Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions for 2010

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: New Year's Resolutions! This year is almost over and a new decade is knocking on the door. This is the perfect time to make your New Year resolutions, goals, aims, declarations, intentions, aspirations, objectives, plans, targets, schemes, wishes, or whatever you want to call them! Figure out how you're going to approach your family history research next year, write it up, and share it with us in the COG. The deadline for submissions is January 1, 2010.

I didn't make any resolutions last year... in fact, I don't recall ever making any serious ones.  But I did achieve some things I'd had in the back of my mind for awhile.  First, I joined a genealogy society and come January 1st, I'll be joining one or two more.  I also made some progress in my genealogy research, though I don't recall any major brick walls coming down this year.  I also used a microfilm reader for the first time this year and went on my first genea-vacation/genealogy research trip.  I also ordered a record from NARA, something I have been itching to do for a few years.  On the non-genealogy front I lost 25 lbs., and gave up white sugar and soda (my 6 month anniversary of that is coming up soon) and I am working on eliminating hydrogenated oils and corn syrup from my diet (they put that stuff in everything so it is really difficult to get away from I am finding!).  Blogging wise, I stuck with it which is an accomplishment in itself and I recently participated in my first carnivals.  I'm also happy to say that once I started blogging in February, I never dipped below 10 posts a month (my minimum per month).

I did want to organize my research more than I did this year.  I started off strong but by February the boxes and bags I'd meant to work on were sitting idle again and still are.  I also came to a realization early in the year when I finally came to terms with the fact that binders and folders of genealogy just doesn't work for me.  I wanted to be good and have a paper back-up to my digital files but honestly, I just can't be bothered.  I never look at my paper research and indeed, the only time I ever add any papers to my research is when I get a new family picture, article, obituary or story.  Otherwise, I keep all my research and family trees (yes, I have more than one) online or on flash drives.  There are a few things that I'd like to do in 2010 but I wouldn't call them resolutions because I have no resolve or intention of achieving them in just one year, they are really just things I want to keep in mind more:

1.  Be better at e-mail.  I get tons of e-mail every day (not just genealogy related) and it takes a bit to get through it all so once I have, the last thing I want to do is start writing replies.  So, I put them off and put them off until it dawns on me that I am now buried under a pile of them and then I feel overwhelmed and just walk away from it.  I apologize to those who have e-mailed me and haven't gotten a response or a timely one, please don't take it personal. 

2. Spend more time on my poor genealogy website.  I had so many dreams and ideas for that site which is now sadly neglected. Hopefully 2010 will be the year when I start paying more attention to it.

3. Concentrate more on my paternal lines.  I spend most of my research time on my maternal lines because they are generally really easy to research and because they all lived in California so it isn't as though I have to go out of state for the information.  The challenge is my paternal lines who all came to the US fairly recently and never went further west than Ohio.  I have a whole block of ancestors in the Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania area which I know nothing about.

4.  Start work on my UELAC membership.  This will be much easier than establishing the necessary links for a DAR membership because I have at least three definite Loyalist lines I can pursue while I have just two possible ancestors for DAR. 

None of these are set in stone and I know full well that with genealogy, once you find an interesting tidbit it is easy to go off and running researching that to the exclusion of everything else.  While I'd like to accomplish the things on my list in 2010, I fully plan on following the genealogy white rabbit wherever he takes me and if that means I get nothing on this list completed then so be it... there's always 2011!

(This post was written for the 87th Carnival of Genealogy)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent Calendar 22 Dec: Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Did your family visit the cemetery at Christmas? How did your family honor deceased family members at Christmas?
We never went to a cemetery on Christmas, in fact, this prompt is the first I have ever heard of doing such a thing.  We would go to the Woodbridge Masonic Cemetery which is near Lodi from time to time (and still do) because my grandfather and various other relatives are buried there but that is the only cemetery we visit with regularity and it is only open by appointment or on an occasional Saturday (constant vandalism have forced an end to the open door policy the cemetery once had).  I think it is a nice tradition to visit deceased relatives on Christmas but it is something we don't currently do in my family. 
We don't really do much of anything to honor deceased family members at Christmas.  I always spend the day thinking about my great-grandmother and I'm sure other family members (past and present) are on the minds of other people in my family but we don't have any traditions of honoring the deceased at Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

(Belated) Advent Calendar 18 Dec: Christmas Stockings

Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it? Do you have any Christmas stockings used by your ancestors?

I have/had a stocking since my first Christmas and it has been the same one all along.  It was originally my mother's and was given to her as gag one year.  It is red with white trim and is enormous and definitely the biggest stocking I've ever come across.  Because it was my mother's her name is written in glitter on one side and since it is mine now, my name is written in glitter on the other side.  When I was either a newborn or a year old my mother put me in the stocking and took a picture (which I am having trouble finding!).  Although my parents' home has a fireplace and mantle, we always propped our stockings up on the living room couch and would go through them there on Christmas.  I think we chose that because we kind of wanted to keep the stockings and the presents in the same room and also because the fireplace is located in the far corner of the family room and is therefore not very comfortable to gather around. 

Things that are small, awkward to wrap or edible end up in the stocking.  Hair clips, candy, makeup and costume jewelry usually end up in my stocking.  We also like to get exotic foods and put them in each other's stocking.  For instance, this year I got some Shepard's pie mix and hot sauces for my father's stocking.  Because mine is so big I'll also get DVD's (from the discount bin, usually never more than $10 dollars, the more expensive DVDs go under the tree) or cheap paperbacks.  Little jigsaw puzzles are also pretty popular to put in stockings and when I was little, I always liked finding one or two of those in my stocking.  I wish I did have some stockings which belonged to my ancestors but sadly, no one in my family (that I know of) has any like that.

Friday, December 18, 2009

(Belated) Advent Calendar 11 Dec: Other Traditions

Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

We didn't really celebrate any other traditions.  When I was little, we had neighbors who were like grandparents to me and one of them was Jewish (and actually moved to Israel a few years ago).  So she taught me a little about Hanukkah growing up.  When they moved they gave us their menorah candles so I think that was the first time we lit the menorah we had.  My parents used to work in Saudi Arabia and one year they won a menorah in a raffle there.  For some reason this menorah only has seven holders so it isn't very authentic.  A few years ago we got a proper menorah which is displayed in my parents home along with the Buddhist and other religious mementos they have. 

I don't know that my immigrant ancestors had any special traditions though I sure they must have.  Whatever Christmas traditions they brought from the old country, they've been lost now.  I'd especially like to know how my Italian grandmother and her family celebrated Christmas, but I'm not holding my breathe until I find out.  Since Christmas trees are a fairly new invention to hit the mainstream, I'd also like to know how my ancestors celebrated Christmas before trees became cannon.  Probably the only ancestors I wouldn't want to spend Christmas with would be the pilgrims.  Frigid weather and no celebrating aren't my idea of a fun holiday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

(Belated) Advent Calendar 10 Dec: Christmas Gifts

What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?

I've gotten a lot of really great Christmas/birthday gifts (I count them as one because they all end up under the tree anyway) over the years but my favorite part is the wrapping.  My mother's sense of humor really comes out when it comes to gift wrapping.  One year (I think I was about ten), to my delight, there was an enormous box next to the tree Christmas morning (it was too big to go under the tree) and it had my name on it!  I tore into it only to discover another, smaller box inside.  So I opened that box and wouldn't you know it, there was another, smaller box inside that.  Well, eventually I got down to a box about 1/4 the size of the original and inside was a cookie jar.  While I like the cookie jar, the fun of getting to it and the laughs we had unwrapping it are what I remember most and the reason why it is a favorite Christmas present now.

Another favorite Christmas gift, which I don't remember or still have, was an apple.  That's right, an everyday apple just like the kind you can go to the grocery store and buy.  It was my first Christmas and I was a a few days away from my first birthday so I wasn't into toys yet.  I got lots of gifts that day but I didn't pay any attention to any of them.  Apparently I was so obsessed with an apple the whole time that nothing else in the universe existed that Christmas morning.  My mother quipped "she's easy to Christmas shop for!" but alas, the "apple days" would end soon.  Now, when my mother is buying me the things on my Christmas/birthday list, I'm sure she is wishing she could just go to the store and buy me a bag of apples instead. 

Giving gifts to my mother are the ones I remember most because hilarity would always ensue the next day when we were putting our hauls away.  You see, when I was little I got pretty simplistic gifts for people, like coin purses, tree ornaments, magnets, etc.  So when my mother would put away the gifts she always thought the ones I had given her were actually mine and they'd end up in my room.  I don't remember ever getting angry with her about it but I'll jokingly bring it up once in awhile and we'll laugh about it now.

We don't have any special gift-giving traditions.  Sometimes under "from" we'll put down the dog's or cat's name but that is about it.  My grandmother is notoriously slow at opening gifts and insists on seeing what everyone else has gotten so every year on Christmas Eve, we'll open the gifts that we don't want to have to explain to her (usually the technology gifts) on Christmas day when we get together.  I like this arrangement because it means I won't have to wait another day to open the Wii "Santa" is bringing my family this year.

(Belated) Advent Calendar 14 Dec: Fruitcake

Did you like fruitcake? Did your family receive fruitcakes? Have you ever re-gifted fruitcake? Have you ever devised creative uses for fruitcake?

I've never cared for fruitcake and neither has my mother or grandmother (my mother's mother).  My father claims he likes it  "loves" it but I'm not sold that he does.  We've gotten him them over the years and he always eats a piece or two and then it sits until it has to be thrown out - now does that sound like someone who "loves" fruitcake?!  There was always the joke in my family that the only good thing you could do with a fruitcake is use it as a doorstop and I think my grandmother did that once for laughs. 

I recently tried the German equivalent to a fruitcake, stollen and while I wanted to like it, it really isn't much better than fruitcake.  The stollen I had was less dense and filled with "things" as American fruitcake so I liked that but not enough to recommend either fruitcake or stollen.  I think it is the "things" they put in fruitcake that I dislike the most.  I've also had the ice cream version of fruitcake, tutti frutti and it is actually worse than fruitcake if you can believe it. Italian fruitcake, panettone, is a little better... but not much.  I think fruitcake may be good if it didn't have the fruit or candy or nuts (or whatever it is they put in it) and if I ever make fruitcake, I'm leaving the "things" out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent Calendar 16 Dec: Christmas at School

What did you or your ancestors do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant?

We would have "holiday parties" at school (usually a potluck lunch thing) but never Christmas events and we never had the traditional pageant either.  Honestly, when I was little I was so wrapped up in my birthday, Christmas and going on vacation from school to really pay attention to any holiday activities that were going on (I went to a non-traditional school until high school so participating in most of the events and goings-on was optional and therefore, easy to ignore).  We did do "gingerbread parties" at school where we would make gingerbread houses.  I remember one year I made a candy "security camera" for my gingerbread house and a reporter from the local paper was there and thought it was so cute that I got a mention in my local paper.  I think I was about five or six and it was my first time "in print."  I still have the article somewhere...  I don't know that my parents or ancestors did much for Christmas at school, if they did I've never heard about it (yet).

Blog Caroling... In Italian!

I like most holiday music and Christmas carols are no exception.  For this activity from footnoteMaven, I wanted to get a little creative though while also being true to my genealogy.  So I went looking for some carols in Italian (il canto di Natale).  When the winter Olympics were in Torino a few years ago and the Italian national anthem was playing all the time I fell in love with it and it led to me to a love for a lot of traditional Italian songs but for some reason I had never looked into carols or holiday music until now. 

One of my favorite finds is Tu Scendi dalle Stelle ("You Came Down From the Stars").  You can view the score here and hear Pavarotti sing it here:

Here is another:

Mille Cherubini in Coro (" A Thousand Cherub Chorus") sung by Andrea Bocelli.  My mother is a fan of his and I'm told he recently had a PBS Christmas special on TV so if you are a fan of his and Christmas music, it might be worth looking for.

I'm a big fan of White Christmas and if you are too, I suggest checking it out in its Italian version ("Bianco Natale"):

It isn't Bing, but I like it!  Buon Natale everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent Calendar 15 Dec: Other Holiday Happenings

Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we're going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.

I actually just wrote about this for the 86th COG.  While my birthday is on the 28th of this month and is probably the birthday closest to Christmas (and New Years for that matter) in my family, there are a few more birthdays that qualify too.  I wrote about Heman Doyle in my COG post so now I'll write about my great-great-great-grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Hudson Wellons.  Sarah was born on January 3rd 1816 in Kentucky (probably Pulaski Co.) to Daniel Hudson and Mary Polly Lester/Louster/Luster (I'm fairly confident of these are her parents but what like a little more proof).  On 12 Aug 1831 in Pulaski Co. Sarah married John Chappel Wellons (also of Kentucky).  They had ten children in Kentucky before they moved to Indiana around 1850.  They had another two children in Indiana before moving to Warren Co., Iowa in the mid-1850s.  While in Iowa they had another two children bringing their total to fourteen (all of whom lived to adulthood).  Sarah died in Iowa five days after her 45th birthday on January 8th 1861, her youngest child was two months shy of four and her eldest was twenty-nine.  I wish I knew more about Sarah though I am thankful that I got a picture of her (maybe two, the other one is unconfirmed) so at least I can put a face to a name.  She died when my great-great-grandfather was about twelve and I'm sure it affected him and his siblings quite a bit.  Her husband, John Chappel Wellons, remarried a few years later and some of Sarah's children were less than happy with their new step-mother (of course, step-mother had some problems of her own...).

Monday, December 14, 2009

(Belated) Advent Calendar 2 Dec: Holiday Foods

Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?
There were some dishes that I equate with Christmas but none that I particularly liked.  When I was little Christmas dinner was always a crock pot of roast beef and potatoes, carrots, etc.  Even before I became a vegetarian I was never a fan of the taste of beef and done in the crock pot is even worse.  I never looked forward to Christmas dinner because of this.  When my mother and I became vegetarians the crock pot roast beef was thankfully retired.  Now, I'll usually make a pork loin roast for the carnivores and sides for my mom and I (the sides change every year).  The most unusual dish I ever had was a fig sauce I made one year for the pork loin.  It wasn't bad but it wasn't anything I plan to (or have been asked to) make again.  One dish that we never had which seems to be popular for Christmas is turkey.  I've never understood why turkey is so popular at Christmas because in my mind, Thanksgiving wasn't that long ago.  But my mother wants a tofukey so I might make one of those this year (I'm still a little wary of those things).  Thanksgiving is really when the traditional family favorites come out, Christmas dinner has always been more about experimentation.  The only constants for every Christmas dinner is the protein (like a pork loin), at least two sides (one is usually stuffing), cranberry sauce and a desert (usually a pie or cookies).  The desert doesn't usually get eaten because we'd have already pigged out on the sweets that were in our stockings. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear Genea-Santa, COG Pt. 2

(This article was written for the second part of the 86th Carnival of Genealogy.  Part 1 can be found here)

Dear Genea-Santa,
I'm afraid I have a lot to ask for but I think I've been a pretty good little geneaholic this year.  I would be very thankful if I could have:
  • Some information on where my Clements and Allen ancestors came from.  They were in Pennsylvania in 1850 and were supposedly from Ireland but I can't find any new information on them and don't really know where to look anymore.
  • Some information on my early Kentucky ancestors.  Where they Melungeon like I suspect?  Where did they come from and why do some of them just seem to spring up out of thin air and can't decide where they or their parents were born?
  • Some proof that the Williamson and Montgomery family I have found in Ontario are the same as the Williamson and Montgomery families in my tree.  I'm 95% sure that they are one and the same but some proof would be nice.
  • Some vitals!  Actually, I have a long list of vitals but what I'd really like are the death records for some of my early California ancestors like Katherine Nielsen Healey (d. 1918) and her mother, Engeline Petersen Nielsen (d. 1932).  I know they are out there, I even have the certificate numbers for some of them.
  • Time!  As it is, there aren't enough hours in a day so if you could add more I'd appreciate it.  Maybe then I could be a better geneablogger and geneaholic.... 
As for stocking stuffers, I could always use more pictures of my ancestors and some more flash drives would always be welcome.  If I could have just one thing on my list above, I'd be a mighty happy camper Genea-Santa.  I know you're probably busy with the new FamilySearch so I'll understand if you aren't able to grant my genea-wishes until 2010 or even later, I just thought it couldn't hurt to ask.  Hugs and kisses,


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Birthdays, 86 COG Pt. 1

Prompt: The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: The Other Holiday Happenings! Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we're going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples. Share it in the COG!

I have been meaning to participate in the COG ever since I first learned about it, nearly a year ago, but I always either didn't have something to post or I let the deadline get away from me.  But this time the moment I read the prompt, I knew I had to participate in this one.  The prompt is something near and dear to my heart because you see, I'm a Christmas baby.  In fact, there are a good number of people in my tree (past and present) with birthdays or anniversaries around Christmas and New Years.

I know many people with birthdays around Christmas and New Years hate that they have to share "their day" with arguably the biggest holidays of the year.  Personally, I love that my birthday is December 28, it is exactly three days after Christmas and exactly three days before New Years and I wouldn't have it any other way.  When I was little I always had to have my party either the week before my birthday or a week after because none of my friends were in town on my actual birthday.  I also got my fair share of birthday presents wrapped in Santa Claus paper and Christmas/Birthday cards but that never really bothered me.  I love that I can put my birthday presents under my Christmas tree, that I never had to spend my birthday at school, that I almost always know what I'm getting for my birthday (it is always the one item on my Christmas list that didn't turn up Christmas day) and that there is always tons of yummy leftover foods and treats to snack on.  It does make for one hectic week starting with Christmas Eve (which is almost as big a deal in my house as Christmas) and ending with New Years, but it is also the most enjoyable week of the year because it is filled with presents and parties and friends and family and celebrating.  I wouldn't have my birthday any other time of the year and I've never understood people who hated their December or early January birthdays.

Which brings me to my grandmother and the million other people in my family tree who were born on December 8th.  I have no idea why that is such a popular birthday in my tree but it has gotten to the point where you could literally not know when someone in my family was born and guess December 8th and you'd be right.  Seriously.  And in addition to all the birthdays on that day there are another hundred anniversaries that also happen to be then too.  What is it about December 8th?!  Now, I don't really consider that close to Christmas but if you ask anyone in my family who was either born or married then they'd tell you it was so I'll bow to their good opinion and say that it is close enough to Christmas to count in this instance.  The odd part is that my grandmother has never liked her birthday.  She told me a story once about how when she was a little girl she was reading a magazine that advertised birthstone rings.  Her favorite was the Sapphire so she lied and said her birthday was in September when she sent away for it.  Now, being the daughter of a minister, this lying was a pretty big deal to her.  I don't know that there were any consequences for it but she certainly felt guilty even though she got the ring she wanted.

Some of my other ancestors who qualify would be Sarah Elizabeth Hudson Wellons (3 Jan 1816) and Heman Doyle (31 Dec 1809/1811) who are both brick walls for me, oddly enough.  I know a bit more about Heman so I'll write about him. He was born in Vermont to a mother from Connecticut and a father from Ireland (1880 census) and (this is just speculation on my part) they probably moved to Rochester, New York at some point.  Heman married Alzina Jackman (a Monroe Co., NY native) and they lived in Rochester where Heman was a lawyer.  I don't know much about these early years and he is hard to find on census records (his name is always misspelled) but thanks to I know he was living in the Pittsford, New York (which is in the Rochester area) in 1839.  Alzina and Heman had three daughters, Mariah Adelaide, Rhoda Melissa and Frances P.  I think Rhoda Melissa died young because she only shows up on family documents and no census records.  When news of gold in California hit the east coast in 1849 Heman and his future son-in-law came west.  Heman became a farmer but also continued to practice law and served as a probate judge, justice of the peace and first district attorney in Carson Valley, Nevada.  He and later Alzina lived in Nevada as well as San Joaquin, Calaveras and El Dorado Co., California.  He died of typhoid on 11 Sept 1881 and is burid at the Woodbridge Masonic Cemetery in Woodbridge, CA.  Below is the only picture I have of him:

If anyone knows anything about Freemason attire, I'd love to know what rank he was.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

(Belated) Advent Calendar 8 Dec: Christmas Cookies

Did your family or ancestors make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

There are several cookies which I equate with Christmas but none more so than persimmon cookies. 

I don't really know which came first, the persimmon tree in my front yard growing up or my great-grandmother's recipe but I'm betting it was the recipe.  When people found out that my parents bought a house with a persimmon tree in their yard they somehow felt the need to pass along every persimmon related recipe and really, when you have a persimmon tree there isn't much else you can do with the fruit but make deserts out of it (I've always thought of persimmons like lemons, not a fruit you would bite directly into but one you would put in things as an ingredient).  The tree we had was of the Japanese variety and not the firmer, smaller regular persimmon type so I have no idea if the persimmon cookie recipe below would work for any persimmons other than the Japanese type.  I would try and get the Japanese variety if you wanted to make something with persimmons if only because I think the Japanese persimmons have much more flavor and natural sweetness to them.  The only recollection I have of eating persimmons is in sweets and it was always around Christmas time when they were ripe (I think they have a summer season too, but we never bothered to pick them in the summer).  My father usually made these around Christmas, but my mother would too occasionally and I suppose (since the recipe comes from her) my great-grandmother did too.  They are hard to describe and, I think, they are one of the more unique cookies out there.  They have a definite persimmon taste but even if you don't care for persimmons (like me) you'll like the cookie.  Here is the traditional recipe in my family, but there are a lot more out there including this one from Good Day Sacramento which I recently came across and plan to try:

Grandma Shinn's Persimmon Cookies
1 c. pulp of persimmon (approx. 2 very ripe persimmons)
1 tsp. (baking) soda mixed in pulp
1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 c. walnuts (no one in my family likes nuts in our deserts so we usually leave these out)
1 c. raisins
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut flour and shortening together well and add sugars.  Mix well and then add the egg (beaten), chopped walnuts and raisins (mashed if desired).  Then add the spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt) and mix together.  Mix the persimmon pulp and soda and let set for a short time so they jell but not too much.  Then add the persimmon pulp and soda to the rest of the ingredients and blend with an electric mixer well.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

(Belated) Advent Calendar 1 Dec: Christmas Tree

Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

I don't think we ever had an artificial tree growing up and I think my mother would have found it totally unacceptable.  We HAD to have a real tree because to my mother the smell was the most important thing, it could be a scraggily little bush but if it had that wonderful pine smell it was okay in my mother's book.  My criteria of a good tree was always one that was big, really, really big, and anything under five foot was unacceptable   My father just wanted the lights to look good on the tree so his criteria was that the tree be fairly full.  When I was little we'd always go to a farm and cut our own tree, usually a Monterey or Scotch Pine.  My parents quickly grew disenchanted with the whole idea of cutting down a tree so for the last ten years or more they always get a pre-cut tree, usually a Noble Fir.  Getting the tree is half the fun because every year we all go to Silveyville in Solano Co.  Free popcorn, cider and coffee are just a few of the perks, there are also sleight rides and a neat gift store (if you are ever there, they make the best red onion jelly on the planet) and you can even bring your dog!  This was the first year that my mother thought of getting an artificial tree but the thought of Silveyville was too much so we went.  I would only get a tree if I didn't spend Christmas with my parents and I think it would be an artificial one (which I would spritz with Pine Sol).

Once we got the tree, usually about two weeks before Christmas, my mother is usually the one who decorates the tree only because no one else wants to.  My father always puts the lights on it and then we leave the tree bare with just lights for a couple days, sometimes a week, before ornaments are added.  As much as I like ornaments, I think I like the tree with just lights on it just as much. Ornaments and stockings are kept in an old trunk in my parents hall closet and getting that thing out is always a nightmare that we put off.  Then the trunk is put in the middle of the living for people to trip over until they are so sick of it being in the way that they trim the tree and put the trunk away (usually my mother gets fed up with the trunk first so she is the one who decorates the tree).

I don't really know what types of trees my ancestors had.  My great-grandmother always got a real tree and it seemed massive to me when I was little but thinking back on it, the ceiling in her living room isn't more than eight foot and there was always a star or angel topper so the tree couldn't have been more than seven foot.  My grandmother has an artificial tree that she always puts out.  It is tiny and scrawny and has been on its last leg for as long as I can remember but we all love that ugly thing so it hangs around.  I think my mother always had a real tree growing up so the artificial one my grandmother has probably came about once she lived alone in the late 1980s.  I have no idea what kind of a tree my father or paternal ancestors had in Michigan but since my dad ate a lot of SPAM and "economy meals" growing up I doubt his mother had the money for a real tree every year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent Calendar 7 Dec: Christmas Parties

Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

When I first read the prompt I was a bit stumped and couldn't really recall that many Christmas parties.  My parents go to a Christmas party every year put on by the hospital where my mother works, but me?  There were a few school-related "holiday parties" over the year, I think we also did something similar in 4-H every year too.  Occasionally one of our neighbors on the street where I grew up would host a holiday block party and those were always fun but not terribly memorable.  But then I remembered the Christmas parties my great-grandmother would host every year until she went into a nursing home in the mid-1990s (and even then, I think we did a party once or twice). 

