Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's not good enough!

I had a really helpful and cheerful person in the Oakland, California, area work with me over the past couple weeks to figure out if the Mary Davis Nickerson in his cemetery was mine or not. There was already a photo of her headstone on So he very helpfully (cough) took a high-res photo of it, after he (with my help) found it. I guess he thought that's what I wanted, despite what I told him.

I thanked him and told him I appreciated his trouble and his work, but mentioned that I needed some information about that woman, so I'd know it was my relative.

His comment was: What are the odds that there would be another Mary Davis Nickerson in this county? And my thought was: Do you know how common those names are? Mary? Davis? and Nickerson? Really. California had five million people in it in 1927, when (we think) she died.

He really *was* as helpful as he could be, but just matching a name is not good enough.

I come from a family with a common name, too, and it's not good enough. I could tell that boy stories to curl his hair about names repeating down the generations until your eyes cross and you stutter just talking about them all.

Also, no researcher worth her salt would accept "Oh it must be her" as good enough. For pity's sake.

So I'm still on the trail of Mary.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bits and bobs of hunting the fam

I am currently on the track, I hope, of a great-great-aunt's final resting place. She is the only one in her family to leave our home state, and the only one to not be buried here.

Unfortunately, she has a very common name, Mary Nickerson, and about six of them died in California in her same time frame. But I'm tracking down the matter of IF the one I'm chasing is actually my relative, by pestering (oh very politely) the funeral homes and the cemeteries involved. By the way, the Nickersons seem ALL to be from Massachusetts.

In other news, I've found that the website Findagrave dot com has been helpful, but has missing information in this case. I had no idea anyone was ever buried without a birth date OR a death date! Why?

Once I realized that Findagrave is a wiki, I began connecting family "dots" to one another. That's rather fun. I added a life story in one case, to an uncle, and an obit, in another case.

Some kind person responded to a request for a photo for another relative, upon the posting of the photo of the tombsone, I also found out that this person has a less-than-accurate birth date on the tombstone.  As a newbie, I can only assume that wrong dates are much more common than I had imagined.

When a death occurs, questions are asked and answered, and sometimes the information is just in error.

AND I found Nun's name in a diagram of the family cemetery. Haven't found out yet if he's really there, but why else would his name be on that map? Questions, questions!

Friday, October 16, 2015

It's at my feet. Right here at my feet.

It's weird, but in a way, "Discovering the world at my feet" is metaphorically rather fitting for genealogy. All this stuff has been here a long time: censuses, newspaper articles, obituaries from 1899, 1917, 1956, etc. It's all been here, waiting for me to wake up and pay attention.

A book I am reading has been published before I was born. So what was *I* waiting for, huh?

So 1899.  This is the year my great-grandfather, Dave Davis died. He's the earliest Davis I currently know anything about:

He and his wife, Elizabeth Thomas married in '54 I think. In the 1850 and 1860s, he had worked the coal fields in South Wales, and god knows what happened to his lungs there. They saved enough and borrowed enough to purchase a butcher shop. His wife baked bread to sell there; his daughter clerked there. Eight or nine other children went to school and raised each other.

Bear with me while I recount this from memory, which is full of errors. There was an agent who worked with the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska. UP owned most of the land around every rail line, because the government let them and because there was big money in it. BIG money. One way or another, this agent was able to secure land just for Welsh settlers, of which Dave was one. When they decided to leave, one of Dave's friends said "Davey, don't go, there's nothing but the dregs of hell an the rakings of Newgate (criminals) there!" Dave and his wife, Elizabeth, and nine children, came to the US via rail, steamship and more rail ... and probably wagon the last twenty miles. That was September 1873. They left two deceased children behind in Wales.

So Dave, Elizabeth and the family were all pioneers in the Welsh settlement of Postville, Nebraska.

Dave plowed for months to ready the soil for a crop, and wrote back to Wales in June of 1874, telling folks of how good his family had it, about the fabulous soil, about the church already established, about how he didn't contend in the fields with stone and trees, like the folks did back in Wales, and where they paid *rent* rather than owning. He said he couldn't imagine why they wouldn't come to what he considered Canaan (the Biblical promised land) to farm, and where land could be had "so cheaply."

They attended Baptist church; the Welsh are known to be religious and political. Dave was articulate, as well. From their life stories, it becomes obvious his children were well-read and articulate, as well.

Well, that part came on down the line, eh?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Moth magnet!

The place where I work is a moth magnet. Every late summer and fall, there are various moths that rest on the front porch or near it.

This morning, this very large moth, OMG, 6 inches across, was sitting on the ground, vibrating. Not sure what that's about!

