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A Virus Changes Everything

As we all hunker down in these dark times, a new way of living is emerging for me and those around me. So what have I been up to during the pandemic?

  1. Attending genealogy webinars and visiting online databases. Recently I followed Legacy webinars on evaluating genealogical evidence, tracking ancestors who changed their names, researching Scandinavian ancestors, searching on Google, and using digital libraries. Today I will connect to another webinar on researching Mayflower ancestors. In normal times, I do not take nearly this many classes.
  2. Reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors. In my community, people gather regularly for card games, potlucks, and more. No longer! I have taken to calling my immediate neighbors and those who live alone so they and I will have a chance to enjoy some conversation. I have also been texting with my 11-year-old granddaughter who cannot go out to play with her friends.
  3. Binge-watching television and other media. I keep tuning into the presidential and gubernatorial press conferences to get the latest information in the coronavirus. I follow local town halls with the health department. I watch the extended COVID-19 coverage offered by the local broadcasters.
  4. Walking. We know we should not stay indoors for days on end. The only problem has been that so many others are out walking, too. I am finding it hard to maintain a 6′ distance from people on the trails and sidewalks.

When this social distancing began, I thought I would have hours to fill with my genealogy research. But these new activities have eaten up my time. I find that I am progressing slower than usual with my family history.

That is because, in part, I have not yet settled into a new routine to replace the old one. At first, I questioned whether I would need to. This situation seemed temporary. We originally received a 14-day directive from the state.

Then yesterday, our governor announced that the schools would close for another month. Suddenly the timeline appears much longer.

New habits can form in a month. At some point this will no longer feel like a temporary situation.

I, and everyone else, will need to find a new rhythm of daily life. When I do, I can begin to become a productive researcher again.

Coronavirus Hits the Genealogy World

The genealogy community makes up just a small corner of the world, but like everyone else we face challenges presented by the spreading coronavirus. Event cancellations pour in as people practice social isolation.

  1. Yesterday the Denver Public Library cancelled all meetings and events for a month. This requires the Colorado Genealogical Society and the Colorado Chapter of Palatines to America in turn to cancel upcoming meetings and seminars that would have been held in Denver’s main library.
  2. Our local LDS meeting place has requested that the Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society gather elsewhere or cancel its monthly meeting and annual genealogy fair in April.
  3. My husband/tech advisor has offered to host a virtual meeting for our Sons of Norway board this month. If our usual meeting place at one of the Douglas County Libraries follows Denver’s example, we will lose our meeting room.
  4. He has already announced that the Norwegian Genealogy study group he facilitates will meet in virtual sessions during April and May.

One event (I hope!) that will not face cancellation is the Legacy Family Tree 24-hour Genealogy Webinar Marathon scheduled to begin later today. I registered for this event that I can attend on my home computer.

Several topics caught my interest. Luckily, they are not classes that will occur during the middle of the night in my time zone. I plan to tune in to these:

  1. How Do I Know It’s Correct: Evidence and Proof by Rebecca Koford
  2. Not Who He Once Was: Tips for Finding Your Name-Changing Ancestor by Mary Kircher Roddy
  3. A Vast and Virtual Genealogical Library is Waiting for Your Exploration by Mike Mansfield
  4. Advanced Googling for Your Grandma by Cyndi Ingle
  5. Researching Scandinavian Ancestors by Mike Mansfield

Perhaps these virtual meetings will become more commonplace. We do not know when or if our world will return to the days of carefree gatherings of every kind. Already we have adjusted to heightened security measures when we meet in large groups. Perhaps we will see a permanent change in public health practices for meetings, too. Genealogists and everyone else will have to adapt.

Lives Affected by Epidemics

With the coronavirus outbreak all over the news these days, I began thinking of ancestors who might have lived through epidemics of their own. A few came to mind.

  1. Regional outbreaks of diseases such as measles and diphtheria occurred in communities where my family lived during the 19th century. My own family members likely endured some of these sicknesses. Although I have seen columns of Midwestern death listings from these and other illnesses, I have found none of my family names in these records of fatalities. A century later I, too, survived a case of the measles in 1964. It was the sickest I have ever been.
  2. About 1910, my great-grandfather Ole Bentsen (1880-1976) experienced a bout of typhoid fever. I do not know whether others in his Sheridan County, Montana community also had this illness caused by contaminated food or water.
  3. The Spanish flu swept the nation during World War I. My grandmother’s cousin Arthur Davis Riddle (1881-1919) succumbed to this illness in Seattle, Washington. He was a tall lumberjack, but his robust strength did not protect him from the influenza.
  4. During the 1930’s my grandmother Grace Riddle Reed (1896-1976) contracted smallpox in Wheatland, Wyoming. My father was a young boy at the time, but he remembered that his mother was quarantined during her illness. No one else in the family caught the disease.
  5. My entire family contracted the Asian flu in 1958. We lived in Bismarck, North Dakota at the time. I can remember my parents having a difficult time rousing themselves from their own sickbeds to care for their two young children who also had this illness. We all recovered.

Outbreaks of illness seem to cycle regularly through communities. Some of these epidemics seem deadlier than others. It remains too early to tell how the United States will fare with the current coronavirus. At our house we remain watchful and have prepared for whatever it brings.

Hunting for Mayflower Ancestors

With the new year comes a new genealogy project. After spending last year on foreign research in Finnish records, I will turn my attention closer to home in 2020.

My father had deep American roots. His mother’s family lived in New England a couple of centuries ago, and I want to find out more about them. I am hoping to prove a line or two of Mayflower ancestry.

Dad’s direct maternal line offers me a chance. According to a post on WikiTree, his third great-grandmother, Lucy Snow, descended two ways from Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins. The lines go this way although no sources are cited:

Lucy Snow>Hannah Lincoln>Hannah Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins>Giles Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins

Lucy Snow>Thomas Rogers Snow>Nathaniel Snow>Edward Snow>Jabez Snow>Constance Hopkins>Stephen Hopkins

My first stop searching for proof of this ancestry has been the databases on the American Ancestors website (https://www.americanancestors.org/index.aspx). There I located documentation for the births and marriage of Lucy’s parents. Lucy herself is not mentioned so I have nothing to link her to them. I need to find some proof of her parentage.

I also need to find some proof that Lucy was the mother of my known ancestor Rhoda Hall. I have only cemetery information saying she was the first wife of Gershom Hall. I believe Rhoda Hall Dunbar, Dad’s second great-grandmother, was the daughter of Lucy and Gershom.

My next task will be to link up the three women. If I can find documentation for the relationship Rhoda Hall>Lucy Snow>Hannah Lincoln and Thomas Snow, I will have my Mayflower ancestry from Stephen Hopkins. Then I can turn my attention to learning whether I descend from any other Mayflower passengers. Many people who descend from one Mayflower passenger also descend from others.

New England family lines have been well-documented. I think proving a line of Mayflower descent, if I have one, should be doable this year. This project will offer me an interesting genealogical year.

Reading for Genealogy

A genealogist needs to spend time improving skills and keeping up with happenings in the genealogy world. One can choose from both print and online publications for professional reading. These resources provide educational articles, examples of well-written genealogies, and announcements of upcoming events. I subscribe to several journals and blogs that keep me up to date.

In Print

  1. National Genealogical Society Quarterly. This publication has promoted genealogical scholarship since 1912. Each issue consists of several genealogy case studies that serve as an example of excellent analysis and writing. The Quarterly also reviews recently published genealogy books.
  2. NGS Magazine. This quarterly magazine includes news articles about the National Genealogical Society. It also contains how-to articles, including columns on using the National Archives and technology.
  3. The Palatine Immigrant. This periodical covers research on German-Speaking ancestry. It includes book reviews, research articles, a genealogy advice column, and news of upcoming Palatines to America events.
  4. The Colorado Genealogist. The quarterly publication of the Colorado Genealogical Society focuses on articles and transcriptions of records specific to Colorado.
  5. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. This journal of American genealogy publishes current research on New England families and sources.
  6. American Ancestors. A sister publication to the Register, the magazine covers Society news, program and tour announcements, and articles of genealogical interest.

Online Blogs and Newsletters

  1. The Legal Genealogist. Judy G. Russell, a lawyer and a genealogist, writes about (what else?) genealogy and the law. https://www.legalgenealogist.com/
  2. Vita Brevis. The blog of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, it posts essays by the Society’s professional staff. https://vitabrevis.americanancestors.org/
  3. Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. Dick Eastman has been covering genealogy news with his online newsletter for 23 years. https://blog.eogn.com/
  4. DNAeXplained—Genetic Genealogy. Roberta Estes helps us discover our ancestors, one gene at a time. https://dna-explained.com/
  5. Norwegian Genealogy and then some. Martin Roe Eidhammer writes helpful tips for Norwegian research, and he also offers travelogues and book reviews. https://martinroe.com.godtsagt.dev/blog/

At our house, we also receive one more genealogical publication that comes addressed to my husband/tech advisor. I do not know how much of it he actually reads because Slekt og Data is written in Norwegian. This publication is put out by Norway’s largest genealogy organization.

Most of the blogs I listed arrive in my e-mail In box every day. I can read or skim them in a few minutes. I set aside some time in the late afternoon to read the journals that come by snail mail. The writers who contribute to these publications provide a wonderful educational service to those of us searching for our ancestors.

 

Cleaning Out the Old; Getting Ready for the New

This week my husband/tech advisor and I finished up my 2019 genealogy project. I needed his assistance in creating and printing a large chart. After some trial and error, we at last have it ready to mail out to relatives.

Now I have turned my attention to cleaning up my office and getting everything ready for a new research project in 2020. I have accomplished a few tasks so far:

  1. At the beginning of the year, I think I had five surnames in my Finnish notebook. After trading information with Finnish cousins, I have identified twenty-eight surnames in the direct line ascending eight generations from my great-grandmother, Ada Alina Lampinen (1879-1948). In addition to putting all this data into digital form in my genealogy database, I have recorded it on family group sheets stored in a three-ring binder. All this new information required me to move my Finnish material to a bigger notebook.
  2. I am a piler, and I had research-related papers all over the office. I tackled the credenza first, and now I can see its surface again.
  3. For next year, I have learned that I will need to adjust to a new meeting place for our local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society. For years we met at the Highlands Ranch library. This year, after a remodeling, the library changed its room reservation policy. No longer could we be guaranteed the same meeting room, or even any meeting room, on our usual meeting night. We tried moving between libraries, taking what was available, but that proved unworkable. Our attendance suffered. Luckily, our kindly Family History Center in Highlands Ranch has stepped forward and offered us a reserved space for our monthly meetings in 2020.

With three weeks left in December, I hope to complete the cleanup of my office before the end of the year. Papers lie in high, deep stacks on both the desk and the worktable. It would be nice to have it all sorted and filed away. I think I have time. On January 1, I want to turn my attention to searching for Mayflower ancestors.

Thanksgivings Past and Present

Yesterday we gathered with our children and grandchildren for yet another wonderful Thanksgiving meal. We hosted it at our house.

We were lazy this year and did not make everything from scratch. Instead, we ordered some of our food from local vendors.

We were not alone in this. We found a semi-truck full of pies parked beside our local Village Inn when we arrived there. A queue of people waited to pick up their orders. A similar line greeted us at our butcher shop when we pulled up to claim our pre-roasted turkey, dressing, and gravy.

Thanksgiving meal preparation was not always so easy. Unless we could get an invitation to spend the holiday elsewhere, we used to cook all day. Our traditional meal included turkey (would it thaw in time for the big day?!), stuffing, cranberry sauce, two kinds of potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, pickles, and olives. We pulled out our silver, crystal, and best china.

Our mothers before us also dutifully bought and prepared similar Thanksgiving meals, year after year. The women worked in the kitchen all day while the males lounged in front of the television. How I resented that!

For how long have people spent hours making elaborate meals on this day? Did my grandmothers do all this cooking on Thanksgiving Day back in the 30’s and 40’s?

I am pretty sure my dad’s mom did not. The family had little money, and besides, Grandma was no cook. She once told me that after her boys left home, she just ate a can of chicken noodle soup on Thanksgiving.

My mom’s family made more effort to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Mom reminisced about sitting through Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings, meals she disliked. She lived next door to her grandparents from Finland, so those Thanksgiving dinners had a Finnish twist. Mom did not want to eat the mashed rutabagas that appeared on the table every year. If she could get away with it, she would eat only the bread and pickles.

Still, when she had a household of her own, she regularly prepared a traditional dinner. When I grew up, I found myself doing the same. I never liked Thanksgiving much because it required so much work.

This year was different. Preparing just a couple of dishes and leaving most of the cooking to others allowed me plenty of time to enjoy the day. Normally, I like to follow traditional ways of celebrating holidays, but I liked our take-out Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Perhaps we have a new tradition.

Holiday-Time Genealogy

The November-December holiday season gets so hectic that normally I take a break from genealogical research during that time.

I use November to create a genealogy-related Christmas present for family members. Finnish research dominated my year, and this year’s gift will reflect that.

A distant cousin I met in Finland in June has posted 10 generations of our shared Lampinen line on the WikiTree website. I added all this information to my own online tree. Now my husband/tech advisor has helped me create a beautiful chart displaying this heritage. I will proofread it later today, and then we will print out this 3-foot-wide family tree for the American descendants of Ada Alina Lampinen.

Another Finnish cousin sent me some photos of Ada’s siblings who stayed in Finland. I will get copies made of these pictures for the relatives, too.

December will find me cleaning out my office whenever I have some time to spare. I need to put away the Finnish research materials, documents, and reference books that lie scattered around. Once I have the surfaces cleaned off, the place needs a good dusting. Maybe I can even get back to using my adjustable standing desk when all the precarious clutter returns to its proper home.

Already I am thinking about next year’s project. In 2020 we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower. I am hoping to confirm a suspected Mayflower line in my own family. One of my grandmothers had New England ancestors with surnames like Bangs, Burgess, Dunbar, Hall, and Snow. Her second great-grandmother, Lucy Snow, may have been a Mayflower descendant.

For Christmas a year ago, my husband/tech advisor gave me a membership in the New England Historic Genealogical Society. These folks specialize in everything related to the Mayflower and other New England ancestry. All year I eagerly have read their publications. In 2020 I finally will begin doing some research using all the resources they have to offer.

Holiday time = time to clean up and switch gears.

Genealogists and Linquistics

Our local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society gathers monthly at a county library. We have a short business meeting followed by an informative program. After doing genealogy for most of my life, I find some of the programs helpful, others not so much.

This month we had a program I have already found useful.

Sylvia Tracy-Doolos of New Leaf Genealogy spoke on using linguistic tools to break down genealogical brick walls. She pointed out that spelling of surnames has not been standardized for very long, and she offered some good tips for finding those elusive ancestors in the records:

  1. The census department did not require enumerators to have legible handwriting, nor did these workers receive much training. They wrote down what they heard. Sylvia reminded us to hear names as the census worker might have. She also described something called the McGurk Effect. When what we hear conflicts with what we see, we tend to go with what we see. This potential for confusion explains why I had trouble locating the 1920 census record for my great-grandfather Alexander Mattila. They recorded his name as Alek Sandermattila.
  2. Fuzzy searching in computer databases can help locate names where some letters are uncertain. For example, use wild cards when you do not know whether the surname should be Johnson or Johnsen.
  3. Names may have been translated from a foreign language when an ancestor came to America. The German name Wald became Woods.
  4. Ethnic names may have been simplified. I would like to know why my husband/tech advisor’s ancestors did not simplify Hjelmstad.
  5. Sylvia provided us with a chart showing the international phonemic alphabet. It lists commonly interchanged sounds (p and b, t and d) and explains how these consonants are spoken similarly but sound different.

The program ended with a list of resources. I have already used one. Omniglot provided me a much better translation of a Finnish record than Google Translate did. You can find Omniglot, an alphabetical listing of all languages with their alphabet and linguistic guides, at http://omniglot.com/writing/.

Petter Toivain: Sexman

Sexman? What might that be?

I encountered this interesting profession as I powered through the Lampinen family tree shared by my Finnish cousins. A Toivain father-son pair of ancestors, both named Petter, worked as sexmen in the 17th century. Who employed them, and what did they do?

The word Sexman seemed more a Swedish word than Finnish one to me. When the Toivains lived and worked, Finland was part of Sweden. Many records during that time were kept in the Swedish language.

I plugged the word into Google Translate and searched for an English meaning from either Swedish or Finnish. No result. A sexman was a sexman in all three languages.

Next I turned to the Family Search wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Swedish_Genealogical_Word_List). They have word lists of genealogical terms, including occupations, for many languages. I tried the Swedish list first, and there I found it.

A sexman was the parish caretaker. My Finnish cousin then explained that the sexman’s obligations included seeing that the congregation members performed their religious duties, obeyed the Commandments, paid their tithes, and paid fines for any ecclesiastical offenses. The sexman also monitored parishioners for infectious diseases and transported ill members to the hospital. He held a key to the ark.

This must have been an important and powerful job in the state-mandated Lutheran Church of the time. Where did my ancestors serve?

The Toivain family lived in the tiny village of Kajoo, part of Juuka parish in Finnish Karelia. The present-day Juuka church is pictured above.

From the record, I cannot determine whether my ancestors had authority over the entire Juuka parish, or just Kajoo and its environs. My Finnish cousins have no more information to offer.

They did provide statistical information on the the Toivains who served as sexman:

  1. Petter Toivain, b. 18 Feb 1747 at Kajoo, d. 21 Apr 1809 at Kajoo. Married Anna Frantz 14 May 1765 at Nurmes.
  2. Petter Pettersson Toivain, b.21 Jun 1771 at Kajoo, d. 26 Jun 1818 at Kajoo. Married Anna Karjalainen, 25 May 1795, at Kajoo.