Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Early Bird Gets the Discount

by Nancy Maliwesky

It looks like we may finally be able to trade in our census forms and family trees for gardening gloves and rakes. At least I am hoping that the snow has ended for the season. If you live in Central New York, I bet you are hoping for the same! As I can’t even mention the word “winter” anymore without visibly shuddering, I have decided to rename it “genealogy season”. And although some of us Vitamin D deprived hearty souls have turned our thoughts from “How many times did great, great Uncle Joe marry?” to “How do I get this Bishop’s Weed out of my garden?” it’s important to take a moment and get a little genealogy housekeeping done before we head outside.

Have you registered for the 2015 New York State Family History Conference yet? It will be held September 17-19 at the Liverpool Holiday Inn, right off the New York State Thruway. This year we are proud to say that we have been chosen by the Federation of Genealogical Societies as an FGS Regional Conference. Thursday’s programming will be geared towards society management and Friday and Saturday’s programming will include New York State research and general genealogy lectures and will also include a DNA tract.

Our world-class speakers include D. Joshua Taylor, Curt Witcher, Judy Russell, Thomas W. Jones, Dick Eastman, Henry B. Hoff, Blaine Bettinger, David E. Rencher, James D. Folts, Ed Donakey, Eric G. Grundset, Jim Ison, Matt Knutzen, Jen Baldwin, Laura Murphy DeGrazia, Karen Mauer Jones, Terry Koch-Bostic and Jane E. Wilcox.

We will have a Society Fair on Thursday night and our Vendor and Exhibitor Hall will be open throughout the conference.

This is a great opportunity for the Central New York community to experience a first-rate genealogy conference in the CNY area. Discounts are available to members of the Central New York Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. Early bird rates are in effect through the end of May, so take off those gardening gloves and register now!

Click here for a link to the NYSFHC website.

©2015 Nancy Maliwesky

Nancy Maliwesky, Central New York Genealogical Society Board Member and Chair of the New York State Family History Conference worked as a professional genealogist with the American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Society for ten years. Recently retired, she continues to pursue her passion for genealogical research and writing. She is also a singer/songwriter (the self proclaimed "Singing Genealogist") and an artist.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Learning the Truth

by Barbara Leiger Granato

NOTE: This is a continuation of my previous post entitled "We Must Be Famous!" In this blog entry, I learn the truth about our family "hero" - Sylvester Spare.

We had traveled from Whitesboro, New York to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to try to learn more about the life of my second great-grandfather, Sylvester Spare. It was the summer of 1992, and I thought this would be a great learning opportunity for our family. My husband Joe was a schoolteacher and our two children were 12 and 10. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is full of history – and just to think that our family was a part of that history was pretty darned exciting to me.

We had found Sylvester’s grave at Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, Pennsylvania, and from that we learned that he was born on June 10, 1828 and died on February 14, 1867. Wow… Valentine’s Day! How strange. Maybe there was a story behind that???

Today was the day we would learn the truth.

We proudly walked into the Historical Society of Montgomery County in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and were immediately greeted by a very knowledgeable staff member. When she asked how she could be of assistance, I proudly told her about the family story of Sylvester. I knew his birth date and I knew his death date and I knew where he was buried.

“I want to find out more about my second great-grandfather,” I told the staff member. “My family told me that he supposedly was a bodyguard for Abraham Lincoln. I’m also thinking that he may have been in the Civil War.”

The kind woman brought us into a room full of books with the names of Civil War soldiers from the area. Ta-da! We searched, and we searched some more…but Sylvester was not among those listed. Not only that, we couldn’t find any substantiation that Sylvester ever had anything to do with Abraham Lincoln!

Hmmmm…. Well, maybe if we found his obituary we could learn more about him. So, the staff member took us to a microfilm machine and brought us the microfilm for the time period during which he died. But…there was no obituary listed for him around the time period of February 14, 1867.

I was beginning to get frustrated and my family was bored to tears. The staff member told me she wanted to look one more place, and then she would be back.

When she returned, there was a big smile on her face. “I think I found something that may be of interest to you,” she said. She handed me an Inquest that was done on the 20th day of April 1867. I could not believe the words I was reading:

“An Inquisition indented and taken at Perkiomen Bridge in the county of Montgomery, on the 20th day of April A.D. 1867 before J.C. Beyer, Esq., Coroner of the county aforesaid, upon the view of the body of Sylvester Spare then and there lying dead, upon the oaths and affirmations of Jackson Bevan, John J. Dettra, W. H. Gumbes, Henry Snider, Isaac Weaver, Jehu Munshower…

“Six good and lawful men of the county aforesaid being sworn and affirmed, and charged to inquire on the part of the Commonwealth, when, where, how, and after what manner the said Sylvester Spare came to his death, do say, upon their oaths and affirmations aforesaid, that the said Sylvester Spare came to his death by…

“drowning by accidentally falling from a boat while engaged in setting his traps while under the influence of liquor received at the Hotel of Davis Longnecker.”

Oh my… this was definitely not the truth I was seeking. This is the man who was our family hero??? Seriously??? But all of a sudden, the scandal of a family member who met his demise because he was intoxicated made this somehow pretty interesting.

The staff member then took us to a big map of the Perkiomen River and actually showed us the path that Sylvester’s body had traveled before it was found two months after that fateful Valentine’s Day. Wow.

But there was one more surprise in store for us as we got up to leave. “The hotel where Sylvester had his last drink and fell from his boat is still standing today and is located just down the road in Collegeville. It is now called The Perkiomen Bridge Hotel and it has recently reopened.”

My family just stood there and looked at each other. We were all thinking the same thing. And a few minutes later, there we were, sitting at The Perkiomen Bridge Hotel, enjoying our beverages as we made a toast to Sylvester.

Lessons learned –

  • Visit Historical Societies in the area where your ancestors lived.
  • Learn to use microfilm machines.
  • Don’t give up if you cannot find an obituary.
  • Try to find maps of the area during the time period your ancestors lived there.
  • Don’t believe everything your family members tell you about your ancestors.

©2015 Barbara Leiger Granato

After retiring from her job as a secretary at Mohawk Valley Community College, Barbara Granato had more time to pursue her love of genealogy. She is a member of the Oneida Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, currently serving as the chapter Registrar and Vice-Chair of NYS Lineage Research for DAR. In addition to teaching Beginning Genealogy classes, she is a Board member of the Central New York Genealogical Society, as well as a Board Member for the Oneida County Historical Society. She also is a member of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and serves as a tour docent to the mansions on Rutger Street in Utica, and writes murder mysteries which are performed at one of the historic mansions once a year. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists as well as the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tell Me A Story, or My Latest Genealogy Obsession... Podcasts!

by Nancy Maliwesky

I'm ten years old, in the back seat of our family car with my older sister, and we're returning home from a long day in the City. The scenery isn't terribly compelling, and it's getting dark. I'm bored. My dad has the radio set to WOR, an early news/talk radio format whose target market is definitely NOT children! Then Jean Sheppard comes on (of Christmas Story fame) and I am enthralled. In a soft, slow, compelling voice, he unfolds a gentle story, and I am suddenly in that story, not in my parents’ car, and I am hooked. That hour is pure magic.

Fast forward six years to another trip home from the City, in my parents' car. I'm still in the backseat, now with my older sister and younger brother. The scenery hasn't gotten any prettier. I'm bored. My dad is, as usual, in charge of the radio. Then Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" comes on, and my dad doesn't change the station. Consider my teenaged mind blown. I am again transported and enthralled. As my grandnieces and nephews say, "Good times."

I am now considerably older. I have a computer, wifi in my house, a Kindle, an iPad, I manage a website and a few Facebook pages, I even have a ReverbNation site. I have a dumb phone. My cellular phone contract does not include a data plan. I can text, but I don't. I have a Twitter account, which I don't use. I consider myself tech savvy, but not tech centric. I had heard of podcasts, but considered them just another way to suck up my time, while connected to an electronic appliance. Hey, I'm middle aged! Then my cousin sends me a link to his podcast “Taking the Leap!” My cousin, Sean Howard, is a photographer with a great big heart, and he has been writing a book and has started this podcast to help others follow their creative callings. He has a wonderfully compelling voice, and you can hear his enthusiasm and love as he interviews fellow artists about their experiences. He also has great taste in music and I look forward to hearing the musicians he features on each podcast. I have now officially put my big toe in the podcast pool.

As with so many obsessions, my podcast obsession started innocently enough. I had just finished listening to the latest episode of “Taking the Leap!” and I wanted more, so I started poking around iTunes for something else to listen to. My first search was NPR (National Public Radio). NPR had turned a long drive from Key West to Syracuse into a treasured get away for my husband and me about a year ago. After listening and subscribing to a few of their podcasts (I highly recommend “Invisibilia”), I got to wondering whether there were any genealogy podcasts available.

My first find was “Fieldstone Commons, Northeast History and Genealogy Radio” by Marian Pierre-Louis. Each episode is about an hour long and focuses on Marian interviewing an author or expert on New England and New York history and/or genealogy. I have already downloaded and read three of the books she features on her podcast, and they were fantastic!

I then started listening to “The Forget-Me-Not Hour” by Jane E. Wilcox, which focuses on New York State history and genealogy. Jane interviews some top-notch genealogists and authors and is also a genealogy lecturer. In fact, she will be featured at the 2015 New York State Family History Conference this September in Syracuse, NY.

One note of warning, podcasts can vary widely in length. For instance, my latest podcast obsessions, “Stuff You Missed in History Class” brought to you by Holly and Tracy of, is a comfortable 30 minutes or so, while Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” is a three to four hour commitment. So, if you like to listen while doing household chores, you may want to do some cleaning calisthenics before embarking on a “Hardcore History” housecleaning session!

I certainly hope you give one or more of these podcasts a listen and that you branch out and find others that interest you. The options are endless… kind of like our winter we’ve been having!

©2015 Nancy Maliwesky

Nancy Maliwesky, Central New York Genealogical Society Board Member and Chair of the New York State Family History Conference worked as a professional genealogist with the American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Society for ten years. Recently retired, she continues to pursue her passion for genealogical research and writing. She is also a singer/songwriter (the self proclaimed "Singing Genealogist") and an artist.