Apr 25, 2013 - Genealogy    No Comments

Keeping a Promise

When I read the news story about a project underway to honor Civil War veterans whose graves are in need of new headstones, my first thought was Wow what a great idea. As I read about how living relatives must be contacted in order to do this, I thought I can help with that. Then I thought my about my four greats grandfather, John Noah Johnson, who died in a military hospital in Memphis Tennessee on September 29, 1863.

Some people have asked me why help with a veteran’s project for the Civil War and not some other more recent war? And others- mostly those who do not know me that well or think they know me better than they do- have expressed surprise that someone of my generation would be interested in participating in a project like this. I must add that I think my generation gets a bad rap for not having a sense of patriotic duty or not caring about the past. Today’s blog addresses these questions.

My father served in the military for over twenty years. When the Desert Storm operation was underway we were stationed at Holloman AFB in southern New Mexico. I remember hearing the phrase ‘Desert Storm’ but I was too little to understand. I was a junior in high school when our Nation came under attack on September 11th. Many brave young men and women of my generation responded to the call to help protect our country. Many of us who did not join know someone who did: a friend from high school, a boyfriend, family member or are married to someone who is currently serving. Like many others in my generation, my grandfather was a veteran. He served first as a part of the peace keeping troops after World War II in Germany then went on to be a paratrooper during the Korean War. Many of my generation have personal experiences with veterans or are veterans themselves.

It takes a very special person to risk his/her life in the name of our country. When they do so it is not to obtain glory, they do so out of a sense of duty and honor. They do so to fight for our freedoms and to shield us from our enemies. They promise to keep us safe. William Dyer, Jesse Howard, James W. McGinley, Francis L. Mitchell, Amos D. Peters, John L. Polen and Henry B. Seelemire did this for us a little over a hundred and fifty years ago. As a nation we have a duty to honor and care for our veterans; that is our promise to them. These promises do not have an expiration date.

It is an honor to be a part of a project that will help remember these men. It is also an honor to work several other talented genealogists, local historians, the wonderful Sarah Bernhagen who is coordinating the project and a business like John A. Gentleman mortuaries that genuinely cares about the community. I look forward to seeing these headstones placed in the Bellevue Cemetery then helping carry the project forward to other cemeteries in the area.

To read the news article referenced above you can go to:

http://www.kmtv.com/news/local/191748721.html

Apr 13, 2013 - Genealogy    No Comments

A Place to Call Home

For quite some time now in my profile I have had the following line: Kassie actively encourages the genealogy community to find innovative ways to spark the interest of the next generation.  As of late I have been re-evaluating how I go about doing this. Sure I’m on Twitter, keep a blog, talk about it a lot on both my personal and business Facebook pages, like to think my presence as local chapter President of the APG helps and as some may already know I have a book coming out at the end of the year. Every now and again I am told that I have helped spark interest in someone. Despite all of this I feel like there is more I could do.

I rejoiced when one of the reoccurring themes at this year’s RootsTech conference was ‘the Next Generation’ but saddened when yet another blog post bashing the abilities of my generation was published. This blogger is just one person, but unfortunately this one person is a part of an apparent growing trend. For every person who speaks in this manner there has been at least one member of my generation who provides a rebuttal. This has all left me wondering- is it time for my generation to create a place of our own?

Some may be quick to say aren’t there enough ‘genealogy’ resources and communities out there to support the younger generation? Surely one or two bad apples aren’t enough to ruin the whole barrel? Or won’t creating a separate ‘place’ for the younger genealogists only exasperate the problems? My answer to this is everyone needs a place to call home. A safe place they can go, a safe place where there are others like them and where they can voice their opinions without fear of having them dismissed without merit. No matter how friendly a genealogy society/organization is, when the majority of the members are old enough to be my parents some part of me will always feel out of place. Gathering with others who not only share your interests but your age bracket is a basic social need, particularly when a group such as ours is consistently and unwarrantedly attacked. In a place my generation can call our own, we can have open conversations about the future of genealogy, the role we want to take in dictating that future, how we want to go about achieving those goals, support one another in our endeavors and ask for help without fear of being talked to like we are two. It is a way to help my generation go from talking to doing.

I am inviting all members of my generation regardless of your experience level, whether you started researching your family tree a day ago, a year ago or when you were still a kid to join a Facebook group page I started called the Next Generation of Genealogists. This group is only for members of my generation commonly referred to as Gen Y, Millennials or the ‘Next Generation.’ My hope is that this Facebook group page will explore the option of creating a formal genealogy society….I hope I am not the only one who thinks this is a good idea!

If you would like to join the group go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/153966341438728/

Mar 11, 2013 - On A Personal Note    No Comments

Dream Walking With My Grandfather

This past Friday night I had a very peculiar dream. My deceased grandfather, deceased great grandmother and my grandmother (who is still living) were all there. My grandfather and I walked down the old lane that led up to their farmhouse just liked we used to. My grandfather was talking but I was in a fog, in disbelief that I was on a walk with him. I tried to savor every minute of it. I must have looked forlorn; he put his arm around me very reassuringly. This time we walked past the old farmhouse where he and my grandma lived for nearly thirty years, past the ramshackle of a house he grew up in but only it was neat and tidy painted a deep teal with white trim and walked into a little light yellow cottage house with gingerbread on the front porch. Inside was my grandmother, when we stepped inside she handed me the phone and said “It’s your great grandmother calling for you.”  I picked up the phone and said “Grandma! You’re dead!” She very indignantly replied “No I’m NOT who told you that?” Then she laughed. Then I woke up, a bit confused, a bit happy and a bit sad.

Dreams like this are bittersweet. As time goes by I am forgetting the sound of my grandfather and my great-grandmother’s voices. When I close my eyes and concentrate I can remember their laugh. In dreams like this one I can remember but then the longer I am awake the more I forget again. Dreams like this are bittersweet for they are reminders of things I used to do all the time- walks with my grandfather and phone calls with my great-grandmother- and things I never really did- talk to my grandfather about his childhood or much about his family.

Then on Saturday I came across a copy of one of my favorite John Wayne movies, the Searchers. It is also a movie I had watched with my grandfather. So of course I had to buy it. My grandfather was the biggest John Wayne fan, so much so that I organized a collection amongst family members to get a memorial brick placed outside of John Wayne’s birthplace and museum in Winterset Iowa. Later that night I popped the movie into my DVD player and grabbed an old fleece blanket that was my grandfather’s. When he got sick he got cold a lot, the image of a cowboy on it reminded me of John Wayne so I bought for him to cover up with while he watched his westerns. I like to think that when I wrap myself up in that blanket and turn on a western that his spirit is right there with me.

I was watching the movie I couldn’t help but think of what my grandfather’s westerns say about him, looking for little bits of my grandfather in those movies. I realize that may sound silly to some….. There is a simpleness to the old westerns, at the end of the day ‘good’ always wins, John Wayne rides (or walks) off into the sunset. Life certainly threw its share of curveballs at my grandfather starting even before he was born. I wonder if the simpleness of them drew him to them. I see John Wayne venturing through wild untamed spaces and it reminds me of all the trips up into the mountains with my grandpa. John Wayne’s characters are always strong but with a gentle tender-hearted side- just like my grandfather. My grandfather also had the same aversion to bullshit and aptitude for trouble. My kids were born after grandpa died; my daughter was born not even six weeks after he died. I see so much of him in her and in my son who has two middle names to honor him. The older they get the more thankful I am for all those deceptively simple afternoons I spent watching westerns with my grandpa. Hopefully someday they won’t mind watching westerns with their mom and hearing about just how special their great-grandfather was.

One of the last taken with my grandfather, about a year maybe a year and a half before he died- there is a really funny story behind why my grandmother had a black eye although I cannot remember the specifics of it now. We are standing in the kitchen of the old farmhouse mentioned above, my grandmother is the one who painted the kitchen cabinets. My sister and cousin are standing with us. I am about 19 here and standing next to my grandmother.



The Day to Day of It All: Pursuing a Masters in History

A couple months ago I shared my thoughts on how genealogists view those who are pursuing an academic degree in history. One fellow genealogist aptly called this “academic bias.”[1] I also said that I will be writing more about what genealogists can learn from historians. While I have written about the trials and tribulations associated with the pursuit of a graduate degree, introduced the concept of historiography and reflected on general lessons I fear I have neglected what graduate school is like on a day to day basis. Before I delve further, I feel the need to do address this neglect. My personal experience has been that more often than not people in general not just genealogists do not understand what a) is involved on a day to day basis and b) what an online program entails. I should clarify this is post is as always based upon my own personal experience with an online program.

First some background information: The current program I am enrolled in is through the University of Nebraska Kearney. It requires the completion of 30 credit hours for those seeking the thesis option (such as myself) or 36 credit hours for those who are not seeking the thesis option. I had to wait until I successfully completed 12 hours or more with a minimum GPA of 3.5 before I could apply to thesis portion of the program; this entailed finding a professor who would serve as my thesis advisor, submitting an application and the submission of a thesis proposal. Those who do not seek the thesis option have to complete a comprehensive oral exam. Revisions to the graduate program occurred this past fall, requiring thesis students to complete 36 credit hours.

Students must be enrolled in 4 credit hours per semester in order to receive financial aid. Most classes are 3 credit hours but 1 credit hour courses are also offered. The class load varies greatly from student to student. I have opted for the load of 6 credit hours per semester. As I started in the fall of 2011 this means I will graduate in December of this year, assuming my thesis has been deemed ready for defense by my thesis advisor no later than October 15th. My thesis has to be a minimum of 75 pages in length (I anticipate mine to go well over this) and utilize primary sources. After my thesis has passed this initial test I will have to sit (via webcam in my case) before a panel who will essentially pick a part and question every aspect of my thesis.  After defending my thesis I may have some revisions to make before it is all said and done.

This semester one the courses I am enrolled in is a Directed Readings course. It is an independent study course with my thesis advisor is overseeing it.  In a nutshell I am reading books that pertain to my thesis and writing a historiography paper based upon those readings that will serve as the introduction/historiography section of my thesis. This is the only directed readings course I have taken so far.

The other classes I have taken thus far have followed a similar pattern. Each semester is 16 weeks long. With the exception of the week of Thanksgiving in the fall semester and Spring Break in the spring semester, every week one book must be read for each class. The average length of the books is about 300 pages.  Although I have had weeks where I had only to read a book that was 175 pages long and weeks where the book I had to read was nearly 500 pages long.

Discussion boards are designed to replace classroom debates and discussions in the scope of content as well as time. The majority of my professors have posed a series of questions that we are required to write a lengthy response (if you want a good grade it better be of sufficient length, one paragraph answers do not work) and post to these discussion boards by Thursdays at midnight. One professor I had used the deadline of Wednesdays. A minimum number of responses must be posted by 11:59pm Fridays or Sundays depending on the professor. In addition to participating in the discussions on others threads I am responsible for monitoring my own thread. One professor I had had different students each week decide upon the question and serve as moderators- it was more difficult that one would think.  Most people would be surprised by the depth of discussion and debate that proliferates in this format.  Notice the due date of the initial discussion board posts? This means that I do not have the full 7 days to read a book, it’s more like 3 to 4 days. Reading 600 pages in 3 to 4 days? Easy as pie! (Note the sarcasm).

In addition to discussion board posts, written assignments are required. This differs a bit from professor to professor. I had one professor who required a short summary of each book to be submitted on a weekly basis with a 30 page historiography paper due at the end of the semester. Other professors have required ‘unit exams’ varying in length from 10-25 pages. No multiple-choice, matching answers or fill in the blank tests here. Yet another professor of mine required nothing other than discussion board papers but the final historiography paper was half of my grade. Needless to say he had extremely high expectations for that final paper. The other course I am taking this semester requires the submission of book reviews. These are not always due on a weekly basis. Some weeks I have to write a comparative book review encompassing the readings over the course a 2-3 week period. The required length for a comparative book review is different than that of a single book review. Book reviews are not to be confused with a book report. While a summary of the book is included the main focus is upon analyzing the authors’ methodology, analysis of overall strengths/weaknesses and the books’ historiographical context.

Professor’s pose the discussion points and obviously assign/grade homework but do not interfere with the discussions unless absolutely necessary. Their role is fairly hands off, there is certainly no hand-holding here.

Is this what you expected? Comment below. As for me, it’s Wednesday which means I have a book I need to finish reading.


[1] Michael Hait, “Notable Blog Posts, 23 December 2012,” Planting the Seeds, posted 23 December 2012. (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/notable-23-dec-2012/ last accessed 6 March 2013).

Feb 17, 2013 - Genealogy    No Comments

You have what?

The month of February is the American Heart Month. It is also the month where I momentarily step away from posts about genealogy, history and grad school to talk about a far more serious matter- heart disease. If you have not done so please visit the American Heart Association’s website and speak with your doctor. Please note that I am not a doctor and medical concerns should be discussed with your doctor.

Every February while the spotlight is on heart health I take the opportunity to talk about a condition that I have: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome also known as P.O.T.S. hopefully in doing so I can help spread awareness and help even one person, after all it was one post on a discussion board that proved to be life-altering for me.  Unfortunately POTS is a condition that can mimic the symptoms of numerous other conditions including chronic fatigue, anxiety and in my case even asthma. It is a condition that when I go into a doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency room I find myself having to explain what it is because the nurses, doctors and interns have never heard of it…that is never a very comforting feeling. It is also a condition where when I tell people about it they make a face and say “What’s that?” or “Didn’t a patient on House have that?” When you find out a condition you have was portrayed on House you know you are screwed.

From what my cardiologist and I have been able to determine through a review of my medical history, symptoms of POTS first started to emerge when I was about 13- a common age for this to happen. I was diagnosed when in March 2010.  Nearly twelve years later. Twelve years of having such an odd combination of symptoms that I was misdiagnosed with asthma- due to the tightness of the chest, pain in the chest and shortness of breath. The doctors were baffled when my oxygen levels did not drop during an ‘asthma attack’ and inhalers only seemed to make the symptoms worse. Twelve years of dealing with an unknown trigger of migraines, off and on problems with fatigue and worst of all the accusation that it was “all in my head” and I was suffering from an anxiety condition. Ironically, dealing with the accusations did end up triggering social anxiety.

Twelve years of heat intolerance and exercise (cardio) intolerance that was usually followed by my vision going black or spotty, ringing in my ears while my heart pounded so hard I thought it was going to jump out of my chest and horrible dizziness. Then of course there were all the days I missed in middle school and high school.  Instead of learning about algebra I learned when it comes to absences that the staff cannot understand students are quickly labeled truants and treated as guilty until proven innocent. Eventually I switched to long distance education via correspondence to earn my diploma. I missed homecoming games and never had a prom.  I am not sharing any of this to try to elicit sympathy, I am very fortunate to not be among those who are utterly debilitated by the disease let alone able to keep it under control without medication. I am doing this because out there may be a teenager who is experiencing the same thing, wondering is something wrong with me? Or is it in my head?

The turning point came in 2010 when I was pregnant with my son.  POTS is a strange disease, it appear to go away then come back and is aggravated during pregnancy. I remember my first “POTS attack” during that pregnancy. I had stayed home from work- too tired, dizzy and nauseous to work. I spent a good chunk of the day on the sofa. I stood up to go to the bathroom. Instantly and all at once my heart pounded as it raced, my throat felt strange, my ears rang, my vision went black, everything started spinning, I was instantly even more nauseous  and dizzy and how I remained to stay upright I will not ever now. Afterwards I was so dizzy that I had to crawl to get to the bathroom. After dozens of tests, being bounced back and forth between specialists I was referred back to my OB-GYN and given a diagnosis that was essentially the equivalent of “over-reacting/crazy pregnant lady syndrome.”

One night crying at my laptop feeling like I had gone mad I came across a discussion board where a woman related her experience with all the same symptoms I had been experiencing but with a different diagnosis- POTS. I Googled it and was amazed to see symptoms such as the tingling and coldness in my hands and legs listed. Since POTS involves the neurological system I went to my neurologist. She practically laughed me out of the office and refused to even do the simple test for it. After several phone calls I found a cardiologist in my area who had experience treating patients. In one appointment I was diagnosed because they did one thing all of the other doctors never did and that the MRIs, EKGs, ECGs and lab work could never catch. My cardiologist’s nurse  took my pulse when I was sitting, took my pulse when I stood up…they did not need to take it again to know I had POTS as my heart rate had jumped by 30 in less than a minute.

The sense of relief that comes with finding that one last piece of the puzzle is indescribable. Finally I knew what was wrong and I could do something about it. Until about three or four months after I had my son I had to take daily medication. After that I was able to gradually reduce the amount of medication I was taking until I could stop completely. I still have about 2-3 days a month where my symptoms are severe enough to interfere with my daily routine. Through the reduction of stress, regular practice of yoga , lifestyle alterations- including avoiding nasty energy drinks, avoiding going outside when it is too hot, more recently efforts to condition my heart more through cardio exercise and simply paying enough attention to my body to know when I need to give myself a break I have been able to manage it. The frequency and severity of migraines has dramatically fallen, from 1 or more a week to maybe 1 or 2 month.

The moral of the story is pay attention to your body, especially your heart. What your heart does can impact you in unexpected ways. Educate yourself because at the end of the day you are your best health advocate. For those who work in the health field, educate yourself and encourage your staff to do so.

To find out more about Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome go to:

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/118/3/e61.full

http://www.dinet.org/pots_an_overview.htm

The American Heart Association’s website is:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/

Validation

Validation is a complex and tricky basic human need. This need comes in many forms; there is validation of feelings, validation of quality of work and validation that you are doing the right thing.  It can occur through as simple of an act as a high five, words of encouragement and words of affirmation. It does not always come when we want it to and not always from the people we want it from. This may sound overly pessimistic but it is an unfortunate truth in life. Over time I have come to realize moments of validation come in seemingly small ways, often in unexpected ways and more often than not when I need it more than I realize or admit at the time.

So much of a genealogists’ life is wrapped around ‘validation.’ We validate the dates and names our grandmothers gave us, we validate the information contained in records, we validate the works of others and we pursue the validation of our own abilities through the completion of courses, degrees and certifications. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of self-validation; it is an important part of progressing as both a professional and individual. But sometimes it’s nice to hear you’re doing great from someone especially when it is in the form of unexpected or unsolicited validation from your professional peers.

I have been very fortunate over the past year to be the recipient of unsolicited validation from a number of people. In particular from my fellow members of the APG Great Plains Chapter who not only had enough confidence in my abilities to elect me president but continually given me words of encouragement and praise. I had several ‘geek’ moments when posts I wrote last year were mentioned on other professional genealogists’ blogs. Then there are my followers on twitter who flatter me every time they comment, mention me in a #FF tweet or re-tweet me.

Perhaps it was a case of mid-academic year blues or frustration over the lack of client flow last year but I began to question what I am going to do after I graduate and if I am on the right path.  Over the past month there have been a series of little moments of validation.  Even though I can check the stats of my blog I do not always make the connection that there are actual people who read my blog much less like what I write. I received some wonderful comments through direct comments on my blog, email and just random conversations with people. Over the past couple of weeks validation has apparently kicked into high gear. Navigating the world of professional genealogy as a 27 year old can be challenging and daunting at times. A couple weeks ago I ran into an old co-worker of mine who is a bit older than me but still younger than what usually comes to mind when people hear the word “genealogist.” She knows this is what I do for a living and was asking me about some of the genealogical societies in the area. Then she said something that really made me smile, she said “seeing someone like you be so involved with genealogy encourages me to be.” That statement right there embodies of my personal and professional goals…check my profile on the APG website and you’ll even see that it’s mentioned there!

Well this got me thinking about a ‘writing project’ I have been working on for a couple years but have not talked much about…a genealogy book but one written specifically for my generation. I was mum about this for long for two reasons a) I was unsure of how it would be received and b) it’s a good idea and I don’t want anyone to steal it! Although my husband says even if someone were to steal it, their book still wouldn’t be as good as mine (see why I married him?).  I started mentioning all of this on social media and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about it. Ok so maybe it’s not unsolicited at that point but certainly unexpected. Then in connection to all of this I received an email about what could be a great opportunity for me. I am still awaiting details and it’s not a done deal so I will keep my mouth shut about that a bit longer….

At the end of the day it’s the unexpected and unsolicited validations that mean the most to me. You never know how taking a moment to say to someone “you are doing great work,” “that was a great ___ (article, blog) that you wrote,” or just a simple “keep up the good work” can improve their day or help someone stay the course.

Jan 25, 2013 - Genealogy    No Comments

Probate Gold Part Two

Over Christmas break I finally finished making scans of five great grandfather’s probate record, carefully assigning each image a unique identification number and cataloging this all in an excel sheet. The final tally is 186 digital images. This was not only the largest probate file I have ever encountered but the largest scanning project that I have ever taken on. Word of advice to those in a similar situation: make sure your printer can scan ledger sized documents. Unfortunately mine does not, I had to make multiple scans of the same page as a result. The image quality of the scans is great but after the first 25 pages or so I realized why a family member had given it to me for free- it’s big, bulky, slow and prone to temperamental fits where I would just about swear that gremlins had taken it over. Needless to say before I take on anymore scanning projects I will be buying a new scanner. (I’d love to hear recommendations!)

Let’s rewind a bit and go back to why I ordered Joseph’s probate file in the first place. Many stories have been passed down various branches about my great great grandmother’s family- the Royers. Etta Ellen Royer was the daughter of Edward Pierre Royer and Lavinia Zoa DeLand, Edward was the son of Antoine Royer and Constance Guillaume. Joseph is Constance’s father. One of the stories is that the Royers were wealthy at one point. My research is still ongoing and I cannot confidently say that the Royers were wealthy but I can also not confidently say that they were not. However, through the course of my research I started to suspect that some of the stories passed down about the Royers were really actually about the Guillaumes. I started to suspect it was the Guillaumes who were “wealthy.” Why the quotation remarks around the word wealthy? While you can do all sorts of math and economic research to determine if someone had money, the purchasing power of that money in their time, attempt to compare it today’s values you also have to keep in mind that the labeling of someone as wealthy can be a subjective one.

The 1860 census shows Joseph on a modest farm but the 1870 US Census shows Joseph living on a farm worth $10,000- an amount definitely larger than the average farm in the area.[1] The next tantalizing clue I came across was Joseph’s will.[2] The wording of the will made me think that his probate file could be an information gold mine. Joseph wrote his will on the 20th of June 1876. He left his “real, personal and mixed property” less of course his funeral expenses and any debts to his wife Catherine. Upon her death two things would happen. Their spinster daughter Celina (aka Charlotte Celina) would get the income on $2000 and the rest of the estate would be divided amongst their other children Edward (aka Pierre Edouard), Eugene (aka Jules Eugene), Emily (aka Francoise Amelia) and Constance. Joseph further stipulated that when Celina died that $2000 was to be divided amongst any remaining living children.

In addition to the probate file serving as a financial snapshot, I was hoping it would also: confirm that the Edward Williams living in Syracuse NY from about 1870 until his likely death before 1880 was their son, if the link was confirmed then possibly provide the death date or at least narrow the time frame of when Edward died[3] and possibly provide the death date of Catherine.[4] Some people think that in genealogy there is no such thing as luck, I do and with this record I got lucky. All three of my hopes were realized.[5] As expected Catherine’s date of death was mentioned in court documents, she died on the 8th of April 1885.

There are at least a dozen pages of court documents that specifically mention Joseph’s son Edward as being one in the same with the Edward Williams of Syracuse, New York. An exact death date is not provided but it is clarified that Edward died before Joseph (10 March 1878). City directories are not something I like to rely on but the information provided in Joseph’s probate file jives with the city directories for Syracuse. Now I know when and where to look for more information. I also got a bonus- confirmation of the names of Edward’s children as they petitioned the court for their father’s share of Joseph’s estate. They are listed as follows the documents as: Emilie Guillaume, Adelle F Guillaume, Mrs. Margaret A. Harbach, Rose P. Guillaume and Mrs. Mary Jane Geagan.[6] In fact, it was Mary Jane’s husband that acted as the representative attorney for Mary Jane and all of her siblings.

I can now affirmatively answer the question was Joseph Guillaume wealthy? The answer is a bit hazy due to the problems between the executor and the heirs but the heirs’ lawyer estimated it to be just shy of $14,000. He was not fabulously wealthy but for his the time in which he lived and where he lived (using census records for comparison) he was worth more than the average person. However, he was far from the wealthiest in Christian County Illinois. Amongst the papers is a request to change the names on the executors bond, a Joseph Carter and JR Milligan are listed as having a worth of $30,000.

When I first heard how many pages his probate file contained my imagination may have gotten the better of me, I will admit I was secretly hoping it was so large due to an enormous estate. Turns out it was because it covers a 26 year time span, details several instances in which the heirs levied accusations against August Cazalet for falsifying information in  his executors reports, the petitions of the children of Edward and all of the associated papers that had to be filled in each instance. It provides me with a great amount of insight into the life of this family; I’d take that over extravagant wealth any day. Now the question remains how did Joseph acquire his money? Was it as a result of the fulfillment of the American dream or was it earned back in France then brought over with them when they immigrated in 1852 or was it inherited?  As always seems to be the case, answers to questions always lead to more questions.


[1] 1860 U.S. Census, LaSalle County Illinois, population schedule, Farm Ridge, p. 568, dwelling 4996, family 4936, Joseph Guillaume; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 May 2012); National Archives Microfilm Publication M653, roll 196. Family History Library Film: 803196; 1870 U.S. Census, La Salle County Illinois, population schedule, Waltham, p. 22, dwelling 170, family 169, Joseph Guillam; digital images, Ancestry.com (http:/www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 May 2012); National Archives Microfilm Publication M593, roll 244. Family History Library Film 545743.

[2] Joseph Guillaume Will (1876), Christian County Will Record Volume 2: 70. “Probate Records, 1839-1919: Order book 1839-1849; letters and wills 1849- 1861; wills v. 2 1871-1892,” Family History Film 986730.

[3] 1870 U.S. census, Onondaga County, New York, population schedule, Syracuse Ward 7, p. 10, dwelling 58, family 83, Edward Williams; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed June 2011); National Archives microfilm publication M583, roll 1062. Family History Library film 552561.  1880 U.S. census, Onondaga County, New York, population schedule, Syracuse, p. 11 (penned), p. 128 (stamped), dwelling 10, family 10, Mary L. Williams; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed June 2011); National Archives Microfilm Publication T9, roll 907. Family History Library film 1254907.

[4] The cemetery plot belonging to Joseph Guillaume has more spaces than headstones. There is not a headstone for Catherine, unfortunately the church and cemetery records are no longer in existence for the time period in which she died. Searches of the county death register have yielded negative results. Now that I have her specific date instead of twenty year time span I will re-examine the death register as well as local newspapers.

[5] Joseph Guilliaume estate, Christian County Probate File No. 1006, Christian County Circuit Clerk, Vandalia, Illinois

[6] They are all of course also known to have use the last name of Williams.

Dec 27, 2012 - Genealogy, History    No Comments

Think you know the answer? Ask again.

One of the highlights of this holiday season was a visit from my grandmother. She came from Illinois and stayed with my parents for a week. At the top of the list of things to do with my grandmother was to sit down and go over some old family stories with her- making sure each one was carefully documented. Naturally, we did this on her last day here which of course was not the best day as she was worn out from all the shopping, family dinners and sight-seeing. Lesson learned: do not wait until the last day of vacation to interview family members!

All was not certainly lost. I decided to start with the stories that were her personal first hand experiences, the ones that involved my grandfather. November and December is a hard time for my grandmother. In these two months falls the anniversary of her mother’s passing, my grandfather’s birthday, their wedding anniversary and the anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. Talking about my grandfather is something she likes to do and something I like to hear about, it makes us feel like he’s still here in person.

The first story I asked her about was how she met my grandfather. I asked her, you were fourteen weren’t you and worked on the same farm as grandpa? I had heard this story many times before. Grandpa was working as a farm hand for the same people she worked for. The first time she saw him he was literally riding bareback and shirtless (very tanned) on a white horse through the fields. Water fights, especially ones that involve the unsuspecting and for some reason that occurred through a window, were a favorite thing of my grandpas. If you walked by the kitchen window you were asking to have a glass if not a bucket of water tossed out of it at you. This was how he and my grandmother first interacted. He through water at her through the window and she throw some back at him. He decided she didn’t get wet enough so he carried a big bucket of water into the house and dumped it over her head.

On this day, I heard something new from grandma. She said “Well actually, that was the second time we met.” I was shocked and said “Grandma, what do you mean the second time you met?” She first met my grandfather when she was a little girl. My grandpa’s family farm backed to the house where my grandma was living at the time. She used to swing on the gate snickering at my grandfather “you’re dirty” as he walked by (he was seven years older than she) on his way to school. They were not always neighbors but the Walkers always knew of the Rices.

So now I found out how they really met, the second time they met (even getting the name of the family they worked for) and all about their first “date” I asked another question I’ve never asked- why did you elope? I had always assumed that it was because my great-grandparents disapproved of my grandfather; I was partly right. Grandma said they eloped because her mom had lied to her. Her mom promised her that after my grandfather returned from his military service overseas that if they were still together they could get married. Grandma had her wedding dress made and the church picked out but when grandpa got back her mother said no. So my grandma packed up her bags and hopped a train to where my grandpa was.

Just goes to show that even if you have asked a question before you should ask it again and always be sure to ask why. Because I did just that, I now have priceless stories that I can pass down to my children and my grandchildren.

This post is dedicated to my grandfather Kenneth James Rice, 1928-2005.

Dec 19, 2012 - Genealogy    1 Comment

Reflections of a Grad Student

This past Friday another semester of grad school wrapped up. I have survived three semesters and currently hold a 3.934 GPA. I do not mean to brag by saying that, I will elaborate momentarily. Next semester I start work on the historiography portion of my thesis. Up until now my thesis was something I was working towards and now that the time is here to actually start working on it …well it’s very surreal to me and has me in a bit of a reflective mood.

Every semester is extremely difficult. There are days where I feel like I’m getting a better handle on it then there are days where it feels harder than ever.  The last two semesters were not nearly as scary as the first. The first semester I seriously questioned if I had done the right thing. I should explain briefly that my bachelor’s degree is in business, but I had a lot of political science, history and art history electives that together met the requirements for pursuing a graduate degree in history. I heard a lot of new things in my first semester, like the term historiography. That semester shattered the way I looked at history. You see before that semester I thought history was a constant, things only changed when new evidence came up. There is something comforting about something never changing, I never realized how much that aspect of history mattered to me until that semester. Instead I found out that the world of history is constantly changing, new theories emerge was to why something happened or the way it happened, old schools of thought come under attack and are replaced by new ones. It is much more dynamic that and constantly being revised.

Since then I have figured something out: history is constant, the way people look at it is what changes.  For those who are scratching their heads wondering what the blazes historiography is, here is a definition: in general terms it means “history of history writing” but to truly understand what I mean the “narrow meaning” should be clarified as the study of “the variety of approaches, methods, and interpretations employed by historians on a particular topic.”[1] As much as I may complain about writing a historiography paper as I am writing it, I am actually starting to like the whole process. There is such great value in it that I could devote an entire blog to that alone…..but I’ll skip that for today. In brief, why I like it is because of what it represents and means. In the world of academic and professional history there is an unexpected element of creativity. New perspectives are not only wanted they are thirst for. Sometimes in the world of professional genealogy I feel like while yes my opinion is wanted it is not valued in the same way and it’s only wanted if it falls within set parameters. Those of you who follow this blog already know that not voicing my opinion or only voicing it if the rest of the flock agrees just is not me. But why do I feel that way? Well mostly because of the reactions I get when I say I am getting my degree in history as well as history degree bashing articles that are out there.

I’ve even come across articles that suggested history degrees are not an accurate reflection of one’s research, analysis and writing abilities because there is no testing involved and degrees are essentially given away to make sure that colleges graduate x amount of students in order to keep the enrollments (and subsequently money) up. Articles like this are ignorant and dangerous. I did not get into the Master’s program just because I said pretty please with a cherry on top. I got in because I worked my butt off when I got my bachelors (graduating magna cum laude) and passed the application process – which included submitting letters of recommendation and the writing of an essay. I have the GPA I do not because someone gave it to me but because of the long nights I stayed up reading until 2 am, all-nighters I pulled to make sure my essay exams were just right and because of my refusal to turn in any work worthy of anything less than A. Ask any graduate student and they will tell you, graduate school is one long test. It tests you intellectually, emotionally and physically. Then as you reach the end you endure an even harder test- either a comprehensive exam or go through the process of researching and writing a thesis only to have to verbally defend it in front of a panel. Call me crazy but perhaps people who do not have degrees, undergrad or grad level, in history or have not been through a program in the last twenty years should refrain from writing articles like that.

The more I think about the way that my degree in history and career as an independent historian will dove tail with my career as a professional genealogist (subsequently researching opinions going both ways about it) the stronger I believe that professional genealogists need to rethink the way they look at history degrees. This is not to say that history degrees are completely unappreciated…it’s that they are not appreciated enough. The value of history degrees goes beyond the gaining of supplementary knowledge in regards to historical context (something in of itself that is underappreciated). The research and analysis taught by universities is too easily written off as not being specific enough. Furthermore, there seems to be a myth that genealogists and historians do not use the same sources…..guess what- they do!!!!  Genealogists could greatly benefit from looking at what historiography means and ways they can incorporate it to their work. Perhaps instead of looking to other occupations such as lawyers and doctors for models, the field should model themselves after historians.  They may find that by doing so, by truly allowing for the introduction of new perspectives that more of my generation just may toss their hat into the ring. These are all things I will be blogging about more and more through the course of next year.

Recommended reading: Going to the Sources: A Guide to Historical Research and Writing by Anthony Brundage


[1] Anthony Brundage, Going to the Sources: A Guide to Historical Research and Writing, Wheeling Illinois: Harlan Davidson , Inc. (2008), p.  71

Thanksgiving Challenge In Review

Yesterday was the last day of what I hope will be an annual event, the Thanksgiving Challenge. Despite the craziness of the week, all of the errands that had to be run, my eldest being out of school, potty training a puppy, baking and putting up of Christmas decorations I was able to find at least an hour a day to work on my genealogy. As it turns out genealogy is a lot like working out. I have a heart condition that greatly benefits from a regular workout routine. It took me a while to get settled into a routine because I was trying to find the time to workout instead of making the time. When you are a small business owner the to do list is never-ending, even the mere thought of having to make time for one more thing can be enough to send me over the edge sometimes. But at the end of the day somethings are worth making the time for. I am not suggesting that I will try to find an hour a day everyday or that anyone else should commit to that much on a daily basis. Just that if you take up the Thanksgiving Challenge every year and perhaps try to set aside even two hours a week to work on your family tree.

My week turned out to be very productive. I became reacquainted with a line that I have not worked on in sometime. I have a research plan in place for next year. I did not keep track of every single minute. I decided that was too much of a pain in the butt and I knew I wanted to do at least an hour a day. So I kept an eye on the clock until it hit the one hour mark then kept going as long as I could or wanted to. One thing I did not finish doing was scanning the probate file of Joseph Guillaume. That is taking me a lot longer than I expected but I should be done either tomorrow or Tuesday the latest. The hardest thing for me to squeeze in was honestly blogging everyday. I had to combine multiple days into a post. Why’d I miss some days? Well one night I was tired and not feeling well. One I ran out of time. And the other well honestly I got a bad case of the lazies- it was my break from school after all too!

How did you do on your Thanksgiving Challenge?

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