It’s Just a Name

As I begin compiling stories of my maternal grandmother I am immediately absorbed in my first quandary of mis-information. Her name on the Social Security Death Index states, “Sarah B. Keckler” this is the name that I knew her as, though everyone called her “Bea.”

So, first fact, her name is Sarah Beatrice Keckler, duly noted and moving back in time.

Whoa, wait, we have a problem … I once heard a story:

Sarah’s maiden name was Crosland, and she always believed that her name was Sarah Beatrice Crosland. However, she used to work at a place that obtained a government contract for some work. In order to be cleared for the job she had to show her birth certificate, but she had never even seen her birth certificate. She knew she was born in New Jersey, so she went to the vital statistic gods and requested proof of her birth.

As it turned out, her name wasn’t really “Sarah Beatrice” at birth on April 5, 1914, but rather Lillian Mildred Crosland. She had to traipse around Trenton, New Jersey in search of long lost aunts, uncles, and cousins that remembered that she was born Lillian Mildred. From there she had to ask them to give her notarized statements proving that she was who the stated said she was. Having figured out the information as best she could she went through a bit of an identity crisis — what did she really know about herself?

In discussing this story with one of my sisters I learned that she had heard a different story:

Her name was actually Mildred Lillian Crosland, and she learned of her actual birth name when obtaining a passport to visit her daughter Sarah Ann in Columbia, South America. It would seem the rest of the story matched.

So, now I don’t know if I am looking for Sarah, Beatrice, Mildred, or Lillian! I know, I will check my mother’s death certificate. But, along with Mom’s death certificate is her birth certificate. Death Certificate lists my mother’s mother as Sarah Beatrice Crosland, but the Birth Certificate lists her as Beatrice Sarah Crosland.

Oh me, oh my, where am I supposed to begin?


My Genealogy Do-Over

I started this project with great expectations for myself and my family tree, never expecting to be thrown a fastball that would nail me straight in the heart.

The same day that I began the “Do-Over” I had a mammogram done. Five days ago I learned that there is something wrong and I need further testing. For five days I have been an emotional wreck, unable to focus on my to-do list. I have tried, but in beginning my research from scratch I am focusing on my birth family, essentially, my Mom’s life, which ended with breast cancer.

So, I have revamped my to-do list to not include dates that I expect to have the task done. By doing this I can work at my own pace, right down the list. I’m certain I won’t be ready for week three assignments, but rather than focus on being behind I will focus on adding to my list of priorities.

Cheers to a good run at working hard on something that does matter, but first working on being around long enough to work on it! 🙂

Lies, Lies, and Yes, More Lies

Well, I guess in genealogical research they really aren’t lies; maybe we should call them misgivings of rumors once heard and passed down.

There are certain parts of my research where I set out with a hypothesis handed down for generations, some learned as a child at my grandmother’s knee, while others were learned as an adult. Though there is truth to each story, in reality; the facts have been either misconstrued to make our family seem to be on the shirt tails of famous. Or, in another case, the facts were right, but my perception of those facts were way wrong!

My perception of the facts, being wrong as it were, only helps to muddle the genealogy confusion when I share those stories with no sources to back up the stories I am passing on.

In the first story, the one heard at Grandmom’s knee, I was told that we are decedent’s of the brother of Patrick O’Leary. Patrick was married to Catherine, the owner of the famous cow that supposedly started the Great Chicago Fire. The story goes that Daniel O’Leary moved his wife and children from Chicago to Burner Mountain, West Virginia, in a hurried fashion to the great relief of rioters in Chicago that criticized and even harmed anyone named O’Leary.

In doing basic research I noted a few things, to begin with, our last name is “Leary,” according to my Grandmother they dropped the “O” in order to remove themselves from the travesty of national attention. However, they also would have switched their religious affiliation from Catholic to Protestant.

My husband pointed out that moving to “Burner Mountain” after such a horrific connection to burning a city seemed a bit odd. My research had to prove Grandmom right, because I had moved to West Michigan, long after her death, and the Great Chicago Fire is well known for having developed our once logging community in efforts to rebuild Chicago. I wanted us to be a part of something good, something that seemed a horrible event, that was really good for other communities. I wanted to be part of a positive!

In my search for the truth I learned about a new book, “Did the Cow Do it?” Purchasing the book I quickly learned that there was no known brother to Patrick O’Leary. My disappointment was evident, but I pressed on by switching gears and studying the roots of the Leary Family.

My grandfather was really born in Burner, West Virginia, but prior to that his family resided in Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. They had never even seen Chicago, had never written an “O” before their last name, or practiced Catechism. It was all smoke (excuse the pun) and fairy tale.

Now, Grandmom married Daniel T. Leary, so it wasn’t really her story, more it was her husband’s story to tell, but he had passed on long before my birth. I’m not sure if she made up the story, or heard it from someone else, I just know that she didn’t like when I sang the nursery rhyme, “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.”

Let’s fast forward 35 years, to present day. Not only do I seek the dead through documents, I also hold an interest in ghost hunting. Imagine my delight to learn that ghost hunters around the globe are seeking to investigate Pennhurst State School and Hospital; I know I had an uncle that not only lived there but he also took his last breath there.

BRAKES, brakes, bra … He did in fact live at Pennhurst State School and Hospital ANNEX 2. Which is actually White Haven State School and Hospital. It was not the main building, or even on the same property, it turns out that White Haven State School and Hospital is still in existence.

My perception was that he lived in the main building of Pennhurst and was, quite possibly, among the unrested souls. Maybe it was my wish to become famous, maybe I wanted something good for this family, maybe I wanted better writing material, or maybe I just wasn’t listening effectively.

With all of this in mind, what have I learned? The facts, they are what they are, even though they may prove my stories or perceptions to be wrong, I am still following the heart strings of those that came before me, and without them, I would not exist.

Let the games begin

With the new year some of us, well, most of us have made New Year’s Resolutions. With today being the fifth of the month I’m curious as to how many have actually followed through on any and/or all resolutions?

My biggest resolution was to get my genealogy information organized. However, with the children on Christmas break my resolution was placed on hold until today. Yet, Mother Nature despises any manner of controlling things and gave us a storm to tear up my day. All three children are home from school (no rest for the weary), so organization is still … um, uh, a dream away.

My plan is to inventory my current holdings, organize them, and set up research plans for future wayward trips through the vast holdings of the Internet. I had offered up five days to do such, now it looks as if I only have four days to work on it.

The Wayward Genealogist is not a giver upper though, so bring on the challenge of Genealogical Common Sense of 2015!