Saturday, December 31, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Advice

My advice for future generations who may be researching my family begins with this:

DO NOT RESEARCH "MASCOT".  It is not our name.  It's a step name and a made-up one at that.    My children are the first ever born "MASCOT" children.  So don't waste your time, young Mascot generations to come.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Holiday Events

Again, I'm going to defer to my Advent Calendar post, as it's my own made-up activity and I love it:

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Gifts

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Gifts

To reference gifts, I am going to defer to my Advent Calendar post on this subject.

Holiday Gifts.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Historical Events

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Historical Events

The first real historical event that I remember was Watergate.  I had no clue what it was but tried to hard to understand.  A hotel.  Named “Watergate”.  Did it have a mote?  Was there a true gate of water around it?  The President lied.  From what I’d heard Dad saying, all politicians lie, so why was this part important?  Because he got caught?  None of this logic worked on me.

Next up that I really remember were the yellow ribbons tied everywhere for the Iran hostages.  I also didn’t understand that.  Why did they have hostages?  What was the point?  And Reagan getting shot.  He was fine.  Why was it a big deal?

Then there was the earthquake, 9/11,  and all the things since.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Thanksgiving

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Thanksgiving

Growing up, our Thanksgiving table featured most of the same things that mine now does.  Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans.  The changes are that I don’t make the ambrosia salad like my aunt did.  My mother-in-law makes it for our get togethers and so I don’t even try making it.  I don’t like the cranberry sauce shaped like the can, so I make my own, but other than that, right down to the olives on the fingertips, I like to mirror the Thanksgivings of my childhood.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Teachers

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Teachers

Just a month or two ago, I wrote to a great teacher.  I googled him, as I realized I never really know how awesome of a teacher he was at the time.  He taught by osmosis and made learning just happen.  I learned more in his science classes (6th and 7th grade) than in any other class my whole life.  He was amazing.

And I didn’t even know it at the time.  I just thought it was easy.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Favorite School Subject

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Favorite School Subject

In high school, I enjoyed the humanities- family life, politics, that sort of class.  I was best at classes where I was allowed to argue a point.  In college, I began as a psychology major, but took a social psychology class and loved it so much that I decided to double major in psychology and sociology.  Then I took a class in criminal justice and so I made that my minor.  All classes to do with those three things were my favorites in college.  (p.s. now my day job has not one tiny thing to do with any of that.  At all)

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Worst School Subject

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Worst School Subject

Well, that would be current events.  Failing that (figuratively), physics was not a particularly strong suit.  I called it, “All Word Problems All the Time” and rather than being an honors class like most of other high school classes, I dropped down to the “B” group where they used crayons and spelled everything out for me.  I still got only a B.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Elementary School

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Elementary School

I went to a few elementary schools.  From K-3 I went to a very small, very close-knit school.  I returned there for junior high, so when I think of elementary school, this is who I think of.  We had a reunion on my 40th birthday and it was amazing to see them all again.  With the help of Facebook, I feel almost as close to them now as I did then.

For 4th grade, I split the year between a farm school where I was the rare English speaker to a two-room schoolhouse in Platina, California.  My class had 12 children and we ranged from 2nd to 8th grade…

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: High School

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  High School

High school was a unique situation for me.  Pretty much after my freshman year, I was only there for classes.   I was a good student, but few of my friends went to school and so I was there to learn and then left.  My usual schedule was to get done with school around 3pm.  I’d then go to work at Lockheed from 3-6.  At 6, I’d head to a friend’s and they’d feed me before we would head to our hangout in downtown Palo Alto. My home was miles from there, which is why I didn’t spend much time at home. 

We would “hang out” with a big crowd of punk rock kids and at some point, head to Lyon’s (a 24-hour Denny’s-like restaurant) where I’d do my homework and write my papers.  I’d head to a friend’s house to sleep at about 3 or 4am and get a couple hours in before school started.   

So high school was really a place of learning.  I got a good education there, but I didn’t do all the sports/cheerleading/games, etc that most kids do.  No prom for me!  Although I did graduate early and got straight As (except for that stupid physics class...).

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Politics

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Politics

Neither of my parents were particularly political growing up, but they did teach me to believe what I want to and to stand by it.  And to do my research.  

When I was sixteen, my dad voted by mail.  He told me that if I researched every ballot issue and presented my vote to him with clear reasoning, he would vote how I wanted.  I researched for weeks, even going to meet congressional candidates and current state representatives.  I gave my views to Dad at the kitchen table (where all important family business goes down).  He argued/questioned me on a few, but all in all agreed with my conclusions and, as far as I know, voted my way.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Fall

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:  Fall

Growing up in California, “Fall” is a bit of a misnomer, as we don’t really have “seasons”.  What fall represented for me was going back to school, which rather than horror, prompted excitement.  It was  a new beginning with new school supplied, new clothes and a new attitude.  Everything that was wrong last year would be right.  It was a do-over.  A fresh slate.  And I loved it.

As adults, we don’t really have this.  We don’t start a new job each year (or at least *I* don’t- been here for 16 now!) and we don’t get all new clothes and binders and pens and Peachey folders annually, either.  Best we can do is have children and wonder why they don’t get as excited about a new pencil holder as we do.

Friday, December 30, 2011


I'm way behind on my 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and Family History.  I just typed up several of my handwritten articles and they will post throughout tomorrow.  I've a few more to go, which hopefully I'll complete tomorrow.  My advent calender posts are just going to all be from 2010.  2010 was a fun Christmas and so those posts are going to be just fine to stand on their own!


I was really good at my last goal of 2011: “Toss all of the above [goals] to 2012 when I find something really exciting on some other line that wasn’t on The List.”

REALLY good… I got sidetracked the first part of the year with a writing project on the Mariani family, which isn’t even my family.  However, it resulted in a Lulu book and another half finished book on their actual family history. 

But then THAT sidetracked project got sidetracked by the writing project for my Conner family after a trip to Grampa’s in August that featured 500 scanned pictures and a story to go with each.

So some of my 2011 goals that were supposed to be put to 2012 are likely going to be 2013.  Here is the summary:

1. Write up what I know of John Shelton.- Not done.  Moving to 2012.
2. Write up what I know about Laura Wilkinson.- Completed and published in the Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society’s quarterly newsletter.
3. Write up what I know about William Mason Conner.- I have enough on William Mason to do a nice photo book.  This will be a 2012 project. 
4. Fill in some blanks about Thomas Conner.- Need to order Thomas’ death certificate.
5. Write the Mariani history as I know it.- 2012 project.
6. Source all of the above.- Sourcing as I go.  Good girl, Debbie!
7. Begin a family newsletter for descendents of William Mason Conner.- Began a Facebook page and decided a newsletter isn’t really a good format for sharing these days.  Terminated goal.
8. Find descendents of William Mason Conner.- found some on Facebook and sent emails on others.  Got some responses and that is enough for now.
9. Teach a home school class on family history for young children.- In progress now.  Enjoying it!
10. Toss all of the above to 2012's list when I find something really exciting on some other line that wasn't on The List.- As I said, this goal is MASTERED!!!

So here are my 12 for ‘12 goals:

  1. Finish rough draft of Dukes of Mixager.
  2. Edit Dukes of Mixager.
  3. Publish Dukes of Mixager.
  4. Finish rough draft of Chicken Wings and Peas.
  5. Edit Chicken Wings and Peas.
  6. Publish Chicken Wings and Peas.
  7. Put together photo book of William Mason Conner.
  8. Order death cert for Thomas Conner.
  9. Order Civil War records for Miles Price.
  10. Write up John Shelton and do research on Shelton line.
  11. Write at least one post per week on genealogy blog AND family blog
  12. Do NOT get sidetracked by other projects!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 16 - Christmas at School

Advent Calendar - December 16 - Christmas at School

Originally posted 12/16/2010:

When I was 9, we lived in a teeny, tiny town in Northern California. By “teeny, tiny” I mean it was population 50 (FIVE ZERO). My school had two classrooms: one for Kindergarten through 2nd grade and one for 3rd through 8th. I was in 4th grade and so in the older class. We had 12 children. For high school, they had to be bussed into town an hour and a half away.

The times were different then (although just the 1970s) and my class put on a Christmas pageant telling the story of the birth of the baby Jesus. I can’t believe there wasn’t a big stink about it, but I guess in a town of 50, the 38 people left that weren’t IN the pageant were mostly fine with it. Had it been larger, I’m sure my parents would have objected, as we are not religious, but what’s the point of making a point to 38 people?

So we did a play in the front of our classroom one night. I was the angel who blessed the Baby Jesus (a doll) with one line. My mom, who like me does NOT sew, had to come up with a costume. So we went with one of Dad’s white t-shirts and my hip 1970s tall white Wonder Woman boots. I had one line (I can’t remember it now, but I know that I rocked it then.)

But right after my scene was over, I forgot that they were changing the set around and accidentally ended up on the show side of the divider for the next act. So I panicked inside for a bit and then went with it and pretended I was an angel from above looking over them. I made “praying hands” and kept nodding and smiling at all of the actors on stage.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent Calendar- December 15- Holiday Happenings

December 15- Holiday Happenings

Originally posted 12/15/2010

As I went through my genealogy database for December birthdays, I didn’t have a single one for ancestors. I have a living cousin who is very special to me born in December (hi, Paul!!!), but I don’t want to give too much info on the living (unless it’s me), so I turned to marriages in December. There are numerous distant cousins who would be celebrating their anniversaries, but nothing I felt like writing about. So I moved to deaths and scrolled through looking for someone who spoke to me this Wednesday morning.

As my eyes came to Victoria Helen Robbins, I knew I found my gal. She was the first wife of my great grandfather, Cora Edwin Shelton (aka Charles). I’ve told Cora’s story before, but I haven’t delved much into his first family. As I looked at Victoria’s December 5, 1907 date of death in Oakland, Alameda County, CA , I just knew that she’d be the next person I learn more about. I pulled a FTM report for her and suddenly, her story came a bit to life. Or at least the end of her story.

In my version of Family Tree Maker, on the Facts tab, you see birth date, death date, and any other stuff you’ve put in. The Relationship tab, houses information about others. As I’ve learned from telling a story, 5 Dec 1907 is great information. It truly is. But really, can it be more boring? “Victoria Helen Robbins died on 5 Dec 1907 in Oakland, CA.”

Is that fun? Does that make you love Victoria Helen Robbins? Not me. I never loved her.

Until the relationship tab showed me that she had a baby on November 30, 1907. A baby that died that same day. And her 4 days later. Now her death means a bit more.

I know she grew up in Prairie du Chien, WI. And I know my great grandfather was supposedly in WI at the time of his mother’s death in 1906. I don’t know how he ended up in WI, but I’m having to fill in some lines with possibilities- there is an elder Shelton in Prairie du Chen- possibly an aunt or even grandmother of Cora.

I know he was a troublemaker. At the divorce, did Mom say, “John, I can’t handle that boy. You take him.” I know he was with John and his new family in 1880. Did John then say, “Oh my holy hell that boy is trouble!” and send him to live with great aunt Harriot? No idea. He’s not in a census there, but I haven’t looked harder. I just like to guess for awhile and then prove myself entirely wrong.

Anyway, back to our lady of the hour, Victoria. At some point soon before this baby and this death, she traveled from WI to CA. Far from family and friends. I know they had children with them (2 boys and 1 girl). And I know that (as I mentioned) he was known to be quiet, keeping to himself and moody. What a freaking lovely trip that must have been. Plus she was pregnant. Then she had the horror of losing a baby and then her own live.

Now I want to know “my” Victoria better. I want to learn all about her even though she isn’t my own great grandmother. She fits in nicely with my family, so I’m adopting her.

Updated 12/15/2011:  In researching Victoria, I found that she and Cora had quite a few children, but most died.  Their first is buried next to Victoria's grandmother Sarah Chapman in Milwaukee.  Victoria's parents were William Robbins and Jane Ellsworth.  They lived in Prairie du Chien until about 1890 and then moved to Milwaukee.After Sarah died, Jane (a widow) left and went to her brother's in California.  Jane's brother was Eliphalet Ellsworth, who came to California and had a profitable farm in Napa.  Cora, Victoria, and the children went with her.  All of them are buried in Napa, California.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Calendar- December 14- Fruitcake

December 14- Fruitcake

Originally posted 12/14/2010

Yikes, no. I admit to only actually having it twice, but neither time appealed to me. And I do not like those green and red cherry things. I did have someone once share a fruitcake recipe and it made it sound much better than others, using real fruit and cloth wrapped in rum or some such thing. But the time it would take to make would not be worth it, just to see if there was a fruitcake I enjoyed.

I will be reading the blogs today to see what others have to say. Maybe I just haven't had a good one!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent Calendar- December 13 – Holiday Travel

December 13 – Holiday Travel

Originally posted 12/13/2010.

We never had to travel far for Christmas. Our family was near enough and then, in the past 25 years, everyone has traveled to us. I'm a homebody for Christmas and have no desire to spend much time away from my Christmas tree and Christmas decorations.

We did travel this year in December, though, for a 5-day visit to Disneyland. We had a wonderful family vacation that we will all remember for years to come. But we are home for Christmas.

Advent Calendar - December 12 – Charitable/Volunteer Work

Advent Calendar - December 12 – Charitable/Volunteer Work

Originally posted 12/12/2010.  Updated below.

Sadly, we have never made charity a priority as we should. We do Toys for Tots each year- the children now choose and buy a gift with their own money. And I sell children's books and donate all of my commissions from September through December to a charity.

But we've never done soup kitchens or the like. Just simple canned food/toys for tots, etc. This year we will be caroling at a retirement center and apparently that is charitable, but I find it charitable on their part more so than ours...

12/12/2012- This year we volunteered for a food drive in front of a local grocery store.  We asked for people to buy certain foods as they did their shopping and then bring to us out front.  We also had bags ready if they just wanted to give us $10.  My 5-year-old son was a kick in the pants.  Completely in their faces.  "WOULD YOU LIKE TO PUT FOOD IN OUR FOOD BANK?"  And he remembered if you said you were going to do it on your way out and then didn't.  And call you out.  In front of God and everyone.  All the way to your car.

We also helped out at an underprivileged children's party.  So we are stepping up our volunteer game.

Advent Calendar- December 11 – Other Traditions

December 11 – Other Traditions

Originally posted 12/11/2010.

We love to watch Christmas movies. As a kid, it was all those on ABC, NBC, or CBS. Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown. We always got the TV Guide and I'd go through it and mark the dates and times for Christmas movies. Now with DVR, DVD etc, we pretty much have all bases covered, but we still like the above classics. Add in Christmas Story, Elf, Christmas Vacation, and Funny Farm and I'm all set with Christmas movies.

Advent Calendar- December 10 - Christmas Gifts

December 10 – Christmas Gifts

Originally posted 12/10/2010.

Our gifts always started on Christmas Eve, where we could open ONE gift. It was a teaser gift- usually pajamas or a stuffed animal to sleep with.

Then in the morning, we went first to the stockings, then to the Santa gift, and then to the others. We gave and received gifts from everyone- never drew names or the like. We still don't do the name drawing thing.

Now a'days, likely due to my learning to be crafty, most gifts are homemade. Not for Marc and the children, but for just about everyone else. I love spending time on gifts, since I'm not so great at shopping. Plus, people buy what they want for themselves- they don't need me doing it. So I give them my time and my love and create things for them. And it's these same kinds of gifts that I love to receive. Homemade and filled with love.

Except that one year when Marc surprised me with a pet hamster. That was pretty awesome.