The $50 Question part 2

Recently, I posed a question to one of the genealogy groups I belong to on Facebook. “If you had $50 to spend on something genealogy related, what would you spend it on?”

I received $50 at Christmas from a relative and I was hoping to learn about a new web site or an interesting book for Russell County. There were some excellent suggestions: a portable scanner, a DNA test, a subscription to Legacy Family Tree Webinars, but I supposed I am a spoiled genealogist because I already have all of those.

So what did I decide on? I decided to research some options to help me stay digitally organized with my research.

In part 1, I discussed the Rocketbook Cloud Cards that I have been using. That took half of my $50 gift.

For the remainder of my gift, I also turned to Rocketbook, but this time, I purchased the Medium sized Think Board X2 for $24.99. (I am not affiliated with Rocketbook.)

The Think Board is a peel and stick dry erase “whiteboard” with 4 orange triangular “beacons” which allow you to scan your board and then send it to one or multiple destinations including:

  • Google Drive
  • Evernote
  • OneNote
  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
  • Trello
  • Slack
  • Box
  • iCloud
  • Multiple emails
  • iMessage (on IOS)

My plan is to scan notes, lists, mind maps, etc. and send to OneNote until I am ready to “officially” add the information to my notes or research log. I can also send my scans to my email as a PDF file. And I just created a new folder in my Google Drive called “Rocketbook” so that I can send files there as well. The great thing is being able to scan and send to multiple locations at the same time.

Another great feature included when sending to OneNote (and I’m sure some of the other destinations as well) is the OCR transcription, if enabled, to include with each scan. I can copy the OCR text and paste it into my notes to save me time from re-typing. Once scanned, I can dry erase the entire board and begin again.

One thing I’m planning to use it for is to place an obituary or other paper item in the middle of the board and then add information around it with the dry erase markers. As a test, I tried it with a map I made on grid paper of an original land grant. This particular “map” had been cut out and placed inside of the pad of grid paper. I do not know a county and I don’t even recognize the name. That is not at all unusual – which is why I’m looking for these ideas to keep my work digitally. I added some names around to show an example of how I might include the neighbors mentioned along each border. (The OCR for this one was interesting because it didn’t know what in the world my tree sketches were!)

This is the main idea that I had in mind when I purchased the board. A way to analyze documents to show relationships of witness and other people mentioned in the document. Even if I don’t have a paper copy, I can make a list of names mentioned in a deed or obituary and then add any relationships as I figure them out.

The Think Board comes in multiple sizes and even has a clear option, so you can peel and stick it anywhere. The board that I purchased is 10×15 because I wanted to be able to have a sheet of paper in the middle in order to write around it but still be portable. The board isn’t quite a big as I’d like but the next size up is 24×36.(They have sizes that will cover the width of an entire wall!) I wanted something that I could take along to the library easily, so that’s why I didn’t get the largest size, but it would be nice for the type of thing I’m thinking of.

Things I Like

  • Portability – if I can find a way to tote it around without having the backing peel off. It IS meant to be stuck to a flat surface, but I’m afraid it would peel the paint off my desk if I stick it there. I do have a VERY large clip board that my son used in college for his graphic design degree. I use it with artist paper to draw some of the maps of ancestor land. I can potentially stick my Think Board to the back of that, if the backing starts to come off. But that would GREATLY reduce the portability!
  • Re-useable – I don’t have to scan EVERYTHING I write on the board – but it should help me reduce the number of notes on scrap paper laying around my desk waiting to transferred to my official notes.
  • A lot of companies install larger versions of the Think Boards on the walls around their offices so that teams can brainstorm on them and then scan and send to the appropriate places. I love the idea of having a board that I can add to over time as I come across new information, but I would need a bigger board for that.
  • I like that I can send my scans to multiple locations with one click.
  • I like that I can have my scans in multiple formats with a single scan depending on where I send it.
  • I LOVE that once a scan is in my OneNote, I can still type additional notes on the same page as more occurs to me. The scan itself doesn’t have to be “final” just because I scanned and erased it. I can add a short paragraph about where the information came from or even go all out and create my citation.

Things I Don’t Like

  • Because the board is meant to be stuck down (the web site says that can be re-positioned multiple times) and I’m not using it that way, it doesn’t lay completely flat. The shiny nature of the Think Board can create a bit of a rainbow effect in the scan. But who knows, this might bother me enough to transfer the information to it’s permanent location sooner.
  • The board comes with 1 dry erase marker – which is great. But it’s a little too thick for this size of board. I will be buying some ultra fine tip markers in various colors.

My Next Purchase

The part of the Think Board that makes the scanning work is the orange triangles, called “beacons” in the corners of the board. You can purchase 4 beacons on their own for $15 and you can add them to the corners of any whiteboard or even corners of a paper. They are repositionable, so I can move them between my larger whiteboard and even place them on my white desktop around papers or objects and scan them that way. By using these beacons, you are not restricted to a specific size, which makes them much more versatile!


Have you ever looked at the 1860 Social Statistics?

Every genealogist looks for every census record their ancestor was listed in, but how many of us look at the non-population schedules? You can find all kinds of extra information to help you paint the picture of your ancestor’s life at a specific point in time. And they are available for free on FamilySearch.

Today, I was looking at the Social Statistics schedule for Russell County, Kentucky. It’s only 1 page and it tells the total values of real estate and personal estate, information about schools and libraries, newspapers and churches.

In 1860, Russell County had no information listed for schools, libraries or newspapers. But it DID tell that the oat crops of the county were short to the point of being a failure. It states that the usual average crop was 10 bushels per acre. There were 12 churches of 5 different denominations, 1 of which could accommodate 1000 people. The county had 4 paupers and 1 criminal convicted within the year. There is also a listing of the average wages:

  • Average monthly wages to a farm-hand with board – $12
  • Average to a day-laborer with board – 50 cents
  • Average to a day-laborer without board – 60 cents
  • Average day wages of a carpenter without board – $1.50
  • Weekly wages to a female domestic with board – $1.00
  • Price of board to laboring men per week – $1.50

I haven’t looked at every county, but the ones that I did look at all had notes on the blank page before the form listing the kinds of property that had been taxed in the county. For Russell County, it was Land, Houses & lots, Slaves, Horses & Mares, Mules, Jennies, Studs, Jacks & Bulls (Licensed), Cattle (over $50 worth), Stores, Taverns (Licensed), Cash & Notes, Pleasure Carriages, Barouches, Buggies, Stage Coaches, Giggs, Omnibuses & other vehicles for Passengers, Gold & Silver & Metallic Watches & Clocks, Gold & Silver Plate and Piano fortes.

But George W Moore, assistant marshal, went above and beyond and gave us the following:

Remark: The water in Russell County is limestone and free stone. The rock generally near the surface is limestone and sand stone, the growth of timber is white oak black oak chesnut hickory dogwood poplar black walnut some sugartree and beech and white & black ash. There is a mixture of iron ore in certain localities. (Read about the Iron Foundry on Greasy Creek here.) The soil on the highlands is a mixture of clay and sand, on the creeks and over bottom a mixture of the same rich and productive. The River Cumberland runs through the South part of the County from Northeast to Southwest, is navigable for Steam boats through the greater parts of the winter and Spring seasons of the year.

I certify that there are 137 pages of schedule of free inhabitants, 7 pages of slaves, 2 pages of mortality, 36 pages agriculture, 1 page products of industry & 1 page of social statistics amounting in the aggregate to 184 pages and that said returns are & were made according to my oath and Instruction to the best of my knowledge and belief.

One last thing that makes Russell County unique – there are additional notes on the back side of the Russell County page:

  • Value of Land & town lots: $848,562
  • Value of slaves: $335,645
  • Value of horses: $134, 762
  • Value of mules: $7,005
  • Value of jennies $1,920
  • Value of cattle: $22,118
  • Value of stores: $37,250
  • Equalization law all other estate: $220,000

Is there anything earth shattering here? I suppose that depends on what you’re looking for. Looking at the 1860 population schedule, it appears that there are 969 families in the county based on the family numbers given on the forms. Combine this with the information specifics for your ancestor in the 1860 tax records here or here. If you’re a statistics type of person, you could do some math to calculate if your ancestor was on the upper or lower side of the average amount for each category.

But that’s not really the point. The point is: are you looking for EVERY possible record that existed during the lifetime of your ancestor? You never know what you’ll find.

Want to know about your ancestor’s farm? (How did your ancestor’s oat crop do considering the statistics schedule said there was an oat crop failure?) 1860 agriculture schedule

Did you ancestor own a manufacturing business? (Distillery, tanning, sadlery, shoe shop, saw mill) 1860 manufacturing schedule

Looking for a date of death between June 1, 1859 and June 1, 1860? 1860 mortality schedule

Did your ancestor own slaves? (The population schedule doesn’t ask, so how will you know if you don’t look?) 1860 slave schedule

There’s more to find in the census records besides the names of our ancestors!

The $50 Question part 1

Recently, I posed a question to one of the genealogy groups I belong to on Facebook. “If you had $50 to spend on something genealogy related, what would you spend it on?”

I received $50 at Christmas from a relative and I was hoping to learn about a new web site or an interesting book for Russell County. There were some excellent suggestions: a portable scanner, a DNA test, a subscription to Legacy Family Tree Webinars, but I supposed I am a spoiled genealogist because I already have all of those.

So what did I decide on? I decided to research some options to help me stay digitally organized with my research.

I have a real “problem” with post-it notes and scrap paper. These little notes are all over my desk. Whenever I have printouts that I’m ready to throw away, assuming the back of each page is blank, I cut the pages into fourths to use as scrap paper. I keep a stack of these papers beside my computer at all times. Some of these little notes are business related and some are genealogy related. Sometimes, I make a to do list, write down dates, or an email address or meeting/appointment information. When I’m looking at an index for a resource, I grab one of these sheets to keep a list of pages to look up. Sometimes, I will write a note to go back and read an article found online or in a magazine. Sometimes, I don’t write a note, I just have a dozen browser tabs open so I don’t lose them!

But these little papers and post-it notes pile up and sooner or later, I have to go through them to decide what to toss and what to keep. More often then not, I can’t remember what the note applied to. Who do these dates apply to? Did I add them to Ancestry already? Which specific Family Tree Magazine was I hoping to return to? Did I look at all of the pages I had listed to look at in a resource? This is a long list, but where did I stop last time? In the end, I end up throwing away most of my little notes because I can’t remember what they refer to.

Obviously, I need to do a better job with labeling what my notes refer to. But little scraps of paper just seem to scream, “I’m not important!” so I also need a better way to organize this information so that at a minimum, I know which ancestor or resource I am referring to. I need something that feels more important than a scrap of paper so I will spend more time thinking about what information to include on my note. And I need to know if I’ve already acted on the information and if the information has been added to my ancestor notes and research log. So that was my goal when I started researching for a digital research accessory.

The 1st Purchase

The first item I decided to purchase with my $50 was a double set of Cloud Cards from Rocketbook. ($18 for 1 set, $25 for a double set) Note: I am not affiliated with this product.

Some of the features of these cards include:

  • Index card size
  • Lined on the front, dotted grid on the back. The dotted side can be used for diagrams or mind mapping, but obviously, space is limited.
  • Re-usable – write on the card with an erasable Frixon pen and wipe it away with a damp cloth. (Black pen and cloth included – you can purchase these pens in multiple colors – which could be fun!)
  • 2 border colors available – black, if you order 1 set and if you order 2 sets, you get 1 set of black and 1 set of green.
  • Scan cards 1 at a time, or in batches. There is a feature to turn on which will keep cards in a batch together.
  • OCR transcription available on up to 16 cards as a time (sent as a batch)
  • Scan the card with the free app and you can send the image and OCR text to up to 7 destinations at a time from the following list:
    • Google Drive
    • Evernote
    • OneNote
    • Dropbox
    • OneDrive
    • Trello
    • Slack
    • Box
    • iCloud
    • Multiple emails
    • iMessage (on IOS)
    • (Note, so far, I have only worked with email and OneNote)
  • If you use double hashtags, you can set a title before you send. In OneNote (for example) this will be the page title. If you send to an email address, the email will contain a pdf file with the name you put between the hashtags. The pdf will contain perfectly framed images of the cards you scanned.
  • These cards have a feature that you can enable to turn them into flashcards to use in “Study Mode”. (Think about those foreign language terms that you’d like to learn.) The app will show you the front of the card and when you click the button, it will flip to show you the back before moving on to the next card.


The first thing I tried with my cards was to begin a list of relatives and the cemeteries they are buried in. Sometimes, the information comes from Find A Grave, but I find it is not uncommon for my ancestors to be LISTED in Find A Grave, but the cemetery is listed as “unknown” because someone added the information as a memorial without the benefit of cemetery records or tombstone details. Sometimes, I’ll find the cemetery listed on a death record or an obituary. Many of my ancestors were buried in cemeteries that had to be moved when Lake Cumberland was being born, so the cemetery listed on the death record is not the same place they can be found now. Sometimes, a family history will tell where the burial was. On the Cloud Cards, I can write the name of the ancestor, the cemetery they were buried in, and the source where I found that information. When I feel I have enough cards, I can sort the cards by cemetery and add a double hashtag to the first card. For example, If I write ## Square Oak Cemetery ## on the first card, when I scan and send those cards to OneNote, it adds all of the images and the transcribed text to a new page in my OneNote and titled the page Square Oak Cemetery.

Once the app sends the image to OneNote, you can resize and rearrange the way you want. You can cut or copy and image from one page to add to a different page. As I work more with the cards, I’m discovering more items I’d like to include on the cards, but here was my first attempt. These cards have the name of the cemetery on the back, but these are all from the same cemetery, so I didn’t scan the backs. The people in this cemetery were moved to another cemetery, so that is information I need to include as well as the resource that I found the information in. And it’s nice to know that even though these cards have already been scanned, I can delete the OneNote page and scan the cards again with the additional information included.

These cards were rearranged on the page in OneNote. After this test, I decided that I need to be more specific and not use the arrow. For example, “Mary Ann Bennett, 26 Nov 1864 – Nov 1890 daughter of Green and Emeline Bennett”. I would also include the name of the cemetery on the front of each card or at least have the double hashtag on the first card before scanning the batch.

Next, I tried turning on the OCR transcription. I thought it did a pretty good job considering that I wasn’t printing and that at the time, I wasn’t paying attention to my handwriting – which is horrible. The OneNote page titles and the transcription text can all be edited. I love the idea of being able to copy and paste the transcription into my notes or research log at a later date – and then delete the image so I don’t wonder if it’s been taken care of or not.

If you don’t include the hashtags on the first card, the app will use the date and time to create the title. For this experiment, I was going through the Russell County Historical Society Newsletters that I have in my filing cabinet. I made notes of things I may find helpful in future research or items I may want to add to a database or timeline I’m building.

The Plan

  • I will use one card per day/week to make my to do list or the specific question I want to research. I tend to get distracted by other things as I research, so I’m hoping this will help me stay on track. Sometimes, I get unexpected time to research and I’m not prepared with an idea of what I wanted to work on next. This should help me to jump in quicker and not be wasting time with genealogy “busy work”. I will not plan to scan this card, but it will be nice to be able to quickly erase it at the end of the week rather than grabbing a new scrap of paper.
  • After my experiments, I plan to keep a few blank cards by my computer to be used instead of the scraps of paper. Once I have gone through whatever the note pertains to, if it is not worth scanning (like a list of pages to look at), I will erase the card. If it’s something to come back to later, I will add to the card noting where I stopped and what the next step will be. If THAT pertains to actual research to be done later, I will scan it. But if it is a “to do” type of thing, I will keep it on my desk but not scan it.
  • I’m tired of dog-ear-ing pages in magazines to “come back to later”. I never remember to come back! Instead, I will also begin to keep a few genealogy magazines and a few cards in my car. Any time I’m on a trip, or waiting for an appointment, I will go through the magazine and use the cards to make notes of educational articles I want to go back to, research techniques I want to try, or website addresses that I’d like to explore. I will need to think through when it would be appropriate to send myself an email with the scans – probably for things I’m planning to research SOON so I don’t have to search for the email later versus when to send to OneNote – for items I want to keep track of until the information is transferred to ancestor notes and research log. And if I know I saw an article “somewhere” on how to use a specific website, but can’t remember where, I can do a search within the app to see which set of scans has that website name.
  • Any time I’m planning to work on a project like “make a database of all the cemeteries in Russell County that my ancestors can be found in” or sorting DNA matches, I will use these cards.
  • I will take a set of cards with me to my library and try to go through additional genealogy newsletters to continue keeping notes like I did with the newsletters I have at home.

Things I Like

  • Sometimes, I just like to relax in my recliner in the evening with a magazine and not have to get out my computer or iPad to type things out. I can use these cards anywhere – my desk, my recliner, my car, even in bed! And they are easy to carry around in a purse or bag.
  • I plan to use the fronts of one color for one project and the backs of that color for another project, giving me the ability to organize up to 4 projects at a time before scanning.
  • I like having a permanent, digital version of the cards, which I will delete once the information is transferred to a permanent location.
  • I LOVE the OCR technology. I’m pretty amazed at how well it reads my terrible handwriting! And once something has been transcribed, you can use the search function within the app to find all scan sets with that text.
  • I love being able to send the cards to multiple locations at the same time. Imagine having a group of people researching a specific family at the same time being able to send each other pdf’s of their cards as the project goes on as well as to a shared Google Drive account and your own OneNote.
  • I also think there is a better connection to your brain when writing compared to typing. Who knows what ideas will come forward while writing something down. And if it does – I will grab another card and write it down!

The Drawbacks

So far, I really like the cards. BUT:

  • The instructions about how to use the cards STINKS! There are a few SUPER short videos on the web pages given on the back of the box, but they are not very thorough. I actually started making my own notes in OneNote as I would find other videos or figure things out by trial and error.

What Do You Think?

Can you think of other uses that would be perfect for a set of cards like this? I’d love to hear from you!

Next time, I’ll tell you how I’ve spent the rest of my $50.

A potpourri of thoughts

The Christmas celebrations are complete and we had one unexpected surprise – our heat stopped working on Christmas morning! And here we are, 2 days later, and still no heat! It’s forced me to hunker down, but I’m having a hard time concentrating. I keep thinking of little things to write about, but nothing is significant enough for a full blog post – thus, a potpourri!

Desiccant packets

As I’ve been putting away Christmas gifts, I been collecting the little desiccant packets. You can find them in most items that have been shipped to your home from purses and luggage to toys. Most of these packets gets thrown away, but I toss them into a small basket I have on the top of my armoire in the bedroom. I like to toss these into any container that I’m keeping photos in.

I am a scrapbooker (although, not so much lately!) and whenever I organize photos into archival boxes, I toss in a packet or two to help keep out the moisture.

My mother recently gave me a shoebox of old negatives still in their sleeves. I’ve ordered archival negative storage pages, but in the meantime, a couple of packets are sitting in the shoebox with the negatives.

I have 6 embroidered pillowcases that my mom made just before she married my dad. His mother taught her how to crochet. Those will soon be displayed in a large shadowbox. I have a pretty large tube of desiccant that I plan to add to the bottom of the shadowbox hidden behind the pillowcases.

There may not be anything of special value in my filing cabinet, but I throw a couple of packets in there as well.

Group sheets

I decided to spend the day after Christmas working on my Silas Bennett research, but with the cold, I was not as motivated to dig as I normally am. So I decided that I would put together a research booklet for Silas and Mary Elizabeth with my comb binder. I would like to have one for each of the couples in my 5 gen chart, but I don’t have one for this family yet. My booklets contain a group sheet, inventory, research notes, maps, and digital prints of important documents.

The first page in this booklet would be a group sheet and I was surprised to see that I don’t have one for Silas and Mary Elizabeth, so I thought that would be a good thing to work on. It wouldn’t require TOO much brain power and I can work on it in my office with the space heater pointed at my feet or in my recliner (under a couple of blankets!) on my Surface laptop. I can bring my Surface to my bedroom and work on it while still in my toasty bed in the mornings.


Working on the group sheet is my cue to ask, “Where did I get that information?” I always surprise myself with the amount of information I have added to my tree on Ancestry to use as a hint to help Ancestry find a record more likely to match my person. Most often, this is a date that has been found in someone else’s tree without a source. Someone must have found that information somewhere, right?

As I am going through my group sheet, I’m adding citations to each fact. I’m using the information I learned in the citations course I took last summer to do a better job with my citations than I normally do. By spending time on the citations, I’m seeing just how many “hints” or unsourced information I have for this family. I’ve decided to use red text for unsourced data so that I can quickly see what I can dig into when I have time for research – even it’s a short amount of time.

Let It Go

I have to get over my desire to have everything perfect before printing. I have so many files that I forget about because they are on my system, but unless I’m specifically looking for it, I forget I ever created it. Printing these out to include in my research booklet would help me to have my thoughts together in the same spot. And I do love writing notes and questions all over my printouts, so by including these things even before I’ve proven something, I’ll have a better chance of being able to tie the clues together.

There you have my scattered…and slightly frozen…thoughts for today! I hope you all get some time to work on your genealogy research as 2022 fades into 2023!

The Assignment Continues!

I fell into a bit of a trap, which catches me all the time! While trying to figure out exactly which part of Russell County Silas Jackson Bennett was living in, I was lured into researching information that would fall under research for his father, Green C. Bennett. Part of me ALWAYS says, “As long as I’m here, I might as well…..” but I know myself too well. It pulls me away from my true objective and after a time, I begin to wonder what I was supposed to be doing!

So, now I’m moving on to the 1870 census because there are no significant records for a child at this time. Except for school records…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The 1870 census show that Silas’ family is living in Precinct 1 of Russell County. I can use some maps found on FamilySearch to show which part of the county this would have been. Knowing the precinct number helps to find his agriculture schedule – which I actually could not find. Hmmm. I feel like chances are pretty good that the family would have lived at the same location in 1860, but I would need to look through the deed records I have collected to try to confirm that. Just thinking about looking at those records send flashing red warning lights about falling into the same trap as last time, so I’m definitely putting that off for now. I don’t know that it would contribute that much to Silas’ biography anyway.

Looking at the family itself, the first thing that I notice is age discrepancies. Here’s what is listed:

  • Green C: 43
  • Emaline: 41
  • Charles: 21
  • William: 19
  • Abner: 16
  • Silas (called Jackson): 12
  • Ira: 8
  • James: 5
  • Elizabeth: 11?
  • Mary: 3

Why such a gap between Abner and Jackson? In the 1860 census, the 4 oldest boys were 12, 10, 8 and 6. Silas only aged 6 years in the 10 years between censuses. So of course, I want to make a chart to see if I can sort this out. (Again, does this make a difference in the bio? Probably not. But this is how I roll when I’m on a research path!)

