Monday, April 30, 2012

DEAD - Military Monday

I usually work backward in time when searching for resources to document an ancestor's life. From death to marriage to birth (and events in between). I often know the end of his or her life before the middle and beginning. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see "DEAD" stamped across one of the last pages of my great-great-grandfather Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File. I knew he was dead and has been for nearly 105 years. And yet, seeing "DEAD" in big, bold letters brought an unexpected wave of sadness when I saw it.

In recent months I've been following Ellis's life as I've worked my way through his pension file, page by page, document by document, transcribing each. It seems like I've just been getting to know him.

Toward the end of 1890, at the age of 50, he filed a claim for disability for chronic catarrh and chronic bronchitis. At his physical exam in February, 1891, the doctor noted that Ellis was 6' tall, weighted 160 pounds, and was 51 years old. Several months later he was awarded a pension of $8.00 per month for disease of respiratory organs.

As I followed Ellis through his exams in 1890, 1892, 1894, and 1899, I saw a man who felt worse than the doctors recorded him to be. At each exam his height and weight decreased. His hair went from brown to gray. He was rejected for an increase each time he requested one until finally, in 1902, the doctors recommended an increase to $10.00 per month. By then he was 5' 10" tall, weighed 140 pounds, was 62 years old, and, the doctors noted, was a victim of senile debility. In 1905 the doctors recommended a pension of $12.00 per month.

Maybe he had never been in robust health. Maybe he had and the Civil War took it out of him. He had been a farmer in his early adulthood and a carpenter in the years after the war, but by 1890 even the doctors saw that his ability to work as a carpenter had become limited.

All the while I was transcribing I was cheering Ellis on. Try one more time for an increase. Don't work too hard, don't tire yourself beyond what you can do. Don't give up. Exercise a little and eat healthy foods. I hoped he'd found some medication that helped his respiratory symptoms and gave him a little peace from his aches and pains.

For 17 years I followed Ellis's trail through moves, affidavits stating he was who he said he was, and doctors' exams. And then, "DEAD." In 1907 Ellis took his own life. Perhaps the senile debility played the largest part in his choice but I can't help but think that he was worn out from dealing with his health problems.

Transcribing a pension file is almost like watching a life in fast forward. Unlike the near-perfect view of an ancestor one sees in a series of photographs, a pension file compresses years into the nitty gritty unpleasantness of illness. A few dozen pages of records span a dozen or more years. An ancestor goes from a single health problem to decreased health, multiple problems, senility, and death in the time it takes to read the records. The years go by quickly and the effects of the passage of time surprise the reader.

"Dead." Yes, I knew he was but it came so quickly and, once again, it fills me with sadness.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Mother's Little Rocker

My mother, Audrey Meinzen Doyle, is sitting in what has become a family heirloom. I can't tell if she has a little scowl on her face or if it's curiosity I see as she peers at us. I love the big bow in her hair, the little doll in her lap, and her plump little hands. I'm still surprised when I see photographs of furniture out-of-doors, away from its natural, protected environment inside a house or building.

This little rocker sat in our home all the while I was growing up, used by my siblings and me as we grew into and out of its size. It continued to sit in my parents' living room during the years little grandchildren visited and it remained there until we removed my mother's possessions from her home before selling the house. The little rocker came home with me; its sister piece of furniture, a little cupboard built of the same dark-stained oak, went home with my sister.

My mom was born in 1915 in Warren, Ohio, but after her first two or three years lived the rest of her life in nearby Mineral Ridge. I'm guessing the approximate date of this photograph as 1920 because Mom looks about 5. Could this be a birthday photo (she was born in June) with a birthday gift of the rocker?

Mom once told me that her grandfather made this chair for her but she never named which grandfather. In some families that might not cause uncertainty but in my family it does: both of my mother's grandfathers were carpenters! The grandfathers in question are her maternal grandfather, Edward Jesse Bickerstaff, left, and her paternal grandfather, Henry Carl Meinzen, right.

Edward J. and his wife, Mary Thompson, also lived in Mineral Ridge. In 1920 Edward J. turned 49 years old. He was a carpenter by trade, built homes, and was experienced with tools. Henry C. lived in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio, in 1920, with his wife Elizabeth Armitage. Henry turned 83 in 1920. On nearly every record his occupation is different but on one record he was listed as a carpenter, on another as a wagon maker. Clearly he had carpentry skills. Considering the ages of the
grandfathers in 1920 and considering that Edward J. lived nearby and Henry C. lived some distance away, my guess is that Edward J. was the builder of Mom's rocker.

