Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some Thoughts on School Records

Today is my first day of classes at the University of North Florida, so I thought I would take the time I have before I need to go to class to post some thoughts on school records, and my experiences with them. Let's start with items you might find at home, in your family papers.

I have to be grateful for the packrat gene in my family, especially on my husband's side. Not only do we have his elementary and high school report cards, we have his father's. I am only semi-packrat, as I have only my high school report cards. Report cards can provide some good information about an ancestor, such as possibly the home address (depending on the form the school used and how fully they filled it out), the name of the school, the town or county where the school was located, the years the student attended the school, what courses the student took and, of course, the student's grades. There will also generally be signatures of one or both parents.

My husband and I also have our college transcripts. These show, again, the name of the institution and the city in which it was located, the student's campus address and sometimes the home address, the courses the student took, the academic term (months and year), and the student's grades and grade point average.

Another good source of information is the school or college yearbook. This will show, again, the name of the institution and where it was located, the year of the book and the grade-level of the student, and will usually have at least one photograph of the student, with a list of extra-curricular activities and perhaps a chosen quotation or other bit of trivia. If the student participated in extra-curricular activities, there may be more photos. My husband and I attended rival high schools, and we each have the yearbook from our senior year. I also have two high school yearbooks from the 1920s, which were my uncle's, and I have my father's senior yearbook. Extra-curricular activities can give insight into an ancestor's character and aspirations. My father, for example, was a member of his high school's Aero Club (students interested in learning to fly), and later, as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he took flight training and became a Naval aviator.

College yearbooks are also a good source of information, with much the same information as the high school yearbooks. I have my senior yearbook from Florida State University, which was the 1968-1969 year, and my husband has one or two of his college yearbooks. I have my grandfather's yearbook from Wabash College in Indiana, and my father's yearbook from the Naval Academy, the 1934 Lucky Bag.

If you are fortunate enough to have had an ancestor who was a big packrat, you may also find some of his or her high school or college papers. You may determine from this the subjects your ancestor was most interested in, and may also see what sort of writer he or she was!

Another good source is photographs, both the "official" photos and candids. I have photos ranging from elementary school field trips, showing me and my friends and the places we visited, to college foolery -- being dunked in the fountain at the student union, or clowning around in the scholarship house. The official graduation photos may be in folders or frames with the name of the institution and the year, and possibly the name of the student, printed on them. At the very least, hope that the photo has been identified on the back!

Finally, there may be among your family papers degree or diploma certificates. These, again, show the name of the institution, the student's name, and the year, along with the degree granted (A.A., B.A., Ph.D., etc.) and possibly the course of study.

After exhausting the family sources, the next stop might be the public library. Look for yearbooks from the years your ancestor attended the school. These may be found in the general collection, or in a special local or state history collection. Check newspaper indexes for news of your ancestor's school years. He or she may have been an accomplished athlete, or may have participated in organizations or activities that caught the attention of the local paper. A county or town history might have general background information on the school the ancestor attended.

The county school board or even the particular school, if it is still open, may have information on your ancestor. Information availability might be governed by regulations concerning privacy in this age of identity-theft paranoia, but presenting your case pleasantly can go far. The farther back the record is, possibly the easier it will be to obtain. It may be more productive to go in person to the school board or school, rather than trying to conduct the search by telephone or letter. Physical presence can count for a lot. I hope one day to go to Logansport, Indiana, to Logansport High School, which my maternal grandfather and possibly my grandmother attended, to find the yearbook. I hope it will have photographs of them, because copies of such photographs will be the only photos I would ever have of my maternal grandparents.

Those are some possible avenues for research in school records. Now it is time for me to get ready for class.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Barking up the Wrong Family Tree

(In this post, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, as they used to say on each episode of "Dragnet.")

I just signed up for Ancestry.com, and have spent a goodly amount of time in various researches. For one thing, I am doing some more of that pro bono work for the National Park Service, for Doughton Park up in North Carolina.