Green C.22324352Dec’d
Abner 81628 
Silas J. 61226Dec’d
Elizabeth 5*112445
Ira 1821 
James  517 
Mary  315 
Emily   928
Sophia    14

After making the chart, I feel like someone without as much knowledge about the family gave the census taker the information. Would that be a father who didn’t know the ages of his children as well as their mother? Or a neighbor because the family wasn’t home when the census taker came around? The ages seem to be corrected by the 1880 census.

In the 1870 census. Elizabeth is listed below James and the age looks like it COULD be a 17, which makes it appear that Mary was her daughter. Reading that number as an 11 (as transcribed in FamilySearch) makes sense as far as the actual age is concerned, but not sure why she would have been listed later in the family. Almost like whoever was answering was going through all of the boys and then the girls. Pure speculation.

Also in this census, 5 children (William through James, but not Elizabeth) are listed as attending school during the year, but only Jackson is noted as being unable to read and write. In the 1880 census, he is still showing as not knowing how to read or write. Either he didn’t attend school as often as the others, or he had a learning difficulty of some type.

The Russell County Historical Society used to print a newsletter and in Vol. 5 Issue 3, dated fall 2000, there is a list printed for the District 22 School Census of 1875. Green and Emeline’s children are listed along with their ages. That information has been added to the chart and I notice that Silas, who would have been age about 21 years old is not listed, which would not be unusual for a man of that age. If Silas were actually about age 16 in 1870, he would not have had many more years of schooling ahead of him.

 1850186018701875 school
(Dist. 22)
Green C.223243 52Dec’d
Emeline203142 5178
Abner 81628 
Silas J. 61226Dec’d
Elizabeth 5*11 2445
Ira 181721 
James  51317 
Mary  31115 
Emily    928
Sophia     14

The four oldest boys are listed as farm laborers in the 1870 census, which means they probably were working on their father’s farm. The 2 oldest, Charles and William, are listed in the 1870 tax list just below their father showing that they are over the age of 18

So after all of this, I’ve decided that my biography needs a little information about Silas’ school years. Using the information discussed above and some background information found in the book, Russell County Kentucky History & Families, I would add something like this.

Silas attended school in Concord, just east of Jamestown. The school was likely a log cabin as Russell County had 33 schools in 1875, 1 of which was brick, 4 were frame, and 28 were log buildings. Learning apparently did not come easy for Silas. The 1870 census, when Silas would have been about 16 years old, shows that although he was attending school with his siblings, he could not read or write.

As Silas would now be entering adulthood, there should now be more opportunities to find mention of him in records to add to the biography.

Assignment: Biography

I am a record collector. I download everything I can find for each of my ancestors. I dutifully keep track of what I have in my Ancestor Tracker. The more records per ancestor, the better researcher I am, right? Hmmm….

I have always said that I am a numbers person. Writing is NOT my thing. But the more work I do on my research, the less satisfied I am with just being a collector. I want to learn more about the life of my ancestor and I want to be able to share that with my family. And that means writing.

That’s what I’m going to try working on and I’m going to start with my great-great-grandfather, Silas Jackson Bennett, since he has been the focus of my research lately.

Now, if I were being put on the spot and had to write Silas’ biography right now, what would I say? I almost always “cheat” with this and I use the Ancestry LifeStory tab to help me get started. Here’s what I start with based on that “cheat”:

When Silas Jackson Bennett was born on October 13, 1853, in Adair County, Kentucky, his father, Green, was 26 and his mother, Emeline, was 31. He married Mary Elizabeth Rumbo on January 15, 1880, in Russell, Kentucky. They had five children in 10 years. He died in 1894 in Russell, Kentucky, at the age of 41, and was buried in Russell Springs, Kentucky.

My feeble attempt to improve on this would be to add some information about his siblings. I might add that Silas was the 4th child born to Green and Emeline and that he eventually had 3 older brothers, 2 younger brothers and 3 younger sisters.

It’s great to have dates for birth, marriage, and death. But if I wanted to use the records that I’ve collected to expand on a biography, what do you say about things like census and tax records?

I’m going to start by looking at the first census that Silas was listed in to see what kind of tidbits I can pull out of it. Silas was 6 years old for the 1860 census, so can I find anything at all here? I’m lucky that at least the 1860 census contains the name of every person living in the household, even through it doesn’t list the relationships. So what can I glean? And what other research questions can I think of as I go through this process?

