Saturday, September 15, 2012

History Lost?

In a brief announcement this week from the Georgia Secretary of State, a vital part of our nation's history will be taken away.  The State of Georgia out of necessity to cut the State's budget decided to close the Georgia State Archives to the public on November 1, 2012.  Many jobs will be lost at the facility but more will be lost in the community and state.  Researchers don't all live in Georgia.  Motels, restaurants, gas stations and shopping will be affected around Morrow.  

Georgia with it's rich history, one of the original 13 colonies, the home of many of our nation's leaders, the site of the first gold rush.
Georgia with it's bounty lands and where passports were issued for travel to the west.  The people who traveled west usually stayed in Georgia for a time. Many colonial period marriages were recorded in Georgia. As the quote I use on my signature reminds me, "Those who forget their past are destined to repeat it", Robert A HeinleinNow part of our history will be locked away all in the name of money.  The Georgia Virtual Vault has been offline for some time with no indication that it will return, was that the first move?

As researchers each of us should find a way to communicate our feelings about this move.  I can help but believe that if Georgia is successful it will only be a matter of time before other states follow suit.   Several sites are available with petitions to sign, choose your site and make your feelings known.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Be Patient

When I retired I decided to try to locate information on my family.  Since I didn't know anything about genealogy I thought taking a class would be a good idea.  Gadsden State Community College had a continuing education program and genealogy was a choice.  For six weeks we were taught where to look and what kind of records to watch for. The last week of class we made two field trips. 

The first to the Georgia Archives believe me, that was a disaster.  There was so much to see I did very little more than just look at the choices for research (my future trips were much better).  The second field trip was to the Alabama State Archives, this time I was ready or so I thought.  I had names, birth dates, death dates, pencils, notepads and change for the copier.  I spent most of the day looking for that "Jones" ancestor who left with aliens after hiding his family from the census taker for 10 - 20 years.  After deciding that was hopeless, I decided to look for my grandmother's family.  I should have been checking this family the entire time since there aren't many PA records in Etowah County, AL. But remember I was new to genealogy.  So finally I started to look for my Gerber ancestors.  I quickly found my great grandfather in the 1870 census of York, PA.  Then church records revealed his baptism and that of his brothers.  I found a marriage record in Hamilton County, TN, now I know the maiden name of my great grandmother, Rosa Lee Rodgers.  The 1900 census of Jefferson County, AL finds the family in a mining camp in Bessemer, AL with their young children.  The  oldest child is a son Jasper Gerber, age 10.  In 1910 the family has grown by two children, but there is no record of Jasper Gerber.  Just as we were about to leave the Archives, someone asked if I had looked at the book they had and that there was a Jasper Gerber in it.   That book was an index of loose records for Jefferson County, AL and there was an estate record shown for Jasper Gerber and an LDS film number where the record could be found. I copied all of the information and knew I wanted to order the film.  At that time you had to make an appointment to use the local family history center.  I tried but without being able to contact anyone, I put that piece of paper in my Gerber notebook. 

Now more than 10 years later,  Nichols Memorial Library recently became an affiliate library for Family Search.  The first film I ordered was the Jefferson County, AL loose records, 1901-1903.  After what seemed like forever we received the film and I found out that Jasper Gerber had died.  The estate record involved  an insurance payment from Birmingham Mining Company to his parents due to the death of Jasper Gerber, a child under age 14.  While I have one answer, it leads to many more questions concerning his death.  This does show that we should always follow through on any small clue and most of all keep those little research notes, you never know what they might lead you to find.

I'm sure becoming an affiliate library was a good thing for Nichols Library and our researchers.  I'm glad I was patient and kept that little note, now as Paul Harvey would say I need to find "the rest of the story",

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Importance of Clipping Obits

Several members of N.E. Alabama Genealogical Society are more than willing to take time out of their day, on short notice, to meet researchers at Nichols Library.  Leon Young does most of this.  Last Friday morning when we checked the email, there was a request for someone to meet them at the library,  here's the email.

My name is xxxxxxxxxxxxx, my sisters and I are in Birmingham and plan to visit Gadsden, AL on Friday, June 17th. We have travelled from California, Denver and Texas in search of information on our mother's side of the family. Before I was born, (around 1950) my mother and 7 of my siblings moved to Germany (my father was stationed there) and in the process of the move, the Army lost a valuable trunk that belong to my mother. In this trunk was all the contact information on the family she left behind in Gadsden. From this day forward my mother no longer had contact with her people. In 1965 she died and when my father tried to contact her family, he was unable to reach anyone. So we are on a quest to find this missing link. We went to the Birmingham Public Library today and found the name of my mother and her relatives in the 1930 census. We are attempting to gather information on the names we discovered and a kind librarian at the Birmingham Library suggested that we contact you for help. When I went on your website I noticed that you were only open on Thursday, but that we could make an appointment.

Please, please if you can call me and in anyway meet with my family while we are in the area, it would be such a blessing to us. We are so excited to have found the names of our grandmother and father, aunts and uncles, but have no clue on the next step. Please call me on my cell phone if it is possible to meet with you in the next day or two. Thank you so much".

Leon responded to their request.  Turns out there were five people who came to research, they were given books and the Smith family files, I think there are about 6 folders of them. A shout was heard, one of the women found a tiny piece of newspaper that had been placed in the folder.  It was a obituary from the Gadsden Times for one of their relatives.  The obit gave them family names they didn't know.  A further search of the relatives found in the obit led to a living family member still in Gadsden.  With Leon's help they contacted this family member and were able to go meet her later Friday afternoon.  Saturday  the society had another email.

"Hi Leon;

thank you so much for all your help today. Just wanted to let you know that we made contact with our family with the address on Allen Street. All of my mother's siblings are dead except the youngest son. He lives in Columbus, GA and plans to meet us in Gadsden tomorrow at my cousin's home (daughter of my mother's sister Kathryn) - we are so excited.

Thank you for meeting with us and opening the library up to us today. My sister Gloria will send you the pictures when she returns to California on the 28th."

Leon also met two other women Saturday to let them research at Nichols. They also had a very successful day.

Leon Young, we appreciate all you do for N E Alabama Genealogical Society.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Update on Alabama

April 27th, 2011 will remain in the Alabama News for a very long time.  We continue to loose citizens as a result of those terrible storms.  Our hearts go out to those in other states who have been hit by storms in recent weeks.   Strangers arrived in Alabama from other states to help, many without anything except their tools.  Facebook became the means of connecting those who needed help with those who could help.  The fierce rivalry between Alabama and Auburn football and the poisoning of the "Toomer Oak Trees"  spawned "Toomers for Tuscaloosa", on facebook.  What started out as a simple attempt to feed some of the people who were victims of the tornadoes, turned into a massive relief effort that is still ongoing.  Their efforts now extend to other states with supplies and volunteers.  Toomers for Tuscaloose had trucks of supplies and volunteers on the way to Joplin, shortly after the storms struck there.  TN and GA have also be included in their relief effort. 
Of course, we as genealogists understand how far reaching families can be.  We know that in the early days of our nation neighbors help neighbors.  In the middle of all this tragedy we seem to have remembered our roots and stepped back in time.  Once again neighbors are helping neighbors.  If you are reading this, remember to keep all the victims in your prayers and if you have the opportunity make a donation to the relief and rebuilding in any state damaged by tornadoes. Rebuilding is happening in Alabama.  These storms scattered family belongings over 100's of miles.  Think of all the family history lost.  Don't regret a loss like this, scan your photos and make copies of your research, then share them with your local genealogy society and put copies in a safe place.  It never hurts to plan ahead, hopefully we won't ever need those backups.

Cumberland Gap Genealogy Jamboree

Cumberland Gap, TN is a very small town with a great big sense of community and cooperation.  N.E. Alabama Genealogical was well represented during the first three days of the Jamboree.  Vendors from VA, TN, KY, IN and many family  groups were represented in the downtown area.  Great speakers could be heard in the Wilderness National Park Welcome Center, at the Holiday Inn and in various parts of the downtown area.  These speakers were some of the best known in the genealogical community.  NEAGS members took turns working our table so that the others could hear some of the programs. This was such a great weekend for genealogists and it was at no cost to those attending.  Mark Treadway and the other volunteers who made this possible are to be commended for a job "well done".

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April 27, 2011 The Worst Tornado Outbreak in Alabama Ever.

As I was getting ready to leave, my husband came into the room and said look what I found.  He was holding a 4X6 photo of a family.  The way they were dressed looked like the early 1980's.  As I looked at the picture I did two things, first said a prayer that the family in that picture was safe and second I realized that tears were flowing.  Before I left home I walked around my yard and picked up remnants of other people's lives, another piece of a photo, a couple of book pages, wallpaper and roofing material. I didn't pick up any of the insulation and tiny pieces of paper.  I have no idea where these things came from, we live 75 - 100 miles away from the destruction in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.

Like most Thursdays, I left home on April 28, 2011 to go to Nichols Memorial Library.  It was "library day" a day when members of NEAGS gather there to help those who come by to research.  Usually a quick stop at Walmart to pickup drinks and snacks, in case we don't get lunch.  But this day was different.  My Walmart stop included making copies of the picture from our yard, but I could hardly move in the store, people were everywhere, buying flashlights, batteries, bread, charcoal and other items that you would use if you were out of power.  Most I talked with were from Marshall and Blount counties.  A couple said the damage wasn't as bad  there but  the power was out and most stores and gas stations were closed.   When I got to the library after 10:30, there weren't any researchers there, they didn't come all day.  A strange eerie feeling followed all day, then we started to hear about the damage and death in our area.

Perhaps this post isn't what it should be, but my heart is heavy and the need for prayer, food, supplies, re-building materials and plain old fashioned personal comfort is so great for many of our neighbors.  My area and the area of Nichols Library weren't in the storm's path, but so many of our friends were.  As of this morning 250 people have died in Alabama, 1000's are still unaccounted for.  Many thousands are homeless, you'll see the damage from Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Cullman on TV.  You may not see the small communities like Ohatchee, Silver Lakes, Pleasant Valley, Glencoe, Moody, Leeds, Pell City, Shoal Creek, Rainsville and Fyffe. These are just the small towns in the N.E. Alabama Genealogical Society area there are many more small communities devastated in N. Alabama.  Most of the state parks in N.E. Alabama are closed until further notice. Guntersville State Park took a direct hit in the first round of storms Wednesday morning, DeSoto State Park was hit by the afternoon and evening storms.

Hopefully some of the schools will be able to reopen next week and give the children a chance to resume some normal life activities. Although many of them will be living in shelters and have no home to go back to.

I hope if nothing else comes from my blog today you will pray for Alabama, hug your families and make copies of your precious family memories then store one copy in a safe deposit box or with your local genealogy society or library.

One phrase has been coined by the guru of local TV weather personalities to show our determination to remember that "this too will pass" and I'll end my post with that "We Are Alabama".

Next project!

The Ancestor Swap Meet 2011 is history and things are almost back to normal at Nichols Library.  Thursday, some of us were able to put swap meet things away and clean up the library.  Several projects are in the works and will take time in the weeks ahead.  Gail Brown and I have been working on a cemetery book for Fairview Cemetery. This book gets put aside when other things have to be done for the society. Hopefully it will be finished in the near future.

N.E. Alabama Genealogical Society will be a vendor at the Cumberland Gap Jamboree in June.  This will be our first time as a vendor but if all goes well it won't be our last.  We will be representing our area of Alabama, even though most of the people who come through Cumberland won't be interested in Alabama, they may someday have a need for an Alabama research connection.

Another project is to obtain microfilm for use in Nichols Library.  We were fortunate to receive a grant that allowed us to purchase a state of the art microfilm reader/printer.
We have some microfilm but we would like to offer more for our researchers.

So our journey through family history and our love for Nichols Memorial Library continues.