For another, I have spent an inordinate amount of time doing some of my own genealogy, for a change! And I ran into something that bears mentioning: how easy it is to go barking up the wrong Family Tree.

I have an ancestor, whom we'll call XYZ. I'm disguising, because I am certainly not out to embarrass anyone, but rather to illustrate a point that all of us need to be aware of. Now, the birthplace of ol' XYZ is in doubt. Some think he was born on one side of a border, and some on the other. I have been searching all over the place, and cannot find squat to give evidence of where he was actually born. I have a suspicion, supported by some rather flimsy circumstantial evidence, at this point. I am putting my suspicion down on my forms for now, but it is only a working hypothesis. When new facts come to light, if they destroy that hypothesis, it will be discarded in favor of one that does fit the facts. If they support it, I will be happy as a clam at high tide for having solved that little mystery.

However, probably based on family legend and lore, which an uncle of mine apparently was not alone in believing, some think that XYZ was born in place A. I do not happen to agree, because I have found no evidence that XYZ was ever in place A. There is someone, though, who does, and who has found a U.S. census to support that. He has our old pal as "Xavier Zed" in a certain place, with a sibling with a name that is not in the family. Now, I know that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," but I happen to have a census on XYZ for the same year in a very different location, which I'll call Place B. This census puts him in place B in the household of his known father and mother, with his known siblings (from other censuses, both state and federal). On that census he is listed as "X. Y. Zed."

And that's the trap. Our ancestors did not always use their names, but rather their initials. XYZ's father is on some censuses as "Abelard B. Zed" and on some as "Box Zed" and on some as "A.B. Zed." I am as guilty of this as the next person of searching on names and forgetting to search under initials. So to the list of variant spellings -- something else I'm having a fit with on my husband's side of the family -- we now also have to add various combinations of initials, as well as considering those who sometimes go by their middle names.

My husband goes by his middle name, not his first name. His father did the same thing. I have careful records of their name preferences and their full names, so our descendants will be saved the stress I'm going through right now!

Now, if I could only find out where XYZ was really born . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Festival of Postcards -- Water!

My husband is a third-generation Florida native, and I have lived here for 55 of my 62 years. We are, therefore, surrounded by water. Here are some postcards from the collection of my husband's grandfather, showing water in Florida, in Ohio, and one I have added to the collection, from across the globe in the Mediterranean.

First, St. Petersburg, Florida, where my husband and I lived in the early 1970s and where our younger daughter was born. My husband was stationed here when he was in the Coast Guard. His grandfather spent time in Tampa, not far from St. Pete, and married a girl from Lakeland, just east of the area.

Mirror Lake
St. Petersburg, Florida
circa 1935

Unfortunately, most post cards, especially the older ones, do not come with dates on them, so I am estimating -- probably with wild inaccuracy! -- the dates of these postcards. The next one, showing a scene on the St. Johns River, is another one without a date. Most of the post card collection consists in those which my husband's grandfather bought to collect. He did have a few had been sent to him by others, but not all of those have dates, either.

This scene on the St. Johns, which flows north from near Sanford through Jacksonville to the Atlantic Ocean at Mayport, is from Blue Springs. My husband's family often visited Blue Springs and camped there. Usually, they went in their 17-foot outboard runabout.

Blue Springs
The St. Johns River
circa 1955

Next is a scene of a bridge over the Scioto River at Chillicothe, Ross County, Ohio. My husband's grandfather was born in Pike County, Ohio, just south of Ross County, and spent time in an orphanage near Chillicothe.

Bridge over the Scioto River
Chillicothe, Ohio
circa 1940

Finally, the scene below is of Palermo, Sicily, with the Tyrhennian Sea in the background. The postcard was sent to me in the 1970s by Manuela, a penpal from Rome. Manuela came to visit us and stayed about a week, making us some real Italian pizza while she was there. It was delicious!

Water, one of the most basic substances there is, plays a large part in many families' lives. Either there is too little of it, as during the drought and fire season of 1998, when nearly all of Florida was on fire, or there is too much of it, as in flooding experienced by a sorority sister of mine who lives near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Sometimes it comes in the form of a natural disaster, such as a flood or hurricane, neither of which is any fun. Sometimes it is a source of recreation, such as swimming, boating, fishing, or water-skiing. What are your family's stories about water?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Genealogical Health Warning

The Professional Descendant (I do LOVE that blog title! Is that just not the greatest?) blogged about the effect of genealogy on one's emotional health. She asked if maybe genealogy should carry a health warning.

So here is my suggested Surgeon General's Warning for Genealogy: Genealogy is indicated for symptoms of curiosity, and for the exercise of the inquiring mind. It may not be appropriate for everyone. Side effects may include increased pulse rate, flushing of the face, spasms of the feet (known as "happy dance"), and discovery of heretofore unknown cousins.

To your health!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Carnival of Genealogy 78 - Ride 'Em Cowboy

Or cowgirl. The not too sure cowgirl in this picture is my aunt Elizabeth Reed about 5 or 6 years old, which would put this picture about 1915 or 1916. I do not know whether this photo was taken in Chicago, where her family lived at the time, or in Indiana, which was the home ground for the Reed family.

Elizabeth Reed was born in 1910 and died in 1967. She was my favorite aunt. She and her mother, my grandma Mary LeSourd Reed, lived around the corner from us in the 1950s, my mother having bought a house in the neighborhood to be close to them. My aunt Elizabeth helped raise me. She taught me how to drive. She had connections that helped me get into college at Florida State University.

A public health nurse, she served as Director of Health Information at what was at the time known as the State Board of Health in Florida. It is now the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. And she had a store of humorous monologues that entertained many a civic meeting in northeast Florida.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"The living pulse beneath the official version"

Listening to NPR this afternoon, I heard one of the broadcasts refer to the reception the President held for newly-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  The reporter quoted the President as having quoted someone else to the effect that the appointment of Madame Justice Sotomayor represented "the living pulse beneath the official version," a reference to her reputation for compassion.

It occurred to me that that "living pulse beneath the official version" of history is what genealogy is all about.  Genealogy is the human face of history.  It is so much more than names and dates (though I, as a history major, insist that history itself is more than just names and dates).  But the broader brush of history touches only on the larger picture, the great trends and tides that have created our present.  Genealogy is much more intimate.  It is the story of the lives of the living, breathing, feeling, striving human beings that make up the entire warp and weft of history, not just the famous and influential, but the common people as well.  It was our ancestors who settled this continent.  It was our ancestors who built and manned and used the railroads.  It was our ancestors who fought and died in this country's wars.  It was our ancestors who worked in the fields and factories, who served in the armed forces, who raised the country's children -- more of our ancestors, and including ourselves.

And it is our task to tell their stories, and to keep vital "that living pulse beneath the official version."

Monday, August 10, 2009

SNGF - 16 great-grands

Randy Seaver, whose blog is Genea-Musings, has what he calls Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. I'm a little late on this one, but it's been a busy weekend. This weekend's "assignment" is to list your sixteen great-grandparents and figure out their ethnicity. The first part is a little bit of work. The second, for me, is easy. There isn't much variety in my genealogy until I get back to the sixth or seventh order of greatness in grandparents!

Let's see. I'm supposed to list them in pedigree-chart order with places and dates of birth and death. Now, it says that if you don't know all 16 of the great-greats, which I don't, to do this for the last full generation. But I think I'll deal with some of the 16 that I do know, then go for the 8 greats, which I do know all of. Let's pause while I fire up The Master Genealogist and take a look . . .

1. Matthew Hale Packard, born 1822 in Bolton, Stanstead County, Quebec, Canada; died 17 September 1881, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois.

2. Emily A. Hoyt, born circa 1823-24, in Bolton, Stanstead County, Quebec, Canada; died after 1881, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois.

3 and 4: Next pair unknown.

5. John Rector Reynolds, Sr., born ca. 1826 in Vermont.

6. Caroline Elizabeth [?-], born ca. 1836 in Connecticut.

7 and 8: Next pair unknown

9. Charles Reed, born 28 August 1840 in Gallia County, Ohio; died 26 January 1920 in Portland, Jay County, Indiana.

10. Clarissa Haney Wright, born 19 July 1844 probably in Xenia, Green County, Ohio; died 21 November 1908 probably in Portland, Jay County, Indiana.

11. Nelson Reed McKee, born 2 February 1837; died 6 May 1908 in Beloit, Wisconsin.

12. Sarah Ann Sunderland, born 2o June 1848.

13. John Teter Bowers Nave, born 21 October 1829 probably in Tennessee; died 17 March 1888, probably in Tennessee.

14. Lorena Jane Jones, born 15 February 1833 probably in Tennessee; died 3 December 1888.

15 and 16. Next pair unknown.

So there is a lot I don't know about my great-great grandparents. Most of them were from the midwest, around Ohio and Indiana. This is about as far back as I have gotten on many of these lines. As for ethnicity, the Naves were Swiss, the family name having originally been Näf. The name Teter Nave, reflected in my great-great grandfather's name, was originally Dieter Näf.

For the rest, pretty much English, though the name McKee hints at a Scots origin. The name Reed could be English, Irish, or Scots. My own unsubstantiated suspicion, based on some family behavior in that line, is that they may have been "lace-curtain" Irish. The Packard line is definitely English, Samuel Packard, Matthew Hale Packard's 4x-great-grandfather, emigrated from Suffolk, England to Hingham, Massachusetts in 1638. And I am happy to say that I am part Canadian!

As for the generation where I do know all or most of this information, my great-grandparents:

1. Oscar Merry Packard, son of Matthew Hale Packard and Emily Hoyt, born in 1848 probably in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; died after 1930 in Los Angeles County, California.

2. Augusta Hetherington, born circa 1851, in Ohio; died circa 1930 in Los Angeles County, California.

3. John Rector Reynolds, Jr., son of John Rector Reynolds, Sr., and Caroline Elizabeth [-?-], born April 1855 in Illinois.

4. Virginia Ferrier, born November 1858 in Missouri.

5. Francis Harvey "Frank" Reed, son of Charles Reed and Clarissa Haney Wright, born 17 November 1862 in Jay County, Indiana; died 26 February 1936 in Logansport, Cass County, Indiana.

6. Florence Elizabeth McKee, born 19 November 1862 in Indiana; died 9 November 1943 in Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California.

7. Teter Nave, son of John Teter Bowers Nave and Lorena Jane Jones, born 7 January 1854 in Tennessee; died 28 December 1909 in Logansport, Cass County, Indiana.

8. Elizabeth Taylor, born probably in Tennessee ca 1860, died after 1930 in Logansport, Cass County, Indiana.

The farther back one goes, the more difficult it is to find information, of course. Then there is the sad fact that most of these people were not well off by any stretch of the imagination. Charles Reed, a pensioned Civil War veteran, died in poverty. Many of these ancestors of mine apparently died intestate, not having much of anything to leave to anyone.

I did get a little farther, as I reported in another blog entry, with the family of great-great grandma Clarissa Haney Wright, tracking down her father, Francis Marion Wright, and his father, Merritt Wright. That was a nice breakthrough.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Going Electronic

I have a book coming out later this year, which examines sources relating to the colonial, territorial, and state censuses of Florida from 1784 to 1945, and their supplements and substitutes. The cover design is already done and you can see the announcement here: Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945. I really like the cover design they came up with.

More interesting news came today in the form of an e-mail from the publishing company, to the effect that right after being published in a nice trade paperback edition, my book will also be published in an electronic edition. Happily, my royalty rate will remain the same.

Technology hasn't been nice to me lately. A cell phone I recently received turned out to be a dog, and our connection to Comcast is acting up. But having my book come out in an electronic edition is intriguing. I do have to say that, being a former military officer and being married to a certified computer security professional, I tend to think in terms of security, and I wonder what sort of security measures the electronic edition will have. I was disturbed enough at seeing copies of my first book, which is still in print after nearly 13 years, being sold for ridiculous prices on eBay when it was available for much, much less directly from the publisher. I would be rather distressed if a "wild" electronic copy got out there under the Jolly Roger, so to speak.

Unfortunately, part of the wondrous technology we all benefit from these days is that there are some very bad people out there who will abuse the thing to an absurd extent. Dare I wish for a miracle that someday they might just surprise the whole world and grow up?

Nah. Too much to hope for.

But having another book coming out is enough for me. It's a great feeling.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Little Client Work

I have a friend, Amanda, who is a National Park Ranger.  She's what's called a "seasonal" ranger, meaning she works only from May to November.  For the last few years, she has served at Doughton Park, North Carolina, even though she lives in Florida.  Her specialty is as an "interpretive" ranger, which means she talks about the history of the park's specific location, or about features at the park.  At Doughton Park, Amanda's feature is the Brinegar Cabin, built by James Martin Brinegar, known to all as Martin Brinegar, in about 1881.

The Brinegar Cabin, east view, Doughton National Park, North Carolina. Photo by Karen Packard  Rhodes.

Coming up real soon -- like this next weekend -- is the park's celebration of the family and their legacy at the park.  The celebration, titled "Brinegar Days," features the cabin and Amanda's talk there.  Inside the cabin is a loom that Amanda has set up and at which she gives weaving demonstrations.  She talks about weaving, and about many other aspects of the Brinegars' daily lives.  One of the aspects of the Brinegars Amanda wants to discuss this year is their family history.  So she contacted me to do a little quick research, since there is not time to delve deeply into the Brinegar genealogy.  I checked Ancestry.com and did discover several of the family members' death certificates -- including two for two infants, children of John William Brinegar and Nannie (or Nonnie) Blevins Brinegar that Amanda seems not to have known about.  Also available was some birth-index information, from which Amanda can obtain copies of the birth certificates from the North Carolina State Archive.

Brinegar Cabin, rear, Doughton National Park, North Carolina.  Photo by Karen Packard Rhodes.

Martin and Caroline Brinegar had three children:  Susie Alice Brinegar (known as Alice), Sarah LouRenna Brinegar (whose middle name has seen a variety of spellings), and John William Brinegar.  Alice married Robert C. Caudill, having at least four children:  Charity Mae Caudill, Kate Louise Caudill, Hallie Caroline Caudill, and Levi James Caudill.  Sarah married Squire Lawson Pruitt, bearing at least three children:  Elmer Pruitt, Leonard Pruitt, and John Sherman Pruitt.  John William married first Cessie Choate, who apparently died of pneumonia when her first and only child, Verl Milton Brinegar, was just an infant.  John William married second Nannie (or Nonnie) Blevins.  John and Nannie had five children  Breese Foy Brinegar, Homer Cecil Brinegar, Jimmy Brinegar, Cletus Brinegar, and Kyle Brinegar, who all apparently lived into adulthood; there were also two children who died in infancy.  These were Iva Grace Brinegar and Ralph Lee Brinegar.

James Martin (known as Martin) Brinegar and Caroline Joines Brinegar.  Plaque at Doughton National Park, North Carolina.  Photo by Karen Packard Rhodes.

Some of the family have proved more elusive, and on-site research at the surrounding county courthouses and the state archive is probably in order.  One of the problems of family research in this area, especially vital, probate, and court records, is that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, county boundaries in this part of North Carolina were quite fluid, changing with the whim of politicians who decided they needed these or those votes.  It was also a practice in days when transportation was difficult that people would transact their official business at the nearest county courthouse, whether it was their own county's courthouse or not!

It is nice to be able to say that I have done some "pro bono" work for the National Park Service.

Amanda and I, Doughton National Park, North Carolina.  Photo by M. K. Rhodes.