Category Archives: Uncategorized

Home is where my clock is! (and the crazy things we do for genealogy!)

I’m home wherever my grandmother’s clock and pictures are!  They were one of the very first items to be unpacked when we arrived at our new house in Delaware.

I’m home.  I’m finally home.  Not just home in a house, but home on the East Coast.  I’m finally where I belong, in the midst of my ancestors, many of whom died centuries ago.

At the end of March, my husband announced he’d applied for a job in Maryland.  By May he’d moved into an apartment, and I was furiously house-hunting for our new, permanent residence online.  By July I’d finished preparing our five-acre ranch home in California for market, and on August 13th the day it closed escrow, my son and I loaded up all of my family heirlooms and my genealogical records into a uHaul (would never consider sending such items with the moving company who took the rest of our household belongings!), buckled up the menagerie of dogs, and began our 2,800 mile trip to the Mid-Atlantic!  I’m not looking back! Continue reading


The 21st Century Pioneer Woman

A few months ago I purchased “Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier,” a wonderful book by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith.  It described the tremendous hardships 19th century women encountered when relocating to the American West.

Of particular note was Pamelia Fergus of Little Falls, Minnesota, who “had been on her own for nearly four years by the time her husband finally sent word that he was ready for the family to join him in the West.  Faced with the task of readying herself and her four children for the trip to the Montana territory, Pamelia followed a three-page memorandum from James in gathering the items she was to take on her journey…”

I cannot even begin to fathom traveling alone in 1864 via covered wagon to an unknown territory with four young children in my care.   To think Pamelia did so gives me courage in my own journey.

My husband and I are relocating to the Mid-Atlantic region.  (Hence the scarce blog posts the last couple months!)  Actually, Ed is already there, having started a new job.  My son and I are still at home in California, having prepared our home for sale and are now about ready to load up the dogs into the SUV and make the 2600 mile drive east.

Some days are quite overwhelming, thinking of all that is involved in such a transition.  It is on those days I remind myself how “easy” I have it in comparison to Pamelia Fergus, or my own 4th great grandmother, Betsy Wasgatt Stanwood, who traveled from Maine to Minnesota between 1865 to 1870, and then back to Maine where she died in 1874.

How did Pamelia manage four years without James?  How did she make it all those miles to Montana with kids in tow?  These are questions I asked myself as I struggled with some of the day-to-day responsibilities my husband would usually handle.  (Emptying heavy trash cans into the trash dumpster, maintaining the chemical balance of our swimming pool, finding time in my schedule to take my car to the mechanic for an oil change, and finding reputable home repairmen were some of my challenges!)

Yes, there is a lot modern women take for granted.  However, when I’m lamenting life without my husband nearby, I have determined to think of Pamelia and Betsy and how “easy” I have it in comparison to their trials as 19th century pioneer women!


Genetic memory or hardwired preferences: Questions for the family historian

Egg Rock Lighthouse

Egg Rock Lighthouse, at entry to Frenchman’s Bay

Genetic memory is explained as follows in Wikipedia:

In psychology, genetic memory is a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time. It is based on the idea that common experiences of a species become incorporated into its genetic code, not by a Lamarckian process that encodes specific memories but by a much vaguer tendency to encode a readiness to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli.

As a child, I longed for New England.  Not that I had any logical reason to be drawn to the area.  A native Southern Californian, I’d never experienced the east coast until my mother and I visited Maine in 2004.   Continue reading


Chronicling America chronicles the Stanwood family

Friday night I continued my search for the Stanwood surname on the Library of Congress’ web site, Chronicling America.  What an awesome site!  My great-great grandparents, Albert and Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, appeared several times in the Princeton Journal – typically when visiting their daughter Georgianna (Stanwood) Cravens.  Here are some of my finds:

Benjamin Stanwood recovers from Typhoid

Albert & Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood visit daughter Georgianna, who is ill

Albert & Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood visit daughter Georgianna, who is ill. This is curious - as Lavina died in 1920, and Albert was residing in Minneapolis at the time.

Albert Stanwood takes A.M. Palon to St. Louis lumbering district

Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood ill

Martha (Bursley) Orrock learns her sister, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood is ill.

Melvin Stanwood nearly drowns

Albert Stanwood's team drowns in St. Louis river; son Melvin narrowly escapes.


Two Thumbs Up – “Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research”

Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research

I received my copy of the fifth edition of the Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research  today, and have to say I’m impressed!  When I originally ordered the book last Fall, I wondered if this would mirror the Handybook for Genealogists (a wonderful resource), or would it offer new content.  (Surprisingly, I’ve not ever seen the previous four editions.  How have I missed it all these years?)  It certainly didn’t disappoint.

For each state, the book provides a summary of the state’s history, and then has a section discussing each of the following:

  • Vital Records
  • Church Records
  • Probate Records
  • Land Records
  • Court Records
  • Military Records
  • Other Records

State repositories are listed with contact information, hours of operation, and types of records found within each.  Next is a list of counties, followed by a helpful list of extinct counties.  (From this I learned of Maine’s extinct county, “Old Lincoln”, which was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1652-83.  I would have otherwise incorrectly assumed Old Lincoln referenced the present-day county of Lincoln.)

What I like best about this new NEHGS publication is the many county maps that include details of the towns therein.  This book will definitely be sitting on my desk for regular reference, as most of my research is centered in New England towns.   Thanks, NEHGS, for a wonderful book.  It was well worth the wait!

 


Maritime Monday: They Came By Sea

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network has produced a wonderful series entitled, “The Story of Maine.”  The YouTube video above shows Part I of Program 3 in the series, “They Came  By Sea.”  (You can download the entire broadcast here.)

This was particularly interesting to me with deep roots in Mount Desert Island, Maine, where my 5th Great Grandfather, Capt. Benjamin B. Stanwood, was born.  The sea was a way of life for many in that region, whether supporting their families by fishing, boat building, sailing, or as in the case of Benjamin, as ship’s captain.  The video showed how many wives would take their children and join their husbands on board.  I wonder if Benjamin’s wife, Margaret (Wasgatt) Stanwood, was one of those adventuresome types, sailing abroad, or did she stay home with their children?   Another question to ponder in my ancestral search!

 


Riveting Results with Reverse Genealogy

Parker College Baseball Team

Parker College Baseball Team, Winnebago, MN, 1914 – back row, 2nd from left – Robert Wasgatt; 3rd from left, David Wasgatt; 6th from left, John Wasgatt, sitting next to his father, Frank Wasgatt, coach.   (Photo courtesy Madge Pedersen)

There is a story behind each name we discover, each date we enter into our genealogy databases.  As new genealogists, most of us began simply seeking those names and dates; however, as we grow in our research and learn the value of reverse genealogy (working forward to assist in find out more about the past), many of us find ourselves seeking our living relatives.  When we are able to connect with cousins or others who may be researching our same family lines, our research can expand exponentially, and most importantly, we can begin to learn the stories of those who lived before us.

Earlier this week I received a large envelope full of photographs sent by my grandmother’s fifth cousin, Madge Pedersen.  I “met” Madge online after doing a Google search for others descended from Thomas and Margaret (Davis) Wasgatt, and we’ve been corresponding for several weeks now.   Continue reading


Evernote and everyday genealogy

I hate paper.

Paper requires time to organize.

Drawers to hold it.

Folders to straighten it.

Paper is messy.

Paper cannot be stored in the “cloud.”

Paper is inefficient.

I have a LOT of paper!

Having been active in researching my family history over the last twenty years, I’ve amassed a wealth of paper.  In the “olden days,” a trip to the library typically resulted in paper.  I’d come home and dutifully file photocopies of book pages and research in folders that were created for each couple in my family.  I had one for my grand parents, another for their parents, another for their siblings, etc., etc., etc.   My home office is equipped with two filing cabinets to hold twenty years worth of research.  However,  thanks to Evernote, bit by bit, the papers in those cabinets are slowly decreasing. Continue reading


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