Friday, February 29, 2008

Black History Month Wrap Up

As Black History Month wraps up, I wanted to leave a few observations, thoughts, and helpful links. This year, I probably paid more attention to this heritage month than in the past, simply because I have recently learned through a DNA test that some close family members have African ancestry. How long ago this race blended into their family tree is unknown, but the results were hardly surprising to me, since I have suspected for a while the possibility of Melungeon roots in their ancestry. Whether this proves to be the source of their African roots, or whether it is much more ancient, research will only tell. Of course, this only makes me curious to find out if I have anything other than Caucasian/West European blood in my own genetic makeup!

If you know or suspect you have African roots, or you're merely curious as to how genealogists of African descent undertake the complicated challenges of their particular research, then may I suggest four excellent blogs by those who have been researching and/or blogging their genealogy for some time: Craig Manson blogs about his African, Native American and Caucasian roots at GeneaBlogie, and brings a unique and professional perspective from his service as an officer in the military and experience as a judge and law professor to the geneablogging world. Taneya Koonce McClellan is a librarian at Vanderbilt University who maintains six(!) genealogy blogs and a website (her main blog is Taneya's Genealogy Blog). Her blogs contain many historical articles and notices she gleans from old newspapers in Tennessee and North Carolina. George Geder is a professional photographer, photograph restorer, writer, and lecturer, as well as a forum manager for the book forum at AfriGeneas. I especially enjoy his Wordless Wednesday posts on Genealogy~Photography~Restoration when he uses an ancestral photo and then later blogs about the history of the individual(s) featured within it. And Jennifer Cotten Campbell at But Now I'm Found: Genealogy in Black and White (who also has other blogs and a website) painstakingly details the complexities of surname changes and brick walls of researching enslaved ancestors. Other genealogy blogs on African-American research can be found at Chris Dunham's Genealogy Blog Finder: African-American Blogs.

Back when I was a homeschooling parent, I signed up to receive educational materials from the United States Postal Service. I was recently sent a packet on Black History Month and the release of the 31st stamp in the Black Heritage series, which features Charles W. Chesnutt (1858–1932), "a pioneering writer recognized today as a major innovator and singular voice among turn–of–the–century literary realists. In novels such as The Marrow of Tradition and short stories such as those collected in The Conjure Woman he probed the color line in American life." Although he could easily have "passed" as a white man, Chesnutt used his influence and his author's voice to examine and expose racial issues during a time of great civil injustice in American history. If you are interested in receiving the USPS educational kits, visit their classroom resources page.

Back to the subject of genealogy bloggers: Tim Abbott of Walking the Berkshires posted a series called "Race and Memory" in which he shares his thoughts and observations of race relations from the time of his ancestors in colonial America through the Civil Rights era and to the present day. These essays are sober, touching on complexities, and reminding us that American slavery was not just a Southern issue. We sometimes forget that at one time, slavery was present in all the original colonies, and that during the Civil War, several of the Union states were slave states until the Emancipation Proclamation.

Several months ago, the family of my brother-in-law and our own family gathered together to watch the DVD of Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilburforce, the Member of Parliament who was instrumental in ending the slave trade in the British Empire (which was also a catalyst for abolitionism in the United States). The plot focuses not so much on the issues of slavery, but on the life of a man who lost his health--and nearly his life--in his mission to put an end to this inhumanity. Wilburforce's mentor was John Newton, writer of the lyrics of "Amazing Grace." At about the time I saw the movie, I was sent a link to a YouTube video of Wintley Phipps that provides a possible explanation for the tune of famous hymn. This video also gives an interesting music lesson about Negro Spirituals and the black notes of the piano.

Unfortunately, I missed PBS's African-American Lives 2 (I'm not much of a television watcher, and so often miss interesting shows when they air). However, I was excited to see that there are major clips available on PBS's website. My local public library is a wonderful resource for many PBS series available on DVD, and I will be looking for this and the first series to take home and watch, hopefully during my upcoming Spring Break.

Last on my list of African Roots links: I received the following interesting book review from Rick Robert's Global Genealogy Newsletter about the book To Stand and Fight Together.

In 1812, a 67-year-old black United Empire Loyalist named Richard Pierpoint helped raise “a corps of Coloured Men to stand and fight together” against the Americans who were threatening to invade the tiny British colony of Upper Canada.

Pierpoint‘s unique fighting unit would not only see service throughout the War of 1812, it would also be the first colonial military unit reactiviated to quash the Rebellion of 1837. It would go on to serve as a police force, keeping the peace among the competing Irish immigrant gangs during the construction of the Welland Canal.

Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps are the central focus, but the sidebars featuring fascinating facts about the rise and fall of slavery in North America and the state of African-Canadians in early Canada provide an entertaining and informative supplement. Among other tidbits, readers will find out why “Good Queen Bess” launched the British slave industry and how Scottish pineapples are connected to the American Declaration of Independence.

Steve Pitt‘s first book, Rain Tonight: A Tale of Hurricane Hazel, was nominated for the Silver Birch, Red Cedar, and Rocky Mountain awards. He has been published in many magazines and newspapers, including Toronto Life, Canadian Family.

Report on February 2008 Scanfest

This has been one of the most intense work weeks of the school year, coupled with evening activities for myself or my children all week long (except for Wednesday night, when I crashed for a much-needed two-hour nap). Most of the posts I've published this week were pre-written, so although it looks like I've been busy writing all week, I just haven't had the chance to write about the great Scanfest we had last Sunday, until now! And believe me, it was worth blogging about! I'm so honored that many of the participants chose to blog about it on their own blogs.

We again set a record with the number of Scanfesters for the second month in a row! Besides myself, there were nine other participants: Apple, Colleen, Elizabeth, the footnoteMaven, Jasia, John, Renee, Sheri (a non-blogger), and Thomas. And again, we set a record for the second month in a row for new participants, John and Sheri!

As usual, our conversations ranged from the serious to the silly (click on some of the links above to find out our chat topics!). Amazingly enough, we got a lot accomplished, even me (the hostess doesn't always get a lot of scanning done, as she is busy with adding new arrivals to the conversation, and other logistical duties).

One of the things brought up in conversation was my desire to spend a lot of time scanning when I go on Spring Break (Saturday, March 29 - Sunday, April 6). We'll be having a regular Scanfest during that time, anyway (Sunday, March 30th from 11 AM - 2 PM, Pacific Time). But I am thinking that I will turn on Windows Live Messenger whenever I do a major scan project during Scanfest, and you can feel free to join me. I can include evening times, for those of you who have not been able to join us on Sundays due to church and/or family activities. Again, this Spring Break Scan-a-thon will be very informal, no set times; just look for me when you're online to see if I'm on, too. I'll have more details and reminders as we approach these dates. I hope you can join us!

Technology and Genealogy

The topic for the 43rd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is "Technology." Here are some things we were asked to consider: "What technology do you most rely on for your genealogy and family history research? Select one piece of hardware (besides your computer), one piece of software (besides your internet browser), and one web site/blog (besides your own) that are indispensable to you."

It was very hard to choose a piece of hardware because I have three that I consider indispensable. But for this post, I decided on my trusty Lexmark 83 printer/scanner/copier/fax machine. I've had this for a number of years, and only had one problem (a loose carriage band) which was easily fixed with a call to tech support. I use my four-in-one daily, and of course, where would Scanfest be without it? The only feature I've never been able to figure out is the fax, and since only I do that about once a year, I just use the machine at work.

Again, I have several favorite software programs for a variety of purposes, including genealogy. Right now, I would have to choose my RootsMagic program. I absolutely love the SourceWizard that comes with it, which makes citing my sources so much easier than looking up each entry in Elizabeth Shown Mills's books!

And I have to agree with many of my fellow geneabloggers: Google is absolutely indispensable when it comes to online genealogy. I use the following features either many times a day or several times a week, mainly in relation to genealogy: Search, Images, Maps, Gmail, iGoogle, Blogger, Reader, Analytics, Calendar, Picasa, Chat, Earth, Toolbar, Web Accelerator, and Docs.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Halvor Moorshead Retiring February 29th

I received the following e-mail today. I had the opportunity to meet Halvor and his wife Marian at the EWGS Spring Seminar in 2007--what a charming couple! Many of us have enjoyed the magazines that Halvor started: Family Chronicle, History Magazine, Internet Genealogy, and very recently, Discovering Family History. I wish Halvor and Marion the best in their retirement, and know that the individuals he's chosen to sell Moorshead Magazines to will continue to publish quality publications for the genealogical community.

I am retiring on Friday, 29 February 2008.

I wish I had the capacity to e-mail everyone with whom I do business - and my friends – individually about the following but this is not practical so I am sending out this general announcement about important changes affecting our publishing company.

I have sold Moorshead Magazines - which includes Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy, History Magazine and the new Discovering Family History and will be retiring. The sale finalizes on Friday 29 February 2008.

This is not quite as radical as it first sounds.

I am selling the company to two of the staff - Ed Zapletal and Rick Cree. They have made it clear that their main reason for buying the company is that they do NOT want any changes. There will obviously be some differences as I will be out of the picture, but there will be no staff changes. Victoria, Marc and Jeannette will be continuing in the same roles.

I turned 65 in November and want time to travel and do other things with Marian (my wife) while we are still capable (I also plan on spending a lot of time researching my own genealogy!). I also want to do more lecturing.

I am intensely proud of what we have done with Moorshead Magazines - we have dedicated, loyal and highly experienced staff. Ed and Rick have both been with me for 24 years - way, way before we published Family Chronicle. We work very well
together and we have been pretty successful. Things are going well – Discovering Family History looks as though it will become another success story and this is important to me; I very much want to retire on a high note.

Part of the sale agreement is that I will act as a consultant related to the magazines for three years so I am not entirely cut off. In addition, I plan to be at the NGS Annual Convention in Kansas City in May, largely to say goodbye personally to the many friends I have made in the genealogy field over the years.

Halvor Moorshead

Mrs. R.C. WESTABY in Elsie's Place

Source: Westaby, Rebecca Catherine (Snook). Photograph. C. 1920s. Original photograph in the possession of Troy Midkiff, Vancouver, Washington. 2008.

Isn't this a wonderful photo? It features my husband's great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Catherine (SNOOK) WESTABY (1865 - 1960) in "Elsie's Place", probably in Seattle, King Co., Washington in the 1920s. The title of this post is the caption on the back of the photo, which is how I know the name of the owner of this store. I've blogged about Rebecca (and her buttonhook) before, here. But I have no idea who Elsie was. She doesn't appear among any of the names I have related to Rebecca or her ex-husband, George "Rice" WESTABY, II. Perhaps Elsie was a friend or a distant relative. I have another photo of Rebecca outside her daughter Izma's dress shop, which would not have been this same store. I suspect Rebecca was in Seattle to visit Izma when both photos were taken, as she is wearing the same dress--but different shoes--in each of them. Rebecca was living in Salem, Marion Co., Oregon at the time.

This photo reminds me of the I Spy books my children had when they were little:

I spy three Coke ads and one for Hires,
Campbell's Soup and some hanging lamp wires.

If you click on the photo above, it will take you to my Picasa web album, and you can zoom in even more. What other goodies can you spy? Leave your answers in the comments feature below. Extra points if you can make an I Spy rhyme!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Mrs. R.C. WESTABY in Elsie's Place

(click on photo several times to enlarge)

Source: Westaby, Rebecca Catherine (Snook). Photograph. C. 1920s. Original photograph in the possession of Troy Midkiff, Vancouver, Washington. 2008.

Monday, February 25, 2008

More Syllabuses Available

In both January and February of this year, I gave presentations to the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society's members-only computer classes (see the list of past and future classes here). I'm very proud of the educational programs that our society provides its members and the general public through its classes and meetings. To get an idea of the types of topics we cover, see the "What You Missed" feature of our blog. This helps keep our absent and snowbirding members current with our calendar of events.

If you are interested in any of the syllabuses for the classes I've taught, I offer them freely to anyone who requests them by e-mail. My e-mail address can be found here. My topics are:

  • *Finding Vital Records and Obituaries Online
  • *
  • *How to Use Online Message Boards
  • *Finding Volunteer Researchers Online
  • *County Genealogy Websites (USGenWeb, USGenNet, etc.)
  • *Find A Grave
  • *How to Fix Broken Links, and Other Tips and Tricks

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sad News, Good News

My dad's oldest sister called yesterday morning with some sad news. At first, my thoughts flew to my paternal grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about a year ago. But my aunt called to say that my 85-year-old granduncle, William Bryan ROBBINS, Jr., had passed away that morning. He was the second child of my paternal great-grandparents, William Bryan ROBBINS, Sr. (of Polar Bear fame on this blog) and Marie LEWIS, and a veteran of World War II (U.S. Army Air Corps), Korea, and VietNam (U.S. Air Force). I'll be looking for an obituary online for him the next few days and share it when I find it.

I know that I met Uncle Bill when I was very little, but I have no memories of him. I believe that he and his family were living in Texas and New Mexico when I was older and made trips to visit family in Michigan. So I don't necessarily feel a personal loss; just a sadness that another of my beloved grandfather's siblings have passed away (Uncle Jack died just last July). Only the youngest, a widowed grandaunt, much younger than the rest of her siblings, survives of that family group.

Some good genealogy news that occurred yesterday was the arrival of a huge package of documents and photographs that my dad's middle sister shipped to me after doing some cleaning at her mother's place last week (her mother is my paternal grandmother, the one with Alzheimer's mentioned above). Most of the contents are modern photos, which although that may sound disappointing to those interested in family history, I now have a glimpse into the retirement years of my paternal grandparents, plus dozens and dozens of recent photos of my cousins and their children, as well as photos of my grandfather's siblings and their descendants. Because I so rarely see my relatives, this is a blessing and treasure. There were also some items that were very old, as well as sentimental, that I hope to blog about later. The most touching was the card my late grandfather gave to my grandmother on their 50th anniversary in 1990. Upon opening it and seeing his familiar handwriting and the words of love and devotion, I burst into tears. My grandfather had a way of making everyone in his life--family members, friends, colleagues--feel very special. I'm sure each of his grandchildren felt certain that he or she was the most loved and cared for of all!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Exceptional Reads

There are some dedicated geneabloggers out there who every week list their favorite reads from the blogosphere...or more. I've been honored to have some of my posts mentioned by them. Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings posts his "Best of the Genea-Blogs" every Sunday, as does Terry Thornton at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi under the heading, "Harvest from the Blog Garden." Terry's cousin, Lori Thornton at Smoky Mountain Family Historian, a librarian as well as a genealogist, posts her "Reading Roundup," which extends beyond genealogy and even beyond blogs to include news articles of interest. Pat Richley, a.k.a. DearMYRTLE has her "BEST of the Internet for Genealogist Award" each week as well, in which she lists not just her favorite blog of the week, but her BEST weekly picks in the following nine categories: instruction, database site, scanned image site, podcast, video, commentary, innovation, most interesting thread, and ethnic studies. UPDATE: I knew there was another geneablogger out there who also highlights weekly faves, but my mind was drawing a blank! Donna Pointkouski at What's Past is Prologue features "Donna's Picks" each week.

I don't think I'm ready to do this on a regular basis the way the above bloggers do, but from time to time I do like to point out some interesting, thought-provoking, educational or link-sharing posts. I noticed this past week that there were some exceptional reads out there, and I'd like to highlight them:

  • *Charlotte, a.k.a. "Apple" at Apple's Tree started off her week with the post "Housekeeping" in which she has linked to an article on her other blog about the homecoming of Sgt. Van Orman. She also notified her readers about Blogger In Draft, a blog that informs Blogger users about beta or "in draft" features, one of which is scheduled posts. I was very excited to hear about this new feature, and have used it several times this week: those are the posts that appear at 2 AM Pacific Time. I'm not up that late; I schedule the posts to appear so that my East Coast family members and readers can read them at the beginning of the day, just as I enjoy reading my fellow genea-bloggers posts when I first get up.
  • *J. L. Beeken at JLog highlighted KeePass, a handy application I've downloaded. Ever forget a user name and password to a site or program? This will be helpful.
  • *Remember bronzed baby shoes? Although I never had them, I know many in my generation--or those older than me--did. Mrs. Mecomber of New York Traveler wrote about them in "Baby Steps", how bronzing your baby's first shoes is "coming back." She provided a link to the American Bronzing Company so you can see how the process is done.
  • *From one of my ancestral locations, the Grand Rapids [Michigan] Press reports that an airport in Muskegon (also an ancestral location) in neighboring Muskegon County won't be named after a World War II ace after all. While the news is disappointing, the brief history of U.S. Navy fighter pilot Ira "Ike" Kepford was an excellent read.
  • *Lastly, did a natural disaster or terrible accident affect your ancestor's life? Check out GenDisasters...Genealogy in Tragedy, Disasters, Fires, Floods, a user-submitted database of transcribed newspaper articles depicting American and Canadian disasters. You can search by location, disaster type, or year, plus there are message boards you can use. I searched to find the Alaska helicopter crash of close family friends of my parents, and while I did not find it, I did come across the article reporting the Lear jet crash U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) survived in 1978, which killed, among others, his wife, Ann. I remember vividly when that happened, for although we did not know the Stevenses personally, my dad's Aunt Mary Shore was his secretary in Washington, D.C., and Stevens was a popular leader in the state. Everyone was saddened by this tragedy.
I hope you agree with me that these are excellent reads...enjoy!

Scanfest Reminder

Don't forget! Scanfest is tomorrow!

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Genealogy Guide for Finland Research

SALT LAKE CITY--FamilySearch announced today the release of a free new research tool that will help those with Finnish roots to find their ancestors. The research guide, Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Finland, features easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, colorful graphics, and tear-out worksheets. A free copy can be viewed or printed online at

Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Finland helps take the guesswork out of Finnish genealogical research by simplifying the process and giving users a specific, proven strategy to use. In an inviting workbook style, the guide will show users which records to search, what to look for, and what tools to use. It colorfully outlines the steps and tools needed to navigate Finnish records to find ancestors. Users will learn where to start, how to find and use Finnish records, and what unique elements to look for in the records. The booklet provides expert advice every step of the way in a highly illustrative, user-friendly manner.

Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Finland, Before 1900 is the latest addition to the popular series of free online publications. It also completes the set of guides for the Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden were published previously). The 37 page guide simplifies the research process and is a must-have reference tool for researchers of Finnish genealogy. It is designed for those who have already gathered some family history information about their Finland ancestors and are ready to search public and private records. Users will find simple instructions, examples, and removable pedigree and family group worksheets to help them capture what they already know about their families.

The guide explains different types of records in Finland and instructs the user when and how to use specific records. A real-life case study allows readers to see for themselves how the research process works. Expert search tips, including tips on how to use the Family History Library Catalog, are included. Also included are maps, key dates in Finnish history, and guides for reading Finnish genealogical records.

Additional guides in the Finding Records of Your Ancestors series published previously include African American, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Jewish, Mexico, Norway, and Sweden.

Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Finland can be viewed and printed for free online at

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Postcard from John LERFALD to Rena LERFALD, 1 Apr 1908

Here is the second of the 1908 postcards I found I had scanned out of date order.



Source: The Westaby-Lerfald Postcard Collection. Privately held by Troy Midkiff, Vancouver, Washington.

This postcard appears to be from Rena's older brother, John LERFALD. There is obviously no message, so I am wondering if the purpose of this card was to show Rena where he lived, worked, or attended school in Valley City, Barnes County, North Dakota. John would have been 23, almost 24, at this time, so it is doubtful to me that he was attending school here, although not impossible. I haven't researched enough of his life to really know; I do know from family oral and written history that he never married, and died at the age of 82 in 1966, probably in Wisconsin, outliving his younger sister Rena by five months.

I am planning on sending a copy of the postcard front to the Penny Postcard site.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The 4th Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy is Posted

Jessica over at Jessica's Genejournal, has just published the 4th Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, which has a "carousel" theme, meaning submitters could choose to write about whichever topic they liked. To my knowledge, I have no ancestry from this part of Europe, but I wanted to participate and so submitted a post in the series about my great-grandfather's service in the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces. Four other geneabloggers wrote a total of seven more articles, making this the largest CCEEG so far! I encourage you to go read these interesting posts.

The 5th Edition of the CCEEG will be on traditional dishes of Central and Eastern Europe and the deadline for submissions is March 21st. I'm excited about this because once again, this Frisian-Dutch-English-Scots-German-French gal gets to submit a post to the CCEEG! Many of my readers know that I grew up in Alaska, and there is to this day, a definite influence of Russian culture in that state, including some great food! I'll be sharing two favorite Russian recipes from my childhood!


Featured in the February 23rd Edition of Terry Thornton's "Harvest from the Blog Garden" at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi.

I learned about George Geder's Genealogy~Photography~Restoration blog through Craig Manson of GeneaBlogie, I think. George has been doing Wordless Wednesday posts for a while, both of his ancestral photos and of his fantastic own pix (he's a photographer by trade). Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I thought I'd emulate his actions here.

These two little cuties are my maternal grandmother, Ruth Lillian HOEKSTRA, and her younger sister, Hope Mildred HOEKSTRA, taken as the captions indicate, in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington in 1921, when Grandma was 35 months old, and Hope was 13 months. This would have been in December of that year, as Grandma was born on 16 January 1919.

Ruth and Hope were the oldest of three girls born to my great-grandparents, John Martin HOEKSTRA and Lillian Fern STRONG. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, John, Lillian and Ruth came out West for a few years because John's parents, Martin HOEKSTRA and Jennie TON, and his brother and sister-in-law, Peter Louis Ton HOEKSTRA and Reatha Pearl DONOVAN, had also relocated there for better job opportunities. Lillian's parents, Charles Frisbe STRONG and Mary Lucy WRIGHT, were living several hundred miles south near Hubbard, Marion County, Oregon, with her brother Frank Charles STRONG. While the family was out west, Hope was born in Tacoma. The Hoekstra family returned to Michigan and remained there for the rest of their days. Mary Louise HOEKSTRA, John and Lillian's youngest daughter, was born in 1923 in Grand Rapids.

Ironically, after Hope grew up and married, she moved to Tacoma with her husband, had four children, and died and was buried there in 1968...the same city in which she was born.

Wordless Wednesday: The HOEKSTRA Girls

Source: Hoekstra, Ruth Lillian and Hope Mildred. Photograph. 1921. Original photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Postcard from Unknown Sender to R. LERFALD, 17 Mar 1908

Recently, my father-in-law loaned us a pile of postcards that had belonged to his maternal grandparents, George Rice WESTABY, III and Rena LERFALD. Actually, the majority of them belonged to Rena. I hope my readers will forgive me, but I have found several scanned postcards out of date order! Here is one of them:



You can see that this postcard is postmarked from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The date was very difficult to make out for certain, because the card is embossed, causing the ink to not adhere to the back of the card very well. I believe the date is 17 March 1908, although it could be any date between the 10th and 19th of March. I don't know who lived in or near Minneapolis, but I wonder if it was one of Rena's older siblings. The handwriting does not match her sister Anna's or her brother John's. I'll check later to see if it matches any other family member's. Too bad that Rena didn't mark this postcard with the sender's name later, but perhaps she didn't remember who it was!

Source: The Westaby-Lerfald Postcard Collection. Privately held by Troy Midkiff, Vancouver, Washington.

Monday, February 18, 2008

11. The Railroad Front

In Russia's Fields

In Russia's fields no poppies grow
There are no crosses row on row
To mark the place where they lie
No larks so gayly singing fly

As in the fields of Flanders.

We are the dead. Not long ago
We fought beside you in the snow
And gave our lives, and here we lie
Though scarcely knowing reason why

Like those who died in Flanders.

At Ust Padenga where we fell
On Railroad, Kodish, shot and shell
We faced, from just as fierce a foe
As those who sleep where poppies grow,

Our comrades brave in Flanders.

In Toulgas woods we scattered sleep,
Chekuevo aid Kitsa's tangles creep
Across our lonely graves. At night
The doleful screech owl's dismal flight

Heart-breaking screams in Russia.

Near Railroad bridge at Four-five-eight,
At Chamova's woods, our bitter fate
We met. We fell before the Reds
Where wolves now howl above our heads

In far off lonely Russia.

In Shegovart's desperate fight,
Vistavka's siege and Seltso's night,
In Bolsheozerk's hemmed-in wood,
In Karpogor, till death we stood

Like they who died in Flanders.

And, Comrades, as you gather far away
In God's own land on some bright day
And think of us who died and rest,
Just tell our folks we did our best

In far off fields of Russia.

When we last saw my great-grandfather, William Bryan Robbins, who served in Company I of the 339th Infantry of the Polar Bear Division in the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces, he was recovering from influenza in or near the port city of Archangel (Arkhangelsk), North Russia. He was then sent to the railroad front at Obozerskaya.

Bryan wasn't the only one recovering from the flu. As he and his comrades from Company I and those from Company L detrained from the railroad cars at Obozerskaya Station, they formed columns of two. The men were shaky and weak from illness, poor food at sea, and probably from fear. Most had not encountered warfare, and just outside the village they could see that the communists had recently blown up a bridge. Major Charles Young, a stickler for regulation and known for caring a bit too much for his own personal safety, called a meeting of officers. A French officer ran up and pointed out the obvious...that the destroyed bridge and shell holes nearby were evidence of a recent attack. Young gave orders for the troops to disperse to the nearby woods to gain cover.

The geography of this area can best be described as a huge river delta of 250,000 square miles, punctuated by small forests and stands of scrub pines. When the men hid in the trees at Obozerskaya, they were up to their waists in swamp water. Later, meeting up with their French guides, who were drying out their clothing over fires, the Americans began to copy them, but were commanded to stop by the major, who strictly ordered that there would be no fires under combat conditions. This was only the beginning of terrible physical and psychological strain the ANREF soldiers would endure over the next few months, battle being only one of many factors.

Small encampments of log blockhouses were made along the length of the Railroad Front, an area of about 125 square miles encompassing both sides of a 17-mile stretch of railroad which eventually led to Moscow, some 900 miles to the south. These encampments were named after the nearest "milepost"; in Russia at that time, distances were not measured in miles, but in versta, the singular being verst. A verst was equal to about 3,500 feet, just a bit more than a kilometer. Bryan's enlistment record indicates that he was involved in "battles, engagements, skirmishes, or expeditions" at Verst 466 on 10 September and 16 September 1918, as well as one at Verst 445 from 31 March through 12 April 1919. Photos of some of the blockhouses and winter scenes can be viewed at this site, and there are some videos clips and previews available at YouTube here.

What was interesting to me as I researched this was the international aspect of this expedition. There were French, British and Royal Scots, Italian, Canadian, and Serb troops spread across the province. Among the American troops were numerous Polish immigrants who barely spoke English as well. Many had probably immigrated to the United States to avoid war and poor economic conditions in the first place and somehow found themselves back in Eastern Europe, in life-and-death struggles of survival, once again. Although these were the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces, the British had first say in all things. British lieutenants would pull major's pips from their pockets and give orders to American and French captains, who had no choice but to comply.

With terrible living conditions (poor food, clothing, lodging, and medical supplies), one of the worst winters on record, unbearable political stress and a weak chain-of-command, it was a wonder that the men didn't break sooner. Added to all that, of course, was the danger not only of the enemy--the Bolshevik--but also terrorist attacks from civilians with communist sympathies. Stay tuned for the next episode, "Part 12: Mutiny!"

Other posts in this series:
1. A Polar Bear in North Russia
2. The Family of Angelo and Lula Robbins
3. Bryan and Marie - A WWI Romance
4. Bryan Gets Drafted
5. Basic Training at Camp Custer
6. Getting "Over There"
7. Bryan and King George V
8. To Russia, with Influenza
9. A Letter from Mother - 25 Sep 1918
10. A Letter from Father - 7 Oct 1918

The 42nd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is Posted

Jasia at Creative Gene has just posted the 42nd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. The theme is "iGene Awards 2007." Like the famous Academy Awards, this is a chance for geneabloggers to nominate their own favorite posts from 2007. There were 23 submissions, with mine being here. This theme is sure to lead you to some of the best reads from the best geneabloggers of 2007, so go enjoy!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention in my original post the theme for the 43rd carnival, which is "Technology," as well as the deadline, March 1. Here's what Jasia has to say:
And now it's time for a Call for Submissions! The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: Technology. What technology do you most rely on for your genealogy and family history research? Select one piece of hardware (besides your computer), one piece of software (besides your internet browser), and one web site/blog (besides your own) that are indispensable to you. Resist the urge to dilute the impact of your 3 choices by mentioning several others you use and appreciate as well. This is an exercise in appraising the technology you use/recommend the most. The deadline for submissions is March 1st.

You can submit your post here.

The February 2008 Scanfest is Upon Us!

Attention, Scanfesters! Haul out those photo albums, boxes of unsorted pictures, stacks of documents, and other family ephemera! The second Scanfest of 2008 is coming up next Sunday, February 24th, from 11 AM - 2 PM, Pacific Daylight Time.

Sally Jacobs exhorted us in a post earlier this week not to let our New Years' resolutions to organize our photos fizzle out. Getting tired of all that snow? Wishing something new would come along? Can't bear to think of those unfinished projects? C'mon, now! Join us during Scanfest, and catch the enthusiasm once again. Get those projects finished up! Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know other family historians and archivists and chat away using Windows Live Messenger, and make a monotonous job much more enjoyable!

Here are the details:
To join us, you'll need a Hotmail or Gmail account, and Windows Live Messenger downloaded to your computer (Mac users go here to download Microsoft Messenger for Mac). Although WLM states that it is compatible with Yahoo! e-mail accounts, we have had difficulty adding Yahoo! users to our chat conversation. If you don't have a Hotmail or Gmail account, it's very easy (and free) to set one up. Just go to the links in the first sentence of this paragraph. Once you have gotten set up, send me an e-mail (my address is found on this page) and I'll add you to our chat list. You'll receive an invitation message from me at my hotmail address, which will be sent to the e-mail account that you've set up for Messenger (Hotmail or Gmail), and will need to verify that I can add you as a contact.

The second thing you need to do to prepare for scanning is go to Sally's website here and sign up for her free e-mail newsletter. This will then allow you to download her helpful information called 8 Blunders People Make When They Scan Photographs...and How You Can Avoid Them All. Then you will know how to set your scanner correctly to enable you to scan your items without damaging the originals or compromising the digital images you create.

Please join us! We had such a blast last month, our biggest attendance at Scanfest, ever! Remember, you don't need to be a genealogist or a blogger. All you need is a scanner, Windows Live Messenger on your computer, and a desire to scan your family's photos or papers. See you Sunday!

Honoring Our Presidents

Today is Presidents Day in the United States. As a public school employee, I have the day "off," as do my children, from school. Yesterday I posted "Week Thirty-Two: Honoring Our Leaders" on my blog of journal prompts, AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants. I've encouraged my readers to write what they remember about celebrating and honoring the birthdays of two great leaders of our country...or for my non-U.S. readers, writing how leaders of their own country are honored. In this post, I've chosen to write my own responses to the prompts.

Honoring our leaders is not a concept many of us think about anymore. With the Sixties Revolution, the Viet Nam War, and the Watergate Scandal, leaders are no longer accepted as honorable, respected individuals of authority, dedicated to carrying out the will of the people. Instead, we're convinced they're all crooks, out to get glory for themselves, and to play their party's political games. Unfortunately, this has been proved to be true countless times, and this attitude has colored our perspective of even the truly great leaders of our country, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. We're too focused on their humanness, their weaknesses, and the mistakes they made while in office to see that for the most part, they were men of integrity and courage, and sacrificed much personally for the good of the country.

As a child, I don't remember celebrating either president's birthday in elementary school. I couldn't tell you if we had a day off for honoring either one, although we probably had Presidents Day off when I was in high school. I don't remember any lessons that focused on Washington or Lincoln other than when we came to learning about them in the context of American history when we started studying that subject in fifth grade. I do know that we never had an assembly or watched a play that focused on either of these leaders, in all of my years of school.

I do remember reading about both Washington and Lincoln as a girl in elementary school. For a town of about 300, without a public library, our school and classroom libraries were phenomenal! Our principal/superintendent was married to the woman who was my teacher for three years, second through fourth grades, and together they ordered all the latest books in education and literature for the little school. I especially remember biographies of American leaders and Native Americans published by the Garrard Publishing Company, as well as the Childhood of Famous Americans series by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. We also ordered books from Scholastic. Between these and the influence of my parents, I developed a love of history, and can recall things I learned from reading these books over thirty years ago!

In my humble opinion, Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president, not just because he held the country together during a time of crisis; not just because of the Emancipation Proclamation (which I believe was more a political move on his part); but mainly because of his courage to stand for what he believed while under probably some of the heaviest criticism a president has had to endure, both politically (from his own party--not just from the South), but personally. Many forget that his wife was from the South, and that his own family was a prime example of brother against brother, father against son. He also had great compassion, and had he not been assassinated, it's clear that Reconstruction would not have been a time of vengeance against the South. It's possible that the Jim Crow attitude against African-Americans might not have taken place, or may have been less severe, preventing much of the anguish and terror that lead to the Civil Rights Movement.

Because I work for a public school district, as I've mentioned earlier, I get Presidents Day off. The State of Washington requires that prior to having Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday and Veterans Day off, the school must provide either an assembly and/or lessons to address the reasons behind the holiday (I'm in agreement with this, 100%!). However, it does not do this for Presidents Day or Memorial Day. I feel that this is not equitable, and that we are cheating our children of learning opportunities. Our children learn more about the Civil Rights Movement than about American history--which caused and shaped that movement--as a whole. Another thing I dislike about the attitude taken towards Presidents Day is that is it often commercialized. With tax returns upon us, businesses are using this time to profit. I'm especially annoyed by automobile dealerships' and furniture businesses' commercials on television that have costumed figures of Washington and Lincoln urging potential customers to shop at their stores. The public would be outraged if a costumed figure of M.L. King was used in commercials the same way during his holiday, yet we don't even blink when George and Abe are jumping up and down and shouting at us to buy the latest vehicle!

Finally, Presidents Day is also a time when Purple Heart recipients are honored--military personnel who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after 5 April 1917. While reading the criteria for this decoration, I realized that at least one family member has been eligible for this award, my maternal grandfather's brother John Chester "Chet" VALK, a member of the 101st Airborne Division who was killed parachuting over Foy, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. I am going to have to ask family members if he was ever awarded this medal posthumously.

Postcard from Unsigned Sender to Rena LERFALD, 9 Dec 1908

Recently, my father-in-law loaned us a pile of postcards that had belonged to his maternal grandparents, George Rice WESTABY, III and Rena LERFALD. Actually, the majority belonged to Rena. Here is the next one in the collection:

"468. Making Up."


This card was postmarked 9 Dec 1908, 8 PM, from Baldwin, Wisconsin, and appears to have been written by Rena's sister, Anna, to her. Apparently at a later date, Rena wrote over the message with an ink pen so that it could be read easier:

"Hello Rena--how are you. I got over Sunday fine. How is your foot? Olaf is kind of spunkey. He could not get over Saterday [sic] night, he said. bye Bye"

I'm not sure who Olaf was. Could it have been their brother Ole? Perhaps he was a friend, cousin, or a suitor of Anna's. I'm also uncertain as to the message on the front of the postcard: had the sisters quarreled? Or was this merely a convenient card on hand that was sent with no thought of the text?

Source: The Westaby-Lerfald Postcard Collection. Privately held by Troy Midkiff, Vancouver, Washington.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Postcard from A.L. to Rena LERFALD, 15 Sep 1908

Recently, my father-in-law loaned us a pile of postcards that had belonged to his maternal grandparents, George Rice WESTABY, III and Rena LERFALD. Here is the next one in the collection:



This postcard is dated 15 Sep 1908, despite the handwritten dates of 25 Sep 1908 on the front and back of the card, which appear to have been written much later by Rena. The postmark is from Baldwin, Wisconsin, also in St. Croix County, a little more than four miles west of Woodville. It is addressed to Miss Rena Lerfald, Woodville, Wis. R. R. 2,:

"Fisher's don't want any hired girl now she says. She has one and they manage the work. I don't know of any place for you here. Got here safe last night. A.L."

A.L. is probably Rena's sister Anna Lerfald. It appears that Anna has inquired about job openings in Baldwin for Rena, without success.

Source: The Westaby-Lerfald Postcard Collection. Privately held by Troy Midkiff, Vancouver, Washington.

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Be Grateful and Generous

"Nobody likes an ingrate!" is something I've found myself saying all too frequently over the years to my children--and, I must admit, to myself as well.

One of the kindest things you can do for someone else is to be grateful for when they've been kind to you.

A little bit goes a long way. If you have a blog or a website, post a message praising the kindness given. If someone has sent you information via e-mail, even if it's something you already have, send them a thankful response. If a library staff member has looked up, photocopied, and mailed you an obituary free of charge, take the time to send a thank-you note by mail. Perhaps include a donation to their library foundation. If a funeral home employee has gone out of their way to find a death record in an ancestor's file buried deep in the storage room of the basement, send a letter praising their worth to the board of directors.

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness has a Kudos page where you can post your thanks for the lookup you received. If you use another lookup service, write the webmaster and tell them how wonderful their volunteers are!

Have an attitude of gratitude. Have it before you ask. Be respectful of others' time and resources when you make a request. AND DON'T FORGET TO THANK THEM!

Be generous. Determine to do one kind thing a month or week. Record it...and record the wonderful consequences!

Buy that baby book or family bible on E-bay or in a second-hand shop and attempt to return it to its family. Donate twice as much as the society suggests when they locate a record for you. Volunteer a little longer than for the length of time you signed up. Ask to help again the next time.

I had fun this week, thinking of--and performing--random acts of kindness. Did you? Let's keep it going! If you're a blogger, then consider writing a post once a month sharing how you received a kindness, and how you passed it on. What do you think?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Postcard from Mrs. HERMANSON to Rena LERFALD, 1908

Recently, my father-in-law loaned us a pile of postcards that had belonged to his maternal grandparents, George Rice WESTABY, III and Rena LERFALD (click on the links to read more about their lives and see photos). Actually, the majority were received by Rena, and provide insight into her life as a young woman. I have begun to scan them, and will feature them here on my blog.



This postcard is not postmarked nor was it dated at the time it was sent. It appears to have been used as a calling card by Mrs. Hermanson, whoever she was (friend, neighbor, possible employer? Looking at the 1910 U.S. Federal Census brought up several possibilities.). At a much later date, it appears that Rena wrote 1908 on the back of the card--the ink and her style of writing here matches notations she made on other postcards in the collection.

Rena would have been 18 years old on September 25th of this year. She lived in Woodville, St. Croix Co., Wisconsin with her parents, Peter Johnsen LERFALD and Regina LERFALD, immigrants from Norway who were first cousins to each other. Rena was the youngest surviving child of five siblings: Sofia, b. 1882; John, b. 1884; Anna, b. 1886; and Ole, b. 1888. An infant girl, Nannie, did not survive. At this time in Rena's life, she and her sister Anna were looking for work as hired girls or maids. There were a lot of postcards sent to Rena by Anna; I don't believe I have any written by Rena to Anna (I haven't gone through this collection extensively, yet, to be sure).

Source: The Westaby-Lerfald Postcard Collection. Privately held by Troy Midkiff, Vancouver, Washington.

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Give a Hand

Someone, out there, needs your help.

It could be that senior citizen you talked to after the last society meeting who can't figure out how to use Ancestry's search features on their home computer.

It could be someone who shares a frustrating experience on a message board or mailing list.

It could be a friend who'd like to look up her dad's ancestry for him before he passes, but she has no idea where to start.

It could be your mother, asking you to help her sort through her boxes of unlabeled photos.

No matter who, no matter what, it's likely that you have the experience and know-how to help them. And yes, it will cost you. It will cost you time, convenience, patience; even, perhaps, some money.

Today's idea for a random act of kindness is very simple: the next time someone asks--or hints-- for help, say "yes".

Remember this: the person that seems the most annoying, the person that perhaps will try your patience most, the one who doesn't seem to "get it" no matter how well you try to explain--that person will often be the most grateful for your help. I say this from experience. And I say this from a standpoint of humility, knowing there have been many times in my life when someone helped me when I must have seemed annoying, trying, stupid, and just plain hopeless.

Practice random acts of senseless kindness...with a smile!

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Beginner's Genealogy Magazine

I'm a big fan of the magazines that Halvor Moorshead publishes: Internet Genealogy, Family Chronicle, and History Magazine. They contain interesting, well-written, brightly-illustrated articles and are very affordable. I was delighted to receive the following message from Halvor, and gladly share it with you:

Discovering Family History – a new beginner’s magazine from the publishers of Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy

Toronto – 15 February 2008 Discovering Family History, a new genealogy magazine targeted at beginners, will shortly start publishing. A 24-page preview is included in the March/April issue of Family Chronicle and the April/May issue of Internet Genealogy. A full 56-page preview issue can be downloaded at

Halvor Moorshead, the publisher and editor of all three magazines, says that the seed of the idea for Discovering Family History was sown when Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy magazines exhibited at an event in Toronto last September, called “The Word on the Street”. Some 200,000 people attended this event, put on for those interested in books and literacy.

“We sold plenty of subscriptions to both magazines,” said Moorshead, “but I found that I was continually explaining to new subscribers some real genealogy basics, ­ steering them to Cyndi’s List and other places that listed beginner’s courses. These people were smart enough; they just needed something more basic than what we were selling. It was sobering to realize that there might be a big market for a genealogy magazine that dealt with the basics.

“This triggered us to conduct market research among Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy readers. We sent out questionnaires, via the Internet, to 1,000 readers and were more than pleasantly surprised by the response. A few people said they thought the idea for a beginner’s magazine was a bad one, but for each one of these, 12 people were excited by the idea. We had not expected to find that many people, who had been researching their genealogy for many years, still considered themselves beginners. But then we realized that most of us are beginners when we tackle a new area for research. Most of us are beginners in some area or another.”

The free online preview issue contains such articles as Free Family History Websites, Obituaries, the Ultimate Guide to Subscription Databases, Who Else is Researching Your Name?, What is a Vital Record?, Citing Sources, a genealogical Case Study, The 10 First Steps, Computer Basics, It’s All About Parents, Genealogical Societies, Web 2.0 and Making Sense of the US Census. The articles are targeted at beginners, but Moorshead says that great care has been taken not to talk down to the reader.

“I consider myself a fairly experienced genealogist but I continue to come across aspects of research that bewilder me. For example, until recently I had never investigated land records – I would find a basic article on this subject very useful,” said Moorshead. Discovering Family History will be published six times a year. There is an introductory subscription rate of $20 per year (same rate for the US and Canada). For more information visit the magazine’s website

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Transcribe or Translate

One way that you can make a difference to the genealogical community is to volunteer to transcribe, abstract, or index genealogical data for a society or other group. With the advent of the Internet, this no longer means that you always have to go onsite to do your act of kindness! I know of several members of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, as well as my sister-in-law (not an EWGS member), who have volunteered to index data for the Washington State Digital Archives. In my sister-in-law's case, she had copies of census records mailed to her, which she then indexed, never having to leave home to volunteer her time. FamilySearch Indexing is another project that you can work on from home, which I have done on occasion. Renee and Lori are a couple of my geneablogging friends that have been volunteering for this and blogging about their experiences. Cyndi's List also has a page of Volunteer Online Regional Projects where you can locate an assignment on which to work.

Can you read a foreign language or old-style handwriting? Your translating skills are needed! Cyndi's List has a list of volunteer websites where you could sign up to help in this area; or volunteer to help with handwriting and script on any of these sites.

Working on these types of projects is fun, satisfying, and often can be done in small amounts of time. I encourage you to try one out one of the above!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

AnceStories Presents the iGene Awards

"The Best of the Best" is the theme of the 42nd Carnival of Genealogy, in which we are encouraged to submit our favorite posts of 2007 for the iGene Awards. The envelopes please...

Best Picture
: "Eight Generations of Mothers" - this post actually featured several photos of consecutive generations of mothers. I enjoyed sharing them with my readers and seeing the family resemblances over the generations. Miniature copies of these photos now appear on a bracelet which I wear daily as a reminder of my heritage, and has garnered me many compliments.

Best Screen Play: "The Mystery of the Marriage of James L. YORK and Mary "Mae" E. McARTHUR" - there's a novel hidden in the factual details of the lives of my ancestors, one of an unhappy woman who, while trapped in a marriage with a possibly abusive husband, falls in love with the farmer down the road. While dreams come true in the eventual union of the lovers, the woman pays a terrible price. Her ex-husband obtains custody of their sons, and from a distance she helplessly watches them grow into dysfunctional and aimless young men, in and out of prisons and marriages, leaving a wake of fatherless children behind them; grandchildren she never really gets to know.

Dale Midkiff, known for acting the part of the hot-headed antagonist and a distant relation of my husband, would play James York, while Ashley Judd would portray the proper, yet beautiful and quietly passionate Mae McArthur. Russell Crowe would play the love of her life, Dick Randell, and the roles of James and Mae's adult sons would go to Luke and Owen Wilson.

Best Documentary: "A Polar Bear in North Russia" - researching for this as-yet-incomplete series about my great-grandfather's experiences in North Russia at the end of World War I has educated me greatly on the politics behind World War I, especially in Europe, as well as the social history of those times. Look for completion of this project in the future.

Best Biography: "One Woman: Barbara Dorothy Valk, Missionary to Central Africa" - like many of my fellow carnies, my best biography nomination has to go to one I wrote about a woman--my grandaunt--for the 20th Carnival of Genealogy, which celebrated Woman's History Month and International Women's Day. The greatest reward I experienced in writing Aunt Barb's story was understanding her not as my grandfather's sister, but as a woman of strength, passion, and dedication who made a difference in the world.

Best Comedy: "Bob and the Cow" tops my list of funniest posts, while the one on Alice Teddy, the rollerskating bear, is a close second!

Happy Valentine's Day!

My first memories of St. Valentine's Day must have been from second grade (I had the same teacher for second through fourth grades, so I can't be sure). I remember making great big Valentine "mailboxes" by folding large pink, white, or red pieces of paper--the kind used for backing on bulletin boards--and cutting them into a heart shape, with the fold at the bottom end, making it not-quite a true heart shape. The side edges were stapled together, and the top front folded down. Our names would be written on them, and we would decorate them with "lace" (pleated streamers glued around the edges), heart-shaped doilies and glitter. These mailboxes would be hung on the wall outside our classrooms so that we could easily place our Valentine messages in our friend's container.

Our classroom was decorated with pink, white, and red streamers, as well as little Valentine men hanging from the lights. Each man's face was a heart, and his arms and legs were created so: two pieces of construction paper, about one-inch wide by 12 inches long were placed at right angles to each other at one end and glued together. Then the bottom piece of paper would be folded over the top; next the other piece would be folded over that, and so on and so forth until it created a spring-loaded limb. The ends were glued together. One end of the limb was glued to the man's face and the other had a small heart glued to it, to be either a hand or a foot. Four of these limbs were made, as arms and legs, and they were hung by colored yarn.

After all the excitement of handing out Valentines, we'd take our own mailboxes down and open up the cards we'd received, while we ate our goodies. I'm sure we had Kool-aid and cupcakes and cookies as refreshments. I know we had word game worksheets such as crossword puzzles and word searches that day...although I'm sure little work got done! I enjoyed getting suckers and chocolate, but never have liked those heart-shaped message candies...they taste like flavored chalk!

What are the memories you have of St. Valentine's Day? Have you written them down for your descendants? I have more prompts for you at my other blog, AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants.

90-Year-Old Love Letters Found in Attic

From the Grand Rapids [Michigan] Press:

Happy Valentine's Day ... from Joel and Liz Leo's attic.

That's where they unearthed 44 letters written in the days following World War I that demonstrate an uncommon love between Mildred Terrell and George C. Ohland.

Both are long gone but, in resurrecting some of their legacy, they give us a peek into courtship circa 1918-19, and remind us that perhaps nothing is as binding and beautiful as love...

The Leos are researching the Ohland and Terrell family trees in an attempt to place the letters in the hands of deserving descendants. Their preliminary findings show the Ohlands possibly had two sons -- George T. and Otto. There also is evidence of possible grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Read the whole sweet story here.

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Share Your Data

Chances are, among all the records you've gathered on your ancestors, you've got something that doesn't belong to your own family tree...a photo of great-grandma's neighbors, a postcard of your father-in-law's ancestral hometown courthouse, three obituaries printed on the same newspaper page as Aunt Ruth's, a record you ordered that you thought was your uncle John Johnson's marriage license but turned out to belong to someone else with the same name.

Don't be a data hog! Share that information! It's quite possible that the items which are sitting in your file folders, boxes, and hard drive might contain a clue that will break through a stranger's brick wall, or be the only surviving photo of someone's grandfather, or solve a mystery in another's family history. Perhaps you have more than data; perhaps you have a personal item that you feel needs to be returned to its rightful owner.

There are many places online where you can contribute the genealogical wealth that's hiding in your home:


* Ancestors At Rest
* Family Bibles Website

Documents & Data
* Ancestors At Rest
* Ancestry/RootsWeb's Mailing Lists and Message Boards are good places to submit data (submit to Ancestry and the info will be duplicated at RootsWeb, and vice versa). Find a message board or mailing list by surname, location, or topic to match the data you'd like to submit.
* Genealogy Buff
RootsWeb has an online form for submitting user contributed data into their searchable database here.

Lost and Found Items
* Ancestry has a message board called "Found Family Heirlooms."
* Cyndi's List has a whole page of Lost & Found Resource Sites where you can post items you want to pass on to others.

*Cyndi's List also turned up a long list of websites where you can submit your "lost and found" photos, including perhaps the most well-know, Dead Fred.

* FamilyOldPhotos
* GeneaNet
* Penny Postcards

* Ancestry/Rootsweb's Obituaries Message Board
* Genealogy Buff

Other Ideas
* You can check with pertinent
U.S. GenWeb and U.S. GenNet county websites (by e-mailing the webmasters) to see if they will take user-submitted data.
* Check with the genealogical or historical society that your data originates from or is about to see if they will take it. Due to storage restraints or costs, some cannot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Volunteer for a Society

How many of you belong to a genealogical, historical, heritage, lineage, or ethnic society? And of those of you who raised your hands, how many of you volunteered your time to that society in the past 12 months? For those of you who did volunteer your time, I say "thank you!"

Societies are always looking for more volunteers. I personally think that societies should require all members who reside locally to contribute a minimum of 24 hours annually (only 2 hours a month!), whether it is serving on a committee, bringing refreshments to the next meeting, doing local lookups, shelving books in the collection, working on a transcription project, teaching a class, or making a presentation.

I challenge every one of my readers who is a society member of any type to contribute at least 24 hours of their time between now and next February! Are there any takers? If so, please leave your name and e-mail address in the comment section below!

If you don't have a local society available, then may I suggest several alternatives? Most patrons of Family History Centers don't realize that you do not have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a Mormon) to be a volunteer staff member. If you frequent an FHC, ask to talk to the center director about being a regular, or possibly a substitute, volunteer. He or she will make sure you get the necessary training to be competent and confident in your service. Another possibility is to donate your time to your local public library. With budget cutbacks, many libraries are in desperate need of volunteers to do reshelving, cleaning, run used-book sales, and even help with checkout. Find your local library district here. Or see if your local museum is in need of help. One of the funnest research projects I ever worked on was the Campbell House Employees Project, where a number of us EWGS members volunteered to research the servants of the Campbell House, a Victorian mansion from the late 19th century!

Volunteerism is rewarding! Give your local society or institution a call today!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Be a Sponsor

It's time to put your money where your mouth is! Many of the following websites perform free or low-cost services to the genealogical community, and several struggle to maintain the expenses of running their websites. By giving a one-time $5 or $10 donation, you can help defray the owners' costs and continue to provide inexpensive resources to many others.

Census Tools - offering over 40 free spreadsheets for census, cemetery and passenger manifest data to make recording and analyzing your data easier; suggested donation: $10 via Amazon Honor System or Paypal.

Find A Grave - sponsor a memorial page of an ancestor or relative, which you can create; or be spontaneous, and sponsor the memorial page of a complete stranger! This one-time $5 donation will forever remove all advertising from the memorial page of your choice. You must create a free account to donate with a credit/debit card. You can also choose to mail in your donation. Lastly, you can make a purchase at the Find A Grave store to help this wonderful website defray its expenses!

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - you can donate by Paypal or by check or money order to keep this very useful lookup service online; or make a purchase at their online stores here and here.

USGenNet - hosts many free genealogy county and surname websites--among others--for the United States and Canada as part of their American Local History Network and American History and Genealogy Projects. Help defray their costs with a tax-deductible donation by mail or Paypal; details are on their home page and their FAQs page. Those that contribute $20.00 or more are automatically eligible for membership as a supporting or sustaining (voting) member.

Do you have a favorite genealogy website or blog which you frequent? Many of these have advertising on them. Support your favorite webmaster or blogger by clicking on these links every time you visit. By doing so, the owner likely will receive a small profit which often goes towards their bandwidth or webhosting expenses. If you have a specific genealogy purchase in mind (a coveted genealogy book or CD, or a new subscription database website you'd like to try), check out the ads on your frequently-visited sites or blogs to see if you can make your desired purchase through them. Sometimes you'll even receive a discount by doing so!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The AnceStories Limerick

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Join a Lookup Service

Probably the most popular way to "pay it forward" in the genealogical world is to join an online lookup service in which volunteers agree to look up a record in a document, book, CD, or subscription website--or take a photo of an ancestors' grave or ancestral home, etc. Depending upon the rules of the service, volunteers agree to do these acts of kindness either for free or for only the cost they incur while doing the lookup (film developing, photocopying, postage, gas, etc.).

Most of the lookup services are arranged by location. Think not only of the records and sources that pertain to the city or county in which you live, but also those to which you have access that may relate to other places. For example, I live in Spokane, Washington, but I have many, many microfilmed records from Western Michigan counties held on permanent loan at my local Family History Center. So for my acts of kindness, I have chosen not only to take photographs of graves at Spokane cemeteries (in fair weather months, only!), but also to look up records in numerous Michigan counties, covering two distinct--and distant--locations at once.

Below are some places where you can sign up to perform a lookup. Make sure you read and understand each site's rules before agreeing to volunteer:

Ancestry/RootsWeb's Lookups Message Board and Mailing List. There are numerous other Lookup mailing lists at RootsWeb; you can browse them by entering the search term lookup* here.

Find A Grave - sign up to take grave photos at your local cemeteries. You'll need to create a free account, then go to a local cemetery's page on the website and look for photo requests under Links. Click on the photo requests link and claim one--or more--to fulfill.

Genealogy Lookup Forum

GeneaSearch's Free Genealogy Lookups

Genie-Angels' Yahoo! Group


Obituary Lookup Volunteers Community Lookup Library

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

Many county websites at USGenWeb and USGenNet have lookup volunteers listed. Find the U.S. county - or country (WorldGenWeb) - to which you have access to records, and e-mail the webmaster of that location's genealogy website to notify her or him of your willingness to perform lookups.

Does your home library include books and/or CDs with genealogical data in which you'd be willing to perform lookups? Books We Own, Yahoo!'s Genealogy Club Library, Lori Case's Genealogy CD List and her Privately Owned Publications are waiting to hear from you!

Cyndi's List has a long list of location-specific lookup message boards, mailing lists, websites, newsgroups, and chat rooms that would be happy to have you sign up to volunteer.