Category Archives: Genealogy

2017 trip – days 42 to 46 – cycles of history

Much to catch up on.  Passed 8000 miles yesterday.  Getting a bit lower gas mileage. Probably due to a slight uphill grade as we head north and west.  Also the prevailing western winds on the plains have an effect.  After finishing our activities in Iowa and traveling across Nebraska, we are now in South Dakota, our 18th state for this trip.

Monday and Tuesday were days with a focus on Peg’s family both living and past.  We spent time with 2 aunts and 3 cousins.  We also visited the places where she and her father lived part of their lives and where her grandparents and great grandparents lived and farmed.  We also included a stop at the local cemetery in Granville, Iowa, and the place in town where a Veterans Memorial is being constructed.

10 more National Parks in the past few days for a total of 33 on this trip.

On Tuesday we visited a beautiful Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center along the River in Sioux City Iowa.  We always watch the park films when we go to these places.  The one at this place was quite beautifully done.  An actor playing William Clark recounted many aspects of the Lewis and Clark Journey almost entirely with quotes directly from their journals.  Sioux City is the site of the only death of a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  The film did a wonderful job of giving an overview of the journey with a focus on Sargent Floyd’s death.  I learned that after his death, Lewis and Clark allowed the men to vote on who among their number would replace Floyd as a Sargent, with leadership responsibilities for the remainder of the trip.  This may have been the first use of a democratic style of voting west of Mississippi.

On Wednesday we saw Niobrara National Scenic River.  A beautiful place in upper central Nebraska.  Looks like a wonderful recreation area and a place worth protecting from overdevelopment.  However, as I think about what rises to the level of being a “National Park”, I wasn’t caught by anything compelling for this place.

On Thursday we revisited previously visited parks of Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff National Monument.  These are points passed by many 100’s of thousands of travelers heading West on many routes central to our country’s history.  These points were about one third of the way west for the many travelers to the Oregon territory.  Trails through these points include: the Oregon National Historic Trail, the Mormon National Historic Trail, the California National Historic Trail (during the gold rush), and the Pony Express National Historic Trail.

Today, Friday, we visited both the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

The visit to Agate Fossil Beds provoked a lot of thoughts for me.  I have always been interested in the “process” of how things happen.  The Museum did a very nice job of explaining the process of fossilization in this particular area.  The process which resulted in some amazingly large finds of fossilized bones from 20 million years ago involved many changes in environment over time.  There were periods of lush growth on the primal prairies of the area, followed by periods of drought, and periods of flood, and then many repeats of those same events.  We would not have these bones from which we can learn of this history without these processes.  But more importantly, life on earth would not have evolved as it did without these processes.  Life, from the beginning, has always expanded in quantity during times of plenty and then struggled to survive and to adapt in more difficult times.  This process is at the core of the evolution of all life on earth.

I think the same processes of calm and struggle apply to human history in general and specifically to the history of human evolution of social structures.  I have been influenced by the book “Generations” which analyzes American History from the Mayflower to the present through the lens of the common experiences of different generations of people throughout that time period.  The book lays out a theory of cyclical periods of spiritual awakenings and secular crises.  In each period of crisis, American society is split to the point of breaking by one or more issues (Should we become an independent country? Should we allow slavery to continue? Should government take responsibility for the social welfare of its people?).  After a period of crisis that question is substantially resolved and the country moves on for some time based on a new understanding of the relationship between the people and their government.  These periods of extreme crisis seem to occur at about 80 to 90 year intervals.

When I think about some of the current events in our country I see a similar level of extreme conflict to that which has occurred in the past. There seems to be at least 2 mutually exclusive views of the world and almost everyone has adopted one or the other of those views.  There seems to be almost no valuing of moderation, compromise, or respect for alternative points of view in our current culture. It feels like our country is in crisis although it is beyond my skill to identify in any convincing way exactly what the crisis is about.

In looking at this state of crisis my view of history as being subject to periodic cycles is both reassuring and disturbing.  It is reassuring because we, as a country, have survived at least 4 such previous crises.  Not only survived, but become a better place to live and prosper after each such crisis.  It is disturbing because, in each such instance, the crisis has only been resolved after an event or period of bloodshed and/or extreme suffering.  I hope we can manage to make it through our current crisis without such extremes as the King Phillips War, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or the Great Depression and World War II.  I don’t see how the extreme divisiveness prevalent in our current culture is likely to dissipate absent some extreme event, but I can only hope such a way can be found.

Again I look at the history of fossils and evolution at the Agate Fossil Beds as a point of comparison.  Despite many crises and struggles, life has always found a way to adapt and progress.  I hope in our social realm we can do the same without leaving too many of our bones behind as fossils.


2017 trip – day 26 – prayer, service, wonder, and love

Real quick tonight as we are having both an internet connection issue and what we affectionately call a PICNIC problem – Problem in chair, not in computer.  I am fatigued and will use our week at a stop in Canton Kentucky to get refreshed and do a catch up blog at the end of the week.

Quickly,  we stopped by the Abbey of the Gethsemane, where Thomas Merton was a brother monk for most of his life.  Truly a place of prayer.

We saw Abraham Lincoln sites, his birthplace and where he lived from ages 2 to 7.  As the historians in the film about him said, before him we did not really have “A” United States of American, we had many states that were somewhat united.  And without Lincoln we would not have a United States today because the southerners to whom slavery was more important than country would have been allowed to split off and form a new country.  Imagine what our world would be like today if that had been allowed to happen.

At the Lincoln Birthplace I even found some displays that continue some of the themes of this trip, family and ancestry.  There was a beautiful sculpture of the Lincoln family at the time he was a baby and very nice display of Abraham Lincoln’s known ancestry.

We also stopped by the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, a place of amzaing natural beauty and a place made for explorers.  It is by far the largest known cave in the world and is still far from fully discovered.

My best memory of the day is a little thing.  A plaque in the gift store at the Abbey with the words: “There are many great love stories, . . . but I like ours best.”

4 weeks, 5,000 miles, 13 states, 15 National Parks, and numerous people, cemeteries, museums and oddities into our trip, I would without doubt affirm that I like our love story best.

2017 trip – Day 24 – remembering those who served

Today we stayed in Dayton.  We only went to one destination but were as exhausted at the end of the day as any day so far.  Our destination was the National Museum of the US Air Force. To describe this museum as enormous would be a huge understatement. It consists of 4 major buildings plus connecting passageways and side buildings totaling over 30 acres of indoor covered space, with literally 100’s of airplanes and 1000’s of artifacts on display. We were there from shortly after they opened until shortly before they closed and spent almost the entire time in the 1/8th section of the museum that covers World War II.  Peg’s tracker says we walked over 8000 steps just in the museum itself.

The museum was extremely well put together with the best combination of historical items and explanations for their place in history I have seen in any museum.  Far superior than even the Smithsonian in D.C.  If you want to see the museum, they have a 360 degree tour available online, but only go there if you have some time.  Here is a link to the World War II portion or the virtual tour.

While neither of us have any ancestors who were in the Air Force, we have both become avid historians in general and particularly interested in WWII.  Both of my parents served in WWII, both in the Army Medical Corp.  Peg’s grandparents contributed to the war effort at McDonald Douglas, her grandfather as a security guard, and her grandmother as a “doper”.  She helped put the “dope” on the fabric used to cover parts of the wings of the C-47’s manufactured in Southern California.  We found a C-47 on display today

Couldn’t help but think of other members of the family and ancestors involved in military as we did a quick tour of other parts of the museum.  Peg’s dad served in both Korea and Vietnam, and we both have nephews and cousins who have served in more recent conflicts.  My grandfather Smith was in the Spanish American War, Peg’s 2nd great grandfather was in the Civil War, I have several 4th great grandparents who were in the Revolutionary War, and Peg has an ancestor who was part of King Phillips War.  Lot’s of stories to go with each of those people, and I only know pieces of each but, as with everyone, our ancestry is interwoven with the history of our country, and our world.

We will be moving a bit more for the next two days and will be in Kentucky soon, an area neither of us has been before.  Many new adventures to come over the next week.


2017 trip – day 23 – The Myers-Briggs traveling primer

Seems like a good day to talk about choosing your traveling companion for a long trip like the one we are on.  I would recommend the following steps.

1 – Take the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.

2 – Choose a traveling companion who matches up with you in at least 3 of the four factors.

3 – Enjoy a almost conflict free trip.

This approach has definitely worked for us.  I am an INTP and Peg is an INFP.

I won’t try to explain the whole Myers-Briggs theory as that would take several books but just as a summary the letters mean:

“I” means we are both more introverted than extroverted.  This works well on the long periods in the trip when we are essentially out of contact with the rest of the world.  Neither of us feels a need to be on the phone or in contact with other people on a continuous basis.  While we spend a lot of out time together talking we are both quite comfortable with long periods of silence.

“N” means we are both more intuitive than sensate, meaning we quickly move beyond the specific new information we discover on our journeys and find intuitive insights.

“T” means my first reaction to a new situation is to decide what I think about it.  “F” means Peg’s first reaction is going to be more feeling based.  Not having all 4 factors in common helps keep life interesting.

Finally “P” reflects how much we are inclined to stick to a plan.  A high “J” would feel compelled to stick to a plan once it was made.  As a high P the very fact that a plan was made makes us both start to think about how we might change it.

Today my high “F” spouse was concerned for me and helped us decide to exercise our high “P” quality and make a change.  Two national parks and a family history related cemetery in South East Ohio will have to wait for another trip.  I can get caught up in the thought and planning process and think we need to maximize our travel time and check off as many items on our list as we can.  Peg helped bring the focus to what would be the best for us on this day to be in good shape for the rest of the trip.   GOOD CALL!

So, straight to the Dayton area for a shorter day.  The way to our first stop at the Champaign Air Museum in Urbana, Ohio, felt like a living example of Zeno’s paradox.  It wasn’t supposed to be far but our GPS guidance, known affectionately as “Gypsy”, made it seem like we might just never get there.  80 miles then turn right, then 40 miles and turn left, then 20 miles and turn again.  Every time I thought we were almost there the remaining distance was half of the prior guidance.  Now go 10 miles and turn right again, then 5 and take the left fork in the road, then 3 and turn left, then 1 ½ and turn south.  Just when I thought I was caught in an endless paradox, there we were.

After the museum, onto the hotel where one of us took and nap and the other took a walk.  I had a dream in which I invented a new term which I still liked when I woke up so I will share it.  The term is “loom people” which means people who make too much of themselves, as in they “weave” stories which make them seem more important than they really are.  Seems like it might apply to one or more of our “leaders” in DC right now.

Anyway, not much else to log: no new states or national parks, only one more license, Kansas, so only 8 more to go.  Just before sunset we did drive about 10 miles out of town and found a tiny cemetery where Peg’s great great great great grandmother, Rebecca Griffith, was buried.  She is one of my brick walls and I do not even have her maiden name.  Her granddaughter Caroline Griffith was the person whose neighborhood in Cleveland in 1880 we found just 2 days ago.  Also, this region of Ohio is another area where both Peg and I had ancestors living close together.  Her Griffith ancestors lived here about the same time my Miller ancestors did.

2017 trip – day 22 – 3 parks and a tour guide

Going to keep it short today.  I was feeling a little under the weather this morning and I think I let it affect my appreciation for the day a bit.  We stayed in the the south Cleveland area and made the rounds to several destinations within a short distance of the hotel.

One more license plate spotted, Maryland, so only 9 more on the list.  Three national parks today for a total of 12 (David Berger National Memorial, James A Garfield National Memorial Site, and Cuyahoga Valley).

In addition to the parks we had a drive by of an ancestral place.  Peg’s great grandmother was born here and she, and her parents, lived here between the mid 1860’s and the mid 1880’s before moving to Iowa.  The house they lived in probably does not exist anymore but we found the neighborhood they lived in around 1880 near downtown Cleveland.

The David Berger Memorial was quite beautiful.  Just a single sculpture to a single event (the assassination of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Berlin Olympics), built here because one of the athletes was from this area.  The sculpture was beautiful and full of symbolic meaning, dedicated to the memory of the violence that occurred and the hope that such acts will never occur again.

The James Garfield site was interesting is a couple of ways.  I, and I assume most people, knew very little of Garfield before today.  He was one of the youngest men ever elected president (age 49), the first president to have his mother present at his inauguration, one of only 3 to have his mother survive him, and one of 4 presidents assassinated.  At the time of his election the press on him was that he was probably the most prepared person to become president in our history to that point.  He only served for 200 days because he was shot by a disgruntled job seeker.  The grounds at the house were very nice and the visitor’s center was informative with a concise film on his life.  However, my less than optimum attitude today was tested by a tour guide at the house.  We have been to over 200 national parks and many other museums over the years and it seemed to me today that our guide, “Pat”, was making a strong case for being one of the worst tour guides ever.  I will try to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was trying her best and maybe just having a bad day herself, so I won’t spend a lot of time on this.  However, she was one of the most controlling and inflexible people I have encountered.  It started with her saying, before we had even left the museum to go to the house, that we were not allowed to touch anything in the house except the floor.  Then she stopped talking and looked at my hand which was on the post of a protective fence around a display in the museum and would not proceed until I removed my hand.  Apparently the not touching anything was pretty absolute.  Then we walked to house and she said we should sit on a bench while she gave us the beginning of her talk.  I said I would prefer to stand because I had been doing a lot of sitting in the car recently.  She said that when going on a walking tour you should always sit whenever you can.  We looked at each other for a minute and when it was clear I was not going to be sitting she reluctantly began her talk.  On the tour, any movement in a direction she had not directed, and looking into a room before she gave permission to do so, or asking any questions out of order to her prepared talk was not allowed.  Despite all this, I have to say some parts of the house were very attractive, especially some of the era specific restored wallpaper.  However, I did have to work at getting past the tour guide to appreciate what we were touring.

Finally we visited a couple of areas in the vast park known as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 33,000 acres preserving a long history of Canals used for commerce in the 1800’s, the railroads that came later, and the nature beauty of the valley itself.  As a consequence of preservation efforts the park now has a number of resident animals which had been absent from the area for over a century including both beavers and eagles.

My final thought for the day is that I was thinking at various time throughout the day of my sister, who is today remembering the death of her husband a year ago.  I so enjoyed seeing her for a few days last week and hope she is doing well which her memories and in the presence of her children and grandchildren today.

2017 trip – day 21 – honoring the dead

A few more miles, another day, another state (Ohio – 11), another national park (Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis – 9), and several more license plate jurisdictions spotted (Kentucky, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina – 48 so far).

First off for the day we found a tiny cemetery in the middle of the farmlands east of Auburn, Indiana, Cosper cemetery.  A year or so ago I would not have thought to stop here.  However, in the past year, I had a break through on one brick wall in my family history research.  I have known for about 10 years, not too long after I discovered who my father was, that one of my great grandmothers was Catherine Francis Miller.  And I had some hints as to her parents, John Miller and Barbara Wappes.  But that was the end of my information.  Then through some connections through my online family trees I made contact with a cousin and found enough information to go back a bit more.  Catherine’s father was Johnathon G Miller, and he was born in 1832 in Pennsylvania and died in 1922 in Idaho.  Also, his parents were Eli Miller and Catharine Eva Whisler.  They were both born in Pennsylvania, but later moved to Indiana and lived, died, and were buried, in De Kalb county Indiana.  Today we found their gravesite and were able to stand in fields where they had lived.

As always with family history research, breaking through one brick wall always results in 2 or more new ones.  Eli is my new brick wall and I need to find his ancestry so I can find where in Europe his family came from.  For Catharine, I have 2 more generations of family in my tree and will need a future trip to Pennsylvania to have the experience of walking in the shadow of my ancestors in that place, and maybe to find information to break through another brick wall.

From Cosper we moved east and north toward Cleveland. But first a stop at a relatively unknown national park, Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis.   A simple site with several plaques explaining the event to which the park is dedicated.  One monument with 4 sides.  Here is what each side of the monument says it is dedicated to:




side 1:  In memory of the white settlers massacured1783-1794.

side 2 : To Chief Little Turtle and his brave Indian Warriors.

side 3: Dedicated to the Greenville Treaty, written in 1795 after the 1794 battle of Fallen Timbers, and which led to the opening of present day Ohio to white settlers.

side 4: To the pioneers of Ohio and the Great Northwest.

Without knowing much else about the events that took place here just think about the dedications on the 4 sides of that monument.  Except for failing to mention that there had also been some Indian civilians massacred a bit earlier in the history of the area, this monument covers quite a bit: both sides in a conflict, the treaty which ended the conflict, and the expansion of our country as a result of that treaty.

It got me thinking about all of the national parks we have visited and the various reasons they have been protected as national treasures.  Some for nature, some for beauty, some because of connection to a person central to our nation’s history, some celebrate an important period of time for our nation, some to celebrate a national achievement, and some to mark a place of national shame it is important we do not forget.  Think of the Rosie the Riveter park for celebration and the Japanese internment for shame.  Here at Fallen Timbers is one monument covering at least 3 of those reasons in one place.  Without the preservation of this event with at least some honesty about why it is being preserved important parts of our history and lessons we should learn and relearn would be lost.

One final thought the place evoked is that I wondered what monuments might be preserved in the future about events taking place in our day.  Will they be monuments to events of which we are proud or events of which we are ashamed and hope never to allow to happen again.

2017 trip – day 20 – back on the road

Felt like a long day today.   After all the activities of the last few days we got off to a slow start.  Today was sort of the start of part 4 of our trip.  Part 1 was Glacier National Park.  Part 2 was long haul driving to see parks across the North and spread out around Lake Superior.  Part 3 has been the people part of the trip.  Now Part 4 is going to be closer to our usual sightseeing type of traveling.  We will be visiting parts of the country we have either never seen or only quickly driven through, including Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, with many places to see related to our country’s history.

One more park today: Indiana Dunes, number 8 for the trip.  This is an area where the cooperative work of local people plus state and county govenment has resulted in the preservation of and public access to over 15 miles of shoreline at the bottom of Lake Michigan.  I couldn’t help thinking that a few projects along this line to make more ocean and lake shoreline available to the public back in our city of Seattle would be a good thing.

We saw one new license plate, Indiana, bringing the count to 41.  Indiana brings us to 10 states visited so far. We also passed the 4,000 mile mark and our little Prius is holding up well.

As a genealogist I had a desire to see the Allen County Library in Fort Wayne Indiana.  It is one of the top rated public libraries in the country, particularly related to researching family history,  I did get to see the library, but between traffic out of Chicago, more time than expected at the Indiana Dunes, a longer time for lunch than usual, and a error on my part in failing to realize we were passing into the Eastern Time Zone, we did not really have time for me to do any research.  Nothing particular I was going to look for so nothing lost.  Anyway, family cemeteries national parks and presidential sites await us tomorrow.


2017 trip – day 19

I need to go through the day backwards today.  At the end of the day today the people I now can truly identify as “family” gave us a gift and made us promise not to open it til we were back at our hotel.  We followed instructions and a good thing too.  I don’t think I could have safely driven for awhile after opening their beautiful gift.  Sometimes the power of words is just amazing.  Obviously the word of the day is family.  These people, my sister, and her children and grandchildren are no doubt by family.  I am so glad we decided to spend three days here to meet and get to know them.  At first I would have described them as family but it would just have been a word.  After three days together, sharing stories, sharing pictures, sharing food, sharing an outing to a beautiful park, sharing mutual interests in history, in computers, in puzzles, in cooking, in the education of children among other things, the word “family” has real meaning.  These are people I feel at home with, who I instinctually feel I could trust and rely on if needed.

I could contrast this with how the word family has often been used in other interactions where the word is often used to try to tell someone how they are “supposed” to behave, because that is what “families” do.  However, I will leave my history to that one comment and just relish this new experience of family.

Earlier in the day we went out to lunch.  We were told that in addition to pizza, another food people from Chicago are willing to fight over is sandwiches.  While we could not do a sampling of multiple sandwich places we could enjoy one from an iconic Chicago institution: Portillo’s Hot Dogs & Barnelli’s Pasta Bowl.  We were only able to sample a couple items from an amazing menu. And everything we tried truley was amazing.  We will definitely be making another stop at a Portillo’s the next time we find ourselves anywhere near Chicago.

And before that we met everyone in the family for a wonderful day a place described as a hidden treasure: Cantigny Park.  It certainly wasn’t on any list of places we had seen but surely it should have been. I only saw a bit of the park but the museum dedicated to the history of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division was exceptional.  It covered in as interesting and interactive a way as I have seen anywhere this particular army divisions involvement in the Great War, World War II, the old war, Vietnam, and the recent conflicts in the Middle East.

Today completed one of the “people portions” of our long trip.  The next 2 weeks are going to be mostly national parks, presidental sites, and seeing parts of the country we have never seen before.


2017 trip – relearning what it means to be family

No physical travels today.  Just emotional, psychological, and spiritual travels.  Today I had breakfast with my sister.  I have done that quite rarely in the last 45 years of my life.  I also spent the day with some of the other people to whom I am most closely related: my sister’s children and grandchildren.  Again, a rare event in my life.

Apart from being activities which I have seldom experienced, I came to a new realization late in the day about the nature of the day.  I spent the whole day with family and it felt: NORMAL.  I didn’t have to be on edge about everything being said, I didn’t have to be ready to explain every comment made, and it felt like everyone was just plain enjoying being together.  While I often have this feeling when spending time with my children, I have not felt like this with a sibling for a long time.  It makes me regret that tomorrow will be the last day together, and that we will eventually be back in Seattle so far from these people I am proud to call family.  I am assured that one or more of them will make it out to visit us in the near future and I look forward to that.

On a more specific level, I have met my match as a puzzle solver.  One of my grand nephews was quickly able to solve all of the rubic’s type puzzles I had brought along on the trip to play with in the evenings.  I brought along a dodecahedron puzzle that has never been solved since I first scrambled it several years ago.  Late in the day I asked where Ryan was.  I was told he had been upstairs earlier but had gone back to the basement.  I said I wanted to show him my best puzzle, and one of the parents handed me the puzzle and asked, “Do you mean this one?”   It was fully solved,  I hadn’t even seen him do it.

We were asked to be the judges in a contest to determine the best Chicago style pizza.  Presented with 3 different slices, I made my selection, but made it clear that all three were marvelous.  I was told I could be asking for trouble if I dared to identify any one of them as better than another, as everyone in Chicago has very strong feelings about their preferences.  I am going to stick with declaring them all winners.  For the record the three pizzas in the competition were:  Gino’s East, Giordano’s, and Lou Malnatis.

2017 trip – Family

What we did today cannot really be put into words.  Today, at the age of 63 I met 10 family members for the first time, a niece and nephew and their spouses, and 6 grand nieces and nephews.  These are people who only 3 years ago I did not even know existed.  We had planned other meetings over the past 2 years but this is the first one that came to fruition.

Everyone was so gratious and wonderful.  We had much to talk about and I think we tried to accomplish it all in one evening, with mulitple conversations going on at the same time.  We ate and talked, drank and talked, played games and talked, and looked at pictures and talked.  I am so glad we have 2 more days to get to know each other and catch up on each others lives.  I will not be giving the whole back story here but hopefully I can finish the book I am working on in the near future and you can learn more then.

Tomorrow, I think I heard we will be doing a blind taste test of a variety of official Chicago style pizzas to see, once and for all, which is best.  I can hardly wait.