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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Time for MYOG to take a break and enjoy all of the holiday festivities.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving a bit early for MYOG.  It's time for a break to enjoy friends and family.  Have a great holiday and the next post will be on December 4th.

From Thanksgivings past......

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Heritage

I have certainly done a lot of reading on the internet.  I skip around to various topics from the daily news, to genealogy, and researching European culture.  My latest focus has been on how European's live and how they perceive Americans.  The hope in doing so is to try and understand more about my Irish and German roots and their philosophy about life.

In my German family, simple living and that approach to life has been handed down by each generation.  My aunts and uncle in Napa, California, are my link to the past.  A past in which they knew and were brought up with grandparents who were our original German immigrants.  Those immigrants came from simple times with basic needs.  They worked hard to satisfy the basics and succeeded in doing so.  They did not want or long for much more.  Their reward was in their hard work, praise to the lord, and shared good times with family and friends transplanted from the old country.

Even with my own grandparents, I recognize that they did not desire many material possessions.  My grandfather was from Irish Catholic descent and my German grandma was from the line that I mention above.  The desire for technology did not exude from them at all.  When they purchased a car, it was out of need and not luxury.  When they purchased a television it was out of a desire for daily entertainment but not an excessive amount.  My grandparents never had an answering machine, VCR, DVD player, or even a computer.

My grandfather (Richard J. Flanagan) lived to be 88 years old and passed away in 2000.  He had only gotten Cable TV during the last 3 years of his life because reception from the roof antenna had waned.  He also finally got a gardener for his yard.  He was not a believer in having someone else maintain his yard when he could and had a passion for doing it himself.

As I look back on my relatives that I was so close to, I realize that their simple ways enriched their lives.  They did things for themselves and did not complicate their lives with lots of "things".  A lot of what they learned came from their immigrant relatives.  Those immigrants were Europeans who worked to transplant their lifestyle here to the United States.  They did so quite successfully.  Later and present generations of my family may not be able to say that their lives remained so simple, yet enriched.

My ancestor immigrants on my mother's side of the family were also big on education, reading, and writing.  It was distinctly important for every family member to read and be able to write letters of correspondence.  My great grandfather, Herb Borchers, wrote letters, a diary, and needed to be able to read music and lyrics.  He was in the church choir and played the piano and organ.  It can be very challenging to learn songs if you can't read and write.

In my Flanagan Family, it is clear that knowing how to read and write has been a tradition going back to at least 1773 (and before) when my ancestor, Richard Flanagan of Termonfechin, made his first entry in the farm accounting books.  He could certainly read, write and do both well.  He also passed this tradition of learning along to his descendants.  My own parents always stressed the value of an education and I am only now realizing how necessary it is in life.

As I explore more about my heritage, I will journal about it here in my blog.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - San Francisco - A Fall Day By The Bay

Carquinez Bridge, Vallejo, CA

Richmond-San Rafael Bridge  with Mt. Tam to the left.

Fort Spencer at Marin Headlands - Golden Gate Bridge Overlook

Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point, San Francisco, CA

Fort Point, San Francisco, CA

Fort Point 

Lady Washington at Pier 40, San Francisco, CA

The Lady Washington from the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean

Near the ball park

Home of the SF Giants

SF side of the Bay Bridge - Viewed from Treasure Island

Oakland side of the Bay Bridge - The new span!

The Google Barge under construction at Treasure Island.....wonder what they will use it for.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Genealogy Roadshow

The latest show about genealogy to hit my radar is PBS's Genealogy Roadshow.  This presentation of people's discovery of their family line is well done.  While it has brief reviews of one's family tree research, it is far from boring.  The show seems to squeeze in at least 4 people who have either been stuck on part of their family tree or have never really explored it until now.

The show premiered on Monday, October 7, 2013 with an episode based in San Francisco.  This show is worth checking out.

Genealogy Roadshow

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween and Fall Festivals

One of my cousins, not really so distant, truly enjoys Halloween.  I know how busy she is but I can't let Halloween go by without noting it here.  Personally, I love Fall and Halloween, both.  It is a time in California where the summer transitions into winter and can take anywhere from what seems like two months to just a few short weeks.

This year I offer a photo collection that shows off a bit of Halloween and Fall in Northern California.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Honestly, some Honesty

In my life, I try to surround myself with people of good loyal character who are honest and hold myself to that too.  Walking a fine line of honesty usually means that you are too close to the edge and may cross the line.  Crossing the line even a little leads to contradiction and deception even if the end result means you are just a bit insincere.

My quest to complete my family tree has not quite run into a full story of deception or impropriety.  I may run across something someday.  It could be interesting.  There is that McGuire great grandfather of mine after all.  For now, I leave you with this......

Sometimes the truth,
we are tempted to hide.
Due to our guilt,
or just simple pride.
An exaggeration,
may lead to a lie.
Those that affected,
may break down and cry.
When honesty,
we try to avoid.
are often destroyed.
Our intentions,
are not to distress.
The only solution,
is to genuinely confess.
If we continue these ways,
we shall never gain trust.
For healthy relationships,
it’s an absolute must.
When we have done wrong,
we should be honest and frank.
People will appreciate,
in the end they will thank.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Links for Researching a Family Tree

My Favorite Links for researching a family tree

Family Search:

Just Google your surname, individual name, and location:

Find A Grave:

There are other sites that I explore on occasion but these are where the majority of my research originates.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Ancestors and Moving Out....of The Agrarian Society

I used to work in "Corporate America" and worked for a CEO around Y2K who used to say that we needed move out of the "Industrial Society" and into the "Technology Age".  He'd always start his speech off with referring to the "Agrarian Society" (one that revolves around agriculture) and then move forward to more modern business eras and concepts.  He'd emphasize the fact that we needed to advance from industrial age thinking to technological ways.  His main point in all of this was that we were behind the curve in this technological age.  He may have been right.  But why do I bring this up now?

