27 March 2013

Cousin Harvey Strikes Again!

Not long ago, I posted a photo of handsome Harvey E. Hoak, my first cousin 3x's removed. While browsing through "Favorite Quotations" by the Cromwell Ladies Aid Society, I noticed Harvey had made a nice contribution himself.

25 March 2013

Finding the Identity of Papa's Father, Part III

My genealogical journey continued.  I collected ancestors much like shells collect on the beach.  Sometimes my waves of research would come up sparse. Other times, those same waves of research would bring me bountiful information on my family, their whereabouts and how they lived their lives.  Try as I might, nothing new ever floated my way in those waves of looking for Papa’s father’s identity. I sensed that it was the end.  I had exhausted every resource known to man. It seemed ironic that Papa’s mother’s line could be traced to Charlemange, King of the Franks, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Papa’s paternal family history? It ended at Papa.

While reading up on the latest genealogical news a few years back, a new topic kept popping up: DNA research.  I attempted to read up on it.  Quite honestly, most of it was confusing to me.  All I knew is that, at the time, DNA testing was expensive and the male Y-DNA appeared to be the winner in tracing your family.  Last I looked, I was female.  DNA testing was not going to help me. Wait. Y-DNA tested the paternal line? A son could be tested and it could show the DNA for his father and his father’s father and his father’s father’s father? It was like a bolt of lightning. Maybe I could ask my uncle to take the Y-DNA test for me.  He was Papa’s son! His DNA could open the door which I could never open.

When this past December rolled around, my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas. “I want a DNA test for Uncle Larry”, I said.  He looked at me like I had grown a third eyeball.  “What else do you want”, he says, “that’s not a gift. I can’t put that under the tree. You can’t unwrap that”.  “That’s it”, I say.  Discounting a DNA test as a proper Christmas gift, my hubby looked a little annoyed.  I begin to pontificate my reasons for wanting one. I tell him by having Uncle Larry’s Y-DNA tested, it might prove who Papa’s father really was and you won’t have listen to me moan any longer that it’s making me crazy that I can never find out.  And, I tell him, the detailed test I want is not cheap. It would be a very generous gift.  He relents and says, “What do I have to do to get it”?

I’m so excited! I grab my phone to call my uncle.  “May I borrow a little bit of your spit”, I ask him? He laughs and I begin to tell him why.  I proceeded to explain what the test was, what it traced and what it could tell us.  It could give us the clues to learn who his father’s real father was.  Uncle Larry said yes.  I was over the moon.

Before I ordered the test, I made a phone call to my mother. I was worried. My uncle loved me to pieces.  He would stand on his head and spit nickels if I asked him to do it. I wanted my mom to talk to him, make sure that he knew that the information derived from the DNA test could show some unpleasantness in our family history, that the surname they had used all of their lives would always remain their surname but a new surname may show up which would be their real surname and these results could be life altering.  She spoke with him.  He really wanted to take it.

Before long, my uncle got the DNA test, swabbed his mouth and returned the kit to Family Tree DNA.  I created the FTDNA profile online.  And, waited.


Coming soon.......The Results!

More Quotations from the Cromwell Ladies Aid Society 1909

A sweet quote from my great grandmother, Lucile Unith Thomas, at the tender age of 8 years old.

21 March 2013

Be a Part of RootsTech 2013 No Matter Where You Are

RootsTech is underway in Salt Lake City. It's the ultimate conference for the family historian to see the future of genealogy. Not only are the exciting, new family history tech tools there for you to discover but the workshops and speakers lined up for the event are the tops in the genealogical world.

If you weren't able to get to Salt Lake, RootsTech is streaming LIVE! These live sessions are a great way to shake the cobwebs off and inspire you to think about your family research in so many different ways. Please check out this link to see the upcoming schedule and watch live. RootsTech 2013 Live

20 March 2013

Wedding Wednesday

My beautiful mother-in-law, Josephine Maggio, applying her lipstick on her wedding day, 20 October 1960. I miss her every, single day.

19 March 2013

Searching For Papa's Father, Part II

I’ll be the first to admit, the “I’m going to find out who Papa’s father is” threat was just that for many years – a threat.  I went to college, moved to Chicago, got married, moved to Los Angeles, landed my dream job in the music business and had a baby. Our family history was just as important as it ever was but it seemed life was going full throttle.  No time for research. Yet, the identity of my great grandfather was always there, nagging at me inside.

When I decided to quit working and become a fulltime mommy, there were little bits of quiet time that came with that.  Not a lot of quiet time but enough to dip my toe in that genealogy pool.  As I mentioned, my grandfather was old enough to be my great grandfather.  Birth records were still sketchy in 1901.  I wrote to Lake County, IN.  Even though we were told Papa was born with his mother’s last name, there was no record of his birth.  My mom went down to the county courthouse where they pulled out the original delayed birth record book for her to look through.  Nope.  Papa’s birth wasn’t recorded. Bastardy Bond? Nope.

I looked at the 1900 census in Lake County, IN for clues.  Papa’s mother, Pearl would have been pregnant then. Maybe her living situation might provide an answer. I knew that Papa’s mother’s parents had both died by 1900. Tracking her down could be difficult.  I typed in her full name in a 1900 census search and immediately, not one but two Pearls in the same area showed up.  “Must have been a popular name”, I thought.  I opened the first census and there she was, living with her mother’s mother.  I looked through all the household members and all the neighbors for possible hints.  Didn’t really pick up on anything.  For grins, I opened the second search result on Pearl, just to see who that person was.  Maybe she was another family member I hadn’t heard of before. I looked at the census.  I looked at that Pearl’s birth date on the census.  It was identical to my great grandmother’s!  She was recorded as a household member at two different homes!

The second census record showed Pearl working as a servant for a wealthy family. Something else caught my eye VERY quickly.  There was a young man named Presley, from Virginia, also working in the same household as a servant/laborer. I got a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I don’t know how to describe it but I sensed that this young man was my great grandfather. Quickly, I pulled every census that was available at the time. It was easy to trace Presley. In 1880, he lived with his parents in Virginia.  But by the 1910 census, he was back in Virginia with his parents and in subsequent census records, he married, had children and passed away in Virginia.  His stay in Indiana was short-lived.

My gut was telling me that I had the answer I had been searching for.  The problem was in proving it.  My mom asked her cousins if they had ever heard of this Presley from their parents.  Most of her cousins were shocked to know that Papa was illegitimate.  They didn't know! Uncle Walter wasn’t really Lincoln’s son?  They were floored. I also knew that I couldn’t reach out to this Presley’s family, even if I could track them down.  Could you imagine the shock it might cause to that family? How terrible!  His family probably had no idea Papa existed, if he were Presley’s son.  I vowed to never contact Presley’s family; even if I ever found out he was my great grandpa.

So, I put researching Papa off to the side.  There really wasn’t anything else I could do. In the meantime, I had traced other family lines back to England, Ireland and elsewhere to the 1500’s and earlier.  I learned that most everyone I descended from came to the New World before 1660. There were kings and farmers in my tree.  I had grandfathers who fought in every US skirmish since King Philip’s War. I descended from a grandmother who stood up to the Puritan men folk, was massacred by Indians and whose statue stands in front of the Massachusetts State House as a beacon of women’s rights. Those I descend from cut their way through the wilds of this new land and pioneered areas from the Atlantic, to Canada, to Indiana.  I’m so proud of those I descend from. If it weren’t for looking for Papa’s father, I would have never learned so much. Even with all of that, I couldn’t cure that gnawing inside me because I could never prove who my great grandfather was. 

After a few years, something new started to come about which had the possibility to change my dead end into an open road:  DNA testing.

(Part 3 coming soon)

17 March 2013

Taking A Short Blog Break

Due to some complications due to knee surgery, I have to take a break from the blog. See you in a few days!

14 March 2013

Family Photos

Harvey E Hoak, my 1st cousin, 3x's removed.  Born in 1867 and died in 1944.  Lived in Noble County, IN his entire life.  Wow!  Not a bad looking guy lol!

13 March 2013

The Bee Hive - Cromwell, Indiana

Frank and Sarah Hitler-Ohlwine with the clerks in front of their store, The Bee Hive, in Cromwell, Noble County, IN.  Sarah Hitler, (b.Feb 1856 in Noble Co., IN, d. July 1934 in Noble Co, IN), was my 2nd great grand aunt. Her husband was Frank Ohlwine, (b. July 1853 in IL, d. 1921 in Noble Co.). They were married on 15 April 1879 in Noble Co. My grandma said they had the nicest store in Cromwell. Looks like they were celebrating a new year!

12 March 2013

Who Was My Grandfather's Real Father? Part I: Too Little Asked Before It Was Too Late

Papa as a young child with his mother, Pearl, about 1904
My biggest genealogical brick wall has always been the identity of my mother’s father’s father – my great grandfather. My grandfather, Papa, as I called him, was um, aaaa, well, um, Papa was illegitimate.  While the subject wasn’t discussed, it wasn’t exactly a secret.  My mom heard a hushed family conversation in the parlor as a young child.  She doesn’t remember the details but she does remember being shocked to learn that the man she thought was her grandpa, Lincoln, wasn’t really her father’s dad.
When I was little, Papa dropped little hints about his family tree to me. “We’re part Indian, you know”, he randomly said to me one day.  “Wow. That’s cool”, my 6- year-old-self said to him and we continued on with our Go Fish game or whatever it was we were playing.  6- year-old Karen was not family-tree-hunting, adult Karen.  Knowing who Papa’s real dad was wasn’t a big deal to any of us.  He was raised by his mother, Pearl and a much loved step-father, whose last name was used by Papa and passed down to my mom, her brothers and their kids.  I think Papa knew who his dad might have been.  But, none of us thought to ask. We even accepted that we were of German ancestry probably because of Lincoln’s German last name.
Some time when I was in high school, my mom or someone said something about us being German and I shot back, “Why does everyone say we’re German when that German last name Papa used isn’t wasn't really his last name? We could be German but we don’t know for sure so I’m not going to say I’m German anymore”. I remember feeling really annoyed when I said it.  You know, that teen angst thing when your parents say something that is soooooooooo stupid that you couldn't possbly be related to them. 
The light bulb finally went off in my teen-aged head.  But, it was too late to ask Papa who his dad was.  He had passed away many years earlier. Plus, Papa was actually old enough to be my mother’s grandfather, so there wasn’t really anyone in the family close in age to him left to ask. Kicking myself for never thinking of asking Papa who his father was, I vowed I would find out who that man was and what our family’s real last name was.
To Be Continued......

07 March 2013

Upcoming SCGS Webinar on Irish Research

Are your Irish roots showing or maybe not showing enough? Here's something that might make your Emerald Isle research feel closer to home. The Southern California Genealogy Society will be holding another free webinar as part of it's terrific Jamboree Extension series.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6 pm PST, the SCGS will be hosting Erin in the USA: Irish Research on this Side of the Atlantic, presented by Michael Brophy. Mr. Brophy, is a professional genealogical researcher, heir search specialist and lecturer in the Boston area. During this free webinar, Mr, Brophy will present Irish records that are available in America.

For more information, please click here.

More From The Cromwell Ladies Aid Society 1909

From my second great grand aunt, Mary Hitler Cunningham:

04 March 2013

Most Endangered Lists: Preserving Historical Architecture; Preserving The Story Of All Of Us

In my mind, genealogy and historical architecture preservation go hand in hand.  All over the United States, there are homes and factories that lie unused, unloved and in terrible disrepair.  Many consider these buildings an eyesore and are happy to be rid of them for new development.  Many others know that that the termite eaten wooden home was that of the first settler of their town.  They know that the crumbling brick building at the end of Main Street was long ago the factory that drew people to their city and made their area flourish.  These structures tell the history of who our ancestors were.  They point to why we are where we are today.

There is something you can do to bring attention to and help save our architectural history.  Each year, preservation societies all over the US seek nominees for the most endangered architecture in their area.  Below is a list of organizations which are seeking nominations for their 2013 Most Endangered lists or their current Most Endangered lists.  Please look through the list to see if there is anything you can do to help. Although I can’t list all of the current endangered lists, I encourage you to seek out your local preservation or historical society to help save our architectural past so that future generations can see our past and look to our future.  Thanks!

03 March 2013

Lake County Indiana GenWeb Project Get's A Re-Do

Between my meniscus tear and subsequent surgery, it feels like my genealogy research and blogging is going just like my recovery: SLOW. There are certain genealogy-related sites that almost feel like old friends as I visit them so often. Because of my lack of being able to sit for very long, I feel like I’ve been neglecting some of my old friends. One of these sites is the Lake County Indiana GenWeb Project page. 


I’ve always kind of had a love/hate relationship with my old pal the Lake County InGenWeb. There was decent research info there and the Coordinator always seemed to work hard to add additional information often.  But, the layout and design seemed a little dated and looking for an interesting new tidbit kind of a chore.  So, when I paid my old friend a visit the other day, I was quite pleased to see she had gone through a remarkable transformation.  I barely recognized her! A website plastic surgery, so to speak, seems to have taken place.


I nearly let out a cat whistle when I saw the updated Lake County InGenWeb.  The graphics are new and reflect the area it represents.  The menu and records are clean and much easier to read and navigate.  There appears to be many more records provided.  There also seems to be more contributors adding info to the project.  


Kudos go to the project coordinator, Jeff Kemp.  Well done, sir! Please take the time to visit my friend, Lake County InGenWeb here . The ugly duckling has grown into a lovely swan.