FIVE YEARS…and counting!

June 24 came and went without much fanfare…indeed, it was the 5th anniversary of LifeCitation! This is not an excuse…more like an explanation…I was out of state attending the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, otherwise known lovingly as GRIP. How to describe GRIP? I’ve heard “summer camp for genealogists,” though no one has time to sit around a campfire singing Kumbaya. There were crafts…crafting citations, proof arguments, case studies. People wrote a lot about their families, not to their families. People learned a lot…about technology, finding the right tool to break down those brick walls, and about the very substance that makes us uniquely us…DNA. To learn more about this summer’s sessions and next summer’s sessions, go here.

My particular experience at GRIP…this was my first time attending. I chose “Mastering the Art of Genealogical Documentation” led by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA. Dr. Jones is a leading expert in the genealogical field, with many years of educating, researching, writing, and editing. Documentation is the foundation of solid genealogical writing…I knew that this was the first course I wanted to take. For five short days, I focused on learning how to craft a well-written citation. And, to paraphrase Dr. Jones, we are always learning.

GRIP instructors being introduced; Dr. Jones is at the far left in the red shirt.

During GRIP, I had an assignment due in my ProGen39 course…a proof argument/case study. My assignment was using derivative records with secondary sources and one original record with a primary source to determine the place of birth of my 2nd-great-grandmother, Mary (Ammerman) Ford…was she born in Illinois or Indiana? At the time of her birth (1838), no official birth records were kept in either state, and there were no newspapers announcements that I could find. So, I used her death certificate, her children’s death certs, census records, and a War of 1812 widow’s pension record of her mother. I think I proved her place of birth, at least to the state level. As to the county level, it’s questionable. If anyone is interested in reading it, let me know and I’ll upload it here after it’s reviewed in class this week.

Regarding ProGen39, we have two assignments left to turn in…time has flown! I have learned so much from the group I’m in…talk about inspiring women! These ladies are fantastic. I had the pleasure of meeting one of my group members, Diana, at GRIP…hopefully next summer more of our group can attend a session in Pittsburgh together. That, too, would be fantastic!

Coincidentally, I was able to do some on-site research the day GRIP ended in Jefferson County, Ohio, in the city of Steubenville. The man I believe to be my 5th-great-grandfather, Israel Massey, died there in 1885 and is buried at the Union Cemetery. If you ever have a chance to visit this cemetery, please do! Online, I was able to find what section Massey was buried in and also used their map to find that section. He and several members of his family (son and grandchildren) are also buried in the same plot, but only what appeared to be three headstones remain.

This is one of the three headstones; all look like this. I believe these are three headstones for Massey’s grandchildren (children of Cyrus Massey).

Israel was born around 1792 in Maryland; his parents immigrated here from Ireland. His daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Massey) Devore, is my 4th-great-grandmother. She lived in southeastern Ohio until she and her family moved west to Louisa County, Iowa, in 1877. Whenever I get the opportunity to explore places my ancestors lived, I jump at the chance!

So…two major life changes to share with you. One, my former married surname is officially dropped. Secondly, I’ve decided to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after much consideration. A friend of mine mentioned in passing about a year or so ago that she belonged to the Mormon Church in our hometown. I didn’t even know there was one in our town…less than 5 minutes from my home! We began talking and then I studied what I could online. It was as if a light was shining inside me…this was what I had been looking for my entire adult life in other religions but had yet to find! Finally, a doctrine aligned with my beliefs and how I’d been living for many years. It’s hard to explain in words, but I felt like I’d come home, joy, welcomed, like I fit in. I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon, attending sacrament services, and meeting with the missionaries. My Baptism is planned for July 20. With all my heart and soul, this feels right for me.

As I’m finishing this post on Independence Day, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank our Revolutionary War Patriots for sacrificing their lives and fortunes for what would become America and subsequently our freedoms.

I first really listened to this song in high school when we played it in marching band during the commencement ceremony. In recent years, however, I’ve studied the lyrics and history behind it. Hands down, my favorite patriotic tune:

Have a safe and joyous 4th of July, one and all!

Arrangements by my Mom.

One More StEP…or Maybe Two

My historical society took a big leap of faith and approved our entry into the StEPS Program through AASLH (American Association for State and Local History).  StEPS stands for Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.  It is a self-guided process wherein history organizations take a good hard look at policy and procedure and their future.  We will receive a workbook to work on different aspects of our organization, e.g. mission and governance, audience, and collection.  I am very excited about this!  We plan on reviewing it through the rest of this year and actively working on what needs attention beginning in 2019.

Drawer from Thaddeus Coffin desk

I am so grateful for the Genealogy Library we have at our historical society (named after Clarence H. Smith, some day soon I’ll tell you more about him).  When I began pondering career changes, professional genealogy seemed like the path I wanted to follow.  Volunteering at the historical society opened my eyes to the wonder that is our local history.  This position as director fulfills my genealogical passion, as well as teaches me unique things about my county.  If I don’t learn something new daily, then I consider it a nonproductive day.  These new things I learn can come from any nook of the Museum…our oldest book was published in 1789…a child on a tour showed me a new piece of wood in our Thaddeus Coffin desk (made of nearly 57,000 pieces!)…a lovely weed had found its way into our entry pavilion!  Even though I’m the executive director of a historical society and museum, genealogy still plays a large role in my life.

Bronze on wood trunk I bought today to use for my presentations! “The Trunk of Curiosities”

That is why when I recently received the invitation to join the ProGen Study Group 39 I jumped at the opportunity.  I had tentatively set aside my goal of achieving professional genealogy certification through the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), but, by signing up and participating in the yearlong ProGen course of study, I believe I might move forward with my BCG goal.  We’ll see in a year!

Census record I may use for ProGen or BCG

Thank you to those who voted on the skeleton key poll.  What do you think of this one?

Skeleton key on gentleman’s black top hat

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.
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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.