Friday, August 30, 2013

How To Build The "Perfect Grandfather"

1. First you start with a new fresh canvass, and make sure he was provided with wonderful parents who gave him a deep love of family. He needs to come from a wholesome family environment, that taught him an appreciation for respect, and the importance of a great sense of humor. There is nothing like the bonding of a family that can laugh together.

2. Next, you include a piece of childhood adventure that teaches him how life will throw him many curves, and he needs to be ready to roll with them.

3. The next 2 ingredients are to have a strong talent and passion for woodworking that will be shared with family,

and, he should also be country enough to thoroughly enjoy being a wrestling fan. This includes taking his future wife out to a live wrestling event on their first date!

4. He will need to have a good work ethic and enjoy his chosen career, so that he finds friendship and camaraderie.

5. Next, he needs to be ready to share his life, love, loyalty and laughter with a family who will do likewise. There will be memories and memories to create and build upon.

6. When you have successfully put all these pieces together, you will come very close to having a perfect grandfather; however, when this grandfather was created, they broke the mold. This grandfather was definitely like no other, and his family's love for him is and always will be as big as the sky!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Does Your Future Hold For You?

It is the year 1910, you are 21 years old, and you wake up one morning and make a decision to embark on a voyage by ship to leave your homeland country for the very first time to go visit family/friends in a foreign land, and you can't speak their language. You don't realize it yet, but the choice you just made will, in a few short years, be life-changing, and will determine your future. Our lives and the lives of our ancestors have always been about choices; good, bad, or otherwise. When we get older, we mentally look back on our lives, and sometimes we wonder how different it might have been, had we consciously chosen a different path to follow. And the question to ask yourself at that point is, "How different would my life have been, or would I have even existed, had my ancestor not made the choice to take a very brave step to leave his own homeland?".

My paternal Pipe` (Grandpa), Andre` Cyrille Guerin faced that decision. He sailed from France on the Sicilian, leaving out of Port Le Havre, on 11 Jul 1910 and arriving in Montreal, P.Q., Canada, on 20 Jul 1910. Based on the Border Crossing document shown below, Andre's father, Narcisse` (Nelson), had previously sailed on ahead of his son and made contact with, and arranged for a place for both he and his son to stay in P.Q., Canada with friends. Having this contact, provided an opportunity for Andre` to earn himself some spending money in the amount of $200, which he would need when he reached his ultimate destination, which was in Sweet Grass, Montana to visit his older sister, Blanche M. and her new family. Their visit would last a total of 8 months, starting in Oct. 1910, and ending in May 1911. 

This is page 1 of the Sicilian Ship Manifest for the 1910 voyage.

This is page 4 of the very same ship manifest, and if you look on line 17, you will find my Cyrille Andre` Guerin.
It would be 14 months later, before Andre` sailed on his 2nd adventure from France to Forget, Saskatchewan, P.Q., Canada, arriving on 8 Jul 1912. The ship was again the Sicilian. Upon arrival, he was met by and was graciously hosted by a good friend named Emile Dechiel. This time his stay would last for 6 months, before Andre` once again crossed the Canadian Border into the U.S. on 31 Dec. 1912/01 Jan. 1913. Just as the manifest card below shows, this time Andre` entered into Mooers Forks, N.Y., where he then stayed with a second friend named Joseph Snide and Joseph's wife Maureen. Andre` had only $40 to his name this time around.

Even after my 13 years of intense research, I still don't know if the plan was already set in motion before Andre` set sail from his home in Souzy, France in the fall of 1912 or not; but it had become a one-way trip based on the records that I have so far. I don't know if Andre's friends played match-makers, or if possibly their meeting was by accident, but almost exactly 1 year later, my Pipe`, Cyreal Andre` (Andrew) Guerin would get married to my Mime`, Mary Burnadette Bulriss on 21 Jan. 1914. The wedding was held in a quaint little Roman Catholic Church, named St. Ann's, located in the heart of the very small farming community of Mooers Forks, N.Y.

This is an exact copy of their marriage record.

Here is an external pic of St. Ann's Church

When we grow up and leave the family nest for the 1st time, and we step out into the big scary world as young naive souls, many of us are still wearing that pair of
Rose Colored glasses when we make those first choices. The plan is to do whatever it takes to realize our hopes and dreams. This is all happening long before we learn that there are other forces out there such as life, karma, and fate who have other plans for our lives. I am quite sure that when my Pipe`, Cyrille Andre` Guerin first stepped off the Sicilian and onto vast new land in Quebec, Canada, many plans and thoughts were racing through his head. As humans, we all like to believe that we are in control; that is until the other forces begin to step in to remind us that is not the case. I believe that our lives are the end result of a mix of our own personal choices, fate, karma, and choices made by our ancestors. What truly was the motivating factor that drove Andre` to leave his childhood home in Souzy, France to chase a dream in the new country of America? We may never know. Andre` had no idea what his future held for him when he made his journey; but thankfully because of it, I am here to write about it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Times, They Are A Changing

Some people say that life is about change, and acceptance. But, while some things change, others will stay the same through many generations. While hindsight is 20/20, that only holds true when we are willing to admit our errors, and remain focused on the end result. Looking back on my past 10 years of researching all of my family lines, there is 1 thread they all have in common. They all began having their families at an early age.Now, there were many reasons for this, and many of them had large families by the time they were done. They lived through very hard times, including droughts and diseases which sometimes led to the death of their young children.
The current generations are no different than their predecessors; except nowadays the family size is much smaller. My own mother gave birth to me when she was only 18. I, in turn had my first child at the young age of 16. My son was just 18, when his daughter was born. Then, finally, my own granddaughter, Norma Hazel decided at a young age that she wanted to have a child of her own. And, just like all parents and grandparents before us, at first,we were not very happy about it, simply due to her young age. We never want our children to make the same mistakes in life that we do. We want nothing but the best for our children, and we want them to have a better life than we had. 
Over the past 2 years, I have witnessed my granddaughter's growth into quite a lovely and strong young woman. She is now the mother of a beautiful baby girl named Elena Marie, and I have been blessed to come to know of her through Facebook. I really look forward to when I can meet her face to face. Yes, I am probably one of the youngest great grandmothers, being only 57 years old. I never got to meet my great grandmother. My further hope is to instill an interest in furthering our family history in both Norma and Elena. I will spend time with them telling them stories about my life, and about the lives of my parents. My own parents and grandparents never did that. Somewhere, that became a lost tradition. I plan to re-new that old tradition. Elena is already showing positive signs of being an early and quick learner. I want to thank my beautiful granddaughter, Norma for giving permission to use both her's and Elena's pictures in this post.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Making Good From The Bad - Claude Wheeler

An innocent was born February 11, 1900 in the town of Barton, county of Orleans, state of Vermont.

The innocent one was the end result of an illicit affair between Clarence Gray and Flora Wheeler. Clarence and Flora were both native to Barton; Clarence born in 1874, Flora born in 1882. This affair and the ensuing pregnancy brought the wrath of Mr. and Mrs. George F. Wheeler down upon their daughter, Flora. Being only 18 years of age, she was thrown out of the house. Now, with no place to live, no immediate prospects for a husband to provide a family and much needed support, a baby on the way, and no idea how she was going to support herself. By the time the enumerator came around, door to door, for the taking of the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, in June 23 - 30th day, Flora and baby were renting a room at a boarding house. They were still in Barton.

Jump ahead to April 7, 1904. Sam Nelson's and Flora Wheeler's wedding day. It was Sam's second and Flora's first marriages. Sam's first wife died in childbirth along with their third child. As per the norm back then, the husband had the responsibility to find a new wife to be the mother of his children. Thus, it was a relatively fair trade. Flora helps to raise his two kids, and Sam agrees to help raise her child. As for Claude, it is definitely clear that the farming life was not for him, because by 1920, Claude had left Sam's farm to join the U.S. Navy. He was enumerated on the ship, The Philadelphia, while in port in Philadelphia, PA. Claude served his country quite well in the Navy, as a Quarter Master 3 during WWI, and survived to come home without any permanent injuries or loss of limbs. He then turned his attention to working as a coal miner, marrying a lovely lady named Nevada Bragg from West Virginia, and raising their daughter, Flora Anne. Claude later lost his wife in 1952.
History does not record the pitfalls and achievements of the common man. All the paper trails that humankind generates in a lifetime, does not automatically connect the dots for us. It is for us to go in search, and find the millions of dots which are scattered to the four winds, to connect them, much like we did as children in our activity books. Claude Wheeler's life was very much like those tiny little dots as he went from beginning his life as an emotionally labeled and scarred infant of one biological man. Then several years later, he becomes the step-son of his mother's husband. Then, in July 10, 1973, when Claude lost his valiant battle with cancer; for strange reasons still unknown to me at this time, another, completely different man is suddenly listed as Claude's natural father.

I would like to say that, there may be heroes and the like lauded in the media; but Mr. Claude Wheeler has my utmost respect, and even though he may not be my direct blood relative ancestor, I am still proud to call him family.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sam's Life in Letters

How will you be remembered when you are gone? Would you want your loved ones to honor your memory with a song, a poem, or a story? My maternal Great Grandfather, Samuel B. Nelson was an alumni from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He began writing letters to the college in 1934, and the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine began publishing these letters. I have copies of a series of 6 such letters, that you will find below.
In this first letter, written by Sam, which was published in the May 1934 issue, he reports that he has 5 sons, and 13 grandchildren. At this point in time, the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Act), had ordered him to reduce his milk production, but the writer of this magazine doubts that Sam had done so.
The 2nd letter was also written by Sam, and it was in the June 1934 issue. He spoke of plenty of snow on the slopes for skiing. He had a recent visit from his son, Forrest and his wife, and all 5 granddaughters. Sam now has 18 grandchildren to brighten his days.
Letter number 3 was again written by Sam, and either there was a very lengthy period of time between letters, or possibly there are missing letters, as this one was published in January 1940. Sam had just added another grandchild making the count 19 to date. He is back to walking with a cane, just like he did in his senior year at college. His letter was dated December 1, and based on the statements made in the latter part of the article, there were concerns that possibly Sam would have difficulties making it through the holidays.
Sam's 4th letter, published in the June 1940 issue, would prove to be his last. This time, he spoke of having his "full quota of grandchildren", and was still keeping up hope for his last 2 sons and 1 daughter to be married and start having children. Sam's kids are scattered to the 4 winds, so for the first time ever in 50 years of marriage, Sam & Flora are alone.
There was no letter in this issue, because Samuel Boody Nelson had died. In place of a letter, the Alumni Magazine published the complete obituary for Sam. The obituary was sent by Mrs. Nelson along with a short note to the class secretary. In it, she wrote that he had passed away after a slight shock, followed by a heart attack. Since timing is very important when determining the course of events in your ancestor's past, it would be good to know exactly how much time had passed between "a slight shock" and the "heart failure". Also good to know, is why Mrs. Nelson referred to the event as a "slight shock". Would a "slight shock" cause a heart attack? I doubt it very much. Logic tells us, that it would take a pretty major shock, unless there was evidence of a prior heart condition. That evidence has not, thus far, manifested itself. It is possible that Mrs. Nelson was being polite in writing about her husband's demise.
Ever since I have been researching the lives and deaths of my Sam Nelson and family, I have now uncovered the biggest family secret so far. Sam & Flora had 2 children who never married, son, Floyd, and daughter, Kathleen. That was because they decided that they were in love with each other, and were going to live together as husband and wife. Now, Floyd was 14 years older than Kathleen. I have confirmed that in 1940, both Floyd and Kathleen left the family home, and even moved from the state of Vermont. I have not yet found evidence to support a theory of both of them leaving together. However; I did locate Floyd in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, renting a room in the large home of Donald Keller, and Floyd was working at the local hospital as an orderly. Kathleen's obituary states that she left Vermont in 1940. There is no mention of exactly where she moved to. When they made the decision to live together as such, they also decided to have children. I can imagine the shame and horror that Sam & Flora felt. There were 2 children from this union. First a son, Larry born in 1948, then a daughter, Flora born in 1952.
After all that had transpired within the family, it was another 5 years before a final letter was received. My Great Grandma Flora wrote this one. Nothing earth shattering was reported; only an update on all the kids and their families. At the end of the letter, Flora writes about the pleasure that Sam received from all the countless cards over the years from his college classmates at Dartmouth. I believe it was this in the end that gave Sam a small sense of relief, to help him mentally escape the stressed caused by the fraction of his family!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"My Family Tree is Full of Nuts!"

This is a statement that I have no doubt in my mind that many other genealogists have made or at least thought of. To an outsider, it might seem like one was trying to say in a nice way, how dysfunctional their families are. I prefer to view it as a term of endearment to describe members of families who bring fun, excitement, and even some silliness to the otherwise mundane, boring and sometimes tedious table of life! 

We all need to inspire and develop a good sense of humor and not be afraid to laugh at ourselves. It has long been said that :Laughter is the best medicine!" , and in the world we live in today, it is desperately needed. Sometimes, the humor is not recognized or acknowledged in a single event until years later. Allowing ourselves to get caught up in a pressure cooker situation or environment for too long a time, will gradually drain us of who we once were. Be brave enough to intentionally inject a little humor during those times, and it will release a bit of that pressure before it is too late, and the explosion occurs.

It's nice to take advantage of the digital and social media world we live in. Now we can easily capture, with the "click" of a mouse, amusing, family memories to add in a digital file, or print to be placed in an old school family photo album. And, lets Not forget to write a short silly note to go with them, for later in life to enjoy these precious moments again. Besides that, pics like these are great to show the future children of the people in them; and as disbelieving as it may be, it will show and attest to the humanity  of them to their children. Let's face it, one of the best methods of revenge that parents have, is to be an embarrassment in front of their children's friends.

Now to the darker side of humor. How many genealogists, I wonder, can write that they had a grandmother who brought her camera to a family funeral? While many would be totally floored at this idea, and the family member who passed it on to me was shocked by it, I found some silly humor in it. I also examined the photo from a family historian's perspective. And, don't forget, we are known as "Those weird people who go looking for cemeteries to roam through." Why, we have even been known to take pictures of headstones! So, a bit of morbid humor? I say, a resounding, YES!

Next, there is motherly humor. Depending on the mother/child relationship, that level and type of humor can take many twists and turns, and take many forms. What may begin as a gentle tickle session, moves on to a toss in the air, then as time moves on, becomes a wrestling hold that you learn on TV. Now thew cool-headed, multi-tasking mom can restrain her child in this hold and continue a conversation with another person. And, who couldn't resist  a little personal one on one time with a smile like that?

Now, the best one for last. We have the star of a family who isn't afraid to let her hair down, and strike a pose for a fun pic. When I look at her in this pic, I am reminded of my youth when I felt and acted the same way. Do I miss it? You better believe that I do! This too, will be shared and added to my family tree. you know, the one that I said in the beginning is full of nuts? But, you know something else? I love each and everyone of them, and nobody else could possibly take their place in my family tree.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Fire That RootsTech 2013 Started!

The best 2 1/2 days that I spent, and felt so very fortunate to be able to watch, listen,  & learn while the annual technology & genealogical conference was streaming for free on the internet. To be able to sit in the comfort of my own home and gain immense knowledge that will help keep you on the cutting edge, and help you to grow and open your eyes to possibilities that  you otherwise would only had dreamt of. I first learned about this conference last year, but it was at the last minute and I did not have time to properly prepare. This year was different. I printed out the blogpost that Randy Seaver was so kind to share, providing the complete presentation schedule for all of the streaming events. I then pinned it to my corkboard message board that hangs right in front of my desk; blocked out all 3 days on my desk blotter calendar & even posted a status on my Facebook wall telling all my friends that I would be incognito  during those 3 days. Mr. Seaver also included instructions & the link to download & print all of the class syllabuses. This made life so much simpler than last year. I followed the instructions step by step, then set up a special file to save the syllabuses in, & clicked and saved until I had them all.

Day 1 had 4 presentations beginning with "The Future of Genealogy" which was a panel discussion between 7 very highly respected members of the genealogy community. With technology sometimes changing faster than the speed of light, it's a wonder any of us can keep up. Those of us from the slightly older generation, who have spent years, and for some, decades diligently doing and carefully documenting our research in whatever manner is comfortable for us. Now, we have to consider our younger, next generation who will be taking the reins. Next was, "Tell It Again", and it taught us the importance of putting down our stories. It immediately made me realize that even though I have nearly 12 years of names, dates, places, & events, and even some pictures; I have not taken the time to write down stories, that will help bring our past  to life. Next came "The Genealogist's Gadget Bag". This was an international panel discussion with 3 genealogists and 1 moderator. Watching this show and tell session prompted me to begin my new Gadget Acquisition list. And I thought I was pretty well organized; it humbled me to be in the presence of such seasoned pros. The final session of the day was, "Finding the Obscure and Elusive: Geographic Information on the Web". Throughout the several years of my research, my main focus was on people and time. I usually don't give much thought to location. Sure, I have made use of Google Earth, and was quite successful in travelling to France, and finally locating my paternal grandfather's hometown, south of Paris. And, that for me, was a "Woo Hoo!" moment. But, I slacked off, & never considered the importance of my ancestor's location. 

By the end of the 1st day, I not only had a few pages of my notebook filled with notes, but 1/2 of my desktop was covered with little post-it notes, each one reminding me of websites to visit, or gadgets to add to my shopping list. The next 2 days were likewise filled with excellent presentations, a truckload of information, and an overall feeling of excitement which seemed to light a new fire within me to intensify my search, and my passion has been re-born anew. Look out ancestors, because here I come!