Continuing my sorting of Mom’s collection, I have found nearly a paper box full of high school and college yearbooks. What to do with these?

I am going through each one looking for relatives. When found, I photocopy the page(s) as well as any related pages and title page, and place in the person’s hanging file. This has been very interesting, especially reading some of the one-line comments with the photographs of the seniors.

One of my favorites was for my mother’s brother, “Because a man doesn’t talk is no sign he hasn’t something to say.” (1) This apparently describes a personality trait for an uncle I never knew (he was a pilot and killed in China in an plane crash near the end of WW II). My brother is also very quiet; a family trait?

My mother’s aunt was the joke editor for her senior yearbook. Mae’s joke:

Howard Miller and Mae B. were sitting on the porch. Howard: “If I had money, I’d travel.” Mae reached out her hand and fondly put it in his, then ran into the house. Howard amazingly looked into his hand. There was a nickel. (2)

I’m going to donate these yearbooks to the Iowa Genealogical Society, as they are just starting a collection of yearbooks.

Yearbooks may provide unexpected color for an ancestor’s biography.
(1) Howard Butler, Indianola (Iowa) High School Pow-Wow, 1935, p. 9.

(2) The Pow-Wow of Indianola (Iowa) High School, Volume Nine, 1923, unnumbered pages, joke pages were near the back of the book.

On a Roll!

I’m on a roll with sorting and organizing! And the roll has gained such momentum that I want to work on it during nearly every spare moment! This is a good thing. I’ve tried to explain previously the enormity of the project I am facing; only my husband really knows. Let me assure you; it is huge!

My mother was typical of many (perhaps most) genealogists. She loved to do research and she did a considerable amount. Problems: 1) Mom only documented some of her sources and 2) she had difficulty organizing the information she found. For the most part she used the notebook method, but I’ve found multiple notebooks on the same surname, with much of the same information. To complicate the situation, she created a new family group sheet every time she worked on the family. I find photocopies of the same obituaries in multiple places. And, it isn’t unusual to find information for a completely different family surname stuck in the wrong binder. On top of that, I’m finding Mom was notorious for making notes for multiple surnames on the same piece of paper. Oh, my!

It isn’t just my mother’s collection I’m dealing with. My grandmother collected and saved, and my mother inherited a collection from her aunt and uncle. So, when I brought home the boxes, scrapbooks, photo albums, and binders from my mother, the contents was the conglomerate from all of these people. As I’ve worked on the materials, I’ve realized that my mother was overwhelmed!

Filing has never been my favorite activity, but I’ve been spending hours doing just that, and sort of enjoying it. I’m filing everything from Mom’s binders and boxes of loose papers into hanging folders in my file drawers. Some people would wonder “Why!” Why shouldn’t I just enter everything directly into a computer program? I’ve asked myself that question, also. However, I concluded that it is easier to get all of the information sorted using a filing system, first. That way when I enter someone into computer software, I’ll have everything that I know about that person in hand and won’t have to keep flipping from one person to another.

Mom should have owned stock in sheet protector manufacturing companies. Recently I told my husband that I can foresee the end of using large quantities of sheet protectors. I can see using archival sheet protectors for original documents; not for every family group sheet! I also told him that I foresee the eventual end of using hanging folders.

I hope I’ll live long enough to get these files scanned and the data entered into computer software. My goal to eventually write several books. Every step takes me closer to leaving something meaningful for future generations.

For now I need to get back to sorting and filing!

OK… I’ve spent a couple days doing more sorting and organizing projects.

Project One: Moved some information in binders to file folders. Starting with the several binders of information my mother had for the Pehrson surname, I labeled hanging folders for my great-grandparents (the immigrants) and for each of their twelve children. Under my grandfather, I created additional hanging folders for his children and for my generation. I will add folders for descendants of the other eleven children, if/when necessary. I emptied the binders and placed my mother’s family group sheets in these folders, along with other appropriate information. Keep in mind: my mother created several family group sheets for each person… as she found information, instead of adding the information to a master sheet, she created a new sheet, which might or might not have the same information as previous sheets… someday I will compare the sheets and analyze the information… that waits for another day… at this time, I’m simply trying to sort and assemble the information in one place. I emptied four 3-ring binders and have awesome-looking files! I wonder which family surname I should tackle next…

Project Two: Sorted some old Christmas letters. I found some of the Christmas letters that my parents/mother received over the years. I saved the ones from family members and the closest friends, sorted them by person/family who sent them, and placed them in manila file folders. I then placed the file folders in the appropriate hanging folders in my filing cabinets for those families. I placed the folders for close family friends in the hanging folder for my parents. As I find more letters, I now have a place to put them.

Project Three: Combined two sets of family photographs. I combined my mother’s 3-ring binder of Pehrson photographs with my binder of family photographs. In this case, no duplicates, no snapshots, and neither set is very complete. I will eventually find more photos; it’s just a matter of finding the right box.

More baby steps completed in a giant project.

Iowa Genealogical Research by Ruby Coleman, self published, 2014, 410 pages, 8 1/2 x 11 format, spiral bound.

Ms. Coleman has done a yeoman’s job of assembling a wide range of information. However, I find some significant inaccuracies in the book. For example, she says that birth, marriage, and death records are found in the District Court office; these records are found in the Recorder’s office. I disagree with the statement “Between 1880 and 1921 only about fifty percent of the births and deaths within the counties were registered (p. 53). Also she says, “There are two State Historical Societies in Iowa.” (p. 43). There is only one State Historical Society, with libraries and archives in two locations: Des Moines and Iowa City.

I don’t understand the organization of her chapter on Ethnic Settlements. The same comment applies to the chapter on Religious Records; what is the arrangement of the information?

The entire book is lacking in source citations. The author has some footnotes, but not nearly enough. At the end of each chapter is a “Suggested Reading” section, but it is obvious that much of the information in the chapter came from additional sources that are not listed either as footnotes or in the Suggested Reading section.

Ms. Coleman presents some interesting information. I appreciated the link to a list of colleges that have closed, merged or changed names. The list of German newspapers by town and timeframe is helpful. And, her information on Institutions and Hospitals, including mental facilities, poor houses and prisons is interesting. The Wars and Military Records section is quite complete. The section on Schools focuses on higher education with very little mention of the country schools and no mention of where country school records may be found. The sections on Cemeteries and City Directories are minimal. The section that lists county histories definitely misses one for Warren County and one for Kossuth County, which makes me wonder how many others are omitted.

The author uses many tinyURL‘s to simplify finding websites, but I found some of these links are broken, and would have much preferred the actual website URL. For example, I tried to locate the list of defunct colleges for which records were transferred to the University of Iowa, but the link was broken (p. 167).

This is a large, unwieldy book that is too heavy (nearly 3 pounds) to place in a lap to read. This guide would be easier to read if the author used a 2-column format with smaller font size. Also, she uses many full-page examples of documents that can be easily found on various websites, such as IAGenWeb, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. With better formatting and layout, this book would be physically more manageable.

I wonder if most of the research for this book was done at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and online, not on-site in Iowa’s wonderful libraries and court houses, or by talking with the people who use the records on a regular basis.

Ms. Coleman is a professional genealogy researcher, writer and lecturer in North Platte, Nebraska. She can be contacted at rvcole@charter.net or via her website at http://genealogyworks.weebly.com.

We’ve watched the bride-to-be grow up; we are good friends with her parents. Now I have met the mother of the groom and my genealogy reputation had preceded me.

Beth lives in Michigan where a few people are board certified genealogists and many people are members of APG (Association of Professional Genealogists). I’d love to live close to so many active, professional-level genealogists! I could learn so much from them.

I invited her to see my genealogy room; I don’t do that often. I learned a couple significant things during her visit.

1) It is obvious that we can not write a book about each one of our ancestors. Beth told me that she attended a presentation where the speaker explained how to handle this dilemma… pick one of the people in a family group to write about, then pull the others in as you tell the story.

2) She asked if I had made an inventory of my family keepsakes. She said that somewhere she heard that we should all do that. For me the problem is two fold: I have so much and it is strewn all over the house. I understand what she is saying: how will our children know what is a genuine family heirloom. I need to work on this!

Beth saw my rows of overflowing bookshelves and the stacks of books and papers on my countertops. She did not see inside the cupboards. I showed Beth the storeroom next to my genealogy room, the room with 7 four-drawer filing cabinets and bunches of tubs and boxes. However, she did not see my other storeroom, which also has numerous file storage boxes.

Beth explained that she has scanned or saved electronically much of her research. Most of mine is paper. Much of mine was collected either before or early in the electronic era. I’ve inherited so much from so many people; much is duplicated, but needs to be sorted and organized. If I scan everything, will my family look at it? I suspect the only thing they will keep are finished books. IF that is the case, I shouldn’t waste a lot of time scanning everything; I need to focus on writing those books.

In our conversation we agreed on the importance of determining what will happen to our research, so we don’t leave our precious work to the whim of our children. My situation is overwhelming for me; what would it be like for our children?

Beth, I look forward to corresponding with you and seeing you again! What else will I learn from you?

Yesterday Dave and I spent much of the day travelling from cemetery to cemetery in Wayne County; six cemeteries in all.

