Archive for May, 2011

I’ve been reading my great grandmother’s/great grandfather’s dairy from the 1913-15 years. She talked about being in school. And then a few years later he’s talking about how it needs to rain, oh look it rained, I sure wish it would stop raining. Typical farming type concerns, but really the most interesting thing in this whole diary are the printed pages that came with it. There’s some pages about holidays, and a yearly calendar, a list of the populations of all the states, measurement conversion charts, NORMAL things. And then come the two best pages ever: HELP! In Case of Accidents. And ANTIDOTES FOR POISONS.

Here are my favorites.

When struck by lightning:


For those times when you accidentally get into the strychnine:


I had no idea there was a test for death.


And I really hope I never overdose on chloroform!


No wait, I also hope I’m never around someone else who’s had too much chloroform either!

Not all of the instructions were weird and/or horrible advice. They had CPR in there, and good instructions on to what to do for things like sunstroke.

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Last month my uncle let me borrow all of the old family photographs to organize, scan, and identify. I have several large boxes full of stuff. Papers, diaries, letters, but mostly photographs.

My favorite unknown people so far are these guys:

Mystery Men

I wish I knew who they were because the picture is a big one, 8×10 on heavy paper, and the quality is really good. And their faces! Look at those guys! I want to know who they are! But there’s no identifying marks on the back at all. My best guess is that it’s one of photographs from the Garst side of my family, because the photograph is of the same type and size as some other large photographs that are all of New Mexico. But that’s just a guess.

Then there are the silly strange ones that are unlabeled that at first glance made me believe that I came from a long line of wizards.

Floating baby wizard with a wand? lol!!

Baby wizard with a golden snitch? ūüôā

And then there are the photographs that are labeled but I still don’t know who the heck the person is. I scanned this picture a couple of weeks ago:

I did a bit more work on my family tree this week on a half-sister of my great grandmother. I discovered that the half sister: Esther Garst married John Patterson. So today when I was looking back through the photographs I’d scanned looking for something else entirely, when I looked at this guy, I knew exactly who he was! It was like magic!

Maybe I really do have wizard ancestors after all!!

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So often when I’m working on genealogy, I come across a person who had a story I long to know. Jessie Lathrop, my third-great aunt, was one of those people. I don’t know much about her, but what I do know is tragic. Jessie was born on November 2, 1864, the first child of Andrew Mercer Lathrop and Lucy Anna Sanders.

Jessie Lathrop's birth recorded in the family Bible

You could say that Andrew’s life was a series of tragedies. His father died before he was born. He was something of an outsider in southern Louisiana because his father was descended from an old Colonial family, so he wasn’t French or Cajun. He was also Protestant in a region so Catholic that when he died, he was buried just outside the fence of the cemetery. He had only been married for three years to his first wife, Susan F. Rider, when she died of complications from childbirth at age 28. The daughter she bore, Ada, died the following year. (Click here to read a sweet, cheerful letter from Susan to Andrew the day before she gave birth to Ada)

Andrew & Lucy Lathrop, Jessie’s parents

Andrew didn’t marry again for ten years. When he did, it was to Lucy Anna Sanders, a woman 25 years his junior. Which brings us back to Jessie. On December 21, 1880, the New Orleans Times-Picayune included this brief news item:

The Thibodaux Sentinel publishes a report of the suicide of Miss Lathrop, niece of Louis Sanders . . . at Bayou Lafourche. She had made two previous attempts at self-destruction, and finally succeeded in her mad purpose by swallowing a dose of arsenic.

Jessie Lathrop killed herself on November 16, 1880, two weeks after her sixteenth birthday. After two previous attempts. What made her so desperate to die? Family lore (never known for being reliable) says that her uncle, Lewis Sanders, had sexually abused her. Family guesswork (even less reliable) suggests that he got her pregnant. She was living with Lewis and his three children on the 1880 census; his wife had died in 1875, and it seems Jessie was keeping house for her uncle and taking care of her young cousins. Lewis married his second wife in December of 1880, a month after Jessie’s death. Did Lewis take advantage of his niece? The fact is, we’ll never know.

Jessie's death recorded in the family Bible; the birth of her little brother, my great-great-grandfather, Woodford Lathrop, was recorded just above.

We do have a letter that Lewis wrote to Andrew in January of 1881, wrapping up some last, small details of Jessie’s short life:

I rec your Ecknolagement of the Barl I shiped to you, things belonging to Jessie they ar just as She left them […] I had the clothes washed those cut & torn Dresses ar the clothes that was taken off of her after her deth

Jessie had a sad story to tell. I can’t ever know exactly what that story was, but thanks to genealogy, at least I can know that she lived and that she had a story.

In Memory of Jessie Lathrop

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So I can’t help plugging this new digital collection at Mississippi State University Libraries because I did the metadata for it, and I’m proud of it! If you have time, do browse the collection and read some of the letters, especially. They’re very interesting and full of genealogy, military, and cultural gold. And you’ll find the occasional fun item in the collection as well. Like this:

Receipt for socks donated to the Confederate Army

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In whatever genealogy work you’ve done, from your own research to helping others to transcribing records from cemeteries or archive projects, what’s your favorite name? If you have Pilgrim or Puritan ancestors, you’ve probably come across “fun” names like these. Can you imagine being named Dust or Helpless or Lamentation? I hope for those kids’ sakes that they had nice nicknames. One of my ancestors, Mayflower passenger William Brewster, had sons named Love, Wrestling, and Fear. Fortunately, I’m descended from his daughter, Patience. Not quite so bad.

But of all the names I’ve run into, none have struck my funny bone quite like Spicey Johnson. Yes, you read that correctly. Spicey Johnson. I found her while researching a friend’s ancestors, and I became immediately jealous that I couldn’t be descended from her. Here she is on the 1850 census with her husband and children.

Gandy Family; Jones County, Mississippi; 1850

I was happy to see that she passed along her name to one of her daughters, though Spicey Gandy isn’t nearly as OMG AWESOME as Spicey Johnson.

So, Amanda, I’m jealous. I will always be jealous.

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DeeDee’s family had a larceny of a cow. ¬†My family has insulting while armed. ¬†lol. ¬†I knew that my great great grandfather and his family lived in New Mexico during the late 1800s. ¬†So I searched the archives of the University of New Mexico and found a mention of my great great grandfather, Frank Garst. ¬†The description said only “Frank Garst: insulting while armed”. ¬†It didn’t give any indication of how long the document was or what it contained, but the description made me laugh. ¬†The University of New Mexico scanned and sent me copies of a legal document scribbled down on a sheet of paper.

Territory v. Frank Garst: Insulting while armed.

Witnesses: V. H. Lusk, Sam Collins, John Mackey.

V. H. Lusk, being duly sworn says: Mr. John Mackey was in my store at Weed some time last March when Mr. Frank Garst and A. C. McDonald came in the store. Mr. Garst was drunk and had his gun in his hands. He stepped up to Mackey and commenced talking in a loud voice. He said, “I am a deputy sheriff and have my commission in my pocket, and if you don’t go slow, you will get killed.” Mr. Mackey was sober and peaceable. He said: “For God’s sake, men, don’t kill me, I’ve done nothing. I am not armed and don’t want to be shot down like a dog.” Mr. Mackey was not armed, I know because he stayed at my house the previous night as I had business with him. Sam Collins ordered the parties out of the house, as he didn’t want any tow in the house.

Source:  University of New Mexico Archives and Special Collections, Register of the Herman B. Weisner Papers, 1957-1992, Wilson, John B. Justice of the Peace Lincoln County, w) Territory vs. Frank Garst, insulting while armed, March 1882 Box 13 W-Folder 6

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I couldn’t figure out what to write for my first post, and then I remembered my great-great-grandfather and his sordid crime.

In case you didn’t know, Genealogy Bank can be a veritable goldmine for the kind of information that actually tells you who your ancestors were, as opposed to knowing them only as a list of names on census records. If your ancestors lived in big U.S. cities (and even some scattered small ones), chances are good that you’ll find them in GB’s huge archive of historical newspapers. The site has a free trial, so you might want to sign up, see if they have newspapers for your main locations, and decide if you want to subscribe. And sadly, no, I’m not being paid for plugging this site.

On to my great-great-grandfather, Frank A. Marceaux. So it turns out he was running for sheriff of Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, in 1931. But he ran into a complication. He needed to file a petition with the state board of pardons because three decades earlier, he had committed, and I quote, “larceny of a cow.” Reported the Times-Picayune in December of 1931:

In the candidate’s application he states that he was convicted of larceny of a cow on October 10, 1899, and was sentenced to serve two years in the state penitentiary. He states that he was released from the penal institution on July 3, 1901, after his sentence was commuted on grounds of good behavior.

Frank, in spite of his shady past, had one prominent supporter: Governor Huey P. Long, who is quoted in the same article:

I would like to know since this prohibition law how many of us have not violated the law.

For a genealogist, this stuff is gold. Am I right?

Frank Marceaux and Family, c. 1919

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I’ve been sending out a lot of queries about getting copies and/or scans of documents from collections that aren’t available online.

Things I have learned while emailing libraries/archives/genealogical societies:

#1. Genealogy people are so nice! They all understand that it’s impossible for people to travel to every location that their family tree leads them. ¬†At this point I would have had to travel to: New Mexico, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois which is just impossible until transporters on Star Trek become a reality.

#2. Some facilities charge fees. ¬†Some don’t. ¬†Some say they do and then don’t charge you. (my favorite!) ¬†So far the charges have ranged from around$15.00 to $5.00. Some charge by the hour, some charge for specific number of look ups, some just charge by the number of pages they have to copy/scan.

#3. ¬†Be specific in your queries! Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what collections they have available if it’s hard to tell from looking at their websites. ¬†But once you determine what they have, be very specific in your queries. ¬†Do as much looking up ¬†from your computer as you can before you ¬†ask them. ¬†Sometimes you can look up indexes to information on online card catalogs. I emailed the Dayton Metro Library with the specific newspaper articles I wanted from their microfilm and I had it listed all the way down to the exact column number on the newspaper page. ¬†Their indexes were that good. ¬†For sources that don’t have searchable indexes online, be sure to give specific information about the person you want research. ¬†Just a last name isn’t good enough. ¬†Give a last name, a first name, and some dates if possible and what collection you want searched.

#4. ¬†Be less excited and more thorough. ¬†This might just be something that bugs me, but I hate having a library look something up for me and then a week later I find ANOTHER document at the same library that I need. ¬†I understand that sometimes this will happen, but in this case personally it shouldn’t have. ¬†But I just got so excited that I sent my query off for a copy of it before I had really stopped and looked at what other resources they had. *facepalms*

#5 ¬†Be patient! This is probably the hardest part. ¬†It takes a while sometimes to hear back from these places. ¬†These people are busy helping in person patrons or they might even be unpaid volunteers. ¬†When you find a lead you want to see it NOW NOW NOW. ¬†The records have been sitting there hundred years so a few more weeks won’t matter. ¬†If I don’t hear back after three weeks, I send a super polite follow up email to see what the status is.

Today’s exciting email response was from the St. Joseph County Public ¬†Library in Indiana:

 I am mailing copies of the probate record taken from Complete Record Book No 1 of St Joseph Co Probate Records. I did not find a will recorded in the county. PLEASE SEND $5 to the library. 304 S Main St, So Bend, IN 46601

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DeeDee and I are geeky fangirls when it comes to genealogy.

We like to wander around old cemeteries, look at census records, dig around in old documents and books, and pretend we’re Sherlock Holmes when trying to solve genealogical mysteries. ¬†(Okay. ¬†I don’t know if DeeDee pretends she’s Sherlock Holmes. ¬†She might not, but I do. ¬†I’ve been reading and watching a lot of Sherlock Holmes lately and I have a crush on him.)

But we also like other geeky things like: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, Eric Northman the vampire, Firefly, Bones, The Office, fanfiction, libraries, and Captain Tight Pants. We get really excited and squeeful about fictional stories, so it just makes sense that we get squeeful over family histories that we discover.

DeeDee is an archives librarian. ¬†I’ll let her tell you about herself. ¬†I am a legal/video transcriber who transcribes and researches court cases. ¬†I have a Master’s Degree in Library Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. ¬†I’m currently in the process of putting together my portfolio to see if I have what it takes to get my Board Certification in Genealogy.

We want to find other people like us. Hence, this blog.  Hence is a great word. It makes me sound old-timey.  So hence forth let this blog be more entertaining than this introductory post.

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