Archive for the ‘General Thoughts’ Category

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. ๐Ÿ™

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


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!

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. ๐Ÿ™‚


I’ve really fallen off the wagon now, haven’t I? I have a few good excuses.

First, I’ve been doing a lot of indexing for the 1940 census. So far, I’ve managed to find my great grandmother, Emma Briggs Foster. I also located my paternal grandparents, along with my dad and one of my aunts. I still haven’t been able to find my mom, though, mostly because she was only two years old in 1940 and has no recollection of where the family was living. She’s given me a possible part of town, but I haven’t had the patience to flip through all the pages. When I get a chance, I’ll head down to the library and see if I can find an address for the family in an old city directory. Even that might not help, though. I don’t think the family was there for very long.

The other thing preventing me from much research is the weather. It’s been gorgeous! So, we’ve been working on getting our yard in shape and our garden planted. It seems as though a family of robins has located nearby, as we have a repeat visitor to the yard. As I type this, he’s foraging for food, keeping a wary eye on me.

Lastly, I have had my mind on other things. Tomorrow, I officially am a one year survivor of breast cancer. My one year check-up was earlier this week and its approach had me more than a little anxious. I’m happy to report that there is no evidence of cancer, which makes all the chemo and radiation I went through last year totally worthwhile. I find myself breathing just a little easier the last few days. And I’m ready to tackle my research again.

I had to take a break from pursuing my MLIS while I was undergoing treatment, but now that I have the all clear, I’m registered for fall semester. To ease myself back into the learning environment (I attempted to go back to school in January and it was a disaster), I’ve signed up for a continuing education class through the ALA: Genealogy 101. In addition to hopefully learning some new techniques, I’m hoping to be inspired to really delve back into my research, while I still have some spare time to really get into it!

Watch this space! Maybe… ๐Ÿ™‚


Aunt Grace and friend

I never met my grandfather’s older sister, even though she lived to be 101 years old. Every time we drove down to Marion, we’d go past her house, but she was never home.

Aunt Grace’s daughter, NJ, has welcomed me with open arms to go through boxes and bins of photos and papers. During my first trip down to visit her, she let me take home several large envelopes, containing various documents so that I could go through them and copy what I wanted. So, I’m definitely thankful for NJ, too!

But Aunt Grace… well, let’s put it this way: were it not for what I found in those envelopes, in Aunt Grace’s own handwriting, I would probably still be trying to figure out what happened to my great grandmother’s siblings. All I had were first names of her two sisters and the names and locations of her two brothers, both of which turned out to be no help in breaking through the brick wall surrounding the identity of their mother. I was at a loss and not sure where to turn, especially because the infamous 1890 census would have likely been the last one either appeared in while still living at home.

So, when I went through the papers in the very last envelope and found detailed information about all of Emma Briggs’ siblings, including names of spouses and children and locations, it’s not surprising that I shed a few tears of gratitude. Aunt Grace started the work on this family history. It’s up to me to carry on where she left off.

So, I’ve been meeting once a week with a colleague/mentor who has been helping me figure out the choppy waters around this whole grad school/future career thing I’ve got going. Earlier this week, I dropped both of the classes I was taking this semester. It was too soon for me to go back after the health issues I dealt with last year.

Instead, I’m going to concentrate on those things that I hold near and dear to my heart, including genealogy. And one of the things I’m going to try to do more often is blog about it. Specifically, I’m shooting for 15 minutes worth of writing every day on the blog, and 15 minutes worth of writing in documenting the “adventures” I’ve had trying to figure out who my great great grandmother is.

Fortunately, I have a wealth of blogging prompts to draw from, thanks to GeneaBloggers. We’ll see how it goes. This post definitely didn’t take me 15 minutes to write, but nobody told me I had to start that part of it today. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stay tuned…

So, I’m a little late to the party here. RootsMagic is giving away a free iPad and I entered the contest today, which involved visiting a bunch of different blogs for clues. Along the way, I added several new blogs to my feed reader. One of them, Ruth’s Genealogy, had a post referencing 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, a series of blogging prompts. Since one of my resolutions was to try to blog here once a week (and I’ve been failing miserably), I figured better late than never. Though I’m not new to blogging, this particular blog is still very much in its infancy and I haven’t quite fleshed out what I want it to be. Perhaps this will help.

This weeks challenge:

Week 5 โ€“ Life Experiences:ย Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?

Well, when you put it that way, I realize just how much of a newbie I am at this hobby. I haven’t gotten far enough into my genealogy to have multiple brick walls yet. However, I do have one and that is establishing the identity of my great great grandmother. And yes, I would say this has been an excellent learning experience.

My great grandmother was Emma Adelia Briggs Foster. Her mother, the elusive g-g-grandmother, died when Emma was a young girl. Without getting into the nitty gritty details, my quest to find her identity has given me a taste of several different research methods. Every answer I’ve found has raised more questions. While I still do not have a positive ID, I’m closer to finding the truth than I think anyone else is at this point. It’s been hard for me to set this particular line aside to work on others, but I know when I do, the experience I’ve gained through searching for Emma’s mother will prove invaluable when researching other lines.

I feel a connection to these women, and by that, I mean both my g-g-grandmother and Emma. I’m not sure which one of them is behind the driving force of this connection, but I do know that I can’t visit Marion without stopping at the cemetery where Emma is buried to say hello. And I have choked up more than once.

Whichever one it is, I’m thankful that she continues to inspire me not to give up. Given my recent health crisis and my internal debate over finishing grad school, finding that kind of motivation is priceless.


I failed in my resolution to blog every week before I even got started.

Research is non-existent at the moment. I’m trying to get my office reorganized in between readings for both of my classes. However, I’d logged in here to share a handy tip and in typical fashion for me, it led to something else, which led to something else and so on… much like genealogy itself.

I learned yesterday that if you highlight text in the browser Firefox, you can then drag that text into a form or document that you’re working on. No right clicking or Ctrl-C /Ctrl-V required. Just highlight, drag and let go. So, I thought “What a great idea for moving some of the information I have in Ancestry into my RootsMagic database! ”

Well, it didn’t work. I tried it on my g-g-grandmother, Lovina Seifert, because I have *some* info on her in Ancestry, but I have none for her in RootsMagic. I highlighted the text for her date of birth and tried to drag it in, to no avail. Of course.

So, I figured I’d at least copy some of the info I had on her while I was there. Baby steps, right? In the process, I discovered I was missing some census records, so I went searching. Lo and behold, I found an index for her obituary! That link led me to the Hayes Center site, which I admittedly have not explored as much as I should. And there, I found a link to order a copy of my g-g-grandmother’s obituary!

I think I’ve said before (or at least I meant to): distraction can be a good thing sometimes.



This Christmas, I traveled with my local son to Philadelphia, where my other son has lived for the past few years. It was my first visit to the City of Brotherly Love. We had a list of things we wanted to see and we had one day to do it. We tore through the Old City District like there was no tomorrow, seeing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and taking a few photos along the way. It wasn’t enough time for me or my history loving son, but it did make me realize one thing: I need to find a way to make more time for my still relatively new genealogy research.

I started this blog a year ago with the intention of having it help me organize my thoughts, as well as provide a place to share what information I have discovered with anyone who might be interested.

Last April, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the next several months going through surgery, chemo and radiation. Everything else in my life took a back seat to treatment. On the advice of my oncologist, I took a semester long break from working on my MLIS. After chemo, I attempted to use some of that time for research, but I found it difficult to focus for any length of time (it’s called “chemo brain”), so progress was minimal.

I feel as though my trip has cleared my brain somewhat. I have returned home, determined to make time for people and things that are important to me, including my family history research. I will be picking up grad school where I left off, starting on January 9th. However, I am resolving to post on this blog at least once per week, even if it’s just rambling ideas on which direction I should go next. Anything that will help keep this fresh in my mind will be beneficial, right?


Happy New Year!