Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was officially established as a national holiday in 1971, although celebrating the day actually began soon after the civil war. Memorial Day is designated as a day to remember the men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country, whereas Veteran's Day is designed to honor all veteran's, dead or alive. Today I remember members of my family that made the ultimate sacrifice.

2nd Lieutenant Jesse C. Turnage
Co. D, 51st Enrolled Missouri Militia
Civil War
Killed 18 July 1864

Sgt. James Smith Trabue
356th Infantry Regiment
89th Infantry Division
World War I
Killed 11 November 1918

TEC 5 Warren Edward Kuhn
814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
World War II
Killed 17 March 1945

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A quest for immortality?

Allegory of immortality by Giulio Romano
Today I was watching one of my favorite television programs: Craft in America. It is a series on PBS that explores craft, craft artisans and craft techniques across America. This particular episode delved in to the message artisans try to convey through their work and featured glass artist Beth Lipman of Wisconsin, among others. I was extremely taken by one comment Lipman made. She described how creating art allowed her to try to reach immortality.

At first I was taken aback...immortality? That is rather pompous. But then I took a moment to really think about the idea. Immortality does not only refer to lasting fame, but also to unending existence. Isn't that what genealogists work toward every day? Perhaps not consciously, but by trying to trace our family and preparing products for sharing with our living relatives we not only create a type of immortality for ourselves, but bring our ancestors out of obscurity with their own form of life after death.

My great-aunt Bruna McGuire, was a family historian. She co-authored at least two books about our family lines and also wrote a weekly newspaper column for the local Lexington, Missouri newspaper. Would I have ever really known Aunt Bruna without her genealogy interests? I may have seen photos of her, but I would not have really known her. Proof positive that she lives on...even though she passed forty years ago.

So I am officially on a quest for immortality. I pledge to do my best to bring my ancestors their own bit of unending existence and perhaps a little for myself as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Surname Saturday - Megonnigil

A few days ago I wrote about the myriad of ways to spell the surname: Megonnigil. There are so many things that have grown to become the bane of my genealogical existence, but I truly think this name is at or near the top. In an effort to spread the word on this family, and hopefully break down a wall or two, I will share what I know of this line.
Colonel Henderson Megonnigil, bugler, 6th Cavalry Regiment, MSM
I am connected to the Megonnigil line through my 3rd-great grandmother, Lucinda Megonnigil. She was born in Camden, Ray County, Missouri in 1851 and married James Madison Thomas October 23, 1870. Lucinda died January 26, 1912 in the same town she was born in and I was able to link her to her parents through her death certificate. They are listed as Colonel H. Megonnigil and Mary Akers.

I have only been able to find a little bit on Colonel and Mary. In 1850, 1860 and 1870, Colonel and Mary lived in Ray County, Missouri, Jackson County, Missouri and then Ray County, Missouri, respectively. Colonel is listed as born in Illinois. He also served in the Civil War as a bugler for the Union in the 6th Regiment Calvary Missouri State Militia. It appears he served for the entire war with this unit. I also found record of him as a prisoner of war at Roseville, Arkansas, but that is not substantiated. He may have also fought in the Mexican War.

Colonel and Mary Megonnigil had six children that I am aware of: Lucinda (1851), Mary Isabel (1854), Elizabeth (1857), Annie (1864), John Nelson (1866) and Malinda (1869).
John Nelson and Fannie (Clevenger) Megonnigil
The 1870 census is the last record I find of either Colonel or his wife, Mary. I have located a few of their children on the 1880 census and the younger ones are living with their siblings or boarding with other families, which leads me to believe that both Colonel and Mary are dead prior to 1880. I have found several trees online that link Colonel to Eli Megonnigil, also living in Ray County, Missouri, as his father. I have found no documents linking Colonel to Eli, although with such a unique name I am sure they are related somehow.

So what is next? Perhaps I need to "back door" my research and learn more about Eli Megonnigil to see if I can find a link back to Colonel. I could also contact the county clerk and request any probate records they may have for either individual, though I am not certain of any death dates. The surname continues to rankle me!

Photos courtesy of the Smith and Cooley Tree.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Follow Friday - Missouri Digital Heritage

I do not keep it a secret that I hail from the best state in the union: Missouri. It is a wonderful state for so many reasons, but today I highlight the wonders of Missouri genealogy research. A website that has been crucial in the research of my Missouri ancestors is Missouri Digital Heritage, a collaborative initiative led by the Missouri Secretary of State to expand the amount of online information regarding the history of Missouri.

The site has often been lauded in Family Tree Magazine's Top 100 websites and for good reason. It is most often referenced for it's database of Missouri death certificates from 1910-1960, but there are so many other great resources on the site that it is hard to choose some to highlight. I have found many a veteran ancestor in their Missouri Soldier’s Database: War of 1812 - WWI and the site currently explores the history of Missouri in the Civil War with links to collections, research guides and lesson plans. I also found an interesting link to the process behind preserving the Dred Scott papers, a good read for anyone interested in preserving documents.

There are legal documents, maps, newspapers, naturalization records...the list goes on and on. If you have ancestors that even stepped in Missouri at some point, I would hazard a guess that you could find them at the Missouri Digital History site. In short, it's good to be from Missouri.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How do you spell that? has this neat little function on their homepage entitled Recent Member Connect Activity. I both love and hate this function. I love it because it brings to my attention new research options and reminds me to check out lines I have neglected. I hate it because it only compounds my genealogy ADD. A couple of days ago I saw that another user had added files for the Megonnigil family. Alas, I went to my own Megonnigil line, which I don't have much information for, and was reminded why I had neglected them. How do you spell that? Let me count the ways:
Colonel H. Megonnigil, courtesy
Smith and Cooley Tree

I have two spellings of the name in my own tree! I will have to be very motivated to break through this wall.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The burden of leadership...and fatherhood - Military Monday

I just learned yesterday that John Hankins, my fourth great grandfather on my mother's side, was a civil war veteran. Military research is one of my favorite aspects of genealogy and I thought I had tracked down all of my veteran relatives, but somehow John slipped through. He was a Union captain assigned to the 51st Enrolled Missouri Militia. The 51st E.M.M. spent the war in the counties of Caroll, Ray, Livingston and Lafayette. The unit participated in several large skirmishes, but were mostly concerned with containing the antics of the Missouri Bushwackers, or guerrilla units. One of the Soldiers in Cpt. Hankin's unit was 2nd Lieutenant Jesse C. Turnage, another 4th great grandfather, that was murdered by bushwackers in 1864.

I noticed that John Hankins was fairly old, 47, at the time of the war so I began to wonder...were his sons enlisted as well? It turns out that two of his sons were in the war: Thomas, aged, 23 and Daniel, aged 21. His sons were assigned to Cpt. Hankins' Company; their father was their company commander. A war command puts a lot of pressure on an individual, much of which is the knowledge that the lives of others, to some extent, are in your hands. I can not fathom the extra burden of having your children be among that number as well. The idea of telling your child to storm a hill or charge the enemy is difficult to swallow. But perhaps John Hankins would have rather had his sons near him, where he could keep a watchful eye over them.

All three of the Hankins men survived the war but I imagine that John Hankins walked away a different man...perhaps walking an inch or two taller for having seen his family through it all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

President "O'Bama" tracks his roots

I came across a news story today that mentions Barack Obama's visit to Ireland which will include a visit to the village of his Irish ancestors. I'm sure all kinds of cousins will come out of the woodwork. Read the article here.

The actual trip is described in this article.

Friday, May 20, 2011

U.S. Army Center of Military History - Follow Friday

The U.S. Army Center of Military History is the entity responsible for recording the history of the U.S. Army. Their website contains a plethora of information on all historical aspects of the Army from its inception to its roll in The War on Terrorism. The website features lineage and honors for many of the units in the Army, both active and reserve, as well as .PDF versions of Army History, the professional bulletin of army history. My current favorite feature is the new page commemorating the Civil War's sesquicentennial. The page features many links, an informative timeline and art and photographs from the era.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A little patience goes a long way - Thankful Thursday

It's been three and a half months since I first wrote about my random find of a distant relative's civil war document collection at the Wichita State University Special Collections library here.  The library holds a collection of documents from Milton H. Myers, a civil war veteran and husband of Mary Cutler, my 3rd great grand aunt. Among the documents was a listing for a history of the Bodine family, a branch of my tree that has stalled as far as research goes. Eliza Bodine married James Cutler in Ohio in 1840 and had four children before her death in 1855. Their first daughter was Bertha Cutler, my 3rd great grandmother, that I have written quite a bit about on this blog.

I first tried to contact the Wichita State University Special collections library staff by email, but after a couple of months of no response I decided to try the old-fashioned way. I actually wrote a letter. Lo and behold today I received an email from one of the staff members with a reproduction permission application attached. See how patient I was?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mexican Genealogy Research...where are the records?

Several years ago, during a phase of heightened genealogy invincibility, I offered to work on the genealogy of a friend. I was having such luck with my own I wanted to share the wealth. Little did I know that I was not quite that talented. See, my friend's family is from Mexico and settled in San Antonio in the early 1900s. When I first started my search it was before Footnote, the much more robust FamilySearch and the myriad of newspaper archive sites. So I found little to nothing on her line. I was able to find a few birth records from Texas and that was it. I was embarrassed and I learned my lesson: don't promise what you can't provide.

Cathedral of Monterrey, Mexico. Photograph courtesy of we work for free, wikimedia commons.
So after a few years I decided to try it again. Her grandmother had died a couple of years ago and I was able to find her obituary which was a major break in the case. With all the new record repositories online I was able to track her family back to Mexico. But here is where the trail runs cold. I haven't been able to find many Mexican records digitized. I'm not going to Mexico anytime soon so there will be no boots-on-the-ground research. I have checked out a book from the library on Mexican genealogy research and I am hoping that it will help me to find the records I need. I suppose the next step is to try and order LDS films...once again "old school" may save the day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I've been chain linked

This morning as I was catching up on my blog reading I came across a post by Jenna at Desperately Seeking Surnames entitled "Musings On A Monday: Lack of Courtesy or Lack of Common Sense?" Her post discusses the use of posted information on publicly accessible family trees on and the etiquette of "lifting/borrowing/coping documents and photos" from said trees. I was enraptured by her post as I also feel this topic needs a little airing least among those of us that care, hence my post topic.

I concur with Jenna that those that borrow documents, photos and sources should try to contact the owner of tree. After all, it is another cousin. Plus, as she mentioned, she has quite a bit more information that is not posted on her Ancestry tree, information that would be valuable to other researchers. It is just good researching to track down a source to find more sources. Each tree owner is another bibliography. What's so hard about an email?

But, as usual, I took it further. I got on my proverbial soapbox here regarding accepting trees found online as fact. As a journalist it has been hammered into my head that nothing in a news story is mine. Every sentence and thought must be attributed to someone...if not it's just an editorial. So perhaps that is why I am passionate about knowing the origination of sources for family trees. I'll be the first to admit that my trees are not 100% sourced. Even saying 70% sourced would be a bit generous, but I still work very hard to provide a link, however tenuous, between generations. Providing that link has cost me many, many hours and not some little money.

Imagine my dismay then when I continually found that my public family trees had been "chain linked" by numerous other users. Why did they accept my tree and its sources as fact? Don't they follow The Code of attributing information? That would mean they would have to write me and ask where I found the information...and I'm still waiting for an email. I was dismayed and not a little disheartened. So I changed my trees to private.

But after a while I determined to return my trees to the public world. After contemplating it long and hard, I realized that it comes down to why I do this hobby. It isn't for the recognition of a great find or to horde my information. I do it because it is something I enjoy. I am passionate about it and I am passionate about making sure it is accurate. So if someone wants to chain link my tree than so be it...I will have become a source for them and hopefully at least a 70% accurate one at that.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Civil War Remembered - May 14, 1861

May 14, 1861

Marcellus Fulton White enlists as a private at Salem, Virginia, in Company "A," 9th Virginia Infantry. During this time the regiment performed service for the state of Virginia. Marcellus White was born and raised in Salem, Roanoke County, Virginia, and came from several long lines of wealthy farmers in the area: the Whites, the McClanahans and the Lewis families.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Help Stamp out Hunger - Follow Friday

Genealogists love the post office. Or rather, this genealogist does. They are the deliverers of genealogical gems from copies of wills to packets of photographs. (I choose to ignore the fact that they are also the bearers of bills.) I have sent countless inquiries through the U.S. Postal Office and waited semi-patiently for the potential gold that a response would bring. So it should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of the post office. That being said, tomorrow is the Letter Carriers' Food Drive to Stamp Out Hunger. Simply leave non-perishable items at your mail box tomorrow, May 14, and your letter carrier will deliver them to a local food bank. Too easy. Okay, this is a bit of a stretch as far as the guidelines of the "Follow Friday" prompt go, but I love getting mail and I love helping people so it is a perfect fit. For more information visit

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Similar, but not the same - Wordless (ish) Wednesday

These two gentlemen are from my White family line. The gentleman on the right is my 2nd-great grandfather, Hugh C. White. The gentleman on the left is unknown. Their ears and their mouth areas are the same...perhaps a brother?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Adding source information to image files - Tuesday's Tip

I have hundreds of family photographs and documents in image format (.jpg, .gif, .png, etc.) saved in my genealogy files. When I save them to my computer I try to give them obvious titles such as "White Family 1900 federal census." But my naming conventions don't always offer me a way to indicate the source of the file or who the people are in a group photo.

