Onward To Our Past http://onwardtoourpast.com Genealogy Tips, Help, and Fun with a focus on family and history Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:36:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Genealogy Legends, Lore, and Lies in Our Family Historieshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-legends-lore-and-lies-in-our-family-histories.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-legends-lore-and-lies-in-our-family-histories.html#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:36:24 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3552 Focusing on Those Legends, Lore, and Lies in Genealogy and Our Family Histories

As lovers of genealogy and family history from time to time we all encounter and contend with the legends, stories, and lore passed down and around in our families. Some of these stories swirl and churn in our memories for decades. Some we have heard since our youth. Others are newer stories that often begin with the delightful words “Did I ever tell you…?”

Norman Rockwell illustrating the power of 'a story'!

Norman Rockwell illustrating the power of ‘a story’!

I’d like to begin by saying that the vast majority of these stories come to us as oral history. Some of these stories come to us directly from the person who experienced them, but as we delve farther back in time and farther afield in our family trees we begin to get these stories second or third-hand. Some are from longer ago than that and have become more the stuff of legend and lore than an actual retelling of an actual event.

Telephone or Chinese Whispers is a great game!

Telephone or Chinese Whispers is a great game!

As youngsters many of us participated in the party game of ‘Telephone’. It’s the game where everyone sits in a circle with one person beginning the game by whispering a sentence into the ear of the person next to them. Each person in turn repeating the sentence with the end of the game being when the original ‘story teller’ repeats what is finally said to them. Rarely, if ever, is the end product accurate and at times it is hilariously different. All in the space of just a couple of minutes and all with the same people in the same room ready to listen as closely as they can.

In the January 8, 2009 edition of Scientific American magazine there is an article titled “Why Science Tells Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts”. This article contains some fascinating statistics on the unreliability of eyewitness accounts in courts of law, but at the same time how often they are believed. One such statistic comes from the Innocence Project. They report that since the 1990s and the introduction of DNA testing that an astounding 73% of the 239 convictions overturned due to DNA evidence were based on eyewitness testimony and not just of one eyewitness, but two or more!

I was introduced to this type of mistaken first-person accounting within my own family. The first time I recall was when I was 9 years old. My parents decided that the five of us (my folks, my two sisters, and I) would take a family vacation to Europe. While we were there my mother asked us why we thought we were there. Even though my sisters and I had all been a party to the same discussions regarding our trip we each had a very different idea of why it was we were ‘really’ in Europe. I might add that none of the three answers we gave were anywhere close to the truth.

Much later in life I was in a family counseling session as part of my father’s battle with alcoholism. The counselor asked my sisters and me a question and to relate our view of an event in our family’s life. It revolved around an event we were all present for at the same time, the same place, and with the same people. When we were done relating what happened at that event, I remember thinking to myself ‘What’s up with this? Were we all someplace different?’ The observations of each of us was so vastly different that I was quite taken aback. When I returned home I couldn’t shake this memory from my mind so I did a bit of research and found that many scientific studies on memories and false memories.

I say all of this not to disparage family stories and lore, but to simply caution each of us who love our genealogy and family history to treat these stories with a good dose of healthy skepticism. We can use them as leads, suggestions, ideas, and options to follow in our research, but they should not be used as the full basis for our ancestry work.

Recently I was researching and writing an article on America’s favorite uncle, ‘Uncle Sam’. Now here is a fellow that everyone knows, knows what he looks like, who he is, etc. One of the national symbols of America with his own ‘Uncle Sam Day’ (Sept 13th). But I discovered one thing as I researched good old Uncle Sam…we don’t know!

My Uncle Ed Evenden as Uncle Sam

My Uncle Ed Evenden as Uncle Sam

He seems to have come into being around the time of the War of 1812. At first he appeared with a beaver hat, boots, clean-shaven, and not at all the whiskered, star-spangled top hat wearing, finger pointing fellow we all recognize today. Plus it seems to depend on where you live as to who you think the ‘real’ Uncle Sam was. There are competing stories that he was from Connecticut, Texas, Indiana, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York. You might think that the issue was actually resolved when the United States Congress established September 13th as Uncle Sam Day, but in reality it seems that the people of Troy, New York and the New York Congressional delegation simply out maneuvered the folks from Indiana, Connecticut, Texas, and elsewhere and the rest of Congress simply followed along.

Even the truth of where ‘Uncle Sam’ called ‘home’ is quite foggy. Some insist it was Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, but there were two Samuel Wilsons in Troy at the time. Additionally some say it was actually Native Americans out West who coined the term from Government Issue rucksacks. Others say it relates back to the insignia on the caps of a group seen in a parade. So it seems that no one truly knows the origins of Uncle Sam even though Congress and often the newspapers of the day reported it as though someone actually did.

Please don’t get me wrong. Stories have an important and rightful place in our genealogy and family history work. As I said earlier many of the first-person stories are accurate and incredibly meaningful. Others, passed down from generations earlier may not be quite so accurate. I well recall my grandfather’s stories about his youth in Cornwall changing just over his lifetime and then there was the fact that he simply never, ever admitted that he had a brother. It is important to remember that for many families there were certain topics that were taboo and never discussed. They might be an illegitimate child, a divorce, a ‘black sheep’ relative, etc.

Many others while sketchy, may provide us with extremely valuable leads to discover, document, and record the lives of our ancestors. One example of this that comes to my mind is about my maternal great-grandfather, Joseph K. Vicha. He disappears from all the records in 1909. Luckily my mother greatly enjoyed sharing all she knew about her mysterious grandfather. The stories had many parts. One part was that he was very influential in the early Bohemian community of Cleveland, Ohio, which we discovered was true. Another part of the story was that he moved to Chicago, a claim we have been unable to verify to this point. Another portion of a story from Mom was that when she asked her uncle if he ever wanted to look for his father, the uncle responded ‘why would I? I might find him and discover that he owes people money.’ I had always thought this was merely a cute, but unimportant response until a recent discovery. In an old copy of the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) from October 19, 1901 was a column of court cases. One of these cases reads “76192 – D. H. Tolman vs. J. K. Vicha. Appeal.” I hardly paid it any mind, but decided to research the D. H. Tolman and found that he was one of the worst loan sharks in America and ended up serving penitentiary time for usury. Now I am waiting for the court files from the Cuyahoga County Archives to learn more, but perhaps my great uncle knew more that he was actually saying in his response to my mother all those years ago.

We all pride ourselves on genealogy being based on as many facts, figures, and data as we can discover. So be sure to use your family stories as guideposts in your genealogy, but remember even the best of them are just that…stories. So my advice is to always go deep in your research to prove or disprove them – and always write them down!

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Genealogy and Family: Taking a bit of a different tack for awhile at Onward To Our Pasthttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-family-taking-a-bit-of-a-different-tack-for-awhile-at-onward-to-our-past.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-family-taking-a-bit-of-a-different-tack-for-awhile-at-onward-to-our-past.html#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:37:32 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3544 Genealogy is all about family.

One of our typical pasty parties!

One of our typical pasty parties!

After all, genealogy IS family.

Family history and ancestry ... four generations of the strong women in my wife's family!

Family history and ancestry … four generations of the strong women in my wife’s family!

As followers of my genealogy website here I wanted to tell you about a bit of a change in direction with our genealogy postings here at Onward To Our Past and why this is.

Some of you may know that my better half has been in a fight against brain cancer for some years now. She has fought, and continues to fight, it every day. Day in and day out. Recently however we got the news that the tumor has gone into a very aggressive mode and is now Stage IV. We have made the decision for in-home hospice care and I continue to be her primary caregiver.

Naturally this is a time for soul searching, reflection, prayer, and meditation.

I will certainly be continuing to post genealogy-related information, but I hope you won’t mind, and will find enjoyable, the fact that many of them will be a bit more introspective and family oriented. Genealogy has always centered on family, but now it takes on a deeper meaning within our household and extended family.

So for awhile at least my posts will be a bit more personal, reflective, and delving into the meaning and importance of family history, genealogy, and our ancestry.

My best half and her posse!

My best half and her posse!

I owe these stories to my better half and Editor-in-Chief. I hope you enjoy joining us!

Onward To Our Past,

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Using Genealogy To Bring Families Closer Together – The Best Benefit of Our Family History Work!http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/using-genealogy-to-bring-families-closer-together-the-best-benefit-of-our-family-history-work.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/using-genealogy-to-bring-families-closer-together-the-best-benefit-of-our-family-history-work.html#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:34:41 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3539 Using Genealogy To Bring Families Closer Together – The Best Benefit of Our Family History Work!

Whenever I am working on our family genealogy I am reminded of that old advertisement from the M&M Mars Company. Promoting their two hit candy bars, Mounds and Almond Joy, in the same ad it simply stated:

“Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.”

Almond joy and mounds

As all of us who have researched our genealogy and ancestry know we tend to come across the ‘nuts’ and those who happen to be a bit less nuts in our family histories. It is the stories, customs, foods, and times of our ancestors that really make our genealogy work come alive. I know it certainly does for me. I love our family – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

No one in our family had undertaken any genealogy or family history work on our family prior to my efforts. As far as I could find the most anyone had done was the customary classroom project, perhaps about 6th grade, of putting together a rudimentary family tree that went “all the way back” to our grandparents . This made my efforts all the more enjoyable for me as I delved into new and unexplored territories for our family tree whose roots run extraordinarily deep in Cornwall, Bohemia (Czech Republic), and Italy. Each discovery was new and exciting to me. So exciting that I quickly realized two things.

First I realized that what I was discovering was far too exciting and interesting to simply keep to myself, so I began to share my findings with any relevant family members of that branch.

Second I quickly realized I needed to be able to create, preserve, build our family tree, and share all our discoveries electronically. I wanted to be able to quickly and easily share all this with every member of our geographically dispersed family.

I accomplished all of the electronic needs I had identified for our genealogy and family tree by using the Family Tree Builder Software and its accompanying website created and operated by MyHertitage.com. This package fit our needs perfectly for several reasons:

• It gives us worldwide access by all our family members no matter where they are.
• We can add the usual data to the family tree, but also photos and freehand notes to each and every profile on our tree.
• MyHeritage.com provides us with unparalleled security, which was a top priority when I queried our family members about having an online family tree.
• With just two clicks, anyone can send an email to all of our family members on the site.

With our electronics taken care of, all that remained was for the communication method to be chosen. In our family we produce a weekly “Your Family Update”. This email sent via our website gives any news and information on our family history and family each week.

Initially when I began these Updates I will admit many family members were looking at me as if I was one of the ‘nuts’ in the family, but guess what has happened?

These Updates have not only become something everyone looks forward to receiving now, but they have brought our family much closer together than we ever were before.

It wasn’t long before the communications began to really take off as a two-way path. As often as I was sending out new information family members were sending in new information, questions, comments, additions, stories, photos, and corrections.

I also augment these regular communications during any family special events/gatherings and holidays. For example, I incorporated a ½ day family history tour and event during my mother’s recent 90th birthday celebration. Additionally, during every holiday gathering I create and then we all play some fun game that features family memories, history, stories, etc. Not only does everyone enjoy playing the games, but I get some very valuable insights and information to add to our family tree!

Memory Game

Then the real magic unveiled itself. Slowly at first, then gathering steam over time the communications across many of the branches of our family began to expand and improve. More emails, more telephone calls, texting, connections via social networks, and best of all, visits! Family members began to go out of their way to reconnect in person with cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Although in many cases decades had intervened, the newly reestablished family connection via our genealogy had reopened those old doors and reignited the desire to reconnect.

It has been a wonderful experience to see our genealogy go from being seen, in its beginnings, as just a bunch of fairly dry facts, figures, and data to blossoming into a living, growing movement within our family. It has been a blessing beyond my wildest dreams. I hope yours is too!

Enjoy going Onward To Our Past®

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Czech Genealogy and History – Augustin Heřman: First of the First Bohemian-Americans Part Twohttp://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/czech-genealogy-and-history-augustin-herman-first-of-the-first-bohemian-americans.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/first-czechs/czech-genealogy-and-history-augustin-herman-first-of-the-first-bohemian-americans.html#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 10:39:32 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3530 Augustin Heřman: First of the First Bohemian-Americans

Part Two
Augustin Heřman in America

After escaping the persecution by the Hapsburgs and the Holy Roman Church in Bohemia, the Heřman family settled in the Netherlands.

It would appear that Augustin received an excellent education, either in Bohemia, the Netherlands, or perhaps both locations. It is reported in the 1891 Edition of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volume XXII, No. 1, that young Augustin was a Latin scholar, spoke Czech, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, English, and was proficient in literature, mathematics, and drawing. This same work reports that Augustin first was employed by the Dutch West India Company. Reportedly being a lover of travel, while with the Dutch West India Company Augustin traveled to such destinations as Corsica, Sardinia, Brazil, Suriname, Argentina, and the Antilles, including at least Martinique, St. Christopher (now known as St. Kitts), Curaçao, and Barbados.

As far as our currently known historical records can tell us, Augustin Heřman was the first Bohemian settler to come and establish himself and his family in what would become the United States of America. If he wasn’t the actual first, he was certainly amongst the very earliest and the first to leave any substantial historic record for us to find and follow.

In a letter from Augustin to Governor Stuyvesant in 1654, Augustin makes the statement that he was instrumental in establishing the earliest trade in tobacco in Virginia in 1629. This appears to be borne out by the fact that the Dutch West India Company issued a vote of thanks to Augustin for that very reason in the same year.

In 1633 Augustin must have been in good standing with the then-governor general of New Netherlands, Wouter van Twiller, since he was an official representative of van Twiller on an expedition sent to the Delaware River.

Records show that Augustin, as a member of the vibrant Dutch community in America speculated in land and traded not only in Nieuw Amsterdam, but also in New Jersey, in New Amstel on the Delaware River, and in the English colonies of what would later become northern New York state, along the Connecticut River, and in present day Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.

In either 1643 or 1644, Augustin made his way to live permanently in the New World Dutch settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam. Once here he displayed what today we would definitely call an entrepreneurial spirit. He became an agent for the very substantial Dutch trading company, Peter Gabry & Sons. His trade included such goods as groceries, ships’ stores, beaver pelts, cotton, tobacco, and even some privateering.

Indigo plant and the dye from it.

Indigo plant and the dye from it.

It is suggested that Augustin, with his early land holdings in Nieuw Amsterdam was the first person to introduce indigo (the plant which provides blue dye) to American soils on his plantations. This first plantation, with peaches and indigo, apparently was located at Pine Street in the future Manhattan, New York. Augustin was a well respected member of the community and was in equally high demand by the leadership of Dutch Nieuw Amsterdam. In John Romeyn Brodhead’s 1853 book, History of the State of New York, First Period 1609-1664, the author notes that “Augustine Heermans”, Bohemian, was one of the leaders of the colony as well as a member of the highly regarded council, called ‘Nine Men’. He was also seen as an indispensable asset to Governor Stuyvesant. Augustin was sent as an Ambassador to Lord Baltimore in Maryland and to the Governor of Delaware. Additionally Governor Stuyvesant suggested to others in his inner circle that they should “avail themselves of the aid and tongue of Augustine Heermans” in their work (page 683).

In 1659-1660, Augustin was sent by Dutch governor, Pieter Stuyvesant, to negotiate with the governor of Maryland, Josias Fendall. While these sessions ended in the continued stalemate over the issue at hand, during these sessions Augustin became friends with a man destined to become an early governor of Maryland, Philip Calvert. He was also a man who would become instrumental in the coming years of Augustin’s life.

Due to a longstanding disagreement between the Dutch, the Swedes, and the English, Augustin agreed to map the disputed area (the lands surrounding Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries). He made his offer to both Governor Stuyvesant and Governor Fendall of Maryland, but it was Fendall who first realized the value in such a map and quickly agreed and did so for the price of some 5,000 acres of land that would be part of the area Augustin would survey and map. It took Augustin 10 years, from 1660 to 1670 to complete this map, but it was exceptional and as noted above was one of the first accurate maps of any portion of America. His ‘payment’ also ballooned to some 6,000 very valuable and attractive acres on a peak overlooking the Bohemia River. All told, Augustin would accumulate some 20,000 to 30,000 acres here.

Why would Augustin forsake Nieuw Amsterdam and his life there for untamed wilderness in Maryland? Some historians say it was due to Augustin’s belief that the Dutch colony was doomed due to the mismanagement by Stuyvesant. Some say it was Augustin simply being an opportunist and his desire for more land. Some say it had more to do with some now unknown bitterness between Stuyvesant and Augustin, Stuyvesant’s attempts to ruin Augustin, or the fact that he was imprisoned by squatters (at Stuyvesant’s behest?) on this own lands. Augustin’s imprisonment and daring escape not only captured the interest of the general public, but even resulted in an epic poem being written in 1899 by George Alfred Townsend titled “Herman of Bohemia Manor”. Your can read this enjoyable poem by clicking here.

Whatever the reason or reasons, shortly after the ten years it took him to complete his now famous map, Augustin forsook his positions, lands, etc. in Nieuw Amsterdam and took leave to permanently settle on his newly acquired lands in Maryland, which he immediately named “Bohemia Manor”. Eventually Augustin would become the very first naturalized citizen of Maryland.

In case you are thinking Augustin was not all that well known, according to Maryland Historical Magazine, William Penn wrote to Augustin from London, England in 1681 seeking his support for enlarging Pennsylvania by ceding his lands from Lord Baltimore. Augustin was equally adept negotiating with the governors of Virginia and Maryland as he was the Native American leaders of the Susquehannock and other tribes as he continue to add to this land holdings.

Augustin and his family (two sons, Ephraim George and Caparus, and three daughters, Anna Margaretta, Judith, and Francina) lived at or near Bohemia Manor for generations. While the Heřman surname extinguished following the death of Caparus’ son, who died sometime around 1775, there are still descendants of the female sides of the family in America today.

One of the pages of Augustin Herman's will.

One of the pages of Augustin Herman’s will.

Unfortunately sometime in the early 1800s the original manor home burned down. The most detailed references to this loss, besides time and again being said that Bohemia Manor ‘burned down long ago’, are found in Janice E. McKenney’s book Women of the Constitution: Wives of the Signers, Scarecrow Press, 2012, which mentions that Bohemia Manor burned down “not long after the Bassetts’ deaths”. These deaths occurred in 1815 and 1819, so it would appear that the Manor burned sometime close to 1820. Ms. McKenney references A History of the Rise of Methodism in America, John Lednum, Philadelphia, PA, privately printed, 1859. In his book, Lednum, a historian of the Methodist Church in America, states “Soon after Mr. Bassett’s death, his old mansion (Bohemia Manor) burned down…” (Page 278, which does not match the footnote reference by McKenney). While the original Manor was destroyed, it is said that the replacement Manor home was built on the same foundation as that of the original Bohemia Manor.

The replacement Bohemia Manor built about 1820.

The replacement Bohemia Manor built about 1820.

Much like the mystery surrounding Augustin’s birth there is also mystery regarding the date of Augustin’s death and his final resting place. This is especially true about the location of his grave and grave marker. His death is estimated to have occurred about 1686, based on the date his will was probated and ownership of Bohemia Manor was descended to his eldest son. While there are a myriad of references to the burial vault being on the grounds of Bohemia Manor and being topped with a large engraved stone reported to be 3 feet by 7 feet and etched with “Augustin Herman, Bohemian, first founder and seator of Bohemia Manor, Anno 1661”, there are almost as many stories about the bodies being moved, the graves being dug up by those seeking his final resting place, the stone being broken into three pieces, used elsewhere, having been requested to be sent to the National Museum in Prague, etc. No one knows where it is that Augustin actually lies at this time. The most detailed description of the grave’s location seems to have been written in the 1888 manuscript “Ancient Families of Bohemia Manor; Their homes and their graves” by Charles Payson Mallery. In this paper, written at the request of the Historical Society of Delaware, Mallery states “I doubt whether three persons, besides myself, are living to-day who could tell just where Herman lies buried. I may remark in passing that the grave is about five hundred feet due north from the house, long ago destroyed by fire…” (Page 17).

Gravestone inscription on Augustin Herman's grave.  Date unknown.

Gravestone inscription on Augustin Herman’s grave. Date unknown.

The Philadelphia Enquirer (Philadelphia, PA) on August 24, 1906 reported the following:

“The exact location of the grave of Augustine Herman has been lost and his descendants are endeavoring this week to find his remains by excavating in the yard where he is known to have been buried. Thousands of visitors are expected to visit the Manor on Sunday next.”

About a year later in an article dated October 20, 1907 again in the Sun is the following:

“The site of his (Augustin’s) grave is conjectural and even the tombstone he carefully designed is removed from its place. Cracked, weather beaten and defaced, it lies several hundred yards from the supposed site of Herman’s grave, having been removed many years ago to serve as the door to the burial vault of the Bassett family, who at that time owned the manor house graveyard.”

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Genealogy Cornerstone: A Reasonably Exhaustive Search and the Case of Augustin Heřmanhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-cornerstone-a-reasonably-exhaustive-search-and-the-case-of-augustin-herman.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-cornerstone-a-reasonably-exhaustive-search-and-the-case-of-augustin-herman.html#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 10:36:50 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3525 Genealogy Cornerstone: A Reasonably Exhaustive Search and the Case of Augustin Heřman

Every single one of us who has undertaken their genealogy knows the phrase and the need to conduct ‘A reasonably exhaustive search’ when working on your family history. These words come from the Genealogical Proof Standard. This Standard has as one of its key tenets the need to conduct a ‘reasonably exhaustive search’ when searching for and about our ancestors. While it is certainly not the easiest path to follow when undertaking your genealogy and family history, it is the only way to go. After all, we all know that genealogy without proof is simply myth.

Maybe these pandas just finished their exhaustive search!

Maybe these pandas just finished their exhaustive search!

You might be asking why there is such a focus on conducting such a search. Among other things it means you will need to do your own research and this factor is crucial. Again you might ask why? Let me give you a case that illustrates this need very well.

The Case of Augustin Heřman

Here are Onward To Our Past® Genealogy Services we have been working on our project to identify the first Bohemian (Czech) immigrant settlers across America. Naturally this led us to Augustin Heřman, the first documented Bohemian-American to establish himself and his family in what would become the United States of America.

It turns out that while there are reams of information on Augustin and his life in the future States of New York, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland, there are some serious mysteries about this great Bohemian-American. However, these mysteries are not always evident when a search on Augustin is undertaken – and if you believe what you run the high risk of perpetrating myths and conjecture about him rather than facts.

First there is his Find A Grave listing. With no disrespect to the person who listed this memorial it is filled with some very strange and erroneous information that many who come across this listing might accept as fact. I will ignore the issue of the posting Wikipedia as a source. However, no one has ever determined or found documentation as to the parents, birthplace, nor birth date of Augustin Heřman, even though two different birth dates are given on this entry. The next item we noted was his date of death. Again, there is no documentation as to the date of Augustin’s death, but here it is listed as a date specific. Additionally he is listed as being buried in a cemetery to which there is no documentation that he was ever actually buried there. Then there are the supposed parents of Augustin. Even if you chose to believe that Augustin was the son of the two people listed, the death location for his ‘father’ is impossible. It is listed as “1619 in the Bohemia Manor, Cecil, Maryland.” The problem? Bohemia Manor did not even come into existence for more than 60 years after that date.

Additionally, there are some issues with the house in the photo that is attached to this memorial. Nice picture and yes, it was on the land at Bohemia Manor, however it was built after 1820 when the original Manor house burned to the ground. As such, while it is on the same land, the house shown has no actual connection to Augustin.

Looking farther, we discovered an entry in the multi-volume set of books titled “Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders” by John N. Ingham, published in 1983. Now at the hefty price of $682.95 the set you might expect it to be accurate. While it might be accurate for every other entry, it certainly is not for Augustin (listed under one of the common variant spellings as Augustine Herrman). Once again when reading this reference work, the genealogist will again encounter conjecture listed as fact. This author picked one date of birth and a date of death that are both unconfirmed. It continues with the choice of one set of potential parents again as fact. While not necessarily of note for genealogical purposes we also noted the fact that several of the given dates and progressions in his career and life are a mishmash of mistaken dates and erroneous statements. Personally, I would hope that for $682.95 you’d at least get accurate information, but evidently not in the case of Agustin.

In this day and age of online family trees one of the major drawbacks to this type of erroneous information is that there are now a multitude of family trees online that are all simply mimicking this erroneous information.

Our communications with both of these individuals have resulted in no responses as of this time.

The Value to You in Doing Your ‘Responsibly Exhaustive Search’

Certainly we all want the most information we can find for our genealogy. We want our genealogy to be as complete as possible also, but what we should want most of all is for the depiction of our ancestors to be accurate and true. This means as genealogy and family history fans, must be ready and willing to undertake that all important ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Search’ and seek out those primary documents to ‘prove’ our genealogical information. We must not be drawn into the ease of such secondary or tertiary sources as undocumented online trees, Wikis, and many of the biographies that are available.

In the case of Augustin Heřman, there are some facts that remain elusive for those of us trying to compile his full and complete history. But it is far better to have a missing fact than to fill in that blank with something that is nothing more than conjecture.

Personally in our family tree my great grandfather, in 1910 and at the age of only 48, disappears from all records. While this missing data is a continued source of frustration I believe it is far better to maintain those years as a blank slate in our family tree than to simply manufacture something for him, or worse, pick one of the dates that others have variously placed in their online family trees as a date of death for him. One tree on Ancestry.com has his date of death as 1910. When I asked the tree’s owner about that their response was ‘well, he is not in the 1910 US Census so he must be dead then.” Beyond not having any death certificate, there is only one additional problem with that supposition and it is my grandmother personally telling me how my great grandfather would come visiting the family in the dead of night several times after that 1910 date.

stress reduction

While it may not be the most satisfying of outcomes, sometimes we simply have to accept that portions of our genealogy and family trees will remain mysteries. But then again that is why we keep on having all the fun of searching!

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Czech Genealogy in Poetry: “Herman of Bohemia Manor” by George Alfred Townsendhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-genealogy-in-poetry-herman-of-bohemia-manor-by-george-alfred-townsend.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-genealogy-in-poetry-herman-of-bohemia-manor-by-george-alfred-townsend.html#comments Sun, 10 Aug 2014 22:59:30 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3512 IF you enjoy poetry and genealogy — take a look at this! All about the exploits of Augustin Herman, Bohemian.

HERMAN OF BOHEMIA MANOR, by George Alfred Townsend, 1899
(See notes at end of poem.)


“My corn is gathered in the bins,
“The Lord Augustin Herman said; “My wild swine romp in chincapins; Dried are the deer and beaver skins; And on Elk Mountain’s languid head. The autumn woods are red.
“So in my heart an autumn falls; I stand a lonely tree unleaved; And to my hermit manor walls The wild-goose from the water calls, As if to mock a man bereaved: My years are nearly sheaved.
“Go saddle me the Flemish steed. My brother Verlett gave to me, What time his sister did concede. Her dainty hand to hear me plead! Poor soul! She’s mouldering by the sea. And I with misery.”
The slave man brought the wild-maned horse. All wilder that with stags he grazed—Bred from the seed the knightly Norse Rode from Araby. Like remorse The eyes in his gray forehead blazed, As on his lord he gazed.
“Now guard ye well my lands and stock; Slack not the seine, ply well the axe; The eagle circles o’er the flock; The Indian at my gates may knock: The firelock prime for his attacks; I ride the sunrise tracks.”[111]
Swift as a wizard on a broom, The strong gray horse and rider ran, Adown the forest stripped of bloom. By stump and bough that scarce gave room To pass the woodman’s caravan, Rode the Bohemian.
“Lord Herman, stay,” the brewer cried, “And Huddy’s friendly flagon clink !”And martial Hinoyossa spied The horseman, moving with the tide That ebbed from Appoquinimink, Nor stopped to rest or drink.
“Where rides old Herman?” Beekman mused; “That railing wife has turned his head.” “He keeps the saddle as he used, In younger days, when he enthused Three provinces,” Pierre Alricks said, “And mapped their landscapes spread.”
Broad rose Zuydt River as the sail Above his periauger flew; Loud neighed the steed to snuff the gale; But Herman saw not, swift and pale, Two carrier pigeons, winging true North-east, across the blue.
They quit the cage of Stuyvesant’s spy, And lurking Willems’ message bore:(“This morn rode Herman rapid by, Tow’rd Amsterdam, to satisfy Yet wider titles than he tore From shallow Baltimore!”)


The second sunset at his back From Navesink Highlands threw the shade Of horse and Herman, long and black, Across the golden ripples’ track, Where with the Kills the ocean played A measured serenade;[112]
There where to sea a river ran, Between tall hills of brown and sand, A mountain island rose to span The outlet of the Raritan ,And made a world on either hand, Soft as a poet planned:
Fair marshes pierced with brimming creeks, Where wild-fowl dived to oyster caves; And shores that swung to wooded peaks, Where many a falling water seeks. The cascade’s plunge to reach the waves, And greenest farmland laves:
Deep tide to every roadstead slips, And many capes confuse the shore, Yet none do with their forms eclipse Yon ocean, made for royal ships, Whose swells on silver beaches roar And rock forevermore.
Old Herman gazed through lengthening shades. Far up the inland, where the spires, Defined on rocky palisades, Flung sunset from their burnished blades, And with their bells in evening choirs Breathed homesick men’s desires:
“New Amsterdam! ’tis thine or mine—The foreground of this stately plan! To me the Indian did assign Totem on totem, line on line—Both Staten and the groves that ran. Far up the Raritan.
“By spiteful Stuyvesant long restrained, Now, while the English break his power, Be Achter Kill again regained. And Herman’s title entertained, Here float my banner from my tower, Here is my right, my hour!”


He scarce had finished, when a rush, Like partridge through the stubble, broke, And armed men trod down the brush; A harsh voice, trembling in the hush, As it must either stab or choke, Imperiously spoke:
“Ye conquered men of Achter Kill, Whose farms by loyal toil ye got, True Dutchmen! give this traitor will—And he is yours to loose or kill—All that ye have he will allot. Anew—field, cradle, cot.
“Years past, beyond our Southern bounds, On States’ commission sent by me, He mapped the English papists’ grounds, And like a Judas, o’er our wounds, Our raiment parted openly: This is the man ye see!
“Yet followed by my sleepless age, Fast as he rode my pigeons sped—Straight as the ravens from their cage, Straight as the arrows of my rage, Straight as the meteor overhead. That strikes a traitor dead.”
They bound Lord Herman fast as hate, And bore him o’er to Staten Isle; Behind him closed the postern gate, And round him pitiless as fate, Closed moat and palisade and pile: “Thou diest at morn,” they smile.


Morn broke on lofty Staten’s height, O’er low Amboy and Arthur Kill; And ocean dallying with the light, Between the beaches leprous white, And silent hook and headland hill, And Stuyvesant had his will;[114]
One-legged he stood, his sharp mustache Stiff as the sword he slashed in ire; His bald crown, like a calabash, Fringed round with ringlets white as ash, And features scorched with inner fire; Age wore him like a briar.
“Bring the Bohemian forth!” he cried;” Old man, thy moments are but few.” “So much the better, Dutchman! Bide Thy little time of aged pride, Thy poor revenges to pursue—Thy date is hastening, too.
“No crime is mine, save that I sought A refuge past thy jealous ken, And peaceful arts to strangers taught, And mine own title hither brought, Before the laws of Englishmen, A banished denizen.
“Yet that thy churlish soul may plead A favor to a dying foe, I’ll ask thee, Stuyvesant, ere I bleed, Let me once more on my gray steed Thrice round the timbered enceinte go: when I tell thee so!”
“What freak is this?” quoth Stuyvesant grim. Quoth Herman, “‘Twas a charger brave—Like my first bride in eye and limb—A wedding-gift; indulge the whim! And from his back to plunge, I crave, A bridegroom, in her grave.”
Then muttered the uneasy guard: “We rob an old man of his lands, And slay him. Sure his fate is hard, His dying plea to disregard!” “Ride then to death!” Stuyvesant commands; “Unbind his horse, his hands!”


The old steed darted in the fort, And neighed and shook his long gray mane; Then, seeing soldiery, his port Grew savage. With a charger’s snort, Upright he reared, as young again And scenting a campaign.
Hard on his nostrils Herman laid An iron hand and drew him down, Then, mounting in the esplanade, The rude Dutch rustics stared afraid: “By Santa Claus! he needs no crown, To look more proud renown!”
Lame Stuyvesant, also, envious saw How straight he sat in courteous power, Like boldness sanctified by law, And age gave magisterial awe; Though in his last and bitter hour, Of knightliness the flower.
His gray hairs o’er his cassock blew, And in his peak’d hat waved a plume; A horn swung loose and shining through High boots of buckskin, as he drew The rein, a jewel burst to bloom: The signet ring of doom.
‘Thrice round the fort! Then as I raise This hand, aim all and murder well!’ His head bends low; the steed’s eyes blaze, But not less bright do Herman’s gaze, As circling round the citadel, He peers for hope in hell.
Fast were the gates; no crevice showed. The ramparts, spiked with palisades, Grew higher as once round he rode; The arquebusiers prime the load, And drop to aim from ambuscades; No latch, no loophole aids.[116]
But one small hut its chimney thrust Between the timbers, close as they; Twice round and with a desperate trust Lord Herman muttered: “die I must: There, CHARGE!” and spurred through beam and clay—”By heaven! he is away!”


In clouds of dust the muskets fire, And volleying oaths old Stuyvesant from: “Turn out! In yonder Kills he’ll mire, Or drown, unless the fiends conspire. Mount! Follow! Still he must succumb—That tide was never swum.”
Through hut and chimney, down the ditch And up the bank, plunge horse and man; And down the Kills of bramble pitch, Oft-stumbling, those old gray knees which, Hunting the raccoon, led the van; Now, limp yet game he ran.
But cool and supple, Herman sat, His mind at work, his frame the horse’s, And knew with each pulsation, that Past foe and fen, past crag, and flat, And marsh, the steed he nearer forces To the broad sea’s recourses.
“Old friend,” he thought, “thou art too weak To try the Kills and drown, or falter, The while from shore their marksmen seek My heart. (Once o’er the Chesapeake I paddled oarless.) Lest the halter Be mine, I must not palter—
“Thou diest, though my marriage-gift: I still can swim. Poor Joost, adieu! “Ere ceased the heartfelt sigh he lift, The prospect widened: all adrift, The salty sluice burst into view, Where grappling tides fought through,[117]
And sucked to doom the venturous bear, And from his ferry swept the rower—How wide, how terrible, how fair! Yet how inspiriting the air—How tempts the long salt grass the mower! How treacherous the shore!
Far up the right spread Newark Bay, To lone Secaucus wooded rock; Nor could the Kill von Kull convey Passaic’s mountain flood away: In Arthur Kill the surges choke, The wild tides interlock.
O’er Arthur Kill the Holland farms Their gambril roofs, red painted, show; Beyond the newer Yankee swarms—His cider-presses spread their arms. Before, the squatter; back, the foe; And the dark waters flow.
As that salt air the stallion felt, He whimpers gayly, as if still is Upon his sight his native Scheldt, Or Skagger Rack, or Little Belt,—Their waving grass and silver lilies, Where browsed the amorous fillies.
And o’er the tide some lady nags Blew back his challenge. Scarce could Herman Hold in his seat. “By John of Prague’s True faith!” he thought, “thy spirit lags Not, Joost! Thy course thyself determine!” And plunges like a merman.
Leander’s spirit in the steed Inspired his stroke, not Herman’s fear; And fast the island shores recede, Fast rise the rider’s spirits freed, The golden mainland draws more near—”O gallant horse! ’tis here!”


Across the Kills the muskets crack—”Ha! ha!” Lord Herman waves his beaver: “Die of thy spleen ere I come back, Old Stuyvesant!” With a noise of wrack The fort blew up of his aggriever!—But not without retriever.
For from the smoke two pigeons fly, One south, one westward, separating, And straight as arrows crossed the sky, With silent orders (“He must die Who comes hereafter. Lie in waiting!”)Their snowy pinions freighting.
They warn the men of Minisink; They warn the Dutchmen of Zuydt River. Now speed to Jersey’s farther brink, Old horse, old master, ere ye shrink!—Or ambushed fall ere moonrise quiver, On paths where ye shall shiver.
On went the twain till past the ford That red-walled Raritan led over, And lonely woodland shades explored. Unarmed with firelock or with sword, Free-hearted rode the forest rover, Of all wild kind the drover:
Fled deer and bear before his coming, The wild-cat glared, the viper hissed; And died the long day’s insect-drumming. Where things of night began their humming, And witchly phantoms went to tryst, Was Herman exorcist.
“No land so tangled but my eye Can map its confines and its courses; Yet on life’s map who can espy Where hides his foe—where he shall die? “So Herman said, and his resources Resigned unto his horse’s.[119]
All night the steed instinctive travelled—His weary rider wept for him—Through unseen gulfs the whirlwind ravelled, Up moonlit beds of streamlets gravelled, Till halting every bleeding limb, He stands by something dim,
And will not stir till morning breaks. “What is’t I see, low clustering there, Beyond those broadening bays and lakes, That yonder point familiar makes?—Is it New Amstel, lowly fair, And this the Delaware?”


Lord Herman hugged his horse with pride; He raised his horn and blew so loudly, That more than echoes back replied: Horns answered louder; horsemen cried, And muskets banged, as if avowedly On Stuyvesant’s errand proudly!
“Die, traitor; fleér! though thou ‘scape Our ambush on thy devil’s racer, Caught here upon this marshy cape, Thy bones the muskrat’s brood shall scrape, The sturgeon suck—Death thy embracer! “So shouts each sanguine chaser.
To die in sight of Amstel’s walls, And gallant Joost to die beside him?—O foolish blast, such fate that calls! O river that the heart appalls! Dear Joost may live. And they bestride him? “By hell! none else shall ride him!
“My steed, thy limbs like mine are sore! Few years are left us ere the billows Roll over both. Come but once more, And to the bottom or the shore, Bear me and thee to happy pillows, Or ‘neath the water willows!”[120]
He strokes old Joost. He bends him low. He winds his horn and laughs derision. One spring!—they’ve cleared the bog and sloe, And down the ebb tide buoyant go—That stately tide. So like a vision Of home, to Norse and Frisian,
Where full a league spread Maas and Rhine, And in the marsh the rice-birds twitter; The long cranes pasture and the kine Loom lofty in the misty shine Of dawn and reedy islands glitter: Yet death all where is bitter.
Ere out of range a volley peals, But greed too great made aye a blunder. His horse Lord Herman’s self conceals,Yet once his horse and he go under, And rise again. No wound he feels. They hold their fire in wonder!
Short of the mark the bullets splash: “Now drown thee, wizard! at thy pleasure, “The Dutchmen hiss through teeth they gnash. He answers not; for o’er the plash Of waves he hears Joost’s gasping measure Of breath’s fast wasting treasure.


The sighs when dying comrades fall, Struck by the foe, are only sad; They leaped the ditch and climbed the wall, And shared the purpose of us all; The fame they have; the joy they had: “Rest in thy tracks, brave lad!”
But thou, poor beast! unknown to fame, Whose heart is reached while ours is bounding, Amidst the victory’s acclaim—By thee we kneel with more of shame, That bore us through the fight resounding, And dumbly took our wounding![121]
Lord Herman saw the blood drops seethe, The nag’s neck droop, the nostril bubble, And loosed the bridle from his teeth; Yet swam the old legs underneath, Invincibly. The gap they double; But further swim in trouble.
And lovely Nature stretched her aid, Her sympathetic tow and eddy; The oars of air with azure blade, And silent gravities persuade And waft them onward, slow and steady—On duteous deeds aye ready.
High leaped the perch. The hawk screamed joy. Under Joost’s belly musically The ripples broke. Bright clouds convoy The brute that man would but destroy, And all instinctive agents rally Strong and medicinally.
In vain! The gurgling waters suck That old life under. Herman swimming Seized but the horse tail. Like a buck Breasting a lake in wild woods’ pluck, Joost rose, the glaze his bright eyes dimming, And blood his sockets brimming.
Then voices speak and women cry. The treading feet find soil to stand. Above them the green ramparts lie, And twixt their shadows and the sky, The wondering burghers crowd the strand, And Herman help to land:
“Now to Newcastle’s English walls,Hail, Herman! and thy matchless stud!”Joost staggers up the bank and falls, And dying to his master crawls. Yields up his long solicitude, And spills his veins of blood.[122]
In Herman’s arms his neck is prest, With martial pride his dark eye glazes; He feels the hand he loves the best Stroke fondly, and a chill of rest, As if he rolled in pasture daisies And heard in winds his praises:
“O couldst thou speak, what wouldst thou say? I who can speak am dumb before thee. Thine eyes that drink Olympian day Where steeds of wings thy soul convey, With pride of eagles circling o’er thee: Thou seest I adore thee!
“Bound to thy starry home and her Who brought me thee and left earth hollow! An honored grave thy bones inter, And painting shall thy fame confer, Ere in thy shining track I follow, Thou courser of Apollo!”

The singular incident of this poem was published in 1862, in Rev. John Lednum’s “Personal Rise of Methodism,” and in the following words:
“It is said that the Dutch had him (Herman) a prisoner of war, at one time, under sentence of death, in New York. A short time before he was to be executed, he feigned himself to be deranged in mind, and requested that his horse should be brought to him in the prison. The horse was brought, finely caparisoned. Herman mounted him, and seemed to be performing military exercises, when, on the first opportunity, he bolted through one of the large windows, that was some fifteen feet above ground, leaped down, swam the North River, ran his horse through Jersey, and alighted on the bank of the Delaware, opposite Newcastle, and thus made his escape from death and the Dutch. This daring feat, tradition says, he had transferred to canvas—himself represented as standing by the side of his charger, from whose nostrils the blood was flowing.”—Page 277.
Such a singular and improbable story attracted great local attention, and in 1870, Francis Vincent, publishing his “History of Delaware,” wrote: “The author found this incident in both Lednum and Foot, and has seen a copy of this painting. It is in the possession of James R. Oldham, Esq., of Christiana Bridge, the only male descendant of Herman in Delaware State. He is the seventh in descent from Augustin Herman.”—Page 469.
In 1875, Rev. Charles P. Mallery, of Chesapeake City, a part of the Bohemia Manor, wrote in the Elkton (Md.) Democrat as follows: “Herman resided on the Manor for more than twenty years, during which time he once rode to New York on the back of his favorite horse, to reclaim his long-neglected possessions there. He found his land occupied by squatters…. They secured him, as they thought, for the night; but he soon found means to escape by leaping his horse through a forced opening, swimming the North River, and continuing his flight through New Jersey until he reached the shore opposite Newcastle, where he swam his horse across the Delaware and was safe…. Dr. Spotswood, of Newcastle, told me that there was a tradition in his town that the horse was buried there.” Augustin Herman made the first drawing of New Amsterdam, and [124]early maps of Maryland and New England. He was the first speculator in city real estate in America.
In 1876 I visited the relics of Herman on the Manor, and observed the topography and foliage. I then undertook to put this legend into verse, but struck a short, ill-accommodating stanza, in which I nevertheless persevered until the tale was told. I found that Herman had bought, in 1652, “the Raritan Great Meadows and the territory along the Staten Island Kills from Ompoge, or Amboy, to the Pechciesse Creek, and a tract on the south side of the Raritan, opposite Staten Island” (see Broadhead, page 537). It at once occurred to me to put the seat of Herman’s capture by squatters on this property, and to take Staten Island’s bold scenery as a contrast to that of the head of the Chesapeake, whence Herman had ridden. He could, besides, more reasonably swim the Kills than the North River with a horse, as a gentle prelude to swimming the Delaware.
One year before buying the above property (see Broadhead’s “History of New York,” page 526), Peter Stuyvesant vindictively persecuted Herman, Lockerman, and others, who retired to Staten Island to brood. These men belonged to “the popular party.” I therefore had a hint to make Stuyvesant himself the incarcerator of Herman in a fort, and the most available period seemed to be subsequent to the capture of Dutch New York by the English, but before the Dutch settlements on the Delaware were yielded. Stuyvesant surrendered New York September 8th, 1664. It was not until October 10th that Newcastle on the Delaware surrendered. The theory of the poem is that Herman, hearing New York to be English, like Maryland where he resided, repaired to his possessions. Stuyvesant rallies the squatters against him and makes use of a fort on Staten Island, not yet noticed by the English, as Herman’s place of punishment. On Herman’s escape this fort is blown up. When Herman returns to Newcastle, it is no longer Dutch, but English. Four days is the time of the action. The device of the carrier pigeons is possibly an anachronism, and also the age of Herman. I have aimed to make the story reasonable, if not creditable.
[1] The Bohemia Manor is a tract of 18,000 acres of the best land on the Delaware peninsula. It was granted to Augustine Herman, Bohemian, whose tombstone, now lying in the yard of Richard Bayard, on the site of Herman’s park, bears date 1661. He received the manor for making an early map of Maryland, and granted a part of the land to the sect of Labadists. In the course of a century it became the homestead of Senator Richard Bassett, heir of the last lord of the manor, and of his son-in-law, Senator James A. Bayard, the first. Herman was the principal historic personage about the head of the Chesapeake, and was Peter Stuyvesant’s diplomatist to New England as well as Maryland. The argument he made for the priority of the Dutch settlement on the Delaware was the basis of the independence of Delaware State. The legend of his escape from New York is told in several local books and newspapers, and it was the subject of one of his paintings, as he was both draughtsman and designer. G. A. T.

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Genealogy Tip: Don’t Always Follow the Path of Least Resistancehttp://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/genealogy-tip-dont-always-follow-the-path-of-least-resistance.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/genealogy-tip-dont-always-follow-the-path-of-least-resistance.html#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:36:02 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3508 Genealogy Tip: Don’t Always Follow the Path of Least Resistance

Free tips for genealogy and family history are always fun!

Free tips for genealogy and family history are always fun!

If you are into genealogy, then I am sure you have read the recent article in Dick Eastman’s newsletter titled “Are You Missing Most of the Available Genealogy Information?” If you missed it you can read it at http://blog.eogn.com/2014/07/27/are-you-missing-most-of-the-available-genealogy-information/.

Dick Eastman photo 2

In his article, Dick makes the statement “95% of the information of interest to genealogists is not yet available on the Internet.” While Dick does not attribute this fact to anything, even if it is only an estimate it is vital to note and incredibly true. To state it another way ‘you cannot do a quality, thorough, and comprehensive job on your genealogy on the Internet alone.’ You just can’t. Period. End of discussion.

While Dick wrote this article in response to a message he received, I, too have noted this belief as well as other trends in genealogy that are sad as well.

This trend to believe the genealogy world is 100% online is understandable. All the big dogs in the business tout their millions or billions of ‘records’ online. Ah, but what is a ‘record’? It is not, as many think, a single document. A single document may be counted as multiple records by these companies as a way of swelling their numbers. A single marriage license can be multiple ‘records’ with one record for the groom, one for the bride, one for the date, one for the city, one for the county, one for the state, one for the country, one for each of the parents, if listed, one for the home address of the groom, another for the home address of the bride, and on and on. But marketing is marketing and I am sure how sites count their ‘records’ will never change.

It is crucial for each of us to remember that, as Dick said, there are far, far more valuable resources available NOT online than online and that those that are online do not always tell the whole story we are seeking. Personally, I have found some incredibly precious pieces of our family history far from the Internet. While I may have found a hint or clue online, the information I needed were not. For instance, I found the only known image of my great grandfather in a book not found online. I have discovered entire journals that are complete with drawings of family ancestors in far away archives. In one instance I found four years of personal letters written by a Civil War soldier-ancestor to his family back home. Photographs of memorial plaques and markers have been located only after extensive searching in the churches and churchyards themselves. One particularly valuable one, from the 1712, turned out to be currently located in the janitor’s cupboard behind a Hoover and cleaning supplies, but held wonderful information. Plus as an added bonus I was able to get a rubbing of it.

Another unfortunate genealogy trends that irks me is some of the ways in which some folks are using social media in genealogy. While I am all for reaching out and making connections via social media, it certainly is NOT a replacement for learning how to do research yourself, learning where and what resources are available to you in your genealogy and family history, and getting involved in the answer you are seeking beyond asking someone else to do your work for you through a Facebook post.

Sure, I frequently ask questions on Facebook pages and read posts there, but the trend for people just to put their research requests up and ask others to do their work for them is a sad turn in genealogy in my opinion. One recent example I came across was a series of posting over several days of someone asking Facebook fans of a genealogy page to find records, go to libraries, order copies, and more for her because she needed the information for her client. The question immediately came to my mind “So this woman is getting paid, but doesn’t know what or where the documents are, how to access them, etc, wants others to do her work, and still has the chutzpah to collect her fees from some unsuspecting client who thinks they are getting good, quality genealogy work product from the person they’re paying.”

I am all for being collegial and helping out our fellow genealogists and family historians, but there is a difference between making suggestions, leading someone to the resources available, educating, etc. and simply asking others to do your work and then not even knowing what it is you might be getting in return from some unknown Facebook fan.

In the above case, I wonder if the final report this woman gives her client will contain the reference ‘unknown Facebook fans of page XXX’ as the source for her data? Somehow I doubt it.

In Genealogy You Have to Enjoy the Thrill of the Chase!

I often say that family history and genealogy are far more of a marathon than a 100 meter dash. Plus it is not a race to see who can finish first, nor who has the most names in their family tree, etc. To do a quality job on your genealogy you MUST enjoy the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction that comes with discoveries that YOU learn to make. Not simply accumulating as much as you can, as quickly or easily as you can.

Get your free hints and tips for genealogy here!

Get your free hints and tips for genealogy here!

So remember that to do your genealogy, family history, and ancestors justice you will need to roll up your sleeves, prepare to get a bit dirty (or at least dusty), put some miles on via a bus, your car, or shoe leather, and go beyond, far beyond, what’s on the slick marketers tell you and what the Internet has to offer.

Onward To Our Past®

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Free Genealogy Tip: Be Sure to Capture Those Family Idioms and Phraseshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/free-genealogy-tip-be-sure-to-capture-those-family-idioms-and-phrases.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/free-genealogy-tip-be-sure-to-capture-those-family-idioms-and-phrases.html#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:49:19 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3505 Free Genealogy Tip: Be Sure to Capture Those Family Idioms and Phrases

Get your free hints and tips for genealogy here!

Get your free hints and tips for genealogy here!

As genealogists, we all work extremely hard to find and document every fact we can find about our ancestors. We got to great lengths to gather each and every bit of evidence regarding family births, deaths, marriages, divorces, children, siblings, occupations, addresses, and more for our genealogy efforts.

I wonder though if you, like our family, capture one of the most unique things that can truly define your family? In this case I am referring to, and suggesting you document, all those quirky words, phrases, and sayings that were created by, and are unique to, your family. Best of all, collecting and remembering them can be great fun!

In our family we are chockfull of these special words and phrases and we do our best to capture them and then I add them to the profile of the individual in our family tree. Believe me when I say it really makes a family tree sparkle, shine, fun, and inviting!

One example in our family is that my wife’s grandparents and my grandparents loved to use old sayings. Wonderfully my wife’s family is 100% Italian and mine is 50/50 Bohemian and Cornish, so there are lots of these sayings and many are different from one another. Sadly, I have to say, many of these old saying are falling out of use due to the changing times. For instance, my Bohemian grandmother used to say ‘find a pin and pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck’ almost daily. She and my mom sewed all the time, there were many tailors in her family and so the hazard of errant straight pins was a constant in our home. Today? I am not so sure I could even find a single straight pin in our house let alone call them a hazard.

On my wife’s side, our great grandmother, Bisnonna, used to say “da carne proviene carne”. A rough English translation is ‘from meat comes meat’, but in Bisnonna’s case she used it to mean ‘if you eat meat, you get fat’. This was a way of supporting her meatless meals when the budget just didn’t allow for meat on the table all that often.

There are also the words that our children and grandchildren have invented over the years and have now taken a place in our family’s regular lexicon. They are fun, inventive, appropriate, and we wanted to make certain not to lose the history of how and where they originated.

Free tips for genealogy and family history are always fun!

Free tips for genealogy and family history are always fun!

Here are a couple of fun examples:

Maddy (pronounced mahdy): When our daughter was just learning to talk and was still sleeping in her crib, she would holler when she woke up for us to get her out. At some point she discovered that Mom and Dad were equally adept at this task, so she got creative and would simply call out ‘Maddy’, content to know that this combination of Mommy and Daddy would attract either, or both, my wife and I.

Groogmog: When our children were a bit too big to be carried with ease, they invented this word. As they would explain: “A groogmog is a young child who is just too tired to walk and needs to be carried” (often up the stairs to bed). My wife and I can’t tell you how many times this little ploy on their part worked like a charm!

Sticks: Our grandson was over for a large family dinner where his auntie made, among other foods, lamb chops on the grill. Piled high on a serving plate on the dinner table, our grandson had finished his first chops before the adults dug in. As we sat down he asked: “Are there any more of those……sticks?” He couldn’t recall that we had explained they were lamb chops, but he knew he wanted more and, seeing the bone on the end of each chop, simply called them ‘sticks’. From that day on, any lamb chops served in our house or order at any restaurant are ‘sticks’.

“Tuck a napkin in. Bus Andy always did.” My father-in-law, Carl, was a great storyteller and many of his stories revolved around his youth and growing up in Hibbing, a small northern Minnesota town. More often than not, when the family would gather around the dining room table for a typically awesome Italian feast, my father-in-law would take his napkin and tuck it in his shirt, while saying to everyone else “Tuck a napkin in. Bus Andy always did.” Thankfully my wife’s dad explained this story to me. Back in the early 1900s a man by the name of Andy Anderson got the idea to use his car to provide transportation services between Hibbing and a nearby town of Alice, Minnesota. Andy’s endeavor was tremendously successful and was the beginnings of the Greyhound Bus Company of today! His success earned him the nickname of ‘Bus Andy’ and no matter his wealth and renowned, every time he and his friends would meet at the local dining establishment for a meal, Bus Andy would take his napkin and tuck it in his shirt. Forever after, if it was good enough for Bus Andy it was good enough for everyone and anyone who gathered at any table anywhere with dad.

A sidelight to gathering and preserving these and a multitude of additional sayings and words has been that we have typed them up, printed them, and framed them for each person in our family. They have made terrific gifts for significant birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. They have also proven to be one of the best conversation starters in everyone’s’ home during parties and holiday gatherings. After all, how can you read something like ‘groogmog’ and not ask what it means?

So have fun, enjoy some good chuckles, and get busy gathering these unique tidbits for your genealogy and family history.

Onward To Our Past

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In Genealogy Skip the Heavy Hand and Opt for the Lighter Touchhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/in-genealogy-skip-the-heavy-hand-and-opt-for-the-lighter-touch.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/in-genealogy-skip-the-heavy-hand-and-opt-for-the-lighter-touch.html#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 08:26:42 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3501 In Genealogy Skip the Heavy Hand and Opt for the Lighter Touch

opinion offend

Almost everyone I encounter who has a determined love of genealogy and family history, at one point or another, comments on the ‘need’ to get the younger generation involved in genealogy.

In thinking about this need, I have come to believe two things. First, this most likely comes from a deeply personal place within each individual. Since we all sincerely love our genealogy and have invested both money and time heavily in our pursuit and gained some wonderful and often life altering discoveries, we don’t want our efforts to ‘end’ with us. Second, while we may feel an overwhelming need to get others involved or to take over our genealogy work, we need to abandon the oft used heavy handed approach and work instead with a much lighter touch.

Thinking back on our decisions to become serious about your genealogy and family history I am willing to bet that like mine yours did not strike like a bolt of lightning early in life. I suppose there are some who say they loved genealogy from their earliest days and have been working on it since they were knee high to a grasshopper. But for the far greater percentage of us this was not the case. We came upon our love far more gently and slowly.

Evidence of this is the simple fact that I have never encountered anyone in genealogy and family history who has ever said “Boy, I sure am glad I listened to every story ever told by my family elders all my life and asked them every genealogy and family history question I could.” Rather, everyone I have ever worked with looks back wistfully and says ‘Boy, I sure wish I had listened more closely to my family’s stories’ and ‘Oh, how I wish I had just 15 minutes with my grandmother, grandfather, etc. to ask them a couple of questions.’

Now, given the loss we all feel with the fact that we did not listen to all those family stories with a ‘genealogical ear’ or ask all the questions we now have, it is natural to want to impress some of our non-genealogical family members with the urgency to do what we did not. But here I ask you again to think back on your life and if you pursued your family history 24/7 365 days a year? No, I bet life got in the way. There were times other things in life took precedent. There were times when we simply cared about other things in our lives more than working on a family tree. Our interest may have simply waned at times as well. The gaps in our genealogy work have at times been brief, at other times quite long and extended.

Skip the Heavy Hand and Opt for the Light Touch

My grandmother loved to use the expression ‘you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar’. With this in mind I came to realize early in my genealogy work that while I might not be using honey and vinegar, I needed to put the heavy handed approach to genealogy away and opt for a much finer, lighter touch when working with others. The hammer, like vinegar, chased far more folks away than attracted them. On the other hand, like honey, taking a far lighter to our family genealogy worked far better at gathering new fans within our family tree.

I admit I often find myself fighting this, but time and again it proves its worth.

Indeed, I always reach out to any new potential partner in our genealogy immediately and as personally as I can (if I can call, I call. Email is second, Social Media next, and Snail Mail occupies the end of the line.) After my initial use of the ‘hammer’, I put it away and take my lead from whomever I am trying to work with.

Put it AWAY!

Put it AWAY!

While we may be rabid at the opportunity to learn something new from this potential partner, nine times out of 10, we don’t have the faintest idea of what they might be dealing with in their lives at the time we reach out. That is why it is imperative that we tread lightly, slowly, and at the pace offered and suggested by the other party to this equation.

Yes, the wait might be excruciating, but wait we must. We know how we feel, we do not know how the other party feels at the time of our contact. They may simply need some time to process our request and information or they may be in the midst of some major life-altering event.

Over and over again, I have seen heartwarming and incredibly valuable input and true, long lasting connection to our genealogy and family history simply by waiting. Days, weeks, months, maybe years later in comes the letter, the return phone call, the email that signals that, yes, the time is now right and I am ready, willing, and able to get involved!

Conscription to our cause never results in very long lasting partnerships. Then again, neither does the laying on of a guilt-trip, nor demanding participation due to some religious orientation if you participate in that.

We need to set the table, prepare the feast well, and then sit back and as hard as it may be, wait for our guests to arrive. When they do arrive be prepared that in all likelihood they will stay at the table well past dessert and coffee! And, after all, isn’t that exactly what we all want?

Onward To Our Past®

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In Our Genealogy: Let’s All Take PRIDE in our Family Treeshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/in-our-genealogy-lets-all-take-pride-in-our-family-trees.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/in-our-genealogy-lets-all-take-pride-in-our-family-trees.html#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:14:39 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3491 In Genealogy: Let’s All Take PRIDE in our Family Trees

PRIDE for all people!

PRIDE for all people!

It is impossible to pick up a newspaper or watch a news program and not read about the equality movement, or as some call it, the new civil rights movement. Finally American society all around us seems to be changing and, in this case, changing for the better. State after State are enacting long overdue legal reforms designed to insure equality for many more Americans. Equal legal footings for same sex marriages, LBGT equal rights in the workplace, and more are sweeping our Nation. And for good reason!

All one needs to do is re-read the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution for what is termed the ‘Equal Protection Clause’. This clause states, simply and quite eloquently, that no State can deny United States citizens “equal protection of the laws”.

We ARE all equal under the law!

We ARE all equal under the law!

So it should be with our genealogy and family trees. We, as genealogists, who pride ourselves on finding “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about who our ancestors were, where they lived, what occupations they held, where they are interred, etc. need to be just as determined in our pride to have our family trees and genealogy reflect ALL the people in our families.

Personally I use Family Tree Builder genealogy software made by MyHeritage.com for our family tree. This allows for all manner of equal representation within our family tree. I suggest you make certain that your software does the same. No longer is the excuse ‘my program won’t let me show a same sex marriage’ acceptable.

Again, in our quest for accurate and truthful genealogies, we must be certain to also reflect that some in our family tree are adopted, came to be created by ‘artificial’ insemination, surrogate mothers, etc.

The 1950s are long gone and so should the unnecessary shame and ignorance that were so prevalent at that time in matters regarding single parents, adoption, race, sexual orientation, mixed marriages, divorce, and more.

Just as we would not dare to manufacture some artificial history for one of our ancestors, so we should not dare to be anything less than FULLY open and honest with any and all matters of fact for our family trees and in our genealogy. Certainly I would not disgrace my immigrant great grandfather who came from Bohemia in 1866 by saying he was a Mayflower descendant. Likewise I would not dare to disgrace a same sex couple by not representing their lives, love, and commitment properly in our family tree.

Not long ago I found myself having a discussion with a genealogy fan who took great pride in explaining to me that she had been working for years and years to try and find the link in her family tree to a family story of having a Native American ancestor. Yet in this same conversation this same genealogist proclaimed that she would never reflect a same sex marriage in her tree and would not add any photographs of her mixed race niece and nephews. I asked her what the difference was and pointed out that a mixed race marriage of a white woman and a Native American man back in the 1890s might well have been seen as scandalous. After some stammering on her part our conversation ended. I guess all I can say is that she considered it genealogically ‘acceptable’ to have a Native American ancestor, but not people of certain other races or sexual orientation. So here was a genealogist who was spending years trying to find one fact for her family tree while admitting that she considered other facts to be unacceptable for inclusion in that same family tree.

It is time for every one of us genealogy fans and family historians to paint each of our family trees in the rainbow that has come to represent equality and acceptance of all peoples.

To those of you who already have that rainbow arcing over your family tree, I say to you: ‘Hear, Hear’!



Onward To Our Past® with PRIDE!

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