Friday, November 9, 2018

Notes from Conversations with Mom: 1 June 2011

1 June 2011 

It was on this day that I started keeping dated notes when I talked to Mom on the phone. We talked almost every day for a while there. Wish I’d dated all the notes prior to that but am happy to have what I do.  

On this day Mom wanted to talk about WWII and the boys who served. There were a lot of them too, and ours wasn’t the only family who sent their boys off. Mom’s brother Camey Williams joined the Army and went to California for training. His best friend was Lonnie Kyle and he’s related by marriage on Mom’s side, somehow. Have just spent the better part of an hour trying to figure it out and can’t work it out. Ever get a stray person such as Lonnie Kyle? You know that there’s a connection but you just can’t make the pieces fit. 

Mom’s maternal grandmother Mam Whetstone is pictured with Nan Kyle in this photo above. Just don’t know who Nan is to Mam. This picture is dated 1939 and Nan appears to be pregnant. With Lonnie’s younger brother? Finding out who the Kyles were to our family is going to drive me crazy. 

While Camey was in California, so far away from little Frostburg, their hometown, he sees Lonnie! Lonnie yelled out, Last time I saw you, you had pneumonia!” Which is strange thing to say, I first thought. 

But it was the truth! Camey and Lonnie and a bunch of the boys were playing down by the creek in January. It was frozen over, solid. Except for that spot Camey found when he cracked the ice and fell in. And he got pneumonia. He did however get an ambulance ride to the hospital. His first one. He was excited, very ill but excited. 

Lonnie also said that the last time he saw Camey he was a skinny little kid. Now, he said that Camey had turned into a man.  


That’s Uncle Camey on the right. I think this photo might have been taken in Frostburg at some point.  And I have no idea where that top one was taken, but it's not Frostburg.

The notation on this picture says that he was in Switzerland.  

Mom’s sister Dot had a childhood sweetheart named Harold. They grew up, fell or stayed in love and married. Uncle Harold Conrad also served but in the Navy. Cousin Steve knows his Naval history and stories of his service and someday I’ll have to get more information from him. Meanwhile, here he is in uniform. 

With his new bride, Aunt Dot.
Here he's on board a ship in the Pacific. Cousin Steve will know all of the details.
Thank goodness for cousins!

On Dad’s side of the family, his brother Bernie Kelly, was off to the European Theatre of war. When he got there, he spotted his brother-in-law Pete Fraley, his sister Christiana’s husband. Once they met again, Pete and Bernie started kidding around and Pete told him he was not regulation anything and was one of those “undesirables” they talk about. They had a good laugh! 

Kidding around was a brother thing in our family and it pops up in many family stories. Bernie was, I thought, the funniest of the uncles. Dad was funniest when he was with Bernie and they got into some close scrapes too, but all in fun. I don’t think anyone got arrested for any of their pranks, but I’m not totally certain.  

It’s said that Bernie stole watches from POWs, but maybe that’s just a made-up story told by the two other brothers. One day Bernie was walking around camp and saw this officer looking particularly pompous and thought, “Who does he think he is.” Then he realized that it was his brother Delbert!  

As I heard the story, the day the war was over in Europe Bernie grabbed a jeep and drove off to find Delbert to celebrate. Against odds, they found each other! 


Delbert John Kelly on the top and on the bottom, Bernie Kelly 


Monday, November 5, 2018

Long Time

Yes, it has been a very long time since I've posted regularly here that I even forgot the password. But I have an idea now that could be useful to researchers. Mom's turned 100 this past July and about 10 years ago or so we started chatting on the phone. For years it was just about daily. Over time it was more difficult to make those calls happen, and that wasn't due to any lack of enthusiasm on my part. Then it ended when she became more challenged in doing tasks of everyday life. And her memory wasn't as sharp as it had been so it was awkward for her at times.

Our talks usually turned their attention to genealogy after a couple of minutes. Looking back now I'm so very glad that early on I grabbed a spiral binder and started taking notes.

What I'd like to do, if it works out, is post some of those notes and her recollections of relatives and ancestors. They were so good!!! It would be a shame not to record them.

Mom with her big birthday cake!!

Over 40 relatives and close friends attended.
Loved seeing each and every one.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year! 2018!

A lot of genealogy went on last year even though I didn't post about it. So here's a wrap-up just so we're all caught up.

Met a new to me cousin. Actually, met a bunch! I just love it when someone emails and says that they think we're related. That happens a lot, at least once a month. Then it's off to the races, exchanging info back and forth. It never takes but a couple of messages before we have our connection nailed down. Mom's cousin on her Whetstone side turned out to live in the same town so we met and exchanged documents an old photos too. That was terrific. Kelly cousins popped up too and we remembered that we played together as children. How about that? Eckhart and House cousins appeared out of no where! The House cousins even had a House Family Reunion and after receiving my invite I made sure that they knew about their new cousin who was adopted. He went to the reunion! A woman who held him as a baby sat and chatted with him!

So maybe Delilah wasn't a Porter after all? After an extensive DNA project handled beautifully by a guy who matches me, presumably on the Porter line, Delilah's parentage is even more in doubt. He and I were confident that she was a Porter and that perhaps her father was Samuel Porter. But then once the spreadsheet was filled in, I don't seem to match anyone else in the Porter group. Still scratching my head because Delilah's son's death certificate states that his mother's name was Porter. And, her son was names John Samuel, John being his father's name and leaving Samuel as presumably Delilah's father's name.

They say quite commonly that DNA doesn't lie but getting it to tell the full truth can be difficult. There's a truth to the DNA the Porter descendant and I share but it might be a while before we get at it.
X DNA won't lead me to Delilah's parents. In this blog post, you can see how the X chromosome is inherited. The Porter cousin (whom I match when I don't match any other Porters) tried to prove Delilah's parents by using the X chromosome but if you take a look at the charts at the link you'll notice that the father's fathers ancestors don't hand off the X in such a way that the 3rd great grandmother on the fathers father's side would give that X to the main person. Yeah, too bad. I don't have Delilah's X. Now if this were on Mom's side, no problem! Lot's of X chromosomes there.
Our Book of Life. I set out at the beginning of last year, no make that 2016 because 2017 is gone, to write up what I know about each of the ancestral lines. For Christmas 2016 both my brother and sister got Dad's side in about 250 pages. And then this year another 250 pages on Mom's side. Honestly, I could have written more but realizing the reader can only handle so much, I trimmed. The next step, should there be one, will be to add what was left out. That should be fun, actually!
Frostburg Mining Journal Indexing Project. The geographic center of my genealogical work on my own family is the Western Maryland mountain town of Frostburg. It's a coal mining town where the big coal boom was during the years that the Journal was published, 1871 to 1913. It's available online at the Maryland State Archive. It's great that it's finally online but there's no search feature, and not even an index. About a year ago I got so frustrated that I got the idea that I should make up an index. Yeah, so that's what's going on. I've index quite a bit for FamilySearch so I have a good idea of how this should go. I've done 2 and a half years so far and love doing it. Oh, sure, it's taking me longer than it might take others because I read it too!
Dad's father -John Lee Kelly- is standing center top, and his mother is center front.
Her grandmother was Delilah Porter.
The search continues! Good luck to you this coming year breaking down all of the brick walls!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Near the end of the journey?

Maybe it started with a casual question, to yourself or a parent or close older relative. Or seeing one of those commercials on TV about finding your origins using DNA, or those shaking leaves. Just a casual thought. And then - boom - it's 35 years later and you have a whole room full of genealogy information and find yourself going on a "genealogy vacation."

Now comes the next stage of the journey: bringing it down the home stretch. No one wants to talk about this or if they do touch on it at all, the advice is to "make plans about who gets your stuff." But what happens between now and then? I'm 70 and thinking about how long I have to get my stuff ready for the big handoff. Getting older has some downsides and one of them for many of us is not being able to travel any more so less time is spent on finding those missing records at distant archives. Some of us can't remember quite as well as we used to or see the computer screen or book page as well as we once did. We never know how soon this record hunting will all come to a halt. This reality needs to be faced and anticipated to the degree we are able.

The big question isn't who gets my stuff but what shape is it going to be in when they get it? What are my plans between now and when my genealogy goods get handed off to my niece or nephews. Am I going to ship it all the big binders Mom started to them in a series of cardboard boxes? Will it get put in their garages, assuming they even have garages? No, it needs to be packaged for the future. Digital.

