11 September 2010

Sharing Sources, Research, Etc.

One of my favorite chefs is Mario Batali.  I was shocked when I heard him say he didn't keep any cooking secrets -- he was willing to share recipes and techniques with anyone!  He was comfortable in his shoes and unthreatened by others knowing what he knew.  And besides, it was all about the food.

I have been researching my family tree for about four years, but didn't get serious about doing it right and sourcing everything until this year.  Now whenever I discover a distant cousin also doing family research, almost always my first request is for their sources.  I am glad to share mine, although because I am a newbie at sourcing I have a limited supply.

So far, most of my new-found "cousins" are like what I was -- essentially a name collector and have no sources.  The next step up, barely, are those whose "sources" are the online family trees of name collectors!  But the worst, at least in my opinion, the absolute worst, is the successful genealogist who has been researching our mutual ancestors for decades and has documented everything. . . . and won't share the sources.

I know how it must feel, to have put in all that hard work, money, and time, and then some newbie comes along and wants it handed to him or her with little effort.  But I wish you would take a lesson from Mario Batali.  It is about family.  Isn't that why you started genealogy in the first place?  Is there any better way to honor your ancestors than to share the truth about their lives with a relative who wants to know?  It does them no honor to keep it to yourself.

I know it is easy for me to say, I am one of those newbies.  And I am certainly in no position to tell you what you must do with the product of all your hard work and expense.  But I am not too far removed from when I started researching, to remember "family" is why I got started in the first place.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

9/11/2001 Memory

I was still in bed while my wife was getting ready for work.  She had just gotten out of the shower and had heard on the radio that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, she saw me stirring and told me.  I figured, at first thought it was some tiny two-seat propeller plane accident, but turned on the radio to listen.  Just then the second plane hit the second tower, and I sat up in bed like a rocket, this was no accident!

I watched several hours of the television coverage, glued to the set.  The boys came home from school early and so did my wife from work.  This gave us a chance to sit down and talk together and deal with any fears or anxieties in a rational way, and at the same time exercise our family bonds making them stronger.

That afternoon we headed down to DesPlaines Conservation Area to train our dogs like we did every Tuesday.  There was a surreal feeling about doing the norm on that day, continuing to listen to the coverage over the radio in the truck.  It didn't help that there were much fewer people outside and cars on the road.  It almost felt like we were behaving wrongly.

While we were out training, a single airliner flew high above us in the sky, when all other had been grounded.  It was Air Force One accompanied by two fighter jets heading back to Washington, D.C., from Offutt AFB in Nebraska where the President was first taken for safety.

Nine years later and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  It is true when they say you will never forget where you were when we were attacked in our homeland, September eleventh, two-thousand and one.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

01 September 2010

Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 4: A Scare and An Angel

We were on the way back to the other side of the cemetery to visit the grave of my g-g-g-grandfather Aaron Walker (1788-1862), when we stopped to visit the graves of a couple veterans in the middle and back of the cemetery far from the road.  When we returned to my son's car it wouldn't start.  It sounded to me like it wasn't getting any fuel, but my son insisted on trying to jump it, so Jane pulled her car up, and we tried a jump which proved fruitless.  We decided to leave the car and walk the rest of the way to visit Aaron.  It was hot, I was sweating, and Jane gave us bottled water.

The mystery of "A.W."
We put down the rocks we brought from home up against Aaron's marker, and my son gave him a flag.  The marker next to him says simply "A.W."  I am yet to locate the grave of his wife, my g-g-g-grandmother Submit (Clark) Walker who outlived him.  Since Aaron and Submit were already elderly when they came to Illinois from Belchertown, Massachusetts, it is not likely their child.  Was this a placemarker for her and she never made it there?  Another question for the sexton.

After an hour my son walked back to the car and it still wouldn't start.  It is late on a Sunday evening in a cemetery in a small town that doesn't even have a motel or a car repair shop.  We call our insurance company for roadside service, and they must be using the same location service as our TomTom GPS because they can't locate the cemetery either.  Jane, a local, gets on the phone to give them our location and they still can't find us.  Panic is starting to set in.

We get out the GPS and hit the "Where Am I?" button and give the insurance company what the GPS says.  Still no soap.  We give them the coordinates for the longitude and latitude, and aha!  Now they found us.  The tow truck is now on the way.

But what to do when it arrives?  The GPS is wonderful.  It told us where were the nearest car repair shops as well as hotels/motels.  But they were many miles away in other small towns, and it was late Sunday evening.  We were calling them on our cell phones, and striking out.

Jane was an angel.  After all she had already given us, she wasn't done.  She sat there and waited with us for hours as we tried to resolve our situation, stuck in a remote cemetery as the sun is going down.  She began planning on how she would take us to a hotel, then come for us the next day and take us to our car after it is fixed.  She apologized for not being able to bring us to her home, but it is small and they have rented out the spare room.  Note, I am summarizing here for brevity, the true extent of her generosity was breathtaking. All the time we are sitting there, she is thinking of ways she can help us.

Just as the sun was going down the tow truck arrived.  The driver looked the car over and discovered my big foot had loosened a wire on the passenger side that controlled the electronic fuel injection.  I was right, the engine wasn't getting any fuel.  The driver tightened the wire and reset the controls, and like magic the car was fixed.

We each gave Jane a hug, and repeatedly thanked her for her consideration and generosity for a couple of brand spanking new acquaintances.  She said, "That is the way we do it in small towns."

And so ended our adventure.  Lots of surprises, a scare, and an angel.  We are already thinking when we can do it again!

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker