Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Finding Old Time Medical Records Can Be A Challenge

Don't you hate it when you discover wrong info on the internet and have no way to correct it?!  I'm sure the information was accurate once but it isn't any longer.  Now that Ancestry.com owns rootsweb they permit "view only" so no updates can be made.  It's nice that the old posts are still viewable but it wastes a lot of time if you follow the directions that are wrong.

In August I tried to obtain records from a state hospital in Florida.  I found the following links:
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~chattahoochee/
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~chattahoochee/index12.html

Following directions from those sites, I wrote a letter in late August to the Health Information Manager as I figured the name given on the above link probably wasn't accurate any longer.  I included a copy of my driver's license, the client's driver's license, and birth and death records to prove lineage to the individual I was trying to obtain information about.

On September 3rd I was contacted by an individual who said she was a volunteer and that she had the file on her desk but couldn't send the contents until I submitted the following notarized statement from the client:

"I am the oldest living relative and heir-at-law and am giving permission to send the copy of my Great Grandmother, (insert the individual's name here as I don't have permission to use it in this blog), to: (My Name, My Address)"

Note:  If you are requesting the information for your own use you can omit the giving permission portion.  Client had to attest that I had permission to receive the records which is why the statement had to be included.

We were supposed to fax the notarized statement to a number given to me but the fax didn't work so I called the number I had been contacted from but that number wasn't working either so I mailed the notarized statement with a note explaining why I was unable to fax it.

I made a follow up call the following week to verify that the notarized copy was received because we have terrible mail service here.  The phone number was working and the same volunteer told me it had been received and was pending approval by the Health Information Manager.  This was new!  Last time we spoke she never told me it had to be approved; I was led to believe that the file was found and as soon as the notarized permission was received it would be copied and sent.

A month passed and nothing was received so I called again.  This time the phone was the fax and the fax was the phone!  I spoke with the same volunteer who now said, "As an employee, this is my side job so I can only look for files when I'm caught up with my other duties."  I didn't want to question her as to when she was hired as she had presented herself as a volunteer in our two previous phone calls, plus she had told me she had the file on her desk.  She could give me no time frame as to when I might receive the information.

Another month passed so I wrote a letter asking if additional information was needed and this time, the fax worked (Yay!)  I got a phone call back a few days later from the volunteer/employee saying how weird it was that the file had just been approved to send to me.  She said she would mail it the following day.

On November 25 I received the "file."   Actually, it was a letter from the Health Information Manager apologizing for the delay in responding and mentioning that most of the records had been destroyed (how convenient) and that all they had was attached.  It was a copy of an admission card and a ledger page on the day the patient arrived.  The letter directed me to check the Florida State Archives as some records had been transferred there but there was no telling if this patient's file was one of those records saved.

I contacted the state archivist by phone.  What a delightful person! She told me that most records had been destroyed and that older records were "samplings" only.  She said researching is "hit or miss" but she would see what she could find.  Luckily for us, she was able to find, scan and email 10 pages of the initial admission document within an hour. (Cost is .25 per page).  

A diligent genealogist uses reasonably exhaustive searches so I would recommend pursuing the path that I followed but be aware that it was MONTHS before I received the scant information.  I think one of the genealogy standards ought to address patience!  What I received was extremely valuable, though, and actually changed the direction of the research plan.

Due to the holiday, I'm again blogging early.  Hope to resume my regular Sunday and Thursday blogs next week.  Wishing a Happy New Year to you and your family!



Saturday, December 26, 2015

Another Find Where It Shouldn't Have Been!

Okay - here we go again!  I found the missing information in a place that that was not anywhere close to where the ancestor had lived but ironically, was only 5 minutes from where I work. 
Earlier this month I blogged about the importance of revisiting places previously checked as sometimes the needed information becomes available due to persistence.  You can read that blog here – Why Persistence Pays in Hunting Records.
That blog was about my difficulty in obtaining a death records for my husband’s maternal great grandmother, Louise Carlson Johnson.  I had a death year (1937) given to me by his mother but no proof of death.  Previously, I had written to Lake County, Indiana where I assumed she had died, for a death certificate.  They told me they didn’t have one.  I then contacted the Gary Health Department thinking they may have some record but they said they had nothing on Louise.  I contacted both hospitals in existence in Gary at the time of her death – Methodist Hospital (the Protestant hospital) and Mary Mercy (the Roman Catholic Hospital) but they couldn’t help me.  I checked both hospitals because many of our Protestant relatives used Mercy Hospital as they had a very good staff back in the day.  And seriously, when you’re in pain who cares who helps you! 
After discovering that Louise was buried in Ridgelawn Cemetery in Lake County, Indiana I decided to write to Indianapolis (for my non US readers – that’s the capitol of Indiana) to see if they had the death record.  Maybe it had been sent from the local to the state level.  I received the response via snail mail on December 22– no record found.  Geez!
The cemetery didn’t seem to be the kind of place that makes any exception to rules (see Ashes on the Doorstep for those places that do!) so I believe the death certificate was presented for burial.  With that thought in mind I decided there was only two reasons that there was no death certificate in Lake County:  1) she had remarried and her name was no longer Johnson or 2) she died somewhere besides Lake County.
I checked Ancestry.com for City Directory information for Gary for 1937 and found her residing with one of her married daughters.  Her name was still Johnson and she was listed as a widow.  I wasn’t exactly sure when the City Directory was published but the chance of her marrying in the few months after it was published and before her death was remote as she had been a widow for 31 years.  That meant she must have died out of the county.
Louise had 3 children – all married in 1937.  She resided with daughter Elsie in Gary.  Daughter Ruth lived nearby.  Daughter Helen, however, was living in Porter County – the county next to Lake.  Louise also had 10 step children and although I’ve been unable to trace many of them, some were also living in Porter County.  From letters that I have it didn’t appear that Louise was close to most of the step children but the possibility existed that she may have been visiting one when she passed away.  Porter County seemed the most viable place to look.
Searching online I could find no database for Porter County deaths.  I had previously checked newspaper archives for the Vidette Messenger, the Valparaiso (Porter County seat) newspaper but found no obituary.  I had also checked for an obituary in the Gary paper, The Post Tribune, previously but was unable to find a paper from that year as the paper had been sold a number of times and some years are missing in the archives.  Of course, 1937 was one of those years!
I went to familysearch.org to check their catalog and discovered a book that might be helpful - Index to death records, Porter County, Indiana, 1931-1959Right place, right years – could be helpful. 
Checked Worldcat and found a copy locally so Wednesday morning I called the Genealogy Department at the Tampa Public Library and David not only found the book on the shelf, he did a lookup for me.  Happy Holiday to me!  Sure enough, Louise Johnson was listed in May 1937.  Now I know where I can write for the death certificate! 
Louise is the only recent relative that I don’t have parent information for so hopefully, the death certificate will give me a clue or two.  Also, her dna is very interesting so I’d really like to find out more about her line.
Due to holiday closures David volunteered to scan and email the page to me.  I attached it to the death certificate request to expedite it.  Like the song says, “waiting is the hardest part!”
After I put the death certificate request in the mail I decided to just recheck newspaper archives and what wonders did I behold!  Some kind folks have entered the obituary information for the Gary Post Tribune and now 1937 is available!  I immediately requested a librarian to look it up.  Keeping my fingers crossed that my youngest brick wall is about to be scaled.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Transcription Treat

Tis the season of Sugar Plum Fairies and although I can't prove it, I believe they are somehow related to Genealogical Fairies.  Here's why -
For some reason, I didn't receive the document from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG)  that I am supposed to transcribe.  After waiting 3 weeks I emailed and was told the day it had been sent.  BCG staff was going to resend if I didn't receive it by the end of that week.  
Nearly a month after it had been mailed it finally arrived with no postal markings and it looked like it had gotten stuck in a machine as a side was torn.  The contents, though, were fine.  Since it arrived the day before I was to fly out to the west coast for business I put it aside until this week.  
Last Friday, I decided I would drive to the county mentioned in the document on Monday and locate the original so I called to check the time the office would open.  With holiday closures one never knows!  This led to several phone calls and messages left.  
I received a call mid day Saturday informing me that the office would be closed Monday but they would be open on Saturday until 5:00.  I was running errands but dropped everything to drive the 2+ hours to get there before they closed.  I am so glad I did!
When I arrived there were only 2 people staffing the archives, a paid employee and a volunteer.  After seeing the document and photographing it, the volunteer asked me why I had wanted to see that particular record.  I told her about the certification process.  We continued talking and she mentioned her home state which happened to also be mine.  Turns out we're related in 3 lines (Lamphere, Kuhn and Duer) through our great grandfathers!  If you're a faithful reader you know I wasn't close to my dad's side growing up and have never met any of his relatives so this meeting was especially sweet. 
What makes it even better is the lesson that persistence pays!  My first call was to the courthouse but I was told by the operator that they didn't have old records and I needed to call a different office.  The next office staffer told me that all of their records were online and the originals had been destroyed.  When I pointed out that the record I was looking for wasn't online the clerk didn't know what to say.  She suggested I called the historical society. The first person I spoke with there said she had no idea where the record I needed was and she would have someone call me back.  I waited a few hours and called again.  That's when I learned she had left for the day. The person I was then speaking with told me that the historical society only had microfilm and that the originals were at the courthouse.  I asked who I should speak with at the courthouse as that was now bringing me full circle because that's where I first called.  She suggested I check with the records department.  Unfortunately, the records clerk had to check with an older employee as she had no idea what I was talking about.  The older employee wanted to know why a fortune teller wanted the record.  Huh?! Evidently the girl I spoke with didn't know what a genealogist was and thought it was some kind of fortune teller.  Clearly I'm not a fortune teller or I would have knowledge of where I'd find this record!  We both laughed about the misunderstanding.  We left it that I would come on Monday at 8 AM but I should be prepared that the record wouldn't be found.  
I packed what I needed in my purse in preparation but wasn't particularly hopeful.  When I got the call on Saturday that the record was available I couldn't believe it.  That alone would have made my day but to meet a relative who just happened to switch her volunteer hours due to the holidays, well, I think this was meant to be.  
I'm on my way to the post office to mail my new found relative copies of my records and then on to the airport to pick up family so I'm posting my Thursday blog early.  Wishing you and your family love, hope and good cheer this holiday season!  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

12+ More Genealogical Gems to Use

Last post was my 12 most favorite free genealogy sites and today is my 12 favorite paid sites. I have placed these in alphabetical order and not by preference:

1, Ancestry.com - since they own just about everything in the genealogical world it's very hard not to  subscribe to them.  I do have issues with their new website, phantom hints, relationship help that comes and goes, removal of records and not adding new databases but for now, I still use them.  Just learned there is an AARP discount and I will be going after that when I renew in 2 months.  Complete access is $389.00 per year.  OUCH!  
2, Association of Professional Genealogists - "an international organization dedicated to supporting those engaged in the business of genealogy through advocacy, collaboration, education, and the promotion of high ethical standards."  Subscribers are $45.00 annually, Professional Members $100.00.  Well worth it for the webinars, journal and eNewsletter! Additionally, members get discounts to many paid sites.
3, Board for Certification of Genealogists - Even if you have no desire to become a Certified Genealogist this site is valuable!  Check out the Skillbuilding, Work Samples and Genealogy Standards which are free.  If you decide to become certified, the cost is $75.00 initially, followed by $300.00 when your portfolio is submitted (1 year deadline).  
4. FindMyPast.com - Similar to Ancestry with different records.  Cost varies depending on plan purchased.  I got a year free due to being a member the National Genealogical Society but it would have cost me $99.95.  Since I've had trouble uploading my tree I won't be purchasing this anytime soon but it was nice for a year.  
5. Fold3.com - an ancestry.com owned site, currently I'm not a member but I join periodically.  For military history it's a must have.  If you're an ancestry member it's currently $39.95 a year - half the regular price.  So maybe, I'll upgrade....
6. JStor - is a digital library with books and journals (about 1700) that are intellectual in nature.  Many libraries and educational institutions are members so check out if you get an alumni password.  If not, some access is free (but not much) and you can purchase an article if you have to, cost varies.   
7. New England Historicand Genealogical Society - the database, AmericanAncestors.org is free, however, if you are planning to visit the library in Boston, it is not free.  This is a nonprofit organization that also offers research assistance (for an additional fee but discounted), an awesome magazine, journal, weekly email update and seminars.  Well worth it for $89.95 a year.
8. National Genealogical Society - the journal, the magazine, the conference, the discounts, the store - wow, that's a lot of genealogy goodness.  Annual membership is $65.00.
9, Radaris - the place to find the living! "Radaris is a universal people directory and an information indexing system about people."  Trying to find long lost cousin Joe - this site will help.  If you just want a report it will cost .95.  Premium memberships can cost up to $49.95 per MONTH.  I only purchase a report if I'm desperate as I usually can find people through other methods - Facebook, Linkedin, etc.
10, Spokeo - a more inexpensive way to find the missing - A 6 month membership is $4.95 per month.  They do offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee that I've never tried so I can't attest to what that offer is.  I don't currently belong to this, either, but I've gleaned info from this site to help me locate free information in the past.  
11 Your Local Genealogy Society - because you need to hang out with people who get excited about your finds.  Mine offers trainings and research help for novices.  Cost is $17.00 a year.
12. Your State Genealogy Society - or whichever state your ancestors' resided.  My state offers a wonderful journal, newsletter, links to sites around my state, posting for help and webinars.  For $25.00 a year it's the best deal around!
Bonus - The sites mentioned above are not the only for pay genealogy sites around but the ones I use the most.  Every couple of years I join newspaperarchive.com but until they add some new newspapers, I've maxed them out.  I would highly recommend them, though, if you haven't ever been a member.

Yikes!  I totaled the amount and I've spent $776.85 this year.  Guess when I retire Ancestry will be accessed only from the library.  


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Twelve+ Genealogy Gems for a Whole Year of Fun!

I've been asked lately by colleagues and students what are some of my favorite genealogy sites so in keeping with the holidays (and having the 12 Days of Christmas stuck in my head!) here are my favorite free go to sites for quick genealogy answers.  They are listed in alphabetical order because they are all valuable in their own way.  I've also included the sites' own description, when available:
  1. AncestorCloud - "is a community that connects family researchers with willing helpers and professional genealogists. Connect with helpers to pick up records, take local photographs, translate documents, help with research questions or conduct custom research. It's free to join and post a request. Connect with researchers in over 52 countries".  I have never been contacted to provide research assistance so I can't vouch for how that works but I did post a request for help that was picked up by a genealogist in Croatia. AncestorCloud acts as an intermediary so I never communicated directly with the researcher.  She did provide valuable assistance in how to locate my maternal great grandmother's gravesite,  The process isn't anywhere online so the information was extremely valuable to me.  I had tried Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves but no one ever responded.  I volunteered to pay the researcher $25.00 US dollars for her help - that was my choice.  If you are going to hire someone the price is negotiated before hand.  Additionally, AncestorCloud emails helpful genealogical articles.
  2. Crestleaf - "is for people who want to preserve their family's legacy in a chronological timeline and digital archive for both current and future generations to enjoy."  I don't use Crestleaf as an archive.  Instead, I scroll to the bottom of the page and check the All Surname search.  You can also browse by state or decade. The absolute best part of Crestleaf, though, is the weekly emailed Genealogy Tips and News.  One of my favorite reads! 
  3. Cyndi's List -"A comprehensive, categorized & cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online."  Cyndi has been a wonderful resource for me for a long time!  Amazing that her links always work and are current.  
  4. Family Search - "Search for a deceased ancestor in historical records to uncover vital information from their life."  Besides searching records, check out the genealogies (that may be inaccurate so look for citations), catalog, books and the wiki.  I love the wiki and find it's extremely useful if I need information about a region that I'm don't typically research.  The only cost is if you want to view microfilm that hasn't been placed online. You can order and have it sent to a local Family History Center to view. 
  5. Find-A-Grave - "Find the graves of ancestors, create virtual memorials, add 'virtual flowers' and a note to a loved one's grave"  It's owned by Ancestry.com but remains free.
  6. Billion Graves - "Collect photos of the headstones in your local cemetery with our iPhone/Android camera app. Then upload the mapped-out photos here. Transcribe information from uploaded headstone photos - then descendants everywhere can easily search for their ancestors. Search for your ancestors' graves using our easy search. You can access their headstone records, photos of headstones, and accurate locations of all the graves."  (Both Find-a-Grave and Billion Graves have helped me find children that may have been born and died in between census years)
  7. Geneabloggers - "The ultimate site for your genealogy blog – an online community created by Thomas MacEntee".  There's alot of blogs here but the features I like the most are Tom's genealogy special offers and his webinars (which have a nominal charge).  Subscribe for free to Geneabloggers and you'll receive emails with give aways (such as genealogy e-books), discounts and helpful hints.
  8. Genealogy in Time (online) Magazine -"We have the tools and resources to help you discover your ancestors for free. Let us help you find your story".  There's also a search engine, rare book search and the magazine includes new records placed online each week.  
  9. Geneanet News - "More than 1.5 billion indexed individuals  The Genealogy Library gives access to hundreds of thousands documents indexed for genealogy research."  They will email you periodically any surname updates you've identified to follow.  
  10. Genealogy News - Every Sunday, I receive this awesome newsletter filled with links of recent genealogy news from Genealogy Today LLC.  Love to read it with my morning coffee as it often gives me ideas that I use to plan my research for the upcoming week. 
  11. Legacy Family Tree - "Genealogy News, Legacy tricks and technology tips".  Some webinars are not free but many are. The Standard Edition of Legacy is free to download if you want to save your tree to your hard drive, desktop or cloud.  If you do use their tree, you can also subscribe free to their techie list and you'll get emails with updates and hints.  They're also on Facebook.
  12. Rootsweb - A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away... no, not Star Wars, I'm referring to circa 2000 before Ancestry.com owned everything - Rootsweb was the most awesome site in the genealogy universe.  I still use it although it's not current and it's now owned by Ancestry.  It remains free, however, and if I'm stuck I use the site to see if someone has created a tree in the past that may be helpful.  
Next time I'll write about my favorite NON FREE sites.  Happy Hunting!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Playing With Names - Wildcard Searching and Other Methods to Discover Your Family

Just read a helpful blog about how to use wildcards when researching online.  You can read it here. I have to admit that I'm not very good at using wildcards or identifying the many, varied and unusual ways my ancestors spelled their names.  I think that many of my brick walls could could tumbling down if I took the time to use the wildcard search approach.
Another method I've used was just plain dumb luck but it taught me a very simple way that I've used since. I once had a dead end on my paternal grandmother's line.  A distant family member thought my 2nd great grandmother's name was Maria Dure.  I searched and searched for years and found nada!  It never dawned on me that I had two of the letters reversed in the last name. Duh, DURE should have been DUER.  I would love to take credit for that discovery but alas, wasn't me who figured this out. I'm not sure how the gentleman found me but I received an email asking me about by DUER connection. I responded I didn't see any Duer's in my tree.  The writer than let me know he suspected my Maria Dure was a long lost line he was pursuing.  He knew his missing Maria had married an immigrant named Kuhn and sure enough, once I began looking for Maria under Duer the whole line fell into place!  He was kind enough to send me his years of Duer research and they are just a fun family to learn about.  (Well, probably getting kicked out of England wasn't exactly fun, nor later being shunned or having to payoff an indenture in the Caribbean but you understand what I mean)
Last technique I've used is adding or removing an ending.  My Koss' are really Kos.  Have found documents with both names so it pays to play with the last name.
Sorry this is so short but I'm recuperating from jet lag! Once my head clears I'm going to take my own advice and play with my Bird or is it Byrd?! or Berd or Burd line.  Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Genealogy At Heart - A New Website

