Friday, October 30, 2009

Follow Friday - Washington State Digital Archives

I am originally from Washington State, so naturally one of my favorite online resources is the Washington State Digital Archives.

This is a collection of state records that have been digitized and is available online for free. Records available include (but are not limited to) vital records, including birth, death and marriage records; census records; auditor records; court cases; land records; power of attorney records; and professional license records to name just a few categories. Years covered are different for each type of record and for each county; overall, the years covered range from frontier years to the present.

Of course, free is one of the most attractive aspects of the website, but I like that this is an ongoing project. Not every county is represented, but folks are hard at work digitizing, so from time to time new counties come online. What this means to me is that this website is a returnable resource. You can return every so often to do your fundamental searches over and over - sometimes turning up new information.

For instance, over the years I've located some of my father Earnest Payne's marriage records - one to Jennie Wilson Slagle who became my stepmother. Surprisingly, I located two marriage records to the same woman - recorded in the same year, but six months apart. There is no indication that the first marriage license was never used, so this anomaly remains a mystery for the time being. You know how it is - you finally get to the bottom of one mystery, but your answers raise several more questions and mysteries!

I had always thought that my father married his first wife (first as far as I know!) in Oklahoma (which is where my father was from), but when the Archives added Clark County to their available digitized records, I idly did a search for my father, never expecting anything new to pop up. Imagine my surprise then when his marriage record with his first wife (a Hazel Pauline or Pauline Hazel Jones - my oldest half-sister's mother) showed up - they had gotten married in Clark County, Washington! A woman I had always thought was from Oklahoma now appears to have been raised in Washington State.

This might not seem like a big deal to some, but I strive for accuracy in detail in tree. Of course, accuracy is a lifelong pursuit when you're doing genealogy - your tree is never completely immaculately trimmed and shaped, a la a bonsai tree. Nevertheless, I always welcome a website resource that provides information that brings your tree into sharper, more accurate focus.

That's why I'm recommending the Washington State Digital Archives - not for everyone I know, but to Washingtonians a valuable resource!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Baxter Hair Wreath

With this post I'm jumping on the daily blogging theme bandwagon.

The first family treasure that immediately came to mind is what I've titled the "Baxter Hair Wreath." This wreath is not in my possession; nor have I seen it in person. However, it's still in the family after all these years - in the possession of second cousins from the maternal branch of my tree. I have no idea how the wreath was made nor how it has been preserved.

To my eyes the wreath is a bit unsettling (knowing that family DNA from almost a century-and-a-half ago still exists) as well as beautiful. It's a treasure to literally have pieces of our ancestors.

This wreath was made by the sisters of my great-great grandmother Emma Baxter Gulick (August 23, 1855 - June 26, 1943). The little bit of information that came along with it indicates that it was made by her sisters, Rebecca, Rachel Anna and Eliza Jane Baxter, in Van Wert, Ohio in 1873. The note states that the wreath was made from the hair of family members and family friends. My g2-grandmother had just married a couple years before in 1871, so I'm not certain that she participated or contributed, especially since she appears to have been living in Colorado by 1873.

Besides the sheer age of this wreath, a special bit of melancholy creeps in when you consider that my g2 grandaunt Eliza Jane died in April 1876 in Colorado. So in a small way this wreath is representative of Eliza Jane's legacy to her family's descendants.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good Morning!

Hello! My name is Douglas Edward Noblehorse.

When it comes to genealogy, I've taken the road heavily traveled - I didn't consider genealogy a productive pursuit until after my father, Earnest Robert Payne, passed away in December 2004. My biological mother, Virginia Mae Gulick, had passed away in March 2008, while my stepmother, Jennie Lee Wilson, passed away in November 1994.

In my defense (such as it is) I had always been told and believed that my mother Virginia had been adopted as a child. Also, my father Earnest had never talked much about his early years - he was of Native American descent, being half Shawnee and half Cherokee (or so I believed for most of my life); I mistakenly thought that not much family history on his side could be traced beyond my grandparents.

Family assumptions. You grow up being told certain things about your family and these assumptions carry forward unchallenged into your adult life. So it was for me. I had no reason to think otherwise.

I believe it was my oldest daughter Damara Payne Neuenschwander (for reasons that escape me now) that finally secured a copy of my mother Virginia's birth certificate from the State of Washington - and it clearly showed that adoption was not involved. So one assumption was eliminated; however, the genealogical bug hadn't hit just yet.

I grew up having quite the blended family - both my mother Virginia and my father Earnest were married multiple times during their lives (at last count 10 for my father!) I can count 14 siblings, alive and dead, half and step; however, I have no full siblings. Keeping track of who was who was easy for me - it seemed like a natural thing to me, as all things seem normal and natural when you're growing up.

So it never occurred to me that my children were a bit confused as to which of my siblings belonged to which set of parents, at least until my youngest daughter Aleena Noblehorse mentioned that she had no idea who was who. So, thinking that this was an easily remedied problem, I set about to find a computer program that would help me diagram my immediate family tree so that my children could understand my genealogical history - at least as far back as my parents.

I had no clue what awaited me - surprises, twists, turns, brick walls, family stories verified - but most of all, the skeletons in the closet. Along the way my understanding of myself, my parents and my family history has completely changed. Despite having an already large and unwieldly blended family structure I found (or in some cases they found me!) complete branches of my family completely unknown to me! And I'm talking aunts, uncles and first cousins, not 14th cousins, 38 times removed. Some of these family members literally lived down the street from me - not in the town where I grew up nor in the town where they grew up, but in the city I've adopted as an adult home town (as did they), Phoenix, Arizona.

This blog will detail the long and winding genealogical road I've traveled, the surprising stories I've uncovered, and the brick walls I've run headlong into. As a reader of this blog you may see elements of your own genealogical journeys in my story - I'm hoping you can identify with the delights and commiserate with the frustrations.