Black History in the Most Unique of Places

Admiring the traditions of craftsmanship that pass from generation to generation, I look forward to my children sharing my crafts of cooking, gardening, needlepoint, and photography with their children.

Sampler by Mary Pets (age 10 yrs.) ca. 1831

Sampler by Mary Pets, age 10 yrs., ca. 1831 (Oblate Sisters of Providence)

Craftsmanship is a torch that can either be carried along or snuffed by the winds of time. Perhaps that is why I find the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, Maryland and their long tradition of teaching needlepoint to African-American school girls at the Saint Frances Academy in Baltimore so inspiring.

Many of their surviving needlepoint samplers of great quality and talent date from the early 19th Century. While samplers are often available today as reproduction patterns and kits, this needlepoint to the left, according to the Sister’s website, may be the first African American schoolgirl sampler to have a reproduction pattern and kit. What a wonderful way for new generations to learn and hone needlepoint skills of their own!

Garnering history from the most unique of places has expanded my knowledge on this area of African American history. I may even purchase Miss Mary Pet’s pattern for a needlepoint sampler project of my own. But my most pressing question of the day: “What happened to Mary Pet?” So, off I go on another research adventure.

Leaf’n a history,

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The Leafseeker’s 1st Blogiversary!: Celebrating with the 1940 Census.

One Year Blogiversary!I cannot believe it has been a year since the launch of The Leafseeker! Well, I am truly excited and to celebrate the launch of this second blogging year I’m jumping right into preparing plans for researching the soon to be released 1940 U.S. Population Census Schedule on April 2, 2012.


View the 1940 Census form in detail at NARA.

Planning Your Research
The release of the 1940 Census is monumental being the first population census schedule released digitally for public access. Unlike microfilmed census roll releases of the recent past, you will not be standing in line at the library’s microfilm reader waiting for your to scroll through census data. Instead you will be at home in your PJs waiting for the images to stream to your desktop.

The Release
When preparing for the 1940 census the National Archives (NARA) should be the first stop on your research plan trip. The NARA 1940 Census Records webpage is dedicated to providing information on the 1940 Census, what data it contains, and how you can access its information.

NARA will have their facilities available for access immediately. Online databases noted below will first receive the images then provide them for online access as soon as they can update their websites. Technology is wonderful!

Okay, now take a deep breath: The 1940 Census has no index. NO INDEX! So you will need to be prepared for researching between the time the images are released and until database sites have them transcribed into a searchable index.

  • Grab your compiled family information and note the residences of your family
  • Revisit the 1930 Census and note the Enumeration District (ED) of each family member’s census sheet.
  • Make use of maps, district maps, ward maps, and city directories to assist in moving families and adult children who may have moved from the family home.

To use the new census images, you will need to begin with a known geographic location and/or the Enumeration area. This will assist you in finding the correct census sheet that holds your family’s 1940 residence. Once located you keep track of your research findings by using a fill-in template or a printable template of the census.

The Data Questions
On April 1, 1940 the government’s authorized census takers were armed with forms to record the locations and personal information of approximately 132,164,569 U.S. citizens. The questions contained on this census form are similar to previously released population schedules but with the addition of a few new ones. Of the new questions several note answers regarding possible participation in projects of the New Deal i.e. Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), Works Project Administration (WPA), or National Youth Administration (NYA); education level, as well as amount of earnings. Of the most interesting questions asked was the where the individual lived in 1935. This bit of data will likely aid genealogists tremendously when following traveling family members. See the full list of questions asked by census takers.

Additional Resources and Access
Online database websites are also preparing for the onslaught of visitors eager to access the 1940 Census digitized images on April 2nd. Currently enlisting employed and volunteer transcribers, these sites will aim to provide access to the images and their data in record time than any previously indexed census schedules.

The‘s website page regarding the 1940 Census will get you up and running on the release details in their collection. They are also requesting for volunteers to assist in indexing the new census.‘s section for the 1940 U.S. Census will keep subscribers updated on their census doings once the census is received into their collection. will provide free access to the census images and shortly after plan to build a searchable index.

Once the 72-year privacy restriction of the 1940 Census is lifted on April 2nd, I hope you are prepared for the intensive research this new resource is likely to spark! Just 53 days to go!

Happy leaf’n!

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Repository Brief: Indian-Pioneer Papers Collection

When the dreary weather forces us to exhibit cabin fever behavior, I am most thankful for internet technology to keep me afloat. Today’s Repository Brief to chase away the winter gloom is the Indian-Pioneer Papers Collection at the University of Oklahoma’s Western History Collection.

The Indian-Pioneer Papers Collection contains 80,000 transcripts of interviews gathered from Native American settlers and their experiences in the Oklahoma and Indian Territories. Held between 1861 and 1936, the collection also hosts numerous interviews gathered from non-Native American settlers in the area including African Americans.

Indian-Pioneer Collection, University of Oklahoma, Western History Collection

The collection site page has an easy to use search engine. By using simple keywords the search engine will scour the collection and yield the various transcription files available that match keywords. Once a transcription is chosen the researcher can view the transcript details and view it in an Adobe PDF or printer-friendly format.

The Indian-Pioneer Papers Collection is a wonderful trove of information that will be quite beneficial to the family researcher.


Happy leaf’n through the collection!

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Sharing Family Recipes

Family meals do more than just bring on mouthwatering behaviors. Those favorite aromas and flavors stir up wonderful memories that make the devouring of the meal a more delightful experience. It’s no wonder that when we reminisce at a family get-together the conversation often invites stories of mom’s baked chicken or grandma’s blackberry pie.

copyright 2011 LaDonna Garner

LaDonna's Apple Butter: one for the heritage recipe collection box!

To savor those family recipes for your use and to preserve for the next generation, consider adding them to the family tree. Here are two easy ways to help gather those ingredients and stories. Don’t forget to add pictures of Aunt Jen to keep along with the recipe and of the family enjoying the cooked results!

Invite family members to assist in the compiling of family heritage recipes into a “Jones” Heritage Cookbook. Having a bound or binder style cookbook with generations of family cooks will delight any new in-law to the family. It doesn’t have to be professionally done with all of the self-printing options available today. With a laser printer, card stock, and 3-ring binders you can tackle the book binding at home. Today there are many options for printing a family cookbook from online software to print-on-demand companies. But it’s just as easy to put the book together yourself and have printed the local mom & pop printer.

As the family comes together for meals and various events during the year, ask each member to bring along several copies of their own creations on recipe cards to swap & share. Also have them attach or print a personal photo onto the backs of their own cards. These recipe cards will ensure you increase the size of the Family Recipe Box and include the current generations into the Heritage Cookbook.

Let me know how your project goes!

Leaf’n through my own family’s recipes has inspired me to whip up a template that can be used for this project. (I’ll post the results when completed.)

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Back to Basics: Conducting Family Interviews

Most childhood memories involve listening to tall-tales at the feet of our older family members. As you look towards the family for source documents do not overlook the stories that may contain important clues.

Interviewing a family member can be a simple process of taking notes during family gatherings to the more complex project of videotaping. No matter what the approach, the most important part of interviewing is to get the information documented.

copyright 2011 LaDonna Garner

Recorded family stories make great clues.

So what do you need to get up and going on your interviewing?
Not much. Consider this tool list for the upcoming holiday gatherings:

  • notebook & pencil
  • digital recorder & batteries
  • video camera & battery
  • camera & batteries
  • 10 to 12 assorted questions you wish to ask each individual
  • take along a few photos or family artifacts for sharing and jogging memories

The questions you pose to perspective interviewees may be specific regarding them or the  family. But do set aside those questions when the interviewee is very forthcoming with stories and other details. You just never know where those stories will lead you!

Below are two websites that offer suggestion lists for typical questions you may wish to include on your list. No matter what questions you ask or how you record the answers,  most important is that you save a piece of family folklore before it slips away to time.

Story Arts, Collecting Family Stories may be for kids but I find it pretty useful for adults too!

Family Folklife Interview has a nice listing of possible questions to consider for interviews.

Leaf’n a family legacy,

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Back to Basics: Start with You

During a recent genealogy course it became apparent how online databases have changed the way beginners enter the hobby of genealogy. Microfilm readers are losing their status as record viewers as many researchers opt to use online digitized records. And who can blame them? Searching from home in your jammies makes genealogy very appealing. But then again, it also skips over much of the research process beginners would benefit.

So in an effort to help some recent newbies to this process, I’ll be posting tips of genealogy basics that will correspond to references you may consider having on your bookshelf. I hope you follow along and join in these discussions.


Begin with what you know.


Start with YOU!

Ready to delve into your family tree? It’s easy, just begin with what you already know. Using a notebook or blank family group sheets, write down the vital statistics of yourself then each family member. Vital statistics are the birth, marriage, divorce, and death information making us each unique. If it makes it easier to record, begin your page with your parents’ information then for siblings and yourself.

There are a few standards that help us complete a full collection of these family details:

Write each family member’s name in full by using their GIVEN (first name), Middle, and Surname (last name). ex. John Robert Smith

Write each female’s name in full according to their maiden name.

ex. Amanda Eliza Cummings. Do notNot her married name of Smith.

Place nicknames in quotations to make it clear they were not their birth names.

ex. John Robert “Filbie” Smith

When noting dates, follow in the format of DAY MONTH YEAR.

ex. 5 December 1896 or 5 Dec. 1896

This format alleviates misinterpretation when dates occur in numerals or in other countries with differing format preferences.

If you know where each of their vital information took place, note those details as well by their city, county, and state.

ex. Jersey City, Philip County, Maryland

When you have tapped your brain beyond return (smile), look around your house for items that can help fill in your missing information.

Do you have a newspaper obituary from Grandma Phila’s funeral?

Just where has your dad’s high school yearbook been hiding?

Take a look around and gather documents and references your family has tucked away for safe keeping. They will be very helpful on your next step in this family tree mystery.

Do not be discouraged if you find many unknown vitals regarding family members in your recollection. This is where contacting family members for family documents and oral histories will begin to help to fill the blanks and prepare you for researching the unknown.

Leaf’n thru the steps,

Today’s References:

See Tony Burrough’s reference Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree, p. 133-145.

Blank family group sheets can be found in numerous styles and free online. Here’s a great starting point to choose forms for your particular needs. Cyndi’s List (forms).

Up next post: Conducting Family Interviews.

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Support Local Projects & Save Local History

This is a proud moment for our Mt. Zion Cemetery Board as we’ve sustained 10 years of restoring a local cemetery, Mount Zion Cemetery, Festus, Missouri to a respectful state. What started out as my passion for genealogy has turned into nearly a decade of returning pride to our local community. I cannot thank the local supporters enough for their commitments to aid the cemetery’s well being.

I’ll post more on this cemetery & others as I go but with this blog post, I wish to leave you with one tip: Get involved with your passion & make history happen!

Copyright 2011 LaDonna Garner

Mount Zion Cemetery cleanup is very fulfilling!

Our next event is coming up & you are invited to join the support effort through donations, assisting the raffles, and enjoying the evenings company!

Contact me for dinner reservations or other questions regarding this event:

Mount Zion Cemetery Benefit Dinner & Silent Auction
Saturday, September 10, 2011
held at American Legion, 849 American Legion Drive, Festus, Mo.

“Celebrating 10 years of a community effort
in preserving Mount Zion Cemetery”

Cocktail Hour (cash bar) 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Dinner Service 6:30 p.m.

Dinner Menu
Sliced Roast Beef & Turkey
Potato Casserole
Glazed Carrots
Assorted desserts
Tea & coffee            Cost: $25 per guest

Silent Auction

  • Silent Auction opens at 5:00 p.m.
  • Items to be auctioned will be on display before and during the dinner.
  • Raffle tickets for a cash drawing during the Silent Auction can be purchased throughout the evening.

Auction proceeds will benefit the Mount Zion Cemetery, Festus, Mo.

“The Destiny of Our Future is the Preservation of Our Past”

Leaf’n & lov’n local history,

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Working & Running & Stressing “Oh My”: Scheduling in Genealogy Time

This summer was likely as busy for you as it was for me. And sadly, the coming month appears to be just as busy. But don’t fret, you can still make some headway in your genealogy project.

First things first: If you cannot work on your genealogy on a regular bases, organization should be your top priority.

Dedicate a table or desk for genealogy. Having a place where your genealogy can “hang out” will enable you to return to your last work session without much effort.

Setup a staging system. Use stackable or hanging file sorters and mark each for different stages of your research.

Copyright 2011 LaDonna Garner

This filing system has many stages to help me keep organized.

For example:

  • top sorter: In Box (Newly found source documents, family interviews, etc.)
  • middle sorter: Research Log (Keep track of what you have found to avoid duplicating research efforts.)
  • next sorter: Family Tree Software (Add your source information to the family tree database.)
  • bottom sorter: To be filed (Photocopy/scan source documents for research use and file the original for safe keeping.)

To keep your staging system simple & organized:

Date your research notes from each session at the repository or online databases.

Date and paperclip the citations with each document before adding it to the Inbox file. Knowing where you left off is essential to keeping your thoughts in order when returning to your genealogy desk.

An oldie but goodie reference, The Weekend Genealogist by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk, has additional time saving tips to keep your genealogy from being abandoned.

Practicing what I preach, I’m off to dive into some much needed research while I have some unexpected free time.

Leaf’n through thick & thin.

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Snailmail still works for family research

I received a call last night from an older family member regarding a letter from a family researcher. The researcher requested information to determine if her family was part of our family. So while I make contact with this possible cousin, I’m looking at how one can make the best attempt at making a family connection through the old fashion way, snail mail.

No matter if you know the individuals or if you’re taking a chance through the telephone directory, your letter for requesting family information must do it’s job the first time. What is that job? Its job is to peak the contacted party’s interest to return a response.

Copyright 2011 LaDonna Garner

Don't give up on the power of snail mail!

Think of these few questions before you stamp that envelope:

  1. Did you clearly state the family names (given, maiden & surname) that may be the connection to this other family?
  2. If you know, did you include vital information such as birth and death dates to help place the individuals mentioned in a given generation? The person you are contacting may be several generations before or after your generation of interest.
  3. Have you added the known locality and residence of each individual mentioned? Although families did migrate and lose touch, many families have an idea where distant family are located or family folklore that can help narrow the connection quickly.
  4. Don’t fill the letter with too many questions. People are annoyed by chain letters and many may react to your long questionnaire in the same manner. Keep this initial contact brief with perhaps 5 or fewer questions.
  5. Are you positive this may be your family member? Consider including a few color photocopies of family photos, a family grouping if possible. Don’t forget to name and date the photocopies.
  6. And last but not least, don’t forget to add numerous avenues to contact you. Older family members are most comfortable with replying to letters by mail or telephone. Younger family members are likely to email or use social networks.

Overall, be direct with your intentions and offer enough information so the contacted can respond fully and without missing a family connection. In my case, the requester gave all avenues of contact and I chose to use email to respond quickly to the request.

Leaf’n you with best wishes in your responses,

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