Always Anxiously Engaged

Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG

Accredited Genealogist and AG are certification marks of the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen). Genealogists licensed to use the marks have met the competency standards of ICAPGen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Searching for Ethel

My sister Betty, who is closest in age to me, was born in Ethel, West Virginia.
Betty Lee Clemens

Except there is no Ethel, West Virginia.  Well, there isn't now.
1940 Census, Middle Rex Camp, Fort Branch, Logan, West Virginia
Chester and Ida Clemens (she was asked supplemental questions, hence the "x")
Sisters:  Fern, Gene (actually Jean), and Bittie (Betty)

One of the advantages of driving to a genealogy conference is the freedom to stop at places along the way.  Mr. Kerry and I use this time to take side trips and see the countryside.

I was a presenter at the National Genealogical Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we made the drive to and from there.  It was a long drive, and it was wonderful.

As we entered West Virginia, I wondered how far off the beaten path Logan County would be for us.  It was only an hour, so off we drove into some of the deepest hills of Appalachia I've ever been to.  The trees formed a canopy that made it hard for the little bit of sunlight to penetrate.

My parents and two sisters moved to Logan County, West Virginia so that my father could find work in the coal mines.  Sister Betty would be born after they arrived.  I have written about parts of their lives here and here.  The second story particularly mentions the Battle of Blair Mountain that took place when my dad was just a boy.

We drove into the county seat, Logan, and began to look around for the house my family lived in.  I asked a few people, who weren't real anxious to talk to me.  I finally went into a McDonald's and put my "twang" on.  Suddenly, I became one of them.  They weren't sure where the street was, but I eventually found a policeman who took us right to it.

I asked him how to get to Ethel.  
He said, "Ma'am, it ain't there no more."  
Me:  Can you point me in the vicinity?
He said, "You turn up there where ___ used to be."
Me:  I don't know where ___ used to be, for I haven't been here in 50 years.
He said, "Just follow me, and when I wave my arm, you turn left."
Me:  Got it!

We drove to a place that had a street sign that said Ethel Hollow, and an even bigger sign that said, "No trespassing!"  Mr. Kerry, who values his life, thought it might not be a good idea.

Oh, alright.

Further up the main road was a coal camp, where a guard was sitting in a shack.  I asked him if he knew where Middle Rex Camp used to be.  He asked how long ago.  I told him my family lived there in Ethel in the 1940's.  He told us to go back down where the No Trespassing sign was.

Me:  Will I get shot at?
Him:  Depends.  Can you shoot?
Me:  You bet I can.  And, I don't miss.
Him:  You'll be fine. 

Good grief.

With trepidation, Kerry drove back to the No Trespassing sign, and we drove back even deeper into the hills and hollers of Appalachia - exactly where my family lived, and where sister Betty was born.

These signs are certainly a reminder of the hazards coal miners face on a daily basis.
You can still see veins of coal in this abandoned coal camp.

This structure looked like the corner of a building, or perhaps a chimney.  I didn't dare get close enough to find out.

There was certainly no cell service back in the holler, but when we drove out I was able to call Betty for just a few seconds before we lost contact.  I was describing to her what we found, including the above structure.  She told me it had been the company store.
As my  mother would say, "That's groundhogs making coffee."

 The Hatfield and McCoy Feud has provided somewhat of a boost to a very depressed economy in this part of Appalachia.  The road to Ethel is used by ATV's to get back to the trail.
I don't think I've ever seen a speed limit sign for this amount.

But, when those loaded coal hauls come barreling down the roadway, you know to get out of their way.  They can't stop, and fly straight out onto the highway.

So, did I find Ethel?  I found what is left of Ethel.  There isn't much, but years ago, a poor coal miner and his wife welcomed another baby girl into the family back in Ethel Hollow.

My dad, Chester Clemens, after a day of working in the mines.
He used to say that you went to work with blacks, whites, and Indians.  But, when you came out, you were all the same color.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Do I Really Need to Join My Local Society? I Have No Ancestors From My Area...

I have no ancestry from Ohio.  

It is my home state, but I am the only one who was born and raised here in my ancestry.

In the 1880 U.S. Federal  Census, I have a set of grandparents that are found in Darke County, Ohio.  Research into this family has occupied a good portion of my time, but I have not been able to find a single reason why they moved there from eastern Kentucky, are enumerated on one census, and are found back in Kentucky again.
Darke Co., Ohio, Image from Wikipedia
I lived in the north-central area of the state.

I also have another set of grandparents who, along with an entire neighborhood, left Grayson County, Virginia to settle in Ironton, Lawrence Co., Ohio.  More than likely, it was industry that brought them all to that area.
Ironton, Lawwrence Co., Ohio, Image from Wikipedia

Except for family members who moved north into the Youngstown area about the same time my parents came to Ohio, there is no one else.

So, why would I entertain the thought of joining either the Ohio Genealogical Society, or more especially, my local chapter here in Richland County?  I understood more clearly than ever when I attended a monthly meeting this past Saturday.  

I know many of the local members of both the local and the state societies.  They are good people, and their leadership is stellar.  They work hard to provide quality educational programs for their members, as well as activities and publications.

This past Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting where the President of the Ohio Genealogical Society, Margaret Cheney, was presenting a program on "Women's Westward Journey".  It was one of the best gifts I could have given to myself, for not only is Margaret an excellent presenter, I was immediately drawn right into the lives of the women she talked about.  Her visuals were stunning, and I felt like I was walking along the plains with these women.

This link will give you an idea of the programs and offerings of my local society:

Nearly every society I have presented to has someone who is in charge of arranging speakers for the year.  That is their focus - to educate the members of their society.  And, there isn't a one of us who doesn't need a refresher course every now and then.

I have found that networking with the people I have met around the country gives me the "fix" I need when I want to talk about genealogy.  Many of us have friends and relatives who are just not interested in genealogy - and may never be.  But, to be with like-minded people that can offer suggestions as to research, records, computer help, methodology, etc. is something that can benefit us all.

Plus, they are generally very inexpensive to join.  If you look at the link posted above, it's only $12.00 / year to be a member of my local society.  But, the benefits are worth far more than the amount you pay.  

Genealogy societies sometimes take a "hit", for most people believe that everything you need to research your ancestry is found on the internet.  Membership in the societies decline, and attendance at meetings lessen.  But, the internet is truly the tip of the iceberg, as illustrated in a popular meme that shows up on Facebook occasionally.
FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, and many more are wonderful tools to let us comfortably research from home.  But, think of the vast holdings that will likely never be on the internet; those that are found in teeny libraries that have a local history room.  Or, even better, the information and wisdom that comes people that have lived in a locality for many years, and know just about everything about everyone who has ever lived there.

I plan on attending many more local meetings this year, for even though I am a genealogy speaker, and I am also one who needs to continually keep learning.  I walked away from Saturday's meeting realizing that more than ever.

Give it some thought; and consider joining your local genealogy society.  They need you!

And, more importantly, you need them.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Looking for Beulah

I never knew my Great Aunt Beulah.  She died nearly seventeen years before I was born.
While I am usually working on presentations at this point in my life, I occasionally get to work on my own research.  The examples I give at genealogy conferences are usually from my own family.

So, on this rare Saturday that I don't feel the pressure to meet a deadline, I am cleaning up some of my own records.  

I knew Beulah's husband very well, for he was my grandmother's brother.  Uncle Bethel Gearheart had the kindest voice, and always welcomed me up on to the porch.  He lived in Lawton, Carter Co., Kentucky.

I knew "about" Beulah, but didn't really know her.  Family records indicated that she may have died in childbirth.  Kentucky death records are available for that time period, so I looked.

And, I kept looking.  And, kept looking.

I never did find a death certificate for Beulah Gearheart, but I did indeed find one for Beulah STONE.
I can't fathom a reason why Beulah Gearheart's death certificate would be listed under her maiden name of Stone, for she was indeed married to Bethel Gearheart.

Unfortunately, I probably won't ever be able to prove it, for the area where they were married, Elliott County, Kentucky, has suffered record losses due to courthouse fires.  But, since this was my mother's uncle, she knew him and Beulah quite well.  All I have to go on at this time is her word, and her personal knowledge and acquaintance with both of them.
 You can see where her name is filed under Beulah Stone, and her husband's name is Bethel Gearheart.
And, on a sad note, she died of septicemia following the birth and death of her twins girls, Zelma and Thelma.  They were born on 15 Apr 1938, and died sometime in the same month.

My takeaway:  Look under names you wouldn't likely have looked.  Beulah's death certificate is under her maiden name, not under the name of her husband, where we would normally look.  I don't have the answer as to why; I'm just grateful I was able to locate it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Probate Tickler?

Once again, I have learned something I didn't know that I didn't know.

It's a probate tickler.

I learned about this term from the FamilySearch Wiki, and it was completely a foreign term to me.  Here is a definition from the Washington state page: 

I learned that ticklers are used in many, if not most areas where probate records are found.
The county clerk is usually the custodian of probate records. The records include wills, fee books, claim registers, legacy records, inheritance records, probate ticklers, and dockets.
Content: Probate Records may give the decedent's date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their place of residence.
You can obtain copies of the original probate records (such as wills and estate files) by writing to the county clerk at the county courthouse.

Though there may be some checklists available for examining probate records for our ancestors, I haven't run across one as concise as the current one shown above.  Several websites stated they are used to be able to check items off within a time frame.  Many are done electronically today.

Perhaps devising a tickler that can be used for searching ancestors' estates would be a benefit.  Several of mine run across many months, even many years.  This would help me keep track of the process.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How to keep from turning rotten

I have been speaking or teaching in front of others
since I was just a young girl.

I love it.

And, there is one thing I encourage students in all of my classes
to do when they get home.
And, that's to put into practice what they have learned.

Don't go home and put the materials on a shelf,
only to bring them out a year later
when it's time to attend the same conference again.

We tend to take notes,
have some "Aha" moments,
and see where we could use some of the methods being taught.

But, we go home and put it on a shelf.

So, I am giving myself the same advice I give to others.

Don't forget to do what you have learned.

Today, I am reflecting on moments from RootsTech.
I am reliving the friendships that were renewed,
the great classes I attended,
the Expo Hall,
the keynote addresses,
and the new things I promised to do when I got home.

I always enjoy meeting up with Scot and Maurine Proctor.
They are both excellent writers, and he is one of the best photographers ever.
Follow Meridian Magazine here.

I really enjoyed the husband and wife duo that write the blog 
I had honestly never heard of them before, but I'm all for the great ideas shared in documenting their family's story for generations to come.

I was finally able to meet Genealogy Jen!
She is one of the most delightful women ever, and has such enthusiasm for genealogy.
It's always refreshing to make contact with those that can lift us up,
especially when we have been involved in something for decades.
She is one to watch.

None of us will ever forget the moment Stan Ellsworth came riding into the venue on his Harley.

I sat near him during his interviews, and was continually inspired by his love of all things America,
and all things history.
I teased him, and said that his appeal to the younger people is that he doesn't look like the traditional history teacher wearing khakis, a blue shirt and tie.
I was inspired by his every word.

I needed to spend more time looking through Innovator Alley.
It was filled with vendors that were both new and well-known.
And, it was always busy.

I have continued admiration for and
Both of these companies have helped me tremendously in my research,
and it was nice to be able to thank them personally. helped me locate one of my husband's ancestors, 
who sadly committed suicide in San Francisco many years ago. continues to help me with my military ancestors.

Paula Madison was a surprise to me.
I had heard of her, but had not heard her story.
I had the opportunity to hear her twice; once at the media dinner, the other as a keynote.
Each of us had a lump in our throats.

Amie Bowser Tennant lives about an hour or so from me in Ohio.
But, I have to go clear to Utah to see her!
She is an excellent blogger and researcher.

I honestly can't remember the company that displayed this large book,
but I can remember feeling a commitment to tell my own story 
as I try to tell the stories of my ancestors.

I have followed Renee Zamora's blog for years.
It's always wonderful to meet up with her in person.

Rayanne Melick and I always seem to find each other.
I grew up with her husband, and his parents were close friends of my parents.

I always love the swag I get at registration.
Perhaps this is the one that means so much to me.
I am honored when I am invited to present a class anywhere.
The size of the class just does not matter,
for whether there are 5-6, or hundreds, they get the same quality of class.
My Homespun and Calico class was recorded and streamed,
and is now there in the archives at 

So, what did I learn?

1.  I learned that the genealogy research process is basically the same as it was when my parents were doing research.  You go from the known to the unknown.

2.  You research thoroughly - today known as a "Reasonably Exhaustive Search".  My parents searched the same way 50+ years ago.  They left no stone unturned.  If they learned of a new place to search, off they went.

3.  It is SO important to gather the memories and the stories of the previous generation.  If my parents were in position #1 on a pedigree chart, they knew every single person on that chart.  Think of it - four generations, and they knew them all.
When you touch someone of the older generation, you are touching history.

4.  I learned that there is much to learn.  Even though basic research remains the same, better research is still ahead of us.  The documentation and good citations are an essential part of our research, for it gives us credibility.

5.  I learned that even when a class is too far away, or perhaps the class is too full that you wanted to attend, it's okay to duck into another one.
There are no coincidences.  One of the best classes I ever attended was one I slipped into when I was too tired to keep on going.

6.  I learned that technology is vital in our research.  And, just when we think there couldn't possibly be anything new, there is something new.  I loved the Innovator's Showdown, where rising companies competed in showing what they have developed.  They are so smart.

7.  I learned that sometimes it's okay to take a break at these mega-conferences.  Some of my down time was in the media hub.  Some of it was sitting at a table eating lunch.  Some of it was just lingering after a class had let out.  We were just common, ordinary people sharing dilemmas, and solving them, too.

8.  I learned that I'm never done.  The history of my family keeps me on my toes, but so does the coming generation that will join my family.  I want them to learn about me "through" me, not through something my children will tell them.

9.  I learned how important it is to take good notes in the sessions I attended, and in the Expo Hall.  I spoke to thousands of people.  There is no way I can remember all that I talked about.  So, note taking is a must.  So is going over those notes once I return home.  I look at them while they're still fresh.

10.  I learned that it's important to keep my mind active and learning.  My husband's mission president used to tell all of the missionaries, "When you're green, you're still growing.  When you're ripe, you're almost rotten."

I rest my case.

Please don't throw it away!

Okay, I'm going to be completely honest.

My heart is breaking.

About 25 years ago, I was the Family History Center Director at our local facility here in north central Ohio.
I met so many wonderful people who taught me things that I still use today.
And, I still keep in contact with many of them, too.

Yesterday, Mr. Kerry and I attended a community meeting where various historical societies and museums from our area want to work cohesively, and be a clearinghouse for all things history.
Ohio is a rich history base, 
and it makes sense to combine
our efforts.

I saw someone there from the previous days when I was Director,
and we caught up on each others' lives.

Except, he no longer does genealogy.


He threw it all out.

I had to sit down.

This man was an excellent and thorough genealogist, 
and spent lots of time and money traveling to
various facilities for research.
He particularly loved going to the National Archives
in Washington, DC.
He had traced various lines of his family
back to the 1500's.

But, in the years since I have seen him,
his father died.
His mother died.
Two years ago, his sister died.
He is the only one left.

He reasoned that since there is no one left in the family,
there is no use to keep it.
So, he threw 23 volumes of research away.

It is gone.

Perhaps he was grieving.
Perhaps he was feeling alone.

But, it's gone.

So, for my followers on this blog,
if you are ever in the same situation where you feel your research 
will not matter,
or be of use to anyone - 
please, please think again.

Think before you act.

Find a trusted friend or genealogist and talk with them.

Find someone who will be willing to upload it to
or any of the dozens of other online trees.

There will be someone...
that you may never meet or know about
that will thank you for what you have done.

But, please don't throw it away 
because you think no one will ever care.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Best RootsTech Week Ever!

I am home from a whirlwind week at RootsTech.
And, I might add that I thought it was the best one ever!

I arose at 3:30 am EST to make the drive to Columbus, Ohio to catch my flight.
I landed at 11:00 am MST, and my feet hit the ground running.

Pat Richley-Erickson asked if anyone would like to meet up at the Blue Lemon for lunch at 1:00, 
so I joined a whole bunch of genea-friends in a "getting reacquainted" lunch.
Need I say it was wonderful?

Afterward, I needed to get myself grounded.
I went to Deseret Book, and spent the rest of the day at the Family History Library.
It was humming, but not to the point of being overwhelmingly busy.

I just kept watching this missionary with a pointer.
What a great idea to keep from reaching over someone all the time.

I ran into friends Randy Seaver, Kim and Denise Levenick, all from California.

I couldn't believe I left my flash drive at home, 
but the vending machines saved the day!

I went back to the hotel and rested up for what would be a busy few days.
I had planned to attend the Innovator's Summit,
but, opted to go on a tour of the Provo City Center Temple instead.
I have watched the reconstruction of this burned out tabernacle into a
Temple of God.
Words cannot begin to describe its beauty.

I eventually made it to the Innovator's Summit, but missed out on every class, due to being swarmed by people I hadn't seen in ages.
It was just glorious to meet up with them.
I eventually made it back to the hotel to rest up.

The evening was filled with a Media Dinner, where we were cued in on the number of participants and youth attending on Family Discovery Day.

Then, a wonderful treat for all of us!
Paula Madison, a former executive with NBC, told of her story unfolding as she searched for her grandfather, Samuel Lowe.
The search went from Harlem to Jamaica to China.
We then saw a private viewing of the documentary based on the story.
She would also be one of the keynote speakers the next morning.

Ambassadors and Bloggers had an invitation to tour the Expo Hall at 7:30 am,
so I dressed quickly and made it there in plenty of time.
Again, I met up with people I may only see once a year.
Paul Nauta did a wonderful job taking us quickly through the Hall
before taking us through a private area that led us out to our seats.

The excitement kept building and building.
Over 25,000 were registered.
It was wonderful!!!

Here are some photos of the entire week.
I won't go into detail on all of them, for many were posted on my FB page during the week.
Amy Johnson Crow, True A. Lewis, Bernice Bennett.

Crista Cowan giving an Ancestry presentation.

Audrey Collins and her monkey shoes.

This is just before I gave my recorded session, which was streamed the next day.

FamilySearch friends Michael Benson, John de Jong.

Jan Gow of New Zeland, Pat Richley-Erickson.

Peggy inn front of the Family History Library.

Group shot with Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Bruce Feiler, of "Walking the Bible" series.

Ruby Baird is 14 years old, and is the youngest Ambassador.
This was her fourth year attending.
The chart printing booth was busy the entire time.

Scot and Maurine Proctor, two of my favorite people.

RootsTech swag.

Stan came riding in on his Harley Davidson.

Sheri Dew and Wendy Nelson

I am a FamilySearch Wiki Missionary, and this was our meeting.
It was good to put names and faces together.

RootsTech is an event I look forward to every year.
It was the first year I have attended alone.

There aren't many others in my family actively involved in tracing their family history, 
and sometimes I can see their eyes glaze over when I mention it.
RootsTech gives me an opportunity to recharge and be with people who are genuinely interested in family history, and get excited about it.

Over 4000 youth attended this year, and there was a visible sense of energy with them being there.
Last year, there seem to be a bit more rowdiness.
This year, I detected none.
Where else could you get that many youth to give up a Saturday morning to come and listen in on classes about genealogy!?

I am not back in Ohio, and have been in recuperation mode ever since.
But, I am going to do what I counsel others to do after they re
urn from a conference:

1.  Don't put notes and flyers on a shelf, only to rediscover them a year later.
2.  Put some of the new things into practice - right now!
3.  Review some of the streamed sessions.
4.  Save up for next year!