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!