Friday, July 29, 2011

Opinions Solicited on FGS Conference

I have been weighing the pros and cons of attending the FGS convention in Springfield, IL, Sept 7-10 and would appreciate your wisdom in this regard.

Even if I get no opinions, I am hoping that by writing it down, I will be better able to decide what would be best for me.

Here are the facts:
 * I have asked my local genealogy group if anyone was interested in attending and sharing expenses.  No one has replied.
* Springfield is a five hour drive, and I would be driving by myself most probably.  Cost of gas will be about $80.
* I investigated taking the train just because it sounded like a great adventure, but the train was very full and the time would be several hours longer. It still sounds like fun!
* I am only willing to take 1-2 days off work (I am a teacher) so that means I would be there Friday and Saturday if I leave right after school on Thurs.
* I have missed the deadline to get a better rate and also to get a discount for volunteering which as a single attendee was very appealing.
* Unless you attend the entire convention, single days are $99 each so $198 ( the entire convention is $235).  I have considered attending the lectures for only one day and then going to the vendor mall on the other reducing my cost by $99.  Can you attend a luncheon on a day you are not registered ( such as my vendor mall day) because that really appeals to me, but not if I only have one day?
* Hotel rooms for two nights are approx. $116 each night, and I assume tax on top of that. I wrote to the designated person who is working with individuals who want a roommate, but have not heard anything yet.  Maybe the fact that I told her I snore (so I am told) has something to do with that.  Besides, I only will need Thursday and Friday nights.
*  Food - I have no idea how to estimate this but I am sure it won't come cheap.  How in the world did our ancestors pack food to take on a 4-6 week journey to the United States?

As you can see, the costs have mounted and nothing yet adds to my family history research.  Why then do I want to go?

*  I have many ancestors from Illinois, but predominantly from the Chicago area.  Will this still be a benefit?
* I have attended local genealogy days at the library and enjoyed it tremendously.  This should be that experience on steroids.  I have found a number of  lectures that sound interesting.
*  Are the military records for Spanish American War veterans here or at NARA? Records at the Illinois State Archives would be available.  I think the muster in and out records are there. 
*  There are many vendors that I want to see and talk to - Newberry Library, Illinois State Genealogical Society, Roots Magic, NARA, Flip Pal, etc.  Spending a day in the vendor mall will be easy.
*  If I like this shortened experience, then I would feel more comfortable planning to attend a full conference such as NGS in Cincinnati next May which is also about five hours from my home.
* I am sure that there are more but this will have to do for now.

If you are going, I would like to know how you decided.  Do you attend conferences often?  What am I missing in my considerations????

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Married a Swede

If I told you that I married a man who is 100% Swedish, it wouldn't seem unusual.  But, his ancestors on both his mother's and father's side immigrated in the 1880's.   For four generations here in the United States they married Swedes.  As a girl who is a bit of this, a bit of that and a whole lot of Irish, it seems so improbable that he can still have 100% Swedish ancestry.

For the past year I have been trying to interest him in researching the family history for his side of the family.  Then, this past week we took a short road trip to visit his cousin. In conversations with Mary she told us about some family documents and photos that she had relating to the family so we decided to travel 8 hours to visit with her and hopefully she would interest him in his family history.  At any rate, we would have some information to pass on to our children before we lost contact with the relatives.

From our visit, I would like to share the photos of my husband's great grandparents, Gustof Erickson and the girl he married, Elida Person.  Gust and Elida were the parents of seven children,  Selma, Alex, Ida, John, Beulah, Hilma, and Gladys.

Gust was electrocuted at the Pullman car Factory in 1914 and Elida had to go court to get compensation.  After it was all over, and the attorney was paid, she had $3500.

Mary also shared the naturalization papers for Gust.

Click to enlarge and see detail.

My husband is still only marginally interested, but my daughter has been reading over my shoulder as I write, asking questions and my nephew responded with interest  when I wrote to ask if he wanted to see what we found.  His response:  Awesome!
So even if it isn't through my children, I love the thought that the family history will go down another generation.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Gift From My Ancestors

 During the process of trying to decide how I wanted to approach this post, I changed the title several times, typed a few sentences, erased them, wrote a few more, paused, and closed blogger coming back again a few more times. What was it that I truly wanted to write?  Then, as usually happens, a idea just arrived in my brain unannounced while I was thinking about a completely different subject. And as often happens, I was not able to write down my thoughts at the time (driving) so I am now trying to reconstruct those thoughts.

Every genealogist or family historian that I know or whose blog I ever read has mentioned with deep emotion this gift they received from their ancestors. It is commonly mentioned in blog posts and conversations.  It is the gift of appreciation and gratitude for the world we now live in because we know the difficulties many of our ancestors endured.  I think of the many times they lost everything and started over.  I think of their long days of endless back breaking work when the word vacation or weekend wasn't in their dictionary.  I think of them gathering their families and stepping into unknown lands.  I think of the women who had few options but many children. And as a mother it is those children that bring me to the thing that I appreciate the most and do not take for granted. . . modern medical care.  They had large families but expected they would lose several children.  Many men outlived their first wives, sometimes their second . . . and even their third.  Childbirth was often the culprit.

But the deaths of so many children seems so oppressively unbearable to me.  And while the epidemics, illness  and accidents that took so many of them might have been expected to pass their way, the loss must have been just as unbearable for their families when it did happen.  Every family historian can list pages of children who died. Often from illness or diseases that rarely bother us today.  My great grandfather was one of seven children but only two made it adulthood.

Baby  June was one of those beloved children. Agnes June McDonnell was the youngest child of Owen Jerome and Nettie (Elizabeth Burnett) McDonnell.  As the youngest, I am sure she was pampered and indulged by her older sisters and teased by her brothers. The emotion of her death could still be hear in the voice of her older sister, Georgia, when I had a brief conversation with her less than a year ago . . . and Georgia is now 92.  She was remembering family members and smiling as she told me that my mother was a "biter". "Of course," her voice became low and soft, and her head tilted down toward her lap, "there was Baby June. She. . . she died when she was quite young." Georgia was only two years older than June so she has a child's memory of it, but the emotion of it still remained. The newspaper article says it all.


Definite warning is issued to parents and physicians of the city by the health officer who within the past 24 hours has found two cases of diphtheria in a type so malignant as to cause death quickly.  The state is threatened with and an epidemic of the same virulent disease, is the word from other localities and it behooves every one in the vicinity to carefully safeguard the child life over which they have surveillance.
  The official notice follows:
"To the Physicians and General Public:
  "Last evening I saw a child at 407 Commercial street, Lyons, who had died during the afternoon under circumstances which made the attending physician suspect that the child might have had diphtheria.  I cultured the nose and throat of the dead child and the nose and throat of all the other member of the family.  The laboratory reports show diphtheria bacilli present in the culture from the dead child and from others in the family. This case was reported as not having had any membrane in the throat.  The child was ill about two days but seriously ill only a few hours before death."
  "This morning I saw a case at 417 Commercial street, child aged five who was dying at the time I first saw it and had membrane on both tonsils.  This child died within and hour after it was reported.
  "The strain of infection these cases is evidently of unusual virulence and I feel that both the physicians and the parents should be extra cautious in determining the nature of illness in children, sick.
  "In this connection I wish also to call your attention to the fact that scarlet fever is present in Lyons in a form more severe that usual.  Some of these scarlet fever cases present a very extensive tonsilar membrane which in the absence of a scarlet fever rash might be mistaken for diphtheria.  Cultures show, diphtheria bacilli uniformly negative.  In the more severe type I am using the recently perfected scarlet fever antitoxine and have had the Campbell Drug Co. stock a supply of it for general use. Some of the scarlet fever cases with membrane resemble diphtheria and some of the diphtheria cases have a toxic rash and resemble scarlet fever.  I feel on account of the care and skill manifested by the physicians in past epidemics that we will be able to put down this infection promptly, but I also feel that extra precautions should be taken in arriving at a diagnosis.
                             H.R. SUGG
                             Health Officer
   No criticism is attached to the attending physicians in either case above mentioned.  Both cases were seen by regular practitioners who found that they were called too late to do any good in their efforts to save the lives of the children.

Agnes June McDonnell obituary. Died 15 Sept 1925

Did any other children in the town or area die from this virulent strain of diphtheria or did this health officer's warning prevent it?  What three other members of the family tested positive?  Was Georgia one of them?  Did they also become ill, and what was the treatment that enabled them to survive?  Did they survive because Baby June's death allowed them to receive treatment in time? One thing is sure, that as the family was dealing with the sudden death of one child they were also trying to save others.

According to WikepediaIn the 1920s there were an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 cases of diphtheria per year in the United States, causing 13,000 to 15,000 deaths per year.

Baby June died  just as a vaccine for diphtheria was being developed.

We all have our moments and complain when life is not as perfect as we would like it to be, but genealogists and family historians have received a gift from their ancestors - appreciation for the lives we have and the medical advances that allow more of us to live those lives.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Library Book Sale

Purchased at the Saint Joseph County Public Library book sale this week.  Cost - $1.00.  Date - 1994
Even with the date, I think there is one dollar's worth of information here. 
Love the library book sale.  Check out the sales in your area.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Stroll Through Chipping Warden

About mid afternoon our stomachs reminded us that it had been over six hours since breakfast.  Sadly, it was time to leave the church and cemetery.  Sad for me because I was just sure I must have overlooked something, and if  I would only go over it again, I would find more.  My granddaughter, although a good sport, was definitely ready to go.  Hunger is a primary motivator for a teenager.

I knew there was a pub across the street from the bus stop as we came into town, The Rose and Crown.  Barbara had confirmed that they did indeed serve food, but when we walked up to the door, the sign advertised that they did not serve food on Monday. The pub operator and two patrons who didn't mind that there was no food, directed us around the corner and down the street to the other pub in this hamlet of 500+. . . The Griffin.  We walked to the end of the block, and I almost joined my ancestors when I looked the wrong way to check for traffic and stepped into the street thinking it was clear.  Lesson learned.

We easily found The Griffin and walked inside only to find it empty.  "Hello?"  Out from the back came a friendly and profusely tattooed young man.  I asked if we could still get lunch.  A slight hesitation and then, "Sure, sure.  Sit anywhere you like."  After my granddaughter was sure we were going to get food, she relaxed.  The entire place was picture perfect.  We ordered a Chicken and cheese sandwich with "chips" and I wandered around taking photos - after all I wouldn't disturb anyone.  After our lunch arrived I asked the young man how old the building was since I had noticed the thickness of the walls at the windows. He wasn't sure, but he would check with the chef.  Right. . . "It wasn't too old," he said ". . . about 200 years." 

We left The Griffin, and I took an outside photo as we left as well as the gorgeous flowers that were in front of each house.  While I know Chipping Warden is not the Cotswolds, it has that same charming, old fashioned, totally English feel to it.  And, of course, those magnificent thatched roofs!!!

I had one more sight to see before we left.  James Bush Allen's younger sister Eliza was listed in the 1851 as a school mistress living on School House Lane.  When I inquired, Barbara told me that the school was still there and that the back of it could be seen from the cemetery, but if I went down a lane across from the Rose & Crown, I could see the front.  Naturally, I had to do that.

Back side of the schoolhouse as seen from the cemetery

The front of the schoolhouse at the end of the lane.       
I called for our taxi from the Rose & Crown then we waited outside hoping the rain would hold off until we were safely inside our ride.  We felt a few sprinkles and moved across the street to the bus shelter.  

As I sat in the train traveling back to London, my mind was swirling.  I reviewed the photos I had taken zooming in to see how much detail I had been able to get.  My granddaughter had a different reaction.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"I Found One!"

The back of St. Peter & St. Paul church through the cemetery

When last I posted, my granddaughter had just yelled to me, "I found one."  She had taken my list of ancestor names outside to begin looking around the cemetery surrounding the St. Peter and St. Paul church in Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire. Teenagers are so impatient and she was ready to move around a bit.  It was a lovely day - warm and a bit overcast which kept the temperature bearable.  If my photos seems a bit drab, blame the lack of sun.

I hurried my goodbyes to Barbara and ran to join her.  There, just a short way from the door she stood pointing at a large headstone.  It was the headstone of Samuel Allen, the youngest brother of James Bush Allen (sr.), his wife and
a daughter.  Wow, we had just started and to find one so soon was thrilling.

Click on photo to enlarge

 The headstone reads:

In Affection and Remembrance
Samuel Allen
who died March 31st, 1910
Aged 87 years
Also of Ann Mary daughter of
Samuel and Susanna Allen
who died Feb. 2nd 1894
Aged 16 years
Susanna wife of 
Samuel Allen
who died Jan 22nd 1885
Aged 47 years
Loved ones are gone before
? ? ? days are done
Soon shall ? the ? shore
where partings are ?

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions for the question mark words.

I was just sure that his parents must be close by, and they may have been, but this is the headstone next to Samuel and Susanna's.  It is for the wife of James or Thomas somebody.  Despite the fact that it was a living church with a caretaker to mow the still in use cemetery - there had been a burial just that morning and the caretaker was mowing as we searched - many of the graves were in disrepair. Complete sections of the cemetery were simply no longer mowed giving the vegetation free rein.  Time had worn away many of the names and even though I sat on the ground with my face inches from the headstones, picking at the moss and crud that held tight, I could not make out names or dates.  I cannot fault the church.  They are struggling to remain a congregation with all of the associated costs.  Cleaning and straightening headstones that are hundreds of years old is not a priority. They were kind and generous to me telling me to just pull off some of the stuff if I needed to - easier said than done!

Kitley - click to enlarge

The following photos give you a feel for my task.

I did find a couple of Kitley graves and since the town in Canada where Anna Lyman, the wife of James Bush Allen, (sr.) lived was Kitley, I assumed a connection even if it wasn't family. 

Yes that is the top of a headstone, but it looked like the information had worn away so not worth wading through the brambles which had already cut my hands and legs to shreds.  I don't know if  there were lower headstones that were not visible.  There was a good size section near the back that was no longer mowed.

These graves were left hidden by the vegetation and mowed around.

Most were just so worn that you did not know who's life they represented.

We were able to find a couple of Lines graves. I understand that there might be a Lines ancestor so I photographed them.  In a previous post, I mentioned that James' brother John traveled to Canada in the company of Nathan Lines.  And, after all, when was I ever going to get back to Chipping Warden?

 John Lines - died 1868
Thomas Lines - died 1868, 75 yrs of age

So it seems that my granddaughter's shout of "I found one" would summarize our cemetery hunt, but success is not about a count just like family history is not about the number of ancestors in your tree. I treasure each person I find and this day I found three.  I always have the sensation as if I am reaching through time and pulling them toward me. 
Elizabeth Gyrman - Click to enlarge
 I took a number of photos of older headstones that were still legible and checked to see if this cemetery was listed on Find A Grave.  It was not. So I will try, despite bad experiences in the past, to publish those graves for others who may be looking and cannot have the fantastic experience I had of being there. . .  graves such as the one above for Elizabeth Gyrman who died in 1696.
Tomorrow . . .  the town of Chipping Warden as it is today.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Visit to Chipping Warden

Welcome.  Come inside and I will tell you about my journey to Chipping Warden, a hamlet located barely inside the Northamptonshire boundaries.  It is a town with kind people, houses topped with thatched roofs, two charming pubs (but only one serves food on Mondays), a Norman church, and a bus that speeds through at quarter of the hour.  According to Wikepedia, the Domesday Book records that in 1086 the manor of Chipping Warden was the caput of the estates of Guy de Raimbeaucourt, a baron from  Raimbeaucourt in northern France. The Norman architectural elements of the parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul suggest that it may date from about 1200 with the stained glass above the altar added later . . .  about 1300.

I have now returned from my grand trip with my teenage granddaughter. I am still shaking the cobwebs from my head, but thankfully my jet lag is not as severe as it was when I arrived in London.  A bit of information for those who might not know, chips are french fries, crisps are chips, and a third floor room is really on the fourth floor.  The last being the most important.

As planned, I spent one day traveling to the small hamlet of Chipping Warden to visit the town where my g-g-g-grandfather, James Bush Allen was born and baptized, where his parents were married and his youngest brother Samuel is buried.  This journey required us to use the London Underground, a train, and finally a taxi. We gave up on using a bus when we couldn't figure out where to purchase a ticket and observed the numerous small towns that were stops on the route to Chipping Warden.  So after a walk to the bus station, we returned to the train station and opted for the taxi driver who had estimated the ride would cost £12.  It turned out to be £15. . . but what is a mere £3 to a dedicated genealogist?  

  After my arrival in London, I contacted the church warden, Barbara, and we arranged to meet at the church late Monday morning. Barbara is a lovely lady whose family lived in the area for generations. She asked the family names I was researching and told me that she would see if they had any records for my ancestors at the church. This was so exciting.  When we arrived with true British hospitality we were offered tea or coffee upon our entrance. Because they had a funeral earlier that morning , Barbara had two other church members still at the church with her.  I was immediately struck by the simple grandeur of the old stone church.  There is such a difference between a living church and one that is merely a tourist destination.  

Notice the leper slit behind the pew.
 We talked about the history of  the town, and she explained how the  local people lived years ago. They were mostly farmers working the land of the local  aristocrat.  She told us how her mother had gone into service at the Manor House when she was only twelve and of the skimpy Christmas gift of  beef given to all the families who worked for the land owner. Life was very hard.  She pointed to a slit in the wall behind where we sat.  It was here that communion was placed for the lepers who lived outside of  town. If she told me any dates or more information, I didn't hear her.  My mind was looking at that slit and thinking of the outcast people who had used it, never giving up their faith.  Now my eyes swept over the church pausing at the magnificent stained glass window behind the altar then from window to window and back to the pews.  As Barbara pointed to the Norman arches that were original to the church in 1200 and the mention of Chipping Warden in the Domesday Book, I blinked.  I had no idea it was that old. She then opened the book of records that still remained at the church, but my heart sank when I realized that they only went back to the 1940's.  She said that all of the earlier church records had been taken to the Northampton Record office.  Oh well. . .  I still had hopes for the cemetery that surrounded the church.

  I am now going to flood you with images of the church.
Looking away from the altar toward the back of the church

The altar and choir pews facing each other

The side exit to the cemetery surrounding the church
As I was thanking Barbara for taking time to talk to us and share information about the church, I heard my granddaughter shout from outside, "I found one". I quickly finished my goodbyes and ran a short distance outside the door above. . .tomorrow the cemetery.