It's been four years since I drove down to my county courthouse to file the paperwork to create Keep Family History Services. There's something so exciting about taking a first step toward a big change. I can only imagine what it felt like for my ancestors when they took a deep breath and stepped in a new direction. Whether it was making arrangements for a marriage bond, purchasing passage to sail across the Atlantic Ocean, or hitching up a wagon to head West.
Like my ancestors, I didn't know what exactly was waiting for me on the path ahead, but I felt compelled to take this new step forward. I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had over the past four years. This year I've been entrusted with several stories shared by clients which have given me some very unique opportunities to learn about Michigan's history. The more I learn about my adoptive home state, the more I love it here!
I also had some wonderful opportunities to work on my own genealogy this year. My family was very fortunate to be able to spend the month of October in Sweden. While we were there, I did a deep dive into my Swedish ancestry and we were able to take a day to drive around to different places where my family lived. Before we flew home I was able to visit the Kristina statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, where my Swedish ancestors Bengt Jonsson and Anna Håkansdotter each departed for "Amerika" in the 1850s. Standing by the water I couldn't help but think of how they felt about leaving their homeland behind, not knowing what waited for them on the other side of their journey. I'm so grateful for stories of faith and fortitude like theirs to guide me as I have journeyed into the unknown in my own life.
I continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 on my work and am so grateful to be able to return to in-person research at the Library and Archives of Michigan this fall. The genealogical community has continued to offer wonderful educational opportunities via Zoom. I appreciate the support of this community and am looking forward to all the stories waiting to be discovered over the next year!
It's been nearly a year since my last blog post, but I thought I'd peek my head out from under my global COVID-19 pandemic blanket fort to mark this special occasion! It's been three years since I took the leap and made this dream official. Happy birthday, Keep Family History Services!
Although I've been keeping a fairly low profile, my work has continued over the past year. One of the first things I did at the beginning of the shutdown was carve out a more official office space. I moved furniture around, painted an accent wall with leftover paint, and found a wonderful old library table to use as a desk. This has enabled me to offer several classes to local genealogical societies and other organizations via Zoom. I applaud everyone who worked hard to pivot and adapt with short notice in those early months! I've also been able to participate in several online conferences and courses. I just finished participating in a Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) course called Corpus Juris: Advanced Legal Concepts for Genealogy, which was fantastic!
Although libraries and archives have remained closed, I am still able to continue doing client work with digitized records. Over the past year this research has taken me through many time periods in places ranging from Mid-Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, to California and Scotland. I've also been learning about the 1918 influenza pandemic, which had many parallels to our current times. One of my favorite things about using Zoom for Side-by-Side Client Work is being able to share screens. This allows us take a closer look at records together and I can guide clients through any situations they may have found challenging. I'm looking forward to doing more of this work in the year to come.
I'll admit that my mind has been less preoccupied with the past, and more cognizant of the present during these times. The events of the past year have been very challenging for so many of us. I started keeping a "COVID diary" last March, where I take notes on what I've done during the day and included important local or national news. I know that one day my descendants will be wondering what this was like for us.
I'm sending out virtual hugs, with a candle lit in my heart for better times ahead.
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).
I'm Ginger Ogilvie, and I am absolutely, hopelessly hooked on genealogy!
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