Monday, March 28, 2011

Some Women On My Tree

As genealogists we encounter many females in our lineages. There are the usual Marys, Sarahs, Anns, and occasionally an odd-ball name such as Submit. It is sad when they have no surname. Taxing all of our knowledge and patience, we try to find a document that identifies them. Maybe a probate file naming her as the daughter of so and so. Maybe a baptismal record naming her parents.

Identified women on my pedigree chart are fascinating. They are attached to a husband, but hopefully they never lost their true identity. They seem to cry out that their stories be told. For some it is easy and for others it is not. If you have stories about your female ancestors, be sure they are written down and passed down.

It is difficult to determine which females in my family touched my life the most. Many stood out as important people. I hope when I have passed that my legend and story will be told and have an impact on my descendants.

Three women who have counted in my life ...

My maternal grandmother was Nanne Jane Lewis Horne (Granny) born in 1889 in North Carolina. I visited my grandparents in their log cabin nestled in the mountains of northeast Tennessee when I was three years old. It was nine years before I saw them again, but yet there was a bond and family tie when I walked into their cabin. Granny married Samuel Stephen Horne (Grandpa Steve) in 1909. Why was she so special? She was a story-teller. When I became interested in genealogy she told me stories which I had to sort through to determine fact from fiction. Granny was a bit taller than Grandpa. Sometimes she towered over him in opinion also. I am told that when he wanted to join the CCC she refused, stood her ground, saying she was a Republican and they would eat turtle before he joined the CCC. When I turned 21 she encouraged me to vote and according to her the best vote would be cast for a Republican. Voting was a big thing for her ... a privilege she had earned and deserved as a woman. I have her butter churn, quilt and the letter she wrote telling me I should vote.

Granny's sister, Aunt Bertha Lewis Mahala, never had children. She was ten years younger than Granny and a teacher. Aunt Bertha was also the keeper of the records. It was the Lewis Family Genealogy Record. She was responsible for the Lewis reunions, staying in touch with family as well as delving into documents for family clues. She was a great influence in my life. Having graduated from Appalachian State College in Boone, North Carolina she had high hopes I would come live with her and attend school there, becoming a teacher. Instead I became a genealogist.

My late husband's great grandmother was a fascinating woman. She inspired me that women can do anything they set their mind and heart to do. Martha Anne Watts was born in 1875 in Missouri. She married and divorced, all within a span of about three years. Two marriages later she married William Henry Zehrung in Box Butte Co., Nebraska. He had three, motherless children. Will and Anne had three children of their own before divorcing. She left with the children in the middle of the night on a train bound for Denver, Colorado. Fending on her own, at times almost destitute, Grandma eventually stood proud and tall as the founder of a hospital in Denver. It was the precursor of a rest home. She was an inventor, nurse and business woman. Another marriage later changed her name to Coulter and ended in divorce. Newspaper accounts portray her as a gutsy woman when she was thrown in jail by the mayor of Denver. Grandma became very wealthy, but eventually lost her money through the unworthy schemes of her son. She died a pauper in the hospital she founded. Even so, she was an opinionated woman who had determination along with strength to do as she pleased.

Many more women are at the top of my list of interesting female ancestors. How many do you have? Have you told their story?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Today's Genealogist

Can you do genealogical research without turning on a computer? Yes, to some extent. If you wish to research in slow motion as we did BC (Before Computers), then be my guest.

There are times we do need to slow down and do brain exercising genealogical research. If you have never learned to evaluate evidence and develop research plans, these are not just for the experts. Start looking at your research problem and review the information you have found.

It is not totally necessary to read blogs, tweets on Twitter or post and read on Facebook. However, some of the best leads and information comes through these social networking channels. At some point you do have to stop reading and begin applying.

The extent of genealogy databases on Internet is phenomenal. The development of these databases is surging and swelling on a day to day basis. But why not? We need them and we ask for them. Miss one day and you have to play catch up. About a month ago I checked FamilySearch for a marriage or any helpful information in Ohio that would give me the name of Grandma Mary Maria's first husband. Nothing appeared to be there, but just the other day by doing various types of searches, even narrowing my needs down to a certain county in Ohio, I discovered his name. Actually I went in the back door in Iowa records, but all on FamilySearch.

While living in Iowa, I soon discovered the benefit of mud rooms. Nobody in rural Iowa comes to the front door except FedEx and UPS. People come for visits and to bring garden goodies through the back door into the mud room. But sometimes we forget to go in the back door with our research. Searching should not always be direct, but by exploring all options.

I was able to find Grandma Mary Maria's first husband named on their daughter's death certificate in Iowa. I had checked one reel of microfilm in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City several years ago. The daughter's parents were not named. Venturing no further, I waited (not patiently). With all the indexing of records and accessibility on Internet, I was able to locate the information on another Iowa film that I had not checked at the library. Quick, easy, but it took some thought and patience until the information popped up on my computer.

The genealogy world is praising the wonderful new genealogy search engine Mocavo. It is introduced to us as the world's largest free genealogy search engine with new sites being added daily. How do you maneuver around Internet if you don't have these powerful tools known as search engines? Mocavo is not going to replace Google, but by using both of them, we are better equipped to find information. However, don't forget to go in the back door.

Have we lost our thought process and patience because of Internet? We can turn those cyber experiences into positive thought processes. Learn by doing. Explore all possibilities. Think it out, write it out, but by all means do the research. If it takes you five minutes to find the information, you are a whiz. If it takes you ten hours to find the information, you are still a whiz because it would have taken you one year before we had computers.

Photo: Grandma Mary Maria's daughter, Ann Jane Williams Spencer 1841-1907

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Web, Wikis and Webinars

If you are seeing the letter "w", you are not alone. Genealogists today have web, wikis and webinars on the mind. Talk and blogging is continually about these "w" items. But why not ... we are a web-oriented group of people.

Some of my blogging colleagues have written about WikiTree. I am going to give you my thoughts about it. Give it a try and see what you think.

WikiTree was started in 2008 as a free and collaborative project. Whatever is on there is edited and owned by the contributor. You can register as private or public, share what you wish with groups of people or individuals, then jump right in and download a GEDCOM. Of course, the ultimate goal is to have somebody contact you about an elusive ancestors you have posted on on WikiTree. As you locate information, you can make contact or download a GEDCOM file.

Upon opening WikiTree it is somewhat frightening to see all the names. They represent 1,066,644 profiles submitted by 24,430 people or WikiTreers. Rather than clicking on a group of surnames, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Help." There you will be able to read all the pertinent information on how to create your own profile and links, add information, delete information and search for information.

Once you either create or search a profile, be sure to check for photos and the family tree. Also available is a public bulletin board for messages. Give it a try and start sharing on WikiTree.

Webinars are popping up on our computers by the week and month. They are hosted in a variety of places which makes it difficult to figure out what is being broadcast by the day or week. Attendees have to register to attend a webinar. Some are free and some are not. While many have been archived, it is still fun to listen to them as they happen and also dialog during the presentation.

The blog GeneaWebinars will keep you posted on what is happening in the world of genealogy webinars. At the bottom of the blog is an interacting calendar of webinars by day, time and topic. You can click and obtain more information and register.

These are wonderful ways to expand your genealogy knowledge without leaving home. Once you get started with wikis and webinars, I am sure you will be hooked.

Monday, March 7, 2011

WPA to the Rescue

In 1929 when the Great Depression hit the United States, millions of people lost their jobs. The fallen economy led to President Roosevelt introducing "The New Deal" in 1933. The programs were designed to put people to work and get the economy moving in an upward direction.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was one of the programs. Besides building and improving upon America's infrastructure, there was also funding for arts, history and culture. In 1935 with about $4.88 billion dollars, the WPA began employing Americans. They spent approximately $11 billion and employed 8.5 million Americans. Workers earned anywhere from $15 to $90 per month. In 1939 it was renamed Works Projects Administration. They funded the Historical Records Survey (HRS) whose workers documented resources for research into American history. They created soundex for federal census which many of us have used, especially before the digitals and images on Internet.

The Historical Records Survey also compiled indexes of vital records, internments, school records, maps, military records, newspapers and more. Much of the work for the Historical Records Survey was done for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), state historical societies and state archives. The work done in this project is still in the possession of many of the original repositories. Most of the records have been microfilmed and indexed. In some cases the originals are still stored in boxes, untouched while others have been destroyed. The WPA ended on 30 June 1943.

There are many WPA cemetery record surveys on Internet. Keep in mind when using these records that burials after the time period of the WPA will not appear on the list.

Access Genealogy has a WPA Cemetery Database consisting of 17,744 records. The details contain information on where the person is buried, date of death, surname and given name. The South Dakota State Historical Society has a Cemetery Record Search web site that contains the WPA Cemetery Project information (pre-1940s) plus any updates their office has received.

There are original WPA Grave Registrations for Iowa on Be sure to look at the list of counties that are contained in this database.

Several counties have WPA Grave Registration records on Internet. An example is the Somerset Co., Pennsylvania WPA Cemetery Transcriptions. You can search by last name, township or see digitals of the actual images.

Not everything has been indexed or in digital format on Internet. Reels of microfilm can still be found in state libraries, historical societies or archives. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has film of WPA Grave Registration records. You should also Google for results of the WPA Cemetery projects or check out specific states and counties at the USGenWeb project.
These records are beneficial when you are trying to locate information that is no longer readable on a tombstone. It may have been in good condition when canvassed by a WPA worker. Missing stones may have been there in the 1930s and 1940s.

Description of photo: Historical Records Survey workers inventorying and surveying records in the sub-cellar below river level in New York City.