This is the story of how I found my great-great-great grandparents graves and lived to tell the tale.

This story actually begins almost exactly a year ago.

My entire family was squeezed into our overflowing 15-passenger van, on a 30-day trip from North Pole, Alaska to Savannah, Georgia. Besides making them stop at every National Park and battlefield on the 9,000 miles of our trip, I also made quite a few detours to do research at courthouses and cemeteries.

One of the cemeteries I wanted to find was the “Agee Cemetery”, in Woolwine, Virginia. The area is just a couple of miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway and from what I had been told, there were four gravestones down a trail off the side of the highway.

The road was windy and the forest thick.

I had a very vague idea of where the cemetery was located.

I didn’t need to do a lot of prior planning though, because I had my new wonder-toy, the iPhone in hand. It had a GPS, internet access, maps, and the email with the directions to the cemetery. What more could I need??

What I didn’t take into account was the fact that my iPhone wouldn’t have any signal or internet access in the mountains of Virginia. We were driving blind.  And I learned my lesson.

After going back and forth down “the Crooked Road” several times (it’s really called that – here’s the sign to prove it!),

stopping at some poor unsuspecting man’s house to ask for directions, and driving down a very narrow dirt road with signs saying “No Trespassing” “Private Property” and “Trespassers Will Be Shot”, we threw in the towel and headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway further to the Biltmore for some sightseeing.

Over this past year, the fact that I wasn’t able to find that cemetery had been nagging at me. I really wanted to find them.

After taking off from the NGS Conference in Charleston, I decided that I’d make a stop in Virginia. Because Virginia is on the way to Kansas, right?

This time around, I was armed with much more specific directions. I was also in a small SUV instead of a 15-passenger van. A little bit easier to maneuver around. 🙂

We still had a few things going against us though.

  • It was Sunday morning and there weren’t very many people around (I did have the idea to stop by the local church to ask someone about the cemetery, but the parking lot was empty.  Hmm)
  • Even though I had more specific directions, I still didn’t know exactly where I was going.
  • It was POURING down rain and the graves were 3/8 of a mile off the road.  And I didn’t have an umbrella.  And there wasn’t a store in town.  See the rain, just waiting in those clouds??

But did I let any of this get me down?  Of course not!  I had gone out of my way to drive to this county and I wasn’t going to give up that easily.  I’m from Washington state anyway.  A little rain wasn’t going to discourage me.

My first stop (after passing the empty church parking lot) was the busiest place in town – the gas station/hang-out.  There, I asked the resident old-guy-on-a-bench if he knew where I could find the cemetery.  I am honestly not quite sure what he said to me.  His accent was so thick and he had so many teeth missing that I couldn’t understand.  I nodded a couple of times, thanked him, and tried to follow the directions I already had.

I found the small shoulder, where I was supposed to pull over on the side of the road.

I could see a bit of footbridge (which was mentioned in the directions).  I knew that I was on the right track.  Just at that moment, a pick-up truck pulled out of the nearby road.  I flagged it down and asked the man driving if he knew if there were some graves back there and if whoever owned the land would mind if I went back to take some pictures of them. He said that I should go down the road (which he had pulled out of) and turn into the first driveway.  The graves were near this man’s house.  Great! (or so I thought).

As I drove down the one-lane dirt road, I realized that it looked familiar.  And when I stopped at the first driveway, I found out why.  This was where all of the “No Trespassing” were!  I couldn’t decide what to do.

Just then, a nice older lady was passing by and I asked her if she knew who lived there.  She said that she thought that he was home and I should go and ask him about the graves.  I decided to gather the courage and go ring this man’s doorbell.

So, I turned the corner of the driveway (I couldn’t see the house before) and was faced with the fact that this man didn’t have a doorbell.  Or even a proper door for that matter.  What to do?  I got about 25 feet from the shack and yelled “hello” about 6 or 7 times and then hightailed it back to my truck when no one answered.  As I was pulling out of the driveway, I noticed that the outbuilding/barn that was there looked like it could have been standing when my ancestors lived in the area (over 100 years before).  I was tempted to take a picture of it, but my good manners kept me from doing it.

So, back to the side of the road where I started out.  The rain had stopped and I decided it was now or never.  Armed with my camera and my cell phone (which of course didn’t work, but for some strange reason it still made me feel better to have it), Ellie and started walking down the pathway.

We crossed the footbridge and the path quickly turned into an ATV trail.

A very muddy ATV trail.

But we weren’t giving up, right?

Except for one very un-cool moment, where I almost slipped and covered myself in this,

we made it up the path unscathed.  A little muddy, but no gunshots.

And that’s when we saw it.  It definitely wasn’t what I expected to find.

But you’ll have to wait until next Tombstone Tuesday to see what was down the long muddy path.

Would you have ventured down it?

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I took my daughter, Ellie, along to the NGS Conference this past weekend.

With 4 younger siblings, she was ready for some “Mom” time and knew that genealogy was definitely a good way to get it.

She is interested in family history.  She even had me upload Legacy to her computer so that she could have access to all of the information that I’ve gathered. I’m hoping that she can join me in research in the near future.

But when it comes down to it, she’s 12 (well, almost 12) and most of the sessions I attended were way over her head (heck, I think that a lot of them were overwhelming for the adults!).  She didn’t have any interest in hearing about the “Genealogical Proof Standard” or how to write a research report.

So, there were times that she was bored.

She likes to make short movies on her computer and decided that she would make a “news report” from the conference.  She took pictures and videos around the exhibit hall and put it all together into a 5 minute video, which I would like to share with you now.

Before you push play, I would like to say “thank you” to Pat from DearMYRTLE, the Flip-Pal people, and Paul Nauta from FamilySearch, for taking the time to answer her questions and allowing her to tape them.  I hope you enjoy it! She had a great time making it. 🙂

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Phew!

I had to remind myself that a 4-day national conference is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow down.  Get more rest.  Try not to completely fry my brain.

The classes I took were all very informative. I feel motivated to tackle some of my brick wall ancestors by doing some more in-depth research and looking at the facts from a different angle. I’m also very interested in becoming certified now.

The number of products available on the market was almost overwhelming.  Better than being “under”-whelmed though – wouldn’t you agree?  Every single time I walked through the exhibit hall, I came across something that I had missed before.

Here are the classes I took on days 3 and 4 (in case you’re interested):

  • Reporting the Facts : Record As You Go, by Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard: What It Is and What It Is Not, by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS (A lot of letters behind his name, don’t you agree?  He’s a very good speaker.)
  • Kinship Determination: Are They Really My Ancestors?, by Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, CGL
  • Turning Information Into Biographical Events: How to Build Historical Content, by John Philip Coletta, PhD
  • Framing the Problem for Field and Overseas Research, by David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA
  • The General Session for Saturday morning was a speech by Jay Verkler, President and CEO of FamilySearch entitled “What’s New”.  The second portion was a very interesting program by Senator Glenn F. McConnell, The Hunley: Where Science and History Come Together to Tell Time. I really wish that I had more time to spend in Charleston, because I would definitely make it out to see the Hunley.
  • The Jones Jinx: Tracing Common Surnames, given by Thomas W. Jones (see above for all of his letters. :))
  • Identity Crisis: Right Name, Wrong Man? Wrong Man, Right Name?, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
  • The County Courthouse: Your “Truck in the Attic”, by John Philip Coletta, PhD

Besides the great classes, it was really nice to get to know some other geneabloggers “in real life”. (As opposed to “in social media life”.) I really want to thank FamilySearch for getting us together the night before the conference started.  There was always someone to sit with in each session – and we were a lively bunch!  Some of us even got together for dinner again on Friday night – and had quite the adventure when we realized the restaurant we were meeting at had closed the year before.  You’re never going to live that down, Liz. 🙂

On Friday, Ellie and I were interviewed by the PBS crew that came through the exhibit hall.

Have you ever been interviewed by a camera crew before?

When the lady approached us, I thought “No way!”, but what came out of my mouth was “Sure”.  I’m not sure how that happened.

It was like a deer in the headlights after that.  I don’t know what I said, but I babbled a LOT.  And I don’t think that I ever actually looked into the camera.  And I’m sure that there must have been something stuck in my teeth.  Or my nose.  Or maybe I had some toilet paper on my shoe.  🙂

And when it was all over, I realized that there were so many things that I wish I had mentioned!!

Like the fact that I blog.  And that I like to use our family history in our homeschooling studies.  Really, anything remotely interesting, because I don’t think I said anything that made any sense at all.  That’s the beauty of editing though.  I’m hoping that they can pull out one small phrase I said that they can use.  So, this is just a warning that if you watch that PBS show and see me on it, I really cannot be held accountable for whatever I may have said.

Well, it’s time for me to get some rest, before I start on a couple of days of cross-country driving and research.  I’ll let you know what I find.

Wish more of you would have been at NGS!  Maybe we’ll get to meet up next time.

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This week we’re looking at the 1899 Sears & Roebuck Catalog.  They are available on Ancestry.com and I’ve been having a lot of fun paging through them.

One of the major events of 1898 was the Spanish-American War.  That was reflected by many items in this year’s catalog which pertained to that war.  Here is one of them:

Notice some of the toys available.  A “Remember the Maine” toy bank, and a “Rough Riders Chime Toy”.   I especially liked the artillery bank.  It really shoots the money into the bank!

There were still many items geared towards the Alaskan adventurer also:

Here is some of the fashionable clothing available to women in 1899.  Those bows on the bottom row are humongous!!!

And for the men:

This catalog even included a page full of sample fabrics for the men’s clothing.

I loved the variety of hats available too.  You could be a farmer, a cowboy, a banker, a soldier, or a golfer and they had you covered.

I didn’t forget the children!  Yes, that is a little boy in a “kilt suit” in the large picture.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I read this ad for the “Waist Front Distender”.  It claims that “a full bust makes your waist look small.”  I’m sure it does, but I think the shape of these women looks a bit odd, don’t you?

And this product, the “Frost King and Queen” seems ridiculous. “No one ever need have a cold if they wear one of these vests”.  They are essentially wearing  “Sham Wows!”. 🙂  I could totally see this made into a late night infomercial.

Can you imagine taking a shower with a “shower bath yoke”?  Me neither.

How about a vapor bath?  These look kind of interesting.

Here is a peek at some of the different hair products that were available at this time period.

And some more miracle medicines.  These always make me smile.  I wonder how well some of them may have worked.  I especially liked the “Mexican headache Cure”.

Sears seriously had it all.  You name it and they offered it.  You could even buy gravestones.  Do you recognize any of your ancestors’ gravestones here?

Some of the most exciting new things offered were the moving pictures!!

Look at some of the exciting things you would watch!

Both the moving pictures and the graphophone (below) were marketed towards people who wanted to make a bunch of money by traveling around and offering shows or lectures.

The other big thing was the “Magic Lantern” which was a slide machine.  It also offered lectures on various subjects:

I wonder if any of my ancestors attended lectures or shows and what their first impression of them was. It must have been exciting!

And here is one of the big ticket items for this time period.  The sewing machine.  Notice that the ad for it is IN COLOR. Do any of you have antique sewing machines from your ancestors?  They sure made them beautifully, didn’t they?

And I’ll leave you with this neat invention – the Pianissimo Pedal.  New musicians could practice the piano “with no annoying results to others”.

Well, that’s it for 1899.  Join me next week when we going shopping in 1900.

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