Tuesday, May 31, 2011

John Laymon - a photograph helps locate 100 family members

John Laymon and Eliza Olmstead Laymon
at their home in Hardy, Nuckolls, Nebraska
In the last couple of weeks I've come across some old photographs, correspondence and other family history artifacts that had been tucked away and long forgotten since the late 1980s. Given my passion for genealogy, it's hard to believe that there were items I had not thoroughly perused, cataloged and committed to memory. I knew I had seen a photograph of my 2nd great grandparents, John Laymon and Eliza Olmstead, but hadn't come across it in years. The photograph was among the recently re-discovered family artifacts in my possession.

John and Eliza
John was a Union solider in the Civil War, a Private in the 91st Illinois Infantry. He was born in Indiana in 1838, sharing his birthday with our nation, July 4. I hadn't pursued my research on John Laymon beyond locating the index to the widow's pension that Eliza filed and some online information on the 91st Illinois Infantry.

A few days ago, I began working my tree on Ancestry.com to see what I might find. I knew the Laymon family had been in Grundy county, Illinois between 1855 - 1900 and later. Using online resources, including FindAGrave and Google Books, I came across some information about the Laymons of Grundy county.
As I am always cautious about the shaking leaves on Ancestry.com, I was quite hesitant to start adding these clues to my tree. I read the biographies of other Laymon men in the country history books I discovered on Google books. I looked through dozens of census records on Ancestry and FamilySearch.org. I looked at every census record for every Laymon in Grundy county during the time period when John Laymon lived there, and reconfirmed his marriage to Eliza on October 3, 1861 (thanks to the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index - a valuable resource).

It was not until I was able to put the pieces together that I concluded that my John Laymon was, indeed, the son of James Laymon and Maria Sloan. Not only that, but the county history gave me the names of all four of John's grandparents: Abraham Laymon and Elizabeth Goodpaster and George Sloan and Mary Storey. I discovered memorials and photographs of gravestones on FindAGrave for James Laymon, Maria Sloan Laymon, Abraham Laymon and Elizabeth Goodpaster. In a few short hours of online investigation, I was able to take this line back to my fourth great grandparents.

Once I was confident that my findings were solid, I started adding members to my Laymon tree on Ancestry. This was done strictly through census and public records - not by integrating other people's trees into mine. In a few more hours, I had added more than 100 people to my Laymon family tree. I am usually not one to be a relative collector or number counter, but in this situation, I found it incredible that I was able to go from knowing only a tiny bit of information about my Civil War ancestor into discovering more than 100 members of the family. And I haven't even begun to bring each branch of the family forward in time. That will be for another day.

Sometimes, all you need is a photograph to get the ball rolling.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Genealogy Events in Nebraska - June 2011

Date & Location

June 3, 2011
7:00 p.m.
LDS Family History Center
11027 Martha St
Omaha, Nebraska
GO-PAF User Group

June 11, 2011
Start time TBA
908 Yellowstone Avenue
Alliance, NE
 The Heritage Seekers will host an all day driving tour of the 13 Box Butte County cemeteries.

 Meet at the museum early and we will carpool to take the driving tour of these cemeteries, led by our museum director: Becci Thomas and other museum staff. Bring a sack lunch, drinks, comfortable shoes and a camera! This will be an all day excursion. Call 
308-762-2384 for more info or email the museum at the following:   museum@cityof alliance.net

June 14, 2011
7:15 p.m.
Lower Level Theater
Dick Admin. Bldg.
Union College Campus
3800 So. 48th St. Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society: Finding and Documenting Resources was a high interest topic on our survey.
Learn tips from researchers on what to take with you and how to search efficiently through records, microfilm and old newspapers. Then discover ways to document and save findings whether on paper or electronically. We'll also make plans for a research opportunity at the Nebraska State Historical Society on the following Saturday morning, June 18.

June 14, 2011
7:00 pm – 9:00pm
LDS Family History Center
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, Nebraska
Preparing for a Research Trip

Free Class

June 15, 2011
7:00 p.m.
Crown Pointe Retirement Center
2820 South 80th St
Omaha, Nebraska

Program to be announced

June 16, 2011
12:00 Noon
Nebraska History Museum
15th and P Sts
Lincoln, Nebraska
Nebraska State Historical Society Brown Bag Lecture Series: Nebraska Baseball
Presenter: Jon Hamilton

June 16, 2011
Holiday Inn Express
300 Holiday Frontage Rd
North Platte, Nebraska
4:15 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
North Platte Family History Expo 2011

Visit the Family History Expos web site for more information.

June 18, 2011
9:15 a.m. – noon
Mormon Trail Center
3215 State Street Omaha, Nebraska

Uncle Sam Wants you: Using military records for getting to know our ancestors. Part 2: Where There’s a Will: Discussing wills and probate records to learn more about the family. What are other records that may be available if there was no will?

June 18, 2011
1:30 p.m.
West Nebraska Family Research and History Center
1602 Avenue A
Scottsbluff, NE

Brown Bag Lunch & Book Sharing day

June 21, 2011
7:00 pm – 9:00pm
LDS Family History Center
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, Nebraska
Church Records

Free class

June 28, 2011
7:00 pm – 9:00pm
LDS Family History Center
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, Nebraska
Digital Records

Free class

Memorial Day - honoring those who served

Soldiers's Circle
Wyuka Cemetery
Lincoln, Nebraska

Jess Carl Petersen
Wyuka Cemetery
Lincoln, Nebraska

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Searching for Sina - Sina Kelly and daughter Maxine

Sina Bellinger Kelly
and her first born child
Maxine Dorothy Kelly
This is the year that I am seeking information on my maternal grandmother, Sina Bellinger Kelly.

I've recently discovered two boxes of family history information and photos that had been long forgotten. I don't even remember seeing this photograph of Sina and her first born child, Maxine Dorothy Kelly.

Little Maxine (my aunt) lived only 13 months. She was born August 6, 1914 and died the following year, on September 15, 1915. On the back of this photograph, Sina has written that Maxine was three months old. Sina was about 25 years old when this photograph was taken in the fall of 1914.

Sina's mother, Emma Harriet Landon Bellinger, died about a month after this photograph was taken. The following month, in January 1916, Sina gave birth to her next child, Margaret Janice Kelly.

It seems to me that was a lot for young Sina to deal with in just a five month period of time.

More articles about Sina Bellinger Kelly

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday's Obituary: William and Sina Kelly

As I've been sorting through my personal archives in recent days, I'm surprised by items I had either forgotten about or didn't realize that I had. Among them were the funeral books for both of my Kelly grandparents, which included the newspaper clippings of their funeral notices. No dates or sources are written on either. I'm speculating that Sina's is from the Ashland, Nebraska Gazette and I'm quite certain that Bill's is from the Lincoln, Nebraska Journal.

Funeral Is Conducted
For Mrs. Kelly, 66

Funeral services were conducted Monday morning at the Marcy Chapel for Mrs. Sina Harriett Kelly, 66, who died Thursday, Nov. 3, at her home in Greenwood.

Mrs. Warren Robinson and Mrs. Barbara Laune sang "Lead Kindgly Light" and "The Old Rugged Cross," accompanied by Mrs. Howard Anderson, organist. The Rev. Clarence Stirn officiated. Pallbearers were Walter Marolf, Maynard Griffith, Harold Pilfold, Evan Armstrong, Charles Dyer, and Elmer Leadabrand. Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery.

Mrs. Kelly was born at Fremont April 3, 1889.

KELLY - William LeRoy, Sr. 77, Greenwood, died Tuesday, Retired mayor and city electrician in Greenwood. Survivors: son, W. L, Kelly, Jr., St. Louis, Mo.; daughters, Mrs. William Dulin, Springfield, Mo., Mrs. Kenneth L. Peterson (sic), Lincoln, M. J. Kelly, Eugene, Ore.
Services: 10 a.m. Friday, Marcy Chapel, Ashland. Burial Greenwood Memorial.

Sina Belllinger Kelly died November 3, 1955. William Kelly died December 31, 1968. My parents and I were getting ready to attend the funeral of Henrietta Beale ("Aunt Etty") when word arrived of my grandfather's death. Dad was to be a pallbearer at Etty's funeral, but we immediately went to Greenwood instead. Mom lost her two closet living older relatives within days of one another.

William and Sina Kelly
Greenwood Memorial Cemetery
Greenwood, Nebraska

Bill and Sina Kelly
as I remember them

Are You Making Full Use of Find A Grave?

Mary Casey and
William D Kelly
Calvary Cemetery
Lincoln, Nebraska
Next to Ancestry.com, the online resource I probably use the most is FindAGrave.com. Are you sure that you are using FindAGrave to the fullest extent possible?


Every time I locate an obituary that includes the name of the cemetery where the deceased was buried, I check FindAGrave. Is there a memorial established for the person? If not, I create one based on the information in the obituary. I summarize any family history information from the obituary into the biography section.

Request a Photo

Once I've created a memorial, I click on the button, Request a Photo. This step generates an automated message to all FindAGrave photo volunteers who are willing to take a photo of the gravestone. I usually include a message that indicates my relationship to the person, if any. If I think that other family members might be buried nearby, I include the information I have and request the photo volunteer to look in the immediate vicinity to see if other family member graves are present.

This technique has been quite helpful and on several occasions, the photo volunteer has set up a memorial for the additional family member and added the photo(s) taken when at the grave site.

Review Memorials Regularly

Sometimes, I have forgotten to Request a Photo. The FindAGrave community is constantly adding information and photographs to the site. Today, I received an email notification that a volunteer had fulfilled my request for a gravestone photo. I started looking through the list of memorials I had entered and noticed that the headstone icon appeared on several of my memorials. As the cemeteries are across the country, I knew that I had not added the photographs.

What did I discover? I found that a volunteer had added a photograph of the headstone of my third great grandmother, Margaret Schultz Landon, in Union Cemetery, Liberty, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. What a discovery! The gravestone provided an additional source for her dates of birth and death. I always get excited when I find information on my direct lineage. And I had not requested this photo!

So I browsed through all of my memorials and discovered that several FindAGrave photo volunteers had added photographs of gravestones of family members!


FindAGrave also allows other people to add photographs to your memorials. If I happen to have a photograph of a person who already has a memorial on the site, I add it. So do other people. You will not receive automatic notification from FindAGrave when this occurs. So make a habit of browsing through your memorials - or the memorials created by other people who you have included in your virtual cemeteries. Information is constantly being added to the site, so you never know what kind of gems you will discover.

Virtual Cemeteries

If you have not been using the Virtual Cemetery feature on the site, you should. This is a way where you can organize memorials by family or by cemetery (or any other combination you may choose). This way, I can include memorials of my family members that have been created by other contributors. I can easily locate the memorial by going to the Virtual Cemetery based on Surnames.

Make a habit of checking in on your memorials on a regular basis. You never know what you're going to find - and it may provide the next clue that you needed for your research.

Giving Back to the Community

If you are able to take photographs of gravestones in your area, sign up to be a photo volunteer. This community spirit is what the FindAGrave site is based on. And always remember to post a thank-you message when a volunteer fulfills your photo request.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Join Me at the Family History Expo in Overland Park Kansas July 29-30 2011

The agenda for the Midwest Family History Expo to be held in Overland Park, Kansas is quickly coming together. The event will be held July 29 - 30, 2011 at:

Overland Park Convention Center
6000 College Blvd
Overland Park, Kansas - 66211

Keynote speakers include Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems podcast and M. Bridget Cook, transformational author and speaker.

I will be presenting two sessions at the Family History Expo:

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! - using newspapers in your genealogy research

Sharing Family History By Blogging - an introduction to blogging about your family history and sharing ancestor stories.

I look forward to seeing many of my fellow genealogists and bloggers at this conference!

For more information:
Midwest Family History Expo

Monday, May 16, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Soda Water Free


Ode Rector has made some substantial improvements in his drug store at Twelfth and N Sts. His soda water fountain particularly is one of the finest equipped in the city. To make the people thoroughly acquainted with his facilities for serving all kinds of drinks, he will, on Tuesday serve soda water and all other drinks free of charge to all visitors to his store; the ladies especially are invited to make their wishes known at the soda fountain. Any kind of drink will be served free. Some of Rector's favorites are Delmonico Flip, Henrietta, Mignonette and pineapple float; if you have never tried any of those do not fail to call for one of them. Mignonette is a very popular drink. Free soda water is a novelty and Mr. Rector's liberality is sure to crowd his store all day Tuesday. The public is cordially invited.

Source: The Courier, Lincoln, Nebraska, May 26, 1894

Relationship to me: husband of great grand aunt (brother-in-law of my great grandfather Dan Kelly)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Around the Blogosphere: May 15 2011

The bloggers among my readers already know that Blogger had a big hiccup this week and was down for a couple days. If anything good came from that, it was the fact that the outage allowed me to get caught up on my blog reading. The following are some of the genealogy blog posts that I enjoyed this week:

Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames wrote an excellent piece with advice for genealogy trade show exhibitors in My Response to Genealogy Conferences - Selling the Goods.

Mel Wolfgang also joined in the discussion about genealogy conferences with a discussion of the genealogy conference model and some thoughts on the 'money thing' on Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror.

Joan Miller of Luxegen Genealogy and Family History talked about social media in Lessons Learned from Social Media Unplugged.

On the fun side, Travis LeMaster of TJL Genes gave us a quiz: Are You Smarter Than a 60 Year Old? Apparently I'm 60 because I whizzed through this quiz in seconds!

Dan Curtis - Professional Personal Historian always has a great list of weekly picks on his blog.

I've become a fan of Michael Hait through his excellent online webinars. This week he shared What blogs does a professional genealogist read? I discovered some new blogs from his list and signed up to follow several of them.

Cheri Hopkins shared Another Take on Local Museums with a look at the Knight Museum in Alliance, Nebraska on Those Old Memories.

Cheri and her sister-in-law, Ruby Coleman, are off on their annual two-week research trip to Salt Lake City. I enjoyed following them on last year's trip, and you can keep up with them on the You Go Genealogy Girls blog. This week, I got my my copy of Ruby's new book, Genealogical Research in Nebraska. If you are doing any kind of research in the state, this is an excellent resource.

Other recommended reading

Other bloggers also offer their recommendations and weekly highlights. Check their recommended reading lists:

Randy Seaver's Best of the Geneablogs on Geneamusings.

Greta's Follow Friday on Greta's Genealogy Blog.

Elizabeth O'Neal's Best Bytes on Little Bytes of Life.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Fame

Week 20 Challenge. Fame. Tell us about any local brushes with fame. Were you ever in the newspaper? Why? You may also describe any press mentions of your family members.

This week's challenge for 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History presents an intriguing perspective for me. I can view this challenge from a couple different perspectives: my own 15 minutes of fame as well as my rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

From the time I was able to write, I always fancied myself a writer. To this day, some of my writing is better than others. In elementary school, I was writing my own short stories based on Winnie the Pooh characters and songs based on Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was no surprise that I was drawn to journalism by the time I got into junior high and high school.

I always used to get a kick out of radio announcer Jimmy O'Neill (he was the Ryan Seacrest of his day) who shot to TV stardom at age 24 by landing the job of host on the popular ABC-TV music series, Shindig. In later years, he was a disc jockey/announcer at KOIL in Omaha. He always said that his resume read upside down - meaning most broadcasters start out in local radio then work themselves up to a bigger job over time.

I've often thought the same about myself because the first article I ever wrote was an interview with Peter, Paul and Mary when I was 15 years old. It was published in the national teen magazine, Datebook, and I was paid $25. There was a bit of notoriety about me being published in this particular magazine because this was the magazine that published the famous interview of John Lennon by Maureen Cleave in which he made his controversial comment "the Beatles are more popular than Jesus". 

Mary Travers
Peter, Paul and Mary
Lincoln, 1965
A small article was published in the Lincoln Journal about my article being published in a national magazine. Since the article identified the high school I attended, I received a couple "fan letters" at school. I think I may have become pen pals with those people. I also received a nice letter from Bob Magee of Magee's department store in Lincoln, congratulating me and commenting that it was nice to see a youngster doing something so positive (or something to that effect!). He sent me a gift certificate for $25 to Magee's and I got a long sleeved white sweater with that. As coincidences go in genealogy, the Magee building is where my great grandfather's brother-in-law had his pharmacy business in the 'olden days.'

So - who wouldn't get hooked on fame and celebrity after that sort of attention at age 15? This all happened at the same time as the British Invasion of pop music groups, which is what really impacted my teen years. Armed with my Kodak Instamatic camera, my notepad and pen as well as press passes from Datebook and Teen Screen, I did my best to get backstage at every rock and roll concert that came to town. If I wasn't going to be a celebrity myself, I was definitely going to hang out with them. And what better access than by being a reporter/photographer. It was probably that combination that drew me into journalism school.

With Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, 1968
Instamatic in hand
I think that I met just about every band that came to town. Let me make it perfectly clear, I was not a groupie - I just was not "one of those girls." I probably wanted to be, but it just wasn't in my nature. I've got to say, however, I really felt an emotional connection to the films Almost Famous and The Banger Sisters and Pamela Des Barres' book I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. Fantasy. Besides, I was a reporter.

Actors Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
circa 1971
I submitted articles to the Lincoln Journal during my high school years and they published my pieces about The Who, Herman's Hermits, The Blues Magoos, and The Rumbles, the Omaha/Council Bluffs band who had quite a bit of regional success and a national hit with Jezebel. The band is still active today, albeit with only one original member. I even became president of their Lincoln fan club, which didn't mean much other than that their manager, Eddy Haddad, always paid for my friends and me to get into their shows and I think he made the guys be nice to me. Mostly, they just tolerated this kid, I think.

Peter Noone
Herman's Hermits
Omaha, 1967
Once in journalism school, I continued to follow the bands, but expanded my interests to journalists and politicians. By the time the 1980s rolled around, I had migrated from pop music to country and entered what I still refer to as The Nashville Years. My annual pilgrimage to Fan Fair in Nashville provided a lot of interaction with famous people. Within my first hour of arriving at my first Fan Fair, I was being interviewed by Ralph Emery on WSM Radio. Why and how? I managed to get next to him while he was interviewing attendees and he asked me what I thought about Fan Fair. Once his TV show, Nashville Now, debuted on The Nashville Network (TNN), I was on as a phone-in caller several times.

Susan with Danny Davis
Lincoln Community Concerts
I parlayed my Nashville contacts into a short stint at writing a newspaper column on country music. My hopes were to syndicate the column throughout Nebraska, but only one newspaper picked it up. But it got me some street cred, published bylines and clippings for my portfolio. Among my more enjoyable interviews were with Ranger Doug Green of Riders in the Sky (I even attended a few parties at his home) and a breakfast interview in Omaha with Danny Davis of the Nashville Brass. He had been a producer for MGM Records in the 60s and was responsible for bringing Herman's Hermits to the label. So not only did we talk about country music, we also talked about the Sixties. He also told me that he and Merv Griffin performed together in the big band days.

with Riders in the Sky
Nashville, 1984
During this same time, I became the volunteer publicity director for the Lincoln Community Concerts Association - another opportunity for me to brush shoulders with entertainers. We produced four or five concerts each year and I was instrumental in securing Louise Mandrell for our 50th anniversary concert/party.

With former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey
the night he announced he was running for President
Omaha, 1991

Things have slowed down quite a bit in recent years. Now I attend lectures and book signings and have been fortunate to meet Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian and author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln's own Ted Sorensen, who was JFK's speech writer and author of Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History. And, of course, there are the genealogists I've met like John Philip Colletta, author of They Came in Ships

My thoughts about fame

Even after a life where I've been around a lot of famous people, I am concerned about the celebrity-obsessed society we seem to have become. I totally do not get 1) people who are famous for being famous (Paris Hilton, the Kardashians), 2) why anyone would want to be on a reality TV show or 3) why anyone is interested in celebrity couples. I certainly never sought to be famous myself and up until the time that I started blogging about family history, my internet presence had been under a pseudonym - 17 years of not being me.

I also am distressed about what the journalism field has turned into. I no longer see journalism (particularly broadcast journalism) as having the high standards of obtaining the truth that I was taught. I believe there were two significant events that contributed to the deterioration of journalism. The first was the excellent film, All the President's Men, the story of the two Washington Post reporters who were attributed with exposing Watergate. The second was the introduction of 24-hour cable news channels.

After Watergate, enrollment in journalism schools around the country skyrocketed. Every reporter who had missed out on the story of the century wanted their own Watergate-type legacy. I believe that is what triggered reporters into trying to turn every story into a sensational story. I felt my theory was validated when Robert Redford expressed similar thoughts during a recent interview with Piers Morgan on CNN. (Just because I'm not keen on 24-hour news channels doesn't mean that I don't watch them).

Shortly after Watergate, I sent my resume to The Washington Post. Sorry, not interested. At least I can say that I was turned down by the best in the business. Oh yes, I even met former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee at a speaking engagement many years ago. He signed his book, Conversations with Kennedy, for me. We share the same birthday, but fortunately, I didn't know it at the time or I would have made some stupid comment about that.

This reminiscence is definitely more about personal history than about genealogy, but it is these experiences that made me who I am - and what brought me into the blogging world. It's been a fun ride.

About 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Amy Coffin of We Tree Genealogy has created a third year of blogging prompts for genealogy bloggers. The theme for 2011 i52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History

Disclaimer: links to DVDs and books in this post are via my Amazon Associates agreement.

West Nebraska Roundtable on May 21

News Release courtesy of Floyd Smith III

The West Nebraska Family Research & History Center is proud to announce that Nancy Sato and Mickey Hara will be the featured speakers for the WNFRHC Genealogy Roundtable Forum on Saturday, May 21st, at 1:30pm at 1602 Ave. A in Scottsbluff. Both Nancy and Mickey will discuss Japanese customs and some of the complexities of trying to settle in western Nebraska. Nancy will discuss the book, Nikkei Farmer on the Nebraska plains, a memoir by Hisanori Kano. Edited and introduction by Tai Kreidler and translated by Rose Yamamoto. Mickey will describe and discuss the Nurse Cadet Corp and the role they played during WW2.  Mickey also plans to talk about a book she is compiling about the various Japanese families that have lived in the panhandle of Nebraska. The program is free and open to the public. A discussion period will follow the program for those that would like to contribute to the topic.

For more information, please contact the West Nebraska Family Research & History Center at 308.635.2400.