Thursday, March 31, 2016

Learning Patience as I complete by KDP

Spring Break has come and gone and I didn’t make my goal of having the rough draft of my Kinship Determination Project (KDP) completed.  I’m not complaining, though, as three events occurred that threw me into a tizzy!
First, less than a month ago, I received 30+ years of a diary written by the sister-in-law of one of the individuals I’m writing about.  It is a genealogical gold mine!  After reading and rereading I took notes based on individuals and then by types of events.  Spent the last three weeks incorporating the information into the KDP as it was quite useful and enhanced the paper.  Long term plan is to create an index of the diary for future use.
Second, our desktop system bit the dust.  I had my work saved in numerous places so that wasn’t awful but instead of a double screen I was back using (and sharing) an old laptop.  Really slowed the process down. 
Last, I had changed my mind about taking a trip during my week’s vacation and instead, I had decided to spend that week working on the paper.  Plans changed when my husband fell off the roof.  Miraculously, he’s fine, however, we spent the week quite differently than expected. 

Since he’s okay, a co-worker’s son was able to recover the data on our crashed system and the new information I added gave the paper more character, I’m fine with not meeting my goal.  My revised plan was to finish by the end of March, put it away for the month of April, check out the portfolios that will be available at the upcoming NGS conference in Ft. Lauderdale, revise through June and after taking one more trip through the archives to make sure that I left no stone unturned, submit in July.  Well, it's the last day of the month and I'm not done.  I'm still waiting for six records to arrive that apply to the last generation. Have to read through about 100 handwritten letters that are 100 years old to mine for details.  New goal is mid April completion. That's only obtainable if I work all day the next 3 weekends, spend at least 2 hours a night during the week AND get the records.  Genealogy is definitely a study in patience!  

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Had an interesting genealogical experience last week that I want to caution you about!  I’m all over the web – you can find my blog, website, email, public tree on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Find-A-Grave, etc. and I’m visible for several reasons:

·         I strongly believe my ancestors’ information and stories should be shared with anyone who cares to learn about them.
·         I LOVE genealogy, history and family stories so I joyfully research and investigate the past.
·         I’m more interested in preserving what I discover than gaining monetary compensation for my efforts.
·         Collaboration works for me!  I like connecting with others who are interested in the same lines that I am; if I’m not visible how are they going to find me?
·         I understand if you don’t share these views; I’m not going to try to convince you to change your mind so don’t try to do that to me.

With that said, here’s what happened -  I received an email message that someone was trying to contact me via a public posting forum.  I went to the site and the individual was requesting contact information for the deceased’s living relatives, though it didn’t say why.  I responded publicly to contact me via my email to discuss as I don’t give out living people information, other than my own, in a public manner.

I soon received an email from a small museum who wanted to know who the next of kin was as the deceased had donated an item that the organization no longer could display.  The museum needed to know if the family wanted the item returned or if they could sell it and keep the proceeds. 

I responded what my relationship was to the deceased but they wanted a blood relative.  Using the tools of the genealogy trade, I found a living adult child who didn’t want the item and emailed the organization that they could sell it.

So, now you have the background of the bigger issue here – what happens to items that you or your loved ones’ donate.  This experience jarred me because I never really thought about a museum discarding items.  I donated a lot of old sheet music to a local museum about 15 years ago because they were trying to grow their collection and we didn’t have the room for it.  If they decided to sell it I’d be fine with that.  Although ancestors owned the sheet music I wouldn’t consider it an heirloom.  When I gave it away I didn’t think about asking for it back if they couldn’t house it any more.  In my head, you give it away and you have no rights to it any longer.  Apparently, the deceased thought differently!

If you plan on donating items you need to educate yourself before you give.  Check out these links:

 and definitely check out the organization you’ve planned to give to BEFORE you make that donation.  Ask

·         Does the organizations short and long term goals mesh with the items being given?  If not, they may not want to keep them long term.
·         Do you understand the documents you’re going to sign?  Check with your lawyer and accountant before you make the donation.
·         Is it clear what will happen to your items in the event the museum no longer wants them? 
·         If there is a provision to return items, how will the organization get in contact with you or your descendants?

Definitely food for thought while your devouring your chocolate bunny today!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Goodbye Picassa

Previously I've blogged about one of my favorite Google products, Picassa, to which I uploaded all of my photos, movies and images of records.  I'm sad to say that it'll be going away soon. Google stopped supporting it on March 15th.  It's being replaced by a product called Google Photo so if you were using Picassa you'll need to log into Google Photos to save your albums.  Supposedly, it'll be an easy transition.  Problem is there won't be editing software included and it won't scale uploaded photos. I'm planning on following their directions so I don't lose what I've saved this weekend.  I did click on the Photos link provided on the Google blog but the photos displayed weren't everything I had in my Picassa albums.  Possibly it's because I was signed in with a different email address.  I'm not panicking yet because I have hard copies and cds of everything but I certainly don't want to spend the time reuploading!  That's why I plan on checking it out this weekend and contacting Google before it's too late if I can't figure it out.  Looks like Google Photos has the facial recognition feature that I absolutely love.  New features on Photos begin on May 1st so I'm hoping that those will include fixes to the limitations that I've already mentioned.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Google Library for the Genealogist

I'm taking a course through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies called "Google for the Genealogist."  Half way into it and I'm finding it's very useful.  There are 8 modules in total and the one I just completed on Google Books was the most relevant to me so far.
I use Google to search for old books that may contain a mention of my ancestors. Sometimes I just look for the location and then when I open the book, search for the surname.  I have found some incredible stories - such as Mathew Baines or Beans who was dying at sea and wrote a letter to a James Harrison, a fellow Quaker, requesting he look after Mathew's children.  Problem was that Mr. Harrison had died so the children appeared in Orphan Court.  Two Google Books mention these events. Looking at someone else's tree on FamilySearch or Ancestry might give you Mathew's year and place of death but the books bring the experiences he had to life!
With old Ancestry, as in before December 2015, I used to snip the page from the book and snip the title page, save to Word and then upload as a pdf to my tree attaching to the appropriate person. Problem is that it's no longer easy to find those pdf's on Ancestry.  I'm going to have to go back and re-download and save to my hard drive.  I never saved to my hard drive before because I was working on a cheap laptop I didn't have a lot of faith in and thought it would be better if it were saved in Ancestry's cloud.  Live and learn!
But back to Google Books and the class I'm taking...Did you know that you can save books to your own created bookshelves in your own library in their cloud?!  I somehow missed this and it's super easy to do.  All you need is a Google account, which is free, of course. (Not going to get into the whole topic of nothing is free as in they're monitoring your usage and using your searches but you know what I mean by free - as in there's no initial monetary cost involved to create a Google account.) Once you have an account (if you have an email through Google you have an account!), next click "More" on the Google ribbon and find the link for "Books."  Click and search for a surname or place you're interested in finding information about.  When you find a book you like, click on it.  You then click "Save to My Library."
On the left hand side of the page you can create your own book shelves.  I created two state names and one called Reference.  If you scroll down you'll see recent books you may have looked at.  It's simple to just click on the book and add to the appropriate book shelf.  I'm going to be very busy once I'm done with the Kinship Determination Paper uploading all my pdf books and saving it to My Library. That way, I will have all the sources I've used in one place.  I plan to add who the book refers to in the Description block that comes up for the book shelf.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Who Knew? Two Genealogy Tips I Just Learned

Tip 1:  Did you know that Fold3 has lots more than just military records?  If you have the premium or you get a free trial offer you need to explore the site by doing the following-
  1. Click BROWSE at the top of the page
  2. Click CATEGORY on the right side
  3. Click ALL TITLES
  4. Take a look at what they have!
I have found the Pennsylvania Archives most helpful.  Scroll down to the bottom of the selected volume to check out the index.  

I never knew Fold3 had FBI Case Files, slave auctions from the West Indies, orphan records and more.  Why in the world don't they advertise this?!  I would have probably bought the premium membership years ago had I known.  

Tip 2:  Just learned this from the Pinellas County Genealogical Society and I quote, "Family Tree Maker users can now do a direct import including all media files (without GEDCOM) to RootsMagic. This works with FTM versions 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 and classic (version 16 with file extension.ftw) for Windows. Also works for FTM 3 for Mac. Read the details at They also offer a special low price for FTM users to buy the RootsMagic program."  Pretty cool if my Family Tree Maker hadn't stopped synching with my tree.  Hope this helps you out!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Empty Envelopes Provide a Wealth of Genealogical Data

A colleague of mine brought in a pile of old envelopes recently and asked me if they were important genealogically.  The reason for the question is that the addressed envelopes contained no content.  She assumed family had saved them because they were stamp collectors who hadn't gotten around to removing the stamps.
My answer to her was a resounding YES!  Those envelopes tell a story even though they are empty.  I suggested she first put them in chronological order based on the postmark date, if any.  Next she should try to match the envelopes to letters that she had found and store them together.  Any remaining envelopes should be examined closely for information regarding:

  • Addressee 
  • Sender
  • Postmark
  • Possible notations
  • Envelope condition
  • Handwriting
  • Type of writing utensil used
  • Cost of postage
Examining the addressee and sender aids in identifying relationships, although the type of relationship is still unknown.  Definitely don't assume the relationship was family!  I have some old letters addressed to a grandfather that had the contents.  He did not know the sender; the writer was inquiring about a device the grandfather was selling.  
Carefully analyze who the envelope was addressed to.  Was it to a Miss or Mrs.? Was a nickname used, such as Nelia for Cornelia?  How was the last name spelled?  That is extremely important if your family changed spelling.  How I wish I had envelopes for my Koss family from the mid 1920's. The name changed from Kos (in 1920) to Koss (in 1930) but when the change occurred I don't know. An envelope could assist in narrowing down the date.
Look at the addressee's residence - was it a rural route?  a city?  a county?  If the postmark is illegible or missing that information could help identify the time period.  Although the Rural Free Delivery (RFD) began in the late 1800's it was not widespread.  Prior to that, letters may have been addressed, for example, as Columbia County, New York.  That's a clue the resident lived outside of a town or city.  If the envelope was dated, check the census to see if that address was also used for the individual.  The 1940 census may show the person's home address but the envelope could provide a clue as to where the individual was staying temporarily if they don't match.  My colleague recognized an address as belonging to her grandmother but the envelope was addressed to an unknown person at that address 20 years before her grandmother's birth.  Perhaps the home belonged to a family member that she was not aware of or perhaps the envelope was found after the grandmother moved in.  I doubt the second explanation as that would not be a reason to keep an envelope with family records but who knows?!  She was the stamp collector so maybe she saved it for the stamp.  I recommended that a title search on the property be done to gain more information about the occupants.
I love postmarks because they often tell an interesting story.  If the sender's address was Connecticut and the addressee's was New York but the postmark was California either the U.S. Post Office really messed up (which unfortunately happens frequently) or the sender was in California for business or pleasure when the letter was mailed.  This could open up a whole new area to check for records!  
My mom, a product of the Great Depression, always reused envelopes as scratch paper.  Grocery lists, things to do, phone messages - check the envelope for any notations.  Although you won't for certain know who wrote the notes unless they're signed or had such a unique handwriting that you can identify without a signature, you can gain insight on the day to day lives of the family that received the letter.  One envelope my colleague had this notation printed in caps "BURN THIS AFTER READING."  Guess the receiver followed directions but we were dying to know what the contents had been.  
Now look at the envelope itself.  Is it stained?  Is it brittle?  Has the color aged?  This lets you know the conditions that affected it since it was written.  Perhaps the stain was from water - was it delivered in a rainstorm?  Did it survive a sea voyage?  Maybe a cup of tea was spilled on it as the contents were being read!  You might never discover what really happened but it sure is fun to try.
I love handwriting, mainly because mine was always criticized while growing up.  The style can give you much more information about the time period and the sender.  Was it printed, cursive, Palmer, D'Nealian, or calligraphy?  Is it legible or not?  Perhaps the writer was in a hurry to mail the contents! Handwriting can also help you match the envelope to an individual if the sender did not include his/her name in the return address.
Writing utensils can also help you identify a time period.  A ballpoint pen came into use in the late 1800's.  Prior to that fountain pens and dip pens were used.  The color of the ink can give you even more clues - the dye or pigment used could be a regional product.
The postage price can help you determine the time period.  Although we're not talking about post cards I always think of them as "penny postcards" even though they now cost 35 cents to send. I don't think they could be sent for a penny when I was a kid but that's what my family called them and that's how I still think of them.  The art on the stamp also "may" disclose information about what was important to the sender - or not!  A few years ago I became known as the "stamp girl" in my office as I would make several trips to the post office a week to mail packages my husband had sold on ebay because I was closer to the post office then he was.  I would purchase stamps for coworkers on those trips.  Some coworkers would request a certain type of stamp and others could care less.  Although you might not find out for sure if the stamp conveyed a message from the sender it might.  Remember the 1973 LOVE stamp?  If the sender was breaking up with addressee I doubt that stamp would have been used.  
Let me know if your envelope analysis unveils a genealogical gem!



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wagon Insights

I've been reading through the diaries that were sent to me from Indiana and I've found a few surprises about life in the late 1800's.  Here are 10 wagon facts I never thought about:

  • You had to wash your wagon
  • When you purchased a new wagon you traded in your old wagon, like we do today with our cars
  • Wagons broke down ALOT!  Poor road conditions, skittish horses and driver error contributed to the break downs.
  • You were responsible for the cost of damages caused by your runaway horse and wagon
  • There were ALOT of serious accidents around wagons - falling out of, getting run over by, getting injured by overhanging tree limbs, etc.
  • When your wagon needed repairs someone would come to you but it was much more expensive than if you somehow got the wagon to the wagon shop to be repaired.
  • Depending on the repair needed, it could take a few hours or several days to get the part
  • Wheels fell off wagons frequently
  • If you were going to take a train you hired a livery person to pick you up and take you home, unless you had relatives to help you out.
  • Family members borrowed each other's wagons for various jobs that needed to be accomplished
Who knew?!  
Drought Uncovers 19th Century Wagon
The above picture is from Oregon, guess wagon mishaps occurred everywhere!