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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Sweet Genevieve

It's been way too long since I've checked/updated my blog, a lot has happened in the past 8 months! I now have two sweet daughters- Georgiana Marie and Genevieve Louise. Identical twin girls born in late July 2012. (lots of pictures and stories to come, just trying to catch up here!)

My Genevieve Louise was named after her father's paternal grandmother, known as "Maw". I was just checking comments from past posts and a comment on my post about Maw Burchett (the original Genevieve Louise Burchett) left me speechless. My brother-in-law, Joe, had transcribed a beautiful letter Maw had written to him.

Genevieve Louise Woodard Burchett (age 101) with her great granddaughters Georgiana Marie and Genevieve Louise (6 weeks old). September 2013, St. Albans, WV. Maw passed away just 5 days after this picture was taken. We are so blessed to have had this visit. 

Maw's letter to her grandson Joe:

March 29, 2001

Dear Joseph,

I am your paternal grandmother Genevieve Louise Burchett, nee Woodard born August 19, 1911 in Huntington, WV.

I never knew any of my grandparents as they all died when I was very young or before I was born.

My mother’s name was Lula Maud Richardson. She had a sister, Susan and a brother Samuel. They were left orphans at an early age and were separated for life. My mother was raised by an aunt, Emma, and uncle, Will Davis - but they never adopted her. They lived in Guyandotte, WV and were the only “grandparents” I ever knew. Many of my summers were spent there. They had a cow and chickens and an outdoor toilet. I thought that was fun – especially when grandpa would take us for a ride in his Buick touring car. It had high seats and a top that was convertible. Grandma fussed at him for driving too fast – which was probably 15 or 25 miles per hour – if that fast!

My father, James Calvin Woodard, was the oldest son of John William and Laura Jane Messersmith Woodard. His siblings were Carl, Benton, Floyd, Clay, Stella and Nina. I loved my aunts and uncles and spent many hours visiting them – especially Uncle Sam and Carl and Aunt Nina. When my grandmother Woodard died, my dad left home. He took a variety of jobs, ending up as a Freight Conductor on the C&O Railroad out of Huntington, WV. He met my mother when he was eating at a boarding house in Guyandotte – run by Mrs. Emma Davis. He fell in love with her and when he could he attended the Methodist Church where she sang in the choir. Mrs. Davis was against his courtship – so while she and her husband were on vacation they eloped to Wayne, WV and were married by the Justice of Peace.

They lived in Huntington and there my oldest brother William Waldorf and I were born. When I was two we moved to St. Albans, WV and lived in a little house on Railroad Ave. as it was called then because the trains ran along it. Every time a train ran past we would race outside to wave to the conductor and engineer. Sometimes dad would be on that particular train and he would always be on the caboose to wave to us and we loved that.

I remember when the troop trains carrying world war one soldiers would come there – they always waved to us and would throw “hard tack” crackers which we would race to pick up. They were hard as rocks but we thought they were a treat.

One evening we all walked up to the depot (about 1-1/2 blocks) – President Wilson was on the end car of a train and he came out and waved to everyone. He had a nice smile.

I loved living there in that little house. It’s still there and when I had my car I would drive by it – remembering how it used to be. It had a big barn and a smoke house used for smoking hams. We played in the barn – dad made us a rope swing in the doorway. I remember swinging and singing at the top of my voice. That’s what I was doing the day my brother was throwing rocks. One hit me on the forehead and I still have the scar.

By now I had another sister, Laura Elizabeth and two brothers – James Arthur and Lewis Webster. Our little house was getting crowded.

When I was six I started school at the old Central School Building on 6th Avenue. I had to walk across a scary (to me) trestle bridge as that was the shortest route. My older brother was supposed to stay with me but he never did after the first few days.

The first thing that happened I got head lice. Because my hair was long and red like his mother’s my dad wouldn’t let it be cut. My mother worked and I would cry – getting rid of those pests was quite a battle. The other memorable thing that happened I had to stand in the corner for whispering to someone. That was very humiliating.

I was twelve before I got my first haircut. I had to plead and cry before my dad would consent. He took me to his own barber and when all that long red hair was laying on the floor all he said was, “I hope you’re satisfied.”

My dad was a very handsome man with black wavy hair. He was very strict with me and my older brothers but by the time there was nine of us he lightened up a lot. He always wanted a car but I heard him tell a neighbor that there was no way he’d fight with all of us over car keys!

My mother was about 5’-6” with long straight dark hair that came below her waist. She never cut it in deference to Dad. She worked so hard doing for all of us and looking back I can see how little we helped her. She was much more lenient with us than Dad. When he was gone we could play ping pong on the dining room table, play “Puss in the Corner” in the house and about every other game we wanted to play. I guess she realized that growing children needed to let off steam. When Dad was home all was quiet. I was not allowed to read “paperback trash” – so I would hide my current novel in my big geography school book and pretend to be studying. Sneaky, huh?

When I was 7 or 8 we moved into our new house at 511 6th Ave. It seemed very spacious to us – Mom and Dad went up first – then Waldorf, Arthur, Laura and I – we pushed baby Webster in his stroller.

We had gas lights which meant no jumping in the house lest we shatter net mantles that sheltered the flame.

I remember when the Armistice was signed and World War I was over. The churches and school bells began to ring and whistles blew. I was frightened and ran inside – I found my mother down on her knees and crying. My dad had two brothers overseas and in the war but they were not hurt. I gave your dad the empty brass shell casing that Uncle Ben brought back from France.

I remember when I was 9 or 10 I was late getting home from school as I had loitered to talk and giggle with one of my friends. I thought I was in for it but when I got there I found everyone in a state of great excitement. Our house was flooded with electric light. It seemed so bright to us. Now we could have a refrigerator instead of the old wooden ice box on the back porch. The pan under it had to be emptied periodically or the floor would be flooded. Still, we missed Mr. Burdette and his ice wagon. We would run after it hoping for a chunk of ice. Dad also bought an electric washing machine. We had been using one that ran on manpower - that is by turning the cylinder with a piece of a broom handle. We kids had to take turns doing this. My brother and Dad’s younger brother Clay would do the timing and I’m sure I came out the loser. Uncle Clay lived with us after his father died. I don’t remember how long he stayed but I do remember he got small pox and we were all lined up buy old Dr. Thompkins and vaccinated. Uncle Clay was isolated in the attic and his sister Aunt Nina came and took care of him. We carried their meals to the foot of the attic stairs and Aunt Nina would be wearing a long coat and hood and that would scare us. It must have been a big added hardship on Mom but I never heard her complain. I wish you could have known my mother, Joe. Looking back I realize what a truly remarkable woman she was with nine children, a husband who was more than likely to be called to work in the middle of the night – which meant getting out of bed, baking biscuits, frying eggs and apples (which was the only thing acceptable to my father), packing his lunch bucket and falling back in bed for 2 or 3 hours. Then up to work without ceasing until our bedtime.

She had such a pretty singing voice and she taught us all “Now I lay me”. When she had a little time to read, it was her bible. I wish I had helped her more and told her I loved her. When I was twelve years old there was a Revival held in a big canvas tent in the field next to our house. Then was the time I gave my heart to Jesus and was baptized by sprinkling – I didn’t always remember my vows but now I realize that my mother with her prayers kept us all in line – not a stray in the bunch.

Dad died in 1957 in November of pancreatic cancer. Mom died in May of 1968 of congestive heart failure. They are buried in a Hurricane, WV cemetery along with Dad’s parents and brothers.

Dad couldn’t afford to give anyone music lessons but we always had access to music. We even had an Edison that played round wax cylinders. It had a big black metal horn for an amplifier with roses painted on the inside. After it was relegated to the attic we kids used the horn to yell out the windows at passersby til we were ordered to stop. Then we got the Silvertone Victrola and we loved that – although we had a record “Sweet Genevieve” that my brothers would play just to aggravate me. Then came the radio and on to T.V.

listen to "Sweet Genevieve"

We had a lot of fun in our pre-teen years. We played softball and in the long summer evenings there was “hide and seek”, “King of the Hill,” and several others. The girls jumped rope, played with Jacks, cut out paper dolls, and marbles were big – needless to say we didn’t have much grass in our back yard. I don’t believe kids have a childhood today. They are constantly going to structured activities or in the house watching T.V.

When fall came Dad always bought a barrel of red apples which he put in the basement. It was my pleasure to come home from school, get me an apple, sit by the fire grate (Gas) and read. Every Saturday we kids had to go thru that barrel of apples and pick out the ones starting to go bad so mom could cook them. We didn’t enjoy that very much.

When May 12th came, no earlier or later we could take our “long Johns” off and go barefooted and boy did that feel good!

When our aunts came to visit in the summertime and would bring our cousins that was fun. Mom would make us pallets of blankets and quilts downstairs for us to sleep on. We would tell stories and jokes and rough house until loud hushes were heard from upstairs.

Then in the Fall it was apple butter making time. We would take turns on the apple peelers but were not allowed to stir the apples in the big copper kettle. It stood over a fire outside. I’m sure it was not much fun for the grown-ups. Dad always tossed in a silver fifty cent piece to keep it from sticking and whoever got it when apple butter was served was allowed to keep it. Riches indeed!

I graduated from High School and Berea College School of Nursing. I went to Peabody Teachers College in Nashville, TN, but when the money ran out I left school to take a job in Prestonsburg, KY. I had planned to go back to school but I met your grandfather in May and we were married in November 1938.

We raised and educated (with their help) four children – your Aunts Sue, Linda and Janice and your father Robert Calvin. They all married and then the grandchildren began to come. You, my dear Joseph, were the last one that your grandfather knew. He was so thankful for a grandson to carry on his name. He died Oct. 29, 1974 of a heart attack...




Thank you, Mom! 

It's been 8 weeks since my mother died suddenly. Still doesn't feel real. I am heartbroken and missing her every single day. But, my life must go on. I will never take my time here for granted. It's a tough lesson to learn, but each day is so very precious.

I am a mom to the sweetest girls. They just turned 8 months old. Yes, they are twins! Identical twin girls. My mom was so excited to be their Grammy. She never knew any of her Grandparents and her own mother died very young. This was a new and very special bond for her. My husband, Steve, and our twin girls were living in Brooklyn, NY until early this year.  After having the girls we knew we wanted to be closer to family. Both of our families live in upstate NY within 30 minutes of each other. As we made our plans to ditch the city life, we were so excited to move our girls into the arms of both sets of grandparents. The very day we packed up the moving truck and made our way from Brooklyn to Rensselear, NY- my mom suffered a ruptured aneurysm and passed away.

I want to dedicate this blog to my mom, Sharon Marie Koval Wright. She was the hardest working person I have ever known. She loved, worked, and dedicated her life to those she loved. The biggest gift of all- she taught me how to be a mom. Thank you for being such an amazing mom. I love you.


Genetic Ethnicity from my DNA Analysis

Wow, it's been awhile since my last post! April was a very busy and celebratory month filled with baby showers, bachelorette parties, birthdays, and bridal parties. With all the big changes quickly approaching (twin baby girls due late July) my posts will probably become a bit sporadic, but I will not give it up!

I first shared my interest in's new venture in DNA testing for genealogical research a few months ago, read my post and reader comments. At the end of November I swabbed my cheek and sent my DNA sample to Just 4 months later I was SUPER excited when I finally got the email notification that my test results were available. Since Ancestry DNA is still in it's Beta stage, there are disclaimers that results may not be as accurate as possible at first. They warn me that as more samples are processed and more samples are added to the database, results will become more accurate. This might be due to under or over representation of certain ethnicities.

How is ethnicity determined?


"Your genetic ethnicity is a prediction of your ethnic background. We take segments of your DNA and compare them to our ethnicity database, which contains one of the most comprehensive collections of DNA samples from people around the world. We group individuals with a well-established family history in a given place (British Isles for example) and then compare your DNA to each unique group in order to identify overlap. And as our database continues to grow, you could receive updates with new information.

DNA changes slightly with each generation, and over time any group of people that are relatively isolated (by geography or culture) develop unique genetic signatures that we can look for. It’s this aspect of DNA that makes our ethnicity predictions all possible.

We expect that over time, as the science continues to evolve, we'll be able to show more granular ethnic regions—even regions within a specific country."

I do wish they had the ability to break it down into specific country, but I understand how challenging that is with constantly changing borders! A big mystery I'm looking to solve in my family tree is the birth place of my great grandparents who are from Galicia, a region within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They might be from Poland, Hungry, or Austria.

Anyways, back to my results. They found my genetic ethnicity to be 44% Eastern European, 41% British Isles, and 15% Scandinavian (BIG surprise there). I expected the eastern european/british split (mother's side/father's side), but I have no idea where the Scandinavian comes from. I also expected some German in there, from census records I've found my ggg grandfather Jacob Grimm would have been born in Germany and so were both of his parents. TBD!

This is how my results are displayed:

Did you participate in's DNA project? Do you have an interest in DNA testing for genealogy? I'd love to hear from you! I am VERY novice when it comes to DNA and genealogy, but I want to learn more! 


How to Search the 1940 Census Online at the National Archives

This has been a very exciting week in the genealogy community with the release of the 1940 census. It's still a little early for you to be able to search for your ancestors by name, websites are working to get states up with a searchable name index asap. For now, I've had the best results using the Enumeration District information with the National Archives. Want to learn how?


 Search By Location

Do you know the street where the person you are looking for lived in 1940? If so, you can search by location. Simply enter their State, County, City, and Street. If it's a long street split into numerous districts, you will have the ability to enter a cross street to narrow your search results. What you'll get after you search is 1 or more census schedules that street can be found in. If you're looking at a residential street in a smaller city, the better you're chances you'll only have 1 census schedule to search through. The longer the street, the bigger the city= more census schedule results.



Search by Enumeration District

If you have the 1930 census record of the person you are searching for in 1940, pull up their census page and in the upper right hand corner you will find their Enumeration District. The National Archives has this great tool that will figure out the 1940 Enumeration District from the 1930 Enumeration District you entered. So easy! Same thing as before, you might wind up with a few different census schedules to search through. I really didn't have much trouble with this issue though. If you are using the 1930 district number, don't forget to click on the 1930 tab!

Here I searched with the 1930 Enumeration District from East Orange, New Jersey 7-402. My result is a corresponding 1940 map of the district, 2 census schedule descriptions, and 2 census schedules.

The map will show me a map of the city of East Orange in 1940. The descriptions will detail the boundaries of each census schedule. The census schedules are the actual pages of the census where I might find my family! What I usually do is open a new tab with the street address of the house I am searching for. I then click on the census schedule and start checking the addresses from the census to the map of my address. I then kind of walk with the census taker, going page by page through the census schedule, checking the streets they hit to and follow their path to my intended street.

Remember, they will sometimes do blocks and jump from street to street or work only on one side of the street. So don't be worried if you see the street you're looking for but not your house number. Keep going! They will come back to it. And don't be intimidate when it says 38 pages or something like that, it goes surprisingly quick! When I find the house and family I'm looking for it feels SO good! You feel like a detective who just solved a mystery.

Where do I see the street/address on a census?

Just in case you're not quite sure where you find the street and address on a census. Look on the left hand side of the census and you'll see the street name written vertically in the left hand column. If you don't see the street name written, you might want to check the pages surrounding your page to find it. Sometimes if it's a long street they don't write it on every single page.

 Good Luck!!! And if you don't know where your family lived in 1930 or 1940, just give it a little time and you'll be able to search for them by name in the 1940 census. 

Questions? Comments? Happy Friday!!!