Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tip for Users: A tree for MISC-ing persons

Does your genealogy research turn up various information about your ancestors' friends or people who you can't place in your family tree? Do you have photographs that are marked with people's names, but you don't know who they are?

Since I'm a firm believer that information must be shared, I've created a family tree on that I simply call "Missing Persons." This is where I've been filing photographs and articles I've come across on family friends, or photos that are identified with a name, but I don't know who the person is. Heck, I've already collected the information and maybe there's a chance someone else is actually looking for it.

The people in my Missing Persons tree aren't usually connected to anyone else in the tree, but they might be eventually. So the Missing Persons tree just becomes my electronic filing box for odd bits of information that I come across in my research. Of course, the tree is public so that if anyone is searching for one of these people, they can access the information I've added.

I also use that tree to do simple searches on an individual or family that I might be researching for a friend. That allows me to add any documents that I locate on Ancestry and be able to return to and access the information and documents at a later time.

Besides genealogy, one of my other passions is researching the role of Nebraska and Nebraskans in film and television. My web site is To help me with some historical information on Nebraska's film stars, I also have a "Nebraska on Film" tree on Here, I've found census records for film greats like Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando and Henry Fonda. Naturally, I got a kick out of reading an old society page tidbit from the early 1900s in which Mr. and Mrs. Marlon Brando, Sr. (the actor's parents) attended a party given by one of the members in my family tree. I just can't let these little nuggets show up and not file them in a public Ancestry tree. At least I know where to find them, rather than  looking through a stack of papers and printouts!

Think outside the box - consider creating a separate tree on Ancestry for all of those MISC-ing persons! Ancestry doesn't always have to be about your family!

Wordless Wednesday - Dan Kelly's barn

Daniel Kelly, Lower Right

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Byron Atkinson and Lillie Jones Atkinson

Byron Atkinson and his wife, Lillie, are buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Greenwood, Nebraska.

Byron's parents, John Atkinson and Ann Grunshaw Atkinson, are buried at the Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery, a few miles away. Their tombstone was featured on Tombstone Tuesday last week.

The tombstone of Byron's brother, Nelson Atkinson, is also at Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery and was featured on Tombstone Tuesday two weeks ago.

Byron was born in Wisconsin on March 5, 1850. According to his obituary, the family moved to Nebraska circa 1865, two years prior to Nebraska statehood.

1870 census records show Byron, age 20, living with his parents and sister Eunice in Lancaster county, Nebraska. He married Lillie Jones on September 23, 1873, according to Lancaster county marriage records. [source: Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society database]

Census records show Byron and Lillie starting their family and living in Oak Creek, Butler county, Nebraska in 1880 and 1885. In 1900, they lived in Brainard Village in Butler county. Daughter Ollie had moved out of the family home by this time, but children Charlie and Minnie were living with Byron and Lillie. Also living with the Atkinsons were Lillie's father, William Jones, a niece, Carrie Jones, and a nephew, Elmer Jones.

The 1910 census shows Byron and Lillie again living in Oak Creek, Butler county, Nebraska and by 1920 they had moved to Greenwood, Cass county, today about 20 miles north of Lincoln.

The information reported on the census records is interesting to me because Byron's 1931 obituary states that  he had resided in Greenwood for 16 years (probably accurate) and prior to that, he had lived in Lancaster county for 65 years. The census shows that he had lived in Nebraska for 65 years, but not in Lancaster county the entire time. Tip: Don't accept anything as fact without checking several sources!

Byron Atkinson
1850 -1931

Early Nebraska Pioneer

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Joy of Blogging and using Google Reader

One of the things I like most about writing a genealogy blog is reading other writers' genealogy blogs. First off, a big round of applause for Thomas MacEntee for his dedication and support of all Geneabloggers. It's only been a few short weeks since I got on board with the Geneabloggers, but I feel as though I've known some of my fellow bloggers for years. I have learned so much about research tips, web sites and upcoming conferences. Most of all, I just love reading other people's blogs - everyone else's stories are fascinating!

As a member of the blogging community, I feel a commitment to support my fellow bloggers. If I'm reading a blog hosted by Blogger, I usually click on the "Follow" button to show my support. I've recently discovered that I can send my blog posts directly to Facebook by using the Networked Blogs application (as do many of my fellow bloggers). On Facebook, I sign up to "Follow" other people's blogs - again to show support for the blogging community. I also try to make an effort to leave comments on other bloggers' posts when appropriate. As a relatively new member of the genealogy blogging community, it really means a lot to me when someone leaves a comment or signs up to Follow my blog [hint, hint!]. So I figure that other bloggers appreciate the comments as well.

But what tool do I use to read all of those blogs? I'm sold on Google Reader. I can subscribe to read all of the blogs I want to keep up with merely by selecting the button "Add a Subscription" and paste in the web site address of the blog. Once you are using Google Reader, there is a Tip on the Home page with instructions on adding a Subscribe button to your bookmarks. This way, any time you visit a blog or page you like, you click on the Subscribe button in your bookmarks toolbar in your browser, and the blog feed will show up in Google Reader.

