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!