Monday, January 31, 2011

United Kingdom? Great Britain? Confused!

Ever been confused about the United Kingdom, Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?  Not to mention all of the assorted territories they still control?  You should have a look at this.  Take notes, he speaks rather quickly:

Mappy Monday - Saint Cloud, Minnesota

This map of St. Cloud, Minnesota was created in 1896.  Alas, I acquired it years ago from a source I neglected to note, and thus I cannot credit them for its use.  Whoever you were, I thank you!

Looking at the map, you get a clear picture that cities are affected by geography, first and foremost.  Look at the city block layouts, and how they tend to parallel the river.  This makes for some interesting street layout and driving issues, with odd-angled intersections.  To further complicate this, St. Cloud became a railroad town very early on. You can see the railyard on the left side between the pink and grey sections.  My childhood home is in the pink section across the street from the railyard.  One of St. Cloud's quirks is that the rail lines bisect the city, with only a few crossing points, which drives traffic to funnel onto those few roads.

The heart of St. Cloud is in the yellow section on the west bank.  All of the old downtown is in there, and the St. Cloud State University (originally the St. Cloud Normal School) campus.  To the west of the curviest part of the river there is a small lake, Lake George.  I live within a few blocks of this lake.  Decades ago, the lake was reduced in size, and now occupies only about the northernmost 1/3 of the area shown on this map.  It's really little more than a pond in a city park now, and heavily landscaped.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Scanning Technology

Today I participated in the monthly Scanfest put on by various members of the genealogy blogging community.  It was my first occasion to join in, and I had a great time.  I must admit there was more 'fest' and less 'scan' than I had anticipated!  It can be difficult to concentrate on your scanning while trying to follow the conversation.  I was able to get a couple of pages of photo album scanned, named appropriately and saved in an organized fashion, so progress was made.

So I mentioned we had some conversation.  What did we discuss?  Well, one thing we talked about at length were scanners.  How appropriate!  Specifically, we talked about the Flip-Pal portable scanners that Dick Eastman has reported on recently.  The general consensus is that they're nice to have when you're away from home, and do a good job of stitching together multiple scans of larger objects.  This is necessary because the maximum size they can cover in one pass is 10"x6".

A number of us talked about scanning film and slides.  For this sort of work, you either need a dedicated scanner, or a flatbed scanner either with the capability built-in or with attachments for scanning such media.  Older HP scanners used to come with a triangular prism-like device for scanning transparent media.  Better scanners, like the CanoScan series from Canon, have a backlit lid and frames to hold the transparencies.  I happen to have the CanoScan 8800F, recently replaced by the 9000F, so that's the one I can speak to.  If memory serves, a few others in the discussion also have the same model.  I strongly recommend it as a great all-purpose scanner.  The downside is that it's not portable.  It also doesn't handle legal-size, so if you do a lot of that, you might want to look into a model that will.  Another issue with scanners is, what light source does it use?  Most scanners still use a cold cathode lamp (similar to a fluorescent light).   These take some time to warm up, and have a lamp life of about 5,000 hours.  That warmup time slows down your scanning, forcing you to wait each time you scan.  In addition, the color of the light produced changes over time, becoming dimmer and acquiring a color cast which can make your scans look 'off'.  Some new designs like my CanoScan 8800F use White LED backlights.  LED's have the benefit of being instantly on and ready to scan, with no warmup time.  Also, they usually are rated at 50,000 hours of life or more.  LED's also don't change color over time.  If you're looking at new scanners, I strongly recommend an LED backlit model.

We discussed scanner settings, and what settings to use with different media.  My personal recommendation is to scan at a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi).  Even newsprint I scan at that minimum.  Most photos I scan at 600dpi or more, with high quality formal portraits at 1200dpi.  You can always reduce once you've made the scan, but you cannot increase without rescanning at the higher resolution.  Slides and film I always scan at 4800dpi, the highest native resolution of my 8800F scanner.  Newer models like the 9000F can do 9600dpi or more.  Slides and film frames are small; scanning at high resolution lets you blow the resulting image up without loss of quality.

We talked about graphic image formats a lot, too.  Virtually all scanners will do a variety of formats, with TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) being the preferred choice.  Why?  Well, TIFF (sometimes abbreviated as TIF) is a "lossless" format.  That means the computer doesn't compress or discard any of the data in the image.  You can repeatedly edit and save a TIFF file with no loss of quality.  Not so with JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) files, usually abbreviated as JPG.  JPG is a "lossy" format, which means that the computer compresses the data in a manner that causes some of the data to be lost, with minimal perceptive difference in the image.  The problem with this is that repeatedly editing and saving a JPG file causes repeated compression and data loss, leading to steadily decreasing image quality.  Why would we use JPG, then?  Well, JPG is very effective at compressing images to save disk space.  Back when space was much more expensive, this was a big issue.  As well, transmitting images over dialup was painfully slow on larger file sizes.  JPG was designed to fix both issues, and does a generally good job of it.  For any files you need to have around for a long time, or need to edit repeatedly, or archive, TIFF is the better choice for image quality.  The good news is once you have the TIFF file, you can convert it to JPG and save a copy to use when you need to send the file across a network or through e-mail.  You could also convert a JPG to TIFF, but even the initial saving of the JPG file loses some of the data, so you end up with a lower quality TIFF file.

We also talked about using a digital camera when something cannot be scanned.  For instance, something larger than the area of your scanner requires very finicky handling and software stitching to make a combined image if you can even manage to scan it at all.  Three dimensional objects do better with a digital camera than a flat scanner.  The problem here is, most cameras shoot JPG files at least by default, and many can do no other formats.  For snapshots, that's usually fine, but for archival purposes we're back at the image quality issue.  Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras can also shoot RAW format, which is the native format of the camera.  Technically, ALL digital cameras shoot a RAW format, but only the high-end cameras allow you to use that format instead of JPG.  Also, each camera has its own RAW format!  If you're forced to use a camera that only exports JPG files, you should soot using the highest quality and resolution the camera is capable of, then immediately convert the file to TIFF to avoid any further loss of quality.

Convert the files, eh?  How?  Well, we talked somewhat about image editing software.  My software of choice is Adobe Photoshop Elements.  Others like Paint Shop Pro (PSP).  Some don't do much editing at all, only using what Picasa offers for minor tweaks.  Most software will allow you to load an image, then select File, Save As, and then choose the destination format you want.  Usually, if you're following my advice and saving in TIFF format originally, you'll want to make copies in JPG or PNG (Portable Net Graphics) formats for use on your own blog or in e-mails.  In fact, to share some examples of what I was scanning today, I had to make JPG copies to upload to the forum.

I could go on for hours.  That's an occupational hazard for IT guys like me!  I'll close by saying that the next Scanfest event will be on February 27th at 11:00AM Pacific Time.  Keep an eye out for instructions on how to join!

UPDATE:  In hindsight, I realize I should have saved this for a  Tech Tuesday.  Chalk it up to the excitement of my first Scanfest...

Tech Tuesday – Have you stumbled upon a piece of technology or new Web-based application that would be of interest to your fellow genealogy colleagues? Post at your blog on Tech Tuesday and show us the ins and outs of this technology and how it can benefit the genealogy community.  This is a new series suggested by Donna Peterson of Hanging with Donna and in the past there have been many iterations of this series: the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) blog Narations as well as The Family Curator by Denise Levenick.  (Blurb shamelessly stolen from Thomas McEntee at Geneabloggers!)

Sunday's Obituary - LaVonne A. (Hengel) Hirdler



FARIBAULT, Minn. — Mrs. Ralph Hirdler, 31, of here and formerly of St. Cloud, died at the Rochester, Minn., Hospital Monday.

She was born LaVonne Hengel In St. Cloud, was graduated from Cathedral High School and married Ralph Hirdler on Dec. 29, 1959, at St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Cloud. The couple lived in St. Cloud for one year and then moved here where they have lived since.

Mrs. Hirdler is survived by her husband; her mother, Mrs. Victor Hengel Sr., St. Cloud; brothers and sister, Virgil land Victor Hengel, St. Cloud; Eugene Hengel, Red Wing, Minn.; and Mrs. Marvin (La- Donna) Theisen, St. Cloud.

Funeral services are at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Cloud.

Friends may call at the Daniel Funeral Home after 1 p.m. Friday.

St. Mary's Cathedral parish will say the parish prayers at the funeral home at 9 p.m. Friday.

LaVonne A. Hengel was the sister of my mother-in-law.  I never met her, as she died long before I met my wife.  This obituary was in a large box of old photographs, albums and scrapbooks I recently borrowed from my in-laws for the purpose of scanning and preserving the images.  I was told for years that they really didn't have much in the way of old pictures or family information, and for years, I let it slide.  But I've recently become more active in researching the family lines, and pressed for anything they might have.  They told me about this box of stuff, but it was "buried in a closet upstairs", and inaccessible.  Finally I just said, "I have time, I'm going up to get that box from the closet."

That box turned out to be loaded with treasure!  This obit is just one small example.  There's a scrapbook almost entirely dedicated to newspaper clippings, many of them obits with data I never had, and some as interesting as a number of letters to the editor of the local paper by a family member!  I've got the pictures all scanned after my own private Scanfest, and ready to return to their owners,  but the scrapbook and an album will take me a long time to get through.  You will doubtless be seeing material from these books in the near future on this blog!

Sunday’s Obituary – if you have obituaries of family members and ancestors, consider posting them along with other information about that person as part of Sunday’s Obituary. This is an ongoing series developed by Leslie Ann at Ancestors Live Here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The Date You Were Born

Following Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings, here's this week's SNGF!

It's Saturday Night - time for more Genealogy Fun!

Youir mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1) What day of the week were you born? Tell us how you found out.

2) What has happened in recorded history on your birth date (day and month)? Tell us how you found out, and list five events.

3)  What famous people have been born on your birth date?  Tell us how you found out, and list five of them.

4)  Put your responses in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a status or comment on Facebook.

Here's mine:

1) My birthdate is 05 Aug 1966.  It was a Friday, according to this website and also sounds right from other times I've looked it up in the past.

2) 1861 - US levies its 1st Income Tax (3% of incomes over $800)
    1884 - Cornerstone for Statue of Liberty laid on Bedloe's Island (NYC)
    1914 - 1st traffic light installed (Euclid Ave & E 105th St, Cleveland)
    1936 - At Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens wins his 3rd Olympic medal
    1945 - Atom Bomb dropped on Hiroshima (Aug 6th in Japan)
    1957 - "American Bandstand," begins network TV (ABC)
    1966 - 33rd NFL Chicago All-Star Game: Green Bay 38, All-Stars 0 (72,000)
    1966 - Beatle John Lennon says Beatles are more popular than Jesus
    1966 - Beatles' "Revolver" album is released
    1966 - Jose Torres beats Eddie Cotton to retain light-HW boxing title
    1966 - Martin Luther King Jr stoned during Chicago march
    1966 - USSR performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR
    1966 - Beatles release "Revolver" album in US
    1966 - Beatles release "Yellow Submarine" & "Eleanor Rigby" in UK
    1966 - Port Authority of New York and New Jersey break ground on the World Trade Center

More than 5, yes.  I found most of the list here.   I'm not sure if August 5th is a violent day, or if battles just tend to get more reporting, but it seems there were a great many more battles and violent acts on this day than peaceful ones.  It also seems the Beatles were busy on the day of my birth.

3) Maureen Denise McCormick (born August 5, 1956) is an American actress, celebrity and recording artist. She is most widely known as a child actor who played Marcia Brady in the television series The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974.  I share a birthday with Marcia Brady!

John Marcellus Huston (August 5, 1906 – August 28, 1987) was an American film director, screenwriter and actor. He wrote most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered "classics": The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), The Misfits (1961), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975). During his 46-year career, Huston received 15 Oscar nominations, winning twice, and directed both his father, Walter Huston, and daughter, Anjelica Huston to Oscar wins in different films.

Neil Alden Armstrong (born August 5, 1930) is an American aviator and a former astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor, and United States Naval Aviator. He was the first person to set foot on the Moon.

John Saxon (born August 5, 1936)[1] is an American actor who has worked on over 200 projects during the span of sixty years. Saxon is most known for his work in horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Black Christmas, both of which feature Saxon as a policeman in search of the killer. He is also known for his role as Roper in the 1973 film Enter the Dragon, in which he starred with Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly.

Natalie Trundy (born August 5, 1940 in Boston, Massachusetts) is an American actress, and the widow of movie producer Arthur P. Jacobs.
She made a sizeable contribution to the Planet of the Apes movie series (produced by her husband) during the 1970s. She appeared as the telepathic mutant Albina in the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, as Dr. Stephanie ("Stevie") Branton in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and as the chimpanzee Lisa, the mate (later wife) of Caesar, in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

All of these were found via this site but the blurbs above were taken from the Wikipedia articles on each person.  The links to the Wikipedia articles were located using the Hubpages website.

I am most impressed by the date match with Neil Armstrong, as my childhood dream was to be an astronaut, and Neil Armstrong was one of my heroes.  I am also somewhat tickled by the last, Natalie Trundy, as I was a fan of the original Planet of the Apes movies.

I would like to thank Randy Seaver for once again providing an entertaining activity for Saturday evening!  You should check out his blog,  Genea-Musings, if you're not already following him.

Surname Saturday - Dillman

I realize I covered the Dillman name in my first Surname Saturday, but I wanted to try it in the style that Randy Seaver of  Genea-Musings does.  I'm not following his whole countdown process, just doing this one post.  Here goes:

My ancestral line back through seven generations is as follows:

1. Daniel G. Dillman.

2. Dana E. Dillman (Living)
3. Eva L. Williams (Living)

4. Estel E. Dillman (1908 - 1982)
5. Alta May Day (1910 - 1992)

8. Clyde Taylor Dillman (1886 - 1967)
9. Arminthia Belle Wiseman (1886 - 1920)

16. Peter Dillman (1833 - 1899)
17. Elizabeth D. Landiss (1834 - 1908)

32. Michael Dillman (1810 - 1879)
33. Cynthia Batman (1809 - 1878)

55. Johann Michael Dillmann (1755 - 1821)
56. Maria Elisabeth Eva Legrand (abt. 1760 - bef. 1830)

I should note that there is a missing level in here as #8 Clyde Taylor Dillman is actually the grandson of #16 Peter Dillman through his daughter  Jemimah Hattie Dillman and her husband John Straughan as noted in this Tombstone Tuesday post.  It's complicated, and I'll do my best to lay out the details when I cover Clyde Taylor Dillman down the road.

This method does have the advantage of presenting the lineage and some timing for the surname.  My original method planned to do one level per post, and that has the disadvantage of only seeing the line in one-level snapshots, but has the added advantage of presenting much more detail on each level.  I think I prefer the added detail of doing one level per post.  Now that I've presented the line as a whole, I will continue with the more detailed posting.

Michael Dillman was born in Ohio on 28 Dec 1810, and died 13 Jun 1879 in Crawford County, Indiana of rheumatism.  He is buried in Dillman Cemetary, Curby, Crawford County, Indiana (Row 9 Plot 4) and his tombstone was featured in an earlier Tombstone Tuesday alongside his wife, Cynthia (Cyntha) Batman.  Cynthia was born 20 Feb 1809 in Harrison County, Indiana and died 16 Jan 1878 in Crawford County, Indiana.  The two were married on 08 Oct 1831 in Harrison County, Indiana.  More details about Michael is in the aforementioned Tombstone Tuesday post.

52 Weeks of Personal genealogy - Week 5, Favorite Foods

I remember meals when I was growing up to be a mix of midwestern meat & potatoes type meals, with an injection of southern style cooking.  My father is from near Huron, South Dakota, thus the meat & potatoes.  My mother is from Louisiana, whence the southern style.   I was a very picky eater as a child, and stubborn, to boot!  My poor mother ended up cooking what I'm sure she felt was bland, repetitive meals that I would eat, as I was able to out-stubborn her in refusing to eat things I didn't like (or thought I didn't like).  It turns out there is some basis for me and other picky eaters - see this somewhat technical article on Supertasters at Wikipedia and this one at CNN.  What I find interesting is that each article talks about foods that supertasters find repulsive, and I like some of what's on each list, but don't like much of what's on most of the lists.  Odd, and I digress.

My favorite food was (and still is) beef steak.  Preferably grilled.  My father likes to grill a steak into shoe leather, and I grew up eating steaks cooked this way.  Only after I got older, moved out on my own and started grilling my own steaks did I realize what I had been missing!  I still don't go less than a medium by choice, but at that point they are still juicy and flavorful.  And I've grown used to family comments about the meat still mooing at me when I cut into it.  

I've enlarged the range of foods I eat as I've grown older and tried new things, though most people would still call me a picky eater.  One thing I've also acquired is heartburn, with several notable triggers.  Unfortunately, some of those triggers are things I like to eat!  I don't see how that's fair, whoever decided to invent heartburn!

What are your favorite foods?  Are you a Supertaster?  Discuss in the comments below!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Funeral Card Friday - Michael & Catherine (Undersander) Hengel

Inside data pages of Michael & Catherine Hengel funeral card

Most of the funeral cards I have are for single individuals.  This particular card happens to be for a couple - Michael Hengel and Catherine (Undersander) Hengel.  They are from my wife's maternal line.  I was totally new to funeral cards until my wife showed me some that she had.  I don't know if they're just not part of my family's tradition or what, but I had never seen one at the few funerals I had attended from my family.  It's interesting to me that this card has both people in the couple, as they died 14 years apart.  Is this common?

Other things I've noticed: Some cards are "single page" with an iconic image on one side and the data and prayers on the other side.  Others are a "double page" folded style with iconic images on the outside and data and prayers on the inside.  Some are in black & white or sepia tone, but many have full color images.  Some of my people have multiple cards with different images on the outside, but identical text inside.  I feel like I need to collect the whole set.

Outside of Michael & Catherine Hengel funeral card

These cards are nice little reminders of the departed, but don't contain enough data to be very interesting from a genealogy standpoint.  That said, while scanning a bunch of these, I did come across a few that added more specific dates or locations for people, so they're not useless for sure.

I'd better quit here and post this while it's still Funeral Card Friday!  What's the best information you ever got from a funeral card?  Post in the comments below!

Funeral Card Friday is a genealogy meme created by Dee Welborn of Funeral Cards & Genealogy and has been an ongoing series in the Geneablogger community.  If you're interested in funeral cards, I strongly recommend you visit her blog!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Open Thread Thursday – Ancestry and the Genealogy Community

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday (blurb shamelessly lifted from Geneabloggers) is:

This week announced that it would cease operation of Expert Connect on February 3, 2011. This has caused much discussion on various genealogy blogs and mailing lists about’s commitment to and role in the genealogy community.

What are your opinions about’s role in the genealogy community? Does the biggest player in the industry have any duty to this vibrant group of genealogists and family historians? Or is its duty solely to its stockholders and customers since Ancestry went public in late 2009?

It's hard to do genealogy and not have feelings one way or another about  They are the major player.  They have been buying out smaller outlets.  They have the pull to arbitrarily change how things are.

They are a business, and businesses exist to make money for someone.  Ancestry's business happens to be in digitizing, indexing and hosting many millions of vital records from all over the world.  Yes, the records are largely public data, but Ancestry has gone through the time and effort of digitizing and indexing the data, checking and correcting errors.  Do I think they deserve to be able to charge for the service they provide?  Certainly.  Do I think they are overpriced?  I do happen to think so, but I come at genealogy as a hobbyist, in my spare time and for my own enjoyment.  Professional genealogists might see it differently.

One thing that does bother me about lately is their new hobby of buying up other online data repositories.  Once bought, those repositories now require payment to for access.  And there is less competition, which means less requirement for providing quality goods and services.  I think this harms the genealogy community overall. 

I have used the occasional temporary freebie offers that has made available to obtain document scans and other records.  I appreciate these offers.  However, my budget dictates that I rely on freely available materials as much as possible, so I tend to use or HeritageQuest, which is available to me through my local public library.  It oftentimes gripes me that costs as much as it does, or at all, but I do understand the effort involved in what they do, and the need for any business to make money.

TL;DR: does what they do to make money.  If you need it, pay, if not, find freebie alternatives and be satisfied.

(TL;DR is geek shorthand for Too Long; Didn't Read, and is the way techy folks are summarizing long posts these days.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Lommel Ladies

Wordless Wednesday – a great way to share your old family photos! Create a post with the main focus being a photograph or image. Some posters also include attribute information as to the source of the image (date, location, owner, etc.). Wordless Wednesday is one of the longest running “memes” in the blogosphere and is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Jemimah Hattie Dillman

Tombstone of Jemimah Hattie Dillman, Dillman Cemetery, Curby, Crawford County, Indiana
Today's Tombstone Tuesday subject is Jemimah Hattie Dillman, daughter of Peter & Elizabeth Dillman, subjects of a previous Tombstone Tuesday.  Jemimah (also spelled Jemima, Gemina) was the seventh child of ten (plus one adoption I'll discuss later).  She's my direct ancestor.  The gravestone shown above reads as follows: Jemimah H. Dillman, Dau of Peter and Elizabeth b Aug 3, 1866, d Apr 26 1886, 19 yrs, 8 mths, 23 days.

Documentation of  Jemimah is sketchy.  I have notes pertaining to a spouse named William Wiseman, but no record I have found.  I've even seen some other researchers' data showing five children for this marriage, but the children are NOT from that marriage as I have them documented from another marriage entirely.  Other notes (and some documentation) show her marriage to John Straughan on 12 Feb 1885 in Crawford, Indiana when she was 19 years old.  She had one child, Clyde Taylor Straughan, and died soon thereafter, possibly from complications of childbirth.  Family lore has it that John Straughan was much older than Jemimah, and a cruel man, so it's possible there was some abuse there that ended up in her death?  I have no documentation to show cause of death yet.  In any case, John Straughan shortly made himself scarce, and little Clyde Taylor was adopted by his mother's parents, Peter & Elizabeth Dillman.  This explains the Dillman surname coming down to me instead of Straughan.  I mentioned Clyde Taylor in an earlier post, and I'm sure he'll come up again and again.  He's a pivotal figure in my tree.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Hengel

This weekend I was presented with a treasure trove of photos and documents that will undoubtedly be the focus of many a post to come.  This time I'll start with my wife's mother's family, in keeping with the Matrilineal Monday theme. 

My wife's mother's maiden name is Hengel.  I've been relatively unsuccessful in tracking them very many generations back, nor very much detail on the individuals I did know about.  Thus I was tickled pink to get my hands on my mother-in-law's old photos and documents!  Part of the aggregation (I can't call it a collection, it's almost totally unorganized, a problem I shall have to attempt to correct) is an old photo album from my mother-in-law's mother, with many photos dated 1920!  Regrettably few have names or places associated with them.  I'm hoping my mother-in-law can assist with some names.  Another major item is a scrapbook from my wife's great aunt, with literally dozens of obituaries, anniversaries, engagements and weddings from the local newspaper.  Much of this is documentation I've never seen before.  This is the one part of this treasure that contains a lot of useful dates and names along with the faces!  I find myself wishing I had one of those new portable scanners the bloggers are all raving about.  Most of the scrapbook is articles glued in place, difficult to scan on  flatbed.

Another treasure in the group is a set of World War II Ration Books.  They look like this:
World War II Ration Book circa 1943
As you can see, I get a lot of useful data from just this one piece.  A name and address, and even physical description and occupation!  The folder of ration books included one for each member of the family at that point.  Even as historical artifacts, these ration books are of interest, but throw in the personal data and they become very valuable in telling the family story.

Another item found in the box is a heavily laminated copy of the obituary of Wilhelmine C. (Lommel) Hengel, the owner of the ration book above.  It gives the names of many family members, birth and death dates as expected, and a marriage date.  Funeral location and time and burial place are included as well.  Unfortunately, it doesn't include first names of female family members, instead opting for Mrs. Husband Name. 

A Tribute
published in the pages of
The St. Cloud Daily Times
APR 20 1972
Memorial Obituary
Entered Into Eternal Rest
Thursday, April 20, 1972

  Mrs. Victor (Wilhelmine)hengel Sr. 71, 707 14th Ave. S., died today.  She was born here Wilhelmine Lommel Sept. 29, 1900, and married Victor Hengel Nov. 24, 1927.  He died Nov. 24, 1965.  She lived here all her life.
  She was a member of St. Ann's Christian mothers and St. Margaret's Society.
  Mrs. Hengel is survived by sons and daughters, Victor Jr., Virgil and Mrs.Marvin Theisen, St. Cloud; Eugene, Red Wing, Minn.; 18 grandchildren; and brothers and sisters, Mrs. August Meyer, St. Paul; Mrs. Raymond Weismann, Minneapolis; Mrs. Raymond Uberecken, Denver, Color.; Mrs. Betty Stewart, Walnut Creek, Calif.; Mrs. Herschel Hieberg, Wallace, Idaho; Gilbert Lommel, Kimball, Minn.; Ed and Sally Lommel, St. Cloud; and Jerome Lommel, Modesta, Calif.  She was preceded in death by a daughter and a brother.
  Funeral Services are at 10a.m. Saturday at St. Mary's Cathedral with burial in Assumption Cemetery.
  Pallbearers will be Donald, Robert and Karl Lommel, Robert and Michael Hengel and James Meyer.
  Friends may call at the Daniel Funeral Home after 2 p. m. Friday.
  St. Ann's Christian Mothers will say the rosary at the funeral home at 3 p. m. Friday and St. Mary's Cathedral parish will say the parish prayers at 8 p.m. Friday.

Watch this space for further treasures to be revealed! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal genealogy - Week 4, Home

My family moved a few times while I was growing up, but we finally settled down and spent the most time on the north side of St. Cloud, Minnesota.  In the summer 1f 1971 my parents rented a small cracker-box of a house across the street from the railroad yard.  Not very attractive, but affordable on what they were earning.  I don't know much about the origins of the house or previous owners.  I do remember we had a good landlord who came over  at least once to help with a problem with the house - the well pump, I think.  We had  a well for all of our water, with a big pressurized tank in the basement.  City water was not yet available on our street.  I still remember that as some of the best tasting water I've ever had, although now it's not as good as I remember.

As I mentioned, the house was small.  It also apparently had been built smaller, then added on at some point, as the roof line was awkward at one point.  It was sheathed in a pink asphalt shingle-like material.  It had no porch or deck, and a single-car detached garage with white wood siding.  It had a living room, a small kitchen, a TINY bathroom with a half-sized tub and no shower, a dining room and a single bedroom.  The basement was full with concrete block walls.  As we were a family with two adults and two kids, we needed more bedroom space, so the dining room became a bedroom for a while for my brother and me.  We had bunk beds because two beds wouldn't have fit any other way.  Later we built a bedroom in the basement for us.  Nowadays that's really frowned upon, as we didn't have egress windows or anything.  As I got a little older, I wanted my own room, so we divided that room into two small rooms.

Things pretty much stayed that way until May of 1979 when my youngest brother was born, complicating the space arrangements.  I don't even remember what we did to cope.  In 1987 I enlisted in the Navy and moved out, easing the space issues a little.  After I left, a number of remodeling projects occurred.  A front porch/deck was added.  The house was resided in something other than asphalt, and in a cream color with trim added to make it look half-timbered.  The roof was replaced a couple of times, once while I was still home, then once more quite recently to repair some leaks.  Insulation was added.  A back deck was added, and a patio off of that.  The garage was painted to match the house color.  My other brothers eventually moved out as well, leaving just my parents living in that house.  It's a decent size for a couple without kids. The only real problems with the house yet are that it evolved very hodge-podge over the decades, and that it is in serious need of upgrades to the infrastructure.  Electrical outlets are all still two-prong, and plumbing needs a look-see.  Light fixtures are almost nonexistent, so everything is plug-in lamps.  The electrical service is still through a fuse box!  It's all plaster and lathe, so redoing the electrical would entail gutting the place and dry-walling.  At some point, city water was run to the house, and cable TV, so it's not entirely stuck in the mid-20th century. 

My folks still live in that house, almost 40 years later.  We still gather there for holidays.  Me and my family, my middle brother and his wife and now 7 kids, and until recently, my youngest brother and his fiancee.  That little house gets awfully crowded during those holiday gatherings!  One of the great things is that we're all still close enough to gather, again except for my youngest brother and fiancee who recently moved off to Florida.  Growing up, we had no nearby relatives, so having family gatherings was rare and involved a lot of driving.

What was your home like when you were growing up?  Talk about it in the comments below!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Follow Friday - Genealogy's Star

Being new to blogging, I'm also pretty new to reading blogs with any regularity or quantity.  It's one of several shifts I'm undergoing in the way I take in news and information recently.  Some of you are probably wondering what kind of Luddite I am, not having read blogs... 

I would like to take this opportunity to recommend to you one of the genealogy blogs I have started following on a regular (read: daily) basis: Genealogy's Star.  It's written by James Tanner, a triple geek.  He's a law geek, a computer geek and a genealogy geek.  (I'm not sure he'll appreciate me calling him a geek, though!)  He volunteers at the Family History Center in Mesa, AZ, by assisting patrons and teaching genealogy classes.

James writes about legal and ethical aspects of genealogy, as well as technology as applied to genealogical research.  While I've not agreed 100% with everything he's written, he is often thought-provoking and never dull!  I strongly recommend you go take a look and add Genealogy's Star to your follow list.

Friday Fun

We genealogy buffs tend to be a wordy bunch, and that is nowhere more apparent than on genealogy blogs such as this one.  Blogs give us a forum where we can show off our finds, discuss tools and tips, ponder deeper issues of family and history, etc.  Some of us go on at great length in... okay, I'll get to the point of this post.

We typically use a lot of words.  But what if we were constrained in length?  For instance, Twitter imposes a 140 character limit per tweet, similar to texting.  How would you discuss genealogy in such a limited space?  Strangely enough, it was a tweet (a Twitter message) from @MyHeritage (Twitter user names are preceded by the "@" symbol) that made me aware of the fun little web gadget I'm bringing you today.  You may have seen blogs that include a 'Labels' listing.  This blog does, down on the right side.  It lists the labels we bloggers add to our entries to try to make them searchable, and to give some quick idea of the content of the article.  Blogger's Labels widget is fairly primitive in that it doesn't give much option for the format of the output.  A website called Wordle has take the concept much further.  Wordle lets you point at any blog or website and it will generate a 'label cloud' from the words it finds, varying the size of the words by frequency of use, and making interesting shapes of the output.  It also uses a variety of fonts and colors to spice it up further.  Even better, you can manually tweak a number of settings and it will rework the label cloud for you until you have something you like.  As of just prior to this post, my cloud looks something like this:

I encourage you to try Wordle and see what it makes of your favorite blog.  Now that I've written all of that, I'm getting little bells in my head that this may also have been covered by Thomas McEntee over at Geneabloggers.  This is probably the case, as I've found his blog to be very helpful and influential in getting my own blog off the ground.  You should probably go read his, too! 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thurston Thursday - Alfred Mellin Thurston

None of the usual Thursday genealogy memes really grabbed me, and since I have a Thurston line, I decided to go with Thurston Thursday instead!

Alfred Mellin Thurston (b. 06 May 1842, d. 31 Mar 1927)

Alfred Mellin Thurston was reportedly born to John Thurston and Keziah (Black/Blake) Thurston in Wellington, Piscataquis County, Maine on May 6th, 1842.  He had five siblings I have found.  I have virtually no information on his early life.  I did find him in the 1860 US Federal Census:

Surname        GivenName  Age Sex Race Birthplace State County Location                Year
THURSTON  ALFRED    17    M    W     ME            WI    DUNN  SPRING BROOK 1860

Head of household is listed as Seth Webb, so he's likely boarding away from home at school.

The next time I find him is during the Civil War.  Alfred fought for the Union Army and was wounded, gunshot wounds to the right thigh and left arm:

Name:     Alfred Thurston
Residence:     Springfield, Wisconsin
Enlistment Date:     24 Aug 1861
Side Served:     Union
State Served:     Wisconsin
Service Record:     Enlisted as a Private on 24 August 1861.
Enlisted in Company C, 8th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin on 24 Aug 1861.
Received a disability discharge from Company C, 8th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin on 28 Mar 1863.
Sources:     97

Source Citation: Side served: Union; State served: Wisconsin; Enlistment date: 24 Aug 1861..

Source Information:
Historical Data Systems, comp.. American Civil War Soldiers [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999.
Original data: Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA form the following list of works.

Copyright 1997-2000
Historical Data Systems, Inc.
PO Box 35

Alfred returns to Wisconsin, where he regains his health.  Once again we see him enlist:

Name:     Alfred Thurston
Residence:     Oasis, Wisconsin
Enlistment Date:     2 Nov 1864
Side Served:     Union
State Served:     Wisconsin
Service Record:     Enlisted as a Private on 2 November 1864.
Drafted into Company K, 1st Cavalry Regiment Wisconsin on 2 Nov 1864.
Mustered Out Company K, 1st Cavalry Regiment Wisconsin on 29 Jul 1865.
Sources:     97

Source Citation: Side served: Union; State served: Wisconsin; Enlistment date: 2 Nov 1864..

Source Information:
Historical Data Systems, comp.. American Civil War Soldiers [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999.
Original data: Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA form the following list of works.

Copyright 1997-2000
Historical Data Systems, Inc.
PO Box 35

Alfred survives this enlistment and returns home to a wife and a life of farming.  Alfred married Barbara Ann Messing (b. 07 Sep 1842 in Hesselhurst, Ortenaukreis, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, d. 03 Nov 1909 in Cavour, Beadle County, South Dakota) on 04 Jul 1863 in Oasis, Waushara County, Wisconsin.  They will have nine children to help with the farm chores.
The next time we see him, he's still in Wisconsin, and it's for the 1880 US Census:

A. M. THURSTON       Household
      Other Information:
            Birth Year     <1842>
            Birthplace     ME
            Age     38
            Occupation     Farming
            Marital Status     M <Married>
            Race    W <White>
            Head of Household     A. M. THURSTON
            Relation    Self
            Father's Birthplace    ME
            Mother's Birthplace    ME
      Source Information:
          Census Place     Knowlton, Marathon, Wisconsin
          Family History Library Film    1255433
          NA Film Number    T9-1433
          Page Number    282A
Around this time, Alfred is awarded a pension for his Civil War service of $6.00 per month.  The pension data shows him living in Cavour, Beadle County, South Dakota already, so he's moved fairly soon after the 1880 Census in Wisconsin.

Beadle County, Dakota Territory 1883 List of Pensioners on the Roll                             Date of Original
Cert#      Name of Pensioner   P.O. Address Cause for which pensioned   Monthly Rate        Allowance
217,795  Thurston, Alfred M. Cavour           g. s. w. rt. thigh and lt. arm    $ 6.00        Sept.,1882

Not long after, we see Alfred being issued a Land Patent in Beadle County, South Dakota:

Names On Document           Land Descriptions
Map                                          State-Meridian Twp-Rng       Aliq.   Sec.     Srv. #     County
Show land description on map SD - 5th PM     112N-060W  NE¼  30                       Beadle

Military Rank:     ---    
Document Numbers    
Document Nr:     649    
Misc. Doc. Nr:     ---    
BLM Serial Nr:     SDMTAA 123545    
Indian Allot. Nr:     ---    
Survey Information    
Total Acres:     160.00    
Survey Date:     ---    
Geographic Name:     ---    
Metes/Bounds:     No    
Miscellaneous Information    
Land Office:     Montana State Office    
Tribe:     ---    
Militia:     ---    
US Reservations:     No    
Mineral Reservations:     No    
Authority:     April 24, 1820: Sale-Cash Entry (3 Stat. 566)

    SDMTAA 123545     PatenteeTHURSTON, ALFRED M     11/20/1884     649     SD     5th PM     112N - 060W     NE¼     30     Beadle
 It doesn't show military rank, so this would seem to be a more usual homestead issue, and not a military grant.  Alfred and family moved to South Dakota prior to this Land Patent being granted, however, as their 8th child, Ida May Thurston, was born July 4th, 1883 in Liberty Township, Beadle County, South Dakota.  Ida May was my paternal great-grandmother.

The last official record I have found yet is from the 1910 US Federal Census, which shows Alfred still living in Liberty Township, Beadle County, South Dakota:

Surname       GivenName  Age  Sex  Race  Birthplace  State  County     Location     Year
THURSTON ALFRED M 68    M     W      ME            SD     BEADLE  LIBERTY  1910
 Alfred stayed in the area, but probably moved with one of his children slightly west in Hyde County, South Dakota, after Barbara died in 1909.  Alfred finally died as well on 31 Mar 1927 in Orient, Hyde County, South Dakota, and is buried in Shue Creek Cemetery Lot 3, 6 miles east, 5.5 miles north of Huron, Beadle County, South Dakota next to his wife.

The photo above is the only image I have of Alfred Mellin Thurston, and was cropped from a larger family photograph showing all of his family members:

The Alfred Mellin Thurston family circa 1907.  Back: Roderick, Jennifer, Joseph, Ida, Edward. Middle: Stephen, Erminnie.  Front: Alfred, Stella, Barbara

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Celia C. (Day) Durand

Celia C. (Day) Durand (b. 19 Nov 1845, d. ?)

Wordless Wednesday – a great way to share your old family photos! Create a post with the main focus being a photograph or image. Some posters also include attribute information as to the source of the image (date, location, owner, etc.). Wordless Wednesday is one of the longest running “memes” in the blogosphere and is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Arminthea "Belle" Wiseman

Arminthia Belle Dillman grave marker in Walnut Ridge Cemetery, Jeffersonville, Clark County, Indiana.

 This tombstone belongs to my paternal great-grandmother, Arminthea "Belle" Wiseman.  She was born in April of 1886 in Leavenworth, Crawford County, Indiana and died 01 Feb 1920 in Jeffersonville, Clark County, Indiana.  She married Clyde Taylor Straughan nee Dillman on 14 Aug 1904 in Crawford County, Indiana.  She is buried in Walnut Ridge Cemetery, Jeffersonville, Indiana, in the Old Singles section, Row I, Grave 1.  The grave site sits right next to the roadway through the cemetery.

Cheap aggregate material is showing heavy weathering and wear.

You can see from this image of the top of the stone that it is a cheap aggregate stone, not a carved stone, which indicates it was done as inexpensively as possible.  Weather has not been kind to the stone as you can also see.  Rubbing it causes particles to come off.  It also has lichen or moss on most surfaces and is very difficult to read.

Belle shows up on the 1900 US Federal Census:

Name: Belle Wiseman
Residence: Ohio Township, Crawford, Indiana
Birth Date: Apr 1886
Birthplace: Indiana
Relationship to Head-of-Household: Daughter
Spouse Name:
Spouse Titles:
Spouse Birth Place:
Father Name: Abe Wiseman
Father Titles:
Father Birthplace: Indiana
Mother Name: Mary O Wiseman
Mother Titles:
Mother Birthplace: Indiana
Race or Color (expanded): White
Head-of-household Name: Abe Wiseman
Gender: Female
Marital Status: Single
Years Married:
Estimated Marriage Year:
Mother How Many Children:
Number Living Children:
Immigration Year:
Enumeration District: 0028
Sheet Number and Letter: 6A
Household ID: 104
Reference Number: 38
GSU Film Number: 1240365
Image Number: 00125
Collection: United States Census, 1900

She has two sons after the 1900 Census.  Orville Wayne Dillman is reportedly born 03 Jan 1902.  I say reportedly because Arminthia's wedding date is 14 Aug 1904, and there is no record or family lore of Orville being born out of wedlock.  Also, Orville left home early to join the Navy, and may very well have fudged his birthdate to be allowed to enlist.   Estel Elmer Dillman is born 21 Dec 1908.  Estel's middle name in old family records and on at least one census is given as Ottes, but I always knew him, and many other records as well show his middle name as Elmer.  This family had some issues, and I don't have good information on why the name may have been changed.  Unfortunately, Estel, my grandfather, died on 06 Nov 1982, so I can no longer ask him.

She also appears in the 1910 Census:

Name: Belle Dillman
Birthplace: Indiana
Relationship to Head of Household: Wife
Residence: South Ellensburg, Kittitas, Washington
Marital Status: Married
Race: White
Gender: Female
Immigration Year:
Father's Birthplace: Indiana
Mother's Birthplace: Indiana
Family Number: 50
Page Number: 3
Collection: United States Census, 1910

Arminthia Belle (Wiseman) Dillman circa 1910

At this point she's been married to Clyde Taylor Straughan nee' Dillman for almost six years.  She's moved to Kittitas, Washington and is pregnant with her third child, Clyde Landis Dillman.  She won't stay in Washington very long as her fourth child Howard Carter Dillman will be born back in Leavenworth, Crawford County, Indiana.  I have no indications of why she went to Washington, or what happened there to cause her to return to Indiana.  Her final living child, daughter Reva Dillman, was born 19 Sep 1916 in Harrison County, Indiana.  Another daughter was either stillborn or died very early in infancy.

At some point near 1920, Clyde Taylor abandons his family and moves across the river to Louisville, Kentucky.  As far as I can tell, he will stay there the rest of his life, and die there in January 1967.  Clyde Taylor has some issues, and I will deal with him more fully in another post.  In any case, Belle Dillman appears one last time in the 1920 US Census, which is surprising with her death coming in early February of 1920.

Name: Belle Dillman
Residence: , Clark, Indiana
Estimated Birth Year: 1886
Age: 34
Birthplace: Indiana
Relationship to Head of Household: Wife
Gender: Female
Race: White
Marital Status: Married
Father's Birthplace: Indiana
Mother's Birthplace: Indiana
Film Number: 1820425
Digital Folder Number: 4300600
Image Number: 00329
Sheet Number: 3
Collection: United States Census, 1920

By this point, Orville Wayne is enlisted in the Navy.  Belle dies in February and Clyde abandons the remainder of his family, who are fostered with Belle's relatives.  Again, fodder for another post, but clearly a very interesting family!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Obituary - Caroline Susan (Keppers) Theisen

Caroline Susan (Keppers) Theisen, May 1956

This week's subject is Caroline Susan Keppers, wife of last week's subject, Peter Adam Theisen.  Caroline was my wife's paternal grandmother.  She died right around the time I first met my wife, and shortly before the death of my paternal grandfather in November 1982. 

SAUK RAPIDS— Mrs Peter (Caroline S) Theisen, 85, Route 1 and formerly of St. Cloud, died Tuesday at the Monticello-Big Lake Hospital, Monticello.

Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Holy Cross Catholic Church, Pearl Lake, with the Rev. Roger Vaughn officiating.  Burial will be in the parish cemetery.

Friends may call after 3 p.m. Thursday at the Daniel Funeral Home in St. Cloud.  Holy Cross parish prayers will be 8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home, followed by Holy Cross Christian Mothers at 8:30 and Annunciation Christian Mothers of Mayhew Lake at 9.

Mrs Theisen was born Jan 10. 1897, in Avon, to the late Joseph and Mary (Kraemer) Keppers.  She married Peter A. Theisen on Feb 13,1917, in Rockville and farmed in the Pearl Lake area most of her married life.  She moved to St. Cloud in 1958, where she was a resident until 1974 when
she moved to the home of her daughter in Sauk Rapids. She was a member of Holy Cross Christian Mothers of Pearl Lake, St. Theresa's Catholic Aide of Luxemburg, Annunciation Christian Mothers and Annunciation Parish of Mayhew Lake.

Survivors include children, Mrs. Gerhard (Viola) Leither, Jacobs Prairie, Francis, Mrs. Leander (Lucille) Gross, Mrs. Clodoald (Eileen) Blonigen, Mrs James (Bernice) Brunette and Marvin, St. Cloud; Marcellus and Mrs. Francis (Betty) Zwilling, Sauk Rapids, Mrs. Mathias (Rosemary) Koltes, Kimball, James, Pearl Lake, and Vernon, Elk River; 65 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren; brothers and sisters, Jerome, Wadena, Edward, Green Bay, Wis., Justin, Lincoln, Mrs. Joseph (Cecilia) Nolen, Roscoe, and Mrs. Lawrence (Loretta) Thielman, Cold Spring.

She was preceded in death by her husband on Dec. 23, 1971, three children, four grandchildren, and one sister.

Pallbearers will be grandsons.

This is another pretty good obituary, with a brief biographical section and names and location of children and spouses.  Also, it gives full names for her parents including mother's maiden name.  Like most obits, this one doesn't give a date of death, but rather a day.  This requires that you know the date of publication to calculate back to the actual date of death.  Other sources have provided this information: 14 Sep 1982.

I've mentioned in other posts about my in-laws not being very interested in family history before I started asking.  The Keppers family is actually pretty well documented for several generations back, a fact I discovered once I started investigating the family on the Internet.  Even so, this obituary provided some data that I had not found elsewhere.  Any source can have important data!  

Sunday’s Obituary – if you have obituaries of family members and ancestors, consider posting them along with other information about that person as part of Sunday’s Obituary. This is an ongoing series developed by Leslie Ann at Ancestors Live Here.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy - Week 3, Cars

Cars!  Some of my earliest memories involve the family cars.  My father was a Plymouth man.  We always had the big land yacht Plymouths, Belvedere's and Fury's when I was young.  I recall a blue one and a white one from when I was very young.  Bench seats and huge trunks, automatic shift on the column.  BIG V-8 engines.  Seat belts were mandatory equipment by the time I was aware, but rarely used.  Car seats were unheard of.  I recall once standing in the middle of the front bench seat between my parents, with another adult sleeping across the bench seat in back, when we missed a turn and went off-road into a large ditch area.  I bit my tongue.  Other than that, everyone was okay.  I may have been three years old, but I'm not positive of that.

In about 1976, my father made his first departure from the Plymouth line.  He bought a white 1974 Ford Custom 500.  And regretted it the whole time he owned that beast.  That car just had its own philosophy that didn't mesh with Dad's Plymouth mindset.  We kept it for a long time, though, as I drove that car when I started driving in 1982.  It had a V-8 engine, the 351 Windsor.  Not the Cleveland variant that powered muscle cars of the era.  It leaked oil.  It rusted, Dad patched it with Bondo.  It died mysteriously, Dad talked with a guy from church who was a Ford man.  They made it work again.  I don't remember for sure when we disposed of it, but I think it probably went straight to the crusher of whatever junkyard received it after we traded it in on the next car, a pale blue 1980 AMC Pacer.

Yeah.  AMC Pacer, almost all glass upside down goldfish bowl, hatchback.  HOT in the summer, the air conditioner could barely keep up.  This thing had bench seats in front, and automatic transmission on the hump in the middle.  The straight six cylinder engine had enough power.  Rear defroster was a new thing for us, and in Minnesota it's an important feature.  So much glass meant a lot of window scraping in the winter, we appreciated not having to scrape the rear window as well.  We had that car for a number of years as well.  It also got rusty toward the end, as most American cars of that era did.  Cars now have much better design to avoid water collecting, better rust-proofing, and in many cases, plastic body panels that they don't rust out anywhere near like they used to back in the day!

Me driving the 1992 Chevy Citation
In 1992, my paternal grandmother (she who infected me with the family history bug!) died.  My father inherited her car, a maroon 1985 Chevrolet Citation with about 5,000 miles on it.  A 7 year old car with 5,000 miles!  Like new!  That car was a 4 cylinder with manual transmission. By this time, I was away in the Navy, so I don't know how that car ended.  Mom got a Reliant K car at some point.  When Dad retired, he bought a Pontiac Grand Am that he still has.

In 1984, my girlfriend (who became my wife) bought a gold 1973 Mercury Montego.  Mercury was just a fancy name for Ford.  It had the same 351 Windsor engine as my family's Custom 500.  It also leaked oil.  I'm told that oil leakage was a feature of that engine.  It had many of the same issues as the Ford mentioned above.  In 1986, she bought a brand new white Chevrolet Spectrum, a model soon shifted to the Geo brand.  It was a 2-door hatchback with a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine and manual transmission.  Learning experience!  I had picked up stick shift somewhere, but she had not.  She bought the car with my assurance that I would teach her how to drive it.  She learned well, and that car went with us when we married and moved to Virginia Beach, VA when I enlisted in the Navy.  We kept that car until a few months before I got out of the navy. We traded it for a blue 1991 Isuzu Stylus, about which more later. 
1986 Chevy Spectrum getting a cleanup

Before this point, I had needed a second car for driving to work on the Navy base and back.  I picked up an old red VW Beetle, which was very temperamental, but I liked it when it worked.  I later decided I would prefer the VW Bus for the added space.  I found and purchased one in 1990, a 1979 with the 2-liter air cooled flat four engine with hydraulic lifters.  It was beige over brown in the 2-color scheme a lot of those had at the time.  I picked up the Idiot's Guide for VW owners and read it.  I needed it.  Mostly, though, this van ran pretty well, after we found the fuel clogs in the tank.  I fell in love with that van!  It was the last of the old bread loaf style vans.  When we left Virginia to move back to Minnesota, some of our household goods went into that VW van.  About 1/3 of what we owned, I'd guess, which meant it was packed from the front seats back, there was not even air spaces.  I sat in the driver's seat, and our dogs rode on the passenger side in front.  Even loaded up this way, that thing was fast for a VW.  On the freeway, the speedometer showed 82MPH, and truckers I passed were chatting on the CB about it, saying they'd never seen one of those go that fast.

The aforementioned Isuzu Stylus was a sporty little 4-door with a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine and manual transmission as well.  We got the upscale model with handling package by Lotus!  It handled like a dream, and would do in excess of 100MPH, when the front end would start to float.  Or so I'm told... *wink*  That car was great fun on dry pavement, but really not suited at all to Minnesota winters.  It was light enough, and the tires on it were for performance, not snow, that we had very poor traction.  We kept it a couple of years after returning to Minnesota, but eventually ended up trading it in on something more appropriate for the area, a maroon 1988 Chevrolet Astro Extended Van.

My wife had misgivings about driving something so big after years in smaller compact cars, but quickly fell in love with the traction and visibility it offered in the winter.  It also had anti-lock brakes which came in very handy in icy Minnesota driving!  It was large enough to accommodate our growing family, easy to get kids and gear in and out.  It was even large enough to carry everything we needed to go camping.  During this time, we were both working, so I needed something to drive.  The VW Bus quickly rusted in the Minnesota winters, so I garaged it until I could restore it. I went through a series of $500 junkers that were sufficient to get me to work and back.  I remember a Chevrolet Caprice and a Chevrolet Celebrity wagon.  That one had stick, which amused me, a small station wagon with stick shift!  Eventually, I got a dark blue 1990 Chevy Astro, a base model old thing.

We were a two Astro (and one VW) family.  Eventually I realized I was never going to have the time and money to do the VW justice, so I gave it to a friend of my brother-in-law who wanted to restore it for his sister to drive.  I just wanted to see it fixed up and back in use.  He did restore it, and did a great job, but his sister didn't like driving it, and last I heard, it sits in her yard.  I wasn't real fond of the pea-green color he painted it, but that was no longer my worry.  I wish I could afford to buy it back!  The low-end Astro died, so we got a white 1998 GMC Safari (GMC's version of the Astro - we had certainly become a family of van enthusiasts!) for her to drive, and I started using the older Astro.  A couple of years later, I got a job some distance away, and rather than throw half my pay into a gas guzzling all-wheel-drive van, in 2007 I traded it in on a champagne colored 2000 Toyota Camry. This is the car I am driving today. 

To come back to the beginning of this post, I spoke about old cars rusting out and dying relatively young.  If you got more than 50-75 thousand miles out of a car you were doing well, and rolling the odometer over 100,000 was newsworthy.  The cars would generally rust to pieces even if the engine and drive train were still functional. When I bought the Toyota in 2007, it was already 7 years old and had 160 thousand miles on it!  The car was in great shape, obviously the previous owners had cared for it well, and those were all highway miles.  The car still shows almost no rust.  I had an unusual happening, the main bearings went in the engine, so I had to replace it. Everyone kept saying how unusual it was for this to happen in a Toyota.  I should get many more years of service from this car.  Back when I was a kid, cars might sell with a 10,000 mile warranty.  Now it's not unusual for new cars to sell with a 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty.  As much as we gripe about car problems, they are extremely robust and reliable compared to 30+ years ago.  Think about that next time your car demands a little TLC!

If you've stayed with me this far, congratulations, and thanks for reading this novel!  What cars did you and your family own when you were growing up?  Do you have any interesting stories?  Share them in the comments below!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

In a nod to Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings,

It's Saturday Night again - time for some more Genealogy Fun!!

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!):

1) How old is one of your grandfathers now, or how old would he be if he had lived? Divide this number by 4 and round the number off to a whole number. This is your "roulette number."

2) Use your pedigree charts or your family tree genealogy software program to find the person with that number in your ancestral name list (some people call it an "ahnentafel"). Who is that person?

3) Tell us three facts about that person in your ancestral name list with the "roulette number."

4) Write about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a Facebook note or comment, or as a comment on this blog post.

5) If you do not have a person's name for your "roulette number" then spin the wheel again - pick a grandmother, or yourself, a parent, a favorite aunt or cousin, or even your children!

Here's mine:

1) I'll use my paternal grandfather, Estel E. Dillman.  He was born  21 Dec 1908 and died 06 Nov 1982.  He would now be 102 years old.  Dividing by 4 gives 25.5, rounding off gives 26 for my roulette number.

2) Person #26 is Franz Anton Legrand.

3) He was born 15 Dec 1729 in Rhaunen, Hunsrück, Deutschland.  He died on 29 Jan 1796 in Niederweiler, Hunsrück, Deutschland.  He married Anna Maria Susanna Schleich.

4) I am blog posting this.  I will put a response over at Genea-Musings linking to the blog post.

5) Not applicable, I won on the first spin!

Thanks, Randy, this was a fun little game, I hope you get lots of people playing along!

Surname Saturday - Theisen

Theisen is my wife's maiden name.  For many years I was only researching my own lines, and hitting brick walls fairly often.  I thought about following and recording her lines to fill the time while I was probing for cracks in my own brick walls, but her family never seemed interested, or to have much knowledge to get me started, so I put it way on the back burner.  Maybe someday.

Forward about 20 years, and my in-laws are getting older.  Maybe I'd better follow up on their side if I'm ever going to get any information at all.  So I started asking the basics, what they knew about their parents and grandparents, places they'd lived, etc.  It turned out they could tell me a surprising amount of information, even if they could not document it all.  I asked about old photo albums, and oh yes, we have some old pictures in a box upstairs somewhere, we should dig those out someday and look...  If there's a lesson in any of this, it's DON'T WAIT TO ASK!  If you need ideas about what to ask, look for interview questions, there are many lists out there.

Okay, now we're at least started, but everyone says no one is really doing family history much.  I think so and so did a family tree back in school, maybe they still have it.  Oh, and Aunt such and such has a notebook she's been using to collect some information...  So it turns out some of the legwork has been done for me while everyone is telling me no one has the information.  GIMME!  Patience, Dan, we need to avoid spooking them before we get the data...  This Theisen family is of German descent, fine Roman Catholics.  What does that mean?  LARGE families.  My father-in-law is one of FOURTEEN, of which three died in infancy.  His father (my wife's paternal grandfather) is one of nine.  With numbers like these, I'm glad I have computers and software to keep track of it all!

Okay, living memory does pretty well, reaching back to the 1930's.  The Theisens are located in Stearns County, Minnesota, a rural farming area southwest of St. Cloud.  They're farmers.  Tales are told of life on the farm, amenities the farmhouse didn't have.  Parents, aunts and uncles.  All of this information, and probably more that's now forgotten.  Should have asked way back when.  Now I have enough data to look on the Internet and be reasonably sure I'm finding the right people.  And I get hits!  Turns out the Theisens are connected via marriages to a couple of other lines who do have active family historians with some fairly extensive lines posted.  Documentation isn't always there, or sufficient, but then I look at my own documentation and decide I can't complain too hard.

My father-in-law is Marvin Henry Theisen.  (b. 24 Jun 1933 in Luxemburg, Stearns County, Minnesota, married Ladonna Marie Hengel 22 May 1956).  Marv and Donna are still with us, for which I am thankful!  I could not have asked for better in-laws.

His father is Peter Adam Theisen (b. 06 May 1893 in St. Nicholas, Stearns County, Minnesota, d. 23 Dec 1971, married Caroline S. Keppers 13 Feb 1917).  I have located and photographed his grave marker, which will surely be the subject of a Tombstone Tuesday in the future.  He's also the first to show up in the Social Security Death Index.  He registered for the Draft in World War I, but his registration card failed to note physical details such as height and build, hair and eye color.  His marriage is documented in the Minnesota Marriage Certificate Index.  His obituary was very helpful in providing and corroborating names, and was the subject of a previous Sunday Obituary entry.

Peter Adam's father is Peter J. Theisen (b. 22 Aug 1866 in Cold Spring, Stearns County, Minnesota, d. 22 Mar 1947, married Maria Theresia Theis 30 Apr 1889).  I have found Peter J. in the 1880 United States Federal Census. 

Peter J.'s father is Peter Theisen (that's three Peters if you've lost count...) (b. 17 Apr 1827 in Girst, Rosport, Luxembourg, d. 01 Dec 1908 in Cold Spring, Stearns County, Minnesota, married Margrethia Reuter 12 Apr 1858).  Peter J. Theisen is the immigrant ancestor of the line. I have located and photographed his grave marker, which will also be the subject of a future Tombstone Tuesday.  Peter's father's name was reportedly John Theisen, but my data on him is extremely sketchy, so I'm not comfortable extending the line further without more solid documentation.

I've got far more information than I was lead to expect to find when I started.  But there is so much more to do on this line!  I need better documentation on most of the members (as I suspect most of us do on all too many of our ancestors) and I would love to be able to extend the line further back.  A genealogist's work is never done!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Alta May (Day) Dillman

Alta May (Day) Dillman (1910-1982)

This Thursday (as most days) I am thankful for my paternal grandmother, Alta May Day.  Without her, it is unlikely you would be reading this; Grandma was the one most responsible for feeding and encouraging my interest in family history as I grew up.  Born 12 Feb 1910 in Sheffield, Beadle County, South Dakota, she grew up on a farm with long days of hard work.  But along with the hard work, she and her father liked to play with cameras.  She became quite a shutterbug, which has had much influence on me in more than one way.  I seem to have inherited the photography gene from her, and spent almost 6 years in the US Navy as a Photographer's Mate.

Grandma got me started in family history, as I mentioned.  I don't remember the circumstances of it, perhaps it was a simple inquiry, perhaps it was for a school assignment.  In any case, Grandma Dillman was the one who had the family history information.  Her Day family is large and well documented, and she was in possession of a book by George Day detailing the lineage back to the first Day immigrants in 1634.  I'm sure reading this book had contributed to her interest in family history.  In any case, as I grew up and became more interested, she shared her information with me, and we discussed what she had done to look for more data.  This was in pre-internet days, of course, so most research was time-consuming and expensive.  Her information and insight gave me a solid foundation on which to further research the lines.

Another, more subtle influence is that she saved all of her pictures and put them in albums.  Late in her life, she used those albums to reminisce and write her memoirs which consist of about a thousand hand-written pages.  I have yet to transcribe all of that!  They make fascinating reading, describing her life and surroundings from a very early age on the farm, to marrying my grandfather and having kids, to fashions and events of the day.  One of my earlier posts was taken from those memoirs.  And yet another benefit - her albums were passed to me when she died.  The image above is just one.  While grandma didn't take the picture, she did hand color it, another photographic hobby she enjoyed.  I have many hundreds of photos of family and friends dating back to the 1880's.  You will doubtless be seeing more of her photos in weeks and months to come.  Come to think of it, this post might better have been made a Treasure Chest Thursday entry instead!  Thanks, grandma!