Tuesday, October 17, 2017
I may have gotten bogged down in the Bs in The Cleanup, but don't think it will be clear sailing, now that I've emerged into the Cs. If you've ever noticed all my tags at the end of posts and concluded that I don't have many surnames beginning with that letter, you would be correct. Out of the twenty one topic labels beginning with C that I've used in the nearly six and a half years I've been blogging at A Family Tapestry, only four of them refer to surnames. And even two of those are surnames which are tangential to my families' lines.
So as we journey into the section of my file cabinet reserved for genealogical topics beginning with the letter C, there really isn't going to be much that is directly affiliated with a surname.
That may seem to be a good sign. After all, I've been working at this re-organization project for seventeen days now, and I've only conquered two letters of a twenty six character alphabet. But don't think the lack of folders for surnames will speed me along. Each of these folders is labeled with a research topic, sure to be filled with tips on where to find more information on the background subjects which allow us to see our ancestors come alive again (at least in our mind's eye).
For instance, today's folder bids me reconsider what I've learned about researching the genealogy of Catholic ancestors. This is not a compact issue. There is much about the structure and culture of the Catholic Church which has enabled researchers to find out more about their ancestors, thankfully, but even this presents a learning curve for a novice researcher—just as I was, twenty to thirty years ago—particularly for someone who is not personally of the Catholic faith.
Many of the pages saved in my "Catholic" folder referred—not that you'd be surprised—to books. Some volumes were relatively new; others centuries old. One recommended title, Catholic Trails West: The Founding Catholic Families of Pennsylvania, was actually published in 1988, "only" twenty nine years ago. It apparently came in two volumes, though the second volume doesn't seem to be available anymore—a problem, since my mother-in-law's family would be listed, if at all, in the second volume. What a wonder has unfolded, in those ensuing years, as at least the first volume of the book is now available to Ancestry subscribers online.
The trick is finding those old resources now. Another long-pursued resource, I was told, would be the "Goshenhoppen Records," but where to find them, according to these old 1999 file folders, was the main question. It took some current-day googling magic to uncover the hiding place for one online stash of transcriptions of those Goshenhoppen records—both baptisms and marriages—but stuff like this is now out there, if you are willing to hunt for it.
Before you can know to look for it, though, you have to know it's out there—and to know why you would want to look for it. In my case, it was years of putting in time in background reading to learn that the Catholics in this time period were likely to move as a group—and did, often, from chapel to chapel to chapel, as priests established new places of worship as they moved westward. That, in fact, was what brought my mother-in-law's family west to Ohio; her ancestors settled where the state's first Catholic Church had been established. I had to learn that before I could know to look for the records of each stopping place along the way.
Above: "On the Saco," undated oil painting by American artist Albert Bierstadt (1830 - 1902); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Monday, October 16, 2017
For those who've noticed how I've gotten stuck, in my Fall Cleanup project, at only the "B" files, you may have wondered if I found any answers with another surname starting with that same letter.
The short answer: maybe.
The longer answer has to go around the detour of another file folder: the one I set up for "Books—sources for rare book publishers." Apparently, those well-informed, diligent researchers I met in my early-online-genealogy researching days were hot on the trail of out-of-print books sure to produce answers to their genealogical questions. Since some volumes having to do with Frederick County, Maryland, were among the publications being sought, I had to hold on to those pages in the folder. Yet again, my intent to toss these files has been foiled.
The verdict rests upon whether I can conjure up those website addresses after, yea, these many years.
In the meantime, I moved on to that next file folder—and yes, it was for my Broyles line. A thick folder. This stack of papers will take quite a bit of consideration. While I don't recall having stumbled upon any answers to my migration mystery of the past month, I'll be sure to check the contents of this file carefully.
Once again, this file contains numerous very old website addresses, plus a lot of email correspondence with distant cousins. One letter was to someone who turned out to be a ninth cousin in that Broyles line. How I wish some of these old contacts had been around to do a DNA test!
As it turns out, one researcher had actually sent me a copy of the Arthur Leslie Keith manuscript, so while I've been checking it out via its online source in the past month, I had a paper copy of it, all along. Truth be told, I'd much rather go through the digital copy, for it's handily searchable, speeding the research process. But I'm glad to have one at hand to refer to, if needed.
Better yet, the copy included a hand-written note with the email of the helpful Broyles cousin who had provided it to me. I have often thought of that Broyles connection, as I struggled over my research questions in the past month. Another distant Broyles cousin, this man was well versed in the many branches and descendants in this line. His own part of the Broyles family tree included a Broyles ancestor who had gone west to California during the Gold Rush era. You can be sure he had some colorful stories to share about his ancestor's experiences. I've often wondered if I could still connect with him. I guess now, I won't need to wonder much longer.
As the process continues, I'm afraid I'm not much of an organizer of old files. The more I search, the more I find that I can't bear to live without. Even trying to re-organize, consolidate files, and put in newer formats doesn't seem to be a workable strategy, for every step mushrooms into a larger to-do pile than what I started with, originally.
One thing I can say, though: at least I'm now out of the "B" folder and into the "C" section. Progress may be slow, but at least it is moving forward.
Above: "Berlin: Victory Avenue with Victory Column in Autumn," undated pastel on cardboard by German artist Lesser Ury (1861 - 1931); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
As wildfires tore through the landscape in the northern California wine country this past week, I received several concerned phone calls. "Are you alright?" was the question, though the fires in Sonoma County are over one hundred miles removed from my home. Some people don't comprehend the enormity of a state this size, and it takes a phone call to put it all in perspective for well-meaning friends and family.
Though our family is far removed from harm's way, in a different way, the fires still touch my life. It wasn't even two years ago when I wrote about a break in my schedule for a few days' getaway to Santa Rosa, county seat of the same Sonoma County which, this past week, has been so devastated. That historic round barn I wrote about in that post from November 18, 2015? Gone. Completely.
It's not just the historic landmarks—not to mention the many beloved favorite places—that have been lost, but, for me, a more personal connection, as well. Santa Rosa was the childhood home of my first husband, the one whose story I shared four years ago, starting with this post. Today would have been his sister's birthday, but—along with her brother and both her parents—she is no longer with us to even see all the devastation hitting her hometown.
It's sobering to see the before-and-after photo recap of some of the losses, such as the one offered in Santa Rosa's local newspaper, The Press Democrat. In linking to those photos, I've cued the sequence to begin with the photo of the round barn as it once stood; clicking through to the next photo shows you what is now left, after last Monday's fire.
With devastation like this, it's not just the tangible that has been lost; it's as if the soul has lost something, as well.
While so many people were scrambling for their lives only one hundred miles away this past week, I was going through my file cabinets, trying to find and extricate myself from all the "stuff" that bogs us down—the clutter we can most certainly live without. With each file I review, however, it seems my resolve to divest myself of my holdings has gradually weakened. There is so much to remember.
As I worked on that Ambrose file, then followed along both the alphabet and my mother-in-law's family's migratory pathway, the papers I saved reminded me of what I had found in research efforts nearly twenty years ago. The end of the trail, going backwards in time from Ohio, through Pennsylvania, then closer to the Atlantic seaport where the immigrant founder families surely stepped off their tiny sailing vessel in the early 1700s, was likely near the place where they first settled in Frederick County, Maryland.
The only problem has been that the place I saw named was a place I could never find: Monocacy, Maryland. I always satisfied myself, in the face of that puzzle, with calling it simply "Frederick County," and leaving off any designation of a town.
Curiosity finally got the best of me, and this week I googled it. Entering "Monocacy" in the search box didn't seem to produce any helpful results, though. I found information on the river, the Civil War Battle, and the National Park commemorating the site. But no town by that name.
I'm not sure how I stumbled upon it, but I finally found out why I couldn't find the place called Monocacy—the place where my mother-in-law's ancestors once lived. The reason? The village, probably founded sometime between 1725 and 1730, is no longer in existence. Even as recently as the end of the next century, people were no longer sure of its original location.
That's a haunting thought: could people forget something as heart-important as someone's hometown as soon as the close of the next century? What about those blackened hundreds of homes and businesses all across Santa Rosa? Will all that turmoil—and the people whose lives have been upended—be forgotten as soon as 2187?
Above: Remembering the Fountaingrove Round Barn of northern Santa Rosa, as it stood in 2015; photograph courtesy Chris Stevens.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
One of my hopes, during The Cleanup, was to take my old paper copies of genealogical significance and convert them into digital files. Gone, with the magic of a scanner, would be pages upon pages of old notes and records. I had visions of empty drawers in no-longer-necessary file cabinets.
This, however, was not to be—if I kept discovering papers I still can't bear to part with.
By the time I got to the file folder for "B," I discovered one detour around that problem: many of my notes in the "Berks" file were for old, mostly out-of-print reference books I had meant to consult long ago—if I could ever find a copy.
The solution, I figured, would be to check those old titles now and see what could be found online. After all, places like Internet Archive, HathiTrust, the Digital Public Library of America, among others, make it possible to find research resources that otherwise might only be apprehended on a grand safari to the legendary Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
The problem is: that option only works for books now in the public domain. One of the books referenced in my notes in this file folder was entitled Epitaphs: Handbook of Historic Family Graveyards, Berks County, Pennsylvania. The book was published by the Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation in 1999. Not exactly an antique.
As it turned out, antique or no antique, the book is now out of print. At least, that's according to Amazon—and I figure they would know a thing or two about books. Still, a title like that made me think it might be a book that would come in handy for my mother-in-law's Flowers family heritage in Berks County, so I tried taking a different approach.
If I can't buy the thing, perhaps I can borrow it, I thought, but no—the nearest library for me, according to WorldCat, other than the one at the end of a six hour drive down to Los Angeles, would be...you guessed it...that library in Salt Lake City.
Still, there were other books listed which were classified as publications in the public domain, thankfully, and I was able to locate, online, a digital copy of one referenced in my many emails with other Berks County researchers: Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania. This is the type of resource that the Internet Archive is appreciated for. Not only can I peruse the volume at my convenience in comfy clothes, sipping a hot chocolate at three in the morning (if I please), but I can make an electronic note of the whereabouts of the tome, and chuck the offending bit of paper upon which I had scribbled the reminder to myself twenty years ago.
This, page by page, is how I make progress in emptying my old file cabinet and re-purposing it for more current uses.
Above: "Autumn Landscape," 1870 oil on board by New Hampshire native Alfred Thompson Bricher; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Friday, October 13, 2017
I know, I know: at this rate, I won't make it to the end of the file cabinet before I run out of days in this month. Nobody ever promised that this Fall Cleanup project would come to a neat stopping point at the end of October. Cheer up, though: I am making progress.
Finding old notes from, say, 1998 sure can boost one's research progress. I'm stumbling upon hints I promised myself I'd follow up on, nearly twenty years ago. Of course, I've forgotten about most of this material. But I'm certainly glad to have rediscovered it.
Today's folder, the first in the "B" section of my slowly-revamped file cabinet, held the contents for a geographic area once home to my mother-in-law's family. I have to laugh when I think of all the material I had saved for my mother-in-law's tree; when I first interviewed her to get started on this research project, she felt certain that I wouldn't find much. After all, according to her, this family had likely just "gotten off the boat" only a couple generations before hers.
The geographic spot detailed in my file folder for her family was for Berks County, Pennsylvania—at the start of the 1770s. Apparently, at that point, Berks was a new county in Pennsylvania, having been formed from three of only four counties which existed in the colony prior to the 1752 Berks County formation. That, in the 1770s, became the home of my mother-in-law's immigrant ancestors Henry and Rosina Flowers.
The Berks folder contained many reprints of online articles and personal emails to me from other researchers, dating back to 1997. Most of them had references to books or website addresses.
I thought it might be interesting to see if any of those sources would be available today. Though the search was worth the try, I doubted I'd find anything. Still, once having found the answer, I could then toss the paper and downsize my research holdings in all good conscience.
Remember Geo-Cities? How about the user pages at familytreemaker.com? These were the types of references I ended up putting through their paces. To nobody's surprise, the Geo-Cities reference led to a generic Yahoo page, scoring me one basket in the throw-away contest. And gone were the user pages at familytreemaker—though I found, thanks to Google, some of those addresses were redirected to the User Home Pages section of genealogy.com. No surprises there. But I was surprised to see how many other references still existed online.
One resource still available turned out to house the updated version of some reports written by a researcher named Bob Reinsel. Though the URL was slightly altered from the original one I had noted in my records, it still contained the very items I had printed up for future reference, back in the 1990s. These were spot on for my mother-in-law's migrating Catholic family, including articles on the changing geography of colonial Pennsylvania and the migration patterns of the Catholic church through Pennsylvania.
While the original articles I had in my files included details that obviously needed some correction—provided in the updated version of the website—they were useful in a trailblazing sort of way. They provided me keywords and tips for where to pursue further record searches. The only down side was that the records these articles pointed me to were, in and of themselves, difficult if not impossible for me to access. Thus, the reason behind my saving them in a file for future use.
Hopefully, that time may well be now. The next step, in evaluating what to keep from this "Berks" folder, is to see which of those old books and websites can be accessed now, nearly twenty years since I first discovered them, thanks to the email and forum friendships I had struck up with fellow researchers so long ago.
Above: "Autumn in America, Oneida County, New York," undated oil on canvas by American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt (1830 - 1902); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
There is absolutely no way to simply purge a file cabinet full of folders of genealogical material. I knew, in this Fall Cleanup project, that I would run into a roadblock somewhere.
I wasn't expecting it to come with the letter "A."
Sure enough, no sooner had I flipped through the first few papers in my file for the surname Ambrose than I uncovered some long-forgotten resources providing me the back story to some colonial ancestors. Many of these treasures were from pages posted online by other researchers—tucked away in user pages at the FamilyTreeMaker website, or the "freepages" at Rootsweb, or on a person's own website back in the 1990s—which shared much more than just pedigree charts.
Looking through the clippings I had saved, it was obvious that many of my fellow Ambrose researchers—indeed, of researchers in that era pursuing any of the same surnames as I was—were concerned with far more than the bare bones facts of name, dates and locations. They wanted to know the reasons why their ancestors did what they did. The wanted to understand the life surrounding those people and what motivated them to make the choices they did.
For the most part, that goal takes an understanding of history, but often, that history was local. I was grateful for anyone who had taken the time to understand what was happening in the area where my ancestors once lived, three hundred years ago and more. Whenever I found an article explaining a key aspect of life in the neighborhoods where my ancestors lived, I tried to print up a copy of the material and file it in the appropriate folder.
And now, look at me: going back over these now-forgotten notes from nearly twenty years ago with that déjà vu feeling—yet knowing I had read them before, and that I was right when I thought it was important.
The only problem is: how can I toss those papers now? Saving them will mean incorporating them into my current research system by scanning them as an e-document or transcribing the significant parts as notes in my research journal. These are not blips of details that can be shoved into the fields in a genealogical database management system. Articles of substance really do need a place of their own, if they are materials that need to be consulted over and over.
Some of the material explained the reasons behind situations much like the ones I wondered about when I was pursuing my Davis, Broyles and Tilson lines in the colonial Virginia wilderness last month. One article discussed the waves of migration westward—in the 1700s, before the American Revolution. Another reviewed the reasons why it was hard to track a specific surname in records of that era (a combination of multiple languages, liberties with phonetic spelling, and inability to double-check what was written due to illiteracy). One valuable article reviewed the main migration routes and chapels of the Catholics in Pennsylvania.
All of these articles were important to me, because they were the very topics that concerned the history of my mother-in-law's family, one of the families which, of course, I've been dedicated to researching over the years. Understanding the back story on these movements through time, across the continent, helped me see the fuller picture on just who those ancestors really were. The greater history also helped me zero in on the micro-history of my family, helping me to learn where the best resources might be for the specific documents I'd want to find to verify my family's story.
Along with emails providing the names of useful books on these topics—and the likely places where I could access that material back in 1999—the articles and letters I kept will likely take a lot more time to save, in my current digitized system, than merely deciding, yea or nay, whether to save them.
The material, itself, serves to provide an enriched version of my family's story. In my mother-in-law's story, it means appreciating the struggle of Catholic families escaping the war-torn turmoil of their European homes only to find themselves moving westward through the states of Maryland and then Pennsylvania, seeking a haven where they could, finally, put down roots and call a place home.
I had forgotten that many of the answers to those broad questions were all filed in a slim folder with the simple label "Ambrose" up on top.
Above: "Autumn Landscape in Rybiniszki," 1902 watercolor on paper by Polish artist Stanislaw Maslowski; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
With the two lowest drawers in my erstwhile genealogy file cabinet emptied of all their former paper occupants, it's time to move on to some real old family history notes. I'm jumping over the nitty gritty of the mundane side of this Fall Cleanup project—the part about moving files, fixing the frame for my hanging file system, emptying and adjusting old folders—and going straight to my first file folder in that top drawer.
As much as I could, I filed stuff by surname, in alpha order. Sure, there were other topics listed (which, once upon a time, were stacked in alpha order in a drawer all their own, before Life got in the way and evicted them for more urgent topics). This, now, becomes my first chance to take a long look at each folder and decide what to keep and what to add to the next recycling pickup's shredding pile.
Nothing is ever simple, of course, and as much as I'm currently obsessed with the history of us as digital-age genealogists, I couldn't even make it through one measly file folder without getting sidetracked by all the fascinating details.
This was, after all, a folder complete with all my correspondence exchanged with other researchers pursuing the surname Ambrose—circa 1999.
Ambrose is a surname way at the other end of my mother-in-law's family history—the point at which they arrived in the New World from places as-yet unknown. I know they were once living in Frederick County, Maryland, when Maryland was merely a colony in the expansive British Empire, not a tiny state in the U.S.A.
The patriarch of this particular line, best I can tell from those 1999 inquiries with other Ambrose researchers, was a man named Matthias Ambrose. Born in Germany in what, on his headstone from 1784, looks like the date 1696, he was buried in Frederick County.
His namesake son, however, died in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, having listed the two daughters of interest to my mother-in-law's line in his 1804 will—thankfully—before his passing. Those two Ambrose daughters—Elizabeth and her younger sister Susannah—happened to marry two Flowers men, Joseph and his older brother, John Henry, and eventually settled in Perry County, Ohio. That line of Joseph Flowers and Elizabeth Ambrose eventually became the far end of the patriline ending with my mother-in-law's father.
Long before Ancestry.com became the go-to online resource it has become today, researchers had several options available to them, besides the typical on-site route. Services such as my Prodigy connection hosted online interest groups, and you can be sure there were several options for genealogy enthusiasts there. Anyone who used a desktop-resident genealogical database management system could usually find a users' group, or even a special website devoting space to "User Home Page Reports," such as the one dedicated for that purpose at the erstwhile Family Tree Maker's Genealogy Site, where I found one user's "home page" detailing all her Ambrose connections.
I developed long-term email relationships with researchers at both of those online resources, and from other resources as well. One helpful site was the one known as Rootsweb. Now hosted by Ancestry, the free site included mailing lists for geographic locations as well as surnames. I preferred using the geographic lists, organized first by state and then by county, where I could sign up in "digest" form to receive all communications on Frederick County, Maryland, and could inquire about other researchers seeking those Ambrose ancestors.
The same went for another online message board, GenForum. At both places, I'd regularly post inquiries seeking other researchers working on the same lines. Some of those connections led to diligent researchers, who often were situated closer to the geographic area, making it easier for them to access cemeteries or newspaper articles of interest to the other kazillion distant Ambrose cousins also seeking the same details.
Sometimes, the connections were as simple as the cheery note from one Ambrose researcher:
I'm also working on the Matthias Ambrose line, being a descendant of his daughter Catherine, who married Johannes Weller. From which child are you descended?
Some of those notes I've saved from 1999 led to bigger discoveries and sharing of resources. A note that began, "It's always great to find another Internet cousin!" connected me with a direct descendant of the Ambrose grandparents of Elizabeth and Susannah—but don't let that dizzying genealogical distance distract you; it's the amount of information she was willing to share, via email, that was significant.
While some researchers showed up to humbly ask for help, others checked in online as a resource to others. Their offerings were often impressive, like those of one woman who I first met on account of her query about land records and "liber abstracts" in Maryland. It turned out she was willing to share extensively her discoveries on the Ambrose surname in general and the family tree in particular.
Of course, for each significant exchange I engaged in, I felt compelled—in that 1990s style—to print up those emails and file them under the applicable surname. Thus, the folder labeled Ambrose, my first job to tackle while decluttering my file cabinet.
Now, I'm not so sure I can just chuck those items; they call me back to an era in which like-minded researchers shared their keen interest in specific details of ancestors long gone. It was a time of collegial courtesy, an opportunity to share as well as receive.
After I had helped one Ambrose researcher with a particularly insightful question, he sent his cordial thanks, along with this remark:
In a world so troubled as the one we live in, I cannot express the joy that I have gotten from genealogy and the wonderful people I have been lucky enough and privileged to meet.
How can I toss a correspondence like that? It has not only become a document of the path we collectively took to rediscover our forebears; it has become an example of one era in the ongoing history of genealogical pursuits that, in retrospect, takes on the aura of a golden age of cooperative effort.
Above: "Autumn on the Hudson," 1875 oil on canvas by Hudson River School landscape artist Jasper Francis Cropsey; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.