Genealogy

I Should Be Driving to Sandusky

Back in late November during a Black Friday Sale I purchased my registration for all 3 days of classes at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference that was taking place at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.

But of course, like so many other events, it was cancelled so here I sit, with my children, working from home instead of driving to Sandusky for a few days of family history fun.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to still give myself a conference experience.

Watch Webinars

I happen to have a subscription to Family Tree Webinars so I am able to watch as many webinars I want.  But throughout this past April they’ve had a free webinar each day, and the Webinar Wednesdays are normally available for a week after it first airs for everyone to watch for free so you can utilize it for one of the days as well.

Check Out Some Podcasts

Podcasts are something I need to listen to more often.  There are a variety of podcasts out there for you to enjoy for free. Here are some I’ve listened to and enjoy:

  • Generations Café by Amy Johnson Crow – these are fun to listen to and they tend to be on the shorter side, which I sometimes like.  I don’t always have 90 minutes to spare to listen to a to longer ones in their entirety and these are just right.
  • The Genealogy Guys – I met George Morgan and Drew Smith at least year’s OGS Conference (and they were to be a part of the Meet & Greet last evening as part of the Genealogy Squad).  They have lots of great information on their podcast.
  • Genealogy Gems – Lisa Louise Cooke always has an informative podcast on her website that is always filled with a variety of topics.
  • Extreme Genes – it’s America’s family history show!  Hosted by Scott Fisher and David Allen Lambert, this successful podcast has topics pertaining to all sorts of areas to help you on your genealogical journey.

These are just a few that I’ve listed. If you Google “genealogy podcasts” you will get about 30 links that you can click on to see if anything flips your trigger, plus there are a bunch of articles that give you the “20 best genealogy podcasts” as well.  I just gave you ones I knew existed and had checked out that were off the top of my head.

Read Some Books

Read! And it doesn’t have to be just genealogy based books (I’m presently reading the How to Do Everything Genealogy Fourth Edition by George G. Morgan – yes, same as mentioned above from the Genealogy Guys. It’s 480 pages and I’m loving it as it just gives me common sense suggestions that I may have overlooked as I have never read an intro book before). You can read books that relate to your relatives.

For example, I recently finished a book by John Fitzgerald called Dirty Mines and it went job by job on what coal miners did, beginning in the breakers for the young kids who could have been starting between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, to being an independent contractor as an actual full-fledge coal miner (they had to pay their helpers with the money they earned for each cart of coal). It was extremely enlightening as I really didn’t know much about what positions there were as you moved up the ladder. It also went into detail about the creation of the United Mine Workers and the Molly Maguires court cases where several men were executed for no other reason other than they were framed because everyone was in cahoots with the other – government, coal companies, judges. Several of my ancestors were coal miners, so this book was exactly what I was looking for to educate me a little more about this industry.

You can also read about the towns your family lived in, books relating to the historical happenings at a specific time of your ancestor, be it on a city, state, or country level.  Sometimes international happenings can effect our people, too.

The same can be said for Civil War diaries.  It may not be the diary of your ancestor, but it would still have similar details of what may have been going on with your relative.

Hang Out in Genealogy Facebook Groups

Lastly, to give me that true conference feel, going and posting questions or helping others with their family history journey will be the icing on the cake.  By visiting some of the many family history groups I belong too on Facebook I should be able to get that wonderful vibe that I got last year about just communicating with others who have a love of this wonderful hobby (well, maybe obsession is a better word). If you have a Facebook account but haven’t checked out any of the genealogy group offerings, you are really missing out.  It is so much fun to read of others’ tales of triumph and woe (well, maybe not fun for this, but there are some stories that definitely bring a tear to your eye).

A person’s family history journey is so special and unique, and being able to share it with others is wonderful.  Not to mention the people in these groups are outstanding, I honestly we feel overall we are the friendliest of all the hobbies as we are always willing to lend a helping hand.

Power Through

I will power through this and I’m sure I will find ways to successfully pass the time while I research my family members.  Yesterday happened to be the 235th birthday of my 4th-great-grandfather and I realized I’d found and saved his information but hadn’t put any of it into my software program.  So we are going to delve into Baltzer Morgart.  He was born in 1785 and I know he ran the Morgart Tavern in Everett, Pennsylvania.  I was able to see the building last summer (sadly, we knocked but no one was home to see if I could have gone inside). He died at the age of 68 in December 1853.

 

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!