Friday, October 29, 2010

The Spirits Are After Us!

How eerily appropriate that the "Girls" are together again for a few days. The spirits have been in the air and have seemed to be all around us as we have had a very busy past week. You Go Girl #1 has been visiting in Alliance for some much needed research time and we have been planning and then presenting Family History Month programs which we will report about very soon! Halloween has certainly blown in on the wind the last few days here with howling winds that have been gusting to 50 miles an hour. Outside my office window which is above the spare bedroom where Girl #1 stays, our huge flags have snapped, whipped and clanged as the metal flag buckles have banged against the flag pole both day and night bringing the eerie sounds of screams, pains, balls and chains! Sleep has been elusive as the sounds of the night winds have brought uneasy dreams.The one lone huge limb that hangs over the corrugated metal roof of our back deck has constantly scrapped the metal for three days making creepy sounds like a monster's fingernails scrapping over a blackboard. Spiders have moved indoors for the upcoming winter. The dirt and grit has been in our teeth and hair as we have ventured out to darken the doorways of the local museum to investigate records and our once "gorgeous" faces have been plastered with that same dirt mixed with snow and leaves. We have looked like a haunting pair indeed! Braving all the evil forces of nature, we even managed to make our fall pilgrimage to a couple local cemeteries to visit our dear departed love ones, thanking the Gods that they couldn't see what homely creatures had blown in with the wind to pay them homage. Our hair was standing on end as if we had been struck by lightening which complimented our overall looks. Sorry, there are no photos...we love our readers and didn't want to scare you all away!

"The final nail in the coffin", as they say, was our trip today back to the museum for more records today, ah but first a stop at the grocery store for sustenance. Nice warm buttermilk leaking from the store carton and all down the front of that You Go Girl #1 sure did leave her with the lovely odor of the rotting and decaying soil and flesh of the season. She was ripe! Finally we made it to the Heritage Room at the museum and found just what we thought was needed for records, pulled out the hand held scanner and went to work. It is so great when things go wonderfully in the world of finding elusive family of the past, however today was not the case. This operator of the scanner had ghosts looking over her shoulder, and it was turning into one Halloween that our ancestor just did not want to be disturbed. Even our usually loving ancestors did not take pity on The You Go Genealogy Girls this day, you see they were practicing for the upcoming special night, thus our ancestor's complete records are still hidden for a visit again on another day. All we got was an eerie warning from that possessed scanner, we would surely all meet again.....some day!

You Go Genealogy Girl #2-- Cheri

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Obsession With Cemeteries

What do you call a person obsessed with cemeteries or graveyards? That's easy ... a GENEALOGIST. I can spot cemeteries a mile away and sometimes think chopped down tree trunks are gravestones and imagine fallen tree trunks will lead to a mysterious graveyard in the woods. Yes, the imagination takes over.

On the constant lookout for cemeteries, I have been known to go out of the way to locate them, altering my schedule to the point I have to speed to arrive to my destination on time. After spending hours looking for an old, nearly abandoned cemetery, I was startled to see that it was under lock and key. A few graves within the site were old and I was not about to leave without getting closer to them. Tossing my camera gently over the fence, I discovered a spot near the gate that was low and I began crawling into the cemetery. It had rained the night before. The first push I gave through the mud I remember that I was wearing white slacks. Fortunately they came clean. I got my "high" for the day and took photographs of the stones. All in a day's work!

Have you ever been stalked in a cemetery? It can happen and especially if somebody wonders what you are doing or if you are alone in a cemetery. A few years ago I was enjoying my lunch in a cemetery when I realized there was a Nebraska, dirt-spitting, rip-roaring truck going up and down a road along the perimeter of the cemetery. Same truck, over and over, back and forth. Two young men in it kept watching me. Just as I got out to deposit my lunch remains in the dumpster, they were heading pell-mell through the cemetery at me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. Holding it in front of me and pointing to it, I drew it to my ear while watching them. They abruptly stopped and backed out of the cemetery, never to return again unless perhaps to bury one of their friends. Incidentally there was no cell phone signal in the cemetery!

Genealogists never stop when it comes to cemeteries. Three years ago, two of my friends and I decided to spend a crisp November day in search of abandoned, hard to locate cemeteries in this area. We packed our lunches and could hardly wait to set out in exploration of what was bound to reveal interesting tombstones in strange places. We discovered the tombstone of a young child in a flat field of corn rows. The current farmer and those before him have plowed and planted around the stone, leaving it standing in isolation for over one hundred years.

Next we discovered a few stones on top of a hill ... yes we have hills here in the Platte River Valley. Once at the top of the hill, we were not only short of breath, but breathless from the view of the valley below. For miles we could see the meandering South Platte River and could envision pioneers in their wagons, riding horses and walking thousands of miles westward. Many never made it and from that vantage point I mused on the many unmarked graves along the route.

As the sun was going down we decided, with some speedy maneuvering, we could visit one more cemetery. It was surrounded with a fence and the farmer had recently picked the corn around it. There were several graves and some were rather unusual. It was getting dark and soon even darker. One of my friends produced a small flashlight. A dim light, but better than nothing! While they struggled with the gate, I managed to return to our vehicle. About that time a corn picker in a truck came along, stopped and offered to help. That's sort of a Nebraska thing ... they either stalk you or they help you!

The other day my granddaughter and I gave a demonstration to friends on how to witch for graves. She makes it look like child's play and often grabs people's attention while witching. Some people just don't get the hang of it. Maybe they have blocked, non-believing minds. That's okay as we witch enough for everybody. Imagine walking two-thirds of a sandy, prairie-dog infested pasture before finding the place of a child's burial. We aren't nuts, just close to it!

My granddaughter says that cemeteries are peaceful and not spooky. When you visit a cemetery it has a different appearance. The stones brushed by snow, covered by red and gold leaves, surrounded by wild flowers and dripping in the summer rain, all add to the comfort and serenity of death. They rest there, but their souls are with the ageless.

You Go Genealogy Girl #1 .... Ruby (look for me in the graveyard!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebrating Family History, Nebraska Style!

This has been a busy last few days as our museum, The Knight Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance, Nebraska has been getting ready for Family History Month -now in full swing. At the center of our planning, museum employees and myself have been designing displays and getting set up for our month long celebration. We are in our brand new building this year and are excited to celebrate our families!

The centerpiece of our display is an eleven foot long pedigree chart which hangs from ceiling to floor. It contains the history of the Newberry family, one of Alliance's pioneer families and covers a span of 200 years. What a beautiful chart it is and will certainly get our visitors in the mood to begin their own genealogy research. The Heritage Room is always open and volunteers are there on Tuesdays to help visitors find their records or start their family research. Nebraska Roots and Ramblings has a nice blog all about our ongoing museum celebration and special day on Oct 28th, so be sure to check it out. You Go Girl #1 has showcased our program in fine style.

As an added bonus for us, The You Go Genealogy Girls will be together again later this month as we host local family history displays and present the program for the Heritage Seekers, our museum genealogy and historical group. We will spend a few days together again doing research, presenting our program and working on our new project: learning the wonderful aspects of "Google Earth" for genealogists. We don't seem to have enough to do already so will attempt to become proficient with maps! Lisa Louise Cooke's DVD series, "Google Earth for Genealogy", will hopefully teach these old grannies some new tricks!

If you are in the western Nebraska neighborhood, stop by and join in our Family History celebration at the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center. You just might see The You Go Genealogy Girls lurking in the halls or haunting the old sod house which is showcased in the museum. After all, Halloween will be just around the corner after our big night of Family History fun!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Celebrating Family History Month

October is Family History Month. It's time to show off your ancestors and best of all, do more research! Before the snow flies here in Nebraska I hope to get out and about this month and visit cemeteries and libraries, maybe even a courthouse or two.

The North Platte Genealogical Society is celebrating with an Open House on Saturday afternoon, October 16th. Members will have displays of their ancestral items, charts, photographs and anything that means genealogy. One of our members allowed me to use her large family tree for the display in the lobby of our local library. The lighting in the library doesn't do justice to the framed tree. It is a beautiful family tree and makes me think I need to consider making something of my own lineage.

Later this month I'll travel to the panhandle of Nebraska where I'll stay with You Go Genealogy Girl #2 and speak at her local genealogy/historical society meeting. They will also have an Open House on October 28th where people will display their ancestral artifacts and treasures. My speech is titled "Writing About Ancestors, Neighbors, Friends and Murderers."

At both open houses I plan on displaying my Ancestral Christmas Tree. It will also be on display in my living room for Christmas. I've added some new ancestors to it this year and never cease to enjoy looking at all of them.

My ancestors bring me joy and entertainment. I have pride in them and the legacy they have given me. This doesn't stop with October, but it's fun to celebrate them this month!

You Go Genealogy Girl #1 .... Ruby


Find a Grave

Search 31.6 million cemetery records at by entering a surname and clicking search: