Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Edward Bell Conwell, Jr.

Welcome to another edition of Tombstone Tuesday!

Today we're not straying very far from last week's tombstone.  It belongs to my maternal grandfather, Edward Bell Conwell, Jr.  Edward was the second of eight children of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. and Zella May (McCabe) Conwell.  He had five brothers (one older, four younger) and two sisters (one older, one younger).

Edward was born 23 April 1904 in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri and died 18 March 2000 in Atlantic, Cass, Iowa.  He is buried in between his first wife, Ada Jane (Correll) Conwell, and his second wife, Edith Marie (Brown) Conwell (my grandmother) in Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence, Jackson, Missouri.  He was a fifty year member of the Masons (A.F. & A.M.) and served in the U.S. Navy for a period of time, receiving a medical discharge for stomach issues.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Talking Tech: Family tree apps for the iPad

Since getting back into working on my family history I've been searching for ways to be mobile and stay organized while being mobile.  I migrated from a desktop to a laptop several years ago and, while I love my Family TreeMaker program on my laptop, I just felt the laptop was still a little too much to take on a trip to the library or on a research trip.  Plus I didn't care so much for the integration with Ancestry.  Don't get me wrong, I get the why of the partnership and I see the benefits BUT...I'm also a clean-data-hound.  I work in databases everyday at my job so I see what dirty data can do and I've spent, literally, hours cleaning up dirty data.  So consequently, I'm pretty strict about what data I bring into my tree.  

Enter scene: the iPad.

Oh yes, I went hard-core iThing.  I didn't believe D1 when he told me they were addictive items.  Actually, this really started with the gift of an iPhone, courtesy of D1.  Yes, the same person who gave me the warning about the iAddiction started me down the iRoad.

Okay, I hear you, I'm rambling.  Back to the point: the iPad.  When I got my iPad I decided to see what I could do with it with genealogy.  I'm still learning about new apps genealogists are using (I recently discovered Evernote) but my first order of business was to find a family tree app because I really wanted to replace taking my laptop with me to the library (sorry Acer, I still love you, I just don't love lugging you around).  So I set out searching and decided to do a series of blog posts about my app discoveries in hopes of helping others who are looking for good apps for their iPads.

I knew many of the computer family tree programs had accessory apps for their programs: Ancestry, Legacy, etc. but this isn't what I wanted.  This clean-data freak wanted a stand-alone iPad app that was more than just a GEDCOM viewer.  I wanted to be able to add data, pictures and possibly even attach documents.

So what are the apps you ask?  I'll be reviewing GedView by David Knight, MobileFamilyTree 7 by Synium Software, Heredis by BSD Concept and a fairly new app called LiveHistory Genealogy by AlgoCoil.  So let's get started!  Oh, and here's my transparency disclosure: MobileFamilyTree, Heredis and LiveHistory provided copies of their apps free of charge for me to review.  I appreciate their willingness to do so but want to assure my readers that it in no way influences my opinion of these apps.


I stumbled on GedView right after getting my first iPhone and I did pay for the app.  I absolutely don't regret having paid for it either.  At $3.99 it was worth every penny.  The current version is 3.4.1 and there are several good reviews on GedView in the app store.

There are several good things about GedView.  The interface is clean, basic and fairly user friendly.  If you're looking for a pretty interface, however, this app is not for you.  The interface is functional, not beautiful.  The developer spent his time working on the functionality of this app, which matters to me more than how the app looks.

Individual Detail View

The GEDCOM download/import features are extremely easy to use and getting my GEDCOM file imported was no problem at all.  I love that for larger GEDCOM files you're able to start the download and leave the app and the download will continue.  A notification will pop up when when the file has finished importing.

When it comes to entering data, the good functionality continues.  There is a great list of events you can add to each individual record.  From birth to probate and everything in between there were things I hadn't even considered adding to my database.  There are fields for LDS information and a field for organization codes (which I love due to the filing system I use for my paperwork).

Images and media can be added and you can add notes and details to any photos you add.  Individuals can be bookmarked for quick access.  You can add GPS coordinates to the record, however, GedView cannot locate the coordinates on its own.  Once the coordinates are added, however, GedView can map the location.

Some really cool options: you can make a phone call from within the app if phone numbers have been entered, emails can be composed by simply clicking on an email address on file in the app.  There are several customizable settings and the users manual is absolutely positively FANTASTIC!!!!  It contains clickable links to take you directly to the item you want to learn about and the descriptions are very good.  The other really awesome item is that there is an area for citations.  It contains a field for text from the source which is useful for including the quote where the information came from.

With the good there always comes some bad.  The biggest downfall with this app for me was that there are no fields for middle name, suffix or nickname so, in my database, those items are included with other fields.  I was also disappointed to discover that you're unable to indicate if a child is adopted, biological or a step-child.  These two items bother me quite a bit because I feel those fields are pretty standard these days.

Other items I feel could be updated or streamlined: 
  • Being able to indicate whether a significant other is a spouse or life partner would be ideal
  • Adding marriages is a clunky process.  You have to add an entirely new family and you can't add the marriage in the individual's record...understandable but not ideal
  • Reports are basic, you get a pedigree chart and family group record only
  • The search function is very simple but is not a "one-stop shop".  There is a search area for name, forename and file number.  You can also search by going to the Index or Family screen and tapping the letter of the surname you want to go to.
GedView is a somewhat limited app.  HOWEVER, it is a work horse app that is dependable and I would definitely recommend it for someone who wanted a basic app with few bells and whistles.  People are are just starting out using the iPhone or iPad will find this app good to use.  Anyone who wants an app with few bells and whistles but lots of functionality will be very happy with this app.  And at $3.99 this app is worth every penny.  Bonus: this app works on both the iPad and the iPhone.

Grade given: Definite A

Friday, July 26, 2013

Follow Friday: Carolina Girl Genealogy

Purely by chance I stumbled across Carolina Girl's blog.  I was searching something genealogy-related (hey, what can I say, I've slept since then!) and ran across her post "Blogging + Cousin Bait = Mystery Picture Success!".  It was such an enjoyable read that I started looking at her other posts and now I subscribe to her blog as well as following her on Twitter.  She has an honest, unpretentious writing style that appeals to me as a non-professional genealogist.  And I absolutely adore her "This Week On My Family History Calendar" posts.  It's such a unique idea!

And, Cheri, if you're reading this, I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU!!!  Your encouragement to start my own blog was the last push I needed to take the leap and do it!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Around the Town Thursday - Liberty Memorial

Welcome to Around the Town Thursday!  Around the Town Thursday is a way for me to highlight interesting, fun or useful places around my beautiful hometown of Kansas City.

In the spotlight today is one of my favorite places: The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.

Liberty Memorial (during maintenance)

The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial is the United States' one and only World War I museum.  It was that way from the beginning and in 2004 the Memorial finally got designated by Congress as the nation's one and only official World War I museum.  The official museum website has a great brief history at the Museum and Memorial page but, in brief, Kansas Citians rallied after the war ended to memorialize the sacrifices made by those who served during The Great War.  In a mere 10 days, Kansas City raised over $2 million to create this memorial.

The Memorial suffered after many years and fell into disrepair and was eventually closed due to dangerous conditions in different parts of the Memorial.  But in 1998, Kansas Citians rallied once again, this time to save the Memorial.  Restoration of the Memorial began and the Memorial was re-opened to the public in 2006 at a grand celebration.

I was just 29 years old when the Memorial was scheduled to re-open on May 25, 2002.  My son was twelve that year.  On a whim, we got in the car the day of the re-dedication and went to watch the festivities.  Many famous people were there making speeches, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts paraded around the circle drive along with military units, retired military and many local bands.  And I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, it was even attended by one of the last surviving World War I veterans at that time.  Little did I realize that was to be the beginning of my fascination with the Memorial.  I have since begun volunteering at this wonderful museum.  It's amazing to be surrounded by so many fantastically preserved artifacts.  The amount of information housed in the museum is overwhelming at times.  I learn something new every time I work a volunteer shift.

The Memorial was built in the style of Egyptian revival.  There are two sphinxes on the deck of the Memorial and four Guardian Spirits which circle the Memorial tower.

One of the two sphinxes on the Memorial deck
One of the four Guardian Spirits on the tower

One of two satellite exhibit buildings. These were original to the Memorial.
And if that's not impressive enough, the Liberty Memorial is home to one of the most unbelievable pieces of artwork ever created.  Many people aren't aware of it's existence until they're introduced to it at the museum.  Housed in the two satellite exhibit buildings of the Liberty Memorial are pieces of the great Pantheon de la Guerre.  You can read more about the Pantheon de la Guerre here but essentially the Pantheon was a huge (and I mean HUGE) mural painted during the War.  It was so large, it was housed in its own building after it was finished and it was a mural that required one to walk around it to see it all.  402 feet around and 45 feet high, I'll bet it was a sight to behold when it was whole.

Long story short, the Pantheon traveled to the U.S. for exhibition at a World's Fair, was forgotten after the fair, resided outside a storage facility for years until it was finally auctioned off.  Purchased by a Baltimore, MD man, William Haussner, it wasn't until 1957 that a Kansas City artist, Daniel MacMorris, was able to convince Haussner to donate it to the Memorial.  Because of MacMorris' efforts, the Pantheon is now preserved at the Liberty Memorial and is an amazing testament to the patriotic efforts of many French painters.

The last item at the Memorial to be highlighted is a little known gem: the research center.  There are over 75,000 archival documents and over 8,000 library titles housed in this research center...all for use for free by anyone who may be interested.  There is a research center attendant available to assist you on-site but the research center staff are the only ones with access to the archival collection so they do request that anyone wishing to view items from the archival collection make an appointment with the staff.  More information on the research center can be found here.  The research center is located on the bottom level of the museum building.  Even if you don't plan to visit the research center, make it a point to go to the bottom level, where you can get a unique view of the poppy field which resides under the glass bridge to the main gallery.  You can also get a view of the base of the tower.
A view of the poppy field from the glass bridge on the main level

Another rarely viewed jewel of the Memorial is the Great Frieze on the north wall of the Memorial.  Many people simply don't take the time to walk down the stairs at either side of the deck to see this beautiful carving.  Keep walking all the way down past the Great Frieze to Pershing Road in front of the Memorial and you'll get to see the bronze busts of the five Allied leaders present during the original site dedication.

There is so much to see and experience at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.  I highly recommend taking advantage of the fact that the ticket is good for two days.  The cost of the ticket is well worth what's there.  Before going I recommend looking at their website so you have an idea of what to expect.

Happy exploring!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Edith M. Brown Conwell

Welcome to Tombstone Tuesday!

Today's tombstone is brought to you from Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence, MO and belongs to my maternal grandmother, Edith Marie (Brown) Conwell.  Edith was the youngest child of Richard Selman Brown and Martha Lucinda (Vaughn) Brown.  She had five older sisters and four older brothers.

Edith was born 1 December 1912 in Campbell, Dunklin, Missouri and died 7 June 1997 in Kansas City, Wyandotte, Kansas.  She is buried next to her husband and my grandfather, Edward B. Conwell, Jr. in Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence, Jackson, Missouri.

Thanks for stopping by Tombstone Tuesday!

Monday, July 22, 2013

An interesting find

I love going to estate sales. Some people might find it a little creepy to go sorting through the personal items of someone who's deceased but I've discovered many interesting treasures at estate sales. It shocks and disturbs me to see family pictures and possible heirlooms being sold and I'm heartbroken that I'm not always able to afford to purchase these items and re-home them.

D1, most wonderful mother-in-law and I recently stopped at a not-so-extraordinary looking estate sale and as I was browsing the items for sale I happened across this book in a box of items marked at $0.50. 

The book is obviously old and I thought it had an interesting look to it so I began to peruse the aged and well-worn pages.  The first couple of pages had been pasted over with recipes, which was somewhat disappointing because the title page had been pasted over so I couldn't see what the book's title was.

As I got further into the book I realized I was looking at a ritual for some type of fraternal organization. I knew this because I'm a member of a similar fraternal organization and the ritual read similar but wasn't quite what I had at home so I knew it wasn't an Eastern Star ritual. After showing it to D1 he confirmed it wasn't a Masonic ritual. 

Hmmmm, a mystery. I do love a good mystery. I must have stood in the bedroom of this house for 10 minutes or more looking at this book before I found something I could search the Internet for to help me identify what organization this book was a part of.  And what D1 and I discovered was very interesting indeed. 

The book I'd found was a ritual for a fraternal organization called The Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, also known as The Grange.  It was an organization I'd never heard of before which was equally as intriguing for me.  As I read about what D1 had found on his handy dandy smart phone and paged through the book I ended up back at the front of the book and discovered something I had missed on the inside of the front cover.

The information on the inside front cover of the book shed a whole new light on the ritual.  This wasn't just an interesting piece of history, this was someone else's genealogy.  Somewhere I'm betting Miss Sarah A. Campbell from Parkville, Platte, MO has some distant relatives who might be interested to know that she was a member of this fraternal organization.  Why might this be interesting to a relative?  Fraternal organizations weren't just a way for people to be social.  They were avenues for businessmen to do business, a way to pass news from town to town, and a way for new settlers to build roots in a new community they settled in.  Having roots in a community was especially important when you're looking at areas that weren't fully settled yet.  Neighbors relied on neighbors, friends and relatives to assist them bringing in harvests, building barns and other large projects in largely unsettled areas.

There is no guarantee that a fraternal organization will release information on an ancestor, but it never hurts to inquire.  Many of them may not have the staff, resources or time to give much more information than a yes they belonged or no they didn't and what chapter the ancestor was a member of.  There might also be issues about releasing personal information, even if the person is deceased.  However, you don't know unless you try so this amateur genealogist says give it a go and see where you get!  I personally have requested information from the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. and have received a wonderful bit of information on my grandfather that I was able to add to my genealogy.  What can I do with that information?  For me, not a lot but it was something I could add to my genealogical database and something I found interesting.  However!  If this was an ancestor I didn't know much about, it would be a different story.

Let's just say I didn't know much about my grandfather and I found out, by way of the emblem on his tombstone, that he was a Mason.  I did a little research, discovered the Grand Lodge website of the state where my grandfather is buried and decided to contact them to see if they'd give me any information.  So I use their contact me page to send them a brief inquiry (very important, as brief as possible is good with the basic facts you know about the person; make sure you give them enough information to actually do a look up though.  Remember, there are a LOT of Smiths in ANY database) requesting to know if they have any information on an Edward B. Conwell, Jr. who was buried in Kansas City, Missouri.  I make sure to thank them in advance for their time, hit the send button, and wait.  A few days later I open up my email to find a response from the Grand Lodge of Missouri.  Hooray!  A match to my inquiry has been found.  So what information did I get?  Just basics: his name, what Lodge he was a member of and the location of that Lodge, that he was a member in good standing at the time of his death (meaning he paid his dues) and that he was a fifty-year member.  Whoa.  So I now know the neighborhood he attended meetings in, which could potentially help me place where he lived and I know that he was a fifty-year member, which could help me pin down dates that I might not otherwise know, like a birth year.

Obviously I knew the death date because I said I had seen the emblem on his tombstone.  And I knew he was a fifty-year member when he died.  So, if I didn't know his death date I could do the math and get pretty close to determining his birth year.  I say pretty close because what you need to understand is, although I got the information that he was a fifty-year member, that doesn't mean it was EXACTLY fifty-years.  Many organizations will make a big deal about being a long-standing member.  They won't necessarily make a big deal about your fifty-first or fifty-fifth year in the organization.  Twenty-five, fifty and seventy-five are typically the numbers they'll note in their records.  Also keep in mind that different fraternal organizations have different age requirements for joining.  The Masonic order is 18 but other organizations have different age requirements.  But it will give you somewhere to go with that information.

Remember that dates and locations are always great finds, no matter how small or insignificant you believe them to be at the time.  You never know when that small piece of information you found might tear down a brick wall you've been staring at.  Besides the facts, information you might get about your ancestor's involvement in a fraternal organization, in my experience, helps to give life to that ancestor and show that they weren't just a stack of statistics.  They were real people who got involved in their communities and cared about things happening around them.

If you're still curious about The Grange, The Conner Prairie Interactive History Park has a great history of it hereThe National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry is still an active organization and they're official history page is here.  I was both saddened to see that Miss Campbell's Grange in Parkville no longer exists and tickled to discover an active Grange not that far from my location. I wish I could find Miss Campbell's family so I could pass her ritual back into the family fold, but since I don't have much more than a name and location I'll contact the local Grange and see if they're interested in the book.  I'd like to see this bit of history preserved because it was such an interesting read and a fun little side investigation for me.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Do Re Mi...

As Julie Andrews sang in "The Sound of Music": "Let's start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start..."

I've wondered about blogs, read blogs, shared interesting blog posts with friends, wished I had the ability to write a blog post, seriously considered writing a blog post and then convinced myself no one would read it anyway and decided to not write a blog post, read some more blogs, got serious about reading blogs I found to be interesting and finally (with the help of some very special people - ahem, D1 and a certain group of 'Bugs!) finally decided to take the plunge and, as Nike so eloquently put it, "Just Do It!"

So this is it.  The ramblings of an amateur genealogist, history buff, amateur photographer and avid scrapbooker laid out for all the World Wide Web to see.  May these musings be of some interest and assistance to you out there in Virtual World.  I hope to make this a mix of my personal genealogical journey (with all its successes and wrong turns), bits of history and other odds and end.

Currently I'm working on gathering documentation to support my application for the Daughters of the American Revolution, trying to either prove (or disprove) a verbal history of a possible Native America connection in my family that my grandfather passed down and reviewing some family tree database apps for the iPad.  I hope to have a series of posts about those iPad apps up starting in the next week or so.  I'm very excited about the iPad apps I've been reviewing.  I think there's some good stuff out there.

And in case you're wondering about the name of the blog, check out my About Me page.  There's an explanation of where Talking Box Genealogy came from ;)