Biography Phase 2

It’s been almost a month since I wrote the 15-minute biography for Oliver and Mintie Smith – my great-grandparents. Since then, I came across a large bag of negatives which I was given years ago and that became a new scanning project which became the newest distraction to pull me away from my biography work. Sigh…

I spent the day yesterday trying to get this project back on track and I worked on updating the Ancestor Inventory for Oliver. Then I spent a little time looking at records available on FamilySearch that pertained to Oliver and his wife, Mintie. I find researching “recent” ancestors like this to be a little frustrating because of the lack of resources that are available online. I live a considerable distance from Russell County, so I can’t get there to do on-site research, even if I know that a document exists. But I did find a couple of new items, so I’m glad I took the time for that.

Now I’m trying to think of other things to use to “beef up” the biography. Today, I have read through the original 15-minute biography and added questions and ideas for other things I might be able to gather to add to what I started with. I have tried to look for opportunities to add photographs or illustrations as well as ways to incorporate census information into an interesting look at life for the family through the years. These thoughts I’ve added to my document in red so that the new thoughts will stand out to me.

So now, I will begin to go through these new ideas. I will add what I can find and add updates to things that I can’t find. But I do think that I’m getting close to the point where I’m just going to have to say that it’s time to move on to the next ancestor, so write a “final” biography with what I have, knowing that this is the first of many biographies. If any additional things come to light, I can always go back and add more. But I can’t keep putting this off because I’ll always be thinking that there is more to research.

The 15 Minute Biography

Today, I’m determined to start the process of writing the first biography for my family history book and I thought I’d share that process with you as well as the first draft result.

To begin with, I will show you my computer monitor setup – which I believe helps me do my writing better and faster. I have my laptop in the center, my wide screen monitor on the right and a portrait orientation monitor on the left. (You might also notice that I am a huge Harry Potter fan and it is not unusual for an HP movie to be playing on the monitor on the wall as I research!)

To work on this biography, I will use my laptop for Ancestry – opened to the ancestor I’m working with. (I think the images in my blog used to become full screen if you clicked on them, but I don’t think that’s the case any longer) You might notice that the “Notes” panel is open on the right side of his page. This is where I plan to work on this first draft. You can see that I have a bit of a start on this already…but then I fell into the research trap that I described in my last post while trying to figure out where Oliver was born. Within Ancestry, the Notes panel can only be seen by you and anyone that you have made an “editor” in your tree.

On my large monitor, I have the notes that I have compiled over the years. These are written as a timeline instead of a narrative because I always thought I’d get to that “some day”. If I have a document for an event, I have included an image of it and clicking on it takes me directly to the document if I decide that I want to see more details.

On my left monitor, I have an Excel file for my Research Plan. If I think of a question while I’m writing my 15 minute draft, then I will add it to my research plan rather than trying to find the answer right away. I promise….I really will… At this time, I don’t have a research plan for Oliver, so I will fill in the basic information at the top and then I will begin to write.

Setting my timer…..begin (copied from my Ancestry Notes panel)

On February 4, 1872, Oliver Houston Smith was born in the Eli or Font Hill area of Russell County, Kentucky, to Victoria I. Coffey, age 23, and Elias Smith, age 27. He was the 4th child born to the farming couple. In the 1870 census, Elias and Victoria were living in Hammond Store in the eastern tip of the NE quadrant of Russell County on the boundary with Casey County.

Mintie Scott was born on November 27, 1875, in Font Hill, Kentucky, to Nancy Jain Gilpin, age 34, and Joseph Scott, age 43, who were also farmers.

On December 31, 1891, Mintie married Oscar Roe Popplewell in the home of her father, Joseph. Oscar’s bondsman was his brother-in-law, John Arthur. No record of divorce has been found, but Oscar married a 2nd time on May 9, 1895. Frozie Bell Crockett was his bride. Frozie was the daughter of James Crockett and Caroline Stephens. Caroline was the daughter of William Stephens and Dorothy Wigginton, my 4th-great-grandparents. That marriage did not seem to last long either, as he married a 3rd and final time to Mary Coomer in 1898. It does not appear that he ever had children.

Oliver and Mintie were married on September 27, 1896 in the “Clear Fork Meeting House” which I believe was also called the Clear Fork Baptist Church. (Add the church info.)

Their first child, Clint, was born in 1897 was followed by 7 additional children by 1914. My grandfather, Herman Clyde Smith, was the 6th child.

Oliver and Mintie lived in Russell County until about 1946, when they moved to Franklin, Indiana. There, they owned a farm which was called the “Vandivier Camp” two miles west of Franklin. My mother has memories of living in the house for a short time and many memories of visiting there and playing in the barn with her siblings. Occasionally, she would “help” on the farm as a very young child, and her mother would insist that she be paid, just like her older siblings.

Oliver passed away at his home on May 4, 1950. He is buried at First Mount Pleasant Baptist church, just a short distance from his former home. Mintie died 5 years later on December 20, 1955 at the home of her son, Lester. She is buried by Oliver’s side.

A couple of things that helped me to move along a bit faster. I did use Ancestry’s LifeStory birth entries to get me started. I copied and pasted those and I will probably re-write or re-arrange the wording on those later. But it helps me get over the blank page syndrome that I often have. If I were stuck while writing, I would also copy the marriage and death entries and I might go back to take a look at those now to see if Ancestry added information that I didn’t think of for this draft.

Obviously, at times I wanted to switch over to another Ancestry page to check on some fact. As long as you have the Notes panel open for an ancestor, the Notes panel will also be open for any ancestor that you move to. So when I moved from Oliver’s page to Mintie’s page, I typed her paragraph in her Notes panel. When I went to look at the Oscar Popplewell page, I typed his information in HIS notes panel. Then I copied those paragraphs and pasted them into Oliver’s Notes panel to have it all in one place. Every time I update a draft, I will copy it into his Notes panel in case I have a computer crash or somehow lose track of these biographies.

Mintie’s Notes Panel

There were times as I was writing this that I knew that I had some information that wasn’t currently in my memory. For example, the name of Oliver’s farm or my exact relationship to William and Dorothy Stephens. When I came to those parts, I added a blank line and after I finished the paragraphs about Oliver and Mintie passing away, I still had 3 minutes left, so I went back and filled those in.

As I was writing this draft, questions kept popping into my mind, but I didn’t enter anything into my Research Log during this 15 minute writing time. I could really feel that deadline looming and for me, I think that helps! I will go back and re-read what I have written, make corrections and enter those questions now. Also, as I was writing, I thought of pictures that I will want to add to the book, so I will go back make notes of those to add later, during the fleshing out time.

So now I will go back into “research mode”. I will take a more thorough look at my notes to see what details I can add. What insights can I find from the census records? Skimming through my notes right now, I see that in the 1910 census, Mintie indicated that she had given birth to 6 children, 5 of whom were still living. Who had passed away and do I know the circumstances? What records are available now that weren’t available when I last researched this couple. I did not have a subscription to Newspapers.com at that time, so perhaps there are more tidbits to be discovered there. FamilySearch has changed significantly since I began researching this family, so have I taken a good look at records available there? These are my mother’s grandparents, so I will spend some more time asking her about her memories of them to add to the biography. There have been long car rides when Mom and I talked about her memories and I have those recordings that I can go back and listen to.

And while I’m in this research phase, I will remain faithful to entering information into my Research Plan to keep track of where I’ve searched in order to find the answers to my question. Cross my heart!

Time for a book of my own!

Now that I have a few family history books under my belt, I’ve started thinking that I really should be working on my own family history book. I’m planning to think through what I’ve done for the other books and combine the parts that I like the most.

Parts to Include

Biographies

When I worked on updating the book for my husband’s family reunion, I loved the biographies that everyone included for their section. I’d have to write the biographies for my family members myself, but I’ve been researching these people for years, so that shouldn’t be as hard as the ones I wrote for people I’d only researched for a couple of weeks like I did for my daughter-in-law, right? The current notes that I’ve worked on over the years for each couple are in Word format. The notes are organized like a timeline for every document that I have for a person. I would use these notes as the foundation for writing a biography. To enhance the biographies, I’d like to add images, whether it’s actual photos or images of objects to illustrate their lives – carpenter tools from the period, old farm equipment, maps, etc.

One thing I know for sure, whenever I write about a person, I usually find myself down some rabbit hole trying to find the answer to some question that writing has brought to mind. Here’s how that usually goes…

Let’s see how Ancestry has started the LifeStory section for this ancestor and I’ll build on that. “Oliver Houston Smith was born on February 4, 1872, in Russell County, Kentucky, to Victoria I. Coffey, age 23, and Elias Smith, age 27.” OK, that’s good, but I wonder if I actually have the TOWN he was born in. No? Well, maybe I can figure out where his family was living in the 1870 census. (Off to take a look.) Hmmm…it gives a Precinct within the county, but not a town name. Seems like I’ve seen a map showing the voting districts. Can I find that? (Off to take a look.) Maybe I have a deed that will give a description of where the land is. No? Well, does that mean there isn’t one or that I haven’t looked yet? (Off to take a look)

You can see where this is going to lead and I’m only on the first sentence! I need to have a plan in place for this. Something like forcing myself to write with only the information that I currently have and using my research log to track questions that come to mind, but not allow myself to look for answers until I have entered a specific research time. The types of things I enjoy looking for while watching tv in the evenings. Then I would allow myself to update the biography I will have already written. This is a problem that I face EVERY TIME I do research and I just can hardly stick to a goal. “Genealogy ADD”. GADD – as in “Egads, why can’t I ever complete a project!?!

As a former teacher, I’m thinking that I’ll have to treat this as an assignment that I must complete before a certain TIME. What if I had to have it done in 15 minutes? Then and only then make a list of things I’d like to find to add more details. And the list must be in my research log so I can quite wondering if/where I’ve looked for things.

Family Group Sheet

I loved the family group sheet that was put together in the Canvas program on Ancestry for my daughter-in-law’s book. I liked that I added in the current US flag for the year her ancestors were born in place of their portraits. I don’t have many photos of my ancestors, so I think that the flags would add a nice touch of color as well as a bit of history. I also liked adding the current president for the birth years as well. They bring specific history events to mind when you see their portraits. And for those with smaller families, these images and information helped to fill in the bottom part of the page. This part would be fairly easy since I have already collected all the images of flags and presidents and would just need to find the correct ones. Part of this plan would be to have Canvas create the group sheet for me and then “fix” my Ancestry tree for any consistency issues that I see and then create the group sheet again. Consistency issues would include things like: Am I spelling out “County” or using “Co.”? Full state names or abbreviations? Are all of the dates formatted the same? I know when I first started researching, I used Month Day, Year, but now I use Day Month Year. As I’ve researched over the years, I’ve tried to update dates whenever I’ve come across them, but I’m sure there will be some old format dates in any collateral names that might show up in the FGS.

Timeline

If I were only able to complete all of the group sheets and biographies, I’d be pretty happy! I can see using those for books I’d print and give to my children. But for my own, I might also include a timeline, but modified from what I had for my son-in-law.

I have to admit, it was the part of the book that I really had to force myself to work on after completing 3 or 4 of them. Having a timeline is interesting to me, but perhaps not as much to my descendants. On the other hand, you can glance at a timeline and some might not like to read a lengthy biography. I think that if I do include the timeline, I’d like to include more historical items as well. But the real purpose of the timeline for me would be to have thumbnails of all of the documents that I have for a couple. These would all be clickable to allow me to quickly find the documents.

One of the things that was most difficult for the timelines I made for my son-in-law was that events weren’t evenly distributed in nice 10-year gaps. Obviously, there’s a census every 10 years, but some decades had WAY more events than others. So trying to figure out how to organize things into the “traditional” timeline running across the top or bottom of the screen, I could save myself so much more time by formatting the notes that I already have to match the FGS and Biography portions and then adding in the historical events that I think would be interesting.

DNA?

Would it make sense to also try to include the information that I’ve collected on the DNA matches for my family? How long before the information would feel out of date? I’d have to spend more time thinking about what this might look like. I can see how it would helpful to me for my research, but does that need to be in a book? Something to think about.

Who to Include?

I’d like to think about exactly who would be included and how much time each person would receive in my workflow. And a plan like that almost always gets knocked off the rails at some point. I have a new granddaughter arriving this spring and I plan to spend lots of time loving on her! Not to mention gardening season and holidays. Can I allow myself some grace on my timeline for completion?

I’ve done a little thinking about a potential plan. My first thought is that if I want to complete my book by this time next year, then 12 months = 12 ancestors. There are 52 weeks in a year, so if I give 4 weeks to each ancestor, that would be 48 weeks, giving me a few of weeks “off” around the holidays. Twelve ancestors could be 4 great-grandparents plus 8 great-great-grandparents. But do I want to give the females their own sections? Probably not. I’d rather include them with their husbands as I don’t have many records specifically for females in my line – especially if they only married once. So just like my file organization system, I will probably try to think of 12 couples instead of individuals. Who would those couples be?

Grandparents:

  • Herman Smith and Vesper Bennett

Great-grandparents:

  • Oliver Smith and Mintie Scott
  • Enos Bennett and Lelar George

2x great-grandparents:

  • Elias Smith and Victoria Coffey
  • Joseph Scott and Nancy Jane Gilpin
  • Silas Bennett and Mary Elizabeth Rumbo
  • William George and Mary Elizabeth Stephens

3x great-grandparents:

  • George Smith and Talitha Ellis
  • Fielding Coffey and Sarah Jane Hughes*
  • Andrew Scott and Elizabeth Wade
  • Eli Gilpin and Rebecca Conn
  • Green C. Bennett and Emeline Dunbar*
  • Jehu Rumbo and Susan Holt
  • Henry C. George and Jane LNU*
  • Andrew Stephens and Lucy Stephens

That gives me 15 couples. Can I remove 3 of the couples and count them as “bonus” couples if I end up with extra time? (OK, had to stop myself from laughing out loud that I might have time for bonuses!) I added * next to the couples that I think I’ve done the least amount of research on, meaning that I would likely want more than 4 weeks in order to do additional research.

The last thing I want to make a decision on would be how I want to “arrange” my time for each couple. Do I want to complete 1 ancestral couple before moving on to the next couple? I feel like those at the end of the list would most likely be short changed by the end of the year. Perhaps it would be best to plan to do all of the group sheets first and then spend time writing all of the biographies. Then see how much time is left and divide up the remaining time equally. One helpful thing will be that almost all of these couples lived in the same county. If I’m spending time in a specific resource, I can keep my eyes open for the other couples at the same time. But does that fall into my GADD trap? Probably best to immerse myself in one couple at a time.

Staying Organized

For a project of this size, I want to stay organized. I have lots of forms that I use, but I haven’t done research for some of these couples for years. I’m sure there are lots of sources available now that I haven’t searched. So even if I’ve created a form, it will probably need to be updated. I’m thinking that all forms should be put into Excel format, if they aren’t already. And rather than keeping 12 different Excel Workbooks, I should think about a way to keep 1 master workbook for this project. Which forms would I like to include?

  • No need for a group sheet since I’m going to have Canvas generate those for me
    • On the other hand, I do have many of these already created in Excel, so if I already have them, why not include those?
  • Ancestor Inventory sheets
  • Land Worksheet
  • Research Log

To have this number of worksheets per couple, I think I would need to also have some type of clickable TOC in the front of the workbook to be able to navigate quickly to a specific sheet.

I already have some of these worksheets filled in for my ancestors, so some of the work will simply be combining them into the Master Workbook. For those that I haven’t researched in a while, I’ll be able to fill in the forms as I research.

Now I have the beginnings of a plan. How serious am I about this project? I enjoy the research process so much – the thrill of the hunt – but doesn’t there need to be something to tie it all together? And shouldn’t that “something” be in a form that increases the likelihood that one of my descendants will want to pick up my research after I’m gone?

I think it’s time to stop making plans and just start.

Getting Ready for Christmas

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve decided to do another family tree book for a family member in time for Christmas. I’m using Microsoft Word, which isn’t the greatest for page layout, but it’s quick, it does everything that I need and it’s easy to move things around and change the size or shape, if needed. This project is taking a lot of my time, so once again, I’m feeling the pressure.

If you think this is something you’d like to attempt, here are some things I’ve learned.

  • Be organized from the start. If you’re going to be working on a project that will require lots of images, be sure you have your folders set up from the very beginning. For this project, I printed out a couple of 5 Gen charts and numbered each couple. Pretty standard stuff. Each couple has a folder, so those are all already set up in my Google Drive. For example: 1 – Milholland and Little. Every time you find a document you’d like to use in the book, put it directly into the correct folder. If the document will end up on more than one page (parent and child on a census record) go ahead and add the document in both places.
    • Along with being organized with your files, be organized with your “to do” or “completed” list. If you’re going to have to go to the library, keep your list handy so you can add to it as you research. And if you start working on pages and you want to remember that you need to come back to add something later (a scan from microfilm at the library or a photo from the cemetery) be sure you have a running list and not a pile of post-it notes.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll do all of the research now and then put it all together at the end. There is no end. You have to have a definite plan and work the plan from the beginning. Have a “Must complete” plan (I must complete 4 generations) and a “If I have time” plan (out to 5 generations) and even a plan for what you’ll do if you find tons for one line and very little for another.
  • Make your first page or set of pages very early. I started with couple #1. I had a timeline format in mind, so I made the pages for them right away. This page/pages will help you see from the beginning what you’d like to collect and how your going to arrange your page. Things to think about:
    • What size paper will you use? I’m using legal size paper (8.5″ x 14″) so that I can have a nice wide canvas to work with.
    • If you’re going to use standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper, what orientation will you print? Landscape or portrait?
    • What will you ultimately put these pages in? If you’re printing yourself, you will probably use a binder. In my experience, legal sized binders are only available online, so order early! If you are having it printed, how soon do you have to get it in to receive your final product on time?
    • How detailed do you plan to be? Sometimes, I get so caught up in trying to find the details that we genealogists love and I lose time by chasing down the minutia. Will the gift receiver really care if you have every tax record? Probably not. But they might be interested to know when an ancestor arrived in a certain location.
    • Here’s a biggie. What are you going to do for the female ancestors? Let’s face it, there aren’t as many documents for the women. And if you’re just collecting census records, you’ve got duplicates through the husband and father. So do they get their own page? Do you include them with their father? With their husband? It will save you a ton of time to make that decision EARLY in your process.
    • What exactly would you like to be able to add to each couple? For me, I’m adding a cropped image for each census (names and ages only), marriage license/register and pictures of grave stones. I will also include a text box showing the birth of the next generation direct ancestor on the timeline. Everything else is a bonus. I know that every ancestor won’t have a civil war pension, but those that do will need extra space for that information.
    • Once you’ve found a document, download it immediately. Don’t kick yourself later for wishing you weren’t going back to find something you didn’t think you’d end up using. I always say, “Better to have it and not need it than to wish you had it!” I even take that one step further…once I’ve downloaded it, I go ahead and crop it. I crop away any extra black around the edges and straighten the image, if needed. Then I make a copy and crop it down to the specific area to make it easier to read on my timeline. All of the documents will be included on a flashdrive along with the book.
  • When you make your first set of pages, try to make it as duplicatable as possible. Think of it as the template you’ll use for the rest of the book. I spent an entire afternoon creating the timeline that will be at the bottom of every page. I had to think about who the oldest ancestors were to make sure their lifetime would fit on 1 two-page timeline. And what would I do if I needed more space for an event? How will I “fix” the timeline for an ancestor who didn’t live as long as the others? I don’t need a 100 year timeline on every page if some of the ancestors only lived 40-50 years. I would not want to have to re-create that timeline over and over, so I have a blank set of pages that contain the timeline only as well as a plan for “fixing” the timeline. I start with those pages for each set of ancestors and rename the file as soon as I’ve added specific information.
  • Having a list of nothing but documents can be boring. How are you going to make the ancestor come alive? Will you write a short bio? Write a sentence or two for each detail on the timeline? Add some images? Maybe you don’t have access to any family photos. What about images from the place that they lived or the occupation they had? Try to find the house they grew up in on Google street view, or a map of their hometown. My uncle LOVED to shoot marbles when he was a kid. Finding a picture of an old fashioned marble game would be a great image to add to fill in some blank space.
  • After you complete your first set of pages, print them out before doing any more pages. Something that looks great on your monitor may be pretty difficult to see once it’s printed out. I don’t plan on printing pages as I go because you never know if I’m going to decide to change the set up for the title or something like that, but printing out the first page or two is a must. Better to find out now that something isn’t going to work rather than at the end!
  • Finally, set up some type of timeline to complete the project. Do you just hate feeling stressed trying to get something finished before Christmas? After I made the 5 Gen charts (I’ll admit that I did quite a bit of research before starting the book to get these names down.) I set a goal of completing 6 couples per week. That’s about 1 a day. Some of those will go quickly, so if I get a little ahead, that’s great! If I stick to this time table, I’ll have everything on the “if I have time” list ready to print by December 15. If I realize that there’s no way I can accomplish 6 couples per week, then I can fall back to the 4 generation plan and that will take a ton of pressure off.

If you decide to work on a project like this for a 2019 Christmas gift, I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make it “easier” to accomplish? (We all know it isn’t EASY, but you know what I mean!) Here is one of the pages I’ve been working on. This is half of the timeline for this individual. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy the project!

The Battle of Binders vs. Folders

Recently, I have had issues with numbness and bruising in my hands, so I have had to limit the things that I can do with them. Typing, “mousing”, gardening and crochet are pretty much out of the question right now. Thanks to “Speech to Text” technology, I have been able to put a few thoughts in order for this post.

I’ve decided to get my filing cabinet organized instead. I’ve developed a habit of working intensively on a specific ancestor and then when something else comes up, like a family reunion or email from a cousin, I take the pile of papers and folders that are on my desk and put them into the cubby system where I keep all of my binders. Those are the papers I’m putting back into my filing cabinet now.

But it has raised a question. Do I need a filing cabinet AND binders? Both have advantages and disadvantages, so I’m trying to think through a better plan for my paper stuff.

At my library, if you are scanning microfilm, the printouts are free, so any time I have scanned something, I have gone ahead and printed it out because I do like to write notes in margins and such. I also have copies of pages from books and periodicals. Therefore, I have TONS of paper. And while I know that I COULD digitize and throw it all out, I find a lot of comfort in those paper copies. It’s difficult to flip through digital documents the way you can through paper.

So is there a reason to have both binders and file folders? I think so.

Maybe thinking through the purpose for different types of documents can help me figure out where to put things. Basically, I have copies of microfilmed documents, periodical and books or I have documents I’ve created to help me organize the information that I’ve found. Maybe I need to think of these things as “Analytical” and “Concrete”. Perhaps the binders should be “Analytical” – self-created documents – and the filing cabinet should be “Concrete” – copies of documents.

Using this plan, what would a binder look like? I’d like it to be something I can grab and take on the road and be helpful whether I have access to other records or not. For example, I’d want to read through it, take notes on the pages, compile a list of questions based on what’s in there and plan for my next research session. The binder would contain:

  • A section for my notes – I keep very detailed notes for each ancestor based on the date of every event or document that I’ve found. Often in these notes, I’ve also included various blog posts that I’ve written to help me remember my theories and thought processes. These notes can be pretty long, so I often include a table of contents at the front of the notes. Each set of notes also includes a linked object to the family group sheet. This “image” of the group sheet automatically updates to include any changes I’ve made to the actual group sheet. Using this method allows me to maintain 1 family group sheet and not have to worry about making the same changes on any other document that I’ve copied the group sheet into.
    • The notes include smaller images of the different documents I’ve found, so that is a reminder to me that I have these documents versus finding the information in a book or periodical. Before printing my notes, I need to include links to the digital documents so that I won’t be wasting time looking through folders to find something that is actually digitized and stored in my cloud account.
    • All of my notes include an automatic date in the bottom corner so that I will know how long it has been since I’ve printed them.
  • A section of Group Sheets for every family member as well as for FANs (friends, acquaintances and neighbors).
  • A section of Excel sheets I’ve put together. Land transactions and descriptions, tax records, cemetery lists and databases of births, deaths and marriages for the surname.
  • A section of maps – State maps for various time periods, county maps, land survey maps, etc. Even though these are “concrete” items, I think they would help me analyze information better.
  • A section for FANs – biographies, wills, deeds that show them as neighbors or witnesses – anything that connects them to my ancestor.
  • Theory records – anything that MIGHT be related to my ancestor that I haven’t found the connection for yet. Again, these would often be “concrete” items, but they will help me to look for clues and would be easily forgotten if there were filed in the filing cabinet.

Then what would go in the filing cabinet folders?

  • Every ancestral couple (and some key non-direct line families) has a hanging folder that contains a 3-prong folder. The 3-prong folder has 5 sheet protectors in it. These folders can be pulled and taken along with a binder, or by themselves for a road trip, if needed. The front pocket always contains a group sheet. The sheet protectors hold birth registers/certificates, marriage bonds/permissions/registers/certificates, death certificates, wills, military paperwork, etc. When I print a new document, I keep it in the back pocket to remind me that I need to process that document in some way – add it to my notes, scan it, transcribe it or write a citation on the back.
  • In the hanging folder, behind the 3-prong folder – land deeds, tax records, pension files, etc.
  • Research correspondence about a person/couple.

Non-family folders

  • Educational items – notes from webinars/conferences, “how to” articles, etc. If I find that a folder is becoming too full (German research, anyone?) then it will move to a binder.
  • Records that pertain to a specific county/region. Histories, periodicals, newsletters.

I have been known to print a great number of pages from a specific location even if I don’t have a connection, “just in case”. For example, I have printed every deed that contains a specific surname within a county. If these types of documents become too cumbersome to keep in a folder (consider if you have print outs of every deed with a grantee or grantor with the surname “Smith”), then I would create a binder for those documents. If I have a binder with copies of an entire marriage register, I might also include any printed index or copies from books or periodicals that contain the same information. It isn’t unusual for different books about the same records to include different details, so this way, it’s all together to compare and I won’t have to dig through a folder and risk getting things out of order.

That’s what I’m working toward. Getting all of these loose papers into a proper location. And as I’m organizing these folders and binders, it’s kind of got me thinking about prepping for a 52 ancestors type of project for 2020. Write a biography of some type for each couple, or something like that. Since using my hands is out for the next week or so, I suppose I should be using my brain for something other than just watching Netflix!

ThruLines Breakthrough? Not So Fast!

When I first heard about using DNA to help with genealogy, I wanted nothing to do with it. I felt like it would be “cheating” and would take all the fun out of the hunt! Well, times have changed!

For my first step into DNA, I asked my uncle if he would do a Y-DNA test to help me break through the brick wall of my ancestor, John M. Smith. Since the Y-DNA test shows your father’s father’s father’s, etc. line, I figured it would lead me directly to the pesky Smith who dared to name his son John! But no….it didn’t do that. That was several years ago. Since then, my mother and 2 aunts plus one of their cousins have all tested.

But I haven’t looked at much of anything related to DNA in quite a while. So this week, I decided to take a look to see if Ancestry ThurLines had any great hints for me.

I have a theory that John Smith, the son of John Schmidt is the father of my John M. Smith. Yes, that’s a lot of John Smiths! To keep my theory John Smith straight when looking at files, I think of him as “John Smith 1809” because that’s the year that he died. I have a copy of his will and within that, a list of his children. And yes, he had a son named John.

So I went to ThruLines for my mother’s kit and was thrilled to see several DNA matches that lead to John Smith 1809! Having multiple people connected to John 1809 must mean that my theory is correct, right?

To make sure, I wanted to see if any of these matches triangulated with the other matches. And they did not. Hmm. Since John 1809 was so many generations back, I thought that maybe we could all still be related to John 1809, but that we all got a different “piece” of his DNA. So I decided to write out the “path” from John Smith 1809 to each of the matches and then I would go back and prove each line for myself. And that’s when I noticed that none of the matches actually went back to any of John Smith 1809’s children.

Now if you look at the image, there is a solid line around John M. Smith, indicating that he is a “confirmed” son of John Smith in my tree. The 3 DNA matches coming through John M. Smith are my aunts and their cousin. But all of the rest are just dotted lines.

As I looked at the trees for these matches, they all showed that the person in the dotted boxes had last name of Smith, but few had a father named John Smith (most of them had no father listed at all), not to mention John Smith 1809. So what ThruLines has done is to look through all of my matches to see which people also have a Smith in their line that fit into the same approximate time period as John Smith 1809. They have taken information from all kinds of trees to try to piece together trees that might lead back to my John Smith 1809…whether these people know it or not.

Let me give you an example of how this is working. Notice the line on the far left for WE. Their line shows 5 generations between WE and Nancy Smith at the top. However, when I actually look at WE’s tree, they only have the 2 boxes above WE in their tree at all! The rest of the tree is hypothetical. After looking at other trees on Ancestry, ThruLines is saying that this MIGHT be a path to Nancy Smith who MIGHT be a child of John Smith 1809 based on the surname and date spread.

So is it a total waste of time? No, I wouldn’t say that. There are some interesting things to explore here. For example, Nancy Smith has 6 DNA matches to my mother in her line.

I will certainly be taking a look at these 6 matches. It’s easy to assume that THEY are all related – after all, Ancestry is showing me the tree and everything, right?

I’ve learned that I can’t make assumptions here, so I will be clicking on the “evaluate” button to see how “proven” each of these lines are, because to create this chart, Ancestry is looking at all kinds of trees to make connections. Not just trees of my DNA matches, but all trees. When you click on a button that says “evaluate”, you get several blocks of information. Here’s an example of a “proven” relationship in this chart.

I would need to click on each of these records to see if I agree that there’s enough proof for this relationship.

There are also boxes to tell me that there are 72 trees on Ancestry that also have this father/son relationship along with a link to each tree. Below each link, Ancestry tells me how many records each tree has attached to that individual, so I can decide if it’s worth clicking on or not. If there are zero records, I don’t even bother to click on it.

If I continue up the tree, I eventually get to Nancy Smith. When I click on her “Evaluate” button, I see this.

So what I think they are saying is that there is a DNA match who has a Smith connection at about the right time and that they MIGHT be a child of John Smith 1809, but that’s only based on the name Smith and only because I asked for matches that include a Smith. It would be interesting to see if any of these people show up in ThruLines for a different ancestor just because they also have THAT name in their tree.

So where do I go from here? I’ll definitely be following this group of 6 matches. Do they all triangulate? How far do I have to go back to “prove” that they are all connected to Nancy Smith? What other DNA matches do I have that might triangulate with any of these matches? Perhaps Nancy Smith WAS a daughter of John Smith 1809 and just wasn’t listed by name in the will, or perhaps she’s a niece of John Smith 1809, which would still be helpful to know.

Why doesn’t this ThruLine example have more concrete information for me? Because my target ancestor – John Smith 1809 is so many generations back. He would be my mothers 4th great-grandfather – 6 generations back. If DNA were passed down consistently to each new generation (which it isn’t) then my mother would only have about 1.5% of her DNA from John 1809. To find another DNA match would mean that they inherited the same small segment of DNA. Pretty low odds. And in this case, having the name John Smith certainly doesn’t help. But knowing that the odds are low doesn’t mean that I should stop looking! I’ll never find that match that I need if I don’t check out all of the possibilities! And Ancestry is trying to help me find that match!

File Names Too Long?

