Saturday, July 30, 2016

Research Tips

I spent the past two weeks researching in several states.  Each archive I visited had different policies and procedures but there were commonalities that helped me use my limited time efficiently.  On a visit to one of the libraries I had a co-worker tag along and she asked me to share how I found so much so quickly.  Since she's a dear reader, per her request, I'd like to share how I plan my research trips.

  1. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Your time is valuable and you don't want to waste it!  The only way to make to the most of your visit is to PLAN AHEAD.  How do I do that?  As soon as I know I will be arriving in a distant area I identify who is in my tree that lived in the area I'll visit and what additional information for that individual I'd like to find.  I look at the sources I have and focus on what's missing.  I next go to and do a search for archives I may be interested in visiting to quickly plan the visit.  
Here's an example from my recent trip to Franklin County, Pennsylvania.  I click on and under SEARCH at the top, use the drop down and click WIKI.  On the map of the world I click the US, then Pennsylvania, then Franklin County.  Up pops wonderful information!  I scroll down to the bottom where the repositories are located.  I snip to Word (or if you are using a Kindle - copy/paste to Evernote) and in just a minute or two have created a guide of where I need to go.  Is the list complete?  No, but it's a wonderful tool to start with.  Using the identified places that look promising - Courthouse in Chambersburg (for deeds and wills), Alexander Hamilton Library in Waynesboro (for obit), and the Franklin County Historical Museum (for knowledge of the area's records in general) I can visit those websites for opening/closing times, admission costs, records that are housed there, and policies in place.  I add that info to my Word document.  As I'm Googling to find additional information about these places I discover more archives to add by looking at the right hand bottom of the Google search results page under "People Also Searched For."  To make sure I'm not missing any smaller gem that may not receive alot of internet traffic, I also Google "Franklin County Pennsylvania USGenWeb"  Voila - scrolling down under Historical & Genealogical Societies and Museums is listed Waynesboro Historical Society.  That's a place I need to add to my Word/Evernote document as I know that the folks I'm searching for lived in that location.  Depending on the time I have to spend in the area, I add churches (baptism/marriage/death/parishioner records) and cemeteries (family plot info), too.
In a perfect genealogical world, I would have time to contact the repositories ahead of my visit to make sure that the old deeds are still housed in the courthouse and weren't moved to the museum but sometimes that's not possible and I just have to wing it.  For this trip, though, I did call ahead or search the website to verify who had what.
I then prioritize what I wanted to find as sometimes life doesn't work out the way we want.  Several years ago I planned a trip around a library in Morristown, New Jersey and guess what?!  The day before I arrived they had a gas leak and the library was closed when I got there.  I had nothing else identified to visit in the area and the trip was an expensive waste of time.  Live and learn!
Once I've identified my list of sites to visit I route based on my priorities.  On the Franklin trip, my number one priority was to find a will, then the deeds, as I hoped that would lead me to a firm death date and I could then locate the burial site.  If they weren't available my backup was to find an obituary.
Even with planning, sometimes life gets in the way so you have to be flexible.  I arrived at Reagan National in DC mid day on a Thursday.  I had pre-paid for the rental car thinking I could drive in 1 1/2 hours to the courthouse to get the will and deeds, go next door to the county historical museum to check out their index of county burials and then head to the library (which was open late that evening) to find an obit.  Well, it didn't work out as planned.  Arriving early at National I then encountered a long wait at the rental car counter as it was lunch time and there was only 1 employee available who was arguing with the customer ahead of me over company policy.  The kiosks were all down due to a computer glitch.  I waited and waited and finally another employee came back from lunch.  He was new, though, and couldn't find my reservation even though I had a copy of my confirmation with me.  Then he found it but the transaction wouldn't go through as the credit card I had used to pre-pay had been compromised two weeks earlier and I had a replacement card with another number.  He told me my option was to rent a car at the going rate (much higher) and deal with getting a credit on my pre-payment after my trip.  Nope!  Asked to speak to a manager and none available.  Meanwhile, the clock was ticking....   After two calls to corporate customer service I was permitted to update my credit card information and get the rental.  Thinking it would be smooth sailing ahead I happily followed the employee's directions to go to the top floor of the parking garage and find the car in the space he wrote on the paperwork.  Except there were no rental cars on the top floor - he should have sent me to the 3rd floor.  Took me several minutes to figure out where to go.  When I got to the designated space I couldn't get into the car.  I then had to hunt down an employee who told me they rented me the wrong car and I needed to go back downstairs to get it straightened out.  When I arrived downstairs there was a long line and seriously, the first employee was still arguing with the customer who had been there when I first arrived.  Thankfully, the nice people in line let me take cuts and the new employee again didn't know what to do.  A manager now magically appeared and they found me a different car.  Back to the 3rd floor and another wait to get out of the parking lot as there was one employee to check me out.  I lost an hour plus that I had expected to use researching.  Deep breathing helps!

            2.  PACK EFFICIENTLY -   Below is a pic of what I keep together to make my research trip more efficient:

This is all I take - my Kindle as it contains my tree, my phone so I can take pictures of my finds, a small change purse with quarters for parking meters, locker rental or snacks, a thumb drive to save what I find, identification (those are Library of Congress and NARA library cards but I also put my drivers license credit cards and a few business cards in the change purse), a pencil, red pen, black pen and highlighter, stickees (to flag the index as I'm going back and forth in a text), hand sanitizer and a magnifying glass.  
All of this fits into a quart size baggie:

Remarkable how everything fits except the Kindle!  Sometimes I take a large rubber band and band the baggie to the Kindle so I don't drop anything.  
This small amount of needed tools helps me move quickly through security and not spend time digging through my purse to find what I need when I'm in the stacks.  I also check out quickly as employees can see I haven't "accidentally" taken something out that I shouldn't have.  This set up is a win-win for everyone!
I actually prefer mechanical pencils to the standard shown above but I was out so I used what I had at home.  I'll get those mechanical ones when the back-to-school sales start this week.  
It's important to know the repositories policy as some do no allow you to take paper, pens, pencils or highlighters in with you.  At the National Archives, I had to leave my Kindle case in a locker, too. Again, flexibility is needed.
Next blog, I'll give you hints for being effective and efficient when you reach your destination.  Happy Hunting!  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lighting A Fire

A former client informed me today that she thought about me all night long.  I could be flattered by that but the reason why was unsettling.  It's summer in Florida and during this time we experience torrential storms.  Last evening was over the top with lightning and thunder and subsequently, one of my client's neighbors home was hit and caught fire.  Thankfully, the fire department was able to extinguish the flames but the home sustained much damage.
Why my client thought of me at that time was due to my insistence a few months ago that her family documents be scanned and saved in several places.  She never got around to it.  Typical excuses - work, family, vacation, and it's not fun to scan.  I'm not saying that those excuses aren't valid but last evening she realized how quickly everything can be instantly destroyed.
First thing this morning she contacted me asking for help in cataloguing and scanning her documents and photos.
Please, readers, no more excuses!  Make the time now to save these valuable heirlooms today.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I Hate to Admit that an Unsourced Tree was Right!

I do not want to start a genealogical war but I have to tell you about my recent experience with unsourced family trees and serendipity. I know it's a touchy subject, the unsourced trees, I mean.
Years ago - perhaps 16-20 - not even sure the exact time period I trusted what I found on the internet without checking sources.  In my mind, why would anyone put out fraudulent information?  I knew mistakes could happen but I really believed that everyone else was more knowledgeable then me so whatever was posted had to be mostly correct.  That was until late one evening as I was happily clicking back on one of my husband's lines and in the early morning hours, about 2 AM, I realized what  was on the screen couldn't be correct.  There is no way that he was the grandson of Viking gods and goddesses.  That painful lesson - painful because it took me quite some time to delete all of it - woke me up to reality.
Unfortunately, there were other lines I had added information to prior to that realization and I had no way to verify accuracy of what I had recorded.  All of it was Swedish.  The data looked okay, meaning that the father's first name became the child's last name and the dates of birth and death looked correct so I just left it.  I wanted to check but I just didn't know how as I don't read Swedish. Verifying the accuracy of those lines went on my to-do list for someday.  I always could identify them because the PAF file I used had funny dates when I converted to gedcom - year-month-day instead of day-month-year.
I am happy to report that the day finally arrived and I can cross this off my to-do list!  In May I blogged about my purchase of a year subscription to Arkivdigital.  That organization has digitized church books throughout Sweden and they look real, compared to the white background on Ancestry's digitized books.  The site works well, too!  You can bookmark records, play with the background shading if you like and there is lots of helpful information to point you in the direction you need to search. There are NO inaccurate tree leaves like on Ancestry to mislead you, either.  Although the leaves are helpful in most cases they are definitely not correct when it comes to Swedish records and they make me crazy!
I'll be honest, I had my doubts I could use the Arkivdigital site since my Swedish language skills were limited to Ikea and Samuelson. Oh, and Huskqvarna.   I did  have a phone conference with the U.S. rep and watched her beginners video on Legacy Family Trees. I also went to Swedish Genealogy Center and poked around a bit.  Arkivdigital has English translations, too, so I was able to print out marriage records, for example, from the 1700's so I knew common words to look for.  Although there was no standard way to record the records in the earliest church books the names seem to jump out in most cases.  Probably because they are so long - Kierstin Johannessdotter stands out among the short words like fodelse (birth) and dod (death).
I decided I would check those old lines and if they were wrong - Snip, Snap and Snur - they were getting cut!  I am pleased to report that EVERYONE of them was 100% correct.  That means that whoever put the info out there back in the early days of the internet really knew what they were doing.  I just wish I knew who the person was so I could thank and credit them!  I have entered citations for every record that I found - birth, death and marriage.  I added a snippet to the gallery of each individual and made the birth record, in most cases, the photo so I can easily see the line was completely researched.  I still have to go back and check out the household records and I want to add the sibling info, too, so I'll be spending lots more time with Arkivdigital.
Which gets me to the real lesson here - there are very kind, smart people out there in the world who do share their findings, albeit, without sources.  Maybe, back in the day, their program didn't allow them to enter a citation or maybe they just never thought to do it because they knew where they found it.  Whatever the reason, no one should discount looking at unsourced family trees.  I'm not recommending doing what I did - blindly copying - but getting ideas, contacting the owner and checking it out for yourself can really help you move forward.
And speaking of sharing.....
While I was updating my lines I discovered that my hubby's dear 2 x's great grandfather's real name was not Anders August but Anders Ludvig Johannesson.  He changed his name to Gust Johnson after he arrived in Indiana.  I understand the Johnson part but the Gust?  Well, turns out he was born in August so he went by a shortened version of his birth month.  He died in the early 1900's and we had no picture of him.  I have his marriage certificate to his second wife but some darling in the family removed the pictures before I found them in a suitcase in my in-law's basement about 40 years ago.
When I updated my tree with the correct name it hit me that I also needed to update Find-A-Grave as I had created a memorial for him.  I was so surprised when I clicked on and discovered that a distant relative I had never heard of had uploaded a photo of him!  What a wonderful treat - was the best find I've had all summer!  Sent the gentleman a thank you and am hoping he has a pic of the second wife.  So here is the wonderful Anders "Gust" Johnson:

I love the faint "My Dad" on the left side right under the pic.  I suspect this is his 2nd wedding photo as he was 66 when he died and this looks like like a much younger man.  The resemblance to my husband is striking.
Notice that this appears to be in a photo book as the right edge looks like more pics.  How cool is that!  I so hope the gentleman responds and shares.  Keep those trees and photos coming!
So I found this just a few days before I left for my Pennsylvania-DC research trip.  I came home late Thursday evening (thanks, southwest airlines for the debacle!) and began the arduous task of downloading to my desktop all the photos I had taken while away.  Realizing I had hundreds, I decided to clean out my email first.
Ok, this is really really weird but here goes....
I decided to read the weekly newsletter I get from the New England Historic and Genealogy Society.  Why I picked that first I have no idea as I haven't been doing anything with my New England lines this summer.  One of the articles was about Hoosier newspapers so I clicked the link since I have been doing alot with Indiana.  One click led to another and very soon I was on Porter County - Westchester Township pics and the first one that comes up.... was the Helen Chellberg handwritten above's husband's grandparents.  How strange is that?!  Porter County was a very rural area of Indiana back in the late 1800's so there were several Chelllbergs who married into the Johnson and Samuelson families.  In fact, on Thursday, I had been at the National Archives and got the military records for Samuel August Samuelson who's sister married the man who popped up on the Westchester Township site.  I thought that circle of connection was just incredible.
All I have to say is - universe - keep it coming!!!
Have a wonderful week -

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Remembering the Past

I'm at NARA waiting for my military record pulls  so I'm taking  a break to blog.  Read an interesting article about a way that World War I soldiers participating in the Battle of the Sonne that began on 1 July 1916 were recently memorialized throughout Great Britain recently as reported in The Guardian.  Regarded as the largest battle of WWI, between 1 July and 18 November 1916, it was actually a number of battles in three phases.  Best said by Friedrich Steinbrecher, a German officer, “Somme.  The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word” casualties were high on all sides; estimates of 485,000 British and French and 630,000 German soldiers was made at the Chantilly Conference on 15 November 1916.  But the war continued….

Please read the moving way that these lost lives were memorialized.  

Hoping to make it home tonight.  Can't wait too share my latest research finds.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

More About Will

In April, I blogged about my dear cousin Will, aka, William Shakespeare.  A new study has just been released and you can read the New York Times article by Jennifer Schuessler (30 Jun 2016, p. C1) for details.

Written by historians hungry for any tidbit of evidence about Will’s life the document found by Heather Wolfe of the Folger Shakespeare Library regarding Will and his father’s attempt to obtain a coat of arms unveils much more than the supposition that the Shakespeare men were social climbers.  Way more!

I interpret the direct evidence that Will followed up on his father’s request in 1596 and confirming that Will was the son of John and that the two were close.  If Will had been estranged from his father he would not have taken up the fight to have the arms granted to the family.  Although being a social climber may have something to do with it, I again point to the ancestors of the family who had been socially important back in the day.  Historians are neglecting at looking at Will in the context of his family’s past.  Seeking the arms may have been the family’s way of regaining what had once been lost.

Clearly family was important to the Shakespeare’s as noted that Will’s last surviving descendant, a granddaughter named Elizabeth, used the seal on her will.  Using it would in no way aid her status in society.  Instead, it was the final mark that affirmed her position in the family.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Another FAN Consideration

I definitely enjoyed the following article, Letter of Recommendation, written by David Rees, that was published in the New York Times Magazine recently.  He identified with his grandmother, who he never knew, based on reading excerpts from her diary.  I have experienced similar emotions after reading the diary of a 2 x great aunt of my husband.  I think the major message here is that the more things change the more they stay the same. Although technology and societal changes continue to occur, people really don't.  Rees' read a diary written about 100 years ago and I read a diary that was written 130 years ago - both individuals had experiences and reactions that were basic to humanity today.

Rees’ article saddened me as he had no connection with his ancestors before coming across the manuscript.  I have a very small family, too, but the connection with my past was strong.  In hindsight, I guess I can attribute that to my grandmother, Mary Koss, who as the family matriarch, insured that the extended family kept in touch.  After her passing, the family contact ended.  I had to stop and calculate the following number, which shows how long it’s been since the family got together – I have 10 maternal cousins and 5 great cousins of which 2 are deceased.  Since my grandmother's death, I have only seen 1 cousin in person and that was 5 years ago when I initiated the visit.  I have emailed with one of the great cousins but it ended rather abruptly as our theories of how the family name was changed don’t agree.  One simple little letter – an added “s” – at the end of the name created a gulf.  Silly?  Definitely.   It would have made my grandmother distressed.

For the majority of my cousins, though, we had no disagreements.  There was no wars, famines or other adverse situations that arose to part us.  Rather, we just led our lives in different places and with different circumstances, and along with the passage of time, we became disconnected.  I know my family is not alone.  

This month, my grandmother would have celebrated her 116th birthday.  As I get ready to head out on a research trip combined with a business trip I'm thinking I'll try to make an attempt at reconnecting when I return.  I know it's time.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Love Those Records Found Online? Here's How You Can Keep Them Coming!

Remember the days when you had to physically go to a location to find a record?  Or contact someone who lived close to where you needed to hunt and HOPE they would respond via snail mail?  And plan for months to get some ancestor hunting in when on a vacation or business trip?
Seems like years ago but it wasn't.  How far we've come in this fast pace world with having information available at our fingertips whenever and wherever we are.

I'm not sure where the source of the statistic that I keep seeing that claims that about 10% of all records are posted online.  Whatever the number, I think we can all agree that  the benefits of surfing in the comfort of our home far outweighs the small costs we might have to pay to "belong" to an organization to access the records.

But being greedy, I want more!  I long for the day that I can click on any link on and instantly bring up a filmstrip.  Wow - not having to order, wait (and wait and wait because my local peeps always forget to let me know that the filmstrip arrived), drive to thel library by rearranging my schedule to match when they have volunteers on staff, trying to unspool the film when I find what I want to take to the machine that prints a copy, playing with the copy to lighten/darken/enlarge/shrink, saving to my thumbdrive because their internet is sporadic and I can't save to the cloud, cleaning up my workspace and then driving home again.  Not fun!

I've found four ways that you can help get more records online and this can all be done from your home!  It's very simple, it's fun and there's no cost to you.  Just follow the steps below:
  1. Get cozy in front of whatever device you prefer - desktop, laptop, tablet - your choice!
  2. Click one of the 4 options below and follow their directions
             Family Search Indexing - between July 15-17th

             Decoding Civil War Telegrams

             Purple Hearts Reunited

             World Archives Project from Ancestry

      3.  Feel good that you have contributed!

Over the holiday last weekend I happily indexed Civil War telegrams.  For transcriptions, the handwriting was fairly clear and the input method was a breeze.  I used to index for Ancestry but haven't recently.  I'm not sure if they still offer a discount if you indexed x number of records but they used to.  Check with them and see - it could save you money on your subscription renewal.  I plan to help out Family Search and the purple hearts group in the near future.  Working on my "On The Clock" portfolio took up a lot of my time over the past year so I didn't have much free time to spend volunteering.  I'm planning on scheduling time in the near future though, as I believe it's important to help get more records online.  Together, we can increase that 10% online and that's helpful to everyone!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Adding Flexibility to the Genealogists Repetoire

It's a benefit to genealogists to be flexible.  This post will be short because of my necessity to be flexible today.

Yesterday evening son asked for a ride to the airport for a business trip he was taking today.  No problem!  Then I learned he needed to be there by 5 AM.  So I'm now operating on little sleep.  Coffee can be a genealogists best friend.  I'll be back to the airport tonight late to pick him up.

I got home and thought I'd start the day with some light reading before I started on an article I plan on submitting to a journal so I opened my email.  Bad news!  Sidengo, which provided my website template, has changed their policy effective August 1st so if I stay with them I'm going to have to start paying.  That led me to find Canvas, which is free, that my webhost, Namecheap, can work with.  I just spent the last 3 hours between Namecheap and Canvas as there was some glitch with my transaction going through.  I then had to rebuild the website.  Got everything there EXCEPT I haven't figured out yet how to link the blog posts from here to there.  Will work on that this afternoon.

I'll be on the road again next week, first for some personal research in Pennsylvania and Maryland and then on to a conference in DC for my education job, then a little more research at NARA at the end of the trip so I really don't have the time to spend on getting this website recreated.  I'm hoping you'll be able to experience a seemless transfer!  The names the same -

With my upcoming travel I will most likely have to post less frequently; again, it pays to be flexible as who knows what awesome discoveries awaits me in the next few weeks that I'll just have to share.  So my need to be flexible impacts you, too. My apologies!  It's great, though, to identify another way we're all connected - Happy Hunting!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

No Headstone? Here's Some Ideas

“Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.” Elie Weisel

Hubby and I went to the cemetery last week - not to check a record, take a picture for a memorial request or to honor an ancestor.  Instead, we went to check on space availability for what would become our final real estate purchase.  It was a very weird experience.

We grew up with the Jackson 5, literally.  There are some historical moments that most Boomers claim to remember for the impact that it made on the world and to them personally  - where they were when the Kennedys and MLK was shot, the moon landing, and 9-11, for example, but one of the most pivotal moments to me was the death of Michael Jackson.  Seriously.  I grew up about a mile away from the Jackson family household in Gary, Indiana.  As a student council representative as a freshman in high school I was placed on a committee to select a band for an upcoming dance the organization would be sponsoring. That was how I first became involved with the Jacksons...

I am tone deaf - most people say they can't carry a tune but for me it's so bad that people ask my to stop singing  I can dance, though, and quite well.  So keep this in mind as I tell the tale....

The committee met one day after school to listen to 3 bands that had been narrowed down, I guess, from others that had expressed interest in playing the upcoming dance.  The Jacksons were one of those bands.  It was before they were famous. I'm not sure if Dianna Ross was dating Mayor Hatcher then.  Likely she hadn't yet arranged for all those talented people to transform the Jackson family into - The Jacksons.  Michael was still too little, as was Janet, when the band auditioned.  I'm older then both of them.  The song they played was not danceable.  Very weird beat.  

I was not impressed with the Jackson's performance and neither was the others on my committee.  Which says a lot about our ability to recognize talent or about how much practice (and the right coaching) makes perfect.  Either way, we selected another band.  Can't remember their name, can't even remember the dance very well but I remember the Jacksons because within a very short time after this they were everywhere.  

Gary's previous favorite sons were Karl Malden (who had gone to high school with my uncle) and George Karras, who's brother owned the house next door to us and who I price gouged once but that's another story.  Oh, Gary was also famous for the dumb song from the Music Man that repeats "Gary, Indiana."   Gary was not known for music so your can imagine the city's pride in the Jackson 5.  They performed a concert at Gleason Park, just 3 blocks from our home.  They sounded great that night.

Like the Jacksons, my husband and I left Gary to follow our dreams elsewhere.  I haven't been back there since 2001 when my mom passed.  

When Michael Jackson died I was on a bus with fellow educators on I 75 south of Tampa coming back from visiting a then brand new state of the art community college that had been built out in the sticks.  It had been a tiring day and we were being driven back to where we had all parked our cars so we could go home.  A counselor who was sitting a few rows up had gotten a phone call and I heard her exclaim, "Oh, no. That's ..." and her words trailed off.  I knew she had an elderly mom and assumed something had happened to her.  The woman ended the conversation, rose from her seat and half standing, announced, "Michael Jackson is dead."  

I couldn't process this sentence.  How could he be dead?  He was younger than me.  Certainly my lifestyle was not as stressful nor did I make the life choices that he had but..... he was younger than me.  Certainly I had experienced in my lifetime the passing of those that were young - several fellow students, friends of the family, colleagues and neighbors' children.  But Michael, well, he was bigger than life.  In my mind, he was permanently young and invincible.  My memory wasn't of him after the numerous plastic surgeries.  I still remembered the little kid and I was stunned.

