Have you had a chance to read the November issue of Going In-Depth!
With articles like Researching Women in the Military, Finding Your Cherokee Ancestors and my own column Are There Civil War Genealogy Gems in Your Backyard? you’ll find lots of new ideas and tips for your genealogy research.
So kick your feet up and grab your favorite beverage and let’s “Go In-Depth”!
This was previously published in the Going In-Depth October issue. You can find the entire issue here.
Has this happened to you? After a little bit of research have you found an ancestor that didn’t quite live up to your expectations? It happened to me. You may have heard my story before but let me give you a little background. Like any self respecting family historian or genealogist I spend a good deal of time in cemeteries. I’m really fortunate enough to live in the same area my ancestors lived. I’m the seventh generation in one line of my family tree to live in this area so that translates into many ancestors buried close enough for me to visit. My sister and I joke about one small cemetery, Rockport Methodist in Allen County Ohio, where we believe we’re related to at least half the people buried there.
It was on one of my excursions to Rockport a couple years back that I came across a Civil War soldier with the same surname as my 2x great grandmother. He was barely 21 years old when he died during the war. I hated to think that he probably didn’t leave a wife or children and that without descendants his memory was lost soon after his death. I knew he was a collateral ancestor but that didn’t matter. I was going to research James R Vanmeter and tell his story. He didn’t serve his country at its most crucial time to be lost to history. Right? So I took up the task of remembering James R. Vanmeter.
As I began my research I was sure James had succumbed to wounds while in battle. He died during the war on February 18, 1864. I was swept away by my own thoughts of his youthful courage and patriotism. I diligently searched the Soldiers and Sailors database, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. I soon found he served with Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC). I found a couple amazing books outlining the history of the 4th OVC. The first was The Invincibles – The Story of the Fourth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry 1861 – 1865 by Nancy Pape-Findley. The other I found online in Google Books. It was while reading the The Story of the 4th Regiment Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry by Lucien Wulsin I had my first inkling James wasn’t who I’d built him up to be in my mind.
I found the 4th OVC was on furlough when James died. He had reenlisted in January 1864 and was able to go home with a return date of March 7, 1864 to Camp Dennison. Okay so he didn’t die on a battle field riddled with bullets. He died at home. Still his death had to be valiant, right? Due to some kind of injury due to enemy fire.
I took a shot and researched James in the Civil War veteran’s pensions. I didn’t expect a thing since he was not married yet found a card on him. Rachel Milliken had filed for a pension on James’ service. His mom’s first name was Rachel but last name was Vanmeter not Milliken or so I thought.
This tidbit that some person had filed for a pension on James’ military service led me to request his pension file from the National Archives. I waited anxiously. What was I thinking? I still wasn’t exactly sure how James and I were related. Shouldn’t I be spending money on my own direct ancestors instead of chasing someone else’s?
When all 64 pages of James Vanmeter’s pension file came I couldn’t wait to get into it and what I read made it worth every cent I spent. It contained blockbuster information. Drunkenness, divorce, illness, death. Lots and lots of letters from James’ mom to the pension board as she pled her case for a pension, even two letters she had received written by James while with the 4th! I was ecstatic!
I attended my local genealogy society’s workshop recently. Held every couple of years the Allen County (Ohio) Genealogical Society‘s symposium provided lots of information for the beginning genealogist as well as the more experienced family historian. So many times members shy away from a local workshop opting for the larger state and national conventions figuring there isn’t much to learn at a smaller, local event.
A local workshop can provide a great deal of information, hints and tips to a family historian without travel, overnight expenses or other additional fees. The meeting I attended is a perfect example of that. Two fantastic speakers took us through the day pointing the genealogy enthusiasts in new directions for their research.
First was well known and well loved genealogist Peggy Clemens Lauritzen or Miss Peggy as her adoring fans call her. Miss Peggy had two presentations for the day. Ticked Off – Those Pesky Pre-1850 Tic Marks and Homespun and Calico – Discovering Your Female Ancestors. With Miss Peggy’s down-home charm and lively presentations the audience received solid research information for their future ancestor investigations and had loads of fun listening to her anecdotes and folksy humor.
Our other speaker was ACGS‘s own Debbie Carder Mayes. Not only was Debbie the force behind the organization of the workshop she was also a presenter. Debbie’s topics complimented those given by Miss Peggy. Debbie spoke on Federal Population Census Data, 1790 – 1930 and Finding Eliza Jane—Using Civil War Records to Fill out Your Family Tree. Out of respect for the speakers and their well researched presentations I won’t give details about their talks but I will say I learned much more about using the Federal Census and will be spending a lot more time on them. I have a few more thoughts on tracking down the female ancestors in my family tree too.
So when the opportunity arises to attend a local genealogy workshop jump at the chance!
- You’ll broaden your knowledge and sharpen your skills.
- Meet other area family historians and share information. Who knows you may be speaking with a distant cousin!
- Attending these workshops also gives you the chance to pose questions to the presenter at the end of their talk. Their recommendations may tumble a formidable brick wall or two.
- Just as important your attendance supports your local genealogical society.
Without you, your suggestions and dues, local societies are not able to exist. I hate to think our lack of participation today in genealogy societies may contribute to their demise and hurt the future researcher.
What’s your experience with a local genealogy workshop? I hope you’ll share in the comments!
Today has been a fun day for me. Filled with lots of well wishes, celebration and a few gifts. Cake was a part of the day too and you just can’t go wrong when gifts and cake are involved. Then per my techy gadget requests I received a bluetooth keyboard for my IPad and some ITunes gift cards. I don’t download music much. No I head straight for the App Store. Today I purchased a word processing program just as soon as my gift card could get it for me. This post is my inaugural voyage into what I hope becomes real mobility in writing electronically.
So why am I telling you all this? Only because I’m amazed at the incongruous world of the 21st century family historian. We seek any tidbit or mention of a 19th or early 20th century ancestor and then use the best modern day technology available to record the events of people who barely had running water. The contrast makes me smile.
Through my IPad, IPhone and online research I find my e-ancestors knowing their hard physical labor laid the groundwork for my conveniences today. As I use my Flip Pal to scan their photos and Google books to read county histories from my recliner I am mindful that my ancestors and their peers have provided me extraordinary ways to research and relax today.
Most parents measure success by giving their children a better life than they had. If that is the barometer used to measure by, our ancestors can be mighty proud. They have provided us with an exceptional way of life and I thank them as I brush cake crumbs from my new bluetooth keyboard.
October snuck into our lives this week. With warm temps and sunny skies it’s more like the end of August than the first fews days of fall here in Ohio, but there’s no mistaking autumn has arrived. Leaves are changing colors and the evenings are decidedly cooler. My flowers are looking a bit ragged and will soon be plucked out of their beds with the first frost. Even though it’s very warm out now autumn is in the air.
Am I sad to see summer wane? Oh no. Now don’t get me wrong I love sunny summer days with baseball games and barbeques. Summer has a delicious casualness we all love to embrace from the clothes we wear to the food we eat. It’s truly a reenergizing time of year and probably needed with winter soon on the horizon again. For me summer seems to extend through September and that’s okay. Squeezing out those last few moments of sunshine and flip flops is invigorating, but once I turn the calendar’s page to October I don’t mind what fall brings.
October is “get back to your genealogy research” month. Summer is a hiatus from research with so many other events going on. Lots of reading and fact finding gets put on the back burner but once October bursts on the scene I’m thinking cemetery and courthouse visits with to do lists and field trips. In fact October is sort of a “new year” for me genealogy-wise. I take stock of what I’ve accomplished and where I want to go with my research. (2x grandfather James Nance you’re at the top of my list. I’m looking for you!)
Ironically I didn’t realize October was Family History month until I saw several messages about it on Facebook. Here I’ve been celebrating it every October in my own way. So to all of us family historians and genealogists Happy Family History month! Happy October! May the genealogy gods smile down on us as we ramp up our research!
I’m making out my genealogy to-do list for this fall. How about you? What’s on your genealogy agenda? Please share your thoughts in the comments. You may just give us all some inspiration!