Saturday, January 30, 2016

How do I preserve photos, vintage greeting cards, and more?

I just received a large box of photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, dog tags and medals, greeting cards from 1953, and more. And of course my concern is how best to label and preserve these items, especially the photographs.

The first concern is getting them organized chronologically and/or by name, identifying them and scanning them.

The next concern is figuring out the best way to protect the original documents.

The photographs are my biggest concern, since I've never really delved into this topic. I've always had color copies or print-outs of photos. This is the first time I've had original photographs in my care.

Many are loose and some are in an old-fashioned scrapbook, held by photo corners. There are quite a few pictures from the Middleborough High School Class of 1941, which would be nice to get to the children of the boys and girls pictured.

So I need to figure out the best way to store these photos, label them, and preserve them.

Then there are the newspaper articles, mostly from the 50s and 60s and pertaining to my uncles and grandmother. Again, I need to figure out how to store/preserve them and label them so someone looking through will understand the importance of the article (i.e. Wendy's paternal grandmother, Barbara (Shaw) Wood, pictured with the Girl Scout Troop she led, May 5, 1962).

As for the vintage greeting cards, I'm thinking they need the same kind of organization and preservation as the photos and newspapers, but not sure how to handle that. There is an entire box of them for my uncle's birth, first Easter, first Christmas, and first birthday (1953-1954).

I definitely need ideas and recommendations for all of the above items.

The documents will be alphabetized and indexed, and stored in the binders where I keep all such documents in archival quality page protectors.

Finally, there are my grandfather's WWII dog tags, a few medals, and other non-paper keepsakes I need to label store properly.

I'm sure you can see I have quite a weekend for me. If the snowstorm we expect on Tuesday/Wednesday is bad enough and I stay home from work, organizing these family treasures will keep me very busy.

As I go, I will scan everything and share it. It's quite the wonderful gift.

I'll start with sharing the photos I took of this mystery woman, for whom I am trying to pinpoint an age and decade:

Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Genealogy Plans for 2016

It's very tricky to predict what I can reasonably get done in the new year, but after considering it, I think I'd really like to tackle my husband's family history. I've discussed the Callahan family a little bit, but not much. We live within 6 hours of where they and all those families connected to them settled in the U.S.

We go visit my in-laws on a regular basis, so I think it would be well worth my time to do some research while I'm out there. I'd like to sit down, look at where folks are buried around Dubuque, Iowa and Galena, Illinois, and make a plan.

I would also like to connect with a cousin of my husband's who has already devoted the time and energy to gathering quite a bit of the family history. From time to time, we've put our heads together to try to figure out some of the lingering questions. It's long past time we met and talked about this in person, I think.

I'd also really like to continue exploring the Hawksley family, of course, as well as my mysterious great-great grandma Emma.

Beyond that, I'd love to learn more about Rebecca Parks, wife of George Emery Griswold, of Preston, Halifax County, Nova Scotia. I haven't shared much about that line or the mystery of their family, so it's high time I did.

I hope having a plan and goals laid out for 2016 will help me stick to them! The past couple years have been a bit of a bust, getting settled into a new life. This year is going to involve home renovations, but there's no excuse for me not to devote my time to genealogy.

Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, January 18, 2016

Genealogy - still not just for retirees!

As I noted in 2007, so many people think of genealogy as an "old person's hobby" or something retirees do. But this is simply not true. Believe it or not, many of us are in our 20's, 30's, and 40's. I am not sure what fuels this passion, what it is that could make me drop everything to pursue a slender lead on an ancestors, but it is enjoyable.

I am a Nancy Drew collector, and have read these books since I was 9. Maybe this is part of it? My enjoyment of mysteries? I'm not much into mystery and suspense other than Nancy Drew; I suppose there is a love of both history and mystery there together. I adore vintage things, making puzzles, and more.

I am generally the youngest person in the local LDS, and I am the kind of person who loves to sit and listen to you talk about your family history. I have mine memorized for several generations, as well as my husband's!

This is not a hobby that appeals to older folks only; it appeals to anyone who enjoys mingling history and discovery, adventure and personal ties.

One thing I learned in the last year is there are way, way more of us Gen Xers and Millennials "into" genealogy than I imagined.  This is a fantastic thing, because we are the ones having children now, which means yet another generation that could be inspired by family history.

What fired my personal passion for genealogy was discovering an old leather wallet full of photographs, family documents, and other keepsakes from my dad's side of the family. I wondered who had taken the time to save everything and why. Not knowing my mother or anything about her family at the time probably helped add to the interest that kindled within me that day.  I was only 12, but I started climbing the branches of my family tree that very day, and never stopped.

As a parent, this is now more than personal interest and the thrill of the hunt. It's also about sharing a rich legacy with my children, nieces, and/or nephews, that I hope they will take the time to hand down to their families as they grow.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Genealogy & Same Sex Marriage

With a definitive victory for basic human rights, my question is a simple one: how will same sex marriage affect genealogy?

Unfortunately, battles over issuing marriage licenses continue, even though they should not. I do hope soon, however, this will be a thing of the past and civil records for births, marriages, and deaths will move forward without the parties to the record being an issue.

It's only logical to wonder how this will affect birth certificates, however. I think there needs to be a way to accommodate the changing family dynamic. Vital records are an important part of genealogical research as we put together a picture of our family tree and heritage. Does this mean that a same-sex couple should be denied when they want to both be listed as a child's parents?

No, and I think there should be a way to do this without compromising the accuracy genealogists hold dear. I hope towns, cities, and states will consider adding fields to their forms that allow the inclusion of both the biological parents and adoptive parents or spouses/partners who may not be a child's natural mother or father.

That would allow the inclusion of not just the biological parents (if all names are known), but also of those who will actually be a child's family and rearing that child. There is no reason to exclude a same-sex partner for fear of sacrificing accuracy and biological facts.

How often if a name on a birth certificate left blank, because the name of the father is not known or the mother is not 100% certain, or simply does not want the father to have rights to the child? How often is a name wrong because there was, perhaps, an adulterous situation or the husband is listed simply because that's for the best (as may be the case with some of my great-grandmother's children)?

There are plenty of instances of single parents where a biological parent is listed on the birth certificate, yet has no familial bond to a child. While it is nice to have that information for a child so someday they can learn more about a mother or father who has not been present in their life, a same-sex spouse should also be included because they are part of the family.

The same goes for genealogical software. It should offer the capability to connect two people of the same sex in marriage. In my family, there are a few same sex marriages, and I should be able to add a cousin's spouse to my database without having to resort to simply typing a note in my cousin's entry that her wife is so-and-so. I want to be able to include complete information on these marriages and treat them as any other marriage, without the software limiting me to only connecting men and women.

Is it time for town clerks to change more than their approach to marriage licenses? Is it time for genealogy software to open up the possibilities for marriages involving two people of the same sex? I say yes, definitely.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My Western Massachusetts Brick Walls

Ah, the joy of brick walls! Of course, the fun part is smashing them down. Here is one that has plagued me for a long time now:

Esther, the wife of Edward Curtis.

Esther was born about 1748.

She was married about 1780 to Edward Curtis

Edward was born 4 May 1736 in Dudley, MA to Francis Curtis and Bethia Robinson. He was married 2 times prior - first to Lucy Chamberlin in 1770 in Dudley. Their son, Edward, was born in Dudley in 1771. Lucy's date and place of death are not known.

He was then married to a woman named Thankful, approximately 1775. Their children were born in Monson, MA - a son, Francis in 1777, and a daughter, Thankful in 1779. The wife Thankful might have died around 1779 or so.

THEN there is Esther, my ancestor. They possibly married around 1780, and my best guess is Monson, MA, as their children were born there as follows:

1. Lucy, b. 1782, married Smith Arnold in 1801 in Dudley, died 1856 in Belchertown

2. Penuel, b. 1784, married Esther Pierce in 1809 in Hopkinton, died after 1820 census (he had 3 children at least - a son Davis, born 1810 in Dudley, and another male and female child based on the 1820 census)

3. Esther May, born 1786 in Monson, married John Stone in 1810 in Dudley, had many children (my ancestor is a daughter, Sarah Emerson Stone), and died in 1860 in Thompson, CT (?).

Now, Lucy's death record does not give a place of birth for her mother; I can't find Penuel after 1820, though I have tried; and I have requested Esther May (Curtis) Stone's death certificate from the Town of Thompson (I hope they have it; a search of their records on microfilm didn't reveal her or her husband's deaths).

I've looked at different factors, like the names Penuel and Davis both being unusual first names, and perhaps working as last names; also, the granddaughter Sarah Emerson Stone - Emerson tends to be a last name. Since there are no Emersons on the father's side, I wonder if there is on the mother's side.

I've considered Esther as an Esther Penuel (Pennel, Pennell, Penel, etc.), an Esther Davis, and an Esther Emerson. However, Monson Vital Records are on microfilm and a pain to read through. I think I will need to order the microfilm again to see what I find.

Sometimes there is nothing more satisfying than cranking through microfilm and finding answers in the semi-dark LDS. :-) If anyone can answer the question of Esther's surname, I would be most grateful.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Revisiting Creepy Cousins

If one New Englander will always be remembered infamously, it would have to be my 7th cousin, 4 times removed, Lizzie Borden. Back home in Massachusetts, we were all familiar with her. Her photo is still enough to induce nightmares:

Spooky eyes! The eyes of a killer, I say! Does not the look on her face say, "Don't cross me or I'll hatchet you"?

Perhaps you are familiar with this little rhyme (when we weren't standing in front of the mirror doing "Bloody Mary", we were saying this, just to creep ourselves out in the night):

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
Lizzie was born July 19, 1860, in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her mother, Sarah Anthony Morse, died only a few years later, on March 26, 1863 in Fall River of "uterine congestion". Her father, Andrew Jackson Borden, remarried 2 years later to Abby Durfee Gray.

The August 4, 1892 death records of Lizzie's stepmother and father say as the cause of death "Shock from assault with an axe (?) or large hatchet (?)". (The parenthetical question marks are part of the record.)

One may very well wonder what possessed a young woman of good family (her father was a "trader" at the time of his marriage to Sarah, and then listed as a "gentleman" in his death record; Lizzie was a high society debutante) to commit such a crime. Despite the evidence and potential motives, we still do not know why Lizzie did it if, indeed, she did... Lizzie was acquitted of the crime.

For the transcripts, evidence, Lizzie's own inquest testimony, and more, check out The Trial of Lizzie Borden.

And, if there are any strained relationships in your home, you might want to sleep with one eye open...

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Preparing My Genealogical To Do List

It's time to see which ancestors I need to visit with in 2016. When I do this, I like to open up the binders with my printed pedigree charts, so I get a wider view of my family. It's easier to make my list this way, rather than clicking through one couple at a time in my software.

Hawksley - Mr. Hawksley remains a mystery. We know his wife was Mary Goodwin, and her parents were a Goodwin and a Workman. Her father was a loyalist from New Jersey, who went to New Brunswick where he and his wife had several children. Mary married a Hawksley from England, probably around 1808 in New Brunswick, and they had 4 children.

Thomas Wood - the father of my great-great grandfather, John Wood. Thomas and his wife, Sarah Gray, came from Manchester, England to Willimantic, Connecticut in 1878, but what about Thomas's life in England? And who were his parents?

Michele Galfre - my great-great-great grandfather, who was born somewhere in Italy and whose parents or grandparents may have been from France. His son Bartolomeo is my great-great grandfather, and came to Massachusetts. His son Giovanni remained in Italy, and we are in contact with Giovanni's descendants - our cousins - who have given us some information. But the Galfres are still a bit of an enigma.

Ernesta Bergamasco - wife of Bartolomeo Galfre; the same goes for my great-great grandmother. What of her parents and siblings back in Italy?

Edward Marshall Haley - another question I've had for years. My 4th great-grandfather was born in Ireland in 1810, but where? Supposedly he went to school in Dublin, then simply immigrated to Duxbury, Massachusetts where he married Clarissa Barrett and had a very large family.

Emma Anna Murphy - there is nothing to say about my great-great grandmother that I haven't already explored extensively on this blog. Her origins remain the most tantalizing puzzle of all.

Who are you focused on learning more about in 2016?

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan