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52 Stories #12—My Career as a Genealogist

Have I had a career? I have had jobs, but I never stuck with a single line of work through my adult life. The only activity that would count as a career for me has been my study of genealogy and family history.

My coming-of-age years paralleled the movement for women’s equal rights. During my childhood, no one’s mother worked for money, and I never expected to either. The idea that having a job was somehow inappropriate and undesirable for women never left me. I liked the idea of staying at home, answering to no one, setting my own schedule, and pursuing my own interests, namely genealogy. This appealed to me more than any job ever could.

But times were changing, and as I entered adulthood, women needed to enter the workforce just to stay even with the sort of life my parents had. I went to college and on to law school. From there, I followed my dad into the oil business where I did contract and land title work for a major oil company.

This interesting, challenging work provided a good living, but boy, was the work environment a pressure-cooker. I spent hours at the office, longing to spend more quality time with my young boys, only to arrive home just in time to give them dinner and put them to bed. What an impossible schedule! It was a relief when my company closed the local office and left for Houston, a place I knew I did not want to live. I resigned my position. I had gleaned what I needed from that job—a good financial start and a much better understanding of all the legal documents a genealogist must discover and analyze.

I spent the next several years at home, happily raising my kids and beginning my genealogical research in earnest. I learned my way around the Denver Public Library genealogy collection, the Denver branch of the National Archives, and my local Family History Center. I joined a genealogy club and attended conferences and seminars.

In the meantime, the boys grew older, and they wanted to participate on sports teams. Each year required more and more team travel with more and more expense. The time came when again I needed to find a paying job. I resurrected my old teaching certificate and began substituting in the school libraries.

A few years later, I hired on part time with the public library to get a regular schedule. Working there just half-time allowed me to continue with my genealogical research while getting paid to learn valuable computer and reference skills. I stayed there for over a decade and never again took a full-time job.

Today, I am at home again, and I devote as much time to genealogy as I can. The other jobs I have had enabled me to pursue this, my true passion. I have documented the lives of generations of my family and preserved the information for posterity. This is the happy, fulfilling life I wanted for myself, and I will never retire from this career.

 

 

A Plat as a Census Substitute

My mysterious German ancestor lived in Indiana during the Civil War. I believe she had already immigrated to the U. S. by 1860, but I have not located her on the 1860 census. By the time of the 1870 census, she had died. In between these years, she purportedly married my great-great grandfather and bore a daughter.

Verifying this information presents a real challenge. How I wish Indiana had taken a state census in 1865. This couple’s daughter, my great-grandmother Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born in April that year. This little family would have been listed on a state census. Research on my German ancestor would have taken a step ahead.

But Indiana did not take a census that year, and I have found very few records from that decade. This week I looked at one of them, an 1866 plat of Johnson County, Indiana. The Sherman family lived there for a time. The map serves as a substitute of sorts for the absence of a mid-decade census.

I ordered this map from the Family History Library in Salt Lake, and it came on two microfiche. The map had separate sections for each incorporated area in the county as well as a broader map showing all the landowners in the rural areas. The writing was faint, and it appeared in different orientations throughout the maps. This made it hard to view on a microfiche reader.

I spent upwards of two hours looking at this plat to see if I could locate any familiar names:

  • Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born at Edinburg in 1865. The plat showed the layout of this town and identified local businesses, but it did not place names on individual residences. I found no clue of where, or if, any Shermans still lived there in 1866.
  • My great-great grandfather, Thomas Sherman, and his older brother Anderson registered for the Civil War draft at Nineveh in 1863. The plat for Nineveh did label individual residences, but again I found no mention of a Sherman family in 1866.
  • My great-great grandmother is identified in family records as Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh. I continue to work under the hypothesis that she was part of the extended Stilgenbauer/Stillabower clan of German immigrants who lived south of Indianapolis. There was a “Stigenbauer” residence next door to the Post Office in Nineveh in 1866. This puts the Shermans and the German family in the same county at about the same time.
  • I found no mention of any Sherman or Stilgenbauer landowners on the farms in the county. For the Shermans this was not a surprise. They were blacksmiths and owned little, if any, farmland over the years.

After examining these plats, I have little new information. I do have a better understanding of the neighborhoods my ancestors frequented. I took down the names of all the householders in Nineveh because some of these people would have been acquaintances of my family members. Their records may mention my own family.

My local family history center received the Johnson County plat microfiche on extended loan, so I can view them again if I uncover other information about my families. I still wish Indiana had taken a census listing all heads of household in the mid-1860’s, but these plats provide something of a census substitute.

52 Stories #11—My First Paycheck

Everyone remembers their first job. These work situations provide us with places to learn basic workplace skills such as reporting on time, following directions, and getting along with others. Then we get that great reward—money of our own. Many of us feel real dismay when we realize for the first time just how much of our hard-earned cash goes straight to Uncle Sam.

I found my first job when I was seventeen years old. I worked that summer at the front counter of the local Tastee Freeze fast food franchise. There I waited on customers by preparing frozen treats like ice cream cones, malts and milkshakes, sundaes, and floats. I also took orders for hamburger and chicken meals. We had no cash registers and accepted only cash at the Tastee Freeze, so I learned to add up a ticket quickly and to make change correctly. One day someone handed me a one-hundred-dollar bill, the first time I had ever seen such a thing.

A married couple owned the Tastee Freeze, and they worked alongside the teenagers they hired. She was pretty nice to all the high school students who worked there, but he was not. In fact, I remember choosing him as my subject a few years later when I had to write a school paper about the worst boss I ever had.

He shouted at us when he did not think we worked hard enough or did not focus on the job. In the evenings, after it got dark, he often sat outside in his car, watching us through the restaurant windows to see if he could catch us doing wrong. One night after the place closed and our crew prepared to go home, we stopped to check the work schedule for the next day. Our boss had erased several names from the schedule, in essence firing people in that way instead of speaking with them directly. He said they had not shown proper respect for his expensive equipment, and he seemed to have no interest in re-training them or giving them a second chance. I thought him very unfair.

I stayed at this job through the summer, disliking the work environment more and more as the weeks continued. I left shortly after school started that fall. I had made enough money that summer to save a bit and purchase desired items I would not have had otherwise. I knew I would miss a regular paycheck in the coming months, but I would not miss this overbearing boss.

Working at the Tastee Freeze did provide me with some fundamental job skills. At subsequent jobs, I put them to use, and since then I have had a great appreciation for kind supervisors. I worked much harder for them than I ever did for my first boss.

A pleasant workplace became a real priority for me, and late in life I left another job because of another difficult boss. During the intervening years, when I had employees to supervise, I hope I treated them better than the Tastee Freeze guy treated his first-time workers.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #61 & 62—Henric Miettinen & Anna Toivain

At last we reach the end of my series on the stories of my ancestors. Over a year ago, I took up the challenge of writing about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I began with my parents and worked backwards. At the end of last year, I had written about 52 ancestors, but it seemed a shame to stop part way through a generation. I elected to continue to relate what I know of each of my third great-grandparents. The final couple on this list is Henric Henricson Miettinen (ca. 1804-1836) and Anna Andersdöttir Toivain (1802-a. 1858).

Henric was born at Halivaara in the Karelian region of Finland about 1804. He lived there all his life and worked as a farmer.

On December 27, 1819, he married Anna Toivain in the Juuka parish. She was from the nearby village of Kajo. Together they had seven children:

  1. Carin, b. 1821,
  2. Henric, b. 1823,
  3. Christina, b. 1827,
  4. Margret, b. 1829,
  5. Johan, b. 1830,
  6. Anna, b. 1832, my great-great grandmother, and
  7. Brita, b. 1835.

Like so many Finnish men of the time period, Henric had a short life. When he was thirty-two years old, he contracted a fever. He died on October 22, 1836 when my great-great grandmother Anna was just four years old. Henric was buried in Juuka parish.

His wife survived him by a number of years. She lived until at least 1858. The previous year, she had attended the local kinkeri, or religious meeting, in Juuka parish where confirmed Lutherans were required to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the Lutheran faith. In 1858, her name appears on the communion register, but no record of her has been found after that.

 

Genealogy Projects in The Works

My genealogy world seems to speed up in the spring. I have several events ahead that get in the way of doing much research these days:

  1. My husband/tech advisor and I will offer a presentation to our Norwegian study group next month. In a program called The Push and the Pull, we plan to discuss why people left Norway and why they settled where they did in the United States.
  2. We have two great genealogy seminars coming up in the Denver area. David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society will speak to the Colorado Genealogical Society in April. Dr. Fritz Juengling, a German consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, will address the Colorado Chapter of the Palatines to America in May. A new neighbor of mine who is interested in genealogy will attend these seminars with me.
  3. My most ambitious trip this year will be a choir tour through the Reformation sites in Germany and the Czech Republic. My family has been Lutheran since the 1500’s, so I am eager to find my spiritual roots. We will add a few days to the choir tour to visit my husband/tech advisor’s ancestral villages in Germany. In order to get ready for this trip, I am spending much of my free time singing instead of doing genealogy.

Once I have completed the planning for these events, I will get back to my day-to-day research tasks. I cannot believe we are almost through the first quarter of the year, and I am nowhere near finished with all to searching I want to do for this’s year’s project on my elusive German ancestors.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #59 & 60—Henric Lambin & Walb Ruottin

My third great-grandfather Henric Mårtensson Lambin came into the world on December 2, 1806 at Nunnanlax, in the old Swedish county of Savolax and Karelia. Three years later, the Swedes ceded their Finnish lands to Russia, and Finland became a Grand Duchy. Henric lived most of his life as a subject of the Tsar of Russia.

Henric’s parents had him baptized in their local Juuka parish on January 5, 1807. This parish lies on the western shore of beautiful Lake Pielinen, near present-day Koli national park and the highest point in Finland. The land is heavily forested and known for its soapstone deposits.

Henric grew up to be a farmer. When he was twenty years old, he married Walb Johansdottir Ruottin (b. abt. 1808) from the nearby village of Ahmovaara. The wedding took place in Juuka parish on October 14, 1827.

Henric and Walb had two known children, Henric (b. 1832) and my second great-grandfather, Matti (b. 1835). The family originally lived at residence no. 24 in Henric’s home village, Nunnanlax.

By 1837, they had moved on to the village of Kuhnusta. There, Henric soon was stricken with typhoid fever and died at the age of 30 on February 10, 1837. He was buried in the Juuka parish.

Walb remarried the next year on September 1, 1838, again in Juuka parish. Her second husband was Christer Mårtensson Karjalain (ca. 1811-1842). Walb and Christer also had at least two children, Eric (b. 1839) and Christina (b. 1841). When Christina was just a few months old, Walb tragically lost another husband. On June 2, 1842, 31-year-old Christer died of a heart attack.

A few years later, Walb married for the third time. On April 14, 1850, she and Anders Rompanen were married in the Juuka parish. His fate is unknown.

After 1850, Walb’s name appears as Walborg in the church communion book for her son Henric’s household in Kuhnusta. The final listing came in 1860 when she would have been about 52 years old. It is unknown how long she lived after that. Probably she, too, is buried in the Juuka parish. Here is the current church building, built in 1851:

Centenarians in the Family

We have some longevity in our family. My own father will reach the age of ninety this year, and several of his cousins lived into their nineties, too. One claimed she would be the first Reed to live to the age of 100, but she did not make it. Maybe my father will claim that accomplishment.

Some of his more distant relatives have lived even longer than that. I know of two well-documented cases of women in our family who passed the century mark:

  1. Maggie Sherman Hendricks (1872-1976). Maggie was my dad’s first cousin, twice removed, on his father’s side. The daughter of Anderson Sherman and Sarah Jane Prewitt, she was born in Indiana. She died at age 104 and is buried in the Greenlawn Cemetery in Franklin, Indiana. The family story says that Anderson Sherman’s maternal grandmother, who was my dad’s third great-grandmother, lived to be 111 years old. Perhaps Maggie (and my dad!) received some good genes from her.
  2. Lula Mae Riddle Ferris (1893-1999). Lula Mae was a Michigan farm wife and my dad’s first cousin, once removed, on his mother’s side. Her parents were Ethan Henry Riddle and Sophronia McClish. The maternal line for both Ethan Riddle and my dad comes from New England stock which is known for longevity. When Ethan’s daughter Lula Mae passed away at the age of 105, she had come close to living in three different centuries. She is buried in Leonidas Cemetery in St. Joseph County, Michigan.

I wonder whether these people were glad to live that long. My dad does not seem to get much enjoyment out of life any more, and he is still many years younger than these cousins lived to be. With the infirmities of extreme old age, one must give up many of the things one once enjoyed. That is why the adage says we all want to live longer, but we do not want to grow old. I would agree with that.

52 Stories #10—Family Hobbies

Sometimes we become interested in a hobby because we learned it at our parents’ knees. I have a couple of hobbies like that.

Mom’s Hobby—Embroidery

My mother liked to embroider in her spare time. I can recall often seeing her embroidery hoops out with a project underway. She kept a bin of embroidery floss in many colors for use in her newest creation.

Mom used to embellish our bed and kitchen linens with colorful designs sown on pre-stamped items like pillow cases and kitchen towels. She knew how to do the standard stitches like back stitch, chain stitch, cross-stitch, French knots, and satin stitch. She sewed with great precision, but she always tied knots in her threads. I later learned this practice is a no-no in embroidery world.

She taught me to embroider when I was in the fourth grade, and I liked it immediately. I, too, began decorating household items. Later, when my high school graduation time rolled around, I needed a white dress to wear beneath my white graduation gown. Mom made a dress, and I decorated both sleeves with an embroidered design. I still have that dress.

When I got older, I learned about a specialized form of embroidery from Norway called Hardanger. Family members say my mom’s Norwegian grandmother had been proficient at this, but Mom had never learned to do it. The family and cultural connection of this type of embroidery intrigued me, so I took a lesson and then taught myself more about it. Last year I earned a Cultural Skill pin in Hardanger Embroidery from the Sons of Norway.

After my mom died, I found a lot of embroidery supplies and embroidered items among her things. She had learned embroidery from her own Finnish mom, and some of the things I found had belonged to my grandmother. I kept it all. Now I have a large stash of embroidery floss and needles, lots of patterns, and several pieces that both my mom and grandmother completed.

Dad’s Hobby—Genealogy

My Dad always showed an interest in his family history. When I received a blank family tree chart as a teenager, he helped me fill it out to the best of his knowledge. Right away, I was hooked.

Dad put me in contact with other members of his family who pursued genealogy and knew about our family history. I learned that his family goes back to colonial times in America.

When I reached adulthood, I began to take genealogy classes. I completed the National Genealogical Society course in American Genealogy in 2004.

Over the years, I have worked hard to build my family tree. Dad took a continued interest in my findings and encouraged me to keep digging at our roots.

Today, I have notebooks and file cabinets full of family information. I maintain an online family tree. I have prepared numerous written character sketches for my ancestors several generations back. I love genealogy more now than I did when my dad first introduced me to the hobby.

These hobbies, one from my mom and one from my dad, have given me so much enjoyment over the years. I enjoy pursuing both, and both give me sense of connection to previous generations. They truly qualify as family hobbies.

Katherine, Still MIA

Despite several hours’ work, I have made no real progress in my search for my elusive German ancestor, Katherine Stillenbaugh/Staninbaugh. I have been unable to find any evidence supporting the hypothesis that she belonged to the Stilgenbauer/Stillabower clan that lived south of Indianapolis, IN in the 1860’s:

  • Using census records and county histories, I constructed family trees for the three immigrant patriarchs who lived in that area: Jacob (1796-1865), Adam (1801-1863), and Johan Michael (1804-1881). Although I found several daughters and granddaughters, some named Catherine, none of these girls seem to fit the profile of my ancestor. Either they were born in the U.S. instead of Germany, died in childhood, or married someone other than my Thomas Sherman.
  • I combed through the online databases for the Allen County Public Library, the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Archives, and the Indiana State Library. I found almost no mention of either the Sherman family or the Stilgenbauer/Stillabower family.
  • I reviewed the Family Search catalog for Johnson County, Indiana (where the Shermans lived and Katherine’s daughter was born in 1865) to determine whether they hold any records I might find helpful. The Johnson County courthouse burned in 1874, so many records were lost. They do not have much that I have not already analyzed.

Where do I go from here? I have a few steps in mind:

  • Family Search does have a microfiche copy of an 1866 land ownership map for Johnson County. I could order that to help re-create the Sherman’s neighborhood at that time. People came and went between census years, and the map might hold additional names to search.
  • One of Thomas Sherman’s sisters married Stephen Dyke, and this family remained in Johnson County after most of the other Shermans had moved on to Illinois and Missouri. I have done little research on the Dykes. Perhaps the records of these relatives hold a clue to my Thomas and his first wife.
  • The Stilgenbauer/Stillabower families lived primarily in Brown and Bartholomew Counties, both adjacent to Johnson County. I can do more research in the records of those counties.
  • I have not yet looked at land and probate records. I have not found an online source, and perhaps these records were destroyed in courthouse fires. I need to investigate this research avenue.
  • DNA testing could provide a connection to the Stilgebauer/Stillabower line. I need to review our matches for this possibility.

In the meantime, Katherine remains a brick wall ancestor.

 

 

52 Stories #9—Childhood Hobbies and Pastimes

What does a girl do while growing up in the oilpatch in the 50’s and 60’s? During my childhood we lived in small towns in Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming as my dad pursued a career on the road as a petroleum landman. Because he was gone a lot and my mother did not know how to drive, we entertained ourselves mostly at home. I found several ways to do that:

  1. I loved dolls. I named my earliest one Carol, and I played with her a lot. When she was not enough and I wanted an additional doll, I requested a bride doll for Christmas. Naughty me—I opened the suspected gift ahead of time when my mother was not looking. Of course, I found out it was the perfect doll, but then I had to re-wrap it and act surprised when Christmas Eve rolled around. When I was a little older during my elementary school years, I often played Barbies with the neighbor girls. About the same time, my grandmother gave me a set of dolls representing the countries of the world, and I had many hours of fun with them, too. Troll dolls became popular when I was about 10, and I acquired a collection of those as well. I liked making and decorating houses for them out of cardboard boxes.
  2. During the second grade, I discovered a love of reading. I had received a “D” in deportment at school that year because I talked too much and disturbed the other children. My Dad decided the cure for me was to carry a fat book to school every day and pull it out whenever I had nothing to do. That year I began reading the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and animal stories by Thornton W. Burgess. Dad took me to the library every weekend to replenish my supply of reading material, a habit I still follow.
  3. My mom took time to teach me the needle arts beginning when I as nine or so. I disliked making clothes, knitting, and crochet. Embroidery did appeal to me, and I finished a set of pillowcases for my first project. Over the years I have decorated many pieces of linen and clothing. I have sacks full of patterns, fabric, and embroidery floss.
  4. I learned to appreciate music as a small child. My brother and I shared a record player and a stack of records. In second grade I started piano lessons, and then I began choral singing a year later when we moved to Wyoming. We belonged to a church within walking distance of our house, and I joined the after-school children’s choir. On and off over the years I have continued to sing in a church choir, and my current one will tour in Germany later this year. I have also been called upon to play the piano sometimes for different groups, and currently I serve as the Musician for my local Sons of Norway lodge.

Looking back now, I am surprised at how sedentary my early life was despite living in an area known for outdoor recreation. My parents just had no interest in the outdoors beyond taking care of their own yard. They never took us for open-air activities such as camping, hiking, or skiing although they saw to it that we acquired life skills like riding a bike and swimming. Beyond that, we did not participate in any sports or attend sporting events.

Nowadays, I still pursue my early interests of reading, embroidery and music. None provided me with a way to make a living, but each has enriched my life. I am glad I have had the opportunity to learn and enjoy these hobbies.