Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Return of a Great Adventure: Kansas Archaeology Training Program

  It has been a couple of years since our family has had the opportunity to be involved with an archaeological excavation.  Hubby made it a point this year to add the KATP (Kansas Archaeology Training Program) dig to our calendar.  The KATP was where I met Hubby and where he received his first training preparing him to be an archaeologist so it holds a special place in our hearts.  It has been years since we've been able to attend, so it was a great chance to dive back in and reconnect with old buddies and make new friends.

  Hubby and Bubby went out shortly after the dig started.  The excavation was of a prehistoric Native American site that was about 1000 years old located near Hays, Kansas.  The dig is powered by volunteers and you can be as young as 10 (with a supervising adult).  It is a great way to "dig" into archaeology and get a hands on appreciation of the past. 
  The boys found a wonderful variety of artifacts and significant features.  On some digs you might get a square that has absolutely nothing, so it is really encouraging for the younger folks if you have a site that gives them more than a chance to play in the dirt ;)

Bubby's first arrowpoint

Bubby standing by a bison jawbone he helped uncover
  One of Bubby's goals was to use this to gain his Archaeology merit badge for Boy Scouts.  To do this he not only worked at the site, but cleaned and sorted artifacts in the lab.  The lab often gets overlooked since it doesn't seem as glamorous as digging, but it's a great way to see all the cool artifacts coming in and view them sans dirt!
  The KATP is held on a yearly basis generally around the first part of June.  This is its 40th year in Kansas.  I highly recommend it for a visit or to get involved in first hand!

Field Trip: Nicodemus

  The kids and I have been dying to go to Nicodemus, Kansas for a while now.  Not only does it participate in the National Park Service's Junior Ranger program, but it coincides with my research on the United States Colored Troops (one of the veterans that I've been researching had a daughter that married a man from Nicodemus).  We were in the general area at an archaeological dig Hubby and Bubby were involved with (more on that later) near Hays and it was only an hour north to Nicodemus.  There's not much in that general area, so you can't do this one on the way to anything really. 
  Nicodemus is the oldest and only remaining African American settlement west of the Mississippi.  The site is free to visitors and open daily.  We started our visit by gathering up the kids' Junior Ranger packets and watching a short video, well the older kids watched the video... Shorty was on a nap strike and was in high gear so I wandered around with him :)  After the show the packets sent us outside to wander the town.  It had you examine buildings representing different aspects of town life (a hotel, school, church, etc...), just a great big scavenger hunt which thrilled the kids!
  The town was small and quiet, so when Shorty wanted to "follow" this fuzzy caterpillar in the road I was able to send Bubby and Mookie off to find the items on their list by themselves.
  After our round of the town, we ended up at the little playground close to the Town Hall.  It was a beautiful day and the kids loved being able to stretch their legs. 
     When the kids turned in their completed packets at Town Hall one of the rangers asked them each to pick a number between 1 & 42.  That number corresponded to a plot of land on the map and the kids could identify with one of the original settlers of the town.  They were also given a little bag with fun pamphlets in it and of course their Junior Ranger badge.  The kids told me that the young lady who swore them in was from Nicodemus, she did a good job engaging them for the "swearing in".  The park rangers were all just excellent and went out of their way to make sure everyone had a good experience.
  The kids have dubbed this one of their best Junior Ranger trips because is has 1) been the only one with a playground and 2) they got a cool bag.  The site is not a big one, but does a fantastic job with what it has and its only going to get better as they start renovating one of the churches for another display area next year. 
  I'll tell you what, we'd make this trip in a heartbeat if the chance came up again, the kids had so much fun!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Don't Miss the Details

