Sunday, July 28, 2013

Crafty Family History

Or, "Things to do with your treasures from the old trunk in the attic".

If you keep a few Christmas cards like I do, they are great to do crafty things with.  Last fall I had an idea that wouldn't go away to do something with the signatures.  I came up with this Subway-Art-style collage of them from my cards from relatives who are no longer with us.  Just a unique way to remember them by.  Something about seeing the signatures of people I loved gives me a warm fuzzy.  These are their signatures as I knew them, not their names or "autographs".  I scanned the signatures, laid this out in Microsoft Publisher and printed it on cardstock, keeping it simple so that in the future it can be edited, adding more signatures.

Other ideas on this concept keep coming to me.  Something like this could be done with cards from a special occasion or maybe encouraging words from an extended illness or hospital stay.  Any cards where people wrote special notes you'd want to keep.  The trouble with this in the future is fewer people send cards these days. 

I like shadow boxes.  I made this one with some things found at my Grandma Bell's house, though I'm sure they weren't all hers.  The little card, with what I think is a broken hat pin through it, has written on it "Remember the 3rd of March".  You might wonder why I kept a broken hat pin, but it's the card that means something to me.  My birthday is March 3.  I was born on my Great-Grandma Sadie McGrath's birthday - three and a half years after she died.  Remember the 3rd of March.

I've also made shadow boxes with small things from my wedding and my daughter's birth. I've pinned these to my Family Heirlooms Pinterest board.  Follow me!  There are so many fantastic ideas on Pinterest for things to do with treasures you find in the old trunk in the attic!  Except for my slippers.  My Grandma Bell knitted. She used to knit me slippers that I just loved!   The last pair she made for me I put in an apothecary jar (as seen on Pinterest), but it needs something else.  Ideas are not coming easy with this one.  

When something just needs framed I manage to get it done.  I have a really cool old postcard with a calendar for 1892 on one side and a picture of a little girl lying down sleeping on the other.  I have this framed between 2 pieces of glass.  On the girl's side in the top corner it says "Hold this card to the light".  When you do, her eyes are open. They are printed on the calendar side.  Under the calendar was printed "Printer McIntosh Stationer, 135 S Twelfth.  A large line of lithographed advertising cards at prices that are right".  No idea what city that was in.

Tell me I'm not the only person who has noticed the butterfly pictures in "It's A Wonderful LIfe!".  First the two of them are hanging on the wall behind Peter Bailey at the dinner scene where he asks George to take over the Building and Loan.  Then they show up in George's house in the living room next to the fireplace.  You know those butterflies meant something to George.  Ok, I know it's just a movie and that's just something the set decorator used a couple of times, but I'm a sucker for using sentimental pieces to decorate a home. 

I LOVE ideas of ways to display family heirlooms.  Enough about mine, please share yours!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cicero's Census

I've read that your brian is so pworeufl, taht it can raed scnetnees wtih mxied up wrods as lnog as the frsit and lsat ltetres are in the rghit palce.  Reading very poor handwriting is a challenge big enough for the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz.  The numerous possibilities of finding a very poorly misspelled name can be a daunting task.  Huge black ink smears and torn holes in an original document cannot be fixed to create a microfilm copy.  The names that appear and disappear each decade create more questions for us.  Who hasn't had these kinds of problems with census records?

My luck with finding census records really has been pretty good.  The Edith Abbott Memorial Library here in Grand Island has them from 1860 (territorial) to 1930 on microfilm for the entire state of Nebraska.  Two branches of my family had moved here by 1880, all but one by 1900.  I was able to get all of my direct ancestors Nebraska enumerations searching microfilm before they were online anywhere.  Other states took a little cash.  Through both the library and GI's Family History Center, I ordered in some census records from Kentucky and Illinois.  And most of the rest of the census records for my direct ancestors, at least back to 1850, I have found online.

In my BELL line I'm missing a couple records.  My great-grandfather, Cicero BELL, was born in 1869.  The 1870 Wayne County, Kentucky census shows him with his mother, Martha BELL (who was never married) and her parents.  Martha was the daughter of John Silas BELL and Ruth SIMPSON.  

I'm glad I didn't have to rely on Ancestry for this one, they have the name there indexed as "Simon C".  Will you all believe along with me that the name is written S.I.S.E.R.O.W. C.???

By 1880, Martha had had 2 more children, John William and Laura.  John Silas died in 1878.  I still have not been able to find Ruth, Martha or her children anywhere, not even with Martha's siblings.  I have searched the whole county page by page and even used the Soundex.  The 1880 soundex indexed only the households with children 10 years of age or younger.  I searched it for B400 in Kentucky and still didn't find Cicero, who would have been 11, or John William who would have been about 6 and Laura just 1.  Did they not get counted?  Did you see the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"?  Did you hear the kid with the shotgun say "I nicked the census taker"?  Seriously, I think maybe a household with an unmarried woman with 3 children may have evaded the census taker... somehow.

In 1930, my problem is with the information provided - or the lack of.  The closest person I can find that could be my Grandpa James Stanley BELL is one in Joliet, Illinois - listed as James S. Bell, age unknown, birth place unknown, birth place of parents unknown.  This guy didn't even have an occupation.  He was a Lodger listed with William Gladders' family, I don't know of any connection to this man or his family.  I tried to contact someone who had this family in a Rootsweb World Connect Tree, but got no response.  My mom knew that before he married, Grandpa moved around and did odd jobs, but she didn't think he was ever as far from Nebraska as Illinois.  Just how would I go about finding more information about this person with so little to go on?  If he didn't get arrested, I think I'm out of luck!  

What I have found writing this blog is that it gets me doing research on these people again.  I read through my old information again and search for names I haven't in a while.  Maybe something will come up this time!  How badly misspelled do you think Cicero can get?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Book that got me Hooked

June, 1991   Grandma Bell died the week of my wedding.

As Forrest Gump says, "That's all I have to say about that".

My mom and her sister were in charge of cleaning out Grandma's houses - she had 2, one at the farm in southern Hamilton County, Nebraska, one in Aurora.  The house in town was the end of the line of at least 3 generations of the family.  Grandma lived there with her brother Virg McGRATH until his death (1982).  Virg never married and had lived with his parents, Art & Sadie McGRATH until their deaths.  Sadie's parents were Josiah & Sarah NEGLEY, and she had 2 unmarried brothers, William and Cal and one unmarried sister, Alice.  Whatever possessions weren't disposed of at their deaths ended up at Grandma's house.  So there was a lot of stuff in "the old trunk in the attic" (to tell the truth, it was the basement), and with some things, it wasn't clear exactly who the original owner was.

One of the things they found was a book, "The History of the Foster Family", written by D. I. FOSTER in about 1902.  This book can be found online now transcribed in its entirety.  I took the book, made a photocopy, and went through it, made a simple Word document charting out the family members, including all the information he had on each person.  This project grew to include all the descendants of Ruth FOSTER, who is my 3rd great grandma, and then my entire family tree.  Ruth FOSTER married John NEGLEY, their son Josiah Foster NEGLEY and Sarah LEE are the parents of Sadie (NEGLEY) McGRATH.  This document was replaced by family tree software before long.

The book names Arthur FOSTER as father of Basil, but through other researchers, I learned it was Thomas FOSTER and Sarah CROSS who were Basil's parents.  I have him listed as "Arthur or Thomas" in my software, and it is that way in my Rootsweb World Connect Tree.  I see several trees with "Arthur Thomas" and I wonder where they got that.

Arthur or Thomas Foster & family moved from Myrickville, Massachusetts to Prince George's County, Maryland  about 1760.  In the spring of 1778, his son Basil FOSTER was among a group of settlers who moved north to the Woodcock Valley near where Saxton, Pennsylvania is now.  Indian raids sent some of the group back to Maryland for about 7 years, then in 1787, they returned to their fort at the mouth of Shoup's Run.

Basil FOSTER's son Richard Lewis FOSTER married Charity JOHNSTONE in 1793.  This book details the families of their 10 children:  Wealthy, Sarah, Ephriam, Eli, Richard, Lewis, Thomas, Ruth, Josiah and Septimus.

So I think I felt like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life!".  I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to build my family tree.  I wanted to travel to the places my family came from.  I wanted to learn about their experiences.  I wish my daughter and nieces & nephew could have known my Grandparents.  I think maybe my Grandparents felt the same way about me and their Grandparents.

Tell me about the book you found in the old trunk in the attic that got you hooked.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Right Stuff

Back when I had the web pages, I had this idea for a page I wanted to call "The Old Trunk in the Attic".  I never fully developed that idea, apparently because it was ahead of its time.  This is my "Old Trunk in the Attic" web page.

I love STUFF.  STUFF that reminds me of people.  STUFF that someone I know used to have.  3 dimensional STUFF.  My house is full of it.  I can't get rid of the things my Grandpa's made, both of them were pretty good carpenters.  I have a bookcase, unique shelves, toy boxes from Grandpa Bell.  A doll crib, doll swing, doll high chair, rocking horse baby's coat rack and a quilt rack from the Grandpa Menke.  These are the things that "decorate" my 3 bedroom home.  These things I keep OUT of the attic.

I don't believe my house is worthy of an episode of Hoarders.  There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.  It just wouldn't make the cover of Martha Stewart Living.  That's just fine.  I live in a material world, I am a material girl.  Not diamonds or fine art, but STUFF that I consider priceless.  Like Ma Joad, it would bother me to leave anything behind if I had to move.

When my Grandma Bell showed me the marriage certificate of her parents, Art McGrath & Sadie Negley, I was in awe.  It's a beautiful 16 x 20 framed piece of art.  When she said I could have it "if I wanted it", duh, ya, I took it!  My first heirloom from "the old trunk in the attic".

This STUFF and a lot more give a 3 dimensional life to my family history research.  They make it more than just names and dates on a chart.  Even more than the photos of the people, this STUFF gives me an insight into the talents and interests of my family.
Just about anything can be a family heirloom, but keeping your grandmother's dishrag might be taking it a bit too far.  I think what I have is the RIGHT STUFF. 

How do you display what you found in "the old trunk in the attic"?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Cyber History

 I’ve worked on computers since you had to boot them with a floppy.  HAD to get my own PC at home so I could do family history research on the internet.   The thing to do at that time was create your own web pages.  GEOCITIES was the place to be!  NO FTP software required was the life for me!  I picked out my little house on the curvy street in the Heartland neighborhood.  My address was Heartland/Flats/1291.   

I had created pages for census records, photos, and a lot of links to other web pages for genealogy research.  If I connected with someone through a mailing list, I directed them to my pages where they could find the information I had.  There wasn’t much interaction with people through that.  My “Hit” counter didn’t get very high.  Then GeoCities was bought out by Yahoo! and they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
Mailing lists and message boards were the next best way to connect with other people researching the same families.  I “met” some new cousins that way.   Still in contact with a few of them.  Mailing lists and message boards still work with people who haven’t taken the next step…
“Social media”.  I had a MySpace page.  I didn’t do much with that space.  My daughter was coming of the age to getting into these things.  I opened a Facebook account just to find out about that.  I had it for several years before I really started adding friends.  It took off for me when friends from high school added me.  I created a group for our school, which doesn’t exist anymore.  That went over great!  Lots of interaction!  The 9 people I invited grew to over 20 just overnight!  Fast for a small school. 
I don’t know a lot of people personally who like to do family history research.  It’s fun to compare experiences with other researchers, even if it’s only in text.  Facebook is becoming really popular for genealogy groups.  I’m in several.  Works very well to interact with people immediately.   Feedback on questions or ideas is instant.
So now I'll try a blog.  What I know about blogs I learned from “Julie & Julia”.   I have no experience, no journalism education.  I’m not a professional or certified genealogists, just have 20 plus years experience.  I will appreciate it if anyone reads this, and will graciously accept any constructive criticism.   Be kind, I’m a beginner. 

Today, there is a new kind of trunk in the attic.  What do you have in yours?