Finding the Family Jewels – Bibles, Included!

Ever wonder what happened to an object that was once held in high regard in your family but has since disappeared?  Maybe you aren’t sure if there ever was such an item but you’d like to explore the possibility.  This blog is for you…
When I began internet genealogy back in the 1990’s we still had dial up service.  Remember that?  Going through your home phone line to connect resulted in no one being able to get a phone call while someone was surfing.  With all the junk calls I get daily, I’m thinking that wasn’t such a bad option, but I digress.
Back then, my husband would joke that it was okay he couldn’t make a phone call because I was hunting down the family jewels.  Clearly, our families never had much jewels but I did wonder whatever became of the muskets or hoop skirts or Bibles.  Most likely, the muskets broke and when the hoop skirts were no longer haute couture they were either repurposed or trashed.  The Bibles, however, never went out of style so what happened to them?
Your first step in locating the long lost item is to research if it ever was.  Start by asking your oldest living relative.  I know that no Bible was brought from the old country by my maternal side because I asked my grandparents, who were the gateways, if they brought it with them.  Both said they brought one suitcase filled with clothes.  Case closed, pun intended!
I never asked my paternal grandparents that question, though, because my grandmother died when I was a child and my grandfather remarried, moved away and we never had contact again.  My father then became the oldest relative and his reply was, “You’ll get the book when I die.”  Huh?  I questioned further and he meant there was a family history book that had been written in the 1970’s and he intended for me to have it.  Except that didn’t happen. Since my step-mother would not give it to me, my second step became casting a wider net.  I had two aunts but neither responded to a letter I wrote (this was before wide use of email) so I posted on a genealogy website that I was looking for a copy.  Two people responded that they had copies and provided me a look up.  One even reached out to the author who was living in Europe and he sent me an electronic database of his book.  Today, you can easily accomplish this by messaging distant family members who have online trees that contain the ancestor whose information you’re seeking or you can check worldcat, Google Books, Hathi Trust, Internet Archives and Archive Grid to see if the whereabouts of what you’re hunting is listed there.  Facebooks’ Family Treasures Found would be another site to check.  One of my aunts eventually responded and sent me her copy.  Patience is key here for lots of reasons; perhaps the site you messaged isn’t used much by the recipient or life just happened to get in the way.  In my case, my Aunt wanted to check with her two daughters to make sure they had no interest in the book.  They didn’t so that’s how I ended up with a copy.  Actually, I ended up with two copies because my step-mother took pity on me after my mother died and gave me the book.  So now, I have two – one for each of my kids or for another family member that may sometime in the future contact me with the same request.
Getting the information through look up was wonderful, however, if what you’re seeking is a one of a kind item then this approach may get you closer but not really fill your need.  Step 3 will save you time and it’s quite simple – just go online and research if what you’re seeking is documented to have existed and if so, when and where was it’s last location.
If you’re following me, you know that I’ve been working all summer on my Hollingshead line.  In my research to verify the identify of Daniel Hollingshead in three locations (England, Barbados, New Jersey Colony) I looked everywhere online and emailed numerous archives to check for information that hasn’t been digitized.  It was during the online portion of the research that I discovered Daniel had brought a Bible with him from England as it was noted in old biographical books highlighting descendants in the late 1800’s.  To aid in keeping the whereabouts of the Bible’s locations known, I went to Step 4, I created a timeline.  For simplicity here, I’m not including the source citations but my timeline in Excel notes exactly where the information came from so I can analyze it later:
1683 Leicestershire, England – Daniel’s birth as reported in 5 books (1965, 1911, 1900, 1886, 1882)         Lancashire, England – Daniel’s birth place as reported in 2 books (1870 & 1857)1686 Leicestershire, England – Christening record for the 2nd Daniel born (1st  Daniel 1679-1685)1688 Bible printed in Oxford, England
You can clearly see the problem with the conflicting place and dates. Further research shows no Daniels born in Lancashire during this period.  Only two Daniels were born in Leicestershire during this time, both to the same parents.  Probably every book is wrong with the birth year as there would be no reason for the family to name a 2nd child Daniel until the first one was deceased.  Yes, some families do that but this line hasn’t shown that to be the case although they often reuse names when a child dies.  More likely, Daniel 2 was born between 1685 (1st Daniel’s death) and 1686 (christening record).  Typically infants are baptized soon after birth but that might not have been the case.  A family member may have seen the 1683 recorded but was really written was a sloppy last digit that should have been a 5. 
Here’s another problem the timeline unveils – the published date of the Bible would be AFTER Daniel’s birth, no matter what year is correct.  Still, I want to locate it as it would hopefully confirm the birth location and would have been the next closest document made to Daniel’s real date of birth.
Here’s the next problem – The Bible mentioned in some of the books state that Daniel brought the Bible with him when he came to New Jersey. I need more info to further develop the timeline.
If you’re wondering why I would need to know where the Bible was kept that long ago it’s simply because if it is found, I need to understand how it was passed along.  Since I don’t know if the Bible contains any genealogical information as many Bibles exist and families don’t record vitals in them, I need to know where it’s been so I can validate the information it contains, if any.
Ship manifests haven’t been found for him so it’s not known exactly when Daniel emigrated.  The books mention he, along with several brothers, were in the Battle of Blenheim.  So, did Daniel take the Bible with him in battle (August 1704)?  No clues there.  Did Daniel return to England after the battle?  Don’t know! At the time of the battle Daniel was not the oldest son so the Bible would have likely been in the possession of a brother who died in battle.  If the Bible had been brought to Blenheim, Daniel would have assumed ownership of it at that time.
It’s probable he did return to England after the battle and took the Bible with him when he decided he was permanently leaving England so that would have been between 1705-1711.  The last date is when his first child was born in Barbados; since he met his wife in Barbados he probably arrived between 1705-1710.  So my timeline continues:  
1705  Battle of Blenheim (now Germany)1711  Daughter born in Barbados1714  Wife dies in Barbados1715  Daniel listed in Barbados census1716  Daniel remarries in Barbados1717  Daniel purchases land in New Jersey Colony1717-1718  Two children born to second union in Barbados1721  Beginning of numerous land sales in New Jersey Colony1730  Daniel dies intestate in Somerset, New Jersey Colony
Step 5:  To determine where the Bible went after Daniel’s death is to expand the tree to include all of Daniel’s children from both of his marriages.  You also must keep in mind customs from the time period. Understanding how the family thinks is key to finding the current location of the item.
My line follows Daniel’s first child, Mary.  She would not have inherited the Bible for several reasons – she was from the first union and she was a female. Clearly she was not a favored child by her step mother as she was not named in the will.  Daniel had older sisters in England so if the family was unconventional for the times, an older sister and not Daniel would have kept the Bible after the oldest sibling died.  I know that Mary did not have the Bible as there was no documentation found in her line to ever note she had it.  There is no documentation that any of the female children ever had it. 
Daniel’s eldest son, the second child, would seem the person to have inherited it but that does not seem to be the case.  Numerous books and documents show that Francis did, as the oldest male, manage the assets after Daniel died intestate and quickly lost them.  From the will of Thomasin, Daniel’s second wife, she acknowledges his ineptitude by naming one of her youngest daughter’s as administrator to her estate and gives each of her adult children only a shilling.  Her manumitted slaves receive most of the proceeds from the remaining estate.  You may think that the administrator would have received the Bible, since she was given the responsible task of handling the final paperwork, however, she had married late in life and had no children so she did not get the Bible.
Two of Daniel’s male sons had died before his second wife.  They had no children so we can eliminate them from the hunt.
That leaves one line – 6th child, 3rd son William.  Oh joy, William had 9 children.  This may seem overwhelming but following what we know – most likely to be passed to a MALE with CHILDREN, we can quickly eliminate who got it.  It appears that son James inherited it as books from 1882 & 1886 state his son, Stroud Jacob’s wife, had the Bible in her possession after Stroud died, along with “old family papers.”  So now I want to find both the Bible and the papers.  
First, I want to understand why Stroud had the Bible.  He was the third son and fourth child.  The eldest died with no children, we can skip the female (sigh) and the next son left to go out west and never married.  Makes sense why Stroud would have it.   
Fast forward to 1900 when the Bible was known to be in the possession of one of Stroud’s grandchildren, a Jeannette Jackson.  WOW!  How did a female get so lucky?  Times were a changing and it seems everyone of the now fewer children got something.  Harriet, the oldest, had died but her oldest daughter was Jeannette who got the Bible.  Stroud’s second child had died childless.  The third child, James’ son received a breast pin that was passed down to Edgar Pinchot Hollingshead.  The eldest, a daughter, received a painting on ivory of one of Daniel’s sons, William (same line).
Now this should be easy, right?!  1900 wasn’t that long ago and so we just need to track Jeannette and we’ve found the Bible.  Not so fast…Jeannette died unmarried and childless in 1923.  Two brothers predeceased her.  Her sister married but had no children.  Now we’re at a dead end.  Not!
STEP 6 is to research further in new areas.  Since we’re looking for a record from less than the last 100 years newspapers are the way to go.  Thanks to a “cousin” helping me with the search, a record was found in a Pennsylvania paper (and the Bible came to New Jersey first, remember!) that said an Elizabeth Malvern Hollingshead was going to “loan” the Bible to a local historical society in 1924 for an event that was to be held.  Loan is the key word here but still, I reached out to the historical society to see if a) they still have it on loan or b) they reborrowed it sometime since and know where it is.  Alas, they do not but they do have the “old family papers.”  Bingo!  I’ve at least traced part of the missing items.  I’m awaiting their lookup for confirmation of vitals.
Now it’s time to go back to Step 5 and trace Elizabeth’s line to the present.  That was done and the most likely candidate was emailed at his work email.  He hasn’t responded.  I know he’s reading his work email because it was an interesting system – it notified me that he had been on the site the previous day to my email. 
Finding a long lost heirloom is a matter of patience and persistence.  Keep notes, enlist others to lighten the load and you will hopefully find what you seek.  Happy Hunting!

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!

Identifying Tree Errors – A New Approach

My online family tree is aging and just like we humans need as we get older, regular check ups are important to maintain its vigor.  I think I just discovered a different approach to identify errors to keep my tree robust.

My first computerized tree was done on a TI99 home computer.  I had to insert a cartridge to view the genealogical program (which is now in my attic). In 1995,we had switched over to a desktop system and we were online thanks to AOL.  I downloaded PAF from FamilySearch.org and spent a few weekends transferring my info from the old software to the new.  I’ve been transferring that same tree as it grew ever since.

Around 1997, I created a tree on Rootsweb (now owned by Ancestry.com).  My old tree is frozen in cyberspace and I cringe at some of the errors I’m not able to correct.  I believe that’s the only tree I’ve got stuck in time.

Over the years I’ve transferred the root tree to various online sites – Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, FindMyPast.com, Geneanet.com, WikiTree.com, and AmericanAncestors.  I’ve used Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, and Family Tree Maker software to help identify and correct errors.  Last weekend I found another source to fix mistakes in lines I haven’t looked at in years.

Geneanet.com allows you to view tree statistics, whether you’re a member or not.  Simply click the down arrow next to your tree’s name which accesses the menu.  Under the heading Family History, click Family Tree Statistics.  Although the number of people in your tree with the same first name is interesting, it’s not going to fix errors.  (As an aside, the largest number of my peeps are named John and Mary, just like my grandparents).  To find errors, click “The 20 who lived the longest.”  There I discovered I had an ancestor that lived over 500 years and he wasn’t named Methuselah.  Clearly, I had entered John Clark’s death date in error, typing 1918 for 1418. 

The next individual, Thomas Eaton, had lived for 311 years but not really.  He had been pruned once from his line so I deleted him.  He was just an unlinked soul lost in my tree. 

Now click “The 20 oldest persons still alive” and you’ll be able to identify folks you know have passed but you haven’t found their death date.  My oldest was Melba L. Jones born in 1899.  Using FindAGrave, I discovered she died 2 Jan 1993.  I like how this feature helps me keep my tree current on lines I don’t check often. 

I like that only 20 questionable individuals are provided at a time so it makes the task less onerous.  It’s still a pain to maintain trees at various sites so I’ve been keeping one current which is linked to my desktop and then every 6 months, update the others.  In the interim, when people find me at the other sites, I just redirect them to my always maintained tree.  

Now that I’ve Spring Cleaned my tree, I’m ready for more research.  Happy Hunting!

Lineage Society Application Tips


Most of my client work this past summer has been for assistance in joining a lineage society. The reasons for the interest varied; one elderly gentleman wanted to give memberships to grandchildren as holiday gifts, several had affiliating with an organization on their bucket list and decided the time was right to pursue membership, and a few wanted to memorialize an ancestor.

In most of the cases of the clients who contacted me, they didn’t need much help. They actually didn’t need me at all which I told them. Joining a lineage society is not difficult although some have more stringent requirements than others in validating the provided evidence.

If you’re thinking of joining, you will first need to establish a relationship from yourself to the ancestor who would qualify for the society. That means, proving you’re connected to your parent and your parent is connected to your grandparent and so on until you reach the qualifying ancestor. For most people, obtaining vital statistics aren’t difficult; they just require completing a form, submitting payment and being patient to wait for the document to arrive. Creativity comes into play when the ancestor lived prior to required vital records being available. In those cases, church, Bible, cemetery, immigration, pension, and wills might be used to prove the relationship.

If you have a known relative who is a member of the lineage society you wish to join, most of your work is already done for you. All you need to do is prove your connection to the member.

What seemed to be my clients’ biggest hurdle was in following the direction of the society’s application. One individual told me he had once had a high security clearance for his job and that paperwork was simple compared to a state lineage society application. If this is your roadblock, here’s some tips to get the job done:

1. Make sure your ancestor meets the society’s requirements. This sounds silly but it isn’t. If you’re trying to join a county Pioneer Program, for example, your ancestor must have lived in that county during the years the program stipulates. Boundaries change and that may make your forefather ineligible. West Virginia was once part of Virginia, Pinellas County in Florida was once part of Hillsborough County. Check out the area’s history before beginning will save you time and money.

2. Make a copy of the application and use a pencil to print the information it requests. This way, you can eliminate the worry of a web fill in the blank document not saving and you can have a hard copy to verify each connection. It’s much simpler to have all the information on one handy dandy form to type into the society’s online application than to try to flip pages of all your proof documents to find the required data and input it at the same time.

3. I recommend checking off each name, date and location that you recorded on the hard copy application by looking back at the record used. For example, if the birth certificate states the name is Mary Ellen then that name should be recorded on the application and not Elle, the individual’s nickname. Nicknames should be included if they are found in official documents. I had a several times great grandmother that completed a War of 1812 widow’s pension under her nickname, Polly. Her birth name was Mary. She was illiterate and didn’t sign the pension application but Mary and Polly were used interchangeably on the document. In situations like this, I would write Mary Polly on the application.

4. If you have questions as you complete the form, simply email the society’s contact person. In most cases, they will be helpful as a good society values new members. My opinion, if they aren’t helpful then why would you want your ancestor’s name affiliated with them?! Save yourself grief and memorialize in a different way.

5. When you submit the application, make sure you’ve kept a copy as there may be a question or two and you can readily have your own set to refer to as you respond to the question.

I have found that awaiting confirmation of membership is often a slow process so patience is required. Most societies are composed of volunteer members so your application is reviewed around their spare time.

Not sure what lineage societies are available? Check out this Wiki list. Warning – that is not a complete list as many more societies are available. Contact historical and local genealogical societies for additional opportunities.

Memorial Day – Record Preservation


Memorial Day Weekend is here in the States! As many reflect on their deceased loved ones I’m pondering those loved ones’ records. Why? In my area, we’re under the first Tropical Storm warning of the year (and Hurricane Season doesn’t begin until June 1st) and a flood watch.

Records loss happens to all of us. That misplaced paper receipt to prove the warranty is still valid, the disappearing paper estimate that the roofer left or the W2 that you never received in the mail from a former company is frustrating. We’re fortunate that today there’s technology to help us with work arounds to obtain the missing document. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with records of past generations.

You’re probably tired of hearing the importance of preserving your acquired ancestral documents. Backing up my data is as fun as going to the dentist. Although I love my dentist and his staff, I don’t love the dental experience. I know that it’s important to keep my teeth and gums healthy so I continue to make and keep my appointments. So why do I have such a hard time with keeping my genealogical records updated and safe?

If you’re like me, scanning and saving those documents are just not as fun as hunting down the record. I have to admit that I have, on more than several occasions, had to refind a document that I needed and that definitely wasn’t fun. I thought, if I got into a routine like I do with brushing, flossing, and gargling, I’d be set with my record saves. I just realized that my genealogical process still needs refinement as I tried to locate a death certificate I could have swore I had placed in the Cloud and it just isn’t there.

I want my records to be readily available when I need them. Standardizing my File Name system helps, as does the lovely Search function on Dropbox and OneDrive. Yes, I use both. Paranoia may destroy ya but I believe putting my tree in one and my records in another protects the information in case one of the company’s system fails. (I used to use CDs, DVDs and thumb drives but I’ve abandoned those for Clouds since my latest technology doesn’t have those functions available).

Now my plan is all good until the weather takes a turn for the worse like today. Late last summer, I had no electricity for several days. Granted, accessing my genealogy was not my priority at that time, but when the power goes out and there isn’t impending danger, I still want to continue with my genealogical work. I’m thinking that I should be making a hard copy of online finds so I can work off the computer in times like those. I also need to recheck my existing hard copies and make sure that I’ve scanned and saved every document so if disaster strikes, when life returns to normal I can pick up where I left off. To insure I do this, I selected a line a month to check on. I’ve penciled a day on the calendar to make it official and hopefully, I’ll not cancel that appointment.

Organizational Article You Must Read


I came across the following article in the Washington Post this past week and I had to share it with you – Americans are Pack Rats. Yes, we are! I had read this shortly after blogging an article for another genealogy organization about an experience I had with a pack rack relative and my frustration in not being able to locate a photo because I kept getting the response, “Well, it’s around here somewhere.”
My genealogy is well organized but occasionally, I have difficulty putting my hands on something I know I have. My most recent mysterious disappearance is of 2 handwritten letters for the eBook I’m currently working on. I’ve transcribed the letters but for the life of me can’t locate the originals. I’ve always kept the entire set together in the same order that I scanned them. After scanning, I transcribed the letters in order. The first letter and one written 13 months later have disappeared, along with the scan. The transcription remains. I’m considering this my Spooky October Happening as I have one or more each year; some unexplainable genealogical occurrence that is just weird. I’m hoping by November I can recover the documents.
But back to the article, I’m thinking that if the author’s approach is culturally established, it sure explains why my husband’s side didn’t have a lot of hand me downs. I’m still searching for a pic of his great grandmother, for goodness sakes.
I understand the article’s author’s motives but I think that I’d like to continue to use the family china until I’m either unaware of my surroundings or die. I wouldn’t want it pitched after my death so I think some items just ought to stay with the current owner until the very end. I use the label system. On items that have family value, I’ve placed a label on the bottom with the name of the original owner. That way, my descendants can easily identify that it’s an item that had significance. Whether they pitch or not is up to them. Knowing my family, they’ll keep it or pass it along to a family member who would continue to value it.
This isn’t a pleasant thought but end planning is necessary long before your life ends.

More Genealogy Tips Based on Renovation Musings

Closeup image of notepad with pen.

If you’ve been following my Genealogy At Heart blog, you know that hubby and I have been in the “middle” of major home remodeling which we began the day after Thanksgiving. When I say middle I really mean it – we’re half way done. Through this chaotic journey I’ve been able to apply quite a few lessons learned from the experience to genealogy which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

On Palm Sunday, our adult kids planned to come over and we were going to take a much needed respite from the renovations to attend a local art show. To plan that in, we worked hard the previous day as we hoped that the hardwood floors would FINALLY be installed in the upcoming week. For that to happen, we needed to finish prepping; we had some minor holes to fill in the concrete and to tile the entry stoop.

I’m a list person – I love to organize via writing and then cross out items when the task is complete. I’ve used technology but for this major project, reverted back to a paper and pencil method. It’s quite motivating to cross out the completed items! I do this with my genealogy, too. Using Excel, I have a spreadsheet that lists the Who (surname), What (I’m going to accomplish – research, transcribe, analyse, etc.) When (the date I place it on my list), Why (the goal, either short or long term) and How (I brainstorm where I’m going to find the info or what I need to complete the task). Some items have been on my list for a long time and others I can quickly accomplish.

Like genealogy, home maintenance doesn’t end. I don’t put “clean up my work space” on my genealogy to do list just like I wouldn’t place “mow the lawn” on my home renovation list.

Some items on my genealogy list may be much more difficult to accomplish than others. I’ve been trying to locate the parents of my second great grandmother, Mary “Polly” Dennis for years and don’t expect resolution tomorrow but who knows?! Records show up in the most unexpected places. Likewise, the hunt for a new door threshold (seriously – cannot find one anywhere that fits our front door!) has got to have a resolution quickly or my power bill will be astronomical. Although there are other important tasks to work on, finding that threshold has to take precedence. Which leads me to flexibility…

I’m not holding my breath that my floors will be installed this week. When I called to verify that the floors were in, I was told the order was partially filled. It’s been nearly a month since we ordered and the company cannot explain why the entire order isn’t ready. I wasn’t thrilled or surprised. Like in genealogy, expect the unexpected. If the company cannot provide the missing items we’re going to have to look elsewhere. Sure, it will take longer to finish but in the end, I sure will rejoice just like I do when I’ve found an elusive ancestor.

Because I’m paying as I go with the house renovation, my initial list only took us to the hardwood floor install. I knew I had the funds to get to that point AND the house would be livable again. So late Saturday after dinner, hubby and I went back to the list and I let him do the honors of crossing out all of his specifically assigned tasks that he accomplished that day. All that was left for him was to grout the newly installed entry tiles. It was time to make a new list for phase 2. Although I’m looking forward to the day my home renovations are through, my genealogy to do list will never end and that’s just fine with me!

Musing About Life Lessons Learned That Apply to Genealogy


It’s been a slow week genealogywise for me as I’ve been consumed with the house renovations and an increased workload at my educator job. I thought I’d have difficulty coming up with a blog but instead I’m bursting with lessons learned from those situations that apply to genealogy.

With renovations, there is a lot of moving of “stuff” around as we empty one area of the house with the goal of making it an improved place. It’s a total pain to have to physically move items. I also realized I have a lot of things that I no longer use so I’m donating or pitching as I go (or pawning off on my children). This got me thinking about genealogy practices…

I used to have alot of stuff I took with me when I researched; I carried my clunky laptop, notebook, charts, lots of pencils, a camera, phone, stickees, and thumbdrives. It was a workout just getting into an archive. I’ve streamlined considerably and find I can simply take my Kindle, phone, a mechanical pencil and stickees. Instead of many thumbdrives that contained my surname info and individual thumbdrives for my clients, I now just take one for microfilms in case I can’t email it to myself and use the ap on my phone, Office Lens, to take a picture and immediately send it to One Note, for everything else I used to save to a thumbdrive. I can view that from my phone and Kindle to make sure it looked the way I want before I leave so I never get home and realize I needed to get a better view. Also on the Kindle is Evernote, which has my research log template. I still carry the stickees to flag book pages I’m interested in. These changes have made my research life much saner and safer. I don’t have to worry about someone walking off with the laptop if I have to go back to the stacks for another look. I have more flexibility in where I park myself down to research and I lost weight without having to diet. Very cool! Have no idea why it took me so long to figure out I needed to do this room by room in my house.

