Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 4th 2009, and The Passing of Icons of Our Generation

Copyright 2015, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

We just celebrated Independence Day 2009 a few days ago, a joyous occasion for all Americans. Many of us celebrated with food and fireworks at local community events or backyard Bar-B-Ques. Most of us also watched (or recorded and re-played) the fireworks and musical events from Washington DC and Boston on TV. Both shows were spectacular. My husband and I went to a local festival near where we live in AZ to watch a few minutes of fireworks, then came home and watched the National shows on TV. My daughter Michelle, her husband and kids went to the big show on Tempe Town Lake in AZ for fireworks and live music. A good time was had by all.

In the past week, as a country we have also lost and laid to rest two celebrities who were national Icons.....Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Both were major figures of my young adult years. My first daughter grew up on Michael Jackson's music. The Jackson 5 burst upon the scene as a group when I was still in high school, and Michael Jackson had emerged as the "King of Pop" by the time my daughter Michelle was in Jr. High and High School. Who can ever forget Michael Jackson's moonwalk dancing moves, or his music? Who will ever forget Farrah's gorgeous smile, or that hair? They will forever live on in history as two of the biggest stars of their time. Michael Jackson's music will be his lasting legacy; artists will be singing and playing his music for generations to come (not to mention the karaoke-ers).

Some of us are feeling our mortality, with the passing of these two legends. Though this is primarily a genealogy blog, I feel compelled to also make note of the historical events of my lifetime as they occur. Yesterday morning, watching the live television coverage of Michael Jackson's memorial service was a moving and memorable event. It touched all our hearts, across the country and around the world, to hear his brother Jermaine Jackson sing Michael's favorite song, "Smile". It brought us all to tears when his 11 year old daughter spoke in public for the first time, tearfully proclaiming her love for her daddy. As many Icons do, Michael Jackson had a turbulent and troubled life...yet in death he managed to bring us all together to mourn his passing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weekend Escape- SCGS Jamboree 2009

Copyright 2009, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

This Blog is written primarily as my own personal diary of my progress in furthering an interest in genealogy and compiling my family tree. I don't write entries every day, and don't necessarily write for the reading enjoyment of others. I do hope to pick up some readers along the way, especially family members. So far only one close relative has shown even a remote interest in genealogy, my cousin JoAnn who lives in Texas. So, I am still the Lone Ranger, and have thus bestowed myself with the title of Family Historian. For my family, I am the historian. My hope is that one of the grand-children or future great-grandchildren in the family will one day become infected with the genealogy bug, and will be glad to have all of the information that I have compiled.

Last weekend, I attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's big JAMBOREE in Burbank, CA...a 3 day fun event. I flew out to SoCal from Phoenix on Thursday evening, and enjoyed a 4 day stay at the Burbank Airport Marriott, where the conference was being held. The adjacent Convention Center was filled with genealogy vendor exhibits of all sorts, selling useful products and services to aid everyone in researching their family trees. There were also representatives there from many of the major American Patriotic Societies, including Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), Colonial Dames, Daughters of Union Veterans, and many others. I stopped by their booths and signed up as an "interested prospective member"; since this is the year that I do intend to finally follow-through with that long held goal of honoring my ancestors through participation in the relevant patriotic societies based on my lineage. I was already working on my DAR membership documentation, and hope to get that one completed this summer. While at Jamboree, I took my USB flash drive to one vendor to have a nice 10-generation wall chart printed of my family tree, larger and nicer than I could have done myself on my home printer.

The Jamboree included seminars and workshops given by leaders in the Genealogy realm. The esteemed and highly educated and respected speakers were very knowledgable, and entertaining as well as enlightening. We learned all sorts of things, from the best online research sites; to how to organize a research project; to how to best digitize photos and documents to include in a family book; to overviews of the latest updates in all of the major genealogy repositories, research sites, online tools, and family tree software.

We also had a lot of fun. There were lunches, dinners, and banquets. There was the Marriott itself, a recently remodeled luxury hotel with great food and great room service. Not being an early riser myself, most mornings I enjoyed the luxury of having my pre-ordered breakfast delivered to my room at my designated time. I enjoy nothing more on a mini-vacation than awakening to a hot pot of coffee and a nice breakfast delivered to my room, to savor at my lesiure while beginning my preparations for the day ahead. I usually skipped lunch in favor of a refreshing nap in my room between the morning and afternoon seminars, or used that time to browse the vendor booths. Evenings were my time for a bit of socializing at the dinners and banquets (where we networked and met new friends, and were enlightened and entertained over dinner by selected speakers). Following dinner, I usually retreated to my room to peruse my shopping acquisitions of the day (various genealogy books, booklets, pamphlets, and CD's); and to of course check my email and Facebook postings.

Last but not least, I usually checked in on my Facebook "farm" on "Farmtown" before going to bed, and made sure my farmtown neighbors were not neglecting to water my flowers and pull my weeds in the fun virtual farming community we "live" in. I tried to send out my daily "farm gifts" as well, lest my farmtown neighbors neglect to send me any. Farmtown is just one of the many little game diversions to be found on Facebook, and those of us who spend a lot of time on the web and doing online research need those small diversions of social communicating with other Facebook friends that these games provide. I tend to the farms of my Facebook Farmtown neighbors, and they tend to mine. My Farm has grown quite large; I am currently a Level 26 Farmer and just acquired the Big White Farmhouse, of which I am very proud. However, I am still an ambitious farmer and have a ways to go yet...I am jealous of some of my neighbors with bigger and fancier farms. I want the meandering river with bridges, and gazebos and greenhouses, that I see on their farms! Must keep harvesting those crops to get more coins and get rich enough to acquire those items! In short, I am a Farmtown Addict!! All of this time and effort spent on "farming" does detract from the amount of time I could be spending on genealogy, of course. However, it also provides breaks and a fun diversion, which helps to stimulate those groggy brain cells after hours of staring at old census records online. One of my favorite excuses for avoiding drudgery is: "I can't clean the house right now, I have to harvest my Farmtown crops!". In fact, as I write this blog crops are calling, need to go hire a crew to harvest soon!

In summary, I really enjoyed going to the SCGS Jamboree, and have greatly enjoyed discovering Facebook and that online genealogy community as well. In fact, Facebook is how I discovered the Jamboree to begin with. I just got on Facebook a little over a month ago, and have connected with almost 100 new genealogy friends in that time. Facebook also enabled me to re-connect with a few old highschool friends. It keeps me in the loop with relatives; since no one really wants to email or snail mail anymore these days...everyone is on Facebook! I originally joined Facebook to check up on a wayward college student daughter who is off at college in another city; however that quickly fell by the wayside as I focused on genealogy networking. I can honestly say that Facebook is to be credited with re-igniting my interest in genealogy that had been dormant for years. It also got me hooked on playing Farmtown, but there are worse habits to be afflicted with.

Genealogists are a quirky bunch. Some people have hobbies such as collecting coins, or building model airplanes, or quilting, or singing karaoke, or playing video games. Many of us have those hobbies too. However, a genealogist's favorite pastime and form of "fun" is finding long-lost ancestors in census records, discovering a Revolutionary War Patriot ancestor for the first time, or finding a photo of the cemetary headstone of a great-great-great-grandparent. Only a genealogist would understand the "happy dance" that ensues, following one of those discoveries.

The following quote from Family Tree Magazine, written by Allison Stacy (Publisher/ Editorial Director) describes it best: "You can tell someone's a genealogist if the person engages in certain behaviors- spending weekends at the library, for instance, or visiting cemeteries with a surprising amount of enthusiam. I showed my true colors after the sudden collapse of Cologne, Germany's city archive: Whereas the average person would see the desrtruction and say ' What a disaster! ' or, ' Wow, I hope no one got hurt ', my initial reaction was to ask, ' Gee, I wonder how many of those records are on microfilm' ".

In closing, I would like to take the liberty of sharing a link to the Blog postings of Elizabeth O'Neal, below, as shared by Randy Seaver on Facebook. Elizabeth funnily describes the Jamboree experience with affectionate humor as "JamStock 09", saying it so much better than I can. Vist Elizabeth's genealogy blog at to read about the following:

"* JAMSTOCK '09: What REALLY Happened at the Geneablogger Dinner

* JAMSTOCK '09: Son of Blogger Jamfest Rocks the Marriott


* JAMSTOCK '09: Genealogists Stage Sit-In

* JAMSTOCK '09: Let the Love Begin! "

I intend to become a follower of Elizabeth's humorous blog now, too! Genealogy can be such a serious business, it is refreshing to read a humorous take on the collective community of all of us Hopelessly Hooked Genealogists.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Remembrance: Legacy of John P. Harrison & The Frisco Railroad

                Copyright 2009, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)


In honor of Father's Day just passed, I have decided to contribute an article on my paternal grandfather, John P. Harrison, 1865- 1942 . My grandfather died long before I was born. However, I have come to know the essence of the man through reading his journal, and from oral memories related to me by my father and my aunt.

John Pettis "Pinkney" Harrison was born 4 March 1865, in DeSoto, Missouri. His parents were John Milton Harrison (Union Civil War Veteran) and Mary Jane Coppedge, of Maries County, Missouri. John was born during the final years of the Civil War, shortly before the Confederate resistance ceased and the war ended.

In about 1894, John married Susannah "Susan" Allen of Phelps County, Missouri. He was about 29 years of age, and she was 19, when they wed. They became the parents of nine children, one of whom died in early childhood. At the time of their marriage, Grover Cleveland was President of the United States; Thomas Edison had just demonstrated the first moving-picture camera; and Hawaii had just become recognized as a republic.

John was a proud, hard-working family man. He came from Missouri farm stock, and had been instilled with a strong work ethic by his own parents. John grew up on a farm, but later earned his living with the "Frisco" railroad in Missouri, (officially known as the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad Company). This railroad originally bore the name of the Atlantic & Pacific before the Civil War. John began his life-long railroad career with the "Frisco" in 1892, at the age of about 25, and approximately two years prior to his marriage to Susan. At about the time of his marriage, the railroads were embroiled in a nationwide strike and labor dispute overseen by the powerful American Railway Union. It is not known whether John was at that time among the 150,000 members of this union, but this strike surely affected his early career. John later became a member of the Brotherhood Of Linemen & Engineers union. In the year 1921, John's wage statement from the railroad indicates that he earned a total income of $2133.44 for that year. His children recalled that throughout John's career and union membership, there were many railroad labor disputes resulting in strikes and layoffs affecting John and his family. John worked hard and provided adequately for his wife and many children throughout his railroad career, though frugality was the norm. There were times of financial harship, especially during the Depression years.

John P. Harrison left behind a simple journal, entitled "Ledger", in which he briefly recorded the momentous events of his lifetime, as well as his employment record and history with the "Frisco". In this journal, John also recorded family records, recipes, and his favorite home remedies for medicinal purposes and houshehold repair. One of John's favorite poulstices was "A good Linement For Man Or Beast: To a pint of kerosene, add five-cents worth of camphor gum and let stand overnight. Add one half pint of sweet oil, shake well and it is ready for use. For burns, stiff neck and sore throat it has no equal. Fine for raw sores on man or beast".

Regarding his railroad career, John wrote in his journal simply: "Seniority on RR: Began as Fireman at Newburg, MO on Frisco from Aug 1, 1892 to Feb 4, 1895. - As Fireman at DeSoto, MO on Iron Mountain from Dec 15, 1895 to Feb 4th, 1900. Permoted (sp) and Engineer from Feb 4th, 1900 to about Jan 1903- the date I have not got. Then hired as Engineer at Cape Giradeau (MO) Oct 2nd, 1903. Resigned Oct 1, 1906. Rehired same place March 13th, 1907. Was taken out of service by same officials at Chaffee (MO) on Nov 23rd, 1923. Reinstated on Dec 16th (1923) with all seniority rights. Then taken out again same charges by officials at Springfield (MO) and reinstated with all seniority rights on 23rd January, 1924. Cut of Engineers about 1933, date I haven't got. Placed on crossing watchman job in St. Louis (MO) on June 27th, 1933, and retired at age 70 on pencion (sp) May 31st, 1935. " There had apparently been some kind of a labor-related dispute in which John was involved, during which time his credibility as an engineer had been questioned. Perhaps this had to do with a railway accident of some sort? We do not know. However, the issue was later resolved in John's favor, and his position and seniority were restored.

What is unspoken in John's brief account of his railroad career above, is that John and Susan Harrison raised their family during the years of the Great Depression. Their youngest children, one of which was my father Marvin Milton Harrison, had vivid memories of the hardships exprienced by John and Susan Harrison and their family during those Depression era years. John was apparently lucky enough to remain employed with the railroad and working steadily to provide for his family during most (but not all)of the Depression. Still, times were tough for everyone. My father, Marvin, recalls many meals consisting of "just beans and biscuits, and glad to get it". John was "taken out of service" for a period of time during the Depression, however we do not know if this was due to a union labor dispute, or due to financial cutbacks and layoffs experienced by the railroad. This did result in financial hardship for the family, at a time when John was in his sixties and nearing retirement, and John's wife was in seriously ill-health.

As yet, I have been unable to obtain copies the railroad company's records as this railroad is now defunct, and their records from that period of time were not preserved. However, we do have the records preserved by John himself. In his journal/ ledger, John recorded a receipt for financial assistance he received from his union brothers at the B. of L. E. during the Depression-era, on August 2nd, 1930. About 40 of John's union brotherhood had donated funds with the following message: "On account of sickness in his family for the past year, and having been out of service since June 20 (1930), and being in need of financial assistance, We the undersigned members of the B. of L.E. wish to contribute the amounts opposite our names to the relief of our Brother, John P. Harrison". John's wife Susan died 3 years later from a long-term illness.

John spent the majority of his railroad career as a Lineman and Engineer. Shortly before his wife's death, John was transferred with the railroad to St. Louis, MO for a position as a crossing watchman in 1933. There he ramined until his retirement two years later in 1935, at age 70. John was extremely proud of his life-long career with the railroad. He saved his retirement pension notice and tucked it into his journal/ ledger. John's last hand-written entry in his journal reads: "Thanks a lot. I am well pleased. Glod Bless the Frisco."

John also left instructions in his ledger for family to follow at his passing. John wrote: "This is my request to whom it may concern: at past the age of 70, at my death please don't bury me at DeSoto. I don't care to be buried there.- just anyplace else that is most convenient to you. And, please bury me in just a blue suit of over-clothes like I wore to make a living for my family. Don't let the funeral cost over $100, as that is enough to bury me when times is so hard as ever. (signed)- John P. Harrison, 2901 Caroline St., St. Louis, MO. John, ever frugal, later added a post-script as follows: "P.S.- I prefer to be cremated. That will cost $50. Don't care what is done with the ashes". John's family honored his final wishes. His ashes were interred at a cemetery in St. Louis, MO.

At the time of John's passing, Franklin D. Roosevelt was President of the U.S., and the nation was embroiled in WWII. I have no personal memories of the grandfather that I never met, but feel fortunate that my aunt preserved his ledger/diary so that future generations would get to know some glimpse of the character of their ancestor. It enables me to comprehend the emotional scars that the Great Depression left on the people who lived through it, including my own father; who like his father John P. Harrison was a frugal man to the end.