Notes from the webmaster

This was a new and learning experience for me. Let me pass on some principles used in devoping this site.

1. Seek and use collaboration.

This whole project began when I did a google search on my middle name, Ozro. I found a page posted on Ozro Blanding Foster, my great-grandfather, by a researcher of the Waxham family. OB married Adalaide Waxham, that was the connection. Bob Waxham has both provided inspiration and materials, and I was able to give him a photo of Adalaide and some missing information about OBs later years. While there is usually somebody in every family that takes an interest in genealogy, it is the miracle of the internet that allows connection by web pages and email across family lines. A complete genealogy was published of the Feyerherm line which is a fine reference, but it does not provide the personal stories.

2. Find oral histories.

I knew that the cornerstone of any story of OB would be the biography written by Ida Porter 75 years ago. While Ida could only have direct knowledge of the families' Nebraska years, OB was still alive and could provide a reasonable accounting of his experiences. My mom received a portable typewriter to take to college as her high school graduation gift. She made good use by copying Ida's manuscripts both the biography and the family genealogy that Ida submitted to gain admission to the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution], to which she added some additional family notes to bring it up to 1940s. This must have inspired her, as in 1945 with typewriter in tow, she got grandpa John Walter to dictate a family history that reads something like little house on the prairie. Unlike OB, John's recollections were sharp as a tack, remembering dates and people with precision. Mom used that typewriter for 50 years, but now she too has entered the computer age. I have made email contact with some cousins which led to a few more momentos. Otherwise my parents generation are all gone, and the last chance for rememberances is fast fading. Without stories to explain life and times, a genealogy just reads as a bunch of "begats".

3. Use census data.

The census is invaluable because of the accuracy of facts. Searching the census will produce poor results except when combined with family connections. Knowledge of siblings is of no consequence in pedigrees, but absolutely essential to making sense of census findings. Census prior to 1850 are of poor definition because they do not provide names of children. It is even worse for former slave negros prior to 1870 being only a number. The first official account of former slaves are the Civil War enlistment records, at least these brave young men have a defined place in history. Which is important to me with OB being an officer in a Colored Troop Regiment. With many identical surnames in the same county of a state, birth place location and children names help define which are the relations we seek. Indicies are a modern addition to help search microfilm copies of original enumerations but they too have limitations. Some only name head of household which generally is less than helpful, particularly for finding young men that hire out for farm work. Oddly spelled names which should help find haystack needles are often misquoted in the index. Ozro and Lare both were commonly not indexed properly, making tracking by spouse or children names essential. While the census provides a facinating snapshot of family location, there are years when families seem to dissappear from enumeration, and that poses even more questions.

4. Every resolution leads to another mystery.

As I track down loose ends, more questions evolve. I was pretty proud about managing to find my great-grandpa Lare in the 1870 census, only to find him living with a 17 year old "daughter" and 2 non-related infant sons. What does that mean? There other examples and more can be expected concurrent with on-going research. This makes the internet webpages an ideal venue as they can be linked and modified without knowing a fixed result.

I went to Sacramento the end of October 2005 and be able to get my mom's scrapbooks, a real treasure trove of family lore. Then in February 2006, Barbara Smith who works in Sacramento came across a photo album with references to OB Foster and because of this website was able to contact me. More treasures?

Comments, suggestions, corrections and requests are welcome. webmaster Larry Dean.