Thursday, February 27, 2014

And then there were none

My mother's last surviving sibling died this morning at the tender age of 97. Had he lived until March 21st, he would have celebrated his 98th birthday.

Mom was the fifth child and second daughter in a family of five sons and three daughters. My Uncle was the fourth child and third son. The sons were tall and fair haired and some with a hint of ginger, and most of them were almost bald by the time I showed up among the last of the grandchildren. The daughters were beautiful inside and out, strong and independent women: one brunette, one blond and one redhead. My Mom was the blond.

Their tales of growing up were hilarious and innocent. Children of a farmer and a teacher, they grew up living a simple life. Mom told me that they really didn't know there was a depression when it happened.

They grew their own vegetables and fruit, raised cows, chickens and pigs, and helped their parents in the house and in the fields. Listening to the radio was a treat. Driving into town was an adventure for their lively crew.

Their father was on the school board, and some of the female teachers boarded with the family. That did not stop my mother and her siblings from playing pranks on the teachers though. I heard many a tall tale of teachers opening drawers to find garter snakes and frogs hiding, getting drenched when walking by an open upper story window at the house or the school and having their car temporarily disabled.

When I was a very small girl, their family farm, long since sold to pay their father's medical bills, was partially flooded by a dam. I remember asking Mom why we couldn't buy the land and tell the power company that they couldn't build on that property. Ah, the innocence of youth!

It is the end of a very special era. All of their memories live on through the few we were able to persuade them to write down or let one of us record, and through us and our memories. I have some recipes from my grandmother and oh so many memories of each of them telling me stories of their family and friends.

I keep saying that one day I will sit down and write a book about them. Maybe I should get started?

And for my mother and her brothers and sisters, especially my Uncle who joined them today, remember: until I see you all again, I love you more.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sorting out the Marys

It has probably happened to almost everyone who works on their family tree. You find a record in an area that you know your relative either lived or had living relatives and might have visited. You get excited. "One more record to verify Aunt Mary's age! Woohoo!" You quickly add the record to your family tree and move on to the next tantalizing hint or quivering leaf.

And then, perhaps later that day, or months later, you discover that the person in the record you so excitedly added to your tree was not your relative. Or the person is related to you, but the record is attached to the wrong relative. You correct your error and move on. You may even forget it happened.

Until you discover that someone else either copied your work (OK, so we share finds), found the same record you did and made the same error, or copied someone else's mistakenly linked record. You politely contact the person and fill in the blanks, so he or she can make the corrections for your ancestor.

And that person counters with something like, "Are you certain?" Are you? Have you kept up with your documentation? If you had to prove it, could you?

Yep, you guessed it! This just happened to me. Two Mary's with the same maiden name and almost the same year of birth, born in two different states, marry two Frank's with the same surname, born in the same state and county about 10 years apart. Below is my reasoning and proof. How did I do?

Theory: Mary E. Heise Root of Camden and Columbia, SC is not the same person as Mary Root, wife of Francis Root, buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Southington, CT (FindAGrave memorial id 68137812.)

Proof: We are dealing with two Francis Roots and two Mary Roots. Francis and Mary Root live in South Carolina in 1850 and 1860, although Francis is deceased by 1860. Another Francis and Mary Root live in Connecticut in 1850 and 1860, although Mary dies in 1853.

A Mary Root appears in the 1860 Columbia, SC census and the 1850 Camden, SC census. Her age on both is consistent with her being the same person. Although her husband, Francis, is absent from the 1860 census,

A Mary and a Francis Root are enumerated in the 1850 census, living in Southington, Connecticut. They have children, and these children's names do not correspond with the names and ages of the children of Mary and Francis Root in the 1850 Camden, SC census or the 1860 Columbia, SC census.

The names and ages of the children of Mary and Francis Root in the 1850 Connecticut census correspond with the names and ages of the children of the 1860 Francis and Bridget Root, living in New Haven, Connecticut. This would be consistent with Mary Root of the 1850 Connecticut census dying in Connecticut in 1853 and her Francis remarrying prior to the 1860 Connecticut census. Family trees I found for this Francis Root list his parents as Amzi and Anna Root. I have not verified this Francis Root's parents, so please do not quote this as fact.

Also, in the 1860 Connecticut Francis Root census record, he has a daughter aged 9, Anna. This also fits with the other name on Mary Root's Oak Hill Cemetery (Southington, CT) tombstone: Annie, died 1867, aged 16.


1850 Southington, CT Census                                               1860 New Haven, CT Census
Francis A Root 27                                                                  Francis A Root 37
Mary Root 30                                                                         Bridget A Root 31
George D Root 7                                                                    George D Root 17
Levi F Root 5                                                                         Levi F Root 15
Charles E Root 2                                                                    Charles E Root 13
Polly Thorp 64
                                                                  *under the age of 10; not on 1850 census
                                                                                             *Anna M Root 9
                                                                                             *James H Root 2
                                                                                             *Bernard W Root 11/12


                                                                   ** not on 1860 census
1850 Camden, SC Census                                                     1860 Columbia, SC Census
Francis Root 40                                                                      **dies between 1850 and 1860
Mary Root 29                                                                         Mary E Root 40
Maria Root 13                                                                        **married
John Root 10                                                                          John L Root 21
Francis Root 9                                                                        Francis B Root 20
Ida Root 4                                                                              Ida H Root 15
Caroline Root 1                                                                      Caroline C Root 11
Elizh Root 17                                                                          **married


So, we have two Francis Roots and two Mary Roots. The two Francis Roots may be related. I haven't finished that research yet. However, the two Francis Roots are not the same person. And the two Mary Roots are not the same person.

I am still trying to locate documentation on the date of death and place of burial for the SC Francis (Frank) and Mary Root. If you have any clues, please share.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Losing Elaine

The newest post on my Facebook feed stopped everything: my heart, my mind and time. All were suspended as I read and re-read Cousin Elaine's granddaughter's post. A massive heart attack hospitalized Elaine. Recovery prospects weren't looking good. That was last week, an eternity ago.

My mind races back in time to the day quite a few years ago when I ventured into the Hunnicutt surname forum on Ancestry.com to see if one of my cousins had left any new tidbits of info. Spying a lively discussion about a distant relative, I settled back in my chair and began to read. Of course, being a Hunnicutt, I had to add my two cents worth to the chatter. The very next message was from Elaine, "Hi Cousin!"

Friends and cousins, we only knew each other through phone calls, e-mails, Facebook and family history forums. Fourth cousins once removed, we felt more like first cousins, sharing laughter over the funnier family tree entries and tall tales (a Hunnicutt family tradition), and bemoaning that one key piece of information one of us needed to make a documented connection on her tree. Every year, she invited my family to her branch of the Hunnicutt reunion. And every year something happened and I failed to show up.

With tears stinging my eyes, on Monday, I updated her family history profile on my family tree with her date and place of death. Missing from her profile are her funny posts, her steadfast loyalty, her terrific sense of humor, her deep seated love of family and God, and well, Elaine. It doesn't show the huge hole in her family's lives that she left when she went home to God.

Part of me is a tad bit jealous of Elaine. Now she's privy to all of that information that we've been rooting around to find for years! Now she knows why we have at least three Thomas Harrison's in the family during the same time period, and who they're actually named for. We used to joke that the first one to get to heaven had to help the one left behind with research. I hope she remembers that I wasn't joking.

Elaine, can you sneak me a hint somehow? And while you're getting to know the rest of the family up there, can you ask "Original" William if he just made up the family surname when he arrived in America, or if he was he just a horrible speller, a trait he possibly passed down through the generations? Did you take the list of our questions and family mysteries with you?

Rest in peace my dear cousin and partner in digging up the family tree. I already miss you! I hope you'll watch over my shoulder while I research, and if you see something I need to take a look at, just give me a Gibbs slap to get my attention. You know me, I may need more than one. And until we see each other on the other side, remember: I love you more!




Monday, October 21, 2013

Where's the genealogy record index auto correct button?

Banging my head on my computer desk, my cries of frustration send my cats hurtling to safety underneath my bed, peering back at me and waiting until my latest tirade is over. "Not another one!" I moan through gritted teeth, blinking furiously in hopes that what I'm seeing isn't real.

But there it is, staring back at me from my computer monitor: the dreaded mis-transcribed genealogy record. I have the transcribed death certificate record and the imaged death certificate document pulled up, side by side. The transcribed record says the lady's name is Goldie. The imaged document plainly shows the lady's name is Addie. And you don't want to know what I went through to get here. Or maybe you do. That's a whole different post for later.

OK, to err is human, right? And it happens frequently in genealogy. Transcribing handwritten documents isn't all fun and games. It's eyestrain, cursing strange abbreviations and sloppy handwriting, and long hours trying to figure out if that's an "A" or an "O". I do thank all of those who do it on a regular basis! Umpires and referees hear back from the fans when they make a bad call. Who do you scream at when it's a genealogy transcriber who goofed? I usually scream at my monitor, my cats hide, and my husband reminds me that "They can't hear you scream."

And who hid the genealogy record auto correct button? Probably in a drawer in Utah somewhere, gathering dust. (No offense to the hardworking researchers and transcribers from all over the world, including Utah.) But I need that button now and it's no where on my keyboard or on my screen.

So how do I get it fixed? How in this virtual world do I get Addie's name changed on the transcribed record and in the index for the website so the next person researching Addie can find it quickly?

With documentation, sticking to the facts, patience and sometimes persistence, that's how. And I usually am able to get corrections made to the transcribed record. I can't make corrections to the imaged document.

But before I submit my changes in a flurry of keystrokes, I need to make sure that I have my facts straight. After all, I don't want to add to the problem, do I? Adding more errors to errors isn't a good thing, right? I don't want to be known as the chicken little of genealogy.

Can I prove that the transcribed record needs to be changed? Going back in my notes, how did I arrive here with Addie? Is this really Addie's record, or have I totally goofed and it's really Goldie's? Where did I find this information? Did I use published documents or databases, or did I use someone else's notes? Checking my notes, I see that I traced this record down with Addie's husband's name and Addie's documented dates of birth and death. The city and state are correct, and are where Addie lived with her husband and children. She's buried in the same cemetery that is listed on the imaged death record. OK, this is Addie's record. And of course, the imaged document shows her first name is Addie. Now that I've double checked my research, it's time to get the record corrected, the transcribed record that is.

Not enough proof? Time for me to go back and find documentation to prove that the record needs to change, I either go back and carefully collect the proof or I make notes that I need to go back sometime and do this. Suspicions and gut instincts aren't enough to request corrections, no matter how convinced I am that I am right. Hunches are hunches, but facts are facts.

Usually, sites have one of three ways for me to submit corrections: comments section, error reporting page or form, or e-mail. I know that they are going to review my request and maybe even double check my documentation. I am clear and specific on the correction(s) I want made. I give the reason for the correction, and add notes from other documentation, such as "name appears as Addie on her marriage license dated 01 Jan 1890, Richmond, VA". On error reporting forms/pages or e-mails, I include the url of the transcribed record with the error and the url of the image. I keep my sarcastic comments to myself, and vent to my husband or my cats. I keep my communication with the website professional, even though I am not a professional genealogist.

I usually see the corrections made fairly quickly, usually within a week, although some sites aren't updated that frequently. One site I submitted corrections to is only updated once every three months, so I made a note to check the next time he sends the site update notice.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to my father, my grandfathers, my great-grandfathers and all the others

Happy Father's Day to all of the fathers out there! Enjoy your day - you deserve it.

This will be the twelfth Father's Day without my Dad. I still tear up at the Sears Fathers Day commercials and can't set foot in the hardware tool department between Mother's Day and Father's Day. I see so many tools and gadgets that I know my father would have loved.

My husband gets photos for Father's Day. I hope he enjoys them. I think he does.

The best gift I can give to those fathers who have gone before is to continue my family history research, continue to locate "lost" relatives and to connect with as many of my relatives as I can. As I work on the family history, I find myself wanting to pick up the phone to call my Dad to tell him that I found this tidbit of information or that I heard from that cousin. Dad would have loved to have heard my news.

He wasn't excited about uprooting the family tree at first. He thought it a bunch of hooey and told me that I if I thought I was going to find royalty or famous people in our tree, I could just stop and save myself time and energy. As I located the graves of his great grandparents and reconnected with his first cousin's son, Dad grew to appreciate family history. He saw that it wasn't just a bunch of begats and trying to find famous or infamous ancestors or relatives. Dad realized that family history is about the people, about their lives and about their legacies.

Dad was a research chemist, and he passed along many of the techniques of research to me, and I use them. I take notes. I know to verify information that others give me. I think about the whats, the whys and the hows. I make notes of where I found books, and where I found information. I got historical maps and saw how the state and county boundaries changed, and that solved some very puzzling moves by some of my ancestors.

Thank you for all that you taught me, Dad. You may have thought that you were trying to teach me in vain. I hope you see that I did listen and despite my trying not to some times, I did learn.

So, in your honor, I'm going to go and try to uproot some more ancestors on your side of the family tree. Wish me luck!



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Family is family, no matter how distant

I had lunch with two of my maternal grandmother's first cousin Myrtle's great granddaughters and one of her great great granddaughters. It's the first time we met. And I owe it all to my grandmother. How I wish she had been there so I could have seen her expression when she first saw them. I knew they were related to us in a heartbeat!

It always amazes me how cousins, third and fourth cousins, can look so much alike or have similar mannerisms. I felt right at home with Pat, Tina and Emily. It was almost as if I'd known them all of my life.

As we visited and shared stories, I couldn't help but notice Pat pursing her lips, just like my grandmother, her daughters, her great niece Barb and yes, even I do.

I got so tickled at Emily when she rolled her eyes at her Mom (Tina), and then quickly looked down in total innocence. I've seen my Mom and Aunt Ethel do that to my grandmother. I know I did it to my Mom and so did Cindy. I see others roll their eyes, but they don't usually drop their eyes to the floor right afterwards.

And when we were leaving, Pat went over to talk to one of her friends. She had her back to us, and if I hadn't known that my Mom wasn't there, I would have sworn she was. Pat's stance and the way she moved her head and hands when she talked to her friends was 100% Mom.

I've made progress on the promise I made to my grandmother oh so many years ago to reconnect with her father's family. I know they lost touch when he moved away and that she wished she had known her first cousins.

She set me out on this quest, and I thank her for that. I wish she were here so I could thank her in person. I know in my heart that she is following my journey from the other side. I'm not sure why she asked me, out of all of her grandchildren to do this. Maybe she asked the others, and they either don't remember or aren't that interested. Who knows? Well, grandmother knows. I know that a couple of my cousins are interested and do research once in a while. Now if they would only share their information instead of telling me "Oh, I already knew that." when I send them updates on my research! Grr!

Maybe she knew that out of all of her grandchildren, I would be the one who needed to connect with family, even distant cousins. Maybe she knew that I would take her request seriously and keep chipping away at the brick walls until I could find a loose brick that would lead to a long hidden document or photograph that gave me another clue in my quest to reconnect with my great grandfather's family.

Speaking of which, it's time for me to close. I'd love to hear your stories of reconnecting with long lost relatives.

And now, I'm off to continue uprooting the family tree!



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chronicling America - a Genealogy Goldmine

If you're researching your family history in the United States during the years 1836-1922, you need to know about Chronicling America. Chronicling America is a a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for Humanities through the National Digital Newspaper Program.

Through this program, various institutions in each state are awarded grants to help select and digitize about 100,000 pages of historic newspapers. Each year, more newspapers and more years are added, giving historians and family history researchers more access to information that has previously been limited to those able to physically visit a library or archive, or pay for someone to copy the article for them.

I love digging through this treasure trove of information. I found out that one of my great great grandfathers had a series of restaurants and bars, and that a distant cousin died on a cruise ship in Nova Scotia in 1911. I've found wedding and birth announcements, flowery obituaries, county fair winners, hotel visits by out of town relatives and articles on elections.

What will you find? Well, you won't know until you start searching. Let me know what you discover. It's out there, just waiting for you to find it.

I'm off to continue uprooting my family tree!
Susan