Some Random Acts of Kindness

If there were an award for “Worst Genealogy Lookup Volunteer,” I’m sure I’d be the winner, hands down! With all my computer/Internet problems this spring, coupled with a busy life, I haven’t been able to keep up with my lookup requests until recently. Yet I can’t blame everything on my busy life; I have a tendency to overcommit, and I’m learning (the hard way) to say no. When a distant cousin on my husband’s side asked me if I could build her another website to promote her newest book, I had to turn her down, since I haven’t even been able to stay on top of a site I’m currently working on!

All that said, last February, I posted a series on “Random Acts of Kindess” Week, and encouraged my fellow genea-bloggers to post about their contributions. I wanted to report to my readers what I’ve done, not as a “break-my-arm-in-patting-myself-on-the-back” way, but to give an idea of what giving back to the genealogical community entails. I have been the recipient of so many kindesses, that of course, I want to pay it forward. Perhaps in reading this, others will be inspired to do the same.

First of all, I made a couple of small financial contributions to a couple of favorite genealogy-related websites, because I believe in what they are doing to help out the genealogy community. When I’ve had to make non-genealogy online purchases recently, I’ve tried to do them through my fellow genea-bloggers’ affiliate stores. I’ve also tried to remember to click on their various advertisements, although many times, I read blog posts through my Google Reader instead of at the actual blog site.

Secondly, I took some training from Carol Nettles, the volunteer coordinator at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society. EWGS is creating an index of the Patchen file that will eventually be put on our website. The Patchen file was begun 50 years ago by Lee Patchen, who worked for 20 years, clipping out obituaries from Spokane newspapers and pasting them onto index cards, which were filed in dozens of those old fashioned card catalog drawers. A number of us are adding data from these obits to an Excel file which will eventually allow anyone with Internet access to lookup their ancestor and request a copy of the obituary. So far, I’m about 2/3 of the way through a drawer. I’m a pretty fast typist (keyboardist?) and yet it’s taken me about 4 hours to index about one foot of cards (some prep work is involved; there are references to published works mixed in with the obits)! While I have no ancestors buried in this area, I feel this is a great payback to the genealogical community, especially since I’ve used the wonderful results of such work at the Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s databases!

Next, I’ve taken some random photos of graves at Greenwood Memorial Terrace here in Spokane, and using the Washington State Death Index online at FamilySearch Labs, I’ve slowly been adding memorial pages to Find A Grave for these individuals. Graves that have caught my eye include Civil War veterans’ and the many graves in the old part of the cemetery, which for some reason, is not kept up like the main part. It is very rural-looking, no grass, lots of trees and bushes, and has an old-fashioned feel to it.

Lastly, I’ve had 11 lookup requests since March 27th, most of which I’ve fulfilled. Two requested death and cemetery records for Muskegon Co., Michigan (I have access to these on microfilm at my local Family History Center). One of those requests occurred before FamilySearch Labs added images of Michigan Death records from 1867 – 1897 to their site. One of the requests was for a death after the early 1910s, which were not microfilmed, so I gave the requestor the link to the online Muskegon County Death Index and recommended if she found the death listed there, to purchase the record through the county clerk’s office, rather than the state department of vital statistics (it’s cheaper through the county).

Another individual e-mailed me to ask if I had access to all Michigan marriage records (such as a state index) or just Muskegon County Marriages. I wrote back to tell her it was only the county records. However, just today I wrote again to inform her that Michigan Marriages, 1867 – 1925, are now at the FamilySearch Labs site.

There was a request for four lookups for family members in Greenwood Cemetery in Walker Twp., Kent Co., Michigan. I could not find three that died in 1896 in the index; the death in 1870 occurred before the records were kept (and I believe when the cemetery opened) in 1880. I recommended a local researcher in Kent County who is inexpensive, professional, and thorough, and whom I’ve used on occasion with excellent results.

Three requests, one through RAOGK and another through Books We Own, asked for burial information at Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver, Clark Co., Washington. I used to own the burial books for this cemetery, as a large number of my husband’s ancestors and relatives are buried there. However, I donated the books to my genie society’s upcoming book auction, because the listings are now online. However, I keep my volunteer information available at these websites for this cemetery, because there are many people who are unaware that the burial records are online. I was happy to pass this information on to the three requestors.

I’ve had three requests for lookups in the microfilmed 1899 City Directory of Washington, DC, which happens to be one of many items on a microfilm that contains Muskegon County, Michigan records. I’ve fulfilled two of these requests. There is also an unfulfilled request for lookups in the microfilmed Grand Rapids City Directory in the 1860s and 1870s. All of these films are those I’ve put on permanent loan at my local Family History Center.

Speaking of lookups, Genlighten will soon open has recently opened its website as a place where individuals can connect with low-cost volunteer researchers. Dean Richardson, who Randy mentioned at the Jamboree, has also started a blog for the site. Given my terrible record for looking up records in such an untimely manner, I’ve not signed up as a researcher, although I am considering it (must finish other commitments, first). I see that DearMYRTLE endorses the site, and I think this will become a wonderful resource for our genealogical community. UPDATE: Dean posted some clarifications and corrections in the comments section of this post. Please take a moment to read these!

I’ve wanted to do more FamilySearch Indexing, but other commitments, time contraints and my laptop not working well have created challenges in this department.

How am I doing? Not too badly, I hope–except for taking so very long to fulfill lookup requests. I’d like to read posts from other genea-bloggers on their contributions, too, so if you have some, please add your post links to my comments section. Also, be sure to read Renee’s Genealogy Blog as she writes about her adventures in FamilySearch Indexing.

Some Random Acts of Kindness

If there were an award for “Worst Genealogy Lookup Volunteer,” I’m sure I’d be the winner, hands down! With all my computer/Internet problems this spring, coupled with a busy life, I haven’t been able to keep up with my lookup requests until recently. Yet I can’t blame everything on my busy life; I have a tendency to overcommit, and I’m learning (the hard way) to say no. When a distant cousin on my husband’s side asked me if I could build her another website to promote her newest book, I had to turn her down, since I haven’t even been able to stay on top of a site I’m currently working on!

All that said, last February, I posted a series on “Random Acts of Kindess” Week, and encouraged my fellow genea-bloggers to post about their contributions. I wanted to report to my readers what I’ve done, not as a “break-my-arm-in-patting-myself-on-the-back” way, but to give an idea of what giving back to the genealogical community entails. I have been the recipient of so many kindesses, that of course, I want to pay it forward. Perhaps in reading this, others will be inspired to do the same.

First of all, I made a couple of small financial contributions to a couple of favorite genealogy-related websites, because I believe in what they are doing to help out the genealogy community. When I’ve had to make non-genealogy online purchases recently, I’ve tried to do them through my fellow genea-bloggers’ affiliate stores. I’ve also tried to remember to click on their various advertisements, although many times, I read blog posts through my Google Reader instead of at the actual blog site.

Secondly, I took some training from Carol Nettles, the volunteer coordinator at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society. EWGS is creating an index of the Patchen file that will eventually be put on our website. The Patchen file was begun 50 years ago by Lee Patchen, who worked for 20 years, clipping out obituaries from Spokane newspapers and pasting them onto index cards, which were filed in dozens of those old fashioned card catalog drawers. A number of us are adding data from these obits to an Excel file which will eventually allow anyone with Internet access to lookup their ancestor and request a copy of the obituary. So far, I’m about 2/3 of the way through a drawer. I’m a pretty fast typist (keyboardist?) and yet it’s taken me about 4 hours to index about one foot of cards (some prep work is involved; there are references to published works mixed in with the obits)! While I have no ancestors buried in this area, I feel this is a great payback to the genealogical community, especially since I’ve used the wonderful results of such work at the Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s databases!

Next, I’ve taken some random photos of graves at Greenwood Memorial Terrace here in Spokane, and using the Washington State Death Index online at FamilySearch Labs, I’ve slowly been adding memorial pages to Find A Grave for these individuals. Graves that have caught my eye include Civil War veterans’ and the many graves in the old part of the cemetery, which for some reason, is not kept up like the main part. It is very rural-looking, no grass, lots of trees and bushes, and has an old-fashioned feel to it.

Lastly, I’ve had 11 lookup requests since March 27th, most of which I’ve fulfilled. Two requested death and cemetery records for Muskegon Co., Michigan (I have access to these on microfilm at my local Family History Center). One of those requests occurred before FamilySearch Labs added images of Michigan Death records from 1867 – 1897 to their site. One of the requests was for a death after the early 1910s, which were not microfilmed, so I gave the requestor the link to the online Muskegon County Death Index and recommended if she found the death listed there, to purchase the record through the county clerk’s office, rather than the state department of vital statistics (it’s cheaper through the county).

Another individual e-mailed me to ask if I had access to all Michigan marriage records (such as a state index) or just Muskegon County Marriages. I wrote back to tell her it was only the county records. However, just today I wrote again to inform her that Michigan Marriages, 1867 – 1925, are now at the FamilySearch Labs site.

There was a request for four lookups for family members in Greenwood Cemetery in Walker Twp., Kent Co., Michigan. I could not find three that died in 1896 in the index; the death in 1870 occurred before the records were kept (and I believe when the cemetery opened) in 1880. I recommended a local researcher in Kent County who is inexpensive, professional, and thorough, and whom I’ve used on occasion with excellent results.

Three requests, one through RAOGK and another through Books We Own, asked for burial information at Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver, Clark Co., Washington. I used to own the burial books for this cemetery, as a large number of my husband’s ancestors and relatives are buried there. However, I donated the books to my genie society’s upcoming book auction, because the listings are now online. However, I keep my volunteer information available at these websites for this cemetery, because there are many people who are unaware that the burial records are online. I was happy to pass this information on to the three requestors.

I’ve had three requests for lookups in the microfilmed 1899 City Directory of Washington, DC, which happens to be one of many items on a microfilm that contains Muskegon County, Michigan records. I’ve fulfilled two of these requests. There is also an unfulfilled request for lookups in the microfilmed Grand Rapids City Directory in the 1860s and 1870s. All of these films are those I’ve put on permanent loan at my local Family History Center.

Speaking of lookups, Genlighten will soon open has recently opened its website as a place where individuals can connect with low-cost volunteer researchers. Dean Richardson, who Randy mentioned at the Jamboree, has also started a blog for the site. Given my terrible record for looking up records in such an untimely manner, I’ve not signed up as a researcher, although I am considering it (must finish other commitments, first). I see that DearMYRTLE endorses the site, and I think this will become a wonderful resource for our genealogical community. UPDATE: Dean posted some clarifications and corrections in the comments section of this post. Please take a moment to read these!

I’ve wanted to do more FamilySearch Indexing, but other commitments, time contraints and my laptop not working well have created challenges in this department.

How am I doing? Not too badly, I hope–except for taking so very long to fulfill lookup requests. I’d like to read posts from other genea-bloggers on their contributions, too, so if you have some, please add your post links to my comments section. Also, be sure to read Renee’s Genealogy Blog as she writes about her adventures in FamilySearch Indexing.

More of This and That

During this very busy season, I have made a point of trying to enjoy myself and not overdo…not easy to accomplish between my duties as a homemaker, wife, mother of two teens, middle school staff member, genea-historian and genea-blogger! For instance, Tuesday evening I sat down for an hour and a half (something I rarely do) with my son and watched Spiderman 3, the gift he received from Sinterklaas on St. Nicholas Day. He had seen it with his best friend the day it came out in theaters, but I had yet to see it. That family time is so important during the holidays, and it goes a long way with the teenager when I stop doing housework or genealogy and just sit down and watch something with him.

Last night, I took a trip up to my local Family History Center for a pleasant couple of hours doing lookups for RAOGK and visiting with the FHC director and her husband, a couple that I’ve become pretty friendly with over the years. Since I hadn’t been up to the Center since mid-October, it was a nice getaway, especially knowing it was my last chance before it closed for two weeks for the holidays.

I shared about holiday parties in an earlier post. This evening I forewent going to my workplace’s all-staff Christmas party in lieu of coming home and simply relaxing in my bedroom: catching up on my blog reading while curled up under my quilts, Christmas music playing on my laptop, and new candles burning. The candles were holiday gifts from the co-workers in my classroom. Instead of going out to breakfast as we had originally planned, the five of us ordered Chinese, took lunch in our classroom, and exchanged gifts. Anyway, I chose to stay at home relaxing this evening instead of maneuvering dark, slippery, snowy roads after a staff party on the other side of town, or trying to get my Christmas shopping finished up. There’ll be plenty of time for shopping this weekend and I’d rather navigate through wintry weather during the daylight hours.

Earlier in the school day, Santa visited our classroom and gave each of our fourteen students a small gift and a candy cane. We took plenty of pictures, and I wish I could share them with you (I can’t for confidentiality reasons). Just imagine these kids, ages 13, 14, and 15, excited as can be about Santa and the gifts they received. Some of these students still believe in Santa, and it was just enchanting watching their faces light up as they interacted with him. Even those who know The Secret of Santa Claus got into the Christmas spirit, and you could tell they were a little shy about going up to him when he called out their name!

I have absolutely loved reading all the wonderful Advent Memories being shared through the meme Thomas is hosting, even though I haven’t participated as fully as I would have liked! They’ve brought smiles to my lips, tears to my eyes, and refreshed a few of my own memories. There were many positive comments about Spirographs after I posted about my earliest Christmas gift memories! Some great cowboy/girl and rocking horse recollections were galloping ’round the genea-blogging world as well, shared by Jasia, Terry, and Janice! Speaking of special childhood toys that have gone the way of all things vintage, from my ancestral hometown of Muskegon in Western Michigan, here’s a story of a toy collector’s hobby that has become a museum exhibit.

Even my own family has gotten involved, to some extent, in the Advent meme! My mother e-mailed me some minor corrections to some of my Advent Memories, and one of my paternal aunts wrote me and shared that she is writing down her own Christmas memories to share with her grandsons someday.

I’ve got two more days of work next week and then the kids and I are on Winter Break until January second! I can’t wait!

More of This and That

During this very busy season, I have made a point of trying to enjoy myself and not overdo…not easy to accomplish between my duties as a homemaker, wife, mother of two teens, middle school staff member, genea-historian and genea-blogger! For instance, Tuesday evening I sat down for an hour and a half (something I rarely do) with my son and watched Spiderman 3, the gift he received from Sinterklaas on St. Nicholas Day. He had seen it with his best friend the day it came out in theaters, but I had yet to see it. That family time is so important during the holidays, and it goes a long way with the teenager when I stop doing housework or genealogy and just sit down and watch something with him.

Last night, I took a trip up to my local Family History Center for a pleasant couple of hours doing lookups for RAOGK and visiting with the FHC director and her husband, a couple that I’ve become pretty friendly with over the years. Since I hadn’t been up to the Center since mid-October, it was a nice getaway, especially knowing it was my last chance before it closed for two weeks for the holidays.

I shared about holiday parties in an earlier post. This evening I forewent going to my workplace’s all-staff Christmas party in lieu of coming home and simply relaxing in my bedroom: catching up on my blog reading while curled up under my quilts, Christmas music playing on my laptop, and new candles burning. The candles were holiday gifts from the co-workers in my classroom. Instead of going out to breakfast as we had originally planned, the five of us ordered Chinese, took lunch in our classroom, and exchanged gifts. Anyway, I chose to stay at home relaxing this evening instead of maneuvering dark, slippery, snowy roads after a staff party on the other side of town, or trying to get my Christmas shopping finished up. There’ll be plenty of time for shopping this weekend and I’d rather navigate through wintry weather during the daylight hours.

Earlier in the school day, Santa visited our classroom and gave each of our fourteen students a small gift and a candy cane. We took plenty of pictures, and I wish I could share them with you (I can’t for confidentiality reasons). Just imagine these kids, ages 13, 14, and 15, excited as can be about Santa and the gifts they received. Some of these students still believe in Santa, and it was just enchanting watching their faces light up as they interacted with him. Even those who know The Secret of Santa Claus got into the Christmas spirit, and you could tell they were a little shy about going up to him when he called out their name!

I have absolutely loved reading all the wonderful Advent Memories being shared through the meme Thomas is hosting, even though I haven’t participated as fully as I would have liked! They’ve brought smiles to my lips, tears to my eyes, and refreshed a few of my own memories. There were many positive comments about Spirographs after I posted about my earliest Christmas gift memories! Some great cowboy/girl and rocking horse recollections were galloping ’round the genea-blogging world as well, shared by Jasia, Terry, and Janice! Speaking of special childhood toys that have gone the way of all things vintage, from my ancestral hometown of Muskegon in Western Michigan, here’s a story of a toy collector’s hobby that has become a museum exhibit.

Even my own family has gotten involved, to some extent, in the Advent meme! My mother e-mailed me some minor corrections to some of my Advent Memories, and one of my paternal aunts wrote me and shared that she is writing down her own Christmas memories to share with her grandsons someday.

I’ve got two more days of work next week and then the kids and I are on Winter Break until January second! I can’t wait!

More Online Michigan Resources – Clarke Historical Library

A couple of weeks ago, I was surfing online and ran a Google search to see if there is a website for the genealogical society in Lapeer County, Michigan (there isn’t). It turned out to be rather serendipitous, however, because while running the search, I came across the site of Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

If you have ancestors from Michigan (and not just the central lower peninsula), this website is a must-visit. The links that seem to be most useful for online research include “Web-Based Resources,” “Isabella County Obituary Index,” and “Resources in the Library > Material in the Library > local history material,” which lists the materials in their collection for each and every Michigan county. This is wonderful resource information, because you can e-mail the staff and ask for lookups and/or photocopies for a small fee.

I discovered that Clarke holds copies of the Alma Record and the Alma Record and Alma Journal for Gratiot County for the period of time in which my 3rd-great-grandmother, Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON, lived there with her daughter during the last years of her life. I requested an obituary lookup last week via e-mail, sent in my check for $2.25, and yesterday received it (it appears in the next post). I was overjoyed, because I had not been able to find a RAOGK volunteer who had access to these records!

More Online Michigan Resources – Clarke Historical Library

A couple of weeks ago, I was surfing online and ran a Google search to see if there is a website for the genealogical society in Lapeer County, Michigan (there isn’t). It turned out to be rather serendipitous, however, because while running the search, I came across the site of Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

If you have ancestors from Michigan (and not just the central lower peninsula), this website is a must-visit. The links that seem to be most useful for online research include “Web-Based Resources,” “Isabella County Obituary Index,” and “Resources in the Library > Material in the Library > local history material,” which lists the materials in their collection for each and every Michigan county. This is wonderful resource information, because you can e-mail the staff and ask for lookups and/or photocopies for a small fee.

I discovered that Clarke holds copies of the Alma Record and the Alma Record and Alma Journal for Gratiot County for the period of time in which my 3rd-great-grandmother, Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON, lived there with her daughter during the last years of her life. I requested an obituary lookup last week via e-mail, sent in my check for $2.25, and yesterday received it (it appears in the next post). I was overjoyed, because I had not been able to find a RAOGK volunteer who had access to these records!

On Vacation

Tomorrow I’ll be headed out with the Midkiff Clan for the wilds of Northeast Washington for a week of fun, sun, practical jokes, and late-night sessions of Balderdash! Having no wireless Internet service available, I’ll be catching up on a lot of reading and possibly doing some offline blogging on my laptop to post later when we return to civilization.

In the meantime, here’s some suggestions for those of you who can’t bear to be without their AnceStories fix (ahem!):

  • Go back and read my old posts. I’ve been genea-blogging since January 16, 2006, albeit at another URL; all the old posts were moved to this blog last winter. See “Blog Archive” in the right-hand menu.
  • Read my journal prompts at AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants. Start your own blog or journal, if you haven’t done so already, and record your stories.
  • Read my other blogs, The Atlas Project or &Etc. There’s not a lot on them right now, but they’ll give you some other perspectives of my life. For a look at where we’re vacationing right now, see the slideshow of last year’s vacation on &Etc.
  • I do have quite a lot of my ancestors’ biographies on my website. For the pure genealogists out there, no, they don’t have citations. They were written for family members from family stories I heard, backed up by documents I found in my early research years. But I’ve been told they’re interesting…! I also have handy forms here.
  • Visit the websites I’ve created for others: Midkiff: A Family, Town, and Way of Life and The Vorpahls’ Website.
  • Visit some of my favorite websites: Find A Grave, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, or Footnote.
  • Visit my social networking pages listed on the right: Fuel My Blog, Technorati, StumbleUpon, MyBlogLog, and BlogCatalog. You’ll probably see other blogs that capture your interest linked to mine. And please don’t forget to visit “My Favorite Genealogy Blog Links” in the right-hand column, especially if you’re new to reading genealogy blogs. There are some terrific bloggers with great material that I hope you’ll discover.

There, I’ve listed seven things to do for the seven days that I’ll be gone. I can’t wait to get back and read all the new posts from my favorite bloggers when I return!