I've had the chorus from that Hamilton song running through my head lately, although I don't think the break we are currently taking was quite what the Schuyler sisters had in mind.
My family is currently on Day Three of purposely staying home in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Last week was a whirlwind of cancellations and attempts to stay up on the latest news. We stocked up on food and medications. I've had to say good-bye to speaking engagements and client meetings this month. My calendar has opened up in some ways, but it now filled with more time with my children now that school is canceled for several weeks. We've made a goal of going for a long walk every day and it already feels great.
In the flurry of health advice and resources for parents who are nervous about having their children home for several weeks, I thought I'd jump in with my own ideas for things people of all generations can do together or independently to make progress with their family history over the next month:
As concerned as I have been for the health of my family and neighbors, I can't help but feel a little excited about this unexpected change of pace. The weather is finally warming up a little here in Michigan, opening up opportunities for gardening and outdoor exploration. It has also been good to reach out to friends and family members to make sure everyone is in good health. We are trying to be helpers and look for silver linings.
My very best wishes go out to all of you during this unprecedented moment in time. Take good care (and keep washing those hands!).
I have even more good news about very exciting events happening last week. I learned that my application for membership in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was accepted!
You might remember my 52 Ancestors "Independence" post about identifying potential patriots and loyalists. That was back in July 2018. Since then I have been steadily working on learning more about requirements for DAR membership, and what challenges might stand in the way of applying. I also started attending meetings of my local DAR chapter, to get a better feel for the organization.
I found the DAR to be very welcoming and supportive of my efforts. Things really moved forward once I made contact with my chapter's Registrar. She was a great resource for the final steps of submitting my application.
I found that my biggest challenges were tracking down more recent vital records, such as copies of death certificates for my grandparents, and proving a connection for one parent-child relationship from the 1800s in a region where records were scarce. That was for Cosmelia Farnsworth Ogilvie and her father, Stephen Martindale Farnsworth, who were mentioned in my previous post.
I admit that I was initially surprised by how little direct evidence existed to connect Cosmelia to her father. There were several reasons for this, including the historical and legal context, the early death of her mother, the distance in age between Cosmelia and her father, that her mother was his third wife, and his departure to another state. In order to back up the claims of compiled family histories, I had to turn to indirect evidence to support their relationship. I found this to be a fun challenge and ended up learning a lot more about my great-great-grandmother through this process.
I am very proud to have successfully proven my relationship to patriots Cephas Kent, Sr., and his son, Cephas Kent, Jr., of Dorset, Vermont. I am even more proud of the fact that by proving the connection between Cosmelia and her father, I have now made it much easier for all of her female descendants, including my daughter, to apply for DAR membership.
Today is a very special day! Two years ago my long-time dream became a reality when I launched Keep Family History Services. It has been an amazing two years, thanks to the wonderful clients and community members who have invited me to join them on some very interesting genealogical journeys. When I started I couldn't have dreamed that soon I would be learning about early Michigan abolitionists, digging through Italian birth records, happening upon a circus performer's census entry, or driving down icy roads to visit a rural cemetery in the middle of Winter.
It is ALSO very special because today I finished a thirteen month long study group called ProGen. If you know me in real life, or were enjoying my regular blog posts (ha!), you may have been wondering where I have been for the past several months - that's where! Each month I had assigned readings and written work that I would share with a small group of other genealogists. We would read and review each other's creations and share resources. All of this took a lot of time and effort. It has been challenging for me to balance along with my client work and ongoing commitments of home and community. Somehow I survived! I came out feeling stronger in my professional skills, and am grateful for all I learned from my peers.
Completing ProGen has prepared and inspired me to continue working toward certifying with the Board for Certification of Genealogists. That is my next major genealogical goal. In the meantime (after a few naps and at least an attempt at getting my house in order), I am looking forward to speaking at a couple of local family history gatherings and commencing new genealogical journeys with clients, both past and future.
2/2/2020 - it's Groundhog Day my friends - many happy returns!
You may have noticed that there has been quite a lot of talk about privacy concerns relating to autosomal DNA testing. Here are just some examples of the many articles and blog posts relating to this conversation:
I was recently asked, "Which company would you recommend to someone who has concerns about their privacy, but is interested in testing in order to confirm a previously-undocumented relationship?" I usually respond that we should do our own research and make the best decisions we can for ourselves. I have done that for myself, but my situation will likely differ from other people. So, in order to assist people to make their own choices, I am posting links to the privacy policies for all of the major DNA companies, for easy reference.
Please note that the information I am posting is correct to the best of my knowledge as of today. Things change very quickly in the world of genetic genealogy, so I can't guarantee that this information will stay current - please continue to do your own research on this very important topic.
To start, here is FamilySearch's new DNA Testing information page:
[offers Y-DNA and mtDNA testing as well]
[partnered with Find My Past]
My Heritage DNA
[not a testing company - a place to upload your results from the above companies]
Finally, remember that DNA is very, very personal. Even if you have decided that you feel comfortable with submitting your own DNA to a testing company, or uploading the results to GEDmatch, this will not be true for everyone. No one should ever feel pressured into testing or sharing their results with you or others. DNA testing should always take place with full and informed consent. That said, the promises of genetic genealogy continue to be very exciting. So do what feels most comfortable, and try to understand that others are probably doing the same.
Disclaimers: I am not employed by any of the above companies, and do not receive any remuneration when someone buys a DNA test after viewing my web site. I have been approved as a Contractor for Ancestry ProGenealogists, and I also volunteer as a co-administrator for the Ogilvy surname project hosted by FamilyTree DNA.
Updated 12/4/2019 to remove references to GEDmatch Genesis, as the transition back to GEDmatch is complete.
I was admiring a friend's redecorated office recently. As I scanned the wall, looking at framed photos and artwork, she pointed out a large cross stitch. The timeworn fabric contained the names and birth dates of a very large family, with the heading "Parents and Children." The parents were stitched in at the top, followed by twelve children, all with the same surname as my friend's husband. Separated at the end were the death dates of two of the children (one less than a year old), as well as the date the mother finished her needlework, approximately five years prior to her death, which was also recorded in the same style.
I was thinking about how fortunate her husband's family was to have kept such a treasure in their family, when my friend told me the story of how it came into their possession. It turned out that her college roommate's mother had found it at a second-hand store in Kansas. She purchased it and kept it hanging on a wall in their home. Eventually, when she was downsizing, she thought of my friend, who was getting married to a man who shared the same surname as this family. She offered it to them, and they gladly accepted it. So, in fact, the family hanging on their wall was not at all related to my friend's family, that she knew of.
I realize that there are many early-American families whose vital information was recorded by needlepoint in this fashion, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries, so this may not be the most "unusual source." (In fact, needlework has been used to support pension claims!) That said, how many of these works of love have been destroyed by time, or handed down to second-hand stores, rather than to grateful relatives? No one in my family has inherited something like this, that I know of - what about you, dear Reader? Could an unrelated someone be lovingly displaying the genealogical evidence you have been seeking on their wall right now?
My friend treasures this handwork, and happily agreed when I offered to help her learn more about this family. Using the dates sewn into this fabric, I was easily able to find a Find A Grave entry in Kansas for the mother of this family, which is where we found a beautiful tribute from her obituary. We'll do a little more digging... wouldn't it be amazing if it turned out that her husband actually WAS related??
As far as I know, the only direct ancestor of mine who comes close to sharing my birthday is Sabra Almeda Lake Dixon, my great-great-great grandmother. She was born 17 July 1824, one day away, and nearly 150 years before, my birthday. You might remember Sabra from my post about her mother and half-sister for Week 22: So Far Away, or from the post about her husband, William Wilkinson Dixon for Week 4: Invite to Dinner.
I was happy to find this lovely tribute to her. It is amazing that she outlived her husband and eleven of her fifteen children! I'm proud to have her as my almost-birthday-buddy.
1. "Sabra Dixon Called After Long Illness," Deseret News (Utah), Saturday, 18 July 1908, page 24; Utah Digital Newspapers (www.newspapers.lib.utah.edu : accessed 14 Sept 2018).
My great-great-great-grandfather, Edwin Stratford, is an excellent candidate for this week's post. He worked diligently in several fields (including some actual fields) - I am always inspired by his accomplishments when I read about his life.
According to information recorded in newsprint and biographies by his relatives (found on FamilySearch), Edwin spent his early years working as a gardener on an estate in Maldon, Essex, England. The son of a cabinet maker, Edwin was the eldest of ten children. For a short time prior to his work as a gardener, he sold newspapers in London, while the family briefly lived there. At the age of 19, he also labored as a missionary for his church, and, after marrying in 1855, he and his wife, Marianna Crabb Stratford, emigrated to the United States. During their six-year-journey West, he performed farm labor, and earned money chopping wood. He also acted in church leadership roles and supported his growing family.
Once they arrived in Utah, in the Fall of 1861, he built a house in Farmington, for which he bartered labor for goods and materials. By 1864, he had moved his family to Cache Valley, Utah, where he built another house, and started a farm. In this community he built "canals and canyon roads." He also commenced work as a school teacher in Millville, two miles away. During this period he served as the county assessor and collector. He remained in Cache Valley until 1872.
As you can see in the above (and following) clippings from his obituary in the Ogden Daily Standard, Edwin was able to transfer his skills toward many different enterprises. But he was still just getting started!
As a gardener myself, this next paragraph warms my heart. Knowing that he carried his passion for flowers all the way from his teen years in England, to the untamed desert environs of Utah - literally making the desert bloom - brings me so much joy and connection to this man. I also love the description of his strong character at the end.
To sum it up, Edwin Stratford had the following jobs, many of them more than once:
Nice work, Grandfather Stratford.
1. "Gone to His Rest," Ogden Daily Standard (Utah), 9 October 1899, page 4; Utah Digital Newspapers (https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu : accessed 8 September 2018). All facts in this post reference information recorded in this obituary.
... and back to blogging! My kids started back to school this past week. Whew! I am already suffering from waking up earlier than usual. I have so much respect for teachers who wake up early every morning, often getting their own kids off to school, in order to be there for our children. I know that this is the case, because my mother was a teacher. Her mother was also a teacher. I volunteer at school often, because I know how much work teachers put in, and also how much support they need. I've been known to say, "You can always tell who the teachers' kids are, because they are usually the first to help out."
My maternal grandmother, Marjorie Skeen Russell, was fortunate to attend college at the University of Utah, where she received her degree in physical education. While she rarely had a classroom of her own, my grandma taught children in many capacities during her life. Among other endeavors, she was a substitute P.E. teacher, a driver's education instructor, taught Kindergarten at a private school, and was a docent for Utah's Hogle Zoo, bringing animals into classrooms.
She credited her passion for learning and discovery to her own experience as a young student at the William M. Stewart School. The school's new building was constructed on the University of Utah campus just a year before she started Kindergarten in 1919 (according to my best calculations). It acted as the Normal School or "lab" school for the College of Education, and many of the children who attended were children of professors or others associated with the University of Utah. The teaching philosophy was very hands-on and experiential. The teachers capitalized on the many connections with parents and associates by making the campus their classroom.
My grandma loved recounting her early school days. One of the memories she shared was of walking across 500 South (just South of the university) to Mt. Olivet Cemetery, where the class would observe and catch tadpoles. As older students, they raised chickens on the roof of the school, and sold the eggs. The children practiced their math skills by keeping track of egg sales. She related her pride at being selected to ring the school bell. The bonds the children formed lasted a lifetime. I have memories of my grandma still regularly meeting her "Kindergarten friends" for lunch when she was in her 80s.
While I was trying to learn more about the school, I found an article written in 1988 when a reunion for the school was being organized. It described the wonderful environment created for the students - you can read all about it here. It really sounded like a dream for the entire school community.
I can say, without a doubt, that my grandmother's experience at this school has rippled out far and wide for many years. My grandma used the hands-on model of the school while raising her own children, making sure they played with clay and got out to explore nature. My mother grew up to be a dedicated teacher, whose use of experiential learning earned her the 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Much like my grandma, while I have never had my own classroom, I spent my 20s and 30s in the field of outdoor education, sharing the wonders of our natural world and gardening with young children, including my own. So many lives have been influenced by the efforts of the Stewart School - I'm left feeling very grateful for it!
If you are interested in learning more about the William M. Stewart School, there are two collections of related materials available to the general public. I will definitely be taking a look the next time I am in Salt Lake City! Here is more information:
1. "Marjorie Skeen Russell, Obituary," Deseret News (Utah), 1 November 2001; Deseret News Archives (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/885020/Obituary-Marjorie-Skeen-Russell.html : accessed 2 September 2018); also telephone conversation with author's mother/daughter of Marjorie Skeen Russell, 1 September 2018.
2. "William Stewart Building (1920)," revised 12 March 1998, University of Utah Graduate School of Architecture; University of Utah Historic Buildings (http://students.arch.utah.edu/hba/htmlfiles/bldg006.html : accessed 3 September 2018).
3. "Thanksgiving Play Dinners Enjoyed by Tots, Stewart Pupils Prepare Tempting Menus," Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), 27 November 1919, page 22; Utah Digital Newspapers (https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=15066768 : accessed 3 September 2018).
4. "Stewart School Is Having a Reunion," Deseret News (Utah), 27 September 1988; Deseret News Archives (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/18645/STEWART-SCHOOL-IS-HAVING-A-REUNION.html : accessed 3 September 2018).
Now that I am just past the halfway point of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, I wanted to take a minute to reflect. First, I am so glad that I chose to participate! I hadn't intended to keep an active blog when I created my website, but couldn't resist participating after reading such inspiring posts from others. As Amy Johnson Crow has reminded us, there is no "behind" in this project - it's all about the progress. My favorite thing about participating has been that, even when I start a post thinking I already have all the information on my topic, I ALWAYS end up learning something new as I write. I have located so many new documents, and even busted through a longstanding brick wall on my maternal line, thanks to being forced to ask myself the question, "How do I show others that this information is true?"
I started out a little behind, and have really worked hard to stay on top of my posts each week, as our Michigan Winter slowly melted into Spring. I was doing pretty well until Summer hit, and then my kids came home from school. This is my first Summer as a practicing genealogist. I have learned that I need to lighten my genealogical commitments during this season, so that I can spend time with my family, do a little traveling, and work on all the little things I've been putting off, like edging the lawn! I have also started taking on client work, which has left me with less time for crafting posts of the caliber you've come to expect from me.
That said, I'm not out of the game quite yet! I am looking forward to getting back to researching and writing new posts soon, but it might have to wait until I finish a couple of client projects, and get my kid back to school. I have really enjoyed the entire process of writing these posts, and am looking forward to the discoveries waiting to be made in the weeks to come!
My childhood was full of music. My mom would break out into song whenever the mood struck her - Broadway classics, movie tunes, church songs, traditional ballads - she had a song in her pocket for nearly every occasion. Her mother, Marjorie Skeen Russell, was also very musical. We loved to listen to her sing early 20th Century songs, as she played the piano or the organ, and couldn't wait for our turn to try them out. Sadly, I never learned to read or play music, but I have always enjoyed listening to it, and have encouraged music lessons for my kids.
When my son was a newborn, and I was in a sleepless fog, I struggled to remember the words to the songs that my mom would sing to me. Eventually they came (after I looked up the lyrics, or more often, just made up new words), and now I am the mom who has a song in my pocket. I remember groaning as my mom would get the words wrong, but now the roles have reversed, and I am the one filling in the words, as my own children roll their eyes. I hope they, too, will learn one day that it doesn't matter who is listening, or if you miss a note, or change the lyrics... singing brings joy, and a connection to everyone who has sung before you.