Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas gifts- tangible and intangible

Another Christmas has come and gone, and this year was chock full of genealogical goodies! For starters, I put together a simple photo pedigree for each of my dad's parents, using pictures for each ancestor I had a photo of and their name, with no other details. I wanted to do something simple and clean that would show visually some of the results of the last few years' worth of research. For my grandpa Fred, I only had pictures of his parents, his maternal grandfather, and that grandfather's parents. But it was still cool to see them all lined up in a pedigree format. I also included a picture of a family get together (I think it was Papa Fred's birthday?) where all five of his kids, and a bunch of his grandkids and great-grandkids were all together. To me, it all represented my grandpa being in the middle of this genealogical crossroads, as son, grandson, and great-grandson on one side, and father, grandfather, and great-grandfather on the other, kind of like Elder Gerrit Gong talked about during the last General Conference.

For my grandma Blossom, I've been able to collect a lot more pictures of her ancestry, with photos of her parents, her maternal grandmother, and up to five generations back on her dad's side, back to Lewis Parks Shute and Esther (Mitchell) Sanford (they weren't married, but their kids, Alexander Blood Shute and Letitia Sanford, were). It was really something to be able to show my grandma visually who her ancestors were, and how they are linked to her.

I'm not very skilled yet at putting together projects like this, but I think they both came off very well. I think I need to amend them a bit, adding in birth and death dates, and probably some kind of arrow or line linking each generation to the next. But it would be interesting to try this for my mom's parents, though I'd have to get more pictures from my mom and grandma to do my maternal grandfather's side, as I have hardly any pictures on that side at all. But who knows, there may be an artistic side to me after all! Even if there isn't, I can always lean on my wife and get her to help. :)

Another tangible genealogical gift or 5 I received this Christmas was the Clooz program to help me organize all my genealogy documents, and a set of books from my purchasing plan to complete the my basic shelf of genealogy reference books. I got:

So a big THANK YOU! to my parents for supporting their family historian son. :)

Now for the intangible gift. Late Christmas night, my folks pulled out an old cardboard box that had an old movie projector, and some old reels of film. Turns out it was old home movies going back to the late 70s and early 80s. Some of the movies were from before I was born, even one of my parents' rehearsal dinner. There was footage of my great-grandma Edna, great-grandma Rosie, and me and my sister as little kids back when we still lived in Montana. But the real treat was getting to hear my parents and grandparents talk about who was in the movies, naming people they saw in them, and reminiscing about things they'd done with them. I wanted to just sit there and video tape the old movies being played, so I could record the stories they were all sharing about those old videos. Maybe I'll get to do that next time, after the movies have been transferred to DVD (which my parents plan on doing for all the old videos they have). I really look forward to that, as there are some movies that go back into the 60s that I've never seen before, and can't wait to watch.

So, all in all, it was a fantastic Christmas. Got a lot of reading to do, research to do, and movies to watch. Let's get started!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Genealogy and history - a complementary education

I've known for a long time that learning more about history can help me in my genealogical research. Learning about world wars, flu epidemics, immigration routes, and such has really helped me understand my family's history and make sense of it. However, I recently had the reverse happen - studying my genealogy has helped me learn more about history.

A couple weeks ago I found several dozen newspaper mentions of my great-grandmother's sister Grace and her second husband, Ed Cote (I can't call them articles as most of the occurrences of the names are tiny one-paragraph blurbs about who visited who over the weekend). I downloaded all the newspaper pages, but didn't have a way at the time of marking where on the page the Cotes were mentioned. Thus, I've been spending most of my genealogy time lately going back through these newspapers and highlighting the sections where my family names pop up. It's been pretty fun to look at some of the other articles in the papers while I hunt for Ed and Grace's names, seeing various advertisements and announcements of the local clubs, churches, etc.

One article caught my eye in particular, titled "Special Event Given at Lima." It was about an Americanism program given at the Masonic Hall in Lima, put on by the Masons and Eastern Stars (another fraternal society). They had a Reverend Beard give an opening and closing prayer, with patriotic songs sung by a quartet, and some speeches or talks given, and refreshments served afterwards. What was different about this event, though, is it said at the end of meeting, the audience recited the "American Creed" and sang "God Bless America." The only creed I knew offhand was the Nicene Creed, so this interested me. A quick Google search revealed that the American Creed was written by William Tyler Page in 1917, as an entry in a patriotic contest. It's only 100 words, so here's the full text of the creed:

I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

I was amazed! A very short, but powerful, statement of belief in the Constitution and the Republic, which was apparently formally adopted by the House of Representatives in 1919 or so. And apparently the public at large was at least aware of it some 45 years later, reciting it at that patriotic rally in a small town in Montana, perhaps even from memory. And I'd never heard of it until stumbling upon a mention of it in a newspaper from 1964. I even went onto Facebook and asked a few of my more politically involved friends if they'd heard of the American Creed, and they all said no.

It made me realize - as time goes on, it's not just a family's history that can be obscured and lost. A nation's history, unless carefully preserved and passed on, can be lost just as easily. It makes me feel such a weight of responsibility to pass on to my kids, not just their family heritage, but their country's history and legacy as well. Let's hope I'm up to the task, on both counts.

Treasure Chest Thursday - Newspaper Overload!

I've written earlier about finding newspaper articles about ancestors and their family and friends, and what a surprise that was. Up until earlier this year, I'd all but given up hope on historical newspapers. But the last few months have been very good to me, on my Sitzman line especially.

As I was finishing up my work on sourcing my Craddock family files, I was transcribing some obituaries for my great-grandmother's sisters' husbands, and stopped on the one for Edward Cote (he was married to Grace Craddock, as her second husband). I thought, why don't I go online to Ancestry and see if they pop up in the newspaper databases they have. So I did. What I found was over 50 newspaper mentions of Ed and Grace! Though Grace usually only appears as Mrs. Ed Cote. But I suddenly had a much more vivid picture of the social life of my great-grandma's sister - visiting her in-laws almost weekly for dinner, celebrating birthdays with them, wedding receptions they visited, parties and events put on by Ed's company (he worked for the phone company in Twin Bridges, MT), and social organizations they were involved in. The papers span about 15 years, going from the late 50s to early 70s. This was WAY more than I expected to find.

Now I get to go through all these and document them. I don't think I'll ever get finished with my documents review project at this rate. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brandt's Rants is officially Ancestor Approved!

Until this week, I didn't know there even were awards given to genealogy blogs, except maybe those given out by ISHFWE and other such organizations. But the kind writer of the Nolichucky Roots blog (a great blog to read, btw) has given me and nine other bloggers the Ancestors Approved award. This award was created by the author of the Ancestors Live Here blog, Leslie Ann, as a way to let other geneabloggers know how much their stories, tips, and tricks are appreciated.
Per Leslie Ann's instructions, upon receiving this award, I am asked to list ten things I have learned about my ancestry that have surprised, humbled, or enlightened me, and to pass it on to other geneablogs I feel are doing their ancestors proud.
I'll start with what I have learned about my ancestors. Fair warning - I tend to ramble (as the title of this blog suggests) so I won't blame you if you skim or skip these. :)
1. Their lives were far more complex and involved than I'll ever be able to fully understand. It seems every time I find a new record or newspaper article about someone, I see something about their life that hints at friendships, associations, and experiences I can only guess at.
2. How precious pictures are, and how much you can learn from them. I've blogged a couple times about the massive stock of photos taken and kept by my paternal grandmother's family, and I still have so many photos to really go back and analyze fully (there are 838, after all!). I do find myself wishing more of my ancestors had passed down photos, but I am grateful for those that have survived, both in my family and in the families of distant cousins willing to share them.
3. The effect one person's life can have on generations of their descendants. After studying Lena's life, for example, the lives of her children and grandchildren make so much more sense. Her experiences with marriage and family really affected the way her daughters' lives all turned out, which in turn affected how her granddaughters were raised, and so on down to me. Some descendants went through similar cycles of marriage, and some went in the direct opposite direction from what happened in earlier generations.
4. Not everything is on the internet, but a LOT is. Finding all those old pictures of the orphanage my grandmother and great-grandmother lived in was a shock. Those pictures took a family story and made it a historical event for me.
5. My grandparents know far more about our family than I'll be able to plumb from them, even if I sat them down and interviewed them for hours and hours and hours. It's just not fair that I can't simply download all their memories onto my hard drive, but I'm doing the best I can to capture their stories and experiences to pass on.
6. My ancestors weren't perfect. I know that should be obvious, but for the longest time I guess I was still operating under the "not in my family" delusion. It's been surprising, even shocking, to learn what some of my ancestors did.
7. One of the biggest shocks was finding out my 4th-great-grandmother, Lucinda (Berry) Harris was a slaveholder. I knew her father Benjamin Berry was, and her husband's grandfather Harrison Harris was as well. But to find that one branch of my family owned slaves right up until the Civil War started (and possibly until it ended) was a big surprise.
8. I've met some amazing cousins recently that have opened up whole new areas of research and interest for me. These cousins have details, stories, even pictures, that I never knew existed.
9. Until recently, I've been focusing on my own research. But I've also had the opportunity to work as a volunteer at the Heritage Quest Research Library in Sumner, WA, and to help out a friend that I may be related to. I really enjoy helping other people find answers to their questions and seeing them do the genealogy happy dance when they get a breakthrough.
10. The most humbling thing I've learned is - I've only begun to scratch the surface of the tip of the iceberg that is my family. I've made a lot of progress, this year especially, but every step forward shows me a whole new road to be explored, mapped, documented, and preserved. I can only hope I live long enough to get some of these roads mapped!
Now to bestow the Ancestor Approved award on the blogs I think are doing the best job. Apologies to them if they've already received it. Here they are, in no particular order:
Thanks again to Nolichucky Roots, and kudos to all these geneabloggers!