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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Headstone Horrors: When a headstone needs assistance.

Is there anything more disheartening than the crumbling headstone of your ancestor?

@copyright LaDonna Garner


Your first impulse would be to grab the portion of the headstone that rests on the ground. Please fight that impulse and let the stone remain where it lays, untouched. Leaving the stone lay does not mean that you can not be proactive in its repair or longevity. It will just take some patience and a bit of planning.


  • move the stone so to prevent further damage.
  • attempt to repair the headstone. Many materials commonly used in repairing concrete may increase the deterioration of the headstone.

Instead, DO:

  • take ample photos of the headstone as it lays on the ground.
  • take ample photos of the standing portion of the headstone.
  • take close-up photos of the inscription on the headstone.
  • share your photos with others ex. family, genealogical societies, online cemetery databases.

For repair options, CONSIDER:

  • notifying the cemetery’s management of the headstone’s condition.
  • offer to donate funds to assist in the headstone’s repair.

In the case of an abandoned cemetery, I recommend:

  • investigating your state’s legislation regarding abandoned cemeteries. Some states have enacted guidelines that require a permit for restorative repairs to a cemetery’s grounds or its headstones by a qualified, professional restorer.
  • contacting the local government’s recorder of deeds office. They can assist you in determining the cemetery’s ownership. They may also be helpful in supplying additional information of the cemetery’s history.
  • contact the state’s historic preservation office. They may provide you with a list of professionals that can be hired to evaluate and restore the headstone.

But until the headstone is repaired, do not fret with guilt over the headstone. Yes, it is painful to see the headstone of a loved one in such poor condition. If all else fails, consider adding an additional marker to the burial plot.

Leaf’n you in good spirits,

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A Few 2012 Genealogy Events

The following dates & links are a few genealogical events and lectures during 2012 you may be interested…

Copyright 2011 LaDonna GarnerMarch 3, 2012 – April 2012: “Who Do You Think You Are,” NBC (view local schedule or stream past episodes online)

March 25 – May 20, 2012: “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,” PBS (view local schedule or stream past episodes online)

April 2, 2012: National Archive’s digital release of the 1940 U.S. Population Schedule

April 7, 2012: “Displaying the Family Tree for the family,” African-American Special Interest Group Roundtable, St. Louis Genealogical Society office

Thursday, April 26, 2012: “Honor the Fallen: Finding Death & Burial Information for American Soldiers & Veterans 1775-2012,”with Tom Pearson, St. Louis Public Library, Buder Branch

April 28, 2012: 42nd Annual Family History Conference of the St. Louis Genealogical Society   (Don’t miss the Early Bird Special rate that ends April 14th!!!)

May 9 – 12, 2012: Family History Conference, National Genealogical Society, Cincinnati, Ohio

Saturday, May 12, 2012: “Salt Beef and Blue Mass: Civil War Supply and Transportation‘” with Tom Pearson, St. Louis Public Library, Buder Branch

Thursday, October 4, 2012: “The Witches of Salem: Researching Your High-Flying Ancestors,” with Tom Pearson, SCCGS, St. Luke’s Parish Hall, Belleville, Illinois

October 18-20, 2012: 2nd International Black Genealogy Summit, Salt Lake City, Utah

Late 2012: Reopening of the restored St. Louis Public Library, Headquarters (Downtown)

The joy of learning!
Happy Leaf’n!

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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 FamilySearch.org‘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.

Ancestry.com‘s section for the 1940 U.S. Census will keep subscribers updated on their census doings once the census is received into their collection.

Archives.com 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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