"If you can't get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance"
-George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shocking Family Stories

Have you ever come across something so shocking in your research that it makes you say, “WHOA!” I think we all come across shocking family stories, but I think this one takes the award for the most shocking for me.

Recently I was researching and came across a Joseph and Maria Wood in the 1870 mortality schedule. Now if you don’t remember from awhile back, I found that Maria is the daughter of Eliakim Wardell (my 4th GrGrandfather. I had obtained Eliakim’s probate record from Ulster County, New York Surrogate Court. This is significant because I had information that Maria’s name was actually Mary. I can understand the difference of information with the name. From the same information I have, Joseph’s name is given as George. Maria and Joseph’s son, George Cornelius is my 2nd Gr Grandfather. Maria and Joseph had been a brickwall for me for sometime now.

So I had always know that George C. is found as a very young boy living with his Grandfather, Eliakim, and Aunts in the 1870 census. What puzzled me for a long time was why. My likely conclusion was that his parents had died. In the box of ‘stuff’ that my Great Aunt has (which I have referred to in the past) was George C’s obituary stating that he had lived with his Grandparents and Aunts as a young boy….but didn’t say why. It is also in the obit that his parents names are given as George and Mary. There was also a subpoena for George in the box of stuff for the reading of Eliakim’s will when he died in 1892. That is where I got the information to get the surrogate court file, which told me Mary was really Maria and that she was deceased.

So the other day I was searching on Ancestry and I searched for Maria Wood who died before 1870. I came across a couple Marias, but the one that struck me was the 1870 mortality schedule that lists Maria Wood 29 years old born in New York state died in October 1869 (seems the Schedule was done in June); her cause of death listed that she was murdered by her husband. The next line down was Joseph Wood age 45 years, born in New York state, occupation as a ship carpenter, also died in October 1869. Joseph’s cause of death is listed as suicide-cutting throat. I was a little taken aback and then felt bad for the people that are their family. I was curious though about this Joseph and Maria Wood. Perhaps they were some sort of relation after all. I made a post on Ancestry’s website to see if there was anyone who could help me as well as requested some research assistance through Random Acts of Genealogical Kindess (RAOGK).

A couple of weeks after posting to ancestry I got a search suggestion/help from another Ancestry member that had searched for Joseph and Maria on the Fulton County History website. Ok so I cut and pasted the search string "maria wife joseph wood october 1869 rondout", and searched……I found an article on the crime all right , but I got more than I bargained for!

Joseph Wood in a suspected fit of suspected rum induced jealousy killed his wife with a hatchet. His wife’s father’s testimony is given, his name Eliakim Wardell from Dutchess County, New York (WHAT?!) his testimony states that his daughter’s name is Maria Wardell (WHAT?! OMG!) She was the wife of Joseph Wood (I think you get what was going on in my head at this point). Later in the article it says that Maria and Joseph have one surviving child, a son named Georgie!

My GrGrGr Grandfather murdered his wife….my GrGrGr Grandmother. I immediately called my Dad and told him the story. WOW! I then called my Grandma (George is her Grandfather) and told her about my find. She told me she doesn’t think her Dad even knew about this. Probably not something that came up at dinner conversation.

I shared my find with some regulars on the GenealogyWise website chat room. Then drifted off onto more research which led me to a total of 4 articles about the event, one in the New York Times! Each one gives me a few details about my GrGrGrGrandarents that I didn’t have before. I have attached links to the articles online at the end of this post, but be forewarned, some of the details are rather graphic…even by today’s standards.

So I have some answers, but , of course, now I have more questions. Where are Maria and Joseph buried? Does the records from the Coroner’s inquest still exist? How do I get a coy? And of course some doubt that is this really my family…the evidence is hard to dispute here.

Links to the Articles:
New York Times "The Rondout Horror"
The New York Times "Crimes and Criminals"
The [Hudon] Evening Register "The Rondout Tragedy!"

Monday, July 12, 2010

10 Genealogy things I can't live (or research) without!

Fellow blogger Elyse Doerflinger wrote a Meme titled "10 Things I Can't Live Without", related to genealogy of course!  After reading her entry I was inspired to write my own Meme of my 10 Genealogy things that I can't live/research without!  Thanks for the inspiration Elyse!

1.  My Laptop.  I have an Acer Aspire that I just love!  The nice thing my laptop affords me is that I can pretty much take it anywhere!  If I can't take my regular laptop I have a mini that I can just toss into a tote bag or my purse to have a computer with me.  It's nice to have my master file on hand when I'm out researching because I frequently like to go off on research tangents.

2. Legacy.  I love my Legacy program.  It does so much for me that I want to be able to do with my files and my information.  It has some great forms and reports that I can print out and take with me to places where laptops are not allowed.  For more info on legacy you can check out my post on Software Comparision or on Legacy's Website.

3. Forms.  I love genealogy forms!  I guess there isn't a Genealogist who doesn't love forms.  They are our most basic tool for gathering information.  I have even designed several of my own forms, which I will share when I figure out how to upload them here.

4. The library.  I love going to the library.  Our local public library is on a lake and our genealogy collection is in the back corner on the second floor on the lake side of the building.  The library has huge work tables that I am able to spread out on when I'm working.  Plus what a view! (photos to come in a future post).   The local library also offers free access to Ancestry.com I also like the Family History Center in my town.  There is a lot of information there on our area and some of my roots run deep here locally. 