My great-grandmother lived in a large home which had been in the family for years so it made sense to have it there.  We would have the party near Christmas, usually on Christmas Eve and it would be a potluck affair with everyone bringing their "signature dish" (to this day I equate certain relatives with certain dishes).  After eating all the adults would go sit around the living room in a semi-circle of sorts facing the tree in the corner with great-grandma in the middle, while we kids sat on the floor and tore through presents.  Since there were so many great-grandchildren (thirty in all) each of us all got the same thing but for some reason we always thought we'd get something different from the cousin next to us.  I remember one year all the girl great-grandchildren got Snow White Barbie dolls and all the boys got Hardy Boys books (I wanted the Hardy Boys books, that's why I remember).  I wasn't really interested in what the grandchildren, like my mom, got but I think they were all kind of the same thing too, usually throw blankets or home decor type things.  Another year, I think the last year that we had those parties, all of us girls got sterling silver tea services (child sized of course).  I loved that tea service, in fact, I loved it so much I took it outside to play with it and you can guess what happened next.  I still have it even though it is terribly rusty in places.  I've tried restoring it but have had no luck and I really doubt that a professional would be able to do much with it.  I always remembered the tree at those family get togethers as being huge and awe inspiring but I was in the home recently and the ceiling can't be more than 8ft. tall and there was always a large star or angel topper so the tree couldn't have been more than six feet.  Oh well, I guess when you're seven everything looks a lot bigger...

At the time I didn't really have an opinion one way or the other on those parties but in retrospect I miss them.  We still have family gatherings (and some in that same home too) but they aren't the same and we rarely get together around the holidays.  My great-grandmother died in 1998 four days before Christmas so now when I think of the holiday it is full of mixed emotions.  I'm happy I have all those memories of my great-grandmother and those Christmas parties, but sad now when Christmas comes around because I have the added memories of her passing and the Christmas of 1998 when everyone in the family came together not for a party but a goodbye and where the warmth and happiness we all felt was replaced by grieving and, I think, feelings of being a little lost.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent Calendar 6 Dec: Santa Claus

I haven't had the time to participate in the ongoing Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories over at Geneabloggers but I'm hoping to catch-up in the next couple days.  For now, I'll start with the current prompt, Santa Claus. 

Did you ever send a letter to Santa? Did you ever visit Santa and “make a list?” Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

No, I never sent a letter to Santa mainly because we didn't do the Santa Claus thing in my house.  Santa was a fun Christmas "game" to play but he was never taken to be a real person.  Because Santa was a fun "game" I was always taught not to spoil the fun and ruin the game for the other kids and I don't believe I ever did.  I think I was near ten, when my peers were learning the truth, that I realized some people actually believed that there was such a person.  I honestly always thought it was just a fun game people played but that they were like me and didn't think he was actually real.  I did have my picture taken with Santa for several years, if only because it was the requsite Christmas picture we sent out.  I did lists too and so did everyone else in my family.  We'd write out what we wanted and then exchange the lists with each other. 

I've always been grateful to my parents for not doing the Santa Claus thing and it is actually a tradition I plan to pass on.  They wanted to be more honest with me and I think that was the root of why we didn't celebrate Santa Claus as a person.  He was more a figurehead for Christmas than anything else in my home so there were Santas all around.  My father even has a collection of Santa ornaments which he puts out every year and occasionally adds to.  The reason I'm grateful to my parents for not doing the Santa Claus thing is because it made me more appreciative of my relatives and I think, gave me a greater understanding of the value of money.  I was always taught to write thank yous, especially at Christmas.  Since we always opened gifts around each other, I was also taught to acknowledge the thought and effort that went into the gifts given to me.  And, because I had to spend my money on gifts for others since about age five, I had a really good understanding of the value of money from an early age.  I don't know that I would have had that if we had celebrated Santa Claus in the traditional way but it is still fun to play the Santa game and celebrate him as an integral character of Christmas.

The Christmas Chair

My goal at the start of 2009 was to participate in a carnival before 2010.  Well, the year is almost up and I still haven't done a carnival post - until now!  The prompt for the 19th Smile for the Camera is: "The word prompt for the 19th Edition of Smile For The Camera is "Gift." It is the holiday season and a time for giving. So give Smile readers the gift of sharing, sharing a family photograph. It can be a gift given or received, it can be the gift of talent, it can be the gift of having the photograph itself. The interpretation of gift is yours. Admission is free with every photograph!"

That's me around Christmas in either 1990 or 1991 (I was just about to turn either three or four).  I actually have a vague memory of sitting for the picture.  All I really remember is my mother sitting me down in the chair and her telling me to put my hands in my lap like you see in the picture.  I also seem to recall sitting in the chair, waiting for my mother to get ready to take the picture, and comparing the Christmas trees on my stockings (which I loved) with the real tree next to me.  I believe the picture was taken as a "thank you" to my great-grandmother.  The "gift" of the picture is the chair I'm sitting in.  I don't know if the chair was a Christmas present but this picture was taken around the time I was given the chair.  The baby rocking chair was a gift from my great-grandmother, Gladys Viola Healey Shinn.  My mother told me that when I got it I asked my great-grandmother something along the lines of where she was going to sit since she was giving me 'her' rocker.  I'm pretty sure the chair was new when it was given to me (it definitely wasn't an heirloom) and I haven't been able to find a maker's mark or any details on where it might have come from.  If I had to guess, I'd say my great-grandmother got it at Lakewood Drugs in Lodi (a long-time institution which has sadly since gone out of business).  I've never seen any baby rockers like this one out there, though I'm sure there are.  It really was a beautiful little chair and it always reminds me of my great-grandmother.  Unfortunately, as little children do, I didn't value the chair too much when I was young and took it outside where one winter pretty much ruined it.  The varnish is off it now and the wood split on one side of the seat but I'm hanging on to it in the hopes that it is restorable.  I'd love to be able to pass it on because I feel that passing on that little chair is also passing on a little bit of my great-grandmother and all the warm memories I have of her.

This post was written for the 19th Smile for the Camera Carnival.  Photo is privately held by Leah, [address for private use], California; scanned 5 Dec 2009.  This image is not to be used, manipulated, copied or reproduced for commercial purposes or without the expressed written consent of the holder of the image.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Maternal Stats, Part 1

I was inspired by Herstoryan's post to figure out what the average age of my maternal ancestors were when they joined the club known as motherhood (I don't know enough about my paternal tree to figure out the average for the women on that side).  Here is what it breaks down to:

24.8 years if I go a strictly maternal route (meaning my mother, her mother, her mother's mother, her mother's mother's mother, her mother's mother's mother's mother).  I stopped at my great-great-great-grandmother because that is as far back as I know about that line.  Here are the details:

Priscilla Mason = age 20
Mary Anna Webb = age 16
Georgiana Wellons = age 29
LIVING = age 23
LIVING = age 36
ME = ?

If I take into account all my female direct ancestors on my mother's side of my tree going back to my third great-grandmothers, the average drops to roughly 21 years (my current age!).  And the average size of their (all maternal female ancestors as far back as my third great-grandmothers) broods (including children who did not reach maturity)? Roughly 5 children per family.  The grand prize goes to my great x 3 grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth (Hudson) Wellons who had 14 children in all.  Not surprisingly, the number of children per family went down with the years.  In fact, if I were to only go as far back as my maternal great-grandmothers (who were both married circa 1920), the average number of children in each family is about 2.5.  So that means, of the 77 children born to all my maternal ancestors (my direct line only, excluding collateral lines of descent) as far back as my third great-grandmothers, only ten were born in the last ninety years.  No wonder I'm having a heck of time connecting with other researchers of this side of my family!

On average, my male ancestors on my mother's side of the family (as far back as my second great-grandfathers) were almost 28.5 at the time of their first marriages; their wives on the other hand, were on average 20 years of age at marriage.

In my next post I'm going to look at the average life expectancy for these people among other things.  I'm also going to do an in depth study of some averages for a particular family.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

RJFN: 23 Nov to 29 Nov

I did some genealogy research this week but mostly spent my time personalizing my new computer (which I got over a month ago!).  Isn't the Google Pack great?  I just downloaded that (and it took no time at all) and immediately had all my favorite programs on my desktop.  I did the Google Pack on my Vista laptop also and the main difference between it and the Win 7 version is the neat Google Reader icon which is new.  So now I'm only one click away from my Reader at all times, yay! (In case you can't tell, I love my Google Reader- which is about 75% genealogy blogs)
I also set up my iTunes on the new computer and am loving the new Home Sharing option.  One new discovery (which have actually been around for years) that I'm liking is Podcasts!  I always have to have something playing in the background, usually it is TV (TCM is my stand-by station, there is always a great movie on there) but when I'm on the computer it is usually music (I'll listen to anything) via iTunes or Project Playlist (my mother is a Pandora fan but I've never really gotten into that site) or an audiobook but now when I'm blogging or doing research I'm listening to Podcasts, usually of old radio programs.  I don't and won't use Twitter but I do follow the GeneaBlogger tweets so when I found out about the free audiobook I ran over to Audible and got A Christmas Carol on one computer and My Man Jeeves on the other (I know, I kind of cheated - but I'll do anything for a free audiobook!).  So thank you to GeneaBloggers for the heads up on the promotion (which ended on Thanksgiving).  I'm also liking the Penguin Radio Room which I discovered through footnoteMaven here.
If you're like me you get migration, emigration and immigration mixed up.  But I learned a fun device in my Sociology class to remember which means what and I thought I might pass it along:
Migration = Move (or Mingle) within a territory (i.e. my ancestors migrated from New Jersey to California)
Emigration: Exit a territory (i.e. my ancestors emigrated from Italy)
Immigration: Come In to a new territory (i.e. my ancestors immigrated to the US in 1920)
I'm so excited that I'm on Google Wave now- though I'm still feeling my way around the place.  I think it is going to be the future of communications so I may as well familiarize myself with it now.  If you aren't familiar with Google Wave, it is basically a mix of e-mail, social networking, and instant messaging along with a good dose of originality.  I see a lot of potential in Google Wave and Google has a history of churning out projects with a lot of potential that turn into winners so I see good things for this new venture.  I have some invites left, so if you'd like to join the Wave, comment this post or e-mail me (family history researchers and genealogy addicts only please!).
Blog of the Week:
Speaking of Google Wave, I wouldn't be on it if weren't for the generous offer of invites put out at one of my favorite blogs (and one of the first genealogy blogs I started following), Begin With 'Craft.'  Begin With 'Craft' is one of my favorite blogs for a lot of reasons but the thing I like most is that when you are reading the posts you can really tell that a lot of thought and research went into every one and that is something we should all try to emulate.   I also always leave wishing I had ancestors from Georgia because Begin With 'Craft' really is full of information on great resources for that state as well as southern genealogy in general.  If you don't have this blog in your reader or aren't following it then you are really missing out!
Colonial and Revolutionary War databases are currently free to use (until midnight) over at World Vital Records.  Most of the research I did this week was spent playing with those databases.  I don't normally do much pre-1800 research mainly because it just isn't an area of interest for me.  But I decided to play around with it a little bit.  Sadly, I didn't make any discoveries but that is a pretty common outcome for me when I use World Vital Records.  I also did some research on Lost Cousins which I found through a podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke.  I love the premise of the site and I'm excited to go back and try and find some more "lost cousins." The site is a Britich based site so at present, I think it really only works if you have fairly recent British ancestry.
We had a small Thanksgiving at my house.  It isn't my favorite holiday (it isn't even in my top ten... it probably falls somewhere between Flag Day and Arbor Day for me), but I enjoy doing the cooking so that was the highlight.  I made a Cornish game hen for the one meat-eater in the house, a green bean casserole and roasted fennel.  Pumpkin pie was desert but I always prefer cranberry sauce (jellied and straight out of the can please!) on just about anything so that is what I had.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

RJFN: 16 Nov to 22 Nov

Things have been busy lately so not a lot of genealogy or blogging recently.  I'm hopeful that because of the Thanksgiving holiday (Thanksgivings are pretty small and casual at my house) I'll have time for some genealogy this week but we'll see.
I stumbled upon a new resource which turned out to be a great find.  On a lark I decided to punch in John Clements and much to my surprise his obituary came up.  The site has many Pennsylvania Civil War obits, not just John's, so it is worth a look.  His obituary wasn't the goldmine I was hoping it would be but it did have some new info in it.  One thing that confuses (and kind of worries me) is that according to the obit, his family came to the US in 1854 yet they were in the 1850 census.  I'm still about 95% sure that the John Clement's who was in the Civil War and whose obit I just found is the same as my Elizabeth Clemens' brother but this new date discrepancy is still cause to pause and think.
I'd been reading the buzz about DAR's indexes going online and decided to check it out.  I haven't really thought about pursuing a DAR membership because of all the work involved and because it seemed like every time I found a possible candidate it went bust after just a little digging.  But last August I found some church records which pretty firmly established the parentage of one of my brick walls.  I did a little digging and found some trees which had a lot on the family, including mention of the fact that there were two (maybe more) Revolutionary soldiers in the line of descent.  I'd been meaning to confirm the info in these trees but hadn't gotten around to it.  Turns out that both of them are in the DAR indexes!  I plan on doing more work on my Thomas Collins and George Sherman/Shearman and possibly pursuing a DAR membership (but not in the near future).  Anyway, it is certainly food for thought.
I had a lot of fun doing research for Bill's local poets challenge.  I'm a little ashamed to admit that I didn't know much about California's poetic history before this challenge.  But I ended up learning a lot and now have several new favorite poets!  The one I wrote about, Joaquin Miller, is my favorite new find and one I highly recommend checking out. 
Since my old desktop crashed and burned last month, the only family tree program I've had access to has been my online Ancestry trees.  Now, I had all the free programs downloaded on my old computer and I used them once in awhile, but my online trees have always been the main ones I worked out of.  I'm excited to try the new Roots Magic Essentials though and I'm hoping to make the transition to it from my online trees (which have terribly erratic sourcing!).  I've used Family Tree Builder to make and read GEDCOMS and quite liked it and I also had PAF on my old computer, though I never worked with it much (I also had the free version of Legacy which never really floated my boat, sorry to fans of the program).  I might try Family Tree Builder again, but first I'd like to try this new program on the block.  Once I get a tree set-up on it, I'll write a review though I'm sure there will be many reviews of it in coming weeks.
My blog of the week this time is Handwritten Recipes.  The premise of the blog is similar to that of its companion site, Forgotten Bookmarks except the emphasis is on recipes here.  Many of the recipes featured sound interesting, especially the blueberry muffins one (too bad they apparently didn't taste as good as they look!).

Saturday, November 21, 2009


This week's challenge, courtesy of Genea-Musings is:
1) Who is your MRUA - your Most Recent Unknown Ancestor? This is the person with the lowest number in your Pedigree Chart or Ahnentafel List that you have not identified a last name for, or a first name if you know a surname but not a first name.
2) Have you looked at your research files for this unknown person recently? Why don't you scan it again just to see if there's something you have missed?
3) What online or offline resources might you search that might help identify your MRUA?
4) Tell us about him or her, and your answers to 2) and 3) above, in a blog post, in a comment to this post, or a comment on Facebook or some other social networking site.

I've already written about my MRUAs (ad nauseam) who are my Italian great-grandparents' parents (for whom I have nothing, not even a first name for any of the four).  Since I've got a plan of attack in place for those brick walls and I've already written so much about them, I'm going to go with my next closest MRUA.

Number 32's (and actually his wife, #33 as well) parents are my next closest MRUAs.  32 is Joseph Allen and what I know about him is not much.  He was born in Ireland (but was probably Scottish) around 1824.  He came to the US at some point and ended up in Lawrence Co., PA where he was for the 1850 census.  He married Elizabeth Clemens/Clemmens/Clements and they lived in Lawrence Co. (and possibly Pittsburgh) before coming to Trumbull Co., OH some time between 1857 and 1860.  They had seven children, five of which lived to adulthood and the youngest of them being my ancestor, John Grant Allen.  They lived in the Niles and Weathersfield area and Joseph worked as a farm laborer mainly.  Elizabeth died some time before the 1880 census and Joseph died some time between the 1880 and 1900 census, probably in the Weathersfield area.  I don't know who Joseph's parents were, where in Ireland he was from, when he came to the US and why, where he originally came to the US and why, when he married, when he died and where he is buried.  I don't really know where to look for information on him.  I think he might have been in the Civil War (he named his son after U.S. Grant) but because of the commonality of his name, that would be difficult to prove. If anyone can offer any ideas as to how to go about breaking down this brick wall, I would appreciate it.

White Storm of Roses

In doing research for this challenge from West in New England, I learned so much about California poetry!  I knew from the second I first read about the challenge that I wanted to find a Gold Rush era poet and this turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I first thought.  I could have looked into other geographic areas where I had relatives from (I did briefly look at Ohio and Michigan poets) but because the Gold Rush was (I think) the single most important event in my family tree, I really felt compelled to try and find an "artist voice" from then.  I grew up in the heart of California's Gold Rush country so I know all the landmarks and figures from then well, but I had never looked into the artistic works that were inspired by the event. 

For this prompt I looked at several poets but the one that stood out the most was Joaquin Miller.  Miller, a journeyman of sorts, came to Northern California during the Gold Rush.  He traveled around the Pacific Northwest for years before going east for a time.  Eventually, Miller came back to California and spent the last years of his life in Oakland.  A contemporary of Bret Harte and Ambrose Bierce, he was called the "Byron of the Rockies" and "Poet of the Sierras."  I had never heard of him before and was quite surprised to learn how famous he was in his lifetime.  He seems to have been a casualty of time, which is a shame because his current status is undeserved.  In reading his poetry and non-poetic works (many of which can be found on Google Books), I quite enjoyed his work and can easily understand why he was as popular as he was in his lifetime.

I wanted to find a poem of Miller's specifically about California and the one below, "California's Christmas," seemed most fitting for the season and I liked it because it describes a California Christmas quite well I think, even all these years after it was written:

CALIFORNIA'S CHRISTMAS. (p. 67-68, In Classic Shades, 1890)
The stars are large as lilies! Morn
Seems some illumined story—
The story of our Savior born,
Told from yon turrets hoary—
The full moon smiling tips a horn
And hies to bed in glory!
My sunclad city walks in light
And lasting summer weather;
Red roses bloom on bosoms white
And rosy cheeks together.
If you should smite one cheek, still smite
For she will turn the other.
The thronged warm street tides to and fro
And Love, roseclad, discloses.
The only snowstorm we shall know
Is this white storm of roses—
It seems like Maytime, mating so,
And—Nature counting noses.
Soft sea winds sleep on yonder tide;
You hear some boatmen rowing. Their sisters' hands trail o'er the side ;
They toy with warm waves flowing ; Their laps are laden deep and wide
From rose-trees green and growing.
Such roses white ! such roses red !
Such roses richly yellow ! The air is like a perfume fed
From autumn fruits full mellow— But see ! a brother bends his head,
An oar forgets its fellow !
Give me to live in land like this,
Nor let me wander further ;
Some sister in some boat of bliss
And I her only brother—
Sweet paradise on earth it is;
I would not seek another.

A big thank you to Bill from West in New England for thinking of this activity and putting it out there for us bloggers.  I really enjoyed learning about California's poetic past and the poets and poems that my ancestors probably knew of and read.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Much to my surprise, I got an award!  Many thank yous to Greta and Louise who made my day (twice!) by thinking of me and my little dog and pony show (aka this blog).  I'd like to pass the award on to others but I don't know who has gotten it yet or not and honestly, it is just too difficult to pick just seven to give it too!  I can list my "seven things" though:
  1. I became a vegetarian and a genealogy addict within weeks of each other back in early 1999 (I was eleven).
  2. Genealogy isn't my only hobby, I also I like to watch movies (favorite: The Best Years Of Our Lives and really, anything on TCM) and TV (favorites: the original Star Trek, Mad Men, Frasier), play video games (I love Final Fantasy and Zelda and am getting into the Assassin's Creed franchise), and read anything Raymond Chandler ever wrote.  I'm also a gym rat and would like to participate in my first marathon before the end of 2009.
  3. I love languages!  If I could learn them all, I would.  French is my main language (besides English, obviously) but if you also want to have a conversation with me in Spanish or Latin let me know!
  4. While I LOVE dogs (especially my own) and just about every other critter, I am an incurable cat person.  If I could have a hundred cats, I would.  You want to know how insane a cat person I am?  I will literally sit on the floor before I move my cat out of the chair.  I know, its an illness.
  5. I'm double-jointed in my hands.  Basically, what it means is that the joints in my hands are a lot more flexible (freakishly so) then they are for most people.  It can be a fun party trick, but it can also gross people out to see my "rubber-band hands" as I like to call them. 
  6. I was born at midnight three days after Christmas and three days before New Years. 
  7. I love fall and winter (and not just California's mild versions of both).  I also LOVE rain and it is my goal in life to live somewhere where the temperature never gets above 80.
Since I got the award twice, here is another seven:
  1. I always have to have a full carton of milk in my frig because I have an irrational fear of running out.
  2. My cat WILL NOT, and I mean WILL NOT drink out of a bowl.  He will only only drink water out of the tap.  If you put a dish of water out for him, he will ignore it and go stand next to the sink and yowl until someone turns the water on for him.
  3. I have a very warped, dark sense of humor and tend to (accidentally) make inappropriate comments at incredibly inappropriate times (like during a children's movie).
  4. I'm fascinated by handwriting and constantly try to change mine.
  5. I think Charles Dickens and Mark Twain are two of the most overrated writers of all time and that Flannery O'Connor and Anton Chekhov are two of the most underrated.
  6. I pronounce the letter l in the words walk, talk and almond and say the word "this" like the word "these." I also got in trouble at school one time because I refused to say "y'all" and "ain't" while reading a story aloud.
  7. I love musicals and showtunes.  I could sing the entire score to Camelot right here and now if you'd like me to.  Other favorites are Wicked, Oklahoma!, South Pacific and all the Disney movies I grew up on like Beauty and the Beast (I was obsessed with that movie/music all through my childhood).  And yes, I do think Glee is the best show on TV (now that Mad Men's season is over that is).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

RJFN: 9 Nov to 15 Nov

This week was pretty genealogy light (a cold bug that wants to take over and just general busy-ness are the culprits).  I heard from some new "cousins" but no brick walls came down for me this week.  I also did a lot of reading and got caught up on all the posts in my Google Reader which I've been meaning to read, so that was good.
I'm planning another NARA order, this time for a non-direct ancestor, John Clements.  John was the brother of Elizabeth Clements Allen, my great x 3 grandmother.  I know next to nothing about the Clements family (also spelled Clemens or Clemmens) and I'm hoping that by ordering John's Civil War information I can find out more about them.  While looking for some information on John's service, I found a wonderful website.  John was a "roundhead" aka a member of the 100th Pennsylvania Infantry (Company K) and the site is devoted to this Regiment.  Finding this website has reminded me that I need to look up the other military outfits my relatives have served in - you never know what you find searching there!  What is most interesting about that website is that there is a picture of Co. K on there from a reunion in August of 1897.  I'd like to know who is in the picture but have had no luck finding out.  John Clements died a week after the picture was taken so I have no idea if he was well enough to be at the reunion and pose for the picture or not...
For a research paper, I had to go see some of my "cousins" at the Sacramento Zoo the other day.  I was always the one ill-natured child in the class who HATED the zoo, therefore I haven't been in over ten years (except when I accidentally broke into the Boise Zoo for about ten minutes last summer- its a long story...).  But I actually had a lot of fun studying the primates and looking at all the other animals so I'll have to re-think my anti-zoo mentality somewhat.  I really fell in love with the gibbons and orangutans... and of course the lemurs, who doesn't love lemurs?!
This post inspired me to look at all the multiples in my tree.  What is interesting is that there aren't any except one or two sets each century until the 1900s when there was a boom of them in my maternal side of the tree.  I think my Healey line is the source of all these present day twins...  By the way, we humans and Callitrichidae monkeys are the only primates to give birth to multiples (and even then, the Callitrichidae are the only ones to do it with any regularity).
Thank you to Greta, who not only gave me the Kreativ Blogger award but also included me in her "Follow Friday" post!  Being included with all those great Texas blogs on Friday reminded me that that is any area of my tree I need to do more work on.  I don't have any direct ancestors from Texas but it seems like everyday I'm finding collateral lines that went there and put down roots.  Fannin, Dallas, Smith, Taylor and the counties of Fort Worth are of particular interest to me.
Blog of the Week:
(I'm doing this in lieu of "Follow Friday")
I have oodles of ancestors from Evansville and I was a 4-H brat which are two big reasons why I'm spreading the blog love this week to the Tri-State Genealogical Society of Evansville, Indiana "TSGS Cruiser."  The 4-H club I was in (and all the others in the area) never offered the option of a genealogy project so I'm always a little jealous when I read about that on their blog - what a great idea for a project!  Poultry, sewing and horticulture were always my projects- I had to do genealogy as a side hobby!  I highly recommend their blog, it is fun and informative and, I think, an example of a great genealogy society that really cares about its members.  Once I get into researching my Evansville relations, I will seriously consider joining their society.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm A Rabbit!

Considering the fact that I was born in the year of the rabbit, it only makes sense that I'd become one - a Graveyard Rabbit that is!  I've been wanting to become a GYR for awhile now and I'm an avid follower of the group and the blogs in it.  Well, on Saturday my wish became a reality.  Say hello to The Sacramento Valley Graveyard Rabbit

I'm still figuring things out and deciding what direction I want to take the blog in, but I'm excited.  Come on over and check it out if you'd like- feedback and suggestions are welcome!  Oh, and if you are wondering what or who the Graveyard Rabbits are, they are (via their website's about section) "an association dedicated to the academic promotion of the historical importance of cemeteries, grave markers, and the family history to be learned from a study of burial customs, burying grounds, and tombstones; and the social promotion of the study of cemeteries, the preservation of cemeteries, and the transcription of genealogical/historical information written in cemeteries." Interested in learning more about the group?  Visit their website here and do consider joining!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

RJFN: 2 Nov to 8 Nov

I'm in one of my research-free periods, but that doesn't mean that I'm in a genealogy-free period (never!).  I've spent most of my free time this week putting together a list of microfilms to order the next time I go to my FHC:
  • Registri dello stato civile di Vieste (Foggia), 1809-1899 (Vieste Civil Registrations).  I've been putting this one off for awhile mainly because I'd like to have a better understanding of Italian first.
  • Registri dello stato civile, 1890-1902 (Foggia Province Civil Registrations)
  • Registri ecclesiastici di Maria Santissima Iconavetere (Foggia, Foggia), 1575-1899 (Foggia Church Records).  I'm a little iffy about this one, not sure that I'll find much.
  • Registri ecclesiastici di San Tommaso Apostolo (Foggia, Foggia), 1597-1910 (Foggia Church Records).  Again, I haven't had much luck with church records in the past so I'm a little iffy.
  • Registri dello stato civile, 1809-1899 (Foggia City Cvil Regstrations)
  • Ottawa Co., Ohio films (for my Nielsens and Petersens), especially marriage and death records.
  • I've also got some Ontario records to look up and I'm especially interested in the films for Oxford Co.
  • Births 1873-1901, deaths 1859-1903, mortuary record 1873-1891, land patents 1857-1892, delayed birth index 1875-1971, marriages 1853-1866 (for Alameda Co., CA)
Judging by how (in)frequently I make it to the FHC, this list will probably last me through 2010.  Once I've tackled most of this, I have a ton of UK films to pursue.
In a surprising (to me) turn of events, I'm shelving (for now) both the California genealogical societies (CGSL and SCGS) I was thinking of joining last week and NEHGS and am going for an OGS membership instead.  I have been hearing raves about them and really, my Ohio ties are the ones I know the least about and am currently most interested in.  I kind of feel like that would be the "right fit" for me right now, but the CGSL is a close second. 
I don't do the meme "Follow Friday," I just have too many other things on my plate to try and remember that too.  BUT, I do like sharing the "blog love" so here is the blog I've been enjoying a lot lately: Forgotten Bookmarks.  It has been getting some notice lately from the Genea-Bloggers community, especially here.  It is always a treat to read about the goodies that have been found in the books!  Everytime I go to my used bookstore, I look for "forgotten bookmarks" now- and I've actually found a few (which I think I'll spotlight in a Treasure Chest Thursday post).  A wonderful blog that never fails to entertain me - I highly recommend checking it out if you haven't yet.
On Saturday I joined the Association of Graveyard Rabbits. It is something I've been wanting to do for awhile and I think I'll have a lot of fun with it!  Thanks to Sheri for clarifying some questions I had and for giving me the tiny push I needed to join.  I'll do a separate post about my new GYR blog in the next couple days.
I just found out the post I did on Kinship earlier this week made Randy's "Best of" list!  Thanks Randy- talk about an honor (and a surprise to me)!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Surname Saturday: Shinn

My Shinn line, in order, starting wth myself:
1. Me
2. My mother
3.  Everett Heman Shinn, 1925, San Joaquin Co., CA - 2000, Sacramento Co., CA.  Married 1st, my grandmother 27 June 1949, San Joaquin Co., CA.  Divorced 1989, San Joaquin Co., CA.  Remarried circa 1989.  Children:
  1. LIVING (my mother)
4. Elmer John Shinn, 1877, San Joaquin Co., CA - 1946, San Joaquin Co., CA.  Married Gladys Viola Healey (1898, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA - 1998, Lodi, San Joaquin, CA) on 9 Dec 1922, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.  Children:
  1. Elmer John "Jack" Shinn, Jr. (1924-2007)
  2. Everett Heman "Bud" Shinn (1925-2000)
  3. Jay Robert "Bob" Shinn (1930-1990)
5. Heman Doyle "H.D." Shinn, 1853, New Jersey - 1928, San Joaquin Co., CA.  Married Emma Sophia Tock (1857, Charlotte Co., New Brunswick, CAN - 1928, San Joaquin Co., CA) on 8 Dec 1874, San Joaquin Co., CA.  Children:
  1. Flora Mae "Mae" Shinn Bancroft (1875-1945)
  2. Elmer John Shinn (1877-1946)
  3. Bessie Adelaide Shinn Atwell Detert (1888-1964)
6. John R. Shinn, 1823, Burlington Co., NJ - 1867, San Joaquin Co., CA.  Married Mariah Adelaide Doyle (1832, Monroe Co., New York - 1917, San Joaquin Co., CA) on 23 Dec 1852, NJ. John R. came to California first in 1850 and second, with his wife, son and mother-in-law (and probably also his sister-in-law) in 1854.  Children:
  1. Heman Doyle Shinn (1853-1928)
  2. Denver Judson Shinn (1859-1919)
  3. Ida Mae Shinn Snedigar (1867-1901)
7. John Shinn, 1785, Burlington Co., NJ - 1840, Burlington Co., NJ.  Married Elizabeth Asay (circa 1785, NJ - 1863, Burlington Co., NJ) on 1 Nov 1809, NJ.  Children:
  1. John Irick "Irick" Shinn (1810-1889)
  2. Mary Anne Shinn Pitman/Pittman (1812-aft 1880)
  3. Charlotte Shinn Whitehouse/Wighthouse (1814-aft 1850)
  4. Jane S. Shinn Deviny/Devigny (1816-aft 1870)
  5. Sarah Shinn (1818-aft 1900)
  6. Hannah Shinn Pitman/Pittman (1821-aft 1855)
  7. John R. Shinn (1823-1867)
  8. Edith Shinn Keeler (1825-aft1870)
  9. Jacob Asay Shinn (1829-)

The Shinn family first came to New Jersey with William Penn's Quakers in 1680 and settled in present-day Burlington Co. around Mt. Holly.  Before then, the family was in Suffolk, England.  The book The Shinn Family in Europe and America by Josiah Shinn outlines the family from their time in England to about the mid-1800s.  Most, if not all, Shinns in the US today are descended from the Burlington Co. Shinns (with the exception of those who changed their names from Sheen, Shinner, etc.).  Besides New Jersey and California, large branches of Shinns settled in Illinois and West Virginia (Shinnston is named for the family).  In my family, the main branches are in San Joaquin and El Dorado Counties.

Friday, November 6, 2009


So I ordered my pension record for my John Berger about ten minutes ago from NARA.  I'm glad I did it because I think it will have a lot of information I've been wanting for a long time.  I only wish I had ordered it sooner because I would love to make it a Christmas present for my grandmother (John's granddaughter).  I do have some questions though and after combing the NARA site and various FAQs, I still haven't found the answer to them:
  • First off, John Berger filed a pension application in 1879 when he became an "invalid."  Then, after his death, his wife Susanna filed a widow's pension.  Which one will I get in the mail?  Both? What is even more weird is that if you go on Footnote, they only have his 1879 pension application, yet if you go on Ancestry they only have the pension his widow filed (but it does make note of the earlier pension).  I'm hopeful that I'll get both (for what I'm paying for it, I better!).
  • On a related note: what is the difference between the two?  I've seen examples of the widow's pension and it is mostly just her proving her marriage to the veteran.  In a pension application for an "invalid" is it just them proving their handicap or illness?
  • Will the same information in the compiled service record (something I will order in the future) be in the pension file I just ordered?  I don't think so, but I have to wonder if much of the information in the compiled service record (which is smaller than the pension file) is in the pension file.
  • This is more of a rant than a question, but NARA really needs to get rid of those stupid error messages.  I hit "submit order" three times and each time I got a different error message.  Luckily, I checked my account because there it was, it had been "received" so apparently the error messages don't mean anything.  After scanning a FAQ, I found out that this is a known issue and should be "disregarded."  Would it be really difficult to fix this, NARA?  I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been totally confused by it.
I'll write more about it later and I'd like to provide a step-by-step walkthrough of the ordering process because I know that that is something I would have liked.  I'm hopeful that I'll have the record by February, but it could be as late as March before I get it because the estimate is anywhere from 42-120 days.  This being the start of the holiday season, I doubt anyone will get their record in 42 days...

Other records to order from NARA:
  • John Berger's Civil War compiled service record.
  • John Clements's Civil War pension file.  (John Clements was the brother of my ggg-grandmother, Elizabeth Clemens/Clements Allen)
  • John Clements's Civil War compiled service record.
  • pension files and/or compiled service records for my Webbs and Wellons.
  • various WWI and WWII records, I still need to look into this some more.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I'm actually taking two anthropology classes this year, but sadly I'm not finding them near as interesting as I thought I would (I do find genetics and human evolution fascinating though).  One area that has proved pretty interesting has been (not surprisingly) the section on kinship and descent groups.  Since this genealogist finds it interesting, I thought some others might as well so I'll share a little about what I've been learning in this area.

One of the most interesting things about kinship is the fact that it and the practices and ideologies associated with it, are held in the utmost regard in just about every culture on the planet, past and present.  A recurring theme with this seems to be that cultures and the individuals in that culture define themselves based on their kinship ties and their family.  Something else interesting about kinship is the fact that the smaller a culture is and the more traditional a culture is, the more importance is placed on kinship.  What does that say about our very urban and very large culture?  Well, I'll write about that below but kinship ties in cultures like the US tend to be longest lasting (of all social relationships we form) and very emotionally charged as with all cultures.  But, kinship ties in this country and similar societies also tend to include fewer people and have less importance than in smaller, less urbanized societies.

Kinship's importance can be easily seen when you take a closer look at it.  How do cultures determine inheritance rules? Kinship.  What is the oldest form of insurance? Kinship (I'll explain later).  What supplies a safe haven to us in our hour of need? Kinship.  Where do we turn to in crisis or for support? Kinship.  How do we learn how to care for children and what behaviors are acceptable? Kinship (nonkinship ties also play a smaller role).  Kinship plays an important role in many other aspects of our lives but the ones above are some of the more obvious ways. 

Kinship refers to the relationships that are based on blood or contract (like marriage).  There are three commonly recognized types of kin:
  • Consanguenial (by blood)
  • Affinal (by contract like marriage or adoption)
  • Fictive (people we assume or view as related to us by they aren't, like a close family friend; these people are family members by agreement, either spoken or unspoken)
These three types of kin are found in every society and form the basis for kinship.  In the US, consanguenial kin tend to be viewed as the most important and it should be noted that this is not the case in most cultures.  Societies then organize themselves into kinship layers.  Within one kinship there is the descent group, within that is the lineage (line of descent from a common ancestor) and within that are individual families (whether these families include extended relatives or just the nucleus of two parents and the children depends on the society).  The founder of a descent group is usually characterized by a totem in traditional societies and in the genealogy I've done, it seems like the founder of a descent group here in the US is the person who immigrated here and was the first in the family to settle here.

Throughout the world there are different kinship systems and here in the US we live by the Eskimo System (named for the group that best exemplifies the system).  It is actually a kinship system most forager cultures use because it is a system based around following the money or resources.  In Eskimo societies, like in the US, families consist of a parent or parents and their children (and occasionally grandparents).  Cousins and aunts and uncles are considered extended family and not close kin.  People in this system move around a lot because they cannot afford to stay in one place (unless that place satisfies all their needs).  It is because of this constant movement that there is a stronger distinction between immediate and extended family.  Say you get a job offer on the other side of the county.  Would you take all your aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, in-laws, etc. with you?  Probably not.  Would you take your young children and your partner with you?  Probably. 

All kinship systems fulfill two important functions for the well-being of a society.  First, kinship provides a vertical function.  By that, it binds many people together from multiple generations.  Tradition, education, property and ideologies rely on kinship to be passed down more than anything else.  The oldest form of insurance is also based in kinship.  Think about it, if your home burns down and you have no family or kinship ties, who will help you re-build and give you shelter?  Kinship also forces people to enter into alliances (usually through marriage or the birth of a child) with other kinship groups, this creates solidarity within the society as a whole and is an example of horizontal kinship.  An example of this is King Sobhuza II of Swaziland.  He solidified his entire kingdom by taking a wife from every nonroyal lineage in the country.

There is a ton more on kinship out there and what I've written is just the tip of the iceberg.  I encourage all genealogists and those interested in family history to look into this area of anthropology because I think it gives a lot of food for thought and understanding when it comes to our ancestors and how our family dynamics, past and present, play out.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

RJFN: 25 Oct to 1 Nov

Again, not much research happened this week. I puttered around on my computer once and found one or two little things but nothing really worth blogging about.  School kept me pretty busy this week and will probably also keep me pretty busy next week which is fine with me actually, because I'm going through a bit of a "research burn-out" at the moment. Even though I didn't do any research this week, I did do some genealogy related things:
  • I'm finally going to do something I've been wanting to do for a really long time: join a society! The one society which is at the top of my list will be only $10 to join so I've printed off the form and will be putting it in the mail soon. I'd also like to join one of the "biggies" and have it narrowed down to three: the CGSL, NEHGS, and Southern California Genealogical Society. I don't really have the funds to join all three but in looking at the fees for each, I could join NEHGS or both the California societies and still have about ten dollars left over. I'm really weighing the pros and cons of all three right now. For the Southern California Genealogical Society, the pros would be the discounts and information on the Jamboree as well as their publication, The Searcher and it would also save me on a subscription to NewspaperArchive. I'm also a big fan of the fact that they offer a student membership (all other big societies out there need to take note!). Cons would be the fact that I'm not in or from Southern California, I have no family from there and I still don't know if I'll make it to Jamboree next year (I'm thinking that I'll do summer school next year and not go). For the CGSL, the pros would be the fact that there always seems to be something fantastic going on with them (like the talks that they host- including the recent genealogy and blogging one).  Cons? The big one is the fact that they are in Oakland which is a two hour drive for me so I really doubt I could attend any of their talks or activities. As for NEHGS, I've REALLY wanted to join them for a long time. But I took a look at my tree the other day and really, the only New England ancestors I've got were back in Colonial days and Colonial genealogy isn't something I concentrate on too much. The $75 really gets me too but they have a ton of really nice offerings so it is probably well worth the cost. I really don't know at this point about NEHGS and the only reason, I can see, for joining would be to do Colonial research and maybe get a better grasp of that type of research.  I know that if I ever pursue membership in any Mayflower societies, I'll be joining NEGHS right away.
  • I've also started looking at societies in the Rust Belt (where my paternal ancestors are from) but I've really only scratched the surface with that. I would like to join a Michigan society, perhaps one based in Jackson or Manistee (where I have a lot of family from and am interested in). I did find out that I have a branch or two that qualifies as "first families" for Isabella Co. so perhaps I'll pursue a membership with them. Trumbull Co., Ohio and Lawrence Co., Pennsylvania are other places I'm going to look at and the Ohio Genealogical Society is an option I plan on looking into.
  • Somewhere down the line I'd also like to join NGS and maybe one of my local societies.  My hometown society is actually within walking distance from where I live but they hold their meetings at times during the week in which only pre-school age children and the retired can attend.  Another local-ish society would be the group in Sacramento which I as yet need to look into.
  • I've started the process of ordering some military files from NARA. I'm ordering the pension file and service record on my only Civil War veteran ancestor, John Berger. I'm also going to order (at a later date) the pension record for John Clements, the brother of one of my biggest brick walls, Elizabeth Clemens/Clements. I was going to make the John Berger records a birthday present for my grandmother (his granddaughter), but I think I got to ordering them too late since her birthday is in early December. I'd be shocked if the records came before February 2010 to be completely honest.
  • Is it just me (which is entirely possible) or is the NARA online ordering process totally confusing? It took me a good ten minutes to find my way to the ordering page and even then they didn't make it easy. I think the site could do with some streamlining and reorganizing, especially the eServices portion.
  • Went throught my GoogleReader and "trimmed" some of the dead wood off.  Once or twice a year I'll go through and see which blogs haven't been updated in a long and probably won't be again.  This time, I took off blogs that haven't been updated since August 31st.  All in all, I think I cut about twenty or thirty blogs... but then I went through the GeneaBloggers blog roll and added about fifty (including the new ones). 
Non-Genealogy Stuff:
  • This is the first year I didn't do anything for Halloween.  This was mostly out of choice on my part mainly because I don't eat sweets since last summer (dieting) and I really didn't feel like getting or wearing a costume.  Ever since I was little though, my favorite part of Hallowe'en has been the movies that come on this time of year. This year was fantastic because I got to curl up and enjoy them uninterupted all night!  So, I thnk I had the perfect Hallowe'en because I spent it with Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and some contemporary favorites- something I've been wanting to do for awhile.
(Note: RJFN=Research Journal and Family Newsletter)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Surname Saturday: List of Names

I've seen this clever play on Surname Saturday going around and wanted to do it also.  In lieu of just writing about one surname in my tree, here is a list with all the surnames in my tree which I have ever blogged about or plan to:


vonAllmen (later Allmen)

I've got some Colonial era surnames as well which I'll probably blog about but the ones above are my main surnames (post-Revolutionary War to the present).

This exercise also helped me realize that I have done next to no work and absolutely zero blogging on some of these surnames, like my Leets and Buhlers.  I better get cracking researching them!