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Emptying the Reed Bin

Each year I select one family line for my research. When I run across material for other lines, I toss it into a stackable bin to be addressed later.

In the years since I last researched my Reed ancestors, their bin had started to overflow. I was eager to see what treasures were stored in there when I resumed the Reed research this year.

I began by sorting items by generation. Not only did I take papers from my own Reed bin, but I also pulled Reed research files compiled by a cousin. I found documents ranging for several generations back from my father:

  1. Earl Reed (1927-2017)
  2. Owen Herbert Reed (1896-1935)
  3. Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928)
  4. Joseph Caleb Reed (1818-1903)
  5. Thomas Reed (1783-1852)
  6. Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1835)
  7. Thomas Reed (dates unknown)

Throughout January, I analyzed and filed the documents from my father’s and grandfather’s generations. I tossed duplicates from my cousin’s files.

As for the rest, I found several treasures including information about a cousin’s time at the Merchant Marine Academy and an uncle’s cattle brand used while he homesteaded in Wyoming.

My bin of papers included numerous research notes for my great-grandfather Samuel Harvey Reed. He lived in several states, and much more investigation into his activities could be done. But he is not my research subject this year, so I will move on from him for now.

This month I will turn to his father’s papers to see what I can file, what can be tossed, and what needs to wait until a later time.

Once I accomplish this, I can begin the research on my intended topic for this year, Thomas Reed (1783-1852). He was born in Fayette County, PA. The family relocated to Spencer County, KY where he raised his family. When land further north opened for settlement in the 1820’s, Thomas did not follow the rest of his family to Indiana. Instead, he moved with his wife and children to Coles County, Illinois.

That is where I will pick up the research on him and his life.


Genealogy societies operate thanks to the efforts of countless volunteers.

At this time of year, nominating committees convene to recruit people to fill vacant positions for the coming year. All are finding it increasingly difficult to find anyone willing to step into these jobs.

Among the local clubs I belong to, each one faces this problem:

  1. Colorado Genealogical Society. At a recent meeting, the chairman of their Nominating Committee gave an impassioned plea for volunteers. He told of three societies in Colorado that considered dissolving last year for lack of help. The club seeks a Vice President/Program Chairman and members for the 100th anniversary committee.
  2. Colorado Chapter of the Palatines to America. This German research group needs a President. Without a volunteer, it may fold.
  3. W.I.S.E. The group specializing in British Isles research (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England) threatened to close down until someone stepped forward into the Vice President role. Someone just came forward to allow the society to continue for the next term.

All these groups offer so much support to Colorado genealogists. Serving on the Boards offers the opportunity to do something meaningful for the genealogy community and to make new friends. Service keeps the clubs going for the benefit of everyone interested in family history.

Volunteer today!

Emptying a Cousin’s File Cabinet

An old filing cabinet in my office has four drawers. They are crammed full of folders. They contain the lifetime genealogical research of my dad’s first cousin who began the work when she was 18 and died at ninety-three. Seventy-five years of loving, careful investigation and documentation. I face the job of reviewing it all and disposing of these papers in some way.

Our common ancestry is our Reed line, and much of the material in the cabinet pertains to that lineage. This cousin often sent me copies of her work, and I suspect I have duplicates of many of her documents in my own files.

Merging our work has seemed a monumental task, and I have put it off for a very long time. The cabinet continues to sit there, challenging me to do something with it.

As I have resolved to continue the Reed research this year, I decided to begin at last by pulling the Reed files from her cabinet for review.

The first folder included everything she had collected on her brother, Leslie H. Reed (1924-2008). It included so many treasures—his original birth and death certificates, newspaper clippings of accomplishments such a graduating from the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy, and his marriage record from Italy.

This week I verified that all this information has been entered into my own database. I made copies for my own records of any document I did not already have.

Now, the question arises of what to do with the originals. Should I return them to Leslie’s children who have no interest in genealogy? Should I add them to my archival box of Reed original documents?

I am still pondering this question.

In the meantime, the filing cabinet contains one fewer file folder.

A Different Sort of Genealogy Project

New year, new project.

Last year I finished the research on the last of my second great-grandparents. This year I will begin working on third great-grandparents. I have 16 sets to choose from.

Since my maiden name is Reed, I will begin with those ancestors. I hope to learn more about Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869) this year.

Since the last time I visited this bunch, I have collected a lot of Reed material. I tossed it all in a stackable bin to wait until I am ready to analyze it. The paper pile reached several inches high. In addition to all this, one of my Reed cousins left her research to me. I have Reed file folders and notebooks from her to review, too.

Much of her material duplicates what I already have. I can discard those pages.

The rest I am sorting into generational piles. Working backwards, I will enter the information into my database until I reach Thomas and Ann. Then I can begin with new research.

This year’s project will not only give me a chance to learn more about earlier Reeds, but it will also purge a lot of paper from my office. A happy new year, indeed.

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to all for a prosperous and fulfilling year in 2023! Here’s hoping we all break down a brick wall or two.

The Genealogy Stacks Disappear

The stacks of work-in-progress and other paperwork to be filed have disappeared from the table in my office. It did not happen by magic. I spent December, as I do every year, cleaning it all up.

It takes some time. I scrutinize each page, discard some, and file the rest in neat folders. I made new ones for all the Lawless and Ryan ancestors I discovered this year.

This tidying leaves clean work surfaces available for me to mess up again in 2023. I have 8 inches or so of documents for my Reed line waiting for attention. My father’s cousin left behind notebooks full of Reed information, too.

The first step in the Reed project will be to review these documents and add the information to my database. When I have accomplished this, I will begin some fresh research on this line, starting with my third great-grandparents, Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869).

They were original settlers in Coles County, Illinois in 1829. They will be my focus next year.

This will be my first attempt to do a research project on ancestors born in the 18th century. This couple grew up during the early Federal period. Records I am accustomed to searching did not exist at that time, and I will need to practice some new research techniques. It promises to be an interesting challenge.

The office is ready and waiting for me to begin in January.

Yule 2023

As the winter solstice approaches on December 21, my husband/tech advisor and I are getting ready. We like to observe it every year.

We share Scandinavian heritage, and we enjoy imagining the old days when our ancestors must have celebrated the holiday in a big way. The pagans called it Yule. It was the go-to festival for the Vikings and the Germanic tribes.

They marked this shortest day of the year with animal sacrifices, toasts to the gods, Yule log fires, and lots of feasting. They decorated with evergreen wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.

At our house we recreate the holiday, but we tone it down a bit.

Our meal will be a delicious cod and bacon stew (a nod to my cod-fishing ancestors) washed down with mead. We will display a Yule log to bring good luck and keep away evil spirits. We may wear our Norwegian sweaters.

When the evening ends and we have had our fill, we can look forward to the return of the sun and the lengthening of days.




Support for Wreaths Across America

This year my husband/tech advisor and I donated to Wreaths Across America, an organization that conducts Christmas wreath-laying ceremonies to honor veterans at more than 3400 locations across the United States, at sea, and abroad. Through my DAR chapter, we sponsored several wreaths for the graves of our American heroes at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado.

Several of my family members are buried there:

  1. Robert (1916-1976) and Alta (1921-2015) Kaessinger. He served in the US Navy as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate in World War II and Korea.
  2. Robert Lloyd Reed (1924-1986). Staff Sergeant Reed served in the Air Force during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
  3. William Richard Thomas (1927-1988). Staff Sergeant Thomas served in the Army in Vietnam.

Wreaths Across America will be at Fort Logan at 10:00 a.m. on December 17 to remember the fallen. Volunteers will lay the wreaths and say the name of each veteran aloud.

Turning the Page on the Ryans

A year and a half ago, DNA testing identified my great-grandfather’s Ryan family. I have worked since then to fill in his branch of my family tree.

This new-found great-grandfather was last year’s subject for the annual biographical sketch I circulate at Christmas time.

I continued my research on the family in 2022. This year I have written about the previous generation, my great-great grandparents Daniel Ryan (1829-1863) and Jane Lawless (1826-1853).

This research required me to learn about Irish history and record-keeping. I attended several seminars and webinars on Irish research.

The Lawless family proved simple to track. They immigrated together. The ship passenger list gave me the names of the entire family. That allowed me to locate them in County Louth, Ireland.

The Ryans presented a more difficult research task, and I still have not found a family for Daniel Ryan. DNA matches point to an origin in Tipperary or Limerick.

As I approach the end of 2022, I am writing what I know about Daniel and Jane. The research on them is far from complete, but now my time with them is ending.

With this couple, I have completed biographical sketches of all my 2nd great-grandparents. Next year I can move back to an earlier generation with a set of 3rd great-grandparents.

I am tired of wrestling with the Irish. I have a bin of unprocessed material for my Reed line, so I will leave the Ryans behind and tackle the Reeds next.

This will be my first time with the Reeds, my direct paternal line. Cousins have done the heavy lifting on researching them back to the early 1800’s. I am curious to see what I can find about them in before 1800, where my cousins hit a brick wall.

Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869), I am eager to meet you.

Church Records Hold the Keys

Most of our ancestors had church affiliations. The records of these religious bodies can give us family information that we cannot find anywhere else.

This weekend our Colorado Genealogical Society will offer a program entitled Faith of Our Fathers by Sylvia Tracy-Doolos to help us locate these records. I will tune in to see what new information I can learn about this type of research.

I have used church records in the past, when I can find them. They have provided me with information on several branches of my ancestors:

  1. The Lutheran Church was the state church of Norway, and all residents had contact with it in some way or another, even if they were dissenters (Catholics, Quakers, etc.). Norway has put their religious records online, free of charge, at Using this site, we have traced our Norwegian families back until church records began in Norway, shortly after the Reformation.
  2. As in Norway, the Lutheran Church was the state church of Finland. Family Search has digitized many of the Finnish church records. They were kept in two languages, Finnish and Swedish, because Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the 12th century until the Napoleonic Wars. I have struggled to decipher these records and was grateful to find a Finnish relative who had already done much of the work.
  3. Since I learned last year that I have an Irish Catholic great-grandfather, I have sought Catholic records for him and his family. I have had mixed results with access. In the United States, the Diocese of Springfield allowed Family Search to film their records, and they are easy to use. The nearby Diocese of Peoria restricts access and will not even do lookups—a disappointing dead end. My husband/tech advisor needed information on his German Catholic family from the Diocese of St. Louis, but for many years they would provide only a transcription. When we finally got our hands on the original record, we learned they had erred in the transcription, sending us on a fruitless search for a non-existent person.
  4. Ancestors in my other lines belonged variously to the Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist denominations. I learned this about them because they were buried in church cemeteries. With one exception, I have not found any other church records for these ancestors. The one Methodist record I located was a digitized record of my second great-grandfather Thomas Sherman’s marriage to Mary Scott in Edgar County, Illinois in the 1870s.

For those with German ancestors, one valuable source is Roger P. Minert’s German Immigrants in American Church Records series. I checked the volume for Indiana looking for the first marriage of Thomas Sherman, mentioned above. Family lore tells us he married a Stilgenbauer near Indianapolis during the Civil War, but I found no record of this marriage in either Minert’s book or the civil register.

The records for Protestant denominations can be tricky to locate, if they exist at all. They did not have central repositories. I wonder if Sylvia Tracy-Doolos will have any new insights to share on this type of research.