Sunday, 19 April 2015

Painting a Portrait with Words

This week at the Family History Center, I was visiting with a man who was saying he had 24 years of letters his mother had written his wife and his father's journals.  He said he had gleaned some interesting things from them but many of the letters or journals were just mundane things of life like ironing, fixing the mower, things not of interest.
Oh wow, what a picture of the life those mundane things can paint.
I will take some examples from my family using those example he had given and paint a picture of my grandmother, my father-in-law, and mother-in-law.
My grandmother, I have said before, was a remarkable woman.  She raise 13 children of her own and 2 grandchildren.  She had a pension from her husband's military service of 5 dollars to sustain the 6 left at home and the 2 grandchildren.
1930 photo held by Fran Ellsworth
In order to make ends meet, she washed and ironed for the families who either had enough money to not want to do it themselves or they worked and needed someone else to do that job.  [My grandchildren really are pretty clueless about ironing today. They have fabrics that don't need ironing, or the parents take the clothing to the Cleaners so "they will be done right." This is a side of life they can learn about.]  My grandmother had degenerative arthritis.  Her bones in her ankles and feet slowly an painfully degenerated. When she died, the doctor couldn't believe she was still walking. It was on these feet and legs that she would stand for hours washing, no washers like we have today, and iron to earn a small amount of money to make a living.
Vintage Embroider design
That is devotion and character of never giving in or up to circumstances.  I guess she was a person who lived the saying of when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Mundane jobs, but heroic attitudes.
My father-in-law had grown up in a family who worked.  His mother was an executive secretary and his father was an oil company executive.  They hired everything done.  While my father-in-law was not opposed to work, that is some interesting stories, he never learned to fix a mower, fix plumbing, or fix a car.
Phillip Martin Clip Art
His son as a matter of recourse, felt this left him wanting, and spent many hours learning on his own how to be self sustaining, without having to hire help.  Fixing a lawn mower, is pretty unexciting, but it illustrates that the person is mechanically inclined and spent time learning about machines as well as they are self sufficient.  Great character.
The interesting thing about my mother-in-law was she understood that her husband loved eating and he loved interesting flavors.  She would always have a large meal for him when he got home.
In this one they are camping out. Photo held by Fran Ellsworth
They would sit and visit about what happened during the day, and enjoyed the intimate relationship of a couple who shared daily activities of when they were apart as well as challenges and triumphs of life. These actions are what kept a marriage together for 60 years. This is what teaches grandchildren the ingredients it takes to make a good marriage; communication and sharing.
My point in this post is don't throw out the daily lives searching for the exciting. The exciting things are of great interest catchers, but the daily life is what shows what a person is made of. Using those activities paints mental pictures, such as a man and wife sitting across from each other and talking, working out challenges, or planning the future.  This is what can take the place of lack of pictures or lack of ever having met that person, word pictures.

Build your ancestors from the facts found.  What do you know about the vocation of farmer in the 1800s.  You might find they were store clerk, maybe they were found on a census in a poor house.  What happened to bring them there.  So many possibilities are found for stories of them just in looking in places and times they lived in.  Janet Few had some great ideas in her post this month. Funny that we were on the same page.
Keep writing the stories. Bring each of those ancestors to life with morals to their stories for your posterity.  You can do it, and there are many who are doing it.  Join their ranks.
See you next month.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

I Got Work To Do - - Scans, Etc.


How bout you?

I have not been participating in the "Do-over" memes. Maybe I should have. 

Truth is, Man and I have been traveling rather hard. 1,225 miles on Tana since we left Needles California on February 26, 2015. We have put on many more miles just driving around in Jolly the truck.

We have visited Route 66, Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, St. George Utah, Zion, Bryce, Page Arizona where the Slot canyons and Lake Powell are. Monument Valley, Capital Reef, Moab and heading through Colorado as I type while we are rolling along. Love my iPad and the ability to write and share while rolling.

Man gazing at the stunning scenery of Monument Valley, Utah.

That said, standing in the shower this morn, my mind wandering here and there I thought of all the work and fun stuff genealogical I have to play with.

Evernote files to review. 

OneNote files to review. 

(Yes, she admits, a bit ashamedly, she uses both, Evernote and OneNote.)

Mega.  And I mean mega numbers of files to review. Digital fun galore. Not linked. Not reviewed. 

Work to do.  

I got work to do, scans, etc.

That is a name of a file on my hard drive, really it is.  See, here is a screen shot, showing the file and the 31 sub directories and the 4,524 files I have to play with.

Yes, I am a bit embarrassed to show that huge number, I mean, really, 5.51  gigs??  Of data. Unprocessed data.  Is yours that bad??

Oh, and, there is more, because, nope, it is not all filed here.  It should be, but, it is not.  I need to organize that hard drive some more too.

But for now, it awaits, as I am continuing the "step away from that computer" mode I suggested back in March.

Yes, indeed, when we get back to the stick built in SE Michigan, 

I Got Work To Do, Scans, etc.

