Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What to do with your genealogy files: update: Our Fascinating Family!

If you take a look at the past post right there, below, you'll see that I'm busy writing my Christmas present to my siblings. Shh, don't tell them, but it's a report from our family tree!

After the chart and report had been generated in Family Tree Maker and printed, it looked, well, seriously boring! There was not one little trace of the excitement I felt when working on my tree! How could anyone be expected to get thrilled about our fascinating family looking at this document?

I wanted a document that equaled my own excitement at the discoveries that had hooked me from the start, and had kept Mom's attention starting in the 1970s and going hard at it until just a couple of years ago. But, how was that going to happen? Tell you what! I think I just stumbled into a way to get closer to what we all want: a document that your descendants will pick up, read, and get to know more about their family's heritage. I never thought I could write an easy 45 pages about just one family line, but once I started it was easy, relatively speaking. I simply stumbled into the answer about how to get this done and here's the story.

I started with the Workman line because I've been spending time on a project documenting who owned which lots in Western Maryland just before 1800 so that line seemed like the natural place to begin.  I had a lot of charts identifying who was where and owned what, and when. But I knew from experience that the only person it was going to excite was me... and definitely not even the husband;)

Started by opening a document and save it, of course. Took a moment to write down on the first page a couple of distinctive things about the ancestors in this line. Our Workman ancestors came from Holland to New Amsterdam in the 1600s so I began there. The immigrant ancestor owned the Brooklyn Ferry and much land in the area. His son Peter was one of the first settlers in New Jersey so I had to mention that. Then his son Isaac had a son Cornelius and they both ventured into the vast wilderness trapping furs. Others followed and that's how we come to those lots I mentioned up top, owned by the Workmen family. With that outlined, I began compiling the long story of the immigrant from Holland, his English father, and what happened after they landed in Manhattan and then moved to Brooklyn, some over 350 years ago.

Then I pulled in all of the interesting documents and photos resting in my files placing them in order. I was careful to cite sources in short form as I went along.

Next I opened my Ancestry tree and had both the document and the tree visible on the screen. In that way I was able to easily copy names, dates and locations for all individuals in each generation. And before moving on I checked each of the offspring (those not in our direct line) for fascinating facts or interesting documents, maps or photos. The generations practically built themselves.

Last I added anything I could remember from my childhood or told to me by Grandma. The icing on the cake was all of the photos Mom has been saving all of these years.

At this point I had a decent but very rough draft and after a fresh cup of coffee, I started editing it and building in smooth transitions from generation to generation. As a treat to myself I added a little speculation and personal conclusions with explanations by saying things like, "it might be concluded," or "perhaps."

Before I knew it, all 45 pages were finished. The very last page listed all of the things that still might be researched plus questions or doubts I had concerning this ancestral line. I wanted to leave clues for any family member who comes after.

Oh sure, there are other better more scholarly ways to approach this type of project. I could have made notes for years, use a fancy program to put the notes in order or whatever. But that's not what happened. What did happen is a Christmas present.

I had been feeling, especially after my last milestone birthday, that I better get going and start preparing all of the collected research and family biographies in such a way so as to tempt a future generation to jump in again. And we all know that I'll be long gone when that happens! All along I've been keeping things organized and tidy as well as backed up. Made sure the appropriate people have certain passwords and account info. Have scanned a lot and there are still some of Mom's binders that could be scanned too, but that's filler work for a rainy day. Now I feel that these family histories are just the thing I've wanted so that I can be sure the work is carried on.

These are the families.

I know the story about when Grandpa Kelly went to Florida and came back and announced to grandma that he was selling the house and moving to Florida. That's when she told him that the house was in her name! Too good not to pass on!

I know the story.

I know the story.

I know the story.
 
And now, so will they.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What to do with your genealogy files and research?

So, what do we do? Leave it to a library or archive? Find a family member who wants to carry on? All of those have their benefits and flaws. Ugh.

Recently I was thinking about how to share Mom and my genealogy research with my brother. He's curious but not an avid user. And my sister too. She's interested but hasn't the time to delve in. So of course as a first step I synced my Ancestry member tree with my Family Tree Maker and the printed out some reports. Was going to have that bound but it looked boring, even to me and I love this stuff. So, how could I make it look spiffy and interesting? If it looked sexy then there was a chance that my sibs or some family member might pick it up and give a look, maybe read some of it and get further interested.

One of the things I did here on the blog a while back was the Surname Saturday blogging prompt. Did it for the major surnames on the tree back about four generations. Click here to see one about the Workman family. I posted them dutifully for a while them other things caught my attention. You know how it goes. But those Surname Saturday posts were the closest thing I had to a write-up on the various lines, so I started there and drug one out to see if it would work as a base for something interesting.

Workman was the first up. I had a lot of info on that line and jumped right in editing the Surname Saturday post. It went pretty well and moved along seemingly under it's own steam. Added some old photos, then stories from childhood about relatives on this line, especially those about Grandma Kelly whose line this is. Added wills, land deeds and court documents because brother and sister are both lawyers. I grabbed up anything that explored the story of the Workmans going back as far as I knew and had researched and that takes us back to about 1600.

Of course, there was special attention paid to calling out family stories and conjecture versus facts and documents. I am still conflicted about footnotes and if they should be included. Seems too counterproductive to keeping up interest in the document if the pages look bogged down with sources. But I do want to include them. End of chapter? End of book? Feeling like there's no 'right' answer.

The approach here is for it to read like a personal conversation with my sibs, having a chat about the ancestors, telling what was exciting about them. Sharing the mysteries still to be uncovered, the evidence that's not enough to draw a conclusion, yet. And pictures and old documents, maps. Visual salt and pepper.

Even though the Surname Saturday posts gave me a start, this has become so much more! I started with just three pages and I'm up to 35 and no where near finished. I'm excited because this isn't just a lineage chart, it's the saga of one American family that's emblematic of so many others. As I go, I come to understand much more about the long arc of our family's story in America. It helps me see the elements that makes us, us.

Not yet finished but I have until the holidays. What I can say is that it's coming along better than I envisioned and at this point, it practically writing itself.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Tombstone Found: JOHN COMBS and PERCY CEMETARY and the DAR!

Have no passion for all CAPS, but just had to use them because I'm that excited to share this story:) While at mom's back in May, in Frostburg in Western Maryland, went to see Percy Cemetery. Percy dates from about 1830, with some burials earlier. It was first the major burial place for the Methodist Church in town but then expanded to receive many of the town's prominent citizens until the more contemporary Frostburg Cemetery opened. But first, some background.

I put in a DAR Supplemental Application (supplemental to my original application for Patriot Nehemiah Newan) for John Trimble a while back and received an AIR which is DAR-ese for Additional Information Required. They pointed out that Margaret Trimble Combs, daughter of Patriot John Trimble and wife of John Combs, was lacking a precise death date. When I looked at what I submitted, sure enough, they were right and I could do better!

I narrowed down Margaret's death date by following John and Margaret's participation in the Methodist Church and then Margaret's disappearance from their list of congregants. 1849. That's when she died. And she was missing in the 1850 census too, which was the source document I originally submitted. So her death date was between October 1849 and February 1850.

But where was she buried? John, her husband, was buried in Percy Cemetery and a nice stone was still there stating his death date. Margaret was probably buried there too, but there was reportedly no stone.

John Combs was wealthy and prominent in the Methodist Church giving land for it and presumably supported it with donations. It would be reasonable to suggests that Margaret was buried in the plot adjacent John and that there had been at one time a nice big stone like his. Yet no photo of it was in Mom's tombstone file or on Find A grave.

So off Mom and I went to see if we could locate John Combs' stone and see if Margaret was there but had been overlooked.

John Combs stone.
 
That's John's stone there on the right and see that small stone leaning against the tree? Check this out, below!
 
Right, it says Margaret!!
 
Here's the line-up with Margaret's stone in the foreground and John's off in the back, left.


Here's the photos of what I found. You can see John Combs' stone and then look! There's the top of a stone within five feet of his, leaning against a tree that says "MARGARET". I'm willing to bet the farm that it's her stone!
Of course that's not going to satisfy the DAR genies but it satisfies me.
And here's the wild and crazy part. In the wide view photo up top, you'll see a house right in back of John's stone. That's my Grandma Kelly's house and they were grandma's 3rd great grandparents. WOW! John and Margaret were within 100 feet of me as I played on Grandma's lawn as a kid!
Margaret, you were there all the time, dear girl.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The season for bashing Ancestry Member Trees? Take a second look!

