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)