Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Discover your roots, absolutely free!

With the power of the Internet, we can connect to distant cousins, find long-lost ancestors, and see photographs we never knew existed—without spending a dime.
Remember:  On many sites, some information is free, but users may be invited to pay a subscription for additional information.  Be aware of this, and opt out unless you truly want to subscribe. The government provides census and some other information free for everyone.
My husband and I have enjoyed using the following sites—to protect privacy, no last names are shown in the examples:

United States Census:

On the back of a photograph dated 1928, a family was identified as “Jesse, Iona, Vonola, Juanita, and ?”  We thought Jesse, Norm’s great-uncle had only one child—Juanita—so we started searching.
We did an Internet search for “1930 Census.”  Many hits appeared, and at http://www.1930census.com/ we entered Jesse’s first and last names, and “California” where we thought he lived. Several non-census records popped up, so we hit “Exact matches only,” and there was a record for Jesse, his wife “Leata I.,” Juanita, and his stepchildren, Venola and Herbert—he was the? in the picture.  One mystery down, another to go—Leata I. turned out to be Leota Iona—names are often misspelled, and middle names and initials get mixed up on censuses.

Family Search. Org

This website sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is free to everyone. 
After we set a username and password, we entered information that tied us to our family.  Now, we use the “Family Tree” and the “fan chart” views to see our family lines, some of which go back hundreds of years. With the exception of our immediate family and ourselves, we only see information on deceased people due to privacy laws.
Besides names and dates, users post photographs and stories to their ancestors’ “Person pages.”  From Family Tree, we may visit our ancestor’s “Person” view and to see photos and stories that have been uploaded. We have posted some ourselves.
Also on the “Person” page is a “Search Records” link, which shows a list of online records citing the deceased person’s name.

Find a Grave

My friend and I tried the above sites and the excellent subscription site “Ancestry.com” with little luck while seeking an ancestor named Robert Loren. “Robert” and “Robert R.” were on censuses, but we weren’t certain he was “her guy.” 

Knowing he’d lived in Missouri, we searched “Find a Grave,” in which volunteers upload information and pictures of headstones. (“Billion Graves” is similar.)  Using his first and middle names and initials, we got no results.  Finally, we entered only his last name, which was a bit unusual, and “Missouri.” Robert Loren was among the many hits that appeared!


My husband found his Dad's cousins on "Find a Grave." Brothers William and Wayne have a double headstone in Washington State.  William passed away in 2010; Wayne is still alive. Norm looked through online directories to find Wayne's phone number, and now he and his Dad will call their cousin, Wayne!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tough uncles, tender lesson: Grab the moment

Mom was in middle of her family, between three older brothers and three younger brothers. We lost the last of the older uncles, Ern, in 2005, and it made us want to hang onto those younger three:  

Though hard working and tough, Uncle Verl was a poet at heart, a soft touch for anything fun for kids, from pennies for candy to dollars for the drive-in movie. He had an impish sense of humor and loved singing and music. 

Uncle Bud is handsome, built like a wedge, with black curly hair (well-- gray now!) and a ready grin.  My favorite “Bud” quote is: “You can learn a lot from a dog—he doesn’t just gobble up a pancake, he flips it over to see if it’s burnt.” 

Uncle John was the baby of the family—he gave great bear hugs, wrote poems about outhouses, and always had a dog or two at his side. Somehow Uncle John reminded me the most of our Grandma Rhodie, his saintly mother.  

All served our country in the military; all have sweet wives.

On New Year’s Day, 2008, Uncle Verl went to start the car before church, slipped on the ice and hit his head.  Surgeons operated on the subdural hematoma, but three weeks later, he died.

In May, Uncle John was on his daily walk with his dogs when he fell and hit his head.  A week later he died.

After John’s funeral, I regretted once again all the times I haven’t visited, or phoned, or written my uncles and aunts.  I firmly resolved to take some family artifacts to Bud, our last remaining uncle “soon.”

I hadn’t visited by July, when Bud fell in the bathtub and hit his head. We feared the worst—that after this third strike, we’d be out of uncles.

At age 87, Bud seemed to agree. When the neurosurgeon gave him two options—have surgery and live, or go home and die, he said, “Take me home.”  Someone called his son, Jody, and handed the phone to Bud; ten seconds later Bud said. “I’ll have surgery.”

Nobody knows what Jody said to Bud, but growing up on a dairy farm, Bud had often warned Jody about a kick in a tender part of his anatomy if he didn’t finish a job.  Perhaps Jody reversed the threat. 

Brain surgery patients often fight hard coming out of anesthesia—it took four male nurses to hold Bud down.  I felt sorry for them—Bud has wrestled cattle all his life! Still, this man who had never spent a night in a hospital spent several worrisome days in the ICU.

Eleven days post-surgery, we slipped into Bud’s room in rehab.  Thirty staples zig-zagged across his scalp, but his grip was strong, and many younger men would envy his biceps. His wife was finally sleeping at night.

He’s home now.

Isn’t it ironic that we communicate with numerous “friends” online—if you call forwarding recycled items communicating—but don’t make time to give undivided love to uncles, aunts, and other precious souls? 

Maybe this song IS sentimental but it’s true: “Go gladden the lonely, the dreary; Go comfort the weeping, the weary; Go scatter kind deeds on your way—Oh, make the world brighter today.”