In my recent research about my ancestors, I have found that the majority were farmers.  The word agrarian stuck with me all of these years.  I must admit to it sounding appealing even at the time of the "Big CEO" speech telling us to move forward.  Farming sounded so great, rather mundane, and a whole lot less stress than working in what I was doing in "Corporate America."  Don't get me wrong, I liked my job, the people that I worked with, but somehow longed for a simpler time and life.

As I've researched my ancestors, a trend in occupation overwhelms the vast majority of my direct line family tree members.  As is no surprise, the vast majority were farmers.  Farming dominates the occupation category on most census until around the turn of the century (1900).

There are a few exceptions to the farming.  I find my great great grandfather, Charles McGuire, living in New York City on the 1870 U.S. Census with the occupation of "coachman".  As you can probably figure out, that meant he drove a horse drawn wagon.  It would appear that his son/my great grandfather, Francis J. McGuire, did the same thing except that he was referred to as a driver.

All of this "big city" exception aside, the vast majority of my ancestors were farmers in 1870 whether they lived in Ireland, Germany, or the United States of America.  A few questions pop into my head about my "agrarian society" ancestors.  Were they strictly farmers?   When did the shift from farming to more industrial type jobs occur?  Did the women work outside of the home?

My German immigrant family, the "Vienop's", were certainly farmers.  Even once they were in Napa, California, the oldest generation farmed fruit orchards on their land.  However, they brought with them a trade from the old country.  They rolled cigars for a living.  This actually makes them easy to find on any census in the U.S. in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  Not only is their last name unique but their occupation a bit of a standout from the rest.

My Flanagan's probably had the most varied occupations early on (the late 1800s) than I have found in my other lines.  While they were most certainly farmers, several of my direct line chose other occupations.  My great grandfather, John Francis "Jack" Flanagan, went to correspondence school to learn mechanical engineering.  By 1904, he was he manager of the repair shop at a local car dealership in Napa.  As a mechanic, he spent his days quite differently than his childhood years growing up on a farm.  By 1918, he was back to being a farmer because there was no one else to run the family farm at the time.

As for the women, I have found that my great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth "Minnie" McLaughlin Flanagan was a school teacher.  Working outside of the home for women was generally not all that common.  Finding her as a school teacher was common for a woman if she did work outside of the home around 1890-1900.  One of her sister's, Katie McLaughlin, is indicated as a glove maker in one census after 1900.

I can see that from one generation to the next, the agrarian society that many of my ancestors lived in was phased out.  By the 1930 U.S. Census, my Vienop Family members are mainly contractors to include carpenters, plumbers, and bricklayers.  While they may have still owned a plum or cherry orchard here and there, it was not their primary occupation to farm.  In fact, a lot of the picking of fruit shifted to the women in my family.

I enjoy seeing what my ancestors' occupations were.  While farming could be a tough job, I still see the agrarian society as a back to basics type of life.  I love the technology at my fingertips and still like to run my fingers through the soil in my own yard.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Giving of your time....Giving back

When I was young, we'd go see my grandparents once a week in Napa during the summer.  We'd go on Wednesdays each week as that was our set day to visit.  I would sometimes ask why we couldn't go a different day.  My mom would say that it did not fit in with ours or my grandma's schedule.  I did inquire more about this and one thing really stood out.

Every Tuesday morning my grandma would volunteer for the Lutheran Braille program at St. John's Lutheran Church in Napa, California.  I recall at one point that she was the person leading the program.  The volunteers would use a braille printer to press pages to create Bible books for the blind.  They would also bind the books.  

As the years passed, my grandma aged, and ended up with health issues in her 70s near the end of her life. She had to give up her volunteerism.  Her obituary indicated that if people wanted to donate that they should give to the American Cancer Society or the Society For The Blind.   I recently looked up the Lutheran Braille program to find that it still exists today.  

What a way to give back to your church and community!   

About a year and half ago, I was attending a Girl Scout leadership meeting for our local service unit.  There was a woman present who had been a Girl Scout for over 50 years.  She had started as a young girl and continued to volunteer her time to the organization as an adult.  She was a cheery, friendly little lady.  Her goal at the meeting was to teach us a song for the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts.   She got all of the troop leaders in attendance singing along to this newly learned song. 

Yet, another example of giving back to your community!

I have many other examples of people giving back too.  I used to work with a gentleman who was a leader within the organization that I worked for full-time.  Outside of his normal work hours, he would man the phones at a suicide hotline.  He would especially make time in the evening of various holidays to answer calls.  He was always vague about his experiences and conversations with people who were on the edge.  Suffice it say, I am certain he saved many and listened intently to everything that they said.  

This example of giving back really tops my list because most people are not cut out for this type of work!

I've been thinking a lot lately about how some people have it in them to give back with their time, while others sit by and watch it happen.  I came across the following online the other day:

I would rephrase the final line to say, "Let's see how many people can figure out a way to volunteer their time in helping others."

Time and time again, I have found several of my ancestors giving back to their community and church.  Several of my relatives helped start their church in their given community whether it was in Upstate New York or in Napa, California.  They gave money, time, and energy.  Even if you're not religious, you must recognize that churches are "community-centric" and give many people a place to belong, get help, and help others.

Even on this given day, I find that I could be doing more to give of myself and still seek the one thing....that one volunteer job where I can make an impact.  So far, my days take me to volunteering for the Girl Scouts, at my children's school, and in creation of the school yearbook (which includes mentoring students who create the pages).  As I write this down, I realize just how rewarding these "give backs" are.  Mind you, I give little money but give a whole lot of time.  My reward is all of the smiling faces that I see, most of which are children.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blog and Genealogy Email, Correspondence, and Networking

I have been so fortunate over the past 3 and a half years in my genealogy research.  Not only have I been able to discover my family tree, I have been able to connect with so many people.  Some of these connections have been in person and some were in the virtual world of the computer.

In the virtual world, so many quick correspondence are possible.  I've posted to various message boards which have resulted in emails to and from various people with like interests or even people who share the same family line as myself.  I am so grateful for their responses and shared information.

Skype has proven to be a wonderful way to communicate with others about our family tree.  From New Zealand to New York to Ireland, I have met relatives that I would not have a chance to see in person everyday, year, or decade.

The "in person" meetings have been so genuine and amazing.  I can only say that I hold onto the memories of those meetings with sheer joy.

Trying to maintain all of these connections has proven to be quite the challenge.  My life takes me away from my genealogy depending on the day or month.  I do, however, keep thoughts of everyone who have contributed to my quest to find my family tree.   As living members of my tree or observers, you have made it so worth it.

Even if I am unable to make a personal contact with each and every one of you regularly, I want you to know that I appreciate all of you and our connection.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Ross' of Mercer County, Pennsylvania

A few years back, my husband decided to research his Ross line on his mother's side.  He'd always told me that they were Scottish and legend had it that they were related to Betsy Ross who is credited with making the first American flag.  Well, the latter has been disproven.  Betsy is not a blood relative and Ross was her last name by marriage.  It was a marriage that did not produce any children and her husband passed away.   She married again but seemed to have retained the Ross name which hit the history books when she crafted the flag.

All family legends aside, the fact that my husband is Scottish is true.  If you look up the Ross name online, you find that Clan Ross is a Highland Scottish clan.  Their castle is called Balnagown Castle located beside the village of Kildary in Easter Ross.  So, is this the line that my husband is related too?

My husband's original research on took him about four hours to complete.  In no time, he had "borrowed" information from a few other family trees and gotten his tree all the way back to Hugh Rarichies 1st Laird of Ross, his apparent 19th great grandfather.  He lived from 1300-1371 in Cromaty, Ross and Cromaty, Scotland.  It was his son William Ross 2nd Laird of Balngowan who apparently first lived in the castle.  He lived from 1340 to 1398.

When my husband first told me of his findings, I was a bit envious and somewhat doubtful.  In my own research, I have only made it back to 1690 Ireland with the potential of some Flanagan's who probably descend from Kings of Connaught in County Roscommon, Ireland.  I have little proof except family lore which has documentation back to around 1700.  Prior to that, we are stuck in 1707 Termonfeckin, County Louth, Ireland.  By the way, it's a pretty nice place to be stuck.

My doubt in this whole Ross Family tree creation was in that he borrowed the information from others who may or may not have actually proven that family line.  I reviewed his Ross tree that had proof and documentation back to about 1849 Pennsylvania.  That's when I stopped and advised my husband that he'd need to really dig up some proof of his line starting with the Ross' of Sandy Creek, Mercer County, PA.  He set aside his research for a while.

Recently, I forgot and left open on the computer and went to bed.  My husband seized the opportunity and decided to give it another go to prove his Ross line.  Well, he found a book that has been scanned into for Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  It proves his Ross line back to his original immigrant ancestor, George Ross, born 1629.  In 1658, George married Constance Little in Connecticut.

So, my husband is currently working to "prove" his 8th great grandfather and his immigration from Great Britain to the new world.  He has some cleaning up to on his Ross Family tree.  I've encouraged him to complete that clean up before he tries to move further back in time.

At this point, it is looking very much like Clan Ross of Balnagown Castle are his ancestors.  I am green with envy as I try to even work back 1 more decade on any of my family lines and feel successful if I can get back to around 1700.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Carneros

Map of El Rancho Rincon De Los Carneros, Circa 1880 - "P.Flannagan" indicated.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Yes, Religion and Genealogy

In my life, I have been confronted at different times by beliefs, standpoints, and "Bible quoters" that present a differing view than my own.  I consider myself an educated person.  Additionally, I have bit of an education in theology and world religions that, to be quite frank, the everyday person probably does not have or even choose to have.  I generally do not talk much about my religion as I do consider it a private matter and would not want to impose my beliefs on someone who thinks differently.  

As I seek my ancestors, I cannot help but delve into their religious beliefs.  From my Roman Catholic ancestors of Ireland to my Evangelical Lutheran's from Germany, the basic belief system of my family lives on in me as a Christian.  However, I am not just a Christian, I am Catholic.  What that means is something others, especially modern day Protestants, other Christians, and non-Christians may not understand....and actually misunderstand.

The choice of my German Lutheran family and their ancestors was to leave behind the Catholic religion that was riddled with indulgences and the sale of forgiveness by God's representatives with gold.  I can't even imagine the initial disbelief of those Catholics faced with the knowledge that people were buying forgiveness for a fee and actually thinking that would absolve them of their wrongdoings.

So, Martin Luther lived during the 16th Century and "protested" against the Catholic Church's selling of indulgences.  I do believe that he was not wrong.  In his quest, he actually got the Catholic Church to reform what they were doing but not before he formed his own church.  That would be the church that my German ancestors belonged to even years later to present day.  I have the utmost respect for the Lutheran Church and think of them as kin within my own Catholic religion.  They are most definitely welcome and, yet, they probably don't want much to do with the Catholic Church.  We are so alike and yet different.

Maybe my great grandparents realized the "alike" part when my own grandparents married.  My Roman Catholic grandfather married my Missouri Synod Lutheran grandmother in 1940.  They had actually eloped to Reno, Nevada, from Napa.  And no, they were not married at a casino or strip mall chapel.  They were married in a Catholic Church in Reno.  I must note here that the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church is much more conservative than the Catholic Church in this day and age but maybe not before Vatican II.

At any rate, my grandmother's Missouri Synod Lutheran parents accepted their Roman Catholic son-in-law without much discord.  Most of the disappointment at the time was because they had eloped.

