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31 March 2010

Frustration with online family trees

I am obsessed with genealogy...I love exploring my family's history.  And, not being perfect, I make mistakes, and usually I can tell you what documentation led to the mistake.  But I just ran across an online family tree of someone who has my immediate family in it...and EVERYTHING is wrong.  I mean, there is just no place to start telling this person the error of their ways!  I wrote a polite note on my father's record, but then I saw the futility of trying to correct the 2990+ records this person has accumulated in the past 2 months.  And, the tree is public.  sigh

How do you all deal with problems like this?  I guess that is one reason I keep my tree private - I don't want people 'yelling' at me when I make a mistake!  :-)  How many more people will copy all this bad info?  Do you check for your family's info in public trees?

Open mouth - insert foot (40 years later)

I don't suppose any of you know an 18 year old who knows everything and is positive of their future and is too good for 'regular' jobs?  Well, unfortunately, that was me 40 years ago and my arrogance ended up costing me a paid college education and it cost my family an inheritance!
My godparents were Marie Murray (1902 - 1983), a single woman who lived in Minneapolis and her single brother Victor (1900 - 1975), who lived in Des Moines, Iowa.  Marie and Vic were also first cousins to my father. Marie would come to visit when I was little and the most memorable thing about her was her fur coat...I loved snuggling in that when we would go to church in the winter.  As my high school years passed and it became time for college, Marie offered to pay my tuition, IF I became a secretary, like she had.  It was the 60s.  I couldn't be a secretary!  I had to save the world!  I was going to be a lawyer and travel the world as an ambassador! (ah, youthful dreams!)
Marie was heartbroken.  My rejection of her career was a personal rejection of her.  She never forgave me. In fact she disinherited my whole family over that.  Yesterday I was going through some old scrapbook pages and  I found this newspaper article about Marie.  She wasn't "just" a secretary.  She had become the cooperate secretary to the board for Red Ball Corporation in Des Moines, Iowa, and later the National Tea Company out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  And do you know what I became for many years? entry level clerical person.  I'm sure Marie got her giggles out of that!

30 March 2010

Lookup Tuesday! (or any day really!)

As I mentioned in a previous post I am trying to get control of my genealogy papers/books etc, so I'm scanning and then selling.  But until books are sold, I would be willing to do lookups for you.
Today, I have the 1935 Des Moines Phone Directory (which also includes Valley Junction).  If you would like to see if your relatives are there, just comment below and I'll scan the page for you!
I found a long lost cousin whom I have not been able to find in any census, so this has been very helpful!
To be continued....

24 March 2010

Spring (& Life) Cleaning; Passing on those Genealogy Books...

Ahhhh, spring.  And in this house, the foot has been put down to "CLEAN UP ALL THAT PAPER!"  I imagine none of you know what my husband could be refering to...afterall, who accumulates paper when doing family history research?  :-)
But, clean I must.  I have been a scanning fool, scanning every little note on which I have ever jotted something down and then I'm attaching them directly to my private trees in  "Private"?  Yes, some of my relatives are a bit touchy about having their family info splayed out on the internet for all to see.  The only downside, is when I die,  how can I get all this documented research into the right hands?  Well, that can be a topic for later.   I have accumulated so many fact a huge collection of Iowa Palimpsests. These were monthly publications by the Iowa State Historical Society. So ever so slowly I am getting them loaded onto ebay.  If anyone is interested, you can find them at: . 

This is a fun endeavor as well. I am re-reading some of the quaint stories from many counties in Iowa, like how the little town of LeClaire, Iowa let the childhood home of Buffalo Bill Cody become weatherbeaten and worn.  They sold it to the forward thinking town of Cody, Wyoming and replaced the home with a plaque.

How do YOU keep all your research in order?

Full Steam Ahead! Preparing for the National Genealogy Society Conference at the end of April

This is my first National Genealogy Society Conference.  I have been a frequent attendee at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and a speaker at the Iowa Genealogy Society's meeting, but this feels like the "Big Time"!  I'm going back through my research making sure I have my sources annotated, finding sources for those I didn't (bad genealogist!) and adding newspaper articles like crazy! 

The past few days I have gotten lost in the Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative ( ).  What an awesome site!  They have searchable city directories for Hannibal, Missouri as well as newspaper selections from around the state.  My favorite part is the abilty to obtain birth and death certificates in pdf form for the 1800s and early 1900s.  It has helped so much!  Looking for Historical Postcards of Springfield, Missouri?  They have them!  Like this postcard of St. Agnes Catholic Church, and it includes a bit of her history as well.

One morbid search (I admit, I like morbid) is in the Coroner's Inquest Database ( ) where you can search for keywords, like "stabbed" and find that among many others, there was a "John Doe" in Andrew County, Missouri, who in 1938 was died from being "Stabbed in the back and By Being Shot".  OUCH.
"John Doe" huh....?  Never thought about looking for my "missing" ancestors by searching the "John Doe" records.

18 March 2010

Honoring the War Dead from The Great War? Or why I feel like I have "Genealogy ADD"!

Today started out so simple.  I woke up, realized that March 18th meant something from my childhood, and following that little 6th sense we sometimes have and found it to be the birth date of my dear Aunt Mamie (Milburn) Abbott (1903 - 1995).  She was born in Mystic, Appanoose County, Iowa, the oldest of the 3 Milburn sisters.  She and her husband took me fishing when I was probably only 3 or 4 years old. They owned a store in Exline, Iowa before moving to Des Moines sometime in the 1950s. Mamie always was the one to come with homemade chicken soup when I was sick as a child..  Any visit to her house required you stay for a cup of tea and "you MUST eat something!"
Dearest Aunt Mamie with baby 'me' visiting while visiting the home of my godparents, Vic and Marie Murray, Des Moines, Iowa.  Abt 1954?

So I thought I would spend a few minutes checking to see if all was in order in the family tree regarding Aunt Mamie.  Well, no it isn't but that is another long I started looking for newspaper articles about Mamie, which led to articles about her husband, Orville Abbott (1900 - 1965), then her mother-in-law, Aseneth Worley Abbott (1877-1966) then I find an article about Guy O. Worley, Aseneth's nephew, a private, "Dead in the Battle for Democracy" in 1918.  I find the info about Guy, add it to the tree, can't find his draft registration for World War I but do find his burial supposedly at  Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial.  Then, there is another article saying he is buried at Baccarat, France - which looks to be 200 miles away?  I am confused.
From The Burlington Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Tuesday January 20th, 1920, Page 3.

And what of all the pictures taken by the Red Cross that were mentioned in the above article?  Where did they end up?  And how did I get so far out of this family tree branch, when I just wanted to say "Happy Birthday to Aunt Mamie?"  :-)  So many questions...not enough time or resources.  I cannot leave this post about Mamie without relaying my favorite story so far, from the Centerville Iowegian, 28 Apr 1922:
"Friends of Miss Mamie Milburn were surprised to hear of her marriage to Orville Abbott, of near Exline, which took place last Sunday.  The groom is a stranger to Mystic people, but the bride is well known having grown to womenhood here, being a graduate of the Mystic High School.  Mrs. Abbott's many friends extend their congratulations."
Surprised to hear of her marriage, huh? Hmmmmm

17 March 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day! My Irish Heritage

Sometime during the 1850's my great grandparents, John Hanlon (1831 – 1895) and Catharine Brady (1832 – 1894) made their way to America from Ireland.  How or where they met, and even the port at which they arrived are still a mystery.  One son, Francis William Hanlon (1870 – 1942),  mentions in the 1925 Iowa Census that they marry in New York.
Two other sons mention their parents were married in Wisconsin:
John Hanlon (1863 – 1928)
and Andrew Hanlon (1859 – 1926):

Thank goodness for the 1925 Iowa Census....3 pages of information for every one!  

John and Catharine first show up in Marcy Township, Brookfield, Waukesha County, Wisconsin in the 1860 census with my grandfather, James Clemons and his new baby brother Andrew.  Their journey took them on to unknown places in Illinois, then to Stone City, Jones County,  Iowa before they arrived in Dallas County, Iowa in the 1880s.

My father, James Francis Hanlon (1898-1987), son of James Clemons Hanlon (1857 – 1923) and Mary Cecilia O'Connell (1860 – 1953), was very proud of his Irish heritage.  But he also carried some bitterness for the discrimination he endured in Iowa in the early 1900s.  When he enlisted in the Great War in 1917 he was the corporal in charge of a platoon of black soldiers who went through after a battle to find live shells across the battlefield, a very dangerous occupation.

He told me so often how he remembers seeing Ireland from the ship as they were going to France for the war.  His heart ached for the land his parents had spoken of.

This picture is of Joseph Paul O'Connell (left) (1893-1965), "double cousin" to my father; my aunt Katie, (Mary Catherine Hanlon Burtch, who got YOUNGER every census year! 1891-1975) and on the far right, my father James Francis Hanlon.

After The Great War, Jim Hanlon eventually returned to Des Moines. He would often tell me how he had wanted to be a policeman, but the Des Moines Police, who my father said were all Masons,  would not hire Irishman.

He chose the field of auto and truck mechanics as his profession instead, and along with his cousin Joe O'Connell became very active in the International Association of Machinists in Des Moines.  Joe eventually became the business agent for the area. 

I was born so late in my father's life (he was 55) that my memories are fading.  My aunt Katie lived with us off and on and would desperately try to teach me to dance "the jig".  I could never do it to her liking, however.  As a young child I was curious about our Irish heritage.  I attended a neighborhood Catholic grade school: St. John's Catholic School on 19th and University in Des Moines, Iowa.  Every St. Patrick's day there was a rivalry that emerged with those who wore green and those who wore orange.  While other children might have heard horror stories at camp or at Halloween, my aunt Katie was constantly weaving the tales of our tortured their fingernails were pulled out for political transgressions.  It seemed she took wicked joy in detailing the horrors of this torture.  My father would only nod in saddened agreement.  Unfortunately I never asked which of the ancestors this happened to!

Well, enough are some of my favorite  Irish websites:  :News for the Global Irish Community  :  The Irish in Iowa  :  1.3 million Irish Church Records (see!  they weren't ALL burned to the ground!)  A variety of links to pursue.

On a final note, my son Nicholas Ryan Webb (1979-2006) dearly loved every drop of Irish blood in his body.  He attended the Anglo American College of Dublin for a couple of years before following his wanderlust elsewhere.  To you my dearest son, I raise a toast.  You will forever be loved and remembered.

Nick at DunLaoighre, Ireland  from his friend Aine

16 March 2010

Terminology in old newspapers

Still hanging out in the papers of Hutchinson, Kansas ( Hutchinson News | Hutchinson, Kansas | Tuesday, November 28, 1911 | Page 9 ), I find this story:
My question is, what does it mean when they say "Covers were laid for..." ?

15 March 2010

I love old news stories!

While perusing some Hutchinson, Kansas newspapers in the early 1900s I found this intriguing bit of info:
I wonder if he was related to Hugh Heffner?  :-)  And did all those girls know about each other?  I guess the ones in Hutchinson did after this was in the paper!  Would loved to have seen the suit he bought!

14 March 2010

Sunday strollings through cemeteries

Soon it will be spring and my Sunday graveyard strolling and picture taking can be revived.  In the meantime, I read a distressing article in the LA Times:

"More bodies go unclaimed as families can't afford funeral costs"

Unclaimed bodies mean no grave site, no everlasting memorial, maybe no obituary?  So much of our current history will be lost.
I know the pain of not having money when a loved one dies. On the 28th of August 2006 I found my 26 year old son dead from "undetermined causes". He had just moved back to Iowa and I was just beginning to recover from being laid off for the 4th time from a tech job. My savings had gone to his education. The cost of his cremation and a simple service at the Catholic church came in at $5,000. There was no way I could afford a burial. But I was the family historian. I could not let him be forgotten for so many reasons. After 2 years of agonizing, I stumbled across a small store at the Valley West Mall in West Des Moines, Iowa called Lazer Expressions . Then it dawned on grandparents had a beautiful large stone in an old cemetery in Des Moines. No one had visited it except my sister and I for years. No new burials were being done at the cemetery so I asked my sister if she would mind if I added a plaque to our grandparents' stone. She asked only that it would make mention of others buried there as well.  I designed an oval stone memorial.  Around the edges I put the names and birth/death dates of my grandparents and all their children.  On the front, it tells a mini-family tree of how my son Nicholas is connected to my grandparents.  I planted rose bushes and native grasses along with a solar light...Nick had teased about wanting an eternal flame when he died.
What creative ways have you found to memorialize your loved ones?

13 March 2010

A Newspaper Gem

Wanting my family history to be more than just a collection of names, I love finding the stories that make them real.  My online subscription to the Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri enables me to accomplish this very inexpensively.  So last night while trying to find a little more information about Great Uncle Frank Hanlon's family out of Terril, Iowa, I found this beautiful story about his daughter Louise and her son Paul (referred to in the story as "Phil") published 24 December 1942 by the Terril Record, Terril, Iowa.  My Great Uncle Frank had just passed away two weeks prior and his son Francis, was all alone for Christmas.
"We received a very lovely letter from Louis Hanlon Corso of Chicago last week and in it she said their son, Phil, who will be 11 today wanted to come out and spend his birthday and Christmas with his uncle Francis because he thought Francis would be so lonely.  His mother told him she was afraid he couldn't come because the trains would be so crowded at the holiday time.  Some what later she heard him dialing the phone and later when she asked him whom he called he said the Union Depot, and asked the lady at "information" about coming, and that she had told him they thought they could squeeze him in, and the folks here expected him Wednesday.  This makes a wonderful Christmas visit for the ones who are home."