Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Civil War & My Family Tree: Part 1

In researching my family tree over the years, I have run across the veteran ancestor a time or two. I would make a note of it and then move on, not really diving into the specifics of their military career. But eventually several things happened that caused me to re-evaluate the role of my ancestors in past wars.

The first thing that started this train of thought rolling was when my grandparents gave me some old pictures of my great grandfather of him during World War I and his time in France. Since I have many fond memories of my great grandfather when he was alive, it was interesting reconciling those with the pictures I saw from his war experience, something he never talked about.

Another year would go by before I picked up the book 'Confederates In My Attic' by Tony Horwitz, which describes his journey through the south to understand how the Civil War still effects people to this day. In it he interviews many people with ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Those people knew what battles their ancestors fought and even specific locations on large battlefields where their ancestors had fought, were injured and even died. I thought that was pretty interesting knowledge.

Shortly after the book, I revisited the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War which I have available through my Netflix account. Again I was captivated by the old pictures and the stories of the people who fought in it. Suddenly the Civil War began to take on a new light for me. No longer was it a war over state rights and later slavery that happened long ago in the past. Now it began to have flesh and stories of tremendous passion and sacrifice by those who lived it.

I found myself needing to look much deeper into my ancestors and their involvement in the Civil War. Perhaps even find a story of great passion or sacrifice of my own. In my family tree, the generation of fighting age during the time of the Civil War belongs to that of my 3rd great grandfathers. Their sons were too young or not yet born and though I have found a few of their fathers who registered, I haven't found one that served. But of my 16 great-great-great-grandfathers, I have found 8 that fought in the Civil War and survived.

At first I found it amazing that half of my 3rd great grandfathers fought in the Civil War but I was even more amazed that they all survived. But then I thought a little deeper and rationalized an explanation. Because the Civil War front lines were largely fought by boys using today's standards, those that died had their family trees truncated at themselves. Had one of my ancestors died in the Civil War, the chances of me existing would be very slim. Yes at least two of my 2nd great grandfathers had been born but 6 of them had not been. Those two that had been born might have made entirely different choices in life if they had lost their fathers at an early age to war. So merely by me existing, I know it was because my ancestors survived the war. Billions of people probably don't exist today because their potential ancestor didn't survive. Very heady stuff indeed.

After identifying my eight ancestors who fought in the Civil War, the next step was to learn more about their involvement. Through online records, I could learn which regiment my ancestor served in and thus the history of that regiment for seven of my eight veteran ancestors. The eight one being my brick wall Joseph Baker who died at age 35 only 17 years after the end of the war and whom I know so little about including where he served or lived before the war. For those whom I know fought in a certain regiment, knowing the regiment's fighting history doesn't guarantee I know which battles my ancestor fought in because they may have not been on the front lines that day or might have been on medical leave. The only way to find out for sure was to request copies of their records from the National Archives in Washington D.C. where they have been preserved.

I sent out seven requests and await their arrival. From past experience, it could be a long wait of two or three months and only one month has passed thus far. I have been notified they received them and I have had one response back on an ancestor's files who aren't at the National Archives where by national decree they should be. Fortunately they exist and are still in the Veterans Administration Archives and available by request under the Freedom of Information Act. It is my first request under said act but it was sent last week and I await those results as well. My hope is to parse through this information when it arrives and over time write a series of posts on my ancestors who fought in the Civil War and their experiences. I look forward to the journey.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Des Moines Bucs

When someone gives you free tickets to go see something, you go. You don't ask who or what, you just go. Well unless you suspect the person's idea of fun might be a quilting show in which case you might ask who or what before accepting the tickets. But my wife's boss doesn't roll like that and so we took the free tickets which turned out to be for a Des Moines Buccaneers hockey game.

Although this isn't my first hockey game that I have been too, it was my first in Des Moines and thus I really didn't know where they played at. But about halfway to the general vicinity, I saw a car with several Bucs logos plastered all over it so I just followed it right to the arena. As we sat down beside an older couple with someone I presumed was their grandson, I asked if they came to these games often and if they knew if the Buccaneers were any good. They sadly shook their head and said that they had a 15 and 21 record this season and were playing the number 2 team in their league that night. It didn't look good.

In fact, it didn't look good for awhile after the opposing team quickly scored the first goal but soon the Bucs started staging a comeback and soon they were up 5 to 2. The last period started dropping off most of the time and then the penalties started. One by one, three of the Bucs were sent to the penalty box meaning that it was five players to the Buc's two players out on the ice and the opposing team quickly scored another pair of goals. Then the opposing team exchanged their goalie for another offensive player and it was six to two for the last 45 seconds. It certainly was a nail biter but the Bucs held their own and pulled out the victory. You couldn't have asked for a better evening to see a Buccaneers game in the urban jungle. It beat a quilting show any day!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Using Modern Technology To Fix a Vehicle From 150 Miles Away

I was just wrapping up my lunch with some coworkers in a noisy grocery store deli when my phone rang with my wife on the line. Actually it the sound wasn't a ring but the opening guitar rifts to Deep Purple's 'Smoke On the Water' but I digress. Within about two seconds, I could tell something was up not because she was calling me on a Friday afternoon but by the tone of her voice. I guess when you've been married eight years, you tend to learn every nuance of your wife's voice. By the time we've been married twenty-five years, I expect I will just sense something without her evening calling.

Her part of the conversation started with, "there is a loud sound coming from the front of the car." Pause the script a second as I fill you in a bit. This is the same person who once called me and told me she had 'totaled' the car by hitting a deer when in fact she had cracked the plastic bumper cover and put a dent in the fender and front corner of the hood. She even still had a working headlight! For the last couple months, she had been occasionally mentioned a noise when she turned in her vehicle but despite driving it several times myself, I hadn't heard or felt anything abnormal. Now with that background, let me take up the script again.

Because the sound level in the deli was pretty high, I asked her what kind of noise she was hearing. She told me to hold on a second while she puts the car into gear and pull forwards and backwards in her parking spot in the parking garage she was inside. After listening but not hearing anything over a cellphone in a noisy deli, I was just about to say no when the tone of her voice changed yet again. In the next thirty seconds, I heard her say a few things like "Oh no!" with a "there is something hanging from it" before the line went dead. I tried calling back but there was no answer so I left a message.

My first thought was that the CV joint had failed. That might explain the noise she had been hearing and since it is an all wheel drive vehicle, she could probably limp it back the four blocks to her apartment and let me deal with it when I got up there later that evening. But it was Friday and the time was ticking if I was going to have to get it towed somewhere if whatever was wrong rendered it undrivable. So I called her voice mail again and told her to call back ASAP so that I could figure out what was wrong and make necessary arrangements if needed.

After my wife called down a bit, she called me back and I asked her to take a photo with her cellphone of the dangling part and send it to me. (This is where the modern technology comes into play.) A few minutes later I got the photo above and my heart sank. It definitely wasn't drivable. What you see is the lower control arm laying on the ground with the driveshaft poking through it obviously ripped from where it should connect to the transmission. I'm guessing that the ball joint on the lower control arm failed allowing the control arm to fall onto the ground. That was the noise that my wife initially heard when she called me. Now the vehicle was using the driveshaft as a support member, something that it is not designed to do, and so when she was moving back and forth to demonstrate the noise over the phone, it is what broke with a bang.

Long story shorter, I don't have the tools nor the means to fix it up in the urban jungle so my decision came pretty quickly. I lined up a tow truck to haul it to a repair shop to get it fixed. I had no way of getting a vehicle up to my wife in the urban jungle by myself, she needed a vehicle and I wasn't really wanting to spend our day off driving up there, picking her up, driving back and then both of us driving back up there only to repeat it again the next week when her car was fixed. I started looking into rental cars when the repair shop called back about an hour later saying they could fix it and have it ready by the following morning, a Saturday. Excellent.

Saturday morning we picked it up and all is good in the world. I'm glad that my wife hadn't been going down the interstate at 70 mph when that all decided to let loose. I'm glad she wasn't in the middle of a busy road or halfway to an upcoming drive trip to Texas when it let loose. She was turning into a parking space in a parking garage when it let go which is about as good as it could get. It was out of the way and she was only four blocks from home so she wasn't stranded. So now it is fixed and I'm broke, or at least I will be when I get my next credit card statement.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Captcha Impossible Revisited

After my earlier post on Monday telling those who have commented that I sympathized with their having difficulty reading the captcha code but there wasn't anything I could do without getting a lot of spam. Shortly there after when I was going through the blogger settings, I noticed there were more of them than the last time I had been in there. So after tweeking things here and there, I settled for turning off the captcha code requirement altogether and instead making all posts older than 5 days (a setting you can tailor to your liking) comment moderated, meaning I have to approve them before they appear. It used to be an all or none proposition. This new adjustable setting prevented me from having to go back through ancient posts to remove spam and I thought it would be easy to remove spam on new posts. Besides, I rarely get but the occasional post on posts older than 5 days.

Since that time, I have learned something else that I didn't know. Blogger has a spam filter of its own that does a remarkably good job of removing spam. Of the forty or so spam posts I've gotten so far this week, it caught them all. Even when I had the captcha code in place, I was still having to remove the occasional spam on old posts that slipped through and always required me hunting for them. I'm beginning to think that the captcha method is the harder way to go. The caveat to all this is that you probably should visit the spam tab to make sure one of the good comments didn't get eaten but so far, that hasn't happened yet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


As I have blogged about in the past and made comments on numerous blogs throughout the blogiverse, I reached the decision one day to stop buying cheaply made crap that you find in big box stores because they rarely are worth the money when you figure in the replacement cost when it breaks and you have to buy another one and also the hard to calculate environmental cost of throwing away all that broken stuff into landfills. So when something that I own from a big box store breaks as it eventually does, I replace it with better quality stuff which often means saving up my pennies until I can afford to pay the premium. It has served me well over the past handful of years and I am unable to name one thing that I paid 'more' for that has broken yet I can think of dozens of examples of cheaply made/cheaply priced stuff that has.

Case in point was my paper shredder. My cheap one from a big box store served me well for the first five minutes I owned it. That was before the strips that it shredded my paper into bunched up and tripped the sensor indicating that the basket was full or worse, started backfeeding through the shredded and puking them all over the floor. The basket, the size of a small garbage can literally hold only a handful of sheets before one of those two things happened. It was miserable and I spent much of my time cleaning the strips of paper out of the shredder heads so that I could continue. Secondly, the thing could only handle about two sheets at a time. This was fine for awhile until my wife started bring home reams of her work to study at night. As you know, all medical records are highly classified and thus need to be destroyed. Shredding only two sheets at a time and only five or six before you were cleaning out the shredding heads meant many hours of shredding. Though it hadn't technically broke yet, it was functionally broke and so I saved up my pennies until I could buy the one above.

This thing can handle a handful of pages, perhaps ten to fifteen at a time, goes through staples, credit cards and even CD's and DVD's easily. It micro shreds everything so it falls down compactly into the bin instead of strips that stand up on themselves so I can shred an entire paper grocery sack of stuff before the hopper is full. The paper is shredded so fine that it would make excellent mulch or in my case, great fire starter in the fireplace. I've had it for almost six months now and I am so happy that I bought it. My crappy big box store one is up in the urban jungle and will hopefully find a home when someone sees the free sign I hang on it come moving day. If not, it will end up in the landfill with millions of others of its brothers and sisters from big box stores.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Captcha Impossible!

I received a couple comments on the new captcha phrases to prove that you are human being almost impossible to read and I just wanted to let everyone know that this is a change by Blogger and not something I can alter. Blogger has changed the captcha pictures to render them so hard to read that it takes me and at least a couple of my readers a half dozen times to find one easy enough to read that we can attempt to guess what it says. I have been seeing the same thing when I've been trying to comment on other blogger blogs so I know what everyone is feeling. The forums are filling up with people feeling the same way.

So until Blogger realizes what they have done, I have only two choices. Leave it like it is now and just encourage those who want to comment to keep trying or use the audio captcha or I can enable comment moderation and turn the captcha feature off but it means that you will only see your comment once a day when I check into my blog. Let me know if those who frequently comment have a preference?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Air Power Museum

On our date day before Valentine's Day, what more romantic place can you think of going with the love of your life than an Air Power Museum? I couldn't think of any better place either. Actually it was my wife's idea but I digress. I had never heard of this museum but came across the name while looking for unique places to eat mentioned in a post last week. I suspected from the looks of the pictures online that it would be in an uninsulated metal building and it was so we didn't stay too long since it was early in the morning and still pretty cold out.

I'm not much of an airplane guy and have little knowledge of them other than they need wings and sometimes engines to fly. I should know more since my grandfather was a pilot back in the day and his father actually was an airplane mechanic during World War I in France. But I'm not and I don't. So I will post most of these pictures with little to say since I don't really know much about what I'm looking at anyway. I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the photos but all I had was a cellphone since I hadn't thought to bring a camera along on our date.

Having always been intrigued about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, I immediately gravitated to these clippings that had been framed and hung on the wall.

The actual airplane portion of the museum was just a metal building shoved full of planes with nothing identifying what they were. I saw that most of them had the word experimental stenciled on their sides. The above was standing in the door looking right and below is the same but looking left. Lots of planes.

I thought the above plane was a cool little jobbie. I bet despite it being a prop plane, it feels like you are going plenty fast when crammed into the little cockpit.

This picture is a two-for. One of another spiffy looking little rear driven prop plane and the flying saucer in the background. With the way the planes were shoved in there, I couldn't get any closer to see what it really was without becoming more intimate with the concrete floor which was cold and dirty and I was only a couple hours into our date day at the time.

A nice looking engine...

A small boxy marines plane.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pin Art

Now that winter is here, in name only, the urban jungle zoo is mostly closed down for the season. You can still go but there is little to see outside with the animals moved inside where it is warm and inaccessible to zoo visitors. What animals that are out and about like the penquins, are few and thus it makes it not worth the effort to visit the zoo. As a result, when my wife is on call on a weekend up in the urban jungle, my daughter and I often find ourselves at the Science Center killing time until we can sneak in after hours when my wife isn't busy for a couple hours of family time.

One of the places that we spend a lot of time in is more of a play area than science oriented museum that the rest of the place is. There are vats of soapy water and huge wands that kids can make bubbles with, a few creative thinking things for the children and the above, a large board full of sliding pins that by pressing in on one side, leaves the impression on the other side to view. Mostly the young kids just stand on either side pressing in pins as fast as they can until they grow bored of it and move on. My daughter being no exception. However one morning when we were the only people in the Science Center and had the room to ourselves, I showed her how she can make body impressions. She quickly got the inspiration and loves to make a 'human spider' which is what you see at the top of this post. I have a dozen similar pictures on my computer.

Most of the time, when we are the first to arrive, which oddly in a city this size is quite often, the board is smoothed out by I suspect the person in charge of closing up the room for the evening after the mess has been cleaned and everything put back in its place. As we arrived a couple weeks ago, the first ones again, we found the below artwork. My daughter was duely impressed for all of about five seconds before she started pounding all the pins to one side as fast as she could.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Juanita's Pupuseria

Juanita's Pupuseria Restaurant
Because my wife and I were apart on Valentine's Day yesterday, we celebrated a few days early and went off on a date while our daughter was in school. Our daughter almost ruined those plans be conning a teacher into believing she was sick enough that I had to be called to bring her home. As it turned out, it was simply a case of eating too much lunch and then running too hard at recess immediately afterwards. Daughter was forced to take a nap and not play the rest of the afternoon since she was 'sick' in an effort to nip that behavior off at the bud and she went to school cheerfully on Friday morning.

My wife and I walked her to school and then hit the road for a full day date in a neighboring town where we are in the process of relocating too because of my wife's job. We did some shopping for some supplies, got the batteries replaced in my watch and checked out a small but pretty neat airpower museum a few miles outside of town. I will try to write about that in a later post because on this post I want to talk about lunch.