What's nice about using Google Reader is that you can keep up with the blogs you read all in one location. Even when I choose to "Follow" a blog on Blogger or Facebook, I still subscribe to the feed in Google Reader, so I only have to go to one location to read everything.

Granted - I can't possibly take time to read ALL of the 1,100+ Geneabloggers daily messages, but I am finding there are several dozen blogs I must read regularly. I also like keeping up with posts on the Geneabloggers daily blogging themes, so I've added those feeds to Google Reader.

Geneabloggers has got to be the friendliest and most helpful online community I've ever been part of and I've been on the 'net since 1993! So if you're not following by using Google Reader, give it a try.

Sentimental Sunday - Missing My Mom

It's been 27 years since my Mom died. That seems like such a long time. She died at age 55, which seems very young to me. Her strength through her struggle with cancer helped me be strong during her illness.

To this day, I feel a void in my life, an empty space. But I also sense that she is along for the ride on my genealogical journey. It was from her that I heard most of the family stories. Don't I wish I had had the foresight to have written some of them down! Too many of the stories have faded from memory over the years. Once I  got started dabbling in family history, Mom frequently said she wished that her Dad and Aunt Etty were around to ask about certain events.

The Kelly family was Irish down to the bone. In my younger years, I always said that I was half Irish and half Danish. Over the years, I've discovered that my heritage also includes ancestors from England and Germany.

The days have passed since Mom's death when I would go to the phone to call her, only to realize I couldn't. Now, I talk with her on a spiritual level.

Perhaps one of the reasons I am trying to preserve my family history is to make it a lasting tribute to my Mom. I think she would like that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cass County, Nebraska Marriages now online

I'm very pleased to report that the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society (GOGS) has added a site for Cass County (Nebraska) marriages. Once you click on that link, entries are listed in alphabetical order by surname under "Pages."

Right off the bat, I found an entry for my great-grandfather's brother, William D. Kelly, Jr. and Mary "Mollie" Kelleher, as follows:

KELLY, William D.; 22; md.: Mollie Kealeher; 24; C2 Feb 1885 p 433

Mollie's surname was frequently spelled incorrectly in many records, so the misspelling here is no surprise.

What IS surprising is that the couple also took out a marriage license in neighboring Lancaster county to be married on February 10, 1886 [Lancaster county marriage records, Book 7, Page 5 - Lincoln Lancaster County Genealogical Society searchable database]. That record gives William's age as 23 (a year older) and Mollie's age as 22 (two years younger!).

Clearly, the couple took out a marriage license in both counties. The Cass county index site states, "Our site is merely an index to marriages, and we include those who got a license, but did not actually marry (or at least they didn't return the license to indicate they did".

Had the couple planned to marry in Cass county in February, 1885? Did they actually get married in Lancaster county in February, 1886?

According to his tombstone, their first child, Willie Kelly, was born March 4, 1886 and died December 14 of that year. Did they marry a year before Willie was born or did they marry three weeks before he was born? And if they married in 1885 in Cass county, why did they take out a marriage license in Lancaster county a year later?

It's another family history mystery to be solved, but going back to the original source documents for both marriage licenses may shed some light on the mystery.

As it turned out, William died in 1889 at age 38. Mollie married his brother, Michael C. Kelly, a year and a half later, again in February (February 7, 1901).

I want to thank the diligent people at GOGS for adding Cass county marriages to their ongoing list of projects. In addition to Cass county, the Society also has some online indexes for Hall, Rock, Sarpy, Thurston and Wayne counties, as well as the Omaha death, birth and marriage indexes. Nice job!

Create Your Own Genealogy Conference

So you’d like to brush up on some of your genealogy research skills, but you are not able to make it to one of the many Genealogy Expos, Jamborees and Conferences that are being held around the U.S. this summer? You have other commitments, you can’t afford to go, the conference is too far away . . . look no further, you can create your own conference in the comfort of your own home.

Many of us get so wrapped up in our own research that we sometimes forget the valuable learning resources that are available to us online - at no cost.

First, take a little time to plan what you would like to get out of a genealogy conference. Make a list of what new techniques and skills you would like to learn.

Next, search the web for available resources. Bookmark those sites that will become the agenda for your personal conference. When you believe you’ve done all of the legwork to design your personalized conference, set aside a full day or a full weekend, or maybe an hour or two a day for a week. Whatever works into your schedule can result in a valuable learning experience.

Here are some ideas to help you Create Your Own Conference Agenda.

Every conference needs a keynote speaker. Who better than Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak to open your conference?

From, we can find a variety of presentations, so the keynote might be Megan's presentation on Michelle Obama's Roots.

Search RootsTelevision for other research topics you are interested in. For example, I searched on the following terms: Irish (27 hits), Photographs (17 hits), Family History Library (25 hits) - pick out those videos of interest to you and add them to your customized conference agenda.

Another of my favorite presentations on research methodology is The Bachelor: Reconstructing a Solitary Life  Using Obscure and Far-Flung Records. This is a 48 minute presentation by Mary Penner at the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Management Conference in September 2009. You can watch and listen to the speaker and view her PowerPoint slides all at the same time. A four page workbook is also available. This would also make a great keynote for your custom conference.

Your next step for some online genealogy lessons might be YouTube. Search on terms such as "Family History" and "Genealogy." Select those pertaining to your research interests and add them to your Favorites on YouTube. has a YouTube channel, with two short videos. Genealogy Gems also has a channel with almost 50 videos to chose from. There truly are many gems here, including interviews with bloggers Randy Seaver and Thomas MacEntee. You can get several hours of presentations here. GenealogyGuy also has some great instructional videos on YouTube.

After all of these sessions, it's time for a break! My custom conference includes a song from The Young Dubliners. You can listen to a couple more songs, but don't take too long! We have to get back to our agenda! has a host of archived webinars available at no cost - and a subscription to is not required to access these webinars. Some of the webinars available at this writing include: Using Family Treemaker 2010, Finding Your Military Heroes, Finding Females in Your Family, Avoid Traps in African American Genealogy, New York City Research, European Research, Planning a Family Reunion, Italian Ancestry, Polish Ancestry, Irish Ancestry, English Ancestry, and many more. Surely, you can find several to add to your custom conference agenda.

For those new to genealogy research or who want to brush up a bit, has an online class on Introduction to Genealogy.

Back issues of Ancestry magazine are available on Google books. Complete issues of the magazine are available and there's sure to be several topics of interest to you.

By the time you've viewed presentations and read articles, you've probably had a full day's worth of learning. But something is missing from your Create Your Own Conference - socializing!

There's no better place to socialize with other genealogists than and  If you're new to both forums, you might begin at Geneabloggers - this is a centralized location that brings together people who blog about genealogy. Start by reading a few blogs on topics, surnames and locales of interest to you. Nearly every blog has an option for you to "Follow" the blog - meaning you have access to the blog archives, such as on Many blogs also have links to the author's Facebook and Twitter pages. Become a fan, a friend and a follower, and in no time, you'll be connected with hundreds of fellow genealogists who share your passion. Facebook has a feature by which you can chat with your Facebook friends in real time, or send them personal messages if you don't want to write on their wall. It's not quite the same as face-to-face meetups, but it's a nice alternative for those who can't make it to a conference.

Creating Your Own Conference is something you can do anytime, anywhere - as long as you have internet access. It's a great way to brush up on your skills and give you a little bit of a break from doing your own research. As with attending an in-person conference, you will come away with new ideas and strategies to apply to your own research.

Comments welcome - if you have other web resources you recommend to include in a Create Your Own Conference, please add them in the comments section below. 

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge # 26

Our task this week was to explore Google Books from a non-genealogy research perspective to learn more about the tool and how we might use it.

The Classics

Even though I’ve read a lot of books for as far back as I can remember, I’ve often thought there were some classics that never made it on to my reading list. Seeing “The Classics” listed on Google books seemed like a good place to start this week's challenge.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – The entire play is available on Google Books. In high school, I opted to see the film starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. I struggled with Richard III and still can’t tell you what it was about. And I preferred Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet over Mel Gibson’s. So I guess I never actually read that much Shakespeare, even though I bought a used copy of his complete works on Bookins a while back. Nice to know his work is available online.

Other Classics available on Google Books:

Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities

Jules Verne – Around the World in 80 Days (again, saw the movie – the original one with David Niven)

Dee Brown – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – there is an illustrated version that has beautiful artwork.

F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby – This is probably still my favorite piece of fiction – a limited number of pages are available on Google Books. Since discovering one of the branches of my family tree lived on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota just a few blocks from Fitzgerald, I’ve had a renewed interest in going back and re-reading some of his books.  On Google Books, I discovered an earlier published version of The Great Gatsby called Trimalchio. Fascinating!

Mark Twain – Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi

Mari Sandoz – Cheyenne Autumn and Capital City

It is very clear, that with Google Books, you can always have a library on your laptop.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Take a walk through Wyuka

Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska is probably the most peaceful, majestic and beautiful cemetery in my hometown. And, best of all for genealogists, all interments are available through an online search. Take a walk through history with this video.

Follow Friday: Nebraska Tombstone Photo Project

This week I am pleased to recommend the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Photo Project. It is managed by the Nebraska State Genealogical Society. To date, more than 45,700 gravestone photo records have been added.

The site is free to use and is always in need of volunteers to photograph gravestones in all areas of the state and upload the images to the site. Users can browse the site by cemetery or search by surname. Females are cross-referenced by maiden name, when the name is known.

I would certainly encourage anyone who is a FindAGrave volunteer in Nebraska to also consider adding gravestone photos to People search the 'net in many different ways and it doesn't hurt to have digital images available in both locations. However - please remember to upload only photographs you've taken yourself. Do not "steal" photos from one site to add to another.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Pillow Fight?

What were they doing with those pillows? Lower right, seated, is my grandmother, Sina Bellinger Kelly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - John and Ann Atkinson - Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery

John Atkinson and Ann Grunshaw Atkinson - Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery - Greenwood, Nebraska

This is the second in a series of posts about interments at Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery, north of Greenwood, Nebraska.

John Atkinson was born in Lancashire, England in 1800 and arrived in the United States sometime before 1832. He was married to Ann Grunshaw, also of Lancashire, England. Both names are on the tombstone, although no dates are listed for Ann. She died 10 years after her husband and presumed to be buried by her husband.

The Atkinsons lived in Rhode Island, where their third child, Nelson Atkinson, was born. Another son born in Rhode Island was Samuel. After the family moved to Wisconsin, they had two more children, Byron and Eunice.

The family then settled in Nebraska. By 1857, when Nebraska was still a territory, they moved to Rock Creek, west of Greenwood and erected a saw mill.

Reference: Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery: The Lives of Those Interred, fourth edition, edited by Rose Anne Hockstra

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Happy Father's Day

Here's one of the earliest photographs of me and my Dad. I'm either a few days or a few weeks old.

My generation is known as the post-war Baby Boomers. Many of our Dads served the country during World War II, and those who survived the war came home, got married and started families. Tom Brokaw was right when he called them The Greatest Generation.

Many of us grew up in traditional environments with a working Dad and a stay-at-home Mom. At least I did. It was a good life.

I learned life's most important lessons from my parents. Get a good education, have a solid work ethic.

Even now, as I'm becoming a senior citizen (egods, I even get Senior Discount at some places!), I'm still learning lessons from my Dad. For example, don't plan on today's income covering retirement expenses twenty years from now! And that health care is expensive, even with Medicare and insurance. Who knew?

I'm fortunate that my Dad is still a big part of my life although our roles have reversed and I am now in the caregiver role. Today is his day with all of his favorites - chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and white gravy and carrot cake. Maybe I'll even get off the computer long enough for us to go for a Sunday drive.

If your Dad is still with you, treasure him. If he's gone, take some time to think about the good memories. And for all of the Dads - your kids love you, even if they don't always say so.

Happy Father's Day.

One of my favorite books about Dads by one of my favorite journalists, the late Tim Russert:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Love-Hate Relationship with

The majority of the time I am in love with Other times, I get extremely frustrated - not so much with Ancestry, but with novice researchers - people who add anyone with a similar name to their family tree and who make connections to other people based on guesses and assumptions rather than on solid research. I don't know if that has gotten worse since Ancestry began its television advertising campaign and shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Faces of America have kicked it up a notch. Maybe I'm just more tuned in to the misinformation now.

I love the "Member Connect" feature on Ancestry. I can see who is connecting information from my tree to theirs. Too often, other Ancestry users are mis-connecting people. Recently, I noticed that someone had connected my great-grandfather to a person with the same name who had died 50 years earlier. I wrote to the person and explained the error. He responded that he was grateful that I had written to him and pointed out his mistake. So far, every person I've written to about their mis-connections has expressed their appreciation. However, I've decided that I cannot be the Mis-connected Ancestor cop for everyone in my tree! So I tend only to write when I see an error on my most recent direct line ancestors - about five to six generations.

The television ads from where people talk about how they type in the name of their ancestor and all of the leaves start to appear make it seem so easy. It IS easy - that's what makes it so hard! When I first started researching on Ancestry (after doing quite a bit of research the old fashioned way - offline), it seemed like a breeze. And I admit that I automatically added other people's trees into mine. Fortunately, it didn't take me too long to realize what a big mistake that was - because the other people had not thoroughly done their research and they had connected all of the wrong people. So I meticulously started backing entries out of my tree on Ancestry that I had connected from other people's trees. I no longer automatically add all of those leaf "hints." I leave them there for future reference until I am able to independently verify it is the same person or family.

Another frustration I have is that so many of the trees on Ancestry do not provide source documentation. If you add a document from Ancestry to your tree, e.g., a census record, another researcher can view the document and evaluate it. If I add any information to the overview, such as a death or marriage record, I usually try to add a citation in the Description field as to where my information came from. Often, I'll cite an obituary, a previously published genealogy or book, or just where I found it. That way, other researchers can go back to my original source and determine if my research is valid. Ancestry recently made it possible to Add Media to an event. So, if you have photograph of a tombstone or an obituary that you've added to the media section, you can attach that source to the event. This is a very nice feature.

Another Ancestry tip is one that I picked up from one of my distant cousins-in-law (you know, those folks who are researching another branch of the family, and you get so excited to be researching the same kin that you all become "cousins"). I use the Description field for a timeline entry to annotate census records. For example, I may add a 1900 census record and add the following to the description: Samuel (45), farmer, living with wife Elizabeth (42) and children: Benjamin (17), Nellie (15), and Horace (12). Seeing all of this information on the Overview page helps me see the progression of the family over a period of time. I can easily see when the older children moved out of the family home - mainly, it saves me from having to view each census record just to refresh my memory about the timeline. This is a huge task, and I've certainly not done it on everyone in my tree, but I'm trying to complete this task for my direct line.

Something else that I like about Ancestry's timeline is the ability to add custom events. Sometimes I will add something like "Death of First Husband - William" or "Family moved from Elgin, Illinois about this time" (with my source citation, of course). Sometimes, the death of a child may be a significant event that I want to add to a mother. Adding these events to the timeline provides a perspective and, I believe, helps to tell a person's story.

