Adventures in Living History

The smell of black powder, the foot sounds of military in march, and ladies in petticoated skirts swishing as they walk by. Those are some of the first images many would bring to mind when thinking of reenactments regarding the Civil War period. So educational and historical, stepping back in time can be so enlightening!

So with my love for historic preservation and many influential friends who have urged me time and time again, I will be donning the clothing of our black ancestors. There are many avenues to considers as a living historian but first things first…

What period of history do I wish to represent? While I love many eras the years 1830 through 1890 are of great interest. This span of years would cover several eras and historical periods I will consider for attire: Victorian, Romantic, Civil War, Reconstruction, and Edwardian.

Building a wardrobe can be fun and daunting. It’s all in the fine details. Recreating period wear requires a true knowledge for history, materials, and craftsmanship to display the historic details accurately. Photographs are a wealth of information that are going to be so important for recreating my persona.

Should I join a local reenacting group? I have considered this many times over the years. Many of the local groups represent the Civil War and with great passion. Just watch how the Turner Brigade or the FREED (Female Reenactors of Distinction) put on their events and anyone will be intrigued.

Why don’t more minorities don the clothing of centuries past and step into the roles of our forefathers & mothers? I have been asked similar questions over the years. Well, I won’t get into that debate on the who and why but I’ll just say, “knowing one’s family history allows you to feel comfortable portraying such a strong past with honor and dignity.” And wouldn’t history class have been more interesting in school if it was presented with live participants portraying events than the summarized text in the writing?

Those above questions in mind have set me on this path…

  • Portray an African American woman during the Pre-Civil War through Reconstruction time period. This will likely be a blend of several documented women I come across during researching.
  • Appropriately and accurately build a period wardrobe. I am a seamstress and will sew my own clothing as well as purchase from knowledgeable seamsters.
  • Of course I’ll join a local group and perhaps the national group. Being with like minded people is half the fun!
  • I will share the history I uncover through presentations and writings. I aim to research and rediscover the lives and importance of minorities.
  • Overall, one thing I hope to help spread is the broadness the past actually entailed. Our historical past was more than the parodies of old Hollywood movies full of misrepresentation and segregation or the lack of textbooks to promote all of the ethnicities which constructed our American history.

This is my first inspirational piece for building a persona:

Unidentified African American woman

Unidentified African American woman ca. 1860-1870 Library of Congress

I am so eager to delve into the past and broadcast the untold stories of minority ancestors.





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Are you weaving historical background into your research notes?

For instance, when researching church records this week, I took a bit of time to do some background on historic St. Leo Parish in St. Louis, Missouri.

St. Leo

St. Leo Parish, St. Louis, MO (1888-1978) – Archdiocese of St. Louis

Before I jumped head into the church records I was eager to view, I looked into the history of when the church was established, the Irish community it served, and when the church was officially closed.

Most importantly, I saw the church merged with another parish, St. Bridget, in 1963. Without the knowledge of its integration, I may have missed another avenue for potential records.

Records may answer our immiediate questions but keeping those records within context may offer additional leads through additional brick walls!

Keep leaf’n through the dusty piles!

copyright 2013 LaDonna Garner

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The Black Settlement of South Jordan, IA

The Black Settlement of
South Jordan

South Jordan Cemetery in Moorehead, Iowa is the resting place of a small community of black settlers. Follow along through the Leafseeker blog as I begin a journey to rediscover this short-lived settlement the Mier property created after the Civil War.

Before I dive into this project, I will take some time to locate currently known information regarding the settlement and the surrounding communities.

Initial Background Research Checklist:

  1. What has been written about the cemetery and the settlement?
    • newspaper articles
    • historical writings
    • county histories
    • state history
  2. What has been officially recorded?
    • cemetery transcriptions
    • land records
    • historical maps
  3. How has the settlement’s residents been documented or memorialized?
    • newspaper articles
    • population schedules
    • agricultural schedules
    • county histories
    • personal journals

Off we go on a leaf hunt!


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NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair

Are you stuck at home itching to get to the next genealogy conference?
There’s a conference coming to a computer screen near you!

naralogo.jpgThe National Archives is hosting a Virtual Genealogy Fair on Tuesday & Wednesday, October 28th & 29th.

The fair will begin at 10 a.m. (est)

The event will stream on YouTube for each day:
Tuesday’s video
Wednesday’s video

Visit the NARA fair page for a full list of topics and handouts.

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Vacation Genealogist Style

The summer can be quite busy with family vacations but there’s always time & ways to get in a little research!

1. Plan the family vacation around historic sights like Music Row in Nashville. The family can be preoccupied…um…visit the cool retro shops. (Psst, the Nashville Public Library is just a few blocks away. Preorder & pickup pizza on your way back to meet back up with the family.)

2. Make your connecting flight be at an airport that offers free wifi or upgrade your family plan to one with lots of data. (While the family is engrossed in their phones and playing games, stream some Pandora while visiting online library catalog and databases to build your research checklist. There’s nothing better than listening to my “Sailing” channel of 70′s classics while surfing the net for ancestors.)

3. You promised to leave the genealogy at home. (Yeah right! Pack a thin folder to store source document photocopies and slip on a few paper clips. Or better yet, pack a flashdrive to go paperless. They’ll never suspect a thing. My favorite kinds have metal casings like the Kingston Data Traveler. It’s reasonably priced, has lots of storage, and are a bit sturdier for travel.)

4. Choose a hotel near the sites. There’s a Bestwestern Hotel several blocks up from Music Row. This’ll make walking about Nashville down to Music Row easy peasy. (The State Archives is right nearby. You could probably sneak in and out without a problem. Just say you left something down in the car.)

5. The second or third day, let the family sleep in. (Now’s your chance to sneak away. You’ll have a good 2-4 hours of early morning research time at the archives! Just remember to bring back donuts.)

6. Offer to go for ice cream and snacks from the hotel lounge while everyone takes a break in the hotel room. (This is a good time to sneak into the business center and upload your source findings to a Dropbox account.) Word of caution: get the ice cream “after” the business center stop as the hotel staff may not be too keen about sticky computer keyboards.

See, there’s always time for some genealogical adventures! Plus, you can see the theme here right? Food. When their mouths are full they forget you took too long to come back from getting the yummies. ;)

Have a great research trip…uhm…family vacation!

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Techie Woes

I’m sorry Apple, I’ve gone awry! Many of you know I’m tech savvy and we techies love our gadgets. My iPhone has been a tremendous assistant for work.

Today’s tech quandary started when I dropped my iPhone during our kitchen remodeling. The entire back shattered. After calling the nearest Apple Store they informed me they no longer replace the rear glass panels but will instead provide a replacement phone…for just a mere $199. <gasp> iphone_1058

So if you have a loyal cell phone and find yourself in this predicament, let me offer another option…DIY.

Need new parts? Part Of Laptop may have aftermarket parts.

Need some instructions to replace those parts? I Fixit may have you covered.

I’m off to order a new back for my iPhone. “Oh nice, I can replace it with an aluminum back and rid my nerves of another glass shattering moment.”

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Revealing Historical Relationships

Wow, it’s been a long hiatus since my last post, but boy was it worth the wait!

While researching pioneer cemeteries for my master’s thesis, one of the case studies has pulled me into the realm of genealogy; an Iowa cemetery that held both former slave laborers and the land owner side by side. Not segregated by any means, this break in custom intrigues me.

It also led me to put aside the thesis focus of the cemetery’s current preservation and peer into the relationship between the land owner and his hired help. What’s been revealing is a landowner who has possibly passed as “white” to aid blacks during slavery and reconstruction.

This newspaper clipping is just one piece of the clue and can be viewed on the Lewelling Quaker Museum webpage.

So with a holiday interlude from my thesis, I will be spending some time digging up the forgotten details behind this fascinating piece of history to share in an future article.

How could I not? Any inquisitive researcher would be just as eager to write about such a story waiting to be told!

* Keep up to date on this research adventure by following my blog’s RSS feed and liking Leafseeker Consulting on Facebook.

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Old School Letters

copyright 2013 LaDonna GarnerWith the start of the new year, I am in the midst of writing a letter old school style to a dear friend. In this age of electronic mail, it is refreshing to put pen to paper on crisp, pink stationary.

My old school letter writing comes on the heels of a recent sorting and scanning session of several family letters my late, maternal-grandmother tucked away in a closet. Weathered from time (and a little acid erosion), the letters mark a time of long distant communication that left one standing at the mailbox daily, waiting for the next updates and happenings from the beloved writer. I giggle at the thankfulness of an uncle receiving a baby’s photograph that regards my recent arrival. A call to my mom to ask which photograph was mailed to the family member will be on my to do list.

copyright 2013 LaDonna

"the picture of the baby was nice, and the name is too"

I miss the days of writing notes to family and friends and using snail mail as my primary communication for genealogical queries. I miss the quaintness of smelling the sweet matching stationary and envelopes complete with address labels. I miss it so much so that I now vow to reintroduce my old school letter writing to touch the eyes and hearts of friends that are electronically close but far from touch.

As I tuck my letter away, seal the envelope…hmm minty…and apply a stamp, I glance at the stack of family letters in the wait for preservation. Some of the letters will do well after I place them into archival sleeves. A few others are very fragile and require encapsulation for their longevity.

But enough of devising my preservation activities for this week, I am off to catch the mail man so this old school letter can be on its way!

copyright 2013 LaDonna Garner

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Holiday Deals & Ideas for the Frugal Genealogist

Just in time for the Christmas holiday are a few deals and ideas for the frugal genealogist.

Library of CongressDiscounts are abound from references that aid your newbie cousin’s historical knowledge to tools that can leap your research forward. So grab your gift shopping list and get to stuffing those stockings!*

Have a few books on your wish list?
Save 40% off at the University of Missouri Bookstore with the promo code H12 through 12/31/2012.

Hamilton Books has variety of  history and genealogy titles at discounted prices.

There are many discounted 20% – 70% off guides and how-to references at the FamilyTree Magazine store with free shipping on purchases over $25. Don’t miss the Monthly Deals section.

Get your “Genes On” with this sale on DNA testing from FamilyTreeDNA. Many of their popular tests are discounted $50 to $90 off through 12/31/2012. Why not order a Y-DNA test to trace your grandfather’s branch for just $119 each (retail $169)?

Software deals
Family Tree Maker 2012 for Windows (PC) is currently on sale for $29.99 (retail $39.99) and for MAC is currently on sale for $52.49 (retail $69.99)

RootsMagic 6 Edition is soon to be released (est. Dec. 17th) with the always affordable price of $29.95 or upgrade a previous edition for just $19.95. Update: Give gift copies for $19.95 each! This deal ends Dec. 20, 2012.

The 7.5 edition of Legacy Family Tree is $29.95 (retail $39.95) and many other discounted products including webinars, training videos, and gift packs and bundle offers.

OnTheHub offers discounted software for college students if their college is an affiliate. I have been quite pleased with my college discount purchases.

Subscriptions with discounts
GenealogyBank’s annual membership offer retails at $69.95 and is currently $55.95 to access their digital newspaper collection.

Get  FamilyTree Magazine subscription for $19.80 (retail $27) at Magazine Bargains and use the current promo code SAVE10 for 10% off. This popular genealogist magazine makes a great gift for a family and friends! This site even takes PayPal for quick transactions.

Sharing your family history
Click through this Leafseeker Consulting affiliate deal link MyPublisher, Inc. and get 25% off your order over $50 or 50% off your order over $100 for all hardcover photo books at MyPublisher. I think this would make a great memento for family reunion photos and even family recipes!

Fun Stuff For Genealogists is the ultimate store to get genealogy topic items such as t-shirts, bumper stickers and mugs for the family historian. Get a marriage certificate, baptismal or first communion print to inscribe with your ancestors’ life events and photographs for $2 to $3 each. These prints will make nice framed items as gifts!

Have an overwhelming collection of historical documents? Mocavo is offering to scan and digitize your collection free if you agree to add them to their collection.

Check back through the holiday as I may add additional items to this frugal list.

“Oh Christmas Leaves!”
…to the tune of Oh Tannenbaum…just a lil’ leaf humor ;)

*Please contact the respective sites and retailers for details and questions regarding the discounts and products mentioned above.

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Our Ancestor’s Weather Proverbs

We wake each day, turn on the television and are greeted with a meteorologist who is ever eager to tell us what to wear or stow away for the day. But have you thought of the methods our ancestors used to predict the weather in the pre-meteorologic days?

With winter at our doorstep, there are plenty of old proverbs that predict the upcoming weather. I do not recall when I first began using a few weather proverbs myself, but they were passed down to me through my maternal grandmother.

  • A split persimmon can predict the winter weather and it’s severity if it shows a knife (icy & cold), a fork (mild) or a spoon (snowy).
  • The amount of brown and black markings on a wooly bear caterpillar (or wooly worm in around my parts) can determine how much winter we will have…the less brown and more black the worm’s band, the more harsh the winter.
  • If the geese flock together early and begin flying south, winter is soon to arrive.

persimmon seed spoonsI could not resist cutting open a few persimmon seeds from the fruit I harvested from several trees. Once opened, which I might add is quite an adventure in itself, each seed revealed a single spoon. Well, if you live in the eastern side of Missouri, get out your snow boots and gloves as they are predicting snow. Last winter, I found forks in the seeds I split and they were quite accurate with the winter weather that followed.

As for the geese, they are not ready to pack their bags quite yet but they do appear to be flocking together more than usual.

And at last, the wooly worm, I am still on the lookout for its fuzzy prediction.

You may want to try a few other weather proverbs used by our ancestors that continue to be promoted today through the Farmer’s Almanac. I find them quite fun and have enjoyed sharing them with my children.

So, do these ancestral weather proverbs hold true? Test out a few and then wait and see!

Leaves a fall’n,

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