Top 10 Genealogy At Heart Posts from 2017


Happy New Year! Out with the old and in with the new but before we do that, let’s take a look back at the most read Genealogy At Heart posts from last year in descending order and a tie in 4th place:

10 VivaVolunteers! A Unique Opportunity for You

9 More on Accessing Records

8 Saturday Serendipity

7 Access to Preserved Records is Being Threatened!

6 My Grandfather’s C-File Has Finally Arrived!

5 Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

4 Perseverance Amidst Adversity – The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs

4 Genealogy Resolutions

2 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 2

1 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1

If you’re on the east coast of the U.S., get a cup of cocoa, stay warm and enjoy re-reading these blogs.

Next week, I’ll rank articles that I did for other publications in 2017.

Santa Genealogists – Beneficial Tips from the Jolly Old Elf


Genealogists need to take a tip from Santa Claus – we should be “making a list and checking it twice!” No, not to find out who’s naughty or nice, although that does make family history interesting and more entertaining to pass on to relatives. The list making and checking is critical, especially when you acquire information from someone else. Here’s what recently happened to me…
Through this blog, I made contact with a second cousin I had never met. He put me in contact with several other cousins and we all shared info on a brick wall ancestor to see if putting our heads together could resolve the dead end.
Three of us live far away from where the ancestor had resided; one of us lives within reasonable driving distance. That individual had gone to the courthouse and pulled the probate records years ago. As I reviewed the paperwork making a list of all that we had discovered, it struck me that our common ancestor would have been left an orphan. I decided to go on FamilySearch.org to see if records were available for the area as the driving distance cousin, with family commitments and the approaching holidays, couldn’t find the time to make another visit.
I must have been a good genealogist this year as oh, what a wonderful early present I found! The probate file was now online and contained the guardianship information. The file was 40 pages – the cousin had only 3 pages. I’m not sure if the courthouse employee only copied the last 3 pages or my cousin only had cash for those pages but the entire packet was a gem for me because I discovered my 3rd great grandfather in another line was the appraiser. His signature was all over the documents.
Lesson learned – ALWAYS go back to the source to see if the information is accurate and complete. By my making a list of what records we had found, I was able to identify other places to check. We haven’t climbed over that brick wall yet but we’re getting closer!
Have a wonderful holiday – I’ll be writing again after New Year’s Day.

Genealogy TV Show That Can Benefit Your Family

I’ve been watching this season’s Our American Family show and thought the style of the presentation would be an awesome way for families to record their own history. With the holidays upon us, check out a few of the episodes, then video your family at the next gathering. I’ve blogged previously about using helpful media to use and interview questions that can help get grandma talking. Once you’ve got the recording, putting it together could be a wonderful present for your next year’s holiday season!

Two Blogs With Helpful Research Hints


Happy Daily Savings Day! With the extra hour, I’ve got a big day with family planned so I’m going to make this blog quick. If you missed some recent blogs I’ve done for other genealogical organizations, please enjoy these posts:

4 Big Genealogy Mistakes That May Be Hurting Your Research (And How to Avoid Them) published by Family History Daily (Please note: my bio has an error in it – I am currently not “On the Clock” and I’ve asked that the statement be removed.)

Investigating Your Family Legends published by Genealogists.com

Enjoy!

Using Your Genealogical Info To Make You Healthy


Maybe due to Halloween being just around the corner, I was engaged with friends in a conversation about life expectancy. The Social Security Administration has a life expectancy calculator available. Mine happens to be exactly to the age that my great grandmother was when she died. Now this calculator does not take into account your current health, habits and genetics.
I decided to make a mini-pedigree chart based on just my husband and my ancestor’s names, age at death, and cause of death. I went back 5 generations as that takes me to some of them being born in the late 1700’s. I chose that time period because it was pre-industrial revolution and most were living an agrarian lifestyle across the pond. I was trying to do pluses and minues, such as that was not a rushed society, however, if the crops failed it was extremely stressful. We have antibiotics but we also have pesticide residue. I decided the benefits and losses were about equal.
I truly only had 3 generations of definitely known causes of death with a few several times great grandmothers clearly dying during childbirth. Since that’s not going to be my cause of death I zeroed in on the remaining possibilities. Most I could do something about – I could take the flu shot every year; my maternal great grandfather died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. When I get to age 65, I can take the pneumonia vaccine as I’ve had several grandparents die from that. I can watch my diet and exercise to keep my heart in good shape. Not much I can do about the Alzheimers Disease other than keep my mind stimulated.
What really surprised my husband and I, though, was the proof that we descend from a family of klutzes. I’m serious! We have had several grandparents die due to accidents – falls from platforms, falls from ladders, and two railroad accidents. Being careful really isn’t something you think about in regards to longevity but in our cases, it is important.
I challenge you to look through your data between now and the New Year as it’s almost time for those genealogical resolutions. Analyzing your ancestor’s cause of death is an important legacy. Learning from their mistakes can result in a long and happy future for you.

Genealogy Finds in Your Own Home


With our interior home renovations just about finished, it was time for hubby and I to clean the garage. Yuck! Everything we didn’t know what to do with, weren’t sure if we wanted to keep or it really belongs there got left in any available space. We were going to start working on it last month but we were just too busy. Last Friday was D-Day and we’re still plugging away. The heat, mosquitoes and never ending rain have made progress slow, not to mention the Craig’s List postings and removals that helped us feel better about tossing stuff.

I never thought cleaning the garage would unveil genealogy tidbits but it has. Our first “find” was an ancient mahogany chair that we’ve been dragging around from house to house for close to 40 years. My husband stripped it but never finished it as we never knew where to put it. I’ve got space now in the living room and told him I wanted to have it professionally refinished. He reminded me we have a mate in the attic. Completely forgot about that! That will go into the entry as it’s smaller. And this will be the only item we’re bringing back into the house (famous last words).

The chairs belonged to an unknown Harbaugh family member and we’re guessing it would be his great grandparents, George Frederick.and Margaret “Maggie” Long. I was hoping whoever I found to refinish them would be able to give me a rough age estimate, however, the price I got was $900.00 so it looks like I’ll be doing them myself. One chair hubby stripped 45 years ago so that’ll be a quick finish; the other, not so much.

For Father’s Day I bought my husband a large tool chest. He’s got a zillion tools, many that have been handed down. As he cleans and places them in his new chest, I’m hearing recollections of their original owners. He comes from a family of builders so there were lots of tales. It’s funny how objects – dusty, rusty and stained – can stir old memories from the brain. His dad’s WWII ammunition box held his extra trowels which reminded him of his dad’s attempt at securing bricks to build a fireplace right after the war. Dad enlisted the help of his youngest sister who helped him carry bricks nightly until they had enough to complete the job. Stuck to the ammo box was a magnet. I was surprised to learn that Uncle Carl once worked for a magnet factory and gave some to my husband to play with when he was a child. That was the first time I ever heard that story!

As the family historian, I thought I knew just about all of the stories but I was wrong. Next time you’re trying to learn more about your family I highly recommend cleaning the garage.

Snapping Stones – Tips for Photographing


Each Memorial Day when I was growing up, I’d accompany my family to tend the graves of ancestors I never knew. Small flags stood at attention on the graves of veterans and the scent from flowers filled the air.

My grandmother had a “cemetery box” in the trunk of her car; it contained hand clippers, a trowel, garden gloves, a rag and a paper bag. Grandma would don the gloves and clip any tall grass growing around the stone, putting the clippings in the paper bag. If weeds were sprouting my mom carefully pulled them out or used the trowel to remove before tossing them into the paper bag. Finally, the stone would be wiped down. I don’t remember seeing either spraying the stones with a cleaning product but I had usually lost interest by that time and was wandering around looking at the pictures on nearby markers.

In the older part of the cemetery where my great grandfather lay, many stones contained photos of the deceased. Frozen in time, I was fascinated by the faces staring out at me. Many were in uniform having died during World War I. Others were like my great grandfather who had died in the 1919 flu epidemic. Who knew from which others had succumbed? My imagination would kick in and I’d make up stories about their demise. I was usually in the middle of some epic made up tale when I was called to return. Back into the car we drove to yet another area of the cemetery to pay respects to family friends and former neighbors.

