Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 genealogical finds of 2011

Photo by Pierce Place

As the year comes to a close, I've stepped back to review my most exciting genealogical finds of 2011.  I will say that much of this wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't started blogging this year.  Preparing a blog post really makes me review things, think about the information I've gathered, and put it all in one place.  I should probably say that blogging has been my number one genealogical find for 2011 but I'll just put it here because I have 10 other top finds.  But I do want to thank my friend, Kerry Scott, for suggesting that I start blogging.  She's smart about stuff like that and knew that it would take my research one step farther.

So in my best David Letterman voice I give you my top 10 genealogical finds for 2011:

Number 10:  I published my very first book!  It's not a published book in the typical fashion but I did publish a book of my blog.  My mother doesn't use a computer and I really wanted a way to share what I've written with her.  And since she lives in another state, I didn't have the luxury of just showing it to her on the computer.  So based on the suggestion of fellow blogger Heather Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy, I used to extract my blog.  From there I did some formatting, added/deleted some photos, and I had a great Christmas gift for my mom.  She read it in one day and told me she got teary eyed as she read parts of it.  For anyone who knows my mom, you know that she is a pretty non-emotional person so to hear she had tears means a lot to me.  And here it is.

I'm the little one in the flowered dress
Approximately 1957

Number 9:  I found a new great grandmother!  After thinking that my 3rd great grandmother was Clarinda, I discovered that the mother of my 2nd great grandmother, Rebecca Waller, was Rebecca Parker.  And even more meaningful as I remembered when we gave our oldest daughter the middle name of Rebecca, both of my grandmothers told me that their favorite grandmothers were named Rebecca. 

Number 8:  While this discovery wasn't about my family, I have been dabbling in researching my husband's family.  One of the interesting characters in his family was "Old Man Byrd" who was murdered by Confederate sympathizers in Tennessee in 1861.  We laugh that he's referred to as an old man when he wasn't that much older when he died than we are today.  While we've found a treasure trove of information about him and even found a new cousin, nothing compared to learning of the book A Unionist in East Tennessee:  Captain William K. Byrd and the Mysterious Raid of 1861.  And to top it off, it was written by another cousin, Marvin Byrd!

Number 7:  Finding relatives!  This year has brought some new cousins and I couldn't be more excited.  One is a cousin on my maternal grandfather's side and lives not far from my mother.  As proof that this really is a small world, we discovered that my mother, along with her parents, attended the wedding of my new cousin's parents.  Two other new cousins are both descendants of my favorite subject, Emery Waller - one of these cousins lives in DeWitt County, where many of our ancestors lived, and the other lives about an hour from me.  How cool is that?  Additionally, I connected with a cousin on my father's side, as well as my mother's half sister.  Welcome to my family!

Number 6:  I took my first research trip.  How fun was it to have three volunteers scurrying around and  helping me find information.  While it was overwhelming, it was an experience I'll never forget.  My only regret is that I hadn't found my new cousin prior to my visit so that we could have met in real life and gotten to know each other.

Number 5:  This is part two of my research trip but I need to call it out on its own.  What a thrill to see the original marriage certificate for my 2nd great grandparents, Rebecca Waller and William Warren McAboy.  I'm proud of myself for not creating a scene and running from the building with the certificate in hand but I managed to behave like an adult and settle for a photo.

Number 4:  The McPherson Sentinel interviewed me for an article about my number 1 genealogical find and placed it on the front page of the paper in honor of Veteran's Day (unfortunately, they couldn't get it in until November 12).  What an honor to have something so meaningful to me be noticed by others.  Click here to read the story. 

Number 3:  Finding and restoring my 2nd great grandmother's (on my dad's side) Eastern Star document.  What a thrill to have an original document from the late 1800's, much less by the other "favorite" grandmother named Rebecca.  It now holds a place of honor in my home and I just love looking at it.  What a find!

Number 2:  Finding my 3rd great grandfather, Emery Waller, in Kansas.  I wasn't convinced that the $75 fee to receive his pension records would be worth it, but I pulled the trigger and decided to go for it.  I'd always thought he had lived his life out in DeWitt County, Illinois but while reviewing his pension records the light bulb went off and I realized he had spent the last years of his life in Kansas.  KANSAS!

And my number 1 genealogical find for 2011:  Getting Emery Waller's grave marked.   After months of waiting, corresponding with my 'helper' Kevin Stockham, waiting, thinking about it, waiting, wondering if it would really happen, get the idea.  Emery was finally honored just in time for Veteran's Day!  And just because I want to see it again, here is Emery's gravestone!

While at times I feel like I'm not making any headway, I reflect on all that I have learned in the two years I've been researching my family.  What started out as a quest to find Gunzendorfers has brought me to Revolutionary and Civil War heroes, slave owners, black sheep family members, and a contingent of California Jews.  It has been an amazing journey and I can't wait to learn more.

Who knew?


  1. Terrific post ... and this should give you encouragement to keep on pluggin', yes? Ancestor-hunting is long, slow, sometimes tedious work, as we know ... and when something clicks and new discoveries are made, that's reason for celebration!

    Happy 2012!

  2. Congratulations! What wonderful finds for 2011, can't wait to see what 2012 brings you as you continue your research!
    I may borrow this idea for a blog post of my own!
    Happy New Year!
    Cindy - GenealogyCircle

  3. Great post - and some great inspirations! I especially love the idea of a book of blog posts. Thanks! Looking forward to reading more.

  4. Debi,
    What a fantastic year you've had! I've also published parts of my blog using blog2print. I shared 11 Christmas letters written by my brother and was able to get them published and presented to him right after Christmas. That's one of the better things I've done, too. Congratulations!

  5. You are obviously doing something right, because that is a LOT of stuff for one year. Rock on!

  6. Great post! I like the blog book idea too. Can't wait to read more.