Until just a month or ago the little rocker sat bundled in our attic. I thought of it when the Abundant Genealogy theme was Family Heirlooms. Though it sits idle for the time being, with a grandbaby coming along it won't be too long till a little one will enjoy the rocker once again.

Click through to Sepia Saturday and see what photographs other participants have posted this week.

Friday, April 27, 2012

How-To Book - Abundant Genealogy Week 17

Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy by Emily Anne Croom was the very first genealogy book I ever used. I bought it when my daughters were little, many years ago, even before I knew how important family history would become to me. Years ago I underlined this paragraph:
If it is to have meaning, family history cannot be separated from the nation's history and culture. Therefore, to give our family history perspective as well as interest, we must eventually try to put the family into the society and culture in which it lived and worked (second edition, p. 5).
That belief coincides with my own. To know a name and a date is important but to know an ancestor it's important to learn more about her (or him) and place her in her environment. I want to know my ancestors, as much as it is possible while I'm here and they're there.

I think Unpuzzling gave me a good introduction and overview of how to begin searching for my ancestors. It moves from home sources outward to local sources then national sources and answers questions beginners have. It gives just enough information for a good start, but not so much as to overwhelm a beginner. The transcription forms in the back were the first I'd ever seen. From them I learned what information I'd find for each census year. She has other forms which have been helpful to me, too.

Another excellent how-to book is Elizabeth Shown Mills's Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. It's good as a how-to book for citing sources but it's helpful in another way, too: browse through it and see suggestions about where else you can look for your ancestor. This is a book that every genealogist and family historian (professional or amateur) should be able to access, either at a public library or in one's own possession.

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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. I invite you to participate if you'd like.

This week's theme was How-To Book. For which genealogy how-to book are you most thankful? Who wrote the book and why does it stand out in your eyes? Is the book currently available? How can other genealogists benefit from its content?

Tech Toys -- Abundant Genealogy Week 16

I have this great little camera. It's a Canon PowerShot A560. I got it a few years ago when there was a special offer at Staples: either I bought the camera and got a free Canon PIXMA MP210 printer/scanner/copier; or it was the other way around. Either way, I have both and they are probably the only technology items (aside from my computer) that I regularly use for family history. I can't exactly call them tech toys because technology is just too challenging to be fun (yet).

This is the only scanner I've ever used so I can't compare it to others but it seems easy to me: put the item to be scanned face down on the scanner bed, close the cover, choose what kind of item it is (color photo, magazine article, black and white document, etc.), click "scan," and let it do its work. Like magic, a copy of the original item appears on my computer screen. I love it! You've seen lots of scanned images, both photographs and documents, here on my blog. My one wish for a scanner is that I could manipulate the images (more than cropping) before saving them. That feature would allow me to improve some poorer images and save them as TIFF files. (See Wikipedia's explanation of TIFF files or Cambridge in Colour's explanation of both TIFF and JPG files.

My camera is a little more challenging because there are so many settings and options. I've had it a few years and I'm still learning how to take better photos.

I use my camera to photograph
  • microfilmed images. The local Family History Center doesn't have a microfilm copier anymore and it doesn't look like they'll get one. The camera takes excellent photos if the photographer holds the camera still and chooses the appropriate settings. When photographing microfilm it's important to remember to turn of the flash, otherwise there's too much light and the image is a blank white screen. It's also important to find some way to stabilize the camera - a tripod, book, chair, or other item.
  • books when photocopying is not permitted or when the photocopier is broken. Again, either a steady hand or something on which to balance the camera works best.
  • photographs or photocopies of photographs. If a photograph is enclosed and sealed in a frame and I don't want to take it apart, the best way to get an image is to photograph it. Before scanning was available and before I had a digital camera, the best way (I thought) to get a good image of the photograph was to make a color photocopy. They are great images but they don't scan well. A photograph is the only way to improve the photocopied image.
  • grave stones. I haven't actually taken any photographs of family or ancestors' gravestones simply because I haven't yet been able to travel to the cemeteries where they are buried. I hope to go sometime in the near future. Before I go I plan to read every gravestone photo tip on Amy O'Neal's blog, Gravestoned. (To find them on her blog, use the search box and type in "photo tip" then be sure to read the comments section where she answers questions and explains how she photographs.) She takes the most fabulous photos of gravestones.
  • family members. It seems that I take more photos of my immediate family than I do my extended family. I enjoy visiting and forget to pull out my camera.

I am thankful for these tools. I especially love my camera. I had to send it for a repair a week ago and I am anxiously awaiting its return. It's a comfortable camera to use and is easy to hold and carry. I love the fact that I can see the image before I walk away from whatever I photographed. I can usually tell whether I should take another photo or not. I don't know what I would do without it.

