Jennie flashed her eyes between both kitchen windows, expecting to catch a view of Dudley racing his old mare across the backfield and upward toward the barn. He knows its time for supper, Jennie thought to herself, feeling the impatience of a well-organized mother.

Dudley beamed with the impulsiveness of a 21-year-old young man, but his headstrong mother expected punctuality. And when the last bowl of hard-cooked supper was placed on the table, Jennie looked for her family to comply with timely anticipation.

George sauntered into the kitchen to scrub his weathered hands, glancing around the room for his stepson. "Where's the boy?" George questioned his wife as he drew a chair away from the kitchen table.

"Most likely still in town, delayed by the Picket's girl, Rosie," Jennie remarked, rolling a look of sternness toward her husband. "Ever since they moved to town, Dudley has spent less time at home and more time in Rolla."

"Now Jennie, leave the boy be. He's grown into a man and he needs to be lookin'; you know, scoutin' for a wife." George puffed out his chest like a rooster; feeling proud of his maturing stepson.

Jennie shook her head as George defended Dudley; unable to find justness in her husband's comments. Suddenly, Jennie's brother John burst through the front door, words pressured with frantic tones: "Its Dudley, I can hear him. He's screamin' and cryin': I can hear him!"

Quickly racing to the door, both Jennie and George hear the filtered cry of their son, echoing from the valley of the back hills. "Where is he John?" George hastily questioned his brother-n-law as he bridled his horse; panicked filled eyes casting a look toward the valley.

Swiftly throwing himself up onto his horse, George overheard Jennie scream: "Hurry George, go help him." And then...the cries softly melted away...leaving behind a family smothered by a lifetime of grief.

Recounting the story of the death of my grandmother's brother, Dudley, has faded with time: few details of the painful death remain. Tragically dying at the youthful age of 21 after being kicked in the gut by his horse, scarcely any remnants of his short life linger: only a brief explanation of his painful, wretched death.

Recently discovering my ancestral cemetery in Phelps County, Missouri; the tombstone of the ever-forgotten young man stood sweetly within the heavily weeded hillside. Standing within the cemetery, my eyes held captive a tall oak tree stretching over Dudley's grave. Her arms wrapped gently toward the young man's tombstone and I felt strangely comforted by her maternal warmth. And as I laid my eyes on the well-made stone, I read out-loud the gut-wrenching inscription: 'How desolate our home bereft of thee.'

Feeling overwhelmed, as If my great-uncle had just passed, my heart quivered with a mother's sadness. Generations have since moved on within our family and the tragic death of this young man has over time, become forgotten. How burdensome such a loss must have been to my great grandparents; forever changing their lives.

In genealogy, we tend to focus on our direct lineage and quickly castaway information on the forgotten souls: our ancestor's children that died early deaths.  Living with death and loss was more common among earlier generations than today. Gathering more information on our ancestor's losses provide us with a greater understanding of their experiences and creates a richer story to our history.

Draw together records and documents of the early losses within your ancestor's families and learn more about the forgotten souls. And in so doing, you may just learn a little more about yourself.

Keep searching for answers,

After several days of rest from my long road trip to and from the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Springfield, I have reflected on my experience. This being my first national conference, I went with few expectations other than soaking up all the new information and knowledge I could muster, and most of all, the broad opportunities for networking with other like-minded family historians and writers.

At the end of each day, my husband would ask the same question: "Did you learn anything new today?" and I would nod, providing a small recount of my chosen lectures. Each hour-long presentation that I selected was certainly worthwhile on different levels, as I caught newly noted 'tidbits' and 'how-tos' for genealogical exploration. But as I sit in front of my computer today with new found inspiration, the central theme of note for my learned experience is to trust my gut.

As I listened closely to several of the conference speakers, I picked up on the same subtle theme: keep your eyes open to the small clues; expand your search to your ancestor's neighbors or fellow church members and listen to your own intuition.

We have all experienced it; finding records along the way as we frantically try to follow the trail of an ancestor, only to toss questionable records aside, disregarding their importance. Some clues certainly take our attention off-track, yet many others occasionally lead to enlightened discoveries. Which is just what occurred to me today when I went back through an old file, retrieving documents held for later review.

Spending the last several years searching for the county of origin of my Irish ancestors, I have over time, filled a file full of unconnected dots: records, documents, obituaries of my Irish great great grandparents along with a few records of their Irish neighbors living close by. Rather than disregarding the tidbits as I came across them, I saved them; printed them off and placed them in the growing file.

And this last week, as I reflected back on trusting my gut, I looked at the tidbits again and found a connection: A name on a census record that could be the key to linking my ancestor to his Irish county of birth. For you, my genealogical details are not important. What is important, however, is to learn a lesson that is most fundamental to your journey: trust your intuition-the voice in your head that stops to review a new lead-wondering if perhaps you found a clue. How many times have you moved on, disregarding their importance? What if you had listened to yourself and saved all of those fragments of information to be reviewed another time?

Keep in reserve your unconnected tidbits for later; tucking them away to be reviewed with fresh eyes. Because your own instincts and intuition can eventually help you connect the dots; leading to enlightened details of your genealogical hunt.

Keep searching for answers,

Roads taken can sometimes lead to unexpected detours resulting in surprising revelations, which was the occurrence for me this week, as I traveled to the Federation of Genealogical Societies' conference in Springfield, Illinois. When plotting our travelogue toward Illinois, I stared at the long, winding highway from Tulsa to Springfield. To my surprise, the journey would take us directly through the Missouri villages of one of my ancestral homes- a gg grandfather, Henry Clark, who established a farm in central Missouri in the late 1870's.

This particular homestead has special meaning to me; multiplying in acreage throughout each decade, and eventually becoming the childhood home of my grandmother. And so, with a mutual decision with my husband, we would take a little turn toward the village where the old farm had been.

Just a quick look-over; then be on our way.

The week for the conference was rapidly approaching and my schedule was prepared. With various e-mail notifications from the Illinois Historical Society the week before, I began to excitedly anticipate my first genealogical conference; catching glimpses of and listening to presentations of the best-of-the-best in genealogy.

The first of our off-road detours, while driving to the conference, lead us onto a meandering county road with sparkling brooks crossing little low-lying bridges. Closely watching the GPS as we edged our way around, we eventually stopped as the road came to an abrupt end. And as I peered upward through the windshield, there it was; the densely weeded cemetery of my ancestors.

Uncertain if the tombstones of my ancestors would be hidden underneath the tall brush and worry of what might be slithering within the weeds, we both perused the cemetery with trepidation. But as I glanced over the hillside, my husband yelled:

"Here they are; the Clarks"

Drawing away the tall weeds, three large tombstones stood, appearing surprisingly untouched by time; and I smiled. There they were, names of ancestors I had stories about, tucked away within my memories-told by my mother throughout the years.

Leaving the little cemetery behind, we had one more stop: The search for the old homestead or at least the area where it might have been. Reprogramming the GPS toward the village, our SUV took us back up the one-lane county road and as we passed the small lots, I felt a sting of disappointment.

"This can't be it. They had a farm-a large farm. This just isn't it," I blurted out as we passed. But the GPS claimed our location was correct, although I felt otherwise.

Driving back onto the main highway, we passed the local electrical cooperative and we whipped our vehicle into a quick u-turn. "They may have a more detailed map," my husband announced, sensing my frustration.

Stepping into the little building, an employee reviewed our 1930 plat, comparing it to a current one. Providing us with the guidance on where the old farm might have been, we hailed our "thank-you's" and took off.

Taking a different route this time, it was obvious we were approaching the large acreage of my ancestors by observing the GPS. My  husband pointed back to the old and current plats and stated: "Look, this is the same road running through the old farm. We are sitting right on the property."

Pulling the car to the side and stepping outside, we stood to scan our eyes across hundreds of acres of beautiful rolling hills and valleys. Turning, we saw a wood frame house, peering toward the spectacular landscape. "This house is not old enough to be the original homestead, but I'm going to knock on the door anyway," I impulsively said.

After a few knocks, an elderly woman strolled outside and we provided our introductions; explaining the purpose for being on her property and describing our genealogical hunt.

"This was my husband's parent's property. We built this house in the 1950's," she remarked, not certain we were at the correct location.

"That's fine," we stated, "we just know the property was somewhere around here."

As we turned back toward our car, the woman yelled: "Seems like the name of the previous owners were Clark."

Turning to each other with a look of astonishment, we both stumbled on our words: "That was my ancestor's last name: Clark," I responded. She nodded her head, and agreed that her late husband's family purchased the large farmland from my ancestors. It was a brief chilling moment that only happens by chance.

Driving away, I stared back toward the stunning rolling landscape, feeling I had captured a small moment of my history from 130 years ago.

Oh, did I say I went to the Federation of Genealogical Societies' conference with week?

It was really good too!

Keep searching for answers,

The interest in genealogy continues to rapidly increase and we can speculate as to the causative factors: the obvious curiosity of who, what and where of previous generations, ultimately providing insight into our own state of being. But we are also kept within the fold of genealogical research due to the endless wealth of records.

The fascinating aspect of this ever-evolving science is just that: it is evolving. And fresh ways of discovering ancestors are revealed daily, leading me into the academic subject of the day: school records.

As a member of the Oklahoma Genealogical Society, I received an update this week on the newest addition to the society's reference guide; the listing of archived school records for all 77 Oklahoma Counties. Compulsory public education in Oklahoma was mandated in 1907 to collect yearly census records of their students making note of several identifiers of interest to the genealogist: birth date, place of birth, tribe, disability and parent's names.

With the announcement from OGS, I began to explore the whole subject of utilizing archived school census records for research. To my surprise, I discovered that numerous other state archives and genealogical societies are making school census records available. With just a quick Google search, websites from Tennessee, Colorado, Louisiana, Arizona and Mississippi popped up with either archived school records that are indexed or digitalized. And Access Genealogy is a great source for searching for school records from every state.

The availability of school census records (sometimes called Scholastic Census) is primarily a resource for 20th century records, as most of the states began collecting school census in the early 1900's. But as I gleaned some of the above sites, a few have records as far back as 1850.  And when exploring the subject of researching school records, other areas of exploration looked interesting such as reunion records, alumni association lists and yearbooks. If such records are not located on-line, a quick call to the local school board in the county you are researching, may bring results.

Which leads me into the frightful, nail-biting subject of yearbook pictures!  Ancestry.com and several Rootsweb sites, began digitalizing school yearbooks a few years ago.  Just today, I quickly pulled up my parent's yearbook on Ancestry. Of course as the interest increases, more yearbooks will become obtainable for download; providing an additional tool for research. Which means there will come a time in which all of our school yearbook pictures will be searchable on-line!

So, the lesson that can be learned from today's lecture is two-fold: The researcher in genealogy has numerous tools available for discovering their ancestors, including the increasingly popular school census records; and, we will never escape our dreadful 7th grade pictures of pimples, braces and bad hairdos!

Keep searching for answers,