After building your family tree you most likely have lines that you haven’t researched in a while. With every research hour you put in, you gain expertise. It’s time to go back to the far-flung branches and recheck your initial work.
Sounds like a pain, right?! Nope, I have a fun way to do it.
Since relocating to Indiana I’ve discovered that my state’s genealogical society supports a biography project. It’s called Once A Hoosier. I was surprised to see that not one of my husband or my pioneering ancestors had been included. How did that occur? Well, no one submitted a biography. If you check the location of your pioneering ancestors you’ll probably discover what I did. That means it’s time to get busy!
First, make sure your ancestor qualifies. In Indiana, the ancestor must have been born before 1950, is deceased, and lived in Indiana for part of his/her life or been buried there.
The society makes entry simple as they have a form filler to add the pioneer’s name, vitals, children/their spouses, and a space to type in a biography. You aren’t writing a book here so it’s not intimidating which makes this fun. It’s also a wonderful way to memorialize your ancestors. Most importantly, it’s a great way for you to check your records.
The form filler has no place to add citations. This could be problematic but I’m looking at it positively. We should always check out sources so, if you find an ancestor listed and you’re not able to find a source for the “fact” that was written, you can always contact the submitter for more information. This should be our best practice anyway. Not adding citations to your bio is also saving you time from having to type in a citation. As long as you can support the fact with your personal records, you’re good to go.
As I enter bios I’m fact-checking each of my citations. My husband, obviously by our surname, has a lot of Swedish ancestors. As I was writing a bio for his second great-grandmother Anna Elisabet “Lisa” Torstensdotter Erickson I questioned several pieces of information I had found for her. I had a Swedish baptism certificate and census records that never listed Elisabet as one of her names. Instead, Lisa was recorded. I checked with a Swedish genealogist to make sure I was understanding the records and discovered a lot about Swedish names. You can read more about Swedish names here. Unless you read Swedish, click Google Translate in the upper right-hand corner of the screen for English. Thank you, Annika Höstmad of Find A Swede Genealogy, for translating Lisa’s baptismal certificate and sharing this site.
We really don’t know what family called each other. After careful analysis I discovered where the name Elisabet came from – one immigration document that originated in the U.S. Elisabet was a well-used name in the family so I suspect that she may have formally been named Anna Elisabet but went by Lisa so the parish minister recorded Anna Lisa on the baptism record. Perhaps when she came to America she felt obligated to provide her formal given name. I can identify with that as it’s happened to me; I use my family’s pet name but after September 11th, I had to have many governmental records changed to reflect my formal given name on my birth certificate. So, I have an aka on most of my records now. In Anna Lisa’s case, in 1797 there were no formal governmental records so we’ll never know for sure what her given name was. I included that info in her bio.
If you’re wondering how you can get started on a bio project, simply do an internet search of the location where your pioneer ancestors resided. If a program isn’t offered or charges you and you don’t want to pay for that, then search for a larger regional society that may offer the program. I’ve discovered besides at the state level, that several Indiana counties also accept bios, too.
If you discover that your ancestor resided in a location that does not currently take bios, no worries. You can still write one up. Use any format you like or take one from a society that does offer the program. Then, .pdf it and save it with your ancestor’s records. Easy Peasy!