About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Singing out 2011 . . . Singing in 2012

I have been a sporadic blogger for the last part of 2011. I broke my foot just before Thanksgiving and for some reason, that seemed to negatively affect my ability to focus. But I have received permission from the doctor to put weight on the foot (actually, the ankle still hurts worse - I sprained it badly) and now I am trying to catch up with the end of 2011 and get ready for 2012. It is a time for resolutions, I guess . . . though I don't really believe in New Year's Resolutions (if something needs changing, waiting for a calendar page to change is just a form of procrastination and is not likely to lead to true change). However, I do have some plans for 2012.

At the end of this current year, I was elected to the Board of Directors for the Association of Professional Genealogists. This comes with some responsibilities, among them being familiar with the APG bylaws, reading the APG Mailing List, and making as many meetings as possible. I have been working on all of these, even though I am a few days away from taking my official position. OK, so that should really read "a few hours."

I am also registered for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, taking the Problem Solving class, the end of January. I am excited about this because the problem I am going to work on is one I have been dealing with for as long as I have been doing genealogy. In September I made a promise to my great-grandmother at her grave (does that sound weird?) that I would find her ancestors, if they are findable, sometime during 2012. Is that a resolution? If so, well I made one, but I started on the project (by collecting all the data I already have) back in October.

After SLIG I will be attending APG meetings, but will miss the other Salt Lake events (the APG Professional Management Conference and RootsTech). I need to be back on the homefront before Groundhog day. Nevertheless, from now until I depart for Utah, I will be rather busy getting prepared for the trip.

As the recently appointed Director of the Corona Family History Center, I will be busy trying to organize some regular instruction in that venue as well as training new staff members. And I continue in my role as the President of the Corona Genealogical Society (those two entities will join together on August 4 to present the 3rd annual Corona Family History seminar . . . we have a great line-up of speakers). And I continue in my role as Southern Calif. Chapter of the APG where I will be involved in pulling off this year's mini-Professional Management Conference on March 31 (we have some very helpful presentations scheduled, dealing with web presence for genealogists, the latest on the technical front, writing for genealogy publication, and tips on public speaking). 

I have decided to organize my genealogy and music bookings so that I can more efficiently book future gigs. A spread sheet that details each of the past (and repeating) groups (meeting location, round trip mileage from my home, day and time of meetings/classes, and web page URL) and when I presented which topics. This will help me keep from repeating a program at a single location and assist in advising presentation options. It is looking good and I think it will be one of the most helpful tools I have created.

I will be working closely with the SCGS Jamboree in 2012, working to spearhead the Ask the Experts table to be operated throughout the 3-day conference. I already have some willing helpers and hope that anyone reading this who plans to attend in June and is able to assist as one of the experts will get in touch with me.

Likewise, in the month prior to that, as Secretary for the Genealogical Speakers Guild, I will again be coordinating the introductions for the NGS conference speakers. I hope to have more control over the project than I did last year! I will be setting up the sign-up on line so I don't find myself trying to keep from double-booking things! I'll also be doing a couple of presentations there (in Cincinnati in 2012) and helping with the Youth Genealogy Camp.


I continue my articles for various publications and have one in the works for the Summer issue of APG Quarterly. I am also creating a course for the Institute for Genealogical Studies. The next two issues of Family Chronicle should each contain articles with my byline and my latest articles for NGS Magazine and Crossroads have been well-received (both came out this past autumn). I continue to produce bi-monthly columns for GenWeekly, though I was unable to get a Lost Lexicons piece done for December (it was a broken foot thing).


So my 2012 promises to start (and continue) with a focus on Family History. I will attempt to record some of my experiences on this blog as well. And I hope to return to my investigations of the NARA, Pacific Region, Riverside, microfilms. I have an interesting story to share on my Bohemian ancestors, whose letters were translated early in 2011 by the German girls who stayed with us for a few months. I plan to reprint them here, including an explanation of how they relate to the research process. Of course, I will add a musical post or two as time and material permit. I have a good one about a violin that I want to share, but am trying to get a photo to go with the tale.

I am singing out 2011 in a number of ways. I had a great time in the Gold Rush Country (RVing with a good friend), spending Christmas day with folks at a campground - a potluck where three other folks and I made a lot of music with a banjo, two guitars, and a piano. Of course there will be some music on New Years Eve. In the past, it was WFMT's Midnight Special program out of Chicago, but that does not seem to be accessible to me this year, so I will select something as comparable as possible. And 2012 will be welcomed with music, too - assuming I don't fall asleep before midnight! Well, if I do, I'll catch up somewhere along the line. Meanwhile, I have a number of music programs scheduled for 2012, so it promises to be a great year.

I wish my blog followers, friends, neighbors, family members, and associates in the fields of music, folklore, genealogy, Church, etc. a peaceful and healthy New Year with, especially, a safe evening of celebration.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A little violin music, if you please

Most recently, my life has been rather hectic. I know, nothing new; and I hardly have a monopoly on that situation! I have taken on some new obligations in the past month and now realize that, however organized I have been in the past, my skills for staying on task and prioritizing are going to be even more important in 2012.

On 16 Oct 2011 I was appointed the new Director of the Corona (CA) Family History Center, meaning that many bucks will be stopping with me when it comes to scheduling (both the hours of operation and staff meetings, as well as training sessions and workshops). I already knew about many of the obligations that come with this job, but have not been fully aware of the budgeting details, supply- and equipment-ordering, etc. But I am fortunate: my predecessor has been called to other duties, not to another location, so he is still around and involved in the Center, as is his wife, who has been instrumental in scheduling holidays, doing the announcement posters, keeping the books balanced, etc. I am so grateful for her willingness to continue in those jobs! And others have their tasks that they have been doing diligently so that means that the delegation is already in place. I love delegation! Especially since I live 15 or more miles from the Center. One of the great changes that makes this job even more doable is the new ordering system for FHL films - we do it all on-line now (in fact, you cannot even order a film at the Center, except via computer). In case you are unaware (and it is not completely obvious from the FamilySearch catalog web page), to order films to be sent and viewed at your local FHC or affiliate, go to www.familysearch.org/films. In California we no longer call in film orders (one less thing for the Director to be concerned about), but films will still be shipped to me. Nevertheless, I can do this job.

I was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Assoc. of Professional Genealogists. Thankfully, I am already doing things that are expected of Board members so there won't be too many adjustments there. I am looking forward to working with some of the movers and shakers in the genealogy community. And I am extra fortunate in that the incoming President, Kenyatta Berry, is also a Southern Calif. resident. I expect we'll be seeing a lot of each other. She's a great lady and I am pleased to be working with her. I can do this job.

Earlier this year I volunteered to be in charge of SCGS Jamboree's Ask the Expert table in 2012. I was disappointed that there was talk of disbanding that element of Jamboree and wanted to have it get one more chance. It is not till June 2012, but I am already painfully aware of how fast the months are slipping past, so I will be working on this project over the next few months. I will need to develop a committee of organizers and volunteers to answer rudimentary questions from the Jamboree attendees. If you want to participate, please let me know! I am excited about this project; I can do this job.

Also earlier this year I was contacted by the Institute for Genealogical Studies to develop a course for their curriculum. This will deal with family folklore and be considered a more advanced course than the beginning fare they offer. I have my rough outline drawn up and hope to have it put together by the end of the year. It promises to be an enjoyable project as it deals with something about which I am passionate. I can do this job.

The Southern Calif. Chapter of the Assoc. of Professional Genealogists, of which I am still President, will be having its mini-PMC (Professional Management Conference) for APG members on 31 March 2012. It's a great chance for the members to get a little more education that targets their professional needs. We've had great reviews on the programs in the past and I have similar hopes for the one coming up. The SCCAPG board is amazing and everyone pitches in (delegation strikes again). I can do this job.

The Corona Family History Seminar (co-sponsored by the Corona Genealogical Society, of which I am still President, and the Corona Family History Center, of which, as I mentioned above, I am now the director) is scheduled for Saturday morning, 4 August 2012. I work with great people in both organizations and know that they will be helpful as we put this together (did I mention I love delegation?) so I have great hopes for the program. I already have an idea for the speaker schedule, so now I just need to stay focused to keep the priorities from slipping through my fingers and brain. But I can do this job.

As individual tasks and positions, all of the above are quite doable, but when I look at the entire list, I feel rather overwhelmed. Yet my genealogy "families" are all capable and dedicated folks and are so supportive. Yes, I may, from time to time, believe that I need to hear a few strains of a violin, playing a little "woe is me" music, but for the most part, I think the music playing in my head will be more along the lines of a full brass band - a marching one, in fact! Full speed ahead.

So if my blogs are infrequent; if my email replies are a little slow in arriving; if my answer to other requests occasionally is "no" (note: that will rarely be the case for speaking engagements, my first love, unless I am already previously booked); if I disappear for a weekend (never when I'm booked, of course) to have a little down time, now you will know why. But while 2012 appears to be a promise of constant projects, I love the work and I love the people. I also enjoy the traveling and the fact that I am never bored. I can do all these jobs . . . with a little help from my friends!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the blog . . . AKA Applications for Headstones for US Military Veterans, Part 2 (of 2)

As my blog followers know, I have been rather lax at keeping my posts even close to up to date. I could give those logical excuses: Lots of writing obligations with stringent deadlines, I had to renew my Certification (BCG - and it was renewed), I have taken on the responsibilities of Director of the Corona Family History Center, I have been elected as an incoming member of the Board of Directors for APG (Assoc. of Professional Genealogists), etc., but that won't explain this latest delay.

I was working on the microfilm reviews regarding military tombstones (see earlier blog post) and I received a very interesting email from my friend and colleague, Marie Varrelman Melchiori, CG, CGL of Melchiori Research Services, L.L.C. Marie sent me the links to three websites (a couple of these links are brand new - or they were when she emailed me last month!) and it took me until today to visit them (see paragraph above for reasons for that delay, please forgive me, Marie).

In examining the materials at these websites, it seems especially necessary for me to pass along the information to anyone in my reading audience; a quick check of these may eliminate a lot of unnecessary busy work, only to get you to an on-line source for NARA microfilm information you are seeking.

Microfilm Publications and Original Records Digitized by Our Digitization Partners.
This links you directly to the NARA website where it lists the micropublications that appear elsewhere on the Internet in digital form. For example, were I to wish information on some of the military headstone card records (series M1845), I can look on this page to discover that the publication is on-line at Ancestry.com. Clicking the link for the series takes me directly to Ancestry and, if I am doing this at the National Archives, it will bring up the site for NARA's institutional subscription to Ancestry (very convenient for those who do not subscribe to this database). Material from the Information Publication, along with options to search or browse the collection are provided.

Why examine the collection? Headstone cards in this series (covering 1879-1903) include the military unit, cemetery name and location, and date of death associated with the veteran. If you suspect an ancestor served in the military and may be buried with a military headstone to mark the grave (placed at time of burial or later), it may give additional information to lead you to his/her military records.

A similar experience occurs when you use that NARA database to locate a film series that is posted on Fold3 - you are directed to the Fold3 site (if at a National Archives, it will direct you to the institution's subscription site), but the search may be more general (instead of listing just the collection you have selected, it may give you a broader search of all related records).

You may also find it helpful to search just the specific website (Ancestry.com or Fold3) instead of doing it through the NARA site. For Ancestry's "Records from the National Archives" searchable collection, go directly to http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/nara.aspx. For Fold3's "NARA Titles Available on Fold3" index (with links to the respective images), go to http://www.fold3.com/page/285692818_nara_titles_available_on_fold3/. In both cases, a full Table of Contents is provided with the listings given in Film Series numerical order. If you prefer to search by series title, you need to use the listing from the NARA website.

On the NARA website (see link above), you have the option of re-sorting the contents by Film Series titles (alphabetically - Click "NARA Film Titles" once for descending - A through Z - and a second time for ascending - Z through A), film numbers (starting with Film Series "A", then "M," then "T"; or backwards - click heading a second time - for T, M, A order), "Partners" (Ancestry and Fold3 - though one still lists the latter as "Footnote"; that will probably be updated soon), and Record Group (e.g., the Record Group I have been discussing is 92, dealing with military deaths, not necessarily during service, however). In this last option, you can also create an ascending or descending list, as preferred, just by clicking the heading.

Suggestion: check on the NARA list first before taking time searching Series-by-Series on the other two sites. It's just a little more efficient.

So there are some ways to locate the elusive veteran ancestor (among other NARA records). If yours was honorably discharged but did not get a government-issued tombstone or memorial marker, consider making that a good New Year's resolution. As we approach Veterans Day 2011 (11-11-11), it's a good time to look into the particulars. Military.com provides links to the forms and other pertinent information to accomplish this.

Finally, let us take some time to make this Veteran's Day a meaningful one. We spend so much time to decorate and create an atmostphere to make Hallowe'en and other secular holidays fun and memorable, but so little to connect to veterans (both gone and still living) and our service personnel on duty today . . . let 11-11-11 be the year to change that!

Thank you, Marie, for your help in getting me up to snuff on the particulars of these links. It is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where, oh where has that little blog gone . . . yet again!

Excuses, excuses . . . well, I do have a few, but you probably don't want to hear my tales of woe regarding a house needing cleaning, deadlines for other projects (seminar submissions, articles, etc.) looming, and more bookings than I can stay on top of. It's not that bad . . . as some of my Facebook friends will tell you, I've also spent more time than probably necessary playing Words with Friends. (I believe in that old adage: "all work and no play . . . blah, blah." So, in an effort to avoid dullness, I have been allowing myself some "down" time.)

I will be heading to SLIG in January so have also been working on my project for that (said project being due the end of this month). This will help me, hopefully, tear down a brick wall that was constructed with iron rebar. It has been interesting visiting this part of my family that I have often given up on, only to return to a few years later with new leads, most going nowhere. (Decided, also, that it was time to work on my own family history a bit . . . who knows, I may get an article or presentation out of it!)

In early November I'll be going to Mesa, Arizona to spend the weekend with my daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters-in-law, close friends, extended family, and a great-granddaughter, too. I don't have the latest count of attendees, but it should be an amazing weekend with very little sleep, I am sure.

Meanwhile, there have been other exciting things taking my time. All my efforts on my Certification renewal, which I did back in May, have paid off and I have been renewed for another five years. Yay! Articles I have submitted have been accepted for publication (in NGS Magazine, Family Chronicle, and SPEAK!). These have all cut into blogging time. And now, to add to blogging diversions: I have just been called as the new director for the Corona Family History Center. I hope to include more blogs for that facility - most dealing with FamilySearch - so this should actually provide me with more blogging, not less. But, until I get acclimated to the new responsibilities, my blog may feel the pinch. But, be patient. I shall return, and will include more of those NARA films.

I do want to add here that I am also going to be doing some "guest blogging" at the recently assembled SCCAPG (Southern Calif. Chapter of the Assoc. of Professional Genealogist) blog; most posts there will deal with SCCAPG particulars. Everyone is welcome!

So, please be patient with me . . . more will be coming.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NARA Blog: Applications for Headstones for US Military Veterans, Part 1

When I tell folks that I am posting information about the National Archives and Records Administration website and the microfilms available for viewing at different locations (specifically, the Pacific Region Facility in Riverside County, California), I am asked, "How do you find anything on that website?" I agree, it can be a challenge; but it is said that the things most worthwhile are difficult to attain. At least, that can be the case here, until one gets used to the system.

I have already discussed how to find out what films are located at which facilities (see the first blog in this series), but here I am going to explain how to get more information on the holdings at the Archives as well as articles on much, much more.

From the home page, click on "genealogists" (lower left hand corner under "Information for . . ."). This gives you an information page that is worth getting to know. While many are distracted by the four categories in the middle of the page, look slightly down to the center heading below those four: "Genealogy-Related Articles." Click that link. The list appears limited, but each heading provides a wealth of articles. For purposes of our discussion, click "Headstones."

The first and only article, published in Prologue Magazine, is titled "Honoring Our War Dead: The Evolution of the Government Policy on Headstones for Fallen Soldiers and Sailors." It is six pages of historic information on the metamorphosis from wooden placard markers to marble, granite, or bronze stones/plaques provided by the Veterans Administration to the deceased veterans of various wars. (Note: at the bottom of the article is a link to another Prologue piece dealing with Confederate Headstones.)

The military headstone documents constitute NARA Record Group 92 and, at least in the Riverside location, are found in four film series. To see these, go to the "Resources for Genealogists" page and focus on the fourth of the four topics in the middle of the screen: "Tools for Genealogists." Click on "on-line research tools" and go to "Microfilm Catalog." That takes us to the "ordering" screen, but let's see what we can find.

