Thursday, February 24, 2011

A day late, but not a dollar short: National "Curling is Cool" Day!

[Yesterday was] National "Curling is Cool" Day. Who knew there was a day to celebrate the obscure sport of curling?? Interesting, too, because I just made a "genealogical" purchase on eBay last week: a pin from the curling club that was founded by my great grandfather, Charles Burton Lenont. The Club, called the Virginia-Lenont Curling Club, was founded in the first half of the 20th century. I can't get more precise than that until we open our cabin for the summer and I can get up north to do research at the Virginia (Minnesota) Historical Society. The Virginia-Lenont Curling Club existed until it was merged with three other clubs in the area in 1998.

It's interesting to google the name of the club and to see that most of the listings about it are obituaries. People were so proud to have belonged, and enjoyed curling so much, that their families listed the name of their curling club in their obituary! One such club member was my own great-auntie and C.B. Lenont's daughter, Joy Lenont Giblin, who passed away in 2009.

A biographical write-up of C.B. Lenont reads:
He was one of the founders of the Virginia Curling Club and an enthusiastic follower of this Scottish sport throughout his life. In 1944 he established a perpetual trust, the proceeds from which are used in an annual tournament for the Lenont Trophy and at the discretion of the trustees in furthering interest in this winter sport.

So, I'm a day late for the holiday, but not a dollar short! I bought the pin on eBay as part of a "lot" of curling club pins. I don't know anything about curling - I just wanted the one pin. Within 24 hours of receiving the lot, I turned around and listed it and resold it for the same amount I paid for it - basically getting my pin for free!

It's just a fun little piece of my family's history to have. Wishing you a belated Happy "Curling is Cool" Day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

After the first excitement of starting your family tree fades, and you're left with a lot of pruning to do

When I first started my genealogy research - really started it, as in got a software program, joined, etc. - I was so excited just to plow right in and start adding as much as I could to my family tree! Pretty soon I had dozens of limbs and branches, covered with little shaking leaves... you know the excitement, don't you?

I added and added and added. Wow! My father's line went directly back to Sir Thomas More! My mother is a direct descendant of the bastard brother of William the Conquerer! Amazing stuff!

Sir Thomas More    William the Conquerer

The problem with all that amazing stuff is that so much of it was wrong. Wrong or unprovable. I knew so little about what I was doing that I started out by accepting every Ancestry "hint" and taking other people's undocumented word for things.

Sadly, after a year or more of this jubilantly adding generation after generation to my tree, I found myself having to become a careful tree surgeon - pruning incorrect people off it one by one by one. On Ancestry and many software programs you can't just lop off one branch of a family tree, you have to take it off person by person. And when you have added hundreds of people incorrectly (or accidentally added dozens of duplicates, as I had also done) it takes a long time to get your tree straightened out.

So if you are just starting out, take my advice. It's thrilling to find more and more info about your family, but slow down, and learn as much as you can about what you're doing as you do it. Learn about how to avoid adding duplicates to your tree. Learn about how to judge whether or not the "hint" you're being shown is a valid one. Don't just add people willy-nilly to your tree. Believe me, further down the line, when you've got several thousand people on your tree, but you are reasonably certain that they all actually belong there because you've done your homework, you will thank me!

Next time: How to learn about genealogy research - for free! You don't have to pay for your genealogy education, and I'll show you lots of resources to get you started!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The importance of sharing your past while you're still here to share it

My first post... is not written by me. It's actually from a column that my grandfather, Cedric Adams, wrote more than fifty years ago in the Minneapolis Star (now the StarTribune). His daily column was called "In This Corner" and he wrote about everyday things. On this day his mind was on the death of loved ones, and how he wished he had asked them more when they were still here.

My mother-in-law passed away two weeks ago. She was a sweet and winsome woman. Her death left a void and a chain of circumstances about which I have wondered since. There are so many things to do when death comes that should have been done long before. This was true in connection with the death of my own mother. And it probably pertains to most families when a loved one goes. Death invariably brings about a gathering of the clan....  The nearest of kin and friends gather again....  The details of the death are gone over again.  Episodes of the life of the departed member are recalled.  Gradually the combination of food and happier talk relieves the tensions, stops the tears.  How much better it would be if we didn't wait for death to create this kind of reunion....

In the case of my mother-in-law, and my own mother as well, there were discovered batches of love letters their respective spouses had sent prior to their marriages.  I read my mother's long after she died.  Think how much richer that experience might have been had just the two of us sat down while mother read them aloud to me.  She could have elaborated on her own courtship, told me something about my father as a swain.  I would have had a much better understanding of the letters and I'm sure my mother would have enjoyed going over them with me.  We never thought of it.  Nor did my mother-in-law with her children.  Every family has an old trunk of two stashed away in the attic.  In it probably are mother's wedding dress and perhaps one of the wedding invitations and maybe the newspaper clippings of the event.  Why keep them buried up there only to be discovered after death has come?  Why not call the family together, maybe this afternoon, trot out all this stuff, have some laughs, some gaiety over them?

There's another consideration - family albums and scrapbooks.  My wife has a very well-kept scrapbook.  I refer to it as her "girl graduate book."  Frankly, I'm not very fond of it because there are pictures of all her early boy friends, letters from some of them, and a few pictures of her that make me wonder how in the world I ever fell for her - cloche hat, bangs down to her eyeballs, the most unbecoming dresses and coats I've ever seen.  But we get it out periodically, she giggles and guffaws, I snort and wish I had kept a record of my early flames.  And some of them weren't too bad, either.  It was that "girl graduate book," however, that launched me on a scrapbook for my own family.  We had saved pictures and clippings and letters, but they were scattered in the attic, in the basement, in closets, some were at the office.  I gathered the whole shebang in a heap and the girls at the office have been kind enough to spend an hour or so a week sorting and mounting and pasting these little gems in their chronological order.  By Christmas we hope to have it complete.  If it is, our whole family is going to sit down together to go over it.  I like that idea much better than to wait until I'm gone.  
I like that idea better too.  I'll have to ask my dad if they ever did sit down to look at Grandpa Cedric's scrapbooks with him.  Cedric died at the age of 58 - less than three years after he wrote this article.  He died fifty years ago today, in fact - February 18, 1961.

Cedric Adams   May 27, 1902 - February 18, 1961

Thanks for helping me start off my genealogy blog, Grandpa Cedric. 
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