Saturday, February 16, 2008

Asking those important genealogy questions

We are spending a little more time on this "questioning our relatives"- since the beginning of time man has been aware of his family - before things were written down each family had a story teller who wove into there tales family history-in fact this was practiced by the American Indians for centuries. I think in a way we are still doing it. My mothers father Berlin Olyer was the story teller in that family and wove me into the position-
Today we start with a motor trip in about 1935 I was about 9 years old, my grandmother was under a lot of stress having been the full time caretaker for my grandfather Edwin Lord, confined in bed with T.B so my dad loaded her, my mom and me into the car-we went to the "Old folks home" in Amsterdam,N.Y. on the way we bought a little bag of Hersheys Kisses, when we arrived my parents went in and brought out this very old lady-its strange how at such a young age I can still remember how frail she was, her fingers were stiff, and strange looking, opening the little candy kiss was a effort. Dad drove us around the area and we went to Fort Hunter. [later I discovered this is were the family had lived] Dad took her back to the "home" and that was the last time I ever saw her.
I was told she was "Aunt Hellen"[she was born 1839 and died 5 Jan 1936] no wonder she look old and frail to me.
We now jump ahead to the 1950's I was on hunting trip with my dad and I asked him about his grandfather who was he-? were did he live-? what was he like-? [by now I had a blank spot on my pedigree chart and wanted to fill it in] All he knew was they called him "Barny" he died in New Jersey he remembered that Barny sold used cars and how he would put saw dust in the rear end of the cars to quiet down the growl [not much of a integrity recommend] When we got home I asked my mom and she produced a photo of "Barny".
A couple of years go by I have searched for "Barny" Bryon and every thing that "Barny" could have been Nothing then I was looking at the Criminal Dockets in Montgomery County Court house and there was a Helen Johnson [WoW aunt Helen] she was being sued --she had signed a note in payment for "3 bushel of oysters" for a Byington Lord {Barny} seems he bought the oysters and they had sand in them and he refused to pay they sued him and to keep him out of jail Helen Johnson his sister in law signed the note.
It took about 30 years to put this memory of "Aunt Helen" and "Barny" together but without this I probably would not have ever known his real name-so again any clues you get no matter how simple they seem write them down.
Now to keep on track the Census records are the best thing we have to locate anyone. the federal government took these every ten years beginning in 1790 and they are available up to 1930 every ten years they take a new one and release a new one. the ones from 1790 to 1840 only give the head of household and innumerate the family by age brackets and this is different in each period.
The 1850 list everyone in the family giving the age and relation to head of household-a index has been printed for some of the states, and it can be found on a number of commercial sites. Ancestry.com has them all [a paid site] also Heritage Quest in most areas the public library has access to Heritage Quest which if a member of the library you can access free of charge.
From 1850 up until the 1930 census is much better every person is listed and in each census additional information is asked for the 1880 census has been indexed by the Morman church on there web site, I told you about this Familysearch.org. [were you can get the free genealogy program] just enter your ancestor's name and if they are in the 1880 census it will pop up in a list were you can click on the name and the entire family will be shown.
Copies of all these census are in the County Clerks office [not always]
Now in addition to the Federal Census most of the states took a census in the years between the federal ones 1845 [first one to list each member of family] then on up to present time. These are in the County Clerk office they are open and you can go there and see your ancestor's name, family and neighbors. so you have a way to follow your ancestor and know were he is every 5 years-you will also know what his occupation was and when it changed. the value of his personal wealth and home, how many years they were married, how many children the females had and how many were alive, in 1880 they ask were his parents came from etc. there is so much information we better devote a page to this. For now your job is to interview everyone we have to have to get back to 1930 in order to take advantage of these census.
family pedigree chart and wanted to fill this in]

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