Family History Friday: Tree Jokes

As a long time writer, journalist and record keeper, I often come across old entries and rough drafts of online posts or stories that I’ve written. This particular one holds significance to me as it includes a personal story from when my husband and I first started dating.
This prompt came from Mama’s Kat (now Mama’s Losin’ It) and was originally posted on a former online blog Radical Geekery, now The Art of Radical Geekery. Drumroll, please!
1. Share a joke that always makes you laugh
 Q : What kind of math is a tree’s favourite?
A : TWIG-onometry
Funny Joke
There is actually a story behind this joke. When I was a freshman in college, I had just begun dating my husband. Back then, we were creative in where we liked to hang out and what we did. There was a small park with a couple of trees that we tended to frequent. These particular trees were just at climbing height and we liked to climb up into them and sit in the branches and talk.
One summer evening we were sitting we sitting in the trees just chatting and he looked right at me and said, “What kind of math is a tree’s favourite?”  Inwardly, I groaned slightly but loved it because this is the type of jokes my father and brothers always told growing up. When he gave the answer of “twig-onometry” I laughed really loud because it tickled me that the man I was dating was like my family. I knew he would fit right in with my family at that moment.
Join us next week for Family History Friday and leave your favorite jokes below!

Passion Projects — An Update on Life Stories Transcription Services

I can hardly believe it, but after months of working my ass off, I’ve put together my first solid business — Life Stories Transcription Services. This idea came about after graduating with my bachelor’s degree from Western this last summer. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life and retail wasn’t cutting it anymore. Late night musings and a couple of glasses of wine lead me to my current business model.

Life Stories Transcription Services
Logo by Timber Cove Design

Owning a successful business was something I never thought I could do, as I’ve had many failed (albeit passionate) ideas, projects and businesses in the past few years (handcrafted soap, social media consulting, and a couple of other more risque items). It took several times of failing to find a passion and a way to earn money that had attracted the same values. And I finally did it with genealogy + transcription. =)

If Plan A didn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters! Stay cool.

Early this morning, in the witching hours of 3 a.m. (my natural state), I was finishing up my first client’s transcription and realized how much I loved this work. I love personal histories. Stories of peoples lives are so fascinating to me.  Listening to the voices of men, women, and others talk about their life stories and experiences. How different will we sound to our children and grandchildren?

If you are wanting to preserve your family stories, be sure to hit me up. You can message me here on Facebook. I love working with people and accept alternative payments if we can work it out. =)

 

 

Wake Up. Kick Ass. Be Kind. Repeat.

Photo from Project Happiness

Succeeding at this, I’m feeling more empowered and ready to kick some major slacker ass in myself. What are some of your projects that you’ve finally seen to

What are some of your projects that you’ve finally seen to fruition? Share them in the comments below with a link to your small business or service. No MLM’s please and thank you!

Forgotten Women of History Friday: Lulu Marie Sayer

As this blog has evolved and grown over the past couple of months, I’ve tried to consolidate all of my genealogical-type posts in one place, here at The Hipster Historian. One of these types of posts was my feminist-centered blog on Tumblr called Forgotten Women of History, which I am reviving here at The Hipster Historian.  You can check out a former post about Philena Mae Fairbanks here.

Forgotten Women of History

Today we are bringing you the story of Lulu Marie Sayer.

Lulu Marie Sayer

Lulu Marie Sayer (1892 – 1968) ~~ The Mother Who Abandoned Her Child

It is hard to imagine that any mother would ever abandon their child, but in the time before reproductive rights for women, this was very common for many reasons. It was during this troubled time of rights for women, just a year before the 19th amendment was passed that a young mother by the name of Lulu Marie had a child in the city of Rome in upstate New York.

Ms. Sayer had already give been birth two children to her first husband, Arthur J. Tanner before he died in October 1917 from a freak accident after being hit by a passenger train, breaking his leg. Only being married seven years, Lulu was widowed at age 25 with two small children in the early 20th century where she had no rights.

Working in Rome while she tried to figure out how to support her small family, Lulu became pregnant by an unnamed man, the only clue we have is the newspapers clippings at the time. The authorities had identified him (through Lulu) as a man residing in Whitesboro, New York.

At this time we will never know if the child produced from this meeting was one of consent or not, but during the early 1900′s rape was not widely reported due to the stigma in our culture.

After she became pregnant with her son, Lulu gave birth to him in May of 1919 and left him at the House of the Good Shepherd in Utica, New York at their home on 1700 Genesee Street.

The young boy remained there until Lulu came back for him after she married her second husband, Theodore D. Spencer on the 24th of September of 1919.

After she brought back the infant back home the story complicates a tad – depending on who you talked to, it certainly made headlines in the Syracuse Post-Standard.

image

Lulu was quoted by the Watertown Daily Times in 1919  as saying that she loved the baby, but that her new husband, Theodore would not accept another man’s baby around, even though he accepted her as his wife. She insisted that she had told her husband everything about the origins.

Theodore has another story to tell. According to the report from the Daily Times, Theodore told authorities that Lulu was lying and he assumed the child to be from an illegitimate union of one of his new bride’s sisters.

Either way, it went, the couple decided to get rid of the infant in the best way they could deem possible – by leaving him in the woods near Parish, New York, hoping the child would be found by someone willing to take care of it.

Luckily, to hunters in the area found the baby boy and were able to take him to get greatly needed medical care. The only reason they were able to identify Lulu as the mother was a hand embroidered handkerchief left with the child.

image
What would have happened at any other time in history? It is hard to really say, but one thing is for certain – the rights that Lulu possessed not only to be in charge of her reproductive choices and what to do when face when faced with what seems like an insurmountable problem was challenged.

Back in the day, we didn’t have anything like Planned Parenthood or access to birth control, which would have helped Lulu. I greatly encourage all of you to support reproductive rights by donating to Planned Parenthood and click here.
Sources Cited:

  • Year: 1900; Census Place: Richland, Oswego, New York; Roll: 1144; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0141; FHL microfilm: 1241144
  • Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
  • Spencer Couple Who Abandoned Baby Say They Didn’t Want Tiny Thing to Die. (1919, November 13). Syracuse Post-Standard, p. 1.

The Italian Genealogical ABC’s: Days of the Week

I’ve recently been enamored with Italian genealogy (see here) because of digging into friends with Italian ancestry. I’ve come across names like Bugni, Catania, and Sorrentino and fell in love with the language and decided to learn it. As part of my study, I’m starting a series called “The Italian Genealogical ABC’s” on important genealogical words you’ll find in Italian documents.

The Italian Genealogical ABC's

This week it is all about the days of the week. While days are not as common as years or dates (21st, 22nd, etc.), they are still important when translating the document. In the picture below, you will find the days of the week — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday — translated into Italian as well as the Italian abbreviations.

Now that you’ve gotten a chance to check out the translations and abbreviations, let’s go into a little history, etymology and other trivia facts about the days of the week in Italian.

FUN FACT #1: Italian days of the week are never capitalized.

FUN FACT #2: The origin of most of the days of the week come from Teutonic deities.

FUN FACT #3: The translation for ‘days of the week’ in Italian is ‘giorni della settimana’

FUN FACT #4: In addition to being named after Teutonic/Roman deities the days of the week are associated with a body in our solar system.

  • lunedì = Luna = Moon
  • martedì = Marte = Mars
  • mercoledì = Mercurius = Mercury
  • giovedì = Giove = Jupiter
  • venerdì = Venere = Venus
  • sabato = Saturno = Saturn
  • domenica = Sole = Sun

What other facts or tips do you have about learning and transcribing the days of the week in Italian? Be sure to comment below and share with your fellow genealogy friends.


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How City Names Change: From Salem, Utah to Bellingham, Washington

Cities have longed dotted the landscape of this planet and ever since Argos, Greece over five millennia ago we have congregated in them. As we search through the records of our ancestors, thousands of cities in dozens of languages stand out to us as genealogists. For many of us, New York City and Ellis Island are particular names of places that our ancestors first stepped on the shore of.

Ellis Island, 1905
Ellis Island, 1905

Why do cities or locations mean so much to us? It gives a grounding of who we are where we come from. It gives a place to come back to and as short story author Simon Van Booy said:

for-those-who-are-lost

Sometimes we are puzzled and hit a brick wall when the city we see on the record doesn’t match any city on earth. This could be for a number of reasons but it is always difficult when we come across this. In fact, a few months ago this happened to me and I was stumped about where to find the following city:

Badzas Vylak

Turns out, the place still exists, but because of wars and border changes, it is now in a completely different country.  According to this WWII Draft Card, the name of the city the individual was born in was Badzas Vylak, Czechoslovakia. I scoured the internet for the tiny town or village but to no avail, so I turned to Reddit. It just so happens to be the R/Slovakia subreddit that was able to answer my question. Turns out that it was a horrible translation of Bodzásújlak, which is now located in modern-day Slovakia.

Other times, the city still stands and is running, but is known by a completely different name. For instance,  Salem, Utah located in the middle of the state of Utah and named in honor of an early pioneer to the area,  Lyman Curtis’ birthplace in New Salem, Massachusetts.

Lyman Curtis
Lyman Curtis

I was going through some census records 1870 to find more information about a family living in the area and I kept seeing references to Pondtown, Utah. This puzzled me as I had never heard of the place before. Again, I started down the rabbit hole that is known as Google to find some more information.

It turns out that Salem, Utah was known as Pondtown for a great number of years and is still used colloquially around the area in such things as the Pondtown Christmas Festival. Knowing this can help me better map individuals in a tree, even if the original name of the town has been changed, forgotten or merged.

 

Pondtown Utah
Salem (formerly Pondtown) Utah

One of my favorite stories of a town name change is about the city I currently reside in –Bellingham, Washington. The change happened when four distinct villages: Sehome, Fairhaven, Whatcom and Bellingham all merged into one on November 3, 1903. Even though it is all one city, legally, we still recognize each one of those neighborhoods (plus dozens of more) as residents.

Bellingham, Washington - Abt. 1909
Bellingham, Washington – Abt. 1909

What other towns or place names have you found that have disappeared? Share them in the comments below!


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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem,_Utah#cite_note-5

 

http://person.ancestry.com/tree/103951046/person/340035904984/facts

Italian Surnames: 20 Most Popular Surnames

Since I’ve been knee-deep in Italian research for several families (Serago, Sorrentino, Bugni, & Pescatore) I decided to take a more in-depth look at Italian surnames, their history and what they mean. Today’s blog post goes over the twenty* most popular Italian surnames according to the Italian Surname Database.  While this list is by no means exhaustive, it is a start on some of the more popular Italian surnames you will find in your research. What other ones have you come across? Leave a comment below with your favorite Italian surname.

*Yes, there is two picture missing, but that is because Rossi and Russo are derivatives of each other as are Ricci and Rizzo.

ROSSI

Rossi is said to be the most common surname in all of Italy and very common in other countries due to the Italian diasporas during the 19th and 20th centuries. Due to these diasporas, you can individuals with the last name Rossi and Italian heritage across the globe, including in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, the United States and Uruguay.

Alternate Surname Spellings: ROSSO, ROSSA, RUSSI, RUSSO, RUGGIU, RUBIU, ROSSELLI, ROSSELLO, ROSSELLINI, RISSIELLO, ROSSILLO, ROSSETTI, ROSSETTO, ROSSETTINI, ROSSITTI, ROSSITTO, ROSSINI, ROSSINO, ROSSOTTI, ROSSOTTO, ROSSINI, ROSSONE, ROSSUTO, RUSSELLO, RUSSINO, RUSSOTTI, RUSSOTTO, RUSSIANI, RUSSOLILLO

FERRARI

This last name is an occupational (job) surname from the Italian word ‘ferraro’, which means blacksmith. This is originally derived from the Latin word ‘ferrum’ meaning iron. This particular surname is the Italian equivalent of the surname Smith, meaning it is incredibly common.

Alternative Surname Spelling:  Ferari

Ferrari

ESPOSITO

This was a surname commonly given to children in Italy who were abandoned or given up for adoption by their parents. This name is from the Latin word, ‘expositus,’ the part participle of the Latin verb ‘exponere,’ which literally means to ‘placed outside’ or ‘exposed. After the unification of Italy in 1861, laws were put in place that forbid the practice of giving surnames that reflected a child’s origins.

Alternative Surname Spelling: Esposti, Esposto Esposti, Delgi Esposti 

Esposito

BIANCHI

This surname comes from the word ‘bianco,’ meaning ‘white’ and was often given to a person who had white hair or a very light complexion.

Alternative Surname Spelling: Bianca, Bianco, Bianchessi, Bianchetti, Bianchini, Bianciotti, Biancolini, Bianconcini, Biancotto

ROMANO
Romano is the Italian for of ‘Romanus,’ the Latin word for Rome. This popular Italian surname was often used to denote an individual from Rome, Italy.
Alternative Surname Spelling: Romani

COLOMBO
This surname is from the word ‘colombo’, which means dove and was a last named often give to dove keepers. This name also increased in popularity during the Middle Ages due to the fact that the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Catholicism.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Colombani, Colombera, Colombini, Colombrino
RICCI
This surname is drived from the Italian adjective ‘ricco’ which means ‘curly. Ricci and its variations like Rizzo are a nickname for someone with curly hair:
Alternate Surname Spellings: Riccio, Rizzi, Rizzo, Rizza, Risso, Riccelli, Ricciarelli, Riccetti, Riccini, Riccioli, Ricciolino, Ricciulli, Ricciotti, Riccioni, Ricciuto, Ricceri, Riccitiello, Rizzello, Rizziello, Rizzetti, Rizzetto, Rizzini, Rizzoli, Rizzola, Rizzotti, Rizzoni, Rizzone, Rizzari, Rizzato, Rizzieri, Rizzuti, Rissolo.
MARINO
The surname Marino has derived from the Latin word, ‘marinus,’ meaning ‘of the sea,’. The Marino and Marini surnames indicated someone who lives or works near the sea (‘mare’ – Italian/Latin).
Alternate Surname Spellings: Marini, Marin, Marinelli, Marinella, Mariniello, Marinetti, Marinuzzi, Marinolli, Marinotti, Marinoni, Marinato, Marianacci
Marino
 GRECO
This surname indicates an individual from Greece.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Grieco, Greci, Grechi, Grego
BRUNO
From the Italian word for brown, Bruno was a nickname for a person with brown clothing, hair, or skin. It comes from the German word, ‘brun,’ meaning dark brown.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Bruni, Bruna, Brunazzi, Brunello, Bruneri, Brunone, Brunori
Bruno
GALLO
This was a nickname for a proud person or one with a vain or cocky attitude. It comes from the Latin ‘gallus,’ which means cock or rooster.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Galli, Galletti, Gallini, Galloni, Gallucci
GALLO
CONTI
Deriving from the Old French word, ‘conte’ meaning count, it denoted someone who worked for a count (noble) or was possibly himself a count. It was adopted as a mark of nobility for many individuals.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Conte, Contiello
DE LUCA
A patronymic (a name that derived from the name of the father) surname meaning ‘son of Luca.’ The given name Luca is the Italian translation of Luke, from the Grek name Loukas meaning from Lucania, a region found in Italy.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Di Luca, Diluca
De Luca
 COSTA
This surname denotes a person who lived by a river or the sea and comes from the words coast or riverbank. It is Italian, Spanish and Portuguese in origin.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Da Costa, Di Costa, De Costa
GIORDANO
Giordano comes from the Italian form of the name Jordan. This particular surname has its roots in the Hebrew name “Yarden” which is the name of the Jordan river flowing between the countries of Jordan and Israel. It is derived from ‘yarad’ which means to descend or flow down.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Giordani
GIORDANO
MANCINI
This comes from the Italian word ‘manco’ which literally means left-handed and is Italian in origin.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Mancino, Mancinelli
MANCINI
 LOMBARDI 
This is a geographical surname for someone who came from Lombardy, a specific region in Italy which received its name from the Lombards, a Germanic tribe who invaded the region in the 6th century.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Lombardo, Lombardini, Lombardelli
MORETTI
This name is derived from the diminutive of the given name of Mauro, the Italian form of Maurus, meaning dark-skinned of someone coming from Mauritania in northern Africa. This surname may also be derived from the word ‘morro’ meaning rock.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Moreti, Moroelli, Morini, Morucci, Moruzzi, Morucchio, Moratelli, Morisi, Moratti, Morazzi, Morassutti, Moreschi, Moroni
MORETTI
That is is for the 20 (er..18) popular Italian surnames. Which other names have you come across in your Italian research?

Genealogy in the Works: The Ultimate Genealogist Blogger

Genealogy waits for no man (or woman) and it’s been a few weeks since I was able to get an interview for Genealogy In The Works out on the blog. But wait no longer, today’s interview is with Thomas MacEntee from Geneabloggers.

Thomas and I met when I posted my first Genealogy In The Works with Patrick Barrett — you can view it here. Through friends, I was introduced to him and other like-minded genealogy bloggers and quickly came into a deep appreciation for what he does. I’ve even done a few of his prompts with Tombstone Tuesday.

Without further ado, here is Thomas MacEntee, founder of GeneaBloggers.

1. Your website, GeneaBloggers is one of the most well-known in the social media community of genealogists. How did this start and what did you/do you hope to get from that?

In late 2008, I was able to step back and see the coming convergence of Facebook, Twitter, improved Internet access speeds and genealogy to realize there would be a need for a site such as GeneaBloggers. I know I wasn’t the only genealogy blogger and there was a small hardcore group of bloggers who were also passionate about family history. So I decided to organize these bloggers into an online community to promote the concept of blogging family history, to promote various blogs, and to provide resources to get people started on blogging.

Thomas MacEntee, 2016
Thomas MacEntee, 2016

2. How did you get started in genealogy?

My first taste was in 1977 when the mini-series Roots appeared on television. I watched the series with my great-grandparents, and after each episode, we’d discuss our family history. I was told there was a “book” about our genealogy that had been printed.

Sure enough, in the late 1980s, I received a copy of this “book” when my great-grandmother died – it was printed in 1916 and traced my mother’s Putman line back to 1645 in New York.

I really didn’t pick up the genealogy bug until the mid-1990s when Family Tree Maker software gained in popularity as did Ancestry.com

3. What is your current area of study or passion?

As a business owner of a small genealogy company, I’m trying to figure out how to communicate and create a sense of “urgency” to current and future family historians. Historically, genealogy has been something that older people pursue when they retire. We need to preserve family stories and artifacts NOW, not later and get all generational levels of the family passionate about family history.

4. Tell us a quick story about our family!

My family can be traced to Rhode Island (Robert Austin of Charlestown, b. 1628), New York (David Putman, arrived Schenectady 1645) and New York (Hugo Freer, founder of New Paltz, NY, arrived abt 1675). I’m sure there are scandals like any family but I haven’t found too many of them so far!


5. What advice would you give to genealogists?

Go slow – this is not a race.

Be accurate – you want to leave a solid legacy, not sloppy work.

Cite your sources – know how you found information.

Connect with others and share – you are a steward for your family history

6. Why is genealogy important to you? 

Genealogy helps understand certain familial traits and behaviors and it also helps me put my family in the context of history overall.

7. What is your favorite thing about genealogy? 

I love problem-solving and cracking open mysteries about my families.

A big thank you to Thomas! You can find him at the wildly popular GeneaBloggers website here and on Facebook + Pinterest. Be sure to follow The Hipster Historian on Facebook here.

Genealogy in the Works – Reuniting Families

Happy President’s Day! It seems like this month has gone by so quickly – but most February’s do. We here at The Hipster Historian were able to get out to a cemetery in the county and take a few pictures (see here) as well as interview our newest member of the Genealogy in the Works family, Karen from the British Home Child Group International (BHCGI).

The British Home Child Group International is a group of genealogists and historians seeking to help those families who are searching for their long-lost loved ones.  As the website states,

“From the early 1860’s up to the 1970’s, children who were institutionalized in ‘Homes’ across the UK, were sent, to countries across the British Empire to be used as indentured farm workers and domestics. The majority of the up to 120,000 British Home children sent to Canada, arrived between 1869 and 1939. Mostly, they ranged in age from four to fifteen.”

The BHCGI  is something I hadn’t heard of and I just had to interview with Karen to get to know more about the hundreds of thousands of home children who have been lost to history. Read on to learn more.

1. What is the British Home Child Group International and how did you get involved?

The BHCGI is an organization that myself and 3 others founded in 2015. Our mission statement is to provide free research and genealogical tips and to reunite families of British Home Children world-wide. Through our Facebook page and website we help those seeking information. We have some amazing researchers who are always willing to help.

2. How did you get interested in genealogy?

From a young age I was always interested in my family history.  My dad started in 1969 when he learned that our surname had been changed from Gandley to Stanley.

3. What is your current study or area of passion?

I have a few areas that I enjoy researching, of course British Home Children, but I find the history of my Province (Ontario) quite fascinating. I am a volunteer with the Sharon Burying Ground which contains members of the Children of Peace, an offshoot of the Quaker’s. They played an important role in the area.

They built the Province’s first homeless shelter, started the first civilian band in Canada and developed the first farmer’s co-operative. The Children of Peace also played a critical role in the development of democracy in Canada. I also enjoy researching the First World War. I am quite proud that Lt. John McCrae, the writer of In Flanders Fields, went to my high school.

Sharon Burying Ground
Sharon Burying Ground

4. Tell us a little quick story about your family history! 

I enjoy researching the “black sheep” of the family. As I said earlier my great grandfather changed our surname from Gandley to Stanley upon entering Canada in 1906, but after he came back from serving in the First World War, he disappeared never to be seen or heard from again.

Eventually I found that he went back to England, changed his name back to Gandley, married another woman and had 4 more children. I thought the story of my other great grandfather Thomas Shorter who was a butler in England and Ireland was a pretty simple story, until a few years ago I was contacted by a gentleman in England whose grandmother was a parlor maid in the same household as my great grandfather in the 1901 UK Census.

A year later, she had a baby boy, naming him after the butler. Why did she name him after the butler, was he kind to her in her time of need, or was he the father? Well, it turns out the Butler did do it and I have a new great uncle and family.

 

5. What advice would you give to genealogists?

My advice to genealogists would be to think outside the box, not everything is black and white and to have an open mind while researching. I would also encourage people to talk to their more senior family member’s, they can be a wealth of information that may help you in your research.

karenmahoney

6. Why is genealogy important to you?

Genealogy is important to me as it reminds the living of those who have passed. It honours the struggles and joys of your ancestors and what they went through to where you are now. It’s a passion that can be very rewarding.

Give a big thank you to Karen for her interview. Check out the British Home Child Group International website here and be sure to check back next week for our next Genealogy in the Works interview.

—-

 

Tombstone Tuesday: Valentine’s Edition

Note: Instead of posting this yesterday on actual Valentine’s Day I forgot and spent it with my husband. So, here is Tombstone Tuesday…ehh…I’ll have to call it 
Waiting to Find the Dead Wednesday.

It’s not every year that Tombstone Tuesday falls on a holiday and even rarer that it falls on a holiday that is all about love. Genealogy and family history in many senses is all about love. We meet, we fall in love, we have children. Time after time and again and again.

This week, I’ve decided to focus this edition of Tombstone Tuesday on gravestones that I’ve encountered that have a couple buried together or side-by-side.  All of these gravestones were taken from Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington. You can see more of my cemetery photography work at my Find a Grave profile located here. If you ever need a photo of an ancestors tombstone, be sure to message me!

Margaret and George Herley
Margaret and George Herley
Hanna and Ivar Amble
Hanna and Ivar Amble
John and Elizabeth Benthien
John and Elizabeth Benthien
Arnold and Bernice Loober
Arnold and Bernice Loober
Samuel and Natalie Franzke
Samuel and Natalie Franzke

What are your favorite “couples” gravestones or tombstones? Share in the comments below!

 


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Genealogy in the Works: Infertility and Genealogy

I’m absolutely loving the interest generated by the Genealogy in the Works series here at The Hipster Historian. It has been so much fun interviewing everyone and I can’t wait to share future stories with you. Have you missed the last two weeks? Check out my interview here and Patrick Barrett’s “Being Gay in Genealogy” interview here.

Today’s interview happens to be with a long-time high school friend, Kirsten (Graff) Beyer. Kirsten and I became friends when I moved friendless to a new state,  a new school, and a new life at the beginning of my 9th-grade year. Kirsten was always kind to me and even though our interests and passions have changed over the years, Kirsten and I remain friends with a common issue. Read on to find out more.

Kirsten and her husband Sean, 2016
Kirsten and her husband Sean, 2016
1. How did you get interested in genealogy?

As a child, I was always fascinated by history and antiques. My love for genealogy though came specifically at age 10. I remember sitting out on the front porch with my mother one evening, talking and reminiscing about family memories we had. She shared stories of her father (who passed away when I was just a year old), and her grandparents. I remember feeling intrigued and wanting to learn more.

Sensing my excitement, she asked me to wait while she went into the house. A few moments later she returned with a box full of files, papers, photos, and books. She shared that before her father passed away, he gave her all of the genealogy information he had, and asked her if she would keep it and continue the work for him.

As we searched through the box, we came across an old, worn book that appeared to be a ledger of sorts. She explained that it was the journal of my great-great grandfather! I was utterly mesmerized as she slowly thumbed through the pages full of letters and photos and handwritten passages. I loved the feel of the book in my hands and the smell of the old paper. From that night on, I was hooked! I was determined to learn as much of my family history as I could, and I have loved it ever since!

Kirsten and niece Amelia
Kirsten and her niece Amelia
2. Do you think your experience as someone who cannot have biological children colors your interest in genealogy?
 

I’ve always been a very traditional person by nature. Very much “by the book” and believing that there is a natural order to things. My 8+ year struggle with infertility has been deeply painful, and has colored every aspect of my life. I think its that very traditional part of me though that mourns the deepest. Feeling like I have thrown off the natural order of things, or “broken the family chain”. That desire to “keep things going” is hard to reconcile when you are just not able to do so. The empty family chart under your name can be a stark reminder of what your missing.

Despite not having any children of my own though, I feel especially driven to work the family history for my nieces and nephews. As the oldest of 5 children, I was the only one to take a strong interest in genealogy growing up. Many stories and experiences have been passed on to me, and I know that should something happen to me before I preserved them, they would be lost completely. I also had the beautiful privilege of traveling to Germany to meet my great-grandmother several years before she passed away. I was the only one of my cousins ever able to meet this amazing woman in person; to sit at her feet and hear her stories in her own voice.

The only one who knew what her hands felt like, and what her laugh sounded like, and what she smelled like when you hugged her. I’m the only one of my siblings that has seen the village my mother was born in, and heard the stories from those relatives there that are no longer with us. Genealogy is important to me because I feel an obligation to share those things! To share my memories and my knowledge and my experiences with my family members, particularly the children. Knowledge and insight into your past can be a powerful tool. I feel that obligation to my nieces and nephews to preserve those stories.

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There’s great power that can come from knowing who you are and where you come from, and the lessons that can be learned. Whether I ever have children or not, I still feel like these stories are worth sharing. Stories of faith and fortitude; of strength and resilience; of love and beauty; of courage during dark times—I suppose, in some ways, that’ll be a type of legacy I’m able to leave behind. The gift of their stories. The gift of my family history.


3.
What is your current study or area of passion?
 

I am passionate about my family, particularly my sweetheart husband Sean and my little nieces and nephews! They are the sunshine in my life. I also love being Mama to my fur babies. We have a 7 yr. old cat named Paw, a 6 yr. old corgi named Moe, and a 7 month old bunny named Kaylee.  I’m passionate about traveling, and love studying history, cultures and languages from around the world. I’m passionate about reading and my husband would attest to the fact that I own more books than I have space for! I also love spending time with friends, cooking/baking, philately, crafting, writing, party planning, kayaking in the summertime, and of course, genealogy!

4. Tell us a quick little story about your family history!
 

Growing up, we regularly heard the dramatic tale of my grandparents marriage. My grandmother Christel was the oldest of 7 children, and the only daughter. Her family lived in a small village in southwestern Germany. She met grandpa Richard while he was serving in the military and stationed near her village. They courted and fell in love. When they went to her home and announced their engagement, her mother became furious! Here was her only daughter, announcing her intent to marry to a recently divorced man that was an American soldier and who was not Roman Catholic. Talk about scandalous! It’s said that great grandma was so outraged at the news that she broke a china plate over her head! She told her daughter that if she married that man she would be cut off from the family. Christel loved Richard though, and was determined to see the wedding through. It wasn’t long before they were married, and soon after she became pregnant with my mother.

Richard and Christel
Richard and Christel

Fast forward 42 years–my mother and I were in Germany touring that small village. Grandmas brother Georg took us to the house that she and Grandpa lived in after their marriage, and the people that owned it kindly gave us a tour. Georg verified to us the validity of the story, and how upset and heartbroken great-grandma had truly been. He said though that the morning of the wedding, she had a slight softening of heart, and allowed young Georg to go alone and be there at the wedding. Even though it makes me sad that Grandma had to suffer without the full support of her family, I’m happy that she had one sweet, familiar face from home to share in the joy of her special day.

5. What advice would you give to genealogists?

First — Write things down!

If something important is happening in your life or in your family, take the time to record it. Stories, special occasions, photos, meaningful conversations with loved ones. I first learned this lesson at age 14. My beautiful grandmother Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and had been slowly losing her memory over several years time.

One weekend shortly before she passed away, she came to stay with my family and we enjoyed having her company. I took the opportunity to take her for a walk around our neighborhood one afternoon.We walked quietly for a while, and then suddenly she began to speak. She shared memories from her childhood and the small town she grew up in. She verified her birth place, offered thoughts about her family members, gave me pertinent advice, and shared beautiful memories of when she and my grandfather were dating and he would take her dancing. She spoke clearly and surely, and I was both amazed and shocked, partly because I had never heard these memories and facts before, and partly because Alzheimer’s had stolen most of her ability to carry on a conversation in this way.

It was if she was given a few moments of clarity to share what was on her mind, and it was an amazing thing to witness. I was aware something special was happening, so I made it a point to pay close attention and write it down as soon as I got home. I’m so grateful I did! I always admonish people to take the time to write things down. Don’t wait until it’s muddled and fading or lost. Record it as soon as possible!

Second–Always double check!

Whether you’re verifying records, or desperately searching for a name, or sorting through belongings of a deceased loved one, always double check! I remember after my grandfather passed away in 2007, I was helping grandma clear old boxes and trash out of his room. Before I left, she handed me a small box of old 4th of July lights to drop in the dumpster on my way out. I got outside, opened the garbage lid, but before I dropped it I decided I would just double check. I opened the lid and was shocked to find an assortment of amazing treasures I’d never seen before! There was an old journal from 1935, a couple of small naval ledgers, a pocket knife, receipts, some jewelry and pins, a dog tag, and much more.  For some reason, Grandpa had chosen to stash these old keepsakes away in this light box, and had I not taken the split second to open that box and double check, those treasures would have been lost to us forever.

Third–Pass your love of genealogy along!

For me, there’s something beautiful and exciting in sharing the joy of genealogy with someone, especially a child. To watch the spark in their eyes as they discover new and amazing things about who they are and where they come from. I had an awesome experience just last year of sharing the joy of genealogy with a young lady in my church.

While sorting through some family records online, we discovered a small, private family cemetery on the east coast where some of her direct ancestors were buried. It was hidden away, had been largely forgotten, and when asked, her family had no knowledge of it. We reached out online to a genealogist in that area, and she verified that the cemetery was indeed there, and she was gracious enough to take photos of the tombstones so that we could verify names and dates and make the connections. To say my young friend was excited is an understatement! She fell in love with genealogy that night, and I felt privileged to be able to share that joy with her.

6. Why is genealogy important to you?

As I mentioned before, it’s important to me to pass it along. It’s important to me that my nieces and nephews know where they’re from and who they come from. Connection to your past offers an incredible sense of self worth. It’s an awareness that you are part of something greater. That in a never ending sea of names and dates and faces, you are unique and rare and precious. That realization is a beautiful gift.

Kirsten and niece Amelia
Kirsten and niece LeeLee
Also, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I believe that the relationships we have with our family members are eternal and that we are all brothers and sisters connected in one long family chain. Genealogy is about building bridges, making connections, and reaching out in love to those that have come before you, and those that are following behind you. I suppose, in its essence, it is both a labor and a legacy of love.
Thank you so much to Kirsten Beyer for this interview. Be sure to check in next week for our next Genealogy in the Works interview. Follow The Hipster Historian on Facebook and Instagram.