Monday, October 8, 2012

The Rat Hesitated

   Paul B Hendrickson was born this date, 8 October 1896, in Crawford County, Illinois. He enlisted 12 April 1917 in the 5th Infantry, Illinois National Guard, which later became part of the 33rd Division. His service was divided between being a bugler, trumpeter in military bands and in signal work.

   This is a paragraph from a letter Paul wrote to his mother dated 10 September 1918.

   "Well mom - I had a rather novel little experience last nite. While writing last evening I stated that the bread was hung where a rat or mouse could not climb to it. Well that is so - But - here is how it happened. Mr. rat comes bounding down stairs - and of course by experience knew the bread was where he could not climb and get it, so pounced on to my body, shoves in his toe nails and in one streneous leap reaches his goal - the loaf of bread. Of course when I felt him push I knew what was taking place. Well you may lay it on to me, but beware trying to rub it in like that. I was peeved at the nerve of the big brute - I sliped my hand over to the Colt .45 cal, cocked it, and with my other hand used the flash light. Well the bright light made him hesitate a second (they get so careless too, they take their time at whatever they do) and that was a bit too long for him, for I let him have one lead pill. was comical how it knocked him sprawling onto the floor. it went thru his back. He scrambled on the floor a bit so I pinned him down with my bayonet and went to sleep. So did he. This noon when I woke up he was cold. I tossed him outside. Strong [perhaps Pvt. Edwin J. Strong] asked me this morning what was going on last nite. I showed him the rat with the big hole in his back and he understood quite well what made the noise."

   When Paul passed away on 4 September 1990 in Danville, Illinois, we found neatly packed away in the family home 125 letters he wrote home to his mother and to the neighbor girl who after the war became his wife. We also found a diary kept during the year he was in France and almost 300 postcards which were sent home either individually or in envelopes. In addition, we have letters sent to him, negatives and prints taken at Camp Parker in Quincy, Illinois, and at Camp Logan in Houston, Texas, and maps he drew of both camps.

   You can read the letters and look at the pictures at Paul's website --

Thursday, June 7, 2012

80th Wedding Anniversary

The wedding photo. Maryan and Glenn, 1932
   Today, June 7, 2012, would have been my parents' 80th wedding anniversary.
   Glenn and Maryan (James) Gill managed to celebrate 66 years of marriage before my father passed away.
   I'm happy to say I still have my mother's wedding dress, but not that chic hat.

   As I mentioned in a previous post, the first person I was going to look for in the 1940 census was going to be me.
   Didn't take long, once I could actually get into the images. There I was with my parents and my mother's parents living at the Flat Iron Store, a country store near Perrysville, Indiana.
   My father had an advertising agency in Danville, Illinois, and my grandparents (John T and Lucinda (Carrigan) James) reported they were working 70 hours a week. I assume the store was open 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. In case you think I left the period off my grandfather's middle initial, I didn't. He didn't have a middle name. He made it up to differentiate himself from other John Jameses, a common name where he was born in England.

   My memories of the store and the six years we lived there are a little vague.
   I know we had some great summer picnics out in the yard and I have a painful memory of smashing my finger playing croquet at one of them. The remedy was soaking it in the ice water where the sodas were kept cold.
   Neighbors used to come into the store in the evenings and play euchre. I sat on my grandmother's lap as she played.

   A visual memory is sitting in the store in the dark with the only light from the dial of the radio as my grandfather listened to the Gillette Friday night fights. I assume it was during the war and always wondered if it was a war blackout or just saving money on electricity.
   There was a crank telephone on the wall that connected us to the party line. Our ring was three shorts and one long.
   The story my mother loved to tell was that my grandfather answered the phone when my dad called to announce my birth. She didn't really like saying the words grandpa shouted: "G** D***, it's a boy!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Indexing the 1940 census

   I'm really enjoying indexing and arbitrating the 1940 census. Generally speaking, the work is pretty easy. Except when the census taker's handwriting gets wobbly or the spelling gets too creative.
   Some of the census takers really had good handwriting. I'd thank them on bended knee or kiss them on both cheeks if I could. I assume they were using fountain pens, but I recall that in 1951 when I was in sixth grade, we were required to write with "dip" pens. I hated them.
   Which brings up a question I've been wondering about. Are there any 1940 census takers still living? It's possible. If they were in their 20s in 1940, they could now be alive in their 90s. What an interesting story they could tell us.

   The following is how I index. I'm not saying you should do it my way, but if there are any ideas in the following that you think may help you then be my guest to try them.
   Four things I do before I start:

  • Set magnification to 100 percent. This is easier to me to read.
  • Adjust the highlights. I don't want to index a value into the wrong field. I go to the View menu and select Adjust Highlights. I find each corner of the highlights box with my mouse and click and drag them where they should be. Then turn Adjust Highlights off. I find the highlights are either very close or way off. If you want to read more, go to the User Guide, page 93.
  • If I'm indexing, I make seven of the columns narrower -- Line Number, Number of Household, Titles or Terms, Sex, Color or Race, Age and Marital Status. Easier for me.
  • If the handwriting is at all suspect, I try to remember to scan down the name field and say the names to myself. If I stumble on one, I start checking for those troublesome letter pairs like a and o, e and i, S and L, u and n and v and r.
   I get a kick out of some of the names that are in the "accepted" list and some that are not. For example, "Bigah" is in the accepted list but "Ed" isn't.
   Just because I've never seen the name, doesn't mean it isn't valid -- like Lenual.
   Then there are the ones that bring a chuckle, like the first name "C. Shell."
   And the ones you are suspicious about, like Olga, the name of a son.
   Generally speaking, I follow the census taker's entries "out the window," as we used to say in the newspaper editorial department about following copy regardless of what it says.
   But there is one exception to that rule. If the given name is a generally accepted female name and the relationship is Daughter, feel free to change the sex from M to F. And vice versa for a male name and relationship.

   I asked at the NGS 2012 conference about an alternative situation -- a female name, F in the sex field but Son in the relationship field. It was suggested in this kind of situation to follow the entry "out the window."
   I also asked about those names that are little more than blobs -- should you give it your best guess or use wildcards. The answer was less than certain, but leaned toward best guess unless the letters were completely obliterated.
   Back in the days of typewriters, you remember those clickety-clack devices, the golden rule was "Never Overstrike." I wish our census takers had had the rule "Never Overwrite."
   I've never really had a reason to use this idea, but there are two lines on each page for which additional information is entered at the bottom. The name is repeated on those lines and could help in a bad situation.

   I've been able to speed up my work by breaking some habits. 
  • Reaching for the shift key when you start a word. Unnecessary -- 99 percent of the time the first letter of the word is capitalized for you.
  • Using the tab key to go from field to field. This was a particular bugaboo for me since I would invariable hit the caps lock key instead. Enter does the same thing as tab and is on the opposite side of the keyboard.
   The prefills the indexing program offers are also a great time saver, with one caveat. I'm a touch typist of sorts and if I'm flying along only watching the census schedule area, I can get myself into trouble. I've arbitrated more than one batch where the indexer's previous "s" entry in the relationship field was "Son-In-Law" but the schedule said "Son." That's one field where I try to check myself.
   The other is the "city, town or village" field in the 1935 residence area. "Same House" and "Same Place" can look very much alike and the previous one pops up by typing "s." 
   By the way, you only have to type 3 letters to change from one to the other. When you get to "m" in Same, the entry changes and then you can press Enter to accept it.
   There is a down side to all these keyboard shortcuts that become habits. When you switch to another program, particularly a spreadsheet, it's a nightmare.  

   Lookup lists (Ctrl+f) are great for analyzing names, although not all valid names are in the list. It's also great for checking the form and spelling of relationships. I can generally remember that Grandson and Granddaughter are not hyphenated, but the " -In-Law" relationships, like "Mother-In-Law," are. The one I had earlier today I hadn't seen before, so off to the Lookup list to find "Half-Brother" and "Accept Selected."
   One last thing -- I don't agonize over arbitration rates. I hope you don't. If you see a really low one, look to see why. It  could be something as simple as entering a "W" repeatedly instead of "White" or adding the local county and state to "Same Place" instead of "<blank>."
   In one of my previous lives, I was a reporter and editor for a newspaper. On a newspaper, everyone gets edited from the executive editor on down. The writer does his best and the editor does his best and then it goes into print. And woe to the reporter who goes behind the scenes to change the copy back to the way he wrote. it. A great way to get fired.
   If we accept that indexers do their best and arbitrators do their best, there's no reason to ever get upset.

   What tips do you have for indexers or arbitrators?    

Saturday, May 12, 2012

NGS 2012 Day 4

   Home again!
   A fine fourth and final day at the National Genealogical Society's annual convention in Cincinnati and a relatively quick drive home.
   My schedule changed a bit from what I listed in yesterday's blog. There was so many great lectures to choose from it was hard to decide.

   The first of the day was "Trails West to the Ohio and Beyond" by Barbara Vines Little. I was fascinated by her insights on why and how my pioneer ancestors might have labored over the mountains and down the rivers to find new homes.
   The last lecture of the morning was the one that originally inspired me to attend the convention.
   Elizabeth Shown Mills spoke at the Kentucky Genealogical Society / Kentucky Historical Society annual seminar last year, describing her research techniques and how they applied to research cases. She promised then to be speaking at NGS 2012 about data management -- how to cope with all the information a researcher could gather by following all of the family, associates and neighbors.
   So this morning the topic was "Information Overload? Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management and Analysis."
   The technique uses word processing templates to create research analyses and plans, research notes and then research reports. It would be a paradigm shift for me from the way I have been doing research over the past 45 years.
   But, you can't argue with success. Since most of my ancestral research now involves the tough, end-of-line. brick-wall ancestors, I think it's worth an honest test. It will take more time, but perhaps be more rewarding in the end.

   Kip Sperry was the speaker for a luncheon sponsored by FamilySearch.
   I was interested in some of the statistics he had about what was on the FamilySearch website -- 1,139 collections including 2.78-billion names. I was unaware that microfilming, the film we can now order through the FamilySearch website, started in 1938.
   Of course that microfilming has been replaced by digitization and the films in the granite mountain are being digitized. Sperry said there were an estimated 2.4-billion images in the vault at the mountain and 530 million had been digitized. The original estimate of finishing the task was 100 years, but currently they think they will be done in 4-5 years.
   My day concluded with the talk by Thomas W. Jones on "Solutions for Missing or Scarce Records." He emphasized that we need to acquire the knowledge and skills to know where to look for records that have survived and how to assemble the pieces. Jones discussed two case studies in which researchers were able to successfully build a case from fragmentary records.

   I hope I've picked up some knowledge and skills over the past four days to apply to my research. Perhaps with that knowledge and Mills' management system I can break through a few brick walls.
   This was my first national genealogical convention. Will I do it again? The next NGS convention will be in Las Vegas. I won't be there. I heard it will be in Virginia in 2014. That's not too far away. Maybe.

Friday, May 11, 2012

NGS 2012 Day 3

   It's almost over.
   Not that the National Genealogical Society 2012 convention here in Cincinnati hasn't been great, but fatigue is starting to set in. Several people I talked to today expressed the same thing.
   I'm anxious to get home and try to put into practice some of the things I've been told. I refrain from saying "learned." That remains to be seen.

   The day started with Elizabeth Shown Mills presentation "Okay, I 'Got the Neighbors,' Now What Do I Do with Them?!" The large meeting room was packed for the discussion of Mill's FAN Club principle -- Family, Associates and Neighbors -- which could be developed to create a proof argument for identity or origin.
   I had two programs today on research in Pennsylvania.
   In the morning, Kay Haviland Freilich, discussed research sources and techniques. In the afternoon Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer showed how to get family records out of the massive Pennsylvania Archives, either through the 138-volume printed set or the free fold3 online version.
   Just before lunch, Suzanne Hahn outlined "Navigating the Maze: Finding Indiana Records Online."
   Shortly before the last session of the day I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Richley-Erickson, better known on the web as DearMYRTLE. It was the first time I had met her in person, so I introduced myself by my SecondLife user name. We had known each other through SL for several years.
   Shortly after that I ran into fellow official blogger Linda McCauley and we both headed to one of the demonstration areas to hear an introduction to a new online genealogy system called Geungle (say it as jungle). It's still pre-beta so not much can be said at this time. See Linda's blog for a picture of the young couple developing it.

   Tomorrow, the last day:

  • Harold Henderson: "Indirect Evidence: What to Do When Perry Mason Isn't on Your Side"
  • Elizabeth Shown Mills: "Information Overload? -- Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management & Analysis
  • Thomas W. Jones: "Solutions for Missing or Scarce Records"   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NGS 2012 Day 2b

   I made it to the "A Night at the (Cincinnati) Public library", although the 10-minute walk turned into 20 since I started out going west and north instead of east and south. Two kind Cincinnatians pointed me in the right direction.
   What a crowd!
   Every desk and chair was filled. The librarians were wonderful and strove valiantly to keep up with the lines of people looking for help. Two tables of snacks and punch had been set out.