Till then, happy researching, travel safe.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Can Understanding the Research Process Help with Cost and Time Management?

Like many in the genealogy and family history community I have been researching for a number of years. 
I started out when Internet access was by expensive dial up and all that I used it for was email. This was when, those who could, signed up to mailing lists, in the hope of finding someone, who could help find the records needed.

Today I regularly participate in recorded videos or watch live or prerecorded broadcasts. Many of these are educational for both the participants and viewers. One I am currently helping with is Beginning Genealogy Study Group (2015): hosted as a Google+ Hangout on Air by Dear MYRTYLE.
Social media has transformed the way, that information can be shared and for anyone starting to research there is a wealth of resources available, much of it free, if you are just starting out and have not seen any of the aforementioned videos they are well worth watching.

Whilst many may happily give their time and knowledge freely there is always a hidden cost to the availability of information. Nothing in life is free.
It costs to be able to access the Internet for equipment and connection. It also costs in time. 
So we must always consider the balance, as the more time spent on a computer or other devices, is less time spent interacting with our families.
Websites are not always free but a subscription to the main sites will often pay dividends and is much cheaper than costly research trips.

As has been mentioned on here previously many in the genealogy community have decided to do a Genealogy Do Over this year as suggested and supported by Thomas MacEntee in his facebook group and on his website (last week saw the start of cycle 2). The challenge of correcting bad practices and starting over or reviewing how you carry out your research now there are so many online distractions is one that we should all consider doing. Learning from others has never been easier. When we started the Beginning Genealogy Study group we were looking at the Research Process  involving 5 steps. This led me to create a Google Sheet on the Principles of  Family History Research.
This spreadsheet is going to be one of the things I use to direct my research process and I will link it to other resources that I will be using as I build my genealogy toolbox. Please feel free to use it if you think it will help you at present the links are to be found on the Family Search website.

Having a system set up should ultimately save time as I will have a more directed research process. The technology available to assist in this process will be discussed on my Mastering Genealogy Software Blog as I work through the process over these coming months.

As I mentioned above there are educational resources on the internet and this can be entertaining as well, tips on where to research or how to research can be well worth it in both time and monetary terms. Even if you do not work in the same way as others you may find ways of using their suggestions to assist your research process. I was never a fan of mind mapping tools, I would give them a try but then find I never used them as I found them "clunky" or "time consuming" with little reward. However a website called was mentioned on a hangout and when I tried it I found it much more intuitive than others and am now intending to use it as one of the tools in my Genealogy Do Over.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Keeping Family History Stories Alive through Fiction - Part G - "Dr. Bill" Smith

Keeping Family History Stories Alive through Fiction
Part G
"Dr. Bill" Smith

Have you identified a theme that would be useful if you wrote a family story?

For this discussion I am going to assume that you have gathered a considerable amount of family history information, including social context material such as obituaries, wedding notices, newspaper clippings, family letter or journals, and so forth; not just the bare bones vital statistics. You may have even written sketches of some of your ancestors, perhaps even other family members and friends… these would be nonfiction writing, of course, assuming you ‘stayed with the facts’ in writing them.

If you now had a desire to save some of these family stories in fiction form, one approach would be to look for themes running through one or more of the stories. [Actually, you would also want to do this if you wanted to write a good nonfiction family history, as well!]

Theme is defined as a main idea or an underlying meaning of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly. [Source:]

For example, in my “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories, the theme is: “it is critically important to retain the family farm, in one piece, in the family.” It was the theme of the original novel, and the theme runs through all four novels, two other books, and hundreds of short stories that have been written in the series of stories (see: <>).

In looking at the stories, and specifically at the stories of individuals and of families, can you identify an overarching theme or idea that binds certain of the stories together? Are there perhaps two or three? You may want to choose one that you can identify and then limit your first fiction story to tell to the people and families that best share that particular story/theme. Perhaps follow-up stories can be developed from the others.

Once you have identified that first story arch/theme to work with you will want to begin to identify the main character or characters that best tell that specific story. Honestly, this is where the fun of writing fiction really begins, to me. Just writing this gets my creative juices flowing wanting to stop writing this and DO IT! … Sorry, I digress. Part of the ‘fun’ here is that you can pick and choose who is included in the story and who is not. You can take a main protagonist, perhaps, who is a man in real life, and create a female in your fictional story to play that role. You can have three interesting characters in a family rather than the four or five ‘not so interesting’ members in an actual family. You can make a composite of the characteristics of three actual people into one really complex person perhaps. I have done each of these, from time to time. Other fiction writers have done each of these. A few examples come to mind, that might be instructive. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder c. 1894

We all know Laura Ingalls Wilder, of the Little House on the Prairie series of books, and of course, the television series adaptation of her stories. Her original writings have gotten much detailed review in recent months, and some interesting examples come out of that. For example, her stories have Ma and Pa and their three girls, in the early stories (books). There was actually a young brother, but Laura intentionally left him out because he didn’t really fit in with the story she wanted to tell. Her work ‘feels like’ nonfiction (autobiographic, even, but it is not entirely that, of course), but it is really fiction, of course. For another example, Nellie (that we all love to hate, as portrayed in the television series, especially) was actually a composite person, in Laura’s books, of three actual friends from her youth. Laura’s biographers have learned these facts about her fiction writing from examining Laura’s manuscript, an actual autobiographic story, which was never published until recently, “Prairie Girl.” Comparing that story with her fiction books has become a ‘cottage industry’ in itself, in many ways.