In order to maintain order in my image files I insert source and photograph information within the properties of the file itself. There are several ways to do this, and I will cover a couple here. The first will be using Windows Photo Viewer. Those of us working on a PC and Windows platform use this program when viewing our image files.
The above .jpg is a roll of Confederate Prisoners at Fort Delaware, Delaware, but there is nothing on the .jpg image itself to indicate it's source. To add this information to the file, click on File and then Properties.
This will bring up the Properties window for that image.

The properties window shows four tabs along the top: General, Security, Details and Previous Versions. Click on the Details tab.
The information under this tab highlights the description of the image file. The top portion allows you to give the image a title, name the subject, and add tags and comments. Because I'm fairly lazy, I just insert all the information I want to add under the Comments box. In this case, you can see I added the complete source citation for the image. I also have used this comments section to list the names of individuals in a photo...especially useful for group photographs. After entering your information simply click okay and it is saved for reference later.

You can also add file information in photo editing programs. When you create or open an image file in Adobe Photoshop you can embed file information on the image by clicking File then File Info.
Doing so will open the File Info window which offers a myriad of options for adding information about your file.
Each word in the left-hand column indicates another tab within the file information window, similar to the Windows Photo Viewer Properties window.

Detailed information can also be added to your image files through Windows Photo Gallery. Play around with the programs on your computer to find what method you like best. Adding sources and names to images will go a long way in helping you to organize your family history images.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The search for Marcellus' land - Mappy Monday

Marcellus White is "THE" brick wall in my ancestry at the moment. I have written numerous times about Marcellus and his elusiveness. I recently checked out The Family Tree Problem Solver, by Marsha Hoffman Rising, from my library with the wondrous idea that the book may lead me to a new line of inquiry. A chapter in the book call "Give me Land - Lots of Land" hit me smack in the face. I had never tried to locate land for Marcellus. He was a farmer and I have been told by family that the land still owned by the Whites has been in the family for many years. I did look for probate records for Marcellus, assuming his land would have been given to family, but Ray County, Missouri has no record of his death or any probate records.

Today I looked at numerous sources trying to locate land record information for Ray County, Missouri. I started at the Ray County GenWeb site and browsed the records there. No luck. Then I headed to the Missouri Digital Heritage website and located a Missouri Platbooks Collection. The collection includes Plat books for the state of Missouri dated from between 1920-1930, long after Marcellus died in 1898. But it dawned on me that if I could locate any land owned by a White in my family I might be able to trace it to Marcellus. I knew the White family had lived in the Grape Grove township of Ray County so I browsed that map. I located H.C. White listed as owning 200 acres of land. H.C. White, or Hugh Cleveland, was my 2nd great-grandfather and the third son of Marcellus.
The land is on section 25/26 and T.53N and R.27W. So what does that mean? Is it possible that Hugh received his land from his father? Marcellus' oldest son lived in another part of the county and did not own the land he farmed. The second oldest son lived with Hugh and appears to be farming the same land with him. Where to go from here?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Always there

Happy Mother's Day
I have the most beautiful mom in the world. Not only is she beautiful on the outside, she has been the most supportive person in my life. She was there for every pom-pom practice and parade and competition, every single orchestra and choir concert and all of my track meets. One of my favorite memories of my mother is seeing her in the crowd as I came around the last bend of a 300-meter hurdle race. She was jumping up and down and screaming for me, still in her work clothes as she rushed to the track straight from work so she wouldn't miss my race. Always there. And I will always love her.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why Ancestry "leaves" don't pay off

Yesterday I came across a post written by Jenna at Desperately Seeking Surnames in which she muses on the "shaking leaves" of fame. She discusses the gripes many people have made regarding the commercials making the "shaking leaves" seem like an oasis of factually correct genealogical data, rather than what they really are: a possible link to a possible connection. I agree with Jenna that the leaves are a nice thing to never know what you may find.

My issue with the shaking leaves is that they are meant not only to show links to possible online trees that match, but also links to documents in their collection that may refer to my ancestors. I have found that I have received very few leaves linking me to potential document matches and when I do it is for a census...and usually for an incorrect person. It seems like such a lost opportunity. The databases are massive and it would take a lifetime to search each database for each ancestor. The leaves, and obviously the Ancestry search engine, are built to keep me from having to spend so much time searching, yet their results never seem to get me any deeper than census data.

This all came to the forefront this morning as I was reading the blogs I follow. One of my favorites, NARAtions, the blog of the U.S. National Archives, posted on Confederate Prisoner of War Records. This archive includes records kept by the Union Army on the Confederate prisoners of war they held captive at various prisons. The post mentions that these documents are digitized and in a searchable database on Sweet! I say. Of course I hopped over and in a matter of minutes I found four documents on two of my ancestors: Marcellus F. White and Samuel O. McGuire.
But what a round-about way to get there! I had to randomly read a blog post to learn of the records and their archive, jump to Ancestry and search the archive. Perhaps one day search engines will do as advertised and show me that my ancestor "was the only doctor in town." Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have found the documents regardless of how they came about. But wouldn't it have just been easier to have a shaking leaf?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Took His Hand and Followed - Thankful Thursday

I came across the following poem last night and was reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to be able to spend my days with two wonderful little boys. I was so inspired that I marked today as Little Dude's choice on what to do. He chose his favorite outing: a trip "downtown" with a visit to the library for new books, a smoothie snack and a ride on the trolley. Today I took his hand and followed and I am so glad I did.

I Took His Hand and Followed
by Mrs. Roy L. Peifer

My dishes went unwashed today,
I didn't make the bed,
I took his hand and followed
Where his eager footsteps led.

Oh yes, we went adventuring,
My little son and I...
Exploring all the great outdoors
Beneath the summer sky

We waded in a crystal stream,
We wandered through a wood...
My kitchen wasn't swept today
But life was gay and good.

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade
And now my small son knows
How Mother Bunny hides her nest,
Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

We watched a robin feed her young,
We climbed a sunlit hill...
Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,
We plucked a daffodil.

That my house was neglected,
That I didn't brush the stairs,
In twenty years, no one on earth
Will know, or even care.

But that I've helped my little boy
To noble manhood grow,
In twenty years, the whole wide world
May look and see and know.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The mysterious "Ibid" - Tuesday's Tip

It has been many years since I was in school and was required to understand the make up of bibliographies. I love to research, but I have done a complete brain dump on any type of "style" manual that I was ever forced to memorize...except of course the AP Stylebook (which I use for work). I have a theory that if a style manual has an acronym in it's title it might be too much heavy reading for this mind.

But now that I am researching deeper in to the lives of my ancestors, and becoming more interested in historical research overall, I am learning to appreciate the need for style guides. I recently decided to read more about the Red River Campaign of 1864, which took place in Louisiana. I had two relatives that participated in the campaign, so I decided to check out two books from my library to learn more about the battles of the campaign. I knew my third-great grandfather was captured on the City Belle (read more here), which took place on the Red River. The book I checked out only talked very briefly of the City Belle incident, but did give a reference to another book. I looked at the bottom of the page and found "Ibid" and the page number. Hmm...what?

I admit that I had to Google it. Turns out that Ibid. is an abbreviation of the latin word "ibidem" which means "in the same place." In researching terms it means that the author is referring to the previous stated source; rather than type the title again and again they replace it with Ibid. Ibid must refer only to the previous stated source. If you use another source in between you must list the source in full. Following uses of Ibid. would then refer to that second source. Apparently, this is now considered an old-school practice as many manuals suggest that subsequent uses of the same source just state the author's name and page numbers. So, you've had your acronym style-manual lesson today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

WWI embroidered silk postcards - Military Monday

I have a new obsession: World War I embroidered postcards. I know, obscure, but I find them fascinating. As may be obvious from some of my blog posts I am very much interested in World War I. I did not have any direct-line ancestors participate in this war, but I still find it fascinating...perhaps because I do not have a connection to it. I have always loved postcards and have been collecting them since I was very young. I found my first embroidered silk postcard at my favorite local antique store a couple of months ago. It was only $ could I say no?
Embroidered silk postcards first appeared around 1900 at the Paris Exposition and peaked in popularity during World War I (1914-1918). The cards were machine embroidered and in the beginning were made of high-quality materials with high attention to detail, but towards the end of the war the quality begins to drop due to the need to fulfill demand. The postcards were a very popular souvenir for service members in France and millions were made. What draws me to these collectibles is that they were an inexpensive way for Soldiers to show their love to those they left behind...and now I can hold that little bit of love.

Collectors should look for cards with little aging, thread that has maintained its brightness and themes that are unique. In short, not my sample shown above! For more information on embroidered silk postcards visit the Australian War Memorial: Guide to the Silk Postcard Collection and Gabrian Silk Postcards.