Friday, April 27, 2012

Spreading the Bug

                                                                                     
If you followed my posts over on the Family Tree Firsts blog, you might remember a post I wrote about connecting with my first cousins on Facebook this year.  What? You don't remember every brilliant word I wrote?  I'm shocked.  Personally, I have a hard time remembering what I had for breakfast.  Anyway, I created a Facebook group for us and we've had a great time re-connecting with each other.  One of the first things we all talked about (aside from the pitiful pleas for my apple butter which I make each fall from our grandmother's recipe) was getting together for a cousin reunion.  And talking about it was all we did for several months.  Fortunately for us, one my cousins is a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy and used to bossing people around.  He picked a location, a date and told all of us to be there or be square.  Most of us saluted and said "aye aye sir".  So this weekend we will all be gathering at a state park in Missouri, some from as far away as Wisconsin and Kentucky.  The Kentucky cousins I don't think I've seen for at least 40 years.
Some of them are bringing kids and grandkids along.  As this is a golden opportunity to infect more people with the genealogy bug, I have put together some of the family history to share.  I especially want to reach out to the kids and grandkids many of whom live far from the family stomping grounds and know little about their parent's relatives.  I found a great tool to do this using PowerPoint or in my case Keynote (for Macs).  Once I made the presentation in Keynote, I exported the slides to jpeg files which I printed to put in a notebook and to Quicktime as a movie.  It was amazingly easy to do.  I used a digital scrapbooking kit, added my photos and text and voila!  On some of the pages, there is not enough time to read all the text but that's why God made pause buttons.  Anyway, click on the link and let me know what you think.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remembering Oklahoma City


The native oak trees are the last ones to leaf out here in Oklahoma. Millennia of experience with the vagaries of Oklahoma springtimes have taught the oaks to wait patiently to break their winter dormancy. Let the new hybrids and exotic imports take their chances with March: The old oaks know their tender young leaves will not be safe until April.
Except that one April when no one was safe.
Seventeen years ago today my friend Susan Jane Ferrell died in the Oklahoma City bombing . She was my first and best friend. Our parents were good friends in their newlywed days, so when I was born, followed a year later by Susie, it was natural that their friendship was passed down to their daughters.
My dad with Susie on the left and me on the right, Christmas shopping in downtown Oklahoma City around 1959. Susie's father, Don, took the photo.

When my younger twin sisters were born (one of them named after Susie’s mother), Susie noted that I had an excess of baby sisters — couldn’t she have one of them? At the time I would have gladly given her both! A couple of years later, Susie got her very own little sister, Cindy. So the five of us grew up together, more like cousins than just friends. When I was 3 or 4, my mother took me to get a new stuffed animal to replace my beloved kitty cat that had literally been loved to pieces. I chose a small teddy bear that I promptly christened Susie Teddy. (Susie Teddy slept with me every night of my childhood, followed me to college and is now retired to an antique trunk in my living room.) We went to each others birthday parties and slept over at each other’s houses. I liked Paul; Susie liked Ringo. (I knew no one else who liked Ringo — Susie was always something of a free thinker.) She taught me how to make wishes on stars. Her father was the only adult I knew who could wiggle his ears. My first and only fishing attempt was in the farm pond behind her house. One year our families went on vacation together to Colorado.
In Colorado, left to right: My sister Sally; me (note the charming eyewear); Susie; Susie's mother, Sally; my mother and father. Standing in front: Susie's sister Cindy and my sister Jenny.   Susie's father was the photographer.

This gave our mothers, both of whom had a keen sense of history, the opportunity to cart home several large antiques tied to the luggage racks of our 1960s station wagons — including the aforementioned trunk. Susie and I attended different high schools; I was a band geek, and blonde, beautiful Susie was a cheerleader and dancer. I married young and began raising a family. Susie went to law school and became an attorney for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As adults we kept in touch through our parents but became busy with our own lives. It was only when Susie died, and the memories came flooding back of all the things we shared growing up, that I realized how entwined our roots really were and still are. Bonds that take place in childhood are unique and enduring, and are like no other relationships you’ll have in life.
Susie was sweet and spirited and sparkling. She deserves to be remembered for how she lived, not for how she died. The creation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial insures that the 168 people who died in the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995 will be remembered and their lives celebrated.
So what does all this have to do with genealogy? Well, for me genealogy is more than just collecting names, dates and documents. It’s about telling the stories of people who can no longer tell them themselves. It’s about making people more than a name on a chart or an epitaph on a tombstone. When my mother died in 1987, just after the birth of my oldest daughter, Susie’s mother gave me the best gift I’ve ever received. It was a pink corduroy coat for my newborn daughter with a note attached. It read: “Remembering the time your mother and I made pink coats together for our little girls.” I learned then that a memory, although bittersweet, is the most precious gift you can give to someone who is grieving. When we remember their lives and tell their stories, Death no longer gets the final word.
So Susie, we remember. You are loved and missed but never, ever forgotten.
Susie with her niece and nephew on Easter Sunday 1995, just a few days before her death.


Note: This post was originially written for the Family Tree Firsts blog.  You can find it here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Switching Gears



Was last week exciting or what?  Like Christmas morning for genealogists!  So far, with the help of Steve Morse, I've found my parents and most of my grandparents and great grandparents (that were still living in 1940) in the newly released census.  No famous people in my tree yet but over on the 1940 Census blog they have found Jimmy Hoffa!
 I still have people to find but now its time to switch gears.    As much as I love Steve Morse and the National Archives, I don't want to be dependent on them forever.  What I need is an index.  I guess I could wait until the big subscription sites get around to it but I absolutely HATE waiting on someone else's schedule.  So instead I've volunteered to help with the indexing myself.  Luckily for me, Oklahoma is one of the states ready for indexing so I get to work on my home state.  Since I've lived in Oklahoma my entire life, I'm hopefully more familiar with some of the unusual Indian place names which is helpful when you are trying to decipher an enumerators handwriting!  Anyway, the indexing process is much easier than I thought it would be and is actually kind of fun.  Check out the posts on the 1940 blog.  There are several posts about indexing including training videos and links for signing up.  You can subscribe to their RSS feed too for the latest updates.  I would love to hear how you're doing...leave a comment on the 1940 blog (or here) or send out a tweet!
Maybe you won't find Jimmy Hoffa but who knows who's lurking in those pages?


Disclosure: As part of the1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for prizes.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Free 1940 Census Form

Now that I have located some of my family in the 1940 census, I've been thinking about an easy way to extract the census data without going blind(er) or getting carpal tunnel syndrome.  So I came up with a spreadsheet along the lines of a family group sheet.  It's simple and just hits the highlights of the data but gives me a good summary to work from.  For more detail I can always pull out my magnifying glass and/or wrist brace to use the full census image.

If you'd like to give it a try, click here:

1940 Census Family Sheet

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1940 Census- Day 2

As I'm sure you've heard by now, the demand for the 1940 census images was unprecedented.  I was finally able to get onto the NARA site this morning about 6 a.m. and before long had found my dad and his grandparents.  I was disappointed to see that the enumerator hadn't designated the informant...but I'm pretty sure it was my great grandmother Della.  She was a take charge kind of gal and I can't imagine she would trust anyone else to give the correct information!

This evening I downloaded my first batch of indexing from FamilySearch.  They uploaded the Oklahoma images today so I got to start with my home state...Adair County.  I don't have any family in that county but the very first name on the page was Virginia (coincidentally, my mother's first name) and I took that as a good sign!  The indexing itself was very easy to do and a lot less complicated than I had anticipated.  If you haven't volunteered for the indexing project yet, take yourself over to https://the1940census.com and sign up.

Monday, April 2, 2012

First 1940 Census Image

An actual image from FamilySearch.org.  This is not my family.  My family is still "loading"on the NARA site.  Sigh.
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