25 November 2013


This year the 1940 census has given us so much to look forward to, so much to research and add to our family history writing and genealogy research. 

Thanksgiving gatherings are a good time to talk about the family history and to add stories to your research.

I like to add family stories, testimonials, oral histories, to any book on a family that I write, mindful that it's documentation that makes the project a genealogy project rather than a story project and that some of the stories may not hold up to the research. 

The biggest protestations I've encountered while research genealogy come from those who grew up believing something or other about their family that the research doesn't prove, but when writing about these discrepancies it's the wording you use to explain the controversy.  For instance I was once researching a branch of a large Southern family and they had held a family reunion a few years previous.  One of their earnest and sincere members sent me a copy of the genealogy that had been distributed to the members.  I followed this research back and found that it stuck right where I was but this family researcher didn't bother to write "The following is speculation."  I had to.

The information you may have found in the 1940 census is a good starting point for discussion, especially if you bring along some copies to look at after everyone has eaten and the left overs have been put away and the dishes washed!  Family members who lived during the Great Depression or World War II may hitch onto information about who was supporting the family, who joined the CCC's (Civilian Conservation Corps), and so on.

Record whatever anyone has to say. 

Though I've found that some stories people tell are inaccurate, I've also gotten some informational leads that lead me to the accuracies.

22 November 2013


The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was fifty years ago today. 

Recently I read a couple new books about his presidency as well as his relationship with his wife, Jackie, that focused on his last year or so of life.  I also rewatched the Oliver Stone film that came out a few years ago that starred Kevin Costner and suggested CIA involvement - a coup.  There have been so many conspiracy theories and notions about who was behind this assassination; the Mafia, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Texas Oilmen, Fidel Castro - and Cuba, the Soviet Union - Russians, Democrat Haters, and maybe you could name a few others.  Maybe we will never know.

ONE THING FOR SURE IS THAT SOME AMERICANS THOUGHT KENNEDY'S IDEAS AND VALUES WERE RADICAL.  Fifty years later things have changed greatly such as that we went from a country in which racism was a fact to a time when not being politically correct can get a celebrity in trouble, if not sued.  The other morning I was listening to a morning radio show and the host was interviewing a Black man on why he gets to call other Blacks Nigger.  The host pointed out that Jewish people do not go around calling each other Kike.

Besides the 50th anniversary being a publishing event, I sometimes think that the Kennedy Presidency is felt by those who remember those days, to be the best of America. Some feel that the assassination itself ended America's innocence. (Others feel that Watergate ended it.)  I think it had it's good points (much more privacy as the best example) and it's bad.

What is meant by America's innocence?

ANSWER THAT FOR YOURSELF and ask your family members who were alive then.  Interview them and record their memories of JFK and this black day in American History.

13 November 2013


I have very mixed feelings about tombstone projects. 

Volunteers go through cemeteries, take the information down off the tombstone - sometimes photographing - and put it on the information up on the world wide web - the Internet for anyone who uses the net to access. 

To me this can be culturally insensitive and as I see it, no graveyard that allows it is sacred.  Some cultures do not allow picture taking of the living, believing that this takes some of a person's essence or soul and some see tombstones as ancestral and even where the soul rests.  THE TOMBSTONE CENSUS TAKERS SEEM TO EASILY GAIN PERMISSION or DO NOT CARE about these things.  It makes me question what paying for a sacred space or privacy in death is all about.

The tombstone project volunteers put information up that is less than 70 years old and the US government thinks of 70 years as the privacy zone - thus the 1940 census was just revealed and records in many states are sealed for the same reason - privacy.

Some people have tombstones that have been carved with the name of the spouse who isn't dead yet. This communicates information such as the name of the living person and that they have been widowed.  Not private.  In some places, not safe at all.

I can't even get into all the ways the information can be used by identity thieves.

MAYBE THE WORST THING ABOUT TOMBSTONE PROJECTS is that they give the FALSE IMPRESSION that the burials with tombstones are all the burials in that cemetery.  YOU SHOULD STILL CONTACT CEMETERIES IF YOU ARE TRYING TO FIND RELATIVES, and the Death Record of that person should record if they were buried and where, or if they were cremated.  So don't use tombstone information without the death record for your genealogy.

As funerals and cemeteries and tombstones are more expensive, I suspect more people will be going with cremation in the future, unless their religion forbids it.

Please be aware that some cemeteries have no tombstones, or at least many that have been eroded or stolen.  There is no national law that says you have to buy one. Many cemeteries have about 2/3rds of their burials unmarked.  This can be because no one ever bought a tombstone or because more than one person is in the tomb.  Check the rules and regulations for the city, county, or state about this, but in some places a purchased tomb site allows two burials, one atop the other.  (In goes the destitute child or the ex wife!)

Also check into the religious beliefs about burials which may differ because a person is Muslim or Jewish, as examples.

I HAVE FOUND A NUMBER OF TOMBSTONES THAT WERE CARVED WITH INCORRECT INFORMATION, including misspellings of names, variations of the name the person was born with being very common.  This can give you the impression you have not found the person you're looking for. 

Finally, the birth date may not be accurate.  In some times and places the date on the tombstone is the date the person was BAPTISED, and the death date, the date they received LAST RITES.  Really!