Wagon Trains and The Dash

For quite a few years now I have been more concerned with the “Dash” in my ancestor’s lives than the dates. After all it can be as easy finding their birth and death dates by looking at their gravestones if you know where it is. Researching in places they lived will also get you dates, but will it get you the dash. The dash is how they lived and what they did, etc. What brought all this along now? It all started with one book about a family traveling on a wagon train, and now I am reading the fifth (not a series, all separate). I don’t know about you but when I read these stories all kinds of questions pop into my mind. Like what size wagon would they have. Would you believe they were only four feet deep, four feet across and about 12 feet long (not counting the hitch for the oxen. To me that wasn’t much room and then my next question was what kind of supplies did they need and how long did it take them. Well most wagon trains usually left from St. Joe, Missouri and it took them 5-6 months whether they headed to California or Oregon. Did you know why they went to Oregon? We all know why California – the gold rush. But Oregon was kind of a contest between England, Russia and the United States. Whoever got the most immigrants settled there would claim ownership to the Oregon Territory. The Oregon Territory was comprised of what we know as Oregon, Washington, Idaho as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. Now getting back to the supplies they had to take. For each adult 100 pounds each of flour and yeast; 70 pounds each of bacon, crackers, salt and salt pork; 30 pounds each of pilot bread (hardtack), cornmeal, sugar and coffee. Other items were eggs which were stored in the flour barrel, cured hams, dried meat, fruit, baking soda and vinegar. Plus potatoes, rice, beans, molasses, lard and a big barrel of water. If they could they also included a keg of pickles to ward off malnutrition. Two oxen for pulling the wagon, with at least four spare and cows for milk and meat. On the women’s list were cloth to sew with, needles, thread, pins and scissors; leather for fixing worn out shoes. Soap, wax for making candles, medicines, lanterns and washbowls. In a special box at the back of the wagon were plates, knives, forks, spoons, cups, pots and pans. Pen and paper to write letters home, slates with chalk and school books for the children were also included. As well as a wooden washtub and big brass kettle. Bedding was made up of quilts, blankets, sometimes a mattress (feather bed), the family bible and pillows. On the men’s list were saws, hammers, axes, shovel, nails, string, knives and matches. Poles, ropes, canvas, ground cloths and stakes for the tents they would make for sleeping in. A tar bucket for greasing the wagon wheels. A milk can which when hung from the wagon hoops, the bumpy ride helped to make butter. The men usually had a shotgun for hunting and for when he was posted on guard duty, but if they could afford it they also had a single shot pistol with them as well. They also carried halters, hobbles, ropes, chains to use on the oxen and cows to make sure they didn’t run off during the night. Sometimes the man had a horse to ride and hunt with; but often times they walked with their whip beside the oxen to make sure they stayed within the train. As organized a person as I am I can’t imagine what it must of been like to pack this wagon for this long journey. And pack it in such a way that what they needed when they stopped at night they could get at. Clothing they brought with them and were in trunks in the wagon along with maybe their dishes, linen or some of the items they wanted in their new home were also packed into this wagon. If there is a book out there that shows this I want to find it!

So What Is On Your Genealogy Bucket List?

From the blog of Geniau at http://geniaus.blogspot.com/2012/01/bucket-list-geneameme.html comes an exciting idea for all genealogists to think about.

I invite all genealogists and family history freaks to join me by sharing your bucket list of events, places, people and resources you would most like to experience before you leave this mortal earth.

Here are the questions with out Geniau’s answers:
1. The genealogy conference I would most like to attend is…
2. The genealogy speaker I would most like to hear and see is…
3. The geneablogger I would most like to meet in person is…
4. The genealogy writer I would most like to have dinner with is…
5. The genealogy lecture I would most like to present is….
6. I would like to go on a genealogy cruise that visits….
7. The photo I would most like to find is…
8. The repository in a foreign land I would most like to visit is…
9. The place of worship I would most like to visit is…
10. The cemetery I would most like to visit is ….
11. The ancestral town or village I would most like to visit is….
12. The brick wall I most want to smash is….
13. The piece of software I most want to buy is….
14. The tech toy I want to purchase next is…..
15. The expensive book I would most like to buy is…
16. The library I would most like to visit is…..
17. The genealogy related book I would most like to write is….
18. The genealogy blog I would most like to start would be about….
19. The journal article I would most like to write would be about…
20. The ancestor I most want to meet in the afterlife is….
21. The celebrity I’d most like to see on Who Do You Think You Are? is….
22. The genealogical research skill I would most like to have is…. the sudden ability to read and comprehend French, because it would make research so much easier.
23. The genealogy tech gadget I would most like to invent is….
24. The genealogical records I would most like to see become available online are….
25. The family heirloom I would most like to own is….
26. The living cousin I would most like to find is…

So what’s on your genealogy bucket list?

Another Response to Letter Writing Month

January is almost over, but letter writing and contacting cousins is exactly what I’ve been doing this month.

Back in the 1980s I corresponded with a FLAGG family 4th cousin who I heard was now in her 80s in a nursing home. So I decided I better work on that family again while I could still ask her questions. I did and called her. She is still fine mentally and was delighted to hear from me, and asked to write and visit if I got over to Belfast. I mailed her what I was able to find on the family, to see if she had anything else. I also drew a map of now-discontinued roads in Belmont so she could place for me, just where the old Flagg farm and cooper shop used to be, in relation to the old family cemetery I found in 2010. I plan to visit Belfast this summer. She said she planned to still be there!

I was also working on my LEAVITT family, and a 3rd cousin down in Salem MA from a branch that was totally missing two years ago that left Maine. It started with a cousin finding my website and contacting me on Facebook, and telling me how to reach his mother. I have talked with the two Leavitt sisters in their 80s who told me the old family stories and where they were buried, and giving me enough info to search more online, and also calling cemeteries, newspapers, libraries (and got copies of old obits and articles), and town halls (who gave me contact info from their current voter registration lists), and found the address for their 2nd cousin they had lost contact with, who I have mailed their family charts to. I also asked if any family photos or stories survived in their branch of Leavitts. Still hoping to find old photos. Through these distant cousins, I learned exactly where to find the grave of my gg-grandmother Mary Morgridge Leavitt (1840-1922) in Salem.

Also, a BOUDWAY family cousin on Facebook replies that she is talking with the older people for a major update of their branch that moved from Orono to Northampton MA.

I have always made a point of tracing all the cousin legs forward to find current-day cousins, and sometimes I do get lucky with lots of new family data. I put all my findings on my website when I get time so that more cousins can find me. It’s nice to find new cousins that appreciate the family genealogy. This is fun.

Roland Rhoades MGS #1151
Maine Families Genealogist
2010: 30 Years as a Genealogist

In Response to “Letter Writing Month”

My father died when I was eleven years old and his mother had died when he was one. The only thing I knew of my paternal grandmother was her name: Edna Burtt. She died in Lynn, MA in 1910. I contacted the City Hall there for her death certificate. It stated she had been born in Lynn, but nothing was said about her parents. I requested her birth certificate. There was none on record.

About this time, I received a letter from an older cousin in reply to a letter I’d written to her. I had asked if she knew anything more about Edna Burtt. She had no more information other than, “They called her Victoria.” I asked Lynn, MA for a birth certificate for Victoria Burtt and at the same time asked for a birth cerificate of my father.

No birth certificate for Victoria Burtt. Upon looking at my father’s birth certificate, I discovered his mother Edna Burtt Spinney had been born in New Brunswick, Canada. Based upon her age at death, she had been born in 1880. Through the Ellsworth Public Library, I received the 1881 New Brunswick Census microfilm. There, I found Victoria Burtt aged 1 living with her father Hathaway Burtt (later found in the Lynn Census) and mother Lucetta.

Following the Burtt genealogy, I discovered that one ancestor fought for the British in New York. An earlier ancestor had been captured in Connecticut by Indians and taken to Canada. As he was coming back to the Colonies with his wife aboard a ship, his wife gave birth to a son whom they named Seaborn Burtt since he was born at sea. Had it not been for my cousin who offered the tid-bit “They called her Victoria” I would likely still be looking for Edna Burtt in Canada.

Richard Spinney
MGS Treasurer

January is Letter Writing Month

Do you remember “back in the day” when we actually mailed a letter of inquiry to a distant or not so distant relative for information on your family history? Well today most of us connect by using Email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

But not everyone is “connected” in that way. A letter whether handwritten or typed is a more personal touch and can often times elicit a response faster than Email (is there really such a thing?). Another idea is to enclose a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) to make it easier for them to respond.

Besides relatives, you can still write to Courthouses, Libraries, Town Offices, etc. that you can’t do by Email. Technology is here to stay but a good “old fashioned” letter written carefully with courtesy and respect will go a long way and help act as your own PR agent.

Electronic messages can be convenient and useful, but they lack the personal touch that comes from holding a hand-written note or card in your hand. Even the most heartfelt message loses some of its effectiveness when the recipient has to read it on an electronic screen.

My Genealogical Wishes For You

This was written by Diane Lyn Tibert of the Times & Transcript, A Canada East Archive
Below are my genealogical wishes for my readers. Diane Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer based in central Nova Scotia. She blogs (http://dianetibert.com) about writing, genealogy and whatever else comes to mind. Submit a query. It’s free! 1787 Highway 2, Milford, Hants County, N.S., B0N 1Y0; or email: tibert@ns.sympatico.ca

* I wish for you to find a wrecking ball in 2012 that knocks down a major brick wall blocking your path to unearthing a piece of information that exposes a branch of your tree that has been kept buried for years. May the opening be large enough to see into several generations.

* I wish for you to take a trip to a place you’ve never gone and discover a long lost headstone you’ve been seeking for years. May it still stand with a flawless inscription that provides all the vital information, including the deceased’s country of origin and a wee tale of why they came to Canada. I wish you clear passage to it and an insect bite-free visit.

* I wish for you to taste a dish rediscovered from your childhood, a recipe your great-grandmother had made for you and passed down through the family.

* I wish for you a hassle-free year with no technological malfunctions, computer crashes or software glitches. May all your genealogy programs run smoothly and just the way you expected them to operate.

* I wish for you to open your e-mail, pick up the phone or receive a letter from a distant cousin in a family line you have very little information on. Not only does this cousin have well-documented research, she’s willing to share with you.

* I wish for you to uncover a photo of an ancestor, one you never knew existed and it’s so old, it’s on tin. May it reveal facts that until then were a mystery.

* I wish for you to easily find that elusive ancestor, perhaps the one who changed their name, while searching census records.

* I wish for your ship to come in and you find the name of the vessel and the passenger list detailing your ancestors’ arrival in Canada. With a little luck, a picture will also be found of the ship to add to your family history.

* I wish for you to come into possession of a stack of letters. The yellowing envelopes contain love letters between your great-grandparents when during the First World War he was a soldier serving overseas and she was living at home with her parents.

* I wish for you heavy reading when out-of-the-blue, you discover a mysterious ancestor kept a journal of his trip from the old country to Canada, detailing the immediate family left behind and those born in his new country.

This creative person also liked to sketch and did his best to capture his family and surroundings within the journal pages.

* I wish for you to be able to track down the missing birth, marriage and death records that have been dodging you in your research.

* Ultimately, I wish for you good health, happy times and many hours of productive research. From my family tree to yours, may your holidays be merry and bright.

October is Family History Month

It’s Autumn here in Maine, the days are getting shorter, the evenings cooler, and the colors of fall are absolutely beautiful.

So now is the time to sit back and relax and think about those family history projects you want to complete this winter. October is the perfect month to do just that! As a jolly old man once said “Making a list and checking it twice!” holds true for planning those projects and making sure you have all your supplies necessary to do it.

Some project suggestions are: preserving and labeling your photo’s so that future generations will know who is in that picture. It’s not to late to have one more cookout and invite family members over to share stories and take pictures. Journaling those stories is another project as well as making a family history recipe book. Remember grandma’s favorite pie recipe, wouldn’t that look good in a recipe book with her picture on that page. What about those holiday recipes that have become tradition every year? Who gave them to you? Is that person given credit in your recipe book. Recruit other family members to add to their family recipe cookbook and think of how it can become a really great Christmas gift to everyone.

These are just a few suggestions for you to work with. Now that I have written this I need to go and check out my supply list, while some of the items are still on sale!