Genealogy

Family History Month

Family History Month

October is Family History Month and this past weekend I had two days of events to help me in my genealogical journey.

Friday night my library hosted a Late Night at the Library where you could research at the Special Collections area from 6:30-10:30pm.  They gave a tour of the department for those who hadn’t been there before.  I am very fortunate to have a library that has books from most of the 50 states (if not all), microfilm from various newspapers, maps, and free access to a number of subscription genealogical sites.  Representatives from different organizations were also on hand to assist, one being National Society United States Daughters of 1812.

Saturday had me spending most of the day at my local Family History Center where they had a day filled with classes to learn more about researching genealogy.  Here are the classes that I took:

  1. Interpreting DNA Results
  2. Scottish Research
  3. Latest Computer Tech for Genealogists
  4. Family Search App
  5. Internet Sites for Genealogists

Other classes that were offered included Prussian Research, Czech/Slovak Research, Until Death Do Us Part, Are You a Good Ancestor?, and FamilySearch questions.

Family History Centers are locations that allow you to access all records on FamilySearch and like the library, they also provide free access to many subscription sites to help you in your research.  They are located all across the United States.

You should take a moment and check to see if your local library or Family History Center has any genealogy programs going on before October is over.  Both of my local events were free., there is a chance could be too!

 

 

Genealogy

Death Certificates

Death certificates are one of my favorite tools to find when working on my family tree.  Granted it’s always sad that your ancestor passed away, but death certificates offer so much information that when you find them it’s like hitting the family history jackpot.

Different States, Different Availability

The downside of death certificates when searching in the United States is that each state differs when they began keeping vital statistic records, and their availability for each is different as well.  I am fortunate that I live in the state of Ohio and we can go and get a birth certificate from anywhere, at any time.  There are limitations, like you have to be in the county where the person died (my grandfathers are both eluding me as one died in Jefferson County and the other in Monroe), or if the person passed away between 1908-1953 you can find them on FamilySearch but if they died between 1954-1963 you have to contact the Ohio History Center in Columbus to obtain those.  The cost is $7 plus tax but I can honestly say when I mailed in my check for the two I needed, I sent away on a Thursday and my death certificates were emailed to me the following Monday (my check hadn’t even cleared yet).

Most of my relatives are from Pennsylvania which has a much stricter policy for the release of their vital statistics.  Birth certificates are available 106 years after birth.  Death certificates are available 50 years after they die. Next year I will finally be able to get my grandmother’s birth certificate as she was born in 1914.  I will be ordering my grandfather’s at the same time as he was born in 1912.

Make sure you check with the state you are researching to find out when you are able to obtain these valuable vital statistics records and find out how much it will cost to obtain these records.  In Pennsylvania, it is presently $5 each.

Birth Certificates vs. Death Certificates

Though birth certificates are very important (when recently coming across my great-aunt’s birth certificate on Ancestry, I discovered that her father was not my great-grandfather). Death certificates give you birth dates, death dates, spouse, parent’s names, where they are buried, if they are buried, when they were buried, how they died, where they lived, where they were born.  Granted, the information is only as reliable as the informant, but it gives you something to go with as far as your person is concerned, especially if you know little about the person.

My Most Memorable Death Certificate

My most surprising death certificate I found using Ancestry Library Edition.  I am fortunate for my local library to have this, and so I would often go to my local branch and spend an hour or more at least once a week utilizing the records they had.  This is when I came across my second cousin twice removed’s death certificate.

RalphReedDeathCertificate

Discovering that one of your relatives was executed by the state of Ohio is always a little alarming.  I am sure if I ever find another (I truly hope I don’t) that I will be just as amazed.  (And I know I’ve shown this before, but some surprises you just never get over).

However, look at all the information that you can discover on the above death certificate.

  • Name: Ralph Reed
  • Birth Date: 1 Jun 1921
  • Place of Birth: Johnstown, Cambria, Pennsylvania
  • Father: Thomas Reed
  • Mother: Margaret Phillips
  • Occupation: Baker
  • Date of Death: 4 May 1949
  • Place of Death: Columbus, Franklin, Ohio
  • Cause of Death: Electrocution by Legal Execution
  • Informant: Mrs. Margaret Reed (his mother)
  • Burial: Headrick Cemetery
  • Date of Burial: 7 May 1949

All this information is from one piece of paper. Now in Ralph’s case, we are fortunate that the informant was his mother so it was a person who had a great deal of knowledge of his life.  Many times we aren’t as lucky.  So often I find “I don’t know” or “Unknown” for a parent’s name because the children of a person aren’t always aware of their grandparent’s names, especially if they passed away before they were born.

It is highly recommended that you gather all the vital statistics that you can for each member of your family.  These include birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates.

New England States

Most states began keeping death records between 1900-1930.  If you are lucky enough to have relatives in the New England states where religion was the backbone of the community, you will be fortunate to have ledgers with birth and death dates.  When I was finally able to leave Potter County, Pennsylvania and go to Franklin/Hampshire County, Massachusetts, I was amazed at how many vital statistic records I was able to obtain for my family where they were absent in PA.

The Frontier

As settlers moved west towards the new frontier, keeping records wasn’t at the top priority.  As far as religion went, most of these areas had itinerant ministers.  These circuit riders went from community to community, performing weddings, baptisms, and possibly funerals, but the documents weren’t always filed.  This is why records throughout the mid-west are more challenging to find.

In Bedford County, Pennsylvania, where a majority of my father’s family came from, records are available in a handwritten book from 1890 to 1905.  But anything before that is a mystery, often relying on gravestones for the answers for vital records, along with census records for birth dates.

Sources for Family History

Though there are many important documents to find in genealogy, I find that death certificates are one of the more important ones.  Death certificates don’t always have the answers you are seeking for your people, but they are still valuable documents to have in your possession to obtain needed information about your ancestors.  I know I presently have a death certificate for my second great-great-uncle and it is the only hint I have of what my third great-grandmother’s name is (I’m still hoping to hunt down her fourth living child in a hope of his death certificate giving me the same name).  Both Ancestry and FamilySearch provide online images of death certificates so utilize these valuable sources, you never know what kind of interesting facts you will discover about your ancestors.

