Sunday, January 29, 2017

Access to Preserved Records is Being Threatened!


There's been a lot of discussion on several genealogical lists that I follow regarding proposed cutbacks that would greatly impact accessing records that are vital to anyone looking into their ancestor's past.

I am advocating that records remain open and accessible.  If you agree, than please read the following and take action:

A New U.S. Budget Blueprint May Affect Genealogists by Diane Haddad

Help Us Nip Efforts to Defund NEH in the Bud

I use newspapers found in Chronicles of America at least weekly.  I have found so many genealogical gems in those old papers I couldn't even begin to count!  The NEH does a whole lot more - go to their home page and type in your state name in the search box on the top right.  You'd be amazed at how many grants they've awarded for record preservation in your area.

Thank you, readers!




Thursday, January 26, 2017

Privacy and the Genealogist - Part 2



My last blog was about ways to find the living who might have the genealogical information you need without making them feel threatened that their privacy had been invaded.  Today, I'm thinking about how much more private our lives are then in the past.  Thomas MacEntee mentioned this, too, in an interactive webinar he recently did. If you don't believe that, check out an old newspaper and you just might find something like this:

1



2

3

4


5

These are just a few of the times that George Harbaugh was noted in three local papers between 1900-1909.  From the first notice we know that there were two individuals who were professors who traveled together to Missouri.  Today, a notice like this would alert burglars and the professors might return home to find a break in had occurred.
The second item confirms that George was an educator.  Did they send junk mail back in the day? He's fortunate that there were no big box office supply stores sending him ads based on his job description.
Next item lets us know not only his residence but that he has a son with the same name and that they visited Plymouth, Indiana.  Great information from a genealogical standpoint; we've got relationship confirmation!  The fourth notice lets us know that George visited nearby Walkerton, Indiana on a Saturday.  Together, both notices are kind of creepy.  Can you imagine every time you leave your town that it would be published in your local newspaper?!  Sure with public figures, every movement is tracked and reported today but George wasn't famous.  Looking at the other statements surrounding George's show that this was common practice; we know that G.S. St. John of Tipecanoe also visited Plymouth and Ed Cook purchased from William Burger a "fine carriage."  Seriously, when you buy a new vehicle or a major appliance, we certainly wouldn't expect it to be published in the newspaper.
Today, we continue the practice of placing family relationship information and residence locations in obituaries as item 5 did.  We can connect George to his father and two of his brothers.  Another clue to finding George's whereabouts on a Sunday might be the Dunkard church as that's where his father, grandpa Harbaugh, attended.  Since grandpa lived with George more information about George might be found there.  Again, nice for a genealogist and even nicer for a crook who knew the family wouldn't have been home during church service.  Don't think they had robberies in those days? George's aunt, Mary Ann Eyster Johnson, wrote in her diary on 10 April 1898 that "Today we found that the Meeting House had been robbed.  Tablecloths, aprons, dishes, knives, and forks and baskets all gone.  No clue to the robbery."6  Interestingly, I never found the story of the church robbery in the newspaper.
Clearly, it was not just a slow news day but a standard practice to record the comings and goings of residents a century plus ago. Your personal whereabouts is fairly safe these days, although it can be gleaned from public records courtesy of your property appraiser.  Don't despair, so is your neighbors! The only difference between property records now and in the past is we can look the information up quickly using the internet instead of having to drive to the assessor's office.
Although our privacy is more assured, future genealogists will not find the gems that we do in newspaper archives.  All the more reason for you to start writing about yourself!


1 "Lapaz Items," Marshall County [Indiana] Independent, 27 April 1900, p. 5, col. 5.
2 "Lapaz Items," The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 2 July 1903, p. 4, col. 4.
3 "Saturday," The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 1 September 1910, p. 5, col 2.
4 "Saturday," The Weekly [Walkerton, Indiana] Republican, 14 March 1912, p. 2, col 3.
5 "Lapaz Items," The Plymouth [Indiana] Tribune, 28 January 1909, p. 5, col. 6.
6 Mary Ann (Eyster) Johnson, "Diary," 10 April 1898, n.p.; privately held by the Pine Creek Church of the Brethren, North Liberty, St. Joseph County, Indiana.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1


Have you ever Googled yourself?  If not, take a moment and do so.  If you have, then you know how much information about you is readily available at the click of a few keystrokes.
I understand why many people are greatly concerned that their personal information is "out there."  In the uncertainty of today's world, we've all heard horror stories of identify theft and Craig's list murders. It makes us more cautious and fearful.
Recently, I took an interactive webinar by Thomas MacEntee about finding living persons.  Why would you want to find the living?  It's the best way to make contact with folks you are related to that may just have the information you are seeking.  I though it very interesting and I totally agree with Thomas that using snail mail is the most effective way to make initial contact.  People are more apt to respond to you if they have the time to process the contents.  Additionally, the distance between you and them provides a sense of security.  Think about it!  If you telephone the individual you have caught them off guard and no one likes to feel that way.  Emailing can work but may go to spam.  I never tried texting someone I don't know but if I received a text from a stranger I certainly wouldn't respond.
When I write a letter to an individual I do not type it.  I typically print as cursive can be difficult for older eyes (and though I haven't written to anyone under 20, if I did they most likely wouldn't be able to read it since it isn't taught in school any longer.)  Printing also sends the message that you took the time to be personal.  I keep it short which is often difficult for me to do!  In the first paragraph I introduce myself and explain my connection.  The second paragraph explains what I'm seeking - a Bible record or a photograph, for example.  The third paragraph gives ways to contact me that are more expedient than mail, such as my phone and email address.  I also offer to pay for the cost of copying and mailing.  I always end with "looking forward to hearing from you soon."
Does this always work?  No, but it might and has so give it a try!  I've been successful in many cases.  I can only think of once where I didn't get a response and possibly, the individual did not have the information and being in his 90's, was not able to let me know that.  In two other situations I did make contact but the individuals were "too busy" to get the information to me.  Both emailed me that they would but after a few reminders over the course of a year it didn't occur.  I haven't given up hope yet as last fall, I connected with the son of one of my deceased's mother's friends.  The friend had recently died and the son, while cleaning, found my name and contact information as I had sent a Christmas card 15 years ago right before she moved from our area.  The son had newspaper clippings of my wedding and events my mom had attended with his mother.  So you never know who has your personal information!  In my next blog I'll continue discussing privacy and share some examples of why I believe, like Thomas, that we have more privacy today than in the past.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Viva Volunteers! A Unique Opportunity for You


I've just learned of an organization that does something unique in the genealogical field and I wanted to share it with you. Unclaimed Persons is an organization that unites families with deceased kin whose remains have not been claimed from the Coroner.  Unfortunately, this is a situation that is occurring frequently as families relocate and lose touch with an elderly relative that remained behind. UnclaimedPersons.org was founded by Megan Smolenyak in 2008; more than 400 people have been aided but there is more work to do!  You can help by volunteering your research skills from the comfort of your own home.  Check out the FAQ on the website, visit the FaceBook page for open cases and put on your Super Sleuth hat to begin.  Remember, "A good deed is never lost!"

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Serendipity

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Last Saturday I attended a local genealogy workshop hosted by Thomas MacEntee.  While he was in Chicago and we were in Florida, my serendipitous encounter happened regarding Trumbull County, Ohio.  I've blogged often about my mysterious Duer family who left scarce records behind.
About once a month since August, out of the blue, some small item shows up which gives me a clearer picture of the family.  The first weird event occurred in August when I made a call to a reluctant Trumbull County Clerk asking for help in locating cemetery records.  When she told me I wasn't going to find anything she actually meant she wasn't going to look, as access to the original books were restricted to the general public.  I told her the connections I've made on this line and how family history has seemed to repeat (see my blog Circular Migration Patterns - How History Repeats Itself).  She was hooked and agreed to try to find the cemetery records, though she warned me I might not hear back for weeks. I laughed and told her I bet she turns to the exact page I needed.  Ten minutes later she called to say my prediction was correct and she was spooked!  Unable to place the book on the copy machine which was down, the clerk used her smart phone to take pictures of the page and then texted them to me.
During the hurricanes in September, I tried to locate a deed from 1805.  Another Trumbull County employee told me that they were no longer available.  I told her a little about the family and within an hour, I was on the phone with a retired genealogist who used to be president of the local history society.  When the employee had called her with the name I was searching, Thomas Duer, the genealogist said, "Oh, I must speak with this woman as Thomas almost killed me once."  She explained that his tombstone had toppled and she had tripped over it during a cemetery cleanup several years ago.  She had a photo of the stone that I had been searching for but her computer died and she had no backup.  With a large personal library, she looked up the Duers and Byrds in every resource she had. That's when I discovered that Thomas' family had been left out of his father John's will.
In October, I discovered who was Hazen, who had been named in John's will.  I had tried to find a newspaper obituary the previous month for him but they weren't available.  By the end of October, they were. Turned out Hazen was a grandson of John's, the son of one of John's deceased daughters.  As I pondered why one grandson was named and not others who were descended from deceased son Thomas, I hoped for another wonderful find.
That discovery arrived unexpectedly right before Thanksgiving when I checked an unsourced tree on MyHeritage. Thomas' wife, Hannah, was named as the wife of John Preston.  Using FamilySearch, I found the marriage record; the reason I had never found it before was because Hannah's married last name, Duer, had been indexed as Dure.  That was odd as I originally had the surname as Dure from information I had received from a second cousin in the 1990's. I only discovered the Duer name in 2010 when a family researcher contacted me via email.  I was never able to find out how he connected with me as he died a few weeks after we began corresponding.  But back to Hannah, she and John Preston had married just a few months after her first husband's father-in-law had died and she and her children had been left out of the will.
I didn't research much in December due to the holidays.  My last words to my husband as I left for the genealogy meeting last Saturday were in jest;  I hoped I make another awesome Duer find.  The workshop was on finding the living so I really didn't expect it to be useful for my Duer's as the family relocated by 1860.
I arrived early to the meeting because I knew traffic would be fierce with the college championship games being held in the city.  The parking garage line was long and when I finally got up to the ticket machine, it was empty.  There was a line of cars behind me so I couldn't back out but I couldn't go forward, either, as the gate was down.  I got out of the car and told the woman behind me I'd call security.  Like the old fashion game of telephone, the message was passed from car to car.
Soon security arrived with tickets but the machine had jammed and then the gate was stuck.  By now, it was pouring down rain as a cold front was coming through.  I considered going home. A few minutes later the gate was open and I had a parking space.  Because of the strong wind, I decided to just run into the auditorium as the umbrella would have been useless.
Dripping wet, I signed in and found a seat as the attendees were having a discussion about their brick walls.  I wasn't really paying attention when I caught the words of the woman in front of me "where do I look for divorce records?"  No one replied so I asked in what location. "Ohio," she said. I asked if she had used the Wiki on FamilySearch as I had found divorce records in several Ohio counties through the Common Plea records.  She thanked me and another attendee asked a question.  I went back to looking at my emails on my phone when a gentleman came up to me and asked where I was researching in Ohio.  I told him Trumbull and Mercer Counties for my Duers.  He said, "I was born and raised in Trumbull County."  My heart started thumping.  "Oh my goodness," I thought, "I was just kidding this morning when I said I hoped to find some Duer info."  We exchanged email addresses and yes, he also has a personal library of Trumbull County information which he has graciously shared with me in the past week.  He also volunteered to have a friend of his go to the cemetery and take a picture of Thomas' grave as soon as the snow melts.  I'm hoping that's my March Miracle!
This gentleman also explained to me why most of the records are not available.  Several years ago there was a sewage leak in the basement of the building where the records were housed and most were destroyed.  I can add this disaster to my burned courthouses, gas explosions and ripped out pages!
So, on that blustery Saturday I discovered a living knowledgeable individual from the area I was researching at a workshop on finding living people. That turned out not to be one of the methods but it certainly worked for me!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Grandfather's C-File Has Finally Arrived!

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I've blogged before about the long wait for my grandparent's US citizenship records that I requested last May and I finally received my grandfather's on Monday.  The best part was the Declaration of Intention which provided a picture of him at age 48.  I have his engagement photo from 1916 and his marriage photo from 1917, a few in the 1920's but none from about 1930 through 1950 so this was a real treat!  He's in a suit and tie looking quite dapper. (Tried to scan and post it here but I've got to work on the resolution settings - too grainy!)
The biggest surprise was to see his signature.  This is the only time I have ever seen his handwriting. By the time of my birth, my grandfather was legally blind so he never wrote anything.
There were a few errors in the document.  The first was the spelling of my mom's name.  Instead of Dorothy she is recorded as Dorty.  I laughed at that!  My grandfather spoke perfect English but he had trouble with the th blend and pronounced it as tu.  Reading my mom's name reminded me that he used to call her Doro and if he had to say her real name, it did sound like Dorty.  Her name was spelled correctly on the Petition for Naturalization.
My grandmother's birth date was recorded as August 4th, 1901 and should have been July 18, 1900.  I have no idea how the month, day and year were wrong on the Declaration of Intention.  The month and day were right on the Petition but her birth year was 1903.
My grandparents were from the same village in Austria-Hungary and I never thought about how they knew each other from childhood.  Being 8 years older, he had always known my grandmother and that was something I had to wrap my head around.  They married in Chicago after the families rediscovered each other working for the Pullman Company.  My grandmother's father, Joseph, arranged the marriage.
The document stated my grandfather was 5 foot 7 inches and that surprised me.  In my head, he's tall and I would have guessed 6 foot.  Of course, I was small so that could explain a lot.  My grandmother was barely 5 foot so he did seem to tower over her.
I never knew that my next door neighbor, Charles Bauer, was one of the witnesses.  I loved Mr. Bauer - he always gave me money on Halloween, let me play with his dog and often inquired about how school was going.  He swore he knew my grandfather since January 1, 1929.  The other witness I had heard about but never knew, Rudolf Silich.  The Silich's had children that were the same age as my grandparent's kids and lived across the alley from the family.  They moved about the time of my birth and never returned to visit.
Still waiting for my grandmother's information!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

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Now that the holidays are behind us it's time to look ahead and schedule some genealogy training. What would you like to learn more about this year?  Maybe it's finally understanding DNA or getting serious about writing that family history you keep putting off.  Perhaps you're stuck on a few lines and need some fresh ideas.  Whatever you hope to learn, there are wonderful webinars that you can view in the comfort of your own home.  Let's start with the free ones first!

Legacy Family Trees 2017 offerings are now available and you can register for multiple webinars at once. It pays to register so you can get the syllabus.  If something comes up and you can't attend, no worries!  The tape is available for the first week for free. The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers monthly webinars on the Legacy site, too, so don't miss those offerings

Like to participate as you learn?  Then become a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and take part in their upcoming discussions held via Go To Meeting.  You are expected to be engaged either through your microphone or via chat.  You can use your computer, tablet or phone to attend.  Two sessions are available for each topic - one in the afternoon and one in the evening.  In January, "Writing as You Go with Elissa Scalise Powell and Running a Successful APG Chapter with Lois Mackin" will be offered. February brings "Creating Genealogy Classes and Workshops with Lois Mackin."  The meetings are free but you must be a member of APG to attend. Visit APG for more details.

The National Genealogical Society Conference will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina May 10-13. Early Bird registration is now open via the NGS site.  Don't delay - the price to attend rises closer to the event.

Don't want to travel far but love in person camaraderie and collaboration with other passionate genealogists?  Then check out your local societies, libraries and archives for their offerings.  In the Tampa Bay, Florida area, Thomas MacEntree recently held an interactive webinar through the Tampa public library and Lisa Marie Cook will be offering workshops at the Largo library in February.  

Rather work on your own?  Then purchase a workbook and pace yourself.  Mastering Genealogical Proofs by Tom Jones is available via Kindle or Paperback on Amazon.  Also on Amazon is Blaine Bettinger's Genetic Genealogy in Practice.  If you're an NGS member, check out the site for a discount on both.

It never ceases to amaze me that I learn something new from every class I take.  Additionally, I learn a bunch from reading and writing blogs.  A few days ago, I was the guest blogger for AncestorCloud so check out Using S.M.A.R.T.'s to Crystallize Your Genealogy Goals.  Happy Hunting!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Genealogy Resolutions

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There's no better time than the start of a brand new year to fine tune genealogy habits.  Need some ideas?  How about:
  • Spring Clean Now!  That's right, in the dead of winter.  Sort your loose papers into 3 piles.  Pile 1 is for whatever you view as most interesting to pursue.  Pile 2 is interested but can't do right now, such as searching records at a repository outside of your area.  Pile 3 is your trash pile.  Put that immediately in File 13 (your trash bin) or your fireplace.
  • Calendars Count - It doesn't matter if it's the one your dry cleaners gave you, a special holiday gift received or electronic.  What does matter is that you block time out now for family reunions, research, trips and conferences.  
  • Resolve to Rule Your Routines - We all have some bad genealogical habits.  I do a great job of making a plan when researching for clients but not so good when I'm working on my own tree. I plan on improving in that area this year.   
  • Lighten Up - Nope, this has nothing to do with diet or cleaning.  Instead, I mean don't be so hard on yourself.  Genealogy is your passion so don't make it an unpleasant job.  Sure it's frustrating not being able to find the relationship you're seeking.  Yes, it's sad that your ancestors made some really stinky choices.  Remember you can only control what you own so let the negative feelings go.  
  • Feeling Fine - There are lots of reasons to pursue genealogy.  Some folks love the family stories they uncover while others like to solve puzzles and mysteries.  I want to better understand history by relating it to events in which my ancestors were involved.  You may want to discover how far back you can go or to record your family via photos.  Whatever your reason, it's much more fun when you share your findings.  Explore ways to spread that joy this year. Facebook, Pinterest and FamilySearch.org are free.  You may want to build a website for your own family or write an eBook to save on publishing costs.  Attend a meeting of your local genealogy society to find other kindred spirits especially if your family is less than enthusiastic about your finds.  Know that whatever your reason to pursue genealogy or way you select to present your findings is the right way - there's certainly not many fields that are like that. Wishing you a year of enjoyable discoveries!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Perseverance Amidst Adversity - The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs



Happy New Year!  I started the year off by completing one of my resolutions - to publish an eBook. Perseverance Amidst Adversity - The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs (ASIN: B01N7O2NOE) was submitted for publication about an hour ago.  It will be available on Amazon.com within 72 hours at the bargain price of $3.59.  Extensively researched, this true story follows three generations of Georges and their loved ones during a time of tumultuous change in the United States.  Perseverance is the background story for the next eBook I'm writing, Thanks to the Yanks, which will detail the experiences of an Indiana farm boy during World War I.  I also plan on indexing a diary and then publishing it as an eBook which will be the 3rd in the series.
I plan to continue blogging twice weekly and will be a guest blogger for several genealogical organizations, too.
I'd love to hear your goals for 2017.  If you haven't identified them yet, no worries - I'll give you some ideas in my next blog.  In the meantime, I wish you a year full of great genealogy goodness!