Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanks & Giving

It's been more than a month since I have updated and I won't let that happen again.  

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope that anyone reading this has had a wonderful meal with family and friends, with many things and people to be thankful for this season.  

Here are some things that I am grateful for:

My thanks to everyone who has been helpful and support of me in my pursuit of the people, records, photos and more that have built and continue to build my family trees. My sister Stephanie, is an enthusiatic sounding board. My mother and my Aunt Evie continue to offer historical context and help to sort fact from fiction.  I could write a whole post about the support and help I received from my beloved Aunt Nancy and plan to do that separately. I was inspired to start blogging about my genealogy experience after participating in Amy Johnson Crow's 31 Days to Better Genealogy Project on Facebook.  Several members took the time to read and comment and it was a positive and encouraging experience for me.  

I have mentioned before how cut off I often feel from the area where a good deal of my family history has occurred, since I have relocated to Florida. I can no longer walk the cemetery looking for clues and I can no longer run to the library's local history room to pursue a hunch.  I have had to change how I do my research.  This makes me very grateful for the Genealogical Society of Rockland County (GSRC) and their website for several reasons.  

In 2002, the GSRC published two books that I have used time and time again, in the Rockland Room of the New City Library, The Records of the A.W. Dutcher's & Sons Funeral Home, 1878 - 1965 and the Records of the George M. Holt Funeral Home, including Purdy and McKenzie, 1864- 1953.  These two volumes are critical to the North Rockland area, as these are the funeral homes that would have handled the death and burial of most residents.  

These books are chock full of vital statistics I could not verify any other way.  Not only do they list name, death date, funeral/burial date and place, most records also include birth date and place, maiden names, parents names and who received the bill (and their relationship to the deceased) for funeral services. They are especially helpful in narrowing down who is buried where- when every generation seems to have the same names (in my family its Jacob, William and Henry.)

Shortly after moving, I went to the GSRC website to see if I could actually purchase these two volumes, I missed them so much, and low and behold these two gems are searchable through the Society's website!

This is a resource I use every day, to verify a date or to try to discern one Sarah from another, it has become a critical tool and helping me document dates, places and people and I am very grateful to the hardworking and forward thinking volunteers at the GSRC, for not only transcribing and publishing these volumes back in 2002 but for including them on their website in a searchable and exportable format! I can't even count how many deaths and burials I have been able to document and I am grateful.  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The War of the Roses

Alacrity: brisk and cheerful readiness.

I have never given much thought at all to my family's ancestors in context to the Civil War.  I was always a History buff throughout school, but growing up in New York's Hudson Valley, my focus was squarely on finding my Revolutionary War ancestors.  Most of what I know about the Civil War is straight out of Little Women.  

I was surprised recently to discover at least four ancestors (I can confirm) are in deed veterans of the Civil War.  And looking over my timelines I am pretty confident there are more. 

I finally got around to joining the Orange County Genealogy Society and while perusing their website I discovered the treasure trove of publications they have for sale.  This is very fortunate for me, as I now live in FL and feel so isolated and cut off from the Rockland Room collection at the New City Library.  It is this collection that really got me started in genealogy.  

From the OCGS, I ordered Monroe, Orange County, NY 1865 Census and related Obituaries.  Compiled by Robert Brennan and published by the OCGS in 2002, I hoped this book would give me some leads.  

They sure don't write obituaries like they used to! The details! The language!  I found several that were helpful in leading me to maiden names and other relatives that may have lived in the area and where they may be buried. But I struck gold with the discovery of my great-great grandfather's brother, John Rose. Chock full of good information: parent's names, brothers, sisters, children and where they currently live; pall bearers names; how long ago his wife died.  

With so much good and new helpful information the book had already proven to be a worth while purchase when I read, "In the spring of '61 he was among the first from this town to respond to the call of President Lincoln for volunteers.  He enlisted in Company G. 16th NY Artillery, and was in several battles, one of which was the second battle of Bull Run, in which he was shot through the back of the neck.  After receiving the wound he came home for a few weeks and as soon as the wound healed he returned to his post of duty and served to the close of the war."

This led me to do some more research, and on Ancestry I was able to locate NY Town Clerk's Registers of Men who served in the Civil War, 1861-1865.  Along with John's details, including dates served, parent's names and complete birth day and place. I found an entry for his older brother James Rose, who was in at least ten battles, many more skirmishes and was taken prisoner, held for 8 months and eventually exchanged.  And the entry above James, was Jacob Rose, their father.  

Jacob Rose, my great great great grandfather served in the Civil War at the same time of two of his own sons.  He was 46 years old when he enlisted.  The notes accompanying his dates and the names of his parents (before this document they were pure conjecture for me!) states: "Being somewhat advanced in life for a soldier he was seldom required to take part in battle. Performed every duty required of him with alacrity.  Ever obedient.  Ever true. Ever faithful."  

I am so proud of these men and what they sacrificed for the sake of our country.  I think often about their wives and children who stayed behind and how they may have coped and I am compelled to learn more.  

Lessons Learned- 

 Local societies and their publications have amazing value.  I dragged my heels about joining the OCGS because I am currently living hundreds of miles away and wouldn't be able to participate in their events or projects.  

Keep an open mind and don't assume anything.  If even a few months ago, someone told me I should be looking at Civil War records, I would have told them it would be a waste of my time.  

Vital Statistics are every where! With the NY Town Clerk's Registers Men who Served in the Civil War, 1861-1865.  I was able to confirm three ancestors birth day, place and parents names.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October is Family History Month

October is Family History Month.  My first thought upon learning this is, isn't every month?!  

Seriously though, this reminder is the perfect opportunity to reboot my genealogy.  As I said in my very first post here, I have been working on my family tree for ten years. I have notebooks filled with notes scribbles, binders  of yellowed newspaper clippings, and lots of old photos of people and places I don't recognize. It is time to get organized.

Lofty Goals-

I have to admit its a little overwhelming.  There has been more than one day in the last month that I wanted to stay home from work to just work on my genealogy.   I have been working hard to create my tree on the Ancestry site since I sent off my DNA.  I have 80 pages of matches!  I don't know if I will ever be able to get through it all.  There is so much I want to do. There are classes to take, timelines to create, notes to revisit and most importantly I want to review all the information and sources I have on each family member and create a cohesive narrative into something to my family will be able to read.  

More than once this week I have been reminded of the sage lines in the classic Ann Lamott book about writing, "Just take it bird by bird."  And I guess that is all that any of us can do.  

Serendipity and Surprises-

Last month I posted about how I quite accidentally came across a small newspaper entry from 1981.  A woman from Montana was searching for her relative, Olga Poyhonen Roe.  

Olga Roe was my great grandmother.  The Poyhonen's are the group I know the least about and the family I find the most frustrating. I was full of joy and dread at the same time.  What a great lead!  But I was 30 years late in responding, would this person still care? Was she even still alive? What would I say, "Sorry I am late, but I was in 6th grade when you advertised."

I was able to find her via some internet searches and sent off my letter. And waited and waited. I was starting to give up hope.  

Yesterday, the phone rang and it was her!  Alive and well and happy to connect! We talked and discovered that her grandfather was my great grandmother's brother!  Apparently, there were a few brothers who came to America, one who stayed in Finland and one who migrated to Russia.  We will talk again soon and hope to make plans to meet this summer.  

Genealogy is full of surprises. It can bring me to tears of frustration and tears of joy in the very same day.  

This week I am celebrating Family History Month and taking a break from my computer work by attending a workshop led by Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi's List at the Tampa Library.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Seeking Help

Yesterday, I planned on searching the probate records that  Ancestry had been heavily advertising over the Labor Day weekend.  Something sidetracked me and I started searching for records of my great grandmother Olga Poyhonen (spelling very fluid) and I came across a small article in the Monessen, Pa Valley Independent newspaper from July 13, 1981.  

 Seeking Help- the article was captioned and the author was indeed looking for my great grandmother or her family.  The author of this article, a woman in Montana was quoted as saying, "this is very important to me."  

The surprise of this person being out there (in Montana of all places) and searching for us since 1981, is one of the reasons I love family tree research.   I was hoping this woman was still alive and after a quick search found her address.  I wrote off a quick letter and hope to hear from her soon. 

What are our connections?  I wonder what information she may have that could help me fill in the many missing pieces where Olga Poyhonen is concerned.  Could she perhaps be able to direct me to Olga's hometown in Finland?  I will mail my letter tomorrow full of hope and promise.  This is very important to me as well.  


This is the new forum for my thoughts and discoveries.  I have been an amateur genealogist and family tree researcher for the better part of ten years now.  I love the thrill of the chase for a date, a place or a person. Whether it's found after hours of research at the computer, on a field trip to a cemetery or the municipal archives or stumbling onto a new person or new information quite by accident, I find researching the lives of my ancestors fascinating and constantly surprising.  

I have been thinking a lot about a genealogy re-do, or perhaps trying to write narratives about who and what I do know in hopes it will help me refocus my thoughts and efforts. So, after years of collecting binders and notebooks and slips of paper, I am making the leap and starting to organize my people and my thoughts here.