This past week, I began to identify all my Gateway Ancestors – those are the folks who were the first to come to the U.S. In some cases, they don’t go back very far. For example, my maternal grandmother came with her mother and brother in 1912 to join her husband who had come earlier. Others came in the 1800’s, like my Leiningers and Kuhns, or the 1700’s, like my Landfairs and Hollingsheads, and some in the 1600’s, my Duers.
I decided to make a quick write up for each Gateway from their emigration to my parents. I wanted to tackle the Duers first because, well, I’m just enamored with them for one and two, they’ve been here for a long time so I figure if I start with the longest descents the rest will go quicker.
I came up with this idea after watching a National Genealogical Society (NGS) video from the May conference. I always intended to write about these ancestors but perhaps like you, never made the time or the effort to get that project done. I think the way that I’m proceeding makes it easier to get going on it. Here’s my plan:
- Identify who you’d like to write about. In my case, it was my Gateways.
- Go to wherever you keep your records for that individual and review them. I keep everything in several places – my personal tree on my desktop, on Ancestry.com and at MyHeritage.com. I also backup periodically to Dropbox and an external hard drive. Putting them in several places means I can gain access easily wherever I am, such as my home office, or out and about on my laptop or cell.
- Open up a Word doc. Give your work a title and add your name as the author. In the footer, add page numbers. I always use “Page 1 of 10” or whatever number where I’ve ended because families tend to pass around documents and not always copy all of the pages. This way, the receiver will know they obtained the complete work. I also included an asterisk in the title with an explanation in the footer noting the descendancy will be a direct line to my parents. I did this because most of them had large numbers of children and I really want to only focus on my line for this project. That’s not to say it isn’t important to research the siblings because it definitely is a must do but for this project, not so much. I also include my email address in the footer so people that discover this can contact me. I plan on posting it on my Gateway’s Gallery on Ancestry and under Biography on MyHeritage. I’m doing that so other researchers can find it easily as it will show up in the Search function on both sites.
- I selected using the NGS Quarterly style to write. I have no intention of ever submitting it to that organization for publication but I chose that style for several reasons. It’s formulaic (and boring, yes, but I’m not writing fiction nor am I trying to paint a picture of the ancestor’s life). Formulaic is good because it will be redundant writing, a sort of fill-in-the-blanks of the person’s life. I want that so I can analyze the information that I have acquired and identify any holes that I might have. I discovered immediately about Thomas that I had a “birth” date of 29 Sep 1663. It wasn’t a birthdate; it was the christening date. Does that matter? Yes, because I don’t know if he was christened on the day he was born, shortly after or as an adult. Given his death date, I can determine he was christened in his youth but not necessarily on his birthday. I also realized I never looked at his original christening record that is available on FindMyPast.org. Instead, I had relied on Ancestry’s Family Data Collection – Births. That’s a database of transcriptions first published in 2001. I needed to go back and find the original film to verify the information recorded was correct. It would be lovely to be able to go to Great Britain and view the original document but that’s not going to be happening anytime soon so I’ll have to do the best I can with the image. Another plus of the Quarterly style is that it will allow me to quickly determine how many people are in the line. With other styles, that information is not readily available. This style also provides more information about all of the couple’s children.
- I highly recommend using Numbering Your Genealogy by Curran, Crane, and Wray if you’d like to explore more methods. It’s available through NGS and can be downloaded or printed so there is no delay in your getting started.
- Make sure you use the footnote or endnote feature on Word (under References) so you can cite where you got the fact. If you don’t have a source for the fact you have, then use the highlight function on Word (Home-Font-the pencil icon with a color under it) to highlight that you must search for the source. I used that feature to remember I must go to FindMyPast.org to find the christening record. Once found, you can go back to the Font-highlight and click “No Color” to get rid of it. This way, you can quickly continue writing and citing for what you have and then research what needs clarification or is missing later.
- Typically, the original source only is noted and I know I drive my colleagues nuts by listing ALL sources where I found the fact. I do this because I don’t know if the original document will be lost. If that occurs, then I’ve added where I found transcriptions or films of the image, etc., and that I verified the other documents I listed confirmed what the original document recorded. You do whatever the spirit tells you lol!
- Your writing will not be very long; probably not more than a page or two unless, like my Daniel Hollingshead who loved to flip real estate, you have lots of records. Thomas Duer’s summary would be one page without citations. Remember, you aren’t recording a detailed story here, just the facts. If you decide you have the time and want to elaborate, then you have an outline already done to help you on your way. The clip at the top of this blog is for three of the five paragraphs I wrote on Thomas. Of his known children, I placed a + sign before son Thomas, (not shown) as I will be writing about him next. I will not be writing about the couple’s other seven children.
- You may want to add a timeline to your Word doc. I haven’t done that but may if I get to a situation where documents I have acquired are conflicting. The timeline can help sort out if there was a transcription error, a confusion of identity, or some other situation. For example, I discovered last week a conflict regarding a family I was writing about for a journal article. The female gateway came to the U.S. in 1925 but on her naturalization records, she stated she came in 1939. Both are true. She first arrived in 1925, got married, had four children, and then took them back to her native country for a six month visit. When she returned, she used the second coming as her date of arrival. It was the most recent to her naturalization paperwork and the law required that at the time. So, fraud may not be involved in record discrepancies. Instead, she was following the law of the land at that time. A timeline helped me quickly identify the two emigration dates and that I needed to explore further.
- When you’re done writing it’s time to upload and share. You want others to see your work so they can correct or add to your findings.
Since it’s autumn, now that you accomplished your task, make yourself a nice cup of tea and enjoy. You deserve it!