Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Perseverance PAYS!

Subtitle: Success in the Cemetery!

I'm posting today to share my excitement about a victory (of sorts) that I've had.  I thought that this was going to be more of a follow-up post, however, upon searching my blog, I've discovered that I never did write about the search for my maternal grandmother's grave marker.

My mother's mother, Mary Thomas, died in 1986.  She was buried in Calvary Cemetery, an historical burial ground in Norfolk, Virginia.  Because I spent the first 14 years of my genealogical journey completely focused on researching my paternal ancestors, it wasn't until just a few years ago, when I turned my attention to my mother's folks, that I decided to head over to Norfolk to visit my grandmother's grave.  Once I did, I was disappointed to discover that the spot where she rested was covered only by green grass, and wasn't marked in any way.
I was 24 years old when my grandmother died, and of course, I attended her funeral.  However, not being a cemetery or genealogy buff at the time, I can't say that I paid any attention to how the grave was marked.  But, what I did know (or at least what I thought) was that my mother and her two siblings would certainly have put some kind of a marker on their mother's grave.  I inquired at the cemetery office, but long story, short, they had no records related to the markers or headstones.  Their records only pertained to the actual burials.

At the advice of the person in the cemetery office, I contacted Hale Funeral Home, to see if they had any records pertaining to my grandmother's burial.  (I called right from the grounds of the cemetery, hoping to just drive right over!)  Unfortunately (and quite sadly), the person I spoke with told me a story of transferred management after family deaths, and records which had actually been THROWN AWAY.  If I recall correctly, all of the pre-1997 records of this funeral home, which has been serving African-Americans in the Tidewater area for 100 years, were destroyed during changes in management.  Needless to say, I was disappointed, and appalled.  Not only were the records of my own ancestors gone - I actually have several who were serviced by this funeral home - but so were those of hundreds of others. 

After this troubling revelation, it seemed that there would be no way for me to prove that there'd once been a marker at my grandmother's gravesite.  My mother told me that my uncle had handled the burial transactions, and when I asked him about it, he said he no longer had any of the paperwork, but reiterated that he "thought" there was "some kind of stone, or something" at the grave.  With nothing else to go on, I just kind of put this to the side, but vowed to one day get to the bottom of it. (No pun intended.) :)

Anyway, life and genealogy went on, and then one day, quite by accident, I ran across this picture, while going through some things at my mother's house:


My nephew, Robert, and my daughter, Natasha, beside the freshly-covered grave of their great-grandmother,
Mary Thomas.
 So, there ya go!  You'd better believe I was doing the genealogy happy-dance, for here was all the proof I needed (and more)!  As soon as I saw this picture, I knew for sure that this was my grandmother's burial location, because it was the exact spot on which I'd stood with the cemetery caretaker, but all that was there was grass.  But here were my nephew, age 6, and my daughter, age 4 obviously not too long after my grandmother had been buried.

With this picture in hand, I took the 35-minute drive over to Norfolk last Monday, ready for battle.  I called ahead to let them know I was coming, and "Bret", the current manager of the cemetery, after hearing my plight, said he'd pull his records and be ready for me.  Once there, he and another employee in the office were very kind and accommodating towards me, so no fight was necessary. :)  Bret verified the location of my family plot (yes, it's a family plot, but I'll write about that in another post), and printed out a new map for me using their fancy-smancy new program.  Then, off we went, armed with my proof-providing picture to do a "test-dig". 

I couldn't believe how excited I was about this, but I was almost beside myself.  When we got to the plot, I used the picture to help Bret locate the exact spot in which to drive his shovel, and after just a couple of hits in that spot, we heard it - the unmistakeable clang of metal against stone.


Bret marks the spot for the dig.
            
And so we began...

As Bret chisled and dug, I continued to "coach" him, directionally.  After just a few minutes, I had all of the confirmation I needed.
Do you see what I see?



At this point, tears began to well up in my eyes, as I realized that we had, indeed, found my grandmother.  Of course she was there all along, but there was just something about the grave being unmarked that was very unsettling to me.  Now, I knew for sure that we were in the right spot, and presumably my grandma, along with her husband, her parents, and her uncle were all right there where they'd been laid to rest. 

Bret continued his work, commenting to me, "You were exactly right about it.", as he dug, more gently now, around the step.  In reverence to my ancestors, I remained silent, as he uncovered the unmistakeable match to my photograph.
And there it is, the THOMAS surname, clear as day.


Just a few minutes after the step was completely revealed, as Bret was explaining to me that it would be raised and reset before the end of the week, a truck drove by with the very men who would be doing it. He summons them to stop, and they came over and heard the whole story.  Everyone involved (including Bret) seemed surprised and baffled that the marker had been allowed to sink like that, since the cemetery is well, and consistently cared for, but what happened, happened.  I'm just glad that they were so amicable about it, and willing to do the work (at no cost to my family, of course) to right the situation.  I didn't go back yet, but I'm guessing the work has been done.  I plan to go over this weekend to see.

There was so much more to this post, but, unfortunately, I hit a wrong button last night was I was creating it, and lost all but the very first part.  Time only permits me to redo this much for now, but thank you for reading.  Needless to say, my heart is glad. :)
Thanks for reading.
Renate


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Asy BROWN

In memory of ASY BROWN
BORN 1833
DIED 1909
He died as he lived, trusting in God.


Although most of the attention in the genea-world to day is on what folks are finding in the 1940 Census, I'm reflecting on the excitement I felt just a couple of weeks ago when I discovered a picture of the headstone of my maternal great-great grandfather, Asy BROWN.  Asy (Asa/Acy, as I'd been spelling it), is just one of the many ancestors I've discovered on my research journey.  I'd never heard of him before, and neither had my mother, or either of her siblings until I found my way to him through extensive research a couple of years ago.

Most of Asy's life remains a mystery to me, but what I do know is this:

1870 - Asa is a 26 year-old, illiterate farm-hand living (alone) in Hamilton Township, in Martin County, NC.

Between 1870-1880 - Asa marries Luvenia Ross.

1880 - Acy, a farm laborer (servant), now lives in River Township, Warren County, NC, in the home of Charles and Creecy Squires. He is marked as both "single" and "widowed", but I believe both to be inaccurate. My research shows he and Louvenia to have married prior to this, but to be living (working) apart in 1880.  (I also have an indication that Louvenia may have been married before this, so maybe they were both widowed and then got married. This is an area for further research.)

At this same time, "Lou", as she seems to be called, is enumerated in Halifax Co. (Enfield Township), working as a farmhand and living in the home of Essex Whitaker.  At the time of the census, she has a 1-month old (unnamed) daughter.   Like Acy, she is noted to be single. 

1900 - Acy and Lou V (Louvenia) are living in Roanoke Township, Warren County, NC. They have been married for 28 years, according to this census, which would put the marriage around 1872. Louvenia has had 12 children, of which 9 are still living.  Seven of the children, ranging in age from 6 to 18, still live in the home.  (Those were Lottie, Weslie, Cora, Addie, Gus, Brutus, and Sadie.) He is a farmer - renting his home (sharecropper?).  Although the census date is June 22nd, Acy reports only being employed for four months that year.

1909 - Asy (according to his headstone) "died as he lived - trusting God".

*Although the date of birth on Asy's headstone give 1833 as the year, I am not changing it in my database, unless I find proof of that.  Everything else I have on him indicates his birth year to be 1843-44.  Since mistakes are often made by the living, I'm going to stick to what I had before finding this picture.

*Special thanks to Find-a-Grave volunteer, George Seitz, who took this picture of my ancestor's grave, and uploaded it to the site.  As a Find-a-Grave volunteer myself, I encourage everyone reading this to get involved in this effort.  Seeing this headstone for an ancestor who had before been only a name to me, made him very real.  I cried tears of joy when I just happened to discover this on a Google search last month.  Not only did seeing the headstone help to make my gg-grandfather's life seem more tangible, but reading the loving inscription gave me a peek into who he was.  It made me feel that he was respected and loved, but best of all, it gave me a warm feeling to know that, despite what appears to have (possibly) been a life of poverty and struggle, he was connected to, and trusted God.

Renate

Monday, April 2, 2012

1940 Census Release Day - Epic Failure or Great Opportunity?

Today has been a lonnnnnnnng day for many of us in the genea-world.  This day, for which we've waited so long, has turned out to be one of waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting for most of us.  What were we waiting for, you may ask?  Well, all though the waiting experience may have differed a bit, the anticipated "prize" for all would have been a page from the 1940 Census, that would allow us to actually begin the search for our families!
Luckily, I've read the 59 posts in my reader prior to typing this, so I'm aware that many folks have already shown screen shots of what we've been looking at all day; therefore, I won't do that.  But, whether it's been a spinning wheel, a black screen that says "loading" (or "preparing image""), or whether after excitedly thinking we've had a breakthrough, just to read, "Sorry, that image is no longer available"; all but a few luckly souls have spent this day WAITING.

But, as this tiresome day progressed, I noticed a few things about myself:  I noticed that I wasn't getting mad.  Actually, I spent most of the day with a smile on my face!  I even thought (initially) that the whole thing was kind of funny!  For the first few hours, I was in constant communication with other researchers, who were going through the same thing as I was.  At noon, I joined the Afrigenas Lunch Bunch Chat.  At 3:00, I was in another chatroom with Steve Morse, Nicka Smith, and other "big-wigs" from the genealogy world.  And, in between all of this, I was getting things done!  You see, I had a plan.  (I pretty much always have a plan.)  I'd expected to have to do some waiting.  I'd figured that not everything would go perfectly smooth with such a highly anticipated release as this, with it taking place at a time when most people would/could be awake and waiting. With today being my first official day of Spring Break, I knew that I didn't want to completely waste the day, and then end up mad about it, so I made a plan!

Is this giving you an anxiety attack? :)


My plan was simply to get other things done if I ended up having to wait.  Those things included dusting, vacuuming, cleaning my kitchen, doing laundry, pulling weeds, paying bills (for my self and for my mother), and making telephone calls.  I got all of those things done, except the laundry!  Not only did I accomplish these things, which resulted in me starting my break with a fresh, clean house; but I also took a one-hour nap in the middle of the day, and went out to get Chick-Fil-a for dinner!

Yummm!
Now, here I am back at the computer, or the "puter", as I like to call it.  As much as I'd hoped that the folks at archives.com had completed the work of "adding additional servers" so that ease of access would be improved, unfortunately, I'm
                                        still
                                          looking
                                                   at
                                                     this                     
      on one computer

and
           this
                                                        on the other.


But, am I upset? Nope!  You know why?  Because if my images had loaded, I certainly wouldn't have taken the time to write this post! 

Now, I'm not one to give up, so I'm sure I'll be trying all night.  But at some point, I'll call it a night, and head to bed.  After all, there's always tomorrow!

                          
                                                                      



See ya tomorrow!

Renate

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1940 Census - Less Than a Day Away!

Well, folks - the day is almost here!  In less than 21 hours from the time of this posting, the 1940 Census will begin to appear online!  Yes, that's right - at 9:00 a.m., tomorrow morning, the first images will start to be uploaded onto FamilySearch.org, the organization which is leading the collaborative effort to bring the 1940 Census to all of us, free of charge.  However, at that time (as I now stand corrected), the entire database will be available on the National Archives web site, and veiwers can even watch the opening event via webcast at http://1940census.archives.gov/

 Tomorrow morning, Family Search will begin by uploading five states: Delaware, Virginia, Kansas, Oregon, and Colorado.  Of these five, only one (Virginia) is a state of interest for me, but since I expect to find many answers about the whereabouts of some of my maternal ancestors in this state, I feel very fortunate that it's going to be one of the first available, since I've signed up as an indexer. :)

To explain the process to those readers who may not have already been notified, I will share the partial text of an email I received yesterday from the folks at The 1940 U.S. Census Project, who are leading the effort to recruit indexers.  If you are interested in helping to make the census searchable, please adhere to the information below, so that you can sign up as an indexer.  No experience is necessary, and you can do this from the comfort of your own home!


Get Ready, Get Set . . .

Thank you for your interest in the 1940 US Federal Census. This will be the last email you receive on behalf of the 1940 US Census Community Project before the images start to become available online.

What You Can Expect on April 2

The 1940 US Census Community Project is creating an index to the 1940 US Federal Census that will be made available for free. This is a joint effort between Archives, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, hundreds of societies, and tens of thousands of individual volunteers. The resulting index will be made available on the websites of the primary sponsors.

On the morning of Monday, April 2, NARA will release the digital images of the 1940 census to multiple parties, including the 1940 US Census Community Project. We will immediately start uploading these 3.6 million images to servers, where they will become available online over time. The ability for people to start accessing some of these images through the community project will take hours, not minutes.

As the first five states are loaded to servers, corresponding projects will be set up to index those images as state projects. We anticipate the first five states will be available for volunteer indexing by 10pm EDT.

The first five states to be loaded and ready for indexing on April 2 are the following:

Delaware

Virginia

Kansas

Oregon

Colorado

The process of uploading images and setting up indexing projects by state will continue until all of the states and territories for this project are published, which may take up to two weeks to complete. Every day more images will be made available for browsing and indexing, so you will want to check back often to see which states are available.

The indexing process will be taking place through FamilySearch indexing. If you are already a FamilySearch indexing volunteer, these 1940 census projects will appear as new projects in the indexing software. No new software download or registration process is necessary to participate. If you are not currently a volunteer but want to participate in this historic opportunity, get started by downloading the indexing software and registering today.

You can keep up with the latest updates by visiting the1940census.com often over the next few weeks.

Thank You!

The 1940 US Census Community Project Team

My goal for tomorrow will be to try to locate as many of my maternal ancestors, as possible, since many of them had migrated by then from North Carolina to Virginia.  I will be most pointedly searching for my maternal grandfather, Daniel Webster Hill, who abandoned his family sometime in 1938, and was never heard from again.  How about you?  What's going to be your research focus for "Release Day"! :)

Renate
*(This post was revised after I received a comment from reader, Joel Weintraub, of Dana Point, CA.  Thanks, Joel!)

I am a Blogger Ambassador for the 1940 U.S. Census Project, and you can be, too!  Just sign up at https://the1940census.com/sign-up/!