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Well, it is official: I am truly and unequivocally convinced that the opportunities to find more records on our ancestors is as wide and bottomless as the universe's Black Hole.

This week, I once again received three stuffed packages of ancestral records from my "genealogist gem"; the one I spoke of a few blogs ago. I sifted through volumes of notes and records and within my bulging stack of papers, one in particular struck me; sending a ripple of excitement that tingled my toes!

The record that gave life to my middle-age (I hate saying that term!) heart, is a digital copy of a Congressional Record. And highlighted nicely by my "gem" was my ancestor Samuel Hobbs, noted in a Congressional Journal on January 12th, 1846. Samuel was representing himself and sixteen other citizens of Pennsylvania for "remonstrating against the admission of Texas as a slave state into the Union."

What on earth is this? I thought.

I slowly sat down at my kitchen table and glared at the document. I put on my thinking cap (I keep it handy at all times) and read slowly the statement at the beginning of the records: "Mr John Quincy Adams presented a memorial from..." and a long list followed of names of representatives from several states renouncing the proposed "slave state of Texas."

Now at this point I would like to make it clear to all Texans, I truly have nothing against your state. But at that time in our history, knowing my ancestor boldly and publicly denounced slavery--participating in a Congressional petition as an Abolitionist--reconfirms my purpose for genealogy.

Stunned with the discovery, I went straight to the Library of Congress website and searched for myself. Of course I have utilized their wonderful Chronicling America portal--their digitalized and searchable archived newspapers. But I had never peeked inside the portal for "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875."

Why would I pause to consider that I might have an ancestor's name embedded within the great archived books of Congress?

I never did; until now.

The fact is, the Congressional books have volumes of petitions, debates and military promotions of American citizens from every state since the Continental Congress. One does not have to be a Congressman to have your name recorded in a Congressional Record. If your ancestor was promoted in military rank; if they signed a petition from their state that was forwarded on to Congress; if a widow requested a military pension for her deceased husband; these and many more examples could become an entry into the Congressional Record.

In exploring this site, I recommend going to "search all titles" and then type in your ancestor's full name in the large white square. The results will list which records have your ancestor's full name--that's the one to focus on. What I also love about this site is how the results highlight your ancestor's name in bold lettering; allowing your eyes to zero in on what you are looking for.

So bookmark this brilliant Library of Congress portal because you will undoubtedly become hooked; routinely placing several of your ancestor's names within their search engine.

You may be quite stunned at your discoveries.

I know I was--thinking cap and all.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
 
 
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The door crept open and the timid young man stretched his head inside, shifting his eyes around the room. Others shoved against his back, pushing him through and as he stood, his voice joined the chant echoing against the wall: "No to war! No to war!"

The swell of adrenaline encircled each man; the crowd multiplying as the hot August evening melted into night. Their youthful faces radiated hope but many of their eyes reflected anger: anger at authority and anger at their country.

Leaders evolved, moving to the platform, professing the wrongs of war. Shouting defiance to the American Government, protest signs were built and the inflated crowd moved into the streets. Cars rumbled through the sleepy village of Seminole, Oklahoma, now bringing men of all ages. Men of different backgrounds, bonding to form a strong brotherhood in the fight against one cause: American's involvement in World War 1.

The dramatic story of the Green Corn Rebellion manifested the strong antiwar sentiment within the state of Oklahoma in 1917. The discontent led to an uprising of a large mob of protesters in several northeastern counties of Oklahoma, seizing control of local institutions with the determination to walk to Washington D.C. in protest of the war. The mob was eventually dismantled by law enforcement, but their story provides a backdrop to my own grandfather: a World War 1 objector.

The discovery of my grandfather's World War 1 draft card brought excitement and extreme curiosity. Claiming he had grounds against the draft; Glenn Beatty stated he "was not particularly sympathetic to the Allied Armies." The statement was bold and clearly political; particularly at a time when patriotism and loyalty was cast upon American citizens in hopes of increasing support for the war.

With a hunger to learn everything I could about the environment my grandfather was living in, I searched historical papers of Oklahoma in 1917. I discovered that the state I live in today has little resemblance to the state my grandfather lived in almost a hundred years ago.

In the early 1900's, the Oklahoma Socialist Party was ranked as "one of the top three state socialist organizations in America." The party was a strong force against America's involvement in the war; banding with the Oklahoma farmers and unions. And the uneasiness and dissent against the war swelled among young Oklahoma men, percolating into an antiwar protest: The Green Corn Rebellion.

Adding fuel to the undercurrent of discontent, the National Defense Act of 1916, directed each state to develop a Council of Defense. These small committees were specifically formed to create patriotism and loyalty. But instead, dissenters were often bullied, beaten and jailed for refusing to sign loyalty -pledge cards: Oppressive tactics more reflective of dictatorships than democracy.

I cannot say that Glenn Beatty walked the streets with war protesters in August 1917. And although only half of the citizens of Oklahoma willingly signed loyalty pledge cards distributed by the Council of Defense, I have no evidence he refused to sign.

But learning the history of the environment surrounding my grandfather, gives life and meaning to his story.

If you truly want to understand and write your ancestor's story then immerse yourself in their history and their world. Search publications at your local historical society and gain a real knowledge of the times they lived.

Because their world, was most certainly very different than your own.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
(Source: Oklahoma Historical Society)

 

A New Years Wish

01/15/2012

 
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A new year can lift our spirits and create a feeling of fresh beginnings; spiritual rebirth and hope. The study of our history--the widely growing hobby of genealogy--appears to be swinging headfirst into 2012. New websites are spilling forth and the "oldies but goodies" are growing even larger and stronger.

Feeding off of the rapidly growing interest in genealogy, PBS is launching a new series March 25th called Finding Your Roots. It will be a one-hour, 10 part series that like NBC, will feature important Americans and their journeys to ancestor discoveries. And speaking of NBC; Who Do You Think You Are will begin season three on February 3rd. Each program sounds enlightening and most likely, very inspiring.

Over the years, as I have delved deeper into genealogy, I have witnessed an increasing growth of new websites and blogs. But what I am seeing now excites me for the future. The granddaddies--Ancestry.com and Fold3--are taking notice of the smaller sites that are publishing digital records free for the taking.

These subscription websites are offering more free access to records. Ancestry.com has announced making the 1940 US Census free and available starting April 2012 until 2013. And they are bringing direct access to free sites such as Rootsweb, directly to their members.

Fold3 is a partner with the Federation of Genealogical Societies in their War of 1812 Project. They have been digitalizing all 1812 Pension Application Files and offering them free on their site.

The two largest lineage organizations--the DAR and NSSAR--are now providing their patriot records searchable on-line and I must not forget the wonderful website FamilySearch.org. This great organization has rapidly grown during the last year, adding new records daily. It has quickly become a leader in the field of genealogy.

As I explore the Internet, I am delighted with sites such as Archive.org-a free access site that provides searchable and downloadable ancestral books. And I have been thrilled to find ancestor's tombstone records on FindAGrave.com and Interment.net.

But what continues to stun me the most, is the little county courthouse websites with free access to land, wills and probate records. Town historical centers with archived city directories and genealogical societies with realms of free files.

These small, individual websites are flooding the Internet. They are providing all of us with our history at our fingertips.

All for free.

Which is my wish for the New Year. It is my hope that with time and the growth of more websites providing free access to digital records; some day in the new future, genealogical records will be free to all.

You never know; it's a wish that just may come true.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl






 
 
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If you follow my blog, you will recall my recent exploration of my Hobbs' lineage. I had left the lineage untouched for years and felt delighted over my latest discoveries and resourceful cousin contacts. But realizing I had a "real-time" link to my Hobbs history, I zipped an e-mail to my aunt.

Remembering stories of "Uncle Rush" throughout my life, I felt certain my aunt might provide further details to uncover. Assuming for years that "Uncle Rush Hobbs" was the brother Rush of my great-grandmother Elvira Hobbs, I wondered if my aunt had much contact with the much elder ancestor.

"Yes, I remember Uncle Rush. We spent a lot of time visiting Uncle Rush and Aunt Gale." But the details began to blur as she described years knowing our Hobbs ancestor.

How could that be?, I wondered. "Uncle Rush Hobbs" must have died only a few years after my aunt was born. It's not possible for her to have years of contact with the much older great-uncle.

Reviewing, rereading and pondering my Hobbs family tree; my mind went back and forth second-guessing my research.

And then my genealogical light bulb clicked on and I was struck by the realization that for years, the "Uncle Rush Hobbs" that was so endeared by my mother and aunt was not at all their uncle.

He must have been a younger generation Rush Hobbs, I thought: Perhaps a son of one of great-grandmother Hobbs' siblings. And with that, my light bulb brightened as I furiously began placing each of my Hobbs ancestral uncles and aunts in the Ancestry.com search engine.

And voila! I found it.

The "Uncle Rush Hobbs" that my mother and aunt so dearly loved was not their uncle at all. He was the cousin to my grandfather: A son of a brother of great-grandmother Elvira Hobbs. And I found the younger Rush living with his father only a few miles from our family home. The "Rush" name appears to have been passed through several generations; an all too familiar genealogical perplexity and frustrating phenomenon.

So why was the familial misnomer of "uncle" used for dear cousin Rush? That question will most likely go unanswered. But that one little inquiry led to a whirlwind of an inquisition, resulting in the further discovery of more Hobbs ancestors. Which reminds myself to obey my number one rule:

Ask your elders.

Mistakes and misnomers are just as revealing as certainty. And when something doesn't make since, go toward the light; especially if it's blinding your eyes.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
 
 
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The end of a year traditionally places us at a point of nostalgic review while instilling a spark of hope for new beginnings. And as this genealogy blog has matured throughout the last twelve months, I am forced to examine its functionality to the website it is planted upon.

When developing my website, I originally viewed it as a vehicle to make my family history book more available to genealogists. With that, I have attempted to provide visitors quick access to genealogy sites I have found useful, available and at little to no cost.

But as I quickly learned, the "build it they will come" phrase, does not apply to new websites. So, after long nights of studying the assertions of experts much wiser than myself, I began writing a weekly blog in order to increase traffic to my site.

Gradually developing this weekly stint into something the researcher could grab hold of and make useful, I in turn, learned from my experiences and mistakes. And as a lover of story, I am drawn to the uniqueness of life: the curiosity of another individual; peeling back the layers of my ancestors to discover bits of their personalities and histories. And I have been humbled by my realizations.

As I have uncovered my ancestor's stories, I have been blindsided by their tragic life experiences and their ability to withstand loss: parents that buried their babies, year after year. Entire families erased away by diseases such as Typhoid Fever and Smallpox. In contrast, our daily worries appear trivial in comparison.

Though very proud to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the discovery that my Scottish ancestor was jailed as a Loyalist lead me to face the "dark side" of the Revolution. The war atrocities within both armies and the bitter hatred amongst neighbors: Loyalists who lost their properties and were subjected to brutal, horrific attacks.

As I uncovered the wills and personal writings of my great-great-great-grandfathers, I was chilled with the reality that I had ancestors who owned other human beings. And to understand that an entire culture coldly accepted that a person could be sold and traded like furniture or be discarded like old, worn out shoes.

I was disheartened to think of the prejudices my Irish ancestors had to withstand just to settle and raise a family within the same country as I currently live. And I pause to wonder if the prejudices my ancestors faced are parallel to the current struggle of our immigrants of today.

Where would any of us be, had our ancestors not been allowed to immigrate to America?

The undertaking of genealogy, if done properly, can and will change you as an individual. If you look for the story and seek out the truth; you will be moved into a different direction. And as you find your ancestors, you will find yourself.

The development of this blog has, as the experts predicted, increased traffic to my little site. Over the last year I have welcomed over 70,000 visitors; much more than I ever imagined.

With fresh eyes to review a year in the life of my blog, I do see the value of its being. I have grown through my discoveries and stories and I hope you have benefited from my revelations.

I'm not certain what direction this blog will take next but it most likely will continue to reveal more stories; at least in some form. Because once you start peeling away the layers, you struggle until you reach the core. And as you find your ancestor's core, you will find your own.

Thank you for visiting and keep searching for answers.

Cheryl