Let’s Talk About: Railroads, Part 1

Railroads were lifelines across America to our ancestors. Anything we can learn about railroads and railroading will benefit the social history we seek to fill out our ancestors’ lives. Do keep in mind that it was our ancestors who did this railroad building not “hired workers from elsewhere.”

David Norris authored a special issue from Internet Genealogy Magazines titled The History of Railroads. This issue was 50 pages all about the topic of railroads and you might want to order a copy for yourself. I do quote from that publication.

In the beginning, there were two railroads: the Central Pacific in the west and the Union Pacific in the east. Soon after the Civil War, it was apparent that the need to connect both side of the county was sorely needed. So the government gave financial incentives to these two railroad companies, with greater benefits going to the Central Pacific for they had the far rougher terrain to conquer. Railroad companies were granted up to 6400 acres of public land and $48,000 in government bonds for every mile of track; this was to the Central Pacific with lesser amounts to the Union Pacific.

First, surveyors had to map the path. Then crews wee assigned to build bridges, culverts or tunnels. Next came the graders to shape the track bed. Most work was done by hand with pick, shovel and wheel barrows. Other crews cut timber along the way for lumber to build these structures, for the ties and for fuel.

Working at top speed, crews could lay over 100 feet of track per minute or less than one hour to lay a mile of track. Each mile of track required 380 rails, 2600 ties and 10,000 spikes which were transported to the work site along the newly-laid tracks.

This last paragraph applies to the work across the midwestern plains. Work crawled along with much greater difficulty through the Rocky Mountains.

To be continued………………..

Let’s Talk About: Tsagiglalal

Tsagiglalal, She Who Watches, is an example of Native American art located high on the basalt rocks on the northern side of the Columbia River near Horsethief Canyon and lake. A longer translation of this name is “She who watches and sees all who are coming and going up and down the river.”

The book, Weird Washington, explains that “there is no doubt that Tsagiglalal was meant as a magical protection for the people who lived in her village for centuries.” The legend is that:

Long ago, in the before time, the Great Spirit wandered the world. He traveled along the Great River (the Columbia) and stopped at a village. He asked the people if they lived well or in poverty. They said that they were happy because of the guidance of their chief. He asked where their chief was, and they pointed to the hills above their village. He went up to the hills and found a woman sitting in front of a hut, looking down at the village. She told him she was the chief, and she looked after her people, teaching them ow to build and live well. He told her, ‘the world is changing and women will no longer be chiefs. What will you do now?’ The woman asked the Great Spirit to turn her into stone, so that she could continue watching over her people. As a sign of mercy, he did just that, and her image was painted into the rockface overlooking her village. She is still there today, looking out over a world that has changed very much since her time…and not always for the better.

Hikers can climb to view Tsagiglalal on tours with Park Rangers by appointment only. I’m glad that she is protected from vandalism and so can continue to watch over her people.

Let’s Talk About: Irish Emigration

You know you’re Irish; that your ancestor came from Ireland, but do you really know HOW and WHY he or she emigrated? There was more than one type of Irish emigration:

Emigration from Ireland began as early as 1603, when people immigrated to areas such as continental Europe, the islands of the Caribbean, the British colonies, and other parts of the British Isles. Emigration increased during periods of civil or religious unrest or famine in Ireland as well as during various gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. The period of greatest emigration began around 1780 and reached its peak from 1845 to 1855, when between one and two million people left Ireland because of the potato famine. The following categories of emigrants account for most people who emigrated from Ireland:

  • Free emigrants. Starting in the seventeenth century, emigrants left Ireland to seek opportunity in a new land; to flee religious persecution, poverty, or oppression; and to seek political asylum following rebellion in Ireland. These left on their own recognizance.
  • Assisted emigrants. In the nineteenth century, qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants as incentives to emigrate. Assistance was viewed by officials as an alternative to providing poor relief for able-bodied, unemployed workers and for the starving masses during famine. After 1840, colonies such as New Zealand and Australia offered money or land grants to skilled workers to attract needed immigrants. These were helped to leave by the government.
  • Transported prisoners. From 1611 to 1870, more than fifty thousand Irish criminals were sentenced to deportation to a penal colony for a number of years. Beginning with Irishmen who rebelled against Cromwell’s army in 1649, political prisoners were also often deported. Many Irish prisoners were sent to America, primarily to Virginia and Maryland, until 1775. From 1788 to 1869, over forty thousand Irish prisoners were sent to Australia. Many of those deported were later pardoned on the condition that they would never return to Ireland. These were mostly unwilling to leave.
  • Military personnel. Soldiers serving overseas were offered land or other inducements to settle in the colony where they were serving when they were discharged. This settlement practice was common for soldiers in Australia from 1791, Canada from 1815, and New Zealand from 1844.

Let’s Talk About: Census WOW Tidbits

If you but really look, the census records reveal some astounding factoids. Take this example:

The year was 1860 and the place the Western Rural District of North Carolina. I was helping a friend with her CHEEK family research and went WOW when I found her family………. but not for just the discovering of the Cheek family. Yes, F.J. Cheek and his wife Frances L., and children Margarett B., Willis P., Emmett and Sarah J. were her family but look what it says for 15-year-old Margarett: Wayne F. Colledge.

I first took that for a husband? employer? But then bells began ringing! I’d bet pennies that young Miss Margarett was attending the Fort Wayne Women’s College, a division of the Conference of the Methodist Church. (Now Taylor University, located in Upland, Indiana, it’s still a thriving institution.) The college was established in 1855………. the census year was 1860, making Margarett one of the first students. Wow.

Questions kept coming: how did Margarett travel from rural western North Carolina to Fort Wayne, Indiana? Wagon? Railroad? All by her 15-year-old self? How did her farmer/seamstress parents afford her tuition and why was that important to them? How did Margarett’s college education enrich her life??

Sidebar Question: Do you think Frances L., wife of F.J. Cheek, the mother of ALL four of those children? Did you see the gap between Willis, age 14, and Emmett, age 6? Doesn’t this ring a bell to you? Likely Father Cheek had two wives is what it speaks to me.

Let’s Talk About: Tom Jones & Puzzles

Most genealogists know who Tom Jones is, genealogist extraordinaire with decades of credibility and standing. The Eastern Washington Genealogical Society was privileged to have him teach us for our May society meeting.

His presentation title was Building A Credible Lineage Despite Multiple Research Barriers and he took us through a case study step-by-step. Here are my summary notes from that class:

  1. To solve a research problem, you have to define, outline and dissect the problem and the research steps to solve said problem. “The scatter-shot approach to research using your mouse is easy to do but with that approach you likely will not solve the problem.” he said.
  2. “You must search ALL the pieces from ALL the pertinent sources, pull out appropriate pieces (facts) and study out how they fit together,” he said next.
  3. “And how to know when you have enough information?” Tom quizzed us, and pointing to a zigzag puzzle, answered, “If you have enough pieces to show what the puzzle IS, then you don’t have to have every single pieces.”

Tom Jones was teaching some 60 members of the EWGS that while it’s good to strive to have every single puzzle piece, and every single genealogical fact, know that you will not be able to find every single fact you seek due to a large variety of reasons.

We all agreed; with the inspiration from Master Teacher Tom Jones, we just might complete our family history puzzle before we cross that bridge. Maybe.

Let’s Talk About: A Whale of a Tale

I picked up a 2004 issue of Nostalgia magazine and the blurb right on the cover caught my eye:  “A Whale Visits Spokane.”  Wwhhaaaatt?

Author Peggy Cunningham (a past EWGS member) wrote how in the summer of 1930 her Dad loaded up the family and off they went to Spokane to see the whale. Let Peggy tell the story:  “As I remember it was a warm day and Dad let us off by the railroad station. Mom paid for us, maybe ten cents each. Following the “SEE THE WHALE” signs, we soon were caught up with the rest of the crowd. When the pace of the crowd began to increase, we followed and soon smelled the reason for their hurry. We could see the (railroad) flatcar completely covered with the huge smelly carcass! With hankies to our noses we hurriedly looked and then made a hasty retreat to meet Dad.”

Peggy explains the beginning of this “whale tour.”  “The whale tale started in Massachusetts in 1930 when two friends happened to find a dead whale washing ashore on a local beach. Seeing an opportunity to make some money, they rented a railroad flatcar, pumped the monster full of formaldehyde, hoisted it onto the flatcar, and went from town to town charging admission to see the whale. They made sure that local papers in the towns along the route where they were planning to stop received an enhanced story……. their bonanza ran out when an unendurable odor began to rise from the corpse. (They soon) made a decision to call it quits, rolled the whale off the flatcar onto a vacant lot near the railroad tracks and buried it under a scant three feet of earth.”

This same photo appeared in the Nostalgia article but was taken about 1913 in Florida. Guess there were more than one “whale on tour.”

In 1930 my husband’s father was living in Spokane. Wonder if the family also went to see the whale?? Did somebody in your family?

Whatcom Genealogical Society Make Progress in Your Genealogy Research

At the November Whatcom Genealogical Society meeting Diana Elder, Professional Genealogist will present Part 2 of her presentation on “Make Progress in Your Genealogy Research:  Learn to Research Like a Pro.”

Try not to miss it on Monday, November 8, at 2 pm at our new meeting place, the Pioneer Pavilion, 2007 Cherry Street in Ferndale.  Doors open at 1:30.

A drawing will be held to win a free copy of Diana Elder’s book “Research Like a Pro:  A Genealogist’s Guide.”

It was wonderful to see everyone in person last month, so please join us.  Don’t forget your mask!

Lewis County Genealogical Society Genealogical Research at NARA

Lewis County Genealogical Society invites you to An Introduction to Genealogical Research at NARA presented at our meeting on Tuesday, September 21. We have social time at 6:00PM, business meeting at 6:30 and the NARA program at 7:00. Keep reading for more about the presentation and how to join us.

Crystal Shurley and Brita Merkel, Archive Technicians with the National Archives in Seattle, will present An Introduction to Genealogical Research at NARA.

Ms. Merkel will speak about the basics of genealogical research. Ms. Shurley will speak about the records and how to use NARA’s online catalog. Following the presentation there will be time for questions.

To prepare you may want to visit the Seattle NARA website https://www.archives.gov/seattle to get an idea of what is available. While in person research is not allowed at this time due to Covid, there are ways to access some records and to place orders online.

You are welcome to join us. Emailinfo@walcgs.orgfor the Zoom link by Monday evening.

Visit Lewis County Genealogical Society online at: walcgs.org

Applied Genealogy Institute

We would be thrilled if you would inform your respective societies and the members of your societies of our new institute. Here is the short announcement followed by the full press release. If you have questions, contact any of the three of us in the To: line above.

Mary Kircher Roddy, CG, Lisa Hork Gorrell, CG and Jill Morelli, CG are happy (gleeful even) to announce a new virtual practicum-based learning option for genealogists! Do you best “Learn by Doing”? Do you want smaller classes that allow for significant class discussion and to receive responses to your assignments–all at an affordable price? Then the Applied Genealogy Institute is for you! Check us out at https://appgen.institute and sign up for the mailing list at the website to be the first to get our opening window for registration.

Very interesting YouTube on the Applied Genealogy Institute: http://www.carolinagirlgenealogy.com/2021/07/genfriends-applied-genealogy-institute.html

Seattle Genealogical Society Tip of the Week Family Search Blog

FamilySearch BLOG
It can be a daunting task to stay abreast of all the updates and enhancements constantly being made by FamilySearch. To assist you in this quest, consider checking out their BLOG. Updates to FamilySearch are listed there in reverse-chronological order!

For example in March 2021, a new feature was installed to allow you to see which other researchers are following the same person/ancestor in a tree that you are following.   

There are also links to a list of enhancements from prior years. Scroll down to the bottom of the blog.  You will see:

  • More Updates from 2020
  • More Updates from 2019

I like the Nov 2, 2020, enhancement. It lets you create a slide show from the photos in your “Memories” area. You can then share this slide show with your family by emailing them a link. They do not need a FamilySearch account. Or you can share the slide show on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc.  FamilySearch has made this process easy.  

Read about all the updates at FamilySearch on their blog here: