I have been fascinated with genealogy. The stories that my grandmother, great aunts and great grandmother would tell me were ones that I could recite at least in part by the time that I was a young teen.
As time went by, I would get copies of documents. Carefully, I would copy them and slide them into a page protector. In a time long before the internet, each piece of paper represented someone either sending off for a form, going to the library and making a copy, or sharing a page from a document that someone in the family held.
A distant relative that I met online, Rachel, offered to send me her box of research. I was thrilled. She was advanced in years. She was afraid that the family trees that she had taken years to compile would be lost forever since no one in her immediate family was even remotely interested.
I took her up on the offer and within a few weeks, a large cardboard box came to me. It was filled with all sorts of family trees. Connections that I had never seen. It was very excited. I called Rachel on the phone and asked her where she got all of her information from. She explained that the items she had included, birth certificates and what not were from research. Then she told me the sentence that would break my heart.
"The rest I filled in or made up. I even edited some of the birth certificates and stuff with correction fluid to make them match."
I couldn't believe my ears. The box that I had now had no value to me. I put everything back in it and taped it up. I have never opened it again. She had even created false relationships to famous people because she thought that it would make the tree more interesting.
When you are doing research and adding to your family tree, always cite your source. NEVER make up information.
No matter where you are in the adoption triangle, if you are searching for your family, while you are waiting on things is the perfect time to make a kit in the event that you are united.
This can also turn into a valuable resource for you in the event that you get in contact with your person/family that you are looking for.
I will tell you that when I was posting everywhere, looking for my birth relative that was placed for adoption, I knew the facts by heart. When she contacted me via AOL instant messenger, I could not even remember her birthday, a date that I knew for over a decade.
I can remember fumbling over the keyboard, trying to express how I felt, but my fingers would not even strike the correct keys!
Here is what I would do now.
Create Pages. Make a separate page for each of the following topics:
Their basic facts that you know for sure. These would be confirmed facts.
Facts that you cannot confirm. (In non identifying information, I was told that my family member was raised by people of specific professions. One was true and one was not.)
Photos that you have labeled and their relationship to you as well as the relationship to the person that you are looking for.
Basic medical information. Only list confirmed things, not assumptions.
Contact information. Your contact information that you are willing to share. I advise extreme caution about giving your home address until you know one another better. Although you may be family, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Have a hard copy (printed off) of all of this information as well as a digital copy. Most likely, you will be exchanging information online at first, so if you have a folder with everything in it, you won't have to do a frantic search like I did at 3 in the morning.
I also recommend taking the time to make copies of every single photo you have of family members when you make a family tree for your reunion. It is easier to comprehend facts when you can put a name with a face.
My adopted relative told me that of all of the things that we gave to her, the most valuable was the photos and the family tree. It was really confusing for them to try and learn all about us.
Write a brief bio of the family members that are in your family.
If you are the adoptee, simple facts about your adoptive family are great, but your birth family will really want to see photos of you growing up as well as know about you. You can make it sort of generic at first, but let them know how your life has turned out. Your birth family, especially your birth parents want to know that they made the right decision for you. For birth family, include photos of birth parents at early ages to present. If the birth parent/s are deceased, let them know the cause of death as well as if the parent was cremated or buried. Also note the location of burial if that applies.
If you are the birth parent, write a bio about yourself. Where you were born/raised, what you do/did for a living, how many other children you have, the relationship with the other bio parent, religion and medical history. This may be uncomfortable for you to do, but please realize that most adoptees want to know their history. When I shared with my family member about our shared parent, I will tell you right now that there was no judgement on their part. They only wanted to know more about the birth parent that they would never know personally.
Create a contact information page for yourself to add to your file that is current and correct. Decide now if you want your social media to be a part of that page.
Good Luck With Your Search and NEVER GIVE UP!
I love reading. It is one of my great passions. I like to read a book where every page is a joy to experience.
I recently read Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) By Megan Smolenyak, the companion book to the television series of the same name. She refers to herself and other genealogists as "genies", which I find very endearing.
Megan writes about how you can research your own family tree and she provides copious links for the diligent to use in their own searches. She writes in a style that is easily understood and followed by others, and I found myself making notes throughout the time that I was reading, filling a composition notebook with links and observations for use on my own family tree.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a lot of information in WDYTYA that I did not know about and had not seen before. Some of the links I did not even know existed.
WDYTYA shows how to research for the novice. It is the helper who gives you the nudge that you need to point you in the right direction. It is the notebook with all of the links you need, it is a great companion book.
There is a difference between the hardcover and the paperback editions. The hardcover features celebrity genealogy profiles in a color section, whereas the paperback does not. If you are wanting a book solely for researching your family, the paperback should suffice. I found that the celebrity section added some depth and understanding.
I recommend this book strongly for the amount of links that it contains, the easy to follow directions and the delightful way that the author makes a sometimes tricky hobby into something that becomes more vibrant and alive with each found relative.
As I mentioned in my post last weekend, Sunday, my husband and I were married. It was a very simple and intimate ceremony involving close family, a best friend, the minister and his wife. It is everything that we could possibly want, and we are very happy!
I made it a point when we got home to go and update all of the family trees that we have online with all of the pertinent information.
We don't have the marriage license back from the state yet, but as soon as we do, it will be going in a frame on the wall. I am beyond excited as I was pleasantly surprised to note how beautiful the certificate was when we when to get it.
Some things that I decided to include in my family tree notes for future generations is all of the guests, their relationship to either one of us, where they were born, when they were born, where they live now and their employment or student status and location.
I feel that for future generations, this could be the information that breaks down a road block and it makes me feel good to know that in my own small way, I am making a contribution.
Something else that I did was to label each of the digital photos that with the full names of each person that was in that image.
I also listed off the specific location that we were married, not just the city, county, state.
I will be spending a large part of this summer documenting digital photos with this information. I know that I have written in the past about the tragedy of old photos that had no labels on them. Although they were interesting images, they hold no personal or historical significance to me.
I appreciate all of the emails that I have gotten from each and everyone of you wishing me the best of luck for a happy and successful marriage. The wedding, to be honest, is not the part I was concerned about. It is the marriage!
Don't forget to check out my links to the right!
Hugs to you all,
This weekend has been one of a lot of housecleaning of my online family trees. I have been ruthless in pruning and cutting away family members who are not related to me. I am not talking about in laws or anything like that. I am talking about family members who I used to believe were related to me and I now know that they are not. Although I want to have a full and robust family tree, I need to prune the "bad branches" to make sure that I am not getting false positives.
First cuts to make it? Step parents and adoptive parents. I still love everyone, none of that has changed. I am increasing my odds of my parental family finding me by removing the people that I have no biological relation to.
Someone sent me an email explaining how we were related based on a surname that is of no blood relation to me. I sent a nice email and I am still pruning the tree, hours after I started this process.
I learned a couple of things that I would like to share.
When you download the GEDCOM file with all of the "bad" information, don't rename it and don't meddle with that file. If you make a mistake, that is your master copy, there for you in case you need it. I got a little crazy deleting people and nearly deleted myself at one point.
This is for Ancestry.com Other sites will be different, of course.
So, here is how I have done it. I hope that: 1. This is not confusing. 2. That you are able to follow all of this. Let me know if you have any question either by emailing me or by commenting below.
1. Download your GEDCOM file from Ancestry. To do this, go to the main page, click on TREES, then manage your trees. Go to Tree Settings. On the right hand column, there is a green rectangular box that says "Export tree". It will take several minutes to do, but less than 30 minutes unless servers are busy. leave that page open, you will be using it again in a moment.
2. Once the file is downloaded, create a new tree with a name that will let you know that this is for your DNA tree. I included the words Autosomal in there so that I will know which tree is the one for my research.
3. Upload the file you just downloaded. (I know, this is confusing.) This file is your GEDCOM file. Note that the name of the file will be the same as the tree that you took it from. Don't change the name of the file, because again, if you make an error, you don't want there to be a conflict.
4. Do you have family members that are no biological relation to you? Parents who are not your parents? We will use a parent who is not a parent for my example. (Referred to as a non parental event) Don't delete the parent yet. Save yourself some aggravation. Go back on their timeline as far as you can go. All the way back as many generations as there are. Start deleting people that are not related to you all the way back there. Don't forget spouses and children of these genetic non parents! Otherwise you will be forever cleaning up!
5. Remove all of the people that need removed. It may take a while, but be patient.
Now, go back and edit any relationships that may be mis-listed. Change siblings to half siblings and things like that. Ancestry has a setting for step parents, but I removed any and all similar ties because I was still having people contact me in reference to having a match to me.
6. When you are done, if you would like, you can download the GEDCOM file, which should show up with the name of the new family tree that you created. You can then use that new GEDCOM file to upload to any of the places online that host a family tree.
I am really fortunate that a good part of my Moore family line is well documented. I was on a site recently looking up my great-great grandfather, Dotta Cusetta Moore.
Dotta Cusetta was a farmer in northern Louisiana. As many of the men in his family, he chose to go by his initials instead of his name, so I see a lot of things with "DC" on them instead of his name. Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered DC's Old Man Draft Registration from 1942. This little gem has remained hidden from me because of the misspellings.
DC was 64 at the time of the registration. I would like to think that he looked really good for his age because of the fact that 54 was originally written in, and then the 6 in the 64 was overwritten many times to attempt to cover the 5.
There is a lot of good information on this registration, and I want to share all of my findings with you.
1. His name. The ONLY part of my grandfather's name that is correct is his surname, Moore. However, I have run across a lot of spellings of Moore.
2. His place of residence. The address is there, and I can check and see if that address still exists by looking at old maps of the time and seeing how things have changed or remained the same.
3. He did not have a telephone installed at the time of the registration, which is a nice little factoid for gleaning information after the draft.
4. Place of birth. The place of birth is listed as Downsville, Louisiana. If I were searching for a birth record or certificate for DC, this would be an excellent place to start looking.
5. Date of birth. The date of birth matches some of the documents that I have, so I am able to verify that this is my family member.
6. Name and address of person who will always know your address. DC chose to list a relative who lived just down the road from him.
7. Employer's name and address. As stated in the 1940 census, DC was a farmer.
DC did not sign the registration card. Instead, the name was written out, he made his mark of X and it was witnessed by Isabel Elliott, the registrar. This lets me know that DC was at the very least functionally illiterate. There may be other details, but I am keeping it simple right now.
Now, by forwarding one frame in the search that I was conducting, I am able to see the reverse of the registration card. This is the Registrar's Report. It lists off the race, height, weight, complexion, any other physical characteristics and the signature and location where all of this was conducted.
My GG Grandfather was white, 5'2" tall. (Petite!) weighed 138 pounds, had gray hair and blue eyes. His complexion was described as sallow.
Isabell, the registrar completed the back as well, signing it at the bottom and dating it.
To find this document was a nice reward at the end of a very trying week!
My source for this document is the invaluable FamilySearch.Org,
a free site where you can view and review millions of records.
Recently, I was talking with some friends that are active in completing their family genealogy. One of my friends, Wendy shared a story that with her permission, I am going to share here.
Wendy was looking for a long lost uncle. He would appear and disappear from the timeline that her family had. No one could seem to find his birth certificate anywhere. When she was at a family gathering for a sick relative, someone remembered that when the missing uncle was born, his father brought home a brand new candy from the candy store as a celebration for the kids. The candy? Lifesavers Pep-O-Mint. Year of Lifesavers? 1912. The year that the family genealogists had been looking for? 1932. The person that kept appearing and disappearing from the timeline? His son, who unfortunately drowned before he was 25. Once the story of the Lifesavers candy was used as a timeline starting place, a quick search was performed, and there was the missing uncle, born on December 31st of 1912.
Sometimes, the most obscure and strangest clue can be the one that opens up the path to the information that you are looking for.
If you come from a large family, a family census can be a really great way to get to know one another.
It allows you to create questions that are relevant to your family, and get input from your family before you send it out.
A family census allows you to ask questions that can benefit your family in terms of gathering medical history and regional disbursement.
If you are connecting via DNA links, a family census can allow your family to see the types of connections that are shared.
I have created a family census form that I will be adding to the site this week for sale in a PDF format. If you have suggestions for the census, please feel free to email me. I would love to have input on this.
Here are some of the questions that I am including in my family census:
Of course, there is room for more questions, and I have not decided if all of these questions will make the cut, but I want to create a dynamic document that will not take longer than 10 minutes to fill out.
Let me know your thoughts!
I saw an ad with some really interesting and cool graphics last week for a company called Twile. That ad promised easy to create graphics that would make genealogy more interesting and accessible for family members that perhaps don't have the genealogy fever that some of us do.
The graphic that was showed looked really interesting and cool.
I saved the link, but I put off messing around with the site until I had a little bit of time.
I like their "Trees Without Roots Fall Over" Tagline. It is catchy.
The infographic that is offered is eye catching as well. I downloaded the 2 that are currently offered. One is called pastel, and the other, in honor of Saint Patrick's Day is Green and Orange.
Follow their easy instructions about getting your gedcom file. It is pretty simple. I opted to use my gedcom file from Ancestry.com. I searched online about how to download my gedcom from Ancestry and it was pretty simple.
After I uploaded the file to Twile, it took less than five minutes and I was able to look at their site and see how they presented the information that is my family tree.
I can't wait to see what else Twile has up their collective sleeves to make genealogy fun and engaging for the family historian to engage other members, but this is a really good, fun and easy to use tool!
I have been looking at records and family trees for my darling fiance. He happens to be black. I have given cursory looks at helpful tools for black families who are doing family history before I was with my fiance, but I am using them a lot more now and I want to share some of the things that I have discovered.
In marriage records in the south, there may be separate books for white and black people. Black families may be called black, negro or colored.
The spelling of names will vary much more wildly than in white records. I have no reason for this, but I am seeing a lot more spellings of last names than in white records.
I would like to give a piece of advice that can save you a lot of time: Lose the term "African American" when looking at old records. It is a 20th century phrase, and to be blunt, my husband to be to be finds it very offensive.
I was on the FamilySearch.org site this weekend, and I discovered that for the time period that I was looking at, there were state marriage records and there were county records. There were white records and colored records. I looked at the state records and I had no success in my search. I looked in county/coloreds and it was there I had success. I found one of my fiance's great uncle's marriage record. It was actually a court paper for a 200.00 marriage bond. I am not done researching the 200.00 bond, and I will write another article about it when I am done, but listed there was the name of his uncle at the turn of the century, with a relative pledging the money for him to get married.
The way that I even learned about the marriage was through this uncle's death certificate. This was probably one of the most detailed death certificates that I have ever seen. It listed his name, place of birth, parents names and places of birth, and spouse name. I then learned why the death certificate was so detailed. This was a death certificate issued as a result of a homicide. The uncle was murdered. The shooting happened in September, but he did not die until the early part of November. He basically died of complications from the shooting: toxemia and uremia as a result of being shot in the stomach with a revolver. Having never viewed a death certificate from a gunshot before, I have to say, the amount of information that is contained is very detailed. For a genealogist, it is very rich with family facts.
As I mentioned above, this certificate lists names and places, and it lists birth and death dates. I find it very interesting to note that his wife had already passed. At the time of his death, he was less than 55 years old.
I am now searching for what happened to this person between the marriage and his death. It is proving to be very elusive, but hopefully, I will find something.
My name is Dixie, and this is the blog part of my page, where I write about whatever strikes my fancy. Contact me at: PirateDixie@gmail.com