Not the Year I Thought This Would Be

Well, here I am, looking at this blog and thinking how sad it is that I haven’t posted in so long. Not only that, how long since I’ve done any real research! This year of new job responsibilities plus quite a battle with health issues have made this a VERY different year than I thought it would be!

So last week, while my mother was visiting for the 4th, I decided to FINALLY take a look at the 1940 census to see if I could find her family – although she wasn’t born for a couple of years yet. I used the links that Ancestry has on the home page to use the Stephen Morse and Joel Weintraub work and I pretty quickly found my mother’s grandfather in Franklin, Indiana, by entering the E.D. from their 1930 census but I could not found her family using the same method.

She tried to think of all the places that she had heard about her family living before she was born and I used that information along with my aunt’s birth certificate (she was born in 1939) to discover that the family probably lived in Shelby County. From there, I used the 1940 census Enumeration District map available at the Online Public Access site found at Archives.com.  (Find instructions for using this site under Number 3 at http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/start-research.html)

Luckily, Shelby County was not a booming metropolis like Chicago or even Indianapolis! I used the Ancestry option of selecting a district within a county to begin a page by page browsing to look for Mom’s family. They weren’t in the same district as the address on my Aunt’s birth certificate, so I began searching districts between that location and the Franklin location where my grandfather lived. As I moved across the county looking for the family, I began to think they would never be found this way. After about 2 hours of searching (and a tiny bit of a census reader’s headache!) I found them! And while I didn’t discover any earth shattering information, we all know that it’s all about collecting all the information we can and I’m happy to have it!

Midwest Geneabloggers Meetup!

I’ve been in countdown mode for quite awhile and it’s finally here! I’ll be attending the MGM today at the Allen County Public Library and I’m super excited to be meeting so many bloggers who share a passion for family history research!

I think part of the reason I’m so excited about today is because I wasn’t able to participate like I had hoped at the RootsTech convention due to illness.  What I thought was food poisoning at the time turned into a month-long hopscotch from test to test that resulted in several days of thinking I had cancer only to have a biopsy reveal that I have sarcoidosis in my lungs along with painful swollen lymph nodes throughout my torso.

I’m looking forward to making some new friends as well as getting some research done.  This will be my first trip back to the library in months and I’m actually a little nervous about it! I had hoped to make a very detailed research plan for the day, but that didn’t happen.  Before my illness, I was deep into research on my Smith family and even though I thought I renewed my FHL microfilms in time, I believe they may have been sent back and not all have returned to the ACPL yet. When I started getting back into research during my recovery last month, I re-opened my Stephens research so I’ll be bringing that along for the day as well.

So my goals for today:

1)  Hoping that the microfilm with the index to deeds for Mercer County is in. Look for Smith deeds that can help me connect my Russell County John M. Smith to Mercer County.

2) Use the ACPL computers to access Fold3 to look for a pension file for Andrew Jackson Stephens. I have the file number, just need to see if it’s been scanned yet.

3) Spend some time looking for information on Andrew Jackson Stephens in Pulaski County. Is he related to my Russell County Andrew Stephens? I haven’t done any research with Pulaski County records, so it has the potential for lots of new information for me.

4) Make lots of new genealogy friends and enjoy a day of genealogy research – doing my very best to forget about illness and work and instead get re-energized about doing genealogy.  After all – Spring break is a week away and I’ll just happen to be in the city with the 2nd largest genealogy library in the world!!!

“The Andrew Jackson 5″

I was showing my daughter the cover that I’m making for my Andrew Jackson Stephens binder.  My son – who is a graphic designer – created the outline of a tree with the silhouettes of 5 men in the tree. When she looked at the image, she told me that the 5 shadows looked like a “boy band” and she told me I should title it “The Andrew Jackson 5″.  Well, she caught me at just the right moment and I found that extremely funny and giggled about it the rest of the night.

I told her that I’d like to use her fingerprints to make the leaves for the tree.  (An idea that I totally stole from the Budget-Minded Bride blog.) So I thought I’d give an update with a picture of my cover as well as a picture of my daughter diligently coloring her fingertips with highlighters to use like rubber stamps to create the leaves of my tree.  I just love it!  She drew the line, however, when I asked her if I could use her hair like a paint brush to fill in the grass.  I guess helping out mom and “being one with the tree” only goes so far…

Piecing it Together

I’ve always said that I tend to make better discoveries whenever I reorganize information into a different format.  Whether it’s putting together an Excel file or a Research Plan or whatever, I usually see something that I’ve had in my notes forever, but never was able to see the significance for.

So I’m loving this binder that organizes all of the information that I have for the 5 different Andrew Stephens men.  VERY little of it is new, it’s just that now all of the information is together in one place. (See the tab at the top to see specific information for each Andrew (still in progress)).

I now realize that Andrew 4 is the Uncle of Andrew 1 AND the wife of Andrew 3.  (Which means that Andrew 1 is the brother-in-law to Andrew 3.) Andrew 2 is the son of Andrew 1 and therefore Andrew 3 is the Uncle to Andrew 2. This makes alot more sense in a diagram, but I haven’t taken the time to create a digital version.

I know that Andrew 3′s father is Ebenezer Stephens.  I tried to do some research on him this evening to try to find a family connection, but so far, no luck. My last Andrew (Andrew 5) is a total mystery for me. He was married to Susan Presha Smiley and while I can find quite a bit on her family, I do not have any reliable information on his parentage, so I cannot tell if there is a connection or not, but I’ll be looking for one! I have a feeling that some of my answers may lie in land records and at this time, I’m not quite up to a day of research at the library, so I’ll have to see if I happen to have something in my filing cabinet already.

I realize that anyone NOT researching these men is totally turned off by my number system here, it’s just more of a progress report on the binder project than anything else.

Tracking the Andrews

As my binder grows with printouts, I can see that I know more about the various Andrews than I thought I did when I began the binder. I’ve had alot of “oh yeah! – now I remember!” moments.

I think I’m going to create a separate page on this blog to keep a table of information for the various Andrews so if there are any other Andrew Stephens researchers out there, they can see what I have and maybe lead me to sources I haven’t thought of yet. I’m going to try to update the page any time I find new information and I’ll try to be good with source citations – but I make no promises on the format of the citations.  I certainly have the “citation bug”, I just don’t have the strain of the virus that makes me stress over commas and publishers and such. (Especially at this point in my recovery!)

See the tab at the top of the screen if you’d like to follow along with the information gathering!

Pension Index Differences

Last night’s notebook “assignment” was to transcribe the Civil War Pension file that I have for Andrew J. Stephens and to organize the different Pension Index Cards and Compiled Service Record print outs so that I can have the right records with the correct Andrew. The Pension File was only 8 pages long, so that went pretty quickly.

I have Index Cards for 3 different units, but they only apply to 2 different men.  The records for these 2 men were mixed and led to several mistakes in the pension process, so that is the knot I’m trying to untangle.

I had noticed in the past that the Index Cards that I see on Ancestry are slightly different from the ones I got from Fold3.  If you don’t know that there’s a difference, it’s easy to assume you have all of the information you’ll ever get from looking at one card only.

So last night, I did some research to see how the cards are different and I thought I’d share what I found. I got the information from the comments section to Fold3’s Index Cards and from a FamilySearch Wiki. First, the names of the databases are different.

Both online databases are digitized NARA files. Ancestry’s database is the “Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861 – 1934”.
Fold3’s database is the “Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900”.  There is also a 3rd database found at NARA called “Numerical Index to Pensions, 1860-1934”.

I tried to research WHY each set of cards was created.  After all, they are so similar, it really seems like a waste of time and money to create both sets. I could not find anything on the original intent for each project, but here’s what I’ve discovered about each database:

Ancestry’s:

  • Arranged alphabetically by soldier’s name
  • Includes the unit the soldier served in
  • Gives application and certificate number for invalid, widow and minor filings
  • Could contain more than one card and can include the name of the widow or minor child
  • Has a section for “remarks”
  • If cards were too dark (mainly Navy related) they were not digitized
  • Available at Ancestry.com and NARA

Fold3’s:

  • Arranged by military unit within regiments for each state
  • Includes the unit the soldier served in
  • Gives application and certificate number for invalid, widow and minor filings
  • Has a blank for date of death
  • Has a section for “additional service” and “other remarks”
  • Available at Fold3.com and NARA
  • Will reference at FamilySearch.org, but clicking the image takes you to Fold3

NARA’s:

  • Arranged by Pension number
  • Contains the information for every pension for that number – soldier application, soldier certificate, widow application and widow certificate (This part confuses me as it appears that one index number could refer to several different people that don’t appear to be related.  So I BELIEVE this means that the 4 different types of records have duplicated numbers.)
  • Only available on microfilm in Washington DC

Either digital card might contain a death date, but it seems to be more common on the Fold3 cards.  The Fold3 cards have the word “DEAD” stamped on the upper right corner if the death date is included. On my cards, there are remarks on the Ancestry cards that do not appear on the Fold3 cards.  For one of my veterans, there is a note to see another man’s file for additional information. The other man was the first husband of the veteran’s current wife. When she filled in her paperwork for a widow’s pension, she gave information on both men.  That is something I would not have known to look for if I’d only looked at the Fold3 card.  A new numbering system was also put into place in the 1920’s by the Veteran’s administration. These new numbers were apparently used some of the Ancestry cards so you may need to see both cards to be able to request the correct file. (I don’t have that issue, so I’m not sure what that looks like.)

Here’s an example of what I’m looking at for one of the Andrew J. Stephens.

Stephens, Andrew J Co C 13 Ky Cav – Fold3


Stephens, Andrew J Co C 13 Ky Cav – Ancestry

Again, the differences aren’t huge, but the extra note on the Fold3 card gave me information that I wouldn’t have had by using Ancestry only.

The “Andrew Stephens” Project Progress

Today, I’m beginning my binder.  My first step is to begin printing the various “organization” files I have and to begin putting them in the binder.  For example, I have an Excel spreadsheet in which I had created a timeline of census records for each of my Andrews.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the file to print and discovered that I have not 3 but FIVE Andrew Stephens to follow! Based on my current memory (which is very likely wrong) I have no parents for any of these men except for the father/son combo. Four of the 5 men have Russell County census records.  The 5th Andrew is from a neighboring county (Pulaski Co) but he is the man who’s pension file is mixed up with “my” Andrew’s file.

So I have my binder and 5 dividers and I will label the sections by wives’ names I suppose. I would love to be able to take each man back one generation so that I can see if these men are related. I will have one section of my “comparison” stuff like the Excel file mentioned and then each man will have his own section with documents that apply only to him. I will try to include all military documents, tax listings, land records, court records, vital records and pictures.

I have many, many things to print and organize and as I do so, I’m hoping that my memory is able to recall steps I’ve already taken so that I’m not duplicating effort, but the real objective of this project is to get re-motivated and to get back into my research in small steps.  I love the feeling of creating something tangible – thus all the paper! –  and the silly part of me even wants to create a colorful cover for the binder.  But that may be a little bit of “spring fever” coming through.  Not a bad thing to have! I also feel like I have a better ability to “connect the dots” when I can read from paper as opposed to a computer screen and to physically write on the pages that I have.

This blog post obviously doesn’t have much in the way of genealogy information to share, just my ramblings as I try to get back into a “normal” schedule of blogging. Hopefully, I’ll soon have some more interesting things to write about!

On another note, I’d like to thank everyone for the kind comments and prayers that you’ve been sending my way. They give me strength when I am weary and words cannot express how thankful I am for that!

A Project to Work on

As my health is starting to improve, I’m getting the urge to get back into my research, but when I think about digging in again, I get overwhelmed. My medication effects my memory as well and I don’t want to “waste” time re-searching for documents or other information. So I’m trying to think of a “project” that won’t require a ton of original research.

I’ve decided to try to work on an organization project which I already have the information for, I just need to get it all into a better format. I have 3 men in my databased from about the same time period named Andrew J. Stephens. Two of these men are father and son. I have yet to determine if/how the 3rd Andrew may be related to the other two men, but he was the 2nd husband of my GG-Grandmother. The pension file for Andrew J. Stephens indicates that his paperwork and military information was confused with the other Andrew, so this has not been a dilemma to me alone.

I know that at one time, I had many documents taped to a wall in a spare bedroom as I tried to figure out which document went with which man. I had pension documents, tax records, land records and pictures of tombstones that were confusing to match up.

So I’d like to re-print everything and put together a “Binder of Andrews”. I will re-print documents for this binder so that I’m not removing documents from their regular folders. I’ll have a section for each Andrew and as I feel up to it, I’ll type out a detailed timeline for each man – something I’m sure I have for “my” Andrew, but not the other 2 men. I’ll try to create a map showing where each of the 3 men lived within the county based on land records. I’ve written alot on this blog about my Andrew research, so I’ll try to get those posts into a coherent form within the binder. I’ll also use this as an opportunity to try some new software to annotate on a document before printing.

I’m not expecting to make any huge breakthroughs with this project – but I wouldn’t turn it down! I mainly want to get back into the “swing” of research without feeling like I’m muddling things up. I don’t want to feel any time pressures and I want to have something tangible to help keep me motivated to keep working.  One thing I’ve discovered in the last month is that if you don’t have some type of goal to work toward, the natural tendency is to do nothing at all. And while I know that there is great value for me right now to do nothing but rest, I can see how this could become an excuse to get started tomorrow…or the day after that…or the day after that….

A Precious Gift

A week and a half ago, I was told that I have cancer.

How could a backache in December turn into cancer by February? After some emotional time with my husband, we sent out the word to friends and family and asked for prayer. The outpouring of love that came back to me through emails and phone calls was so touching to me. The number of people praying for me grew each day and it was an amazing thing to experience. As I’ve said before, I’m pretty shy and have never felt like I have a very large group of friends, but this has shown me otherwise!

Obviously, my husband and I made a vow “through sickness and health” but the degree with which my husband dropped everything to take care of me was phenomenal. He took care of everything from becoming the “information coordinator” and medical secretary to making my meals and helping me get around as the pain medication made me sleepy and light headed. He filled out a million medical forms for me as the shaking in my hands would barely allow me to sign my own name, let alone anything else. I moved from place to place every night trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in and he never complained. My children also showed extreme tenderness and I often found small symbols of love in unexpected places. My daughter even drew a heart for me to find in the lotion covered lid of my face cream. My sons sat with me in the evenings just holding my hand while we watched tv.

But I was to be blessed again when the biopsy came back several days later NEGATIVE for cancer! I don’t know how many people rejoice and celebrate when they hear that they have sarcoidosis, but this family sure did! Since December, I have been “diagnosed” with a compressed nerve, then gallstones, then pancreatitis, then cancer, then sarcoidosis. I even missed 2 days of the 3 day Roots Tech conference because I thought I had food poisoning! (If any of the Kentucky Researchers group I missed having dinner with Friday night are reading this – please accept my apology for missing out!)

When I got over the initial shock of hearing that I had cancer, my thoughts about my genealogy research were “who cares????” I didn’t think I’d ever feel that way, but if I’m being honest, I thought about my filing cabinet of files and thought “what a waste of time and paper!” But by that evening, my thoughts turned more toward thinking about the easiest way to donating the information to the Russell County genealogy society or something. Would they even want it?

That led me to begin thinking about what I’d want future generations to know about me.  I’d want them to know how important my relationship with Jesus Christ is as well as my relationships with my family. I’d want them to know how much I enjoy teaching and that I think there’s so much more to it than teaching math procedures. Again, it’s about building relationships and helping others see how to keep priorities straight in life. And this time of sickness has helped me to see my priorities in a new light.

I was surprised to see how quickly my genealogy research priorities changed. Now, I don’t feel quite as compelled to find the next date or name for my chart, but I now have a deeper desire to try to find out more about the lives of my ancestors and what relationships they built during their lives. Exactly how I’m going to do that, I’m not sure, but when I get my strength back, it will be fun trying!

New Group Sheets – Word and Excel

Yesterday, I arrived in Salt Lake City for the RootsTech conference.  I must have had genealogy forms on my mind when I went to sleep because I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about a change I wanted to make to my group sheets!

It’s always bothered me that there was a space for marriage info for the husband AND the wife, basically meaning that there was an unused line on the wife’s side. So last night, it occurred to me that I could use the husband’s side for MILITARY info and the wife’s side for marriage info.  I’ve changed my Word and Excel group sheets to reflect this.  I also noticed some errors on my Word version, so I fixed those as well.  Here are the new forms, if you’re interested.

Blank Group Sheet (Word)

Blank Group Sheet (Excel)

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