My Grandpa and Amelia Earhart

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-2-17-14-pmMy Grandpa, Leo Gotcher, was a quiet man with a great sense of adventure. One of the few stories he ever told was about how he met Amelia Earhart when we was young. Growing up we always thought this was fascinating and never questioned the validity of his story. As an adult family researcher though, I had a lot of questions about this story. We all knew that grandpa was a pilot, in fact he owned several airplanes over the course of his life. But for the timing to match up he would have been a teenager and during his teen years he lived in York, Nebraska; a very small town, which begs the question how would he have met Ms. Earhart.

Leo Gotcher was born on November 2, 1917, in Omaha, Nebraska. He had four older brothers and then a younger sister. His father, Charles, died in a car wreck on August 16, 1925 when Leo was only seven. His mother, Katherine, remarried quickly and had three more boys with John Dillon, her second husband. All nine children lived with the Dillons in York County Nebraska until John Dillon died of cancer in 1936.

In 1934, Leo was enrolled in the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps. He was put to work planting trees and fixing roads in Nebraska. Most of his pay was sent home to his mom. He did that until he turned 18, so for about a year, and then he started working on a farm in York County where he met my Grandma, who was a one room school teacher. He was thirteen years younger than she was; yes, thirteen years. He was 20 and she was 34. After they married he went to work in Oregon, which he fell in love with. At least one of his older brother’s had already moved out there. A few years later they moved back to Nebraska to farm Grandma’s family farm.screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-2-17-22-pm

Amelia Earhart took off on her ill-fated flight around the world in March of 1937. So when and where did Grandpa and Ms. Earhart cross paths? I searched the internet for years to no avail. But then, last summer I was in York on a quick research trip and stopped in at the Local Historical Museum. As I was searching for other stories, the librarian handed me some local history books to look through. And lo and behold, in one of them was a story about Amelia Earhart landing in York, Nebraska in May of 1931. In the book was a picture of her and then a picture of her Beech Nut sponsored airplane surrounded by young teenage boys and men. I just knew one of those young teen boys was my grandpa Leo. He would have been 13 at that time. The librarian then found an old newspaper article that explained why Amelia had made a pit stop at York’s grass airport. She was on a trip to the Pacific in her Autogyro plane she called the “Windmill”. She had taken off in Omaha that morning planning to make it to Grand Island before refueling but a strong head wind had made it necessary to land at the Hagood Airport in York for refueling.

This was such an awesome find and great confirmation on my grandpa’s story. I can just imagine a young airplane crazy boy in 1931 being enthralled with Amelia Earhart and her plane. By the time he was about twenty-one he was flying his own airplanes. Other relatives have told stories about his crazy plane stunts; flying low to the ground and shooting coyotes over the side, landing the plane on the back of a hay trailer, even crashing a few times. My grandma finally made him give up his planes sometime in the ‘50s. By the time I knew him he was a mature farmer who rarely talked but I could always tell he still had a barely caged sense of adventure. One of my favorite memories of time spent with him was when he took me for a ride on his motorcycle; flying down the dirt roads, and for just that space of time he was young and free again!

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Research, Organization, and Sharing

As I start to plan getting back into genealogy research and starting to write the book in my head I run into the same problems that trip me up at the beginning of this process every time: Organization.

When I first started genealogy research I kept paper research in file folders but mostly I my tree and research organized with Family Tree Maker on my PC and did research on familysearch.org.  When I could afford it I would pay for a month or two of ancestry.com and research as much as possible there.  Years later I switched to a Mac computer and mostly kept my research on ancestry.com.  I had a hard time finding a genealogy software for MAC that I liked.  Finally Family Tree Maker came out with a MAC version and I thought with their new Sync options I would finally be organized and happy.  But it has never worked out for me and now I have found out that Family Tree Maker is shutting down and will no longer sync with ancestry.com (which never worked out for me anyway).

Here is my problem.  During my early days when researching on ancestry I sometimes added people from someone else’s shared tree and at that time ancestry had the option of merging the whole family from the shared tree; which I did without thoroughly sourcing the other people I was adding.  Also, over the years I would do research for other members of my extended family.  I now have some family history on my brother’s wife’s family, my sister’s husband’s family, my mother in law’s ex-husband’s family, my other mother in law’s family, my brother-in-laws ex-wife’s family, my sister-in-law’s husband’s family, my great uncle’s wife’s family, and several others.  Which was great fun but it has made my tree rather large and unshapely.  I have 7,283 people in my tree.  And then I added pictures, 2,536 to be exact.

All of this research has been on my public ancestry tree for years but it has gotten so out of hand and sometimes I find people that are just not supposed to be on my tree so I delete them but they had ancestor’s and descendants that are now unconnected but floating around my tree.  This can keep an OCD person awake at night.  And don’t even get me started on those dratted shaking leaves they call hints!

So a few years ago I bought the new Family Tree Maker for MAC with sync. I tried to download my online public tree but no only did it lock my computer up but in the end it didn’t download my sources or pictures.  So then I download the gedcom and added it to family tree maker thinking I would add everything to my FTM software and then sync it up to ancestry but when I did that it actually synced with the tree that was already there and totally screwed it up.  So last year I thought I should just start over using only my FTM software, use ancestry for research but don’t sync.  This solves the research and the organization problems but takes away the share option.  I have gained so my connections and new relatives by sharing what I have.  Of course this year I have also found that people have begun downloading my pictures and uploading them without my “uploaded by” name instead of sharing from my tree which is really quite annoying.  So I privatized my tree for that reason and also because I know there are issues with my tree.  About halfway through the year I kind of gave up.  The idea of starting over was overwhelming.

Last week we found out that Family Tree Maker was going bye-bye.  I don’t want to put a bunch of time and energy into creating a family tree on software that will no longer be sold or updated.

So I can start over again on a new software which means learning a new software or I can start over again on ancestry.com which I know, or I can find another online place for my tree.  Here is why I am thinking about finding another online place for my tree.  Shareability.  I have found that although my public tree is available to others who have ancestry subscriptions and that has been good for me in the past, it isn’t available to my family members who don’t have a subsriptions.  And with the picture pirating issues as well it really makes me long to find another online site to build my tree.  I also don’t like the print options that ancestry provides.  I would like to have good options to print trees and reports from my computer like FTM has.   The problem against finding another website is that I already pay for an ancestry subscription and as ancestry is the “walmart” one stop shopping of genealogy research I won’t be giving this subscription up anytime soon.  If I decide to share my tree on a different site are there any that will allow large files without a subscription?

I’m also realizing that it is still important to keep paper records and family group sheets in binders.  Software may come and go, internet sites may lose their desirability but hard copies will always have value as long as they are organized.

I would love to hear feedback on what you think I should use.  A perfect format would allow me to research, organize and share all in one place.  Also, have any of you tried watermarking your pictures?

 

 

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Genealogy Organization and the Big Move ~ Motivation Monday

We sold our House!!!  Which is great.  But I didn’t realize how much genealogy stuff I had accumulated until I started boxing it up to move.  Wow!  And I have some big decisions to make.  So here is the deal.

We have decided that, at least for now, we are not going to get internet or cable at our house in the woods.  Currently my office houses the business office, the homeschool, personal office, and genealogy stuff.  I am moving the business office and homeschool to the little house we own right next to our donut shop in town which does have internet.  We built a small office at our house in the woods and I planned to move my genealogy stuff there and decorate it the way I want for Family History.  But that will mean keeping my current research on my laptop so I can access the internet when I am in town.  I know many people still do this – they don’t have internet at home so they use the library – but I haven’t had to research this way since dial up days.  Some days I think maybe I should just keep all of my genealogy stuff in town.

The other thing that must be done but which frustrates me into giving up every time I work with it is that I must re-install family tree maker on my laptop and sync with ancestry so I can work with my research at home.  My tree is so large and has so much media that it locks up my computer every time I try to sync so I may have to, heaven forbid, start over – or lose the pictures which took me months to upload.

I am looking forward to having more time to work on genealogy after the move and I am open to suggestions and advice during this transition.

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Treasure Chest Thursday ~ Blessed with Pictures

I have spent the last two months organizing, title-ing, face tagging, and key wording all of my digital genealogy pictures.  And once again I am in awe of how blessed I am to have such a treasure trove of ancestral photos.   I have over 5,000 genealogy pictures and most of them have a story to tell.  And now I have them organized so that it will be easier to create story books, and write blog posts about them.  Honestly, my brain is overwhelmed with so many possibilities and stories!  Today I am going to post just a few of my favorite, and most interesting, pictures.

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Kid Mallory

IMG_0262When doing research last year on my Grandma Mabel’s sister Mary I discovered that Mary’s husband Harold had written and published a western novel.  Of course, right away I ordered the book on ebay but I hadn’t had time to read it until recently.

Kid Mallory was published in 1981 with the lead in;  “Hell broke loose when he faced a gang of killers in the showdown at the Circle 8.”

It is a typical western.  The good guy chases the bad guy(s) and there is a shootout where the good guy wins.  Sometimes the good guy gets hurt in the chase and meets a beautiful young lady.  All this happens in Kid Mallory.  Throw in a little conspiracy and honor and overall it is a worthwhile read even for those like me that aren’t usually western readers.

39acaf21-11cd-46b9-b172-add74d94ab3eWhat amazed me while reading this book was the detail Mr. White used in talking about Kid’s surroundings.  I don’t think he had any real experience with the southwest that he greatly details in his book.  Harold was born and raised in Nebraska.   After he married my great aunt Mary they moved to Yakima, Washington where they both lived the rest of other lives.    Hal was a veterinarian by trade.

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Losing Landmarks

3077546905_7839297aef The Camelot at the highway exit near my home growing up; The church I got married in as well as the hotel we spent our first night in as a married couple; The farmhouse of my paternal grandparents that had been built by my great grandpa in 1904; The farmhouse of my maternal grandparents that I had so many great memories of; The first restaurant I worked at, the Sonic I carhopped at and the sports cafe I worked at when I was dating Jason.

I’m losing the landmarks of my youth.  When I drive around the town that I grew up in I am more surprised that something is still there than I am when something else disappears.

The Camelot was a Tulsa Landmark hotel built in 1965 that was demolished a couple of years ago to widen the highway.

New Life Center at 41st and Harvard where we were married in 1992 is now a funeral home and the Holiday Inn Express on Skelly drive where we spent our first night on our honeymoon was another victim of the highway widening.

gotcher farm from air

When my Grandma Gotcher died in ’98 the farm that had been in her family for over 100 years was sold and soon after the farmhouse built in 1904 “accidentally” burned down.  In fact if you drive by the old property now you would never know there was a homestead there for so long.

McConaughy FarmhouseI have so many great memories of times spent with my grandparents and cousins at my Maternal Grandparents farmhouse.  Sadly it burned down a couple of years ago.   My cousins were living there at the time and luckily no one was hurt – including the dog who miraculously lived through the fire…swimming in the basement.  They call him the miracle dog now.

When I was 17 I started my first waitressing job at the local restaurant at 51st and Peoria, Po Folks.  So many great memories working there and growing into an adult but it is has been gone for a long time.  As well as the local Sonic I carhopped at the next year.  And recently the Sports Cafe I worked at when I was dating Jason was demolished.  It hadn’t been a sports cafe for a long time but every time I drove by I would remember the fun times when I worked there.

And I guess that is what bothers me.  I love driving around the town I have lived in most of my life and remembering the fun times I’ve had.  I tell myself all the cliches – “This is the price of progress”, “Nothing lasts forever”, “Time goes on” yada, yada, yada.    I get it but it still makes me sad.

So as part of my new 2015 resolutions I am resolving to rediscover my town…Tulsa!  I will discover new places and make new memories.

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Family Friends Friday ~ Florence Grace Miller

Florence Miller and Karen

Florence and Karen

Christmas always brings back memories of childhood for me.  When I was a young child we sometimes spent Christmas at my grandparents farm in Iowa.  There was an older lady that lived in their house, named Florence.  I loved Florence.  She lived downstairs in the large farmhouse and my grandparents lived upstairs.  She spoiled me just like my grandparents did.  I remember spending time with her; she would read to me patiently and I am sure this is where I caught my love for reading.  I also remember she loved birds. She had a cuckoo clock and she had bird albums she would play on her record player.  And every Christmas she would give us really big Christmas presents.  I remember one year we couldn’t make the trip from Oklahoma to Iowa so she mailed us our gifts.  The box was really big and at the bottom of the box was about an inch of hard candy.

Florence and Karen

Florence and Karen

I was really the only grandchild that really knew Florence.  She died in January of 1979.  My brother was 4 and I was 7; none of the other kids were born yet.  But, although Florence never married and had kids of her own, she was also grandma to my mom and her siblings.  I have heard a lot of stories about Florence over the years in my mom’s memories.  So this year I thought maybe I would write them down and share them.  I worry that, after me, future generations might not know about Florence.  Even most genealogists might miss her because they usually focus on their direct lines.  It saddens me to think that the world might forget such a sweet generous lady.

Florence 1964

Florence 1964

Florence Grace Miller was born July 21, 1899 in Morley, Iowa.  She was the only child of Henry Delbert “Del” and Elizabeth “Myrtle” Farnham Miller.  They had a son in 1892 that died as an infant.  Del was a farmer and by the time of his death in 1946 he owned five farms.  For work, Florence was a teacher.  In the 1940 census she is renumerated as a public school teacher and lodger in Nichols, Muscatine, Iowa.  After her dad died she was a teacher in Morley at the high school and later was the superintendent.  Florence lived at home after her father’s death, remained single, and she took over management of the farms.  She rented out the home farm to my Grandpa and when Grandpa married they moved into the farmhouse with Florence and her mom, Myrtle.  After my mom and some of her siblings came along Florence had the farmhouse renovated so that the upstairs was a full apartment and that is where my grandparents lived.    Florence was a constant presence in the life of my mother and her younger siblings.  She taught my mom and her sisters to play piano.  She enjoyed gardening and took in every stray cat that came to the farm.

When preparing for this post I asked my aunts for memories they had of Florence.  Birds was a common theme.  She even gave the girls bird models to build and learn the different kinds of birds.  And they also mentioned her love for stray animals.  And they remembered that Florence hated loud storms and would ask the girls to come down and keep her company while they were on.  My Aunt Jan said it best though.  She said “She always encouraged me no matter what…. she thought I could do anything I wanted.”  I wish everyone could have a Florence in their lives.

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