Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lida's Life

So many people have asked me what happened to young Lida Harding. It seems appropriate to tell it in pictures.

Lida married William Henry Downing, a neighbor. Their fathers served together in the 106th out of Logan County, Illinois. His father died at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He never knew his father. According to William Henry's obit, they went to Springfield to marry. No marriage record exists in any county in Illinois. Did the minister fail to return the marriage documents or was it lost? We will never know.

They moved to a house on William's land northwest of Mt. Pulaski. William built a new house on the land and about 1900 the family, William Henry, Lida and their four sons: Clarence, Ellis, Ennis and Floyd moved in. Clarence and Ellis got typhoid in the epidemic of 1903. William helped nurse his sons and caught the disease. Clarence and Ellis survived by William did not. He died, ironically, of the same disease that killed his father at Pine Bluff. Lida was left alone with four sons. The picture above does not include Floyd who was 7 when his father died.

On January 19, 1910, in a double wedding, Clarence married Lena Drake and Ellis married Ethel Ryan. The brides were friends. Ellis met Ethel on her 16th birthday at a dance at the Mt. Pulaski Christian Church. The adult Downing boys, who came from a line of Methodist ministers, had left the Methodist Church because they liked to dance and play cards. The Methodists frowned on both at that time.

Ellis and Ethel moved into the house and Ellis took over farming the land. Clarence and Ennis went into business. Eventually Floyd joined the US Postal Service.

In 1915 Lida married John Rupp. She was 46. He was 37. [You go girl!] Both had lost their spouses. He had a daughter. She had four sons. They had a prenup!

Lida wrote: Our honeymoon was spent on the Rupp farm out in the vicinity of Latham where we lived 6 yrs. then we moved to the Rupp Home near Mt. Pulaski where we lived 5 years. When Johns father died and as he had willed this farm to his wife her lifetime we then had a sale & moved to Mt. Pulaski living here almost ten years when John Passed on to the other world, Apr 18th 1935 with mystery surrounding his going.

Clarence and Lena had one son Darwin. The marriage did not endure. Ellis and Ethel had three sons and two daughters. They were married 65 years. Ennis and his wife Reta had one son Julian who died before his parents. They were married 59 years. Floyd and his wife Lena had one son Richard. Floyd died at 54 and Lena lived to 102.

Lida continued to live in town after John's death. She spent her time with her children and grandchildren. As she had done throughout her life, she failed to follow all the rules. She died on St. Patrick's Day, 1942.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Solving the Mystery

Genealogy is often a mystery. Everyone loves a good mystery, right? In genealogy we want to solve all the mysteries and end up with all the facts. But until we do we need to search out the facts like any good detective.

The tools of a genealogy detective are very much like those of a good reporter. We want to know all the facts. We want to know the source of all the facts so we can evaluate their validity. "Anonymous sources" and those "highly placed sources" aren't good in genealogy. A good genealogist deals in documented facts.

Let's take the picture below. Who is it? It is Eliza Sciota Harding, known to her friends as Lida. Hopefully it says that on the back of the picture but most likely it doesn't. The picture's owner knew who it was and likely didn't see the need to write it on the picture. The owner never dreamed we'd be studying it 130 years later. We know it is Lida because we compared it to other pictures of Lida and recognized her, not to mention there were living folks who had known her when we first found the picture. In this case it was easy.

What is it? It's a picture. Did you think this was a trick question? That was the easy one.

When was it taken? This is harder. It can important in identifying who is in the picture. There are books which tell you what to look for in terms of backgrounds, poses, clothing, etc. If you have a lot of pictures to identify invest in a good book or two.

Lida isn't terribly old in this picture. How old do you think she is? Can you see that "I don't want to do this" look on her face? That, her childish body and her shorter skirt are indications of her age. Let's say she is 10. Since we know she was born in June 1869, if she is in fact 10 in the picture, this could have been taken between June 1879 and June 1880. It was probably taken in the winter because farmers didn't take time out for such things in the summer when every hour was devoted to work. We know her father was a farmer.

Where was it taken? Perhaps the name and town of the photographer is on the picture or the picture enclosure. In this case she was born, lived and died in a six mile area of the same county so we can be pretty sure it was taken in Logan County, Illinois.

Why isn't a critical question in this case. We have other pictures which would indicate all of the family members, Lida, her sister, her three brothers and her mother had their pictures taken at what appears to be the same time, same studio, same backgrounds. What about her father? If his picture was taken it did not survive. If there was a family portrait made it did not survive. The father, Benjamin Harding, appears in later family portraits so he wasn't against having his picture made. Probably his picture was taken when this one was but for some reason did not survive.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The First Settlers

Your ancestors were the first settlers of the country? They came over on the Mayflower? This will come as a surprise to many but the Pilgrims were not the first European settlers in America. They weren't even the first English settlers. This fact is often overlooked in the scramble to form history around Thanksgiving.

Just over 100 Pilgrims arrived in 1620 in Massachusetts followed six years later by the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam, now New York.

But in 1607 a group of English colonists - 104 people sailed from England - arrived in Virginia and established the first permanent English settlement in America. How could you forget Captain John Smith and Pocahontas?

In 1565 the Spanish established a colony at St. Augustine in Florida. St. Augustine is the oldest continually occupied European settlement in America thanks to about 100 settlers and even more soldiers who came ashore that September.

The oldest [and largest] European settlement in what is the continental U.S. was made on August 15, 1559, when Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano and over 1,400 people settled on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico. They called it Pensacola. Just a month later a hurricane struck the colony. Many were killed. Half the ships sank and supplies were ruined. The survivors stayed on but the natives weren't friendly and famine set it so they left in in 1561. Presumably no settlers stayed behind in Pensacola and left descendants. The Spanish did not return and reestablish the colony until 1696.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Slides Update

The slide/negative scanner came with Photo Impressions 6. I was not pleased with what I was seeing. On the advice of several people I purchased Photoshop Elements 6. I read several reviews which said the new version wasn't a prize and also the old version was cheaper. I only wanted basic so that worked for me. The difference is incredible. Just using the basic "quick fix" option the results are so much better.

Real life has gotten in the way of my genealogy. I spent the time I had reminiscing over the slides I had scanned. It was worth it. As a result I've probably gone through 100 slides, haven't even tried the negatives with Photoshop Elements.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Viewing the Slides and Negatives

I had a wonderful day, out and about in the perfect weather. I picked up the slide and negative viewer, came home and installed it. Then I spent a couple enjoyable hours looking at slides. Ah the memories!

I've only made a dent. I estimated I had 300 but 500 appears to be more likely. So far I've found some slides which I believe my college roommates would pay to have destroyed. :)

I'd say the device works pretty well. The slides are old and definitely have deteriorated to some extent. But I can view them and determine if I want to save the picture or toss with ease. It comes with photo editing software called Photo Impression, version 6. I am not a photo editing expert, looks decent.

Negatives are a different story. Pre 35mm negatives come in an assortment of sizes. The plastic negative holder is designed for 35mm negatives both in size and spacing. This can probably be overcome with some dedication. The bigger problem is while I can see the negative on my screen the software often gives error messages trying to copy the negative. I don't know enough about the software to determine why but I will see if I have the same problem with another software.

Instructions are minuscule but the device is fairly mechanical -- you put the slides or negatives into the appropriate holder and manually push it through. I can hear a little click when it is centered over a slide. Presumably that is true for the negatives too although I haven't gotten to any negatives that are really the "right" size so I haven't used that notification. You have to give it a minute to provide a digital image on your computer screen. You can push a button on the device to save the image. After that it is all up to the software -- this is where it says it can't get the image on many of the negatives I've tried so far.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Slide and Negative Converter

Turns out if you ask enough people one of them will be the right one with the right answer.

Slide and Negative Converter

Take all those old 35mm slides and film negatives out of storage and share them with family and friends. This film scanner makes it easy. Simply load negatives or slides into this compact scanner to transfer to digital files. Once scanned, share them and save them. Scans images at 5.0 mega pixel quality. Auto color balance and exposure. Films color, monochrome film and mounted slides. Built-in back light. 2.0 USB interface. Outputs to JPG or TIF formats. Compatible with Windows Vista and Windows XP. (Converter is not compatible with MacIntosh computers.) Model #FS-C1-VP.

The irony here is I saw this item less than a week ago, laughed and said, but who has slides and negatives anymore.

Tomorrow I will be having another look at this product. Stay tuned!

Negatives, Slides - Now What?

This morning, in a box I probably haven't opened in more than 20 years and at least 6 moves, under a collection of my published newsletter articles from long ago, I found envelopes full of negatives and a box full of slides. I thought I was done with pictures except for the two boxes sitting at my feet in preparation for Scanfest October 26.

1. How do I look at these things to determine if I want to mess with them? They could date back to about 1960 so I must look.
2. How do I scan those I want to keep? Would it be easier to scan first and then decide -- would they be more viewable, better able to manipulate size, etc. if I scan first and ask questions later?
3. Are there web sites, books, etc. I should be looking at? I have Maureen Taylor's book as well as a couple others but they are geared to identifying rather than scanning.
4. Who would know about this?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tag - You're It!

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings started a game of tag. I was tagged by Libbi Crowe.

10 Years Ago I

# was involved with ILGenWeb
# was living in Tennessee
# foolish believed they got all of Michael's cancer
# was plotting a move to the Emerald Coast
# had just gotten my Caravan -- which I still have

5 Things on Today's To-DO List

# get the HBTS newsletter done
# finish several pleadings
# find out about a couple genealogy programs
# think about how I am going to fix my LAN
# answer some genealogy email

5 Snacks I Enjoy

# fruit
# Chex Mix - but I avoid it
# cheese
# most anything that goes crunch
# fresh brewed unsweet iced tea

5 Places I Have Lived

# Mt. Pulaski, Illinois
# Chicago, Illinois
# Oak Park, Illinois
# Birchwood, Tennessee
# Navarre, Florida

5 Jobs I Have Had

# Editor
# Reporter
# Paralegal
# Freelance Writer
# Caseworker

5 Blogs I Tag to Play

# Tina Sansone of BellaOnline
# everyone I know has been tagged!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Genealogy Photo Album

One of the things you can do on Facebook is upload photos and, frankly, it is a lot easier than creating a web page. Now you can share the photo albums with people who aren't on Facebook.

You can find my first venture into a shared genealogy photo album at:

I'm learning as I go. I just realized there is a continuity with the pictures I picked at random. They are all related.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Facebook Genea-Bloggers

A month or so ago, at the request of a friend, I did something I never thought I'd do -- joined Facebook. A lot of genealogists seem to think it is something we will find useful. I find it a bit confusing. Is there a manual???

I see a lot of people I know. There are various things that might be useful to genealogists, groups to participate in, etc. It's yet another learning experience.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Done Digitalizing the Paper

It's been awhile but at this point all of my paper is scanned in and pretty much organized. It's also backed up. It's a great feeling. That doesn't mean I have entered all the information in my genealogy program or done everything I want to do with the materials but I have eliminated the possibility of losing it to, say, a hurricane.

I still have a couple boxes of pictures. For some reason I dread scanning them. Of course, I will not be tossing them after they are scanned either.

The multi-function Brother printer/scanner/fax/copier is attached to my router and available to all computers on my network. Sounds great, right? The reality is you really need to be sitting by the scanner when you are scanning.

I'm experimenting with software which allows me to write a caption on the photos so down the road people won't say "who the heck is this?" as I have said many, many times.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cemetery Walking

It will be summer again [safe to say from Florida]. Are you planning a trip to a cemetery or two? Are they old cemeteries out in the middle of nowhere? Here are some things you need to consider.

Know how to get there. In some counties you really can pick out a cemetery from several miles away [it is the only spot with trees] but that is not true everywhere. Don't waste your valuable time searching for the cemetery. If possible plot it out on road or plat map before going – and don't forget the map. In some areas the Google Earth maps are useful. Microsoft also has online maps. You can search GNIS, the government's geographic names database at: for location and then plot it on a map with a couple clicks.

If there is a map of the cemetery or an online listing of any sort that gives you clues on how to locate the particular stone print it out and take it along. USGenWeb sites often have cemetery listings. Make a note of the people buried around your ancestor so if for some reason their stone is unreadable you'll know you are in the right place and can go from there.

Wear a hat and take plenty of water. The only drinking available is highly likely to be what you brought with you. Dehydration is dangerous in summer cemetery treking. Someone suggested if you drink too much water you'll need the facilities and the cemeteries have no facilities. I'll leave it to you to figure out how to deal with that situation in the middle of nowhere. If you plan to be at the cemetery awhile you should take some snacks or even pack a lunch along with the water. In olden days people often picnicked in cemeteries. You can too.

Don't go alone if you can avoid it. Take your cell phone. You could have trouble with your vehicle and be in the middle of nowhere. [This is the voice of experience long before cell phones. It was a long walk.] You could fall and hurt yourself or even break something. The ground will not be smooth and level. Stones have been known to topple. Some places, particularly where cemeteries are not mowed regularly, have critters [they dug those ankle wretching holes] or stinging bugs. Be safe. Take a friend and a cell phone. I always have a first aid kit in the car.

Take your camera with a large memory card but don't forget pen and paper or a recording device. If you record on tape or digitally be sure to spell everything out even if it is spelled wrong. If it is small cemetery do yourself and fellow researchers a favor and photograph each stone. You are there. It is an act of genealogical kindness. Otherwise draw a map of the stone location area so the next person can find the stone.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where Did I Put That? - Getting Organized

Going Digital 5

Just because the paper is now digital does not mean you don't need a system of organization that you can use to file and retrieve the documents. For most this is the hard part. Fortunately it is easier to search and move digital files than boxes or shelves of books, magazines, saved articles, etc.

Remember the lady with the file cabinets? That's a pretty common method for filing. Each file cabinet becomes a folder. But, with digital documents, you can easily have a subfolder for each and every surname in that line. You can file great aunt Milly under her maiden name, as you should, and slip a copy under her third husband's name if you know that's where you'll look for it because you cannot recall her maiden name. You can file a copy of Joe and Mary's marriage certificate under Joe's surname and another under Mary's maiden name if that will help you locate it later. You can have many copies of the same file without worrying about taking up space.

I have a folder for forms, another for those digital books, one for each course I have taken, another for articles to read. A copy of the article may be wherever it seemed appropriate too -- research in Greene County, Ohio, is probably also filed under a couple surnames and, maybe, in a Greene County folder too. You can get as complex as you want, folders with subfolders in subfolders, or keep it simple. You can have the surname folder, then a subfolder for pictures, one for census, one for vital records, etc. You can just put all the files in the surname folder. You can do some variation. Digital makes it easy. And if you start simple and later decide to go complex it is easy to just move the files to new folders.

I do not mean to suggest I am totally bookless or paperless. I recently had new carpet installed and, weed and scan as I might, I still have a whole bookcase for genealogy. But it is only 100" of books, a significant reduction. And I am down from eight file drawers to less than three.