Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Family Tree

The tree that best exemplifies my family research is the holly tree. No, make that THE holly tree. Not just any holly tree, but the holly tree in my front yard.

We have a much larger and more beautiful holly tree in the back yard. But it’s missing something.

No, that’s not right. The big holly tree is NOT missing anything. And that’s why it doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to my family tree as my research reveals it - because there are lots of gaps in my research.

So the poor holly tree out front is the more apt symbol. The winter before last, during Snowmageddon, the weight of the snow caused one of the three main branches to break off so that one side was left almost completely bare. It looks a bit better now, as though some of the twigs and small branches on the other two sides are trying to bend around and cover the bare branches out of modesty.

But it’s still a lopsided tree, and so is my family tree.

The Front Holly Tree, minus one branch which is flopped over and covered with snow, bottom right

The brick walls are awfully low in my family tree; there are a few really long branches, but for for many lines, “growth” stops with pretty recent ancestors. We’re not supposed to call them “brick walls,” so let’s call them “dead-end branches.”

My biggest dead-end branch is my great-grandmother Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee. I also have four great-great-grandparents who are dead-ends: Hiram Brinlee Senior, Emily Tarrant, George Floyd, and Jerusha Elizabeth Neely. And by the great-great-great-grandparent level, there are two more of those little stub thingies: Samuel Moore and John Finley.

This post turns out to be not just an excuse for milking the tree metaphor for all it’s worth. The listing of dead-end branches is basically an outline for where I want to focus my research. The only family missing in this list are the Lewises. I know my gggg-grandparents in this line - William Lewis and Mary John - but I am more interested in figuring out the list of children of my great-great-great grandparents Elisha Lewis and Rosannah Dalrymple Lewis, as well as the fates of the daughters of William and Mary Lewis: Rachel, Sarah, Mary, and Leah Lewis. You could say that this is a long but skinny branch.

Add a few intriguing gggg-grandparents into the mix, and that’s my research plan for the coming years. With names like Smith, Moore, and Lewis prominent in this list, this is not going to be a piece of cake. Or, to put it in more arboreal terms, it’s going to take one heck of a green thumb to get this tree to grow right. Ever tried to prune a holly tree or clean up the holly leaves that collect on the ground? Those pointy little leaves can be really nasty. But I won’t get discouraged. I want a tall, magnificent tree, covered with a thick mantle of dark green leaves. And lots of those little red berries would be nice, too.

The Lopsided Holly Tree as it appears today

Submitted for the 110th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, sponsored by Jasia’s Creative Gene.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fan Friday: Google Alerts and Annie's Ghosts

Google alerts rock.

No, I did not receive a Google Alert on one of my ancestors.

But Steve Luxenberg, author of Annie’s Ghosts who delivered a wonderful and informative presentation last night at the monthly meeting of the Fairfax Genealogical Society, did get a Google Alert from my blog. He told me so when I went up to buy a copy of his book and get it signed by him. So I did anything a serious genealogy research and blogger would do: I gushed like a fan.

There was plenty to gush about. We had a full house and you could really sense the interest during the lecture and the excitement about meeting the author afterwards. For those few of you who have not yet read the book (I was going to wait until Christmas, when I am hoping to get an iPad, to buy the book, but couldn’t wait - I had forgotten to go to the ATM and only had $13 - the exact price of the paperback - so fate meant for me to buy it), I won’t spoil it for you, but I can say that Steve included some things that are not in the book and also had some good information on getting disability records from the VA, possible avenues for obtaining medical records, and getting information on an ancestor from post-1930 censuses.

So, back to Google Alerts. They obviously work. I set up Google Alerts a few months ago but have not received a single one.

Google Alerts, you are on notice:

Harlston Perrin Moore.

I had better be receiving an Alert on him. Soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Whatever Wednesday: 21 September 2011

The usual occupant of this space, What I Learned Wednesday, can’t be here today.

Because I haven’t learned anything - because I haven’t done any research this week.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing. The Big Cleanup and Organization Project has been leaving me physically tired but mentally energized. And I am getting in better and better “mental health shape” for research and learning.

Tomorrow I WILL learn something, because Steve Luxenberg, author of Annie’s Ghosts, will be speaking at Fairfax Genealogical Society’s September meeting.


“Genealogy from the Inside Out: Tracing a Family Secret from a Single Clue”
by Steve Luxenberg

7:30 p.m., Thursday, September 22
Kilmer Middle School

Here is the blurb from the FxGS newsletter:

“When a family secret alters our understanding of the family tree - such as learning about a hidden relative, marriage, divorce or cause of death - where do we begin to unravel what had always been kept out of sight? This presentation shows how to make the journey, and how one secret can lead to others. Mr. Luxenburg traveled through burial records, birth certificates, hospital records, immigration documents, and wartime records from diverse locations - imperial Russia, Depression-era Detroit, the Philippines, and European war zones - and assembles them into a coherent paper trail.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Proper Place for Sentiment

“Your Ukrainian book is in the freezer.”

Thus began an e-mail I wrote to my daughter at college last Friday following the deluge that left 26 inches of water in our basement.

Accidents, disasters, and near brushes tend to occur in threes, in my exerience - and the last one is usually the doozy. Recent events have been true to form: an earthquake, a hurricane, and a big honking rainstorm, with only the last one causing us any damage.

Really, we were lucky in all three cases. The only damage that caused me any grief was the soaking of my daughter’s documents and coursework from the various Russian courses and programs she has participated in. Over seven years of hard work, fun, and memories, all crammed into a plastic box with a lid that unfortunately did not stay put after being dumped into the water.

I spent the next few days, with few breaks, freezing the Ukrainian book and a spiral notebook, drying out other bound items, and lightly drying and xeroxing all of the loose sheets of paper - notes, tests, articles, and so forth. More than a ream of paper went into the effort. I dutifully tromped back and forth between the copier and the laundry room, as we were also washing and drying out soaked clothes and stuffed dolls and animals.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice finds wet papers...

and more wet papers...

and still more wet papers

The episode both interrupted and expedited our campaign to clean house and get rid of all the stuff we don’t need.

I suppose my two-day drying and copying marathon was motivated by a good measure of sentiment - these materials represent a major investment of effort by my daughter as well as an important part of her life - but it was also based on more practical considerations, because many of the items are still useful for reference. Heck, I was even able to engage in a little bit of grammar and vocabulary review as I copied some of the more advanced materials.

But the rescue operation probably also washed away any excess sentimentality as far as the contents of our basement were concerned. Exhaustion will do that.

We also realized that the less stuff we keep in the basement, the more latitude we will have to arrange the remaining items to make them less vulnerable to natural disasters. The benchmark was set: life’s work + memories = important; other bits = not.

A much improved basement

So throwing stuff out or giving it away became a positive pleasure.

Expeditious and felicitous disposal of items felt like triumphs: lightly used arts and craft sets found a home with our church’s Sunday school program; extra (now very clean) litterboxes will go to our petsitter, who actively supports stray rescue and pet adoption programs; and soaked potting soil now enriches an underperforming garden bed.

We are the rulers of recycling, the sovereigns of salvage, the masters of the makeover and make-do.

Meanwhile, after some conferring with both daughters, the truly beloved objects of their childhood stay: a kit of plastic medical instruments inside a Little Tykes pet carrier, two toy xylophones that still make music, and the awesomest collection of tiny little people and animals (Playmobil, Polly Pockets, and Pound Pets).

I did feel pangs when the girls’ impressive collection of plastic food and the last child-sized chair went out the door. On the other hand, the sight of the luggage my husband and I bought for our honeymoon in Scotland that is now leaning against the trash can out front inspires memories but not regret.

This process is not free of uncertainty and trepidation. What if I wake up in the middle of the night and realize that it was a mistake to give away my younger daughter’s go-go boots?

The circle of things that should come within sentiment’s protective and possessive embrace should not be so small that scant evidence remains of the lives we live, nor should it be so large that the items have no meaning. Determining the proper balance is not easy, but having a flood wash away a lot of flotsam and jetsam helps.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What I Learned Wednesday: What’s a Gmina Doing in an Uyezd, and Other Bits

Gminas, uyezds, and gubernias - oh, my!

Translating documents of genealogical significance from Eastern European languages usually means 19th century or early 20th century - always an interesting experience. For fun and to help out, for friends and acquaintances I have translated Russian items before (curiously, the locations were actually in countries no longer under Russian control - Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus), as well as Ukrainian/Rusyn, Slovak, and Hungarian. Last weekend Chris Harvey of Family Pilgrimage had an internal Russian passport for which he needed a translation. The handwritten entries were in a very ornate script, which didn’t present much of a problem for the regular words, but names were another matter. Chris gave me the Polish version of the passport owner's name, but place names were the main challenge and required a bit of research. The gmina (community) was Serock, but the name of the gubernia (governorate, a fairly large administrative unit) was difficult - I finally figured out through the process of elimination that it was Łomża, aka Łomżyńska gubernia, aka Lomzhinskaya guberniya. And in between the two was an uyezd (district); I am used to this term in documents referring to Russia, but not for documents about Poland, although I knew that it would have been in use there, too, during the era of Congress Poland - when this part of Poland belonged to the Russian Empire. The name kept looking like Moskovskiy, though of course that could not be so; after searching a bit I found a page which listed the “districts” in Łomża Gubernia, and there was Maków uyezd. So a gmina could be part of an uyezd which could be part of a gubernia.

Duh Moment from last week:

When you sign up with online photo services, take a serious look around the website to examine the different options for photo presentation. (Confession: No, I did not do this when I signed up for a photo service. Or during the first year. Or during the second or third....).

I had just been looking at our rows of photo albums (which take up one and a half bookcases) and thinking “We can’t go on this way” when I got an e-mail from Snapfish saying that my account was about to expire from lack of use. I hurriedly tried to put together an order to retain the account and became intrigued by the “photo books” option. This is something that I had always ignored before because I didn’t think I had enough time to look into it or that I would be interested in it.

After submitting my order for some plain old vanilla prints, I clicked to see prices and formats for photo books. There were so many different choices - size, color, cover - and I liked that captions were included in the deal. This is exactly the kind of simple, no-frills presentation of my photos I want to do. Perhaps this format, especially the smaller sizes, can really save space compared to traditional photo albums. But what about price? The thing is, preservation-quality albums are not that cheap, so I would not really save a lot of money by opting for albums instead of books. And I already have a preservation-quality storage box that could hold a lot of these books in addition to loose photos.

So I’ll give them a try, and if I like them, along with my new weekend routine of starting research with bookmark organization (Genealogy Toolbox and Diigo), I will be uploading the photos from my computers to Snapfish and then, bit by bit, creating and ordering photo books.

The reorganization process is really changing the way I look at “stuff,” space, and efficient use of time. It has taken a long time, but the light bulb finally went on.

City Directories Are Fabulous

I get Cyndi’s list updates by e-mail and this week one of the links was for various city directories on Foot-, oops, Fold3. There were several years of the Dallas City Directory, and I was able to use it to track the professions and residences of my Lewis ancestors there. I love city directories!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Surname Saturday: Richard Mason Brinlee and Sarah Ellen Petit

Richard Mason Brinlee
-b. 19 Mar 1836, Texas
-d. 23 Jul 1911, Roff, Pontotoc Co., Oklahoma
& Sarah Ellen Petit
-b. 1843, Clark County Indiana
-d. 22 Oct 1905, Roff, Pontotoc Co., Oklahoma
--m. 15 Apr 1861, Collin County, Texas
|--Mary Frances “Mollie” Brinlee
|----b. May 1861, Texas
|----d. 10 Jun 1938, Pontotoc, Oklahoma
|---& Benjamin Franklin Tinnin
|----b. Mar 1856, Missouri
|----d. 10 Jun 1929, Vanoss, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma
|----m. 1 Feb 1877, Hood County, Texas
|--Elizabeth Ann Brinlee
|----b. 1867, Indiana
|----d. ca 1886, Hood County, Texas
|---& Herbert Shelton “Dub” Jones
|----b. 22 Dec 1863, Hillsboro, Montgomery Couty, Illinois
|----d. 25 Oct 1957, Atoka, Atoka County, Oklahoma
|--John William Brinlee
|----b. 16 Sep 1869, Texas
|----d. 29 May 1960, Florence, Fremont County, Oklahoma
|---& Fetnah Ann Bull
|----b. 23 Jul 1869, Texas
|----d. 9 Sep 1940, Denver, Adams County, Colorado
|--Minnie Brinlee
|----b. 20 Jul 1872, Erath County, Texas
|----d. 14 May 1959, Whittier, Los Angeles County, California
|---& Raligh H. “Rall” Jones
|----b. 15 Apr 1861, Illinois
|----d. bef 1930
|--Sarah Alice “Allie” Brinlee
|----b. 20 Jul 1875, Erath County, Texas
|----d. 14 May 1959, Whittier, Los Angeles County, California
|---& James Raymond Jones
|----b. 10 Mar 1876, Texas
|----d. 31 Dec 1931, Okmulgee, Okmulgee County, Oklahoma
|--Charles Robert Brinlee
|----b. 30 Oct 1877, Texas
|----d. 11 Nov 1959, Los Banos, Merced County, California
|---& Patty Avo Poindexter
|----b. 16 Aug 1881, Austin, Travis County, Texas
|----d. 26 Sep 1977, Merced County, California
|--Lillie Ann Brinlee
|----b. Nov 1879, Texas
|---& Burk Frady Smith
|----b. 13 May 1875, Tennessee
|--Burl David Brinlee
|----b. 12 Nov 1883, Texas
|----d. 20 Dec 1961, Roff, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma
|---& Maggie Ann “Dovie” Whitaker
|----b. 27 Nov 1890, Hood County, Texas
|----d. 5 Jan 1962, Roff, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma

This is the family of Richard Mason Brinlee, oldest brother of my great-grandfather Hiram Brinlee, Jr. and son of Hiram Brinlee Sr. and Elizabeth Ann McKinney, and Sarah Ellen Petit. Before he married Sarah, Richard married Ann Eliza Simmons (born 6 August 1842 in Warren County, Kentucky) on 15 July 1858; she is reported to have died 26 October 1860, possibly as a result of complications from childbirth.

In her article on Richard Brinlee in Collin County, Texas, Families (Alice Ellison Pitts and Minnie Pitts Champ, editors, 1994), Bessie Sims Sheppard attributes daughter Mary to Ann Eliza Simmons, but the 1900 census gives May 1861 as the date of her birth and the 1870, 1910, and 1930 censuses back this up (I have not yet found her in the 1880 and 1920 censuses). A copy of Richard and Sarah’s marriage certificate indicates that they were married 15 April 1861, so I believe Mary is Sarah’s daughter.

The following is a summary of Richard Brinlee’s service in the Civil War: Enlisted on 5 July 1862 at age 25 as a Corporal in Company K, Martins Regiment Texas Cavalry (5th Partisan Rangers) at McKinney, Texas and appears on a muster roll for 1 January to 1 July 1863. According to the Statement of Service Slip in his Oklahoma Pension Board file, there are no further records on him.

After Sarah’s death, Richard married for a third time to Nancy Ann Baker Herrell (born 15 March 1843 in Knox County, Tennessee, died 1927 in Oklahoma).

I would love to share information with anyone related to/researching this family; you can contact me at my e-mail address, which can be found by going to my profile page (there is a link to that page in the About Me section to the left).