Want to meet up at the Midwestern Roots conference?

Midwestern Roots 2014 conferenceI can’t believe it’s almost August already. Next week I travel to Indianapolis for the Midwestern Roots Family History and Genealogy conference. I’m very excited. I love conferences in general and I’ve really enjoyed the genealogy conferences I’ve attended so far. RootsTech 2014 was especially valuable for me.

Before I went to RootsTech in February, I posted here and was so happy to hear from a reader, Lori Krause, who was attending. She’s a fellow Missourian (though she lives on the other side of the state) and we spent a lot of time together at the conference and have also visited the Midwest Genealogy Center together subsequently.

So I thought I’d see if anyone is going to the Indiana conference. If so, maybe we can get together for coffee or sit together at a session. (I promise not to pressure you to become my BFF.) Just leave a comment and I’ll contact you via email or just email me through the Contact form.

I’m heading up early for the pre-conference session on preserving original family documents on Thursday morning.

I’m very excited about this learning opportunity. And I hope to multiply the benefit by meeting one or more readers of this blog!

Genealogy = connections

From left: Me, Penny, Sue, Mary (seated)

From left: me, Penny, Sue, Mary (seated)

Thanks to my family history research (and this blog, really), I had an extraordinary day this past Friday, meeting my mother’s cousins and aunt. My mother was born in Missouri but her family moved to Spokane, Washington, in 1936 (looking for a better climate for my grandfather, who was recovering from tuberculosis). They left behind my grandfather’s parents and siblings, a close-knit family.

As a result, I didn’t grow up knowing this branch of the family and we sort of disappeared off the family radar. But that changed when my mother’s cousin, Jerry Brown, found this blog and introduced me to the Brown cousins, a wonderfully welcoming group. So when I saw there was a genealogy conference in western Missouri, I registered and arranged to come in a day early and meet my family.

It was an incredible day. These people are hilarious and fun and we laughed and laughed and laughed. It started with lunch in Nevada, Missouri, with cousin Penny. After that, we met cousin Sue at the old-folks’ home where Penny’s mother, Mary, lives. Mary is the sole surviving sibling of my grandfather, Crawford Brown. (Crawford died in 1996, two weeks shy of his 90th birthday.) She is 99 years old and has a twinkle in her eye and is quick to laugh. That’s us in the picture up top.

Then we went to Milo, Missouri, where my great grandparents (Crawford’s parents), who are Penny and Sue’s grandparents, had lived. I saw the site of their in-town house, where they moved from the farm in 1959, when they were in their 70s. And we went to Milo cemetery, where they are buried. We also saw the site of their farm (and I heard many hilarious stories about Sue’s antics at the farm when she was little).

The graves of my great grandparents, A.J. and Rhoda Brown

The graves of my great grandparents, A.J. and Rhoda Brown

Then these lovely women took me on a quest to find the cemetery where my great grandfather Jeffries (my grandmother Sue’s father and father-in-law to Crawford) was buried, along with his parents and grandparents. Mind you, these Jeffries are no relation to Penny and Sue, but they were up for helping me find the cemetery. It wasn’t easy. We had some directions from an old book, but they didn’t turn out to be entirely accurate. To make matters more complicated, there are two cemeteries within a few miles with homophonic names (Meyer’s and Myer’s), so asking directions wasn’t terribly fruitful. But then I got my husband, Barry, on the case from home and Google maps saved the day. Once there, Sue and Penny helped me find the actual graves. Here’s the grave marker for my great grandfather’s grandparents.

The grave marker for my 3rd great grandparents, R.A. and Harriett Jeffries

The grave marker for my 3rd great grandparents, R.A. and Harriett Jeffries

Luckily the day was beautiful, sunny and in the upper 70s or low 80s. It wouldn’t have seen like such a fun adventure the next day, when it was cold and windy.

After our grave-hopping (we went to both Meyer’s and Myer’s, as well as Milo cemeteries), we went by the site of the original homestead near Rockville, Missouri, that my great grandparents established when they moved to Missouri from Nebraska in about 1914. And after that we met more cousins at a Mexican restaurant in Nevada for dinner, as well as Sue’s 90-year-old father (widower of Crawford’s sister, Nancy). A family reunion date was selected for 2014. I am eager to attend!

By the time I headed up to my hotel in Blue Springs, Missouri, I was exhausted. But so tickled to have had such a wonderful day.

When I started doing family history research, it was all about a solitary detective hunt with feelings of triumph when vital records were obtained. What I didn’t realize it would be about was connecting with family, sharing stories and memories, and uncovering life-enhancing relationships.

I am so grateful for the time spent with this new-found family. And I am so grateful for my interest in genealogy!

Picking my parents’ brains

I’m going next week to visit my parents in Walla Walla, Washington. I’ve kicked myself over the past year for not asking them more questions (or listening better when they volunteered information) about family lore and ancestors when we were all younger. Their memories aren’t as good as they were twenty years ago, naturally.

When I’m there visiting, I plan to ask a few questions that have come up as I’ve been doing genealogy research this year. I don’t know if they’ll be able to answer them, but I have to ask.

And here’s the tiny thing I’m doing that feels kind of radical. I’m actually writing down the questions, even the small curiosities. I’m not relying on my memory. I’m not going to assume that there will be a natural opportunity to ask these questions. I’m writing them in my notebook and at some point I’m going to pull out that notebook and interview my parents. And the notebook will be handy for writing down their responses.

My parents’ memories aren’t the only ones deteriorating with age. My memory is definitely not what it used to be (I’m 50) and I’m not going to take any chances.

If you’re visiting with family members over the holidays, you might jot down some questions to ask them. I so wish I’d done it years ago!


Census connections

The 1940 census is out and, thanks to my mother’s good memory, I was able to find her on the 1940 census. She was born in 1933, so this is obviously the first census I read her name in. Such a thrill!

I noted that, according to the census, my mother’s brother, Joe, was born in Georgia. This was a big question mark for me, because I’d never, ever heard talk of my family living in Georgia. I figured I’d ask my mother about it next time I see her.

I posted a link to the census page on my personal Facebook page and my first cousin, Joe’s daughter, Janis, commented. That allowed me to ask her about the Georgia connection and she told me that our grandparents had lived there the year after they were married (they were married in 1930) and that my grandfather was a door-to-door lingerie salesman!! I’d never heard that before, but apparently my grandmother told Janis stories of living in Georgia.

I went back to the 1930 census and saw that at the time of the enumeration (April 1930) my grandfather was living with his parents and was listed as a “Commercial Traveler” for an adding machine company. I have a copy of his marriage license application, just a month later. So some time in 1930 (Joe was born in 1931), my grandfather went from selling adding machines in Missouri to selling lingerie in Georgia. I wonder how that happened?

By 1933 when my mother was born, my family moved back to Missouri. I’m going to see if I can get the story from my mother. This is such a springboard for conversation.

I love the connections the census allows us to make about our family members’ lives. I also love that posting about the 1940 census allowed me to make that connection with my cousin, who had this knowledge about our family that I’d previously known nothing about. And, of course, I love that Facebook is helping me make these connections.

Yet another reason I love family history research!