Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Perfect Genealogy Workshop

Max beneath the tree

I am finally back home with the usual Christmas decoration take down, put away hanging over my head on my list of must dos.  A big thank you to my husband who completed the take down part of this job while I was attending a genealogy workshop.  Many of the decorations are now piled on our dining room table for me to wrap and pack away. I think I can handle this if I listen to a Genealogy Gems podcast while I work. Additionally, the return of wrong size, duplicate, or broken gifts is also on the agenda for this afternoon.  Luckily, these are minimal and, as usual, a result of last minute desperation buying. 

Well, as I mentioned I have been very busy at a local 3 day genealogy workshop. I took the following courses:

    Methods for Hard Drive Organization.
    Antique Photo Identification including Age Progression
    Reverse Genealogy through Correspondence with Living Family Members
    Google Earth for Genealogy - Beginning Map Overlays
    Backing up your Data
    Online Research Sites
    Family Treemaker Software - crashes and how to do a manual uninstall
    Genealogy apps for the iPod Touch

This workshop specifically targeted the organizational deficiencies and haphazard practices of the research oriented genealogist who loves the chase through history, but lacks the will to do the follow-up record keeping.  I'm a bit like the Dr. Who of genealogy so this was a workshop I needed. 

Classes started early - most days about 6:00 a.m.  Coffee was allowed in the comfortable classroom, and there was a break for breakfast between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.  Then the participants, each sitting with their computer in front of them, proceeded with the task assigned, talking and moving from computer to computer, sharing their knowledge and understanding.  Interruptions by outsiders were not tolerated, and they were asked to  participate or . . . . . . . .well, leave.  Breaks for lunch were up to the individual while dinner was a more organized affair.  After dinner, the work conitinued with the first two courses mentioned being the longest and usually going until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m.  The Google Earth for Genealogy - Beginning Map Overlays was a distance learning class taught via computer by Lisa Louise Cooke.

My original intent was to continue the distance learning class on Google Earth , but on the last day, I unexpected decided to sign up for the Family Treemaker Software class instead.  It was a grueling class full of frustrations and problems, but finally, it all came together, however it left little time for the class I had to lead - Online Research Sites.  A quick, brief overview was given of several of my favorite sites and participants practiced using the sites, but a more thorough investigation is needed in the future.  This, of course, means that I will have to be invited back for a Part II course and a continuation of the Google Earth series.

I proclaim the workshop a success!  The price was reasonable - $0.00.  The participants congenial and helpful - my brother and I.  The environment pleasant - my brother's family room and my sister-in-law's comfy chair. The food was delicious - Prime rib leftovers make great sandwiches!

I see another workshop in my future for 2011!  Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Found a Kindred Spirit

A knitting store window taken in Dingle, Ireland

Tonight as I was trying to wade through my Google Reader list of blogs that had accumulated over the holidays, I started to randomly open some of the more enticing ones.  After all I wouldn't want to open them in any orderly fashion and ruin my reputation.  Not all of the blogs I read are genealogy related.  I have a few knitting and food blogs sprinkled in.  Now in the world of knitting blogs, the queen bee is definitely the Yarn Harlot.  I used to read her blog faithfully, but somehow drifted away. . . I don't exactly remember why. I think that sometimes life just sidetracks us, and blog reading was considerably more time consuming before my discovery of Google Reader.  Then this year I set up an iGoogle homepage explained by Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems podcast. . . .and so I discovered the Google Reader gadget.  My love of blogs was reignited. It is my favorite gadget.

Then tonight while I scrolled through the recent posts, I opened the Yarn Harlot and coveted  drooled over admired the fabulous Paul Atwell socks she made as a gift for a very lucky person.  Indeed, the socks were so fabulous, but in an understated way of course, that I had to find out more about the pattern.  This is where I was really blown away.  It linked to a knitting/pattern/family history blog/store fusion called the Family Trunk Project Blog that took my breath away.  Now this is a blog that reaches into my heart.  After all, I come from a long line of women who made a living by their handwork, and, as I said before, it's in my genes.  I can't imagine a life without knitting or sewing, although I think about them a lot more than I actually sew or knit, but just walking into my messy sewing room can slow my breathing and relax the knots in my muscles.  I have great plans for retirement.  For the present, a knitting retreat is on my calendar for February in a stone cabin, on a lake, with a fire in the fireplace, The Big Bang Theory in the DVD player, magic meals prepared by others, and knitting with good friends!  I might have to make the Paul Atwell socks my project.

I invite you to enjoy this blog, and enjoy the spirit of her family as she creates knitting patterns to represent them and their lives.  Be sure and read the payment instructions. There is the traditional money, but there is also an alternate option to exchange your family stories for a pattern instead . . . . .wow!  My family stories are just snippets, or have already been published. If not I would be all over this.  This blog is an inspiration, if you don't knit, you might consider learning and yes, men knit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let Us Not Forget . . .

Let us not forget that the spirit of the upcoming holiday is peace, good will and charity.  What ever your religious persuasion or lack thereof, it is still a universal wish for a kinder world.  I agree that it can get lost in all the commercialism, and my blog has definitely focused on the quirkier side of my family celebrations.  So. . . .

I want to share with you a blog post from the Chicago History Journal about the Good Fellows.  It is easy to feel helpless as "only one person", but it only take the vision of one person to make a difference.

Do something for others no matter how small the effort. Remember many individual grains of sand make a beach.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Artsy Craftsy Christmas Creche

In our house, Christmas was always home made.  It might have been partly out of necessity, but it never felt that way.  In addition to having a sweet tooth, and being a sewing whiz my mother was very artsty craftsy.  Not only did she make all of my clothes, but she made EVERYTHING for our house.  She loved magazines and used many of the ideas she saw in their pages to adapt for our home.  She never seemed comfortable being ordinary or mundane.  As an example, our living room had one wall with a painted plywood false wall about 5"-12" in front with floor to window top arched cut outs in front of the windows and sheer drapes hanging in the arches.  I am sure this idea came from a magazine.  She was a big city girl living in a small town.  Her second husband, Merle and the best stepfather a child could ever have, always went along with her ideas even as he grumbled.  Mother always had to put her own spin on things.

Across the street from our house lived Mamie Schleeter, the mother of Merle's best friend since childhood.  She was like a second mother to him, and her hobby was ceramics. Mamie was exceptionally talented and sold a fair number of her ceramic pieces. So one year Mom and Merle ordered a complete nativity set with gold trim.  Merle was very handy (a much more important trait for a husband than wealthy) and I am sure envisioned making a nice standard wood creche for the figures.  He should have known better.

One day during the late Fall, Gloria and Merle were going for a "drive".  Going for a drive was a ritual in our family, and one that I didn't always appreciate when I was young.  As an adult, my husband and I often go driving around country roads after dinner, and now I love it.  As children we used to claim that Merle knew every gravel road in our county, and we drove along them feeling like the car was on a perpetual rumble strip.  Mother was always on the lookout  for natural items that she could use in one of her hundreds of craft projects.  Driving along mother would just yell stop if she saw something she wanted and then direct Merle to retrieve what she wanted if it was in a particularly difficult spot. Mom supervised.  She (meaning Merle) always gathered items such as bittersweet, cattails, rosehips and rocks for her arrangements and projects.  However, the creche needed a very special setting.  When they arrived home that day, the trunk lid was open indicating it held something so large that it couldn't close.  Mother had discovered a stump with roots on the side of the road, and amazingly, she was able to talk Merle into wrestling it into the trunk.  What a perfect natural setting for their new nativity set!

And so it was.  She cleaned that stump and covered the top of the television with a layer of the roll out cotton snow, arranged the figures in the spaces formed by the roots, and sprayed aerosol snow over the top.  She then fixed an over-sized angel and star at the top surrounded with evergreen boughs which hid the fact that the angel was out of scale. Televisions in those days were big, boxy freestanding pieces of furniture that were the main focus of the room, so it was a perfect location. It could hold the weight of the stump.

This was our nativity setting for many years.  So many, in fact, that my younger brother thought it was a piece of driftwood, because the bark had worn off.  Really??? We lived in central Indiana and never went on vacation.  Where would we get driftwood that large?  The years have passed, and my brother is now the official keeper of the nativity set, but he has the figures in the more traditional setting imagined by Merle originally.

Personal note:  This post was completely written and ready to post when an amazing, some might say providential, event occurred.  I was re-reading the text and adding the photos, when, as I was searching for photos and cropping the new ones sent by my brother, I noticed a curious looking thumbnail.  Could it really be??  I quickly closed the select window so I could open the thumbnail in question to see it more closely.  It was, it really was . . . It was an old fuzzy photo of the original stump on our television!  I shrieked shouted, "O.. M.. G..., I can't believe it!"  My fingers quickly called my brother who was in his garage making this year's gifts.  I asked if he knew about the photo.  No, he didn't remember ever seeing it and neither did I.  This is truly a family memory restored. I love my blog.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Follow Friday. . . Oh Whoops, It's Tuesday

Well, even if it is Tuesday, I can't wait.  I have always intended to include a Follow Friday for The Faces of My Family blog since I first began my own blog.  After all, Lisa was the friendly stranger at a local library genealogy fair who invited me to join the genealogy club at a local church.   Great.  It would be so nice to be around people whose eyes wouldn't glaze over when I said the word genealogy and would laugh at cemetery jokes instead of thinking I was creepy.  The rest of the members of the group were just as friendly as Lisa.  At the first meeting I casually asked her about blogging since she mentioned her blog in our conversation.  She was so supportive and encouraged me to "just go ahead and do it".  She persuaded me and then answered my pestering questioning emails so quickly and with great patience.  When it turned out to be as easy as she said, I was thrilled. She read my blog and left comments to keep me going.  She even listed me in a Follow Friday post on her blog.  She is much more organized than I am.

Now The Faces of My Family has been nominated by Family Tree Magazine as one of the top 40 blogs in the new blog category.  Wow!  I have already voted several times - and by the way that is totally legal.  Not only is her blog a wonderful read, but she is a cemetery superhero.  Read her blog posts here, here, and here.  I have been so amazed by her ability to locate small cemeteries on private lands and bring the final resting place of her ancestors back into the sunshine. But beyond that she is active on Find a Grave and RAOGK.   A dedicated genealogist with a blog that is fun and interesting to read.

I could be subtle, but why.  Vote for The Faces of My Family as one of the top 40 genealogy blogs here.  As I said in the last presidential election:  Vote now, vote often.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas Story

As I mentioned in an earlier post my mother did not particularly enjoy cooking - except for sweets!  I don't have any memories of Christmas cookies.  Oh wait, there was a Christmas or two with Spritz.  I think grandma gave the cookie press to my mother, and a sense of obligation must have overwhelmed her.  Then again, I don't ever remember Grandma making Christmas goodies of any kind.

What I have a vivid memory of my mother making is candy!!  I remember pulling taffy and caramels so buttery that the mention of them can still make my mouth water.  The children had the job of cutting up squares of waxed paper and wrapping each piece individually.  Our reward was, of course, fresh caramels!  Ummmmmmmmmm. . . . . . . .excuse me I drifted off into caramel memory bliss.

But the memory that has become legend in our family is about the peanut brittle.  One Christmas, mom decided to add peanut brittle to her increasing Christmas candy tradition.  I am sure a neighbor gave her the recipe and told her how easy it was, but the exact origins have been lost in time.  She already had the candy making thermometer and other necessary supplies.  Since I worked at the candy counter of the local dimestore during the holidays, it was easy to purchase the raw peanuts.  In those days, the nuts were roasted at the store and then put in a rotating display. Everything went perfectly until it was time to turn it out to cool. The recipes said to turn it out onto a large enamel pan.  The originator of the recipe told mom that she could just turn it out on her stovetop because it had a large flat enamel section in the middle, and that she had done it many times that way.  Now here is where the story becomes murky.  Somewhere in the directions, the step to butter the surface was left out.  Mom, of course, said she was never told she needed to do this.  It looked so perfect as it cooled on the stove, but when she tried to lift it, she discovered it was stuck tight to her stove.  She chipped, chiseled, and pried that peanut brittle in an effort to get it off the stove, digging gouges in the enamel as she tried.  Some of the peanut brittle remained despite her efforts. We had peanut brittle crumbles that year as mom would never throw out candy.  The next year we had an enamel pan, and we buttered it first.  The story is that when she traded in that stove for a newer model, there was still peanut brittle stuck to it in spots!

For those brave souls, I am including her recipe.  Myself, I make cookies.

Peanut Brittle
2 cups sugar
1 cup Karo
1/2 cup water
Boil above ingredients until it threads then  add 2 cups of raw peanuts and 1 tablespoon of butter
Cook until 290 degrees stirring constantly  add 1 teaspoon vanilla
Remove from stove and add 2 teaspoon baking soda
Pour on to greased pan.
Lift sides until cools every once in awhile

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ancestor Approved. . . But Would They Really?

I am speechless very honored to have been awarded the Ancestor Approved by Nolichucky Roots.  While I have seen this on many blogs, I didn't pay close attention to what it was.  Often my blog reading is done through Google Reader, and I miss all of the extraneous awards and links in the side columns.  There are so many good blog writers out there in genealogy land, and Nolichuchy Roots is one of my favorites.  After a bit of investigation and following the link in her blog post - duhhhh - I discovered the following.

Leslie Ann at Ancestors Live Here began the tradition and said. "As a recipient of this award I ask that you list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened you and pass it along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud.

My dilemma is that I don't read ten other blogs that have not received the award already.  This "passing on" will have to wait for a bit.

Now, on to the challenge at hand.  I am such a haphazard genealogist and I think my list will reflect that.

1.  I have a strong Quaker (Society of  Friends) heritage on my father's side of the family and their obituaries confirm that they were not shy in expressing their opinions. - I wondered where I got that trait!

2.  Whenever I start to feel like life is beating me up, I think of the hardships endured by my ancestors as they traveled to a new world, moved their families multiple times to avoid living  in slave states, and watched helplessly as their children died of diseases such as diptheria.

3.  According to an obituary of my g-g-grandfather I am a direct descendant of Charles Carol of Carrollton, a signer of the Declarationm of Independence, and who had a fortune to lose by signing.

4.  I come from a family of strong women and flawed men. 

5.  Headstones can sink so deep that there is no indication they are there.  Always include a metal rod in your cemetery kit. 

6.  When I traveled to Ireland last summer and walked around a replica famine ship, The Dunbrody, I could not comprehend taking a family on such a voyage in such conditions.  They were allowed on deck only 30 minutes each day to build a fire to cook their bread and dispose of waste.  If it rained, they had to eat the dough raw.  I get shivers as I write about it.

7.  My g-g-grandfather, Isaac Walker, enlisted in Company D, 8th Kansas infantry with his oldest son and when this son contracted measles and died at Iowa point, he borrowed a wagon and horse to take his body home for burial.  After a long journey, he stopped short of his destination, exhausted and sorrowful.  A message was sent to his home by a local settler and his youngest son, my g-grandfather traveled with an ox team to meet him.  Together they brought the body back to Frankfort.  Isaac then returned to his regiment until a caisson ran over his leg and broke his ankle.  He suffered with this his entire life.  He enlisted because he was a staunch believer in the evil of slavery. He acted on his beliefs. His wife plowed the fields and kept the farm going while he was gone.  This makes me proud.

8.  Isaac Walker took two boys when the Orphan Train came through Kansas.  I wish I knew they were treated well, but I haven't been able to discover any information.  I am confused by this information.  It shows that people and relationships are complicated  - then and now. 

9. Lots of the women in my family, sewed for a living. My g-grandmother Mae Allen Moldt owned a dressmaking shop during a time when women did not work if they were married.  She always was a modern lady.  My g-grandmother Mary McDonnell Kennelly was a personal seamstress for Mrs. Potter Palmer in Chicago.  My paternal grandmother, Gertrude McCoy, was a milliner back in the day when every respectable woman wore a hat, and it didn't ruin you hairstyle if you did.  My mother, Gloria Kennelly Perry, sewed every garment I ever wore except underwear and swimsuits.  She was always on the cutting edge of fashion.  My passion for sewing must have a genetic link.  I'm sure it will be acknowledged by scientists any day now.

10. I am more Irish than I realized and my American roots go farther back than I ever imagined.