Questions From The Peanut Gallery

My God, I am in such a pissy mood. I don’t want to be. What the hell is my problem? This is getting stupid. Can’t I even have one evening where I don’t get all depressed at some point or another?

It’s just little things, too. I finally decide to think about using the video capture card, and now I have no idea where my camcorder source tapes went. Something I’d been planning for Aaron’s birthday is threatening to go awry. I had three bratwursts for dinner because nothing sounded good. I want to clean my desk and have no idea how or where to start. That sort of thing. Little shit is getting me down, and it’s stupid. Then I get pissed at myself for letting a bunch of little shit get me down, and the cycle continues. Gyarr.

Gotta shake this funk.

In the interests of shaking the funk, I will now take questions from my good readership. Sheryl asks:

how did you get into geneology? how much would you say you spend on it?

i’m curious to know waaay back. i need to ask my grandfather what his parents’ names were and what their parents’ names were as far back as he can remember – he’s my oldest living relative, methinks. Wish i’d asked my aunt ginny while she was still alive :/

Well, Sheryl, that’s a good question, and Grandpa is a very good place for you to start.

As for me, I got into genealogy through the Mormon church. (‘Here we go,’ I can hear you groan…) See, the Mormon church has this idea that, in order to get to the absolute highest level of heaven, you have to be a Mormon. (Imagine that.) So, if your ancestors didn’t have the opportunity to be baptised during their lifetime, you baptise them posthumously, acting as proxy—that is, you go to the temple and do Baptism For The Dead.

Yes, I have done this. Yes, I now find it strange.

So, your goal as a good Mormon is to get the rest of your Eternal Family baptised and sealed to you For Time And All Eternity. Hence, genealogy.

When I was in Junior High, Mom got into genealogy, and took me with her to the genealogy workshops and the Western Reserve library and the Cleveland Library and various LDS genealogy centers, and we dug through spools of microfilm and sheets of microfiche looking at census records. That was mainly all we did, and the only cost was our time and whatever donation we opted to give to the place where we were researching.

See, Mom had pretty good info from her father (my Grandpa Cook) about the family—his parents, and their parents. He was a stickler for saving those In Memoriam cards and obituaries and programs and such, so he had a decent amount of info… we just had to find good old Grandpa Sharits in the 1880 Census.

I didn’t get into genealogy on my own until years after Mom had started to slack. In college, with the advent of the internet, I began doing some research on my own. I found sites like,, (an LDS search site), RootsWeb, and others. Years ago, when I first started using these sites, the vast majority of them were completely free; now, some of them have fees associated with searching certain databases. I actually do subscribe to the Census Records on, and I pay $12.95 a month for that access. (So, if any of my friends ever need any census records looked up, just ask me!)

Another site I found that was infinitely helpful was United States Vital Records Information. This is a listing of every state in the U.S., every county in those states, and every place to write for birth and death records. These records usually only cost maybe five or eight bucks, including postage, which means I’ve spent about… *counting vital records in my binder* …a smidge over $100 on vital records in the past several years combined.

Luckily, once you reach a certain point in your lineage, you’re bound to find someone with information that links up with yours. Unluckily, you still have to research it yourself, and can’t necessarily take one person’s word for it. I’ve hit snags like this with my Sharits research, finding different people with different opinions of who fathered John Sharrits back in the 1700’s.

For another flip of the lucky/unlucky coin, you have the fact that there is quite a bit on genealogical info online: census records, cemetery plotting, genealogy communities with biographical information, deeds and titles, things like that. The disappointing side of this is twofold: 1.) how do you know those records are accurate, especially if they were transcribed by a single person? 2.) at some point, the online info runs out and you have to either go to your couthouse of origin or do some mail-order genealogy.

So… how to start? For you, Sheryl, depending on how far back Grandpa can get you, I’d say 1.) order some birth and death certificates. Death certificates tell great stories, but since the person they’re about is dead, they’re not always completely accurate. Birth records are more accurate, but much more boring, IMO. 2.) If Grandpa gets you back to 1920 or further, look at the U.S. Census. (I’ll hook you up with my info if you want.) The U.S. Census is released 70-some-odd years after the fact, to protect the privacy of the people named therein. Meaning, most everybody named in the 1920 Census is dead (but not my Grandpa Cook!)

Those are my two main sources for the vast majority of my genealogical research. There are other possibilities, like church baptismal records, marriage certificates, land deeds, social security applications, obituaries, etc., but I find that most of the info I need is in either vital records or census records. It’s easiest to find there, anyway.

*whew* I just jabbered my depression away. How about that?

If you want any help with the Lineage Of Sheryl Stoller, just holla. Genealogy is fun… it’s like a logic problem that’s never over, or a mystery that’s never completely solved, or a book that you’ll never finish writing.

At least, I think it’s pretty keen.

Family Photos

memaw and grandpa, circa 1952

Well, I’ve successfully managed to adjust, upload, and order copies of 27 family photos. And, for you Photoshop geeks out there, I’ve only just now discovered the magic and majesty of the Healing Brush. To think I was using exclusively the cloning tool for so long! My life has just become a lot easier.

Anyway, I will soon have actual 4×6 prints of my great-great grandparents on down, also including some rare photos of Yours Truly in the late 80’s. Middle School was a scary time to witness. Maybe I’ll post the pics sometime when I’m feeling particularly sadistic.

Growing Up

Aunt Sammie, Michael, and Anne: February 2004

Oh my goodness. My little cousin Michael is an adult now, and has been for some time. He’ll be 20 in October. Wow.

I never had a real sibling growing up, so back then, Michael was the closest thing I had to a brother. He’s eight years younger than me, and has some psychological/behavioral issues—so, although I always loved and respected him, it wasn’t until he was well into his teens that I felt I could connect with him in a “grown-up” way.

Of course, after Mom married my first stepdad, I had two stepsisters and two stepbrothers, but only felt even remotely close to my one stepsister, Dawn, who was two years older than me. And once I was in college, Mom married Gary, at which point I got Philip as a stepbrother. He’s two years younger than Michael, but more socially well-adjusted. (Well, maybe I should just say he’s not autistic like Michael and leave it at that.)

Anyway, I didn’t really have the same kind of relationship with any of my step-siblings like I did with Michael, because I never really lived with them. I only lived with Michael until he was about four, but after Mom married Tom and we moved out, we still came over to visit every Sunday after church, and sometimes during the week. Then, when Mom divorced Tom, we moved back into the same apartment complex and would see or talk to the rest of the family multiple times a week. We were really a close family back then.

Now, look at us. Mom and Gary in Parma, me in Toledo, Sammie with her significant other in South Carolina, Michael nearby in a boys’ home, Memaw dead and gone, and none of us really keeping in touch very much—except when Mom and I talk every now and then, and visit on holidays and special occasions. There’s something kind of sad about that.

But I’ve strayed from my point, which was how much my little cousin Michael has grown. My goodness.

*shakes head*

Long-lost Relatives

Not long ago, I contacted my great-uncle’s case worker in Florida to see how he was doing in the nursing home there. I’m not technically his next-of-kin (my Memaw was his sister), but I’ve been told by my family that I’m his sole inheritor (if he had anything left to inherit). So, I feel obligated to check on him every now and again, to make sure he’s still hanging in there. He doesn’t write much, and he could never hear well, and he was never really all that mentally cohesive, for that matter. But his case manager, Patrick, said he’s doing OK. I told him that, if he ever felt the time was right and that Uncle Charlie could take the news, to go ahead and let him know that his sister died. Last year.

Man, do I feel like a dick.

Anyway, there’s one other relative to inform yet: my Uncle Donnie. Yep, that’s him on the left there. He’s my mother’s older brother—and he’s only 50, though he looks pretty bad these days. Uncle Donnie is a carney: a basically homeless vagrant who works for the carnivals as they come around. Ever since I was a very small child, I’ve known that Uncle Donnie is a carney and sleeps under overpasses and hitchhikes to get where he wants to go. It seemed perfectly OK to me then, and only in ensuing years have I come to realize that no one else even knows a carney. This is not a normal career move.

Anyway, after thinking and thinking, I finally Googled the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department in Hillsborough County, Florida. That’s where Donnie prefers to spend his time, for the most part, having grown up there. And, whaddaya know, I found him in the online arrests database. That’s where the mugshot came from. And, surprisingly enough, the most recent arrest report (from February of this year) gave a P.O. Box in Ruskin where he could be reached. I’ll be damned. We can contact my homeless vagrant uncle!

I e-mailed the link to Mom and told her that it’s her responsibility to tell her brother that their mother’s dead. I’m not taking that on, too. I found him—the rest is up to her.


So, I was just burning a CD of genealogy info from my Mac to use on my PC, and opened some genealogy photos to test the burn. In the midst of my browsing and testing, I came across this image of my great-great-grandmother—my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandmother. (Did that make sense to you?)

Nora Marie Lemons, circa 1908OMG. Does anyone else think that, given a circa 1908 Katherine Janeway-style hairdo, I look like her? Can you see the resemblance? I can. It’s kind of weird. I looked at the whole picture, with her husband Harvey and child Lucille, and thought that Harvey looks a little like Grandpa Cook (or the other way around). Then it occured to me that Nora looks like Mom… and me! I mean, I know we’re related and all… duh… but it’s still kind of strange to look like someone who died almost a lifetime before I was born.

Beth, your family’s into genealogy—any input on genealogical photographic weirdness?


My old buddy Mel came into town today! I got her e-mail last night, saying that she’d be in BG for an audition, and suggesting that we could do lunch. Absolutely! I ended up taking a half hour longer for lunch than I should have, but it was worth it. I really hope she gets in, and for more selfish reasons than I might like to admit. I miss having girlfriends to hang out with. And Melody in particular, especially when she’s Happy Mel and not Chronically Tired Mel.

In other news, my left shoulder has had a nagging piercing pang for the past two days. It’s not a muscular soreness; it feels like more of a nerve thing, or possibly a muscle tightness or twitching or a joint a little out of place or something. At any rate, it hurts just enough to annoy. (Maybe I should take some Tylenol… nahh.)

And on the house front (as opposed to homefront?), John gave me the final news on the closing today. The amount of money we need to bring to closing is… nada. Not a damn thing. Our driver’s licenses and our smiling faces. Hell, we’re most likely going to get money. Here, have a house and a check. Huh?? But I’m not complaining.

I’ve also been OD-ing on my genealogy of late. It’s amazing what you can piece together from just census records and other easier-to-obtain documents. For instance, check out this brief narrative on my great-great-great grandfather:

On 14 Jan 1869, Samuel’s father James consented to the marriage to Mary Lunette Shupert, due to the fact that his son was under 21. At this point, Mary Lou was already three months pregnant with James. Bill Cook’s genealogy indicates that this marriage took place in Ellerton, Jefferson Township, Montgomery County.

By the summer of 1870, Samuel and Mary had established a home in Jackson Township. Their son James was almost a year old, and Samuel was supporting his new family by working as a farm laborer.

In the 1880 U.S. Census, Samuel’s last name was spelled “SHARITZ” and his occupation was listed as ‘laborer.’ Samuel and Mary were both age 30. Their first five children had been born and were living at home — the oldest, James, was 11, and the youngest, Harvey, was one year old.

In the 1900 U.S. Census, Samuel’s last name was spelled “SHARRITS” and his occupation was listed as ‘farmer.’ He named his birthplace and the birthplace of his parents as Indiana. All the children were still living at home — except Samantha, who had died four years prior at the age of 13. The oldest child, James, was 30. The youngest, Mellie, was twelve.

Also in residence in 1900 was Oscar RIDENOUR, Samuel’s grandson and Ona’s son. Ona had died in 1898.

By 1920, all of the children had moved out. Samuel was still farming at age 69, and his wife Mary, also 69, was still living with him. She would continue to live with him for another five years, until she died of heart disease in the summer of 1925.

Samuel was 80 years old and living alone in Poasttown in the Spring of 1930. He owned his $4000 home, had no radio, and did not work.

In 1938, Samuel developed a nagging case of pneumonia that was destined to persist for years. Samuel died three years later, in 1941, of heart disease and pneumonia. His oldest surviving son, Charles, was the informant on the death certificate, and was apparently caring for Samuel in his later years. The death certificate gives the birthplace of Samuel and both of Samuel’s parents as Miamisburg. Samuel Oliver is buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Poasttown.

And that’s just the stuff I wrote down, not even all of the records of his kids being born and marrying off and dying and all that. Something about the narrative just strikes me as… poignant, I guess, even though it’s not really much to read if you aren’t related to Samuel.

This is harshing my bouncy mood, yo. But I’m still pretty happy. Ever since seeing Mel today, I’ve been unusually smiley. I don’t mind. I like it. Mel is such a character. *shaking head*

I hope her audition went well…


Some genealogy documents I’d ordered from the Ohio Historical Society came in the mail today. Death certificates, to be precise. Even though the family information on them isn’t always precise, they always tell a story, and I love that. A few of the ones I got today are absolutely heart-wrenching.

There’s one woman whom it turns out I’m not really related to, after all, but her story is still a rough one. Helen was widowed in her mid to late-twenties. Shortly after her 29th birthday, she died by carbolic acid poisoning—suicide.

Then there’s Harvey, the youngest son of my great-great grandfather. His clothes accidentally caught fire from the fire grate, and he burned to death. He was two years old.

And we have Edna, the eldest daughter of another great-great grandfather. Not long after she married, she developed tuberculosis. She died after about four months of illness. Edna was almost 21.

Of course, there are always the standard “this is the way death should be” records, like my great-grandmother Margaret. She lived the last 25 years of her life as a widow, and died at the ripe old age of 90, while living at the home of her eldest son.

Still, though, just those few words and dates on a page can really bring to life (so to speak) the person they’re about, despite the fact that they lived and died generations ago. I think—no, I know that this is why I do genealogy. It’s my own weird form of religion and ancestor-worship. Think about it: how often do we console ourselves and one another by saying, “He’s not really dead, as long as we remember him,” a la Dr. McCoy in Star Trek? Part of me believes and acts on that premise. I could be the only person on the face of the Earth who has thought about a given ancestor for years and years, and they deserve better than that. They deserve to be remembered. These people didn’t leave any lasting legacy besides their own progeny, and I owe them, if not respect, at least acknowledgement.

I wonder what my descendants will think of me, someday…?

Christmas Aftermath

I came home this afternoon from my half-day of work feeling anxious… like I’m expecting something good to happen soon. I’m not sure what or why, but I’m enjoying the feeling.

While I’m trying to flesh that one out, I guess I’ll make the annual list of Christmas goodies, first from Aaron:

  • A 28mm wide angle lens + lens hood for my 35mm
  • A dedicated flash w/batteries (again, for my 35mm)
  • The Dark Crystal Collector’s Edition DVD
  • The Last Unicorn on VHS (there’s no official release on DVD yet)
  • The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
  • A large stuffed plush Totoro
  • A watering can for my houseplants

Then, from Mom, Gary & Philip:

  • Candles and a snuffer
  • Hair clips and combs
  • A $25 gift certificate to Lane Bryant
  • A DVD carry case

And from Aaron’s family:

  • A large black cherry scented candle
  • A Christmas nutcracker
  • A chess set
  • A vegetable knife
  • Gift certificates to Kohl’s, Wendy’s, House of Meats, and Value
    City, and cash from Dad

Our Christmas trip was quite similar to last year’s: Christmas Eve at Mom and Gary’s, spent the night there, and Christmas Day with Aaron’s family at Poppa & Grammie’s house 15 minutes north. Mom, Gary and I taught Aaron how to play Pinochle, and we played boys vs. girls. Of course, the girls won, although Aaron made a pretty clean sweep one hand by having a bit of a monopoly on the entire suit of spades. 🙂 Oh, by the way, if you and your significant other know how to play Pinochle, or would be willing to learn, Aaron and I would love to hang out and play sometimes… Hell, if you know Hearts or Spades, that would be cool, too. Cards are fun, but no one our age knows how to play anything but kids’ games and Euchre (which
I’m not terribly good at myself).

I had to kind of let Mom down about the Denver trip she’d wanted to make with me in August. I decided I just couldn’t afford to be spending $350+ on a trip with Mom that I really am not too keen on in the first place… especially if Aaron and I a.) want to buy a house soon, and b.) want to take our own vacation together this summer. She was obviously really disappointed, but I just had to come clean and tell her I couldn’t go. I’m compromising, though, and promising to go on a one-tank trip with her somewhere we can take pictures. Maybe somewhere in Pennsylvania
or something.

Aaron’s grandparents’ house is a completely different experience than mine. At any given holiday, depending on who shows up, there’s between 9 and 17 people around the table. I’m really unused to that kind of massive family gathering, but I’m growing to enjoy it more each year. It’s like Aaron said: over at Mom and Gary’s, it’s kind of fun and relaxing, with lots of quality time with just them, but after a while you get bored — especially if they’re watching TV or talking on the phone. At Poppa and Grammie’s, though, it’s exciting and fun to be with so many people at once, but after a while you get frazzled and just need to leave. 🙂

We’re all worried about Grammie, though. Her Alzheimer’s is becoming more pronounced — she still remembers everyone and can function fairly normally, but she forgets why she’s gone into a room, what she’s looking for, what she did five minutes ago, whether she’s put the ham in the oven yet, etc, etc. She also tends to remind us that Uncle Pete got remarried, even though that’s been at least a year or more ago, and we all went to their wedding, and they came to ours in May. She forgets where my family lives, and that my grandmother’s dead. Things like that. She’s almost 80 years old, and Poppa is well into his 80’s himself. I’m afraid of what’s going to happen when… well, just what’s going to happen, period.

My homemade candles were highly upstaged by our wedding photos, which we gave to Aaron’s family as gifts. Made for some quick and easy gift ideas, and everyone loved having them. Fine with me… 🙂

I think that’s a sufficient update for now. My random excitement has subsided, and now I’m afraid that when I stop blogging here, I’m going to be bored. So… I’m off to find something constructive to do. Maybe take more pics with my new lens.