Friday, December 28, 2012

VCGS new website

What an exciting month December has been.  On December 1st, my society's new website went live!  We are Ventura County Genealogical Society, now located at  At our society's potluck luncheon the assistant webkeeper and I presented the new website.  He demonstrated the new members only section; how to change their passwords; enter or update the surnames they're researching and other sections of the website.  We'll be changing the content, so stop by, let us know what you think and tell your friends.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Family Curator visited VCGS

Yesterday, my society had a wonderful speaker for our monthly general meeting.  She was Denise Levenick aka The Family Curator.  I've been following her blog for several years so was really excited to hear her speak.  On the way to the meeting I listened to her on Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems podcast (always a good show).

I had purchased her new book, "How to Archive Your Family Keepsakes," so I brought it along to the meeting and she kindly signed it for me.  What a treat!  I was able to tell her I've been following her blog, listened to her on the podcast and mentioned her blog as one to read in my VCGS workshop talk in July.

It's really thrilling to actually meet and talk to the people who write the books you buy, read and use their techniques.  Last month at our seminar was George G. Morgan; this month Denise Levenick.  I'm looking forward to 2013 to see who will be stopping by Ventura County Genealogical Society in Ventura, California.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Fall Seminar - Come Join Us!

I look forward to October every year because it's Family History month!

I'm a member of Ventura County Genealogical Society (VCGS).  I'm very excited to say, mark your calendar for Saturday, October 20th, to join us for our 2012 Fall Seminar, 8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 3501 Loma Vista Rd, Ventura, CA.  Join us for a full day of fun-filled information.  George G. Morgan is our main presenter. 

George G. Morgan
George is an internationally-recognized genealogy expert, author, lecturer, and president of Aha! Seminars, Inc.  He is the proflic author of eight books and literally hundreds of magazine, journal, and online articles in the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, and Signapore.

Seminar topics are:
Genealogy Orienteering:  Using Maps to Find the Right Place
Bring 'Em Back to Life:  Developing an Ancestor Profile
Alternate Records You May Never Have Considered
The Genealogist as CSI

Registration fee includes Lunch and Syllabus
Members - $40.00      Non-Members - $45.00
For more information and to register for the seminar, visit the VCGS website:

Family History is Cool...Pass it on.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family History Library Research

I spent the last two days at the Family History Library in Salt Lake doing research on my ancestors on both sides of my family tree. We were heading home from our 5½ week road trip vacation. Since we were going to be near Salt Lake, we decided to take a two day break from the road. Hip-hip hooray!

When I was packing for our trip I just happened to also pack the file folder I'd been keeping all of my Family History Library research. I didn't know if we'd be coming come via Salt Lake City or not, but just in case, I packed it.

I did spend some time looking at the card catalog before I left home. Printed out some things to look up, got my blank research logs, pencils, $1 bills for payment card, file folder with my forms, notebook paper; I was ready to hit it first thing when the Library opened.

The first day I got there an hour after the Library opened, not bad for me, I'm not a morning person. Since I didn't have much to research using US books, I decided to start on the third floor. After searching all morning, didn't really find anything new. I only copied three pages out of two books. I needed a break. Went down to the Main floor snack room; had a vending machine sandwich. Good thing I brought along my own water. Afterward, I went down to the second floor to tackle microfilms.

I like working the microfilm reader. You can really get into a rhythm, putting a new reel on, cranking the handle super fast or slowly scanning your document. Rewinding the reel, slapping on a new reel and off you go again for your next genealogy find.

That first day I found zilch. How disappointing. I was so ready! OK, need to regroup, need a new strategy. That night I sat down with the Library's card catalog again and searched for different places than I had the first time, I printed out the film numbers, I had my “places” picked out for my different families. I'm going to find stuff!

My second day the Library was opened from 8 am to 9 pm, yay! Plenty of time, all day long. I went straight to the microfilm readers, picked a great spot, dropped off my stuff and went in search for my first four reels.

Crank, crank, scan. Crank, crank, scan...nothing, zilch again. OK, now I'm going to look for something different. I had found my great-grandfather Rosiaro Catania's Declaration of Intention papers on about two weeks before. I couldn't really copy the document well so I wanted to look for it at the Library. I wanted a clear unobstructed copy. So I started to search; and search and search for it. I was close a few times, I knew it! His document should have been right next to the documents I was looking at.

Declaration of Intention

I must have gone through eight to ten reels in the same sequence. A few of them I even looked at twice. Where was it? Should I just forget it and go onto something different? I mean, it was on, so I should be able to find it here. No, keep looking, I reasoned with myself. I did find my great-grandfather in an index with a page number but not in any of the other reels. He's hiding, that must be it...he's hiding. I took a break, walked around, got some water. I decided after looking at all my forms and notations, I'd look at one of the previous reels again, I just had a “feeling” this time.

It was almost 7:30 pm, I hadn't had dinner (because I was “so close”). Slowly I cranked the handle. Slowly I scanned each and every page. Then what to my weary eyes should appear, his document! OMG!! I couldn't believe it, I kept staring at it just to make sure I had the right guy. Yes, yes, it's my great-grandfather! I was so tired, I couldn't even jump to my feet to do my happy dance.

I carefully pulled the film off the reader, took it over to where I could make copies and save the file to my flash drive. The lady who helped me so was nice and patient with me. I was so tired she had to repeat herself as I struggled to make the copies. I thanked her, and thanked everyone I saw as I made my way back to my microfilm reader to clean up and refile all the reels.

Before I left, I took one last look around and said a silent prayer of thanks.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ramminger Cousin Visited

The next visit in Wisconsin was with my cousin Sue Ramminger.  She and her husband live across the state in Fond du Lac County.  Their father Eugene was my mother’s big brother.  When we were kids our family was in Chicago; Sue’s family lived in Milwaukee.  Our families would connect for family events; or see each other during the holidays at our mutual grandmother’s house.  Over the years, her parents’ divorced, our family moved to California, and then we lost touch.

Me and Sue
Since my mother still wrote the holiday cards and letters, Sue’s address was in mom’s address book when she passed away.  I contacted Sue and her sister Sandra; we been sending holiday cards ever since.

Before leaving home, I contacted Sue and let her know my husband and I were coming to Wisconsin at the end of July.  She was very excited; we made plans when we would meet up.  We hadn’t seen each other in about 55 years. 

We had a wonderful visit and got caught up with our families.  Sue didn’t know much about her father’s side of the family so she readily welcomed any information I shared.  While preparing for this trip, I started scanning family documents I had collected through the years; birth, marriage, death records, obituaries’, funeral cards, etc.  I also scanned family photos my mom had.  Any photo that included Sue’s father, I kept the scanned copy and gave her the original.

Sue helped fill in names and dates I had missing in her branch of the family tree.  I shared the Ramminger information Pauline had given me.  She was so amazed.  I had put together a shareable CD from my Roots Magic genealogy program to give to her and her sister.  Her sister Sandra was on vacation the week we were visiting so I missed seeing her. 

Other questions came up between us; she is going to check with her sister and mother and send the information to me.  I’ll update my genealogy program and send them another shareable CD.  This way I’ll always have a safe copy of the information outside my home.

Great visit, so glad we reconnected after all these years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Research at the Wisconsin Historical Society

With all the new information I got from Pauline and we weren’t going to see my cousin until the end of the week, we went down to Madison, WI and I spent about two days doing research at the Wisconsin Historical Society on the University of Madison campus.
I stood outside the building in aware.  I joined the Society last year when I stopped by their booth at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Springfield, IL last year.  I didn’t think I’d be able to actually come and do research.  What an opportunity!  The building had been there over 100 years, I felt so honored.  As old as it looked outside, the inside was all marble walls, floors, stairs and balconies.  Beautifully constructed and maintained.

Now, down to business.  I went to the reference desk and asked for help.  A very nice student gave me a payment card so I could load it with money to use when printing copies.  She then took me around and showed me where the microfilm and readers were; how to load the film, print a page, etc.  This was so cool.  To get a copy of a document from home would have cost me $15 per document.  Here, it was only 10¢.  After a while, I was loading microfilm onto the reader, printing copies, rewinding the film and loading another with practiced rhythm.  I had to reload my payment card numerous times.  Here were all the documents I needed on my Ramminger ancestors from both Clark and Sheboygan counties.

I was printing out birth, marriage and death documents from every reel I looked at.  I didn’t want to leave my favorite work space.  I stayed until closing time and did my “happy dance” all the way back to our hotel. 

The next day I finished up with the microfilms and asked for help looking for city directories.  I again got excellent help from one of the librarians.  I had to take a tiny elevator (I think it was as old as the building) down a couple of floors to the “stacks.”  The air smelled old and dank; lighting wasn’t much better either.  I seemed to be the only one down there, kind of “creepy,” but I just stayed away from those thoughts.  I found the city directories and only brought one up with me.  I used the flatbed scanner and was able to save the images from the book to my flash drive.

I next asked for help with finding plat maps of my ancestor’s farms in Clark and Sheboygan counties.  Those I had to go to the Archives on a different floor, and since it was after 4 p.m., I’d have to wait until the next day.  Boo hoo!  We were leaving the next morning, what was I to do?

Since I knew which maps I wanted and didn’t have to hunt for them, I figured I could be at the doors when they opened the next day, get copies of the maps and we would be on the road by lunch time.  Good plan all around!  When I arrived at the Archives the next morning I had to sign in on a log, register to use the Archives, show my driver’s license, and sign a document that I’d abide by their rules of using their items.  I was assigned a locker for my purse, could only bring a camera phone, notebook and pencil.  Since I wanted to look at maps I was taken to a long table, showed how to fill out a request slip and waited while they got my first maps.  The librarians were friendly and knowledgeable. 

Throughout our trip I’d been using my camera phone every day.  Here, I was able to use the camera to take close-up shots of the maps.  I could tweak the different modes, get a wide view, macro view, and use the flash, or not.  I’ll be downloading the photos to my computer and print out what I want or share them with family members via email.  Very cool!

After seeing my ancestor’s names on the plat maps I got a better understanding of who they were.  In Clark County, I found that not only did my great-grandfather have a farm but I also saw where my grandfather Henry and his Brother John’s farms were located too.

In Sheboygan County several brothers and sons also had farms close to each other.  I found where their church was and where they were buried from the death documents I had copied the day before.  We were definitely going to Sheboygan county cemetery before heading to Chicago.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ramminger Family Information Shared

As I was planning our road trip to Wisconsin I contacted a cousin of my mother’s.  Her maiden name was Pauline Ramminger.  I remember mom taking my sister, brother and I to Pauline’s wedding in Dorchester, Clark County in 1963.  We stayed with mom’s aunt Bessie (her mother’s sister) who still lived on a dairy farm; and we visited other cousins’ in the area.  What an experience for us city kids; we had such a blast on the farms!  The visit was also the first time we saw Amish riding down the road shoulders in a horse and buggy.  We thought mom made that up.

In 1977, mom and I visited Wisconsin and stayed with her father, my Grandpa Hank (Henry Raminger [he always dropped the second "m" in Ramminger]) and his second wife Bonita.  They lived in the small town of Waterloo in Jefferson County.   The four of us piled in grandpa’s car and drove up to Dorchester for a visit.  Mom and I stayed with her cousin Mildred; Grandpa and Grandma Bonita stayed with grandpa’s brother and sister-in-law Arthur and Margaret (Pauline’s parents).  During our stay Pauline came over and we got to meet her four young children.  That was the last time I saw Pauline.

Through the years mom would get holiday cards and letters from Pauline and her family; she would let us read the letters so we could also keep up with the relatives in Wisconsin.  I seemed to have picked up the holiday card and letter writing after mom passed away.  When I starting with my family genealogy, Pauline was one of the people I contacted for family information.    She was happy to hear we wanted to visit.  She’s 70, but still has her own beauty salon attached to her house; her daughter also works with her.  We were only planning on visiting on a Sunday, but since she didn’t work on Monday we stayed an extra day, so glad we did.

Pauline filled in so many gaps and holes in my family research.  She told me her father Arthur Ramminger, acquired the family farm and took care of his elderly parents George and Suzanna Ramminger.  George had come from Sheboygan County to Clark County in the early 1890s to homestead.  I had previously found the Ramminger name in Sheboygan County and wondered if we were related.  I’d been keeping separate records about that family until I could link them with ours.  I didn’t want to start following the wrong family just because they had the same surname.  Pauline had assured me that yes, they were our ancestors.

Pauline & me
Pauline took us by the original family farm and to cemeteries where other family members were buried.  We took many photos.  She explained the area, the schools, who married who, etc.  She reminisced about growing up on the farm, school; family visits with my mother and her family, etc.

Pauline remembered she was given a box of “stuff;” never really had the time to thoroughly look through it.  She remembered where it was stored, and brought to the table.  Apparently years ago, a younger cousin had sat down with his father John and his uncle Henry (my Grandpa Hank) and wrote down everything the brothers told him about the Ramminger family.  After finding all this documentation, it really did link the Clark County Rammingers’ with the Sheboygan Rammingers’.  OMG, holy mackerel, pay-dirt, jackpot, happy dance!  After that find, I decided we were going to Sheboygan County before we left Wisconsin.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mom's Old House; Family Reunion

Our 2012 road trip has been going really great.  We’ve stopped in Cedar City, Iowa and visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.  Beautiful grounds and awesome exhibits.  I never knew much about that president so the experience was wonderful.  Our destination was Wisconsin.

My husband and I arrived the day before the family reunion.  We met with some of my mother’s cousins and their families for dinner.  This was a first for my husband.  He’s heard me talk of these relatives throughout the years.

After dinner, we followed in our car, my mother’s cousins Mildred, her sister Myrtle, Mildred’s son Roger and his wife Arlene.  They showed us the house my grandparents once own; the very house where my mother, her sister and brother grew up.  Years and years ago my mother showed my sister, brother and I her old house and I’ve seen it several times after that.  I just never knew the address or how to get back to it.

Top right window, Mom's bedroom

After we got to the address, I got out of our car to take a photo of the house.  As I was going around the side, a man who lived there was by the garage.  I was a little embarrassed so walked back to the car.  One of the cousins got out of her car, took me back to the man and explained my mother use to live there and I wanted to take pictures of the house.  He was very nice and said it was OK.  He explained his great-grandfather once owned it.  He still had the original abstracts of the house; did we want to see it?  Wow, this was great!  He brought out the paperwork and there was the information on the house, how much my grandfather paid and what his mortgage was.  They bought the house in 1924; sold it in 1944 to the current owner’s great-grandfather.  It was so surreal.  I tried to take a photo of the paperwork but since the sun was going down, it wasn’t working out very well.  He then offered to scan the pages for me.  Wow, what a guy!  While he was inside, his lovely wife and two children came and talked to us.  Very nice family.  I now have copies of the original abstract of my grandparent’s first home.

The next day was bright and sunny.  We were anticipating hot and humid, but were really surprised by the temperature that day, only in the 80s.  We stopped at the first table and put on some name tags.  Since I was a collateral relative I used my maiden name; both my mother’s parent’s surnames and my married surname: Gayle Ficarra Bartunek Ramminger Wolcott.  Just trying to cover all the bases.  Got quite a few laughs.

Below the food counter a cousin hung a very long family wall chart.  On the tables were photo albums, descendant reports, and a photo collage.  I knew I had some gaps, missing children and information in my research, so before coming to the reunion I printed out my own wall chart.  This gave me the opportunity to sit down face-to-face and get the information straight from the source.  Everyone I approached was open, friendly and gave me their names, birth dates and that of their children.  Throughout the afternoon I used my portable mobile scanner and scanned as many pictures as I could from the photo albums.

Many of the cousins came up and asked me if I was getting the family information I needed.  Boy was I ever!  It was the best reunion I’d ever been to.  Mom would have loved it!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Brick Wall Falls With the Help of Strangers

Last week as I was scanning and inputting vital records into my genealogy program, I noticed I didn’t have the details of my Grandma Bonita’s interment in a cemetery.  I need to clarify who exactly Bonita was and wasn’t.  She was my Grandpa Henry’s (Hank) second wife, and Henry was Bonita’s second husband.  Since they were married long before I was born, I considered Bonita as “always my grandma.”

I keep a spreadsheet of my ancestors with the name and address of the cemetery; their birth, death, and interment dates; the Section, Lot, Block and/or Grave No. of where they’re buried.  Bonita’s death certificate had the name Saxon Cemetery, Saxon Wisconsin as to where she was buried.  Since my grandma’s section of the spreadsheet wasn’t filled out, I did a Google search of the cemetery name so I could call and ask for the interment date along with the Section, Lot, Block and Grave No.  Results: there wasn’t a cemetery by that name anywhere.

I then searched for any cemeteries near Saxon, Wisconsin.  Up popped about a dozen names.  I called the one that was closest to Saxon.  The cemetery doesn’t have an office but there was a Sexton that could take calls.  The Sexton wasn’t there but a very nice lady named Carol answered.  I told her my grandma’s name, Bonita Raminger, and death date.  She said she’d have to call me back after checking some books.  I continued to call some of the other cemeteries; no luck with any of them.

Carol called me back and said, “Yes, your grandmother was buried in the Lake View cemetery in Saxon.”  She read me the names and death dates that were in the same plot.  (Happy dance!)  I read her the name of the informant on the death certificate, which was Bonita’s daughter Loretta.  Carol knew Loretta’s daughters Sandra and Allison; in fact she contacted them for answers to questions so she could help me.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  This doesn’t happen to me, it happens to other people!

Carol gave Sandra my phone number and said I might be calling her.  When Carol called me back with the news, she gave me Sandra’s phone number.  I thanked her very much and turned around and dialed Sandra.  We talked a long time and reminisced about “our” grandma Bonita and grandpa Hank.  She used to spend some weeks during the summer with them and so did I, just not at the same time.

When I first began researching my family I would read about other people’s brick walls falling down with help of strangers.  I didn’t know I had a brick wall with Grandma Bonita but I’m sure glad it’s no longer blocking my path.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On The Road to Wisconsin

This morning my husband and I embarked on our 2012 Great American 1,800 mile Road Trip.  We left coastal southern California’s 73º weather and drove into 110 º “furnace” of Nevada.  Similar weather in the coming weeks only with humidity.

We’re heading to Dorchester, Clark County, Wisconsin to participate in the Williams/Bartunek Family Reunion that’s going to be held on Saturday, 28 July.  Our great-grandparents are the connection.  (My maternal grandmother was a Bartunek.)

I’ve been emailing and collaborating with several of the cousins’ for about 10 years.  It’s been great sharing family information and getting connected again with my mother’s side.  Some of the cousins live in the area; some are driving from Illinois, Michigan and parts unknown to me.

I also have cousins from my mother’s paternal side of the family in the area.  We’ll be visiting with one of her cousins the day following the reunion.  I talked to her a few weeks ago.  She wanted to know what I wanted to do/see when we meet.  I told her not to worry about taking me to “see the sights, I just wanted to visit.”  She asked if I wanted to go to any cemeteries while we’re there.  Oh wow!  I said, “Yes, of course!” 

A week after the reunion we’ll be driving across the state to visit with another cousin of mine.  We haven’t seen each other close to 50 years I think.  With all of this coming up, I’ve been busy updating my genealogy program to Roots Magic-5; scanning photos my mother had; scanning vital record documents; finally inputting the new facts with sources in the program.  While on the road I’ll still need to printout family group sheets and make a genealogy CD for each family.

I’m anxious and excited at the same time.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Road to Wisconsin

 In two weeks time, my husband and I are going to be “hitting the road” again. Yes, another road trip in the making. Last year we spent 47 days together out on the highways and interstates of USA. I had a genealogy conference in Springfield, IL (my home state) in September. I thought of flying in, getting a hotel room, meals out, the usual stuff. But he as very willing to do most of the driving across country (I can't help it, I just seem to fall asleep when in the car). So I said, “OK, let's drive.”

After the conference we went up to the Chicago area, stayed with a former school friend and visited my family and friends. Then to Allen County Public Library in Indiana; our daughter's in-laws in Ohio; more friends in Tennessee. My cousin put me in touch with my “brick wall” cousins in Louisiana. That was so cool! Spent some time in the “Big Easy” then headed to Austin, Texas to see our daughter and son-in-law.

This time we're heading to my mother's home state of Wisconsin. She was from the small town of Dorchester in Clark County. The reason we're going is to attend a family reunion. Not my mother's family unfortunately, but her cousins' family reunion. I'm more of a collateral branch of the family tree.

Back when I started genealogy I wrote to several of my mother's 1st cousins and asked about their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The ladies who wrote back helped as much as they could, then gave my name and email address to a nephew who was also climbing the family tree. We've been collaborating ever since. His grandmother Bessie was my grandmother Jennie's sister. The sister's came from a family of six siblings; three girls and three boys. Their surname was Bartunek. Bessie married Harry Williams and my grandmother married Henry Ramminger. The family reunion I'm going to is for the Williams' Family. It'll be held at Dorchester Memorial Park on Saturday, July 28th.

The Williams family held their first reunion at the same park two years ago. At the time we were having our kitchen remodeled and I couldn't attend. But I'm going this year! I've also been corresponding with another Williams' cousin who lives in Michigan.

Periodically, my mother would take us up to Wisconsin for a family wedding or 50th anniversary party. Being quite young at the time, I can't remember all the “cousins” so this will kind of be a face-to-face meeting for the first time. I'm really looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blog presentation; one down, one to go

Well...(big sigh), my Blog Talk presentation at my local library went very well.  I had help from other society members too.  Can always use the support.  Now I can have my "life" back.  I was so consumed with this presentation; eating while writing it, dreaming of it, going over and over in my head what I wanted to say.

Thank you to everyone who gave me the encouragement, held my hand during the process, and patted me on the back when I was through.  I also want to send a big loving THANK YOU to my husband.  He always "has my back." 

Now I still have to give the talk to my society next month, but I Can Do It!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blog Talk Presenation

I've been preparing a presentation I'm going to give to our local public library.  My talk is Genealogy Blogs 101.  Next month I'll be giving this same talk to my genealogy society.

I've been gathering information for weeks now.  Been staying up late and even dreaming of it in my sleep.  I'm not a professional speaker. I'm also really nervous.  I'm as prepared as I'm ever going to be.  It'll be good to step out of my comfort zone for just a little while. 

The feeling is a little like when I tried Zip Lining a few months ago.  That very first step off the first platform into midair was frightening.  But I did it, and the next four platforms weren't as scary.

I can do the blog talk, I'll be OK.  Just like stepping into midair.  WHEEEEE!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blog test from my phone

I'm slowly dipping my toe into blogging-on-the-go.  I'm taking this for a test drive before I spend too much time on it, so here goes.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

1940 Indexing

Today I was able to get in some indexing time.  I did 40 records for Alameda County California.  40 records for De Kalb County Illinois, and 40 records for (I forget which county) Wisconsin.

I'm living in California and helping my local genealogy society; also my father was born in Los Angeles.  My home town is Chicago, Illinois so I always try and do some records for Illinois whenever I sit down for indexing.  My mother is from a little "village" in Wisconsin so I try and do some records for them too.  Earlier in April I was able to include Louisiana while indexing.  My paternal grandfather and paternal grandparents were from there.  Now the whole state is done so onto the others.

Indexing has been quite addicting and fun.  "Only a few more records, then I'll stop."  But then I'll download another batch and won't quit until they're all submitted.  Today I had a really blurry image for the Wisconsin batch.  Whew, glad I pushed through.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Indexing for the 1940 Census

Since the 1940 census were released last week I've indexed for the following states: California, Illinois, Louisiana and Kansas.  It's become very addicting.  I've tried to make time each day but I can't always get to sit down with my computer.  But when I do, I'm surprised how fast time flys by.

I did sit down and locate my parents in the census.  My dad was 15 living in Chicago, IL and my mother was 13 living in Dorchester, WI.  I had also located them in the 1930 census 10 years ago, but it was still thrilling see them and their family together in 1940.  I'm going to try and locate my husband's parents in the next few days.  They were in Pittsburgh, PA.

I've been reading other 1940 census posts.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Family Curator's, ( March 15th post: The Three Stooges In No Census, No Feeling, Parts 1 & 2.  The video was such a hoot!  As a little girl I use to LOVED them.  I remember fighting over the TV with my sister because she wanted to watch American Bandstand at the same time the Stooges came on in the afternoon.  Boy that video really took me back, I laughed so hard.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mini Road Trip – Days 4, 5, & 6

Day 4 = Thursday, Mesa, AZ
After my sister took care of some business with the Title Company and Bank regarding buying the condo, we were able to go into the condo and do what we came to do...measure, photographic and plan. Her condo is really nice and think she'll fit right in. It's an adult community with lots of extra-curricular activities if she wants them. She now has a clearer picture of what to bring with her, what to sell and what she'll need to buy. We then spent the rest of the day with a friend of her's that lives in the area.

Day 5 = Friday, Family History Expo, Mesa, AZ
The Friday Expo started at 1 pm for registration. 2 pm for the Keynote Address: by Arlene H. Eakle, Ph.D. 3 pm the Exhibit Hall opened and 3:30 pm the classes started. My first class was with Lisa Louise Cooke: How the Genealogist Can Remember Everything with Evernote! I've been interested in Evernote for some time but this was the first time it was explained what Evernote is and does and why I need to use it. I'm going to sign up today!

Second class was with James L. Tanner: The FamilySearch Research Wiki: The most valuable genealogical resource on the internet. I've heard of the wiki before but was really impressed because Mr. Tanner explained how the wiki works and helps everyone. I'm going to look and see if my county has a wiki on the FamilySearch website, if not, I'll help with some information.

Third class was with Timothy G. Cross: FamilySearch Global Initiatives. He went through the process of how FamilySearch provides records: image capture, digital conversion, preservation, online indexing and online access.

Fourth class was with Ruth Ellen Maness: What Do I do Now?: Effective Tools for Pedigree Analysis. Two major objectives of family tree analysis: 1) that correct ancestral lines are established, and that all members of ancestral families are identified and placed within their own family unit. 2) identify, define and establish research goals = WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Day 6 = Saturday, heading home to California
We were on the road by 7 am. I drove for the first two hours then we switched. I took a nap and woke up when I could feel my sister fighting the cross winds while driving. They were really strong. We stopped at Chiriaco Summit located 30 miles east of Indio on the I-10 Freeway. We had breakfast then walked next door to the General Patton Memorial Museum. It's a military history museum with exhibits ranging from World War I through the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. During World War II our father was a tank commander under General Patton at the Battle of the Bulge. We both enjoyed every minute. Kind of brought us closer to him.

I decided to continue the drive home. We went about 35-40 miles west on the I-10 watching the dark clouds because my husband had said it rained the night before and we would probably run into it coming home. The cross winds were strong here too. I moved over to the slow lane in case I needed to get off the freeway. We were just entering the Palm Springs area when I noticed we were coming up to an off ramp. Suddenly, the sun was blocked out and a wall of sand and dirt engulfed us. Everyone either slowed way-down or was trying to stop before running into someone in front of them.

OMG! It was the scariest thing I ever encountered while driving. I couldn't see the vehicles in front, behind or beside me. They were all GONE. Just a blanket of sand and dirt swirling around us, like a movie. I decided to inch our way off the the freeway and onto the shoulder of the off ramp. A large truck was already there so we just sat behind it and caught our breath. I still had the air conditioner on and the car was running. We could barely make out cars and trucks inching their way on the freeway or coming off the ramp we were sitting on. Several cars stopped behind us but then moved on. I pulled out my BlackBerry and started using the video camera to capture what we were seeing because no one would believe how bad it was. I also started posting on Facebook where we were and what we were seeing. It's the first time I actually used social media to get the word out about a situation that was happening at that moment.

Plywood stuck between window & seal

I eventually turned off the car and we sat and watched. Do we get back on the freeway (NO)? Do we get off the freeway? Do we just sit there and pray no one plows into us from behind? As I was looking at the traffic I noticed a very large piece of cardboard (wasn't sure what it was) being carried on the wind right toward us. It was spinning and spinning in the air coming closer and closer. It hit the car in front of us then splintered off and a large piece came right toward my car. It hit with such a BANG I first thought either the windshield or my driver door window had shattered. It glanced off the driver's outside mirror holder then slid across my driver window leaving a long scrape mark. That was the big BANG we heard. When I turned to look, there were large pieces of wood wedged between the window and the rubber seal that goes around the window. We were so shook up we couldn't move.

We said we need to get off this ramp so we followed the line of cars off the freeway and made it to a Shell gas station and mini-mart. Getting out of the car and making a run for the building was hard. We were getting pelted by sand, dirt and debris. The wind outside was deafening roar. All we could do was shake our heads in wonder. The woman who was in the car ahead of us finally came in too. We all compared our experiences and stated how lucky we all were, no one was hurt, just badly shaken.

Some of the sand lifted and we could make out a Denny's restaurant nearby. So we ran to the car and carefully made our way over there. We decided not to park under any trees, parked on the other side of the building and ran inside. There were others there who were caught same as we were. We decided to order something to eat the see if the sand cloud was going to continue blowing or to clear. We must have been there about an hour. As we watched from the window I could finally see cars more clearly exiting the freeway and my sister could see traffic moving on the freeway itself. We decided to go for it and continued West.

All the way home we kept talking about what we saw, and felt. We had sand and dirt in our hair, scalp, ears, clothes, shoes and between our toes. We could even “taste” dirt. My windshield looked and felt like it had been sand blasted. Very pitted and a mess. When I got home I unloaded the car in the living room and headed for the shower. It had been a very l-o-n-g day. So glad to sleep in my own bed.

NOTE: The very next day I was driving down the freeway to go shopping with a girlfriend telling her the story when a rock came flying at us and left a bulls-eye hole in the windshield. I think the car is cursed. Allstate, here I come.

2012 Copyright, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mini Road Trip – Day 3

Today was a travel day.  We said good-bye to the Las Vegas area and headed south to the Mesa, AZ area.  We'll be here for a few days.  My sister is looking to buy a condo in the area so she's going to have some business meetings, I'll be along for the ride.  We're also going to get another look at the condo and do planning of what she wants to bring with her from her apartment.

I found out that the Family History Expo is happening this Friday and Saturday in Mesa.  I'm going to try and attend the Friday portion and we'll go home on Saturday.  What luck for me!  I attended two years ago and had a great time.  This is the best time of the year to be visiting Arizona.  It's been so beautiful, clear, crisp and not a cloud in the sky.

Mini Road Trip – Day 2

We're still in Henderson, NV visited with our aunt and her room mate today. Since we were all looking at photos yesterday, I brought along my portable Flip Pal scanner (best product I ever bought!) My aunt was just amazed at all the gadgets I brought along with me. As I was scanning my aunt brought several more photo albums out onto the table. I must have spent over an hour and a new set of batteries scanning. We all had a great time looking through photos we had seen many times and talked about the people in the photos who were no longer with us.

I brought along some family group sheets I wanted to give to my aunt. While my husband and I were on our 2011 road trip we met collateral relatives in Metairie, LA. These very nice people were my brick walls I've been struggling with for about 10 years. They opened their homes to us and filled in so many blank gaps in my research. I could never find my Louisiana family in any of the censuses, but the Metairie relative showed me where they were located in the 1920 and 1930 census.

While going over the 1920 census with my aunt we “found” the missing uncle I had been searching for. In 1920 my grandfather (my aunt's father) was listed on the El Paso, TX census stationed at Fort Bliss, an Army post, and listed as divorced. He had at that time a son who was born in 1916 with his first wife. I could never find the son in the census or his mother. Well lo and behold! The son was listed as a three year old “nephew” with his uncle's family in Louisiana. All this time I had no idea where he was and my aunt was the one who pointed out exactly who the “nephew” was. Her oldest half-brother! So today I did the genealogy “happy dance.”

Bright and early tomorrow we're heading for Mesa, AZ for day 3 of this mini road trip.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mini Road Trip - Day 1

Today my sister and I drove from our homes in Southern California to Henderson, Nevada.  We're going to visit our aunt who is 82.  Henderson is just outside Las Vegas, so it's always a good thing to visit or travel through this part of the country when it's NOT summer. 

No numbers or text on buttons
The drive it's self was thankfully boring and uneventful.  It was cold and in some places really windy.  I drove the first 2½ hours then we switched places and she got us to our hotel.  (On a side note, I had a problem with the TV remote control in my room.  The number buttons, mute button, and the last/previous button, must have been used so much that all the white numbers and text had faded away. The remote looked like it didn't have anything on the buttons.  Try not just changing channels but finding the channels too!) 

Since we checked in so early we went over to our aunt's house to say hello, visit a bit then left to have dinner.  We plan on taking her and her room mate to the movies tomorrow.  I haven't seen our aunt in some time so since I'm now retired I'm trying to see everybody I can.  I brought my portable scanner with me so I'm planning on scanning some photos she has.

During our road trip last year we met distant relatives in the New Orleans, LA area.  Those distant relatives were my brick wall problem.  I'm bring my genealogy program database up to date with all the information the relatives gave me and I'll print out all the family group sheets for my aunt so she can have a copy for her Remembrance Book. 

Really looking forward to a great visit!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

This Week's Plan

As I look over our calendar for this week, nothing has been jotted down that needs our attention. So tomorrow morning all the holiday decorations come down.  Nothing earth shattering there, happens each year.  Where to start???

Well, the tree ornaments are obvious.  I'm giving a bag full of ornaments to a friend.  I haven't used them in years and she had a tree full of these specialized ornaments this year so I know she'll enjoy them.

My husband unplugged his outside decorations today.  It's kind of sad and dark out there now. I know how much he enjoyed putting all the lights up each year for us and the neighbors.  He's just that kind of guy.

After all the above is stored away in the garage until December, I'm going to sit down with the holiday cards we received, scan all the photos, date and label them.  The newsletters will get scanned next.  I really enjoy all the news our friends and family have shared.

It's going to be a busy week, but I'm looking forward to it and then getting back to a normal routine.