Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday - The Montana State Orphan's Home

I'm back to working on my old project (that I was doing before the beige photo album project) of going through my files and documents and verifying that everything is entered into my database. While taking a few minutes last night to enter a couple census records on my Craddock ancestors (my great-grandma was Edna Craddock, one of two great-grandparents I actually got to meet, and the only one I actually really knew), I stopped at the 1930 census record of my g-grandma Edna's sisters Grace and Elsie. There were little girls at the time, living in the Montana State Orphan's Home (later called the Montana Children's Center). They weren't orphans really, as both parents were still alive and would be for years to come, but they couldn't afford to take care of the girls (there were four altogether) so they put them in the Orphan's Home for a while. It never really hit me until last night that this was how my great-grandma lived through the Great Depression - basically like an orphan.

Anyways, I decided to see if there wasn't any info on the Internet about the Orphan's Home, so I headed to Google searched for Twin Bridges Montana Orphan's Home. What I found was a website for the property owner of the now abandoned Children's Center. The main page had a bunch of pictures that cycled through like a slide show, so I saved a bunch of them to my hard drive (it was really helpful that they were labeled, so I knew a little bit of what I was seeing). Then I noticed that they had a history tab at the top, so I clicked on it. There I found a bunch of old photos from the 1930s and forward - staff photos it seemed mostly, and of the grounds from different points and at different times of the year. This was really interesting, to see the house as it would have looked to my great-grandma while she was there, and maybe some of the workers she knew.

But wait - there's more! They also had a group of buttons on this page, with a label that said "select era to see more photos", and one of the buttons was 1930! I went to that page, and found a whole slew of pictures - more pictures of the staff, but a lot of pictures of the kids in the orphanage, as well as pictures of the animals they had at the orphanage (who knew orphanages had animals???). Hope does spring eternal, so I went through all the pictures, hoping to find one or two of my great-grandma and/or her sisters. Sadly, there weren't any pictures of my family up there, but I did find one very interesting picture. They had a photo of Ruth Morris and Madeline Sabo, taken about 1935. Those names sounded familiar for some reason, so I went back to the census record for Grace and Elsie. Sure enough, they were on the same census page! Madeline is listed the next line down from Elsie, and Ruth is just a couple lines up from Grace. It kind of took me back for a minute, looking at these two young girls, who in all likelihood knew my great-grandma and her sisters. Were they friends? Did they fight? I don't know, but it's fun to think about. It also brought home that this was an orphanage, and (from what I read on the orphanage's website) some kids never got to leave, even died there. I'm glad that fate didn't befall my ancestors, but sad that it happened to people in other family trees.
So the wisdom I gained about my great-grandma's life - a view of the orphanage she lived in, more info about conditions and life there, and even a picture of some of her fellow 'inmates' (as the census refers to them) - was a lot more than I bargained for from what was meant to be a quick internet search. But that's what I love about genealogy - it's hard to find what you're looking for, but sometimes, you hit the jackpot.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Wagner Bros lumbermill

For this blog post, I thought I'd put up some more pictures from the beige album. There are so many to choose from, I could easily spend weeks or months posting on different themes from just these pictures. Here are some of the ones I found most interesting:

This is my great-grandfather Charles Wagner (left) and his brother Ralph Wagner, part way up one of the trees they were felling. Look how tiny they are compared to the tree! I can't imagine how big the whole thing must have been, or what it took to chop it down. Notice how they had to wedge boards in to stand on. I remember my grandma saying this was part of the felling process, but I can't remember exactly how (I didn't have my recorder on me when she told me).

Here's a section of a tree all tied up and ready for transport to the mill. Wonder how many truckloads like this it took to take a whole tree?

Sometimes family would come out to the forest and visit, and even pose for silly photos like this one. This is my great-great-grandmother, Mary Hoffman. I like this, because it shows that while my great-grandfather knew how to work, it also shows he took time out for family fun as well.

Here's another photo of family visitors to the worksite. The ladies are Claire Wagner (Ralph's wife), Rosie Wagner (Charles' wife), Mary Hoffman (Rosie's mother), and Blossom Wagner (Rosie's daughter and my grandma).

This is one of the trucks they used to haul the trees from the logging site to the mill. Can any of you truck afficianados out there tell me what type of truck this is? I'd like to know!

These photos are of the mill itself. Not being familiar with the milling process, I couldn't say what exactly is going on, but it looks very busy! I'm sure it was terribly loud, with all the machinery and saws going, plus the trucks hauling trees in and lumber out, and the constant moving of lumber everywhere. But as my great-grandpa did this for many years, he must have enjoyed it. Or at least gotten used to it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday - what I learned from 838 old photos

After going through the photos I've scanned and saved, I realized that I know a lot more about my great-grandparents Charles and Rosie (Sitzman) Wagner than I did before. I'll post a few pictures, and tell you what each one taught me.

1. My great-grandfather and his brothers owned a lumber mill. I learned this from a picture of one of the trucks from the lumber mill my great-grandpa worked on - with the words Wagner Bros on the side. I've known for years he worked for the mill, but until that picture came along, I had no idea it was HIS mill. I'd like to find something about the mill - maybe a mention in a city directory, or a newspaper ad, or something about the mill. Maybe I'll start collecting things for each of my ancestors' occupations...once I get a bigger house, that is.

2. My great-grandparents knew how to ride horses, and apparently really enjoyed it. Most of the pictures I'd seen of them were of city scenes - pictures of the house, their farm, traveling different places, etc. I don't think they ever owned horses, so I never would have thought of them as riding them much. But apparently they did. This is a big thing to me, as my own experiences on horseback are limited mostly to one old horse named Old Shoes, which I rode on my honeymoon and which tried to buck me off after biting the horse my wife was riding. Needless to say, I'm not as much of an equestrian as my ancestors were. :)

3. They loved the outdoors. There are a LOT of pictures like this - mountain scenes, views of different lakes, photos of their annual moose hunting trips up to Canada, and a whole two-page spread of pictures of the trail up to and inside the Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana. This I can relate to. Even if I don't care for spending a week in the woods hiding from bugs in a tent, I can still appreciate the beauty of nature, and love seeing the view from a mountaintop (or hilltop, as those are more accessible :) ).

4. My great-grandpa was an amazing woodworker. He not only knew how to cut down trees, he knew how to work the wood from raw timber to finished product. He even built his own house! Not to mention several other houses in Monroe, Washington. A lot of those houses, according to my dad, are still standing. I'll have to ask him to take me up there one of these days to take pictures of them. It just amazes me that he could cut the trees down, cut them into lumber, design a building, and (with the help of his brothers) turn the lumber into a finished house - all without going to other sources for help or labor.

5. They were very social people. My great-grandma was involved in a few different clubs - the Pocahontas Lodge, the Home Demonstration Club, and maybe some others (unless she just liked getting all dressed up just to get together with friends). One interesting page had a photo of one friend named Ethel taken in the 1950s, and another photo of the same woman taken in 1972. So my great-grandma made long-time friends, which I think is pretty cool. There are many pictures of family friends, many of whom my grandma remembered by name. I don't know if I could name my parents' friends in a photo, so this kind of shows me where I have room to improve on.

6. My great-grandparents loved their family. This is abundantly evident by how many pictures they have of their parents, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces, and grandchildren. There are probably several hundred pictures of just my Aunt Eileen, who was Charles and Rosie's first grandchild, playing with friends, dressed up for the dancing and skating events she participated in, etc. One of the hardest pictures to see (though it technically came from a different album) was a photo of my great-grandparents and their kids Blossom (my grandma) and her brother Howie visiting the grave of their youngest child, Charles Wagner III. Grandma Blossom and Uncle Howie were smiling, but Rosie and Charles just looked so sad, even years later. I can't imagine losing one of my children at such a young age (Charles III was only 10 when he died), so I can understand why they looked so sad. But, on the other hand, it really shows how much they valued their family, and how much they loved each other.
I'm sure there's more I've picked up from some of the other photos, but I think that's a good start. It's a remarkable feeling - getting to know someone you barely even met, even 25+ years after they've died. But now, my great-grandparents aren't just names on a pedigree - they're people that I know and love.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's done!!!!

I know I haven't been posting much on here the last several days, but I have a really good excuse! My grandma's third photo album, the one with the most pictures of all three, is finally scanned, identified, and every single individual picture separated (digitally) and labeled. In total, there were 838 pictures!!! As my wife will tell you, I haven't been much use around the house the last week as I've been pushing (slowly but steadily) to get this monumental project done (well, monumental in my mind at least). It's been fascinating to see the places my great-grandparents went, the people they were friends with, and some of the things they did. In a future post, I'll talk about some of the things I learned about my great-grandmother by doing this project (it was a lot!) and throw some of the pictures on here so you can see what I've been up to. But first, let me breathe one big sigh of relief that a major project is finally done!


Ok. On to the next project!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - overload!

It has been a crazy week, genealogy-wise. I already wrote about finding info on Heinrich Joseph, my great-great-grandfather's brother. I had fun sharing that info with my cousin, Jim Joseph, who's also researching the Joseph family. Hopefully this weekend I'll have time to update my file with the info. Jim also sent me a gedcom of his family file on the Josephs, so I have that to go through as well.

Then, I was recently contacted by Eileen Bremner, whose husband is a relative on my Shute side. She sent me almost three dozen pictures of the Shutes, including an old map of Duanesburg, NY, showing the family names of people who lived in the town and where, a page from the Shute family bible (which I didn't know existed!), and many headstones. On top of that, she also sent me a gedcom of the Shute family info that she had collected, so I have THAT to go through as well!

And just last night, I officially began the ProGen 9 class, a free group that studies Elizabeth Shown Mills' book Professional Genealogy. It's overseen by a certified genealogist (Jay Fonkert for our group), and administered by Elizabeth O'Neal, who does a great job of taking care of all the housekeeping duties. Angela McGhie runs the whole ProGen program, creates all the assignments and everything. My group has about 15 people in it, mostly from the eastern US (Elizabeth and I seemed to be the only west coasters) and they're all as geeky about genealogy as I am! Talk about heaven! :D I'm way excited to be in this group, and learn how to step up my research and reporting skills. Best of all, it goes on for 18 months, and it covers EVERYTHING about being a professional genealogist. What more could I ask for?

All in all, it's been a fantastic week for genealogy. It leaves me with one burning question though - how do you incorporate other people's research into your own? The old me would have just dumped it in, no questions asked. But that combines info and notes in a way that leaves it impossible to tell what was mine and what I received from elsewhere. What strategies do you use when inputting info from other researchers into your file?