5. The Post Office.  Yes the good old United States Postal Service!  There is so much information on the internet to be found, but there is so much more that is not online.  For a long time I abandoned my letter writing skills and focused primarily on just researching on the internet.  For some reason, really unknown to me, I just decided to start writing letters and sending in requests for research.  My efforts have paid off tremendously!

6. Pretty Pens and Highlighers.  I was teased in nursing school by my fellow nursing students about my pretty colored pens and highlighters.  I just love my colored ink pens and my highlighters.  I also do use them to color code my research and untangle confusing areas of the family tree.

7. My Genealogy "Tool" kit. I have a hard pencil box with a few goodies in it that I always carry with me.  Inside I have a book light, sticky notes, a mini stapler and staples, paper clips, a few rubber bands, a calculator, a correction tape runner, a roll of scotch tape, and a scanning pen.  These are the things I was always forgetting, and of course would need, when I would go somewhere to do my research.  Now I have them all in a handy box that I keep in my tote bag.

8. Family Search.  Or more specifically the Pilot Site with all the online images.  I love that fact that Family Search is free and supported by volunteers.  I have spent lots of time on Family Search and I also volunteer when I have time.  I feel that every little bit helps.

9. The internet.  I am always on the computer it seems.  At home, at work, genealogy, scrapbooking, facebook....the list goes on and on.  The internet has really changed the way the we research our genealogy!  There is so much information available on the internet.  With websites like Family Search and Ancestry we have access to the records that hold our ancestors information that we spend so much time searching down!  If the information isn't online search engines help us find addresses to write those letters, contact genealogical societies or find cemeteries that we are looking for.  Again the list goes on what we can find on the internet related to our searches.

10. My husband.  Besides the obvious reasons that he is on this list..he loves me, he's my biggest fan, he shares in my big and little discoveries, etc...my husband is my research buddy.  He proof reads letters for me, helps me understand military records, he's great at finding headstones in cemeteries, he'll go with me just about anywhere that I want to for research purposes and he drives there too!  My husband goes to genealogy society meetings with me and he helped me write my Power Point for my very first meeting presentation.  He's also the reason that I an in genealogy so deeply.  When we met I found out that his mom is into genealogy just as much as I am!  She is the one that showed me Family Tree Maker and the records contained within the companion CDs!  She also showed me Ancestry!!!!  My husband bought me my first copy of Family Tree Maker for Christmas the first year we were dating! 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Army Wife

Recently my husband went back into the military, specifically the Army National Guard and he is currently going through his Officer Candidate School (OCS).  In June he was gone a week, home 4 days then gone for 2 weeks.  For his 2 weeks he was in Minnesota.  Part of their training is they are not allowed to have and contact home except for letters.  Of course, I waited every night hoping to get a phone call.  Now I know two weeks isn't a long time in the scheme of things, espcially when his Marine unit was deployed for 7 months to africa in 2003 and we would go for weeks without talking on the phone.

Two things occured to me during his 2 weeks away that I have reflected on at length.  First of all, in this day and age of technology with things like our email, cell phones laptops, facebook, etc we (as a society) are in constant contact with each other.  It is very stressful not knowing what is going on in the day-to-day, but ultimately it gave us something to talk about when he got home.  Many times I find myself alling home telling my husband about my day even before I get home.  I wonder at times, if all this technology for communication is really cutting out our true communication with each other.

The second thing that occured to me is this: my mother, both my grandmothers, part of my great grandmothers (and so on) were military wives.  Both my grandpas were in the Army during World War II.  My parternal grandpa spend time in the pacific theater.  The only communication they has was letter writing.  It never occured to me until my husband was gone, is that this is what the women in my family before me must have gone through, but at much longer time intervals when their husbands, brothers, fathers, and uncles were away at war.  Their hopes for even a few words in a letter must have been very great as mine was for a phone call, an email, a text message...something. 

I talk mainly about the Army here because that is the branch of service my family just happens to be in, but this could very easily be the Navy, Marines (which my husband was in before the National Guard), Air Force or Coast Guard.  I'm sure no matter the branch of service, the experience was the same.

Happy Hunting.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You Never Know!

You never know where you are going to find your family history.  Last weekend my cousin got married in Frankenmuth, MI.  We stayed at the beautiful Bavarian Inn Lodge.  Before leaving my mother-in-law told me that there is a room there named after my husband's Great Grandmother's line, the Schmitzers.  Sure enough room 314 is also known as the Schmitzer Room.  After talking to the front desk I was able to venture into the room, which we did not stay in.  And see the photos and couple documents that were hanging on the wall.  I took photos, but didn't have my flash on, so they turned out kinds blurry.   There is also on the website, a page on the Schmitzers (as well as many other families) that anyone can check out. 

We also visited the little museum on Main Street in Frankenmuth, called The Frankenmuth Museum.  There were a couple mentions of the Schmitzers, which I also snapped quick photos of.  Not bad for $5 for admission for the familiy.  And no, I did not use a flash in the museum.

So besides seeing my cousin who was one of my bridesmaids almost 9 years ago, get married...and what a beautiful bride she made...I also got to experience some local history and even catch a glimpse at some of my husband's ancestors.  You never know what you'll find when your on your travels. 

Happy Hunting!