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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Like the Walls of Jericho... Crumbling Brick Walls

Like the Walls of Jericho... Crumbling Brick Walls in 2014...

Genealogy Resolution #2

Genealogists are forever yammering on about 'brick walls' --- I'm surely no exception to this! We all have at least one mysterious relative, and unfortunately for most, that mysterious relative has a prominent spot in our pedigree!
So in my genealogy resolutions for 2014, I'm continuing my quest to be a better genealogist... and will now examine #2 on my list-- Brick walls and how to make them tumble down.
It's been a few years since I've actively worked on some of my most frustrating brick walls --- though in 2013, I had one come crashing down --- and this was an ancestor I've spent 20 years searching for! I'd given up on ever finding him --- and if he wouldn't have had a bio printed in one of those popular turn of the century local history books --- I wouldn't have! Luckily, he has a very unique name and came from a very small, specific New Hampshire locale --- or I wouldn't even be sure it was him --- he took some liberties with his bio --- not surprisingly he neglected to mention the wife and two children he abandoned in Iowa when he went West to "find his fortune" --- But that's another story for another day -- because today we're talking about Brick Walls and how to tear them down. The last thing I'll ever claim to be is an expert --- but let's talk about what we can do this year in our quest.
It's easy to put aside an ancestor we're stuck on for a bit and before long, three years have gone by --- and a new year is a perfect time to reevaluate what we know for sure and what we wish we knew.
Obviously, & are resources that can & should be checked out --- but since they are so obvious, I'm not going to give them a spot on this list-
1. Mocavo --- While I'm only a basic (or free) member... so I'm sure there are benefits that I'm not getting. But the scanned pages of old published genealogies are alone worth the visit to this site! The brick wall I smashed, with the published bio, was found via Mocavo! Give it a try --- some of the 'hits' will be very obvious/vague/unhelpful --- but some might just be what you are looking for!
2. Findagrave ---  One of the best grave sites, if not the best. Yes, I know it was recently purchased by Ancestry --- and if that's a huge issue for you, I suggest you get over it! Findagrave is a wonderful site --- made wonderful by amazing volunteers who list burials & photograph tombstones. Yes, there are some shockingly rude & obnoxious people there --- like in every walk of life. I ignore that behavior (usually) and hope karma will prevail.  Meanwhile, new burials are listed every second! So pay the site a visit if you haven't recently & search for those elusive folks again--- who knows! Incidentally, I am also aware that both Ancestry & Mocavo have F.A.G in their search results... but you can go to the direct site and search specific locales, with partial names, etc. I once found the grave of my 3x great-grandmother by only her first name, in a county I thought she should be in --- her stone was broken and the photographer wasn't able to read her surname!
3. Rootsweb message boards & mailings lists --- Once super popular, its seems that message boards & mailing lists have both waned --- based on sheer lack of postings, is how I came to this conclusion. But, when reevaluating a brick wall ancestor, you should visit the surname message board of interest & read the postings to look for connections --- and to post one of your own! There are also location boards, for counties and other locales of interest for the places your ancestors lived. Take some time and browse through these lists, if it's been awhile. [again, I do realize that this is an "Ancestry owned" site...]
4. USGenWeb --- Yes! I know, many of these pages haven't been updated or maintained in years & years --- but you can still find great county resources & old archived queries. Visit the county of your interest and follow some links --- some might be dead ends, but others might take you to great places --- who knows what you might find!
5. Living Relatives --- (gasp!) Yes, an often overlooked source are the real, living breathing family members that pepper our family trees. Thanks to technology we have far fewer interactions with real people --- [sometimes that's a blessing! Other times... not so much so] It's funny how we can miss out on the mother load of information just because we didn't ask the right person the right question. Depending on your age, the number of "older generation" relatives you have can vary... perhaps you yourself are that generation, but if you still have Grandparents, Great-Aunts, or Grandma's cousin Myrtle left in your family, don't neglect them and the knowledge they may harbor. Even after 2o years of picking the brains of my Grandparents (who are now 80), they'll still mention "fresh material", sometimes out of the blue. At times I've wanted to shake Grandpa and yell, "HOW ARE YOU JUST MENTIONING THIS NOW?!"
So unless you point blank asked the question (at least twice) to someone already, don't take for granted that they don't have the answer. I'm known for repeatedly asking point blank questions. So, call Cousin Myrtle --- tactfully invite yourself over for tea --- beg her to dig out the photo albums & tell her you'll bring the pound cake.

6. Reexamine Facts --- sometimes when you've been searching for something for years, you forget what you know for fact vs. what you think is fact. 
I'm a doodler, so I use my trusty pen & scratch paper to make a timeline for the elusive person I'm seeking & include what I know [and how I know it!] To list the sources you have and the things & places you've checked/rechecked is important! Sometimes just reevaluating your evidence will spark a new idea--- or at least spark interest  --- and get you to do the previous 5 things we talked about!

So, as part of my New Year resolutions, I'm going to take one of my elusive mysterious relatives and try the 6 things we've talked about here... and I'll add the 7th option, which is too blog about it here--- whether you will find it interesting or whether it shows up in someone's Google search next year--- Win-Win for me!

Now I ask you --- How do you combat brick walls?  What wonderful resource or idea have I missed that you use! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What do I have? How did I get it? And where the heck is it now? Genealogy Resolutions for 2014~

It's the first few days of January... so that means everyone is battling after Christmas sales, tearing down the tree & other decorations, hauling ill-fitting clothes back to the store for a return, and trying to catch their breath before the reality of another new year sets in!
Of course, January also means it's time for the old cliché of NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS--- and I am no different than most, in that I make some each year... some resolutions for life and some resolutions for genealogy.

This year I have 5 basic "Genealogy Resolutions"... though they could have their own sub-resolutions, especially the first one! I'm going to talk about #1 below... and next week I'll talk about #2...and the week after that #3... you get the idea.

2014 Genealogy Resolutions
2. Brick walls and how to make them tumble down
3. DNA - test & educate
4. Education with seminars & workshops, etc
5. Maintain relationships with living relatives

What do I have? How did I get it?
And where the heck is it now?
These questions clearly relate to my #1 resolution of organization! This is a battle I've waged for the past few years and after 20+ years of active genealogy research, I've lost count how many times I've pondered those questions-- and I'm sure many of you can relate-- and for those of you scratching your heads and saying, " I can't relate"--- Well, you can just take your perfectly organized color coded files and leave my blog!  [I'm only kidding... please stay!]

If you've read any previous postings of mine-- you know I'm a paper & binder genealogist-- So I'll spare you further details... If you haven't read any previous post-- it's what is sounds like-- lots of paper, lots of binders.

Two months ago, I emptied my 4 drawer file cabinet, full of file folders, into 2 large totes-- so I could reorganize all of family folders and sort through the huge amounts of paper I've acquired over the last 2 (or 5?) years. It was a great idea-- but I'm struggling to complete it-- and of course by complete, I mean start... Oh well.

I always seem to get new genealogy information during the holidays-- births, marriages, and deaths that may have been missed during the year, often show up in holiday correspondence. And of course, I often hear from fellow genealogist relatives and previously unknown 'cousins', I always try to reach out to new unknown family members every holiday season.

And who wants to misplace these new found facts?!
Well not I. How to keep them organized and put where you want them to have when you need them?
You've got me!? I've yet to figure that out myself.

I've been putting "genealogy" related papers (of any kind) in a metal file basket-- to be sorted and organized later-- I know... terrible plan. Especially as the papers are spilling out. Eventually(?) I will sort them by families and put the piles in file folders (currently dumped in totes, remember?!).

Ugh. No wonder I don't know what I have any more. I used to be a super organized genealogist...used to be...

So my #1 Genealogy Resolution is 'Organization' and the first part of that goal is "Put Away Paper & Do It Right"

What are yours?