Genealogy

Genealogy For Free? I’m Going to Try

I’ll admit, I love all the records a certain subscription site offers when I am working on my genealogy. Especially for Pennsylvania, and that’s where my paternal ancestors all reside (and half of my maternal for a while). But sometimes it’s so easy to just keep clicking away at those hints that I try to take my time and examine things before I click yes (and often click ignore) but I know I may still go awry.

So in less than a week my latest membership expires. I’ll admit, I don’t have the money to pay the full price for six months worth of research (I’m a “wait a handful of months and get a better deal” type). So I’m going to work on my family tree using what is at my disposal for free (except I’m still in the midst of a Newspaper.com subscription that may be renewed if they offer the deal up again just because it offers me so many Pennsylvania newspapers).

This will also give me the opportunity to re-examine my tree. And in my remaining week I’ll try to catch up on stuff I have already added to my own Legacy Family Tree software and complete the citations (I know I am horrible as I should be doing them as I enter the information).

Have you ever taken the time to re-focus on your genealogy research? If you have any tips I’d appreciate them!

This quote was found on http://www.rosecoloredwater.com
Genealogy, My Family Tree

Going Back to the Basics

When I began my family history journey, I remember how I made sure in countless ways before I added someone to my tree that they belonged. I had to have censuses showing that they were in the family with my relative for me to truly believe that they deserved to be on my tree.

I’ve been working on my tree for 4 years now and for the most part I have stayed true to this theory. Occasionally I will forego and add people I see, for example, many online trees had a Wealthy Blair listed as a daughter for my great-great-grandparents. Even my late cousin Darlene had Wealthy listed on a family sheet for the same said 2nd-great-grandparents. I’ve never found any information on her, she was born and died before 1880. When I look at the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census which asks how many total children a woman had, there are always 3 children that had passed for my great-great-grandmother, and I always assumed one was Wealthy (one other was Margaret, born in October 1879 and lastly an unknown child I just have listed on my tree as I have no birth or death dates for them).

But since I began organizing my DNA matches I’ve found myself getting envious of tree size. I see people with 48,987 people on their tree and my eyes just widen and my jaw drops. What a glorious tree!

And then I find myself going new person after new person checking out the hints and adding (always logically, but still adding) them to my tree. One after another and I’m fairly certain most of my people are legitimate people with fairly good dates off said hints (I am rational enough to NOT add people who were born 100 years earlier coming on a boat from England when they were born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania), but still, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in hints on Ancestry and the one big tree on FamilySearch.

So I’ve started over from scratch in a way. One by one I’m going through my people in my personal family tree software that I keep on my computer. This is my main tree, the tree I don’t really share with the world and the one I find to be the most accurate. I’m going through one by one and making sure all the documents that I have in my online folders are included on the tree. Some items I have, like the beforementioned great-great-grandmother who my late cousin Darlene hand wrote her obituary and this is the only way I have it, I knew I had it in an envelope of documents Darlene had sent me, and now I have scanned it and added it to her profile.

The profile of my great-great-grandparents, Andrew Jackson Blair & Susan Jane Foster. You can see on the children listed that Wealthy appears to be the second oldest child. The last one designated as “Blair” was the child I don’t know when the child was born or the gender.
Specific records I’ve entered for Susan Jane Foster. See the book icon, that represents citations for the records. The City Directory I need to look up (probably found on Ancestry so the information should be there), the final one, her obituary was a handwritten copy by my cousin, Darlene Reese Prosser.

I’m also comparing them to the Ancestry tree just in case there is a random document that I have on there that I hadn’t downloaded (that happens sometimes when I’m out and about and am not on my regular computer to save the documents as easily). By doing this I can clean up the Ancestry tree at the same time.

In the long run I must remember it’s not the size of my tree that matters, it truly is quality that counts. I’ve worked so hard and I want to be 100% positive that I’m putting the correct people in my tree.

This was all brought to my attention when I was working on my mother’s side of the family. I’ve haven’t delved into the Fairhurst branch often, but I have learned there are many William and Thomas Fairhurst’s out there, and trying to make sure I select the correct one was getting me quite confused.

So I took a deep breath and slowed down. It’s not a race. I’ll find each and every ancestor when they want me to find them.

Book, Genealogy

My Week in Quarantine

So I haven’t really done as much researching as I have wanted to do in my family history journey but this past week I spent some of my days creating an introduction to genealogy PowerPoint presentation for my son’s Boy Scout Troop.

It’s pretty basic as I’ve included what ancestors are, descendants, how you really only need 7 to 15 names to begin working on your family tree on the major online databases (FamilySearch, Ancestry or MyHeritage) and then detailed the items you need to seek: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and censuses to start out.  Throw in examples of family group sheets, pedigree charts, a brief bit on land records, how everyone needs to search newspaper articles and a little bit of information about DNA and you have a 31 slide presentation all raring to go (unless of course I forgot some major point that I was suppose to include – which hubby is looking it over as I type this).

It was a fun endeavor as I got to show off my favorite documents in the presentation – Ralph Reed’s death certificate – I figured as part of ad-libbed anecdotes I’ll discuss my surprise in finding his at the library, my grandfather’s birth certificate where he was originally named Charley Wilmer but my grandmother opted to change it to Leroy at some point later in time (would love to know when that took place). For newspapers I included the article about why Ralph was executed and what his last meal was, and my grandfather Harold Fairhurst’s hole in one. I also included a 1910 Federal Census where several of the families on 1-sheet were all related – my great-grandparents lived near several of my great-grandmother’s brothers and sisters.

