Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stovall/Forsythe Home

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I have just returned from my sister's house in northern California. She just moved into an old home in August. The listing agent stated the house was built in 1910. At first, I thought it would be as easy as looking at the census records for 1910-1930. However, only the 1910 and 1930 census listed street names, but even then, there were no street addresses. Therefore, our goal while I was there was to go to the county courthouse and determine who was the first owner of the house.

Like any good genealogist (though my sister is not really a genealogist), she talked to people in the town right after she moved in. The mayor of the town told her that the home was known as the Forsythe home for the longest time, but she thought that the home was originally built for a man named Moore Stovall and his family. She also noticed that the initials M.E.S. were on the sidewalk outside the home. I found a Mary E. Stovall in the census records from 1900-1930 in the town. I did not find a Moore Stovall in census records, but I did find a biography online for a Jessie Curl Stovall, who married Mary Eliza Moore. The Mary E. Stovall in the census records was married to J.C. Stovall. So at least we had some leads before going to the courthouse.

At the courthouse, we went to the tax assessor's office, who gave us a printout of all people on record for owning the house. The farthest back the tax record went was Feb 1976, when the house was transferred to the estate of Lillian M. Forsythe. The tax record listed the location of the deed for the transfer, so we then went to the County Recorder/Clerk's office to find the deed. We found a deed which transferred the house from the estate of John Albert Forsythe, who died on 1 Mar 1963, leaving no heirs, to the estate of Lillian Margaret Forsythe, who died on 15 Jan 1970. Lillian Margaret was listed as John Albert's mother in the deed.

Going backward, we found that in Sep 1956, J.H. Forsythe and Lillian Margaret Forsythe had transferred the house to their son, John Albert Forsythe, with a right to live in the house for the remainder of their lives. J.H. Forsythe died three years later in 1959. Since John Albert died in 1963 with no heirs, and Lillian did not die until 1970, this is why the house reverted back to her estate in 1976. I'm assuming they deeded the house to their son, assuming he would outlive them.

We then became stuck and could not find when and from whom J.H. Forsythe and Lillian Margaret Forsythe had purchased the property in the first place. We had made a very common genealogical mistake: we did not realize at first that J.H. Forsythe was the same person as John Homer Forsythe. We then went back and found a deed from March 1976, which stated that the Dept of Veterans' Affairs of the State of California had sold the house to John Homer Forsythe in Oct 1951, and this deed was being recorded in 1976 to replace the destroyed or unrecorded deed from 1951. Aha!

We then found a memorandum (not an official deed) from April 1944, which stated that the VA Dept was selling the house to John Homer Forsythe. I'm not quite sure why one record stated 1951 and one stated 1944, but it can be safely said that he probably bought the house between 1944 and 1951.

We got stuck again at this point because we could not find when and from whom the VA Dept purchased the house. The VA Dept apparently purchased many homes in the county, and they had their own page in the grantee index. We could not find them purchasing any homes prior to 1946 in the index, however. But there was the memorandum from 1944, so this didn't make sense.

At this point, my sister decided to be a rogue genealogist and just start looking for Stovalls as grantors. I was hesitant because I was afraid that there could have been at least one other owner between the Stovalls and the VA Dept, so I was trying to come up with Plan B. And it was apparent from the index that the Stovalls owned LOTS of land. However, we got very lucky because she found that a Kathryn Stovall Mitchell had sold the house to the VA Dept in April 1944. We're still not sure why the grantee was not indexed in this sale.

In 1941, we found a deed in which Hiram Curl Stovall left the house to his wife, Kathryn Stovall, upon his death. Aha! Going back even further, we found a deed from 1930 in which Mary Eliza Stovall left the house to her son, Hiram, upon her death. Now I just think we have a little more research to do to find out if Mary Eliza Stovall was the original owner.

My sister said that she went to church today and found out that Dolores Forsythe, daughter of J.H. and Lillian Forsythe, committed suicide. Her tombstone says she died in 1951 at the age of 25. Her brother, John Albert, also died young. We're curious whether or not John Albert also committed suicide, or if it's even true that Dolores committed suicide. Time to order some death records!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blogging from Northern California

I'm visiting my sister and brother-in-law in California for a week, so my blogging will probably be sparse. I arrived on Friday evening and will be leaving on Saturday, Sept. 26. I'm having a blast! We went to 2 wineries yesterday in Napa Valley. Today we are just relaxing. Here are some of my favorite pics so far:

Jade Lake at Chateau Montelena Winery - St. Helena, CA

Grapes on the vine at Castello di Amorosa - Calistoga, CA

Castello di Amorosa

Cats lounging around Castello di Amorosa

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bad News

I have been away from blogging for a week or so due to the deaths of both of my grandfathers.

On Sunday morning (9/6), my paternal grandfather, Benford Maurice TRAHAN, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 74. He had congestive heart failure, and occasionally had heart trouble, but this just happened all of a sudden and was quite shocking. My grandmother is a regular reader of this blog, so please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. They were married for 54 years.

Then, as I was preparing to take a trip back home for the funeral services, I found out on Sunday night that my maternal grandfather, Clifford Robert DROUILLARD, was not doing too well either. I knew he had been in the hospital at least twice since July for pneumonia and that they had found lung cancer, but I didn't realize that he was going to go so quickly. He was in Canada, so I was not able to see him over the last two months. I last saw him in June, when I was in Michigan for my uncle's funeral. Therefore, I only got updates from my mom, who got them from my aunts in Michigan. I had made it back to my parent's house in southwest Louisiana by Monday afternoon, and my aunt came and told us on Monday night (9/7) that he had died about 9 p.m. in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He was 77.

It's just very weird because I had all four grandparents alive at this time last year. I went from having all four alive down to having one alive.

One good thing about my maternal grandmother's death (in December 2008) was that it got my grandfather (Cliff) talking to me about how they met. I had always heard from family members that he was best friends with her first husband, John Peter PEMBERTON, who died in 1970. According to Pippi, he was actually friends with my grandmother, Violet, first. They worked together in the '60's at the Prestolite factory in Port Huron, Michigan. He was a driver and she worked on the assembly line. He said he flirted with all the ladies on the assembly line, and he had a crush on my grandmother, but he was married and so were most of them, including my grandmother. He said that one day she told him to come over to her house on Stone Street to meet her husband and kids. She said he would know what house it was because there would be a lot of kids playing in the yard (she had 8 kids!). He said he took a 6 pack of beer on a Saturday and drove around the Stone Street neighborhood but couldn't remember the address. So on Monday, he said, "You almost had a visitor this weekend, but I couldn't remember which house it was." So she invited him and his wife to go bowling with her and John Peter and some of their friends that week. From then on, he became friends with John Peter too. He said that one day John Peter told him that he knew Violet and the kids would be okay if anything happened to him because he knew that he (Cliff) would take care of them. I think John Peter must have known by this time that Pippi had a crush on Mimi. Sure enough, in 1970, at the age of 41, John Peter died of lung cancer, leaving my grandmother with 6 minor children to raise. Mimi and Pippi married two years later in 1972.

Although I have lost three grandparents in nine months, I am very thankful to have my paternal grandmother alive. She says she is not going anywhere anytime soon, and I believe she is probably right. She is really tough and independent and very sharp. She's also very hip because she uses email, has a Facebook account, and leaves comments on my blog. I think I'm the only one of my friends whose grandmother has a Facebook account. She even uses her Facebook account. Oh, and she's also very creative!!

One thing I didn't realize fully before this week was how like my paternal grandfather I am. We were going through his files where he kept his bills and insurance policies and such, and I realized that that must be where I get my organization skills from. Of course, before I met my fiance, I never realized that I was particularly more organized than anyone else. My fiance's file box consists of a large pile of papers with no file folders. Scary!! I know that I didn't get the organization skills from my maternal grandparents because we are still searching for their original wills (I have no clue why the lawyer did not keep the originals). My maternal grandmother was ALWAYS losing things. My maternal grandfather lost his birth certificate after he got to Canada in May, although I know I gave it to him when we were going through my grandmother's things after she died in December.

Anyhow, I will quit rambling for now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

RootsMagic vs. Legacy - Part IV

Well, after much reading of the instructions, I finally created a source template in RootsMagic. I highly recommend reading all of the instructions in the help menu on source templates and source template language before endeavoring into this. Basically, I copied the template for the state-level certificates online images and added a few additional fields to make it work for a state register online image. Adding the fields was easy enough. The hard part was getting the language right in the footnotes.

For example, some of the Michigan birth registers at FamilySearch Labs reference the volume number and page number, but some only reference an item number and a page number. I know from using FHL microfilm that item number is not always synonymous with volume number. In the cases where an item number is referenced, then instead of putting Michigan Secretary of State, Birth Registrations, 1870, St. Clair County, 8: 118 in the footnote, I need it to say Michigan Secretary of State, Birth Registrations, 1870, St. Clair County, p. 118.

Overall, I was excited that it is possible to get a footnote to say this. It's done with what RootsMagic calls switches. Switches are somewhat like if/then statements. For example, "if the Volume field has content, use this format, and if not, use the other format." I just had to study them for about 30 minutes to understand them in their full capacity. RootsMagic has some good examples in the help menu instructions to help users understand how to use switches.

Another thing I like about RootsMagic is that I can still share an event with witnesses that are not in my database. Once I enter a marriage, I can click on "share" and then choose to type in the name if it is not someone already in my database. Once I am done, I can click on the "share" button again, and the names of the two witnesses to the marriage pop up. This is just nice because the witnesses, whether or not relatives already in the database, can be easily found. In Legacy, I have to open up the master source detail screen and look at the text for the marriage record, if I chose to put the text of the source in the database. Or I have to open up the image of the marriage record, assuming I attached that to the source detail. Also, in Legacy, if the witness is not in my database, I have no way to attach a source to him/her.

I'm just still trying to decide if I really want to do another software conversion. I think I do, but it's hard to commit to reformatting all my sources. I still need to play around with the reporting features. I need to go back to my genealogy to-do list and see what kinds of reports I am using for each family file. I need to make sure RootsMagic can produce these reports. I'm sure that it can, but I still need to verify before fully committing to the switch.