Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I is a Techie

I have a great genealogy friend, maybe you know her, Tami Glatz.  Tami and I met in Texas at a conference.  Our hotel rooms were next door to each other and everyday we rode the elevator up and down.  We took the shuttle to and from the conference.  One day we introduced ourselves and decided to have dinner together.  We became friends.

During my absence from genealogy…well, let’s just say Tami wasn’t absent from genealogy, not one day. 

When I met up with Tami again at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this year she was “hanging with the cool kids.”  She had developed the Relatively Curious Toolbar and was  blogging her little heart out. 

Me?  I had never heard of blogging.  I didn’t tweet.  I had only just started a Facebook account.  I don’t know if Tami even realizes how primitive I was.  I said was…I should say am.

When I got my Facebook account Tami was my first friend.  I don’t know if she knows that.  I hadn’t heard from her in years and there she was.  Then at Jamboree she introduced me to so many wonderful people.  These genealogists are a new breed.  They understand technology. 
She introduced me to “Bloggers.”  I attended two workshop/panels on Blogging.  I’m trying to keep up or should I say catch up. But I fear I belong in the 19th century.  Or at least in the early 20th

I still write long hand letters.  I just learned how to spin, and it does not involve a bicycle.  I do own a computer and I do know how to e-mail.  I’ve been known to surf the web and I even know what a PDF is.

But blogging, now that I might be able to do, I thought.  After all I have a BA in Journalism.  I write.  That I know how to do. 

Now keep in mind that Jamboree was held in June, I had only decided to “go back to work” in April.  And here I am learning about things like blogging, tweeting, GPS systems and there use in genealogy, Google maps, and so many other things, my mind was reeling.  After all I was still trying to remember how to search out land records and mine deeds.
I came home fully intending to start blogging.  Then I started working for Ancestry.com’s Expert Connect.  My days became full.  I was working with clients again.  I was placing bids right and left.  I was writing reports and research plans.  I was working at my local Family History Center and I was attending meeting with my local society.  Where on earth do you fit in blogging? 

Maybe next month.

Then it was August and I attended the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Tennessee.  I met Dear Myrtle and became a part of a wonderful group called Geneaquilters.  We’re a group of genealogist who also love quilting.  Pat Richley-Erickson is our lynch pin.  She organizes wonderful quilt shop hops for us in whatever town we are in for a conference.  (So far we have had one in Tennessee and one in Utah.) She also encouraged me to blog.

At that conference I decided to work on getting my certification and aim for the goal of becoming a speaker.  So now on top of the client work and all that that brings with it I have to make time for classes and certification work. 

But I want to join the Techie revolution…maybe I’ll start blogging after the first of the year.

In January I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and took Paula Stuart Warren’s American Research class.  Wow, what an enormous amount of information.  I have about 600 new websites I must investigate.

Maybe I will start blogging after I check all of them out.

Ok, I have a confession to make.  Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.  Technology scares me a little…no that’s not the right word…it doesn’t scare me exactly, it intimidates me.  I’ve always been good friends with books.  I take comfort in libraries.  Now the “written word” is on a screen and that disconcerts me.  So this month I will be attending Roots Tech in Salt Lake City.

Now, Roots Tech scares me.  I don’t even know what half the classes are about.  What’s this about a cloud? 

Tami has promised to help me adapt to this new world.  In her effort to included me, she has allowed me to hang on her coat tails and “hang out with the cool kids”.  The bloggers; that special group of online journalist, for that is what they are.  Part of me feels right at home, after all I was a journalist.  I even used to have my own newspaper column.  But a blogger I am not. I keep meaning to become one but something is always getting in the way. 

How do they find the time?  Don’t these techie people eat?  Do they sleep?  It’s all I can do to read my e-mail and Facebook.  Sometimes I even manage to read a blog or two before I have to start work.  Now I’m supposed to write too?  I like sleeping and eating.

Yesterday Tami sent me an e-mail with a forward about a dinner and breakfast.  I needed to reply as soon as possible so they would know I was coming.  I replied and a very nice lady informed me that the dinner and breakfast was for journalists or bloggers only. 

WAIT….I meant to write a blog.  I used to be a journalist.  I want to go to the dinner and breakfast.  I LIKE TO EAT.

So here I am….entering the world of blogging. 
See you at the dinner.

