©2009-2016 Becky Higgins

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Help with Howich Drugs, Please

Help! I’m looking for a photo of Howich Drug Store in Chicago. In the 1920s and 30s it was located at 1860 W Madison on the northeast corner of Wolcott and Madison. Apparently, it was THE place to go for sodas and sundaes in the neighborhood and my mother-in-law’s diary mentions it all the time. As I’m working on her (and her lineage) story now, I’d love to be able to have a visual of the place
As it happens, that address is currently in the middle of United Center. There are no buildings left in the area. I’m left to find someone somewhere who may have an historical picture. I’ve found a few ads in the Chicago Garfieldian newspaper but no images of the building were used. They did, however, mention “our famous Howich chocolate Sodas and Sundaes.”

The drug store later moved to 4160 W Madison but my father-in-law says they only went to that one a few times. It was further away making to more difficult to get to. I was able to find a photo (current day) of that building on Google maps but it’s not really significant to Alice’s story.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’ve tried both Google and Bing images to no avail. At the moment I’m hoping some wonderful Chicagoan family historian from “the old neighborhood” will have a photo to share.

If nothing else, wish me luck!!

~ Becky

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Creation and Use of a Census Report

I’ve been looking through my binders and database for the Davey and Stephens surnames. I have plenty of information on these lines but some questions still need answering. Now isn’t that a surpriseJ. Anyway, I see the need to determine if I have each person on all the census records in which they should be recorded.

One concept I’m hoping to at least find evidence for is which of the Stephens, and related families, clan left Cornwall for Wisconsin as a group in or about 1842. They should all be recorded in the 1841 census taken in England; then it is a question of finding who is recorded in the 1850 US census in Wisconsin. According to the History of Grant County, Wisconsin written by Castello N. Holford, published in 1900, the group, locally known as The Stephens Colony, emigrated to Platteville in 1842. They received that designation because there were 50 or more family members included in the cluster. My plan is to identify those family members and see how many names I actually collect.

I’ll use the same process for the Davey family. Fortunately, this line is much smaller and should be easily traced. Of course, one never knows until one actually gets into the investigation.

I have already cited many of these census records but my plan is to create a census report for each person. In the past I’ve used Word to create such reports. I think this time I’ll use an Excel worksheet because the ease of sorting data will help me in the end. The plan is to record as much information as possible from each census including date, location, relationship – to whom, property info, occupation, etc. Once I have everything posted, I’ll be able to sort the information in various ways to see how many were living where in a given census year; who stayed in the area and who moved away; who farmed and who mined and so on.

Even though I think I have most of the records I need for this project, I’m sure I’m missing a few and will need to find someone/s I’m missing in a given census year. I’m so thankful for having access to census records online. Sometimes it can be frustrating when I can’t find someone in the index under any spelling I can think of and sometimes I’ve looked page by page through a given township but I’ve done that sitting in my office with a cup of coffee at hand. In the old days, not so long ago, I’d have had to order the microfilm, wait for it to come in, drive to the library or family history center to use the microfilm readers, and hope I found what I needed in the time I had so I didn’t have to come back another day. Gotta’ love the internet!

If I come across a problem with a particular individual, I may take that information into Evidentia to assist in the analysis of the data. In that case, I’ll also add all the other documents I’ve accumulated for that person. I can, then, easily determine if I have sufficient evidence to make a determination. I should also be able to see what further research, if any, is needed to satisfy the Genealogy Proof Standard.

Now, it’s time to brew another cup of coffee and get to work.

~ Becky

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cultural & Heritage Generalities

I’m aware it’s not correct to place generalized cultural or heritage characteristics on an individual. Each person has his/her own personality. Each person develops differences from the next even within the same family based on events, environment, and even familial placement. That said though since we are a culmination of all those who make up our heritage, doesn’t it make sense that, at least, some of our characteristics are inherited? If so, then some generalizations surely hit the mark.

I bring this up because I’m trying to work through how to make some ancestors come to life in my writing. Obviously, the people I have actually known are not a problem. Over the years I’ve seen how they acted under many circumstances; I’ve talked with them and know their sense of humor. They’ve related stories to me about themselves and others which revealed their priorities, their beliefs.

The problem comes with those I’ve never met. In some cases, I have the stories relayed about them by those I’ve known. I, then, can see these unknowns through the eyes of the known. That, of course, could be a biased view; however, it’s more than I know about many others. For the people truly unknown to me, I really have nothing more than a picture of them through historical and cultural events and locations.

Historical timelines are certainly helpful in determining significant events in a given location at a given time. Reading specific histories about how developed or under-developed a place may have been can aid in a setting. Having as many documents as possible to define a personal history is essential. Finding a journal or diaries from someone else during the same time and location is a true benefit.

All these things help a writer understand the times in which a person lived and even some personal events they encountered. For the most part, what they don’t do is show how that person viewed what was going on around him/her.  Without a document like a divorce or court record (they can provide a picture of at least one of the petitioner, although it’s important to remember the purpose of the testimony) or like a letter or two that give a peek into the writer’s feelings, one is left with conjecture.

What is that conjecture? We’re back to cultural and heritage characteristics. How did other people feel and act during a given time? Are the people of that time and place generally described are stoic or passionate? Did they live in a close-knit community? Would fear have played a role in the general population? Was there an expectation of bravery during their time and place in history?

Sometimes conjecture is all we have left. Sometimes in order to give a person life on a page we need to use that conjecture to give them a personality. Look at your friends and family. Is it the events in their lives that make them who they are or is it how they deal with and feel about those events?

I’m not talking about the writing of a genealogy reports recording the facts of a person or family. We need those to identify the facts and show our sources. I’m talking about actually writing their story. Is it right or wrong to use some generalities to describe an individual?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pondering the Alice Davey Book

I seem to be floundering a bit in my approach to this publication. I’m trying to work out the best way to organize. I’m thinking I’d really like to record the story of how her four grandparents found each other and what their lives and their children’s lives were like; this process culminating in Alice’s life and times.
My dilemma centers around where to begin. Do I start with Alice and move back? Do I create separate sections for each grandparent’s surname? Do I simply create biographies (as best I can) for each grandparent and parent?

I’d really like to write the “story” as if it were a novel. Maybe that’s the key, a narrative. I’d, of course, include a section of reports with citations for genealogists – pedigree, outline descendants, family group sheets, and such. However, the main part of the book would be Alice’s life and how her progenitors affected that life written as if it were a novel. To do that I’ll need to decide on a plot to drive the story. I’ll need to get a handle of the personalities of each major “character” in the story.  I’ll still need to determine where and how to begin. Since Alice is the main character everything begins and ends with her. Do I begin at the beginning or at the end?

Each of her grandparents immigrated to the US. Did the “old country” heritage impact the life of a child born in Chicago? Which line had the most influence on her life – the Cornish and the Swedish? Did her parents keep up family traditions or did they prefer to blend into the American ways?

Did Alice’s tumultuous childhood define her viewpoints? How could it not? In what ways did the many moves within the city take its toll? Is that why she clung so tightly to childhood friends throughout her lifetime?  What parts of her upbringing did she transfer to her own parenting?

Thanks to a collaboration of research between me, Shirlee Eddy, and Nancy Poquette I have a great start with the Davey and Stephens families, Alice’s Cornish side. As for Hans Christiansen, Alice’s Danish grandfather, he died when Alice’s mother was only three years old. He will, of course, be an important part of the story but a short part. Thanks to Jim’s cousin, the late Kay Davey, I have the records for his family in Denmark which may come into play a little. As for the Swedish side, I’m accumulating more and more information but, as of yet, have no “cousins” helping with the Ellstrom line. There do seem to be a number of researchers working on our Larson (half cousins) line.

So much more needs to be done but I’m kind of liking the idea of the “novel.” In my previous publications, I wrote biographies for the direct ancestors that worked out okay, I think. However, I felt there was often an overlap of information because of the separation. With an inclusive story plan, I can keep everyone in context, include the events that  bring Alice’s story along, and create a more complete package.
I think the reports section should satisfy the genealogists’ requirement for evidence and proof. What do you think?