So, I'm sitting here thinking about the form all of the genealogy stuff needs to be in. (Poor sentence structure, I know.) Frankly, this is a work in progress but let me share what I have so far and maybe you have some thought you can add.

You should be aware to that Mom started this genealogy thing back in the 1970s. She got a slow start but then it kept rolling, like a snowball, getting bigger as it went. Last year, and because Mom is 99 and has macular degeneration and can't see the computer any longer, I brought the remainder of her binders and notebooks along with all of her books here with me. (She's in Western Maryland and I'm in San Diego.)

These present a different sort of problem when it comes to archiving the materials. Also I should mention that Mom was very good at this and went to archives, churches, and courthouses you can't get to anymore. She copied documents and took notes while there. It needs to be organized, scanned, and generally converted to digital form. So this is where I am with Mom's material.

The tree that Mom started and I built is now on Ancestry and the latest version of it downloaded to Family Tree Maker resident on my computer which is backed up to an external hard drive and backed up to Carbonite. About 10 years ago, Mom's version of her tree only existed on her computer. If her house (heaven forbid) caught on fire, all of her work would have been lost. The first task was to copy over all of her digital files to an external hard drive, and that included all of her many versions of her tree in GEDCOM form. We decided that it was well past time to share her work with anyone who needed it so I uploaded it to Ancestry. The tree is public under the name "Virginia Williams Kelly's Big Tree".

Once there on Ancestry I got very busy attaching all of the available documents from Ancestry, attaching the census, book, index, Find A grave and all the rest of them to the appropriate individuals. Because there are over 60,000 people on Mom's tree I chose to focus on the "blood line" or direct line back, and included siblings but mostly stopped there when it came to investing time attaching all the records.

Next, I uploaded photos from Mom's collection for each member in the blood line. I think having a photo of your relative or ancestor is soulfully important, and if candid's were available, all the better.  As I went, if there were any important documents, such as a death certificate for an individual then it got scanned and uploaded. Remember, it's Mom's intention that her work be shared with as many other who might be interested and I share that attitude.

OK, so far Mom and I are sharing share our collective work with 1) members of the immediate family once the material is organized without dropping off a pile of boxed on someone's doorstep, and 2) with others by way of  our Ancestry Member Tree.

Then, a project started last year and to be finished soon is to write up the story of each of our bloodlines and tell it in the most interesting and fact-filled way we can. Last year I wrote up Dad's side, had it bound, and gave a hard copy to my brother and sister. A thump drive went to each of the nieces and nephews. This year I'm working on Mom's side. Now I'm wondering if a local library might be interested in it?

To tell the truth, I like having this narrative form of our family's history for a number of reasons. Obviously, it's the easiest way to see and understand the broad sweep of our ancestral lines, tell the big story back through the many generations. And this story form is the easiest way to get the younger generation interested.

There's research that shows the young folks do better in life when they know they came from resilient people and personally know the individual stories of our people. Every family has resilient people and a story that says our people met with adversity. suffered, persevered and overcame. In our family there's the story of our great grandmother who ran back into her burning home to save the babies. And her husband who rebuilt the house bigger and better, but on another street. See the pattern? Tragedy, loss, suffering and then they overcame. Mine did and I'm willing to bet that yours did too.

So here I am, ready for the next step and that's taking all of Mom's binders and notebooks and turning them digital. My schedule for the rest of the year - at least- is a big old scanning party! Once that's finished I can rest a little easier.

So, what's your plan for giving your genealogy stuff to the next generation? Boxes of binders or papers? Or will it be dumped ending up on the curb for the trash man?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The never finished tree: DNA proving otherwise

Weekly, someone will contact me because we match on either AncestryDNA or 23andMe. Mostly, we can find the common ancestor and a time or two we've found more than one shared ancestor. That's nice too because we're doubly connected.

I'm lucky because I got a big head start from all the genealogy work Mom did. She worked on the family tree from the early 1970 and when she had to stop due to eye problems she had almost 70,000 folks on the tree. Sure, many are way out there on limbs connected to other limbs, and so on, but she got more right than not.

Truth be told and because she's a great genealogist, she still worries about the accuracy of it all. When someone contacts me because they see their ancestor in this blog or because of a DNA connection, it's rare for them to tell me that I have it wrong. She's that good and I've been rechecking her work as I go along, finding new records not available to her.

There are exceptions to this and one of them has to do with a particularly confusing bunch of Workman chromosomes. I match people I shouldn't. And because DNA doesn't lie, if you do it right, my suspicion is that the confusion has to do with a man named John Workman.

Their John Workman on the confusing match trees, is John the Mormon. He was born in Cumberland, MD and went "out west" as part of that great Mormon migration. Here's the Find A Grave listing for John the Mormon and there's so much incorrect about it I hardly know where to start! Let me just say that, yes, there were early Workman in Maryland in the 1600s but they have nothing to do with the Workman family who came to Western Maryland in the late 1700s who were Dutch and came to New Amsterdam in 1647, then New Jersey about 1700.

I'm certain about who my John Workman is and that he was the son of Isaac Workman, one of many by this name, who moved on to Ohio about 1820. I have that paper trail nailed!

Thing is, these other John the Mormon people are showing up on my DNA match radar. And a couple are adamant that I'm wrong. One is quite offensive about it too. Never mind.

So here's the interesting part. I know who my John Workman is and who his parents were and children too. Have it all documented. So when these other folks came at me with the DNA thing and their John Workman and insisted that I am incorrect, at first I got defensive. Then I just sat back and thought, guess we just disagree.

Imagine this situation, if you will. By the 1780s, maybe as many as 100 Workman people were in Allegany County living in very close proximity to each other, all ultimately descended from a couple who came to New Amsterdam in 1647. They migrated in clutches - Brooklyn to New Jersey, then Pennsylvania, and on to Allegany County MD - then split up and moved on in small groups.

Have been collecting names and ancestors and keeping a chromosome spreadsheet when I can get the information. But there's a number of projects on my To Do list. I'll get on this one in a while. It needs to be done. Back before 1800 all of these Workman were moving around and naming all of their children John, Isaac, Nimrod, Cuthbert, William, Samuel and Stephen, and all in the same place. Good grief! DNA might be the only way to sort it out.

As a side note, John the Mormon is a very big deal and to say that you descend from him is rather  important. Of course you see what I'm getting at here. Not saying that's what's going on but simply suggesting a possible motivation to be connected to John the Mormon rather than my humble John the farmer out in Western Maryland.

We all know our trees are never finished and that they all contain mistakes. It can hardly be any other way. Once you get past a certain point, going back in time, records are hard to find. Maybe DNA is the only way to sort it all out. Maybe.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Started another blog: The Rooted Tree

For a while now I've been thinking that the blog needed a facelift. It's been going on for over 550 posts since 20 May 2011. I've connected with cousins who are new to me and that was a major objective. I've learned so much from them! And I've learned about what works and doesn't for me in a blog. And maybe my writing has improved, if marginally.

I wasn't sure about what I was looking for in a blog facelift. I had a name for it, The Rooted Tree, and felt that it embodied the spirit of the thing, the concept that one's tree is best when it's rooted in research and proper documentation. While this blog was very much about my personal family history journey, The Rooted Tree would be about the process of research and documentation of one's lineage, in all it's guts and glory.

So far, as of today, there are just six posts to The Rooted Tree. Each one of them takes time for the concept to develop, rough it out, build in details and then write it. Finally, and this is the most difficult part for me, I go back and examine each and every element closely, cite the sources, and test for logic. I'll not get it 100% right each time, that's a given.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to post here but in a less formal and structured way. Just a couple of friends chatting. I'm not going for quantity as I did here. I'm hoping that The Rooted Tree will be a rooted blog. Come on over and see what's going on.

Genealogy Project Wins Christmas!

That's my niece there, reading one of the books about our ancestry. (See stories below.) There were two books, one with the charts and tables, and the other contained stories of all the major lines on my Dad's side going back as far as we can now trace.

She's interested and that's what I'd hoped for. Maybe, some day down the line, she'll have the time and want to pick up the search. Time will tell. If that time does come, and even if I'm gone, she'll have a head start.

My sister got the printed version and my niece and nephew both received thumb drives with all of the documents.

Finally, I feel that the work will not disappear.