Bottom line - don't make any assumptions; cite your sources. And love for what it CAN do.

Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian

Friday, June 18, 2010

Midwest Genealogy Expo - Kansas City - July 30 - 31, 2010

The Midwest Family History Expo is scheduled to be in Kansas City, Missouri on July 30 - 31, 2010. Two full days of presentations are planned and many vendors will be on hand to display their products. Already, there are more than 70 different sessions to choose from with a lot of openings that are "TBA."

Here are some links to the conference site and agenda:

Conference web site

Agenda (pdf file)

It will be held at the KCI Expo Center, 11730 N. Ambassador Dr, Kansas City, Missouri.

I hope to see many of my fellow geneabloggers and genealogists there! Post a comment below if you plan to attend!

Follow Friday: Perpetual Calendar

While the Perpetual Calendar is not a genealogy web site, it's one that makes my work as a genealogist much simpler.

For example, if I find a newspaper article with an obituary that says someone died "last Thursday" but a date is not given, I can look up what date that would have been from the date on the newspaper. It's a simple site, but one that I use at least weekly.

1901 - 2001

19th Century

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Our Daily Bread - better stock up at these prices!

It's no secret that I love doing genealogy research in old newspapers. But - I get easily distracted and read other articles and the advertisements.

This ad from a full page of grocery ads in a 1922 Altoona Mirror (Pennsylvania) caught my eye.

When's the last time you bought 25 loaves of bread for $1.00? That's a lot of toast!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Separated at Birth?

Celebrity Lookalike?
John Fitzgerald - Rupert from Survivor

Kearney Cemetery records on line

Kudos to the city of Kearney, Nebraska for putting a detailed listing of interment records from Kearney Cemetery online!

The table of records (alphabetized by last name) includes the following fields:

  • Name of deceased
  • Late address (that's what the header says, I think it means LAST address)
  • Interred on Lot Number
  • Space
  • Field
  • Date of Death
  • Date of Interment
  • Age in Years, (Months, Days)
  • Cause of Death
  • Lot Owned By
  • Owner's Last Address
  • Remarks (mainly name of mortuary); some dates of birth

Who would have ever thought I'd find a treasure like this while channel surfing in my Kearney motel room last night? You never know what's going to show up on those public access channels!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Nelson Atkinson - Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery

Nelson Atkinson
Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery - Greenwood, Nebraska

This is the first of my Tombstone Tuesdays featuring interments from Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery, north of Greenwood, Nebraska. Click here for my original post about this cemetery.

As I mentioned in my original blog post, none of those interred at this cemetery are my direct line ancestors, but many are what I call shirttail kin. Nelson Atkinson is one of those people, whose relationship to me is that he was the brother-in-law of my great grand aunt. You can't get more shirttail than that!

Nelson Atkinson was born in Rhode Island on June 20, 1841. He died June 20, 1869. According to the book, Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery: The Lives of Those Interred edited by Rose Anne Hockstra, Nelson operated a mill on Rock Creek, west of Greenwood. The book states, "There was a flood on June 20, 1869, and Nelson jumped into the water to try to dislodge a log jam. His brother Byde tried to jump in to save him, but he was held back by the other men there." Nelson left behind his widow, Lydia, and two daughters, Elcina and Matilda. A son, Nelson Jr., was born two months after his father's death. Lydia returned to Wisconsin, married and gave birth to eight more children. (source: Sheffer book).

Nelson's death is documented in the U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule of persons who died during the year ending June 1, 1870. He died at the age of 28 from drowning in Lancaster county, Nebraska.

Nelson was the son of John Atkinson and Ann Grunshaw.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery - Greenwood, Nebraska

For several months, I've wanted to take a field trip to Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery, which is about halfway between Greenwood, Nebraska and Ashland, Nebraska in Cass county.

Entrance to Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery
Greenwood, Nebraska

Directions: Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery is located halfway between Greenwood, Nebraska and Ashland, Nebraska. From Highway 6, turn north on 226th Street. Cross the railroad tracks and go about one mile to Country Club Road. The cemetery is located at the end of the minimum maintainance road beyond a private farm residence.

It had probably been about 25 years since I last visited the cemetery with "cousin" Joy Deal Lehmann when she was researching her book on the Landon family, which included a marital connection to the Loder family.

The cemetery had not yet been included in the site. Since it is a cemetery with historical significance and the resting place of many of the early pioneers of the area, I wanted this cemetery to be included on that site. So a few months ago I set up the cemetery on and began entering the interments that had previously been documented in other sources, most notably the fourth edition of Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery the Lives of Those Interred edited by Rose Anne Hockstra.

The information in that book was originally compiled by Mabel G. Laughlin in 1939 and later updates were made in 1967 and 1978 by Ethel M. Buck. The book was published by the Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery Association.

Descendants of those pioneers still meet at the cemetery for an annual picnic, something they have done for many decades.

I can't say that I've come across any other cemeteries that have an adjacent picnic area, but I can certainly visualize these tables with plastic red and white table cloths, with fried chicken, potato salad, devilled eggs, iced tea and cherry pie waiting for the descendants as they come to celebrate their ancestors each year.

Yesterday seemed like a good day to take a field trip to this remote location, so I recruited some assistance from a long time friend to go with me. And I was glad that I did! Having been raised on a farm, she easily spotted any poison ivy and other flora that might prove dangerous. So I tiptoed behind her as I took photographs of the graves that still had readable inscriptions. A couple of the smaller stones were located in too much overgrowth for me to want to get any closer. I love cemeteries, but I do not like snakes, critters, anything that stings or a plant that might make me itch. I did the best I could within my comfort zone! There are just over 80 interments, and my camera captured those stones that were accessible. There were a few that had no visible inscriptions, another had either fallen or been set down after it could no longer hold itself erect. But once we had walked the small cemetery, I felt that I had done the best I could under the circumstances.

I have no direct ancestral line buried at this cemetery, but many of those pioneers who are interred intersect with some of my distant kin through marriage - the Loders, Laughlins, Colemans and Atkinsons all have a place in my family tree, distant though it may be.

I will continue to document interments at Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery on and feature many of the tombstone photos on this blog on Tombstone Tuesdays. I'm optimistic that all of the interments will be included fairly soon. I'm committed to this little project, and with such a small cemetery, it shouldn't take too long. I hope blog readers will enjoy the tombstone photographs from Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery in the coming months.

Friday, June 11, 2010

If you can read this, thank a teacher - tribute to Miss Bess Bowen

I'm not even real sure how the memory of my first teacher, Miss Bess Bowen, popped into my head this afternoon. She was my teacher in kindergarten, first and second grade in the 1950s in a small rural school. Three grades were in one room.

I credit Miss Bowen with my love of learning and being able to spell and write and do math. You've heard of the book, "All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten." In the case of Miss Bess Bowen, that was so true. She taught you, and she taught you well.

As a four year old starting in public school in the 1950s, I knew that Miss Bowen was a grandmotherly type, even though she had remained single all of her life. It was only by doing a little bit of online research that I learned that she was 72 years old when I first met her in kindergarten!

I admit to being a bit of a teacher's pet and recall her getting after my third/fourth grade teacher for not recognizing my intelligence and ability to the extent that Miss Bowen had! Ha! Well, that was how I felt at age eight. I had become very attached to Miss Bowen and it was hard for me to move on to a different (first year) teacher for third grade!

As I look over the census records showing Miss Bowen throughout her career, I recall such fond memories of her. The newspaper articles about her from the 1920s and 1930s tell of her work with her young pupils.

In 1916, she went home to Avoca, Iowa to spend the month of August with her parents and other family members. In 1922, she was awarded her teachers' certificate from the University of Nebraska.

In 1926, she and another delegate to the convention of the National Education Association left for Philadelphia before spending a week in Washington, D.C. and going on to New York City to take summer classes at Columbia University. By 1930, she was an officer in the state education association.

In 1937, her students gave some reviews concerning early pioneer life. The pony express, and the early school and home were compared with present day life. Oh! Wouldn't she enjoy sharing stories about our pioneer ancestors!

And in 1950, she served as a census enumerator! Why do I sense that her spirit is looking over my shoulder as I type this?!

Greenwood School, Greenwood, Nebraska - This school building housed grades K - 12 when Miss Bowen was my teacher. My Mom also attended this same school. My great-grandfather, Daniel Kelly, served on the school board (long before I was born!).

Miss Bowen kept in touch with me for many years after I was under her tutelage. She always wanted to know how my education was going. I remember reading in the newspaper that had she passed away - although I don't remember exactly when it was. To this day, when I look back over my education, I still feel that the foundation she provided during those first three years gave me what I needed to succeed in school and in life.

Do you have fond memories of a teacher from your past? If so, please leave a comment below.

note: references are from articles that appeared in the Lincoln Star, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1916 - 1950.

Follow Friday: Debra J. Richardson's Stoned

I'm pleased to recommend Debra J. Richardson's Stoned web site this week. She features one of my favorite aspects of genealogy research - cemeteries and gravestones.

Her photographs are works of art as her lens captures the unique artistry of gravestone sculpture.

Angels, hands, iconic symbolism - all are captured here.

Take some time and look around. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - John Bellinger's oil stocks

According to the stories that were passed down to me, my great-grandfather, John William Bellinger, put quite a bit of money into the purchase of oil stocks. Among the companies in which he invested in the 1920s and 1930s were Pioneer State Oil Company (stock certificate shown here), Invader Syndicate, Kosse Perpetual Royalty Syndicate,  and Texas Oil News Lease Interests. Those are the companies whose stock certificates survive in my family genealogy archive.

My Mom related that her mother would get so infuriated at her father for buying all of these oil stocks that there was a time when she burned a stack of them in the burn barrel. Even in today's money, the cost of these stocks would be fairly significant, so what he spent in the 20s and 30s was a small fortune.

In July 1980, Parade magazine (the one in the Sunday newspaper) ran an article called "Old Stocks Can Pay Off." Mom and I took the advice in the article and wrote to the offices of the Secretary of State in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. Oklahoma and Texas had no record of the oil companies and the one from Colorado was dissolved in 1929.

I may have to resurrect the search for information about these companies through the magic of Google. If nothing else, they are interesting documents to add to the family story.

I hope these companies weren't bought out by BP!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Madness Monday - a family squabble

Old newspaper articles are my favorite aspect of genealogy research. That's where you really are able to catch a glimpse of daily life of our ancestors.

A while back, I came across these two legal notices from the Altoona Mirror in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The first was placed by Mrs. Brinton Peight, followed by a notice from her husband, George W. Peight. This couple are not my direct line ancestors, but they are members of the extended Pecht/Peight family. These notices appeared in the newspaper in 1919.

You would think from reading them that the couple was destined for divorce court. They remained together until George's death thirty years later and are buried together at Fairview Cemetery in Altoona.

Text of the legal notices:

NOTICE is hereby given to all hotelkeepers, bartenders, druggists, clubs and individuals in Blair county not to sell, give or furnish in any manner whatsoever any intoxicating liquors to my husband, George W. Peight, 419 Cherry Ave., under penalty of the law.
419 Cherry Ave.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN - I hereby notify all dealers that I will not be responsible for any debts contracted by my wife, Mrs. Brinton Peight, after this date, March 24, 1919.
419 Cherry Ave.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tip of the Day for the nearsighted genealogist

Many of us genealogists search for old newspapers on,, or other sites. It's great that they give a thumbnail view of the article, BUT, if you're like me, you have trouble reading that small type.

Did you know that you can enlarge everything in your browser so it will display larger? It's very easy to do! Just Click on the CTRL button along with the plus sign +


To return to normal, use CTRL and the minus sign


In Internet Explorer, you can achieve the same result by going to your status bar on the bottom of the screen. It usually defaults to 100% display. Click on the down arrow, and you'll have a variety of options to change the display.

Try it! It works! It also helps reduce wrinkles because you don't have to squint all the time!

Sunday brunch: Danish Ebleskiver recipe

Today's earlier post about my "Grandpa Pete" got me thinking about one of the traditional family recipes for Danish ebleskiver (also spelled aebelskiver). These are little round pancakes. When my father used to visit his grandmother, the children all called them "balls" - which is an apt description.

Danish Ebleskiver basic recipe

4 eggs, separated
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup melted shortening
2 cups milk (recommend buttermilk)

Beat egg yolks; add sugar. Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with shortening and milk. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour some cooking oil into the ebelskiver pan. Heat until smoking. Fill the depressions about half full. When cooked on the bottom turn with two forks. Flipping them is an acquired skill that takes some practice!

You can test for done-ness by inserting a toothpick. When it comes out clean, they will be done. In time, you'll know how to time them - just like with regular pancakes.

Add oil to the pan between batches.

As soon as the ebelskiver are done, shake them in a paper bag filled with sugar (or powdered sugar) to give them an extra-sweet coating. You can eat them by hand, with some honey, syrup or jam as a dipping sauce. Make this a new addition to your Sunday brunch!

While teflon ebleskiver pans are available, I find that a cast iron pan gives better results.

Watch a video about making ebelskiver below.

Otto Petersen - toymaking hobby reflects youthful memories

Otto William Petersen
1899 - 1977

A few weeks ago my father came across this issue of American Dane magazine from March 1974 featuring his father, Otto William Petersen, on the cover. He asked me if I wanted it for my family history records.

Would any genealogist ever say "no"?

The magazine features a reprint of an article about my grandfather's toymaking hobby that originally appeared in the Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska).

He got started crafting windmills, then wagons and dollhouses. The story even shares a little insight into family history.

The Waterloo, Iowa native, who spent his youth on a farm, recaptures some of his earliest remembrances of the rural scene in replicas of wagons, wells and hayracks.

The typical hayrack model comes complete with tongue, double trees and neck yokes. He's even put a spring on the tongue, an addition his dad made at corn-shucking time to relieve the horses of some of their burden.

Another touch from his past is the convertible hayrack-wagon "since my dad could not afford both."

The magazine identifies the little girl in the photograph as Debbie Nielsen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Nielsen.

Sentimental Sunday - Good Ride Cowboy!

I enjoy reading posts by other genealogy bloggers, and a recent post from Genealogy Gems News was about Pretty Little Pony pictures.

Unlike the photos shared in that post, my Kelly family grew up with horses - they were used for transportation, farming and even fun for the kids. So I thought I would share a few of the photos from my family archive.

This is the earliest known photo I have of my mother, Patricia Landon Kelly, at the age of 18 months on Teddy, the family pony that was ridden by Mom, her siblings and visiting cousins. Ted was around until Mom was well into her teens.

Mom later became an accomplished rider. In fact, she told me of her childhood dreams of running off to the circus so she could ride horses!

Here she is in her riding gear, circa 1940s.

Bill Kelly, Greenwood, Nebraska

Here's my grandfather, (Mom's father), Bill Kelly, on one of the work horses.

