Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tom, Dick, and Harry

Why is it that all the people with my surname in Scotland have the same first names?  They are ALL named, William, Thomas, or Jane.  All of them.  Several in every generation.  And all the Williams and Thomases also married people named Jane.  It's utter impossible and I'm going to bed.

G'Night, Internet.

Talented Tuesday: Vera's Art Entry

Also for my Mariani project, I found that on November 6, 1909, Vera won the honor roll in the Junior Call Coloring Contest.  She didn’t win the grand prize of a paint box, but she was on the roll of honor.

Although she was only 10 at the time, and she isn’t directly related to me, she still was on the honor roll and so I’m countin’ it as Talented.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mappy Monday: Mariani

I’ve been researching the Mariani family of San Francisco lately, as I’m writing the companion book to, “The Mariani Ranch.”  I decided to start with the first generation I could find, Joseph Mariani.  I really found nothing about him other than items from the newspaper surrounding his death, but those led me to looking through old San Francisco maps, thanks to Google Earth and David Rumsey. 

Mr. Mariani was killed by a blast here in 1861:

Which was, at the time, right across the street from the wharf.

I find that fascinating.  Also fascinating is the history of events in April for the Mariani family…  Nearly everything happened in April.  Very odd.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photo Dating Tip

Here is a tip for photo dating:

Subscribe to the TV Guide and take lots of pictures with it in the frame.

Then you can do a Google Image search and find it 43 years later and know what month the picture was taken.  In this case, January 6, 1968.  Wild Wild West.  Nice pants, Robert…

And nice sofa, Gramma…

Sentimental Sunday: My Bumpa

I don’t know that I’ve ever told you before about how I started genealogy.  It might be in my About page, but I don’t feel like checking.  And it bears repeating anyway, since it will circle back.

Back in 1997 or so, I realized that my grandfather, Pierre Conner (sounds like “Pier”, as he was named after the capital of South Dakota) was going to be having his 80th birthday in just a couple of years.  I decided that I was going to order him a plaque for his wall with his descendents all listed in family tree format.  I started sketching it out and I kept getting it lopsided.  I couldn’t get it even and pretty, and even and pretty are mandatory.  So I went to Fry’s Electronics and in their $5 bin, I bought the world’s crappiest family tree program.  I believe it was called, “My Crappy Family Tree ™”. 

Despite the fact that it wouldn’t print a family tree (or anything at all), I did find it amazingly cathartic to enter my grandfather’s name, grandmother’s name and all their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.   So while I swore at it for not doing what I got it for, I also realized that I knew all this same stuff about Mom’s side.  So I entered that.  And then I knew more than just that; I knew my great-grandparent’s information.  And some of their parent’s.  So I entered everything I knew. 

I would get stumped by some of the stuff, so I’d make a call.  “Mom, what was Nana’s brother’s name?  I know you called him Bud, but what was it really?”  Stuff like that.  Then Mom mentioned that Cousin Norma did family tree stuff and I should call her.  So I did.  And she gave me literally truck loads.  I realized that My Crappy Family Tree ™ wasn’t going cut it any longer.  So I bought Family Tree Maker. 

And had to reenter everything because My Crappy Family Tree ™ didn’t export GEDCOM files, either.

Now it was 1998 and Grampa’s birthday was just around the corner in February of 1999.  I found that I had enough info to write a book.  Not a plaque.  So I did.  My Aunt Karen published it for me, but we put in our family trees, stories and letters to Grampa from all sorts of family members.  It was called; “Our Family” and we presented it at a family reunion planned in honor of Grampa.

Now it’s 12 years later and Grampa is 92 years old.  He takes care of my cousin’s children (his great grandchildren) during the day.  Until recently (last year?), he also worked graveyard shift tending a cleaning crew for hospitals and banks.  He amazes me every day and I owe so much to him.  I still like the letter I wrote to him in “Our Family”, so I’ll just repost it here while I’m feeling sentimental:

When I was little, I called grandpa, “Bumpa.”  I remember everyone always telling me that I was, “Grampa’s Girl.”  I didn’t understand why this was special, though, because I figured all Grampas were as wonderful as mine.  It wasn’t until much later that I figured out how special my Bumpa was.

My Bumpa took walks over the freeway bridge with me.  When we lived with him, everyday we’d take a walk on a footbridge in Palo Alto that went over Highway 101.  We’d hold hands and stroll over the bridge.  Sometimes, though, he’d carry me, ‘caus Id’ get really tired.  I remember there was a song or a chant or something that we’d sing, but I can’t remember what it was.  I think it had something to do with what time my dad would get home from work.  I probably just made the song up as I went along, but somehow Grampa would find a way to sing along.

My Bumpa understood that I wished I could make a grocery shopping list like Gramma.  When I’d visit Gramma and Grampa in the summers, Gramma would always make out a grocery list for Grampa to take to the store (for some reason, I think it was on Tuesdays?).  One time, I must’ve been longingly looking at Gramma making the list and NOT writing down the right stuff (she had stuff like, “Broccoli, Tomatoes, Eggs”).  Grampa must have realized that Gramma was doing it wrong, so he gave me a pencil and a piece of paper and told me that I should make MY list.  I was much better at list-making than Gramma.  Mine said, “Cookies, Candy, Cake.”  Of course, it looked like scribbles, but my Bumpa understood.

I could sit here and write My Bumpa stories all day long.  I could fill sheets and sheets of paper with all my memories of My Bumpa (and maybe I’ll do just that one of these days), but the very, very best thing of all about my Bumpa, is that I’ve always known how much my Bumpa loves me.  Sure hope he always knows how much I love him…

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Bedroom

(NOTE:  Just realized that this didn't post when Blogger was having "issues")

Week 19. Bedroom.

We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up, but some of my best memories were of sharing a room with my brother.  I think my parents were more excited for me than I was to “graduate” to my own room; I remember missing my brother terribly for the first few months.  We tended to sneak in chats at bedtime when we weren’t supposed to and I feel like after we had our own rooms, we didn’t really have those chats any more. 

We lived in the same house for junior high and high school, so I got used to one bedroom.  It was right off the kitchen and conveniently located near the phone with the loooooonnnnnnggggg telephone cord, so that I could take the handset into my room and still have some privacy.  ‘Cause, you know, it’s important to be able to talk privately RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER FROM YOUR PARENTS WITHOUT A CLOSED DOOR IN BETWEEN.

At one time, my room had two twin beds that acted like daybeds at right angles and one slid under the corner side table.  I even had a coffee table.  VERY fancy for a kid to have sofas and a coffee table in their bedroom.  Sadly, I was (I am going to use the past tense here just so that I can maintain a sense of dignity) a major slob and so both beds and the coffee table were always piled high with clothes, books and Crap.  And the floor, too.  Often, things would stink and in doing the Purge of Garbage, I would find items that once were food.  It was not pretty.

My twin beds were later replaced by a pull-out sofa.  Coffee table was still there.  And I never really did the “pull-out” part of the sofa because of… well, all the clothes, books and Crap.  But I had a sofa and coffee table in my room.  I’m sure if it were neat enough to allow friends in, they would have thought I was super cool.

I also had a HUGE desk in my room.  It was left there by the prior owners and I loved that desk.  Big and bulky and plenty of room for all my Crap.  I loved to do my homework at that desk.  My brother would come in and be my DJ, spinning record after record for me while I studied.  I loved that.  Until he’d get fidgety and tear apart my jewelry and cassette tapes.  Then the love was not so much…

I spent a lot of time in that bedroom and sadly can't find a single picture of it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Genealogy Societies

This was supposed to auto-post last week, but didn't during the Blogger 2011 Outage.  I knew I was going to be busy and sick, so I experimented with future blogs.  Nice that I still don't know if it WOULD HAVE worked...

Tuesday night was our genealogy society’s monthly meeting and this month featured Lisa Louise Cooke (of the Genealogy Gems podcast).  Ms. Cooke gave a wonderful presentation on the different things we can do to share our research and stories with non-genealogists.  She had some great craft ideas and some great insight on how to make it more fun for those in our families who really hate the charts we try to share.

I have a cold and didn’t want to share it with the entire L-AGS group, so I ducked out quickly at the end, but this is the kind of meeting that makes me joyful.  I hear a lot from friends that they don’t join their local society because they have no local family history. I don’t either, but I get so much out of our society.  The people are nice and helpful and not just studying local history. I remember in 1999 going to my first meeting and meeting a 5th cousin. She lived in my town in California, but our common ancestor came from Pennsylvania.

I’m also hoping to help people from far away who have some family history in our area.  The Lucas County Genealogical Society has helped so much that it would be terrific if somehow I could give back.

So join your local genealogical society, go to the meetings, download Lisa’s podcasts and share your family history!

There is your to-do list for today. 

You’re welcome.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sympathy Saturday: Gramma

NOTE:  This was supposed to auto-post on Saturday...  I guess it did not...

I started writing down the memories to tell you about my other grandmother (the non- douche bag one) and I came up with a very short list of specific memories that saddened me.  How could she have been so important, yet I can only think of 10 specific memories?  My grandmother meant the world to me- I even named my first born after her- yet I can’t think of more than 10 items? 

But then I realized that there are more to memories than events. 

I can’t tell you a story about how much my grandma loved me and how I felt her love every single day of my life.  I can tell you about her leaving ice cream money for me on the side table and watching me prance out to the ice cream truck with pretend grown-up glee while I picked out and paid for my own ice cream.  I would turn back and look toward the house and she would be peaking out the window.

I can’t tell you a story about sitting in my grandma’s lap and just being held.  I can tell you about her rounding up all the Avon lipstick samples she had and helping me set up a Lipstick Stand™ in front of her house for the neighborhood’s little girls.

I can’t tell you a story about sitting at the table with my grandma and just being with her.  I can tell you about playing Go Fish with her at that table while she drank her Carly Simon coffee (with clouds… I thought that song was about her…).  She would let me win and then pretend-cry that her own granddaughter was beating her.  “Help me, help me!” she would fake cry and I would laugh and laugh at the immense humor of Gramma.

I can’t tell you a story about how Gramma knew everything that was happening and was always calm.  I can tell you about the time I put a marble in my nose and it got stuck.  I was panicking on the inside but didn’t say anything at all to anyone.  Somehow, though, Gramma knew something was wrong and she pulled it out of me.  Literally.  I also remember wondering aloud to her how, in my head, I knew what the next words were going to be on the radio, but I couldn’t say them.  She explained to me that it was my hearing and that my brain knew the words before I could get it to my mouth.  That has, for some bizarre reason, stuck with me my whole life. 

I can’t tell you a story about how just being with Gramma was fun.  I can tell you that she would watch All My Children and explain the plots to me so that I would get just as sucked into the plotlines as she did.  I still remember a bunch of kids getting kidnapped.  I’m sure one was Erica Kane, but I didn’t care about that; I just cared that now I had a new game to play with my cousins besides Cops and Robbers- Kids and Kidnappers. 

I can’t tell you a story about how it broke my heart when I saw my grandfather cry at her funeral.  I didn’t understand death enough to feel the loss of Gramma, but I saw my grandfather cry and that was devastating.  I spent the rest of my childhood doing what I could to make Grampa happy and never ever cry again.  I can tell you about how I got a letter from her two days after she died that told me she was thinking of me because she had tacos for dinner.  At our next library trip, I set off to the card catalog to find information on taco poisoning (side note:  telling your kids that grandma died in her sleep without further explanation is not a good idea).

So I don’t have too many STORIES about Gramma, but I have a lifetime of memories that mean the world to me.  I’m proud every time I look at my Signa to think of the Signa Viola Felt that came before. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Family History for Children

My children are in 4-H and I am thinking about teaching a genealogy class for them next year.  I've put together an outline of my supposed class ('cause that's just how I roll):

  1. Introduction- Why, family group sheets, 5 generation chart, interviewing guidelines, sample interview questions
  2. Organization- Binders, computer programs
  3. Studying the Time and Place- county histories, etc.
  4. Libraries- using the library for research (field trip?)
  5. Immigration and Military Service- different records available, samples
  6. Cemeteries- Find-a-Grave, other resources, why (field trip?)
  7. Genealogy Societies- Online in county, writing to them, resources (field trip?)
  8. How to Share Findings- Reports, presentations, movies, etc.
I'm putting together notes and then an activity and homework for each class.  If you could share a lesson with kids age 5-15 who were interested in family history, what would you put in your syllabus?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Facebook and Formats

Because I've a few family members on Facebook, I've decided to try it out for sharing genealogy.  I decided to start with my William Mason Conner and share, wall post by wall post, everything I know about him on a PAGE.  I think it's going to also turn into a book, formatted the same way, as I'm liking it.  I share the DATA with a short snippet of what it does mean, or could mean.  Done simply, it could actually catch the eyes of non-genealogists.  We shall see.  So far, only one of my cousins is "liking" it.  But it's new.

I'm also trying to finish up the writing on the Mariani Family.  I was having trouble with the outline until I remembered that I'm an Excel Junkie.  I gave each person their own worksheet and plotted everything I know about them and where I know it from.  Then I pushed the SORT button and now I just write away.  I finished a chapter yesterday and hope to have the next one done this week.

I <3 Facebook and Excel.  Not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Weather

Growing up mainly in sunny California, the weather has not played much of a character in my stories or my life.  The exceptions to this would be the winter it snowed in the San Francisco Bay Area and my time spent living outside of California for that summer when we moved to Minnesota.

I really don’t have memories of the California Snow, but I do have photos.  This was taken at the Mariani Ranch in Portola Valley, California.

As to the stormy summer in Minnesota, I’m still not 100% clear why we moved there.  My dad’s brother, Uncle Ricky, lived there and I am guessing it was time for a change of scenery from our cramped home in Milpitas.  I do know that Mom kept her wits about her and stayed in California working, while we went on our adventure.  If things worked out, she’d come join us.  However, she really knew that come fall, we’d all be home in California.

She helped Dad pack us up in his truck and a U-Haul trailer and kisses us goodbye, as we began our week-long drive to Minnesota.  It was a wonderful adventure that I’ll never forget. 

The first storm I remember that summer began at just about the “Welcome to Nebraska” sign and tapered off at about the “Now Entering Iowa” sign. It rained and thunder-stormed the entire stretch of nothingness.

I remember finding an apartment in Milaca, Minnesota that first week we were there.  I had my own room for the first time ever.  I set it all up like I was a grown up and was very proud.  I remember going grocery shopping with Dad and Todd and getting bean sprouts and loving them.  We started growing our own on the countertop.  I remember swimming lessons and riding our bikes to Dairy Queen on the other side of town.  I remember the matinee movies that my brother and I went to with my birthday money every single week all summer.  I remember reading my Trixie Belden books and my Nancy Drew books non-stop.

I remember so much, yet one thing that stands out more than the others was the sirens.  Being from California, and ranch land at that, we weren’t used to sirens.  I remember being in our Milaca apartment one day and a siren going off for over a half hour.  This was in the days before car alarms, so we really didn’t know what it was.  We looked outside and no ambulances or fire trucks or policemen anywhere to be seen under the cloudy sky.  I remember noticing that despite the thunderclouds in the distance (we learned to recognize them), it was surprisingly calm.  We went about our business, cleaning house, reading, planting bean spouts, etc.

It wasn’t until that evening when we dined with my uncle and his family that we learned that it was a tornado warning and we really should have headed to the basement.  There wasn’t a touch-down that day, but to this day, I look at the sky when I hear a siren.