Thursday, March 15, 2018

52 Ancestors - Week #11 - "Lucky" (My Story)

This week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks topic is "Lucky"  - in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I was planning on writing about how lucky I have been "employment-wise." But then I discovered March 14 was National "Write Your Story" Day. I remembered writing a lengthy autobiography as part of the Genealogy Do-Over I started in 2015. So - for several reasons (one of which is that I am on "Grandma Duty" in Colorado this week) I have decided to post the "Story of Me." I have a good excuse for not posting yesterday. I spent the day in planes, trains, and automobiles. (ok- the train was at the Denver airport between terminals, but it's still a train!)

Before you decide to read on, I must warn you - I am old. Therefore my story is quite lengthy (almost 7 typewritten pages.)  If you're not keen to learn all the intricacies of my life, just stop reading now. It's okay - I get it. I'm really not that interesting. But it's important to have the story written.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

52 Ancestors - Week #10 - Strong Women

In honor of Women’s History Month, the prompt for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “Strong Women.” Keeping with my plan to write about my generation this year, I am celebrating ALL the strong women in my family! In order to respect people’s privacy, I will use only first names. I could write volumes about each of these wonderful women, but in order to keep this post at a reasonable length, I will be letting each know what I appreciate about them. (Probably something we should do on a regular basis, but I’m happy to have this opportunity now!)

If I wasn’t focusing on the current generation, I would definitely be writing about Scott’s great-grandmother, Catherine Seeley Fitzallen – a strong woman in her own way – despite probable mental illness, she managed to amass enough capital to finance a building project in Chicago that secured a comfortable life for her daughter and her descendants.

The strength of the women in my husband’s family has been discussed amongst ourselves many times. My sisters-in-law and I get together as often as possible and truly enjoy each other’s company. Sadly, we have lost two of these wonderful women in recent years.


Me and three of my sisters-in-law at Cait's wedding in 2012.
That's Peggy on the far right.

Margaret “Peggy” Winchester Holman Ross left us on May 11, 2014. Peggy’s calm demeanor, her gentle manner, and her ability to remain optimistic even under the worst of circumstances often made me wish I had known her better. Peggy and her family live quite far from us so there weren’t many opportunities to spend time together, other than family events. Happily, her boys have inherited her wonderful spirit and I can continue to “be” with Peggy through them.

Ann Goodgion passed away on September 3, 2006. An amazing woman, who raised two fabulous boys, often on her own. I was always in awe of what Ann could accomplish – she spent her life trying to make things better for others – sometimes to the detriment of her own well-being. While raising her children, she became a social worker, college professor, and a Ph. D. candidate, working to improve the lives of others and fighting against social injustice. And – she was a hockey mom! That, in itself, is remarkable!

Jeanne is Scott’s sister. The rock of the family, Jeanne keeps us together. How she stays positive, even in the face of devastating events, is an inspiration. There was a time, many years ago, when it looked like I would no longer be a part of the Holman clan. (That’s a story for another day!) Jeanne occasionally comments on how happy she is that I stuck around! I’m pretty pleased about it, too! I look to Jeanne for focus and clarity when life gets complicated.

Wendy. Oh, Wendy. Why do you live so far away? The first time I went away overnight with Scott was to visit Wendy and her husband John (Scott’s brother) in Pleasantville, New York. Wendy was so welcoming and so gracious! I knew immediately that this was a woman I wanted to get to know better. Sorry I wasn’t talking to Scott during the month you got married. I regret to this day, missing your wedding! Wendy has the best smile – her warmth just exudes out of every pore! She and I have a lot in common. Besides a love for family history, Wendy just loves the stuff that goes along with that. I spent some time with her, looking through her “family museum” – letters, journals, great pictures, etc. We are both now retired, but it may take more time than we both have to catalog all her finds! Another woman of great strength – her husband and mom passed away within weeks of each other.

Laurel is my very accomplished sister-in-law. Previous to her retirement, Laurel was library director in several different towns. As a “closet” librarian, I feel a certain kinship there. The only difference is that Laurel actually reads the books; I just like to organize them! After losing her husband Gerry (Scott’s brother) in 1991, Laurel was left to raise her two sons on her own. No small task when one is working full-time at a very demanding job. Through it all, Laurel drew on her strengths to assure a stable home for the boys. Now retired, Laurel hasn’t slowed down much at all. She attends community events, takes super-interesting classes at local colleges and, of course, is a voracious reader. I always learn something new when we get together for our “sisters’ lunches."

The wedding I missed. That's Wendy, second from left, next to Scott. His brother, John is the man standing on the far right.

Kathy is actually my ex-sister-in-law. We call her Kathy F. to differentiate her from my sister Kathy. Here’s the thing about our family – it’s kind of like being in the Mafia – you’re in for life. Once you’re in, there’s no getting out! Kathy has been dealt a few tough cards throughout her life. In spite of that, she raised (actually is still raising) three fabulous kids while working two jobs and earning her massage therapist certificate. She always remembers family birthdays which is something I struggle with.

Caroline is married to my brother, Rodi. (My family is quite extended. Rodi is the adopted son of my father and his third wife. To me, he is my brother.) They live in Canada so I don’t see them much. I actually have only met Caroline one time. During that one visit, it was clear that Caroline was a woman of strength. For one thing, she is a teacher. For another, at the time of their visit, their son was going through a difficult period. Caroline parented him with calmness and love. It takes strength to remain calm in the face of a challenging four-year-old!

Shellye is not yet my sister-in-law. I am happy to announce that will change on September 8th,  when she marries my brother, Dean. I could list many of her strengths, such as surviving life as a high school teacher and writing/performing awesome music. But what I’m most impressed with is – her ability to enjoy life while living with my brother! (You know I love you, Dean!)

That’s it for my sisters-in-law. Let’s move on to my sisters. You’ll notice the list isn’t any shorter. I told you my family was extended!!


I just love this photo. It's all eight of the children of my mom and my stepdad.

Sandra is the eldest of all my siblings. (We are actually step-siblings, but I never think that way … all my steps are siblings!!) My question for her is this, “How is it that you look exactly the same as when we met in the 1960s?” I always thought Sandy was so cool – tall (well to me, anyway), thin, with flowing black hair. She has a great sense of humor. We spent many a Sunday causing all kinds of trouble prank-calling people.

Me. I just put myself in the list so you can see where I fit in. The list is chronological, by age. (Sorry, Sandy.)

Jeanne is barely 16 months younger than me. There are so many ways to describe her. Smart. Intense. Deep-thinker. Musical. Good cook. Credentialed. That last one doesn’t speak to her traits but to her determination. (Wait – that’s a trait, right?) Several years ago, Jeanne earned her Ph. D. I think it almost killed her. Probably one of the hardest and most unpleasant times of her life. She never gave up and finally got the break she needed. Good job, Dr. Samuel! Oh – and just aside – she has an unbelievably talented son, who, with her support, has become one of the most respected young musicians in his genre.

Kathy is the middle child. She recently moved from New York to North Carolina and I really miss seeing her. Somewhere along the line, she became hilarious. Good thing, since she needed that sense of humor to survive the raising of her boys. I always had my mom as backup while raising our girls, but Kathy was hours away. There was no break for her. I didn’t appreciate until recently how difficult it had been.  Kathy also suffers with health issues, but like our mother, NEVER complains. But then, we “don’t do sick.” (Directly quoting our mom!) Oh well…

Laura. Biologically a step-sister, Laura and I look like we might actually share some DNA – the short kind! If you want to hear about someone who took lemons and made lemonade, it’s Laura’s story. Laura worked hard to earn her nursing degree and, with her husband, is raising one of the most beautiful, sweetest girls I have the privilege of being related to. There’s really just one word to describe Laura: FABULOUS!! (It’s impossible for me to convey the way she says this word – you’ll have to trust me.)

Betsy is the youngest of all my 100% biological sisters. She is arguably the nicest one of ALL of us. (Excluding Mark, but this is about the women!) She knits. She cross-stitches. She gardens and cans the best raspberry jam EVER! She volunteers.  She watches wrestling matches coached by her husband (that might be the most amazing thing she does!!) She works. Then she works. And works some more. I wish I could fast-forward the next few years so she can retire!! Always the first Christmas card - except for the auto body repair shop we went to ONE time! Her thoughtfulness is beyond thoughtful. Betsy actually thinks about doing nice things for people. And then she DOES them!

Samuel Family photo taken in 2007 on my father's 75th birthday. The only one missing is Jeanne.
So sad how many of these people are no longer with us. 

Alexandra is the child of my father and his second wife. She lives the farthest of all my siblings and there are days when I wish I could run over to her house and hug her. (Although, I suspect she’d prefer I just take her away to a remote island full of yummy treats.) Alex shares her strength publicly on an almost daily basis, an amazing resource and support for anyone raising children with challenges. I won’t get into details here but suffice it to say that you won’t meet another person who conquers life’s daily “poop” with such humor. The other thing I want to share is that I always regretted not getting to know Alex better when we were younger. I always had my siblings to help process the stuff our dad did. The children he adopted with his third wife had sibs as well. But Alex was on her own. You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…”

Kristen is the eldest daughter of the three children my father adopted with his third wife. You’re probably thinking, “What is it with that guy?” According to him, he was just trying to ‘get it [parenting] right’. Surprisingly, the bond between my father’s eight children has gotten stronger since his passing. I “visit” with Kristen on an almost daily basis, thanks to Facebook. An artist and photographer, Kristen often struggles with debilitating physical pain. Chronic illness is no joke and I am awed by Kristen’s ability to get up each morning and do whatever needs to be done to support herself and her two super kids.

Marion is my father’s youngest. I remember visiting Dad when our eldest, Caitlin, was about 2 and thinking, “Marion is waaaay closer in age to Caitlin than to me!” 7 years between aunt and niece; 23 years between sisters! She has come a long way from that little girl who shared the red bath tub with Caitlin. (Sorry, Marion, I just loved how much fun you two had!) A gifted singer and mother of one very spirited, adorable little girl, it’s amazing what she manages to pack into one day. Then she wakes… and does it again!

So those are the amazing women in my life. Some I see more often than others. But, they are always with me. Their strengths give me strength. Their energy keeps me going. Their existence makes our family what it is. I am proud to be their sister!!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

RootsTech 2018 - Day Four - Yesterday!!!

Got up this morning to a beautiful sunrise. I wanted to get an early start so we would be sure to have a good seat at this morning's keynote address. Most people probably want to hear Henry Louis Gates, of the PBS TV show certain to get Finding Your Roots. I'm interested in his talk, but I really want to hear Natalia LaFourcade.

When Scott and I were in Mexico over Christmas break, we stayed at the El Ganzo Hotel. This hotel has a recording studio where artists from all over the world come to record their music. Many of the sessions are recorded and shown every night in on the TV in your room. There were several artists that we really liked, but I was particularly struck by Natalia LaFourcade's song "Eclipse." I even wrote the name down so I wouldn't forget it. I had no idea she was going to be a speaker at RootsTech until a couple months after that! I considered that a sign that I was meant to go to the conference!!

The emcee of the morning was Jason Hewlett. He did a pretty good job getting thousands of sleepy genealogists up and moving at 8:30 in the morning after our heads have been crammed full of information. He shared with us his special gift - some weird muscle thing he can do with his face - and told us we all should be happy (in comparison) with the gifts that we have been given.

Natalia has a busy couple days - after giving today's keynote, she is heading to the Oscars as her song "Remember Me" (from the animated movie Coco) is nominated for the Best Original Song. This morning was the first time she ever performed it live!

Henry Louis Gates was, as always, informative. He has a new web series called Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings. Kids attend a camp where they actually use science and genealogy to learn about their family history. It sounds pretty cool.

Then it was off to my first presentation: Fun With Photos- The Sheboygan Dead Horse Picture. The presenter was Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist. Colleen shared the story of how she and her team used various techniques to pinpoint the date and time this picture was taken. You can find more about this on her blog Indentifinders International.

 It was interesting to learn of the techniques used to place a picture by location, date, and time. She and her team determined the earliest year of the photo by figuring out the earliest date a wide-angle lens was used and latest year by determining the latest date of the construction of some of the landmarks in the photo. They also used city directories, census records, and the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps to further identify the buildings. If you don’t know about these maps, they are worth learning about. I am currently using one from the late 1800s of Kansas City, Missouri in an attempt to figure the size of the home owned by Catherine Seeley Fitzallen. Colleen also gave us a tip on how we can date those old cabinet cards, sometimes called carte vista. She suggested using a  caliper to measure the thickness of the cardboard of the picture you are trying to date and then compare it to pictures you have already dated. I never knew cardboard wasn’t invented until 1870. That’s a handy fact to know.
The second presentation I attended was Reconstruct Your Ancestors’ World With Google. Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems is a Google guru, so I was very interested to learn about whatever tips she could give to use Google more effectively.
I already knew about using “ operators” such as “ (quotation marks will limit the search to ONLY pages with those words) the +  (plus sign limits search to pages with words in that order), and the - (minus sign removes pages containing that term) to refine my searches. New to me was using *. Placing an asterisk (with a space on either side) between words will allow a search for words with some unknown words between it. An example would be: I often search for William Seeley. His middle name was Augustus. So I should search for “William * Seeley.” That should return pages for William A. Seeley as well as William Augustus Seeley.
I also didn’t know about “num range.” Using two periods between years should limit my search to a specific time period. Example: Catherine Seeley 1890..1899.
To help you determine what keyword search terms you could use, Lisa suggests reviewing the stories you have transcribed, bold any words that jump out at you as possibilities. Names, locations, companies, and events were some examples. Lisa went a step further with the keyword search and suggested creating “google alerts” for them. Once an alert is created, Google will constantly scour the internet and alert you when a new page containing that term is posted. Too bad I didn’t know that two years ago - probably could have saved a lot of time!
Lisa also shared tips for using Google Scholar, a place to look for information in academic material. Google Patents is pretty cool too. I located several patents held by my great-grandfather, Sigmund Lichtental, on that site. Google Books has been extremely helpful in my research. Over 350,000 books have been digitized and are fully searchable. Internet Archive is a good source for books too.
Her final “hidden gem” was to show us how to refine our searches using the TOOLS provided.

My last talk was given by Laurie Castillo - Social History - Finding More Records by Recreating Your Ancestor’s World. I was hoping to learn strategies on how best to set the context for our ancestors’ lives. The presentation was basically a list of things (such as city directories, clubs, newspapers, etc.) to consider. While it was a pretty dry presentation, I really don’t know how Laurie could have done it any other way. The number of record types she suggested was quite large! She also provided a thorough syllabus with record types listed. I wish she had time to go into more detail about where to locate some the more obscure records.

By the end of that class, it was time to head back to the hotel and pack. We had tickets for a dinner sponsored by Dick Eastman, so we wanted to be all set for the morning. The dinner as held at the Radisson. We didn’t know a single soul but thought it would be a nice way to wrap the week. At our table, we met a lovely woman, Ellen Kowitt, the Genealogy Sleuth from Erie, Colorado, which is between Denver and Boulder. We spent an enjoyable two hours talking with her and the others at our table. I may run into her again, as she is active in her local JGS in Colorado. I hope I do! She is extremely knowledgeable! 

Heading back to our hotel at 10:30 p.m. we finally got the snow that had been promised for three days. I’m happy we had good weather during our stay, but I’m not too thrilled now as I sit on the plane to Chicago knowing we will be missing our connecting flight home. We were almost two hours late leaving Salt Lake and have only a 1 hour and 50 minute layover in Chicago. Oh well - at least I got some blogging done!

UPDATE: 4:08 pm Chicago time. Yup. Missed our flight. By five minutes. Not sure why Southwest wouldn't hold it as they did for another flight. Oh well. We will be leaving here at 9:55. Thank goodness for Scott - he's picking us up at Brady at 12:50 in the morning. Oh the joys of travel!!!

Disclaimer - I only have 30 minutes of free wifi so any mistakes are due to Boingo's lack of generosiry.

RootsTech 2018 - Day Four - The Last Day!

Busy, busy day. It's 10:58 p.m. and I have decided to forgo today's post in favor of getting a good night's sleep before our flight home tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for lots of info about the Keynote speakers Natalia LaFourcade and Henry Louis Gates, and the presentations I attended today.

If you're bored waiting for my post, you can always rewatch the video of Cheryl and me from last night.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Friday Night at the Rootstech After Party sponsored by MyHeritage

This was a fun event with a 1920s theme. The music was great. I enjoyed watching the dancing but didn’t participate as I am still babying my knee! We got a little silly at the video booth. Dan Earl (The Family History Guy) and his lovely wife joined us at our table.  I learned a lot about a term that is relatively new to me: microblogging. Microblogging is basically blogging in short bursts using primarily Facebook and Twitter. I like that it is a way to quickly share with others in pretty much real time.  Not sure I could do away with my blog though. I don’t do Twitter at all. I'm almost certain I have NEVER been able to say (write) a thought in less than 24 characters!

Dan gives presentations on funeral home record - an unusual topic. I plan to watch his webinar on Legacy Family Tree at a later time as his talk runs concurrently with another I want to attend. 

Here’s a pic from last night:

There's actually a pretty ridiculous slo-mo video, too. If you'd like to see me doing a rather poor Mrs. Doubtfire impression, click on this link. Scroll down to our picture. It might be the first one in the fourth row. Hover over the left-hand side to bring up a video camera. Click on that. Hope it works!!

Friday, March 2, 2018

RootsTech 2018 - Day Three - It Ain't Over Yet!

Well - this was a busy day, and it isn't over yet! Tonight we are going to the RootsTech After Party sponsored by My Heritage. I figure if I blog now, I can enjoy the party later!

We slept in a little later today as the next two days will early risings. We headed back to the Expo Hall to check out the few booths we hadn't visited yet. Here are a few highlights:

That feeling when you come across a website you used in 2012 and then forgot all about it! The HistoryLines website is fantastic in helping you "put meat on the bones" of your family story. After uploading your tree, the program adds historical events which provides context your ancestor's life.  I forgot I had even started a  story for Catherine Seeley Fitzallen - more changes to the book!!!

Photo-op with Lara Diamond (Lara's Jewnealogy) and Jan Meisels Allen of the IAJGS (International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies) and the JGSCV (Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County.)


At the Genlighten booth, I discovered that the "face" of Genlighten is Kim Stankiewicz, the researcher who has been an invaluable resource in my quest for information about Scott's great-grandmother, Catherine Seeley FitzAllen.

I attended two presentations today. The first was Lisa Alzo's informative talk on apps for busy genealogists. I knew about quite a few of them, but it was interesting to hear her positive comments about the JoyFlips app I just downloaded yesterday. The REAL reason I went to her talk was to meet her in person and thank her for all that I have learned from her. I took both of Lisa's Write Stuff Genealogy Intensive online courses. I wouldn't have made the progress on my book without her guidance. Invaluable. Seriously.

The next presentation was about Female Felons. Pretty dicy stuff! I figured I might learn some strategies for obtaining a mugshot of Catherine Seeley FitzAllen. At least one exists (circa 1895 Chicago) but I have had no luck despite MANY attempts to locate it. Turns out - the presenters of this talk are from.....wait for it.....CHICAGO!!! Not only that, but Janis Forte researches the same era - Nineteenth-century female criminals!! A new contact to help me - Yay!!

Then it was time for an early dinner, followed by some much-needed quiet time back in our room until we head off to the After Party!!! Tomorrow looks to be pretty busy too - our last day - hope I can cram in a minute to blog about it!

Rootstech 2018 - Day Two - I Thought I was Tired YESTERDAY!!

So Day Two is in the books - or it will be after I write this blog. I thought I was tired yesterday. I was - but not as tired as I am today!
Diane Hirsch (right)

We decided to forgo this morning's speaker, Brandon Stanton, author of Humans of New York, as we can watch later on the web. Instead we decided to  go to the Family History Library. In the lobby of our hotel, we chatted with Diane Hirsch of My Video Life Story. Diane is an Emmy-award winning producer who creates video biographies.

Within 20 minutes of our arrival at the library, Cheryl got a call from the Coaches Corner. Someone didn't show up for their appointment creating an opening for a consultation. She ran back to the conference and I stayed at the FHL. I'll leave it to Cheryl to share the story of what the coach helped her discover - it's a whopper! A lovely woman helped me devise a plan for finding answers to some nagging questions I still have about the research I'm doing on Scott's great-grandmother, Catherine Seeley FitzAllen. She also wants to buy the book - if I ever finish it!!

Andrew Lee interviewing Amy Johnson Crow

After returning to the conference, we visited a few more booths in the Expo Hall and then went to our first presentation of the day. I was hoping to get a better understanding of this certain topic, but between the hot room and the dry talk, I really lost focus. (I'm not identifying the speaker here because I always think "Maybe it's me, not them." It's not the speaker's fault if I can't process auditory information!)

Honestly, I just couldn't sit and listen at that point (maybe jet lag kicked in?), so we decided to spend the rest of the day doing "meet and greets" in the Expo Hall. That was fun!!

I met Amy Johnson Crow at the Family History Fanatics booth, where Thomas MacEntee was resting his tired bones. It was fun to see him again! At that same booth, I met Dave Robison of Old Bones Genealogy of New England. Dave is also President of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists and the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society. And he is funny. We had a great chat about the benefits of offering webinars to our society members. I learned about a new technology for taking and sharing family stories - JoyFlips. It's FREE!!!!! Their vision statement says, 

"Storytelling is something we do best together. When we gather around family photos we naturally want to reminisce and share stories. With JoyFLIPS, family stories can now easily be told, recorded and shared from nearly anywhere at any time.

I really like the way you can add audio to a picture, upload photos from anywhere, create and share albums with people. Kind of like Photostream but with more options. Of course I downloaded the app (FREE! Why not try it, right?) I'll let you all know how I like it after I play a bit.

Before leaving the Expo, we took photos of ourselves in various places around the world.

I'm in Austria!!!!

We're in Salt Lake City!!

Then it was off to dinner at Michaelangelo's. We wrapped up the night watching a reshearsal of the the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Rehearsing a song from The Sound of Music
 Off to get some much needed rest - full day again tomorrow!