Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week four - Genealogy Do-Over - Really? Can't we agree on a date?

With the citing of sources and learning the process, it has become very clear that it is no longer possible to ignore the birth dates differences for my father and my grandfather.
My dad, Ernest Rhea and my grandpa, William Rhea, La Brea Tar Pits, October 1947
Until the day he died (at age 79 or 80, depending on whose story you believe) my dad lied about his age and told everyone he was 35. He and my uncle liked to talk about how close they were in age at 11 months apart. My uncle was born in November 1919 (verified) which would make 11 months, October 1920. My dad's birthday was in October but many of his records also say 1921 and that's the story he stuck with. He always kidded my mom about her advanced age being three years older than he. However, I honestly believe some of the records are wrong and he was born in 1920. I have lots of documents with both years so it's up in the air at this moment because the one document I don't have is his birth certificate. It seems Montana's fees are quite expensive so it will have to wait.

My grandfather was maybe born in 1882. My mother copied the pages of the family Bible in 1982 but no one knows where it went after that. I have the copies and it lists my grandfather's birth year at 1882 but many of his other documents say 1881. I believe I will eventually end up using the Bible as proof because it is the source listed on the Delayed Tennessee Birth Certificate. I don't think I can argue with the State of Tennessee.  I can understand the confusion with my grandfather, he did not request the certificate until 1946 at the age of 64.

I'm beginning to think I like my mother's side of the family much better because they documented everything. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Week Three - What I learned from the "Real" Genealogists

I have played with everyone's research logs. Some I like, some I find difficult, and some have great features I wish were all incorporated into one. In the many (many, many) years I have worked with my family history, I have never tracked anything. The Do-Over is forcing my hand.

I am aware of the "Real" genealogists who complain about us "Family History" researchers. It seems to be us against them when it comes to research procedures. I have always just smiled at the attitudes and continued on my merry way, finding sources but not citing them. All of a sudden, it changed.

I can honestly say I have known all along that my research was sloppy. I know there are holes in my research because I couldn't afford to purchase the records I needed. The Do-Over has made it really clear that my careless research has hindered my research and I have already found two proof points I missed. I will be ordering documents as I can afford them.

Then, I actually had to cite a source. What a drag! If you are like me, you have lots of original documents, letters, photos, and certificates. I look at the sheer amount of work I need to do to catch up and want to quit.

Citing sources is a chore and a new process for me. However, I will adjust because I just learned has satisfying it is to have the information verified and documented.

Does that make me a "Real" genealogist? No way. I am still a "Family Historian" who will now use the research processes used by the genealogists while continuing to go my merry way, finding out about my family.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

You might be a Redneck

The phrase "You might be a Redneck", popularized by Jeff Foxworthy and defined by Merriam-Webster as a "a white person who lives in a small town or in the country especially in the southern U.S, who typically has a working-class job, and who is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive", had an entirely different meaning in the 1920's.

How does this fit into my Rhea family history? One of the reasons my grandmother refused to live in the tiny area surrounding Sneedville, Tennessee was the mine. The only way to make extra money was to work in the mine and she didn't want that for her husband. So, in 1914, William Ogden Rhea and Mellie Farris Rhea, packed their bags and headed north until their money ran out in Billings, Montana.
William Ogden Rhea and Mellie (Farris) Rhea in Los Angeles, California, visiting my newly married parents in August 1947. 
The rest of the family, Martha Jane Rhea, my great grandmother, and three of the kids, continued to farm the land along the Clinch River. They did quite well supporting themselves by growing corn and tobacco. However, several family members were lured into working the mine for the money to supplement the farm income. The working conditions for the miners were brutal all through the Appalachian Mountains. There were no safeguards, the worker's and their families were terrorized, and working the mines brought black lung and other respiratory illnesses.

In a letter to my grandparents on January 1, 1919, Martha Jane Rhea wrote:

"The mining people is going slow. Wages for common work is $1.50, carpenter $3.00 or $3.50. A man by the name of Coberly from Joplin, M.O. is here to setup their machinery. His family is here. They claim to have one million and quarter dollars worth of mineral in sight." Big money for the investors, nothing for the miners.

It all came to a head in 1921 at the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia when more than 10,000 coal miners confronted state and federal troops. Their goal was to unionize the Southwestern West Virginia mine counties. The labor laws in effect today were largely due to this battle for better working conditions. It was the biggest armed uprising in American labor history.

The protesting miners at Blair Mountain wore red bandannas around their necks, hence the term "Redneck". In this short video of the struggle, the bandannas can be seen in some of the pictures.

Do you have Rednecks in your family?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Week two of the Genealogy Do-Over - My car history from 1966 to 1968

As part of the Genealogy Do-Over, we were to write our personal history to use as a starting point for research. I started mine but got sidetracked. I have boxes and boxes of slides that I wanted to scan but had misplaced (read meaning "husband lost") the slide holder for my scanner. I ordered replacement parts and when they arrived,  I spent two days scanning about 300 slides. It was a treat to surprise cousins and friends with 40-year-old photos.

Among the slides were a few photos of my cars. I thought I would use them to augment two years of my personal history.

In 1966, on my 16th birthday, my parents handed me the keys to the 1958 Opel Kadet Station Wagon. There were rules that came with it. They would pay the insurance and the gas to go to and from school and church. And...oh, I must also take my brother where he needed to go. If I wanted to go anywhere else, I had to pay for it. That was fine with me. Gas was $.25 a gallon and I had a part-time job at the library.
I can't even tell you how many trips this car made to Huntington Beach. Oh, the surfers, sun, and the food at Zack's.

In 1967, when I graduated from high school, my parents thought I needed a more reliable car to go to the local junior college. So, they bought a brand new Toyota. It was also good on gas and not likely to break down.
Unfortunately, in September of 1968, I had to give this car up. My boyfriend and I decided to get married and my parents told us we needed to be responsible for our own transportation. The payment of the Toyota was more than we could afford at the time so my mom traded the Toyota for the 1957 Chevy she had been driving.
Not new like the Toyota and not good on gas like the Opel, we started our married life with the Chevy and a 1957 Volkswagon Bug.
 I look at these pictures today and wish I still had all four cars. My brother destroyed the Opel. I eventually took over the payments on the Toyota and drove it until it quit at 300,000 miles. I gave the Chevy to my brother who destroyed it too. He was hard on cars. The Volkswagon went to my ex-husband in the divorce. I look at these pictures and am filled with fond memories of the cars and the places they took me.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Week two of the Genealogy Do-Over - Memorial Service for Uncle Howard

One of the goals for week two is to interview family. I spent the weekend in Walnut Creek, California attending the memorial for my Uncle Howard who recently passed away at age 95.

It was a seven hour drive but I was able to spend two nights with my Aunt Anne and cousins Stuart and Bill. I haven't seen them in years so it was a chance to catch up.

My Aunt Anne is 91 years old and her memory is not quite as good as it used to be. She is reeling from the death of her husband after 67 years but still holding on.
Aunt Anne and Uncle Howard at the Grand Canyon, many years ago. 

I didn't interview her because it was neither the time nor the place but she had some things she wanted to share. One of them was how wonderful the bread was that my grandma used to make. She also shared that my grandfather liked a nip or two from his bottle of alcohol. These two things are new to me because as a child, I wouldn't have noticed.

She told me that my mother talked too much. She said my dad was mean. While I don't agree, I can see where she got those opinions. I will take what she had to say for what it is because she knew them on a different level.

The memorial was held in a restaurant in Downtown Walnut Creek. My cousin Patty and her husband, Adam, organized the gathering.  Adam created a beautiful and touching video that had all of us in tears and laughter. It was truly a celebration of a long and interesting life.

While I didn't do a family interview, I learned more than I expected. Sometimes it is best to just sit back and listen.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pulling out my already thinning hair! Do-Over day one of week one is much bigger than I thought.

The magic email from Thomas MacEntee arrived in my email at 9:00 pm last night. That must mean he's three hours ahead of me. I am in Southern California.

I read through it and then read it again. No problem, I got this!

Jumping out of bed this morning, I headed for my computer to get started. I've read all the posts and suggestions from my fellow Do-Overer's so I was fairly confident that I could play with the big kids. After all, I have been doing this a very long time.

Wrong...I am in no way prepared for this task. Yes, I have scanned photos with tags. Yes, I have a few documents scanned and tagged. But, I have not sorted or cataloged the boxes of information my mother gathered in the 1980's, nor have I gone through all the files of paper I started on a long time ago and gave up on.

So today, I will attack the avalanche of paper from the boxes and file drawers. I will follow one of the suggestions I read on Facebook, which was to touch each piece of paper only once.

I am going to open the top drawer on the filing cabinet and pull out the first piece of paper. I will read it, decide if the information should be saved, scan it, tag it and if important, add it to my research log. It will get filed it in an appropriate paper folder and in the digital file. It may take several weeks but until I get a handle on the paper, I cannot begin my Do-Over research. This will also give me a way to identify what is missing and what else I need to find.

Ready, set, go!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Week 1

It's January 1, 2015. Happy New Year and Happy Birthday to my great grandmother who was born on January 1, 1848. I have chosen her as my focus person for the do-over. I know a great deal about Martha Jane McCollum and yet, many of the facts still allude me.

The do-over actually starts tomorrow with topics for the week:
1. Clean house
2. Prepare to research
3. Review the Golden Rules

I don't know what any of this means.

Clean house I can guess at and I've already spent several hours this morning working on cleaning up my photos. I've scanned about 3000 and although they are in good shape, there are some unnamed and duplicates out there. I also think cleaning house means I need to start a brand new tree. I am going to use RootsMagic. I deleted the other tree so it's empty except for me and some records that I added with sources cited.

I hope prepare to research doesn't means I have to scan the other three or four thousand pictures still out there. I can't wait to see what preparing to research really means but I know it's something I need to do.

I'm interested in learning the Golden Rules. I sure I have broken most of them so it will be nice to have a set of rules to adhere to.

Week one will also be interesting because I am making a trek to the San Francisco area next week for a family gathering. In one of my other posts, I wrote about my uncle who passed away in November. The family is getting together to do a memorial, very low key, just family and a few of his friends. I have gathered newspaper articles from the Billings Gazette to take with me so I can share his life in the eyes of the newspaper. Sad event but I am looking forward to be a part of the celebration of his life.

I am wishing today away because I am exited to begin the Do-Over tomorrow. I plan to post once a week to share what I have learned. The best part of this is the amount of information I have picked up from the other Do-Over folks. I read everything that was posted and feel privileged to be in such good company.