Thursday, April 26, 2007

Conflicting Sources

For whatever reason, happily I have had several researchers contact me this spring, wanting to compare notes and share information. Sometimes six months will go by without any new contacts, and then all of a sudden, things start to pick up! No complaints's definitely a good thing.

Yesterday I was pleased to see a message in my inbox from a fellow BENNETT researcher. This is one of my husband's lines. One of his great-grandmothers was a BENNETT, and I've followed her family line from either Virginia or North Carolina (depending on the source) through Kentucky and finally to Boone County, Missouri. The researcher I heard from said this migration pattern looked familiar, and wondered if I wanted to compare notes.

In preparation for this, I took a harder look at my BENNETT file. Over the last couple of years, I've been moving my census data from the "General Notes" section of each individual's page to "Events" section. This works well with Legacy, and I like the way it prints out in my reports. While looking at my BENNETT file, I saw that I still had the censuses in the "Notes" area, and I proceeded to "clean up" the file, and put everything where it belonged. I have also obtained some new source material since I last worked on the BENNETTs -- books on Boone County MO marriages and cemetery records, as well as the Missouri Archives website with death certificates online. So it seemed like a good time to see if I could fill in some blanks. That's when I found a major conflict.

According to one source ("Tombstone Records of Boone County, Missouri, by Mrs. E.E. Evans and Mrs. J. F. Thompson), Page and Matilda BENNETT both died in 1867. According to Evans and Thompson, Matilda died in January of that year, and Page in June. However, this seems unlikely, since I have census images of them appearing in the 1870 U.S. Census, in Cedar Township, Boone County, Missouri! My guess is that their headstones were hard to read, and that Mrs. Evans or Mrs. Thompson misread the stone. I tried to find their stone (or stones) in the Nashville Baptist Church Cemetery, but didn't have any luck -- I'll try again another day.

Meanwhile, I'm making a list of other sources I could use to try to find accurate dates of death for this couple. I don't believe Boone County, Missouri has death certificates for that time period, but I will check on that. I believe they do have probate records, so that's one avenue to try. Another option will be to search the Newspaper Library for obituaries -- it's possible that the month and date information are correct, but just not the year. Either way, it looks like I've got another mystery to solve!

Monday, April 16, 2007

To Keep or Not to Keep...(what was the question?)

Don't we all love photos? I have albums full of photos, and a trunk in my house full of photo envelopes containing the prints of all the pictures that didn't qualify for album status. The vast majority of those photos were taken with a 35MM camera -- and I've always subscribed to the theory that you have to take a whole lot of pictures if you want to get a few that are "keepers." So why do I have so much trouble getting rid of the ones that aren't?

To be fair, many of these pictures aren't bad -- they just weren't the cream of the crop. It's easy to pitch the blurry ones, or the ones with someone's head cut off -- but it's harder for me to cull out the rest of the prints: the "also rans."

This box is also the place that I store all the photo Christmas cards that my family members have sent me over the years. Someday I may pull those out and create an album just for them. It would be fun to look through the album and compare how these family photos have changed over the years.

Sally Jacobs has a great blog called The Practical Archivist. I like the advice she offers and the no-nonsense way she presents it. Recently she's posted a couple articles on the value of printing our photos, as opposed to storing them only on our computers or other digital media. As wonderful as this digital age's changing so fast! A few short years from now we may not be able to count on being able to access the information that we have stored on CDs or DVDs. Properly stored, paper will last for many many years...and is the safest way we currently have of making sure that future generations can view the photos that we hold precious today.

I love my old Minolta 35MM camera -- it feels great in my hand, and the photos it takes are top-notch. But my Nikon coolpix digital camera is working great for me too. And the luxury of being able to tell right away if I have something worth keeping is one of the best parts of digital photography. Thanks to Sally's articles, I'm going to be more diligent about printing out my "keepers" though -- they are too special to risk losing!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Unexpected Benefit

Over the years I've put my family trees "out there" on various websites...mostly on Rootsweb, but I have a Family Tree Maker website, and I think some of my information is available on's World Family Trees. I've also been pretty diligent about putting queries on as many county and surname message boards as I can -- trying to reach lots of potential connections.

I'm a big fan of this type of networking -- I really believe that it pays off, and my own experience is that it does. The shortest time that I ever heard from another researcher/cousin was 30 minutes after I posted (WOW!), but often it's been months, and sometimes years until I hear from someone.

Over the last two weeks, I've been fortunate to hear from three "new" cousins, researching some of the same family lines that I am. I'm always excited to hear from anyone who is looking for the same ancestors I hear from three is pretty unbelievable.

After we exchange "how do you dos," we usually agree to share information. Inevitably, as I look over my information, I find that I have gaps that need filling: census data that needs to be added or information from my files that never was inputted. While I'm taking care of this "clean up," I usually do a search on Heritage Quest Online to see if any "new" data is available on this family line -- and if so, I get that information added as well. Pretty soon, the family file in question is as complete as I have sources for, and I'm ready to create a report to share.

It's not unusual for some of the new information (or maybe just my fresh eyes looking at it) to reveal a new clue to be followed, and that's always exciting. Meeting a new cousin and getting a new "research buddy" is great -- the unexpected benefit is that it gives me a good reason to get an old family file back in "new and improved" shape!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Easter Calculator

With Easter coming up this Sunday, it seems like a good time to mention this web page: Holidays On the Net. This site has dates and lots of fun information about all the different holidays throughout the year. But the feature I like best is it's Easter Calculator. You plug in the year, and it responds with the date that Easter fell on that year.

