FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

UFO Over Wellington Square – Nottingham

I frequently use the Street View in Google Maps to look at the property where my ancestors lived long ago.  Sometimes, I’m rewarded with a view of their house that has survived the centuries.  

Although the buildings and properties have experienced changes in the intervening time in cosmetics, construction and destruction, my digital excursion is worth the time.

I’m fairly sure that the home my 2nd great-granduncle, Edwin Vanini Smith died in at 7 Wellington Square in Nottingham, England still stands.  At least the building appears to be old enough to have been in existence before his death in 1901.  

During these digital, no passport required, journeys, I always take the time to digitally ‘walk’ through the neighborhood to get a sense of what it looks like now and may have resembled way back when.  

In many locations in England and other countries, where homes have been around for ‘a while’, are close together, near shopping areas or rail lines and, I can almost hear the sounds of the neighborhood, smell the bread being baked down at the bakery and see the neighbor lady hanging out her wash to dry.

Imagine my surprise today, when just a few steps down the street at 16 Wellington Square, I looked up and thought that a UFO had been captured by the Google filming vehicle. 

It’s shape reminded me of the curved wing of the space craft used by invaders from Mars in the old War of the Worlds movie.

A UFO over the home of my 2nd great-granduncle?  That would make a great family history story!

But alas, it wasn’t to be.   Sliding the view further up and down the street revealed the UFO to be a small gouge, bubble or ding in the plastic dome that covers the Google cameras.  

It is either that or the UFO is tiny and keeps pace with the camera vehicle and slides along the 2nd story walls of buildings when it isn’t in the sky.

So, the family history story that I hoped to tell our grandchildren went the way of most UFO stories.  Explainable.  Fun for a second.  A natural element caught in a photo from a viewpoint that accentuates the image of something different than the truth.

It would have been a great story though.  I hated to let it go.  I hope that there aren’t other ‘stories’ in my family history research that are just that, …. ‘stories’, not proven facts, that I’ve interpreted as fact from my ‘point of view’.

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30 September 2010 Posted by | Genealogy | , , , | Leave a comment

Oral Interviews – Still Going Strong

The art of interviewing ancestors and family members has not died in America.  At least that is the indication from the flurry of requests for help and interview question lists that I’ve received this week.

The requests have come from students who attended my family history classes over the last several decades and have lost their notes.  Others came from folks I’ve never met but were referred to me.

There is nothing magic in the lists.  They are simple but help prime the thought processes as the prospective interviewer prepares for their interview sessions.

The good news is that folks are still conducting family history interviews.

Over the years, I’ve been repeated told that the promptings in class to “go interview your family” – “soon” has been excellent family history advice.

As often as not, the first person or two that comes to mind is a parent, aunt or uncle that is old, or at least old enough to have lived through a lot of family history and whose ‘expiration’ date may be on the horizon.

The lucky interviewers acted on their prompting quickly and invariably learned far more about their family history than they had anticipated in their wildest dreams.  Additionally, they came home with both audio and video files of their family member telling family stories, explaining living conditions as well as shedding light on family secrets or at least on forgotten tales.

Of course luck had nothing to do with it.  The interviewers made their luck by engaging.  Quickly.  Very quickly – after the prompt surfaced on their temporal lobe.

To a degree, they tell me that the interview almost acted like a triggers in the decease of the person that was interviewed.  Of course, the interview itself wasn’t the trigger.  It was the age or health of the family member and hence the reason they were probably on the top of the interview list.

Those who act on the prompting were rewarded and came away with great stories that they delight in repeating to family and friends.  Those who think that they’ll interview their family just as soon as they can get ‘round to it’ almost always end up sad.  Time and disease stay true to their course and the family member moves to the deceased column on their genealogy chart.

Their stories, memorized lineage facts and voices are stilled.  Lost.  Gone.

The law of ‘Round to it’ holds true to its physical image.  Round.  No edges.  Nothing protruding to lift the covers of time and expose the foundation, song, feel and flavor of family history.

Capture your past soon.  Don’t become a ‘round to it’ causality too.

28 September 2010 Posted by | Family History, Interviews | , , | Leave a comment

James Featherstone Mugged ~ 1903 ~ St. Louis #genealogy

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St. Louis Republic 24 Feb 1903  #featherstone #genealogy

26 September 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pat Gorman Killed By Train

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St. Louis Republic 8 Oct 1901  #genealogy #gorman

26 September 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dropping Flares from a MC-130H

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Night becomes day.