I remember two of the work horses that were still around when I was a youngster. The family always named the horses, and the team I remember were Babe and Tony.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Surname Saturday - Olmstead

The Olmstead Family

This week's choice for a surname to feature was fairly easy since today's research on has resulted in dozens of new additions to my family tree. This is especially enlightening since up until a few weeks ago, I had been researching the family using the spelling Almstead until I discovered  the "Genealogy of the Olmsted Family in America" - a book compiled by Henry King Olmsted in 1912. This resource came to me through a Google books search.

It was in this book that I found my great-great grandmother, Eliza Ann Olmstead and her husband, John Laymon. From this reference, I discovered her parents, Eben Andrews Olmstead, who was born in 1812 and Anne Archibald, who was born in 1817.

Many of the Olmstead family settled in Illinois and thanks to the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index 1763 - 1900, I found even more Olmstead marriages - and confirmation of the information in the Henry King Olmsted book. If you have any ancestors who lived in Illinois during this time frame, I highly recommend the marriage search on that site.

According to, the majority of Olmstead families in the United States in 1940 lived in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, with some in Indiana and Illinois, which would have been my line of Olmsteads. By 1880, the name concentration was heaviest in New York and Michigan and still a large number in Illinois and many having moved further west to Iowa. By 1920, there were Olmsteads in all of the states except Wyoming and Nevada.

While this newly discovered family line offers a wealth of new information, I'm looking forward to tracing the lineage of my great great great grandparents, Eben Omstead and Anne Archibald, back another generation, as well as documenting their descendants as close to present day as I can. It's always exciting to find those new branches of the family tree.

The headstone of John Laymon and Eliza Ann Olmstead is located in Hardy Cemetery, Hardy, Nuckolls county, Nebraska.

The Olmstead Name in History

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - my "cousins" The Beach Boys

Dennis Carl Wilson
Lincoln, Nebraska
July 1968

Little did I know when I first met The Beach Boys some 42 years ago that we were related! This is something I learned only recently while reading some information about famous descendants of one of my Mayflower ancestors, Francis Cooke. He and his wife are the common ancestors I share with the Wilson brothers - Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson.

Through the magic of Family Tree Maker, I discovered that our common ancestry makes us 10th cousins, once removed. No doubt, in my teen years, I would have brought that up in conversation when I met the group, and no doubt, they would have been less than impressed!

According to the Francis Cooke Society, other famous descendants include three U.S. Presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, George Bush; artist Grandma Moses; actor and director Orson Welles; and actors Richard Gere and Dick Van Dyke.

If you're one of the many descendants of this Mayflower passenger, I recommend the Yahoo online discussion group for descendants of Francis Cooke.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - William Kelly and Sina Bellinger Kelly

This is the tombstone of my grandparents, William Leroy Kelly and Sina Harriet Bellinger Kelly. They are buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Greenwood, Cass county, Nebraska.

Unfortunately, the year of Bill Kelly's birth is incorrect on the stone. He was actually born in 1892, based on earlier contemporary records.

How does something like this happen? When asked his age, Grandpa Kelly always replied that he was "nine years older than the year it is." Well - that was true for half of the year. Since he was born July 7, for the rest of the year, he was eight years older than the year it was. When it came time to have the tombstones made, my mother and her siblings based the year of his birth based on his claim of "nine years older than the year it is," so, the tombstone is incorrect.

One of the funniest memories I have of my childhood was hanging out with Grandpa Kelly as he did work for the village of Greenwood. I was tagging along one time while he and a teenage helper were doing some work at the cemetery. I dragged along my life-sized "dancing doll." These were about three-feet tall and had elastic on their feet which you strapped around your feet to dance with the doll.

At some point, I must have gotten tired of carrying the doll around with me, so I sat her on top of a gravestone. Grandpa's young helper turned around and got a glimpse of the doll, immediately thinking he had just seen a ghost! He went running away as fast as his long, skinny legs would carry him. Grandpa laughed and laughed over that one!

June Genealogy events in Nebraska

The following genealogy events in Nebraska are slated:

June 8, 2010 - Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society meeting. 7:15 p.m., Union College, 3800 S. 48th St., Lincoln. Presenter: Robert Ripley. Topic: The Tower of the Plains - the Nebraska State Capitol.

June 12, 2010 - Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society - Walking tour of Wyuka Cemetery led  by Ed Zimmer. 9:30 a.m., 3600 O St, Lincoln.

June 16, 2010 - Greater Omaha Genealogical Society meeting. 7:00 p.m., Crown Point Retirement Center, 2820 S. 80th St., Omaha.

June 17, 2010 - Lincoln - Brown Bag Lecture - Archaeology at the Beaver Crossing Trail. Presenter: Nolan Johnson. 12:00 noonBlackman Auditorium, Nebraska History Museum, 131 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln.

June 19, 2010 - Greater Omaha Genealogical Society class - Newspaper research and Cemetery Research. 9:15 a.m. Mormon Trail Center, 3215 State Street, Omaha.

June 21, 2010 - West Point - Elkhorn Valley Genealogical Society meeting. 7:00 p.m., Stahl Library, West Point.

For further information and calendar listing of genealogy events in Nebraska, click here.