Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011–The Year in Review

jmAs I sit here pondering the end of another year, sometimes it’s the hard times that seem to rise to the surface of my consciousness more quickly than anything else.  The low point of the year was losing a good friend and genealogy partner, John Melton, quite unexpectedly.  I had the blessing of working with John on various projects off and on for the last ten years, and will miss his unending energy and his sense of humor.  Rest in peace, friend.

I also had to say goodbye to one of those rare places on earth that, when you look at it, fills you with abundant history and happy memories.  Voorhees Hall, the main building of long-defunct Huron College, was torn down after 100+ years of service.  I loved the beautiful architecture of every part of it, and enjoyed my years there, especially sitting on the north steps smoking a cigarette between classes with all of the other slaves to the habit, and met some wonderful people while doing so.  It will be hard to drive past that site and not see it there.

On a more positive note -

I started what hopefully will be the most fruitful thing I’ve ever done, at least in genealogy terms.   I’ve blogged about my great-uncle, Flight Officer Raymond Christensen, whose Beaufighter plunged into the sea near Corsica while tangling with the Nazis.  I’ll be blogging more about this, but to make a long story short, through one of those Genealogy Angels, I’ve discovered that the body of Ray’s pilot, Joseph Leonard, HAD been recovered and identified.  This certainly increases the chances that Ray’s body was recovered as well, perhaps just not identified.  Our family has begun the process of looking for a match, aided by mitochonrial DNA.  Perhaps 2012 will be the year we can bring Ray home to rest.

I’ve been able to scale of couple of other genealogy mountains in 2011 as well.  After years of trying to positively identify the parents of Charlotte DeBolt, it looks likely that her father was Patrick Burnside(s) of Ohio.  A book of will abstracts was published years ago listed among Patrick’s heirs a Charlotte DeBolt and her husband William DeBolt.  Hmmm… my Charlotte’s husband was Daniel DeBolt.   I got the entire probate packet and later in the probate, Charlotte is again mentioned with her correct husband, Daniel.  The initial mention of William was perhaps an error, as her brother, another heir, was also named William and listed next after Charlotte.  I’d like to find at least one more solid indication of a relationship between Charlotte and Patrick Burnside before I’m ready to call this mystery “solved”, but this is a wonderful piece of evidence.

Another big breakthrough was finding the grave site of Roland and Elizabeth Sisson.  I’ve tried for two years to visit their graves, but due to a comedy of errors online, including a mis-naming of the cemetery and a grossly incorrect mapping of it, I hunted in vain.  It was thanks to Find-a-grave and another Genealogy Angel that the name was corrected and an accurate map was provided.  I also learned of another small cemetery a couple of miles away, in the middle of a cornfield, where Roland and Elizabeth’s two young daughters are buried.  I was able to find their graves as well.

One of the things that warms my heart the most concerns my granddaughters’families.  I’ve been working on these lines for several years and have amassed a fair amount of information, but not one photo of anyone in this family.  Thanks to my tree on (which is private, but shows up in the index), I was contacted by a distant cousin of theirs who is also working on these families and had photos that she most graciously shared.  I feel so good about being able to show these little girls who these ancestors were, and what they looked like.  It’s especially fun seeing some strong family resemblances.  I truly did not think we’d ever have photos to put into the family history.  Cousins truly are the most wonderful genealogy resource available, and can oftentimes turn into great friends in the process.

In addition to continuing with my ProGen Study Group, I also took on another county site for Genealogy TrailsPeoria County, Illinois.  This is a special county for me, as my ancestors hail from there, and I used to have a Peoria county website that operated independently, but after nine years, had to take it off-line.  I’m glad to be “back in the saddle” and involved with Peoria County’s rich history and pioneer families, and grateful to the site’s former host for all of her hard work in making this a fantastic resource for Illinois researchers.  I look forward to adding a ton of data to the site in 2012.  In addition to the Peoria County site, I’m still hosting the South Dakota state site, as well as Beadle and Hand County sites. 

I’m looking forward to an exciting, even exhilarating, 2012, and wish the same for all of you!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Scrapbook Saturday–A Working Gal

Another page from the scrapbook of my mother-in-law, who was a fixture at the Hand County (South Dakota) Courthouse for 50 years, working for the Highway Department.

The National Youth Association’s representative recommended Louise for a job after her high school graduation in 1937.  Her first assignment was bookwork on easements for Highway 14 through Hand County.  Later, she did bookwork for the WPA Road projects in the county for 20 cents an hour.  Her bookkeeping methods became perfected over the years, and used as a model for other departments.  A copy of a letter from another Highway Department bookkeeper, written in 1963, was used on this page.  It reads in part as follows:

“I am the Hwy. Bkpr. for Potter County, and the State Auditing Department has criticized me to a crisp for being to [sic] slow in getting out my yearly report.
“They recommend your books and your system as the peak of perfection, and suggested that I ask you for an appointment and do it as you do it.
“I have worked a great deal and I understand that time is a precious commodity for the gal that works, if you are able to find time to take me on for a bookwork discussion, I will be most glad to reimburse you for your kindness.”


In 1977, South Dakota Governor Dick Kneip proclaimed “Louise Ulmer Day” in recognition of her numerous contributions over the years.  Hand County was always a very important part of her life.