26 September 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are You A Victory Canner?

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Yes and always will be….

23 September 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

After Everyone is Gone

The funeral of an uncle in a family of faith is both a sad and yet a happy affair.  With a strong belief in life continuing after exiting a mortal body, stepping through the veil it just one more event in our eternal progression.

We weep at the loss of contact, advise, laughter, touch, feel, smell and idiosyncrasies of our deceased loved one but not as a result of any thought that they are permanently lost.  After all, the end of mortality is actually a graduation day.  It is all part of the plan.  Part of the process.

Family and friends gather at the funeral memorial to offer condolences, statements of love and to honor his life and good works.

In our community, a member or two of the family usually speaks at the funeral along with a church leader in an hour long program  They offer memories and funny anecdotes from the life of the deceased, finishing with statements of faith and eternal plans of growth and life. 

Then the transport of the body to the cemetery and its burial moves forward.

We line our cars in a funeral procession, light our headlights and slowly drive in a half-mile-long train winding our way through the city behind a slow hearse and police escort. 

Well, normally …

I hear his voice in my head saying, “ Oh bother.  More uncomfortable suits and ties.  More flowers than any man could reasonably want or enjoy.  More ceremony to appease the living ….  Hey! (wink and chuckle) There are a lot of good looking women here.” 

 

I laugh at the thought.  His kids did make a lot of effort to remove some of formal stodginess out of the burial process.  Except for his wife and daughter, the limos and motored procession of mourners is left at the cemetery gate to find their way to the grave on foot.

His body arrives in style in a caisson transport.  The team pulling it could be better, but there aren’t many matched teams in use today, so you do the best you can. 

The caisson is pure class though.  White, beveled glass windows that sparkle, and here in the west, the top hat is replaced by a cowboy hat. 

I verbally salute him, “You did it!  This is cool!  The Caddy body hauler is still parked in the garage where it belongs waiting to carry the fairer sex, not a manly man.”

 

His casket is borne by sons and grandsons to its final resting place and carefully set in place.  The sons carefully escort their mother to her chair near the grave.  They remove their boutonnieres and place them on the casket saying one last goodbye, briefly laying their hand on its finished surface before moving back to their own families so the proceedings can continue.

Everyone gathers close.  The officiator nods to the Veteran detail and a 21-gun salute rings through the winter air.  The commander of the local Veteran group is assisted by another member in carefully folding the flag that has covered their compatriot’s casket.  They respectfully present it to the grieving widow.

The grave is dedicated by the officiator, who then thanks all for attending and finishes saying the family would like all to return to the church for a meal of funeral potatoes, ham, salad, green Jello with shredded carrots in it and red Kool-aid.

 

The family reunion slowly moves away to continue their conversations, well wishing and photo taking back at the church … but I stay … alone.  I walk over to the city crew who will lower the casket and vault lid into the ground and tell them that they are burying my uncle.  That I’ll stay and watch.  That I have a great interest in the level of respect they afford his remains.

They look at me like I’m a little nuts, but my demeanor does not brook disbelief or misunderstanding.

Twenty minutes later, the pile of dirt is gone.  It hasn’t even left a stain on the surrounding grass.  The chairs and astroturf are gone.  The noise of the backhoe has been silenced. 

I stand by the effusive display of flowers and speak to my uncle.   “Well, they got you here ok.  I loved the caisson and 21-gun salute.  Your grandkids enjoyed letting the flotilla of white balloons gain their freedom in the sky.  Sorry about the flowers, but they won’t be here too long.  Your body is safe and honorably buried.  I’ll stop by later to make sure your headstone is well placed.”

 

I’ve missed the meal back at the church.  That’s ok.  My duty was at the grave.  I’ll see the family another time. 

A short three-step-stroll takes me to the graves of my grandparents.  I nod and say “hello” … and … “I’ll be back in a second”.  Three more steps take me to the graves of my great grandparents.  I touch their stone and say “Hi” knowing that none of them are here listening.  They are all talking to my uncle, catching up on events. 

However, I grin knowing they’ll all glance my way and laugh … who can resist watching me do a cemetery soft shoe shuffle before I turn with final nod and wave as I start the hike back to my car..

19 September 2010 Posted by | Cemetery, Tombstone | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What To Do Next

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Avoiding difficult decisions only leads to more problems

19 September 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Johnny Evers – Baseball Player

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Johnny Evers, the great second baseman for the Chicago Cubs

14 September 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making a quilt from deceased husbands neckties #genealogy

8 September 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment