Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What the heck is a Draw Clip?

 
I have been unable to find a patent for an item apparently invented and marketed by a German immigrant ancestor who was a blacksmith and carriage maker at the turn of the last century. I am hoping that some kind soul might be able to help me locate further information regarding this product. According to an advertisement in the 1891 Buffalo City Directory, Frank J. Doll (Franz Josef) and Martin F. Koebel manufactured the Doll Anti Rattler Excelsior Draw Clips from their shop at 258 Broadway (Near Pine Street) in Buffalo, Erie, New York.




The patent date illustrated in the advertisement is 31 January 1882.  Although I have searched numerous online databases and reviewed the patent book collection at the Denver Public Library, I have been unable to locate any information on this product.

Do you have any suggestions on other research strategies?  Why am I unable to find this patent?

Click below on Comments for the answer.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Silverthorn Challenge


I have unsuccessfully attempted to learn the identity of Elizabeth Silverthorn (b. ~1801 in England). As Elizabeth appears in both censuses and wills with my 3rd great grandmother, Leurania Green Mitchell, (b. about Sep 1835 in either the Township of Toronto or Brampton, Home District, d. 23 Jun 1907, Buffalo, Erie, New York), I suspect that she is related.

Leurania Green married Joseph Stoddart (b. 29 May 1826, Township of Toronto, d. 13 Aug 1889, Buffalo, Erie, New York). Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate the birth or marriage records of Leurania or Joseph, which undoubtedly would provide some clues. As the couple appears in the 1851 Ontario Census (Peel, Township of Toronto, Ward #5, Page 169, Line 22) living with Joseph's parents, Dr. John Stoddart and Margaret Lindsay, clearly they were married before 1851. John and Margaret Stoddart immigrated from Edinburgh in 1819 and settled on Crown Land at Concession 5, Lot 13, in Toronto Township, Home District about two lots away from the areas that would later become Grahamsville and Malton (now Missasaugua). Although Silverthorn and Green are common names in the region, I have been unable to make any connections in spite of many interesting clues which seem to tie the family back to some of the most important people in the area including: Chisholm, Mitchell, Graham, and Elliott. (So, you'd think this would be easy, wouldn't ya? )

The following timeline may help clarify a bit about the mysterious Elizabeth Silverthorn:

____________________________________________________________________

1801/2 Elizabeth Silverthorn was born in England and was a Primitive Methodist throughout her life
(Source: 1851/2 and 1861 Canadian Census).


~1828
Possible daughter of Elizabeth Silverthorn, Mary Green, was born in England
(Source: 1851 Canadian Census)


~1834
Possible son of Elizabeth Silverthorn, John Green was born in Upper Canada
(Source: 1861 Canadian Census)


~1835
Possible daughter of Elizabeth Silverthorn, Leurania Green Mitchell was born in Toronto Township and/or Brampton.
(Source: 1851, 1861, 1871 Canadian Census)


1852
The widowed Elizabeth Silverthorn is living in Chinguacousy, Peel and listed in the census living with the following Mitchell children:

Elizabeth Silverthorn England Primitive Methodist 50 Widowed 3 boys attending school
1½ storey frame house 1 family occupying house
Mary Mitchell
Canada Yeoman P. Methodist 24 Single
George Mitchell
Canada Labourer P. Methodist 21 Single
John Mitchell
Canada Labourer P. Methodist 19 Single
Matthew Mitchell
Canada Labourer P. Methodist 14 Single

1852 Mary Green
is living in the household of Dr. John and Margaret Stoddart along with Joseph and Leurania Stoddart in Toronto Township Ward #5 (Concession 5, Lot 13)

1861
Elizabeth Silverthorn is living and/or working in the home of the prosperous Brampton businessman and politician, Kenneth Chisholm. It is interesting to note that this was just a few years before Chisholm moved his household to the lavish estate Alder Lea on South Main Street in Brampton.

The land on which Alder Lea was built was originally the farm of John Elliott, the man who is credited with founding Brampton. In the early 1860s, the Elliott family sold part of the lot to their son-in-law Kenneth Chisholm to build an estate residence for his family c1864-70.
See http://www.accessgenealogy.com/scripts/data/database.cgi?file=Data&report=SingleArticle&ArticleID=0031638

1861 Brampton Township, Peel Census

Kenneth Chisholm Merchant U.Canada P. Methodist 32 M M
Mary " " " 33 F M [probably Kenneth's wife, Mary Elliott]
Mary Jane " " " 11 F S
John Green Clerk " " 27 M S [possibly Elizabeth Silverthorn's son]
T. P. Wolfe " " " 24 M S
Mathew Elliott Merchant " " 24 M M
T. B. Grimshaw Clerk " " 22 M S
John Wallace Laborer Ireland " 26 M S
Catherine Nagle Ireland R. Catholic 19 F S
Elizth Silverthorn England P. Methodist 48 F W

1865-68 Elizabeth Silverthorn is living in Toronto Township, Peel [Source: Amaranth Land transactions]

9 Jan 1865 Elizabeth Silverthorn purchased 100 acres in Amaranth (West half of Lot 19, Con 1), Wellington from George McRindley Mitchell of Chinguacousy for 50 pounds

11 Nov 1868 Elizabeth Silverthorn, widow, sold Amaranth property to Joseph Stoddart for $500 (Witnessed by Thomas Graham of Village of Brampton)

1871 Elizabeth Silverthorn is living in Amaranth, Wellington North (1871 Canadian Census, Page: 7) with Joseph, Leurania Stoddart and their three children.

March 1880
Daughter, Leurania G. Stoddart is administratrix of the will of E. Silverthorn, Amaranth, Dufferin (I haven't obtained a copy....yet!)


____________________________________________________________________

I'm guessing that this all is clear as mud! I've been working on this timeline for weeks and even I am confused by all the possible connections.

It is interesting to note that in 1892, when Leurania administered Joseph Stoddart's estate, the following men acted as witnesses to various documents:

John Mitchell, farmer of the Township of Trafalgar, Halton
James Lindsay of the Town of Milton, Halton (possible relative of Margaret Lindsay, wife of Dr. John Stoddart)
Matthew Elliott Mitchell, Town of Milton, Halton (This was the son of John Mitchell and Margaret Campbell)

I spotted another Elizabeth Silverthorn in the area who married John Terry and died in 1841....so, I don't think it's my Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Silverthorn (b. September 06, 1802, d. April 20, 1841)
Elizabeth Silverthorn (daughter of John Silverthorn and Esther Corwin) was born September 06, 1802 in Stamford Township, Lincoln County, Ontario, Canada, and died April 20, 1841 in Oakville, Trafalgar Township, Halton County, Ontario, Canada. She married John Terry on October 17, 1822 in York, Ontario.
My BIG assumptions are: Elizabeth Unknown married Unknown Green in England. She immigrated (perhaps to Pennsylvania or Welland/Niagara before Toronto Township) between 1828 and 1834. After the death of her first husband, she married Unknown Silverthorn. OK, ok then....who are these Mitchell children and who do they belong too? The irony of all this is that Elizabeth Silverthorn may not be the mother of Leurania Green at all and just a wandering widow! But that seems unlikely.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Surfing for Allendale

Several fellow family researchers have expressed interest in Allendale, Northumberland, England and have asked for recommendations for regional resources. To that end, I have compiled a list of some outstanding web pages that detail the history of Allendale. I have included picture sites, map sites, primary source sites, personal sites, and genealogy portals. Hopefully, there's something for everyone!

Many of these pages are subsets of much larger web sites which should be of interest to all Northumberland researchers. Whether or not you are researching families that lived in Allendale, I recommend that you take a look at the web sites that I have flagged with two asterisks (**). Once you have arrived at the referenced page, you may want to go to the home page to get a feel for the breadth of the entire web site.

Please let me know if you are aware of any additional online resources (both on- and off-line) that relate to the history of Allendale and the families that lived in the area.


Allendale, Northumberland
Local and Family History
Online Resources


Allen Valleys Archive

☞ Archive Images
http://www.allenvalleys.ukgo.com

Dawson Family in Allendale, Northumberland, England

☞ Personal family website
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~rykbrown/dawson.htm

Fairlambs of Allendale **

☞ Family and Local History Site
http://www.fairlamb.org/allendale.htm

Genuki

☞ Allendale, Northumberland Genealogy
http://www.genuki.bpears.org.uk/NBL/Allendale/index.html

Keys to the Past **

☞ Allendale Local History


http://www.keystothepast.info/durhamcc/K2P.nsf/K2PDetail?readform&PRN=N12979

North Pennine Ancestors

☞ Web site for genealogists who are researching their ancestors in the north of England
http://www.northpennineancestors.co.uk/Index.htm

Northumberland Communities

☞ Allendale
http://communities.northumberland.gov.uk/Allendale.htm

☞ Allendale - Plans and Maps
http://communities.northumberland.gov.uk/Allendale_C15.htm

Peart Family Page

☞ Personal family website
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Village/3285/peart/html


Historical Directories **
☞ Pigot & Co.'s National Commerical Directory, 1828-29
http://www.historicaldirectories.org
Select Find by Location then search “Northumberland,” then “Allendale”

Photographs from Northumberland

☞ Allendale
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~rprobert/photos/nbl/index.htm#adale

Tomorrow’s History

☞ Allendale Estate, estate, manorial and lead mining papers
http://www.tomorrows-history.com/Items/OriginalIE/ItemNO1000010001.htm
A selection of papers from the Allendale MSS (91 items in this collection)

☞ Letters from members of the Graham, Peart and other families of Killhope, 1852 - 1887.
http://www.tomorrows-history.com/Items/OriginalIE/ItemDC0700010001.htm
Note: Peart letters in this collection are misleadingly labeled “Letters from the Graham Family.” (84 items in this collection)

Reminiscences of John William Hall

☞ Family history including description of Allendale meetings and mining
http://www.btinternet.com/~denison/hall.htm

Research by Brian Pears at http://www.bpears.org.uk

☞ Greendikes – a tale of forgery and greed
www.bpears.org.uk/Ancestors/Will_Article/greendikes.doc

☞ Relatives of Brian Pears
http://www.bpears.org.uk/Ancestors/index.html

☞ Wartime Incidents in Allenheads and Allendale
http://www.bpears.org.uk/Misc/War_Misc/allenheadsww2.html

☞ Where There’s a Will
http://www.bpears.org.uk/Ancestors/Will_Article/

Swinhopeburn Families of Allendale, Northumberland

☞ Personal family website
http://www.swinhopeburnfamilies.com/

Waggonways Maps **

Maps of Northumberland, County Durham, and Cleveland showing each waggonway (or wagonway), tramway, mineral railway, colliery, coal pit, lead mine, fluorspar mine, ironstone mine and quarry.
http://www.geocities.com/waggonways/

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lost Gravestones


Earlier this year, I blogged about a new Canadian genealogy television series, Ancestors in the Attic and described the producer’s call for interesting family mysteries. I submitted a short essay about my fourth great grandfather Stoddart’s missing gravestones that sparked their interest.

I was contacted by the producers and I was thrilled to learn that they were attempting to determine more about the grave markers that were removed from my family’s small private cemetery in Brampton, Ontario. They planned to film their search for the lost Stoddart gravestones and include it in the first season of the series.

Unfortunately, they really didn’t discover anything new about the Stoddarts despite the fact that the film company and research team is based in the Toronto area and had access to the local archives. I suspect we will never learn what really happened to the family markers.

Yesterday, the producer emailed me:

Your segment about the “Lost Stoddart Gravestones” has been launched on our website. Go to:

http://www.history.ca/microsites/AncestorsInTheAttic

and click on VIDEO and then LOST GRAVESTONES.

It was felt that the challenge of resolving this question [of locating the missing grave stones] made the search less than perfect. However we still wanted to show the challenges and inherent dilemmas of genealogy — our compromise was to include the clip online.

I think that broadcasting the five minute segment on the web was a great solution and I am pleased that their efforts yielded something positive. I hope that my fellow Stoddart family researchers enjoy it as much as I did.

Unfortunately, the series will only be shown in Canada (starting this evening!) and there are no plans for it to be broadcast in the lower 48 states at this time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Be of Stout Heart


Origins of the Stoddart Name

The surname, Stoddart (and its variants Stoddard, Stodart, Stodhard, Stothart, and Stothert), have both Scottish and Northumbrian origins. “The Scottish name of Stoddart is supposed to have been derived from the word Standard and has origins in Selkirkshire before 1600. Some historians have speculated that the name was originally Stout heart and was later anglified to Stothert. [1][2]

There is also evidence that the name had its beginnings in the Old English word stod, followed by herd or ward and that the original Stoddart was in charge of a stud of horses. [3]

However, the Dictionary of American Family Names questions this theory:

Stoddard
English (Northumbria): occupational name for a breeder or keeper of horses, from Old English
stod, stud or stott ‘inferior kind of horse’ + hierde ‘herdsman’, ‘keeper’. There is a difficulty in deriving this name from Old English stod in that stud is not recorded in the sense ‘collection of horses bred by one person’ until the 17th century; before that it denoted a place where horses were kept for breeding, but that sense does not combine naturally with ‘herdsman.’[4]

It is interesting to note that the earliest mention of this surname in Scotland is in 1376 when David Stothirde, John Studehird, and William Studfirde are recorded as tenants of Douglas in barony of Buittle (RHM,1,p. 1x, 1xxi). [2] Another source places these same individuals in Dumfriessire in the 16th century. [3] I have theorized (but have no proof) that my third great grandfather, John Stoddart was born in Douglas in 1792. According to family lore, Stoddart’s wife, Margaret Lindsay, was the daughter of Margaret Douglas, who in turn, was the daughter if Lord John Douglas. Unfortunately, no one has been able to prove or disprove this story.

Today, this surname is found mostly in Glasgow and Edinburgh. [3] Margaret Stoddart, another descendant of John Stoddart by marriage and an insightful family historian, concluded that the most common spelling of name today was Stoddart. In her study of the John Stoddart family, she states that, in Canada, “Stoddart is not a common name. In the 1998 Toronto telephone directory it appears 51 times, in the Montreal directory 7 times, in the Vancouver directory 30 times, and in Victoria it appears 9 times. Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton together list the name 42 times.” She concludes that “in the western world there were probably no more than 3400 households bearing the name Stoddart in the 1990s.” [5]

The 1990 U.S. Census figures ranks the Stoddart surname as 19,949 most common! In 1850, the few Americans with the surname resided in Connecticut. By 1880, the most common place of residence of Stoddarts was New York. In 1920 most Stodddarts lived in Idaho, followed by Utah and Nevada, yet it has never been a common name in the United States. [6]

Sources:
[1] Scots-Irish: The Scot in North Britain, North Ireland and North America, Vol. 2.
[2] The Surnames of Scotland, pages 750-1
[3] David Dorward , Scottish Surnames, Mercat Press, 2003.
[4] Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4
[5] Margaret Stoddart, The John Stoddart Family 1790 – 1998, North Saanich, British Columbia, September 1998, Self-published manuscript.
[6] Hamrick Software Surname Distribution, http://hamrick.com/names/.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ancestors in the Attic


An award winning, Toronto-based production company, Primitive Entertainment, is producing a new television series called Ancestors in the Attic to be broadcast this fall on the History Television. Last year, they made a call to Canadian family researchers requesting submissions of genealogical stories that explore the multi-cultural foundations of Canada for consideration for a feature on their program.

Primitive Entertainment has started production of a "13 x 30 minute program that will take viewers on a road trip across Canada and on a worldwide search for their ancestors. Part personal drama, part forensic investigation and part historical revelation, Ancestors in the Attic will reveal....in an intimate and dramatic [manner a new approach to learning more about your Canadian] roots."

To learn more, go to http://www.history.ca/microsites/AncestorsSearch/.

I submitted the following essay that apparently sparked their interest. Look for a segment about Ontario pioneer cemeteries later this year.

Public Works Misplaces My Ancestor’s Gravestones

In 1974, the Board of Public Works of Brampton removed all the gravestones from a small abandoned cemetery in the former township of Chinguacousy, Peel, Ontario. At that time, they placed the nine markers in the City of Brampton Public Works yard. In 1981, a local historian reported that the stones were still stored in the works yard. That same year a cairn was erected and a historical plaque was placed at the site.

Old Grahamsville Cemetery
A Heritage Cemetery in the City of Brampton

The history of this burial ground is very obscure, seemingly in use during the mid 1800s. This was once described as the "Old Grahamsville Cemetery." A Wesleyan Methodist Church, which was dismantled about 1869, and Chinguacousy School House No. 24 have both stood on this site.

The family names of the people who are resting here are:

Burgess Lindsay Stoddart
Burkholder Mercer Willcox
Cunnington Ramage
Ewing Sinclair

This cairn in memory of the pioneers of this area was erected in 1981.
A research report on the history of this cemetery is available at the Region of Peel Archives.

Unfortunately, no one seems to know where the original gravestones are stored.

Considering the years that have passed since my fourth great grandfather, John Stoddart was born in Scotland in 1792 and buried in this cemetery in 1854, his descendants have learned quite a bit about him. We know when he was born, where he married, the year he immigrated, and when he died, but his gravestone has been mislaid. As my family’s designated historian, I have made contact with many other Stoddart descendants, the author of the cemetery research report, and the City of Brampton, attempting to locate my ancestors’ gravestones. No one knows what has happened to the markers from this rural cemetery, but they all believe they still exist.

In 1933, Dr. Warren O. Stoddart described the old disused cemetery in a letter to his father. "There are a few tomb stones and a little wood that used to make fences about the plots, but not much else.... The place...is very small, and second growth bushes has almost covered it up...The stone I spoke about is a white one, square and about four feet high, by a foot each way. [One inscription reads:]

Doct. John Stoddart
Native of Scotland
Born
Feb. 14, 1792
Emigrated to the Township
of Toronto 1819
Died July 9, 1854

In this letter, he also transcribed the other entries on the marker including Margaret Lindsay’s and their children’s, James, Phillip, William, and Robert.

Also in 1933, the noted Peel County historian, William Perkins Bull, mentioned the condition of this cemetery and indicated that a transcription of the surviving tombstones and a history of the burial ground had been prepared. Unfortunately, the history of this particular cemetery is missing from the collection at The Archives of Ontario.

In 1974, a genealogist from nearby Mississauga visited the property and transcribed the tombstones from nine tombstones. Soon after, the tombstones were removed by the city. In 1981, a local historian published a report describing the history of the cemetery, but many questions remained after his study. The gravestones were apparently forgotten after this.
Although he wasn’t a person whose story has been documented in history books, John Stoddart was a man whose life experiences paralleled many early immigrants who settled in the wilderness area north of Muddy York (the town that later became the metropolis of Toronto) in the early 19th century.

John Stoddart, a sawyer from Pleasance, Edinburgh married Margaret Lindsay, the daughter of a laborer at St. Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh in 1811. Before immigrating from Scotland in 1819, John and Margaret had four sons, two of which lived beyond infancy. John settled briefly in York and later that year, 100 acres of wooded land north of York were assigned to him by the Crown. Stoddart built his family a log home on this property in the Township of Toronto and two years later, he purchased the title to the land which he and his family had been farming. John and Margaret had eight more children, each of whose names was carefully annotated in the preserved family bible. Typical of farmers of his day, John was a very strong man. Years after his death, locals spoke of him carrying two barrels of flour – one in each arm -- across a room and later carrying the contents of a barrel divided into two bags to his home. Stoddart later became a doctor and was certified in midwifery. Margaret Lindsay was buried at the later abandoned Grahamsville Cemetery in 1852 . Her husband, John Stoddart joined her two years later.

John Stoddart’s descendants are left with many questions:
  • Where are the gravestones from this cemetery stored?
  • Can the William Perkins Bull manuscript which discusses the history of this cemetery be located?
  • What was the origin of this cemetery?
  • Why did these families choose to be buried in this small cemetery even through there were other burial grounds established which were more convenient?
  • How were the people buried in this small cemetery related?

Blogger Note: I would like to thank Jarvis Stoddart, both of the Margaret Stoddarts (!), Bill and Sally Stoddart, Lucinda Moss Brown, Neil Gilliat, and Patty Morse for generously sharing their Stoddart research with me. Some professional historians who have also assisted me greatly include: Gary Sumpter, Matthew Wilkinson, Bill McKinnie, Karen L. Wagner, Paul Webster, and Sheila Davidson. Without their efforts, this article and perhaps the television segment may never have been possible.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Piecing Together the Past


Today’s genealogical adventure isn't about my family, but a tale of a family heirloom-in-the-making finding its way home. As I post this blog, this story is still unfolding so I will provide updates in the future.

This is a story about locating a proper owner for beautiful vintage quilt blocks, retold via excerpts from email exchanges I had with another genealogist. Enjoy!


Monday, January 23, 2006

Tracee~

As a fellow family historian, I have an exciting story to share with you. I was at a wonderful estate auction this weekend in Julesburg, Colorado. One lot consisted of a box of fabric scraps and included a partially completed yellow and white name quilt. I bid $10 and came home with a new research project and several crafting projects. Of course as an amateur genealogist, my goal was to find a proper home for the yet-to-be completed quilt. I figured that if I couldn't discover any interested descendants, I would have a very beautiful quilt for myself.

After analyzing the contents of my cardboard box, I realize that I have fifteen 8 1/2 inch "name" quilt blocks as well as solid yellow squares of fabric to complete the quilt. The families embroidered on the squares include:

* Bohling, Henry
* Bohling, William
* Bryan, J. H.
* Farquharson, Jim
* Feldkamp, W.C.
* Lewick, Alvin
* Luck, F. J.
* Lyne, Tom
* Maher, William
* Meili, Henry
* Panzer, Herman
* Rohwen, Henry
* Servien, William
* Whiteside, Eva
* Zier

Basically, I have enough pieces to complete a 40 x 62 inch quilt if one were to add a single block naming the final quilter (perhaps documenting the history and creation of the quilt)! Clearly my box of scraps has the potential to become an awesome family treasure when finished.

I hopped onto to the internet and hunted throughout the United States. I reviewed the 1930 censuses and tried to find a common link between these families. I ultimately discovered that all of the names embroidered on the quilt blocks were farm families from Lincoln County, Kansas and many were pioneers to the area. Upon further research, I noticed that you were one of the County Coordinators for the Lincoln County GenWeb site and that your grandfather was Alvin Lewick!

Eureka!

Last night, I continued to research the families, but wasn't unable to determine the exact common link between the names. I suspect that these families may have all contributed to a common church fund raiser. Perhaps you will know. Most of the wives are fairly young and had children, so it makes sense that these women would have been friends. However, I don't think these blocks were intended to become a friendship quilt as all but one block name "Mr. and Mrs." so-and-so.

Let me know if you or someone in your family is interested in this quilt. I would be thrilled to send it to you in the next day or two. Of course, I'll include my research notes. If quilting isn't your thing, just let me know. My feelings won't be hurt. I'll donate it to your local historical society.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Relatively yours,

Kate Johnson


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Kate:

Eureka is right! I'm a genealogist, historian, AND QUILTER.

(Pause for amazement!)

Yes, yes, yes, I would love to have this! Those names all seem to be families from Valley Township. Bohling, Bryan, Maher, Panzer are all names in my tree; lots of marrying between these families since these people were pretty restricted to their own neighborhoods back in the day. Maybe it was a quilt intended for a teacher or a preacher or something? Hard to say, but I would LOVE to have it and try to "finish it up."

It was so good of you to track me down; I can't tell you what it means to me. I hope you are repaid in karma a hundredfold!