(Screenshot images: scanner from Canon Europe; camera from Imaging Resource)
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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. I invite you to participate if you'd like.

This week's theme was Tech Toys. Genealogists love their technology toys! Which tech gadget do you appreciate the most? How has this tool enhanced your family history experience? Would you recommend it to others?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blogger Woes . . . Again

Last month and most of this month (until last Thursday) this is what appeared on my Blogger dashboard -- something that looked like a suggestion, or an option:
"Blogger is getting a new look in April. Upgrade Now."

On Friday, Blogger upgraded my blog. It was a sad surprise. And then Julie of Angler's Rest told me how to switch back to the old Blogger. I breathed a sigh of relief....

Until today, when this -- an ultimatum? -- appeared on my blogger dashboard:
"The old Blogger interface will be removed in the coming month. Upgrade Now."

I guessed the Blogger I used on Friday was the new, (un)improved Blogger interface but I decided to see if I could find any more information about Blogger's upcoming changes on the internet. I found What's New with Blogger on the Google Blogspot blog. I scrolled down past the video at the top to the post. It shows images of old and new Blogger interfaces. I got to the new one and I thought, "Gee, that looks a lot like what I'm using now. Maybe it won't be so bad." I was fooling myself. On first view I missed the post's date: March 14, 2011. (Which tells you something about how often Blogger likes to make changes.)

If I were at least a little tech savvy I might not feel so disheartened. If I liked even one of the changes I saw on Blogger's new interface I might not feel so discouraged. It's like having your favorite anything you use on a near-daily basis that's still in good working order (car, couch, computer) ripped away and exchanged for a new, less comfortable version.

I knew old Blogger wouldn't be here forever but I hoped it wouldn't go away so soon. Even more I hoped it would be more similar to the Blogger I use now. And I especially hoped it would incorporated the best of old Blogger. I hope it's not so but my blogging days may be coming to an end.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How to Index the 1940 Census

I know many of us bloggers are already indexing the 1940 census (and I hope anyone who reads this blog who isn't indexing will give it a try). I just found this short, helpful video. I knew enough to do the job fairly well but after watching this I know enough to do a better job and do it more easily. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Heart is Back in Place

As I was waking up this morning I was thinking about my day and spent a bit of time stewing about new Blogger. I dislike it enough that I considered not publishing any more blog posts. When I opened my mail this morning there was an email from Julie Goucher of Angler's Rest. She'd read my post last night, My Heart is Sinking, and left a comment that solved my dilemma. Old Blogger is still there. I just had to ask for it back. My heart is now back in place.

It occurred to me that I might be the only one in the blog world who still used the older version. But now I know there are two of us. We both like old Blogger better.

If you, too, want to go back to the old Blogger, go to your dashboard and look at the upper right corner of your screen. Under your name will be a little round gear symbol. Click on it and a list will pop up. Toward the bottom of the list will be the choice to go back to the older version of Blogger.

Hooray and thank you, Julie!

Carol from Reflections from the Fence also left a comment on Google+ which I found a little later. Thank you, Carol. I appreciate the information.

Note: Some believe that we will all eventually be corralled into using the new/newer/newest version of Blogger at some time in the future. If you still use it, enjoy old Blogger while you have it.

A Lot Can Happen in Ten Years

I was thinking today about how much a person's life can change during the ten years between census reports. It's especially true for teenagers who become adults during those the ten years.

For example, my father, Lee Doyle began the decade as a farm boy of 17, living in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, with his father, stepmother, and step-siblings.  His paternal grandparents lived nearby.

In 1933 his father died leaving him in a home where he was no longer welcome.  Several months after his father's death he moved to Niles, Ohio, where his maternal aunt, Brendice Gerner Davis, and her husband, Raymond, helped him find a job in a steel mill.

In 1936, his paternal grandmother, Tressa Rose Froman Doyle, died.  She was probably the closest person to a mother he'd known:  she raised him after his own mother passed away when he was a baby.

Audrey Meinzen, my mom, lived at home with her parents and three younger sisters in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, in 1930.  She was 15.

In 1933 she graduated from high school and began nurse's training.

She graduated in 1937, took her boards and became a registered nurse.  She began working at Warren City Hospital. 

My parents met while she was in nurse's training and he was newly employed at a steel mill.  They were introduced by one of my mother's classmates and began dating.

They married in the autumn of 1938 and had a baby in May, 1939.

By the time the 1940 census was taken, they had an 11-month-old son.

Sometimes ten years is a long time; sometimes it's not very long at all.

