Thursday, May 31, 2018
Going to a genealogy conference? Besides remembering everything to pack in your suitcase—and then checking to make sure you don't walk out the door without said suitcase—do you head to the conference with a list of learning objectives?
A teacher might draw up learning objectives when determining just what it is she hopes her students will gain from a particular class session. While that is a necessary practice, the learning objectives I'm thinking of now aren't quite the same. I'm not here at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree to teach a class, but to learn. While I'm sure the workshop speakers have come equipped with their outline of learning objectives for their sessions, I as a student need to come prepared with my own list.
Why a list? After all, the conference organizers provide ample descriptions of all the sessions offered, complete with an app and handout availability before the conference even starts. Can't we treat this like a smorgasbord of educational goodies, and nibble on the most appealing offerings?
I've found when I attend an event, I am more focused if I bring my own set of questions to the table. I formulate my own set of personal goals for each event. If there is a speaker whom I've been eager to hear, or a topic I'm currently following, I see that as an opportunity to prepare ahead of time with questions.
A well-planned conference which factors in time between sessions for informal networking and exhibit hall visits provides the flexibility to connect with specific people in longer conversations. This affords a conference attendee the benefit of pursuing answers to individualized concerns.
For instance, I'll always be grateful for the opportunity, a few years ago, to ply Dr. Maurice Gleeson with questions about my then-upcoming research trip to Ireland. He was so gracious to set aside time for us to meet so I could glean recommendations from him, something I wouldn't have been able to do if the conference schedule was more compact or if I hadn't decided in advance to have that goal of making the connection.
Likewise, last year was my opportunity to speak with Debbie Kennett, blogger at Cruwys News, about One-Name Studies. Considering that she is not only an author of two books and numerous articles—especially on genetic genealogy—but a researcher based in England, it's unlikely I'd otherwise have had such an opportunity.
So here I am, in a new conference season, and I'm prepared to pepper presenters with specific questions, once again. To do that, though, takes some planning, and some thinking through the processes, comparing which offered classes align with my own learning goals.
With the recent news in law enforcement circles about developments in the use of genetic genealogy, you can be sure I'll have questions coupled with unprecedented learning opportunities to hear from speakers such as Barbara Rae-Venter, who happens to be one of many presenters at Jamboree that I'm eager to hear this year. I'll be attending classes of several other selected speakers with specific questions in hand, as well.
It's one thing to sit back and let the conference planners take the driver's seat in designing the event's learning opportunities—and that may be a fine strategy for the casual learner—but I prefer to grab serendipity by the horns and run with the chance to meet my own learning objectives.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
The problem with too many choices is that as the number of options increases, the amount of time required to consider them all rises geometrically.
Perhaps it was a good thing that I started reviewing all my options for this week's Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree last weekend. I needed all that time—and then some.
As always, I'm heading down to southern California a day early, so I can attend the Genetic Genealogy 2018 event on Thursday. Since one day of DNA could not possibly satisfy my need to know more, I opted to sign up for a second DNA event on Friday, when Blaine Bettinger presents his half day workshop on Visual Phasing. Of course, the main events of Jamboree will be in full swing by then, so interspersed with that workshop will be choices, choices, choices. Which classes to take?
Over the years of conference-going, I've developed a process to help determine which would be the most beneficial topics for me to hear. Since conferences now offer apps for attendees, I download mine right away. Then I look at every class which includes a handout. If the subject is vaguely tempting at all, I will download the handout via the app and read it through to see if the topic matches up with the impression I got from reading that catchy title.
Then comes the process of elimination. I find myself constructing a decision tree based not only on what my current personal research interests are, but also keeping in mind what might be beneficial for my local society members or the students in my own classes and workshops. Especially for the workshops I present at local libraries, I meet people drawn from all walks of life and all levels of research experience, and sometimes, the questions they ask are not in my own areas of expertise. I find myself sitting in conference sessions about researching African-Americans or Native Americans, for instance, though I, myself, don't pursue those areas in my own projects.
It seems every year I try to streamline this selection process, and every year, there is more to consider. Yes, I started reviewing my options last Saturday—clue: it is now Wednesday—but I still don't know which classes I'll end up taking. I'm certain I didn't take half that amount of time to make up my mind last year.
As the date draws closer, I always feel the excitement rev up about going to Jamboree. This year, two other members of our local society—and members of its board—will be attending along with me. I think it's always fun to attend such an event, knowing a friend will be there, too.
Attending Jamboree is no small undertaking for people from our local society. After all, the first hurdle is the six hour drive. Add to that the specter of L.A. traffic, and this night owl finds extra inspiration to head out the driveway in the early morning (well...early for me) to beat the SoCal rush hour snarl. The time, the expense, the effort may seem like reasons not to go. But I've learned to look forward to this as a yearly treat, and to save up accordingly.
Of course, there is much to look forward to beside the excellent learning opportunities. The exhibit hall provides a way to keep current on what's happening in the genealogical marketplace. Banquets make the week festive, and offer a chance to network. The hotel setting provides pleasant spots to socialize with genealogy friends whom I only see once or twice a year. And, since I get to travel with family on this expedition, it gives those long-suffering relatives a chance to dodge genealogy while escaping to nearby Disneyland or visiting college chums in the area. Couldn't ask for a more fun genealogy trip than that.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
You didn't think I'd give up so soon, did you?
Susie and Juanita have gifted us with another clue and that, of course, was their names and their (presumed) relationship. Like the photo postcard of Paul Emile and Lucien, I'm presuming this portrait is of siblings—although admittedly, it could be of cousins.
Let's just assume, though, that the hundred year old photo postcard I found of the children named Susie and Juanita was a picture of sisters. Let's also assume the person who wrote the note on the back of the card mentioned the name of the older of the two girls first. And, to add to those presumptions, let's estimate the older girl to be anywhere from age four to age six, and the younger one—do I detect a bit of baby fat still lingering?—to be barely three.
Of course, all of this could be wrong. But we have to start somewhere.
You likely can guess what will come next: head to FamilySearch.org or one's favorite online repository for census records, and search for those two given names in a pattern such as the one we are assuming. Factor in the dates when that type of postcard was used—1906 to 1912—and see what can be found with a search.
I used the 1910 census because it was right in the midst of that date range. I searched for Juanita's name as the lead query, with "Susie" as sister, even though the ages were likely the reverse, mainly because I felt Juanita would be the rarer of the names. Susie, of course, could be just a nickname, but what would I use in its place? Susan? Suzanne? At that younger age, it seemed best to gamble on searching with the name exactly as the writer had given it.
Feeding those parameters into the search box at FamilySearch, I ticked the box for exact match for each of the names and clicked the search button.
Next came time to reject possibilities. There were several hits, of course, but with that bonanza came multiple reasons to eliminate some of the results. I rejected those in which Juanita was older than Susie, or in which the two names were listed in the household, but were obviously not of relatives (such as lodgers). I tossed those where the age difference was too broad—for instance, a sixteen year old with a six year old.
What I was left with—assuming all search results for the 1910 census had been displayed, which I can't be certain of—were just two possibilities. One was for a ten year old Susie with a four year old sister Juanita in Michigan. Another was for a six year old Susie with a four year old sister Juanita in Colorado.
I liked the second possibility better...until I took a closer look. Susie and Juanita Baldz were part of a mid-sized family which had moved to Colorado from New Mexico before 1896. That, in itself, would have been no problem, but taking that closer look revealed a few more details about the family. The parents were listed as speaking, for their primary language, Spanish rather than English. In addition, the father's occupation was entered as laborer, and the stay-at-home mom was overseeing a family of six children, including an oldest daughter who was herself working as a servant in a private home.
I could be wrong, but add to my presumptions the consideration that this is hardly the economic milieu into which you'd expect someone to be trifling with photographs of their children in dress-up mode. Not in that time period. Nor is the chatty note on the back of the photograph what you'd expect to be penned by someone for whom English is a second language, not one used in the home on an everyday basis.
The other possibility was that of Susie and Juanita Laraway of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Interestingly enough, the Laraway family also had six children, but I spotted something interesting about this household grouping: Susie was the oldest of those six siblings. That might explain Susie's mature facial expression in the photograph.
In 1910, Susie Laraway was ten years of age, and her sister Juanita was four. While the age range was a little wider than I had expected, if the photograph had been taken a couple years earlier, the scenario would then shift to an eight year old Susie, with a two-to-three year old Juanita.
But there is a problem with this potential solution. In the Laraway household, there was another daughter in between Susie and Juanita: six year old Frances. Why would Frances have been left out of the picture?
Not happy with either of the possibilities I found, I suppose I could try my hand at searching for the alternate names for Susie. Or check the 1920 census and see if both daughters were still residing at home. It's a snap that I can't reverse engines and look at the 1900 census, though. Depending on the time frame, it is possible that Juanita would not have been born by that date.
A rerun of the search protocol may also be in order, or to try it at another service (I already had tried my hand at doing so at Ancestry with even less promising results, but we also have Find My Past and MyHeritage).
What is more likely the case, though, is that I'll set this puzzle aside for another day. Or search through posted family trees at Ancestry to look for possibilities. Now that I've put the names up on this post, I'm a firm believer in crowdsourcing, and may just have to be satisfied with letting the search muscle of Google draw curious cousins to this post and hope for the best.
Besides, I've got other projects coming up—and soon.
Monday, May 28, 2018
If you are like me, this holiday weekend, you are probably spending some time on the road. That means, in this era of life, that you and I head to new places, smart-phone routing device in hand (or safely stowed in a legislation-approved holder on our dashboard).
It isn't much of a stretch, when faced with an unknown address from one hundred years ago, to pull out that same cell phone and Google the address. So, still puzzling about the postcard of Susie and Juanita that I found abandoned in an antique store in northern California, I did just that. I pulled up Google Maps and looked for 3006 Pine Street in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Google Maps quickly obliged and gave me this scenario:
Pine Street, as it appears on this Google Map, was a short street abridged by the campus of Harris-Stowe State University. I wondered if the college was in existence at the time in which our photo postcard was sent. Whether it was in existence at that same location is unclear from this brief history of the college, but it was a school in existence as early as 1857. This led me to wonder whether the Ira in the letter had been away from home to embark on his college education.
That, however, turns out to be not quite the way things were, back in the early 1900s. To have left it at this assumption would not give us the full picture—let alone the full sense of confusion I've since arrived at. One thing to remember is that many cities, at the turn of that century, underwent a change in numbering system for addresses, usually to adopt a more logical layout for locating specific addresses within the city.
Judging from indications in directories for the city of Saint Louis, that may have been the case for our Ira's address. His likely was a location not far from the university, as it turns out from the last entry in this note in Gould's Red Book of the City of St. Louis for 1911:
Note for the address, 3006 Pine Street, the nearest cross-street would be Garrison Avenue. That, in the map above, would be where Olive Street runs off the top of the map by the two blue squares—a part of the campus which subsequently obliterated the extension of Pine Street in that direction. Wherever Ira once lived, it is no longer a location in existence.
Just looking up the same detail in the city directory for 1913 provided the same result. However, a curious result also pops up: when looking at the actual entries in the directory, the first address listed was for 3013 Pine Street, implying there wasn't even an address at that lower number.
That entry, however, was for the family of W. H. Gregg, providing me with a name to use to quickly locate that enumeration district in the 1910 census. Checking for the Gregg family's census entry, though, led me to realize one more thing about this elusive Ira and his non-existent address: it didn't show up in the census record, either. The census record for the even numbered addresses on Pine Street showed an entry for 3002 and 3004, then skipped to 3010 (or perhaps 3014, as the chicken scratch utilized for this record made the distinction unclear).
Just in case, I took a look around all the census pages for that neighborhood to see if college student Ira may have moved to a different apartment that year, but there was no sign of anyone named Ira in the neighborhood.
My next resort was to take to scouring the city directories for all the possible years—the stamp box on the postcard I found was used between the years 1906 and 1912—which did provide several possibilities of men named Ira in Saint Louis. Whether any of them were the right person—none of whom lived on Pine Street at any house number—would enter us into a guessing game far beyond the magnitude I'm equipped to handle at this point. We may have to suffice ourselves with hoping for virtual cousin bait to send out a strong signal. And wait for a nibble.
In the meantime, this exercise has reminded me of a couple things. First, it reminded me of how exhausting an exhaustive search can be. Not that I'm anywhere near calling this exhaustive, of course, but it was a good start.
Second—and this is more to the point—there are some issues in genealogical research which require us to know a bit about the history of the place where our relatives once lived. This is especially so if we ever hope to find their old homes, or learn more about the neighborhoods they once roamed. Discovering that little bit of family lore includes learning the history of street numbering systems and other organizational devices—did you notice the entry telling which street car line to take to access Pine Street?—to better understand how our specific ancestors fit into the larger scheme of things in the place they called home.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Spending a good chunk of my holiday weekend wrapping up a family history project, I was surprised to learn from records that one man in my Taliaferro line had actually taken the name of his step-father. Of course, that's not unusual; I once had a friend who had gone by his step-father's name—name of the man who raised him—but when reaching adulthood, decided to revert to using his own, legal name, that of his birth father.
It isn't so much details such as this that surprise me. What does cause me to wonder is a corollary question: who knew? Did this man's grandchildren know they were called by a name other than the one their grandfather received when he was born?
Of course, another question might be, And do they even care? Very likely, they may not—if they are still here to learn about it. But what if they do care about their heritage?
I ran across this same problem years ago, when researching my husband's Kelly line. One of the brothers of his great grandmother had married a widow with a young son. In one census, the boy's surname was that of his birth father; in the next available record, he was going by the surname Kelly. That wasn't just a fluke in a census record, though, for all subsequent records I could find were under that second surname. And I wondered then whether any of his children were told.
Of course, now, all one has to do i such a case is take a DNA test—especially a Y-DNA test for the males in a family line—and discover all the unexpected matches that show up in the results. I know people now who do so—and puzzle over the outcome. They had no clue. Perhaps with some due diligence on the genealogical research front, the answer could be quickly uncovered. There are many times, I suspect, when that doesn't become the case.
In the process of returning one of the antique photographs I rescued to a family member, I uncovered some details there which indicated that the boy in the household was likely the adopted son of the father—and yet, descendants talked as if referring to a blood line, rather than an adopted family line. Of course, as I'm a stranger to that family circle, it's likely there was no need to reveal such details to me—and I certainly opted to not make any mention, myself. But I saw the record. And wondered.
Granted, for those of us who administer DNA test results for others, an important question is, "Do you want me to alert you to any surprises which testing might reveal?" For some people, it's best not to know details which might disturb them; that is a choice each person has to make when moving into the DNA testing process.
But it isn't just DNA testing which reveals secrets. Just take a thorough, disciplined approach to researching family members in archived newspapers and much can be learned—including items which a descendant might rather have left covered. I've seen adoptions explained in newspaper articles, black sheep outed in news articles, family feuds and scandals all aired in public through the reporting process. Nothing, it seems, remains private—especially in the small towns in middle America.
There is a perverse part of me which wants to blurt out to descendants, "Did you know?" But a saner part of me exercises the needed restraint. I've had class members pepper me with questions, after telling me about messy family details from past generations and the fallout still with them in the current decade, wanting to know how to deal with certain relatives who don't want to know the truth.
If they don't ask, I maintain, don't tell. You can't impose the truth on people. They have to be ready to hear it. And even then, it may be a difficult process to work through before acceptance brings peace—if ever.
Families are unquestionably messy. Some emerge from home life relatively unscathed. Others escape with stories that would make the producers of reality TV shows blush. Some know all the details. Some don't. And some are in denial.
Coming to grips with a messy family history is something that undoubtedly takes time. It's a process—if the journey is even begun willingly. For those of us who have stumbled upon the truth unwittingly—simply owing to our ability to perform thorough research, even on other families—we need to think first, before saying anything, "How would I feel if this were a discovery about my immediate family?"
Of course, the answer is different for each individual. But a little introspection before moving closer to the step of gently revealing details is a good start.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
What had claimed its place in my life as the nadir of the previous week has, within one week's time, turned around and become a highlight of this week: I am happy to report that there is life after Blue Screen of Death.
As with almost everything else our family has become accustomed to doing in this inter-connected life, we had put out an online plea for help after a Windows update killed my desktop computer. (Well, at least it seemed to have killed my computer.) All we were hoping for was to be able to retrieve the data and maybe replace the part which seemed hobbled by the "new and improved" version of Windows 10.
Thanks to crowdsourcing, the answer came back, sending us to an IT guy about a half hour's drive away. In less than a week, his report came back: the data was saved, and with some tech wizardry, my computer was up and running again.
That was the good news. The bad news—certainly not anywhere near the magnitude of what could have been—was that the end result was the electronic version of taking my "analog" file cabinet, yanking all the drawers out and dumping them on the floor of my office. Gone were all my nicely-organized folders, with carefully-thought-out filing system. I would have to reconstruct all that. But at least the documents were there.
There was another problem. Just as if I had received a new system—which, in a way, I had—I would need to set up each account I had, once again. That meant uploading each program, entering passwords and organizing the choices, just like I wanted it. Considering all the DNA accounts I administer—and all the companies where I hold those accounts—that was an afternoon's workload.
But I did it, still on the high of realizing I got my computer back, up and running, with all the files intact. Really, what more did I want? I got my wish. And with that, I'm satisfied.
Friday, May 25, 2018
While there were no full names written on the photo postcard of Susie and Juanita—one of the abandoned family photographs I found in a northern California antique shop—one encouraging thing was that the card did include an address.
To whom the address belonged, though, wasn't exactly clear. It could have belonged to the "Ira" mentioned in the message posted on the back of the picture—but then, why wasn't it put on the side of the card meant for an address to be written? Could it have instead been referring to the two girls featured in the picture?
Not really sure how to approach this unclear point, I had to strike out in some direction. Going nowhere would only lead to...going nowhere.
So I chose to assume the name Ira and the address—3006 Pine Street in Saint Louis, Missouri—were the two items to pair up for my next search. Since the logo on the back of the postcard led us to discover the possible dates for the photograph—any time between 1906 and 1912—the first logical step would be to search in the 1910 census for an Ira who lived on Pine Street in Saint Louis.
Talk about an exhaustive search. Ira was apparently a popular name back then, at least in Saint Louis. There didn't seem to be any good prospects for our targeted mystery man.
Perhaps our Ira was only in Saint Louis for a few years—from, say, 1906 through 1909. Maybe he left Saint Louis just before the 1910 census enumerator knocked on his door.
All is not lost, in that case. There are always city directories, which became my next step in this needle-in-haystack process. I set my search parameters to look for every Ira in Saint Louis during the original date range of the postcard stamp box—1906 through 1912 and then some, just in case.
Talk about an exhaustive process. I scoured through the many search hits for men named Ira in Saint Louis, but out of hundreds of entries I reviewed, only a few were of people listed as living on Pine Street—and none at the specific address we were given.
This, of course, called for Plan B. I couldn't just give up at this point. The alternative was to delve deeper into the history of addresses in the city of Saint Louis, and to check out any other possibilities. This becomes the sausage-and-politics part of genealogy which is best enjoyed after the process is over, so I will spare you at least most of the gory details. But there are a few things to consider, just in case you find yourself looking at a forsaken family photograph in an antique store sometime in the future and consider the possibility that you, too, could try your hand at sending it home.
We'll check out those discoveries on Monday.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
In tackling a problem, it might seem best to go for the gusto and wrestle with the hardest parts first. After all, that might mean conquering the biggest percentage of the dilemma right at the start; it's all downhill from there.
My thinking is different: if we can tease out the information from the easiest step first, it might have the cascading effect of unlocking a few more hints to guide us further on our way to an answer.
With that in mind, I took a look at all the clues we could find from the notes on the back of a picture postcard from one hundred years ago. The easiest step—and one with a sure-fire answer—is to zero in on that tiny box where the one cent stamp goes.
If you look closely, despite the murky appearance of the middle of the logo in the stamp box, you can make out the word Artura. That particular stamp box design was used in Artura photo postcards between the years of 1906 and 1912.
While it would be nice to have a narrower date range for our search for Susie and Juanita, the stars of this photo postcard, at least it's a start. Add to that the wiggle factor of the children's ages, and it might seem a very imprecise science, indeed. However, at least we have a starting point from which to move to the next step—examining yet another obvious (though unclear) clue: the address mentioned on the postcard.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
When I want to rant about people who don't provide details on the pictures they've saved, all I have to do is think about the empty backs of my own family photos. And then...rant over.
With zipped lips, I'll tell you what can be found on the reverse of the picture postcard I shared with you yesterday. From there, we'll get to work to see if we have enough hints to figure out the identity of the family of Susie and Juanita.
Here's the splat of it.
It seems as if each line was made as a separate detail. Some make sense if strung together with others on the same side of the card, while other lines do not. We'll check them out, line by line in detail in the next few days, but for now, will just take in the big picture.
Susie + Juanita
taken May 18—
In there rompers
3006 Pine St
And under the section labeled "This space for address only," the handwritten comments continued:
ForBoys? Susie and Juanita?
Ira [or Ira's?] Children
often speak of you
Don't you think
they are fat fine
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
The difficulty with rescuing abandoned family photographs is that they sometimes seem to include more hints than turn out to be useful, in the end. Or perhaps, the further I delve into this project, the less verve I have in completing yet another Mission Impossible. Let's see what happens with one more of the photo postcards retrieved from an antique store in Jackson, California.
This one comes complete with several details written on the reverse. At first, I thought these tidbits might be sufficient to lead us to the door of a descendant, but now I'm not so sure.
The card came labeled with two names: Susie and Juanita. It also mentioned a location: Saint Louis. Tantalizingly, it also provided a date—well, part of a date: May 18. But which year?
I had thought a name like Juanita, in the early 1900s, might not be as common as it is as a given name in the United States today. According to the name popularity rankings at Social Security, for the decade from 1900 to 1909, Juanita ranked 156th, with 3,837 American baby girls named Juanita in the entire decade. With numbers like that, we might have a bit better chance at locating just the right Juanita, even though we have no surname to partner with it.
Still, I have my doubts. Maybe I'll feel more positive about this project after we get busy exploring the possibilities. In the meantime, meet Susie and Juanita.
Monday, May 21, 2018
Some hundred-year-old photographs, when I find them discarded in antique shops, clearly provide all the information needed to send them back home to family.
Some of those others, though, are so precious that I can't bear to leave them languishing in the dusty bin where I found them.
So it was with the circa 1917 photograph labeled with the names of "P. Emile" and Lucien Hallée. On an Azo postcard marked "made in Canada," the handwriting, in French, was obviously the work of a proud parent living far, far from California, the place where I found the photograph.
While I could try my hand at researching the family trees of French-speaking Canadians, resources available to me—despite my international subscription to Ancestry.com and access to the international records at FamilySearch.org—limited my ability to confidently confirm the identity of the children's family. After a while, I began wondering if I would ever be able to return the photograph to family members. I needed help from someone closer to the geographical source of the picture.
That's where Montreal blogger Gail Dever came in. Willing to post an entry about my dilemma on her blog (and Facebook group by the same name), Genealogy à la carte, she also posted an entry in a Facebook group concerned with Quebec genealogy. An answer to the puzzle came back within a few hours of her blog post, describing the right family. One of the blog's subscribers sent the photo and article to a Hallée family, just on the chance that it might be the right family.
But the recipient didn't speak English, and asked a cousin to translate the message. That's what led that person to respond in delight with the explanation of how the two children in the hundred-year-old photograph were related to her: uncles.
From that point, it wasn't long before she and I were communicating via email. And now, thanks to crowdsourcing and some helpful readers, Gail Dever's willingness to help connect a French Canadian family with a picture of their ancestors has resulted in another photograph making its way back home from the foothills of northern California.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Bereft of my constant-companion computer, I thought my research progress would come to a standstill this week, after BSOD Tuesday. I cringed to think what the numbers would look like this weekend, time for the biweekly recap.
Not so bad, it turned out. Even poking on a little keyboard on my travel laptop, progress can be made. Perhaps that discovery is yet another reason why this bi-weekly recap of research progress is valuable: it provides encouragement when I think I haven't done so well.
Besides the misfortune of losing my computer, there were more serious losses incurred these past two weeks. Not for me, directly, but for our extended family. In my father-in-law's extended family, two cousins passed away, only a few days apart. Reviewing those details led to bringing that side of the family tree up to date with newer additions to cousins' lines, thus bringing that family tree from a total of 1,425 people to 1,477, where it now stands, an increase of fifty two people.
Some changes happened in my own father's tree. While I added only eleven more people, it is quite rare for me to discover any new names to add to that family line. What brought about the change in this case was the discovery of a new-to-me Polish website with digitized versions of documents dating back beyond the mid 1800s, specific to the region where my father's family once lived in Poland. Now, my father's tree, once at 501, is now at 512 names.
Despite my computer woes, my mother's tree increased by eighty three people to now total 13,135 names, and my mother-in-law's tree jumped 215 people to total 15,296. I may have been bummed about unexpectedly losing my computer, but I'm quite reassured that I've been able to continue making progress on these projects, despite the technical outrage.
It's all about proactively finding those cousin matches before even receiving the DNA notifications. And those match notifications keep coming in, which keeps me hopping. I now have 3,046 cousin matches at Family Tree DNA, over one thousand at AncestryDNA, 1,009 at 23andMe, and 4,573 at MyHeritage.
My husband's matches are rolling in, as well. He has 1,943 matches at FTDNA, 570 at AncestryDNA, 1,038 at 23andMe, and 3,200 at MyHeritage. Some of those matches are already obvious, thanks to a pedigree chart that reaches out to include fourth cousins and closer on as many lines as possible. Sometimes, the letter to matches is just to say hi, cousin, as the connection is already mapped out for us, as it is at Ancestry. Other times, I can see I still need to do more work on some lines. And yes, there are still many, many more matches that simply just have me stumped.
Bit by bit, though, that family tree is seeing all those branches filled in. The closer we get to the real picture of everyone taking his or her place on the branches, the easier it will be to realize who those matches are, and how they relate to the bigger picture.
That, at least, is the hope behind this project.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Now, there's a thought for a peaceful day's errands: spend all the time I couldn't spend researching on my computer, thanks to a nightmare update turned Blue Screen of Death, on delivering the mangled hulk of hardware to an IT wizard who might—just might—be able to bring the thing back to life.
Now that we are infused with a cultural mandate to expect the conveniences of instant online access, losing a computer is a challenge—especially when I didn't sign up for this roller coaster ride. The company which brought on this disaster has been zero helpful, to put it mildly (I'm restraining myself here). Since the blessed event's occurrence on Tuesday, little else has been accomplished other than try to tutor ourselves on the self-help route; online help from the company which brought on this episode has been less than satisfactory.
Crowdsourcing the problem did bring a glimmer of hope, however: posting the query to our Facebook friends brought several offers for help. We made our choice of options and yesterday made the trip to drop off a now-not-working computer with an IT guru who believes the thing can be resuscitated.
Did that process eat up yet another day? What's another day in the scheme of things, anyhow? Sure, why not?!
The nice thing about losing a day like this is that we got to wrap it all up with the special occasions this time of the year brings. A family friend had a son who graduated high school this Friday night. We set aside our computer woes to be part of the festivities, and got to witness a small group of graduates celebrate a notable milestone.
The "what next" question will still be with us until we resolve the computer issue, but it's nice to just lose ourselves in the joy of others' accomplishments. There's nothing like putting problems in perspective, and letting the joy of the good overwhelm the disappointment of momentary misfortune. "Tomorrow is another day" may be a trite and overused retort, but somehow, I find it to be unexpectedly refreshing in the face of yesterday's disappointments. Having tomorrow, as it turns out, is always a gift.
Friday, May 18, 2018
Why is it that some names always seem to be paired with specific other names? Is Romeo just coupled with Juliet in the play? Or are real life Romeos doomed to face life with a wife named Juliet?
Yes, I actually did look that up. We do, after all, have the technology. I headed to Ancestry, set up a search for an exact match with first name Romeo and spouse with exact name Juliet.
Really, who names their kid Romeo? But there are some out there. According to Ancestry, enough to fuel about 278,621 hits. And yes, at least for the first few matches served up, the Romeo in the document had a wife named Juliet.
Considering that, it probably would come as no surprise to you to learn that, at least in a good Catholic family, the name to couple with a groom named Joseph would be...a wife named Mary.
That's how it was in the case I'm currently examining—a Joseph Flowers who married a Mary. As luck would have it, Mary's last name is not revealed at this point—at least until I can locate a marriage record.
But I'm not looking for just one Joseph Flowers who married a Mary. I'm chasing after two such gentlemen.
So let's take a look at more details in this puzzle. Here are some facts on the setting.
Joseph Flowers number one was part of a Flowers family which had settled in central Ohio in the early 1800s. The Flowers family had immigrated to that pioneer area from Pennsylvania, and had settled in what became Perry County.
The only problem was: that was the same story for the other Joseph Flowers.
Where I encountered each of them was when I was determining whether their son—yes, each of them had a son named Charles—was a duplicate of the other entry. For one Charles, I had no date of birth. The other Charles was born in November, 1923.
Eventually, each family had moved from their home in Perry County. The family into which Charles with the birth date had arrived now lived in Akron, Ohio. The other family had moved to Dayton. At least the geographic distance would, I knew, eventually help me distinguish between them.
I discovered that the Dayton Joseph had a middle initial—C—but that victory was short lived when I uncovered the middle initial for the other Joseph. Yep, it was also C.
Trying to focus on each Joseph's wife was not easy. Though I knew that each Joseph had married a woman named Mary, I couldn't find a marriage record to tell me what that bride's maiden name might have been. Fortunately, I uncovered a middle initial for each of the Marys. One, belonging to the Joseph in Dayton, was Mary A. The other, wife of Joseph in Akron, was Mary B.
With this, I was now left with the case of Mary A versus Mary B. While I have yet to locate a marriage record for Joseph C. and Mary A., I did find one for Joseph C. and Mary B. Thankfully, it was after the era in Ohio when only the names of the bride and groom were recorded, which awarded me the opportunity to learn their parents' names.
Thus, Mary B. became Mary B. Sutton, bride-to-be of Joseph C. Flowers, son of Marion J. Flowers and Millie Bennett. This couple eventually went on to be proud parents of at least six children, including a son named Charles.
The other Mary and Joseph also eventually had a son Charles, but not only was his parents' marriage record evading me, but so was Charles' own records. And this Charles was the only child I had been told about for this set of parents.
Could I have been mistaken about this Charles? After all, even in the 1940 census, there was no record of the couple having any children. I couldn't locate them in the 1930 census, and in 1920, that Joseph was single...if I had located the right Joseph back in Perry County. Perhaps my earlier entry was a mistaken one and this wasn't even a case of a duplicate entry, but of a misplaced child linked to the wrong set of parents.
If not for an old newspaper record, I might have left it all as that last conclusion suggested: erasing Charles from Joseph C. and Mary A's record, and leaving the other couple's Charles as the only one. But just double checking in the newspaper records included at Ancestry—yes, there are still some there, though the search mechanism is clunky—I was fortunate that the Dayton Joseph had some to mourn his passing in 1952, back in his old hometown in Perry County, location of one of the newspapers included in the collection at Ancestry.
Joseph C. Flowers, 62, formerly of New Lexington, died at 10 o'clock Friday night at his home in Dayton. He left this community 20 years ago.
The obituary went on to mention the survivors. In addition to his wife, Mary, the only other household member mentioned was "a son, Charles, of the home," besides Joseph's siblings back home in Perry County.
So, there was a Charles Flowers—different than the son of the other Mary and Joseph Flowers in Akron. This one was, indeed, the son of the Mary and Joseph living in Dayton. There was no duplicate. It's nice to have a way to sort out these relatives, even if there was no documentation to provide guidance.
Above: Excerpt of the obituary for Joseph C. Flowers of Dayton, Ohio, published in the Zanesville (Ohio) Signal on Monday, November 17, 1952, on page 2; record courtesy of Ancestry.com.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
There are times, in chasing after our recalcitrant ancestors, when we run up against two ancestors with the same name. In the same place. At the same time.
The genealogist who wishes to deftly "complete" that family tree is suddenly stopped in her tracks. It takes a lot of hunting for clues—mostly about the rest of the folks in that family constellation—to determine which John Doe belongs with which wife and children, and which parents claimed which mystery man.
Of course, it doesn't help when both men's wives also had the same name. And named their son the same thing.
The only answer is to toss the net wider, to capture even more associated people in the circle to help determine which of the two names belongs with which circle of friends and family.
Call it a tedious application of the FAN Club, or cluster genealogy. Call it whatever you want, but please join me on this journey of sorting out two gentlemen and their parents, all of whom possessed the same exact names.
Today, let's review the players in this drama.
It all started out innocently enough, when I decided to weed out the duplicates in my mother-in-law's family tree. I began building that tree much like anyone else might have done: start with the first person—in this case, my mother-in-law—and then move backwards in time, generation by generation. Because I believe in including records on collateral lines—those siblings that researchers on a quest to find their most distant direct line ancestor seldom stop to consider—for the sweep through each generation, I also included documentation on the brothers and sisters.
Then genetic genealogy came along—those DNA tests which can reveal all your hundreds of third and fourth cousins—and I had no idea how those people related to our family. This precipitated the decision to take each one of the siblings in that generation of the third great grandparents and bring their tree forward. In other words, I began adding the descendants of each of those siblings of my mother-in-law's direct line.
Pretty soon I had a glut of people with the same surnames. My mother-in-law's family name was Flowers, and they were a prolific Catholic family, so you can imagine how many people there soon were added in that category. There were, for instance, twelve men with the Flowers surname, all of whom were called by the given name Charles.
And that was the start of my problem. After working this system for a few years—that of researching all the collateral lines, then adding their descendants—I decided it was time to clean up some duplicate records. I pulled up the "List of All People" utility at Ancestry.com, where I keep my mother-in-law's tree, and went through the names in alphabetical order. I did quite fine, finding and eliminating duplicate entries—thank you, endogamy lite—until, that is, I got to the heading for the Flowers surname. When I got to Charles Flowers and saw those twelve entries staring at me from my computer screen, I knew it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Some of those entries, of course, had middle names, although not all. Some of those with middle names seemed to be duplicate entries in their own right—witness the three entries I had for Charles Albert Flowers— but at least that was one detail which provided me with a handy device for determining duplicates among them.
Others already were entries complete with dates of birth, helping me to rule out others as duplicates.
But two of them didn't have any additional information to help me determine if they were duplicates—or just two men who coincidentally had the same name. Not knowing anything more about them from the list I was using, I had to click through to the full entry on the tree. I wanted to see if they both had the same set of parents.
At first glance, it seemed they did. Each Charles had a father named Joseph. Each Charles claimed a mother named Mary.
Of course, I needed more proof than just that to make my decision about combining the two entries. And that was the beginning of the quest to examine the cluster of family names, places, and other details to differentiate two families—or confirm them as one.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
How hobbled a blogger's life can be when access to the Internet—forget that! Make that access to the computer, itself—is abruptly taken away. There I was, innocently minding my own business (online, of course) when my computer was snatched away by a mandatory "update." Little did I know the "new and improved" version was going to be no version at all. I am now the proud owner of a computer which does absolutely nothing.
No problem, I told myself (actually, I'm lying here), I'll just grab my laptop and boot it up. I won't miss a beat.
Unfortunately, since my laptop is a travel computer for presentations and classes, I only use the thing about once a month. That means I haven't used it since, oh, maybe mid April.
Being the conscientious computer user that I am, I knew first steps in booting up this laptop would include running an update on my anti-virus system. That nearly induced fatal error number two: not long into the anti-virus search-and-destroy mission, suddenly another Windows update notice flashed on the screen. I think I screamed when I shut the thing off. I wasn't about to lose two computers in one day!
Perhaps I'm being melodramatic here, but you have to realize this is not the first time a Windows update has caused ongoing computer problems in our household. My daughter's new SurfacePro had its drive wiped clean, thanks to a Windows update. Kinda makes one think seriously about switching to a competitor's brand.
A lot of reading up on the issue, crammed into a single unexpected afternoon, made me realize one thing: the updates didn't necessarily mean death to every type of computer—only to those with certain chips. This was a good thing to realize, because with Windows 10 systems, there really is no way to avoid updates, as I discovered when I tried to turn that laptop back on again. Thankfully, it completed its update, did the virus sweep, and gave me back my system. So here I am, pecking away at a tiny laptop keyboard, determined to keep at my daily run of blog posts.
The day wasn't over yet, though. With my main system down—remember, Blue Screen of Death is real, folks—I had to find another way to access my Ancestry account. After all, how can one blog about genealogy without accessing the prime genealogical services? That, however, re-introduced another technology tantrum languishing from another tech meltdown moment, back when I discovered that the (possible?) new servers being utilized at Ancestry seemed to no longer recognize my decades-old user name because the "special character" included in that user name was no longer permitted. Mind you, that user name was assigned to me by Rootsweb, now part of the Ancestry universe. And now, suddenly, I'm violating their system?
True, after a ninety minute marathon with a very patient rep at Ancestry, I had gotten access to my subscription again, but only because I discovered that I could either access my account via my user name or by my email address. Guess which approach I took?!
But yesterday, after my computer BSOD (that's lingo for Blue Screen of Death, for those of you who have never had to problem-solve post-update maladies via Google), I needed to use another computer to access my Ancestry account. Was it merely coincidence that suddenly, Ancestry once again no longer recognized my sign in, even after requesting a new password? As they say in France, deja vu!
In the hiatus between life as we once knew it and post-
Does this begin to sound like a genealogist's version of "the dog ate my homework"?
What I do hope to do—tomorrow, apparently—is share a research challenge I ran into recently. For now, I'll just dub it the case of Mary A versus Mary B. To up the ante on this quandary—and you probably guessed this would happen—each Mary ended up marrying a man by the same name: Joseph. To add just a little more excitement to the mix, each of the gentlemen had the same middle initial: C. And both were born in Ohio. And no, neither of their surnames was Smith.
With so many similar details for these two couples, you can see why I wanted to be able to access my records. Even knowing the story—finally!—I couldn't keep the individuals straight without a cheat sheet.
In the hopes that tomorrow will be another day—sans computer drama—we'll pick up on the story of the two Marys then.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Despite the fact that the graduation photograph I found in a northern California antique shop does not include a name, the few clues available to us keep tempting me to give a try at identifying the subject.
It is possible to identify subjects of photographs without the benefit of a full name given, of course. I've done it before, myself. And I'm not the only one to try my hand at this—witness the popularity of speaker and author Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective. Maureen provides tips—not to mention, full courses—on how to examine the details in a photograph for hints on your family's story. Her blog often includes examples of how she analyses the elements of a mystery photo.
While I'm no Maureen Taylor, I did notice a few details about the photograph I shared with you yesterday. For one thing, while I couldn't quite make out the studio's name embossed in fancy print on the picture's border, the address was quite readable: 1107 F St. NW in Washington, D.C.
I checked on Ancestry.com for city directories for Washington, D.C., to see if I could confirm what the full name of the studio was, as the script was so ornate that I couldn't determine all the letters. In a transcription of the 1890 city directory, I was able to enter the address in the search box, which brought up several names of individuals: Harry F. Palmer, Jane P. Palmer (widow of William H.), and Dawson A. Blanchard. Even using a wildcard symbol for the photographer's name, though, I couldn't bring up any promising results.
What if the photograph was taken later than the date of the city directory? I tried my hand at another directory—this time, not a transcription, but a digital copy of the actual volume, covering the year 1900—and looked under business listings for photographers. If I had to hunt and peck my way through the directory for every name ending in —alee, I was willing to do that.
As it turned out, that wasn't necessary. At the end of the listing for photographers, on the top of the last page, I found an entry for William H. Stalee, a photographer whose address was listed as "1107 F nw."
Great. Now we've identified the photographer. But that doesn't necessarily mean the subject of the picture lived in the area. While I'm not sure the clues about this woman will lead us to her identity, there were a few items to mull over in this quest. First, as Wendy mentioned in her comment yesterday, the woman's mortar board featured two curious initials: M C. While those initials could possibly signify the college where the woman graduated, it was not likely one established in Washington, D.C., based on a cursory search through a list of current and recently-closed colleges.
Still, the college didn't necessarily need to be located in Washington, D.C., itself. While the first assumption might have been that this woman was a graduate of a school in the nation's capital, that idea would also indicate a relatively young person. Looking at a closeup of our subject's face—the thin lines beneath her eyes could signify some aging (or a very tired graduate)—leads me to believe she was older than the typical college student. Could she have been an instructor, wearing the graduation garb of her alma mater for another school's graduation ceremonies?
No matter what the possibilities for the story behind this photograph, one thing stands out to me: no matter where this woman graduated, if she were graduating from a college in the time period in which that photograph studio was in operation, she would be a rare woman, indeed. If we could determine the college and access a list of graduates for that time period, we'd have relatively few choices for possible names for our subject.
Monday, May 14, 2018
It was graduation weekend around my home this past weekend. We made the mistake of driving down the road past the main entrance to my alma mater, just when all the newest graduates and their families were driving away from the campus celebrations. The resulting traffic reminded me of the festive occasion we had participated in, only a few years previous, when our own daughter graduated from that same university.
Most graduates are rightly proud of their accomplishments, including in their commemoration of that event their graduation photographs. This is evidently a time-honored tradition, judging from the photograph I found last winter among those forsaken specimens I located in a northern California antique shop. Just as graduates-to-be enclose their cap-and-gown photos in invitations to their ceremony this year, students have been doing the same for generations, apparently.
Something inside me keeps hoping some insignia on the cap and gown of the woman in this old photograph will provide at least a clue as to which educational institution she had once attended. I guess I just hate to see old photographs not claimed by family. But in the case of graduation pictures, they could—just like those of this year's graduates—have been distributed far and wide by proud parents and their family members. Whoever this mystery person was, she likely attended school—or perhaps taught in one—in or near Washington, D.C., for the photo's imprint reveals that it was taken at the National Portrait Studio at 1107 F Street NW in that city.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
I think I have a new favorite author. Just a couple months ago, I found myself reviewing one of his books, and I'm already back, reading another one. Writers who have the knack of weaving together disparate threads from diverse disciplines beckon me to a front row seat. Adam Grant has become one of those authors.
His 2016 book, Originals, has been parked on my husband's reading table, awaiting that rare chance to just sit and read. Since my unsuspecting husband was away on a business trip last week, I did what I've been waiting to do: cut in line before he could finish it, and picked up the book and started reading for myself—and couldn't wait to get back to read some more.
Psychology and its application in everyday life fascinates me. I can see so many applications beyond the typical business-world scenario portrayed in such volumes. Books like this get me thinking, "what if..."
In Originals, when I got to the chapter on procrastinators—it's called "Fools Rush In," but procrastinators have their moment of glory in those pages—I had found my reason for reading. I'm a procrastinator, so I hunkered down for the barrage of berating verbiage sure to follow the first page of that chapter.
I didn't get what I expected. Instead, I was treated to story after story of notable, creative leaders whose ability to park their ideas and let them percolate was what crystallized their genius. It's not necessarily a matter of procrastination—it's more about a great sense of timing. And allowing ideas to ripen. Who knew?
Admittedly, the thrust of the book—coaching those who wish to "champion novel ideas"—is better applied to the business world. But one can hardly be original without being creative, and it's that aspect of creativity which has always been a magnet for me.
Perhaps for those who have this inner drive to tell their family's story, creativity is a given. I find myself looking at the dates and details of an ancestor's story much the same as an artist about to compose a still life drawing—questions about placement, perspective, framing, lighting and shading all demand consideration before the first stroke can even be laid on the sketchpad. Perhaps that's why something in me balks about writing the next day's blog post before the last thing at night: the thoughts need adequate time to percolate before the first word can be written.
Adam Grant certainly has an engaging way of presenting his case—if you want to test drive his work, you can download a chapter of his book for free from his website—which is probably why I can't wait to get back to reading the rest of the chapters. But I don't just read books like this to fill my head with more knowledge; I'm in search of ideas that can be cross-applied from his world of business and psychology to my own activities. I find that what Grant mentions in his books prompts my own reflections, initiating a cascading process in my own thinking. When the creative chatter in my own mind goes silent, a book like Originals helps enliven that mental scene once again.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
Do mothers whose birthday falls on Mother's Day suddenly feel like the kid who just realized his birthday falling on Christmas Day means he's missing out on half the fun?
I never asked my mother that question, but since her birthday was on May 12—today, if she were still with us—she often did find it doubling up with Mother's Day.
Most of us, I imagine, can think of many other questions we never thought to ask our mothers while they were still with us. Not that my mother took family secrets with her to the grave, mind you, but there were other details that could have filled in a more complete picture of who she was throughout all of her life, not just when I finally grew up and realized she had a life trajectory that extended far before I ever came on the scene.
Those of us who have learned research techniques for delving into our family history have discovered ways to replicate those details we never got around to asking our mothers about. When it comes to reconstructing a real person, however, those details are like the joints on a skeleton—vital details, of course, but bare bones when it comes to the story of someone's life.
I'm grateful for those connecting nodes on my mother's "skeleton"—her family tree. I never thought of it before, but I actually would have liked to be able to thank my mother for giving me some really interesting ancestors. Some of them had fascinating stories—at least the parts I've been able to discover.
Then again, perhaps she didn't know, either. It would have been fun to sit down with her and tell her just what I've uncovered about her ancestors' stories. Perhaps she never dreamed that using mitochondrial DNA would confirm just who her orphaned great-grandmother's parents were. Then again, she couldn't have known that, with the click of a mouse, I could pull up the census records showing her teenaged great-grandmother's residence in the house of an aunt and uncle—a far less sci-fi scenario than the mtDNA episode.
Today, though it is her birthday, there won't be any one-two punch—piling up birthday presents today on top of Mother's Day plans for tomorrow. But I think of her, just the same. She's a very real, very tangible part of the long stream of ancestors whose stories all deserve to be told—and remembered.
Friday, May 11, 2018
A lot of writing on a card should be a good thing, right? The more words, the more information—at least, that's what I hoped when I chose the old photos I wished to rescue from the obscurity of a northern California antique shop's back shelves.
When the words are written in a language I can't read, though, that theory doesn't always produce the hoped for result of being able to send the little treasure home to family—especially eighty to one hundred years after the fact.
As it turns out, on the reverse of the photo postcard I shared yesterday, the only word which might be of any help turns out to be a solitary given name: Lutka.
I can't even begin to transcribe the writing, as I have no idea what would constitute gibberish in Polish, and what would be the correct rendering of an entirely different style of handwriting.
Whatever the card turns out to be communicating, my guess is that it was concerning the details of the trip to Ciecherinek, Poland. As the pre-printed words on the postcard's reverse—"Correspondance" and "Adresse"—are in French, it would be tempting to think the photograph was intended for friends or family back in France. We have to remember, though, that in previous eras, French was considered an international language—especially for diplomacy—and thus would not indicate only one country in which it could have been purchased.
Here's hoping we can learn a little more about Lutka, even if we won't be able to send her photo home to family.
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Yet another photograph found in an antique shop in the foothills of northern California demonstrates how international was the draw of the California Gold Rush. If we can't return the postcard written in French, or identify the woman from Germany, perhaps we can try our hand at Polish.
At least, I think this photo postcard is written in Polish. We'll take a closer look tomorrow at the note written on the reverse of the picture.
If nothing else, we have a date—well, I think we have a date. At first glance, I took it to read 1939, but once I scanned and enlarged the picture, it seems to actually read 1934.
In addition, someone cut away a section of the picture to insert the word "Ciechocinek." Curiosity got the better of me, and I went searching for any clues about that name. Apparently, it is a riverside spa town south of the city of Torun in north-central Poland, known for its thermal springs.
Since Wikipedia has several current photographs of the town, I looked to see if I could find anything similar to the grand old building in front of which our subject was standing for her portrait. The Nazis had used Ciechocinek as site of a military hospital during World War II, so I thought perhaps the place might not have sustained as much damage as other parts of war-torn Poland, but I didn't see any signs of a building such as this in the photographs there.
I suspect this woman—whoever she was—had arrived for a relaxing vacation, or perhaps in hopes of having the restorative value of the saline springs provide some therapeutic benefit during her stay.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at what was written on the reverse of this card, but unless someone here is talented in deciphering Polish handwriting, I suspect the subject of today's photo postcard will be consigned to the (unfortunately) growing stack of pictures which I will not be able to send on their way back home.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
What do you do when you stumble upon a hundred-year-old photograph and feel the call to return it to long-lost family? You put your genealogical research skills to work and find a way, of course.
But what if that photograph had the information written in a language you don't speak? Ah, that introduces an entirely different problem. There are people from other countries researching their family history, too. After all, we don't have a monopoly on how to trace family trees. But when I find the names I'm seeking in a pedigree chart chock full of words from a language I don't speak, Google Translate can only go so far to help me out.
Especially if the language in question happens to be French. French, after all, is not simply a language. It is a work of art. And it would not be very appealing to the stranger I am accosting—assuring her I only want to mail her a photograph of her father as a child—if my message sounds more like baby talk.
In the case of the adorable children, P. Emile and Lucien Hallée, portrayed at three years and one year of age in an Azo postcard from Canada, my challenge was that they were likely born somewhere in Quebec. Thankfully, I have a world subscription to Ancestry, so the initial research is no problem—besides, I can access Canadian records via FamilySearch as well. But I could not find these children in any family trees at Ancestry that fit the description or the date parameters. And the trees on Ancestry for any family Hallée were written entirely in French.
While that's a roadblock for me, at least that was an encouraging clue.
The only thing I can think of, when stumped like this, is to call for help. So I did.
When I think of Quebec, Canada, and genealogy blogging, of course I think of Gail Dever, whose blog, Genealogy à la carte has been on my daily reading list since at least 2014. I've been in touch with Gail before. She is, after all, known for her active participation in several social media venues, including her Genealogy à la carte Facebook group, her informative Tweets, and her boards by the same name at Pinterest. Gail would be just the person to help me out.
I've long been convinced of the power of crowdsourcing. Blending crowdsourcing with social media supercharges the potential exponentially. When we're stumped with a problem, never underestimate the ability of others to come up with an answer. So, when those two adorable Hallée children had me stumped, I turned to Gail Dever. Could she? Would she?
Just this Monday, she did. Including the hundred year old photograph of the Hallée children—and the inscription with their names included on the reverse—Gail put out a plea for help to her readers. I'm sure Gail has readers from around the world, but because she is located in Montreal, hers was the perfect origin to issue an all points bulletin for descendants of this French-speaking family.
I don't know if there is sainthood for genealogists who go above and beyond the call of duty—although there is Rockstar Genealogist status and induction into the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa Hall of Fame—but Gail has my vote for going above and beyond. Not only did she blog about the photo, she posted it to her Facebook group and included it in her Twitter stream.
But it was the one more thing above all that which may have brought the answer. Emailing me barely two hours after her original post went live on Monday, she asked, "Mystery solved?" That morning, Gail had also posted the entire story to another pertinent Facebook group, the Quebec Genealogy group. A member there responded,
Donat Hallé married to Marie Tardif: Paul-Émile born in Thetford Mines, Oct. 4 1913 and Donat Lucien born in St-Isidore, Aug. 29, 1915. Paul-Émile married Irène Longchamps, Lucien married Rita Bilodeau. Both are dead.
The member then went on to name the children of our two babies, Paul-Émile and Lucien, and noted that two of their children—now obviously adults, themselves—might be on Facebook. I took a look. Sure enough, it appears to be so—two of the named descendants each having a Facebook page which includes the other's name among their "friends." The only drawback: everything on those pages is written in French.
We're working on that part.
Above: Photograph from Canada of Paul-Émile and Lucien Hallée, found in an antique store in northern California; hopefully soon to head back home to family in Quebec.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Seven years ago today was Mother's Day. And, doing what one does on Mother's Day, on May 8, 2011, I thought about mothers. Thought about mothers, that is, enough to start up a blog—on mothers, of course, but also about fathers. Those two-fold strands are what weave us together into the network of humanity. Or, as I thought about it at the time, what tie us together into the tapestry of our families.
Today—2,557 posts later—is my blogiversary, the blogger's way of saying it is the anniversary of the date when I started A Family Tapestry. Of course, two thousand articles provide more than ample room for ruminating on all the aspects of genealogy—from how I started my own research to how I stumbled upon fascinating aspects of my families' stories.
And there are plenty of stories to tell—from my father-in-law's teenage days serving in the Navy during World War II to the rogue relative in my own family who almost lost his neck over his international crime spree during the years of the Great War. Room enough, in fact, to launch into episodes about my family, my husband's family, and others from our extended lines—not only here in the United States, but in Canada, and even back to Ireland, where we traveled a few years ago, and to eastern Europe, where I've tentatively explored new research resources regarding my father's family.
There seem to be never-ending supplies of stories, when it comes to these family members. Perhaps we live in a golden age of genealogy, where source documents can be at our fingertips—often at no charge to the researcher, if one knows where to look—but for whatever reason, there is an abundance of records and resources online for the curious (and persistent) family history explorer.
Whether you've been along for the ride here for years or only moments, welcome! Whether you were attracted by the wriggling cousin bait on my family history fishing line, or are a fellow geneablogger stopping by to compare notes, I love to hear from fellow researchers. Please feel free to say hi or leave a comment. I talk back!
I love blogging because it is a way to connect with like-minded people, to see who else is out there, following that same siren call to know our roots. How can we explain that to others? Thankfully, there are those who don't need an explanation. I suspect you are one of them. That is why you are here.
Above: Some family stories are more colorful than others. From the scrapbooks and photo memories of my mother's life, an undated photograph of an unidentified touring troupe she danced with (center of front row, seated, with toe shoes on). Photos and details such as these propel me to keep writing.