Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Horse Thief or Worse

Do you remember back in the day when there was a television advertisement (I think it was from AT&T) that said something to the effect of, “Have you ever read a book in a library, from another country? Well, you will.” We were then just on the cusp of the exploding world of internet and it sounded crazy. I remember thinking as a genealogist, “Heck yeah, there are books I want to read in remote locations!”
I just recently found out one of my children’s ancestors lived in an asylum for nearly 40 years. Using Google ebooks, I got some great information from official record books about the institution where he was located. One book was digitized from the University of Michigan, which is a ways away from me. Another book was digitized from the University of California, even further. But thanks to technology, I incurred no travel expenses at all. Sweet!
I remember an elderly distant cousin wrote in reply to a request for family information saying, “I have never been too keen on family trees. If you go back far enough you usually find a horse thief or worse.” Now that I’ve finally found a genuine family secret, my kids’ reaction to it was: “Cool! Finally something interesting after all these years of hearing about genealogy.” I’m on a quest to find out more. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Combination

Here's a combination of a tombstone photo and a scrapbook page, both great wordless topics!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Simpler Time

I was talking to my dad's cousin, Mary Ellen, on the telephone a week or so ago. I had written to another cousin asking if she could identify an old photograph. The photograph was of an old homestead from the album cousin Julia had. I was hoping it was the home my grandfather grew up in. I'll talk about that story another day.

Mary Ellen was saying that she remembered her folks visiting Julia's grandparents every so often. She said things were different back then. It was nothing, she said, to go visiting kin for the day or longer without planning it in advance. She pointed out that in this day and age, people are not so happy about someone just dropping in unannounced. People have to schedule everything and heaven forbid someone sees the house dirty.

It made me wonder briefly, will we reminisce about these days by fondly recalling sitting in front of our computers at home blissfully posting status updates on Facebook and feeling close to our friends and family when they click the "like" button in response? Nonetheless, it's true that the past seems to have been a simpler time.

A few weeks ago I asked my youngest daughter what she wanted for Christmas. "Christmas??" She replied. "It's too early to think of Christmas!" "Fine," I said lightly, "I don't need to get you anything." The next night her Christmas wish list showed up on my pillow. She was afraid to miss out on the chance of getting anything. One of the things on her list was the chance to see a pen pal friend she had made nearly five years ago at a summer camp she attended. The friend lives about two hours away from us. I told her we could make plans to get that Christmas present if we did it before the snow starts to fly.

This weekend she and I got up early and drove out to meet this friend. They were aware we were coming, but she hadn't seen her friend in five years and had never met any of her family. Once we arrived in their town, we called and asked if they wanted to meet us for lunch first. The friend and her mom, Cindy, came out. We had a good meal and seemed to hit it off pretty well. They in turn invited us to their house afterwards to meet their large family. We wound up staying for the day, even going over to the grandmother's house to meet other family members and had a very enjoyable time. The family was very open and gracious towards us and we felt very comfortable. I recalled what Mary Ellen had said about the past, when people would drop in and visit for a day. It felt like we were a part of that simpler time for a little while.

And while we're on the subject of Christmas presents and simpler times, I wanted to direct you to Cindy's website. Billed as a "new tradition with old fashioned appeal," you'll find a great collection of home made gift ideas that are compiled from a variety of blogs, companies,and craft and hobby resources.

As my daughter now knows, it's not too early to be thinking about Christmas!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Never Forgotten

Photo credit: Megan Westfall
Before he passed away two years ago, I used to have my daughters call my father on Veteran’s Day. At the age of 16, he left home and joined the Navy. He put in 20 years of service, retiring at the ripe old age of 36. He then went on to become a vocational education teacher and put in another 20 years of service in that career as well.
My daughters had a school concert this week. It had a patriotic theme in honor of the upcoming holiday and turned out very nice. (I have a hard time listening to Taps, though, as it brings me right back to my father’s funeral.) The superintendent issued a challenge to the students there. He asked them to write down the reason we celebrate Veteran’s Day and bring the explanation into school the next day. He said he would make it worth their while, but didn’t say what he was offering. On the way home, I told my daughters that they should simply bring in a photo of their grandfather and tell the superintendent that’s the reason we celebrate Veteran’s Day.  At home, I hunted up an old photo of him in his Navy uniform and handed it to my daughter to put in her backpack.
My dad had colon cancer around 2005 and then developed lung cancer later which he died from in 2009. Although he fought bravely, eventually he knew he would not win the final battle. So he packed up all his photographs and memorabilia he had collected over the years and gave them to me. I have a large box (really more trunk-sized) of the stuff he gave me. All I have left of him is in that box. While digging through the box to find the photo for my daughter, I had the idea of arranging a collage of items related to his Navy career. The above photo (credited to my daughter) is what resulted.
While deciding what items to include in the collage, I picked up his Navy yearbook and thumbed through it. I noticed that he had carefully gone through the book and turned down each page that contained a photograph of him. He knew that he would not always be around to point these out in the future, but his gesture let me know that he never wants to be forgotten.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - A Chance Discovery

There are many tales of serendipity (a chance discovery) in the field of genealogy.  One particular instance in my research follows:
 I began the search for my ancestors shortly after my grandmother's death in January of 1989.  At the time of her funeral the subject came up, and several family members shared with me what they knew about the family.  I was extremely interested in it and when I returned home, began trying to find other things about the family.  I wrote some about my beginning trek into genealogy in this previous post.
After seeing my grandmother's obituary in the local paper, a woman named Frances Sizemore wrote to my uncle who lived in the area and said that our families were related.  My cousin gave me a copy of the letter and I wrote back to the woman.  Mrs. Sizemore sent me family group sheets she had completed on the Sizemore family and along with it sent a copy of a letter written by my second great grandmother, Martha Sizemore Hardy.  In this letter written to her cousin, Martha mentioned a photograph of her cousin's children.  Frances and I became friends and began a regular correspondence about family history until her death. I once commented to her that it would be nice to see the photograph Martha Hardy mentioned in her letter.

1891 ltr (portion) from Martha Hardy to Wesley Sizemore
In 1992, my husband and I took a trip to visit my grandfather.  While there, my grandfather urged me to pack up some salt & pepper shaker sets to take home with me.  These were originally part of my grandmother's collection.  One afternoon I began the task of taking them from the bookshelf, wrapping them up in newspaper and packing them in a box.  I ran out of newspaper before I had completed the project, so I sent my husband over to the neighbors to get some from her. 
While I was waiting for him to return I started dusting off one of the other shelves in the room and found a folded piece of paper stuck in the corner.  When I opened it, I found it was a recipe written in 1885 and signed by my second great grandmother, Martha Hardy!  Overjoyed at finding a piece of family history, I raced over to the neighbor's house to tell my husband.  The neighbor had lived next door for many years and her daughter was practically considered another grandchild of my grandfather's.  After telling both her and my husband what I had found, I explained further about the things I had discovered about this family line, including the copy of the letter I had.  The neighbor remembered something and went in to the other room and brought back a box.  The box contained some old photographs that my grandmother had given to the neighbor's daughter many years ago.  She explained that my grandmother had told her daughter that she didn't know who was in those old photographs, so she could have them to play with.  When the daughter brought them back to her house, her mother put them away because she felt they were too valuable to play with.  Among those photographs was a group photo of Wesley Sizemore's children.
Wesley Sizemore's children
So after many years later, I held in my hand the very photograph that my second great-grandmother mentioned in the letter written to her cousin.  Both the letter and the photograph survived and in my search had come together full circle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday’s Child - The Story of Myka

In August of 1994, I was visiting family in Michigan and again went the Grand Rapids Public Library to do more research. This time, I checked the 1884 State Census of Michigan for any references to the Kiel family. I knew the family was in Grand Rapids then and could just have easily decided not to look at that record since I thought I knew everything about the family. Luckily for me I followed the rule of leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of genealogy.

Sure enough, on page 331 I found Henry Kiel and his wife Margeritte listed at 233 Lagrave Street. The next family was Henry’s brother, Herodas and his wife Gertie. This I knew was my ancestor. He is listed in various records as Gerrit, Gerhardus, Herodus, etc.  Continuing on the next page was my great-grandmother Hendrika at age 1. This information I was aware of, but the next listing was entirely new to me: another daughter Myke was listed age 7 months. Myke is a spelling variation of Meike or Maike and is a Dutch, Frisian and German derivative of the English name Mary. Though I refer to her as Myka in this narrative, it is actually pronounced M-AYK. The family followed traditional naming patterns and gave this second-born daughter the name of her maternal grandmother. 

The census record indicated that this child was born in October of that census year. This was the first I learned about a sister of my great-grandmother. I assumed this child must have died young, since my grandmother had never mentioned her and probably didn’t even know about her. Herm Kiel was also listed, age 76, as Herodas' widowed father.

On a previous research trip, I had looked up the death records in the Kent County clerk's office for any references to persons named Kiel. Funny, I thought, that I didn't see Myke listed before. I again checked the index to those records housed at the library. No listing. I tried a spelling variation, K-E-I-L. There she was, Micka Keil. I drove over to the county building and checked at the clerk's office. On November 11, 1884 Micka Keil (mistakenly listed as a male) died at age 1 year, 14 days of "teething." Her parents were Gerhardus and Geertje Keil. I was happy to add some new information to the family history. She turned out to be a very important key to finding even more about the whole family.

The next thing I did while still at the library was check the cemetery index for the Kiels. Harm and his wife Henderika Ziegers Kiel were listed as was their son Henderik and his wife Margaretha Kiel. The index listed their burial place as Valley City Cemetery. I asked the librarian for directions to this cemetery. She noted that it was renamed Oak Hill-South and gave me directions. It was too late in the day to visit the cemetery then. I didn't have very much time left on this trip, so I decided to wait until the day I had to go back to the city to catch my plane for the flight home.

I left early that day and went to the main office at Woodlawn Cemetery to check the index books for the exact place they were buried. Looking up Harm Kiel in this index, his burial card was listed as 14 C. When I looked at that burial card, I discovered it wasn't the right one. It didn't even have Kiels listed. I looked up Henderika Kiel in the index, but the space for the burial card number was blank.

How was I going to find where they were buried? It’s a pretty large cemetery and could be an almost impossible task to find where a person is buried just by walking the cemetery. I didn't have that much time, either. Fortunately, I knew about Myka and checked the index book for her. Lucky for me, even though the name was mistakenly written originally as Meike Riel, it was indexed properly in the section of "K"s. This index indicated that she was buried in lot 57C. The index also stated that Meike was aged 1 year, 6 months, and 14 days and died of scrofula. Antiquus Morbus, "The Genealogist's Resource for Interpreting Causes of Death." states that scrofula was a "form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes, especially of the neck, that is most common in children and is usually spread by unpasteurized milk from infected cows."

The burial card for lot 57C did indeed have Kiels listed including Myka's father Gerrit, her grandparents Harm & Henderika and her uncle and aunt, Hendrik & Margaret. Knowing about Myka, I was able to pinpoint the burial location. Interestingly enough, Myka was not listed on the card at all.

Armed with a map of the cemetery, I set out for lot 57C and found it. There is a stone in place for Harm & Henderika and a stone for Hendrik & Margaret. There was no sign of a stone for either Gerrit or Myka.

There were so many opportunities to have missed the short life of little Myka. I could have easily decided not to look at the state census. I could have walked the cemetery without checking the records and might have discovered her grandparents and uncle without knowing that she’s probably buried there, too, in an unmarked grave. And it was all because of her that I found the tombstones so easily in the first place.

Was I just lucky or was there a wisp of a ghost, ethereal and almost too elusive to pinpoint, leading me to our family?

Tombstone of Harm & Henderika Ziegers Kiel

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Netherland Naming Customs, Take 2

After a previous discussion on naming customs and surnames, another focus for Netherlands research is the naming patterns used to name children after close relatives. The traditional system in the Netherlands is as follows:
First son:              named for his paternal grandfather
Second son:       named for his maternal grandfather
Third son:            named for his father’s paternal grandfather
Fourth son:         mother’s paternal grandfather
Fifth son:             father’s maternal grandfather
Sixth son:            mother’s maternal grandfather
This same system was used for the daughters using the grandmother’s names in place of the grandfather. The feminine version of male names was formed using such suffixes as –je/n, -ke/n, -pje/n, -tie/n, -tje/n. Examples in my family include: Grytje and variations such as Gertje, Geertje, Geesjen and Annechje or Annechien. 
It is uncanny how rigidly many Dutch families stuck to this traditional pattern so that one can look at the children and tell the names of the previous generations with surprising accuracy. This system was often abandoned by Dutch immigrants to America perhaps in an effort to assimilate into the majority culture.
Even though she was a third-generation Dutch American, my mother, as the firstborn daughter, was named for her maternal grandmother, but with a bit of variation. It seems that my grandmother was not fond of the name Henrietta, her mother’s Americanized name, so she named my mother Helen, using the same first initial at least.
I went on to give one of my daughters the name Leah. Little did I know at the time that it is a Dutch equivalent of the name Helen.  In a way then, this ties Leah back to her maternal ancestors:
maternal grandmother Helen; then
Helen’s maternal grandmother Henrietta/Hendrika; then
Henrietta’s paternal grandmother Hendericka; then
Hendericka’s paternal grandmother Hinderika who was born in the 1700s.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Grytje Ettes Kloosterman

Friesland traditional dress
Friesland traditional dress

Grytje Ettes Kloosterman, my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother, was born in Augsbuurt in the Friesland province of the Netherlands on 7 April 1788. She was baptized nearly one month later on 1 May 1788 in Augsbuurt. Her parents were Ette Jacobs and Wytske Jans. Her maternal grandfather was Jan Johannes Kloosterman. Before she was seven years old, Grytje’s father died in January 1795. Her mother died when she was twenty.

On 3 January 1812, when Grytje was 24 years old, she gave birth out of wedlock to a daughter. Tijtske Jan, an innkeeper in Burum registered the birth and said that the child’s name would be Ettje Sijmons. As the typical naming customs of the Netherlands was adding the father’s given name (called a patrynomic), I’m reasonably sure that the father was a man named Sijmon.

At the age of 36, Grytje marrie Feike Gerrits Bos in Kollum on 26 Jan 1824. Feike had been previously married to Tryjntje Hendriks who died on 11 October 1822, three days after giving birth to a daughter, Martje. This left Feike with the infant along with three other children, Gerrit age 6, Hendrik age 4 an Hiljte age 1. The infant Martje may have also died, for another daughter was named Martje in 1827. Grytje and Feike had two other sons as well, Jacob born 23 Dec 1824 and Jan born in 1826.

                In 1841, Ettje Sijmons Kloosterman, Grytje’s daughter, was married to her stepbrother, Gerrit. In May of 1848, Jan Feikes Bos married Maaike Dijkstra. Two months later, on 23 July, Feike died. In 1850, Jan’s wife gave birth to a son whom they name Feike Jans Bos. In 1852, a daughter Gertje was born to Jan and his wife. On 2 March 1857, Grytje died at the age of 68.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tomorrow’s Another Day

Fancy Nancy: My Family History (I Can Read Book 1)My postings have been sporadic lately. But that seems to be how life works. Sometimes I have time for traveling to the past, sometimes the present gets in the way. I never let the grass grow under my feet, mind you. I usually always have a project or two going, whether genealogy-related or not. Genealogy is never far from my mind, though. I was looking at children’s books yesterday for Christmas gifts and ran across this book, Fancy Nancy: My Family History. 
I bought it, though I’m not sure if I’m giving it away or keeping it in anticipation of a future opportunity to introduce the subject to the next generation.
Someone Knows My Name: A NovelSpeaking of books, in my spare time I’ve also been reading Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill. It’s a good historical novel about slavery. I don’t remember where I’ve heard the term “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts” before but it’s mentioned in this fictional work.  I highly recommend it.
Recently, I completed a photo scanning project of pictures from the album my cousin Julia sent to me a couple of months ago. (Read more about this in an earlier post by clicking here.) Next on my list was posting information my Westfall page. I got that completed last night, although there is more to add. One of the things I learned in graduate school is to break projects down into chunks to make them more manageable. It used to be that I had more free time to spend hours and days on a project until the whole thing was completed. It was nothing for me to sit at the computer on a Saturday morning and crank out a paper due Monday during my undergrad education. I tried doing that when my first paper in graduate school was due and discovered it was not so easy anymore.  In the midst of the Westfall project, I also multi-tasked and filed some papers on my Dutch families while waiting for photos to upload. My main objective for doing that filing project was to find information I wanted to include in an upcoming post, yet another project to work on.
Anyway, there are always more projects to get done genealogy-wise. When I think of the fact that I’ve been doing this for 20+ years, I relax knowing that tomorrow’s another day.
Me at the beginning of my genealogy project back in the early 90s

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Day Job

Coughell girls w/Uncle A. Metler
My world does consist of more than living in the past, though I try not to let that show too often as this blog is mainly the manifestation of my genealogy personality. Situations sometimes do overlap, though.

 My day job entails working in the foster care system. There have been some new programs and concepts coming out in that field focusing on finding and expanding on family resources for these children. My co-workers and I are participating in some in-depth training on Family Finding developed by Kevin Campbell. Mr. Campbell took some concepts from various other philosophies and resources including research by the Church of Latter-Day Saints that estimates that there are between 100-300 living relatives of every person on the planet. The training introduces techniques and tools for locating relatives of children currently in foster care. I have boasted that I’m good at finding dead people, but I do need more help in finding living ones.

Another technique that Mr. Campbell has incorporated into Family Finding is something called Mobility Mapping in which he has a youth draw a visual map of what he/she remembers of the places they used to live and the people that were important to them in an effort to jog their memory about relatives that may be out there. This technique was originally used in helping displaced children who were part of the Rwandan tragedies.

The trainers mentioned how this visual technique can help retrieve memories that are not otherwise as readily accessible. Evidence of that was made pretty clear when we had the opportunity to practice this technique the other day in training. I was paired up with a woman named Terri and she assumed the role of the youth while I asked her questions and had her draw with markers on poster paper taped to the wall. I asked Terri to draw a picture of the house she lived in growing up and draw the people who lived with her which included her parents and siblings. We moved on to other family members and where they lived. She had an uncle, aunt and cousins who lived next door which she drew. Then we expanded to other family. Her grandparents lived in the same area and she drew pictures to represent them and their homes as well. When she first wrote about her maternal grandmother she could not recall the grandmother’s maiden name. I went on to ask about aunts and uncles and she kept working to add what she could recall. Eventually while explaining about an uncle who lived upstairs from her grandmother, she recalled that Grandpa Gill originally lived upstairs.  “Oh,” she said, turning to me in surprise, “That was my grandmother’s maiden name, Gill! I would have never remembered it otherwise.”

Because of my genealogy background, I find the whole concept of family finding intriguing and have tried to incorporate my family history skills into some of this. I realize this Mobility Mapping technique could be transferred back over to genealogy. Making a visual map could help prompt the memories of an older relative and discover clues about family and/or the local neighborhood.