How do you feel now about creating a fictional story to tell about some of your family history research? Does this get you excited to go DO IT, or does it turn you off at the whole idea? I’m sure there are some of each, among my readers out there. Each of us must make our own individual decisions, of course. What I am trying to do is provide some very interesting options that you may not have even considered before. If I have made you think about the process, even just a little bit, I will feel pleased that I did my job.

See you next month! I love to read comments, so please leave one or more, including questions. 

Dr. Bill


"Dr. Bill" (Wm. L.) Smith can be found regularly at his genealogy blog, "Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories" <> or his family saga blog, "The Homeplace Saga," <>. He is an original contributor, as The Heritage Tourist, to the "In-DepthGenealogy" blog with a monthly column in the "Going In-Depth" digi-mag. He also writes a monthly post for the Worldwide Genealogy Blog.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Bringing Your Ancestors to Life

We all collect names and dates for our family trees. Those who are serious family historians (what I, in my old fashioned way, would call ‘proper’ family historians), will look for detailed biographical information and examine the local and social historical context for our ancestors’ lives. How ever assiduous we are about this, it is still difficult to really understand what life would have been like a hundred, two hundred, four hundred years ago. I have the good fortune to be able to get closer than most to the daily lives of my ancestors as an historical interpreter. For the uninitiated, this basically means dressing up in funny (to you that is) clothes and learning about life in past times. My own venture Swords and Spindles concentrates on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but I am known to time travel into other eras. I even spent a week building houses using Neolithic tools and techniques - techniques which actually lasted into the recent past. That was a real eye opener. What is the most efficient way of riddling chalk? What material and method made the most water-tight or long-lasting thatch? Your ancestors will have struggled with these issues. Have you ever thought how difficult it is to build a home, from wattle and daub, cob, lathe and plaster, or whatever material would have been prevalent where your ancestors lived? Do you even know what vernacular housing would have been built from in your ancestral areas, because it will vary according to what building materials were available locally?

Have you considered something as simple as collecting water? Walk to the well/pump, which may be many yards/metres away. Use a fair amount of physical energy pumping or winding up well buckets. Carry the water home in a bucket that would almost certainly have been wooden and therefore heavy. A full wooden bucket might weigh as much as four stone (25kg). It is estimated that two gallons (two large buckets full) of water would be needed by each person per day. Have you tried carrying a full bucket of water that weighs this much? You have to either use a yoke or carry it away from your body in a manner that makes it much more difficult that carrying say a suitcase of similar weight. How difficult is this? Very. How do I know? Because I have tried it. It isn’t the same because I do not have the muscle power or the stamina that my female ancestors would have had to have had and I can go back to my own comfortable, modern life afterwards but it really highlights some of the difficulties of our ancestors’ lives.

How about making clothes? First shear your sheep. Ever tried lifting a wet sheep’s fleece because you will need to wash it. How difficult and time consuming is it to spin, weave and sew in poor light? Then you have to perform your daily tasks wearing what you have made. Have you ever thought about something as simple as climbing stairs in the costume of the past? It is tricky, remember that women were frequently pregnant, carrying small children or other items.

And then there is food. How much energy does it take to make butter or bread (by hand of course) or to grind flour? It takes about an hour to do your ‘daily grind’ i.e. to produce enough flour for one loaf. I have to confess that although I have tried grinding flour, making bread, and butter and have cooked using historic recipes and equipment, I haven’t yet sampled the really gory bits, such as wringing the necks of chickens or killing pigs but I am aware that I probably should.

If you get an opportunity to participate in living history - we don’t use the r word (re-enacting) or experimental archaeology, grab it with both hands, there is no better way to bring your ancestors to life. If you care about your ancestors you owe it to them to try to better understand their lives.

Janet Few

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Speaking in symbols from the grave

As genealogists, by nature, we all have a special affection for graveyards. To find a family plot, with everyone’s information and sometimes parents’ info, is a sort of adrenalin rush. When I first started visiting cemeteries, my family stones were pretty plain. I get so jealous sometimes when I see the clues that other families left behind for their descendants. I can almost hear my ancestors giggling. 

This Still family stone lists Person G. (1884-1977), Mary K. (1885–1916), Margaret (1908–1909), James (1910-1979), and Dorothy (1912-1912). Through deductive reasoning, even if I did not know who they were, one could reason that Pierson is the father and Mary, the mother. Since there is a flag with a military marker at the grave, one could surmise that James had served, which in fact he had. The stone is very plain, just like Pierson was in life. While you cannot tell from just looking at this stone, it cannot be the first, or at the very least, it was erected after their other son, my grandfather Lloyd, had married since he is not included. The stone also does not mention that Mary died in childbirth and her stillborn child is buried with her. Without any decoration of any kind on the stone, one can not – and should not – assume anything about the family. 

Most of my family members, who were in the military, did not have anything commemorative on their stones. However some use an anchor for the Navy. A castle may mean the deceased was with the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Southern Cross of Honor was used for Confederate Veterans. 

Organizations may offer much insight to our ancestors. It can also be a source of records and documentation, even if just residence and age. Three links in a chain symbolizes the Oddfellows, for example. A four leaf clover may indicate Irish roots; however, if there are Hs in the leaves, the meaning now changes to 4H Club. Corn and wheat may indicate a farmer.  

Daniel M Herr and his wife Naomi Wiggins Herr are buried at the Zion UCC Church in Providence, Lancaster County. There is a large family stone that identifies them as Herrs. The symbols on this smaller stone are Masonic. Daniel is a member of the Free & Accepted Masons. Naomi is an Eastern Star. A crown with a knight’s head (the helmet) and crossed swords indicates an affiliation with the Order of DeMolay. 

My great-great grandfather was a blacksmith. However his stone was very plain. Some symbols represent professions. For example an axe, joined with a knife and cleaver, may symbolize a butcher. A bowl and razor would indicate a barber. A chalice may indicate the person was a priest. A hammer and square may mean the deceased was a carpenter.  

Many people opt for a religious symbol. Crosses, angels, and lambs all indicate one final religious statement. Arches symbolize the door to salvation. The Bible is also often found on many Christian stones. Catholics may use rosary beads. Menorahs are indication of Judaism.  

My grandmother’s brothers, Michael J and Daniel J Welsh, are buried together near her at St. Patrick’s RC Cemetery in Kennett Square. The stone is simple but adorned with ivy and a cross in each top corner. The crosses are a Christian symbol for the Resurrection. In their case, they were Roman Catholic. The ivy symbolizes immortality or friendship.  

Some symbols are simply icons of death, mortality and grief. A broken column, for example, represents the loss of the head of the family. Doves may symbolize peace. 

People have erected tombstones for their loved ones since early Biblical days. The first mention of such a marker is one Jacob erected for Rachel (Genesis 35:20) when she died in childbirth. The Bible does not elaborate as to what the marker says or any etchings in it. Merely, we are told “Then Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.” 

Jacob set the pillar on her grave, just as we set markers on the graves of our loved ones. Thus tombstones are a way in which the dead may speak one final word.
Share YOUR thoughts
Have you thought what yours might say?

Monday, 6 April 2015

Saying Goodbye Too Soon

  Like most of you, I have women in my family tree who had to live through the loss of one or more of their children.
  My paternal Grandmother, Mary Baker Hudson (1920-2910) buried a baby girl who only lived a few hours.
Grave of the Infant Daughter of
 Benjamin Allen Hudson (1918-1976) and Mary (Baker) Hudson (1920-2010)
Sumter Cemetery, Sumter, South Carolina 
Azile Juanita (Daughrity) Roberts Sullivan (1921-2009), my maternal Grandmother received a phone call that no mother wants to get as she learned of the death of her grown son, Gilbert Earnest Roberts, Jr. (1944-1999).

Grave of Gilbert Ernest Roberts, Jr.
Quaker Cemetery, Camden, Kershaw, South Carolina

Paternal Great Grandmother, Beulah Mae (Price) Roberts (1897-1980), survived 6 of her 12 children. Three dying in infancy and three dying in WWII.

Funeral of Roberts Brother's Killed in WWII

 Frances Virginia (McRady) McManus (1856-1903), Great Great Grandmother on my maternal side, buried her twin girls a month apart and then went on to lose two more of her children and a beloved grandchild.
Death Notice of Grandson Amos
Sumter Southron and Watchman, 9 April, 1902

  This list goes on and on as one goes back in time. Their stories sad and heartbreaking. As these life experiences are discovered my heart reaches out to them wondering how they kept going, How did the mundane tasks of every day get done?  How did they go on?

 These questions I am now asking of myself. For you see, as of this past weekend, I am joining the ranks of women who have been faced with the enormous trial of losing a child. My 12-year-old son has been diagnosed with a brain stem tumor.
 Cancer. Inoperable. Terminal.

 With the great examples before me, I will go on. There are others to take care of including myself. A child to show a lifetime of love to and make memories with.

 Wonderful family and friends will be there to support and sustain me in what will be one of the hardest trials any parent can face.
 Learning how to say goodbye too soon.




Friday, 3 April 2015

Adieu then to sweet Lulworth Cove, My happiest moments were there

"Adieu then to sweet Lulworth Cove, My happiest moments were there"

William Rule Jeatt (1813-1879), Coastguard

Lulworth Cove 100 years ago
I always loved going to Lulworth Cove on the South Coast of England as a child, never realising that my ancestral family lived there back in the 1700s. The Cove itself has changed little from how it looked a century ago (see plate above). Back then day-trippers arrived in their hundreds by paddle steamer but now they come by cars through the village of West Lulworth half-a-mile inland.

In January 2010 I decided to start a one-place study of West Lulworth parish, including the Cove, to learn more about its history, and the people that have lived and worked there over the centuries. One-place studies bring together the local history AND family history dimensions to give a much fuller picture of what life was like in that place and why families came and went.

The first step was to set up a dedicated website, where information from West Lulworth's past could be added for all to see. This included transcriptions of baptisms, marriages and burials, census returns, newspaper reports, obituaries, probate records, wills and much more. And being a picturesque coastal location, there was also a ready supply of old postcards!

Looking inland from the Cove towards the row of Coastguard Cottages
Just a few hundred yards from the beach lies an impressive row of eight Coastguard Cottages, built over 190 years ago in 1824.

The Coastguard was formed in 1822 by the amalgamation of three services set up to prevent smuggling: revenue cruisers; riding officers and the preventive water guard. Until 1925 the duties of the Coastguard were defending the coast, providing a reserve for the Royal Navy, and preventing smuggling but then the focus shifted towards saving lives, salvaging wrecks and supervising the foreshores.

The Coastguard of Lulworth

Being a Coastguard Officer was a very hazardous occupation. Many Coastguard men lost their lives while out at sea, including five men from the neighbouring Worbarrow Station in 1865 when their boat sank 'like a stone' just off Lulworth Cove. But there were other dangers too! On a tombstone in Weymouth's Bury Street cemetery there is the following inscription:  

Sacred to the memory of Lieut Thos Edward Knight, RN, of Folkestone, Kent, Aged 42, who in the execution of his duty as Chief Officer of the Coastguard was wantonly attacked by a body of smugglers near Lulworth on the night of 28th of June 1832, by whom after being unmercifully beaten he was thrown over the cliff near Durdle Door from the effects of which he died the following day.
"Over the Cliff!"

The census returns from 1841 to 1911 show that there were generally between seven and eleven coastguard men stationed at West Lulworth, with wives and children the total number living in the cottages ranged from 34 to 54 persons. Sadly no coastguards live in the cottages today - they are now mostly holiday homes.
The Coastguard Cottages at Lulworth Cove in 2014
At the time of the 1841 census, William Rule Jeatt (1813-1879) was a Coastguard at West Lulworth, living in one of the Coastguard Cottages. In an adjacent cottage lived Graham Hewett, a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, along with servant Jane Harvell (1814-1891), the daughter of James and Hannah Harvell. Three years later, William Rule Jeatt was to marry Jane Harvell.

William Rule Jeatt and his wife Jane Jeatt (nee Harvell)
William Rule Jeatt was born at Dartmouth, Devon. His father Richard Jeatt was in the Preventive Service and is mentioned in the press on various occasions for seizures of contraband and capture of smugglers. Sadly Richard drowned in the Porthcawl Preventive Boat tragedy of February 1839, less than 18 months after marrying his second wife, who by then was expecting their first child.

William & Jane had five children:
  • William Rule Jeatt (1844-1916)
  • Richard Brooking Jeatt (1845-1927)
  • Hellon Rebecca Gaze Jeatt (1847-1876)
  • Arthur James Jeatt (1850-1919)
  • Augustus Bisset Jeatt (1853-1932)
At the time of the 1851 census, Jane Jeatt was at the Coastguard Cottages in West Lulworth with her first four children. Meanwhile, her husband William was recuperating at the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, near Gosport, reason unknown. His occupation was shown as Chief Boatman, Revenue Services.

On 12 March 1860, William Rule Jeatt (Senior) was promoted to Chief Officer at Chesil Coast Guard Station, Portland. When the 1861 census was taken, William Rule Jeatt (Junior) was aboard the Coastguard Tender ‘Defence’, meaning three generations of the Jeatt family had served in the Coastguard/Preventive Service.The Portland Directory of 1865 showed the following entry: "Coast Guard Station: Chesil. JEATT, William R, Chief Officer and twelve men".

William Rule Jeatt (Senior) died in 1879 aged 65 at their home in Hope Way, Weymouth. Jane lived there until her death in 1891. William wrote poetry and his manuscript book survives to this day. One of his works was "An Adieu to Lulworth Cove", reproduced below, stating his happiest moments were there....

Better Late then Never

Dear Teacher,

I am sorry that I am late with my post this month but I have a good excuse reason.

I have been very busy playing learning with more than 500 of my friends at a party educational activity called "The 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry" that was held in Canberra Australia from 26-30 March 2015 . My friends and I just call it Congress.

You may even know some of my Geneablogger friends in this photo below:

GeniAus (Blue shirt right front) and Geneabloggers at Congress
We learnt lots at Congress and also got to visit The Australian War Memorial and Australia's Parliament House. Because I am a good student I went early and spent time working in the National Library of Australia. Some people like Roger Kershaw, David Holman and Simon Fowler came all the way from England and David Rencher, Paul Milner and Colleen Fitzpatrick came from America to share in the fun learning.

I even had to talk to the group twice and that was rather scary. My friend Michelle took this photo of me talking.

GeniAus on Blogging
If you want to see what my friends learnt at Congress you can take a look at this page and see that I have a really good excuse for being late.

It was such good fun that I am going to the next Congress in Sydney in 2018. It would be a good idea for everyone to have an excursion to Sydney for this event as they will learn heaps and have fun too. (

Yours Faithfully,
PS That link is

Monday, 30 March 2015

Update on March

You last heard from me in January when I told you to be watching for Ursula Kraus' blog coming in February....of course, I had forgotten that there was no 30th day in Feb.  So, here I am again, writing for the second time and supposedly updating you on my progress genealogically and otherwise.

Well, I lucked into professional researcher, Witold Wrzosinski, in Poland after seeing his name associated with some cemetery documentation in Warsaw.  He had already photographed my great great grandmothers grave there.  I was simply amazed that it still existed!  I thought all of the graves in Europe were "turned over" and re-used periodically but it seems that this is not true in Poland.  After some facebook messaging on the Polish Genealogy page, he and I came to an agreement and he is doing some research for me on one of my brick walls.....Leo Kerner.  If you have read my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog, you may recognize the name as the husband of my beloved great grandmother, Elsa.
Anyway, it is true that he was from Poland, his parents were Fievel and Doba Koerner and they were tavern keepers in Warsaw.  Now I have dates, and even town directories showing where they lived!
Interestingly enough, to me anyway, is that Fievel and Doba had been neighbors growing up and both of their fathers owned taverns....maybe competing taverns?  Anyway, I think back to the Broadway show "Fiddler on the Roof" and wonder if Fievel and Doba's union wasn't arranged by their parents? Currently, I am eagerly awaiting further research results from Poland.  I hope to add details on Leo to his own very special page in my work on 52 Ancestors.

My work on the Genealogy Do Over is continually bogged down my BSO's (Bright and Shiny Objects).  I have a devil of a time staying focused when I am researching or even organizing and get dragged off in all different directions.  I have post-it notes all over the place.  I did, however, arrange most of everything into stacks of ancestors and put everything applicable to that particular ancestor into its own file.  It has all been scanned and arranged on my computer.  I hope to go forward with the same efforts at organization.  I also designed a template with the documents I would need for every ancestor, places to record if or if I do not have them, where to look, etc.  I am also much better at keeping track of documents or information I have written for, when I wrote, who I wrote or where, and a place to check off when I get a response.  I keep this in a file called "Pending Information" and am using the "Correspondence Log" available free at Family Tree.  I have found it to be very helpful particularly when I have forgotten what I have written for, how much I paid and about when to expect to receive it.

Personally, I have been slowed down by some family emergencies.  I have had a daughter in law in the ICU for  over a week and while having been moved to a regular floor, she is still in the hospital.
My husband and I have been taking turns with her family members in staying with her.  It is a two and a half hour drive for us and we usually stay a few days.  Her genealogy may be in the present but one day soon it will be the past.  She is just as vital a part of our family as my ancestors.
So, without further ado, I will bid you all a good month!  I won't be back until May but you can read more on my blog at


Friday, 27 March 2015

How the American Civil War Affected This Southern Woman and Many of Us--150 Years Later!

-illustration shared on

At my current age of sixty-six years, it was mostly my 2nd Great Grandfathers, eight in number, who fought in the Civil War. That whole generation was affected--those born in the 1830’s and 1840’s and dying in the war or after 1880. I remember how surprised I was to look at my family tree and realize that. I had put a little picture beside all the folks who fought in the war, and when I looked at my pedigree, there they were, all lined up--my 2nd Great Grandfathers!  One young 1st Great Grandfather lied about his age and entered the war early, and a couple of elderly 3rd Great Grandparents served as well, but mostly this was a tragedy for my 2nd Great Grandparents, who, thank heavens, had children before the war, or after, so that here I am, a product of all eight of them.

“The Civil War” as we call it in America, was fought between April, 1861 and April 1865. Many issues entered into the conflict, but the overriding matter of the day was slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into the western areas of the growing United States. Altogether, eleven  Southern States of the United States seceded, decided they no longer wanted to be a part of the United States of America, but wanted to join together as the Confederate States of America, often called the Confederacy, the South, or the Rebels. The United States forces were called the Union, the Yankees, or the North! After four years of battles, burning, and destruction, Wikipedia reports that there were an “estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. One estimate of the death toll is that ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40 died.” We genealogical researchers in America have all probably noticed the many, many widows and fatherless families on the 1870 and 1880 censuses due to this terrible war.

