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.