Sunday, November 6, 2011

Combining Blogs

Hey everyone! I'm combining both of my blogs into one to make it easier on me...

If you want to follow me in my combined new home, go to my main blog: Help, I Married A Socialist.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Search For Johnston Copelin

Now that I'm married, happy and settled down, I'm back on the Flora hunt, tracking through her kids...

I'm currently on the hunt for her daughter, who is "off the grid" except for her husband.

This is what I know about Johnston Copelin:

  • His parents are named Eudolphus and Ida (Johnston) Copelin. They were quite wealthy and did a ton of international traveling.
  • He had a brother named Phillip.
  • He went to Yale and was a journalist.
  • He died under mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in Lorain, Ohio. His death certificate is next to illegible, so I'm not completely sure of the circumstances.
That's about it.

I don't know if they had kids.
I don't know anything about her.
I'm so confused.

I missed genealogy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Writing Journey

Yes, I'm still doing genealogy! I've just been very quiet about it thanks to big life changes.

I've also written a book and published it on Kindle. :)

For more information and to read my main blog, go here!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Butch Cassidy

My first blog from my new home is all about something that is hitting the Wyoming (where I now live) papers big - someone in Washington is claiming that Butch Cassidy survived Bolivia.

They're basing this on an old book, called Bandit Invincible, by William T. Phillips, is an autobiography, not a biography and that Phillips was actually the famous criminal living in disguise.

The reasoning is that a) Phillips knew "too much" not to be the famous outlaw and b) William T. Phillips didn't exist until 1908, according to records.

I think it's crap.

He knew alot because he was a friend of the outlaw. That's a "documented" fact.

He didn't exist in records? Alot of other people didn't exist in records. As a genealogist, I know that's not the most documented time period. Also, what if he had a different name at birth? He knew Butch Cassidy, maybe he "worked" with him and then after he retired from the game he changed his name and settled down. It makes perfect sense to me.

I see a story that has been blown up, nothing more.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Excuse My Absence

  • I'm having surgery. (Minor!)
  • I'm getting married.
  • I'm moving.
  • I'm going crazy.
I'll be returning in two weeks. :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FGS 2011

I'm going to FGS 2011 in September! :)

I'm so excited! I intend to register when I have a chance next week and do hotel reservations and all that.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Date to Remember

May 29 is the anniversary of my biological maternal grandfather's death. I hesitated to write this post because I don't want to sound bitter. I'm not. I'm over it.

He wasn't a nice man.

My family remembers the better parts of his - his dog and his rose garden and all the damn Barbies he gave me.

They tend to forget the abuse, the knives, the police records with his name on it. The multiple wives, the army of young girlfriends (while he was married to the wives).

There was one wife in particular that stayed and put her life on the line for me once when I was 8. It's a bond she and I shared until Alzheimer's made her forget it; now I'm just another woman who sends her cards in the nursing home. I won't tell her exactly how I know her, ever. Dredging up though memories would hurt her more than enlighten her.

I found out about his death while I was at school. My mom came and told me. I was sad - for her, mostly. At his funeral, I sat like a rock. I wanted to stay and make sure dirt went over his casket, but a relative sort of led me away. Ive seen his headstone once - when we buried his brother, a WWII decorated veteran who kicked ass and took names.

I never called him Grandpa. It just didn't fit.

I'm sure he loved me. The best that kind of man can love anyone. He was an alcoholic and a gambler, which doesn't make him a bad person. He was just really messed up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Promise I'm Alive!

I haven't posted much lately because of my health. Currently I have bronchitis, walking pneumonia (almost gone!), an ovarian issue and I'm in severe pain that they believe is my gallbladder.

However, I have been doing some research. I went to my second cousin's high school graduation, where I ran into several of my grandmother's friends and lots of relatives. One of them took me over to this big wall of pictures and started pointing out my relatives.

When he got to one picture, he said "There's Juanita." Staring at her was eerie - I look like her in many ways.

For those who don't know, Juanita is my "Flora" on my mom's side. She is my great aunt. There's very little information about her, she had a marrying problem, and I cant find a death date for that woman, not even through the SSDI.

I have a feeling that this woman was another serious secretkeeper.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Name Changes

Everyone called her Jaunita, but I recently found out that sometimes my great-aunt was listed as "Dorothy." She was married at least twice, once to a professional football player. She was a sweet woman from what I've been told.

I have the opposite problem with her than I have with Flora - I can't figure out Juanita/Dorothy's death details. She was listed as dead in her brother (my grandfather)'s obituary in 2003, but no one can tell me when she died and I can't find a record. No one can tell me anything.

The thing about my family that I don't understand is the secrets. We have plenty of them, I'm discovering. Babies born out of wedlock in the 1920s, babies that starved to death, women who treat their children terribly, bigamy, divorces, flat out murder in one case... And then the people who just disappear, like Juanita.

I've been spending my time in the hospital trying to find details of this woman's passing, but considering I can't even figure out what last name she died under, it's a bit difficult. I love challenges, but I wish my family was just a little bit easier.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Should Be Sleeping

In the past week the following things have happened:

  • I had a routine hospitalization (standard, I'm used to it). I got out for Easter.
  • A tornado hit the Saint Louis airport, stranding my fiance with me until Thursday (not complaining!)
  • While being forced to sit on my butt, I've discovered the shows Addicted to Food and Relapse.
  • I've seen movies - lots of them. Today we did a double header of The Conspirator and the new Madea movie. I loved them both.
  • I spent three hours trying to make heads or tails of Flora, and figured out something interesting...
I should be asleep right now. It's almost midnight. But I just found something about Flora and I have to type it out.

On I found a census, listing Zelpha Mangrum (her daughter) at age 13 in 1910 living with Ive Mangrum and his wife, Blanche (I love that name) in New Orleans. I didn't find it before because of the way they spelled their last name - Mangrich - but it's definitely them. Now I have questions.

Why was Zelpha living with her half brother (her dad's son) and his wife so far from home at such a young age? Why did they come back to the Missouri area? Ive was killed in a terrible accident in 1919 in New Madrid (he got beheaded by a cart, I won't go into details, but my strong stomach almost couldn't take the description I found).

I hear that Flora wasn't the best mother and threw all of her children out when they were quite young - I just didn't realize it could have been THAT young.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mystery Solved!

Thanks to the fabulous and spectacular blog reader Heather who commented on my last post, the mystery of who JL Rogers is has been solved! THANK YOU, HEATHER.

He's my 2nd-great uncle, my great-grandfather's brother. I had been assuming that his legal name was John, because that was his father's name (according to his death certificate), but Heather did a search and found a James L Rogers - and all the information (parents birth places, wife's name, birth place, everything) matched perfectly. You couldn't find a better match.

So then I went crazy on Ancestry. I use Ancestry as a starting point, especially since I see flaws on there all the time (today I read my grandmother is dead - pretty sure she isn't, I talked to her yesterday and she sounded fine). I put together a tree, and then print it, finding other sources to verify the facts. The only tree I trust on there is my cousin's, because I know the information on that tree is from family records in his possession.

Over the next week I'm going to work on JL's mother, who was named after her father - Willis. Her full name was Willis Adeline/Adaline Weed, nicknamed Addie. She was the only child to two older parents (I'm presuming miracle baby/accident or adopted). All I have is her parents names - Willis Weed (Willie Weed?) and Martha Clay.

I also found my two 2nd-great aunts married the same man. First one sister did, then she died, then the other sister married him a year later. I find this remarkably creepy for so many reasons. I'm sure it was common, but still, I shudder at the thought.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Mystery of JR Rogers

JR Rogers is buried in the Rogers family plot in Blodgett Cemetery in Blodgett, Mo. Everyone else in the plot I can account for being related to somehow - except him.

I gathered from his death certificate he was born in the same county in Kentucky that several of my relatives (on both sides of my family) came from, so I know he's related in there somewhere. I found him on a census in 1930 in that same KY town, just a few years before he died. He was 54 and his wife, Maggie, was 44. They had two children - Mary, 6, and Clara, 4. Is it just me, or do you think they were possibly grandchildren? I can't find a death record for Maggie anywhere (she could have remarried) and the path for both girls is stone cold.

He's my project for tomorrow (Sunday.)

If anyone has any suggestions, I'm open to them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Mystery Headstone

So when I went searching for my maternal grandparents' graves over the weekend, I encountered something I've known before - but still have no answer for. It's The Mystery Headstone.

My great grandmother, Stella Mae Belt Rodgers, has a normal headstone.

The "At Rest" part is appropriate, since she was a sick woman for most of her adult life and finally died of a ruptured gallbladder in 1941.

Then, there's this:

That's her. It's down the row from her original headstone.

My question is why would it be there? Who did it? It can't be that old. I'm confused.

Does anyone have any answers?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Blogging resumes tomorrow

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that my blog posting resumes tomorrow after a week long absence. I got a new computer, I’ve been on vacation… You get the idea. But tomorrow I’m back with a series of new stories, new pictures, and new discoveries!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are - Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow is the daughter of Blythe Danner and the late Bruce Paltrow, and she's very public about how much she values family, so I wasn't really surprised to see she did an episode of WDYTYA. And what an episode it was.

It was all about the hidden lives of people, how beneath the angry and distant surface can be someone who has just been through hell and doesn't know how to deal with it. Her great-grandmother, Ida, was what was described as a "negligent" mother. She didn't take care of her kids, pretty much. Her son Buster, Gwyneth's grandfather, wasn't fond of his mother because of this (and really, why would he be?), and Gwyneth wanted to know what made this woman such a "bad" mother.

Here's why: the woman went through tragedy and death, plenty of both. Ida was in college when her mother died of cirrhosis of the liver (implied alcoholism, although it may have not been) and her brother died of an "intestinal blockage" just two months after that. A year after the deaths, Ida was "released" from college, probably for spotty attendance.

Later on she got married and had several kids. When she was pregnant with her sixth child, her fifth one died by being run over by a wagon. The little girl was three years old. Just three. Ida gave birth just three weeks after that.

This made me think about Flora. I have heard family stories about her, let's call it "parenting skills", and how they were lacking. She bounced around from husband to husband, she didn't really have roots I'm finding out. She supposedly kicked Robert (my great-grandfather) out when he was 14 or 15, causing a family rift, but he was the informant on her death certificate, so I'm not sure how true it was.

Crazy and heartbroken people are in every family. They have an impact whether we want to believe it our not. Ida was Gwyneth's.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to Jack

John B. Hendricks, Sr. March 31, 1934 - July 29, 1993)

I will not make this a downer post. I swear.

The gentleman in this picture is my grandfather (Flora's great-grandson). That picture was taken of us when I was maybe 3. I have other pictures of us when I'm older (not that much older, he passed away when I was almost 7), but they have people in them that probably don't want to be on here so I chose this picture instead.

He died when I was two months away from being 7, but I remember him pretty well because he made such a big impact. I thought he hung the moon when I was a kid, still do. He was in the Army, he was an air traffic controller, then he opened a used bookstore. I practically grew up in that store, a once hole in the wall place that went from having two employees (the owners) to 9 employees today. Because he opened that store, I have a love of reading and writing, plus I have made so many friends throughout the years there.

My favorite memory of him in there is when I went in when i was maybe 6 years old and tried to buy a bunch of books with my birthday money. I couldn't understand why he was giving them to me for free. I wanted to pay! I remember him taking the money and putting it back in my little purse. Eventually I believe he ended up taking a dollar from me, probably just to shut me up.

Then there were the sacrifices he made. I'm not going to go into them, because they are deeply personal, but he did alot for his family. I didn't know it as a kid, but I sure as hell know it as an adult. The more I know about him, the more I realize he was a brave, sweet, compassionate man that I was very lucky to have in my life for 7 years.

I also think he'd get a kick out of the fact I'm a writer marrying into a family of air traffic controllers. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Switching Gears

I'm adding another thread to my research in addition to Flora. I'm going to continue to research her, but since it's getting frustrating I'm also going to start working on another side of my family - my mother's.

At some point last summer I did a TON of research, but I still end up knowing very, very little about them. Here's what I know:
  • Her father (my grandfather - and I use that term very, very loosely) was born with his name spelled Rodgers and died with it as Rogers. Same with his brothers, but not his sisters.
  • One of his sisters was born Juanita and died Dorothy. No idea why.
  • That same sister (the only one that lived past childhood) was married to a football player for the Chicago Cubs back in the 1930s.
  • Supposedly, we're Indian. That's what I've always been told, but I don't know if it's true or not.
Right now I'm adding what I know into my database, then I start looking.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Puzzle Pieces

In order to find out more about Flora, I'm researching her children. It's not as simple as one would think - these people loved living off the grid, apparently. Flora's middle child, her only daughter, Zelpha Mangrum Copelin is who is making me absolutely crazy.

She married a man named Johnston Copelin. I know I've written that in a few other posts. I don't know the date, because I can't find a marriage certificate of any kind. I only got his name from Flora's obituary (which I'll be posting shortly) when she was listed as "Mrs. Johnston Copelin." That's a very uncommon name, so I headed over to FamilySearch and found his death certificate.
He died at the Graystone Hotel in Lorain, Ohio in 1940. I can barely read the cause of death except for the words "unknown" and "probably", so I'm guessing he was found dead in his room.

Everything on there fit - except one name. Of course, it was Zelpha's.

His parents are listed as Ida Johnston and Eudolphus W. Copelin, born in New York and Indiana, respectively. His birthdate matches a census record I found. It all fit so well. But then there's the wife's name - Louise. I know that has to be Zelpha. Could she have gone by a middle name? Changed it? It couldn't have been a legal change, because she's listed in the SSDI as Zelpha Copelin.

I'm going to have to break down and order Zelpha's death certificate, aren't I? Any ideas?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Related To Someone I Know?

I've been talking about things I found on Mocavo and on my New Madrid trip. One of the things I found in both places was the last name of Flora's daughter, Zelpha. She was born Zelpha Mangrum, but she married a guy named Johnston Copelin.

According to a death certificate of one of her brothers, Zelpha (the informant) lived in LaPorte, Indiana. I didn't think anything of it. Then I did some research on her husband, finding out that his family was based in Indiana and Illinois. And then it hit me why I kept coming back to the name that sounded so familiar - Copelin is the name (spelled a bit differently) of the doctor who literally saved my life multiple times since 1996. (I'm not being dramatic, by the way - the man saved me as a kid, as teenager and as an adult. I owe him everything to the point he's coming to my "family only" wedding in August.)

Guess where he's from? That same area of Indiana. I know that the good doc and I don't have a blood relationship here, but I think it's so incredible that we do have a link - besides all the rearrangement he's done of my organs over the past 15 years. This is why I do what I do. I am still amazed in the connection. I don't know exactly how he is related to the Copelin gang I'm working on, but I'm making progress. I'm determined to find the link between him and I, even though it's probably ten degrees of separation. I don't care, I still find it amazing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Mystery of Ive

I spent all day Wednesday down in New Madrid, Mo. Home of the majority of my extended family, county records and, I've learned, a whole lot of family secrets and drama that are slowly unfolding before me.

The first story I bring you is The Mystery of Ive.
Family legend says that Ive, my 2nd-great grandfather, was in some sort of "accident in town" which ultimately caused his death (some say death was instantaneousness, others say he held on for awhile.) I searched and searched, but I could find nothing to back up this story. Not a newspaper clipping or a death certificate - in fact, I still can't find out where and when he died.

The only thing that I saw about Ive the entire day I was researching was newspaper clipping from 1914 that said Ive Hendricks was taken to a hospital in Illinois for "an operation." It was very vague and cryptic, so that's all I know. I figured that the "accident in town" happened sometime after that, so I looked and looked for anything else about him and came up completely empty.

However, when I was sorting through all of Flora's stepchildren - the multiple marriages, all to men much older than she was, brought her many stepchildren over the years- I found the death certificate for a guy named Carl Lee Ive Mangrum. He died in 1919, in St. Louis (160 miles from New Madrid), from an accident in town. He cracked the base of his skull and fractured his neck.

My best guess is that it wasn't Flora's husband Ive that died in an "accident in town", it was her stepson, Carl Lee Ive Mangrum. (Maybe he went by Ive?)I consider this a definite clue and a hint that the elder Ive (Flora's husband) wasn't the one in the "accident in town", but rather he died from surgery complications or just poor health. I have no record or proof though.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


There's a brand new genealogy search engine up - Mocavo. For those who don't know what it is yet, it's a search engine that targets "genealogy websites", like Find-a-Grave and genealogy message boards and the like.

I've seen mixed reactions about it. Some people LOVE it, some people HATE it. I haven't really seen anyone on the fence yet.

My thoughts:

I like it because it helped me find an ancestor I've been searching for for the past couple of months - Flora's daughter, Zelpha. I typed in "Zelpha" and "Mangrum", hoping to hit a marriage record - instead I hit her half brother's Find-a-Grave page (a Mangrum - someone I never knew existed) where she was listed as the next of kin - and it had her married name (Copelin) plus current residence location - Indiana. From there I was able to research with her new name and find her death record. After that, I was able to find several other of Zelpha's half siblings, which let me find her father's first wife who was somehow related to her husband's 3rd-4th (depending on the source) husband. It brought out a whole new path for me.

Yes, it's quite possible the path will lead to finding some inbreeding 4 generations back, but I'm open to it.

I know that not all searches show up on the site yet. That's the biggest complaint I've heard. It isn't "expansive enough" yet. The site is approximately a day and a half old. It's still in its infancy and they are still adding websites, blogs, and other sites that we use all the time to help in our research. It's going to take time before it is all inclusive. You can help it by suggesting a website to add to the search engine.

I have added it to my list of websites to check when I get a new name to research. Who knows, I could be pleasantly surprised again!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oh My...

So Thanks to Mocavo, I found Flora's daughter's married name - she was Mrs. Zelpha Copelin. She was the informant on a couple of her siblings' deaths and I have her last known address and I found out where she died.

I then found out that before Joseph F. Mangrum was married to Flora (he was husband #2 or #3, depending on the source), he was married to a woman named Elizabeth (Betty) Hendricks from a little town in KY. The same area that Flora's #3/#4 husband Ive/Joe Hendricks was born in. Most likely scenario is that they're all related.

I'm not sure what to think, except that I'm on the path to SOMETHING...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Guilty Pleasure

I have an iPhone. I love it because it works internationally, has wifi, internet / email /Facebook / Twitter capability, etc. When people call me I can see their pictures (synced with Facebook thanks to the amazingly simple FriendSync app), I have wonderful customized ringtones (people from work have one ringtone, my mom's side of the family has one, my dad's side of the family has one, my fiance's relatives all have their own specialized tone - it's my backup caller ID), it's absolutely perfect. And I have a wonderful protective cover on it because I tend to kill electronic devices.

Now that I sound like a walking commercial for iPhone, let me tell you my new guilty pleasure on it - podcasts. Specifically genealogy ones. I never realized how many free podcasts are out there about tracing your family. I love the Genealogy Gems, Family History and the Genealogy Guys. I'm learning, I'm laughing, and I'm hoping someday to make a podcast of my own. Nothing fancy, but I do have a bit of a radio background, so I think I may be able to pull it off.

Got any special podcasts I should listen to?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Legacy Software

I think I'm in love with Legacy's genealogy software. It's a bit complicated at first, but I've spent a great deal of time over the past few days entering data into the program. Since my trip today was canceled because of a work thing and rescheduled for next Wednesday (I took the day off for it, and if anyone calls me in I will hurt someone, no joke), I spent my evening reviewing the sourcing section of the program.

I love it. I love the citations, the details. I have a journalism background, so I'm a sucker for documentation, sourcing and details. I can enter where I found all this information - death records, my aunt's research notes I received after her death, or newspaper microfilm. It's all perfectly documented now.

Did I mention I'm totally in love?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When Records Don't Exist

This may be a genealogical filled rant.

According to my great-aunt M who works at the funeral home, there's no record of where Flora buried. She went through records, both in the books and on the computer. We know she went to that particular funeral home because, not only is it the one listed on the death certificate, it was the only one in the area at the time (still is.) Unless they ended up cheaping out and doing something "at home" (which I seriously doubt), that funeral home had to have taken care of her burial.

I have nothing at all to back up what probably happened - that this particular funeral home DID take care of her. For the most part, all I have is a line on a death certificate, which was informed by a man who, according to family legend, didn't care for Flora - his mother.

My next stop is heading down to the funeral home on Thursday to check records myself, then to city hall and a few cemeteries to look around and ask more questions.

So what would you do? Solving this woman's mystery is party of why genealogy is so exciting for me, the thrill of the hunt and all that, but sometimes it's so remarkably frustrating. I really do truly think that this woman does not want to be found and she wants her secrets to stay secrets. I will figure this out, I know, but it felt good to rant.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures

Over the weekend I was finally given a bunch of old family photos that I had been hoping to receive from that one relative I blogged about yesterday (hereby known as The Relative). Because she's alive I won't give details like her name or actual relationship to me, but I will say that she is someone who is extremely close to my in the family tree but someone who I don't talk to often because we don't exactly see eye to eye on many topics. The perks of being an adult is I'm no longer forced to deal with her unless I have to.

Anyway, I was given all these pictures and now I'm trying to figure out two things: who half of these people are and what to do with them once I figure it out. Identifying them will be a challenge in a good way, since I love mysteries.

Two things stand out in my stack of pictures - a picture of me and my favorite great-aunt, who passed away when I was 15 and a picture of my parents and I.

My aunt, who is a mystery unto herself (my family is full of 'em), was one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met. She had her quirks and when she died I cried more than I had expected I ever would. We weren't really close, but she was a great lady.

The photo of my parents and I is a rare one - and even better, we're all smiling. They had a rather unpleasant divorce when I was in the 1st/2nd grade. The one I have now was taken at someone's birthday party when I was maybe 3 years old. I'm getting it framed.

What do you do with old pictures?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Brick Wall of a Living Family Member

I have a family member who is more or less... out there. Not saying she's good or bad, but she's just... well, out there. It's a close relative (at least family tree wise), that I don't speak to often for a variety of reasons.

I called her the other night about getting family information. I'm tracing her husband's side of the tree and he's passed away, so I figured he might have left something behind. Pictures. Anything. There are a few things, yes, but she'll have to find them. He's been dead for nearly two decades, I'm sure they're buried in with his stuff in an upstairs closet. She also told me a few stories about relatives, one in particular about Flora that I'm pretty sure is true, but I may never know for sure (Emily's Genealogy Rule #1). These stories were telling about Flora's nature (if they are true), but overall particularly harmless.

Then the brick wall came. I asked more information. Names. Dates. Things I know she had to know, because she was there. Nope, don't remember a thing.

Uh huh.

I'm not saying she's lying, but I think she knows more than she's ever going to tell me. There could be a couple reasons for this, but I think the main one is she doesn't want to do her husband's family "wrong" by slipping up and letting on a dirty little secret, or some skeleton, something probably minor in the whole picture but was a big scandal 100 years ago.

I keep forgetting that we are living in a totally different world than 100-200 years ago. Babies out of marriage is perfectly acceptable now. "Shacking up" is perfectly acceptable now. Weddings are huge now, not five person affairs on Tuesday evenings (that I wish we could go back to, because my wedding has turned into some sort of Princess Di event and not the wedding it started out to be, but that's a different post and not related to genealogy at all.)

I've hit a brick wall with her, but I'm not out of luck yet. There are a couple others out there that may be able to give me answers. And if not, there's always the library... Right?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lionel Richie - Who Do You Think You Are?

All I knew about Lionel Richie before tonight was he was in the Commodores and he helped raise Nicole Richie, his adoptive daughter. Then I turned on Who Do You Think You Are and my perspective was changed.

From what the records found, his great grandfather was the product of a slave-master relationship. The gentleman lived to be 90 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery he tended toward the end of his life.

Before he was a caretaker, he was the head of the Knights of Wise Men, a black fraternal organization. Then the business failed and his wife (who was 35 years younger than he was) left him. He died poor, but proud.

The best part of this episode were the amazing documents. Original wills, pictures, all the great stuff you have to wear gloves to touch. Lionel got to see pictures of his great-grandfather (who looked very white to me), pictures of his probable 2nd greatgrandfather, and the will of his 3rd great grandfather, a document which freed his 2nd-greatgrandmother and his great-grandfather. (It's not as confusing as it sounds.)

I love this show because not only does it bring genealogy to the public, it shows family stories that in a weird way I can relate to. I can relate to the discovery of a photo, or the discovery of a document to complete a piece of the puzzle. That's why I watch it and the Generations Project (which I will be blogging about over the weekend).

Did you watch Lionel? What did you think?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy birthday to the man that got me started in genealogy when I was a kid....

Your Eldest (but not tallest) Daughter

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My March Goals

It's March 1st, so it's time to think about goals for the coming month.

  • Start scanning all the family documents I have into the computer. There aren't alot, but there are enough it will take time.
  • Clean up my notes (and my desk!). There are papers everywhere and I need to get them organized.
Specific Research Goals:
  • Find Flora's obituary. I have an aunt trying to help with this, but considering my Flora history, I'm not holding my breath.
  • Figure out her maiden name. No one knows it, so it's going to take a roadtrip and an archive search. I found her first husband's name, so now I just have to confirm it.
  • Once I get her maiden name, start researching her family line.
Random Stuff:
  • Do some FamilySearch Index work.
  • Order the NGS CD 1.
  • Merge my genealogy Twitter with my work Twitter. (Doing tonight.)
What are your March goals?

Monday, February 28, 2011

FamilySearch Indexing

Last week I started researching. I'm doing it for a few reasons and I love every second of it- I love the challenge of reading the words on the page, seeing all the fun names, seeing dates and locations of births, deaths, draft enlistment cards and immigration forms.

Each state has a different format for everything, be it census records, war records, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates. I love seeing the different kinds and what the different states asked on each records - nothing was unified 100 years ago. For example, not all states asked for the soldier's mother's maiden name on their draft cards, but some did. Same with birth certificates and death records - it was all up to the state what was recorded.

I'm also using it as practice to learn about identifying different documents. Eventually (not tomorrow or anywhere close), I intend to do the genealogy thing as a part-time profession. I have a journalism degree, a background in history (both things that lend themselves to research), and I'm naturally curious. I love helping friends find their roots - I've done it for several friends, including one memorable family history hunt for a good friend of mine that I will never blog about but it taught me alot about research, skeletons, and life in general. Someday I want to get certified and do it for real, and indexing helps me familiarize myself with all the records I someday have to know.

Helping others is the main factor in my doing this. I hope that some document I index, somewhere along the way, helps someone fill a hold in their own family stories. I'm grateful for every single person who has helped document the details of my ancestors - I consider this paying it forward.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Just One Phone Call

Friday I made two phone calls. One to Mississippi, the Tishomingo County Archives, to track to track down Lonnie Gordon. After I got through the thick southern accent (I'm Missouri born and bred and everytime I think I'm "southern" all I have to do is call somewhere actually "south" like Mississippi or Alabama and that gently corrects me), I asked if they had records.

I gave her the name and the details over the phone, then emailed them over to her, and should see if they have any records down there. Since I called right before closing, I need to call back next week to get results - if they don't email me back first. I've seen conflicting reports about where this guy was born, but he wrote "Iuka, Mississippi" on his draft card, so I'm going to go with that for that.

The other phone call I made was to a local funeral home (situated in my ancestors' hometown, about 45 minutes away from my town). I wanted to know if they have funeral records. The lady that answered the phone sounded a bit impatient, telling me the records lady wasn't there. I have a degree in journalism and I've worked for/with newspapers for years, so I'm used to making cold calls and I can deal with impatient/rude/snippy people.

"Okay, when will the 'records lady' be there?" I asked.

"She'll be here Monday," was the response. Then as a helpful tidbit, she added the records lady's name. Guess what, people? It was my great-aunt. The records lady is my great-aunt M. This is a woman I don't really speak to. Not because I hate her or anything, let's make this clear here - the truth is that side of my family is really, really sparse and the ones that are left aren't really close, and we can go years not speaking simply because we have nothing to say to each other. It's sad, really, but it's the truth.

The last time I spoke to this lady was two years ago, in a very brief (and a rather unpleasant call), and before that was four years ago when her husband passed away and I saw her at the funeral. Before that I'm pretty sure it was another funeral. Are you getting the picture here?

After I stopped laughing and confirmed this was the same person I thought it was, I told the confused lady that this was my aunt, my name, and to have her call me. I also had to make sure to write on the "call your niece" note that "NOBODY DIED".

It only takes one phone call to re-connect you to family.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Emily's Genealogy Rules

I've been researching my family tree for years (some years more intently than others), and I've come up with some "rules" of the process. Some are serious. Some are funny. All are totally true (at least in my case.)

Emily's Genealogy Rules

  1. Question everything your family has told you about your family. I'm not saying they would lie or deliberately be evasive (a few of my family members would, but not all families are like mine, I hope), but they may not know the truth. A family legend is just that - a legend - and it's just a story until it's found to be true on some sort of record, be it marriage, birth, death or a newspaper clipping.
  2. When your significant other tells you that you are addicted and/or obsessed with genealogy, explain that there are much worse addictions, like shopping.
  3. Realize it takes time. Some things can be found by a quick Google search or by a quick trip to FamilySearch, but other records can take months or years to track down. It requires patience, persistence and lots of effort.
  4. Remember that not everything is online. Find-A-Grave is great, but it's not the be-all-end-all of cemetery records. Sometimes you have to get off your butt and outdoors to traipse through old cemeteries, or into libraries and other centers to go through archives.
  5. Keep careful records. Don't just use one program on the computer - make sure you back up your work and ALL your documents, plus print out everything you can.
  6. Sometimes it's going to be sad. 100 years ago infants died, women died in childbirth, and they didn't have the kinds of medications and life-saving stuff we have today. Understand it's going to be sad and you will most likely grieve for those you have never met and those who died a century before you were even born.
  7. Connecting to other genealogists is key. It doesn't matter if you have been researching for fifteen years or just got started tracing your tree last week - every genealogist you meet can give you some advice and a tip or two to help you along your journey. Don't hesitate to ask for help. It's out there. Read other genealogy blogs and comment on them.
That's all I have for now...I'm sure I'll add to it later on.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Scandals, Spinsters and Microfilm

It's my last official day off of work (well, I still have the weekend) for my surgery, so I spent it the way I wanted to: threading microfilm and watching Who Do You Think You Are? (I work on my genealogy every day, but this week I had a bit of extra time.)

Anyway, I found a couple things out. First of all, my local library has two microfilm machines - one good and one not so good. Of course, I got the not so good one, and I had to manually feed in the film. This was in my Flora hunt, so I figured it was worth it. It sort of was.

She died in a town 45 minutes from here and the deaths from that town usually ended up (in the 1930s/40s) being printed in both the newspaper from here and the newspaper there. So I figured a good place to look for an obituary would be the microfilm here. Normally, that would have been a great idea. However....

A big political official died the same day as Flora and there were articles about this guy in the newspaper every day for an entire week - meaning there were no out of town death notices. Trust me, I looked. I'm going to have to make a trip down to where she died (a short drive, thank God)

It bummed me out just a little bit. So I cheered myself up by finding another roll of microfilm and reading about some of the "good work" (aka charity work) my great-grandma on my mom's side did. Okay, it was in her obituary, but it was one of those happy obituaries. I was named after her and she died two years before I was born. They even called her by her nickname and not her birthname in her obituary, and the picture of her attached to the obituary was from my parents' wedding (I recognized the dress.)

So then I settled in front of the computer and the TV to watch WDYTYA with Kim Cattrall. I know it was a re-cut episode of the UK version, but I don't care because I've never seen the UK version (although I will now). I loved it because it didn't necessarily have a happy ending, but it had a satisfying ending.

Kim was in search of George Baugh, her grandfather. He disappeared when her mother was just eight. I think they presumed he died - but the truth was the "son of a bitch" (Kim's words, not mine, although I shall be referring to him as the SOB from now on because really, he was) became a bigamist. He remarried shortly after leaving his Original Family, and with his new wife (who was ten years younger - 21 years to his 31 years- and was declared a "spinster"), he had 4 additional children, at least one of them younger than Kim. She has uncles younger than she is. I can't imagine that, I really can't. After those four children were born, George moved his New Family to Australia (I'm presuming he was outrunning the law for bigamy because someone found him out), where he died in 1974.

At the end of the episode, Kim made the decision not to contact her family in Australia. She wanted no details, and I don't blame her. Her mother and aunts, on the other hand, made contact with the family in Australia. We were given no details, so I have no idea if it was a happy reunion or what. I do know it was probably extremely awkward.

I loved this episode because it didn't shy away from the pain. It didn't focus on history that happened 400 years ago. This was real and close to Kim's heart and to her family. She was looking for answers to something specific, not going on some hunt to see what she could find. She knew what she wanted answers to and by God she got them. I give her so much credit for that.

I also found out she's from the UK. I didn't know that. Thanks to the Sex and the City stereotype, I thought she was from New York.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lonnie David Gordon

In my Great Flora Hunt, I ran across a name that sounded vaguely familiar, but I didn't think anything about it. A name is a name and some of them are more common than others, and I figured this one - Lonnie David Gordon - I probably heard from a relative at some point. The man was my great-uncle, my favorite grandfather's uncle, so I figured at some point I heard the name from him. Lonnie was Flora's oldest son.

Out of curiosity, I Googled the name, "Lonnie David Gordon." I was trying to find records about the gentleman born on February 19, 1893 and died in October 1966 in Michigan. Instead, I found another Lonnie David Gordon (hereby known as LDG 2), who died in 2008 in the same town in MI as the first Lonnie. The circumstances of his death were grim - he died from hypothermia, as he was a homeless felon on parole. I really thought that this man was a distant relation, but no more. Today I confirmed it, thanks to his obituary that I finally found, that LDG2 was the Original Lonnie's grandson which made him Flora's great-grandson.

Thanks to this man, LDG2, homelessness awareness was risen in the MI area. I remember seeing this in the national news at the time and thinking it was a shame. This man was my second cousin. I never met him, but after reading several stories about him and the circumstances surrounding his death, I feel like I do. From what I gathered, he didn't know his daughter that well and he had two grandchildren. I don't know what kind of man he was, but I do know that he was in the Marines at one point (according to his obituary, I'm looking to verify, but I have no doubts to what I read in the obit.)

I'll be researching him further, of course, but because I know so much, he's more than just a name and a birthdate/deathdate on a family tree. He's a relative.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Great Flora Hunt

For those who are following me on Twitter, they know that I am engaged currently in something I'm calling The Great Flora Hunt. It is an all consuming passion for me right now, because I love mysteries and research and this definitely sparks both.

 Flora was my 2nd-great grandmother. She was, from what I can gather, a very spunky lady. She was also married at least five times. Three kids came from these five marriages that I can find, but only two of these children can be documented.

This death certificate (pictured right) is the only legal document I can find for her. I don't know her maiden name, I don't know all of her husbands' names or marriage dates (just their last names.) I'm not sure if she was divorced multiple times (still checking into that, but so far I can't find divorce records, although that doesn't mean they aren't there) or if the husbands just kept dying on her. According to family history, her 3rd known husband, Evan Joseph / Ive/Joe Hendricks/Hendness/Hendiess died between 1910-1915 in some sort of accident.I'm not sure if that's true, since my first rule of Genealogy is "question everything."

If you look closely at Flora's death certificate, it's full of knowns. Example: parents' names are both unknown as is her maiden name. I'm not sure if my great-grandfather Robert, who was the informant when she died, was clueless or deliberately evasive - either way, it doesn't really help.

I've done a timeline of her life and at some point she was a Gordon, Medley, Mangrum, Hendricks and a Duncan. She died in 1939 from advanced tuberculosis with malnutrition as an added factor. My goal is to work backwards in her life - her death to her last husband to the husband before that, etc - to figure out where and when exactly she was born and get her parents' names. Right now I'm trying to find any obituary for her. She's one of the great mysteries in my family tree.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What I Know

 It's always best to start with what you know, right? I'm currently focused on my father's side. He did alot of research before me (and he's researching with me now), so I'm not starting from scratch. There are several dead ends and loose ends in the family history that we have put together, which is what I'm trying to explore. What we have are names and dates, not history.

My 2nd-great grandmother was named Flora. She's a mystery because of her multiple marriages, even though I couldn't find divorce or death records for the husbands after she moved on to the next guy. I'm assuming she was a bigamist, although I really hate to think that. I can't find a birth record for her, and her death certificate lists her maiden name and parents names as both "unknown." All I know about her before her first child's birth in 1893 is that she was born supposedly in Mississippi, although I'm beginning to think she wasn't. There are absolutely no records of her before 1893.

My 2nd-great grandfather vanished off the face of the earth in a timespan of about 10 years. He was on the 1910 census, but he wasn't on the 1920. His wife (Flora) married again in 1917, so I'm assuming (more like hoping) he died before that, but I'm not sure. They had two children, but I don't have any information (no name or birthdate or anything) for one of them.

I haven't found a shotgun wedding yet, but I'm still looking. I'm sure there was at least one.

On my father's mother's side my great-grandmother had some family problems and gave birth to a baby out of wedlock (scandal back then) that died anywhere from 2 months to 2 years later, but I have absolutely no record of it. I don't know if it's family legend, but I'm guessing it isn't because of the circumstances involving the child's conception, birth and death - rather hushed and scandalized (she was very young, the father of the baby was supposedly black, and this was the south... fill in the blanks there.)

I have family born in Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

I have only found one relative that served in any war, and that was WW1.

I'm planning a research trip an hour away to a tiny town in the next few weeks to do research. Right now I'm trying to make a list of things I need to find.

Friday, February 18, 2011


A little about me:

 I've been interested in family history since I was a little kid. I always wanted to hear family stories, names, dates, birth places... I knew from an early age the events in my family's past effect my future and the choices they made 100 years ago influenced my life today. 

 Now that I'm all grown up, I'm taking my family research to a whole new level. It started with an tree, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. I began collecting names, dates and places, but I'm not satisfied with that. I want details - I want to know my ancestor's occupations, causes of death, and about their lives in general. I've been doing this in earnest for the past few years, however, it just now hit me that I can use connecting with others on social networks (Twitter and blogging) to improve my chances of fleshing out my family's stories.

On the surface and on paper, my family looks pretty normal. Maybe they were, I'm still not sure. Right now I'm trying to work out some dead ends - for example, my 2nd-great grandmother is an entire mystery. She was married several times and I hate to jump to conclusions, but I'm pretty sure she was a bigamist (that's a whole new post!), and I can't even find where my 2nd-great grandfather (her 2nd husband that we've found) died or where he was buried, just that he passed away between 1910 and 1916, presumably (yet a whole new post.)

I've been asked how far will I have to search before I consider the tree "complete". The answer is I have no idea. I have several branches of my family to discover - my mother's side with a common last name will be a challenge in itself, even though right now I'm currently heavily involved in researching my father's side.

What this blog will accomplish: I want to connect with others like myself who are figuring out their family's histories, one record at a time. Please follow. Leave comments. Follow me on Twitter (@morethannames).

Help me find my family.