Sunday, September 17, 2017

Genealogy Without Power

Hurricane Irma is long gone and our power has finally been restored!  Four days without electricity was challenging.  I honestly don't know how our ancestors, females especially, survived Florida's heat and humidity back in the day in those long dresses.  The cold water to bathe in doesn't help!
We were fortunate, as were most of our neighbors, in regards to physical objects being spared.  All we had was a leaning fence which we've since fixed, a broken mailbox as the wind tore off the door, several dents in my car hood and lots of vegetation debris to rake up.  Our next door neighbor lost her mother the day after the storm and our neighbor behind us welcomed a new baby.  Nothing like adding more stress to an already difficult time!  The cycle of life continues...
For me, I can't even remember the last week I spent at home and didn't do any genealogy.  It has to have been years ago.  Genealogy is so dependent upon online tools today that there was little I could do without electricity.
I was trying to limit my cell phone usage to conserve it so my response to a few clients was terse.  Two responded they didn't know I lived in the storm's path.  One had found me online and the other through a former client.  There was no need for them to know my physical location but it still surprised me that they hadn't.
I love to read out of print books but I had to limit that, too, to conserve battery life on my Kindle.  I could use my laptop for a bit to work on the current e-Book I'm writing but it's an old laptop and the battery life is short so I decided not to do that.
I had gathered all of my most precious documents and did spend about an hour reshelving them in our office.  That was the extent of my time invested in genealogy.  Now I'm backlogged and better get to work!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hunkered Down With the Genealogy

The rain just started pummeling us about 5 minutes ago so sorry - no post today as we're going into our closet in a minute to ride out Hurricane Irma which is expected to go right over us early tomorrow morning.  Backed up the computer on that wonderful little device I got on Amazon during Prime Days (tho I am not really happy with you - Amazon - for your price gouging last week.)  The cats must have know cause they found spots in the closet and are cozy right now.
Please send good thoughts/prayers to the peeps in Florida - we're gonna need all the help we can right now.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Maps With A Past

I just love maps!  Check out the following about some unique maps that were new to me -

What Would You Do?

Happy Labor Day Weekend and the last long weekend of summer.  It's my 40th wedding anniversary, too.  On a not so happy note, it's our 32nd anniversary of losing everything in Hurricane Elena.  We spent that wedding anniversary camping out at North East High in St. Petersburg, Florida with our oldest child and my mom.  Like Hurricane Harvey, the mega rain maker, Elena decided to park herself offshore where she rotated away for several days.  It was the rain that did the most damage.

That life experience made me relate to a recent Washington Post article that asked victims of Harvey what they took with them when they evacuated.  One woman had time to grab her lipstick, another, just his medicine.  For people who have been fortunate enough to not have to evacuate quickly from a life threatening situation those answers might seem ridiculous.  I can assure you they aren't.

I overheard someone in the checkout line yesterday decline to donate for hurricane relief because he said the people should have taken precautions.  I interjected that the initial recommendation had been to stay put and not evacuate.  He considered that and then replied that they should have put together items they needed when they realized the severity of the situation.  Clearly, this man never lived through a disaster.

In our case, we had sold our first home the Sunday before the storm.  With the pending contract, we spent the following days looking for a new one which we found late Friday afternoon.  We placed a contract on it and went out to dinner to celebrate.  We had heard weather reports of a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico but like so many others in late summer, the fickleness of the tract didn't cause us to worry.  We had lived in our home for 7 years and experienced minor street flooding but nothing more serious than that. We went to bed early, skipping the late weather report.

Close to midnight, we were awakened by the sound of a fire truck siren and a loudspeaker announcing, "Prepare to evacuate immediately."  This was pre-cell phone days and reverse home phone emergency contacts.  Following the fire truck was a police car.  We were told he needed the names of our next of kin in case we chose not to leave.  We made the instant decision to go.

So what do you take?  We grabbed a suit case and threw underwear, socks and a few changes of clothes.  We didn't even think about a toothbrush.  I put a few books and toys in a grocery bag for our daughter.  She went into the car seat first and was followed by the cat in a pillowcase which I held on my lap and our lab, who was the only one who was happy about a late night car ride.  We drove to my mom's and discovered she was also being evacuated so she crammed into the car and we headed to the high school.  Mom had thought to pack snacks.

Did I take any insurance papers, family heirlooms, or cash?  Nope.  I had my driver's license in my wallet with a couple of bucks.  The car wasn't even filled with gas and it didn't occur to us that electricity was needed to operate gasoline pumps.  Duh!  When confronted with an emergency, fight or flight kicks in. All the long term planning in the world gets down to what can you take in an instant.  If you've never experienced that I hope you never do.

We returned to our destroyed home 5 days later.  The flood waters had receded leaving tell tale water lines on the walls, particle board furniture that had collapsed, broken windows from wind damage with curtains blowing outside, and soggy smelly carpet.  Nothing is spared.  Think of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets sitting in 3 feet of water for a day.  Now imagine it for even longer.  My husband's grandmother's wicker doll carriage was destroyed, along with my paternal great grandmother's china sugar bowl that had fallen to the floor when the hutch collapsed.  It's not pretty.

Thankfully, the camera was high up on a shelf in the closet so we could take pictures for FEMA of the damage.  Our important paperwork was also spared as it had been kept in the top drawer of a file cabinet in our home office.  Pure dumb luck!  We weren't so lucky with the home sale, though.  The buyer of our home cancelled the sale.  FEMA lost our paperwork which included the pictures and we had to resubmit (hooray for negatives).  We had no electricity for 2 weeks so my daughter and I stayed at my mom's while my husband guarded the home with the dog as looters were coming out as bad as the critters.  Disasters sure bring out the worse in humanity.

I swore I'd be better prepared next time.  Technology has definitely helped as I've scanned every photo and document in case it doesn't make it through the next time.  Those items are saved in a cloud, on CDs that I've given to several individuals and on one that is in my plastic tub where I store important paperwork.  If there's time, I can take the plastic tote and if not, hopefully, the contents will be safe until I return.  I haven't been able to find a fireproof device but that would be best option.

Now that I think about it, it's almost miraculous that any object survives to be past down for more than a generation or two!  That thought makes me treasure what I've received and marvel at the historical events that have item has survived.  If only they could talk!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Unexpected Results of Having My DNA Done

Just read a wonderful article from NPR on dealing with DNA's unexpected results that I highly recommend - read it here.

I'm still receiving emails from my matches.  Yesterday I got an email at 10 AM from a descendant of Samuel Samuelson and as I was responding, I got another email from a descendant of Samuel's wife, Maria Swanson.  I happily connected the two folks who kindly responded to my initial query.  I just love those kinds of coincidences!  Think about this, both send me a response within minutes of each other and after 150+ years, reconnect.  Very weird!

What was even more awesome was that one of the emailers mentioned that his 100+ year old great aunt is still alive.  I strongly urged that they share the info I sent.  Hopefully, the photo of that woman's grandfather will spark some memory that can be recorded before it's too late.  That was certainly an unexpected result of having my DNA done.  I never thought I'd find someone who was still alive who had personal knowledge of those living in the 1800's.

Here's another result that I never anticipated - I've connected with a great grandson of one of my husband's aunts who didn't know his great grandmother.  We have wonderful memories from when we were teens of this lovely lady and I shared via email some of the kind things she did.  I'm sure he'll pass the information to his own children someday and I just love that the connection will go forward.  Happy Hunting!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Saving Family Heirlooms

I read a wonderful guest post on MyHeritage that you must read - Do Genealogists Care About Family Artifacts?  Of course, the answer is yes, however, life often gets in the way of the "saving."

My town has a wonderful antique district and I've been on the hunt for a demilune since May.  Hubby and I have many much loved furniture that once belonged to families other than our own.  I'm lucky to have purchased my guest bedroom furniture from an elderly woman who couldn't take it to the nursing home with her.  I promised her I'd care for it when I bought it in 1985 after we lost everything in Hurricane Elena and I've kept my word.  I blogged last spring about the china cabinet I purchased from Craig's List.  A blended family didn't have room for two.  I know the piece's history and its travels across the country with a military family.  They know they can visit it if they like (it was hard for them to sell it but it was degrading in the unairconditioned 100 year plus garage where they were storing it.)

Some furniture I don't know its history but would love to.  When we first married, I wanted a rocking chair and found one in the classified ads of our then local newspaper.  It was smaller than I had envisioned but the price was right - $10.00.  It was also hideous - someone had recovered it in green and white gingham with lace glued around the edges.  I stripped off the covering and discovered it had been covered several times.  Two layers down was horsehair stuffing.  After quickly taking that outside I discovered that it was originally caned.  I had the piece examined and it's considered a sewing rocker from the 1840's.  I couldn't find anyone who caned so I bought a how to book from a craft store and ordered caning material.  I can't say I did a great job but it's held up for 39 years.

My most favorite piece, though, I rescued from the basement of a house my grandmother rented out when I was 4 years old.  I guess my interest in history and saving artifacts started quite young!  I can't explain why I was drawn to it.  An old oak chest, it's top cracked and stained and a piece missing on the back to give it support, it was forlorn sitting abandoned in a dark corner.  The drawer and two front doors on the front were hand carved.  Someone had painted the inside brown.  When the renters skipped we discovered it left behind.  Inside was a chemistry book according to my mom as I couldn't read.  I pitched a fit that the chest be brought home.  I'm talking a full blown temper tantrum that I still remember to this day.  My mom and grandmom were not going to give in to my behavior but I was adamant I wasn't leaving unless the chest went, too.  My grandmother drove a Chevy Nova and it certainly wasn't going to fit in there.  My wonderful grandpa tied it on the roof and my grandparents kept it in their basement.  I had told them I would keep my toys in it when I visited their house but they were soon to move to another.  They moved that chest to the new house and then a year later, back to their old home.  By then, my parents had separated and I truly did use the chest to store my games as I went to live with my grandparents.  In the late 1960's my mom got a brilliant idea to spray paint the chest gold and put it in our bathroom.  When my mom and I relocated to Florida in the 1970's my husband's family, my then future in-laws, kept it in their basement.  After we married and bought a house, we brought it "home."   My husband stripped off the gold and left it unfinished.   I've moved it three time since and it still contains board games.  I'm thinking of finally getting it professional refinished.

My solution to the situation noted in the blog I recommend you read is to put stickers on the bottom of pieces that are of family history so when my time comes, the emotional distress of my surviving family members won't cloud the stories of where the object came from.  That way, family pieces can remain in the family for the next generation.  Times a wastin' - make a note of what's important to you this week!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gedmatch How To

Since I last blogged I explored Gedmatch.  It was simple (and free!) to use and I highly recommend it.  Here's how:

  • First watch the Youtube video Gedmatch Basics.  There is no handout but you really don't need one.
  • I had already created an account on the site but if you haven't, you can make one as you're watching the video.
  • Once you've logged in to Gedmatch, look on the right side where you'll upload your DNA files.  I had one 23andMe and one Ancestry to upload and compare.  
  • If you're not sure how to get your DNA files, don't worry!  The video and the Gedmatch site will direct you to the provider and step you through downloading it to your computer and then uploading it to Gedmatch.
  • Now you're ready to analyze what you've uploaded.  Not all features are available immediately but that's okay, what you'll be most interested in is the 1 to Many which compared shared DNA to everyone who's uploaded on the site and the 1 to 1 which compares two people.  I was interested in 1 to 1 as I uploaded my son and my results.  
  • Your options to view the results are position, graph or position with graph.  I chose position with graph.  I like seeing the color comparison; my son preferred the position table only.  See the picture at the top as that shows what you'll see for position with graph.  The yellow denotes the match from person 1 to person 2 is half, the green are full matches.  There's a lot of green looking at all 22 chromosomes and the rest yellow as our relationship is mother-son.  
  • Check the bottom of the data to see the estimated relationship, how many segments matched and the largest matching segment.  
  • There are other analysis tools available which I haven't checked out.  I plan on doing that when I get my daughter tested as I'd like to compare her to my son.  
DNA offers continue this week - Ancestry and FTDNA both have promotions for $69.00. 

We're still waiting for hubby's results to be returned from 23andMe.