Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Genealogy Research is Hard Work...Need Chocolate?

Need Chocolate?
Two things have come to mind over and over this week as I have been working diligently on my Family History Notebook in anticipation of our upcoming annual trip to Salt Lake City and the Family History Library.

One is that I always seem to crave something good to eat late at night when I am working away, not just anything... but, chocolate! Chocolate anything is great; candy, hot cocoa, chocolate cold ovaltine, chocolate milkshakes, dark Dove chocolate and Brownies. Those late night hours of 1 am to 3 am just keep on demanding chocolate.

Hunting the frig or the cupboard for something tasty to  replenish the lost brain power of organizing all those ancestors sometimes is so challenging. It even adds to the drained brain power when I have to look so hard for that chocolate around here. (Reminder to me: next year to stock up on chocolate Easter bunnies! No children around here any more so no Easter baskets to raid either.) Too bad they don't make chocolate flavored doggie treats or Babe and Misty would be looking the house over for their devoured treats too. 

The second thing which has been around this week and showing up repeatedly was the advertising which shows chocolate "stuff". Was that also due to Easter or did they all just know that I am easily drawn in by them? Everybody has been in the act. Yesterday I received my newsletter from the Custer County Historical Society in Broken Bow, Nebraska. They have a really nice little newsletter which includes the happenings with the society and the museum there. The editor included the minutes from the last meeting which were interesting on their own but at the end of nearly every paragraph of the minutes were these words: passed around a heaping plateful of homemade chocolate chip cookies, started the chocolate chip cookies around again, cookies were passed around again.  Well, OK, not all the way around this time, cleaned up the last of the cookie crumbs and we adjourned at 9:07. I must ask you all, how does one concentrate on the finer points of the newsletter when they are passing the plate of cookies around all the time and you are not there to get one? I must confess that their newsletter is a joy to read and a welcome break from the usual mundane society meeting minutes. Maybe all societies could operate more efficiently and with less conflicts within if they all served cookies or candy at their monthly meetings!

Genealogy research is hard work most of the time and taxes the brain so give yourself a break occasionally. Even if you only indulge by eating just one chocolate chip. You will get your "chocolate fix" and probably will have had to get up and move around just to find the little treasures. The energy exerted to walk into the kitchen will more than make up for that one little chip and your bones and joints will be stretched, ready for more work time. Don't mess up the plan by stashing a bowl of chips or M&M's near the computer.  Remember too that your ancestors aren't there to see you and everyone else in the house is probably sleeping in the early am hours so you can even have two chocolate chips if you want to!

One of my favorite scrap booking sites, Scrap Girls, has even been in the act this week of luring me in with chocolate. Their daily newsletter has been featuring very cute and free brownie recipe cards all week. If you love to scrapbook your family and ancestors, check out the Scrap Girls newsletter here and you can sign up. They also have cute FREE daily digital scrapbook items if you get the newsletter.

When the You Go Genealogy Girls head out for Salt Lake in May, my bag will also include this little recipe for an easy nightly chocolate fix while in the room. Fresh and hot! It is so nice that we have a small frig and microwave at the Plaza Hotel. ( Note to girl #1--bring your own treats, I don't share brownies!!!) 

This is taken from the Scrap Girls site this week with a little tweek from me. These are like those expensive little designer microwave brownies in the grocery store but cost much less.

Hot Brownie in a Mug
Microwavable ceramic coffee mug or ramekin
2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. water
1/4 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt (optional)
2 T. cocoa powder
4 T. granulated sugar
4 T. flour
Whisk water, oil and vanilla. Add cocoa and whisk. Add sugar and then flour mixing well each time. Microwave for approx. 90 seconds for a 1000 watt microwave. Center should be slightly molten , just to set. Remember it will continue to "cook" slightly when removed from microwave oven so do not overcook. (I use my overcooked first one as a paperweight on my desk so maybe that is why I crave chocolate all the time).

For fun if you are near the regular oven, plop a few mini marshmallows on under the broiler for a few seconds after you microwave or add a dollop of ice cream and caramel with pecans on top. Three white chocolate chips will melt nicely on top after you microwave the treat, just in case you want more calories.

Next time you crave a late night chocolate treat, try one! Just be sure to lay in a supply of ingredients ahead of time. Two o'clock in the morning is only for you and your ancestors, a time to reflect and yes, even to indulge a little. Happy researching!

You Go Genealogy Girl #2- Cheri

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Genealogy Memories

Write it down, keep track of it are reminding words that accompany genealogical research. I wish I had written down all of my genealogy experiences and not just all of the information gleaned from my research. Perhaps I can retrace my steps and share two experiences with my readers.

I can still remember crying. I was about ten years old and had just received a school assignment to produce a paper showing my family history. Walking home the seven blocks from school, I began to have fears and the tears began to flow. In between sobs and wiping my eyes, I told my mother about the assignment. I had the weekend to prepare and produce something probably for the ridicule of the teacher and entire class. Her words were, "Don't worry." Such motherly advice! After I had settled my emotions, she took me to a chest of drawers where she pulled out some yellowed pieces of paper. They were from the Lewis Family Reunion in Ashe Co., North Carolina. The beginning words were "Some time about the beginning of the eighteenth century a Lewis man came across the Blue Ridge Mountains ..."

My tears turned to smiles and enthusiasm. This is not exactly the document that genealogists today care to build their entire "assignment" on, but at age ten it was worth a million dollars to me. I didn't even know the name Lewis, let alone that I had an ancestor who had gone over the Blue Ridge Mountains. I had grown up in isolation from family. All of my relatives, including my maternal grandparents, lived in northeastern Tennessee and I lived in South Dakota. Unlike my school pals, I had grown to age ten without knowing my relatives.

The assignment was completed with the help of the folks involved in the Lewis Family Reunion. I received a good grade and praises from the classmates. And I was hooked. There had to be more besides those papers. In a short period of time my parents took me to northeast Tennessee for that long awaited visit. I met my grandparents and a host of other relatives, some in North Carolina. Fortunately my Granny was a story teller, usually following them up with documents and photographs. Grandpa Steve was quiet, but occasionally I could get him to talk, particularly about his father who had served in the Confederate Army. History was coming alive compliments of my ancestors.

For me genealogical research began the moment I looked at those Lewis Family Reunion papers. In some respects it also ended there. Many years later I still cannot find good proof as to the parents of the man who came across the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are theories and ideas, some far fetched and some a possibility. I haven't stopped looking and searching, but have also moved on to researching thousands of other ancestors. My research experiences have taken me north, south, east and west. Each is diverse and provides a world of knowledge, not only of ancestors, but geography, history and culture. They are all part of my inheritance.

Many times I have experienced genealogy close to home and once in my backyard. In December of 1998 my husband and I moved from northwest Iowa to a community near Des Moines. As we prepared for the move, I began looking at my genealogy files to see if perhaps there were relatives, living or dead, in that area of Iowa. I made a list that I wanted to eventually investigate. One person leaped out on that list. She was my husband's third great aunt, Cynthia Gettis Hopson Brown. I knew very little about her other than she died 11 March 1921 in Van Meter, Dallas Co., Iowa, not far from our new home.

Once unpacked and through Christmas, I couldn't wait to investigate the records in Dallas County where she died. The courthouse in Adel proved to be a gold mine for the genealogist. I pulled a huge death record book for 1921 off the shelf, hoping to find her name in it. There she was .... Cynthia Brown, followed across two pages with vital information. The place of burial was Stuart, Iowa, my new home town. I rushed to my car and tried not to get a speeding ticket on the way back to Stuart. Screeching into a parking place in front of City Hall, I ran inside, out of breath and said "cemetery records." The clerk smiled and pulled a book off the shelf. She told me how to locate Aunt Cynthia's grave. She is buried beside her second husband and two children by her first husband.

Spring arrived and we had settled into the condo we had purchased. When we purchased the condo we were told we were also half owners of the empty lot beside it. The neighbors who lived on the other side were also half owners. They were more than willing to let us clean up the overgrown lot since it was beside our condo.

We discovered there had been a house on the lot. After removing brambles and liter that had blown in, we could see a decaying foundation. There appeared to be a stone path from the foundation out to the street. Closer to the street was an odd shaped, old pump. As the weather warmed and Iowa humidity set in, we were entertained by a show of flowers on the lot ... tulips, roses, lilies, phlox. A little stream of water flowed along the lot line, producing green hues of water cress and creeping vines. At night from our deck we watched the fire flies among the bushes and trees on "our lot."

Eventually I learned that Aunt Cynthia's husband, James Brown, had owned numerous parcels of land in Stuart. He was a contractor and carpenter, building houses, speculating and selling them. Their son owned a house down the street from our condo. It was a little cottage, now run down, abandoned and boarded over.

We were no more settled into our condo, enjoying life in central Iowa, when we decided to move back to Nebraska. Just before our move, I wrote to one of Aunt Cynthia's granddaughters who lived east of Des Moines. She mailed me a large envelope of clippings photographs and old letters. In the stack of photographs was one of Uncle James and Aunt Cynthia taken late in life. They were standing beside an odd looking pump. The background matched what I was seeing from my deck.

Life and research had gone full circle. We owned their property. Aunt Cynthia had probably planted those flowers. Had she also watched fireflies at night and admired the little stream flowing beside her house?

We moved back to Nebraska. There are many times I dream about that adjoining lot ... the flowers, the old pump, the decaying foundation, the rock path, the little stream and the fire flies. I think of Aunt Cynthia and Uncle James. I would give anything for one more evening in Iowa to watch the setting sun bounce rays off the old pump and envision her picking flowers. This is genealogy as fine as it gets!

I love those genealogy memories.

Ruby .... You Go Genealogy Girl #1

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Going to Salt Lake City

The GIRLS are going to Salt Lake City to the Family History Library! We arrive at the Plaza Hotel on May 22nd and will be there two weeks. We hope to have a productive two weeks, meet old friends and new friends and come home with a lot of genealogy treasures.

In order to do this, we need a plan. We each have large research notebooks. These contain to-do sheets which begin as print-outs from the Family History Library Catalog. In case you haven't noticed the FamilySearch web page does allow you to go back to the "old" catalog, which we prefer. Just click on "Go to the previous site" which is in a blue box. We print out the library catalog entries of interest for film, fiche and books. I label mine according to the floors of the library, such as the 3rd floor being the US and Canada book floor. Then I add notes regarding why I am using that book, fiche or film. Each year my research notebook seems to grow. I never get through everything while there, but I definitely make progress, all because I have a plan.

I also want to get as much research done at home before leaving for Salt Lake City. That means making sure I have documents that are needed, such as death certificates and obituaries. The original documents stay at home. If necessary, I place pdfs and jpgs on my laptop for reference. The research papers in the notebook are either in order of preference or by family group all under each floor of the library. Sometimes they don't stay in any specific order. As I study the various individuals or families in need of research, I make a list of goals or objectives. Those dead end lines will be first on my list.

While in the library it is a good idea to not just copy or scan. Be sure you read and evaluate. Our late evenings are usually spend doing that and deciding if we need to look at film or books that were not on our list. We also rearrange our bag on wheels in preparation for the next day, then fall asleep with sweet dreams of finding our ancestors.

As many of you know, I have a little car known as Lil' Red. It is overloaded by the time we reach our destination. Last year it took three carts and three hotel employees to help us to our room. We hope to have a lighter trip this year. Last year we took scanners and a printer along with an extra table. Those will all stay home this year.

Our arrival night will be spent unpacking, arranging and rearranging. The library is not open so we won't be tempted to drop everything in the floor and rush over there. I don't take my large research notebook to the library each day, but sort through the papers that I want for the day. Those go with me in a smaller notebook. Because we stay at the Plaza Hotel next door to the library, I can always go back for more papers. Before setting out for the library each morning, I remind myself that I need to pace the day, take some breaks, walk around or go back to the room and relax. Otherwise I will not be healthy enough to finish two weeks at the library.

It is interesting to see how people go prepared to the library. Many have bags on wheels which contain their research work, perhaps a laptop computer and accessories. Others have tote bags or just carry in a notebook. We go to stay and park our "stuff" so we have the bags on wheels. A necessity is a lock and cable for the laptops. I also take my iPod Touch which I do not leave unattended. I suspect YGGG #2 (Cheri) will be taking her iPad.

We both have hand held scanners that take up limited space. They are great for making scans of pages in oversized books. There are also scanners available for public use on each floor. Our hand held scanners are VuPoint Magic Wands. Even though we will scan there will be plenty of photocopies made from books and microfilm.

All too soon our time will be over and we will say goodbye to Salt Lake City. It will be time to head Lil' Red east and head back to Nebraska. We will talk all the way home about what we found and didn't find. It will also be those hours that we can decide what we needed that wasn't brought and what we brought we didn't need. Unfortunately we will forget and not write it down. Next year we'll start all over trying to decide what to take or leave at home. Some of that lack of organization may be blamed on age!

If you are in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library during our visit, look us up. We're the You Go Genealogy Girls, Cheri and Ruby. You will find us all day long and evening on one of the five floors of the library.

You Go Genealogy Girl #1 Ruby

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obsessed with Genealogy

Genealogy is not a foreign word today. If not interested people are at least well acquainted with the term, which sometimes mispronounced, means tracing your family history ... or something like that. The first question out of the mouths of non-genealogists is "How far have you traced your genealogy?" Which family, which line, and how far is far? What do they want to hear? That I have traced my genealogy back to 1000 B.C.? Or should I tell them that I have never gotten further back than one of my great, great grandmothers?

Why do people recognize the term "genealogy?" Turn on the TV and there you have it. Advertisements by about the shaking leaf and success as well as the series Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC all add to the possibility that people know about the strange word that also entertains and delights us.

It's an obsession. I am obsessed with genealogy. I have no personal life. I don't leave home without my ancestors. Three weeks ago I had my second knee replacement surgery and I took my ancestors with me. Soon after the surgery and before the spinal wore off, I was checking e-mails and family trees on my iPod Touch. I had a stack of genealogy magazines which entertained me between vital checks and physical therapy work-outs.

It doesn't matter how far back I have traced some and not other. Unlike the popular series Who Do You Think You Are?, research doesn't happen in one hour or less, allowing time for commercials. It doesn't happen in one click of the mouse and bingo you have a hit. I have never counted my hits and misses of research, but I am most certain the misses would outnumber the hits. Genealogical research requires patience. I patiently wait for the release of records, such as the 1940 U.S. Census. Records are being indexed and digitized then appearing on The subscription databases are growing with new additions.

Is there some sort of unknown secret to genealogical success? I would have to say yes and no. Genealogists like to share their secrets ... flaunt their "finds." They checked here and they checked there what resources are the best and now to get from 1 to 2. The big secret that I have is to walk in your ancestor's shoes. Go to their level, their time period and then start reasoning. Put yourself in their place. Don't forget to do the unusual. They were humans and just like you and me, they did strange things. That's it! They were human beings. They were not names on a piece of paper or in a computer database.

It's time for my physical therapy to begin. Before long I'll be walking in my ancestor's shoes to the cemetery, to the courthouse and library. I will be an observer in the present with my eyes to the past.

Ruby .... You Go Genealogy Girl #1 ... obsessed and in love with my ancestors!


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