Friday, August 12, 2016

The long-term consequences of the abuse of power

For those who have been reading this blog for a long time . . . you might remember that a few years ago hubby and I were helping one of our friends find the identity of her father’s birth parents.

In a nutshell: Through many years of research we identified the birth mother’s maiden name as Lena Stanley of Trumansburg, NY. Against her parent’s wishes, and without the knowledge of Joseph’s family, Lena and Joseph Myers were married across Cayuga Lake in Ludlowville, New York (abt 1906). According to local newspaper articles the loving couple honeymooned on a cruise to Texas. And that is where Joseph’s parents caught up with them and sent them home. Joseph was taken out of Cornell University and sent to Harvard. Lena went back home to live with her parents. It was a year and a half later that a son was born. And herein lies the difficulty. Who was the baby’s birth father? Was it Joseph (who could have traveled back through Ithaca from Boston on his way west to his home), was it the adopted father, or someone else?

Every adopted child has two birth certificates. Our friend had her father’s, but it listed his adopted parents as his “parents.” Sealed in the New York State archives is the original birth certificate for our friend’s father. It has the same number as his “adopted” certificate, but the original is sealed forever and would only be released if our friend hires an attorney and makes a good case as to why the adoption file should be unsealed.


We just learned the reason for why New York State adoption records are sealed forever. Former Governor Herbert Henry Lehman. He was governor for the years 1933-1942, and in 1935 he signed a law sealing birth certificates for New York adoptees. That was because he and his wife Edith had adopted a child through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society run by Georgia Tann.

Georgia Tann was a child trafficker. She stole babies, using a number of tactics, sometimes telling birth mothers that their child had died. She then sold the babies to wealthy people, the Lehman’s being one. Lehman signed a bill sealing adoption records into law to protect his family from finding out from where they came. Unfortunately, that decision has caused harm to the many people trying to find their birth parents.

If you wish to read more of this fascinating story, you can find a book on Amazon – The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller who Corrupted Adoption.

Back to the couple Lena and Joseph Myers. They divorced in another county (where they weren’t known) and both claimed (yea, right!) the marriage was never consummated (will save you the gory details of the divorce decree), and the marriage was annulled.

We don’t know if Lena listed the child’s father on the original birth certificate, and thanks to Governor Lehman, we may never know. Hopefully New York State residents will learn about why this law exists and request that it be repealed.

If I ruled the genealogy world . . .

If I ruled the genealogy world I would provide genealogy clubs/societies with a free and well maintained web hosting service. I would recognize all the good work they do, no matter their size.

Because I understand how important it is to announce their meetings, conferences, and to communicate with their members.

I understand how important it is for genealogists to reach out to these groups for help with research in the far away places.

Once again, it has been over 12 days (and counting) - yes, 12 days that has allowed their free genealogy club/society web hosting site (Rootsweb) to be down. The only saving grace this time is that the pages are up - but new information - like our society's fall conference details - cannot be published. When I wrote to them about that situation 12 days ago, the response was, they were down for "maintenance" "sorry for the inconvenience."

Apparently, management team is more interested in counting their money than in maintaining their sites.

So, if I ruled the genealogy world . . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Hart Island Project

I recently learned about the Hart Island Project and its Traveling Cloud Museum.  Hart Island occupies 101 acres in Long Island Sound at the eastern edge of the Bronx borough of New York City. It is the largest tax funded cemetery in the world. 

One million people have been buried on Hart Island anonymously. The website now features names of those buried on the island since 1980. There is an easy search function in which to find whether your family member is there. The Project’s Traveling Cloud Museum is looking for stories/information to accompany the names.

Even if you don't have family buried there, please visit the page. The information and the photos are heart wrenching. 

The Hart Island Project is a wonderful gift to family historians. I remain hopeful that one day the name of my great-grandmother, Catherine Nunn, who died 12 May 1917 will be listed, if indeed that is where she is buried.That mystery remains.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Our Saturday Workshop

Ray Maki introducing speaker Shannon Combs-Bennett
This past Saturday we welcomed national (soon to be international) speaker Shannon Combs-Bennett to our development for a Genealogy 101 all day workshop.

Shannon provided a fifty page PDF that included her presentation, blank copies of each federal census and various other helpful forms.

Hubby copied her PDF for each of the twenty-four participants. The copies were then put into white 3-ring binders, with a personalized title page. We tucked several pieces of loose paper into the front pocket of each binder so people would have something to write on should they forget to bring paper for note taking.

Shannon’s talk went from getting started through telling people about the lineage societies they could join.

One of the interesting things I learned was a website called http: // that helps you put citations into the correct format. I haven’t tried this yet, but am excited about doing so. Although we know about citing sources – I keep my copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills right alongside my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, I think this part of her talk was eye-opening for most participants. Shannon encouraged them to keep track of the path they traveled when researching. I know this is the correct way, but I also know that when you are following a lead, you are too excited to stop and write everything down.

She encouraged everyone to journal. Start now if you aren’t already keeping one. It will be invaluable to future researchers.

Keep a research log. Jot down (or copy/paste) the URL, date accessed, the steps taken to find the information, what was found and what wasn’t found.

Knowing she had an audience of beginners, Shannon told them to set a certain goal. Not “I want to know everything about my Jones family line,” but instead ask, “I want to find my great grandfather Ezra Jones.”

Organization is another conundrum for genealogists. Shannon showed how one friend keeps all her information in 3-ring binders. Shannon doesn’t have enough bookshelf space for this way, so she keeps her files digitally as well as in Pendaflex folders in filing cabinets (She has many in her home office). The folders can be organized by surname, location, or any way that fits your family best. Just keep the labeling of your digital and paper files consistent.

She also covered social media for genealogists, DNA, planning your research trip, and the all-important evaluation of sources – primary, secondary, or of “unknown origin.”

Although we consider ourselves seasoned genealogists, we learned a lot from Shannon’s Genealogy 101 workshop. That is true of almost every genealogy presentation we attend. There is always something said that makes that light bulb go off in our head.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

American Ghost – A brilliantly written family history.

I just finished reading American Ghost; A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest by Hannah Nordhaus. It is a beautifully crafted story about Hannah’s German ancestors who had to escape Germany during the Nazi reign. The family settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the father, Abraham Staab, became a successful businessman.  So successful that he built a house for his wife and children called La Posada. 
Over many years traveling back and forth across the country and to Germany, consulting with historians, genealogists, spiritualists, ghost hunters and family members, Hannah captures the essence of the lives of Abraham and Julia Schuster Staab. The amount of research done tracing this Jewish family is impressive.

It is Julia that Hannah is most interested in. She was curious about the continued reports of Julie’s ghost at La Posada. "A sad, dark-eyed woman in a long gown" kept appearing frightening guests and staff at the former Staab house. Hannah is driven to learn as much as she can about her great-great-grandmother. And she does. Was Julia's husband a tyrant or just a man of his time and place? There are many questions in which Hannah seeks the answer. Some she finds; others remain a mystery. Isn't that how it is with all our ancestor research?

The book is well written and captures well the lives of the Staab and Schuster families. It is the kind of family story most of us can only dream of writing. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Jacksonville NY Methodism - an early history

In the year 1790 a Methodist family, Samuel Weyburn, wife and four children, settled at what was later known as Goodwin’s Point, now Taughannock. Four years later two brothers, also Methodists, named Richard and Benjamin Goodwin, settled at the same place.

In the year 1795, three Methodist preachers, Reverends Valentine Cook, Thornton and Fleming were preaching in this territory. It was a usual custom when two or more Methodist families settled near each other to form a class. Often these classes were permanent and a church organization thus started. These three preachers labored unceasingly and when a young preacher, William Colbert, who was sent on a tour of exploration through the then western wilds of New York on his return gave a most glowing report of the work, that Bishop Asbury formed a circuit from the immense tract. The circuit was from Wilkes Barre to Niagara.  Valentine Cook was appointed presiding elder.

In 1801 David James of the Seneca Circuit was preaching at Jacksonville and Goodwin’s Point. In 1808 Sunday preaching was first commenced and a camp meeting was held the same year on the J.M. Stout farm. The original Stout farm included the F.A. Lueder farm and the land on both sides of the road extending to Jane Kraft’s.  It is believed that the camp meeting grounds was in the woods on the Kraft Road.

In this year, 1808, Rev. Gideon Draper, who had charge of the Canaan Circuit, Susquehanna District, Philadelphia Conference, came through here and preached at Trumansburg. A descendant with the same name, Gideon Draper, is now in Japan (1934) and holds a relationship with this conference.

Up to 1810 all these circuit preachers belonged to the Philadelphia Conference, but this year the Genesee Conference was erected. Gideon Draper was chosen first presiding elder and held the position for many years. Anning Owen was another presiding elder who did noble work, lived a part of his life in this town, died here and was buried just outside of Ithaca. His grave was visited at the time of the Methodist pilgrimage (December 1934) and a tribute paid to his life and work. These men worked under the supervision of Bishop Francis Asbury, who was sent here by John Wesley.

The first class at Jacksonville was formed in 1803 with Richard Goodwin as leader and their meetings were held at Goodwin’s Point.

In 1804 another class was formed at Jacksonville with Benjamin Lanning as leader. After 1815 a class was formed at Mack Settlement with Elias Lanning as leader, and about 1825 a church was erected, 25 x 34 feet. This church stood on the corner in the field now owned by Charles Chadwick at Steven’s Corners.  The membership at one time numbered 100. The building was sold and now is part of the barn on the David Colegrove farm on Taughannock Boulevard.

These classes were under the leadership of the class leaders, and local preachers with the circuit preachers coming sometimes once a month, sometimes once in three months.

There is on file in the office of the “Northern Christian Advocate” in Syracuse, an article dated 1860 written by the Rev. Gideon Lanning. He was the son of Benjamin Lanning and was born 23 March 1792. The Lannings came to Jacksonville in 1801 and settled on the Trumbull Farm. The Rev. Gideon Lanning is the author of a number of historic papers on the early life of this section of the state.

In this article he states that a class was formed by Richard Goodwin, Sr. in 1795 and that in 1805 the society dedicated its first church edifice in Jacksonville. These meetings were held at Goodwin’s Point.[1]

[This information from the Jacksonville Church History written by Jessie Tucker Agard.]

[1] Methodist Episcopal Church History of Jacksonville. Revised from old records by Jesse Mullette, Pastor, April 1916.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Agard Family Do-Over – Researching the Storrs Family of Tolland County, Connecticut

It's a cold rainy day in Virginia, but the bluebirds and hummingbirds still come for some refreshment, entertaining us as we sit at our computers researching our family lines.

In 1685 Esther Agard (founding member of the Agards in America), married Samuel Storrs of Barnstable, MA. In 1698, Samuel, Esther and her son, John Agard, along with Samuel’s six children moved to Mansfield, Connecticut. It was there that Samuel and Esther had three more children, Thomas, Esther and Cordial, and those are the ones I have been working on today – especially Esther.

I had written down that she married William Hall. To verify that has been a challenge. I find birth and baptismal records for the children of William and Esther, but none of the records I came across said it was Esther Storrs. Until I found a USGenWeb Project document of Tolland County, Connecticut, Family Outlines, Hall Family of Tolland, Connecticut that lists the Hall family with a William Hall marrying Esther Storrs. The list of children in this document matches other lists I have seen.

In the meantime, I sent a note off to the Tolland County Historical Society to see if there might be other resources that confirms the union of William and Esther. And I, too, will keep searching.