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,
As you know, I advocate making good notes of the results from your searches, but I am now also advocating something else. I think that you should keep a log of what you are searching so that you can pursue good searches and eliminate dead ends.
I found an excellent search via great notes a couple of weeks ago. There was a lot going on in my personal life around the end of January, so when I found this really amazing link, I made notes, but I was unable to bookmark the link or I flat out did not remember to.
When I was looking in my history for a website, there was the search from January. I went through the entire history of searches that went back for a few months and made some really diligent notes.
I discovered that my mind is not a steel trap like I tend to think of it. One search term I have looked up every weekend for about 4 months.
Now, by making notes, I am able to continue where I left off, rather than searching like a tumbleweed.
I also am noting the search engine that I use, and so far, I am the most impressed with google, followed by bing.
Save your searches!
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.
I spend a lot of time at libraries all over the United States and the world. One of the things that I have grown really used to is making sure that I have the means to capture the information that I find while I am there.
Here are the methods and tools that I use.
Notebook. Bound and loose leaf.
Sometimes, It is easier to go to the library with one small notebook, a handful of change and a USB drive. Other times, I know that I will be there for a while and I want to be as organized as possible. When I am in that mode of research, I bring a loose leaf notebook that I have pre-tabbed to make everything easier for adding to my computer when I get home.
Change or funds for the copier machine.
The way to pay for copies generally speaking is one of two ways. Drop some money into the machine or add some money to a card/your library card. Make sure to bring enough money to make twice the amount of copies that you are expecting to make. Not all libraries accept credit cards or are located near ATM's.
USB storage device.
Some but not all libraries will allow you to copy information directly to your USB drive. I always bring 3. A small storage with less than a gig, a medium around the 16-32 gig mark, and my jumbo, which is 1T. No matter what, I am able to copy as many documents and photos as I have run across.
Photos with phone or tablet.
There have been some weird things that have happened when I have been at libraries doing research.
A copier that had a paper jam prevented all of us who wanted to make copies from being able to do so. That particular library did not have the ability to copy to a USB or to email. I pulled out my phone, turned the flash off, took as clear of shots as I could manage and then painstakingly wrote, line by line the information and the source so that I would be able to return to that library in the future and have an easy time of finding my information.
Creative thinking to problems in accessing the information.
Another library had a microfiche library, but the machine's display screen was badly damaged. I ended up making 100+ copies of pages to find the portion that I was looking for. It was worth the cost because the information that I was looking for was very obscure.
Always notate your records.
I bring pens, pencils and highlighters to make sure that I don't miss something on the pages that I made the trip to find. A link to a family member was once found on an inscription in a church cookbook. You never know where you will find the link you need, but if you don't notate your records, you may never find it again.
Crying Over Spilled Water
Last week I had a minor mishap. I spilled a glass of water on a loose leaf notebook that I use when I am doing general research. I was using a water bottle, but the lid was not fastened on well. I went for a drink and I spilled water on the open pages. I grabbed the notebook as quickly as I could, but the water had already landed.
I was heartbroken when I looked down at the notebook. The first sheet was soaked, and even though I patted it with a cloth, there was some ink smearing that happened.
I was lucky that I had already sent myself a Google Document with the relevant information, but I still did not want to lose that page.
I quickly did 2 things. I took a photo with my phone, and I made a scan of the page before any further damage happened.
Here are some things that I would like to share with you:
DON'T WIPE the page. Pat it of excess water. Don't do anything more than touch the towel or napkin to the page. No motion. Make copies right then and there. Lay it flat, pin the corners to keep them from rolling and let it air dry. If several pages are involved, separate them and spread them out.
After the page is completely dry, you can try setting the iron on the lowest possible setting and going over the page very quickly. Test a corner first, and DON'T do this on old papers or things that cannot be replaced.
I managed to salvage my pages, and they are now in plastic protectors, but I now check my water bottles very carefully when I am using them!
It has been discussed on many other forums about how we as family members tend to accept without question the information that is passed to us about our ancestors.
Stop that practice. Make it a point to verify, cite sources and document your findings.
The discovery that I made is actually an old one for me, but I wanted to share it here in case anyone out there is hitting dead ends in their searches.
I had always been told that a portion of my family was from Louisiana for over 100 years. I never bothered to look anywhere else, even when my search went cold.
Doing a US Census search one time, I forgot to limit the search to Louisiana. There, in Alabama was my missing family. Every single member of that family, with the correct birth order and ages! For a moment, I was willing to discount and discard my new lead. After all, my great grandmother had told me straight from her own mouth that her family had been in the state of Louisiana for "over a hundred years." I never doubted the veracity of her statement.
Years later, I was updating this family line. I cross indexed this search on Find A Grave to see if there was a photo or information of any headstones. There was. Below, you will see the photo of the actual headstone for John Marion Moore, husband of Sarah Elizabeth (nee Brittenham OR Brittingham) Moore. The headstone actually gives us a lot of information.
Let's look together at the headstone, located below this entry.
At the top, there is the emblem for his membership into the Freemasons. You can go to Find A Grave and see my relative there. I have direct linked for convenience purposes.
Something to be aware of, as is the case with this relative: The name is actually common, but if you narrow the search to Louisiana, you will quickly find my ancestor. Born in Alabama, John Marion Moore served in the Confederate Army through Alabama, he settled and later died in Louisiana. The rest of the information can be found at Find A Grave, where the information on the main page was very well done. The point that I am making here is that this grandparent--4G to be exact, was documented in family trees and so forth, but I ignored clues because that is not what my family historians told me.
After I discovered where my trail picked up, I did a further search on various websites and also conducted in person searches at various libraries and I was able to very easily and quickly pick up the cold trail on my family.
His wife is also listed. They are both listed on the stone only by their initials, so I did some sleuthing. Armed with my research, I knew the names that I was looking for was John Marion and Sarah Elizabeth Moore. The initials matched and the dates were near exact to the ones that I had listed in the information that I had in my records.
Location, location, location.
In the state of Louisiana, the French influence is felt in many ways. One of them is that we have Parishes, NOT counties. I knew where my family is generally from in Louisiana. I knew that it was the northern part of the state. That helped me when I was looking, because although I am from the southern part of the state, eliminating the common name of John Moore from New Orleans was a boon to my search. (Common name!)
Look for other relatives in that cemetery or family plot.
My great grandmother was from Caldwell Parish when I would visit her at her home, which is a short drive from Ouachita Parish. Because I also have family in Ouachita Parish, I was able to ask if we had family buried in the cemetery that I found John Marion Moore listed in. We do. I have loads and loads of family that are interred there. That helped me to make the link, especially when direct relatives of his were also interred there.
Online Photos, if there are any, can help you add or eliminate a person from your family tree. The Find A Grave listing for John Marion Moore has the same photo of him that I think we all must be issued upon birth. It is John Marion Moore with a very full beard, looking off to the side. When I saw the listing with that photo, I knew that we were related! Another person that I was looking for showed a person was assuredly not my relative as the photo made it very clear that they were not the gender that I was looking for. (It was a name that could be either male or female, so there was a reason for confusion.) Seeing that photo saved me a lot of research and I reached out to the person that had the info so that we could both clear up our family trees.
Obituaries and Funeral Cards are a BOON to your search.
I know that it can be hard to find these when you are going back a distance, but when you do find them, it can be a huge help. Often, the person that is reporting the death is a relative, and the next of kin of course is a relative. These documents will sometimes list things such as occupation, address, cause of death, name and birthplace of parents and plenty more details that can help in your search. One of the best obituaries that I ran across when I was searching listed the names of the deceased person's parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. I am convinced that this person was a genealogist because it was extremely thorough!
Always make notes when searching. I even have a file that I call "Cold Case Files". (Because it makes me laugh is why I named it that.) Until I can either rule that person out or include them in my family, they remain in that file. If they are not related (as far as I can prove, anyway) they go into a new file "Red Herrings". I still visit my Red Herrings file about once a year. I have been able to effectively prove some of these people are not related, and surprisingly I also discovered one relative is a distant cousin.
Don't get stuck on the dates that you see in print as being right or wrong. My greatest loss of a really great file that I disregarded in a search was because the dates did not match up 100 percent with what I showed in my files. I lament to this day that I have never found that file again in any search that I have ever performed.
