Practicing What I Preach About Organization

Hello, Dear Readers!  Didn’t blog last weekend because I was trying to do what I recommend everyone do – organize your genealogy. It is NOT fun!
Let’s start with the negative to get it out of the way…
It resulted in my allergies going bonkers from the dust (and the Sahara Dust Storm further put me over the edge), bags of refuse for the trash collectors to have to heave away in the intense heat (we’ve had advisories for a week now) and a field day for the cats who were running through the piles knocking them to the floor just to see paper fluttering.  Why do cats do what they do?
On a positive note:

  • I can find everything I need quickly
  • I have a lot more office space
  • I have a much healthier environment
  • I found a few personal genealogical gems
  • I feel great that I am well on my way to completing the task

I would love to tell you I started this major undertaking because it was the right thing to do but that wouldn’t be honest.  Two weekends ago, we had a generator installed since I’ve got a freezer full of food that I typically don’t have at this time of year due to the ‘rona.  In Florida, summer is the lean times, meaning we grill and eat lots of quickly made cool foods right from the fridge.  Open a can of kidney beans for a salad, mix up a can of tuna with some mayo and you have a sandwich, you get the picture.  Since our groceries were in such short supply of canned goods and charcoal from the break in the supply lines, I didn’t stock up as usual and instead, had to rely on frozen items.  I don’t want to lose all that food when the power goes out, which it does in our area frequently, so we decided to buy a generator and have it installed.  
That meant we had sporadic electricity the day it was installed so I didn’t blog.  I had all intentions of doing that the following day but, I was bored so I decided I would just go through one of four tubs I keep in the office where we store our warranty receipts and other important papers.  That project consumed me for the next few days so the blogging didn’t happen.
I may have mentioned in past blogs that my family and I have been fortunate so far escaping covid which is spreading like wildfire in my area (well, we think one of our kids had it in late January and the other in early February but it was mild compared to what could have been and hubby and I didn’t get it, although we were in close proximity to both of them at their sickest. One kid tested with the results of no immunity so we have no idea what they had but it matched all but one of the symptoms.  Hmm.)  
I don’t know what “virus” infected our appliances but in the past three months, the following has needed repair:  refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave (still waiting for parts), toaster, coffee maker, iron, sewing machine, vacuum, pool vacuum, pool heater, laptop power cord, cell phone, blow dryer, flash light, water softener, ceiling fan, chain saw, pole saw, blower, jet ski battery and then, there was the well guys cutting the lines so we had to have the internet and phone cables reinstalled and they broke several sprinkler heads so there was more fixing needed.  Luckily, most of those items were under warranty (which says a lot about how items are made these day). Although that saved us tons of money, it resulted in my constantly pulling out the four tubs to find the necessary paperwork to contact companies to arrange repairs. The organizational system quickly became a mess and I knew I had to devote time to cleaning it.  With the electricity off it seemed like a great time to devote to it.
You may be thinking – why does she keep this stuff in tubs?  Simply because I live in a hurricane state.  After losing everything in Hurricane Elena in 1985 I learned that file cabinets aren’t the way to go here.  Put stuff in tubs and you can easily transport in your car when you flee and have the documentation to prove to FEMA when you return.  Plus, no bugs get in and it does cut down on dust somewhat.
I got the brilliant idea to change the file folders from “Small Appliances”say, to the room in which the item is held.  That meant making new labels; I love my Dymo but that’s starting to act weird, too.  Any item we no longer owned went into the trash and those remaining went into a pile on the desk based on the room they were housed.  That’s where the cats had a field day.
My reorganization left me with space in the tubs so I decided I’d tackle an attic niche where we store tax returns.  I had taken Judy Russell’s APG seminar earlier that week and according to her, I only needed to store the IRS documentation for 7 years.  I’ve had much more saved and although I hated the thought of pulling it all down and going through it, decided I  had to do it.  That’s where I made my personal genealogical discoveries that are meaningless to everyone but my husband and I.  I found his very first tax return from the 1970’s when he worked part time at Pepper Pot Pizza.  I found my Work Permit signed by my guidance counselor and school nurse for my first job while in high school (it was for a summer job as a “basket girl” at a local pool – I became a mole that summer, standing for hours in a dark room that was a partial basement handing patrons baskets to put their belongings in and then retrieving them when they were ready to leave.  It smelled of chlorine and sweat.  Yuck!  But I was making $2.00 a hour so all way good.)  I found paperwork for family members who were deceased that my husband and I served as administrators.  Looking over some of the medical records reminded me of things I once knew about the person but had filed away somewhere in my brain and wouldn’t have been able to retrieve had the documents not jogged my mind.  
Tossing all that stuff out felt great and now everything is together!  You’d think I’d stop there but I was on a roll so I next decided to clean a small tub that I place in person conference syllabuses.  I decided to pitch what wasn’t important to me and scan what was.  I am in the middle of that project now.
I am leaving two shelves of genealogical gems to clean out when I retire someday.  They once were housed in the attic (hence the dust) but when we cleaned the attic out a year ago I moved them to an indoor storage area.  I seriously hate the thought of going through that stuff and figure it will take me a few months to get all that organized – it’s WW2 diaries, notes from older family members, letters, etc.  What does one do with old film, negatives, camcorder stuff?  We’ve digitized all of it to DVDs and some to the Cloud but what should I do with the original?  It’s probably deteriorated and no longer viewable even if I had the device to see it.  I actually was ready to pitch it but hubby said no which is surprising as I’m the one who usually hangs on to stuff.  Let me know if you’ve faced this situation and how you resolved it.  
So, for the remainder of today, as I look out at the milky white sky, I’ll be scanning my dwindling pile of syllabi.  Think I’ll get another cup of coffee first.  Have a great weekend!

Last Minute Mother’s Day Gifts for the Genealogist

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!  Tomorrow is the big day and if you are short of time or your favorite store is short on everything then here’s two ideas that might help:

1.  Genealogical.com has a 3 month special offering all of their 750 books for purchase to be viewed online.  It’s a nice idea while libraries were closed and it allows you to see if it is a book you’d like to purchase in the future. I know many in person sites will be opening soon but if you’re like me – have read everything you have at home AND are not wild about the idea of going out yet, this might be the ideal gift.

I’ve been using it for the past 2 weeks and I have found some interesting info as I’ve been researching Barbados which is not a well represented topic in my local libraries.  Have I found anything earth shattering? Not yet but I’ve obtained some clues to go forward with. 

There are some glitches with the site so I want to share that info to avoid frustration.  First, the log in is quirky.  I’ve tried Chrome, Firefox and good ole Internet Explorer thinking that might be the issue but it isn’t.  It never can recognize my password unless I sign in through my Google account.  I’m telling you this because I’ve been locked out and when you’re paying for something for a limited time that’s frustrating.

I know I’m not alone as someone else had commented that once you’re in, you often get sent to a page to purchase books.  Here’s how to get around that – Click Home and Click on Book Bonanza at the top.  You’ll be in the right area to read at that point.

Next issue is it always takes you back to page 1 of the books listed.  What would have been nice would have been a long page listing all the book titles/authors (I don’t care what the cover looks like!) with a link directly to the book.  After a few days of use I decided I would approach this as I do when I’m just surfing a shelf in a brick and mortar library – I looked at all the offerings on the site page by page and wrote down the titles of interest.  Now, when I’m back on page 1 (you get logged off if you step away for a bit so when you log back on you automatically return to page 1) I just type the title I’m interested in the search button.

Here’s another hint – the list of books I created I checked WorldCat and Ancestry and 18 were there so I will be using those sites for those books.  That way, I don’t have to feel pressure to get through all the other ones that I can’t access anywhere else.

You can’t download the books – just read them – so remember where you left off.  It’s not like Kindle so you have to make a number of clicks to go back where you were.  The other issue is that the page numbers don’t appear so using the Index is difficult.  For example, in Barbados Records in Marriages 1643-1800 Vol. 1, I checked out the index for my Alexanders and derivations of Hollingshead and I find a few I didn’t know existed.  There’s no page number or book section listed so the only way to find them is to scan every page in the book (which is a list of marriage records, duh, so it’s all names) arranged in chronological order by parish to find them.  That is time intensive and yes, I have 3 months, but there are other books I also want to check out.  I used a back door to get more info on the possible relatives listed – looked them up on genealogy sites online to get a better understanding of relationships, years they were in that country (my peeps were gone by 1720 so if the others were there in 1800 I don’t need to check further), and where they originated from in England. 

Going back from a page to another part of the book is also a pain.  You can use the back arrow but if, for example, you’re looking at H’s in the index, you’ve clicked numerous times to get through the A’s-G’s so it’s a lengthy process to return.  It also loads pages slowly, maybe that’s just on my end, but it makes me crazy so now I just click the top arrow to go back to good ole page 1 of all the offerings, retype in the name of the book and then use the index to go where I want. 

So now you’re thinking – why in the world, Lori, would you recommend this as a Mother’s Day gift?!  Well, there’s not a lot out there to purchase and your dear mom isn’t gonna get the ‘rona using this.  Just show her this blog and she can hit the ground running.  I’m not making any money off this – just trying to be helpful.

2.  Next option is to sign up for a National Genealogical Society conference package.  This is what my family got me for my birthday and I’m really excited.  I’ve attended past in-person conferences and loved them!  I was unable to go out to Salt Lake this year due to my other job’s schedule so this gift is really making me happy.  On May 20th, the “live” online offerings are available from 11 AM to 7 PM.  In July, based on the package purchased, you can view up to 85 other lectures that would have been available if the conference was held in person and those are available through May 2021!  That’s more genealogical courses then you could have ever attended in person so I think this is an awesome opportunity.  Sure – you don’t get the camaraderie of being around other genealogists, the immediate answer to your question or the excitement of travel but in these times, I’m good with what is being offered. 

US Census – An Interactive Timeline

Found a wonderful site this week that I think you’ll enjoy.  Check out The Evolution of the American Census.  This interactive site allows you to compare census questions over the years.  The presentation is simply awesome!  You’ll be able to view information your ancestors were asked to provide along with what the US’s interests were over time. Quite interesting to see the direction the nation took over time.

I just wish this was available in a poster for a ready reference sheet.

My only other wish was that we could all view the 1950 US Federal census now while we were still home.  Alas, that’s two years off in the future. 

Free Sites for Genealogy in April and Onward

Run out of your regular go-to’s for genealogy research?  You are in luck because some free offerings are now available to get you out of your rut:

British History Online is a digital collection of Great Britain, Ireland and more that will be free through July.  Currently I’m using it to research the Caribbean (West Indies) but colonial U.S. information is also available.  I discovered one of my distant family members was interested in the East Indies in the 1500’s – who knew?!  Check out this blog before you get started.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is offering a free webinar from their extensive library each day in April.  If you aren’t a member, now is a wonderful time to take a look at what they have to offer.

With libraries closed throughout the world, why not go to your local or state genealogy association’s home page and see if they are still offering meetings from the comfort of your own home.  My local group has switched to using Go To Meetings for their weekly tech meetings.  Yours may be using Zoom or Microsoft Office Teams.  They’re easy to use and if you’re new here’s a few hints.  For Zoom, you can click on the upper right of the screen and change the view of attendees from a bar across the top to a grid that will take up the entire screen (like the old Brady Bunch).  Wondering why some people have a black square and no picture?  They clicked the video button the bottom of their screen to disable their computer’s camera. The host (the person who sent the invitation link or password info) has the ability to let everyone speak or to mute and then unmute attendees.  You can mute yourself on the same bottom bar if you like.  Want to ask a question but not interrupt?  Just click the message on the bottom bar and a side bar will appear.  Type whatever you like and click enter.  Your message will appear and the host will hopefully get around to answering it.  When you’re done, just click the red “Leave Meeting” button and you’ve disconnected from the site.  

Although this is not directly related to genealogy, it will most definitely help you if you don’t already have Microsoft Office.  Check out this link for details, restricts do apply.

Hope you’re staying safe and finding family!

African American Research Online

Without a doubt, researching African American genealogy in the U.S. has never been easy, even though Alex Haley made it look like it was in Roots.  Sure, you can go back to the 1870 census but it often takes hours of Boots on the Ground to determine lineage before the Civil War.

Perhaps that’s about to change!  Coming soon, an online database thanks to the University of Michigan’s Enslaved:  Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade study that is partnering with organizations to link databases and attempt to match individuals as they moved from place to place.  I first read about this amazing work in the January-February 2020 Smithsonian article, Tracing the Enslaved by Amy Crawford.  Although the database combining multiple records held in archives around the globe is not yet available, it’s scheduled to be open soon.

In the meantime, try researching the Slave Societies Digital Archive, the brainchild of Jane Landers of Vanderbilt University.  Begun in 2003, over 700,000 pages of documents have been digitized from Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, Angola and Florida (which was then Spanish).  Many of the documents are religious because these once Spanish held territories had a different view of Africans; they were thought to be more souls to save for Catholicism, thus they recorded Baptisms and other vitals.  

You May Have Missed This – Another Genealogy Organization Change

While you were partying away the holidays, you might have missed the announcement from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, that he has sold his business to Verogen, Inc.

What does this mean to you?  Well, stay tuned as for now, not much but in the ever changing world of genealogy it could be something later. 

I’m not surprised by the sale; GEDMatch was having a difficult time moving the company forward (ie. the website was early millenium when they started) and with policy, such as what constituted adherence to their guidelines ethically regarding privacy and usage by 3rd party sources.  I’ve blogged about last year (The Dark Side of DNA) if you’d like details. 

Personally, I’ve left my DNA open to view.  This may be a naive decision but I think it’s the most ethical for the moment.  I don’t care if I’m contacted by the police searching for a relative.  No one is going to steal the limited DNA available and clone me (I have heard that claim from a few clients). On the contrary, I may connect with others who hold the answers to which I seek.  And maybe not!

Like every decision we make daily, there are pros and cons.  I’m taking a wait and see attitude with this sale and will keep you informed of any new developments.

Dealing With Document Disappointments – My Duers Do It Again!

I have blogged extensively about my mysterious Duer family that I connect with DNAwise but can’t prove a firm document relationship between son Thomas, who died in 1829 and his purported father, John, who died in 1831.  Thomas’ family lived next to John in Trumbull County, Ohio but none of Thomas’ children were mentioned in John’s will.  John’s will only mentioned 1 grandchild and named all of his other living children.  The 1 grandchild was the son of his deceased daughter and was easily recognizable by his last name, Hazen.

I’ve theorized that none of Thomas’ children were named because Thomas had already been given an “inheritance” of land adjoining John’s.  I also thought John might have been slightly put off by Thomas’ widow, Hannah, quickly remarrying another neighbor who was a widower, James Preston.  That marriage didn’t seem to last as both Hannah and James can be found in 1840 living with their adult children.

The land that Thomas lived on remained with one of his son’s until the mid-1800’s when he sold it to what I believe would have been a cousin who had come to own John’s property.  Of course, there was nothing to show the connection between the two listed in the deed transaction so I can’t prove that relationship, either.

I’ve been told repeatedly to give up the search but I will admit I’m obsessed with this line.  So, every few months, I recheck to see if any new records are uploaded, a new DNA match can be found that might hold the key in their basement or attic, or a donation is made to an archive in the areas the family lived where someone drops off records that will be the proof I need.

Yes, I already have DNA proof.  There have been several descendants of John’s children who have tested and we all relate but I want a document!  Or do I?

Last month, I found 2 documents online that gave me promise.  I was hoping they would lead me to the smoking gun record; this is what I discovered posted on Ancestry with no citation:

Although I found this posting just two days after it was done, when I reached out to the poster, her response was she couldn’t remember where she found it and would get back with me.  I love her dearly because she wrote back the next day and said she found it from another Ancestry poster named John Shivers.  She though it came from Revolutionary War Patriots from Ohio.  She gave me a link to an archive in Ohio but they didn’t have it.

I found a John Shivers on Ancestry and emailed him but he hadn’t been online in over a year so I wasn’t hopeful I would get a response.  I wasn’t even sure he was the John Shivers that originally posted it as I couldn’t access the private tree.  

Then I reached out to a colleague in my locale who is a member of the Trumbull County Genealogical Society to see if he could check the membership roster and give me contact info for John Shivers.  There was no info but he sent me a new member who was interested in the Duers.  I emailed them but the email address wasn’t working.

I then searched Worldcat and Google for the title but only found a SAR pdf that wouldn’t open.  

Going to the national SAR website, I found no new info; the Ancestor # 150827 is the number assigned by that organization so I decided to reach out to the Mahoning County, Ohio Chapter hoping that they might have a file with the relationship I was seeking that wasn’t submitted to national.  

The local chapter’s website is under construction.  Their Facebook page has no contact info.  I reached out to a Trumbull County local who had given me info several years ago – she had tripped over Thomas’ fallen gravestone when she was conducting a cemetery clean up and loves to kid me that he almost killed her.  She found two email addresses for local SAR members.

I emailed both.  One never responded.  The other said he’s no longer in that area so isn’t a member but he kindly forwarded my query to the current president.  The president said the chapter reactivated 4 years ago and has no old files in their possession (who knows what happened to that stuff!?)  so he forwarded my email to the organization’s state genealogist.  That gentleman gave me the heartbreaking news – the real citation is from Roster of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio. Wilbur R. Branthoover, compiler. Veterans Affairs, Ohio. Reprinted by OHSDAR. 1929.

The SAR doesn’t even use it any longer because the info has been found to be incorrect.  That is true – my John Duer who is buried in Ohio served in New Jersey and not Pennsylvania, that was my John’s cousin also named John.  

So, another dead end here.  Then I found another posting that stated that Thomas had been in the War of 1812.  That was news to me as I had checked online and in the National Archives and could never find him involved in that conflict.  The posting had a citation (hurray!) and when I followed up this is what I found:

It was a John Duer and not Thomas that served.  Someone had misindexed and then hadn’t checked the original source.  And the John named to have served in the War of 1812 was my John’s grandson but not descended from Thomas.  You have to laugh at this – I discovered the mistake on November 2, 2019, 107 years to the day that this cousin John left the service.  

Yes, I’m deeply disappointed that the newly found leads led to nothing but I’m not giving up.  Several people have told me that I’m never going to find what I’m looking for but I don’t agree.  I’m thinking boots on the ground might be my next action.  Unfortunately, that will have to wait a while.  

In the meantime, I’m moving on to other lines.  Oh, Duers, why doth disappoint me so?

DNA Today from Hair of the Past

Short blog this week as I’m slammed with work.  I just read something I think is super interesting – Hair DNA Advance Hailed as Forensic Game Changer.  A family member knows I’m interested in DNA and genealogy and passed the article along to me.  Personally I think it’s going to be a boon to family genealogy once the new technology gets simplified.  Imagine being able to take in grandpa’s hair brush or that Victorian hair ring you inherited but have no idea who it originally belonged to!  Better yet, think of mummies that still have clumps of hair or even woolly mammoths.  I can’t even imagine all the new information that will result from these DNA samples.

Promethease – Limited Time Offer

Ahhh, the constantly changing world of genealogy changes!  If you’ve been thinking about uploading your DNA results to Promethease you need to get a move on it.  Recently, MyHeritage announced that they were acquiring Promethease and after the end of this year, the site will no longer be free.  Anyone who had an account with Promethease will continue to have it unless you opt out.  If you are living in Europe, you must do so by November 1st – click here for that link.  If you’d like to read the full story, check out MyHeritage’s blog article.

If you aren’t sure what Promethease is – I found the best definition from Google that explains “Promethease is a computer program developed by the SNPedia team which allows users to compare personal genomics results against the SNPedia database, generating a report with information about a person’s attributes, such as propensity to diseases, based on the presence of specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).”

I have used it and discussed the results with my physician and have compared my close family’s DNA results.  Although Promethease has been free for awhile, I had to pay a nominal fee, I think it was a few dollars, back in the day when I first did it.  I intend to go back on the site and update my results to see if there is any new developments.  Since I’m a member of MyHeritage I will still have access but my family is not so I want to be able to get them an updated report. 

Reuniting the Lost and Found

A few weeks ago I blogged about the very worthy Field of Honor database project in the Netherlands that memorializes fallen World War 2 soldiers. Strangely, as I was writing that article, I was contacted by an Ancestry.com member who I first connected with last spring about her DNA.

One of her parents was adopted and she was trying to see if we were related as I had placed information from the same geographical area she was researching on my Ancestry.com tree for the same surnamed individual. There were other coincidences – they had the same occupation, religion, place where they immigrated from and where they immigrated to about the same time (early 1900’s). We were thinking they were related but after comparing our DNA results, they weren’t blood relations.

The Ancestry member had received an email from another member who was contacted by someone in the Netherlands who found World War 2 dog tags using a metal detector and wanted to send them to family. I was contacted since we had the same surname – Koss – as the found tags who once belonged to Joseph E. Koss who died in 1944 in Holland.

I reached out to the memorial owner at Findagrave.com but he was not a relative. If you are a family member of a Joseph Koss please email me (see contact me page) and I will happily connect you so you can get the tags.

I’ve blogged in the past about scammers and I’ve read about fake dog tags being sold in Viet Nam but this does not smell like a scam to me but to keep my readers safe – I’ll play middleman for you. Using a metal detector and finding a lost object is typical in my world as that’s one of my husband’s hobbies and he has found and returned lost articles for people for years.

Funny how I’ve been contacted by folks living in the Netherlands twice in the past few weeks – maybe that’s where I should go visit next!