Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Camp Family Letters : Christmas, 1862

"A Husband and Wife Separated By the War, 1862", Thomas Nast
source: Wikipedia commons

For a Confederate soldier, Christmas was about like any other day.  Thoughts always turned to family back home.

Camp near Dalton, Georgia

Dec 25, 1862

My Dear Mary,

[Your letter] came to hand on 21st … much satisfaction [to have] a letter from you … I am destitute of words that can express them, and if I could see you, I could not tell them to you.  I wish it was in my power to be with you in Christmas times, but I cannot.  I feel like I was ready to protect you at all times and under any circumstances.  That is one of my first duties … to protect the ones that are near and dear to me.  And when the time comes that my dear ones cannot be protected at home, I feel that it will be my duty to go and attend to them myself.  And how long before that time will come, I cannot tell.  As to the end of this war I cannot see.  You and our children are all that I need to protect.  ...

I am very sorry to hear of so much sickness in your settlement [among] the settlers [and] friends].  ….. very anxious to hear from you …. I’m sorry but don’t be uneasy.  ...  Keep on the watch all the time.  Keep everything close.

... Write how much more money you will have to have.  I have drawn three month wages, $40, and will draw again the first of January.  ...  I will close for the present.  May God bless us is my prayer.  Write soon.

This is on Yankee paper.

T L Camp

* This letter is part of the "Camp Family Papers, 1858-1877" which are housed in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) of Emory University in Decatur, Georgia.  The letter was transcribed using Transcript freeware.  Some of the spelling, punctuation, and syntax were corrected in this post for ease in reading.  ... is used to indicate portions of the letter which were omitted in the post.  [ ] indicates a word or information I have inserted for clarity.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories : Christmas Tree Decorations - There's Minnie *

With our tree up and decorated, I enjoy looking at all the ornaments hanging there.  So many have a special story or memory as part of its history.  Two of my favorite ornaments are decorated with Disney characters.  These admittedly vintage ornaments were bought by my parents when I was just a baby.  Even when these ornaments don't fit with my tree's theme, the Minnie Mouse and Thumper the Rabbit ornaments will always be hanging somewhere on our tree.  It just wouldn't be our Christmas tree without them.

When each of our children married and started their own holiday traditions, I let them select a number of our family ornaments for their trees, but not either of the two Disney ones. I was surprised by some of their choices but loved hearing them relate the  memories each associated with the ornaments they picked.  Minnie and Thumper will eventually have new homes, but for a while longer, they are staying put on my tree.  

Genealogy Gems, a newsletter published by the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Library, has some great tips on how to "Use the Upcoming Holidays to Preserve Your Family Stories".  One suggestion was to take a photograph of a special ornament or decoration and keep the photo together with the ornament's story.  It could be in a scrapbook, a holiday planner, or even on 4x6 index cards stored with your holiday items.  This way others will know the story of that special item.

Perhaps recording the history of your ornaments could be a good project as you take down your tree this year.  Get out the camera, relax with some seasonal music, and take a picture as you remove each special ornament from the tree.  Before long, you will have recorded some great family stories.

The article also had additional suggestions. They are found in the no.104, October 31, 2012, issue in the Genealogy Gems e-zine archives.  You might also want to subscribe to this free newsletter.

Are there holiday items in your family with a special memory  for you or other family members?  They can provide another way to share and celebrate some of your family stories.

Note: This is based on a previous post from Dec 3, 2012.

*The Advent Calendar of Christmas memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family's holiday history twenty-four different ways during December!  Learn more at

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories*: December 14 - Christmas Cookies

When our children were younger, I would go on a baking frenzy Thanksgiving weekend.  No fighting the malls for me.  While everyone else in the family was watching all the football games, I was happily baking Christmas cookies to store in the freezer until Christmas break.  

I usually made seven or eight different kinds of cookies, including favorites for each family member. My personal favorite was one I called "Sugar and Spice Cookies".  It was based on a recipe found in a cookbook I purchased years ago during a visit to Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.(1)

Sugar and Spice Cookies

3 sticks butter
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Combine flour, cream of tartar, salt, soda, and nutmeg.  Set aside.  Cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl; stir in eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla, lemon, and almond extracts and beat well.  Gradually add flour mixture and blend thoroughly.  Place in greased bowl and chill overnight.  Roll out on floured pastry cloth and cut with cookie cutters.  Place on greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 325 until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Makes 5 dozen cookies

NOTE:  The cookie dough can also be rolled into logs, wrapped tightly in waxed paper, and refrigerated overnight.  The cookies can then be sliced from the logs and baked.

This is a reposting from December 14, 2013.  Enjoy!

*The Advent Calendar of Christmas memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family's holiday history twenty-four different ways during December!  Learn more at

(1) Cooking in Old Salem.  Williamsburg, VA : Williamsburg Publishing Co, c1981.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Maybe I'll Keep Looking a Little More

"Metal Detecting" photo by Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias from Coruña, España
via Wikimedia Commons

Just when I'm ready to give up, I continue to come across one more tidbit of information about my Myren ancestors in Norway.  It is just enough to keep me looking in hopes of finding still more about the family before I leave those digitized records accessed through the Digital Archives of Norway.

In the past week, I located the following records in the Digital Archives.  I used baptism record indexes from to locate the correct year in the scanned clergical records on the Digital Archives, then followed the chronological entries until I found the full record.  All three were found in the same record, Ministerialbok (Ministers' Book) #5 for Lesja Parish, Oppland, Norway.  It was worth finding the full record in order to gain as much information as possible on these three events.
  • Marriage record of my 3GreatUncle Jorgen Andersen to Guri Knudsdatter on 30 Oct 1834
  • Marriage record of my 3GreatUncle Amund Andersen to Ragnild Lansdatter on 1 Nov 1834
  • Confirmation record of my 3GreatAunt Marit Andersdatter on 10 Oct 1830
The record I was most excited to find was the death and burial record for my 3GreatGrandfather Anders Pettersen.(1)  Prior to finding this record, I had found him listed in the birth, confirmation, and marriage records of his children.  I also knew that he not listed in the 1865 census of Norway, one of the primary censuses available through the Digital Archives.This suggested that Anders (senior) had probably died before the 1865 census was enumerated.

Locating this death record as, once again, like looking for a needle in a haystack.  This time I selected a clergical record that covered the likely period in which his death would have occurred.   In this case, I started with the Lesja Klokkerbok (clerk's book) for 1842-1871, hoping Anders would have been alive in 1842.  I started looking at all the death records, beginning with 1832.  There in the 1844 records, I found the information I was seeking about my 3GreatGrandfather Anders Pettersen.

Death / Burial record for Anders Pettersen
Lesja Klokkerbok, 1832-1871

That one line for entry 2 provided me with the following information:
  • Anders Pettersen died on 22 Feb 1844.
  • He was buried on 11 Mar 1844 [in Lesja].
  • He was living in the Myren farm area at the time of his death.
  • He was 74 when he died (and therefore was born about 1770).
  • He died of old age (according to the ditto marks for entry 1).

A few days later, I was able to solve another Myren family mystery. has a lot of searchable international detabases including five databases from Norway.  I have used these a number of times in order to have a starting point for locating the digitized records available through the Digital Archives of Norway.  

The mystery concerned birth and christening dates for my 3GreatGrandfather Peter Andersen Myren.  There were two entries for a birth/christening record for Peter Andersen, son of Anders Petersen and Marit Jorgensdatter.  One listed a birth date of 4 Feb 1798, the other a birth date of 12 Dec 1799.  I wanted to know which was the correct entry and also why there were two similar entries.

By going page by page through the Lesja Minister Book 3, I located three entries that seemed to tell the story of Peter Andersen.(2)  The first entry, outlined below in blue, was the Christening record for Peter Anderson, son of Anders Petersen of the Myren farm area and Marit Jorgensdatter, born 4 Feb 1798 and christened on 14 March 1798.  Witnesses to the christening included my 4 GGrandfather Peter Petersen of Myren and my 5 GreatAunt Sigri Petersdatter of Myren.

Christening Record for Peter Andersen, born 4 Feb 1798

The second entry below, also outlined in blue, was the burial record for a Peter Andersen of Myren farm.  The numbers 1 and 2 in the short entry are in the place where the age of the deceased was generally written in the burial record.  According to this Peter would have been a year and two months at the time of his death or burial.  Looking back at his christening record, young Peter would have been a year and three months old at the time.  For personal clarity, I'm now referring to the birth recorded above and this death record as being for "Peter 1" Andersen.

Burial Record for Peter Andersen of Myren, 19 May 1799

Apparently at the time of Peter 1's death, his mother Marit Jorgensdatter was pregnant with another child.  This child was born 12 Dec 1799, almost seven months following the dead of Peter 1.  This new baby was also named Peter.  Through my family research, I've found it was not that unusual in the 1800s to name a baby after an older sibling who had previous died; these seems to be the circumstance here.

This Peter, whom I'm calling "Peter 2", is the Peter Andersen who was my 2GreatGrandfather, the Peter who had three sons leave Norway and emigrate to America.  The birth and christening record for "Peter 2" is outlined below in green.  I wish I had a Norwegian magic wand I could wave to translate the words circled in orange.  The first word is "first born" but I have no idea what the second word it but wonder if it meant deceased, died, or something like that.  Among the witnesses at this christening were some familiar names, those of my 4GGrandfather Peter Petersen Myren and of his sister Sigri, also of Myren.  I finally had an answer for finding two different birth dates in the same FamilySearch database.

Christening Record for Peter Andersen, b 12 Dec 1799

It is the little things like finding these records that keep me studying those digitized Norwegian records with Google Translate open and my vocabulary chest sheets close at hand..  No telling what else I might find if I just keep looking long enough.

(1)  Oppland (Lesjaskog, Lesja, Norway), Klokkerbok no. 4 (1842-1871) , Dead and Buried 1842-1845, p. 80, entry 1844-2, Anders Pettersen Myren; digital images, Digital Archives of Norway: accessed 2 Dec 2014
(2) Oppland Parish (Lesja, Norway), Lesja Minister Book 3 (1777-1819), Chronological Lists, 1798-1800, Peter Anderson; digital images, Digital Archives of Norway: accessed 7 Dec 2014.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nana, why do you write stories about dead people?

Oakman-Ranger Methodist Church Cemetery
Oakman, Georgia (personal photo)

I was taking a break from the marathon of football games over Thanksgiving weekend.  Taking my laptop with me, I settled in the breakfast area, thinking I would do a little internet browsing or at least look over my various trees in Family Tree Maker.

After a few minutes one of my grandchildren popped in to see what I was up to.  She asked a simple question, one that continues to cause me to ponder, "Nana, why do you write stories about dead people?"  My answer to her was simple, so that she and others in the family would know about some of the people in our family.

As she sat in my lap, I opened my Nelson tree in Family Tree Maker and quickly guided her through looking at the tree, starting with her GreatGrandfather Nelson.  He died several years ago, but she still remembers him.  I explained that he grew up, met her GreatGrandmother, they married, and then they had a baby, her Grandfather, the one watching football in the next room.  Her Grandfather grew up, met me, we married, and then we had a baby, her father.  Her father grew up, met her mother, they married, and then they had her.  With each generation her smile grew bigger and bigger.  After a quick "Thanks, Nana", she ran off to check on the family and the football game.

But why do I write about dead people?  For a variety of reasons ...
  • I've heard stories all my life and what to know more about these stories and the people they involve.  It is one thing to know that your ancestors farmed a homestead in North Dakota.  It is another to look at maps to determine its exact location and to see Bureau of Land Management information about when and how the family obtained the homestead.
  • The research is making history much more personal as I see how ancestors are part of it.  Adolph Myren, my great uncle, because more to me than merely a World War I soldier pictured in his uniform.  Learning about his unit, where and when he served, and the time he was declared missing in action brought new insight into events of the first World War.
  • My writing is connecting me with other family members.  I've discovered some new cousins.  And with these connections, we've also established more communication, sharing photos, information, and even speculation about certain family members or events.
  • I want to help preserve the legacies left by our ancestors.  When a family clock gets passed on to the next generation, I want that person and other family members to know its history.  I also hope the new recipient will glimpse a little of the life of the individual who puchased it.
  • I enjoy the whole research process and want to share what I've learned.  After years of teaching the basics of research and the evaluation of resources, it just seems natural for me to sometimes write about where I locate family information.  Other times I find that just writing about the steps I've followed to answer a personal question helps me see more clearly where else I need to look for new information.

So, as I told my granddaughter last week, there are a lot of reasons I write stories about dead people.  The primary reason. for me personally, is summed up in this quote by the late Maya Angelou.(1)
"We need to haunt the house of history and listen anew to the ancestors' wisdom."
 (1)  "Inspirational Heritage and Legacy" Family Tree Quotes,

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looking For a Needle In a Høystakk*

Traditional Norwegian Haystack
by Kjetil Lenes, via Wikimedia Commons

I'll admit it.  I have become spoiled with the relative ease in finding names of ancestors and relatives in US census records.  Now that I am continuing to search for more information about my Norwegian ancestors, I also decided to take another look at the materials in my Norway Research folder before I jumped into this.  I knew from previous efforts that it would be much more involved than searching for a US census record.

My folder has a number helpful resources I've gathered over the years.  I had written about them in a previous post but knew I needed to have them close at hand once again.  These resources included:
  • "Norse Code" by David A Fryxell, a digital download purchased from  This contains a brief history with timeline for Norway, lists of helpful web sites, and basic descriptions of the different types of records kept by the Lutheran Church.
  •'s "Norwegian Genealogical World List".  This plus Google Translate is a necessity when I "read" those church records written in Norwegian.
  • "Parish Register Examples, Norway", a pdf download from  When you don't really read Norwegian, this helps to select the correct column in which to look for a person's name in one of the church registers.
  • Maps of Norway, downloaded from Digital Archives of Norway.  I especially rely on the map showing parish names, locations, and numbers.
From previous research I knew that my 3 GreatGrandparents were Anders Pettersen and Marit Jorgensdr and that they had lived in the Lesja area of Oppland, Norway.  To learn more about them and other family members meant returning to the scanned church records available on the Digital Archives of Norway.  Admittedly, it has taken me a while to locate just one record, the marriage record of my 3 GreatGrandparents Anders Pettersen and Marit Jorgensdr.(1)

Oppland Parish (Lesja, Norway), Lesja Minister Book 3 (1777-1819)

On page 494 of a minister's book, I found this record concerning Anders Pettersen, resident of the Myren farm, and Marit Jorgensdr.  It is outlined in green in the screen shot above.  Information outlined in red listed that they were registered on 13 Aug 1797.  The writing in blue is still a bit of a mystery.  One of the Norwegian words for engagement is "engasjement", the word written there, while one of the terms for wedding is "bryllup".  (That's why I keep the Norwegian Word List next to my laptop).  It looked as if this record might be for their engagement rather than of their marriage.

I continued to look through the rest of the records for 1797, looking for another record for Anders and Marit, one for their marriage.  No luck.  I also looked back through previous records in 1797 to see if there was a record for the posting of the banns.  Again no luck, except for finding a "trolovelse" record for them in June, 1797.  "Trolovelse" is Norwegian for betrothal.  So, perhaps the 13 Aug date was a marriage ceremony preceded by the public recording of their plan to marry recorded back in June 1797.  For now, I will be using the 13 Aug 1797 date as the probable date of their marriage, listing it in Family Tree Maker as "about 13 Aug 1797".

This possible fact involved strained eyes, a number of hours, and dog-eared resources, but it was worth it to possibly have found one small needle among many large haystacks [or høystakks as long as I'm floundering in Norwegian documents].

* haystack

(1)  Oppland Parish (Lesja, Norway), Lesja Minister Book 3 (1777-1819), "August Married 1797"; accessed through Digital Archives of Norway.

Thankful Thursday: Giving Thanks For ... Cousins

from The Columbia Evening Missourian 1922
by johnny,

Gathered around my virtual Thanksgiving table this year are several new cousins.  They are family I now know after hearing from them through comments each made to one of my blog posts.  And I am thankful for knowing more about them and more about our family connections.

A comment connected to posts I had written concerning The Camp Family Letters has lead me to a second cousin who just happened to be the one who donated the Camp papers to Emory University in the first place.  Since her comment we've exchanged family photos and learned we both share a fascination with the enigmatic Charlotte Vaughan.  We're even facebook friends now.

Following my Veterans Day post, I heard from a descendant of William S Vaughan, my second great uncle.  This cousin provided me with information concerning William's service in the Confederate Army.  The information was clear, detailed, and contained citations.  I appreciated being able to learn more about a brother of my great grandfather, Albert Vaughan, a relative who is now more than just a name.

Another comment came just the other day from a great grandson of Samuel Clayton Dean.  This third cousin sent me a fact filled e-mail about Samuel.  It included, at long last, information about Samuel's death.  The ggrandson also filled me in on some of the other members of Samuel's family, information I might not have discovered through my personal research.

Thanks to these new-to-me cousins for taking the time to comment on a blog post.  Thanks for sharing your information.  And thanks for giving me a present day connection with your family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veterans Day, 2014: Remembering the Past

Field of Poppies, Tower of London
By Ian Pegg (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Tower of London 2014
By Scarretero (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (]
via Wikimedia Commons

This past week, I have seen several images which pointed my thoughts toward the observance of Veterans Day.  The first were pictures I saw of the poppy memorial at the Tower of London.  The monument, which is titled "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red", contains 888,246 ceramic red poppies that have been placed in the moat area of the Tower of London.  Each poppy commemorates the death of a soldier of the British Commonwealth during World War I.(1)   The monument in its simplicity makes a powerful statement.

A very different image was the snapshot of a military cemetery which I found in a family photo album.  The handwritten note on the back indicates it was taken on Okinawa in 1945.  My father served with the US Army and was stationed on Okinawa in the final year of World War II.  This photo was something he brought back from his time spent on Okinawa.  Try as I might, I have not been able to enlarge it enough to clearly read the symbols and inscription on the crosses.  All that is clear is that it is the burial place of apparently hundreds of soldiers killed in World War II.  

Okinawa 1945
photo from personal collection

Today Veterans Day is celebrated in a number of ways.  For many it is a federal holiday, for others it means parades or patriotic programs in schools.  But for all of us it should be a day to recognize, honor, and commemorate our country's military.  As the US Department of Veterans Affairs reminds us on their web site ...

The ... observance of Veterans Day ... not only preserves the historical significance of the date [Armistice Day], but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day:  A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
On this day I especially want to remember these veterans about whom I have written during the past year.
(1) "888,246 Poppies Pour Like Blood From the Tower of London to Remember the Fallen Soldiers of WWI",, Nov 2014.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday's Tips : A New Way to Search For Records

My usual way to research a branch of my family tree is to follow one individual at a time as long as I can.  The "Until I Reach a Brick Wall" approach.  Reading some of Randy Seaver's recent posts had led me to consider using a different approach.  In his Genea-Musings blog Randy wrote of "mining" a specific database for family members.

