18 June 2012

Father's Day Tribute

As yesterday was Father's Day, here is a tribute to dads as they are seen in my family tree:
 (and I regret not doing this for Mother's Day with the mom photos I have)

I have chosen to not label these photos with names, but if you believe a photograph is of a family member as well, please do not hesitate to contact me!

My daddy and I, 1980

My grandpap with my father and siblings, 1964

My great-great-grandfather with his family, c 1886

My mom and her father and mother, 1977

My great-grandfather with his eldest son, 1905

My great-great-grandfather with his wife and some of his children, c. 1899

My great-grandfather with his wife and sons, 1941

11 June 2012

Knowledge of history is important when working with genealogy

Sometimes it is imperative that one know a little about the history of a region as they are researching their family tree. One does not need to be an expert in history to be an avid genealogist, but it is recommended that one learn at least a little about the areas their families have come from or settled.

For instance:

  • Knowing a little about the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 allowed me to understand the reasons why some of my ancestors migrated from Alsace to the United States in 1880.  Alsace was a province of France and the family did not like the German regime that took over the territory after the war.
  • The city of Pittsburgh, where a portion of my family had once settled, went by several names over the years, particularly the North Side.  Deutschtown, Birmingham, Allegheny City, Temperanceville are all now neighborhoods or former towns that were absorbed into Pittsburgh Learning that and also when they were absorbed has helped me find the records I needed.
  • 1918 was the biggest influenza pandemic the world had ever seen.  Over a quarter of the world's population was infected between 1918 and 1920 and millions died.  Whole families were affected.  While luckily none of my closer family members did not perish in this pandemic, there are a few distant cousins that died.  
  • During the Great Depressions, hundreds of people migrated from the Plains, which were experiencing a drought to the cities to find work.  Some came to states like California.  Knowing this might help find a missing family member
 History and Genealogy go hand in hand.  If one doesn't know what is going on in a family's life history wise, then how might one be able to determine what might have happened to a missing family member or branch.  Often time, research materials pertaining to a family are missed because they are in places one does not know where to look because one has no knowledge of the history of the place.

A couple of books that are great to have on hand when researching American history are  Kenneth C. Davis' Don't Know Much About History or Seymour Morris Jr.'s American History RevisedHistory Magazine is another great reference, as well as any old fashioned book from the library.  There are even resources online, such as the much maligned Wikipedia (I have only found a few factual errors in the history I have read there) or a good old fashioned Google search.   For harder to find subjects, there's also Historical societies or Inter-Library Loans (both of which I have used).

23 April 2012

A love that lasted

Chuck was going off to fight in the China Burma theater in the war. Betty was his sweetheart who was staying at home.  He was 25.  She was 21.

The year was 1943.  The date was the 27th of November.  The place was a small Presbyterian church in Pittsburgh.

Over 68 years have passed since that day, the event that created a family, that brought together a couple to whom my father would be born twelve years later.  Theirs was a sweet love that would stand the test of time.
It was a short and sweet ceremony, and they had a small reception, but their love was big and it kept them together through their time of separation.  

They would have four children, though one would quietly pass away before she was 21 years of age.  The other three would go on to marry and have children of their own.

 They would retire and move from Pittsburgh to the warmer climates of Florida.  From here they would travel around the United Sates, visiting their children.  Their youngest son was in the Marine Corps, and they loved to visit him wherever he was stationed when they could.

They would honor the wedding vows they made that day.  They would remain together until Chuck's death in 1989. They were married for forty-six years.

19 April 2012

RAOGK - good for the mind, body and soul

I recently walked the small city cemetery here in the town I live in, looking for some graves to take pictures of for Findagrave.com.  You see, some people who can't make it to the cemetery, whether it be because of disability or distance or whatever that keeps them away, request photographs of certain grave markers.  Whenever I can get to one of the cemeteries listed to fulfill their requests, I do. 

One weekend, I logged over 6 miles of walking in two days looking for markers and broke into a sweat both days as I walked back and forth amongst the rows of the cemetery.   I got a good workout as I searched for graves of people I don't even know so that a person too far away to search himself or herself could have a photo of the grave.

It was a random act of genealogical kindness, or in my world, a RAOGK

The world is full of people willing to do random acts of kindness for strangers.  In the genealogical circles, there are people willing to do look-ups of all sorts for others.  Some of these people work anonymously, whereas others seek recognition.  I myself enjoy what I do, and I don't seek accolades for doing it, though I do enjoy a very nice thank you.  I look at doing these acts as a way to  pay forward the help I received.

So I encourage any reader of my blog for whom genealogy is a hobby to find someway to help out, whether it be walking through graveyards snapping pictures, or offering on a forum to find someone's tax or marriage records at the local courthouse, to offering up info from your own family tree to someone who might want it without expecting any re-compensation.  It'll do your mind, body and soul a world of good!

Some links that can help you find a way to help:
Find A Grave
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Wiki
US GenWeb Project
FamilySearch Facebook Research Communities

27 March 2012

Pets are Family too!

My cat, Twix, has a fascination with my walk-in bedroom closet.  She meows to get inside it just about every time we're changing and has on occasion gotten locked inside the closet because we didn't know she was in there and shut the door.
My great uncle Bill hugging the family dog, early 1900s

In researching family trees, pets are often overlooked.  But talking about them can bring the best memories to light.   My dad has said he's never liked cats, but yet we had a cat when I was a baby, proof below, and another when I was growing up in Southern California.

Tigger, my dad, and baby me
When I was a baby, my parents also owned a Labrador dog named Lucas that guarded me and taught me how to walk.  He was a sweet dog but super protective of "his" baby.  He was killed when he was hit by a car.  A neighbor had let him out.

My maternal grandparents owned a dog by the name of Whiskey.  He was a terrier of some sort and a small dog, but I could remember him being mean, or maybe he was just annoyed by the little kids that bugged him (myself included).  He loved only my grandfather, and I know my parents have a picture of Whiskey sitting on Grandpop's lap.

My aunt, uncle, dad and PeeWee at Christmas in the 60s
My dad's family had a dog named PeeWee.  He was featured prominently in family pictures as another one of the kids and was well loved by my dad and his siblings. 

And again at Easter
My great-grandparents had a cocker-spaniel named Rusty that they loved to walk.  The dog was rusty colored and mean to some of the grandchildren that were almost always at the house, and actually snapped at one of my mother's cousins when she was a child.  He was stopped by a command from my great-grandfather.  That stories sparked a conversation that opened up a flood of memories about a generation that has been gone for over 50 years. 

A cousin's dogs in 1951
Pets are a large part of our lives in the present.  Why can't they also be a part of our past as well?  So often converations about pets are limited when interviewing people about their family history.  Sometimes a mentioned pet will bring a smile to someone's face and start an entire conversation of happy moments in a family members life.  Even thinking backon my own life, I find myself smiling over pets I have had:

Besides Lucas and Tigger the cat, there was Woo-Woo the white labrador that was a bit of a pet.  There was Grouchy, our lab-cocker mix that we had from the time I was five until well into high school who loved to eat crayons and tinsel and was anything but grouchy.  There was Charlie, the loveable mutt and the only dog to ever bite me, though he didn't mean to. (My brother, on the other hand, seems to have been a dog-bite magnet, having been bitten by at least three dogs in his childhood). There was Boo-Boo Kitty, the ferocious tom-cat who loved pick fights with possums and other cats as well as curl up in a lap and sleep.  There was Moses, the stray we had for a month before he passed away.  There was Tigger the orange tabby that my husband and I owned for a year before we had to give him away.  There was also the countless numbers of fish and bugs and other small creatures that my siblings and I owned growing up, including a salamander and a crawdad.

My two cats, Barbossa and Twix
There are also the present day animal family members.  There is Moose, my parents' lovable and old labrador-mastiff mix that enjoys a warm spot and getting all the attention he can and has been with my parents since I was a senior in high school.  And of course, there are my wonderful cats Twix and Barbossa who live with me now.  My sister also owns two crazy and loveable terrier dogs.  They are all members of my family, and offer as much love and affection as the human members do.

