Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Favorite Resource

Like most of my blog posts, I start with an idea, often a generalized idea that has been simmering on the back burner waiting for just a bit more inspiration to kick it out of  my brain and onto the computer screen.  A few just burst out, but very few. Today's post has been started several times, before but it always sounded so . . .so . .so mechanical.  I'd like to tell you that I have solved that issue, but I don't really think I have.

When I was a young girl, I am sure that I had more library fines than anyone else in my small town.  I loved the library and checked out boatloads of books, but as I have mentioned before, I have a defective organization gene.  Just like my current genealogy research,  I would travel to far away countries and go back in time through those books. Naturally I lost track of the days and then was afraid to tell my mother that I had overdue books once again.  I wonder how long they keep their records . . . . It's possible I might still have unpaid fines.

When I first began my genealogy research, I dismissed the resources of my local library just because my family did not live in the local area.  Silly girl. . .  While they have a searchable obituary index for the local papers and a county land platbook, it is their fabulous pajama friendly digital collections and databases that make this a five star resource in my book (I know, I know. . .a pun is the lowest form of humor).  My first love was the Historic Chicago Tribune where I found more than obituaries.  I found articles about my family members protecting the citizens of Chicago as policemen, handing out flowers for charity, a kidnapped (and returned) baby, and a g-g grandmother who took in an abandoned and desperate woman.  I love newspapers!

My next discovery was the Newspaper Archive.  The first night I found an obituary and date of death for my g-g grandfather in the hometown paper of his son breaking through a year long brick wall!   I persisted and discovered that my gr. grandparents lived in Estherville Iowa between census records.  Small town newspapers love social news so this had a number of leads I need to follow.  For fun, I put in my own name . . .  Yikes! There were 49 records listing items such as my 4-H ribbons as well as every time I attended my church youth group.  Six hours later, I forced myself to log off and go to bed.  I thought I had been searching for about two hours.

 These are my two current favorites among the many available, but I haven't  investigated them all. I think that Heritage Quest and Sanborn Maps are looming in my future.

Look for this symbol that indicates you can access it from any computer with your library card.

The globe symbol is for databases that can be accessed from any computer anywhere

Some are only available at any branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library

The good news is that ANYONE can get a St. Joseph County Public Library card and access their digital collections and databases even if they are not a resident of St. Joseph County Indiana.  A single non-resident card is available for $50-$64.  This is cheaper than an individual yearly subscription to many of their resources.  What a deal!  Of course, if you are a resident, then it's free!

Click here for information about a card.  Click here for a complete list of databases available.

Is the St. Joseph county library unique?  I don't think so.  The Root Cellar in Clinton, Iowa was extremely friendly and helpful when I first contacted them by phone and email.  When I visited during a genealogy trip there last summer, they greeted me like an old friend and helped my brother and I find the resources we needed, showed us how to use the readers and checked on us occasionally.

If you have Chicago ancestors and you haven't been to the Newberry Library online sources, you are missing a great resource.  Hopefully, next summer I can make a more personal visit.

I would have to say that a library is THE resource that I think of first when I am researching.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Spoons of Berenice

I have just returned from a glorious weekend knitting retreat with twelve knitting friends.  Our cabin looked out on the frozen lake, there was a continual fire in the fireplace, snowflakes out the window, lots of laughter and answers for all of our knitting questions.  It definitely was rejuvenating.

Because most (but if you insist on honesty, then all) of the ladies in the group are not interested in genealogy, I tried to keep my family history comments to myself, but . . . some did accidentally slip out.  Before I left, my Famuggle daughter warned reminded me just how boring genealogy is to others.  Since they are not technically family, my knitting friends cannot be labeled Famuggles but rather they belong to a sub set called Fruggles.  After one such slip up, I decided the next time to try and turn the conversation to something more universally acceptable.  I asked each person if they had a cherished family possession that had been passed down to them, and why did they cherish it?  Amazingly, everyone had something, and some had difficulty choosing just one.  I heard about Christmas ornaments, family bibles, immigrant trunks, and a chest of drawers.  As each person told about their possession their voice became animated, and the emotion attached to the object was clear.  Here was a group of non-genealogists sharing their family history. . . and enjoying it.

My question was a result of an unpublished post that had been languishing in my que for several months. . . The Spoons of Berenice. Several times, I would try to write only to delete most of it.  It just wouldn't come together.  Every Christmas for her first thirteen years my grandmother, Berenice Moldt, received a sterling silver spoon as a gift.  The spoons were sometimes beautifully elaborate, and, occasionally, dreadfully plain.

Each spoon had the year engraved on it and usually her name, always misspelled as Bernice, or her initials.  Sadly, she told me when I was younger who gave them to her, but I have long forgotten.  Now I am on a quest to find out.

The first spoon tells us that these were Christmas gifts because of the complete date of  December 25, 1899 on the handle.  I assume that it is a gift from a woman, possibly a grandmother or an aunt.  It would not be her mother with the misspelled name.  Her name was Berenice (rhymes with furnace) rather than the more common Ber-niece.

One of my favorites it the 1908 spoon which had an image of St. Patrick's church in Clinton, IA carved into the bowl section.   This leads me to believe that the relative was Catholic, possibly a member of the church, and her father's side of the family was not.  My grandmother had aunts on her mother's side, Elizabeth (Nettie) McDonnell, Florence (Flossie) Holdgrafer, Augusta (Gussie) Brown and Laura Tietjen - so maybe it was one of them.

Strangely, there are two spoons with a 1903 date. 

The back of the spoon above.

 The last date we have on a spoon is 1912.  Her grandmother died in 1914, but wouldn't she have known how to spell her name?  I can just imagine the polite "thank you", but lack of enthusiasm, that probably accompanied the opening of these predictable yearly gifts by the young girl pictured above. Yet, this is the gift she chose to keep and cherish and travel through life with her.  My grandparents moved often so possessions were chosen carefully. Was it the gift or the giver that gave these spoons such importance?   I wonder . . . did anyone else in the family receive spoons such as these as a gift?  I have no idea.  If you do, please contact me.

This then, I've discovered, is the secret bridge from our world to the Famuggle world.  We can talk with Famuggles and Fruggles about family history if we pretend it is just about the object.   Shhhh . . .we know the truth.  I invite you to try it. See if you get the same reaction that I did.  Do you think it's possible we might even convert a few . . . . . .

This is Serious!

Okay, I was half way through a new blog post.  I saved it, then closed it.  Now I can't find it.  What's worse is that none of my past blogs show up in the Edit Posts tab of my dashboard. What happened?  More importantly, what can I do?  Please, please tell me there is something.

Okay - I figured it out.  It was operator error, but my new blog post is gone -  Rats, and I really liked how it was going.

Update - Mary, that is exactly what happened.  Duhhh!
               Kathy - I spent a bunch of time doing the same thing. 
               Greta - Good idea!

But it does make me realize that I want to save my blog  so I will have my links, photos and everything someplace else.  Redundancy is a good thing.   Maybe I should go back and copy each blog post into a word document and save it that way.  Or would a PDF be better? 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mother's Pan is Mine for the Coming Year

My brother with THE PAN

Yesterday I received an email from my brother asking why I had not posted about THE PAN yet.  My response was T. I. M. E.   Since returning to school after the holiday, I have been drowning in work.  Most evenings I didn't leave school until after 5:00 so when I arrived home I would quickly sink into a comfy chair and enjoy my dinner in front of the television. 

But today is the day to report on  the new decoration for THE PAN.  I introduced this pan and our Christmas tradition several weeks ago in a previous post titled Holiday Fun for Genealogists.  As we were all working in the kitchen preparing our traditional prime rib dinner, my brother started telling me that he had discovered some new photos from when we were young.  He would show them to me later, he said.  Later, as we sat around opening our gifts, his words came back to me when I opened a box that was so large it had to be THE PAN.  I carefully lifted it out.  The first thing I noticed was that it had been shined up and had something tall protruding from the pan. I followed it down into the pan and then noticed that it had an electrical cord coming out from a hole in the pan.  Oh, it was a light!  At this point I heard my brother say that now I would be keeping it on my desk for the coming year.  He made a fitted wooden insert to hold my pen,  pencils, markers and calculators.  The only thing missing is a place for family photos . . . . wait. . . a few photos are tucked into a slot at the back and afixed to the outside. The photos are familiar, but . . . something is not right.  I protest, "These have been Photoshopped I claim".  "I don't know what you mean, he replies in a syrupy voice.  Now I ask you, do you think these are original or has some 21st century digital sleight of hand been employed?

My mother sitting in an oversized chair soaking her feet in THE PAN
A terrible photo of my grandmother and me with THE PAN

My mother and Merle wearing THE PAN

I now have a year to plan.  Any suggestions, but remember my brother reads this blog??