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From: Dani Brown <>
Date: Sat, 22 Oct 2005 15:44:50 -0700 (PDT)

"A TALE OF TWO CATS," by Juliana Smith

It all started very innocently. I was off to return a
library book to our
local library. At the counter there was a gentleman
with a box. Inside
the box were two cats (yes, in the library)--a mother
and one kitten. The
mother was very thin, and it was apparent that she was

still nursing. She
had been giving all she had to that kitten, who in
contrast seemed quite

Those of you who have read my columns for sometime
know that I have a
soft spot for animals. We have two dogs and two cats,
three of which were
rescued from either shelters or the street.

While it was easy to fall in love with these two as of

yet unnamed cats,
I know I can't take in any more animals. So how could
I help these
lovable creatures? The gentleman told me and the
librarians at the desk
that he couldn't take them himself because he didn't
have his own place.
Nor did he have a car to take them to a shelter. I
have a van! That was
it! I suggested that I could take them to a local
humane society, and
then continued to discuss various options with the
librarians. Shortly
after that, I turned around and the gentleman was
gone, leaving me with
the box of cats. Uh-oh.

Well, I ended up taking them to the humane society,
but they couldn't
take them. The lady said they were completely filled
up and had no cages
to spare. Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh!

We're still contemplating what to do with our new
friends, but I was able
to provide them with a temporary shelter in my garage,

some food and
fresh water, and for mom, a wipe down with some
"flea-killing wipes." In
return, they have given me some ideas for this

While it is oh so tempting to take in these sweet
babies, I first need to
think about the consequences. There will be
compatibility issues, and
health issues that are critical to think about.
Bringing in strays could
expose my family and my pets to disease and parasites.

Before any thought
of bringing a new pet indoors, I need to consider it
carefully and
research any potential problems.

We might be equally tempted to bring in "branches"
from other peoples
family trees into our own family history files,
particularly those that
extend further back than our own or include famous
historical figures.

However, incorporating other people's data without
weighing the
consequences also bears risk to our own carefully
documented work. Every
twig on that tree should be examined and verified, and

potential problems
worked out before hitting that merge button. Once it's

in there, if you
discover it's not correct, it's going to be much
harder to get it out.

Bad information circulation has long been a problem
for family
historians, with erroneous data from publications
being picked up and
shared. These days we have to be extra careful though.

circulates so quickly on the Internet, that within
days of a posting, it
can be picked up by surname lists, message boards, or
any number of other
ways, and reposted several times without verification.

You may see the
same fact, listed ten times on different websites, but

that doesn't make
it correct. Take the time to consult original records
and analyze the
conclusions that others have made. Their standards may

not be as high as
yours are.

As I tried to figure out what to do, I immediately
turned to the
Internet. It struck me how it has become such a
natural research tool. I
searched for shelters in the area that would take the
cats. I searched
for information about taking care of strays and on
taking care of small

As genealogists, I think we're ahead of the curve in
this mode of
research. We spend a lot of time researching on the
Internet, but are we
getting all we can? Do we only look for records
online, or do we look for
information on records that aren't online, and
research ways we can
obtain them for our ancestors? Are we searching for
names, dates and
places, but overlooking the historical contextual
materials that are
available at the click of the mouse. As an example, a
search for the
terms "Chicago" and "1850s" turned up several
historical references:


A three-part article on Italians who settled in

A brief history of the city with links to related
topics. Search this
tool for other cities and you'll find similar entries.

Illinois During the Civil War: Settlement and

The Industrial Revolution: A Biography of America
Chicago and the Railroad

These are just a small sampling from the first two
pages of results. Try
this search using a time and place where your
ancestors lived and see
what you can find.

The cat seems to be around four or five weeks old. How

did I come to that
estimation? I looked at her size and compared her to
other kitten photos
I found online, and in addition, the kitten is still
nursing. The
websites I browsed for information on kittens told me
that at around
three to five weeks, the mother begins to wean the
kitten. This is just
an estimate, and since the mother obviously hadn't had

much food lately,
she may have continued to nurse the kitten for a
longer period.

We often have to estimate the dates of our ancestors.
We may estimate a
mother's date of birth using the birth date of a
child. Or we may use
events other than birth that we have dates for to
approximate the date of
birth for an individual. Several years ago, Pat
Hatcher wrote two
articles on this topic in the "Ancestry Daily News."
For more on this
subject, see the online versions at:

Dates: When You Don't Have a Record, Part 1

Part 2

Since I can't keep the cats, I spent some time making
some phone calls
and getting the word out that I had them. I asked
friends to check around
and see if anyone knew anyone that might want to take
the cats. I also
asked for advice. I'm not in a position to spend a lot

of money on these
cats, but I do want to get them their shots. A call to

the Humane Society
that I had visited previously in the day alerted me to

a mobile service
that schedules visits to clinics in Indiana and will
neuter or spay
animals and give them vaccinations for a very
reasonable fee. My daughter
and I will be having a small garage sale fundraiser to

raise the funds to
have the cats taken care of and hopefully that will
increase our chances
of finding them a good home.

As genealogists, we have tools like message boards and

mailing lists
where we can network, ask for advice and seek out
others with similar
research interests. Take a look at some of your brick
walls, and why not
try a few posts to see if there's someone out there
with information that
can help.

For helpful tips on posting an effective query on a
message board or
mailing list, see Michael John Neill's article,
"Before You Post" at:

The real lesson is that you never know what you'll
find at your local
library. While most of us aren't in the market for a
stray cat (a stray
ancestor perhaps. . .), there are always surprises
within your local
library's shelves and resources. Hmm, and going back
to networking . . .
if there's anyone out there in northwest Indiana who
is looking for a
couple nice cats, send me an email.


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