Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Findings From the Past

If you've read my blog for any time now, you'll no doubt know that I really like history -especially the history of my community -the township, the little villages here and the people who once lived here, their families, the interconnections between families, where many of those folks with roots to this area are today. For the past 3-4 years, by researching through the historic newspaper section of, I have been transcribing bits and pieces about this area and the people who called this home. I have no idea how many word documents I have saved now with article after article about happenings from here between 1913 and 1966-67 (that's where I left off the last time I was researching via the old newspaper, but suffice it to say, I have many, many pages of these bits and pieces of what once was.

I did have sort of a game plan, initially, that by transcribing these articles, someday, I would sort through them, organize them, and then do some type of book that might be of interest to anyone who, like me, enjoys reading trivial bits like that -history -but also I had figured I would do this "book" in a way that it would or could be useful to those who are doing family tree research -to give them perhaps more personal information about their ancestors from this region than just those old census records, which often are very difficult to read and sometimes, pretty dry too.

The past several months, I've been very lazy about this research project of mine. Matter of fact, I don't think I've done a transcription since February or March. I haven't even updated my own family tree very much in quite a long time either.

But after events of this week -in the past two days -I think I better get moving, do some more work on that and try to set some goals for at least completing the research.

What brought this on? Well, Sunday evening I received an e-mail from a lady who had found my blog by googling the word "Panakaka" -which is a Swedish dish -a baked custard type thing -that my Grandma used to make frequently and which I make fairly often. My kids and I love it -especially with blueberries or if I happen to get to an IKEA store and buy some lingonberries, which is what my Grandma always said were meant to be served with Panakaka.

As it turns out, this lady's ancestors had immigrated to this area where I live from Sweden back in the 1880's and she knows some folks from around here. What's more, this lady was also born in Jamestown, NY -where I lived for a little over a year during 2nd and 3rd grade and where I spent most of my summer vacations too through 1961!

I e-mailed her and thus began a correspondence with her. Then, she either forwarded our communication on to a cousin of hers who lives in Jamestown but is moving next week to South Carolina and that lady and I have been buring up the cyberspace this afternoon and evening with e-mails -questions and answers we both have about people and the area of our past, our roots.

One thing I thought was really cool was in a response to one of my notes, the lady still living in Jamestown asked about a surname I had mentioned and wanted to know if the Nagle family I knew had ever had a little store up on Newland Avenue and as it turns out, yes indeed, we were talking about the same family.

Now, this evening, I received a comment to one of my first posts -way back in September of 2006 -from a blogger who is on my favorites list, whose blog I read daily - Beth of Around the Funny Farm. Gee, it seems Beth's roots also revert back to here -to where I live -as she informed me that her grandfather was from Grassflat -which is the name of the little village where I live. She says he worked in the coal mines here and was one of a family of 11 children! What's more -about two months ago when Mandy and I had made a trip to Pittsburgh for an appointment I had with my surgeon there (a trip that went much better than the drive there last Friday because we didn't have any car problems -except that we got lost coming out of PIttsburgh that day) but anyway, on the way back home we had stopped at a little convenience store on the east side of Route 79 where the Grove City Outlet Mall is located to say hello to my ex-sister-in-law, who is the manager of that establishment. When Beth had read that in my post then, she had informed me that she lives about 10-15 minutes away from that store.

Well Beth -go stop over at that convenience store and talk to the manager there some day as she is also from Grassflat and her grandfather also grew up in Grassflat (so did my sister-in-law) and what's more, her grandfather was one of 18 children! (That included also a set of triplets!)

Back when I got my first computer in the summer of 1999, I was really interested then in just searching for information pertaining to my own family tree so I used to surf a lot of the family tree sites for people searching for ancestors that might be linked to my trees. And, within a few months, I had found a cousin of my Dad's who lives in Phoenix, AZ and who had a very concise tree, full of information about my great-grandfather and all of his children -except for my grandfather. The reason being my g-grandfather and his second wife had moved from eastern Pennsylvania, to this region where they had lived for a short period of time and then, they had migrated out to Montana but my Grandfather had stayed behind here in Pennsylvania. So, although I knew a little bit about my grandfather's full siblings as well as his half-siblings, I didn't know enough about them to ever be able to do a full tree on that side of my family unless I would win the lottery and be able to go to Montana and stay there a while to research those roots. That cousin sent me everything she had on that side of my family tree and in turn, I sent her all the data I had on my Dad's parents, their children, grandchildren, etc. -all information which that cousin would also have had a really hard time in tracking the data down for her tree too!

Back then too, I came across a query one day from a lady researching her roots back to Grassflat and I recognized her name. She had graduated from high school four years ahead of me so I didn't really "know" her -I knew who she was -but I knew her sister very well because she was in my class and we had gone through most all of our school years together -with the exception of the roughly a year when I lived in Jamestown, NY and went to school there.

Ok, I e-mailed that lady and we began to write back and forth. During those early letters I learned that she had written a book -begun mainly as a family history for her siblings and the descendants of their very large family. This book chronicles how her grandparents met in Slovakia, their journey to the "new land" and how they came to settle here in this small community. It is also a telling of what it was like growing up here in a large family in the 40s and 50s, until she finished high school, moved to Cleveland, got married and had her own family.

The upshot of that early communication too has resulted in a very strong friendship developing between us -and sharing of many mutual concerns as she and I both were diagnosed with cancer too about a year apart. So far, both of us have now remained cancer-free too -so we celebrate that victory together as well these days. She and her husband make trips over here from Cleveland from time to time and we always try to get together either for lunch or maybe just coffee and dessert but try to make time to visit, reconnect in person then.

And, my friend's book -well, it may have started as a self-published family history type thing, but a few folks here and there heard about it and told her they would like to be able to purchase a copy of it -myself, included in that number -and primarily from word of mouth, she has had her book reprinted now four times and nine years since it was first published, she still gets inquiries and orders for a copy of it! So if anyone here is interested in a book about one family that used to live here, drop me an e-mail and I will give you her e-mail address and you can then contact her and get a copy. It really is a very nice book, well-written and a very enjoyable piece to read!

Now, going off in a little different direction tonight there is something else I wanted to mention to everyone reading my blog and that is about a fellow blogger who I know many of you read her blog (I've seen your names in her comments section) and who I have come to "know" as a great cyberspace friend but I'd like to ask those who aren't familiar with her blog to please pay her a visit and then, keep her and her father in your prayers because this Thursday, she will be having surgery to donate a kidney to her Dad, who has been dealing with dialysis and kidney failure for a long time now. This would be for Terri, of Terri Terri Quite Contrary. She writes a terrific blog and please let her know you will be keeping her in thought and prayer for a swift recovery from the surgery for both her and her dad! I'm sure she would appreciate any extra kind words coming her way and I KNOW you won't regret reading her blog too -if you don't already do that!

Send her lots and lots of blogger love, especially now, as she gets ready for this really brave step she is about to take.

And, one other thing -in the "small world" vein -I got an e-mail this evening too from yet another lady I met via the family tree research message board about 8-9 years back whose father was originally from this area and who still has many relatives in this region -most who I know too from the church I belong to. This lady and I have e-mailed back and forth for about 7-8 years now but never met. However, this Sunday, she and her husband will be in this area and they are going to stop by my house for a quick "get-to-know-each-other" visit. I'm very much looking forward to her visit too now.

So, here's to Terri -Good luck, many prayers for you and your dad coming your way from lots of friends in bloggerland -old readers and new ones alike -and also, here's to finding folks and making new friends simply because of what a small world it really is where we all reside!

Just one small example of how the internet -and blogs -bring so many people together, create new friendships every day and who knows, maybe someday, through the efforts we all put into blogging and getting acquainted, we will shrink the globe that much more and maybe even help to make our world a much more civilized, peaceable and loving place.


terri said...

It really is a small world isn't it?

Thanks for the love, prayers and support. You are a true friend, Jeni!

Travis said...

That's really cool. It's amazing how blogging can open the door to so many wonderful bits of information.