Genealogy

How to use PERSI

Are you in the same boat as me and really get befuddled on how to use PERSI?  In case you are unaware of what PERSI is, it is the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI for short).  Ever since I took my first class at my local library about genealogy I have heard nothing but wonderful things about PERSI.  Trouble is – I can never seem to have any success with it myself.  So today’s goal is to learn what PERSI is, and how to use it.

What is PERSI?

So I know I already told you it is the PERiodical Source Index but what is it really? Organized by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center (ACPLGA) and Find My Past, PERSI connects you with thousands of articles for genealogy and local history.  Though initially just an index relaying articles and their locations to users, the ACPLGA and Find My Past are working to digitize the articles to give family historians instant gratification.

How to Use PERSI

I’ve always understood what PERSI is, my trouble has been actually using it.  So here are some tips I’ve accumulated in my search.

How to Find PERSI

PERSI can be found by going to Find My Past, then using the toolbar at the top of the screen select “Search” and then when the pull-down menu appears select “Newspapers and Periodicals”.

Search for PERSI

On the left-hand side of the screen near the top you will see a heading “Choose from Our Collections”, fill in the dot next to “PERiodical Source Index” and you’ll be ready to go!

PERSI Screen

PERSI is Subject Based

It does not search the text of articles, it searches the terms or keywords assigned to articles by the people who created PERSI.  For example, you may come across an article that is all about your family, but if the person who indexed the article just assigned it “Bedford County” (where your people may have lived) searching for your family name will give you 0 hits. For best results you are better off to use the “Where” or “What Else” options on the search bar.

PERSI Search

Lots of Filters

PERSI provides you with nine different filters to help narrow the number of results you receive.  These filters include: last names, country, state, county, town/city, subject, keyword, and database title. These are located down the left-hand side of the screen.

Since the world knows I have family in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, I went ahead and did a search on Bedford.  By just putting Bedford County, Pa in the “Where” box (see above), I ended up getting 4,359 hits. This included places in England, Massachusetts, etc., which was amazing as I had Pennsylvania as part of my where.

By filling in the country, state, and county fillers along the left-hand side of the screen, I lessened my hits to 1,350.  Here is a screenshot:

PERSI Screen

Please Note

If you click on an article, it is not going to take you to the page you are seeking.  You will most likely have to read/skim through a book/paper/article to find the information you are seeking.  Try to be optimistic, this may be a good thing as you may find more information than you bargained for which is a big YAY!

Remember, not all articles/books/papers have been digitized so some books you may have to do an interlibrary loan to see.  I know earlier today I found an article from the Bedford County Historical Society that was done on my 5x Great Grandfather, Peter Morgart, in their newsletter.  I am attempting to see if they have past newsletters online, or if I need to pay for a copy of that 1994 newsletter.  I’ll keep you posted, it’s presently a Saturday and they are closed.

Lastly, you are able to search PERSI for free but to view records you do need a subscription to Find My Past.  I know I don’t always have a subscription for all the different sites for genealogy but I know my local library (at least my Main Library) has the library edition of  Find My Past for free where you can view the documents that are digitized. If you find an item that isn’t digitized, you would already be at the library and maybe you can set up an inter-library loan.

I’ll probably update this in the future.  I presently have a simple subscription to Find My Past from when I joined my state genealogical society.  It goes bye-bye in December so I am going to try to focus some of my research endeavors on here so I can utilize it before it’s gone (I say simple as I have learned many documents I need to view for my English ancestors are a higher subscription than the free one I received for signing up with my state society).

Just another valuable tool to maybe help you get the final piece of a puzzle for your ancestors.  Good luck searching!

Genealogy, My Family Tree

My Research Trip Days 2 & 3

So if you read my previous post, you know that I had quite a day going from one cemetery to the next finding my direct line ancestors on my dad’s side of the family.

But day two was fun as I spent most of the day at the Bedford County Historical Society.  I went with a plan but the ladies there knew so much more than I did and truly made me feel not so knowledgeable about my family (but in a good way).  Gillian, the director, knew so much about my Morgart side, showing me maps with their names on it from the Bedford area.  Next thing she was giving me the information about Peter Morgart and his part in the Whiskey Rebellion, and it just went on and on.  Huge binders full of family tree information others had done before me of my ancestors and their descendants.  I was in awe and when we left I told my husband I was so unprepared for how much they knew.  All I kept thinking about was all my webinars and how I needed to stay focused and how I did anything but stay focused.  I will definitely go there again and be better prepared when I return.

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Next, we headed to Jean Bonnet’s Tavern for dinner.  The food was delicious, I had crab and shrimp topped salmon with a baked potato and steamed broccoli. I believe my husband had the beef tenderloin.  We left stuffed but so happy we had the experience.  Jean Bonnet’s Tavern was built in the 1760’s so it was just fun to eat where maybe my ancestors did (not all as I’m sure they were in competition with the Morgart Tavern).

After dinner, we drove by the Espy House which is where George Washington had his headquarters when he came to Bedford County in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion.  Yes, chills once again as George may have walked where I was now riding (it really doesn’t take much to get me excited about George).

After this, we went out and found the Bedford Springs Hotel as it was one of the places to stay back in the day.  Supposedly the water had (has?) medicinal purposes.  It’s still quite majestic today in its appearance.

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The next day we did a little bit of sightseeing as this area is the home of the Flight 93 Memorial from the happenings of September 11, 2001.  The quiet and the breeze that seemed to be non-stop there was just eerie.  You couldn’t help but feel the specialness of all those aboard who decided to defend freedom.

Next up was the Bedford County Courthouse where I went armed with my checklist of names I wanted to run by with property listings as well as wills/probate records.  I was so impressed as I was able to find something on most of my ancestors that were on my list.  If you have relatives, don’t feel shy about going in, the girls that work in the records department are very nice and were so helpful.

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On our last night there we met with my second cousin Hope and had dinner.  She was also kind enough to show me some spots in St. Michael where my great-grandmother lived as well as the bank where my Grandmother worked (I often remember her telling me she got paid like a nickel to clean the place – I may be off on how much she was paid but I know it wasn’t much).  I guess the bank is now where the residents of St. Michael, Pennsylvania pay their utility bills.  I meant to take a photo of Hope too, but as soon as we got to her house she wished us well and sent us on our way and I was a block or two away when I turned to my husband and said, “I wanted a photo with Hope”.

I thought my first research trip went really well.  I was able to find a lot of information that I was seeking but still had so many more questions when I returned.  I only had three days so I did my best to keep my focus but on future trips I know I’ll do my best to seek information on more than just my direct descendants, and hopefully, I’ll have more time to even visit other relatives that actually live in the area too.

 

Genealogy, My Family Tree

My First Research Trip: Day One – Cemetery Hopping

From July 15-17 my husband and I traveled to Bedford County, Pennsylvania so I could research my family.  It was such an honor to know I walked where they walked. It was a great trip that was full of adventure and I’ll be honest, spending one on one time with my husband was a nice treat.

As I recount my trip I just want to add that I suggested to my husband that maybe we should take my car as it would get better gas mileage.  I’ll be honest with you, I have a 2013 Chrysler 200.  I love my car (the first car I ever purchased was a 1993 Plymouth Sundance, and if my Sundance would have evolved, it would be in the realm of the Chrysler 200). Even my father thought we should take it for the same reason, better gas mileage.  But believe me, my front-wheel-drive vehicle could never have conquered the hills of Cambria, Bedford, Huntingdon, Fulton and Somerset counties like my husband’s Ford F-150.  As we headed from one cemetery to the next in Cambria county, we went up a hill so steep it was at a 15-degree incline (well, that hill we didn’t have to go up – hubby did it for fun).  My car would never have survived either hill.  I attempted to take a photo but my phone doesn’t do it justice.

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You have to look all the way down and focus on the house to fully appreciate how steep the hill is.  His hitch scraped against the street when we got to the bottom and leveled out.
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We are at the bottom road about to drive up, the first hill (where there is pavement) was steep, but the upper portion (where it is grass) is the 15-degree incline.  We actually needed to turn before the grass to get to the next cemetery.

First Stop: South Fork Cemetery

We left Ohio on Monday morning and traveled to Pennsylvania.  It only took us about 3 hours and our first stop was South Fork Cemetery in South Fork, Cambria County.  Here I found 2 out of 3 of my direct line relatives, and the grave of my Great-Aunt Vada.  The person I couldn’t find was Susan Jane Foster Blair, my Great-Great-Grandmother.  I was really bummed.  I remember seeing her name as a teenager and you know how sometimes you have a relative that just pops out at you?  That was Susan Jane Foster for me.  We searched all around but were unable to locate her grave.  South Fork was probably the largest cemetery we visited, but I am hoping to contact someone who could possibly have a map or layout of the cemetery, as it is one without an office, which explained the lack of information on the internet. (I’ll note here, none of the cemeteries we visited had an office).

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The gravestone of my Great-Grandfather, Andrew Jackson Blair, who died when a mine he was working in collapsed and crushed his lungs.  He was 45 years old.
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The gravestone of his daughter, my Great-Aunt Vada Blair Reese.  She died in Arizona in 1995, she was 87.
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This is the headstone of my Great-Grandmother, Bertha Childers Blair Chappell.  Her first husband was Andrew Jackson Blair (above) and her daughter was Vada. Bertha passed away in 1963 at the age of 77. To see an actual photo of her, look to my header, she is the one on the end of the couch not as happy as the others.  Her son, Leroy, is on the far right, he is my Grandfather.

Second Stop: Mount Hope Cemetery

Our next stop had us taking the above hills to arrive at Mount Hope Cemetery. This was a much smaller cemetery, and luckily because of websites like Find A Grave someone had already uploaded a photo of my Great-Grandmother’s gravestone so I had some idea what to look for shape-wise.

Below is the headstone belonging to Margaret Wise Custer, though I knew her as Gammy.  She is the only one of the relatives I searched for on this day that I had met. I have vague memories of her playing the “mouth organ” in a nursing home. She passed away in 1987 at the age of 96.  My Grandma, her daughter, lived to be 94. Good genes.

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My Great-Grandmother, Margaret Dora Wise.  To see what she looked like look at the top border photo, she is the white-haired lady with the patterned dress laughing (her daughter is to the right).

Third Stop: Hopewell Cemetery

When we looked up Hopewell Cemetery on Google Maps attempting to get something of an address for this location, it looked rather flat.  We could see it had sections but never dreamed the slant that the cemetery was created on.  It was the next largest cemetery we visited.  I didn’t find my Great-Great-Grandparents that were buried here.  Since I had no cell service I wasn’t able to consult Find A Grave to see if either of them were listed.  Turns out that my Great-Great-Grandfather, Philip Wise did have a photo on the website, but his wife, Barbara Waite Wise, did not.

Hopewell is filled with old graves that are very worn.  We tried to look all over in the older section of the cemetery, thinking that is where they may be (Philip passed in 1878 while Barbara passed in 1881).

I did find my Great-Great-Aunt Elizabeth Childers Whitfield’s grave in my search and took a photo of it (she was my Great-Grandmother Bertha Childers older sister).  I figured it made the stop somewhat worth it. But looking at the photo – look at how angled the ground is!  This was another spot I’m not sure my car could have survived.

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Stop Four: Duvall’s Cemetery

Duvall’s Cemetery was built on land that belonged to my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Basil Foster.  So this one had a little extra charm for me, I was going to walk on land that I knew belonged to my ancestors.  I’m a geek and think that’s thrilling.  I think everyone else thinks I’m nuts in these situations (you should see me at Yorktown and Mount Vernon knowing I’ve walked where George may have stepped, it gives me goosebumps).

But Duvall’s Cemetery is also where many of my direct line relatives are buried.  I actually found out 2 days after this visit it held one more grave, that of Andrew Jackson Blair, my Great-Great-Grandfather, father of the aforementioned Andrew Jackson Blair, and husband of the aforementioned Susan Jane Foster (yes, as in Basil Foster). I actually looked for Susan here but was unsuccessful.

Here are my relatives buried in Duvall Cemetery: Andrew Jackson Blair (1851), Charles Jackson Morgart (my Great-Grandfather, first husband of Margaret Wise, aka Maggie Custer), Basil Foster, Richard Lewis Foster, Charity Johnstone Foster, Thomas Foster, Eliza Horton Foster – just to name a few.  These are my direct line ancestors as on my first trip, I’d have to spend all day in each cemetery to find everyone.

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Richard Lewis Foster, my 4th-Great-Grandfather
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Charity Johnstone Foster, my 4th-Great-Grandmother
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Basil Foster, my 5th-Great-Grandfather

 

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Charles Jackson Morgart, my Great-Grandfather. The only photo I have of him is the baby picture used above on my header border.  He was born in 1873, so to have this christening photo is just incredible for me.

I was unable to find Thomas Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, or his wife, Eliza Horton Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandmother.  There were many worn graves and some that had fallen apart off the screws where the tops were face down into the grass. It was so sad to see so many graves this way.  These were someone’s people, and my husband told me straight off that no, he could not lift them alone.  He knows me so well.

Stop Five: Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery

As we were driving, on our way to what ended up being our sixth stop, I saw a road and it turned out we were near Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery, where a majority of my Fesler and Childers family members are buried.  I was not able to find everyone, but I did find 2 of the 5 that I was looking for – the first being my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, George Henry Fesler who fought in several smaller battles during the Civil War and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Oakman Fesler.  My Great-Great-Grandmother, Sarah Jane Fesler Childers is reportedly buried there as well, but I was unable to find her. The area where the Fesler’s is an older portion of the cemetery in the back corner under a huge tree.  Where George’s has been maintained – his wife and children’s are very worn.

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George Henry Fesler, he was born in 1824 and passed away in 1911.
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Mary Elizabeth Oakman was born in 1826 and passed away in 1872. Her gravestone has “Mother” on the top which is still visible though the rest of the marker is bare.

Others we were unable to find were my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Abraham Childers and his wife, Mary Ann Green.  This was another spot where Find A Grave would have been helpful as it has one of theirs listed, but again, no service (I’ll know to save the photos ahead of time for future visits).

Stop Six: Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (aka Rays Hill Cemetery)

When we pulled alongside the road to Mount Zion Lutheran Church and Cemetery, the parking lot was blocked off with metal gates.  As we sat in the car we saw huge gravestones saying “Ritchey” which was one of the names I was looking for. We searched for a while and then it hit me – I’d seen the headstones on Find a Grave and began looking for white.  Here, if we had just started in the front (translated, not far from where we parked) my Great-Great-Grandparents were in the front row, and my 3rd Great-Grandparents were in the row directly behind them.

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Anna Cypher Ritchey was my 3rd-Great-Grandmother on my dad’s maternal side. She was born in 1820 and passed in 1889.
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George Ritchey, husband of Anna Cypher, he is my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, born in 1810 and died in 1898.
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Mary Ann Ritchey Morgart Hughes was born in 1851 and passed away in 1908.  My Great-Great-Grandmother.
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George Washington Morgart, my Great-Great-Grandfather. He was born in 1849 and passed away unexpectedly in 1895.

Stop Seven: It’s Not a Cemetery, it’s a Tavern

So as we drove along the Lincoln Highway I hoped we would drive by the Morgart Tavern, which was started by my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and then run by my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart.  The building was constructed in the 1760’s and the walls are to be 2-feet deep.  I was so excited when we found it.  We knocked on the door before taking photos but no one was home.  It’s when you find the places and even buildings where they lived that tickles me the most, a feeling of they were here.

 

Stop Eight: Providence Union Church Cemetery

This was our favorite cemetery, primarily because when we arrived we parked the truck, opened the door and there was my 5th-Great-Grandfather’s resting place front and center.  He and his wife were our easiest finds of the day.  We probably spent 5 minutes here. Captain Solomon Sparks fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.  His daughter, Mary Sparks, was married to the before-mentioned Baltzer Morgart.

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Captain Solomon Sparks, my 5th-Great-Grandfather, born in 1760 and passed in 1838.
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Rachel Weimer Sparks, my 5th-Great-Grandmother, born 1764 and died in 1842.

Stop Nine: The Morgart/Morgret Family Cemetery

This was a fun one as it’s literally in the middle of someone’s backyard.  I don’t think the family is a Morgart, I would like to think they would have asked more questions about my being related to them (or not, being an uber-introvert my husband knocked on the door and asked if it was okay to go look at the cemetery, they were very nice and told us we could even pull up in the driveway next to the pole barn.  I also want to add that seeing as it was mowed to the same height as the rest of the yard, this family took excellent care of the cemetery, you could easily read things, the gravestones we were weed-whacked, just really impressed).

So here I had many relatives buried, my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and his wife, Christiana Hess (my 5th-Great-Grandmother), my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart and his wife (and my 4th-Great-Grandmother), Mary Sparks, and lastly my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Andrew Jackson Morgart and his wife, Rebecca O’Neal.

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Grave of Peter Morgart, my 5-Great Grandfather who fought in the Battle of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War and watched as Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington (or so the lore goes, gives me goosebumps as everyone knows George is my hero!). He was born in 1758 and died in 1846.
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Headstone of my 5th-Great-Grandmother Christiana Hess Morgart.  She was born in 1761 and died in 1839.
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Gravestone of Baltzer Morgart, my 4th-Great-Grandfather who ran the Morgart Tavern. He was born in 1785 and died in 1853.
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Gravestone of Mary Sparks, my 4th-Great-Grandmother born 1798 and died in 1874. She was the daughter of Captain Solomon Sparks.
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The headstone of Andrew Jackson Morgart who was my 3rd-Great-Grandfather.  He was a farmer who was born in 1824 and died in 1870.
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The grave of Rebecca O’Neal Morgart, wife of Andrew Jackson Morgart who was born in 1824 and passed away in 1898. She was my 3rd-Great-Grandmother.

Last Stop: Dudley Methodist Cemetery

Our last stop was to find my Great-Great-Grandparents, Jonas and Anna Maria Leighty Wise.  I was so excited to find them as 2 days later I was able to take a photo of a picture that my second cousin Hope had of them that was left after a Wise Family Reunion back in the 1990s.  My Grandma Blair (her married last name) also talked so fondly of her “Granny Wise” that finding their graves had a lot of importance.  But my husband and I must have looked at every single tombstone in the cemetery and we were unable to find them.  I was so disappointed.  I had no cell service so I was unable to look them up (it would have done me no good, there are no photos on Find A Grave). They were the parents of my Great-Grandmother, Margaret Wise.

Since returning home I did email the Dudley United Methodist Church on a hope they had a layout of the cemetery but I’ve not heard back from them.  I could kick myself as it didn’t occur to me when I was there, but my husband found 9 graves of Wise’s but I didn’t recognize the names. Only later did it register that my Great-Great-Grandmother had a total of 15 children, but only 5 survived. Nine graves he found – I wonder if they are 9 of the 10 she lost.

Jonas & Anna Maria Wise

Wrapping It Up

Since this post is ever-so-long I’ll stop here and do another post for the next 2 days.  Cemetery hopping is fun.  It gave me an opportunity to be near my ancestors.  Without them, I wouldn’t be here.  It’s just so fascinating to learn their names and to do my best to learn about them and who they were. Just trying my best for them not to be forgotten.

 

Genealogy, My Family Tree

Preparing for a Research Trip

Have you ever gone on a research trip for your family history?  Next week I am going on my first trip.  I am so excited.  I knew my children wouldn’t be so my dad has been nice enough to care for them and the dog while my husband and I head to Bedford County, Pennsylvania (about 4 hours from our home) so I can do a cemetery search and hopefully find original land and probate records from my relatives who passed away over a hundred years ago.

Having never gone on a trip like this before, I am sure there are lots of mistakes that I am making, so I decided to watch a very informative webinar by Family Tree Webinars that was given by Nicka Smith entitled “Get Set, GO! Planning and Executing a Successful Research Trip”.  I was amazed at how many things I hadn’t really thought of doing, so that’s when I started getting my ducks in a row.

I then turned to the book I purchased about a month ago, “Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher” by Drew Smith (after listening to the Genealogy Guys Podcast I realized how knowledgeable he is, AND he sat next to me at the Meet and Greet at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in early May).  In his book, Drew has an entire chapter dedicated to getting organized for a research trip.

Stay Focused

Both Nicka and Drew have various details in common:  stay focused on what you are going there to research, have a plan, call ahead – make sure the places you are going to research are open the day that you are planning on going, AND find out if what you want to research is on site for you to look through, space can be limited for historical documents and it’s entirely possible that the land records from 1873 are off-property but if you call a few days in advance, they could have them waiting there for you when you plan on being there.

“Focus” was the word.  Bright, shiny objects are always a threat when you are researching but can especially happen when you are on a research trip.  This is where apps like Evernote or OneNote can come in handy – note your find, mark down the book you found your information in and either come back to it if you found everything you were looking for – or look for it on another trip.

I know I am presently still figuring out all that I need to look at.  I have so many empty holes for specific people at various points in my tree that I am a bit overwhelmed at what exactly I am going to be looking for.  Besides visiting the Bedford County Courthouse (which is my second visit) it has been highly recommended to me to visit the Bedford County Historical Society.  I have a feeling that I may end up finding a bunch of information at the Historical Society, but I am not 100% certain what all they have (I keep getting snippets of information in my Facebook Group that they have a lot. The Historical Society also acts as the Genealogical Society as well).

Questions to Ask

  • What hours are they open (you can’t always go by what their website states)?
  • Am I able to take photos of what I find with my phone?
  • If I can’t, how much does it cost to make copies?
  • Is everything I may want to research available, or are there items I need to request in advance?

You want to be as prepared as you can possibly be for your trip, as you don’t want to have driven a long way and be disappointed.

Another tip that I read in a Genealogy Gems blog by Lisa Louise Cooke is to be patient.  Things may not go as smoothly as you envisioned in your head (things seldom do) but if you keep a good mindset and roll with the punches, it will allow you to have a wonderful trip.

Below is a very simplistic page I created (reminiscent of one in the webinar by Nicka Smith) as a way to keep me focused on my cemetery search that is going to take place on Monday.  I’ve listed the cemeteries, who is buried there, and then I can come up with a few others who I am not sure where they are buried (for example, my great-great-grandmother Susan Jane Foster is buried at South Fork Cemetery, but I’m uncertain if her husband is buried there too.  He died before death certificates were mandatory (in 1899) so I don’t have a slip of paper telling me where he is buried (yet – can you say that’s part of why I’m visiting the Bedford County Historical Society) but I’m hoping that maybe I will find him buried with her (or possibly with his children as Susan Jane didn’t pass until 1943).  The purpose is to keep myself focused and I think this will do the job (like the little checkboxes?). The blank space to the right is for notes.

PA Research Trip

Most of those I have listed are direct line relatives.  I’m sure if I see others I’ll photograph them.  Those with an asterisk have special importance to me, so they are the exception to the direct line rule (I have essentially 3 days, I’m trying to acquire as much as I can but distant aunts, uncles, and cousins can wait).

I’ll update you on my progress next week.  My husband thought I’d be able to visit everything in just a few days.  I have relatives from Bedford, Fulton, Somerset, Cambria and Huntingdon counties in Pennsylvania, unless I am the world’s fastest and most efficient researcher, I don’t see conquering 4 counties in 2 days, not with both sides on my paternal side of my family to seek information on.

Do you have any tips or suggestions – I feel like in all I’ve read and watched I’m missing something critical to share with you.  I’m sure I’ll think of it as soon as I hit “send”. I’d love to hear about anyone’s experience on their own visits to their families homeland. I am super excited to see mine and I’m meeting with a distant cousin and will get copies of photos of family members I’ve not seen.

Wish me luck!

Genealogy

Giving Your Ancestors a Life

A big difference between my husband and myself is how we relate to our families.  He has just started, so maybe I shouldn’t judge him so harshly, but he views his ancestors as names on a screen.

Names on a screen!

Then there is me, I sit there and though they may initially be names on my tree (I will confess my aunts, uncles and distant cousins I do refer to as filler people until I get to know them a little better), I enjoy finding out what I can on them, where they lived, how long, did they marry.  I especially try to find out as much as I can on the little ones.  You know, the ones who pass away before they ever have a birthday, I fear they may be the easiest for time to forget.

The more I research my ancestors, whether it be government documents, city directories, or newspaper articles, I enjoy getting a sense of who they are.

Harold Fairhurst – My Grandfather

Within the last few weeks Newspapers.com was free for a few days and I so enjoyed learning new things about my relatives.  One article that ran in the Akron Beacon Journal on September 17, 1964, referred to when my grandfather, an area golf pro, hit a hole in one.  It was interesting as when I had found it my Aunt Debbie had relayed how he had hit one and won a years supply of Pepsi. He had only hit a hole in one once, so this had to be the time.

The_Akron_Beacon_Journal_Thu__Sep_17__1964_

When I threw my grandfather’s name to find articles about him I was floored when I saw how many hits I received.  My mother had always told me he was a golf pro, but I never realized he held course records in my hometown and was a semi-serious contender.

Alberta Lou – My Grandmother

I found out some interesting bowling information on my mom’s mother too!  I knew my grandmother was on a bowling league but I never knew she was on a league of women bowlers where you had to bowl a 600 series.  My uncle (her son) he gave me the information after I found and shared the following article with him.  It was posted once again in the Akron Beacon Journal on March 14, 1971.

The_Akron_Beacon_Journal_Sun__Mar_14__1971_

Orienta Gustin Warner – My Great-Great-Great-Grandmother

I learned some juicy information about my relatives too.  Again, visiting my mother’s side of the family, this time it was my great-great-great-grandmother, Orienta Gustin Warner who is mentioned in the following article from the Potter Enterprise that ran on February 11, 1904, along with her daughter, Jeanette Warner (Nettie) my second great-great-aunt.

The_Potter_Enterprise_Thu__Feb_11__1904_

Real-life stories of your ancestors help to put them into perspective far more than just dates and names on a computer screen.  The aforementioned Orienta Gustin Warner lived here in Akron, Ohio for the last 6 years or her life.  She passed away at 644 Carpenter Street and I’ve driven past the house, which is less than 5 minutes from my own home.

I’ve used Google to see what all the houses look like (most are still standing, some have been torn down). Once I figure out locations for homes in other areas I plan on doing the same.  This is when technology is at it’s best.

Samuel & Mazie Randol

By using the city directories, I saw how my great-great-grandmother let her daughters move in with her when their marriages failed, I saw her and her husband, Samuel, finding a new house to live in while her daughters stayed in their old one with their new husband, and I saw the pattern repeat. So to me, this shows me Mazie was truly a good person, going out of her way for her girls.  And taking them back in when they needed help and support (and yes, after a while I got a little judgy as I think Mazie and Samuel might have had 2 years alone before he passed away in 1938).

Speaking of Samuel, my father gave me a box of mementos that belonged to my mother’s side of the family. He had no need for them after my mom passed last year, so about 2 months ago he handed the photos off to me.  Inside the box was the book from the funeral home from when Samuel Randol passed away.  He was a trucker when he died in Decatur, Illinois.  He apparently became ill, went to the hospital, and died within a short period of time.  I’ve not ordered up his death certificate yet, I may have difficulty as he is not a blood relative and I think Illinois laws may be a bit more strict than they are here in Ohio. Anyhow, never had I seen so many names in a book of those who visited the funeral home as those who paid their respects to Samuel.  I was dumbfounded.  To me, it’s further proof that he and Mazie were good people.

Ralph Reed

To be fair I’ll throw in the black sheep of my dad’s side of the family.  In the early months of my going to the library and using Ancestry Library Edition to search about my family, I came across the following death certificate for my second cousin twice removed.  His name is Ralph Reed.

RalphReedDeathCertificate

Notice his cause of death?  Electrocution by Legal Execution.  I used a link using my library’s resources which has an academic version of Newspaper Archive on their website.  It’s nice as I was able to use it for free from home using my library card number.

Turns out Ralph and his friends decided to rob a company payroll office one day when companies still paid with cash.  Problem was they beat the cash there, decided to rob the office workers and Ralph shot the one worker in the back (yes, the headlines were man murdered for $60).  They drove off in their getaway car but nearby some telephone repairmen were fixing a wire and watched exactly where they drove off too.  Ralph was sentenced to death while the others had life in prison.  I don’t think the punishment held for all of them though, as I believe at least 2 may have been released (I’ve not thoroughly researched them yet, I will need to take a day to travel to the Ohio History Center in Columbus to find out more details. In 1948 the accused were tried, sentenced and put to death all within a years time.  On May 4, 1949 Ralph was electrocuted. Below is his photo (courtesy of the Ohio Pentitentiary in Columbus, Ohio).

RalphReed-PrisonPhoto

Resources to Use

Maps, probate records, newspaper articles, city directories, all these useful sources can help provide background information on your ancestors.  Even if you can’t find stories directly about them, you can see where they lived using old maps, you can find out what the weather was like reading articles about the area, and if they fought in wars, even if it wasn’t their personal account, reading the diaries of others fighting in the same war can give you insight as to what they went through.

So take the time to search through newspapers, you can get a subscription to such sites as the aforementioned Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank.com or visit the free Library of Congress website ChroniclingAmerica.org to see if you can find some information (trust me, sometimes they just pop right out, other times you have to go through lots of names to find what you are looking for).

Check out your library to see if they give you access to resources such as Newspaper Archive that I mentioned previously.  Sometimes you can get access to library editions of other searching tools such as MyHeritage or Fold3 as well.

Government Records

Government records work too – the census gives you where your ancestor is at a specific point in time, probate records can illustrate how their life was at the end and who their relatives are/were, if they are males registrations for wars come in handy as it lets you know next of kin, eye color, height, any interesting marks (such as scars, birthmarks, etc), all of this can give you a better indication of who your ancestors were.

So now I’ve given you more reasons to analyze those documents you’ve found to find out the story behind the story of your ancestors.  It’s worth going the extra mile because they become far more memorable when you have a story to tell than if they are just a name on the screen.

Have you found out anything interesting about your family?  Share with me in the comments below.

Genealogy, My Family Tree

Make Sure You Look at Everything on the Census!

For two years I’ve had a brick wall in my great-great aunt Margaret Blair who was born in October 1879.  She is on the 1880 census as this is how I know she lived.  She has been one of my biggest mysteries.  By the time the 1900 census comes around, Margaret would have been 20 so I never knew if she had passed away in childhood or just gotten married with her license just eluding me.

Frustrated I reached out to two different Facebook groups last Friday where I received great advice and suggestions from so many supportive family historians.  One very helpful commenter suggested that I examine the 1900 and 1910 census because they both state how many total children a woman had and how many were still alive.

You know that emoji where it looks like a woman smacking herself on the forehead?  It’s my favorite emoji, and my most used.  That was me after reading the recommendation. OVER TWO YEARS and the answer was in front of me the entire time.

I remembered seeing that column on the census way back when I first found the censuses for many family members.

So make sure you know what your census has to offer.  Over the years the US government has asked different questions of its population on the census forms.

1790 Census

The first census of the United States was pretty basic.  It was all about free white males 16 and older, free white males under 16, free white females of all ages were lumped together, then other free persons, and then slaves. Only the heads of household were listed, along with the state and county.

1800 Census

The second census of the United States expanded on the first one, where it became a little more precise with the age groups of the free white males and free white females, then it was all other free persons, and then slaves.

1810 Census

The third census of the United States was not really that creative and was pretty much the same as in 1800.

1820 Census

The fourth census of the United States still had the same breakdown of free white males and free white females, but this particular year they were interested about foreigners who were not yet naturalized, who was earning a living in agriculture, commerce or manufacturing, then it went into more detail about the ages of slaves, and the ages of free colored persons.

1830 Census

The fifth census of the United States was more of the same, but along with the age increments of all segments of the population, the government also wanted to know who was deaf, dumb (as in couldn’t speak), blind (these were also spread out below age 14, between 14 and 25, and above 25 for both whites and blacks), and they still wanted to know who was an unnaturalized foreigner.

1840 Census

The sixth census of the United States was similar to the 1830 census, but it was also curious about who were pensioners of the Revolutionary War, occupations expanded from just three categories to mining, agriculture, manufacturing, navigation of the ocean, navigation of lakes and rivers, or worked as a professional engineer. There were also questions referencing education/college.

1850 Census

The seventh census of the United States, also the first census most people like as it lists the name of everyone living in a house, age, sex, color, value of real estate, profession, place of birth, married, if they attended school, if they could read or write, and whether deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper or convict.

1860 Census

The eighth census of the United States was very similar to the 1850 census but along with the value of the real estate, it also asked the value of one’s personal estate.

1870 Census

The ninth census of the United States inquired a lot of the basic information of 1860, but was curious about whether your parents were foreign-born and if so, where?  Also asked if you were born or married within the past year, what month? If you had attended school within the past year?  And if you were a male citizen 21 years or older, and if you were 21 and older and if your right to vote is denied due to crimes or rebellion.

1880 Census

The tenth census of the United States began asking questions such as what street you lived on, your relation to the head of the household, single, married, widow, your profession, if you had been unemployed in the past year, if you were sick or disabled, blind, deaf, dumb, insane, if you had attended school, and where you born, and where your parents were born.

1900 Census

The twelfth census of the United States was the first of two with how many children a woman bore and how many survived as of the census, it also asked what year you immigrated to the US, and how long you have lived here, and if you were naturalized.  It asked for a profession, if you attended school, knew English and if you owned or rented your home, if it was a farm or a house, and the farm schedule.

1910 Census

The thirteenth census of the United States delved a little deeper into one’s profession, only cared to know if you were deaf or blind, and also asked if you were an Army or Navy member during the Civil War.

1920 Census

The fourteenth census of the United States delved a little deeper into the ethnicity of people, as it asked where you from but also your mother tongue for both fathers and mothers as well as oneself.

1930 Census

The fifteenth census of the United States was similar to the previous ones, but it also asked what your age on your last birthday was, how old you were when you married, whether you were a veteran, did you work?

1940 Census

The sixteenth census of the United States along with all the information of the previous census’ wanted to know what your highest level/grade of school,  if the individual worked for the WPA, what your occupation was and the industry you worked for, and how much money you made.

Margaret

I had seen the line items on the 1900 and 1910 census about the number of children born and the number of children who were still surviving at the point in time.  Here is the 1910 Census for my great-great-grandmother, Susan Jane Foster (Blair). Both the 1900 and the 1910 Census state the same numbers, but on the 1910 census she is at the top of a sheet.

1910 Census

Susan had 9 total children and 6 survived.  I can account for her 6 living children: Phoebe Jane Blair, Loretto Jane Blair, Andrew Jackson Blair, Minnie Blair, William Blair, and John Blair.  She had 3 that died, Margaret was one of them.

This had me sad.  I really hoped she ran off and got married and I just hadn’t tracked her marriage information yet.  In a months time, I’m going to head to Pennsylvania and visit some relatives, cemeteries and the Bedford County courthouse, where I hope I am able to find out what happened to poor Margaret.  I have two others to find as well.

The Moral of the Story

Pay attention to the details that your census offers, because even though they give you names and approximate birth dates for your ancestors, they can solve your brick walls too.

So many of us use computer programs where we upload the document into our system, and yes we look at enumeration districts and who else is listed when we share our document with all who are on it for citations but do we really KNOW what it’s telling us?

So your homework is to go print off clean copies of the census, and transcribe what you see onto the clean sheet of paper for your relatives, so you can know them better, and tell their stories in a whole new way.

 

Genealogy

The Most Important Thing I Learned at My Conference

Last week I attended the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in Mason, Ohio and there was one topic that was repeated no matter what the subject of the class was… FamilySearch, Ohio Archives, Finding Females, Newspapers, British Roots, Bright Shiny Objects… and that was you should always have a research plan.

Why Should You Follow a Research Plan?

I’ll confess, the closest I come to having a plan when it comes to my own genealogical journey is beginning each day with an “I think I’ll work on my great-great-great-grandfather, George Henry Fesler” today and I proceed to enter into my program all the information I have and search for the documents that I don’t.

But having a research plan can keep you focused.  It can help you from getting distracted by the beforementioned bright shiny objects (I’m sure you have come into contact with those – a document that you find or information on another ancestor that you stumble upon that you just HAVE to follow up on RIGHT NOW).

The Steps of a Research Plan

Steps in a Research Plan

Depending on the website you seek your information from, recommended research plans seem to fall between 5 and 7 steps. Most that were gone over in my classes seemed to go with 5-steps.

1. What is Your Objective?

It’s always best to know what it is you want to know before you sit down and begin randomly searching for information.  Even I when I just decide “I’m going to work on researching my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather George Henry Fesler”, I have identified who I want to research.  I’m in the process of still adding many family members to the software that I use, or sometimes I have the basic information down (to fill in a fan chart or such) but I need to add documents, events, and sources.

2. What Information Do You Already Have?

It’s always best to double check the information that you have already acquired for a person because you may already have the answer that you seek.  And by finding out what information you have, narrows down the information you still need to seek.  Sometimes it’s helpful to even look at other close relatives such as father’s because you may be missing a census in one file but have it in another (assuming you file by the head of household).

Going back to my example of George Henry Fesler, I had a number of files that I had downloaded, and when I was adding them to my software I often don’t have the information for the citations handy and will either re-find the document on FamilySearch or Ancestry.com for this.  Here on my personal family tree on Ancestry.com I saw where I had attached George’s death certificate, but I never downloaded the file. Lucky for me my husband had a 14-day free trial of Ancestry that hadn’t been used and I was able to instantly download the death certificate (don’t worry, if this was not a possibility I would have gone to the library and used the free Ancestry Library Edition).

3. Create a Hypothesis on What You Believe to be True?

Hypothesis is such a big word.  It makes me think of tenth grade when I had to write a term paper for my Expository Writing Class.  I’m sure I learned about it in science too, but the term paper really seems to strike a chord.

According to Wikipedia, a hypothesis is “a proposed explanation for phenomenon”. Basically, it’s the information you think you will find.

For example, I think George Henry Fesler, my great-great-great grandfather, died in Wells Tannery, Pennsylvania.

Until I re-discovered his death certificate attached to my tree on Ancestry.com, I wasn’t 100% certain where George passed.

4. What Records Will Prove Your Hypothesis?

To prove or disprove your hypothesis you will need to find records that will either support or discredit what you believe.  These are often government documents such as census records, death certificates, pension files, or published records such as city directories, or an obituary in the paper.

What records will I need to prove that George Henry Fesler died in Wells Tannery, Pennsylvania?  I know that his death certificate will be helpful, possibly his grave, census records could assist with letting me know precise locations of where he lived every ten years before his death. Where he is buried helps, but a person can die anywhere (my great-great-grandmother’s 2nd husband died on a trip visiting family in Illinois and he lived in Akron, Ohio), often they live in the vicinity of where they are buried or reside.

5. Do Your Research!

Now you find those documents I mentioned above that you don’t have.  I was lucky enough to discover my great-great-great-grandfather’s death certificate was somewhat in my possession.  George actually lived in Wells Township in Fulton County, Pennsylvania pretty much his entire life.  He is buried at Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery in Wells Tannery.  He was born in Bedford County, but all the census’ from 1850-1910 have him living in Wells Township.

A Way to Stay Focused

Researching with a plan is going to be my new motto.  It’s one thing to attend maybe one or two classes where it was mentioned – but I attended 6 classes each day at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference (and I went to 6 classes each day – despite recommendations to possibly sit out a time to mingle with others – there was too much to learn) and I would say at least 3 classes each day began with how important research plans are.

Research plans help you stay focused.  Sure you’re going to come across bright shiny objects but as Lisa Louise Cooke stated – “embrace them, save them for later” and keep your focus on your task at hand.  You can always spend time another day just following up on those unexpected gems.

So the next time you decide to sit down for a spell of working on your family history, trying creating a research plan and let me know if you find it to be helpful or a hindrance.

Happy Hunting!

 

Genealogy

I’m At My First Genealogy Conference!

You know when you hit a fork in the road and realize you are all in with your genealogy journey when you go to your first genealogy conference. That is where I am at present, sitting in my hotel room, typing away after my second fun-filled day going to classes.

What Have I Learned?

I have learned things from using new software (Adobe Spark), utilizing FamilySearch in tracing my British roots, how to embrace bright shiny objects, how to prepare oneself for research trips, DNA, and lastly, overseas colonial research (which is pre-1776).

Who Have I Seen?

It’s a bit intimidating at times as I walk around the hallways of the Great Wolf Lodge and see such names as Blaine Bettinger, Lisa Louise Cooke, Thomas MacEntee, The Genealogy Guys, Lisa Alzo (I have listened to so many of her webinars on Legacy Family Tree Webinars I wish one of her lectures didn’t always fall within one I really need… goosebumps!).

Have You Ever Thought of Going?

If so, then go!  I’ll confess it makes for a long day but you don’t have to go all in as I did, which was 3-full days.  (They had workshops on Wednesday but nothing screamed – come to this workshop! I did attend a meet and greet with many of the bigger names in attendance and it was extremely informative).

You can register for 1, 2 or 3 days here at the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Conference.  Next years is scheduled already and will be taking place up in Sandusky.

Exhibitors

Do you know how many books I’ve bought?  My husband was really surprised that they had so many books on genealogy.

I laughed.

But so many great books about research.  If only they had Pennsylvania books about Bedford or Potter county – SOLD!

But it’s not just books, it’s photo scanning, and historical societies (representing Ohio counties and ones from neighboring states).  Fun stuff like mouse pads, and archival pens and a cool clicky eraser (yes, a throwback from when I was in high school or possibly a freshman in college), t-shirts, jewelry, DNA, the list goes on.

Conclusion

I’m sure I’ll go into more detail in the next week or so, and missing my family aside, I’m so happy that I came to the OGS Conference.  It made me see how many people are out there that are just like me… lovers of genealogy and so incredibly interested in finding their people.

It has been an incredibly fun 3 days, with 1 more to go.  I have learned so much and can’t wait to up my game in my research process (which it’s so apparent what I’m doing wrong – I lack focus!).

Until next time.