Sunday, November 09, 2008

Straight to Heaven with That Man

I saw Schindler's List about ten years ago when it was broadcast on the NBC network, and cried and cried - not only for the horrible circumstances the poor Jews went through during the Holocaust, but also for the goodness of one man.

Today I was nosing around Ancestry and saw that among their new databases, Schindler's lists appear for searching. The names of the Polish Jews he saved are listed here, with a few pertinent facts about each one.

To read more about Oskar Schindler's heroism, click here. It's truly inspiring to read of the risks he took, the "laws" he broke, and the help he received from American and Swiss Jewish associations. In a completely dark time in history, he was a bright little spark, doing what he could to shed some light.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hi there!

Yes, it's been a while... summer's over, school has started, and we just found out we'll be able to move to a nicer home, so I don't see my genealogy days becoming any less hectic. Sorry I haven't been around much.

I keep tabs on a couple of genealogy blogs I find interesting, and at Ancestry Insider, I found this post about Familysearch Indexing.

Indexing is a volunteer program that allows anyone to download images of microfilms and type the information found on them - names, dates, places, parents' names, etc. - into a grid, then send it back to Familysearch headquarters. The volunteers are helping to make a list, basically, of all the microfilmed information in the granite vault near Salt Lake - by name, location, date, subject, etc. This will all be made available online one day, free for anyone to see.

It's interesting work, but as the above post points out, sometimes you find situations that are hard to read about. Still, it's inspiring to know that because of a few minutes you spent volunteering, someone someday will be able to find his ancestors that much more easily.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It Never Rains, But It Pours.

For months we sat there at the FHC, working on our own family history because no patrons came in or needed anything. Tonight, the reprieve was over. Here's what I kept busy doing at the FHC tonight:

1) Helped a fellow staff member do a name on TempleReady

2) Helped a lady named Betty order microfiche (something I've done once in three years), learn how to download PAF to her home computer, and learn how to use it

3) While I was on the phone with the FHC director, making sure I did the microfiche order right, she asked me to make a sign for the door of the FHC saying that our day shift is closed tomorrow

4) Answered a phone call from a lady in my ward who said that the lady who was supposed to meet Otto at our place, showed up somewhere else and was all upset

Then I messed around with more new FamilySearch and match/merged more of my PAF people. I can't believe I forged together two files with over 15,000 people in them but yes, I was stupid.

We also discussed paranoid funeral home directors vs. awesome ones who can't help you enough. At one funeral home, my fellow staff members were accused of everything but digging up the body while trying to get funeral records for one of his relatives. The funeral home guy was convinced that "all they wanted was [the dead guy's] Social Security number."

This is just my opinion, but if you're going to be an identity thief, showing up at a funeral home and claiming to be a genealogist seems like a really hard, jump-through-hoopy, roundabout, stupid way to do it.

The night ended with a run to Wendy's.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

"Wow, you really ARE a geek!"

For the Independence Day weekend and my family reunion, I was in beautiful Eastern Oregon, in a lovely campground just outside Union. Union is a tiny town outside La Grande (off I-84) and is probably best known for its now 20-year-old mayor who won in a write-in election almost two years ago.

As happens with camping, we had to run to town for something we needed. On one of these trips, we took a drive through Union and enjoyed its small-townness ("Can we move here?" "NO"), ending up at the cemetery. Because, as you probably know, all roads lead to the cemetery... eventually.

I had my camera with me, and well, one thing led to another... pretty soon my husband was sighing exasperatedly as I bounced out of the car to grab a few pictures. Clicking away excitedly, I walked through the small cemetery, loving the sunshine and pine trees and atmosphere - they take immaculate care of this cemetery. It's very pretty.

While there, I found this amazing, totally unexpected treasure: the headstone of a man named Nephi Loveless.

The "Nephi," a Book of Mormon name, first caught my eye, but the phrase that really jumped out at me was "Nauvoo Legion." This man was a Nauvoo Mormon, a peer of Joseph Smith. He probably knew Joseph personally. Being in the Nauvoo Legion, he probably served in the Mormon Battalion as well... and now he's here, in Union, Oregon? How interesting. Apparently the Church has quite a little presence in Eastern Oregon from quite a way back, including a sugar beet farm in La Grande.

It was a neat find, but I'm not sure how to feel about having to admit that I spent part of my vacation in the cemetery. Hmmmmm...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Throwing Kisses

I'm very happy to announce that after many unsuccessful tries (it turns out I had to register as a Family History consultant - again), I registered and obtained a username and password tonight on New FamilySearch.

So kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you'll wait for me... you probably won't be seeing me for a while. I'll be hunkered down with my new pal NFS, having a killer time.

My temple district is in its 90-day rollout period, which means that we consultants have been given the use of it so we can learn it and be ready to teach it when everyone in our district receives access to the website.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Just Found Some New Ancestors...

... more German emigrants. I'm starting to think I'm more German than anything else. Although I'm still pretty Scottish.

Christopher Heydrich and his two brothers came from Germany on the ship Robert and Alice (or Robert and Oliver, depending on the source) in 1738. Nif-teeeee.

In this e-book about the Hetrick family, Christopher's signature can be seen and a little more background is given about his family and the circumstances which may have brought him and his brothers to America.

This search started last week when Michelle and I were cemetery-geeking and we found some Hetricks buried in our cemetery. I looked them up in the census and in the Ancestry family trees - not the most reliable source, but a place to start - and sure enough, the Hetricks in the cemetery are related to me. Probably. I feel good about having just cleaned up their headstones (here's one picture).

Other German names in my family tree:
Schneeweiss (who took on the Swedish name Kyn, which became Keen)

All but Schneeweiss and Heydrick/Hetrick are on my dad's side. It's been fun to find that my mother is part German as well. Here we thought she was all U.K.

Have you ever considered how unique we all are? That if one name changed on your family tree, you'd be a completely different person? It's that exact combination of ancestors and DNA that makes you who you are. The only people you share that with are your siblings, and even they are made of a slightly different combination of those same genes. Without sounding too cheesy - it's mind-blowing to me, how very special we are, how no two people on this earth have ever been or ever will be exactly alike.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Graving: The Next Generation

For a long time I've thought that all those trips we took to the cemetery when I was a child must have done something to my psyche (either that, or I was just a "dead people geek" waiting to happen). My dear friend Sariah better watch out.

Michelle and I went graving again today and Sariah joined us for the first time. Sariah's two daughters and niece got in on the action. The girls had a fun time using the "big girl" gardening tools, squirting water on the headstones, and using the scrub brushes to remove algae and "bird sign" (I'm not kidding - they really did). A great time was had by all. Check out her cute pictures.

With three adults and two children helping clean and photograph headstones, we took almost 50 pictures, and will probably post around 75 memorials on this week. It's very rewarding work and hopefully, someone who's looking in our cemetery for their relatives will be helped by what we've been doing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

So Close... and Yet So Far Away

I am dying here. Major, major frustration.

The Family History Center staff members in my area have been encouraged by our stake FHC directors to try to register for the new Other staff members have had success, so it's been exciting. I've been trying for weeks - entering the necessary information, clicking "Send" and hoping - only to be told that "New is not available in my area." Well, yeah, or I'd be using it by now... *murmur murmur*...

Today, I received an email from You know, the actual people who TELL you when new Familysearch is coming to your area. The people in charge. "In about four months, New Familysearch is coming to an Internet-connected computer near you," they announced. "Here's your material - get learning this stuff so you can teach it to others in your area," they instructed. "You should be able to register immediately upon receipt of this email," they joyfully expounded.

Cruel, cruel, cruel... this has turned out to be a fabrication.

I have emailed. I have called. I have been told to wait 72 hours. ROWRRRRRRR!!! *snarling*

It reminds me of the time I ordered that beautiful Wendy's salad, put it on my dashboard so I could stash something in my purse, and my husband took off uphill at lightning speed and my beautiful salad flew off the dashboard and spilled all over me, my clothes, my socks, my shoes and the floor of the car. I was heartbroken. "We can order you another one," he said.

