Autumn Genealogy Project Idea

Example From My Fall Project

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:

  1. Identify who you’d like to write about. In my case, it was my Gateways.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

Analyzing Data Clues to Solve Mysteries

Remember the old board game, Clue?  Maybe you saw the movies or read the books about the game instead.  That’s the kind of week I had but it was in real life. I juggle two careers; one in education and one in genealogy.  I love them both!  I’m not loving what is happening in either right now.  I miss my students.  I miss traveling to archives. Since I highly value both humans and the bread crumb records they leave behind, I follow safety guidelines.  I realize not everyone believes that the virus is real or it will have dire consequences for them if they are infected.  I don’t agree with those that refuse to wear a mask or social distance or go out when they aren’t feeling well but I respect their difference in opinion – just stay away from me and my family! That being said, my hubby and I have requested that we continue working from home via an eLearning platform this upcoming school year and were granted that privilege.  Should have been simple but unfortunately, it wasn’t. One of us was told DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES COME ON CAMPUS and the other was told YOU WILL BE WORKING FROM A SAFE LOCATION ON CAMPUS.  We work for the same school district and have the same job title and work with the same grade level of students.  We both were determined to have the same level of risk which is why we were granted the eLearning permission. Both of us were highly successful using the online platform since March. We are both former National Board Certified Teachers and deemed accomplished by our district. No one can explain why we have different instructions as to how to execute our roles. Since no one can provide us a valid reason, we have both decided to Zoom into meetings when we’re notified they are occurring.  I cannot tell you how thankful we are that we have made the decision we did.  On Wednesday morning a Zoom meeting was held in a classroom with 12 on site attendees and 3 off site. The sign in sheet and pen were passed around onsite for attendance and one took off his mask briefly to address the group but was told to put it back on and complied.  The next day, the administration was notified that one of the onsite attendees was diagnosed with covid.  Due to Hippa, the name of the individual cannot be disclosed.  Hence, the game of real life Clue begins. It is a no brainer to figure out who has it as everyone knows who was in attendance and who did not show up for work the next day.  So much for Hippa confidentiality.  If only finding records of our ancestors or determining relationships for them could be so simple! Last Saturday afternoon I was notified that I won a free Clooz software packet.  I had been entered into a drawing from visiting the NGS online Exhibit Hall last month.  Since the May NGS Conference had to be cancelled, the event was moved to online with breakout sessions available for viewing (after purchase) on July 1st.  Also available was a link to corporate sponsors who would have been available face to face if the conference had been held.  Some of the sponsors offer product discounts or give aways for visiting their “booth.”  That was how I came to be the lucky winner of  Clooz 3. If you aren’t familiar with Clooz, it is a program to document data with features that help in analyzing the inputted information to determine identity and relationship.  The program will export to your family tree and offers more than 200 report formats to help with analysis.  I thought this was just what I need to help sort out my Duer family that reuses names (John, Thomas, Daniel) several times in each generation.  I’ve also long sought one document that would conclusively show that my Thomas is the son of John. Notified by email, I downloaded the software and on Sunday, watched several of the 12 introductory videos at the site.  The presenter has a personable, calming voice and demonstrates where to click and how to enter data. I have a lot of records on my Thomas and John Duer so I’m not yet done entering the information into Clooz to begin using the reports. I spent Sunday adding People, Sources and Census info.  I still have more to go but somehow, I did something wrong and cannot find the saved file.  I am clueless (pun intended!) where I saved it!  So, I plan on spending time today determining where all my data went from last weekend and moving forward with the program.  Hopefully, Cluz will give me some clues where it’s hiding.

Finding Photos and Memorializing the Fallen – A Unique Volunteer Opportunity

Last blog I mentioned Joseph Reid, the father-in-law of my husband’s 5th cousin twice removed.  You may be wondering why in the world I would have someone in my tree that is not related and so far removed.  Here’s the deal…I have done several surname studies which includes everyone by the same surname in a particular area.  My purpose was twofold; I wanted to try to connect all the Harbaughs in the U.S. and updated the last attempt to do so, the 1947 Cooprider & Cooprider Harbaugh History book.

As was common until the 20th century, the Harbaugh couples had many children so my tree became quite large.  (I’ve also did a surname study of the Leiningers but they immigrated later and didn’t have quite as many children in each generation but that, too, added non relatives to my tree.)

Since I have so many Harbaughs in one place and I documented each one as best as possible when I added them, I am frequently emailed about our connections.  Usually, the question is, “How are you related to my (fill in the blank) Harbaugh?”  Actually, I’m not, my husband would be the relation.  I guess folks don’t see the Ancestry.com relationship info at the top of the page:

I try to always respond and let the the person who is inquiring know that all the information I have is public and posted.

When doing the surname study, if information was available, I would include the parents of the person who married into the Harbaugh family but I didn’t research that distant individual.  That’s why Joseph Reid, the father-in-law, was in my tree.  Joseph Reid’s son was Joseph Shortridge Reid (26 Aug 1889 MO-5 Jan 1938 MO) who married Ruth Arelia Harbaugh (11 Feb 1891 MO – 29 Jun 1969 MO).  The couple had 2 daughters and a son.  The email I received regarding the Harbaugh-Reids was inquiring if I had a photo of Joseph Shortridge Reid Jr. who died on 17 Apr 1945 as a casualty in WW2.

The Fields of Honor Database is an organization devoted to memorializing the 28,000 American service personnel that were killed or missing in the line of duty.  They are planning a memorial service in 2020 and were hoping to find photos of those killed in action.  Joseph Reid Jr. was one of those individuals.

I was not familiar with the organization so after checking them out, I decided to try to find a picture of Joseph.  The organization had already contacted Ancestry.com tree owners who had Joseph in their tree but no one but me had responded.  

I don’t frequently research Kansas City, Missouri but I thought I’d accept the challenge.  I checked the typical online sites for a photo – Fold3, MyHeritage, Newspapers.com, Chronicling America, Google, etc. but came up with nada.  I then emailed the American Gold Star Mothers to see if they had a repository that could be accessed.  Unfortunately, the reply I received said they don’t.

Next I contacted the genealogy section of a Kansas City public library and the research librarian did find a photo, albeit of poor quality, that had been placed in the Kansas City Star newspaper with his obituary:

I provided the obituary and photo to Fields of Honor and was asked if I could help with missing photos for Indiana men.  I agreed to do what I could and selected Lake and Elkhart counties.  

Lake County, Indiana is a particularly tricky place to research as many of Gary’s records have disappeared with the city’s decline.  Of course, most of the men I needed photos for had resided in Gary.  I again did a preliminary online search as I had for Joseph and came up with nothing.  I then went to the Lake County, Indiana obituary database that the public library system has available online.  NONE of the names appeared in the database.  I know that database contains names of people who have died elsewhere, like my grandmother for example, so why were all of these men missing?  Then it hit me – I recalled during the Vietnam War that those killed in action had a special write up in the local paper, the Gary [IN] Post Tribune. Could it be possible that this was also a practice in other wars?  

Before emailing the library research team I decided, as a backup, to find more information about the men.  I turned to the 1940 US Federal census to try to get an address of where they were residing. Knowing the area, I thought I could turn to school yearbooks to find a photo.  I could narrow the search to the nearest zoned high school based on the 1940 address.  A few men were not found in the census in Lake County.  That’s not surprising as many men moved to Gary after graduating to secure work in one of the steel mills.  That newly acquired info just gave me another place to look if the newspaper didn’t have a photo.

I then contacted the research library staff and am happy to report the following Gary men have been found:

Cloyce Neal Blassingame served in the first integrated Army unit:

Robert E. Cook:

Robert W. Ferguson:

Robert Ferguson was also found in Emerson’s school year book.

and Gordon Miller in Lew Wallace’s school year book:

(The year book publication date was 1946 and Gordon died in 1944.  There was not a 1945 year book, possibly due to the war.  Gordon was pictured with the class of 1944 but I’d like to find verification elsewhere like I did with Robert Ferguson.)

I am still in need of finding photos of the following men:

  • George Fedorchak Jr. (son of Mrs. Mary Fedorchak, 1428 W 13th Avenue, Gary; in 1940 he lived with his widowed mother, Anna, and sisters Marguerite, Genevieve and Helen at 800 “This South Avenue” probably Harrison Street, Gary.  He born about 1920.  Perhaps mother’s name was Mary Ann?).  
  • Edward A. Gooding
  • Mike Zigich (son of Pete & Annie, 2077 Grant St., Gary, born about 1926.  His only sibling predeceased him as a child.  Parents and sibling buried in a Russian Orthodox Cemetery on Ridge Road.  I wrote the parish for a possible church directory photo but did not get a response yet.)

The Zigich name is driving me crazy because I seem to remember Zigich’s when I lived in Gary as a kid.  I’m thinking Mike’s father was a friend of my grandfather.  Their burial place was only a mile from where I lived.  (This is off topic but my dear readers know how my brain works – I know I’m not alone in having a hazy memory from my youth so this is another reason TO WRITE EVERYTHING YOU DO REMEMBER DOWN NOW about your own family.)

So, this gets a little creepy – as the pictures were discovered it slowly dawned on me that people I knew would have known these individuals.  My mother-in-law would have attended Emerson High School with Robert Ferguson.  My aunt and uncle would have attended Lew Wallace with Gordon Miller.  I do recall that Lew Wallace had a memorial to the fallen; I even read the names once when I was waiting for a ride home before I had my driver’s license but the names on the memorial were meaningless to me.  As a teen in the 1970’s, the 1940’s seemed to be in the olden days.  The names listed were just names, not real people to me.  

As the world seems to be forgetting the lessons once learned, “lest not forget” these brave individuals who gave everything they had to end tyrrany.  Don’t let these lives cut short be forgotten!  The Fields of Honor is looking for photos from across the United States.  Click on their database and contribute a picture of a family member or someone from your hometown.  It only takes a few minutes to check your local newspaper archive or public library.  Your help is not only preserving their memory, it’s also supporting society’s fundamental principles in our troubled world.  

DNA Plan


Had a wonderful time in Raleigh last week at the National Genealogical Society Conference! I focused on DNA workshops as that is an area where I would like to gain more knowledge and practical experience.

My 3 favorite sessions on this topic were by Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and Judy Russell. Now that I have a rudimentary understanding, I plan on working through the book, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Bettinger and Wayne this summer.

I also learned that the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) had been reactivated as a free peer reviewed online resource. Check it out!

Two of the major DNA players, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com, offered conference specials but I decided to wait until Black Friday to make purchases. My plan is to purchase kits from either or several organizations but more likely from Ancestry first since it has the larger database. Then, I’ll download the results and upload to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.

Hubby and I tested years ago through Ancestry – he did X and Y and I did X but that version is no longer supported. I’d like to do add Autosomal this time around and include other family members. Besides the benefit of identifying new family members and confirming ones we are aware of, I think it would be fascinating to see if any mutations occurred between our kids and us and between my husband and his sister.

For Mother’s Day, my family got me an e-Book, Mansions of the Dead, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. It’s a genealogical murder mystery that I find interesting as it takes place in Boston, a city I’ve happily researched in, and revolves around mourning jewelry, which I’ve been fascinated with since working with a Client several years ago that inherited a mystery piece from a paternal grandmother. The book was written when DNA analysis was relatively new and I question some of the info but it is a fun read and I can’t wait to confirm my hypothesis of who done it. Happy Hunting!

Rethinking Your Family Stories

Photo courtesy of Global Citizen

Yesterday I attended a lecture about researching in burned county Cook, Illinois. We don’t think about Chicago being located in a burned county but of course, like many areas, had a devastating fire that destroyed a large part of the downtown are 150 years ago. Of course, the burned area was where records were kept. The point of the lecture was there are still records left to examine and provided where those sources are now housed.

But that wasn’t the taken away I got from the session…At the very end, a participant asked if Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was the cause of the tragedy. There was an extensive investigation after and both the cow and Mrs. O’Leary were cleared. There had even been a fire the evening before due to the extremely dry conditions. Shoddy building practices and older wooden structures permitted the fire to spread rapidly. A fire department that wasn’t well funded made the situation worse.

When I was a child I lived in the Chicagoland area. Although I don’t recall how I first heard about the fire, I do remember asking my mom about it. She said it was started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. My mom was not alive when the fire occurred. Neither were my grandparents or my great grandparents who eventually lived for a short time in the city.

In hindsight, I suppose my mom heard about the fire over 50 years after it had happened. Whoever told her had some knowledge of the original sources blaming the cow but didn’t follow the story long enough to discover what really happened.

Often our family stories are like that; passed from one to another over an extended period of time without fully investigating the information that has become a “fact.”

This week, plan on recalling one of your family stories and do some investigating. Who knows what awesome discovery awaits you! Please share, I’d love to know.

Genealogical Coincidences, Or Not? It’s a Small World After All!

Photo by Lori Samuelson

I’ve had a strange week. Last Friday I got approval to write a journal article on a unique family heirloom. I tried to make contact with the family who are the current caretakers of the object but the Facebook message link is broken and they didn’t answer their phone. I spent the rest of the day and most of last Saturday researching the heirloom’s purported history and how the family acquired the religious object.

Mid afternoon my husband asked if I could come outside and see something. My first thought was what broke now. I followed him outside and around the side of our home. Under the bushes was the rock pictured above. “Did you put that there?” he asked. I had no knowledge of it and immediately got goose bumps. I know that people have been placing decorated rocks around neighborhoods and in parks to boost people’s spirits during the pandemic but this was just odd. Who placed it there? Why? There was no note or sticker on the bottom. Our adult kids had no idea how it got there, either. I decided to go back to researching.

Later in the afternoon, my husband saw our next door neighbor in her front yard. He asked her if she had any idea where the rock came from. “Oh, yes, I was babysitting and thought it would be a good craft project.” Umm, sure. My husband explained that we were all confused as to how it came to be placed under the bushes. The neighbor said she was watching two little girls. One made a bumble bee design on a rock and the other, the cross. Our neighbor said, “I don’t know why but I thought of your family getting the cross and [another neighbor] getting the bee.” The other neighbor is a sweetheart – the most kind person you could ever meet. She really doesn’t do gardening. I don’t know, the bee better fits my personality lol! I love gardening and I can definitely give out a stinger.

So, this was all a coincidence that a religious symbol shows up in my yard within 24 hours of me researching religious symbols until two days later when the following happened…

I was volunteering at my local hospital when one of the employees related a story that had occurred the previous evening. In checking a visitor in through the lobby, she had forgotten to return the person’s driver’s license. A security guard said he would take it to the patient’s room where the visitor was headed. She had had a hectic day and a short time later forgot the guard was taking the license. She panicked when she didn’t see it on her desk. A student volunteer reminded her that the guard had taken it. She was embarrassed by her forgetfullness and still feeling tired, decided she would stand for a bit. Looking over in front of the computer I usually use when I volunteer, she noticed the object shown below:

The employee, not recognizing who it portrays, thought it had something to do with demons. She was partly correct; St. Michael was known for fighting demons. He was also prayed to during the first Black Plague after Pope Gregory the Great had a vision of Michael standing over Hadrian’s tomb in Rome slaying evil. When the plague subsided shortly after his experience, Gregory had a shrine built to St. Michael over Hadrian’s tomb which is still visitable today. Well, it would be if we didn’t have a pandemic and could easily go visit. Just sayin’.

Since the heirloom I was investigating for the article just happened to be about St. Michael I was able to tell the employee a little bit about him. Personally, I told her, I don’t think it’s a bad idea he just “materialized” (her words) in a hospital during a pandemic. If one believes in miracles, that would be a fantastic sign. If one didn’t, it was just a coincidence. I suspect that this was part of a key ring and somehow broke off when a visitor searched for their license. Miracle or not, it should go to the lost and found box.

I did take a picture for this blog since that was the 2nd weird happening since I began my research.

As I continued to research the family I noticed that the gateway ancestor who was responsible for securing the heirloom happened to get his social security card in Indiana. My husband and I are from Indiana so I said to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be weird if he happened to have gotten it in Gary?” Neither of us recognized the last name as someone we would have known growing up.

As I further researched, I discovered that the man’s daughter had lived for a short time in Gary, but it was long after we had left the area. What a coincidence, I thought.

I still hadn’t heard back from the family and I did have a few questions and needed clarification regarding conflicting info I had found. I mentioned this when I was volunteering at my local historical society and one of the employees told me that a family member was her neighbor. She texted her and asked her to give me a call.

A week to the day that I left the voice message she called me and was absolutely delightful. After discussing the project and getting some of the information straightened out I asked her if she knew where her grandfather had gotten his social security card in Indiana. She said she wasn’t sure but suspected it was Gary, “…since he and my grandmother spent summers up there.” I mentioned that my husband and I grew up there and I spent nearly every Sunday in the summer at the Croatian picnic grounds. The Greek picnic grounds was close, as was the Spanish, Italian and Polish. Beginning in middle school, we would take shortcuts through the woods to visit classmates who were attending their ethnic groups’ picnic. I can’t tell you how many times I went to the Greek picnic ground but it was often. I will never be able to prove it but I must have been in the same place at the same time as the couple. Another coincidence – 50+ years later I happen to get the idea to write about their family heirloom. Geez, wouldn’t it have been wonderful if I knew that then and could have interviewed them before they died.

Yesterday I continued to do additional research and discovered another coincidence. Evidently, there is a ritual of praying for 33 consecutive days to St. Michael for the protection of the Church and it’s Supreme Pontiff (the Pope). I got approval to write the article and began my research on August 27th. Umm, the time period for the ritual is 27 August through 29 September. For believers, clearly this is another miracle. For the skeptics, I’m just good at identifying coincidences.

Miracles or not, you have to admit it’s a small world after all.

Genealogy Pronunciation Trick

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

My blog is late today as I had unexpected tech issues, the bane of my existence!  This past week, first my husband and then I, noticed an “enter code” button that appeared on any Microsoft product we were using on our desktops.  It finally dawned on us that the educator license we had with Microsoft was being removed since we both retired from our academic careers this month.  This was a totally unexpected situation as we had paid for a license for our computers that didn’t expire.  Microsoft only allows military veterans to continue and not educators.  Who knew?!  Took the time this morning to buy two new licenses – one for my business and the other for home use.  The Microsoft site was not working well and wouldn’t allow me to save my domain info so I’m going to have to go back on later.  After the slow download I freaked out when I opened Word and only documents from 2019 showed up.  I was able to open two docs from my desktop I just created in the last two weeks and once they opened, they showed in the list when I reopened Word. I then went to Dropbox and opened a pdf from January and a doc from last August.  Once opened, they show in the Word list.  I don’t understand this at all but as long as I can open older documents as I need them, I’m good.  

Here’s an update on my Bible blog from last week – got a heartwarming thank you from my distant cousin who will be receiving the Landfair Bible.  I’m so glad it found a good home, away from hurricanes, humidity and mold.  Remember this story this week when you run into a rude person – there are a lot of good people out there, just not everyone!

Now, for today….

I had a wonderful 2 day Professional Management Conference hosted by APG.  It was just awesome reconnecting with other professional genealogists in the break out sessions and the lectures were informative.  I plan to be adding a page to Genealogyatheart.com with my lectures soon.  Unfortunately, the terms of my retirement do not allow me to “teach” in any format for the next 6 months so that’s all on hold for awhile.  The conference did nudge me into making proposals to my state genealogy group with ideas for journal articles.  I’ll be writing 3 for upcoming issues.  Working on the first, along with the Bible interaction last week, gave me the idea for today’s blog.

Let’s think of the Louis Armstrong song, You Say Tomato.  Genealogy is fraught with pronunciation problems.  When I spoke to the lady from Ohio about the Bible, I told her I did not live close to either Lima (lee mah) or Celina (Seh lee nah).  She replied she didn’t either and then laughed.  In Ohio, those places are known as (lie mah) and (sel lie nah).  

This got me thinking about why it’s sometimes so difficult for us to find an ancestor’s former residence.  We aren’t seeing it in print – we’re hearing it.  Same issue with census enumerators hearing our ancestors and misunderstanding their English as a second language pronunciation. This week, I’ve been researching a local family from Greece.  Their name evolved from the original spelling from the first generation to how the name is pronounced in English for the second generation.  Loved the Find-A-Grave note that was added by the memorial creator explaining why the names were different!

To complicate the situation, the same word can be pronounced differently depending on the location.  One of my children spent time in both Grenada’s.  That would be Gre nae dah, West Indies and Gre nah dah, Spain.  

Next time you are stuck on a location or surname, try thinking about it in a variety of ways.  Type the word in Google and add “pronunciation.”  Try this for “Lima Ohio pronunciation” and Lima Peru pronunciation.” Pretty neat trick!

Genealogy Acts of Kindness or Scam?

Yesterday I received an Ancestry.com message from a woman in Ohio who had found a Bible that had a name that appears in my public tree – Landfair.  She said she would mail it to me if I would pick up the cost.  I was warned that the Bible was heavy.

Unfortunately, there are so many scams today how do you know if the offer is legit or not?  She provided a phone number.  I Googled it and it was for Ohio but not for her.  She had provided her first and last name and checking that out, she was a member of a genealogy organization to which I also belong.  She did live in the area where she reportedly found the Bible.

I first messaged her back on Ancestry but after several hours, she hadn’t replied.  I decided to give her a call.  

I’m glad I took the risk…she was a sweet woman who said she finally was able to get out and enjoy an interest that she pursued BC (before covid) – reuniting found items to descendants.  She said she found my public tree first because I had the most citations for the family.  She also reached out to a few others who had the name in their tree.  

The oldest documented individual in the Bible was my first cousin three times removed.  I knew of a closer descendant so I texted the kind woman an email address and told her to mention my name. That individual lives close and would save the finder the issue of mailing.  

It was an absolutely important find for that line as there is NO marriage record to be found other than what was recorded in the Bible.  

Kudos to all of you wonderful people who spread genealogy acts of kindness!  

Wills and Probate

Did you know that August is Make-A-Will month?!  I had no idea until I received spam this morning that it was time for me to make a will. I checked it out and sure enough, this is the month to complete this important but disdained task.

Funny how as family historians/genealogists we LOVE wills and probate but personally, not so much.

Earlier this week I was volunteering at my local hospital when I overheard a family discussing a terminal family member.  The individual hadn’t yet died but the family members present, 2 grandchildren and 3 siblings of the patient, were in a discussion over who was going to get what after the death.  I tried really hard to ignore the conversation as it was not only none of my business, it was disheartening.  

A grandchild reported that the patient had expressed what items was to go to what individual.  One of the patient’s children said, “Fine,” but then went on to state they were going over to the patient’s home later that day to pick up items believed to be inherited.  The other adult children then decided they were going to go, too.  

I have no ending to the story.  Perhaps the patient recovered, went home and discovered items missing.  Maybe the family members would have returned them before the patient returned home.  More likely, the individual died and family members arriving after the death discovered items they thought belonged to them were gone.  

Personally, hubby and I have experienced family issues after a loved one’s death.  It is not pretty and can destroy relationships.  These events happened even though there was a will in most cases.  

Although I still miss my mom who passed in 2001, I was fortunate that she had planned well for her final days.  When she was first diagnosed with Alzheimers, she asked me to attend a meeting she had scheduled regarding disposition of her remains as she wanted to be cremated.  She had previously made a will.  The only problem was she couldn’t decide where the cremains would be housed.  I never got an answer so my husband and I decided to inter them in the family plot where she grew up and where her parents and grandparents were buried.

Several years ago, I convinced hubby we needed to make our final arrangements to spare our adult kids the task.  We updated our wills and added a Living Will, Power of Attorney, and Designated Health Care Surrogates.  The kids each received a copy.  We had both children notarize the form regarding our body’s donation to science.  We purchased a space in our city cemetery and selected a funeral home that will receive our cremains once medical school students are done with them.  The funeral home has our obits.  We placed our children’s names on our property and bank accounts so that they can close out any debts or make needed repairs seamlessly.

To avoid the scenario that I overheard at the hospital, I have placed stickers on the bottom of several items that have been in the family for years and I want passed down to the next generation.  The labels state who was the original owner of the item.  I don’t care which of my children get what items and there isn’t a lot to fight over.  Unlabeled items they can keep, sell or donate.  

