Monday, March 3, 2014

Will Our Grandchildren Need Paleography?

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Sign found in the mountains of Colorado.
Taken and shared by Trena Ganus

Have I saved letters and handwritten treasures from my childhood for nothing?  Will they be readable and hold any value to my descendants?  I used to think so, but now  I'm not so sure.

I can’t help but notice that as my keyboarding skills and texting speed have increased (no thanks to auto-correct!)  that my handwriting seems much less legible than it used to be. Not only is typing quicker, but as a society we seem to be gaining speed in our efforts to become paperless. While discussing this issue recently with some of my friends, one friend indicated that many public schools no longer even teach cursive handwriting!  I had no idea and initially found it hard to believe, but after a few simple Google searches, I discovered that it is actually true.

While reading more recent handwritten material sometimes presents a challenge due to individual styles or sometimes even the lack of style, we nonetheless are able to read the majority of the handwritten material of more recent times because we are familiar with cursive, which was the accepted standard for many many years.  What will happen when cursive is no longer familiar to those living?  An instructor who works with groups who index documents recently shared with me that many young people actually need a website that shows cursive letters in order to read cursive writing even now.

Paleography, or the study of old handwriting has long been important to the serious genealogist, but it has traditionally been a study of writing from a much earlier time. When I took a Paleography course, I was surprised to see just how much handwriting has changed and evolved over the years, but will paleography eventually have to include what many of us older folks consider simple common cursive writing?

And here comes the troubling part.  Will my descendants even one generation away need a paleography course just to read my handwriting? As I think of  the letters that I have saved over the years such as choice letters from my parents during their missionary service in Papua New Guinea,  letters from my grandmothers and  letters from the boyfriend whom I eventually married, I wonder, will they hold any value to the generations that follow?  Will they be too difficult to read, the writing too foreign to be worth the effort for others to try and wade through them?  I find myself wondering if our grandchildren and their children can't read our precious keepsakes then just what will happen to our letters?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tula's Incomplete Story


Scotie Hickman and Tula Fawcett
Scott Anthony Heckman
and Tula Faucett
Thankfully grandma's little suitcase still held a few more treasures, and so with pictures of Tula, along with a few records that I have been able to find,  I will finish what I know of  Tula's story.

A little more than a year following the death of her first husband, Charles, Tula remarried on April 18, 1899 in Salida, Colorado.  Her new husband, Scott Anthony Heckman lived in Salida, which is in a mountain valley several hours north of Tula's home in Alamosa.  How they met, I am not sure, but I suspect it possibly had something to do with the railroad.   According to census records, Scott was a brakeman for the railways and with Salida originally being a railroad town, and Alamosa being a rail center for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, I suspect there was opportunity for Scott to have spent at least some time in Alamosa.   

Following their marriage, Tula and Scott settled down in Salida.  The 1900 US Federal Census shows Scott Heckman as head of household with his wife Tula and three year old Ola, Tula’s child from her first marriage.  It would seem that 1902 was the beginning of better things for Tula.  Married, and with a four year old daughter whom she clearly adored, Tula was expecting her and Scott's first child.   Dorothy Heckman was born May 25, 1902, and for a short time, the Heckman household was composed of Scott, Tula, Ola and new baby Dorothy.  But once again tragedy hit Tula's life and just six months after Dorothy's birth, sweet little Ola died.  Tula and Scott took Ola's body back to Alamosa to be buried next to her father, a story I shared in a previous post.

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Tula  Faucett Heckman
and daughter, Dorothy Heckman
Specific details surrounding the next few years of Scott and Tula's life are unknown, but according to the 1910 census, Scott continued to work as a brakeman while he, Tula and Dorothy lived in Salida.  The 1920 census shows Scott, who was then 55 still living in Salida  but only his mother is shown living with him. Despite determined efforts, I have not been able to locate Tula anywhere on the 1920 census.  Meanwhile, their daughter, eighteen year old Dorothy, was living in Denver  with her aunt, Mildred Hickman. 

In 1930, Scott, still a brakeman, was living in a boarding house along with other lodgers.  Once again, searches for Tula are not fruitful.  However I was able to find Tula on the 1940 census living as as a lodger in Denver, Colorado.

Scott  passed from this life on May 21, 1938 and A Findagrave entry includes both a picture of Scott’s headstone and a transcribed obituary.  The obituary indicated that Scott left behind his wife Tula, yet it does not appear that they had been living together for some time. I would love to know the full story.  A Findagrave entry for Tula includes a picture of her headstone and indicates that she died 30 August 1949,.  A transcribed obituary also included on that site indicted that Tula had been living in Denver and had died in a Denver hospital, however she was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Salida, where Scott was also buried.

While I know something about the beginning of Tula's life in Georgia and the end of her life in Colorado, there are woefully large gaps in her story. Why wasn't she living with her father when they first arrived in Colorado from Georgia?   Just how did she meet Scott? Where was Tula between the 1910 and 1940 census years? What happened in her life during those thirty years?

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Photo: taken and shared by
Trena Ganus 


Thanks to the bond between sisters, Tula and Sarah, my great grandmother, I have pictures that help tell Tula's story.  I have additional pictures that have not been shared on this blog and am willing to share them with others.  My hope is that similarly someone else has details that they are willing to share with me and that those details will help fill in the gaps of Tula's life and therefore complete her story.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rootstech 2014--Bigger and Better

photo (15)Rootstech 2014 was truly bigger and better than ever in most every way.  The exhibit hall was 50% bigger, the classrooms were bigger, and even, and maybe I should say especially, the CROWDS were bigger!  There was an unprecedented number of adults and youth in attendance this year, but the event was managed well and I was able to see, do and attend everything that I had wanted.
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In the opening,

FamilySearch was excited to announce the coming of an obituary project which will add thousands of obituaries to their already huge collection of free online records.  We were told that most obituaries contain at least seven family members (but often more), so this will be a big help to us in piecing together our families.  

The keynote speakers each morning were fabulous and, while varied in experience and approach, each shared things that inspired and motivated us in a different aspect of our family history.  We heard from Stephanie NielsenAnnelies van den Belt,  Ree DrummondDr. Spencer Wells, Todd Hansen and Judy Russell.   Each speaker was great, but as a friend said, Judy Russell really hit the ball out of the park.  Utilizing her great talents as a “Scotch Irish Story Teller,” she encouraged us to take time to record not only our ancestor’s history, but our own, emphasizing that  information about people can become completely lost in as few as three generations unless it is recorded accurately.

As for the classes, I tried to branch out and and take a greater variety this time and it paid off.  I tend to shy away from some of the more techie type classes (I know, I know—that is somewhat the point of a genealogy “tech” conference!)  So I decided to just be brave and to try and learn some things outside of my comfort zone and I was so glad that I did.  I came away with lists of more things to read, apps to download and programs to try.

The Expo Hall was immense and packed full of vendors selling everythingphoto (6) imaginable related to family history. I took full advantage of the opportunity to visit with those manning the booths about their products and services.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about how various things might help me with my passion for genealogy.

In addition, there were some fun things to do.  Large plush couches ensured that we watched demonstrations in comfort and free popcorn and soft drinks were available to all.  FamilySearch had several fun things to do, such as an area where they took your picture and inserted it in an old picture.  Can you pick my face out in the picture below?  (I am the one holding the baimageby.)

And believe it or not, next year promises to be even bigger and better!  Next year, the Federation of Genealogical Societies will hold their National Convention in conjunction with Roostech on February 12-14th in Salt Lake City.

I already have the dates marked on my calendar, do you?