Today’s Mail

I got two items of genealogical interest in the mail today. The first was The Grand River Times, the newsletter of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Historical Sociey, of which I am a former member. I’m still receiving their newsletter, though. They have an interesting article about a presentation of antique Grand Rapids penny postacards at the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids on April 13th. Apparently, penny postcards are a terrific way to view urban history. Because of their economical price, many were massed produced in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. If you can find a postcard of your ancestor’s hometown, you may be able to see what his/her neighborhood, place of worship, place of business or local park looked like.

The second item was from my mother’s cousin, and was a package of documents – copies of her parents’ vital records and some of her father’s military papers. This was my maternal grandmother’s sister and brother-in-law, Mary Louise (Hoekstra) and John Peter Glashower, II. Not only are my cousin Kathy and I exchanging records for our own genealogical collections, we are safeguarding them by keeping copies in another state, should a disaster occur. The last few years have brought large terrorist strikes, tsunamis, hurricanes and other major events that should prompt family historians to double-check their backup plans on those priceless heirlooms and genealogical data.

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Today’s Mail

I got two items of genealogical interest in the mail today. The first was The Grand River Times, the newsletter of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Historical Sociey, of which I am a former member. I’m still receiving their newsletter, though. They have an interesting article about a presentation of antique Grand Rapids penny postacards at the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids on April 13th. Apparently, penny postcards are a terrific way to view urban history. Because of their economical price, many were massed produced in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. If you can find a postcard of your ancestor’s hometown, you may be able to see what his/her neighborhood, place of worship, place of business or local park looked like.

The second item was from my mother’s cousin, and was a package of documents – copies of her parents’ vital records and some of her father’s military papers. This was my maternal grandmother’s sister and brother-in-law, Mary Louise (Hoekstra) and John Peter Glashower, II. Not only are my cousin Kathy and I exchanging records for our own genealogical collections, we are safeguarding them by keeping copies in another state, should a disaster occur. The last few years have brought large terrorist strikes, tsunamis, hurricanes and other major events that should prompt family historians to double-check their backup plans on those priceless heirlooms and genealogical data.

Ordering Vital Records

This morning I mailed off applications for vital records for ancestors of my husband. I was prompted by the posting at GenealogyBlog a few days ago that mentioned that there was a bill before the Colorado State legislature that, if passed, will prevent access to Colorado marriage records. Ridiculous! Of course, the reasoning behind this bill is identity theft and terrorism prevention, but once, again, paranoia has driven things too far! I can understand protecting records that are less than 50 or even 60 years old…but tell me how restricting access to marriage records that are 100 years old will prevent identity theft and terrorism? I can see it now…members of Al-Quaida are meeting to figure out a way to get counterfeit ID, and decide they will use Norm’s great-grandparents’ marriage record of 1907 to show proof of residence and thus citizenship. Oh, wait…that couple married 101 years ago! So I guess that member of Al-Quaida looks a little young to be married in 1907! Nevertheless, we must protect our citizens. Quick, shut down access to public records in the name of Homeland Security!

OK, off my soapbox. I ordered a marriage certificate from Colorado for John Franklin Midkiff, Sr. and Margie Ethel Tolliver; a birth record for Helen Mary Westaby (Norm’s paternal grandmother) from Montana; and a death certificate for John Franklin Midkiff, Jr. (Norm’s paternal grandfather) from Washington (State). To get applications, I simply went to www.co.gov, www.mt.gov, and www.wa.gov. I looked for “vital records” or “public health” links on the main pages of each website. All three sites were user-friendly, and I was able to find what I needed right away. If I hadn’t been able to, I would have looked on the main page for a link to a site map, or done a site search.

I chose mail-in applications which I printed (all were .pdf files which I viewed with Adobe Acrobat) over online applications, which used third party businesses and were rather expensive. The mail-in applications may take some time, but they were reasonably priced. I didn’t pay more than $17 apiece for the certificates.

Ordering Vital Records

This morning I mailed off applications for vital records for ancestors of my husband. I was prompted by the posting at GenealogyBlog a few days ago that mentioned that there was a bill before the Colorado State legislature that, if passed, will prevent access to Colorado marriage records. Ridiculous! Of course, the reasoning behind this bill is identity theft and terrorism prevention, but once, again, paranoia has driven things too far! I can understand protecting records that are less than 50 or even 60 years old…but tell me how restricting access to marriage records that are 100 years old will prevent identity theft and terrorism? I can see it now…members of Al-Quaida are meeting to figure out a way to get counterfeit ID, and decide they will use Norm’s great-grandparents’ marriage record of 1907 to show proof of residence and thus citizenship. Oh, wait…that couple married 101 years ago! So I guess that member of Al-Quaida looks a little young to be married in 1907! Nevertheless, we must protect our citizens. Quick, shut down access to public records in the name of Homeland Security!

OK, off my soapbox. I ordered a marriage certificate from Colorado for John Franklin Midkiff, Sr. and Margie Ethel Tolliver; a birth record for Helen Mary Westaby (Norm’s paternal grandmother) from Montana; and a death certificate for John Franklin Midkiff, Jr. (Norm’s paternal grandfather) from Washington (State). To get applications, I simply went to www.co.gov, www.mt.gov, and www.wa.gov. I looked for “vital records” or “public health” links on the main pages of each website. All three sites were user-friendly, and I was able to find what I needed right away. If I hadn’t been able to, I would have looked on the main page for a link to a site map, or done a site search.

I chose mail-in applications which I printed (all were .pdf files which I viewed with Adobe Acrobat) over online applications, which used third party businesses and were rather expensive. The mail-in applications may take some time, but they were reasonably priced. I didn’t pay more than $17 apiece for the certificates.

National Archives Documents Removed

I saw this AP article this evening, and thought about the implication to historians, genealogists, and researchers:

“Intelligence officials will meet with the county’s top archivist early next week to discuss the withdrawal of historical documents from the National Archives’ public shelves, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein said Friday.

“He said he requested the meeting following disclosure last month of a program in which thousands of documents, previously declassified, were being removed from public access. Historians protested the practice, saying they had access to many of the documents in past years.

“‘The key here is not whether records are being classified or reclassified,’ Weinstein said. ‘It is whether or not it is appropriate to do so.'”

Read the rest of the article here.

National Archives Documents Removed

I saw this AP article this evening, and thought about the implication to historians, genealogists, and researchers:

“Intelligence officials will meet with the county’s top archivist early next week to discuss the withdrawal of historical documents from the National Archives’ public shelves, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein said Friday.

“He said he requested the meeting following disclosure last month of a program in which thousands of documents, previously declassified, were being removed from public access. Historians protested the practice, saying they had access to many of the documents in past years.

“‘The key here is not whether records are being classified or reclassified,’ Weinstein said. ‘It is whether or not it is appropriate to do so.'”

Read the rest of the article here.

February News

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a whole month since I last blogged! I can tell you, though, it has not been a whole month since I did any genealogy! I manage to do something, genealogically speaking, each and every day. I just don’t always get the time to sit down at my computer and blog about it. I have timed myself, and it takes about one hour to create a post, from start to finish. Some of it is my slow computer, some has to do with the time it takes to think about what I’m writing, the actual writing itself, the editing and revising process (including adding hyperlinks), and finally, the posting followed by a quick review.

Here are some of the events, activities, and research I’ve done this past month, to give an idea of how genealogy fits into my everyday life:

  • nearly every day this month, I have posted a burial to Find A Grave, either from my local newspaper’s obituary section, or from one or more of my three genealogy databases
  • on Saturday, February 4th, I attended the monthly Eastern Washington Genealogical Society meeting. Not only do I attend as a regular member, but I am involved in the Ways and Means Committee (fundraising), selling raffle tickets and merchandise at each meeting. This month’s meeting featured Tim Harper, the EWGS’s webmaster speaking about the society’s website and mailing list. He then asked three members (one of which was myself) to talk about their family tree websites, giving some details about what kind of program they used, and what type of information is presented on their website. You can view my website here.
  • after the meeting, I shared with another member that I design personal family history websites, and she asked me to build one for her. I referred her to the website I designed for Oleo Publishing as an example of my work.
  • on Monday, the 6th, I taught the last segment of my Winter Quarter Online Genealogy class for the Institute for Extended Learning. I really enjoyed this group of students, and look forward to seeing them at other local genealogy events in the future!
  • on Thursday, the 9th, I went to my local Family History Center and attempted to find a birth record for my great-great-grandmother, Mary J. Wilkinson. I had rented the transcribed Northumberland County, Ontario, Canada Birth Records on microfilm. She was not listed in the records, but I did find one for her brother, John. I may try finding her in church records next.
  • on Friday, February 17th, I went to my local Family History Center, and looked at some more microfilms I recently rented. I found the birth record of my great-great-grandmother, Mary “Mae” E. McArthur, who was born in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. I also found a birth record for her younger sister, Arlie. I could not find her sister Catherine’s birth record. However, Catherine’s birth was recorded in neighboring Clinton County Birth Records book, with the location of her birth given as “Gratiot County.” I am also missing brother Will’s birth record. I will take another look at a later time, since I am still waiting for the microfilm of the birth records index to come in. It should make finding the records I’m seeking easier.
  • Saturday, the 18th, I visited the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. First I went to the genealogy room and looked up some Washington death records in the Washington State Death Index. I was looking for death certificate numbers. One of these days, I am going to the Family History Center in the south part of the county to view their old Washington death certificates on microfilm. They are listed in certificate number order, though, so it is necessary to have those numbers before I drive all that way. After finding my information, I took a free computer class offered to EWGS members. This month’s class was presented by Donna Potter Phillips, and was an interesting tutorial about Ancestry.com. Even though I knew most of the information Donna presented, I did learn a couple of new things about the website. That’s why it’s so important to go to every genealogy class you can get to (especially if it’s free)! There is always something to learn!
  • nearly every time I visit my local Family History Center, I look up records for others around the country (and around the world) who may not have access to them. I am listed as a volunteer with Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, Find A Grave, and Books We Own.
  • over Presidents’ Day weekend, I went to a local cemetery and took photos for someone who requested them through Find A Grave. While there, I found the urn of a former neighbor, and also took photos of my sister-in-law’s family members buried there.
  • on Saturday, the 25th, I contacted a person who is interested in my Spring Quarter Online Genealogy class. It is always exciting to look ahead to the next one! I so enjoy getting others interested in researching their family trees!
  • Also on Saturday, I met with two ladies from the EWGS Ways and Means Committee. We talked about upcoming fundraisers, especially for the October workshop.
  • Sunday, the 26th, my desktop e-mail program (Juno) crashed. I am frustrated with myself for not keeping a better backup, because this has happened before…twice, as a matter of fact. I had 140 messages in my Inbox, most of which were genealogy messages. I also had over 100 e-mail addresses in my address book. Most of those addresses I do have stored elsewhere. I did attempt back up of Juno, but have not been successful in getting the program to open. I may need to reinstall the software, and try again. If you have e-mailed me recently and have not received a response, please try again. Currently, I am accessing new e-mail online, without any problems whatsoever.
  • over the weekend, I went to the public library and brought home some issues of Smart Computing. This is such a great computer magazine…written without all the techno lingo for ordinary people. There is all kinds of technology help, software and website reviews (including those for genealogy), tips, tricks, and general information. Everyone in the household loved the magazines, including my 15- and 12-year-old kids. We liked it so much, we decided to get a two-year subscription. We’re not impulse shoppers, and try to be pretty frugal when it comes to subscriptions. After all, if the library has it available, why should we pay for our own? We realized that having this magazine around the home 24/7/365 would be a great resource, especially if we’re having computer problems and can’t get online to solve them. One of the many perks of this subscription is that we can access the archives of four other major computer magazines online. Genealogy and computers go hand-in-hand so well these days, you can’t research your family tree without some knowledge of PCs and the Internet!

There you have it: a month in the life of a family historian! This of course, does not include the many activities and responsibilities I have as a wife, mother, homemaker, employee, and school volunteer! Although I’m busy, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what puts the joie in my vivre!