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Linda Roorda

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About Linda Roorda

  1. Daydreams

    Daydreams…we all have them. But, what we each might dream about is obviously as different as we are… for dreams are at the core of our individuality and uniqueness. By definition, daydreams detach us from the present. They might be momentary fleeting thoughts, or a longer intentional refuge from reality. Sometimes, daydreams are like watching a few lazy clouds pass serenely through the sky above. Sometimes, they’re like those magnificent billowing thunderhead clouds of a gathering storm, as thoughts wrestle to resolve an issue, or perhaps as you struggle deciding which direction to take. Sometimes, dreams are of creative designs or embellishments that lead to an invention we couldn’t live without. And sometimes, they’re the longings of a heart for something more… a dream to overcome a disability… or to simply succeed at whatever life hands us. After writing this poem, I was reminded of a book I’d read recently. It was about a young Pakistani girl, Maria Toorpakai… someone who wanted more out of life than the expected. From an early age, she dreamed of more than the hidden life of a girl who felt ashamed to be who she was born to be. Publicly presenting herself as a boy simply to get an education and play the sports she loved, encouraged in her endeavors by her parents, she became actively involved in life, not hidden away from the world. Facing strong male competition and resentment, with a fierce determination and love of the sport, she became her nation’s top squash player. But, it came with a price when her gender was learned on applying to college. With threats against herself and her family, and years of fleeing those Taliban’s threats, Maria eventually found assistance. Jonathon Power, the first North American named the world’s top squash player, sent her an offer she couldn’t refuse. Resettling in Power’s native Canada, Maria began training and competing at an international level with all due respect given for her talents. Read more in “A Different Kind of Daughter – The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight” by Maria Toorpakai and Katharine Holstein. The initial part of the book read a bit laborious to me, but it soon became a book I didn’t want to set down. Daydreams… of where they can take us, and the good they can bring to others… Daydreams Linda A. Roorda Like a gentle breeze, a wind blowing free Are thoughts and ideas that randomly roam Within the great halls and echoes of time Bearing a vestige to presence of mind. ~ Restless reverie on wings soaring high A pulsing of thoughts from reality’s screen Punctured and framed by fragmented scenes Of treasured gems retrieved from the past. ~ This contemplation draws deeper inward Losing oneself to an inner eye Perspective tinged by the breadth of life From where I’ve been to where I am now. ~ Lost yet again in rapt reflection Generating change from a constant flow Creativity within the mind’s eye With its secret’s allure just one step beyond. ~ For they draw me in to lose myself free In solitude’s calm to meditate lone To gather my dreams from farthest corner And find gentle peace in depths of my soul. ~~ 04/26/16 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
  2. Oh God! The Pain Out There...

    Here we go again… another killing rampage leaving behind dead and wounded, with families devastated and torn apart. How sad. How tragically sad for everyone involved, including the family of the man pulling the trigger. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved for their peace amidst the utter senselessness of it all. At a time like this, we often ask “Why?” None of these recent killing sprees makes any sense – including the young men who beat to death a WWII vet with their flashlights in Washington state; the young black men who shot to death the white Australian tourist in Colorado because, in their own words, they were bored; the brothers who unleashed mayhem and murder with homemade bombs upon those at the Boston Marathon; the lone killer of the elementary school children in Connecticut, and the list goes on. And now in Broward County, Florida. And again we ask, “Why?” At some point, it seems to me, when one becomes desensitized to destruction in moral decay within society by the incessant evil and violence on TV, in movies, and in video/computer games, life is cheapened to a meaningless and worthless entity, and we bully and kill to get our way. The weapons themselves are only the instruments. We can ban every possible weapon we can think of; but, then, we remember that once upon a time Cain killed his brother Abel with a rock. The evil lies in the human heart and the thought behind the weapon’s use. Perhaps we might look back and see a shift in culture – away from moral absolutes, away from a lack of respect, away from a lack of responsibility to each other, away from discipline, away from a love of those around us, and, perhaps the key to them all, away from a relationship with God, our Creator. These principles are not inherently within us from birth; they must be modeled and taught. And I would prefer to see how God can work in my life and use me to reach out to another in need… Oh God! The Pain Out There… Linda A. Roorda Oh God! The pain out there Alive in this world Is so immeasurably deep It sears, it burns, it weeps. ~ Oh God! Look into the heart Of each hurting soul And let them see The love You hold for each. ~ Oh God! Let me be your eyes To see the many needs Of those surrounding me As we travel this road together. ~ Oh God! Share glimpses with me Into your heart of peace So with arms of comfort A life I may bless upon the way. ~ 2013 ~
  3. Your Love is a Light

    In a sense, our celebration of Valentine’s Day is but a small example of Christ’s love for us. As we shower each other with loving words and gifts on a special day like this, we bring the light of love to our family and friends. Yet, this love and appreciation we have for each other is also shown in a myriad of ways throughout the year to the world around us in a never-ending circle. As we think about expressing a deep love for our spouse or significant other in special ways, we’re reminded of similarities to the love our Lord has shown us. Coming to the humbling realization that God’s love is so much greater than anything we might experience amongst ourselves, our faith is deepened. Such an incomparable love might be compared to a light that shines upon us and through us. As the light of God’s great love draws us closer to Himself, it washes over us with a comforting peace, and His wisdom permeates our hearts that we may grow in grace… and so shine His light and love on those around us… a never-ending circle, for His love is like no other. In I Corinthians 13, we see an apt description of what a loving relationship with each other looks like. But, it also portrays the epitome of Christ’s sacrificial love for us. His Holy word, His wisdom, embodies His light illuminating our heart as we eagerly reach for Him. In daily reading and studying the messages He has for us, we can’t help but learn and mature as we live out our faith. And, as the light of His word penetrates deeply into our soul, we become more like Him in our daily walk. For when our hearts are open and receptive, the light we find in God nourishes us… like a plant that grows best under the warm rays of bright sunshine. As John recorded for us, Jesus told the Pharisees who were questioning him, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus made many other comments referring to Himself as the light of the world. In teaching the great crowds in His sermon on the mount, Jesus expounded on our being shining examples of His light: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV) May the light of God’s love, His greatest gift, shine upon us, into our hearts, and through us as we shine His love out into the world! Your Love is a Light Linda A. Roorda Your love is a light upon a dark hill Its beams extending over all the earth. Within its rays is Your peace divine That covers my soul with a heavenly glow. ~ It saved me from destruction’s pit From the grip of sin You pried me free. How can I not but thank You ever As mercy and grace shine down on my soul. ~ It’s a wisdom gained upon this path By learning to face the trials and pain. It lightens the load of burdens and cares And seeks to open doors closed by injustice. ~ It beckons and draws the soul that is lost To hands that created and long to enfold, The hands holding joy and comforting peace, When humbly we turn in faith to our Lord. ~ For we yearn to hear Your voice among us Where Your presence lies in the face of need. And may we then share Your matchless grace With a world that seeks to fill a dark void. ~ Forever Your light will brightly glow Drawing us out to heights of devotion That as we shine Your love from our soul Praises burst forth to our God of all light. ~~ January 20, 2015 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. We previously briefly touched on the importance of your ancestor’s Last Will and Testament, an excellent source of family documentation. Wills are filed at surrogate court or county clerk’s office along with estate records for those who died intestate (without a will), inventories of estates, letters of administration, and guardianships, etc. Some older wills may be found online at Sampubco Genealogy as posted by W. David Samuelson from whom you may purchase documents. This site includes wills, guardianships, surrogate’s records/probate files, naturalizations, letters of administration, and cemetery listings. Records are available for several states via alphabetical name search by county. From my experience, mostly older wills are available, but not all of them. I can, however, recommend this site as I purchased several ancestral wills more reasonably than from surrogate’s court or county clerk’s office. However, it is still advisable to go to the appropriate office to search for and copy complete records, which I also did. One drawback can be old style writing and language. Having begun my secretarial career in an Owego law firm, researching and copying old deeds and wills in shorthand, I was familiar with most of the standard language. After transcribing eighteenth and nineteenth century ancestral wills I’d purchased, I submitted several online to respective county genweb sites. They provide an opportunity for future researchers to use this gift, a way to pay back the gifts others have freely placed online to aid in research. It’s all about helping each other on the journey. As for the old language of bequeathing one’s estate, I share excerpts in original format from the wills of a few of my ancestors – original spelling or misspelling retained. Henrich/Henry Kniskern, signed 1780, probated 1784: “In the Name of God Amen. I, Henrich Knieskern at Shoharry [Schoharie] in the County of Albany [before Albany became several counties] farmer being at present weak in Body but of Sound Mind and Memory… considering that it is appointed for us all once to Die do this Eight Day of May in the Year of Our Lord Christ One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty make and Publish this my Last will and Testament in manner and form following that is to Say I recommend my Soul unto God that gave & my body unto the Earth from whence it came to be decently Interred… I give and bequeath unto my eldest Son… five Pounds Lawful money of New York (I Mean and Understand good hard Silver Money) for his birth Right… it is my will and Ordre that my Wife… shall have her supporting and Maintainment yearly and Every Year for her Life Time of my Estate in Knieskerns Dorph… [Kniskernsdorf is a now-extinct hamlet established on the Schoharie Creek by my ancestor, Johann Peter Kniskern, the Listmaster of one of the original 1710 Palatine settlements on the Hudson River.] …I Give unto my Two Sons… together Equally my farming utenciels and Tools as both or Two Waggons & Two Sleeds Ploughs and Harrows with all the Tackling and furniture thereof… axes hoes & other Implements of husbandry… I Give to my Two Daughters, as bed Goods, Pewter Goods, Iron pots, Cooper goods & other goods… I give to my Two Sons… Equally my Loom and all & Every articles that belongs to Weavers…” Adam Dingman, a prosperous freeholder of Kinderhook and Albany, wrote “...know all men that in the year seventeen hundred and twenty and twenty-one, the twenty-first day of January, in the seventh year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King George, I, Adam Dingeman, born at Haerlem, Holland, sick and weak of body, but having the perfect use of my senses…” Unfortunately, he did not name his children from whom I have proven descendancy. George Hutton, son of Lt. Timothy Hutton, listed all children, with daughters by their married names, a very helpful will. An interesting inventory with values was attached to his wife Elizabeth’s will from 1845. Numerous items were listed, including “1 feather bed $7.25, 1 blue and white spread $4.00, 1 straw bed tick $.25, 1 brown calico dress $.37, 1 black cashmere shall $.75, 1 pr morocco shoes $.50, 1 rocking chair $1.00.” Other wills bequeath hereditaments (one of my favorite words), i.e. land, crops, tools, animals. A McNeill family will “allows” an unmarried sister to use half of the house for life. And an inventory made in 1758 for the estate of John McNeill, an apparently wealthy mariner (father of John C. McNeill), includes “1 Jacket of Cut Vellvet & 1 pair of Black Vallvet Britches, 1 paire of Lether Buckskin Britches, 1 Great Coat of Davinshire Carsey, 1 fine linnin Sheet x3 coarse ones, 1 45 weight of fetther, 1 paire of carved Shew buckells & knee buckells of silver, 1 paire Sleve buttons of gold, 2 Small Bibells w/one Silver clasped, 1 book called fishers Arithmitick, 1 seet of Harrow teeth, 1 Seet of plow Irons.” Old documents do make fascinating reads! COMING NEXT: Genealogy Websites Original blog post at: Homespun Ancestors - Your Family Tree #10
  5. Your Family Tree #9 - Military Records

    Anything but a boring read, military records are another invaluable source of documentation. The first step is to determine when and where your ancestor served. Often clues to an ancestor’s military service are found in family stories, old photos, death records and obituaries, grave markers and/or cemetery records, local town histories, and other family records or correspondence. Many military records are available at Ancestry.com. You will find draft registration cards for WW I and WW II, enlistment and service records, soldier and prisoner lists, casualty lists, pension records, etc. In searching Ancestry’s records for this article, I found the Revolutionary War pension application file for my ancestor, John C. McNeill. I had purchased the complete file several years ago through the national archives at NARA.gov. So much more data has been placed online at repositories like Ancestry.com than was available when I began researching in the late 1990s. Search for records at the website for National Archives. Click on the Veterans’ Service Records section to begin. You will find military service records, pension records of veterans’ claims, draft registration records, and bounty land warrant application files and records available. I found the WWII enlistment records at both Ancestry and NARA websites for two of my paternal grandfather’s brothers. They had served in Europe and the South Pacific. NARA’s website allows you to download free forms in order to purchase the full military records which may not be available elsewhere. Military records can provide a good deal of genealogical and historical data about an ancestor. The various records may include date of birth, birthplace, age, date of enlistment, occupation, names of immediate family members, and service records listing battles fought, capture, discharge, death, etc. However, bear in mind that military records may not include all data you seek. My John C. McNeill did not note a date of birth or age in his Rev War pension application affidavit, and stated only that he had “nine children…5 sons and 4 daughters”, without listing any of their names. Talk about frustration! However, Jesse McNeill, my ancestor, verified in his signed affidavit that he was a son of John and that was key evidence. Thankfully, John’s wife, Hannah, noted their marriage date, town, name of the Justice of the Peace who married them, and her sister’s name in her affidavit when applying for her widow’s pension. With military records, you can take a little data and round it out with further research. My John C. McNeill answered the call of fellow patriots to serve with the New Hampshire Line at Bunker Hill (or Breed’s Hill) in June 1775. He was a Sergeant under Captain Daniel Wilkins in Colonel Timothy Bedel’s regiment of rangers, in charge of pasturing cattle to feed the men. In 1776, Bedel’s regiment was ordered to join the Northern Continental Army in New York to reinforce the military presence in Canada. McNeill’s pension file affidavits note capture at The Cedars, a fort west of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River, where they were plundered of all possessions. They were taken to an island and left naked, without shelter and scant rations for eight days. At The Cedars, “Bedel left the fort, either [to]… seek reinforcements or convey intelligence. The command devolved on Major Isaac Butterfield… who on the 19th of May [1776] disgracefully surrendered his force of about four hundred men to the British and Indians [who were] about five hundred in number.” (History of Goffstown [N.H.] by George Plumer Hadley, page 124.) Morris Commager’s “The Spirit of Seventy-Six” (pgs. 212-220) provides further corroboration of this capture with many injured, killed, taken prisoner, or dying of disease. McNeill was among survivors exchanged and returned in a cartel between the British Captain George Foster and American Brigadier General Benedict Arnold. McNeill then served out his military enlistment at Saratoga, NY. McNeill’s cousin and friends sign an affidavit in his pension application file stating they survived the ordeal with him, celebrating their release annually thereafter. Another excellent source, a great read which confirmed the information I had on Bedel’s New York Regiment, is found in “Benedict Arnold’s Navy: The Ragtag Fleet that lost the Battle of Lake Champlain but Won the American Revolution” by James Nelson, 2006, The McGraw-Hill Companies. I further assumed that, having served in New York for a time, McNeill later sought fertile land in what historians call the “Breadbasket of the American Revolution” – Schoharie County, New York. After settling in my mother’s home town of Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York in the mid-1790s, one of his neighbors, and likely good friend, was Thomas Machin, whose farmland I have seen on a side road just into Montgomery County and very near Schoharie County. Machin “supervised the making and laying of The Great Chain across the Hudson River near West Point.” “W. Thomas Machin, Engineer, Washington’s Staff, Founding Father of Masonry in Schoharie County…Member Boston Tea Party; 1744-1816.” (Personal view of two New York State plaques commemorating Machin at Carlisle Rural Cemetery, Carlisle, Schoharie County, NY, just a short distance up the road from where my mother grew up.) However, Machin was not likely to have been part of the Boston Tea Party per my additional research. Living in close proximity to each other, I am sure there must have been a good friendship between the two military men and their families – Machin’s grandson, James Daniel Machin, married John C. McNeill’s granddaughter, Lucy Jane/Jeanette McNeill, in 1852. There is so much to be gleaned from in-depth research of ancestors, learning about their lives, extended family, and the historical era in which they lived! COMING NEXT: Last Will and Testament. Original blog post at: Homespun Ancestors
  6. The Mist

    Oh, the thoughts a beautiful scene can bring to mind! It happens now and then for all of us… and last December, it was another beautiful photo which said so much. Taken by Hugh Van Staalduinen, Jr., the husband of my childhood friend Kathy, the scene stirred memories and another poem began to form. Taken of the steeples from two of three churches in the tiny hamlet of East Palmyra, New York, it so well reminded me of my favorite childhood community. It’s a close-knit town which holds memories of many dear friends, and of the church and school where we grew up together. Living on farms nearby, my sister and I spent hours playing in the barns and fields, visiting with many friends, walking the fields and hills, and simply making untold special memories. Until… I was abruptly uprooted in the middle of fourth grade for a move with my family back to Clifton, New Jersey, the city where I was born, where my Dad grew up and his Dutch immigrant family had lived since the 1930s. Though the community of East Palmyra is hidden from view by a foggy mist swirling amongst the trees, you can sense the pulsing of life beneath the gray cover. With the morning’s awakening, life gently stirs and stretches from its night-time slumber. There’s a slower pace in a small close-knit community as compared to the larger bustling cities, and the hills surrounding the tiny town entice you to sit a while… to contemplate and reflect… to spend time talking with God… to watch the birds soar free without our load of frets and cares… and to contemplate life… all while considering the needs of those around us and what we can do to help meet those needs. Take time to pause in your busy day, spend time talking and sharing with the Lord. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:7a) Get to know Him better. Even Jesus withdrew from the noisy crowds to be alone and pray. (Luke 5:16) Listen for His voice in the quiet of your heart… hear the birds softly chirping as a breeze gently sways the leaves… and, as the mist of the morning rises, let God’s love shine through to show you the way. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a) The Mist Linda A. Roorda There’s a village life between the steeples Hidden from view by mist among trees Where time eases up and the pace slows down Whispering gently, come pause and reflect. ~ The world rushes on chasing evermore Dreams flying high like birds soaring free Of places and things far beyond my ken When simple pleasures would truly suffice. ~ Where slower rhythm is gently spoken Not steeped in words but in beaming smiles Pausing with care to shower with love The passerby whose heart needs a lift. ~ Take time to ponder a world needing hope Where peace is fleeting midst a harsher truth And the rush of life with its frantic pace Belies the needs tucked deep in the soul. ~ Take time to pause and contemplate The meaning of life with value inherent Reach out and touch someone’s heart today Meet the world’s needs one gift at a time. ~ Hear the breeze whisper with God’s gentle voice, Be still a while and share life with Me. As hands like branches reach out to share joy Let the mist rise as the Son shines through. ~~ 12/27/16 All rights reserved. "Poetic Devotions" offers faith-based poetry and everyday devotions of praise by Linda Roorda. See more at her site HERE
  7. Letters to You

    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. ~~ 08/20/17 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.
  8. Your Family Tree #8 - Census Records

    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
  9. Tug Salute

    In the autumnal season of life, as we age and retire out of the workforce, some of us may begin to feel unwanted and useless. We’ve done our job, and certainly did our best… we put heart and soul into our family and career. But now that we’re a few years removed from a busy active life, and no longer able to do what we once could, maybe some feel like they’ve been “put out to pasture” and left to watch time slowly tick away. These thoughts came to mind on seeing some photos, like the one below from a tug graveyard, taken by Will Van Dorp, aka Tugster, another friend from childhood days. As Will documents in his blog, Tugster, about the traffic of his aptly-named watery “Sixth Boro” surrounding New York City and its environs, we see tugs hard at work towing and pushing barges or assisting an array of ships. Once upon a time, newly minted, they slid into the water, freshly christened with a shining glow, eager to face whatever responsibility or danger came their way. These tugs of various shapes and sizes actively plied the waters for many decades, sometimes sold to be rebuilt, repurposed and renamed to fit a new owner’s need. But, it saddens us when these workhorses of watery roads are abandoned in a lonely inlet graveyard to slowly rot away. They deserve a far more fitting tribute for their hard-earned rest. Sort of like us… Maybe we had only one job, one career, or maybe we embraced multiple careers in our lifetime. Maybe we lived through an era in history with a personal perspective that today’s youth don’t understand. Be willing to share your life stories… the blessings, the fun and laughter, and the tears in tough times. What was learned through your experiences may help someone else understand how to face their own difficulty. With the end of life coming to us all eventually, whether boat or person, we can still make the most of our time that’s left. We don’t need to retire to the proverbial rocker in the corner… at least not yet anyway! We can be repurposed in retirement to benefit others. We can volunteer our time in any number of ways within our local community. In so doing, we can bring a smile, a sense of joy and love to someone who truly can’t get out and about as they once did. Listen to the stories, memories of the heart. Help a friend share their life’s history. Perhaps you can be the catalyst to write down those memoirs. Create the opportunity for such remembrances to be passed on to their children, grandchildren and great-grands, even to others beyond their immediate family. Every one of us has a story to tell… our place in history to share. Like us, those old tugboats are deserving of recognition for what was accomplished during life’s journey with a fitting salute and tribute. Tug Salute Linda A. Roorda They ply the waters, these boats called tugs Each bow riding high with a stern slung low A workhorse they say for river or sea Vital to traffic of watery lanes. ~ Now gaunt and faded like lifeless fossils Left to corrode alone with their mem’ries, Who can recall the day of christening When futures shone bright as colorful hulls. ~ Riding waves high to rescue the dying Pushing and tugging behemoths of the deep Gently nudging, tucking in a berth Or pushing deep scows hauling upriver freight. ~ No matter the calm, never minding the storm They’ve a job to do without laud or praise Handling with ease by a captain’s trained eye Who knows safe channels like the back o’ the hand. ~ But came the day they were put to rest No hands at the helm, their days were numbered Silently rocking as waves tick off time Lapping relentless to a tune not their own. ~ Haunting images mere remnants of honor Come close and listen, if you dare tread near Listen to whispers of tales long ago As we salute you, the pride of the harbor. ~~ 09/30/16 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
  10. Your Family Tree # 1:Genealogy Welcome

    Cool - keep us all posted! that's something I've wanted us to do, but it's money we don't need to spend...
  11. Your Family Tree #7: Cemetery Records

    Cemetery records are another invaluable resource for your ancestry research. Historical societies also retain cemetery records, or transcriptions, of virtually all old gravestones for every cemetery, large or small, within any given county. Unfortunately, I have typically found this work to have been done several decades ago (often from early to mid 20thcentury), and desperately in need of updating. However, with our modern technology, a great resource not available when I first began my research journey in the late 1990s is the Find-A-Grave website. Cemetery associations maintain each cemetery, retaining records for all burials. They can often provide more information from their records on the deceased than that which is on a headstone, including full dates of birth and death, and family relationships with parents’ names and/or name of the spouse. On the other hand, I’ve also seen where my trip to a specific cemetery gave me more data on a gravestone than was written in the historical society’s record. It is also well worth making a trip to the actual cemetery whenever possible. On one trip, I walked up and down virtually every row of a very old, but still used, cemetery north of Cobleskill. Frustrated at not finding specific ancestors, I decided to give it one more try and got out of the car, facing a short steep slope. Climbing to the top of the little knoll, I walked directly into an unusual circular plot. Peering closely at the stones, I had that “aha” moment – I’d found exactly what I was looking for! For there were my mother’s grandparents and great-grandparents! As a teen, my Mom would drive her mother to this spot to place flowers on family graves, but she was unable to recall exactly where to find the plot. While researching, it is helpful to know that a.e. (i.e. anno aetatis suae) on a gravestone is Latin for in the__ year of life versus age meaning year of age. For example, you may see a stone with a date of death and age as follows: Jan 10, 1834, a.e. 16y. This indicates the deceased was in the 16thyear of life; but, in reality, was 15 years old on the previous birthday before death. You may also see the deceased’s date of death with age as follows: d. June 15, 1827, 10y 3m 5d. From this date, you can count backwards to the date of birth, i.e. b. March 10, 1817. Take photos of gravestones for documentation, along with proof of the location of the stone(s) and exact cemetery of burial. In the case of very old stones from the 1700s and 1800s, I have done rubbings – either with washable chalk to make the eroding chiseled letters stand out, or by pencil rubbing on paper lain atop the sunken lettering when nothing else was available. The latter gave me data on my ancestor, John Caldwell McNeill, that was not in the cemetery records. I knew he was a sergeant in the New Hampshire Line, serving at Bunker Hill as per his pension file; but, a separate gravestone revealed these barely discernable words etched in stone by doing a pencil rubbing on paper: “Corp.1, Co.1, N.Y. Regt. Rev War.” Questioning what he was doing in a New York regiment, I spent the money to purchase his full Revolutionary War pension application file. I then read historical books about the Revolutionary War for their collateral documentation of the era. Reading “The Spirit of Seventy-Six,” author Morris Commager confirmed that the New Hampshire unit was asked to join the above-noted New York regiment on a mission to Canada. Records researched by Commager detailed how the men were captured, stripped of all clothes and possessions, and imprisoned on an island in the St. Lawrence with many soldiers dying. The remaining soldiers were bought back in a cartel by Benedict Arnold and released to serve out their enlistment, confirmed by other reputable sources, including “Benedict Arnold’s Navy” by James L. Nelson – a really great read! This all substantiated affidavits in John C.’s pension file and the story in a New Hampshire county historical book about the capture and release as celebrated annually by John C.’s friends and relatives who remained in Londonderry, NH after the Revolutionary War when he removed to Carlisle, Schoharie County, NY. Although rare, cemetery records and gravestones do occasionally contain conflicting dates or errors. A death certificate, if available, would be the more accurate record, along with collateral records. I have personally seen few errors in gravestone data, but one stands out as part of my documented and published research thesis. My ancestor, Lt. Timothy Hutton (b. 1746) had a nephew Lt. Timothy Hutton (b. 1764), both serving in military units in New York. A monument to my Lt. Timothy Hutton at Carlisle Rural Cemetery in Carlisle, Schoharie Co., NY credits his service under Capt. Gross of Willett’s Regiment in the Revolutionary War. On checking roster records, two Lt. Timothy Huttons are listed in Col. Marinus Willett’s Regiment at the same time – one in Capt. Gross’s company, the other in Capt. Livingston’s. Purchasing military records of my ancestor, with my editor supplying a copy of affidavits for the younger Hutton, provides our proof. This documentation notes both Lt. Timothy Huttons served in Willett’s NY Regiment. But, Lt. Hutton b. 1764 stated in affidavits he served under Capt. Gross, with other documentation noting he died in New Jersey, while his uncle, my ancestor, Lt. Hutton b. 1746, though not stating which captain he served under, is thus presumed to have served under Capt. Livingston as per the unit’s roster records. My Timothy Hutton (b. 1764) was documented serving in Schoharie County, NY, settling and dying in Carlisle, my mother’s home town. And so I proved my Lt. Timothy Hutton did not serve under Capt. Gross as per his cemetery monument, but rather his nephew of the same name did. With both men sharing the same name, it’s no wonder the kind folks who put up his monument were confused! There has also been a concerted effort over the last several years to put cemetery records online, a great aid in research, but you should still document and prove data accuracy. As the years pass, more and more data is making its way online than was available before 2000 when I began my research. Again, check out the Find-A-Grave website. Through the kindness of many people, photos are taken of gravestones, and, along with data written on the monuments, are placed online. Obviously, not every grave is to be found online, nor is all information and family data accurate as I recently discovered from someone’s erroneous tie to my paternal family which I personally knew to be absolutely false. I emailed the contact person and did not receive a reply back; I don’t know if it was ever corrected online as I’ve not gone back. But, admittedly, it is very rewarding to find a photo of just the grave you’ve been searching for! COMING NEXT: Census Records "Homespun Ancestors is written by Linda Roorda. To see more, visit her site HERE
  12. County historical and genealogical societies are another great repository of data to aid in your research. Among their resources are town and county historical books which often include brief lineages of early settlers, donated private family records, old family Bibles or transcripts of family data, transcribed census records, church and cemetery records, microfilm of various records including old newspapers, donated copies of wills or abstracts of wills, maps, rare books, donated specialty items, published family genealogies, and unpublished family manuscripts which can often be as accurate as any published composition, and so much more. But, please keep in mind that any family genealogy is only as good as the family’s recollections and the ability to provide solid documentation, so personal footwork is still necessary to clarify or prove data if source documentation cannot be provided. If you know where an ancestor lived, contact the corresponding county historical society. You might be amazed at what may have already been researched, or what the folks can help you with, and how well they can point you in the right direction. There is a research and copy fee at a historical society, though it is always less expensive to do your own research on the premises. When I researched in the early 2000s, an average fee of $25/hour was charged by most societies to have their staff do your research (may cost more now). I personally traveled to several historical societies; but, since that was not always feasible, I also paid for some to do my research. Visit the online website for the town and county historical societies where you wish to obtain data. If you want them to research, write a brief letter of request, include their base fee as listed online, and a self-addressed stamped envelope along with a brief description of information you seek. As they respond in the order requests are received, it may be a few weeks before you receive a reply noting your request for research has been placed. By clarifying data on a family record form filed at both Tioga and Schoharie, NY county historical societies, I proved someone wrongly placed a daughter in my McNeill family. I wrote the submitter for information, but never received a reply. There were two McNeil(l) families in Schoharie County. Ruth McNeil married Matthew Lamont, removing to Owego, Tioga County, New York by 1825. Matthew and his son, Marcus Lamont(e), purchased Hiawatha Island east of Owego on June 23, 1830 and operated a ferry across the Susquehanna River. Marcus Lamont(e)’s son, Cyrenus McNeil Lamont, purchased the island in 1872 and ran the famous Hiawatha Hotel until 1887. I proved Ruth (McNeil) Lamont did not belong to my McNeill family as had been listed on the above family history form. Instead, I believe she was more likely the daughter of John and Ruth (Reynolds) McNeil, and thus named for her mother. John and Ruth McNeil were originally of Vermont as per that McNeil family history writeup which I purchased from Montgomery County Dept. of History & Archives. Per her sons’ census records, Ruth was born about 1782 in New York, the same year as was my John C. McNeill’s proven daughter, Betsey, his oldest child. Betsey was actually adopted by her mother’s childless sister per New Hampshire records. Historical societies often have microfilm of local newspapers for birth, marriage, obituary and death notices. Newspapers are a great source of collateral family data found in ads, public notices, or community event columns, i.e. the old-fashioned “gossip” columns which note the hosts and attendees of fashionable events. Other important historical society holdings include old church records which provide vital information for births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. Old baptism records often include not only the name of the infant and parents, but the sponsors/witnesses who were usually relatives or close friends. Churches do not provide this data, but many older church records have been donated to historical societies. Often, you will find that someone with an interest in preserving this information took the time and effort to transcribe original handwritten records into a neatly typed report. The transcriber certifies his/her work to be true and accurate, retaining all original errors. These records may be in manuscript form or in a published book. Town and county clerks’ offices are also invaluable resources. Check the respective website for who to contact and what records they retain. Marriage, birth and death records are typically kept by the respective town clerk where the event took place. County clerk websites provide information on who to contact for genealogical research purposes. The county clerk’s office maintains original state and federal census records, public land records (deeds, mortgages, liens, and maps), tax records, and wills, etc. Family documentation can be found in wills (sometimes found at surrogate’s court), estate records for those who died intestate (without a will), inventories of estates, letters of administration, guardianships, etc. Always note the source to document your facts, i.e. book, author, publisher, date, page, for example: William E. Roscoe, History of Schoharie County, New York, 1713-1882. (Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., 1882), p. 54. John C. McNeill, Revolutionary War Pension File 20246. Mortgage Book B, pgs. 69-70, Schoharie County Clerk’s Office, Schoharie, Schoharie Co., NY. U.S. 1790 Census, Weare, Hillsborough Co., NH, p. 5, handwritten p. 332, line #9, NARA roll M637_5 (ancestry.com census record). When appropriate, you may certainly state data was found on personal visit to a specific named cemetery (be sure to include the address), a personal conversation with someone specific, or in a box of letters found in Grandma’s attic. But don’t forget to note date of visits and conversations, and full names, including maiden and married surnames. By keeping solid research documentation, it will always be available to validate your findings as needed. You will never regret the extra effort. COMING NEXT: Cemetery Records "Homespun Ancestors is written by Linda Roorda. To see more, visit her site HERE
  13. Your Family Tree #5: Brick Walls

    In researching your ancestors, you will hit brick walls – guaranteed! When you do, think about who the most recent known ancestor was. Remember that we discussed previously how the Dutch used a specific naming pattern. Each child was named after the grandparents, alternating back and forth to include each of the child’s grandparents, great-grandparents, then aunts, uncles and parents. Other ethnic groups, including the Germans, often used a similar pattern, but did not follow it as consistently. By searching census records of the community where a particular family was known to live, I found the probable paternal grandfather of a friend’s ancestor. It appeared her ancestor’s middle name was that of the probable grandfather, thus creating a crack in her brick wall. Often, names changed spelling over time depending on the speller’s knowledge, or were changed to reflect the pronunciation. Your surname today may not be how it began a few centuries ago. My maternal family name of Tillapaugh began as the Swiss Dällenbach, being changed in the early 1800s among several lines, including the oft-used Dillenbeck/Dillenbach, etc. Another example is the German Jung, pronounced and often Americanized as Young. From the 1600s New Amsterdam, my Dutch VanKouwenhoven morphed into Conover. My French DeGarmeaux from the Albany area became DeGarmo, while my German Richtmyer became Rightmyer in other lines. Another example of surname change is found in my Revolutionary War families. The original Swiss Dübendorffer became Diefendorf after arrival here in the 1730s. My ancestor Georg Jacob Diefendorf remained loyal to the crown during the Revolutionary War. However, his son, a staunch patriot, took his mother’s surname (his own middle name) as his new surname, becoming John Diefendorf Hendree, to disassociate himself from his father. Paying close attention to details helped me find the marriage date for my ancestors Christina Dingman and Jacob Kniskern. Sorting book by book in one row of the genealogy section of the Steele Library in Elmira, I saw a tiny church book for Montgomery County, New York. This is a typed transcription of original handwritten church records. Having seen these church records online, I knew exactly what I was holding. Searching page by page, I saw the name of “Conescarn.” Suddenly, I realized that I was looking at the phonetic spelling for the old pronunciation of Kniskern; now the “K” is silent. I’d discovered what no one else had recognized before – my great-great-grandparents’ marriage date of October 17, 1840! The Kniskern name began as Genesgern in churchbooks from the 1500s in Germany. It is one of the oldest documented pedigrees of any New York 1709/10 Palatine emigrant according to the author Henry Z. Jones, Jr. in his personal email to me. See his two-volume set “The Palatine Families of New York 1710”. Mr. Jones and his assistants went to Germany and systematically searched records in every town and old church to document as many Palatine-region emigrant families as possible to provide solid documentation for today’s researchers. When researching old families, it is also helpful to know that Sr. or Jr. and Elder or Younger do not necessarily indicate father and son as it does today. Often, this title was used to differentiate between extended relatives or unrelated men within the same community who happened to have the same name. With the old naming pattern, it was not uncommon to find “umpteen” men and boys by the same name in town and church records. Without the title or other differentiation, it can be difficult to place them correctly in their family of origin, though key is noting the birth parents and baptismal sponsors. Census takers frequently wrote a surname based on their own spelling ability, which, I discovered, was often quite atrocious! Be flexible. As you search records, try various spellings as names were often written as they sounded. That fact alone can make all the difference in finding your ancestor. Even my McNeill name, consistently signed by the oldest family members with two “l”s, was spelled variously on census records as McNial, McNeal, McNiel or simply McNeil (without the second “l”). Several years ago, I transcribed the online 1810 census for Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York and submitted it for posting on the county genweb page. Some names were very misspelled; but, being familiar with many of Carlisle’s families from research, I understood the intended names and put them in parentheses. However, in hitting your brick wall, do not jump hastily into accepting published genealogies. If there is evidentiary proof with solid documentation (like I provided for my published genealogies in footnotes) from reputable journals or well-documented books, then you should be able to accept them. But, again, beware as I found false leads, fake ties, and erroneous data which I proved wrong with personal old-fashioned research, part of my published thesis. It pays to put in the extra effort to prove your data. I also want to stress that I do not readily accept anyone’s claim of family ties to famous historical folks, Mayflower ancestors, or royalty – nor should you. Maybe you truly are connected, but I want to see sound documentation, preferably baptismal, marriage and death records, or cemetery records for every generation backward. Also know that most well-documented earliest generations in America begin in the 17th or 18thcenturies. Viable records previous to those centuries are not always available. Since Ancestry.com has records from Britain, Ireland, Wales and several European countries, it is a valuable subscription resource. You can also hire one of their professionals should you feel the need for their assistance. A general search online for records from a particular nation may also be helpful as I found a reputable website with documented birth and marriage records from the Netherlands for my grandmother’s lineage. I purchased the book on my paternal ancestry documented by a distant relative who just happens to work in the genealogy division of The Hague. Though her work can definitively trace my paternal ancestry only to the early 18th century, I’m satisfied. And I was amazed to see the photo of a Dutch constable, a brother of my great-grandfather, who looked uncannily like my Dad! Some of your best resources can be found in books containing transcripts of original documents and/or in legitimate family records (Bibles, baptism, marriage and death records) placed at historical or genealogical societies. Unless you know that what you hold in your hands is truly legit, do like I did to prove my lineage beyond a doubt – tackle the hard work yourself to prove every ancestor. Yes, it’s time consuming and takes years, but the end result is truly worth the effort! Again, many genealogies were written in the past with ties to royalty and early American Mayflower ancestors which have since been proven false. Several resources regarding what to look out for are available at the following websites: LDS Family Search “Fraudulent Genealogies.” Genealogy.com’s “Fraudulent Lineages” by Nicole Wingate. Genealogy’s Star blog: “Genealogy as a Fraud.” Tips on accuracy of research in “Bogus Genealogies” by George C. Morgan. COMING NEXT: County Historical and Genealogical Society holdings. "Homespun Ancestors is written by Linda Roorda. To see more, visit her site HERE
  14. As you begin your research, document everything, every step of the way. Keep some paper files readily accessible, but enter data in a genealogy computer program; I have an older Family Tree Maker version. I also have “tons” of file folders filled with family research data gleaned from online resources and reputable books, emails with fellow researchers, data from visits to or purchased from historical societies, cemetery data from personal trips, etc. And then there’s the shoebox filled with several hundred census records on 4×6 index cards. I also found it helpful to paperclip together each family’s successive census records. As we’ve been discussing, the key is to seek documentation from reputable sources. Try to clarify data accuracy yourself as even the best author makes a mistake. I was very frustrated when the new editor for the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, who oversaw my McNeill article, rewrote part of my work and erred in what I had originally said – instead of asking me to rewrite. Not being as familiar with the family as I was, she also tied some footnote documentation to the wrong facts, which I somehow overlooked in my final editing, necessitating a correction in a subsequent journal issue, making me look input. I was not pleased, but kept my thoughts to myself. As we said previously, it’s helpful to use a family history form, like these at Genealogy Search. This website has numerous forms to record your data, including blank census forms. When I first began dabbling in genealogy research, I didn’t have this resource available, or at least didn’t know where or how to find it. I initially did everything the old-fashioned way by writing it all out on paper. It wasn’t until I’d typed most family histories for my tome that I was introduced to Family Tree Maker, something which I highly recommend obtaining at the start. It stores your data, connects extended family ties, tracks individuals and families, makes multiple descendancy charts from any progenitor, includes photos, and helps you make a nice family booklet. To publish research as I did, you must prove new data (i.e. previously unpublished) or correct previously published data which you’ve proven is in error – both of which I did. Every fact and every statement you make must be backed by solid documentation, with the source noted for each fact in a respective footnote. If you make a habit of doing this right from the beginning of your research, you’ll at least prove your own lineage definitively without scrambling around for misplaced evidence. Edit, edit and re-edit your story. I cannot stress that enough. Every so often I’d print out my research, using color-coded paperclips to track each family branch of one progenitor in said draft copy. Focus on one ancestral line until it’s as complete as possible before moving on to the next line. Believe me, it keeps you sane and less confused! Back then, I had so many individual names and family ties in my head that I was a walking ancestral encyclopedia for a time… sharing a lot of early New Netherlands/New York history at the drop of a hat, and perhaps a bore to some listeners. After gathering as much data as you can about known ancestors, a good place to start researching further is at Ancestry.com. They have free 1880 census records available, but paying their annual subscription fee will provide access to a greater wealth of records. As a member, at your fingertips will be census records from 1790-1940 (excluding the lost 1890 records), certain military records, city and national records, land records, international records, submitted family trees, baptisms, marriages, social security death index, phone book data, some books, etc. These resources were vital to my research, thanks to the generosity of a distant cousin and dear friend, Mimi, who shared her Ancestry site with me. You will also find family lineages posted at this website; but, be aware that submitted family data can definitely be incomplete and inaccurate as I also discovered. Another good resource is Family Search, a free website by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Search this website for the free down-loadable Personal Ancestral File (PAF). Their data includes 1880 census records, baptism and marriage records, death/cemetery records and submitted family data, etc. Again, be cautious as not all data submitted by individuals is accurate. Books and documents on microfilm can be ordered and viewed at a local LDS family history center. Their resources can be invaluable as they include public records not readily available otherwise. I used the Owego LDS church’s family history center, ordering several manuscripts/books on microfilm. The editor for my McNeill article routinely flew to the main family history center in Salt Lake City, Utah to aid her editorial work, finding documentation from New Hampshire I had missed on prior researches. Your local public library is also a great resource of interlibrary loans. I cannot say enough about the helpful ladies at my local Spencer Library. They ordered many genealogical and historical books for me. These books included invaluable town and county backgrounds from New York and other states from their earliest beginnings, including generational documentation on early families. Elmira’s Steele Library is among those in New York State which maintains a viable genealogical section, and I availed myself of their records for hours many Saturday mornings. Their great collection includes the “New York Genealogical and Biographical Record”, the journal which published my articles, the “New England Genealogical Record”, early New York county history books, transcribed manuscripts of early New York City records, many family surname genealogy books, books on how and where to search, histories of family names and how they changed over the centuries, D.A.R. lists, and so much more. Another resource is Cornell University’s library system. My fear of getting on campus and finding my way around prohibited any attempt at investigating their tremendous genealogical and historical collection. Most of their material is held in the Olin/Kroch building. Use Cornell University’s Olin Library website as a guide for searching. Bear in mind that, just as I was able to do, many of Cornell’s genealogical holdings may be ordered through your town library. COMING NEXT – Brick walls… "Homespun Ancestors is written by Linda Roorda. To see more, visit her site HERE
  15. Okay, let’s start researching. As you ponder a few names in your ancestral tree, the burning question may be, “How do I start looking for ancestors I don’t even know about?” Actually, the best way is to begin working backward from what you do know. Start with your birth certificate to prove your parents. Obtain copies of birth, baptism and marriage records, newspaper death notices or obituaries, and cemetery records of your near relatives. Research can be an expensive endeavor and I will admit I’ve not done all I’d like to simply for that reason. I’m able to join the DAR with about ten ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War; and, though I have a good deal of documentation, I’ve not been able to afford all that which is necessary for the DAR forms. I know that I have DAR status with the evidence in my hand, and don’t need to prove that fact to an association. Yet, even on a limited budget, you can accomplish a great deal like I did with the resources available – particularly as my initial online research of records for several years was done using the painfully slow dial-up internet service! Make a list of your known and extended relatives. Talk to the older folks and write down their memories and stories. They are a wealth of information, and will be honored to have you ask. But, again, research helps validate the truth from “stories” which might have snippets of reality amongst exaggerated stories passed down as family history. Check out Cyndi’s List for a great listing of various types of charts and forms which can be printed off to help you keep records. I also wish I had had an interest in knowing my family history when I was younger and my grandparents were still alive. With my mom born as child 11 of 12 in a large farming family, her parents were long gone by the time I finally developed an interest. And, since both her parents were only children, there’s a paucity of extended “rellies” for me to speak with. Yet, I’ve met other extended cousins and have enjoyed getting to know them while we compare our family lineage notes. With her own family history interest, my mom recalled bits and pieces, but that’s why the original family tree mentioned in my first article was vital. Working through the known three generations to prove their accuracy, my empty-nest project evolved into a 600-plus page manuscript. I documented historical family backgrounds and descendants from church and cemetery records, historical records, census records, and books, etc. for every known surname branch. Don’t research just the male lineage as some folks prefer; the women are equally as important to your heritage! I even included research on the extended families as a record of their historical times and how families became intertwined. If you are fortunate enough to have access to them, search old diaries and letters which may reference family members. Old family Bibles often list family births, marriages and deaths, but not all do. For example, an old Bible found in the brick McNeill house in Carlisle, NY by the current owners (with whom I became friends) held no data other than three McNeill obituaries, two of whom were known to be related. Yet, the obits became key evidence in my search as one obit was for a Martha McNeill Tillapaugh Seber of Decatur, New York. That little piece of paper gave credence to my theory that she is related! She is the presumed daughter of Samuel McNeill as she fits the age of a female born 1814 on his census records, the only McNeill family in Decatur at that time. This gave a descendant, who I was assisting, substantial probability for Martha’s birth family since his family papers noted Martha McNeill was born about 1814 in Decatur, thus lending credence to our being distant cousins. The following also shares how one clue leads to another in research. Based on a gut feeling, I purchased Robert McNeill’s War of 1812 pension application file after finding him on the 1820 Carlisle, New York census. He lived very near my ancestor, John C. McNeill (typical of the old generations), and was listed on the War of 1812 muster rolls. In pension application affidavits, Robert noted service at Watertown and Sackett’s Harbor, New York and as a guard of prisoners on a march to Albany. He made no mention of service on any ship. Sadly, I had to break the news to a descendant friend and cousin that Robert’s claim to be in a famous battle on Lake Erie during the War of 1812 was not backed up by documentation in any of his records. Also, unfortunately, he served only 53 days of the required 60, making him ineligible for a pension. However, additional key data found in his affidavits note Robert served in place of his brother, Samuel McNeill, of Decatur, Otsego County, New York, and that he, Robert, lived first at Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York. Thus, he was born about 1794, after his parents removed from New Hampshire to New York. Bingo!! I now had two more presumed brothers of my known Jesse McNeill! When Robert enlisted in September 1813, it appears he was about 18, unmarried, willing and able to serve for his brother, Samuel, who had a young family per the 1810 Decatur census and who presumably had farm crops to harvest. By census records, we track Robert and family on the 1820 census in Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York, the 1830 census in Conesus, Livingston County, New York near his wife’s relatives, and the 1840 census in Dundee, Monroe County, Michigan. After his first wife died, he lived near his sister’s family in Wayne County, New York where he remarried, moving his family back to Michigan per 1860 census. I like to think of them as “frequent flyers” on the bustling Erie Canal, sailing Lake Erie from western New York to the frontier in southeast Monroe County, Michigan. Curiously, his second wife is later found without Robert on census and cemetery records with their children in Wayne County, New York. As Robert is listed on census records in the homes of his first wife’s children, dies and is buried in Michigan, his descendant and I have concluded that he and his second wife separated, but never divorced, as she died and is buried in Wayne County, New York. There is so much to be gleaned by searching for and finding actual records. Coming next: Document everything, every step of the way!
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