Archive for the ‘genealogy’ Category

Over the past few weeks, besides organizing my library, I’ve been sorting through more boxes. In fact, I have emptied twenty boxes!

What did I find? What did I do with all of it?

Well… One box was filled with Jack and Jill magazines from the 1950s. I looked through some of the issues, then I checked the Internet and found that the magazine is still published and that old issues have very little value. In addition, the issues in my collection were filthy! They felt so grungy that I hated to touch them. I remember they were stored in my parents’ attic for years. Then, when they moved from the farm into town, Mom gave the magazines to me and I have had them in various storage places for more than 25 years. They went into our recycle bin.

Another couple boxes had my old workbooks from elementary school. They were just as dirty and yucky to touch as the magazines. Into the recycle bin they went.

The scrapbooks that I made in elementary school were in the similar condition. Nothing creative here, just mimeographed seasonal designs on construction paper that we cut out, perhaps colored or added some paper fasteners to in order to make moving arms/legs, or paper doilies for a lace effect. Our creations were displayed around the classroom for a week, then we pasted into the scrapbook. Recycle bin.

I had to make decisions, and I just could not keep something that no one would want to touch.

Some boxes included papers from a charter member of our local genealogy society; her daughter gave the items to me after her mother passed away. Where possible I incorporated these items into my collection. I was able to give a few things to the Iowa Genealogical Society. But, still other papers went into the recycle bin. I knew the daughter had given as much as possible to the local historical society before she gave things to me. Some genealogy reference items dating from the 1970s and 1980s were simply out-of-date. I also found a box of items from my great aunt, also a charter member. Those items were treated much the same as those from the other charter member.

The sorting, however, also had some bright sides. I found some family genealogy papers. Many of these papers were in good shape and I was able to file them. My work earlier this fall, to create hanging files, paid off! Now, I could just file papers where appropriate!

As I work through this sorting process, I’m finding it easier to sort through printed material and other papers than to sort through artifacts or photographs.

While twenty paper/file boxes might seem like a lot; this was just a drop-in-the-bucket. Remember, I’ve said before, this project is huge… overwhelming. I’ve been tackling it one piece at a time. I’m definitely making progress, wonder what I’ll work on next…


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Recently while working on a writing project I realized that our family might not realize what they held in their hands when they find this Bible (wrapped in Tyvek in our home safe)… writing the story of a family Bible was needed:

Warren and Nancy McNeill Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: The American Bible Society, 1828); original owned in 2014 by Marieta (Pehrson) Grissom (Indianola, IA 50125).

The Bible is 4½” by 7½” by 2¼” thick, and has a well-worn leather cover. In somewhat dilapidated condition, it is possible other pages are missing, however, the birth page is in tact and secure in the binding of the volume.

The person(s) who wrote the entries was literate, but not accustomed to writing, as evidenced by the inconsistent capitalization and punctuation, and difficulty judging how much space it would take to record a date and having to continue to another line.

The birth dates (1832 to 1850) of all known children of Warren and Nancy (Deem) McNeill are recorded in various inks and handwriting. (Transcribed below, punctuation and capitalization are as found on the Bible page.)

Orren McNeill Was Born August the, 21. 1832
Norman McNeill Was Born August the, 30. 1834 and Died the 22 of January 1835 [this is the only evidence we have of Norman’s existence]
William Anderson McNeill Was born November the 14: 1835
Solomon McNeill Was born April the 22 1839
Alford McNeill Was born May the 26: 1841 [note the spelling of Alfred’s first name]
Henry Clay McNeill Was born June the 1: 1847
Margaret Lavina McNeill Was Born November the 8 1850

Warren (1810-1868) and Nancy (1812-1870) were my great-great-great grandparents; I’m descended through their son Alfred.

This Bible is OLD! How many of us have artifacts that have been touched by so many generations? How many of us have actual samples of penmanship by a family member 180+ years ago?

The McNeill Family Bible apparently passed from Warren and Nancy McNeill to their son Alfred McNeill, to his daughter, Edith (McNeill) Morrill, to her son, Ernest Morrill, then, to his cousin, O. R. Pehrson, a grandson of Edith’s brother, Leonard, in approximately 1984. My mother, Thelma Pehrson, gave it to me in July 2006.

This Bible is a family treasure; it must be preserved and saved for the generations!

McNeill Bible - inside enh

McNeill Bible cover

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As I was driving the 2+ miles to visit my mother in the memory unit where she resides, I happened across several items placed along the curb with a big “FREE” sign. Included were four 4-drawer HON steel filing cabinets! I immediately called my husband and he lost no time jumping in his pickup and retrieving the filing cabinets. Thus, I got sidetracked: the rest of my day has centered around reorganizing my storeroom, moving those filing cabinets into it and thinking about what to put in them.

For the record… we now have three 2-drawer filing cabinets and eleven 4-drawer cabinets primarily devoted to genealogy/family history. Most likely, they will all be full by next spring! I’d like to be done with the majority of my sorting/tossing/organizing by then. I cannot overemphasize the enormity of this project!

Today, my husband claimed one of the cabinets for his genealogy!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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