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  1. As we noted previously, studying census records plays another key role in searching for ancestors.  Census records track families as they grow, move to new frontiers, into the cities, or perhaps just stay put on the family farm with family members scattered within walking distance nearby.


    Study the old handwriting, compare unknown names or words to letters and words which you clearly know.  But, know that the old fancy cursive is different from what we’re familiar with in today’s handwriting.  I became familiar with it when researching and copying old deeds as a young secretary years ago, learning the old language of legal documents in the process.


    I use two methods for keeping census records – one is to write all data on 4x6 lined index cards, and the other is using blank 8x10 census forms.  I eventually acquired several hundred index cards filed alphabetically in a handy shoebox.  I find them easier to refer to than the large census forms which, admittedly, are the more accurate.  The large blank forms are also used as a guide to what data to include on index cards from each census. 


    Before searching census records, you should also know they, too, may contain errors.  At times, the enumerator may have been given wrong information, or misspelled first and last names depending on his own abilities.  When copying data, be sure to include the way names were misspelled, along with the known correction.


    For example, I tracked a McNeill descendant whose father had removed his family from Carlisle to Decatur, New York and later to the state of Maine.  I knew his daughter, Appolonia Livingston McNeill, by baptism record.  She married William Smyth(e) and lived in Bangor, Maine.  By census records, her unmarried sister, Sarah McNeil(l), lived with them.  I followed the Smyth(e) family in Bangor by census, and the family’s billiard hall by city business directory.  I could not locate Appolonia in the important 1900 census, assuming she died after 1880.  Searching for her sons, I was surprised to find Appolonia as a widow, listed on the 1900 census by her middle name as Livingston A. Smyth.  She then resides with her twin sons in Portland, Oregon where she dies and is buried per death record I purchased.  Wondering what brought them to the far side of the continent, I can only speculate that perhaps they later enjoyed Portland’s 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition.  I have not had time nor funds to pursue further research on the family among Maine or Oregon records, though I did obtain a few free cemetery records online. 


    Every ten years since 1790, our federal government has gathered a national census.  Very few records remain of the 1890 census as most were destroyed by fire and water damage in 1921.  In 1934, rather than make attempts to restore the balance of records, they were destroyed by the U. S. Department of Commerce despite a public outcry.   The 1890 census was different from previous with in-depth questions about each family member and Civil War service, and would have been invaluable to researchers!


    State censuses are equally as important.  Taken randomly, they are a little-known or seldom-used resource.  Typically collected by states every ten years, in years ending in “5,” New York did so in 1790, 1825 through 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915, and 1925. 


    For privacy reasons, census records are not available to the public until 70 or so years later, the 1940 census being released in April 2012.  Records available to the public from 1790 through 1940 are found at a county clerk’s office, online by subscription at Ancestry.com, on microfilm through the Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with some census records transcribed and placed online at county genweb sites.  As a way to pay back other generous contributors, I transcribed the 1810 census for Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York.  I’ve wanted to do more, but have not had time to go back and transcribe additional census records for online usage. And that was back when I had the slow dial-up internet, not my fast click’n-go high speed!


    Initial census records provide limited data.  The 1790 census includes city, county, state, page, date, name of head of household, males under and over age 16, free white females, all other free persons, and slaves.  


    The 1800 census begins to break down age groups by years, with 1820 including occupations in agriculture, commerce, manufacturing.  The 1830 census includes the deaf and blind, but no occupations.  The 1840 again includes age groups for males, females, free colored persons and slaves, but also occupations of mining, agriculture, commerce, navigation of ocean, canals, lakes and rivers, learned professional engineers; pensioners for Revolutionary or military services; the deaf, dumb, blind and insane; data regarding one’s education, and those who cannot read or write.


    The 1850 census is also a key census as it’s the first to list the name and age of every household member along with numbering the dwellings/houses and families of a town.  From 1850 through 1940, data may include the name of each household member, age, sex (which helps when a given name is not gender specific or is illegible), number of children born to a mother, marital status, years of marriage, state or country of birth, birth places, year of immigration, street address, occupations, value of the home, etc.


    The 1880 census is free at both Ancestry.com and the LDS Family Search website.  The census for 1900 gives month and year of birth along with other family and professional data.  The 1910 through 1940 censuses are more in depth than previous.  Regardless, all census records contain a wealth of vital information on your ancestors!


    COMING NEXT – Military Records

    Original blog post at: Homespun Ancestors - Your Family Tree #8


  2. As many of you know, among the other things I do I'm also a part time musician. I've been blessed to experience some of the things I once dreamed about. I've met and performed with people I once only knew through the radio. The lights, the crowds... I've been blessed.  

    One of the best, and lesser known, things about what we do is getting to be part of the celebrations in peoples' lives. I don't know how many weddings, anniversary parties, retirement parties, etc. we've done over the past 17 years or more specifically, nearly 12 for me personally. These are kind of different from the bars or festivals where people are there to see us, we're not the main event. In a way, it's kinda weird, because we often start the day as outsiders. Yet more often than not we're still drawn in, and we're "family". We've become good friends with people whose celebrations we've been the soundtrack for. It's hard to explain, but there's something special about getting to do that. 

    Every once in a while though, a moment comes along that we aren't really expecting. A special moment for someone that wasn't planned, it just happened. This past weekend was one of those moments. 

    I'll let you in on a little secret: Every band has a schtick, some things they'll throw in to a performance that perhaps were once spontaneous but got such a reactions someone thought, "Hmm, we need to remember that." Often these will come out when the room needs a little energizing. 

    It's not an uncommon thing for our fiddle player to find his way playing on top of a table or bar. ( While people are watching him, I'm watching the staff or owners of the establishment. The looks on their faces are often pretty entertaining. )

    This weekend he ended up with company while doing so:


    Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 8.12.00 PM.png


    At the end of the night as we were packing up, he came over to say goodnight. Introduced himself and said he's 86 years old, just had hip surgery this past year.  He gave me a big hug, thanked us for the music, and left. 

    No sir, thank you. 

    You know, the world around us seems to have gone insane. We're told every day how bad people are. Lord knows I've been feeling like packing up and moving to the mountains somewhere, away from anyone. But then something like this happens, often when I need it most. I get to see people at their best, brought together by the common bond of music and celebration, and everything is just fine, if only for a couple hours. I feel so fortunate to have that opportunity.

    I don't remember this man's name, I'm awful at remembering them. He may or may not remember mine. But in some strange, cosmic way, we're forever a part of each other's lives now, part of each other's memories. 

    Long after the very last note's played, when he's gone and I'm an old man myself, I'll remember that one night night some old guy climbed up on a table and danced to the music. 

    I'll smile.

    He'll be alive still. Still dancing.

    That's pretty damned cool. 

  3. Linda Roorda
    Latest Entry

    I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but we don’t write letters like we used to.  I know I don’t.  We phone, email, text, tweet, IM, or whatever it takes to converse in an instant… 


    There was a time I regularly wrote letters to friends, and to my grandmother.  Every week Grammy heard all about my growing pains and insecurities as a teen, all about adventures in my marriage as a farmer’s wife -  gardening, learning to can and freeze food for the winter assisted by the gift of her invaluable book, “Rodale’s Organic Gardening”, and extensive sewing for my family. She heard all about my babies, her great-grands, as they grew up, always sending some small picture from a magazine or the front of a greeting card so that my “little ones” would have something special from her in the mail, too.  I miss my grandmother… her Dutch accent coming through a mixture of English and Dutch words, but I especially miss her insight and wisdom filling those letters.  I always looked forward to them, and I often wish I could reread the treasures of her letters just once more.


    I’ve read letters from the slower-paced Colonial and Victorian eras on through the modern 20th century - from friend to friend, farmer diaries while researching my genealogy, tender voices in love, those written during war from the battlefield to the family back home, or from the home fires bringing cheer to a weary soldier… each carrying messages from the heart. 


    Nowadays, life is so hectic for all of us.  It seems I’m always on the go, cramming work, appointments, hobbies, household chores, and so much more into 16-18 hour days.  It’s a different kind of busy from when our children were growing up.  We have all our modern conveniences, but do we really get more done?  Sometimes, slowing down a pace, and taking time to keep in touch with our friends and loved ones adds a bit more meaning to our busy days.


    Letters or cards that we write or receive, or even an email with a personal touch, bring a smile to brighten someone’s day.  There’s a special meaning conveyed in the written word when we take pen in hand, or type an email.  Sharing kindness by simply taking the time to express our personal thoughts is to know how deeply we can touch a heart… especially when illness or a few too many miles separate us. 


    For there’s something we cherish about a personal handwritten letter that carries the fingerprint of joy as we hold the tangible evidence of love in our hands… from one heart to another. Now… where’s that pen?

    Letters To You

    Linda A. Roorda

    Letters written from my heart to yours

    Thoughts of the past, reflections of life

    Conveying a love enriched by words

    With comfort and peace midst turmoil and din.


    Taking the time to contemplate worth

    Words begin flight, your heart to touch,

    A tribute preserved forever in ink

    With treasured purpose in message borne.


    Through words expressed we feel the love

    When distance claims your presence afar

    As swirling ideas echo in thoughts

    To find release through pen in hand.


    They speak of days now long forgotten

    Reminding of trials we somehow overcame.

    They pause to reflect on issues of the day

    Leading the way to cathartic journey.


    In letters written as the heart pours out

    Joy is expressed to bless another,

    Testament is given of God’s tender care

    That others may know encouragement’s voice.


    For by our words we unveil our soul

    Our deepest thoughts midst fears and blessings,

    A sharing of self that entwines our lives

    In letters written from my heart to yours.



    All rights reserved.

    May not be reproduced without permission of author.


     "Poetic Devotions" offers faith-based poetry and everyday devotions of praise by Linda Roorda. See more at her site HERE.


  4. Carol Bossard
    Latest Entry

    Wasn’t that cold spell annoyingly long??!!  At least most of the days hovering around zero were clear days and that gave us a chance to mulch the roses.  Perhaps the roots won’t heave now that the weather has temporarily returned to mild.  Kerm calls roses my expensive annuals; clay soil and yo-yoing temperatures are not conducive to rose health and I must admit to losing a few now and then.  I seldom buy hybrid teas anymore because they are less hardy regardless of what the catalog says.  I usually stick with floribundas and shrub roses, only occasionally succumbing to something for Zone 5, with “ruffled petals and entrancing aroma”, delusional about my ability to protect it sufficiently.

    Winter, even with its cold temperatures, snowy roads and icy steps, does have incredible beauty.  This year of 2018 began with a marvelous and immense full moon.  It shone on the light covering of snow, so brightly that it was nearly possible to read by its light.  This was a beautiful winter scene that made the extreme cold sort of bearable.  Now if the northern lights would just make an appearance; I’ve only seen them twice here; the green streaks across the sky were spectacular.

    Our 12th Night party, marking the journey of the Magi, is over and the season of so much celebration has ended.  Those parties are now a good part of our history.  They have been absolutely wonderful --- for a lot of years --- and brought friends together from many walks of life.  An evening of fragrant candles, all sorts of food, laughter and good conversation is a wonderful tradition, but preparation time was getting to be a bit --- well, actually, a lot --- too wearing.  The mélange of memories from these parties, though, will warm my heart forever --- the laughter and stories and friends.   I recall the year when a family member needed to stay overnight here, and it happened to be the night of our party.  She opened the front door and just stood there, staring.  Our not-all-that-large house was wall to wall people; people imbibing fruit punch or mulled cider; people munching on cookies or enjoying bowls of soup; people standing and chatting, and every available chair taken.   To fill our cups of enjoyment to the brim now, we’ll just have to have more occasions with fewer people.   We are grateful, though, to all those who have joined us on 12th Night for these many years; all have been blessings in our lives.  


    One of the well-worn adages describing life is that the only constants are death and taxes.  Most of us, if we could get an annual shot to ward off change, would get that shot, with no questions asked about side-effects.   Coping with change requires energy and an optimistic attitude --- two things that many of us find in short supply.   However, there are some adjustments I’d actually welcome into my life: less time spent on nit-picky things like returned mail (wrong address), fewer shirts that shrink an inch shorter after the first wash, fewer people who let things fall from their tongues without first thinking about consequences, and most important -- kinder and more tolerant thoughts going through my own mind.  Change can be a good thing.  One person in my family lives with frequent change; it seems to feed his spirit.  Right now he is in Argentina, climbing a very high mountain in the Andes range.  Often he is in some far-flung part of the world, with his camera, documenting life there.  Even as I worry a bit about him, I admire his curiosity and courage ---- but, being more of a “nester”, have no desire to go and do likewise.  My hope is that I can simply learn to welcome changes significant to my life, with grace, and trust that good things will happen as a result.

    I’ve thought that my mother’s generation (1898 - 1993) had seen the most incredible changes.  She moved from the horse and buggy to trolley cars to personally-owned cars to planes and computers.  But our current weekly technological changes are just as dramatic.  A new “smart phone” becomes obsolete just as quickly as an advanced model appears.  There is considerable discussion about technology and what it does to people’s relationships and social lives.  Has social media relegated actual coming together to the past?  Do we know people as well via Face Book or Twitter as we might by chatting around the table?  Do we fill our lives full with running around from task to task, contacting friends via texting and falling exhausted into our beds at night?  It is easy and safe to socialize on the surface while being really cautious about “getting involved”.  We probably should be experiencing more honest, face to face, relating.  The following story is taken from a book by Madeleine L’Engle.

    “This was a story about a Hassidic rabbi, renowned for his piety.  He was unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his devoted, youthful disciples.  In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, ‘My master, I love you!’  The ancient teacher looked up from his books and asked his fervent disciple, ‘Do you know what hurts me, my son?’   The young man was puzzled.  Composing himself, he stuttered, ‘I don’t understand your question, Rabbi.  I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me, and you confuse me with irrelevant questions.’  ‘My question is neither confusing nor irrelevant,’ rejoined the rabbi.  ‘For if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?’”*

    We seldom take the time to know what hurts those around us.  We can be helpful, we can hero-worship, we can preach to, we can feel sorry for, but until we become a sincere and caring part of someone’s life, there is no depth of love and no meaningful intercourse of ideas.   This is something I need to examine in my own life ---- one of those less comfortable changes I might resist.  I am grateful for the technological assists that keep me in touch with family and friends, but when it takes the place of face to face conversation, hugs and sharing of my time and energy, then it’s time to reconsider my priorities.


    Today, as I look out on the snowy landscape, the birds are getting the last bits from the feeders; bits left by the deer who visit during the night.  It has been nice to have two or three days in the balmy 30s and looking forward to Friday’s 48 degrees. .  One of my favorite birds is the chickadee.  This small bundle of feathers is energetic, optimistic and vocal --- no matter how wintery the weather.  If only we could be similar, but I find myself more in tune with a saying by E.B. White** of “Charlotte’s Web” fame: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day.”  Winter weather does that too!!   All sorts of good wishes go out with this for you and your January days and may your changes be ones you can welcome.

    *Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle—1918-2007 – American writer of fiction and non-fiction.
    **E.B. White – 1899-1985.  American writer who produced several classic children’s books and was a contributor to the New Yorker magazine for 50 years.

    Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net. 

  5. by Erin Doane 

    Many who grew up in this area remember Fawn sodas. Fawn Beverages operated as a company in Elmira Heights for forty years, producing a wide variety of fizzy soft drinks in bottles with the distinctive little deer on the front.



    In 1934, John Woyak filed a business certificate to operate Fawn Beverages at 184 Sheridan Avenue in Elmira Heights. He was just 30 years old at the time but he already had experience running a bottling works. He had been working as proprietor of the Orange Crush Bottling Works on 11th Street since 1929. Woyak ran Fawn Beverages for forty years. In 1947, he expanded the plant on Sheridan Avenue and in the late 1950s, his son Donald came on as a partner in the enterprise. The last listing for the company in the city directories appeared in the 1973-74 edition. Woyak moved to Florida in 1981 and lived out the rest of his years there.


    While running his beverage company, Woyak was also an active member of the community. He was a member of the Elmira Heights Rotary Club and served for several years on the soft drinks committee for the club’s annual children’s Halloween party. In 1944, when El-Hi-Inn, a new organization for young people ages 13-19 in the Heights, was throwing a party, he donated a beverage cooler and 20 cases of soda for the event. He was also a generous supporter of the Chemung County Community Chest and in 1943, he served on the Elmira Heights village board. 



    Fawn produced a wide selection of sodas. In the late 1930s, eight flavors were available – ginger ale, lime and lithia, club soda, birch beer, root beer, strawberry, cherry, and orange. By the 1950s, Fawn was available in 12 different flavors. Orange was particularly popular and was advertised as a “special flavor thrill.” It was made from real California oranges and oil imported from Messina in sunny Italy. All the varieties were made in Elmira’s largest bottling plant with scientifically treated and purified water that brought out the delicious fruit flavors, locked in carbonation, and added zest to the beverages, according to ad copy from the 1950s.


    In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Fawn Beverages seems to have made a major newspaper adverting push. Half a dozen new print advertisements appeared in 1949 alone. The carry home carton that held six 12-ounce bottles was a major selling point. Fawn advertised on the radio as well. In 1950, the company sponsored the radio show Boston Blackie starring Richard Kollmar on WENY. The radio series, produced between 1945 and 1950, followed the adventures of Boston Blackie, a jewel thief and safecracker turned detective. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the company also sponsored a bowling team.


    Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This was originally published HERE Sept. 11, 2017