After a room is finished I find that I might be better off moving items around for increased efficiency. For example, my drinking glasses used to be in a cabinet closest to the sink. I realized it’s a better idea to move them in the cabinet next to the refrigerator as that’s where we go to get cold, purified water, ice and lemon. This practice definitely applies to genealogy. Just because you used to do something doesn’t mean you should continue to do so. Back in the day, I organized my genealogy files by lines. As the data grew I found that it was too complex so I took the time to reorganize by surname. A binder system works well for me today but may not in the future and that’s ok! Change is good although I must admit, as a creature of habit, I do tend to go back to the old cabinet to seek out a glass when I’m exhausted. Habits may be difficult to break but can be done. Investing time to make a task better is time well spent. You may be in for a happy surprise, which gets me to my next lesson learned.

Ironically, last Wednesday I blogged about my recent Dropbox experience. At my educator job, a decision was made right after I wrote the article that our team was going to only use One Note. I spent all day Thursday and part of Friday dropping and dragging files from Dropbox to One Note. Although I wasn’t thrilled to have to readjust my work priorities during a busy time, the situation did give me a big Ahaa! In Dropbox, I saved by event but in One Note, the decision was to save by date. Same situation as moving my drinking glasses and reorganizing my genealogy files! The data is the same but where and how it’s stored is different. So here’s where I learned another lesson – looking at the older files was quite enlightening. I was able to identify some holes in our program which we’ll be discussing this week. Try this with your brickwalls. If your found records are in timeline order, shuffle them up and place them by type of record or location where they were made. You might identify where your gap is and be off and running to locate overlooked events or places where they occurred. It sure is the same stuff but my looking through a different lens you might make a new discovery.

In other words, you’ve got to change your practices up to move forward, even if it’s painful. Happy Hunting!

Genealogy Resolutions


There’s no better time than the start of a brand new year to fine tune genealogy habits. Need some ideas? How about:
Spring Clean Now! That’s right, in the dead of winter. Sort your loose papers into 3 piles. Pile 1 is for whatever you view as most interesting to pursue. Pile 2 is interested but can’t do right now, such as searching records at a repository outside of your area. Pile 3 is your trash pile. Put that immediately in File 13 (your trash bin) or your fireplace.
Calendars Count – It doesn’t matter if it’s the one your dry cleaners gave you, a special holiday gift received or electronic. What does matter is that you block time out now for family reunions, research, trips and conferences.
Resolve to Rule Your Routines – We all have some bad genealogical habits. I do a great job of making a plan when researching for clients but not so good when I’m working on my own tree. I plan on improving in that area this year.
Lighten Up – Nope, this has nothing to do with diet or cleaning. Instead, I mean don’t be so hard on yourself. Genealogy is your passion so don’t make it an unpleasant job. Sure it’s frustrating not being able to find the relationship you’re seeking. Yes, it’s sad that your ancestors made some really stinky choices. Remember you can only control what you own so let the negative feelings go.
Feeling Fine – There are lots of reasons to pursue genealogy. Some folks love the family stories they uncover while others like to solve puzzles and mysteries. I want to better understand history by relating it to events in which my ancestors were involved. You may want to discover how far back you can go or to record your family via photos. Whatever your reason, it’s much more fun when you share your findings. Explore ways to spread that joy this year. Facebook, Pinterest and FamilySearch.org are free. You may want to build a website for your own family or write an eBook to save on publishing costs. Attend a meeting of your local genealogy society to find other kindred spirits especially if your family is less than enthusiastic about your finds. Know that whatever your reason to pursue genealogy or way you select to present your findings is the right way – there’s certainly not many fields that are like that. Wishing you a year of enjoyable discoveries!

Hints to Get Your Needed Records During the Upcoming Year


I’m not sure what it is about holidays – maybe it’s the food, knowing time away from work is coming or the spirit of the season but I’ve learned that when I have a needed record to obtain those are the best times for me to secure it.

The good news is there are holidays all year long and you can use that to your advantage! Here’s what has happened to me and maybe this “Month of the Year Research Calendar” will work for you, too:

January – Last year I was writing a Kinship Determination Paper for by Board for Certification of Genealogists portfolio on the Harbaugh family and I needed clarification about their religious beliefs. Most of the first generation was buried in a Lutheran Cemetery in Indiana but the second generation was buried in a Brethren Cemetery. I was trying to understand when the change occurred so I called several churches in the area during the Christmas season seeking parishioner records from the 1880’s. The timing was wrong – churches are extremely busy then. I followed up via email in January and reminded them of the prior phone call, mentioned I hoped they had an enjoyable Christmas and before they got busy with Lent, would love them to check their parish records for me. It worked! By Valentine’s Day I had pictures of relatives I had never seen, a copy of the parish record book, an understanding of why the family went to a different denomination (it was across the street from where they lived) and a diary on DVD in which a parishioner had recorded daily life in the area that just happened to record ALL of the births and deaths of the family I was searching. January is for me, the best time to obtain church records!

February through Easter and October through December- This might not work for those somewhere other than Florida but I find those months the best time to meet folks from New England, Mid Atlantic and the Midwest as they are temporary residents here and frequently attend local workshops. So, if you’re residing in those locals then do this on the months I haven’t recorded! I pick their brains on resources from their home area, get leads on people back home they know who might help with my research and sometimes, meet a cousin. I’ve blogged previously about a serendipitous meeting I had in October 2016 (Less Than 6 Degrees of Separation and December 2015 A Transcription Treat).

March – April and November – I don’t know why these seem to be less busy times at archives but I’ve always found that the staff was readily available to help and the sites sparse with visitors. I’m talking about the Family History Library in Salt Lake and the New England Historic and Genealogical Society in Boston. I guess most researchers are either on spring break in a warmer climate or too busy getting ready for Thanksgiving during these times leaving the facility vacant. I’ve also had quick responses from state libraries via email during these months.

May – September – Need a tombstone photo? This is the best time to get one! Why? Simply because people visit cemeteries most between Memorial Day (duh!) and Labor Day. Put a request for a photo on Find-A-Grave a week prior to Memorial Day has almost always gotten me the photo I need. Think about it, who in their right mind would go out in a blizzard to take a cemetery photo? Well, yes, I would and have but that was because I was visiting the area and wouldn’t have gotten another chance to find what I needed. If I lived in the area, I would wait til the snow melted.

Thanksgiving – December – I was pining for the marriage record for one of my 3rd great grandparents. It’s not online and I needed to verify the date I found in family records as some of those were slightly off. I had called the small town in Ohio Clerk’s Office in August and was told to follow up with an email. I gave the couple’s names, dates of birth and what I thought was the marriage date. Two weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything so I emailed again. I got a response that the clerical workers were too busy. Waited another two weeks and emailed once more. Got the response that they were still busy and wouldn’t have time to look it up. Emailed the office manager and got no response. I left the email as open in my email account as a reminder I needed to pursue it. Well, on the Monday before Christmas I sent the following: Dear (clerk’s name), I’ve been a good genealogist this year and I’m hoping that you can assist Santa in bringing me the marriage record for my great grandparents – Emma Kuhn and Francis “Frank” Landfair. It’s all I want for Christmas! Wishing you a joyous season, Lori” I got it the next day. The response also explained why it’s never been scanned and online – evidently the book is in poor condition and won’t photograph well. I’ve also used a similar tactic the day before Thanksgiving. I called a cemetery for records and the office worker finally agreed to fax them to me because I told her I was having family over the following day and we just had to know who was buried in which plots. This cemetery is located in a not so nice area so I never could get anyone to take a photo and the clerk had previously refused to release the info due to privacy previously. (BTW-the dead don’t have privacy rights but she was insistent the cemetery rules prohibited her from releasing the plot information).

Hope this helps your hunting as you plan your research for the year!