One tradition of my favorite traditions occurs on Thanksgiving in my family. Instead of a traditional grace, each person at the table says what they are thankful for. It is always heartwarming, fun, and hilarious at the same time.
One of the best “Thankfuls” I have ever heard happened while we lived in Rhode Island. My father was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island for four years. My father’s cousin, Dave, and his family lived nearby in Warwick. We were about half way around the table giving our thanks when it was Dave’s turn. He simply stated, “I am thankful for whatever Sheryl (my mom) is thankful for.” Everyone burst into laughter because it was not her turn yet. We had no idea what my mom was thankful for.
To this day, when my family is together at Thanksgiving, someone always throws a “Dave Thanks” into the mix. It has to be explained most years since we love to include friends at our Thanksgiving table.
This year I am thankful for my family, my health, the wonderful trips we got to take, in-laws that legally joined the family, my new genealogy blog friends, and whatever Dave is thankful for.
Last night was the monthly meeting of my local genealogy society (Marin Genealogy Society). The meeting was a round table where everyone brought brick walls and success stories to share with each other.
The topic of genealogy websites and blogs came up as a way to connect with others. While I was not surprised that only a few of us at the meeting regularly read genealogy blogs, I was taken aback that many did not know genealogy blogs exist.
Many people were excited and asked how to find genealogy blogs. I pointed everyone in the room towards http://www.geneabloggers.com/ as a great place to start. Thomas MacEntee has set up a wonderful resource on all things genealogy blog related (including this Open Thread Thursday).
Although I have been writing my blog since March, I have not shared that information with my fellow society members until last night. I was very nervous when I realized on the drive home that everyone is going to go home and read my blog. Part of my fear is that I know these people face to face. Most of the feedback that I receive on my blog comes from other bloggers I have not met in person or family members who really aren’t that into dead people. There is comfort in that safe place.
Today, I commit to being a blog educator. I pledge to put my own fears aside and advertise my blog more. I will also talk about blogs more around the members of my genealogy society. We need to let others know about this great community and all of the wonderful resources it has to offer.
Last weekend was not very enjoyable. I spent the weekend in a opioid induced haze at my local hospital suffering from kidney stones. Luckily, I had a great Urologist who performed surgery on Monday and removed those painful boulders.
One of the first questions my doctor asked was “Do other members of your family suffer from kidney stones?” Luckily, for my immediate family members, they do not.
The question stuck with me this week. I thought a lot about my ancestors and what types of ailments stopped them in their tracks. Most of the medical history I have about my family has come from death certificates. It is interesting to see what a wide range of reasons my family listed as cause of death but this is a very limited picture into their medical lives.
I wonder what else happened while they were alive. Any broken bones? How did they cope when they had a cold or the flu. Kidney stones? Heart attacks that they survived? Bad knees? Cancer?
I will probably never know these kinds of details about my ancestors lives. The best I can do is to document the medical histories of the living to pass their stories on to future generations.
When I began writing this blog earlier this year, my intention for the blog was to share stories with my family about our ancestors. I did not realize that the wonderful geneabloggers community would quickly outnumber the number of family members who actually read my blog. In fact, I think the only family members who read my blog consistantly are my mom and husband. In fact, the blog has served a much different purpose for me so far. Writing has focused my research, organization, and goals for my continuing hunt for ancestors.
Last week I received an email from a cousin who found my blog by googling a family name. It was so exciting to receive that email! I had read about other genealogy bloggers who use their blogs as ‘cousin bait’ but never thought that it would apply to me.
This person is a cousin on my husband’s side of the family and has emailed with me several times. I cannot thank him enough for sharing his story and family photos with me. I look forward to more communication with him and hopefully a fuller picture of the life of my husband’s great grandfather, Charles Frank Gingg.
So I have done it. I have posted my first photos to www.findagrave.com tonight. As I was working on adding photo citations (and correctly filing the digital files) to pictures from a genealogy trip last fall, I randomly decided to look and see if the tombstones were listed on findagrave.com. Sure enough, there were no photos for Dudley and Opal Mitchell who reside eternally at Memorial Park, Hutchinson, Kansas.
I am sharing this here on the blog because I am not sure that my husband will be able to relate to my excitement about posting gravestones of dead people to the Internet. I am so glad that my mind could not stay on the task at hand (citations and filing). It was really easy to add the photos and I will definitely be adding more in the future. Hopefully, my small contribution tonight will help another researcher down the line. Okay, so now that I have slid even further off track by stopping to write a blog post, back to the trenches and citations.
Last night my husband and I were catching up on some of our shows that DVR each week. With two small children it is nearly impossible to watch some shows when they are on. Last nights lucky winner was NCIS: Los Angeles.
The main character in the show, G Callen, has had a storyline about his family over the last couple of seasons. What the G stands for is one of the mysteries, everyone just calls him Callen. In the last couple of episodes, most of his family history has been revealed. He found out that his mother was killed in Romania when he was a young boy and that her name was Clara. Clara had been born in Romania to a Romanian woman and a U.S. CIA operative after WWII. She had immigrated to the United States with her mother after the father was killed in Romania. Clara had been recruited by the CIA and returned to Romania as a young woman. She had two children in the 6 years she was in Romania. At the end of the episode we watched last night, Callen was asking his boss, Hettie, how he and his sister arrived in the United States after their mother was killed in Romania. She replied that no one knows. All she knew was they appeared 2 years after the mother was killed. Callen then asked Hettie if she knew who his father was. Hettie replied that the CIA was unable to answer that question when they tried to find out.
