Thursday, January 30, 2014

News from the Mercer County, Pennsylvania, Courthouse

Last week I wrote a post about the challenge I've had in years past in obtaining records from the courthouse in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and the success another Rootsweb email list member had recently had.  So I wrote another letter requesting the information I wanted.

Yesterday I received an email response from an employee at the Register of Wills.  In fact, the books are in the attic and they are too large and fragile to haul out to make copies.  BUT, she said they have some records on microfiche and can make copies for me.  Hallelujah! 

I don't know what information I will find in the two files she will copy but I'm hoping for information about the death of my great-great-grandfather, John Froman, including his death date, cause of death, and possibly his burial location.  Because one of the records regards the proceedings for his minor children, I think I will learn information about them.  The file with the six minor children is 16 pages long.  John's file is 32 pages long.  Surely there will be some helpful information!

Copies are 50¢ per page.  I hope I will consider it a pittance, i.e., that there will be good and helpful information in those copies.

The letter will go out tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book of Me - Who Knew 1950 Was Such an Eventful Year?!

This is the first time I've researched events that happened during the year I was born.  Who knew?  My parents, of course, but not me!

In National and International Affairs

Youngstown Vindicator, January 31, 1950
President Harry Truman ordered (or at least agreed to) the development of the hydrogen bomb. 

Youngstown Vindicator
June 18, 1950
The threat of Communism loomed large beginning that year.  Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin spoke at a Republican Women's club in West Virginia where he claimed that there were 205 Communists in the U.S. State Department.  The witch hunt began that year and continued for many years thereafter.

Based on the April 1 census, for the first time, the population in the United States was over 150 million people.  The most populous state in the United States was New York, now followed by California.  The postwar baby boom dramatically increased birthrates in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Also in April, the West Bank formally became a part of Jordan, and Britain formally recognized Israel.

On June 25 the Korean War began when North Korean Communist forces invaded South Korea.  (Strangely enough, I was unable to find a front page newspaper to illustrate this event.)

The Youngstown Vindicator, November 2, 1950
On November 1 a couple of Puerto Ricans favoring independence attempt to assassinate President Truman in Washington, D.C.

Shopping and Spending

Youngstown Vindicator, February 15, 1950
On April 21, the Northgate shopping mall in Seattle, Washington, opened on April 21.  It began a new trend which took shoppers away from the main streets.  The parking limitations associated with downtown shopping were eliminated.

The Diner's Club card was introduced and became the first "credit card" accepted at multiple retail establishments.

Youngstown Vindicator, October 2, 1950
There were 1.5 million television sets in the U.S.  By 1951, there were 15 million – ten times as many in one year.

CBS broadcast the first TV program in color to 25 television sets.  It also set up a TV news bureau in Washington, D.C.  Children’s Saturday morning television programming began.  Programs included "Truth or Consequences," "What’s My Line," Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, and "I Love Lucy."

More than 3 billion tickets sold at U.S. movie theaters.  Elizabeth Taylor starred in "Father of the Bride."  Other movies included "Sunset Boulevard," "Harvey," and "Born Yesterday."

The first "Peanuts" cartoon strip was published on October 2 in six newspapers.  Other popular comics included "Blondie," "Steve Canyon," "Rip Kirby," "Mary Worth," "Henry," "Orphan Annie," "Gasoline Alley," "Dick Tracy," and "Dennis the Menace."

In Science and Technology
On June 17 the first organ transplant was performed.  A kidney was replaced in a 49-year-old female.  The recipient survived and died of other causes several years later.

Party lines made up 75 percent of all U.S. telephone lines.  For those of you who are old enough, you probably remember one ring for your phone, two rings for the other family's phone, and if you picked up the phone to call someone and heard voices, you politely and quietly put the phone back down.  It was called "hanging up."

Xerox photocopiers rolled off the assembly line.

So there's the briefest recap of 1950. 

Some Sources:
1950 – 1959 World History |
1950s at Wikipedia
The 1950's - Two Cars in Every Garage at America's Best History
World Events During the 1950s and 60s at Wessels Living History Farm
University of Minnesota Media History Project
Macrohistory and World Timeline
Major Events of the 1950s at TimeToast
1950s Timeline at
Historical Events for the Year 1950 at
Timeline of United States History at Wikipedia
Google News "Youngstown Vindicator"
This post is part of a series called "The Book of Me, Written by You," created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.

The prompt was "The year you were born."
Tell historical events, films, music, books, television, or any other historical (well-known or otherwise) events.


Monday, January 27, 2014

52 Ancestors:  A Case of Second Sight

Chronicling America gave me this delightful little nugget about my third great-grandfather, William Bickerstaff.  It brings joy to my heart to find things like this in old newspapers.

A Case of Second Sight.
STEUBENVILLE, O., Feb. 2.--The physicians of this city are puzzled over a rare case of second sight occurring lately.  William Bickerstaff, an old resident of the Sixth ward, has regained his sight after being compelled to wear spectacles for forty years.  About two weeks since [or, about two weeks ago] his sight began to improve.  Now he reads his newspaper without the aid of glasses.  His age is 82.
This article was published on the front page of the February 4, 1892, issue of The Stark County Democrat.

