My Nancy Drew Epiphany

I believe I had a true epiphany yesterday–an awareness of self. (So glad we can still get these, no matter how old we get!)

Could it be that my love of family history research is rooted in my childhood’s memory of and love for Nancy Drew books… and the mysteries one can solve through proper sleuthing? I believe it is true!

Beginning at about 3rd grade, I believe, a group of girlfriends and I formed a sort of neighborhood Nancy Drew Book Club. We would each buy a different book in the series, pass them around until everyone had read them all, then repeat. Not only was our hunger to read Nancy Drew books sated, but it was done at little individual expense. We couldn’t wait to get our eyes on the next suspenseful tale!

Nancy was an ingenious teenage detective. Her powers of deduction and logic seemed masterful to this 8-year-old girl. I would imagine myself in her place as I read through each mysterious adventure and process of logical reasoning in order to solve whatever crime was at the root of the book’s plot. I wanted to learn those skills, to be as clever and bold and strong-minded as Nancy Drew. [Mathematics, the field I studied in college, is also about logic, reasoning, analysis, and problem solving. Curiouser and curiouser.]

My father seemed to understand my interest in solving mysteries. When I was young, he would often give me puzzles to solve–riddles, mind puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, all kinds. Again, the emphasis was on solving a problem from clues and piecing together evidence to get to the underlying “truth.”

Logic. Reasoning. Analysis. Evidence. Conclusions. Solutions. Truth. Aren’t these all elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard?

I understand now, for the first time, how Nancy Drew and my father developed my capacity for thinking logically. I owe them my deepest gratitude for laying the mental foundation for both of my adult careers–a teacher of mathematics (among other things) for 37 years, and now a Professional Genealogist.

Thank you, Nancy! Thank you, Dad!

My Mother’s Hands

Whenever I think about my parents, both passed on for over a decade, thoughts of my father come into my mind first. He always seemed larger than life to me. He was the one I wanted to please, to make proud. My mother was more reserved, but she played an equally important role in making me the person I am today.

My mother’s hands were always busy. She kept our home clean and comfortable. She cooked, canned, and baked, filling our house with the most delightful aromas. She sewed a lot of our clothes. She maintained the household on a strict budget, but I for one never wanted for anything. Like all stay-at-home moms, she was also resident nurse, chauffeur, playmate, teacher, disciplinarian (until Dad got home), and so much more.

Even when she had “down” time, my mother’s hands were busy creating one handcrafted item after another. She always seemed to have a ball of yarn near her with which she would work, knitting or crocheting, tirelessly and lovingly, into this afghan, or that sweater, or those slippers, hats or scarves. She embroidered and did latch hook, creating both wall art and items for use in our home. She painted by number and enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles. She learned the art of ceramics and made serving dishes for her holiday table. Once she made a quilt top, wedding ring pattern, out of fabric remnants, but she never finished it. (The work of finishing her quilt is now in my hands, but that is a tale for another time.)

Her talents for handcrafting, cooking, and keeping house have passed down to her daughters and granddaughters in varying degrees, but my mother’s hands continue their work through each of us, just as her mother’s before her, and on through the ages of women who I call ancestors.

What do you remember about the work of your own mother’s hands? How has her work influenced your life? Let your family know of this legacy. Write it down.

Joining Genealogy Societies

Before attending my first big genealogy conference in 2013, I had no idea of the number of genealogy and historical societies in existence. They come in all shapes and societies, covering a wide variety of ethnic groups and geographical areas–the world, in fact! Since this discovery I have joined at least 15 different societies. Why? Good question… and I have a pretty good answer.

Genealogical and historical societies are the caretakers of the records of the past. They preserve and share unique collections and databases, at times only accessible to members. The journals and newsletters they produce are full of wonderful stories and information pertinent to the area or ethnic group they represent. Besides sharing information, some journal articles are designed to teach methodologies, to demonstrate quality research. Most societies sponsor seminars, workshops, conferences, webinars, etc., all for the purpose of advancing the goals of genealogists everywhere. Often, society membership means a discount in event registration and on purchases at their store, if there is one.

Most of the societies I have joined are located hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from where I live. Even so, I have found my membership to be invaluable. Joining a society near me has provided me a chance to give back to the genealogical community through volunteerism, but there are many other rewards for membership. I have joined societies for every different state, sometimes county, in which my ancestors lived in order to have access to their special collections and to connect with others in the society who may have shared lineage with me. I have joined ethnic societies to help learn more about my ancestors’ customs, language, and life in their ancestral homeland. I have joined lineage societies to prove my research and to support their missions. I have joined professional societies in order to advance my efforts in developing a part-time business doing something I love.

If you are at all interested in family history research, I definitely recommend joining a society in your area, or anywhere your ancestors lived. You may even find family you never knew you had!

Proving Our Mayflower Descendants

Shout out to all my Olson/Church cousins! With the approach of the 400th anniversary in 2020 of the Mayflower landing, I decided I would work on my lineage papers to the Society of Mayflower Descendants. The New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS), of which I am a member, is making every effort to help the thousands–nay, millions–of descendants¬† of Mayflower pilgrims identify and verify their descendancy. Since my DAR application has already been verified and accepted, I didn’t see the link to our Mayflower ancestor, John Howland, as being much of a stretch. I submitted my Preliminary Review Form and my Preliminary Application to the California Chapter of Mayflower Descendants.

I am happy to report that I have received my official Application for Membership to the Society of Mayflower Descendants completed for the first seven generations, through our ancestor Solomon Lewis (1750-1839). Generations 8-13, from Lydia Lewis (1785-1873), wife of Asa Church (1788-1857),  to me, comprise the research and references I used for acceptance into DAR. I have the documents and references for all the vital events of each generation, some more derivative than others. With any luck, I will be able to use the same documentation for proving our Mayflower connection and satisfy eligibility requirements for the Society of Mayflower Descendants.

It makes me chuckle every time I think of my mother’s answer to my queries as a child about her ancestors. “Oh… we’re Heinz57,” she would always say, and end it at that. Well, I am finding out we are much more, and I am proud of our ancestral heritage. I have always loved this country, but knowing more details of the role our ancestors played in its early days increases that feeling ten-fold, at least.

As I learn more about my ancestors, their trials and sacrifices, their successes and celebrations, I am more and more in awe. We come from great stock. People of the land, mostly, but proud, courageous, patriotic people who helped make this country great. Those qualities are inherent in every one of us, my dear cousins. Our ancestors are a part of us, and we are a part of them. I LOVE GENEALOGY!!