Anyway just look. Oooooooh!

This guy with the big eye-spots (that's what they call them; I didn't make it up.) (I'll let you know when I make stuff up!) is called a Polyphemous moth, a kind of silk moth.

The lime green Luna moth is in the same family; they are both Saturniidae.

This is the caterpillar, an image from the Internet. The cats are big eaters! Seriously, they have to turn into that BIG MOTH!

The caterpillar can eat 86,000 times its weight at emergence in a little less than two months. But the result is amazing, right?

They eat birch, willow, oak, maple, hickory, beech, honey locust, walnut, elm and other tree leaves, so they are going to be found near heavily wooded areas. We have lots of woods near here. The caterpillars are inconspicuous at first, but at the fourth and fifth molts, then they get this bright green color. After coccooning up and becoming a moth, its eating days are mainly over.

Adults of this family of moths have only partial mouths, and they do not eat and only live as adults for less than one week. Sex is the name of the game, baybee. Find mates, have sex, lay eggs!

This particular moth was resting but also vibrating. As it turns out, these silk moths are so large that they must warm their flight muscles for a minute or two before they can fly. They do this by shivering, and after a few moments, they fly off.

Next picture:

I know you can't see this Lined Sphinx Moth very well, but he's striking at rest. In flight he's even more so! Fat-bodied, rosy hindwings, and hovers like a dragonfly at his flowers of choice. He floats around similar to a hummingbird, just quieter.

I told you it was mothy up here!

Painted lady, the butterfly, not the Victorian house

So, apparently, the Painted Ladies like the coneflowers, too, like the sulphurs do.

The genus name for these little beauties is "Vanessa." They are only 2-3 1/2 inches, but they are quite eye-catching.

They always have the upper corners of their wings in black-and-white, then the rest in orange and black/brown and a tan-colored fuzzy body.

I don't know the terms for all their body parts, but your local butterfly and moth nerd will know. Or any identification guide. There are great books at your library!

This butterfly is also very widespread, but unlike the clouded sulphur, it is international. It's found everywhere except Antarctica and South America.

It migrates, too, like the monarch. It migrates from North Africa and the Mediterranean to Britain in May and June, but they aren't seen on the return trip from Britain to North Africa, because they fly so high. For many years it was a mystery as to when and how they got back south, but it was due to their flying altitude.

There are some Painted Ladies which migrate in California, from one region to another, but their migrations are more erratic, depending on weather (El Nino!) and what is growing at a given time, which varies.

Another reason PLs have such good populations is because they feed from a large array of flowers; over 300 species are known to be dinner for them. They get the biggest smorgasbord!

A party of clouded sulphurs

Clouded sulphur butterflies are found all over the North American continent except for Mexico, northern parts of eastern Canada and the Gulf and Pacific coasts. It is widespread and common and even ranges north to the Arctic Ocean in Yukon.

These folk were avid for the cup plant flowers, the yellow ones. There were times that four of them were on a flower head, but I only got shots of three at a time.

They nectar on several milkweeds, butterfly bush, several coneflowers (as you can see), alfalfa, dandelion, clover species and a verbena. They lay their eggs on ground plum, a couple of vetches, soy beans, alfalfa, clovers, and black locust. There are three to five hatchings of them per year, depending on conditions and location. Three in the Arctic, and five in the southern reaches of its range ... So I'm thinking no wonder we always see these innocuous beauties!

Clearly they like other species to nectar upon, since the one they grouped up on is a Silphium perfoliatum, which was not mentioned as a nectar flower.

A photo I haven't gotten yet is the fluttering, apparently twinkling, clouds of them above the red clover on the spur road. But it is a shoulderless two-lane, and I'm less inclined to stop and shoot photos than I might otherwise be. But it's a sight to see.

Another place it's easily seen is at puddles, mud or wet soil, as the sulphur is an avid mudpuddler. These shots were in my driveway, many hours after a rain. Clearly there was moisture there. They can also be seen in clover fields or along roadsides. The growth of forage-crop production for livestock across North America has greatly expanded the range and numbers of this butterfly.

This is the dorsal view. Most of my photos are of the folded/ventral view.

Male clouded sulphur

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mullein is packed head to toe with goodness

This taller plant is a lead plant, somewhat past blooming, and a the shorter one in the foreground is a mullein plant that has escaped mowing in our front yard.

The reason I did it is to give you a good idea how small a first-year mullein plant can be, and how easy to miss.

The lead plant is only hip-tall, and the grass is unnecessarily tall. But besides the obvious benefits of not mowing, I also often get to find plants that I normally mow. This mullein got mowed five or six times before I neglected the yard enough to see it.

So what?

This is what. Most of the time, mullein's flowers and leaves are what's used herbally, but you can use the first-year plant if you have extra plants around and you need a little help with your back staying in place. You have to give the plant up completely because you need the root.

Mullein root tincture is some amazing stuff. Search for Jim McDonald's post about it. Seriously, it's worth it.

The point? This is the size to look for when you're looking for YOUR mullein plant to tincture.

Don't you feel better now?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

At my feet, on the outhouse, and under the leaves ...

So this is a new stand of purple coneflower at my house. There's so much rain, they are falling over.

I say a new stand, because a lot of my former PCFs got aster yellows and I had to *sniff* dig them up and *sniff* throw them away. There's no guarantee these won't get it, but I had to try.

This is a very beautiful crab spider that was hanging out on a cone for hours. You can see the same one in the previous photo. Such a little dot.

This is what a trumpet vine will do to an outhouse, if left to its own devices. We've been asked how we got it to do that, and I think it was just reaching toward the sun. We didn't really do anything.
This is looking upward from the sidewalk at the bottom of a milkweed leaf. We are relieved that the caterpillar decided to hide and avoid being seen.

And here it is, closer. It was cool this morning, and I imagine it was drowsy.

Adventures in draft horsing-around

So genealogy.

I've been trying to stalk my grandmother, Marie, but it turns out I need to stalk all her siblings, both spouses, and her parents in order to know her better.

Her second husband is an interesting character. By the time I knew him, he was on his better behavior, as it turns out, than in his younger days.

Here he is at about 24, when he signed up for WWI. Later he not only continued his farming life, but like most farmers, also raised livestock. He chose Herefords and was a member of the National Hereford Association.

And he raised and bred Belgian horses! I received some documentation on some horses he acquired and bred, at least those he registered, anyway. And after WWII, when the big shows started back up again, he had some contributions to make. He always talked about horses, but even so, this caught me by surprise. He died in 1981, and here it is 2015, and I'm reading about his work. It's belatedly exciting. Genealogy is so weird.

So anyway, when the Dairy Congress (that's a location) had the National Belgian Show, Ralph took some of his horses over to Waterloo, Iowa, to exhibit. What I DIDN'T expect was this:

Ralph loved a good joke, a good slice of pie, and apparently, a good jumping horse. Not the kind of jumping you might expect at a draft horse show; I can only guess at the story behind it.

Had he heard about someone doing this? Did he just have a horse who loved to jump? I've heard there are a couple breeds of cattle who jump like deer and are hard to fence due to their vertical abilities.

Anyway, I can see Ralph just loving this and enjoying talking to people about this. He always wore a big light hat; I assume that's the back of his head in that photo. (BTW, I'm shocked at the relative high quality of the photo, which I got as a pdf. Yay!)

Go Ralph! Can't wait to find out more about you! By the way, the reason I don't know this kind of info about someone in my very own family is because Ralph married my gran late in life. They were 60-something when they married.

And I still can't find out much about my grandmother, Marie. But the tangents are pretty interesting!

Fooling around is not all Ralph did that year, for sure. He was serious about his horses. Here is a quote from a book published in 1976:

"In October 1946, Ralph Prill showed a team of blonde sorrel Belgians with white manes and tails at the National Belgian Horse Show in Waterloo, Iowa. As three- and four-year-olds, the pair weighed 2200 pounds each, were perfectly matched and had plenty of action. The team placed second in the show, just below a team owned by the widow of John Dodge of Dodge Brothers Motors. The Dodge team had never been defeated in either the United States or Canada. Ralph kept his fine team until the next June, then sold them to a cattle feeder near Omaha for $675.00. Today (1976) the pair would bring $3,000. No other team from Holt County (Nebraska) was ever entered in the National Belgian Horse Show." -- "Before Today; the history of Holt County, Nebraska" by Nellie Snyder Yost, Miles Publishing, 1976.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

1955 reunion in BittieTown

So if my father had graduated high school where he grew up until he was 12 or 13 (I can’t be sure), he would have graduated at BittieTown, USA, which is on my way between my home in TinyTown, USA and MyHomeTown, USA.
I had been doing research in another small town that has a museum, and the one woman said, you should go to the BittieTown Alumni Reunion! I said oh, should I? Yesss!
She said the people who attend those may remember your family when they lived there in BittieTown. Well, I hadn’t thought of that. So I made a flier with all the photos I could acquire that had the people in question. I included some facts and my contact information. I printed about 30 fliers off. I lost the folder of fliers. I found the folder of fliers. And suddenly the Saturday of Memorial Day was six days off!
I called the contact person and the gentleman who answered was effusive that I should come! He was encouraging. It’s at the gym, he said. It’s easy to find, he said.
So about three days before The Day, they closed the road to BittieTown.
So I got out a map and found an alternate route. He never really told me where the gym WAS, but I decided driving around a town of 200, which I’d done a few times before, was okay. -- Well, it really was at the gym and it really was easy to find. I found a place where more than four cars were parked like they were attending something, and look, that could be a gym. Old folks getting out of cars. Yep, this is the place.
I went in and saw the guy I’d talked to on the phone. I greeted him. He said, you should talk to Mr. So-and-So, my brother! He wrote the BittieTown Scrapbook! I was thinking, noooooooooo, (I had already looked at that and there’s none of my family in there.) So I met Russ, who is a really nice man, and after 40 minutes or so, he both told me cool stories and found that I was not indeed, part of either of the two families he thought I might be related to. I had already figured that, but, you know. Researchers have to check for themselves.
It was a nice reunion of friendly people. The food was good, the presentations were good. I even checked with the woman who spoke for the Class of ’55, but she didn’t remember my dad, either. I did talk to a gentleman on the way out with a name similar to someone whom my aunt said “their house was in the J. Jones neighborhood.” I asked if that was him, and he said that’s my cousin, and it's over across from the Presbyterian Church. But at night is not the time to be rooting around for a house in a small town, so I took myself home.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I finally dyed, which started the whole world ... laughing

I bought these belly dance pantaloons thinking they were ivory with that little black pattern on them. Moral: Always get more pictures!

I know the vendor, so I didn't B too much.
Then I thought, shucks, I could dye them!
Here's my kettle. Nice kettle e'n't it?

Be warned. Many gallons of water take (takes?) a long time to boil!
After reading a lot of negative reviews about how Rit dye is crap, and good advice from artists and artisans about how you can get better dyes (but always a lot of dye) and get better results, I was waffling pretty badly.

Then this violet and purple Rit dye, generously donated by Carol from Troupe Sicora in Lincoln won out by pure tightwaddery.

Thanks Carol!
I boiled the water, added the pants, and stirred them and boiled and stirred and ... well ... my arm got tired for sure!

But the color was lovely!
After many rinses (oy, many rinses!), the color was still lovely!

Yes, I quit before the water ran clear. I did. I was tired. I was bored. I was over it.
It was October or something, I'm not sure, but it was cold enough that the pants froze on the line. But more importantly, the color was GREAT! (Don't pay attention to those goobers from my camera.)

So: A mistake on my part + donations + long hours of fiddling = a lovely end to an amateur project.

And I haven't worn them dancing yet, either.

Genealogy with pets

Thanks to the presence of the Evil Queen, I always have company in the front porch, where I try to be a genealogist-like person. I don't know how other genealogists do it, but I just go with whatever piques my interest at the time. I'm rarely too focused.

Last week I realized how my grandmother's grandparents moved with the family to the new part of the state when my grandmother was six. I was glad to hear that she and her siblings had familiar faces besides their dad in the new place.

I don't know how people organize their material. I just have a lot (a lot!) of tabs in a 21/2 inch notebook. I have a separate book for random notes and another separate book for the obits I'm trying to track down. Who has emailed back, who hasn't, what library is helping, how much I owe a researcher, etc.

This is Zi's response to genealogy.

She keeps me from staying focused too much by requiring ear and belly scratches from time to time. She thinks the rabbit hole under the outbuilding is more interesting research, as the clots of dirt on her chest testify.

I did meet a cousin over the weekend. I did a cold call and it turned out well. Whew!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Not exactly a new obsession ...

Genealogy, what a time sink!

This is a picture of a woman (far left) who is an ancestress, and I'm glad to say that the one woman who is smiling is the one in my family. This is the Ulry family, and you can see they have their predecessors with them, making a three-generation photo, maybe four, I don't know.

Every decade or so, I get all enthused about genealogy, and each time I add a bunch of information about the fam. Since I have a relative who researches my mom's side, I go in for research regarding my dad's side.

At right is the second page of a ship's manifest. Some of this material is available online for free, other stuff is accessible through paid sites like ancestry dot com. I'm told you can find most of it for free, if you know where to look. On the other hand, some material is only located at the site nearest where it happened.

So my present includes short trips to museums and libraries in nearby counties, and my future involves longer trips to the same institutions, but further away.

Small towns have hinky hours, often Friday through Sunday and the like, so I'm doing some queries through the mail. Lots of online small-town museum and historical society sites have like one person in charge of answering emails, and some never do answer.

And your ancestors will make you curious about unusual topics. I'm curious about what life was like for a person in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during World War I. I'm curious about what the job of a fireman-slash-engineer on the railroad in the 1920s was like. What was the WPA (Works Progress Administration) all about?

... and my interest in tightwaddery has a new angle. I researched the previous owners of my home (to be found at the local courthouse), and found that at various times, there have been 10 and 11 people living here. This gives lie to my internal claim that I "don't have enough space." How much space is necessary? Do I just have too much crap? "Need" is a relative term.

This is a form that becomes familiar to any genealogist who can go to a library who has a subscription to ancestry dot com. It's a page from the 1910 census.

If you know where your relatives lived in a year that's divisible by 10, you can find out a little bit more about them. After awhile, you learn to peruse them carefully for the minutest detail; those details can be important.

And it gets to be interesting about people's penmanship. Sometimes you need to read over the page to get familiar with the enumerator's (census-taker's) handwriting.

But maybe it takes a special kind of nerd to care. I suppose I'm saying I'm a special kind of nerd! Fortunately for me, there are some folks out there who are better nerds than I am, and when I get stuck, I can ask them for help.

One person in particular, whom I knew in the 80s, was a huge help, and I didn't even appreciate it at the time. She gave me information back then that I'm only just now appreciating. Thanks Claire! You rock!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Obsession hopping

I have been a bit of a sewing fiend in the past few months. Friends roll their eyes when we have conversations and anyone says "So what have you been doing?" My favorite project of the uber-patched jeans? There are now 11 patches. Heh.

At times, however, sewing and herbalism go together, just ask my Christmas gift recipients. Five or six or seven of them received custom-made dream pillows. Now there's nothing difficult about making a dream pillow, but some folks have not heard of them.

If *you* have not heard of them, they are like sachets (well, they are sachets, yeah?), filled with herbs. You can put herbs you like, herbs you need, any combination you like ... just so it's not explosive. Then you put it inside your regular pillow, lay your head on/near it, and the heat from your body releases the essential oils of the herbs inside. That's it. The aroma and the essential oils in your personal space are therapeutic and work in various ways.

This here herbal thing is something I did in ... October? It's called Fire Cider. Look it up. Especially the stuff by Rosemary Gladstar.

Have yaself a big jar, quality apple cider vinegar, onion, fresh horseradish, garlic, ginger.

There's a thing about digging horseradish that I didn't know. The thing is that you do not know where the roots are. There's the plant, and it comes up in the same place every year, and yes, the roots are underground, but that's all. Be carefulcarefulcareful when you dig it, it's easy to assume where those things are. They literally head off in all kinds of wacky directions. And being careful is a pain in the buns. Arduous. But the result is awesome.

 You can add herbs you think will be useful to ward off flu, in case you did/did not look up fire cider. Here is some thyme.
We had garden onions, despite not having taken care of the garden. Sometimes gardens do that for you. They are generous that way.
I added lemon balm. (The recipe calls for lemons or lemon zest, I can't remember which.) This is the last of the stuff aboveground. I also added yarrow, since it is persistent and beautiful and stunningly useful.

And I had three sinus events, and each time I had a few spoons full of this stuff. It's great-smelling and awful tasting. OMG. But I am telling you that it WORKS.

It works. My sinuses have a friend. Wow. I went from impending several-day events of drippy and runny nose, to breathing *through my nose* and clear. I'm not kidding. In hours. I was better in hours and went to work. And I was fine.

Herbalism obsessions can be useful!

So anyway, back to my sewing obsession. I have a '56 Singer sewing machine, the carrying case kind. I love Etta. I've sewed and sewed with her for ... ahhhhmmm ... a lotta years. But there are some things she can't do.

Zig zag stitches. ... She says no.

Going through thick material. ... She says no.

Sewing stretch material. Well. ... I can trick her into it, but it's a pain in the buns.

Sewing in small places. Well, it depends, but it's limited. And it kinda depends on how many hands you have.

So I got a new sewing machine, a Janome 2012. Very basic. And armed with all kinds of hope and a zigzag stitch and some serious torque on Ethel, I can do harder work in more difficult places.

So on this thick Carhartt coat, I was able to put a jeans patch on a twill coat, sewing through the whole coat on the important places. Then I had to hand sew across the top of the patch so that ... you know ... I didn't sew it shut. I also sewed around the hole in the actual coat to allow the guy to use the coat and not make the hole bigger from the inside.

So while it does not look good, it is SOLID and functional. And you can see the rest of the jacket, it's not pretty. Its pretty days are long gone. It's one of those jackets you lie on the mud driveway to take a drive shaft out with.

And it will probably last another several years. I love this shit!