My genealogy brain immediately said “Well, they did not do a very good job then. There are so many record types that they probably missed. You don’t just have two children and leave no records during 6 years that might indicate who the father was. I would have started with finding Clara’s address and interviewing her neighbors. There also had to be hospital records, civil registrations, etc. I bet they did not use the A to Z method of breaking brick walls.”
I know it is a TV show but part of me wanted to jump on the Internet last night and see what types of records are available in Romania. I can’t wait to see what NCIS: Los Angeles comes up with down the line. I am sure there will be some small piece of information that appears to start a story arc about finding Callen’s father.
Wikipedia defines genealogy as:
Genealogy (from Greek: γενεά, genea, “generation”; and λόγος, logos, “knowledge”) is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives.
This summer has been been very busy for my family. My sister and my husband’s brother and sister have all gotten married in the last 8 weeks! We are so happy for all three of them and their new spouses. They have chosen wonderful life partners and we know that they will be very happy.
The genealogist in me is excited too. We have been creating genealogy this summer. All of these weddings have created a whole new set of records to demonstrate my new extended kinship. The genealogy geek in me has asked all of our siblings for copies of their marriage licenses to add to my collection. I need these to correctly add a citation to their marriages in my genealogy software. I am also going to create a document for each wedding that describes the day and all of the fun details. This will also be added to my notes for future generations to get a glimpse at what weddings were like in the early 21st century.
Since starting this blog, I have been trying to spread the posts around different branches of my tree. I do this so extended family will see things that pertain to them. I want to keep everyone interested.
Unfortunately, some branches are more difficult than others to write about. I have noticed that I prefer some families to others. I have guilt about liking some of my ancestors more than others.
I have noticed that this bias has effected my research in a not so good way. I have spent more time researching the families that I prefer. The positive is I have filled in more stories and have researched more generations for these branches of the tree. The negative is I have not filled in the stories and continued my research to further generations for the families that I don’t have much interest in. There are stories out there waiting to be found.
My bias does not have a rhyme or reason to it. There are just some ancestors that I find completely boring or am not so crazy about the way they lived their lives. My Mom always tells me that you cannot change people. You need to accept them for who they are to fully enjoy them. So today I am making a commitment to stop judging my ancestors and enjoy them to the fullest!
I consider myself a pretty active person. Last year, I trained for and completed two triathlons. Apparently, John and I are very good at having babies who are on the top end of the growth chart. I have been pushing my 2 1/2 year old in the stroller and carrying the baby in a Bjorn the last couple of months. It is already getting hard because Mia is gaining weight like a champ. So today, I purchased a double jogging stroller to
make my walking/running trips around town much more comfortable.
This purchase triggered a brainstorm on all of the items I appreciate that make life easier that my ancestors did not have. My 3rd great grandmother had 15 children between 1812 and 1837. I know that the family traveled from Tennessee to frontier Kansas about 1835-1836 in a covered wagon. I am guessing that Polly did not have any sort of stroller with all terrain wheels to help her around the farm.
Here are a couple of other items that make me appreciate living in the 21st century:
Skype: We live in California and my parents live in Virginia. Skype lets my kids video chat with their grandparents. This is so awesome because my kids get to see and talk with their grandparents instead of just pictures between visits. One of my family lines moved from Virginia to Kansas in the 1870’s. The only way to communicate then was by letter which took a long time to get to where it was going. I bet those ancestors would have loved Skype.
GPS: My car has a map in the display. This function is so convenient when going to places I have not been before. You can even look up hospitals, restaurants, etc. to choose as a destination. We go to Tahoe a lot and stay in Truckee, California. There is a state park in town at Donner Lake that has a museum about the infamous Donner party. I am sure that the Donner party would have loved to have a GPS on their ill-fated trip to California. If they did, they would have known that the shortcut they took was really a long cut. If they had not taken a longer route, the Donner party would have been over the mountains before the massive snows in November 1846. Beating the snow would have meant that the entire party lived and no one had to resort to cannibalism to survive.
Tractors: My father-in-law has a tractor. He loves to find any excuse he can to get on it and “play.” This usually means starting some new construction project or taking the tractor up to Hopland to his dad’s ranch. Most of my ancestors were farmers. I am sure that they would have loved to have a gas powered tractor to help tend their farms in the mid-west!
I have thought of one thing that we have today that I am sure our ancestors are happy to have missed out on – TSA lines at the airport. Could you imagine our ancestors getting patted down before getting into their wagons to travel West?!
My list could be very long of all the things we have today that have profoundly changed the way we live. What are some of your favorite things that make life just a little easier?
It occurred to me very recently that not only do I have ancestors, I have descendants. The event that sparked this moment of clarity was the birth of my second child, Mia Caitlin on May 15th. You would think that this would have occurred to me when my first daughter, Julia, was born in December 2008 but it didn’t. It was a cool realization that there is now another generation added to my family tree, this time down in the roots.