Tomorrow night I get to practice my presentation as I’ve never been on the speaking end of a conference call or using the meeting software.  Fingers crossed it goes well.  My son’s troop has decided to still meet electronically so they can still earn merit badges in this isolating time (my daughters troop has done the same).

I hope everyone is handling the isolation in their own way.  Being an introvert I knew I’d somewhat excel at this – but even I’m missing people (I see people on my weekly trip to the grocery store but it’s not the same as I don’t really talk to people – it’s more sport now than shopping as you do your best to stay 6 feet apart).

Wishing everyone all the best in these trying times!

Genealogy

Mind Mapping

I’m presently taking a class on genealogy and one of the things they briefly went over in last week’s portion is mind mapping.  I’ll be honest, I never really knew what mind mapping was, now I could sum it up to it being brainstorming on a piece of paper.  But I decided to take a little more in-depth examination of mind mapping and how it can help you with your family history research.

What is Mind Mapping

Using the Wikipedia definition, a “mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information”. It’s hierarchal and shows relationships among the pieces of the whole. According to MindMapping.com, it’s a “highly effective way of getting information in and out of your brain” as it’s both creative and logical at the same time.  Mind maps are illustrations of what you are thinking.

Which goes back to my original statement of it being like brainstorming on a piece of paper.

Characteristics of Mind Mapping

There are certain characteristics that each mind map must possess.

Main Idea

Each mind map has a main idea.  It’s the theme of what your mind map is about.

Branches

These are the main ideas that branch off of your main idea that create connections.

Keywords

These words or ideas that support or describe your main idea are summarized into keywords, no sentences allowed.

Twigs

Lastly, you have less important ideas that aid in describing the keywords, and these branch off onto smaller lines, or twigs.

Creating Mind Maps

There are different ways to create mind maps.  You can draw from hand (I apologize for my bad photo – somehow my paper got folded but something told me trying to re-write it wouldn’t work as I’d probably just mess it up and get totally frustrated).

20191112_193005

Mind maps can also be made with computer software.  Some of the software that you can use are the following: Coggle, Mindly, Draw.io, iMindMap, MindMup, MindMeister, Scapple, and SmartDraw to name just a few.

MindMapping_mindmap_handdrawn-796x531
Photo found at MindMeister.com

Using Your Mind Map

Mind mapping is a tool that helps make you a better thinker. When you come across a problem, even something that really has you stumped like a brick wall, write it down, all of it, you may just get pointed in the right direction on where to look next.

The one I did above is one of my brick walls, which actually leads to a bigger brick wall.  George Washington Blair is the 4th child of my great-great-great-grandparents.  I only have 1 death certificate listing my 3x-great-grandmothers name and I strongly feel that if I can find George Washington Blair’s death certificate, that maybe it will give me some insight on my 3x-great-grandparents.

A mind map isn’t going to solve your problems, but it will allow you to see your information in a logical flow and give you the opportunity to see what you still need to find, and then you can best decide where to go to seek your answers.

Good luck!

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

Scrapbooking

“Scrapbooking is a method of preserving, presenting, and arranging personal and family history in the form of a book, box or card” – Wikipedia.

 

For a few years, I was really into scrapbooking. My aunt introduced me to it one weekend when she set up a bunch of tables in her attic and had several friends and family over for a “crop”.

Never having done this before I grabbed the set my mom had ordered me off QVC and headed over with some photos (not really sure why we had these on hand, I am guessing it was something that had crossed our minds – and my mom could not resist a “Today’s Special Value”  to save her soul).

I was hooked after one time. I got up the next morning and went to the store to purchase key tools that I would need and convinced my husband it was going to be a good investment (I still have and use these items). The photos I chose were my honeymoon pictures. I figured a week’s worth of memories from Busch Gardens (Williamsburg), Myrtle Beach, and Savannah would be enough to keep me occupied for an evening,.

I had so much fun creating the pages, bringing those moments to life in a fun, whimsical way – including journaling – that allows my kids to know what was happening the first week of June in 2003 with their crazy parents.

On the next crop, I convinced my mom to go and she did the same as I did, she chose photos from a specific event (I think it was the 30th-anniversary party I threw for her and my dad) and used her set to begin her own creative journey.

My mom ended up taking her scrapbooking to a much higher level than me. She learned new techniques by taking classes from a variety of experts in the field that she discovered online. She also tried her hand at digi-scrapping which is when everything is done on the computer. She loved all sorts of concepts and took different challenges about herself, the past, everything (though her favorite topics were my kids, her only grandchildren).

My mother completed a number of layouts that pertained to genealogy/family history.  A few are posted below but more of her work can be seen on her website at Gramma’s Happy Place (she passed in late May 2018 so I have no idea how long it will stay up).

Scrapbooks have been around for a long time, not so much as their modern renditions,  but often included with photos were mementos that went along with an event – ticket stubs, hair, flowers, booklets, brochures, coins – all sorts of ephemera. These keepsakes are wonderful ways for us to learn more about our ancestors, assuming we are lucky enough to find such treasures.

My goal as I go along on my genealogical journey is to begin scrapbooking again (I’ve been blessed with all my mom’s supplies, I technically shouldn’t have to purchase anything other than glue/adhesive for years).

Do you scrapbook? Share some of your favorite pages below, it’s always a treat to see what people at their creative best.