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.