Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why I wrote this blog

Back in the 1980's and '90's I was quite passionate about family history research. In addition to doing a lot of work on my own family lines, I worked in a genealogy library helping to teach other people how to get started with it. However, that was a long time ago - before genealogy (or anything else for that matter) went digital.  So my research methods back then were most definitely "old school".  I went to court houses.  I wrote letters which were mailed at a post office to various libraries and genealogical organizations.  I walked through cemeteries.  I cranked lots of microfilm machines.  It was rewarding, but rather tedious, expensive and slow to track down new information.

Then as time went by, my life got very busy with career and family responsibilities.  I had two very active sons who kept life interesting with all their activities.  When they got older, I went back to school to complete a graduate degree.   After that I was immersed in establishing a career.  Along the way our family moved a few times.  Basically, life got full and I allowed a lot of other things to take precedence over my genealogical research.  

During the next decade or so,  most of my family history records got put on the back burner.  Once I packed it all up for one of our moves, I never really got it all out again to have it be an ongoing part of my activities.  I would go back and dabble in it a bit from time to time whenever circumstances would allow, or if I learned of a new lead.  But I was not nearly as focused on keeping up with it as I previously had been.

Then around 2010-2011 I decided it was time to get it all out to take stock of what records I had and to organize it again.  I got into a Family History class at my church and that re-ignited the old spark of passion.  An aunt and uncle I hadn't spoken to in years sent me several boxes of  old family photos, documents and personal correspondences when they were clearing out closets.  Filled with renewed energy for the project, I was ready to pick up where I had left off.  However, I discovered the whole world of family history research had changed dramatically with the advancement of the Internet.  Genealogy had gone digital while my back was turned!

Today I have a whole new set of tools and research methods from how I did things before.  So I decided to embrace those tools by using the internet as a means of  both recording data I had collected and for sharing my love of family history research with others.  This is why:

1) I want to PRESERVE my information. By recording my various family information digitally and posting it on this blog, it keeps it safe, no matter what happens to my original records. Potential dangers of flood, fire, mice, or other destructive elements are far less of a threat when my data and images and saved to the "virtual cloud". Beyond that, most of my family does not have much interest in genealogy. It's quite possible that when I grow old and feeble or die, someone cleaning out my house may pitch out the whole stack. Saving things digitally will insure that my many years of gathering information will not go down the drain once I am no longer there to watch over it.

2) I want to SHARE my information with others. Even though no one in my immediate family is particularly interested in these records, other people might be. My great grandparents had many descendants through other lines besides my own who I know nothing about. Perhaps one of them will one day go looking. Or, it may be someone from a generation not even born yet will one day wonder where they came from. Google did not exist when I first started doing family history research. Now with a few clicks, people anywhere in the world can search for information. By putting the info up on the internet it will make it possible for others to find pictures, documents, stories and other information that took me years to track down.

3) I want to ORGANIZE my information. I've collected quite a bit of stuff over the years.  There are boxes and boxes of miscellaneous papers in my collection, in addition to the files and books I generally keep in my office.   There is so much material that even with the best of filing systems it is hard to find what I need when I want to locate a particular image or piece of information. By having everything converted to digital format it's much easier to store and sort. With a few clicks of the mouse I can get to the family group I am looking for and then sort by generation. In a few minutes I can find just what I'm looking for without losing every horizontal surface of my home to stacks of paper or straining my back searching through boxes in my storage shed. It just makes sense to me to keep things this way,

4) I want to VALIDATE my information.
 No matter how careful I've been, it's always possible that errors have crept in as I copied over information from court houses, cemeteries or other people's records.  It is also possible some of the information provided to me by others was not complete or not accurate to begin with. By having it out on display like this, if there is anyone else who may be researching the same families, they can let me know if they notice mistakes in what I am claiming.

I really do try to be careful in putting my information together, but I know very well I am not perfect.  I do not take offense at all if someone tells me "hey - you've got that information wrong" or "you did that the wrong way".
I am eager to make my records as accurate as I possibly can, so I welcome any feedback from others who may find something that needs fixed.

This blog has three main sections. The links at the TOP portion of the sidebar are tools that I routinely use that I have gathered here just to make it easy for me to access by having them all in one place.  In the middle are the lessons.  These are summaries of the class I took at my church that kick started my re-entry into the world of genealogy.  Those are there as a reminder for my own benefit, as well as aids to potentially help others who have an interest in family history.  At the bottom of the side bar are Links to information about the families I am doing research on.  I keep most of my own data on FamilySearch and Ancestry.com.  But I also have created separate blogs for each of the main family groups that I research as a gathering place for some of the stories and photos I have.  This blog is my central key to it all so that with just one URL and one password I can readily click to everything I have.

So if you have stumbled across this humble little blog, welcome. Enjoy. I hope you find something useful.  If you have suggestions for some other resource I might want to add - please let me know.

Whatever your reasons may be for finding this page - welcome.  Isn't the digital age an amazing thing?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The People on My Pedigree Chart

My Parents:

Donald Charles Pendley
b. 25 Apr 1928  Oak Creek, AZ
d. 16 Dec 1983  Camp Verde, AZ

Nancy Ann Krebs
b. 05 Dec 1930   El Paso, TX
d. 21 Dec  1983   Phoenix, AZ

Married 25 Dec 1952   Flagstaff, AZ

My Grandparents:

Father's Parents

Frank Leslie Pendley
b. 12 Mar 1877   Austin, TX
d. 14 Oct  1954   Oak Creek, AZ

Jane Hibbard Hutchinson
b. 12 Mar 1903    Stroud, OK
d. 14 Dec 1979    Prescott, AZ

Married 21 Nov 1921  Flagstaff, AZ

Mother's parents

Louis B. Krebs
b. 04 Sep 1905   Phoenix, AZ
d. 13 Dec 1979   Cottonwood, AZ

Florence Lucille Kurtz
b. 28 Mar 1907  Barberton, OH
d. 17 Nov 1988  Camp Verde, AZ

Married 25 December 1925   Phoenix, AZ

My Great Grandparents

Father's Father's Side:

Thomas Tillman Pendley
b. 1848  GA
d. 1889 Austin, TX

Matha Hall
b. 1853  MO
d.  abt. 1892 TX

Married 30 Jul 1871  Austin, TX

Father's Mother's Side

Charles Hutchinson
b 18 Aug 1867  New York, NY
d. 31 May 1953  Wesleco, TX

Edith Thomas
b.   Dec 1873   Beloit, WI
d.   17 Jul 1910   Oak Creek, AZ

Married 12 Dec 1893  Benton, AK

Mother's Father's Side

Aola Urade Krebs
b. 20 Dec 1873  Pine Grove Mills, PA
d.  25 Jan 1929  Phoenix, AZ

Alta Geneva Booton

b. 12 Mar 1879  Mt. Zion, KY
d. 26 Jun 1944  Phoenix, AZ

Married 27 Sep 1898   Cowley, KA

Mother's Mother's Side

Emery Jacob Kurtz
b. 09 Mar 1883  Baughman, OH
d. 10 Nov 1938  Sedona, AZ
Gertrude Anna Young
b. 18 Jul. 1881 Union Township, OH
d. 29 Jul 1983  Cottonwood, AZ

Married 16 Aug 1902  Barberton, OH

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Cow Report Letters

Sometimes treasures of genealogy information can be gleaned from reading old family correspondences. Before the days of cell phones, email, twitter and FaceBook, people actually wrote letters to one another as a way to stay connected. Some of those letters still exist in attic trunks or tied up with satin ribbons in a shoe box under somebody's bed.

Ask other family members if they know of any correspondences, Bible records or other family records that may be around. If the person you ask does not have them, they may know who will. You could be surprised by the wealth of information available to you. I know of some who have felt a special closeness to ancestors who left detailed margin notes in old recipe books!

I was fortunate enough to inherit a packet of family letters written by my great grandfather on my mother's side, Aola Urade Krebs. His oldest daughter, Fern, had gone to Japan to work as a secretary for the Methodist church. For the years that she was in Japan her father wrote to her faithfully every couple of weeks. Fern kept many of those letters and I now have them.
You can imagine my excitement when I received this package of letters from my grandmother. I was sure I would learn all sorts of detail about the history of my family in the lines of those long ago correspondences. In some cases, that would have been true. Not, however, with these.

My great grandfather worked for Central Arizona Dairy in Phoenix, Arizona. If there ever was a man who loved his cows, it was Aola Urade Krebs. Nearly all the letters to Fern are filled with infinite detail about the health and well being of each cow at the dairy. He reports meticulously how many gallons of milk were received and how much cream they gave. He tells all sorts of things about the operation of a dairy farm in the early 1900's. Then, almost as an after thought, he would quickly scribble at the bottom of the page "mother and children are doing fine."

I was deeply disappointed by the lack of usable family history information in these letters and almost gave up after reading six or seven that were all pretty much the same story - cows, cows and more cows. But I did not give up. I am tenacious if nothing else. I kept reading page after difficult-to-decipher page in my great grandfathers wavy handwriting. Finally it paid off.
In one letter he remarks that it is his wedding anniversary. EUREKA! Until I found that note I had no idea when he had married. This gave me a solid date in the man's own hand, something I could be sure of. Over the years I have learned to appreciate these letters more than I initially did, because for all they lack in family anecdotes, they really do give me insight into my great grandfather's work ethic and his affinity for his vocation. They help me understand what was important to him.
They also inspire me to turn off the computer and write a few old fashioned correspondences of my own from time to time. I can't imagine anyone keeping even the best phrased emails for 100 years. These letters from great grandpa are about that old. Hopefully in my own letters, however, I 'll say more than "mother and kids are doing fine.".

Getting Help from the Other Side

Over on my "Pile o' Pendleys" page I list my grandmother's lineage to Elder William Brewster, spiritual leader of the pilgirms who came to this country on the ship Mayflower. What I did not tell there is the story of how I came to have the document which proves this.
The document is a letter from the Mayflower historical society written in 1905 to Kate Thomas (my grandmother's aunt who raised her) listing each generation from her father (John L.V. Thomas) back to William Brewster.

I have a dim memory of my mother showing me the document when I was a very little girl.  I remember being in awe of that letter, so old and so important. I handled it gingerly, imagining the lives of the generations of my family listed there in faint, curly script.

My mom had the best of intentions for gathering and preserving information about our family. She really did mean well. But she did not have an organized bone in her body. Her way of dealing with "stuff" was to put it in a box to sort through and put away later. For most things, later never came. So her closets, the garage and just about any other available space in her home were filled with many, many boxes of hodge podge gathered up items that had nothing to do with each other. There was no filing system. There was no order at all. As a result of her disorganized, chaotic way of living, she lost the Mayflower letter early on and never could find it despite several frantic searches.
After my mother died in 1983 I had the job of flying to Arizona to clean out her house to prepare it for sale. It was quite a chore. Room after room was filled with things I had no idea what to do with. Much of it had tremendous sentimental value, but not anything that would be of much worth to anyone else. Since most of my siblings lived several states away it would have been expensive to ship boxes of things none of us had seen for many years. So most of it got sent to the local thrift shop or just outright thrown away. I rented a big dumpster which was delivered to the driveway of the house where I'd grown up. I spent many hours tossing away mementos of my childhood with tears streaming down my face.
After I finished with the house stuff I went to the garage. By that time I was tired, sore, and emotionally exhausted. I took one look at that garage and became totally overwhelmed. It was floor to ceiling boxes stacked in rows three deep on each side with just a little path to walk between them. Where would I even begin?
I opened up several of the boxes that were easy to get to. I felt like an archaeologist sifting through layers of a life. I found scraps of the fabric I had tried to make a dress out of in home ec class when I was in eighth grade. (Emphases on TRIED because I was a complete failure at sewing!) Why had she kept that? Under the cloth were piles of Campbell soup labels she had saved for some fund raiser at the school. Under that were her 1964 tax files and receipts. Under that were newspaper clippings about various people she knew. Under that were ...well, you get the idea. It was piles and piles of more STUFF that had meant something to her but probably should all just get thrown out.
Discouraged and tired, covered in grime and sweat, I decided I had enough. I put down the box and headed for the door. As I moved to leave the garage I got a DISTINCT impression that said STOP. It was not a voice that I heard with my ears. But it was as clear a feeling as if someone were standing right next to me. I turned all around to look, reassuring myself that no one was there. Again I moved to leave.

The second time the feeling came it was undeniable. I did not understand it. But I knew I could not leave that garage. I was to do something. But what?
I stood quietly in the garage for several minutes, gathering my thoughts. I began to pray, asking Father in Heaven to guide me to know what he would have me do.
Then, in a way I cannot explain in any sort of linear, logical fashion, I was DIRECTED to open a very specific box. Mind you this was not a box that was easy to get to. Out of the dozens, maybe hundreds of boxes that were in that garage, I got a distinct impression I was supposed to open one particular box that I had to move many others to get to.
When I finally got to THE box, I had a complete sense of confusion about what I was doing. It made no sense. Why was this box any more special than any of the rest of the junk that was stored out there? For goodness sakes, why didn't my mother ever throw anything away?
With a tired, discouraged sigh, I began sorting through the box to try to figure out why I was getting such a strong feeling. Again, I lifted out layer after layer of things that were sentimental to my mother, but of absolutely no use to me. There were things from her time as a cub scout den leader. There were papers from the time she served as president of the PTA. Under that was a bunch of stuff that looked like grocery lists, clipped obituaries, and out right junk. I thought, "this is stupid" and turned around to leave again. This time I got such a physical shock, it was as if someone were standing right there by me and grabbed me by the shoulders, saying LOOK! I know that makes no sense. But that is what I felt. 
So, feeling like I was losing my mind, I went the rest of the way through all the mess in that box. Then there, at the very bottom, there were two things: the letter from the Mayflower Society documenting my lineage to William Brewster and my grandmother's report card from the first grade.

As soon as my fingers touched those papers, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Not MY relief. But it was as if I were feeling the relief of whatever presence had directed me to search that particular box that day. I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that even though my eyes could see no one, I was not alone.
I believe with all my heart that our ancestors are waiting for us to find them. They are eager to have us learn of their lives and to feel a connection to them. I know that our kindred dead are depending on us to complete the necessary temple ordinances so they can progress in the next stage of their eternal spiritual journey. I recognize that some folks think that is a kooky idea. But to me it is as real as watching the seasons change.
I know that day in the garage,  I was guided to find a record that will have important significance in my family for years to come.  I know that when I get stuck in doing genealogy research, if I am patient and prayerful, I will at times be given help from the other side. It will not always be as dramatic as this particular experience. But I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that we are connected to others who went before us and this work of searching out and documenting family history matters.
I am grateful to my mother, who despite her complete lack of organization, did teach me to have a love of genealogy. I am also grateful to my ancestors who helped me find this special link between them and me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Time to get organized!

Whether you are just getting started at gathering family papers or are a seasoned researcher, it just makes sense to have some sort of system for keeping your records and notes organized and safe. There are a number of different ways to organize family history. There is no "right" or "best" way to do this. Some people like paper they can hold in their hands.  Others prefer keeping everything electronic.  Whatever system you use, some basic questions to ask may include: 

What is important to keep?  
(Is it original?   Does it provide unique information?  Do you have multiple copies?)

How should I organize my materials?Find a system and stick with it.   Some people put EVERYTHING having to do with a specific family together in one box or notebook.   Others put all photographs together, all documents together,  all correspondences together, etc.  Another approach is to use color coded folders for different types of records but keeping everything pertaining to each family group  in its own box or drawer.  Whatever works for you, having a system of order will help you be able to get your hands on a particular item when you want one.

How can I keep my records safe?
For paper records, it may make sense to have them scanned as a back up.  Be sure they are stored in such a way to minimize risk of damage, whether in plastic sleeves in notebooks in a bookcase or in file folders in a cabinet.

NOTE: Newspaper clippings should be photo copied or scanned.  If you choose to keep original newspaper clipping be sure you separate it from all other records as the paper tends to be acidic and can do damage to photos, documents or other records.

For electronic files, it is wise to have every file backed up, whether on separate flash drives or cloud storage.  Be sure file names make clear what the record is, and date each record.

You do not have to go to the lengths of a museum archivist.  But if you have special family records, setting up a system for keeping them in order and undamaged will make all the difference to future generations.

Here are  sources that may be helpful to figure out what sort of system will work best for you.

In a Pile or a File

Free e-book from FamilyTree Magazine:

23 Secrets to organize you genealogy

Podcast on How to Organize Family Papers - American Ancestors


I do not believe in accidents. Things happen for a reason. I am sure of this. But sometimes the "coincidences" that occur in our lives really are amazing. Today I have been sorting through my boxes and drawers of family history files to try to put them into some kind of order. Tucked down in the side of one of those files was a letter I received from my uncle, Bob Krebs, at least 12 years ago. Scratched on the bottom of the letter is a name and phone number for a cousin of ours who lived in Las Vegas at the time and was interested in family history.

The name was Fred Ferrell, someone I remember very well. About 2001 I had an opportunity to visit with Fred in Phoenix when we got together for a family gathering and to share records. I also got to know his mother well, Bertha (Bert) Krebs Elwing. Some time after our initial meeting in Arizona I visited her again at her home in San Diego. I have a picture somewhere of the two of us together taken at the San Diego Zoo.

"Aunt Bert" was the sister of my maternal grandfather, Louis Krebs. She provided me with several wonderful pictures of her siblings and told me stories about the family that were very precious to me. However, since I have moved about five times since our visits I had lost touch, and wasn't even sure if she was still alive. (She is, now 94!) Because of all my many transitions I figured the chances of Cousin Fred still having the same phone number my uncle had given me all those years ago were somewhere between slim and none, but I decided to take a chance. Fortunately for me, not everyone is as much of a tumbleweed as I am. Fred not only answered the phone after just a couple rings, he immediately remembered who I was, even though we have been out of touch for quite some time. Then, as we talked I told him of a friend of my husband's who also lives in Las Vegas, someone we have just recently learned was living there that we hope to track down. My cousin Fred immediately knew who I meant, and had in fact PLAYED CARDS WITH THE MAN just the week before. They happen to attend the same ward. What are the odds of that??? So now I am thinking there is a trip to Las Vegas to be planned in the not too distant future so my beloved can reconnect with his boyhood pal and I will be able to make contact with my family. This is just one more proof to me that doing family history work will bring blessings IN THIS LIFE as well as in the world to come.
It really is a very small world!

A Legacy to be Grateful For

My mother, Nancy Ann Krebs, was a remarkable lady. It is largely because of her efforts that I came to have an interest in family history research.

Nancy was born December 5, 1930 - the second of five children and only daughter born to Louis Krebs and Florence Kurtz. She married my father, Donald Pendley on Christmas Day 1952 when she was twenty-two and he was twenty-four.

After a miscarriage early on, Nancy and Don had five children in quick succession: Wayne in 1954, Andy in 1955, me (Lynda) in 1957, Alan in 1959 and Sharon in 1960.

Nancy converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1956, the year before I was born. My dad also joined the church a bit later, but it didn't stick with him. He became inactive by the time I was very young and later had his name removed from the rolls of the church. My mom, however, did have a strong testimony, and did the best she could to live according to the teachings of the gospel. It was through the influence of the LDS church that my mother became interested in genealogy work.

She wrote dozens of letters to people all over the country seeking information on various family lines. She placed ads in newspapers and magazines to try to make connections. Long before the Internet, she understood the importance of networking to extend family research.

My parents had a difficult, turbulent marriage that ended in divorce in 1970. I honestly don't have any memories of them ever being happy together, although I've been told they were in the early years. Beyond that, for much of my life my mom and I did not get along. During my stormy adolescent years we both said and did things that were hurtful to one another. Even after I was an adult with kids of my own, my mother and I were not close. Since I lived in a different state I seldom saw her and often went several months at a time with no contact at all. That was the case up until she died on December 21, 1983 at the age of fifty-three.

Over the years since my mother's death I've had lots of time to think about her life and the challenges she faced. There is much I wish had been different, both for her sake and mine. But despite that, I am so grateful for the legacy she left me. It is because of my mother I was taught about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. My mother also made a special point to be sure all of her children valued education and had a special love of literacy. It is absolutely because of my mother that I care about family history work. She got me started with genealogy research, showing me how to fill out a pedigree chart and family group sheet when I was about ten years old.

Because I believe families can be eternal I have confidence that one day I will see my mother again. I will ask her forgiveness for the many unkind words that I said to her when I was growing up and I will frankly forgive her for the things she said and did that I once thought were so unforgivable. I have come to understand that we are all complicated people doing the best we can with what opportunities and obstacles get dealt to us. We all fall short of being our best selves. I know both my mother and I definitely did.

One of the blessings of maturity is that finally I can put the resentments of the past behind me. Today I am very grateful for all the ways my life is blessed for having had Nancy Krebs Pendley as my mother. I will never completely understand what it was like for her to deal with her unhappy marriage, poverty, health problems, and other challenges she faced. Sadly, I know my mother did not have a very happy life. However, one of the things that did bring her much pleasure and satisfaction during her difficult life was doing genealogy. I hope that as I carry on the work that she began all those many years ago, that in some way she may be looking down and smiling.