Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Early Bird, Night Owl - Musings

Family history research has temporarily come to a halt.  In fact, nearly every non-essential activity in my life has come to a halt -- except the wondering, imagining, and musing about my ancestors and their lives.  For a few weeks I am working at a full-time job which begins every morning at 8:00 a.m.

This would be fine if I were an early bird, a morning person.  But I am not.  I am a night owl.  It's what my body tells me works best.  I usually go to bed between midnight and 2:00 a.m. and get up between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.  I get between seven and eight hours of sleep and it all works perfectly.  When I can do it.  But I can't do it these two weeks.  So I've been going to bed around 10:00 p.m. with the intention (and the hope) of getting eight hours of sleep.  Unfortunately, I toss and turn for the first few hours, finally fall asleep at about 2:00 a.m., and awake after less than five hours sleep to find that I have a headache.  (This is not a poor me post.  Really.  I'm not complaining, just giving background to help you follow the thread of my thoughts.)

I've never been a morning person.  My mom had the hardest time waking me when I started school -- and I had a hard time waking myself as I grew older.  As a young child with a bedtime of 7:00 or 8:00,  I would lie awake tossing and turning, finally falling asleep much later.

I attended college orientation with my mom who, when it came time to complete a schedule request, suggested that I take morning classes so I could have the afternoons free.  What was she thinking?  What was I thinking?  Maybe she thought it would help whip me into shape.  Those were the days before electric alarm clocks with snooze buttons:  I set three wind-up alarm clocks to go off at 10-minute intervals. 

After my babies were born I was thrilled to be able to nestle them in bed while I slept a little longer in the mornings.  Whether it's nature or nurture, neither is a morning person.  Both had to alter that tendency while in college and for jobs, but given the opportunity, both would go to bed late and get up late.

Is the concept (and/or the reality) of morning person/night person relatively recent?  Did the advent of electricity and artificial light change the sleeping/waking habits of people?  Or have there always been people who were early birds and night owls with preferred times to be awake and to sleep?  I suppose it's possible that nearly everyone was a morning person 100 or 150 years ago when the time after sunset was usually dark (except for the use of expensive candles and oil lamps).  Or perhaps a body eventually adjusts when the need arises?

If I had night owl ancestors, how would the night owl dairy farmer have managed a farm of cows that needed milked early every morning?  Or managed the planting and harvesting, both jobs that require daylight?  Did the night owls go through their days feeling tired and having headaches?  How did my night-owl ancestors manage when they couldn't be night-owls?

In agrarian cultures like that of our ancestors a century ago, life happened during the day.  I think that's the norm these days, too.  The expectation seems to be that people get up early and begin work at 8:00 a.m., sometimes earlier.   There's not much consideration for the person whose body tells her that sleep should begin at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., and so we drag along.

If a body really does adjust its sleeping habits when the need arises, by the end of these two weeks maybe I will have become a morning person.  That would be a surprise to everyone who knows me.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?  Do you know if your ancestors tended toward one or the other?


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What If They Did? - Monday Musings

These are further musings as a result of an earlier post, Two Degrees of Separation, at the end of which I commented that 200 years had passed since the birth of my 3rd great-grandmother.  Said great-grandmother knew my grandmother, and yet no accounts of said 3rd great-grandmother were ever passed along -- at least not along our family lines to me.

In fact, it seems that I come from a long line of non-storytellers.  Or maybe it was just my parents and grandparents who didn't tell stories.  I've never met any of my earlier ancestors because they died before I was born.

But what if my ancestors did tell the stories?  What if they told the stories of their lives to their children and grandchildren and shared memories of their parents and grand-parents?  What if the children and grandchildren didn't pass on those stories?  What if my ancestors told the stories and only a few of the grandchildren remembered?  Maybe other descendants and their families know these stories and my siblings and I are the only ones who don't.

Even if my 3rd-great-grandmother kept a journal it could not have passed to every single one of her descendants.  If she kept a journal and it survived, it would likely be in the hands of only one person (who is, unfortunately, not me).  If it has survived for 150 years and the descendant into whose possession it landed is not interested in family history, she may not know that a great-grandmother wrote it.  She may consider it a piece of junk.  And think of how many descendants into whose hands it could be.  Probably several hundred by now.

I suppose I'm moaning a little; and also feeling a little envious of those who do have stories and journals and photographs of ancestors.  If you have them, treasure them.  Preserve them.  Do what you can to share the stories, both with your descendants and online so others who may suddenly develop an interest can find them.

Yes, I do wish I were a designated descendant!


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Follow Friday:  The German-American Genealogist Blog

I am pleased to have discovered Josiah Schmidt's The German-American Genealogist Blog this week and would like to recommend it to you if you're trying to find your German ancestors or learn more about your German-American ancestors.

In honor of German-American Heritage Month, "Oktober," Josiah is posting a German research tip each day.  There are posts about German records; German names and naming patterns; occupations; geography; writing; customs; German websites for research; and more.  Plus more to come.  This is a young blog so there aren't scores of previous posts but the older posts are all excellent and well worth the time to read them. 

In Josiah's podcast, The Average Johann, he interviewed Teva Scheer, author of Our Daily Bread:  German Village Life, 1500-1850.  They discussed the daily life and customs of the common folk who lived in the areas that make up Germany today.  It gave me insight into the livestyles of my ancestors who grew up in Germany (and I realized how grateful I am to not live in such a restrictive time and location). 

When you visit his blog you'll see that the posts are presented with title, date, and a paragraph.  If you want to read the whole post you'll need to click "more."  I follow this blog in feedly, my preferred way to follow blogs and can read the whole post in one go.

With the help of the information in The German-American Genealogist Blog I'm hopeful that I can learn enough to discover the origins of some of my German ancestors.

Now, go read!  You'll be glad you did.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Naming Relationships

Have you ever noticed that there are several ways to write how two people are related?  The easiest and most direct relationship to name is mother or father but as we go further back relationships become more complicated -- sometimes unclear and/or unspecific.  Some ways lack clarity;  other ways may be more clear but are down-right complicated. 

Here are some examples of various ways to say the same relationship:

My grandfather is
> my mother's father
> my father's father
This relationship is easy to clarify by indicating maternal or paternal grandfather.

My maternal great-grandmother (of which I have two) is
> my mother's maternal grandmother
> my mother's paternal grandmother
> my maternal grandmother's mother
> my maternal grandfather's mother

My brother-in-law can be
> my husband's brother
> my sister's husband
> my husband's sister's husband

My paternal great-grandfather is
> my father's paternal grandfather
> my father's maternal grandfather

My grandaunt (which I always wrongly called a great aunt) is
> my mother's aunt (on her mother's or father's side)
> my father's aunt (on his mother's or father's side)
> my grandmother's sister
> my grandfather's sister
> my mother's mother's sister
> my father's mother's sister

By the time one begins talking about great granduncle there's trouble in store for describing that relationship easily.  Not even the simple maternal or paternal adjective helps since a great granduncle is the son of one's great-great-grandparents, of which there are four couples.  Maternal or paternal on the parents' side; then maternal or paternal on the great-grandparents' side?  Clearly, it's fuzzy territory when trying to be clear.

I sometimes find it challenging to concisely state a relationship for a blog post.  I believe I have relatives who read my posts and may go away scratching their heads in a state of uncertainty, wondering exactly how they are related to the ancestor they just read about.

Can you think of other confusing relationships that are difficult to write clearly?  Do you have a system for choosing how you write relationships in your blog posts?


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Granite Mountain Records Vault, Home of Familysearch Records

Have you ever wondered what the Granite Mountain Records Vault of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks like? Or how they process requests for microfilm copies that you order at the Family History Centers around the world? Or what FamilySearch is doing to preserve images of records from around the world? Here's an opportunity to take a video tour and learn more.

In her post, Genealogical Trick or Treat, TK of Before My Time, mentioned a post about the Granite Mountain Vault which houses the genealogical records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I sent her the link to this post (originally published on September 10, 2010) to let her know she could "tour" the vault.  She told me the links were broken but that the videos were still available on youtube.  She suggested I fix the links and republish.  So here you have an updated blog post with two interesting, brief youtube videos.  Enjoy!


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Turning Back the Clock - Monday Musings

A few weeks ago my husband and I went to a rural produce auction an hour's drive from our home.  The vegetables, fruits, and flowers were fresh, bright, and beautiful.

The produce was the harvest of Amish farmers.  While the auctioneer's hum invited the purchase of hundreds of pots of chrysanthemums, I wandered around and took photos of the produce, then of the horses and buggies.  As I looked through the camera's lens it suddenly occurred to me that I was looking at a way of life that was akin to that of my rural ancestors a hundred or more years ago.

The adults and children, wearing simple styles of clothing, quietly visited with each other as they watched the auction's proceedings.  Little children shyly peeked out from behind their parents' legs.  The teams of horses were equipped for pulling farm wagons with heavy loads.  Individual horses were harnessed to lighter buggies carrying one or two people.  I imagined the homes in which the Amish live and the modern conveniences they live without.  The simple lives of the Amish must mirror the simpler lifestyles of my ancestors. 

As I looked at one of the wagons I thought of my great-great-grandfather who was a wagon-maker.  The horses called my mind to my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who farmed with horses.  The hand sewn clothing reminded me that my great-great-grandmothers hand-stitched clothing for their husbands, their children, and themselves.  I thought of wood-burning stoves and ovens giving service to my great-grandmothers to make meals for their hard-working husbands and sons.  Certainly the pre-modern ways of the Amish are akin to the ways of my ancestors.

I'm grateful for modern conveniences and technology but I find it's good to occasionally turn back the clock and visit areas where people live simple lives similar to the ways my ancestors lived.  In some small way I think it connects me to them in a way different from finding their names and dates in documents and newspapers.  It brings the reality of their lives to life, if only just a little.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Snapshot of a Farm, 1927 - Census Sunday

I have an unending fascination with my near ancestors -- the ones who might have been alive during my lifetime had disease or illness not taken them early.  Had they lived I might have known more about their lives and visited the environments in which they lived.  For my farmer ancestors, an agricultural census seems like a tiny window into their lives -- a snapshot, if you will -- of animals, crops, and chores on the farm. 

The Pennsylvania Triennial Farm Census--1927 gives the barest image of the farm where my father and grandfather lived.  At the time the census was taken, between October 13 and November 29, 1927, Gust Doyle would have been 38 or 39 (his birthday was on November 17); my father, Lee, was 14.  Also living on the farm were Gust's second wife, my father's step-mother; and their four children, my father's half-siblings.  Gust's information is on p. 5, line 23.

 1     Gust Doyle - Name of Operator
        R.D. 1, Stoneboro - Address (R.D. & Post Office)
 2     O - Owner, Renter, Manager
 3     1 male under 10
 4     3 females under 10
 5     2 males 10 and older
 6     1 female 10 and older
 7     140 total acres all land in farm
 8     35 total acres land used for crops during season
 9     7 acres corn for grain
10    6½ acres corn for silage and fodder, etc.
11    6 acres wheat for grain
12    15 acres oats for grain
13    no acres rye for grain
14    no acres buckwheat for grain
15    ½ acre Irish potatoes
16    no acres tobacco
17    no acres tame alfalfa hay
18    21 acres all other hay
19    no apple tress of bearing age
20    14 apple trees of non-bearing age
21    18 peach trees of all ages
22    2 pear trees of all ages
23    2 horses including colts
24    no mules
25    2 horses & mules of working age
26    18 milk cows & heifers 2 years old and over
27    2 heifers 1-2 years old to be kept for milking
28    4 all other cattle including calves
29    no sows or gilts for breeding
30    no other swine including pigs
31    no sheep including lambs
32    30 hens and pullets of laying age
33    30 other chickens
34    no hives of bees
Equipment and conveniences - report number of each
35    1 running water in kitchen
36    1 furnace heating system
37    no milking machines in use
38    1 automobile
39    1 motor truck
40    1 tractor
41    no gas engines
42    1 telephone
43    no radios
44    1 silo
If farm is equipped with electricity, source of current
45    not own plant
46    1 power station

Had the census requested an account of other fruits grown on the farm in addition to apples and pears, Gust would have answered that there were up to several acres of strawberries grown and harvested each year.  The Doyle Farm was known for its strawberries and was situated on what was called Strawberry Hill.

The Pennsylvania Triennial Farm Census--1927 is available at the website of the Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission.  Thank you for the snapshot, PHMC!


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Succession of Deaths in the Family - Sympathy Saturday

By all accounts Elvira Gerner was a strong woman.  She was the capable farmer's wife; the area midwife; the person neighbors called upon to prepare bodies for burial; and the mother of 16 children, all born alive and at home.  Strength was her character. 

February 1899 Obituary of Christian Gerner from Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, February 23, 1899
I have no recorded or verbal history of her and her husband Fred's relationship with Fred's father, Christian Gerner.  When answering questions as informant for her husband's death certificate, Elvira left blank the spaces for the names of her father- and mother-in-law.  Does that indicate grief or sorrow causing absent-mindedness or a lack of knowledge?  If a lack of knowledge, then surely Fred and Elvira's family were not close to his father.  But we don't know either way.

And yet experienced Elvira may have been the person called upon in February, 1899, to prepare Christian for burial.  In fact, compassionate Elvira may have been the person at Christian's side as he struggled through and succumbed to pneumonia.

Christian was 79 when he died on February 18, 1899.  Death certificates had yet to be created so there's no way of knowing when the pneumonia began or how long a doctor had attended him.  Sacramento's The Daily Union of July 19, 1899, page 4, gives this information about congestive pneumonia.  "It is very apt to occur as the culminating difficulty of some long sickness, carrying off a great many old people and feeble people who have been invalids for some time.  In this disease the lungs seem to fill up and the weak vital forces are unable to throw off the accumulations."  Considering his age it is possible Christian could have had congestive pneumonia, but it's only conjecture.

As the oldest male in the family, Fred may have been the executor of Christian's estate but no will has surfaced to give indication of how Christian chose to govern his affairs after his death.  Neither do we know who notified the rest of the family and how if they weren't already at Christian's side.  To my knowledge, no details survive.

We have no way of knowing how long it was before the estate was settled and life returned to some semblance of normal for 46-year-old Elvira and her family:  there were 11 children living at home during this time.  Their ages ranged from 2 years to 25 years.  She and Fred were living in Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, no doubt close to the home where Christian died.

Obituary of Rebecca (Smith) Bartley in Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, January 4, 1900
And then 10 months later came another death in the family.  This time is was Elvira's own mother, Rebecca (Smith) Bartley.  Rebecca died of stomach cancer on December 29, 1899, at the age of 80, leaving behind Dixon, her husband of over 60 years.  The months before her death must have been busy ones for Elvira.  Elvira's sister, Jane, lived at home but surely Elvira spent time helping both of her parents, especially tending to her mother during her illness.  Again, we have no idea how long cancer had ravaged Rebecca's body.  Perhaps her passing was a sweet  release from pain and suffering.

Death Notice of Jane Bartley in Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, February 8, 1900
Less than two months later, on February 6, 1900, both Elvira and her father had cause to mourn another loss:  that of sister and daughter, Jane.  Jane had been the daughter who lived at home, the one who took care of her mother, Rebecca; the one who continued to take care of her aging father, Dixon.  Jane was just 52 when she succumbed to pneumonia.

For Elvira?  To lose two close family members in two months must have been heartbreaking.  Though she had a young family who needed her care and attention she surely mourned the losses.  As for Dixon?  Just four days after his daughter's death, on February 10, 1900, he wrote, or possibly rewrote, his will.    

Death was not finished with the Bartley household.  

Death Notice of Dixon Bartley in Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, April 26, 1900
On April 23, 1900, Elvira's father, Dixon, passed away.  It was just a little over two months after his daughter Jane's death in February, and less than four month since his wife's death on December 29.  Cancer and old age were cited as the causes of death.

Even when we know death is imminent due to advanced age or illness; no matter how firm one's foundation of faith, we grieve the loss of loved-ones.  Losing three immediate family members in four months must certainly have filled Elvira with deep sorrow.  But from what we know she had a strong faith.  She also had a family with young children who needed her.  Elvira carried on. 

My sympathies to Elvira.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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