Since I'm the Carrier of Family Information for my generation--my cousins can't be bothered, and anyway I'm the only one who grew up hearing all the "old people's" stories--I thought over the weekend, hey, it's spring break, so let's see whether this ancestry.com thing can help me organize what I know.
So far, I've planted 289 people in the family tree, and that's just with two days of dinking around. I can see where the most irritating dead ends are: my father's paternal grandmother Sara Josephine (I think I don't have the right spelling of her maiden name) and Great-Aunt Bird on my mother's side. Those are two of the women with the most colorful lives, too, at least according to Mom the Teller of Stories . . . so it will be interesting to see whether I can attach any records to them over time.
In the fourth generation back, I've connected six people to their birthplaces in Paris, Alsace, and Londonderry. I have years of arrival in the US for four of my second-great grandparents. I'm beginning to see just how many cousin marriages happened on Dad's mother's side of the family, which, er, explains some things. ;-)
Thanks to the very helpful administrator of the Congregation of St. Joseph's convent in Wichita, who answered my e-mail lickety-split, I also have dates and details about my father's maternal aunt, Sister Hilda (nee Josephine). I knew that she was a cook and general skivvy in the convent, but never knew when she entered or where she was sent at various times during her life as a nun. Plus, the convent sent me a picture!
And there are the makings of an interesting tale in these facts:
Thomas William Patton (or Patten) and Mary Ann Thompson embarked from Londonderry on the same ship. They arrived in Wilmington, Delaware on May 27, 1833, when he was 25 and she was 23. They married in Philadelphia on August 25, 1836. Were they sweethearts at home in Ireland, or did they meet on the passage over? There's a sliver of evidence that Mary Ann came from Coldaff, while Thomas had lived in Londonderry town itself; I like the idea that they first struck up an acquaintance on the ship, then kept in touch once they landed in the strange new country, whereupon acquaintance led to marriage. Their first daughter was born in Philadelphia, but after that they drifted west to Ohio and in a few years to Missouri, where they spent the rest of their lives. They had eight children and raised six to adulthood; their youngest son was my father's paternal grandfather. Both Tom and Mary Ann lived to ripe old ages: he died in 1889, she in 1891.