Religion can be such a sticking point with family and friends, alike.  I must keep that in mind as I seek my ancestors and discover that they were of more than one Christian Faith.  It brings to light another way of looking at information gathered to create my family tree.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Stanly Ranch

El Rancho Rincon De Los Carneros - Probably Stanly Ranch, Circa 1880 - Photography by M.Flanagan

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Warning! Controversial Post - Family

At times, I am a slow learner, cruising through life thinking everyone is happy and everything turns up roses.  While I may have my own disagreements with people here and there, I sometimes forget that others have those same types of interactions with others that don't include or involve me.  This can especially apply to family.

Family matters take these "disagreements" up a notch.  While I can't imagine that my great aunt on my dad's side would have a conflict with my grandmother, her very own sister, it could have existed.  Heck, it could have divided the family fairly easily and quickly because of the words people say, their actions, and the assumptions they make.  Even a minor "slight" can send some families running in the opposite direction to never meet again, except at a funeral.  Mind you, I am pulling from about a dozen different situations on either side of my family tree - Father or Mother, Irish or German (you can take your pick). 

In completing my family tree research, I have often been asked by others why the families went their separate ways.  Why did the Flanagan's stop getting together?  What was the rift between those Hickey's?  Why did my grandfather not fully realize who his own cousins were on his Maxwell side of the family in the same town (Napa), at the same time?

Well, my answer is complicated.  To my dismay, the simplified version is that it is just too hard.  It's too hard, for example, to drive from Sacramento to the Bay Area.  There's so much traffic on the freeway.  There's no good date and time where everyone can make it.  It takes so much planning.  Then, there is the food and where to actually accommodate each and everyone.  Oh, and the final nail, we don't necessarily have an ongoing relationship with those family members. 

My own rosy philosophy is that if you want something, you can make it happen.  I guess my slow learning curve on this is the daunting resistance of it all.  I am open but find that my immediate family members, sans my husband, are not.  "Oh sweetie, we are just too busy, busy, busy."

I must admit to the frustration.  Maybe my own ulterior motive to get together is to find out more about my ancestors.  That would actually mean that I'd like to know more about my family.  Can you blame me?  While I do know a lot, I love hearing about the past including anecdotal stories.  I like to meet and see who I am related to.  I enjoy a connection to those that I am biologically related to even if we don't see each other very often or maintain a full true relationship.  There is value in knowing where you came from and who you are related to even if you don't have much in common.  Some of us might have more in common than you think.

So, without letting any cats out of the bag on why families went their separate ways, I'd like to express myself here.  My own family basically finds inconvenience in getting together.  It's stressful to plan a flawless visit.  That is the goal, after all, to make it flawless, right?  

I am clearly related to several perfectionists who want an event to be pulled off and perceived as flawless.  As with any event, you want the location to be nice and at its best.  You want delicious food to impress and heaven forbid, you would ever run out of food or drink during the event.  Additionally, convenience is paramount.  You don't want people to hit standstill traffic on Interstate 80 through Northern California.  Okay, that last one is completely beyond anyone's control.

During my life experience with food and drink, I have had the most elaborate, exquisite, exotic, mouthwatering, fancy, expensive food and then there is pizza.  Ironically, pizza and salad can be the most pleasing meal ever.  Accompanied by beer or wine, the crowd overall is generally happy.  Why can't a family reunion have pizza and salad.  It's quick and easy.

I have to add another point here.  I do understand where others are coming from.  Until I was married, I did not quite understand how people could choose to spend the holidays away from their family and basically not really see them any longer.  Well, there's always those people who you are related to by marriage that make you turn and go the other way.  Then, there is the inconvenience of hosting and planning an event.  Even still, it does not have to be an absolute situation.  You can get together with family even if you don't have a true relationship with them but are related to them.  Sometimes the benefit is not to yourself but to your spouse or your own children.

Summing up this post is challenging.  I would love to see all of my relatives from my various lines.  I have a great desire to go back East to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.   My husband and I would like to visit all of our family members on both sides sans the relative that unfriended me on Facebook.  Okay, that's just petty and silly, I know.  That's how it starts though.

Our family in Ireland is also on our list.  Cost and time are our big hurdles right now and that is just being honest.

While others are focusing on the inconvenience of a family reunion, at least I've planted a seed.  The thought of trying to plan a reunion in the coming year is daunting even for me.  I can offer up my home.  It's not anything wonderful but we have had 40 people here all at once with plenty of seating including the outside patio.  We did not run out food either.  And.....The roses were blooming in the garden at time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Flanagan Genealogy - To Send A Letter - Part 2

Richard J. Flanagan and Dorothy Borchers married in November of 1940.  This was well before Richard signed up for the U.S. Army.  By the time he volunteered for WWII, he and Dorothy had a son who was born at the end of 1941 but passed away in February 1943, during the war.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Richard J. Flanagan enlisted in the army on 15 Sep 1942.  He was 31 years old at the time.

The following are quick summaries of the 4 letters and 1 other postcard that Richard sent to his friends and former employer during WWII.

10-26-1942 - U.S. Army, Camp Perry, Ohio
----He talks about the harsh climate and was missing the California weather.  Ducks and geese are around everywhere but there was no time to hunt.

11-21-1942 - Camp Chaffee, Arkansas
----The weather is a topic and is indicated as being much better in Arkansas than Ohio.  He thanked his friends for sending cigarettes.  Near the end of the letter, he states that the Army forgot to pay him that month.  He's having to pinch pennies.

12-20-1942 - The Armed Forces, Camp Chaffee, Arkansas
-----He said that he was supposed to be home for Christmas but that changed.....Now set to be home in January.  He misses Napa.  There's not much to do in AR.

3-29-1943 - Camp Chaffee, AR
-----He talks about being on the firing range.  They go out for 2 to 3 days with tents in the fields.  Airplanes bombed them with bags of flour.  He was promoted to T-3 - same as staff sergeant.  A great quote from Richard, "It's a dairy life except you have tanks instead of cows."  This is in reference to the long work hours.

1-27-1945 - A.P.O Address
The final letter dated January 27, 1945, is from an APO military address indicating that the soldier is overseas.  The letter initially states that it is cold and there is snow but they are inside buildings.  The roofs of the buildings keep the snow out but when it rains they appear to leak.  The roof is missing in some places from bombings and artillery.  He does reference the shaking from the artillery.

Richard further indicates that he's seen a lot of France and some of Germany.  In this letter, he indicates that they are in Alsace near the border of Germany as part of the 7th Army.


We are so fortunate to have been given these letters.  I don't remember really having seen my grandfather's handwriting much.  By the time he was elderly, he did not write much.  He did not have much of a grip left and the pads of his fingers were smooth.

Also, I must include here that my grandfather did not speak of the war much.  He would indicate that he was stationed in Nice, France for a time.  He also indicated that he attended mass at a church in the military where they said the Mass in several languages for all of the soldiers to understand.

Someday, I will go through all of my grandfather's things that my mother has held onto.  For now, the most recent findings in these letters from WWII are my latest "discovery".

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Flanagan Genealogy - To Send A Letter - Part 1

Letters written by your relatives can be an amazing way to connect to the past, your roots, and family.   The written word can truly capture moments in time.  One can really delve into the personality, culture, and interests of a person by what they wrote in correspondence to others.

My mother is very close to her living aunts in Napa, California.  They are descendants of my Borchers' line.   While I say descendants, I do mean my direct line.  Not only are they my family but they are a bridge to my past.  They are Borchers/Vienop family, both.  They are my grandma's sisters.  They also knew some of the Flanagan's.  Napa was a small place way back when.  In fact, they knew lots of old time Napa families just as my mother does.  That's what happens when you are from a small town.  Everyone knows everyone.

With that in mind, a few months ago my aunt told my mom of a "discovery".  It might as well have been gold.  That's how I see letters and other historical documents about my relatives when they first come to light and then I hold onto them as prize possessions.

My aunt's neighbor is also from a long time line of Napa families.  While she lives in town, her cousins still live out on their ranch just a few short miles away on Old Sonoma Road.  Her parents, aunt and uncle, ran a dairy farm on their land for many years in the 1900s.  Recently, they were apparently cleaning out the buildings and houses on the property in order to complete renovations.  They came across two postcards and four letters from their former employee who had gone off to WWII.

Imagine that, a Flanagan worked on a diary farm in Napa.   For my family, the fact that any Flanagan worked on a dairy farm should probably come as no surprise to the family.  Dairy farming is a bit of a tradition for the Flanagan's.  That's quite literally what they still do in Ireland today.

These letters were found on that ranch, brought to my aunt (not a Flanagan), and handed over to my mom (who is a Flanagan).  In fact, these letters were written by her father, my grandfather, Richard Joseph Flanagan.  How often does that happen?  Well, it seems to be the luck of the Irish in the case of my Flanagan's, in more that one case. 

While my grandfather was an employee, he was also great friends of this family.  When Richard volunteered for WWII, he wrote a few letters to this family.....letters that until this past summer, my mother didn't even know existed.  What an amazing find!  Also, what an amazing gift.

The above is the first piece of correspondence that Richard sent to his friends in September 1942.  It was a postcard that reflects a sign of the times.  The printed quote on this postcard on the back states,  "To look at this young lady you'd never think that "TATTOO" in the Army means it's time to get ready for bed!"

So, my first reaction to this card was that it is "interesting", in a rather sarcastic sense.  I suppose the joke about the tattoo says it all.   Ironically, the message on the back of the postcard talks about the fact that the U.S. Army doesn't give Richard (my grandfather) time to duck hunt along Lake Erie.

I am still in shock that these correspondence exist.  I need to finish reading the other letters and will write about them in my second post.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. - Phyllis Theroux

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? - First TLC Season

I planned to write a review about "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC.  While I enjoyed the current season, it was much more focused on one ancestor story for the individual celebrity.  I found it to be entertaining but at times the episodes were slow.  I am assuming that the production budget for the show is much smaller now that it is on TLC instead of NBC.

I still look forward to future episodes.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Borchers' Diary

In my attempt to find out more about my great great grandfather, Henry Borchers, I resulted in my finding out more about my great grandfather, his son, Herbert Herman Leonhardt Borchers, Sr.   I recently read through his diary that started on December 23, 1916 and went through December 18, 1918.  He was 19 years old when the first entry was written.  Everyday, he wrote a few lines to describe the basic events of the day.

While most of the notes were about the daily weather, there were other notes about his job, friends, and other activities.  My copy of the diary is typed and I am wondering if it was transcribed and by whom. Maybe my aunt typed it up or maybe my great grandfather typed it himself.  I will have to find out someday.

While this diary does include rather mundane entries about his daily life, there are some more interesting comments along the way that are true "discoveries".  It is clear that letters were written to family back in North Dakota.  Above, he writes a letter to H.L.B.  That would be Henry Ludwig Christian Borchers, one of his older brothers.

A few entries really struck me.  Herb mentions taking his violin to be tuned and taking lessons.  He also indicates playing the piano and buying an organ.  These entries surprised me.  I did not know he could play piano.  Generally, only good pianist who have mastered piano playing even try to play an organ.  Other entries demonstrate his inclination toward music.  He was in the choir for his church.  I wonder if he was the accompanist for the choir.  Interestingly enough, his own daughter plays piano, organ, taught piano, and accompanied many a choir, wedding, and bell ringers.

Herb Borchers, Sr. circa 1918

I knew that my great grandfather was a jeweler, watchmaker and repaired clocks for a living.  He was working for Noack's in Santa Rosa during the time of this diary.  By the beginning of 1917, he had been there for two years.

The diary mentions the war.  WWI begain in 1914 and ran through 1918.  The U.S. joined the war in 1917.  An entry on April 6, 1917 is written as follows:

"Very beautiful day.  Went to church.  Card from Emil G.  War declared.  Was all at J. Wurts in the evening.  Clara was at our house in the P.M." 

The war is mentioned here and there throughout the diary.  Mainly, he mentions when people are drafted, troops from the area left for war, and he even mentions troops leaving from the Presidio in San Francisco.  One entry indicates his brother, Albert Borchers, being drafted into the military.  Herb never did get called up for duty.  He registered for the draft in WWI.  My mom has always indicated that they probably did not want him in the military because he was flat footed.

During 1917, Herb was seeing a lady named Anna.  At one point, he indicates seeing Anna in the evening and the next line states "romance over".  Months later, he is corresponding with Mary, his future wife.  She would write him a letter and he would return correspondence with two letters.

This diary is amazing while it is actually brief in comments and information.  I will read it again in the future.  Who knows what I might discover on a second pass.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sourced and Found - Henry Borchers - Part 3

At times it seems that my treasure trove of information about my ancestors is rather endless.  I shall come to the end of it some day and have to really sit down and organize it appropriately.  In the meantime, I continue to pick up random papers for a quick (or sometimes lengthy read).

I decided to read the "Diary of Herbert H. Borchers, Sr.".  He was my great grandfather and the youngest child of Henry and Anna Borchers.  A few weeks before I turned 8 years old, Herb passed away.  I spent a fair amount of time with him as a youngster. 

I can still remember being in the living room of my great grandparents' house on 1134 Willow Avenue, Napa, California.  Herb would sit in his chair next to the fireplace.  He was a bit of a tease.  He'd tap me when I was not looking and then when I'd look back at him, he'd be looking up a the ceiling pretending he knew nothing of it.  I would say "Hey!"  We'd both laugh.  He was a quiet man for the most part.  He'd scoot a papier-mache dog towards my sister and I, playing and goofing around.

Being the oldest great grandchild gave me the benefit of getting to know my great grandparents very well.  I've read the first page of Herb's diary before.  To be honest with you, it is mainly some quick notes of his day-to-day, rather mundane tasks.   His notes about events and people are quick and not explanatory.  The diary starts on Saturday, December 23, 1916 and goes through Wednesday, December 18, 1918.  

My attempt to read his diary in full this time was in search of information about his father, Henry Borchers.  He mentions him here and there in his entries.  I was hoping to gain some perspective on what Henry Borchers was like.  I just don't glean much of his personality from these entries but will attempt to share what I found.

By 1916, Herb was 19 years old.  He lived at home with his parents in Santa Rosa, California, and was the last of the Borchers children to marry.  Herb worked full time for a local jeweler and watchmaker.  He mentions clocks a lot in the diary.  Herb refers to Henry and Anna Borchers as Ma and Pa in his diary.  When he writes about them individually, they are referred to as Mama and Papa.  Anna is mentioned more often.  Her letters of correspondence to various family members are mentioned throughout the diary and I wonder if they still exist.  She also read books in the evening.  Anna worked for a Dr. Hanson too.  I am assuming to keep house for his family.

While there are frequent notes about Anna's day-to-day activities including if she was sick or well, there are fewer remarks about Henry.  Maybe Herb was more in tune with his mother.  At one point, she helped him hang new curtains in his room.      

Henry Borchers is mentioned plowing at Bierns.  I know that he was a farmer.  He is also mentioned as visiting with J. Wurts.  I find the Wurts as the Borchers' neigbhors on the census in 1920.  The Wurts are mentioned frequently in this diary.  Henry and Clara (Borchers) Gruenhagen are also mentioned with regularity.  Clara was the second youngest child of Henry and Anna. 

It would appear that Henry Gruenhagen and Henry Borchers may have worked together in the Santa Rosa, California area.  They are both indicated as plowing fields and hauling wood. 

Henry and Anna Borchers definitely saw the Strehlows.  Elizabeth Borchers Strehlow was their oldest daughter and lived in Healdsburg, California.  Herb indicates "Ma and Pa" going to visit them and also to see the "Old Strehlows".    

Henry and Anna Borchers picked prunes and dried them.  There is reference to shaking the trees and dipping the fruit.  They also picked apricots and canned.  They were both working in 1918.  Henry was 67 years old by then.

I did not find much more information about Henry Borchers in the diary.  I do know a lot more about my great grandfather (Herbert Borchers, Sr.) and Anna Borchers.  I will post about them in the future.  For now, I think that I've exhausted the information that I have about Henry Borchers (Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sourced and Found - Henry Borchers - Part 2

A cemetery is a rather somber place.  When you go looking for your ancestors and find their headstones, you might rejoice a little, however, as I did.  The discovery of the last resting place of your ancestors can bring about an overwhelming amount of emotion.  That's how I felt the day I realized that I found Henry and Anna Borchers last resting place.

Near Block 82, Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, California
I continue with my reverse timeline for Henry Borchers as it was basically how my discovery process worked in creating my family tree for this line.  The following are the list of source documents and descriptions as follows:

1920 United States Federal Census
-Henry Borchers, age 67, born about 1853 in Germany; living in Santa Rosa, California, white male, immigration year 1867, father and mother from Germany; married to Anna Borchers, able to read and write; Other household members:  Herbert, Mary, and Anna.
(Note:  At this point, Henry and Anna are living in Santa Rosa.  Henry is an orchard farmer.  Herbert, their youngest child, is married to Mary and working as a watchmaker.)

1910 United States Federal Census
-Henry Borchers, age 58, born about 1852 in Germany, home in 1910:  Township 138, Morton, North Dakota, white male, immigration year 1867, head of houshold and married to Anna Borchers; father and mother's birthplace:  Germany; other household members:  Anna, Albert, Clara, Herbert.
(Henry is living in North Dakota with his immediate family farming his land.  His son William appears to be living in the very next household on the census.  Henry's daughter - Elizabeth Strehlow - is living in Northern California by this census. )

1900 United States Federal Census
-Henry Borchers, age 48, birth year Apr 1852; birthplace: Germany; Home in 1900:  Township 138, Morton, North Dakota; race - white, male; immigration year:  1867; father-in-law to head of the household; married to Anna Borchers since 1878, married 22 years; father and mother's birthplace:  Germany; Other household members:  Charles Strehlow, Lizzie Strehlow, Anna Borchers, William Borchers, Martha Borchers, Henry Borchers, Albert Borchers, Tilda Borchers, Clara Borchers, Herbert Borchers
(Henry is married with several children and they are living with his daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband in North Dakota.)

