Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ASK - Just Ask!

The other day I was digging around online in the hopes of finally finding more information and documents on my 3rd greatgrandparents on my mother's line (mother's mother's mother's mother and father).  The ORMSBEE line, sometimes spelled Ormsby.  I could find them back to the early 1800s, but no further.  One more of those brick walls that didn't seem to have any chinks at all.

I had first discovered my greatgrandmother's parents' surname Ormsbee from a wedding invitation pasted in my greatgrandfather's Souvenir Album.  (See my other blog  in which I am slowly going through every page of the Album, inventorying and identifying items pasted there - I'm only up to page 7!).  Oh good, I had  thought at the time several years ago - an interesting unusual name to research.  Surely I'll be able to find these ancestors!  But I could not find much at all past a few Censuses, a few social notes in old newspapers, and an obituary for Jacob ORMSBEE.  On a limited budget and living on the opposite side of the continent,  I am quite dependent on free online or local resources for these New York and other New England region ancestors, as well as one commercial site. Plus WorldCat of course, for any published items available within a few hours' drive from Vancouver BC!

This weekend, I'll be having a short consultation with a local genealogy expert (as part of a genealogy visit), and I had put forward Jacob ORMSBEE as the person I wanted some assistance on finding his ancestors.  I suspect he must have been listening to me choose him for research...  Because this is what I found the very next day - here below is just one of the several photos (used with permission) from the recently updated FindAGrave Memorial page for Jacob.

I casually wandered over to FindAGrave to his grave posting, only to find an updated Memorial page for Jacob and his wife Sabra, sometimes known as "Sally".  In this posting was new information:  his parents' names - Arnold & Hannah Ormsbee, and his wife's father as S. Towers.  The posting also listed two more little girls after the three children I already knew of: one living to age 11, the other to age 3.  Sad, so sad to lose children at any age, but to lose two of one's children, the younger ones, seems so sad to me.  I found new wealth of detail ... "interesting but not impressive",  as my rather sarcastic mother used to say.

Where was the source to back up all this new-to-me information?  Was it credible?  Just because it's posted doesn't mean it's accurate, as anyone who does family history will know!  So I decided to write the photographer and ask where he got all this new information?

I immediately got back a quick reply that he and his friend are methodically updating memorials on this large cemetery with the details found in the Cemetery office Burial Register books.  Whatever was written down at the burial, in the book, details about relationships, dates, names, all usually given by the family. Amazing.  Relatively credible, so to speak (sorry for the bad pun). 

After several emails back and forth, I have given him more details about a missing older sister of my greatgrandmother, and clarified a few more details, as well as asking him more about the very large ORMSBEE-GRAVES obelisk on the plot. Unfortunately there's almost nothing engraved on the obelisk - it's more of an identifying post for the entire plot.

This morning he let me know he's emailing me a copy of the Cemetery burial register page which has details for "everyone buried in the plot"  - 16 people, several generations, with the cause of death for each one (if given) as well. Imagine!

All this wonderful information, just by asking politely.  And thanking very appreciatively, as well!

Ask.  Just ask.  You never know what you'll receive in return.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I'm completely thrilled.  Down to my marrow.
    Recently, I've been helping my best friend research her father's family as she recovers from surgery.  It's been a bit of a slog, although I do always find it exciting to search for other people's family ancestors.  In this case, there are mainly single living descendants in the past few generations, or married but no children or only one child, so very very few cousins or others to search out information.  

   Yesterday she started digging into a grandmother's "old box of stuff" that she had carted around for a decade or three.  What did she find? 
  • letters from a great-uncle with historical details: names, dates, places, occupations,  
  • a copy of the first page of the Application for membership in the State Association of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington, which confirms greatgrandparents' names and maiden names, 
  • a meticulously-printed detailed pedigree chart on 4 pages written out very clearly by her father, 
  • memorial cards from funerals of greatgrand-relations, 
  • more details from a grandmother's 'family notes', with listings of births, marriages and deaths from 1700s,  
  • copies of several sheets of a Family Bible, plus a 1980s statement about another family bible of the 'other side' of the family (which clearly a cousin has somewhere).  
Treasure.  Absolute treasure.  For a genealogist or family historian.

"I knew you'd be thrilled," she exclaimed gleefully as I started poring over these sheets with many "oh! look at this!"  and "Yeah - there's his middle name - I knew I had the correct man here - this helps with confirmation!"   Plus of course, as I mentioned anyone's name, she'd remember a little detail about the person... like the place in Washngton where he'd received his law degree.  Or the market in California where her great uncles lived.  Or that her greatgrandfather was a wonderful musician and taught music at one point.  I grabbed paper and started putting all these new details down.  So many stories.  So many memories waiting to be tapped. 

Don't you love the thrill of going through this kind of unexpected treasure?  The fact that it's not even my family is irrelevant.  It's golden.  Wonderful stuff.  I can hardly wait to dig through it all, and do more research with these new details of her ancestors.  We're already talking about putting photos on her family tree, after I showed her my own family tree with photos going back as far as I can go at present with photos.  More wonderful treasure. 

Genealogy Treasure-Hunting 101:  
   If your closest ancestors are not living, find out who in the family has the boxes, albums, and letters etc. in their basements or attics or closets.  Someone has them.  There's always someone with those boxes or packages or envelopes.  You just have to find them before all that treasure gets thrown into a dumpster by someone who isn't interested in family history.  Get started finding that person, now!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Lilian Adele GRAVES, eldest of the 3 daughters born to Charles Giles GRAVES & Harriet Philena ORMSBEE.  Lilian was b. 25 Nov 1853 in Syracuse, Onondaga, New York.  My greatgrandmother was the 2nd-born Clara Augusta "Gussie" GRAVES, and the youngest was Florence Estelle GRAVES.

Lilian married Gabriel W. Wisner in 1877, a lawyer, and they eventually settled in Pittsburgh after all 4 of their children were born in Elmira, New York.   Interestingly, Lilian named their daughter Florence for her sister, and Florence named her own daughter for her sister Lilian.

This very glossy photo was found on eBay by my first cousin, and we managed to buy it for a 'reasonable' price.  The other bidder wanted it because it was a lovely example of a pretty woman of the times, with all the lovely details of hair, clothing, and jewelry.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

EMBARRASSMENT... File Details to Fix!

I believed I only had a few details to fix on my family tree.  A few non-standard place names.  A bit of confusion about whether that town was in Staffordshire or Worcestershire in that particular year or decade.  And when was that state formed?  A bit of research to do.

But a day or so ago, after checking out Randy Seaver's details of how to make a Place List Report for a specific town, I realized I have a large number - so very many - errors, omissions, and misplaced family or individual Notes standing in for "Place" in my database.  Awful.  Totally embarrassing.  A bit overwhelming as well, when I realized the scope of my accumulated errors.

Some of my family tree individuals came from a first cousin of mine who was amazingly helpful when I was just beginning to start researching.  In fact, I found him after posting a message on a surname board - and there he was, almost the next day!  He was very thorough with his database details, but he was using a different program.  And when I eventually saved it all over to my new program, there were a few quirky errors and misplacements etc.  I never fixed them.  Not at all.  I decided I'd get to them when I had more time after I retired.  That was over 4 years ago and one total knee replacement surgery plus 2 home moves ago.  No more excuses.  I certainly have time now.

It seems that some of my notes - a sentence or two about the individual or family - are added into the Place line.  In fact, I suspect I may have deliberately typed those specific notes into Place, not thinking about how that section could be used for research purposes in future.  As you can imagine, I have Event Places very erratically written:  sometimes city, with or without county, sometimes with word County or abbreviation Co. or co., with or without state or province or shire occasionally abbreviated, with or without country in full or abbreviated or not.  Can you see 12 ways to write a Place for an Event?   Sigh.  Often with a little add-on:  "see bro. next door", or with "2nd wife, all wives' kids" ... Little notes to myself for a quick see-it-at-a-glance research note.  Of course, I never used Research Notes.  In the beginning I'm not certain that I even knew about Research Notes or logs in the software - I just put bits of info here and there so I wouldn't lose it!

That was then.  This is now.  And WOW, do I have lots of cleanup to do in my tree.  Ohmygoodness!  Very pink cheeks here.

I've begun to go through my family tree, checking and standardizing the Place for each detail/fact/event for Me, Mother, Father, Father's Mother, Father's Mother, Mother's Father, Mother's Mother, and a few more.  Already I see three errors for Place:  one for birth place, one for death place, one for burial place.  Back to those documents and check things out more thoroughly.  I'm going to go through my direct line first, not collaterals at the same time.  That feels totally overwhelming, so I've decided to go one direct ancestor at a time, step by step by step by step by ... You get the picture.

I had no idea my input was so sloppy or non-standard.  The ones I've put in over the past few years are not-quite-perfect, which is very encouraging.  Whew - I did learn how to do that properly - very reassuring to see.    But most of the early individuals are quite mixed.  Some are great, others are awful.  The information is all there, but needs to be using a standardized format, and the Notes need to be cut/pasted into their correct section.  It doesn't take long at all, thank heavens.  Only takes sharp eyes, a sharp mind, and time.  

Thanks Randy for your clear details on how to do a specific research report - which brought up this very important problem for me.  I'm determined to have my tree looking more professional and detailed so any of my kids, grandkids, and cousins can look things up and always know what they are seeing is correct.


Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis