Friday’s Faces from the Past and Genealogy News

Just a winter stroll :)

Just a winter stroll :)

Bobbie and his dog

Bobbie and his dog

My grandpa, Bobbie, on his first winter, which was technically his second since he was born in January :)


This Week in Genealogy

  • National Genealogical Society – They introduced a new cloud course on Revolutionary War Ancestors! A great course to take for those who wish to dive into this part of history.
  • Who Do You Think You Are – New celebrities are announced for the next season of the TLC show Who Do You Think You Are. I look forward to this series every time and the new lineup looks great.
  • Genealogy TV Shows – The National Genealogical Society Blog, UpFront with NGS, posted about where to find your favorite genealogy shows online. Check it out if you missed some of Finding Your Roots, Who Do You Think You Are, or the Genealogy Roadshow.
  • U.S. National Archives – Yesterday the Archives posted an announcement on Facebook that over 400,000 newly digitized documents had been added to FRANKLIN. FRANKLIN is the library’s virtual research room and a digital repository. You can check out their Facebook page here and check out the library here.

Enjoy your weekend! And for those doing last minute holiday shopping – I wish you luck!

Categories: Genealogy News, Photo, WITHERELL+ | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Postcards

482 Postcard 1


483 Postcard 2


Both were sent to Erma Almy (later Witherell) while she was in California in the early 1920’s.

Categories: ALMY, Photo | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Tombstone Tuesday and Civil War Letter Family Part 1

This picture was NOT taken by me and was provided by website - see citation below (1)

This picture was NOT taken by me and was provided by website – see citation below (1)

As I go along exploring the Civil War Letters, I am also exploring the family as well. The Judkins family letters focus on the family of Phebe Ann (Simon) Judkins and Stephen H. Judkins. Phebe Ann died in 1888 in Mishawaka, Indiana. Her obituary is one of the longest that I have come across, which I think shows how well she was loved:

Death of Mrs. S.H. Judkins of Mishawaka

Mrs. S.H., or Grandma Judkins as she was generally known, died at 11:15 o’clock yesterday morning, death being the result of old age and general debility. Miss Phoebe A. Simons was born in Montgomery county, N.Y., Dec. 27, 1812. She together with her father’s family afterwards moved to Genesee county, N.Y., where on Oct. 8, 1834, she was united in marriage to S.H. Judkins. The result of this union was four children, two sons and two daughters, two of whom, Mrs. M.J. Cole and the well known Wm. H. Judkins, are still living. The other daughter, Mary, was burned to death in 1839, and the other son, Charles, was drowned on Jan. 30th, 1850. After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Judkins removed to Brockport, New York, Mr. Judkins working at his trade, that of a wagon-maker, and subsequently joined the Brockport colony which came to Mishawaka in October, 1837, and included some of our first settlers. Upon arriving here Mr. Judkins went at his trade, but afterward, together with his son Wm. went into the grocery business and continued in it until his death, which occurred on Aug. 18, 1885. On the evening of July 21, 1884, while attending the semi-centennial services of the Presbyterian church here, of which she was an old and devoted member, Mrs. Judkins was stricken with a severe stroke of paralysis and for some time her recovery was very doubtful, but although her right side remained totally paralyzed she did recover her health and was able to be about, making a trip to Iowa in 1886, until Dec. 27th, last, her 75th birthday, when her gradually failing strength compelled her to go to bed from which she never rose, her vital forces seeming to give completely out. Her death was very peaceful. Always cheerful and thinking more for others than herself in life her death but gave more evidence of the belief she had of eternal life at the hands of her Savior. Mr. Wright, her pastor, calling, was asked to pray, and doing so Mrs. Judkins said “God bless you,” then bade farewell to her assembled relatives and friends, and giving messages to most of her absent ones, she gradually, although occasionally asking with a surprised joyful voice, showing no terror, but rather gladness, “Is this death?” sank until about 2 o’clock when she became unconscious, and died as above stated at 11:15.

The funeral will be held in the Presbyterian church to-morrow afternoon at 2:30 o’clock, Rev. W.K. Wright, officiating. The casket will not be opened at the church, but will be open at the house from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., for those who would wish to gaze upon the remains. (2)

1) Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 16 December 2014),memorial page for Phoebe A Judkins (1811–1888), Find A Grave Memorial no.98201100, citing Mishawaka City Cemetery, Mishawaka, St. Joseph County, Mishawaka; photo added by findagrave user Mom_of_3_boys.

2) “Death of Mrs. S.H. Judkins of Mishawaka,” South Bend Daily Tribune, Mishawaka, Indiana, 12 January 1888, p. 1 col. 2.

Categories: Civil War Letters, Mishawaka Indiana | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Civil War Letters

By Edited by T.S. Arthur and Miss Virginia F. Townsend with no credit to individual illustrators [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Edited by T.S. Arthur and Miss Virginia F. Townsend with no credit to individual illustrators [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are many Civil War letters and I’ve also begun some research on the family. This is a very exciting project with the possibility of writing articles and maybe even a book about the family and their letters! I’m really enjoying it. :)

At the moment, I’m still transcribing the letters and learning quite a bit about reading old handwriting. The letters can be quite interesting. They range from business to gossipy news. I read one letter the other day and couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. William (called Willie by the family) received a letter from his aunt in 1855 in which his aunt complains about a maid getting into the household’s currant wine:

My Dear Little Willie,

….I wish you would ask your mother if she ever had a girl get drunk by drinking up her currant wine. We had quite a scene in our kitchen last Monday … this fall I made about 3 gallons of currant wine – and on Monday I observed that [Cornelia] made several blunders about her work, which was very uncommon for her – and in a few moments more I discovered that she staggered when she attempted to walk – and in short time after she had occasion to sit down a moment while waiting for something [she] fell asleep which proved a dead drunk one. She slept 3 hours. In the mean time, I searched her room, and could find nothing – and thought perhaps she might have some secreted down cellar – so I made a search there when the mystery was solved by discovering two empty wine bottles and a part of another. I said nothing it to her – but hid my wine – and she is now entirely sober and probably discovered her loss. She is a good girl for work, but dear me, such a sight to see drunken!…

From Your Affectionate Aunt Malvina (1)

Ha! Once again, this is not something I had expected to read in a letter but I appreciate (and am thankful) for her frankness to her nephew about what is going on in her home. Stories like this make everyone come to life and I love that I get to work with these letters!

1) “Malvina to Wille Judkins,” 5 October 1855; Judkin Family Letters; Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Library, Mishawaka, Indiana.

Categories: Civil War Letters, St. Joseph County | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Friday’s Faces and Genealogy News

481 Ruth Hummel 1944

Ruth Hummel – 1944

I am actually not sure who Ruth Hummel is. This picture looks like it was taken on her wedding day but only her name is on the back, not the man next to her. I’m assuming they were getting ready for the wedding and her maiden name is Hummel, making her one of my grandmother’s cousins. I have to confirm all of that but my grandmother’s father had many brothers and sisters so I have some searching to do.

After I cleaned up the photo a bit to get ready to post, I noticed the two shining spots in the background – a bit creepy but it’s most like Ollie Hummel, my grandmother’s father sitting there as I have seen him sitting in the same spot in other pictures. The shining spots would be the reflection from his glasses. Then to the right, in the doorway, it looks like someone is standing. But I think the bottom part is a chair and the top is a coat hanger with some coats on it (at least that’s what the original picture looks like).

Genealogy News

National Genealogical Society

The National Genealogical Society’s blog (UpFront with NGS) posted some exciting news! and the University of North Carolina collaborated to create a resource for using family history in the classroom (history classrooms specifically). It’s my dream come true!!! As a history education major with a love for genealogy, I had planned on doing this in my classrooms somehow. I never got the chance to try it though as my English major was all my employers ever saw when hiring me. Either way, I am VERY excited that they are working this into classrooms! I would have LOVED that as a student!

You can find the article and link to the digital textbook here.

Time Capsules

Some of you may have seen this floating around Facebook already but I thought I’d share for those of you who have not. They have found a time capsule buried by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere in a cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House from 1795! They do have an idea of what is inside of it from notes on it, but I can’t wait to see pictures of the reveal! How neat!

To read more about it, check it out here.


I would love to go to this conference but sadly, I won’t be able to make it this year. They did make an exciting announcement on who their keynote speakers will be just recently- Laura W. Bush and Jenna Hager. That would be very neat to hear!

You can read more about the conference and key note speakers here.

Free E-Book for Kindle!

If you have a Kindle and are interested in DNA, there is a free e-book on Amazon just for you! It is free for the next five days so get it while you can!

The book is called Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing by Richard Hill.

I plan on posting a review of the book once I’ve finished.

Have a great weekend!

Categories: Genealogy News, HUMMEL, Photo, Resources | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Michigan Resources: Saginaw Obituary Index

478 Saginaw Obits

Since the majority of my family is from Saginaw County (some lines since the Civil War), I do a lot of my research in the county. The librarians now recognize my face and name whenever I come in or email them! Although, some of the librarians there knew me as a child (my family went to the library every Saturday when I was growing up) so I guess that isn’t much of a stretch :)

The Obituary Index above has been a wonderful resource and I want to spotlight it to show what a library can do with their resources. It’s always a good idea to see if something like this is available as it’s becoming a bit more common.

The Public Libraries of Saginaw went through their extensive newspapers for the city of Saginaw (there were MANY newspapers over the years) and have created this wonderful database. You can search by name, a name and a year, a year, or a month and year. It also allows wildcard searches in case your ancestor has an oddly spelled name.

The information then provided varies. Here is one that doesn’t have much (and sometimes you can get less than this!):

479 obit with little info

And one with a lot more:

480 obit with more info

Sometimes it’ll even mention parent’s names as well.

In the upper right corner of the information, in the yellow, it’ll tell you what newspaper it came from. If the space is blank, like Gerald’s, that means it came from the Saginaw News which became (and still is) the only paper in Saginaw. It also gives you the date and the page the mention can be found on (not always accurate but if it isn’t, it’s only a page or so off). Sometimes you’ll see more than one newspaper mention too. For example, one of my relatives was killed in a car accident so it has the first report and then later a memorial note.

This is a wonderful resource and goes back as far as the newspapers do! If you have questions, the response time from the staff is quick and has been a great help in my research (especially since I can’t get there often to actually see the obituary!).

Even if this particular website isn’t useful for you, it’s always a good idea to see what kinds of resources are available through the library because you can find gems like this one! Even if your family came from a rural town without a newspaper, like some of mine did, they could still be mentioned in the bigger city newspaper so check the next biggest city’s library for information as well.


Happy Searching! :)

Categories: Resources | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Deciphering Civil War Letters

477 Civil war Letters

*It is NOT an easy task! But it is fun :)

Categories: St. Joseph County | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Civil War Fun!

I started another project today at the library – I’m still working on the World War II letters but those are put on pause until after the new year. So right now I’m working on transcribing letters from the Civil War and doing some history on the family. I have to say that these letters are MUCH more entertaining than the World War II letters so far!

The collection of letters is from the Judkins family who lived in Mishawaka, Indiana during the Civil War. Stephen and Phebe came to Indiana from New York in the late 1830’s, early 1840’s and created one of the first wagon shops in Mishawaka. Their son, William, was in the Civil War. (1)

Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This photo is found here and is of one of the many Indiana Infantry groups from the Civil War but is not William’s group.

I haven’t gotten too far into the letters. Where I am at the moment is before the Civil War and the mother has traveled back to New York to visit family. In one letter, she apparently felt the need to vent to her husband about his sister who was living with them in Mishawaka at the time. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit when I read it because it felt out of character for what I picture a Civil War Era woman to be like. Obviously, my thought of women’s behavior for that time is silly because we are all human and still have some of the same irritations and reactions, as this excerpt shows:

I have been thinking for the past four months how I wish you would provide a house for Sarah and let her live in it as long as she lives… and then I could have me a girl to do our work, and I should not have to drudge and think that I must work around the house untill everything is done. And as I have said a great many times to her, and you, I shall never have  help while she is with us… There is not another woman in this world that would submit to [Sarah] in everything as I do, and she says I am the only one she could live with, and I think I have lived for the last twelve years as long as duty requires me to do it. If she was my sister, I should do very differently from what I have done. But you know that I do everything to please her, whether any other member of my family is pleased or not. Her being in our family has earned me as well as you more unhappy hours than everything else put together since we have been married. And she has been the cause of my shedding more tears than everything else that has ever cross my path, but I have kept it all to myself. (2)

This all coming from a woman who lost a four-year-old daughter to a fire and a six-year-old son from drowning. (3) I don’t know the specifics of what happened between the two, but apparently keeping staff on with Sarah was hard to do as Phebe said in the letter that she had tried that before and would never do that again. (4) I’m interested to see what happens to Sarah and Phebe as I research the family more. Stay tuned!

Thank you to the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library for keeping such amazing and wonderful collections and letting avid volunteers (like myself) come and study their letters.



1) Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, Indiana: together with biographies of many prominent men of northern Indiana and of the whole state, both living and dead (Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers, Publishers, 1893), 393-394.

2) “Phebe Judkins to Stephen Judkins,” 7 August 1858; Judkin Family Letters; Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Library, Mishawaka, Indiana.

3) Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, Indiana, 394.

4) “Phebe Judkins to Stephen Judkins,” 7 August 1858.

Categories: Discovery, St. Joseph County | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Michigan Records:

Most of my family research is in Michigan. So I’m going to start a new series of posts of Michigan records – online and onsite – that I have used and wish to share with others. Today, we’re starting with one of my favorite websites –

Seeking Michigan is an online platform for the Michigan Historical Center and is connected with the Archives of Michigan and the Library of Michigan. The website has a lot of great information about Michigan and several items available online. Here’s what is available online and a bit about each collection:

  • Death Records, 1897-1920 – These are amazing! Most counties only have the register of death for these dates, not the actual certificate. Human error can leave out important items or get something wrong, so being able to look at the official death certificate is wonderful! This is what I use the website for the most. You can search my county, city, death date, etc. I prefer to search by city and death year personally. The names don’t come up spelled the way you’d think very often so the way I search normally guarantees I’ll find the document I want.
  • Civil War Items:
    • Civil War Manuscripts – I haven’t yet found family in this collection but it is wonderful to look through to get an idea of what it was like to live (and serve) during that time. It contains letters and diaries from the Civil War period.
    • Civil War Service Records – This isn’t searchable by name, but if you know what regiment the person you’re looking for was in, you can search for those items. There is also a finding aid available for these records, which you can find here.
    • Civil War Photographs – Careful, you can get lost looking through these!
    • Michigan Civil War Volunteer Registries – Here is where you can find soldier names from the Civil War. This can help you search in other collections as well once you know what you’re looking for. It is the starting point for looking for service records.
    • Civil War Battle Flags – These include a description of what the flag was used for; great for history lessons!
    • More Civil War Resources – These resources aren’t just for Michigan Civil War records and have a lot of great information.
  • Michigan State Census Records, 1884-1894 – Not every county is included as some records have been lost. The census records are for either 1884 or 1894 so this can be great for those hoping to find a replacement for the missing 1890 census.
  • GLO Plat Maps – While taking the NGS Home Study Course, I discovered I LOVE working with land records! It goes along with my love of maps, which makes this collection wonderful! This collection comes from the initial survey by the State of Michigan and it shows the layout of the township and range grid system. You can search for maps by looking for the township, the county, or even the township/range numbers if you know them. This is great if you want to see where family members lived in relation to each other (as long as you know where their land was!).
  • Films - There aren’t many films here but some can be quite interesting – like some original footage of the awful race riots in Detroit in 1967.
  • Early Documents – These are official state documents chronicling  how Michigan became a state.
  • Early Photography – I love old photos and these are fun to browse through. You can search by name but not all the people in the pictures are known.
  • Rural Property Inventories or WPA Property Inventories – These are organized by township, range, and section numbers and contain inventory cards that can contain descriptions of the land and what was on it as well as more. Sometimes there are sketches of the homes and land areas too.
  • Oral Histories – Recorded interviews with Michiganders. These include the transcripts and audios of the interviews. You can search for the area or subject you wish to hear about. These are great as they tell a story that you can’t get from a record.
  • Music of Michigan – Music written by Michigan composers or issued by Michigan music publishers. This doesn’t have audio, just an FYI.
  • Maps – You can search for these by county as well as the subject. For example, they have a map of the bases of troops activated for the Flint Sit-Down Strike in 1937 by United Auto Workers.
  • Main Streets – These are a collection of images of street scenes of various cities in Michigan. You can search by city, county, or even what you want to see (clock towers, store fronts, etc.)
  • Architecture – These are the architectural drawings of the Ransom Eli Olds Mansion in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Lighthouses and Life-Saving Stations – Michigan is known for it’s many lighthouses and life saving stations (over 120!) and this is a collection of images of these items.
  • Governors of Michigan – A picture collection of Michigan’s 47 governors, up to Jennifer Granholm.

Not everything here is going to be genealogy related, however, having a good historical background of a place can ALWAYS help with your research so nothing should be overlooked.

Also, this website has guides on vital records, county records, immigration and naturalization records, and military records. If you are planning a trip to the Michigan Archives/Library of Michigan, I highly recommend utilizing these guides first so you know what you are looking for and can plan accordingly.

Happy Monday everyone!

Categories: Resources | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Friday’s Faces from the Past: Meeting New Grandson

hummels with dad and aunt roxanne

This photo was taken on Thanksgiving 16 November 1954 (the day the family celebrated, not the actual day). This is Ada (Raifsnider) and Ollie Hummel holding my dad, who was a bit over a month old. My Aunt Roxanne is the little girl; she was almost three.

This picture surprised me because of how much smaller Ada looks compared to other pictures I have of her. However, this was taken a month before Ada died, and she had been quite sick by this point so it makes sense. My dad had said that his grandma got the chance to hold him at least once before she died and I’m sure that was a comfort to his mom, my grandma, afterwards. I know losing her mother was very hard on her from how she used to tell me stories of her parents when I was younger.

Categories: HUMMEL, Photo, RAIFSNIDER, WITHERELL+ | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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