Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Better Idea of Who I am: A Biography of sorts

Last night I kicked off my blogging return with the first writing prompt from The Book of Me, Written By You. I am choosing to follow up this morning with a biographic piece as so much has changed since I had started this blog.

My name is Kim Cecil Ostermyer. The name is important because it tells a lot about me. As I am male, there can be a lot of discussion about the "A Boy Named Sue" song by Johnny Cash and its irrelevancy in that regard. Growing up, I was teased a lot for both my first and last names. My middle name is that of my maternal grandfather, Cecil Lupton. The last name is usually a way that telemarketers are flagged when they call as they usually garble into a weird version like Oystermyer. I always try to hold my tongue when someone impolitely comments about how it's an "unusual name."

I am the proud father of two boisterous lads: Coen, aged three but nearly four, and Ander who is five years old. They are wonderful and I consider myself to be blessed. Joining me for the journey through life is my extraordinarily patient and kind wife of 11 years, Jamie. She and I fit well together with our quirky senses of humor, which are very often in sync, as well as our worldly sensibilities.

Genealogically speaking, I have been in the trenches for 12 years. I started out with charting my family history with some Post It Notes and large sheets of drawing paper. It wasn't until my wife purchased a genealogy program for me as a gift, did the full intensity and excitement kick in. Since then, I have done many things, among them fixing some amateur mistakes and becoming allied with many of the professional teachings.

I am not certified as a genealogist, yet feel confident in my abilities as a researcher. I am working towards a certification, and will dedicate more time to that as life will allow. I have already chosen four generations to research and am presently working on the gaps of knowledge as I am able to do so.

I currently work in The Wyoming Room in the Sheridan Fulmer Public Library is Sheridan, Wyoming. Our facility is an amazing place for both Western and genealogical research. In this room, an imagination can take you lots of places. Many folks will know the names of people who have been a part of Sheridan's history. The famous ones include Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, General George Crook among many others. Crook and his soldiers camped near the present location of the Sheridan Library prior to the Battle of the Rosebud and General Custer's ill-fated battle in 1876.

While it is wonderful to have a few famous folks in the history line-up for Sheridan, I find the hidden stories of the townsfolk to be of equal interest. In truth, I am often consumed by my wide-eyed interest in so many aspects of Sheridan, ranging from the psychics and mediums the town once housed to the many houses of ill repute.

There's lots to discuss and I hope to entertain and contribute to a wonderful field, filled with many amazing people.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Book of Me, Written by You: Prompt 1: Who are you?

A long time ago, I had started a blog in earnest and I am hoping that in starting the Book of Me, Written by You, a series of prompts from the Geneabloggers group, I will return and be more faithful to the act of blogging.

So, without further ado, Prompt 1: Who are you?

  • I am Kim.
  • I am a son, brother, spouse and father.
  • I am introverted.
  • I am a pacifist.
  • I am an avid seeker of knowledge.
  • I am a listener.
  • I am a historian.
  • I am eclectic.
  • I am a seeker.
  • I am a reader.
  • I am a wallflower.
  • I am a fisherman.
  • I am joyful.
  • I am thankful.
  • I am an adult, but live with the curiosity of a child.
  • I am creative.
  • I am deep in thought most of the time.
  • I am compassionate.
  • I am a lover.
  • I am an aspiring professional genealogist.
  • I am determined.
  • I am an open book.
  • I am a progressive in a conservative state.
  • I am spontaneous.
  • I am quiet but think loudly, and often.
  • I am a thinker.
  • I am a gardener.
  • I am a teacher.
  • I am open-minded.
  • I am passionate.
  • I am still learning.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

1940 Census sheds light on missing data

While I'm excited for the release of the 1940 census and am surprised by all the fanfare. Well, maybe not so much. My Google Plus stream was a bit inundated with blogs about the excitement, the reveal, the minutiae, the chase, the hunt. All signs indicated the ancestor season was open again with fervor surrounding the release of another window into the past.

I had my ticket and was one of the folks anxiously waiting for servers hosting the census to allow me a good connection to start the hunt. Wyoming, my primary quarry, became available later in the process. While frustrated by the wait, I knew would be worthwhile. Census takers in Sheridan County, Wyoming, were quite meticulous with good handwriting throughout, great notes indicating reasons for an extra space or why an infant had been crossed out--(the child was born after the cut-off date for enumeration, but still listed as a footnote to the census all the same.)

I poured over all of the pages for Sheridan County, my rat's nest of roots. I found the young men in their homes before enlisting in the service of their country, my great-grandmother, Alice (Van Gorder) Lupton, a widow since 3 December 1938, among so many other things.

While I found the release of the census to be another exciting time, I started thinking about a couple of loose ends in California. The release of the census is a chance to tie things together a bit more, right? I took a couple days away from the census and started looking for records of William F. Van Gorder, my great-great grandfather who left Wyoming sometime after being enumerated in February 1920 in Sheridan County. The Van Gorders homesteaded just across the Wyoming-Montana state line near present day Decker, Montana.

I have to confess there is a bit of a mental jumble here that my brain has mixed up things. As I write this, I realize that for a few years I had incorrectly processed time with William. I had thought that he had gone to California around 1940, several years after his wife, Axy, died in 1918 in Boulder, Colorado. The assumption of a California sunset for William was based on the fact that two of his children, Claud and Ivy, a lifelong bachelor and a spinster who lived together, moved there by the time of the 1930 enumeration. And, anyone who has spent a few years ranching in Wyoming and Montana and enduring the extreme conditions prevalent in this region, a California sunset seems to be a logical choice in life.

After pulling up the California Death Index on, I had to do some manual searching for William but found him to be a cooperative ancestor. I was excited to have a death date and the information to locate his death certificate. Feeling lucky, I opted to look for another couple within the same records, Samuel and Vina (Willis) DeLapp who lived in Santa Clara County.

I had previously located the 1910 enumeration for both Samuel and Vina--with a bit of excitement. Samuel was enumerated twice within a week. On 18 April 1910, Samuel and Vina were enumerated together, ages 85 and 84 years old. Five days later, Samuel is listed in the household of his son, John S. DeLapp as a widower. My search in the death records confirmed that Vina passed away on 22 April. And even though I was aware of the information in the enumerations previously, a bit of wind was sucked out of me upon validating the data. The implications that a census taker, perhaps the same one, knocked on the door of a family with a recently deceased loved one, seems ironic and surreal.

So, even with the excitement of the 1940 census, I found a couple of detours along the way that were equally satisfying.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Lupton Diaries

I preface this with an apology as I am a new person to blogging. I have not posted anything recently due to winter ailments afflicting myself and my family. Being under the weather (and the blankets), I have had some time to ponder a few genealogical matters. The following is my latest submission, which I had meant to post on January 16th.

A few years ago, while visiting my grandmother and staying the night in her basement, I came across two diaries of my grandpa's from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Bound in black leather, the diaries were intended to be five-year diaries but were used instead for only a couple of years each. The space intended for additional years was used as extra writing space, in most instances.

I share the entry from January 16, 1948 as it records the birth of my mom and aunt. Having traversed the contemporary road that my grandparents traveled, I can only imagine the journey with my grandmother in the early morning hours in 1948. My understanding is that Ash Creek Road is much more developed today than it was in 1948 due, in part, to improvements made by oil companies. That being said, the road is a private road and maintained, as best as possible, by residents that live there. It is a road made of red shale that leaves a rusty red-brown dust on any vehicle willing to carry over the washboards that are an eternal feature along certain stretches.

The drive to the Lupton Place from Sheridan takes close to thirty minutes today. Recalling my own experience of driving my wife to the hospital in Salt Lake City twice in two years, I know the excitement and anticipation. Luckily, we only had to drive a few blocks up 700 East to reach our destination. There are so many things to consider about the mindset of my grandfather in driving his expectant wife to town. How did he react to her water breaking? Did he remain composed or was he scurrying about? What was the drive into town like? What was the delivery like? Was he involved?

The weather recorded for January 16, 1948 in Sheridan, Wyoming, where my mom and aunt (fraternal twins) were born, was cool, according to, reaching a high temperature of 19 degrees fahrenheit. The weather in my own lifetime has been increasingly milder, this year in particular with most of January reaching close to or over 40 degrees. I harken to say that I sound like an old-timer, recollecting the weather of my youth by saying, "When I was a kid the windchill was negative 45 degrees...."

Other entries in the diary include daily interactions with neighbors through helping with farming and ranching, community and family events. The entries are not elaborate affairs with feeling or emotion: they are simple accounts of the lives of rural folks. Also contained in the pages is an account of a rural neighborhood, roughly 20 years after being homesteaded, (give or take a few years in some cases).

The entry I enjoy the most is the entry for June 18, 1947. Written by my grandmother, it is a brief entry about their marriage ceremony. The wedding was held at the home of siblings Roy and Eunice Williams, my grandmother's aunt and uncle.

When my grandfather passed away in 2001, I spent time with my grandmother and had told her that I had cried a lot when I heard the news. After a brief pause, she confessed that she was afraid to cry fearing that she would be unable to stop.

The diaries offer some insight into the rural community that my grandparents both grew up and embraced. My grandfather was a member of the local school board and Farm Bureau while my grandmother was a member of the Lower Tongue River Women's Club, which consisted of various extended family members.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A ditch that binds a community

Winter here in northern Wyoming has been mild thus far and I have been taking advantage of the 40 degree days as much as possible in restocking our firewood stores. Yesterday was  degrees and I'm trying to figure which pair of shorts works for this time of year.

My mom has offered to help cut wood yesterday and we did so on the property of a cousin north of town. I was out last week and visited with the cousin and had visited with her for a few hours about various family stories. One thing that came up was an engineering project known as the Interstate Ditch. I had come across references to the ditch in a court case a few weeks ago and have heard it referenced by my mom over the years.

The ditch is an irrigation ditch built in about 1904 to convey water to a handful of farmers near Decker, Montana. The ditch provides water to several acres of land that would otherwise receive very little water for irrigation, besides the nominal spring and summer rains. While talking about the ditch, the cousin said that she had both the ledger and the minute book to the Interstate Ditch Company, of which she was the secretary. Without hesitation, she offered to loan me both, but I said that really the minute book was of more interest.

The book is an ordinary record book, with "Interstate Ditch Co." written in pencil on the cover. The first pages are a draft of proposed by-laws, followed by the by-laws that were approved. The minutes do not provide genealogy records per se, but add to the awareness of how the dynamics of a community organization changes over time.

The stockholders usually held a meeting once a year. Often the meeting was held before the spring irrigation started. What is curious is seeing the names in a somewhat fluid state. While reading the ledger, it was interesting to see the names change as one generation left and another took the spot, or a family name disappeared entirely, to be replaced by a new name.

The early names are ones that I am familiar with by proximity to family that I research, or in the case of E. A. Whitney, by reputation. Whitney was an early resident of Sheridan, Wyoming and continues to have an impact after his death through Whitney Benefits, a philanthropic organization. Whitney assisted the stockholders in the financial start-up of the company and the logistics of the stocks and in all things banking.

This is a unique record as it sheds light on the community workings, albeit an isolated section of a community based on the path of an irrigation ditch. The value is that it also shows what we as genealogists and historians already know--that often the work of people unfamiliar to us in the past has a lasting impact on those of us in the present.

The ditch provided water to the land that would eventually be owned by Preston Wagner, son of William Wagner, who was a neighbor of other kin. William Wagner was also an early president of the ditch company and a substantial shareholder. The land that Preston Wagner homesteaded on is now owned by the cousin who loaned me the minute book, and borders land that my great-grandparents, Ralph and Cora (Williams) DeLapp lived on.

The ditch itself is substantial--an average-sized man would be hard to spot walking in it and might be able to jump across it with a running start. It may be just a ditch to some, yet I find it surprising that something so ordinary has such a complex and rich history.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Creating a custom chart

For the past week or so, I have been working on a project that has encountered a few pitfalls along the way. I started charting a unique family group with the basis being homesteaders in northern Sheridan County, Wyoming, specifically near Acme and Monarch, Wyoming.

I started the process using information I have compiled over the past few years, as well as personal knowledge of many of the relationships. The chart is intended to show as a graphic the kinship ties of many neighbors in the Lower Tongue River community.

The following statistics can be found in this particular group:
  • There are 49 individuals, of which 23 (46.9%) were homesteaders
  • Of the 23 homesteaders, nine were female (39.1%); 14 were male (60.8%)
  • Of the 23 homesteaders, six that had a spouse that also homesteaded
  • The largest consanguinaity group consists of seven individuals, relating to the Van Gorder family
I descend from six of the 23 homesteaders: Gideon and Eliza Lupton, William F. and Axtah Van Gorder, and Robert T. and Elizabeth Williams.

A chart created by Open Office Draw

I had started this process by asking for suggestions in the Transitional Genealogists Forum message board. Several suggestions came in for using a mind map, which is often used for mapping workflow, ideas or concepts, but has some additional utility. I found it to be a great playground, but wasn't the fit for what I was attempting. I was also referred to genograms, of which I am familiar and have played with GenoPro a couple of times. I again didn't feel this was adequate for my purposes.

I remembered that Rootsmagic has a charting program bundled with it, which I thought should work given the user-friendliness of the larger program. I launched myself into Rootsmagic Chart with mouse clicks blazing a path for my creation. A few hours of adding lines, adjusting lines, planning and replanning how to incorporate additional names in to a tight spot, I finished. I was happy with the finished product....until I wanted to save it. It turns out the program will not save a file in anything besides a proprietary extension. On top of that, it won't allow users to print, returning the message, "Wallchart printing is disabled in the demo version."

Bummer. The program info under the Help tab indicates it is version 1.02 and is copyrighted by Rootsmagic, Inc. 2003-06. And the red flag in my head goes up and the mental party balloons quickly deflate. Back to brainstorming. I wonder about the program in question being packaged with the larger program when it has no real use to any user, aside from being a place to sketch ideas out.

It turns out the solution is a pretty handy one. OpenOffice Draw is a perfectly capable program for creating custom charts with much ease. I kept my earlier attempt open and created a newer and fresher chart, of which I can say was a bit easier and seems to be more appealling to the eyes than the end result in Rootsmagic Chart. Sometimes the simple solution is one that is overlooked by wanting something fancy and created by a genealogy-related company.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Homestead records of Sheridan County, Wyoming

I live in a small town and it always feels good when I enter the Wyoming Room at the Sheridan Fulmer Library. I feel like Norm from the 80's television show, Cheers. They know me by name there and by now they know some of the family I am researching.

While at the Wyoming Room a couple of weeks ago while conducting some routine data collection, the manager, Judy Slack, asked if I wanted to look at the homestead records they had acquired earlier in the year. I've been meaning to work on local homestead records for sometime and have to admit that I am not very knowledgeable about the homestead process. I do know that I have several homesteaders in my family and that the files the Wyoming Room obtained might be worth looking at.

About the records: The State of Wyoming initially had several boxes of records stored in a storage unit in Cheyenne, and apparently not in ideal circumstances at all. There was a gap by the door of about 4-5 inches which allowed a considerable amount of snow and particulate matter to invade the storage unit. The state decided it no longer wished to keep the records and offered them to the Sheridan Fulmer Library. Judy and her crew sorted through the boxes, many of which were moldy and unsalvageable.

Once the sorting and processing was completed, approximately 25 boxes of various records remained. Many of the records are regarding failed homesteads, one of which is a grand uncle of mine, Ned Lupton. Other records are regarding issues that regarding Desert Land entries and water, as was the case with Ernest Kester, another relative.

The diamonds in the rough were bits of information that I doubt I would ever have found elsewhere. In the file for my great-great grandfather, Gideon Lupton, was paperwork requesting a refund for his homestead money. He started to suffer from paralysis on January 6, 1913 and could no longer work the land and had no money to hire the work out. This is the newspaper 10 November 1919 article from The Sheridan Enterprise:

The funeral home record doesn't shed much additional light on the cause of death and states paralysis as the cause of death. While I claim to no medical training, I think this indicates the possibility of a stroke.

I am quite amazed that I located a specific reference to the date when he became ill, which I think is quite unique.

Another unexpected twist came when I found a rather large file for a woman named Amelia Wagner. I am not related to her but she and her husband were neighbors to other kin, the Schreibeises and Robert and Elizabeth Williams, my great-great grandparents. Amelia was a teacher to several members of my family. Her husband, William Wagner, was a well-known rancher known for his large stone house, which he built by hand.

The paperwork, it turns out, was a court case tried in district court over whether the Wagners filed a false land entry because of timber, stone and minerals that were available on the property. Allegations also surfaced that the land was worth more for the coal than anything else and should have been sold at a higher price. The testimony of Mr. Wagner is nearly 60 pages long and a bit tedious, but gives a good impression of the landscape in the area. There are also about 20 pictures in the back that were used as exhibits, as well as two maps, one of which was marked on in the courtroom by Mr. Wagner himself. The pictures show the coal mine that Wagner had constructed for personal consumption, as well as the lay of the land in question.

The added bonuses are two of the witnesses for the defense, Frank Lupton, my great-grandfather and Jacob Schreibeis, a member of other kin that ties in to more contemporaneous times. (Frank's daughter, Violet, married Jacob's son, George.) The testimonies are great to have found.

What shines through in all of this is a bit of humor. The Luptons that I descend from have a great sense of humor and I laughed at the very start of Frank Lupton's answers. When asked what his occupation was, Frank answered, "My occupation I guess would be farmer." Apparently he didn't feel that was substantial enough and continued with, "I don't know what else, digging in the dirt."