Really, it's been going on for a long time and I don't mean to infer otherwise, but of late it seems to me that it's open season on Ancestry Member Trees. A recent email conversation by a probable new-to-me cousin, a blog post or two by the usual experts, and even more Facebook posts that hold AMTs, or Ancestry Member Trees, up to scrutiny and even ridicule, float by as I comb such trees carefully looking for hints and evidence. And I've found hints and evidence all over the place! Treasures! The Good Stuff!

If you're new to all of this genealogy stuff you might not be familiar with the term AMT and why someone would want to bash them. As you probably know because of their TV commercials you can build a tree on Ancestry by following those shaking green leaves. Enter a name, click on a leaf to find records, photos, stories and all manner of info about your ancestor. It looks so easy!

One of the hints is usually a grouping of Ancestry Member Trees built by other Ancestry members, like yourself. You can choose to add what they've posted in whole or in part, and thereby build out your tree really fast, if you don't take time to question and evaluate what you're adding. In this way - by not carefully evaluating what someone else has put on their tree - you can easily build what some call a "garbage tree" with no real records or sources. You can tell which trees are the garbage trees because the only source you find is a reference to someone else's member tree. It's easy to see why AMTs have a bad reputation!

But, look. It's not the trees themselves or the shaking green leaves or hints that's a problem. It's the way members choose to build out their trees: without records. But there are other, better trees out there, and plenty of them. You just have to look.

Is it just me who is finding gems right there on AMTs? I doubt it! Just last week I was working as a volunteer Genealogy Consultant for our DAR chapter and helping a chapter member with a supplemental application. A supplemental application happens when a woman who is a DAR member and has already submitted an application proving her lineal descendancy from a Patriot Ancestor, then wants to submit another - or supplemental to her original application - proving her lineal descent from another Patriot Ancestor.

We DAR members who are crazy about genealogy simply love preparing supplementals. But those chapter members who might find the application and their research a challenge can request help for one of the chapter's Genealogy Consultants. That's when I arrive on the scene!

So there I was working on a supplemental for a chapter member. It all seemed fine except for one very important aspect of the application and that's the proof connecting generations. What I really wanted was a will but I knew that this guy, the father, died intestate. It was back in the 1760s and civil records of birth were not kept in that time and place. They didn't attend a church with good record keeping habits, so that was out. Land records were also an option but this was a father / daughter connection and so based on previous experience, I know not to get my hopes up. Had checked Ancestry will and probate files and came up empty. I was just about to turn to FamilySearch and getting ready to spend hours and hours "browsing" the probate records when I though to check Ancestry Member Trees for any tasty tid-bits. And there it was! The will of the father naming the daughter and her husband!

Of course I needed a source citation, but now that I had the probate file with will and other papers that some wonderfully thoughtful and caring Ancestry Member had posted to his Individual page, I carefully looked at every one of them checking for hints of where these documents might have come from. Finally, three-quarters of the way down the stack of pages, I saw a tiny pencil handwritten notation at the top. Vol I, pg 408. Gold!!

In no time, I navigated my way through the probate files on FamilySearch and found what I needed. I knew the volume number and page number for one of the images and the will was about four pages before that. Nice!!

Quite recently I've found more and more treasures like this which is interesting. I remember not too long ago when Ancestry users would keep the good goods away from their trees. "I got mine, you work to get yours" was the attitude. But why, what's the point in that? Where's the harm in sharing the best stuff we have? I just paid $40 for three death certificates and believe me when I say that I can't wait to get them scanned and posted to my Ancestry Member Tree.

I have a bunch of stuff I've ordered and received from archives. There's that time I called the courthouse and a kind clerk went and got the document I asked for and emailed it to me! I want to share that too. Share it all. What good does it do to sit in my files here while I hold on to it with my stingy hands? I use it but it would be far better shared and helping others. The individual page on Ancestry is the very best place for me to leave it. 

Oh, yes, I'm aware of the potential to violate copyright in doing this so I do check carefully to see if the location where the document was found has limitations. If so, then I'll post a PDF page stating what was found and where, giving as much info as possible that helps someone else find it as easily as possible.

Wouldn't it be great if we all did this? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all shared our best stuff? Trees would get better and better. Let's do that!







Let's share that good stuff!


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Is there a 12 Step program for genetic genealogy? Maybe!

Oh, no! Another DNA cousin has popped up!

I don't mean to seem ungrateful for the connection to another DNA cousin at all. In fact, I welcome all of them. It's just that every time I see that "We might be cousins" subject in the email, I know that I'll be spending some bunch of hours trying to sort it out. Right now it seems there are so many people testing with the Big 3 and then finding GEDmatch that I have to hustle to keep up.

I didn't even realize that I had a "problem" until I saw this blog article, "The Stages of Genetic Genealogy Addiction", by Roberta Estes that it all sunk in. Houston, I have a problem!

https://dna-explained.com/2016/07/06/the-stages-of-genetic-genealogy-addiction/

I can check them all off but have drawn the line at #7 and refuse to spend any more to get DNA relatives tested! Can't do it. Won't do it. Seriously, I just about have come to the point where I don't need to because the cousins are shelling out their own money to buy kits!

Happily, I've not gone the whole route to number 10. Not in a cab going somewhere and thinking about the next DNA match. But I am at 9, at home, thinking about the next DNA cousin. Hmm. Thanks, Roberta, for pointing this out;)


Great grandmother Moretta Workman Zeller with Gustav Zeller and sons Charles, Bert, and Gus Jr.
(Photo thanks to cousin Brenda. She's a peach!)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

New meaning found in the 4th of July and old meaning kept alive

I've always loved the 4th of July since I was a kid. Loved the home-town parades with kids on decorated bikes and streamers flowing, families pulling kids in decorated wagons, the local school band, a troop of scouts marching and the corn queen sitting on the back deck of a convertible, waving to all, regally! I just love that stuff. Not everyone does. They can go ahead and make fun, and I'll just take their seat and be as happy as can be.

Love the soap box derby. Love the ice cream socials that raises money for the senior center. The Elks weenie roast. The smell of the big smoker set up behind the church for the picnic. Pies, oh my, the pies!

Love the fireworks, not all of them purchased legally. Sparklers, which were featured on the news today as highly dangerous. Must confess to being a bit happy that we didn't know that when we were young. The surprise of an early evening rogue fireworks display by neighbors down the way, lasting for only a half-a-minute. Or one high-flyer firework breaking the evening silence. Lightning bugs in jars. Wouldn't be complete as a summer evening without them. Mosquitos too.

I enjoyed the simple childhood pleasures that followed me in fondness of memory into adulthood. Oh, sure, now we all see the danger everywhere. But then there was freedom and fun in it.

I also remember that time when circumstances dictated that we move into a high-rise building on July 4, 1976. The Bi-Centennial. We were somehow invited up to the penthouse to view Op Sail and the fireworks over the Hudson River. That was an exhausting but memorable 4th of July!

Now in my older adulthood I also understand the truer meaning of the 4th. Today I've thought about my eight Revolutionary War ancestors recognized by the DAR, as well as those who haven't yet been recognized. Since being active in the DAR their memory has gained added dimension.

I wonder if any of my ancestors were born on the 4th of July. I'll have to look.

Enjoy your 4th!


Backyard picnic or church picnic, we found ourselves at a picnic on the 4th of July!
 
 

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to find out if you have a DAR Patriot Ancestor!

Maybe you know already or maybe you are interested in finding out: do you have a DAR Patriot Ancestor? There are, as far as I can figure, over 200,000 Patriot Ancestors on the official DAR list. Of course there are many more than that number who served in the military or gave civil or other patriotic service and are just waiting for their descendants to find them and show them to the DAR by way of an application.

I've has so many people ask how to get onto the DAR web site and check to see if their ancestor is listed that I wrote up a How To sheet for it with step-by-step instructions. And it is.

How to find the Genealogy Record System or GRS
and see the search page for Ancestors in the DAR database.

1. go to http://www.dar.org/

2. find GENEALOGY at the very top and click there.

3. In the middle of that page you'll see a column heading that says "Genealogy Research, GRS".

4. Under GRS at the top of the list is "Ancestor Search", and click there.

5. That will take you to the Ancestor Search page. You can enter what you know here but sometimes less is more so a last name and a first name is often enough to start. 

6. If it's an unusual name or a name that could have many spellings then use the "Advanced Search" feature. You'll find the link to that on the right. Advanced Search lets you use Soundex. Using Advanced Search and Soundex will bring up more results to choose from.

7. If you've used Soundex or there are more than one men of the same name, they will all come up in the search results. Then you'll need to narrow the selections by birth and death dates as well as locations.

8. Click on the ancestor name to see the details page.

By this time you should have a pretty good idea if your ancestor is already recognized and verified by the DAR!