Friday, September 30, 2011

I Can Feel the Seasons Changing...

...and I think my research is falling in step with that sense of change.

It has been a few days since I have written anything; well, actually more than a few days.  I have thought about topics as I have moved through my day, thinking, "that would be cool to write about this or that".  However, come the end of the day, and somehow it doesn't seem as important as it did just a few short hours previously.

When I started this blog, I had a sense that things were shifting.  I wasn't sure how or where or why, and guess what?, I still don't know.  I just can tell it is.  I almost feel like there is a maturity emerging in my genealogical research, much as I am beginning to enter the Autumn season both in 2011 and in my own life...I am just not that Spring chicken any more, as much as my brain thinks I am or wants me to be.

I'm not saying I'm ready for the "home" just yet.  I still have a son in high school, a daughter in her first semester of college, and another son living at home and working...but I seem to be gaining a more mellow approach to life and that is somehow translating into my research.  It seems important to me now to make sure that the "i's" are dotted and the "t's" are crossed.  I wasn't reckless in my research, but I also know that I wasn't as thorough as I could have been.

The online group (US-REC Study Group) that I have mentioned here seems to have fallen into my lap at the exact right time.  Yesterday, I was thoroughly frustrated with myself.  I have begun what I thought was a simple task at becoming more organized...I was going to tackle my online bookmarks.  Well, as the saying goes, looks (and ideas) can be deceiving.  I realized the impossibility of tackling this task because of the shear volume of bookmarks that I had "collected" in my zeal to do research.  The good news, if there is any, is that at least there had been a vain attempt to organize these into some type of order...that was until I reached the folder entitled, "Tuesday".

What Tuesday, you may ask?  Boy, if you know, I sure would love you to tell me, because I have no clue.  For all I know, it could have been last week, month, year...and if that wasn't bad enough, I had seven more folders named Tuesday 2 - Tuesday 8...yes, eight folders with at least a half a dozen bookmarks each (some closer to a dozen) all named Tuesday...guess I was really busy that day!  In that moment of discovery, I almost came unglued.

So, what's a woman to do?  Well, a woman who is finally beginning to grasp the idea that I cannot go it alone in the genealogy world any more than I can go it alone in everyday life went to her group on FB and simply said, "Help!"...and the mere act of acknowledging out loud that what I thought was going to be any easy task as homework assignment #1 was going to take a lot longer than I realized.

What did I discover?  What I have found to be true in other areas of my life...I am not alone.  My groupmates have struggled/are struggling with the same organizational demons to one extent or the other.  They gave me some practical suggestions, they offered me encouragement, they let me know that I wasn't an awful person that needs to be thrown out of the genealogical community on my ear (yes, my brain goes that far)...and what came from all of that was a feeling that I am moving into a deeper level, a more mature level, in my research.

What did I do today?  Did I frantically attack those bookmarks because they have to be done now?  Heck, they really needed to be done on whatever Tuesday it was when I first bookmarked them.  No, I looked with anticipation to the changing season, the exit out of the summer heat and entering into the cooler mornings and nights...and I made cinnamon-apple butter and ginger-pear butter and let the smells of Autumn fill my kitchen.

The bookmarks aren't going anywhere.

I know that I will go back to looking for my relatives...if not mine, my husband's...the thrill of the hunt is too strong to stay away too long.  However, it is my hope that I will approach it more from the place of wisdom of the elder stag than from the frenzy of the young buck.  The seasons, after all, are changing.

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One-Eighth Irish for Sure!

Katherine Wagner Sauer ca. 1963

Yes, this is a picture of me Christmas of 1963 with my grandmother, Katherine WAGNER.  As a side note, I played a lot more with that handsome guy in the background known as "Hands-Up Harry" then I ever did that doll.  It was my absolute favorite toy growing up and probably accounts for my marksmanship today (that, and dad being an expert shot, too).

This is the branch of the family tree that I have always found the most frustrating.  It's odd, I seldom talk about being "part Irish".  If anything, identifying with my German roots on my mother's side has always been at the forefront, even to the point of opting out of Spanish in high school and taking 4 years of German (ask me if I regret that decision today, living in California).

