Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Look Back before Moving Forward 2016

This year has been a difficult year for our family, consequently, it has been challenging for me to keep up with blogging. But as I looked back over my blog posts, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much progress has been made.

Among the highlights are new cousin connections which led to new clues, new photos and personal stories about common ancestors. One special lady, Sue Conklin, shared a beautiful picture of an ancestor, Lucille Rainwater, as well as details about Lucille's life. Although I had found a great deal about Lucille through research, there were gaps of understanding that only a living direct descendant could provide and I was so thankful for Sue's help. I shared Lucille's story HERE. Betty Wedgeworth, a distant Gurganus cousin, found my blog and generously wrote and shared several stories about our Gurganus family, including a beautiful photo and story about her grandmother Lillie and her unbelievably long hair, which I shared HERE.  

The photo restoration company 399Retouch contacted me and offered to restore several of my old photos, so I sent them a couple of my most challenging photos. I was very pleased with the results and I shared those on my blog HERE and HERE. (Several of my friends, including one whose photos were damaged in a flood, have since used them and been extremely happy with the results.) 

Thanks to obituaries obtained through the Chattanooga Public Library, I was able to make considerable progress on my Faucett and Fricks line. One of the obituaries led me to a distant cousin who provided a photo of Burton Bartow Ganus, the son of David Ganus who was a brother to my second great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus. I was so excited the day I opened the mailbox and saw the manilla envelope with the words, "Photos, do not bend."  I tell that story HERE


It's always interesting to see which blog posts were visited the most. The following posts were my most popular, do you remember any of these? 

Getting Recharged - In this blog post I shared my experience when I attended the BCG* Lectures held in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. 

Making Sorghum Molasses the Old Way - Cousin Floyd Ganus, a descendant of Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery, shared his memory of learning to make sorghum molasses with his grandfather. 

Photos! Do Not Bend! - In this post, I shared the excitement of finding a new cousin and of the letter and photos that she sent. 

Guest Blogger-Lisa Lisson - Blogger Lisa Lisson, author of the blog, Are You My Cousin? shared some tips and tricks for identifying old photos. 

Just a Beat up Ole Fork - Sometimes the simplest possessions can become treasures to the recipient. What began as a preference of a particular eating utensil at my grandma's dinner table, became a connection to a grandfather I never knew. 

Where is My Peach Pie?  Distant cousin, Betty Wedgeworth shared a humorous story about my third cousin twice removed, Benjamin Powell Gurganus "Dock" and his wife Trannie J. Cain. The story made me laugh and left me wishing I had known them personally. 

A Poor Substitute for a Sandwich In this blog post, I share an entry from my grandma's personal history where she shares her introduction to a sandwich she had never heard of before. 


It's really interesting to see which of my blog posts over the years continue to draw visitors. The most popular posts all include a little mystery and most needed several posts to tell the full story. The following continue to be the top posts: 

The Stories Their Faces Tell -In this post, I share the sad realization of why my great-grandfather's brother, Newton L. Ganus's was the only one smiling in the family photo. 

From Murder Scene to Picnic Spot - Shirttail cousin, Claude Chambers visits the scene of a murder in our family history and is surprised to see what the spot has become over the years. 

Piecing Together Their Lives- This is a three-part series in which I share the exciting email I received from cousin Karen and the discovery that resulted. 

Moonshining in Alabama - There really is no competition when it comes to this three part series about a murder trial of a moonshining ancestral cousin. Written in 2013, this continues to be the most popular post on my blog.   

This past year I continued to pursue opportunities to learn by attending Rootstech 2016 in February, the BCG Lectures in SLC in October, and in December I finally completed the last of the required courses for a certificate in American research from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies

I've also continued to interview bloggers as part of the "May I Introduce to You" team at GeneaBloggers which has provided many wonderful opportunities to get to know other bloggers and to learn from them. Everyone has a story to tell and experience to share. 

All in all, there have been many good things this past year. Hopefully, the coming year will bring more new cousin connections, more family tree discoveries, and more opportunities to learn and share.

*BCG is an acronym for the Board for the Certification of Genealogist

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Vintage Christmas

The older I get, the more Christmas time becomes a time to reflect. As I decorate the Christmas tree, I think back on my childhood Christmases which were full of anticipation and fun family activities. I also think about our own sweet children and the fun things we did together during the Christmas season. Many of the things my husband and I did were carry overs from our childhoods.

Christmas village I purchased

It's interesting to discover that many of the decorations I remember as a kid are now "vintage." One of my favorite Christmas decorations from my childhood is a little village. The little miniature houses were made of a thin cardboard like material. The windows were cut out and had colored cellophane covering them, giving the appearance of stained glass. Mom set the little houses in billowy piles of cotton that gave the appearance of snow. I remember how I loved to sit and gaze at the houses while my imagination ran wild with stories about the tiny imaginary people who lived in the houses. My mom still has her village, but since it is one of my fondest memories, I was thrilled to find and buy some similar little houses. 

My Santa cup

When I was just a little girl, one of my mom's friends made a cute little Santa mug for me and it's been part of my Christmas ever since. When I was little, I drank everything from root beer to hot apple cider from the cup and although I have no memory of my mother's friend who made the cup, it's one of my favorite decorations because of all the happy memories associated with it.

Tree made by my Aunt Sally

After I married, my dear Aunt Sally gave me one of my first Christmas decorations. She painted and fired a ceramic Christmas tree and gave it to my husband and me on one of our first Christmases. It quickly became one of my favorites because it reminds me of her and the love that I have always felt for her. Our kids loved to be the ones to put the little lights in each hole. Our oldest daughter found a similar tree at a resale shop and bought it because it reminded her of mine. 

Made for me by Grandma Ganus

A few years after I got married, my Grandma Hazel (Mickelsen) Ganus sent me a little crocheted door hanger with little jingle bells on it. It became our tradition to tie it onto our front door so that we heard the bells jingle whenever anyone came or left. Notice I didn't put it on the back door. I am sure it would have driven me crazy to listen to the bells jingling along with the constant door slamming as our kids came and went out to play.

These decorations certainly aren't trendy, but as I pull them out each Christmas, they stir up many good Christmas memories and I would never consider retiring any of them.

Time flies by and things change, but thank goodness for family, traditions, good memories and the love of Jesus Christ to sustain us through it all. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and peace for the upcoming year.

                          Merry Christmas! 

Robin Bean, Bakersfield, California, Santa, Christmas, traditions, genealogy, family
Me and my friend and neighbor, Robin Bean

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Family History for Kids isn't Rocket Science!

A grandfather's watch, a great uncle's marbles
and a photo beg children to ask
"Whose did these belong to? 

With the crazy world that we live in, it is so easy to worry these days and my grandkids are at the top of my worry list. Not only do we live in challenging times, but several of my grandkids are dealing with some difficult issues. How can I help them?

There has been a lot written and shared over the past few years about the benefits of involving children in family history and the many ways it helps them, especially when times are tough. In a series in the Deseret News newspaper, Linda and Richard Eyre shared not only reasons why we should involve children in genealogy, but relatively simple ways to do it, including creating a story book of ancestor stories. You can find their article here: "Top parenting ideas, No. 2--The 'Ancestor Stories Book'."

In the Eyres' article, they reference a well-known article published in The New York Times back in 2013, "The Stories That Bind Us", in which the author shared the strength and "grit" that seems to be more apparent in those children who know their ancestors' stories. Determined to find ways to incorporate family history into the time spent with my grandchildren, I've found some relatively simple ideas that are fun! 

Grandchildren helping me to
pick out a bleeding heart plant 
Although one grandson is very interested in helping with the research end of genealogy, the others seem to do better with a more sutble approach. Much of what I have done with my grandkids is not totally new or original, but are just simple things that they enjoy. 

I like to have photos and memorabilia that have been passed down mixed in with other decor on my shelves and tables in my home (see photo above, right.) Children are naturally curious and they tend to ask questions, like "Where did you get that?" "Whose was it?" "Am I related to them?" I try to keep my answers and stories relatively short and simple so that they don't regret asking, but I am willing to say more depending on their interest level.  

As I was planting this past spring, I was sure to include things that my grandparents had grown and I took grandkids with me to pick the plants out.The kids loved hearing stories about my grandparents and how they had some of the same plants in their yards and gardens.

One item high on my must-have list was a bleeding heart plant because my grandmother always had a bleeding heart in her garden. As a child, the name intrigued me. I loved the delicate heart that dangled from the plant  As we looked at the different colors of bleeding heart and tried to decide which one to get, I told them a few short stories about my grandmother. They decided they needed to have one as well and I was told they shared some of the stories I had told them with others. Mission accomplished!  

It drove them nuts trying to figure out who our guest was
We regularly have our children and their families over for Sunday dinner and periodically we like to do "Guess who is coming for dinner?"  A dear friend shared this idea with me and my family has really enjoyed it. We simply set an extra place setting at the table for an ancestor, as if they were going to come to dinner. We cut out of butcher paper a life-sized outline of a person which we use each time. For the face we can scan a photo, blow the photo up, print it and then tape it onto the butcher paper. The first month I did it, my ancestor's picture was so poor and distorted when I tried to enlarge it so I just set a picture of her on the dinner plate.

I have the cutout sitting on a chair at a place setting when everyone comes for dinner. I try to make it as mysterious as possible, allowing the grandkids to ask questions about who it is and giving them interesting little teasing tidbits about the ancestors as we eat. The adults may chatter about other things, but I have noticed the grandkids are so intrigued with who the ancestor is, they keep bringing the conversation back to who is visiting and give us one more clue! After dinner we gathered in the living room and I told them all about the ancestor.  

They loved the scavenger hunt

 Recently I took some of my grandkids on a cemetery scavenger hunt. Just google "cemetery scavenger hunt" and you will find many ideas for things to look for in a cemetery, or you can come up with your own list. The list I used had things on it like find the oldest headstone, find the most interesting first name, find a headstone that shows or mentions someone's occupation---you get the idea. The kids loved it. 

I didn't grow up here, so none of my ancestors were actually buried in the local cemetery, but as the grandkids looked for various things on the list, it prompted questions about their own ancestors. After two hours, yes, you read that right, TWO HOURS, and as it began to sprinkle, we decided to head home. 

Of course treats afterwards are always a good option with kids and allows time to talk about what we've seen and done. 

I admit, several years ago when I first heard people talk about involving children in family history, I was skeptical. I thought of my own carefree childhood days spent riding bikes, playing games and playing outside and I couldn't imagine myself choosing to do genealogy over any one of those things. My grandkids love to do those things too, but we have found simple ways to work family history into their lives as well and it has paid off. 

There are so many fun ways to interest kids in family history and there are so many good reasons to do it. Family history helps anchor kids, gives them a sense of who they are and helps them to see that although life presents many challenges, they can succeed just as their ancestors did. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cloudy Night Rainwater--Really?

Cloudy Night Rainwater. How could you run across such a name in your lineage and not be curious? Initially, I wondered if it really was his name. Did his parents believe that the name Rainwater was Native American? Why would they choose a name like Cloudy Night, with or without the last name of Rainwater? 

Although the true origins of the Rainwater name are unknown, there are many theories. Different Rainwater families suggest the name is everything from Cherokee to Jewish in origin. Susan Chance-Rainwater shares some of the various theories on her website "The Rainwater Collection."  

Cloudy Night Rainwater was born September 1894 in Arkansas and was the son of Homer Cloud Rainwater and Pearl Rivers McCracken. Cloudy Night Rainwater was my fourth cousin, once removed. 

I  was thrilled to find not only a short little story about Cloudy Night in a newspaper but a sketch of him as well. 

Cloudy Night Rainwater, Rainwater family, Arkansas, Homer Cloud Rainwater, Pearl Rivers McCracken, genealogy, ancestry, ancestor, research, newspaper

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana)
23 Jul 1899, Sun Page 28 

"Cloudy Night Rainwater, whose picture you see here is the 4-year-old son of Dr. H. Cloud Rainwater and Pearl Rivers McCracken, the favorite niece of the late Mrs. Nicholson (Pearl Rivers), proprietor of the Picayune. Cloudy Night is a fine boy and like his grandfather, he is a great practical joker. One day, not long ago he called to one of his little playmates, "Hello! don't you want some rock candy?" at the same time holding out a tempting-looking morsel. The other little boy took it eagerly and put it into his mouth; but he quickly spit it out again. It was salt! Cloudy Night knows his letters already, and wants very much to learn to read, so that he can read Lilliput Land for himself. "
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Grandma at the Academy

Frank Soule, San Luis Stake Academy, ancestry, genealogy, family history, Sanford Colorado , Hazel Mickelsen Ganus, Manassa Colorado
San Luis Stake Academy abt 1900
Alamosa Public Library 
Initially, as I perused the meager contents of Grandma Hazel (Mickelsen) Ganus' little suitcase, I was somewhat disappointed that it had little to aid me in my efforts to take my Ganus family line back any further. Recently I revisited that little suitcase with an eye for what it does have instead of what it does not have and discovered that a few items give me a glimpse into my Grandma Hazel Mickelsen Ganus's life.

Among the items in the suitcase was a rather large certificate measuring 14" x 17" issued for completion of the high school course of study at the San Luis Stake Academy. I assumed that it was a school there in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado, but I didn't know much about it, so I did a little digging to see what I could learn about the high school that Grandma attended.

I learned from an article in the LDS Church News entitled "Academy era short-lived, but impact long lasting," written by Kevin Stoker in 1988, that from 1888 to 1909, the LDS church started 35 academies in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Mexico, and Canada. These schools provided spiritual education as well as secular. The San Luis Academy that my grandma attended began in 1909, but by 1922 the academies were closed and the education process was turned over to the local government.

Grandma did not write very much about her time at the academy but rather focused more on her education afterward. But here is what she did share about her experience:
"My eighth grade teacher, as well as my first two years of high school was Mr. Frank Soule, a very good teacher and a well liked person. In our graduating class there were (no number indicated). Our colors were purple and gold. Sanford only had a two year high school at that time. Students wanting to attend further had to go somewhere else. Of all that big graduating class very few went on to high school and less to college. I was the only girl that finished college of the group. While attending class high school in Sanford the school building caught on fire and burned down, we then attended class in the old church house.  
"After finishing my two years here I attended school in Manassa where there was a church school, called the San Luis Academy. The first year a bad epidemic of small pox broke out among the students as well as town people, so school was closed, consequently no credits were issued. I went back the next year and it was here that I finished my high school education. Luckily, while I was attending school in Sanford, I was able to carry sufficient credits, added to what I now had I was able to graduate in three years with the class of 1919.    
"How did we get to Manassa to school? Well, we rode in a bus, a lot like the ones we have now, but smaller."
Grandma pursued more education and eventually graduated from college and taught elementary school both in Colorado and Oklahoma where they moved in the later years of my grandfather's life. I have to appreciate her determination to learn and gain an education.
San Luis Stake Academy, Hazel Mickelsen Ganus, William O. Crowther, Wallace F.  Bennett, Sanford Colorado, Manassa Colorado, Genealogy LDS Church Academies

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gobble Gobble---Raising Turkeys

raising turkeys, Ganus, genealogy, ancestry, ancestors, family historyRecently I learned, much to my surprise, that Grandma Hazel (Mickelsen) Ganus raised turkeys at one point in her life. Although she never talked about it, she shared this fact in her life history. What started out as a relatively small project soon grew to become a large adventure and served to help my Grandpa and Grandma through a rough time.

 When Grandpa took a job working with Heiselt Construction on the Echo Canyon Dam in Utah, initially Grandma Ganus and their two children stayed in Colorado. Later, when the work took Grandpa to California, Grandma and their kids joined him and they lived near Lake Almanor. For a while, the work with Heiselt put food on the table and provided a roof overhead, but eventually the job was completed and Grandma and Grandpa, along with the Malmgren family, moved a short distance away just outside the small town of Taylorsville, California. There they lived on a ranch that Mr. Heiselt owned. The business had had financial difficulties and my grandparents were owed several thousand dollars, so they held out hope that they would eventually be paid all that was owed. Grandma recorded that while living on Heiselt's property, they lived in a small house on "the terrace." During that time,  Grandpa farmed and Grandma raised turkeys. According to her life history, she hatched the turkeys from eggs and she began with just three gobblers and twenty-five hens. Over time her little business grew and she raised 500 turkeys. Grandma indicated that she sold the turkeys to meat markets and that she got a good price for them.

I wish Grandma had written a little more. How in the world did she care for the turkeys? How did she know how to raise turkeys? Where did she go to get their food and how did she get there?  How did she transport them to the market? I would imagine there were some challenges in raising turkeys and that some of her experiences probably evoked a laugh or two. I wish so much that she had recorded some of the things that happened during that time.

Eventually, Grandma and Grandpa decided to leave their little place on the ranch and they returned to Sanford, Colorado where their families were living.

I will be thinking of her as we eat our Thanksgiving turkey this year. I am glad that Grandma took the time to write a little about her business and although I won't likely be raising turkeys anytime soon, I do hope I can be as determined as she was in coming up with creative solutions to the challenges I face in life.

Did your grandparents face hard times? How did they get through them?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Saturday, November 5, 2016

My visit to the Layton FamilySearch Center

I was excited recently to attend the Open House of the Layton FamilySearch Center. Located on 915 West Gordon Avenue in Layton, Utah, it replaced several smaller centers in the area. I had been watching the building undergo quite a transformation over the past months and was eager to see if the inside was as impressive as the outside.

For you locals, the Layton FamilySearch Center is just a hop skip and a jump from Hobby Lobby and just down the street from Krispie Kreme.  

Over the past few years, there has been a big focus on family photos and it's easy to see why. Photos of our ancestors tug at the heart and help us feel connected in a unique way. For those of us who are not the keeper of the family photos, we cross our fingers that someone will share the photos that they have and we are thrilled when photos of our ancestors pop up on websites such as FamilySearch or Ancestry.

So it's no surprise that the new center has several high-tech photo scanners to help with the preservation and sharing of photos. The scanners have the ability to scan many photos quickly and save them to a flash drive, which they have there for a small purchase price. Do you have photos that are yellowed with age? No problem, their scanners have an autocorrect ability that will take that yellow out!  The scanners make it as easy and painless as possible to copy and share photos.

Next up was their children's area. This is an area for grandparents and parents to take their children for fun family history oriented activities. Note: This is not an area to drop the kids off while you do research or shop, but an area where you can do activities with the kids. There are blocks to build homes with,  family history style coloring pages and fun games to play together. In addition, they will have storytellers come to the center periodically and tell stories to the children. Check the website for the schedule if you would like to make sure you are there for the story time.

There is also a Family Area in a private room that can be scheduled in two-hour blocks. This area includes a machine that converts family VHS movies to DVD, a sofa where family members can sit and view family photos or movies on the large screen and a long table where family can gather and visit about their family history projects.

In another room, which was called "Studio A" (yes there is additional one called Studio B), there are comfy chairs, a camera for recording video and a microphone where people can gather and share family stories, interview family members or even show family photos and record the discussion about the folks in the photos. The recording, either video or audio can then be sent to you. These rooms can be scheduled online for an hour at a time.

Another area features three large screens that are actually touch screen computers. Each has several different apps that allow visitors to explore things such as how family migrated to the US and famous people to whom they are related. This area does not require a reservation.

Fifty-two computers, complete with a variety of family history type databases are available for people to come in and work on their family history.

To make sure we keep our strength up while we are there, there is a lunch and snack area where we can take a break and have a bite to eat.  (You must bring your own snacks as no food is available there for purchase.)  Microwaves are available, but they have a no popcorn rule and anyone who has been in a break room when someone burned the popcorn knows exactly why. They requested that any water brought into the center be in bottles with screw on lids to prevent possible damage to the electronics from spills. 
There are also three classrooms where classes will be taught. Subjects vary, so check the schedule for time and class specifics. In addition, they indicated that if there is a particular subject we would like taught and we have a group interested, we can put in a request. 

With classrooms, a room for viewing and converting family photos, a children's area, photo scanners and more, it clearly will be a great place for individuals and families to gather to share and learn about their family history. The center will open for all services beginning November 8th. I look forward to returning and taking grandchildren there---maybe I will see you! 

To learn more about the center and to book a time for some of the special activities, go to:

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Book review: Planning a Future for Your Family's Past

Marian Burk Wood, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, family history books, organizing, genealogy, ancestryI have the best of intentions, I really do. I have two four--drawer file cabinets brimming full of my files, and shelves full of books and notebooks of notes, but I also have stacks of charts, documents and pedigrees on shelves in my closet. In the beginning, I did better, but almost like an avalanche, things began to quickly accumulate and intent on the case at hand, I set things in the "stack" to be dealt with later. Now the task of organizing the large piles is daunting and I keep postponing it. I know, it's shameful.

I've been looking for a way to tame the beast without cutting too much into my research time, even though I know that by not taking the time to do it now, I am missing important hints and possibly (okay, more than just a little likely) duplicating some of my efforts.  It's been on my mind a lot lately and so the timing could not have been better when Marian Burk Wood  contacted me and offered to send me a copy of her new book Planning a Future for Your Family's Past to read and review. I was excited to to get the book and see what insight she had for organizing and planning for the future of my genealogy materials.

Marian's book is well organized and she literally starts from the very beginning by starting with the stacks so many of us have.  From there, she breaks the project down into bite-sized pieces by dividing tasks in short little assignments that allows us to take it one step at a time. Every chapter ends with bullet point summation that makes it easy to review the steps needed for that portion of our project. I think my tendency is to make the project so enormous, it's hard to even want to begin because who has that amount of time? However, her no stress approach allows for the project to be done in small little increments of time and that appeals to me and left me feeling that I could do this.

Marian mentions products I wasn't aware of, provides links for further reading and tackles some issues I had not really considered. For instance, what about those things you don't really want and yet have held onto because they were passed down? Have you considered they might possibly provide a way to strengthen family ties with distant family? Marian shares some ways to do that.

And what will happen to our years of hard work after we're gone? It's easy to assume family will want our research, but will they really? What is the best way to arrange for the transfer of our research after we are gone? How can we make it easier for others to even want to inherit our priceless years of research? These things and many more were addressed in Marian's book.

For those looking for help organizing their genealogy materials and for direction in planning for the future of their collections, this book is well worth the read.

Disclosure: I was given this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bum's Nest

I sat by a window overlooking the city and watched while, many stories below, people scurried about like ants intent on their business. Some were businessmen, others were shoppers and then there were others who didn't seem to fit in either category. My husband had business meetings in San Francisco and so I had gone along for a much-needed break. While my days were filled with shopping and exploring the city, in the evenings Rick and I enjoyed the food and entertainment as well as the other fun things that the city had to offer.

However, our fun trip came to a screaming halt when my husband came down with food poisoning in the middle of the night one night. Meetings and activities were canceled and the focus became getting him well before our flight home. While he slept, I sat by the window and watched with amazement the flutter of activity typical of a large city. We were staying in downtown San Francisco and our room partially faced the street, but through another window I could see a portion of a side alley.

The activities on the street seemed pretty commonplace, but those that took place in the alley nearby revealed a whole different world. Although my view did not allow me to see all that went on, I could see enough. One man spent hours setting up pieces of cardboard and arranging his meager belongings. Soon others approached him and a discussion ensued.What were they talking about? As it grew later and the sun began to set, others began to set up near the original cardboard dwelling and soon there was a handful of homeless all preparing for the oncoming dark of night.

Having lived much of my life in the country or in small towns, I had not seen people living this way before, but many do today and I guess they always have. In her life history, Grandma Hazel Mickelsen Ganus shared some of what she experienced in the hills near Lake Almanor, California where she and my Grandpa Heber Monroe Ganus and their children lived and worked during the depression. (I shared more about my grandparents' experiences during the depression in an earlier post that you can find here.)

Grandma wrote:
"The men on the job were paid every two weeks. If we went to Greenville on a Saturday night for groceries, we would see drunks lying in the alleys, or in the gutter. I was almost afraid to go to town then. 
"A big group of men had what they called, jungled up, in the woods. They had made little huts or lean-tos from scraps of boards, tin, cardboard or limbs from the trees or anything they could find and put together for protection from the cool nights. 
"They would pool what money they had for something to drink, having hit the camps and getting at least one good meal a day. They got so bad with their drinking that the liquor stores were asked by the police to stop selling whiskey to them. they then got to buying bottles of vanilla, then finally to canned heat. This they would melt then drink it. This stuff really got them to raising cane. They even got to fighting so bad that the police were called to settle the matter. 
"This kind of jungle mess was called a bum's nest. There was one woman among these men, and she had a baby one night out there. Some of the people in town got word of it and went there and brought her in to the hospital where she could be taken care of. The police broke up the nest and made them separate and move. There were many such places as this called bum's nest during this depression from 1930 to 1934 that we knew about."
Having grown up in a small rural farming community in Southern Colorado, I am sure much of this was very foreign to my grandparents. My grandmother was always a quiet woman and I can imagine that she felt concern for herself and for the safety of her children during those times, but she also had compassion for those who were without work or a place to live and she indicated that she would often share their food with them.

Our trip to San Francisco quickly came to an end and thankfully my husband recovered just in time to make the flight home As our plane took off, the sun was beginning to set and I was sure the busyness had begun once again in that alley in downtown San Francisco. Although the times have changed, many still live in sad and desperate situations. We may not refer to a "bum's nest" anymore, but those without jobs and a place to lay their head at night still take to the hills or to the inner workings of big cities when the sun begins to set.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Isaiah Cook

When I was a kid I loved nothing more than our summer trips to southern Colorado to spend time with family. I always felt so envious of my cousins who lived there in the small farming communities of Sanford, La Jara and Alamosa because they all grew up in close proximity to each other. They were not only family, but also each other's neighbors and friends and I couldn't imagine anything better. 

As I've researched my ancestors, I've found that many of the families grew up that way as well. They remained in the same or neighboring communities and had the advantage of raising their children close to each other. John Monroe Ganus', my 2nd great grandfather lived in Haralson County for many years and his siblings Martha Ganus Brock, Addison Ganus and Mary Ganus Cook all lived close by in neighboring Carroll County, Georgia. 

John's sister, Mary, married Burton W. Cook April 7th, 1850 in Dekalb County, but she and Burton settled close to other family in Carroll County. Burton and Mary's oldest known child, Isaiah M. was born five years later on the 14 April 1855. I've often wondered if they lost a child before Isaiah's birth. When he was about 7 years old, Isaiah's father, Burton, enlisted in the Fayette Planters, 53rd Regiment. I would assume that as the oldest child of four children, Isaiah had to step up and help his mother. I wonder how much he knew and understood about the war. Was he aware of the time his father spent in the Union Army's prisoner of war camp, Elmira? Surely his early years were affected by the hardships and fear common among so many of those living in Georgia. ( I share a little about his father Burton's life here.) After Burton was released and returned home from the war, did he tell his children the tales of the war? 

Isaiah grew up and married Sarah Jane Adams on 28th of January 1877 in neighboring Campbell County, Georgia. Just months before, in October of 1876, Isaiah's sister, Elizabeth, married his wife's brother,  Henry J. Adams.

Isaiah and Sally (Sarah) moved to Alabama about 1898 and purchased land. In 1900, he and his family were living in Cullman County and Isaiah was farming. Isaiah and Sally had a large family, totaling ten children in all.

By 1900, two of Isaiah and Sally's children had married and they had become grandparents. Their home was still full with six of their own children, their youngest being 3 years old. Their oldest son John Franklin Cook lived just down the road and farmed as well. Their married daughter Dora Elizabeth and her husband Fernando Edwards were living in Blount County, Alabama with their small son.

Isaiah died on 15 February 1904 when he was 49 years old, leaving his wife Sallie with four small children at home to care for, the youngest only one-year-old.

In 1907, Isaiah's oldest son, John F. petitioned the court to be appointed as guardian for his younger siblings, Burton Monroe, Velma, George T., Willie and G. F. Cook,  who were all minors and still living at home. After presenting a bond of $2,000, he was appointed the guardian on the 3rd of December 1907. It was very short lived however, as on December 30, just 27 days later, he resigned as guardian, indicating that he had received one of the assets of the estate but nothing belonging to the estate of the minors and that he had not exercised any control over the estate or performed any of the duties of guardian. I have not been able to find any additional information to this date, but there obviously is a story behind this and I would really like to find more so I know the "rest of the story."

Shortly after, Sallie loaded up her kids and moved to the beautiful rolling hills of Stout's Mountain where she farmed and remained the rest of her life. In her final years, she lived with her son Joe and his wife. Sallie died May 8, 1947 and was buried next to Isaiah in Fairview West Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Hanceville, Cullman County, Alabama.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Getting Recharged

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, Rootstech, Rootstech 2017, BCG, Board for Certification of Genealogist, Family History Library, FHL, Genealogy, Ancestry, Ancesetors
BCG Lectures 2016
Michelle Taggart and Michelle Goodrum
For months now I've been on hiatus from blogging due to some other things that needed my attention, but there is nothing like a genealogy conference, an institute or really any type of genealogy activity to refuel the fire! 

That's what I really needed and I got it this last Friday when I was able to attend the BCG* Lectures held in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Of course the big draw was the speakers. Any opportunity to hear genealogists such as Elizabeth Shown Mills, Judy Russell and Pamela Boyer Sayre is worth the effort in my book, but being able to hear them absolutely free of charge was an extra bonus!

Pamela Boyer Sayre's  topic was "Enough is Enough, or Is It?"  She really hit the nail on the head when she talked about how many love the hunt and gather game, collecting lots of names and documents without taking the time to carefully analyze what they have. It is so easy to fall into this trap, especially when researching someone with an unusual name or when we first begin to research. She took time to share the steps she goes through in preparing to research and shared how much a carefully thought out research plan can help. I realized I need to slow it down sometimes and spend a little more time in the preparation phase of research. 

Elizabeth Shown Mills blew our socks off as she shared a current genealogy roadblock she hit and the progress she has made using a combination of the FAN club (friends, associates and neighbors), GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard)  and DNA in her lecture entitled "FAN + GPS + DNA: The Problem-Solver's Great Trifecta." She carefully outlined the problem at hand, which centered on finding women in a totally burned county, a problem many of us would likely run from. I loved watching how she was able to take a complex problem and using the "trifecta" was able to resolve a seemingly impossible task. I understand she gives more detail in her article in the current issue of NGS and I absolutely kicked myself for recently letting that subscription lapse.  Yes, I've since repented and renewed my subscription. It's worth every penny. 

In her lecture, "Black Sheep Ancestors and Their Records,"  Ann Staley shared the many records created for those ancestors who fall into the category of "black sheep." I am not sure who was more surprised---the people sitting next to me who realized I had researched my ancestors in many if not most of the records mentioned, or me to realize that they hadn't. Surely others have colorful ancestors as well! Ann not only shared the type of records to consider, but told us about many websites that help document those ancestors.

Jeanne Bloom talked about "Bringing Life to Our Ancestors: Manuscript Collections." I have to confess that although I've been to similar lectures in the past, this is a weak spot for me. I KNOW I need to utilize these collections more, but to do so feels a little like trying to find a needle in a haystack to me. But Jeanne made it seem do-able and provided many useful suggestions and ways to access manuscript collections. 

Michael S. Ramage talked about "Adoption for the Forensic Genealogist." I found his lecture fascinating as he shared many ways to find information on adoptees. I was really surprised to learn about some of the lesser known records available and to realize how much information can be found by digging in the right places. Of course, depending on time and place, there are lots of records that can not be accessed, but there is more available than I realized. I really enjoyed his lecture. 

Of course Judy Russell was, well Judy, which means she is entertaining and funny while educating. I take advantage of any opportunity to listen to Judy because I always learn something and this time was no exception. Through her topic, "When Worlds Collide: Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records," she shared fascinating case studies demonstrating ways to resolve the conflicting evidence we come across.  I came away with new ideas for tackling my brick walls. 

If you were not able to attend the event, no worries because it is available to watch for free on Legacy Family Tree Webinars until October 17th and then after that, it will continue to be available to those with an annual or monthly webinar membership. The lectures were so good I intend to watch them again even though I was able to attend.

BCG Lectures 2016
Michelle Taggart and Linda Carver 
As my friend Linda Carver and I were leaving at the end of the day, we both commented that it was really a great day. Not only were we able to learn from some of the best in the industry, we were able to associate with other genies! Genealogy can be a bit isolating at times as I often find myself with my nose in the books, on the computer or sitting in the dark, viewing microfilm. But opportunities such as this provide the opportunity to get out and be among others who have the same interests and I look forward to them so much.

For these reasons, I attend anything I can relating to genealogy, knowing that I will come away not only with a deeper understanding of the principles I need to become a better researcher, but also happier for having spent time with my genea-friends. 

Coming up, I have the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy on my calendar for January 2017 and Rootstech 2017 on my calendar for February. Will you be there? 

* BCG is The Board for Certification of Genealogist 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, August 26, 2016



I am taking a little time off, but will be back in a few weeks. See you then!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Married to a Southerner

I lived in Texas for quite a few years and I remember so clearly the day an elderly gentleman pulled my friend and me aside at church and counseled us to be sure and marry someone from Texas. We were just in high school at the time and much more concerned about getting a date than the culture of the man we would someday marry, but we were intrigued and so we listened to what he had to say.

He told us that Texas had its own culture and that if we were to marry someone from outside the state, they would have a different upbringing and that they wouldn't understand some of our Texas ways and that would create difficulties in the marriage. He said if we married a fellow Texan, we would have so much more in common.While my friend was Texas born and raised, I had only lived there a couple of years and so it applied more to her than it did for me, but neither of us took his advice too seriously.

A few years later both she and I went off to a university several states away and as it turned out, neither of us married Texans. Funny enough, though, we both ended up returning with our non-Texas spouses to live in Texas for a time. Texas is, after all, a great place to live.

As I've studied my ancestors and their southern culture, I've often thought about the elderly man's counsel given to me so many years ago. On my father's side, generation after generation married other southerners, right down until my own grandparents who broke tradition.

Heber Monroe Ganus, Hazel Mickelsen, Southerner, Oklahoma, Georgia, Family History, FamilySearch, Genealogy, Ancestry
Hazel Mickelsen and Heber Monroe Ganus

In all fairness, although my Grandpa was born to Georgia natives, he was not born in the south. When it came time to marry, he was living in Colorado, although it was Southern Colorado. 

Grandpa Heber Monroe Ganus was born in Oklahoma in 1900 to William Franklin Ganus and Sarah E. Faucett, both born and raised in Georgia. He married my Grandma, Hazel Mickelsen, whose parents were full blooded Danish.  Both sets of her grandparents had immigrated to the US directly from Denmark. Although obviously, they loved each other, I can't help but wonder what challenges they may have faced as they worked to mesh two very different cultures.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Happy Blogiversary to me!

I can hardly believe I have been blogging for four years . When I first began this blog, I did so having no idea where it would take me. It's been a lot more work than I ever imagined, but also a lot more fun. I've connected with cousins I didn't know before, made friends with other bloggers and genealogist and learned so much. Thanks for coming along with me on this wonderful journey! 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Making Sorghum Molasses the Old Way

I am always grateful for those willing to share memories with me that give a glimpse of the past. The following story takes us back to a time when even something as simple as molasses came by hard work. Thank you, Floyd Ganus, descendant of Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery for sharing the following memory of your Grandpa and Grandma Ganus and how you learned to make sorghum molasses the old way .

Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery
"We lived about a mile west of Grandpa (Robert Lee Ganus) and Grandma’s(Stella). Across the road and about an 1/8 mile up the hill lived Uncle Floyd & Aunt Jean. They had two girls Roberta, a year older and Olivia about 3 years older. There for a spell we didn’t have a car, electricity, or a radio so our entertainment was to walk up the hill and visit them. Also, we were dependent on them to take Mother or Dad to the grocery store. I was 3 or 4 and had an older sister, Virginia, 5 years older and a brother Robert D. 2 years older.

Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery with their six children
Robert Orvil b. 1910, Floyd Otto b. 1912, Andrew Monroe b. 1917, Robert Lee Ganus,
Stella Montgomery, Ida Mae b. 1907, Stella Jane b. 1904, Mary Olivia b. 1902
"This particular place was on a sandy creek bottom and Dad (Robert O.) Decided it would be a good place to grow sweet potatoes and sugar cane. They both did pretty well and my older years I have regained my taste for sweet potatoes. The sugar cane was a big summer treat to us kids. Mother (Edith P.) Would cut a stalk, clean off the leaves, and cut away the outside stalk and give us the sweet core to eat on. The core was mushy with sugar water and thus delicious to us kids. So for that summer we had the equivalent of a candy bar for several times , a real treat since store bought candy was unknown to us.

"When early fall came Dad gathered all of the sugar cane by cutting them off at ground and stripped off the leaves. When he finished with plot, less than an acre, we had a wagon load of sugar cane. Since our transportation was a wagon drawn by a team of horse, we got up early in morning and took the trip about 2 and one-half miles west to the old black mans place to squeeze the canes for the juice. The press was a metal contraption about the size of washing machine with a pole extending from the top to the side 15 or 20 feet. He had a donkey trained to walk the circle around the press giving it power. His was a very slow walk. The old man sat on the ground next to the press and fed the stalks into the press. My brother and I found out why we were invited on this trip. We were the carriers of the sugar cane stalks from the wagon to the old man feeding them in. You had to duck under the pole to hand him the canes. The process of extracting the nectar took about 2 hours or so. Time goes fast when you are having fun- I mean working. When we left the old man kept all of the sugar cane juice and kept it for the final tasks of cooking it down into molasses.
"By the time it was ready, we had moved about a mile or so on the other side of Grandpa and Grandma’s. Also, I guess Dad got good prices for those sweet potatoes since he now owned an old pickup truck. He came in one day with several jugs of dark molasses for us. Dad loved molasses and an evening supper would often be pancakes and molasses. Us kids would beg Mom into making home made the syrup by boiling some sugar in some water and adding maple favoring. This was much better than the strong tasting molasses. With so much molasses and reluctant eaters part of the molasses turned into sugar (looked like dark brown sugar). Thank goodness!"

Times certainly have changed and I for one am grateful that when I need molasses for a recipe, I can grab a bottle from the grocery shelf .Thank you Floyd, for sharing memories from your childhood years and teaching me about the process of making sorghum molasses the old way! 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, August 12, 2016

Foto Friday-James M. Lee and Alice C. Suttles

I love this picture of James Marshall Lee and Alice Cathleen Suttles. James was born 1 December 1859 and was the son of Samuel Solomon Lee and Rebecca Ganus. Alice Cathleen Suttles was born 22 September 1862 and was the daughter of Alfred D. Suttles and Nancy C. Baker. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Feeding the Bindlestiffs

I knew my Grandma Hazel Mickelsen Ganus well. She died in 1987, the day before our third child was born.  I was fortunate enough to know her during my childhood, throughout my teen years and into my adult life. Even though we lived several states away, every summer we made the trek across the country to visit our family in Colorado. We had family dinners at her house and I often spent the night there. Although she did not like to travel, I remember several visits that she made to our home.

I say I knew her well, but in reading her life history I realize that although our lives overlapped, there was so much that I didn't know about her at the time. Thankfully she did record some of  her experiences in a life history and from that I have a few glimpses into her world, but oh how I wish that I had heard the stories straight from mouth.

I've heard people talk about the Great Depression and what it was like but I think for those of us who have lived in a world with so many comforts, it is hard to imagine how bad things really were for so many. My grandparent's life was deeply impacted by those hard years. While many of my grandparent's siblings remained in Colorado and Oklahoma and continued to farm during the difficult Depression Era, Grandpa Heber Monroe Ganus and Grandma Hazel bundled up their kids and followed Heiselt Construction on various projects throughout Utah and California.

Lake Almanor
Public Domain 
One of the projects took Grandma and Grandpa Ganus to Northern California where Grandpa worked to help clear forest land for a railroad track that would run from Keddy, California to Klamath Falls, Oregon. During that time they lived in a small camp a short distance from Lake Almanor.  There, Grandpa gratefully worked when so many were without work. In her history, Grandma shared some of her observation of things they saw during those years.

By Unknown - Library of Congress
Public Domain,
Speaking of their time there in the camp near Almanor Lake, she said:
"This was during the depression and so many people were out of work, we could see men walking along the highway with packs on their backs, any time of the day looking for work. Mr. Heiselt was very good to feed them that came asking for food. 
"Some of the men got to coming to our house asking for food. I always gave them something to eat. We felt sorry for them. These people were called bindelstiffs. 
"The railroads allowed people to ride free. Many days we would see big long freight trains go by with people riding all over them, some on the flat cars, some on box cars, some in gondolas, and one time we even saw a woman with a baby riding on top of a boxcar. 

"One night three men came to our place asking for something to eat. I gave them some potatoes, a can of corn, bread and some coffee. They seemed real glad to get them. But they went just a little way from the house, where there was a place someone else had fixed to cook on. They built a fire and cooked their supper, then laid down in their sleeping bags around the fire to sleep. 
"I was so nervous and frightened I didn't sleep any all night. In fact, I sat by a window where I could see what was going on. Heber wanted me to go to bed, saying they wouldn't harm us, but I just couldn't. Goodness knows I don't know how we could have protected ourselves from them if they had, for we didn't even have any kind of a gun or even a dog. I was so glad when morning came and they were gone. The ground was covered with snow, too. 
"The majority of this kind of people were good, just out of work and looking for a job of some kind. There were eight or ten companies working on this job, and they probably hit all of them for work."

The thought of large groups of people riding on top of trains and men walking along the road looking for work is heartbreaking. Grandma indicated that they called the people bindlestiffs, a word I had never heard before, so I looked it up and learned that according to Merriam-Webster, bindlestiff refers to a "hobo: especially one who carries his clothes or bedding in a bundle."

It was not an easy time to support a family, nor was Grandpa's work easy to do, but for a time, he had work when many were unemployed. At first, Grandpa was paid and they had hope things would work out. But in the end, Heiselt began to have financial trouble, workers went unpaid and word spread that Heiselt's machinery was heavily mortgaged and that the company was in serious financial trouble. Sadly my grandparents realized that they would never see the $2,000 owed to them, so they packed up their kids and what little they had and returned to Colorado.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved