Friday, April 27, 2012

"Grandma/Grandpa Was Full-Blooded (Native American)"

Insert whichever tribe you like for "Native American."

This is something I hear often from people who don't know much about their heritage, other than what they've heard from other relatives.  An ancestor's appearance (dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes) is often the reason the rumor starts.

It seems like such a romanticized notion to be descended from a Native American, that I really hate to tell people, "I'm sorry, but I haven't found anything yet..."

Most of the time, the rumor is just that - an unsubstantiated, romanticized idea based on the ancestor's looks.

I would honestly be thrilled to research such a family story and find truth in it!

Goodness knows I was surprised to find that my son's 11th great-grandfather on his paternal grandmother's side was an Abenaki Chief.  We had no idea until the mtDNA test results for my then-husband came back.  But it was not a family rumor - just a complete surprise to all interested family members.  This is the one and only time I've ever found Native American ancestry, and it was not assumed: we arrived at the answer due to science.

I think there are Native American-ancestor rumors in just about every family.  We want to belong to the first people of this nation.  Alas, I have yet to be able to confirm rumors for anybody for whom I have done research.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Only Names...

Sometimes you end up with names just floating around in your software (I use Legacy). They may be connected to other individuals, but have no details. I'm guilty of this - adding names of parents from marriage records, but not bothering with more detail than that if they are not my direct ancestors.

So today I'm on a mission to add details to those names. Even if the names are not useful to me, they could be useful to someone else, so I don't want to simply delete them.

There are also plenty of surname-less women in my program. I'm sure many of you have this problem too. Maiden names can be notoriously difficult to locate, and sometimes we just have to use what information we have. Still, I'm going through my file, person by person (over 10,500 people...), in hopes of adding detail to those who need it.

Do you have this problem as well?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Research Habits: Music

When I'm cleaning, writing or researching, I tend to enjoy background music.

Music played while writing must complement the story, scene, overall emotions, etc.  So I tend to favor heavy metal or alternative rock when I'm writing.

Music for cleaning needs to be loud and energetic - usually pop or 80's music.

The music I like to listen to while I'm working on genealogy is more mellow than my cleaning or writing music.  I tend to choose classic rock, which is my favorite genre.  It's what I grew up listening to, and what I prefer to this day.  At the moment, I am working my way through some ancestors to the sound of the Steve Miller Band.  I also love some Bob Seger, David Bowie, or Stevie Nicks for research "noise".

Sometimes I will listen to folk or New Age music as well, but the classic rock reminds me of my dad and family in general, since it is a part of my childhood.

What about you?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1940 Census Finds

The National Archives were certainly overloaded yesterday, what with the release of the 1940 census.

Rather than search for ancestors, I found the one town that interested me most - Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts - and saved the page with the enumeration districts/census images to look at later.

This morning, while most of you were still sleeping, I began scrolling through the entire town of Middleborough.  The person I was most interested in locating was at the very end, and I knew this, but I also knew I would find other relatives if I took the time to look at the entire town.  With less than 275 pages, it really was not a bother.

I found three of my four grandparents, two of whom are still alive today.  Two of them lived with their parents.  The third lived with his grandparents - my great-great grandparents.  I found a few cousins whose names I recognized.  The town of Middleborough represents quite a bit of my family history and ancestry, so it was a good, not terribly overwhelming, start.

My fourth grandparent should be in Plympton, however they do not have that town marked off separately.  Odds are it was lumped in with another nearby, large town, such as Bridgewater or Plymouth.

For now, I will bide my time and wait for the indexing to be completed.  Since I am an indexer with the Family History Library, I will be contributing to the indexing effort for their site,

As for the person I most wanted to find, of course it was none other than my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw.

As regular readers know, she is my *most* elusive brick wall ancestor.  Her life between her birth and 1888 is a huge mystery.  Recently, I believe I located her family in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia.  My feeling is that when she was born, her parents did not want the responsibility of an infant - not at the ages of 60 and 50.  I'm fairly certain this is why Emma was sent to live with another family in town. 

The 1940 census did not offer anything different by way of her birthplace (it said Maine, which I know is incorrect) or age (78 at the time; she passed away 5 years later, in 1945).

However, it did indicate that she had no education whatsoever.  Right there in the education column, where it asks how many years of school a person had completed, it gave me a big, fat ZERO for Emma.

She never went to school?  Why wouldn't her parents bother sending her to school?  There were schools in Nova Scotia in the 1870's and 1880's, yes?

Even my great-great grandpa Bartolomeo Galfre indicated that he had at least 3 years of school, which I imagine would have been back home in Italy.

So how did Emma miss out on an education?

The information is consistent with my theory that she was sent to live with another family and, well, maybe she just wasn't very well taken care of.  I think a bit about Anne of Green Gables.  Anne's story happens later in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, mind you, but she was not sent to school until she was almost 13-years-old, and living with the Cuthberts - a family that actually cared about her education.

So was this normal for orphans or children who were passed off to other families in eastern Canada - this lack of attention to their education?

It isn't big, but it is one more clue about my great-great grandmother's life - a life I want very much to understand.

Well, I think I'm going to spend the remainder of my afternoon updating my Emma timeline and folder!  I think my next goal is to find out what happened to her between 1871 (when she appears in the census in Nova Scotia) and 1888 (when she married my great-great grandfather Harrison Shaw).  There's a marriage somewhere in there.

At least the time I need to research now has been narrowed from 27 years to 17!  Yes, I would still love to find a baptismal certificate for her, but it's nice to know that the gap between her birth and her second marriage (the one that produced my great-grandfather) is narrowing.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan