Thursday, March 31, 2016

Respecting Cemeteries

The weather is getting better and more and more spring-like. However, we are predicted to possibly get 3-6 inches of snow around Syracuse this weekend. I was hoping to get out and visit some cemeteries and catch up on photo requests. But now it looks as though that might need to be postponed.

If we can get out this weekend, however, let’s keep in mind in our enthusiasm to get to all the relatives stones, that there are others to be thought about as well.

Dennis Wooster in Jamestown, Indiana
It is a good thing if while we are taking our own photos we can fulfill some requests for others on Find A Grave. People have requested these photos for a number of reasons. Sometimes they are too far away to ever get to that cemetery or if they can, it will be a long time in the future. Others might be handicapped so that it is impossible for them to wander the cemetery looking for the stone that they want to see. Take a few extra minutes and see if you can find some of these and get the pictures.

While you are in the cemetery, be mindful where you walk as well. I was taught as a small child that you should not walk across a gravesite. It is like walking on top of the person. I’m not as mindful of this anymore as I should be, but I do try to walk along the edge and not across the center of the plot. It’s especially good not to in older cemeteries that might not have used vaults! Imagine stepping down and the dirt compressing down on the old burial creating a hole. Just another reason to be respectful and follow the old custom-- it could be for your own safety.

While there, I try to notice if graves around where I am need to be tidied up a bit. Has somebody’s flowers or a flag tipped over? If so, I like to put them back to rights. It not only makes it look nicer, but also shows respect for the deceased.

Jordan, NY Cemetery
Speaking of respect, I also try to avoid areas of a cemetery that have a funeral going on or where friends or relatives of the deceased are visiting the grave. Unless of course, if it was of a person I’m researching! Then I would use judgment of whether it would be a good time to approach the people or if they are too mournful to want anybody talking with them. I’ve actually never had this occur, but at times have been hopeful that somebody might be near the stones I’m researching.

There is one time that you should definitely avoid a cemetery. When one is on private land and you don’t know who owns it to ask for permission. I have seen some small family cemeteries that are now in the middle of a field that has crops in it. I know there is no way that farmer is going to give permission to go to that cemetery until after harvest! As disappointing as it may be, you need to make other arrangements to see the plots. If there is a pasture around it then an old joke may apply: “We don’t charge if you cross the field, but the bull does!”

Fields along Owasco Lake, NY
I heard a person complaining last week about people accessing a private family burial ground on their cousins’ land. Many people were damaging private property getting to it and they felt as though they were entitled to go there, as the people buried in this plot were somewhat public figures. I’m not mentioning the names for privacy reasons, but there were characters in a book or television show a number of years ago based on this family. If a well-known person is in a public cemetery, that is one thing, but in a case like this, please respect the family’s privacy and restrict your viewing to photos that may appear in books or online! One or two people walking across an area might not be a problem, but with many, even being very careful it soon becomes a big problem.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Half-Shire Historical Society

Name: Half-Shire Historical Society
Address: 1100 County Route 48, Richland, NY 13144
Phone: 315- 298-2986

Half-Shire Historical Society

The Half-Shire Historical Society is located in the old Richland School on the north side of what remains of the hamlet of Richland. Once trains ran through here and near the site of the old Richland Junction station is now a convenience store. In a rural area of Oswego County, it is a quiet neighborhood of what once was a thriving community, but now boasts little except for the store and a post office for local residents to collect their mail. The school has long since been consolidated into the Pulaski Central School system, but thanks to the historical society, it has remained and is a beautiful building that houses the society as well as many social functions throughout the year. The society rents it out to family and school reunions, as well as hosts local bands and other activities.
One question that often comes up about the society is: what is a half shire? To quote from their website: “(The name Half-Shire refers to the founding of the country in 1816, settling a regional/political split by which the duel county seats were created: one at Oswego and the other at Pulaski.).The society began in 1972 and in 1973 started using the school for their headquarters.
The following towns comprise the half shire:
·       Albion
·       Amboy
·       Boylston
·       Camden
·       Orwell
·       Osceola/Florence
·       Parish
·       Redfield
·       Richland
·       Sandy Creek
·       Williamstown
Inside the building is a restored classroom. It is a combination of a typical classroom from the 1930s or 1940s eras and other artifacts from bygone time periods. The classroom also houses some research material of the society. Much of this is a special collection of Bible and rare books. It will soon be moved into its own library in what was once the school’s library. This room is currently being restored. Down a short flight of stairs that is also equipped with a lift for handicapped visitors, is the real treasure in this building. To the right is a fully equipped kitchen that is used to prepare food for all kinds of events. Straight ahead is a large room of what once was the cafeteria and auditorium. Usually furnished with many tables and chairs for people to gather at, the stage is still there at one end of the room and much used. Tucked away in the back corner is the research area. Behind the counter can be seen shelves crammed full with notebooks and a few books. These notebooks are the real treasures as far as researchers are concerned. Every cemetery within the area of the half shire is represented with a listing of the known burials from records and walking the cemeteries themselves. Many families of the area have a notebook with various pieces of information in them as well as other subjects of interest to the area. Most people that volunteer here are very knowledgeable of the area, but if you can catch the president of the society for a moment or two, you are really in luck. Shawn Doyle has been president for many years and is a county legislator in the area as well. He grew up in the area and there probably isn’t an individual or family that he doesn’t know at least something about.
At the research counter on a busy day

Hours: Generally Monday-Saturday from 10-2. You can also call to check if they’re open and sometimes can make special arrangements for other hours. In talking with the president, Shawn Doyle, he said to feel free to call him at 315-298-3620 or his helper Erma Schroeder 315-298-7709 if you need to make sure they’re open or to arrange for a special time.
There are few restrictions on copying; just about anything that is available is available to make a copy. The cost is 25 cents each. They are still actively collecting material for the area and if you have something that you would like to donate they will be glad to make arrangements. An on-going project is borrowing local families photograph collections and making digital copies of them.

One thing I found when I was visiting on Saturday was some brand new publications put out by Half shire. A volunteer has gone through the early newspapers of Pulaski that have never been microfilmed or digitized. She has abstracted key genealogical information from them and they are now available in spiral bound books to use at the society or for purchase. The one I looked at was: Pulaski Democrat: Marriage, Birth and Death Records From Richland Township Newspapers v. 1 (1834-1874) There are four volumes in total and I see that the last one goes through the year 1893. Although I was disappointed not to find my ancestors in the years I scanned through, it was a good place to try to find a husband and wife during that time period that have no death dates and no cemetery records. I can estimate their death dates from when they disappear from census records, but was hoping to narrow it down with a mention from the newspaper.
I asked Shawn what he thought was the one most notable thing in the collection. He could not give me a single answer, but rather almost immediately started mentioning several items. Among them were several pictures that contain former residents of the area including one that showed some of his direct ancestors boiling maple syrup. This picture framed, hangs along the stairs to the lower rooms. There are many paintings and drawings around. Some of them were given to the society by a local man from Osceola, who was well known for walking. He would walk all over the area, covering many miles in a day and he walked almost up until he died a few years ago at age 89. What was not as well known, was that Homer Speck was a talented artist.
The Library is almost done!
There are many other records and objects throughout the society. One old classroom on the second floor is filled with shelving units that hold boxes upon boxes of items. You never know what you might encounter when you start exploring here. There is even a connection of this rural area to circus performers worldwide! I am working on the details about this unique connection and will be writing more about that soon.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter

Wishing Everyone a Happy and Blessed Easter


A little early, but seasonably colored from last summer

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Where They Were Born

Fellow genealogist J. Paul Hawthorne started a trend on Facebook earlier today. Playing along with this, these are the birthplaces of my ancestors up to great-great-grandparents. I also have lived my entire life in New York State. So, despite this state being such a black-hole for finding information, you can see why most of my research is done here.

There's also another black-hole not so evident within this chart. With all the Catholic parish registers and such appearing for Ireland, you might think that line is getting very easy to research. Well, considering not a single one of the people born in Ireland likely ever crossed through a door into a Catholic church let alone created a record within them, I'm still waiting for the Church of Ireland (Anglican) records to become more easily accessed. When/if they finally come online- don't expect to hear from me for awhile!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Goodbye Mocavo

In case you’re not a subscriber to Mocavo you missed the email they sent out this morning. It states in part:
“We’re contacting you to let you know that the Mocavo website will be closing midnight tonight (Wednesday 23rd March) and that your account will be moving over to Findmypast in the next few days. Plus, over the coming weeks, all of Mocavo’s records and much, much more will soon be available on Findmypast.”

Here is a link to the Find My Past website where they are posting all the details about the final merger between these two companies.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Visiting Cemeteries

Spring has officially begun. In many places the snow has melted away. Central New York had an extremely mild winter and we missed the snowstorm that eastern New England had yesterday, so there is virtually no snow to be found. The ground is thawing out and in some places it is turning to mud. But in others it is getting nice enough to go out and explore. What are many genealogists thinking about at this point? Cemeteries! Yes, it is finally getting to be good enough weather to get to all those cemeteries and find those gravestones that we have been waiting all winter to get to.
Have others been doing the same as me during the cold winter months? While going through my genealogies, updating and researching to fill in missing information, I have noted many graves that are unknown or where some information from a gravestone would help clarify a date. Working on Find AGrave I have tried to locate these final resting places. If there is no stone pictured, I will request one. I make the requests, even if I hope to get to them myself soon. In this way, if somebody else can get there first, they can get the picture for me. Also, when I go to one, I will print the entire list off of Find A Grave and use that to find as many of the requests as I can, whether my own or somebody else’s. It is my hope that together we can document these stones before they weather away.
Seneca Tobias. Almost too faded to read. Seneca County

When visiting a cemetery, you should go prepared:
·      Take a camera and notepad to record the information. If a stone is badly deteriorated a photograph might not be enough.
·      Take the list from Find A Grave or from other sources of the stones you want to find.
·      If it’s a large cemetery, see if you can get a map and locations from the cemetery office if you don’t already have them. Don’t overwhelm the office! Only ask for a couple at a time and offer to make a donation.
·      Wear appropriate clothes. Not all cemeteries are a walk in the park! Long pants and sturdy shoes may be needed.
·      Have bug spray along and a basic first-aid kit for cuts and such. Hopefully, you won’t need them.
·      When you’re done with a family stone, move on to the surrounding stones. Don’t tell me you’re not interested in them! Look carefully at them before you leave. Why that name sounds familiar! Didn’t grandma’s sister marry somebody with that last name?
·      Take shots of the individual stones; photograph how they are arranged together. Don’t forget to take pictures of how you find the grave. Make a visual map of the cemetery. Otherwise you might not find it again! 
The One I Almost Never Found Again. Chemung County

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Saturday Challenge 1995

Randy Seaver's weekly Saturday Challenge has us thinking back to 1995 this week. 

1)    Do you recall what you were doing in 1995?  Family, school, work, hobbies, technology, genealogy, vacations, etc?

1995? That seems so long ago. I look at pictures saved from that year and places seem vivid, but the events are few and far between in my memories.

My parents' backyard summer 1995
I lived in either North Syracuse or Liverpool in an apartment that year. Both suburbs of Syracuse, I can’t recall which apartment I was in at that time. I had completed school by then, or so I thought. A few years later I would decide to return to school to get my Master’s degree in library science.
My job does not stand out at all. I may have even had several during the year. This was a time period of recession around Syracuse and I struggled to get a foothold on the job market. Working in administrative and other office support type jobs, I was one of the last ones hired in a given company and one of the first ones to be laid-off if things started to look bad. I remember one company, probably a few years earlier than this, which I was working at doing payroll and general office support. The company sold wholesale janitorial supplies to large companies as well as doing cleaning for others on a contract basis. I left work an hour early one day for a doctor’s appointment and came in the next morning to find that a large cleaning contract for an industrial complex had been lost the afternoon before. Along with the cleaners that worked that contract, I was laid-off as they needed to immediately cut expenses. Although the most dramatic for the suddenness of the decision, it was fairly typical of the experiences I had in the job market then. It was a time to be constantly on the lookout for another job and being creative and flexible in developing my skills.
I belonged to a local computer club that was composed of users of Macintosh computers. Besides attending the meetings, I often helped out with membership and on the desk where people signed-in for the meeting. We also had a special interest group that I was the leader of concentrating on genealogy and the computer. We discussed genealogy programs, how to create reports and such in Microsoft Works and the new online resources of Bulletin Boards and America On Line that would have been coming out about then.
the homestead for sale

Times were changing for my family. My parents lived on an 87-acre farm that had been my father’s parents before them. Signs appeared in the front yard that hadn’t been there for the previous 72 years. The family farm was for sale and my parents were moving to the nearby city of Auburn where it would be easier to get to the grocery store and medical appointments as well as a much smaller house and property to take care of.
Richard and Paulette

For my oldest nephew, things were moving in a different direction. That September he was married and became a stepfather to two young boys.
It was a time of growing older for all of us in our family. The older generation was downsizing their lives and the younger generation was starting out and expanding the roles that they played. That is what I most vividly remember about 1995 and the years surrounding it; the feeling of change.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

March and Central New York Genealogical Society

Attendees listening to Michael Keene's presentation
The Central New York Genealogical Society is still looking for a new editor. Joyce Cook has retired from this position after 10 years of hard work on TreeTalks. We still will be seeing a lot of her at meetings though as she has agreed to serve as Vice President. Congratulations to Joyce on your new endeavor and I hope it gives you enough time to get the book published you’ve been wanting to!
The meeting today had two separate sessions. The first featured Michael Keene  who was speaking on the history of orphan asylums. He has written many books on history in New York, mainly New York City and had them available at the meeting for sale.
He spoke briefly of Irish history of the famine era that brought many young people to America. This was the beginning of such phenomenon in New York City as the Bowery boys and other groups of children roaming the streets. This was a time of many orphans with no real place to live or supervision as they grew up. These children were essentially raising themselves.
This was the start of orphan asylums and the Orphan Train Movement. His book, Abandoned, tells about 18 orphanages established around New York State. Far from the total number orphanages formed in the state, but they are representative of the overall movement that happened during this time period. It was a time of dedicated people coming together to rescue children they didn’t even know.
Just three of the people highlighted in the book:
·      Philby Thomas founded an Indian Orphanage in Western NY.
·      Susan Fennimore Cooper- The Orphan House of Cooperstown
·      Elizabeth Scarlet Hamilton- NYC’s first private orphanage.
An Institute for destitute pregnant women was established as well to give women a safe place to stay and give birth. This idea was spread across the country to cities and small towns. In all, 55 missions were created; some survive to this very day.
The people who founded the asylums were all wealthy. They were members of some of the most prominent families of New York. They were people that could have easily ignored the poor, but instead they reached out and helped them.
Michael told other stories told of children across the state that have been found from newspapers and letters. One such mentioned was a young boy who was enrolled in the State School for Idiots in Syracuse. His problem? He was “deaf and dumb.” In other words he couldn’t hear or consequentially speak. This was typical of many of these asylums. Their only crimes, if you can call them that, were that they were poor or sick with illness or disease. 
Sue Greenhagen and Mary Ray Casper
The second session was an overview of lineage societies giving us an idea of the many different ones that exist and an idea of what is needed to join them and why people belong to one or more of these societies. This was conducted by a panel of four people who belong to several of these societies across Central New York: David Morton, Bob Gang, Sue Greenhagen and Mary Raye Casper. After the presentations, they were available to talk individually with interested people.
Societies come in three basic types:
·      Military,
·      Pioneer or First Family Societies
·      Common Trait (same ship, occupation)

A site that lists many, if not all of them is:  The list is quite extensive with somewhere around 500 lineage societies listed.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saint Patrick's Irish Pictures

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to everyone!

In honor of my Irish ancestors here's a Throwback Thursday of my Irish family. Of course, my grandmother would be appalled over the wearing of the green. Being Protestant, she believed in wearing the orange of William of Orange only on this holiday.

Jennings family Keelinga Leap, County Cork
Sadie (Sarah) and Alice Jennings 1909
The first is that of my grandmother's family shortly before she left for America. She sailed on the RMS Laconia in October of 1912, never to return to Ireland. The second is her and her sister the day of or near their confirmation into the Church of Ireland. Sadie was just a year younger than Alice, my grandmother for whom I was given Alice as a middle name.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Central New York Genealogical Society March Meeting Saturday!

 Saturday will be the first 2016 meeting of the Central New York Genealogical Society (CNYGS). It will include a presentation about Orphan Asylums and a roundtable discussion about lineage societies. Come join us as we explore these topics and get together after a long winter! I certainly plan on being there.

My thanks to Janet Brown from the program committee for not only putting this together, but also providing the following detailed information for everybody:

Meetings will be held at the Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church, 5299 Jamesville Rd., DeWitt, NY


Directions.  From the south - take I481 North to exit 2 - Jamesville; turn left on Jamesville Rd; go 1.1 mi; church is on the left.  From the north - take I481 South from either the Thruway or I690, or from the northern suburbs to exit 3W Dewitt.  Merge onto E. Genesee St (route 5) heading west.  First light is Erie Blvd, next light is Jamesville

Road.  Go Left on Jamesville Road and go ½ mile. Church is on the right, across from Manlius Pebble Hill School.

Guests are welcome for a $5 donation per half-day session.  April’s full day program is $10.

Annual membership dues:  $30.00

Contact person:  Janet Brown  PHONE:  607-753-3461   E-MAIL:  

CNYGS website:  E-MAIL:

CNYGS address:  PO Box 104 Colvin Station, Syracuse, NY  13205

CNYGS blog:


March 19, 2016 - 1:00 - 4:00 PM

Author Michael Keene delves into the “age of orphan asylums” in mid-nineteenth century New York in this lecture taken from his new book “Abandoned: The Untold Story of Orphan Asylums.” It presents eye-opening, true-to-life tales of the Five Points area of New York City and the desperation of a million Irish immigrants who hoped to find better conditions in New York after leaving behind the famine they experienced in their homeland in 1848. Unfortunately, after arriving in Lower Manhattan, they found squalor, gang violence and disease.  During the Orphan Train Movement, everyday heroes endeavored to rescue and liberate these children who were lost to the streets or in the hands of uncaring institutions.

A Lineage Roundtable Discussion will follow Mr. Keene’s lecture. Guests will be David Morton, Robert Gang, Mary Raye Casper, and Walley Francis, representing several local lineage societies including the Daughter of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, The Society of the Cincinnati, the General Society of the War of 1812, the Military Society of the War of 1812, the Mayflower Society, Sons and Daughters of Pilgrims, Bench and Bar, Order of Americans of Armorial Ancestry, Hereditary Society of Teachers, Founders of Hartford, Saints and Sinners, St. Margaret’s, Justicars, Order of the Crown of Charlemagne, Dutch Colonial Society, Antebellum Planters, The Winthrop Society, Pilgrim Hopkins Heritage Society, the Roger Williams Family Association, Colonial Governors and the Descendants of Cape Cod and the Islands.


After Michael Keene’s lecture and the Lineage Roundtable discussion conclude attendees will have sufficient time to break out and speak to the lecturers individually.



For Immediate Release:
New Book, Abandoned, Explores Mid-Nineteenth Century New York Orphan Asylums
February 2014 New York From the author of Mad-House; Folklore and Legends of Rochester; and Murder, Mayhem and Madness comes Abandoned: The Untold Story of Orphan Asylums (www.Ad- Within the pages of Abandoned, author Michael Keene delves into the “age of orphan asylums” in mid-nineteenth century New York.
Recently published by Willow Manor Publishing, Abandoned presents eye- opening, true-to-life tales of the Five Points area of New York City and the desperation of a million Irish immigrants who hoped to find better conditions in New York after leaving behind the famine they experience in their homeland in 1848. Unfortunately, after arriving in Lower Manhattan, they found squalor, gang violence and disease.
Within a few years, the area was home to 30,000 orphaned and homeless children, who roamed New York City and resorted to petty crime, begging, and selling newspapers for a nickel a piece. Most slept in alleyways, cellar and sewers, ultimately joining violent gangs like the Bowery Boys for protection.
As a result of this crisis, the Age of Orphan Asylums began, culminating in one of the most improbable and audacious episodes in American history. Known as the Orphan Train Movement, everyday heroes endeavored to rescue and liberate these children who were lost to the streets or in the hands of uncaring institutions.
About the Author:
Michael Keene is the award-winning producer of Visions, True Stories of Spiritualism, Secret Societies & Murder. He worked as a financial planner in the financial services industry for 25 years and currently lives in Pittsford, New York. To contact Michael Keene for interviews, presentations or book signings, visit, call 800.648.8909, or email
Contact: Michael Keene
Phone: 800.648.8909