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 ...