FGS10 Day 1

Just returned to my sister’s house after a very full Day 1 at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference.

After sleeping in and a quick breakfast, I met up with Amy Coffin to pick up our registration packets. While we were at the Knoxville Convention Center, we moseyed around the World’s Fair Park, including the Sunsphere and amphitheater. Then we walked down to Market Square for lunch at Soccer Taco (so good!).

After lunch, we checked out the concierge suite at the Hilton before I headed back to the convention center to attend a couple of sessions about FamilySearch.org.

The first session dealt with an initiative called “Project X,” which seeks to concentrate resources including information, training and access to people and organizations through tools like wiki.familysearch.org, forums.familysearch.org and online training classes available on the main site.

I was really surprised by some of the resources that I didn’t know were available at the resources above. For instance, the wiki includes sections on items like English probate jurisdiction and elaborate census index site matrices. The wiki is now up to 40,000 pages and grows at a rate of 1,200 pages a month — impressive!

The second session I attended drilled down deep into the forums at FamilySearch.org. Did you know there are social groups there based on topics like common ancestors, FHC locations, indexing and more?

The folks at FamilySearch are building the forums up to be robust enough to guarantee responses to research questions. That’s fantastic!

After these sessions, I met up again with Amy, Thomas MacEntee, Tina Lyons and Tonia Kendrick for drinks before joining 17 other fellow ProGen participants for dinner at Trio at Market Square. I had a great conversation three others in the study group who are in various stages of the program. We all compared notes on our various research projects — I got some great ideas to follow up on!

I’m happy to report that I heard no admonitions about using Twitter today! In fact, kudos to speaker Michael Ritchey of FamilySearch.org for pointing out how many genealogists are making use of Twitter for their research.

Have to head to bed early so I can be back at the convention center for a FamilySearch blogger’s breakfast at 7 a.m.(!)

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Stitch in Time

Previously, I wrote about my mother’s sewing basket and how I love to go through it and relive memories associated with some of the items inside. Well, I’ve recently come to possess still another sewing basket, this one once belonging to my Great-Grandmother (CROW) HAYES.

After the passing of Great-Uncle Ben Hayes earlier this year, his sister Ruth was tasked with going through his personal effects. Ben lived in Tennessess and Ruth lives in Arizona. Shortly after she received his possessions and started going through them, I received a call from her.

Ruth informed me that she would be sending me a quantity of scarves and doilies that belonged to my great-grandmother because I would be able to clean, starch, iron and sort them. She asked me to then split them with my sister.

She mentioned in passing that Ben also had a lot of family photographs that needed sorting, but that she intended to send them to one of my aunts to handle that instead. It was all I could do to keep myself from asking for the photos too. I didn’t want to be greedy.

Well, a couple of weeks later, a large box was waiting for me at the post office. When I got it home and started going through the contents, I realized I had a treasure chest indeed. Many of the items are quite stained and since my great-uncle smoked, they all need to be cleaned thoroughly. But the package Ruth sent had much more than doilies and scarves in need of a washing:

My Great-Grandmother's Sewing Basket

Note From Great-Aunt Ruth

The basket held several crocheted doilies, in addition to scarves, hankerchiefs and other items.

Roll of Handmade Lace

RIP “Uncle Ben” HAYES

Yesterday I received a call from my Great-Aunt Ruth, who had sad news — her brother, my Great-Uncle Ben, had passed away earlier in the week. He was 77. The news was, quite frankly, startling. My sister and I just visited Ben over the winter holidays and he drove us all over Carter County, Tenn. He took us to the house where he and his siblings were raised, to the grave site of his parents and then took us out for barbecue. He gave my sister car advice.

But he did confess to us that he had triple bypass surgery in the fall (and hadn’t told anyone in the family). Of course, we immediately tattled on him to our aunts, who in turn told Ruth. Turns out, that bypass was in preparation for an even trickier surgery a week ago to operate on an aneurysm on his aorta (and again, he hadn’t warned anyone in the family). The surgery was not successful.

Ben’s wishes were that during his funeral he didn’t want “anyone standing around my grave crying.” So his good friend called my great-aunt on Tuesday, after Ben passed away. But she couldn’t call anyone else in the family until yesterday, after the funeral. I was the first person she reached yesterday and it fell to me to try and contact my sister and aunts with the news. I found his obituary online and shared that too.

I learned a lot from the obituary. His nickname was “Blink.” He was a basketball referee and served on the board of his church. I already knew he was a classic car fan, but that was about it.

The number of times I got to see Uncle Ben could be counted on one hand. I remember visiting with him at my Great-Grandma’s house and he ordered me to finish my green beans (I was five years old and I hated green beans). This prompted me to run away though I was gone for so short a time, I wasn’t even missed. During another visit with him at my grandma’s, I remember noting that his socks didn’t match. He didn’t care. He was a bachelor to the end.

I didn’t know Ben very well, but my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit with him. We were the last members of the family to see him and as I spoke with my relatives yesterday, they all remarked on the timing of our visit. My sister and I count ourselves lucky for the chance to see him and learn from him before he passed away. While we were at the graves of my great-grandparents, I noticed there was a marker there for Ben already. It comforts me that I now know exactly where to go to visit him. Thank you and rest in peace, Uncle Ben.

Tricky Valentine

I had originally meant for this to be last week’s Treasure Chest Thursday post, but the snow interrupted my plans. This being Valentine’s Day though, it all worked out. Below is a Valentine’s Day card I found among my mom’s things several years ago:

The butterfly’s wing pops up and everything. The card was still in its original envelope with a postmark that appears to read Feb 12 1950 — my mom would have been a month shy of her first birthday on Valentine’s Day of that year. On the back of the card is the following inscription:

The above reads “To Marcia with love from Grandmother Hayes.” But the return address on the envelope is in El Paso, Texas. That doesn’t make any sense because my Great-Grandmother Hayes lived in Tennessee and, so far as I know, never set foot in Texas (let alone El Paso, which is so far west in Texas, it’s practically in Mexico/New Mexico).

I’ve got my work cut out for me to try and solve this mystery!

Wordy Wednesday: Book Tombstone

My sister and I happened upon this tombstone whilst wandering around the “Old Gray Cemetery” in Knoxville, Tenn. I couldn’t make out the name on the stone, but the first name appears to be Ebenezer.

The words on the book are Bible passages:

Isaiah 52:7, King James Bible
“How beautiful upon the mount-ains are the feet of him that bring-eth good tidings that publisheth peace.”

Revelation 14:13, King James Bible
“Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from hence forth. Yea saith the spirit that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them.”

Tombstone Tuesday: The DRAINs

Mother
Nannie B. DRAIN
1855-????

Father
J. W. DRAIN
1852-1892

Set of headstones that my sister and I found in the “Old Gray Cemetery” in Knoxville, Tenn. I’m kicking myself for not moving aside the ivy on the wife’s gravestone in order to read her year of death. When the mood strikes, I may do some digging to see if I can find it out.

Wordy Wednesday: Genealogy Road Trip

As mentioned in this past weekend’s SNGF and yesterday’s Tombstone Tuesday post, my sister and I visited Elizabethton, Tenn., in the state’s northeast corner, during the holidays. Elizabethton is where my great-grandparents William E. HAYES and Della M. CROW raised my maternal grandmother and her siblings. The last time we were in Elizabethton, I was six years old. I have many memories of that trip and I was excited to revisit my great-grandmother’s home (since sold to a distant relation).

After meeting up with our great-uncle, Ben Hayes, he drove us to the old house on Poplar Branch Road. It was nothing like I remembered. First of all, everything seemed a lot smaller — of course, I was small myself the last time I was there. A creek passes through the front yard. Where once there was a wooden bridge (see below), there is now an asphalt walkway. We had always visited in the summer months, when everything was hot, green and thriving. When we visited last week, it was cold, gloomy and barren.

Sadly, the change in season is not the only reason the property seemed so different. It has fallen into disrepair. It desperately needs a new coat of paint and there was an accumulation of junk and vehicles in the back yard. The front porch, on which I remember playing in the shade during my visits to Grandma Hayes’ house, is blocked with a long piece of corrugated metal. The stone steps leading up to the porch appear to be crumbling. The attic window above the porch is busted.

Here is a photo of what the house looked like last week:

And here is photo taken of the house back in the 1980s:

I’m really sad to see the changes time and neglect have wrought on the property because I do have several fond memories from our visits there. I can still smell the aromas of bacon grease, green beans and biscuits that seemed to be ever-present in Grandma Hayes’ kitchen.

Grandma Grace, Me & (Great) Grandma Hayes (1981)

Back when my mom was working in miniatures, she created two tiny room boxes that were replicas of how Grandma Hayes’ kitchen looked, once upon a time. One is pictured below.

Despite the dilapidated state of the house, I was still glad to revisit Elizabethton and especially to catch up with our Uncle Ben. He drove us all over Carter County in search of good BBQ for lunch and filled us in on the history of the area. He drove us into the older section of downtown and showed us a preserved covered bridge and two of the town’s war memorials, including one where he’d purchased bricks to commemorate the service of some of our family members.

I still have more genealogical work to do in that area — I’d like to find the farm originally owned by William Hayes’ parents and also their grave sites. I’m also still trying to confirm the identities of William’s grandparents.

Luckily the FGS 2010 conference is in August in Knoxville, so I intend to turn that into a genealogy trip too.

Tombstone Tuesday: Della and William HAYES

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Over the holidays, my sister and I drove from Knoxville to the town of Elizabethton, Tenn. Elizabethton, and its surroundings in Carter County, is where generations of Hayeses grew up and where our great uncle, Ben Hayes, still resides. Ben took us to Elizabethton’s Happy Valley Memorial Park, where his parents, my great grandparents, are buried.

My great grandparents were William E. Hayes and his wife, Della M. CROW.

William E. Hayes (1892-1968) was listed as a mechanic at a silk mill on the 1930 U.S. census (found on Ancestry.com). In the 1920 census, he was listed as a laborer at a stone quarry in Tennessee. In between 1900 and 1910, William moved with his parents and siblings briefly to Oregon, where his father, Joseph, worked in a rock quarry. Prior to that time, Joseph was listed as a farmer in Tennessee.

Della (Crow) Hayes was my maternal grandmother’s mother. I remember going to visit her at her home in Elizabethton. She passed away when I was 9.

This is my great-grandmother, Della (Crow) Hayes, probably taken around 1981-82. I hope to post soon about visiting her house last week as well.

SNGF: The Best 2009 Genealogy Moment

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a chance to participate in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. This week’s mission from Randy Seaver:

1) “What was your best Genealogy Moment during 2009?” This could be a research find, a fabulous trip, a found family treasure, etc. Your choice!

2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, a comment to this blog post, or a comment to the Twitter or Facebook status line for this post.

I have several moments just from this holiday season that I want to list here and all involve connecting with living family members to discover tidbits about the past. I’ll start with the most recent and work my way backward:

This past week, my sister and I drove from her home in Knoxville, Tenn., to the town of Elizabethton. There, we met up with our great-uncle Ben, whom I hadn’t seen since I was about 12 years old. He’s approaching 80 years old, but drove us all around town, stopping at the house where he grew up — my great-grandmother’s house — I plan to post pics in a separate blog post. I was six years old the last time I was there. We then drove to the cemetery where my great-grandparents are buried. Finally, we all went out for BBQ. It was great to reconnect with Uncle Ben.

Spending time with my sister this past week was fun too — it’s something we haven’t been able to do in several years due to our respective work and school schedules. She took me on the tour of downtown Knoxville, we shopped, we cooked, we ate, we drank, we watched movies, looked at photo albums and just plain ol’ reminisced. Genealogy is about family and therefore quality time with my sister definitely makes it on the list.

Before heading down to Knoxville, I spent Christmas and a couple of days after with one of my aunts. She indulged me and together we went through more than 2,000 family photos, sorting and organizing them into storage boxes. I got to see childhood pics of my mom and her sisters that I’d never seen before. We came across hilarious photos of me and my cousins. Best of all, we found the one scene that had eluded me the past couple of years as I put together scrapbooks about my mom and dad — a photo of just the two of them together. Among the hundreds of photos taken of our extended family trips to the beach, we finally came across a couple shots of them.

Thanksgiving weekend was significant in many ways for my family — my sister and I spent the holiday in Richmond, Va., with our half-brother and his wife. It was the longest amount of time we’d ever spent with them and we had a blast. Besides the wonderful experience of being able to connect with them and their daughter, we made a major genealogical discovery, which I blogged about previously — we discovered the burial locations for several relatives whose remains we feared had been lost. In addition, my sister and I got to see photos of still another half-brother who passed away many years before we were born. My half sister-in-law showed me a bedspread that my grandmother crocheted together with my half-brother’s mother. Several of us went on a slave-trail walk through much of downtown Richmond the day after Thanksgiving. And my half-brother took my sister and I to the Richmond Holocaust Museum, where we got to meet an individual whose family story is featured in an exhibit in the museum. It was a tremendous trip.

Thanks, Randy, for this SNGF prompt!

Christmas Eve

This is post #24 (last one!) in the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Christmas Eve traditions have varied over the years in my family, depending on who was hosting, when we were traveling, etc.

One Christmas Eve that stands out in my mind was during my senior year of college. My sister flew to Washington, D.C., from Albuquerque and then we drove down to Norris, Tenn. (it’s near Knoxville), to see our mom. In a snow storm.

Our route took us down I-81 in Virginia — a truck route notorious for its two lanes in each direction through mountains and valleys. As I type this (on 12/19), I-81 is shut down during the current snowstorm due to a traffic accident last night. While it usually offers scenic views, the drive itself isn’t always pretty.

That particular Christmas Eve, the roads were so icy that drivers were taking each bridge one car at a time — there was no telling how your car was going to handle the road conditions. And there were a lot of bridges.

When we made it to Lexington, Va., we stopped for lunch at the Wendy’s there and then continued on our way. Two or three harrowing hours later, after many a dicey ice patch, my sister gasped. She had left her purse at the Wendy’s.

I thought about our options for a minute and said, “Carrie, I love you, but we’re not going back for that purse today.”

When we finally reached Mom’s house, 12 hours after we started the drive (it’s usually seven to eight hours from D.C. to Knoxville), my sister was able to call the Wendy’s. They had found her purse and had it stored behind the counter for when we made the drive back to D.C. a few days later.

Unfortunately, when we did make that drive and stopped by the Wendy’s, the manager with whom we had spoken was not there and the other employees couldn’t find my sister’s purse. Thankfully, she was able to fly back to Albuquerque without its contents (this was pre-2001 and I don’t think IDs were required to fly back then). The Wendy’s manager did mail the purse back to her (after taking the money needed for postage out of her wallet). Everything else seemed to still be there though.