52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 17: Cemetery

Back in the fall of 2014, my husband, Doug, and I took a life-changing trip to the Isle of Man. The Garrett family lore handed down through his family was that their ancestors   were immigrants from the island. And since I had met him, Doug had talked of visiting one day.

(However, for him, I’m not sure if that desire stemmed more from his heritage or for the lure of the famous Isle of Man TT race. Either way, 2014 was finally the year.)

The night before we left, Doug’s mom found an old, typed, yellowed paper listing the children of Isabella Kissack and William John Garrett, the immigrant couple who first came to America. And, that was so helpful!

Garrett Kissack Children.JPG

Right away, we learned that the family name was simply Garrett, not O’Garrett. The “O” turned out to be the middle initial Edward Osborn Garrett, the son that Doug’s line descends through. If you say “Edward O. Garrett” enough, it soon morphs into “Edward O’Garrett.”

So, with the paper in hand, we set off across the Pond, not knowing what we were looking for, nor where we would even begin to look. Not the best way to begin a research trip!

Once on the island, we had some tremendous help from the owners of the Devonian, the  cozy B&B we stayed in.


We learned from them that the one and only museum and archive, the Manx Museum, was literally up the hill and around the corner, about a five-minute walk.

The Manx Museum

We set aside an afternoon to spend at the museum, armed with only the paper above, and soon found ourselves overwhelmed with the help of, and the information found by, the museum staff. We sat in amazement as they brought out papers and documents, one after the other, all with information about Doug’s family.

It was the first time I had ever researched in an archive, or even thought about it for that matter, having never done family history at this point. It was a transformational moment to realize that there are literally thousands of stories, just sitting on shelves or stored in a cupboard, waiting for someone to care enough to discover and tell them.

One of the museum staff soon brought out a book with tombstone inscriptions from the nearby graveyard of Kirk Braddan, where we had already learned that William John and Isabella had been married, having been shown their marriage record from 1852.

Tombstone inscriptions of graves at Kirk Braddan

There at #792, buried in the same grave, are Doug’s 3x and 4x great-grandmothers  (mother and daughter), William John Garrett’s mother and grandmother:

In memory of /  Catherine CRAINE / who departed this life / November 27th 1814 / aged 62 years / also Catherine CRAINE / wife of Wm Garrett who / departed this life 26th August / 1832 aged 52 years.

The staff also quickly found a hand-drawn map of the churchyard when we commented that we’d like to visit.


A few days later, we hiked further uphill and inland to Kirk Braddan. A long way inland. A steep walk uphill. It was drizzling. There might have been grumbling.

Kirk Braddan is absolutely lovely. It’s a tiny, ancient, stone church surrounded by a churchyard chock-a-block full of jumbled tombstones, surrounded on three sides by thick stands of trees.

Figuring out the map took us a bit, but once we situated ourselves, we found the grave were were looking for.

IOM 2014 (88).JPG

And, there we were. Standing a few feet above two women without whom the man beside me wouldn’t exist. Two women who we had never even given a thought to until days earlier. It was a powerful moment for both of us, and it was what spurred me onto this family history journey.

52 ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 16: Storms

Storms. Growing up on the desert as I did, wind and sand storms were quite common. My legs got sandblasted more than once while I waited by the mailbox for the school bus. The dust would also blow in through any teeny, tiny crack or crevice in the walls or windows of our (unfinished) house. The sand would pile up against the lava rocks my mom used as garden borders. Tumbleweeds were blown everywhere, and grit would sink to the bottom of our above-ground pool.

The photo below was taken in June 1959, after such a storm. That’s sand on the roof. The note on the back says that my brother, Bob, had just finished painting the windows. I can’t imagine that he was pleased…

bob had just painted the windows, ...just up, the was before the big blow 6-25-59, new trees not planted yet.jpg

But, there were also snow storms.

Snow storms, you say? In the desert?

Yup, apparently so.

1949, China Lake CA, snow storm.jpg
1949 snow storm, China Lake
charlotte in 8in of snow, jan 1949.jpg
This is my older sister, Charlotte. The note on the photo says the snow was 8 inches deep.

Apparently, this storm also dusted Los Angeles. Below is my grandparents’ front yard at 325 Gertrude St.

jan 12-48, snow on lawn 325 gertrude st..jpg

This next photo is after my parents built their house out in Inyokern.

snow storm (1).jpg

This must be 1961 or so, as that’s me, my younger brother, Richard, an older sibling (probably Charlotte), and my brother, Don, sitting on a snow bank on the side of our house.

snow storm (4).jpg

I don’t remember this snow storm, nor are there any photos of snow storms, after this. It might have snowed, and either I just don’t remember, or I don’t have photos. I know for certain that in the 25 years that we have lived in the Los Angeles area, there hasn’t been any snow here. I imagine that would cause quite a commotion now!

“Til next time!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 15: Taxes

At first, when I read this prompt, my thought was, “Nope. Got nothing.”

And, then I decided to see what I could dig up, based on interesting finds for other prompts I almost dismissed.

But, first, a slight digression, which does play into the scenario, I promise.

Back several weeks ago, I went to Utah to attend RootsTech. One of the sessions I attended was given by Diana Elder of Family Locket. (If you remember, I won the RootsTech pass on a giveaway through her blog.)

Diana gave an excellent presentation on why and how to organize your genealogy files, both physical and digital. You can find her presentation slides and notes here. I highly recommend you taking a look.

Diana’s digital file-naming system was the most helpful thing I learned during her class. Oh, yes, I thought I had a good, consistent naming protocol. I mean, I had all the vital information there, right? But, I was fooling myself. Trust me, her system is so much better. And, I will tell you why.

I had been naming files something like this:


Sometimes, it looked more like this:

diamond-sarah-1764-birth-marblehead vital records-vol 1.jpg

Or even this:


Do you see the problems? The inconsistencies? No wonder I had trouble finding stuff.

Diana’s suggestion was to name files like this:

date-document type-last name-first name (and maiden)-place

She explained that if your folder was correctly named, i.e. GARD-jeremiah-BROWN-experience, the name of the individual really wasn’t the most important part of the file name. It’s there in the folder structure, so it doesn’t have to be the first item in the individual file name.

But, what will be important is the date the document or photo was created and the document type. So when you are searching through your files, all the files with this file naming protocol will be neatly in chronological order, making a nice, clear, concise timeline for your ancestor, right there in your folder. Ta-da!

So, for the files above, I have renamed them like this:

  • 1810-will pg3-GARD-jeremiah-union township PA.jpg
  • 1750-51-marriage-CLAFLIN-timothy-GOULD-mary-lynn MA.jpg
  • 1764-birth marblehead vital records-vol 1-DIAMOND-sarah-marblehead MA.jpg

I have already experienced the ease of finding a document when using this system.

Here’s a screenshot of one of my folders before I have renamed the enclosed files:

What a mess! Nothing is easily found!

Now, here’s a folder that I have worked on:

Whew… So. Much. Better. Everything is in chronological order, with the document type after the date. Not all files have dates; they will be listed by document type first and fall after the files with dates listed first.

I have already found that I had duplicates of many documents, especially census records. When looking in a folder with my prior system, there was no easy way to tell if I had all or any census pages. Now, I can easily search, because records are in chronological order, and quickly see that yes, I have 1850, but not 1830 or 1840, for example. No more multiple downloads of 1850!

All that to say, it was difficult to find a tax record in the jumble of files in my folders! I think I’ll have an easier time from now on, or I will have, once I finish this BIG project. I will be able to easily search for the document type right after the date in the file name.

So, do you want to see what I found?

This is not exactly a tax record, but rather an assessment for a possible future tax liability. My DAR patriot is Jeremiah Gard, who moved west from New Jersey to settle in the frontier of Pennsylvania, in Union Township.

1798-land assesment-GARD-jeremiah--union township fayette co PA-ancerstry.jpg

This document is the “Particular list of description of all lands, lots, buildings, and wharves, owned, possessed, or occupied on the first day of October, 1798, in Union Township, Fayette County…”

Jeremiah Gard is number 64 on this page, the third and fourth lines from the top. He owned two lots, but occupied only one. On the occupied lot, he had one “cabbin” worth $8.00,  one sawmill, and one “old log barn.” This land and lots subject to valuation were a total of 260 acres and 80 “perches.”  The total valuation of “tract, lot wharf, and etc.” was $2088.00. The unoccupied lot was valued at $40.00.

Not bad, Jeremiah!

‘Til next time!


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 14: The Maiden Aunt(s)

I knew right away who I wanted to write about for this week’s prompt. My great-great aunts, Ida and Johanna, are the subjects of this post. They came to America from Norway with their parents and siblings, including my great-great grandmother, Theoline.

In 1879 when they arrived, Theoline was 12, Ida was eight, and Johanna was a wee six year-old.

Soland Line

Theoline grew up and married Willis C. Wells, my great-great grandfather in 1896.

willis and theoline wells wedding picture, april 18, 1886.jpg
Wedding picture of Theoline Soland and Willis C. Wells, my great-grandparents

But, that’s enough about Theoline for this blog post; we’re here to talk about her younger sisters. So, let’s begin, shall we?

In the 1880 census, the first US census after their 1879 arrival, Ida and Jo, nine and seven, were living in Preston, Trempealeau, Wisconsin with their parents and siblings.

Ida and Jo Soland

Let’s first follow older sister Ida through the years.

Ida Soland

She was confirmed November 22, 1885 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Blair, Wisconsin, at age 14.

I don’t have a federal census record of Ida for 1890, as the census, for the most part, was destroyed in a fire.

She is listed in the 1900 census as still living with her parents in Blair, working as a teacher at age 29.

In 1905, she is still in Blair with her parents and two brothers, still working as a teacher.

In 1908, at 37, Ida was in Chicago, Illinois, where she graduated from nursing school.


Aunt Ida’s photo is one row from the bottom, one picture to the right of the center. She has curly hair and is wearing glasses. It’s notable that she’s older than many of her classmates.

I couldn’t find her in the 1910 census, but there may be a good reason for that which I will explain in a bit.*

In the 1920 census, Ida, 49, is in Wisconsin, living with her widowed mother, Tori. She is working as a community nurse.

In 1930, at age 59, she is listed in a city directory in Los Angeles, with no occupation noted. She is also in the 1930 Federal census in Los Angeles as living with her mother, Tori, 88, and her sister, Jo, 57. In the census, however, her occupation is recorded as “Reg. Nurse.”

In 1940, aged 69, she is living in Los Angeles with Johanna; she might be retired at this time, as there is no occupation listed for her. The sisters’ mother, Tori, passed away in 1938.

Ida passed away June 1960, a month before I turned two.

Jo and Ida Soland

Now, let’s see where life leads younger sister Jo.

Johanna Soland

May 20, 1888, at age 15, Johanna was confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Blair, Wisconsin.

The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, so there’s no record for the family in this year.

I couldn’t find her in the 1900 census.

City directories were very helpful in my search for Johanna. 1904 finds Jo in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, working as a teacher. In 1907, Jo was living in Kalispell, Montana. She was the principal of the Central School. In 1911, Jo was back in Wisconsin, getting her BA at the University of Wisconsin while teaching school. In 1913, Jo had moved back to Kalispell, where she was a teacher of sewing and domestic science at the West Side School. She also apparently earned her MA in this year.

In 1920, Jo was a lodger in Ward Co., North Dakota, working as a teacher.  The census records that she was naturalized in 1884.

In 1921, with both her BA and MA, Jo was back in North Dakota, working as a teacher in the Minot State Normal School. (Teachers’ colleges were formally called Normal Schools.)

In the 1930 census, Ida, 59, and Jo, 57, were living together in Los Angeles with their mother, Tori, 88. Ida was a nurse in a hospital; Jo was a teacher at a junior college.

In 1937, Jo was living in El Centro, California and was a teacher at Brawley Union High School.

In 1940, Jo, 67, and Ida, 69, were both in Los Angeles, still living together, but with a lodger. They apparently were both retired, as there are no occupations listed for either.

6-1960, aunt jo
Aunt Jo, 1960. I think I recognize this as Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier, CA. Perhaps this was Aunt Ida’s funeral.
johanna g soland
Aunt Jo in 1965

Jo passed away in October 1968, when I was ten. I do vaguely remember her.

As I was growing up, Jo and Ida were always spoken as of as “Aunt Jo and Aunt Ida”, one unit. Today it would be a hashtag: #JoAndIda. Or #TheAunts. But, it wasn’t always so, as we have seen. Their paths diverged, Jo became an educator and Ida a nurse, and then they came back together later in life.

I’m pretty sure that Jo must have missed Ida those last years without her.

“Til next time.

*According to my mother, at one point, Ida was married. Apparently, Jo didn’t approve, and broke up the marriage not too long after it occurred by insisting that Ida leave her husband. It was as if that silliness had never happened. I haven’t found records to prove or disprove this story, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I found a hint that Ida and her husband might have been living in Kalispell, Montana in 1910. If she were using a married name, that could explain why I didn’t find her in the 1910 census.



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 13: The Old Homestead

After the end of World War II, my parents moved back to Los Angeles, after being sent around the country during my dad’s time in the Army.

charles l keene, jr, and bula helen keene, 1943
Mom and Dad in 1943

Dad was looking for work, and he heard from a buddy that the Navy was looking for civil engineers out at a place in the California desert called Inyokern.

Yes, it was a Navy base in the desert. At a dry lake bed.

So, around 1946, they packed up their two kids and drove the 120 or so miles north of LA to check it out. And, sure enough, Dad was hired as a pipe-fitter at the Naval Ordinance Test Station, which was first located at Inyokern, then moved across the valley to Ridgecrest. This Navy base in the desert has had several name changes through the years: NOTS, China Lake (after the dry lake bed there), and now NAWS China Lake (Naval Air Weapons Station).

At first, Mom, Dad, and the two kids, Robert and Jeanne, lived in a little trailer, waiting for base housing to be built. This really was a bit like pioneer days. There just wasn’t much out there.

jeanne and robert by trailer.jpg
My sister, Jeanne, and my brother, Robert (Bob)
trailers in desert.jpg
Navy “housing” in 1946

My parents eventually moved into proper base housing, a duplex. And, in 1947, my sister, Charlotte, joined the family.

bula and charles' home in NOTS bse inyokern, 8-47.jpg
My parents’ “upscale” on-base duplex

My brother, Don, arrived in 1955, and about that same time, my parents decided to move off base to a place of their own. Ten miles west across the valley, three miles north of the small town of Inyokern where NOTS was originally planned, Mom and Dad bought one acre of land.

empty plot.jpg
Dad, marking out the foundation

If possible, this was even rougher than the base was when they had originally arrived. It was barren.

They built a four-bedroom, 2-bath house, with the living room windows facing to the west for a view of the Sierras.

framed in.jpg
Foundation and walls

In 1958, when I was born, my parents were still working on the house, although they had already moved in. In fact, the house wasn’t completed for years. I remember tar paper on the inside walls, and we used the open studs for shelving.

Dad was talented at working with his hands, and he was very, very clever. He did much of the work to finish the house, using his carpentry and pipe-fitting skills. He soon added a shed and a garage, as well.

As their family grew to include my younger brother, Richard, Mom and Dad added on to the house.

An expansion to the living room
new back porch.jpg
A back porch and family room addition

As Dad worked on the house and outbuildings, Mom was busy putting in gardens. She planted grape vines along the driveway, grew an abundant vegetable garden, put in iceplant under the dining room window, and placed flowers where ever she could. She made our little acre of the desert blossom.

Mom, Bob, Don, and me in the garden, and Dad trimming the grape vines, 1961

Not too long after they moved in, my parents began acquiring animals. There were cows, goats, sheep, chicken, ducks, geese, cats, and dogs.

6-61, Charlotte and Blossom.jpg
My sister, Charlotte, with Blossom the Cow
barbara, sue, beth, sheep.jpg
My cousins, Beth and Sue, with me and one of our sheep, about 1968

Dad also put in our well.

6-65, charles, richard, pipe for new well.jpg
Richard and Dad at the new well

We ate many of the animals we raised. When the chickens grew too old to reliably lay eggs for breakfast, they became our dinner. (I plucked a lot of chickens.) My dad eventually put up a tripod next to the well to help him with hanging the larger animals (either those we raised or what he got on his hunting trips) after butchering. We ate lots of organ meats, not wasting any edible parts. I grew up on chicken gizzards, liver and onions, and home-grown vegetables. It was just our way of life, but I’m sure it seems foreign to most modern-day Americans.

As their children grew up and left home, and they grew older, Mom and Dad began to scale down the farm. There were fewer and fewer animals, and the garden became smaller.

sir rooster the boss, 1970.jpg
Mom kept the chickens after most of the other animals were long gone

A year after I married and moved away, and my younger brother off in the Marines, Mom and Dad sold the old homestead and moved to Nevada.

Forty years later, I can hardly recognize the place. I drove by several years ago on my way home from a visit with Mom. It was hardly recognizable. There are now neighbors on both sides and across the street beyond the railroad tracks. The once-empty pasture behind the house has been subdivided. The well, my old landmark, is gone.

I can’t say that I miss the place. It was the only home I lived in as a child, so I feel a bit nostalgic about it. But, it was hard in many ways. It was dusty, hot, and lonely. But, it was home.

‘Til next time.