Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page
Sugar plantation at Aiea, Oahu, shows Pearl Harbor in the distance.
Elsa Christopherson (formerly Skar) is buried about 11 miles away on another slope of the harbor.
|Loch View Cemetery
Pearl City, Hawaii
Let’s start with what I WANT to do. I look at that heap of broken headstones and I want to put them back in order. Among them might be my great great grand aunt and uncle, Elsa Skar, and her husband Christian Christophersen of Norway. Their headstones, I mean. Elsa is Hans’ sister. Their descendants eventually moved to Washington State in the late 1800′s.
On my early morning drive to Nashua this morning I asked my daughter to let me talk through my research about this cemetery. I told her about my fixer-upper project and she said, rolling her eyes, “We’d have to go to Hawaii, Mommy.”
“I know. We are.”
Laugh. More eye-rolling.”Did you hear that, Kyle?” she joked with her brother sitting behind her. “We’re going to Hawaii!” She obviously doesn’t believe me. I can’t say I blame her for doubting. I consistently and fervently say, “No!” to everything except the question, “Do you need some help?”
I was thinking of leaving a cache nearby for all geocachers to have a little fun. I just need an idea of some trinkets to put in the cache. Something creative that people who love family history and geocaching would enjoy. But that’s for another day.
Your reasons for liking cemeteries might be different from mine. I don’t visit them to visit the dead. I love them because of the wealth of information one can gather from the headstones and the cemetery office’s records, if any were kept. And they usually are.
I want to get the Boy Scouts on Oahu to volunteer some time to clean up the grounds. My oldest boys’ Eagle Scout Project was collecting information from the oldest part of a town cemetery, mapping the family plots, taking pictures of the headstones, and organizing all of the records created from his project. He gave the finished project to the cemetery’s secretary, who updated the town’s records of that cemetery. The next step would be to get all of that information online so that people wouldn’t have to travel to get pictures, names and dates found on the headstones there.
But the Loch View Cemetery, overlooking Pearl Harbor, is a mess. Even if a map existed of the original plots, it would be too expensive to redo the whole thing. I’d like to do what was done at the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Olalla, Washington for some of my ancestors buried there. Someone created a memorial with names and dates of all of the people who had been buried there for visitors to see. Just a simple, engraved plaque mounted on a boulder (so I’ve been told).
I’ve started researching the cost of the memorial. It’ll probably cost upwards of $1,000., depending on how many names and dates are added. But I’m good at finding deals. The airfare is another matter entirely. Perhaps we’ll swim.
But what a dream. Huh? It’ll take some time and planning. Kelley said, “If we go we HAVE to visit Pearl Harbor!”
Me? I just want to island hop and step on the same ground some of my ancestors stepped on. They lived on at least two of the islands. And I’m sure that the sand from the beaches they landed on is worn and washed away like the headstones. My imagination will have to bring me back in time because I know that things have changed since they were there.
But the ocean doesn’t change. I want to look at the same one that they did over 130 years ago. And I want to leave my mark.
First I have to pay the electric bill.
And the heating and water bill.
I laughed. Jackie is so dramatic. But she got my attention.
“What? What did I do?”
“One thirty in the morning! I was up until ONE THIRTY! And if my laptop battery hadn’t died I’d have stayed up later!”
Okay. I know I was asleep at 1:30 am. I’m never up that late.
Jackie and I used to hang out at the family history center every Tuesday night when we lived on the Cape just a year ago. It was so fun. We became best friends. She’d bring me Dairy Queen Blizzards. I hid them whenever one of my children came in from playing in the gym. We would laugh and laugh about nothing. Truth be told, we’d get a kick out of listening to each other mumble not so nice things at the computer screens. I loved the occasional screech of “Agh! I found him!”
Family history centers are like productive and happy coffee shops. Everyone cares about what you’re working on and almost everyone is a bit perplexed about something. It’s not unusual to hand your chair over to someone who has been looking over your shoulder so that they can sit down and fix your mess.
I listened for about 10 minutes as Jackie told me story after story about her late night on Ancestry.com. You see when we worked at the family history center there was free Ancestry.com access. It was more than either of us could afford to subscribe to privately. We had two hours week of intense searching and printing. And laughing.
Finally I got to the bottom of her “complaint” against me. The day before, less than 24 hours earlier, she’d called frustrated that she hadn’t been able to get to the center and she really wanted to work on some family history. I asked her what she wanted to use in there. Was it the microfilm, fiche, or Ancestry.com? It was Ancestry.
“Jackie, I have a subscription. You KNOW that! Use it. That’s why I got it!”
I waited while she got the Internet up and got to the Ancestry.com home page. I wasn’t sure I remembered the user name and password, and she kept leaving her caps lock on. It took a few minutes before she screamed, “I’m in!” and I knew the conversation was done. It’s like that when you have the family history bug. It owns you.
I giggled listening to Jackie tell me how much she loved “those little leaves” that pop up when the site finds new leads. She went on and on and on. She was like a breath of fresh air to my soul. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I so wanted to teach her some things that I’d learned. But as I started to I felt the shift in her telling me, “This is my moment! Let me enjoy it.” Shut up, Betsy (me to myself!)! Don’t say a word! Listen.
There has to be at least one of you who wants to use my Ancestry.com with me and Jackie, and some woman in Ohio whose name I can’t remember. (We met over the phone by mistake last year. She uses it a lot. I just have to remember to tell her when I change my password.) I’d be thrilled if you do.
It’s a lot more fun sitting as a group of friends in the family history center on a Tuesday night or Saturday afternoon, eating ice cream and laughing. I miss those days.
One of my other dreams was to buy a big Victorian house and set up a few rooms with computers and Ancestry.com, etc. I’d bake some bread and we’d have a blast just hanging out. You could pop in whenever and stay ’til whenever. But I go to bed really early so you’d have to lock up. It would be you, me. and all of those dead people! Problem is you’d have to live nearby!
Update: As of today, Tuesday the 19th October, there are 2 new people using my Ancestry subscription. Two more and we’ll have to set up a schedule so that we don’t run into each other!
Update: Nov.15th: Hooked another one!
Update: Dec 11th: One more added!
Update: Jan. 9, 2012: One more added today!
Socks are another story. Most times I abandon the search. The mate might be right in the drawer. Somewhere. But most times I can’t be bothered . I can wear them mismatched. Or I might go sock-less.
I have to admit that my sock drawers are what I’ve heard are reflections or witnesses of creativity! I know what’s in them. but they are a mess.
But I don’t want to talk about socks just yet. I want to tell you what happened on Saturday.
I was lost. I couldn’t find any excitement for family history. All of the stories were starting to feel the same. I was bored. I called my mom and she listened. It’s good to talk when you’re stuck. But talking wasn’t helping me get unstuck either. I knew I need to do something. I glanced up at the clock. I remembered an assignment our family had to clean the church and realized I had 1/2 an hour to pull myself together if I was going to get there on time. My husband had just had surgery, the house was a mess, I was tired, and everyone but the 3 youngest children was sleeping. I said goodbye to my mom, threw on some clothes and raced to the church with the kids in tow.
After plugging in the vacuum cleaner I walked to the family history center down the hall and poked my head in. I motioned to a woman on the phone that I was going to be noisy. Did she mind? She nodded and 10 minutes later met me in the hallway, her phone call ended.
We talked for about 15 minutes. By the end of the conversation I learned that our husbands might share some ancestors in common. She told me a story of one of them. I went home and reread the story online and cleared up some questions I’d had about Nathan Cross and his kidnapping by Indians in New Hampshire in the mid 1800′s. I was thrilled to have been fed such a feast out of the blue.
Neither Pat, my new friend, nor I had planned on being in the church building that morning. But we both got up and out of the house in response to a feeling of being lost and doing what was right in front of us.
Now back to socks. But let’s not go all the way back.
They are your socks in your sock drawer. You know where to find them, but you’d just as soon get rid of them and replace them with new ones that fit, have no holes, and are stilled paired nice and neatly, ready whenever you need them. It’s a hassle to sift through the clutter.
If that’s not your sock drawer OR the state of your family history I’m preaching to the choir. You are who I am on my good days! Days when I’m searching, finding and feasting. I need no convincing of the value of family history on those days.
So, think about something for me for a bit today when life might feel dull, or you feel a teeny bit lost. Or maybe you just can’t put your finger on that little nagging feeling that’s something’s missing, but you insist everything is in order.
Think of your ancestors like socks. They may be old and smelly, holey and mismatched. But they’re yours.
Let me help you find them.
Here’s a chart to download and to get enlarged and printed. Tell the printer to change the file from JPEG to PDF.
4 Generation / Family Group Chart ~ 18×24″ Download (This really is a link. Click on it. Please tell me if it doesn’t work!)
It’s a worksheet for you to put 15 families from your past in order. Take one of those families and learn about them. I’d love to hear what you learn about them and yourself!
(One note. If you are adopted you have a legacy of love that’s as important to look into as your biological ancestry. You can get information about your biological heritage pretty easily these days. Both families will have insights into who you are and why people make the choices they make. Let me know if I can help. I have some very intelligent resources!)
|Wardner’s Castle 1103 15th St. Fairhaven, Whatcom, Washington
John Earles’ residence in 1905 according to records from relatives. No one knows who the family is in this picture. Could it be John, Bridget and the children?
(Don’t forget to use your new stamps!)
Nothing she did will impress me as much as her endurance and the questions that her life encourages me to ask myself.
If public schools were to suddenly shut down I know what I’d do.
My children are not excited about learning at all. They have no idea how many children in the world would thrive given half the chance at an education that they have. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of learning. They are wise and know that an education is NOT what they’re getting. I don’t believe that anyone is really to blame. It’s just that the system I grew up in didn’t work for me. Why would it be any different for them?
So Step #1 would be: STOP
Step #2 would be to pull out my 4 generation chart, a worksheet with 15 families of their ancestors. Maybe I’d have one of my kids close their eyes and point their finger on a spot. A family. We’d start there. Where they live. At that point and time in history.
Do you get excited as I get when I find myself learning about a time or event in history that I’m certain I was exposed to in school, but now feels easier to understand because I can see one or more of my ancestors living during that time? Do you find yourself reading a farm census of one of your relatives from the 1800′s and get a clearer picture of what it meant to eke out a living as a farmer? Or what the cost of living or the lifestyle was? Or wondering about tractors and plows and other inventions and the inventors of that era? I do.
When I want to write a story about an ancestor I have to immerse myself in their life, not just the facts from census, marriage, birth, death and other available documents. I always end up asking a whole host of questions that lead me to be more educated about the time they lived in than I ever would have been unless I had a certain penchant for studying the history of their day.
To make a very long story short here’s a list of the topics I studied while putting together the story A Driven Man: Nature or Nurture :
- The Great Potato Famine 1850′s / Ireland
- New York City 1850′s
- Ellis Island
- Who were the steerage passengers of a ship. Why is it called “steerage”?
- Transportation in the US in the 1850′s-60′s
- Communication in the mid 1800′s
- Telephone / switchboards / operators
- Logging in the Upper Midwest in the late 1800′s
- Early railroad systems in Colorado
- Farming in Wisconsin 1860′s
- Manifest Destiny
- Allopathic medicine
- Steam ponies
- Sol Duc Hot Springs
- American Savings Bank. Seattle / Bank director/ Stockholder
- Ferry service in Puget Sound
- The Arts
- Science / Technology
- Careers /Skills
- Math ( I ask, “What math skills did that trade require?” etc.)
I don’t want to spend my life gathering facts and skills. I want to find out what makes me insanely happy so that I wake up every day to bliss. Exposure to the real world through family history, albeit dead and gone, connects me to the world I live in . There are new questions to be answered, and new ideas and problems to address. I will have received a foundation of the history of real people. I will have watched them find their own answers and form their own ideas. It will be a strong foundation. One that I can build on.
- What type of education would you be drawn to if public school wasn’t available?
- How do you keep in touch with your friends (past and/or present)?