Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Heaven

My brothers and I 
I loved summers as a child.  Growing up in the country, my brothers and I often set out on foot or on mini bikes to explore the hills where we lived. We climbed trees, shot BB guns, played in the sprinklers and swam at the local pool.  Life was sweet and innocent and our biggest worry was getting back in time for dinner.

Somehow summer has changed.  As I frantically run around, planning, picking up and dropping off this and that,  I try to finish my never ending "to do" list and I can't help but reflect on how summers used to be. They used to be a time to catch my breath before school started up again in the fall.  Summers used to be a time to relax and recharge.  What happened?

As a child, our vacation every year included a trip to the San Luis Valley in Colorado to visit our relatives.  While there, our time was spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins galore and it seemed as if we were related to everyone who lived there because, for the most part, we were.  In the valley there was a sense of belonging and of being loved and I always felt that we experienced a little bit of heaven there.

A particularly fun memory is of riding around with Uncle Clyde as he checked on his hay fields. Riding beside him as we bounced along the dirt roads and across the hay fields was a treat I never passed up.  His fun sense of humor, his gentle way of teasing, the treats in his glove box and stops for an ice cold bottle of pop always seemed to be a standard part of his day.  He loved me and I knew it and he spoiled me rotten.

On our visits there,  I helped gather eggs, learned to outrun ornery sheep, watched cousins milk cows (I never quite mastered that one), drove a tractor and enjoyed farm fresh eggs and "fresh side" for breakfast. Oh how my Grandmas and Aunties could cook!  It not only felt like heaven there, but the food tasted like heaven as well.

Evenings and weekends were filled with family gatherings. The adults chatted about everything imaginable while the cousins ran and played night games in the fields and outbuildings. It never occurred to me that those wonderful carefree days would eventually come to an end and that some day I would look back and ache to relive those cherished childhood memories.

Heber and Orson Ganus in Sanford, Colorado
Heber and Orson
While on a trip to the valley a few years ago, we visited the Sanford Museum located in Sanford, Colorado.  They have a great collection of photos and memorabilia and were very helpful. There in an album full of old photos, I found a picture of my Grandpa Heber Ganus and his twin, Orson.  Thankfully,  although the picture was dark and a poor quality, it was clearly marked and my father assured me that it was indeed a picture of my grandfather and his brother.

From the stories I've heard, I know that childhood was rough for my orphaned grandfather, but this simple picture gives me hope that just maybe he too had some fun carefree days.  Seeing the twins, sticks in hand, dressed in their bib overalls and hats while carefully balanced on a small wooden raft in the middle of a pond, I am reminded of the stories and antics of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Where did Heber and Orson's imagination take them that day?

I wonder if that day was like the days I spent in the valley as a child?  In that high mountain valley the warmth of the sun seems to permeate your whole being, the sky seems a little bluer and although I know I am biased, even the white cotton-candy clouds seem more fluffy.

I envision the two brothers talking and laughing and if I know anything at all about boys, I suspect there was a healthy amount of mischievous splashing.  Did horseplay send either one or both of the boys into the pond?

I hope that in their fun, they were able to forget their troubles and their loneliness for the family life they no longer had.  I hope that in the companionship of his brother, Grandpa Ganus felt that contented sense of belonging and of being loved.  Summers can be good that way and I would like to think that just maybe... on that day... Grandpa too felt a little bit of heaven.


San Luis Valley, Colorado


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy Blogiversary to ME!

Today is my blogiversary marking two years of blogging.  Although still a "baby blogger" by most standards,  I am amazed at all that I have already gained from blogging.  My initial intention was to share my stories for the benefit of others who are researching my families or locations, but in reality I am the one who has benefitted.  I would like to share a few of the ways blogging has helped ME! (Just what's on your "benefits of blogging" list?)



Benefits of Blogging


1.  I realize that although I know a lot about my ancestors, there really is so much more to learn.

As I began to write their stories,  I was initially amazed at how often I needed to stop and do more research.  The process of writing has helped me to see the holes in my research, which in turn has led me to new discoveries.  Suddenly it made total sense that we are encouraged to stop and write when we hit a brick wall.

2.  I realize how often I assume information.

In the process of writing my ancestors' stories, I can see that it is so easy to assume things that are not actually substantiated by fact.  Sometimes those assumptions are just floating around in my head, influencing the decisions I make on where to look next when, in reality, I need to be looking elsewhere. It's a good reminder to not be too quick to jump to conclusions and to always check the facts before assuming anything.

3.  I benefit from the experience of other bloggers.

I think we all have little tunnels of reasoning that our thoughts tend to follow.  I know I sure do and I have benefitted a great deal from the comments and insights that other bloggers have shared as comments on my blog.

4.  Blogging is helping me to learn more about the topics of interest and my areas of research.

We love to visit and chat with people who like the things we like.  As anyone who has attended a genealogy conference can tell you, this certainly extends to genealogist.  Blogging about a topic or location has served as a magnet for other like-minded genealogists.  They in turn have shared new websites and sources, which of course have benefitted me immensely.

5.  Blogging is broadening my circle of friends and associates.

I love the opportunity to interact with the community of genealogy bloggers. (Thank you Thomas MacEntee for establishing Geneabloggers.) Not only am I learning more about how to be a good blogger, but I have also connected with new friends.  The world truly has become a little smaller in the process.

6.  The "cousin bait" thing really works.

We've all  heard that blogs can serve as "cousin bait."  I am still waiting for a major breakthrough from a newfound cousin, and while I haven't received a boatload of genealogical goodies from anyone yet (although I still have hope), I have received a few stories and pictures that I have absolutely loved.

7. Having a blog is forcing me to sit down and write.

For years, I said I was going to write....tomorrow......next week or maybe after the upcoming major event.  The truth of the matter is I like the thrill of the chase, which is research.  But having a blog and wanting to have something to share in my blog has forced me to quit procrastinating and make writing a priority.

8.  Writing a blog has reminded me that before I conquer writing that family history book someday, I need to remember how to write.

I am amazed at how many of the writing rules and "niceties" I have forgotten and how much I need to practice practice practice.

9.  Because I blog, I read other people's blogs more often.

Writing a blog has created a greater interest in poking around the web to see what other people write about in their blogs.  From other people's blogs I've learned about everything from how to blog to how to research and everything genealogical in-between.



10.  Blogging is just darn fun!

I don't know what I expected exactly when I started blogging, but I didn't realize that writing a blog would be so much fun, but it is!  Writing, sharing, reading other's stories and seeing the stories in my own ancestors' lives unfold as I write have all added a new dimension to my world of genealogy.


While "blogiversary" is a bit of a funny word, it is definitely something worth celebrating.



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I've Got News!

I've got news!


I am excited to share that I have recently been asked to be part of the "May I Introduce to You" team at GeneaBloggers

Each Monday GeneaBloggers publishes an interview with a blogger from the genealogy community.  For five years Gini Webb has done an excellent job conducting the interviews and sharing the stories in "May I Introduce to You."   Recently she and Thomas MacEntee decided to expand the team and invite four additional individuals to be part of their team.  I am pleased and excited for this opportunity and look forward to this new adventure.  

Please take a minute to click on the link below and visit the website where you can read the announcement and meet each member of the team. 



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved




  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Was Over--Or Was It?

It was 1871 and, although the Civil War had been over for many years, for many Southerners it was far from over.  Many struggled with substantial losses on a variety of levels.  Land stripped and void of vegetation, loss of farm animals and in many cases the complete loss of their homes and personal belongings all contributed to a sense of desperation.  It would take many years to establish a sense of normalcy in their lives and some would never fully recover.  Living just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, the Ganus families were among the many that struggled.

North Side of Atlanta
following the war
Library of Congress
Beginning in March of 1871, the federal government allowed citizens in some Southern states to file for compensation for the losses sustained during the Civil War.  Applicants were required to prove that property was taken or destroyed by the Union Army.  In addition, applicants were required to prove that they remained loyal to the federal government during the war. Thousands of Southern citizens sought relief from their impoverished condition by applying.  Burton W. Cook and wife Mary (Ganus) were among those who applied.

In Clayton County, Georgia on the 26th of June, 1871,  Burton filled out an application for losses he suffered at the hand of the Union Army.   His claim was rejected without justification.

The paperwork however still contributes information to what is known about Burton.  Filed among the Southern Claims Commission papers, Barred and Disallowed,  Burton claimed the loss of a mare valued at $100.00 and 35 bushels of corn valued at $35.00.   He indicated the property was taken in Fayette County, Georgia by General Sherman's army on its way to Jonesboro on 31st of August, 1864.  

Anxious for any opportunity to receive their "just dues" from the federal government, many Southerners filed erroneous claims.  The question is not whether Burton's family suffered losses, but whether Burton was always loyal to the US Government?  I suspect I know the answer.   While Burton's damages pale in comparison to many other claims, unfortunately, his claim also lacks the testimony that accompanies many claims.  As luck would have it, his file consists of four pages of the basic form, with no additional testimony.

The files can provide interesting reading.  Some include testimony in which the claimant describes in great detail the harsh circumstances personally endured.  Some include dramatic statements of their professed allegiance to the government.  Often such richly woven stories include the names of family, neighbors and friends.  I found myself smiling at one such lengthy claim that comprised many pages of testimony describing the claimant's love for the federal government in addition to his secret disdain for the rebel cause.  The claimant added that he had always supported the federal government.   Unfortunately his case was rejected with the conclusion that not only had the man supported numerous sons while they served as Confederate soldiers, but he himself had served for a time and had contributed substantial funds and supplies to the Confederate Army.

Burton too had served in the Confederate Army from the beginning of the war until the end when he was released as a prisoner of war, and yet he filed a claim.  Was his application simply an effort to receive compensation for losses?

The basic form that Burton filled out required that the applicant provide the names of individuals who could verify the truth of the claim.  I was interested to know who he listed and was pleased to see his witnesses were James Ganus of East Point, Fulton County, Georgia and Mary Cook, also of East Point.  Mary was Burton's wife and James was his father-in-law.  While the document does not contain James' actual signature, it does give me reason to believe that James lived at least until June of 1871 when the application was filled out. James was shown living with Burton and daughter Mary on the 1870 US Federal Census.  This is the latest document currently known on which James' name appears. James would have been approximately 72 years old, a ripe old age for that time.


While Burton's file is relatively small, I am grateful for the few details it provides.  Once again I am reminded of the benefits of finding all documents relating to our ancestors.

I am sure Burton felt at least some disappointment when his claim was rejected, although his situation was not uncommon.  The number of people claiming property loss greatly exceeded the number who received compensation.   Undoubtedly, for those who had been so vested in the Southern cause, proving their loyalty to the US Government was a difficult sell.

The war was over,  issues continued and yet slowly the South did rebuild.  While much had been destroyed, the unconquerable spirit for which Southerners were known survived.  And so, Burton and his family, along with countless others, began the tedious process of rebuilding.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved