Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Want to Be Queen For A Day?

How would you like to be born with your genealogy completed. Never needing to trace your family history? Never being able to experience the fun, the fulfillment, the joy, the excitement of finding a long lost ancestor or breaking thru a brick wall.

On May 2, 2015, Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was born with very little chance of ever needing to research her family. Do you envy her? She can read about her ancestors. She can walk the halls of Buckingham Palace and stop to look at a painting of great-great grandma or grandpa. 

She will even have access to all the information about closet skeletons. The rogues, mistresses, pretenders to the throne, and let's not forget Henry the VIII. She will know when and where they were born, when and where and how they died. She will even know all the minute details of each dash.

Would you trade genealogy for a diamond tiara and a title? I have been thinking about this for almost a month and I lean toward genealogy. 

My first thought was the new princess can research her mom's family. But then again, probably, not. Since brother George is in line to be king some day, I am sure her mom's family history is complete and locked away in a vault somewhere for safe keeping. So I guess it is all or nothing.

It is said that your genealogy is never complete -- unless of course you are a member of a royal family. How sad! 

In an effort to come to some conclusion, I decided to Google whether or not the royal family can indeed be genealogists. And there is was: The genealogy of the royal family complete with family group sheets and pedigree charts -- some even going back as far as Adam and Eve.

Well that answers that! It is one or the other. Tiaras or transcription. Diamonds or death certificates. Palaces or probate.

Your choice. What will it be?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

You Can't Prune Your Family Tree!

So, Ben Affleck hid an ancestor! Well, I guess with all the celebrity genealogists on TV over the last few years it was bound to happen. It was inevitable. And now a dark cloud has been cast over the world of family research. Oh dear, how will we every recover?

What's that you say? It's no biggie?

 Of course it is. It is all over cable news for crying out loud. It was leaked by a whistle-blower. Yes, genealogy now has its very own whistle-blower. It's a biggie. We have been exposed. We hide ancestors. And apparently it is against the law.

Give me a break!!! 

I have to admit that I had second thoughts about commenting on this. I was a little afraid of the feedback I might get. And then I realized that this happens all the time. For many reasons. Grow up people.Can you say "skeletons in the closet" boys and girls? 

So Ben has an ancestor who was a slave owner and he wants to hide it. That is his choice. He will eventually get used to it. I know that may sound callous but it is true. The first time you find out that a member of your family owned slaves it really sets you back. And you try to close that book or ignore that record. But most of us don't get outed by some whistle blower on cable TV. We adjust to the fact. We learn to accept it. And to be honest, it is nobody's business. 

So Ben apologized. Why? It is not necessary. You can't change the past. You can't rearrange your ancestors. They are who they are. You can't go into the probate court record books and erase everything.   
On the other hand you can't add "favorable ancestors" to your family tree either. This is the opposite of what Ben has been charged with. For example, let's say you want to be descended from a president, movie star, or famous cowboy.

Perhaps it is a rumor in your family that your ancestors arrived in America on the Mayflower. In this case, you do everything you can do to find an ancestor who proves this. And you will stop at nothing to hang some unrelated Plymouth, Massachusetts, resident on your family tree. Of course, you also ignore everyone in the family that moved from New York to San Francisco in a Mayflower Moving Van. 

I think this practice of finding famous ancestors in order to enhance your family tree has now faded away. I like to think that we are more concerned with finding the people who shaped our lives.  

The truth is you can't prune your family tree. You can't deadhead those little flowers that spring up on the branches. They are all a part of who you are. 

Accept the people who make up your family tree. Get to know them. It's possible. All you have to do is fill in the "dash".

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Time for Celebration!!!

On Friday the birth records of adopted children born between 1964 and 1996 were opened to the public in Columbus, Ohio. It's about time!

I know it is a delicate subject and how you feel about access to these records can be an extremely personal thing, depending on where you are sitting on the branches of the family tree. Back in the 1960s, it was not a good thing to be an unwed mother. Pregnant teenage girls were hidden by their families. There were homes the girls lived in during their pregnancies. On the weekends they could go visit a family member who would hide them. Then the trip to the hospital, that long ride home without your child, and the secrets were kept by those who knew the truth. 

In 1963, Ohio lawmakers decided that all these birth records needed to be sealed forever. This meant that all of these children and their descendants would never have access to the records of their ancestors. Fortunately after years of hard work this law was repealed and Gov. John Kaisch signed into law the bill that eventually allowed adoptees access to their adoption records.

It should be noted, however, that these original birth records document the mother and child, but not necessarily the correct father. This was a topic of discussion at a recent genealogical society meeting. The question was raised about the possibility that the name of the father was changed by the mother for various reasons. But I suppose that  question could be raised for any birth certificate! But let's not worry about that right now. I am sure that will be a new brick wall that will be addressed in the near future. 

Right now I would just like to say to all of you who won this battle . . . . . 

Welcome To The Wonderful World of Genealogy!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Her Ancestors Would Be Proud.

I read an article today that so inspired me as a widow. It was an article on the first page of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, Sunday, March 8, 2015: "Drabik ponders spotlight after years as adviser."

Sandy Drabik is the widow of D. Michael Collins, Mayor of Toledo, Ohio,  who passed away five days after he suffered cardiac arrest during a major snowstorm on February 1, 2015. According to the article in the newspaper, Sandy was her husband's partner, adviser, shoulder to lean on. That person behind the curtain, not necessarily pulling the strings -- more like the one who gave him words of encouragement and believed in him. Now Sandy is considering putting her name out there and running for the office of Mayor in order to complete the work her husband started. I am so proud of her. What a strong woman.

It is not easy to recover from the sudden death of your husband. You go through all the stages of grief whether you want to or not. And sometimes you relive the event. When Mayor Collins was rushed to the hospital I began to relive the events that happened when my husband passed away. The few hours that my family went through turned into the five days that the Collins family experienced. It was like slow-motion. I felt he wasn't going to make it; I could see the similarities. 

There have been many women who have taken over where their husbands left off and continued the work that they, in reality, partnered together. I admire Sandy Drabik. Her ancestors would be proud. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Big Facebook Dining Room Table

This is a copy of a comment I posted on Facebook a few nights ago. 

"I am so glad to see all of you going through these pics and recognizing that you need to document who's who. From as far back as I can remember every holiday my aunts would get the big box of pictures out of the closet and we would all sit around the big dining room table and look at the family pictures. The kids would try to guess the identity of each relative and family friend. The aunts would tell us if we were correct and then add a story about each picture. It is so heart warming to see that this tradition is still alive."

I was not prepared for what happened next. Mystery. Memories. Hints. Sorrow. Hurt feelings. Questions. Very few answers. Stunned silence. And, a family that now begins the process of healing. 

First let me say this is not my family so I can be objective. On the other hand I have to be careful not to offend anyone. What really happened here was my husband's family gathered around the big Facebook dining room table to look at pictures from their past. And what a past it was. 

As my daughter was pulling pictures from a box, suddenly letters started falling out of the back of picture frames. Letters written fifty-some years ago that hinted at mysteries and memories from the past. As in all families, there were disagreements in my husband's family, but the possible origins were never exposed. Now comes the decision. To investigate further or to let it die with those who have passed on. 

One thing you may have noticed. Most family feuds are not inherited. In other words cousins don't have the same feelings of anger or hurt that their parents had. And over time the reasons for the family squabble evaporate. Therefore, it is up to each individual family member to decide whether or not to snoop!! 

There was a huge split in my mom's family. Some of my cousins knew what caused it while others were not even aware that there was a problem. As a result, there are distant cousins who have no idea how large the family really is, as well as some cousins who have no idea why they were cut off from the family to begin with. Some of us had huge family gatherings. Others only mom, dad, and the kids for holiday dinner. There are only a couple of us left now who know the truth. 

So, do you fess up and take the chance of starting a brand new feud? It all depends, I suppose, on how much the family likes to fight. My mom's family thrives on it! As for my husband's family, I see some asking questions while others are suspiciously quiet. 

And what have we learned from this box of pictures?

*A box of pictures is not always what it seems!

*The feelings of family members must always be taken into consideration when doing genealogical research.

*It is fun to open an old box of pictures, even if has to be on Facebook.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sometimes you find the answer in the strangest places.

I spent much of the month of January "down with the flu". It hit not too long after I had made my first resolution to post more on my blog, I got the cough, headache, fatigue and all the little aches and pains associated with the flu bug. This lasted about three weeks and then I had to deal with the "complications".

For the first five days of the flu I was told to treat my symptoms with Over The Counter medications. That, I did! Ibuprofen, cough medicine, mentholated rub. Lemons, honey, chicken soup, pudding, lots of ice cream (for medicinal purposes only). None of it worked. 

During that week of the fog of flu I thought about the days of the old Sears Catalog with its elixirs, tonics and nostrums. It is a well-known fact that these concoctions were loaded with today's illegal substances. Morphine, cocaine, heroin!  Seriously, they gave this stuff to babies who were teething. All I wanted was a few hours sleep. I am sure one of those old fashioned tonics would have solved that problem.

Eventually I dragged myself, half alive, to my doctor's office. He took pity on me and gave me a prescription -- something for the complications that would soon present themselves. It took several weeks of one step forward and two steps back, but I am finally back to normal.

This experience made me take a long, hard look at the way drugs have been dispensed in the last 200+ years and the effect they may have had on our ancestors. Many of us have a "working" relationship with our ancestors -- we kind of know our great, grand, and parents. We found out that they suffered from various health issues some of which contributed to their demise.

At the same time we know the crazy rumors and stories about grandma and grandpa. My husband and I both had grandparents who would "walk out the back door and fall down the hill."  Perhaps a look at an old Sears Catalog could explain this phenomenon that used to occur quite often in the hills of southern Ohio and Kentucky. Just saying!

Just goes to show that sometimes you find the answer in the strangest places. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Time for a Genealogical Winter!

Who Do Your Think You Are? will return to TLC on Tuesday evenings at 10/9 Central beginning February 24, 2015. This long running show researches the family histories of well know  celebrities. TLC has not released a lot of information about the new season which runs for eight weeks. The Julie Chen episode will introduce genealogical research in China for the first time on the show. Both Bill Paxton and Angie Harmon have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. Sean Hayes’ heritage will take us back to Ireland for another glimpse of  family research on the Emerald Isle. 

Genealogy Roadshow, a relatively new show, will spend its second season in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The PBS show runs for seven weeks on Tuesday evenings from January 13 to February 24 at 8/7 Central. This show is much different from WDYTYA as it centers on the ancestors of average everyday people.

Josh Taylor, whom many of you will recognize from genealogical conference lectures, and a team of genealogists attempt to prove and document family folk lore about Blackbeard, the Donner Party, and Marie Laveau, the Voo Doo Queen of New Orleans.In each city spectators were invited to attend filming sessions and were encouraged to bring their research with them. Representatives from well known genealogical societies were available to answer questions and provide suggestions. Altogether these two programs add up to 14 weeks of  genealogy programming during the cold winter months.

So grab your hot chocolate and peppermint ice cream. Curl up on the couch and settle down for a long genealogical winter!