Let’s Talk About: Walking with Ancestors

 This was our first Walking with Ancestors event back in 2009. Shirley Penna-Oaks (holding the “vote” sign) was the coordinator for the event.  Eager members of EWGS staged the same event in 2010 and 2011. Now EWGS is resurrecting the Walking with Ancestors event!

This year the event will be held on Memorial Day (Monday), May 27th, at the Pines Cemetery (south on Pines from Sprague or I-90). Commemorative events and ceremonies all day long are planned and EWGS is proud to be a part. 

Volunteers from EWGS have been working on “their people.” Photos were taken of tombstones in the oldest part of the cemetery and handed out at the January meeting. The response has been great! The stories these tombstones will tell, by way of a person portraying the person, their spouse, son/daughter, etc. will be fascinating, EWGS promises. 

These were our 2010 and 2011 group photos:

We hope you’ll come to enjoy a Walking with Ancestors event on Memorial Day at the Pines Cemetery with EWGS!!

OR plan and execute a similar event with YOUR local genealogy society members.

Let’s Talk About: Scattering Ashes

(Logo thanks to O’Connell Family Funeral Homes with locations in several states.)

More and more people are planning to be cremated when they pass, and their cremains scattered………. in a garden, over a cliff, in water or in a designated spot in an established cemetery. What are the rules for scattering cremains in Washington State?
According to a bit in our Spokesman newspaper (from Jared Gendron of the News Tribune, Tacoma), YES, you can scatter the cremains of a loved one in Washington but there are caveats.

  • Ashes can be scattered in most public and state owned land with permission from whomever controls the land.
  • Permission from the Chief Park Ranger is needed for National Parks.
  • Ashes can be scattered into any bodies of water in Washington.
  • Ashes can be scattered in the ocean beyond the lowest tide mark.
  • Ashes can be buried in the ocean as long as it’s three nautical miles from land and the EPA must be notified of the event.
  • Only human cremains, not pets or other animals, may be dispersed into the ocean.

Casting: Make sure to toss the ashes with the wind and make sure nobody is standing downwind. 


Trenching: Burying the ashes in a hole/trench at least a foot deep.


Raking: Placing the cremains in soft soil and raking them into the soil. 


Water: Keep in mind that some cremains may sink instantly while others may float (for a time). 


** In 2004, our family gathered at the family cabin on Bottle Bay, Lake Pend Oreille, to pour our father’s ashes off the end of the dock. It was a very special day for all of us. 

Let’s Talk About: “Just A Piece Of Tin”

Just a piece of tin, lying in the dirt.

To the finder it meant nothing, to a family, more hurt.

For removal and return proper steps were to follow.

To a community back home more pain, grief and sorrow.

A journey of  time and in decades lost

Of a round trip in miles and of the thousands it cost.

Of the man who had worn it so many of us knew,

A young man on our streets just like me and you.

Of a life never lived, or adventures untold

Of one life to give, a young never to grow old.

Just a piece of tin, lying in the dirt.

I photographed this  poem framed and on the wall in a museum back east while on a trip. It was penned by Charles Stage, 30 May 2016. It quite touched my heart and I saved it to share with you in our “memorial month.”  

Ask Google if you’d like to know more fascinating history of U.S. military dog tags. 

****Bet you didn’t know this “dog tag” trivia: People in the 1950s lived under constant threat of nuclear war and had tags made for their elementary age school children in districts across the U.S. New York City was the first public school system to issue the “identification tags” in Feb 1952, spending $159.000 to provide them to 2.5 million students. 

Let’s Talk About: Washington Wheat

We eat wheat most every day in some form or another. And mankind has been eating wheat for thousands of years. (Did you have toast, bagel or cereal for breakfast?)  How many types of wheat are there, would you guess? How many types are grown in Washington? Well, there are six main types or classes of wheat with many sub-categories under each of the six.

Wheat was first planted in the U.S. in 1777 and is still today the primary flour for U.S. grain products. Wheat is grown in 42 U.S. states with Kansas as the largest producer. Our own Whitman County produces on average 32 million bushels of wheat annually. Lincoln County produces 22 million bushels. (Need I remind you that many of our ancestors came to Eastern Washington back in the 19th century primarily to grow wheat?)

What’s the best wheat for what product? 

Hard Red Winter wheat: general all-purpose

Hard Red Spring wheat: breads, rolls, croissants, bagels, pizza crusts

Soft Red White wheat: cakes, pastries, Asian noodles, flat breads

Hard White wheat: Asian noodles, tortillas, flatbreads

Durum wheat:  with a high protein content, perfect for pasta 

It’s a real science to today’s wheat farmers to know what to plant, where and when. Which type is best for their fields; which types best resist disease. Each farmer has to make a decision, sometimes field by field, about which wheat variety will work for  them. 

**Amazing wheat factoids: In 2022, the U.S. shipped 205.3 metric tons (about 250,000 pounds) of wheat overseas; this wheat export had the value of $7.3 billion; and the U.S. is the 5th in the list of wheat exporters. There are about 100 different varieties of wheat crackers to be found in your favorite supermarket. 

Let’s Talk About: Warm Fuzzy Newspaper Stories

(Thank you Facebook for the photos.)

I confess that I only read the human interest stories in our local newspaper. (And the funnies, of course!)Those are usually so heart-warming. So I will share two recent ones with you today.


Originally from the Washington Post:  John Mills never gave his surname much thought until he learned that many of his ancestors were enslaved. His great-great-great grandfather, Ned Mills, was the first of the name which was given to him by the man who enslaved him. Ned Miles grew up on a Georgia plantation in the 1830s and after the Civil War, when he was a free man, spent the rest of his life as a farmer and blacksmith. 
After finding his own family history, John Mills founded an organization to help other previously enslaved people to find their family history too. “My great-great-grandfather lives on in me,” and gives Mills the inspiration to help others.


Story #2:  Sandra Poindexter was at an auction in Lynchburg, Virginia, when she spotted a pair of bridal portraits and was “just mesmerized by them.” Sandra won the portraits for a bid of $5 thinking “these are special to somebody.” So Sandra began her search to find the couple or a descendant.
The photo was taken in 1959 and wonderfully the bride’s name was written on the back: Harriet Elizabeth Marshall (Galbraith). Enlisting the help of a more seasoned genealogy researcher, Harriet’s son was located in one day! And Harriet was still alive and living in Texas!
Sandra and Harriet exchanged many phone calls and stories concerning the back story of the “travels” of those portraits. “Seeing the portraits again brought back wonderful, happy memories,” Harriet said. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person and I’m glad to have been a little part of it,” said Sandra.

Let’s Talk About: Smart Searching from Cyndi


Last February the EWGS program featured Cyndi Ingle. Her (too-short) time with us was fact-and-tip filled and her 8-page handout was a thorough reminder of what she taught us that day.

Some quick-and-always-good-to-review points to keep in mind:

  • Records were and are created by humans.
  • Humans make mistakes.
  • Humans misspell things.
  • Humans are inconsistent.
  • Humans miscommunicate things.
  • Just because many more things are digitized now doesn’t mean that searching is really any easier than it was before. 
  • We MUST think about ow and why humans created any set of records and the circumstances of their times and methods in doing so.
  • We must consider how archivists and librarians catalogued their records’ collections. 
  • We must consider HOW those records made their way into the digitized world. 

Cyndi also explained that mysterious word database. What is a database? A database is a container filled with records. Think of a phonebook; it’s a database filled with records, no? So Ancestry is a database of records, right? Then to be worthwhile, a database must be indexed for the words, fields and records to be searchable. 

With a big smile Cyndi said that “every database is unique depending on the data it contains and depending on the software used to create it. Everybody did it their own way!”

Then search engines. These are tools we use to search databases. And as with databases, every search engine is unique depending on the software and hardware used to make it.

Let’s Talk About:Plants of the Oregon Trail,Part 3


This is Part 3; parts 1 and 2 were in the immediately-previous posts. 

The travelers remarked on the lovely larkspur flowers but quickly learned that wild larkspur was very bad for horses but okay for oxen and that chockcherry was bad for oxen. Animals, being animals, too often just munched away but were too important and valuable not to be watchful of.

The Oregon Trail travelers eventually learned about other plants:

  • Western Buttercup – Indians used it to poison arrows
  • Snakeweed – toxic to kidneys and liver
  • Death Camas – white ones WERE deadly but BLUE ones were okay; only way to tell was when they flowered in spring, a luxury the immigrants did not have.
  • Selenium – an element in the soil taken up into the plume grasses which cause digestive problems for the animals.
  • Greaseweed – they started seeing these plants about Chimney Rock and quickly learned that it was good/safe for animals to eat in early spring but poisonous in summer.
  • Horsebrush – this was toxic in many ways to animals
  • Locoweed – there were many kinds of “loco weed”
  • Texas Blue Bonnets – very toxic, producing birth defects in both men and animals
  • Water Hemlock – growing vigorously along rivers but toxic
  • Wild Parsnips – ditto
  • Wild Milkweed – ditto

By the time they reached Owyhee County, Idaho, “there was scarcely a train without sick oxen on it” due to the many bad plants in the alkali areas which they couldn’t keep the animals from eating. In the Blue Mountains of Oregon, the journal entries were pretty routine by this point. Little mention is made of plants except poison ivy. “They must have encountered this all along the way but only here is it often mentioned,” Ms. Packard said.  
Following Grandma’s advice that “if you don’t know it don’t eat it,” was sound advice but to hungry people, they had to learn on their own. Children helped show the way!

Let’s Talk About… Ulster Settlers Database

 Likely you cannot read the faint print of this snip, so I  copied it for you. The important-est statement is this, to my mind: “historical data relating to the English and Scottish men and women who settled in Ulster in the period 1609-1641…”   Those are/were what we’ve come to understand as the Scots-Irish! Those hard-to-find-hard-to-trace rascals who came to the colonies and happily settled on the frontier away from anything of “officialdom.” 

My hubby’s Phillips line is Scots-Irish and I’ve had minimal success with it. Bet you’re in that rowboat with me, eh? I’m going to have a great time clicking around on this website/database……… and, if you Google “Ulster Settlers” several parallel websites pop up, offering more insight, knowledge and information to you! Hooray!

The Ulster Settlers Database, an exciting biographical and historical resource, is now available to researchers. Making innovative use of historical data relating to the English and Scottish men and women who settled in Ulster in the period c.1609-1641, the database is a searchable account of a community in flux.

The initial phase of the project was funded by the Royal Irish Academy through the Hunter Digital Fellowship. Beginning in early 2022, the project was co-hosted by the Institute of Irish Studies at Queens University Belfast and Maynooth University’s Arts and Humanities Institute. 

Taking on the challenges involved in working with incomplete biographical data, this project models existing data into life events and then digitally links all these related events to reconstruct a searchable prosopography or biographical map of the entire settler cohort. 

The Ulster Settlers database is available to search here: https://ulster-settlers.clericus.ie/

By the by, never say “Scotch-Irish.” David Rencher, CEO of the FamilySearch Library reminds us “that Scotch is a drink.”

Let’s Talk About….FamilySearch WIKI!


Have you accessed the wonderful, fantastic, FREE resource that is the FamilySearch WIKI? When you click to www.familysearch.org/WIKI this is the page that opens up to you. From this menu, you can “order” among over 106,000 articles……… articles about places all over the world, records of all types, and what records can be found where. When my Puerto Rican friend, Leticia, wanted help with her family tree, the first thing I did was to go to the WIKI and print out all the pages of tips, helps and websites. 

Danielle Batson at the 2023 RootsTech, gave these tips in her talk:

  • “The WIKI is your online genealogy guide linking you to all known records of the entire world!”  How can you top that??
  • WIKI is constantly adding newly found links/sites.
  • WIKI offer strategy papers.
  • Search by locality, she said. “That’s where things happen!”
  • Search top-down…. ie, start with Denmark or Virginia and then work your way down through the menu.
  • Realize that some countries (“Bulgaria for instance”) hasn’t as many records.
  • Don’t over look the sidebar with links to other related records.
  • You can also join a community group for your target area and ask locality-specific questions.
  • Wiki offers Guided Research….. Wiki offers guides to where you might look next.
  • You can book your free Virtual Genealogy consultation, a 20-minute time one-on-one with a FamilySearch specialist for that area or type of record. 
  • And this, the best words she said were these:

“The FamilySearch WII is your researchers’ Golden Ticket!”

Let’s Talk About…Southern Research

Right off the bat, I’ll bet you’re surprised to see the number of states included under the umbrella of “southern,” as in Southern Genealogy Research. Surprise, indeed!

I attended the 2023 RootsTech and listened to a speaker (whose name I didn’t scribble down) speak about Southern Research and giving some tips for same:

  • Learn as much history on/from your family as you can! 
  • Reason out the facts……… was it indeed a southern state?
  • Brush up on your U.S. history from 1763 to 1775 for starters.
  • Then progress to the Civil War time period. 
  • Know that Georgia was only 1/2 British and was 1/2 Native American.
  • Yes, while many courthouses were burned and records lost, not everything was lost. The documentation of the county’s wealth and income was all important (how to levy taxes if you didn’t know who owned what land?) and were reconstructed.
  • Search the land records and deeds of target states.
  • Attempt a time line for each family in your target location.
  • Plot the family’s migration into and then through the Southern states. 
  • Check newspapers for that time and place.
  • Correlate info from all available records: land, census, probate, court, military
  • BE AWARE OF COUNTY BOUNDARY CHANGES!
  • Use period maps.
  • Watch for name changes or just misspellings.
  • Southern “speech” often use “brother/cousin” when there was no relationship
  • Each southern state has historical societies and archives as do many of the counties in those states. Many of these societies had many much of their holdings available online. 

Example: My hubby’s great-grandfather, Seaborn Phillips, born 1844 in Georgia and died in 1906 in Texas. Why Texas? He was a Confederate soldier (was at the Battle of Gettysburg, he said) and after the war, Georgia was devastated and had no resources to pay pensions to veterans, so he moved his family west to Texas where pensions were to be had (Texas was not heavily impacted by the war).