Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Toast To all my Blogger Friends

May you have a happy, healthy, prosperous 2009, and may your brick walls come down!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Adams News Clip Of The Week

I mentioned in a previous post about a newspaper collection from the North Adams Transcript - a very small town paper in Mass. What a treasure that collection has been! In doing searches for my Bellew & Leeming families, I found an enormous amount of little stories and obits for family members who lived in that area. The best stories are found on the social pages - you couldn't have company, or catch a cold for that matter, without the whole town knowing about it. Imagine my surprise to find this article about 5 generations of family members gathered for a birthday celebration, but then imagine my shock to find a photo of my Great Great Grandmother (in the center of this photo, sitting down) staring back at me! The article was wonderful but the photo? I couldn't have asked for more! My Grandmother (who is still living - age 91) was as shocked as I was to see a photo of her Grandmother, Mother, Sister, Neice and Grand Nephew pictured in this photograph taken in 1956. What a find!!!

Pictured are Brian Gary Mull (baby), Jane Fountain Roe (seated), Edith Leeming Jones (left), Marjorie Jones Mull (center standing), Sarah Roe Leeming (right).

Image: North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006. Original data: North Adams Transcript. North Adams, MA, USA. Database created from microfilm copies of the newspaper.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Military Monday

In Memory of Private JOHN BELLEW
# 5387456, 4th Bn., Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Died age 21 on 20 May 1940
Son of John and Margaret Bellew, of Adams, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Remembered with honour
Row AA, Grave 9

Today's Military post is in remembrance of my Great Uncle John - An uncle the family never knew (see more info on John Bellew's life in a previous post here).

The above information was obtained at Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cemetery Saturday

Today's stone is again from Uvilla Cemetery (link to Find-A-Grave listing) in Jefferson County WV. This is the headstone of Nelson Edwards. Nelson was a resident of Shepherdstown in 1920, at the time living in the home with his wife Adeline (who proceeded him in death according to his death certificate), a stepson and two grandchildren.

I've found a death certificate for Nelson and posted it here as well. Vital records for many counties in WV are available on line and are in a searchable database here. Nelson is not part of my family and I see no further Edwards family headstones in the cemetery.

Enjoy this exerpt of Cemetery Saturday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

In Memory of Granddad Bellew

It was early morning, the day after Christmas, 1975. Us kids were still sleeping but awoke to the sounds of... we weren't sure what. People talking? Somthing going on outside? Yes, an ambulance was at our home. It was taking Granddad away. I remember 4 of us staring out that bedroom window. That was the last time I saw him.

The grownups returned home later, Grandma sat in our living room crying, weeping. I was very young, only 7 years, (almost 8). My little mind couldn't wrap itself around what was happening.. If he's gone, what will we do with his presents that he just opened yesterday? On some level, I'm glad I was young, knowing someone as an adult is much different, the attachment is different. I'm sure it's very painful still today - My Grandmother is still living, she turned 91 last month. All these years alone, can you imagine?

I don't have many memories of him. I know he had a dog named Bullet - but I don't know if that is an actual memory or just something I know from photos. I do remember clearly asking him about his hat - "What does NAPA mean?" He said with a chuckle - "North Adams Police Association." I was impressed and I remember believing this for a long time - until I was old enough to actually know what a NAPA store is - long after he was gone. Most of what I know is from my Grandmother and my Mom. No real memories of my own. One story that comes to mind - Grandma tells me that when he returned from WWII, having lost his left eye, he had a glass one. They visited a lake with some friends one afternoon and Granddad, forgetting about his eye jumped right into the water - they searched for his eye for a long time before finally deciding that they weren't ever going to find it. He had to go get a replacement.

This post is in memory of my Grandfather, William Patrick Bellew, who was born on November 26, 1917 in Preston, Lancs, England and died December 26, 1975 in Gaithersburg, Maryland, at the young age of 58. He was a WWII vet, part of the 94th Bomb Group in the Army Air Force, stationed in England. He worked a myriad of jobs in his lifetime, including work in the Cotton Mills in Adams Mass., and a job in security for Pinkerton in DC.

I didn't really know him, but as I write I feel pain for my Grandmother and my Mom. I've got a photo here of me and him, I appear to be about 3 years old. The photo had paper stuck to the front of it and is a bit damaged but it's the only one I've got of both of us. It is a treasure.

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Award? I'm speechless!

An artist friend of mine has nominated "Everything's Relative" for an award... An award? My little brand new genealogy blog? But why???? She said that my blog shows my dedication to my family, my craft and my heritage. What lovely and very kind words!

Shelly, I am so appreciative of your acknowledgement of my blog! Congrats on your award as well. Shelly is a wonderful mixed media artist - you can see her creations here.

This is the Proximidade blog award. The details of the award are as follows:
"These blogs invest and believe in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers, who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

The blogs that I choose are listed below. One thing I have certainly found is that genealogy and art blogging are "communities" and being a newbie in these communities, I can honestly say that people are very accepting of me. Some of these bloggers will have never heard of me, but I visit their sites often and see their work - they're all very knowledgeable and friendly - some hold "community" activities to get us all together, others give free tips for artists and still others are just plain friendly folks - for these things I thank you and feel that you deserve this award.

Visit these sites, and "find and be friends!"

Gen Blog - Julie
Creative Gene - Jasia
Find Your Folks - Professor Dru
Genealogy Traces - Judy
Crooked Heart Art - Tabby
Elyse's Genealogy - Elyse
Genea-Musings - Randy
June's Crafty Tips - June

Thanks again Shelly - look forward to sharing more art and strange family stories in the new year!

Military Monday

Today, a view of a WWII Draft registration card for my Great Grandfather John Bellew. If you're not familiar with the draft registration cards, take a look - there's a lot of info to be obtained. This is a war that took one of John's son's lives and left another blinded in one eye. Surely he didn't expect to be drafted at the age of 52 but he was required to register nonetheless. This registration took place on April 27, 1942, and was required for all men born on or between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897 - between 45 and 64 years old - and who were not already in the US military.

Image: U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007. Original data: United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. National Archives and Records Administration Branch locations: National Archives and Records Administration Region Branches.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday Night Fun at Genea-Musings

So I've spent the last few weeks reading up on Genealogy blogs and making some friends in this new world (to me). I had heard of Randy Seaver's blog and seen posts related to his Saturday Night Fun on other blogs but never had joined in the "fun". I took a break from some research tonight (after a LONG day of baking with the kids) and checked out his blog Genea-Musings and I'm sure it's one that I'll be a frequent visitor to. For the Saturday Night Fun this weekend, Randy did a "History Edition" as he put it - tasking us with finding some facts in history about the date we were born. I got my answers for both questions at ProGenealogists site in their Free Tools area. I must say, I had no idea the list of historical items I'd find for my birthday month & day. We were asked to list 5.

1. What day of the week were you born? Monday
2. What has happened in history on your birth date (day and month)?
03/11/1702 - 1st English daily newspaper "Daily Courant," publishes
03/11/1823 - 1st normal school in US opens, Concord Academy, Concord, Vt
03/11/1892 - 1st public basketball game (Springfield, Mass)
03/11/1942 - 1st deportation train leaves Paris for Auschewitz Concentration Camp
03/11/1974 - Mount Etna in Sicily erupted

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cemetery Saturday

Ever see a bumper sticker that says "I stop at any and all cemeteries?" I should have one. I can't help myself - when I see a cemetery, especially a field with very old stones, I feel the urge to stop. Some people think it's weird, I think it's just plain cool to go stomping around a bunch of old headstones, regardless of who's buried there.

Last fall, my family visited a pumpkin patch. On the way, at one street corner there was a small field, very overgrown with weeds and such but specked with headstones. My husband asked on the way out of the place - "You wanna stop at that cemetery?" Do you really have to ask????

I was amazed at the overgrowth in the place, there were vine plants that trip you as you walk and I was planning to call the people who carefully placed a sign on the street claiming to care for this location. Turns out I didn't need to, just two days later someone came and cleared it.

There are none of my family members in this cemetery but I took photos anyway, and posted them on Find A Grave where you can look through thousands of cemetery burials and many photos of headstones. I've been back to the cemetery one time since that last visit and took more photos. Every Saturday I will post a headstone from a cemetery that I've visited, calling this post Cemetery Saturday. If I have info about the burial, I'll post that as well.

Today, I'm posting the headstone of Mary Thornhill who died Feb 18, 1896. The stone is in amazing condition for it's age. Because of the weeds I cannot make out what the lower portion of her stone says - must go back and check that out! I don't know anything about Mary Thornhill, only finding one Thornhill family in the county in the 1880 Census - she was not listed in that family. But she could have been in another area in 1880. There are two Thornhill burials in this cemetery, and 39 total burials recorded at this cemetery on Find A Grave - Uvilla Cemetery in Jefferson County WV.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The REAL Story - Sarah Leeming falls and breaks ankle

I am absolutely amazed that this type of thing was considered news of the time but apparently the reporters back then were looking for every little tidbit to put in the local social section of the paper. This is totally not the kind of thing I was looking for when I started searching the Ancestry newspaper collection for the North Adams Transcript newspaper. North Adams is where my grandmother's family is from - much to my surprise, her mother was pretty well known around town... and not for her baking or parties!

This news clipping is about a woman, apparently on her way home from a local "restaurant" and she takes a fall in the street and breaks her ankle. The date is December 8th, 1952.

I can't believe I found this tidbit about my Great-Grandmother and immediately call my mother:

"Mom, I found this news clipping about Grandma Leeming, when she was knocked down and broke her ankle."


"Yeah, it says that Sarah Leeming was walking home when two large boys came into the street and knocked her down, breaking her ankle." "It says she was walking home from the Greylock Restaurant."

..... Long Pause from Mom ........

"She was probably drunk." "The Greylock also was a bar that she went to, when I was a kid we used to have to go over there and get her sometimes."

Okay, so this conversation wasn't going where I wanted it to go, but my Mom has a great sense of humor and was already laughing at this point so we shared a good laughter moment and talked more about the article. I later talked to my Grandmother - Sarah's daughter and she said the same thing! "Yeah, she liked to have her drinks" she said.

I can tell you from this experience - be careful what you mention when you find it. What if Great-Grandma's drunkenness was a big family sore spot or secret that wasn't discussed? Many older generations simply didn't discuss such behavior (and lots of other stuff). I would've opened the genealogists can of worms and possibly upset my Mom and my Grandmother in the process! Keep in mind when you do find something that's possibly controversial, approach it gently, there could be reason why you haven't already been told about it.

In this case, I had no idea that the lady liked to drink so I kinda had an excuse :-)

Watch my blog for more interesting "Social News" from Adams!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who Has The Family Bible?

One thing for sure in our family... I don't! And I'm having a very difficult time tracking it down! We think Aunt Mary had it after Uncle Charles died; but then Aunt Mary died so one of their kids must have it.... I'm in an endless circle chasing my tail - unlisted phone numbers, people losing touch, not to mention the commonality of the name; Anderson... how many are out there named Charles? LOTS and LOTS!

I know, I know, it's not the end of world - I'm thankful that I can get some info in other places BUT to have the gems of info that are contained within the pages of a family bible - that would be the icing on the cake! And I would venture to guess, which is always the case - the one thing that I cannot get my hands on will tear down my Genealogy "Brick Wall". I have an old bible - as a matter of fact, it's very old. But alas, the family pages are empty, yes, completely devoid of Marriages, Births & Deaths. Every time I pull that old book out, like something magical is going to happen and the names will have appeared since the last time I looked, I feel the great frustration that many genealogists face - WHO HAS THE FAMILY BIBLE??? If it's not in the right hands, it will disappear never to be seen by the one who really wants to see it.

With today's technology, there's no reason that everyone in the family can't have a copy of the all important pages of this book. My ancestors couldn't run over to Staples or Kinko's and make copies or even better, warm up their scanner and make sure that the pages of our family bible would be around for the rest of us.

So, if anyone out there knows where my Anderson/Holt family bible is, please get in touch with me! If you're just beginning to do your research, find out if your family had a bible that held this information. Lastly, if you have possession of your family bible from generations gone by, make sure that the genealogist in your family and any one else who wants them, gets copies of those pages!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Christmas Greeting from the Son left behind...

It's a sad story really, with little details as to why and even less details as to who raised him, but we do know that he was left behind in England, raised by another family member, grew up, joined the army, fought in WWII and was killed in Dunkirk.

John Bellew, Sr. arrived in the US in September of 1923 with one of his sons - William - my Grandfather. His wife Margaret and sons Hugh & John Jr. remained in England while he obtained a job and a place to live. In May of 1926 (almost 3 years later!) Margaret arrived in the US with her son Hugh. While John's name is on the passenger list, it is crossed off - we're assuming that his ticket was purchased - but he wasn't on board. The family "story" is, that at the time of the ship's departure John was too sick to travel and was left in England. Can you imagine?

In the 1910 Census of Providence Rhode Island I find the family and John Jr. is actually listed in the household - we know for certain that he NEVER came to the US. My Grandmother knew the family well and knows this without doubt.

At this point I have lost track of him, because the census records in England only have been released up to 1901, I will not find him in any census records for Preston. I'm still looking as there were many family members in the area. I have not yet exhausted all my avenues of research on his childhood - although there are very few clues.

My Grandmother (William's wife) has in her possession a prayer book belonging to Margaret and inside was a treasure of information. Prayer cards from a young boy's First Holy Communion, and this Christmas card which John sent to his mother in 1934 and there is a similar card sent to his father. Christmas greetings from a child who was left behind.

John was killed in Dunkirk in May 1940 - He was part of the 4th Battalion of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, his infantry found themselves surrounded and overrun by Germans.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is there a West Virginia Union Soldier in your ancestry?

Ok, you'd think that after all these years of doing research I'd pretty much know everything there is to know? NOT TRUE!!! Genealogists are learning all the time, whether it be a new tip to finding a document or somthing about military history. I tell you, military history is a whole other animal to me. Yes, most genealogists just love history itself, and I often wish I had paid more attention in high school :-) but the actual history of the military (and all the paperwork that's necessary to get ANYTHING???) It's just a giant black hole full of red tape to me.

Today, while visiting a site that I visit every week (sometimes several times a week) I found that they actually have a list of Union Soldiers who never claimed their medals awarded during the war. I cannot believe I had never visited this area before and was just amazed at the size of the list and my ignorance! I understand from reading up on this that these medals are still in their original packaging AND can be claimed by someone proving their relationship to the person. Note: According to the information below, it does not have to be a Direct relationship. I have seen comments from others stating that they claimed a Great-Great Uncle's medal.

Here's some info directly from the site:
"Many heirs of West Virginia Union veterans of the Civil War may be eligible to claim medals struck to honor their ancestors years ago. Most of the medals were claimed by the veterans themselves, their immediate families, or their descendants, but several thousand medals remain unclaimed. A list of the unclaimed medals is available in the Archives and History Library and on its website.

To claim an ancestor's medal, a claimant must submit his or her line of descent from the veteran along with documentation to support this line of descent. To establish line of descent, claimants must include copies of primary sources, including birth, death, marriage, will, deed, military,census, Bible records, etc. Old letters, diaries, marriage announcements, or obituaries may also prove helpful in supporting a descendant's claim. Please note that a family chart submitted without primary source documentation is not sufficient.

The claimant who establishes the most direct relationship to the veteran will be awarded the ancestor's medal six months from the date the fully documented claim is received by Archives and History. The purpose of the six-month waiting period is to allow for sufficient verification of the descendant's claim and for submission of counterclaim(s) by other potential descendant(s). In the case of equal claims, the descendant whose claim was received first will be awarded the medal."

If you know of a Civil War Union Soldier in your family's past, it's worth checking the site just to check the list. I've been busily checking mine this morning and comparing surnames with those on the list. It helps that a lot of my family comes from Virginia/West Virginia. I find it heartbreaking that these medals were never retrieved by the soldiers to pass down to us....

Heres the website link:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Born in Canada, England or the US???

My Grandmother and her sister, Aunt Edie, always had an argument when it came to the birthplace of their father. Grandma believing England, Aunti Edie believing Canada. Both of them being stubborn people, they never could prove to each other their point so they just argued it forever... well leave it to the genealogist grandchild that has to know everything! Yeah! another puzzle to solve! I can find my Great-Grandfather's family in England in 1891 and then in Providence Rhode Island in 1900, the very large gap in time included the supposed birth date of my Great Grandfather - Joseph Leeming. There was no record of the family arriving on any ships in the US, and the 1900 US Census states that Joseph was born in Canada, - yes, a lead but not rock solid. So, rather than have the argument with Grandma myself, for by this time after all my research, she knew as well as I did that the census records weren't always 100% accurate... I continued my search.

Then, Ancestry released the Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) and seeing the location, I decided to give the database a try. Well, what do you know? He WAS born in Canada! Not only that, but he also had another brother and a sister born, baptised and buried there as well. The really neat thing about the collection, (don't we all love to see the images of original documents?) is that they're hand written by the record keeper and signed by my ancestors!

Now I had records of Joseph's birth and baptism, his sister Sarah & brother Walter's births, and deaths/burials.

I then had the pleasure of informing my Grandmother that her father was indeed born in Canada and I had found "proof".

These records gave a seemingly tiny tidbit that had driven my grandmother and her sister to arguments all those years. I wonder if Aunt Edie is watching us talk about it now and saying "See! I told you he was born in Canada!" ? Just goes to show you - sometimes those little family bits turn out to be true - no matter how much the point is argued or may seem incorrect. It also pays to go looking for a record again on your subscription sites - they're updated constantly and you never know when a new gem will appear!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ever Visit the Cemetery of Your Ancestors?

When my genealogy search began, I knew that my Great Grandmother was a Kidwell and I knew that her family was from Oakton, Fairfax County, VA. At the time, I was doing most of my research at home (I still do for that matter). I don't remember exactly when I found out where my Great Grandmother was buried, but I knew that I needed to visit that cemetery! I took a day off work, so that I could have the day completely to myself and I ventured out to Oakton. I also knew that the library nearby contained the Virginia Room, a very large genealogical collection and much historical information on the county. Little did I know that there simply wouldn't be enough hours in that day to look at everything I wanted to see. Ah, being a beginner - it actually was a lot of fun! But, more about my visit to the library another day... I drove past the cemetery, and made a u-turn to head back in the right direction then I pulled in. It was a very hot day, and the cemetery had that smell of hot summer air. I so remember the heat! I ventured into the area among the headstones that bore my family name and instantly found my Great-Great Grandparents, Silas & Bertie Kidwell (pictured in post here).

Now, to find their daughter May/Maybelle/Mable... I looked and looked, couldn't see her stone anywhere. After wandering around a bit, I finally sat down in the shade of a nearby tree and had a drink of water, frustrated that I couldn't find her stone. I then thought maybe she didn't have one. Certainly she would be in the general area of her parents right?
It was at this point that I took note of the very large bush next to Silas & Bertie's headstone. I had already looked at the area from front and back... but... could it actually be in that bush?... YES! Her stone was completely engulfed in that bush! A bush that was no doubt planted by my Grandfather who LOVED flowering bushes. I was elated and amazed that I found her stone and returned in the fall to take a shot without wrestling with the bush.

As I wandered the Flint Hill cemetery, I photographed every Kidwell stone that I came across. Regardless of whether or not I had ever heard of the person. Come to find out, this was a very good idea, as most of those people were eventually connected into my line in some manner. With the use of digital cameras now, it's easier than ever to share what you've found with others and there's a great website called Find A Grave where people do just that. If you're no where near your ancestors home and would like a photo of their stone, go to the site and check to see if it's there. There are thousands and thousands of headstone photos there already. Everytime I visit an old cemetery I take as many as I can and upload them all to Find A Grave.

When you do visit the cemetery - take a camera, take some water and remember your bush trimmers (no don't do that - you're not allowed to do that!) but do remember to take notes of other family members in the area of your ancestors. Obviously family members are often buried in the same area of the cemetery (many plots are purchased together) and even if the names aren't the same, that guy buried next to great great grandpa might just be related by marriage or such. Also, if available you should attempt to get a copy of the records for the cemetery on your person of interest. The records will indicate if there are several plots together and who's buried in each.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

So What's In A Census?

My goodness, where do I begin? It really depends entirely on which one you're looking at. Very early census records (prior to 1850) contain simple facts - the name of the Head of Household and the number of people in age groups and genders living in the home. In 1850 the census became a bit more detailed, listing the names and ages of all the people in the house. Seems every census following gave us a little more info.. just a little tidbit more about the family that we keep searching for. For instance, the 1910 census details how many children have been born to a woman and how many of those children are still living at the time of the census. A bit intrusive yes, but how else would I have known that my Grandmother had another aunt and uncle born in Canada before the family even came to the US? Aha! Yes! another gleaming gem for a genealogist to go chasing after!

Later census records list the birthplace of each person AND their parents - so maybe you know that Great Granddad lived in Virginia, do you know if he was born there? Do you know where his parents were born? Many census records can answer this, or at least give you a lead to follow. Of course there are always possibilities of error - maybe Great Granddad didn't know where his parents were born so he guessed. Yes, this did happen so be careful - checking his parents records for earlier years will give way to more clues and more answers!

Working backward from 1930 (the latest census made public) you can trace a family in an area and get detailed information on them every ten years back, allowing you to then follow Great Great Grandad to the home of his parents - where you might just get the info on where THEIR parents were born and so on. So, check out some census records for your family - you might be surprised what you find!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Did you know that we're related to.....

Ok, we've all got some weird family story that has supposedly been passed down for generations - mine just happens to be that one of our relatives was "BORN on the Mayflower" - mmmm talk about making a child's mind race! Come to think of it, this very well could be the genealogy bug that bit me, way back when I was like 10 years old! Grandma told me, "a long, long time ago" that one of our relatives was born on the Mayflower. Come to find out we weren't pilgrims - not that I can prove anyway. The Mayflower people have been very well researched and well documented - I've not found a direct connection in my line (yet :-). Some of my family certainly were among the "settlers in the new world" - they were indentured servants with a 10 year debt to the person who paid their passage, not pilgrims!

What about the story that you're related to someone famous, someone royal, someone who EVERYONE has heard of? Got one of those stories? Well, any genealogist will tell you.... "Prove it!" go find DOCUMENTED proof of that ancestor AND your connection to them. Just the same last name isn't enough, as I can tell you from first hand experience, names changed many times through the years and for varying reasons. If you're ancestors were Irish, they may have changed their names to get jobs. Maybe they just didn't like the spelling or maybe they came from a "less than prominent" family. Stay on your toes when researching family names, often they were written down incorrectly by someone else along the way and voila!, a new name is born!

You may have the belief that your family is English or French or Irish. Unless both of your parents and grandparents on both sides and so on are from that same country, you're probably like the rest of us here in the States - part of the Great American Melting Pot - a mix of lines from different countries and heritages. That being said, there's also nothing wrong with saying "My family is French", but often the question remains - "how much?" I was told that I was English, Irish, German & Dutch.... I've found the English, Irish and German connections with many others mixed in. If the ancestor was in the US during early times, they obviously would have met people from other areas of the world and their spouses weren't always of one single heritage either. So I claim to be part Irish -but how much really???

One line I was researching was a family that just knew they were Irish AND in fact related to a prominent government official "way way back". I couldn't prove the connection to that famous ancestor - although they still want to argue that point and probably always will. When researching the line, I found that only one generation back there was a pure Greek woman in the line and another generation back was a Polish woman... just goes to show you that you can't always judge by the name or the story that's been passed down for generations. I say, "Prove It!"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"29 Days of Giveaways" - For my "Artsy" Friends and Visitors

In the true spirit of the season Art By Chrysti is having a 29 days of Giveaways at her blog. It's a wonderful read so please don't just skip to the comments. We can all gain something by looking at the world through the eyes of a child - all goodness and hope and love in one little being.

Visit her blog at:
Have a great day!

Monday, December 1, 2008

So where do you start?

Lots of people ask me this question when they find out that I do genealogy research. I've also heard "Aren't you done yet?" (mostly from family members who are sick of hearing about it :-) Are you kidding? 15 years and counting - and at this point, I don't think it'll ever be DONE. Considering that I've worked on it for that long, adding thousands and thousands of people to my family tree software and hundreds of sources, media files, notes, emails, census records, and list after list of possible connections and I'm still looking for information for one of my great-great grandfathers.. nope, it's never gonna be "done".

When I first started, my paternal grandma had just passed away and unfortunately took the family secrets or "skeletons" with her. Her husband, who passed two days later wouldn't have been much help as he was a second marriage. Funny how my interest peaked when she died - prior to that I hadn't thought much about it. One day while on a mini road trip with my parents, we began talking about Grandma and her parents and that's the day it all started.. "Who was her Mom?" Kidwell? Never heard that name before! Suddenly I realized that there was an entire world of people out there and many of them could be related to us. And how intrigued I was to know that they didn't know her father's name! And so, my search began. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing so I quickly dove into several books and every one of them tells you the same thing...

Get out a notebook or whatever (or one of those pedigree charts I linked to in my post of 11/25) and start with yourself, record your name (maiden name for women, always), birth date & location, marriage date & location; move on to your parents, same info on them. Now, your Grandparents and so on.

Got an old box of papers from someone in the family? This is a genealogist's dream come true - go through them, piece by piece and absorb what you can from them. Keep filling in the info for people in your tree. Make copies of those papers and put them away in a safe place, keep the copies out for future reference.

Now get in touch with others in your family who may have information - grandparents, uncles, aunts, anyone who may have more information and names to fill in this basic chart. Be very specific with what you want, "I want to know when your father died", "where he was buried", "Do you remember the full names of your grandparents?" etc. You can of course get more details during these conversations, make sure you've got a notebook handy to jot down other info that they may mention. I often get clues from talking to my maternal Grandmother when I ask her about a date and she'll say "I know it was after so-and-so passed away" Now I've got at least a window of time to work around, rather than an open blank and nothing to go on.

You can also write to family members asking for information and copies of any documents they may hold (many won't part with original documents and who can blame them?) If a family bible exists, find out who has it and ask them to check the family record pages for entries. If there are some, ask for the information contained and also arrange copies/photos to be made or taken, or visit the relative to view it.

One thing I quickly found when I started researching is that the paperwork (charts, documents, census records, military documents, birth certs. etc) and info can pile up very fast and it becomes difficult to keep it organized - it's best to try to stay ahead of it.

A folder worked fine in the beginning but several months later I was constantly digging through it looking for a note or scrap that had some gem of info. I suggest that you take baby steps in the very beginning, researching one side of the family first for a bit and then delve into the other side. Have a folder for each side of the family.

I also used a 5-subject spiral notebook with the dividers for note taking on different lines and my to-do list. I always dated my notes and they were all there in that one book, no matter which side of the family we were discussing, I had all my info. This can also serve as another very important item, your research log. It is recommended that you document where info comes from, who gave it to you, where it is stored, etc. If you ever need that info again you'll want to be sure to remember where you got it - also, just as importantly, you want to make note of when no record was found - this will keep you from repeat searches of the same info later.

Very Importantly, this notebook can serve as your Source reference when building your tree into a software program or book. A good genealogist ALWAYS cites their sources of each bit of info. For instance, if you order great-granddad's birth certificate and from it you get the names of both his parents, this would be your source for those two pieces of information. It's best to start this habit now, I've seen very large family files on the Internet with no sources and I've received info that was totally bogus (and of course not sourced). I can't trust the research because it can't answer my "show me" or "prove it". I then have to attempt to track the fact myself to confirm it or bag it altogether and keep searching.

I'm at the point now that I've got a manila folder for each COUPLE in my family line. I also have folders full of literally hundreds of sheets of paper with details on people that don't yet fit in my file. Remember, 15 years ago the PCs weren't like today's, large files weren't as easy to save and to keep - I had no choice but to print it out. At one point I remember that my family file was holding about 1/2 the space of my hard drive. Thank goodness technology has advanced!

So, these are my suggestions (and every book I've read) on where to start... with what you know; review records you may already have; interviewing family members; and staying organized. Most of all, do what works for you and enjoy climbing your family tree!


Friday, November 28, 2008

Mom's "Good" Dishes

Every Mom has a set right? I am the proud owner of my Mom's old "good" dishes. Dishes that she worked very hard to get so many years ago. Now, every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we use these old "good" dishes at my home. Mom gave them to me when she got new "good" dishes. The kids often ask the question - "where did they come from?" and comment on how pretty they are. I am very proud to tell them that they were painstakingly collected, piece by piece, week after week, at the local grocery till the set was complete - making sure not to miss an item, plates, cups, saucers, dessert plates, platters... you get the idea. These dishes mean a lot to me - they somehow signify the will of a woman who maybe couldn't get a new full "SET" of dishes but could certainly afford a few bucks a week to collect them. But can you imagine the time it took? THAT means something. But, these dishes mostly remind me of family holidays, all of us kids around the table and years later coming back with our own families, gathering around the same table and using the same "good dishes". Now, my kids will remember the story and recall holidays around the table using them and watching out for the plate that has a chip on the bottom, being careful not to use the cup that has the crack and the question that's asked every year... "What happened to the gravy boat?"

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Got old photos? Identify those people!!!

Today I want to share a photograph of my great-grandmother May Kidwell's sisters. Pictured are Marjorie and Ethel Kidwell, two daughters of Silas & Bertie (pictured two posts below). They're all dressed up, hats and all, and don't you just LOVE the shoes?

My Grandmother, Edna Keener, had this photo among her things. Although her mother died when she was only 9, she held on to the very few things that her mother had from her family for her entire life. Amazing really, considering that she lost all contact with the family shortly after her mother's death, and was raised by her stepfather.

This photo had writing on it, which is how we identified it - a gem that many don't have. Which brings me to today's "Tip" ALWAYS, ALWAYS identify people in photos! New and old (make sure you're using photo safe pen). If you've got old pictures of unidentified people, someone older in your family might be able to tell you who those people are. Get in touch with them, send copies if you have to - don't let the identity of those people slip away when someone passes on. If your parents have a box of old photos (don't they all?) spend an afternoon identifying them and while you're at it, get the story behind the photos. If you identify them now, and have a family tree showing how they 'fit', it'll be a treasure for your children's children.

I don't have any idea what the occasion was in this photo and every time I look at it I wish I knew. But, I am happy knowing the identity of these two ladies, so it's not just another old picture in the box.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who's in your Pedigree?

Fortunately for me, I have a pretty good idea who's in my pedigree, on one side of the family anyway. This is a pedigree chart of my Grandfather, William P. Bellew. I've done pretty extensive research on this side of my family and as I said, fortunately my findings have been many. Not true for everyone, as I have found on my Paternal side, all is not what it seems and you can't always track down that one person who can link it all together. So the search continues.

As you will notice, every generation back doubles the number of people you're looking for. The next generation on this chart will have 16 people, the one after that, 32! Also, every generation adds yet more surnames to your search for ancestors (on the female side, when you can find the maiden name that is :-). Often women are hard to track because their names change but luckily for me, they were in England and the records are availble to me and the marriages could be found, enabling me to take another generational step back to her parents.

Enjoy my family chart and if you're interested in completing your own pedigree chart, you can view and save a pdf format one here. See how far you can get!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Who were they.... really?

Everytime I do a bit of research on the family, I'm compelled to know about what their lives must've been like. What kind of people were they? Was their life difficult? Did they work hard to have very little or were they successful in what they did? These are the bits that are difficult to find out without having the information passed down to you from someone who actually knows. You can't find this info in general records on the family. I posted previously about this family, the Kidwells, who lived in Fairfax County Virginia. Apparently farmers (according to census and land records) but who were they? What kind of people were they? Sadly, I may never know.....

These are the questions you need to ask of the living RIGHT NOW! Time is very short when it comes to your genealogy. Bits of memories and family stories are lost everyday when someone passes away. I may never know what Silas & Bertie Kidwell were like as I didn't ask these questions when I had the opportunity. You see, it's not just about the who and where and when - these are just names, places and dates. All very intersting and helpful to build your family history data, but no where near the full story.

I'm going to start a new series of posts about this family and how I attempted to find out more about them. I still don't feel that I know enough, but a few nuggets of info that I came to know along the way are what I've got to share with my children and their children. In the meantime, you should contact all the eldest members of your family, talk to them about their parents and grandparents, get copies of any documents and photos. Get info from them while you still can and ask more about the people and their lives, homes and jobs, not just the who, where and when.

Have a great day! Cindy

My Quest to know more... Post #3

This is a news clipping from March 11, 1944 from a local paper in Adams MA where my Grandparents lived at the time my Grandfather entered the military. This clipping states that Grandma has received word that Granddad is in England. All of this sort of "news" was published in the local paper.

Another info packed post today on my search for my Grandfather's military service. Last week I promised to talk about military papers - all boring and such if you're not into this kind of thing but what a treasure to find for a genealologist!! However, if you don't look at every detail you could miss something AND all those details can also raise more questions. Of course, I have the subscriptions to the major records available on line at Ancestry and there is such a mass of info there it's sometimes overwhelming. But, nothing can compare to having the actual original documents in your hands. All tattered from time and folded and torn. At any rate, having Granddad's Seperation Report, his enlistment information and even his medal award documents wasn't enough. According to the docs he was discharged for wounds he rec'd on July 29th - a mission he volunteered to take due to a shortage of a gunner in another crew. How was he wounded? Where was he at the time? What plane was he on? All these things I wrote about in my previous posts - But, most importantly - where were these medals he received? No one in the family knew. Grandma couldn't recall what ever happened to them - probably lost in the many moves the family made after the war. Off I went to the 94th Bomb Group website again to see what info was available on medals - turns out I was referred to the National Archives website. To my surprise, the website stated that you could order replacement medals - Huzza!!! So, after many many many forms and paperwork and phone calls and months of waiting ..... they finally told me (in Sept of this year) that he had been out of the service too long - more than 60 years. Somthing they could have told me in the beginning, for I had provided them with his discharge date on the VERY first document completed, way back in February of this year!! This simply was not fair!! I set out to see if I could purchase replicas of the medals for they told me that "the military has more than met it's obligation in issuing replacement medals" this simply did not apply to my family!! It's not my fault that they fail to keep track of this stuff!

I heard along the way that your local state representatives of Congress could help in dealings with the Federal Gov't (after all that is their job) and election time was upon us so I decided to give it a shot - do you know that they responded to me IMMEDIATELY and began to look into the problem. Last week I received a copy of a letter from the National Personnel Records Center (the folks who issue the medals), sent to the Congresswoman's office and would you believe the order for the medals has already been placed? No long paperwork burden, no "form letters" just a nice letter stating that the medals have been ordered and the copy of the form was included. Unbelievable!!!! Today's Nov 19th and I don't have word of their receipt at the Congresswoman's office just yet but needless to say, I'm anxiously awaiting word from them every day.

My Quest to know more... Post #2

This is a photo of my Grandfather (second from left in the back row) and his regular flight crew - what a treasure to have received this from someone who actually flew with him!

As promised - here's more about my search for my Grandfather's military service information, continued from last Wednesday's post.

After reaching out and finding someone who flew with Granddad, and realizing that he wasn't with his regular crew on the day he was wounded I set out to determine just who he was flying with that day. Again, Chris knew much about this and let me know that I needed to find mission reports for the day. This would give us a clue about the damaged aircrafts and any lost during the mission... I must also note that Grandma told me that after he was wounded, Grandad was reported as "Missing In Action" and she receieved a telegram stating so. This was another clue - was it possible that his aircraft had to put down somewhere other than base and the crew originally thought to be missing? There are other documents (which apparently are MIA also) that detail the crew for each aircraft on any given mission, these reports which I believe are called Load Lists or Load Reports have been searched for by many - they're not available.

Knowing that I must have the mission reports for the day he was wounded, I went to the National Archives( website and placed an order for them. I must say this was the easiest transaction I've had with those folks - much more on that later. At any rate, after a couple months the 36+ pages of information came to me in the mail. This stuff is not light reading by any means and if you're not up on your military terms of the time its very easy to get lost in all the jargon. At this time, I am in the process of making copies of some of the pages to send to Chris. He will research further and see if we can determine what plane he was on.

Next week I'll tell you about the military paperwork that I found in Grandma's papers, what it contained and all the questions that it brought about.

My Quest to know more... Post #1

I've been researching my family for years and only during the last 10 months or so have I ventured into the Military history. My Grandfather, William Bellew, was in the Army Airforce during WWII and was injured (lost his left eye) during a mission on July 29 1944. Already having his military documents in hand, I set out to find out what else there was to know - the rest of the story if you will. I came across a message board for his bomb group that put me in touch with a now dear friend in England, Chris, who lives near the base where Granddad was stationed. He is very knowledgeable in this area and, unbelievably, he managed to track down a living member of my Grandfather's regular crew! I was amazed and very nervous to call and speak to this man on the phone. He and his wife are just wonderful people and they were very glad to hear from me. He told me that Grandad volunteered to go up with another crew who was short a gunner on that day that he was wounded, and he was never seen again by his regular crew - they were never even told what became of him. He was glad to know that Granddad lived, returned home, had more children and lots of grandchildren.

Connections come in strange ways sometimes. It certainly pays to venture into other areas of the internet, such as message boards, rather than sticking to the records sites. You never know, a post might put you in touch with someone who actually knew your relative and you might make some really great friendships along the way! I called this post #1 because there's much more of this story to share... next week.

My Kidwell Connection

I'm not as "artsy" as some of my other blogging friends but I love to dabble in all sorts of things that I see them doing. So to my "Artsy" friends that might venture over here at some point, don't laugh at my blog, just visit now and then and put up with me :-)))))

Today I want to post a photo of my Great Great Grandfather, Silas Kidwell. He has his truck all loaded with peaches for the local farmers market in Washington DC. I got this picture from my Great Uncle, Marshall Kidwell who I managed to track down while I was doing research on my Kidwell side of the family. Uncle Marshall has since passed away but I'll never forget him and the many bits of information that he shared with me that I never would have known had I not met with him.

Grandad Silas

Uncle Marshall

Another interesting note for today... I've been doing some research for one of my neighbors lately and while I've not found a connection yet, his family was from the same county as mine and so we're assuming at some point our tree branches will join together :-) I've already found a connection to his wife and my family (through an in-law) so it's only a matter of time!!!