Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Creative Process: My Muse

My muse is a bitch. Harsh? You don't know her. (And I'm using the b*word here in the vernacular of the day to mean any girl who isn't sweet like us;) Some days my muse is my BFF, other time she's not to be found and probably at a mani/pedi appointment. But the b* is mine and mostly I love the little scamp.

OK, so here's the situation: I'm writing what's known of my crazy-wonderful family history: it's a book project. Want to get the stories down for future generations. Have a working title, an outline, a prologue, and am into the meat of The Introduction. The Introduction is falling out into three distinct parts: the why and how of the book, the family groups, and a short description of the two grandmother's kitchens. Except, not in that order. There was a fourth section about Frostburg, Maryland which is the theme of the book but that's sitting like a Christmas lump of coal in my writer's stocking so it's getting worked on separately.

The three sections of the intro were written in a sort of stream of consciousness and then edited a bit to clean up the gross stuff. Once that was done I put it on the back burner to simmer. I think it boiled over while my Muse went to Miami Beach for a short time to renew her tan, and now that she's back she's scolding me and saying that the order needs to change, any fool can see. But she went for the mani/pedi before she left a note to say what the best order was. B*! Maybe I can do this without her...? Doubt it. She's be back soon, she always is.

My personal creative process has always been like that, no matter the media. I can make all the schedules I want from here to next year (oh wait, short trip;) and devote myself to "regular hours" but it's all for naught if the Muse isn't ready. For me and the way I work, I have to laugh every time I hear a presenter talking about getting your family history written say, "write for a half-hour a day at a given time". Ha! Not gonna work for me, I've tried.

And the funny thing is that I have learned over the years to give my muse room to roam because when she's gone something is cooking and I need to wait around and be patient for the good stuff to come: something big is on the way. I just leave it be and every once in a bit turn a casual thought to the project to see what's up. I find that she returns on no regular schedule but when she comes back, she has great input.

Ever program yourself to solve a problem while dreaming? You just think on a problem or concept or whatever as you go off to sleep and overnight it's quite possible some very clever ideas will come to you. As we all know, especially if we've tried this, it's important to write down what you dream before the night fairies steal the thoughts from under your pillow:)

I first became aware of my muse while reading a book by Eric Maisel. He's written a whole bunch of stuff about the creative process and you'll find his web site here:
The first one I read was, Fearless Creating. You'll find his page with a write up on that book at: , and of course there's a click through to Amazon and Barnes and Noble if you wish to purchase it. It really helped me at the time I needed it to better understand that I wasn't a crazy or lazy artist! I was just an average run of the mill creative person so no need to beat up on myself for unusual work habits.

As frustrating as it might get every now and again creating a work, I know that the trouble will pass, and eventually with patience all will eventually be well. And the work will be better for the pause taken.That said, everyone has a different and unique-to-them creative process. Hope your muse is a sweetheart ... with a regular schedule. Mine is a wild child.

Photo of the day from the Archive:

Me, about 1951:
Muse in training?
The URL for this post is:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How I Wasted Two Perfectly Good Hours

So there I was innocently reading blog posts last week in a spare moment before I got around to the main event of the day, and I forget what that was now. I subscribe by email to more blogs now because it makes them easy to read on my smart phone whenever some time opens up. It's all about time management isn't it? Read that somewhere.

Anyway, was reading Michele Simmons Lewis' lovely blog, Ancestoring's Ask A Genealogist, which you can find here:
It's fresh, easy to read, delivered in small bite-sized pieces, and I always come away with new stuff I didn't know. So thanks a bunch, Michele!

Here's her blog post that got me going, the one about "Resources For Genealogy Books", which you can find at:

I just love knowing about new resources, don't you? So go look at the page and scroll on down. See that link to all the genealogy stuff on eBay? Yeah, that's the rabbit hole I slid down last Thursday morning. I mean I just wanted to take a peak, but then it was the first time I'd visited eBay and seen all the things for auction and Buy It Now. So I had to browse, didn't I?

Two hours later I shook myself out of that online shopping stupor. Oh, golly. Maybe it wasn't a waste because now I know what's there as a resource, I told myself... but was I just kidding me?

I've done this before too. I have "wasted" hour upon hour browsing through records sets, especially on Fold3. Fold3 military records get me every time. I go to look something up and then am easily distracted by some shiny object of a records set.

So there it is: it's proven that I can easily waste time browsing. Or, I ask myself, is it useful because it does help in the learning process? I'm still new to all of this genealogy stuff so am guessing that the more exposure to more different types of records the better as we go along. But two whole hours? Just before Christmas?!!

Photo of the day from the Archive:

Cousin Steve, 1947
On Grandpop Williams' back porch,
Frostburg, Maryland

The URL for this post is:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to you!!

I have been enjoying other bloggers' posts remembering Christmas past. It's funny the things you remember and that remain meaningful as the years go by. Stories about That Christmas When..., always entertain with the retelling. So here are two from me. I do hope that you find them fun.

I remember one Christmas when we took our regular Christmas Eve drive around the neighborhood to see the lights on people's homes: Mom, Dad and the three of us kids all piled in the back of the station wagon in those popular 1950s style pajamas with the feet. We of course had to get back home before bedtime because Santa could arrive at any moment but only after we were all tucked in. The excitement was building with every new street we drove down. Finally, as we were starting to make our way home, and I swear this happened, Santa came out of the front door of one of the houses!! We three kids squealed with delight and begged to be taken right home. And so we were and got to bed, if not to sleep within the half-hour.

Another Christmas Eve, Dad stayed up quite late playing Santa's helper trying to assemble some present or other for my younger brother. Maybe a wagon or bicycle. He was a hard working father and after a difficult week at work there he was in his Mr. Rogers style sweater, on the floor with his tools, reading the directions and swearing like the Irishman he was. I was his little assistant because I was older and knew all about how Moms and Dads helped Santa;) Just after midnight, Mom dozing in a chair near the fireplace and me asleep on the sofa, Dad gave out a laugh, signaling that his work was complete, and we all climbed the stairs of the two story bungalow in the suburbs.

The next morning my brother woke up - and he was probably two getting ready to turn three at the time - and woke me up. "Did Santa come??!! he shouted. Oh, sure I replied in a sleepy stupor. "I saw him," I said. That only threw fuel to the Santa anticipation fire in him, and he bounded out of bed running for the door.

I knew that Dad was ready to try out his Super 8 movie camera with the big light bar for indoor action, and this event of us kids coming down the stairs Christmas morning promised to be a dandy. I tried to stall my brother and Mom shot up the stairs trying to keep both of us at bay while Dad got his movie gear ready. I was to try to keep my brother occupied until the signal came.

Brother proved to be a handful, and while I was good at entertaining kids, the promise of Santa's wonders waiting at the bottom of the stairs was too much! Finally I used brute strength and picked up the little squirt and dragged him into Mom and Dad's bedroom and locking the door from the inside. I resolved that the kid wasn't smarter than I, so I looked on Dad's dresser and took the shiniest most kid-attractive item I could find as entertainment fodder: the pen with the click-click action. Bingo: that did it. Brother was entranced!

Finally our Director Dad was ready and signaled "Action!" Down we came. Sort of. I had to carry brother because he was still holding on to that pen and fascinated by it. Dad and Mom both shouted for him to look at the presents and that bike... or wagon, I forget. But he'd have none of it. With a little pout on his face from being thwarted from bounding down the stairs right away and then being told to put down the pen he obviously loved, to look at some wagon or bike was too much. He burst out crying. All captured on Super 8 film and well lit by the big light bar!!

Let's all go make some memories!

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I've been keeping an eye on this genetic genealogy stuff for a while now, trying to understand it all and wrap my mind around the various flavors and especially the reports and what they promise. At first, and like any new technology, the learning curve was steep. "What the heck... do I need this torture in my life?" I thought. But I do need this in my life. And now that some of the basics are clearer and all tortures of the learning curve have passed, I'm ready to select a service, work up a whole lotta spit, and wait by the email box. Oh, yeah, and the money part. I almost forgot about the money part.

There were a couple of recent blog posts that cleared the forest and let me see how DNA testing might help me. I have no allusions about big breakthroughs, no "non-paternal events", no deep dark secrets to be revealed or a lost second cousin to be found and a mystery discovered. I'm no genealogy thrill seeker. (At least not where DNA is concerned.) Not to say that if a surprise showed up I wouldn't be thrilled! I'm open to anything:)

CeCe Moore blogging as Your Genetic Genealogist really cleared the large brush in the forest for me with this post:

This is a very cool practical analysis of her admixture of countries of origin. Because Mom and I pretty much know what our admixture should be going back six, eight or even ten generations, we don't suspect that we'll be too surprised about the results. Although as CeCe posts, if it comes up Mediterranean, we'll suspect the test and not Mom's research!

Thanks so much CeCe... you helped bring Mom and I down to the finish line on our DNA decision making! If you want to know more about DNA testing really check out her page of Resources  at

Judy G. Russell blogging as The Legal Genealogist posted this fascinating report recently that helped define the lines between the major players in the DNA for genealogist field:

So which company are Mom and I choosing? 23andMe. We like the price, but that said, it's not the deciding factor. We like the medical results that are included too. Mom is 94 and not too much worse for wear, with all major systems a "go", so I can't wait to see what the medical reports say about her! Personally I can't wait for the autosomal results and Mom wants to look at the a mitochondrial DNA results. It's a holiday gift we are each giving to ourselves;)

Photo of the day from the Archive:

All the daughters of Samuel Albert House 1832 - 1917 and
Mary Elizabeth Farrell House 1835 - 1919.
Mom's great grandmother, her mother's mother's mother:
just think of all the mitochondrial DNA there!

The URL for this post is:

Friday, December 21, 2012


The term archival is a relative one. (No pun genealogical intended.) For a very long time I was an artist dealing in works on canvas as well as paper. Archival is a term that means, basically, this is gonna last a real long time but not forever. Maybe a couple hundred years if we're lucky and the work on paper is taken care of. But it's not parchment or vellum, which are animal products, or a work on stone... so don't expect a miracle.

I am prompted to write this and address the issue by Dick Eastman's excellent blog, which I enjoy immensely, and recent post at
Unless you have the paid version you won't be able to read the whole thing... and I don't subscribe as my budget for this stuff only takes me so far, more's the pity. But many thanks to Dick for prompting me to access the deep recesses of my brain and share what I do know about the world of papers and such.

For works on paper, the most important thing is, well, the quality of the paper. "Acid free" is the way to go. You want to print your work on acid free paper, no two ways about it. But it's not that hard: just walk into Staples, go to the area where they have a way too large selection of paper and ask the nice kid (woops, sorry, "team associate") for some acid free paper. Look for 100% rag content or cotton rag content which will have the closest pH to neutral. It will be there in the stationary section in a lovely box and cost an arm and leg as compared to copy paper.

There are handy portable test devices for checking pH but don't bother with that. Just look for packs of paper marked pH neutral or acid free.

Alternately you can go to the art supply store and purchase paper there. Almost all art paper, except for that awful construction paper, is acid free and says so on the cover of the pad. Buy a thick pad of one that you like and have it cut to 8 and a half by 11 inches. Just feel it to see if you like it. And look at the color too. Do you like real white paper or one with a slightly creamy tone. You'll find a nice selection in the art store.

Regular copy paper will probably turn yellow in too short a time. The acid in the lingen fibers that make up the paper are plentiful and nasty. Ever find an old paperback novel and notice that the pages were really yellow? That's the acid at work. Same with old newspapers. They're the worst! Yellow and brittle too. We don't want that.

Now for your printer. Dick Eastman mentions those laser printers. Actually, I've had some experts tell me that the documents laser printers produce are going to last a long time, and are practically "archival" meaning that the image won't fade. When the text and images fade, they call that being "fugitive". But personally I don't care for the way laser printer output looks. I prefer ink jet, so let's talk about that.

Now you need to know that there are two major types of ink jet ink: pigment and dye. Dye ink will fade much faster than pigment ink. But that too depends on the porousness of the paper and how much ink is laid down. If you are using a soft "open" paper, then the little jet of ink which is basicly water based, will make its way into the paper fibers. There's stuff called size that they sometimes spray on paper, but let's not get into that unless you're a paper freak... and then go google it. Just remember that dyes fade and pigment lasts. Then select your printer accordingly: ask what type of ink the printer uses before you buy.

I really like and use Epson pigment based printers because they take such care with the product and do tons of testing. Here's a link to a tech document:
And here's another report about lightfast ratings:

The most salient factor aside from the acid in the paper is the ambient conditions in which the document is stored. Mild and dry is what you want. Humidity is death to paper. Ever find an old newspaper in a wet basement with a bunch of brown spots on it? You get it now:) So once your lovely document is finished, give it the very best chance of lasting by storing it in a wrapper of acid free tissue paper in an acid free box. Everyone on down the line for a couple of hundred years will be so glad you did!

Today's photo from the Archive:

Me and Santa, about 1954.

The URL for this post is:

Monday, December 17, 2012


The 1940 US Census just lied! Well, actually, it simply didn't speak the whole truth. As a newbie I need to remember that any document, even a trusted one -- and I'm not so sure how trusted any document is -- can mislead because the people providing the information were not able to render an absolute version of the truth. So I am reminded that I need to keep asking myself: How truthful is this document likely to be?

Here's the case in point. Was looking at the 1940 US Census for Frostburg Maryland and wanted to see where Mom and Dad were living at that time, just after their marriage. I found Mom right away. There she was living with her parents on Bowery Street in their family home. And here's the shocker... it said that she was single!

So I called Mom. "It says that you were single!" I urged. Oh my! The reply on the other end of the phone was a tad flustered. And yes maybe I had put Mom on the spot;) Was there a mystery to be had? Not so much.

She then told me another chapter in her life, even if a short one and just a footnote to the US Census entry in Family Tree Maker. It seems that Mom and Dad were very much in love and ready to get married and all, but they were just a couple of working kids with not enough money to get set up in married life. So undaunted they forged ahead and got secretly married over in West Virginia where the waiting period and age limits weren't so strict as they were in their home state of Maryland. They went home and kept it all hush-hush for a while.

The census taker must have appeared at Mom's parents' door inquiring, and that put Mom on the 1940 US Census as single. Which she was not. Ha!

Photo of the day from the Archive:

Mom and Dad, about 1942.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Before the Introduction

If you've been following along here you'll know that I'm taking a shot at writing a family history book, a narrative of the major family lines going back as far as I can manage based on the excellent work and research Mom has done. I want to capture on paper what is known at the moment for those who come later, knowing full well that this will be an imperfect work, always in progress.

While getting a running start at the Introduction I felt the need to write a short piece that might set up the overall why and wherefore of the effort in an effort to explain myself. A Prologue was needed. So here it is. If it amuses you, let me know what you think. All feedback is appreciated, not just complements. You can post as a comment or email me at


There was a moment when I understood in a very visceral way the importance of saving family history and felt the great depth of sorrow at the loss of it. On one hand, I’d never missed the heirlooms that might have gone to others in the family after someone passed. I just figured that someone else was more entitled to them than I. My cousins have grandmother’s aprons and that’s great because they love them. I rest easy knowing that my other grandmother’s china in in her glass case is living with other cousins who have the grand kids. Wonderful!

But I just about lost it when I heard that Aunt Edith’s son threw out all of her old photos and papers! My guts tied themselves in a knot, and that felt awful. My sense of loss was deep and anger followed.

I don’t know where I get off being in a twist about Aunt Edith’s son dumping her stuff. He lived with her; he took care of her and was entitled to do as he pleased. And it wasn’t as though Aunt Edith didn’t have control over the disposition of her possessions as she had her wits about her and other children to whom she could bequeath her treasures. I wasn’t even that close to her. Maybe I saw her two or three times in my life. And she’s not my aunt; she’s my Dad’s aunt. So we were not that close. Where do I get off being that upset?

I tell you where. If Aunt Edith hadn’t given my Mother a truly treasured book containing the story of the Myers line back to the Revolutionary War and beyond to a man known simply as Indian Fighter Myers, I’d not know about Nehemiah Newans, my fifth great grandfather. I wouldn’t have known his story and the story of his son and his son’s family and most important, his life’s story from Derbyshire, England, on to the Revolutionary War, and finally all the way to the frontier in upstate New York.

I can’t help but wonder what else might have been thrown out over the centuries, treasures that ended up unceremoniously at the town dump, or burned in a trash fire behind the house. Sometimes on a cold and rainy afternoon I grieve for those lost mementos and feel sad for the ancestors’ faces staring out from old photos whose names are unknown.

I just simply want to do better and capture what can be collected now so as to preserve it for anyone who might care down the line.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Introducing...Well, I'm Not Sure What!

Am working on this book project. See there, I am now able to call it what it is. It's intimidating to be sure and it's taken me this long to be able to call it what it is. Up to now it's been simply "the project."

Frankly, I'm not sure I can do Mom's work and family stories justice! I've stumbled around looking for a proper format for quite a while. The usual descendancy books are not what I'm looking for. I realized that when I had a browse through the book by Samuel Doak Porter, A genealogy of the Porter family of Maryland, West Virginia, Michigan. Upon reading this well researched book it came to me that the most useful aspect was the short biographical sketches of each male family head. Of course no proper mention of the wonderful and fascinating pioneer women! Grrr.

Then I read The Journey Takers, by Leslie Albrecht Huber, which was a wonderful read in narrative form. Very  much liked and enjoyed the way it's organized by family line capturing what she has found out about her ancestors and each generation's time and place. Everyone who mentions this book is enthralled by how the author interweaves her own imaginings about the lives and times of each ancestor, done with love... and tons of solid research.

So what was this book going to be: fish or foul? Am seeing that the Porter book could easily (perhaps more easily) have been an online tree. So that leaves narrative form for me.

Am at present working on the introduction bit by bit. (See previous post, below, Beginning at the Beginning.) It's slow going now and that's to be expected. This funny thing happens: I write a bit and then slow to a halt, then I realize that what I've written wants more or something slightly different. And so it goes. A story here, a thought there, all strung together like - what did someone say - a strand of pearls. Well, that's making too much of it! Right now it's more like a strand of broken macaroni.

Today's photo from the Archive:

Enoch Clise (1843 - 1896)
Civil War Veteran, Mayor of Frostburg, MD twice and
Husband to two of my Great Grand Aunts...
Don't ask;)

The URL for this post is:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Beginning at the Beginning

So you know, I have this project going, the non-book project. Am trying to work on it day by day and keep the momentum strong. Easier to say than do. I know from a couple of previous experiences writing books that in the beginning and before it all gets weighed down under too many tangents, things are fun. Then later it's not so much fun as it is hard work. It's fun now.

Have an outline and it looks solid. The next step is to write an introduction.

The goal of the introduction - and the reason that it's written first - is to be a model for the book, to be the book in miniature, so to speak. It tells the why and the wherefore of the book and lays out chapter by chapter what the book contains. If the writer can, it's intended to give the reader a taste of the adventure, romance, and excitement that they will find in the pages that follow.

The original purpose for doing it this way was that you'd then have a proposal to show a publisher. It has worked for me in the past - a working method with which I'm familiar - so I'll do it this way even though at most this will be a self-published affair.

It's fun to write an Introduction! I like it:) It's your first shot at getting the flow of things going and a first shot at seeing where your boat holds water and where some of the more obvious leaks are. For that reason it's fine to take time writing this bit... or at least that's what I'll have to remind myself whenever I get frustrated and get bogged down, which is bound to come. I'm expecting a very leaky boat!

I do like constructing the introduction because it's the first rough draft of anything that gets down on paper. Someone once said, I love having written: it's the actual writing I hate. I could say I like having written because it's the only way I get to the editing bit. Kind of like going through kids to get at the grands;) And I know not to start editing in earnest too soon. There will be lots of time for that later. And I know from previous sad experience to lett all the word remain in the piece until later because it's a shame when you edit out a paragraph only to later realize that while it might not have fit there it shure would work there.

So that's where I am at present: have the outline in hand, and am gathering together my pile of random thoughts and ideas, then pouring them into the Introduction in no particular order. It's a real mess at the moment. It's supposed to be. It's just a mind dump of all manner of collected thoughts from here and ideas from there: the written version of the pile of scraps of paper I keep over on the corner of the table together with notes written in that spiral notebook I keep handy. But I have to say, I do love this project so far. There will be plenty of hard work and time to get angry at it later... but for the moment the bloom is definitely on the rose.

Photos of the day from Aunt Betty's Archive:

My GGF on Mom's side, Daniel Williams

Camey is my GF.
This is the earliest photo I have of him.

The URL for this post is:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Outline That!

I need an outline. Went on a road trip the last couple of days and I don't know what it is but there's nothing like a long ride in a car to clear the mind so as to let the big picture come in. We checked into the hotel in Palm Springs and I sat by the pool in 78 degree weather with blue sky, notebook in hand letting the muse take me.

The project can be defined as such: how to organize Mom's genealogy research and compiled materials into an online tree as well as a hard copy narrative. The online tree is up and running but there are lots of documents and photos to be uploaded. Lots to do there. It's the narrative that troubles me.

What might such a narrative look like? Book form of some sort is what is needed, I think. For me the kiss of death will be to tell anyone, Oh yeah, I'm writing a book about my family's history. Sounds like a super gigantic project... and that freaks me out! I need time to grow into this.

I have some objectives for the project down on paper. And a spiral notebook growing by the day with thoughts on form and function. In short, I'm getting a fell for where I'm going. Now I need an outline.

I've had a couple of books published way back in the 1990s so I am not totally clueless about the process. And most important, I'm not kidding myself about the amount of work involved to produce anything that's not going to be trash. The thing I know most is that a writer needs an outline as soon as possible. Now I have one.

You know, it's funny but the creative process takes it's own time coming into form. I've been sitting with this project for quite a while now letting the yeast rise, so to speak. I knew that Mom's work deserved being put in a form so that it could make its way out in the world. And I'd told her that I'd do that... told her that long before I really had a clue about how it might be done. But now for the first time I can see how it might take shape. And that's not saying that the vision won't change, grow, and shift over the life of the project. I know it will.

But today I have my outline. It's simple and clean and touches all the bases. It's a solid thing that can be built on, I hope. Now I'm going to sit with it for a while and let it breath until I can sense that it is ready to move to the next step. Going to print it out. Going to read and reread it a hundred times. Make notes all over it. Cross out a bunch of stuff and write in other stuff. That's the way the beginning of books goes. Wish me luck!!

Photo of the day from Aunt Betty's Archive:

My Mom with her Mom.

The URL for this post is:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SNGF: How Popular Was Your Name?

Randy Seaver and his excellent blog, Genea-Musings puts out a challenge each week called Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, or SNGF. I do it whenever time allows and I have the ability to complete the task... which is not too often. This week's challenge is at :

The challenge directs you to a web site where you can see how popular your own name has been over the years. Go here:

On Randy's post he gives us his chart, but I can't figure out how to do that and copy it so that it appears in my post here. My screen shot key simply won't cooperate and copy and paste eludes me.

What the chart tells me about my own name is curious. Here are the rankings by year and popularity listed below. Curiously, the chart starts with 1910.

1910     205 on the popularity list
1920     453 Whoops, Diane isn't too popular!
1930     115
1940     22
1950     17
1960     36
1970     123 Looks like the party for naming babies Diane is over!

OK, so I was born in the 1940s. About 10 years before there was song "Diane" that enjoyed popularity. You can read about the songs of that title here:

Mom said that I was named after that song, which she thought was beautiful. She also liked Charmaine and you can read about that here: .
I'm glad she picked Diane over Charmaine. She admits that she did not name me after any Dianes on the family tree.

What we both have come to realize is that there are Diane's of many spellings going way back on her family line! My 2nd GGM is Diane Thomas (1832 - 1871). Diane, Diana, and even a Dianah litter Mom's side of the tree.

Diane's meaning - because Randy asked - goes back to Greek mythology and Diana the Huntress, a virginal figure of towering female strength. (No comment.)

The URL for this post is:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Taking Time To Think

A while back I posted around the question, what kind of genealogist am I? Came to the conclusion that I'm really more of a family history buff. Mom is the traditional genealogist with many years of solid research under her belt. I'm a Johnny-come-lately to this party and still a newbie with lots to learn. So lately I've been taking time to think through what I want to do here. It's like I was thinking I was a puppy and now I think I'm a kitten... if you catch my metaphor:)

So what's my role here? What are my tasks and where's my To Do list? After a couple of weeks - maybe longer - and letting the identity crisis roll on out, it's time to pick myself up, dust off, and figure out what's next for me. I am not wanting for raw material, that's for sure. Mom has well over 70,000 individuals on her tree and a whole bookshelf and a cabinet full of data to back it all up with sources. Additionally, there are maybe a dozen photo albums of all types full of pictures. And then there's that closet in the office;) Not to mention Aunt Betty's material and all of her wonderful photos!

Having just gone through the process of putting Mom's Big Tree on, then attaching photos and documents to it (a never-ending task with plenty more to be done) I can see the return on effort as extended cousins contact me and we exchange information. So Mom's tree is out there and in fine form... it's taken care of.

So the question I'm pondering is what should I do with the resource material in Mom's files to make them as usable and approachable as possible? I'm thinking of the next generation here. It needs to be in a format that's engaging as well as factually accurate as possible (and sources too.) What does that look like?

Was pondering all of this and taking my good old time arriving at conclusions when up popped an article in the latest issue of American Ancestors, Fall 2012. On page 28 is an interesting review of the permanence of electronically archived material entitled "Personal Archiving and the Genealogist", by Susan Lukesh. Here's my dilemma and exactly what the article covers: how long is all of this electronic media going to last? And who is going to upgrade formats when the old is obsolete... after I've checked out of this big blue marble hotel? And what physical form should this material take and where should it reside?

Am now thinking that if I can get an end product in mind, one electronic and one in physical form, then I have a goal that I can more easily visualize then I know where I'm going. But until then this whole effort is best served by me sitting in a cozy chair thinking about where I'm going. And, I gotta tell you, that's hard for me because I'd rather be doing that sitting.

Today's photo from the Archive:

Cousin Mike Kelly and I, 1950s.
Get well, buddy!

The URL for this post is:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's hoping that you and yours have a wondeful day with good food, happy memories, and maybe a photo or two for your archive! Let's all go make a memory:)

Monday, November 5, 2012

What Kind of Genealogist Am I?

I struggle a bit finding my identity in this pursuit of genealogy. I'm operating in Mom's shadow and she's a classic genealogist. She has worked since the early 1970s at building out her tree, using solid skills and a system all her own. She started her tree on paper way back when, and still has those original 3 by 5 inch cards and family group sheets. She calls herself a pack rat, and thank the powers that be for her! And for all 70,000 plus people on her Big Tree!

So here I come after all the hard work has been done. It's great because now we both share this passion. At 94, I do know how lucky I am to have arrived at this juncture with Mom ... and that neither of us have fallen off the edge of the world in the meantime;)

But what work is there for me to do? I'm not complaining, mind you. Far from it! I rejoice in the wealth of information Mom has compiled. But I find that under this particular circumstance I do ramble from brick wall to brick wall, stumbling along over ground that both Mom and Aunt Betty have already worked deeply. Therefore, this newbie is stuck working on the most difficult problems! Guess it's a good learning experience. And I have two pros to guide me.

I've identified a couple of brick wall problem that I'll continue to cut my teeth on and so there's that to keep me busy. But I find as time goes by that I'm probably a different kind of genealogist... or maybe not a genealogist at all. More like a family historian. I love the stories. I love asking why they did that. Love compiling facts and seeing if they match the family lore that's been passed down, and how the family lore passed on one line of descendants matches or is different than another line. Fascinating stuff for me!

Maybe it's in the universe's wisdom that Mom and I are two different people with different passions. While I'm busy imagining how DNA testing might be used to see if the House and Biggerstaff males shared a common male ancestor thus proving my GGGF's real paternity beyond flimsy records from West Virginia in 1832, Mom is most interested in finding those hidden and elusive records.

Today's photo from the file:

Congregational Church Ladies Aide Society
Picnic, about 1935.
Frostburg, Maryland.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Can It Be November Already? Time Flies!!

Yikes! Can it be November 1st already? Must start holiday shopping right away... truth be told I should have been doing it well before this. But more to the point, it's time again to back up the files.

I like the tradition in the genealogy community that we back up files and check on them on the first of the month. We put out gentle and friendly reminders to each other to go ahead and check the eggs in the nest:) Mine are fine, I just checked. But there is more maintenance to be done.

I need to import Mom's ever growing tree, copied on my recent trip back East to see her. Still not sure how to accomplish this task: what needs to happen is importing the updated tree and integrating it with the one I already have, then syncing the integrated (is that even the right word, don't know) to her Big Tree on And for some crazy reason, my Family Tree Maker tree has lost it's sync-ability (is that a word) to the Ancestry tree. This could be an issue. Am thinking that the first step is to poke around Family Tree Maker and try to resolve the sync issue. Then when that's (hopefully) fixed import and combine trees into one updated tree. This is way beyond my "pay grade" and knowledge level so if you have any thoughts I sure would appreciate if you shared!

Because it's the first of the month I took a stab at getting organized. Tackled the Jane Williams file and made copious notes as to what conclusions had been arrived at, checked for holes in her early life in Wales, and left a note for myself to do that much and move the heck on and resume the hunt for her and her adult children in Upstate New York.

Set out a new task for myself and began a notebook on it. A cousin contacted me because she ran into this blog when she searched Samuel Albert House. I've blogged about him quite a bit here. He's my GGGF. He's an interesting guy and this is the third cousin that's contacted me about him. I looked at Mom's Big Tree and saw that that line has been super prolific when it comes to procreation... so there are lots of descendants out there, some working on genealogy it seems:)

I love hearing from the S. A. House descendants because invariably the first topic of conversation is "who da baby daddy?" He was illegitimate, or that's what Mom and I have concluded. It's a long tangled story and my hope is to at least get down what's known about the situation before documents are lost and stories forgotten. Because legitimacy has few if any documents attached to it, we're left with family lore, hearsay, and conclusions drawn from what records we do have. This is not easy!! But there's the fun;)

Today's photo from the Archive:

The year was 1952.
On the ground: Cousin Mikey, Me.
Standing: Dad, Francis Patrick Kelly (1916 - 2007)
Grandma Kelly, Helen Zeller Kelly (1894 - 1985)
GrandPop Kelly, John Lee Kelly (1892 - 1969)
Uncle Bernie, Bernard Kelly (1918 - 2007)
Aunt Ruth, Ruth Mullaney Kelly (1924 - 1996)

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: He Came From Ireland

The blogging prompt for today is to look in the Treasure Chest and see what's there that might tickle a fancy. This is one is easy... and I really do need a prompt today to get me going after my trip back East to see Mom!

I always go for the photos. To me they are the most evocative bit of family history and beg a story if one can be had. So here's my treasure to share with you.

What you see here is the tombstone of my 2nd GGF, John Kelly. When Mom was just beginning the long 40-year task of constructing our family tree, this is one of the places she started. The family knew little about our John Kelly who was born in Ireland and died in Eckhart, Allegany County, Maryland. There was his tombstone, an Irish cross, for all the world to see up in St. Michaels Cemetery in Frostburg. Hard to read, it was, but Mom went again and again trying all the usual tricks of water and sunlight. Finally the rock revealed all it had and Mom recorded it.

John Kelly was born 22 June 1829 in Shannonbridge, Clonmacnoise (the parish name), Ireland. He died 28 June 1891. He married Bridget Cockrane, born Dec 1830 and died after 1910 but we have no good record of her death.

Shannonbridge is in Offaly County, Ireland. In 1854 Kelly was the 9th most common name in the county. And I'm willing to guess that there were more than one John Kellys about the countryside! Am just glad we're not Egans as they have 47 households in Offaly:)

Then in the 1980s Mom and Dad and I went to Ireland and visited Shannonbridge and the historical site of Clonmacnoise. They were just then putting the local parish records on computer and so we had to go see the priest for a permission note to view them. A long climb up a flight of stairs to the place were they were working on the files was paid off with our John Kelly's father's name: John Kelly born about 1800. He married Bridget Brown also born about 1800. And that's our brick wall because records back before that were burned in a fire. More's the pity.

The historical site of Clonmacnoise on the Shannon River.

I chose this as my treasure because it is the most tangible real object that connects me to Ireland. Without it I don't have any idea what I'd do on St Patrick's Day;)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

He Died In The Outhouse

Am reading Betty VanNewkirk's second book, Kaleidoscope, ever a treat! Betty writes a weekly column about local history for the Cumberland Times-News newspaper. Here's a link: . Some of the columns specifically about Frostburg have been gathered together to form this and another book, Windows To The Past.

I do like reading local Western Maryland histories because I never know when an ancestor might pop off the page. My paternal GGGF Charles William Zeller (1829 - 1901) and my GGF Gustav Zeller (1858 - 1927) have both been mentioned a couple of times in Ms. VanNewkirk's entertaining books! So let me share the bare bones of one story in which my GGF's barber shop is mentioned, although as you'll see, the story takes some twists and turns far afield of his excellent establishment!

This particular story, "The Body in the Privy", can be found on page 103 and mentions Mr. Zeller's barber emporium up the street from the location under discussion and the fact that Gus had not only running water in the 1920s but tubs and basins for showers and baths! Imagine! Family lore has it that GGF prided himself on having the most elaborate and top level barbershop in all of Western Maryland.

But the story on page 103 isn't about Gus Zeller. No, it's about that inconvenient body they found when excavating for a new building 115 East Main Street and down the street from the Zeller Barber Shop. The building at 115 had been purchased and improvements were required. Digging revealed an old outhouse cleared and limed when indoor plumbing was installed. In July of 1923 the boys digging a sewer ditch for the new building found - are your ready - a leg bone! They called the cops.

More digging revealed a full human skeleton, gold cuff links with the initials J. R. D., small change, a watch fob and bits of fabric. If you want the full Monty of gory details you'll have to read the book:)

Through a series of CSI Frostburg deductions and general questioning the man's identity was determined. The story came out, it seems, in dibs and drabs. The cuff links, it was determined, belonged to one John Daniels also known as Uncle Shink, a rotund jovial man who liked his drink. Not married... wise were the single ladies of town!

On the night in question, Uncle Shink visited two of the numerous bars, said he was going home, and then just up and disappeared! The hunt for him extended to Ohio and other mining areas of the country with no results. On what would have been his 45th birthday his body was found in the old outhouse so long out of use that everyone had forgotten that it was even there in the first place.

Now I ask you, how drunk would you have to be to fall in an outhouse?!

Photos of the Day from the Archive:

Gustav Zeller (1858 - 1927)
The day the first electric trolly came to Frostburg
and Gustav Zeller in his white barber's coat,
hand to head, at the front of the trolly.

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The Braddock Stone

Housing for the Braddock Stone
at the Frostburg Museum,
Frostburg, Maryland


Didactic panel

The Bradock Stone, now ensconced in its new pavilion in front of the Frostburg Museum and recently dedicated on September 13, 2012 just preceding the town's bicentennial, is not only a historical object but a family object. Oh yes, we too join the long line of people of the town who claim a history moment attached to this large rather strange item!

If you can't easily read what it says in the rather poor photos I took on my most recent trip, here's what's carved into the Braddock Rock, text below. As you might be able to tell, it's been infilled with paint so as to make the reading easier.

Front: "11 miles to Ft. Cumberland, 29 MS to Capt Smyths Inn and Bridge Big, Crossing The Best Road to Redstone, Old Fort, 64 M"

Back: "Our Country's Rights We Will Defend"

It's a strange and fascinating object. Reads like an early road advertisement for Captain Smyth's Inn. Because of where it was placed long ago, it was thought that the stone marked the actual path General Braddock took in 1755 trying to oust the French from Fort Duquesne at present day Pittsburgh. However there is nothing substantive to substantiate that theory, except the proximity of where it was found in relationship to Braddock's presumed road.

The DAR, ever patriotic, looked to enshrine the stone in a pavilion similar to the one you see in the pictures above. I think I remember that their efforts took place about 100 years ago or more. They lost interest, it is said, when the inscription seemed to indicate that the stone wasn't likely to have been marking Braddock's route at all.

Local legend says that the stone was split and then was going to be used as steps to an outhouse... or... that a local stonemason grabbed it but when discovered was persuaded by the authorities to make the repair you see so evident in the photos.

Our family's connection with the stone is on the Whetstone side, that's Mom's mother's parents. They had a farm, or actually a parcel of a few acres, and the stone resided just outside of the fence defining the back yard. It was already split but not repaired when Mom played there in the 1920s. She still remembers the very sweet wild strawberries that grew at the base of the stone.

Mom likes to say that her cousin George broke the stone. George was an awful tease and one of his favorite targets was Mom, a dangerous number of years his junior. Devilish George was the most likely candidate to have been making mischief enough to break that stone. If anyone did it, it was probably George! Or so Mom liked to say;)

Mom and her cousins.
(Hey Mom, is that George on the right..
although any of these three look like they'd enjoy making
trouble for the sweet little girl in the hair bow!)

Mom's Whetstone Grandparents:
Joseph Hampton Whetstone (1858 - 1939) and
Catherine Elizabeth House Whetstone (1865 - 1947).
Mom sports a hair bow!

Monday, October 15, 2012

"A Day in the Life of Frostburg"

There's a really lovely and insightful independent film made for the bicentennial of Frostburg, called "A Day In The Life of Frostburg." Frostburg is the Western Maryland town in which my ancestors resided, almost exclusively. It puzzles me as to why adventurous and brave ancestors picked up and moved from Wales, Ireland, England, and Germany to settle there... and stay there generation after generation!

Finally I think I found an encapsulation of that answer I arrived at a while back. This 30  minute film, all shot by residents of today's Frostburg, captures the spirit of the place and explores what exactly draws and keeps people engaged with it.

You might not want to watch all 30 minutes of it but if you have about 5 minutes check out the beginning of Part II. Betty VanNewkirk stats it well. Here's the link:

A Little Museum Packs A Big Wallop

Recently back east visiting Mom in the little Western Maryland town of Frostburg, and we thought we'd make time to go visit the Frostburg Museum. Glad we did! A visit to a local museum can really shed light on the lives of the ancestors, and possibly render even more direct information from the files.

Here's a link to the Frostburg Museum:
And here's a link to their genealogy page:
Here's the text about the holdings that might be pertinent to family history researchers:

Without following the usual procedures of those tracing family roots, the Museum has a great deal of information about families who have lived in the Frostburg area. Voting registration prior to World War I; tax assessments from 1910; a tailor's measurements from the first part of the century... items not found on the Internet.
Card files, vertical files (mostly newspaper clippings), and correspondence with family members are cross-indexed, and City maps of various vintage help to locate the houses where people lived.

This lovely small town museum is housed in an old historic school building once the home of Hill Street School. Mom attended Hill Street School because it was the closest elementary school situated just at the other end of her block. Here's waht the museum's web site says about the building:

Built in 1899, the Hill Street School was the last school in the area of a design that was fairly common at that time. Originally six rooms, a two-room and auditorium addition dates from ca. 1914. Several areas of the basement were at one time used for cafeteria, kindergarten, and meeting rooms. When it was no longer needed as a school, the building reverted to the County Commissioners, who gave it to the City; the Museum Association now holds title to it.

Looking towards Mom's childhood home,
just beyond the house with the striped awning.
Hill Street School,
now the Frostburg Museum
(Photo courtesy Frostburg Museum)

I can attest to what the museum has, and if your ancestors come from the area, it's a must do on your itinerary. Inside you'll find shelves with numerous genealogies of local families including the Trimbles and Porters, and those are ours. A long time ago Mom gave them a copy of her Whetstone family file but we forgot to check and see if they still have it. The old city maps are invaluable. And you might even find ancestors in the sales books of a grocery store! On our next visit Mom and I want to go play in these records and see what we find!

Interpretive display of a coal mine.
So many of the area's residents worked in coal mines that
this display must be popular!

Besides direct information about the genealogy of ancestors, there are so many artifacts and objects that frame the time and place in which the ancestors lived! Room after room full of the memorabilia of daily lives in small town Western Maryland are found here as well as specific objects that give history to named families. 
Ralph, our docent, asked me if the family still had the big barber chair that was in my GGF's barber shop behind the old house at 89 West Main Street. No, sad to say we don't. It was sold off years ago by I don't know who. I remember that you could probably talk one of the cousins into giving you a good spin ride in it;) It would have been great if the old barber chair had been donated. Too bad.

Mom had fun in the classroom on the second floor and found her 1936 high school class photo, and Dad's too. Aunt Betty looked for hers and found it while I found Aunt Dot's and Uncle Harolds... they were in the same class! High school sweethearts:) It was shocking to see how very small the desks were then: did we ever fit into one? Guess so.

Mom and Brother, left, look for classmates in
her high school class photo, while our docent, Ralph looks on.
Aunt Betty in her class photo.

Small museums like the Frostburg Museum must dot the county! There's one we want to visit just west of here in Garret County. That's next on our list. Imagine all the history waiting to be discovered by family historians in these local gems.

Aunt Betty donated a trunk that came over with her GGM form Wales! It's quite the story and I think that I'll save it until next time. There's a beautiful crazy quilt that goes with it too... and I have photos.

Yeah, this post is going to come in parts:)

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moonshining Miners

Just back from a visit back East to see Mom and the family. It was fun in both the planning and execution of it all. Met Cousin Steve and his wife and their grand-baby at the mall after Mom got her hair done on Friday morning. You can't tell me Steve and Kitty don't love that little one! Always great to see the love of family passed from one generation to the next:)

There were wonderful other happenings that I'll blog about in the coming days: a fascinating author of local history came for coffee after her last class on Friday, and a trip to the Frostburg Museum with Aunt Betty and her good friend, Shirley. Plus, Mom and I had a blast digging around her archive! The dust was flying off the files on the "back shelf"!

Here's a photo of little Frostburg, all nestled into the fall foliage of scenic Western Maryland... then I'll tell you a story:)

Frostburg, Maryland, Fall 2012
I picked up two books by Betty VanNewkirk about Frostburg: Windows to the Past, and Kalidascope. They are both collections of essays written for the Cumberland Times-News newspaper. Here's a link: . Betty taught at Frostburg State University for many years as did her husband, whom I think I had as a professor. I believe Mom told me that Betty just celebrated her 97th birthday!
One of the articles in her first compilation, Windows to the Past - simply titled "Prohibition", on page 61 - illuminates the difficulties and amusement surrounding the enforcement of the Volstead Act along the George's Creek coal mining area. My GGF, Daniel Williams, was a miner there. He died before all the turmoil over prohibition but never mind because he was a non-drinker anyway. His boys, however, were drinking men:) 
Windows give a clear analysis of the situation: the miners went out on strike, and times were hard but not impossible because the miners had savings accounts, owned their homes, had chickens for eggs and meat, perhaps a cow, and of course gardens. The United Mine Workers sent care packages that included corn to be used as chicken feed. The miners, ever resourceful, saw the possibility of turning the corn into mash and that mash into moonshine. And moonshine was a hot commodity during prohibition!
The town officials knew what was going on but didn't want to get between the revenuers and their miner neighbors. As Mrs. VanNewkirk writes:

They worried about the situation - but their real concern was for the town's precious water supply. They estimated that there were 100 stills operating within the city limits, each one requiring a half-inch stream of water running over the coils for 24 hours at a time; the Frostburg reservoir wasn't up to that demand!
She goes on to explain the percent of alcohol in beer and how it was tweaked over time. Interestingly, when the revenue agents finally caught up with the moonshiners and confiscated the wares, they "followed up with the pronouncement that local moonshine was the best to be had anywhere in the State." That had to be the best advertising that a moonshiner could get!
Copies of Betty VanNewkirk's excellent and entertaining book can be had from the Frostburg Museum. Call for information on ordering. Here's the link:
Photo of the Day from Aunt Betty's Archive:
GGF Daniel William's home in Ocean Maryland,
center of the George's Creek mining activity...
and Prohibitoin Era moonshining.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Computer VS. Internet

Who knows why our computers do what they do when they are alone? My internet has been dodgy this last month and then a while back before I went to see MOM back East, it went out all together. Spent the morning with a nice kid at the Geek Squad and my hopes were up. But home here and my hopes are dashed. My internet is an on and off again thing. So the Geek Guy and I will be spending some quality time tomorrow morning.

Plus, I have so much to report from my trip to see Mom! Drat this misbehaving technology!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gone to the Family History Center

Whenever I feel stuck researching my British Isles ancestors, I go to the local Family History Center. Am very lucky indeed to have a fine one here in San Diego. On one specific day of the week the British Isles expert is there, delightful, and very willing to help. The strategy for me is to get organized so as not to waste her time shuffling papers, and pinpoint specifics before hand with which she can give some guidance.

My main task for this visit was to get more background on my great great grandmother, Jane James Williams (1815 - ????). I have been spending considerable time look for her coming to America with inconclusive results. Feel like I might not be looking in the right place. Something is wrong because neither Mom, Aunt Betty nor I can find any trace of the family here in the USA, in spite of having a photo of them all together taken in Troy New York. Stepping back from this brick wall, I want to know as much background as possible about their life in Wales leading up to their immigration.

I showed her the photo, proving once again to myself that they all came here, and then gave her the short version of my Welsh findings. She just up and asked what she could do for me right at the moment I was going to tell her what I was after! She's sharp!

What I wanted was her to just talk and tell me whatever came to her mind about life in Wales in the mid-1800s for a mining family in DYFED, South Wales. I'm glad I did it this way because she spilled out way more background information than I might have stumbled into otherwise. Here's a situation when asking an open ended question is way better than asking a closed end question:)

Here's a laundry list of just a few of the gems she brought up.

* The tin mining had dried up in Cornwall and so a lot of the miners went into Wales to work. Mining was mining and it didn't matter what was being mined.

* The miners were used to traveling for work and could easily be missing for census. She reminded me that the census was simply an inventory of who slept there last night, not family units per se.

* Filamore's Atlas and Index is a good source for finding towns and then looking for where the records were kept, the deposited dates, the IGI, and Registration District, all info needed to take the next step in finding the actual record.

* FreeBMD. She gave me an quick introduction to FreeBMD, my new fav toy, and how to find records. We plugged in what we knew and quickly went to Jane and Thomas's marriage record! Then she showed me how to order it online. Cool!

* My ancestors were religious non-conformists and were members of the Congregational Church when they got here. She said to look at Calvinistic-Methodists records as well as Congregational records. Checking it out on WIKIpedia I get a clearer picture of church affairs and notice a Peter Williams playing a roll. Wonder if he fits in to our tree... although Williams is as common as Smith here!

There was so much more in our two hour conversation! Am so glad I went!!

Image from the Archive:

Old Map of South Wales from
Filamore's Atlas and Index

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Using FamilySearch

In a previous post I mentioned that my skills were wanting, or at least that's how I felt. And thanks from me to those of you who kindly offered suggestions to broaden my knowledge base:)

Someone suggested the tutorial videos in the Learning Center, and that sounded good to me. My objective was to start at the beginning and make sure I had a grasp of all that was there on the site and was using features to full advantage. And I do like watching videos so that's where I began.

It's paying off. I'm watching the introductory videos from the most basic onward. Have watched about a dozen and in just the first couple have picked up some good tips and tricks, mostly that have to do with features I've overlooked. Just these two tips, below, will make the whole effort worth it.

The first tips is about using filters in my search. By using a combination of search terms that widen the search as well as filters that limit the search I think that I'm doing a bit better of searching and finding. I liked it in the video when the narrator showed that just by x-ing the term out you could eliminate it. No need to start over. Cool!

The second tip that was totally new to me showed how to reverse the image in an effort to better and more clearly see the letterforms. The example was a census page that when reversed, that is when the dark writing on a light ground became light writing on a dark ground, sometimes the features of letters can be seen more clearly. Also cool! Honestly, guess I thought that reversing an image meant that everything was backwards;) Ha! But it was a tool that could help me out.

Now I'm starting to feel that I'm not missing the good features!

Here's a link to the videos mentioned in this post in case you want to watch some. Have fun!

Picture of the day from the Archive:

Aunt Louise Kelly Chaney, about 1941
My Dad's youngest sister,
And just as beautiful as this photo!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All You Have To Say Is 9/11

Some day in the future I'll have to sit down and write a short autobiography so someone won't have to go to the trouble of assembling a word picture of me for the family history file. I know now that one of the memories I'll have to write about is the events both public and personal surrounding September 11, 2001.

We all have our own individual memories of that date and what it means to us. And our nation, it seems, is slowly coming about the process of healing and seeing it in a ever so slightly more historical framework. I'll be happy when the wounds of our hearts and minds have healed more. But it's gonna be a while.

I guess all of history's tragedies are like that. Reading about history, as we all do as we research our ancestors, is one thing. But being "in" history is quite something else.

I pause and remember with you.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Race Against The Clock

Do you ever feel as though you're racing against the clock's spinning hands? I sure do. Every day. I don't know where this feeling comes from as I really have ample time to devote to the pursuit of genealogy, or more precisely, a reasonably amount of time that should be spent by any human sitting in a chair, staring at the monitor's glowing magic, in a motionless trance!

See, there are all these dead people waiting to be found. And while they are obviously not going anywhere, I could at any time, fall off the edge of the world. Ya never know, right? So there are projects I really want to do and answers to be had, well, at least theoretically. I prioritize and make lists-a-plenty, moving forward in a somewhat orderly fashion. All is well and then the Race Against Time Monster rises behind my chair!

This monster tells me I'm not doing it fast enough nor hard enough, not looking in the right places. I am after all, a relative newbie (no pun intended.) I know that I must be wasting time on uneducated guesses, or malformed search pursuits. That's just part of the learning process. So what's with the Monster?

After pondering this a bit I think it's has to do with my concern that I'm not immortal. (Big revelation there.) And that I want all of Mom's good work and Aunt Betty's good work to be in some form or format that will insure that it gets transmitted down the generations. I think that when all is said and done, my mission if I am able to do it, is to get this stuff organized and put together for the future. Not that Mom and Aunt Betty haven't done that, and very well!

I look at the work done by those no longer with us, that has helped me the most, and I'm so impressed by the cogent way they pull it all together. Doesn't your heart race whenever you find a book or text about a particular family line?! Mine sure does.

I don't know what exactly I envision but it has to capture the imagination of younger people of each generation. Pictures, stories, charts so they can easily see who came from who. Sure, sources. You have to have sources.

So I'm thinking, as I sit in front of the monitor, about how it might be possible to bring together whatever exists now that falls under the umbrella of "family history". This is gonna take a while! But at least now I better know what I'm racing toward in this race against the clock.

Photo of the day from the Archive:

Me, 1951.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recharging, Charging Forward

Every once in a bit, usually around some holiday or other, I have a slump. Maybe you do too? Don't get me wrong: I do love genealogy for a lot of reasons. But even with something you love, a break does a body good:)

What pulled me out of the Labor Day Slump of 2012 was a wonderful seminar sponsored by the San Diego Genealogical Society featuring Lisa Alzo yesterday. It was top quality and I couldn't have asked for more... or taken it because my head was full! Lisa was a wonderful speaker and for just $40, including lunch, what's not to like?

I love the intellectual stimulation and challenges a day like this brings. Sitting there listening to a well-crafted presentation and having my mind feel like it's free to roam and come up with other thoughts, other solutions as I look into each of the concepts presented. I keep a list going during times like this where I capture all of the random thoughts that come so freely flowing: blog topics, places to look for brick wall ancestors, new strategies to employ.

Here's an example something Lisa included in her first presentation that might apply to my recent quest looking for Jane James Williams my GGGM. Birds Of Passage, or those who come to a country and later go back to their homeland. Some stay put, wanting nothing more to do with The New World. But Lisa expanded that definition for me to include individuals who might have gone back and forth bringing over relatives and helping them get settled in America, then going back for others. This brought a new thought to the Williams family and had me thinking differently about some ships lists.

At lunch I randomly sat next to a fellow attendee and we got chatting about our interests. I mentioned the Williams people from Wales and she reminded me of a film Mom had talked about but I'd forgotten: How Green Was My Valley. Made in 1941 in black and white and directed by John Ford, it tells the story of hard life in a Welsh mining community. I saw it a number of years ago but I wanted to revisit it now in light of the Williams people. My luncheon companion said that she'd read the book and it was really nice... so when I got home I popped on Amazon and bought it for -- are you ready -- a penny!! Can't wait to read it:)

It did me a world of good to go to that seminar yesterday. Now I'm all charged up and ready to go:)

Photo of the day from Aunt Betty:

The Congregational Church of
Frostburg, Maryland,
about 1928.

Photo below cropped and numbered by Aunt Betty,
in an effort to identify everyone.
All identified except for about two dozen, mostly boys.
Good work, Aunty Betty!!

Mom thinks this might be the church choir
of which she and her sister were members.
Mom is number 31 and her sister, Dorothy is number 1.

Stained glass window in memorial to
Johanna Harris, Aunty Betty's GGM.
Beautiful and still there, special and precious.