Monday, March 6, 2017

Gatlinburg: Beauty from the Ashes

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.....
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:1-3
The devastating fires that engulfed Gatlinburg Tennessee, this past November, was a tragedy beyond words. Several lives were lost, and countless homes reduced to ashes. That night was the stuff of nightmares. Viral videos captured the unbelievable scenes of destruction, panic, and heroism. I was not physically there that night, but I, and many of members of my family were awake through the wee hours of the morning, praying hard for this place we loved so dearly. Falling asleep finally, when we realized there could be no more word until morning light provided a report of the devastation. So many were praying for rain that night, and thankfully, the rains came. After seeing the destruction first hand in December, I realize now how sweet those rains had been. If they had not come, I firmly believe all would have been lost.
I cannot begin to describe how precious Gatlinburg has been to our family. For multiple generations it has been a nearby sanctuary. Always welcoming and peaceful, helping us forget the stresses of life, as we literally climb closer to spiritual comforts: Like a balm, renewing our mind, body, and soul. It has been a place of happiness, discovery, and love.
I have also been acutely aware of its sense of history and timeless existence. Its mountains echo thousands of years of nature's cycles: Its relatively short history of man, farming nearby valleys, harvesting nature's bounties, and passing on of ancient traditions. If you have never stood, barefoot, in the rushing mountain stream, and just listened to the symphony of nature around you, then you have not fully lived.
For the past several years, our family has been fortunate enough to spend Christmas in Gatlinburg. Each year, a week of family joy, surrounded by one of our most dear places on earth. During the night of destruction, our reservations for Christmas were a mere afterthought....we just prayed that Gatlinburg would survive to see another Christmas. Miraculously, our little corner of town survived, and we made the trek as planned, due to the pleas of the owner and local officials. Their message? "Please come visit!"

There were many false reports indicating that much of the town was gone. Don't get me wrong. The loss is tragic. There are large pockets of town that are no longer with us....but there are very large pockets that survived! The main strip, for example, and most along River Road, have all survived. It was comforting to see these places still standing - beacons of hope and strength.
Our Christmas of 2016 was wonderful as always. Family and relaxation, and a true sense of thankfulness that the rains had come that night in November. Yet, along with the joy of Christmas, there was grief. Our family had enjoyed a small group of cabins along the Roaring Fork stream for about a decade. They were very much like second homes to us. We had heard reports that they had been lost in the fire, but until we arrived to see for ourselves, reality was still at bay.
It was heartbreaking to see the destruction. Our ritual of walking this road along the stream, and basking in the beauty of history and nature would never be the same. Just last June, we had celebrated my Mother's birthday in one of these cabins. We had walked the road, taking pictures, and breathing in the restorative, oxygen-filled air.

One loss felt most poignantly, was a beautiful red barn, tucked up along side of the mountain base, just across the stream. Local lore said this was one of the first riding stables built in Gatlinburg for the use of tourists back in the 1930s. Seasonally framed in the trees, this picture of history will live on only in our memories, and the photos taken over the years.
The areas of destruction were sobering and heartbreaking. They also served to remind us of the frailty of life, and the savage, unpredictability of nature. Yes, it was man that started the blaze that destroyed so much life, but it was the winds of nature that carried embers in strange patterns....burning some pockets, and turning abruptly in a split second to spare a grouping just next door.
Many of the areas downtown are also still here today because of the valiant efforts of so many firemen. After seeing the videos of folks being flanked by burning forest on either side of their escape route, the firemen were very much in danger that night, and they deserve medals of valor, in my opinion.

As for the beauty rising from the ashes: I was encouraged by other sights we witnessed. During the day, we can see the darkened earth and scorched trees, sprinkled with ghostly chimneys standing as monuments to the pre-fire days. But in the night, standing on the balcony of the condo rental, looking towards downtown, I could see pockets of light sprinkling the hillsides. You could clearly see the areas that survived, and there were many more than I expected. Sadly, there were large pockets of complete darkness, but those surrounding clusters of light were perfect messages at Christmas. Beacons of hope, reminding us all that Gatlinburg will survive, and flourish once again. 

In fact, there were some parcels that had already bulldozed the rubble and had framing already in place, as the sound of construction remained steady. This was a wonderful sign of new life. As we are reminded that beauty comes from the ashes, I can't wait to see the spring growth take over. The area will rise stronger than before, as long as we continue to support its people. The weather is warming up, and the blossoms are unfurling their splendor. For those of you who share this heartfelt regard for Gatlinburg, get those reservations in - it's time to come back!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hey There, Delilah!

"Hey there Delilah here's to you
This one's for you"

Oh, it's what you do to me...squealing and jumping up and down, and getting all misty. OK, that's not part of the song. But we've all imagined a moment of discovery that gives us chills and reveals a piece of history previously lost. I had this moment a couple of months a dusty old basement...pulling back the sheet and staring into the face of an ancestor I had never met...neither physically nor photographically. So, without further ado, I have the honor of revealing the photo of a long lost ancestor: Delilah Estle Daniels!
Delilah Estle Daniels
The discovery was made when I encountered a pile of very large photographs, all framed in different ways, covered by sheets. Three of the images were children - and images I had seen before, only smaller: My grandfather, Charles, as a baby, and his infant siblings who had died before the age of 4 - Richard & Garnet.

But then I saw her. She was staring up at me, right in the eye....rather knowing...and piercing. I knew I had never seen her before. In all the scanned photo albums I had poured over for decades, she was new. She was unknown, but she was obviously important if she had been kept secure all these years.

Below her portrait was an older gentleman. Again, no one that I knew. Followed by another, much younger gentleman. This man's identity I was pretty certain of as I had seen several of him as an old man. His big clues of giveaway: he was sporting the same beard and hairline in his old age as he was in this picture: Madison Daniels.
Madison Daniels
All three images were chalk portraits. You know the kind, large beautiful images that are a tad softer around the edges, bearing a chalk-like appearance. These images are usually created as enlargements of smaller images, but I had never seen the smaller originals.

I searched in vain for a label of identification....their frames were all different....and freshly sealed with paper tape. After identifying the young man as Madison, one of my Aunts declared the older woman had to be his wife, Mary. Keep in mind that all three portraits were very similar in construct. Madison's paper looked a bit more yellow, but if these were created around the same time, the age difference was possibly a big clue that the woman was not his wife. But at this point, that is just conjecture. Funny thing about Madison's portrait - even though I knew who he was, I thought, "Wow, a pic of John Hunt Morgan!" With the family story about John Hunt Morgan and the family clock, it was just an internal ancestral know, the kind no one would understand if you said it out-loud. The similarity in hair and beard with JHM is pretty cool.

I had seen so many images of Madison's wife, Mary Hill, that I knew immediately this was NOT Mary. This declaration fell on deaf ears....and so I had no choice but to go in for dissection. Dissecting the frame is a hard call in cases such as these, but I was also not the owner of these portraits, and only had a few hours in their presence. Since there was a good chance I would never see them again, and since I had my really good camera with me (Thank God) I took a more drastic measure.

In order to get a clear image of the older couple, the glass had to come off. I was not in an area of good lighting and had to use flash. I dug into the man's frame, took him out, but found no label. Cue sound of heart breaking. Funny note about his photo. There was a piece of masking tape on the glass, exactly like the pieces attached to the glass of the three children's portraits. Each of those pieces of tape had my grandfather's handwriting, identifying each child: Charles, Garnet, Richard. He had clearly meant to write on the label of the gentleman's portrait, but failed to do so. Does this mean he knew him and just forgot that step after freshly securing the back? Possibly.

Then I dug into the woman's frame. Cue the ancestral angels singing: There was writing on the back of her portrait!!! Her name was truncated due to a possible family nickname: "Lila Estel Daniels, wife of John Daniels. Their children: James, Madison, John, Abraham, Silas, Janie." That brought on the squeals and happy dances. I could not believe I was looking into the face of a woman I had long known by name.
I first learned of Delilah Estle Daniels from the pages of the family Bible record given to my father years ago by Aunt Mattie Townsend. I wrote about this Bible record previously, and it became a wonderful piece of proof during my DAR application process. In fact, I submitted a copy which will forever be in the DAR application records. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1804, the daughter of Silas and Sarah Estle. This means she was the granddaughter of my Patriot, Daniel Estle! So many feels!

I also have a couple of other artifacts related to Delilah: Her obituary, handwritten by someone in the family. And a signed verse from Church in 1841. I'm assuming the later has to do with the membership process, but it is signed by Delilah and has been a special piece of our heritage for several years.
As for the other gentleman, I'm seriously thinking this may be Madison's father, John Daniels. With the similarities in photo production, his hair style and clothing, the odds are in his favor. I cannot be completely sure, but I also know that it would fit into the overall story of how these pictures would have been obtained. From what I have heard, the family went down to the family farm, in Porter Ohio, after the last inhabitant passed away (probably Uncle Jess - died 1964.) They took home items that were left in the old farmhouse. Since they came away with Delilah, and Madison, it makes sense that John came along as well. With grandpa about to place a name on the masking tape, I'm assuming he knew the identity. Uggghh, if only he would have written on the tape!! But regardless, we are overjoyed to have a few ancestors returned to the family collective.
John Daniels?
Since I do not want to be the only person with the photo - I am placing a copy of Delilah's photograph on Findagrave for family members to find her and download a copy. I will place John there as well, with a note, asking if anyone has the original smaller version out there. If someone else in the family has the smaller version labeled, we could get confirmation!

**Note that her name is spelled "Delila" on her tombstone. In every other written document - the Bible, her Church token, and her obituary - there is an 'h' at the end of her name.

Welcome home, grandma Delilah! "Girl, you look so pretty!"

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Orphan Packet

In a previous post, I had put out a family beacon for Warren relatives from Western Kentucky. The hope of re-connection was based on my Grandfather's unfortunate experience as a child. When he was around the age of 8 or 9, his Mother gave birth to a baby boy while she was in the last stages of battling Tuberculosis. The baby's fate remains a mystery based on conflicting information. However, my Grandfather and his younger sister, Estelle, were placed in an orphanage in Louisville Kentucky.

You will notice that I just used a variable for his age at the time of entrance into the orphanage. This variable is based on the records received from the orphanage. In 1999, when my Grandfather was roughly 85, the orphanage contacted him and sent him his case file. As you can imagine, this was bittersweet for him, knowing the traumatic circumstances that prompted his placement in an orphanage that happened to be halfway across the state.

The packet of documents included invaluable pieces of information about our family. In this post I want to take a look at the documents that were included. Outside of any actual court proceedings for an adoption, I'm assuming this packet would be typical for Kentucky children placed in orphanages of the time - and even more so for cases such as this, when the child was never adopted, but aged out of the system.

Chronologically, the earliest correspondence is between the public health nurse and the director of the orphanage, asking for them to take the two children. Apparently this was the first contact, and the nurse has explained the family situation in great detail - including the time frame of how long my Great Grandfather had the injuries that had rendered him partially paralyzed and unable to care for his children.

There is also a letter from the Mayor of Mayfield, providing a letter of recommendation for the children - based on the urgent need created when a third child was born within the few days that followed the previous letters.

The County Health Nurse is writing on two types of letterhead:
"Mayfield and Graves County Chapter of the American Red Cross"
"State Board of Health of Kentucky"
These two letterheads may point me into the direction of more documents. The Kentucky Board of Health records may be too difficult to obtain without a lawyer, but the Red Cross may be an avenue of pursuit in the future.

Application for Admission into the Christian Church Orphans' Home of Kentucky - This appears to be a form made in-house, not produced by any state or local government. Full of amazing info: Parents' full names, ages, health approval of my Grandfather, and the religious affiliation of the parents.

**Note** On the reverse of the Application are Conditions of Admission, including the cut-off age for children entering the home: 12 years old for girls, 11 years old for boys. Yikes!

Commitment Papers:
Commitment to the Christian Church Widows and Orphans Home of Kentucky - This one is even better - chock full of birth locations for both parents and the child, as well as specific Church the parents attended during their life. Also includes the signatures of my Great Grandparents, including Great Grandmother Florence who died at the age of 25 of tuberculosis and who had just given birth a few days earlier. I've always thought that both of their signatures looked very shaky. I can only imagine the horrible emotions involved in the act of signing away your children.
A brief "Health Record" was attached for my Grandfather, stating that he had had measles in 1926.

Attorney Correspondence:
This brief letter from my Great Grandfather's attorney is notifying the orphanage of the death of my Great Grandmother, and leaving the decision of notifying the children up to the administrators of the orphanage. He is also asking for some sort of report from the orphanage as to the well-being of the children now that they have been in the orphanage for a few days. Note that the information about the woman who "took" the infant included her state of residence - but that conflicts with newspaper accounts which stated she was from Mobile, Alabama.
Family Correspondence:
Wonderful handwritten letters from my Great Aunts who were writing to the children, checking on their condition and asking them to write to them, since they hadn't had any letters in a while. In regards to family letters, I would have loved to have the originals - but am thankful for the copies, of course.
Host Correspondence:
Those who wanted to take my Grandfather into their home for apprenticeship - not adoption - were writing back and forth to the orphanage, describing their intentions and level of provision for the child, including basic education at a rural school.
Application for Removal:
Last family to host my Grandfather had to complete the Application for Child to be Taken out of the Christian Church Widows and Orphans Home of Kentucky - this outlined the family conditions and provisions that would be provided - they also specified that this was for apprenticeship and not for adoption. Again, this appears to be a form created in-house, not something produced by the state or city/county.
Without these documents, I would have very little direct information about my Great Grandparents. Their location has always been a challenge due to the state line being nearby, and each branch hailing from different states (plus a few courthouse fires in one of their native counties.) These documents provided me with the small towns they originally hailed from. Witnesses who signed the paperwork are also great clues for my future research. A timeline of my Great Grandmother's death was also included, with notes about her illness. Family information from Aunts was also invaluable - and seeing their letters was a connection to the family that subsequent generations had missed, in comparison to the wealth of connections we had for other branches of the family. Again, giving me some clues for researching the rest of the family.

When researching adoptions in Kentucky, this packet reminds us to look for the orphanage records. Sadly, there was no central location for these records. They were not transferred to KDLA, nor the local courthouse. The truth is, we don't know what happened to the records of each institution. Just remember, I'm talking about the orphanage records, not the actual adoption. There were loads of kids in the system that were never adopted, which resulted in equally parentless records. Adoptions were handled by the courts, but the orphanage records were retained on-site. Which then requires a scavenger hunt if you had any ancestors in the orphanage system. What exists? What survived? Those questions are never easily answered, simply due to the enormous amount of institutions that existed....and then faded away, along with their records.

P.S.: I recently contacted the current incarnation of the Christian Church Homes of Kentucky in Louisville - now called the Christian Care Communities. They still claim to have been around since 1884, but no longer care for children. Talking with staff, they related that the records pertaining to the orphans are stored off-site. In order to access them, they need advance notice to retrieve the appropriate box....BUT....they also need a release form from the former resident. Ummm, yeah, you read that right. I asked her about cases where the resident is deceased, and she said "sorry, we would need a release form for access." This reminds me of the hoops one has to jump through to access the Eastern State Hospital records. I'm assuming you would need to go through legal channels for access, but luckily, that's not something I need to do since I already have Grandpa's records.

For more information about recent adoptions and Kentucky law, see Kentucky statute 199.570. This was apparently created in 1956, and amended in 2005.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Resource: Kentucky Civil War Governors

The Kentucky Historical Society has a new database that should be on your radar when researching your Kentucky Civil War era ancestors - and be sure to read to the end - they will need your help with the next phase of identification! Civil War Governors of Kentucky, Digital Documentary Edition (Early Access.) Why would Kentucky genealogists be interested in a database seemingly about Civil War Governors? Because this database is another way to explore your FAN (friends, associates & neighbors) connections on a state level. Yes, the documents are connected to Kentucky Governors of the time, but in a broad sense. Since no man is an island - think of Governors as conduits of action - actions that involved people, and produced documents to record those actions. The Civil War was a traumatic event for our ancestors, regardless of whether they went to war or not. Just think about the daily disruptions that took place: theft, requisitioning, violence, economic changes/challenges, jurisdiction/authority questions/changes, abuse of power, etc. Let's just say, there were many challenges that arose during this time to warrant civilian appeal to the Governor himself.
In Kentucky, we had a split government - resulting in a Governor for each side - with a total of five Governors during the War. Each man produced thousands of documents pertaining to the petitions of Kentucky's citizens. Much like court records and/or newspaper articles, the information found within these documents help to flesh out the bones. They provide a supplemental view into our ancestors' lives - during a volatile period that shaped the future for many generations.

So let's get down to brass tacks - what can you find if you search for an ancestor? First, I would keep it simple at this point. Look for unique surnames first, followed by individuals. You can also search the documents by location or subject. All prove to be very helpful when taking a closer look at your ancestor's sphere of influence. An important note about where the documents came from: So far, documents were scanned from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA), Kentucky Department of Military Affairs, Kentucky Historical Society, Maker's Mark Distillery, and the Mary Todd Lincoln House.

Just what did I find when searching for my family? Not a lot, to be honest. But I haven't abandoned the site, and hope to study further into the documents on a regional/county level. You will see from my result why sticking to this project will be important for the future.

As a disclaimer, I only searched for my unique surnames, not individuals. I didn't get any hits with most of them, and then I typed in "Allender." I found one document hit that provided me with multiple connections. But you'll have to pay close attention to the spelling variations that demonstrate the importance of literally "exploring" the documents.

My "Allender" hit turned out to be a petition for sentence remission regarding the conviction of a local man, Lewis Cummins. Apparently, the local court had convicted Lewis of stabbing a fellow Pendleton County citizen. He did not kill the man, but was sentenced to 6 months in jail and a $50 fine for the injurious assault.
The original judgement is attached at the top, with the petition included below, asking Governor "JF Robinson" for "executive clemency" in this matter. Their appeal and reasons for writing are included below:

"The immediate neighbours and acquaintences of Lewis Cummins, would respectfully represent: That they have known and are well acquainted with said Cummins, and know him to be a peaceable, well disposed, law abiding man, aged about 23 yrs, with a small family, a wife and one infant child, and in very humble and limited circumstances of life, as to means or property. — just commenced the work, upon and the owner of thirty odd acres of poor comparatively poor land in this County, upon which he has settled in the woods, having only about eight acres cleared, inclosed and under fence; this with his own and unaided labour, and known habits of industry, his whole dependence for a support and living for himself and helpless little family, in this season of busy toil, for all depending upon the soil for a living and the products thereof, as barriers against want & starvation — as to themselves and those immediately dependent upon them.

The accusation against him is for stabbing in a sudden heat and passion, a certain Tyre Geilaspy, of superior muscular and corporal powers, and your petitioners would be glad to add of equal amiableness of traits of character — the promient witness in the prosecution, with, fortunately no serious or dangerous wound upon his person, inflicted, if inflicted in heat of passion; and while it is human to err, and especially so, in passion with a first aggression — your petitioners are convinced, fully and undoubtingly so, there under all the circumstances, the infliction of a fine and imprisonment in this case, loudly calls, in humanity and justice, for the interposition of executive clemency, on behalf of Cummins, we therefore invoke, under an abiding sense that punishment in mercy alone attains its ends, your excellency most earnestly to remit, especially the punishment of imprisonment, as ruinous to Cummins & family and also remission of the fine, as inflicted without reference to means of the accused to pay it a punihsment beyond decent —"

What follows this appeal is a list of 112 men signing on behalf of the convicted - original signatures of the individuals, NOT a list generated by one person! #genealogyhappydance The "Allender" gentleman that snagged the hit happened to be at the very top of the signature list: Thomas Allender. Off the top of my head, I was not familiar with Thomas, but kept reading down the list. To my surprise, I found several other men I recognized, including 2 of my Grandfathers!

Most would say this was a slightly interesting document, at best, for my genealogical research. However, there were some clues that gave me a little insight into the relationships of these men. First of all, after many years of researching this community, I knew that many of these men were related to Lewis Cummins, either by blood or marriage. That does shed a different light on the petition. Several of the names currently transcribed were done so by someone who was probably not familiar with the local surnames, and could not read the fading ink well enough to get clear spellings. For example, "G. B Rible" is more than likely Joe B. Pribble. I can recognize the spelling of the surname as "Prible" when reviewing the original signature.
Stone of "James J Alender"
The above slight surname spelling change did not apply to just one surname. In subsequent years, the Pribble family settled on the two 'b' format. Similarly, with the first Allender hit, Thomas uses two 'l's in his name. So too did the rest of my family in all the rest of the family documentation. However, farther down the list is "James Alender" (transcribed as "James Alenoer".) James happens to be my 4th Great Grandfather: James Jackson Allender. He and his wife (Mary Stout) are buried next to each other in the old Fisher cemetery on Route #10. Since James died within 3 years of signing this document, and 15 years before his wife, we always found it odd that his stone had the carving "Alender." His wife's stone, as well as those of his adult children included both 'l's in their spelling: "Allender." I had always assumed that the stone carver made a spelling error. But this document proves that James used one 'l' when spelling his name. You can't really argue with "from the horse's mouth", so to speak!
A few names above James' entry, we find "B W Cox" followed by "N B MCall." BW happens to be my 3rd Great Grandfather: Barton Warren Cox. The signature below his is, more than likely, Barton's stepbrother: Napoleon Bonaparte McCall (yes, I also see the spelling change of MCall and McCall.)
Barton Warren Cox
What I find to be interesting about these signatures is their proximity. I have no idea how these signatures were collected originally. I can see various types of ink used throughout, suggesting name collection on an individual or batch level. Was someone going door-to-door to collect the signatures? Possibly, but knowing the terrain of this area, that sounds very inconvenient. I'm going to guess that the signatures were collected at various meetings. Perhaps, Church, fraternal, or other local meetings. If the person had went door-to-door, there should have been names between Barton and Napoleon's. They lived in the same part of the county, but not next door to each other. Unless one was visiting the other at the time of the gathering, it can be surmised that they were at the same meeting when the petition was signed. The close proximity of the signatures on the petition reminds me very much of the early tax records. When the taxes were recorded chronologically, the men with the same surname, paying on the same day, can be assumed to be relatives of some sort. Sometimes, father and son.
In this case, Napoleon was the son of Barbary (Barbara Sharp) and Ross McCall. After his father, Ross, died, his mother Barbary married Samuel Cox, the father of Barton. Why is this significant? Barbary was Samuel's third wife - and the widow of his very good friend, Ross McCall. The marriage came after Samuel divorced his second wife on the heels of a very salacious divorce proceeding. His second wife had accused him of both physical and mental abuse, along with poor treatment by his adult children in the area. Barton was never named specifically, but it painted a picture of hostile stepmother/stepchild relationships. When Samuel married Barbary, she had several McCall children that came along with her, and she gave birth to one or two Cox children.

Back to the petition: By seeing these two step-siblings signing so close together, it tells me that they possibly had a friendly relationship. Perhaps it was even affectionate. Of course, I'm stretching this a bit, but with the past accusations of a wife being treated poorly by the stepchildren, it was nice to see that perhaps the accusations were exaggerated, or did not convey to the children of the third wife. It is nothing more than a curiosity, not really important to my research, but interesting from a familial perspective. Just a window into that chapter of Grandpa Barton's life.

As for the local criminal: The outside of the petition says the sentence and fine were remitted as a result of the efforts of his family, friends, and neighbors. It's nice to know, that even during war, they were still watching out for each other, and that the system worked for Mr. Cummins. Or, one could argue that the system worked when his punishment was given, and the Governor acted as a "do-over" for the young father. Either way, this one document proved to shed light on a community, and a few members of my family. Which is why you should pay attention to the Kentucky CWG site as it develops. They will be needing help from locals or researchers who can add more information about individuals, or suggest corrections to the transcriptions when observed. There is a "Suggest a Correction" button at the end of each page. Also, in the future, they hope to connect the individuals in the documents to form a web of connections. This would be an area where you can help further. Keep this on your radar as you research your Kentucky Civil War era ancestors!  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Revolutionary Rock Stars

It was a late August morning in Boston, steamy and damp with persistent drizzle. I knew the general location of my first stop. But rounding the corner, I hadn't expected it to be so close. Just down the street from my hotel, about a block, across from the next intersection, I could see the marble entry and trees along an iron fence. Realizing what my eyes were registering made me stop in surprise. Even in the rain it resonated as a sacred place.
For decades, since I was in my teens, I had heard of this piece of land, the final resting place of many of the men and women recognized as instigators of revolution. The Granary Burying Ground. How many times had I read that title, and spied it on an old map, wishing I could see it for myself? Too many times to count. 

I approached the Egyptian style archway, mentally noting its echo of a time period that was more contemporary. It looked out of place knowing the age of the gravestones inside the gate. People were coming and going, through the imposing arch, despite the drizzle. Once inside, the multitude of carved stones took my breath away. I stood next to an unsuspecting tour guide, half listening to his speech, while clicking away with my camera. I knew enough not to be rude and try to get a freebie tour without paying, so I moved along. After all, I didn't need a tour guide to tell me about this place.

Ironically, or fatefully, I turned in the exact direction I needed to go. I only walked a little ways along the right front path, and there they were, under an old tree. One stone to mark them all. Despite their deaths occurring in 1770, I knew them all by name, my history equivalent of the Beatles: Samuel, Crispus, Patrick, James, and Samuel. 
The "victims" of the Boston Massacre have earned quotation marks from historians because of the questionable nature in which they died. Were they victims standing up for freedom's cause? Were they rabble, stirring up trouble and getting rowdy at any chance? I tend to think of them as victims of circumstance. Forces they could not see creating a perfect storm of resentment and hostility. At the very least, they were resisting a military presence in their city, and they did not expect to die that night. 

After years of reading trial transcripts, autopsy reports, and commemorative orations, I figured I was the only one who would be excited about finding their grave in this most famous of burial sites. But I was wrong. As I stood in the drizzle, and just silently took in the scene, the pebbles lined up on top of the stone brought tears. Physical evidence that others remember their story and mark the visit with a solemn placement of stone. 

I turned to move on and encountered THE Samuel Adams. A rounded, carved stone placed there by the SAR, also covered in small stones of remembrance. It was not grand nor ostentatious, but it was solid, like the personality it memorialized. 
The path continued on, and so did I...taking in the artistry of each stone. Time had worn the iconography and some of the letters, but the solemn purpose remained. For those buried in the majority of these graves, death was viewed as something of a stalker, always ready to pounce on the next victim. Each stone contained imagery that served as something of a 17th century PSA, reminding visitors that life was fleeting.
As I roamed, I came across other men of note: Paul Revere, John Hancock, James Otis, Robert Treat Paine, William Molineux, Christopher Snider....and and women who got this party started! Most with only humble stones to mark their existence - except for Mr. Hancock, of course. (1896 replacement stone is quite large.) As the humble nature of the stones reminded me of the fundamental principles our freedom was founded upon, I realized my gratitude grew...inspiring me to share their story at every opportunity.

In a glimmer of hope, I noticed, among the dead, there was a pulse of life. Tour guides in colorful dress entertained tourists with the vibrant stories of those who inhabit the Granary. It is the power of the story that connects us to each other, despite the passage of time. I was pleased to see the story used to bring the dead back to life as the Granary maintained a memorial that was not just stone, but life renewed with each child that came through the gates to learn about our past. Reminding us all that while life may be fleeting, our stories keep living, as long as we tell them. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

My DAR Adventure...Patriot Verified!

As 2015 drew to a close, I was anxiously awaiting proof of an accomplishment that had been part of last year's resolutions. Even though the proof did not come until just a few days ago, the date on the certificate clinches the 2015 tally. As you can guess, I resolved last year to join a lineage society. I had figured it would be one of the Ohio lineage groups, since that seemed to be the easiest path, but some friends here in Kentucky urged me to push for DAR.

I had anticipated joining DAR many years ago. After all, it was during my teenage years that I discovered a letter written to my great grandmother in 1978 that let her know she was eligible to join through a branch of the Garrett family that settled the Chillicothe Ohio area. I can still remember going through my great grandmother's family items while sitting in my grandmother's kitchen and pretty much flipping out. Of course, I didn't have much of an idea what joining entailed, but I can remember telling my mom that she should I could join when I was old enough. This discovery led me to the John Fox Jr. DAR Library in Paris a couple of years letter - and my first look at the DAR Patriot Index. There he was, my ancestor, Thomas Garrett, listed among those who had fought. One of my favorite genealogy moments!

Fast forward about 10 years when I was around 26, and I was fully investigating what was necessary to join, as a supplement to my decade-long immersion into genealogical research. A couple of sad things happened at that time to derail my efforts: 1. I ordered the full DAR application packet from Washington D.C. for my cousin that had joined in the 70s - you know, the old snail mail - and the application came back marked in red. Apparently, my ancestor was NOT the Thomas Garrett that had fought in Virginia, but rather a son of my patriarch. 2. My research was suffering from a lack of focus (too many branches at once), and so I turned away from this idea since the disappointment was so fresh.  

Fast forward another dozen or so years, and my research is much farther along: my B.A. in history and M.S. in Library Science are under my belt, and I'm employed by the state historical society. Also, by this time, the Patriot Index is now online...and way easier to search in my jammies! I started as many do, plugging in ancestor names to find another eligible branch. I have not given up on the Garrett line, but some of the other research passed down to me about that branch has been flagged in my own research radar. It needs some work, and I'm now very doubtful of the reliability of the research of others.

2015 also happened to be the 125th anniversary of the DAR's formation - which included a really cool commemorative certificate for new members! Plus, pushing me along are some great DAR ladies that frequent our library and events - including the State Registrar. Myra Evans is quite the DAR champion and genealogy mentor! As much as she pushed, I still wanted to complete this challenge, as much as I could, on my own. I regarded this as a genealogical test. Lineage society membership has a way of doing that for a researcher. There is nothing more intimidating than putting your research to the test to have it deemed worthy or unworthy.

As soon as Myra confirmed that contemporary Family Bible Records would be admissible in the process, I had a targeted branch to work from. The "contemporary" records in my possession came from my Dad through our great Aunt Mattie Townsend. She was quite the keeper of history! If it had not been for her, and her insistence that the Daniels family research continue with the Daniels line, all would have been lost. Again, the "contemporary" records came from around 1879 and detailed the lineage back to pre-1804 Pennsylvania. That was really my golden ticket. Taking these Bible records and working both directions into Ohio and Pennsylvania, I hit the jackpot, and became spoiled by the great records in these two states.

So big drum roll reveal - my Patriot Ancestor is Daniel Estle of Pennsylvania!

I know membership is new to me right now - and so I can't say too much about the membership experience - but I thought you might like a list of some of the things I learned along the way.

1. Hook up with another member prior to getting involved. They will introduce you to the right folks who will guide you along your journey. They will not do the research for you, but their experience and help can be invaluable. Besides, use the worksheet they give you, but DO NOT attempt to complete the application yourself - that takes the special skill of the Chapter Registrar.

2. Finding the documentation for the most recent ancestors can be the hardest part - my grandmother lying about her age on the marriage certificate, great grandparents' divorce and remarriage, plus faded copies were just some of the fun obstacles encountered. Seriously, finding my own birth certificate was a boatload of fun!

3. The back end of Family Search (using the state wiki level - not name search) was a total lifesaver! They had all of the PA wills that I needed in beautiful clarity, for free, which happened to also name my female ancestor and the relationship to her father - bingo! This can't happen with every ancestor, but depending on the state, the jackpot can be variable - always worth a try prior to ordering documents from local sources!

4. Again, complete as much as you can on your own, without any help, to test your mettle. Even if you're not a professional genealogist, nor have any desire to be such, your research experience can help other members or potential members. I limited my document collection to the worksheet minimums in order to make each direct link as simple as possible. My chapter Registrar, Brenda Hume, then scooped up my docs, did a little extra digging to follow the family through the census, and filled in the actual application paperwork for submission. Dues are paid with submission, not after being verified, so just be prepared for this - and remember - if you messed up, you have another year to get your docs corrected or another ancestor verified. Considering this, it's a good idea to work on a supplemental line while you are waiting on verification. That way, if something bad comes back, you are on your way to submitting another ancestor. Most folks are descended from more than one Patriot, documenting this fact is the challenge. I'm already working on a few supplementals - at least four additional Patriots in the hopper.

5. Ordering the application packets from patriot ancestors through the DAR website has proven to be an awesome resource! I am already working on my mother's line so she can join through another ancestor - not the Garretts - and have found that the DAR supplemental info included information that is helping to solve a much more complicated family mystery involving an emancipated branch of the family. Even the Family Bible Records I used in my research will now be preserved in copy form by the DAR in Washington as a part of my supplemental information - which is pretty awesome. So, mine those records frequently for genealogical clues! They can get pricey at $10-$20 each, but they can be packed solid with great info, and worth the price! If you are unsure of which ancestor packet to order, the local Chapter officials might be able to help with that if you arrange a consultation.

6. Spelling matters! My ancestor's name was Daniel Estle - it's there in his own will and the wills of his children, etc. Unfortunately, the DAR GRS tries to be helpful by lumping all similar sounding name into one standardized spelling. While this sounds like common sense, sometimes, the system does not catch similar spellings to redirect you properly. Plus, the certificate comes back with the standardized spelling, instead of the spelling used by the ancestor. Disappointing, but in my records, and in my DAR pins, I will be using the correct spelling used by my ancestor.

On a personal note, the American Revolution has always been a very close research subject for me. From the same age, when I first learned about DAR eligibility, my personal research interest zeroed in on pre-revolutionary Boston. Why? To this day, I don't fully understand the pull. I was so focused on this research that I could name all of the important players, and events that happened in that area from 1768 to the Declaration. I even used to skip class in college to sit in the library reading newspapers of the day. The very first time I visited Boston, I teared up, seeing it on the horizon as our plane came into Logan - and I picked my hotel based on its close proximity to the Granary Burying Ground which is the final resting place of the Massacre "victims" as well as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, etc. Ironically, the documentation necessary to join DAR led me to a brick wall breakthrough which I hope to write about more later - my Daniels line, which others had declared was a change from Irish O'Donnells around the turn of the 19th century, is in fact a Massachusetts line of Daniels - No name change - but rather, John Daniels born in Massachusetts - latter part of the 18th century. Is that my pull? Is that what I'm supposed to discover? At this point, I have zero idea which part of MA he hailed from...but with this new found knowledge, and an added incentive of DAR supplemental lines, there is a strong possibility that my research focus is about to head north!

As my membership time grows, I hope to blog more about membership and its opportunities for service....stay tuned!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Considering Professional Diversity

Last month I was professionally involved with TWO conferences at the same time. For four days in Louisville, the state library association (KLA) and AASLH were both hosting their annual conferences on the same days within a couple of blocks of each other. My employer, the Kentucky Historical Society, was playing host to the AASLH Conference, and I was speaking twice just down the road at the KLA Conference. My professional connection to both conferences meant I was walking a line of involvement that brought me in contact with different, yet similar, energies.

The AASLH Conference consisted of several panel sessions about the management of state and local historical societies as well as the challenges associated with applying contextual historical value to the user experience. Obviously I could relate to many of their topics and challenges. When going through the exhibit hall, attending their evening functions, and following their Twitter feeds, I couldn't help but see an overlap in the genealogy and library fields.

The exhibit hall was full of library, archival, museum, and preservation organizations/vendors. In some regards I felt as though I were at a library or genealogy conference. During the main evening event on Museum Row, the SAR Library was open for free research to conference attendees! (A genealogist's dream) As Women's History was a main theme of this conference, the challenge of researching women naturally drifted toward the records available to researchers. Below is an example of the tweets coming out during the conference:
As you can see, genealogy rose to the surface as a valuable methodology when researching the lives of women in history. Of course, we genealogists could have told them that all along, but it speaks to the value of expanding our horizons at other related conferences. Just think of the networking and conversations that could have followed such a session if genealogists were in attendance.

The KLA Conference was no different. Yes, it is a conference designed for state librarians, but for those of us who serve genealogists, the opportunities were numerous: Maker Spaces, a new trend in libraries had a demo in the Speed Geek area that covered how to build or share a story, one line at a time. One speaker outlined the challenges of serving four main generational groups and the things important to them. As part of this presentation he outlined a way to get them all to talk to each other: Hosting a History Channel Live night to allow each generation to share their local memories and tape the session. He claimed this was a great way to document the memories of a community.

We also have a Genealogy and Local History Round Table as an option for KLA membership. As the chair of this group, I invited a representative from Family Search, Jane Colmenares, to demonstrate the Wiki functions and how easy it is to change the information. With the local information for each county in place, it is necessary for local organizations to make sure their information is correct for researchers seeking out state and local collections. Our speaker had worked with the Wiki for over eight years and had some wonderful insights for us to use as soon as we got home!
So what is my point with all of this? I've heard some grumbles over the years about the national genealogy conferences using the same speakers every year. I still learn from these people, and don't always agree with that complaint, but I can see their point. Since the genealogy field is growing and changing at a rapid rate, and those that attend may need exactly what is presented there, perhaps it is now up to us to take a broader approach in our education and professional development? These are only two conference examples that related in some way to genealogy and historical research. There are so many others: Some focused on story telling/family history, ethnic specific research, women's studies, writing, etc. Lately, I've been looking at the various conferences and have decided I owe it to myself to branch out a bit. When the national genealogy conferences are not in my region and I know I'll be skipping them that year, I need to look at the other conferences nearby. Even if they don't fully fit my profession, I would like to attend as a genealogist, librarian, writer, to have our voice heard when other professionals are talking about issues that we deal with every day.

As the world takes more notice of genealogy as a valuable aspect of research, we need to be the professional voice out there. Not only can we influence in a positive way, but we can network with and learn from other professionals that can enhance our own profession. These new relationships can only serve to bring genealogy out of professional seclusion and into wider respectability. Besides, I feel the lessons of expertise can flow both ways, and will enrich our approaches to research as well as provide a whole new group of potential speakers/writers to learn from. Do yourself a professional favor and be watchful for new learning opportunities in your neck of the woods....I promise you will enjoy the change and just might come away with some new friends and a new sense of research energy!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates