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!