What Will I Do on Summer Vaca?

We are on a balanced schedule in our school district now.  While I love having an extended Spring and Fall Break, I must say that I really do desire the time to actually be lazy in the summer.  We have just over a month and a half of summer break.  And while I should be delighted to have that time, I am already finding that it is already filling up.  So I am nervous about not getting in a genealogy trip.  I need to start planning now.  But here’s the problem.  I have so many places I would like to go that I’m not sure where I should focus.  Here are some of my options:

Trip 1: To Springfield and then Keithsburg (Mercer Co.), Illinois

This is more for Andrew’s family.  His Nelson branch ends here.  The problem is that we have no death date for James A. Nelson.  James was born in Kentucky, moved to Indiana where he married Sarah Heaton.  The two of them soon moved to Keithsburg and as far as I know this is where James ended.  Sarah is widowed by 1870.  James is found in the 1860 census.  So where is this guy?  He would have been 47 when the Civil War started, so I doubt that is what happened to him.  Anyway…the point is…I’ve hit a brick wall with this guy.  I am hoping a visit to the capital and the town where he lived might shed some light on this guy.  Pros:  1. Close to Indiana.  Not the longest drive in the world.  2. Right on the Mississippi River, so that could be awesome.  3. I have always wanted to go to Springfield and see all the Lincoln stuff.  Cons:  1. Keithsburg floods…and badly.  I believe that many Mercer County records have been destroyed. 2.  Not the most exciting drive in the world.

Trip 2:  To Union County, South Carolina.

This is my ultimate brick wall.  This is as far back as I have gotten in my Brown family.  Alexander Brown was born in here in 1761 to unknown parents.  He married Sarah Benson and moved up to Darke County, Ohio where some Browns still live today.  Of all the family limbs that I have wanted to trace back to the origin country, this is it.  It’s my surname!  Come on!  There was some speculation that Alexander may have been a Quaker and moved up to Ohio to get away from the slavery issues that plagued the south, along with many other Quakers at this time.  As we all know, Quakers were among the first people to denounce slavery and act on it, even in the north.  Good old Quakers.  I would probably need to stay in a town between Columbia (the capitol) and Union (county seat of Union County) to have the best chance of finding information.  Pros: 1.  I LOVE the south.  In fact the southeast part of this country is one of my favorite places to visit, mostly for the landscape.  I find it extremely beautiful.  And I don’t mind the heat.  2. It’s the Browns!  3. There seems to be plenty of cheap places to stay between Columbia and Union, particularly in Newberry.  Sumter National Forest is nearby, and might require a visit.  Cons:  1.) It’s much farther than Illinois.  2.)  It might be more difficult to find someone interested in going with me (mainly Andrew who hates the hot hot heat).  3.) If no one has figured out Alexander by now, can I? 

Trip 3:  Binghamton, NY and Guilford County, NY

This is an area that my Lacey/Burch/Burtch branch lived and worked.  What is most interesting about this area to me is that my gg and ggg grandfathers were architects here.  Many of the buildings that still stand in Binghamton were designed by them.  I also have quite the little mystery with my gg grandfather Mister Bascom Taylor Lacey (AKA B.T. Lacey).  He was 90 years old and living in East Stroudsburg, PA in 1956.  I am guessing he didn’t do a ton of moving around before this. He is not buried with his first wife (who was not even provided a headstone) and I can’t seem to find where his second wife is buried either.  I thought that because he family business (and much of the family themselves) were based in NY that I would be able to find some info on him after his death in Binghamton.  I could be totally off-base here.  Pros:  1. I know with certainty that the buildings my people built are still standing.  I will get to stand in them and admire up close.  2. It’s a very pretty drive to NY with the potential for lots of little stops along the way.  3. This B.T. Lacey mystery is driving me nuts and I would love to know where he was finally “laid to rest”.  Please someone find me a flipping obituary!  4. I could maybe combine it with the PA trip that I plan on definitely taking in July.  Cons:  1. Once again, a long drive.  Who knows how much gas will be this summer.  2. New York = expensive.  I know it’s not the city, but the closer you get to the east coast the higher the prices generally.  3. I am going to NYC this Memorial Day.  Going again seems a little overkill.

Places I will definitely be visiting:

  • Darke County, Ohio (Brown fam)
  • Rush County, Indiana (Boyce fam)
  • Wabash, Indiana (Oyler fam)
  • Marshall County, Indiana (Reed fam)
  • Hendricks County, Indiana (Sparks fam)
  • Eastern PA (my mother’s whole side of the family)

So…any ideas you guys?  Anybody know of any more pros and cons of each location?  I could use a little help deciding.

Fall Break Part III – The Cemetery Tour: Hillary Clinton’s Gotta Be Pissed

We didn’t stay at the train station hotel our entire trip.  In fact, we were so very lucky to have some condo timeshare points donated to us by my sister!  She has a condo through Wyndham and some leftover points she would not be using, as she had just given birth to our new nephew.  Wyndham has a great place located in Stroudsburg, PA.  They were amazing, huge, and beautiful.  We had a two bedroom with a full kitchen, balcony, two bathrooms, a lovely view, and cable TV.  All for just the two of us.  At this point I really wished we could have found someone else to come with us to share these lovely amenities.

Our vacation home in the morning. Lovely.

Stroudsburg is a bit of a drive to Scranton, but not horrible.  It is, however, a delightfully quaint town.  I mean that in the least offensive way.  I just wanted to walk all around the town and window shop, chuckling at the clever names of the stores.  But we didn’t have time for that nonsense.  There was researching to be done.  I also was happy to be there because my great great grandfather, Bascom Taylor Lacey, spent his latter years in East Stroudsburg. Where he ended up at death is still kind of a mystery to me.

So after a full day at the library I decided the next day would be a half-cemetery/half-library day.  The weather had cleared up a bit and I thought we should take advantage of a clearish fall day.  The first stop we made was to Abington Hills.  This is a cemetery outside of Scranton proper that I learned at the library, the day prior, was where my great grandparents (L. Carlyle and Cora Motzenbacher Smith) are buried.  I was told by a woman at the library that it might be difficult to find people at some of these cemeteries because the man who owns Abington Hills also owns a cemetery in town called Washburn Street Cemetery.  He has been known to be neglectful of the cemeteries to the point of incarceration.  I wasn’t sure this was accurate information but I braced myself for a nasty trip.  We were the only people in the cemetery.  It really wasn’t horrible.  There were parts that needed some work and it could have used regular lawn mowing.  But most of the headstones were standing up.  I was unable to find a place with records or maps, but luckily I just happened upon my relatives driving by!  Now, this is when I realized how many Smiths and Jones there are in the world (or Scranton at least).  Holy crackerjacks. Every three seconds or so my heart would do a little jump because I would see a last name I needed and then would sigh, “oh, nope.”  This happened over and over, till I actually found them.

This is the headstone for William J. and Nellie (Jones) Smith, Louis Carlyle's parents. You may recognize their names as the ones on the birth certificate I posted earlier.

Here is the headstone for Louis Carlyle Smith and his wife Cora (Motzenbacher) Smith. They are my great grandparents who both died before I was born.

Cora and L. Carlyle sometime before 1960.

We headed out of Abington Hills and towards the city.  Washburn Street Cemetery was our next stop.  Keep in mind, this is the second cemetery owned by Mr. Neglecty Neglecterson we will have visited.  That is a hard name to say.

As we drove into the cemetery it started to sprinkle a little bit, which really just encompassed the entire feel of the cemetery, which I would call “sad and abused”.  This is a cemetery in the middle of town, an historic cemetery, where many of those who died in the Avondale Mine disaster (where over 100 people died in a mine shaft) are buried.  This is not a cemetery that is no longer burying people and has been abandoned, but you would never know it!

As I mentioned in an earlier post about the Scranton Lace Company, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s family is also from Scranton, PA.  In fact, some of her family and some of my family worked together at the Scranton Lace Company.  When I came home from my trip I did a little more research about some of the places we visited on our PA trip.  One of them was the Washburn Street Cemetery.  And who is buried there?  Hillary’s parents!  And her mother JUST died!  I am guessing Hillary Clinton was at the cemetery at some point recently and saw the state of where her parents are spending their afterlife.  It was appalling.  Some of the great things about said cemetery:

  • Knee-deep grass in spots.  Keep in mind, this is mid-October.  The grass is not ever out of control this time of year.
  • The man who was actually out mowing today was running into and over headstones.  It sounded like he was actually trying to kill the lawnmower.  Now, it was difficult to see the headstones, so I can hardly blame him, beacause…
  • They’re knocked over all over the place!  Very nice headstones ALL over the ground.
  • And holes that were actually trying to sprain my ankle…which of course I couldn’t see because of the grass.
  • The fence was a hot mess, which might explain how people are able to get in and knock down the headstones.
  • My favorite part:  The racing wheels someone is storing near the back of the cemetery.  Really?  Really??!?

Needless to say, I had a very hard time finding anyone in here.  I was looking for my Motzenbacher family (who I know are buried here) and only found one, David.  He’s a great great uncle.

A great great uncle of mine. Where is Sylvester? Who could ever find out in this hot mess of a cemetery?

Not what I was hoping for.

What I did find, and was very amused by, was this headstone.

A spot for visitors.

Enough about my rage over Washburn.

Our last stop would be Forest Hill in the Dunmore area of Scranton.  This is kind of a fancy suburb with cute houses (I’m not sure if I should use “cute” to describe some of the mansions but…) and rolling hills, with areas of scenic wooded areas.  The cemetery is one of those wooded areas.  Dunmore Cemetery butts up to Forest Hill and is easy to confuse.  We went looking for some of my Kinsleys and Laceys who I know to be buried there.  We took one lap around the place and decided this was crazy.  There was a phone number on the website for the cemetery and good old Andrew gave a call.  Turns out the lady answering the phone was at the service building at the front of the cemetery and was so gracious and helpful.  I loved her.

She pulled out the burial card for the plot and I learned a lot more than what I thought was there.  In addition to being the burial place for Charles and Marion (Lacey) Kinsley it is also the burial place for Marion’s brother (Turman Lacey) and mother (Emmaretta Foster Lacey).  All of this was paid for by Emmaretta’s husband, Bascom Taylor Lacey (AKA B.T. Lacey).  Here’s the weird part.  Bascom is not buried here and Emmaretta was not given a headstone.  She died suddenly in her mid 40s.  No headstone.  Everyone else in the bunch has a headstone, not Emmaretta.  So I asked if she’d EVER had a headstone.  Nope!  Never.  And where on earth is Bascom?  So after the lady gave us the information and instructions out to the plot we drove over.  This is what we found:

See the dark parts of those headstones? That was all mud Andrew scraped off. This is the point in the trip where Andrew said, "Someone hates your family." All that mud behind them? Those are the other plots in my family completely covered in mud.

We decided after taking a few pictures that we would stop by the front office again to let the lady know what a mess it was.  She said that they hire the guy from the other cemetery to do burials and it turns out they had a burial next to them recently and they never cleaned it up!  Great.  Cemetery success!  Forest Hill was still by far the nicest of the cemeteries we visited in Scranton, with the best help.

Fall Break Part IV:  We will visit the homes of my old relatives.  At least…we’ll try.  Maybe Andrew was right, someone hated our family.

Fall Break Part II – Library Love

We got into Scranton late.  I was tormented during the entire drive by deer threatening to run across the road.  I mean it.  The entire drive.  They were everywhere, standing three feet from the road, taunting me.  And then there were the dead ones…everywhere.  They were reminding me every five minutes that I had a new car that did not want deer guts all over it.  Nor did I want to be scarred for life over killing an animal – despite the fact they obviously deserved it.  So I was a little physically and mentally exhausted when we got to the hotel. We reserved a spot on Priceline.com just that morning at the Lackawanna Station Radisson, which is an amazing hotel, but was once an amazing train station.  Unfortunately I was so tired that I was barely able to keep my eyes open as we stumbled up to the room (which seemed nice, but honestly I can’t recall).  The next morning I got up early to get started on researching as early as possible.  We headed downstairs to have breakfast at the restaurant, which used to be the main waiting area/terminal of the train station.

This is the dining area at the Lackawanna Station Radisson.

Check out the tiles that lined the entire room. I have not looked into how old they are. I was wondering if they were original, and there when it was a train station, but we decided probably not. I should have asked.

Andrew and I packed up our things and prepared to break up for the day.  He would actually be working from a coffee shop right on the square downtown, and I would be heading to the Albright Memorial Library.  Andrew has the amazing advantage of being able to get a lot of work done away from the office.  So on this trip it wasn’t necessary to take full work days off and use PTO.  On a dreary and rainy morning I dropped him off at Northern Light Espresso Bar where he picked out his spot upstairs for the next couple of days.  I proceeded to search for a parking spot near the library.  This proved to be harder than I thought it would be.  Scranton is a small city!  This should be easy.  Yeah, not so much.  The meters there take tokens and quarters only.  That’s right – tokens.  You may be asking yourself, “Is Scranton like a massive Chuck E. Cheese?”  And no, it’s not.  It is just as hardscrabble as Joe Biden described it, especially in the rain.  There are no keyboard playing gorillas anywhere to be found.  But yes, they use tokens in the meters.  And there were not a ton of meters available near the library as the school and downtown areas are  well-populated places during the day.

I finally ended up here:  Albright Memorial Library.

A rainy day outside Albright Memorial Library in Scranton, PA.

The library is an amazing old building and is well used.  The library was packed with people actually reading, checking out books, and researching.  They had the same “interesting” patrons that the Indianapolis libraries do (the oddballs in tin-foil lined hats that sit and read 12 newspapers over the course of 10 hours), but it was still a positive and productive atmosphere.  I headed upstairs to the research room and tried to figure out where to start first.

I decided on finding birth certificates or death certificates.  So I asked the lady at the desk where I might start.  She asked me for a specific date so I kind of scrambled and looked down my long list and found on that fit into the short parameters of what microfilm they had.  She then used that date to find a specific index list, which she searched.  She then used the number she found from that index to look for another number on another roll (which was kept in the back room where only staff could go) and then she pulled out a third roll which actually had the microfilm of the birth certificate.  I felt like a total dunce because I had no idea how she found it.  And it seemed to take forever.  So I got one good copy of a birth certificate of Louis Carlyle Smith.

Birth Certificate from 1897 of my Great Grandfather. This is the only birth certificate I searched for after realizing I only had two days in the library, not two months.

I decided that searching for birth certificates was going to cause both myself and the staff of Albright major headaches, so I focused on something much easier to search – obituaries.  I found an amazing amount of information between the obituaries in their collection of newspapers and the Public Directories.  Between the two I was able to piece together a lot of missing information, including a few death dates (which I literally found by scrolling through months of obituaries).  I usually found out the churches that people were members of, which if I have more time in the area should help me find information as well.  I was able to find burial locations which helped me later in the week.  I also learned that my family’s roots in Eastern Pennsylvania, and especially Scranton, were very deep.

At one point during my search, a crazy lady walking around with a half gallon of milk brought the copy of my great grandfather’s birth certificate to me.  He’s been dead since 1960.  I wasn’t really concerned about people seeing his personal information.  She came up to me and lectured me on privacy issues.  I should not be leaving this personal information out.  I tried to explain to her that it really wasn’t private, and that’s it’s literally in the public records.  She was not the type of person to argue with – she was carrying a half gallon of milk around a library.  I thanked her for saving me from people trying to steal my great grandfather’s identity and moved on.

Things I learned in the library:

  • My family is extremely diverse in its religious affiliation.  I suppose I already knew this from my immediate family.  But even within my Mom’s branch from Scranton they were very diverse.
  • Scranton is very Welsh.  I knew that my Welsh immigrant family members came through Scranton, but I feel like at least half of the immigrant population of this town was Welsh.  And they all had the last name of Jones.  Well, maybe half of them.
  • The Scranton newspapers in the olden days all had an obituary section but were never in the same place two days in a row.  I often see this in other papers as well.  You are lucky to have an entire section devoted to obituaries here though.  It’s even harder searching the old Indianapolis Stars.  Ugh.

Fall Break Part III – Cemeteries of Shame coming soon

Ode to The Indiana State Library

Ok, so I’m not actually going to write “an ode” cause I don’t do poetry; but I want to express my love and gratitude for this place which gives me a place to nerd up when the weather and/or my car isn’t eager for me to travel very far.

Now, I’m not talking about the Central Library.  I love that library for a completely different reason.  In fact, sometimes I wish I lived in that library.  Everyone who lives or visits Indianapolis should go up to the 6th floor and just enjoy the view facing south towards the Circle.

Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. Amazing library. Go there now if you haven't been yet.

On the exterior, Indiana State Library seems like the frumpy sister of the Central library but there are amazing resources there.

Today is a great example of reasons I love the State Library.  This is what happened, in order.

1.) I parked out front on the street.  There is almost always street parking out front.  And the tops of the meters were removed!  There were no “no parking” signs.  So that means Free Parking!  And it was!  I did not get a ticket.

2.) I went inside and had no problem finding an open easy place to sit.  The library is generally known for being a haven for homeless people.  I don’t generally have a problem with this, but it can be an issue with space.  Downstairs the only usable computers are hooked up to genealogy research sites and THAT is the only reason they are used.  This is not the biggest hit with the homeless population of the city.

3.) I had been researching a branch of my family, the Staudts (or Stoudts…or even Stouts) and found a book on the internet that would be so very helpful.  It didn’t even occur to me until I got there today that the State Library might actually have this very random family history called “Stoudts and Allied Families”.  And they did!  And I used it.  And it was so very helpful.  For those interested, I found out that my Staudt family came from Germany, a little village called Wolfersweiler.  Sounds awesome, I know.

4.)  It sounded as if there was a scuffle in the entry way about mid-way through my research there, and I had no worries.  There are capable security guards at the library whenever they’re open.

5.)  I asked the librarian a question.  Now, this seems like a silly reason to like a library, but I’m kind of shy about asking strangers questions because I hate sounding stupid.  But honestly, everyone who goes to this library is so geeked out on genealogy it makes me feel more comfortable.

6.)  As I was leaving I noticed a flier with information about presentations they’ll be doing over the course of the next month.  What is really amazing is that it’s free!

In addition to what happened today, other things that get me all excited about the State Library include:

  • The insane collection of newspapers from pretty much every county in the state, and even some nearby states.  I use these regularly, especially for obituaries and marriage announcements.
  • The fact that it’s across the street from the Indiana Historical Society, which also has a small but pretty cool library.
  • Records, records, and more records.  I can get lost in all those deeds, wills, death records, marriage records…it’s all very exciting.  Most of it is sorted by county and very easy to find.

For those who are interested in visiting the Indiana State Library I recommend checking out their website because the hours can be kind of weird; and there are some days they are just not open.