Tuesday, March 27, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Local Societies

Local genealogical and historical societies are the lifeblood of genealogy. Members and volunteers give their time and money to preserve local history and promote family history. Tell us about a local society for which you are thankful.


Anyone who knows me, knows which local society I'm going to blog about with this topic.

Most of my maternal, and a few of my paternal lines, center in a small county in East Central Kentucky.  Estill County, Kentucky was formed in 1808 from parts of Madison County and Clark County.  Parts of it were later used to form several other counties through the years.  My earliest Kentucky lines were in present-day Estill County when it was still in Virginia.  The latecomers showed up for the party by 1840.

When I started researching my birth family, I actually started with one of my paternal lines in near-by Rockcastle County.  I'd learned by this time the value of the local genealogy societies and the help they could give.  Naturally, when I started working on my maternal lines, I called the Estill County library to find out if there was a historical society.  Lo and behold, not only was there, the librarian provided me with the telephone number of the then president.

I called her that night and we discussed what lines i was researching.  As with all things in small towns and close-knit communities, it wasn't a matter of IF we were connected, but how many different ways.  There are certain things you learn to accept in genealogy and that is one of them.

She gave me a tremendous amount of information and put me well on the road of this wonderfully frustrating hobby of ours.

When I asked her how I could pay her back for all the help she gave, she told me to "pay it forward", which was well before the movie of the same name, but a great concept all the same.

As a result, I've worked with the Estill County Historical & Genealogical Society quite a bit over the past twenty years.  Their's is the standard that I judge (either wrong or right) all other societies by.  The amount of books they've published through the years is simply amazing.  They have their own museum and research library that covers many counties in Kentucky, not just their own.  The folks there work tirelessly in promoting the history of that area of Kentucky.  

In the fledgling days of Kentucky GenWeb, we on the Estill County Mailing List threw out the thought of meeting for a weekend and researching together.  The thought was that those who were familiar with the county could help the ones that weren't.  ECH&GS helped us out and, fifteen years later, that Homecoming Weekend is still going.

Thank you, Estill County Historical & Genealogical Society.  Thank you for all you've done...and continue to do.

Friday, February 17, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Historical Documents

Week #7 – Historical Documents Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors?


I've been researching my families for over twenty years.  As you can imagine, I've accumulated quite a few copied documents on both families.

When I began the research on my birth family, I was told (or was it warned) about one of my great-grandfathers.  He was a passionate man - quick tempered and violent at times.  There were two proven murders and rumors of three more.  Family stories ranged between him being coldhearted and loving his family and friends so dearly that he was willing to commit murder for them.  He was acquitted on the first murder, but the second one proved to be a bit more troublesome. 

As the family story goes, a cousin of my great-grandfather's was arrested for moon-shining.  This was in the early 1920's and times were hard.  Knowing that corn was more profitable in a jug than a bushel basket, the men in East Kentucky provided for their families the best they knew how.  My great-grandfather made his way down the mountain to pay his cousin's bail.  He approached the sheriff and his deputies and stated his intentions.  He was told that he would have to wait until his cousin had gone to court to take care of that.  A friend of my great-grandfather's soon arrived and said that my great-grandmother, who was seven months pregnant at the time, needed him and he was to come home.  Again and again, he tried to give the bail money to the arresting officers.  Again and again, he was denied.  All the while, the friend was urging him back to the mountain and his wife's side.  Angry words were yelled and guns were drawn.  My great-grandfather shot and killed the sheriff.  He was arrested and served in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort.

Over the years, I gathered bits and pieces of this story.  A descendant of the man he killed contacted me and she shared with me more on the events that left a family without their husband and father.

I visited the Kentucky State Library and Archives in March 2011.  As well prepared as I thought I was, I spent six hours wandering around.  I felt like a kid in a candy store and didn't know which bin to get into first.   I made notes for subsequent visits, looked at more microfilm than I care to admit and generally had a wonderful, if not fruitless, time.  The one thing I did manage to do was look at the court transcripts of my ancestor's trial.  Turning those ninety-year old papers was almost a religious experience.  For those minutes, there were no other researchers around me.  I was alone with him and learning his story, his real story.  As I read, parts of the family story were bolstered, while other parts were proven wrong.  I ordered a copy and headed to my next destination.

A few weeks later, my copy of the transcripts arrived.  I spent all night reading and rereading it.

I found that he was wounded several times in the shooting.  I found that it wasn't his wife, but the cousin's wife who was needing help.  I found that the testimony of the event grew more gruesome as each one told what happened that day.  I found that there were two trials as the jury in the first couldn't come to a decision.

I love the family story that was handed down, but to hold these documents in my hands and learn what really happened?  That means more than words can say!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Free Online Genealogy Tools

Week 3 – Free Online Genealogy Tools: Free online genealogy tools are like gifts from above. Which one are you most thankful for? How has it helped your family history experience?


It's an amazing thing to be in on the ground floor of a success.  Of course, we didn't know it was going to be a success at the time.

Around February 1996, there was some grumbling on a genealogy mailing list I was on.  This was in the fledgling days of online genealogy.  "Wouldn't it be nice if there was a central place we could find information on our ancestors?"  This was before Ancestry.com, before FamilySearch.org, before....anything!  Censuses and other records weren't online.  These were the days when research meant ordering microfilm/microfiche and spending hours at the machine.  Aspirin or some other over the counter pain reliever was always in your research bag because of the headaches caused by eye strain or the ache in your arm from scrolling.

One day, someone on this list put forth the idea, "Well, there's not a central place, but what if we came up with one?  Who would be interested?"  Suggestions flew fast and furious.  We all had bits and pieces of information on the various counties we were researching.  What if we put that information, as well as any that might be submitted by other researchers, on the Internet?  That meant we'd have to learn how to code web pages.  That meant we'd have to learn to do graphics.  That meant that we'd have to find web space and learn how to upload our pages there.

How are we going to organize this brave new endeavor?  We decided to divide it by county.  You have family in <insert county here>?  Great!  You're the new coordinator for that county!    

Over the next few months, we struggled and learned and laughed and raged at this project.  Just who was the idiot who came up with this?  And who are the people trying to do this?  

Once the word got out in the genealogy world, other state mailing lists took up our cause.  Once the other states organized, we merged under one entity.  Next thing we heard, there were other countries who were following our lead.  And a world project was born.

Those frantic early days can be summed up in the following blurb that was to appear on all main pages in this project:

In the spring of 1996, a group of genealogists organized the Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database Project, which evolved into the  KYGenWeb Project.  The idea was to provide a single entry point for genealogy data and research for all counties in Kentucky.  In addition, the information for each county would be indexed and cross-linked to make it easier for researchers to find a name or data that they sought.

In June 1996, as the KyGenWeb Project was nearing 100% county coverage, interested volunteers decided to create a similar set of pages for all sates, establishing the USGenWeb Project.  Volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the efforts for each state, and addition volunteers were and are being sought to create and maintain websites for every county in the United States.

Was it easy?  No.  Does everyone get along?  Do they ever?  Was it a perfect project?  There's no such thing as perfection.   However, in those early days of genealogy research on the Internet, it came pretty close.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Breaking News - Jack Hoover is Still Missing

Breaking news from Estill County, Kentucky - Jack Hoover is still missing.

This young man remains a mystery to researchers of this family.  The only trace of him are two photos in possession of a woman in Richmond, Kentucky.  The photo above is one of them and the other could best be described as a "head shot".  The young man is dressed in a dapper suit and the photo is signed, "All my best, Jack."

The connection Jack has to the rest of the family is unknown as present, but someone was heard to say, "Of course he's one of us!  Look at him!!"

If you know the person pictured above, please contact the owner of this blog immediately.  There is no monetary reward, but she was heard to offer cookies and her undying admiration.

Note - I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone who has a missing relative.  I have a warped sense of humor and, considering I've been looking for Jack for nearly twenty years, thought this would be a different way to find any information about him.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

52 Weeks to Abundant Genealogy - Paid Genealogy Tools

Week 2 – Paid Genealogy Tools: Which paid genealogy tool do you appreciate the most? What special features put it at the top of your list? How can it help others with their genealogy research?


Over the years, I've paid more for genealogy tools, books, software, etc. than I care to admit.  I'm reminded of the child who sticks their fingers in their ears while singing "La la la la la" to avoid  hearing something they don't want to hear.  When it comes to genealogy expenses, I am that child.

Ancestry.com is my paid genealogy heaven...and hell.  For the amount of information that can be found there on my family, the genealogy expenses would have been out the roof!  Not only censuses, but actual death certificates from 1911 - 1953!  There's the Kentucky Birth Index.  The Kentucky Death Index.  Military records thanks to the link with Fold3.com.

Oh and Fold3.com!  I have died and gone to Civil War Nirvana!  There's so much good information there.  I swoon each time visit and find another tidbit of information to work on the jigsaw puzzle that is my family.  

My problem with Ancestry.com, however, is lack of human contact.  It's far too easy to grab information and photos from everyone else's trees and go along one's merry way.  It's been my experience that to try to correct information in someone's tree is nearly impossible.  I've sent many emails to fellow researchers with proof that So-And-So did not die in 1848, but actually died 1868 per 2 census listings, court records showing the purchase of a coffin as well as the probate of a will.  No answer or, worse, arguments with no proof.  I know, I sound like that grumpy old person with a million cats and sits on their porch and yells at the kids in the neighborhood.  I prefer personal genealogy.  If you're a cousin, give me a yell!  Say hi!  If you want to use a picture I posted, just ask.  A little courtesy goes a long way.  Who knows?  I might have more information in my personal files.  Not everything goes online, you know!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sunday's Obituary - William Kenneth Elam

When my adoptive father passed away in 2009, he went quietly at my sister's house.  We waited for two weeks for him to go find our mother.  We assured him that we'd be fine, but he held tight until midday on July 17th.  I came home briefly to catch a nap and change clothes.  My sister called to tell me to come back quickly, but, in the thirty minutes it took to return, Daddy decided it was time.  I ran into her house and to our father's side.  As I held his hand, "Moon River" began to play.  This was a special song as a little girl learned to dance by placing her feet on her father's and awkwardly mimicked his moves.  I hugged him tight and sang along one last time.

It was then our job to deal with the business side of death.  Open house arrangements.  Cremation arrangements.  The obituary.  You have to understand - Daddy never thought himself worthy of much.  He was an everyday man who worked hard and took care of his family.  He enjoyed playing golf and he even wrote poetry.  Little bits of rhyme that were only shared within the family.

Below is what we came up with to describe our father's life.  We supplied the same to the Chaplain for his service at Arlington National Cemetery.  As an aside, the Chaplain wasn't able to keep a straight face at our father's poetry.  Daddy would have liked that.

William K. "Ken" Elam died at home July 17, 2009. He & his wife, Ardith, lived at the Cloister at St. Henry in Nashville, TN for over twenty years. After her death in Feb 2008, he moved to the home of his daughter, Carol. 

He was born Oct. 9, 1921 in Lerna, IL, the son of William Birdle and Orpha (Perkins) Elam. He grew up in Vienna, IL, and was a "Tom Sawyer" kid in Vienna and the surrounding area. Usually barefoot or in hand me down shoes, he roamed the countryside without anyone knowing where he was most of the time. As he grew up during "Hard Times", he had several odd jobs, even handing out pamphlets for the local silent movies where his aunt played the piano. He learned to drive at an early age, and was apparently considered responsible, because as people in town bought cars they would hire him to drive them places, even though under age.

In 1941, at the age of 19, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri to work in the Curtiss Wright airplane factory.

He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. He attended training courses in bomber mechanics and other courses at several bases around the country. He then went to Sikeston, Missouri to Flight School. Here, he also learned to do aerial acrobatics which he loved. One day he was flying solo and he sneaked down to Calvert City, KY and buzzed his parents' house. He found out later they were out of town but all the neighbors figured out it was him and told them.

He continued training courses in B-17 and other aircraft engines. While stationed in Amarillo, TX he met "the prettiest girl in Iowa" at a USO. Ardith Howland worked as a radio operator for TWA and was stationed there also. Finally, he was sent to Guam for a year to work on C-54 engines. On Guam, he worked shifts and the accommodations were not great. One of his best friends from childhood was in the Navy and was stationed about a mile away. He would go visit there and couldn't get over how those guys had ice buckets under their bunks stocked with cold beer while the Army base offered only hot Cokes! He was discharged on March 2, 1946 with the rank of Sergeant of the 1537th Army Air Force Base Unit.

On March 20, 1946, he married that pretty girl in Guthrie Center, Iowa.

In 1949, he enlisted in the Army, to make it his career, not dreaming there would be another war. He spent two years as a student and instructor in various motor and tank mechanics schools and was based in Atlanta.

In 1952, he served in the Motor Pool at the Headquarters of the 40th Infantry Division, California National Guard. While in Korea, he built a camouflaged bunker house into the side of a hill. It was dry and warm despite the weather being -20 degrees outside. He and his roommate, Lt. J. D. Allen, were supposed to keep it secret, but word got out. Before long, his unit was transferred. His commanding officer asked him how they came out in the move. "We were screwed, Sir!" was the answer. He was discharged March 1953 with the rank of Master Sergeant and having seventy men at his command.  He received the Korean Service Medal with two bronze service stars as well as the United Nations Service Medal.

After Korea, they moved to Calvert City, KY where he worked at Pennsalt Chemical (Arkema) until retirement. 

In 1984, they moved to Nashville to be near their daughters. 

His great joys were golf, camping, and doing odd jobs for everyone he knew! 

He is survived by his sister, Doris Faye, of Clifton, TX; daughters, Carol Elam and Jennifer Bawden (Darin) of Nashville; grandchildren, Ashley and Nick Marchetti.

Memorial donations are welcome to "The First Tee", a character-building golf program for young people.


Daddy's Constant Car Lament by William K. Elam (Read by the Chaplain as his funeral)

Please check the fluids in your car.
Without them you won't get so far.
You pay a fortune for your bus
If you burn it up you're going to cuss.
Do not fail your oil to change.
This doesn't take a lot of brains.
 © 2009 William Kenneth Elam

Mirror by William K. Elam (Read by the Chaplain as his funeral)

The other day, I happened by chance
As I passed a mirror, to give it a glance.
And I wondered who that old man could be.
Who, with his mouth wide open was looking at me.
His bald head was sprinkled with a little gray fuzz.
And he wasn't at all handsome (like I always was)
He looked like a sack of mis-matched parts
Put together without aid of instructions or charts.
And, while I know that my shoulders don't slump.
This person's were misshapen in one ugly hump.
Now if that was me, I only can say.
They don't make mirrors like they did in my day.
 © 2009 William Kenneth Elam

Friday, January 6, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Blogs

Here we go again!  This years's blogging challenge is "52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy"

The Topic for Week 1 – Blogs: Blogging is a great way for genealogists to share information with family members, potential cousins and each other. For which blog are you most thankful? Is it one of the earliest blogs you read, or a current one? What is special about the blog and why should others read it?

I'll admit it.  I don't blog as often as I should.  Offline life has a way of getting in the way and derailing me from my passion.  It's a shame as both writing and genealogy ARE my passions. Offline life has allowed me one of those unexpected breaks so perhaps I can catch up on what I like to do.

Since my joining Facebook and becoming involved, I have "met" many different Geneabloggers.  They are a great bunch, supportive and inclusive.   There are as many different blogs out there as there are authors.  Pick whatever slant you want to give on anything remotely genealogical in nature and there's a blog for it!

I'm not going to say that I'm most thankful for the following blog, as I'm thankful for everyone's efforts.  If one is smart, one will continually learn.  If I read a blog about research in the North East or the West, I'm sure to learn something I don't know.  If I read one about Appalachia (my personal favorites), I will generally be reminded of something.  That being said, Appalachia Ponderings holds a special place in my heart.  When you read what Gen has to say about those old mountains and the people who lived there, you can almost smell the pine on the wind or hear the birds.  The creek is there to dip your toe in and supper's being cooked.  

If you have people in from Appalachia and are feeling homesick or if you don't and want to know why it's so special, visit her blog.