FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Civil War – Artillery at Yorktown


30 January 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dowsing for Lost Graves

Dowsers aren’t always looking for water.  Sometimes they are dowsing for lost graves.


29 January 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cemetery Stories

As a youth, my parents and I visited the graves of my fathers parents and grandparents to clear the weeds from them in the week before Memorial Day each year.  Buried in the same plot were my father’s two baby sisters, two uncles and an aunt.

cultivator The cemetery soil should best be described as a granite sandbar that existed in the ancient Lake Bonneville.  The mountain immediately to the north is solid granite and obviously the large granules of granite in cemetery hill came from that source.  They are interspersed with silt from the softer stone in the mountain to the east.

Clearing the weeds was not an easy task.  The soil was typically dry and about as hard as cement.

Dad pushed a hand garden cultivator and I wielded a garden hoe.  Even though the blades had been sharpened before we left home, within minutes they were dull.  Dad’s muscle negated the loss of the blade edge with ever increasing force and sweat.

Mom raked the weeds from the broken soil while I hurried ahead of him trying to break the soil enough for Dad to maintain the cutting momentum.

I wasn’t successful for very long.  Young arms swinging a hoe could not keep up with the two cultivator cutting blades below the surface of the soil for long.

Even though Dad would tell me to work faster, I secretly think he was happy for the short waiting breaks after the first half-hour of hard labor.

As soon as the top five inches of the soil was cut, he would take the rake from Mom and I’d use the old one with the short handle.  Soon the soil was weed free and raked into rectangular humps over the burial location of each person in the plot.

Mom always treated us to cold soda pop and store bought cookies when the job was done.  The treats were luxuries that were rarely found in our home during the rest of the year.

The cookies were great in their drizzled chocolate and nut chip covered glory.  They weren’t better than anything Mom cooked, because she was a terrific cook, but they tasted great.  They were store bought you see.

The best part of the evening was about to start….

Sitting in the shade on the short retaining wall around the plot, Dad would tell me stories about the lives of our ancestors who were buried around us until the evening shadows were long.  I’d heard them in the same setting all of my life, but as I grew older, I’d think to ask questions.  New insights, additional color and texture would emerge in the telling.  Sometimes this would lead to a new story that had slipped his mind previously.

I doubt that I would have heard all of them especially in depth if it weren’t for that setting.  When you sit by an ancestors tombstone and look down at the farms where they lived and are surrounded by the mountains that had such integral relationship in their lives and activities, a lifetime of memories surface with every glance at the scenery.

I’ve always been grateful for the story telling sessions and have passed the stories on to our children and grandchildren.

27 January 2010 Posted by | Ancestors, Cemetery | , , | Leave a comment

Enlist in the Navy


Find the range of your patriotism. Enlist in the Navy!

25 January 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Want You – Army


I Want You For The ARMY!

20 January 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Want You – Navy


I want YOU for the Navy.

16 January 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FamilySearch – It Just Keeps Getting Better

I stopped by the FamilySearch Pilot site for a ‘week’ yesterday.  The visit was planned for only a few minutes to look for a birth record for one of my ancestors who was born in New Hampshire.

Browsing directly to that collection, success was almost immediate.  That was easy!  While there, why not refine my search and search for the rest of my ancestors who were born in New Hampshire too?  That’s when the ‘week’ started.  Success, success, success, mixed with some failures.

The success continued all the way back to the mid-1600’s.  Thinking the ‘touch’ was with me; I started looking for the children of my direct ancestors.  A lot of their records were there too.

The saved images were added to each source entry in my database as I went along.  A quick preview of family group sheets for the families looked great with the primary sources and their related thumbnail sized images included.

“One more family”. “Just one more family” I murmured as the sun of the new day came over the mountain.  Of course I didn’t need to work all night. The records will still be there for a little while until they are removed when the indexing of them is complete.  Eventually, they’ll be included in the rewritten FamilySearch.org site, but when will that happen – exactly?

It will happen.  The WHEN is the “I Can’t Wait For It” question.

The same is true for most if not all of the records that are being Indexed by volunteers like you and I working on that massive project at FamilySearch.

If you haven’t searched the primary source records on the Pilot site yet, http://pilot.familysearch.org, give it a try this week.

FamilySearch Wiki

The FamilySearch user community is contributing excellent knowledge articles to help all of us in our ancestral quest. See it at:  https://wiki.familysearch.org

If you are having problems in your research, be sure to stop by the site and see if there is a posting to help.  If you have knowledge about any specific location research tools, hints and tips, sign in and add an article.

The wiki grows daily. Don’t forget to add it to your browser bookmarks.

Community Trees

Well documented family and regional family trees have been added as yet another FamilySearch site.  The site uses my favorite web based genealogy software – Darrin Lythgoe’s “The Next Generation.”  Take some time to look through it and see if information about your family has been included in the database. http://histfam.familysearch.org

15 January 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gee – I wish I were a Man – Navy


Join the Navy and see the world.

14 January 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do You Want To Fight?


If you want to fight — Join the Marines.

12 January 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Lost” Garden Varieties Grown By Ancestors

old_gardener_sm My maternal grandfather was the last living farmer by profession in my lineage.  We’ve ‘advanced’ since then and make our living using the technology of today.

My paternal grandmother was a farmer too, with 200 acres of fruit trees, hay and vegetables.  Cash was always a problem, but there was always food on the table, even if it was plain fare at times.

Of course my siblings and I have gardens and small orchards at our homes, but they are considerably smaller than the acres of ground that grandma and grandpa planted to feed and support their families.

Grandpa grew Utah celery, sugar beets and potatoes as cash crops.  Grandma grew varieties of apples, berries and other basic food varieties.

At our home, we grow apples, pears and have a raised box gardens.  The apples produce a far larger harvest than our family, kids and grandchildren can use, so we give the surplus to other families in our area who are in need, or love fresh fruit and are smart enough to bottle their own fruit each year.

Ancestors a generation or two farther back in time basically grew the same crops although they did grow a few varieties that we don’t see very often today.

Our Redwood City Seed Company catalog came last week.  I found some of the ‘lost’ varieties while perusing its pages.  We are going to plant some of them this year to enjoy and possibly add to our annual planting list.

Raised_bed_garden_sm From my Calaveras County California grandparents garden: Miner’s Lettuce.  One-foot tall California native succulent whose leaves are used in salads.  Great grandpa was a gold rush miner and enjoyed eating the fresh ingredient of these leaves during that period and later in life.

From my New Zealand ancestors garden:  New Zealand Spinach.  Introduced in N.Z. by Europeans in 1770, the leaves of the plant are eaten like spinach.  The catalog says the taste is mild and full of flavor.

From my father: Horseradish: My father always made his own horseradish sauce.  it wasn’t the watered down, tamed stuff you buy at stores today.  It had BITE.  In fact, I remember getting an instant bloody nose when I curiously took a deep whiff of a newly opened bottle when I was a wee young man.  Even Kerr jar lids and rings were corroded by this rattle snake venom, but Dad loved it.  I learned to just wave my knife over an opened jar a few times and spread the smell on my roast beef as a kid.  My taste buds have largely died off as I’ve aged, so I like the store bought stuff today.  I don’t think I could take the horseradish that Dad ate though – not even the variety that he diluted with ground turnips.  I guess I never grew up to be the man he was.  Maybe this year.

From my paternal ancestors:  I don’t know which ones but my father told my stories of them loving the large varieties of Lima Beans.  He loved them.  I like them.  My wife hates them.  We are going to grow a few bushes of the Incan Giant White Lima Beans this year.  1” long in the pod.  2” long when cooked.

Of course, we’ll continue to grow many heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits this year and save the seeds for next years crop.  Hybrid varieties don’t produce fruit well in future generations of their seeds, so growing varieties from proven heirloom seeds is just smart planning.  We might as well live in the ‘prepared’ mode rather than having to learn it in an emergency and not having the skills and the right seeds.  The seeds harvested from last years plants will be used this year and the new varieties will be added to the annual seed storage rotation cache if we like them.

cherry_tomato_smWe won’t grow parsnips this year.  I’m the only one who likes them.  We won’t grow watercress either, with no running water to support these wonderful peppery plants.  We’ve substituted nasturtium leaves for water cress in our salads, but they don’t make a good sandwich like the cress does.

Five gallon buckets with the bottom knocked out will be home to some of the vining tomatoes. They’ll be full of compost, nested in 12” of garden soil and placed adjacent to tall trellises to support the 6 –12 ft high vines.  If you don’t have a garden, everyone can grow cherry tomatoes at home using pots.

Today, our gardens are relatively easy to grow compared to those of our ancestors.  We have to rediscover some of the varieties and methods they used but the effort is well worth it.  Nothing tastes as good as produce that you’ve grown yourself, even if it was grown in a flower pot on the porch.

Spring will be here before we know it.  If you haven’t ordered your seed catalogs yet, do it now.  When they arrive, you’ll find yourself reading them and envisioning warm weather and vine ripened tomatoes.  The cold and white outside will vanish from view for a few minutes.

Here are a few catalogs that include heirloom varieties:

The Redwood Seed Company  http://www.ecoseeds.com

Johnny’s Selected Seeds  http://www.johnnyseeds.com

Heirloom Seeds  http://www.heirloomseeds.com

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  http://rareseeds.com

Amishland Heirloom Seeds  http://www.amishlandseeds.com

Territorial Seeds  http://www.territorialseed.com

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11 January 2010 Posted by | Ancestors | , | 2 Comments