We were working in the garden last weekend, preparing our boxes for flower and vegetable planting. Last fall, my significant other had piled most of the yard waste on top of one box, and then ran out of time to get rid of it. It remained there through the winter.

As he started clearing the debris out, he noticed something yellow and bright. He called me over. At first glance, it looked like a squash flower, but upon closer examination, it was definitely a pansy.



As an annual, the fact that it survived the winter is a feat in itself. However, last winter was particularly brutal. We smashed snowfall and cold temperature records. This little ray of sunshine is amazing.

It’s also very symbolic for me, as my mom’s favorite flower was the pansy. I can’t help but believe she’s found a way to let me know that she’s alright, and I will be as well–no matter how much I may miss her.

In her honor, I’ve named this sweet little plant Diane, and I will do my best to make sure that she survives the summer–and maybe even another winter or two!



The entirety of 2013, I was anxiously awaiting the end of grad school so that I could focus more time on genealogy. I had all kinds of plans, for this blog, for my research and for getting my home office organized so that I could do things more effectively.

Well, I graduated in December. Try as I might, I just can’t get into it. I’m sure part of it is the weather. My office is in the northwest corner of my house, which is also the coldest. It’s not a place I want to spend a lot of time these days.

But a big part of it is that the person I shared my discoveries with is no longer here. I started researching my mom’s side of the family because I wanted to know more about it. There was much she didn’t know, so we were learning new details together. Some of my favorite conversations with her were the ones where I said the right combination of words that triggered something in her memory that had been misplaced for years. When I started this blog, she was the first person I told about it, and she left my very first comment on my very first post.

When I called Mom with new information, whether she truly felt it or not, she did a great job of sounding excited about whatever minute detail I’d managed to dig up. She inspired me to keep digging. When she moved from SC to NC in late 2012, she was able to get several boxes of photographs out of storage, photos that had belonged to her mother and grandmother. I couldn’t wait to go through those pictures with her.

Now, the photos are in my possession. It was my goal to start scanning them to share them with the rest of the family. I’m just not sure they really care.

The scary part is that I’m not really sure I do anymore, either. I need some encouragement and perhaps a little push to get back into the swing of things. Or maybe just a little time to miss my mom.

Mom's senior class photo

Mom’s senior class photo

My mother passed away last week. She was only 74, but she had been battling lupus for nearly two decades and it had taken its toll on her liver. There is a very long and upsetting story that goes along with her decline, but this is not the place for it. It is upsetting enough that she is gone.

My mom was born in 1938 in Toledo, Ohio. She spent most of her childhood near Marion, but moved back to Toledo when she was in high school. Her father, Howard Eben Foster, was a musician and Mom took up both cello and trombone (the latter of which Grandpa also played). She loved music, particularly jazz and big band. When I first got satellite radio in my car, I would play 40s on 4 with her in the car and with every new song I’d grill her, “Who’s this?” She told me, “I don’t know ALL of them.”

Music is one of the biggest ways I bonded with Mom. I started to play trombone in junior high. I was in concert band, marching band and jazz band and Mom was at all of my concerts. When I was a freshman, our high school invited the Ohio University Marching Band to play the halftime show at our football game while they were on their way to their own event. Volunteers were sought to host members of the band overnight. My mom gladly agreed to host three, including at least one trombone player, in our tiny two-bedroom apartment. I’m not sure what those guys thought of us, but I know we were thrilled to have them there.

I spent a lot of time following a few rock bands around the country, and got to know the band members of one of them, enough to be listed in the liner notes of their CD. Mom supported that particular band nearly as much as I did. I will never forget how when I first played their single for her, she burst into tears. She didn’t know why, other than the music just affected her so much. I know exactly how she felt. It happens to me frequently.

My mom had a wonderfully close relationship with my sons, mostly due to the fact that I was a single mom when they were born. When I became a single mom again after my husband died, Mom stepped up to help out however she could. She rooted for the Chicago Cubs, through good times and bad, right along with the rest of us. She was my representative at games I couldn’t get to because of work. She was back up transportation and she was the cooler head to vent to during those oh-so-stressful teen years.

I think it’s safe to say that 2013 hasn’t been kind. I didn’t mention it at the time because he’s neither a Foster or a Branum, but I just lost my dad in April. I’m still grieving over that loss and now this. 🙁

I really don’t know what I’ll do without either of them.


Gladys Evelyn Branum Foster and her first grandchild

Gladys Evelyn Branum Foster and her first grandchild


When my grandmother passed away in 2001, her death certificate pronounced her birth place as Lancaster, PA. This was my first mystery. Grandma was the third of four children. Her siblings were Twila Mae, Samuel Louis and William Denzil Branum.

Of the four kids, two were listed as having been born in Ohio, and Samuel (Louis) was born in West Virginia. That was logical. The family lived in Ohio, but my great grandmother was originally from West Virginia. It’s entirely conceivable (no pun intended) that she was back home when Louis was born. But the Pennsylvania thing really confused me. Not at first, mind you, because my grandfather’s family were from Pennsylvania and when I first started out, I had everyone jumbled in my head. But slowly, it began to dawn on me that there was something amiss.

And then I had a “Duh!” moment and realized that my grandmother and her family were living in Lancaster, Ohio at the time. (In my defense, I never heard anything about Lancaster growing up—I was always told Grandma was from Marion.)

Grandma went back and forth between Ohio and Florida quite a bit. I remember riding in the car, driving down to see her. This was back in the day when seat belts were just a suggestion at best. I was the youngest, so I slept on the package shelf of the car. I have a vague recollection of being sick when we were down there for one trip, but I don’t recall if it was the same visit. I know that on one visit, there was a hurricane that came through, aptly named Hurricane Gladys. I don’t remember much about that, though.

Grandma lived with us for a while before my parents divorced. My memories of this time are fuzzy, but I have a clear recollection of being with her in the car and her telling me that the turn signals talked. “Listen,” she said, “it’s saying ‘Right turn, right turn, right turn, right turn.” A few minutes later, she told me it was saying, “Left turn, left turn, left turn, left turn.” I still think of that when I’m waiting for a traffic light.

Today, July 16, Grandma would have celebrated her 100th birthday. I would have liked to have seen that. Happy Birthday, Grandma!


It has been said, time after time, that when you start researching your family history, you should start with what you know and ask questions of those in your immediate family. I’ve asked my mom and uncle many things and they’ve been able to fill in some blanks. My uncle’s memory is phenomenal. We once spent four hours driving around Marion, Ohio trying to find the house where they lived when he was three. He recalled the route from the house to my mom’s elementary school, but we couldn’t find the house–at first. But when we finally did, it was exactly as he described. It was uncanny.

Their cousin managed to locate a bunch of family photos for me and she was able to tell me some stories about relatives gone long before I was born. My mom only had somewhat frightening memories of her grandmother, Emma Briggs Foster. In fact, Mom thought Emma was a witch. (Mom was pretty young and Emma wasn’t.) But Mom’s cousin was a little older and remembered spending time with her grandmother. She made Emma more real. I almost said “more human,” but that would be disrespectful to Emma. The last thing I would want to feel toward Emma is disrespect. (Bad enough I keep calling her Emma!) She’s the driving force behind my research.

Anyway, for as little information as I had about my mom’s family when I started, I think I’ve done pretty well at discovering things. I’ve been a little envious of those who had families who kept things. It’s been hard to do that in my family–or at least it’s been hard to keep track of the things that were kept–because we’ve always been on the move. Even I have managed to misplace a box of photographs I know I have somewhere. I had them in my last house, yet after 10 years of living here I’ve never managed to find them.

As for my mom, well, she’s had a box of family photos in storage since before I developed an interest in genealogy. Fortunately, said storage is climate controlled. Mom recently moved into a bigger space and as I type, she’s going through those photos. She’s several states away from me and her scanner isn’t connected yet. She called me to tell me that she thought she had found a photo of her paternal grandfather. I told her to take a picture of it with her phone and text it to me. I have a couple of very small photos of him, so I was pretty sure I could positively identify him for her. Sure enough, it’s him. And it’s a portrait that my grandfather (Mom’s dad) clearly took of him. Grandpa was very interested in photography and this picture proves that pretty much no one in his immediate family managed to escape his camera lens.

Mom has also sent me two other text messages, with photos of a couple of her cousins–along with the words, “And I’m a ways from the bottom. These were Mom’s and Grandma Branum’s.” I wonder what else she’ll find?

I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it!

Some time ago, I posted an obituary for my great great grandmother, Lovina Seifert Branum. In that post, I mentioned her daughter, Anna, and my search for what happened to her. I had, at the time, found at least three husbands for Anna, with a possible fourth.

A few days ago, I found an obituary for Anna’s brother Frank online (I’ll post that when I have a little more time to delve into his life). Anna was listed with yet another last name, living in Phoenix, AZ. Searching on that particular combination (Anna Stones), I found an index listing for an obituary in the same newspaper that her mother’s appeared in. So, on a whim, I sent away for it. I had no idea if it was the same person, but at only $3, I figured I could afford to be wrong.

Well, I wasn’t. The obituary was published in 1983 (Anna’s date of death appears to be 22 July 1983) and for that reason, I’m not completely comfortable posting the text online. People are mentioned in it who may still be alive, as well as an address that could belong to family members. But the obituary does list both of her parents (although they missed the mark on my great great grandmother’s name), and Anna’s place and date of birth match the information I have.

It’s nice to know where she ended up, but I would still like to know the story behind all of her marriages. She had no children of her own, according to the obituary, so information is probably scarce. That won’t stop me from trying to find it, though!


Yikes. I just commented on someone else’s genealogy blog and when I went to enter the URL for my blog, I had to come here first to make sure it was right.

It’s November 20th and fall semester will be over in no more than 17 days (sooner if I manage to finish my lit review before then). I hope to be able to pick up on some research at that time. I’m so easily distracted, I don’t dare look at any of my genealogy right now.

So, for both of my readers, now you know I’m still around and will be back eventually. 🙂


More than a year ago, I wrote a post on my great grandmother’s birthday, where I mentioned that I had seen a date when she supposedly married my great grandfather, but I hadn’t yet found the proof. And then I went and found the proof and never posted an update. So, here it is! My information had the date listed as 22 May 1889. As it turns out, I was a year off and I’d been looking in the wrong place. Emma and Samuel lived in Marion County, which is where Samuel’s family lived. I’d checked Marion County  and Huntingdon County, PA records with no luck. It never occurred to me to check Crawford County!

Of course, it all makes sense after the fact. My mom has frequently told the story about how her mother fell when she was pregnant with my youngest uncle, and went into labor. Grandpa had to rush her to the hospital in Bucyrus. Since kids weren’t allowed up in the hospital, my mom and other uncle had to stay in the car. While they were there, a car pulled in next to them, relatives from Bucyrus who’d been called by my grandfather to come and take care of the kids. But my mom and uncle refused to get into their car.

Aunt Grace’s notes state that Emma had come to Ohio to live with family, but then she had to go home again briefly because her father was ill. John B. Briggs died on 15 April 1890. Emma married my great grandfather the following month. But before she did, she was probably living in Bucyrus. Her youngest sister, Laura, had been sent to live with family in Bucyrus after their mother died, so everything fits.

Well, except it would be nice to know WHO those relatives in Bucyrus were…

I just realized that technically, I achieved everything on my To Do list a day early!
  1. Index five 1940 census records, one for each day during my lunch hour.
  2. Save records and verify all citations for Samuel Blocksom FOSTER.
  3. Email database backup
  4. Explore some of the new apps tweeted by people attending the SCGS Jamboree, specifically Remember the Milk and OneNote.
I guess this means I can do some new research this evening! And new blog post coming as well!
Here’s how I did on my to do list last week:
  1. Finish assignments for genealogy reference class  There were a few that I didn’t submit, but I did do the research involved. Since the assignments aren’t graded, it’s not a necessity.
  2. Index at least seven 1940 census records (one for each day of the week)
  3. Save records and verify citations for all information found (so far) on Howard FOSTER and Gladys Evelyn BRANUM  Holy cow, that was more time consuming than I thought it would be. I think future weeks we’ll just stick to ONE person. But they’re both done. Everything I have found for them is now accounted for in my RootsMagic database and I have a better idea of what I still need to look for–which was the whole point!
  4. Newspaper research for Samuel Ebberts obituary and/or estate notice
  5. Email database backup

There were a couple of unintended finds as well. I located the marriage record of my great great grandparents, Giles FOSTER and Susan BLOCKSOM. I might have also located a death record for the latter grandparent, but I need to explore that a little further… this week!

Also, a bout of insomnia led me to finding my boyfriend’s grandparents in the 1940 census. But that’s a story for another blog…

Now, for the upcoming week…my little staycation is over. It’s been lovely, but all good things must come to an end. I also have a few things on my calendar after work this week, so time gets a little more limited. But we’ll see what we can pull off.

  1. Index five 1940 census records, one for each day during my lunch hour.
  2. Save records and verify all citations for Samuel Blocksom FOSTER.
  3. Email database backup
  4. Explore some of the new apps tweeted by people attending the SCGS Jamboree, specifically Remember the Milk and OneNote.
I’ll keep it shorter and sweeter this week. I’m putting off research on Samuel EBBERTS for a while. I’ll get there.


This is a variation of Ruth’s “Last Week’s Research Activities” posts that have inspired me because of how she focuses on specific activities. She’s also a GENIUS for emailing a backup of her database to her Gmail account. I’m definitely following up with that, even though I have Mozy backing up my system daily. After having my laptop stolen and losing the majority of my photos from Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Fairfield County, Ohio, I don’t ever want to deal with that particular heartache again. The more backups, the better!

I’m on vacation the latter half of this week and I am specifically designating some time for genealogy. Part of this involves the genealogy reference class I’m taking for the next couple of weeks. The rest of my time should be split up between organizing and documenting what I already know and making sure all of my information is properly cited, and looking for new information. So, the next week should involve a little of everything:

  1. Finish assignments for genealogy reference class
  2. Index at least seven 1940 census records (one for each day of the week)
  3. Save records and verify citations for all information found (so far) on Howard FOSTER and Gladys Evelyn BRANUM
  4. Newspaper research for Samuel Ebberts obituary and/or estate notice
  5. Email database backup

I think that’s a good start on some basic goals. I’ll report on what I managed to get done next Sunday. And thanks so much to Ruth for this wonderful idea!