  War is boring.  Well, that's what I always thought.  In my college days and in my research except for the acknowledgement of a major war or veteran I would pass it over with just a glance.  I'm a social historian, more interested in the stories that historical people had than names and dates of battles - bleh!  Of course that was until a couple of years ago and then my quest for knowledge of the Civil War veterans in our own back yard forced me into those names and dates that I had so long avoided.  It also made me interested in what could be found in pension records from the National Archives. My first pension was for my own genealogical research and it was a goldmine of information.  My grandpa George R. Marshall served with the 2nd Arkansas, which despite the location was a Union regiment.  It gave me the maiden name of his 2nd wife (my ggg-grandmother) Martha as well as tons of other information.  Actually it pretty much read like a soap opera, but that's another story!
  Because of our work on the local Civil War veterans, I became especially interested in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) amongst them.  There are a few that served with the 1st Kansas Colored, which was the first African-American regiment mustered after the start of the war.  One of "my" guys, George Thompson was especially favored by me.  George served with the 1st Kansas Colored and in his obituary it stated that on his way out of slavery he stayed with a "Rev. McAfee". Well, to me that hinted at an Underground Railroad possibility since most of the 1st Kansas were refugee or runaway slaves.  I did some poking around and found a Rev. Josiah McAfee who was a staunch abolitionist, lived finally in Topeka, and also served with the 2nd Kansas Colored as a chaplain during the war.  So when I finally caved to my curiosity and ordered George's pension record I was looking for a statement from "Rev. McAfee" amongst the file.
Josiah McAfee (courtesy of www.kansasmemory.org)
  I found a researcher who was willing to look up the pension record for me for a cut rate (NARA will do the search for $80 and I was able to get it for $35 - awesome!).  I anxiously awaited its arrival.  The turnaround that this researcher quoted was 10 days and NARA takes at least a couple of months on average, although my ggg-grandpa's took about a month.  My wait was just 10 days, but there is nothing more impatient than a researcher waiting on that key piece of information! Finally it came and lots of fun information but no Josiah McAfee!  I scoured that info for the reason why - I knew McAfee would have been an excellent reference for George and he should be in there! And then I found this...
  Josiah McAfee was listed on the index as one of the statements as an "excellent" source.  Ok, so where was his statement??? I looked back over all the scanned images again - nothing.  I contacted my researcher.  They were amazing and said they'd go check again.  It took a few days, but paydirt!  There was his statement.  The moral of this story...pension files can be HUGE, they can be fragile, they can stick together and researchers are human.  Check the index when you request a pension file.  Make sure all the statements are in what you are sent.  I was specifically looking for Rev. McAfee  or I would have missed it in my excitement to just get this bounty of information.  Every piece counts and might hold that one key to your ancestor's past ;)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Field Trip: Oklahoma City

  The last couple of days have been filled with a little work, and a little play.  The play was especially fun!  Field trip days and places have to be flexible when your work takes you on the road!  This week: Oklahoma City. 
  The kids have loved visiting our state capitol so much, I thought it would be fun for us to take in another one and compare (can we say writing assingment?  Shhhhh!  They don't know it yet!).  We could have taken a guided tour, but it was going to be too structured for some little guy who needed a nap ;) We grabbed a self-guided tour book and it took us up to the 5th floor to work our way back down again.  We exited the elevator, started taking in the elegance of the dome and met this gal who volunteered to take our picture.  I don't get to have my pics taken with the kiddos much on our field trips, so it was a treat! 
Turns out it wasn't just another person who took our picture, it was State Senator Anastasia Pittman!  She took us to the Senate chambers, told us fun stories about the goings-on there and then took us back to her office and introduced us to a WWII vet, her lovely assistant and her intern. She gave us lots of handouts for the kids about the workings of the Oklahoma government, and this excellent book on African-American history in Oklahoma (um, that was right up my alley with my research on the US Colored Troops!).  Ms. Pittman was an excellent ambassador for Oklahoma!  Her love for her work and her state just poured from her :) When our tour was all said and done Mookie declared her favorite part of the capitol was meeting the Senator!
The whole thing was lovely.  Bubby wanted to look at every.single.piece.of.art.  And he may have gotten it done :)

No governor here, but we did get to see her in conference via a door that was open to the rotunda!  Super cool!  I don't know how many times I've been to the Kansas State capitol, but I've never seen the governor while we were there or chatted with a state representative. 
  On our way out we checked out the working oil well on the grounds. 
  That evening we got to revisit a OKC favorite, Hideaway Pizza. Yum!

  Today we started with Will Rogers Gardens.  One of Hubby's hobbys is researching the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in Kansas.   The CCC was involved in establishing this park, so we had to take it in!

   Our next stop was the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. It has been 3 years, almost exactly since we'd been and Mookie especially was excited to go back. 

The galleries were fantastic.  They are just stuffed full of western and cowboy heritage! They're set up a little funky, and so there's not a great flow from one end of the exhibits to the next.
  They have a great kids play area with lots of hands on activities...

Definitely worth the second trip.  If we get back to OKC, Bubby's requested stop is the Osteology Museum!  I definitely see that in our future :)
Bubby and Buffalo Bill
See you later Oklahoma!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Field Trip Friday: Holton

  I wanted to sparkle today.  One of my Grandma Mauzey's cousins passed away this week and today was the funeral, which decided the location of our field trip Friday.  The ladies on that side of the family came from very modest backgrounds but always dressed with a sparkle and a flamboyant air.  When I came upon these slippers years ago, I picked them because they are EXACTLY like what my grandma or her sisters or cousins would wear.  So they carried me up North today to Holton to say goodbye.
  Grandma was meeting us at the funeral.  We got there a tad bit early so we decided to wander a bit rather than sitting in the car.  So where does a genealogist/historian take the kids to kill time???  Well, the cemetery of course!  We have all decided we need to go back when it is not quite so soggy and we have more time.  We saw burials as early as 1860, tons of Civil War veterans, and a mausoleum that was HUGE, as well as some awesome stump stones...
  The funeral was bittersweet, aren't they all?  So good to see relatives you haven't seen in ages, but so very sad.  I'm finding that with each family one that we attend these days it reminds me of how much I miss my grandparents and that makes it all the more hard.  One awesome thing was that we had a Patriot Guard leading the procession.  My cousin had seen it and wanted it for her funeral and since one of her nephews was a Patriot Guard he and his wife performed the ceremony for the graveside service.  There was a certain way they handled the flag differently than a veteran funeral. It was so cool!
  Our next stop was the Jackson County Historical Society.  It turned out to be smaller than what I was expecting, but the kids had fun and that's what mattered!
  Just to show you that the kids aren't always poseable...
  Yep, just about sums it up too... a goofy one, one we have to keep from running away and the other that is too busy pointing out the fossils in the rock...
  Back to my story...
Mookie's favorite display was the WPA  dolls, which gave me an intro to WPA, the kids know all about the CCC because it is one of Hubby's hobbies.
Bubby found an interesting display on the old wolf hunts...
I was super excited about the Civil War exhibits and Shorty liked the train (of course), but well, he didn't stand still long enough at anything to get a picture.  He really, really, really, really wanted to go to the playground we'd seen on the way to the museum.
Can you blame him?  Look at that thing!  We played and played until the kids were red faced and sweaty.
the Burger King crown fit in perfectly

When we wore them out, we dropped Grandma off and went home via the Lane Freedom Trail (Hwy 75). 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why you should use Genealogy in your Homeschooling

  When normal life doesn't get in the way, I am a rabid genealogist.  In fact, I saw this meme this week on Facebook and couldn't agree more...
  Because of my love for all things family history, I look for a way to also get the kids excited at any chance I get.  I have found it extremely valuable in our schooling too!  So, why should you do it?

1)  You make history come alive!  A few years ago we started using Beautiful Feet for our history studies.  One of the books was the Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds.
Have you read it?  Oh my goodness, it is one of my most favorite suspense building read-alouds ever!  It is based on a Van Alstyne family in New York (although it is not clear if it was based on a real story or an embellished one).  Nonetheless, Hubby's ancestors were Van Alstynes from the same part of New York, and had a similar situation with a great grandma who had to hide with the baby in an old log while the Indians walked all around.  Talk about an opportunity to get the kiddos interested!  The kiddos sat with rapt attention when I read that book! 

2) You create a personal connection to historical events.  Valley Forge is just where George Washington had a hard winter vs. your ggggg-grandpa Elwell spent the winter in George Washington's army at Valley Forge.  Its an attention grabber. Throw in some wonderful hands on things, and history is not boring!

3) Its a great lead in for teaching the hard issues.
I was working on some research today and Bubby came and looked over my shoulder and saw this picture.  He said, "who is that?".  I said, "he was a slave who married a slave that our family had owned.  What can you tell me about him from his appearance?".  Bubby replied, "well, he has white features".  I said, "yes, his father was most likely his owner".  Mind blown.  We got into this great discussion on how I came to that conclusion, why people would own others, etc... Using family history as a lead in takes some of the edge off of the hard discussions.  Now there's still that reconciliation of why did my family do this to others, but you can take that and turn it into a morality lesson too and explain why they were not following the Christian values that they may have claimed. 

4) You can make history hands on.  Get out grandpa's old World War II uniform, the autograph album that has Civil War soldiers names in it, the crazy quilt piece that is 100+ years old.  To see and touch these things of those that went before us and where it fit in history is so important!

5) It creates a sense of belonging.  Visit the old homeplace, walk a cemetery where ancestors are buried.  When you can see your connection to history through these old places your family walked, you care more about it, you care about what it has been and its future preservation. 

The more connections to history you create, the more your kiddos will seek out history anywhere!

Field Trip Friday: Trailside Center

  A couple of weeks ago when we went to Mahaffie Farm, we picked up a little passport of places to visit in the Kansas City area.  At each place you need to answer a question for your booklet and you get a stamp for your passport.  This Friday we were in Kansas City to pick up Hubby from a long trip, so we grabbed the closest one to where we were going to be - the Trailside Center.  We were all a little edgy from Hubby being gone, so I am glad it wasn't much, but it thrilled the kids to no end to snag one of their passport stamps!
  We got to the Trailside Center in the early afternoon and we were the first "customers" of the day (they'd been open since about 10am) and the volunteer gals were thrilled we were there.  Our question for the passport was "why is the pioneer woman carrying flowers" and the gal gave an explanation of pioneer life and showed the kids some of the artifacts they had on display.
  Shorty was not interested, so he told me all about this map and drew a route for us to take.
The Trailside Center is at the confluence of the California, Oregon and Santa Fe Trails.  It is essentially a tourism center for that area.  They have some interesting local maps, and a small amount of pioneer artifacts, and an interesting Civil War display with re-enactment uniforms and equipment.
  The map that caught my eye was the one for the Battle of Westport.  I've been wanting to get to that one for a while - its free and would fit right in to what we had been learning.  The problem being - its right next to the Kansas City Zoo which is a day trip for us in itself.  I've been considering blindfolding the kids for the Battle of Westport trip...
   The older kiddos had a good time with the historical nature of this stop.  What thrilled them though was since it was a tourism center, was to pick out brochures and dream about future field trips!  That was worth the stop in itself :)