   The one book I wanted to see, a history called "The Headwaters of Cheesequake Creek" by Alvia Disbrow Martin was not on the open shelves so I handed my printout to a librarian who had it paged from the stacks one floor below.
   Cheesequake is a community in Old Bridge Township, formerly Madison Township, in Middlesex County, New Jersey. It's just north of Monmouth County where my wife's Hendrickson ancestors came from.
   One of her great aunts, Joanna Hendrickson, was married in Cheesequake to Erick Matchett in 1821 and I was hoping the book might shed some light on the community and some of the families there.
   It did give some background on the minister, a Methodist circuit rider who settled in Cheesequake after being injured in a wagon accident. There was no index so I paged through hoping to spot a name I recognized. No luck there. A closer reading may be in order if I can ever find a copy to buy.
   The walk home was much shorter.
   Tomorrow morning includes

  • Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Okay, I 'Got the Neighbors' Now What Do I Do with Them?!"
  • Kay Haviland Freilich, "Tracking Pennsylvania Ancestors: Keys to Successful Research"
  • Suzanne Hahn, "Navigating the Maze: Finding Indiana Records Online"
   My afternoon is open, but I suspect I'll find something.

NGS 2012 Day 2

   FamilySearch is one of the many organizations that has invested heavily in exhibiting at the National Genealogical Society Convention in Cincinnati.
   Not only do they have a large booth where they are demonstrating and teaching people how to use the website, but they have two smaller areas where they are recruiting and teaching new indexers for the 1940 census project.
   I was amazed when one indexing helper estimated they had recruited 200 new indexers at the two areas. And this was only a day and a half into the four-day event.

   How could that be?
   I would have assumed that at an NGS convention they would have been "preaching to the choir." All genealogists know how important indexes are.

   Every time I'm led to a record on the FamilySearch site I'm reminded that someone created the index that made it possible. Now it's my turn to create an index for the next researcher.
   Giving back, as they say.

   Attended four great sessions today. The limit my brain could absorb.
   Diane VanSkiver Gagel kicked off the morning ("Gateway to the West: Researching in Ohio) by emphasizing how lucky people are, like me, who have Ohio ancestors. A wide variety of records of Ohio townships and counties are open and available for research. I'm anxious now to get back to researching my wife's Hendrickson family, particularly at the regional archives.
   The second session ("How to Find People Who Don't Seem to Be There") was packed despite the fact it was a huge room. Elizabeth Shown Mills talked about principles for using indexes, problems to work around and strategies for eliminating them.

   The morning concluded with Patricia Walls Stamm discussing "Obtaining 20th Century Military Records from the St. Louis Personnel Records Center." Her talk included some ghastly pictures of the fire in 1973 that engulfed the then record center. There's bad news and good news, she reported. Many records were lost, but not all.
   After a quick hot dog for lunch, there was plenty of time to tour the exhibit hall and talk to vendors about their products. I'll have to go a little more in depth with some of them before I leave.
   Tonight . . . research at the Cincinnati Public Library until my energy runs out.  I particularly want to see a book At the Headwaters of Cheesequake Creek. I'll tell you tomorrow what I find.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

NGS 2012 Day 1

   The National Genealogical Society's 2012 annual convention kicked off today at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
    As you can see from the photo at right, there are a lot of vendors and societies represented in the exhibit hall. It had been jammed a few minutes before this but everyone was heading out to get to the first lecture of the day.
   My first session speaker was Dr. Thomas Jones on "Strategies for Finding 'Unfindable' Ancestors." He discussed several reasons why ancestors may be "unfindable" and methodologies for locating the unfindable.
   In the afternoon I heard Suzanne Russo Adams outline some online search strategies and techniques.
   My day concluded with Barbara Vines Little discussing proof statements -- list-style proof summaries, narrative-style proof summaries and proof arguments.
   As I mentioned in my previous blog, I planned to carry my netbook and take notes within a text version of each speaker's syllabus. What I found was I took very few notes, certainly not enough to warrant dragging the netbook around. 
   So, tomorrow, I'll try paper and pencil. I'll carry a clipboard, printouts of each speaker's syllabus and a pen. I'll let you know how that works.
   On the schedule for tomorrow, tentatively:
  • Diane VanSkiver Gagel: "Gateway to the West: Researching in Ohio"
  • Elizabeth Shown Mills: "How to Find People Who Don't Seem to Be There"
  • Patricia Walls Stamm: "Obtaining 20th Century Military Records from the St. Louis Personnel Records Center
  • Jana Sloan Broglin: "Ohio's Common Pleas Court"
   If I have enough energy after that, the Cincinnati Public Library will be open in the evening for NGS conference attendees.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

NGS official blogger

   In less than a week the center of the genealogy world will be in Cincinnati. I'll be there.
   Although I've been researching my family history for more than 45 years, this will be my first national convention of any genealogy organization.
   I won't have anything to compare it to. I'll just try to use my newspaper background to tell it like I see it.

   I only live a little over an hour away in central Kentucky, so it would have been foolish to miss it.
   At first I was only going to go for one day -- then two. The economies of joining NGS and staying the whole four days made sense. So I did join and I am staying for everything.
   I've been trying to prepare myself to get the most out of it. I got business cards printed (more than I will ever need) and mailing labels as suggested by NGS. I will wear comfortable walking shoes and a sweater for cool meeting rooms. I've submitted my ancestral names for the surname catalog.

   I had been wanting a small, light laptop so I settled on an Acer Aspire netbook plus a light, over-the-shoulder carrying bag. One motivation was to take it to NGS, but I'm struggling to figure out how I'm going to be taking notes.
   I had hoped to import the syllabus/handout of each of the talks I wanted to hear into either a Google doc or an Evernote note. That's a lot harder than I thought it would be. Many of the syllabuses are the product of page makers and do not translate well from the huge PDF into separate text documents. Amazing what gibberish a simple copy and paste produces.
   Although we are supposed to have wifi throughout the convention center, I think Evernote would be a safer choice than Google docs since Evernote would be available for note taking even if wifi disappeared. Google docs would not.
   I could always fall back on paper and pencil.
   Going through the syllabus has had one advantage. I may change my mind about some of the lectures I planned to attend.

   When I first registered many months ago, I hoped to sign up for one of the "consultations." But after looking at the application form I realized I would need a consultation just to fill out the application.
   I'm looking forward to Thursday evening at the Cincinnati Public Library. I've been there before and can go again, but might as well take advantage of being close by. It's a great place for research.
   So, what am I forgetting?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Brick wall tumbled down

You should have seen me doing a happy dance at the Montgomery County Record Center in Dayton, Ohio.
I never suspected I would find the “smoking gun” that would link my wife’s ancestor, William Hendrickson, to his parents and to New Jersey. I had been searching for this for 45 years.
I had collected a pile of records pertaining to the Hendricksons in the Miami Valley of Ohio -- Montgomery County and the nine surrounding counties. A family group had started to take shape when I made a day trip to Dayton for a search in the deeds.

What I found were two quitclaim deeds that showed that William Hendrickson, who was born 15 May 1815 in New Jersey and married Sarah Sinks on 28 Aug 1834 in Montgomery County, was the son of William Hendrickson and Ellen/Eleanor Emmons.
I had first seen the senior William Hendrickson’s name in the 1828 and 1829 tax list that showed Wm. Hendrickson’s heirs owned an 8-acre parcel near Dayton. William purchased this land from Philip Shoe on 3 Apr 1827 and, obviously, died shortly after.
Tax lists from 1830 to 1839 showed the same parcel owned by an Eleanor or Ellen Hendrickson.
That was when I visited the Montgomery County Record Center and found the two quitclaim deeds.

In the first deed (Book M2, pp 381-383) dated 15 Sep 1835 and recorded 17 Mar 1847, Albert Henderickson, William Henderickson, Samuel Wallace and Rebecca Wallace his wife (late Rebecca Henderickson), Hendrick Henderickson and Alexander Mitchell and Ann Mitchell his wife (late Ann Henderickson), “the heirs of William Hendrickson decd” sold the land to Jesse Kepler and Mary Kepler his wife. The deed makes clear that Mary Kepler was also an heir of William Hendrickson. Additional information in the last paragraph of the deed identifies Mary Hendrickson as wife of Albert, Sarah Henderickson as wife of William and Catharine Henderickson as wife of Henderick.
Not all of the signatures on the deed matched the names of the people in the deed. Sarah Hendrickson, wife of William, signed as Sally. Alexander Mitchell signed as Erick. And there was a signator not named in the deed -- Elias C. W. Henderickson.
Samuel Wallace and Rebecca Wallace acknowledged the signing of the deed on 16 Sep 1835 in Montgomery County and William and “Sally” Henderickson on 19 Sep 1835, also in Montgomery Co.

Albert and Mary Henderickson acknowledged the deed on 18 Sep 1835 before a justice of the peace in Miami County, Ohio.
Erick Mitchell acknowledged the deed on 23 Dec 1837 in Montgomery County, but not his wife Ann. Similarly, Henderick Henderickson acknowledged the deed before a justice of the peace in Montgomery County, Indiana, but not his wife Catharine.
Elias C. W. Henderickson was the last to acknowledge the deed on 28 Jul 1843. Further research showed that this Elias was born 10 Jun 1822 in Ohio, so he had just turned 21 when he acknowledged the deed.
Further research also showed that the Erick Mitchell was in fact Erick Matchett. I can see how a clerk might have puzzled over that name and decided to go with the more common spelling in the deed book.

In the second quitclaim deed
(Book M2, pp 383-384) also dated 15 Sep 1835, Ellen Henderickson sold her dower right as widow of William Henderickson to Jesse and Mary Kepler for $20. She acknowledged the deed the same day.
(If you would like copies of my transcripts of these deeds or access to the pictures of the deed book pages, let me know.)
Some additional records that help to tie this family together include:
- The marriage of William Hendrickson to Eleanor Emmins on 4 Apr 1800 in Monmouth County, New Jersey.
- The baptism of Albert Hendrickson, son of William Hendrickson and Ellenor Emmens, on 6 Sep 1801 at the Dutch Reformed Church in Monmouth County,
- The marriage of of Joanna Hendrickson to Errick Matchett on 15 Jan 1821 by Rev. John Fountain of Cheesequake, N.J. Present were Hendrick Snyder & Richard Matchett.
- The 1870 census of Jackson Twp., Montgomery Co., Ohio, in which Eleanor Hendrickson resides in the household of Jesse and Maria Kepler. She is aged 89 and is identified as “Lives with daughter.”

You can see a more detailed report on this family, with sources, on my webpage.

In my initial survey of Hendricksons in the Miami Valley of Ohio and beyond, I ran across a William John Hendrickson who was said to have lived in Licking County, Ohio, and whose wife was Eleanor Emmons. This Eleanor was reported to have been born in 1776 in Monmouth County, New Jersey, and died in 1853 in Johnstown, Monroe Twp., Licking Co. I have not been able to determine the sources of this information beyond the fact that it appears first in an Ancestral File entry and later in a Pedigree Resource File submission.
This William may be the man who purchased land from the government in 1829 and shows up in the 1830 and 1840 censuses of Monroe Township. In both of those censuses, the oldest male in the household was born between 1791 and 1800, making him too young to have married Eleanor Emmons in Monmouth County in 1800. Similarly, the oldest female in these censuses also was born between 1791 and 1800. There are four children with the couple in the 1830 census and seven in 1840.
There is a Wm Hendrixon in the 1850 census of Monroe Twp., Licking Co., in the household of Mary Heckathorn. This William was born about 1805 in New Jersey. No female who could be his wife or Hendrickson children are with him.
I would love to correspond with anyone researching this Licking County family.

Lastly, I need to credit Elizabeth Shawn Mills and Marian Pierre-Louis. Ms. Mills spoke last year here in Kentucky and I’ve attend two excellent webinars by Ms. Pierre-Louis. I got lots of good information and research ideas from both of them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Coming soon

   To a computer screen near you . . .
   The 1940 Census.
   Let me tell you who I'm going to look for first . . . ME!
   Yup, I confess, I'm that old. Well, just barely, actually. In the 1940 census I should be listed as "10/12" of a year old living with my parents and grandparents at the Flat Iron, a country store in Indiana.
   This may be the only search I do in the raw microfilm images (no scratched-up microfilm, all digital images, all free).
   I'm confident. I'll wait for the indexing to be completed.

   So, let's get with it, folks. I don't want to wait forever.
   If you are not already an indexer, get started today so you'll be up and running by April 2. Go to this website. Follow the instructions to download and run the software. You will be prompted to create an account.
   That's all there is to it.
   But, before you download that first batch, read the tutorial. I recommend going to the Help menu first and clicking the Resource Guide. Or just go here.

   In the center top portion of the page, select Indexing Tutorial. You might also want to download the User Guide and leave it on your desktop for ready reference if you have a question.
   Then download your first batch. Pick an easy one to start.

   Every time I find a new record on FamilySearch, it reminds me to give something back -- index something for someone else to find.
   I don't find it a chore. I enjoy indexing. I've been doing it for several years and I think I've indexed a little over 14,000 names. That's not really a lot compared to what some really dedicated indexers have done.
   Every little bit helps. You do your part and I will too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Postcard mystery

   Back in November I received an email from Daniel Grimsley telling about a postcard of a World War I soldier he had found among papers of the Grimsley and Flake families of eastern North Carolina that didn't seem to connect to his family.  Daniel had found my website that includes the letters, diary and pictures of Paul B Hendrickson concerning his service in World War I.

    The mystery postcard had not been mailed but writing on the back said, "Priv't. James Bernikow, Med. dept. 79th Inf., Camp Logan, Houston, Tex."
   Paul trained at Camp Logan in Houston with the 33rd Division. The 79th Infantry was not part of the 33rd.
   I believe the 79th Infantry (from the postcard) was a part of the 15th Division. The 15th was a Regular Army division that trained at Camp Logan after the 33rd Division had left. I do not believe it went overseas. There is a website called New River Notes that has wonderful information about the various World War I divisions, including the 15th.

   But who was Private Bernikow?
Passport photo
   A search at Ancestry located an emergency passport application of a James J. Bernikow at the American legation in Panama dated 1 December 1919. In the application he states he was born 28 December 1895 in New York City the son of Samuel M. Bernikow, a Russian immigrant. He also states he was in the Army and was at Brest, France, from January to December 1918. The passport photo is at right. Is it the same man as the one in the postcard? The ears sure look the same. The hairline and eyebrows are also similar.

   I also found a 1910 census record for a Samuel Bormkow (corrected to Bernikow) age 40 born Russia with son James age 11 (born 1899). I've asked Ancestry if they could identify the person who made that correction but it was made before they started keep track of such things. Might be someone related. 
   Obviously, if James was born in 1898 or 1899 he would not be the first man to exaggerate his age in order to enlist in World War I or obtain employment afterwards.

Face in the postcard

   The mystery postcard has an interesting feature -- the woman's face in the cigarette smoke cloud. Could she have been a girl friend? Or, was this a stock picture added to all postcards of this design representing the girl the soldier left back home?
   It sure would be nice to know the answers to all these questions. And I'm sure Daniel Grimsley would like to know as well. Daniel said in his initial email that he would like to return this postcard to James Bernikow's next of kin.
   If you can help solve the mystery, leave a comment or email me.

Monday, January 2, 2012

History of English Mines

   Among the many newspaper clippings my mother collected and left for me in her "Ancestor Albums" is this one concerning mining in England in the 19th century.
   My mother believed that the "Grape Creek resident" who submitted the article to the newspaper was her grandfather, Jonah James.  Jonah was born 6 January 1835 in Somerset, England, and was a life-long miner and coal mine manager.
   If it was Jonah who submitted the article, and if he started work in the mines at the age of 9 (about 1844) and had spent sixty years in the mines at the time the article was published that would make the publication date about 1904 and the place of publication probably Danville, Illinois.

   Back dating would also place the original date of publication in The Miners' Journal about 1885.  A newspaper of that name was published in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1800s, but that identification is only a possibility.
   If you have ancestors who were coal miners in England in the early 1800s, you will find the article both interesting and disturbing.

Women and Children Worked Harnessed Like Mules, Carrying and Handling Coal.
   This articles, which deals with conditions of the mines in England as they confronted the miners of that country some thirty years ago, is the much valued property of a Grape Creek resident who has spent sixty years in the mines, both here and in England, starting in the mines when 9 years old, as a trapper boy[1], in England, and elevating himself to the position of mine manager in America.  By his request his name will not be given.
This article was published in the Miners' Journal nineteen years ago.

I first made the acquaintance of a coal mine in my native Scotland, in the year 1842, a few weeks before I had attained the age of 8 years.  At that time Lord Ashley's bill[2] had not been introduced in parliament for the exclusion of female labor and children from coal mines.  When father told me that he was going to take me to the pit my joy knew no bounds; I was so overjoyed that I could not sleep, and got up at 1 o'clock in the morning, fearing that if I fell asleep he would go off without me.  It was regarded as a great honor for a small boy to be taken to the mine; and when I returned home that evening I walked up and down the village showing myself to all my little comrades.
   My oldest recollection of the mine was seeing a young woman at the bottom of the pit as I was lifted out of the corve by father; she was standing on the plates with her hands on her sides singing a song, snatches of which I still remember, although I do not think I ever heard it since. It began as follows:
   "I've got a pain in my side, and I got it by dancing;
    Fal the deedle al al; fal the deedle ee."

   A set of harness was brought to me and I was told to put it on, which I did, and was then hitched up to one of the mine wagons and ordered to go on.  I started to pull with all my might, but could not move the empty car; the bystanders roared with laughter, and declared that I could not tighten the chain.
   There were no cages in the pits in those days.  The coal was raised through the shaft in an iron basket of circular form, made of boiler-plate, called a corve.  It held about 400 pounds of coal.  The hoisting rope was made of hemp, [an inch] in thickness and four inches wide. A double chain was attached to the end of the rope, having hooks which were hitched into the lugs of the corve.
   The miners began to gather around the pit as early as 3 o'clock in the morning; but were not allowed to go down until 4, the first on the ground having the right of descent.  The corves held four to six persons; and the father, his sons and daughters generally descended together; the youngsters sitting in the bottom of the corve, the father standing erect with one leg outside the corve and one arm guiding it to keep it from striking the sides of the pit.  The younger and bolder men who had no charge caught the rope as the cage descended below the platform and clung to it until the bottom was reached -- this was a daring plunge and sometimes three or four men would descend in this manner, one above the other.  Those who went down in this manner were not required to wait their turn.  Before going down they stuck their picks behind their backs, between their jackets and vests.  A curious habit with miners in those days was carrying their picks on their left arm.  When a miners carried a pick [in this] manner it was proof that he was not a trained pitman.

   All the hauling was done by boys and girls in Scotland; but some parts of England the women did every kind of pit work, from digging the coal to hauling it to the bottom of the shaft.
   In hauling, two women were usually employed -- one behind and the other in front; the forward one was hitched up to the mine car, with a belt around her waist and a chain passing between her legs.  In many parts of England the women were dressed like boys.  When the commissioners appointed by parliament to inquire into the operation and results of female labor in coal mines made their report, they presented a picture of deadly physical oppression and systematic slavery of which no one unacquainted with the facts would credit the existence.  The women worked 12 to 14 hours a day in the damp and unwholesome air of mines, crawling on all fours in dragging the loaded cars along roadways covered with water in many places.
   In Scotland women were not only employed in hauling the coal along such roadways, but at many mines they carried it up the shaft on their backs, through a long winding stairway, the coal being carried in wicker cribs fitted to the backs of the women and held in place by leather straps passing around their foreheads.  Mr. Robert Bald, the eminent coal viewer of Scotland, who knew them well, states that one of their days' work was equal to carrying a hundred weight from the level of the sea to the top of  Ben Lomond;[3] and Hugh Miller, who worked at his trade at one of the mining villages near Edinburgh, in 1824, says that he often saw the poor women coal bearers toiling under their loads, and crying like children along the upper rounds of the wooden stair that traversed the shaft.

   Children as young as three years were taken into the mines.  One miner stated to the commissioners that he took his child, only three years old, into the pit with him.  It was made to follow him into his room and hold a candle for him, and when the child became overcome with fatigue he cradled it upon the coals.  Some of the pit women tied their children to their apron strings to prevent them wandering away into the old working and losing themselves.  This horrible fact was, however, an exceptional case, nor was it the custom of employing women in mines general. In the thick coals of Billston, Dudley and Wolverhamdon, women were never employed in mines, and in the north of Eng[land         ] and t[       ]been volunt[arily abolished] since 1780.
  If the colored people of the United States have reason to honor the name of Abraham Lincoln for freeing the colored slaves of this country, the women of England should honor the memory of Queen Victoria, for it was one of the first acts of her administration which emancipated the pit women of Great Britain from a system of white slavery more cruyel than the worst form of negro bondage.  One pit woman of Scotland said to the commissioners: "You must just tell Queen Victoria that we are quiet, loyal subjects and that women in Scotland do not mind hard work, and that the Queen would have the blessings of all the Scotch pit women if she would get them out of the pits and find them other labor."

1. Trapper boys opened and closed underground ventilation doors -- Shorpy
2. The Mines and Collieries Act 1842 prevented boys under the age of ten and all females from working underground -- Wikipedia
3. A mountain on the shore of Loch Lomond which is 3,196 feet tall. -- Wikipedia