Aug 152014

HatLStanley1I was watching TV on Monday afternoon, enjoying another re-run of MASH, when a text alert flashed across my phone: Robin Williams had died. How sad, I thought. He wasn’t that old, way he? A heart attack, or maybe an accident. Yes, sad.

But as I was sending a text message about Robin Williams to my daughter at work, another alert appeared. I saw only one word on it… and I sat up straight on the couch and stared, simply stared at the screen with my mouth open.

How could this have possibly happened? I have been a fan since Mork & Mindy. And not only was Robin Williams a hysterically, incredibly, amazingly funny man, but he loved to laugh. He always seemed to enjoy his own humor as much as we did. He was always so happy. I just couldn’t believe, couldn’t grasp what I was reading and seeing.

The press conference the next day brought me to tears. This poor man was so desperate; he must have felt so totally and completely alone. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Robin Williams and my great-aunt Hattie Lee Stanley never met. I’m pretty sure of that. Robin was born in Chicago and lived most of his life in California. Hattie was born in Texas and lived most of her life here. Robin was in high school in California when Hattie died in New York.

No, they never met.

But they shared one decision, one act, one consequence.

My Aunt Hattie Lee Stanley also killed herself.

I have a vague memory of being in my grandparent’s living room that night in 1966. My older brothers and younger cousins and I were all playing while the adults spoke in tears and hushed tones. We kids were told simply that Aunt Hattie had died. I was 8 years old.

I barely remember Aunt Hattie. I remember going to visit her at her house in Fort Worth. That’s about it. I don’t recall if she was cheerful and carefree or dark and unhappy. 

So I really don’t know what could have been going on with her, what left her feeling like she had no options, no alternatives. 

I only know what she did. And I know how my great-grandmother cried.

Families have secrets. Things they don’t talk about.

We as genealogists spend our days picking our ancestors’ lives apart, trying to learn every detail. Where did they live? Where did they work? Who did they love? How did they die?

But can we ever know what they were thinking?

My Aunt Hattie has been gone 48 years, Robin Williams just a few days. I hurt for them both.


If you or someone you know is struggling, help is out there:

*National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

*American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

*Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas 24-hr crisis hotline: (214) 828-1000
Jul 232014

Need a census page but don’t have a subscription to or other pay site? It’s 1 am and the library is closed?

The Internet Archive has the entire 1790-1930 US Census set, available for free. But there is no index to help you find the page you want.

So, how can you quickly and rather painlessly find the page you want? This is my method:

1) I want to find the 1910 census page for my 2nd great-grandfather, Miles F Stanley, so I go to and the 1910 US Census collection:>Search>Records>Click on US map>United States>United States Census, 1910

2) I locate 2GGF Stanley using the Search function

3) I go to 2GGF Stanley’s search results page:


4) I then scroll to the bottom of the page to “Citing this Record”:


Here I note the state, county, enumeration district and page number, as I will use these to find 2GGF Stanley!

5) Next stop is  the Internet Archives United States Census page, where I scroll down to and click on the 13th Population Census of the United States-1910 link:


6) I click on the Texas link:


7) And locate and click on the link for Palo Pinto County :


8) At the bottom of the page, I use the little hand to scroll through the pages, looking for the Enumeration District, then Page Number (usually in numerical order, sort of). I tend to scan by 1/2 to 1 inch increments across the slider to find the ED, then search page-by-page (I prefer Full Screen, Single Page to view the images):


And here is my 2nd great-grandfather, Miles F Stanley, located in ED 191, on Line 1 of Sheet 17a:


I simply right-click my mouse, select Save Image As…, save the page to 2GGF Stanley’s file, and now I have that census page, for FREE!

This entire process took less than 5 minutes.


Jul 202014

This Genealogy On A Budget series presents links to free online genealogy databases, software and other items.


The Portal to Texas History is a wonderful resource for researchers studying Texas ancestors:

The Portal is a gateway to Texas history materials. You may discover anything from an ancestor’s picture to a rare historical map. From prehistory to the present day, you can explore unique collections from Texas libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, and private family collections. The Portal continues to grow as additional partners contribute digital versions of their collections. We hope you’ll return often to discover our latest additions.

Portal to Texas History

This is a vast site, so be prepared to spend some time just looking around and getting the “feel” of the place. The search function is a bit difficult to master, but be patient. There is a wealth of genealogical data to be mined at The Portal to Texas History.

Some of my findings include 1909 and 1920 city directory pages listing my 2nd great-grandfather Miles Francis Stanley I and numerous 1800’s newspaper articles mentioning my 4th great-grandfather John Hamilton.



Jul 072014

JanMStanley (1)Tonight, I was just finishing up on the file update for my Aunt Jan, reviewing everything, making sure I had the dates, locations and source citations correct. Trying to be thorough and wondering where else I could find information about her life. Let’s see: birth, education, marriage, residence, census, death, funeral. I think I got all of that.

Hummmm…. education. I know the name of the high school and the year of graduation. I even found her high school yearbook on Wow, check out those hair styles…

(Focus please!)

I did a quick online search for the high school + the year of graduation and I discovered that the R L Paschal High School Class of ’56 has a website. This site contains all sorts of tidbits about the Class of ’56, including yearbook photos (which I already had from Ancestry) and…digital images of the 6-page graduation program!

And there on the last page, with all the other S’s, is my Aunt Jan Marie Stanley.

Adds a personal touch to the file, don’t you think?

Jun 262014

The starting over work with my RootsMagic database is progressing nicely. But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. I have only edited a few of my ancestors’ files so far, but I have been really digging and scratching, in search of new data. As much as possible, I am trying to present a complete picture of that person, birth to death and everything in between.

The work on my grandparents is done (for now…). Particularly with these two people, I remember so much “first person”, especially with my recently-deceased grandmother. But the only documentation I have for some of these facts is “personal knowledge”, which is really not the most dependable of sources.

As an example, I entered several residence facts (dates and locations) for my grandmother. I knew these facts to be true, as I had visited the sites hundreds of times throughout my own lifetime. The locations were accurate, the dates for some where “ballpark” figures.

I needed more than personal knowledge and estimations to vouch for these facts!

So start off, I went to the Tarrant (County) Appraisal District website. As I knew the street addresses for my grandparents’ homes (those that I remember visiting), I searched for those addresses. This database shows recent previous owners, as well as the legal descriptions (subdivision name, block number, etc) of the property locations.

Armed with that knowledge, I next went to the Tarrant County Clerk home page, and searched for real property records for my grandparents that correlate with the legal descriptions. Most of the documents don’t show the actual street addresses, only the legal descriptions of those locations.

I found and downloaded about 40 pages of documents, containing the legal property descriptions and my grandparents’ names, dating from 1950! I’m not quite sure what all of these documents show, as I am not terribly familiar with the “legalese”, but they do all relate in some way (deeds, mechanics liens, etc) to the legal descriptions and ownership of my grandparents’ homes.

MilesFStanleyII (82)This document from 7 Mar 1950 shows that my grandparents paid $1950 for:

certain improvements, to-wit: Convert existing garage into a room, repair entire house, construct garage…

That $1,950.00 in 1950 had the same buying power as $19,256.17 in 2014! (Annual inflation over this period was 3.64%)

Interestingly, from the Tarrant Appraisal District site, I learned that this house was built in 1946, yet by 1950 it needed significant repair work.

An added bonus from these many documents: my grandparents’ signatures on every one!

While these resources deal with Tarrant County, Texas, I’ll bet many other localities have similar records available online, just waiting to be found!


Jun 072014

I’ve added another ancestor page: Miles Francis Stanley II. The love of Nanny’s life, they are finally together again after 44 years. :)

Been doing a bit of tweaking of the theme, little stuff. I’m trying to a better job of managing images and the Media Library. Every image is named appropriately, so I can search for one if necessary.

You know, trying to do right all the things I did wrong in my first blog (now Ruth’s Genealogy Archives).

As I build new ancestor pages, I am also reviewing and updating that person’s RootsMagic page.

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