Did you know there’s a limit to the length of file names on your computer? In general, the length of a file name is limited to about 255 characters. That means your file names can be very descriptive. How descriptive? This paragraph is 256 characters long.

But there’s more included in that character count than you might think. Rather than counting the characters in the file name itself, your computer is actually counting the number of characters in the path of your file. Let me give you an example.

For the family reunion book that I put together over the summer, I downloaded a newspaper clipping from Newspapers.com. The file name was:

1955 The Daily Times Tue 1 Mar Helen Kowalinski.jpg

51 characters. Plenty of space! I could be more descriptive and made the file name something like:

1955 The Daily Times Tue 1 Mar Helen Kowalinski wins an award from Col Nelson.jpg

81 characters. I could almost transcribe this short little article and include it in the file name! However, I’ve written in the past about my file structure and that’s where I can run into trouble.

I like to keep my files in Google Drive. While working on this book, I wanted all of files to be placed in a specific Google Drive which automatically syncs on my hard drive. That way, I didn’t have to sign-in to a Google account on the web, download, make edits then re-save the file into that Google Drive.

So to keep track of the file, my computer has to track the path name of the file so it will know where to look the next time I want to open it.

Your computer probably has multiple drives on it. Perhaps C: for your main hard drive. D: for a CD/DVD drive. E: could be a slot for a small memory card from your camera or Flip-pal. F: could be an external hard drive. G: could be a flash drive you’ve inserted into a USB port. You get the idea.

So this newspaper clipping is stored on my main hard drive.

C:

My computer has the capability of having multiple users, so it also tracks which user has saved this file. I only have one user, but the computer still includes that information in the path name. And as I mentioned before, I have the file in Google Drive. So far, my path name is:

C:\Users\Google Drive

If I were to put my organization system into an outline to represent the folders and files, you’d see a folder/bullet for each of my 8 great-great-grandparent couples. These folders are numbered so that they line up in the same order as my 5 gen-chart. Each of those folders contains 5 folders – Excel, Group Sheets, Notes, People and Places. For this example, I’m using the People folder because these are files that pertain to a specific person. In the People folder, I have a folder for each generation. These are numbered so that I can quickly see the generations moving back through time. This pattern continues as needed through my system. Once I get to a specific person, if I have files that pertain to a collateral line instead of my direct line, I’ll start a folder for “Children” or “Collaterals” and then break down from there. To get to the newspaper clipping I started with, here’s how the outline would look:

  • Google Drive
    • (All of my family folders)
    • Husband’s family
      • Charlotte’s family
        • 1 – Schmidt – Fritz Research
        • 2 – Berger – Kaese Research
        • 3 – Zimmerman – Grabbe Research
        • 4 – Betz – Herscher Research
        • 5 – Danker – Hoops Research
          • Excel
          • Group Sheets
          • Notes
          • People
            • 1 – Paul Danker and Wilhelmina Dabelstein
              • Children
                • 1 – Paul Arthur (Kowalinski)
                  • Kowalinski
                    • Newspaper clipping
                • 2 – Alvin Andrew (Zabel)
                • 3 – Alfred Danker (Dunbar)
                • 4 – Irma Dorothy (Gaus)
                • 5 – Arnold Hugo (Sperber)
                • 6 – Ellen Alvina (Smith)
                • 7 – Ruth Emma (Noffke)
            • 2 – Heinrich Danker and Bertha Altong
            • 3 – Johann H Danker and Adelheid Hoops
            • 4 – Harm Hinrich Danker and Maria Lemmermann
            • 5 – Christopffer Danker and Gesche Boschen
            • 6 – Ulrich Dancker and Gesche Meyers
          • Places
        • 6 – Altong Research
        • 7 – Dabelstein – Niemann Research
        • 8 – Karstens – Voss Research
      • Gene’s family

Is there such a thing as being too organized? In this case, there may be! See what happens to the path name now:

C:\Users \Google Drive\Barry’s Family\Charlotte’s Family\5 – Danker – Hoops Research\People\6 – Paul Danker and Wilhelmina Dabelstein\Children\1 – Paul Arthur (Kowalinski)\Kowalinski\1955 The Daily Times Tue 1 Mar Helen Kowalinski wins an award from Col Nelson.jpg

Oops! I’m now at 265 characters. In fact, when I tried to rename my file to the longer file name, my computer just cut it off at the 255 character mark.

So if you have multiple layers of folders and your computer refuses to allow you to keep typing on a file name, you’ll know why.

Because the reunion book included at least 2 more generations, I would have been in real trouble if I tried to continue with my folder system for those generations as well. But there are some obvious things I could do to shorten the path name.

  1. I could take out the spaces on either side of the dash: “Danker – Hoops Research” becomes “Danker-Hoops Research”
  2. I could remove some of the “extra” words – “Danker-Hoops Research” becomes “Danker-Hoops”, ” Paul Arthur (Kowalinski) ” becomes ” Paul Arthur” or “Paul-Kowalinski”
  3. Instead of having a folder for “Children” which includes 7 individually named folders, I could get rid of the “Children” folder and just have the 7 individual folders.
  4. I could use dashes instead of the word “and”. “Paul Danker and Wilhelmina Dabelstein” becomes “Paul Danker-Wilhelmina Dabelstein”.
  5. I could “bump up” the folders for my husband’s 8 great-great-grandparents to be included directly after mine. I would just begin their numbering with 9 instead of 1 so the lists wouldn’t become mixed. But this could become an issue when it comes time to move things back to their correct Google Drive.

If I do some of these things and stick with my original file name, my new path could become a “mere” 196 characters:

C:\Users \Google Drive\Barry’s Family\Charlotte’s Family\5–Danker–Hoops\People\6–Paul Danker-Wilhelmina Dabelstein\1–Paul-Kowalinski)\Kowalinski\1955 The Daily Times Tue 1 Mar Helen Kowalinski.jpg

All of these things are something to consider when developing your own folder system. I don’t think I’d want to go back and rename every folder on my system for the sake of 1 or 2 file names! In this case, the desire to keep the files in the Google Drive that synced with my laptop resulted in a couple more layers than I normally would have. It won’t be an issue when I remove the files from this Google Drive and put them back in their original Google Drive. But I have had the issue crop up on a couple of other file names, so I know it isn’t totally out of the question.

Another Family History Book

A “spur of the moment” decision for my husband’s family to have a family reunion led to full-time work on updating a family history book that was started for a reunion in 2001. At that time, every family was asked to provide a biography and to include a family photo. That information was included along with family tree charts and printed and put into a binder for everyone to take home. There was an amazing completeness to the book – I don’t think a single family was left out! In the introduction to the book, it was stated that the book would be updated at each future reunion. There have been 2 reunions since then, but no updates to the book.

My husband’s stepfather passed away last December. At the dinner after the funeral, my husband and his cousin decided the time was right for another reunion. The cousin and her husband have a farm, so an early August date was chosen and a family cook-out planned. The cousin is a sales rep for hotel linens, so she used her connections to get a block of hotel rooms at a discounted rate as well as a meeting room for us to use. Everyone would be asked to bring their favorite snacks and games to play. An invitation to the event was posted on Facebook and through that or word of mouth to those not on Facebook, we began to get in touch with everyone we could.

So when summer started, I decided the time was right for updating the book after 18 years! We started by putting the old address information into a spreadsheet on Google Drive and asking everyone to go in to make updates. We asked everyone to not only update their own information, but if they saw family members who needed updates, to go ahead and supply that information as well. We had very few email addresses 18 years ago, but soon, our collection of email addresses grew and now I have an email address for just about every member of the family.

I put the email addresses into contact groups based on the “original” family siblings. 7 siblings = 7 email groups. I started sending emails to each group giving what they had written originally and asking everyone to update their information as well as to send a current photo.

In the email to the groups, I also included a picture of their family tree as it was printed in the original book and asked for updated information for the new generations that have come into the family since 2001. I think that seeing this visual chart of their family made it easier to collect the full name and b/m/d information that I was looking for rather than just asking everyone to send the info to me.

I told everyone that we would not be printing copies of the book for everyone, but that a digital copy of the book would be made available to everyone after the reunion was over. Each person would then have the option of printing their own book, if they wanted. I asked everyone to start looking through their old photo albums for any pictures from the past, but especially for photos of the original 7 siblings – all of whom have now passed away. I was amazed at the great photos that were scanned and sent my way! I incorporated all of the new biographies and recent photos to update the book and then went back to the biographies for the original 7 and included a “memories” section for each of them and started adding the old photos. I continued to remind everyone that I was looking for photos, documents, newspaper clippings, etc. and I reminded them that a book in digital form could have far more images than our previous book since we wouldn’t have to worry about printing costs. I told everyone that I would be bringing my portable scanner to the reunion, so if they didn’t have a scanner of their own, to bring their old albums and I would scan during the reunion.

One thing that I think contributed to getting good results from everyone was seeing what the original siblings had written back in 2001. They included memories of growing up, fighting in WWII and how they met their spouses. Reading these biographies made everyone think about questions they wished they had asked and were therefore more willing to provide that information about their own memories knowing that the book will be available to future generations.

I was able to take the family line back 3 additional generations than we knew before the reunion. The family line is 100% German, so I was burning the midnight oil researching in FamilySearch and Ancestry looking for digital versions of the birth/baptism, marriage and death records that would prove the lineage. I leaned heavily on FamilySearch Communities and Facebook pages to help me translate these pages. I made a special binder of just these records for those family members who were interested in the research side of things and they enjoyed seeing copies of the original records as well as having the translations included. But I’ll talk about these pages in another post.

I printed 1 version of the book to take to the reunion and everyone looked through it and made notes of corrections or missing information. Seeing the old photos often brought forth new memories, which are now also included in the new edition. After making these updates, I put a PDF version of the book out on Google Drive and sent the link to all of the email groups I had created at the beginning of the summer.

Updating the book was a project that I worked on literally every waking moment that I could for 2 months leading up to the reunion and I think everyone was really pleased with the result. The best part for me was making sure that everyone now knows that I am interested in collecting any old photo or document that is available. (I won’t mention the aunt who threw away all of her mother’s old photos after she passed away! “Who would want these now??” ME! That’s who!)

I am now the “official” family historian, and everyone knows it. The number of digital photos in my collection increased substantially! I now have scans of photos that no one knew existed including the 1st couple to come over from Germany in 1867. I am currently working my way through the scans and digitally repairing the cracks and rips that most old photos have. These scans will be added to the book as well, which means that in the future, anyone who uses the link to the book in Google Drive will always have the most recent copy of the book and it won’t necessarily have to be as huge of a project before the next reunion. Being in charge of the reunion book means that I can include the type of documents, clippings and memories that all family historians would feel so passionately about preserving. I may be a little biased, but I absolutely LOVE this book!

Back to School time is great for my genealogy!

I am a retired teacher and my heart skips a little bit when all of the back to school supplies come out. What a great time to buy folders – and not just any folders, but heavy duty plastic folders to keep my current project printouts in! I love how these hold up when I take them on trips in my backpack or carry bag. Pens in all kinds of fun colors to color code my notes! Index cards – lined and unlined – to create evidence cards or timeline information when I’m trying to sort between individuals with the same name! Graph papger, rulers and protractors for drawing out maps from my ancestors’ deed descriptions. You get the idea. It’s not as if those items aren’t available all year long, but the special prices and having a large selection all gathered into a large area – it makes shopping a little more fun.

So one thing that I purchase every year is a planner. Students used to use them for writing down assignments, but I’m sure that’s all done digitally now! But I use them for keeping track of webinar dates, subscription renewal dates and correspondence notes and such.

When I bought my planner for this year, I realized that I’m a little behind in my shopping. This planner starts with the first week of May 2019 and goes through the end of June 2020. That’s no big deal, but it does make me look at all those pages for June, July and half of August and think what a shame it is to waste them! So here’s what I do with the extra pages.

At the front of the book is an address section. I use this section for genealogy website passwords. On my laptop, I keep all of my links to websites and their passwords in Microsoft One Note. But often, when I go to my library, I know I’ll be using the library computer to access a database that I can’t access from home and I don’t bring my own laptop. That’s when I realize I don’t have a password memorized that I need while at the library. I’ve talked before about using many different gmail addresses so that I can have a Google Drive for different lines that I’m researching. When I download a document at the library, I like to immediately save it to the correct Google Drive and it never seems to fail that when I THINK I know the password, I’m incorrect and can’t access the Drive. The same thing for sites that I don’t use every day, like the Ellis Island site or for sites that assign you a password that is not easily memorized – like the David Rumsey map collection site. My personal laptop browser stores passwords for me so I don’t have to try to remember them on my own even though I visit the sites regularly – like FamilySearch, Ancestry and MyHeritage. Having these written in a planner that is easy to take along in my bag allows me to access these types of sites.

The planner pages for the dates that I’ve missed will become areas for brainstorming – what is my research question and where can I look for try to find the answer? Notes to myself about where I saved a record or who I’m sharing a folder with in Google Drive. Reminders to send a record to a family member or a note about who has a certain family photo that I plan to scan on my next visit. This allows me to avoid post-it notes that get lost over time as well as giving me a place to write down spur-of-the-moment thoughts without opening files on my computer. Later, when I’m back home with my computer, I can transfer important notes to my digital files and forms, where I know that everything will be.

A small planner is easy to take along anywhere – even if I don’t plan on doing actual research. No matter where I’m going, my brain always seems to be churning through some genealogy thoughts in the back of my mind, so it’s nice to have a place to collect those kinds of thoughts when they do pop up.

Creating a Family History Book

I mentioned that last summer, I worked on a family history book for my daughter-in-law Ericka. (Why is it so much easier to work on someone else’s project than it is to work on my own? I’m sure it’s because of the emotional connection and feeling like you’re never REALLY finished.)

I used the “MyCanvas” book option on Ancestry and it really did save me tons of time because I was collecting all records and images into a tree I created for her on Ancestry, so every image or document could be placed in the book all from one central location. But once I got going on the book, I quickly became overwhelmed. I soon realized that I needed some type of “template”… a list of things I was hoping to include for each person. Parts of the “template” were pre-designed by MyCanvas and others were things I decided to include.

Every person got 4 pages. This allowed me to plan for 2-page spreads. If something didn’t fit on one page, I could make sure it fit on the facing page. A few individuals got 6 pages (or even more) depending on the details I could find for that person. For example, Ericka has an ancestor who was hung as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. There were several newspaper articles detailing his adventures and I transcribed those and included them because the clippings were too difficult to read on the page due to size and resolution restrictions. To allow her to view these clippings and all other documents in better detail, I placed all digital images into folders and gave her a flash drive of all digital media to go along with the book.

The first page for each person was a pre-designed group sheet supplied by the software. At the top of the sheet, MyCanvas included the name, birth and death info, parents’ names and an image which it pulled from a person’s profile in Ancestry. It doesn’t take going too far back in a family’s history to find that you have no pictures of an individual, so if I didn’t have pictures of both individuals, I used a picture of what the American (or their country of origin) flag looked like the year they were born. The default template for this page also included a line with the marriage date and location followed by the family group sheet. Sometimes the group sheet took up the remainder of the page and other times, it was very short. If I was able, I included pictures and information for the US President at the time of the subject’s birth as well as the number of states in the US at that time.

The last item I always included, whether it was on this first page or the next page, was a “bread-crumb trail” of how my DIL was descended from the couple. With the setup I was using, I could only include 5 generations, so if I was able to get back further than that, the “trail” would begin with one of Ericka’s parents.

On the 2nd page, I wrote a short “biography” for the couple. I used the Ancestry LifeStory tab to give me a start. Soon, I realized that there was very little variation in how a biography began, so I came up with a list of about 8 different ways to say the same thing.

  • When William was born on September 7, 1850 in Columbus, Ohio, his father, Stephen, was 32 and his mother, Mary, was 30. (Ancestry’s version)
  • William was born on September 7, 1850 in Columbus, Ohio to Stephen, age 32 and Mary, age 30.
  • The oldest child of Stephen, age 32, and Mary, age 30, was William, who was born on September 7, 1850 in Columbus, Ohio.
  • On September 7, 1850, Stephen and Mary, aged 32 and 30, had their first son, William, who was born in Columbus, Ohio.
  • William was the oldest of 2 boys born to Stephen and Mary. He was born on September 7, 1850 in Columbus, Ohio shortly after the family moved to Ohio from New York.
  • You get the idea…

I broke the LifeStory paragraph into parts – birth, marriage and death – and combined the information for the husband and his wife into one “couple’s bio”. I then looked up the year of birth for each individual to see if there were any historical events that I could add for the year they were born or married. If there were any interesting life events – such as an occupation, military service, or moving to a new state – I added that information. I added images to this page as well. Sometimes, the images were family photos or documents for the couple, such as a marriage certificate. If I was looking for “filler” to get to the 4-page mark, I’d add images of items that were talked about in the biography. It might be an image of an item that had been invented during the year of their birth or a short section about the town of birth or a local landmark. Wikipedia was invaluable for this!

If the “bread-crumb trail” of descendancy had not fit on the 1st page, I made sure it fit on this page.

On the 3rd page, I’d include images of as many documents for the family as I could. It might be cropped census records, guardian bonds, marriage permissions, newspaper clippings – anything I could find. If appropriate, I would include information giving background on something that was on the page. For example, why there was a guardian bond if the mother was still alive.

The last page for each section was always for death information. Pictures of gravestones or cemeteries, obituaries, family photos, etc.

MyCanvas was a real lifesaver for this project. I could add or delete pages and the page numbering was automatically updated. Once I had designed a layout for a page, it was easy to copy and paste it into each person’s section so I didn’t have to design if over and over. There are many pre-designed pages with dozens of themes that can easily be added with a simple click and the information automatically added based on the information you’ve included in the traditional Ancestry pages.

  • 5 different versions for a 4 or 5 generation tree
  • A descendant list or descendant tree
  • A timeline prefilled with all events you’ve included on an ancestor’s profile page in Ancestry
  • The Family Group Sheet
  • Pages with pre-designed layouts for photos or documents
  • Section divider or Title pages
  • A Table of Contents

Due to the cost of have a 159 page book professionally printed and bound, I decided I was going to print the book myself – an option that is readily available on the MyCanvas site. But most of the decorative embellishments that are built into the book design software cannot be printed with the Higher Quality option. (If you ever decide to create a book using the MyCanvas site, do a preview of the page before you design too many pages to make sure it’s really going to look the way you think it will.) Instead, I added many images to the gallery of certain individuals to pull into a page if I needed filler. I even created a few fictitious people in the tree just to add images to their gallery. For example, I had one individual named “America” whose gallery contained all of the flags and Presidential portraits. I had another ancestor whose gallery contained decorative Bible verses, vines, flowers and corner embellishments to add throughout the book. When I added these people, I disconnected them from all parents so that even though they are there, they don’t appear to be part of the family.

Overall, I was thrilled with the process of putting the book together and it was a nice break from the research I’d been working on for so long. Because it really never ends, does it?