Showing posts with label family documents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family documents. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What political animals lurk in your genealogy?

I am sitting at an outside table at the food court at the student union at the University of North Florida.  There is chaos on campus today because CNN, the Secret Service, local and campus police, and all sorts of subordinate supporting personnel are swarming all over the campus.  Tonight, CNN's latest in their series of Republican presidential debates (a term that is used loosely these days) will be here.  So it seems appropriate to discuss the search for the political animals lurking in our family trees.

None of my family, that I know of, has held political office of any sort since my eighth great-grandfather Samuel Packard was Surveyor of Highways and Collector of Minister's Rates (i.e., the tax man) in colonial Massachusetts in the mid-1600s.  I guess we're not much in the way of political activism.

Knowing how one's ancestors swung politically can help to flesh out the full picture of their lives, especially if they did hold local, state, or national office.  Politics informs our social views, and certainly today there are many ways in which peoples' political and religious views intersect.  Economic status may not be a good indicator at times of one's political views.  Sometimes, people's political views do not seem in concert with their real economic situation, but as the "John Dickinson" character in the Broadway play and movie 1776 said, "Most men would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor."

Do you have among your family's effects any political memorabilia?  Campaign buttons, literature, an autograph of a famous person or any of the Presidents?  My aunt graduated from Columbia University during the time Dwight D. Eisenhower was the university's president, before he became President of the United States.  I have her diploma, and thus I have Eisenhower's signature.  I have signatures of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, too, but they may have been machine signatures.  I have more optimism that the Reagan signature is the real deal, as it was in a personal note.

Obituaries are good places to look for political affiliation.  I have several ancestral obits which say what their political affiliation was.  There also may be meeting notices mentioning your ancestor, or feature articles in the newspapers, which might indicate political affiliation. 

'Tis the season for politics.  If you, like me, are up to the gills with the nasty advertisements and the sniping, turn off the television, get down to the library or online, and take this opportunity to research your ancestors' political affiliations.

Monday, April 19, 2010

That which was lost . . .

. . . now is found.

For months, nigh onto a year, I have been fretting over a copy of a document and a copy of a newspaper article, both pertaining to my great-great grandmother's divorce from my great-great grandfather. They seemed to have got lost from the binder in which I have other documents from the same time period, which I received from a cousin. I could not for the life of me find these documents, and I was getting very upset.

However, one good thing came of this apparent loss. I designed a "document tracking form," a blank copy of which now resides at the front of each of the binders in which I have family information. On the form, each time I remove a document from the binder for examination, I enter the Clooz ID number, the title or nature of the document, the subject person, the document's permanent location, the date it was removed from its binder, why the document was removed from the binder, and its temporary resting place. The form remains in the binder while the document is in use, and does not come out of the binder until the document is returned to its proper place in that binder.

Peace of mind sometimes has a price. This time, however, I did not have to pay that price, in the end. A few weeks ago, I dragged out an old plastic file tub, which has hanging files in it, and which I had used to store some documents and other items before I put everything into binders. I needed the tub to store files I am accumulating for my study of the family structure of St. Augustine, FL, from 1783 to 1821. I found not only the divorce document and article, I also found some photos I had been trying to find for the past several years!

I guess the moral of that story is: Put all your stuff in one place! And do it in a timely fashion!

I am very glad I found those items, but I think the step I took to devise my "document tracking form" was a great step, too, and I have used that form most faithfully!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Geneabloggers Winter Games: Workout!

I feel like I've done a real physical Olympic competition!

First of all, yesterday, an opportunity to perform a genealogical act of kindness dropped into my lap. An individual who had seen my post about Asking the Right Question sent me an e-mail in which he said he was looking for a photo of the historian I discussed, who turns out to have boarded in his great-grandma's house in 1920! What a small world! I said I did not have a photo, but I gave him the contact information for a special library collection which holds many of his manuscripts, and may just have such a photo.

Today I organized 20 hard documents into their proper binders, in archival document sleeves. These ranged from my father-in-law's original World War II draft registration and draft classification (he was 4-F), and a 1945 Florida state census sheet to notes, official letters, funeral documents, and tombstone transcriptions. I keep binders by individual or by married couple. I also keep binders by family surname for those dribs and drabs I accumulate on a variety of people, but which are not of such volume that they need their own binder yet. But someday I know I will have to have another bookcase.

I also created at least 10 source citations, and decided that I am not going to migrate from The Master Genealogist to Family Tree Maker 2010 after all. Yes, FTM 2010 is using Elizabeth Shown Mills's sourcing templates, but it is using them too rigidly, and does not take into account original documents privately held in my own collection -- such as the aforementioned draft registration and classification cards. The template for "National Government documents," I think it was called, demanded to have me select from among National Archives or Library of Congress or other government agencies as repositories, with no way to put in that I am the repository for these documents! The Master Genealogist is still much more flexible and forgiving on that score, and was very happy to have me say that these documents are part of the "Rhodes Private Papers." No problem.

So the tally so far: 20 hard-copy documents organized, 10 source citations created, and one act of genealogical kindness performed.

Tomorrow is a class day, and I will be on campus all day, but I hope tomorrow night at the very least to backup my data to my portable hard drive with HandyBackup.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Self-Assessment

I missed last week's challenge, as I did not get to the library due to other busy-ness. But this week's challenge has these instructions:

You’re great at researching everyone else’s history, but how much of your own have you recorded? Do an assessment of your personal records and timeline events to ensure your own life is as well-documented as that of your ancestors. If you have a genealogy blog, write about the status of your own research and steps you may take to fill gaps and document your own life.

My life is documented out the yang! In fact, my life is much better documented than that of any of my ancestors. Let's see:

Birth certificate -- I have TWO of them! One from the State of California and one from the U.S. Naval Hospital at Long Beach, where I was born. The latter has entries made in my mother's handwriting, and my footprints!

Marriage announcement, marriage certificate and wedding pictures. And our champagne glasses and the guest book.

Birth certificates of our daughters, and the registration information slips I got in the mail along with 'em.

Elementary and high school report cards -- a nearly complete collection. And my high school transcript and my diploma.

College transcripts, degree certificates, course-completion certificates for non-degree courses, and other records from other courses I've taken over the years

Initiation certificates into various academic bodies including Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, various subject-specific fraternities such as Pi Sigma Alpha (political science), Beta Phi Mu (library science) and Phi Alpha Theta (history).

Initiation certificate, pledge pin, and sorority pin from Gamma Sigma Sigma service sorority (Alpha Kappa chapter at Florida State University). Also other documents and lots of photographs.

Membership certificate, awards, published articles, uniform items, photographs, certificates for completion of courses in such things as radio communications, and other memorabilia from my time in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which was BIG fun (involved taking our boat out into the St. Johns River and doing patrols and actual rescues)!

Enlistment papers, commissioning certificates, uniform items, some photographs, and my service record (reserve version and active-duty version) of my 13 years in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Purchase and sale agreements, mortgages, deeds, photographs, tax records, and other papers relating to the houses my husband and I have bought. This category also includes survey maps of each property. We also have blueprints for two houses which we had built.

Federal Income Tax returns.

A few papers, including my nursing license, from the time when I was a registered nurse.

Papers from my employment as a librarian at the Jacksonville Public Library, and from when I worked for the IRS. This includes a completed work copy of the dreaded Form SF-171, on which a prospective federal employee must document his or her ENTIRE LIFE!

Journals: (1) when I went to Port Orchard and Seattle, Washington to be a bone marrow donor for my brother, an effort that unfortunately failed. There's an insurance company on my you-know-what list. (2) my journey to and month living in Seville, Spain, when I went to do research in the General Archive of the Indies (AGI). Living in Spain was hard on me; researching at the AGI was my version of Heaven!

Two published books, so far: Booking Hawaii Five-0: A Critical History and Episode Guide to the 1968-1980 Television Detective Series and Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources. As you can see, my focus has changed!

Letters, letters, letters -- to and from family and friends, and letters of praise or complaint I have written over the years to companies and agencies. Some of my complaint letters are entertainingly caustic! Also including letters to and from my husband on his various deployments while on active duty in the Coast Guard, and when either of us was in training or on staff at the Coast Guard Reserve Training Center at Yorktown, VA.

These and other documents fill three 2-inch binders so far, as well as at least one file drawer!

The only gaps are in the stories that I have not written down yet. I have made a start, and written down several tales from my childhood,about the death of my father, about our move from California to Florida, and about my grandmother. There are many other stories I need to set down. As for censuses, I won't show up until the 1950 census is released in 2022, and I'm not sure I'm going to be around then, so that will be up to my descendants to fill in. I just have to hope they are going to want to.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Technology of Memory

This week my family -- me, my husband, our two daughters, our son-in-law, and our grandson -- have been at Walt Disney World celebrating our grandson's fifth birthday, the actual day of which is tomorrow. We have been to one Disney park per day -- the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Each place, we have had access to technology for preserving memories.

First to come to mind is probably the camera, in various forms. With today's digital cameras, we can edit our memories instantly: we can delete the fuzzy, out-of-focus, ill-lit, over-exposed or blurred photograph right at the camera. In the old days of the Brownie Hawkeye camera we were stuck with the photographs we took, and it was not until we had already paid to have them developed that we could sort through them and discard the ones that did not turn out well. These days, we can have printed only those pictures we want, and we can get this done either in a store or online.

Today's camcorder technology puts more power into a smaller package, such as the camcorder my husband recently bought, and which he can hold literally in the palm of his hand. Small as it is, it makes clear, sharp home movies. It is, believe me, a far cry from the home movies of the 1950s, when he and I were children. What was that stuff they used? Oh, yes -- film.

Film would break, become brittle, or in some climates like ours here in Florida, turn into a jelly if not properly stored. Film could be edited, but it was a clumsy, imprecise process for most people, involving special equipment and materials. It was not, in its basic form, terribly expensive, but again it was imprecise due to the imprecision of the less expensive equipment. Film was carried through the movie projector on pin-like sprockets. The film had sprocket holes, which would tear, causing the film to break or stop and burn from the heat of the projector lamp.

Also today we have personal computers, on which we can view or edit our photographs and movies. Don't like that tourist who got into the left side of your photo of Mickey Mouse with your grandson? Open the photograph in image-editing software and crop him out!

With the computers, too, we can share photographs with family members and friends all around the world, instantly. One thing we had better be able to do: label those photographs!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Data Backup Day - My Story

Several years ago, I had a catastrophic computer crash. It happened during the summer, in July. I lost a lot of data, most importantly the records I kept in my genealogy database software. I was able to reconstruct most of it from documents and printouts I had made and stored in the family binders on my bookshelf. as I tend to hang on to paper far beyond those documents which I will part with only when my will is probated and the documents are either passed on in the family or donated to the Southern Genealogists Exchange Society. The next summer, again in July, my computer crashed again. I took two actions: (1) I bought a new computer, and (2) the next June 30, I tunred my computer off, and didn't turn it on again until 1 August! Yeah, as the daughter of a naval aviator -- they being a superstitious lot -- I have my own quotient of superstition!

These days, I have generally been backing up my data, my photographs, genealogy database information, and other files onto CDs. My husband, a former civilian computer programmer for the Navy, supplied me another forum for backing up. He bought each of us an external hard drive which is constructed to Department of Defense specifications for ruggedness and durability. These are the kinds they are using in combat zones. You can run over it with a Hum-V and it will keep on ticking. You can jump out of a helicopter with one strapped to your back, land on it, and it will keep on ticking. Not sure it would stand up to an IED, but it will generally stand up to whatever I might do to it, up to and including running over it with my Chevy Tracker. That's where I keep my data.

One problem that we need to address concerning backing up to CDs is: when is the technology going to change again -- and it is going to change again -- and what are we going to do about it? One consideration in migrating to new technology for backing up data will be cost -- will we have to buy some sort of equipment? Inevitably we will -- some sort of writer/reader to create and use the data backup format, whatever it may be. I don't see an immediate prospect for that happening, as CDs seem to be a rather stable and dependable means ot storage.

What I think may change sooner than the physical format is the virtual format -- the programs we use for putting the data on the CDs and for reading it off the CDs. Will these be able to read older CDs which were created using older programs? And how about the operating systems? Will Windows 7 be able to read the CDs I created using Windows 98? Or even my current OS, Widows XP Professional? This is the nexus at which we need to be aware of changes, and keep "migrating" our stored data to the newer virtual formats. Microsoft has not been noted lately for its conscientiousness in providing "backward compatibility" through the various iterations of Windows.

So it's time for me to do some more CD backups . . .

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.

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 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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cookin' up your genealogy

Among my mother's papers I went through after she died was a fistful of 3x5 cards and clippings from newspapers and magazines. These are all recipes, some of them I believe must date back at least to World War II. My mother, Martha Shideler Reed (1916-1980) married my father Arden Packard (1911-1954) in 1937 in Pensacola, Florida. My father was taking flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

One recipe, for "Savory Casserole," starts out rather unsavory to me -- "brown 1 c. dried luncheon meat in 2 tbsp. fat." Does this sound like a thrifty ration-driven World War II recipe or what? The recipe continues: "add 1/2 c. dried onion, 1 c. celery, 1/4 c. green pepper. Cook until partially tender." Wonder how long that took? By dried luncheon meat, I wonder if that meant dried chipped beef? We had another name for that in the service, but I will not mention it here!

"Blend in -- 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 2 tbsp. flour. Add -- 2 c. canned tomatoes, 1/2 c. drained whole kernel corn. Cook until thickened. Pour into deep casserole & top with biscuits. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes."

In this recipe is a little clue: my mother must have spent time working as a secretary those many years ago, and indeed she did, so she told me, before getting married. The clue: the word "to" and the word "minutes" in the last sentence in the recipe are in Gregg shorthand. It's a good thing I took shorthand as an elective in high school!

It is also a good thing I am a paleographer -- I can usually puzzle out words which Mom didn't write all that clearly, though her handwriting was usually quite legible.

Another recipe has an ingredient that has me wondering: Her recipe for "Salmon or Tuna Fish Loaf" calls for 2 tbsp. acid. Does that mean vinegar (also known as acetic acid)? Or maybe lemon juice (a form of citric acid)? Could either one be used according to personal taste?

Another bunch of papers contained some recipes of my grandmother, Mary LeSourd (1889-1978). One of them shows economic conditions at the time, which might have been anywhere from the 1920s to the 1940s, and how they differ from today: "Ice Box Pudding -- 1 cup nuts, 2 eggs, 1 stick butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 ten cent bar German sweet chocolate, 3 five cent boxes vanilla wafers."

Five cents' worth of German's sweet chocolate today might fit on the head of a pin, and try to get three boxes of vanilla wafers for fifteen cents!

A handful of little cards, holding clues about my mother's work life and about the economic times my grandmother lived through. These recipes are for more than dishes for our table. These are recipes for family history.