Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Anniversary

This is a day late, but happy anniversary to my son Kevin and my daughter-in-law Karen.  They were married eight years ago in a beautiful rose garden wedding at Loose Park in Kansas City.

As chance would have it, they were married on the same day as my great-grandparents, John and Jane Waterbury Gannan.  Yesterday would have been their 102nd wedding anniversary.  I knew both of them well, as they were alive until I was in my late teens.  Happy anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

I live with my antiques and family heirlooms.  My great-great grandmother's blue crock sits on my kitchen counter and holds potholders; her daughter's wedding  portrait hangs on my office wall.  I carry my grandfather's driver's licence in my wallet as a good luck charm, and my grandmother's small juice glass alternates between smashing peanut butter cookies and cutting biscuits in my kitchen.  These small talismans have helped me understand our ancestors were more than just names and dates.
While I was on vacation last week, a new floor was installed in my office.  Unfortunately, during the install, two of my most treasured items were accidently damaged or destroyed.  The "cautionary tale" alluded to in the blog title is this:  if you own a family heirloom that you want to keep safe from damage or destruction, don't assume anyone else will be as careful with it as you are.  At the end of the day, they are only "things," but if they are important to you, consider what steps you can take to safeguard them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I want to preface this post by saying I don't make a living performing genealogy research for others, and I don't claim expertise in a particular area of research or technology (although I like to consider myself pretty tech-savvy).  I'm a long-time hobbyist, plain and simple, which probably colors my remarks a little.  

I've seen a lot of Facebook posts and blog entries regarding "sharing."  I'm using that term to cover a lot of scenarios:  you connected with a long-lost cousin who wants your research; you post your tree on a website such as; abstracts that you may have done of original records; etc.  Personally, I am willing to share any piece of information I've been fortunate enough to dig up.  Along the way, I've run into a lot of very nice people who are of the same mind-set:  pay it forward.  I've had cousins send me packets of photographs and copies of original records they dug up through research trips.  I've had perfect strangers take cemetery photographs for me.  I was in contact with the widow of a man my mother corresponded with back in the 1970's, and she graciously sent me a copy of a book he had written.  I've sent letters to small genealogy libraries and had volunteers make copies of obituaries from old newspapers.  I've tried to return the favors, in small part, by volunteering through the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website.

I'm not saying that people who make their living from genealogy should give away their time and fruits of their labor for free.  My point is that if you post information on one of the many websites such as, don't be surprised if someone lifts your research.  Also, remember when others have offered you some small act of genealogical kindness, and try to do the same by paying it forward.

Saturday Field Trip to the National Archives

I had a lovely time this past Saturday with four ladies from the DAR chapter (Prairie Rose - Overland Park, KS) I will be joining in November.  Even though I'm not formally a member, they have graciously invited me to chapter functions, including a field trip to the National Archives in Kansas City.  While there, we attended a seminar on land records research, a subject which can be confusing (at least for me it is!).  

If you live near a National Archives facility, I  highly recommend their free genealogy seminars, as there is something for everyone no matter what research level you are, or what your interests might be!  Topics in July and August included:  Navigating the National Archives Website, Researching African-American Genealogy,  Using Federal Census Records to Find Your Ancestors, Finding Your Family in Federal Court, Ship Passenger Arrival Lists, and Bureau of Indian Affairs Records, to name a few.  On October 6, they are hosting a free day-long Fall Genealogy Symposium, with an in-depth look at records available at the federal level.

At the land records seminar, I did learn that for every land transfer from the government to an individual, a "land case file" was created.  Depending on the time period and the changing government regulations, the land case file could contain a lot of useful genealogical information.  The files exist for land claims that were both approved, and those that may have been cancelled for some reason.  As my great great great grandfather John Gannan (for whom this blog is named) held a land patent in Harrison County, Missouri, in 1855, I was able to order a land case file for his patent.  I'm excited to see what the file might contain, as Grandpa John is one of my longer-term brick walls.

Thanks again to the ladies of the Prairie Rose DAR Chapter for allowing me to tag along on your field trip!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


My birthday is coming up, which always make me nostalgic for the "good old days" when parents and grandparents made a big deal out of your birthday.  My grandmother would always bake me one of my two favorite cakes, strawberry or angel food (not from a box mix), frosted with that sugary/gritty 7 Minute Frosting which is still my favorite to this day.

I thought I'd share a few of my birthday party snaps.  Don't laugh, you know you have these same photos.

My favorite, taken with my Grandpa Robertson:

I wish I was this skinny again:

You can see the theme here:  the decorations are those crunchy sugar things you get at the store:

I think I was trying to look sweet so I would get more presents:

Same year, with my Uncle Charlie sneaking into the picture:

Birthdays don't have the same glow any more, but it's fun to pull out the old photos and remember.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Uncommon Names

I've been adding cousins to my master database, in the hope I'll make more connections through Ancestry.  One of the things I've noticed is how many uncommon names there are.  Some of my favorite ancestor first names are:

Emilie (seems like a very French spelling of Emily)

A few of the more "out there" names I ran across are Zilphi, Euphrates, and Glaphney.

I love what I'll call the old-timey names:  Atheline, Purnetta, Minerva, Opal, Lulu, Abner, Beulah, Ida, Malvina, Thursa Ann, Essie, Lida Mae, Lessarah, Flossie, Daisy, and Rosetta.

I'd love to hear what your most unusual ancestor name is!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hello, Cousin Mike!

I received a lovely email yesterday from a long-lost cousin in California.   His mother and my grandmother were sisters.  Both have passed away, and our families unfortunately lost touch, as often happens.  Mike found me through this blog while searching for another sister of his mother and my grandmother.  Unfortunately, Aunt Helen had also passed away, but as luck would have it, I had posted a short blog entry about her on the one year anniversary of her death last year.  Mike was in town several years ago for his mother's funeral, but we didn't have time to exchange addresses and phone numbers.  I was thrilled to hear from him, and hope we can keep the connection alive!

Oh, and Mike and his family are part of the group peaking out from the top on my background picture on my main blog screen.     

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Love Volunteers!

A lovely volunteer genealogist for the Macoupin County (Illinois) Historical Society was kind enough to make a copy of an obituary I have been trying to track down for many years. Many thanks to Libby Klocke for her generosity.

The ancestor in question was Almira Baxter Allard, my husband's great-great-great grandmother. She was born in Massachusetts in 1803, a descendent of Mayflower immigrants. Below is her obituary in its entirety, transcribed here for others who might also be searching for information on Almira.

 [Obituary was published in the Carlinville (Illinois) Democrat, February 15, 1883.]

Died, at the residence of Mr. James K. Furber, her son-in-law, in this city, Sunday, Feb. 4, 1883, after a lingering illness of thirty-five days, Mrs. Almira Allard, aged 79 years, 4 months and 15 days. Mother Allard was born in Barnstable, Mass., Sept. 19, 1803, and her maiden name was Baxter. In 1821 or 1822 she was converted and united with the Baptist church at Providence, R.I., and shortly after was married to Ezekiel Wilbur, who died in 1826. She afterward married Lyman Allard, with whom she lived until his death in 1848. She was the mother of nine children, of whom four survive her - Mrs. Thomas J. VanDorn, of Bunker Hill; Mrs. William Hauck, of Red Wood, Minn., and Mrs. Henry Tappan and Mrs. J.K. Furber, of Carlinville, and the grandmother of thirty-three grandchildren, of whom, besides those of the above mentioned parents, who survive her are the children of Mrs. Charles Bellmer, of whom are Charles H., William E., Harry D. and Ida J. Bellmer, all of whom reside in this city, and Douglas Bellmer, who resides in Springfield, Ill, and Frank W. Bellmer, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mother Allard was the great-grandmother of nine children, three of whom are the children of Frank W. Bellmer of Cincinnati, Ohio; two the children of Mrs. Tonny Cleveland (nee VanDorn), now deceased; two the children of Mrs. Ed Ellet (nee VanDorn), of Eldorado, Kan., and one the child of William Bellmer of this city. Mother Allard came to Illinois in 1838 and her home has been in this county ever since, most of the time in the southern part, where she was well and favorably known. She was a consistent and devoted member of the Baptist Church for sixty-two years, and during all these more than three score years she has been a living exampler of the power of the Gospel of Christ in her life, in her death, in her all. She realized that her salvation was a present salvation. Her devotion to the church of her choice was untiring and unwavering. So long as her physical health permitted, she attended the prayer-meeting and was able and willing to give a reason for the hope she entertained of eternal life and blessedness at the right hand of the Father. Often has the writer of this sketch heard her earnest exhortations of the membership of the church to be earnest, zealous, and faithful in the discharge of duty. Nothing grieved her so much as the, at least apparent, want of spiritual life among the members, and nothing cheered and comforted her more than to see the development of spiritual life in her brethren and sisters. Never demonstrative, but always peaceful, during her last illness the hope she had so long cherished still sustained her. By faith she realized the fact that a mansion was prepared for her, and a crown of life and unfading glory awaited her. Wearied with the aches and pains of this life, with patience she looked forward to that rest that remains for the people of God, and like the Psalmist she could say: "As for me, I shall behold Thy face in the righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness." "Oh, happy saint, she dwells in light, And Walks with Jesus, clothed in white; Safe landed on that peaceful shore Where pilgrims meet to part no more."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Old School vs. High Tech Genealogy Research

I recently joined the Facebook group "Technology for Genealogy," partly because I love to talk about geeky technology stuff, but mostly because I am interested in how new (and existing) technology is being used by the genealogy community. There have been some very interesting discussion topics posted, including cloud computing, genealogy programs, scanners, photo editing, Google Earth, Google Fiber, capturing digital images using a camera, and pay-for-use genealogy websites. The responses have provided me with a lot of great ideas, so I highly encourage you to join the group and get in on the discussions! As genealogy research becomes more and more digital, I often think about my mom's efforts back in the late 1950's through the early 1970's, when everything was "old school." I have a suitcase full of letters she wrote to older living relatives, people she thought might be related, and countless courthouses or genealogy societies, looking for any clue or document she might uncover. She never had a computer, never had a genealogy program to track her information or create a research plan. Tracking and documenting was done on rolls of butcher paper and in spiral notebooks. Her correspondence and documentation are incredibly precious to me, especially because they reinforce for me the value of good old fashioned research. She and my grandfather were able to obtain a lot of family history information, which I've used as the basis for my own research over the past 10 years. I'm sure my mom and grandfather would be amazed at all the information now available at our fingertips, and I'm sorry they aren't here to see the advances that have been made. On a completely different topic, my DAR application has been approved! It's been a long time goal of mine to make the genealogical connection back to a Revolutionary War patriot, and with the help of Cathy Lawrenz of the Prairie Rose DAR chapter in Overland Park, KS, I was able to submit my application. I'm very excited to become part of such a great patriotic organization.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

DNA Research - Trying to Get Over My Fright

My partner in genealogy crime, my Uncle Ronnie, is probably one of the smartest people I know.  He is well read, loves new technology and gadgets, and is always willing to be an early adopter of the latest and greatest.  He has turned me into the Mac geek I am today.

We have two main brick walls within our genealogy research.  One is memorialized in the title to this blog:  John Gannan, my great great great grandfather, who seemed to spring from nowhere in Monmouth County, New Jersey, in the early 1800"s.  The other is my great great great grandfather, Jeremiah Robertson.  We have tantalizing clues about each of them, but have never been able to find that one connection which would tear down the brick walls.

Several years ago my uncle decided to take a DNA test to see if he could gather new clues around the Robertson side of the family.   Unfortunately, the test has proven unsuccessful in helping him determine who Jeremiah's family is, but it has introduced him to a whole new group of potential "cousins" who are also waiting for that one piece of info to clear up the Robertson mystery.  As for me, I did take a limited test at the same time, but it has proven to be of no value.

My uncle became very interested in the technology of DNA testing, and has read many articles and journals on the subject.  At the same time, he has tried to educate me and set my expectations regarding DNA testing and the chances of finding a second cousin who has the family bible and a fully sourced family tree that he or she would be willing to share.  Not going to happen, or if it has happened, I've never heard of it! 

I know there are several blogs devoted to the subject of DNA research as it relates to genealogy, plus the information my uncle has been kind enough to share over the years.  I suppose now that I've ordered the new Ancestry DNA test, it's time to get serious and really understand what it's all about.   Time to get over my fright!

I would love to hear from anyone who has taken a DNA test and the results have proven successful in finding what I'll call "near time" ancestors (within the past five to ten generations).     

Documenting the Story Behind Family Heirlooms

When I was a kid, my mother would take my three brothers and I to visit her paternal grandfather, Daniel Allen Robertson.

My grandmother, Bessie Jane Downey, shown above about 1935 with Grandpa Robertson, died shortly before i was born, so I never knew her.

My great-grandfather lived in a small house in Bethany, Missouri.  He was a very kind old man, and I remember three things most about those visits:  1) he had a clock that struck the hour and half hour all night long, so none of us ever got any sleep; 2) he loved to sit in an old rocking chair and rub his thumb into the armrest; and 3) he always had frosted oatmeal cookies in a pink depression glass cookie jar on his kitchen table.

When Grandpa passed away, there was an estate sale and unfortunately, the rocking chair left the family.  However, my mom was able to purchase her grandfather's cookie jar, which has since been passed down to me.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who doesn't like to use heirlooms for the most part, so it's now sitting in my china cabinet.  One of these days I am going to take it out, fill it with oatmeal frosted cookies, and let my own grandson take a cookie from the jar.

Another heirloom I have is a small covered bowl that was owned by my great-great grandfather, Wilfreda Reece Gannan.  I never knew this item existed until I went to a family estate sale, and one of my step-cousins brought the bowl out and said that my great grandfather, who had long since passed away, had wanted my mom to have it.  Since she died in 1974, they had held onto the bowl for many years, waiting for the right moment to give it to me.  I was overwhelmed that my step-cousins has saved it for me.

I have started taking photos of the heirlooms I want to pass down to my son, grandson, and nieces and nephews.  Along with each photo, I plan to write a small story about each item, where it came from, and why it holds special memories for me.

How have you been documenting the story behind your family heirlooms?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sorting Through Photographs

Like everyone else, I have boxes and boxes of photographs to scan and organize, and on top of that, I have around 12,000 digital photos that I've taken over the years.  The boxes sit largely untouched in a closet in the spare bedroom, but I've recently begun the task of organizing the digital photos and uploading them to Dropbox, so I can share them across my Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Air).   Dropbox will also make it easy to share photos with family members and friends.
My first digital camera was a big, clunky 1 megapixel model from Kodak, and I loved it.  I took photos of everything.  I've since moved up to a Canon Rebel and a Panasonic Lumix GF3, along with a small point-and-shoot, which means I now have digital photos coming out my ears.  Every vacation results in photographs of anything from skyline shots, to photos of landscaping and trees, local businesses, food, and local residents, to name a few.  Every time we go to San Diego, I feel compelled to take photos of the Hotel Del Coronado and the San Diego skyline, or sunset over Point Loma.  I also have a four year old grandson, so you can imagine the number of photos I have of him.  As a result, I have a ton of duplicate photos and photos of things I don't even remember what they are.
As part of my digital organization project, I've been ruthlessly deleting duplicate photos (seriously, how many photos of the San Diego skyline or the Hotel Del do I really need??!!), as well as photos of things like giraffes at the San Diego Zoo or that shot of a weird tree I took in Colorado.  I've taken what's left and am in the process of uploading them to different folders on Dropbox.
I started with well over 12,000 digital photos, and am down to 7,000.  Everything that's already been uploaded to Dropbox was the easy stuff, i.e., the stuff that wasn't duplicate, and could be easily categorized.  What's left are family photos that will need to be looked at carefully (are their eyes closed?  do I know who they are?  are there ten photos of the same thing? is the photo meaningful?) and then delete or upload.
This whole project has made me realize a couple of things:
1.  You should never let things pile up.  As you take photographs, they should be sorted through/deleted/filed in whatever system you use.  Otherwise, you will end up like me, with thousands of photos to sort through.
2.  Be mindful of what you take pictures of.  That giraffe might be cute, but when all is said and done, do you really want a photo of it to sort through later?
And that's just the digital photographs!  Once I get them all sorted through and uploaded, it's time to move on to the boxes and boxes of regular photographs that are lurking around my guest room.
Good luck to anyone who is undertaking a similar project!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Remembering a Friend

It was 30 years ago today that I received a call from a high school friend, telling me that another member of our high school group, Gerrianne Miller, had been killed in a plane crash in Wichita Falls, TX.
Gerrianne was a beautiful girl, one of the "Air Force brats" who came to town every few years when a parent's transfer orders came through.  She was tall, blonde, smart, funny, lovely, graceful, and there was something about her that made you fall instantly in love with her.  Popularity came easily to her, and yet she was always friendly to everyone, including the kids who weren't part of our little group.
When Gerrianne was killed, she was on her way back to Kansas City from Wichita Falls to visit her mother.  Her father had died June 21, less than two weeks earlier.  What crushing sadness her mother must have felt to lose both a husband and a daughter within a two week period.
I carry Gerrianne's junior year high school picture in my wallet, as a reminder that life is short.  On the back of the photo she wrote:  "Karen, You're one of the sweetest persons I know.  Stay the way you are, cute, and fun to be around.  Good luck with everything and remember all the fun we've had on the pep club bus and everywhere else.  '75.  Love, Gerrianne."

Gerrianne's photo has been in my wallet for many years now, visiting places she never got the chance to see.  She was a special person who never got the chance to make her mark on the world.  She did, however, leave a positive mark on those of us who were fortunate enough to have known her all those years ago.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My American Revolution Ancestor - Daniel Waterbury

This 4th of July, as I return from an evening spent with my son, his wife, and my grandson at a local fireworks display, I'm especially grateful to one of my ancestors, Daniel Waterbury.  Daniel, my 6th great grandfather, fought in the Revolutionary War.  Because of his sacrifices, and those of his comrades in arms, I was able to enjoy an evening with family members, under the light of fireworks, some 236 years after the start of the Revolution.  It's amazing, when you think about it, that a relatively small band of patriots laid down their lives so that future generations could live in freedom from tyranny.  I think that we tend to take for granted just what the Revolutionary War patriots sacrificed for us.
This year's holiday is especially poignant for me, because I recently applied for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution based on Daniel's service.  I know relatively little about him, beyond the fact that he was born in 1742 within the confines of the old town of Stamford, Connecticut. He was the third son and sixth child of David and Mary (Bouton) Waterbury.  As a boy, he attended church with his parents at the New Canaan Church, where they held membership.  He later became an Ensign in a company of Minute Men enrolled in Westchester County (New York) at the opening of the Revolution, at the age of 34.  Later he was made a 2nd Lt. and later a 1st Lt.  He served in the Third Regiment of Westchester County Militia under Col. Pierre Van Cortlandt.
After the War, Daniel and his family moved to a farm near Schdoac, New York, which is a short distance from Central Nassau.  Daniel's farm was only about 10 miles from the present city of Troy, NY.  He died there March 15, 1798.  His body was buried on the farm.
Daniel's ancestors can be traced back to William Waterbury who came to America in the early 1600's.
Daniel's grandson, Wendell Waterbury, eventually moved west to Iowa, and lost touch with his East Coast relatives.   In the family history "Jonathan Waterbury Genealogy:  Ancestry and Some of the Descendants of Jonathan Waterbury of Nassau, New York (1766-1826)," by Grace A. Waterbury and Edwin M. Waterbury, Wendell is described as:  "b. July 20, 1828, at Fabius, NY; he was of possessed of the 'wanderlust' and never married.  He died in the west where he had gone a a young man."  This was not true, of course.  He did marry, and went on to become my 3rd great grandfather.  I'm grateful for his pioneering spirt of "wanderlust."
I haven't been able to find out anything about Daniel's military service under Col. Van Cortlandt but hope to do so one day.  I would like to know more about the life of the man who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice all those years ago.
Thank you, Daniel.  I will be a proud member of the DAR based on your service, and will honor your memory.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Baltimore Life Insurance Company Genealogical Abstracts

I recently attended a webinar hosted by the Illinois State Genealogical Society called "Some Great, Seldom-Used Resources:  A Genealogical Potpourri."  Tim Pinnick did a great job of bringing to light several resources I had no idea existed, including one called "Baltimore Life Insurance Company, Genealogical Abstracts" by Jerry M. Hynson.

From the Introduction, written by Sharon Ann Murphy, PhD Candidate, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia:

Incorporated by the state of Maryland in December 1830, the Baltimore Life Insurance Company was among the first to actively sell life insurance in the United States....The Baltimore Life sold their first policy in May 1831 and had only 25 policies on their books by the end of that year.  But as early as 1833 the company was able to move into second place in the industry behind the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company, and by 1835 they possessed approximately 24% of the overall American market share.
....the Baltimore Life was the only company positioned to sell life insurance in the South, although its business was largely confined to Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

As I have several brick walls in the areas covered by Hynson's book, I purchased a copy, which arrived today!!

Here are a couple of examples of the information contained in the book:

Clendenine, Dr. Alexander:  Born 8 July 1791, York District of South Carolina.  Resides in Baltimore, Maryland.  Physician.  On an extended trip to the Southern and western states of the U.S.  Insured by his wife Mary Louisa Clendenin 25 April 1842.

Funk, Solomon:  Born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1825.   Resides in Hannibal, Missouri.  Cabinetmaker.  25 March 1849.

Giles, John (Negro):  Born in St. Mary's County, Maryland.  Age 26 as of December 1842.  Servant/Slave owned by Seraphim Masi, Washington, D.C.  Purchased by Mr. Masi to prevent separation of Giles from his family.  13 April 1842.

Stull, E.W.:    Note requesting life insurance on self for 3 year period, while in the military service.  No other data given.  23 November 1836.

Unfortunately, at first glance, it appears that none of my ancestors took out a life insurance policy with the Baltimore Life Insurance Policy.  However, it's still an interesting glimpse into life in the first half of the 19th century in America.

I would be happy to do a quick look-up if you think your ancestors might be listed in this great little resource.  Direct email me at with the surname you are looking for.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Baxter and Waterbury, Winthrop's Fleet 1630

I've accumulated a really nice personal genealogy book collection over the years, including such wonderful resources as "Directory of the Ancestral Heads of New England Families 1620-1700" compiled by Frank Holmes, "Maryland Revolutionary Records" by Harry Wright Newman, and "Kentucky Obituaries 1787-1854" by G. Glenn Clift.  I typically purchase the books for a specific research goal, and unfortunately, don't usually go back and review the book again.
After attending last night's Illinois State Genealogical Society's webinar "Some Seldom Used Resources:  A Genealogical Potpourri," (thank you, Tim Pinnick!), I was inspired to revisit my bookshelf resources.  I pulled out "Directory of the Ancestral Heads of NE Families," and while doing a quick scan using my list of surnames, I discovered my ancestors and my husband's ancestors both arrived in America aboard Winthrop's Fleet in 1630!!  It's more than likely the two men knew each other, and survived many hardships together.  I wonder if they ever dreamed their descendants would come together more than 350 years later.
Recheck  your bookshelf resources, and who knows, you might discover a piece of genealogical serendipity like I did!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ruby Jean Ottaviano - Area 51 is True!!

This could be my favorite obituary of all time.  Godspeed, Ruby Jean!!

Ruby Jean Ottaviano
Formerly Miss Ruby Jean Mashburn, died May 4, 2012.  Ruby Jean Mashburn was born August 11, 19(none of your business), and grew up to be a beautiful, lovely lady.  Ruby Jean was raised in Independence, MO.  Jean blossomed into a gorgeous beauty when, after graduating from East High School, she met a handsome Sicilian man named Salvatore G. Ottaviano, the youngest son of Georgio and Rosa Ottaviano.  After a proper courtship period Ruby Jean Mashburn became Mrs. Salvatore G. Ottaviano, marrying her heart's love on January 27, 1950.  Just a few months later, however, her Marine husband was called to Korea.  The war bride stayed in Kansas City, MO.  Upon her husband's return home to the U.S. shores she went to San Diego, CA, to greet him from his time of service to our country. She also fell in love with California.  Mr. and Mrs. Ottaviano moved to North Hollywood, CA, in the early 50s and Mrs. Ottaviano, known as Jean, worked for the government in a very high-level security job at Lookout Mountain under President Kennedy and later President Johnson (The Roswell UFO crash was true - Jean saw the government's  pictures).  She then went to work for the U.S. Customs Service and retired from the U.S. Department of Labor.  Jean and Sam loved to travel back and forth to Kansas City to visit family and dear friends, mostly by Route 66.  They made this trip over 22 times, always stopping in Lost Wages, NV.  Sam and Jean loved Sin City as they always stayed in the best hotels and had seats for all the major performers - not to mention 21, keno, and craps!  Jean leaves behind a loving, devoted husband of 62 years who is heart-broken.  She also leaves behind a lovely sister, several wonderful nieces and nephews, several wonderful great-nieces and great-nephews, three great-great nephews, and her cat "Baby" who already misses her time with Dr. Phil.  Jean Ottaviano was loved by all of her family and will be greatly missed.  We will always remember her beauty, grace, and kindness.  Visitation will be 10-11 a.m., Wednesday, May 9, at St. Mark's Catholic Church, 3736 Lee's Summit Rd., Independence, MO 64055, where the Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 11 a.m.  Burial will follow in Calvary Cemetery.  Online condolences may be offered at  Passantino Bros. Funeral Home & Cremations.  Family Owned.  2117 Independence Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64124.  (816) 471-2844

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1940 Census - What Memories Will It Trigger?

I was most excited about the 1940 census because it would allow me to find my grandparents, Floyd and Mildred Robertson, as a married couple, along with my mom Kay and her brother, Ron.  Because they lived in a rural area of northwestern Missouri, they were relatively easy to find.

I sent the image to my Uncle Ronnie, my genealogy partner in crime.  The image triggered some wonderful memories:

The 1940 census says the folks paid $6 a month in rent.  Wow.  Your grandpa's occupation was salesman (clerk) in an electrical store.  I'm guessing that the store belonged to Ed Noble and was in Gilman City.  I know that within a year or so after 1940, Ed Noble had a contract to teach morse code and electrical circuits to Army recruits in Kansas City. Ed was one of the early amateur radio operators in the country.  He had a big-rig Ham radio setup in his hardware store (and in his home) and continued to use it until he died.  I saw one rig and he explained its operation to me when I was a teenager.  I was impressed.  Maybe this, being state of the art, was what led me to be interested in electronics. Ed was also into TV and built/repaired sets all over the Harrison County.  I am sure your grandpa learned about electrical circuits from Ed.  After WWII, your grandpa again worked with Ed wiring half the farm houses in Harrison County when the Rural Electrical Association (REA) went into effect and made it possible to bring electricity to people living in the country.  I also know that Ed had a furniture store in Bethany (after WWII - I believe) and I think your grandpa worked for him there.

When you find your family in the 1940 census, be sure to share the images and see what memories they trigger!  It helped me add more to the story of my grandfather beyond just names and dates on a page.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Distractions and Procrastination

My last blog post was March 14, and it's hard to pinpoint the biggest distraction that's kept me from posting since then.  The list is long:  Pinterest, the nice weather, my grandson Jack, my television addiction, reading The Hunger Games trilogy, Twitter, reading other people's blogs, my new exercise program, etc etc.  I haven't done any of my homework for the 1940 Census release, which is probably for the best since I've read (on blogs and Twitter!) that it's running slow this morning.  I still have stacks and boxes of photographs to sort through, scan, and tag; data needs to be entered into Family Tree Maker; podcasts are piling up; and several new genealogy books are waiting for me to crack the cover.  I haven't done any real research in a couple of months.  Sad state of affairs, wouldn't you agree??!!
Perhaps today will be the day I'll skip Pinterest, Twitter, television, and other people's blogs, and get organized and make a plan to stop the distractions and procrastination.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sometimes It's a Small Note That Has the Biggest Impact

My great-grandfather, John William Gannan, was a hard-working dairy farmer from Harrison County, Missouri.  I had the great good fortune to know both he and my great-grandmother, Jane Waterbury Gannan, well into my teens and early 20's.  (My profile photo is Jane on the family farm, probably waiting for my great-grandfather to bring in the cattle from pasture.)

I received this note from Grandpa in 1978, the year I graduated from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri.  I had worked summers and during the school year, sometimes three jobs at the same time, in order to put myself through college.  For some reason, this note was very inspiring to me, and I've kept it all these years.

Grandpa probably never attended school beyond grade school, but he was very proud of the fact that I was able to finish college.  

Here's a couple of photos of Grandpa.

The last photo is of my great grandfather (on the left), and his son Harold Gannan, who stayed on at home to help run the farm.

Miss you, Grandma and Grandpa!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Digital Memories

Like everyone else, I have a box of old VHS and micro-cassette home movie tapes stored in the back of the closet, begging to be digitized.  Luckily, my brother John owns a small company that does just that, so he graciously offered to tackle the job of converting all my tapes to a more permanent digital format.
John sent me a message this evening, telling me to check our shared DropBox folder, to review the first clip he had digitized.
This small clip brought tears to my eyes, as I heard my Grandfather's laughter for the first time in many years.  It's an inconsequential little movie, taken in the backyard of my grandparent's house when my son was not quite a year old, but it brought back very powerful memories of all the wonderful times spent with them.   My grandfather passed away in 1986, and my grandmother in 2004, so having this digital memory is such a wonderful thing.
I know the box of tapes will hold many more digital memories, and can't wait to see what else we uncover.   If you have a box of old tapes sitting around, what are you waiting for?!!  Convert them and see what treasures they hold.

My First DAR Meeting

It's been a long-time goal of mine to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Last night I got a little closer to achieving that goal, by attending my first DAR meeting as a guest of the Prairie Rose chapter in Overland Park, KS.  I was very moved by the experience, especially their opening ceremony.  The first thing they did was recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which I haven't had the good fortune to do for quite a while.  Then, a prayer for our servicemen and veterans, and finally, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.  I met a lot of lovely ladies who do good work with local schools and veterans groups.  Can't wait to complete the application process and become a full-fledged member!!

The 1940 Census - Bethany, Missouri

My mother's family is from a small group of farm communities in Harrison County, Missouri, close to the Iowa border.  This is a view of Bethany's main square in 1935, and since it looks basically the same today, I'm sure this is what the local residents saw in 1940 as well:

In 1940, the new courthouse was completed.  Love the very distinct architecture for the time period.

Another interesting piece of trivia is that Hy-Vee grocery stores were started in the 1930's, and by 1940 there were 23 stores, including this one in Bethany:

Lots of hustle and bustle in a small town in 1940!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Special Place In Heaven For Dog Lovers - Jerry Sue Shoaf

There has to be a special place in heaven for dog lovers.  This week's obituary from the Kansas City Star is for Jerry Sue Shoaf, who loved her dogs so much that the family asked for donations to the SPCA.  Godspeed, Jerry, and I know you found your dogs on the Rainbow Bridge.

Jerry Sue Shoaf
Jerry Sue Shoaf, 75, Leavenworth, Kan., passed away peacefully at home March 1, 2012.  A visitation will be held from 10am to 11am, Tuesday, March 6th at Highland Park Funeral Hoe.  The services will be immediately following.
Jerry was born on March 5, 1936, in Bonner Sprints, Ks to John and Emma Lingo.  She lived a life full of love.  She loved spending time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She enjoyed cooking, camping and fishing with her family and friends and she always loved her dogs.
Jerry was preceded in death by her first husband Roy Ross Munson and her husband of 29 years Norris Shoaf, daughter Melody, son John, stepson Jimmy, Brothers Max and Carl and sister Murial.
She was survived by her daughters Debbie Palmgren and Theresa Richardson and her husband Steve, stepson Danny, Stepdaughter Marsha and husband Billy, god daughter Holly, Sisters Anna Jo and Juanette (Jane), brother Richard, 8 grandchildren and 17 grandchildren and many other loved ones.
In lieu of flowers please make donations to Heartland SPCA in Merriam, Ks.
(Arrangements:  Highland Park Funeral Home & Crematory 4100 State Avenue Kansas City, Kansas 66102 (913) 371-0699 Online Condolences:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

1940 US Census

I can't believe it's been 10 years since the 1930 US Census was released!  As my parents were born in the 1930's, this will be the first time they've been visible in a census record.

Because there won't be a name index at time of release, the 1940 US Census will present us with a different challenge:  narrowing down  the Enumeration District.

The National Archives' website has some great suggestions regarding how to prepare for searching in the 1940 US Census, including: 1) make a list of people you will be looking for; 2) find their address in 1940 using several different resources such as city directories and WWII draft records; 3) then identifying the 1940 Enumeration District.

In addition, Steve Morse's website  has three different utilities you can use to find the 1940 Enumeration District.

April 2 will be here before you know it, so get busy making that list of people you want to locate in the 1940 US Census!!   Also, sign up for the 1940 US Census Community Project at

Sunday Obituary, Charles C. McAmis - Plan like you live forever, live like you will die tomorrow

Today's obituary from the Kansas City Star was obviously written with a lot of love and care by his children and grandchildren.  I love the tag line:  "Another of the Greatest Generation returns to Home Port."  Godspeed, Charles!

Charles C. McAmis
Another of the Greatest Generation returns to Home Port
Charles C. McAmis, age 92, died February 17, 2012, of hear failure.
He was born September 4 in Cushing, Okla., to parents Jessie Oscar Alnzo and Josephine Prisella (Tisdale) McAmis.
He grew up during the Great Depression.  When he was 10 years old, he "rode" the rails with his dad looking for work.  Moving from town to town over three years he was placed in the third grade three times.  Finally in the next town he convinced them he should be in the sixth grade.  They were run out of town a couple of times because his Dad made bootleg beer.  One time his sister, Opal and he had to quickly dump the beer down the drain when the house was raided.
They finally settled in Hotchkiss, Colorado.  While in high school he herded sheep in the high country wearing only jeans, an unlined jean jacket and regular shoes.
He graded from Hotchkiss High School in June of 1939.  He enlisted in the US Navy in January 1940.  He said he joined because he was seeing a married woman and the husband found out and said he would shoot dad the next time he saw him.  Since he was the county pistol champ, dad knew he wouldn't miss and got out of town.
After boot camp at San Diego, he was stationed in Hawaii.  He was then ordered to the light cruiser USS Boise CL47.  The Boise was in the Phillippines and part of the Asiatic Fleet when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  They spent the next several weeks escorting civilian ships past the Japanese blockade.  During one mission, the Boise hit an uncharted coral reef, causing extensive damage that required a return to the States for repairs.
One of his sisters, Jewel, had moved to Liberal, Kan., so he went there on leave and met and married the love of his life, Mary Francis Brier of Liberal on June 4, 1942.  He boarded a train to return to his ship immediately after the wedding.  Upon his return to the ship it got underway for Guadalcanal.
The Japanese had decimated two other task forces that tried to stop the Tokyo Express that resupplied the Japanese and shelled the Marines at Henderson Field.  On October 11, near midnight, the task force consisting of several destroyers, light and heavy cruisers intercepted the Japanese task force.  With the use of the newly developed radar they were able to cross the "T" and for the first time in the war delivered a serious blow to the Japanese Navy.  They stopped the Tokyo Express that night for the first time.  It was known as the Battle of Cape Esperance.  However, the Boise was seriously damaged in the exchange with the loss of 107 men.  During his time in the Pacific, he was credited with downing two Japanese planes while manning a 20mm gun was was wounded twice.
After the Boise returned to the Phillippines ship yard for repair, dad was assigned to a destroyer escort that part of hunter, killer submarine task force in the Atlantic.  As the end of WWII came to an end and he was stationed on an aircraft repair ship on Okinawa awaiting the invasion of Japan.  By this time he had been promoted to Chief Warrant Officer WO4 Bos'n.  He was offered a commission but by 1947, he decided to leave the Navy he loved due to family obligations.  Returning to Liberal he, like most of the WWII generation, put the war behind them and got on with their lives.  He went to work for Panhandle Eastern Pipelines at the lowest entry level, that as an oiler on the huge compression that sent natural gas to other parts of the country.  Chuck eventually worked his way up to plant manager of two different plants despite having only a high school education.
He retired in the late 1980's after over 30 years of service to Panhandle Eastern Pipelines.  After retirement he moved to Brazoria, Texas, and lived near the water he had loved as a sailor.  Age took its toll as it does for everyone.  He eventually moved back to Liberal to be near his youngest son, Tom, and live out the rest of his life.
Chuck was preceded in death by his parents and his siblings, Opal, Jewel, Edward and Howard; his first wife, Mary, and his second wife, Audrey.
He is survived by two sons, Ronald and Thomas and grandson, Conor, of his first wife, and two step daughters, Karen and Vicki from his second marriage and two step grandchildren, Bobbie and Aron.
At his specific request, there is no service or memorial.  He said he just wanted us to have a party and talk about the good times and give him a toast with Crown Royal.  His favorite saying was, "What the hell, I'm going to be sick in the morning anyway so give me another drink."  Plan like you live forever, live like you will die tomorrow.
Cremation and funeral arrangements by Miller Funeral Home of Liberal, Kan.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Totally Not Genealogy Friday

Happy Friday, everyone!

It's the end of a rather slow week, so I'm looking forward to getting outside with  my grandson Jack, playing with the neighborhood dogs, going for a walk, and maybe start planning an herb or flower garden this year.  I've found so many great gardening ideas on Pinterest (wagon wheel herb garden, cinder block flower garden, and photos of many new varieties of flowers that I didn't know existed!) and I'm  motivated to do a little more landscaping than I usually do.

My brother David will be over this weekend to finish up a master closet re-do, which I'm very excited about.  New floor, shoe/purse cabinet, and completely re-configured to make use of some dead space.  Can't wait for him to finish up so I can get my clothes off the dining room table.  Again, more ideas from Pinterest, especially the shoe/purse cabinet.  Pinterest is my new HGTV.

I also plan to do a little bit of genealogy organizing/scanning/research planning.  I really  need to get back into the business of doing some actual research, instead of reading genealogy blogs, Pinterest, and twitter.  Social media is killing my research!!  I also want to take a look at a few webinar schedules, and possibly register for the St. Louis Genealogical Society annual conference in April.  At some point, I need to finish my DAR registration papers.  I have almost all the documentation I need, except one piece that proves who I am (can you believe it!!), and I need to get that ordered.

The other thing I need to do is start taking more photographs.  My husband bought me a new camera for Christmas (a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3, if you're interested).  I've been interested in photography for quite a while, but lots of other things get in the way of truly learning all the features of my camera, and just getting out there to take pictures.   I've been inspired by the blogger JD Andrews, who has the amazing job of traveling around the world.  You can follow his latest adventures at  He is currently on a trip to Antarctica (one of my dream trips).  He tweets a lot as @earthXplorer, if you're into Twitter.  His photographs are amazing.

Another great blog I just ran across the other day is called Kevin & Amanda.  There is a widget on my home page that links out to their blog.  Amanda is very interested in photography, cooking, web design, and her doggies (and husband, too!), and she shares some amazing blog design and photography tips.  If you are looking for a fun blog to follow, this is for you.  Amanda also tweets as @kevinandamanda.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Friday and an even better weekend!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Family Tree University - Virtual Conference

I love genealogy conferences.  Unfortunately, I couldn't make Roots Tech, and as far as I know there isn't anything local (Kansas City area) until October.  My other option this year appears to be attending "virtual" conferences or webinars.
I received this month's Family Tree Magazine today, and noticed several reminders for the upcoming Family Tree University Virtual Conference March 9 - 11.   The schedule looks great, with sessions on such topics as Evernote, iPad genealogy, newspaper research, guardianship records, and Civil War pension files.  However, I'm balking a little bit at the cost of the conference:  $199 (with a 20% off coupon bringing the total down to $160).  I think it's a little pricey for a virtual conference, and will probably stick with free webinars this year, or some low-cost webinars on similar topics.  

Preserving My Mom's Handwritten Recipes

My mom passed away when I was in high school, and it's only been a couple of years since my dad finally broke down and let me have her recipe files.  I don't remember her having any cookbooks, just handwritten pieces of paper where she scribbled recipes from other family members or neighbors.  One of my many projects is to sort and scan all the recipes and create a family cookbook.  I also need to get archival sleeves to protect the fragile pages.

Below are a few of my favorites.

This is a recipe for what I'll call "Croatian Dressing."  My brother Bob and I fight over it during the Christmas holidays.  I haven't tried making it myself but my dad and stepmom make it every Christmas.

You can never have too many meatball recipes.  This one is from an old family friend, Berniece Westermann, dated 1963.

The same holds true with Sloppy Joe recipes.  I am not sure who "Maxine" is , but I found another version of the recipe dated 1958 with the name Maxine Cox.  

But everything else pales in comparison to "Cherry Delight."  This was my grandfather, Floyd Robertson's favorite dessert and the one I remember most.  The recipe is dated 8/16/1958, when my mom was a young bride and I wasn't quite a year old.  This is also my all-time favorite dessert.

As you can tell, this recipe has seen a lot of use.

Looking through the old handwritten recipes is a way of connecting with my mom and grandmother, and remembering family friends and relatives who have passed away.  

I think I know what I'll be having for dessert tonight!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Today's Obituary - Louella Kelly Myers

Every Sunday morning, I ready the "Remembrances" section of the Kansas City Star, a habit I'm sure I share with many of my fellow family historians.  This week, the obituary of Louella Kelly Myers struck me as noteworthy.  Louella was a fellow genealogist, active in many patriotic societies.  Godspeed, Louella!

Louella Kelly Myers
Louella Kelly Myers, 100, passed away Tuesday, February 14, 10212, at Ashton Court Care Center in Liberty, Mo.   She was born May 3, 1911, the middle child of seven born to Hugh Marshall and Sarah Lee (Douglas) Kelly in Paradise, Mo., and she was the last survivor.  Her family moved to Kearney when she was seven.  At 19 she married and moved to Chicago, studied and sold real estate in California and Maryland.  She  moved to Baltimore in 1937.  She graduated from a modeling academy and later taught modeling.  Louella became engrossed in genealogy by 1967 and traced the lineage of her forbears from Kentucky to Clay County including such notable early settlers as Abraham Creek, Charles Younger, George Washington Douglas, and Peter Kelly.  Her interest led her into the Daughters of the American Revolution which she joined in Baltimore in 1969,and joined 11 more patriotic organizations, including US  Daughters of 1812, Daughters of American Colonists, Colonial Dames of the XVII Century, Daughters of the Indian Wars, Colonial Dames, Southern Dames of America, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims, and founded the Maryland Chapter of the Dames of the Court of Honor.  Louella compiled her data into a book which she published including the families of Younger, Creek, Kelly, Payne, Day and Ellington.  She and her husband, Russell Myers were charter members of the Wesley Retirement Home in Baltimore, but after his passing in 1999, she longed for her Missouri family and moved to Elliot Place in Raytown, the Gardens on Barry Road, to Westbrook in Kearney and finally after breaking a hip, she became a resident of Ashton Court.  Louella had no children of her own, but she loved the children of her six sisters and brothers, and was loved by them.  Family and friends will gather for visitation at 1 p.m. Wednesday February 22, followed by a celebration of her life at 2 p.m., both held at Hidden Valley Funeral Home in Kearney.  Interment in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Kearney.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Crossroads Hospice of Kansas City, 9237 Ward Parkway, Ste. 300, Kansas City, MO 64114 or to the United Methodist Church of Kearney, 1000 East State Route 92, Kearney, MO 64060.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Today's Obituary - Penny Lynn Burnett

From today's Kansas City Star.  Godspeed to Penny, a fellow family historian.

Penny Lynn Burnett
Penny Lynn Burnett was the sixth of ten children born to Violet and the late Clifford Burnett.  She was born in Aurora, Colorado on 1 July 1957.  One brother, Michael, preceded her in death.  They settled in Paola Kansas where she attended school graduating from Paola High School where she was a Cheerleader.  She attended Emporia State University. She married Wendell N. Henderson in April of 1987 and they had one child Marisah A. Henderson.  Marisah was born on 1 July 1988 so that she and her mother share the same birthday.  Later this marriage was dissolved.  She remarried William (Bill) Reindl on 11 April 2001 and they lived in Leavenworth Kansas to the present.  BIll and Penny were members of 47th Street Baptist in Kansas City, Kansas under the leadership of Pastor Charles Mitchell.
Penny loved sewing, quilting, reading, landscaping and remodeling.  She was very active and had many projects going or pending at all times.  Penny actively researched and loved genealogy.  She loved to follow Marisah's basketball career and never missed the first game of the season whether in New Mexico, Colorado or local.
Penny worked for the Girl Scout Council based in Kansas City, Kansas where she was also worked with the United Way.  She then was employed by BNSF railways until her position was relocated to Texas.  Since then she worked in various positions including the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office, the IRS and most recently the Leavenworth Public Library.
She departed this life on 9 February 2012 at her home in Leavenworth surrounded by her loving family and friends.  Penny is survived by her loving husband, Bill; loving daughter Marisah; sisters Bonni Smith, Joyce Burnett and Mary Jane Burnett; brothers Richard Dean Pratt, Nate Pratt, Donnie Ray Burnett, Keith Duane Burnett, Christopher Leroy and Terri Burnett; Aunts, Uncles and many friends.
The family will receive friends from 9 to 11 A.M. Tuesday, February 14, 2012 with services at 11:00 at the Davis Funeral Chapel 531 Shawnee St. Leavenworth KS.  Following the service the family invites you to attend a dinner at The Heritage Center, 109 Delaware St. Leavenworth, KS.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

They Were a What?

I ran across these interesting occupations and historical terms in Barbara Jean Evans' "A to ZAX, A Comprehensive Dictionary For Genealogists & Historians."

knock-knobbler:  the name of the person who walks about the church during the service to maintain order.

prairie breaker:  a person who accepted free land from the federal government and lived on it while he "developed" or homesteaded it.

fluttergrub:  a field laborer.

argonaut:  after gold was discovered in California in 1848 those who went to hunt the gold were called "argonauts" after the name of the mythical ship in which Jason sought the Golden Fleece.

doxies:  women of a doubtful reputation; prostitutes.

trenchepaine:  the person who cut bread at the royal table.

cordwainer:  shoemaker.

costermonger:  a person who sells fruit and vegetables from a cart on the street.

candy butcher:  a peddler on a train or a railroad station who sold small goods to passengers.

bull-wacker  a driver of horses who used a long whip called a bull-wacker.

bung:  pickpocket.

baise:  bastard.

woods colt:  a child born out of wedlock.

window peeper:  the district tax assessor.

vita brevis:  life is short.

St. Elmo's Fire:  so called for the patron saint of sailors, this is a fire-like glow caused by static electricity, which is seen at the tips of masts, tops of trees, etc.

infirmarian:  a nurse in a hospital.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where The Heck Did THAT Come From?

As you can tell from my blog's name, I have been hunting my great-great-great grandfather, John Gannan, for many years.  He remains perhaps the most elusive brick wall in the family tree.
I was working on a research plan today for how to tackle old John in 2012, which included documenting "known facts."  I ran across a Family History Sheet someone had deposited in the local genealogical society files, listing his middle name as "Benjamin," along with death dates for two of his daughters.   The problem with the record is that there are no sources listed.  I have no idea where the middle name "Benjamin" came from, or if there are additional records that weren't filed with the sheet.  Fortunately, there was a name, address, and phone number of the family historian who provided the info, so I just dashed off a note to him asking for sources.  Old school genealogy:  pen, paper, and a stamp.
The moral of this story is, before I post anything on-line or at a genealogical society, I'll be extra careful to include my source information.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beunia "Bonnie" Marcellia Robertson - 1917

In going through a few old unclaimed photos that the Harrison County (MO) Genealogical Society gave me for the surname "Robertson," I ran across this photo of Beunia "Bonnie" Marcellia Robertson.  On the back of the card, it states "Age 10 months, 21 days, 1917."  I'm going to post the photo to DeadFred to see if anyone can identify her.  Somewhere, her ancestors must be looking for this photo!

I encourage everyone to post their photos and "pay it forward" by sharing with fellow family historians who may be looking for that illusive portrait of an ancestor.  Don't be the cousin who keeps everything to him-or-herself!

Names Are Not Always What You Expect Them To Be

One of my favorite volumes in my personal genealogy library is "Directory of the Ancestral Heads of New England Families 1620-1700,"  compiled by Frank R. Holmes in 1923. It 's a treasure trove of early New England information.  In the book's Foreword, Mr. Holmes briefly discusses one of the most vexing problems a genealogist can face, the dreaded name change:

Though the custom is widespread for all males to bear the names of their parents, common law sanctions a change of name when made in good faith.  There are no serious consequences growing out of an adoption of a new name, except the possibility of confounding the identity.   Many who have become famous in history, arts, and literature, have adopted a new patronymic in whole or in part....The baptismal name of General Grant was Hiram Ulysses, but was changed when he was nominated for a cadetship to the Military Academy at West Point, where he was recorded as Ulysses S. Grant, in which form it ever since has remained....Similar illustrations are found among worthies in European literature and art...Rembrandt's family name was Gerretz, which he changed to Van Ryn, on account of its greater dignity....Even Bonapart altered his name from Buonaparte to disguise his Italian origin.

Moral of the story:  names are not always what you except them to be.

Now back to the book.  The entry for my Waterbury ancestors:

John, hotel-keeper Watertown, Mass., 1646, removed Stamford, Conn., where he died 1658.  William, came in Winthrop's fleet 1630 to Boston, Mass., died soon after on return to England.

If anyone has a surname they want me to look up in this volume, send me a quick email or post a reply!  I love to share resources.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Overwhelmed By Technology

I've become a lot more interactive with the internet these days.  I follow 800+ people on Twitter (the vast majority are fellow genealogists), and I add new blogs to my RSS feed daily (again, the majority are genealogy related).  Through these new connections, I've been introduced to webinars,  products such as the Flip Pal Scanner, podcasts, previously unknown on-line document websites, and countless new ideas for research.
Lost in all this interaction and technology seems to be my time for fundamental genealogy research.   I'm so busy tracking down the next new thing, that I haven't really pulled together my research plan for 2012 and actually utilized any of the new ideas/technology/websites I've run across while on Twitter, webinars, podcasts, and blogs.
I'd be interested to hear from my fellow family historians how they manage to balance the wonderful discoveries made through social media, with day to day genealogy research.      

Travel for Genealogy Research

I'm going to Paris in May with my best friend, whom I've known since kindergarten.  I mention this because yesterday I wrote the check to the tour company.  We will be spending a week in Paris, visiting all the wonderful places I've dreamed of seeing:  the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Versailles to name a few.
As I was planning this trip with my friend, it made me think about all the  places I would love to visit for genealogy research purposes.  My son's great grandparents lived in Trier, Germany, their whole lives, running a small hotel there.  His family also has a line that can be traced to Scotland.  My husband's grandfather immigrated from Austria.  My father's grandfather immigrated to the United States from Croatia, with the classic case of "one brother stayed behind and the other went to America."  Descendants of the "brother who stayed behind" still live next to the family homestead and I've corresponded with my cousin there.

This is an old postcard of Prezid, Croatia, where my grandfather's family immigrated from during the first part of the 20th century.
I would happily pack my bags and head to any of these places, but unfortunately, travel is expensive and I'm afraid the foreign language would prove daunting.
I would love to hear from my fellow genealogists who have traveled abroad for genealogy research purposes.  Was it as daunting as it seems?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On To The Next Adventure - Susan Oberlander McNeil

Godspeed, Susan!

Susan Oberlander McNeil
Susan Oberlander McNeil, cancer warrier, left this life for a new adventure February 1st, 2012.  She was born in Kansas City, Missouri, April 30, 1951, and went on to live a wonderfully fully and rewarding life.  She packed at least 85 years of living into her 60 years.  Susan was raised in the Leawood home her parents built in 1950, graduated from Shawnee Mission South and the University of Kansas.  She worked more than 40 years, mainly in the medical field.  It was easy for her to see the talents and gifts in her many diverse friendships.
Music filled her ears nearly every moment.  In November, 2001 she performed with a choir at Carnegie Hall.  Other thrills included swimming with dolphins, watching the sunset from Mt. Haleakalah, walking on a glacier, and traversing Venice's Grand Canal.  Susan's interests included theater, music, art, photography, handwork, travel, and gardening.  She volunteered for Hospice, the American Cancer Society and Bloch Cancer Hot Line.  Her sense of humor and perseverance helped her survive three unrelated cancers in her lifetime.  She was a proud member of the DAR and got a kick out of being related to the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, George Washington, Meriweather Lewis, William Holden, Stephen Crane, and FDR.
Her greatest accomplishment was her marriage to John, the love of her life and her knight in shining armor. Susan was predeceased by her parents Robert G. and Virginia J. Oberlander and her grandparents Howard and Lola Krimminger.  She unwillingly leaves her husband John A. McNeil, MD, their beloved dog Teddy, an array of family members, many friends, some of them lifelong, and her devoted in-laws.
 Visitation will be held from 10:30-11:00 a.m. followed by funeral service at 11:00 a.m. Monday, February 6, at Mt. Moriah & Freeman Funeral Home, 10507 Holmes Road, Kansas City, MO.  Burial in Mt. Moriah Cemetery South. Memorial contributions may be made to the Kansas City Hospice House, 12000 Wornall Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64145.  Condolences may be offered at www.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Working Until The End: Ida Mae "Tillie" Henderson

In today's "handout" world, where people are paid to do virtually nothing, it's always uplifting to read a story about someone who worked hard all their lives, right up until the end.
My favorite obituary from this week's Kansas City Star is for Ida Mae "Tillie" Henderson.  Godspeed, Tillie!

Ida Mae "Tillie" Henderson
Ida Mae "Tillie" Henderson, 81, Overland Park, KS, passed away suddenly at home on January 25, 2012.  Visitation will be from 1-3:00 p.m., Monday, January 30, with a Memorial Service following at 3:00 p.m. at McGilley & Hoge Chapel, 8024 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park, KS.  Memorial contributions may be made to Susan G. Koman for the Cure (breast cancer awareness) at donor
Tillie was born January 29, 1930 in Benton County, Arkansas, to Marksu Lafayette and Rose Erman Douglas-Tilford.  Tillie moved to Kansas City in 1950.  She met and married Herschel O. Henderson in 1954.  In 1962, Tillie gave birth to her only child, Tanya.  Starting her career as a beautician in 1967, she worked at Jones Store salons for 25 years, then continued her enjoyment of her customers at her own salon until her death.
She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and nine siblings.  She is survived by:  her daughter, Tanya; her identical twin, Betty Lou (Scott) Wilson; their daughters Gail (George) Schlagel, Julie (Justo) Sibala; and many nieces and nephews.
Tillie's competitive spirit fed her love of both Dominoes and Politics!  Her other passions included sewing, cooking, and puzzle solving.  Please offer condolences at

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa

Today would have been my grandparent's (Floyd and Mildred Gannan Robertson) 78th wedding anniversary.  They came from farming families in the small, tight-knit communities of Harrison County, Missouri, and both died in St. Louis, Missouri, my grandfather first in 1986; my grandmother followed in 2004.  They were both hard working, loving, and caring individuals, and I miss them terribly.
This is a photo that was taken in 1958 on a warm, sunny St. Louis day.  I love how young and vibrant they look.
Happy anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Favorite Obituary - Mary Ann (Disciacca) McCall - Meatballs!!

My favorite obituary from this week's Sunday Kansas City Star was that of Mary Ann (Disciacca) McCall.   There was a lovely photo of Mrs. McCall (she reminded me of my grandmother, which is what caught my eye in the first place).  The lesson to be learned from Mrs. McCall's obituary is that everyone leaves behind a unique legacy, whether it be something big, or something small.  Godspeed, Mrs. McCall!

Mary Ann (Disciacca) McCall
Mary Ann McCall, 83, a Northland resident in Kansas City, Mo., passed away Thursday evening, January 19, 2012, at the NorthCare Hospice House.  She was born May 17, 1928, in Kansas City to Frank and Mamie (Scola) Disciacca.  She graduated from Glennon High School in Kansas City.
Mary Ann had been a member of St. Therese Parish in Parkville since it was founded in 1951.  She worked in the Early Education Center at St. Therese for  many years.  She was a constant contributor to the family business, Papa Franks and Frank's Italian Restaurant in Parkville, Mo.  Over the years Mary Ann made thousands of meatballs.  She made them for family, friends, former Governor's and Congressman, her church and the restaurant.  She was very family oriented and had a great love for her God, family and friends.
She married James W. McCall on July 3, 1955, in Kansas City.  He preceded her in death.  In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by her parents; a son, Frank T. McCall; a brother, Joe and his wife Marie; a sister, Angie Musso and her husband Shano.  
Survivors include three sons, James E. McCall and wife Patricia (Pie) of Parkville, Donald W. McCall and wife Kelly of Phoenix, Ariz., Mark T. McCall of Higginsville, Mo.; a daughter, Judith A. McCall of Higginsville; five grandchildren, Sean Gray, Daniel McCall, Luke Gray, Brent McCall and Tyler McCall; two great grandchildren, McKenna and Mason Gray; brothers-in-law, Tom McCall and wife Barbara and John McCall and wife Marily; and a host of nieces, nephews and extended family members and friends.
The body will lie-in-state and friends may pay their respects on Monday, Jan. 23, at the Meyers Northland Chapel in Parkville.  The rosary will be recited at 3 p.m. and the family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m.  The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday, at St. Therese Catholic Church with Rev. Joe Cisetti as celebrant.  Interment will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to the Higginsville State School in care of Patriots Bank in Parkville.
Memories of Mary Ann and condolences may be left with the family at

Saturday, January 21, 2012

DAR Workshop

I was a history major in college, with a special interest in the American Revolution and political science.  As a result, one of my genealogy goals has always been to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Ten years after I picked up the family history research where my mother and grandfather left  off, that goal remains unfulfilled.
One of my goals for 2012 is to successfully complete the DAR application process, and I took a major step forward today by attending a workshop hosted by several local DAR chapters.  I brought along my worksheet and all the documents I thought could be used as proof.  As it turns out, I still have some homework to do, but am looking forward to completing the process and becoming a DAR member.
I'm really interested in DAR as an organization that promotes patriotism, the preservation of American history, and especially the out-reach to today's youth regarding what it means to be an American.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Man's Best Friend - by Guest Blogger John

Today's post is brought to you by my brother, John.

In honor of John's post, here's a photo of my dog, Pete, who died last year, getting hugs from my grandson Jack.

Often i sit and peer into the eyes of my faithful companion Winston. He's a handsome young fellow. I managed to save him from an animal shelter up north from where I live. I often wonder as i stare at him what he sees when he stares back at me. After all, dogs have been blessed with the ability to read human emotions through our facial expressions. And we too, as humans, sometimes seem to be able to read the expressions on our companions face. We've allowed them to become part of our families. We let them live in our homes, share our food, some even share our beds at night. We keep them as pets, but they always become so much more to us. They share in our joy, comfort us in our sorrows, feel our pains of suffering, and delight in our happiness. And even though they become so much to us, we often forget to mention them in any of our writings. I wonder what my faithful friend would write about me in his daily journal. He seems to sit and study me all the time. He follows me everywhere. He's always overjoyed to see me when i come home. He's there no matter if i'm happy or sad. So i wonder what he sees when he stares back at me. No journal would be complete without mentioning his name everyday. He'd gladly share my burdens if he could. He'd give his life for mine. He's worthy of me writing his name so others can share in the joy he brings my family. So when you're writing in your journal, don't forget to include your faithful friend. I'm sure they'd write about you.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This Week's Favorite Obituary - Ouita Maxine Tomlin

I'm sure I'm not alone when I confess to a love of the obituary section of my Sunday newspaper.  There was an obituary in today's paper that caught my eye.  I never had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Tomlin, but her obituary really brings her to life for me.

Ouita Maxine Tomlin
Ouita Maxine Tomlin, 95, Kansas City, MO, died Jan. 12, 2012.  A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 at Grand Court, 501 West 107 Street Kansas City, MO.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Brookdale ISC Hospice, 9201 Foster St., Overland Park, KS 66212.
Ouita was the second of three daughters (Winona and Elsie) born to Bula Teel.  She enjoyed 45 years of marriage with second husband C.E. Tomlin who preceded her in death.  She is survived by her son, Stephen, and daughter-in-law, Peggy, KCMO; and grandchildren, Cindy, Mark and Charlene, all of Chicago, IL.  Ouita considered having three children, but after the birth of her son, she knew she would never do any better.
She was a child of the Great Depression and thus had a tremendous work ethic.  Student, soda jerk at Katz, wife, mother, sales clerk, single mom, executive secretary - these were just a few of her many hats.  Even in her later years, she practiced her ABC's - always bingo, always cards and always caring for others.
Special thanks to the staff at Brookdale Communities Grand Court of Kansas City, Freedom Pointe in Overland Park and the Hospice team from ISC.  Her longevity was aided by the aptly-named geriatric specialist Dr. Stanley Sharp.  He is and she was.
Condolences may be offered at

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Brother Has A Few Great Ideas - Part Two

I was chatting with my brother John the other day, and the topic turned to "junk."  Junk, as in everyone's basement and attic seems to be full of it, and no one knows what to do with it.  The "junk" discussion then turned into a bitch session between siblings regarding our dad's habit of holding onto family heirlooms and objects with sentimental value without any regard for their preservation.
My mom died when I was in high school, and after my dad remarried, he boxed up the reminders of his first life and stashed them into the basement.  Over the years, my brothers and I have asked for certain items, only to be told, "You can have them after I'm dead," or "I'm not ready to let you have that just yet."   Unfortunately, stashing the items in the basement was not a great idea, and after years of exposure to the moisture and temperature extremes, most of the items are ruined (including my mother's wedding dress).
Unfortunately, my son and daughter-in-law don't seem to be interested in family heirlooms, and I'm struggling with the dilemma of what to do with items I don't want to see leave the family.  Do I hang onto them in the hopes that my grandson will some day be interested?  Do I pass them along to my cousins or nieces/nephews?  My brother has already talked to his step-daughter about what items she might be interested in, what keepsakes she wants from her childhood home.
I would be interested to hear from fellow genealogists regarding your plans to preserve family heirlooms.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Brother Has A Few Great Ideas - Part One

I have three wonderful brothers, one of whom (John) is closer in age to me than the other two.  He, like me, feels the pull of mortality and the desire to leave a written record behind for future generations.

I was chatting with John yesterday, and the subject naturally turned to genealogy.  He and my sister-in-law, Ginny, had spent quite a bit of time a few years ago traveling around cemeteries in northwestern Missouri, taking photographs of our ancestors' gravestones.  In recent years, his job has kept him too busy to continue with his family history pursuits.
John mentioned that for the past several years, he has been keeping a hand-written journal that documents his daily life, mixed in with stories of our childhood.   While this isn't a new idea, it's certainly one that I hadn't really considered because of my love of technology and digital records.
I recently saw a blog post from a fellow family historian (sorry, can't remember whose or else I would link to it here!) that asked if anyone has found handwritten documents from ancestors.  In my case, the answer is unfortunately no.  Imagine how wonderful it must be to uncover a handwritten journal or letter from one of your ancestors!
I plan to take my brother's advice and start a handwritten journal.  I don't think it has to be anything elaborate, just something that future generations can have as a reminder that we were more than just names and dates.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Paying It Forward

Several years ago, I purchased a family history volume, "Evans Family, Originating in that part of Frederick County, Virginia, which is now in Berkely County, West Virginia, 1700-1983," by Marjorie Stewart Tucker, hopeful that it would contain some mention of my own Evans line.   Ms. Tucker's family originated with two brothers, Isaac and John Evans, who were first mentioned in Virginia Land Grants in 1751.
Unfortunately, my Evans line from northern Missouri did not intersect with the Evans brothers, so the book has proven to be of no value to me.  Even so, I decided to make the volume available to others for research purposes, and have received several requests resulting from posts I made on the internet.
I know everyone is busy with their own research, but isn't it great when you find that one person who has a key piece of information and is willing to share it with you?  I'm a big fan of "paying it forward," so if you have something to share with other researchers, I hope you will take the opportunity to do so!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Don't Overlook Local University/College Libraries

There is an excellent article by Tami Osmer Glatz in the February 2012 edition of Family Tree Magazine called "It's Academic."  Below is an excerpt:

You never quite know what you might find in your local college or university library.  For example, the one at Marietta College, a small private college in southeast Ohio, has the original 1810 census for that part of the Buckeye State.  It's the only complete 1810 census known to exist for any part of the state.  Another gem:  A 1798 tax list for Waterford Township in Washington County, Ohio.  Not only did this particular tax-man list freemen, lodgers, servants, land and other taxable possessions, but if you flip to the back of the booklet, you'll see he included the names of every person - even women and children - in each household.

In the article, Ms. Glatz includes links to many on-line resources, such as:

Making of America Collection:
Ohio's Heritage Northeast,
West Virginia University's library,
University of Iowa Digital Library,

I have never used a university or college library for genealogy research, but after reading Ms. Glatz's article, realize I may have overlooked an excellent research resource.

Ms. Glatz also has a very information blog called Relatively Curious About Genealogy,

Monday, January 2, 2012

Amaneunsis Monday - February 1925 DAR Magazine, Davidson County, TN Marriage Records

In a fit of cleaning out my pile of genealogy magazines, I ran across one that must have belonged to my mother.  It's the Volume 59, Number 2, February 1925, Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine.  I have no idea why my mom would have saved it; I've looked through it and don't see any connections to our family.  It did have a couple of interesting articles, along with an abstract of some marriage records of Davidson County, TN, partially included below:

Marriage Records of Davidson County, Tennessee
Continued from August, 1923, Magazine
Copied by Penelope J. Allen

Page 31
James Everett to Lettie Ridley, May 5, 1792
Richard Frenleyson to Elizabeth Black, May 18, 1793
Hi Turner to Martha Lancaster, Dec 13, 1788
Jeremiah Moore to Nancy Slaton, May 30, 1796
John L. Mishler to Mary Cassellman, May 1, 1791
John Hamilton to Sarah Lucas, Apr 10, 1794
Amos Moore to Margaret Neely, Sept 17, 1791
James McCutcheon to Elizabeth Dean, Apr 23, 1792
George McLane to Parmelia Davidson, July 20, 1789
Patrick McCutcheon to Hannah Marshall, Mar 24, 1789

Page 32
Robert White to Nancy Hays, Jan 7, 1789
William Ray to Mary Meenees, July 20, 1791
William Nash to Polly Evans, June 5, 1790
Elijah Gowers to Prudence Coon, Dec 22, 1790
David Smith to Beauty Fort, ---, 1791
Aquilla Carmack to Eunice Williams, June 15, 1791
Samuel Edmiston to Nellie Dean, March 23, 1791
Luke Anderson to Elizabeth Shaffer, Aug 1, 1794
Evan Tracy to --- Taylor, Aug 6, 1794
Henry Robertson to Margaret Bradshaw, Apr 3, 1793

The information continues on through 1802.

There is so much information on-line these days that it's easy to forget how volunteers hand transcribed old records and published them for use by other family historians.   It inspires me to take part in one of the many indexing/transcription projects that benefit all of us.

I'm sure this information must be available on-line, but if it's not and you are interested in the additional information contained in the article, please let me know.