Latest Book Read: The Treasure of Hidden Valley


Usually I choose a Gutenberg book based on ancestors I’m researching, or perhaps the area they lived or came from. This book just kinda fell into my lap, or rather my reader. I didn’t have a particular subject in mind, or era, or geographic area, when I went looking. Page after page of books scrolled by and nothing in particular caught my eye until I saw this title: The Treasure of Hidden Valley, published by Chicago: Forbes & Company in 1915. It sounded mysterious, intriguing, maybe even a little dangerous. So I downloaded it. The book didn’t disappoint. It did contain mystery, intrigue, danger, and even some romance.

TreasureHiddenValley-coverSet in the early 1900’s, it’s about a young man who left his Uncle after they disagreed about his destiny. His Uncle had his life all planned out, right down to his job and who he should marry. The young man, Roderick, didn’t agree, so after a heated discussion they parted ways.

A letter from his deceased father, riding cross county on a train to Wyoming, meeting new people, learning a new profession out West, and eventually encountering a young woman rancher, take up most of the book. I’ll leave the treasure part alone and focus on what struck me about the book.

Roderick eventually ends up in San Francisco in mid April of 1906. Does that date ring a bell with you? It didn’t with me, until I read the following about him sitting on an iron bench in a little park very early in the morning:

THE contrast between the scenes in this gay city and the quiet hill life away up among the crags, the deep canyons and snow-clad peaks of southern Wyoming was indeed remarkable.

It was the morning of April eighteen, 1906, and the night had almost ended. There was a suggestion of purple on the eastern horizon—the forerunner of coming day. The crescent moon was hanging high above Mt. Tamalpais.

The town clock tolled the hour of five and still Roderick waited. Presently he was filled with a strange foreboding, a sense of oppression, that he was unable to analyze. He wondered if it presaged refusal of the great love surging in his heart for Gail Holden, the fair rider of the ranges, the sweet singer of the hills. An indescribable agitation seized him.

The minutes went slowly by. His impatience increased. He looked again at his watch and it was only a quarter after five. The city was wrapped in slumber.

Then suddenly and without warning Roderick was roughly thrown from his seat and sent sprawling onto the grass among the shrubbery. He heard an angry growling like the roar from some rudely awakened Goliath of destruction deep down in earth’s inner chambers of mystery—a roar of wrath and madness and resistless power. The ground was trembling, reeling, upheaving, shaking and splitting open into yawning fissures, while hideous noises were all around. Buildings about the park were being rent asunder and were falling into shapeless heaps of ruin.

That time period in San Francisco could only be The Great Earthquake. The author did a good job interweaving Roderick’s story amongst the devastation and destruction surrounding him. I knew it was bad, but after following Rockerick around through the city, and seeing it through his eyes, I had a new understanding of just how horrific it was.

The author ended the book with an Afterword, more details about the earthquake, in case “my readers will care to peruse a more detailed description of that tragic happening.” A small excerpt:

IT was on April 18, 1906, that San Francisco was shaken by a terrible earthquake which in its final effects resulted in the city being cremated into cinders and gray ashes…

…The trembling, gyrating, shaking and swaying vibrations, the swiftly following outbursts of fire, the cries of those pinned beneath fallen débris and of the thousands who were seeking to escape by fleeing into the parks and toward the open country, produced the wildest pandemonium.

It was the dawn of a new day abounding in hideous noises—detonations of falling masonry, the crash of crumbling, crushing walls, the shrieks of maimed and helpless victims—and all the people stupefied with a terrible fear, women weeping in hysterical fright and everyone expectant of they knew not what, unable to think coherently or reason, yet their voices filling the stricken city with cries and moans of heart-rending terror and lamentation. And all the while there came up from somewhere an unearthly threatening roar that awed the multitude into unnatural submissive bewilderment.

There is a description of what was in the newspapers of the day, “You have read in the newspapers that the cosmic disturbances of the San Francisco earthquake extended entirely across the continent. Indeed the shocks were felt distinctly in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other Atlantic points.” Clear across the continent – the aftershocks were felt clear across the the whole United States? My high school history class didn’t supply details about the vastness of the earthquake, nor the destruction and devilish fire that consumed so much of the city. Or perhaps I was just too young to comprehend.


At any rate, my mind was stretched thinking about relatives in the middle of the US, or especially on the East coast who had relatives in San Francisco. How long did it take for them to make contact? Some must have never had contact from their loved ones. And the anxious days and weeks of waiting. How sad to never know for sure what happened to them.

What I learned from reading the book and living with the characters is our ancestors faced trials and tribulations that we might not think about unless we look in the newspapers and history books of the places they lived. And I’m not talking about Ancestry’s life story feature which throws in a couple historical sentences, like my 5 yr old g-grandmother watching stocks in the newspaper.

Use Gutenberg books, the Internet Archive, Google books or newspapers,, or local historical societies to learn about the time and place your ancestors lived. It may give you a new perspective on their lives and the challenges they faced, or what they endured.

Family Search Indexing Event




Ever found a record at Family Search?

There are some parts of my tree that wouldn’t be there, were it not for that one record I discovered at FamilySearch to help fill in a gap in my family history.

In the past I have done indexing for Family Search. But life got busy, I was using other resources to find records for my tree, and indexing fell by the wayside.

This year’s indexing event takes place July 15–17. I’ve made room on my calendar to do some indexing. Promises were not made to myself about a certain number, only that I will give back to the genealogical community in this small way.

WWIE-2016-participant-badgeI may index a record that makes a huge difference in someone else’s family tree. And hopefully someone else will index a special record that helps me with another branch of my tree…that someone could be you.

If you have a few spare minutes this week-end, why not index a batch or two of records. Then you can put this badge up on your blog!

For more info, and to sign up, click either of the graphics in this blog post.





Ice Cream Sundaes!

Who would think ice cream sundaes might have something to do with genealogy?!

It’s more along the lines of history. While researching some ancestors in Wisconsin, I ran across this interesting (and yummy) tidbit:

On This Day: July 8

On this date in 1881 druggist and soda fountain owner Ed Berners of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, was asked by a customer to top a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, an ingredient previously used only in ice cream sodas.

The new tasty treat became very popular, though it was only served on Sundays. According to H.L. Mencken, the sundae got its official name after a little girl demanded a dish of ice cream ‘with that stuff on top’ on a different day.

Numerous other locations claim to have created the first ice cream sundae, and it is unclear which community deserves the title to having invented this great American treat.

~source Wisconsin Historical Society’s “On This Day in History”

Not knowing where Two Rivers was, I checked Google:


Nearly straight east of Oshkosh, and southeast of Green Bay, it’s located where the West Twin River and the East Twin River meet just before draining into Lake Michigan…about 200 miles away from where my ancestors settled. Not likely they were around there in 1881, but they might have been some of the first to experience this tasty treat, considering they lived in the State where it was invented. Or so they claim!

If you have ancestors from Wisconsin, you might enjoy checking out The Wisconsin Historical Society’s website. There’s a special section called Research Your Family History, as well as special collections, photos and numerous other topics.

Or just peruse their On This Day in History section. Fun facts and interesting things about the Badger State.

Map courtesy Google Maps

Free Access to Findmypast


Starting today, June 29th until July 6th, all UK, US and Irish records will be completely free to search and explore on Findmypast. It’s a special Fourth of July extravaganza!

According to their press release:

  • This includes all 118 million “Immigration & Travel” records, 116 million US marriages, and all UK, Irish and US censuses
  • Over 7 million new US Naturalisation records and over 1.7 million US Passport Applications have also been released, marking the first phase of two brand new collections


If you don’t already have an account at Findmypast, you’ll have to open one to get free access to search all their records.

What a small price to pay!!

I’ve been a subscriber to Findmypast since I cancelled my Ancestry subscription last fall. I must admit I had a little trouble for the first couple of months, until I got used to their search engine. It’s a little different than Ancestry. And I gave up too soon. Had I continued to use it daily (instead of every other week!), it wouldn’t have taken me weeks to learn it!

Now I love it. I’ve found dozens and dozens of ancestors in England, as well as immigration records. Over the week-end I found a British passport application for a great-grand Uncle. And just like TheGenealogyGirl who discovered a record in their United States Marriages Collection that had been eluding her for years, yesterday I found a marriage record from Virginia that wasn’t to be found anywhere else.

Today I discovered a distant cousin who’s occupation was listed as “Biscuit Factory General Labourer It Worker” in The 1939 Register Transcription. Findmypast has been touting their 1939 Register as “41 million lives recorded in one day at the outbreak of World War II.” But all my ancestors had immigrated decades and decades before that. I figured it wasn’t worth looking into. But I forgot there were siblings and parents left behind, who produced more offspring. Now I’m curious to see if it’s possible to pursue these different descendant lines. Wouldn’t it be cool to make a connection with a 4th or 5th cousin over there?!?

If you have some spare time in the next seven days, after all it IS a long holiday week-end (in the States anyhow), take some time getting to know your ancestors.

It’s 7 days of free access to over 1 BILLION RECORDS.

What have you got to lose?

P.S. Leave a comment if you make an exciting discovery!

Easter Memories

Easter in our house was full of worship and family. We always got up early on Sundays to prepare for church. We lived close enough to the church to walk to the services. I have vivid memories as a child of practically running to keep up with my parents. When I was very young, I held onto my parents’ hands and ran in the middle to keep up. Whenever we came to cracks in the sidewalk, I wanted to jump over them, you  know – “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back – sort of thing. I believed what the older children told me. My mother was more accommodating with the swinging and jumping. My father however got quite upset about such “silly rhymes,” telling me to straighten up and walk right.

Of course Easter meant a new outfit, and if I was really lucky, a hat. But my parents’ were not rich, so I learned early on never to ask for anything from a store, even though I found many outfits, and especially delightful hats I loved. My mother always made my clothes. And went over and above for Christmas and Easter. I especially loved our “matching” outfits she would create. There was nothing more I wanted to be than just like her.

After church we usually gathered at Grandma’s house, all the Aunts and Uncles, all the cousins. Grandma fixed the majority of the meal, but the Aunts brought wonderful dishes of food. And desserts. Lots of desserts! And they sat out all afternoon with no adult supervision, so us kids would sneak back into the kitchen to nibble on what we hadn’t tasted during our dinner.

When it came time for the meal, the cousins were seated at a separate table. It was a big deal when you got assigned to that table, because it meant you didn’t need your mother’s help. You weren’t a “baby” anymore. However, what those grown-up babies didn’t realize was the older cousins were under strict instructions from grandma. But they tolerated the fussing and scolding from older cousins easier than they did from their mothers.

After we were done eating, we had small duties to perform. After that we were shushed out of the area – outside if the weather was nice, or upstairs so the adults could socialize. We tried to play quiet games, but you can imagine how things could get going with a bunch of children who only saw each other at holidays or birthdays. Then grandma would come upstairs and suggest something quieter for us to do.

But after she went back downstairs we knew the only way we could be quiet for a while was to gather around the large open air register which allowed heat to go upstairs, and peer down and listen to the adult’s conversation. This usually didn’t last long before we got bored, and went back to our rampaging again.

Looking back now I marvel on how patient grandma was with us. She seemed to understand our need to run around and have fun. I might get a scolding from my mother after I got home, but it was never one of the parents who came upstairs. It was always a loving grandma, so proud of her grandchildren.

Thanks Mom and grandma.