Minnesota, Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905
-Henry Borchers, age 42, census date:  1895, Aurora, Steele, Minnesota; male from Germany, born about 1853, white.  Household members are Henry, Anna, Lizzie, William, Martha, Henry, Albert, Matilda.

Minnesota, Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905
-Henry Borchers, age 32, census date:  1 May 1885, Aurora, Steele, Minnesota, male from Germany, estimated year of birth 1853, white.  Household members are Henry, Anna, Elizabeth, William, and Martha.
(Note:  Anna and Elizabeth Borchers are mixed up on this census.  Anna is indicated as a child and Elizabeth as an adult in the household.)

1880 United States Federal Census
-Henry Borchers, age 28, birth year about 1852, birthplace:  Hessen; home in 1880:  Aurora, Steele, Minnesota; white, male, head of household, married to Anna Borchers; father's birthplace:  Hessen, mother's birthplace:  Hessen;  other household members:  Anna Borchers, Elizabeth Borchers
(Note:  Henry is married and living in Minnesota.)

Minnesota, Marriages Index, 1849-1950
-Henry Borchers, marriage date:  3  Feb 1878, to Anna Jackel; Havana, Steele, Minnesota, flim number 1769852
(Note:  They were married at St. John's Lutheran Church of Claremont, Havana Township, Steele, Minnesota.)

1870 United States Federal Census
-Henry Borchers, age 17, born about 1853, birthplace:  Hesse-Kassel/Hessen-Kassel/Electorate of Hesse/Kurhessen;  home in 1870:  Hanover, Lake, Indiana;  race - white; gender - male; post office - Brunswick; household members - Hans H Steege, Catharine Steege, Henry Steege, Doretta Steege, Mary Steege, Frederick Steege, Henry Borchers
(Note:  Henry is living with his mother's second husband and his children in Indiana.)

New York, Passenger List, 1820-1957
-Hans Borchers, arrival date:  20 Jul 1867; birth date:  abt 1852: age: 15; gender: male, German; place of origin: Germany; port of departure:  Bremen, Germany; destination: USA; port of arrival:  New York, New York;  ship name:  Deutschland
(Note:  Henry arrived in New York.)

U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s
-Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers, 1867, America, Immigrant: Catharina Engel Borchers; son - Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers

It does help to have the inside track on Henry Borchers' given name.  My uncle has provided me with more information of Henry's origins in Germany.  His given name was Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers.  He was born the only child of Catharina "Thrine" Engel Borchers (nee Blume) and Johann Conrad Borchers.  Henry's father died in 1854, within a few years after Henry was born.  Henry lived his life as an only child.

I can't forget to mention that Henry was technically from Prussia.  Much of Germany was actually Prussia during the 1800s until the great war.  He was also Lutheran.  In Germany, Lutheran's were referred to as Evangelicals.   The following dates and information are based off church records that my uncle retrieved.

1866 - Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers - Confirmation on 8 Apr 1866, Hohnhorst, Hessen, Prussia

1852 - Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers - Baptism on 12 Apr 1852, Hohnhorst, Hessen, Prussia

1852 - Hans Heinrich Conrad Borchers - Birth on 8 Apr 1852, Hohnhorst, Hesse Cassel, Schaumburg, Prussia, Germany (Today:  Lower Saxony, Niedersachsen, Germany; formerly Hessische Grafschaf Schaumburg)

Henry was born and grew up about 30 miles due west of Hanover, Germany.  Why his mother made the decision to leave and come to the USA is not real clear.  Many German immigrants came to the midwest of the United States during this time looking for a better life.  They clustered together in their own German communities.  It is possible that Thrine (Henry's mother) came to the United States with plans to marry Hans Henry Steege since he was a widower (and she was a widow) with several young children already living in Indiana.

Sourcing and proving Henry's locations stateside in the United States has proven to be an easy task.  I often wonder what he was like.  Most of the census information simply indicates that he was a farmer.  At least now, I know where he lived and where he was from.

Part 3 is next with some additional oral history, even if anecdotal in nature.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sourced and Found - Henry Borchers - Part 1

As my genealogy skills expand, I am still brought back to reality with the words from my uncle, "prove it".  He has impressed upon me the need to prove my line with source documents.  This is the only way to know for sure who your ancestors are.  With a whole lot of help from his previous research, I have proved and sourced for myself the information about the life of one of my great great grandfathers,  Henry Borchers.

I must admit that the proof is actually in the reverse timeline.  Henry and his wife, Anna Borchers, actually lived with my great grandparents (Herb and Mary Borchers) along with my grandma (Dorothy Borchers) until his death in 1927.  My "proof" begins with an oral history of their whereabouts in the 1920s.

One of the first times that I asked about Henry and Anna Borchers, I was told by my aunt (my grandma's sister) that they lived with my great grandparents (Herb was their youngest child) near the end of their lives.  When Herb and Mary Borchers were first married in 1919, they lived with Henry and Anna Borchers in Santa Rosa, California.  Herb had a job working for a local jeweler so for about a year, they lived at 1194 Dutton Avenue, Santa Rosa, California. They did not last long in Santa Rosa, however, as Mary was from Napa and they wanted to move back to be near her family.

Henry and Anna Borchers made a deal with Herb and Mary. They would sell their house in Santa Rosa and give the proceeds to them to buy a home in Napa.  In exchange, Henry and Anna Borchers were cared for by and lived out the rest of their lives with Herb and Mary.  Henry passed away on 8 January 1927 in Napa, California.  Anna lived until 14 May 1931.

So, my grandma had memories of her grandparents.  She was born  in 1921 and would say that German was spoken in the home in addition to English.  When I first looked through my grandma's (Dorothy Borchers Flanagan) photo album, I came upon the following photo of Dorothy with her grandmother, Anna Borchers.

Anna and Dorothy Borchers, Napa, circa 1925-1930
There was Anna Borchers looking right at the camera.  I did not find a photo of Henry in the album.  He may have already passed away by the time this photo was taken.

There really is not a lot of oral history provided by my family about Henry Borchers.  We know where he and his wife lived their final years.  My great grandfather, Herb Borchers, always indicated that he was born in Minnesota and shortly after moved to North Dakota.  Later, he moved to Santa Rosa, California until he married.

Oral history is interesting and when you find some source documents or the like, it brings it into perspective.  When you find a photo, it really brings it to life.

Henry and Anna Borchers
My next post will include the source document information that I have on hand.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Photo History - Are There Photos of My Ancestors?

I've decided to do a little research about the origins of photography and when it became a household must. The first thing that comes to my mind is Eastman Kodak.  Am I on the right track?  I am hoping to determine, for my own reference, the time frame and likelihood of finding photos of my ancestors.

Creating memories through photos is nothing new but prior to 1890, photos were not so commonplace.  I have found many photos starting in the 1890's of my ancestors.  When I say many, I mean that I have at least a photo of each direct line family member on my mother's side going back four generations. 

While I may be missing a photo of Lizzie Strehlow (Elizabeth Borchers), I am confident that someday I will acquire a photo of my great grandfather's oldest sister.  She's the only one missing from the family portrait that I have below.  I am certain it is because she was already married and out of the house by then.

Borchers circa 1898-1900
Below, I have a few dates that are key to Eastman Kodak's photography and the popularization of the camera:

1.  1888 - The first model Kodak camera appeared.
2.  Early 1890s - The first folding Kodak cameras were introduced.
3.  1895 - The first pocket camera, the $5 Pocket Kodak, was introduced.
4.  1897 - The first folding pocket camera was introduced.
5.  1900 - The Brownie camera was introduced for mass marketing of photography.

I was able to get the above information from Wikipedia.  What this demonstrates is that photography hit its stride by 1900 and, just prior, in the 1890s photography started to enter popular culture with access for most anyone, affordability considered.

Prior to 1890, photography was not necessarily for the masses.  Professional photographers took portraits and photographs of people.  This leads me to another timeline of key dates:

1.  1725 - Basic "photograph" type images using stencils, sunlight, and chemical solution. (That does not sound like much of a photograph!)
2.  1800 - Silhouette type photos were produced.
3.  1816 - Negative photographs on paper were invented.
4.  1839 - Photographs on silver-plated sheets of copper are invented.  Photography enters the public eye.
5.  Mid-1800s - Portrait photography becomes more commonplace in popular culture.

My quick research online turned up some specific and not so specific details of photo history.  I am satisfied with what I found.   What it tells me is that the likelihood of finding photos of my ancestors prior to 1850 will be "null and void".  Finding photos prior to 1890 will be less likely, too.  Yet, I have a few that have been shared with me.

Ellen Maxwell and Thomas M. McLaughlin, circa 1870
I love photos and they can be so telling.  "A picture is worth a thousand words." - Chinese Proverb

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fan Chart and Family Search

I must give kudos to the LDS for offering an amazing resource for people do complete online and in person family tree research at their family history centers. is a free online service provided by the LDS Church for anyone to work on their family tree.

While they do family tree creation for a specific religious reason, the rest of us complete this research for various reasons including a desire to connect a bit with and know our roots.   At any rate, we are all fortunate to have this available.  Not all of their services are free but any fee based service is at a bargain price.

Recently, I logged onto the site and found changes.  I decided to add my basic direct line family tree back to my great great grandparents across the board.  What I found after I entered everyone was this wonderful way to display my family tree via a fan chart.  It looks rather sharp if you ask me.

So the above chart is much easier to read on a full screen.  I used the snip-it tool to grab it off the internet.  At some point, I will try to grab a better copy of it and may even consider printing it out.  For now, it lives online.

I must admit that after I completed these quick entries of my ancestors, I found a message on the LDS site that they were no longer offering IT support for this service and encourage people to seek out a different family tree software package in order to properly maintain their tree.  The ability to create this fan chart remains out there, though, and the LDS won't be taking it down.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Comment Section and Feedback

I love hearing from people about my blog.  Whether the comment is posted on this blog or an email sent directly to me,  I appreciate feedback and support.  It motivates me to keep on going.

When it comes to the comments section directly on my blog for a given post, I do moderate and have to approve the comments.  I do this because of spam.  I haven't been spammed lately but it was happening off and on with some annoying level of volume in the past year.

In my recent posts, I have not received any spam.  I am hoping that my moderation of the posts has flushed out those who have felt the need to advertise whatever they are selling from skin products to various money scams.

The following guidelines were pulled from the Huffington Post.  They lend guidance for posting comments to blogs. 
  1. Be respectful.
  2. Add to the conversation.
  3. Place your comments well and appropriately.
  4. Don’t advertise.  Spam is just bad taste and will likely get your comment deleted or not approved for posting.
  5. But, don’t forget to identify your business or yourself.  Without posting and advertising as spam, feel free to identify yourself with your blog sign-on. 
Give me a shout out in comments.  It helps spark my ideas.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

More Summer Fun!

Yet another summer commitment has come to an end.  Swim team is fun for the kids offering great exercise, a team effort, competitiveness, and social aspects.  It truly is a great thing for children of all ages and skill levels.  Even as an adult, I will miss it until next year.  Now on the flip side, I might have more time to spend on genealogy.

Here's some fun swimming........

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bodega Bay

Another of our quick trips was to Bodega Bay.  Below is a photo from the deck of the house where we stayed.  It's a foggy sunset over the bay.  Do you see the deer?   The second photo is the dunes near Salmon Creek, CA.