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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Maggie and Genealogy

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 27, 2013

The broad expanse of Internet sites dealing with Genealogy is staggering when compared to only a decade ago.


Massive amounts of digitization, scanning, and data loads have created an enormous online system file that can be accessed and searched. leads the field in Genealogy online sites, and has introduced a high level of customer service to genealogy searching.


Nearly anyone can go zipping through their family history, until you hit a dead end.  Online searching works if the information is in machine-readable format; and otherwise it is back to detective work.


Another aspect of Genealogy is to learn about the person, the family, and how they lived.  That information is online in bits and pieces, but can be developed by interviewing your senior family members.


What provoked this column was a comment I made in last week’s column, that my grandmother would have said that I have a “hitch in my get-along” when referring to my lower back pain.


Several people asked what it meant and how I knew that.  Well, grandma lived with our family (not always a positive) and I became inquisitive at an early age and asked her a lot of questions, which led to more questions until she died at age 95.


I first asked her why I had to go to 12 grades of school, and she only went to 8 grades.  She told me that was all there was and when she finished in 1898 at the Knob School, she continued to work at home as she was the youngest and with her brothers and sister gone, she was needed to help her mom.


Six days a week she walked down the hill and across the covered bridge (still there) to get the mail, and back up the hill.  There were chores in the garden in the summer, and never-ending household chores.


At age 18, she worked for neighbors to earn money, and eventually walked 2 miles to the Hall House where the older couple had ended farm work and turned it over to their sons, including the youngest boy who was her age.


One day she cleaned the china cupboard and removed the newspaper liner and threw the old papers in the pot-bellied stove, not knowing that Thomas Hall kept the bullets for his gun in that cabinet.  Everyone went running out of the house as the bullets exploded.


The Halls were surprised when their youngest son announced that he was marrying Maggie, their domestic girl.  The stout red-haired Irish girl was marrying the thin English boy, and moving up on the Ridge to their own farm, and he had purchased horses so he could be a Teamster.


Maggie was her name, not short for Margaret, her mother’s name.  And she had no middle name, and that was the way it was, and don’t debate it.  She had a sister Lucy, just a bit older, and another sister Mary that she didn’t speak to, and she was 16 years older and married and moved away.


When I knew Maggie, or Grandma, she was in her late 70s.  She had that “darn old Irish skin” like I am developing on my arms, but was quite definitive in her thoughts and comments.


My brother and I were required to flip her mattress when told, and during the summer (ugh) we had to dismantle her bed and reverse and flop her Olsen rug which we assumed was purchased in the 1920s.


Her husband, my grandfather, had died 20 years before I was born, and she rarely talked about him, as it was a sad subject to her.


A favorite story of mine was her attempt to learn to drive a car.  In 1929, they sold the Ford Model T and purchased a new Ford Model A.  Maggie wanted a model with the rumble seat as she thought it would be fun to ride up and down the road in the rumble seat.


Grandpa was more concerned with practicality and the farm, and wanted a trunk to carry potatoes or apples.  So down the road they went, Maggie grumbling about the farm products bouncing around in the trunk.


He finally told her it was time for her to learn to drive, and she muttered that she didn’t want to drive.  He finally convinced her, and down the gravel road they went, she was clutching and shifting as he yelled directions.


Then he said “turn up here” and she immediately turned right into a ditch and a barbed wire fence where the car became entangled.  She said, “There I drove the car” and she walked home.


You can’t fund all of this on