Leo Francis Bowman, great uncle, was destroyed by PTSD after serving in WWI

Great uncle Leo, Dad’s uncle, served in WWI. He was a sweet-faced high school kid here:

Fighting in WWI destroyed him. After he came home, every loud noise sent him into a panic, and he would jump up from whereever he was and run into the woods. Eventually he was confined to the VA hospital:

How many young men were destroyed by WWI?

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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Census, History, War


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Death, loss, and cancer

I’ve been invisible here since April 1st, and before that, I posted very little after my brother Tom’s death in February. 2011 was a tough year, so we were full of hope that 2012 would be so much better, but that was not to be. My dog Augie died, then brother Tom died, then a surviving brother and my husband began their battles with cancer that still continue. Except for my continuous escape into reading and reviewing books on my other blog, I’ve been nearly invisible here on the web.

Still, through all this, I continued to index records for Family Search. The thing that shakes me to the core with so many of the records I index, is so many young people, children, and babies who passed away. My grandmother, Ruth Jordan, had two babies who didn’t survive more than a few days after birth. How must it have felt to carry a child, bear that child, then lose them. Two children that my mother never had the opportunity to grow up with. Our ancestors suffered losses that would shake most of us to the core. At least I had the opportunity to grow up with my brother Tom, remembering his laughter and vitality, while our ancestors were left with empty arms due to departed children.

I’m back and hope to post, at least weekly, some of my discoveries along the way on my trip through the family tree.

Distant baby Stearns cousins who died early in life one just a few days old and the other 10 months old



Another leaf has fallen from my tree…

Over the month that has passed since my brother Tom passed away, I have been going through the motions, able to forget for a few hours at work, then coming home and staring at the walls during those quiet hours between dinner and bedtime.

Tom was a just few years older than me when he died suddenly. On a business trip, he was in an unfamiliar city with no family around, he died an anonymous traveller in a hotel room alone. My brilliant brother Tom had the most creative scientific mind I’ve ever known. A brilliant flame has blown out, taking a piece of everyone’s heart with it.


Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Loss



A bittersweet publishing experience…

I am very happy that I’ve had one of my creative nonfiction essays published in the premier print issue of the Avalon Literary Review. Why is it bittersweet? It’s a piece about visiting Dad, who was slowly slipping away. During a short stay at a nursing home in the Alzheimer’s unit, I spent time with him, talking with him and, on a good day, he could remember who I was. Those heartbreaking moments are etched into my soul. Fortunately, now that Dad is gone, the heartbreaking memories are slowly being replaced with memories of the twinkle in his eye, the way he laughed, and how much we loved each other.

Here’s to you Dad. I’ll love you forever.


Posted by on February 6, 2012 in random musings



Come on, this must have happened to you too

Okay, so there I am on minding my own business, building my tree, armed with a plethora of family history and dates. Then some kind soul emails me through Ancestry and tells me that someone one of the branches of my tree is wrong (my great grandfather). The tree that I so carefully filled was wrong?

So what happens if you make an error on your tree? Do you toss it out and start all over again? No, you work the steps from yourself back through time until you find all the facts. But what if you aren’t wrong? You begin the laborious task of proof all over again anyway.

The Irish name in question is so common that maybe my tree and her tree are both right.

Go back to basics and your sources:

My tree is made up of facts from the family bible and family sources:

family bible pages can be indecipherable, but can contain some of the best information

You can find some records on Ancestry:

You can find priceless information in texts online that contain a lot of detail - most of the books on (where this page comes from) are also available for free on Google books

Or, you can go to my favorite FREE site – FamilySearch – and find transcribed records of historical texts:

So, the next time your information is challenged, remember that you may actually be right and, just to recheck yourself, you can use these sources.



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What was the world like back then? Genealogist as Historian

First, I’m happy to report that the neglected cemetery has been cleaning up and the stones stand tall in the sunshine once again (photo to come).

I found some pictures of Dad when he was just four years old … I often ask myself what the world was like back when Dad was a child. I found these pictures:

Dad in 1927 (age 4) – his socks were probably hand knit – such a sweet little boy, grew up into a sweet man

Dad a few years later with his maternal grandparents – Bridget and Martin Bowman – this must have been a particularly hard time for the family since this picture was taken during the depression era


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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in History



More about the sadly neglected cemetery

It has been a while since I reported about this sadly neglected cemetery. Since then, I’ve learned so much more, but still have so many unanswered questions.

My local historical society has been closed on the days that I’ve been off and able to get down there – it is run by one volunteer who can’t spend all of her time there. So, I proceeded to conduct a fairly exhaustive internet search. The only thing that came up matching the location of this sad place, was my own blog post and YouTube video about it. Just when I was about to give up, I made one last-ditch attempt to find it through Google using as many filters as possible. I hit pay dirt about two search pages in and found a link to a USGenWeb web page for the cemetery.

It turns out that this cemetery is called Old Lake Cemetery.* Once upon a time it was kept trimmed and neat, as is evidenced by photographs found on Find A Grave. Many, if not all, of the tombstones have already been photographed and posted on Find a Grave, and those photographs show short grass and clearly visible stones. The article, which is really only a listing of names, on USGenWeb (a free genealogy site) mentions that it was overgrown as of the date of its publication in the year 2000. Yet, the first picture of a headstone in this cemetery at Find a Grave, shows cleared grass in September 2010, ten years late. Just to make sure I was in the right cemetery, I looked up a few stones that I had photographed when I first made the sad discovery and found one of the stones and it matches, exactly the same stone. So I knew then that I was in the right place. So what has happened in the ensuring year? Why is this cemetery neglected yet again?

So, even though I have some answers now, I am left with more questions.


*the map on the Find A Grave site is wrong – this cemetery is at the intersection of Lake Road and Main Road. Anyone wishing to visit this cemetery should follow map quest directions to Lake Road school, which is located next to this cemetery.


Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Cemetery, research


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What I stumbled upon on the trail of a dead relative…

I was searching through for an early relative and stumbled upon a link to this website…

…a site maintained by the National Park Service. After you get on this free information site, you can search for a relative that you know, or suspect, was in the Civil War to see their service record and even their cemetery site. Free info, in a world where documents and searches can be costly is a great thing.

Lesson learned: It pays to look more closely at some of your search info. The James Purdy noted on the research page is not the relative that I was looking for, but I clicked on the research page just for the heck of it, wondering if what I found was a relative of the original relative (it was not). When I read the source information, I saw a link to the park service page. In the future, I’ll look more closely at my sources.

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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in research, sources


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A sad discovery, overgrown and neglected

I was out at an appointment today and took a back road toward home. In the corner of my eye I saw a tombstone. I had to find a place to turn around and encountered the saddest, most neglected place… A giant cemetery full of old grave markers and grass that was as high as my knees in some places. I’ve driven past this site a million times and never noticed it before. The genealogist (and history lover) in me finally made me take notice.

I took a video of the cemetery. It doesn’t look like much from the video, but deep in the grass are some small tombstones that have tipped over, and many low profile marks set low in the ground that you can’t see until you get close to them.

I walked through the high grass toward an obelisk style tombstone and found a couple that I could read.

Headstone – James and Margaret Jones

This smaller headstone was near the obelisk. I was unable to read it, but perhaps blowing it up here may help:

Unreadable "Jones" headstone

This granite stone was in the same corner as the Jones stones – it is fairing better than the older stones. Notice also the tiny discolored stone behind and to the left of it.

This stone reads, "Hannah Hues, 1840-1915, Isaac A Hues 1833-1907"

And finally, this small stone was buried under live and dead, dried out weeds. I had to push the weeds aside to photograph it.

Headstone reads, "Charles H. Hert, Jr, 1880-1952"

It was sad to see the state that this cemetery was in. Perhaps a visit to the historical society is in order. Before you can even begin to clean up a cemetery you need to find out who owns the land (there is no church nearby and no church sign) and get permission to clean it up.



Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Cemetery


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Reusing the names of deceased children …. what?

I found a pretty cool ebook called Genealogies of the families and descendants of the early settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts. The book details exactly what the title says. Utilizing this book, I was able to go all the way back to the first Stearns family members who emigrated with the Winthrop fleet in 1630.

So, having already started some flawed work on the family tree, I started a new one utilizing only information found in this book. As I was going along, I found multiple branches that don’t necessarily reach to me, but decided to help others on by putting the information in for all to use. I had no idea how much of an undertaking that would be.

Between job hunting (post layoff) and generally organizing my home (post education), I’ve been imputing the information I’m finding in this book a little at a time.  I’m about halfway through … I think

Anyway, as I’ve been working through all the descendants and their children and their children’s children, I’ve noticed the high mortality of infants – so sad. It made me rethink the old phrase, “you’ll catch your death,” a warning to people go out in the cold without a jacket. I’ve also noted that some deceased infants had their names, including middle names, reused for later children (from the same parents). I imagine that mothers in the 1600, 1700, and 1800s were heartbroken each time they lost a child. But why reuse the name of the earlier deceased child? That is a question for historians to answer. This amateur genealogist doesn’t have a clue.

Stearns family coat of arms

Stearns Coat of Arms

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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in random musings, research


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