Thursday, March 20, 2014

Would You Want To Know, If You Had A Brother?

 Would you want to know, if you had a brother?
Imagine all that would change...

As genealogists, we are not only used to mysteries, we relish in them. And family secrets have created many mysteries for many families. These mysteries don't always seem as personal when they involved people who lived & died generations ago. But, for a moment, imagine the family mystery happened a little more recently... say 1945 or 1965... and that it involved your own Mother or Grandmother... Then what? Would you want to know?

Would you want to know that as a 19 year old, your Mother had a son and gave him up for adoption? Or if Grandpa fathered a child with someone else-- would you want to know?

Thanks to progressive thinking, the stigma surrounding births "out of wedlock" is largely gone in general society, so the large number of secret adoptions from the first half of the 20th century are no longer.

Back to my question... Would you want to know, if you had a Brother?

Imagine all that would change? Everything you have always known & thought could be no longer.... Family secrets tend to come out... especially when a genealogist starts poking around or asking questions. People tell "secrets"...sometimes because they want to-- and other times because they didn't really realize it was a secret.

I've known many secrets in my 20+ years of genealogy research-- some of these secrets I've told... others I still keep. Personally, I feel secrets are unhealthy-- for all involved. But I don't like to tell a story that's not mine to tell... I prefer to leave that to someone else...

What about you? Have you known of a secret birth that others did not? Did you feel obligated to tell those affected? And did you?

Have you seen the movie 'Philomena'? It is still in theatres-- if you haven't seen it, you should! Not only because Judi Dench is perfection, but because it is a story about a secret... and the woman who finally told hers... and her quest for answers. Such a heartbreaking tale (and a true story!)--- I wonder how many countless women could relate...

There is responsibility I knowing a secret. I know of people who have a brother or sister, unbeknownst to them. Some may be angry that you told... Some may be angry that you didn't tell sooner. There really is no easy way to deal with a secret...

To answer my own question... I would want to know. I would want to know if I had a brother. I know that it is something I could handle, with relative ease.

But could you? I mean, really...could you?
How many situations are you aware in your own lives or families, involving unknown siblings. How does that fit into your genealogy?

Would you want to know... If you had a Brother?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Our Own Childhood Memories... Saturday Night Fun~

The ever energetic Randy at Genea-Musings proposed a great idea for 'Saturday Night Fun', his weekly post... since I went to bed with the chickens on Saturday night, I'm just getting to his article early Sunday morning... His idea was inspired by the RootsTech keynote speech that Judy Lewis, the Legal Genealogist gave... demonstrating how easily family stories are lost & forgotten. [I've linked up to Randy, Judy & RootsTech in case you haven't seen them before you got to me... check them out!]

The questions Randy posed are about our own childhoods... and since I'm in my mid-30s, it hasn't been a super long time since I was a child... but I even had to think about a couple of the questions...

which are-
1)  What was your first illness as a child?
2)  What was the first funeral you attended?
3)  What was your favorite book as a child?
4)  What was your favorite class in elementary school?
5)  What was your favorite toy as a child?
6)  Did you learn how to swim, and where did you learn?

and my answers-

1) I think my only real illness was the chicken pox, which I came down with just as Summer began after 3rd grade, that whole Spring our class was ravaged by chicken pox. I, of course, waited until school was out to get it. Ugh. Otherwise I never had a broken bone, never had surgery, never spent time in the hospital, and never had any other strange/rare illnesses. Which was great, because my Mother was not one to take us to the doctor. In fact, we never went. I tease her still that we were like Christian Scientists...of course, we didn't really pray to get well either...

2) My Great-Uncle passed away when I was 11. That was the first funeral we all attended as a family. My Grandmother died in Arizona, and her illness was swift and uncertain, so I was left in Minnesota with my other Grandparents, and did not go to her funeral with the rest of my family. And when my Great-Grandma passed away, our neighbor lady Hazel walked across the street to watch my brother [still in diapers] and me, while my Mom when to the small funeral home service.

3) My favorite book as a child was probably the Box Car Children series, which I started ready in 2nd grade. I was a big reader, so a "favorite" book is really difficult. Even today, I can't really pick favorites.

4) Again, I don't know that I had a "favorite" class in elementary school... I loved to read and I really liked geography... So I think it was a toss up between them! School was easy for me [back then] so I like most classes I had.

5) My favorite toy was my large stuffed monkey "Georgie". I loved Georgie. I'd take him for wagon rides, etc and he was clearly my favorite toy for years. I have photos of me unwrapping him for Christmas... [wish the photos were scanned into the computer so I could insert one here... I was adorable then! So was Georgie].  I still have Georgie, though the wagon rides have ended.

6) Yes. I learned to swim. Though I was slow to do so, and was one of the older kids in my swimming lessons class, which was held at our local swimming pool. I was initially scared of the water. I hate the diving boards. The first time (or 3?) the instructor basically had to throw me off of the diving board...which I'm sure helped my fears [not really]. Though after a couple of Summers, I became a good swimmer and lived at the pool. When I was young, I had a traumatic [for me] water experience... a story my Dad loves to tell... but I will save for another day here [or never].
Ok. There are my answers....and some fond memories attached as well.
Not only is it a nice exercise for our own minds to relive some old a great motivator to get these & other questions answered by our family members...the older the better! I'm always prattling on about how we need to fully utilize the living, breathing family members we have!

Now, we should all take a little stroll down memory lane... and grab Grandma or Aunt Myrtle along for the ride!

Thanks to Randy for the challenge & to Judy for planting the seeds in the first place!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

1,000 Unmarked Graves in Mississippi...Forgotten & Lost

1,000 Unmarked Grave in Mississippi...Forgotten & Lost
Is there a growing crisis today in cemetery preservation?

 This story, which in the last week, as been making news nationwide...especially in the genealogical community, brings to light many questions!

I'm including a link to the original news story & video, so you can read it there... and I can skip rehashing it.....  Discovery of graves affects UMMC parking plan

Weed Cemetery in New Canaan, CT
January 2014
Photo compliments of Pamela S.
Unfortunately, while I'm passionate about cemetery preservation...I'm not very well educated on any groups or organizations that might exist. Recently, I posted about a neglected family cemetery in Connecticut, which is the final resting place for some of my very long ago ancestors. Today, we are constantly hearing about the abuse/neglect of ancient burial grounds....

In 2012, here in Minnesota a farmer in Grant County destroyed an old family cemetery. Pioneer cemeteries fall under plow's threat is the original MPR article, which is very good! Check it out.

Of course the cemetery in Mississippi is a little different, as there were no headstones or cemetery records even acknowledging this as a burial place. Though, one does have to wonder if someone didn't have an idea it existed... after all this is prime real estate in the heart of Jackson... it seems that in the last 100 years someone would have developed the land before today?? But that's just my own opinion.

Genealogists are fortunate that there are websites such as Findagrave & Billiongraves that are devoted to preserving cemetery records & photographs... And while Findagrave has millions of graves from around the world, there are still millions left undocumented! Myself, I've been slowly trying to walk & photograph cemeteries in my small rural section of Minnesota... just my own little part in cemetery preservation!  And fortunately, I don't know of any cemeteries in my immediate area that would appear to be in the "danger zone" of being abandoned/neglected/destroyed. But certainly that isn't the case elsewhere!

What groups exist for cemetery preservation?
What can we, as individuals do to help?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Enjoy the Living, While pursuing the Dead!

Don't neglect Aunt Myrtle & Cousin Herman
Maintain those relationships with living relatives today!
New Years Resolution #5

Life is crazy busy these days -- we are a society constantly on the go and have almost constant stimuli -- but that's another dilemma for another day! And since we are in the second week of February, I am wrapping up my genealogy resolutions for 2014, with this final posting!

Between juggling jobs, families [those we habitate with], and other life responsibilities--
there isn't always a lot of left over hours in a week to devote to genealogy-- and when we do find ourselves with some treasured genealogy time-- we spend it searching, stumbling through cemeteries, or digging through dusty ledgers at the courthouse.

So.... due to the above and countless other reasons-- we often put of visiting with our real-live-still-breathing family members! I struggle with this as much as anyone! Not only am I fortunate enough to have a large extended family-- as someone in his mid-30s, I still have quite a few relatives from that "older generation"-- people like my 103 year old Great-Great Aunt! And after many years of researching-- I have relationships with many "cousins" who also share a passion for genealogy [or at least a remote interest!]. So I have both elderly family & fellow researchers I want to see in the first half of 2014.

Sine I'm lucky that many/most of my relatives life reasonably close-- some 20 miles away, while others about 2 hours-- still all doable in a day! So I have created a list of relatives I want to physically pay a visit to by June 1st, 2014! My list is numbered at 10-- though it could have been twice that... Perhaps I'll expand the list if I go gangbusters and see everyone by June-- than I can add to it for the last half of the year.

And for those important people who live states away from me-- there will be phone calls- especially for those like my 89 & 90 year old Great-Aunts who don't use email or Facebook.

Not only do I actually enjoy these people I'm maintaining relationships with-- but as I mentioned in my Brick Walls- Resolution #2 post, these living breath folks often have great tidbits of information-- or game changing bombshells-- that may shatter [or create new?] Brick Walls.

Well, this all being said-- what about you? Do you have any relatives that you need to spend some time with this year? Or are there previous unknown relatives that you need to establish a relationship with? In this age of busy living & technology over load, it is easy to let "real people" moments pass by....

So today, I challenge you! Call Aunt Myrtle and plan a coffee date! Call Grandpa's cousin Herman and see if he has any old photos! Make a list...and start in on it! After all, this is really what genealogy is all about...not that internet downloaded pedigree that takes you back to Adam & Eve... But the real people in our family tree, who can tell us stories and help us make great memories!

I'd keep writing...but I have to refill my coffee cup & call my 89 year old Great-Aunt!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Cemetery in Crisis! The Weed Cemetery of New Canaan

A Cemetery in Crisis ~ How to save the Weed Cemetery
of New Canaan, Connecticut

Weed Cemetery in January 2014
Photo compliments of Pamela S.

Weed Cemetery in January 2014
Photo compliments of Pamela S.
There is some irony in the name- Weed Cemetery -- and a sad tragedy that this ancient burial ground, which has headstones dating back to the 1700s, has been so neglected!

As a descendant of Abraham & Naomi (Pond) Weed, I'm saddened that their final resting place is so poorly maintained -- a few years ago, Abraham had a surviving, albeit damaged, headstone.
I'm not sure if Naomi's has been lost to time or if it is just lost amongst the actual weeds & brambles.

Grave of Abraham Weed
Photograph by Gary Boughton, used with permission
There are many other, very early burials in the Weed Cemetery... you can see a list of burials at these two links--  Fairfield County Cemeteries  &  Weed Cemetery 411-4...  So it appears that the cemeteries was at one point cleared enough to be walked & transcribed. I have emailed the people listed from these sites, to see what I might find out...  You would think such an old cemetery, in this historic area would have some group that overseas its maintenance?!

Findagrave has memorials for 139 burials in the Weed Cemetery... looking at some photos posted in 2006, it appears that the cemetery was maintained at some point?? However, only 33% off the 133 burials are photographed, according to F.A.G.

New Canaan, Connecticut is a very affluent city, in fact it is listed as the 5th wealthiest city in the Nation! The have a Historical Society, whose link I will include here, in case you like to check it out-- New Canaan Historical Society, they have a number of historic sites, but I don't really find anything related to genealogy or cemeteries... though I did email them as well to see who might be responsible for the maintenance of the cemetery.

I have heard about local organizations taking on the preservation of old abandoned cemeteries--- like the Boy Scouts or Lions Club... and I suppose once I find out who is ultimately responsible for the Weed Cemetery, I might see about find a group to "adopt it".

It seems that an unmaintained cemetery such as this, is just an invitation to vandals... not to mention Mother Nature wreaking havoc! Even if this wasn't a final resting places for early ancestors, I'd still wish for it to be preserved!

Are you familiar with New Canaan? Do you have roots there?
Perhaps the Weed family is in your ancestry [Hi Cousin!] or other burials connect to you?
Have you had any experience preserving an old cemetery?

After I wrote this, I did receive 2 responses in my quest for information... there were as followed

I don’t know who might be responsible for this or any other old cemetery in New Canaan. I know that, at least in Stamford, no one seems to even know who owns the land on which some of the small, no longer used cemeteries are located. That may be the case in New Canaan too. The Scouts have organized cleanups of some Stamford cemeteries in the past. Some small cemeteries are located on private property and the owners sometimes maintain them. Others don’t. Some of the cemeteries in the 1934 Hale survey have completely disappeared or have become so overgrown that they can't be located. I agree. It is a tragedy. However, some of the small defunct cemeteries contain only old stones and the remains of the deceased have been moved to cemeteries that are still active.


The Weed cemetery was originally a private cemetery and the original restriction was that only Abraham Weed's descendants should be buried there. Amanda Weed's Will provided money for its care back in 1974, but no ownership of the cemetery was noted. Connecticut General Statuates [sic] state that only a Church, a Cemetery Association or  a City or Town may own or operate a cemetery.  It would seem that care of the cemetary, [sic]  ownership unknown, would now be under the care of the Town.

Janet Lindstrom
Executive Director
[New Canaan Historical Society]

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Educate Me~ On What I Don't Know, That I Don't Know

Educate Me~ On What I Don't Know, That I Don't Know
Continuing Education in the Ever Changing Genealogy World
New Years Resolution #4

The world of genealogy changes just as fast as the rest of the world and there are constantly new resources and research tools coming to light and new/better/different ways of doing things -- I'll never claim to be an expert on anything -- and as I've already talked about -- there are many aspects of genealogy I'm clueless about [like DNA!]

So this year I want to work on furthering my genealogical education! There appear to be countless webinars out there -- on all kinds of subjects. In fact, Julie at Julie's Genealogy & History Hub posts a weekly schedule of upcoming webinars she's aware of, as well as other interesting links. I'm sure there are other places where listings like this exist -- I haven't found them yet...but if you know of them -- please share!

Besides online classes & seminars, local & state societies often hold workshops & seminars. I'm planning to attend the Minnesota Technology Conference in April, with the genealogy giant Thomas MacEntee as the featured speaker. Anyone reading this who resides in Minnesota, should check out the Minnesota Genealogical Society home page and click the 'classes' tab for their upcoming class list. They really have some interesting looking events on the agenda!

I've been trying to find a list or calendar of "genealogy events" in Minnesota for 2014 -- but so far, have yet to locate any. Maybe I need to create my own page of links....?

So I want to keep educating myself in 2014 -- checking out some webinars -- attending some local workshops -- and looking for new genealogy books to add to my personal library -- and of course, keep reading articles & blogs that are up on the genealogy world.

Now I have a few questions for you?
Do you know of any Minnesota workshops/seminars in 2014?
Is there a place online with a calendar of upcoming events?
What, if any, webinars do you suggest?
Any books published in the last couple of years that are must reads?
What magazines or periodicals are the best these days?

And lastly, how do you plan on furthering your genealogy education in 2014?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DNA~ Who Am I & Where the heck did I come from?

DNA? Who Am I & Where the Heck did I come from?
Understanding the world of DNA in 2014
New Years Resolution #3

There have been so many breakthroughs in the genealogy world, compliments of DNA -- at least I think there have been... I must admit, although I find it fascinating, I know almost nothing about DNA and how it might impact my genealogy.

Which is why it's on my list of genealogy New Year resolutions! I want to educate myself on DNA- and have myself tested so I might connect with "DNA Cousins" -- at least I think that can happen?? Can't it?

I read great blogs about DNA & genealogy-- Lorine at The Olive Tree Genealogy & the wonderful Judy at The Legal Genealogist are very educated in the world of DNA... and they often share that knowledge with faithful readers such as myself. If you aren't regular visitors to their blogs, you must start! You can link to them right from here. And while I barely, if at all, understand the DNA lingo they use, I greatly enjoy reading about their DNA successes (or failures?) and am jealous that I cannot relate...whatsoever.

So, besides reading blogs (see above) & articles about DNA, it's time I start doing some quality research to educate myself on the wonders of DNA -- and what I can expect from it -- as of today, I have many questions-- including, but not limited to --

1. As a male, can I link to female 'cousins' ?
2. As a male, will my DNA reflect/connect to my female ancestor lines ?
3. Who are the best providers of DNA testing ?
4. Other than being 1/84 Mongolian, will I learn anything useful ?
5. Must I be able to read, analyze & understand a bunch of graphs/hash marks ?

Yes. I know. I have lots and lots to learn. It's a little daunting.
Do you use DNA in your genealogy?
What have your experiences been like