I don't want another one!!!! I wanted this one! NOW!!!

On a completely different topic, I believe one of my missions here on earth might be... going out on a limb here... to learn patience.

For the uninitiated: New Familysearch is the Church's latest genealogical development - a way to consolidate all our family information in Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, the IGI, and myriad other databases that people have sent in over the years. We can squish our ancestors together so they're only in there once. We can do TempleReady FROM HOME (this is huge). We can communicate and solve problems with misinformation. I've been hearing about this for probably over a year. I've been looking forward to using it myself for months. I actually did get to use it at the FHC, using my stake FHC director's username and password (she let me). I'm absolutely beside myself that I still can't get to it. So there you have it - now you know what the big deal is.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Setting Up a Family Blog

Several of my cousins and I have set up family blogs and enjoy reading about each other's lives, seeing and sharing each other's pictures, and adding to each other's memories of our childhood days together.

Where we cousins once relied on parents or grandparents to keep us caught up on everyone in the family, Candace, Dena, Rachael, Whitney and I have fun communicating with each other on a technological level. Everyone is so busy and lives so far apart now that letter-writing, phone calls, and even individual emails can "take too long." These family relationships are put on the back burner in favor of other, more urgent, but not more important things.

One great benefit of a family blog is sharing family pictures. Those photographs of family reunions, visits, and car trips of long ago - the ones that were scattered around to the different relatives - can be swapped and copied and preserved. Candace and I have enjoyed seeing pictures of ourselves together as children, and of older relatives who have since passed on. While getting together to swap pictures and have copies made isn't a bad thing, she and I are both busy moms and don't live in the same town, so this online picture swap really works for us - and it's my favorite price, FREE.

As a result of our blogs, we cousins have closer ties and have much more to talk about when we do get together in person. I would definitely recommend setting up a family blog, and bugging your family members to do the same.

Friday, May 30, 2008

"We Walk With the Dead"

I loved this article at Ancestry Insider's blog: Genealogists Are the New Shaman.

I hope you've taken advantage of Familysearch's Pilot website. Even if their specific collection of records has nothing about your family, you can still get involved with the indexing project. Every pair of hands gets that work done faster! And it's easy! I've been indexing Louisiana death certificates from the 1940s, and while the handwriting is hard to read sometimes, the work is interesting and goes by fast.

Enjoy your "dead-walking" day. :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

When I was a little girl, we had a tradition of traveling to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, to clean and decorate our family members' graves. Everyone's grown older and moved away, but every so often we still get together to fix up the graves. My grandmother says that her mother, Adina Keithler, used to spend a week picking flowers from her yard and making elaborate arrangements to place on the family graves on Memorial Day. I'd love to carry on that tradition.

Willamette National Cemetery, Portland, Oregon. We have several loved ones buried here. It's beautiful and I love visiting any other day but Memorial Day, when it's a zoo.

Our Gran. We all miss him dearly. (We miss everyone else too - but he died more recently and it's still pretty tender.)

Neenaw's parents, Poppy (Howard) and Grandma (Adina)

Aunt Rose and Uncle Kenneth - Aunt Rose is Adina's youngest sister. They're right across the cemetery driveway from each other.

Jennie Keithler, Howard's mother, at Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver. Her husband Ignatius Keithler died long before she did and is buried in Montana. She was a plucky little widow for almost forty years before she passed away. Neenaw says she refused to live with any of her children - always wanted to keep her independence. I don't blame her.

John Lawrence Keithler, son of Howard and Adina, also at Park Hill. His headstone is always completely overgrown whenever we visit and is also the hardest to find (guilty voice: "Maybe if we visited more often, we'd know where his grave is...."). John was a young man, only 29 when he died, and the family bought two plots and a double headstone for him and his wife Corky. Corky probably always planned on being buried beside him, but being young herself, was married again and died in Wyoming. So we still have this plot and half a headstone... hmmmm. (Not that we're anxious to fill it or anything.)

Howard Ernest, son of Howard and Adina, buried in the children's section at Park Hill Cemetery. He died at age fourteen.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day. I hope you are able to visit some family graves today.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

OH BOY!!! Look what I just found!

Watch out, your days of monopolizing records and charging people up the yang for 'em are numbered.'s Pilot Website is making some of its records available. I just found this German baptism record for some Steinhilber relatives (if you click on it: scroll down to Johannes Steinhilber - Johannes is my great-great-great grandfather).

As this great project keeps rolling right along, helped by thousands of volunteers like my friend and fellow FHC staff member, more and more of these records will become available for searching. Free.

If it's not happening fast enough for you, I'm sure you'd be willing to help out: they can tell you how to get started indexing these records.

*doing the Chris Farley "AWE!SOME!" thing*

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dousing for the Dead

Yesterday at the cemetery, as we were spending quality time with a few headstones and wondering about the empty spaces between, I told my friend Michelle about this article, describing a process by which burial places are found by "witching." Makes you want to go out and try it, doesn't it? (Thanks to Heather for the link)

Here's a video... pretty weird!

On another topic: A cemetery caretaker in Texas would rather not have you show up and take photographs of headstones with your digital camera. Read more here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


I found this on a Findagrave memorial and stole it:


If you could see your ancestors
All standing in a row,
Would you be proud of them?
Or don't you really know?
Strange discoveries are sometimes made,
In climbing the family tree
Occasionally one is found in line
Who shocks his progeny.
If you could see your ancestors
All standing in a row,
Perhaps there might be one or two
You wouldn't care to know
Now turn the question right about,
And take another view
When you shall meet your ancestors,
Will they be proud of you?

Author: Unknown

Friday, April 25, 2008

Little Genealogy Joys

I received my DAR membership certificate in the mail today and will have it framed soon - I was so excited to get it. It's beautiful.

Earlier this week, I finished making memorial pages at Findagrave for the 100+ photos I took of headstones a couple weeks ago. It was a big job - I had to complete it in little bites - and it felt good to finish it. Now I'm ready to head back over to the cemetery and take more pictures. I'll be taking a few photo requests with me when I go.

A relative of Carrie P. Mill, whose headstone was in the last batch of photos, found the page I made for Carrie and emailed to thank me for the picture. She gave me a more detailed biography to add to it. This is the first time I've had this happen and it made me feel happy that already, the work I put into the pages is starting to bear a little fruit.

This work is so rewarding. I'm grateful to be doing it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Mormons in My Family

My parents and uncle joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1973; I consider them my "pioneers." In 1975, my dad and uncle's maternal grandmother Adina Keithler joined; she was followed by my dad and uncle's parents in 1976. For a few years I labored under the delusion that we were the first Church members ever in our family.

This was proven wrong in 1980, by the publication of Steinhilber. From it, we learned that Adina's grandmother, Lena Steinhilber, joined the Church in 1878. Since the author of the book, a distant cousin, wrote rather unfriendly things about the Church, we weren't sure how much of it we could believe. Just a few years ago, I found that Lena's sister, Anna Maria Roller, was also baptized in Germany during her lifetime, which sealed the deal for me.

Last November, I found another family Church member - Almon Bathrick. He and his family were natives of New York state and eventually made their way to Nauvoo, Illinois, the last place we Mormons were kicked out of. On the early records of the Church, he is found as a missionary, called to serve in Illinois. This was particularly exciting to my uncle, who spent two years as a missionary in the Chicago, Illinois mission - again, mistakenly thinking he was the first member of our family ever to do so.

And just now, I found the autobiography of another early family member who belonged to the Church, Franklin Alonzo Robison, a descendant of my Proctor family. Franklin's parents were also natives of New York and eventually came west to Utah; he was the husband of several wives (one named Isabella Eleanor Pratt, daughter of Parley P. Pratt, a prominent figure in LDS history) and the father of 29 children. Wow.

I guess this Mormon stuff must run in my family.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Going "Graving"

I love that Findagrave has coined a phrase for hanging out in cemeteries, taking pictures, copying information, clearing off headstones... "I'm going graving today." "Oh, are you a graver?" It's great for identifying more of our kind.

Here are some pictures from the last time I went graving, burning myself to a crisp on one of our freak 75° April days. It was beautiful and HOT outside. Good thing I'm not an Arizona graver... how do you guys cope?

Our trees here have been gorgeous and blooming for about a month now. I love that they stagger their bloom times so these sights can last for a while. (Yes, they do it on purpose.)

A species of cute little blue wildflowers has taken over the cemetery, covering unsuspecting headstones with their roots and sinking into the engravings, creating this fun mirror-image effect. I thought it was cool.

Have you "gone graving" lately?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ordering Stuff From Salt Lake City

(You knew you could order stuff from SLC, right?)

New Cousin Bob and I were just discussing a book written by cousin Loretta Marvin, Steinhilber, which tells the story of our ancestors, Johannes Steinhilber and Johanna Magdelena "Lena" Roller of Germany. Lena joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon) and, with her four daughters, sailed away on a Church ship to America "in the dead of night." She made it as far as Utah, where her fifth daughter was born, but left the area and settled in Nebraska. Johannes and their two sons were left behind in Germany, but later came to the United States themselves and settled in New York state.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for either group - and of course we don't know how things really went down, but the old-timers of their town gave this version as the way it went. The fact that she left under cover of darkness could mean anything. Perhaps Lena and Johannes were divided over the Church issue; perhaps they were divided over MANY issues and that's really why she left.

I have a copy of the book, and New Cousin Julie also has a copy, but Bob has never seen it. Is it online somewhere? was his question. I googled it, and found that some sweet soul donated a copy to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Which is good - it means I can keep my copy. Not only did they donate the book, they allowed it to be microfilmed, so anyone anywhere near a local Family History Center, like the one I serve in, can order the microfilm and see the book for themselves. I am beyond thrilled to think that something with my name in it is actually at the FHL, but thought, what if you're like Bob and don't know how to order it, or you don't have a wonderful cousin like me to tell you how to do it?

Here's a short synopsis:

1) Before you do anything else, search the Family History Library catalog. There are several criteria you can search under - places, surnames, titles, authors, subjects.

2) After finding something you're interested in, like a book about The Ackleys of New Jersey, find out whether it's a book or on microfilm or microfiche (a thin sheet of plastic on which information has been printed in tiny print - you use a different machine to look at it). If a book has been microfilmed, a gray button that says "View Film Notes" will appear at the top of the page.

3) If it's only in book form, congratulations! You're headed for Salt Lake! Have a great time and make sure you go to a MoTab concert and a Utes game and have lunch at the Pantry while you're there. Sadly, the Library and FHCs don't have an interlibrary loan situation, but if you're in the SLC area, you're welcome to spend dawn till dusk in the library itself. They even have vending machines if you get hungry.

4) If it's on microfilm or -fiche, put away those suitcases, and copy down the film or fiche number instead. You'll need it when you go to order it. In the Ackley book's case, the film number is 1597996, Item 22. Remember that, now.

5) Ordering microfilms and -fiches can only be done at a Family History Center. To find one near you, head here and fill in the country, state, county and city you live in. You'll be directed to the closest FHC, where you can go and order what you need. The staff are oh-so friendly and knowledgeable and LIVE for requests like this. Seriously. We get bored when we don't have patrons - we have to work on our own genealogy... it's such a drag.

6) Take the film number and item number with you, show up, fill out the order form, pay the $6 and wait about two weeks - then the microfilm will show up at your local FHC, you'll be contacted, and at your leisure, you'll be able to head down there and look at what you ordered. Hopefully there will be good, useful stuff in it. If not, you can always order something else, right?

If, by some major coincidence, you're also a Steinhilber descendant and you're interested in seeing the Steinhilber book, you can see its call number here and if you click "View Film Notes," you can get the film number and order it at your local FHC. It's worth the trouble.

Any questions? You can always leave me a comment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The EVILS of CDs

A lady came into the FHC tonight with her genealogy burned on a compact disc. Her computer had crashed, but someone had fortunately managed to salvage her genealogy information and, not knowing she would want to use it in the future, burned it on this disc. Her thinking was, she could just pop it in one of our computers and start working again on her genealogy.

Every time I see a patron come in with a CD, I cringe. When people bring them in and expect to be able to add new data, correct old stuff, or change it in any way, they are sorely disappointed to find that their CD file is read-only. Burning genealogy on a CD is like taking a picture of it - you can look at it, but you can't undo or change what's already been done. You can't even use it to make a GEDCOM. If you have no other way of preserving your information, then go ahead, but just know that it will remain frozen in time, the way it is.

I tried six ways from Sunday to get that stinky little disc to cough up that information and let me save it somewhere else - the hard drive, the floppy disk, my email account - anywhere but on that CD. It wasn't budging. The poor lady was so sad and angry and frustrated, to think that 800 people on her file were now stuck on that CD. If she wanted to add anything new, they would have to be re-entered on her genealogy program, costing her years of work. My fellow staff member and I were just sick for her.

Knowing it was beyond my abilities, I called the King of All Geeks, my good friend Canadian Dan, and bugged him in the middle of a business trip. He was happy to help. Here's what he told me to do:

1) Put the CD in the drive and click on "My Computer," then click on the CD-rom drive
2) Find the genealogy file, click on it, and drag it to the desktop
3) Once it's on the desktop, it should open with the genealogy program. Open it and save it to your jump drive, hard drive, or floppy disk (I'd do all three, plus email it to about 18 relatives and send a GEDCOM to Rootsweb).
4) Keep messing around with it until it works. I had to tweak it several times before it would do what I wanted it to, but eventually the file was saved on a floppy disk and we all cheered and sighed huge sighs of relief.

I'm saving this information for the next time a patron comes in with one of these naughty CDs. They are NOT the genealogist's friend, unless you're saving pictures or documents or something you won't want to "mess with." They are for saving purposes ONLY. If you're like me and keep finding new stuff or get emails from new cousins all the time, for crying out loud, do NOT save your stuff on a compact disc.

P.S. This is very, very cool.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Staff Meeting Last Night

A website I was unaware of, for those of us who have early LDS Church members: Early Latter-day Saints

New Familysearch has been put on hold indefinitely.

Apparently, when the website went online in Mesa, Arizona, the thing just crashed. Other areas, in their "90-day rollout period," have longer to wait before the website is available to everyone in their areas, and those of us who were waiting patiently for our rollout period to begin are crying into our pedigree charts.

The purpose of the rollout period is to give Family History Center staff and ward consultants the opportunity to learn the program, so that when the website becomes available to everyone in the area, we can teach our ward members and FHC patrons how to use it. Having had a small taste of this program, I was really looking forward to its release, and I know it'll get here eventually... but I'm disappointed that it's taking even longer now.

New Familysearch will provide a way for us genealogists to look at all of our ancestors' entries that people have submitted over the years to the LDS Church genealogy database, and consolidate all those duplicated names into one name, thus helping to connect all of our work together. We'll all retain jurisdiction over our own work - no one will be able to change information we've submitted - but we'll be able to look over other genealogists' work and connect our people with theirs, forming a giant family tree.

While deceased persons' information will be visible to all, living persons' information will be kept private and only visible to that person. Everyone, not just LDS Church members, will have access to the website via a username and password.

If you have access to the new Familysearch, please use it often, enjoy it, and think of poor Millie when you do. Awwwww.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Another Reason to Post Records Online*

*safely, of course

My USB drive died today.

I freaked out and cried.

I didn't want to make the same mistake that many Family History Center patrons make - saving some genealogical information on one floppy disk, forgetting it or losing it, starting a new disk, finding the old one, bringing both (sometimes it ends up being seven or eight) to the Family History Center and begging one of us to help them "find their family history," which is sometimes gone forever, depending on the condition of the disk.

So I saved everything, the original file, on my USB drive, and nowhere else - which was also a mistake.

Luckily, I had updated my family tree at a few days before... which was wonderful, because even though (by some fluke) I had saved my file to my hard drive and then forgotten it back in February, I had found new information since then. I mean, come on, it's been six weeks. I've made some serious progress on some family lines since then. But with the privacy features I have attached to my file, none of the living family members' information could be retrieved.

I was very happy and surprised to find my forgotten February copy, but oh... the loss of my jump drive file. I was beside myself, to think I had lost all that work.

About twenty minutes ago, it turned itself on - it somehow got tweaked into working - but it's visibly bent and probably not good for more than a day's use after this. Who knows if it will work at the FHC on Tuesday night? I immediately saved my current file to my hard drive and erased the old one I downloaded from Rootsweb (I made it so only I have access to download it).

The moral of the story: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Save, save, SAVE those records somewhere other than your computer. If you don't feel safe saving it in a repository online, email a copy to some relatives. Many, many relatives, so that if something happens to their computers AND yours, you should still have one copy hanging around somewhere.

I'm so grateful to have my file back... I can always go to the store and buy another jump drive, but there's no way I can replace the hours and weeks and years of work. It was very silly of me to not save the whole thing somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Family of Gary and Mary Ann W.! Are you out there?

Cousin Keith's funeral home record came yesterday. I must say, funeral homes can be very handy places to find information. As we're probably all aware, research is largely a process of elimination. If you can narrow down your relative's city of death, and then just start calling funeral homes till you find the one that handled your relative's funeral (easy to do in a smaller town, or the cemetery should have this information) - you have tapped into a great source of information. Of course, it only works if you have relatives who have died within the last, say, century, but if that's something you can benefit from... there you have it.

Things I learned from Keith's funeral home record:
Place of birth
Place of residence
Mom's full maiden name, and married name (Keith's parents were divorced)
List of survivors: parents, sister, grandparents
Condition on arriving at the hospital, and name of hospital
Date, place, and time of his funeral services
Occupation and place of employment
Organizations the deceased belonged to - in Keith's case, a church and a labor union
Exact age of death
Place of burial

Also included was a receipt for Keith's funeral expenses, full of non-pertinent but somewhat useful and still interesting information.

After adding Keith's new information to my PAF file, I googled his father's name, Everett Keith B., and sister's name, Mary Ann B. W. I knew Mary Ann had passed away recently, but had no other information about her or her family... I tell you, that Google thing is awesome. I found her obituary and a family record on Genforum, quite worth my while. Within minutes, I had two more generations' worth of stuff.

I was telling Joy at the D.A.R. thing Saturday - I blog about genealogy because I have so few people in my life who really "get it" about genealogy: how exciting, joyful, fulfilling, and just plain interesting it is. But another reason for the blog is to have a place out there in Internet-land for distant relatives to find me. Most recently, Julie S. of Massachusetts found me and we've been able to swap family information and update the records we already had, a very valuable thing.

If you Google your family information, nothing will show up from websites like Familysearch or Ancestry or most USGenweb or state archives sites - but this blog, and my family tree at Rootsweb, DO show up in Google. If you've been wondering about starting a blog, or posting your family tree at Rootsweb (Joy, how's that going?), I would say ABSOLUTELY do it. Take every precaution to protect living family members' privacy, but do it and reap the benefits, is my advice.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

DAR Workshop

I went to a "join DAR" workshop today at the local genealogical society, and I'm glad I decided to go. I thought about skipping it, since I'm almost a member already, but I went anyway. It was a four-hour workshop, and the first two hours were instructional. I learned about some new websites and perks of belonging to DAR and offered my favorite two cents about and (good for finding headstones, which can be used for proof of death information).

I met a lady named Joy, who might be related to Bri, and another lady named Becky who will start working at the FHC on Wednesday nights. I mentioned to two of the "head honcho-ettes" that we could meet at the FHC sometime as a group, on a Saturday maybe, and we could take a very short tour and hook up our family history information and see how many of us are related. It's nice to be hooked up with keys and access to the place.

I'm very happy I did this. I may not have enjoyed it and understood the value of being a member when I was younger, but I've discovered that it's basically a genealogy and service group - and I can totally get behind that. The women are nice, they seem to have good hearts and good reasons for being there, and the genealogical hints and helps being thrown around the room were very informative - I enjoyed the feeling of helpfulness and generosity. One lady gave a presentation about Salt Lake City and all the genealogical wonders to be found there, and it was fun to feel the excitement in the air. EVERYONE wants to go to Salt Lake.

I also found out that I'll receive my D.A.R. number on April 17, and I'll have an induction ceremony in September. I'm very excited and I imagine Grandma Dot and Grandma Keen would be too. Genealogy Geek Girl has finally found more of her own kind.

Countdown Clocks at

Friday, March 28, 2008

It Just Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Here's the awesome day I had today, genealogy-speaking.

1) Aunt Dott's Findagrave picture request - FULFILLED (see "Generous Genealogists")

2) A very distant cousin I've never met, but whose name I've seen in a book called Steinhilber since I was eleven - emailed today, and sent updated family information and two darling pictures

3) The funeral home called me back today about Cousin Keith, who actually IS my cousin Keith (we verified it over the phone), and they're sending me his funeral and burial information in the mail

4) Not to speak ill of the dead, but Grandma Hattie and her second husband Frederick Golden might possibly have fudged their wedding date just a little bit. Cousin Susan found the real McCoy marriage record today, in another state, no less. Susan said "EEEEEE HAWWWWW" in the subject line of her email, and I agree whole-heartedly.

Boy, when it rains, it pours. I'm a big believer in getting family history information in order, and then posting it online (safely and securely), so PEOPLE CAN FIND YOU and offer you wonderful genealogical goodies. Cast your bread upon the waters, folks!

Mmmmmmmm... bakery-fresh.

Generous Genealogists

I love them. I love them, I love them, I love them. A few examples:

1) Darla, who at least weekly posts a message on my Rootsweb family tree that comes to my email. Usually her messages contain information from a book called Tombstone Hoppin', showing where family members are buried, adding to their birth, death, or relationship information. Darla is no relation, but she has this book, and she goes through my list of people and finds them in her book, and tells me what the book says about each one. Her thoughtfulness and kindness are amazing.

2) The cemetery caretakers, office workers, and funeral home employees who answer my many phone calls. "Is so-and-so buried in your cemetery?" Bless them all for their patience. They are ALWAYS nice. I'm sure they get quite a few of these requests and they must be used to it by now, but I always appreciate their kind manner and willingness to look people up for me - and then make copies and mail me stuff. Not one of them has ever asked a cent. Maybe they hope I'll throw some funeral business their way.

3) Volunteers at If you're thinking, "Here she goes with the Findagrave thing again -" too bad, because those people are made of gold. I love the networking factor: if I want a picture of a relative's headstone but don't live anywhere near that area, I can place a photo request. It's so easy. I just click on a button and my request is automatically sent out to people who have signed up to be volunteers in that area. The wonderful volunteers, like Joanne and Tracy and Donna, after accepting these requests, take time out of their busy lives to go to the cemetery, find our relatives' headstones (or lack thereof), take pictures and post them online. How Heaven-sent is that? We can't all get around to all the cemeteries we'd like to go to, but we have this website and great people to connect us with our loved ones in that way.

More than providing a way to see our ancestors' final resting places (and a chance to leave "virtual flowers" for them), the memorial pages at Findagrave very often provide valuable genealogical information - names, dates, places, parents' names, spouses' names, life histories that point us in the right direction. Also, seeing the headstone of someone whose name I've only seen on paper makes that person seem more "real" to me. I feel closer to her, knowing that I am looking on the ground where she was last seen by her dear family.

Just this morning I received another email saying a photo request had been fulfilled, for my very elusive Aunt Dott. What a blessing to finally find her, to know when and where she died and where she was buried.

Bless you all, you wonderful sharers - may I be counted among your ranks.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Famous Dead People

I've decided we could all experience a few more famous dead people in our lives. I don't see how anyone could NOT come to that conclusion. It's staring us right in the face. Famous dead people are fascinating. Who hasn't sat on the couch with a can of Nestle's Quik and a spoon on a Monday afternoon, and pondered such questions as, "In what interesting places are these famous dead people buried?" "What were their real names?" "What did they die of?" "What do their headstones look like?" "If I wanted to visit Jimi Hendrix' grave, to which major U.S. city would I travel?" and "Am I really related to Elvis?"

Well, we're all in luck. is not only one of my favorite sites ever because of what I can learn and what I can add, but also because it was started by a guy who had a strange and macabre hobby of visiting celebrities' graves, and suspected he wasn't the only weirdo out there. Any kind of celebrity - good, bad, ugly, drugly, kind of famous or Al Capone - who was famous for anything, like acting, military conquests, scientific discoveries, dying in the 9/11 attacks, music, or for being the Three Stooges' mom (I had no idea they were brothers) - has probably been visited by this website's creator. I bow to his genius for creating such an interesting spot for me to kill some serious time online.

Here's just a sample of famous dead people at

Eddie Albert - at rest in his own Green Acres
Louisa May Alcott
Johann Sebastian Bach
Lucille Ball
Bart the Bear, who killed Tristan in Legends of the Fall. It was a good death.
Blackbeard the pirate... did you know he was real? I didn't.
Karen Carpenter
Cuauhtemoc (bless you), last of the Aztec emporers, killed by Cortes
Chief Joseph
Chris Farley - can't forget my Chris!
Marty Feldman, of "EYE-gor" and "Abby Normal" fame
Carlyle Harmon - never heard of him? If you're a mom, you should be thanking him in your prayers.
Martin Harris... I wonder if he ever figured out what he did with those 116 pages.
Jimi Hendrix
Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter
Marie Antoinette
Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis
Pocahontas, who is now painting with all the colors of the wind
Princess Diana
Gilda Radner: "Comedienne, Ballerina"
John Ritter
Scaramouche: "Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Will you do the fandango?" I didn't know who he was, either. I figured Freddie Mercury made it up.
Anna Nicole Smith
Joseph Smith, Jr.
Laura Ingalls Wilder

And... who would you add to our list?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Important Notice

I received this in an email today. This affects me and anyone who has uploaded his family tree to

RootsWeb to be Moved to
The following was written by Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations Network, Inc. and is posted here at the RootsWeb blog.

As you know, The Generations Network has hosted and funded the RootsWeb online community since June 2000, thereby maintaining RootsWeb as the world’s oldest and largest free genealogy website. TGN remains committed to this mission and believes that RootsWeb is an absolutely invaluable and complementary resource to, our flagship commercial family history site. We believe in both services and want to see both communities prosper and grow.

As part of this goal, we have decided to “transplant” RootsWeb onto the domain beginning next week. This move will not change the RootsWeb experience or alter the ease of navigation to or within RootsWeb. RootsWeb will remain a free online experience. What will be different is that the Web address for all RootsWeb pages will change from to Again, the RootsWeb experience is not changing.

The decision to host RootsWeb on is being made for one primary reason: we believe that the users of each of our two main websites can be better served if they have access to the best services available on both. Simply stated, we want to introduce more users to RootsWeb and vice versa.

Today, despite the fact that and are the two most frequently visited family history sites on the Web, only 25 percent of visitors to visited RootsWeb in January 2008, while only 20 percent of visitors to RootsWeb visited (according to Comscore Media Metrix). We think we will serve our users best by doing a better job of letting them know what is available on both and RootsWeb. Hosting RootsWeb on is the first step towards making this happen, but we will absolutely look for more and better ways down the road to advance this goal.

Hosting RootsWeb on will also make it easier for us to make changes and improvements to the RootsWeb experience in the future.

All old RootsWeb URLs will continue to work, whether they are bookmarks or favorites, links to or from a hosted page or URLs manually typed in your Internet browser. We will have a redirect in place so that all old URLs will automatically end up on the appropriate new RootsWeb URL. You will never need to update your old favorites or links unless you want to. We have worked to make the transition as seamless as possible for our users, and this change should have a minimal impact on your experience with the site.

RootsWeb will remain a free online experience dedicated to providing you with a place where our community can find their roots together. If you have questions regarding this change please email them to


Tim Sullivan
The Generations Network, Inc.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Went to my Family History Center staff meeting tonight...

[Originally, I posted a countdown calendar showing how many days were left until the new Familysearch would be available in my area... as of 4/11/08, there were 108 days left.]

And while I'm happy about this, I was a bit impatient to see that the following areas will be getting New FamilySearch before we will:

Tri-Cities, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Medford, Oregon

I have family members who don't even care, and they'll be able to log on to NFS before I will. My husband was mocking me tonight: "How DARE they throw pearls at those swine in Tri-Cities!"

Amen, babe. Amen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

They'll Live Forever As Long As Someone Knows Their Names

Mom called last night and we chatted about - guess what! - dead people. She loves sharing her memories, and I love writing them down. Here’s a sampling:

~ Even with the hard life Grandma Keen led, she was always kind and sweet. She would tell my mom (her granddaughter), “Kindness is free. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.” She was an excellent seamstress and sewed wedding dresses for the local girls. With the money she earned, Mom said, Grandma and Grandpa helped put Uncle Ralph, their son-in-law, through medical school. Here are Grandma and Mom with a doll Grandma made for Christmas. Mom looks politely excited - she was a tomboy and didn't play with dolls, but she loved her Grandma.

~ During summers, Mom used to visit Aunt Marguerite and Uncle Ralph in Portland. They were quite "comfortable," and Mom observed Marguerite's shopping habit of calling up local department stores like Nordstrom or Meier & Frank and having clothes delivered to her home. She’d pay for the ones she liked and send the rest back. If Aunt Marguerite found a blouse or dress she liked, she bought one in every color. She had huge drawers full of nylons, etc. She always wore sunglasses and beautiful jewelry and kept her eyebrows immaculately plucked. Mom said Uncle Ralph must have visited China during some part of his World War II service, because their home was decorated like a Chinese restaurant, down to the red-fringed lamps. Here's Aunt Marguerite in 1962.

~ Uncle Ralph could be really funny. My grandparents were fighting one day, and Uncle Ralph (Grandma’s brother-in-law) turned on a tape recorder and set it behind the couch and recorded their quite lengthy argument. Uncle Ralph played it back for them later. Grandma was ready to kill him, Mom said. He bought Mom a parakeet when she was six, whom she named “Trixie,” and Mom had the bird until she was about sixteen. Here we have Uncle Ralph with his daughters, Patricia and Chickie, and Grandma Dot.

~ Here are Grandma Dot and her sister Kathleen in the 1930s, outside the family home in Walla Walla, getting ready to go somewhere. Kathleen, it turns out, was something of a backseat driver. Mom remembers driving to Wallowa Lake with Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Mel one summer, and it was "Melvin! Melvin! Turn here! Melvin!" all the way there. To her credit, Kathleen did have a Ph.D. and an important job and was pretty darn smart, so I imagine she was someone worth listening to. You can read more about her here.

With these pictures and stories in mind, I hope we're all working on two things:

1) Take time to write down something about your life. Someone will be interested in hearing about you someday - wouldn't it be nice if they could hear it in your own words? (Instead of hearing, "She was a backseat driver" - or worse - from someone else?)

2) If you can, interview older family members who remember a generation or two farther back than you do, and write down what they say about these loved ones who have left us. Though they may be scanty or imperfect, these records are precious.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Photo of the Week: 9 March 2008

Grandma Keithler (my great grandmother) and me, in the living room of her little house up on 102nd Avenue in Vancouver. I see this little home quite often while we're driving around town, and while I don't have any memories of being there, it makes my heart go pitter-pat to think that people I loved once lived there. Poppy, Grandma's husband, planted a sequoia tree in their front yard - if I'm not mistaken, that's the same tree in the window - which is still there and now huge. My memories of Grandma are still pretty tender - she died when I was twelve, and I still remember her voice and what she smelled like (pretty).

Some things I've heard about Grandma are that when she was young and lived in Montana, her father owned a livery barn in town. When new people moved into town, it was Grandma's job to drive them to their new property in the old Model T her dad owned. She had to drive backward whenever they went uphill, because if she drove forward, all the gasoline would go to the back of the tank and the engine died. Grandma also played the piano for the silent movies at her local theater.

Grandma's mother Lena died in the influenza epidemic, her father John died five years later, and two of her three brothers died at young ages; as a mother, she lost two of her three children within seven years of each other, also relatively young. She was a tough lady, quite used to having to work hard, and didn't put up with much nonsense. Yet she was sweet. When I was a little girl, about seven years old, we all took a trip to the beach and we kids took our shoes off to play in the sand. Afterward, I had sandy feet I had to wipe off before I could put my shoes back on. My aunt's younger sister, Dena, sat me on the car and wiped my feet off for me. Grandma noticed us, smiled big and said to me, "Spoiled!"

She put butter in her tomato soup and only ate "Hollywood" bread. She owned a little pink plastic Ferris wheel for her spools of thread and a green flocked turtle pincushion with tiny black plastic glasses and a knickknack of small, rainbow-colored birds flying above a plastic base and a paperweight of clear plastic with a red rose inside and a green metal stool with a pull-out step. I loved visiting her home and seeing her little "treasures." We watched Lawrence Welk at her home on Saturday nights. Sometimes she would watch us out her little hallway window, when she lived next door.

I miss her.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Life of William Ricketts Smith, Part 11: "I squeezed"

(Part 10 is here.)

I shipped out on the battleship Colorado a few days before the first of December. We were five days from Honolulu to San Pedro, and I thought I would be in Vancouver [Washington] long before Christmas. They picked us up at San Pedro and took us to Camp Anza, California, in the middle of the Anza Desert, to wait until there was a ship to take us to Camp Stoneman at San Francisco, and Fort Lewis, Washington. I was at Camp Anza a week or ten days, they loaded us on a ship and we docked at San Francisco where we spent the night. We were two or three days to Tacoma and were loaded on trucks and taken to Fort Lewis.

Having come from Oahu, I did not have a dress uniform, so it was necessary to get one before I could be discharged. They had a complete uniform, except for a blouse (coat), but the supply sergeant said he had them on order and should arrive shortly. I checked with him daily, as I had to go by the supply room on my way to the mess hall. It was about a quarter mile from the barracks. The morning of the 17th of December, when I stopped by, he said he still didn't have the blouse, but he said he had a size smaller than I wore and if I could squeeze into it, I could have it. I squeezed.

The 19th day of December 1945, I met with Colonel Taylor and received my discharge papers. There were some other GIs there and they were on their way to Castle Rock, Washington, and said I could ride with them. I figured that was better than waiting for the bus, so I went. I had to wait in Castle Rock till midnight to catch the bus and continue my journey to Vancouver, where my family was. I arrived in Vancouver about 2 AM. Having sent a telegram to my family the day before, I expected them to meet me. I didn't know where they lived, as they had moved, and all I had was a route and box number.

After a few minutes, a cab driver came into the bus depot and asked me where I was going. Meanwhile, no one was there to meet me and I thought they were probably on my way. The cab driver came back after about two hours (4 AM) and insisted on taking me out to find them. I had a general idea of the part of the country they were in, so I finally agreed to go with him. We drove around for some time, he would stop once in a while and knock on somebody's door and ask if they knew where the Keithlers lived. It was almost daylight when we finally located them. By that time I was so disappointed and disgusted that I was about to go back to Fort Lewis and re-enlist. The problem was that the telegram was not delivered until the next day. I have never sent another telegram to this day!

The End

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Photo of the Week: March 2, 2008

(Click on the image for a better view)

A couple of hotties get married in 1942 (you can read more about that here).

My Neenaw is one of the most beautiful brides I've ever seen. I am lucky to look anything like her. Gran's no slouch, either.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Life of William Ricketts Smith, Part 10: Big Trips, Hawaii, and Japanese Surrender

(Part 9 is here.)

Summers are hot and winters are cold in that area [Fort Knox, Kentucky]. Sometime around the first part of December, we got orders that we were shipping out. Our First Sergeant Boyd was able to get furloughs for most anyone that wanted one, so we packed up our little family and returned by train to Lodge Grass. It was winter. When we left out of Chicago, there were over twenty cars on the train, all full, powered by a steam locomotive. It was below zero as we crossed North Dakota. Our car had a coal stove in one end but it was not well tended. We used an Army blanket and my GI overcoat to stay warm and it was almost impossible to get anything to eat. The steam lines froze in some of the more modern cars and they were without heat. We were happy to get off at Billings, where we changed trains to Lodge Grass.

I returned to Fort Knox a few days later and a week or so later, went by the ranch in Montana in a troop train bound for Fort Lawton in Seattle, where we boarded a ship bound for Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, from there by train to Schofield Barracks. We were housed in Area W which was used for temporary unassigned units, where we lived on C rations. After a couple of weeks, we replaced the 82nd Ordnance Company, which had been there for several years. They were due for rotation back to the States, but because they were not in a combat area any longer, they had to be sent to Okinawa and then returned to the States, not as a company but individually.

Our duties at Schofield was the servicing of the equipment of the combat units passing through on the way to Okinawa, and there was a big build-up of troops taking place there for the ultimate attack on Japan. Our unit consisted of many different sections: tanks, wheeled-vehicle units, gunnery, instruments, machine-shop, welding, parts and supplies, and electrical. We could repair most anything. As the flow of troops increased, we sometimes worked around the clock to get it all done. About July, I was promoted to T3. We continued to work hard. We would go to the beach on the north shore sometimes. The water was very clear and some great breakers. My head got sunburned several times before it got toughened up [Gran lost most of his hair early in life].

It was about August, I think, we got orders to start preparing to ship out. The workload was still heavy, so some of our men were assigned to preparing our tools and equipment to ship. Then President Truman ordered the Atom Bomb dropped and everything was put on hold and sometime later the Japanese signed the surrender. We were all assigned a MOS number, based on time served and number of dependents, etc. Some had numbers a lot higher than me, so I was pleasantly surprised when my number came up just before Thanksgiving.

(Part 11)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Photo of the Week: 24 February 2008

(Click on the picture for better detail)

From left to right: Grandma Alice Johnson Keen, her sister-in-law Maude Leah Keen Torvanger, and Maude's husband Bert Martin Torvanger.

I never met Uncle Bert, but we used to visit "Aunt Maudie" sometimes at her apartment in Walla Walla. I LOVED the smell of that place - old, musty, creepy - and the funky old elevators with a window in the door so you could watch yourself move between floors. It was dark and dusty in the hallways, but Maude's apartment was sweet, small and cheerful. She had funny old mauve couches that we kids would smile to each other over, and she would give us money as gifts. Mom said she boiled the coins and washed and ironed the bills before she gave them to us, and we always thought that was funny. Now I think it's absolutely adorable of her. Awww... she wanted our money to be clean.

Aunt Maude never had any children, so Grandma Dot and her sisters were Aunt Maude's heirs. Grandma Dot gave Mom some of Aunt Maude's things, and I remember old nightgowns and pillowcases and sheet sets floating around our home, all marked with the name "Torvanger."

Aunt Maude and Uncle Bert apparently bought some interest in an oil well in Oklahoma. Years later, about 2002, I was contacted about my family tree on Someone from the oil well share company was trying to find Aunt Maude's heirs because we were owed some money, and Mom and I got all excited. Wooo hooo, here comes the cash!

Reality sank in when we learned how much Mom and her three siblings would be receiving. So far, with long distance phone calls, gas money, and legal copies of Aunt Maude's and Grandma Dot's wills, it's cost Mom more than she would have earned from the oil well, just to get this thing hooked up. We're not quite as "in the money" as we once hoped - but that 25 cents a month sustains our Bazooka bubble gum habit, and really, that's all we can ask for.

Friday, February 22, 2008

You Know You're Having a Good Genealogy Day When...

... you have to update your GEDCOM at, not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES because you keep finding more good stuff after updating it the last time.

A special thanks to my "cousin-in-law," Susan H., who threw me such a great document this morning that I've been working on it all day, adding more names to Findagrave, and finding even more people to add to my file. AWESOME.

It's so nice when we can work together.

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 9: Gifts from God and Family Life

(Part 8 is here.)

Several months previous to this time, a detachment from our company had been assigned to service duty on a tank driving range where trainees were taught operation of tanks. There were several areas used and I was assigned to one of them. One evening as I had parked my truck and was walking to our shop, we had a building in an old rock quarry where we met to take a truck back to our barracks, and Sergeant Bass and one of the mechanics was trying to find a problem with the electrical system on one of the trucks. I inquired concerning their problem and the answer came to me immediately from thin air, which I later learned to be the Holy Ghost.

When our company was reorganized, the sergeant that was in charge of the electrical section was relieved because of a minor disability and Sergeant Bass remembered the above incident and I was given the position as Non-Com over that section and promoted to T4 (Sergeant). I know that this was a gift from God!

Living off the post was a new experience for me. West Point is about seven miles from Fort Knox and about 25 miles from Louisville. Durwood Sheets lived in Louisville and James Nunnallee lived in West Point. Durwood had a 1936 Ford 2-door and James and I would meet him each morning in front of the store in West Point and drive to Fort Knox and return to West Point each duty day, except some days when we had to stay on the post for some special duty. It was pretty much of a hassle trying to be a soldier and a family man at the same time, but I was able to spend some time with my little family.

Our house was small, there was a kerosene cookstove and an oil burning heater. Trudy had to walk downtown to buy groceries and do their laundry and carry oil for the heater and kerosene for the cookstove. A couple with a boy about our son's age lived in the other half of our house, so the two wives and boys became friends, which helped to pass the time.

(To be continued next Friday)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Photo of the Week: 17 February 2008

(Click on the picture for more detail)

This picture is from Neenaw's house. Years ago, Gran wrote down on the back of the frame who everyone is. Last time I was at Neenaw's house, I scanned this picture and sent it home to myself - but I must have taken "neglectful genealogist" pills that day, because I didn't copy their names down. Next time I'm at Neenaw's, I'll do that.

I do know that the man sitting in the middle of the front row - the "thorn among the roses" - is my 3rd-great grandfather Thomas William Zane, and the woman with the dark hair standing behind him is his wife, Susan Virginia "Jennie" Cummings Zane - both of them beautiful, of course. "Not an ugly one among us!" Thomas and Jennie are my great grandmother Ruby's grandparents, so this might be the farthest-back picture I have of any of my ancestors. They are pictured with other members of Thomas' family. His father, Jonathan J. Zane, died when he was very young, and his mother remarried Mr. Wright and had more children, so I imagine these are his siblings and their spouses.

Thomas is in another picture at Neenaw's, with his band in Sundance, Wyoming. The nifty thing is, we had that picture of the Sundance Band and knew he was in the picture, but didn't know which band member he was... until we saw this picture above. Those whiskers don't lie.

UPDATE: While I was cleaning out my email inbox this weekend - all 47 pages' worth - I found this note I emailed to myself from Neenaw's, with the NAMES on the back of this picture. So here you go:

Standing, left to right: Adelia Ermine Wright, Jonathan Haines, Arthur Haines, Susan Virginia "Jennie" Cummings Zane, Silas Wright, Frank Bryson Murray

Sitting, left to right: Della Haines, Mary V. Wright Haines, Thomas William Zane, Clara S. Mason Wright, Nellie Margaret Wright Murray

Gran wrote: "This picture was apparently made after 1890 in Michigan as Elizabeth Ann Zane moved to Wyoming in 1890. Jesse Zane would be over 20 years old in this picture. T.W. Zane would be between 45-50 years old."

Mystery solved.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 8: New Son, Tank Training, Fort Knox

(Part 7 is here.)

Shortly afterward, we left for Washington state where we visited some of Trudy's relatives and where I later became employed at the Bremerton Navy Yard as an electrician and was later called into the Army in September. I was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where I was in basic training in the Armored Force. After five weeks of basic training, I was sent to Armored Force School for Tank mechanics and graduated with a T5 (corporal) rating. Shortly thereafter our son was born.

I applied for an emergency furlough, which was refused because the Red Cross reported that the mother and child were doing fine. The company clerk made out a request for furlough and told me to carry it to the battalion commander's office and see if it would be approved... and it was. I arrived at the hospital in Vancouver [Washington] just as Trudy and the baby were being released. I spent several days there before returning to Fort Knox. I continued working at the motor pool tank shop.

Meanwhile, they had expanded the training center to three groups and we had received several shipments of new tanks. However, men were getting transferred and shipped out continuously and life was quite uncertain from day to day. In the spring of 1944, we were organized into an Ordnance Company and became the 698th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company. All men with limited service classifications due to age or minor disabilities were transferred out or discharged, and new men, mostly trained at Aberdeen, were brought in. We finally became a line outfit and life became a little more certain.

A short time later, Trudy decided to come to Kentucky so we could be together. Through a friend in the outfit, I found a small house in West Point, Kentucky and rented it. Trudy and the baby arrived in Louisville on the train and we got settled in our little house in West Point.

(To be continued next Friday)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

If You're Going to Die, Do It Out West


My genealogy time this week has mostly been spent organizing my records at Any way and anywhere I can build my family tree online, I'm all for it - plus Findagrave is unique, in that you can add, edit, upload pictures, "leave flowers," find other family members, organize people into "virtual cemeteries," and more, SO easily. It's about the easiest and funnest way to preserve family history records online that I've seen (aside from Ancestry "The Brat" .com's famous people family tree feature).

Adding your people to's records necessitates knowing what happened to their bodies. Were they cremated? If so, what happened to the ashes? Were they buried? In what cemetery? If you don't know, has a spot for that too - but since I know most of my ancestors were buried, and I don't feel like putting "unknown" on all their records, I've been calling around to cemeteries, city hall offices, funeral homes, you name it, this week. If nothing else, I work hard at living up to my blog's name.

Mom's family is mostly in Walla Walla - at the same cemetery, bless them - but Dad's is scattered between Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and Kentucky - and I've had more luck with the Western states. Small-town Kentucky has sweet adorable people, like in every other state, but the older records there don't seem to be in very great shape, availability-wise. Part of the problem is the age of my family's graves - they're all older, because most of my family emigrated West before 1900. Back in the time I'm looking in, my family members were probably born at home, died at home, and buried at home or in the churchyard. Elkton only has one city cemetery and if your ancestor's not buried there, the city office can't help you. You'd be better off heading to Kentucky and spending a week cemetery-ing.

This is true of a lot of places, even some out West, but I find that since Western states are slightly newer, records are much more accessible (and in my case, better organized), the cemeteries are kept up by city programs, and the poor city employees don't have to don a dust mask before finding your ancestor's burial record.

Lady in Elkton, my apologies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

DAR Update

The check I gave DAR Lady with my application, cleared about two weeks ago. I've been told there will be a lineage workshop next month at our local genealogical society. I invited Mom, Aunt Nancy, Candace and Mandi to come, since they're kind of local. Sounds interesante.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Photo of the Week: 10 February 2008

(Click on the picture for more detail)

The Dysarts, playing in the snow - driving through the Blues, maybe? Or in the Mt. Hood area?

This is from one of those funky old cameras that put two images on the same photograph. On the left we have my grandfather, Carl Byron Dysart Jr., with some really tall snow, and on the right, his parents, Carl and Ruth (Ackley) Dysart, looking more animated than I'd ever seen them (click on the picture to see their big smiles).

You know how those old pictures are - no one could smile and everyone was all dressed up and they always looked so... sedate. You would never know that a half hour later, they'd be changed out of their Sunday best and out slopping the hogs or something.

This is from the late 1930s-early 1940s era.

Saturday, February 09, 2008 Memorials

Creating memorials for people in my PAF file, at, is the project of the moment. (It changes as I get distracted by something else - good thing I have this blog to keep track of what I used to be doing.)

In my PAF file, I looked for people for whom I had burial information. Along with the memorials for my eight great-grandparents (links are in the sidebar, under their names), here's a list of people I've created memorial pages for. Women are listed by their maiden name, with married name in parentheses.

Ackley, Alfred "Denton"
Ackley, Henry Tillinghast
Adams (Dysart), Mary Ann
Austin, Ernest Stewart
Bachelor (Hickmott), Alvira
Bachelor, William Dallas
Barnes, William Franklin
Bathrick, Mrs. Abigail Kettle
Bathrick, Lysander
Clark (Craig, Austin), Rozilla Margaret
Cummings (Zane), Susan Virginia "Jennie"
Daggett, Diane Lynn
Dragoo (Keithler), Jennie Lee
Duggan (Johnson, Golden), Hattie Ellen
Dysart, Carl Byron, Jr.
Dysart (Baker), Letha "Irene"
Dysart, William M.
Fox, Harold Germaine
Fox, William Raymond
Isaac (Bucholz), Chickie
Johnson (Biersner), Hattie Quintilla
Keen (Dysart), Alice "Dorothea"
Keen (Isaac), Elsie "Marguerite"
Keen (Zolber), Dr. Esther "Kathleen"
Keithler, Howard Ernest
Keithler, John Lawrence
Newberry, Jason
Newberry, Mrs. Lucinda
Newberry (Ackley), Mary Lucinda
Newberry, Mrs. Polly
Newberry, Samuel
Proctor (Barnes), Daphne
Smith, John Jason
Smith, Raymond Maurice
Smith, William Ricketts
Zane (Fox), Elizabeth Ann
Zane, Jesse Thomas
Zane, Thomas William

I also found memorials already done for these people:
Austin, Dr. Kenneth P.
Bachelor (Bathrick), Katharine
Balch, Adm. George Beall
Barnhouse (Dragoo), Jane M.
Bathrick, Stephen
Bathrick, Tillabee (Tilly)
Daggett, John Birney Jr.
Dragoo, Emery J.
Dragoo, Ewell
Dragoo (Faught), Isabell G.
Dragoo, Jacob
Dragoo, John Irving
Dragoo, Liberty Ulysses
Dragoo (Evens), Mary Grace
Dragoo (Simmons, Cole), Sophia Anna
Dragoo, Tucker Steele
Jones (Dragoo), Isabella
Keen, Lester Orlan

This list is a work in progress. If you knew any of these people, I'd love to "flesh out" their memorial pages with whatever memories, stories, etc. you could add - just email me at brinatty at comcast dot net.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 7: New Job, New Car, New Wife

(Part 6 is here.)

Early in the summer of 1940, I was offered the job of operating the power plant for the town of Lodge Grass. It was one of the highest paid jobs in the area, $142.50 per month. It was a 12 hour, seven day week job. I was responsible for operating the generating plant and maintaining the distribution system, reading meters, billing customers, as well as purchasing needed supplies and fuel for the engines. After a few months I had saved enough money to buy a used 1938 Chevrolet coupe, so I gave my 1929 Ford roadster to my brother.

During the summer of 1938, I had worked on a wheat farm a few miles southwest of Lodge Grass, operated by Bill Formanack of Miles City. His son Bob was working there while his dad ran a tire shop in Miles City. Bob played the piano and we organized a band, playing for local dances. A couple of years after that Bob married Ileta Stovall.

After acquiring my "new" car, I decided to drive up to Formanacks' farm to show Bob my car. There were a mother and daughter visiting there that afternoon from Sheridan, Wyoming, the daughter having gone to school in Sheridan with Ileta earlier. This daughter later became the love of my life and the mother of our two boys.

A few months later she accepted my gift of an engagement ring. Then on the seventh of December 1941, war was declared against Japan. It was quite apparent that I would soon be involved, being physically fit and 23 years old. We agonized over whether or not we should marry, her father thought not but let us make our own minds up. Meanwhile I went to Los Angeles to complete schooling that I had previously started. Upon my return, we set the date of 14 April 1942 and were married.

(Part 8)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kentucky Death Records at

As much as I loathe for acting like a big genealogy-hoarding spoiled brat (she said kindly), I appreciate the state of Kentucky for being so generous with their records. If you have a subscription to and lots of folks in Kentucky, like I do, you're in luck, ma'am. Or sir.

I've been trying to restrict my research to looking up grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins, who tend to be neglected in the wake of finding new family members, and "firming up" their information - finding death dates and places, forgotten children in censuses, etc. Kentucky's vital records have been most helpful on my Smith, Mobley, and other Kentucky families.

The actual death certificate images are available from 1852-1952 and most of the years between; there are a few years missing. I've made a few sad discoveries - an uncle died at the state asylum, a cousin died of pneumonia after her tooth was extracted (no antibiotics yet), and another cousin died of cancer of the tongue, yikes! - but the death certificates have also been very valuable in terms of getting more complete and accurate information on some family members, and discovering new people in the process.

When the Church is finished digitizing its millions of microfilms and makes them available FREE online in a few years, I'll be the first in line to see them... in the meantime, is a somewhat necessary evil.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Well, guess what.

A dear friend (and possible cousin, we just haven't figured out how yet), Compulsive Writer, has asked me to write guest posts during the month of February at an LDS women's blog, Segullah. I'll be there every Tuesday. Here's my first post.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Photo of the Week: 3 February 2008

(Click on the picture to make it bigger)


My dad is celebrating his 65th birthday tomorrow and for a special surprise, I'm posting his favorite picture of himself (NOT). You're welcome!

What a cutie. I really do love the Alfalfa hair.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 6: College, Barley, and "Valuable Lessons"

(Part 5 is here.)

In the finals of my senior year, I purposely flunked some of the tests because I didn't want to be the valedictorian and have to make a speech, but I ended up being salutatorian and had to make a speech anyway. I know this was a disappointment to my parents (I never told them the truth). I earned a scholarship from the Montana University System and decided to use it at Montana School of Mines because they did not require ROTC training, however I really preferred to attend Montana State College. These decisions were made because I was unable or unwilling to face the responsibilities that were inherent to the talents that I was blessed with. Fortunately God gives us time to learn some of these valuable lessons.

During my High School years I had the opportunity to be a relief operator at the city light plant and became familiar with the operation of the machinery there. In 1940 a Rural Electrification project was organized in our county.

Meantime my dad and I had moved to the ranch that was owned by my mother's father. We spent the first summer trying to get the place into production and were living in a sheepwagon. It was a hard summer as we worked about 15 hours a day. That fall we bought an old log house, which we tore down and moved to the ranch, and by the latter part of November 1939, I had assembled a one-room cabin from the usable parts of the old log house.

We moved some of our furniture from the house in town and my mother and brother, Raymond, joined us in our "new" home on the ranch. We celebrated Thanksgiving together. It was in the fall of that year that my dad was able to go with Uncle Jack and Aunt Dorothy to Kentucky to visit his mother, whom he hadn't seen since he and my mother were there in 1913 on their honeymoon.

He was reluctant to leave, as the barley was ready to harvest, but we all insisted that he go and assured him that we could get the crop harvested. Our neighbor, Jack Williams, had an old binder that had not been used for years. He consented to let us borrow it and we pulled it home behind the pickup. I worked on it for several days and finally got it in running condition. My brother was 18 years old and in High School, and had experience with horses, so it became his job to drive the team while I shocked the bundles and made emergency repairs on the binder. We had the grain all in the shock by the time Dad got home.

Later that fall, I took the truck, a 1934 Ford 1 1/2 ton, and went to Shaws mine in the Wolf Mountains, about 25 miles away, for a load of coal. We used the coal for both cooking and heating. By the time I got home the temperature was 20 degrees below zero.

(Part 7)