Leave breadcrumbs for yourself, no matter what type of research that you are doing. I now bookmark things if I am searching online. I keep paper notebooks with me and make diligent and detailed notes. I know now that I won't remember the information that I am looking at. There is simply too much. If I am searching for 4G grandfather, the bookmarks that I gather will go into the bookmark folder named "John Marion Moore". If those bookmarks can apply to another relative as well, I will drop it into their file. This has saved me a lot of time searching for information.
Make your paper trail easier to follow.
When I am making notes in a paper notebook, I write the name and then go back and highlight it if I am using a bound notebook. If I am using loose leaf pages, I divide each person with a tab or at least a piece of tape bent in half and written on with a Sharpie. It may seem extreme, but in the long run, it makes my searches more organized and makes me take the time to take better notes. By being less jumbled, I waste less time of searching within my own notes.
Let me know if any of these tips are helpful, and share your search gaffes here!
I still remember the day that I saw the photo of my grandmother with a ladies' group in a small local paper. She stood there in a lovely fitted dress that was embroidered at the collar and waist. The sleeves came all the way to her wrists, where she had lifted the left sleeve slightly so that the "nice watch" my grandfather had given her showed for the photo in the newspaper. Her fresh permed was styled with loads of hairspray and the smile was perfected with heavy applications of lipstick.
Even better was the fact that behind her was a calendar on the wall of the house she was at, letting us know that the photo was taken in the summer of 1956. My mother would have been 8 years old by the end of the year, my grandmother would have a total of 5 children. At the time of the photo, she was mother to my mother, Elizabeth who was 7 1/2 when the photo was taken, my Aunt Lydia, who would have been 6, my Uncle Johnny, who was 5, my Uncle Tommy was 3. My Aunt Trish would not be born for another 4 years. In the photo, with the help of a girdle and a fitted dress, my grandmother does not look like she had ever had a child. She could have been a senior in high school from her appearance, but in actuality, she was 23 years old.
There are so many wonderful clues in this photo for the genealogist. The city and state are mentioned, as well as the date, the name of the organization and what the occasion was. (I don't post it here because I am waiting for permission from 2 people in the photo who are alive.)
My grandmother referred to the shoes in that photo a lot. She hated them because they were out of style. I thought that they looked very nice, but she told me that they were peep toe shoes that had not been in style in her area for some time, but they were the only shoes that she owned that she could polish up on a moment's notice.
What do all of these facts put together? From the organization listed, I can look up online that group and see if there are any other mentions of my family. Any new members that might be my family. Any get togethers that may have photos of my family.
Another great thing that groups do is let you know a little more about the person that you are looking up. Knowing some of the things that they did adds a little more color and dimension to a person, making them more real.
It is very easy with famous family members to find out tons of information. Small local newspapers can be a wealth all to themselves, sharing local news and a higher chance of seeing your loved ones' name in print.
I have plans for 2017 that I will be sharing with you fine readers. Often I get ideas for a lot of repetitive tasks, as well as ideas for things I would like to get done in the next year.
I broke down a lot of these tasks into 12 different groups, one set for each month. I have printed those off so that I can check them off as I go, and I will be adding those lists each month here, so that my readers will have access to them.
Additionally, for the tasks that I perform each and every day, I will be laminating those sheets and using a dry erase marker to chart my daily progress. I will be sharing that in the first week of January to help with meeting organization goals.
The hardest thing for me when I do research sometimes is not running into dead ends, but with the internet, finding too many good leads to look at all at one time. I have made a point to stay on track of the person or item that I am looking for, but I make notes and bookmarks for the other information that I am looking for.
Each section of items that I find goes into a special bookmark folder, where the title will let me know what is contained within. However, I also make hard notes in my paper notebook, documenting what I have found. Once I have completed the research on the subject I initially started, I will then return to the new information that I have found and go forward from there. My resolution for 2017 has already been getting practice in 2016 and I find that I am getting a lot more research done.
My biggest resolution has not been to simply say I will be more organized in 2017, but to create steps, tools and tips that will allow that to happen and not merely be a bright and good idea. I look forward to reading the good ideas from you, my readers!
Getting ready to go on this really big trip out of town for the wedding, I have already scheduled some time for myself to do some family research. That brought me to a point that I would like to address here.
There are things that I take with me when I go anywhere. Yes. Anywhere. I have a bag that looks like a small messenger bag that holds a 10 inch tablet, a few composition notebooks and other odds and ends. It is stuffed with pockets and has a great strap, too. I carry a ginormous purse because life is easier when I have that with me. So, if I am going somewhere, I drop the research bag into my purse.
What all is in the research bag?
2 pens. I like Pilot ultra-fines. They don't smear, the ink seems to last a long time and they get the job done. As a lefty, I have to be careful of smears. My hand will drag through ink like nobody's business. It can ruin a beautiful document.
2 pencils. Automatic pencils so that I don't have to hunt down a sharpener and the point size is consistent. No brand preference.
2 composition notebooks. Why 2? One is for facts to relist online when I get a chance, and the other is for ideas, leads, information to look up and random things that make sense to me, like web addresses to look at later. This keeps my fact book straight and my ramble book can have anything and everything in it.
1 tablet. I am using the Samsung Galaxy E. I think it has a 9.7 inch display. It runs great, nice battery life and gets done all of the things that I want to do with a tablet. When I am doing research at a library and don't want to take the laptop because I am going to be in the stacks, this tablet is perfect. I can take a million pictures, add notes and more, and because I do it on Google Docs, the whole thing is on my laptop when I get home.
Power charger. Sometimes, I do run the tablet dry of juice.
Business cards. I hand them out all the time. I will do an article on my business cards later this month, because my cards get results and yours can, too!
Highlighters. Bold and fine line. This helps to be organized. If there is something that I need to make sure and pay attention to, I will put a star to the side in the margin if it is on paper. I will also underline. If there is a special fact I need to pay attention to, I will highlight it so that I don't have to search through a bunch of stuff. Highlighting in my facts book, all men's names are highlighted in blue, ladies in pink. Sexist? Perhaps, but at a glance, I know who is who without having to look it up. Not all names are easily determined of gender, so that little action has saved me a lot of aggravation.
Tape. Paper tears, things happen. Repair it on the spot if it is yours.
Paper clips. Keep all of those copies you just paid for together so that they remain grouped the way you want. I use colored ones for easy sorting.
Ziploc bags. Office in a bag? Yes. I have rubber bands, paper clips and miscellaneous stuff in one. I carry empties in case I get something that needs to be kept safe. I also like to carry those bags in case someone gives me documents that need to be returned, but they are small. The bag lets me know that it does not belong to me.
Flashlight. There are plenty of places that I have done research where either the light is dim or the printing on the page is so faded that the only way I have been able to see what I am looking at is with a flashlight. Same for going down stairs in dim hallways, and for reading fine print.
Magnifying glass. I do not know how people in the 1800's read at the font size that some things were printed in. I have to read these articles with a magnifying glass. If I am going to be reading a lot of these micro size articles and I cannot bump up the font because it is an actual book, I wear a stronger strength reading glasses so I don't have to hold the magnifying glass.
Snack bar. I bring a granola bar or similar with me. Why? Because some places that I go don't have a vending machine, and I don't want to lose momentum on something that I am doing, or hunger hits me and I don't want to have a headache.
Aspirin/pain relief tablets. Migraine? Headache? Whack your leg on a table? Continue with your research.
Adhesive bandage. Paper cut. I am told that Super Glue is fabulous, but I am told it is miserable if you don't do it right. So, I carry about 5 or six bandages of various sizes.
Bag of mixed change with no pennies. Some places only take cash for copies. Some places only take cash for the parking meter. If you take some out, replace it.
Baby Wipes. I once was looking something up at a small library. As I turned the page, my hand hit something wet. I don't know what it was, but I brought the book to the desk and I washed my hands like I had touched MRSA. Wipes are good for a multitude of sins.
Empty Water Bottle. (Full if they allow it.) Refill at fountain. Save money.
Lozenges. Libraries make me cough sometimes.
Any medicines that you need to take on a regular, timed basis. Don't miss your pill because you are looking up dead people!
Any emergency medicines that you may need. Insulin. Asthma medicine and so forth. Rescue inhalers.