I've lived relatively near this town my entire life. I was born thirty miles away, my parents though living 50 miles away, shopped there because it was about the nearest place from the farm with shopping available. Then after a stint in college and seven years of jobs that took me away, I ended up living just twenty miles away from it. I say this to show that I am no stranger to the town and thought I knew of all the places one might eat there. But in an effort to broaden my taste bud horizons, I did some internet searching and found a place that I had never eaten at. As it turned out, it was actually in a town another thirty miles away and I hadn't noticed that. Fortunately, I had written down a second place named Juanita's Pupuseria as a backup.

Although I knew the address and knew about where it was, I for the life of me couldn't picture it. In fact, we drove by twice before I finally spotted the bright orange store front you see at the top of this post. Begs to be discovered but in the urban clutter of the street, it was hard to spot. You will have to take my word on that since I didn't get a wider shot of the area.

The restaurant was the very definition of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. You walk in the door and the entire place was only ten feet wide and maybe forty feet deep. Half of the eight feet was an enclosed kitchen, counter and food prep area and there were a half a dozen booths on the opposite walls. That was it. A younger me would have just probably turned and walked out but the older me said, heck, Columbus took a chance and so perhaps should I. We were also the only people in the place beside Juanita, her husband, son and grandson.

Pupusas Revueltas
We sat down and the son came over to greet us. Since this was El Salvadorian cuisine, one that I have never tried, I asked the son what he recommended. He immediately pointed to the list of pupusas which were in the appetizer section. They are a thick, hand-made corn tortilla filled with cheese and cooked pork, fried and served with some sort of cabbage like slaw and salsa. We ordered one serving to split between us and that turned out to only be one pupusa despite the picture showing four of them on the menu and it was probably just as well. They were heavenly but had we gotten the four I had thought we were ordering, I certainly wouldn't have been able to finish my lunch.

Camarones En Salsa Roja Con Arroz y Frijoles
Lunch for me was shrimp in spicy red sauce with rice and beans. It tasted as good as it looks and came with a couple more hand-made corn tortillas that I used to shovel things to my fork and mop up the juice.

Mojarra Frita Con Arroz Y Frijoles
Lunch for my wife was a fried tilapia also served with rice and beans. The fried skin and delicate meat tasted amazing with a forkful of rice and beans and I can tell that honestly since I stole a forkful of her meal.

So we found a new place to eat in our future home town and I'm pretty excited. I can't wait to order a few more of those pupusas when I am close to home so I don't have to worry about them sitting in a car for the rest of the day while we held our Valentine's Day date.

El Salvadorian Artwork

Monday, February 13, 2012

Helicopter Is Hovering No More... At Least Behind My House

I first subconsciously noticed something was up around mid-January. Things seems quiet, too quiet. So I started paying attention and as the first of February came by, I was pretty sure something was up. I kept watch until last week when I decided to search social media sites for word on the situation and though I still have nothing concrete, I more certain than now that something has happened to my neighbors.

Like nature which tends to balance things, so too is my neighborhood. On one side of me is the retired Lawn Nazi who spends his days at home preening his lawn to magazine cover worthiness. I rarely see him go anywhere by car. On the other side of me are the Smith family who are lucky to cut their grass more than a handful of times of years and when they do, you could literally bale the debris. An ice storm that hit three years ago knocked a huge branch down in the middle of their lawn and I've been watching it slowly decay into the ground ever since. The Smith, or at least Mrs. Smith is the uber helicopter parent. On any given evening, I could see her SUV enter or leave her driveway every ten or fifteen minutes with a child(s) going this way or that. I would keep count every now and then and it wasn't unusual for me to see the SUV exiting or arriving two dozen times on a typical weekday evening between 4:30 and 9:00. On weekends, the counts soared much higher. Mr. Smith on the other hand, would leave to work in the morning, come back in the evening and that was usually all I saw of him except for the occasional trip with a child, they have four, when I presume Mrs. Smith couldn't schedule them all in.

It was almost exhausting to watch their daily lives unfold next to mine but over the years I guess I kind of got used to it which is why when I had the thought that I hadn't seen their SUV leave the driveway for several days, I wasn't quite sure if I was just so used to it happening that I wasn't seeing it happen. But after a couple weeks of paying attention, I would just see Mr. Smith driving home from work in the SUV, normally driven by Mrs. Smith, parking it and going inside for the rest of the evening. Mr. Smith leaves for work well before I do so I rarely catch him leaving for work. The car that Mr. Smith normally drove never appeared at all.

Mrs. Smith works for the school across the street, yet another amazing thing since she was always driving everywhere, and so my first thought was that maybe she had lost her job and had to get another one farther away. That would explain why I hadn't seen any of the kids, ages 11 to 17, either. It also might explain why I didn't see Mrs. Smith's parents, they were evidently quite the helicopter parents in their day too, because they were always over at the Smith house in their mini-van also shuttling kids too and fro. But after seeing Mr. Smith's SUV parked outside all weekend with no sign of mom, grandparents or kids, I began to think something bigger, perhaps more tragic had happened.

On my way to and from work, a route that takes me by the parent's home of Mrs. Smith, I started paying attention to see if Mrs. Smith and the kids were there. I haven't seen any signs of that in the couple weeks I've been rubbernecking on my way by but I have noticed that their mini-van is sitting in the driveway more often as opposed to shuttling grandkids around. So I finally decided to take it to the next level and check social media sites for clues. The kids all had them but they were a bust for information. Mr. Smith also had one but it looked like it hadn't been visited awhile. Mrs. Smith had one too and it was active and mixed throughout the daily helicopter posts were a few quotes that I found telling.

Just gotta love living in a small town.....where certain people just need to worry about their own lives and stop thinking they know anything about mine.
What seems like the right thing to do may be the hardest thing you have ever had to do in your life----Oprah Winfrey.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending!
When it hurts to look back, when you're scared to look ahead, you can look beside you...and your best friend will be there! 

Those have made me suspect that Mr. and Mrs. Smith are separated and perhaps thinking of the big 'D'. It is a shame but I guess not something that really surprises me. Despite all the helicoptering, I can't think of a single time when I have seen them together. It is mostly Mrs. Smith and the brood and occasionally Mr. Smith and the brood but never everyone at once.  Evidently Mr. Smith has the house and SUV and Mrs. Smith has the children and the kids and is living somewhere else. She may have gotten a different car because I've seen one new to me come several times over the last couple weeks, early in the morning after Mr. Smith has already left and before I have left. It idles out in the driveway while the person goes inside and after awhile comes out with a garbage bag or two, puts them in the trunk and leave. All this might also explain why their Christmas tree is still up in their living room, clearly visible front our great room window.

Such a shame. The only real bright side to all this is that I will probably get a touch more reading done in the evenings when I'm not glancing up every time one of the Smith's drive by down their driveway. I've also thought it would be nice to buy their house and property which extends behind my own to expand my own person fiefdom after removing their house. But since I'm in the process of selling mine, I don't think it would be wise, should it come on the market in the future.

Friday, February 10, 2012

One Voyage Westward

John and Margaret Mathers Grim
I haven't put a lot of thought into how my ancestors migrated westward to Iowa. Most came through Pennsylvania and Ohio judging from available records but I never really thought much about the journey itself. I mostly just thought of the time frame and the reason why. However, while researching into the Civil War and how it played into my family tree, I ran across a bit of info on the journey my 3rd great grandparents John and Margaret Mathers Grim made from their home in Mercer county, Pennsylvania to their farm near Morning Sun, Louisa county, Iowa.

They left in a covered wagon date unknown and got as far as Mansfield in Richland county, Ohio before pulling over to let nature take its course. By nature, I mean the birth of their third child Mary on October 31st, 1863. My 2nd great grandfather William 'Billie' James Grim wasn't quite two years old at the time and his older sister Martha was a few months past three years old so I'm guessing my 3rd great grandfather had his hands full.

When they got going again a few months later, they caught a boat and rode it down the Ohio river to St. Louis where they came across a lot of soldiers waiting to be transferred to various destinations. Billie was two years old by then and evidently got lost among the mob of soldiers on the boat and had my 3rd great grandfather John looking worriedly for him. He eventually found him (I know because I am here now typing this) cracking eggs with the army cook in the galley. The road the boat north up the Mississippi to the Port Louisa on the Iowa side of the river. From there, it is unknown their final mode of transportation but they ended up on the Woodruff farm north of Morning Sun, Iowa.

