Stray Genealogy Bits and Pieces

I have two boxes of pictures and decades-old printouts and notes on assorted people in my tree. I’ve been working on my lines for over 50 years and some of this stuff dates from the early days of my research which has been either confirmed or thrown out the window by subsequent research that’s properly sourced. Many of the pictures are duplicates of things I’ve already scanned, filed, and added to my tree. Others aren’t but they’re of people I barely know – and if I don’t know them, I know my brother won’t have a clue who they are. And we’re the only ones left.

I find myself wondering why I’m bothering to review all this stuff again. If the boxes disappeared, no one would know what went with them. I’m not sure I would know after all this time. And I’m not sure that anyone would care. You have to know what they are and whether they fill missing holes to care. I’m the only one who knows what they are and even I don’t care about most of it.

So why am I doing this? Really, why? Is it not enough that I have better images already scanned and sorted? I understand the value of all the scraps of paper that have given me genealogy treasures in the past. And it’s not THAT big a project to go through them all, search online, check files, etc. to see if I already have these pieces in a digital form.

But I just don’t want to do it, which is why they’re still sitting in their folders and acid-free boxes waiting for me to look at them again. I took the first step and moved everything out into the living room, but I still don’t want to do it. Maybe tomorrow.

What do I want to do?

This week I let go of what I think are my last activities from before moving here. I managed websites for the church, the club, and a local benevolence organization, as well as communication lists for church and club, plus the membership database for the church. And in my life before Texas, I managed three websites and worked with the library’s online database almost every minute of my working life. I love systems and databases and nerdy things.

I don’t have any of that anymore, except for this blog which I’ve maintained for 20 years.

I should be glad to let them go, to know that other capable people are building on what I started. But right now I’m mostly sad and feeling useless. It’s not appropriate to keep my hand in with them after moving, but I haven’t filled that hole with anything else that I want to do; doing physical therapy and rehab exercises isn’t the same at at all.

Let’s face it: it takes me forever to do just about anything. And I’m tired of doing it, which is really too bad because that’s what my life is right now. It’s hard having the physical limits. I want to be doing something productive and functional but don’t have the time or energy. Instead, I’m just seeing the things that I used to do go away but haven’t replaced them with anything else. I’m retired so I don’t HAVE to do anything else; I just don’t feel very useful.

I have a “wouldn’t it be good to do” genealogy project that I’ve been talking about doing for about four years: compiling printed volumes for each grandparent’s line with full-size images of source documents. I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years for records and database access to materials, and I’d like to get those digital images preserved in print in case one of my family gets the genealogy bug and wants to pick up the lines where I left off. They shouldn’t have to rebuy what I already have. The family history book I compiled for each of the family is fully sourced, but the actual source images aren’t all included.

But all I’ve done is talk about it, not actually do it. I need to really decide if this is worth my time and energy and DO it or let it go so I can do something else. No one in the family would know or care if I don’t get it done, which somehow makes it worse because I’m not sure how much I care about it. I will take a day this week to block out what would be involved to actually complete it, then decide if I want to do it or not.

My original retirement plan was to work on genealogy research, which I’ve loved doing for over 50 years. If that’s not what I actually want to do anymore, I need to think of something else to to do instead. Maybe working to help index records would be a worthwhile way to give back to the genealogy community. Or not.

Practicing Self Care

My goal for the next few weeks is to practice self-care. It’s a lot easier to just sit around and complain about the knee and the back and how they’re holding me back. Which they are. But in the meantime, there are things I can do and work on.

Sleep: I haven’t been sleeping well or enough. Whatever the reason, I wake up tired and stay that way for much of the day, which could mean a bunch of things: sick, allergies, staying up too late, uncomfortable bed, stress. But what I think it means is that my CPAP is set too low, meaning I don’t get enough oxygen. Back in July at my annual visit with the sleep doctor, my air pressure rate was decreased from 13 to 11. We thought that, with the weight loss and sinus surgery, it was too high. I think we pushed it too low. So I made an appointment to consult again and have it adjusted.

I also spend too much time reading after I get to bed, and get up at 5am to give myself time to wake up. Maybe I need that because, duh, I’m not getting enough sleep. So I’m making a commitment to turn off the light at 9:30 p.m. and to add 15-30 minutes to my alarm so I get a little more sleep at that end, too. I’m also considering putting coffee back on my food plan. I stopped drinking it when I got on Noom because I didn’t like using that many calories on creamer and didn’t like the coffee without creamer. But they are my calories and I can do what I want with them, and I miss the taste and the ritual of coffee – with creamer.

Cleaning. I hate cleaning. I like having things BE clean, just not doing it myself. I had a house cleaner who came every 2 weeks until just before Covid when she had a double knee replacement and then retired. I’ve been doing my own cleaning since then and I still hate it. Today I called The Cheerful Cleaning Company again and am trying to set up a regular cleaning schedule. They did my post-construction deep clean and were amazing. It’s not cheap and it’s actually a luxury, but I need this.

Church. I work in a church that I no longer attend for worship, having joined a local Episcopal Church a few months ago. My problem has been actually getting there in person because I found myself doing tech support for Work Church on Sunday morning, which is now doing Facebook Live as well as Zoom for streaming Bible Study. I’ve reserved a spot for in-person church at Worship Church only to not actually go. This week I delayed making a reservation until today. I’m going to the 11:00 a.m. service this Sunday, which means I can be home while Work Church is doing technical things in case there’s a call, but I can still get to my own Worship Church. I need it for grounding and learning my new community.

Hair and Toes. I put these in the same category because I try to “do” them on the same schedule. I love getting a pedicure because I sit in that fancy massage spa chair for an hour with little kneading action on the back. Plus someone else spends a lot of time working on my feet and then they feel better and look beautiful. I’m currently out of whack on my “doing them on the same schedule” plan but am going this afternoon for a haircut. Toes were done last week.

Massage. I have two gift certificates for a body massage but have been holding off because of covid concerns. It’s been 9 months since I’ve had one and that’s a very long time for me to go. My body is off balance because of the back and knee problems on the right side and my muscles are tight knots strung together like beads on a chain. This week I’m calling both places to find out their cleaning procedures to see how safe they feel, and if they are acceptable (and I’m picky), I will make an appointment. By the end of the week.

Weight loss – yeah, I know, I shouldn’t have put this last. No one can do it for me and it’s important. But it can’t be the only thing in my life. I’ve spent too much time obsessed with food, diets, eating plans, calories, counting, tracking, measuring, etc. I’ve really enjoyed just being essentially in one place for almost 2 months. I don’t want to stay here, but right now it feels good. When I’m ready to buckle down, I will. As long as I don’t forget how I got here.

Actually, looking at this list shows that my idea of self care is mostly having someone else do things for me. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But there are things I can and need to do for myself. My big one is to remember my goal of preparing, compiling, and publishing genealogy books for each grandparent’s line that include full size images of original records such as census pages and church documents. The book I did for my brother 2 years ago omitted these because no one really cared except me. But as a research tool, something that is a “brain and record dump” of my genealogy program, this is a huge goal. I’ve been working on the family lines for 50 years and know that it may be a long time, if ever, before anyone else in the family is interested in picking it up. So I want to get as much out of my head and my computer into a printed form. It will not be finished by the end of December, but I’m again making progress.

More Goodwin Finds

For a genealogist, happiness is sometimes finding an obituary, especially for people who died before official records were kept. Newspaper archives such as and (both require paid accounts) are great sources. Actually finding the person you look for can take a lot of time and creativity in spelling and truncation, but older papers (and older issues) are being digitized and added all the time, even for smaller jurisdictions, and I periodically continue to search for people in my direct line that have holes in their history.

A few weeks ago I wrote about finally finding an obituary for my g-g-grandfather Lemuel S. Goodwin, who died in 1907 in Suffolk, Virginia. I’d been trying to find that information for 45 years. His wife Mary Jane Thach Goodwin (well, his second wife – he had three) was my g-g-grandmother and she was another who died without any records that I could find. He was listed as a widower in the 1900 census, living with his daughter Beulah. Nope, couldn’t find her either, although I did find unsourced family trees at Ancestry that indicated she died in 1901.

Until this week. First I found Mary Jane’s obituary (above) which told me her maiden name and that, though she lived on Market Street with her husband of 42 years, her funeral would be at Bethel Church in Perquimans County, NC. I already knew that both she and her husband Lemuel were born in Perquimans County and had lived there for at least half of their married life. I knew that they had two married daughters living in that county at the time she died. But it was a big surprise to see that the funeral was there, and gave me a clue to look for burial also in the county, probably in a family cemetery (because I haven’t found it yet).

Then I found Beulah’s obituary in a different paper but also from Norfolk, VA. This one made me so sad because it described Beulah as a consistent member of her church, “bright and winsome, young and pretty and had many friends.” She died of consumption, which today we know as tuberculosis. It was was the leading cause of death in the United States, and one of the most feared diseases in the world. It was also the cause of death for Beulah’s brother William, who died in 1899. I still can’t find Beulah’s burial information but am hoping that eventually I’ll find her with her parents somewhere in Perquimans County, NC. For now, I’m happy to know where they died and to give them some closure, at least on my tree.

I waited a long time for this

Lemuel S. Goodwin Obituary, 1907

This morning, after researching this family line for at least 45 years, I found the obituary for Lemuel S. Goodwin. He was my grandfather’s grandfather, born in Perquimans County, North Carolina in April 1833. He moved to Suffolk, VA at some point between 1880 and 1892, when his daughter Josephine married William Myers. The last we knew of him was the 1900 census when he was a widower living with his daughter Beulah.

But wait, there’s more!  I found a tiny newspaper clipping from Dec. 1903 with news that he had obtained a marriage license with widow Mrs. Martha Elizabeth Spivey. He’s not in the 1910 census, so he had to die in there somewhere. She died in 1930 and is buried next to her first husband with no mention of Lemuel. So maybe he died before they could get married?  Mystery!

This morning I found his obituary at GenealogyBank, a newspaper database that I was thinking I might cancel. Ah, maybe not.  No wonder I never found it, with one name truncated and one name misspelled. But this is the guy. Lost but now found.

Lemuel was married three times. His first wife, Sarah E. Long, died one day after the birth of their daughter, within a year of their marriage in 1856. Ten months later, on Christmas Eve 1857, he married Mary Jane Thach, my great-great-grandmother. They were married for 43 years and had eight children that I know of. At some point between 1880 and 1892, they moved from the farm in Perquimans County to Suffolk, Virginia, where Lemuel worked in the City Market. Their son William died of consumption in 1899 and Mary Jane followed in the spring of 1900. Lemuel was listed as a widower in the 1900 census, living with his daughter Beulah.

But that was it. It was too early for state death records in Virginia and I found no property or probate records and no cemetery records for any of them. Maybe they returned to North Carolina for burial but I found nothing there either. All of the family trees I found on Ancestry and FamilySearch have Lemuel’s death date as “after 1900”. I was determined to find him, but it took a very long time.

Last year I located a tiny notice in the Norfolk Landmark newspaper from December 1903 that a marriage license was issued for Lemuel S. Goodwin and Mrs. Martha Elizabeth Spivey. Hmm. Who was she? Where did she come from? And who was Mr. Spivey? I did some poking around at, one of my favorite sites, and found a fascinating article about Peter Spivey’s burial in 1899 at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suffolk, VA with his elaborately carved tree memorial. His wife Martha Elizabeth was buried next to him on her death in 1930.

So what happened to Lemuel? Why isn’t she buried next to him? What was he, chopped liver?

Not exactly. Lemuel and Martha were widowed within a year of each other and were neighbors on Morgan Street in Suffolk. Martha had small children – her youngest child was only a few months old when Peter died – and she was 25 years younger than Lemuel. We don’t know for certain but it is probable that they married for companionship and to help Martha raise her young family.

In March 1906, Lemuel was “confined by illness to his home on Morgan Street” [Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), Thursday, 15 March 1906, p.7, col. 3; digital image,, accessed 5 August 2020). A year later he was agained confined by “serious sicknesss” to his home; his obituary ran in the Virginian-Pilot on Sunday, 20 October 1907. It mentioned that a service would take place at the Christian Church the afternoon after his death, but a burial spot was not indicated nor has one been located. We know his widow Martha was buried next to her first husband; Lemuel quite probably is buried next to Mary Jane, his second wife. I haven’t found her grave yet either. But I haven’t given up.