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Heart Is Sinking

No, wait, it's not in the process of sinking.  My heart's already at the bottom, somewhere near the soles of my feet.  It is down there because of Blogger.*  I signed in to work on a post and my old, familiar, well-loved Blogger was gone.

They told us a change was coming.  Against hope (I can see now) I hoped I'd still have a choice about which version to use.  But there's no choice.  I have a new, (un)improved Blogger whether I want it or not. I don't like change. It's unsettling, uncomfortable, stressful. 

I'm not a person of strict habit but some routines free my mind for thought, creativity, and growth.  Routines allow me to float through the basics while thinking about other things.  For example, I like waking up in the same house every morning knowing where the shampoo, toothpaste, and milk are.  I don't have to search for them before I move on to the important, more interesting, creative activities of my day.  My old Blogger was like that:  I knew where everything was. I could immediately begin writing a post and move quickly through the steps to publish it.  But not anymore. 

I especially don't like change when it's forced on me.  Blogger has done just that.  No choices, no options.  But here I sit with a sunken heart and new Blogger.  I'll eventually adjust but for now I'm neither comfortable nor happy.

Thanks to Google and Blogger for all they do but no thanks to the new Blogger.

*To readers who do not have blogs:  Blogger is the host for my blog.  It provides the program and online storage space I use to write posts, add photos, and publish them on the internet.  There are two sides to blogger:  the public side, which you are viewing as you read this; and the behind-the-scenes side where I type the words, add the photos, and edit the html code to make posts look presentable.  Blogger contributes to the presentability, too, but sometimes I have to change the sizes or placement of the photos and make some other adjustments.  The part of Blogger that has changed is the behind-the-scenes part.  I'm sure Blogger thinks what they've done is an improvement but Google and Blogger don't always get it right. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It Was Ironing Day, the Day the Census Taker Came

The census taker came to the home of my parents, Lee and Audrey Doyle, on Tuesday, April 16th, 1940. On Monday he'd been to her grandparents' home one street away and to the homes of neighbors on the opposite side of Furnace Street. Today, Tuesday, he worked his way up the north side of Furnace Street, finally arriving at their home in the half-double they rented from the Frymans.

Yesterday Mom had done the wash. I wasn't there but I know it's a fact as sure as I know what color my eyes are. For as many years as I knew her - nearly 50 - Mom did the wash every Monday. Small load, large load, many loads, few loads. Always. Monday was the day she did the wash no matter what.

She'd been married not yet two years in April, 1940, and was the mother of an 11-month-old baby boy. Scrubbing diapers by hand on a scrub board in a laundry tub, wringing them out by hand, and hanging them to dry was not easy work but it was part of the routine of her life now. (Not that her rough, sometimes-raw hands appreciated the task.) There was no hanging the clothes outside to dry on Monday: it was only about 50 degrees and partly cloudy. Not a good drying day. She'd no doubt noticed the newspaper ads for electric washing machines but on Dad's salary of $1540.00/year, there just weren't funds to buy a washer, at least not yet. She would carry on doing it by hand (what choice did she have?) and some day - some day - she would have a washing machine.

As sure as Monday was wash day, Tuesday was ironing day. She'd already made breakfast for her little family and herself, played with the baby and then put him down for his nap. Now she was getting ready to iron. She'd sprinkled the clothes yesterday afternoon so they’d be damp all the way through. She set up the ironing board, plugged in the iron, and waited for it to heat. It was like magic to watch the iron glide over wrinkles, leaving behind fabric as smooth (if not as shiny) as glass. Handkerchiefs, boxer shorts, skirts, dresses, pants, and shirts. Every piece, smooth and wrinkle-free. It wasn't easy, especially the shirts with all their details, but at least it wasn't a hot day. And baby was taking his nap. It was a peaceful time to iron and think.

Mom was an inveterate reader of newspapers throughout her life and, after the advent of TV, almost religiously watched the evening news. She was interested in the events of the world outside the environment of her little family, home, and Mineral Ridge. As she ironed that Tuesday in 1940, she no doubt thought about world events. For weeks news of the war raging in Europe had been splashed across The Youngstown Vindicator’s front pages. The headlines were upsetting.

Attack on Scandinavia Probably Just a Prelude to Real German Blitzkrieg

And the war news wasn’t on just the front pages these days. More than a few pages of every issue were filled with articles about the war in Europe. You couldn't escape news of the war. Some recent headlines deep in the center pages of the newspapers read:
  • Nazis Claim British Ship Is Sent Down
  • Says Belgium Stays Neutral
  • Germans Fire Upon Swedes
  • Chamberlain Says Nazis 'Shut Gates of Mercy'
  • Says Allies Force Hitler To Fight War Their Way. Lippman Finds German Conquests Have Removed Buffers Between Reich and Foes” by Walter Lippman
  • French Plane Shot Down In Battle over Belgium
  • German Troops Push Ahead In Southeastern Oslo Region. Norwegians Fleeing into Sweden. Report Food Situation Is Extremely Serious
What was this world coming to? War was a terrible thing but she hoped it would stay in Europe and not touch America’s shores. She hoped America wouldn’t have to be involved at all. What she really hoped was an end to war in the world.

And then Mr. George L. Bell came to the door to take the census. Good. It would take her mind off worrisome news. On her way to answer the door she realized the baby was awake and needed her attention. Thank goodness Lee was home: he could answer the census taker's questions.

Dad was employed as a fire man (one who stoked the fires) at a steel mill, The Niles Rolling Mill. No doubt he worked turns and would be headed out for a 4-to-midnight shift a little later in the afternoon. While Mom was concerned about family, home, and world events, Dad’s concerns were probably directed toward providing a good living for his little family, keeping them safe, and doing a good job at work. He’d come from the farm in Pennsylvania almost 7 years ago with nearly nothing to his name. Now he had a wife and son, was renting a decent home, and was providing for the needs of his family. Work was hard and they weren’t on top of the world yet, but life wasn’t bad. They’d do okay if they were careful and watched their pennies.

Dad was very private about financial matters. So private that Mom never knew how much he earned during the years he worked. That day in 1940 he answered the census taker's questions but was the answer about his income positively, accurately truthful? If so, we know that he earned $1540.00 annually, an amount equal to about $23,677.00 in 2010. There’s no doubt they were on a tight budget at $128.33 per month. Rent was $18.00/month. There were income taxes, food and clothing; gasoline and auto repairs; water, coal, and electricity to pay for. Not to mention that they were trying to save for a down payment on a house. It helped that Dad was a handyman. By doing repairs and upkeep on the car himself they could keep expenses down.

They ate dinner not long after the census taker left. Mom was careful about the food she purchased and prepared, making sure that each meal offered a balanced diet. She was a thrifty shopper and found the best deals. Dad preferred meat and potatoes for dinner every day, prepared one way or another. Mom did her best with the food budget she had but it wasn’t always easy. With only one car she couldn’t always get to the stores with the least expensive prices. Of course she canned and preserved food during the summer months. It was a skill she’d learned from her mother. Tonight's dinner was roast pork with boiled potatoes, fresh carrots and celery, applesauce, and beets. Maybe tomorrow they could get by with pork and beans.

Dad left for work and Mom spent some time playing with her little son. After a light evening meal and more play, she put him to bed. With the radio on in the background, she stitched repairs on some clothes and let her mind wander back over the day. She hadn’t accomplished a lot but it was enough. The ironing was finished, some mending was done, and she'd dusted and swept and cleaned the house. She'd made meals for her little family and spent time with her husband and son. She’d get a good night’s sleep -- if she could just not think about the war in Europe. What would the world be like and where would she and her family be in 1950 when the census taker came around again?
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This post is a contribution to Carnival of Genealogy, 1940! The Carnival is hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene and will be published some time during the first week of May. Thanks for hosting, Jasia!


Monday, April 16, 2012

FamilySearch Indexing: 1940 Census Project Updates Website

It you're indexing the 1940 U.S. Census with FamilySearch, this Project Updates page might be helpful to you. Find guidance and information about how to index or how to improve your indexing plus other useful information about the 1940 census.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dignifying an Ancestor's Life

I like how Charles Hale digs deep and broad to find the circumstances of his ancestor's life. I like how beautifully he shares snippets of what he finds with us. I hope some day to share as beautifully as he does. Enjoy!

Happy Sabbath to you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Walking through the 1940 Mineral Ridge Census with Mr. George L. Bell

Mineral Ridge, Ohio, was a small village of 22 streets in 1940. It straddled the border between Trumbull and Mahoning Counties. The less-than-mile long main street, unsurprisingly called Main Street, was a gentle, low-grade hill sloping from north to south.   Side streets, most only one block long, extended east and west from Main Street.

Meandering through Mineral Ridge's 46 pages of the 1940 U.S. Census was like taking a little tour of the Ridge.   Street by street, page by page, I could track the methodical walk of George L. Bell, the census taker.   Going from house to house, one by one, he visited each of its 461 homes.  He commenced his duties in Mineral Ridge on Tuesday, April 2, and reached the last house on Wednesday, May 1.

He began his route on Ohltown Road on the south end of the Ridge.  He'd written "Old Town Road." He was right that it was an old town: an old coal mining town with the mines long since closed.   He reached Main Street, traveled north, then went down one side of each side street and back up the other, returning again to Main Street.   There were few side streets on the west side of Main.  When he reached the last one toward the center of the village, he crossed over to the east side of Main Street and began his walk down one side of each side street and up the other.

As I followed Mr. Bell's circular route through the pages of the census, the street names were like old friends.  I could imagine them all in my mind's eye. Depot Street was named for the railroad tracks which it crossed.  My mother always said a train whistle was a lonely, haunting sound, the sound of a loved one being carried away from home.  And there was Blunt Street.  On the east side of Main Street, there were "Kelley" (correctly spelled Kelly), Harding, and Williamson Streets.   There was Morris Street, where my great-grandparents, Edward Jesse and Mary Bickerstaff, had lived in the house that Grampa built.

Furnace Street, where my parents and grandparents lived, ran parallel to Morris Street.  They say Furnace Street was named for the furnaces that stood at its end in the heyday of the Ridge's coal mining days.  Down past our house on Furnace Street was a beautiful woods.  As a child my parents told me I could not go into that woods.  It came across to me almost as a penalty of death if I trespassed.  The woods, with its tall trees, offered cooling shade and inviting places to investigate.  But I resisted the temptation, reasoning that if I crashed through into one of the mines, I would die; if I escaped that death, I would die at the hands of my parents for disobeying (believing my parents would have stealthily found out that I'd been in the woods - my mother was like that!).

Other streets were Locust Street; Burnett Street, where my cousin lived; Prospect, Carver, and Warner Streets.   Warner Street was in the country when I was young.  It was all farmland then and a wonderful place to ride a bike.  On to Salt Springs Road, then back to Ohltown Road again and on to Main Street.

Main Street, State Route 46, was a main thoroughfare and was the only paved road in Mineral Ridge.  The side streets of the Ridge were covered with tar-bound Macadam:  a layer of tar coated with small gravel which was pressed into the tar.   There were no sidewalks.   In the photo above you can see how rural the road looks -- 20 years after the 1940 census was taken.  Mr. Bell must have had a dusty time of it.

With Mr. Bell I visited the Seiferts, Garlands, Keelings, Crofts, Ludwicks, Breezes, Morrises, and the Aults.   None of the children I knew were in those homes.   None of us were born yet.  But families stayed in the Ridge for several generations.  I went to school with grandchildren of some of some of those families.  Grandchildren of other residents of the Ridge were already grown.  There was Dr. Caskey and his wife, who sometimes substituted when I was in elementary school.  She recommended that I read The Secret Garden.  There were the Hiblers, the Michels (with a daughter who was my aunt's best friend), the Bakers, and the Frymans, all on Furnace Street.   (Three of their homes are pictured in the photo above.)   There were names I didn't recognize, too, of people who died or moved on before I was born.

I don't know how Mr. Bell felt about taking the 1940 census in Mineral Ridge but it was very satisfying following along behind him.  I'm grateful for the impression I had to look through the pages of the census before it was indexed.  By doing so I was able to learn who the neighbors of my family were and reminisce about little Mineral Ridge.  I probably won't be around when the 1960 census comes out.   Perhaps my grandchildren will find my classmates in many of the homes on its pages.


Copyright © 2012-2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Succumbed

I wasn't interested in searching the 1940 U.S. Census. I had no interest because I already knew plenty about family members who were living in 1940. I knew when and where they were born, who their parents were, their occupations, their spouses and marriage dates, when they died. I didn't think the census could give me much more information.

Then I learned what questions were being asked in the census and my curiosity was piqued. Still, I decided I would wait till the census was indexed before searching for them. That post I wrote about finding Enumeration Districts (E.D.) and maps? I looked up the Ridge to write the post but I didn't write down the E.D. I really wasn't going to search until it was indexed.

But something happened. Mineral Ridge is such a small village -- a long Main Street with just a few short side streets. It wouldn't take long to have a quick look. Then I realized it was the last census in which I would find four of my great-grandparents. Next, I became curious about where my father worked and how much he earned; and about my grandfather who lived a few doors away. One thing led to another. . . . And I succumbed.

There's something about seeing an ancestor's name on a document, especially a document with so much information in it. I guess you could say curiosity got the best of me. That can't be a bad thing when it's family history we're talking about, right?


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Help for FamilySearch Indexers

Whether you're indexing the 1940 Census or any other documents, be sure to look at FamilySearch's Indexing Resource Guide. I just discovered it today and have found it interesting and useful. Maybe you will, too. It's divided into several sections.

Some of it's offerings in the help section include
Indexers can find
  • an indexing tutorial
  • a list of indexing projects many screens long. When you're a registered indexer you can choose which one you'd like to work on (though, of course, everyone hopes you'll choose to work on the 1940 census until it's finished!).
  • the User's Guide. This may be the best kept secret for any indexer. It was updated in March, 2012, and comes as a 124-page pdf download. Chapter topics are Indexing; Participating in FamilySearch Indexing; Basic Indexing Guidelines; Adjustment to the Indexing Screen; Get Help; Get Training; and Arbitration. My personal opinion is that this guide will be best-used when you have a question. Some may prefer to read the guide before doing beginning to index but for me, I think it would confuse and deter me if I hadn't already started the indexing process.
  • and much more
And don't miss the handwriting and language resources on FamilySearch's Indexing Resource Guide. There are resources for reading England handwriting as well as resources for six other languages.

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings and The Ancestry Insider often post helpful indexing tips, too.

Indexers for FamilySearch have made great progress. I hope the enthusiasm continues. Wouldn't it be fun to finish sooner than predicted?!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Belinda and Jacks in the Calumet Can

Do little girls play jacks these days? Do they even know what jacks are? Or Tag, Hide-and-Seek, or Mother, May I? We played those games and plenty more when I was a child. We learned skills like cooperation, fair play, negotiation, and conflict resolution. We increased our exercise, stamina, and creativity. We used up our energy (much to our mothers' pleasure and relief, I'm sure) and improved our motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and a rash of other good things. We interacted with each other, created bonds of friendships, quarreled and made up, laughed, and had fun.

My cousin Belinda and I were less than a year apart in age and often played together, sometimes at her house, sometimes at mine, and sometimes at Gramma's. We were the next-to-youngest and youngest of Gramma's eight grandchildren, less than a year apart in age. The oldest was my brother who was 11 years older than me. By the time Belinda and I came along, most of the toys that Gramma might have had were gone. There were a few children's books. There was a large oak rocker where Belinda and I sat together to rock and sometimes look at books. And there were a few toys that Gramma kept in the bottom of her buffet.

A set of jacks are the only toy I remember from that cupboard. Those jacks were dandy! They were old, heavy jacks. I don't know how old but they were older than the light, flimsy, featherweight metal jacks available in stores at the time. When we flipped Gramma's jacks there was weight and heft. They went up and came down, not sideways, not flying away, but directly and heavily down. We knew we were holding something real in our hands. I had another set of jacks that I took to school for recess but I loved playing with Gramma's jacks best. She kept them in a Calumet baking powder can.

When I think of it now, I'm amazed that Gramma kept those jacks so many years. They stayed in her home nearly 40 years after I quit playing with them. I wonder if she liked them as much as I did.

After Gramma and Grampa died, their youngest daughter sold some of their possessions and took the rest to her house. There was a rift in the family and Belinda and I thought all of the things we enjoyed at Gramma's and that reminded us of her were gone. Most were gone but years and years later, Belinda somehow persuaded our aunt and her executrix to share the wealth of mementos.

I came to have the jacks because Belinda remembered how I loved them. When they came to her, she sent them on to me in their original Calumet can. In the can Belinda had added a note with the command, "Practice!" She wrote, "When I surprise you some day & show up at your door, I'm going to challenge you to a game." Belinda had such a sense of humor.

The day for the challenge never came, though. Belinda's life was taken away by lymphoma three years ago, not long after she sent me the jacks.

Her birthday is today. She would have been 63. I'm wishing her a happy, happy birthday!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Greetings to You

My greetings for a Happy Easter are a little late (except to those who celebrate Orthodox Easter next Sunday) but are nonetheless sincere. I hope you were blessed with a beautiful day. My celebration today included watching this orchestra and group of choirs sing this beautiful hymn. I hope you enjoy it. Blessings to you.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Breathing of An Ancestor's Space and Time

I just discovered this beautiful and touching video. As family researchers we often hope against hope to find more about our ancestors, something that will tell us more, something that will help us make a connection with them. This video speaks to me of the search, the success, and the connections. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday - Family Recipe Friday

It was a tradition for my grandmother to make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday.   I don't remember watching her mix or bake them.   I know she baked them in pans and they rose together, crowding each other and rising higher because of the crowding.  When they came out of the oven she let them cool and then made icing and crossed the top of each bun with two thin lines.

I didn't like Hot Cross Buns very much.  They looked beautiful, all golden and plump, but the dough was dense, not sweet, and had raisins.   I might have liked them a little better if they'd had more icing or were a little sweeter.

When I remembered Gramma's Hot Cross Buns this morning, I looked in her recipe box and was surprised to find that she'd written a recipe card which included the ingredients and directions.  The recipe doesn't mention the cross of icing or give a recipe for it.   She probably used a simple mix of powdered sugar and milk or water.

The buns were my grandmother's gesture of remembrance for the sacred events of Good Friday when our Savior hung on the cross and died.

Hot cross buns.

1 cake yeast
2 Table. warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisens [sic]
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 " nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup hot milk
4 tablespoons fat
3 3/4 cup flour

Crumble yeast dissolve with 1 T. sugar in warm water.
Add fat to milk and cool until lukewarm
Combine ing. add rest of sugar, spic[es,] eggs, and 2 cup flour.
Beat 3 min. add rest of flour.
cover and let raise. double size or about 4 hrs. Then roll into buns.
let raise
Bake about 15 min. in moderate oven

The image at the top of this post is a screenshot from the results of an image search on "hot cross buns" at Google Images.

Copyright ©2012-2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

To Do in April

To Do in April
  • Post my to do list for April and review the list at the end of April/beginning of May
  • Finish scanning and transcribing Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File (Really. Really!)
  • Rename and organize another batch of photographs into family groups
  • Index at least four 1940 U.S. Census pages
  • Search for my Pennsylvania ancestors in marriage and birth records at FamilySearch
  • Maybe watch at least one genealogy webinar, read at least one Skillbuilders
  • Maybe investigate RootsMagic. IF my Pennsylvania death certificates come in I'll have incentive to use RootsMagic.

Review of March

Why, oh why, did I decide to post my family history goals online this year? What was I thinking? I did so much better when I just did family history instead of thinking ahead about what to do and trying (too often unsuccessfully) to do it. I'm not sure I'm doing myself any favors but I'll finish the year as planned and see if I can succeed.

After a successful February, I faltered in March and now I'm already behind with my April to do list. I went a little easier on myself in March and still I accomplished less than I hoped. Ah, well. There are more days to come but isn't there always more to do in a day than there is time?

My evaluation of March:

Post my to do list at the beginning of the month and my successes (or lack thereof) at the end of the month

Scan and transcribe the rest of Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File
  • The scanning and transcribing are still in progress (and are very slow going) but are nearly half finished. Of his wife's file, I've decided to transcribe only those pages with family history information.
  • Reading the Doctors' Handwriting relates to the Civil War Pension File.

Write one book review
Rename and organize at least one batch of photographs
  • I completed this goal on March 8, though only a few were older family photographs.

Update and publish one surname variations post for Surname Saturday. This will be an ongoing post which I will update as I find new surname variations for each of the surnames I'm searching.

Publish four posts for 1940 U. S. Census Ambassador

RootsMagic: get on it!
  • STILL undone! This was carried over once already.

Watch at least one genealogy webinar, read at least one Skillbuilders
  • Undone

I'm hoping to do better in April!

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Back-Up Plan for the 1940 Census

Other commitments today prevented me from searching the 1940 U.S. Census. Even if I had, by the looks of other bloggers' experiences, I would have had trouble getting to the census images. I suspected that servers would be overloaded and crash and/or that "my" states wouldn't be immediately available. I'm as excited as everyone else to see what I find about my family in 1940.

Since I can't do anything about not being able to see the census images I'm putting my back-up plan into effect: I'm indexing.

How about you? Have any of you readers of my blog already indexed pages from the 1940 U.S. Census? If so, please leave a comment and tell me about your experience. Thanks.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

If you haven't been to FamilySearch. . .

. . . for a while, who knows what you'll find! It's been months and months since I've searched there. I've had my head buried in a Civil War Pension File, photographs, and some other family history work, but not at FamilySearch. I searched for a few minutes yesterday and today and found marriage records for a half dozen of my paternal grandmother Beulah Gerner's Pennsylvania siblings. (And I'm not finished yet.)

Pennsylvania's been a notoriously difficult state because it likes to keep its records in a jaws-of-death grip. I'd almost given up hope of finding any more information than I already have. But FamilySearch just keeps adding and adding, and now, finally, there are some PA records!

I like to find as much information as possible about the families I search but my Gerner line is stubborn: Beulah's father was Fred Gerner, and that's the end. Seems Fred didn't want to be associated with his parents. I was told to find as much information as I can about all the siblings in a family because it may lead me back to some source about Fred that will identify his parents. I keep hoping. And searching.

If there are any other Gerner researchers out there who connect to my Fred Gerner in Butler and Mercer Counties, Pennsylvania, please contact me! I'd like to talk.
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