Sunday, December 27, 2015

Genealogy Presents

How many people read Randy Seaver’s blog ( He has a Saturday night challenge where you write about a topic and either post in his comments section or on your blog, or wherever you wish really. I read this each weekend and often think, “Oh! I could write about such and such…” but never get around to doing it.

asks us about a gift for Christmas related to genealogy. I didn’t actually get a gift that would qualify. However, if you read my previous post about sorting through my Uncle Kenneth’s stuff and trying to organize it, then you know how I came to have something to mention here. They weren’t a Christmas gift, didn’t arrive under the tree and had no ribbons or bows surrounding pretty gift wrap. However, yesterday at my mother’s house I did pick up another box of his genealogy stuff that my brother had left for me.

Amongst the pictures were some books. Books that I have looked at, at various libraries over the years and reference in my genealogy research. I now can look through them by simply reaching them on a shelf in my own home!

·      Remarkable Records of Rev. Gideon Bostwick, 1770-1793 Great Barrington Massachusetts
·      History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880 by Samuel Orcutt
·      The Wooster Family of Derby, Connecticut by Donald Lines Jacobus

The last one is actually an article from a journal. Either the New England Historical Genealogical Society Register or New York Genealogical & Biographical Society Record. I’ll have to look up and see which as I can’t recall, but as it’s bound into book form, it will now be handy on the bookshelf.

This present is, of course, a bitter-sweet one. I’m thrilled to have these books and other documents for myself here at home. On the other hand, my uncle who I’ve loved working with on genealogy all these years, is no longer working on it or actively doing anything related to genealogy. All together, I’d much rather have to hunt these titles down in a library when I need them and have Kenneth well enough to still be active and doing genealogy. Such is the ups and downs of the genealogical torch being passed.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Birth-Marriage-Death Not in 1800s New York State

Vital records, birth marriage and death. We all love them. They are the building blocks of creating a family genealogy. Besides the dates there are the names of a husband to find the new surname to trace a woman under. There are the names of the parents on the birth certificate and with any luck somebody remembered them correctly and recorded them on the death certificate as well. Wonderful records. So why do I groan when somebody asks me to locate one from the mid 1800s in New York State?

In most of New England where many of the New York State ancestors had origins, you can find many of these if not in certificate form, at least a line in the town records back to, oh, I don’t know, when that first ship sailed over the horizon from Europe and landed quite possibly. I understand that. In fact, I’ve used them countless times to find traces of my ancestors and their relatives. Looking through these records you can find documentation on many of these people and once in awhile some little remark about them in that town record book that gives some insight about who the people actually were or where they came from before they arrived in that town.

 village scene, Moravia, New York
Returning over the border out of New England into New York State, we look at those town record books. Well, we look at any we might find; often there aren’t many around for a given area and are mostly court records or such. Where are the books that list births, marriages and deaths? Do they have them stashed away in another room or perhaps the closet in the corner? No. The town office doesn’t have them. They never did. They never existed. A town almost never kept these types of records until state law mandated them in 1880.

Occasionally you will find a town that kept a few sporadically for a few years until a different clerk came into office and decided it was too much bother, or the original clerk got busy, or ran out of paper, or… you get the idea. They start and quickly stop for no reason at all. And they’re very unlikely to be found. I don’t think I’ve ever actually come across this, but have only heard rumors of them. Maybe some day I’ll hit the jackpot and find a town during my research that kept them for a number of years.

During the years 1847- 1852 the state did attempt to mandate keeping of vital records by the schools. It only lasted for these years and very few places actually complied and many for only a year or two.  This is also what happened to some extent when the law went into affect in 1880. Some towns started recording immediately, some took a few years to comply and even those that did, didn’t record everybody in those early years. For about the first five years, it can be hit or miss whether a person is recorded. This is why I groan when somebody asks me to locate one from the mid 1800s in New York State.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Organizing Kenneth's Stuff

What do you do after you get to load about half a dozen boxes of miscellaneous family memorabilia into your car? Well, after getting it safely home you start sorting through it, of course. And sorting. And sorting. A little over a month later, I still don’t know what I have.

All of this came from my uncle who was sorting it our very slowly before he became unable to continue it. We’ve all know at least a person or two who always seems to be in the middle of working on that project, but it’s scattered all over the place and only they can make sense of it. That is me exactly. Don’t touch my desk, as I know what everything is and where it is (I think!), but you’ll never be able to find anything in the mess. I think I might get that trait through my mother’s family, particularly from her younger brother Kenneth. Oh wait, my father was a lot like that as well too and my mother and.... I’m doomed. 

Anyway, back to Kenneth’s papers. Slowly they are coming together and I am figuring out what is what. The next time I get to visit him, I should have a stack of photos to ask him about. My husband was gracious enough to scan most of the photos for me so that I can sort them and identify them in computer files. The originals are going into archival containers somewhat sorted by family groups. I have created two major family groupings at this point. There are Jennings and Wooster family pictures.

 William and Sarah (Damery) Jennings with 8 of their children

The Jennings family is that of my maternal grandmother. She was one of 12 children of her mother’s. Her father also had six older children by his first wife who had died at about age 28. All of these children were born in County Cork, Ireland, on a small farm near the village of Skibbereen. A few of them had left the farm and immigrated to America. Lily, Kitty, Ruby and Susie were the aunts I heard my mother talk about while growing up. And Aunt Elizabeth always seemed to be there amongst things too, but not at the same time as Lily. It was my teenage years that I connected the dots, Lily, as she got older didn’t like her nickname and reverted to her baptismal name of Elizabeth. The others were always by the nicknames that I now realize are for Katherine, Rebecca and Susan. I find pictures of them throughout this collection; particularly those of Elizabeth who never had any children, so much of her possessions went to her sister Alice, my grandmother.

Elizabeth had been quite adventurous, journeying to America where some of her siblings were and finding work in and near Boston as a domestic servant in the early 1900s. One family she worked for took her on something of a winter vacation in 1914. There is a scrapbook she kept that winter with pictures of her and several of the servants in and around Wilbur-by-Sea, Florida. Mr. J. W. Wilbur appears in a few of these pictures, an older man who was developing a resort and for whom the town was named. If he had enough money to do this, it is no wonder he could bring a number of servants along with him!  A few other people are identified in the pictures and two we know are her sister, Kitty, and the chauffeur is Edwin Healey who would later become Elizabeth’s husband. Others we’re not sure who they are. Is the man identified as Mr. Jolly really of that surname or just a happy fellow? We don’t know.

Alice joined her sisters here in the United States, trained to be a nurse and worked in Boston for a short time. World War I was happening and they needed nurses. Soon Alice was in the Army Nurse’s Corp. and headed for Texas. Fort Sam Houston and Fort Brown. There are a few pictures taken there and a few of some of the soldiers apparently in the cavalry stationed there. I don’t know who they are, except for one, a man by the name of Marion Wooster starts appearing in photographs. Here is where my other group of pictures begins. One of the papers with the photographs is a copy of their marriage certificate there in Texas. 

Marion is taking pictures where he is now stationed in Washington, D.C. and Alice has left the Army. Now there’s a baby carriage and pictures of Robert, their oldest child appearing. The years advance and Alice A., Lester and finally Kenneth are appearing in the pictures arranged in chronological order. I also find some papers that refer to a military bonus my grandmother received (grandfather also, but I haven’t found his papers). A house begins to appear as the backdrop as the children get older. I know from the family stories this house is theirs because of those bonuses. Some of these pictures I have seen before, others are new to me, particularly of my mother standing in the yard as a teenager having her picture taken.

All these photographs and papers that go along with them. Some census records, some newspaper clippings, receipts, a few letters and cards that I need to explore. Although I’ve mentioned them as if they were in order, nothing was quite that way when I got them. Some were and then others were scattered all over. Other things were there too, advertisements from the current day, notes from a meeting at the historical society, and all those kinds of things we set down intending to deal with later, but don’t.

So, how do you organize all this? I really don’t know. I’m still sorting through to discover all the items that are there and trying to sort into rough groupings. I’ve gotten containers that are acid free to store papers in and hope to eventually get everything sorted and identified. It is an ongoing process and I discover more groupings within these groupings as I work my way through. Hopefully before too long, I will have all the digital images created for the important items (not the junk mail!) and can put them together in a logical sequence. Then I can start making copies of everything to distribute to the many cousins that have an interest. Just like everything in genealogy, it is a process and I will probably organize them a different way as time goes by and I discover new information and connections between things. The important thing is to begin.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rome History

The Rome area has been historical since before this country even existed! Just to the east of where the city now stands, Indians in canoes and later the early settlers left the Mohawk River and hiked overland to Wood Creek where they could put their canoe back in the water and paddle on to Oneida Lake. This was referred to as the Great Carrying Place.

This vulnerable spot in the westward trek across New York was in 1756 guarded by three forts built by the British and then shortly after destroyed by them. Finally, Fort Stanwix was constructed in August 1758. This led to a rather peaceful period until the British laid siege to Fort Stanwix in 1777 during the American Revolution.

Fort Bull on the southwest corner of the city was near another historic event that happened later. How many people have sung the song that begins: “I got a mule and her name is Sal, fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.”? Before Sal got there, the Erie Canal had to actually be built and right there within site of where Fort Bull had been was where the first shovel-full of dirt had been dug.  Digging here on a fairly level stretch gave the canal a fast start as it began to spread across upstate New York. Digging sprad out in both directions towards their goal.

Some history isn’t so old. Many of us remember the Cold War that lasted for decades after WWII. Rome was a part of that too. Griffiths Air Base is on the edge of the city was involved in the aerospace industry during this time period. Closed now, the base is being reutilized for various business enterprises, many heavy in technology.

Where can you learn more about all this history? Well, right in Rome of course. Fort Stanwix has been reconstructed and today is part of National Park Service. You can see exhibits about the history as well as walk through the actual fort.

The Rome Historical Society is just up the street and has many exhibits as well, including an extensive display on Griffiths Air Force base.

The site of Fort Bull and the beginnings of the Erie Canal exist as well, but at this point are inaccessible. There used to be an Erie Canal Village that had recreated a settlement from the time of the beginnings of the canal including a packet boat that sailed some of the original canal. Over time, things have deteriorated and a new owner is attempting to revive this. Fort Bull’s remains are on the site of this attraction as well as the beginning of the canal. Hopefully in the future this will be open to the public once again.

So all in all, there is lots of history in and around Rome for you to explore!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Connectiut State Library

Connecticut State Library
231 Capitol Ave
Hartford, T 06106

On our New England trip we got to go to this library for a short time. Although by the time we got there one afternoon, it was late and we didn’t have much time, it was well worth it. We now know a bit about the library and will be ready to hit the ground running when we get another chance to visit here. It is located in downtown Hartford, just across the way from the capital building. Like the capital, it is built in a classical style and has steps at the front of the building that look as though they climb for about a mile. Especially if you’re challenged by stairs, like me, don’t arrive at the top gasping for breath. Here’s a hint, walk around to the back! There’s an entrance on that side that is on ground level. The stairs enter on the second floor, and after you go through the metal detector at security, you’ll enter the legal portion of the library and have to return to the first floor anyway.

The library is open Tuesday-Friday: 9am-5pm and Saturday: 9am-2pm. During the week you might want to leave a little before closing or find a place to hang out for a while after it closes. At least if you’re like us and not used to rush hour in a large city, because you will be definitely heading out into it!

Printing from the computers requires a Vendacard. Photocopying can be done with the Vendacard or coin. Either one cost 15 cents.  A Vendacard (much like a plastic credit card) costs one dollar and contains 70 cents worth of copies on it initially. These can be refilled in various dollar increments. Microfilm and fiche printing is 25 cents, but only 20 cents if you use the card. You can also scan items and either email them to somebody (like yourself!) or put them on a thumbdrive. There is more details about this on their website.

This library of course, has records for all over the state of Connecticut. Books, microfilms, vertical files and much more. There’s a special collections/ archives within the library with rare items as well. The archives has limited access, but everything else you are completely free to browse through. At one point, I had completed the question I was working on as far as I could, so instead of going to the next one, I got up and took a walk. I walked out into “the stacks”, the area which is just shelf after shelf filled with books. I wandered up and down the aisles in the stacks for a few minutes just randomly looking at titles and picking one or two off the shelf on occasion. In doing so, I found one completely at random that had information about a family of mine that I hadn’t thought to research.

Have you ever worked with the Barbour collection? It is an index of vital records from across the state up to about 1850 collected under the direction of Lucius Barnes Barbour, State Examiner of Public Records from 1911-1934. If you have, then you know what a treasure these records are! They are available on microfilm and in book form many places throughout the country. But did you know that the original slips of paper with transcriptions from the records that were used to create this index still exist? In a hallway behind the reference desk, you will find many card catalog drawers and some house this original that you can actually see and touch! There are over a million slips filed alphabetically and then chronologically here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tompkins County Library

Tompkins County Public Library
101 E Green St, Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 272-4557

Tompkins County Public Library’s main building is a delightful one-story building in the heart of downtown Ithaca. It is just a short walk away from the famed Ithaca Commons filled with interesting little shops to explore when you’re tired of research or if you have people uninterested in genealogy tagging along. There’s also a parking garage located directly behind the building for easy access. I was delighted to discover that the garage is open and parking is free on the weekends!

This building is fairly new and has a light airy feel to it with plenty of open stacks for browsing. I remember visiting the same spot as a child, but the building on the site was much older and then was the local Woolworth’s Five and Dime. The local history section is small, but easily accessible and contains works on the local area, primarily Ithaca and Tompkins county, but expanding into other counties as well.

Check for holiday closings before you go, but their general hours are as follows:
  • Mon – Thurs: 10 AM - 8:15 PM
  • Fri: 10 AM - 6 PM
  • Sat: 10 AM - 5 PM
  • Closed Sundays

Photocopying is available for 10 cents per page as is printing from their computers or microfilm readers. You do need a card to print from the computers, which costs $1.00 with 60 cents worth of copies preloaded on it.

Their microfilm collection has many local newspapers that you can look through that are not otherwise readily available for search. Although you can make paper copies of pages, I was pleased to be able to use a newer scanner/reader that once I found the page I was interested in, I could make a pdf file and save it directly onto my thumb drive. This saves a lot of printing and carrying around of paper- especially helpful if you are traveling. I also like the ease of digital copies to be able to send them to others or just to easily store and manipulate on my own computer.

Monday, June 29, 2015

New England Searching

In my last post I told about our trip to Alabama. However, I skipped over another genealogy trip. In late April we traveled to New England, specifically Connecticut and Rhode Island.

After a quick stop at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts we arrived at our hotel. Is there something wrong with my car? It seems that it gets this problem every time we go through Sturbridge- it has to veer off and park in their parking lot for a time no matter what! My husband and I actually did well that Sunday afternoon, we did not tour the actual village this time and the purchases at the bookstore were kept to an economical amount. I think that many of us are aware of what the real problem with that car is—it is owned by a librarian/genealogist and another genealogist. A bookstore full of historical books is just too much of an attraction!

The first two days of our trip after travel were dedicated to researching in Connecticut. I had asked my husband if we could do some research in the town of Milford where some of my earliest ancestors had settled. He agreed under one condition, we include the town of Stratford west across the river where some of his ancestors had lived. Well let’s see, I have to joke about those elusive ancestors I was looking for, they jumped around so much that I swear they must have kept a boat at that river so they could leave almost as many records in Stratford… of course I was willing to research there as well! Another of the towns we looked at was Derby.

Did I mention that these ancestors were elusive? I can find many records on them. Edward Wooster was one of the original settlers of Derby moving there from Milford. What can I find of his great-great-grandson’s marriage supposedly in Milford in 1785? “A stranger in town married Miss Munson.” That is it, and it is a year off from when all the unsourced trees have it and the same year as their oldest son (who again I can find no record of) was assumed to be born. They are certainly elusive which is why all the estimated and unsourced information abounds. However, I think I’ve collected enough to write a good case for indirect evidence with Ebenezer Wooster marrying Sarah Munson and having Leverett Lyman Wooster as a son. This on-going puzzle may just become part of my certification portfolio, so no more details will appear about this search for a while.

The last place we researched was a quick trip late on Tuesday afternoon to the Connecticut State Library. It was late by the time we got there and we spent a little less than an hour in the library. However, the trip was worth it. We got an overview of the library and a good idea of their holdings. Next time we have a chance to research here, we will already have some familiarity and be able to make the most of our time. It was a good orientation to this new to us facility. Our one mishap with this trip, and I had been aware of the potential problem, was that we attempted to leave Hartford during rush hour. We got on the interstate all right, but then had to watch our exit go by—across 2 or 3 lanes of very busy traffic. That meant that we had to figure out a new route, and I don’t own a smart phone so we were doing it the old-fashioned way with maps and good guesses. We saw a bit more of the Connecticut landscape and got back to our hotel only a little later than planned.

All in all, we had a great two days of research with lots of information to pour over once we got home- some of which I am still trying to pull together. After a relaxing day of rambling around Rhode Island, we ended up the following afternoon in downtown Providence. Here we made our headquarters for the rest of the trip- about a block from the Rhode Island Convention Center. Why there? For three days the convention center was filled with fellow genealogists converging for the New England Regional Genealogy Conference (NERGC). Held once every two years, NERGC is located around New England and brings together a great bunch of people researching their New England roots. The 2017 conference will be held in Springfield, MA.

We attended many different presentations on regional topic such as one on the Godfrey Library, some on NYS research and western migration, general topics on how to research and writing/publishing. It was a great mixture of regional and national speakers. After three days, one is left with a mixture of exhaustion, disbelief that it is over already, despair over mistakes one has made and above all inspiration and momentum to get in there and do more and better research!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Of Magnolias and Education

It is June and in Birmingham, Alabama temperatures in the 90s and high humidity are the norm. So why would this northern girl who suffers in such a climate head south? A little over a thousand miles drive, Birmingham is home to Samford University and at least for another year, is the host of the Institute of Genealogical  & Historical Research (IGHR). This year for the first time, my husband and I were registered and made the trip to this institution. He was taking the Intermediate course in Genealogy and I took the Genealogy as Profession

Elissa Scalise Powell CG, CGL, coordinates the course I took with additional presentations by the following:
Tom Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
Michael Hait, CG
J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA
Kelvin Meyers
Benjamin Spratling, J.D.,
Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL

Through five days of both fun and learning with my 14 classmates, we covered many aspects of research, elements needed for a business and various opportunities available within the genealogy community.  

Our Class with 2 of our instructors

Although a few different aspects were mentioned and talked about in class, the reality is that there are endless possibilities for a profession in genealogy. They range from working for one of the big companies such as, working in a library, to self-employment or even leading a group of researchers. Our instructors were only able to mention a few of the possibilities during the week and I and my fellow classmates, have many additional ideas as we get ready to either launch our own businesses or further our efforts along these lines.

Other topics covered included writing research plans, lecturing, time management, DNA, forensic genealogy and certification. As IGHR is a southern institute, many of the students were from such southern states as Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The north was also well represented with not only two students from, New York, but students from Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois as well.

Optional lectures were in the evening as well on various topics. It was not all about learning though. There was plenty of social time, meeting old friends and discovering new ones. I attended a gathering of “ProGen” on the first evening at a nearby restaurant. This group consisted of facilitators, people taking the course and many of us that have already completed. For those not familiar with the ProGen study course, it is an 18 month on-line course where people meet once a month to discuss a topic or two from the book Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FNGS, FASG, FUGA. In addition to the discussion each month, you have an assignment that you complete and submit to be reviewed by a group of your peers, while at the same time you are reviewing their assignments and helping each other on them.

Did I just mention Elizabeth Shown Mills? She was the speaker at the banquet held on Thursday night. After a delicious meal in a beautiful cafeteria in the main campus building, she gave an entertaining talk entitled: “Lost Eyes, Whipping Posts, and Wife Swapping: Lessons from Yesteryear.” I’m not sure how long it lasted, but the night deepened almost unnoticed outside as we listened riveted to her talk as she not only entertained, but also educated us at the same time.

The campus of Samford itself is old and beautiful. When you imagine a university campus in the traditional sense, this is what comes to mind. Stately buildings from the 1800s grouped around a quad that is grass filled lawns with magnolia trees in bloom. Pathways leading to and around fountains with benches and tables to sit down at to relax, enjoy the views, or perhaps actually study. The architecture is such that I could imagine men in old-fashioned attire accompanying women in hoop-skirted dresses along the pathways. This is not to say that the campus is way behind. Modern amminities abound including wi/fi throughout, a food court in the main building and such. New buildings were going up as we studied this past week.  

Receiving My Completion Certificate from Elissa Powell

Altogether, it was a grand week. I left feeling energized and inspired, ready to further my plans for creating a business. Of course, it was not without sadness that I left as well, I made many new friends this week and got to know a number of people better than I had before. Was that drive south in June worth it? Well, let’s just say I’m hoping that come next June, my car will once again be pointing towards Alabama!

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Photos are courtesy of Carolyn Rybnikar one of my fellow classmates. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Update on Blog Site

Just wanted to post a short note to point out that I've created a new tab called Repositories. This will give some descriptions of various places I have visited with details about each one. To start out, I have included details about the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives which we visited on Friday.