Archive for the ‘This is Us’ Category
The Darndest Things – Are We Recording Them?
As the old saying goes, “Kids say the darndest things!” Many of us older folks also say and do amazing things. Are we losing them as soon as they happen? Or are we recording them to preserve our own histories?
A year ago I wrote my goal to spend 20 minutes a day journaling, so that I would have a good history to pass on. I did badly! A more realistic goal may be 20 minutes a week. It’s less time, but it’s more likely to happen.
As we spend holidays with family and relatives, let’s also spend time writing down not only Grandma’s stories but our own as well.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself or others. The sample responses are from my own journal.
Where were you today? Describe what you smelled, felt, heard – the full experience.
(Example.) Today was another day at work. The day passed by quickly. I was excited to get home as there are only a few more days until Christmas and since it’s the weekend my wife and I planned on going Christmas shopping. We have intentionally delayed our shopping trips this year as we have been fixing up some areas of the house that have waiting way too long for some upgrades. Our worn out carpet has been replaced with some nice but inexpensive laminate wood flooring. Our Formica counters in the kitchen are no more. My wife and I had a great 20 hours or so building our own one of a kind granite counters. We love them. The whole house looks much better.
Today our youngest said the funniest thing! He shares a room with our 16 year old son and being much younger he sometimes likes to sleep in his second bed – the loft bed we made a while back in his closet. Its not as warm in the loft so when I found him there I asked – oh, why are you in here? He thought about it and said – Well, I just decided it was time to move back in. At six that was pretty cute. (more…)
Finding and Using Military Records
We honor armed forces everywhere and their families. Thank you for your sacrifice.
Military service produces lots of records. Genealogists love records.
Draft Records –
Even without enrolling in the armed forces millions of people are part of their records through draft registration cards. For example, in the US all men, with very few exceptions, are required to register with Selective Service, even though the draft is not currently in effect. Such registrations are the first of many sources of military data in the United States.
I found my colleague’s grandfather, a WWII flight engineer, at WorldVitalRecords.com in our WWII army enlistment records collection.
At WorldVitalRecords we have many military collections. These records include information from many wars.
A closer look -
Upon release from active duty the military service member will then be eligible, as a Veteran, to apply for benefits. The benefits to the soldier are many and varied. From health, education, housing, emotional support, and many other services the veteran will be creating a massive paper trail that becomes part of his Veteran status.
From recruitment to training and active duty records are created. Eventually all personnel become veterans. Each step brings more records.
Unique Military Record Collections
With nearly 300 million military records WorldVitalRecords provides some very interesting and unique source of military history and data. Here are some example collections and information:
Air Force Register Extracts
I have a living distant relative who is an Air Force Veteran
Using the WVR Air Force Register Extracts I can find out a lot about his military service including:
Full Name, Service Number, Promotion List Number, Perm Grade (pay grade), Date of Permanent Grade, Promotion List Service Date, Date of Birth, Temporary Grade, Date of temporary Grade and Pay Date.
While not all of this information may be useful to my genealogy it can certainly add color to a family history.
Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the Army and Navy of the United States during the War of the Rebellion
With a title like this you’re bound to find some great stuff in these records.
While not every genealogist will have tie in to this war, otherwise known as the civil war, those that do will find a historic listing of the relative fighting in an epoch time in our nations history.
The information included in these records are:
Company, Regiment, Name and Rank, Date of Enlistment, Date of Muster in this Organization, also includes remarks which include such items as death information, discharged, sickness desertions and more.
In 2005 I attended the funeral and military salute for my grandfather. He was buried in a civilian cemetery in Idaho. I tried to find him via the national cemetery locator tool, and had no luck, probably because the cemetery is not an officially recognized veterans cemetery. Using the locator tool I was able to find the grave of his father at the Los Angeles National Cemetery, an official Veteran Cemetery.
I have often desired to know more about my Grandfather’s military service as well as that of his father. Requesting those records can be done by the next of kin – if within 62 years of military discharge. (Next of kin meaning within the same immediate family – spouse, brother or sister – son, daughter.) I cannot request his records as a next of kin – but since it was over 62 years since discharge I can follow the public records process.
Standard Form 180 – Public Records Military Request
Standard Form 180 – yes, really called that – can be found by going to this link, This form is required to request the military history of anyone discharged more than 62 years ago. The request is not lengthy but will require some dates and military information in order to have better success in locating the requested service member’s file.
Also after the 62 year mark the records go from being free to having a charge. I called the National Archives, NARA, and was told that I should fax my request form – Standard Form 180 – which I have done and that they would send me an invoice. They expect the cost to be between $25 and $70. I’ll have to wait up to 14 weeks to find out. Once I pay the fees I will receive the files in another few weeks.
In summary, 62 years after death or discharge records are sent to NARA. Before that they remain in possession of the military and can only be accessed only by the military individual or the next of kin.
Thank you to our US military and military around the world for their dedication and service.
It’s Halloween, and we’re in the spirit of it. As you read about our recent interviews with two morticians, you’ll see that we’re willing to be a bit morbid – without being too grim, we hope. So fair warning is given: As we share what we think is interesting information, we’ll talk briefly about embalming, share a bit of gruesome mortician/autopsy humor, and present some uses for superglue and webcams that you may find a tad creepy. Read at your own risk.
Spencer and Chris
My colleague, Mark Olsen, and I recently visited the Sundberg-Olpin Funeral Home in Orem, Utah, where a young mortician, Spencer Weeks, gave us a tour and answered a lot of questions. Then we interviewed Chris Thompson, owner of Heritage North Funeral Home in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. We didn’t visit Whitehorse to tour his facility; Chris and his family were visiting our area.
One of our first questions for both men was, What do you like to be called? Mortician? Funeral director? Undertaker? Spencer prefers “funeral director.” Unlike some funeral directors we know, who don’t like the term at all, Chris actually prefers to be called an “undertaker.” He explained: The word undertaker refers not to a person who puts someone under the ground, but to one who undertakes whatever tasks are required when someone has died. To him the term suggests service.
Both emphasized the great professional satisfaction of helping people through a difficult time. (more…)
Halloween costumes and traditions, ranging from the silly to the creepy to the gory, preoccupy Americans and some other peoples at this time of year, wherever Western Christianity has been influential.
By contrast, death records of various kinds capture family historians’ attention year-round. We’ll look at several kinds of death records and consider their strengths, limitations, and usefulness in family history.
In a recent tour of a local mortuary (of which more in a later blog post), we were given a packet of paperwork and information that the funeral home provides to the family of the deceased. Its contents provide a good tour of the various death records that are available.
There are several pages in the packet related to funeral and burial arrangements, including prices of cemetery plots, caskets, concrete vaults, funeral services, and more. You might not think that any of these would be of genealogical interest, but cemetery plot purchase records, if you can find them, can lead to other death records and also help you locate the tombstone.
Death Certificate and Death Certificate Application
The folder also contains a death certificate application, from which an official death certificate is created. The application itself may be kept on file at the funeral home and may be useful when studying family history.
The application will vary from place to place. The one we were given asks for the following information about the deceased:
• US Social Security Number
• Place of death
• Time of death
• Attending Physician
• Date of death
• Place of birth
• Date of birth
• Spouse – Living – yes or no, and date of death if applicable
• Place of Marriage
• Date of Marriage
• Church affiliation
• School year complete
• Veteran – yes or no – and branch of service
• Clubs/Activities/Accomplishments/Church Service
For many of us, a tombstone is our last and most durable public memento. It marks a place where loved ones can come to remember and reflect. A colleague notes that it also guarantees that, even if our loved ones don’t remember us, the person who mows the cemetery lawn will.
Tombstones may be small or large, simple or ornate. Besides marking the burial place of our physical remains, they also provide information: a name and at least a date or two, and often more.
Many tombstones include an epitaph, a few, pithy words from or about the deceased. You may want to choose your own epitaph in advance, unless you’d prefer that your family choose it for you, when you’re no longer around to disapprove.
We don’t expect good writing to be easy, but trying to summarize a long life – or even a short one – in a phrase or two is especially difficult.
We asked a few co-workers at MyHeritage’s US office, “What would you like on your tombstone?” We weren’t talking about pizza, but we might have had more responses if we had been. Apparently, a lot of people don’t want to think about the living – especially themselves – someday being, well, dead.
Our less squeamish colleagues offered a few suggestions, for themselves and for others.
Julie, whose husband is a firefighter, offered this for her husband:
“Stay out of the heat.”
Justin suggested a famous line attributed to Edmund Burke:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
David offered two thoughts for his own epitaph that were serious . . .
“Better life beyond. See you there someday.”
“Son, brother, husband, father, and some lesser things.”
. . . and two that weren’t:
“Here lies Mr. Rodeback, dead,
In a box, with a rock on his head.
It’s too bad he never finished this limerick, because now it’s too late.”
“Check him out at dead.davidrodeback.com.”
(That’s not a real link, at least not yet.)
Clare selected this classic verse:
Here lies my wife.
I bid her goodbye.
She rests in peace,
And now so do I.
For myself, a name and the dates are just fine, and any great quote from scripture or a religious leader. What I really want on my tombstone is something new: a QR code. QR is for Quick Response. Visitors can scan the code and be taken quickly to a web site about the deceased (me).
The QR code can point to a YouTube video, a family tree, an obituary, or anything else you can find at a web page. It’s on a sticker attached to the stone. Some people don’t like how they look, but they’re catching on. Anyway, it must be only a matter of time before someone designs them to blend in better with the stone.
Imagine: Someone is in the cemetery, visiting my gravestone. A simple tap of a smartphone activates a link, which pulls up more information about me, the deceased: videos, memories, family trees, and more.
Scan the QR code on the tombstone picture to see how this works – I have included a large QR code to make it easy. And yes, you actually can scan this one here now on the computer screen. Your SmartPhone or iPad will then bring up the site where I have programed this code to take you.
Don’t have a QR code reader – download one from the App store. Here is the one I use.
Images, New and Old
Putting symbols on gravestones is not a new idea. In Boston in the 1700s, for example, there was often an image carved at the top of the stone – an angel, a skull, or something else – to protect the grave from various evils. (There is a lot of information online about the various symbols used on the tombstones. Here is information from the city of Boston about the many tombstone markings found there.)
I’ve noticed many modern tombstones which incorporate images to summarize a life: flowers, religious symbols, a car or truck, a favorite team’s logo, etc. Cooper, a boy I blogged about last year, has his photo etched in bronze on his tombstone. It’s a beautiful monument that his family visits often.
Laser engraving now allows the creation of tombstones with realistic, high-resolution photos engraved in the stone. (See a July 2011 article in The Atlantic.)
I’ve mentioned some of the possibilities. What do you want on your tombstone?