This is handy when trying to figure out the date of old photos, or references to Easter in newspaper clippings, church newsletters, etc. I was given a snapshot of my husband as a child, lined up with his sisters on what was obviously Easter morning -- they were decked out in the Easter finest. The photo developing company had stamped 1965 on the bottom of the print...but the Easter calculator gave me the actual date: April 18, 1965.

As I mentioned before, they have fun information and activities for holidays all throughout the year -- so browse for a while, and enjoy. I hope the Easter calculator is as useful for you as it was for me!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Making Connections Through a Trip to the Cemetery

My kids are pretty tolerant of my passion for genealogy, but they don't share it. Although I would love it if one of them would "catch the bug," I'm not holding my breath. (grin)

I do, however, want them to understand the connection that we have with those that came before us. Since my husband's family has lived in our area for more than 150 years, one of the ways I plan to do this is with a trip to a few of the local cemeteries.

Using my genealogy software, I'm able to make a list of all of my husband's direct ancestors who were buried in our county, categorized by the cemetery in which they are buried. This list contains about 30 ancestors, buried in about six different cemeteries in our county.

On a nice weekend this spring, I plan to take my kids and this list, and together we'll go "visit the ancestors" and put flowers on their graves. If I increased the list to include the siblings of my children's direct ancestors, then we would need to bring enough flowers to put on over 80 graves! I'll have to give that some thought.

While we're placing flowers on the graves of all the parents who came before, I'll try to share with my kids what I've learned about each one: what they did for a living, where they came from, how many kids they had, what wars they fought in, and anything else I can find out that will help bring their stories to life. I don't expect this to make much of a difference that day, but hopefully it will create a memory that will stay with them through the years. And when they hear someone mention Samuel Hackmann or Sylvester Pauley, maybe they'll remember this day, and feel a connection to the ones who came before.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Memories of Mickie

After wondering for the last day or so what my next blog post was going to be about, I found inspiration in a post on Dear Myrtle, entitled "Influential Grandmothers." Myrtle encouraged her readers to take the time to write down a few recollections about their own grandmothers. I'd like to start with my mother's mother, Mickie.

Mickie was born Margaret Anne Keller, on July 1, 1919, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the daughter of Edward Adam Keller and Margaret Elizabeth Wrede Eifert Keller. She was Ed's only child, but she was the fourth child of Elizabeth, who had three children from a previous marriage: Julia, George and John Eifert.

Although she was named Margaret, after her mother, she was given the nickname Mickie by her Aunt Mary (her father's sister), because she liked Mickey Mouse so much.

I remember her telling me stories about her childhood. Her mother tried to be the disciplinarian, but her father spoiled her. She learned to drive sitting on her father's lap when she was just 11 or 12 years old. Ed and Elizabeth had moved to Belleville (St. Clair County), Illinois by that time, and they owned a confectionery. Elizabeth ran the store, and Ed was a barber. Unfortunately, Mickie's mother died when Mickie was just 14 years old. Although there's never a good time to lose a mother, I know that Mickie's teenage years were rougher than ever because of her loss.

She married my grandpa, Orville Creal Wilson on October 1, 1936. They went to Waterloo, Illinois, and eloped. Starting their married life during the depression made them appreciate all that they earned over the years. Mickie told me that in the early days they just ate the vegetables and fruits that they raised. They lived in the city, but their little four room house had an acre of ground, on which apple, pear and apricot trees grew. They also had an asparagus bed, gooseberries, blackberries and a large vegetable garden. Once a week Orv's parents would bring them bacon or meat, and they usually ate that on Sundays.

Besides her family, Mickie had two loves: dogs and growing flowers. All the time I knew her, she always had at least one dog, and usually there were two or three. She inherited a love of growing flowers from her mother, Elizabeth. Mickie enjoyed growing flowers from seed, and watching them bloom and multiply. She had a real knack for that -- and even managed to grow a California Sequoia tree in her yard in Belleville, Illinois (from seed!).

In 1957, Mickie was in a car accident that nearly took her life. Thankfully she survived, but unfortunately, one of her legs did not, and it had to be amputated below the right knee. The hospital she was in was a Catholic hospital, and conforming to the doctrine of the time, her amputated leg was embalmed and buried. Mickie had a wonderful attitude about her "disability." She always said that she "literally had one foot in the grave!" Her acceptance of the loss of her leg and her decision to not let it stop her from living her life to the fullest led her doctors to ask her to tell her story to other new amputees over the years.

When I was four and then again when I was six I spent a week in the summer with my grandparents. My grandpa had not yet retired, so he was working during the day, but Mickie and I would go all over St. Louis sightseeing: watching them build the St. Louis Gateway Arch, visit Grant's Farm, the St. Louis Zoo and Shaw's Gardens. She took me to the beauty salon and got me my first "permanent wave." We went shopping, and she let me wear her costume jewelry!

One of the other things she enjoyed doing was crafts -- she had a creative flair. Over the years she must have made hundreds of Christmas ornaments, and she also crocheted beautifully....especially the little fine crochet-work, like on the edges of dresser scarves and handkerchiefs. One of my favorite heirlooms is a lovely hand-crocheted tablecloth that graces my dining room table year-round.

My grandfather Orville was the love of her life -- and they were married 59 years when he died in 1995. Mickie lived until 2000, but I know she missed him every day of those last five years. She loved telling family stories -- in fact one of the best gifts she ever gave me was filling out the "Grandmother's Memories" book I gave her one Christmas. She filled in all the blanks, and then wrote in the margins, too...packing it full of all the memories it would hold. I treasure them all.

Among the life-lessons I've learned from Mickie are these: 1)Don't take yourself too seriously: nobody else will! 2)Bad things happen, but you can get through them if you try hard enough. 3)Enjoy the beauty in the world God gave us. 4)Don't pass up a chance to pet a dog!

Thanks, Gramma. I love you.