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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

So Past Obsessed, I Didn't Blog for 5 Years!

I'm not even going to mention it. Let's not talk about it, really. It's been awhile. Five years actually. So, we'll just pick up where I left off, and pretend life didn't intervene dramatically.


The title of my blog, is "The Past Obsession." And believe it, I am "past obsessed." I can be on my way home from work, at the grocery store, or cooking dinner. Anywhere, and pieces of history, genealogy or research, can pop into my head. In fact, I'm not allowed to do research within an hour of bedtime, otherwise I won't sleep well.

While I've been researching my genealogy now for close to 25 years, I've been getting serious about the whole field lately. I've bought books, I follow dozens of blogs on Feedly, listen to podcasts on Stitcher (especially Extreme Genes!), and watch youtube channels, and Google hangouts, especially Dear Myrtle's hangouts. I'd love to do genealogy and research in general all the time, but alas, I suppose I need to work, sleep, and do a few other things in life.

So I've added to my library this year, in a serious manner. Here are the titles that I've bought:

Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, 3rd ed, rev.

The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, ed by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, 3rd ed.

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood, 4th ed.

Genealogical Proof Standard, Building a Solid Case by Christine Rose, 4th ed, rev.

Genealogy Standards by Board for Certification of Genealogists, 50th Anniversary ed.

Professional Genealogy:  A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Ancestry's Red Book, by Alice Eichholz, rev ed.

Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones

That is a list of some pretty heavy stuff, quite a few of the essentials of the genealogy world. So, it's going to take me some time to get through all of these I think.  And (un)fortunately spring is on the way, or it should be, and I'll get distracted. But I intend to focus on the things that are really important to me, life is too short to do otherwise.

Happy hunting everyone!


Copyright © 2018 Matt Mapes

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Long Time...No Post...

Okay, so it's been awhile. What can I say? The summer was pretty busy....and the nice weather we had in western Pennsylvania made it hard to be inside doing genealogy. Here's a recap of what's been done and been going since I last posted.


The whole family took a two week drive out to Yellowstone and back. It was awesome and we saw so many great and unique sites. We were also able to drive through eastern Montana, in the McCone County area, where some of my great grandmother's cousins (Coburn, Vondette and Seeley) homesteaded in the 1910's and 1920's. That must have been something to live back then out there. I can only imagine. Of course this is after they had already homesteaded on the Saskatchewan prairie in sod houses, no less. Amazing lives some people live!


I am descended from Robert Seeley who immigrated to this country in 1630. The Seeley Genealogical Society (see their website here, they are a terrific family organization, doing so much research on the family) had their international meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan this year. I wish I could have gone, but was just not able to. However, in their announcements of what was going on at the meeting, I saw a lecture by  Carol Seeley Scott about her book, The Eel Catcher's Travels: Robert Seeley 1602-1667. (see it at Amazon here)
I immediately bought the book and enjoyed it so very much. It uses all the facts that we know about Robert Seeley, which is a lot actually, and then it creates a historical fiction describing his life. It really brings the person alive for you. If you are descended from Robert Seeley, I would highly recommend this book.


If you didn't catch any of the episodes of Who Do You Think You Are, you missed out. See if you can find them to watch. They were quite enjoyable, if they do make genealogy look very easy. But some of the blogs around do have articles pointing out how many (sometimes hundreds) hours of research goes into those episodes. Right now I'm enjoying Genealogy Roadshow on PBS. It just started this week and you can find it on the PBS website. Very interesting concept!


I've been diving back into research and plugging along on my project to enter everything into my genealogy program. Now if only I didn't have to work for a living.... :)

Happy Researching!

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Well, I just caught up with the last episode of Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems podcast, and she read my email on the air about my blog! So I thought I better get on over here and write a post. It's a rainy day, luckily, otherwise I'd be outside.


We've been quite busy lately with the nice weather, and we are getting prepared for our driving trip from Pennsylvania to Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to fit too much genealogy into this trip. Most of my family stopped at Michigan and Indiana. However, some brothers and sisters of my great great grandmother, Sylvia Cobin Seeley Larue, did homestead for some time in McCone County, Montana in the 1910's and beyond. This was after they homesteaded in Saskatchewan. They must have been an adventurous lot! I hope to stop in Circle, Montana, to see the town where they lived. Maybe we can catch a cemetery as well.


Today was my kids last day of school. What fun for them! The whole summer is now theirs. I wish I had the summer off to do some things, like genealogy. Too bad that I am even more busy in the summer with everything to do outside, plus work and anything else inside. Hopefully will get to some family and genealogy research.

Hope you have more time to do genealogy than I do right now.

Happy Hunting...

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Friday, May 3, 2013

What is Genealogy to You?

I know, know....been busy, but I'm trying.


Have you ever laid awake at night thinking about genealogy? That's why my wife advises me to not look at genealogy too close to bed; sort of like caffeine, it just keeps me up. All the things that I need to look for churning around in my head. Trying to figure out some brick wall or road block.

But the worst things are when I think about the pictures or bibles or documents that are out there and I don't have. Maybe they are known artifacts which someone has, but are unwilling to provide me. Maybe they are artifacts which I know existed, but can't locate now. Those situations just churn my stomach up so much that I definitely can't get to sleep.

Where am I going with this? Well, so maybe it would be easier if everything was just handed to me on a silver platter, right? Here...this is all your genealogy, going back 10 generations, pictures of everyone, documents, etc. Enjoy. Thanks silver platter. You just ruined my hobby.

As much as I want to find everything out there related to my family. I want to be the one to find it. I want to piece it together, to have those moments where you feel you can do the genealogy happy dance, whether it's in a cemetery, library, or in your pajamas in your house at 2:00 in the morning. So I want the thrill of genealogy, but along with that thrill comes the tears. By this I mean the information, the pictures, the documents and the people that I will never find. I have to come to terms with that fact, that this puzzle will never have all of its pieces put together.

Heartbreak and joy. I guess I can handle that. It's better than getting handed my genealogy all done for me. That would so ruin the experience and I wouldn't know what to do with myself after that.

As a side note, I hope that this great transformation in genealogy where so much information is being put online and indexed, does not make genealogy too much easier. I've been worrying about that lately as well. Will it take the fun out of genealogy, just having so much just a click away? Hopefully not; but I guess we are going to have to take the bad with the good.

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Genealogy Gold at the Antique Store

Sorry about my long absence! Time flies when you're busy....

So we were in Michigan for Easter weekend, visiting my family. My daughter had some interest in going to an antique store, and I thought it wasn't a bad idea to check it out either, since there are a couple in the St. Louis/Wheeler area of Gratiot County, where so many of my relatives have lived since the 1850's. I thought I might try my luck in finding some family treasures that found their way to the antique store lineup. I have a number of families where pictures and other items are scarce and their whereabouts are unknown, due to families dying out, estate sales, etc.

Never in a million years did I think I would actually find something. But I did.

I was going through a box of old pictures, the ones where the paper picture is glued to a cardboard back (forgive my ignorance on what these kind of pictures are mind has not retained that piece of information today...). A number of the pictures were identified, some of the names I even recognized from the area, but had no connection to. There were pictures in there from other states as well, however.

Then I came across this one, written on the back was "Hopkins Family." Of course it is, because I actually have a reproduction that a distant relative sent me of this exact picture. The old man sitting in the middle is my 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Hopkins. I couldn't believe it. I let out a quick sigh, and my daughter notices and I show her the picture. Amazing.

Of course now, I'm on a mission. This antique store is divided up into shops, not easily distinguished. Every seller has a certain area, and they pay the owner of the store to sell their stuff there. I scour this person's area, every picture is looked at with keen eyes, and I come across two collateral line pictures, "Roscoe Hopkins" with what looks like one of his wives (he is one of the men in the first picture I found) son of Thomas Hopkins; and "Eugene and Matie Milligan," Matie being a Becker by birth and granddaughter of Thomas Hopkins, her mother Margie Hopkins Becker, and also in that first family picture.

That was all I found. I could not physically identify anyone else and there were no other names that popped out at me. I was grateful to find those three. I had seen, as I said earlier, the large family picture. But the other two were unknown to me.

I just wish I knew their history. How did they come to be in this antique shop?  Luckily, the lady who owned this spot in the store came in before I left, and I was able to speak to her. Unfortunately, she had no idea where they came from. She bought things from estate sales all over Michigan. Dead end there.

Interestingly, this is the family I would most likely find pictures of at an antique store, I believe. The last two children of the Thomas Hopkins family to die, were Roscoe Hopkins and William Hopkins. They had lost their wives, or first wives, at least, and had no children. I was told by a distant relative that at one of their estate sales, people were buying beautiful old pictures in frames, just for the frames, and this distant relative was trying to ask the people for the pictures before they were thrown away. How sad and tragic an end to family treasures. But some how, a few pictures trickled in here and there, and someone like me can even find some genealogy gold at the antique store.

Moral of the story? Never stop looking and never give up, gold is found in the most unexpected places.

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes