30 November 2008

Remembering the Victims of Our Lady of the Angels

1 December 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most horrific events in recent US history, the deadly fire at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic grade school in Chicago, IL.

This event took place a couple years before I was born. My parents lived in Chicago at the time, my mother pregnant with my older sister, and a nurse at a nearby hospital. My father also worked at a hospital, St. Anne's, where many victims were taken. Our Lady of the Angels was my parents own parish, where they went to church each Sunday. My mother remembers having to work a 3-11 shift that day. She remembers riding the bus to work and hearing the sirens wailing outside. She remembers the unspeakable tragedies that befell the school and overtook the whole city. She remembers the terrible pictures printed in the newspaper, particularly one of a burnt staircase with one small tennis shoe on one of the steps. She has not forgotten and she mourns to this day, as do I.

This fire claimed the lives of 92 children, aged 8-15, and 3 nuns. There is a very informative website dedicated to honoring the victims of the fire. I encourage everyone to please visit Our Lady of the Angels Fire Memorial and read about this terrible event as a way to remember these children, their teachers, and the brave people who tried to save them.

23 November 2008

My Thanksgiving Day Greeting

I would like to direct everyone to one of my other blogs for my Thanksgiving Day greeting to all of you, sorry to do it this way, but it is a long greeting and you'll know what I mean when you get there. So please visit Live, Love, and Be Free

I'll be back Friday night!

20 November 2008

Caring for Old Photographs

If you are like me you love old photographs. I love them enough to collect and rescue them from thrift shops, yard sales, estate sales, antique stores, et c. when I know good and well they aren’t pictures of my relatives. Some of these photos are labeled with names and locations and I try very hard to reunite a photograph with its rightful owner or descendant.

One such photograph I acquired from free-cycle. A lady gave away a big shoe box full of old photographs. The oldest one was a portrait of a 6 month old baby taken in 1908. I put a query out on Ancestry.com
and got a response several days later. I was totally thrilled and so was this little fella's granddaughter. I sent the photo half way across the country to her. Her family did not have any photographs of her grandfather as a child, much less alone a baby. It was so very fulfilling to make that happen for them.

The subject of this post is how to care for these photographs so they can be honored and enjoyed by generations to come.

Photographs are sensitive to their environment. Changes in the temperature and amount of moisture in the air can cause them to shrink and swell, weakening them. Excessive moisture can cause them to mold, while being too dry can cause the photographs to crack, break, and split. Photographs should be kept in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, such as under air condition, but not too low. They can stand up to lower temperatures, but when brought into a warmer room for viewing condensation forms and that is a problem. Most generally, storing on the first floor of your house on an inside wall is best as it has the least amount of temperature and humidity change. As stated, high humidity is not good, but low humidity, even though it can help prevent certain chemical changes like oxidation, is not good either. Try to keep photographs at 30-50% relative humidity.

Acid is very damaging to photographs. Acid is found in the very paper the photographs are printed on, but it is also found in materials that they are stored in and also on our fingers. You can see this damage when you inspect your photographs, they will be discolored and darkened or yellowed. Acid must be removed from the surroundings or it should be neutralized or buffered.

The best choice is to use archival quality materials for anything that touches the photographs. This means the items are acid-free and lignin-free. These products are widely available from archival supply stores, craft stores and camera supply stores. Look for mat boards, storage boxes, glassine sleeves, et c. Check out Light Impressions or Archival USA, Make sure that any plastic used is polyethylene, don’t use PVC. Never use those sticky magnetic pages, those are sure disaster for photographs.

For framed photographs, use UV protective glass or UV filtering Plexiglas to protect against dust or mishaps, but make sure you use spacers or a mat board to keep some space between the glass and photograph. Metal frames are better for photographs than wooden ones, as wood is organic and releases substances harmful to photographs. Store or hang your photographs out of direct sunlight and rotate them to limit their exposure. Loose photographs can be kept in glassine envelopes and stored flat in acid-free boxes.

Negatives should be stored separately from the photographs for a couple reasons. They release acidic gases as they age which will break down the photographs. They can be stored in glassine envelopes as well. It is also a good idea to keep them separate from the originals in case of fire or some other event.

Consider making copies of your precious originals for display and keeping the originals in dark storage. Only use pencil for writing on enclosures or, only when absolutely necessary, on the backs of photographs. Always wash your hands before handling photographs and consider wearing clean white cotton gloves to prevent oil from fingers to get on photographs.

Following these methods will give your photographs the best chance of a long life.

12 November 2008

Knowing your Medical History

It is not a new concept to try to find out how so and so died way back when, even if just out of curiosity. We know that many medical conditions are hereditary and that is a much better reason for finding out how your ancestors died. Granted sometimes it isn't always easy to find that information.