In all those visits it never once occurred to me to take a picture of the stones. Assuming they would always be there, why would a photo be needed? By the time I had entered by teens vandals had toppled many stones in the older part of the cemetery and those that couldn’t be moved were damaged by having the picture obliterated by blows. My great grandfather’s picture was one that was destroyed. We had a copy of the photo but the stone was never repaired.
Thank goodness for Find-A-Grave, Billion Graves and individuals who have posted gravestone photos on other sites. If you’re planning an upcoming cemetery visit, make sure you snap a picture during your visit and upload to preserve the record. Although we don’t think of a tombstone as a record, they are and need to be cited just like paper documents.

Here are a few hints for photographing stones:
It’s okay to tidy up the stone a bit but avoid major scrubbing. I’ve added a spray bottle and bleach tablets to my cemetery kit. Placing one tablet in the bottle and adding water, I can spray the stone to remove algae and dirt quickly. I sometimes need to use a soft bristle brush, too, but be gentle!

vIf someone has placed flowers or other adornments in front of the stone it’s alright to move them for the photo but please carefully replace when you’re done.

For upright standing stones – get down in front and level with the stone. It reduces distortion and if the photo is taken close up, minimizes your shadow.

For flat stones – try to take the picture from directly above making sure you don’t include your feet. If you can’t do that, please crop the photo before uploading.

Back up and take a photo of stones adjacent to the one that is of interest to you. Possible relatives, neighbors or friends may have been buried close by and might be of help when you are researching paper documents when you return home. This method may alert you to a child who died between census years or an uncle who came for a visit and passed away unexpectedly.

Remember, just because it’s engraved in granite doesn’t make it so! Conflicting evidence does occur; an error could have been made just like with paper. If the cemetery office is open, stop in and ask for a copy of the records. To save the staff time I often photograph them in lieu of having a photocopy made. Being thoughtful goes a long way!

Preserving Your Genealogy

At the recent National Genealogical Society conference, there was a lot of chatter about preserving your genealogical records after you’re gone. I have to disagree with those that say if you don’t cite your work it will be tossed. I don’t know about you, but my family could care less where I find what I find. Unless the finder has been bitten by the genealogy bug, no one will understand the importance of citing and analyzing sources.

That said, I’m definitely in favor of following the standards. I think you should do the right thing but that is not going to save your years of effort from other destruction by surviving family members. I firmly believe there is only 3 ways to make sure that your research is preserved but you must plan ahead:

Donate your work locally and/or electronically so that future folks you don’t even know can benefit. These are the people who will not value your work if you didn’t follow the standards soundly.
Publish now and get your work in as many hands as possible. It’s quite simple to publish an eBook or you can print from whatever word processing program you use and have copies made at one of the big box office supply stores. Just type “how to publish an eBook” in amazon.com’s search engine and many free books are available to get you started. The holidays are around the corner and who knows?! A recipient might just get interested.
Getting a family member hooked is not as difficult as it sounds. The idea here is to match the living person’s passion to an ancestor. My kids could care less about their Great Grandma Elsie’s china. I understand that; we’ve used it for years as they’ve grown so it’s not so special. Will it be preserved? Most definitely, but it’s just not that exciting to them. On the other hand, they’re into medicine and research so learning about the life of that great uncle doctor in the 1800’s and a 5th great grandfather who was a chemist really gets them listening. The old tool box is a draw for our son while the old thread is a tie for my daughter to her 2 x’s great grandmother. An attachment develops when you can relate so find the connection and you’re work is safe!

Neat Ideas from the National Genealogical Society Conference


Here are a ten of my most favorite experiences, most of which were FREE, at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh:

FamilySearch for more writing ideas.
Palatines to America had a useful handout containing a What is the Relationship? Form. If you get confused between Great Nephews and 3rd Cousin Once Removed this handy dandy template would be helpful.
National Archives’ (NARA) updated handout listed the links to their most used records. I sometimes get lost on their site so this “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was nice.
History Hub, an online site with blogs, discussion boards and community pages for anyone interested in history. That was news to me and a place I plan on checking out.
Federation of Genealogical Societies publishes a quarterly electronic magazine for only $15.00/year? That’s just $3.00 per issue!
ew York Genealogical and Biographical Society as I want to get back into researching some of my hubby’s Long Island folks. As a member, besides the wonderful journal, you get access to Findmypast AND the New York Public Library online.
USGenWeb Project had a laminated postcard with the 88 Ohio counties – very useful for me to track my people from Trumbull to Stark to Darke to Mercer and finally, to Van Wert. I learned from an attendee I’ve been mispronouncing my dad’s birth city my whole life – Celina is pronounced Seh lie nah and not Seh lee na. Who Knew?!
Fun Stuff for Genealogists had cute t-shirts, inexpensive jewelry, archive materials and historic map reproductions. See their full catalog online. I bought a tree bead and a brass tree charm.
Ohio Genealogical Society gave me a few ideas about my darling Duers who left so few records in their travels across that state. The volunteer even consulted his own resources to see if my folks were named (they weren’t but it was a valiant attempt on his part).
Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas Jones with the plan on working through it this summer. You can purchase a copy through the National Genealogical Society.

I’m hoping to be able to attend next year, too. Paths to Your Past will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan May 2-5, 2018.

Genealogy Connection at the Car Dealership


On the way to the Croatian Picnic, Hobart, Indiana, 4 July 1923. Left to right: Frank Trputsis, Mary and Joseph Koss

So here’s my Serendipitous Saturday event of yesterday…

Hubby’s 10 year old car was ready to bite the dust. In the past week the gas cap refused to come off, the driver’s visor fell out, the windshield wiper fluid wouldn’t pump out and the air stopped working. Definitely time for a trade in!

He absolutely loved the car so he considered getting those things fixed but when we started tallying up the price, decided to invest that money towards a new vehicle. He wanted the same make and model since it had been such a low maintenance car but we couldn’t agree on a price at the dealership, which was ironic because the by line is they never let a customer down.

We drove to another dealership where I had purchased a car two years ago and as we were negotiating, I heard a deep voice say, “I’m Croatian.” This totally distracted me from the sales person for several reasons. First, I am Croatian and I only know of one other person of Croatian descent in a three county area adjacent to where I reside. Second, in the 45 years I’ve lived in the area, I’ve never heard anyone make that statement. Third, entirely unexpected, it surprised and startled me to the point of losing focus on the the sales person’s conversation. Fourth, what was really weird, though, was that my husband and I had just had a side conversation about my Croatian grandmother and her love of new vehicles so much so that she would buy a new car every year. My grandfather never drove because of his poor vision and rarely went with her when she negotiated prices. I had just remarked to my husband how I would have preferred to be anywhere else than in a car dealership and I didn’t understand how Grandma could possibly enjoy the experience annually.

I looked at my husband after hearing the voice from no where and asked him if he had just heard “I’m Croatian.” Sitting right next to me, he hadn’t. For a second I thought I was hearing things but the sales person said, “That was Boris, he works in financing.” I told her I had to meet him so after we agreed to terms (HALLELUJAH!), she introduced us.

Boris emigrated at age 18. He was born and raised in the same city my grandparents were from. Knowing the area well, he corrected my pronunciation of the small neighborhood they where they had resided. When I mentioned how much I missed my grandmother’s cooking he let me know that there is now a group meeting locally for those of Croatian descent. My first question, “Do they have lamb at their meetings?” With summer coming, I’m really missing those old picnics from my youth. I do live in a Greek community where cuisine close to my upbringing is readily available but those small nuances in ingredients make a difference and it’s just not quite the same. He said, “Yes, and they have kolaches, pita, and other desserts.” Oh my goodness! I have the recipes but they just don’t taste the way grandma made them. I blame Florida humidity but that’s probably not it – I just don’t have the knack for baking the way she and my mom did. So today, I’m heading to meet some folks and possibly kin.

This experience got me thinking about a different way to build your tree. It had never occurred to me to try to find a Croatian group locally. Whatever is your ancestral origins, it’s possible they are meeting near you. Check them out! Even if you don’t find a connection to your family you’ll be able to enjoy the culture and cuisine that will give you a better idea of what made your ancestor tick. Happy Hunting!