  • Note – Ancestry is missing page 1 of this census, but FamilySearch has it [61]
  • Location
    • This census has 137 images, all listed in Ancestry as Russell County with no additional breakdown. But going through the pages, I see these post offices:
      • Jamestown (Silas listed here)CreelsboroRowenaJamestown
        • Creelsboro and Rowena are both in South/Southwest Russell County. Can I figure out what part of the county this family lived in? Perhaps by using tax records?
      • FamilySearch has the agriculture schedule that could give more information about the farm.
  • Green Bennet was a 32-year-old farmer.
    • His person real estate was valued at $1600 and his personal estate was valued at $1000.
      • I wonder how this compares with others in the area? Was this a poor/average/rich family?
    • This is family 242. Family numbers do start with 1. There are 969 families in the county.
      • There are totals for each column at the bottom of each page. There are no TOTAL numbers, but it could be calculated to see how the family compares.
  • Green, Emeline and all their children were born in Kentucky.
    • In the 1850 census, Green was listed with North Carolina as a place of birth. His parents were listed just before Green’s family and several Dunbar families were lifted after.
      • I think looking this up crosses the line into research….cheating!
  • The 3 oldest children (all boys) were attending school. Silas and his 2 younger siblings were not.
  • Silas appears to have been more commonly known as Jackson.
  • It appears that Silas’ paternal grandmother was living with the family.
    • Mary (Flanagan) Bennet was 61 years old and was born in North Carolina.
      Mary had been a widow for about 5 years. What happened to Charles’ land? Could part of Green’s real estate have been passed on from his father?

Now this is where I always fall into a trap. “I’ll just research these questions that I’ve come up with and then I’ll add some stuff to the biography.” But the research leads to more questions, and I never seem to come back to the biography. And who knows how long before I’ll have another chunk of time to work on this research?

So I’m putting on my teacher hat and demanding that I write something now, knowing that writing involves editing. And editing can always happen after that research happens. If I must write something around the 1860 census information, what would I say?

As a 6-year-old, “Jackson” would watch his 3 older brothers go off to school, while he stayed at home to help his father with farm chores. His younger sister, Elizabeth, would help with any house chores their mother thought a 5-year-old could handle. Meanwhile his grandmother, who was living with them at the time, would help watch 1-year-old Ira.

1 document down….

If I can force myself to keep this type of analysis up, I just might end up with pretty decent biography!

And the winner IS….

Yesterday, I was debating on who I would like to jump back into my genealogy research with. I had pretty well decided that I would pick someone from my grandmother’s (Vesper’s) line.

Looking through my files, I have Ancestor Inventories for Enos Bennett and William George, but not for Silas Jackson Bennett, so he is my winner!

I like the time range for Silas Bennett’s life, although it wasn’t a long life. Russell County, Kentucky has really nice records for this time frame. And Silas and Mary Elizabeth only had 5 children, as opposed to some of my ancestors who had 12 or 14 children, so keeping track of those children and where they all ended up isn’t as overwhelming of a place to get back into the swing as it could be.

Mary Elizabeth Rumbo was married 3 times and had 2 additional children from a previous marriage, so keeping track of her information will be an interesting use of the Inventory as well.

I may also try to do some investigating in my DNA matches, although the last time I checked (which has been a loooooooong time!) I didn’t have too many matches that I could definitely link to Vesper’s family. I know there have been several updates to the DNA sites since then, so it will be interesting to go back to dig into that.

If you have Bennett or Rumbo lines from Russell County, let me know and I’ll post any interesting finds that I come across as I compile my information in the Inventory!


It has been MONTHS since I have done any genealogy for my own family! I took a contract job last April that was supposed to be part time, but has turned into a full-on, all consuming, 40 hour a week job! But it looks like things are about to slow down. Finger crossed!

When you’ve been away from researching for such a long time, the first question is always, “Now, what was I working on?” Honestly, I have no idea. So that means picking a person in my tree and just starting!

Seems like I always look at my 5-gen chart and start at the top (Smith) and then I get into the whole John Smith rabbit hole. So perhaps this time, I’ll start at the bottom and plan to work up? Or maybe in the middle with my grandmother’s line? I rarely seem to work on her family. Or maybe I’ll put names on a slip of paper and put them in a jar and pick at random? Who knows?

But whoever I choose, I’ll probably look to see if I have an Ancestor Inventory for that person and start there. Either create the inventory or look to see if there are new records available since the last time I worked on it.

All I know right now is, I’m excited to get back into it!

Digging In

When I begin to research an ancestor that I haven’t looked at in quite a while, I find it very helpful (and satisfying!) to fill out (or re-read) the Ancestor Inventory Form.

As I fill out the form, it’s good to see what I’ve already collected. Have I collected any new memorabilia for the family? If so, have I photographed or scanned everything and included the images in my database? Does all of the information I have in Ancestry have sources? Or did I copy the information from someone else’s tree to use as a clue for additional research? Have I downloaded all the documents I’ve collected in Ancestry or attached in FamilySearch? It’s a great opportunity to double-check my file names to be sure they follow my naming convention.

I do a lot of quick, high-level searches – for example, looking for all of the census records for each of the children – including after they have their own household. Often, if I can’t find a specific person in the census records, I will find them living with one of their children. But if I’m only collecting records for my direct line, things like this can be easily missed. How many were living in 1950 and might show up in the newly released census images? Are there military draft records I haven’t looked for yet? Other proof of military service? The 1840, 1890, and 1910 census records have information about military service, but did I look for it? Or did I stop after finding the name?

Using the Notes area in Ancestry, I begin to write or update a basic biography. As I write, I come up with a list of questions or research ideas and add them to my Research Plan for that individual. Later, when I have a little more time to really think, I’ll brainstorm places to research to find answers to my questions. And hopefully, in my Research Plan, I’ve kept track of record sets that I’ve already searched so I don’t waste time looking at those sources again.

Are there any FANs (friends/family, associates, neighbors) to add to my research list? Are there new record sets available that weren’t digitized the last time I researched this family? How about local newspapers? For my Russell County family, there are digital newspapers available through the local library website, but I only recently discovered that, so do the dates available make it possible that it could be fruitful to search now?

This is what I do when I need a “quick” refresh on what I’ve already researched. By the time I finish with all of this, I’ve made a great leap from “where was I?” to “what’s next?”!

Over the Moon!

After completing a long research project for a cousin of mine, I really started digging into my grandfather’s WWII military service. My goal was/is to put together a shadowbox highlighting his service. I have put off this research because I know so little about military research and because I knew that the majority of the WWII Army records were destroyed in a fire in 1973 at the St. Louis archives. A couple of years ago, I helped my mother request his military files from the National Archives. Unfortunately, his records were lost. I did receive 3 records, but I didn’t really understand their significance at the time.

So a couple of weeks ago, I pulled those things out and began to research. I talked with a research company and my contact person there talked me through information that I DID have from those 3 records. Since that time, I have tried to educate myself even more about the types of records that are available.

My grandparents lived in Johnson County, Indiana, but they moved back and forth several times to their hometown in Russell County, Kentucky. I decided to dig into the newspaper records that are available through the Russell County Public Library to see if I could find anything new. And boy, was I happy that I did!

I found an article listing all of the Russell County men who were leaving for the service on January 26, 1944 and my grandfather was listed! This was quite a surprise to me because my mother was alive at that time and yet she didn’t think that she had ever lived anywhere other than the town where she was born in Indiana. Click on any of the images to see a larger version.

Russell County News, January 27, 1944, page 1

The next item that I found was a short note from my great-grandfather telling the newspaper that my grandfather had been wounded in France, but “was not doing so bad”.

Russell County News, October 5, 1944, page 1

Imagine my (and my mother’s!) surprise to later find that my grandfather had written to the newspaper from his hospital bed! Frustrated that there is a portion that is unreadable, but happy to read what we could see! If only I could find a location that has the actual newspapers instead of digital scans…(if anyone knows, please leave me a comment!)

Russell County News, October 12, 1944, page 7

The next clipping was short and puzzling…

Russell County News, April 5, 1945, page 1

Not sure what a “hospital plant” is, but I did find another clipping that helped explain a bit.

Russell County News, April 19, 1945, page 2

Excited with the success I had with the “hometown” Kentucky newspaper, I decided I’d better take a closer look at the Franklin, Indiana newspaper found on because that’s where the family lived before, during and after the war.

The Franklin Evening Star, November 7, 1945, page 1

My heart gave a little flutter when I read that these veterans had filed “photostatic copies of discharges” in the county recorder’s office, and my grandfather’s name was included in the continuation of the article on page 5!

So I found the website for the Johnson County, Indiana recorder’s office and I sent an email asking if they still had those records…and they did! HOWEVER, she wasn’t sure if those records could be released, even to my mother, so she suggested that I contact the Johnson County Veteran’s Administration. I tried giving them a call, but I got an answering machine, so once again, I sent an email. The service officer responded and we set up a call and I told him what I was looking for. He told me that he would look into it and would call me back.

When he called back, I about fell over when he told me that the records had been printed and were waiting to be picked up! I jumped in the car and headed to my mother’s house – 3 hours away. The next morning, we made our way to the recorder’s office. Long story short…I now have a copy of the discharge records that my grandfather had filed with the recorder 76 years ago! Talk about a happy dance! On the back of the Report of Separation, I have a copy of his Honorable Discharge certificate. (If you decide to try this route, let me tell you that because the VA service officer had requested the file, he had to be the one to pick it up. Luckily, his office was across the street. The one thing we didn’t have, which would have allowed us to pick it up ourselves was a copy of my grandfather’s death certificate.)

I know there is more to be found now that I have the information on this record, but for now, I’m over the moon and making a list of additional items to research! In fact, I haven’t been able to sleep since I received the record…it’s a good thing the weekend is coming! Between this research and the 1950 census coming out, I see some late nights in my future!