I have found that cancer runs pretty prevalent in my family, as do aneurysms, heart disease, and DVTs. I don't know if any of these can be considered a hereditary thing or not, although family history of cancer increases one's risk of developing it. I have found a rather disturbing medical condition on my Mother's side. It was discovered by another genealogically-minded family member, my Mother's cousin.

George and Anne Turner, date unknown

probably in the early stages of the disease

George Turner was born 12 Jun 1825 in Essex England. At the age of 4 his family moved to Canada, where he resided for a good many years. In 1848 he married Anne O'Brien and started a family. They had seven children. In 1857 they made the move to Michigan and in 1865, moved to Humboldt Co. Iowa.

George was a hardworking man and held several occupations during his life: shipbuilder, blacksmith, railroad contractor, and farmer. He applied for 160 acres in Humboldt Co. under the Homestead Act in 1865 and in 1871 this land was officially his. He farmed this land with his sons for many years.

Around 1879, at the age of 54, George started exhibiting signs of something being wrong. I imagine that the first signs of his disease went unnoticed by most or explained away as they were probably vague, and could have been occurring for some time before 1879. These early signs were personality changes, irritability and anger, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. He could have had slight balance problems, clumsiness, and involuntary facial movements.

As the disease progressed these signs and symptoms became quite severe. The jerky involuntary movements gave rise to one of its names: St. Vitus' Dance, as it was known in those days. Today it is known as Huntington's Chorea or simply Huntington's disease.

Huntington's disease was first documented in 1872 by George Huntington, an American physician. It is a progressive and degenerative disease of the nervous system. It is inherited and it has no cure. It usually doesn't manifest until middle age after most people have had their children and have passed the gene on. Children of an affected parent have a 50% chance of getting this gene. Anyone who gets this faulty gene will eventually get the disease and die from it.

I think in 1872 the cause was not known. According to George's obituary, "he received a kick from a mule which caused his nervous trouble known as St. Vitus Dance, from which he has suffered ever since and which was the final cause of his death."

I don't know about George's parents. I know nothing of his mother. I have one record that states his father, also named George, died from apoplexy, an old term for stroke or cerebral vascular accident (CVA). As already stated, George had seven children. Two of his daughters were afflicted. One daughter, Sarah was a victim, as were 5 of her children and several grandchildren. The other daughter, Elizabeth, was a twin. I don't know whether her twin got it or not. If they were identical twins I assume she would have it too. To my knowledge, Elizabeth had only one child and it is unknown whether the gene was passed to him.

George is my great great grandfather. I descend from his son, Edmund, who did not carry the gene.

For more information on Huntington's disease try the Huntington's Disease Society of America or The Hereditary Disease Foundation.

And although it is interested in heritage markers which reveal family relatedness and doesn't do medical DNA testing on any samples, check out Ancestry.com DNA testing.

03 November 2008

Getting Started With Genealogy, Lesson #1

Genealogy is the study of the origins of individuals and their relationship to family members. Most people interested in genealogy start out researching their own family. They start with the known and work backward.

Genealogy research involves collecting data, analyzing it, and evaluating it. It involves dealing with the information at hand, with the best information available, without taking anything for granted, and being unbiased regarding the information.

The basic information to start acquiring is the dates and places of life events, such as birth, marriage, and death. Generally speaking there is a guideline for one to follow when doing research, as follows.

It is important to identify what you will be working on during your research session, a question you want to answer. You cannot get sidetracked on other things, but at the same time you don't want to not collect something pertinent that you happen to see about another family member. Just remember to follow through with the original project and exhaust all avenues for it.

You need to ask yourself, "what kind of records or documents are best to answer my question and where can I find them?" It is also a good idea to have a 2nd best resource, or 3rd, in the event you can't find the answer in the 1st.

You will now locate the information. Make copies or abstracts. Critically analyze and evaluate the information and the sources. Decide how this fits with other information you've gathered, to see if it holds true.

And lastly you will make a record of this information. It is crucial to keep records of your research. You will need to record what, where, and when you researched, of course the outcome, whether good or bad. For instance if you checked the court house for a birth record and couldn't find it there, you will want to record that the record isn't there so that you don't waste time and money looking for it there in the future.

A word on using repositories: please respect their rules regarding their materials so that they can stay preserved for future generations. And when making an abstract that you don't have to write every word or punctuation mark, but be sure to keep the same spelling of names and places even if incorrect, and keep the same dates.

To begin, get a pedigree chart and fill out what you can on it. An excellent site for all your genealogy needs is Ancestry.com
Once you get on Ancestry's site click on Learning Center at the top of the page, then click on Get Started. Once there, click on Ancestral Chart toward the bottom on the left side.

You can also find a chart through a Google search of the Internet. I have a Google search bar near the bottom of this site for your convenience so you don't have to leave this page. Print a 4 generation chart.

When filling out your chart follow the same format with every one. Print neatly. Make sure to use pencil at first until you are very sure of the information. Get into the habit of signing and dating forms when you fill them in. All letters in surnames should be capitalized such as, George WASHINGTON. You should use maiden names for females. Include county names with city and state, enclosing it in parentheses, like this: Chicago (Cook) IL. Use the following format for dates: 25 Dec 2008.

You should always have a hard copy of your records filed away for safe keeping. But, you can use an online service to make a tree online, and that is a great way to share and get contacts from others searching your people. If that interests you, go to Start Your Family Tree

All pedigree charts are assigned numbers, as are all people. Let's work on this chart, call it Chart #1. For the sake of this lesson, put your name on the left most line. Note: on some charts this line is the center line of the left most column. Number yourself #1. Your father goes on the line above and is labeled #2. Your mother goes on the line below your father and is labeled #3.

Continue filling in chart from left to right, top to bottom with grandparents and then great-grandparents in the final column. Males get even numbers, females get odd numbers. Males' numbers are twice their child's number. Females' numbers are twice their child's plus one. So the wives' numbers are one more than their husband. Follow the same format, husband on top line, wife under him all the way down the column. If you don't know the name to fill in you still have to number the line.

Most charts ask for the same information: name, date and place of birth, death, and marriage. Only record marriage information under the husband, not wife. Fill in as much as you can.

Some charts have a spot for the spouse of person #1, some do not. I recommend adding this information even if there are no specified lines for it.

Check over your chart for accuracy. Make a file folder for your chart or place in 3 ring binder.

If you happen to know more ancestors, such as great great grandparents (and as your research progresses you will discover them and more) you will need additional pedigree charts. I will be discussing these charts in upcoming lessons. They are filled in the same, but the numbering is different and I will save that for later.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. Be sure to look for lesson #2 coming soon regarding searching for clues to the past in your own home. If you send your email address, I will let you know about upcoming lessons.

The 1940 Federal Census

The Federal Census is an invaluable tool for genealogists, without which many of us would be lost. Here in the United States the census was first taken in 1790 and was then taken every 10 years thereafter. Of course, most people know that the majority of the 1890 census was destroyed and is unavailable to us, much to my chagrin. But, all of the others from 1790-1930 are available. They are released 72 years after they are taken. The latest release was the 1930 census, which became available in 2002.

Most large city libraries with a genealogy section have census rolls available for viewing, if not, they can probably order them. Don't forget to check with the LDS library as well. There are census records available online as well, some for a fee, but many are free. You can find those through an Internet search site, such as Google. I have a search box toward the bottom of this page for your convenience so you don't have to leave the page. You can also check out online subscription services, such as Ancestry.com Click here for the Ancestry.com Free Trial

Most genealogists wait anxiously for the next release. The 1940 census is due to be released in April 2012. It is a long wait still. The 1940 census is the first to have a statistical sample, meaning that 5% of the people were asked an additional 16 questions. The 1940 census is also the first census that had a separate questionnaire for the housing status. Here is a list of questions for both parts of the 1940 census.

1. Population

Street the person lives on
House number
Number of household in order of visitation
Is the home owned or rented?
Value of the home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented
Does the person's household live on a farm?
Relationship with the head of household
Color or race
Age at last birthday
Marital status
Did the person attend school or college at any time in the past year?
What was the highest grade of school that the person completed?
Person's place of birth
If foreign born, is the person a citizen?
In what place did the person live on April 1, 1935?
For persons who, on April 1, 1935 was living in the same house as at present, enumerators were to enter "same house" into column 17; they were to leave the rest of the columns in this section blank. For persons who lived in a different house, enumerators were to fill out the columns with information about their 1935 residence.

City, town, or village
For villages with fewer than 2,600 residents, and all unorganized places, enumerators were to enter "R."
State or Territory
Was this house on a farm?
For persons 14 years and older - employment status

Was the person at work for pay or profit in private or nonemergency government work during the week of March 24 - 30?
If not, was he at work on, or assigned to, public emergency work (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during the week of March 24 - 30?
If the person was neither at work or assigned public emergency work: was this person seeking work?
If not seeking work, did he have a job or business?
If the person was at work in private or non emergency government employment: how many hours did he work in the week of March 24 - 30?
If the person was seeking work or assigned to public emergency work: what was the duration, in weeks, of his unemployment?
What is the person's occupation, trade, or profession?
What is the person's industry or business?
What is the person's class of worker?
Number of weeks worked in 1939 (or equivalent of full time weeks)
Amount of money, wages, or salary received (including commissions)
Did this person receive income of more than $50 from sources other than money wages or salary?
Corresponding number on the Farm Schedule of the person's farm

Supplementary Questions

Person's father's birthplace
Person's mother's birthplace
Person's mother or native tongue
Is this person a veteran of the United States military forces or the wife, widow, or under-18-year old child of a veteran?
If the person is a child of a veteran, is the veteran father dead?
Which war or military service did the veteran serve in?
Enumerators were to mark "W" for World War I; "S" for the Spanish-American War, the Phillipine insurrection, or Boxer Rebellion; "SW" for both the Spanish-American War and World War I; "R" for peacetime service only; or "Ot" for any other war or expedition
For persons 14 years old and over

Does this person have a federal Social Security number?
Were deductions for federal Old-Age Insurance or railroad retirement made from this person's wages in 1939?
If so, were deductions made from all, one-half or more, or less than one-half of the person's wages or salary?
What is this person's usual occupation?
What is this person's usual industry?
What class of worker is this person?
For all women who are or have been married

Has this person been married more than once?
Age at first marriage
Number of children ever born

2. Census of Occupied Dwellings

Location and Household Data

Number of structure in order of visitation by enumerator
Dwelling Unit number within structure
Line number on the corresponding population questionnaire
Block Number
Name of head of family
Street number and address
Apartment number or location
Color or race of head
1.) White
2.) Black
3.) All other races
Number of persons in household
Does this family live on a farm?
1.) Yes
0.) No
What is this family's home tenure?
0.) Owned
1.) Rented
Value of home of monthly rental (in dollars)
Estimated rent of owned non-farm home (in dollars)
II. Characteristics of Structure

Type of structure in which this dwelling unit is located
Structure without business
V.) 1-family detached
0.) 1-family attached
1.) 2-family side-by-side
2.) 2-family other
3-or-more-family structure without business (list number of units)
Structure with business
Other dwelling place
Originally built as:
1.) Residential structure with the same current number of dwelling units
2.) Residential structure with a different from the current number of dwelling units
3.) Non-residential structure
Exterior material
1.) Wood
2.) Brick
3.) Stucco
4.) Other
Is the structure in need of major repair?
1.) Yes
0.) No
Year originally built
Number of rooms
Water Supply
1.) Running water in dwelling unit
2.) Hand pump in dwelling unit
3.) Running water within 50 feet of dwelling unit
4.) Other supply within 50 feet of dwelling unit
5.) No water supply within 50 feet of dwelling unit
Toilet facilities
1.) Flush toilet in structure, in exclusive use
2.) Flush toilet in structure, shared
3.) Non-flush toilet in structure
4.) Outside toilet or privy
5.) No toilet or privy
Bathtub or shower with running water in structure
1.) Exclusive use
2.) Shared
3.) None
Principle lighting equipment
1.) Electric
2.) Gas
3.) Kerosene/Gasoline
4.) Other
Principle refrigeration equipment
1.) Mechanical
2.) Ice
3.) Other
4.) None
Radio in dwelling unit?
1.) Yes
0.) No
Heating equipment
1.) Steam or hot water system
2.) Piped warm air system
3.) Pipeless warm air furnace
4.) Heating stove
5.) Other or none
Principal fuel used for heating
1.) Coal or coke
2.) Wood
3.) Gas
4.) Electric
5.) Fuel Oil
6.) Kerosene/Gasoline
7.) Other
8.) None
Principal fuel used for cooking
1.) Coal or coke
2.) Wood
3.) Gas
4.) Electric
6.) Kerosene/Gasoline
7.) Other
8.) None
Is furniture included in the cost of rent?
1.) Yes
0.) No
Estimated cost of rent without furniture (in dollars)
Average monthly cost of...
Other fuel
Value of property (in dollars)
Number of dwelling units on property
Is there a mortgage on the property?
1.) Yes
0.) No
Present debt
On 1st mortgage (in dollars)
On 2nd mortgage (in dollars)
Are Regular payments required...
1.) Monthly?
2.) Quarterly?
3.) Semi-annually?
4.) Annually?
5.) On another regular payment plan?
6.) On no regular payment plan
Amount of each payment (in dollars)
Do payments include an amount for the reduction of principal?
1.) Yes
0.) No
Do payments include real estate taxes?
1.) Yes
0.) No
Interest rate now being charged (in percentages)
Holder of the first mortgage (or land contract)
1.) Building and loan
2.) Commercial bank
3.) Savings bank
4.) Life insurance company
5.) Mortgage company
6.) Home Owner's Loan Corporation
7.) Individual
8.) Other

And to view the actual blank census forms, click on 1940 Census Questionnaires.

This information was retrieved from The US Census Bureau.