Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hold On Tight and Don’t Let Go! Thoughts from Rootstech

Opening Keynote Rootstech 2013As I attended Rootstech this year, the thought that kept running through my mind was “Hold on tight and don’t let go!”  It’s a phrase that stems from my younger days of riding the rides at amusement parks and, in many ways, trying to keep up with new technology and advances in genealogical research reminds me of those days.  Things are moving and changing rapidly and I feel a sense that if I don’t hang on tight, I will be left behind or worse—find myself lying clueless at the bottom of the “ride.”  I attended Rootstech  to learn about new technology and the records that are becoming available at a pace never before seen in the genealogy world.

Demo Theater Expo Hall Rootstech 2013
Demo Theater
Expo Hall
The first day of Rootstech, I had the opportunity to take a pre-conference tour of the Expo hall, along with other bloggers. The hall was much larger than last year, but once again packed full of interesting things to see and do. In addition, it was great to meet and visit with some of the bloggers that I have been "following."  Prior to the opening keynote, I enjoyed visiting with Amy Coffin who writes the WeTree blog.  I picked her brain a bit, sharing some of  the challenges and uncertainties I have had with blogging and she was kind enough to share some of her thoughts and the things that experience has taught her. Thank you Amy. 

The keynote speakers each morning were fantastic and the classes that followed covered a variety of subjects including blogging, technology and methodology.  I enjoyed being able to take classes from Syd Lieberman, Lisa Louise CookeKaren Clifford,  and Thomas W. Jones,  in addition to others. 

Syd Lieberman Rootstech 2013
Syd Lieberman
One theme that was repeated many times over the course of the conference was the importance of sharing our stories.  It is the stories that attract and engage the younger generations and it is the stories that are most cherished over time.  In the opening keynote, Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch International, shared the thought that we often are frustrated by what our great grandparents did not do in terms of recording information for us, but then he went on to ask, what will our great grandchildren wish that we had recorded for them?  It made me think that so often I am so focused on past history, I neglect recording my own history for future generations. I need to do better!

As I sat through the various classes,  all vastly different in their subject matter, I kept asking myself, where do I want to go with my family history passion?  Where do I see myself five years from now?  What do I ultimately want to accomplish in family history?  What am I doing now to ensure that I stay on track with my goals? 

There are so many opportunities in family history and it is easy to become distracted. I really can't do it all and, while taking a temporary detour in my path is just fine,  I also need to periodically check to make sure that I am still pursuing things consistent with my goals.

In addition to checking my course along my path of family history, I now realize more than ever that I will have to keep up with the technology and with new records continually being made available all the while chanting …..hold on tight and don’t let go.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Time to Sharpen the Saw at Rootstech!

I pulled into their driveway and my three grandkids bounded out the door, ready for a day of Grandma time.  They were excited and frankly so was I.  Grandkids are just fun.

We had just backed out of the driveway when my five year old grand daughter said, “Tell us a story!”   I had been with them a lot recently and frankly I felt that I had exhausted my story repertoire, so to buy  time to think,  I told them I couldn’t think of one off hand, and would need a few minutes.  Not to be dissuaded, my Grand-daughter said, “ Oh come on Grandma!  You know you have stories. You always have stories.” 

Well okay, maybe I do tell a lot of stories, but nonetheless I think it is time for me to sharpen the saw.  Thankfully this week, March 21-23, I will be attending Rootstech and Story@Home.  It will be a great opportunity to learn about the newest technology for genealogy research,  as well as to learn about ways to preserve and share the stories we all uncover in our family history.  There are many classes to choose from as well as a large Expo Hall where attendees can view the latest products and services. 

imageFrankly, I can’t wait and I am hoping to see a few of you there.  If you can’t attend, you can go  here to watch live streaming of some really great sessions! 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Twenty Mules, Grandpa and Me

The timing could not have been worse.  As I answered the phone and learned that my Grandma Ganus had died, my heart dropped. The sadness of loosing her was compounded by the fact that I was expecting our third child any day and would not be able to travel the nearly 800 miles to attend her funeral and say goodbye.  Although for a second I was tempted to make the trip, I knew better, and in the end, it was a good thing because I delivered our baby the very next day.

Grandpa Ganus
Grandma & Grandpa Ganus at the hospital
I remember that achy, sad feeling that came over me as I realized that she was really gone.  I would never again visit her in her little house in Colorado.  We wouldn't ever have her fried chicken or lemon pie again.  My Grandpa Ganus had died 21 years earlier and so, while I was sure that Grandma was ready to go, I was equally sure that we were not quite ready to give her up just yet. 

A few months later, as my father and his sister cleaned out  Grandma’s house, they called me and asked me if there was anything that I wanted.  I did not hesitate for even a second.  I wanted the mule train.  The mule train had been in Grandma's house for long as I could remember and I had always loved it. 

While growing up we had  lived some distance from my grandparents and so we would generally visit yearly.  On those visits, I remember so clearly walking through her house and just looking.  I would look at her buffet in the dining room and her dishes.  I would look at her Nick-knacks that she had collected over the years and the family pictures, along with all of the other little familiar things that defined Grandma's home.  I was always so glad to be there.

imageWithout a doubt, my favorite of Grandma's treasures was the model mule train.  Although it was positioned high above a door way so that I could not inspect it closely, I had never seen anything like it and it had always intrigued me.  In addition, I knew at least some of the story and that story made me feel close to Grandpa who had died when I was just a little girl.  

While living in Colorado, Grandpa was diagnosed with emphysema.  As the illness progressed, it was difficult for him to breath in the high San Luis Valley, and so Grandpa went to stay with his brother, Ernest, in Oklahoma hoping that the lower elevation would help.  Grandma was teaching school and so remained for a time in Colorado. The lower altitude did help, so Grandma joined Grandpa in Oklahoma where they lived nearly ten years.  It was while Grandpa was ill and living  in Oklahoma that he built the mule train.

While Grandma and Grandpa had initially moved to Okmulgee, Grandma later got a job teaching in Supulpa, so they loaded up their car and moved there.  For the move, the wagon train was placed in the back window of their car in the sweltering hot days before air conditioning.  It was there that the wagons were melted by the hot Oklahoma sun.  I wonder if Grandpa felt a pang of disappointment when he discovered how the sun had warped the side of the wagons?

imageI was thrilled when my dad delivered the mule train to me.  I could not believe that I was lucky enough to actually become its new owner.  I remember inspecting it carefully and crying as I thought of Grandpa building the wagon train and of Grandma keeping it all those many years.  And then I saw it.  Rolled up and laying in the back of the last wagon was a little piece of paper.  As I carefully unrolled the paper, I discovered the names of the mules written in Grandpa’s own hand !

Mule’s names 
Jack & Jill
Pat & Mike
Chick & Chuck
Tom & Jerry
Mat & Kitty
Dock & Chester
Mack & Jim
Dick & Nell
Dan & Mable
Liz & Lew
Skinner,  Borax Bill

We have moved several times since that day, but I have always carefully chosen a special place in my home for my cherished treasure.   I am sure that when Grandpa built that wagon train more than fifty years ago, he had no idea that someday it would be a source of great joy and serve as a link between him and  his only grand daughter. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

“For One of the Jury Saw it Done”

I love to read old newspapers.  Newspapers played such an important role in the communities of our ancestors and allow us to take a glimpse into the world that they lived in.  I love discovering the events that took place during my ancestors'  lifetimes.

I stumbled upon the article below about five years ago and it never fails to make me smile.  Initially it caught my eye because of my family surname, Gurganus, but it's the florid, descriptive writing that makes me pull it out and re-read it time and again.  From the description of Ephraim Sykes and his actions preceding his testimony to the jury's verdict,  I feel that I can imagine the entire scene. I am sure you will be just be as shocked as I was when you realize that a member of the jury was also a witness to the crime.   (Sadly, I think I tend to overlook the the fact that Nicodemus was accused of committing a horrible crime because the writing is so entertaining.)

 Read on.
The Defendant stood before a Jury of his Country, indicted under the name and style of Nicodemus Gerganus for an assault and battery on the body of Stephen Simpkins. Declining for the present to answer the charge directly, he plead a misnomer, suggesting that his true baptismal name was Nicholas Ganus, and by no means Nicodemus Gerganus, as erroneously charged in the Bill. This preliminary and somewhat collateral issue was submitted to the Jury.  Ephraim Sykes, a sallow, lantern-jawed dweller of the coast, of such remarkable length and sinuosity of person, that calomel never could find its way through him, was brought to the stand as a witness to prove by what name the Defendant ought to be called in legal proceedings, and handed down to posterity. In reply to a question proposed by the Defendant’s Counsel, he hitched up his trowsers, spit on the floor; drew his broad foot over it, and answered . I have hearn him called Nicholas Gerganus and Nick Gerganus. some folks calls him Nicodemus Gerganus, and some calls him Nicodemus Ganus. Sometimes his neighbors calls him Mr. Ganus, and I don’t know if I hav’nt sometimes hearn him called Mr. Gerganus but I, in ginerally, calls him Nick Ganus.  The Jury retired and brought in a verdict that the defendant was a poor shoat any how, and it was not worth while to be bothering themselves about his name: as to his name, it is one of those small things about which the law careth not. He had done little for posterity, and posterity would care precious little about him. He had undoubtedly gouged Simpkins, for one of the Jury saw it done. So they had agreed to bring him in guilty of the charge in manner and form. 
Stokes & Stokes Reporters, From the Fayetteville Observer, North Carolina, March 27, 1844, Issue 1399, Col F.

 Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013