Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Finds: History, Culture and Music of Our Ancestors.

Saturday is usually the one day during the week that I can afford to waste online and I heartily take advantage of it every week. This week, I was directed to check out Time's 50 Best Websites of 2008 and there were two that appealed to the genealogist in me. The first is one I'm sure more than a few already know and have blogged about, but it was a find to me. It is the 'Digital Vaults' part of NARA. It contains 1200 historical and culturally relevant documents free for perusal. The site is fascinating and it is easy to spend hours combing over their extensive collections. Since I am currently researching the role my family played in the Civil War, I spent the majority of my time looking at that collection, which was massive. Some of my other favorite finds so far:

  1. A treaty from 1807 between the major Native American tribes of Ohio and Michigan and the US. The treaty effectively gave the US millions of acres and in the bottom, are the signatures of Thomas Jefferson and (then Secretary of State) James Madison.
  2. Peace Corps Act. Signed in 1961 by JFK it formalized his vision of creating a volunteer organization based around helping and educated developing nations. My father was in the Peace Corps throughout the 1970s and worked teaching English and basic subjects to children in Nepal. He has always remembered this time in his life fondly and to this day can speak Nepalese like a native.
  3. A Question from Tomorrow's Voters was a fun find. It is a letter from Walt Disney to then Vice President Richard Nixon requesting a TV interview with him in 1956.
Another website Time showcased was the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project from UC Santa Barbara. The project aims to preserve the music of the past, the music our ancestors listened to. By preserving these cylinders, it provides a wonderful glimpse into the musical tastes of the nation when cylinders were the equivalent of today's CDs (or should I now say mp3s?). There are about 8,000 songs and recitations from the mostly the early 1900s. There are also old vaudeville recordings, comedy routines, hymns and even spirituals. The neatest part of the website? If you find something you like you can freely download it as an mp3 to your computer. Some of the favorites I'm enjoying are:

  1. Blessed Assurance, which is an odd choice for me since I'm not religious. I like it because it is my grandmother's favorite song and I frequently hear her humming it. It never fails to remind me of her and make me smile because of that.
  2. The right of the people to rule, a speech by Teddy Roosevelt. I've always been drawn to Teddy because he was my great-grandmother's favorite President and I was lucky enough to know her and hear her talk of him. I'm also always surprised whenever I hear him speak because his voice seems so different from the way I always imagined him to sound (with a gruff and deep voice, probably because of the whole "Rough Riders" thing).
  3. American Polka by John Kimmble. This struck home for me in two ways. First, my grandmother has a "mysterious" accordion in her home that no really knows the story to. She's never played it and she doesn't remember any in her family playing it, yet it has always been around. I remember playing with it when I was little but sadly, it has become too fragile to really try and play any more and is solely a decoration piece now. The second part of why I was drawn to this is because I, like many I'm sure, saw my share of Lawrence Welk when I was little. Whenever we went to go stay with my great-grandmother we'd inevitably watch PBS and catch ol' Lawrence's show and the many horribly dated musical numbers. Although to this day, I quite like polka music and I've always thanked Mr. Welk for that, even if his show was torture to a five year old.
  4. I Want to Go Back to Michigan. I am a big Irving Berlin fan, yet I'd never heard of this song (from 1914) before today. I love it because it reminds me of my father and his family who are from the "hand state" as I always called (it IS shaped like a hand!). There is a substantial section on ethnic and US regional songs and this is from there. The song is also hugely catchy:

"That's why I wishigan

that I was in Michigan,

down on the farm!"

  1. In the Valley of the Sunny San Joaquin. Since I'm showing some Michigan lovin', I'd be remiss to not mention my favorite state and the one I'm from, California. Since my mother's family has deep roots in San Joaquin County, I knew I just had to love this song and I do!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Surname Meme

When I went to check out Google Reader yesterday I noticed this meme going around on several blogs and I thought I would give it a go. It originally appeared on GeneaBlogie, though I found it through We Tree.

Berger/Barger: Bavaria; Marshall, IN; Alameda, CA
Matz: Bavaria; Marshall, IN
vonAllmen: Bern, Switzerland; Richland, IL; Vanderburgh, IN; Alameda, CA
Steiner: Bern, Switzerland; Richland, IL; Vanderburgh, IN
Wellons: Wales(as Llewelyn, though undocumented); Virginia; Pulaski, KY; Warren, IA; LaPlata, Co; Siskiyou, CA
Hudson: England; Virginia; Pulaki, KY; Warren, IA
Webb: Orange, IN; Lawrence, IN; LaPlata, CO; Siskiyou, CA
Mason: Lawrence, IN
Shinn: England; Burlington, NJ; San Joaquin, CA
Doyle: Ireland; Vermont; Monroe, NY; various counties in CA and NV
Tock: Lincolnshire, ENG; Washington, ME/Charlotte, NB, CAN; San Joaquin, CA
Wadd: Lincolnshire, ENG; Washington, ME
Healey (orig. Haley): England; Massachusetts; Yarmouth, NS, CAN; San Francisco, CA
Mott: Nassau, NY; Mazatlán, MEX; various places in CA
Nielsen: Schleswig-Holstein, GER; Ottawa, Erie or Sandusky, OH; Alameda, CA
Petersen: Schleswig-Holstein, GER; Ottawa, Erie or Sandusky, OH; Alameda, CA
Allen: Scotland; Lawrence, PA; Trumbull, OH; various places in MI
Lapiccirella: Foggia, Puglia, IT; Trumbull, OH; Jackson, MI
Daccia: Foggia, Puglia, IT; Trumbull, OH
Croad: Dorset, ENG; Montcalm and Mecosta, MI
Wood: Scotland; Ireland; Canada; various places in MI
Beam: Germany; Oxford and Niagara, ON, CAN; various places in MI
Stokes: Somerset, ENG; Glamorgan, Wales

I also really like what AnceStories is doing by spotlighting a brick wall ancestor a month. I'm going to *try* and remember to do that as I think it is a fab idea. For February (which ends in a few hours), I'm going to spotlight four brick walls rolled into one:

When I was doing last week's Saturday Night Fun meme, I lamented the fact that I didn't know who my 21 is. This group of people includes my mystery 21 and her mystery husband as well as the parents of my 21's daughter-in-law. The parents of Giuseppe Lapiccirella and (Maria) Nicoletta Daccia are numero uno on my genealogical information wish list. Their parents would be my great-great-grandparents and I know nothing about them. I have the WWI draft card for Nicola, Giuseppe’s brother, and it names Giuseppe (who was still in Italy) as the next of kin, even listing an address, so that is a lead I plan on following if I ever get to Italy to research them(which is #1 on the places I want to go for a “geneavacation”). I'm kind of lucky in that Daccia and Lapiccirella are pretty regionally specific surnames and I know the specific towns in Italy where they are from (Foggia and Vieste respectively). For those of you interested, this region is the "ankle of Italy" on the Southeast side of the country on the Adriatic. It also holds the distinction of being the place where Archie Bunker from the TV show All in the Family was shot in the rump in WWII.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

John R. Shinn Journal, Vol. 5

"July 16 Traveled 20 and a half miles over pretty good road. Passed 3 graves. Camped on the Sweetwater near the Bitter Cottonwood Creek, pretty good place to camp.

July 17 Traveled 16 miles. Camped on the Sweetwater, pretty good camping place. Weather dry and windy.

July 18 Traveled 16 miles. Passed 1 grave, quite number of cattle left dead and dying. Weather windy.

July 19 Traveled 12 miles. Passed 6 graves and quite a number of cattle dead and dying and some horses.

July 20 Traveled 18 and a half miles. Passed 6 graves, 33 dead cattle, 3 live ones, and 3 dead horses. Camped on the Willow Creek. Weather windy with a shower at night.

July 21 (Sunday) Traveled 17 miles. Passed 12 graves, 21 dead cattle and 5 horses. Camped at the Pacific Springs, South Pass Rocky Mountains. Here the water runs west. Good camping place except for wood, weather good. (written to the side of the entry) The altitude of this pass is 7,085 feet.

July 22 Laid by at the above camp to recruit our teams. Weather good, fine shower in the evening.

July 23 Traveled 24 and a half miles over a level but barren country. Camped on the Little Sandy River. Plenty of water and wood, very little feed. Passed 1 grave, 38 dead cattle, 3 live ones, 6 dead horses. Weather cool, shower in the afternoon.

July 24 Traveled 25 and a half miles. Camped on the Big Sandy, there is no water in all this distance except the Big Sandy, 8 and a half miles from the Little Sandy. Passed 15 dead cattle, 3 left to die, and two dead horses. Weather cool, little rainy.

July 25 Traveled 17 miles over a desert like country. Camped on the Green River 7 miles after crossing it. Weather cool.

July 26 Traveled 15 miles over a desert country without water or grass. Passed 12 dead cattle. Camped on Black Forks. Weather pleasant.

July 27 Traveled 28 miles. Camped on the Prairie. Plenty of feed, no wood nor water. Passed 2 grave. Weather cool with a little rain.

July 28 Traveled 10 miles. Camped on Black Fork, 1 mile below Fort Bridger. Pretty good place to camp. Weather cool and pleasant.

July 29 Laid by at the above camp to rest, had a shower and some hail.

July 30 Traveled 20 miles over a rough road, quite a number of small streams. Passed 3 graves. Camped 1 mile west of the Soda Spring. Plenty of grass and wild sage but no water. Weather pleasant.

July 31 Traveled 17 miles 14 of it without water for stock. Passed Dividing Ridge between the waters of the Colorado and the Great Basin, the altitude of this ridge is 7,700 feet and passed 2 graves. Camped on Bear River, plenty of wood, water and grass. Weather cool and pleasant."

Note Bitter Cottonwood Creek is in Fremont Co., Wyoming. Willow Creek is in Utah. Most of the landmarks covered in this entry are explained here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Old West Justice

This simple stone belongs to John A. Benson, the father-in-law of the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Emma Sophia (Tock) Shinn. The story of John A. Benson is an interesting one with a sad ending. John was born in North Carolina to unknown parents. He moved to Missouri at some point and married Missourian Edna Kimzey/Kimsey. In the late 1840s the family moved to Oregon for a few years then the family moved to San Joaquin Co., California and established Benson's Ferry in 1850. On Valentine's Day in 1859, John A. Benson was murdered and later buried in the Sacramento City Cemetery. Several of John's family members are buried around him, including my relative and his daughter-in-law, Martha Ann (Tock) Benson. Benson, a leading citizen of the San Joaquin area in the 1850s, apparently was a bit of a braggart with a blue streak. He openly talked about taking liberties with the wife of his employee , Green C. Palmer and it all came to a head when Benson gave Palmer's children some sweets and snacks. Palmer, enraged already by the rumors going around about Benson and Palmer's wife perceived the trivial treats as the final straw in Benson's theft of his family and embarrassment of Palmer. What follows is an excerpt from the book History of San Joaquin County, California with Biographical Sketches: Turning Benson saw Palmer running towards him with a revolver in his hand; surmising Palmer's intentions Benson cried out, "Don't, Green," but the murderer exclaimed, "There, you ----- scoundrel you disgraced my children and now you must die," Palmer fired twice in rapid succession each shot hit Benson in a vital spot and he died while being conveyed to the house in a wagon.
Palmer returned to the house, reloaded his revolver and started on a run for the tules. He was not pursued and the following day Andrew Benson, the brother of the victim, offered a reward of $300 through the newspaper for his arrest. The fugitive was discovered about sunrise by a vaquero who was looking for some lost horses. Palmer was shaking and shivering with cold and hunger, having had nothing to eat since the murder. He gave himself up and taken to Stockton, was brought before Justice McCausland and remanded to jail. He there remained until the meeting of the grand jury in May. He was then indicted on the charge of murder and the trial took place August 4, 1859. There was considerable excitement and the court room was crowded, for each man had many friends. Money was freely spent by Benson's friends and they employed E. D. Baker, the most brilliant orator and attorney in California, to assist the prosecuting attorney, Judge Campbell. Samuel A. Booker defended Palmer. The trial looked crooked from beginning to end. The prosecution put on one witness only, Dr. Hogaboom; the defense five witnesses to prove Palmer's charge. It was one of the shortest murder trials on record. At five o'clock Attorney Booker began his closing speech, ending at eight o'clock. Baker closed at 9:30, and Judge Creanor, delivering his charge, the jury were locked up for the night. Twenty-four hours later they were discharged unable to agree, the jury standing five for murder in the first degree, which meant death by hanging; five for murder in the second degree, and two for acquittal. The second trial took place December 12, with J. G. Jenkins and Judge Campbell for the prosecution and S. A. Booker for the defense. The case was given to the jury at 7:30 and at 1 o'clock the following day they were discharged, nine for acquittal and three for manslaughter. In the third trial, January 3, 1860, the defense found some new witnesses. They proved to be good ones, for the jury brought in a verdict not guilty. After the acquittal Palmer's conscience must have greatly worried him, for on January 26, while in Mokelumne City, he committed suicide by taking strychnine. His friend, J. H. Veach, running into the house at Mrs. Palmer's call, exclaimed, "Why have you done this?" And like old Adam in the Garden of Eden he replied, "This woman is the cause of all my trouble. I wish to die and get out of my misery."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mailbag Monday: John R. Shinn Journal, Vol. 4

Covering July 1st- 15th. John is in central Wyoming throughout. Trouble crossing the Platte and unforgiving terrain made this leg of the journey a bit slower for him and you can see in several posts where they went less than 20 miles in a day.

"July 1 Traveled 23 and a half miles. Passed 16 graves. Camped on LaBonte River. Plenty of wood, and water, but very little feed, weather good.

July 2nd Traveled 18 miles. Camped on a small creek near La Prele River. Found a spring of good water, plenty of wood but very little feed. Passed 10 graves, weather good.

July 3rd Traveled 12 miles over a rough country. Camped on the Prairie near the North fork of the Platte. Passed 6 graves. Found pretty good feed, no wood, nor water near. Weather good.

July 4th Traveled 7 miles to Deer Creek thence up the creek about 5 miles to camp on account [of] scarcity of feed at the place where we first struck it. Found tolerable good feed, wood and water. Passed 2 graves. Weather good.

July 5th Laid by to rest teams and wash. Weather pleasant.

July 6th Left camp on Deer Creek, came down to the Platte River and camped.

July 7th Stayed in camp on the Platte River waiting to cross. Weather pleasant.

July 8th Still in camp. Unable to cross on account of high wind.

July 9th Cross[ed] the River on scows and traveled 10 miles. Camped on Platte. Plenty of wood and water but very little feed. Weather good.

July 10th Traveled 17 miles. Camped in a ravine. Pretty good grass, some wood, no water nearer than the Platte one mile off. Weather dry and windy.

July 11th Traveled 14 miles over a rough road to what is called the Mineral Spring. This water is called poison to stock. We then went 5 miles south to the Platte and camped. Passed 1 grave.

July 12th Traveled 22 and a half miles over a barren country. Passed 33 head of dead cattle, 4 left to die, 5 dead horses and 2 left to die. Camped on a small creek south [of] the road. Plenty of water, some grass, no wood. Weather dry and windy.

July 13th Traveled 21 and a half miles over a dry and barren country. Passed 2 graves, quite a number of dead cattle and a few horses [and] 1 mule left to die. Camped on the Sweet Water River at the upper end of the Devil's Gate. This [is] a curiosity worth the traveler's notice. It is a gap through which the river runs through the mountain, the wall of each side is more than one hundred feet of almost perpendicular rock. Weather dry and windy.

July 14th Traveled about 5 miles off from the road the foot of the mountain and camped, it being Sunday. Found good feed and water but no wood. Passed 2 graves, passed several dead cattle, and a few horses.

July 15th Traveled 10 and a half miles. Passed 2 graves. Camped on the Sweet Water River. Plenty of good water, some feed and plenty of wood by carrying it from the mountain. Weather dry and windy."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Night Fun- Who's Number 21?

(This post was inspired by one on Genea-Musings) The way I have my trees set up are very different from most people, I think, because I actually have three trees and each is fairly separate from each other with the exception of my immediate family. I have one tree for my father because I don't know a whole lot (although that is changing) about his ancestry, one for my maternal grandfather and one for my maternal grandmother. The reason I have two different trees on my maternal side is that there are so many people in each of those trees and it was just easier to keep track of everyone if I did it that way. This system has a bit of a drawback however in that I can't generate a true Ahnentafel for myself. So, I sat down and did it by hand and came up with a big fat "?" for my #21 (to make things easier to compute, your #21 on an ahnentafel starting with yourself as #1 is your paternal grandmother's paternal grandmother, see below for further explaination). How I did my Ahnentafel (ancestor surnames appear in parenthesis):

1. Me
2. My father
3. My mother
4. My paternal grandfather (Allen)
5. My paternal grandmother (Lapiccirella)
6. My maternal grandfather (Shinn)
7. My maternal grandmother (Berger)
8. My paternal grandfather's father (Allen)
9. My paternal grandfather's mother (Croad)
10. My paternal grandmother's father (Lapiccirella)
11. My paternal grandmother's mother (Daccia)
12. My maternal grandfather's father (Shinn)
13. My maternal grandfather's mother (Healey)
14. My maternal grandmother's father (Berger)
15. My maternal grandmother's mother (Wellons)
16. My paternal grandfather's paternal grandfather (Allen)
17. My paternal grandfather's paternal grandmother (Wood)
18. My paternal grandfather's maternal grandfather (Croad)
19. My paternal grandfather's maternal grandmother (Stokes)
20. My paternal grandmother's paternal grandfather (Lapiccirella)
21. My paternal grandmother's paternal grandmother (Unknown)
22. My paternal grandmother's maternal grandfather (Daccia)
23. My paternal grandmother's maternal grandmother (Unknown)
24. My maternal grandfather's paternal grandfather (Shinn)
25. My maternal grandfather's paternal grandmother (Tock)
26. My maternal grandfather's maternal grandfather (Healey)
27. My maternal grandfather's maternal grandmother (Nielsen)
28. My maternal grandmother's paternal grandfather (Berger)
29. My maternal grandmother's paternal grandmother (vonAllmen)
30. My maternal grandmother's maternal grandfather (Wellons)
31. My maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother (Webb)

Since my #21 is unknown, I'm going to go a different route but stick with the great-great-grandmother theme. I'm going to follow a strictly maternal line however and go #3 (my mother) to #7 (my maternal grandmother) to #15 (my maternal grandmother's mother) to finally #31 (my maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother). Number 31 on my tree would be Mary Anna Webb.

Mary Anna Webb was born 25 Jan 1862 in Marion, Lawrence, Indiana to Andrew Webb and Priscilla Mason. Mary Anna was described as a "blue-eyed red-headed little lady (4'9")." Mary Anna's mother died when Mary Anna was only thirteen months old and so her sisters (she was the youngest of nine and had three sisters who she was very close to) practically raised her. Andrew remarried Rhoda Dandridge (much to the resentment of Andrew's daughters who teased their new step-mother frequently) on 8 Apr 1865 and by this time the family was living in Coles County, Illinois. Andrew and his brood moved to Sheridan, Crawford, Kansas around 1868 and then to Colorado around 1872. They eventually settled at Animas (a little north of Durango) in La Plata County around 1875. Rhoda died that year while having her daughter, Lily Timberline Webb. Andrew remarried an Eliza on 17 Aug 1882 but not much is known about her and she did not head west with the family a few years later. Mary Anna Webb married George Washington Wellons (who was of Kentucky stock by way of Iowa) in June of 1878 when she was only sixteen years old. She and George had a hard farming life in the wilds of Colorado and were taken by con men for all they had on one occasion but they perservered and rebuilt. They had son Ebb, daughter Hermosa Florita or "Flo" (the Webbs had a penchant for naming their children after geographical landmarks and Flo was named after two area rivers, the Hermosa and the Florita. In addition to Flo's aunt Lily (who was born at the Timberline), she also had a cousin named Minnie Animas after the town where they lived), daughter Edna Mae and son John Chapple before leaving Colorado around 1885. The party consisted of Mary Anna and her family as well as some of her siblings and father Andrew. They left by covered wagon for Oregon and reportedly they hid in the wagons through Utah as they were "afraid of the Mormons." They settled in Keno, Oregon for a time and Mary Anna had a daughter Sarah "Sadie" there and daughter Fleeda (who died at a few months of age). The family left Keno for Siskiyou Co., CA and remained there. They lived in the lumber boomtown of Klamathon where they had my great-grandmother, Georgia and her brother, William. Klamathon caught fire and quite literally went out in a "blaze of glory" in 1902, after which time the family lived in Yreka. California was one of the first states to grant suffrage (in 1911) and Mary Anna appears on the voter rolls as early 1912. Mary Anna died on 12 May 1926 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Yreka, California.
As far as her genes go, I am pretty short (5'3") and I do have blue eyes, but so do other branches of my family so who knows. When I look at pictures of my grandmother, mother and even myself, I do see the same deep-set almond shaped eyes, so I know that is part of the 6.67% of the DNA she gave me.

"Guardian of the Golden Gate"

The other day when I was at a local bookstore I came across a book that was both interesting and hit close to home genealogy wise. The Presidio (and the Bay Area) has always played an integral part of my family history. I have several branches that lived in the area and two branches that have a direct connection to The Presidio. My great-grandmother lived through the 1906 earthquake and her father spent time at the refugee camp on Golden Gate Park (the Park and the Presidio established a massive camp for all the displaced refugees of the earthquake; see the picture above) for several days searching for his lost family (my great-grandmother and her mother had gone to Alameda to stay with family but could not get word to him for days). Another direct connection to the Presidio has to do with my great-grandfather on another side of the family. He was born in Indiana to a missionary family that came to California for the German Evangelical Association (a branch of the Methodist church that was established for Germans and people of German extraction in the US; services were also held in German and the society worked to preserve German religious traditions amongst Germans in the US) when he was a small boy. They settled in the Oakland area in the early 1890's and remained in the area for forty years. My great-grandfather became a Methodist minister (like his father) and joined the US Army Chaplain Corps. during WWI (his father had been a Union Chaplain during the Civil War) and was stationed at The Presidio. Below is a picture of him (Gideon Gottlieb Berger), his mother (Susanna vonAllmen Berger) and sister (Florence Berger) at, I believe, the family home in Oakland around the time (June 1917) he enlisted.
The Presidio is now a part of the National Park Service and a historical landmark. There is also a historical association for the Presidio which also strives to help preserve the site. If you ever get a chance to visit San Francisco be sure to visit the Presidio (among other places), you won't regret it. It truly is the best example of Pacific Coast history I can think of as it has vital roots in many eras of history. It was a vital part of the California of Spain and Mexico and later served the US as an important military base during both World Wars and peace time as well as gave shelter to many after one of the worst disasters in US history (the 1906 earthquake). It truly is the "Guardian of the Golden Gate."

Kreativ Blogger

Well, you'll imagine my surprise when I checked my Google Reader today and found out Thomas MacEntee of Destination: Austin Family (and the founding father of our Genea-Bloggers group!) was nice enough to give me the Kreativ Blogger award. Many thank yous to him! This is especially surprising since creative is something I'm not exactly known for being (I was always the boring kid in the back of the class who wouldn't put sparkles on their homemade napkin ring holder). I know that when you get this you're supposed to pass it along to other genea-bloggers, but I just did a quick survey of the genea-bloggers I follow the closest on my Google Reader and most of them already have the award, except for The Genealogy Genie. Jeannie was kind enough to help me with my Shinn and Nielsen branches awhile back and even posted about them on her blog. Many thanks to Jeannie for all the help she's given me (and others) with their Northern California research and for her lovely blog! Thanks again to Thomas MacEntee for thinking of me, I feel so honored! =)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

John R. Shinn Journal, Vol. 3

Covering June 16th- 30th.

"June 16 Stayed by (Sunday) to rest. Weather good.

June 17 Traveled 22 miles. Camped on Camp Creek, plenty of feed and water. No wood. Weather good.

June 18 Traveled 25 miles over level country. Camped on the Platte River near Castle Bluff. Had a very [heavy] shower of hail, the stones varying from the size of a Pea to that of a marble.

June 19 Traveled 17 miles. Camped on the Prairie. Plenty of feed and water. No wood, used Buffalo chips for fuel.

June 20 Traveled 25 miles. Camped on the Prairie. Plenty of feed and (mosquitoes) but very little water and no wood, but Buffalo chips. Pleasant [weather].

June 21 Traveled 23 miles level country. Campe[d] on the Prairie opposite Chimney Rock, this is a large rock which stands by itself in the form of a chimney to quite an elevated height. Found plenty of feed, some water, no wood except Buffalo chips which are used as a substitute. Weather quite warm.

June 22 Traveled 22 miles. Camped on Spring Creek, 4 miles above Scotts Bluff. Feed and water good, no timber, weather warm.

June 23 Sunday, laid by to rest ourselves and teams. Weather warm.

June 24 Traveled 19 miles. Camped on the Platte near Fort Laramie. Not much feed, plenty of wood and water. Weather good.

June 26 Traveled 4 miles. Crossed the Platte at Fort Laramie at noon. Traveled 3 miles. Camped on high ground. Found some feed, no wood, nor water withing 3/4 of a mile. Weather pleasant through the day and shower at evening.

June 27 Stayed in camp making shoes for cattle. Weather good.

June 28 Still in the above camp making shoes, etc. Weather warm with a heavy hail storm in the afternoon, some of the hail as large as a Pint-Cup.

June 29 Traveled in the afternoon 10 and a half [miles]. Camped 1 mile west of the Warm Spring in the Black Hills. Weather cool and showery.

June 30 Traveled 22 and a half miles. Camped on a small creek. Pretty good feed and water, no wood. Weather cool and windy. Passed 7 graves."

During this installment John passes from Nebraska to Wyoming. A map of his route can be found here.

Fun With Surnames!

This evening I spent some time on the site World Names Profiler. Type in a surname (the more obscure the better) and it will show you where in the world the surname is most concentrated. This sort of thing wouldn't work for a lot of my surnames like Wood, Webb or Allen, but I have a few names in my tree that are sufficiently obscure enough to work. I typed in Lapiccirella and Daccia and not surprisingly the highest (okay, only) concentration of the names were in Puglia, Italy and Foggia specifically. No surprises there for me but it was interesting to see just how localized those names are. Next I looked up my Wellons (originally the Welsh Llewellyn) surname and was surprised to see that it was a bit more common than I had originally thought. It is a largely Southern name in the US and the site confirmed this. The family and name, I believe, originated in Virginia. My branch went to Kentucky around 1800 then Illinois in 1850 then Iowa to Colorado to California and the Northwest (Oregon and Washington). Other branches stayed in the south and went "deeper" in the region with a large concentration in the Carolinas and the site showed this. I was surprised the name didn't register more in Iowa, Colorado or the Northwest though. The last surname I tried (Croad) is the litmus test I generally use for genealogy sites (if that name gets any hits on the site, I know its a keeper). My Croads went to Michigan from Wales around 1892:
Not surprisingly, there was a high concentration there. My family settled in Montcalm and Mecosta counties specifically and lived in Lakeview and Millbrook. The name was also highly concentrated in New Zealand (a bit of a surprise, although I know a branch did go there) as well as it's native England.
If you've never heard of the site before, I recommend checking it out. I doubt it will break down any brick walls for you but it is a fun and interesting way to kill an hour. There are other types of searches available on the site too. Ethnic searches and regional searches (I looked up Lakeview, Michigan but Croad wasn't in the top surnames) are other options.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, Vol. 2

This one isn't so much a "tombstone Tuesday" as it is a "memorial Tuesday." When I was in Jackson's Hole, Wyoming last summer to be a tourist and visit Yellowstone, I noticed this beautiful and moving memorial in the heart of the town in honor of the area's veterans.
"This beautiful memorial is dedicated in loving memory of the Teton County Veterans,
Jackson's Hole, Wyoming."
All along the sides of the memorial were lists of veterans and the fallen. It was especially interesting to look at how some sections (WWI, WWII, Korea and Viet Nam) were more weathered than others (Desert Storm, Iraq). If you ever get a chance to go to Jackson's Hole (and I highly recommend you do), be sure and check this site out, though it would be pretty hard to drive through town and miss it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mailbag Monday: John R. Shinn Journal, Vol. 2

Going through all the papers and things I've inherited I've realized that in addition to this journal I've got hundreds of letters and postcards so I think once I'm done with the journal I'll start transcribing the other documents I have and make a regular weekly (if not more frequently) thing out of it, I'm playing with calling it "Mailbag Monday." Here is volume two of the journal, which covers June 1st-15th:

"June 1st Traveled 21 and a half miles over somewhat rolling country. Camped on the Prairie. Food good, very little water and no wood. Rained very hard at night, had a stampede among the cattle.

June 2 Traveled 18 miles. Camped on Prairie Creek. Plenty water and grass but no wood. Weather warm.

June 3 Traveled 14 miles over a beautiful level country. Camped on Wood River, very good place to camp. Had a fine shower in the evening.

June 4 Laid by to rest our teams and wash etc. Weather somewhat dull.

June 5 Stayed in camp at the above place on account of heavy rains and a stampede among the cattle. Weather good.

June 6 Stayed in camp. Some of the men out hunting cattle. Weather pleasant.

June 7 Traveled 25 miles over level country. Camped by a slough south of the road. Plenty of feed and water but no wood. Weather fine.

June 8 Traveled 20 miles. Camped by a slough. Plenty of feed and water and some wood.

June 9 Traveled 8 and a half miles. Camped on Elm Creek. Plenty of food and water but no wood. Some rain fell through the day.

June 10 Traveled 19 miles. Camped on the Platte River. Plenty of food and water but no wood. Weather good.

June 11 Traveled 25 miles. Camped on a small Lake south of the road. Plenty of feed and water but little or no wood. Road good, weather pleasant.

June 12 Traveled 20 miles. Camped by a small Lake south of the road. Pleasant weather. Plenty of feed and water but no wood.

June 13 Traveled 20 miles over good road. Camped by the Platte River near the Bluffs. Plenty of feed and water but no wood. Weather pleasant throughout the day and shower in the evening.

June 14 Traveled 15 miles over a level country. Camped on the North Bluff fork of the Platte. Plenty of water and grass but no wood. Weather good.

June 15 Traveled 21 and a half miles. C(amped) on Petit Creek. Plenty of feed and water. No wood. Weather good."

Geographical notes: he is still in Nebraska throughout these posts. A map of his route can be found here. While looking for information on Petit Creek (which is in Nebraska), I found this site which is also of interest.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Movies and Family Traditions

As a HUGE movie person (I was actually a film studies major when I first went into college) and a HUGE genealogy person, I was thinking "how can I combine my two passions?" Well, I don't know if I've stumbled upon the answer yet or not, but it has got me to thinking about what role movies have played in my family tree and traditions. Here are some movies that are either important parts of my family tree and/or traditions.

Fiddler on the Roof. This movie is a holiday institution in my family. It started out as a Thanksgiving staple but lately its been getting airtime in my household on Christmas and New Year (and since I just learned it is coming on TCM tonight, Valentine's Day). Frankly, I'm willing to make up holidays just to see this film and I am looking forward to passing on this tradition to future generations.

The Sound of Music. My grandmother never really knew how to relate to little kids and honestly, they pretty much just drove her crazy. That's why she never had any kiddie things around, including movies so when I was little and we would go see her (usually about once a month) she would put this on for me as it was really the only movie she had (besides Fantasia which I thought was mind-numbingly boring) that she thought would keep me entertained for a few hours- and she was right! While the whole "hills are alive" thing kind of freaked me out, I loved everything about this movie. It also holds a special place for me because of the song Edelweiss which is one of my mother's favorites (when I was born she got a music box for me that played it). Later on, she would also show The Unsinkable Molly Brown and How the West Was Won when I came over which are lesser favorites of mine (though I think my love of Debbie Reynolds came from these movies).

A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version). I kind of have a love/hate relationship with this movie because I've seen it SO many times. Starting about the day after Thanksgiving my father starts playing this movie and then he plays it again and again and again and again and... well, you get the picture. This movie was basically on everyday until New Years in my household. While it is a good movie, my father's obsession with it still remains a mystery to me. We would also see the Reginald Owen version for time to time, but those are the only two versions he feels are faithful to the original story.

The Wizard of Oz. This is a 4th of July tradition that started later in my childhood (maybe a little before Jr. High). I saw it lots of times when I was little, but it wasn't anything special (Funny aside: growing up, the tape we had of this movie cuts off the sepia opening and starts with Dorothy just landing in Oz. The first time someone told me the song Over the Rainbow was from this movie I didn't believe them). One 4th of July I caught it on TV with the dialogue removed and replaced by Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and that was actually the first time I saw the movie and actually really liked it. I've never seen the movie that way again, but I still watch it every 4th of July and sometimes I put it on mute for awhile and play The Dark Side of the Moon in the background and I'm a ten year old in awe all over again.

I've talked to my mother about what movies she saw growing up and it was clear from the way she talked that going to the movies was much more of an event in her family than it is now. They lived on a farm, about twenty minutes from the nearest theater so I can understand why they didn't go to the cinema very often. My mother remembers seeing the 7th Voyage of Sinbad when she was little and Georgy Girl when she was older. She also remembers going to The Alhambra as a girl and what a special event that was. I haven't really talked with my father about movies from his youth, although one day I was watching A Man Called Horse and my dad mentioned going to go see it with friends when he was in college. I know that Lawrence of Arabia is a special movie to him. He read a biography of T. E. Lawrence when he was a boy and later The Seven Pillars so I know Lawrence's story is one he is fond of. He also has the original Lawrence of Arabia soundtrack album (from 1962!) so I'm guessing he did go and see it when it was in theaters. I also remember watching Zulu a lot when I was little and I believe he went and saw that in theaters (it is another one of his favorites... I'm just now realizing that all of his favorite movies are British military films). I plan on asking other relatives what movies they liked/remember seeing growing up and posting a second part to this post (I'm going to also try and remember what all my favorite movies where when I was little and include then too).

Another thing of note, I remember reading an old family letter from 1913 in which a relative of mine mentions seeing one of the new "moving pictures" on board a ship he was on in the south Pacific. I'll dig it out and post it!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Food and Family!

I've be meaning to participate in more of the genea-bloggers regular prompts (it was actually a New Years resolution of mine) and tonight at dinner with my dad I got the push I needed to do the current prompt which has to do with memories of food and family. At dinner tonight my dad had coffee and some toast came with his meal. He's always dunked his toast in his coffee for as long as I can remember and it is a trait he has passed on to me (actually the only time I ever even drink coffee is if it comes with toast... I'm more of a tea kind of a gal). So we are sitting there, splitting his toast and coffee and taking turns dunking it, and it dawned on me that this is perfectly applicable to the current prompt! On the way home I thought of a few other food and family memories that I've put below:

My Italian Grandmother: my paternal grandmother had the most bizarre palate of anyone you'll ever meet, and it is also a palate that she largely shares with me. She is the one who would drink milk and Pepsi together (like me and Laverne from Laverne and Shirley!) and have pepperoni sandwiches (take a piece of bread and spread with mayo then generously top with pepperoni and eat), something I loved before I became a vegetarian. Another oddity that I don't know if I can trace to her or not is mustard sandwiches. My cousin (also her granddaughter) use to LOVE mustard sandwiches (take a piece of bread and SMOTHER with French's mustard then eat, serve with a dill pickle on the side if desired) and when I was little I did too! She (and my dad) always liked salty tomatoes as a snack too (take a tomato, cut in half and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper or garlic salt). Her mother who came to the US from Italy in 1920, use to make "tomato mash" too which my dad also likes. To make tomato mash take a piece of bread (toast works best) and then take a half a tomato and mash it into the bread. Make sure all of the tomato juices and as much of the innards as possible get on the bread (ideally you just want the tomato skin leftover) then sprinkle with salt and pepper and eat (mayo is an optional ingredient).

My Berger grandmother: I don't really have any culinary memories of her... the only thing we ever made together were USO Squares (thanks to the genea-blogger cookbook for the name and recipe!) which are totally delicious! My grandmother could also make a Thanksgiving feast out of table scraps. I was and am amazed at what she could do with just leftovers or few ingredients (she was a child of the Great Depression and I think that was where she got it from). She could also take leftovers from one meal and make it into something completely different the next night. I also remember her love for mayo- seriously, she could and would put mayo on ANYTHING. Another thing I remember from her are her tomato, peanut butter and mayo sandwiches which were and are the most disgusting things imaginable.

Obviously (and I'm sure this is the case for most people), my mother was my strongest culinary influence. I'll never forget being about five at our cabin in the Sierras and my mother teaching me how to make pancakes. It was the first thing I ever made from scratch (and the first time I was allowed to use the stove). They weren't pretty pancakes nor were they terribly appetizing, but we sat and ate them for breakfast nonetheless and they were pretty gosh darn amazing! While no specific recipes come to mind, my mother literally did teach me everything I know about cooking (and a bunch of other stuff too) though to this day we cannot discuss gravy (she argues that the proper roux is flour and water while I insist on doing it with flour and butter).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

John R. Shinn Journal, Vol. 1

Here is the first installment of my ggggrandfather's covered wagon journal. It was written in 1850 on John's first trip to California (he would eventually settle there in 1854). John was from New Jersey but began his journal after crossing the Missouri River. He was a farmer and a surveyor so the journal is a little dry and mainly notes geographic and weather conditions during their journey but it is an interesting read nonetheless. I believe it can be found in the Bancroft Library at UCBerkeley and it is mentioned at Paper Trail.

"John R. Shinn's Journal as kept by him in crossing the plains to California 1850.

Commencing at Traders Point where the company crossed the Missouri River.

May 24 Crossed the Missouri River. Traveled 10 miles over fine Rolling Prairie land. Camped on the Pappea Creek. Water good, and grass plenty and some wood. Weather very warm.

May 25 Traveled 18 miles over about the same kind of country as the day previous. Camped on the Elk Horn River. Very good place to camp, this is a stream of considerable size, so much so as to cause us to ferry our wagons. Weather still warm.

May 26 Crossed the River. Traveled 6 miles. Camped on the Platte River. Plenty feed, wood and water. Weather pleasant.

May 27 Traveled 20 miles over a level country. Camped by a small Lake on the Platte Bottoms, good place to camp. Had quite a hard shower in the morning, saw some Indians they were quite friendly but great beggars.

May 28 Traveled 24 miles, country level. Crossed Shell Creek, had to bridge, camped by a small Lake south of the road. Food and water good but very little wood. Plenty of Indians, they seem disposed to be friendly. Weather cool.

May 29 Traveled 18 and a half miles. Road good. Camped on the Loup fork at the place where they ferry. Good camping place, weather pleasant.

May 30 Crossed the River Loup Fork, this a very rapid and somewhat dangerous stream to cross, traveled 12 miles. Camped by a small lake or pond south of the road. Plenty of feed and water but little or no wood. Weather fine.

May 31 Traveled 23 miles. Road tolerable good. Camped about one mile from the Loup Fork by a small Lake. Plenty of feed and water but no wood nearer than the water. Weather good."

For a map of his route, click here. I will post scans of the original journal soon. I've stuck to the journal pretty faithfully but he wasn't big on periods so I added a few to break up the sentences.

Note: John seems to have followed the Mormon Trail, though he wasn't Mormon. I've seen him also mentioned on a site for the Hastings Trail, though I don't know much about this route.

Tombstone Tuesday, Vol. 1

Well, I've been a member of genea-blogger since last summer and I'm only just now motivated enough to do one of their prompts. If you've never checked out genea-blogger before, you'll find a link on the left and they are also on Facebook. I highly recommend joining, even if you aren't really a blogger and are only interested in genealogy. They are a very worthwhile group and the only reason I haven't done any of their prompts before is because I'm lazy. Here is my first Tombstone Tuesday post! Yay me!

Sorry the picture isn't very good quality but my camera sucks (can you recommend any brands?). I took this at Woodbridge Masonic Cemetery back in August of last year. He is actually one of several family members of mine buried there. Remember the projects post where I mentioned a covered wagon journal? Well, I was talking about his journal. He was my ggggrandfather, John R. Shinn. He was born in Burlington, New Jersey in 1823 to John and Elizabeth Asay Shinn and first came to California in 1850. He farmed a little and then went back to New Jersey where he got married and had my gggrandfather, Heman Doyle Shinn before coming back to California with his new family in 1854. They settled in San Joaquin Co. and were early grape farmers there. The family homestead still is farmed and in Shinn hands over a hundred and fifty years later!

I'm Cheap

I'll admit it, I'm cheap. I have a problem spending a dime on anything, which is why I'm always looking to do genealogy the, shall we say, economical way (that's not to say I cut corners and rely on free info as my sources of information, I do not)? While I have a membership with Ancestry, I haven't bought a family tree program since the 90's. I understand the GEDCOM is the language of genealogy, but I have a hard time rationalizing plunking down a chunk of change on a program (Family Tree Maker, I'm looking at you!) that will only be improved upon and made obsolete in a year. That's why I've recently decided to try the free versions of family tree programs. I haven't really played with Legacy yet, but when compared to Family Tree Builder (free from, Family Tree Builder wins hands down. I downloaded my Allen Family Tree that I had on as a GEDCOM and was amazed at how quickly and well Family Tree Builder configured the file. That tree is a small one, the smallest of all the ones I have on Ancestry, so I'm sure those will take longer to get on Family Tree Builder but judging by the results of my last "tree transfer" from Ancestry to Family Tree Builder, I am encouraged. I am also impressed with the bells and whistles offered by Family Tree Builder and I think the software is certainly comparable with any of the pay programs. Its free and worth checking out, so why not download (or watch the informative video) it and see for yourself if it measures up with the big guys on the playground?


So, I've got a few projects on my brain and I thought I'd list them here:
  1. transcribe my ggggrandfather's 1850 covered wagon journal. More details and a first installment to come!
  2. overhaul my website, which is The Shinn Collective by the way. I need to amend it to include my paternal lines and also add all the things I've got links to already up and have been promising since the site launch last July!
  3. source my research. Most of my newer stuff is sourced, but when I was younger and less experienced sourcing wasn't really something I was into or thought worthwhile so the vast majority of what I've got isn't sourced or if it is, I never wrote down the source name.
  4. create "paper files." For years I never saw a point to keeping hard copies of any of my research- I mean, I've got a lot either online, in my e-mail or backed-up on disk or flash drive. I have recently "seen the light" as it were and would now like to have some sort of (albeit brief) hard copy back-up of my research. I also think that having this will make it easier to mail my research to relatives or share what I've got with any visiting family.
  5. blog more! Or, should I say more consistently?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Shame on Me!

Well, I never thought it would be so long between posts but I haven't really had a lot to report on the genealogy front. Two things I'll mention though:

  1. For Christmas this year I wanted to make my grandmother a family history book. She is getting on in years and was kind enough to give me all of her info and pictures on the Berger and Wellons branch of my family several months ago so I thought I'd repay her with a book. Her ex-husband (my grandfather) had a Shinn family book that my grandmother somehow ended up with and she was fascinated by it so I was fairly confident that a book on her family would go over well. I'd happy to report that it did and she has had that book on her coffee table since Christmas! While I began the project in November and had planned to give it to her on her 81st birthday (December 8th), I wasn't happy with the binding part of it. Luckily, about a week or so before Christmas I was in Target and found the perfect scrapbook to bind the pages. I protected the pages with plastic covers which, while a good idea, made the book a little thick. It was actually so think that adding any new pages was/will be difficult and I had to clip miscellaneous other records and info to the back of the book. I am working on other books for other branches of my family and am especially excited to try Blurb which I think will make it really neat and professional (myCanvas is nice but it isn't a publishing service I think I'll use if I ever do want to professionally publish a book).
  2. I am FINALLY getting somewhere with my father's side of the family! Years of hitting brick walls and scrounging for scraps of information have finally (sort of) paid off. I still can't place any of my Allens in anywhere particular in Scotland, but I am learning more about their time in Pennsylvania then Ohio and finally, my branch that went to Michigan.