Friday, June 27, 2014


I am not going to ask you to understand why I needed a death certificate for my grandma's cousin, Blanche Stevens Thompson, who died in 1910.  Just accept that fact that for genealogists to learn about people in the family who have been long dead, it sometimes is necessary to get death certificates and/or obituaries.  This blog is about the funniest and most frustrating try for a simple death certificate that in 25 years of genealogy has happened to me.

In a nutshell, my great- grandma Nellie had a brother George Stevens just a tiny bit older that she was.   George married,  and Blanche, born in 1889, was his first child.  Blanche was my grandma Jessie's cousin. Down the road George moved to Oklahoma, and in my research I discovered that Blanche married in 1909.  In my research I also found a tombstone indicating she died in 1910, one year after she was married.  Why? I wondered.  In childbirth?  A disease?  Or maybe even murdered?  A death certificate might give me an answer, so I went online to find out what Oklahoma required to provide me a copy of her death certificate, if one existed.

I knew that such certificates were not always available that early, but the Oklahoma website said there actually were some as early as 1910.  I had to fill out a form, making sure I answered every question, and then send the completed form with a $15 research fee to the address at the top of the form.  I did exactly what they asked.  These instructions made it clear that the $15 was simply a research fee for their work in looking for a death certificate; if one wasn't found, they would not return the $15 to me.  I understood this, and was willing to risk losing the $15.

I sent the form and the check off on January 23, 2014.  The check was cashed on January 27, so I knew the form had arrived.

When no answer had come by the end of March, I sent a follow up request, nicely worded, simply noting that I was still anxiously awaiting word from them.

On April 23, I received a request from Oklahoma to provide documentation for my relationship to Blanche.  I opened my file cabinet to the "Stevens" file and photocopied my birth certificate showing my mother's name (Virginia), my mother's birth certificate showing her mother's name (Jessie), a delayed death certificate filed by my grandma Jessie showing her mother as Nellie, a Census report showing Nellie as belonging to the family of Chester and Ellen Stevens, and showing George as Nellie's older brother.  Then I photocopied a census report showing Blanche as a child of George.  These documents were among those specified as acceptable as proof by the State of Oklahoma. 

On June 16, almost two months after sending them all my documentation, I received a letter from Oklahoma saying NO birth certificate was found.

The end.

What can I say?  They did their part, just as they said they would; I did mine.  That it took almost 6 full months to hear "no" blows my mind!  Was I surprised? No.  Disappointed? Yes.  But that's all part of the genealogy game.

What I find hard to understand is this:  Did they not have an index anywhere that could have provided a "yes" or "no" in less time?  And preferably before I had to dig up and send copies of all my files?  I have bit my tongue every time I come close to saying something like, "Well, what do you expect from ........" No, I won't  say it.  Oklahoma has a bad enough rap as it is. 

And that is why I laugh.  In my own mind the whole thing is simply preposterous. There is a way of doing things, and a way NOT to do them.  But I consider that life is full of little quirks, and in genealogy we run into lots of "nos" - usually just a little bit faster, however, so I need to explore other ways to find an answer to why she died.  Poor Blanche.  Truly gone, but not forgotten!

Monday, June 23, 2014


For the past couple of years I have had a sneaking hunch that barring my sudden demise, it would be my knees that gave out first.  I did have a frozen shoulder a few years ago that was quite satisfactorily unfrozen through some good physical therapy sessions at a nearby clinic.  But the knees have never got to the point where I felt they needed help. Going up and down stairs is where I have a problem, and I simply avoid stairs if possible and if not, I take it slow and easy like an old person would do.  So far the knees and the tiny bit of pain they cause me has pretty much remained stable. 

After seeing my oldest daughter through a total knee replacement this past week I have decided to rethink my own knees.  I do not want to EVER need that particular surgery.  No way, no how!  No stairs.  No squats.  My knees henceforth are going to be cared for and babied so as to extend their natural lifespan.  Rather than replacement, should that ever come to pass, I'll opt for a wheelchair instead of a replacement.  That is one nasty surgery, and I don't want it!  Ever!

* * * * *

I'm having some trouble getting projects to the completion stage.  Part of this is caused by the "Do It Twice" syndrome that has become standard operating procedure since the advent of something…..maybe the electronic age.  I am presently trying to buy a battery for my camera.  I went to Radio Shack to order one; they were out of them but said they could order one for me, which would be sent to their shop within 3 to 5 working days.  The order would be confirmed by e-mail and I would be notified by e-mail when it arrived.  I had to pay for it first.  By the time I got home, the confirming e-mail had arrived, giving me an order number and saying I could track its progress.  On day 5 I had not received notice of its arrival at the shop, so I checked their website.  Lo, it said my order could not be filled because they no longer carried that battery.  I called the shop and asked what was going on?  No one knew.  They made a phone call and confirmed that my order had been cancelled, which was the reason I didn't get an e-mailed notice of its arrival!  Was no one going to let me know?

I understand from reading the business section of the newspaper that Radio Shack may not be long for this world.  That might account for their not carrying the item I needed any more, but couldn't someone have notified me?  I AM keeping my eyes on my AMEX bill to make sure they cancelled EVERYTHING.  And now I've tracked down another place to get the battery and placed another order.  I haven't seen anything in the news about the financial health of Samy's Camera.  Hopefully it is just fine, thank you.  In the meantime my camera sits idle, which is about like losing the use of my computer!

* * * * *

The other project I am having trouble with is getting wi-fi into my house so I can utilize my iPod in ways other than music through the ear-buds.  The start of this project began in January with good intentions of everybody involved.  It has yet to be completed.  Everybody is busy, which I understand.  I'm reconsidering my original plans and am close to hiring someone from the Geek Squad to get me set up.  I've set Aug 1 as the point of switch.

* * * * *

Has anything pleasant, anything good, anything exciting happened to counter-balance all these little irritants?

I'm thinking hard ……..

Friday, June 13, 2014


I have always thrived on change.  When I worked, I loved Mondays because I hit the ground running and felt energized by having projects to do and phone calls to make.  I loved Fridays because change - a weekend - was on the horizon.  There were chores to accomplish at home and grandbabies to visit.  If it was different, I loved it!

Now retired, I look at handmade quilts and think, "I have time to do that now!" But change comes slowly to a quilt, and I understand myself well enough to know any quilt would end up half done in one of my drawers alongside the other started and now languishing projects in my craft drawer.  I have no business tackling large projects!  A small patch of quilt turned into a wall hanging might be a possibility, but certainly even that is kind'a "iffy."

So imagine my surprise when I found myself offering to create an index for a 600 page genealogy book. That meant finding every name in the book and inputting it along with each page number where it appears into a computer database.  It was a long project that needed doing, and since I was one of the few who had ever had any experience indexing on a computer, it seemed only right for me to loan my fingers to the project.

If I had any doubts about my ability to stick with it, I knew that my sense of responsibility was stronger than my dread of sameness.  If an index was needed, I would see that one was available!

The final count of names was somewhere around 15,000.  My fingers flew on the keys.  I zipped through those pages one by one - staying up sometimes well past my bedtime just to get another couple hundred into the database.  I canceled lunches with friends because I wanted to get more pages done.  During the time I worked on the index, I left my books unread and my social life unattended.  I can't remember when I had such fun!  That project took a while to finish, but doing it was as much fun at the end as at the beginning.  Next to counted cross-stitch, it was the most repetitious thing I had ever done.  Amazingly, I loved every minute of it.

In fact, since that time I have indexed many more books.  Of all the hobbies I have had in the course of my adult life, and there have been many, far and away the most satisfying to me has been this one - indexing.

To all appearances indexing names should be a monotonous, no-brainer job.  It looks like the very kind of job I should stay away from, the very kind I always have, in fact, hated to do.  But there must be something inside me that really likes to bring order out of chaos, that likes to grab the thrown gauntlet.  Maybe it is doing something that no one else can or wants to do.  Maybe it is just ending up the hero.

Now I don't think that I have changed, but I do know I have found another dimension of myself that I had not known was there.  I have always maintained that as we age, we had best look for all the new experiences we can find.  But I had more been thinking in the line of finally being brave enough to tackle riding a roller-coaster.  Nevertheless, we older folk needn't allow ourselves to be rigid and predictable, always doing the same things because we have always done them.

Up against something we have never done before, we might as well give it a try.  Seniors need not always be the same people we think we are, and the change coming around the next corner may just hold a wonderfully soul-satisfying surprise.  Maybe it won't be indexing, but then, who knows?

Friday, June 6, 2014


Don't let the "headline" or the graphic lead you astray.  I wouldn't be so crass as to lay out a medical problem – unless it was a true story about a child (or a crazy adult) who swallowed some kind of electronic item and while it was mid-body in its travels started losing battery power and was trying to let someone know.  Now THAT would be a reportable item for my blog.

But no, the bowels I am mentioning today are merely either the area deep inside my very large purse, or in my very crowded apartment.  You would think a beeping signal would be easy to find.  Now if Jerry were the only person living in this apartment, a single heard beep would lead him to exactly to the sound.  He has lots of "plusses" in his make-up; among the best is that he always puts things back where they belong – you know, one of those "a place for everything and everything in its place" kind of person.  He has the DNA of an engineer.  (I have always said that it is lucky he married me because I have spent all this time trying to teach him to be a little more loosey-goosey – a release of his more creative side.)  But he is not really amenable to that, as he likes order very, very much!

Early this morning a single beep from somewhere in our aural vicinity presented itself.  I was on the computer and I did not hear it.  But Jerry did.  What could it be, he asked me?  He and I both know that it has to be either one of two cell phones, my iPod, our landline handset, or, quite possibly, from a piece of equipment that we didn't know ever beeped. 

We each have our strong suits that help us navigate through life, but dealing with electronic things is not one of them.  Right now we have hopes of someday being hooked up to Wi-Fi so I can use my iPod for something other than listening to music.  I have several family members working on this, but when they arrive to get me set up they find I am missing another VIP (very important part).  We are now into month 6 of this effort. ( I do think it is a shame to be so dumb as to need grandchildren to keep one relevant!)  In the meantime, a tiny airplane icon has arrived on the top left side of my iPod screen.  Perhaps it beeped when it arrived and it was one of the beeps we had to ignore because we couldn't find it.  This makes me wonder why I put my family through all this for Wi-Fi when I don't really know what something as simple as an airplane icon means. 

So sometimes it may be the iPod beeping, but sometimes it is one of the phones.  We are smart enough to know that if we can't find our cell phone we can use our land line to call it, and if the battery is still running we'll have it in no time.  However, we did not know that our land line also has a built in beep, so mostly we remain in a state of confusion. 

Occasionally, and what must have happened this morning. is that some extraneous beep from outdoors happened to be loud enough for Jerry to hear it and assume it was one of our pieces of equipment trying to get our attention.  This has happened in restaurants too, and when it does, I spend 15 minutes or so digging through the bowels of my purse trying to locate either my phone or my iPod, only to discover it was not my beep!

Ah me, life has become so complicated.  Think of life before beeps.  It was a simple life.  We didn't feel deprived.  But having once experienced little machines that do good things in between beeps, we just can't go backwards to simplify our existence.  The simple solution to most wayward beeps is so easy: put things in their place when you set them down!  That's not a hard thing for Jerry to remember, but oh,doing that is  SO out of character for me!