thegenealogygirl


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Photograph Showcase: Grandpa Costello & His Guitar, aka Photo Heaven ❤️

COSTELLO, John playing his guitar, November 1960

John Costello, November 1960. Photo courtesy of Barbara Costello.

In May of this year, I shared my joy at finding 7 seconds of video of my great grandfather, John Costello.  In that post I shared that I have exactly 5 photos of my great grandfather.

Guess what?

That is not the case any longer!!

 

{Insert major genealogy happy dancing & celebrating right here.}

 

In July, my sister visited our grandaunt Barbara.  Barbara is the widow of Dan Costello.  Dan is the son of our great grandfather, John Costello.

Aunt Barbara sent my sister home with a lovely chalk drawing created by John’s wife, that I shared last week.  She also sent her home with a small, but very precious, bundle of photographs for me to scan and return.

This photo of Grandpa Costello was among them.  My heart is bursting with joy to see Grandpa Costello in – what I am guessing is his living room? – playing his guitar.  He didn’t like having his picture taken, so each photo is extra special.  Here is, as a 67 year old man, still playing his guitar.  Be still my heart.

❤️

 

Have you been blessed to have photos shared with you, photos you weren’t expecting to ever see?

 

 

ps – Thank you!! for all of the input and advice about my letter collection.  I really appreciate each of your comments, emails, and poll answers.  Between all of you and some conversations with family, I think I have made a tentative plan.  I think.  The part I know for sure is that I will not be sharing the letters here.  My goal is to be ready to begin sharing them with family in January.

As a side note, my sister talked me through every possible way of sharing, all of the issues to consider – both for those who are deceased and those who are living, plus the time required for each avenue.  In all of that discussing, she helped me have an interesting and very valuable a-ha moment.  There are letters missing.  I know this for sure.  There are also letters that have been edited by scissors or permanent marker – by Grandma.  That leads us to believe that she definitely destroyed many letters, leaving no trace, and that the ones that remain that were marked “destroy”, were either too special to her to destroy or she changed her mind about their fate.  We can’t know for certain, but it has impacted our position on how to handle those letters.  One thing all of this has caused me to reflect upon, is what my own wishes are for my personal items like journals and letters.  Hopefully I can make my wishes clear so one day my granddaughter will know exactly what I would have wanted her to do.

 

 


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Advice Please ❤️

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I have finished filing thousands of precious letters between my grandparents, as well as letters from my great grandparents, extended family, and friends to my Grandpa during WWII and my grandparent’s respective missions.

I have begun scanning and transcribing.  What a joy!

But I am struggling with a few decisions.

Should I post the letters here or on their own blog?  I haven’t counted the letters, but there are thousands.  If I post them here, how should I alter my posting schedule?

Should I include everything?  My Grandma wrote the word destroy on a few of the envelopes.  You see, she inadvertently “Dear John”ed my Grandpa and was extremely embarrassed by that.  It wasn’t something she talked about.  Ever.  But my Grandpa told me all about it.  How do I handle those letters with respect to both my Grandma’s feelings and honoring the truth of their story?  (I really don’t think she had a reason to be embarrassed, it all worked out just fine in the end.)

Then there are a few letters written by Grandpa’s friends that don’t exactly paint the letter writers in the best light.  Do I include those?

Oh boy!  So many decisions.

So, I have a little survey here with these questions.  Feel free to answer on the survey or in the comments or both.  I would love any feedback that might help me choose a path forward.

 

Thank you!

 

 

 


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Piles and Piles of Letters – JOY!

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Just a small portion of the letters.

In early December I was given all of the boxes of photos, journals, albums, letters, and memorabilia that had been kept by my Grandmother.  It was a joyous day and the joy has just kept spreading itself all over my genealogy loving heart these many months.

I was given the boxes, in part, because I was looking for a handful of specific photos to complete my family Christmas gift.  I was in a hurry and quickly went through every single box gathering what I needed.  It was almost painful to be in such a hurry.  There were soooooooo many unbelievable treasures in those boxes and I wasn’t able to soak much in.  I had a deadline.  As I was digging I found a shoe-box of letters.  I gave them a cursory look and thought, “Awesome, Grandma and Grandpa’s letters from WWII and their missions.  I can’t wait to go through these later.”

Well, in early Spring I pulled that box out and was devastated when I realized that it contained letters from my Grandpa’s friends and extended family.  Don’t get me wrong.  I knew they were special too.  But I know that my Grandparents wrote to each other for 5 years and that my Grandma kept all of those letters.  Where were they?

I was stressed.  I wondered if a box had gotten lost or if someone had pulled out the letters thinking they would do something with them.  I asked my uncles.  No one knew anything.  I decided before I completely panicked I needed to comb through all of the boxes again.  Much more carefully.  Just in case.

So last week I started going through the boxes again.  I found and rediscovered so many cool things.  Several boxes in, I found a binder filled with letters.  But they were from the 1960s while my Grandpa was getting his doctorate.  A cool find to be sure, and something I was hoping hadn’t been lost, but still not the letters I was searching for.

As I worked my way through every box, I got down near the end and pulled a box onto my bed and was completely baffled about the fact that it was taped shut.  What on earth?!  Somehow I had totally missed one box.  My heart started to pound.  I noticed a note on the side that said letters.  Could it be?

I opened the box and started shouting for joy!  Total and complete joy.  I was staring at 4 shoe-boxes FILLED with letters.  Plus several bundles that weren’t in shoe-boxes.  There are hundreds and hundreds of letters.

Sweet relief!

I am a bit embarrassed that the letters had been in my bedroom for a few months and all that time I had been worrying about them being lost forever.  Oh boy.

Once they were discovered, I started organizing.  It wasn’t hard because my Grandma had already bundled them by months.  I just had to get the months in order.

Next I started filing the letters in my new Hollinger boxes and folders.  I filed away until I ran out of paper folder inserts.  I need to order more.  Lots more.  It’s going to get expensive.  I wonder if my family members would want to chip in…?  I’m going to need so many before I am finished.  But I digress.

The letters cover a 5 year time period beginning when my Grandpa went off to basic training for the Marine Corps.  They follow his service in the Marine Corps and then cover the time while he was serving an LDS mission in New Zealand.  During his mission my Grandma also served a mission in California.  There is also an entire shoe-box of letters from my great-grandmother Naomi to my Grandpa.  I was so surprised and delighted by that discovery.  She left no journal, no personal history, and she died very young.  I feel like I’ve been given such a gift.

I plan to digitize the letters and share them with my family.  I may post them here, I need to ask my uncles how they feel about that.  Once everything is digitized, I will publish a book for my family members.  Well, maybe more than one.  It’s A LOT of letters and may need to be broken up.

Here are my questions:

1 – Should I include all of the letters in one collection chronologically?  Or, should I separate them and have one collection of letters between my grandparents, one collection of letters from my great-grandparents and one collection from extended family and friends?

2 – If I separate the collections for the purposes of the books I will compile, should I still share the letters online in one collection?

3 – Do you have any tips for dealing with a collection of letters this large?

 

I can’t wait to get started!  Happy Monday.

 

 


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Who is Patricia?

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Recently we spent our family night looking at photos of my Grandpa while he was serving an LDS mission in New Zealand.  We also looked at a shoe box of letters he kept from this time and everyone read one.  I read a letter written by his Grandpa & Grandma Skeen.  There was one thing that jumped right out at me:

"Patricia"

“The welfare man came and took Patricia to a couple who have’nt any children.  Well it just made me sick still I think it is better for her she would’nt have half a chanch ove[r] to Ethels”

Do you know how many Ethels are related to Grandma Skeen?!  A lot.  I have been going through my tree trying to figure out the most likely prospects and every one I have considered has been ruled out so far with one exception.  Grandma Skeen has a sister-in-law named Ethel.  I know a little bit about her.  I am beginning to wonder if Patricia is her grandchild or something like that.  This letter was written in 1947, Ethel would have been 68 – maybe age and health would have prevented her from caring for Patricia?  But that seems unlikely too.  Ethel and her husband seemed very stable.  He was an attorney, they lived in the same place for decades.

So now I’m asking myself if:

  • I’ve missed an Ethel I should be looking at?
  • If Ethel wasn’t a relative but a mother of a child who is a relative – girlfriend of someone?
  • If Ethel is a neighbor?
  • Who might be alive that would remember what happened?

I think I’ve been watching too many episodes of Long, Lost Family because I’m just wondering if Patricia has been searching for her birth family and I have this little clue buried in a letter in a shoe box.

I love the thought process that leads to a discovery as much as I love the discovery itself!

Now how am I going to discover Patricia’s story…?


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Descendancy Research – A Story About Catherine Lucille

Last week I defined Descendancy Research.

Descendancy research is the process of tracing one person’s posterity or descendants.  It starts with one person and moves forward in time.

Descendancy research is a pretty hot topic right now among genealogists, particularly among those just beginning to work on their tree.  There are a lot of reasons why descendancy research is valuable to genealogical efforts.  I will continue to discuss this important topic in future posts.  Today, I want to illustrate the power of descendancy research through a true story.

First a graphic to acquaint you with the characters in our completely factual tale.

Catherine Lucille story

Several years ago, Gregg and I began a lovely correspondence.  {That story is, in it’s own right, a completely factual tale worthy of it’s own post.  Another day.}  I shared my research, countless documents and conclusions that grew his tree significantly.  He shared photos.  Oh, be still my heart, he had photos of the people I knew all about!  He also shared stories.  Can it be true?  Stories I would otherwise never have known.

Among the stories was a sad little tale about Catherine Lucille.  Catherine Lucille is Gregg’s first cousin, and my first cousin twice removed.  She is the daughter of Catherine, the oldest child of James & Catherine.  Catherine, mother of Catherine Lucille, died as a very young woman in 1923.  Catherine Lucille was the tender age of three at the time.  She was the only child.  Her father, William, was not able to care for her and work the long hours required of him.  He depended upon family members for her care.  He tried to keep her close by as much as possible.

When Catherine Lucille was an older teenager she lived with Gregg’s parents for a while.  Gregg never knew her as she moved on before he was born and never returned.  Among the family treasures Gregg’s father gave him was a little box that Catherine Lucille left behind.  Inside there are a few sad letters from a sickly William to his beloved daughter, a couple of documents, and a photo or two.

gg - william and catherine photo, letter montage

Gregg shared scans of these items with me and expressed on more than one occasion his desire to know what had happened to Catherine Lucille.

This past year I determined to solve the mystery of Catherine Lucille.  I spent time on familysearch.org and ancestry.com searching for records.  Using census and immigration records I was able to determine that William eventually remarried, had another daughter and lived in Canada, and that Catherine Lucille lived with various aunts and uncles as a young girl.  What I didn’t know was her ending.  I couldn’t find a marriage or death record.  I stalled.

Then I took a class on historical newspapers.  In the class I learned about a website called genealogybank.com.  This is a subscription website that has more recent obituaries.  While researching for a client, I began a membership with genealogybank.  After using it a handful of times, I remembered Catherine Lucille.

A search for Catherine Lucille on genealogybank’s website yielded an obituary.  It had enough information in the article to ensure that it was our Catherine Lucille.  It also had information about her children and grandchildren.  The words in her memorial were sweet and spoke of a happy life.  I felt such a calm, peaceful feeling as I read through the obituary.  Catherine Lucille’s story seemed to have a happy ending.

But I didn’t want to stop there.  I knew that Gregg and I had some important pieces of history that Catherine Lucille’s family deserved to know about.  Using the names of her children from the obituary, I searched through the familysearch catalog and discovered a marriage record collection for the county in which she died.  I took a guess and searched for the marriages of her children.  They were there!  From this record I now had the names of her children’s spouses.

Now on to the white pages.  I found entries for a few family members but the phone numbers were no longer active.  I checked on facebook and found a daughter in law and a granddaughter named Cathy.  I couldn’t help but wonder if she is Catherine, named for my Catherine Lucille.  I sent facebook messages and waited.  And waited.  I resent the facebook messages and waited.  And waited.

I was pretty busy with other projects so I emailed Gregg and explained my efforts.  I then gave him the addresses found in the whitepages.  I explained that I didn’t know if they were current, but worth a try.  After a period of time Gregg sent a few letters and waited.  But only for a short time before receiving a phone call from one of Catherine Lucille’s children!  We have now begun a phone and email correspondence with Catherine Lucille’s posterity.

We know the end of Catherine Lucille’s story and now her children and grandchildren know parts of the middle that had been long ago forgotten to time.  We were also able to share information on Catherine Lucille’s ancestors – photos, stories, and many generations of names, dates and places.  All information that had been previously unknown to them.  There is power in descendancy research.  The power to make connections.  To solve old mysteries.  To tell someone’s forgotten tale.  Even if it is sad.

Everyone has a Catherine Lucille or two in their tree.  Have you considered learning about yours?