Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Geneablogger Weekend

Last Thursday, as we were taking a walk around our neighborhood, my husband said, "Now, What time will you be leaving on Saturday?"

My response was, "7:00 a.m. but you'll need to take me to the meeting point."

 "No problem.  What time will you be home?"

 "The plan is to be home before noon."

 He stopped and just stared at me, "You're spending the night????  I thought it was just for the day."

"That was last weekend", I replied. He didn't say anything for five minutes.

I have been telling him this for a month.

        . . .  and what a great day we had!

With twenty bloggers attending and covering this event, I think you will find a plethora of stories, from the tour of the genealogy department to a sword greeting at Tina's house.  Rather than be repetitive, I will share with you a few pearls of wisdom I have learned this past weekend.

1.  Review travel plans with your driver before you leave.
     a.  Remember to take your I-Zoom monitor since the tolls are half the price.

2.  Make sure you have a Garmin GPS.  I will not mention the brand we had, but it begins with the letter "T".
     a.  Know how to work your GPS.
     b. Your GPS should be large enough to see from a distance greater than three inches.
     c.  Your GPS should tell you the name of the street you are directed to turn on. Next street is not
          enough detail.
     d.  Your GPS should have a current map if your destination is in a new sub-development.

*If you fail to follow all of the #2 and related sub-points, make sure you are traveling with a tech connected companion who has an iPhone.

3. If someone, like your host, goes to all of the trouble to help you make the best use of your time at the Allen County Public Library you need to FIND the time to prepare . . . really.
     a. Have a back-up plan if you intend to spend the entire day looking at city directories for Chicago
         only to discover that ACPL, or any place else for that matter, has no city directories for large cities
         like Chicago or New York for the 1940's.  Again, refer to the basic #3 rule.
     b. When your plans don't work out, take to heart the advice of the librarian who tells you her favorite
         activity is wandering and browsing.  Look over her shoulder as she talks at the shelves behind her.
         You might find a family history that lists your name.
      c. If you need a new perspective or advice, ask the other bloggers since their wisdom and
          knowledge is offered freely and only a question away. It's a group consultation with no fee.
      d.  There is no such thing as a bad day at the Allen County Public Library.

4.  Take business cards even if it isn't a business for you.

5.  Try to take photos throughout the day because they spruce up your blog.
      a.  BUT. . . If you suddenly realize that you have no photos, it is not the time to start when the food is
          served or when Thomas MacEntee generously opens a box of magazines and tells everyone to take
          what interests them.

6.  Look up everyone's blog ahead of time and try to find a photo of them because there are no name tags to help you out. 
        a.  Limit your wine intake to four three glasses or less because you can only say, "What was your name
             again" so many times without looking senile.

7.  When you arrive at your hotel, remember to zip your suitcase closed if you got into it during the trip, lest all of the contents dump out onto the parking lot, spilling underwear, pj's, toothbrush and iPod under the car when you pull it out.  Just a suggestion.

8. Don't worry about jewelry.  Thomas brings beads.

9.  Don't wear a pink sweater as you tend to stand out in photographs, and not in a good way!

10. Laugh, make new friends, and plan to return.

Now go to these posts for other perspectives on the weekend  . . . and they have photos. My apologies if I left you out.  Please let me know.

Shelley Bishop . . . A Sense of Family
Tina Lyons . . .Gen Wish List
Terri O’Connell . . . Finding Our Ancestors
Jennifer Alford  . . .Jen-Gen’s Family History
Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana . . . The Last Leaf on This Branch 
Susan Clark . . . Nolichucky Roots
Kathryn Lake Hogan . . .Looking4Ancestors
Diana Ritchie . . . Random Relatives
Stephanie Fishman  . . . Corn and Cotton Genealogy
Jennifer Holik . . .Generations
Brenda Leyndyke . . .   Journey to the Past

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Luck of the Irish

Yesterday, St. Patrick's Day, I spent at the Mishawaka library attending the Michiana Genealogical Fair.  This will be my third year and every year has been a rewarding experience.  

The featured speaker this year was Mark Middleton, a technology specialist.  His morning presentation was on scanning and the afternoon session was an overview of computer technology for the genealogist.  Of course, I hoped to find out about "a perfect scanner" that would do all things, at all times and in all situations.  Alas . . .to my disappointment there is no such creature.  He compared a genealogist's need for different scanners to a carpenter who needs more than one hammer and one saw. So now I have been encouraged to purchase more.  While much of what he described was familiar to me, I did learn that I could place negatives, slides, and even video directly on the scanner glass to scan as long as I removed the cover of the top light. Using the holder is probably preferable in most cases but not required.  His advice was that the smaller the object you are scanning, the higher the dpi you should use - good advice.

He did have a different opinion from Thomas MacEntee who I heard speak a few weeks ago.  Thomas advocated moving everything to the cloud as one of your back-up methods.  Mark was very hesitant about the cloud and preferred to create DVD back-ups and give a copy to his brother and sister as insurance against a disaster striking his house.  He did admit, however, that DVD technology may only be around for 5-10 more years, and he would need to migrate his information to newer technology in the future.  He expressed distrust of the online companies that could go out of business or have a loss of data.  Then, he said, they will say they are sorry but have no other obligation to us and our data.  He used the recent closure of Picnik as an example.

I understand both views and see valid arguments for both and I love technology.  But like my question to Thomas, what happens to our digital family research if it languishes for years before another family member is bitten by the genealogy bug?  Your carefully saved and organized research on outdated technology may no longer be accessible.  It only works if there is a continual custodian of the information who will always migrate your research to the newest technology.  Even Thomas admitted that was an issue.  How many of you inherited family photos, documents, and information that had been sitting in a box in a closet, on a basement shelf or rescued from the trash bin after after an elderly relative passed away.  I believe we should back up digitally, but what about including the old fashioned way as well? 

 I just can't bring myself to go completely digital.

Before I close, I need to tell you about my Irish luck.  Since it was St. Patrick's Day, I wore my Ogham script necklace that I purchased in Kinsale, Ireland.  It is the tip of a deer antler with "Eire" in Ogham, the ancient celtic script and made by a local artisan. We received a ticket for a drawing when we entered and as they called out the numbers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of my numbers matched.  With probably 150 attendees, I had the "luck of the Irish".  My prize was a certificate for a record course of my choice in the Certificate in Genealogical Studies Program from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.  I have a choice of courses so if you have taken a course, I would love to hear from you.  I don't know if it is at your own pace or a more organized schedule.  The website listed several courses related to Irish research  so please give me your opinion.

And now the sun is shining, the forsythia is blooming, and it is an unseasonable 75 degrees.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Here's the Scoop on the Clinton Opera House

Davis Opera House
In a previous post I shared photos of my g-g aunt, Katherine Augusta Brown, known as Gussie.  In one of the photos, Gussie and a group of other young ladies were dressed as men complete with bowler hats.  They appeared to be having a grand time, and a note on the photo mentioned that Gussie also sang opera.  I ended the post as I often do with a plead for anyone with more information  to please share it with me. Not long after, I received an email from Mary, in other posts known as my Clinton angel, a title she dismisses.  She does have a great curiosity, and as a current Clinton area resident she was intrigued by my question, so she did her own sleuthing. The Root Cellar at the Clinton library and the Clinton Historical Society had the answer for my question.

It turns out that Clinton did have an opera house, but not in the sense we currently envision.  The following is the result of Mary's investigation.

 A clothing store on the first floor of the Davis block
It turns out that most towns of any size had an opera house.  In the days before movies and high def televisions, society attended productions put on by traveling choral groups, solo artists, actors, and occasionally local talent.  The impressive four story building known as the Davis block was constructed in 1876 by E.M. Davis, and was located at the southeast corner of Sixth Ave. South and Second Street.  The ground floor housed five retail shops selling the latest fashions while the second floor held executive office and a music hall.  The Davis Opera House filled the top two floors of the building and could seat 2000 theatergoers. The interior was topped by a center dome decorated with frescoes of the seasons and the immense stage and outer circle featured portraits of famous authors circling the walls.  The Davis claimed that no pillar or post would obstruct the view of it's patrons and had installed the latest in fire protection should the unthinkable happen. Sadly Mary could find not photos of the interior, and the building was demolished sometime around World War II.
Lillian Russell - Clinton native.

Many well known musicians, and actors performed on the stage of The Davis Opera House, including the international stage star, Lillian Russell.  Ms. Russell was a Clinton native, born Helen Louise Leonard, whose father was the editor of The Clinton Herald.  It is said that she commanded $5,000 per week.  Do you think she was paid that at The Davis or would she have given them a discount for old times sake?

Now that I know how grand and extraordinarily large the Clinton Opera House was, I've decided that I don't really think my g-g aunt Gussie and her female singing group performed there, but possibly the music hall on the second floor which no doubt played to a smaller and more casual crowd. I'll bet they attended performances at the Opera House, though.

Thank you again to Mary for her curious mind and for sharing her findings with me.  What still seems unusual to me is that the Opera House was located on the third and fourth floors of a building rather than a stand alone building.  Would they have had elevators? ----No, probably not.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week 10: Genealogy Road Trips . . . a repost from the past.

Amy Coffin's latest challenge in the series 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

Week 10 – Genealogy Road Trips: No two genealogy road trips are the same but they’re always fun and meaningful. Describe a memorable trip in your past. Where did you go? What did you find (or not find)? Did you meet any new cousins? What did the trip mean to you and your family?

This weekend as my husband and I planned our summer "vacation/road trip", I kept asking myself  how I could squeeze in a few visits to ancestor locations, maybe some cemeteries, and a few hours at an archive.  BUT,  it will be my husband's vacation also and since he is a famuggle I don't want to be too inconsiderate. A little inconsiderate is acceptable because that allows him to be magnanimous - an endearing quality . Then as I sat on my sofa in the dark with my computer on my lap and a mug of coffee at my side, reading through the day's email, I found this on Geneabloggers.  My thoughts drifted back to road trips I have taken in the past.  Every one of them surpassed my hopes and dreams so I have decided to repost one today. . . but which one??? 

Reposted from Friday July 9, 2010

Hmmmmmm. . . . . .

WARNING: This is an unusually long, rambling blog post. You might want to skip it. This is about the man with the beard above. Remember, I warned you.

Which of my intended blog posts should I do next? Should I continue, albeit interrupted, the family research trip thread? This would give a semblance of organization and continuity to this blog. Should I discuss the Geneabloggers challenge #23? - nope, I am still in the middle of that situation! Should I do a belated Father's Day because of the unending guilt I feel for not giving my wonderful father his day? Then there is the Ireland cemetery blog in which I could share many of the photos I took - only my favorite thousand, I promise! Hmmmmm. . . . .

Darn it, I started out with such intent to be organized. I set the stage for my blog name and planned to continue in the same way, putting together the pieces I have found in some orderly way. Remember, I told you earlier that I always INTEND to be organized. But, it always seems to fall apart in the middle somewhere. In reality I assumed that I would run out of steam, get bored with it, and stop for lack of ideas, but it hasn't happened so far. I now find myself in the position of "banking" blog post ideas because I don't have the time to write about all of the ideas I have. I think I also forgot some, but since I can't remember them, they don't count. Without Lisa Ellam of The Faces of My Family I would still be thinking about a blog. She gave me the nudge I needed to actually sign up and begin. Only time will tell if that is credit or blame?? I created this blog essentially for me - to help me organize my thoughts and create a record of my family research. I only pretend I am talking to someone else, but I will continue this illusion.

Back to my original quandary. What topic will I tackle today? Since, I have an upcoming family history research trip to Iowa with my brother - or without him if he backs out AGAIN. By writing out my options here, I can see clearly that my subject today should be a continuation of the saga of my four family research trips during the first year of my obsession called genealogy.

Today I will relate the story of my third family history research trip in which I traveled to Canada!
In my post about my first trip, I said that I shared information with my cousin about "the man with the long white beard". Much of that information came from another long lost cousin that I connected with on a message board. She had posted a question searching for information on James B. Allen, and when I responded a couple of years after her original post, that I thought this might be my g-g-grandfather, it started a wonderful correspondence with his family in Eramosa Twp, Ontario, Canada - listed in the census records as Canada West. She had been working on her family genealogy with her daughter for over 30 years, but they never knew what happened to James B., one of 13 children born to James Bush Allen and Anna Lyman. I was feeling pretty good about the fact that I had just identified him from the census records. Up to this point, we were only guessing his identity. The 1925 Iowa state census was the key to unlocking a flood of information. In 1925, he was living with his daughter, my beloved g-grandmother, and that made the connection. If you have family in Iowa during this time and have not checked it out, you must do so immediately. It is a goldmine! It is four pages long and includes the names of the parents, not just the country of origin, and where they were married.

Eileen, my new relative, and I corresponded by email several times, but then she mailed some photos she had. As I opened the envelope, a photo of my grandmother standing behind the "man with the long white beard" with baby Margel on his lap, fell out. It was a rush of feelings. Then I pulled out another photo of four distinguished men . . . my g-g-grandfather (on the left) and three of his brothers, Peter, Joseph and Israel. There was no doubt that this was the correct family connection. I began to flood her with questions. Then one evening my phone rang and it was Eileen. She thought we should chat over the phone. And we did for over an hour. She told me how James B. use to come back home to visit every couple of years and some members of the family still commented on his marriage to a Catholic. She told me about visiting the Old Stone Church in Eramosa and digging up the headstone of Annie Lyman that had sunk beneath the grass. Oh, I wanted to visit that cemetery. This was my g-g-g-grandparents! We had a wonderfully long talk, and she invited me to visit - Well, maybe I hinted that I would like to meet her. A plan was born. In the last week of my summer vacation, I hurriedly made plans to travel five hours north for a family meeting. Her daughter would be visiting, and she could drive us to the cemetery.

This was to be a solo trip without GPS, but I was confident. I had multiple printed Google maps and a large print spiral bound atlas. It was a sunny day and everything looked good. Then 2 hours into the trip, Boom, kathunk, kathunk, kathunk. I looked around and pulled off to the side of the road to check the car. As I rounded the back of the car I saw the rip in the sidewall of my rear tire. Thank goodness I had AAA - I did send the check in didn't I? I finally found my information tucked between a punch card for JoJo's pretzels and an old L.S. Ayres credit card. When I called they informed me that they didn't have a record of my current membership. Oh no, it had expired. Then the wonderful lady told me that they could reinstate my membership if I wanted to put it on a credit card, and they would send a truck right out. What do you think I did? I'm saved, but the truck had several other calls first and so the half hour wait turned into two and a half as I walked back and forth in the grass beside the car. I called everyone I could think of and told them my tale of woe to pass the time. After the truck arrived it was off to the local Walmart to get a new tire, because my mini spare wouldn't last. Finally, I am on my way after a five hour delay. I arrived at my destination moments before dark descended and was greeted with hugs and smiles from three complete strangers. . . . but not strangers for long. They wouldn't hear of me staying in a motel, they had a room all ready for me. Isn't family great!

The next day we traveled to the Old Stone Church, but since Eileen couldn't remember the EXACT route, I saw a fair amount of the local area first. I loved it. As we pulled up to the country church, she explained that the records for the church had been lost in a fire when the caretaker took them home for safety and then her house caught fire taking the records with them. I gathered together my camera and purse, opened the car door, and then reached back in for an umbrella. Yes, it rained the whole time we were there, but, on the up side, it makes the headstones easier to read. She showed me the headstone of Annie Lyman, and it had deteriorated quite a bit since she uncovered it. It was almost unreadable. I'm glad she had a photo from when she first uncovered it. Next to hers was her husband, James Bush Allen which was in better shape. As we walked around the cemetery, dodging the worst of the puddles she pointed to this brother, that sister-in-law, an aunt or infant from the family connecting the family relationships. The downpour couldn't dampen the emotion of this experience.

This time I brought the scanner and laptop, and it was a good thing. I could barely comprehend the amount of information that they had assembled. We started by making copies, but soon decided that scanning was the logical solution. It went much faster. We worked late that night, and I was so very grateful for their generosity with their 30 years of research. Comparatively, I could only share a small snippet of information about James Bush Jr. and my family with them, but they seemed happy to get it. I am still trying to sort out everything they shared. Early the next morning I packed the car, they fed me breakfast and gave me drinks and snacks for the trip home. This was an uneventful drive home, for which I was grateful.

Over the course of two days, Eileen and her daughters went from strangers to family -a wonderful transformation indeed. Can I think of another reason to return? Hmmmmm. . . . .

Postscript: Sadly, I have not made it back to Canada yet, but remain in touch with my cousins and their generous help with Allen records were invaluable as I prepared for my trip to the family town of Chipping Warden last summer.