Monday, August 23, 2010

Sleepless in Salem

Sleeping fitfully, images flashed in and out of my mind like "olde tyme" movies on a screen.  Dialogue, real and imagined, punctuated my rest.
Who were these people?  Strangers to me, yes, but relatives just the same.  What a stern looking bunch this group was!  Did they have any fun?  What a contrast to the other half of the family - my mothers line still waiting to be entered into its place in my little but ever growing collection. 
What have I left out?  Most data is coming from census records, birth certificates, obituaries and baptismal/confirmation records - not unusual sources.  In fact, the most typical sources of information for a genealogist.  Some, the best, from a second cousin I located off a message board on the internet some years ago.  Strange that I got to meet and correspond with a first cousin of my fathers whom he had never met and probably had no knowledge of.  Victim of a family littered with cut-offs and disconnects, her grandfather and mine had "fallen out" of touch as they did with their third brother.  Some one hundred years later, their grandchildren, drawn by whatever yearning they had to search for family, became connected once again.  Females this time and less prone to the sort of falling outs that characterize competitive brothers, the three of us exchanged what little we knew of our own grandfathers and compared notes on what we had head about the others.  This association, while loosely formed, proved timely as one of the three, Joanie, "Fritzs" grandchild, passed away soon after.  It was an honor to have gotten to know what little I did about her.  A very private woman, she called frequently and talked for long periods of time from her home in Chicago, Illinois.  We had made tentative plans to meet but were never able to finalize them.  Ever thankful for having found her, I'll ever regret not having pushed harder to meet in person.  Time wasted and an opportunity lost.

Happily, another second cousin, Barbara, (seen above with her husband, Don, me and my mother, Elly) is an excellent correspondant and an experienced genealogist, volunteering her expertise to the LDS church near her home in Ridgetown, Ontario.  She has been an enormous help and support to me and I am truly grateful to her.  She and her husband visited me in Wilson several years ago and brought boxes of photographs I had never seen before.  Spread out on my dining room table, they looked like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, just waiting to be put together.
Even my mom was impressed by this collection of photos and information with details she never knew.
My dad, having died some years before, had never known this, his charming second cousin nor her mother, his first cousin. What fun they might have had together.  Perhaps there might have been some photographs of smiling faces to link to these somber countenances.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

Posted a letter this morning to Osterhout Free Library.  While googling my grandmother last night, I found that her obituary might be available in their records.  I'd never have guessed.  Osterhout is in Pennsylvania but she died in Detroit, Michigan.  I'm thinking now that she may have been buried in Pennsylvania.  She was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre.  She is listed in the 1900 and the 1910 census there.  I've been unable to find an obituary in Detroit records.  Since she met my grandfather in Wilkes-Barre, I requested that they look for a marriage announcement as well. 

My grandmother, Mary, is listed in the 1910 census as a "fore lady" in a Lace Factory in Wilkes-Barre.  She was 22 years old at the time.  I assume that "fore lady" would be like a "fore man"....her younger brother, Robert, worked as an apprentice there.  Interestingly enough, she had another younger brother named Henry.  Years later, she named her second son (my father) Robert Henry.  Not to hard to figure out where she got the name from.

                          ( Photo of home in Wilkes Barre circa 1900's taken from Wikipedia )

I never knew my grandmother.  My father didn't know her well either.  She died of tuberculosis at the age of 48 when he was in his mid teens.  She had been divorced and was raising her two sons alone in a city far from her home.
I'm hoping that finding her obituary will lead me to other surviving siblings perhaps.  I have no photographs of Mary.  I hope to locate someone who may be able to provide me with one.  Right now, her appearance exists only in my imagination.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stacks and Stacks of Photos

I wonder if I'll ever live long enough to go thru all the photographs I've collected over the years.
Today, I went into the storage room and tried to locate pictures of my dad, his parents, my mom, and her parents. 
A word of advice to any that read this....write (with pencil) on the back of every photograph that you think is important, the name of the people and the location and most importantly, the year the photo was taken.
How frustrating to have a lovely sepia toned picture of a loved one but not really know which loved one it is.
Thankfully, I am able to figure most of the old photos out but I've not been good about marking the photos that I've taken.
There are stacks and stacks, boxes and boxes, envelopes and envelopes of photographs - all in no particular order.  The old ones I took out of my mothers house after she died but the newer ones, mostly taken since having my children in 1976, are all over.  In the early years, I was good about labeling and putting them into albums but as the years progressed, I just stashed them into boxes thinking I'd get to them one day.
Well, that day is now and it is not a pretty picture to say the least. 
It is hard to know what to do with them now.  Todays technology enables one to scan them onto a computer but what for, who for?  Who is going to look at them?  Who is going to keep the albums?  Do the children want them?  Do they need all these photographs?  Should I divide them up?  How should I do that?  Do I put all the photos of one child into a box for him and all the photos of the other child into a box for him?
What about photos where both children are in the same photo - who should get that one?  Why am I agonizing over this?  Does anyone care?
What I have decided to do is to compile photos of ancestors, organize them (how to do that is another matter) and make them into a book.  If no one wants them, at least I will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have been carefully collected, compiled and printed.  If nothing else, it is fun and intriguing to compare "now" photos with "then" photos and note the facial and body language similarities between the generations...features that have been passed down and carried on in subsequent generations.  And we think we have nothing in common with those folks! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

How Did I Get Here?

A blog....who would have thought I would start a blog?  How did this happen? 
How did this start? 
I am an amateur genealogist embarking on a project to leave a record of family history for my children.
I've been working on the data for several years (this is not a "couple of weeks" project), have recently begun adding photographs and had intent to complete it by Christmas of 2010 (this year).

I attended a book club meeting today and the leader was excited about having sent an email to the author.  She was surprised that the author responded within minutes.  At home tonight and working on my own book club presentation, I had the idea to email the author of my book.  Why?  One of his characters had the very same name as many of the women in my husbands family.  It occured to me that it was possible that his character (non-fiction) and our family could have had a connection.  I wondered how much genealogical research he had done on this womans line.  Could there be a connection?  Could we uncover it?

He responded within hours.  He did not know of a connection but was able to put me in touch with a group that specializes in recording data on this particular surname family.  I went to the website and was amazed at the information there. 

When you think you are at a dead end doing your research, something new presents itself!  I hadn't been researching this branch for some time but reading my book club selection renewed my interest in this part of the family line. 

What is my point?  I guess it is just that you never know what will catch your eye or peak your interest.
Attending a book club led to an idea which led to a contact which led to a connection that will help me in my research. 

Guess I'll just see where it goes from here.