The death of a loved one is never easy.  The lack of a will makes the situation even more difficult. Make time to make your final arrangements soon.  You’re not only helping your closest family members, generations to come will discover your will and thank you for that.

IMPORTANT-Ancestry.com Term Changes

Nothing like having a limited time to make an important decision during the Dog Days of Summer.  Thanks a lot, Ancestry.com!

You may or may not have received an email message from Ancestry.com earlier this week noting that they have updated their terms of conditions. You may have noticed the message under the ribbon (shown above) on Ancestry.com this week.  

Interestingly, Ancestry.com never mentioned what the change(s) was/were in the email.  I thought that odd and had decided I would check it out this weekend.  Usually noncommunication is a tipoff that the change is important.  Organizations know that most folks don’t take the time to read the fine print so sending an email with limited information makes the change more likely to pass quietly.

Before I had a chance to review the document I began receiving emails from family members that bordered on hysteria about the changes.  

I would not do the situation justice in explaining the term changes so I’m referring you to blog articles found here and here.  It is vital that you read these ASAP as there is only a small window of time for you to make a decision and act.

My decision was to remove all photos/documents I had uploaded to Ancestry.com of LIVING people.  My reason is that, although the photo was given to me by family members, I do not have explicit permission to give Ancestry.com permanent permission to own the picture.  

I am not concerned over photos of the DECEASED as they don’t have rights anyway.  I consider them part of history.  I don’t like it that Ancestry.com “owns” the photos for perpetuity but I’d rather the photos be available somewhere rather than lost forever.  

Like me, you’ve probably uploaded photos to Ancestry.com and have had them saved by others without giving you credit.  I can always identify mine as I have a unique way I save them.  Although I would prefer if someone asked permission first, I understand that by my uploading to anywhere on the internet the possibility that someone will use the photo, claim it as their own, etc, exists.  I accepted that risk. The Ancestry.com change will make Ancestry.com the owner forever.  

Forever is a long time!  Does this mean that Ancestry.com may someday take me to court for using a photo I have uploaded, even though I have the original in my possession?  I doubt it.  Personally, I don’t even think Ancestry.com will last “forever.”  Who knows what the world will look like next year, let alone in 5021.  

The audacity of the term change did make me consider deleting my Ancestry.com tree.  I calmed down and emailed my concerned family members what my decision was regarding photos/documents.  

I thought that would have been the end of it but it turned out it was the tip of the melting iceberg.  I began receiving responses that they wanted various information they had shared with me over the past 20 plus years removed.  I always cite my sources and that was what the bone of contention was.  The requests were for removal of their name/email address.  Since it’s typical to cite an email exchange with the sender’s name [email address} to receiver’s name [email address] this request totally threw me.  I did agree to alter the citation to remove the individual who requested the information be stricken.

I then got a request to remove correspondence from someone who was deceased by a two down the line family member.  The deceased was well aware that I had posted the information as she had requested my help in finding documents.  She once had permission to make changes to my tree.  Her email address is no longer active.  

I could have pointed all this out to the requestor but I decided to just take the high road and remove the information.  

Which gets me back to a blog article I wrote in June about saving your tree.  Here’s another reason to keep a tree somewhere completely updated that you and you alone have access.  My article was about synching Ancestry.com to RootsMagic which resided on my computer and is saved in a Cloud as a backup.  I did remove everything from Ancestry.com that was requested of me which took several hours.  I DID NOT remove it from my RootsMagic tree that is still synched with Ancestry.  

If I open RootsMagic and click the Ancestry leaf motif on the ribbon, any changes made on Ancestry.com will appear as an option to update my RootsMagic tree.  I don’t want that to change RootsMagic as I want the citations and the pictures of the living all in one place.  

My “Main Tree” on Ancestry.com is no longer that.  I did consider renaming it to Sort Of Main Tree but decided I don’t need to waste more time because of Ancestry.com’s decision.  

Please take some time to review the blog articles and the new policy.  Consult with your family on the way to go forward.  Do this soon before the policy takes effect.