From the Kitchen Chair: Genealogy in the Tech Era

My grandmother possessed her gift of writing, a pen, and some paper.  Florette Sayles Strickland also possessed family memories, and using what she had, my grandmother crafted a family history booklet that was then distributed to her children,and photocopied and distributed again to her grandchildren.

That was so pre-PC.

That was so pre-internet.

That was not so long ago.

DSC_1142Last night, from my kitchen chair, I participated in a webinar, arranged and delivered by the Illinois State Genealogical Society. At nine o’clock P.M. EST I sat at my desk, clicked my emailed link, turned up my speakers’ volume, and joined the crowd listening to Harold Henderson’s presentation on The Best Genealogy Present You Can Give Yourself: Citing Your Sources.   I printed out the night’s handouts and scribbled further notes as Harold detailed how I can structure my source information into a well-crafted reference note.  Such citations increase the likelihood that I can find that source again as needed, as well as the credibility of my final story and conclusions.

From my kitchen chair, I can search, write, publish, find like-minded peers, and enhance my research skills.  My grandmother would be astounded!


I Accept! the Family History Writing Challenge

You are a family historian; a collector of family lore, data bytes, census records, photographs, and old papers that mean nothing to nobody but you.  At some point, the names become people, and then the people become folks you really want to meet, which is a problem when all that is left is their memory.

Thus starts your journey; an impulsion carries you into a room with a blank screen or an empty page, and you sit and stare. And stare. And stare.  Because when it comes right down to it, as much as you know this person, there is twice as much left to uncover.  The story goes untold a bit longer.


Those words have been ringing in my ears, almost as loudly as the high pitched hum of my tinnitus  and they are almost as annoying.  But, as the universe is prone to provide, a reading came my way, a blog post by Lynn Palermo of The Armchair Genealogist in which she offered community, companionship, advice, and encouragement to write that family story I have felt too overwhelmed to attempt.  Now I am counting down the days until I confront the blank page and reconstruct the life of my perplexing, aggravating, inspiring great-great-grandfather, Ira Sayles, during the Family History Writing Challenge.

I commit to writing 500 words a day, each day during the month of February.  

I can’t wait to start!  Check out Lynn’s page, and seriously consider if it is not time to confront your blank page.  Eighteen days and counting!!  See you there!

Citizen Archivists: Civil War Widows’ Pensions Digitized

Happily ensconced among yellowed pages, citizen archivists preserve a nation’s stories.  We sort, digitize and conserve family letters and ledgers, photographs and newspapers; we practice in our homes, and in our local genealogical and historical societies.  Those lucky enough to live within the Washington, D.C. metro area can even volunteer their time to projects within the National Archives.  One such project is currently digitizing 1.28 million Civil War Widows’ Pension case files, making these treasured collections available online to millions of fact-hunting family historians.  Ah! Were I close enough to participate!

If I Could Send You a Happy New Year Card, It Would Be. . .

One hundred and one years ago my grandfather, Donald C. Minor, gazed upon this Black-Capped Chickadee.  The four-leaf clovers may have sent him scampering to the window, frustrated by the snow or hard frost that separated him from his own patch of good luck.  January 1, 1911 in southwestern Pennsylvania would have been gray, damp and cold.

It’s been a year of challenges and quite frankly I am glad to see 2011 end.  I like the prospect of saying good bye to unsolved family dilemmas and saying hello to awesome new opportunities or the potential thereof!  Once upon a time, I would have wished friends and neighbors a New Year of warm, solid, predictability and good luck in all their endeavors – and eagerly sent my grandfather’s chickadee to bear that message.

But this year, I yearn for opportunities of innocent jollification and so send these gleeful elves to wish you a New Year full of laughter and affection!  Happy New Year!

Wordless Wednesday: Minors of Greene County – 1875

With my trusty Flip Pal scanner, I captured this image of a family heirloom.  The photograph is snugly framed, with a sturdily nailed backing that I didn’t want to disturb.  So I did the best I could and scanned from on top of the glass.  The image  will be useful in identifying other photographs that my mother is letting me take home, since we know the identities of these folks.

Seated are my great-great grandparents, Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor.  The little boy standing to their left is my great-grandfather, Robert Minor.  Standing behind the trio are the older children – Sarah Priscilla, John Pierson and Olfred Minor.  I know that Robert was born in 1869, and he looks to be about 5 or 6 here;  T W Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania took this photograph sometime in the mid-1870s then.

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