Coming into the home stretch

In 2008 I was sent an obituary, my mentor and friend Chuck Knuthson had died.  I hadn’t talked with him for a couple of years.  I felt terrible. I regretted not keeping in touch with him and I felt sorry for myself.  It felt as if in losing Chuck I had lost the last bit of connection I had to the world of genealogy.

 Flash forward five years.  I haven’t touched genealogy at all.  I’ve tried knitting, cross stitch, scrapbooking, reading clubs, and various other hobbies.  None satisfied.  I’d lost my passion.  I couldn’t find a job I liked.  Nothing made me happy like genealogy had. 

One night a last spring I walked into my husband’s office and told him I was thinking about going to the National Genealogy Society’s Conference in Salt Lake City.  I asked him if he thought we could afford it.  He looked at me incredulous and said with excitement in his voice, “Are you going back to work?”  I told him I didn’t know, “Let’s see if the conference lights the fire again, can we afford it?”  “We’ll find a way.”

 I love my husband.

I love genealogy.  I had a great time at the conference.  I began to remember all the things I had forgotten.  The lingo started to filter through my cobwebbed brain.  I started to realize how much I had to do to catch up to were I had been.  I experienced a moment of panic.  I felt lonely and I missed my mentor Chuck.  He had been there to help me understand and make sense of all the records.  He had introduced me to so many wonderful people and now few of them even recognized me.  I was a nobody without Chuck.  I wallowed in my pity party for about a half a day.  Then my friend Craig showed up.

Craig and I met in Alabama years ago at Samford.  Through various conferences and Samford we became good buddies.  Over a great Indian dinner Craig listened to me tell him about land records and handwriting , deeds and my confusion with it all.  His eyes did not glaze over (as my husband might do), he listened with the interest of a fellow genealogist who understands our particular form of madness.  He allowed me to voice my fears out loud.  And as all monsters do in the light the fears began to shrink.

Thank you Craig.

I went back to the conference and took some beginning level classes.  It was humbling.  But I also discovered that I had not forgotten everything.  There was hope.

Then I ran into Paula Stuart Warren in the vendor area.  She and I shared a couple of tears over Chuck’s memory and I no longer felt alone.

Thank you Paula.

I went then and there to the Association of Professional Genealogist’s  booth and once again joined.  I went to the National Genealogy Soiety booth and joined.  I went to the Genealogical Speakers Guild booth and signed up.  I inquired about classes.  I bought new software.  I talked to everyone.  I began taking baby steps.

I was back.  And I was on fire.

How do I make Lemonade out of this

The winter of 2006 was not an easy one.

My son, a Marine, was sent to Iraq.  My adoptive father, Max was in the hospital with e-coli.  My adoptive mother was at home but since she was blind needed a lot of help.  My mother-in-law was in the hospital, she had undergone open heart surgery and did not recover.  My father-in-law was rushed into the hospital needing emergency gallbladder surgery, and to top it all off I had learned the previous summer that Dick might not be my birth father after all.

I had taken a trip that summer.  First stop Tennessee for a conference then two weeks research in Tennessee and Alabama.  Next stop Samford University for IGHR, then on down to the Carolina’s for research and to visit my sister Susie.  Last but not least, a few weeks in Florida visiting my Aunt Lil, my sister Gerianne, my sister Elizabeth and my brother Danny.  I refer to this time as my eight week odyssey across the South. 

While visiting my Aunt Lil she told me of the time …,
”Must have been right after you were born. Your mother was prancing around in her bathing suit all the time.  I realize now it was because she had her ‘girlish figure’ back.  One night we were sitting here talking, just like you and I are doing now.  She started to tell me a story about meeting a man friend in Tahoe and how they went out partying.  Then she stopped.  I wouldn’t remember the conversation except that it was out of context and she dropped it.  I think she was going to tell me about you.  I think she almost did then changed her mind.  But I don’t think Dick is your father…do you?  I think she was going to tell me about your father.  I think it was this lawyer friend she met in Tahoe.”
WOW!  Talk about life changing moments.  The seed was planted.  Now I wondered.  I went to my room that night and called my sister Vicki.  Vicki told me, “Now that you mention it…”  Vicki was nine years old when Dick and Audrey divorced.  She remembers “mommy’s” lawyer, a Mr. Gray, and looking back thinks that maybe they were a little too friendly.

“Mommy” was dead.  I couldn’t ask her.  My birth records are sealed.  Dead End. 

One day about two months later I was working on a California family line and was looking up a birth record in the California birth index online.  I couldn’t get the information I was looking for and wondered if I was entering too little information for the search criteria.  So I decided to test it.  I knew my birth record was indexed.  Even though the birth records are sealed my information was indexed.  So I typed in my mother’s maiden name (that was the search criteria I was using); I must have always used her married name before, because this time I came up with three records; one listed with her married name, one listed with her maiden name and one listed with the surname Brown.


I called my sister, “She changed his color,” I told her. 

Now I was sure…well, pretty sure, Dick was not my Dad.  So I asked him for a DNA paternity test.  The test results came back…Dick is not my father.

Here I was a genealogist working towards my certification and attempting to become a professional with no paternal line.  The top half of my chart a complete blank.  Once again my sense of indentify is shaken. 

I quit genealogy. 

Are we there yet?

I hear you asking, “When does she get to the genealogy?” 

Well, you see, I began my genealogy in earnest just to keep my family straight in my head.  When you have a birth father, and adoptive father, and a step father; a birth mother, an adoptive mother, and two former step mothers, life gets a bit complicated.  My son now had more grandparents then he knew what to do with.  Not to mention that my ex, his father, had the usual set of two parents plus step parents.  To add to the bedlam, my current husband also had the requisite pair of parents. 

In case you’ve lost count that gave my son 14 grandparents.

If you count the sister I grew up with, I have 11 siblings.  Yes…an even dozen counting me.

So I started gathering information. 

My grandmother was still living and fairly active at 89 years old when I met her.  She was so excited to have someone to talk to about the family history.  One day I was asking her questions and she hesitated for a minute…she was trying to remember little details that no one had asked her about in a very long time.  I apologized saying, “I’m sorry grandma, you didn’t know there would be a test today did you?”  and she responded, without missing a beat, “If I had I would have studied.”  When I was questioning her about her first husband my nephew, Michael, was in the kitchen listening.  He was wide eyed and flabbergasted, he asked his great grandmother, “Grandma…you were married before?”  Michael’s  father stared at him and said, “Michael, what is her last name?”  “Higgens,”Michael replied.   “What is your grandfather’s last name?”  “Bennett.”  There was a short pause…. "OH!”  The things our family learns when we do genealogy!

Grandma Higgens introduced me to the Rhodes family.  This was her great claim to fame.  The Rhodes family helped rescue the Donner party.  They were a part of California history.  She was fifth generation Californian and proud of it. 

I became enamored of the Rhodes family and all the extend family.  I worked on this family for ten years.  I had them traced back to early New England (Massachusetts).  They didn’t come over on the Mayflower, they came over two ships later on the Anne. 

Tracing this family pushed me into a fascinating new world.  The world of genealogy.  I attended my first conference and decided I wanted to do this for a living.  My husband asked, “Can you make a living at it?”  I told him the truth, “Probably not.”  But that didn’t stop me. 

Finding out Dick wasn’t really my birth father did.

I'm the middle child I think

As I said, I went from being an only child to this huge family…actually I have the distinction of being the oldest child, the youngest child, the only child and the middle child depending on how you look at it. 
Ok, so you know a little bit about my background now.  I think I should clarify the cast of characters in this little drama.
My adoptive parent’s names were Johneva and Max.  They adopted me and another little girl named Debby.
My birth mother’s name was Audrey.  Her first husband was Dick, and her second husband was Gerry.  Dick’s second wife was Adele, and his third was Nadine.  They’ve all passed now, except for Dick. 
Dick and Audrey had three children: Vicki, Rick, and Bobby.
Then there was me.
Dick and Audrey divorced the same year I was born.  Dick then married married Adele and Audrey married Gerry.
Adele had a two year old daughter named Susie.  Dick adopted her.
Gerry had been married before but had no issue. 
(Still with me…are you lost yet…eyes glazing over???)
Audrey and Gerry had three daughters and a son.  Loretta, Elizabeth, Gerianne, and Danny.
Adele and Dick divorced and he married Nadine.  Nadine and Dick had two sons, Richard and Michael.
That’s the run down of my siblings.  But to give some perspective.  My mother was pregnant with her last child (Danny) at the same time that my sister Vicki was pregnant with her first son.
My mother’s oldest child, Vicki is 10 years older than me, and her youngest child (Danny) is 10 years younger than me.  I’m smack in the middle.   Michael, my youngest sibling is 14 years younger than me. 
I tell you all this not to make it easier for you to assume my identity.  But so you will understand why genealogy become so important to me.  I needed some kind of map to just keep the family straight in my head.  Family group sheets to the rescue.   It took me weeks just to remember everybody’s names.  I still have trouble remembering my grand nieces and nephews names.  It doesn’t help that I have two brothers and a father with variations of the same name…Richard. 
My oldest brother is Donald Richard, some of us call him Butch (childhood nickname) others call him Rick.  Nadine’s son is Richard Anthony, and Dick is actually Frank Richard.  So we have a Dick, a Rich and a Rick.  One of my first comments to my family was, “Have you never heard of a baby name book?”  I also have two nieces with the name Samantha.  There are two Donalds (my brother and my uncle), two Michaels, and an uncle Dickey.
I named my son Joshua.

The Never Ending Story

This is my first blog and I think I should start by introducing myself to you and tell you why I have decided to write this blog. 
Who I am is part of why I am writing this blog.  I’m on a voyage of self discovery.  I’ve been on one all my life.  Most of us have a fairly good sense of self, it may go a little awry during our teenage years, but for the most part we know who we are and where we belong. 
I’ve always struggled with the sense of belonging. You see, I’m adopted.  I was placed with my adoptive family at birth, but the adoption was not finalized until I was a year old.  At that time my original birth records were closed and sealed and “Baby Bennett” became “Kim Ruth von Aspern.”
To the best of my knowledge I am in no part of German descent.  My adoptive parents, however, were.  My father’s father was from Germany.  My mother’s family were “Riger” and “Stahl.”  So growing up I was “German.” 
I always knew I was adopted.  In fact I was one of a very small club; I knew who my birth mother was. She was French and that was so much more romantic than German.  She was from Louisiana, a far cry from California.  I had fantasies about her.  She was a gypsy, she was royalty, she was a tragic figure forced to give me away. 
When I was 18 I talked with her for the first time. The truth is never as great as the fantasy. She was married for the second time, had mothered 8 children, lived in Florida and was very Catholic. (My family not so much, though I did attend a Catholic all girl high school).  I spoke with her again when I was getting married and she told me to, “Be careful…all my husband had to do was wink at me and I got pregnant…we’re a very fertile group.”  I never met her, we talked about 5 or 6 times on the phone, but when I got the chance to be in Florida and meet her (at the age of 30) she said, “I don’t think so.” 
A few years later she was dead.  I was not notified.  No one knew I existed.  So when I called to tell her I was graduating (finally at the age of 38) from college her husband informed me that she was dead.  Then he asked the question that changed everything, “Are you the baby?”  He explained that he knew I existed but he did know if I was a girl or boy, what my name was or where I lived.  He told me that the only argument he and my birth mother had ever had was about telling the other children about me.  He was all for it but she wanted to keep me a secret.  Then he told me, “But she’s dead.”  After we hung up he called my oldest sister and told her about me, she in turn called all the other siblings.  At age 38 I found myself with a huge family.
I had grown up with one sister, Debby.  She died when I was 37.  Now I found myself with three full blooded siblings, four half siblings (children of my birth mother and her second husband), an adopted sister (the child of my birth father’s second wife that he adopted), two half brothers (my birth father’s and his third wife). In addition to all these new siblings (10 if you lost count) my birth father was still living as well as his mother.  Plus of course my birth mother’s husband who started it all.  Not to mention all the nieces and nephews. 
I had gone from being the oldest child, to an only child, and now was the middle child.
I was welcomed with open arms.  My birth father’s mother, my grandmother Alice, was very excited that a genealogist was in the family.  She had been trying, without success, to tell the rest of the family about our amazing ancestors.  All she ever got was those glazed over stares…you know the one. One of the first things she said to me was, “You know we’re related to the Rhodes family.”  Poor dear.  I replied, “Grandma, I didn’t know I was related to you until 10 minutes ago.” 
And so began my earnest search into who I am based on who they (the ancestors who came before me) were.  This wonderful world of genealogy, which until that moment had only been a mild interest.