Notes and Comments
Despite the fact that the articles says William Bickerstaff was 82 years old in 1892 by all other accounts he was born on February 14, 1807, and, therefore, would have been nearly 85 years old.  Was accuracy was probably less important in those days?  Or was the article originally hand-written and the 5 misread as a 2?

I have no background in optical science but I would dearly love to know how his vision was restored.  I know diabetics often have vision problems but I think they usually learn toward losing vision rather than gaining it.  However it happened, it must have been a real blessing to William not to need glasses to read.

I'd like to know more about how he obtained his glasses, the prescription, and what they looked like.  As far as I know, no photographs survive of William Bickerstaff.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Indexing Obituaries at FamilySearch

Our church meetings were cancelled today because of the snow.  What to do with 3 hours?  Easy answer:  family history!  I could have worked on my own family history:  I know my ancestors would have appreciated the time, especially considering that I've been away for several weeks and devoted no time to them.  Instead, I decided to donate the time to others by indexing at FamilySearch.  I haven't indexed for a year, maybe more, so beginning with FamilySearch's new project of indexing obituaries took a little time to orient myself.  It's a different experience than indexing census records.

I downloaded a batch using the indexing software already on my computer and began (instead of researching the process first, and then downloading a batch).  As I was figuring out how to proceed I found myself clicking back and forth between screens to read how they wanted it done.

One of the helpful sites was this FamilySearch Blog post, 2014:  The Year of the Obituaries.  The author of the post admits that indexing obituaries can be tricky but she gives a good introduction to the process by sharing some of the most basic and important points to know.  For example,
  • Read the entire obituary before indexing names.
  • Index the deceased person first.
  • Index names in the order they appear in the obituary.
  • Only index names, dates, and locations actually mentioned in the document.
  • Etc.
This post also links to other helpful sites, including examples and a pdf with step-by-step, illustrated instructions.

My first obituary was a little challenging:  the lady had been married twice and three surnames were listed at the beginning of the obituary.  I had to decide how to index those three names.  Arbitration will show me whether I should have done it a different way.  I think indexed 14 names in that obituary.

I notice that most of the indexing projects are intermediate or advanced.  Maybe FamilySearch thought the census records (which were beginner level) were good enough practice for those of us who indexed them to become intermediate indexers.

Indexing obituaries is a very good thing.  It reminded me not to assume or take anything for granted when reading an obituary.  Further research can confirm some of the things we'd like to assume but when reading an obituary, take just what's there.  Additionally, what's there may not always be exactly accurate.  Whenever I've found obituaries for my ancestors I always take them as hints, then research based on the hints.

If you haven't indexed for a while or haven't indexed obituaries yet, I encourage you to give it a try.  It was a great way to spend part of an afternoon.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Amy Johnson Crow extended a call to her readers to write about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  Her idea is one per week but since I've been away from home the first few weeks of the year, if I look at it that way I'm already behind!

In fact, Amy's not really concerned that we share one ancestor per week, or even that we share 52 ancestors.  She's encouraging us to write!  She says, "The point of 52 Ancestors is to write, not to enforce a bunch of guidelines.  Feel free to start whatever week you want.  Skip a week if you need to.  (Catch up later… or not. It’s up to you!)  Include collateral relatives if you want; I’m not going to check if it’s an actual ancestor or a collateral.  It’s up to you."

I hope I can do this.  I'm already about a dozen Book of Me posts behind (but hope to catch up with the topics I want to write about).  December was a bust as far as research and writing about my ancestors.  January's not too far behind.  There are times when living real life and spending time with living relatives is more important than researching dead relatives, huh?

My thought for 52 Weeks is to write relatively short posts about both direct and collateral ancestors.  We'll see how it goes.

You can take the challenge by visiting Amy's blog, No Story Too Small, and leaving a message.


Friday, January 24, 2014

The Chateaugay Thaw - A Friday Funny

A story is told of a traveler bold,
In the days of the Hartford coach,
In a big blanket rolled, for the weather was cold,
Here he was just as snug as a roach.
But the snow gathers deep as onward they creep,
And the snow rising higher he saw.
And the driver he cried to the man at his side,
“We shall soon get a Chateaugay thaw.”

Then the man in the coach, lying snug as a roach,
Gently smiled like an infant at sleep,
But the horses’ slow gait never told him his fate
In the snowdrifts so wide and as deep.
At last came a shout and they tumbled him out,
And a sleigh was his fate, then he saw
But a man with a song, pointing to the sky,
Saying, “here comes a Chateaugay thaw.”

“Let it come” said our man, “Just as quick as it can,
For I never was fond of the snow;
Let it melt from the hills, let it run down the rills,
Then back to our coach we may go.”
But the wind raised the song and the snows sailed along,
And the cold it was piercing and raw,
And the man in the rug from his covering snug,
Wished and prayed for the Chateaugay thaw.

When the sleigh with it’s load reached the old Malone road,
Where the drifts reared themselves mountain high,
Malone on the west buried deep out of sight,
Left a white desert plain ‘neath the sky.
Not a fence nor a tree could the traveler see,
As he covered close down in the straw,
And the driver he sighed as the prospects he eyed,
“By George, here’s a Chateaugay thaw.”

While he spoke, lo! the snow hides from the track,
And is drifting high over the sled.
Then the traveler bold, though decrepit and old,
Hurled the driver down in the straw,
Crying out, “Driver, speak, e’er my vengeance I wreak,
What d’ya mean by a Chateaugay thaw?”

Then the old gossips say, he arose in the sleigh,
And extended his hand o’er the scene,
And he laughed and then shrieked,
And the sleigh groaned and creaked,
And he said, “I will tell you just what I mean.
"When the north wind doth blow and there’s ten feet of snow,
And the ice devils nibble and gnaw,
When the snow fills your eyes and the drifts quickly rise,
This is known as a Chateaugay thaw.”

Then the traveler arose and he smote him with blows,
And they sank in a deadly embrace.
And none knew the spot till the June sun was hot,
And a hunter by chance found the place.
Here they made them a grave,
Where the storms loudly rave,
And the epitaph lately I saw.
“Two men lie beneath and they came by their death
Frozen stiff in a Chateaugay thaw.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  

Snow and sky blend together in this city snow scene.
Brrrrrrr!  This poem came to mind as I try to stay warm this January.  I hope it gave you a chuckle.

My mother-in-law was born in Chateaugay, a village along the very northern-most part of New York bordering Canada.  Some readers who have lived or traveled in the North Country may identify with the snowy scene of the poem.  Some of you may have no idea that the winters up north can be monstrous cold and snowy, sometimes brutal, and occasionally deadly.  Still, Northerners can see the humor in the snow and cold winters, as attested to by this poem.

I've seen this poem credited to both Rev. Alanzo Teall Worden and Anonymous.  Please forgive me, Rev. Worden, if you're the author and I've broken copyright.

I hope you're staying warm!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

One More Try for Mercer County Records

When I first began working on family history in earnest in 2006, I wrote a letter to the Mercer County, PA, courthouse asking for copies of records for several of my Froman ancestors (or at least people I believed to be my ancestors).  I had dockets, volumes, page numbers, and dates.  I sent a self-addressed, stamped envelope so they could at least tell me whether they could help and what the cost would be.

When no response came I called to ask how to request the information.  I spoke with a very pleasant lady who cheerfully told me that they just don't do that.  She said the books were stored in the attic, that they usually went to the attic around 2:30 in the afternoon and brought down the books that were requested, and if I wanted copies, I would have to go to the courthouse, request the books I wanted, wait for them to be brought down (it they went to the attic that day), and then search for the pages I wanted to see.  It was not possible then and not likely now.

Enter Rootsweb PAMercer email list.  Those with Mercer County, Pennsylvania, ancestors subscribe to the list where they discuss interests, challenges, and successes.  A few weeks ago one of the members asked about obtaining records from the Mercer County Courthouse.  I thought about sharing my sad experience but decided to wait and read what others had to say.  Someone responded that the employees at the Mercer County Courthouse were very helpful and would look up and make copies of requests.  Surprise!  A week or two went by and the member trying to obtain records wrote to the list and said that the records she had requested had already arrived.  Speedy, too!

What I must remember is that employees change and sometimes rules and procedures change.   So yesterday I spent a little time confirming that the information I had was correct by searching through the Mercer County Estate Index 1804-1971 E-G.  Yes, the information was there.  Today I composed my letter and will mail it off tomorrow.

I believe John Froman died in about 1872, leaving a wife and six children, ages about 2 to 10 years.  I've been unable to discover anything specific about his death date, cause of death, or his burial location.  I hope to obtain that information from the court documents I requested.

The wait begins.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Introducing Our Newest Descendant

I've been away for a few weeks tending our grandson and helping his mom as a new baby joined their family.  On a family history/genealogy blog where we focus on our ancestors, those who have already lived their lives and passed on to the next, it's a joy to spend a few moments on the living and celebrate the birth of a new baby.

And so I'd like you to meet our new granddaughter, Olivia Rose.  She arrived on January 10 at 10:52 p.m., weighing a healthy 9 pounds 2 ounces.  She is sweet and round and fully cuddle-able.  As her aunt said, Olivia has "a proper double chin," though it's not too evident in this photo.  She also has a strong set of lungs which she actively uses to let us know there's a problem.

The facts that her little mouth forms a nearly perfect "O" when she's unhappy, that she weighed 9+ pounds, and that her name starts with an "O" led to her first nickname:  The Big O.  That one won't stick but this one, Ohsie Rosie, courtesy of her aunt, just might.

We had lots of fun with Olivia's big brother, Malachi, too.  He turned 19 months while we were there.  Mali is a jolly little fellow who awakes with a smile and enjoys life with gusto.  We don't get to see him but about once a month so we were pleased that he didn't mind being left with us for several days while his parents went to the hospital.

More than ever before I can appreciate why young people have babies.  Just two weeks and I'm very tired -- but very pleased to have been able to spend time with Olivia, Mali, and their parents.

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