition.”  The young husband asked his mother-in-law “Why cut off the end of the ham?” The same answer “We always do it that way, it’s tradition.” Wanting to know the root of this tradition and its significance, the young husband then asked his wife’s grandmother. Surely she would know how the tradition came about. “Sure,” she said. “My pan was too small for the ham.”
Just a joke of course but you see how some holiday traditions mean something, other mean nothing. Our traditions and our ancestors’ traditions are important to continue and encourage on our younger generations. They remind us of who we are and where we came from. After all, how could I possibly start my new year without my black eyed peas?

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Advice, Family History, Genealogy, Life

 

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Wisdom Wednesday – ‘Tis The Season

OMG, Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow and families across the nation will be getting together for all the turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, pies, pies and more pies with lots and lots of Cool Whip. Football fans and parade watchers will clash unless there are more than one huge flat screen in the house and kids will develop and perpetuate those all important relationships with cousins. Mothers and grandmothers will pass along secret recipes, sisters will join each other in the kitchen to wash dishes, brothers will pound each other on the backs in greeting and an American tradition continues. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, the family.

Family Historians, RED ALERT, RED ALERT, RED ALERT. It is the PERFECT day of the year to corner those elusive relatives who won’t answer your emails, snail mails or phone calls with those all important pieces of information that you’ve been drooling to get your hands on. Now don’t get me wrong. None of my relatives would act like that. Yeah, right! My relatives run like hell when they see me approaching, but that’s another story.

As the family historian, you have to arm yourself with all the necessary tools to get the data that will push your research forward. Someday, maybe not in your lifetime, but someday your descendents will applaud your perseverance.

First, I would print up copies of a small questionnaire, asking for the basics. Print enough copies for everyone even if you think you have all their pertinent information. No one likes to be left out. Here’s a few questions I would ask.

Name: Full name, all of them, spelled correctly and including maiden name

Place of Birth: If their place of birth such as county, state or country changed since they were born (hey, it happens), make sure to ask what that was. The county I live in now didn’t exist until about 50 years ago and the county where my Virginia folks were born was part of another county when some of them were born. This can cause enormous confusion when you are trying to get statistical data.

Date of Birth: Come on Aunt Mary, no one really cares if you were born in 1942 or 1949. God knows the real date and anyway, you’ll get social security sooner if you tell the truth. Big bonus.

Mother’s name, place of birth and date of birth: Please, please, please ask for maiden names. Names and data on siblings both living and dead. It wasn’t until I started getting cemetery information that I found out my mother had a sister named Helen who died when she was ten years old. A shocker to me.

Father’s name, place of birth and date of birth: And the names of any siblings, living or dead. All those huge families way back when usually had a baby or two that did not reach the age of majority. It’s always good to have those names to fill out all those leaves on the tree.

Grandparents information is they know it. When families get together and do this together, they start talking, telling family stores and what one doesn’t remember, another one might.

Include plenty of space for a family story or two if the relatives remember any. Put a line on your questionnaire for them to note if they have any family photographs that you could copy. Be the trustworthy person who they believe would return their pictures in the same condition that they gave them.

Buy a dozen or so cute pencils or pens to give out. Tacky I know, but hey, whatever works.

Make Up A Game: Questions about the family that not all of them would know the answers to.  Competition is good and a small prize for the person knowing the largest number of correct answers would be fun.

Make sure you take your tape recorder, camera and plenty of batteries. Candid photos make the best rather than formal, posed ones and when you get home, please identify the people in the pictures. You all know why.

That’s probably about all you’ll get out of them in one sitting. Anything that feels like a chore will not endear you to the folks. You will probably not get a ton of information but there may be one or two tidbits that you didn’t know that will add to your process.

And remember, Christmas is coming. You might get another shot at them if they invite you.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Advice, Family History, Genealogy, Life, Names

 

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Wisdom Wednesday – Making the Most of Your Library Visit

Every time I plan a trip to my local LDS library I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Anticipating revelations that will fill in the blanks in my family tree. Usually I come home frustrated,  feeling that I spent my time going in circles and not really getting what I went after. I had to make my time count and get the information I want so I asked the experts at the library what suggestions they had to help me and other researchers keep that Christmas morning high.
Helpful tips include the following.

First, ask what information they have and if it is on paper or computer. And if the information is on computer, what programs do they use to access it.  Make a point of using the programs they have that you do not have at home and the ones that cost. Their subscriptions are open and available to you for free.

Before you leave home make notes from your known information and what you hope to find to fill in the blanks. Remember, you can’t research everyone in one visit. Drill it down to one or perhaps two lines to concentrate on this time.

What are you looking for:

* Birth or christening (religion)

* Marriage

* Death or burial

* Parents Names

* Children or descendants

* Spouse

* Other

Try to learn something about the area where the ancestor lived. If you know the name of the village, county, state, parish or diocese where a person lived, it will be much easier to find records to use in your search. Gazetteers are good places to start learning about the area.

You can print directly from the library’s computers for a nominal fee (usually 10 cents a copy) so you don’t have to write everything down but take notes, lots of notes. I can’t emphasize this enough.  Some of them might not make sense to you at the time, but when you compare them to information you have at home, you might make connections. And that’s really what you want. Connecting one generation to the next.

Don’t be afraid to ask. The volunteers are there to help you make the most of your visit and go away feeling satisfied with the visit and anxious to return soon.

When you get home you can evaluate the material you found such as did you find the information you were looking for, is the information complete and does it conflict with information you already had?

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Advice, Family History, Genealogy, Life

 

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Tombstone Tuesday – Hiding In Plain Sight

Family reunions are a blast. We all get together, have lots of food, talk about our childhoods and generally remember why we all love each other. Or not. This past weekend all my husband’s siblings except one got together at a nearby State Park for a six day camping fest. Starting to gather on Tuesday, they came from all over Florida and north Georgia, taking over one corner of the campgrounds. To say a good time was had by all would be an understatement. Just about every moment was filled lots of laughs.

Since we live nearby I was not going to camp, but rather work a few days and stay at night at the house with the dogs. I went out on Wednesday, hugs all around, gushing greetings and a good gossip session. One thing we never talked about in the entire six days was the family history, who’s who and who’s not. I learned at the last family reunion that this family couldn’t care less. So I bite my tongue, zip my lip and keep my mouth shut. I’ve seen too many of those glazed over eyes to realize they are not zombies (well maybe not) but only relatives, bored stupid.

Columbus Cemetery, Suwannee County, Florida

Not to have the week be a total loss for me, I found out that there was a small pioneer cemetery inside the state park about half a mile down one of the trails. My husband had been out there  the day before and said the name was Columbus Cemetery. So I looked it up on Find A Grave and sure enough there was a Columbus Cemetery in Suwannee County and there were 20 people buried there but there were no pictures. So I printed out the list of internments and decided to take pictures and post them on Find A Grave.

I couldn’t get anyone else except my husband to hike out the trail with me. When we got there, I started taking pictures and he kept saying that person wasn’t listed so I thought I had more people to post. However, it turned out that this was ANOTHER Columbus Cemetery and not the one listed on Find A Grave.

How exciting is that? Virgin territory, a whole cemetery that no one has mapped or listed on Find A Grave. You Find A Grave volunteers know what I mean. YUREKA!!! So I took pictures, wrote down all the information and had a thoroughly great afternoon. Too bad the family thought I’d lost it out in the noonday sun. They all spent the day watching golf on TV. Their loss I’m sure.

My advice is that just because the name of a cemetery is listed or familiar to you, check to make sure you have the right one. It just could be another cemetery with the same name hiding in plain sight. Now I need to go back out there and find the first cemetery and take those pictures.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Family History, Genealogy, Life, Names

 

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Mystery Monday – Why Did Pop Pop Get Disowned?

You know I love a good mystery but some mysteries will eventually drive me batty.  When I started my family history research it was because I wanted to find out about my mother‘s family. I naively thought that once I found out that I’d stop my research. Silly girl. For the first several years I couldn’t find anything beyond my grandfather‘s name and vitals. I knew he was born in England but his death certificate said he was born in Delaware County, PA. The information was given by Aunt Gert, someone I vaguely remember my mother mentioning a couple of times.

Frances Claire Craven Volz

I put his name in the search engine at Ancestry.com again and again and got nothing. One day I just went straight to the 1930 census, put his name in  and there he was, Arthur Craven, bold as you please. After that I found out more. His mother’s name was Asenath (widowed), he had two brothers and he lived in Delaware County, PA and they all lived together.

The family store goes that he was disowned when he married my grandmother. When my grandmother died, my mother was only thirteen years old and had to quit school to take care of her father and older brother. She always said that her father’s family never offered any help and she resented that all her life. So when my grandfather died, my mother decided to make sure his family could never find his grave and try to move him to rest with their family.

Now my mother was a very nice and gentle person. She gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and never met a stranger. She was helpful to anyone who needed it and made sure that my brother and I grew up surrounded by her love.

So her resentment of my grandfather’s family was baffling to me. It was so out of character. Of course I never asked her about it when she was alive and my brother didn’t know and there was no one else to ask. Typically genealogy blunder.

Trying to piece together the facts I did have, I knew that my grandfather lived with his mother and two brothers. The three boys (men really) worked in one of the mills. Did Mama resent losing the income from Arthur when he married and moved away?

Another fact that I had is that my grandmother was Catholic. Arthur, being from the working class of England was probably a member of the Church of England. Did his family disown him because he married a Catholic?

The last fact I got was from the census of my grandmother’s family. Her mother’s birth is listed as Wales in one Census but Ireland in two others. Did the English/Irish multi century conflict figure into his being disowned?

Recently I did find out how my mother hid my grandfather’s grave from his family. Last year when I was in Philadelphia, my brother and I visited the cemetery where he is buried and found that my mother had all the stones removed. My grandmother’s, uncle’s and another sibling’s stones were all removed when my grandfather died. So there’s just an expanse of grass, no markings of any kind.

It drives me nuts that I will probably never find the answers I seek, and some days, that’s a short trip. I’m always open to suggestions of  other avenues of research. Any hints, anyone?

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Family History, Genealogy, Life, Names

 

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Sorting Saturday – Organize Me —- Please!

Do you have any clue how many articles, books and blogs I have read about how to organize my stuff? Too many I assure you. Here’s just a few suggestions I’ve seen.

* Color coded file folders for each family

* Three ring binder for each surname

* Alphabetical index cards kept in a little metal box

* Scan and store on CD discs

* A box for each family, loosely organized

* Hire a professional organizer (my personal choice)

* Separate files for documents, photos, census copies, letters

I actually bought color coded file folders a few years ago, and plastic color coded page dividers, different colored ink pens and all kinds of little doodads to help organize my research. I am a stationary junkie and could spend lots of money in Office Max. The color coded file folders are still in the box but the page dividers and ink pens and most of the doodads have been used for other projects.

So why are we all so against strict organization of our research data? I would be ecstatic to see it all nice and neat and be able to put my hands on just about anything. But I just can’t seem to get started. I’ve got three file cabinet drawers full of just about everything genealogy that I own including magazines and books. I do have a hanging file for each surname but they continually end up mixed up and I have a ton of small pieces of paper with a name or a name and date or some important piece of information that I just had to save. Not important enough to organize in files however so I am always digging when I need to find something.

I think my major problem is understanding how to divide up the stuff by surname. If I put George’s stuff in one folder and Sabina’s in another, what about the things that have both their names on it like marriage certificate, census copies and such?  Should I make duplicate copies and put one in each folder? That’s a lot of duplicates and much more paper and space involved.

And what about census records? I have them saved to my family tree as sources. Do I really need a hard copy of each report for each person? Or should I trash them since I have electronic copies. Before Ancestry.com and the available of instant census records, I was thrilled to print out a copy from the microfilm machine. Can I truly just abandon those now that I can see them on my own personal computer? Sure!!

It’s o.k. to throw things out. It’s therapeutic. It’s helpful to the de-clutter process. It’s cleansing to the soul. It’s SO HARD! But it’s o.k.
I think the mental exercise for me should be: Can I replace it? Can I see it online anytime I want to?  Can I live without this piece of paper? If I answer yes to at least two of these questions I should toss the paper.

Documents To Organize

Being able to put everything on a long table and leave it out to continue culling through it all is important to me as well. Once I put it back in the drawer to continue another day, I won’t be inspired again for a few years.

Now that I’ve announced the intended purge and organize publicly, I think I’m leaning towards the color coded file folders since I already have the file drawers and I do have the file folders. I’ll just have to go to Office Max for some new colored pens, color coded page dividers and lots and lots of new doodads.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Family History, Genealogy, Life, Names

 

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