I told my husband as soon as I returned home that afternoon.  I reached the conclusion, on the drive home that day, that our preparation for death needed to occur.  So we scheduled an appointment with our attorney the following day and had our wills updated.  That was as far as we got - didn't think further than that.

A few weeks ago I received a thick packet in the mail from a rural Indiana county.  I was delighted to examine the probate file of a couple I was writing about.  My delight soon turned to sadness as I read that the grown children had to come up with the money for the burial, repay the man's debts and take in their mom, all due to the lack of planning on the couple's part.  When the mom died several years later the kids again had to put their money together to make sure the burial was paid.

I don't want that to be me.  Hubby and I discussed it and decided that he, too, was going to donate his body to science.  I've previously written about that so check out my blog Death and the Genealogist from 23 June.  He wants his cremains returned so that's how we ended up at the cemetery last week.  

Burial is big business and expensive.  I am thrifty.  We reached our decision of where to be buried based on 

  • where we live - we wanted it close to this area that we've called home for many years, 
  • what the place will be like in the future - have experienced too many forgotten cemeteries so we wanted assurance there would be some level of maintenance
  • reasonably priced
That led us to a local city owned cemetery.  On the way there the song, Stairway to Heaven, played on the radio.  Had to snicker about "and she's buying a stairway to heaven..."

When we arrived we learned there was a problem (why is there always a problem?!).  The cemetery was running out of space.  We looked at the limited options and Hubby jokingly said it was kind of noisy, being right off the main street.  I laughed and reminded him we both grew up on main streets so it would be coming full circle.

In our community we can no longer be buried in ground.  Looking across the expanse I saw lots of empty space so I didn't understand how there wasn't much space left.  I was informed that many people didn't have markers.  Lots of reasons for that - the cost, lack of planning, couldn't decide, it aged and fell apart, and so on.

That made me really sad!  I recently did some client work and that was the case with the woman's great grandma.  Buried between two of her children she was the only one with no marker.  The client was upset and said she was going to see that a marker was put up.  So I really wanted a marker

The cemetery employee said we could order the brass plaque now and they'd put the final dates, included in the price, on it later.  We sat in an office and looked at insignias to add to personalize the plaque and wasn't real impressed.  Discovered my real first name, with my maiden and last name, is too long for the plaque so had to go with initial of my maiden name.  Can only put the year of birth and death and no relationship to each other.  Wow, so much for helping out a genealogist in the future.  I will be leaving in the cemetery file copies of our birth and marriage certificates and the obits for our parents so at the very least, if requested, the future inquirer will have a start of a paper trail.  Check to see if that's available when you do your planning.

Yesterday, hubby and son were building a brick bbq grill in our backyard.  He had laid the cement foundation a long while ago but had never gotten around to finishing the project. Last night, he remarked about an idea that came to him when he was building.  I have to admit this is quite humorous to see how one's mind works but here is the trail.... Building the bbq grill reminded him of my family stories about my grandmother's house that had a bbq grill just like the one he was working on.  That led to him thinking about my mom who loved helping us with around the house projects and who would have loved to know that the crematorium had sent us a rebate after death because she had over paid.  That made him think about the cemetery we had just selected and the people who had no stones and why couldn't inexpensive "stones" be used.  He recalled laying the cement for the bbq and he figured, if he could do it, anyone could and a cemetery base could be prefab and easy to install, too.  Always looking to recycle, why can't someone use excess countertops, like Corian, and engrave the deceased's name and dates, then affix it to the cement base?  I dunno!  Why can't they?  Probably because there's no money in it!  All I know is that as difficult and strange is the experience to select one's final resting place for us, it's done and we can happily live the rest of our lives knowing we planned til the end.