Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Art From the Heart: Saluting French Roots

     For several years I took a watercolor painting class at the local community college, and there was no doubt that I languished near the bottom of the talent pool.  I did, however, meet a lot of nice people, and had a good time.  One of the other students was a cheerful, kind, older lady, who was born in Épernay, the heart of the Champagne region of France.
     Eventually, time and health issues caught up with her.  She moved across the country to be closer to her family, and took an apartment in an assisted-living facility.  We all missed her sweet presence.
     Recently, I had an idea to let her know we were all thinking about her.  I enlisted the help of one of the best students in the class, to create a watercolor depicting a "house" of some sort.  While I was expecting her to spend a short time on a ten-minute sketch of a cottage, and accent it with a few washes of color, she went a different route.  She made this lovely painting of Chateau de Chenonceau, one of the more popular historic sites in the Loire Valley of France, then matted it and placed it into a blue frame.  I then scanned the piece, and added the phrase "Chez Claudine" in a complimentary color, using a font called "French Script."  Next, I reproduced the painting on cardstock, and put it in a cheap white frame with a hanger made from lavender bias fold tape from my sewing supplies.
     Now, Claudine can enjoy the original painting in her apartment, and hang the copy outside the front door as a sign of welcome.
     Art from the heart:  the best product of my less-than-stellar painting career.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Frontier Indiana: hotbed of sin?

     Loosening the brick wall surrounding an ancestor can involve drilling pretty deeply.  A case in point is the study I've made of some records in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, for more clues on my ancestor Allen Ives.
     The Records of the First Presbyterian Church of Lafayette, IN, 1828-1914 are available on FHC film #877704. The only reason I viewed this film, is that it covered the early period of time I was interested in, and I wanted to see what might turn up with careful study.  This is often the case with any library materials, you generally have no idea exactly what to find within a book or microfilm until you devote some time to it.  And by that, I mean more than just flipping through the index at the back for ancestral surnames!
     In this instance, I found images of the original, handwritten records on the film.  While not indexed or easy to read, the source gave a wealth of information including names, locations, and what topics were important.  Here are some notes I made while reading:

First members, August, 1828:
James Cochran & wife Rachel, John McCormick & wife Elizabeth, Elizabeth Trimble, Elizabeth Miller, Margaret Carson (certificate from New Brunswick, NJ).  Minister:  James Crawford.  Names mentioned:  Mary Slone returned to Dayton, Hugh Cochran & wife Maria, Mrs. Hannah McGuire, Henry Miller (Senior), of Benson, KY, and James Cochran elected elders. 

Lengthy action taken against Hugh M. King, guilty of un-Christian conduct:  "irreverent and foul language, visiting the groceries and of using ardent spirits to excess, guilty of breach of the Sabbath by visiting the groceries and associating with loose company on this holy day, speaking disrespectfully of the church of which he is a member and of some of its members." 1831

1834  The case of Martha Cochran was taken up, being charged with fornication, and having herself confessed it and its becoming clearly evident by the birth of a child.
"...to be suspended from the privileges of the church...and she is hereby suspended.  But while she is thus suspended she is not to be regarded as cut off, but is to be watched over and admonished and prayed for that she may be led to true repentance and to the enjoyment of the favour of God."  (Reinstated in 1835.)

1835:  New members Asa Allen & Mary Ann Allen his wife, new members from Hampshire Co, VA.  Left shortly after to join church in Monticello.

I stopped studying the film after I knew my ancestors had left the community.  Did I ever find mention of the name Ives?  No.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed gaining a rich insight into how the people of the community felt about certain issues during that early period, who might have been related to whom, and where some of the residents had come from.   Perhaps these will be useful clues for further study down the road.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ask a Librarian: Francis Marion Singer

     Back in the stone age of my ancestral search in 1980, using the resources of a library was a common thing.  I had yet to get a home computer, and digitized genealogical materials were a long way off.  Fast forward to the present, and the belief, by some, that "it's all online now."  (Hearing this makes me cringe, but that's a whole other subject.)  While new resources are frequently being made available via the Internet, the library still plays an important role in making information available to us.
     The past couple of years have been about reassessing the data I already have, and seeing where I could have done a better job.  During this process, I realized that I didn't have an obituary for Francis Marion Singer, half-sibling to my ancestor, Allen Ives.  From the records posted on Findagrave.com, I knew that "Frank M. Singer" was buried in Fountain Park Cemetery, Winchester, Randolph Co.,IN.  The photograph of his headstone shows a death date of December 13, 1903.
     Armed with a likely date and place, I located a website online for the nearest public library.  Following the procedures outlined on the site, I directed an e-mail to the appropriate party, asking whether someone might check the microfilmed copies of the local newspaper around that date.  I also asked whether they wanted a fee in advance, and whether I could pay extra to have them check for any other articles such as funeral notices, thank yous from the family, and the like.  The fee settled on was $10.  I received a packet before they could have received my check, which included not only the F. M. Singer obituary, but an account of the accident that caused the amputation of his leg (with four doctors in attendance), an update on his condition (he could "set" up), a biography from a county history, and, for good measure, some other obituaries for individuals named Singer, including a very detailed one for his second wife.  Among the information new to me was the description of where his property was located, a pastor's name, and the fact that F.M. Singer was a Mason.
     In this example, I use techniques I would have used in 1980, updated to make use of the internet as an additional tool.  In the end, however, it was the extra effort of a dedicated librarian, which provided me with these great, time-saving results.

Friday, January 4, 2013

W.C. "Andy" Anderson: Gentleman War Hero


     In June of 2012, my uncle by marriage, Wilford C. "Andy" Anderson, received France's highest-ranking medal of valor, the Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur, for his WWII service.  An article about the events marking the occasion can be found here:  http://www.sfgate.com/living/article/S-F-vet-to-get-France-s-medal-of-valor-3646100.php .  He was part of Company C, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 13th Airborne Division.  A unit history can be found here:  http://www.ww2-airborne.us/units/517/517.html .  His name is on a short list which shows the unit's recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross.
     Long before I knew of "Wif's" (as I called him) military service, I knew him as a gracious, welcoming, and kind individual, with a wry sense of humor.  We have enjoyed many pleasant and interesting conversations throughout the forty-five years or so that I've known him.   
     On two recent visits, he greeted me warmly, and the time flew by as we reminisced.  At one point, I examined some photos and medals displayed on the wall, and we talked about his time in the military.  As platoon sergeant, he bore heavy burdens, and has some dark memories of that time.  But,  in his typical fashion, he also took the opportunity to poke gentle fun at the idea of himself as a "war hero."  "Oh, no," he said.  "it was all because I remembered my high-school German! I just told them, "Raise your arms, and you will live.  I have cigarettes, food, and drink.  Or, keep your guns, and you will be dead.""  He said that they came to him very willingly at that point, many of them being "just kids of sixteen or so."  The certificate on the wall, accompanying the Distinguished Service Cross, paints a much more frightening picture.
     On another occasion, he was on a night parachute jump.  The plane left Italy and headed into France, the site of the jump.   He landed upside-down in a tree.  Thinking he was about 30 feet up, he decided to open the auxiliary chute and climb down.  At that point, he heard a private at eye level say, "Whattya doin,' Sarge?"  He had come to rest in an apple tree, and only had to turn over, to be on the ground.  When I mentioned that I couldn't imagine jumping out of a plane at night, with no idea what faced me at the other end, he replied modestly, "Oh, well, that was combat."
     Wif's training took place in Toccoa, Georgia, with the 506th, the outfit which would come to be known in the book and film as the Band of Brothers.  He freely admits that he probably would not have survived, had he continued with that unit.  An officer asked him to remain behind, and continue as platoon sergeant with a new outfit, which became the 517th.
     Luckily, Wif returned home, and became a devoted husband to his sweetheart, the former Phyllis Foulkes.  The tender care he took of her as she became ill late in life, was another act of heroic bravery.
     The greatest generation, indeed.

Addenda:  W.C. "Andy" Anderson passed away peacefully on April 1, 2013