Saturday, January 24, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge February 2015

So here I go again. 
I passed on the writers’ challenge last year which was probably a big mistake. Though I did get some work done on my project, I probably would be much closer to the end had I taken advantage of the support and accountability from the group. In fact, I’m still trying to finish a project I started two years ago. Granted it is a large undertaking but really?

I’ve managed to complete the write-ups for Alice’s maternal side and am currently working on her paternal side. What brought me to a halt until recently was my attempt to write Alice’s story. My late mother-in-law left me with plenty with which to work. I have her diary which she kept from about 1929 until near her death – not a “this is how I feel” account, more of a “this is what I did calendar”. In addition, she saved nearly everything from receipts for her wedding to enough memorabilia to overflow her cedar chest. Add to that the fact of our personal relationship. It’s just overwhelming! How do I write her story within inserting my viewpoint?

For now, I’ve put that down and turned to her paternal Cornish (both sides) ancestors for relief. On the one hand, I need lots of historical background for filler; on the other hand, I’ve been wasting valuable time researching distant cousins rather than writing the direct ancestors’ stories. My hope is this February challenge will help me focus on the writing. Writing will come first and only after my daily goal is fulfilled will I allow myself to check on those collateral lines.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Gap in Time

My husband's grandmother, Alice Augusta Christiansen Larson Davey, is giving me writer's block! I'm trying to write her story but am at a loss for filling in a few short but very important years. In the 1900 census, she is living in her "home" town of Ishpeming, Michigan, age 20, working as a live-in servant. In 1906 she married Fred Davey in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; however, Fred was living in Chicago at the time and the couple resided there after the marriage.

So, did Alice move from Ishpeming to Chicago? If so, why? How and where did a nice Swedish girl from Michigan meet a rakish Cornish boy from Dodgeville, Wisconsin? Fred was working as a barber so perhaps he had gone to Chicago to learn the trade.

Why did they marry in Milwaukee? Was it a Gretna Green thing? They were both of age to marry so that wasn't a problem?

I really hate lightly tripping over those years in the story but all I have at the moment is facts, no details. There is no one left in the family who would know the answer to the questions. What a shame! I'm sure there is a good story in those five years which may be lost forever.

~ Becky

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Amelia Ellstrom and Some Reporting Problems

Even though it’s been awhile since my last post, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy working on my project. Since my last post I’ve created the outline for the book and a draft copy. A draft copy meaning I’ve set up the various levels of headers and inserted the stories I’ve already completed. My biggest problem in that part of the project is figuring out how to put reports created in Family Tree Maker (saved as .rft) into my reports section. I did manage to insert an ahnentafel with only minor items to be fixed (mostly under Sources) but have yet to master the Family Group Sheet which will be greatly needed.

However, that is not the purpose of this post. I’ve just finished a first draft of the story of Amelia Ellstrom, my husband’s great-grandmother. I wanted to create something that showed her strong character and family values. In some cases, I think I did; in others, I seemed to fall into the old stating of vital records syndrome.  
Actually her “story” is split, the early years are included in “Ellstrom family” portion and her adult years are in the “Amelia Ellstrom Chrisiansen Larson” part. The Ellstrom family story begins like this:

It must have seemed as though Amelia’s father had been gone a very long time. The rest of the family -Amelia, her mother, Christina, her older sister Augusta, and her younger brothers, Alexander and Albert – had been waiting for word from her father, Frederick Ellstrom. He had gone to America from their home in B├Ąckefors, Sweden in search of work and a new beginning. Ten year old Amelia didn’t quite understand why they had to leave their home but she did know the past year or so money had been tight and food sparse. It was 1869 and crops didn’t look any better this year than last. Mother and father said there was no choice but to start over where work and food were plentiful and from what they had heard America was the place to go.
At last, Frederick called for them to join him in Marquette, Michigan. He sent the money for their trip and plans were made for the long journey.  Amelia probably shed a few tears as she said her goodbyes to her friends and neighbors. She knew in her heart she would most likely never see any of them again and had no way of knowing what lay ahead for her.

It continues on in a similar fashion until the family reaches Marquette and the viewpoint moves from Amelia to the family in general.

Amelia’s adult years begin like this:

Amelia, the second child of Frederick and Christina Ellstrom, arrived in America at the age of 10 in 1869. She had traveled with her mother and three siblings from B├Ąckefors, Sweden. It had been an amazing adventure for a young girl. She and her family settled into the ways of their new Country and enjoyed a comfortable home life. In the meantime, her future husband was doing much the same.

This part of the story is where I really wanted to get into Amelia’s head and see things from her perspective. She and her 1st husband, Hans Christiansen, had 2 children before he died in 1883 just four years after their marriage. I think it took great strength for her to continue on in the house they shared in Ishpeming and not return to live with her parents in Marquette. Exactly how she provided for the girls I don’t know. There seems to have been a benevolent fund among the miners but that help probably wasn’t enough to sustain for any length of time. My guess is she probably took in laundry, turned to dress making, whatever it took to provide. She was also very involved with the Swedish Baptist Church and would have received moral support, if nothing else, from the congregation.

She remarried, to Carl Larson another miner, four years after the death of Hans. Four years was a long time for a “single” mother to be on her own during the 1880s. Carl had arrived in Ishpeming in 1885 and so didn’t know Hans. He was, however, drawn to Amelia even though she had two young girls in tow. Carl and Amelia had five children of their own.

Besides the loss of her husband, Hans, I imagine the other two greatest tragedies in her life were the death of her youngest son, Clifford in 1923 and the discord between her husband Carl and her oldest child, Alice. I don’t know what caused this break, but before she was twenty years old Alice was already out of the household and working as a live-in servant. She was the only child in the family to leave like that. Also, after the death of Carl it is made clear that she was to be omitted from inheriting. I’m sure Amelia suffered over such a disruption in the family.

However, Amelia’s relationship with Carl appears to have been a good one; so much so that after her death in 1930, he took his own life just six months later. They had been together for over forty years.
Anyway, I’m going to revisit what I’ve written to see if I can show her feelings, rather than tell about them.

I’m also going to continue to try to figure out my reports problem.

~ Becky

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One Hundred Years and Counting

Yesterday was a great and fun day. Thanks to some friends Happy’s (my father-in-law) 100th birthday party came off without a hitch. Don, Sharon, and Dean did an absolutely wonderful of decorating, providing the delicious food, and serving in a gracious manner. Their expertise and generous gift of time and talent removed great stress from the family and allowed all of us to enjoy the day greeting and meeting with friends and relatives. We, especially Millie (my sister-in-law), were able to stay near Happy, giving him the emotional support he needed. What a blessing!

Here’s a four-generation photo:

Seated Francis Joseph "Happy" Higgins
Front row: Granddaughters Tammy & Samantha
Next row: Great-Grandsons Stewart & Kristian and Son Jim (my husband)
Back row: Great-Grandson Derek

Great-Granddaughter Randi was unable to attend because she is in school in Texas.

I can't close without showing the wonderful spread provided by our friends:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy's 100th Birthday Project

I'm still working on my new and short term project. Getting ready for my father-in-law's 100th birthday.

I have gathered a little over 100 pictures (I wanted an even 100 but my sister-in-law had other ideas), digitized the ones that needed it, and renamed them so they will play in the proper sequence on the slide show. Pretty much that part is ready to go. Yay!!

We also are putting together a binder highlighting major and some minor events in his life. His birth certificates, baptism certificates (born Catholic, converted to Baptist before his marriage), marriage, work awards, a copy of every census in which he is found, etc. Since I'm the one who has collected the records for the family history, I'm the one assigned this task. Actually it's a very good exercise because I have to review all my documents and sources for him.

I created a collage for the front of his binder:

This project has also caused us to clear off the old cedar chest holding the goodies my in-laws saved over the years. I know I'll find more items for his binder in there but there are also many gems for my writing project for next year. That goal is to publish a book about my late mother-in-law and her ancestors.

Now it's time to get back to the task at hand.

~ Becky

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Ishpeming/Marquette Trip Recap & Summary

I've been back from Michigan for a few days now, well, really just the weekend. There were a number of personal things that needed doing once we got home - like cleaning house, doing laundry, just stuff. There was another reason I didn't post before now though; I wanted to give my "little grey cells' time to work in the background and gel things together. Now it is time to summarize the trip.

First of all, I learned that all the planning I did prior to actually getting in the car and going was well worth the time and effort. I had created two primary lists - a research item list and a daily schedule. The lists were printed and posted on Evernote. I must admit, however, I used the printed lists more than the digital. When we were driving around or sitting in a restaurant it was easy to pull out the printed copy; I didn't need to access the internet, boot up a computer or device, or worry about wireless connections. That's not to say I never used the digital versions but it was nice to have the hard copies available. My husband also had his copies.

The Research List was created first and was the most detailed. I spent many hours on the internet looking for places which might be helpful to my research. I split the list into three locations: Ishpeming, Marquette, and Negaunee. Each listing contained the name of the location (library, archive, museum), address, phone number, hours. Under each listing I identified what I hoped to find there including names and dates when appropriate. For example, in the Marquette section was listed:
Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives 126 Learning Resource Center,Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, MI  49855. 906-227-1225; Mon. - Fri. - 8-5, closed for lunch 12-1 - Marcus Robyns, archivist
 Pencils only - can use laptop.
Marquette County Tax Rolls:Amelia Christiansen - Vol 335 Assessment Roll Ishpeming 1885 and Vol 344 1884Larson or Christiansen - Vol 337 Assessment Roll Ishpeming 1887
The Iron Agitator microfilm Jan 7 1882-Dec 1884. Hans Christiansen death.
Look for naturalization papers for Carl August Larsson/Larson between 1885 and 1900
Once I had everything I thought I needed, I called the various locations to verify the days and hours they would be open and asked about any special rules. For instances the "pencils only - can use laptop" as listed above. This is a very important step. When making my contacts I learned the Ishpeming Historical Museum was closing the week before I would be there but, because of the previous contact, they made arrangements for me while I was in town.

With the Research List Complete, I was able to review the logistics and timing for each location and set a schedule for each day. Of course, the schedule was tentative and subject to change. As it happens, I made changes only between Wednesday and Thursday in order to meet up a second time with the genealogist from the Ishpeming Historical Museum, Karen Kasper.

One other thing I did before I left home was to create an Excel worksheet showing the individuals in the families I was researching and whether or not I had found each on everything census in which they should appear. In doing so, I had time to find any I was missing before the trip and verify who was still in the area and who and when others had moved-on.

This trip was very satisfying. I found some new, very important information as well as finding new sources confirming previously known facts. All was done with very little stress because I knew what to do and what to do next. This time "the best laid plans" worked out.

I will soon need to start writing the stories of these two families but, as life would have it, I have another project that must take precedent. My husband's father will turn 100 on November 9 and I have lots of pictures to scan and enhance (some) for a slideshow.

~ Becky