The Confederacy lost, the slaves were freed, and the South had to slowly rebuild and learn a new way of life.
After the war, almost everyone in the South was poor, their confederate money was no good.  Even the plantation owners were “land poor,” unable to afford to hire their former slaves or other workers to work their large fields!

This is the world in which I find my 2nd Great Grandparents living. For some reason, this was a shock to me. Until I started my genealogical research in 2012, I cared little for history, I am sorry to admit.  A person with a Master’s Degree, I did poorly in history classes, as they only meant dates and event names to memorize to me. Why didn’t someone ever explain to me that my family was there? It wasn’t just the movie “Gone With The Wind” that I should have modeled my scant knowledge of the Civil War upon--of all historical events. Did my parents really not know that their 1st Great Grandparents fought in the war, or was it that they were so busy surviving the depression and World War II, that history paled in comparison. Now that I am more aware, I am trying to correct that situation by writing stories of our ancestors and how they participated in and were affected by historical events. Now I know, that their participation in those events, affected me and my family’s choices in life, experiences in life...let me give you some examples:

Monument_Ave_Robert_E._Lee, public domain Wikicommons.jpg
Robert E. Lee, public domain, wikicommons

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, the former Capital of the Confederacy, with statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and JEB Stuart adorning our major thoroughfare, Monument Avenue, one could not help but feel a sense of pride in being “Southern.” Stories were everywhere, and the pride of being Southern lay not in the reality of the war, but in little girls’ visions of verandas and sweet tea, white gloves and hoop skirts! It had nothing to do with slavery, especially since even in 1960, when I was eleven years old, blacks were pretty much completely segregated from whites.  As a white child, I didn’t know it should be different, I am sorry to say. By the time I was six, I knew the “Rebel Yell,” which we used to summon our playmates when we went outdoors to play. The South was highly glorified of course. As I grew up, I learned that there was so much more to the story, of course.  My genealogical research helped me truly understand.

One of my four maternal 2nd Great Grandfathers  was Robert Kerse, an Irish emigrant arriving in America in  1850 at age 18.  He married and had three of his ten children by 1861, then fought in the Civil War as a Confederate, protecting his own city of Richmond, Virginia.  His one and only horse was shot out from under him! Right on Fold 3, a genealogical site for military research, I can find his muster roll sheets, and letters from his superiors attesting to the fact that his horse was shot out from under him in battle, and that his claim against the US government after the war, to get a new horse, should be honored.  Oh my gracious!

Robert Kerse-- in the U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865

Robert Kerse
Rank at enlistment:
State Served:
Service Record:
Enlisted in Company B, Virginia 2nd Infantry Regiment.
Index to Compiled Confederate Military Service Records

Another maternal 2nd great grandfather, James Steptoe Langhorne, called Steptoe, was blind, but owned a huge, 13,000 acre plantation in Patrick County, Virginia. His family stretches back to Jamestown. He did not fight in the war obviously, but he did have the experience of having the Yankee forces steal his horse! The story, involving Steptoe and his daughter Fannie  was originally told to me by my cousins. (cousins found through genealogical research) brothers, and Fannie’s grandsons: Harvey Langhorne Spangler and Dr. Daniel Patrick Spangler, PhD)     

“At the time Miss Fannie Langhorne was ten, and the Civil War was being fought, Stoneman brought his Yankee army from Tennessee down what is now the J.E.B. Stuart highway. In passing they annexed one of Mr. Langhorne’s horses which happened to be his favorite. He, though blind, accompanied by his small daughter Fanny, insisted on following the army to Stuart in search of his horse. There the captain agreed to allow him to retrieve his horse if he could recognize him. Mr. Langhorne set Fanny to hunt the animal. After walking down the long line of horses hitched to the racks along the road and back again, she was unable to find him. On her return, however at one side, away from the rest, she saw her father’s mount and immediately squealed in delight. Mr. Langhorne was led over to a tall roan mare, not his, but near the one Fanny had discovered, and told to see if that were his. Fanny squealed to the contrary, but Mr. Langhorne turned to her and said, “You don’t understand the joke”. Then his hand was placed on another, his own; this time he said, “This is my horse, but not my bridle”.   (If you’d like, you can find this story here: )  That took courage and audacity, on his and young Fannie’s part!   

My third maternal 2nd great grandfather, William W. Stoops also served in the Civil War. He served in Company G, 21st Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.  It was made up of older men who could not do the long marches so it was a cavalry that stayed close to home to protect railroads, bridges, and mines.

My fourth maternal 2nd Great Grandfather was an Italian Immigrant, Louis Botto. It looks like he arrived in America perhaps about 1844, and he and his wife, my grandmother, Catherine Revaro Botto, had their first child in Richmond, Virginia, in 1857. I believe he had a brother named Frank Botto, and we can clearly see Frank registered to fight in the Civil War. Unfortunately, although I can find Louis Botto in the 1860 census, I’ve yet to find him anywhere else, except that his wife is listed in the phone book as the widow of Louis Botto and by 1866, she has remarried.  I wonder if Louis was killed in the war? Did he get sick and die? Did he leave the family, as I find Louis Bottos in several other areas of the country? I still have a ways to go in my research to prove this.

While part of my mother’s family traces back to Jamestown, the founding colony of America, as you can see, my family is a melting pot of nationalities. So as I grew up “basking in the glory” of being a “Southern Belle” (not really, not from age 12 on), what about my paternal side?  I did realize, as I grew older,  that my father’s side of the family were Yankees.  Not only that, when I started doing my genealogical research, I discovered that my father's  Grandfather, my first great grandfather, Lewis Jacob Youngblood, 1846-1919, fought in the Battle of Petersburg,Virginia, as part of a New Jersey Cavalry Regiment!  After the war, he came back and lived in Petersburg where he had fought, because supposedly he “thought it was such a beautiful area.”  This past year, one of my cousins’ found Lewis’s discharge papers from the Civil War!  I got to see them as well as his sword, and his gun, all owned now by different cousins!  Kay Youngblood Fuller, my cousin, owns not only his discharge papers, but found his own journal which explains that he was an IRS tax collector for the Federal Government, and that he readily foreclosed on farms, and often bought them himself--farms in the Petersburg area-- when recovering Confederates were unable to pay! What a way to get revenge on your enemies! He was a carpetbagger! My own Great Grandfather was a carpetbagger! “In United States history, a carpetbagger was a Northerner (Yankee) who moved to the South after the American Civil War, especially during the Reconstruction era (1865–1877), in order to profit from the instability and power vacuum that existed at this time.”   -- the source for this illustration below:


One cousin told me that when Lewis moved to Petersburg, he joined the local Methodist Church, Gary’s Methodist Church.  They say he was so hated, that when he came into the church and sat down, the whole congregation stood up and moved to the other side of the church! My poor grandfather and his siblings had to grow up this way! How would Lewis Jacob  feel to think that 100 years later, he had a great granddaughter who prided herself in her Southern heritage!
Youngblood, Lewis Jacob, discharge papers from Civil War.jpg
-for pictures of Lewis Jacob Youngblood’s rifle and sword from the Civil War, see my blog post at Heart of a Southern Woman,

Hugh Jackson Hogue, 1825-1870, Pennsylvania is my 2nd great grandfather on my father's side, and is of Scottish descent. He, along with his son, my great grandfather, Robert Fulton Hogue, 1850-1924, also fought at the Battle of Petersburg, and Robert came back to settle there as well! Robert was underage, only 15,  when he joined his Dad in Petersburg, and served as a bugle boy, a water boy, and took care of the horses. In later  years,  Robert’s daughter, Helen Blanche Hogue married Edwin Spear Youngblood, son of Lewis Jacob Youngblood, both children of Yankees who relocated to Petersburg, Virginia, both families members of Gary’s Methodist Church.  Had the fathers met in the war, or did they meet in church when being shunned by others?  What would it have been like to grow up in a small southern town, a yankee revenue agent for a father, just after the Civil War? How is it that Edwin  and Helen’s son married a Southern girl from Richmond, Virginia? Of course, she was only partially a  “Southern girl”--she, my mother, was Irish and Italian also, and proud of those heritages.

My other two paternal great grandfathers did not participate in the Civil War, one, Edwin Speer whose ancestors hailed from the Netherlands and Germany,  was too old, with the next generation too young. The other was a German emigrant, Gustavus Voelkler who only arrived in America about the time the Civil War was ending. Lucky them.

Again, the melting pot is evident. Dad’s family includes Scots, Germans, and Netherlanders mostly. Mom’s English, Irish, and Italian mostly. It always amazes me! The Kerse’s of Ireland, were originally the DesCearsais family of France!

One hundred fifty years from now, 2015, will be the year 2165. It’s possible I will have a 2nd or 3rd great grandchild who is my age by then. What will I have done that they might discover that will affect the way they think of me, or the way they think period, the way they regard history? Wow, that’s a humbling thought, yet now I know that my ancestors affected history, they fought, they struggled, they were there. They have affected me by sharing their beliefs, their courage and strong wills, their desire to make a difference--traits I feel in myself today!  

Would I have been a Confederate or Yankee if I were alive during the Civil War?  If I were a child, of course, I’d have done whatever my family did, and possibly been a southern Confederate. However, after all these years of being proud of my Southern heritage, I could never support I suspect I would have been a Union sympathizer if not an outright flag waving Yankee! I see this same type of civil strife continuing everyday of my life. Our country in 2015 is about as polarized between the Democrats and Republicans as it was in 1861! Some even think we’re moving again towards a Civil War! While I feel very strongly about my political views, would I pick up a gun and shoot someone over it? I can’t imagine!  I might get angry at a neighbor or family member who believes so very differently from me-- that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their right to have those views, just not to force them on me. Having strong beliefs can lead to conflicts, broken families, even wars, I see it in my own family, and in our world.

What might your descendents think of you, of your lifetime? --our lifetime? It’s a lot to consider, but our genealogical research leads us to these questions.