I Do Not Like This Part of Genealogy!

bennyMonday we attended the funeral of my husbands’ Uncle Benny. He was 94 years old and had lived a long, wonderful life. I don’t know about you but this is the part about Genealogy that I really don’t like. You know… the part where you have to fill in the death date and other information for a just deceased relative.

Doing this makes you think of so many things. Of course first and foremost about the person who has just died, about their lives and their family. You remember the time spent with them and the conversations you had. Then your mind wonders to others you have lost and all the details about them. Then, inevitably your mind begins to grasp your own mortality.

Bennys casket

When this happens we think about the things we have done in our lives, both the good and the bad, we think about those we love and those we have known. If you are anything like me you wonder “How much time do I really have left?”  In light of that question I began to realize that I am lacking in so many things and I have started to make a promise to myself to no longer waste time and be sure to do those things that I feel are the most important to me. Things like spending more time with family, being more faithful to the Lord, and getting as much done on my Family History as I can.

making a vowOne thing that stood out to me at the funeral was how people were saying how quickly Uncle Benny had passed. He had not been sick and had no “diseases”, he had just went to bed that evening and died peacefully in his sleep. Even though he was up there in years and it was inevitable, it still caught them all by surprise. So as a result, knowing we are not guaranteed tomorrow I have made a vow to get all of my Genealogy paperwork in order. I will make sure that all the stories I feel needs to be written are written, all the photos will be labeled and I will make sure I know who will take my place as the Family Historian when I am gone.

So, even though writing in the death date of a beloved relative is my least favorite thing to do, it has inspired me to do more with my own life.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Funerals, Genealogy

Missouri State Fair 1968

Sedalia Fair

Me 1968

Isn’t it funny how certain sounds, smells or music can bring back a memory? When I smell Old Spice cologne I think of my Dad, when I smell chewing tobacco I am reminded of my Grandpa, whenever I hear a morning dove cooing I remember having breakfast outside at age 4.

I don’t particularly like watching television first thing in the morning. I like to start my days off with peace and quiet. My husband likes to catch up on world events as soon as he arises. So it was today. During some news story they played a snippet of the Rolling Stone song “Jumping Jack Flash” and memories from 1968 came dancing in my head.

Our family was living in Independence Missouri having moved there from Arizona the year before. They were having the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia and we were going. I was so excited, I had never been to a State fair and I had no idea what to expect. It was an 80 mile drive and I sat enjoying the scenery and listening to my parents talk. After a couple of hours we pull into the parking lot and I was astounded! There were people walking around with their farm animals on leashes, there was music in the air and you could see the large Ferris wheel located in the middle of the fair grounds. As soon as the car stopped I jumped out of the car, ready for a long day of fun.


It is odd the way most of the day is a bit fuzzy for me. I remember watching the judging of the sheep and pigs. For a girl who was raised in the desert this was fascinating. I had always thought that a sheep was a sheep; I had no idea of the variety of breeds. I can still smell the smell of the livestock pens. I remember the man who Dog at fairwalked around with a tiny Chihuahua who had a hat on and a little pipe in his mouth. Of course I have a picture of this to help with that memory!  I remember riding the Ferris wheel and the Hammer, screaming and laughing. I remember my sister, who because of her weight had to ride the Hammer by herself and she got sick and vomited while in the air. How bad am I that after all these years I still find this extremely hilarious?


After my sister got cleaned up it was time for lunch. We found a seat under a canopy as my Dad went to get us hamburgers. While we were eating a band took the stage to the right of us and they began singing “Jumping Jack Flash.”  The teenage kids around us got up and began to dance. My Dad was horrified. I wanted to dance but he said “NO!”  So I sat in my seat and moved with the music and sang along as loudly as I could. I loved it.

I don’t remember much else about the day except after the fair we visited some relatives who lived in Sedalia and my Dad repeatedly proclaiming “How can they play that jungle music in public?” and “How can anyone call that music?” for the next few weeks.

Now every time I hear that song I am transported back to that sunny day in Central Missouri dancing in my seat and having a great time.

When you suddenly have a memory because of a “trigger” of some kind try to write it down as soon as you can. These are the parts of our lives that our descendants will want to know about and they will appreciate the details and feelings and descriptions of sights, sounds and feeling that go with it. Don’t you wish our own Ancestor had been able to do that for us?

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, Memories, Missouri, Story telling

Hints on How to Gather Information at That Holiday Family Get Together!

christmasWe have all experienced it. You arrive at a Holiday dinner only to see Cousin Ray, the braggart, has already arrived. You know that for the next few days you will be hearing him brag about his woodworking and listening to him describe in long detail the process of creating his latest masterpiece. Your first inclination is to turn and run but you know you can’t do that. So you decide that you will make every effort to avoid Cousin Ray.

Holiday get togethers are a time to celebrate family and friends and to share with one another. Happy ThanksgivingHowever when one person monopolizes the conversations it can make the other people want to avoid them altogether. Let’s be honest, most people have skipped a party or dinner because they found out that someone who can only talk about their latest scrapbooking or [insert hobby/cause here] project was going to be there.

No braggingNow for some hard truth, some of us Genealogists are guilty of the same mind numbing talking that we try to avoid. We can get so excited over our recent discoveries that we want to be sure that everyone hears the fantastic news. We also want to take this opportune time to ask questions of those present. Who knows when you many see them again or get a chance to possibly fill in some blanks in our trees? Here are some suggestions that may help you to not become the person everyone wants to avoid.

  • If you know who is going to attend the upcoming party or get-together, write a short letter explaining that you are working on the Family Genealogy and that you would like to ask them some questions. Tell them to help avoid long, possibly boring conversations that they may not be interested in, you would like them to consider these few questions and if they could, they can bring the answers with them. Mail or email this to them a couple of weeks in advance. If you don’t know who will be there or if you don’t have contact information for some of the guests, you can take a few extra letters and ask them to fill it out and mail it to you. You can even include a self addressed stamped envelope to make it easy for them!
  • You can also ask at this time if they have any old photos or documents that they would be willing to share with you. Let them know that you will be either scanning them or taking pictures of them at the get together so they will not have to give them to you.
  • Ask them if they know any stories about their ancestors and see if they would either write them down for you and bring clip-art-interviewing-them along or maybe they would be willing to tell them to you. If possible bring a tape recorder so you can record the tales and then transcribe them later.
  • Do some research and ask specific questions about that side of the family that you need help with. Something like, was Uncle Joe Jones ever married? If so, do you know his wife’s name? Did they have children?
  • Be sure to add somewhere in the correspondence that you have found some exciting information about the Familys’ History and you look forward to adding more to it. Hopefully a little enticement will peak their interest in what you are doing.


  • I helped a friend do all of the above before a family event and they all worked very well. She gathered a lot of new information, stories and even a few photos. One thing I helped her with was a poster board display. I had her print out the family tree associated with those who were attending. I had her post a few interesting documents and photos on it and one of the amazing stories that she had found about a Great Grandfather. She included her name at the bottom of the poster so people would know who to talk to. When she arrived at the event she placed it in a place where people could easily view it. Because she wasn’t intrusive she actually had several relatives come up to her wanting to know more and telling her stories. Some even promised to email some photos and documents to her. She was ecstatic as one bit of information she received broke down one of her brick walls!

To those of us who love Genealogy it is so easy to talk about it and we want to share our enthusiasm with others. Sometimes this becomes a hindrance instead of a help. By coming up with alternative ways to engage someone in our passion we can “hook” them without making their eyes glaze over in boredom.

I am positive that if you think about it, you can come up with plenty of ways to gather information this Holiday season without alienating your family. Good luck!

If you think of any other ways to do this please let me know, I would love to hear your ideas!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under Ancestry, Christmas, Family Gatherings, Family History, Genealogy, Hints, Holidays, Thanksgiving

Charley Hughes, Can You Please Speak Up!

Charley & Virginia (Hayes) Hughes

Charley & Virginia (Hayes) Hughes

I really wish I could have gotten to know my 4 Grandparents. I only met one, my maternal Grandfather and at the time he was already 79 years old and I was 7. He died 6 years later however I did get to spend a few months in the same town as him before he passed. All three of the other Grandparents died long before I was born.  It is odd that although I am in my 50’s my parents’ parents were born over 130 years ago.  My maternal Grandfather was born in 1882 and my maternal Grandmother was born in 1888. My paternal Grandmother was born in 1880 and my paternal Grandfather was born in…well here is where the mystery lies.

Charley Hughes Bible

Charley Hughes was born in 1861, 1864, 1865, 1867 or 1868. I have a page from the Hughes family Bible that lists his birth year as 1861. All the other dates on this page are correct so; do I assume this one is also?  I had Charley Hughes DCasked my Aunt shortly before she died for any Genealogy information she had. She wrote down her parents’ information and she gave her father’s birth date as 1864.  According to Charley’s State of Missouri issued death certificate it states his birth year as 1865. My Dad filled out the small family tree in my baby book and he lists the year as 1867 and lastCharley Hughes Headstone but not least on Charley’s Headstone the year is listed as 1868.

I have searched all the databases for any information on Charleys’ birth records or certificate and have come up empty handed. I even made a Genealogy Research trip from Arizona to Missouri to try to locate the correct date with no luck. If there wasn’t a 7 year gap in the dates it may not matter so much. You see I have been trying to prove that my Grandpa Charley had been married three times instead of the two we know of. My reasoning for this is his age when he married the first known wife. He married Clara Braden in 1900. Charley would have been between the ages of 32 and 39. After Clara died it only took him a few months before he married my Grandmother Virginia Belle Hayes. I know that most men in this era married by the time they are 20 so it is very possible that he did indeed have a “first” first wife.

Charley & Miranda MLA very nice genealogist who lives in Missouri helped me search for a first wife and she did find one record that was promising but I have not been able to prove or disprove it. So until I can find a more accurate date of birth or until he can speak to me from his grave I will just have to keep hoping that I will eventually unravel the mystery of Charley’s birth year.

By the way, I have found him in the Census records but again the ages are different.

If anyone has any hints, ideas or suggestions as to other places that I could search I would appreciate hearing from you!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Charley Hughes, Family History, Genealogy, Hughes, Missouri

The “Jealous” Genealogist

jealousyI am very thankful for all of the Ancestors that I have been blessed to come to know because of Genealogy. 90% of them were unknown to me a mere 15 years ago. The other 10% were just distant acquaintances. I have spent untold hours researching their lives, writing their stories and bringing them back to life.

Now it is confession time. Hello, my name is Valerie and I am a “Jealous Genealogist”. I don’t want to be, I hate that I feel that way and I sometimes question why I am like this. I honestly am excited when others find that Ancestor they have been looking for over many years. I have even cried tears of joy when a friend broke through a solid brick wall and added dozens of Ancestors to her tree. But, in the back of my heart the jealousy creeps in.

Today I was absolutely shocked that not only did that old “Green eyed” monster present itself once again, but it did so in a ella barnett picvery inconvenient place. In Church! I know …I am ashamed; it just snuck up on me. Let me explain. During the service a woman named Ella sang a song. She and I had talked a few weeks before and I discovered that she was a Creek Indian. I was so thrilled to meet another Creek because the tradition in my family is that my maternal great Grandfather was a Creek Indian. Before she began Ella gave a little background about the song she was going to perform in her Native Creek language. It was one that her 5 times great Grandmother had sung while walking the Trail of Tears from Georgia to Oklahoma back in 1836. She explained that the dress she was wearing was one her 5x great Grandmother would have worn and she showed us her bare feet and told us that when the soldiers came to force them to begin the long walk her 5x great Grandmother had Trail of Tearsbeen without shoes and the soldiers would not let her go get them. Ella spoke with such love and respect for her Ancestors that when she started to sing I began to cry. Although I was trying to fight back the tears I lost that battle and soon my entire face was wet from wiping away the flood of water coming from my eyes. Although I did not understand one word she sang it was extremely moving.

Then it happened, the envy that Ella knew all of this about her Ancestors, not from countless hours of research but from her family passing down their stories, and it began to grip my heart. She had heard these accounts directly from her great Grandmother who had heard them directly from her own great Grandmother. I felt like the lowest of the low because I was so jealous.

We all have those brick walls that we are desperate to break through. Some of us have spent years and tremendous amounts of money on documents and research trips trying to find that one little nugget that will remove the first brick of the wall. I think, no I know that jealousy is a natural, normal human emotion that we all feel at one time or another. So I am going to stop being jealous over others success in finding their “nuggets”. Oh who am I kidding? I know I will probably continue to get jealous when someone acquires that old family diary, or when they discover the photo of their 3x great Grandparents.

I will however continue to be happy for them as well and I will be thankful for each and every discovery that I make on my hope 2own tree. Hearing about other people’s successes in their research gives me hope that one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will finally break through all of my unmovable walls. Until then just remember, when you share the great news of your fantastic discoveries there is at least one “Jealous Genealogist” out there who is turning green with envy!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under Ancestry, Creek Indian, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, Jealousy, Trail of Tears

Finale: My Mother was Superstitious – A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

Shackles of superstitionsFor the entire month of October I have written blogs about my Mother’s superstitious nature. Some of the Superstitions were passed down from previous generations, some my Mom developed on her own and some…well who knows where they came from?

Living with my Mom and her “fears” was not always easy. However it was almost always entertaining. I can look back now and laugh at so many things she did because of them. Being raised by a very superstitious person I too developed some of my own. I used to knock on wood, throw salt over my shoulder, stamp a white horse, and not tell a Friday Nights’ dream on a Saturday. If you’re not sure what I am talking about and you haven’t read the previous 8 blogs you may get a laugh or two from them.                             Mom 1966

I do feel bad that my Mom allowed herself to be controlled by these beliefs. When I was 12 years old she had a mental breakdown. Everyone tried to get my Dad to have her committed but he couldn’t bring himself to do that. So her care was left up to me and my 16 year old sister. My Dad swore this happened because she was so Superstitious that even life scared her. She spent the next 30 years confined to the home, never leaving except when we moved. She missed weddings and births and funerals, she missed out on life. She passed away at the age of 80 a sad, frightened woman.

When I was 19 I became a Christian and I decided that I should not let my life be controlled by Superstitions the way my Mom did. I have worked all these years to not have any, but every once in a while I will still reach over and knock on wood after I say something  or I hesitate to say “thank you” when someone gives me a plant. I am amazed at how ingrained these become in our lives.

crossed fingersI have enjoyed all of the stories and Superstitions that some of you have shared with me. Each culture has their beliefs and Superstitions. For example, my daughter-in-law is a gypsy. Whenever someone is sick in the house she has my son remove all of the canned goods from the kitchen and place them outside. When I asked her why she does this she said that having too many cans in the house brings on illness. She said this was a gypsy belief.

One of the goals of Genealogist or Family Historians is to make our Ancestors as well rounded as possible. After all, they were people like us with likes and dislikes, beliefs, jobs, homes, etc. When we write their stories we should include as much about them as we can discover and that includes their Superstitions!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, Halloween, Superstitions

PART 8: My Mother was Superstitious – A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

Unlucky 13I thought I would spend this month leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my Mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs.  I will post a blog every Friday and Tuesday and I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My Mom was a Triskaidekaphobe. What is that you ask? It is the “Fear of the number 13”. If you have been following this series of Blogs about my life with a Mother who was plagued with Superstitions, you know that she several “Fears of” things. Some had been passed down to her through her Ancestors and some she just developed on her own. I have no idea where she got this particular Superstition. All I know is this fear made life a little difficult.

This fear of the number 13 was pretty well ingrained in my Mom.  If we went to the grocery store and her purchases came toStairs a total that had the number 13 in it she had to either buy one more item or put one back. If we went into a building and we had to take the stairs to another floor she would stand at the foot of the stairs and count the steps before walking up them. If there were 13 steps we had to take the elevator or leave. She would not do business with any store that was located on 13th street or one that had the number 13 in their address. When my Dad built the enclosure for our patio he used long 2×6’s horizontally placed around the cement area. When he was finished my Mom came outside to see it and after looking at it for a few minutes told him he had to either add one more 2×6 or take one away from the one side. Why? Because there were 13 boards. She also had the habit of staying in bed on whichever day the 13th of the month landed on.

Mary aged 10

Mary aged 10

I learned early on that I was not my Mom’s favorite child. She never paid much attention to me and was always harder on me than she was my older sister. There was none of this “Isn’t she cute, she’s the baby of the family”. Looking back now I can assume it probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was born on the 13th of January. Not only that, but my first and last names have a total of 13 letters in them. Growing up I do not remember ever celebrating my birthday at home on the 13th. It was always the day before or after. My Mom had imparted a lot of her fears unto my sister, Mary. The number 13 happened to be one of them. Mary loved parties, especially birthday parties. She would throw a tantrum because she didn’t receive any gifts so my Mom would go out and buy her something. Mary knew that the chances of me ever having a birthday party were slim because of the date so she thought she would try having one on a different date. My 6th birthday had fallen on Friday the 13th that year! So not only was the party planned for a different date, but it was in an entirely different month as well. When I was 6 years old my sister threw me a 7th year birthday party on June 10th. The problem was she forgot to inform my parents about the party and to make things worse my brother was home on leave from the Air Force! So at 2 pm the doorbell rang and there stood the 4 kids from next door standing there all dressed up, each with a gift in their hands. My brother invited them in, he had no clue what Birthday Cakewas going on. Next thing he knew the doorbell was ringing again and in came more kids. When Mary told him and Mom what was going on they were both upset but didn’t want to spoil the time for the kids that had come to the “party”. As my brother went to the grocery store, my Mom pulled down the pin-the-tail on the donkey game and we started playing games. When my brother returned there were prizes for the games, ice cream, cake and even a gift for me. Mary decided to have a talent contest. The winning prize was a large chocolate candy bar. Since she was not only a participant in the contest but the only judge she won and got the candy! Even though it wasn’t really my birthday, I had a great time. It was the first and only birthday party I had until I became an adult.

I have always loved the number 13. After all it is my birth date, how can that be unlucky?

Here are some more Superstitions that my Mother had:

Ivy covered homeIvy growing on a house protects the inhabitants from witchcraft and evil.

Cover your mouth when you yawn, or your soul can go out of your body along with the yawn.                                               Yawning

RosemaryRosemary planted by the doorstep will keep witches away.

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

Come back on Friday for the last installment of “My Mothers Superstitious – Tales from the Dark Side.”

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, Halloween, Superstitions