Thank you seems so inadequate, but thank you thank you thank you!

Gratefully,
Tracee


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Kate:

I am going to a workshop this weekend to get some advice on finishing the quilt. I [hope] to start researching the names today... I think that the marriage dates for these couples will help us narrow down the date of the quilt quite a bit and that I will have to do at the courthouse when I go to Lincoln, which will be in May. I can do some of it through obits but the marriage records will be quicker and more helpful, I think. So we'll see!

Tracee

I’m Not a Packrat. I’m an Archivist.


In 2000, I came upon my sixth grade autobiography while helping my mother organize her basement in our family home in Clarence, New York. Clean Sweep wouldn’t have signed up for this job in a million years. There wasn’t enough room for the host, let alone a camera man. However, everything stored away in the chaos seemed to have some importance or worth. It would have been easier to organize if the rooms were just filled with junk.

Hidden in a box next to a pile of fabulous 1950s Vogue Pattern magazines, my sister’s high school art projects, and my grandmother’s bridal ensemble, was a short account of my life enclosed in a graphic construction paper cover. It was simply titled ME.* My class report included the spellbinding story of the first 11 years of my life, a chapter describing my dreamy goals for the future, and a 4 generation pedigree chart. I recall that I wasn’t very interested in writing about myself. I thought stories about 11 year old kids were inherently boring. However, the tales of my ancestors fascinated me.

When I was given this assignment, I asked my grandmother for help with my family history. Mimi was a natural story teller who frequently spoke of our ancestors. Sitting at her lovely kitchen table (which was later to become my dining room table), I sketched out a family tree on a note pad as she explained the connections between the generations. I remember revising it over and over again as the branches ran off the edge of the paper as I tried to understand all the relationships between these people. She brought out her collection of family photographs from the bottom drawer of her slant top desk and carried them into the kitchen for me to examine one by one. She was the family caretaker and as a result, had inherited many relatives’ family treasures. I remember feeling like I was traveling through time. I was transported by the magic of the pictures and her stories. I was hooked.

Years later while sorting through almost 50 years of accumulation in my parents’ basement, I also came upon a folded hand drawn pedigree chart that my mother had created based on my grandmother’s recollections (see a section of the chart above). She too, had interest in genealogy and had recorded the information that my sixth grade report had failed to document. Using this chart as my starting point, I began the exploration for my roots. According to my family, this search now seems to border on obsession. It wasn’t long before I learned that family memories frequently have elements of both truth and error.

__________
*In 1996 Katherine Hepburn published her autobiography under the same title!

Why a Family History Blog?

a/k/a Coming to My Census

After spending the last six years researching my family history with more than a healthy intensity, I have come to the inevitable conclusion that I’m never going to be finished. As with many collecting hobbies, I’ve learned that the pleasures of genealogy are all in the hunt. Of course I enjoy having my family data entered into all the appropriate fields in Family Tree Maker and my primary source documents filed away by family group, but I really get a rush from discovering new bits of trivia about my family’s lives and trading stories with other researchers. These are the stories I’m planning to share in this blog.

It will probably be years before I pull together all my findings and share my conclusions with family and far-flung cousins in a formal printed or electronic manner. So, hopefully the accessible structure of the blog will encourage me to write down my thoughts about my research on a somewhat regular basis and provide a vehicle for sharing the excitement of my discoveries with others.

Earlier this week, I corresponded with another Family History blogger, Ralph Brandi. You can check out his site at http://www.brandi.org/geneablogy/. Ralph suggested that his blog was great cousin bait. I loved the expression and used it in my domain name. Thanks, Ralph for your help. Perhaps this blog will lure in a few new “cousins” for me.

If you suspect that you might be one of my far-flung cousins, please email me and we can compare notes. If you have stumbled upon this blog and aren’t related to me, I suspect you will find my musings make pretty dull reading. Other people’s family history is typically pretty deadly. On the other hand, if you have interests in some of the geographic areas from whence my ancestors hailed, you might get some research ideas!

Let me know if you find something in this blog that is particularly helpful to you. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome