Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Early Learnings

Randy Seaver's weekly challenge is as follows:
Think back to when you first started doing genealogy and family history research. What was one of your first real research problems? How did you attack the problem? Did you solve the problem? If so, how? What lessons did you learn from this experience?

Unfortunately, I can't remember that far back! I actually started doing "real" genealogy research back in high school in the mid-1960s. My grandmother was helping write a book about the Israel Boone family and needed some Pennsylvania help. We lived in State College, PA, so I spent weeks in the stacks at Penn State's Pattee Libray, digging through the numerous volumes of the published Pennsylvania Archives. I'm sure I made lots of mistakes, but certainly don't remember them now!

The first real research problem that comes to my mind is when I started tackling my father's family. He could tell me nothing about his family; didn't even know his mother's maiden name. He left home at 17 and never looked back. I honored his wishes and didn't research his family until after he died at age 60. The next week (Sept., 1978) I headed to the Seattle Public Library to start digging. Over the ensuing weeks and months, I spent many hours in the Seattle Public Library, the Seattle Genealogical Society Library, and the Pacific Northwest Branch of the National Archives. I dug through censuses, vital records, local know the drill.

After months of work I had traced my Dad's line back to his great-grandfather, a Morris T. Sharp. According to the 1850 Census, he was living in Bureau County, Illinois, and was born in New Jersey ca. 1834. But where in New Jersey? I posted my query to an early genealogy message board ca. 1980 and was astounded when a lady in Michigan responded with a reference to a book called "Early Germans of New Jersey." She said that the book was quite rare and offered to copy the SHARP pages for me. Turns out that book was sitting on the shelves at the Seattle Genealogical Society Library, but I'd totally missed it because it wasn't with the "main" New Jersey collection, but in a special collection of New Jersey materials. Aargh! The entire family line was documented back to 1732 when the "Sharfenstein" family arrived in Philadelphia. And the Kent Collection of New Jersey materials had a dozen more references to my Sharfensteins. I'm sure my Dad was rolling in his grave when I discovered his line was of German (not English) descent!

What I learned from this experience was to ASK ABOUT SPECIAL COLLECTIONS in any archive or library.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun--Memories

Randy Seaver of Geneamusings posted this Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge today:
Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!):

1) Have you written your memoirs yet? If so, please share with us one story from your childhood. If not, then start your memoirs! The story could be a memory of your family life, your schoolwork, your neighborhood, etc. It doesn't have to be a certain length - just something you recall.

2) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a post on Facebook or Google Plus.
So....for some reason I've been thinking a lot lately about Vint Hill Farms, an Army base where I spent some of my early years. We left there in June 1957 when my father retired from the US Army. I believe we lived there two different times--first right after we returned from Japan in about 1952 and then again from about 1955-57. Unfortunately, my Dad's Army records aren't very forthcoming about where he was assigned when, since he was in intelligence.
I remember we had to ride the big yellow schoolbus to school in Warrenton, VA, and it seemed like a looong ride. I'm guessing it might have been about 30 minutes. One time we got caught by a hurricane while heading home on the bus and it flipped. Not a pretty sight. The bus came around to all the different housing areas on post and drove out through the MP-guarded main gate, then past the field of totem poles and out the long lane to the highway.
Totem poles?
Yes, in my memory there was a field full of totem poles just past the main gates of the base, enclosed by the post fence.
Many years later (ca 1970-71), friends and I visited Vint Hill on our spring break from Ohio State. Amazingly, the MP on duty allowed us to drive around the base as long as we didn't get out of the car. Amazing what a carful of young ladies can talk MPs into, isn't it?
Much to my amazement, there were no totem poles.
There was only a huge cluster of communication towers, which is not surprising when you know that Vint Hill was one of the first "listening posts" established by the Army during World War II.
I couldn't find any photos of the communication towers, but here's a photo of the main gate from the 1960s:
Thanks to "Mithrandir" for posting this photo at

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Society Saturday: It's Spring Seminar Time!

Geneabloggers suggested a new Saturday blog topic this week--Society Saturday--so I thought I'd use it.

I've been a very active member of the Seattle Genealogical Society for a number of years and am constantly amazed at how many local genealogists are NOT members of the Society. Many of them use our library and come to programs [often without paying the user fee] and attend our seminars. I have to admit that this is one of my pet peeves.

Maintaining a library is an expensive undertaking, especially in a metropolitan area. The SGS library contains some unique materials, especially in our family histories section and archives. Sometimes it seems like all the SGS Board does is try to figure out ways of generating more funds to support our library operations and of finding more volunteers. We keep our library open 30 hours each week with an all-volunteer staff. Personally, I think that's pretty amazing and worthy of more support from the local genealogy community.

And yes, SGS [like many societies] sponsors an annual Spring seminar. We bring in a nationally known genealogist each Spring and this year we are absolutely thrilled to have Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, coming to speak in a traditional all-day seminar on May 18th. Judy will also be doing a 2-hour advanced workshop on May 19th for a limited number of SGS members. This is the first time we've added a workshop presentation for our nationally known speaker and I'm anxious to see how this works out. Since registration for the Sunday workshop is limited to SGS members, will we get a sudden influx of new members? Time will tell.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wordless Wednesday....with a few words

"Warrensburg Boys"
I found this photo two years ago in an album stashed in a closet in Weaubleau, Missouri. From old letters and newspaper articles, I know that my great-grandfather, Charlie BROOKSHIRE, attended the Normal School at Warrensburg, MO, in the spring of 1893 [late February through early May]. Other people mentioned in the letters and newspaper articles who may be in this photo include Alva Fisher, Professor Charles E Burton, Charlie Gist, Grant Bowman, Hiram Gardner, and Brady ?. I think Charlie is the guy with the curly air looking off to the left, third person from the left. Grant Bowman may be the fellow in the front right.
Unfortunately, the college doesn't have any old photos or records online. It just occurred to me last night to email the archivist at the college, now the University of Central Missouri, to see whether they might help identify these guys. I was amazed to have a response this morning that she will take on the challenge. The college didn't start publishing yearbooks until 1905, but she does have other old records and photos to work from. Does anybody have other ideas for identifying these guys?