Questioning My Sanity

Currently, the prevailing thought in my head is “What did I get myself into?”  I couldn’t help it though, the timing was perfect and it seemed like a good thing to do at the time.  I’m sure you’re wondering what I got myself into this time.  Well, I signed up for ProGen.  For those who don’t know what ProGen is, the ProGen Study Group is a book study group that focuses on the book Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians (edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills).

progen_book

Each month course attendees are given reading and written assignments related to the material.  They also participate in online discussion groups to talk about the current topic and offer constructive feedback to their peers.  This study group is not for the faint-of-heart, however.  It’s an 19-month commitment and formatted for genealogists who have professional level research experience.  Hence me currently questioning my own sanity.  I’m not a professional genealogist by any means.  But after attending NGS and speaking to a number of ProGen alumni I began to realize that ProGen would be a great opportunity to learn to be a better genealogist.  I have no doubt that it will be hard.  Probably one of the hardest courses I’ve ever taken.  But in addition to being intimidated and completely overwhelmed by the thought of spending 19 months taxing my brain and my skills, I’m also extremely excited.  I’m pushing myself to learn more, be better and gain experience in a field that has become a great love for me.  I heard a TED speaker the other day that I think really said it best: “I think the thing that stops people from doing it [being creative] is always exactly the same thing, which is fear. And what I’ve discovered over the years is not that you have to be fearless…I think instead what you have to do is recognize that fear and creativity are conjoined twins.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, “Where Does Creativity Come From?” http://www.npr.org/2014/10/03/351554044/where-does-creativity-come-from).

Alright then, let’s do this.  Fear, your twin Creativity and I are going for a ride.  We know you’re coming along so hop in back but you’re not allowed to make any decisions on this trip, you’re only allowed to come along for the ride.

Busy, busy, (genealogically) busy!

Time flies when you’re having fun!  I realized this weekend how long it’s been since I posted on my blog.  But just because this blog has lacked activity, doesn’t mean yours truly hasn’t been busy.  On the contrary, I’ve been hopping on my genealogy since attending NGS in May.  Here are a few things I’ve been working on:

  • Contacting cousins from Ancestry and GedMatch – I’ve made some new cousin contacts!  Now that’s some exciting stuff right there 🙂
  • Trying to match the name transition from Mackay to McKee – I’ve not been successful in this yet but I’m hoping a journey to the ancestors homeland will shed some light on the subject.
  • Planning a research trip – This is actually going to happen soon.  And I couldn’t be more excited!
  • Education – This is so important.  Since I’m currently in a transition period from hobby genealogist to genealogist-pursuing-certification I’ve been working hard on this part of my research.  And I absolutely consider this to be part of research because I’m learning better ways to research as well as learning appropriate sourcing and citation.  I’ve completed the beginning GenProof course and am working on the advanced GenProof course.  This past week I was informed that I had been accepted into one of the upcoming ProGen courses.  I almost jumped up and down at work because I was so excited about my acceptance.
  • Digitizing family paperwork – I am still scanning family documents as I have time.  It’s a very slow process.

I made a trip to the Midwest Genealogical Center last week hoping to find some information on the Mackay to McKee name transition.  While I located some information on the family which was very exciting it was not what I was hoping to find.  I won’t complain too much though since I was able to find this bonus material.  I’ve also been waiting on Alien file paperwork and Naturalization file paperwork for D1’s grandmother from the USCIS.  I realize I’m an impatient person but it seems like it’s taking forever to receive the paperwork.  Patience is a virtue, but one I don’t readily possess.

In July I had the chance to attend the reunion of some family members we hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.  I can’t tell you dear readers what a joy that was.  I sincerely hope we’re able to remain in contact with the extended family that attended.  D1 was such a trooper, driving the parental unit and me around to several different cemeteries in North Dakota.

Cemeteries visited in North Dakota

Cemeteries visited in North Dakota

At one of the cemeteries we visited we arrived while the caretaker was doing lawn upkeep.  We weren’t sure whether we had relation in the cemetery but there were Kruegers in the cemetery and we were in the area so we decided to stop.  We checked in with the caretaker to make sure we weren’t going to interrupt his work and discovered that no only had he lived in the area for his entire life (born and raised) but he was related to the Kruegers in the cemetery.  Very closely related.  In the neighborhood of brothers, parents, grandparents, etc.  We talked for a good deal of time and heard the refrain of “not related” but we recorded our visit anyway on the off chance of just in case of relation.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church

Holy Trinity Catholic Church

As part of the reunion festivities we visited the church which that side of the family had attended for years and where many family members were baptized.  It was beautiful inside.  Gorgeous stained glass windows and beautiful architecture.  Despite the bugs and heat it was a good trip.  Honestly, I’ve yet to have a bad trip to North Dakota.  I’ve always received a very warm welcome from family and new friends when visiting and you can’t ask for more than that.

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

My First NGS Conference

I had the opportunity this year to attend the National Genealogical Society conference.  The NGS conference is held each May and this year it was held in beautiful St. Charles, Missouri.  I spent a good deal of time prior to the conference reviewing session abstracts and carefully choosing the sessions I wanted to attend.  There were so many interesting sessions it was very difficult to choose which to attend!

Day One (rarin’ to go!)

Exhibit hall entrance

Day one started early with a visit to registration to pick up my registration packet.  The process was very quick and the volunteers and NGS staff were very helpful with directions on where things were located and assistance with a small registration hiccup.  The opening session was crowded but very good.  We were paid a visit from “Charlie Floyd” (portrayed by J. Mark Lowe), a descendant of Charles Floyd from the Lewis & Clark Expedition, who shared with the audience stories of his family and some of his own memories.  He illustrated his reminiscences by using pictures of some of the hand-painted murals in the St. Charles Convention Center, managed to get the audience to join in singing “This Land Is Your Land” and finished majestically by hosting a visit from Lewis the Bald Eagle.  Lewis was an injured bald eagle who was acting as an ambassador to the local bird sanctuary.

"Charlie" and Lewis

“Charlie” and Lewis

 

Mural from the St. Charles Convention Center

After the opening session I had some time to spare before my next session so I went to the exhibit hall to peruse the exhibit booths.  It was packed!  It was somewhat difficult to talk to any of the vendors due to the sheer number of people in the exhibit hall and I was confident I’d have time later in the week to speak with vendors so I made one pass through the hall and moved on to my first session.  Wednesday’s sessions included “But I’ve Looked Everywhere” by Barbara Little, “Professional Genealogy: Conduct, Courtesy, Common Sense, or Ethics?” by Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, “Valuable Illinois Pre-Statehood Finding Aids” by Diane Renner Walsh and “Confronting Conflicting Evidence” by Pam Stone Eagleson.  All the sessions were very interesting but my favorite was probably Pam Stone Eagleson’s session on conflicting evidence.  I felt like I learned a lot from the case studies she presented on.

Day Two (let’s go!)

Thursday started with “Proving Native American Ancestors” presented by Billie Stone Fogarty and “Certification: Measuring Yourself Against Standards” by Elissa Scalise Powell, Michael S. Ramage, and Judy G. Russell.  Then I spent time braving the exhibit hall again, with less of a crowd and better results trying to speak with vendors.  After spending a couple of hours checking out booths and talking to people I headed off to “Genealogical Research & Writing: Are You A Saint, Sinner, or Bumfuzzled Soul?” by Elizabeth Shown Mills and “A Methodolgy for Irish Emigration to North America” by David E. Rencher.  I learned a lot from all the sessions I attended but Thursday’s favorite was probably David Rencher’s session on Irish emigration.

Day Three (forging ahead!)

By Friday I was starting to feel a little bit of information overload but I forged ahead with “Navigating the Best Online Sources for Irish Research” by Donna Moughty, “The Problem-Solver’s Great Trifecta: GPS+FAN+DNA” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Scots-Irish Research” by Robert McLaren, “Illinois: Research in the Prairie State” by Diane Renner Walsh, and “Using DNA as a Genealogical Record” by Angie Bush.  I also spent some additional time browsing the exhibit hall and networking with other attendees.  I made it a point to stop by the MoSGA booth so I could place a pin on my Missouri ancestor’s location.  The map was looking really good by that point.

MOSGA Map

MOSGA Map

By far the most enlightening session of the day was Angie Bush’s session on DNA.  I’d set aside my DNA results for a bit because I’d been feeling a little overwhelmed trying to learn about the results but Angie’s session re-invigorated me and I left with a new determination to figure out what my results were trying to tell me.

Day Four (the end is near!)

By the last day the crowd of attendees had noticiably declined.  Sessions were still full but not over-full.  I spent the day in sessions, attending “What Grandma Did & Did Not Tell You” by Jan Alpert, “Smiths and Joneses: How to Cope with Families of Common Names” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Military Bounty Land-As Good As a Pension” by Rick Sayre, “Have You Tested Your DNA?  Is There a Non-Paternity Event in Your Family?” by Jan Alpert, “Beating the Odds: Using Indirect Evidence in Problem Solving” by Vic Dunn and “Five Proven Techniques for Finding Your Ancestor’s European Origin” by Thomas Jones.  Elizabeth Shown Mills’ session on common names was the most enlightening and her case studies were excellent to learn from but Thomas Jones’ case studies were equally as good and very interesting.  I left the last day feeling excited to return to my research and disappointed knowing the conference was over.

Overall I enjoyed the conference.  I met some great people, learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The NGS staff and local volunteers were wonderful and happy to help with any questions or concerns.  The crowds were somewhat frustrating at times but it was nice to hear the conference was so successful with over 2,100 registered attendees.  I certainly hope I have the opportunity to attend next year’s conference.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #2 – Samuel Bowlby

Today’s ancestor is Samuel Bowlby, my husband’s third great-grandfather.

Some basic facts:
Name: Samuel Bowlby
Born: 20 April 1841
Parents: John Bowlby and Mollie (Miller) Bowlby
Spouse: Rosannah (King) Bowlby
Marriage: Unknown
Died: 2 May 1909

Samuel was born 20 April 1841 in Somerset, Pennsylvania, USA.  He was born to John Bowlby and Mollie (Miller) Bowlby.  He married Rosannah King on an unknown date.  Samuel and Mollie had five children: Georgina Augusta Bowlby, Frank R. Bowlby, Joseph Victor Bowlby, Jennie Elizabeth Bowlby, and Emma Bowlby.

I haven’t had the chance to locate the vital records for Samuel but verbal data from the family indicates he was born 20 April 1841.  I have not located a tombstone for him yet, but verbal data indicates he was buried in Lyleton, Manitoba, Canada.

I haven’t had the opportunity to search records for Samuel and his family.  I’m not well-versed in Canadian records so I also need to do some reading on what Canadian records are available for this time period.

Samuel died 2 May 1909 in Lyleton, Manitoba, Canada.  His burial location is currently unknown.

Here’s my genealogy list for Samuel:

Have:

Need:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate (Rosannah King)
  • Death Certificate
  • Check for appearance in U.S. federal census records
  • Check for appearance in Canadian census records
  • Check for appearance in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Iowa state census records (states children were born in)

52ancestors-2015

Saving the Squalus

In May 2014 the spousal unit and I paid a visit to the Iowa kin en route from Nebraska back home.  I was working a conference in Nebraska and it was a great opportunity to stop in, see family, and talk some genealogy.  They were gracious enough to let me photograph and scan some items in their care that belonged to my Uncle Frank.  I haven’t had a chance to write much about the Conwell side of my family because I’ve been concentrating my efforts on lesser-researched branches of my family and the spousal unit’s family.

I think the Universe is trying to tell me to start writing about them.

Rewinding to March 2014, I briefly wrote about Uncle Frank (who is technically my great-uncle) in Christmas Came Early in Genealogy-land when a gentleman from Oklahoma contacted me about some Conwell family items that had come into his possession.  Several of these items belonged to Frank.  So I devoted part of a blog post to the excitement of first contact but didn’t pursue writing about the Conwell side.

During our visit the Iowa kin mentioned they planned to take some of Frank’s items to Bismarck, North Dakota where Antiques Roadshow was going to be filming.  We thought that was pretty cool and shared their excitement about the trip but it didn’t really enter our mind that they would really make it on the show.  But they did.  So what did they take?  They took items from Frank’s Naval career.  A very basic explanation of a salvage diver is a Naval diver who assists with any type of salvage operation.  They also have other job duties like construction and demolition but Frank’s 10 minutes of fame related to his work in salvage.

On May 23, 1939 the submarine U.S.S. Squalus set out on her final test dive.  Her final dive began well but ended in disaster when she sunk with her crew aboard.  In an unprecedented rescue, 33 of the crew who survived the initial disaster were rescued from the Squalus, which rested 240 feet below the surface.  As with any heroic effort, there was a great deal of publicity about the rescue of the Squalus crew and the divers involved in the rescue operation.  It was an effort worth the recognition it received.  Much less publicized was the salvage of the Squalus after the crew’s rescue.  This is the part of the diving operation Frank participated in.  Diving in 1939 was a very dangerous activity.  The environment was unpredictable and the equipment was cumbersome.  Ascending to the surface too quickly meant serious medical complications for the diver.  An incorrect move or calculation by a diver or sailors assisting the diver could mean an untimely end.

Diving Suit
                 Diving Suit (Pixabay)

So what does any of this have to do with Antiques Roadshow?  Frank was awarded the Navy Cross for his participation in the salvage dive.  His Navy Cross and citation along with a photo album of the salvage of the Squalus, a wooden carving of a diver (hand carved by Frank while on ship), and Good Conduct Medal were pieces of the collection which the Iowa kin took to the Antiques Roadshow taping.

Frank never talked about his medals that I can remember.  I don’t recall him mentioning the Squalus, nor do I remember him ever talking about having saved the life of a bystander watching the Squalus salvage operation but he made the newspaper for both of those acts.  I heard about all of it from my grandfather.  I also heard about the medical issues Frank had because of his diving activities from my grandfather.  My uncle was a man who enjoyed the company of family and thought the world of my son, nicknaming him “The Boss” when he was just a toddler.  I always equated him with the carvings which held real estate in my grandparents’, and then my parents’ homes.  They’re absolutely gorgeous carvings and each one was hand carved by Frank while he was ship-bound.

Conwell Frank Russell Deep Sea Diving Suit Carving
Deep Sea Diver carving by
Frank R. Conwell

The episode of Antiques Roadshow featuring Frank’s items aired on February 16, 2015 and can be viewed here for you dear readers who are interested.  A follow up article entitled “Saving the Squalus” was posted after the episode aired.

The Universe’s final knock on the door came recently.  A fellow researcher contacted me through Find A Grave asking if I was related to Frank.  When she found out how I was related she generously offered to send me copies of the diving log from the Squalus rescue and salvage operations, which not only had entries made by Frank, but also contained his signature and an entry regarding his treatment in a decompression chamber.

Frank was born 1 August 1912 in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri to Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. and Zella May McCabe.  He joined the Navy in 1931.  During his time in the Navy he completed training for Carpenter’s Mate Second Class, Carpenter’s Mate First Class, Deep Sea Diving (attaining a dive depth of 300 feet in 1939), was awarded numerous swimming medals, a Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Navy America Defense Service Medal and Naval Cross.  He re-enlisted several times and obtained apprenticeship training as a plumber.  Frank married Maybelle Victoria “Mabel” Boileau on the 19 November 1940 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut.  They didn’t have any children together but Mabel brought one child into the marriage.  Mabel died on the 27 May 1988 in Jamul, San Diego, California.  Frank lived several more years and died on the 13 April 2001 in El Cahon, San Diego, California and is buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

On my lengthy list of genealogical documents to obtain is Frank’s military service record.  I’ve seen some of the photos he took while in service and am very curious where he sailed and what ships he served on.