16 June 2011

A Father's Gift to a Daughter and Her Father's Day Gift to Him

I found Dad's hand written "Daily Log of 1981 Vacation" in the bottom of a box of pictures in 2008 when I was scanning Mom's pictures for her 90th Birthday. We put the photos on a digital camera card so Mom could easily view them on a digital picture frame. I was well aware of the trip, but did not know Dad kept a record of it. When I first read it, I was very frustrated with his lack of research planning. He drove thousands of miles looking for ancestors, without having belonged to a genealogy society, having read a "how to" book, or ever calling ahead to find out the hours a court house would be open. Dad began his family history research because his mother died before he was four and he wanted to learn more about her and her family. He was successful in meeting with a number of cousins who shared family information that took his family research further back. 

My parents moved to Richmond, VA in 1982, so Dad could easily go to Washington DC to do research. He would get up early and take the train, arriving in DC about and leaving about and arriving back in Richmond in time for a late dinner. I would sometimes drive him to DC on Saturday.

I originally went with him because I had more success in finding records. I had a career in the title insurance business and was familiar with court house indexes and property descriptions. He had type II diabetes and was losing his eye sight in one eye. For the next six years, we took at least one week's vacation each year visiting many of the locations mentioned in his daily log. We found many more records and cemeteries. I had the benefit of his knowledge about where the family lived and died. By the time he died 10 July 1988, I was hooked.

Every time I make a new family research discovery, I think about how amazed he would be about all the additional information I have found in the last twenty years. Having all the census online, has made it possible to research siblings and collateral lines. With this information I am finding many more death certificates, obituaries and family stories in county histories. I'm also locating living males to provide Y DNA for many of my family surnames. Each record found increases the success of identifying another generation. We have the benefit of the Internet to find out about repositories, their collections and hours in advance.  We have the ability to find distant cousins working on the same family lines without writing letters and waiting weeks for a response. We have the ability to preserve and share digital photos. When I visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City each year, I take a family or two and comb through the microfilm for records about them in the counties in which they lived.

My father gave me the gift of an interest in family history. My Father's Day gift to him is recording, reporting, and preserving the information for future generations.


Editor’s Note: These are some excerpts from the log.

Sept. 10–11th
     Spent these two days at the Mormon Genealogy Library. This is one of the largest collections of statistics and records in the world. The people who work there are most helpful and there is no change for the use of the facilities, except for copies of records.
    While there we went to organ recitals during the hours at the Tabernacle organ. On Thursday evening we went to hear the Tabernacle Choir practice. Dinner one evening at Benihanas of Tokyo. The weather was very nice these days in Salt Lake.

Sept. 26th
     This morning we head for Elgin, about 150 miles, to meet and talk with the Barths. Mrs. [Grace] Barth has been doing a genealogy study on the Kopp family. They live in a very nice mobile Home Park on the Fox River. They appear to be people in their late 60’s or early 70’s. She has done a considerable amount of work in the field of genealogy, even for other people. We had a pleasant chat and then back to our motel for the evening. It rained most of the day and in the evening a real downpour, with thunder and lightning. A good old fashioned mid-western storm. [Jan’s note: Betty Nutter’s maiden name is Kopp. Among other things, Grace had the newspaper clipping about my mother’s grandparent’s wedding 26 February 1880 from the Henry, Illinois Republican. In 1990 I visited Grace Barth who was now a widow and residing in an assisted living facility. She had been with her granddaughter to Germany and had a photo of the Kopp family homestead from Stein in Baden-Baden.]

Sept. 27th–Sept 29th
     … On Monday we went to Rockford [MI] to look for data on the Nutter family. Cemetery records for the city have been lost and although I am quite [sure] great grandmother Matilda [(Chamberlin) Nutter] is buried there, I cannot at this time find any records. We did visit the Cannon Twp. office and found records of both grandfather and great grandfather {Nutter} owning lands in the township. We looked through three other small cemeteries in the area but found nothing. We also looked through some records in the County Court House in Grand Rapids but found nothing.

Nov 2 thru Nov 6th
     Back at Bath [NY] we were able to find some data at the county court house about the Hodges and the Borsts. Grandmother Hodges, Dad’s mother, was born in Painted Post, near Bath. We stay there till the offices close then drive to Elmira where we stay for the night.
     … From there it’s a short drive to Thorofare where we meet cousin Isaac (Zeke) [Hall] and spend the night at his house. After dinner out we spend a lot of time looking at old pictures and data. He has most of his mother’s old albums and her Bible. He also gave me a history of the Waters family which traces back to England.

Nov. 17th and 18th
     … Then we head for Mobile and to Mississippi to the town of Picayune. We get to Picayune just about and have our picnic lunch at a beautiful welcome and rest stop. The government gave all out to make the traveler comfortable in the southern states. We find the main city cemetery to look for Toxie’s grave.  The caretaker tells us it is not here but he calls a couple of Jarrell families he knows. He soon gets a call from a lady who was at the funeral service and tells us what cemetery. The caretaker tells us how to find this cemetery and it is only about six miles. We find it and the grave site and take a few pictures.
[Jan’s note: Toxie Louis Jarrell was the first husband of Nancy Nutter. They were married in Susanville, Lassen Co., CA, and he died of a cerebral hemorrhage 1963 in Marietta, Georgia. It was believed he had a blood clot from a high school concussion while playing football.]

Dec 13th thru 16th
     … The trip is over and we are safe and sound with a marvelous three months and 11,999 miles.

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[Jan’s note: In 1987 my father and I found the Nutter family plot in the Rockford Cemetery. The tombstone provides a lot of family information.]

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