John eventually found work at a grist mill, the occupation of his grandfather, and moved near Cairo, Iowa for a couple years. For reasons unknown, my theory he just loved farming better than running a mill, he hired onto the Darius (Dunk) Key farm and worked that farm for the next fourteen years. If you recall, that is the farm that I visited last year and wrote about here.

When he was too old to farm, he moved back to Morning Sun and lived to the ripe old age of 82. He was still going strong when he fell and broke his hip and after growing weaker for a week, finally passed away.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Identity Theft Happens Even to Our Ancestors

Anna Gerken Kuck
One of the internet programs that I utilize to research my ancestors, has a nifty little tool within it that tells you who has been looking around your family tree, what they were downloading, i.e. facts, events, stories or even pictures, and also tells you who has done what to their tree that also contains your ancestor. This last part is useful if someone else who has the same ancestor as mine posts new research on the ancestor such as a picture of them, to their tree and this program will tell me that so I can obtain the photo and add it to my tree. Most of the time I just skim the daily report it puts out and move on to other parts of the program.

However, a week ago I happened to notice that someone had uploaded the above picture of my 4th great grandmother Anna Gerken Kuck to their family tree. My first thought was 'excellent' because now I might potentially meet another Kuck relative. So I clicked the link which took me to their tree and my exuberance was soon dampened. The person who had uploaded my Anna Gerkan had attached her as being married to a Johann Gerken, not to my 4th great grandfather Hinrich Kuck. They had Anna's mother with a surname of Gerken and her father with a completely different surname. Much of that person's tree had numerous inconsistencies like that with absolutely no records to back any of it up. Obviously it was a person who was just attaching people to their tree with little thought put into it.

I can say that because I was such a person when I initially started my ancestry quest. However, after finding out I had several errors early on that research pointed out to me that totally changed entire large branches of my family tree, I rectified the situation by doing a severe pruning job. Gradually the branches have grown back out based upon research again and my family tree is far reaching once again.  Along the way, I have stumble across many family trees not so thoroughly based upon research and full of bad information. These trees get copied to other trees until bad information outweighs the good information and I have people writing me emails questions the accuracy of mine information until they see my research.

So I politely sent the person an email asking them to remove the picture from their family tree until such time they can show me proof that it belongs there. The next day the picture was gone and they have yet to respond to my email. I hope that nipped the bud before it had a chance to germinate into bad information added to a website full of similar bad information.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Discovering a Sister

I don't think I came right out and admitted it on my blog but I have mentioned it off hand a couple times since. It was a little over two years ago when I discovered that I had a half-sister in this world. After my parents divorced and my father gave up all parental rights to my step-father, he disappeared from my life never to be seen again until our chance run-in that I blogged about last fall. Since that time, I dug a little bit and learned that my father had remarried for a three year period back in the mid 80's and that marriage produced a daughter. Search as I might, I never could learn her name, her mother's name, when and where she came into this world. Basically way too many unknowns to ever make a reasonable case of establishing her identity.

I did find one clue in the form of a picture of my father and what was labeled as his grandson posted among the clutter of the web. I spent much time searching for the parents of that boy whose last name was listed but could only find his father, not his mother. After some time, I eventually discovered that I had ventured down the wrong track and that the grandson was actually the grandson of my father's third wife, a product of one of her previous marriages and thus no blood relation to me. The trail for ever discovering the identity of my half sister went cold.

Over the years as I traced my paternal line of ancestors, a name kept reappearing as the source of a lot of that information. Thinking she must long be deceased, I never attempted contact but eventually I went back and wanted to cross that 'T' anyway and discovered that she was alive and kicking and a distant cousin of mine. She sent me a book of her research which included descendants of my paternal ancestors. Flipping through the book I found my name, my younger brother's name and then most shocking to me, the name of my half sister.

Rebecca. She was born on the same day I was born just twelve years later.

I am at a loss or at least am having an internal struggle about what to do with this information. I have already done a cursory search and know where she spent her formative years in southern Missouri but do not know where she might be right now.

This brings me right back to my struggle of whether or not I want to make contact with my paternal side of the family. Their blood courses through my veins and yet they are strangers in my life. I have just a few hazy memories while my younger brother has none. I have but minimal-send-a-card-on-holidays contact with my paternal grandmother, the very one who mentioned offhand that I had a half sister two years ago.

For now I have a name, Rebecca, and she is out there somewhere and celebrates a birthday the same day I do. I will probably keep looking for her and will cross the bridge of whether or not to make contact when I get there.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Winter that Wasn't

February 2, 2011
A year ago and one day, that was the scene that greeted me as I prepared to unbury my driveway so I could head to work. Had I not had a snow blower, I would probably still have been out there shoveling. This wasn't a one time occurrence but a continual pounding of snowstorms spaced a few days apart.  I thanked my lucky stars that I finally broke down and bought a snow blower that previous fall because it really got the workout.

Flash forward to this year. Here it is February 3rd and we have had about an inch of snow total spaced over three different 'storms'. None of them were worth clearing the driveway but I did it just to keep the snow blower engine lubricated and ready to run when we really did get snow. Also, had I not cleared it, the snow would have frozen the driveway into an ice rink for the rest of the winter. At least in a normal year that is.

This year, I'm not sure we have had a day yet where the high wasn't above freezing. This is saying a lot since our normal highs are below freezing for the entire month of January and most of February. Instead, we have had the last two weeks with temperatures in the mid to upper 50's! I was actually doing yard work in a short sleeved t-shirt just a couple days ago!

Yesterday, the groundhog saw it's shadow and thus we have six more weeks of winter. I'm still waiting for winter to start.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Passenger 186

Arnold Boninger as painted by P.C. Clay

The ship Arnold Boninger barely a year old, pulled out from the docks of Bremen, Germany on June 20, 1853 and set sail north up the Weser river towards the North Sea, destination Baltimore, Maryland in the United Sates of America. On board were 416 men, women and children, 17 adults and two infants in the cabin, 64 adults and 5 infants in the house on deck and 307 adults and 21 children in steerage. It still smelled of the tobacco that it had brought back from the United States on its last voyage.

Once its holds were unloaded of tobacco, small divisions had been built with planking in the steerage that were seven feet wide by five and a half feet long. In that area, five people were expected to live and sleep for the next couple months. Conditions were cramped and definitely not sanitary by today's standards. Below is an excerpt from a larger piece sent to me by a German historian whose specialty is the part of Germany that my Kuck ancestors came from and whom are even mentioned at one point.
Bad food was complained about very often. "The provisions were bad, the way they were fixed even worse. The bread had presumably made several journeys. It was not until the last eight days when the old bread had been eaten that we got better bread. The pork was completely spoilt even though better pork was in store for we got good pork during the last week. The water used for cooking was comparable to manure regarding dirtiness, color and smell and must have been bad already when it was taken aboard for the drinking water stayed good, but everyone got only a quarter" (less than 8.5 fluid ounces). Even though the Bremen Senate tried to achieve improvements the stated defects remained for a long time. - German Immigration 1830-1850 

by Ewald Albers of Zeven, Germany (translation by Hella Albers)
 On August 15, 1853, the Arnold Boninger pulled into Baltimore harbor and discharged her passengers. Three babies had been born along the journey but the net number of passengers only increased by one due to two deaths along the way. Johann Michael an 18 year old surgeon on his way to Pennsylvania had died on the 23rd of July. Also according to the log, a 40 year old sadler by the name of Heinrich Meyer had committed suicide by jumping overboard.

Passenger 186 was 16 year old Johannes Koch on his way to the new world to make his fortune. He anglicized his name to John Kuck and with no occupation listed for him, set out for Philadelphia though he didn't stay long. He kept on going through Wheeling, West Virginia, then Marietta Ohio, onto Le Sueur, Minnesota, Galena, Illinois, Lansing, Iowa stopping here and there for a couple months or a few years until finally 11 years after landing in Baltimore, he stopped for good in Charles City, Iowa to raise his family, most notable for me, my 2nd great grandfather George Kuck.