Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Welcome to My Blog!

A note to my long-time readers: Tuesday's Tips will return after the holidays.

If you are a new reader to my blog, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you! Yesterday, I was surprised to learn that Dick Eastman of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter highlighted my post, "State Census Records Online," which sent a huge surge of traffic my way. Thank you, Dick, for your very kind words about my article and my blog in general, and thank you to all the new readers who stopped by as well as those who took the time to comment and add links to more online state census records.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I'd like to tell you a little about myself, my research, and my writing. I was born and grew up in Alaska, living mostly in the Southeast Panhandle on Prince of Wales Island in the small community of Klawock (population at that time was about 300). My parents were Salvation Army officers (ministers) who had moved to Alaska a year after they married because they were interested in serving the native population in a mission-type setting. They eventually joined The Salvation Army, which is a church first and a charitable organization second.

My childhood was very unique in that I lived in a native community where we had cultural lessons in school in the Tlinget language, crafts, dance and singing, and oral history. While my parents were pleased that I was receiving such a diverse education, they wanted to ensure that I understood that I had my own heritage of which to be proud. After some checking around with family, they figured out that besides an English heritage, my Dutch roots were very prominent, and they began to incorporate Dutch traditions into our home and lifestyle, such as celebrating St. Nicholas Day, purchasing children's books about the Netherlands, and decorating our home with Dutch motifs.

In addition to the above unique influences (The Salvation Army, the native community, and a strong awareness of my heritage), the area in which we lived was pretty remote, accessible by plane or boat only (and still). When we first moved there, there were only eight telephones in the village and they were all on a party line. Many homes did not have toilets, and although there was electricity, most people used oil heaters. There was no television on the island until 1978 and as it was a cable system, we did not subscribe. In the 1970s, during the back-to-earth movement, my parents built a home with hand tools (there was no electricity) outside the "city" limits and had a little farmstead where they raised pygmy goats, pigs, rabbits, and poultry. We had a good-sized garden and lived off the land and sea in bounty. We were beyond the village's sewer and electrical systems, so my father created our own water system (Southeast Alaska gets 160 - 180 inches of rain a year) and we used wood heat and kerosene lanterns, later graduating to propane to run our appliances. Needless to say, some of my favorite childhood books were those written by Laura Ingalls Wilder!

My parents were from Western Michigan and because we saw my extended family members so infrequently, visits from them were always An Event. This was probably also the reason that I paid attention to the stories my grandparents told me about their own parents and grandparents and was the beginning of my interest in genealogy. In 1979, we moved to Northeast Washington, which was, as you can imagine, quite the culture shock after my isolated childhood! We still had a small farmstead, but were not so reliant on the land. High school graduation led me to move south to Spokane, where I attended college and worked for The Salvation Army, meeting my children's father to whom I have been married for 22 years. We have a 19-year-old daughter who is a day care teacher and a nearly 16-year-old son who is a sophomore in high school. Our other two "children" are feline and keep us on our toes nearly as much as our teens do. I have worked as a special education instructional assistant for the local public school district for the past 10 years and can't think of a job outside genealogy that I could possibly love more!

In 1995, I began to search for my paternal grandmother's biological parents. Using the names she had given me, it took about three years to find some living relatives. Knowing what I know today, it would have taken me a few days. Using the online resources available today, it would have taken me a few hours! This has been the most rewarding thing that has happened because of my research: that my grandmother was reunited with her mother's family 70 years after her non-custodial father basically kidnapped her and her brother and dropped them off at an orphanage across the state. I continue to research both her biological and her adoptive families, as well as the many other surnames in both my own and my husband's ancestry. My genealogy website is also called AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors, which actually has more ancestor stories to read than what you'll find here. Part of it is named The Atlas Project after I spent a lot of time researching the families that settled in Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan where my grandmother was born. I store my husband's and my own genealogy databases at RootsWeb's WorldConnect.

Another project I've recently started is the Online Historical Directories website and its corresponding blog (have you ever wished you could find links to all the online city directories in one place? A place where they were listed by location and in date order? This is the purpose of the website). You may also wish to check out AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants, even though I no longer publish any new posts. There you'll find lists of questions to prompt writing your memories for future generations.

In addition to my research, I am actively involved with my local society, the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, of which I am the 1st Vice President-elect. I co-ordinate our computer education classes for our members, and am one of three team bloggers for the society blog.

If you've made it this far without falling asleep or leaving the page for another blog, I thank you! Feel free to leave your comments or contact me directly. My posts are available to be reprinted in your society publications, with prior permission. And one more're all invited to the next Scanfest (stay tuned for more details)!


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