We came across the gravestone for several members of the Thomas Richardson family at Richardson Chapel Cemetery. For Mary, his wife [Apr 3, 1810 to Jun 13, 1890], we found a long, barely legible inscription. As we were trying to decipher it, a light bulb flashed in my mind; type the first few words that we could read into my smart phone to see if anything came up. The results:

The first four lines were one verse from “Resignation” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882:

    There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
    This life of mortal breath
    Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
    Whose portal we call Death.

The next four lines were the first verse of “There is no Death” by John Luckey McCreery, 1835-1906

    There is no death! The stars go down
    To rise upon some other shore,
    And bright in heaven’s jeweled crown
    They shine forevermore.

The inscription included verses from two poets.

Technology is wonderful!

Layer #1

Remember the Alka-Seltzer ad slogan, “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!”? Well, this post is not about stomach relief; it is about mental and emotional relief for both my husband and me as well as for our sons and their families!

When I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to write about was “making sense out of chaos.” Dave and I have inherited a lot of stuff. It has filled nearly every nook and cranny of our house and garage, including a large storage room on the second floor of the garage and two rooms in the lower level of our house. We have known that we needed to divest ourselves of some junk, so a couple months ago we started our Layer #1 project. Even though I was severely challenged with my broken arm, we started the sorting process.

Our goal was to have a garage sale and to donate the leftovers to our church’s garage sale later this summer. To locate items for our sale, we primarily sifted and sorted through the storage areas in the garage. If the items were in the garage they probably weren’t high-priority keepers. However, some other sale items were also identified in the house.

Nearly all of the items held memories… memories of people and times past. We set up a photo area, with a dark background and good lighting and took lots of pictures. We couldn’t keep all of the items, but we can hold onto the pictures and memories. Remember this was only Layer #1; we still have many items left with more memories of the same people.

Items deemed not worth selling were discarded. We also had one son with 26 boxes in our store room and he was invited to either take all of the boxes to his house or to sort through them and take the most valuable/memorable items to his house, he did the latter.

Most of the time we priced items as we photographed them, which saved considerable time later.

Eventually, I figured out to organize a pricing box. This consisted of ultra fine point Sharpies, wider markers, pricing stickers, wide and narrow masking tape, cellophane tape, scissors, 3×5 cards, string, and dust cloths.

We picked the date based on when the local newspaper was sponsoring a city-wide garage sale, which attracts many potential buyers. Our sale was one of 22 sales last weekend.

We received several compliments on our ad; interested people got a good idea of what we had:

Sat, 8-1. Unique garage sale. Lots of vintage & modern misc for home, yard, repurpose, woodworker repair, or photo props: pans, chairs, milk cans, iron beds, school desks, chests, AE bottles, harness, wagon wheels, sausage press, lots of cast iron, spinning wheel, butter churn, lamps, picture frames, window frames & much more; must see! No early birds/no checks.

One son and his wife helped us in several ways. In addition to our newspaper ad, she posted our sale on two websites: Indianola garage sales and Craig’s list; they included some items in the sale, and they ran the check-out station. They heard comments like, “Now, this is really a garage sale.” “This is the best garage sale in town today.” An app on their phones allows them to take credit/debit cards and they used it for a three or four customers. Otherwise, everyone paid cash. Using counterfeit marking pens made sure no one was handing out bad money; rumors indicate people may be using counterfeit money, even five-dollar bills, at garage sales.

Our sale items were all organized by group. Our garage was full as well as a large part of the concrete parking area behind our house. We set up two canopies to protect our merchandise from inclement weather if necessary, though our stuff extended far beyond the edges of the canopies. We lucked out with a chilly, but sunny, no wind, day.

In essence, we tried to make the sale as “professional” as possible, considering it was a “garage sale.”

Net result: we had 10-cent, 25-cent, 50-cent, $1, $5, etc. items. I think the highest priced item that sold was $40. The spinning wheel did not sell, nor did one of the school desks, and a few of the chairs. But we got rid of a lot of stuff and made a very surprising amount of money, enough to pay for some motel rooms and meals when we go on vacation later this year! We only have a few boxes of small items left to take to the church, and we have a few larger items to give them as those organizers get closer to sale date.

Prior to the sale, one of our daughters-in-law said, “your sons should thank you for this!”, knowing that if something happens to us, they will have to deal with our stuff.

While this was only Layer #1 and it was a lot of work, “Oh, what a relief it is!” The amount of junk in our storage room had been overwhelming. Now we have room to spare and feel a huge sense of emotional and mental relief! It was time!

I’m already thinking about potential items in Layer #2 and how we’ll divest them, maybe another garage sale, maybe not; we’ll see.


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