In the top left of the screen is the "information" box to begin your search, but next to that is the "advanced search" option. Click that. Under "Record Group Number" enter "92" and, if desired, the location for the film (there is a drop down menu titled "Viewing Location"). For the Pacific Region, Riverside (listed in the advanced search as simply "Pacific Region"), there are only four options (entering no location or different locations will yield different results):

Film Series M1845 (1879-1903) - these are on Ancestry.com  . . . I'll explain how to see those in a moment
Film Series M1916 (1925-1941)
Film Series M2113A (1941-1949)
Film Series M2113B (1941-1949 . . . continuation of A)

Let's look at M1845 first.

On the Ancestry homepage, scroll down, under the Search box, to the heading "More Collections." Click on "all databases" and, in the search box, enter "headstones" under "keyword." The first option provided (as of the date of this posting) is "Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903" (AKA NARA Film Series M1845). An alphabetical index (by last name) is provided when you click on that record collection link. Granted, the index is only alphabetized by first initial of the last name, so once in that section (say, the "Ys"), you need to browse; but at least all (well, almost all) of the cards are alphabetically listed (I've found only about five that have been miss-alphabetized . . . but I haven't done a whole lot of searching, so you may need to be creative if you are unable to find someone you know should be there). 

As things often are in genealogy, sometimes people don't read the directions or specifications for a collection so it was pleasingly surprising to find my fourth great-granduncle, Jacob Youker (AKA Yuker) in the list. He died on 10 March 1847 in Oppenheim, Fulton, New York but is listed as dying in February 1948 (it is possible that that is when his body was removed to the cemetery location: Mosher Cemetery, AKA Youker-Mosher Cemetery, Lotville, Oppenheim, Fulton, New York). Why would someone who died in 1847-48 (a Revolutionary War veteran who served in the New York Militia) be listed in a compilation of records covering ca. 1879 - ca. 1903? A check of the card explains that the stone was provided by Vermont Marble Company in a contract dated 25 August 1902 (within the time period specified on the records; his stone was obviously obtained long after his death).

Point: Even if your ancestor died before the record group was created, that does not eliminate him/her from the collection. Obviously, if he/she died after 1903, there is little likelihood that his/her name will appear on this listing (I hesitate to say "no chance" because the record collection does indicate "about" 1903), but there are many to follow, so don't give up!

While I am most interested in this earliest series (see my articles on headstone acquisition in Family Chronicle, Jan/Feb 2011, pp. 17-19; and Family Tree Magazine, May 2011, pp. 30-32), I am also interested in more recent wars. Therefore, I will look at some specific entries for World War II burials and headstones in the coming weeks. If you have an ancestor (who is a WWII veteran), let me know and I'll see if a headstone was erected for him/her and listed in the appropriate database (not found on line).

Meanwhile, best wishes in your roots pursuits.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

U.S. Postmasters - last of a series: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

My mother was born and raised in Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin and we often went back to her "home stomping grounds" from our home in the northern suburbs of Chicago, just south of the Illinois-Wisconsin border. In some ways, Milwaukee was like a second home to me, at least in my younger years. I thought it would be fun to see if any of my Mom's family had been entwined with the Milwaukee Post Office. So here is my final entry for my blog posts on the microfilms of the U. S. Postmasters, held in various National Archives repositories across the country (see earlier blog).

In previous posts, I mentioned that a Postmaster may not be listed as such on the Census (U.S. or State); that if your ancestor was a merchant or clerk in a general store, he/she may have also served as a Postmaster, so checking these films for that possibility is a good idea. Note: If your ancestor is listed on a Census as a "postal clerk," that does not mean he/she was a Postmaster - but that ancestor probably did work in a Post Office (as opposed to a general store). But cases are different, depending on perspective as well as official appointment. Even temporarily appointed Postmasters are listed in the microfilms discussed in these blog posts and it is not uncommon, especially in larger cities, to see Postmaster turnover rather often, particularly in years of turmoil (e.g., during the Civil War years there were three different Postmasters at the helm of the main Milwaukee Post Office over the years).

Why frequent turnover in the larger cities? New Post Offices were established as the communities grew and sometimes a Postmaster would be transferred from one location to another (to help train staff, perhaps?). If you are looking in a large city, remember this: your ancestor may be working in a smaller Post Office or one that is associated with the city but located in a "suburb." Wauwatosa is part of Milwaukee (it was incorporated in 1897), but was considered a separate city (as far as Postmaster appointments are concerned) even before 1897. Within Wauwatosa was located the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Northwestern Branch. In 1876, its own Post Office was established (http://www.linkstothepast.com/milwaukee/soldiershome.php); George W. Barber was the appointed Postmaster. But he is not listed on the pages of the Postmasters for the Milwaukee Post Office because that was not his location; the Milwaukee Post Office for that time period encompasses pages 540-541 (Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971, Record Group no. 28, NARA series M841, film no. 143, "Milwaukee County," ca. 1864-1878, Vol. 31) while the National Home is on page 542 - just a scroll of one more page. (Hint: be assertive in searching for your Postmaster relatives and widen your search in the suspected area if he/she is not located where you originally suspected.)

The first Postmaster for Milwaukee was appointed on 16 March 1835. When you combine the history of a town with the activities of mail distribution, you can formulate a unique perspective of how the town grew (or failed to grow). The history of Milwaukee is one of personal rivalry and competition for population growth that encompassed communities on different sides of the Milwaukee River. Explorer Solomon Juneau (from Canada) and Byron Kilbourn (whose family dates back to the Revolutionary War period) along with the less frequently recognized George H. Walker (American trader and politician) were the entities that competed for most favorable village location. But the first to establish a community recognized by the U.S. government, as far as mail delivery is concerned, was Mr. Juneau, who served first as Milwaukee Postmaster (from 1835 until about July 1843, when Josiah Noonan took over). In 1837, Juneau also created The Milwaukee Sentinel (which has remained the primary newspaper for the community to the present day, though name changes have occurred throughout the years). A Notice in the Postal Bulletin of his position appeared on 13 June 1842 (copies can be found in "the Reference Library of the Post Office Department, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives Building" - per Publication Document, Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971, Record Group no. 28, NARA series M841, 1977, p. 2). During his years as Postmaster, Juneau was also a real estate agent, in a manner of speaking, selling parcels of land on his side of the River, beginning in 1835. From 1846 until 1847, Juneau served as Milwaukee's first mayor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Juneau). His was a busy life, to say the least.

Josiah Noonan was Juneau's successor at the Milwaukee Post Office and served in that capacity off and on from 22 July 1843 until mid-1856 (Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971, Record Group no. 28, NARA series M841, film number 143, "Milwaukee County," 1832-1844, Vol 12B, p. 774; ca. 1845-1855, Vol 18, pp. 220-A-221A; ca. 1855-1865, Vol. 20B, p. 204). Between about May 1849 and April 1853, Noonan is not found on the Postmaster listing, but may have been assisting in other offices. He was still living in Milwaukee in 1850 (according to the U.S. Census for that year), working as an insurance agent. He had been born in New York. Who was he and why had he vacated his job for four years?

Josiah Noonan, like his predecessor in the Post Office, was also a newspaperman. He moved to Milwaukee from Madison where he had successfully published a newspaper (he sold the property to C. C. Sholes) and began a new venture on the shore of Lake Michigan: The Milwaukee Courier (formerly the Milwaukee Advertiser), a decidedly Democratic publication. His takeover of the Postmaster position brought that same focus to his new "office" (we may not recognize how powerful a position a Postmaster could take in a community, but this was his approach to this occupation). His influence in (over) Wisconsin spilled over into more the more visible political world when he left the Post Office to manage the campaign of Henry Dodge (contender for Democratic Senator of Wisconsin). It was a successful venture and, as already noted, Noonan returned to his appointment in the Post Office in 1853, continuing his alignment with Dodge. In 1856 (source states 1857, and the actual attempt for reappointment may have occurred then, but he was already out of the P.O. in about July 1856, succeeded by Fitzgerald G. Slocum), when Noonan sought re-appointment to the Postmaster position, he turned to Dodge for help, but the Senator, in poor health, was unsuccessful in securing it for him. Noonan's unofficial Wisconsin "boss" role ended with that turn of events (http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/dictionary/index.asp?action=view&term_id=2538&keyword=sholes). John R. Sharpstein was appointed by the U.S. President to the Postmaster position on 2 April 1857 Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971, Record Group no. 28, NARA series M841, film number 143, "Milwaukee County," 1855-1865, Vol. 20B, p. 204).

In previous examinations of the value of the Postmaster records, we have connected the job of Postmaster to that of a general store clerk (merchant) and lawyer. But here we see the role of Postmaster as being potentially more politically influential in a community and that some Postmasters are also intimately connected with the publication of newspapers. In seeking further information on John R. Sharpstein, I have discovered that, again, politics and law have been comingled with the handling and distribution of the mail. Sharpstein was appointed to the Milwaukee position by President Buchanan in 1857 and, according to some historical accounts, served a term of four years (though the microfilmed records show him serving for only a little more than 14 months) before moving on to publish the Milwaukee Daily News, taking, along the way, some time to assist (unsuccessfully) Stephen A. Douglas in his Presidential Campaign in 1860, serving as a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in South Carolina (Oscar T. Shuck, Ed., History of the Bench and Bar of California: Being Biographies of Many Remarkable Men, a Store of Humorous and Pathetic Recollections, Accounts of Important Legislation and Extraordinary Cases, Comprehending the Judicial History of the State, Los Angeles: The Commercial Printing House, 1901, p. 554; Viewed on Google Books, 20 September 2011).

The links that tie politics to the Post Office to the people to the community (represented by newspapers, lawyers, and elected politicians) are fascinating to examine. The role the Postmaster can play in the development of a village (to town to city to metropolis) is powerful. To learn more of that phenomenon, check the PDF publication: "The Post Office in Illinois Politics of the 1950's" [sic] by Don H. Fehrenbacher (incomplete manuscript). If your ancestor was a Postmaster, was he/she also a politician? What role did the person play in the running and ruling of the community? It warrants examination. And I'd love to hear what people discover.

This completes my examination of how this valuable microfilm collection can relate to your own family history. Come on in to the National Archives, Pacific Region, Riverside (or other locations where the films are available - see previous blog) and check it out!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

U.S. Postmasters, Part 6 - Early Arizona, Apache County

My husband (Lynn Alden - Butch - Hibben) comes from early Arizona (and Utah) stock. His mother's family consisted of pioneer Mormons, but his father's family (non-Mormons) also settled Arizona in the early years. His father, Lynn Maxwell Hibben, was born on the Navajo reservation at Hubbell Trading Post where the elder Lynn's grandfather was employed. Known as "Dad Hibben(s)" by the locals, Harry Cobb Hibben was meticulous with the books he managed in the Winslow, Arizona location. He was highly respected by his boss, who seemed to consider him more a father than an employee (Martha Blue, Indian Trader: The Life and Times of J. L. Hubbell, Walnut, CA: Kiva Publishing, Inc., 2000, p. 253). Harry had brought with him the training from his trade as County Recorder from his days in Flagstaff and ended his life selling Indian curios in Hollywood, California (still under the employ of Hubbell) (George C. Hibben, ". . .60 Poles to a Sugar Tree and Thence to the Beginning": A Social History of the Pioneer Hibben Family 1730 to the Early 1900s, Charlestown, MA: Acme Bookbinding, 2003, pp. 318-319). 

Let's look at the boss: Lorenzo Hubbell, Jr. was the son of the entrepreneur, J. L. (Juan - AKA John - Lorenzo) Hubbell. Lorenzo, also an entrepreneur, handled much of his father's establishment in Ganado, Arizona. But the area that the trading post serviced stretched almost to Holbrook and Winslow, Arizona, and Gallup, New Mexico. In the middle of the Navajo reservation sits the Hopi reservation; Hubbell provided all with goods and services, running freight and mail to the nearby (to us, if not to them) communities (Indian Trader, pp. xi-xv).

With this history as a spring-board, let us see what the United States government recognized as the postal
 service area.

On 15 February 1883, Charles Hubbell was appointed postmaster of the Ganado "Post Office"; it likely was not what we would consider the regulation postal facility, but in the early days of Arizona territory, many buildings were nothing more than tents. Later Hubbell buildings were far more permanent in appearance and purpose (Indian Trader, pp. 43-44). It appears that the Post Office (at least as an official location) was discontinued shortly after that, only to be reestablished on 27 October 1884 with Clinton Cotton as Postmaster. A year later, the mail was rerouted to Keams Canyon. On 18 January 1895, John L. Hubbell (this would be Juan Lorenzo, Sr.) was named Postmaster at the Ganado location. The position was assumed by Charles H. Bierkemper on 10 October 1908. Who were these people and the places referenced?

Charles (AKA Charlie) Hubbell (1856-1919) was the brother of J. L. Hubbell (Indian Trader, pp.xiv-xv) and worked with him in their efforts to establish a successful business with the Native Americans (p. 43). Unfortunately, Charlie did not share his brother's opinion of alcohol. J. L. firmly opposed the use of liquor, stating that it would render a man unable to think effectively (Indian Trader, p.87). It is possible that Charlie's love of booze led to the discontinuation of the Post Office at Ganado so soon after it was established. That is just speculation. It is clear that J. L. relegated his brother to the locations as far from Ganado as possible and suspected that such action was due to his drinking (p. 118).

Clinton (AKA C. N.) Cotton was a friend of J. L. and on 23 September 1884, bought a half-interest in the Trading Post at Ganado. With the new rail line now serving that area of Arizona, a telegraph was a necessity and C. N. arrived a couple of years earlier to run it. He also developed a mail order business for the Trading Post, shipping out Navajo blankets and other items. Perhaps that is why, in October, Cotton took over as the Ganado Postmaster. In 1885, Cotton received a license to trade in Chinle, a short piece north of Ganado (Indian Trader, p. xi). That may be the reason that the Ganado location discontinued service. It's hard to tell for certain as many records are unclear, according to the author of Indian Trader (pp. 82-83).

Keams Canyon is located just inside the Hopi reservation boundary that, as mentioned earlier, was contained in the Navajo reservation (Indian Trader, p. xi). Thomas Keam, owner of the Keams Canyon Trading Post, eventually sold it to Hubbell in 1902. It was there that Lorenzo Hubbell, J. L.'s son and eventual employer of Harry Cobb Hibben, "cut his teeth" on the trading business.

J. L. Hubbell became the Postmaster of Ganado in 1895. Why would this entrepreneur, who has established trading posts all over the territory, employing a number of qualified individuals, elect to take over this responsibility? 1895 was the year in which J. L. Hubbell was focused on building up the Ganado location. Its geographic position made it a perfect "crossroads" for trade going from Gallup to the Indian reservations as well as from Holbrook to those same destinations. And many goods, as mentioned earlier, were shipped out from Ganado to the east and other areas, as well. Also, at this point, the 42-year-old J. L. may have been interested in being more established in one location. He apparently stayed in that role until 1908 (he died in 1930).

The last listed Postmaster for Ganado is Charles H. Bierkemper, who took over on 10 October 1908. Bierkemper actually was a young seminary graduate who showed up at Ganado in 1901 to establish the Ganado Presbyterian Mission on land donated by  Hubbell, arranged with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bierkemper, originally from Pennsylvania, had been recently married and Hubbell provided him with lodging while the chapel and residence were under construction. J. L. apparently took to the young pastor and their relationship continued for ten years, after which the now-seasoned minister was transferred elsewhere. That means that his role as Postmaster was maintained for only about three years. It is clear that he was well-ensconced in the life of the Southwest during his stay in Ganado (Indian Trader, pp. 164-165, 200).

Who took over the Postmaster duties after Bierkemper left in 1911? The records are not clear on this. The microfilms of Postmasters do not always totally clarify all time periods, but they give another glance at the communities that are covered and the lives of those people in charge of handling the area's mail. I have found Barbara H. Goodman, daughter of J. L. Hubbell, living in Ganado and listed as "Postmistress" on the Federal census in 1930 (1930 Federal Census, Ganado, Apache, Arizona; Roll: 55; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 9; Image: 90.0), so maybe the family just handled it as necessary (note: because she is listed as living in Ganado does not mean that she was the Postmistress of the Ganado Post Office . . . she may have commuted to Keams Canyon or another area nearby . . . never assume that the person worked in the town in which he/she lived).

Hubbell Trading Post is a National Historic Site and is open for visitors. Check their website for more information. For researchers interested in the Hubbell, Cotton, and Bierkemper families, the U.S. Postmaster films, available for viewing at a number of National Archives locations (see earlier blog), makes for an interesting expose of their lives, possibly not accessible in any other record collection.


Friday, August 12, 2011

A music break - the Theremin

Last week I was watching History Detectives (I love that show) and they featured a Theremin. I had had a little exposure to the concept of a Theremin in the past when my husband explained that it is similar in sound to the saw (which he plays so very well). The sound is truly like a saw, but it is an electronic instrument.

I am not really the person to explain this instrument or its operation - check the information on Wikipedia for that. When I read the listing of movies that have made use of the Theremin in the background music, I wonder how many times I was hearing a Theremin when I thought I was listening to a saw. The sound is unique - check that out on YouTube, as played by its inventor, Leon Thermin. There's also a great version of "Over the Rainbow" on the Theremin, played by Peter Pringle . . . my husband loves to play that song on the saw and it sounds very much like the Theremin version. Wonder what they would sound like together? Well, maybe not.

It is a very visual instrument - the player with good technique appears to do a hand-ballet over the components to create the music. Impressive. Of course, now I think we should get a Theremin to make our instrument collection even more complete (no, it will never be finished!). Anyway, if you haven't seen one or heard one, check out those links and others they will take you to so you can add to your musical education!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

U.S. Postmasters - Part 5 . . . Early Arizona, Heber/Overgaard

My husband's family were early settlers of Arizona (all over the place, it seems). So it just seemed natural to do some checking on his ancestry to see if any family members had been Postmasters (see previous posts on this subject). I also was intrigued by the fact that our daughter is a Postmaster at the Heber/Overgaard Post Office, a few hours north of Phoenix. What was the history of that location? I'm pleased to say that it is not one of the POs scheduled to be closed down. People in that area do not get mail delivery; they need to go into the PO to collect their incoming mail.

So in this part of my US Postmaster series, I will examine the history of the Heber/Overgaard PO (for my daughter, of course) and the Post Offices that covered the territory that my husband's family settled. Views of the log book for these are very difficult to read. The paper must be very thin as it is almost as easy to read (backwards) what is written on the other side of the page as it is the page one is reading frontwards. Subsequent entries are also not always clear as one line blends into the next and it is difficult to determine which line a notation refers to. However, I can still get a little picture of the families who settled those areas back when my husband's ancestors were Arizona pioneers.

The first postmaster I find for the Heber (named for Mormon pioneer Heber J. Grant) PO was in 1890, when Arizona was still a territory (Arizona became a state on 14 February, 1912 as the 48th state . . . even I remember when the U.S. had only 48 states, just before Alaska and Hawaii joined us . . . until now, I hadn't realized Arizona was so late in joining the union). The first postmaster was James E. Shelley and he was appointed on 11 September 1890 (this information is collaborated on the history of Heber/Overgaard website). James E. Shelley was one of six men who were accompanied by their wives when they were sent, by the LDS Church, to establish the area in northern Arizona. There is a notation above his name that reads "N.B. 9 Oct." This means that on 9 October there was a notice about this location and, probably, the new postmaster, placed in the Postal Bulletin, "a publication of the Post Office Department. Copies of these publications are in the Reference Library of the Post Office Department, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives Building" ("Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-September 30, 1971," M-841, RG 28, Publication Document, Washington, DC: National Archives, 1977).

One can get a feel for this area of the country just by reading the history of the Heber Post Office. On 5 January 1906, it was decided that the mail would be directed to Holbrook (that's about 45 miles away! While in the same county - Navajo - it was hardly an easy commute). That change took effect on 31 January 1906. I located Mr. Shelley, with wife Margaret, in Holbrook in 1930 (he was 78 years old) (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1930 Federal Census; Holbrook, NavajoArizona; Roll: 60; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 7; Image: 702.0). I find James, age 68, is a farmer in St. Joseph, Navajo County (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1920 Federal Census; St Joseph, NavajoArizona; Roll: T625_50; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 91; Image: 271). Joseph City (as it is now called) is only about 11 miles from Holbrook, quite a distance from Heber, but he was no longer the postmaster. (I need to emphasize here that a person's residence may not be in the same town where he/she works, so commuting is possible, just not always practical.)

The Holbrook delivery order was rescinded on 18 May 1907, after Mamie Baca had stepped in to handle things at the Heber location on 26 December 1906. She was officially assigned to the role of postmaster on 25 January 1908. Exactly what the legal situations were is not clear from the information in the Postmaster records and websites on the area are not helpful on this. Mamie was young (about 21) when she took on the responsibilities and she didn't last long in the position. Perhaps she got married. She was living with her father Juan in 1910 and lists no occupation for herself (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1910 Federal CensusNavajoArizona; Roll: T624_41; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0088; Image: 470; FHL Number: 1374054). It is likely that anyone researching the Baca family would not even be aware that Mamie had been a postmaster for about four years of her life.

Alva Porter took over on 6 December 1909. Alva lived in Heber and was a farmer, by occupation (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1900 Federal Census, Heber, NavajoArizona Territory; Roll: T623_46; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 43), but in 1900, when that information was retrieved, he had not yet taken over the Post Office responsibilities. In 1910, he is listed as a 48-year-old farmer in Pinedale (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1910 Federal Census, Pinedale, NavajoArizona; Roll: T624_41; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0140; Image: 707; FHL Number: 1374054), 23 miles from Heber. It would seem that he was doing his postmaster duties as a part-timer as that commute, in 1910, would be terrible as a daily routine (the roads up there were not paved the way they are today).

Thomas H. Shelley toook over on 18 June 1919 with his commission signed and mailed on 28 July 1919 (he assumed charge on 13 August 1919). Thomas is living in Heber Precinct in 1920 and lists himself as a farmer-merchant (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1920 Federal Census, Heber, Navajo, Arizona; Roll: T625_50; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 86; Image: 201). (Not sure how he was able to do that . . .the man must never have slept!) In 1930, Thomas H. Shelley, age 44, is listed as merchant (at a general merchandise store) living in Standard Justice Precinct 3, District 19, Navajo County, Arizona ("Heber, Arizona" is written in the margin) (Viewed on Ancestry.com: 1930 Federal Census; Standard Justice Precinct 3, NavajoArizona; Roll: 60; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 19; Image: 985.0). As mentioned in an earlier post, the Post Office was often housed within the local general store so someone who was a merchant was likely to also be the postmaster, even though he/she might not list that as "occupation" on the census (after all, more time is spent selling groceries than stamping the post). On 30 June 1953, Thomas retired from his postmaster duties.

As of this writing the Federal Census for 1940 is not yet available and the 1950 one is only a dream away. But some additional family information on the Shelleys is available through this Postmaster resource: Leland H. Shelley (apparently born after 1930) became the acting postmaster of Heber on 27 July 1953. He had assumed charge on 30 June 1953, was confirmed on 22 January 1954, and his commission was signed and mailed on 29 March 1954. In this new official capacity, he assumed charge on 31 March 1954 (I have no idea how they straightened out the pay issues through all that).

Meanwhile, just down the road a piece . . . the Overgaard Post Office was established on 14 October 1938. William T. Shockley was appointed the first postmaster, confirmed on the date of establishment, commission signed 27 October 1938 and resigned (W.O.P. - without pay?) on 12 May 1939. The notation reads "4th Class" - I don't know what that means, either. Whatever the case, he didn't last long (perhaps local newspapers may carry more information on the situation). The position was taken over by Christ Overgaard, for whom the town was named, assumed charge on 26 May 1939 and was appointed acting postmaster on 10 June 1939, receiving his confirmation on 29 September 1939. His commission was signed on 1 November 1939.

But the Overgaard Post Office was discontinued on 31 December 1943 and mail was directed to Heber. The location was reopened on 16 April 1952. Possibly the close-down was attributed to the War, but it was a long time before the PO reopened. Somewhere (probably after 1971) the two were merged. Until then, Overgaard was handled by the following:

Mrs. Carmen Moody: acting postmaster, 14 March 1952; assumed charge, 16 April 1952.
Arthur E. Weech (?): confirmed, 25 May 1953; commission signed, 9 June 1953; assumed charge, 30 June 1953; retired, 30 April 1968.
Mrs. Chinesa V. Hagerman: assumed charge 6 March 1971.

The Postmaster films go back to September 1971, so the more recent information would have to be accessed from the PO itself or maybe local townsfolk or newspapers. I know when my daughter was appointed the new postmaster of Overgaard, a huge article appeared in their local paper with a great photo of her and some information about her family. That was a number of years ago now and whether or not the same building houses the local mail as back in the early days is not something I'm privy to (I imagine my daughter will respond, however, to fill in the gaps).

So this one is for you, Patty. Next entries will deal with Graham and Apache Counties.



When the Past Returns, or, Be Careful What You Write Today . . . It May Visit You Tomorrow

Once upon a time, in 1969, I began writing songs. Sometimes I wrote entire lyrics and music; sometimes I adapted my lyrics to other (usually old) tunes; sometimes I made new verses for already established songs.
I still do it. My latest effort is a song set to the old folk tune "Greensleeves," dealing with the Federal Census. Some day (yes, I promise), I will have it as an MP3, downloadable from my website. But this is a story about lyrics written back in 1969.

The magazine Sing Out! (to which I subscribed from about 1963 until about 6 years ago when the politics seemed to overshadow the songs) had a column written by Pete Seeger entitled "Johnny Appleseed, Jr." He would discuss different issues in the Folk Music field, often putting a scholarly slant on it (his father had a doctorate in Folklore and I always thought that was one of the coolest things possible). I responded once to something he had written and he was kind enough to write back. Before too long, we were maintaining a correspondence, however sporadic.

I remember his discussion in the column once about a story of a little boy who was trying to transport things from his aunty's home to his mother, but never could seem to get it right (he brought home butter in his hands and it was all melted by the time he got home . . . his mother told him that to bring home butter he needed to wrap it in cool leaves and carry it carefully home. His aunty gave him a puppy and he nearly smothered the critter by bringing it home all wrapped in cool leaves. His mother said that he should tie a string to a puppy and bring it home by walking it behind him. His aunty gave him a loaf of bread to which he tied a string, dragging it home . . . well, you get the idea). I had a copy of a book that told that story, but my book was written back in the pre-1950's era when people were less sensitive about ethnicity and it was a very racist portrayal of a particular race. I sent copies of the pages from the book to Pete and he wrote me a nice thank you and even mentioned the receipt of it (sans my name) in his next column, along with reports on his receipt of other versions of the story. How the story was adapted to different cultures was of interest to Pete (and to me) and his discussion of what we call "The Folk Process" often cropped up in his columns.

The Folk Process deals with how songs and stories are adapted and changed over time (much like playing the game of "telephone" at a child's birthday party). Pete wrote a column on the great song by Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land" and how it has become almost more well-known than the National Anthem (at least among school children). What was not included in the initial version of the song are three other (slightly more radical) verses Woody wrote that were almost lost to obscurity. But the folksters out there won't let that happen and the lyrics of those "lost verses" have been added to a number of songbooks and are sung at folk gatherings all over. And others have written additional verses, sometimes adapting them to personal or regional circumstances. Pete included a few in that column and I guess I was inspired. I wrote a couple of verses myself and sent them to Pete via US mail (this was long, long before the Internet). He wrote me a nice little note and said, "thank you for two new verses." And that, as they say, was that.

Fast forward over 40 years to friends of mine, traveling in Virginia, visiting with a gentleman who had received a book from Pete Seeger, autographed to him. My friends were looking through the book and found (on page 144) two "new" verses to "This Land is Your Land," written by "Jean Wilcox from Illinois." They emailed me to ask if I'd ever written verses to that song. At first I started to deny it (it's been 42 years, remember), and then I decided to Google it. Sure enough, in 1999, on the Mudcat Cafe discussion boards, Art Thieme (a Chicagoan that I had known back in the old days of Old Town music and coffee house performances) mentioned one of my verses as having been printed in a magazine or newspaper column by or about Pete Seeger. Well, when I read the lyrics (slightly mis-printed, but not enough to change the meaning), I was taken back in time, remembered the original column, the note Pete had sent to me, etc. Apparently, both verses made it into the book Pete wrote in 1993 (it's on the 3rd Ed. now):



Good thing: it's not already in my library (wouldn't that be embarrassing? to have the book and not even know I'm quoted in it). Bad thing: I have record of only one of the verses I wrote; no knowledge of the lyrics of the second verse (but I've ordered the book and will soon correct that issue). Still not sure how I missed having that book in my collection, but that will be remedied and I look forward to my own little ego trip as well as reading the rest of the material, which sounds to be quite interesting.


Moral: What you write today may pop up somewhere you least expect it tomorrow. And, with the Internet that is even more possible. So, to those asking for those census song lyrics: I have to do some "protection" things before I post them anywhere. I'll get it done soon, I promise.







Where, oh where, has that little blog gone? Again!

No, I have not forgotten that I am a blogger. No, I have not been ill nor have I fallen off the earth. I have been helping to organize two seminars (one in July, one in August) and have been overwhelmed with the necessary obligations. I have also had to make some other writing deadlines for commitments to paying publications (in the vernacular of the folk musicians: "Never give up a paying gig!"). But I have a little time between now and when I head to Illinois for the FGS conference in Springfield (see my post on their blog). I am excited to again represent the Genealogical Speakers Guild at that venue. So, you can see, my life is not static; nor am I bored (what would that be like, I wonder?).

In answer to the oft-asked question: no, I have not yet recorded my census song. Perhaps when I return from Springfield I will have a chance to do that. It is not from lack of want, but lack of time.

I have been collecting some interesting stories to put into posts that will hopefully be put up here in the near future (waiting for a photo from one). And I have some NARA film stories to post as well. So do stay tuned and know that more is forthcoming . . . possibly later today! Gotta get the ducks in a row and quacking in 4-part harmony.

Stay in tune (or stay tuned . . .)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

U.S. Postmasters - continued - Keeping it in the Family

Sometimes families maintain a "family business" throughout several generations. This is common for trades such as farming, carpentry, shoemaking, and others (especially craftsmanship types of occupations where children learn from their parents). It is also common when the region in which a family lives supports a particular industry, such as mining or lumbering. I have found a family, the Clintons in Green County, Wisconsin, where the family "business" including working as Postmasters for the United States Post Office.

In 1860, on the Decatur, Green County, Population Schedule of the Federal Census, H. P. Clinton is listed as a 32-year-old lawyer with a wife, Ella (age 31), and children, Don J. (age 8) and Ella J. (age 6). On that same Census we find Chas. Clinton (of Decatur), a 25-year-old merchant. (Note: on the Census it clearly identifies Brodhead as being the location of the Post Office service for Decatur.)

On 1 June 1860, Chas. W. Clinton was appointed Postmaster of the Brodhead, Green County, Wisconsin Post Office (most likely located in the store in which he worked as a merchant). But not even a year later (on 19 March 1861), Henry P. (H. P.) Clinton was appointed to that same Post Office (you know, the common occupation of lawyer/postmaster). According to the "books," he remained in that position for almost exactly two years, but just because there is not a newly appointed person on the Postmaster Records, do not assume that the same individual remained in the role (someone else may have substituted for him if he had to be absent for a period of time).



On 6 March 1863, Eleanor H. Clinton of Brodhead was appointed Postmaster for that community. On the 1870 Federal Census for that area, Elanor [someone has corrected the spelling to "Eleanor"] Clinton is listed as head of the household and her occupation as "Postmistress" (the government uses the same, masculine, form for all people in the position of Postmaster, though Eleanor apparently wanted it to be listed as clearly identifying her gender).



Is Eleanor H. Clinton that same "Ella J. Clinton," wife of H. P. on the 1860 Census? It would appear that the task of Postmaster, at least in the Clinton family, was passed on from one member of the clan to another, even if the next in line is a woman. (Many occupations, traditionally held by men, were turned over to the ladies during the Civil War . . . some of those women may have been reluctant to release their roles back to the guys once the veterans came home. Did H. P. go to war? Indeed, he was a Quartermaster in the Wisconsin 7th Infantry, Field and Staff and enlisted on 15 August 1861 and resigned on 11 November 1862 so in his absence from the P.O., someone must have filled in - perhaps his wife? She isn't officially in the role until 1863, but he would likely have been back by then since he left the Army in late 1862. The question remains: What happened to Henry - H.P. - Clinton; lawyer, Postmaster, and veteran?)

There is no indication of Don J. ever taking over for his mother; the next postmaster for Brodhead was appointed on 8 May 1871: Burr Sprague. Burr is listed, on the 1870 Census, as a 34-year-old book merchant from New York with a 30-year-old wife, Vina; the family living in Brodhead. According to the Postmaster listing, he was "Reappointed - by the President and the Senate (noted by 'P & S' on the document, see image above) - on 18 December 1871," no doubt making his appointment official. Or possibly in conjunction with his new profession, lawyer: on the 1880 Census, that is his occupation (we seem to have come full circle).

Part of using these Postmaster Records is to help fill in blanks. Even when a discovery of a family or a person from your line leads to this set of records, do not stop there. Let's check into the history of the Brodhead Post Office. I started that on the website for the Brodhead Historical Society and learned that, initially aligned with Brodhead were the communities of Clarence and Decatur (where the Clintons had lived, though in his military enlistment, H. P. had declared his hometown to be Brodhead, Wisconsin). According to the Historical Society, the communities of Clarence and Old Decatur were in competition for "Most Prosperous Village in the Brodhead Area."


B. J. Tenney established a small store in early Brodhead and, in his home, created the Post Office. At that time (the date is not provided on the website, but here is where our NARA records come into play) the hamlet was called "Tenneyville" but was soon renamed "Clarence." Abijah D. Tenney (appointed 8 February 1849) was the first Postmaster for this make-shift facility. It seems he remained in that position until 2 May 1854 when Alexander S. Dye took over for a short while before 4 October 1854, when the torch was passed to John B. Sawyer. After a few more changes of the guard, the Post Office was discontinued on 13 July 1855.


 (Note how Decatur's last date of operation was in 1859, but if we look directly above that date, the dates of the Postmaster positions for Clarence and Dayton are in 1855 . . . each Post Office has listings for its own personnel and one should not expect to find dates corresponding vertically. Below is the continuation for Clarence, going into 1858):
 


Decatur's original name was "Centreville," but was renamed in the 1840s. Its first homesteader was Ohioan John Moore in 1839 and in 1841-42 he became the first Postmaster. This statement from the Historical Society's website is confirmed by the Postmaster records, stating John Moore as the first Postmaster in Decatur, appointed 16 July 1842. Eventually, on 18 February 1854, James W. Banker was at the helm, but it survived longer than its adversary township, being discontinued on 23 July 1859 with the same man serving as Postmaster. By that time, John B. Sawyer (from the Clarence P.O.) was established as the Postmaster in Brodhead (being their first in that position, beginning on 11 May 1957). The next Postmaster was Edward A. McNair (appointed 19 November 1857) and then the position was taken over by Mr. Clinton, as noted above, in 1860.



Why did the Post Offices in Clarence and Decatur cease operation? Well, let's look at the United States in the late 1850s. The community of Brodhead was overtaking the little townships and soon both Clarence and Decatur were left in the wake of a town that owed its prosperity to the railroad. And at the head of the drive for placing Brodhead on the rail line: E. A. Clinton. So here we see where the Clintons came into the picture and became movers and shakers in this town. Life in Brodhead centered around different elements (store, band-shell, etc.) depending on the time of day. In the evening, when the train arrived, people would meet it, but not so much as to see who was disembarking as to greet the evening mail delivery and follow it to the Post Office where it would be sorted and distributed. By this time, the Post Offices in Decatur and Clarence had closed up shop so people living in those communities would have about a five-mile buggy or horse ride to collect their communications from the outside world.

OK, so what does this have to do with us, as genealogists? Savvy researchers look to town histories to learn how their ancestors lived, whether they had positions of responsibility (or residence in the local hoosegow), etc. Besides learning why the little communities just seemed to shrink from thriving to struggling, we can trace family members. Did your ancestor live in a little village and then seem to just disappear (like H. P. Clinton)? Perhaps his/her village ceased to provide a living. Checking the history of the area might shed light on this and, along with the Postmaster Records, provide information about when villages became consolidated, subsumed, or just extinct. It can also provide ideas for further research about relatives (what happened to the Clintons when Eleanor left the post . . . did she die? retire? become ill? move to wherever her husband was?). OK, so maybe you will end up with more questions, but if you have access to the films of the Record of Appointment of Postmasters at your local NARA facility, check them out (see previous blogs for information on learning where these films are housed across the U.S.).

As you can see by the images above, the filmed pages are not arranged in an easy-to-follow method (e.g., column one being one set of years, column two being the next set, etc.): the lines are filled out consecutively as the Postmasters changed, but if one Postmaster stays in the position for a couple of decades while the community listed just above or below may find its Postmaster job constantly refilled, you will find the 1850s blending into the next decade quite rapidly. There are divisions between the sections to at least help keep the pages from covering too many years in a single line:


However, when each new section begins, the last Postmaster (from the previous section) is listed again, with appointment date, so that the succeeding and preceding names and dates are not misinterpreted (see the first two images above, listing Eleanor Clinton at the end of the first image or section and again at the beginning of the next section, from 1865-1875).

If you decide to check out the Postmaster records, I'd love to hear from you, especially if you have success!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

U.S. Postmasters - Part 3, Green County, Wisconsin (cont'd)

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, I am curious about the Postmasters of Green County, Wisconsin. It seems a perfect place to begin my excursion into this collection of microfilms for a number of reasons: Green County underwent a great number of changes from its creation in 1837 (it was formed from Iowa, so a complete research of this area's Postmasters would have to extend into that state - the microfilm collection of Appointments of Postmasters begins in 1832), and this was the time period that included the Civil War - I wonder if people were dismissed from one Federal appointment to take on another. It is clear that this exploration may involve much deeper research into other forms of records. Let's check some examples:

These are the pages with which I began my journey in Green County (the microfilm collection is more completely explained in my blog back in April):




I know, the images are virtually impossible to read. Well, let me enlarge one of the names on the first of the two graphics above:


The second name listed is Fredolin Egger, who was appointed as the Postmaster for the New Glarus Post Office on 24 May 1856. There was not another Postmaster appointed before the 1860 census, so I checked that Population Schedule to see if he declared himself a Federal employee. Nope. He said he was a "merchant." He was born in Switzerland (no requirement to be a native-born American for a Postmaster position).

Let's check another one - Harry Prior:



Harry was appointed Postmaster of the Morefield Post Office on 13 December 1854. According to the 1860 census, he considered his main source of income to be as a farmer and he lived in Mt. Pleasant. The Morefield Post Office was discontinued on 16 January 1861. Good luck finding any references to this small locale! But if you have an ancestor who declared his/her home was "Morefield," there is a chance that he/she was being quite truthful. Have problems locating the town your forebear came from? Check this microfilm collection!

One more for this post - Alfred Goddard of Monroe, Wisconsin. Monroe was a larger town and had many change outs in the Postmaster position:


Let's get a closer look at Mr. Goddard:
Monroe was the County Seat and housed the courthouse (that's what /c.h./ means) and Mr. Goddard received his assignment on 2 June 1853. He lived in that same community, according to the 1860 census (where he is listed as "A. Goddard") and declared his primary occupation to be "merchant." His successor did not take over until April 1861, so it is very likely that Mr. Goddard was still at his Post Office job (probably in the General Mercantile) just before the Civil War broke out. Something to check from here: an enlistment for Alfred Goddard in the Union Army (my own cursory check revealed nothing, but a more thorough search might be more revealing - however, he was 42 in 1860 so this probably would not pan out).

Well, I hope I've given you some ideas for further research on your ancestors. I'll continue with some other types of examples in the posts to come. Best wishes in your roots pursuits.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

U.S. Postmasters - Part 2, Green County, Wisconsin

I have family that came from Green County, Wisconsin, and, since it is a rather small area, I thought it might be fun to see if I could trace the Postmasters there in the mid-19th Century. I discovered some interesting things that I am going to share with you in this and future blogs.

First, let's look at what the opening "page" looks like for the listing of Postmasters appointed during this time period (there is some overlap of records so do not expect to have the listings fall neatly into place):

(all images posted here are used with permission of the National Archives, Pacific Region, Riverside County, CA)

Obviously, I will be interested in cross checking information found here with the 1860 Federal Census and, if applicable, any state census schedules that fall within this time frame of 1855-1865.

My normal suggestion is that, if you discover an ancestor lists him/herself on the census as a "Postmaster" or "Postmistress" (or even just working for a Post Office - who knows, a promotion could be just around the corner), you would want to check these records for the information about the appointment and what Post Office was involved (just because a person lived in a given town, say Albany, it does not mean that that is the same town where he/she served as a Postmaster). 

As a reminder, these records are defined on my earlier blogpost and directions for finding which Archives houses the referenced microfilms is on a still earlier post. Follow those links for the information and aids in understanding why these records are of value to genealogists.

So I looked up Green County, Wisconsin and discovered that there are 32 towns and townships within that location. Of course, there were significantly fewer back in the mid-19th Century and some of the ones that were there (e.g., Shuey's Mills, Farmer's Grove, and Willet) are not listed on the RootsWeb site (some may have been abandoned while others may have been subsumed by larger communities). When I go through the history of the towns of Green County, I find some of the same names as those listed in the Postmaster pages. Some towns (Shuey's Mills, for example) had, as the first or subsequent Postmaster, the same person for whom the village (hamlet, crossing in the road, etc.) was named. In the case of Shuey, though he was a Postmaster for some period of time in the 1850s, by 1860 he pops up on the County Poorhouse roster in the census, leaving one to believe that being a Postmaster might not necessarily have been a lucrative profession in that time.

In fact, all but one of the Postmasters I traced in the census listed other trades than the USPS as their means of making a living. There were farmers and merchants, for the most part (the latter makes perfect sense as many of the Post Offices were housed in the General Store, making the store-owner also the Postmaster, by default). In one situation, the job of Postmaster seemed to be passed from one family member to the next as folks moved or (apparently) died. 

The value of these records is quite interesting, though not particularly obvious, at first. A recording in the Postmaster logs is more likely to have an accurate spelling of a person's name than we find in the census. It also clarifies where that person was working during a fairly specific period of time: while the appointment date is provided, the next recorded date is when the Postmaster's successor was appointed, not when the previous individual left the position . . . it is possible that the position might have been vacant for some length of time. Just because a Postmaster has vacated the position does not mean that the person died; he/she might have moved or been dismissed from the job for some reason or other. Other records that might help clarify the circumstances would be vital records, newspaper articles, historical information from the county (some Post Offices were discontinued because the town ceased to exist or was incorporated into another community), tax records, military records, etc. I presume that my readers are familiar with the various sources for some of these items, but welcome your inquiries if you need some guidance there.

And so now you may have a bit of a lead as to why these records can have significance to genealogists. In future posts I will give some specific examples of how these can be useful and what mysteries can be unearthed (or created) as a result.

Stay tuned . . .

Monday, May 30, 2011

When is a Princess not a Princess?

When she fails the pea test, of course. (No, not pee . . . pea, like the vegetable.)

I received a phone call from a gentleman who was embroiled  in a lawsuit, much of which is irrelevant to my involvement and that I will refrain from detailing here so as to protect his identity, along with the specifics about the other individuals in the case. His main concern was that I might be able to assist him in proving that a person's claim to royalty was nothing more than a fairy tale. With that premise, it was hard to resist my response when the lawyer for the case called and asked me if I knew how to tell whether or not a princess had a rightful claim to such a title. I remembered well the Broadway play "Once upon a Mattress" (my granddaughter played the princess in a college version and was magnificent, but I digress); being a folklorist, I am also well familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale from which the musical took its plot and simply suggested he try that test - a few mattresses, a pea, and a princess (or not, depending on her narcoleptic tendencies, of course).


The lawyer, at first, was mystified, then he howled and said that I appeared to be the best person for the job . . . I had a sense of humor, which, apparently, was necessary for this task of disproving a royal claim.

Shortly after speaking to the lawyer and my initial contact, I was deluged with documentation about the alleged royal highness's lineage. All I needed to do was sort through it all. No problem: I had four days to prepare! Everything in my life was moved to the back burners (and some things were removed to the outside grill): I had a mission!

Genealogists reading this will tell you that one of the mantras of this profession is "work from the known to the unknown." How many times I recite this when giving presentations, I cannot tell. We start with ourselves and work backwards, cutting through the generational foliage to compile a clean (if possible) tree with branches, limbs, and leaves representing the people who came before. But some people, especially those wishing to claim a root from a particularly rare or unusual plant, will start with the desired "source" and work towards the present. Why is this problematic? Well, one complication comes when the sought-after ancestor left no descendants. What then? Some people are content to just stick in a few to make the line continue (these are things that literally cause shivers down the spines of the real genealogists). Others look for a different origin of self to claim as theirs. And some just keep adding names without verification, often using sources that are suspect, at best, and often repeat frequently quoted, unfounded data that has no evidence to back it up (finding the same information on five different sources, all tracing back to the same, incorrectly researched source, is really just a single citation - quantity is not enough to create proof: quality is of utmost importance).

OK, that said, here I sat with a lineage of a very impressive line, going back into the earliest times of recorded history, with a narrative to explain how it ties together to come to the end result: a member of a royal family, living in our midst in America, with roots so long and so old that they must hold up an impressive tree. At least, that is what it seemed at first glance. With a little research, I unearthed the truth: the foundation of this plant was full of root-rot! Sorting through the hard-to-read paperwork proved to be my first challenge (if you want to impress people, the harder the "facts" are to read, the more accurate they must be, right?). Following the twists and turns of the tree led me into a veritable forest of families, intertwined and connected, often by unrelated vines used to bring the branches closer together - but closer together does not make two separate plants part of the same tree . . . or even in the same genus. Instead, I found different families of different locales mixed together to create an apparent jumble of DNA. A great-grandchild born a number of years before the related great-grandparent; everyone's favorite ancestor ("unknown") married to an unrelated person, grafted into the trunk and added to the mix; and a lack of primary (or a sufficient number of derivative sources) to create a sense of reality.

With the work of a professional genealogist who had traced the family from the present back to the earliest provable data, I was able to determine that the royal blood just might have involved a transfusion. I did not disprove her princess claim - but using the Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy ("if it cannot be proven false it must be true") is not how I proceed in the way I do business - I could only state that the claim could not be advanced using the information proved by HRH (her royal highness). While on the witness stand (which ended up being a week after the initially expected appearance), I made it clear that her claims could neither be proved nor disproved with the data provided. I did consider suggesting the pea test, but having no appropriate vegetables (nor the requisite 20 mattresses) with me, I elected to just give the reminder that genealogy, like any science, involves proof: hypotheses are just that - the information that requires further investigation and numerous tests before moving them into the "conclusion" category. I attempted to completely describe the Genealogical Proof Standard, but was not given ample time for a full explanation. Oh, well . . . let it be known by all present (and those not) that I did try.

So, to my reader friends, this is why I have been rather absent of late. It is not a desire to hide or an illness, breakdown, or other ailment - I've just been tangled in some roots and branches and have been out on a limb trying to find my way back down and out of the forest. Perhaps when I entered it to begin with, like the Haunted Forest in the Wizard of Oz with its "I'd turn back if I were you" warning,

I should have been like the Cowardly Lion and tried to heed the warning . . . but look at all I would have missed. And, with no real proof one way or another, I might have missed that opportunity of being in the presence of royalty, right here in the good old USA.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Singalong with Circlemending: Remembering

Memorial day is upon us. A good time to remember. I'm at a campout with Songmakers and enjoying all sorts of music throughout the weekend. This morning was the traditional "Songs of Meaning" period where songs ranged through everything from remembering family members to religious upbringings to special times, along with some songs people might not have felt were "meaningful," yet held some sort of meaning to the singer. Many were in tears, remembering loved ones, times gone by, and private things they shared only internally. I sang a song I wrote for two 2st cousins, 3 times removed - both children - buried in a cemetery in New York. A guitarist and fiddler teamed to play one of my favorites: "Music Box Dancer" (I love that song and get a happy feeling when I hear it, but could not explain what it is or why it conjures up such good feelings). In a large circle, people held hands to sing "Will the Circle be Unbroken?" while some musicians accompanied from outside the ring. When people join together to sing a song, the feeling is one of unity. We can share those memories through songs.

With Memorial Day less than 24 hours away, what songs bring back memories for you? Certainly, songs that memorialize our military dead are most appropriate, but so are any songs that take you to a time, a person, a place, or an event long (or short) past. Share it here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Singalong with Circlemending - Songs about Endings

2 of my amazing grandchildren (FYI, all 24 are amazing, but these 2 have the spotlight today . . .) are graduating with honors from Georgia Tech. This is no easy feat. So while they have much to look forward to (both have been hired for good jobs!! Yay!!), it also marks the ending of 4 years of hard study, some serious play, and a lot of networking on all levels. I am so proud of them! So, in honor of our 2 graduates, Brad & Kati Schmidt, I am proposing that today's Singalong Sunday focus on songs about endings. Endings of childhood, endings of relationships, endings of war, endings of jobs, endings of life, endings of anything. Not all endings are bad, either, as they often mark beginnings. I remember being very happy when my school year was coming to an end and skipped and sang (with many others) all the way home, "School's out, school's out, teachers let the monkeys out!"

So my selection will deal with the end of the Civil War (I'm working hard on this topic for a number of magazines; one to be published a little later this month in GenWeekly - an on-line newsletter - will be an expose on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"). I figure that is a perfect song about an ending that was bitter sweet (not all Johnnies came home and many who did were forever changed). My GenWeekly article compares the American Johnny at the end of the war to the Irish Johnny, "Johnny I Hardly Knew You," which is decidedly less celebratory.

Check out one version on YouTube. I have also recorded it on my Songs of the War of the Rebellion CD.

Now it's your turn - any songs of endings come to mind?