Family History Journal
So how did all this get started? Where is it going? Where am I now? Is it even possible to document the myriad tangents I've been on? Let's see...
I'm breaking a cardinal rule of research in setting my incomplete Pennsylvania Dutch research aside for at little while. I was purusing regional records on familysearch.org one evening in March and stumbled across the parish records for Giumaglio, Switzerland, the ancestral home of unknown generations of Cerinis before they emigrated to California and elsewhere. First up are baptism records from 1668 to 1981.
In the fall of 2011 I got back to work and burned some leave by spending Mondays at the Family History Center. I finally made it to the greater Bedford County area of Pennsylvania. I've run through the 1776-1788 tax assessments which cover the time that our Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors (Miller/Ulrich/Maugans/Greib/Cripe) moved back up into Pennsylvania from Maryland (~1784) up until the first U.S. census of 1790. That information took me to deed records and kept me busy through the winter and spring and finally in July I completed the data collection phase of Bedford County deeds from the 1780s through to about 1815. Now comes the arduous but fascinating processing of all of it--making sure I match the right deed to the right person, squeeze out all the information, and even locate some of the tracts our elders owned and farmed. So far it's nowhere near as easy as it was in Ohio where everything was laid out on a grid pattern. Much work ahead of me.
In the middle of it all, I took a day trip last fall up to Morrison's Cove in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in October. The stated purpose was to take Chong-ok to see the fall foliage--about 25% at the time--but we stumbled across the Martinsburg Library (yes, it truly was not planned). The library proudly owns 230+ volumes of Liebegott's genealogies of pretty much everybody who ever lived in Morrison's Cove. Score! But I kept it short to about 45 minutes and we resumed our scenic tour. The following week I returned and brought home photos of 101 select pages.
Having spent this much time at the Family History Center, I wound up becoming a volunteer in March and started a rotation of two or three Tuesday nights each month.
Recent Research Resources
- Early Settlers of Morrison's Cove, Bedford-Blair Counties, PA by George H. Liebegott
- Tax Assessment books of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, 1776-1788
- Deed books of Montgomery County, Ohio, 1804-1815
- Tax lists of Montgomery County, Ohio, 1798-1814
- Deed excerpts from Early Settlers of Montgomery County, Ohio by Shirley Keller Mikesell, Heritage Books, Inc., 1991, Bowie, Maryland
- Deed books of Warren and Clermont counties, Ohio, 1800-1838
- Tax lists of Warren and Clermont counties, Ohio, 1816-1826
Database count: 14,623 relatives!
Processing of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, deed records.
Still much more work to be done on the Grahl family of Wayne County, Michigan. Sorry for leaving my research partners hanging for a while.
From the Beginning
My interest in genealogy was initially sparked in 1977 with the airing of the Alex Haley's Roots mini-series. While watching one of the episodes at Grandma's house, she pulled out a simple tree of the Miller-Fisher-Williams family and Cousin Ila's book, Memories of Coulterville (1954). I revisted those a few times over the following years but then in May 1983 cousin Buddy Beaman unexpectedly died and a large family reunion gathered for the funeral. I was only two months out from departing for the Air Force, so as the gathering wound down I sat down with Grandma and began sketching out the framework of our genealogy -- most of it from off the top of Grandma's head! First we attempted to scrawl out a tree on a long scroll of butcher paper but that soon gave way to a more manageable binder of organized family history sheets.
1983-1988: Air Force
In the fall of 1983 I took a trip out to vist my grandfather's cousin, Ila Goss-Barrett, in Coulterville. This, on retrospect, was not only my first genealogy roadtrip, but my first solo family visit as a 19-year old. I had a great weekend visit with Ila and took copious notes that still form the basis for the Goss, Goodwin, McNeil pages.
There rest of the 1980s was relatively idle as my first enlistment and extended tour in Korea took me far from home. The biggest genealogical feat was beginning my own family by marrying Chong-ok in 1987.
1988-1990: First Computer & National Archives
I believe it was the fall of 1989 that Chong-ok bought me my first computer--an IBM-compatable 386MHz system. I immediately set about transferring all the names, dates, and locations into Personal Ancestry File, working around the clock on several weekend nights. At that point I recall I had a little over 1,000 known relatives from my notes from Grandma in 1983 and updates afterward.
Next, while working a six-month tour of night shifts I made a few trips to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., with co-worker Mike Goins. I toyed for the first time with federal census microfilms but the big score that year was taking a long shot at looking up Isaac Miller's civil war records--BONANZA, there they were! Original, signed enlistment papers, hand-drawn diagrams of bullet entry and exit wounds to his legs, and letters from his wife trying to correct their daughter's birth date so that her pension benefits wouldn't be cut short. Next I followed up with Miller's regiment's Adjutant General's Report at the Library of Congress, which detailed the regiment's activities throughut the war, and then wrote it all up in the context of the campaigns he served in. I later presented this to Aunt Elsie (about age 75 at the time) who then recalled stories of Grandpa Miller lying wounded on the battlefield and a jar on a mantle that stored the fragments of lead that slowly worked their way out of his legs over the years.
1991-1993:- Early Internet
Transferring to Hawaii cut me off for a time from the National Archives, but the time came to join the first wave of the Internet using a dial-up modem connection to local BBS bulletin boards. There I joined a handful of genealogy mailing lists and took the first steps on a new path to online research.
1993-1996: Dial-up Internet, Family History Center, and National Archive-San Bruno
Finally! A direct, live connection! Upon returning to California I began uploading to the old Rootsweb Surname List and frequented the local Family History Center in Seaside, California, where I scoured California death indexes and other central California records. Later I made several trips to the National Archives branch in San Bruno and continued searching federal census microfilms nationwide.
The first big find at the Family History Center was unexpected. As a last act before leaving for the day I took a long shot and ran "John J. Fisher" against the International Genealogical Index and up popped an entry with a him and wife Harriet J. Chapman--it can't be that easy! (It's not but sometimes Lady Luck smiles!) That entry led me to several fellow researchers (Marvin Persinger, Judy Hall, Joy May Gagon...) and Calvin Hobson's 1972 compilation "Sylvester & Sarah (Parkhurst) Fisher of Gage County, Nebraska." It opened up many doors and poured a whole bunch of fuel into the genealogy engine.
Internet and microfilms aside, I also started collecting documentation and mailed off a volley of requests for birth, marriage, and death certificates. The research wins this time was connecting with Goss cousins Andrea Iversen and Cathy Wilson during a trip to southern California to attend the Air Force NCO Academy at March Air Force Base.
The first (and only) time I brought my desktop setup to the annual family reunion in Santa Rosa (~1993). The next year I wisened up and rented a laptop to take to the reunion.In early 1996, the whole family took a trip up to see my grandfather's cousin, Ila Goss-Barrett, age 90, in Coultervile. Dad and I mapped a fair portion of the Coulterville Cemetery. It was my last trip to see Ila, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 101!
1996-1999: Korea, Part II
Alright, back to Korea--but this time I was still connected via the Internet. Most of my work was focused on sharing research rather than conducting research. This vastly expanded my collection but laid out years of work--as yet unfinished--corroborating the information. Contributions included:
- Tying together the California and Arizona branches of the Goodwins to the Pennsylvania branch with Kathleen Goodwin
- Expanding the Fisher tree with D. Rohrback
Carol Jean Lasley-Larsen became a virtual partner on the Fisher family. She descends from David Fisher's second marriage and filled in everything on that side. I believe it was that year (~1996) that she and partner Arn Stollery brought their motorhome and computer setup to the annual reunion in Santa Rosa.
Round about the summer of 1997, co-worker Red Lloyd demystified the concept of HTML and gave me a rudimentary example of HTML frames. After a week or two of learning by trial and error--all hand-coded--I ventured into the world of web publication and uploaded my prototype "Genealogue" website to Geocities. I later downloaded Arachnophilia web editing shareware to help me hand-code.
1999: Stateside Return
We returned Stateside from Korea in the summer and set down new roots in Maryland. Once settled into our new home in November and the on new Comcast high-speed cable modem connectivity switch on, I moved the "Genealogue" from Geocities to Comcast, where it remains today. (If the goobs at Verizon FiOS would give me a straight "here's your no-kidding price per month" and not jack me around with introductory offer gimmicks I'd make the switch today--yet still I wait.)
That sped up my sharing of GEDCOM files:
- Continued Fisher expansion with Marvin Persinger
- Tied into the vast work on the Chapmans by Paul Rekow
- Connected with Don Fitchett on numerous lines in Mariposa County, California
- Linked up with Nancy Richings work on the Andrews family
- Gathered various branches of the Deacon Edward Convers family from Lori Dunnebier, B. Goodge, Richard Desmond, Mary Ann Kaylor, M. Troyer, D. L. Wakely, D. R. Carter, J. Ludwick, Jay Cary, and A. D. Gedge
2001: Goodwin Family Reunion
After corresponding with Jack Borland he invited me to the May 2001 reunion of the Pennsylvania Goodwin branch in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where I met about 30 cousins--something on the order of 5th cousins.
2004: Boston Roadtrip
Well, it's not so much a genealogy roadtrip, but for my mother's 60th and my 40th birthday, we all drove up New York and Boston. While in Boston we passed through Woburn, when Deacon Edward Convers established the first Puritan church there around 1632.
2005: Miller-Kester Explosion
Gail Waldo contacted me in July and helped fill many details on the David John Miller family and set me on the path of David's wife, Sarah (Kester) Miller's long lineage. Not only that, but Gail also provided photos! That September she and her sister Sandra began attending our annual family reunion in Santa Rosa. Attendance by her Miller branch grows with each year.
Tom & Karleen Miller, Virgil Kester, and Eric Davis all added to the rapidly growing Miller and Kester families, most notably bringing the lines all the way back from Ohio to my backyard in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Finally, after transplanting to Maryland I find that I already have roots here!
2006: DNA Tests & Ancestry.com
I was inspired by National Geographic's "Genographic Project," which seeks to trace the multitude of human migration paths out of eastern Africa and around the globe. This put me on to DNA tests on the Goss, Malugani, Miller, and Wargin blood lines.
After a trial subscription I finally took the plunge with Ancestry.com in December. Yeah, it's a bit pricey but I'm getting my money's worth out of it.
2007: Korean Family Register
We went back to Korea for the Asian New Year (February) and managed to get my brother-in-law, the keeper of the Yi family register, to let me copy down as much as I could and translate it. I gleaned 16 early generations, claiming to go back 2,000 years, and the most recent 6 generations.
February 2009: Malugani and Grahl Expansion
After a number of years of collaborating with Malugani cousin Jill (Marci) Sybalsky she really scored big: she hired researchers back in Italy to scour parish records in Primaluna and finally nailed down Giuseppe Malugani's birth place.
Herb Grahl contacted me from Michigan and we spent the next two months comparing notes and filling out the Grahl tree.
April 2009: Polish Roadtrip
I had been finally making some headway on our grandmother's Sikorski family, collected her birth certificate, University of Wisconsin at Madison transcript, and death records for her parents, when in March I stumbled across an entry on her Sikorski family on FindAGrave.com. An email conversation with Paul Wilcox, the submitter of the record, and a follow-on call to the Saint Agnes Church in Ashland, Wisconsin, and it became clear a roadtrip was in order. I called Uncle Rich and we set about contacting Wargin cousins Edward Krawiecki and Nancy Ward in Milwaukee and threw together a week's trip in April to Milwaukee and Ashland, Wisconsin, and across to the Iron Range of northeast Minnesota. We had a great visit with Nancy and Edward and a productive retracing the footsteps of Grandma Wargin's childhood and early death of her mother. The Iron Range Research Center also pointed us to city directories that gave home and business addresses Sikorskis . This all happened to come about right about 100 years after Grandma's birth there.
July 2009: Prairie Roadtrip
I turned a business trip to Omaha in July into a fast-and-furious roadtrip on the prairie of Iowa and Nebraska. After dropping off my colleagues at the Omaha airport I jumped across the Missouri River to Pottawattamie County, Iowa, where a branch of our Converse family, including Great (3x) Grandma Converse, resettled after our branch followed the Gold Rush to California in 1850. I visited a piece of the old homestead and Oak Hill Cemetery.
That was the morning. Next I gunned it back into Nebraska and more than halfway across the state to visit Emory Haynes, an Air Force bud from my first tour in Korea. The next day I visited Gage, Thayer, Sherman, and Buffalo counties where King David Fisher and descendants lived from around 1863 until migrating west to California about 1894. I visited King's gravesite standing watch over the Little Blue River and the Oregon Trail near Hebron and then crossed south to Republic County, Kansas, where King's widow, Sophia, resettled after remarrying to King's widower brother Samuel Martin Fisher.
September 2009: Genealogue Facelift
Aunt Judy finally convinced me to do away with HMTL frames and modernize with XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). I dabbled awhile by hand but it soon became apparent that I needed something stronger like Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 to help me manage the style sheets. Once making that leap it was much easier to enlist Aunt Judy's design creativity and come up with the "Genealogue" that you read today.
Right before the New Year and loaded with "use-or-lose" leave to burn, it dawned on me that the local Columbia Family History Center that I visited once several years earlier needed a revisit. Dottie and Kay gave me an orientation and planning for the New Year was set into motion.
December 2009: www.genealogue.info
Another minor growth increment for "Genealogue"--it's own web domain: www.genealogue.info. The site is still hosted on Comcast (thanks for nothing, Verizon FiOS sales bums!) but the address is a little easier to remember.
January 2010: Grahl Reconnection and Family History Center Revisited
Google rocks! Kay's niece, Shelley Roy, whom she'd not seen since Shelley was a toddler, found the Grahl page and looked up Kay in the phone book. Now, after about 35 years they're reconnected!
After the holiday break, I returned to the Columbia Family History Center and since that time have pretty much earned "regular" status. Starting out I perused the local holdings and decided to focus on our Pennsylvania Dutch roots. But first I needed to scratch a long, burning itch--our lost Converse tribe in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Over the following months I poured over probate and deed records from Erie and Crawford County. This area covers not just our Converse line but also our Andrews and Cottrell lines.
June 2010: Grahl Reconnection, The Sequel
Google comes through again! I received a note from Kay's cousin, Jan Dabkowski, who found the website and put the two in touch. They hadn't heard from each other since they were young girls. Now they're weekly Skype buddies!...and only seven or so months since Kay reconnected with her niece, Shelley!
August 2010: Grandpa Fisher was a Deserter? Twice?!
Sandra Haffey, a Williams descendant, contacted me in July and offered to share Civil War pension records on Ira T. Williams that she'd collected a ways back. She drove 90 miles to Oklahoma City and back to retrieve her cache and mailed them off. Hokie smokes! Not only did the pension files flesh out Ira's service but they provided a wealth of information on his second wife Harriet and Harriet's deceased husband John Jackson Fisher! It turns out Grandpa Fisher was a double deserter during the war and that came back to haunt them when they repeatedly had their numerous pension requests denied from 1887 and through 1925. I scrambled the remainder of August and the first two weeks of September to digest everything and presented it at the annual family reunion in California.
September 2010: Family Reunion
I made it to the reunion (the last I'd attended was 2007) and had the fortune of coinciding with a surprise vist from Dorothy Milliken and daughter Patricia Hartley--the first to attend of the Nancy (Fisher) Smith branch who also made their way to Sonoma County in the early 1900s. They'd seen the flyer on the Reunion page and decided to pop on over the hill from Napa. Advertising works!
October 2010: Erie Roadtrip & "Grandpa"?
Columbus Day weekened I finally pulled together all I'd learned about the Converse, Andrews, and Cottrell properties in Crawford and Erie counties, Pennsylvania, loaded it into my GPS, and hit the road. Absolutely gorgeous fall colors the way up topped by walking our ancestors' lands during the late 1820s and into the 1850s. I managed to slip back home just as the season's first snow fell on Erie.
Summer 2011: Grandpa!
I completed my scrubs of deed and tax records from Clermont and Warren counties, Ohio, where our Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors (Miller/Ulrich/Maugans/Greib/Cripe) settled around 1795 after leaving Pennsylvania, and then the deeds of Montgomery County, Ohio, to the north.
This came just in time for the arrival of my grandson Hunter in the wee, early hours of Fathers' Day (June 19). So I took a little break this summer--that, plus the fact it was plenty hot this summer--unusual number of 100-degree days and some nasty humidity on top of it. Now as the summer heat winds down, and Karen and Hunter are settling into their daily routines, it's time to get back to work. Starting in October I'll return to taking Monday's off each week (thanks to "use-or-lose" leave) and spinning reels at the Family History Centery.
2012: Family Reunions
I had two back-to-back family reunions on 15 and 16 September. The first was our annual Miller-Fisher-Williams & Malugani reunion in Santa Rosa, California, with 82 in attendance; and the second was a Cerini reunion in Petaluma. The Cerini was