25 March 2012

Adventures in substitute teaching : The "Thingy"

This conversation is not made up in any way shape or form.  It is too weird!

A few weeks ago, I subbed in a class that was doing a project where they had to plan out trips on the computer with a budget.

A young lady raised her hand and I went over to help her.

Girl: "What's the 'thingy' in Missouri?"
Me: "There's a lot of 'thingies' in Missouri.  Which one?"
Girl: (sighs) "You know, the 'thingy'!"
Me: (Trying to be helpful) Where in Missouri are you researching?  Maybe that will help me find the 'thingy' you are searching for."
Girl: (by this time she's clearly annoyed I have no idea what she's talking about) "You know, that thingy in Missouri!  Oh, nevermind."

She turns and begins furiously pounding on her notebook's keys.

I still have no idea what "thingy" she was looking up.

Just goes to show, teachers are expected to be mind readers  (j/k)

01 March 2012

Sometimes a little variety is needed

Don't get me wrong, I like Ancestry.com and their hundreds of databases.  I really do.

What I don't like is how easy it is to get the wrong information.  With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can have a full family tree.  And half of it can be wrong.

So what?

Having a name wrong in your tree could be a brick wall.  For years I was convinced my great-great-great grandfather's name was Franz, so when I found a Fran├žois as the brother of another person, I overlooked it.  It wasn't until a common descendant confirmed that my Franz was indeed Fran├žois and showed me her research that I then went back and not only found him, but his father, grandfather and maternal family as well.  A brick wall that was literally 10 years old was finally overcome because I thought to think out of the box.

Another more recent example is the mother of my Abinah Wood, Reumah (or Ruehama, if you follow the spelling on her will - Personally I think she went by both).  Her surname, as far as we can tell, is unknown.  Every document I have seen with her name lists her as Reumah Wood, as every document was issued after her marriage to Jonathan Wood.  The family book from 1903 speculated that Reumah was probably a wealthy French woman from New Orleans, Louisiana, and that is taken as near fact in my research circle.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered on Ancestry.com that someone in the Public Member Trees had given her the last name of Wealth.  Even more to my chagrin were the number of other people who copied that information onto their own tree.   A wrong name got copied and taken as fact several times over.

For a perfectionist such as myself, having incorrect names is bothersome.  That's why I truly enjoy it when someone corrects my data, and then shows me why they are correcting it.

It's a copy and paste job

Public member trees from Ancestry.com, Pedigree Resource File and Ancestral File from FamilySearch, and the WorldConnect Project on Rootsweb.com, among others, are all prone to grave mistakes from this kind of wrong data.

Don't misunderstand me, these sources are awesome resources, but they should be researched with a grain of caution, for they are not always going to be correct.  Anyone can find names and stick them together in research.  A genealogist who wants to be correct will actually back up said names with sources and research.  It is easy to plug names into a tree, what's hard is making sure the info you have is correct.

Too many times someone who is new to genealogy will take a tree and ecstatically plug it into their own without looking over the research.  I have been guilty of that myself.  However, when one then goes back over sources, it is harder to find the info one needs because the tree could be changed or deleted.  It is frustrating to be asked by another researcher about info and have no idea where it came from.

Okay, so what do I do?

So how does one make sure info is correct?  By checking sources.  I will rarely consult a tree in one of the aforementioned databases if it doesn't have sources.  I will also check the sources that are listed if it is possible to get a better look at what and where and when.   If I have to add the name of someone that is not documented by other sources (because sometimes, it can and does happen), I will document the source as coming from one of those databases AND I will try my best to make sure I also have the name of the submitter who submitted the data in the first place.  That way, if I find new information that either corrects or supports the data in my tree, I know who I can contact to ask if they have the info as well.  Also, I try to record what date I found info whenever possible, so that if the data does disappear, I still have some way of knowing who gave it to me and when.

Of course, even my own tree is not perfect.  Too many times in my early days I was one who just copied stuff willy-nilly, and now I am regretting making that mistake.  It may seem like a daunting task to sift over the info, but it is well worth it in the end.


One of my favorite  things to do is search more then one database, on more then one site.  I find that if I stick to one site, such as Ancestry.com, I miss the great databases some of the other sites have to offer.  I also miss getting a complete picture of who my ancestors and family members were and what they did.  While Ancestry has a vast amount of holdings, some other sites have great stuff as well.  A good jumping off point for searching some of these other databases is Cyndi's List, which has an extensive array of links designed to help everyone from the beginning genealogist to the most professional.

With odd names, such as my favorite of Waldspurger, I sometimes will just Google the name, or search the Google News Archive Search, which has old newspapers from around the world (This link is great for finding death notices too, particularly in the Pittsburgh area and for just having fun reading old time newspapers.)  I have found everything from old wedding announcements to my uncle's breaststroke record from the 70s by searching through Google.

There's also the old fashioned look-ups.  Yes, the world is becoming more and more digitized, but not always are the digital records correct.  Keep in mind some of those records on Ancestry and the like are transcribed by someone, and those transcriptions have a margin for human error.   Not to mention there are literally MILLIONS of records that aren't in digital format as of yet.  Sometimes it takes ordering them directly from the source in the form of old-fashioned photocopies or visiting the site and taking digital photographs to get information that is correct and pure.  If you are looking for information from Allegheny, Montgomery or Philadelphia Counties in Pennsylvania, I can get you contact information for places that can help!  Keep in mind, these look-ups can range from free (if you can find a person willing to do it for you) to 50 dollars an hour or even more.  But the amount of info you can glean from the original records can be worth the money spent.

A little variety is great for researching!  Don't limit your sources!

07 February 2012

Take the time to ask the questions

Yeah, that's a question!

The last known World War One veteran has died.  She was 110.

From a genealogist and history buff's standpoint, that statement brings sort of a sadness to my heart.  What stories she must have had!  Yes, the last veteran was a woman, who served with the Woman's Royal Air Force in England.  She didn't see combat, but she still worked alongside men who did. 

I hope her stories were written down, for they had to have been awesome!  From the article I read, most of them were told to family members, but how many were preserved, not only for her future generations, but for millions of history buffs?
(for her story - see Last Known WWI Veteran Florence Green dies at 110)

Take time to ask the questions.

We're losing what is known as "The Greatest Generation" quickly.  Out of ten children born to my mother's paternal grandparents, only one survives. All of her mother's siblings are gone, as are my paternal grandfather and his brothers and sisters.

My grandmother, who is about to turn ninety years old, still lives, and is a wealth of knowledge for me to uncover.  I enjoy asking her questions, from the mundane to the personal.  Her responses are fascinating, and prompt me to ask even more questions.  Yes, some have to pertain to family history, but more often then not the questions I ask are offering me a window into a world of the past.  It is a world that she makes come alive far greater then any history book.

Hey look, the study of memory

The best resource a genealogist has is the memory of an older generation.  Learn to ask questions.  If they don't want to answer personal natured questions, start with something as simple as "What street did you grow up on?" or "What was your favorite toy?"  Sometimes the answers will unlock a memory or a world that you can explore. 

And your older relatives don't have to be "the Greatest Generation" - they could be the remnants of the WWI generation or Baby Boomers.   They could be your own parents, or cousins, aunts, uncles, even friends can have stories to tell.

So get out there and ask!

03 February 2012

Lost photos are gems to find

Jesse Meyer and Jennie Hager Cox with sons c. 1942
Recently I found some old photos I thought I had lost. Most of them were in digital form made of scans I had done of photos various older family members had.  I lost them when my computer crashed over two years ago and was lamenting the fact that I might not be able to get them back, for I had foolishly not made hard copies of said photos NOR had I saved that particular set to a disk.  So it was nice to discover that I still had them.

These were photographs from my maternal grandmother's side, a side in which I do not have many contacts willing to share information, because many who had said information have passed on.

Where were the missing photographs?  They were still saved to my old email account's mail.
Dorothy and Jean Cox 1947
You see, I rarely delete emails if they have any family tree connection.  I will keep them for posterity in the account, and just happened to be looking through that account for something else when I discovered that the photos were still there. For those who were wondering - an initial search through the account after my computer crashed did not yield these photos, which makes me wonder if I was using the correct search terms the first time.

The pictures in question were among some that my mother's first cousin's ex-wife had sent me back in 2005 to add to my collection.  This is a family member that I sadly lost track of, so I couldn't ask for them back, nor could I find any of my family members that had these photos, so I was stuck with the fact that I'd never see them again.

It just goes to show you that you'll never know where you'll find photographs!

01 February 2012

Adventures in substitute teaching : The worksheet that's due tomorrow

This is a typical conversation that I got through at least once a week in just about EVERY period:

Directions from the teacher say this:
The worksheet is to be done in class.  If they don't finish, it is homework.  Tell anyone who does finish to hold on to it and we will go over it in class tomorrow.

So, after I take attendance, I pick up said worksheet and hold it in my hands.  After getting the class' attention, I make this announcement.

"This will be your assignment for today.  I will pass it out, we will go over the instructions, and then you will work on it for the remainder of the period.  You are not going to turn it in today.  If you finish the worksheet, put it in your notebooks in a safe place and find something to work on quietly.  Your teacher will correct it with you tomorrow."

I hand out assignment.  We read directions.  I ask if there are any questions.

First hand up is the wiggly kid who can't stay still. "Do we turn this in when we're done?"

I shake my head.  "No.  You will hold on to the worksheet until TOMORROW when your teacher will go over it with you.  Anyone have any other questions?"

Giggling girl who has been making faces at her friends across the room is the next question-asker called on. "Do we turn this in at the end of the period?"

"No.  You are turning it in tomorrow."

Someone finally asks a question about the worksheet at hand, I answer and turn the kids loose to work on assignment.  All is quiet for about fifteen to twenty minutes.  I answer individual questions.

Inevitably, at least one of those individual questions is "Do we turn this in today?"  Sigh.

Suddenly, from across the room comes a "Mrs Davis, do we turn this in today?"

Inwardly I quell the groan.  "No.  (Mr., Mrs. or Miss _________) will collect it tomorrow."

No sooner do I finish saying that when squirrelly kid who hasn't been listening to a single word I said throws down his writing utensil with a flourish and jumps out of his seat.  "Mrs. Davis!  I'm done!! Where do you want this?"

I stop the urge to roll my eyes as I look at him.  "What did I just finish saying?" I ask as calmly as I can.

Kid wasn't listening. "Uhhhhhhhh," he says, trying to make something pop into his brain.  "I dunno."

Sigh.  "You. Turn. It. In. Tomorrow." I say, firmly enunciating every word and syllable.

Hopefully by now, everyone in the room has heard what I have said.  Several are putting the worksheet in their folders.  I feel a little better, because I know that everyone is now on the same page.

At this point, the silent kid in the back who has been quietly working on the assignment this entire time and hasn't asked a single question comes up and hands me her paper.


31 January 2012

The Big Project: The Abinah Wood Descendant Project

For about a year now, I have been working on what I have come to call "The BIG Project."

I have an UPDATE HERE!!!

The book was finally finished and info about purchasing the book can be found here!

What I am doing is this:

There is a book called History and Genealogy of the descendants of Abinah Wood and Susannah Humphreys. It was written by a few of their descendants after a family reunion in 1903 - that's right, I said the book was written in 1903. I have a nice photocopy of it in my genealogical collection. There is an online copy of it at Archive.org as well.

Image of the actual cover
Anyway, to get back on subject - the book listed all of the known descendants of Abinah Belford Wood and Susannah Humphreys in 1903....of which my great-grandfather was listed as well. I am taking that info and updating it, adding 110 years worth of info and trying my best to get as many descendants as I can before January of 2013. 

Why January of 2013?  That's when I hope to have a new book made with the findings of my research.  I still don't know if I am going to publish that as a real book, or just as a PDF book that Abinah and Susannah's descendants can print on their own.  But I am hoping to have as many descendants in it, as well as biographies of the children and maybe even some of the grandchildren!

EDIT HERE:  The book was finally published in July of 2013.

John Devender Wood and family, c. 1880s

It is a frustrating job!

First of all, I have to comb through pages and pages of database info online just to find the right families - sometimes finding one branch with just four generations takes all day. Second Abinah and Susannah had FOURTEEN children, of which only three died as children, and over ONE HUNDRED grandchildren alone so that means I have to find several families. It's a tedious job, and has taken me many months to do, and I've only scratched the surface.

Add on to that the family squabbles, the nitpicking of data, the general stubbornness to share info and the headache of having to be diplomatic with people (which is a trait my mother takes credit for giving me!)and you have my day. I should mention also that I am not getting paid for this and must schedule this around my normal job as a substitute teacher AND around my day-to-day chores and family life. Not to mention keeping up with info that I find on my other branches, since I still have "oooooh shiny!" moments and find stuff that pertains to my mother's branch or my husband's several branches.

And still, I trek on, with the help of countless others, some who offer up their entire research, others who give me what they can and help me find new info, and then others who give me moral support and the much needed pats on the back (I love my husband!)

William Clifford Wood and family c. 1930s
Shameless promotion plug here:

If you are wondering what surnames I am looking for in this project, here are just a few in the tree:


If you think you might be a part of this family, there is a group that was started years ago on Yahoo! Groups called The Abinah Wood Descendants.  The purpose of the group is the promotion of any and all discussion regarding the couple and any of their descendants.  This group has been a big help to me and to those who have joined it.

And as always, if anyone has info they would love to share with me, contact me!

And so people know off the bat - Charles Wesley Chapman Wood, who is listed in the book, was my great-grandfather.

30 January 2012

Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker 2012

So I caved.

I finally got a subscription to Ancestry.com.  I told myself long ago I wasn't going to pay for a subscription to any site online.  But with the project i am working on right now, I figured I could use the subscription for the time being (plus my library subscription wasn't able to find some info!).  I am doing the month to month thing right now, not wanting to shell out nearly 200 bucks at one time to get the US membership.  I am not planning on keeping it all year long, but for now, I'll pay 23 bucks for a month to get info on my family.

But I won't put my family tree on Ancestry.com

Here's why:  To even see most of the family tree info that Ancestry.com has you have to have a paid subscription.  You can't use a library subscription of log on as a guest or use a free log-in.  You have to pay to see what info they have.  And for the most part, it's the same info sites like Rootsweb and FamilySearch have already.  I have always freely shared my info with relatives, and expect to be able to do that in the future, so my trees will be kept on Rootsweb.  Plus, if I decide not to continue my subscription on Ancestry.com, I can still access and work with my info without worrying about it being stuck where I can't change it.

That said, I found a wealth of info - some off the aforementioned family trees, but most from the vast amount of collections that Ancestry has.  And with the new Family Tree Maker program I got as a late Christmas present from my hubby, I am able to plug it into the tree with a click of the mouse (at least until I decide not to continue the aforementioned subscription).

I know, I know, this seems like a big advertisement for Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker, but I can't help it.  I have never used any family tree program except Family Tree Maker, and since Ancestry.com owns it, I have to talk about them.   I figured it was time to do a semi-review about them.

Which reminds me - I have an old copy of Family Tree Maker 10 and several Family Tree Maker Family Archives CDs from Genealogy.com if anyone needs them.  I had to get the new 2012 version because FTM 10 doesn't work at all with Windows 7, which my new computer has, so the CDs are just laying here taking up space (I won't trash them though - too much family history!!!!!!!).  If anyone ever reading this post wants them, send me a message or comment here and I'll let you know which ones I have.  I wish they worked with 2012 so I could get the info off of them!