Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012's Most Popular Posts on "My Ancestors and Me"

I'm following the bandwagon of other geneabloggers who are posting their most popular posts of 2012.  (I think Barbara Poole of Life From the Roots started it with her repost of Did You Contribute to My Top Ten Two Years Ago?  Thanks, Barbara.)  I've never self-evaluated by numbers before and it's been interesting and helpful to see which posts bring people to my blog.  Below are the 2012 most popular posts by different criteria with most popular as #1.

Most popular by number of visits
10.  The Civil War (website) - Tuesday's Tip
  9.  Farmers in Your Family Between 1850 and 1880?  - Tuesday's Tip
  8.  A Biography from the Heart:  Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen
  7.  Meinzen Confectionery, Steubenville, Ohio
  6.  Pennsylvania Certificates Online - Tuesday's Tip
  5.  Harper's Weekly Civil War Issues - Tuesday's Tip
  4.  Family History Humor
  3.  Au Gratin Potatoes a la Bill Knapp - Family Recipe Friday
  2.  It Was Ironing Day, the Day the Census Taker Came
  1.  Once a Miner, Twice a Breaker Boy - Tuesday's Tip

Most popular by number of comments  (There was a 3-way tie for number 10.)  The numbers may be skewed a bit because some of the comments may be my responses to original comments.  (I'd like to say that the Sepia Saturday bloggers are by far the most supportive group of people you can imagine.  Every Sepia Saturday post has more comments than any other post.  If you have an old photo to share, can write something about it, and would like people to view and comment on it, link it to Sepia Saturday!)
10c.  It Was Ironing Day, the Day the Census Taker Came
10b.  Which Would You Rather Have?
10a.  Farmers in Your Family Between 1850 and 1880? - Tuesday's Tip
   9.  The Civil War (website) - Tuesday's Tip
   8.  A Violin, a Guitar, and a Sweet Potato
   7.  My Mother's Little Rocker
   6.  A Summer Chore
   5.  Nine Turning Ten
   4.  Through Four Generations
   3.  The Past Is Such a Safe Place
   2.  In Work Garb
   1.  Our House Was Never Silent

Most popular by google +1s   Many posts recieved one +1, but only five received more than one.  Those are below.
5.  Which Would You Rather Have?
4.  Harper's Weekly Civil War Issues
3.  Medicine and My Ancestors
2.  Three Girls
1.  Rules for Our Ancestors - or - How to Confuse Your Descendants

As bloggers we love to know that others are reading what we wrote.  Some of us (maybe many of us) notice how many readers come to visit, what brought readers to our blogs, and which posts they view.  We also like to receive comments and think they are supportive of our efforts to share on our blogs. 

Thank you to all who visit me here and also to those of you who choose to leave comments.  I'm thankful for you, my readers, and for your comments.  I appreciate them.

Happy New Year to you and yours!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without...

... "A Child's Christmas in Wales."  No matter that Christmas was a week ago; no matter that I have no known ancestors in Wales.  Sometime during the weeks before or after Christmas, I find an hour to watch this movie.  It is one of my favorites.

The story was written by Dylan Thomas and is brought to life by several dozen actors.  On Christmas Eve young Thomas, hoping to stay up later than usual, asks his grandfather, Old Geriant, about the Christmases of his childhood in the late 1800s.  Experiences from Grandfather's childhood come to life before our eyes as we listen to the stories he tells Thomas.

This gentle, humorous movie speaks to me of family, of childhood, of love, and of family history.  I highly recommend it.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yes! I Finally Have a Name!

After two tries and a wait of nearly six months (instead of the usual four), my great-grandfather Fredrick K. Gerner's Pennsylvania death certificate arrived.  What a Christmas gift!  It's been a long wait.  After the requisite four-month wait the first request was returned with death certificates for people who were not Fred because the index number was not decipherable.  I sent a second request and included the line from the index with Fred's name and several possible interpretations of the numbers.  I also suggested that if they had a paper copy of the index they might be able to read it better than the online index.

Whenever I send a request that requires a self-addressed envelope, I enclose a colored one because I can easily tell when a family history document has arrived in the mail.  I've been watching for a colored envelope since early early November, four months after sending my request.  I explained to my husband about waiting a second time for the death certificate.  Since early November he's been telling me they'd probably never send it.  You can only imagine my excitement -- and his surprise -- when there was a robin's egg blue envelope in our mail the day before Christmas!

The certificate gave me a different birth year; Fred's cause of death; and, most wonderful, Fred's father's name; but unfortunately not his mother's name.  The informant was "Mrs. Fred K. Gerner."  Sadly anyone could have claimed to be Mrs. Fred K. Gerner.  I would have been happier if she had written her name as Mrs. Elvira Gerner but I'm sure a new widow doesn't think to use her first name when she's used her husband's name for more than 50 years. 

I suspected Fred's father's name based on other research but now that I see it on a document, I will begin an in depth search.  I'll put the information from this record together with other documents to compare, then continue research.

What a nice Christmas gift.  What a nice start to my new year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Raymond - an Unusual Christmas Memory

Because I was thinking of Raymond today, I'm republishing this post from December, 2010. 

The memory of Raymond comes to mind now and then, usually for no particular reason, but always at Christmas.

Raymond lived at the Mercer County Home in Mercer, Pennsylvania. In those days the county home was where people lived who could not take care of themselves and who had no family to take care of them. Some folks were old, some were just poor, and yet others were mentally limited. Raymond was in the latter group. The county homes were usually large buildings with farmland surrounding them. The people who lived in the county homes worked on the farms growing vegetables and crops and animals which were used to feed those who lived there.

I first met Raymond when I was a child. My parents took us to visit him several times. The last time we visited I was perhaps 10 or 11, when 10-year-olds were less mature than they are now, yet old enough to be aware that girls should be careful of strangers. We parked at the side or back of the County Home and somehow my father sent word that we were there to see Raymond. We waited a few minutes and then an older man, probably older than my father, came out. He was not very tall and had an unusual gait. He seemed different. He recognized my father and they greeted each other. Then he took my hand and started to walk away. I hesitated, feeling a little shy and wondering if I should go with this stranger. My parents gave me the nod and we all walked with him.  My memory ends there. Strange how memories often don't provide all the details.

After we left him, my father told us a little more about Raymond and explained that he had an amazing and unusual ability. Raymond's responsibility at the farm was the chickens. Dad said that when trying to gather chickens, most folks cause them to scatter. Dad had watched Raymond with chickens before:  he spread his arms wide and the chickens gathered in toward him and then went wherever he directed them. Dad said you'd never see anything like it again. He explained that Raymond was a very gentle person, something I think I sensed while we were together that day.  Remembering him now, I think of him as childlike.

The only other thing Dad said about him was that something had happened to his family and he lived with Maw and Pap Doyle, Dad's grandparents, for a while.

Searching census records for Maw and Pap, I found Raymond listed with them in the 1910 census as adopted son, 6 years old. He was nine years older than my father. Maw and Pap were 43 and 47. They weren't too old to have a child of their own that age and yet they were already grandparents. Raymond isn't with them in the 1920 census. I suspect that there was no formal adoption. Dad's half sister, Tressa, remembered that Raymond went to school with Dad and one of his friends but didn't do well. She didn't remember any more about him or how it came to be that he was living with Maw and Pap, and my father's not around to ask for more information. I'll probably never know more about Raymond's history.

I think of Raymond every Christmas because my parents, without fail and with great care, sent him a package which always included, among other things, Raymond's favorite candy.

The photo of the Mercer County Home is from Family Old Photographs.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Poor Santa

The only thing better than a letter to Santa is a visit with Santa:  you can tell him your list in person and be certain he knows exactly what you want for Christmas. 

This little girl looks like she's spent a tiring day shoppingPerhaps her mom promised her a visit with Santa if she behaved herself and didn't cry or complain.  Now that she's finally on Santa's lap she's not content to just sit and tell him what she wants for Christmas.  No, she's kneeling on his lap so she can speak right into his ear, positive that he will hear her.

After dozens and dozens of sweaty, bedraggled, demanding children, the ever-patient Santa (poor Santa!) still smiles at each.  Amazing.

I have no little ones to take to visit Santa these days and though I have friends with little children, I don't hear about visits to Santa.  Have department-store Santas -- and so many other common-place activities from the middle of the 20th century -- gone the way of the old 8-story department stores? 

Others are sharing old Christmas photographs at Sepia Saturday.  Join in the celebration if you wish!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not Quite a Carol for Christmas

Though she has been silent for a while I knew our dear footnoteMaven would not fail us with an invitation to participate in her beloved tradition of Blog Caroling.  Thank you, Maven.

It is a tradition I love too, but this year the exultant joy that I usually feel has been replaced by a deep sorrow for the families and friends of those whose lives were stolen last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.  To imagine parents and siblings having no more Christmases with those little ones makes my heart weep.  And so this Christmas, instead of the jubilant "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella" or the energetic "On Christmas Night All Christians Sing" (also known as the "Sussex Carol"), I'm sharing "Where Are You Christmas."

Wishing Christmas blessings to you and those you love.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

In Work Garb

This poor photo of my paternal great-grandfather, William Doyle (known as Billy to his friends, as Pap to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren), shows him standing in overalls near his home in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania.  He was a farmer, though he'd given over the ownership of the farm to his son, Gust, long before this photo was taken. 

If those overalls were still around and could only talk, what stories they could tell!  Of the two-mile walks to the farm on snowy winter mornings to help his son Gust, or driving there in the car in the summer.  Perhaps we'd hear stories of the horses and their work, or learn of the cows' names and which had recently had calves.  I know we'd learn about the work of planting and harvesting corn, hay, and strawberries.  Those strawberries were known for miles around.  Maybe they would tell stories about digging the coal mine and shoveling and hauling coal.  And the pockets!  Tools, coins, pen knife, and, most importantly, the pipe and Cutty Pipe tobacco, but who knows what else!  If only those overalls could talk....

Pap looks a humble, unpretentious, sensible man to me.  He was also a family man.  He tenderly taught his children and grandchildren the value of work and a job well done.

My great-grandfather was born in England and came to the U.S. as a child.  Somehow the flat cap in his hand seems British to me, but perhaps it was common hatwear in the early part of the 1900s in the U.S.

This is a contribution to Sepia Saturday.  Head on over to see what others have to say about working folks, some of which will probably be wearing overalls.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Farm Wife: A Self-Portrait, 1886-1896

Reading Farm Wife is like stepping into the home of Margaret Dow Gebby and observing life as she lived it during the ten years that she kept her diary.  I anticipated reading details about activities such as laundry, ironing, baking, keeping a home, etc.  Presumably most of that was too mundane to record because there was less of that and much more of other aspects of her life.  If you think you will read about only her work and activities, you will be disappointed.  This book contains almost as much about the work of her husband and sons as her own activities.  And interestingly, their work did not cross boundaries:  only once or twice did Margaret help with farm work and her husband as rarely with the housework.

This is not a word-for-word, day-by-day transcription of Margaret's original diaries.  Instead, the editor, Virginia E. McCormick, chose to excerpt from Margaret's entries and present them to the reader according to topic.  Interspersed with the excerpts are McCormick's observations and insights.  I found these helpful especially in light of the fact that McCormick had read all of the diaries and I was reading only parts.  Her thoughts add an interesting element to the book.

I have farmers among my ancestors and many of them lived during the years of Margaret's diaries, though not in the same location.  (Margaret and her family lived about a mile outside the town of Bellefontaine, Ohio.)  While I shouldn't assume that Margaret's life was identical to the lives of my ancestors, I think I can reasonably assume that some aspects of their lives were similar.  Though the recipe for bread may have been different there is little doubt that farm wives in many locations and in several generations baked bread.  The breed of dairy cows may have differed but tending cows would have been similar no matter where the farmer lived.  No doubt crops varied from one place to the other but the actions required to prepare the soil and plant seed would have been repeated by farmers across the States  The sum experience of farming, and being a farm wife, would probably have been similar, especially during the same years.

With that in mind, I'll tell you that I found this book very interesting and informative.  Margaret was a very careful bookkeeper.  She kept records of what was purchased and how much it cost, from sugar to buttons to cows.  I know a little more about the economy of the time as well as the frugality of a farm wife.  She also kept records of how much butter and how many eggs she carried to town, how much she was paid, and what she purchased (and what it cost) with the income from the butter and eggs.  McCormick estimated that Margaret's butter and egg business earned between 20 and 30 percent of the farm's income.  Margaret recorded the purchase prices of cows and pigs, their weights as they grew, their weights when they were sold, and the amount earned for each animal.  She also recorded where they were sold and how they were transported to the sale location.  The book was hugely enlightening.

Farm Wife answered several questions I've had about people from earlier times.
  • For instance, I pondered what people did a hundred years ago when it suddenly snowed and they needed to go somewhere.  It seemed an easy thing to get down the sleigh and more than once Margaret mentioned how good the snow was for sleighing.  
  • I've wondered about the sizes of previous generations.  I have always had the impression that people then were smaller than people of our generation.  Margaret and her husband purchased a scale to weigh their livestock.  Several times when family came to visit, they were hosted to a tour of the neighborhood, ending at the scale where everyone got out of the buggies and weighed themselves.  Margaret recorded the weights:  they were little people!  Of course it's possible that not everyone was the size of Margaret and her family but her record leads me to believe that people were generally smaller a hundred years ago.
  • I learned that a horse and buggy traveled about 50 miles in 12 hours or a little over 4 miles per hour.  (Though I didn't learn how fast a horse and wagon traveled when transporting a family for a move.)

If I have one complaint about the book it is its presentation by topics.  We miss learning of Margaret's activities day by day, knowing all she accomplished in a day.  We also miss an overall look at events and activities from season to season.  However, I can imagine that to transcribe and publish all 10 years' worth of diaries would probably comprise several volumes and be of interest to few people.  I was grateful to learn that all of Margaret's diaries are available at the Archives Library at the Ohio Historical Society.

If you have farmer ancestors in your family you may enjoy this book.  If you're interested, I've included the chapter headings and most of the topics and sub-topics below. 

Chapter heads, topics (and sub-topics) include:
  • Weather
  • Buildings, Equipment, and Hired Help (Farm Sales; Barns and Outbuildings; Farm Tools and Repairs; Windmills; Hired Men; Farm Chores
  • Crops (Planting and Harvest; Corn; Hay; Cloverseed; Wheat)
  • Livestock (Cattle; Hogs; Animal Accidents and Diseases; Horses; Pets)
  • Home
  • Housekeeping and Furnishings (Housecleaning; Hired Help; Painting and Papering; Quilts and Carpets; Kitchen; Furnace and Stoves; Yard and Flower Garden)
  • Food (Orchard and Garden; Canning and Preserving; Meat and Butchering; Cooking and Baking)
  • Butter and Egg Business
  • Clothing (Sewing and Knitting; Dressmakers and Milliners; Male and Female Wardrobes)
  • Health and Home Nursing (Accidents and Illness; Eyes, Ears, and Teeth; Birth and Death; Appendectomy)
  • Parenting (Launching Careers; Courtship)
  • Building a House for a Son and His Bride
  • Leisure (Visiting; Hunting and Fishing; Hobbies; Winter Fun; Picnics and Sociables; Club Meetings and Parties; Leisure and Reading; Lectures and Concerts)
  • Holidays (New Year's Day; Decoration Day; Fourth of July; Thanksgiving; Christmas; Miscellaneous Celebrations)
  • Celebrations (Birthdays; Weddings; Anniversaries)
  • County Fair
  • Excursions
  • School
  • Religion (Sunday Services; Prayer Meetings and Revivals; Building Fund, Pledges, and Ladies Aid; Ministers; Sunday School and Young People's Group)
  • Government (Taxes; Elections; Temperance; Citizenship)
  • Transportation and Communication (Buggies, Sleighs, and Bicycles; Passenger and Freight Trains; News)


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