Monday, December 31, 2012

Update on My Goals

Back in June I posted that I don't do New Year's resolutions or goals, it's just too much pressure on top of holiday pressure. Instead, I come up with goals every year on my birthday in June. You can see that post here.

Although I don't do resolutions, I did think this might be a good time to check in on my progress. I only had 3 goals, two of which go hand in hand. My first goal was to get a business website up and running. This was a carry over from last year and it keeps getting delayed. The delay is actually a good thing, so I'm not stressing about it. I keep learning about what content to include on my website and revising it. My vision of what my website would look like has completely evolved from a year ago.

My second and third goals were to research and write. Specifically, the research and writing is portfolio focused on my case study and KDP. This is slow going, but I have excellent candidates for both. At this point it is a matter of what has a break through in research and how much ground I can cover for both. This may carry over into next year's goals, and I'm okay with that. They are both large projects.

Of course there are other things I want to get done during the year, but these are my focused goals. I like to keep the goal number attainable. If I list too many things, it's overwhelming and then it seems nothing gets done.

So are you making goals? How many and what are they?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wishing you all a very happy and safe holiday, filled with family, friends, and good cheer. Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hidden Gems at the Used Bookstore

It is no secret in my house that I love books. Whenever I'm in a bookstore a sense of calm and peace always comes over me. What thrills me is that my children seem to love books as much as I do, especially my oldest.

During fall break I took my children to a used book store. After cleaning out my office bookshelves, I had some books to trade in. With the store credit we were all able to benefit from my cleaning binge, not to mention the benefit of it being eco-friendly. The children took off to raid the shelves in the kids section. After firm instructions for the boys to stick together, I quickly popped over a couple of isles to the genealogy section. It's a small section with two tiny little shelves. Sometimes I get lucky with a find, and sometimes not. In between looking around the corner several times to check on my boys, this is what I found:

Do you see how the bookstore spelled genealogy? Apparently they are just as confused as some other people. Aside from the spelling error, I did make a great find:

I was thrilled to find this book. It is one that has been on my list for a while. I was able to get it for a fraction of what a brand new copy would cost, and it is in excellent condition.

If you have never been to your area used book store, I urge you to check it out. One of my best finds has been Producing a Quality Family History by Patricia Law Hatcher. It's a hard book to come by and the copy I found was brand new for a whopping $3.00. There are gems waiting to be found at the used bookstore. Go get them!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Wish List 2012

Last week my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I gave him a blank look and told him I didn't know. My attention had been so focused on everybody else's wish list and Thanksgiving, that I hadn't given much thought about what I wanted. I'm sure over the months there have been some things that caught my eye, but I just couldn't think of them. Since it was late at night, I told the hubs to give me a day and I'd let him know. Here is what I came up with.

  1. DeedMapper Software- This is a software that will plat metes and bounds coordinates for you. You enter in the descriptions/measurements, the plat is made, and now you can place the plat on a map. I've been platting out coordinates myself, so it would be a luxury to just enter them into a program.
  2. Reunion Software- Several months ago an updated version of Reunion was released. It was a long time coming. I work on a Mac so family tree software (at least in the past) has been limited. At this point I've become used to how Reunion works, so I feel somewhat committed. 
  3. GRIP- I would love to go to the Genealogy Research Institute of Pittsburgh this summer. The class that has caught my eye is one taught by Tom Jones. From what I hear Tom will be teaching a relatively new course called, Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard. As with all of Tom's classes I'm sure it will sell out quickly. Registration begins February 7, 2013.
  4. Salt Lake City trip- I haven't been to the genealogy mecca yet (Gasp!). This trip could be coordinated with SLIG, but I know I would sit in class the whole time thinking about what I could find. Therefore, this needs to be a research trip of its own.
  5. Label maker- This may seem a little silly or frivolous, but I want a label maker. I would love for the manilla files to have a uniform look. It would also be easier to read the file names when I pull out the drawer. What can I say.... I'm getting older and so is my eyesight. 
  6. Flash drives- More and more facilities have scanners for microfilm. Not only does this allow for images to be digitized right away, but it saves money for copies, and paper.
  7. Keyboard for my iPad- I would love to be able to take notes on my iPad when researching onsite, save them to Evernote, and then easily access them on my home computer. It would save time, which is a valuable commodity-- at least in this house.
  8. Only a Few Bones by John Colletta- I have been interested in this book for a long time and I've heard great things about it. John is a wonderful speaker/presenter. If you ever have the chance to see him, run, don't walk.
  9. and 10. Research trips- I would love to take some research trips to Colorado, Missouri, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. In some of these cases (especially Colorado) I've done as much research online as I can. I need to do onsite research.
I also need a new computer, but that is a rather high ticket item that I need to save for. I'm just hoping my computer can hang in there until the tax free weekend in August. My other suggestion to my husband was going to Samford in June, but he said that was a given (yay!) and to think of some other things. The above is my genealogy wish list so far. Of course there were a couple of non genealogy items as well. I certainly don't expect to get all of these things or even half, but it gives him some ideas.

So, I have to know, what is on your wish list??

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

May your stomachs be filled with good food, your life filled with happiness, and your home be filled with loving family and friends. Wishing you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Day Spent With the Sayre's

Yesterday the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society hosted their annual seminar. This year's presenters were Rick and Pamela Sayre. They make a great team and I'm always in awe of how tech savvy they are, maybe because it doesn't come that easily to me.

The morning sessions were Google Earth For Genealogists, Part I and II. I actually saw this presentation, or a portion of it, a couple years ago at Samford in an evening session. It is fabulous! In fact, I felt like I got more out of it the second time around. The first time, I just sat there blown away by what they were doing, this time I could focus more on how to do it. Rick and Pam demonstrated how to use Google Earth in your genealogy research. You can plat your ancestor's land then overlay the plat onto Google Earth. David Rumsey has also partnered with Google Earth, and made available some of his historical maps that can also be overlaid onto Google Earth. This can allow you to better view historic landmarks and get a feel of the atmosphere your ancestors lived in. They also showed how to tag places and attach photos or other pieces of information about your ancestor to that tagged place.

Pamela showed us one project she is working on with a Civil War ancestor. She has tagged all of the movements, on Google Earth, of his company during the Civil War. This allows her to visually track all of the states he moved around in over his term of service. "Isn't that more interesting that whipping out a pedigree chart or a tree to show your family?" she asked. No kidding!

The first session after lunch was Topographic and Other Maps for Genealogists presented by Rick Sayre. He demonstrated how topographic maps can help you locate cemeteries and churches. They can also help answer questions about why ancestors settled where they did. For example, a topographic map helps you to determine if the area was hilly, flat farmland, and what waterways are nearby. One website that Rick discussed was Ask About Ireland. This site has detailed historic maps and Griffiths Valuation. It's a free site and Rick demonstrated how the maps match up perfectly to the land structure in modern day Ireland.

Our last session was Newspapers and Periodicals presented by Pamela Boyer Sayre. Yes, looking through an historic newspaper can be time consuming, but they are so much fun! It is so easy to get side tracked by the gossip column, the ads, and obituaries of other people. Pamela pointed out that these items plus the headlines of the day, are pertinent to our research when creating our ancestors world. Just as our world is shaped by today's headlines. Some of the digitized newspaper sites mentioned I was familiar with, however it was a good reminder to check back with those sites. New stuff gets added. One site Pamela discussed that I was not familiar with was, the National Digital Newspaper Program. The site can help you locate newspapers in your state of interest. This is a site I will probably be spending my spare time on during the upcoming holiday week.

Aside from the wonderful topics covered, it was also a who's who of Samford instructors in the room. Not only were the Sayre's in attendance, but so was Elizabeth Shown Mills, Rachal Mills Lennon, and J. Mark Lowe (by the way his birthday is Nov. 25--we all sang). Overall, a fun day of learning and catching up with friends. Now time to get crackin' on my Google Earth projects and newspaper research!

Friday, November 9, 2012

I'm a DAR Gal!

It's official. Last week at our DAR meeting I was pinned. I now have a beautiful certificate saying that I'm a member, with a member number, my Revolutionary War ancestor, and a gold DAR pin.

To earn this achievement, I had to provide documentation connecting each generation until I reached the Revolutionary War ancestor. In truth I had to provide 6 generations worth of material, then I was able to hook onto another member's application for our common ancestor. That common ancestor was James Churchwell Luttrell. His parents were William and Elizabeth (Witt) Luttrell. My Revolutionary War ancestor was John Witt, Jr., who was Elizabeth's father.

By just following the Luttrell line and its branches, I have at least 3 supplementals to add. That means I have 3 other Revolutionary War ancestors. This doesn't even take into account my other lines of Gunter, Fry, Brumbaugh, Alderson, and the Whitsett side. I have my work cut out for me.

You may wonder why I want to do this? A simple answer is; preservation. This is just another way for me to publish my family history that is accessible for future generations. Yes, I could (and plan) to write a family history book someday. However, I have no way of telling where that would end up in the future, if it would be accessible to somebody living far away, or even if it will survive time. At the very least the DAR is a repository that will store this information, and a potential descendant will be able to order my application. This application will not only show the connections of each generation, but the evidence I used to make that connection. I think that is pretty cool stuff. 

Time to get busy on those other lines.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wishing you all a happy and safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Forensic Genealogy Institute - Day 3

Today was the final day of this institute and it started at 8:00 a.m. with the Practicum session. The overall work was reviewed and questions regarding the case were answered. People looked a little more tired today but spirits were high with the sense of completion in the air.

Michael Ramage opened up the first session today with Witness Roles. He discussed the difference between a Lay Witness and an Expert Witness. Michael also explained how a person qualified to become an expert witness for a case. He covered what should be included in an expert's written report and some other finer points involved with being an expert witness. Then he demonstrated with Dee Dee King a hostile Mock Cross Examination. This examination was based on an experience that Dee had with case, and it was meant to illustrate how things could go wrong and how to maintain one's professional integrity. It was eye opening. Once again, the point was driven home that the more you know about your state laws the better off you are.

After a short break there was a panel discussion on Marketing: Identifying Clients and Markets. During this session we had the opportunity to ask questions and find out information on many areas of marketing a forensic genealogy business. Some of the items discussed were creating a website, business cards, publishing, and who to target/cultivate as potential clients.

The last item of business was filling out evaluation sheets and receiving our certificates of completion. Last minute business cards were exchanged, good byes were said, and some were making future plans. Most of us are leaving for home today and so we all scattered in different directions. I have learned so much during these past couple of days and I now have a mental list of things to work on this week. If you are interested in forensic genealogy, I highly recommend this institute.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Forensic Genealogy Institute - Day 2

Once again we hit the ground running this morning. We started off at 8 a.m. sharp with the Optional Practicum session. Although it is optional most of the attendees show up for this session. We reviewed our work from the day before and were given a new assignment, which will be reviewed tomorrow morning.

The next session was Forensic Techniques for Genetic Genealogy presented by Debbie Parker Wayne. This was an outstanding session that easily could have stretched into two sessions, or even an entire week. Debbie has a gift of making a potentially complex subject comprehensive to a lay person. She started off with the basics and progressed from there, telling how DNA is used in forensic genealogy.

Michael Ramage presented the next two sessions, Missing & Unknown Heirs: Law and Procedures for the Forensic Genealogist: Part 1 and Part 2. He discussed the probate process, estates, and trusts. During this discussion he outlined what is important for you as a forensic genealogist to know and what information you need to have for the case you are hired to work on. In particular it was stressed that you must know or be familiar with the laws of the state you are working in. Then you have to be familiar with how the courts want your findings or evidence presented. Apparently some places want the affidavit printed on certain paper, in a particular font, or bound a specific way. Another topic covered is what specifically is your job as the genealogist, and what falls within the responsibilities of the lawyer to handle. All of this is important to know so that you don't find yourself in a sticky situation.

Next, Dee Dee King presented Preparation, Business Structure, Due Diligence. This session was all about how to prepare yourself to become a professional forensic genealogist, how to manage your business, and what to do before accepting a case. On this last point the message in a nutshell was that you really need to look out for yourself as the professional genealogist before accepting a job, and after you have accepted the job. There are a lot of different players in legal cases and the motivations or personalities of all the parties involved may not be apparent or known in the beginning. My impression is that you need to stay focused on your assignment, stay professional, and stick to your standards. Don't get drawn in by everybody else's drama. To illustrate this last point Tina Sansone shared a case study of an experience she had.

Our last session before dinner was Adoption Cases: Legal and Ethical Implications presented by Michael Ramage. As the title suggests Michael told about the legal and ethical parts of working on adoption cases. States vary in their disclosure of information pertaining to adoption cases and of course this is important to know when doing this sort of work. It also seems to be the type of work that may require you as the genealogist to also be a little bit psychologist. For obvious reasons this could be a potential mine field of emotions for the parties on both sides. Somebody in class even suggested using a lawyer as a go between in such cases, so that you as the genealogist would not leave yourself open to being sued for emotional duress.

Tonight we all gathered for a pizza party dinner and happy hour. After dinner Pamela Boyer Sayre gave a great presentation on Techie Stuff for the Forensic Genealogist. Now I've blogged before about my state of being tech challenged, so I was really looking forward to this session. I was not disappointed. Pamela is funny which gave her presentation a light hearted feeling, which I'm sure was also aided by the attendees' happy feeling in the room by the happy hour. Both laughter and information were flowing. My favorite app that she discussed, although it's hard to pick one, was eWallet. This is one that can be useful to everybody regardless of your profession.

Finally, Dee Dee King had a very informal talk in the sitting area of the hotel lobby for those of us interested in Military Repatriation work. For those that don't know, the military is very committed to identifying the heirs of soldier's remains that are found. To do this one has to have a good working knowledge of DNA. The military has all sorts of requirements for you to get this kind of work, it is contracted, and not easy to get.

Dee also took some time to discuss the mentor program of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy. She broke down the application process, the different levels, and what happens once you are accepted. The future goals and projects were also discussed. It is an exciting time to get into the field of forensic genealogy and I'm so glad to be apart of this first group of the institute!

Another group was having a discussion on certification with the BCG after Dee's talk. However, by this time (9:30 p.m.) I was exhausted. I also know that tomorrow is another full day. Our sessions start at 8:00 a.m. again and end at noon. Then most of us are heading home to various parts of the country. Time to pack and get some rest!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Forensic Genealogy Institute - Day One

It has been a very full day here in Dallas. The morning started out with a Practicum Discussion presented by Cathi Desmarais. She presented a case to us with some pertinent information, which we then used in a work session to try and track down more information. The exercise was meant to illustrate a typical (more or less) type of forensic work that one would encounter.

After a break, Kelvin Meyers presented Overview and Introduction to Forensic Genealogy. This session covered all of the types of work that one would associate or encounter with forensic genealogy. He also discussed the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy, what their objectives are, and what they hope to accomplish for the future.

The following two sessions were presented by Michael Ramage, Forensic Genealogy Fees and Contracts, Part 1 and Part 2. I have to admit I was a little cross eyed and my brain started to hurt during these sessions. As a genealogist, doing historical research on ones ancestors, you encounter legal terms and become familiar with... say inheritance laws in the 1800s, so that you can figure out what great great great granny was legally entitled to when her husband passed away. Today was focused on current laws, and legalese within a contract that you may have or in one you encounter. After all, one needs to know how to protect yourself in today's legal environment. There was quite a lengthy discussion on due diligence and on Champerty Laws.

Next, Dee Dee King and Cathi Desmarais presented Work Products and Client Documents. The title is fairly self explanatory. They showed us some of the work they have produced and gave us some examples of verbiage they have in their own contracts. There was also a discussion on research reports and submitting affidavits. I admit that it took me a little bit to figure out the difference. From my observation, the affidavit was more of a legal document that gave information trimmed down to pertinent facts pertaining to the case. A research report would have this information, plus any negative findings that you found, and it would not be a notarized/sworn statement. A research report has an appendix and an affidavit would have exhibits.

The final presentation was given by Leslie Lawson, titled Finding the Dead to Find the Living. This was an information packed session with many sites and links discussed. The main theme was how one would go about finding the living and what you do once they are found. She also used a case study to illustrate these points and stressed to become familiar with the resources in the states you are working with. At the closing of the session Leslie gave us some ideas on how to get practice using our new skills, or even better get work.

Before we left for the day, we traded business cards. Anytime you attend a conference or institute this is a great thing to do, especially if you are working within a professional capacity. Our dinner plans for tonight are Texas BBQ (yee haw!). Then I'm sure we will come back, collapse in exhaustion (happily), and get some rest for another information packed day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Forensic Genealogy Institute - Arrival

I arrived in Dallas today to attend the Forensic Genealogy Institute that begins Thursday (tomorrow). The institute is presented by the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy, at the Wyndam Love Field Hotel. I'm excited.

So far I'm having a great time, and we haven't even begun. I believe all of us are staying at the hotel and a good number of us gathered in the lobby this afternoon to socialize. At check-in we received a tote bag, a polo shirt, the syllabus, and our name tag. It was great to see familiar faces, catch up, meet new people, and put faces to names of those you are aware of but have never met in person.

Tonight we ventured out as a large group for some Mexican food. There were a good number of margaritas ordered, and a birthday celebration of a fellow attendee recognized . Needless to say we became quite a jovial group.

Judging by the syllabus we will hit the ground running tomorrow. I expect to be a bit overwhelmed with information and that is okay. It looks fascinating. The day begins bright and early at 8:00 a.m. and is scheduled to end at 5:15. And of course, dear reader, I will tell you all about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Gunters- An Update

I can't stop thinking about my Gunter line. Have you ever seen those pictures that are just a mosaic of colors, but if you look at it the right way you see the picture within? This is how I feel when I look at the data I've compiled for my Gunter line, except the image within is not coming into focus.

Richard William Gunter states in his Civil War pension file that he was born in North Carolina in 1828. The same information is on his Compiled Military Service Record, with the added bonus of the birthplace narrowed down to Halifax County. The earliest record I have for Richard is a marriage record from 1848 in West Ely, Marion County, Missouri. He married Nancy Ann Beard, and the ceremony was performed by William Dickson.

How Richard got from Halifax County, North Carolina to Marion County, Missouri I don't know. What I did discover was the church he most likely attended in Marion County. The church was simply called West Ely Presbyterian Church. William T. Dickson became pastor of this church in 1841, the same paster who married Richard and Nancy. It is now on my to do list to track down church records if they exist.

What really has my curiosity peaked is Richard's many trips back and forth to Iowa. In 1850 Richard and Nancy were living in Keokuk, Iowa, by 1860 they are living in Hannibal, Missouri. Richard signed up for the Civil War in Iowa, by 1870 he's back in Missouri again. What is the fascination and draw of Iowa?? I know there is a key here, but I just haven't been able to figure it out yet.

I don't call this problem a brick wall, simply because I haven't exhausted all available records yet. I've looked at the microfilm available from the Family History Library, and need to order film on deeds, land, wills, probate, and court records. It's a little overwhelming. Why? The Gunter's never stayed in the same county within Missouri for any given census year until they finally moved to Colorado sometime after 1880. Then there are the records to look at in Iowa as well. That's 3 states (4 if you include North Carolina) and at least 6-7 different counties. It's a big project.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Your Ancestors and the Law

When I was in the Advanced Methodologies course at Samford this past June, I mentioned in a blog the Congressional Serial Set, and the possibility that your ancestor may have had dealings with Congress and therefore be mentioned in it. We wouldn't normally think of our ancestors having any dealings with such a high authority, but remember the United States was not always such a populated place. Again, you may think, "Well my people were just simple farmer folk in the wilds of (fill in the blank). What would they have to do with such a high branch of government?" I understand your point, but in times after war for example, people needed compensation for one reason or another. Maybe their case made it to Congress. It's worth a look. Another possibility is the state government.

This past week I started a new volunteer project at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. You may recall the last project I worked on was scanning and creating a database for bible records found in surname vertical files. This new project is proofreading an index/database created from Acts Passed at the Regular Session of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee. Specifically, this week I worked on the Sixteenth General Assembly and what they produced in 1825. It turns out that it is pretty fascinating stuff, and your ancestor (if they lived in Tennessee) could be named in it.

There are a lot of individuals named in these Acts. One man was declared an "idiot", that his slaves (listed by name) would be sold, and the proceeds from the sale would be used to care for him. Other people are listed as changing their names. If there were issues regarding land, that couldn't be resolved at a local court, then your ancestor may be mentioned. Slaves are listed by name to be freed, surveyors are listed, individuals owing money for various reasons are listed, commissioners for turnpike roads are listed... you get the idea. Your ancestor could be listed!!

The point is, you should check out your state's Acts to see if your ancestors are listed. Even though they may have been simple farmer folk, there could have been land disputes. Maybe your ancestor was hired as an additional road commissioner, or maybe your ancestor was once a slave owned by a legally declared "idiot." You never know.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Witthaus Home... Sort Of

I had a whirlwind trip to New York City this past weekend to celebrate my mom's birthday. After getting in late on Friday with my husband, spending the day and evening with my mom on Saturday, my hubby and I had a little bit of time before our flight back home on Sunday to explore. So I decided the best way to spend this time was to track down the apartment building that his great grandmother, Minnie Bertha Witthaus, was born in on 5 April 1897. It was also the address listed for both her parents when they married. They would be Reinhold Witthaus and Bertha Schanbacher.

After having our fill of breakfast, off we went to 422 East 11th Street. I was excited. We were about to view the ancestral birthplace and living quarters of my husband's kin!! We crossed over 1st Avenue going towards Avenue A. The even building numbers were on the south side of the street. I started counting down the numbers and finally we arrived at 422.....

The building is no longer there. It's a community garden now sandwiched in between building numbers 420 and 424. Classic. I don't know what happened to the building, but it could have been any number of things, like fire, demolition, or maybe it collapsed. The buildings 420 and below looked fairly new. Building 424 looked old, but on the other side were newer structures.

Although I was disappointed, my husband was still excited which lifted my spirits. My mother in law was also thrilled. So I guess not all was lost.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Whitsett's

I've finally finished organizing the office. Yay! It's beautiful. I keep walking by the office door and looking in to admire the cleared gleaming desk. Of course it won't last, but I'm enjoying the moment. As a reward I've been digging into a new family line of research. It's my father's side. The Whitsett's.

Sometimes deciding to research a person or family can have emotional attachments to it. Maybe these emotional attachments are warm and fuzzy, sometimes not, or sometimes a mixed bag. I suppose mine are a mixed bag. I didn't know my dad, so researching this line is an interesting experience so far. Not too different than researching for a client. I didn't start out knowing much other than a few scraps of information. So far I've made great progress in very little time.

Ironically, the Whitsett line settled in Tennessee, the state I live in. Even more fortuitous they lived about 40 minutes south of where I presently live. Weird, right? On my way down to FGS a month ago I drove around that area looking for several cemeteries. It is country. No, really, it is. These people lived in the sticks!

The research up to this point has been pretty easy. I've gotten death certificates, looked up obituaries in newspapers, and found marriage records. The combination of these three items have confirmed relationships, produced other relationships, and have allowed me to go back three or four generations in a day. Most of the obituaries have stated the parents with the mother's maiden name, spouse, children, and some siblings. It is truly the honeymoon period of research and sadly it is about to end. I'm on the verge of getting into the early 1800's and late 1700's where these types of records are either nonexistent or few and far between. The ancestors and the paper trail will also start heading out of Tennessee, into the Carolinas and Virginia. A typical migration pattern.

However, while I chase these ancestors through time and across state lines, I'll be looking at other records. Land records, military records, court records and who know what else! Life, as you know, is more than birth/marriage/death dates. It's what you do in between that makes the story, and tells about your character.

Friday, September 14, 2012

BCG Portfolio Thoughts

One of the main reasons I attended FGS for a day was to take a look at the BCG portfolios. As I've mentioned before, I looked at one a few years ago. At that time I was completely overwhelmed and didn't really understand what I was looking at. Now fast forward a few years, I was still overwhelmed but this time I understood what I was looking at. Progress, right?

I still don't think I'm ready to apply right now. In cooking terms, I need to marinate a bit more. However, I've noticed that this line of thought has the danger of becoming the proverbial hamster wheel. The wonderful thing with genealogy is the constant learning that takes place. The more ancestors you acquire, the more history, laws, and other idiosyncrasies you have to learn. There is no way you will ever know it all. So at what point do you know enough to apply for BCG certification? For you, I don't know what the answer is. For me, the answer is practice.

It is slightly difficult to look at portfolios in the BCG booth at a conference. There is a lot of activity, people see you and stop to say hello, people you don't know start talking to you, you're pressed for time to get to the next lecture, and there is generally a lot of other distractions. Not really the best environment to read a case study, look at the transcription assignment, or study the kinship determination project (KDP). I did the best I could under the circumstances. While looking through all of the portfolio elements I took some notes. These notes were just general observations, nothing specific about any of the portfolios. What surprised me was a singular thought during this process. It was, "I can do this. I just need to practice."

I don't know about you, but I haven't written many (okay, um, zero) kinship determination projects. I've done slightly better with case studies, but then with zero KDP's that's not saying much. In looking at the portfolios, it would be foolhardy to turn in the first or even second attempt of any of the elements. So I just need to practice. While I practice I need to refer often to the BCG rubric, and the genealogical proof standard (GPS). This should set me up pretty good, both for the portfolio and my daily genealogical practice/research.

If you are interested in learning or hearing more talk about BCG portfolios there are a couple of options. First and foremost is the BCG website. Lately there have been some interesting threads on the Transitional Genealogist Forum as well. Today, Harold Henderson posted on his blog, Midwestern Microhistory, the first of a five part series discussing the BCG certification process that is well worth the read and should continue to be.

Have you thought about becoming certified? If so, what is stopping you from starting the clock? One of my pressing concerns is picking people or a case that is interesting enough, uses a nice variety of records, but is not so complex that it becomes too much to handle. Yet I don't want any of the elements to be too simple or boring. It's a fine line. I'm hoping a few of my ancestors will step forward and guide me along the way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Exhibit

There is a traveling Abraham Lincoln exhibit at our library that opened up about a month ago. This past weekend I had a little bit of time to go and see it. I can't say that I know a lot about Lincoln, other than what any other person learned in school and remembers. 

I found the exhibit to be very thought provoking, especially with this year being an election year. What I noticed was that people had the same heated opinions that we have currently. These days you can't go on Facebook without seeing a post from a person who favors one party or the other. I had started to think this was a modern or Facebook phenomenon, of being able to voice ones opinion to the masses without any regard to what their beliefs are. However, during Lincoln's election years and terms, there were factions that  questioned Lincoln's policies and politics relentlessly, published "cartoons" that were in poor taste (in my opinion anyway), and had demonstrations/uprisings about these policies. The most noted uprising of course being the Civil War.

Ever wonder what Lincoln looked like without the beard? I always did.

It's a mid-1800's version of a before and after picture.

A political cartoon of the times. It seems they were just as tasteless then as they are now.

And finally, if you thought that the only time in history the draft caused so much controversy was Vietnam... was a problem for the Civil War too.

Overall, I think Lincoln was a pretty courageous fellow. He had a vision of this country being better and he followed through with it. Lincoln recognized that as a country that touts, "all men are created equal" it was not upholding that ideal. His policies and beliefs evoked passionate responses and actions from all parties. Lincoln was so unpopular that he didn't think he would be elected for a second term, but he still held fast to his purpose. Sadly, Lincoln would not even get to serve a full year of his second term. There was at least one man who hated Lincoln so much and for what he stood for, that he killed him.

If this exhibit comes to your area, I highly recommend that you see it. I thought it was fascinating. There were all sorts of other facts and tid bits that I haven't mentioned here. It also made me realize that being President during any time period in America has not been the greatest job to have. You never get to "clock out" and you always will have people who literally hate you, even though they don't know you. I'll stick with genealogy, thank you very much. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Spector of August's Goal

Have you ever started a simple home improvement task that snowballs into a major undertaking? For example, deciding to paint a room? Before you know it this turns into multiple trips to the home improvement store for various supplies you need. These supplies are for all of the other tasks that you discover need to be done in this room. Now you are on a runaway train of a single room improvement, and you wonder when it will be safe enough to jump off. This is me.

In August my goal was to straighten up and clean my office space. It seemed so simple and innocent a goal at the time. I knew that it might be a bit tedious and require I use the time when my kids are in school. This was okay with me. I underestimated everything.

My youngest started kindergarten and in the area I live, this means that they hardly attend school for the first two weeks of the school year. An hour one day for testing, a week later they go to school for a half day, and a week after that they finally start school full time. Well, during this time my oldest got sick and had to stay home. The half day came for my kindergartner and I was able to tackle my desk. I could finally see the surface (such joy!). Then as fate would have it, when he finally starts full time, I wake up feeling awful that day. I end up being sick for the next 6 days, during which I make a trip to the doctor and find out I have an ear infection. I haven't had an ear infection since I was.... oh I don't know... 6 years old! However, at least I'm better for my jaunt to FGS in Birmingham. The day after I get back the kids have a half day of school and so starts the Labor Day weekend. Hello September!

During the course of organizing my desk, I realize I am dire need of more shelf space for my ever growing collection of books and binders. My little bookcase is in a sad state of overflow, and the very large bookcase is full. What to do? Well since buying another bookcase is not in the cards, I decided that the simplest solution was to make more room on the very large bookcase. So I have spent this week going through all of the books. Some of them I'll take to the used bookstore, others that I can't part with I've boxed up for now and put them in the attic. I've claimed two of these large shelves for my genealogy/history books, and my overflowing small bookcase looks much happier.

So my August goal has flowed and transformed into September's goal. There is still more to do in the office. I'm not done. My desk is the catch all for tax related receipts, school paperwork, photos, and any other important household documents (not to mention genealogy related ephemera). As soon as it gets clear more stuff lands on it. I've gotten supplies to deal with it all, and soon it will all be in its proper place. I'm close-ish to being done or at least close enough. I want off this runaway train!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My One Day at FGS

I only live about 2 1/2 hours away from Birmingham, Alabama where the FGS conference is this year. When you live that close to a big genealogy event, how can you not go? Due to my husbands business travel plans I was only able to attend for one day. However, one day is better than none, right? Thursday was going to be it.

The exhibit hall opened a little before 10:00 a.m. and there was a gathering crowd eager to charge in. Once the color guard arrived the doors opened. My first stop was the BCG table to look at portfolios. I looked at one a few years ago and was completely overwhelmed. Well, I was still overwhelmed but this time I was able to focus a little more. I understood what I was looking at a whole lot more than last time.

At 11:00 the sessions started and the one I attended was "Finding "Unfindable" Ancestors," given by Tom Jones. Tom said that you have to believe you will find your ancestors when you hit that "brick wall." If you don't think you will ever find them, then chances are you won't. He proceeded to discuss reasons ancestors could be unfindable and strategies to use in trying to find them. Tom broke it down into steps and stated that if these steps didn't work then you need to go through the same steps with the next descendant. This idea sort of piggy backs onto Elizabeth Shown Mills' FAN club process.

For lunch I attended the luncheon held by the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). The guest speaker was Elizabeth Shown Mills and her talk was titled, "Walkabouts and Chicken Men: Tales of the U.S. Census Takers." With a title like that how could you not go? Anyway, she discussed experiences of census takers that she had discovered in written works and also talked about some of her own. It is always a pleasure to listen to her speak.

After lunch there was a little time to run to the exhibit hall before the next session. I made a bee line for the Arphax booth. The company publishes books on original land owner records for some counties in the U.S. This enables you to see who your ancestor was neighbors with, where they owned the land within the county, water ways, churches, graveyards, and roads. If you get a chance you should check out their website.

Next, I ran over to listen to Paul Milner present, "Irish Emigration to North America: Before, during and after the Famine. I have Irish ancestors as does my husband so I thought this session would be interesting. I've also never heard Paul Milner speak and this was a good opportunity. He pointed out that the Irish that arrived pre-famine were following the religious leader and it usually involved a whole group or parish. Paul also discussed the different famine influx and the Scots-Irish.

After Paul, I attended the session "Understanding Your DNA Test Results and What to do Next," presented by Robert McLaren. I had the opportunity to meet him earlier in the day and was really impressed with his knowledge regarding DNA. His session was chock full of information, some of it I'm still trying to understand, but the questions I had were answered.

By this time I needed some caffeine. I had one more session to go, was a little bleary eyed from the DNA session, and had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of me. Sadly all of the concession stands were closed. No tea or coffee to be had anywhere! Drats!! Back to the exhibit hall. My last purchase was "North Carolina Research, Genealogy and Local History" by Helen F.M. Leary. This book has been on my mind for quite some time. It is rather large, so this was my chance to save on shipping charges.

The session I attended was decided at the spur of the moment. I ran into a colleague who was also a little bleary eyed from the day. Originally we were both going to attend different sessions but then decided that Warren Bittner's presentation "Understanding and Researching Illegitimacy: A Case Study." This was a great session and some fascinating research that was done by Warren. If you are interested in it then you will have an opportunity to read his article in the next issue of NGSQ.

I said my good-byes to friends and left Birmingham. It was a little sad as I listened to dinner plans being made, and schedules for the next day being determined. I also didn't get to talk to some of the vendors I wanted to, but there is only so much one can accomplish in a day. On the drive home I thought about all of the sessions I attended, the friends I was able to connect with, the new friends I made. I had a great time and a very full day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Are You Going to FGS?

The Federation of Genealogical Societies is holding their annual conference this week from August 29th through September 1st, in Birmingham, Alabama. As usual it promises to be a good event, chock full of great speakers. The only hiccup so far is the weather. Hurricane Isaac is not only causing problems on land, but with people's travel plans too. The impending inclement weather has also caused the cancellation of the Thursday evening event at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

I managed to figure out how to get down to the conference for just a day. I'll be driving down on Wednesday, attend the conference on Thursday and drive back that night. Why am I doing this? Well, Birmingham is only a two-and-a-half hour drive away for me. I'm really interested in the DNA track, and I really want to look at the BCG portfolios at the BCG booth. I looked at a portfolio a few years ago, was completely overwhelmed, and didn't quite understand what I was looking at. Now I understand the required elements better and would like to take some more time looking at a completed binder. There are also a few vendors I want to check out as well. It will be a very busy day and I've got my list ready so that I don't forget anything while I'm there.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Remembering Phyllis Diller

When I heard that Phyllis Diller passed away I felt sad, but I also smiled. I'll tell you why.

I lived in Los Angeles for a number of years working as a photo editor for movie studios and later as a elementary school teacher. During that time I also worked as a free lance photographer on weekends and picked up the occasional catering gig for a company to earn a little extra money. As you know teachers don't make a lot of money and neither do photo editors.

Anyway, one of these catering jobs was at Bea Arthur's house in Hollywood. When most people think of a star's house, they think of a big fancy place full of splash and glamour. Well Bea's house was pretty modest, simply furnished, and looked a little like the "Golden Girls" set. What was remarkable about her house was the backyard. Real estate is at a premium in Los Angeles, especially in Hollywood. This backyard was HUGE. It stretched very far back.

I don't remember what the purpose of the party was. Sadly, Bea seemed a bit confused and befuddled. Her companion/assistant basically ran the show, so to speak. There were a bunch of actors and industry types there, and it was our job to serve drinks, pass appetizers and work the buffet line. One of the people invited to this party was Phyllis Diller. This was exciting! She was not only somebody I watched as a kid (in reruns), but she was a Legend. She was a pioneer. I was thrilled! Phyllis was a ground breaking female comedian. The first of her kind. This was why I was so excited, not necessarily because she was a star, but for what she accomplished.

Now what makes me smile every time I think of her? Her laugh. At this party I discovered that Phyllis has one of the most distinctive laughs I have ever heard. This laugh was no dainty giggle. It was an all out startling, filled with mirth, long, reverberating, goose honk of a laugh. To hear it, made you giggle. At one point I was serving from the buffet line, when Phyllis laughed. It so happened that I was serving Alicia Silverstone right when this laugh ripped through the backyard (Phyllis was at the very back of the yard). Alicia jumped, looked utterly startled and said, "What was that?!"

"Oh, that's Phyllis Diller laughing," I replied.

Alicia looked at me confused and said, "Who's Phyllis Diller?"

It was my turn to look confused. How could she be in the industry and not know who Phyllis Diller was? I quickly gave her an explanation, she didn't seem all that impressed, and walked away. To say I was surprised is an understatement. However, other people seemed to know Phyllis and given the amount of laughing, she was having a great time.

So whenever I think of Phyllis, I think of that laugh. It makes me smile and sometimes giggle with the memory. She lived a long life that was full of achievement. I can only hope that right before Phyllis passed, she was able to have one last remarkable laugh.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ephemera of the Unrelated

The other day while my kindergartener was having his first half day of school I tackled organizing my office. I managed to get quite a bit done, but I still have a lot left to do. At least I can finally see the desk, which is an accomplishment.

Anyway, while filing papers and creating files for others I had a nagging question. What do you do with documents, newspaper articles, or general ephemera of people that share a surname of interest but seem to be unrelated? For example, I have a Civil War pension file of a George W. Fry born in Missouri and died in California. My ggg grandfather, George W. Fry, was also born in Missouri but died in Colorado. They were both born about the same time in Clinton County. So theoretically it's possible they are related somehow. After all, there was a large migration of Fry brothers that moved to this county in the early 1800's.

This same question came up during my week at NIGR in the reading room at NARA. There were a few of us that pulled records, only to find out that the person was not a relation. It seemed a little sad to send the record back to the stacks without making a copy. What if somebody could really use that record who can't make it to D.C., can't afford to order it, or doesn't know about its existence yet? One classmate said that she takes a photo of a few pertinent pages and posts information on a tree on This seemed like a nice idea, but I wasn't clear on how she manages or arranges the information on the tree.

So for the time being I've placed the pension file in a hanging file folder labelled "Unrelated Fry." I have other stuff that I've put in similar folders under different surnames. I hate to throw it out for right now, especially down the road if it turns out to be a leaf on a far flung branch.

What do you do with these items? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gotta Hankerin' For Some Whiskey

On Saturday I attended a lecture, "Discovering the Records of Tennessee, Kentucky & Whiskey Stills" presented by J. Mark Lowe. I really didn't know what to expect before I got to this lecture, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed... and I wasn't.

Mark discussed terminology for various different types of travelers. This could be the why's and how's of people who moved first, moved as a group, the ones that stayed behind, the mysterious outlier individual that shows up moving with a group, and women. He also briefly discussed some research principles when tracking an individual.

Various still designs were also discussed, with illustrations provided showing the distilling process. In this case the focus was on whiskey. I also learned that Tennessee sipping whiskey is filtered through charcoal before going in the barrel. Is it surprising that I was suddenly keen on having a whiskey tasting? Could that be the end of the day surprise??

Next we moved onto maps. We spent a lot of time analyzing topographic maps and soil maps. Now you may wonder what does this have to do with genealogy? Well, topographic maps can help you determine why your ancestors choose to travel to a court house a farther distance away, rather than the one that was closer. If there was swampy land between your ancestor and the closer court house, compared to dry flat land to the farther court house... which do you think they would pick? The dry flat land of course. Who wants to chance getting stuck in a marshy critter infested swamp?? Knowing soil conditions is also helpful. Let's face it, many of our ancestors were farmers or land owners, that settled on land/soil that was familiar to them, from either the home country or elsewhere.

Finally, we looked at agricultural schedules. Mark gave us some hints to figure out who may have been producing whiskey. I was really curious about the ratio of grain produced compared to animal stock. Another words, what ratio of corn/wheat/rye/other grains grown would be used to feed the animals owned, what is used to feed the family, and what is the surplus used to make whiskey or some other liquor? I grew up on a sheep farm and it has been many years since I was involved with ordering grain and hay to feed them. My  memory is a little rusty on this. I also don't know what is involved with feeding cows or pigs, i.e. pounds of feed needed per head.

Anyway, the one consuming thought at the end of the day was whiskey. I was really wanting to do a whiskey tasting. I've been to countless wine tastings and a couple of cognac tastings (yum). However, I don't think I've ever done a whiskey tasting.

So did I have whiskey that night? No. Instead I went out to a sushi dinner with my husband, saw the new Bourne movie, and ate too many Milk Dud's. Overall, it was a great day!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's New?

I haven't blogged for a while... I know. We are winding down from a busy summer around here. Last week I was on vacation with my family. It was wonderful and the kids had a blast. This of course meant that I didn't do anything genealogy related, only checked emails once, and didn't give Facebook any attention at all.

When we arrived home, late last Friday night, I had a box of free NARA publications waiting for me, that I requested while in D.C. I'm excited to do more than just skim through them. I also discovered that the 1940 census has been completely indexed. Apparently the next project up for an indexing push is U.S. Immigration and Naturalization records. And I had a death certificate waiting for me (yay!).

This week has been consumed with getting my boys ready for school, doctor/dentist appointments, and the Olympics. What can I say? I love the Olympics, which has caught on with my boys. We've been watching it together. All of this translates to not much time being given to genealogy (sigh) or blogging (sigh again).

I'm excited to get back into my routine. I have a lot of ideas to follow up on, research plans to write, and my NARA research findings to transcribe/extract data from. However, I've decided my top goal for the month of August is to get my office under control and organized. This sounds like a simple project.... it's not. It was quasi organized before summer break started and now it has mutated into complete chaos. Not exactly an exciting genealogical project, but one that is necessary.

So what goals do you have for the month of August?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Follow Friday-GRIP Envy

This week I have been following a few blogs from people that are attending GRIP. It sounds as though the first round of this institute has been a great success. I can't help but be a little envious, and wish that I was there.

Here is a list of the blogs I've been following about GRIP:

Catherine Desmarais blog: Stone House Historical Research
Chris Staats: Staats Genealogical Services
Becky Wiseman: Kinexxions
Shelley Bishop: A Sense of Family

Of course these are just a few blogs I've been keeping up with. I'm sure there are others that I'm not aware of. GRIP has also released the schedule for next year. The line up is very tempting.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

NIGR 2012- Day 6

Today I didn't set my alarm to get up early, although I still woke up by 7:30. I could have gone back to sleep, but I had a pull ready for viewing at 9:00 and microfilm to explore. Saturday is not really an official day of the NIGR program, it's optional. A lot of people returned home today, and the rest of us are returning tomorrow. This of course does not include the people who live here.

After I went through security and put my things in a locker I went straight up to the Reading Room on the second floor. The pull I had requested was one last land record. The majority of land records I viewed this week were in Colorado. Colorado has virtually nothing online for researchers, making it a very frustrating state to do research in. Of course my ancestors lived there. As it turns out there were also quite a few George Fry's living in the same county as my George Fry. What are the chances? Apparently higher than I thought. The land record I pulled was not my George Fry, as mine was born in Missouri and this one was born in Canada. His naturalization papers were in the file, making it easy to rule him out as my ancestor.

So down to microfilm I went. My focus was Confederate records. NARA has an impressive catalog of Confederate microfilm, and there was no way I was going to be able to begin exploring a good portion of it. The first film I pulled was an index of Confederate prisoners who died, where they died and where they were buried. However, this film was transcribed (typed) and I wanted to look at originals. I moved on to a couple films of different regiments... no surprises there. Then I came across the gem that proves not everything regarding your Confederate Civil War soldier is on the CMSR. The film is M598: Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of Wa 1861-1865, Records Relating to All Prisoners. I focused on roll 5 which is the beginning of the series I needed and the beginning of the alphabet. It is arranged in a quasi alphabetical order. Another words, it follows ABC order until you get to the surname letter of interest (in my case "C"). Then you just have to search through all of the C's, as they are not arranged in any particular order by surname.

I didn't find the guy I was looking for, however I conducted a little experiment. I picked a random soldier and checked to see if his CMSR was on Fold3. It was. I then compared the information on the microfilm and the information on the CMSR. Guess what? Not all of the information made it onto the CMSR. Ha! The CMSR recorded where he died. The microfilm recorded where he was captured, when he was captured, what he was sick with, and when he died. Some of the people had their burial information included as well. This list also included citizens who were prisoners, with all of the information listed above as well. What an incredible resource!! The bottom line... always dig a little more and dig a little deeper, even when somebody tells you there is nothing left to dig for.

By now it was 2:00 and I was tired. Not only had I been researching all week (both during the day and at night in my room), I attended evening "field trips", and listened to a lot of lectures. I had reached my threshold. Apparently, even I have my limits of how much research I can do in one week. So I explored the city, did a little shopping, and treated myself to a wonderful dinner followed by some excellent gelato. Yum!

Tonight I'll pack up and relax in my quiet hotel room. Tomorrow I'm back to my loud chaotic life and that's okay. I miss my boys and can't wait to see them!

Friday, July 20, 2012

NIGR 2012-Day 5

Today was the last day of NIGR. All of us were tired and a little worn out from the frenzy of research, and the overload of information in the lectures. The first hour was free for research and I spent that time putting in pull slips for the day.

The first lecture of the day was "Records of the Freedmen's Bureau" presented by Reginald Washington. He discussed information that can be found in these records and showed us some really good examples on individuals and families. Next, was "Military Records on Fold3" presented by Trevor Plante. Trevor works at NARA in the military records department and is very knowledgable on what is digitized, what is going to be digitized and what is not digitized.

We had one hour for lunch which I spent in the Reading Room going over my pulls. The last 15 minutes of our break I ran down to the cafe and ate a sandwich in record speed. I also treated myself to a candy bar, because frankly by today I needed a little extra something. The rest of the afternoon was spent listening to lectures on "Certificates of Discharge for the War of 1812" and "One Family's Footprints in the Federal Records." Tom Jones presented the very last session on "Board Certification: Your Questions Answered."

Tonight was the National Institute on Genealogical Research Alumni Association Banquet. This was a very nice evening of talking to classmates that I hadn't had a chance to get to know very well, and enjoying a good meal. There were also a few short speeches, and a speech given by Sabrina Pertersen [sic] on "Behind the Scenes of Digitization." The remainder of the evening was spent mingling with the rest of the alumni. However, it was cut short when the facility's fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the building.

For me, it was a strange research day that was not as successful as my other days have been. It was riddled with wrong boxes being pulled by the staff, running down to the Finding Aids room to correct the mistake,  and running back upstairs to wait for the correct boxes to arrive. I also requested muster rolls that the military archivist refused to pull for me (really she did). Then when I asked her what other information at NARA I could find relating to two Confederate soldiers I was interested in, she told me nothing other than the single CMSR card I had found on Fold3 for each of them. She also informed me that she is the military expert and knows the records. Hhhmmmm.... I'm sure she thinks she is, but I don't believe her. Why? Well, in a lecture this week given by Marie Melchiori she told us that the Federal Government was actually very interested in collecting/compiling Confederate records/information so that they couldn't qualify for claims (think Southern Claims Commission). Now do the Archives have specific information on the two guys I'm interested in? Maybe, maybe not. However, I'm pretty darn sure they have information on regiment movements, perhaps commanding officers and their actions, and finances etc. Why do I think this? Well, while the archivist was telling me I was out of luck, there was a book published by NARA on the shelf behind her about all of the Confederate records NARA has in their holdings. So when she walked away I got the book off the shelf, skimmed through it, and wrote down pertinent microfilm rolls to look at tomorrow.

Basically, I'm just trying to do thorough research, and I'm very committed to doing just that. If somebody tells me I can't have something, or that I'll never be able to find anymore information, I see it as a challenge... a throwing down of the gauntlet if you will. I become very determined to prove otherwise. So we'll see what I find tomorrow. Challenge accepted.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

NIGR 2012-Day 4

This morning I got to ride a nice air conditioned bus to Archives II in College Park, Maryland. This facility is very different than the Archives I in D.C. First of all it is a much newer building in a beautiful tree surrounded location. The records there are also not as genealogically focused, but just as genealogically useful. You just have to figure out how to use them.

Our first presentation was American Indian Research: An Introduction by Kenneth W. Heger. This was a very good but very brief overview on this topic. If you are going to FGS Kenneth is presenting there and he is a very good speaker. The next topic was Genealogical Records in the Records of the Department of State presented by two of the staff. This was an extremely packed session of information being fired at us left and right. Some of the items discussed were passport applications, visa applications, and consular records. Following the presentations was a tour of the archives.

Once the tour was completed we had the option of taking a 2:00 bus back to the archives or a 4:00 bus. I decided to snoop around a bit and take the 4:00 bus. The department I was really interested in was the 5th floor, which is photography. They have a really neat collection of WWII posters in slide format. I checked to see if I could find any photos of my Civil War soldier's regiments or officer photos, but didn't have any luck. However, I did find one photo of a soldier that looked like quite a character. I sense there is a story behind him and took down the information to research him a bit.

After another air conditioned bus ride back into the city I got right to work at Archives I. I had pulls waiting for me that needed my attention. There were more land records, a Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR), and another thick pension file with lots of letters written by the widow. I haven't counted but this is another file that is around 200 pages. Oh! I also looked at a bookmark. What is a bookmark? If you look at the bottom of a CMSR you will see a space that says "Bookmark." If it is blank throughout the whole record than there is nothing to look at in the bookmark file. However, if there is a number than you could have a juicy piece of information waiting for you. This is the second one I've looked at this week. The first didn't really tell me anything that I didn't already have information on. On the flip side, the bookmark I looked at tonight was awesome! This Civil War soldier was trying to get the "Desertion" label lifted from his file. It's great stuff that created so much paper work, that the tri-fold file was held together with a red ribbon. And that, my dear, readers was the first "red tape!"

Tomorrow promises to be another full day. I have more pulls to submit and I need to speak with an archivist who specializes in Confederate records, for a man whose card says "Killed in prison." I'm hoping I have some very good options.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NIGR 2012-Day 3

Today started out hot. You know it's hot when you are sweating in the lobby of the hotel before you even step out the door. Once I got through security at the Archives, I dropped my things off in the lecture room and went straight up to the second floor to view my requested pulls during our hour of research time.

Our first lecture of the day was slightly disappointing. The subject was NARA Records with Civil War Medical Information. I was really looking forward to this topic. However, it was presented with more of an historical slant than direction about what record groups to explore and how to use that information. The following two sessions were about immigration and naturalization presented by Marian L. Smith, who works at USCIS. Marian is extremely knowledgeable about this subject. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak...Go! Next up, was Pension Records at the National Archives present by Marie Melchiori. Marie is also a wealth of information about military records. Between yesterday and today her presentations have given me some ideas. Finally, Patricia Shawker presented Citing Records of the National Archives. It was a brief session and I think the title pretty much explains it.

So what records did I dive into today? Land baby!! Oh what a fun and exciting time I had. I copied a total of 16 land files today. I've put in requests for even more. Now if anybody ever tells you not to bother pulling land files pre-1840.... ignore them and do it anyway. Why do they tell you not to bother? Many of these pre-1840 land records are 2-3 little slips of paper stating land description and who bought it. However, I noticed a number of these records had additional information in them. Some of the files were thick compared to the 2-3 itty bitty onion skin type paper files. I didn't have the thick ones in this category. What I did have on the back of one file, was the name of the bank and a dollar amount. Cool stuff! Do you know what bank your ancestor used in 1836?

The later land records I got into were Homestead records that told me a wealth of information. Witnesses gave testimony and answered questions about my ancestor. These would have been people he knew, liked, and were friends/associates. My ancestor also had to answer questions about himself. There were  newspaper clippings stating that he was getting this land, who the witnesses were, and the title of the newspaper. NowI know what newspaper to look at for any other news regarding my ancestor. One file was a widow applying for a Homestead. I had suspicions about her relationship to my ancestor, but had no proof. She states who her husband was, which I didn't know until I read it today. I now have her connection to my ancestor... she was his daughter-in-law, not daughter as it was stated on a census.

There are still more gems that I discovered, but it is getting late and I need to prepare and figure out what other items I can request. Tomorrow we head out to Archives II in College Park. Another fun day to be sure!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NIGR 2012-Day 2

It's hard to believe that it is only Day 2! This morning we had free research time from 9-10. My requests (pulls) from yesterday weren't ready yet, so I spent that time filling out some more pull slips. To be precise I filled out 23 slips requesting land entry files. What can I say? (shrug) My people liked to buy land. Lucky me! Anyway, if I were to order these files from home it would cost me $40 dollars each, regardless if the file was 2 pages or 20. So I'm saving a lot of money.

After our research time we had 2 lectures presented by Claire Bettag on Federal Land Records and Private Land Claims. Then following lunch we heard Reginald Washington present Records of the Southern Claims Commission and Marie V. Melchiori present Basic Military Records at the National Archives. All of these were informative and presented by people who are very knowledgable in their field.

Periodically throughout the day (I skipped lunch) I was in the "pull retrieval room." This is the room on the 2nd floor that you go to when your requested materials are ready for you to view. Overall it was a successful day, even though I didn't have time to see everything I've pulled. I copied a 200 (approximate) page Civil War pension file, a Compiled Military Service Record (that inspired me to request something else), and a series of Special Order books. The Special Order books have.... military orders in them to individuals. A while ago I blogged about Hugh Luttrell being involved with a court martial somehow. On his Compiled Military Service Record was an order number. These books contained that order. It turns out that he basically served on the jury of a court martial. Pretty cool stuff.

Tonight we made a special trip to the DAR library. The library/museum is amazing and beautiful inside. They also have a tremendous amount of material there. I was able to look at family history books for specific surnames, a collection acquired from the National Huguenot Society, county/state books, and city directories. This doesn't even begin to describe their collection. Unfortunately, when I was ready to go to the computer room and look up supporting documents in DAR applications... the system had just crashed. Argh.

When it was time to go I realized I hadn't eaten dinner yet and was slightly hungry. This is a side effect of research-- you starve yourself because you are racing against the clock. Or you are just so consumed with your research you don't realize that you haven't eaten. So I took a cab back with fellow classmates and we collapsed in the restaurant of the hotel, ate, then zombie walked back to our rooms with mumbled plans of seeing each other in the morning.

Overall it was a very successful day. I'm excited to see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, July 16, 2012

NIGR 2012-Day 1

It has been a very long day. We started out meeting in the hotel lobby at 8 a.m. to walk over to NARA (Archives I). Once we got there we went through the strange security process. Why strange? Apparently it changes on a dime and nobody ever seems to know what is going on. Another words departments don't seem to communicate with each other and this wasn't exclusive to just Archives I. Hard to imagine government departments not telling each other what is going on right? (har! har!)

Anyway, after security the morning started out with a basic introduction to the archives, getting i.d. cards made (my picture is worse than a DMV picture), and hearing about the 1940 census. I missed a lot of this presentation since I was getting my i.d. card made at the time. However, I've indexed the 1940 census so I don't think I really missed too much.

We also had presentations on Headstone Records for Military Veterans, the Still Picture Branch at Archives II, an in depth session about NARA at Your Fingertips, and Cartographic Records at Archives II and the Library of Congress. This last session made me very jazzed about going to the Library of Congress tonight and exploring the maps. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the maps are held in the Madison building..... which would be closed for the evening when we were scheduled to be there. Classic!

When we arrived at the Library of Congress (LOC) I went through the process to get my researcher card. This process was not nearly as time consuming or painful at it was at Archives I. Then we listed to a presentation on what the LOC has, which is a lot. LOC is the largest library in the world, with over 151 million collections. After the presentation I did a little research in the Genealogy room. I didn't find much and really at this point I was pretty tired, as was everybody else. We dragged ourselves back to the hotel.

I submitted 4 pull slips at Archives I for tomorrow. I'm excited to see what discoveries I can make. For now.... I'm exhausted and ready to recharge with a good night's sleep.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

D.C. Bound!

I'm leaving today for Washington, D.C. to attend the National Institute on Genealogical Research. It has been an intense week of final preparation. Which means I've largely ignored email (except for important ones), I have no idea what has been on t.v. this week, and I'm vaguely aware of some sort of drama going on with the Today show (although I'm not really sure what it is).

To prep for this week I've read Guide to Genealogical Research In the National Archives of the United States by Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka. Reading this book was a little tough. Not because it is a difficult read, but for all the record groups mentioned to research. My mind would often wander to various ancestors to whom those records might apply to. I've also spent countless hours on Fold 3, the NARA website, the DAR website, and the Library of Congress website.

The only website I had a little trouble with was the Library of Congress. The holdings there are vast and a little intimidating. I was a little stumped on what I should do during our time spent there this coming week. I found myself wandering around aimlessly on the site. I realized I needed a broader yet specific subject. Sounds conflicting, right? Basically, unless you know of your ancestor being searchable on the site, ie. political figure, military figure, or some other ancestor that is obviously noted, you could meander this site without direction for hours. For a little help I turned to my binder of material from Samford this past June. As I've written previously I attended Course 4 (Elizabeth Shown Mills' class) at IGHR. I looked at the bibliographies included in the binder and that gave me some ideas. During the Samford week I attended an evening session about the Library of Congress presented by John Colletta. The handout for that session has a lot of valuable information. Between these two resources I finally decided to focus on maps. I love maps, even modern ones. They just have so much information on them. This also falls into the broader yet specific category that I mentioned.

So I'm ready... more or less. I've got a ton of notes and probably more items to research than what I will have time for. And those are just the ones I've come up with from home! I can only imagine the other ideas I will get while I'm at NIGR. I've debated about what to pack and what not to pack. I'm worried about having enough room on the way back for the things I acquire while I'm there. I've also made sure there's food, clean clothes, and instructions left behind for everybody at home.

At this point I'm looking forward to a nice quiet hotel room. That will be a treat that I will luxuriate in to be sure!! Oh! And of course I will update you on the adventures throughout the week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Genealogist on the Loose in Paris

My husband travels a lot and because of this travel, he racks up points and miles. I try not to complain too much about the travel, because those points and miles usually translate into a nice vacation. Yahoo for me! So last week we went to Paris as a celebration of our 10 year anniversary back in May. It came at a good time too. My head has been spinning with all the knowledge gained from Samford and all the prep taking place for NIGR. So off to Paris we went.

The funny thing about being a genealogist though, is that you never stop thinking like one. Our first day we wandered around the city and took in a couple of sites. The second day we spent in Versailles. This place was amazing! Me, with my modern day luxuries and conveniences, was agog over the splendor of it all. It's not hard to imagine why the starving peasants were so pissed. I would have been too.

During our trip we also went to the Catacombs and a small quaint museum called The Cluny Museum, both in Paris. The Catacombs house the bones of approximately 6 million people. In 1786 the people of Paris wanted to make space for the living and decided to empty the church cemeteries. The bones were transferred, by priests, to the underground tunnels made from limestone quarries. This process took about a decade, of priests transferring, stacking, and blessing the bones. After the bodies were transferred from each church a plaque was placed in front of the wall of bones, indicating the church, the date, and the district said church was located. As a genealogist, this would be a bit challenging. How could you locate gggg granny or gramps? I had some answers swirling around in my head, but voiced this question to my husband. He replied they could look in the church registers to find out if their people were buried at that church---hence they would now be in the Catacombs. This answer shocked me into silence. I can't believe he's actually been listening to my ramblings over the years about how to look for evidence! Hunh. Color me surprised.

The Cluny Museum is an out of the way gem that I insisted we had to go to. Why? They have the distinct privilege of housing The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries. I've read about them over the years and was busting to see them for myself. They didn't disappoint. My mom went through a weaving phase when I was a kid, so I understand the process. The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are truly a work of art that are just incredible to behold. The Cluny Museum also houses an interesting collection of carvings from the Middle Ages, a Roman Bath (the museum is located on the site of a Roman bathhouse), and stone heads from Notre-Dame.

The stone heads were a surprise. There were 21 heads sculpted (circa 1220-1230) to represent the Biblical kings of Judah. Well an angry mob of Revolutionaries in 1793, thought these heads represented the kings of France. So like any angry mob they attacked the statues and decapitated them! What is truly surprising is that some rational, forward thinking person gathered up these heads and buried them in his backyard. They stayed buried until 1977 when diggers discovered them. I can't begin to tell you all of the questions swirling around in my head over this scenario. However, I did turn to my husband and say,"I wonder if anybody has researched the land records to discover who this person was that buried them?"

It's hard to stop thinking like a genealogist, even when you are on vacation. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy July 4th!

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wishing you all a very safe and happy 4th of July!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Thin Line of Assumptions

I grew up in New Jersey. When I was 8 years old we moved onto a 46 acre farm that was at the end of a mile long driveway. Yes, New Jersey is not all Atlantic City, Newark, and turnpikes. There is a very pretty part that is rural and filled with farms.

Anyway, on this mile long driveway were three other houses with separate driveways branching off of it. In one house lived a lovely elder German couple with a sign at the beginning of their driveway that said, "WARE DO." One day I asked my parents what it meant. Their response was that it must be some German saying. Keep in mind none of us spoke German, but I accepted the answer. Eventually we asked the couple what "WARE DO" meant. It turns out that over time some letters had fallen off the sign. The sign originally said, "BEWARE OF DOG."

We all make assumptions everyday about any number of things, like people or places. Genealogy research is filled with assumptions that we hope to prove or disprove. For example, my ggg grandfather Hugh Luttrell moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Missouri as an older teenager. His parents and most of his siblings stayed in Knoxville. I make the assumption that Hugh moved to Missouri with a family member, possibly his older brother that also disappears off the Knoxville tax rolls at the same time. As of yet, I have no proof to back up this assumption but I'm working on it.

Assumptions are a part of life and a part of research. It's walking a thin line between truth and fiction. Just remember to keep an open mind and that there could be an alternate possibility.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do You Have a Master Plan?

Last week at Samford somebody told me I was lucky to get into Course 4. I replied that it was all part of my master plan. This person looked at me surprised and said, "You have a master plan?"

Of course I do, don't you?

In January everybody was posting their New Year's resolutions. I generally don't do those. It's too much pressure to come up with something on the spot, and really by January 1st I'm worn out by all the festivities. I can't begin to think of what I need to work towards. Instead I make goals around the time of my birthday, for the year until my next birthday. After all one's birthday is a natural time to reflect on your life, and where you want it to go. So here goes:

  1. Create and put online a website for my business. This is the one goal that is a carry over from last year. I attempted to use Weebly to create a website, but got frustrated with the limited options. The delay has worked out, as I've discovered some items I would like to add to the site. So this goal is currently in the research and development stage.
  2. and 3. Research and Write. My plan is to start working on my case study and the kinship determination project for certification. I want to have these two elements well underway, or complete, by the time I start the clock. 
That's it. These three goals may not appear to be much, but I'm not very tech savvy and research/writing takes a lot of time. A lot of time. 

Oh yeah! I also have a plan for what course I want to take at Samford next June too. But I'll fill you in on that after registration in January 2013.

Friday, June 15, 2012

IGHR 2012-Day 5

Today was the last day at Samford. It's bittersweet. I wish I could stay, but I just don't think my brain could process anymore information. I'm also excited to see my boys. I've missed them.

We spent the last day with Elizabeth, and started out the morning going over our assignments that we handed in yesterday. I did well, and even got a "Good job!", but I see how I could have done better. Which is a good thing, since we are here to learn. After this Elizabeth presented a session on developing research plans, and how to go about analyzing the material we have. Next, we reviewed the reading homework from last night. Finally we received our certificates of completion, and our "I Survived Samford IGHR 4" pins. It was a satisfying moment for all of us.

After saying good-bye to friends, I loaded up into my car for the 2 1/2 hour drive home. The drive was fairly uneventful, which is a good thing. There was much excitement caused by my homecoming and I've been smothered with hugs, kisses and affection. However, the exhaustion has caught up to me. I can't believe how tired I am. I'm sure this upcoming week I'll be able to reflect more on what I learned, but for now I need to catch up on some sleep.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

IGHR 2012-Day 4

I can't believe it is Thursday already and tomorrow is the last day! This week has been a quick one. Perhaps it is because of all the new information to process and how busy we have been. Certainly today was not an exception.

The basic theme for today was land and probate records, which of course includes land. So really it was all about land. The morning started out with Elizabeth presenting a lecture on Public Land Records. In the discussion she showed us examples of how tracking land ownership, the placement of land tracts, and looking at land entry files can help you determine relationships and ancestors. I've seen her present similar lectures before, but I still find her examples and the thought process behind them fascinating. It is truly inspiring. In fact one case study Elizabeth shared with us, of how she determined the relationship between two families had all of our heads spinning.

Our next session was "Probate Records: Analysis, Interpretation and Correlation" presented by Tom Jones. He discussed how probate records can be used for genealogical research, the general concepts of them, and how to get the most out of them. We also had two in-class examples to work on. I found this task a little challenging, simply because people were calling their ideas out and it was too distracting. I would have loved to have had a few moments of quiet to study the examples and formulate my own solutions. However, I'm familiar with the methodology Tom was discussing, so I don't feel like I missed out on his point.

After lunch Elizabeth was back with us discussing more about land. This time the focus was on using strategies for ancestors that lived on rural lands, otherwise known as "living out in the sticks." The methodologies she presented are to help with finding that ancestor you think never owned land, or was too poor to own land. The basic idea is that, most people left some sort of paper trail behind. You just need to apply some creative thinking to find that paper trail. Once you figure it out, then you can at least go back another generation or two.

Our final presenter of the day was Rick Sayre, who discussed "Urban Strategies: Correlation of Deeds, Maps, Directories." He demonstrated how using Sanborn Maps along with deeds and city directories can  help you identify ancestors and where they lived. Knowing this can really give a better understanding of your ancestors' lives. It certainly can make it more interesting than just birth, marriage, and death dates. Let's face it, everybody's life is more than just three dates. Right?

We had a little extra time today between the last class and our banquet dinner. At this point, many of the attendees are walking around looking a little dazed. We have all been bombarded with information and our brains are spinning with ideas of how we can apply it to our research. Before dinner I tackled the homework.We need to pick one of two articles to analyze and critique. I have scribbled all sorts of notations on mine, and I'm sure there are more to add.

The banquet was nice and relaxing. The speaker was Dr. Larry H. Spruill and his presentation was, "The Lazarus Factor: Genealogy and The Calling Forth of the Dead." He was entertaining and recognized the importance of genealogical work. It's important to recognize and give life to your ancestors. In essence you are an extension of them, as your descendants will be an extension of you.