I had been writing about the Camp family for some months, and I was now ready to revisit the Myren branch of my family.  Time to leave the South, Tidewater Virginia, and the Civil War and head to North Dakota and the life of Norwegian immigrants.  Trouble was, I wasn't sure just where or with whom I wanted to start.  I decided to follow Randy's advice and to try focusing on one specific database for Myren family information.

Previously I had used FindAGrave to record burial information for some of the Myren family members buried at Hillsboro Cemetery #1 in Hillsboro, North Dakota.  My search for Myrens listed 11 people buried at that cemetery.

Myrens buried in Hillsboro Cemetery #1, Hillsboro, ND

I recognized the listings for my GreatGrandparents Carrie (Kari) S Myren and Peter Peterson Myren and my  2Great Uncle Anders Myren.   Also listed were my Great Uncles Adolph, Carl P, and Paul S Myren as well as my Great Aunts Anna and Julia Myren.  

Seeing this listing, I made sure that I had recorded the birth and death dates from grave markers as well as cemetery information for each of these family members.  Citing each fact that I recorded in Family Tree Maker went quickly because I could make a copy of the citation for the first family member, then just edit in the correct data for the next family member.  I could copy the FindAGrave information for Adolph Myren then edit the name and dates in my citation for his sister Julia Myren's FindAGrave record.

Source Citations screen shot, Family Tree Maker 2014

Missing, however, were several family members who I thought would have be buried at this cemetery, my Great Aunts Pauline and Olga.  Also, I knew very little about Annie Myren and nothing about William Myren. 

Right away, I had a new To-Do List: (1) locate information related to the burials of Pauline and Olga and (2) learn more about Annie and William.  By focusing on these four names (Pauline, Olga, Annie, and William Myren), I was able to learn more about each of them in a relatively short time.  This time I used some of my usual search strategies -,, Mocavo, and Genealogy Search Engine - as well as looking at census records and local histories available online.

In a little over an hour, I had found the following information about these relatives:
  • Pauline Myren, as an adult, preferred to spell her surname as Myron, a fact that had slipped my mind when initially searching for her burial location.  She too is buried in the same cemetery, Hillsboro Cemetery #1, as her parents and brothers.  Searching for information on Pauline was what lead me to find her request for a pen pal, the letter written by Pauline in 1911.
  • Olga Myren had married Adolph Rognlie.  Her FindAGrave memorial page lists her just as Olga Rognlie with no mention of Myren.  Olga Myren Rognlie is buried in Hillsboro Cemetery #1 but her husband Adolph Rognlie's burial place was listed as "unknown" while his place of death was noted as being Washington state.  Looking further into this is will probably be added to my To-Do List.
  • Annie Myren, identified through various census records, was the second wife of Anders Peterson Myren.  Anders' first wife, Oline Jorgensdatter Ateigen, was listed as buried in the Elmwood Cemetery of Hillsboro, ND.  By using both United States and North Dakota state census records found on, I was able to follow Annie Myren as she continued to live in Hillsboro, ND until her death in 1949. 
  • William C Myren was one of the four children born to Anders Myren and his second wife Annie.

I also decided to pass on some information to others researching the Myren family by requesting that the FindAGrave memorial pages for my GreatGrandparents, Peter Myren and Kari Siem Myren, include the links to the FindAGrave information of their children.  Some of my editing requests were done within a few days.  Others of my requests are still waiting to be posted.

Lessons learned:  Thanks to Randy Seavers' suggestion, I plan to search within one database or type or record as part of my research strategies with a family.  This experience with FindAGrave showed me how it provided a family overview and then showed some areas where I needed to look for new or additional information.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Looking for a Pen Pal

The Farmers Voice, 15 July 1911.

At the age of 13 my Great Aunt Pauline Myren wrote a letter to the children's page of The Farmers Voice.  She was hoping to find a pen pal or at least to receive some letters or postcards from other readers.  Here is her letter.(1)
     This is the first time I have written to the Farmers Voice, nor have I seen any letters from this part of the country, altho I have been a reader of the Voice almost a year.  I like the boys' and girls' page extremely well.  I am 13 years old, will be 14 on the 19th of January, 1912.  Who else has 14?  I am now a freshman of the Hillsboro high school.  I graduated from the eighth grade June 1st, 1911.  I like to go to school fine and dandy, altho I am glad when we have a vacation.  Daddy has a farm of 160 acres.  He had 3 cows, 8 horses, and quite a number of chickens.  We stay in town during the winter months, but we usually stay on the farm in summer until the last of August when we pack up and get ready for school.  Our farm is 3 1/2 miles from town.  Our town has a population of about 1,800.  There are many nice residences in the town.  I almost always see, when looking over the girls' and boys' page letters from Illinois.  There are a large number of Illinois people but we welcome them and also more.  I would like to receive some postcards, other views, or comics, from the Farmers Voice readers.  I will answer all I get.
                                                                                  Pauline Myren, Hillsboro, ND                      

Pauline's letter was printed in the July 15, 1911 issue of The Farmers Voice.  Finding this letter was one of those serendipitous things, but what a little treasure it is.  Once again googling a relative's name and location lead me to an unexpected resource.  I'm sure I had a huge grin on my face as I read that letter for the first time.

I knew the location of the the Myren family farm on their homestead near Hillsboro, North Dakota and had visited the farm as a child.  It was interesting to read about the farm from Pauline's perspective, plus her description of the livestock on the farm adds a lot to my picture of life on the farm.

My mother had spoken of how her grandparents (Pauline's parents) maintained two houses in North Dakota.  One was in the town of Hillsboro where the family lived during the school year so that the children could attend school.  Over the years, the family occasionally had some of the single, female teachers boarding with them for the year.  Their other house was located several miles out from Hillsboro on the family's 160 acre homestead.  The homestead house was where the family lived d
uring the summer so they could all work on the farm, just as Pauline related in her letter.  In the heritage scrapbook I made some years ago are photos of both of their homes.

Myren home on the family homestead, Trail County, North Dakota

Myren family home in the town of Hillsboro, ND

I don't know how many letters Aunt Pauline received after her request in The Farmers Voice.  Lots, I hope.  After all, Pauline was a career postal employee and worked in the Hillsboro Post Office, and a brother Paul Myren was a long time letter carrier.

(1) "For the Boys and Girls."  The Farmer's Voice, 15 July 1911.  Online archives.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to Build a Brick Wall

English Bond Brick Wall
source: Wikimedia Commons

We spend a lot of our research time trying to break through brick walls.  Sometimes, though, our time is spend building them.  That is what has happened concerning my 3 GGrandmother Penelope Willingham Camp.  As long as I'm going to construct a brick wall, it might as well be a good one.

In 1840 Penelope Willingham Camp and her husband Edmund Kennedy Camp were living in Walton County, Georgia, according to the federal census.  The tally marks on the census page show they had 6 children under the age of 15.  When Edmund died in June of 1848, the family appeared to then be living in Cobb County, Georgia as Edmund was buried in Citizens Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.(1)  Penelope was left a widow with three children who were probably still living at home, Mary age 15, Josiah age 13, and Lydia age 11.

My brick wall started to be constructed when I tried to locate Penelope, Mary, Josiah, and Lydia Caroline over the ensuing 20 years.  I have used a variety of research strategies in its construction over the past six months.

Technique 1:  Look for Penelope Camp using a variety of spellings for her name, especially searching for Kamp and Kemp.  Granted, I primarily used census records on, but I was not able to find any listing for Penelope Camp in either the 1850 or 1860 census records.  Furthermore, I did not locate Mary, Josiah, or Lydia Caroline in the 1850 census.  A mother and three children shouldn't just disappear like that.

Technique 2:  See if Penelope Camp was living with any of her children.  By 1850 three of Penelope's children were living away from home, two of them married with families of their own.  However, there was no census record indicating that Penelope was living with her older sons Raleigh Spinks Camp, William Brooks Camp, or Thomas Lumpkin Camp.  In the 1860 census Penelope was still missing.  Again, no record of her living with sons Raleigh, William, or Thomas.  In addition, two daughters were now married, but Penelope was not listed in the 1860 census as living with Mary Camp Adams or Lydia Camp Hardage.  Like Penelope, son Josiah Camp was nowhere to be found in the 1860 census, probably because Josiah was on his way to Texas.

Technique 3:  Check if Penelope Camp was living with any of her siblings.  This part of the wall took a while to construct as I hadn't spent much time researching Penelope's parents and siblings, almost all of whom were living in Walton County, Georgia for the 1850 census.  And none of them had Penelope or her younger children living with them.  Not brothers Raleigh Willingham, William Brooks Willingham, or sisters Lucretia Willingham Needham or Mary Willingham Burnham.  The same was true for the 1860 census.  No record of Penelope living with the previously mentioned siblings or with brother John Kyle Willingham or sister Rachel Willingham Davis.  Where was Penelope?

Technique 4:  Search different databases.  Because I have a subscription, I generally start my online research with  After striking out there in my search for Penelope, I turned to and then the basic portion of  I even used the Genealogy Search Engine of Genealogy in Time.  Still no trace of Penelope between 1848 and 1860.

There is one small hole in the brick wall.  The records for Josiah Camp include a statement filed in Cobb County, Georgia, on 11 Nov 1862.(2)  This is the statement of Penelope Camp to secure a pension following the death of her son Josiah Camp.  At least in Nov of 1862, Penelope Camp was in Cobb County, Georgia.

Technique 5:  Read through the Camp Family Letters.  During the past year I transcribed the letters in the Camp Family Papers of Emory University.(3)  They provided material for a number of posts I wrote between April and June of 2014.  I decided it was time to read through all the transcriptions once again, looking for references to Penelope Camp, the mother of Raleigh, Josiah, and Thomas, authors of the majority of the letters.  Here I found a few interesting tidbits that referred to Penelope Camp and her unsettled home life.
  • On 19 Nov 1860, Josiah Camp wrote to sister-in-law Mary "you dont know how I hate to hear of my Dear Mother being without a Settled house this way"
  • On 5 Dec 1862, Raleigh Camp wrote to sister-in-law Mary "[I] want you to tell Mother not to leave for home as I am very anxious to see her indeed".  [So where was Penelope?]
  • On 25 Jun 1864, Thomas Camp wrote to his wife Mary "Mother and Polly had to leave home; they have been of late on the old home place. ...They were moved by the government." 
  • On 27 Jun 1864, Raleigh's wife Laura wrote to Mary Camp "The last [Raleigh] heard is that his mother and Polly have taken refuge at Mr. Molls, having been ordered to leave their home."
  • on 10 Oct 1864, Thomas wrote to his wife Mary "Lydia says she want you to write to Mother and for Mother to get her things from Uncle Kiles [Penelope's brother John Kyle Willingham]."

By 1870, life for Penelope seemed to be more stable.  She is recorded in the 1870 census as living near her widowed daughter-n-law Julia Miles Camp in Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia.

Just where was Penelope Camp between the death of her husband in July 1848 and her pension application in November 1862?  I still don't know.  For now, the brick wall remains.  If anyone has a sledge hammer or even a small chisel to pass on, I'll be glad to put it to use on my brick wall.

(1) FindAGrave. Memorial #54854143 for Edmund Kennedy Camp. : 2014.
(2) "Josiah Camp", Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Georgia. : 2014.
(3)  "Camp Family Papers". Manuscript and Rare Book Library, Emory University, Decatur, Georgia.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Now I Am Two

Birthday Cake With 2 Candles
By Rlevente via Wikimedia Commons

When I wrote my first post of this blog on October 12, 2012, I wondered if anyone would ever read my blog.  And there were more questions -- what to write about, how much to write in a post, how often.

Today, Celebrating Family Stories is two years old.  Thank you to those of you who read my posts, who share information with me, who contact me in a variety of ways, and who have bided with me as I continue to try and answer my questions.

What have I learned in two years?  For starters, NEVER be surprised at what I learn about a family member.  NEVER stop looking for elusive information, although taking a break from a person for a while can make me anxious to return later on.  NEVER underestimate the importance of having my facts straight before I write a post.  And CONTINUALLY to be surprised at the posts that seem to click with others.

My most read posts this year dealt primarily with using technology and organization in gathering family history.  The top five were:

As for my favorite posts, I especially enjoyed writing those where I felt I have started to know an ancestor as a person.  Among them are these three:

Now, let's eat some cake.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Caring For Our Family Treasures

Georgia Camp Vaughan
photo from collection of LuAnne Holladay

Recently I attended an informative workshop about ways to preserve our family treasures - photos, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and ephemera we find ourselves locating or receiving.  East Tennessee State University's Archives of Appalachia hosted this public workshop, and two archivists from the center provided us with a lot of useful information.  I returned home with so many simple, helpful tips that I wanted to share some of them with you.
  • Storage of our family treasures:  
    • It turns out that the same things that make us uncomfortable are probably not good for our family treasures either.  Keeping these items in a conditioned air space is what they need.  No storage in a damp, unfinished basement or a sweltering attic.  No leaving a scrapbook open where it receives a daily dose of afternoon sun.
    • Bugs, especially silverfish and roaches, love old documents and newspapers.  Once again, storage of our treasures away from damp areas may be helpful.  And just like in our home, if we see evidence of these creatures, work to get rid of them as soon as possible.  I remember once having to store a number of rescued photos and documents in a sealed bin with little plastic roach traps before I feel free to even look at them while wearing latex gloves.  Turns out that wasn't a totally awful temporary plan.
    • Plastic bins or cardboard shoe boxes are not good for long term permanent storage.  The plastic bins can retain moisture while shoe boxes can allow acid from the cardboard to leach into our documents and photos.  Archival boxes are best for permanently storing these special items.
  • Family photos:
    • Handle loose photographs by the outside edges so that we don't leave fingerprints or transfer damaging oils, etc. to the pictures.
    • If we choose to frame these wonderful photos, mount them on acid free paper and use a mat to keep the picture from adhering to the glass.
    • It is OK to write on the back of your photo with a soft pencil (not a pen) so that others will know the people or circumstances of a picture.  Better yet, if photos are stored in acid free envelopes or photo sleeves, you can write identifying information on the sleeve or attach an identifying label to the sleeve; just do the writing before you put the photo into the sleeve.
    • When you scan old photos, scan them at a high resolution and save as a .tif file.  This is the most stable file format.  Later, you can always work with the .tif file using photo editing software and store the edited photo as a .jpeg file.
    • I have a number of old family photo albums that have the pictures glued onto heavy black paper.  The best way to protect these photos, I learned, is to insert sheets of acid free paper or high quality copier paper between the photo pages.  That should help prevent further damage to the photos. 
  • Newspaper clippings:
    • The acid in newspaper will cause it to turn yellow, and silverfish LOVE paper.  The best suggestions were to photocopy those old newspaper articles or keep them in archival sleeves.
A real highlight to the workshop was the archivists looking at the family treasures we attendees had brought to the workshop.  Each one seemed to provide an opportunity for us to learn from each other.  In addition, we received a "Guide to Collections Care" provided by Gaylord Archival Services.

Lessons learned:  None of us become an archivist in those few hours, but the workshop did serve to help us be aware of simple things we can do (or not do) that will make a difference in the condition of our family treasures.  This workshop reminded us that our responsibility to these family treasures is the time-honored phrase, "first, do no harm".  It looks like I'll be spending some time in my attic next week, finding better storage places for some old photos and documents.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday : No Need to Pass the Salt

Dining at the Vaughan family home meant eating in the dining room, with a pressed linen table cloth, linen napkins, and no salt shakers on the table.  Instead each person had an individual salt dish.  Growing up, I remember the short etiquette lessons we received as we drove down for a meal with members of the Vaughan family.  So, I learned as a child, just how to get a pinch of salt from the salt dish placed above my place.

Prior to the sale of the family home in the 1980s, family members arranged a time for interested family members to come to the house and select a few mementos from the home's contents.  I knew, even if I never used them, I wanted some of the family salt dishes.  My four are pictured above.

Just looking at them bring memories of those family dinners.  Maybe I need to set them on my table when a full table means having to continually pass the salt from one person to another.  Maybe this Thanksgiving ...

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Tale of a House

Vaughan Family Home, LaGrange, Georgia
personal collection
 Once upon a time, my Great Grandfather, Albert Bell Vaughan, decided it was finally time to build a house for his family.  After years of living in various church parsonages and temporary homes from Georgia to Texas and back, LaGrange, Georgia, became their home in 1902.  At that time Dr. Vaughan was called to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church in LaGrange and served the church in this capacity for a number of years.  In addition, he was also the president of Southern Female College in LaGrange for several years.

A 1912 city directory listed the family residence as being on Vernon Road.  Sometime between 1912 and 1920, the family built this home located on Park Avenue in LaGrange; the family was listed as residing at this Park Avenue house in the 1920 census.

As the photo above shows, Dr. Vaughan's study was originally in the right front corner of the second flour.  Later, the family expanded the porch at the left and turned the enclosed area into his study.

Vaughan Family Home, ca 1970s

Dr. Albert Bell Vaughan's study
Following his death in 1930, the family kept his study just as he had left it.  The house, in turn, was left to his widow, my Great Grandmother Georgia Camp Vaughan, who lived in the house until her death in 1934.  According of copies of LaGrange City Directories accessed through, sisters Clara and Louise Vaughan then lived in the family home until Louise's marriage in the mid 1940s. 

In the early 1950s the other children of Albert Bell Vaughan and Georgia Camp Vaughan appeared to have each released or sold any claim to the house.  Through a series of warranty deeds and quit claim deeds signed by her sisters, sister-in law, sister's children and brother, Clara Vaughan became the sole owner of the house.  These transactions were all recorded in the Troup County, Georgia Grantor/Grantee Deed Indexes also accessed on  The entire process took almost two years for the documents from all parties to be signed and recorded.

The Legal Dictionary found on proved helpful to me as I read over the recordings of the various documents.  These definitions clarified the transactions:

Grantee  An individual to whom a transfer or conveyance of property is made (buyer).
Grantor  An individual who conveys or transfers ownership of property (seller).
Quitclaim Deed  A legal instrument by which the owner of a piece of real property (grantor) transfers his or her interest to a recipient, called the grantee.  The owner terminates his or her right and claim to the property, allowing the claim to transfer to the grantee (buyer).
Warranty Deed   A type of deed in which the grantor (seller) guarantees that he or she holds clear title to a piece of real estate and has the right to sell it to the grantee (buyer).

Clara continued to live in the family home until her death in 1979.  Following her death, the home was sold in the 1980s.

Like many old family homes, just looking at pictures of this home brings back many memories of time spent there as I was growing up.  The researcher in me also appreciated having a reason to learn a little more about the transfer of property.  And, I was especially glad I looked at the new records section on Ancestry.  Otherwise, I would never have found all the digitized records from Troup County, Georgia which enabled me to explore property records concerning the Vaughan family home.