I'm heading out to the west coast for a conference but wanted to let you all to know I’ve developed a website to contain my blogs in one handy dandy spot – you can now access it at www.genealogyatheart.com. All blog posts will be listed under Family Stories/Genealogy Hints.
Genealogy is expensive so I will also post any special offers I discover there under the tab "Specials to Share."   
Besides genealogy, I love traveling, architecture and visiting historical sites so I'll be posting some pics of places I recently visited so check out the tab "On the Road Again." It may give you an idea of where you want to explore your family's past.
If you’d like more information about an older posting or have suggestions/ideas for the future simply email me from the About Lori page.  I look forward to hearing from you!
If you are a Family Tree Maker user synching with Ancestry.com and just learned that Ancestry is discontinuing the agreement soon, you may be looking for a new software program.  I'm not making any money off this but here's my advice - check out these GENEALOGY PROGRAMS .  Once you've decided which you're going to use, go to Ancestry.com and click on Trees - Create and Manage Trees on the ribbon.  Then click on "Manage Tree."  On the right hand side, click EXPORT TREE in the green box. It may take some time but when it's ready, click the new green box DOWLOAD YOUR GEDCOM FILE.  You may have difficulty doing that as sometimes it doesn't want to work.  If so, click "download tips" and alternative directions are given.  
I saw the zillions of negative comments by FTM users on Ancestry's blog and for the life of me, can't understand why Ancestry didn't give clear directions in the announcement on how to save your work as a gedcom.  I feel very badly for those unhappy people thinking that they have lost years of work when they haven't.  The only thing they can't do is have their work saved both on Ancestry and on their hard drive at the same time.  Personally, they need to be saving in another location, too, because, if their hard drive crashes and they can't get on Ancestry, then they have a huge problem.  I use the free Dropbox.com cloud to also save my gedcom in Legacy.  That way, I can log on to DROPBOX anywhere and access my tree, in addition to using Ancestry if I'm not on my main computer.
Seriously, you should be exporting your tree at least once a month if you're a heavy user as if something happens to Ancestry your citations are gone!  Notice I said citation and not records.  You cannot download all of your records when you download the gedcom.  You will be downloading the citation of what record was found but not the picture of the actual record.  For example:  You've saved the 1880 US Federal Census for your great grandpa to your Ancestry tree.  When you download the gedcom it will show that the census record was what you referenced, or cited, for the 1880 residence.  If you want the actual picture of the census page you will have to download it to your hard drive. That is time consuming but important.  I haven't done that for most of my lines but plan on beginning that process soon.  
Now, back to the download directions - Once you've exported you will have to import the saved file, called a gedcom, to whatever program you'll be using.  I like Legacy because 1) the Standard version is free and that gave me a good idea if it was a program I could easily use and 2) their support is very good.  They are friendly on the phone and they have an email group that you can subscribe to for free that you can post queries to and the software engineers answer.  Amazing!  I never got that kind of response from Family Tree Maker and when the synch between Ancestry and FTM stopped working, I decided to move to something else.  Now I'm really glad I did!
I ended up purchasing the Deluxe Legacy version six months after downloading the free Standard version and the updates have all been free since then, too.  The program has a lot of bells and whistles I haven't even begun to delve into but plan to do so when my Board of Certified Genealogy portfolio is done.  I also have made a New Year's Resolution that I will stop saving records to my Ancestry tree and just save directly to Legacy.  It's another adjustment but then I'll have all the records (pictures) even if Ancestry becomes cost prohibitive or stops making some records available, which has already happened to me.  
Hope this has helped!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lost Mail May Be A Genealogical Gem Someday

Don't know if you saw the recent article about undelivered mail found in an old trunk.  When I say old, I mean really old - as in 17th Century.  You can read about it at A Postal 'piggybank'.
We have terrible US Mail service, receiving several pieces of mail a week that don't belong to us.  It makes me wonder how much I don't receive.
If it was junk mail I wouldn't care but it's been affecting important correspondence lately.  The most recent "lost" mail was from the Board of Certified Genealogy (BCG) with a much needed portfolio requirement enclosed.  Thank goodness I was notified via email the first week in November that I would be receiving a packet with a document to transcribe within 2 weeks.  Due to the Thanksgiving holiday I gave it extra time - 3 weeks - but it still didn't come.  I contacted BCG and they verified it was mailed to my address on November 14th.  They will resend if I don't receive it by week's end.
In the past, I've spoken in person to my Postmaster who shrugged his shoulders when I tried to find out what happened to the last important piece of mail that never arrived back in June.  He told me that the mail service doesn't guarantee delivery.  Clearly!  My son had sent a time important document within the state as certified, return receipt requested and it had been lost.  Postmaster said they'd put a tracer on it but that was it.  I thought the barcode scans were a way to trace but obviously they aren't very useful.  That document was found in the wrong city and arrived a month later, way past the deadline needed.  No explanation as to why it was in the wrong city.  No apology, either.  Since it was found and eventually delivered we were told that we couldn't get a refund on the postage because again, "there's no guarantee" mail will be delivered in the time frame that is posted in the Post Office.
Since there's nothing I can personally do (except avoid using snail mail as much as possible) to insure my letters are delivered I'm seriously considering sending my portfolio to BCG electronically.
I also have had the thought that just maybe, in 400 years, the BCG letter will arrive and it will make an interesting new story.  Don't know if there's an explanation in the envelope explaining why it was being sent but if not, it will have created a mystery as to why a copy of an old record was mailed to someone.  My poor future relatives will be all confused as to how we're related to the individual and perhaps spend time trying to make a connection.
Bet you're like me and love to solve genealogical mysteries, not create them. If so, read this article 
in the New England Historic Genealogical Society weekly newsletter as it's equally important that we leave our stories for our descendants. Happy Hunting!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Why Persistence Pays in Hunting Records

On 6 August 2010, I called a cemetery in Indiana requesting records of the family plot. I know I called that day and I know who I spoke with because I wrote a note on the ancestor's burial citation on my Ancestry.com tree.  I was told it was against the cemetery's policy to release burial record information. I told the employee that I planned on visiting the cemetery and needed to know where the grave was located.  That grave location was given to me and I dutifully recorded it. 
That day I created a Find-A-Grave memorial for two of the individuals in the family, the husband and wife.  I thought it was odd they were buried in Grave 2 and 3 but since the cemetery employee refused to give me who was buried in Grave 1, I had no way to know.  I immediately put in a request for a photo on Find-A-Grave hoping that the mystery of burial space 1 would be revealed.  No one ever came through with the photo.
In September, I wrote for the death certificate of the other spouse as I decided I would use this family for my Board of Certified Genealogist certification portfolio.  It took 2 months, and several phone calls to Indianapolis, before I FINALLY received the record.  I'm not understanding why the website says "Average Processing Time: 2 weeks (5-10 business days). Processing times could increase during peak times (holiday, travel, income tax months and school enrollment) and may take up to 3 weeks (5-15 business days) to prepare your order for shipping." when it took them 2 months but that's another story - I kept being told that it was a busy time.  I was very excited when the record finally arrived and it confirmed that the burial was in the same cemetery as the wife.  I decided the day after Thanksgiving to call the cemetery again to see if maybe their policy had changed and I could obtain a copy of the cemetery record.
I love getting the cemetery records because I have uncovered some very interesting info - names of children I had never heard of, confirmation that the family was in the area earlier than I had thought based on the purchase date of the plots and married names of female relatives who were listed as the next of kin.
Unbelievably, when I called the cemetery I got the same person I spoke with 5 years ago.  She again told me that records weren't available.  I told her I needed a picture of the stone and had placed a request on Find-A-Grave but no one had fulfilled it.  She said that maybe there was no stone.  I told her that I was interested in having a stone placed on the graves so I needed to verify that there was no stone.  She agreed to pull the file which actually was only an index card.  She stated there was no mention that there was or wasn't a stone.  I asked how I could know for sure.  She said I'd have to look. I told her I lived 2000 miles away and couldn't do that.  She told me she couldn't give me any further information because she had no proof I was a relative.
I asked her how she would like me to get her proof - fax or email?  She said to send via email so I scanned the 2 death certificates, one of their children's birth certificates, the grand child's birth certificate and my driver's license.  Moments later she sent an email with a copy of the burial card and that's when I did a double happy dance!
The card, interestingly, showed that 7 burial plots were purchased in 1927.  At the time of purchase, the couple had 2 children and the wife was pregnant with the third child.  I could understand purchasing 5 plots but they purchased 7.  Reviewing the record I learned that the wife's mother was also interred in one of the plots.  I had tried to verify where this woman was buried for 10 years!  Although I had her death date from family member recollections no one could remember her maiden name or where she was buried.  I tried writing for a death certificate but was told that there wasn't one on file.  I tried to get hospital records as there were only 2 hospitals in the area at the time of her death but was told by both sites that they don't have records that old.  I tried contacting what I thought would have been the funeral home but they are no longer in business.  I was so happy to finally find where this woman was buried!  Unfortunately, the card did not list her maiden name.
I was also shocked to discover that an infant grandchild was buried in the last space.  I knew of this child as I had found his birth certificate among family papers but  I never knew where he had been interred.

I can only assume that 7 plots were purchased as the couple planned to have additional children but did not. Perhaps they were unable to have more children or the economic times was a detriment.  Maybe they purchased the extra spaces for their young children's spouses.  This was a family that really planned well so that, too, remains a possibility.  All I know for sure is that I'm thankful that I was persistent and called again to get more information.  Sad that it had to take 5 years to get information that was available.  Since there are no relatives left in the area, I think I'm going to contact a reputable (meaning I've used them before and been pleased) monument company in the area to verify that there is no stone since the cemetery worker refused to leave the office and check and no one on find-a-grave has picked up the request.