FREE Genealogy 101 Class Series in Zeeland, Michigan

The Howard Miller Library in conjunction with the Adult Education Center would like to announce a series of FREE Adult Education classes entitled “Genealogy 101″. If you have been interested in researching your family history, or have your research but become overwhelmed and unsure as to what to do or how to do it, then these classes are for you!

In this series you will be able to learn the basics of:

• Useful charts and how to use them
• Organizing your data and records
• Genealogical resources
• and much more.

Each class session is scheduled for two hours, to be divided into one hour of lecture/presentation time and one hour of examples, questions and answers.

The class sessions will be held on the following Saturdays in the Howard Miller Community Center building, 14 South Church Street in Zeeland, Michigan.
• July 26, 2014
• August 2, 2014
• August 9, 2014
• August 16, 2014
• August 23, 2014

Class times are from 1:00pm – 3:00pm.

Registration for this class will be from Monday, July 7 – Thursday, July 24. You may sign up by emailing the instructor at: Hunting Down History

Please include your name, number of people attending and their names, and a contact email address.

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Hunting from a Hamster Wheel – the final entry:

I wanted to let my readers know that there was a happy ending to the story of Hunting From a Hamster Wheel, and no, the hamster did not die.

As you recall, I was in search of an obituary from 1983. I tried calling the local newspaper, historical society, genealogical society, library, university, state archive, and funeral home. All of these resources proved to be dead ends.

I found that the newspaper where the funeral home posts its obituaries had been digitized and was now available through a few of the online, pay-for-use newspaper sites! Needless to say, I took this lead and ran with it. I found many pay websites that offer a free trial for a short period of time, so I registered, set my temporary password, and entered the site holding my breath and crossing all fingers and toes for luck. Of course, by this time I was ready to cross my eyes too!

I typed in the necessary information and hit “Search” and watched the spinning icon that reminded me of that spinning hamster wheel, when all of a sudden the spinning stopped and, right before my eyes, was the very obituary that I had been searching for through the other common resources. It just so happened that I had overlooked the online newspaper resource. Quicker that it takes you to read this, I hit the print and save command buttons. In fact, you have never seen anyone press those buttons so quickly!

There it was in black and white, the obituary of the man I was searching for! His birth and death dates and places aligned with my information. The obituary correctly stated that he was preceded in death by his parents, two other brothers and a child. Finally, it listed the “known” facts of the funeral home and the cemetery where interred.

The very last paragraph stated that he would be so dearly missed by his infant son and new bride… WHAT?!?!

Sadly, and with a bit of frustration, I realized that finding this obituary concluded my original assignment. It took all of my courage not to throw caution to the wind and continue to pursue this last, tantalizing lead out of curiosity, and so I must be content with the knowledge that you never know where the path will lead you when you start one of these searches, and you cannot always follow all of the paths.

Megan
- Genealogy Huntress

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The Peculiarities of Paw Paw

We all have someone in our family that has either a funny way of doing things or are just quirky enough to make others laugh without doing anything special. This is about one of those family funnies, my Paw Paw.

When I was a little girl, I remember vividly that my mom’s dad, affectionately called Paw Paw, had certain routines for different activities.

Picking Day
There was a garden out back. In this garden was a fence post and on top of this fence post was a salt shaker. I always wondered why this glass shaker with the tattered chrome lid sat so prominently on that post. One day I found out. When Paw Paw would go out to pick some tomatoes, he would always need to “taste test” the harvest before bringing in that days’ pickings. What do you put on your tomatoes? Salt of course! Rain or shine, there sat the salt shaker.. and to this day when I see one of these shakers, I have to chuckle at his routine.

Play Ball Day
My Paw Paw was a dyed-in-the-wool Detroit Tigers Fan. All the work stopped when it was time for the game. Day games or night games, the routine was the same.

Paw Paw had this old rickety padded rocking chair, you know the kind that has wide arms and made creaking noises with each rocking motion. He would turn on the TV set… but he would turn the volume off! In his left hand, he would hold a brown leather case that held a transistor radio. This was turned to WJR, the Golden Tower of the Fisher Building and home of Detroit Baseball. This scratchy sounding play by play was turned on quite loud. Now you may wonder why he would turn down the TV but listen to the radio. Well, when the Tigers would be having a bit of bad luck, or did something wrong – he would turn off the radio.. but didn’t want to miss the watching of the game. When he would calm down, the transistor radio would come back on and he would continue to watch the game in the only way Paw Paw could.

Proper Procedure
Paw Paw was a gentleman from Oklahoma. He was a hard worker and would rarely rest because there was work to be done. But there was on thing that he would teach us kids… the proper way to greet a grown up.

He said that any proper young lady or man should greet someone older than them is with a firm handshake and the proper salutation. You introduced yourself with your full name, who you were (how related) and then outstretched hand and gave a firm handshake. No “lazy limp limb” for us no sirree. Then you always called the men Mr. and the women Ms. Unless the person directly told you “you can call me Jim” you called them by the proper salutation.

To this day, my kids sometimes forget, and they immediately are given “the look” and are told the following… “Young man / lady, you were not raised that way”. The kids would immediately hold out their hand to shake hands and introduce themselves before the grownups, setting a good example.

Funny thing… my son went for a job interview and he walked in, stretched out his hand, shook the mans hand and introduced himself. He got the job. Why? The fellow said that out of all the people he interviewed that day, my son had the proper procedure! Manners.

Thank you Paw Paw!

Megan
– Genealogy Huntress

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The Case of the Lost Lady, or is it the Found Fellow?

I do not know how many of you need a break from your research to let your brain settle down or just to think about something else for a while, but I find that I need a good diversion once in a while, which often leads me to volunteering for a genealogical society or indexing records for Family Search, or as a last resort, organizing my own desk and files.

Recently, I found myself at one of those frustrating forks in the road and decided to do more than “step outside of the box” and stepped completely away from the box and diverted my attention to a different area of research.

I subscribe to various newsletters and message boards, free websites and selected pay sites as I am sure many of you also do. Occasionally, a site will post a challenging question that is guaranteed to test skills and knowledge, bending your brain around either topics or other aspects of genealogical research that you may have only heard of or had little experience with.

This Case is about my adventures working on one of those challenges and some of my surprises along the way! This challenge was posted as “Brickwall Buster” where a members could ask for help in finding those missing pieces of their research and participants would link found pieces back to the requesting member. There were ten submissions to this challenge, but one challenge, and only one, drew my attention. Part of the title caught my eye, “Tennessee to Michigan.” Well, I live in Michigan, have access to many databases, libraries, and enjoy traveling around the state, so I contacted the author, who told me that she was looking to find when her great grandmother had died and where she is buried.

I went to my closet and once again I donned the Deerstalker cap, and in typical Genealogy Huntress fashion, jumped in with both feet. I had hopes of making this an easy hunt as I looked for clues started in my usual lists of places.

Since the author had lived in Michigan and still has many relatives in this state, she had already poked and prodded in all the likely places. She gave me her list of places searched, and those were the first places I re-checked, having discovered the hard way that many times that the information was there all along but overlooked, or information had been updated since the last look.

Well, I quickly went through the list and used the information to make my own “tree.” As I entered all the of the information that I found on her family, I was extremely surprised by the amount of data I was able to find! As I came to discover, the family had played a significant part in the history of Detroit, and as the information unfolded I became more and more intrigued, and felt honored to help her with her puzzle as I learned several history lessons. Those adventures will be discussed in future blogs.

But I digress. We are hunting to find her great-grandma, so I decided to start at her beginnings and move forward, hitchhiking through time. I found that she was born in Virginia, brought to Tennessee as a child during slavery, then traveled north to Michigan and found life events that changed her direction many times. She had married and divorced, and then had married again and became widowed. Her trail ended in Michigan, where she lived with one of her sons, but it is here where the trail went cold.

As we so often see in our research, couples purchase plots together and arrange to have headstones engraved while they are still living, with no thought of circumstances that might lead one or the other to remarry and then wish to be buried with their second spouse.

So, I theorized that even though she had been remarried and widowed, she may have been buried with her first husband, who was the father of her children.

I went to the Ancestry website and began digging. I did not find a little green jiggly-wiggly leaf, but I did find that her first husband was listed in Indianapolis, Indiana City Directories.

Time to wipe the brow, sharpen a few pencils, get a pad of paper ready and make a few telephone calls. I found a cemetery named Crown Hill, made inquiry about the first husband, and waited as ‘elevator music’ played and time stood still. Finally a fellow returned and apologized for the long wait. He explained that the cemetery records were not in good order “way back in 1918”, so he had checked two places to be sure, and had found that indeed, there had been a burial for the first husband. Huzzah! My hunch had been correct, and you can just imagine my excitement to find him!!

I contacted the author, who began this case by looking for her great grandmother and told her the news that I had found her great grandfather! She was ever so excited as she told me that she had trying to find him but had run into another brick wall!

So in search of the lost lady, we now have a found fellow!

I am still searching for this great-grandma. I go back and check some ideas every few weeks, because hunting is sometimes like the game of “Hide and Go Seek” where our ancestors Hide and we Seek, and that some ancestors don’t really want to be found.

But – I’m not giving up!

Megan
– Genealogy Huntress

Post Script:

Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Crown Hill Cemetery is the third largest non-government cemetery in the United States. Encompassing an area of 555 acres, it provides the final resting place for some famous notables, including:

The notorious bank robber, John Dillinger,
The inventor of the Gatling Gun, Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling
The President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison
The 28rd Vice President of the United States, Thomas Riley Marshall

My husband and I took a road trip from Michigan to Indianapolis to the cemetery. They graciously gave us a map, and after locating the plot for her great-grandpa we were saddened to find there was no headstone or marker. We took several photos of the plot and area surrounding his final resting place, left flowers, and found satisfaction that at the end of this hunt we had found him for his family. The author was then able to put these photos with her research on her great-grandfather and as they say when things are finally done, she put a bow on it.

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The Case of the Missing Memories

Not long ago I was visiting my Mom who lives just two blocks away. We see her often, but we usually just pick her up to go to dinner or shopping or to run errands, but don’t often go into the house. This time, though, she had given my husband a short list of items that needed fixing and that had been irritating her. You know, “guy stuff” that might involve use of tools. I usually get the job to reset light timers when we change to daylight savings time, or replace smoke detector batteries, and sometime even to change the light bulb at the top of the stairs. For me, it’s a thankless task, while for his brilliance and strength, and because he is a guy, my husband is rewarded generously from Mom’s secret stash of Butterfinger candy bars.

This time, while Mom was following him around with her “To Do” list I looked around and decided I could put some finishing touches on her kitchen. You know, a dish or two that somehow made it into the sink but could not get all the way into the dishwasher. Beside, the counters needed a good once-over, and I figured that while I should also make the tea kettle sparkly clean.

I soon discovered that I was involved in the Case of the Missing Memories.

While I was doing this quick tidy up some faint memories tickled me inside my head, and made me pause and wonder what they were and why they had gone missing.

I opened the cupboard door to put some dishes away, and right there on the second shelf were two egg cups. They were nothing fancy, just two small egg cups with some flower decals that had lost some luster over the years. My Dad (and only my Dad, mind you!) had used these egg cups, and I was startled when I realized that they had not been used since he died almost twenty years ago!

What was so special about these little egg cups? Missing Memories!

When I was a little girl, my Dad loved to have soft boiled eggs with a slice of toast. He would place the egg in the cup, pick up his knife, and with great deliberation and precision whack off the top of the egg, scoop out the portion in the top with his spoon and give it to me. There was not one egg that slipped by his routine, and it didn’t matter if I had eggs my own, because I always got the top of Dad’s eggs.

I was surprised that I had forgotten about these egg cups, and wondered what else I may have forgotten.

Smiling to myself, I put the dishes on the shelf, closed the cupboard door and was opening the silverware drawer when something stopped me. There, in the drawer among the odds and ends of serving flatware, was a tiny seafood fork. There was just one such fork was in the drawer.

More Missing Memories came rushing back as I looked at the fork that was Dad’s special seafood fork to be used only for digging his prized sardines out of their can. I also remembered that there was a detailed ritual that accompanied the eating of sardines.

I could not stand the sight of these things, let alone their smell, but Dad would remove the sardines from the can, properly and with good form, and precisely lay each on a plate that has been prepared with his favorite crackers. I watched with fascination and wondered how anyone could eat fish that had been immersed in that stinky liquid.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see any one of his quirky dining performances today.

So on this Memorial Day weekend as thoughts turn those who all who served, I have found Missing Memories of my Dad who served in the Army during the Korean war, but who I will best remember as my Dad.

Megan
– Genealogy Huntress

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Hunting From a Hamster Wheel

As you all know, a hamster wheel is a metal exercise contraption that you put in your critter’s cage. Your pet crawls onto this wheel and runs forever while getting nowhere fast, while the metal squeaking of every revolution of the wheel drives you insane. Well, recently I found that genealogical research can be a lot like running on a hamster wheel…

When I began the search for an obituary I had the name of the deceased, the date of death, and the town in which they died, and had also found that only one newspaper covered the whole county, so I thought I was taking the next logical step when I contacted the main branch of the county’s Public Library. With fingers crossed, I asked if they had copies of the newspapers, and the librarian said yes they had all of the newspapers on film, but no she could not make a copy of the obituary because their only microfilm machine had broken and there were no funds to repair or replace it anytime in the near future. When I asked her how else I might acquire this obituary, she suggested that I contact the county Historical Society and gave me their telephone number.

So, I called the Historical Society, where a very kind volunteer answered the phone. I told her that the librarian had suggested that I could acquire a copy of the obituary from the Society. She explained that yes, they did have a microfilm machine but no, they had no films! Trying to be helpful, she added that if I just brought the films over I would be welcome to use their machine to make my own copies for a small fee. I explained that I lived 3,100 miles away and it would therefore be difficult for me to bring the films right over. When I asked what else I could do to obtain the obituary, she suggested that I contact the newspaper office, gave me their telephone number and wished me luck.

After taking a few long, slow and deep breaths I called the newspaper, explained to the operator that I was looking for an obituary from 1983, and asked to be transferred to the appropriate department. She said that she would gladly transfer me if there was such a department, but since they were a small office she would just transfer me to the “oldest employee here” who might be able to assist me.
While she transferred my call I found myself listening to “Dream On” by Aerosmith, which provided me a with a moment of “inner chuckle” before a rather elderly fellow answered the phone. I told him that I was searching for a 1983 obituary, and explained that they did have copies of the newspaper at their office, all hardbound and in their storage facility. They would be able to copy this obituary for me sometime this summer when they hire a few interns to help at the office. Also, they charge a search fee of $30 an hour and that each look up probably would run about 3 to 4 hours, because they have to go to their off site storage facility, bring the book back to the office, find the obituary, make a photo copy, mail the obituary, and then return the book back to their off site storage facility. He then told me that since all of their newspapers were microfilmed and the films were transferred to the Public Library, I might want to contact them. He asked me to hold the line, and when he returned he gave me the telephone number and the name of the person at the reference desk. Did I just hear the sound of a squeaking wheel in my brain?

I looked at my notes, and guess what? Yes, he gave me the number and name of the person that I had first spoken to. Yes, it was definitely a squeaking sound and it was getting louder by the minute!

I called the library again, and this time asked them if they loaned their films to the Historical Society. They said no. Trying not to feel flustered, I asked if the local University or State Archives might have copies of these newspapers. They said no.

Of course I called both the University and the state Archives, but found that the librarian had been correct and that neither had copies of the county newspaper. The nice fellow at the Archives did give me a phone number to call, but the number was to the newspaper office. Squeak! The wheel came to a screeching halt.

I usually think outside the box, or in this case outside of the hamster wheel, so I contacted the local funeral home who told me that except for information on the cards that the family fills out when hiring them, they had no additional information about burials unless a copy of the obituary was included in the file. He got out a piece of paper and asked me for the “name and the date that your beloved passed over” and when I gave him the date in 1983 he replied “Oh Dear, after 20 years we destroy these cards and files, and this funeral was closer to 30 years ago.”

Did I mention that I hate hamster wheels?

Megan
Genealogy Huntress

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The Case of the Relocated Ancestors

This case began when a family approached me to solve a mystery. It seemed that one of their ancestors, Maude, had been buried in Agnew Cemetery and later was moved to Grand Haven Township Cemetery. To deepen the mystery, family lore said that other family members had been buried in Grand Haven Cemetery. The family wondered why their ancestors, who had all lived and died in Ottawa County, were not buried together in the same cemetery.

I obtained the death certificate for Maude that indeed listed her death in 1928 and burial in Agnew Cemetery, but when I searched the web I was puzzled to find no Agnew Cemetery listed in Ottawa County or even in the state of Michigan. At this point, what should have been a simple and straightforward matter to find the grave and photograph the headstone, became quite the hunt after all.

Thinking it quite odd that a death certificate would list a non-existent cemetery, I called Grand Haven City Hall to inquire as to the whereabouts of Agnew Cemetery, and the clerk was as surprised as I to find no record of this cemetery in their books. I sent the clerk a copy of the death certificate, and together we looked it over and agreed that Agnew Cemetery was plainly stated as the burial place. The clerk suggested that I call Spring Lake City Hall, near the deceased’s last address, but they could find no record of this cemetery either.

Once again the game was afoot, and it was time to put on my well-worn Deerstalker cap.

In the local library, I found a map in a local history book of the county that showed outlines of a hamlet known as Agnew. I contacted Grand Haven City Hall again for a list of cemeteries located within the boundaries given by the map. Success!! Grand Haven Township Historic Cemetery was within the boundaries of Agnew, and I soon confirmed that Maude was indeed listed as a burial there. So, Agnew Cemetery had become Grand Haven Township Historic Cemetery.

Ah, but the hunt was not over yet! Maude’s son Charles died in 1929, one year after her death, and his death certificate listed a burial at Township Cemetery, so it seemed that Maude and her son had been buried in different cemeteries. Death certificates for Maude’s sister and her husband listed Grand Haven Township Cemetery as their burial places in 1953 and 1960, so it appeared that the family had been buried in three cemeteries; Agnew Cemetery, Township Cemetery and Grand Haven Township Cemetery.

As I pondered this problem at some length, the thought occurred that Township Cemetery might be another name for the newly-discovered Grand Haven Township Historic Cemetery. I called Grand Haven City Hall once again. Luck was with me that day, and these two were indeed the same cemetery.

The clerk arranged for me to meet the sexton, and with his knowledge of the cemetery and the maps and the burial records that had been handed down to him by his father (the previous sexton) we soon located the family plot. He then gave me the last piece of the puzzle, informing me that the City of Grand Haven had once owned this cemetery but had sold it to the township several years ago.

Here is a short summary of the history lesson that I learned:

  • Agnew Cemetery became Township Cemetery
  • Township Cemetery then became Grand Haven Township Cemetery
  • Grand Haven Cemetery finally became Grand Haven Township Historic Cemetery

The hunt was now over. I had solved the mystery of Maude, said to have been buried and relocated, as well as the family’s burials at several cemeteries, by finding them all together in one family plot. They had never moved, but had been hiding in plain sight as it were, while the cemetery name changed several times through the years.

Thus another history mystery has been solved, and another headstone hunt has been successful.

For further reading:

As a fitting end to this adventure, while driving to photograph the family’s headstones at the Grand Haven Township Historic Cemetery I saw a small sign on the highway with the name “Agnew” but with no population or other information about this village that now only belongs in the pages of history.

Little remains today of the village of Agnew, memorialized on the small road sign and its history recorded in books.

There is also a Wikipedia entry that gives additional information on the village of Agnew, Michigan.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnew,_Michigan

Megan
Genealogy Huntress

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