Genealogy Karma

The internet really has provided me a place to research and carry out this hobby without having to leave my home very much.  This is not because of magic.  I know the internet seems like magic sometimes, but this information got onto the internet somehow.  I wish I could personally thank  every person who has ever posted a picture of an ancestor that I have yanked and added to my personal collection. Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I can’t!  So I pay it forward and also try to give credit when I “borrow”.  I do a little work hoping that some person some day might be able to use the little thing that I’ve done.  Genealogy karma. Maybe you’re not supposed to do things hoping that it will come back to you, as that’s not very altruistic.  What are the karma rules?

Find-a-grave

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I am the first to admit, the concept of this website is a little morbid and I think it freaks people out a little bit (especially when they find out I have the App on my phone).

Even though it’s not the prettiest website in the world, findagrave.com is one of the most useful websites for genealogical research, at least in the United States.  I think about how many brick walls have been cracked with the assistance of this amazing tool.  As we all know, finding a death date is one of the more important things when looking to find records.  But what if a great great grandfather died in Scranton, Pennsylvania and I live in Indianapolis (this is all a true story so far) and I don’t have a death date but I know who his wife is and when she died.  WHAT DO I DO!?!?!?!?  Well, hop on Find-a-Grave, and do a search to see if someone has already posted his information.  If someone has posted information but you’d like to see what else is on the headstone you can request a photo and a volunteer could potentially go out and photograph it for you!  Is that not amazing?  21st Century Magic.

So what do I do?  There is a cemetery by my house called Concordia Cemetery.  It’s the closest one to me and I’ve spent a lot of time walking the rows of headstones attempting to catalog those that have not yet been cataloged.  Sometimes I’ll drive over to the Catholic Cemetery.  I have a little corner I’ve been working on over there, but the cemetery is so large it feels a little futile.  Concordia can be defeated!

Concordia Cemetery is very German. Check out Johann and Margaret Behrmann. Headstone actually written in German.

Concordia Cemetery is very German. Check out Johann and Margaret Behrmann. Headstone actually written in German.

Also while I’m out and about on little trips I’ll look to see if any nearby cemeteries have photo requests and I’ll go about and try to fulfill them.  Because you know what?  People do it for me.  Karma.

Besides the good feelings and potential volunteer work I will receive in response, why else do I do this?  Well, I love cemeteries.  It’s my version of adult coloring books, I guess.  I also find out some amazing history of the place where I live.  For instance, one day when I was rolling through Holy Cross Cemetery by my house I realized that the Chevrolet family is buried a mile from me.  Like…as in the cars.  Like the actual Chevrolet family.  Here!  Here they are.  Check it out here!  They didn’t even live here (we are obviously not Detroit), but they were buried here because of their pride in their cars in the Indy 500.  Gotta love the history.

Groundhog Day! It’s A Dooooozy!

Alright kids.  I’m sure some of you out there in my readership world know how much I love Groundhog Day.  I have been sending out an annual Groundhog Day email now for about 15 years.  This year I decided to combine my passions for groundhogs and old newspaper articles.

Here is what I found, one of the funniest articles I’ve ever read from 1860, written by Sol Miller, for the White Cloud Kansas Chief.  Now of course I have to learn more about this guy, but that will be for a later date.

In my email I said there would be a link to the actual article along with the accompanying poems.  So here it is.  Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

Here is the transcription if you don’t want to squint and read 1860 text (although it’s really not that bad!).  I also left out the super offensive bit of the transcription because I just couldn’t type it.  Bad form, Sol.

This is Ground-Hog’s Day.  Today at precisely the hour of noon, the Groundhog will leave his hole; and if the sun is clouded, so that the animal cannot see his shadow, he will remain out, and Winter may be considered as ended; but if he sees his shadow, he will retreat into his hole, and remain there for six weeks, during which time we may not look for a permanent breaking of Winter.
    The Ground-Hog is of ancient origin.  From the most reliable data accessible, it is pretty well established that he was created on the sixth day of the year 1.  He was the last and wisest of the animals created; and next after him came man, wiser than he, in all matters excepting those appertaining unto the weather.
    Noah entered the Ark on Ground-Hog’s Day.  He stationed himself at the hole of that weather-prophet; the animal came out, saw its shadow, and drew back again.  Noah knew, from this, that there would be bad weather for six weeks, and forthwith betook himself to the Ark, carrying the Ground-Hog with him.  Two days afterward the rain commenced pouring down, and continued forty days and forty nights.  This, with the two days above mentioned, made just six weeks.  In all the world, Noah and his family were the only believers in Ground-Hogs.  The balance were disbelievers, and perished.  It is proper for us here to state, that in Noah’s country, instead of Winter, they had a wet season.
    Solomon was a ‘fast’ man, as well as wise one.  The secret of his wisdom was this:  He believed in Ground-Hogs.  In those days, Jerusalem and Babylon were rival towns, contending for the trade of the ‘back county.’  Solomon was one of the principal stockholders in Jerusalem – in fact, he owned most of the shares, and was President of the Town Company.  At length the proprietors of both towns determined, as soon as Winter should break up, to make great improvements; as it was evident that whichever town should soonest erect the largest number and the finest buildings, would draw the Spring emigration, and secure the County seat.  The Winter was a severe one, and the proprietors of Babylon did not think of commencing operations before the middle of March.  On the other hand, Solomon kept an eye on Ground-Hog’s Day.  The day was cloudy, and his Hogship remained out of his hole.  Solomon immediately set to work with such energy, that at the expiration of six weeks he had his magnificent Temple far under way.  When the ‘Babylonikers’ heard of this, they gave up in despair; and then it was that they ‘sat down by the waters of Babylon and wept.’  When the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, he taught her the Ground-Hog sign.  This it was that so pleased and astonished her, and sent her home in such a fine humor.  Solomon had pet Ground-Hogs for his numerous “better-halves” and they caressed them like kittens and lap-dogs.
    It is a singular coincidence, that the Temple was destroyed on Ground-Hog’s Day.  The Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and David slew Goliath, on Ground-Hog’s Day.
    Romulus laid the foundation of Rome in accordance with the Ground-Hog sign; and Alexander invariably consulted the Ground-Hog before breaking up Winter quarters, to start upon his Summer campaigns.
    From the earliest ages down to the present day, the believers in Ground-Hogs have been numerous.  In Rome there existed a secret Order, called the “Royal Ground-Hogs.”  Indeed, the Order is said to have been founded by King Solomon himself, and that they met in the upper story of the Temple , at Jerusalem.  From that Order sprang the present Free Masons and Odd Fellows.
    Ground-Hog’s Day is called by the Germans, “Lichtmas,” the English of which is “Candlemas.” The term originated thus: In Germany, in order to prevent the early shooting of grape buds, and consequent liability to have them destroyed by freezing, it was desirable to have cold weather continue until the middle of March.  Therefore, when it was cloudy on Ground-Hog’s Day, and they had reason to believe he would remain out, and bring on an early Spring, the people would visit his hole in mass, with lighted candles, in order to produce a shadow, and frighten him back.  This would keep the weather cold for six weeks.  Ground-Hog’s Day is likewise sometimes called by the Germans “Fastnacht,” or, in English, “Fast-night.” Upon that day they fry an abundance of dough-nuts, or, as they call them “Fast-nacht cakes.”  They originated thus: The Ground-Hog sleeps until the time for coming out, and therefore requires no food; but the Germans, when they frightened him back with lighted candles, fastened up the hole, to keep him in six weeks, that the weather might remain cold.  They feared the animal might discover the deception that had been practiced to drive him back, and attempt to come out and bring warm weather, unless the hole was stopped; and if he made such a discovery, he would not sleep,and would consequently hunger.  By that patient investigation and experimenting characteristic of the Germans, they ascertained that the animal was fond of dough-nuts; and the same night, when he was fast asleep, they would deposit enough of these cakes in his hole, to keep him alive for the six weeks he was to be thus imprisoned.  At the end of that time they would liberate him, and the occasion would be one of dancing and merry-making.  Hence, the dough-nuts were called Fast-nacht cakes.
    The Yankees call the Ground-Hog, Woodchuck.  The name originated thus: In the New England States, the season for making maple sugar is in February and March.  When the weather is warm and dry, the sap will not flow.  Therefore in order to keep the weather cool, the Yankees adopt the German custom, in deceiving the Ground-Hog into returning to his hole, and feeding him upon dough-nuts.  When he goes in, they chuck chunks of wood into his hole, to keep him in until after sugar-making,  Hence they call the animal a Wood-chuck.
    History records, as a significant fact, that every eminently successful person that ever lived, was a believer in the Ground-Hog; and that every person who ever met with misfortune, could trace the cause to disregard of some Ground-Hog sign.  The Germans are proverbial for their thrift; and it has often been remarked, that they will get rich where almost anybody else would starve.  It is all owing to the respect they have for the Ground-Hog, his signs and teachings.  One might as well attempt to prevail upon the Dutch farmers of Pennsylvania to discard the Bible or the Dutch Almanac, as the Ground-Hog sign; and they are almost invariably prosperous.
    If you would be prosperous and happy through life, and avoid misfortune and trouble, our advice is: Believe in and respect Ground-Hogs!”
You’ll have to get your magnifying glass out to read the poems though.

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Wait!

So what’s the story about my mailman?

Well he USED to be our mailman, but he still parks on our street.  He doesn’t talk to people, but he talks to the groundhogs that live across the street.  And guess what he throws them every morning!  A bag full of doughnuts!  No joke.  I feel like this article really answered a lot of questions I’ve had about life.