It was suggested to me to start a blog and tell of my experiences of researching. I have since taken five research trips. I was faithful in taking my laptop on the very first trip ... to be a "GREAT" blogger! The first night I logged into WiFi, warnings popped up in big bold letters stating it was not safe..actually DANGEROUS!! Though I am great with computer programs, I am a complete dunce to the inner workings of a computer and was scared stiff to continue and immediately shut down my computer. With all my hours and hours of research on my laptop, I could see it flying into a cloud from whence it would not return. I don't know about you, but this CLOUD business scares me to death.
My first research trip was to take me to Wisconsin and Minnesota.
We (one of my daughters went with me) first had to navigate around Chicago....don't go there! We must have spent $40 in tolls, the roads were under construction, and the traffic was horrible! I had great plans to take side trips to book stores to introduce my books. We were scared to get off the beaten tract...there were already detours galore. My GPS kept saying.."Re-calculating!!"
We made it to Wisconsin where my mother's father was born...where letters and calls to the vital records office resulted in "no records found." I can't stress enough, if you can, go to where your ancestors lived and to local vital records offices and historical societies. Just being in the area helps you to understand your ancestors, and researching locally can be beneficial...I found my mothers father's birth certificate...which also had his parent's names on it!. Now I could go home and research online census and land tax records.
Then off to Minnesota for my Dad's family. He was just 15 years old when he lost his father in a job accident. He never know his father's family. Travel and communication were very different back then with families often only communicating by letter. My dad's family moved from Minnesota, to North Dakota, to Washington State (had that information from an obituary clipping). Dad only remembered that he was told he lived in North Dakota as a boy, and a story when he was five years old. His family was heading to Australia, yes Australia, when my dad got very sick causing the family to miss the boat to Australia...and reason they settled in Washington State. His dad was a well-known Butter Maker (good profession in those days), and they were headed to Australia to a large cattle ranch to be their Butter Maker.
The local historical society had valuable information on early butter making in that area with information on the family! They also had another piece of valuable information that I am going to pass along in case you run into this situation when researching..whether it be a soldier, or an ancestor. The county in where Hewitt, Minnesota, was located, is bordered by several counties. Back then, depending on how close the family farm was to one of the other counties, depended on which courthouse births and deaths were registered. We had located the cemetery (in a town just across the border to the north), but could not find any records on the family. When I told the clerks my frustration on not finding anything, they asked me where the family farm was. I said, "in Hewitt." ...where in Hewitt they asked....I didn't know. They explained the situation and were very nice to call each county bordering their county and found the courthouse with the family records. they said they only had the death certificate of my 'great grandmother' and would be happy to send it to me. Do you know what it is like to know they have information, but you would have to wait till the letter arrived...once you returned home?!
The next morning we were to head home....the courthouse was some distance away and out of our way...but who can go home with information close at hand? My daughter was wonderful and we headed out of our way. Here is another valuable lesson....take the time to go to the courthouse yourself. Some will not let you research yourself, where others have a research area set up. I was able to do my own research...finding my grandfather's birth certificate, my great grandfather's death certificate, and land plats showing where the farm was located. They were early settlers in that area and my great grandfather's death certificate was stamped #2...the second death to be recorded for that area....that moment still remains with me as I was suddenly struck with..."what about all the others who went before him?"
That small piece of paper told me his full name, place of birth, reason for death, and had his parent's names! His place of birth was in Illinois. Illinois is just below Minnesota! My sweat wonderful daughter said, "Mom, you know you will kick yourself later if we don't go there now while we are out in this area." It was Friday and I had taken most of the day researching...but off we went. We knew the courts and historical societies would be closed by the time we got there, but the library would be open...another great source for local history. We knew we would have four hours to research...only to get there and learn that the research/archives room was closing in 15 minutes! The researcher was wonderful and stayed another hour to help us. She soon became excited as she knew the family name WARD...her ancestors had given the land for the cemetery where her ancestors and ours were buried. She introduced me to the online site: FindAGrave.com. We left with several pages of WARD family information. Not only did I learn more about my grandfather, I found my great grandparents! and learned that my great grandfather was in the civil war!
I was so thankful to have taking that out-of-the-way trip!
The journey is just beginning!
Until next time....my goal is to blog twice a month. Would love to hear from you! Have questions? Please ask.