Thursday, June 30, 2011

Educating Myself in Genealogy

I started attending our local historical society in Brown County, Indiana because they would occasionally have interesting programs posted in the newspaper. From that I learned that they had an Archives that was staffed by volunteers. Over the years they had had many good volunteers that had started this Archives and had published some material that was to found here. But I knew there was a lot of good genealogical information that was still unpublished in this county. I decided to pop in one day and offer to volunteer to transcribe whatever they needed. I started on the Tax Lists, something I knew was a very under-utilized source in many counties. Working there I gained many good friends and discovered many good sources that were buried there. The current volunteers at the time knew little about genealogy and didn't know what a great resource they had for genealogists. I then volunteered to do the look-ups that they really didn't seem to like doing. From all this work I was doing I was actually learning myself. I was teaching myself to be a better researcher. I have learned to read old handwriting, learned to dig deeper, learned to use unusual sources, and learned so much more about the history of this county. I have come across so many interesting stories of Brown county's people and history. From all these stories I have now launched upon a new path. I am going to start writing a monthly e-newsletter from these stories that I have found. I have been writing the quarterly newsletter for our Brown County Genealogical Society for about 5 years now but that was mostly data with a few short stories thrown in. This new venture will be a good exercise to try to tie together history and genealogy. That's the way a good genealogy should be written, not just dates and places. Our ancestors were more than just names, dates, and faces. They lived at a certain time of our country with neighbors, circumstances, and environment that affected their daily lives. It behooves genealogists to better themselves. The circumstances of history affected our ancestors. If you should decided to write a family history it should encompass all these things. It will help you to understand what your ancestors' lives were like. Genealogy and history should go hand in hand.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm from Where?

I used to say my family hails from Johnson County, Indiana. But after getting into genealogy 10 years ago, that question is a little harder to answer. The last 10 years in Indiana I've done research in Johnson, Brown, Hamilton, Jefferson, Bartholomew, Decatur, Jennings, Boone, Morgan, not to mention a few others I can't remember. My father's side is from all these areas in Indiana. On my mother's side we start with these counties in Kentucky: Clinton, Wayne, Pulaski, and Russell counties. Then there are the areas of Kentucky that my father's side goes back to in the very early pioneer days: Shelby, Floyd, Whitley, and Wayne counties. I sometimes wonder if my father's Lovealls knew my mother's Guffeys in Wayne county back in the 1820s. That would be amazing wouldn't it? That area's population was a lot smaller back then and maybe they would stop by the closest trading post or general store. You know how the old men do - sit around the woodstove and swap stories or share the goings-on in their part of the county. When I was growing up I would spend summers in Kentucky at my grandparents', the Conners. My pappy Conner would do just that. He would walk or ride the mule to Rosie Conner's store where there was a big woodstove sitting in the middle of the room with chairs all around it. I can imagine all the tall tales that went on there. I still have a photo of that store and the big woodstove somewhere,I must try to locate it. I'm sure that tradition hasn't changed in centuries at least in Kentucky, the meetings at the local gathering place. Even here in Brown County this tradition still goes on at our local country store. I've even sit in and listened to some of their stories. What fun! You can learn a lot.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Restless Family

Growing up in the Dunn and Conner families was quite contradictory. My Dunns were the restless ones, coming from Virginia to North Carolina and finally to Indiana. On other side were the Conners who had settled in one county in Kentucky and had stayed there for many generations. I guess that's why my roots are divided and long. Not to say long in duration just long in distance. When I was growing up in Indiana we were constantly on the move not necessarily a long distance but all around Indiana and back to Kentucky a few times. My father went where there was work and he took us with him. The same was true of his parents, they were what is called truck farmers. They would work for and live with big farmers for a season and work on their farm. Sometimes they would sell any excess produce they had for extra money. I can't remember my Dunn grandparents ever owning a home of their own. I guess my father had inherited that restless spirit - always on the move for a better life as did his ancestors. I can barely remember some things but I know it happened from the photos that were left to me and the stories that were passed down. Dad worked doing construction for many years helping to build some of the major interstates in Indiana. I remember living in Thorntown, Indiana in a tiny trailer that we stayed in while he worked on the roads. Then there was the time we went back to my mother's home in Clinton county, Kentucky. Dad and mom both helped grandpa Conner work logging trees with horse power while grandma Conner took care of me. I have fond memories of her. We still had that tiny trailer we lived in and it was parked just across the dirt road from the Conner home. After that we came back to Indiana where dad found more work and we finally bought our first house. He must have gotten a pretty good job by then. We were finally able to settle down, dad must have found what he was looking for. He was able to have his small vetable garden and raise a few pigs. Mom got to have her chickens and a flower garden. I guess we had found our American dream. I thank the Dunns for their need to find a better life. I also thank the Conners for showing dad what a home was like.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Who was Lewis Taylor Guffey?

Remembering my mother's wish for me to find out about my family, my very first research subject was her elusive grandfather and my great-grandfather, Lewis Taylor Guffey of Kentucky. Of course, I had to start with a brickwall at least it seemed to me, a beginner! Where do I start? I know we had drove all around Clinton County, Kentucky looking for his burial place when I was younger to no avail. All I had was a name, his wife's name - Ottie, and 3 of the children's names that I had grown up with - my grandmother Millie, her sister Louetta, and a brother, Lewis Jr. I had heard of census records as being one of the most important genealogical tools in finding a family so I decided to look for the family. I picked the year that I knew grandma Millie was born - 1890 - and looked at the census year following her birth. The Federal census was taken in 10 year increments so I first picked the 1900 census to look at. I also looked at the 1910, 1920, and 1930. On each of these I was able to find names of other children as well as where they were living at each census year. From that I could possibly find where they were buried. In the 1900 and 1910 census Lewis and Ottie Guffey were living in Clinton County with 7 children, 4 more than I had known about. In the 1920 census Ottie Guffey was found living alone and Lewis was nowhere to be found. I surmised he had died in the years between. By the 1930 census Ottie had disappeared. From this information I found that I could possibly find a death record as this part of Kentucky had started recording Death Records in 1911. I had found Lewis Taylor Guffey's death record! But none for Ottie? Lewis' death record was a little mysterious. It read a place of burial - river grave. What did that mean? Did he drown and his body lost? Was he buried near a river? That mystery will remain a mystery I guess for now, but at least I knew why we could never find a grave for him. But from this search I learned a lot about the whole family. Unfortunately Ottie's burial is a mystery also, could they both have been buried at a small family plot near a river that has been lost to time? That's what I choose to believe. After all your genealogy quest is a personal one.