Sunday, June 9, 2013

Long lost gold: "Centennial History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Ammansville, Texas 1890-1990"

I was recently hired to work on redesigning and enhancing Arabic 041 (the first year High School Arabic class) for BYU's Independent Study. It has been a really fun project, and between that and our upcoming move to Iowa in two weeks, I have had very little time to work on family history.

Because I don't work on Sundays, I was able to put aside (reluctantly, because it's such a fun challenge!) my new Arabic project, and find a little time for some research.

A few years ago, I was hired to provide some of my personal photos of my adventures in the Middle East to be included in BYU's online Arabic 101 course. It was a win-win situation, because it was super flexible hours, right before my wedding (so cash was a great thing to have!), and this was an inexpensive way for them to supplement their course. I was not able to work on it for very long, though.

With this new project, I realized that I might have some materials hidden somewhere in the labyrinth of file trees (Kate's Windows Backup, Kate's Linux Backup, a million folders with some name like "photos" or "pictures" etc.) on one of the three hard drives we've got here. I started to dig, and found some photos I had previously thought lost, that will be excellent for this Arabic project. I definitely made a link to them on my desktop.

All of this to say that I also dug up some photos I took of a rare and out of print book called "Centennial History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Ammansville, Texas 1890-1990." The inside of the front cover has the Family History Library stamp on it. I must have taken these photos in 2007 or 2008.

This book has some information in the front that I didn't photograph, but what I did photograph is really a treasure. It's basically a mug book of people in this tiny Texas parish.

The thing about the St. John the Baptist Parish in Fayette County, Texas is that all of the Czechs are so interconnected. They were a highly insular community with an extremely low rate of migration outside the county - and when they did migrate, it was usually to a neighboring Texas county like Lavaca, Wharton, Colorado, or Brazoria. The further down in generations that you go, the farther away the migration patterns became. It's interesting to note the number of descendants of original Texas Czech immigrants still reside in Texas. I'm proof of this non-migrating culture; I am a fifth generation Texas Czech, born in Lubbock. My sons will be able to say that they are sixth generation Czechs, born in Katy. Interesting.

Anyway, the neat thing about this "Centennial" book is that it has so many photos and biographies. I did some research today on my Fišer-Šumbera lines. I was able to learn about how to research using the State District Archives of Zámrsk (here's a really good step by step guide) to take this line back. I found a family tree on Ancestry.com for this family, but of course it had no sources. Since the sources are readily available (well, after a 500+ mb download that took ~2 hours, but hey), I want to go to them first.

I was also able to discover some information about one of this family's sons. I discovered his second wife, and was able to prove her identity using five pieces of indirect information. I'm interested in describing this process more, but I suddenly realized, "hey! Maybe I can use this for my BCG application!" Meaning, I'm too lazy to look up the exact rules regarding whether or not you can use a previously published case study in your BCG application portfolio, so I'm just going to assume I should not post about it.

I made a list of some of the different kinds of records Tom Jones describes in Mastering Genealogical Proof that I will need to assemble in order to achieve my reasonably exhaustive search. The only one that isn't available online are deeds and naturalization documents. My husband pointed out that it might be a good excuse to get out of the house, a road trip to the Fayette County Clerk's office, while we're putting our house on the market. Because that's really the problem - if we're in the house, all my cleaning is literally pointless because there's a 20 foot cloud of entropic mess that perpetually follows my 3, 2, and 1 year old during all of their waking hours. The clerk's office is no fun with toddlers, but it might just be worth it to exchange one kind of headache for another.

I never used to appreciate peace and quiet before. You can tell that I'm writing this blog post in the quiet of the evening hours. I'm sure I'll miss it when they've grown, but for now, it's really nice to have a few minutes to breathe, reflect, and post some of my genealogy adventures, even if they're scanter than they used to be.

It's really sad because I've packed my genealogy library. I found myself saying, "Hey! I could look that up in ____ book!", turning around to my empty bookshelf, and slumping in my chair, the realization that it's going to be a while before things get back to normal again. As in, back to a normal research space. Blah. Well, it gives me some deep appreciation for the quality of my library, that I actually do use it as a resource.

At least I photographed some of it, and found it. This "Centennial" book is a great resource. I would love to do a look up for you, if you need one.