With that said, there seems to be almost a desperate need to find out more about Katherine's mother's family.  Maybe it is because I married a first generation Irishman myself and have had the opportunity to visit Ireland and meet his relatives.  The last time we visited, the PRONI office was undergoing it's major renovation, which only added to my frustration.  The few leads that I have been able to glean point to origin in "Northern Ireland", which back in the day was Ulster Province.  As if all this wasn't enough, my husband's family has suggested that there were ROUNDTREEs living down in Cavan. Ah, but here is where things become a little rough.

Is it ROUNDTREE or ROUNTREE or, even when driving through Monaghan last Septemeber, ROWANTREE?  That doesn't even begin to cover the variations I have seen.  My grandmother spelled it Roundtree, so I have used that all these years.  However, in the two obituaries that I have found, it is listed as ROUNTREE. In any event, it looks as if my great-grandmother, Alice ROUNDTREE was born in the United States in New York.  Her older sister Mary was born in Ireland (although on one census it is listed as New York) and her older brother John was born in Ohio, which up until a few months ago, I thought had to be a was just so odd.  Then I began to think if they were escaping the ravages/aftermath of the famine, it is a possibility that they came here through Canada, stopping to have a baby along the way in Ohio.  If that is the case, why didn't they just stop there?  Why did they continue with the journey to New York?  More questions; more mystery.

What I do know is the Patrick ROUNDTREE arrived ca. 1865 with his wife, Cathran McCORMICK (which just as easily could be McCORMACK).  If I know little about Patrick, I know even less about his wife.  I still remember the day sitting at Grandma's kitchen table trying to pin down loose ends; to actually write down those names she had quizzed me on so many years previously.  She had suffered a stroke and I think I knew it was now or never.  She rubbed her brow, trying with much difficulty to remember her grandmother's maiden name. "Ah Penny, why do you need to know this!" she exclaimed. "Why is it so important?" obviously angry and frustrated that I was pressing her so hard.  "Because," I replied, "this is important to me.  I want to know about my family."  About a minute later, out she blurted "McCormick", relieved and happy that she had finally provided the last piece of the puzzle as much as she knew.

Did her "Brooklynese" corrupt the surname?  I have no idea.  Upon researching Griffith's Valuation, there are Roundtrees and McCormicks in the same area (just south of the area where my husband's family is from, which would coincide with what his relative said), but as of yet, I have no concrete proof.  In any event, after being recorded in the 1880 census in New York, Patrick is listed as a Widower in 1900, with his son John, daughter Mary, son-in-law John DUFFY and their two children.

Yes, I am looking forward to the release of the 1940 census for this family and the elusive Jenny DUFFY; a piece of the puzzle that wasn't secured.  Grandma referred to her as Cousin Jenny, but I have yet to find where she fits.  I'm not sure how much it will tell me, but I am hoping for the best.  In the meantime, I am working on collateral lines that may help shed some light on the mystery of my Irish ancestors.

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A View of Everyday Life

I have started working with a study group on Facebook known as US-REC with Valerie Elkins and Tonia Kendrick. We are studying Val Greenwood's book, The Researcher's Guide to American Research and working through assignments, culminating in a final project about 15 months from now.  I heard about the group through another wonderful blog, Reflecting on Genealogy.

Our first assignment was to look at our organizational skills.  We were given 20 questions to answer on a scale of 1 – 4. While I didn’t fail miserably, (20 – 30 point range, for which I was much relieved), I didn’t exactly score well. My answers barely fell in the next category (35 in the 31 – 50 range, where I was told “You have made a good start, but probably have the nagging feeling that you need to “get organized.”

What, of course, stood out in this response was the words “nagging feeling”.  Truth be told, it has taken me a while to write on this assignment because I realized it has more to do with my life than genealogy.  Genealogy is just another in a long list of casualties.  Organization of any sort is my #1 bug-a-boo, with its sworn enemy, procrastination.  What I have come to realize since taking this questionnaire on Saturday is that I am sorely lacking in this area of my life.

Now, the good news is…I am in the right place.  I have shared with you that something is happening and I have invited you all along for the ride…and I never said it was going to be smooth sailing.  The “nagging feeling” has finally been acknowledge out loud, and so now I can take measures to problem solve and hopefully find a solution. 

Where I am right now is best described as “organized chaos”.  I totally blame my dad, lol.  An accountant by trade, he used to have scraps of papers all over his desk long before the advent of computers.  However, he could call you on the phone from out on the road, direct you to said scrap of paper (in a pile, behind the phone, next to the adding machine, etc.) and find the information he needed.  That is much the same for me.  I know where everything is, it is just not at my fingertips.  That is where I need to work.

The final part of my assignment was to pick three things from the list that I want to change.  What I noticed was that there was a general theme to where I was failing miserably…one could call it “follow through” or “finish what you start”.  You will probably hear more about these things in upcoming blogs.

However, for the moment, here are the three areas I have chosen to work on in the coming days/weeks/months…ya, it may take THAT long.

·     Record and file the results of each search before I begin another search. (Do not ask me how many windows and tabs I have open on any given day.)

·     Regularly prepare short research summaries when I reach a stopping point, so that I can quickly pick up the line of research again, whether it is days, months, or years later. (I do have “to-do” lists. Either I can’t remember why or they are months/years past their “due dates”.)

·     Write regular research reports to myself, just as I would for a client. (This one never even crossed the radar…what a concept!)

I’ll keep you updated on how well I am doing with each of these areas (and possibly others; there was a long list).  I have often found that when I am accountable, I tend to be able to drive away the big, mean, procrastination monster.

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan

Friday, September 16, 2011

From Germany to New York; my Maternal Grandfather's Family

This is one of the only pictures I have of my Grandpa CHARLES SAUER. I never knew him, as he died exactly one month after I was born.  It kind of epitomizes this side of the family.  While I have extensive information on my father's side, my mother's side of the family is much more scarce.  I count myself lucky in what I do have and welcome the challenge of discovering more.

If you read my bio, you know that much of the information I have on my mom's side of the family came from oral history;  Grandma KATHERINE WAGNER (Charles' wife) playing her version of 60's game shows in a futile effort to keep a rather rambunctious child from driving her crazy.  It wasn't too long after our "game" that she would encourage me to go outside and play and get "air in my lungs"...her prescription for a healthy childhood (and her peace of mind).

Just before the angst that caused such heartache with my research, I made a somewhat major discovery on a rather obscure website that I stumbled upon while doing research on my husband's line in upstate New York.  The name of the site is "Old Fulton New York Postcards" and, like I am known to do, I began to go down the rabbit hole.  Only this time, I hit the jackpot discovering old New York Newspapers online.  I had no dates of death on either of Charles' parents nor knew much about them.

From that oral history, I knew that my great-grandfather, WILLIAM SAUER had come to this country from Germany when he was 5 years old.  I had been lucky enough to find him in some census records and I had even found his Petition for Naturalization, but nothing really told me too much.  He lists Hamburg as his place of birth, however, his father's place of birth was "overwritten" on the 1920 census with the abbreviation "ger".  I have often wondered if that was a backlash to World War I, or if the census recorder should have listed it as Germany in the first place.  In any event, I have yet to discover when William sailed, aboard what ship, or find his Declaration of Intent to become a citizen.  What bothered me most, though, was I did not know when he died.  I knew nothing of the man, except that he was a glass-mould maker.  By finding his obituary, I learned more about him as well as my great aunts and uncles, including where he is buried.

Although I have continued to search through the site, I have been unable to find my great-grandmother's obituary.  Part of the problem with her is the variations on her name.  Although Grandma Katherine always said "HOFFER", I have seen if as "HOFER" (as listed on her father's Petition for Naturalization), "HOFFHERR", "HOFHER", "HOFHERR", "HOOFER", "HOFHEN", AND "HOEFER" (the "e" to take the place of the German umlaut?) just to name a few. Josephine was born in the United States shortly after her mother and father came from Germany in 1854, according to the census.  However, like with the SAUER family, I cannot seem to find when, where, or how.

Both of Josephine's parents, Charles and Johanna, disappear before the 1910 census, and like their daughter, I do not know when they died or where they are interred.  Although I have the names of Josephine's brothers and her only sister, my information on them is also sorely lacking.  Cousins yet to be discovered and family that I may never reach.

All this means, I suppose, is that I must have the willingness to persevere and continue to dig a little deeper...and when I become frustrated, I can bounce over to another branch of the family, or to my husband's family.  After all, it is out of that frustration that I struck gold...the genealogy gods smiling upon me.

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who are my Kinfolk?

I thought I go ahead and introduce you to part of my family.  This is the first step in being brave and sharing things that may never be credited to me.  I have no idea when this picture was taken as my mom gave it to me before she died knowing how much I loved researching. 

I was named for the woman second to the left, my paternal grandmother, Pennsylvania JEFFERS.  I was supposed to be a boy...we were all supposed to be boys, but that never quite materialized.  In any event, I already had two sisters whose names began with the letter "P", so when my parents were brainstorming with friends on a name, someone suggested naming me after my dad's mom.  I have to say, I am quite grateful they decided to truncate my name to Penny...not sure if I could have handled the rousing at school over Pennsylvania.  It was hard enough with the surname of SEXTON.

So, left to right is my great grandfather, Timothy S. SEXTON, his daughter-in-law (my gandmother) Pennsylvania JEFFERS, her father (my great grandfather), Robert G. H. JEFFERS, and her mother (my great grandmother), Phoebe Jane PHILLIPS.  My best guess is that it was taken outside the home of Robert and Phoebe Jane, in Scott County, Tennessee.

My grandma Pennsy lived to the ripe old age of 94.  I was able to visit her in Ohio on two different occasions, the last time when I had done a geographic to Ohio for 10 months.  She was able to meet my husband and hold her great-grandson.  It was a good day.  Part of my angst is that I live way on the other side of the country.  Even with the internet at our fingertips, I so wish I had the means to spend time researching in my family's home states.

So Dad's family finds me mostly researching SEXTON, JEFFERS, PHILLIPS, CHAMBERS, NEWPORTS, and GOADS from Scott County, Tennessee.  Of course, there are others, but these families tend to marry quite a bit, which always freaks out my children.  If any of these names fit your research, let me know.  It's time to find my distant cousins.

Tomorrow (yes, I really should go to bed...but it is so quiet), I'll share a little bit about mom's side of the family from New York.  Until then, as my dad would have said, "Remember who you are and where you're going".

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan

Musings at 2:15am as I Begin Blogging

Well, I finally decided to take the leap and start a blog.  I have no idea if it will be any good, if anyone will read it, if anybody really cares...but that doesn't matter.  I decided that I care and it was time for me to talk about it.

My genealogy research seems to be morphing, much like the way my life unfolds.  For the longest time, I did not want to share or contact anyone in regards to genealogy and family history.  I was content to do my own thing, work behind the scenes helping to transcribe records, and basically just go happily along my merry way.

Then recently, two things happened.  Through no fault of my own, even with my data backed up, I lost about 1100 names out of my tree.  It was a "glitch" in the update to my program (or so Ancestry told me after numerous phone calls) and nothing really could be done.  I was beyond just hurt.  I'm still not sure I am over it completely.  In order to deal with the grief (yes, I was grieving), I kind of ran away from doing any more research...not that I tend to run away from feelings, lol, but that is another blog.  No matter what I did, I just couldn't bring myself to do research for a while.

Then the oddest thing happened.  One day in my inbox there was a notification to a message board about a JEFFERS family and did anyone have any information.  To my surprise, I responded.  Not only that, I ended up sharing information with the person who had first posted the query.  Now, this may not seem like a big deal to a lot of you, but for me, it was a huge step forward.

To say I am a private person, an introvert, is not an understatement.  If I meet you one on one, you would never know...but don't put me in a room with more than 5 people or I instantly become a wallflower.  Not to mention, I take pride in my genealogy.  Ever since I realized the error of my ways many, many moons ago about attaching people to my tree willy-nilly through shaky little leaves, I have tried my best to document my work.  As most of you know, this takes hours...and I don't much fancy the thought of just giving it away...but, something is beginning to change.

I'm not sure where these rumblings will take me.  I am not positive I will be able to just put my family history up there for all the world to may take a while, it may be a process, like the way so many other things happen in my life.  However, I have learned that if I begin the intention, the rest of it has a way of working itself out exactly how it is supposed to happen.

In the meantime, I will continue to bring my thoughts, feelings, findings, and frustrations here, because yes, brick walls are downright frustrating.

I invite you on the journey with me...who know what lies ahead, waiting to be discovered.

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan