Genealogy Do-Over~Week 12

Sorry about the delay!!

Week 12: 20 Mar – 26 Mar 2015

* Sharing Research

I’m doing that through this blog…might even find some distant cousins eventually! The only things I don’t share is information about still living folks and anything I’m going to be using for my BCG portfolio in the future. I have a family tree on I somehow get by without using unless I use the library edition in a pinch. Of course, I’ll share pictures or documents with distant cousins who are also researching the same family line.

* Reviewing Research Travel Options

My bucket list for research travel would have to include Wurttemberg, Germany, and Ireland.  In the US, I’d like to get to Genesee County, New York; Washington County, Pennsylvania; Putnam County, Tennessee; Bedford/Franklin/Grayson Counties in Virginia…off the top of my head. As well as making a research plan before I visit a city I’ve never been before, I research the repositories I need to visit, checking maps, parking, rules/regulations (sometimes it’s pencils only!), hours, even whether or not they have a place to eat on the premises. I call them beforehand if I have questions. Usually, my husband goes with me to out-of-town places. If he is unavailable, I make sure I have a card in my belongings noting my name, contact info for my family, any medical issues (I have diabetes, and it’s not uncommon for me to have a hypoglycemic episode)…just in case something happens and I’m incapacitated and can’t give needed info. For example, I’m going to Sullivan County, Indiana, in a couple weeks, so I’ve been reviewing where the courthouse is, if they have the record set I’m searching for, and I’m going to check in with their historical society, as well. I’ve been to their health department, but I might make a second trip to see if I can find other death certificates that I didn’t ask about before.

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 11

Week 11: 13 Mar – 19 Mar 2015

* Reviewing Social Media Options

Talking about social media could go on for days! It’s so prevalent nowadays. I utilize Twitter, Facebook, email, and my blog. I’m on several email discussion lists, which are nice to check out when I’ve caught up on everything else. I’ve got a Google+ profile but really don’t use it. I do have Pinterest but right now I’m not using it for anything genealogy related. I can remember the days when there was no social media (ahem, my high school days), and it’s amazing to see how far technology has come. Mind boggling, really.  I’ve been working on my website (to hopefully be unveiled 1 Apr 2015…no joke!) in an attempt to move into a part-time position doing genealogy-related work.

* Building a Research Network

I’m constantly working on this, especially at the local and state level, trying to get to know folks involved in genealogy and local/state history. Attending seminars, volunteering my time, doing the IHS focus group, things like that. I’m naturally a shy person so jumping into conversations is not the easiest thing for me to do, but I’ve been trying. I’ve found that around genealogy/family history folks it’s a lot easier to introduce myself and add to the conversation and learn from the conversation.

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 10

Week 10: 6 Mar – 12 Mar 2015

* Reviewing DNA testing options

I have yet to test my DNA, let alone anyone in my family. I have been studying it, though, to better understand it. This is a very, very basic description of the tests:

Father’s side: YDNA (the Y gene is passed from father to son, only tests men)

Mother’s side: mtDNA (the X gene is passed from a mother to her children, mitochondrial)

Testing autosomal: atDNA (tests across genders, finds cousins)

The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL, has posted a most excellent article regarding DNA (see here) with many explanations and links to DNA testing companies.  She will not steer you wrong and knows what she’s talking about. Side note, I’ll be hearing her speak at TWO conferences in April! Very excited about that! Back to DNA, I need to have my mom and dad tested, plus a male on my maternal side.

* Organizing Research Materials-Digital

I’ve been working on this all along. Cleaning up what I have on my laptop, moving items to the appropriate folders, etc., before adding anything new. It’s a job but one that needs to be completed for any semblance of organization of my files.

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 9

NOTE: Life got in the way and I totally fell behind! It happens!

Week 9: 27 Feb – 5 Mar 2015

* Conducting Cluster Research
To me, cluster research = FAN club, dubbed appropriately by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG. I’ve mentioned it before here. That will direct you, hopefully, to a much better explanation of this concept. And, the FAN club concept does make sense. I’ve used it several times and have had good results. For instance, I researched and found information on Aaron Ballard’s neighbors in Henry County, Indiana, who mentioned him as being a kind, helpful man. Also, I’m still fleshing out the relationship between Paul Mayer and Casper Zeph, mentioned earlier here. Were they related or just friends?

* Organizing Research Materials – Documents and Photos

My state of organization, at this point, would be best described as so-so. I really need to take a month off work and focus on organizing all that I have amassed but how realistic is that? I have 2 days off a week and those are spent with family, groceries, volunteer work, or other meetings/appointments. My goal *should* be to spend an hour on organizing as soon as I clock out (I work at home, so I could get right on it).  Actually, my documents are organized in so-so fashion; my pictures are a disaster. I used to scrapbook a lot and had sat down and organized every single photo we had into a giant box with dividers. Then, the box got knocked to the floor and all the pics scattered everywhere. They were put willy-nilly back into the box. That was, well, more years ago than I’d like to admit. I pulled the box out yesterday and put it on my list of things to-do, reorganize it!

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 8

Week 8: 20 Feb – 26 Feb 2015

* Conducting Collateral Research

What is a collateral line? In genealogy, a collateral line is someone not directly related to you but related to someone in your direct line. For example, my grandfather’s sister, my great-grandmother’s brother, and so on. They are in your ancestral line but not directly related to you. And, boy, can they provide some missing pieces of information! When I first started out delving into my family history with the help of my fabulous late aunt, she tended to focus on our direct line. That’s all she was interested in and, of course, that’s fine. I began noticing the others associated with our direct line and began tracing them back, as well.

Example of an interesting collateral find in my family: My 2nd-great-GF, Dr. Amos Benton Ballard, was married three times. Researchers before me knew about wives #1 and #3, but no one had documented wife #2…until me. It was a short-lived marriage, maybe 2 years in duration, and produced one son. The marriage ended in divorce, and this woman outlived Amos by many years. I found her obituary that listed her as being his widow. They had been divorced for 40+ years! Interesting! She had never remarried or had anymore children.

Another example: I know my 2nd-great-GF Paul Mayer immigrated in April 1859 on the Germania along with an Anton Mayer, born 1837. In doing some digging for Anton, I found an Anton Mayer who resided in Terre Haute, Indiana, who was born in 1842 in Wurttemberg, Germany, and was a brewer, immigrating in June 1858 on the Bavaria. At first, I thought I had found the Anton who immigrated with Paul. Upon further review, I think the Anton in Terre Haute might’ve been a cousin to Paul.  Anton in Terre Haute was quite a figure in the brewing industry and there is quite a bit written about him, including photos and his father’s name, Bartholomew. So, if I can track down Bartholomew Mayer in Wurttemberg, Germany, I might be able to figure out his siblings, one of whom might be Paul’s father. Whew! In older posts here, I’ve written about Paul Mayer and how he was a brewer/tavern owner in Richmond, Indiana. Richmond and Terre Haute are both on the National Road.

UPDATE: I’ve cleaned up my entire RM7 database and since this week was about collateral line research I added the siblings of a number of my direct-line ancestors!

*Reviewing Offline Education Options

It is well known that when doing genealogical research not all of it can be found online. One must actually leave the sanctity of their home and visit courthouses, libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and so forth. The same thing goes for educational opportunities. In a way, I wish I could turn back the clock a few years so that I could go to school just for family history research. At my age now, though, it’s not feasible, which is why I tend to gravitate toward online educational courses. I do attend conferences and lectures when able. I’ve been to FGS in 2013, NGS in 2014, and Midwestern Roots in 2014. I volunteer when able and hit 1-day conferences, too. My goal is to attend an institute eventually. The problem with that is they are usually 1-2 week’s in duration and that means I’d have to go somewhere, away from home, for that time. My husband does not like the idea of that, he doesn’t like the idea of me being out there, all alone. He’s okay with the genealogy stuff mostly (he thinks sometimes I’m more interested in the dead than the living).

I decided to refresh my memory about the BU online course. As it turns out, it’s a 15-week course and requires 4 texts, all of which I already own. The course is $2695, but since I’m a member of NGS I could get a 10% discount. I did some number crunching and if I could manage to save $400/month between now and September, I could sign up for the fall course. It begins 1 Sep and would be complete by the first week of December. I suppose I could take out a loan, but I’d rather pay for it outright than deal with interest, etc. I think I’ll consider this versus ProGen.

UPDATE: A new Do-Over is beginning the day after this one ends, that would be Friday, 3 Apr 2015! For more info, check here! Make sure to read the very first post from Thomas MacEntee; it’s full of all the instructions you need.

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 7

Week 7: 13 Feb – 19 Feb 2015

* Reviewing Genealogy Database Software
In 2003, I bought Family Tree Maker, and it was okay for me at that time. I’ve since moved on to Roots Magic 7. I do like this program, especially entering citations and creating charts. However, for some reason, parents of a person keep coming up twice in the program. If I try to delete one of the couples, it seems as if it will delete both couples. There has to be a way around that, maybe a merge? I need to look into it further. It is possible I might need to, well, do a software do-over.

Several hours later…

I think I found a fix! Going through my families to find the ones with duplicates to repair their relationships in my program. It’s a bit daunting to click ‘delete’ when you have so much information at stake, but I did it. Thankfully, RM7 doesn’t just delete when you click, you have options, delete or unlink. Let’s just say I have some unlinking to do. 🙂 I am so glad I took the time to figure out the issue; I really did not want to invest in more software and re-enter all my data.

I also like how RM7 is now linked with FamilySearch hints. You can also save your RM7 file to Dropbox and create a website with your data although I haven’t yet tried that function. You can even publish a book! I really need to explore this software more. Plus, RM7 support is excellent!

If I had to choose a different genealogical software, what would I choose (for a PC)? Looks like the popular choices include Family Tree Maker, MyHeritage, Legacy, WikiTree, Family Tree Builder. I checked out WikiTree but didn’t quite get it; I probably didn’t devote enough time to looking at it. I’ve heard good things about FTB and Legacy, and I know some people have more than one software package running, or use a Mac and PC.

* Digitizing Photos and Documents
I most certainly need to “bone up” on my knowledge in this realm. In the past, I’ve scanned pictures and documents into my computer and then attempted to move them into the correct folders, labeled correctly or in such a way I can find them again. Not a great system! I’ve been working on adding media to RM7 lately also, attaching it to the person it relates to. I’m going to check into creating OCR (optical character recognition) documents in Google Drive, also. One of the sessions I hope to attend at the OGS Conference in April is all about digitizing your pics and docs.

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 6

Week 6: 6 Feb – 12 Feb 2015

* Evaluating Evidence
Is the source original or derivative? Primary information or secondary or even tertiary? Direct or indirect evidence or unknown? That is how I approach what I find and how much “weight” I give it in coming to a conclusion. For the example I’ll show you, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh! I found her elusive middle name!” After evaluating the evidence, though, I came to a different conclusion.
image image

Book owned by Nancy Pearson Ballard, my 3rd-great-GM (one of my most prized possessions)

Question: Is Nancy Pearson Ballard’s middle name Ann?

Source: Original, an original printing of the book, published in approximately 1827, with Nancy’s own inscription (“Miss Nancy Pearson her book this the 19th of October in the year of our Lord 1828”), under that appears to be her initials, written as N.   . P. Is there an initial between the N and the P? Under that, signed with her married name “Nancy Ballard” (she was married in 1832). On the next page, at the top, is written “Nancy ann.”

Information: Possibly primary; I compared the “Nancy Ballard” signature here with her signature on her widow pension application and they match. The other handwriting styles I can’t be sure of.

Evidence: Unknown

What I know about the Pearsons, most or all of Nancy’s siblings did have middle names. Nancy’s youngest sister, the last child born to her parents in 1829, was named Mary Ann. Was Nancy doodling in her book, trying on the name “Ann” for size, so to speak? Did one of her children doodle in her book as kids are wont to do? We’ll never know. Therefore, in good faith, I can’t say definitively that her middle name was Ann. And, let me tell you, I was chastised about not adding the name Ann to my DAR application! I was told, “If you know her middle name, why don’t you put it on the app? Is there a reason you don’t want others to know?” Seriously. I’ve seen Nancy’s signature on official documents and on her headstone, no where have I ever seen Ann connected with her name except for in her little book that I’m not even sure is her handwriting. To go along with this deduction is a letter her father wrote to Nancy and her husband, naming his children and their birth/death dates. For some of the children, he wrote their middle names, some he didn’t. Nancy was one where he didn’t include a middle name. The letter was written 20+ years before he died so I am going to guess he knew his children’s names. Obviously, I’ve put a lot of thought into this situation. My conclusion is I just don’t know; I wasn’t there to witness her writing in her book. From all of her signatures I’ve seen, not once have I seen Ann or even the middle initial A associated with her name. I don’t want to pass on incorrect information to others; I will, however, tell them about her book, my deductions, show them the pictures, and let them come to their own conclusion. Most items are not so ambiguous as to their meaning; I’m glad I took the time to evaluate this piece of evidence and didn’t add Ann to my DAR application. I stand by my decision.

* Reviewing Online Education Options
I’ve been checking into online genealogical options for at least a year now, trying to decide what to do, what I can afford, the time involved, etc.  I’ve tried to get to as many conferences as possible and sat in on many a webinar. My ultimate goal is to complete a ProGen study group.  ProGen study groups take 19 months to finish.  There is a readiness checklist on their website to help you get a feel if you’re ready to participate. I have also taken an online course through NGS. I need to sign up for the next course, then hopefully they will have the entire home study course online. There are several genealogical institutes offered around the country (Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois, even virtually), but the odds of me getting to one of those are few and far between. I was hoping to try to get to the Illinois institute (it was the first one to be held), but there wasn’t enough interest and they had to cancel it. 😦 Boston University has an online program, but I can’t afford it at this time. Most likely, I will finish the NGS course, then set my sights on a ProGen study group, and finally “start the clock” for BCG certification.

I really should set a goal for myself as to when to sign up for a ProGen study group. After going through the readiness checklist, I feel I could be ready by the end of 2015.

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 5

Week 5: 30 Jan-5 Feb 2015

*Building a Research Toolbox

The research toolbox…a concept not foreign to me, probably because I’ve attended a session by Thomas MacEntee about this very topic! I’ve even mentioned it here.  I did indeed start an online toolbox with a Weebly site but have since changed the direction of that website (more about that in the future).  The idea is to gather websites that you use frequently or don’t want to forget and group them together in one place, a toolbox.  I think Evernote is a great place for this. You can create notebooks and then stacks of notebooks.  You can annotate notes now in Evernote and share with others.

*Citing Sources

My goal with citing sources is practice makes perfect.  And, I do need to practice.  Earlier in the Do-Over, there was a discussion about starting with yourself and citing your sources (birth certificate, marriage license, etc.).  I’ve done that with my generation, my parents, and grandparents for lineage society applications.  However, I’m thinking I should create a spreadsheet with that info so I can turn to it when needed.  Or, get it all into RootsMagic7…that’s a much better idea.  I have started sporadically doing that, but I need to get it done in a more organized fashion.  For example, I needed a copy of my parent’s marriage license and the paper copy I have is on 11 x 14 paper.  I dug around on my computer until I found a copy to print out on 8-1/2 x 11.  That really just needs to be in RM7. Ugh!

My goal is to start with myself and scan and cite BMD sources in RM7…as soon as I’m over this cold! Yuck! Then, I’ll work backward, like I’m doing with Five Facts Friday (on a separate note, I just planned out the rest of the year for FFF and I’ll be into my 2nd-greats by the end of 2015!).

A FB Do-Over participant shared a bookmark with handy citation tips. I might print that out and laminate it. It includes the ABCDE citation style plus examples (thank you Pamela Whitaker Aban for sharing!).


Genealogy Do-Over~Week 4

Week 4: 23 Jan-29 Jan 2015

*Managing Projects and Tasks

This is for major projects or tasks, such as choosing new genealogy software or doing research for a client or maybe getting my desk organized (ha!). The wonderful Thomas MacEntee has shared his Excel spreadsheet with Do-Over participants and also his knowledge, and I thank him very much! The purpose of this is to track your progress and get an idea of how much time you spend doing certain things. You can color code tasks to prioritize them, see easily what needs to be done pronto. I recently mentioned my Life Planner. I might use my Life Planner in place of this Excel spreadsheet; we’ll see. I would like to do a 30-day trial run and see where my time goes.

*Tracking Searches

I mentioned this in Week 3, finding it hard to track online searching since I bounce from one thought to another as it strikes me (I’m pretty sure one can literally see light bulbs appearing over my head sometimes!). I can definitely see the value in doing this. I just need to slow down when I search and record where I’ve been. It is true, I have searched different databases more than once for the same person.

Per Thomas MacEntee, “An important part of making this work is to build good habits.” So true! I need to take his words to heart.

One thing I’ve explored is mind mapping.  I reviewed it again this week and realized that is basically how my mind works when online researching, ideas just sprout from other ideas.  So, I reviewed different mind mapping software and finally decided on the free version of XMind, which I can save to Evernote. Win/win!

Here’s an example of what I’ve been trying:
mind map example

and what it looks like with some facts added:
mind map example 2

After I took that screen shot, I played around with it some more, rearranging items. That’s a basic map; there are many different styles you can choose from. Very interesting and fun.

Time to start week #5! Oh, if you’re interested in joining the Genealogy Do-Over, it isn’t too late…go to the Facebook page. A lot of great helpful info from a lot of experienced folks!

ETA: Laughing out loud over here! I just realized that in the second picture there are some odd words associated with my ancestor, such as golf and Starbucks! I used a template and those words were nested in the template. I have since removed them. I also gave John’s parents their own tabs. When I add more of what I know about John and more about where I want the research to go, I’ll update another screen shot. Still smiling over Starbucks!!

Genealogy Do-Over~Week 3

Week 3: 16 Jan-22 Jan 2015

*Tracking Research

Admittedly, I am the type who goes to an Indiana Room at a library and begins to wander the aisles.  I see something interesting that might lead to a source for me and I’ll pull the book or index or map and start studying. First, I check the index of said tome to see if any of my surnames come up. I have been known to pull a book on the history of a city, sit down, and familiarize myself with the place (I’m looking at you Richmond, IN!).

Recently, when I visited ACPL in Fort Wayne, I did do a better job at organizing what I wanted to research. I made a list and then looked up resources on their online card catalog. At the actual library, I got used to the layout and how to find materials and started checking things off my list.

However, I’ve not ever used something like a spreadsheet to track my research and this I need to do! The main goal is to not re-do research already done. For example, checking the Randolph County IN history book for surname Burk, finding a man by that name, and then realizing it’s another Burk. Then, a couple weeks later, doing pretty much the same thing. Sigh! Another good reason for tracking, for me anyway, is to track negative research, as in I looked at a source and it revealed nothing about what I was looking for so let’s not waste time looking there again.

To me, the most difficult part about tracking research is when you’re doing online research. It is so, so, so very easy to jump from one thing to another, e.g., looking at someone’s family on the 1900 census, then thinking ‘Oh, I wonder if they’re on the 1880?’ and then hopping over to FindAGrave dot com, checking FamilySearch or Ancestory or Fold3, and so it goes. When my brain is firing like that, I can’t find the time to jump back and forth to a research log. I’m going to have to learn, though.

*Conducting Research
I’ve learned, the hard way, to record the source of information as the very first thing I do when I find something I can use. I either write down the source or take a pic of the title page of the source. I need to do better about recording negative evidence, as in “I’ve looked here and found nothing.”

In an upcoming post, I’m going to share something that I think will be a great assist in doing my research (just waiting for it to come in the mail!).