Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Lot Lines

Instead of focusing on a single stone, today's photos show a substantial number of lot lines. I took these photos in Oakwood Cemetery, Braidwood, Will County, Illinois. The cemetery started burials in the 1860's. Most of the original inhabitants are miners and their families from England, Scotland, and Ireland who settled here when coal was first located.

If you obtain records from a cemetery, they often mention the lot owner and burials. Many rural cemeteries in the Midwest still have the small lot markers in the corners, which are about the size of a fist. Not often do you see large barriers like these. Here in Oakwood Cemetery, many of the original lots are still outlined by cement lot lines. There are, unfortunately, not nearly as many gravestones visible in them, especially in the oldest lots.

This family lot not only has a border but also pillars which probably held a chain. They rather look like sentinels now, watching over the family.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Twitter True Confessions

I am addicted to Twitter. There, I said it.

I think Twitter is the coolest thing since sliced bread.

I have been using Twitter for about four years. Wow, that's a long time in social media terms. It was hard to get the hang of it, but over time it has become a way of life.

[ I suspect by this point, you're either nodding in agreement or racing to find the 'unfollow' button. ]

Some of you may be dismayed to learn that I don't use it just for #genealogy. Some background: I am a relatively old person, at least in internet terms, married, has two awesome and amazingly busy kids, works as both an employee in a tiny office and as a part-time bookkeeper, loves sports, watches as much TV as I can fit in, whines on occasion, and sometimes just wants to learn by reading an interesting article. Oh yeah, and I research my family! My real life is fairly contained physically: drive to work, drive to practice, drive to the grocery store, repeat. Twitter is my way to get 'out there' and connect with people who share my interests.

For a while I tried having two accounts. It wasn't working. So now you're stuck with all of me. I understand if you follow then unfollow me. I don't check my numbers. It doesn't matter to me, really. Twitter is my outlet. Take it or leave it.

I learn a lot from the accounts I follow. It's a great way to read when I only have a few minutes. I really do read a LOT of your genealogy posts and blog links. I use the search feature to put in unusual surnames and locations. I follow some of the new international 'country voice' accounts to learn about what happens in the world.

This is just my way of saying: Twitter is awesome and is an invaluable part of my life right now. Thanks for reading. I am probably off on another suburban adventure. I really am SallyOnTheGo.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Surname Saturday - Dork

Family researchers often have difficulty searching for surnames because first and last names were interchangeable, or names had multiple meanings.

I don't think I could get much better mileage out of an ancestral surname than Dork. I consider myself lucky. You know you giggled, didn't you?

Sure, I have to come up with better search terms because I end up at site after site of video gamers, teenager blogs, and the like. Once I weed those out, the results are pretty sparse. And there are very few of us descendants. But that's why we search, right?

snip of the Dork name in my great-great-grandfather Otto's 1869 birth record

Back to genealogy. My Dork family, including great-great-grandfather Otto, came from a tiny village called Charlottenwerder in Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia to Lansing, Michigan in the 1880's. Here is a nifty page of old postcards I found showing some of the old buildings in Charlottenwerder (now called Redaki in Poland).

If someone in the "old country" contacts me about the Dork's or Doerk's of Charlottenwerder, I hope we're related. I'll rephrase that: please contact me!

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, January 17, 2013

THIMBY Thursday - Indian Mounds

Last year, I started posting to my own themed day: THIMBY Thursday. It means "The History In My Backyard". I coined it myself (wink wink).

I don't know if it is genealogy or aging or what exactly, but lately it seems important to document the interesting and historical places around me. When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to leave home. But as an adult, I am learning to appreciate my surroundings. So many things seem to be disappearing to progress or foreclosure or obsolescence. And I always try to have a camera with me for those "ooh look at that" kind of moments.

Today's THIMBY is the Indian burial mound site located along the Des Plaines River and Interstate 55, near the village of Channahon, Illinois. If you grew up in the Midwest, you may already be familiar with Cahokia or Dickson Mounds, early cultures that left behind burial mounds. But there are smaller, less well-known but equally interesting sites in Illinois. This mound site is known as the Briscoe Mounds, named for the early family that settled here.

It is kind of amazing that a quiet little village less than hour from Chicago was home to an early civilization. The mounds are dated to between AD 100 and AD 1000. They had an advantageous view over the river, as seen in the last photograph.

Go grab your camera. Let's see what kind of history you can find in your backyard!

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Four Davidsons

JANE His Wife 1815-1890
CATHARINE His Wife 1852-1916

This photo of the Davidson family tombstone is crisp and clean. The stone holds four clear names and dates.

The Davidsons are buried in Oakwood Cemetery, outside Braidwood, Will County, Illinois. Adam and his wife Jane were Scottish immigrant farmers to this primarily mining community.

On the top of the stone is a shield and the letters F C B. This is a traditional etching showing membership in the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization.

The Davidson family came to America in May of 1860. In addition to their son Alex, they also crossed the Atlantic Ocean with a daughter called Mary Jane and a son called George. In 1870, they were enumerated in nearby Wilmington and in 1880 in Braidwood. Alexander was always living with or next to his parents at each census, so it seems fitting that they are buried together in Oakwood.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Up the Tree, Down the Tree

I enjoyed the recent post by Kirsty on her Professional Descendant blog asking "who belongs in your family tree?" There are probably as many methods to building a family tree as there are people searching for ancestors.

When I started years ago with the few bits of information from my grandparents, it was a one-person-at-a-time process. Finding people on the internet wasn't a concept. Back then, I ordered a microfilm reel of the census, found the family, found the neighbors, and then ordered the next older census. And waited. Then I ordered a death certificate. And waited.

Now when I find a new lead, I usually copy in the family information. Compared to years ago, finding a related family and entering their census data takes a matter of minutes, as opposed to days or weeks when waiting for microfilm. If they are in a similar location to my ancestral tree branches, I will probably pursue them further. If that family has vital records in a database I am already familiar with, I'll probably search there, too. Boy, I love to research and dig!

Today, after 20 or so years of searching, I have about 6,000 people in my database. But that doesn't mean they are closely related to me. My research style is sort of "up the tree and down the tree." If I am working on a direct branch and I am confident I am back another generation, I will start tracking down those children and grandchildren: casting a wide net, as it were. This method works to a point. I have had several people contact me regarding distant lines in my tree. At best, we can compare notes. But if we can't help each other land more relatives and connections, the communication usually ends. On the rare occasion we are close cousins, we seem to connect more, stay in touch over time, and bump into each other on the internet. For me, these have been very rare.

I am not a "name collector." I do not see a purpose in having 200,000 names in my tree. In the past, I would message some of those tree-holders only to be told they had no information, or that the data was uploaded from yet another tree. Does that really help anyone? I feel most of the people in my database are there for a reason: because they are connected, however tenuously, to my family lines. You never know what that vital piece of information might be and to whom it is connected.

Some of my biggest breakthroughs have come via collateral line and sibling research. I try to find and enter as much data about collateral family members as possible. It may be a longer and loopier path but it really does work. Anyone you think that may help you connect belongs in your tree.

Most of my branches are full of "twigs" back to the early 1800's and late 1700's. I am happy with this. Of course, I always want to find more. And really, isn't that why we search?

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Where's Your GEDCOM?

Where is your GEDCOM?

This is a legitimate question.

I am revamping my online genealogy data, and I'm interested in feedback of any kind: good, bad and ugly.

My wishes:

  • a site where I can upload my data, and that does not own/resell/corporatize my data (see Ancestry and now by extension, RootsWeb) 
  • a site that is free for both me, the uploader, and my potential cousin audience
  • a site where I can upload my data, then take it down and redo when I have significant changes
  • in other words, like RootsWeb in the days of yore
Does such a place exist?

I would really appreciate any feedback on site recommendations. Comments appreciated. Thanks!

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Am Your Audience

I am your audience.

There have been a lot of posts swirling lately about the makeup of the online genealogy world:
  • snobs
  • professionals
  • followers
  • community
  • newbies
In other words, the online genealogy world seems a lot like high school. There are the Big Men/Women On Campus. There are the popular, insulated cliques. There are the smart, nerdy kids. There's the new kid.

And then there's everyone else. Like me.

I have been working for 20+ years on my family history. My big overarching reason is because I love the Thrill Of The Chase. I have really good detective skills, which I use for both my own benefit and for a few friends and for the few I've voluntarily helped online.

But what I really wish for is to connect with cousins and those with similar research sensibilities - cemetery appreciation, location expertise, people who interact. I want to find blogs with interesting content. I'm good at finding information. What I seek is people to talk to about the information. You know, people who don't give you that "glassy-eyed stare" when you launch into a family story ;)

I totally understand that high school would be boring if we were all the same. I am fully aware that what I blog about or the family information I post to my website is not going to interest most of the people out there. And I'm fine with that.

I am primarily interested in the Midwest and New England, Quebec, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England and Denmark. I love old cemeteries. I am interested in hearing about new databases in those areas.

So a wish, rather than a resolution, is to seek out some mutually enjoyable genealogy relationships this year.

I am your audience and you are mine.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen