Sunday, June 7, 2009

What lineage do I follow?

This question is asked of me often by people who were not raised by one or both of their biological parents. Family relationships can become complicated when accompanied by divorce, death or abandonment. So, I am going to answer this question for you as I do with all who ask. I want you to remember it is my opinion and you can use it or not. You decide.

The lineage you follow will depend on the circumstances surrounding your birth and growing up years.

First of all, I believe you should follow your legal lineage. Whoever your legal parents are, they are your legal lineage.

After that there are many variables. Let’s discuss the most common variables one by one.

Adoption at birth by a mother and father who are not your biological parents – You would follow their lineage as your own.

Adoption because of death of biological parents – You would follow your adoptive parents lineage for they raised you as their own. You would also follow your biological parents because they would have raised you if they would not have died. It leaves you with two loyalties and they don’t have to be in conflict with each other. Genealogical computer programs have the ability to attach all parents to a person.

Raised by a relative without the adoption process – You may choose to follow both lineages or just one. The determining factor in these decisions is whether your biological parents chose to not raise you or if they didn’t have a choice.

The other variations are just branches of one or more of the above three scenarios. I believe the key is to find out what your head and heart tell you.

When I am working on an ancestor and this is the circumstance in their life, I usually follow the biological line. I do consider the circumstances and they frequently fall under one of the scenarios referenced above.

Find the story behind your ancestors parentage, visit with extended family and you’ll be able to come to a consensus on how to record the parents.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Family History Centers

I want to introduce you to your Family History Center. Most of you will live within driving distance of at least one Family History Center and if you haven’t visited one you are missing out on a great resource. Family History Centers are extensions of the Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah and there are more than 4,500 worldwide.

They differ in size and yet they all have the ability to help you in your research. They have different hours of operation and a variety of staff that vary in their expertise. Some of the staff may just be learning how best to help you and some will have answers to all your questions. The staff is unpaid and most are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Let me show you how to find where the nearest Family History Center is to you. You’ll want to open your internet and go to . On the home page you will find part way down the center column ‘Find A Family History Center’. Just beneath you will be able to type in your state, province or country…then click on search.

All the Family History Centers in your state, province or country will be listed. The listing will contain the location (address) and phone number. The hours of operation are also listed. A word of caution from me to you would be to call the phone number during a time that the FHC is listed as being open. Talk with a staff person and confirm their hours. Sometimes the days and hours change and it is good to double check before you make the trip.

Now… what do you do? Please don’t take your whole box of genealogy with you. As with all resources we approach it with one, maybe two tasks. Take a family group sheet with you as a child, your parents and your grandparents with all the dates and place names of birth, marriage and death that you know. If you are further along in your research take the identifying information you will need. Remember, you want to work from the ‘known to the unknown’, so spend some time establishing a good foundation. The FHC will have computers, internet access, microfilm and microfiche readers, reference books and other material that will be a great help. Many have copiers and some now have digital copiers.

You will become friends with the staff and they will enjoy helping you. They are trained ‘not to fish’ for you but to help you ‘learn to fish’.

While at your FHC be sure to ask if there are classes, seminars, conferences or special firesides on Family History that you might attend. These venues are often sponsored by the FHC and they also post genealogical events that are sponsored by other groups.

Be gracious and always let them know how grateful you are for their assistance. Enjoy all that your Family History Center has to offer you.

Happy hunting.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

School Records

It is graduation time for high school seniors. A significant amount of a person’s first eighteen years is spent in school and graduation is a moment to be savored. Congratulations to all those who have endured and graduated from your high school - no matter the year! We applaud you!

There are many records that are created and kept about your educational experience.

Do you have a copy of your high school transcripts? Did you know you can obtain a copy of your parents’ and grandparents’ school records? How about your elementary school records?

If the high school still exists, then all you have to do is contact the high school office and request a copy of the transcripts. If the high school is no longer in operation, you need to contact the school district offices and ask where the records have been archived.

Sometimes, you will be told that they have been destroyed. Don’t believe it. Be persistent in finding where they have been stored/archived. I know one school district that sends all of their records to be archived at the state archives. Another school district has all their records stored in an insulated shed (not a very good way to preserve such valuable records). Others have them at their district office or at their ESD offices.

High school transcripts have valuable information that helps you get to know your ancestors in their younger years. You can learn about them from the choices of classes, grades, attendance, staff remarks and other bits of information you can find on transcripts. Pictures are often part of the record.

Yearbooks are another incredible resource that you won’t want to leave untapped. They can be found most often in the high school library. They can also sometimes be located in the local library or the local genealogical society’s library. Yearbooks are a treasure trove that brings to life the era in which your ancestor lived.

Another great source for learning about school years is newspapers. Scholarships, awards, projects and special days for the local school are common entries in local papers. You’ll want to call the newspaper and find where they have back issues. These are kept on microfilm and date back to the early to mid 1800s.

After a great deal of ‘persistence’ I was able to locate all my elementary school records in the state archives. I found recorded information on every school day of my first grade to my eighth grade. The bonus was to find my siblings records as well. The record contained our home address, phone number, parents’ names and occupations and the daily record the teacher kept.

Schools also have to take a census periodically. Some states require yearly census and some less often. School census records each family with children who attend school and include names, ages, birthdates and other family information. These, too, are available….but you must be persistent in finding their whereabouts.

School reunion committees can be contacted by information obtained from the school or district office. Reunion committees often have the most recent information on classmates. Marriages, deaths, post-school pictures and last known addresses can be made available to you by the committee chairman.

Enjoy gathering your own and other family member’s school records. It is fun to discover forgotten memories of childhood.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Grandma's flowers

Summer has definitely arrived. Our yard is overwhelmed with color which brings fond memories of my grandma and her yard. She lived two doors away from our home for many years while I was growing up. Her yard was always the most beautiful in the neighborhood, probably in the entire county.

Everyone knows that Queen Anne’s Lace is a ‘roadside weed’. Not to my grandma. They were nature’s way of tatting doilies and when I could find one or several with the tiny royal red blossom in the center, I was delighted. One of my daughters, who understood my love of these beautiful and intricate flowers, pressed one for me and mailed it to me from where she lived in Toronto, Ontario for a time. It was a loving gesture for a mom who missed her daughter.

Grandma had a green thumb to be sure but the magic was in her love and care for plants. Each spring I would help her plant sweet peas along the edge of the chicken yard so the vines could crawl up the chicken wire and bring beauty to a drab area of the yard.

She grew dahlias and roses and nasturtiums. She filled her yard with azaleas and rhododendrons and camillias so that the lawn couldn’t be mowed as all the other neighbors’ lawns were done. Each plant, shrub and tree had to be mowed around with care so as not to nick the bark of the trunk. All the plants were robust and showy and grandma’s evenings were spent sitting in her lawn chair with hose in hand. The nozzle she had attached to the end of the hose would shoot water to the thirsty plants at least 20 feet away. I felt important when she allowed me to quench the thirst of the plants and taught me about their care.

It was a bewitching time of the day when twilight put the sun to bed and hung the stars out. When the yard was completely cared for she would head indoors and I would follow, especially if I knew she had made homemade donuts that day. I would eat a donut or two with a glass of milk and at her little kitchen table I learned how to play solitaire.

My love of plants and flowers have been fastened to my heart , in great part, because of my grandma. Do your children and grandchildren know why you have a love for certain things? Include these kinds of stories in your history. Our lives are rich because of grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles and cousins. Share in your history what makes each one unique and what they have passed on to you. We can’t afford to lose what we have gained from our progenitors.

Say "Thank you"

Words are powerful. I want to visit with you about two of the most powerful words used in family history research. They soften hearts, lift spirits of sometimes overworked and under appreciated workers. “Thank you” spoken is rare for keepers of the records to hear.

Some researching their family history have acquired an ‘expectant’ attitude. City, county and state workers as well as librarians, archivists and workers at other repository sites have many tasks they are responsible for in their day to day routine. What a breath of fresh air you are to them when you are respectful of their time and show appreciation for the help they render.

It is part of their job to help you, but a gracious and grateful attitude will bring you incredible rewards. I traveled back to Massachusetts one year. I had corresponded with a Town Clerk for more than a year asking and receiving help on ancestors who lived in the town for a couple generations. I always sent a ‘Thank you’ card or note and when I was able to make the trip to do some on site research I planned on spending most of a day with her. It was a very fruitful experience. She took the extra time to find all the records I needed. She took me outside of town through pastures and over fences to show me the grave of a gggg grandfather and told me the story of how and why he was buried so far from the center of town. I took her to lunch and throughout the day I thanked her for all of her attention and assistance. She was happy to share the history and nuances of the area because she knew she mattered to me.

When someone helps you in your quest for information and understanding of your family history, do they know that their help is a gift you are grateful for and that as a person they matter to you? If not, you must change your ways. If you are going to play in the sandbox (of family history research) then you have to be kind, generous with praise, patient and just plain nice.

A thank you card will be savored by the recipient for weeks because they are a rare commodity. When the worker is a male, I sometimes send a candy bar with the thank you card if he has gone the extra mile for me. A medium stemmed rose bud can be sent priority mail to a female worker or a relative you have not yet met who has sent you family information. When they receive the ‘thank you’ rose…it will be just starting to open. Can you imagine what bridges are built with such simple tokens of gratitude.

When I traveled abroad, I crocheted dozens of dishcloths. They took up very little room and didn’t add much to the weight of my luggage. I gave one to every worker that assisted me in the libraries, archives and government offices I entered. I told them I had made it just for them because I wanted them to know how grateful I was for their help. I asked for their names and had them write them in my journal so I would remember them. It was a wonderful exchange and some of those amazing people have become dear friends.

Family history is not ‘one man show’. Show your gratitude to everyone you meet on this adventure. Both you and they will be blessed.