Genealogy Search Engine

Have you ever tried the Genealogy Search Engine? It’s a free customized Google search which focuses solely on worldwide websites that contain free genealogy records. I receive a monthly newsletter from GenealogyInTime Magazine and it always gives a list of new records that have appeared online in the past month as well as a link to the Search Engine.

I was recently out of town with very little genealogy information with me and so I decided to give it a try with my biggest brick wall – John M. Smith. It was able to find a web page that had a Revolutionary War Pension application in the Russell County Court Records. The Pension application was for one of my ancestors – Jordan George – and I could not figure out why the Search Engine had taken me to that site.

As I read through the questions, I finally realized that the Justice of the Peace who was asking the questions of Jordan and his witness was none of than John M. Smith! I knew that John was a JP, but I have never noticed his name on any document like this – which makes me think that I need to go take a look at the microfilm to see if he’s listed on other similar things.

This record gave me no additional information for John, but it was nice to see one of those “slice of life” types of things – and the fact that both of the men were my ancestors was the icing on the cake!

I highly recommend the Search Engine. There is also a link in the left hand column with a short guide to formatting your search terms that I found helpful.

Give it a try! Good luck!

A Slight Change of Plan

Still working on my genealogy “Do Over” – which I’ll probably be working on for years – but I’m now ready to add the 1940 census record for my grandparents.

My original plan was to take every document for a single person into Evidentia and Roots Magic and pull out every piece of information that I could as well as making sure my citations were correct. I was not going to move on to another person until every document that I had already collected was “processed”. My plan was not to add anyone to my tree until I had proper proof for adding that person to my tree.  For example, I would not add a parent or a child for an individual unless I had documentation of the relationship such as a birth record or marriage recording that clearly stated who the parent was.

But my frustration with finding the correct citation template for different documents is really dragging down my enthusiasm for the project. So I’m changing my plan slightly. Since I know which template I want to use for the 1940 census and I know I’ll use this template multiple times and because I know exactly where to look to find each piece of information needed for the citation, I’m going to process every 1940 census that I have, no matter who it is for. After I process all of the 1940 census records, I will go back to each person and make sure that I have all non-census records documented for those individuals. Then I will move on to the 1930 census and process all of those.

I hope that this new plan doesn’t get me into another mess. I truly want to make sure that everyone is properly documented. I don’t want to accidentally miss entering citations for a collateral line person because I’m focusing on a specific record type instead of 1 person at a time. I think that collateral ancestors will hold a goldmine of information for me to find!

According to my calculations, I have 6 direct line ancestors with census records for 1940. 2 grandparents, 3 great-grandparent and 1 great-great grandmother. Because some of these are married couples, I’ll actually be looking at 4 records. I’ll use the citations and information for each person in their family at that time. When I calculate the number of people included in total, there will be 25 people. But at least I’ll be able to copy and paste citations once I’ve created the citation for the head of household. I thought about doing calculations like this for the 1930 census, but I’m afraid if I think about it too much, I’ll never pick up this project again!

I’m really anxious to get back to the earlier generations – to people that I had been researching before I started this project. My research time is limited, so I really have to force myself to stick with this plan. I’m kinda looking at these recent generations – people that my mother actually knew – as my learning opportunity for the software I’m using and for the process that I’m committing to, so I know it’s worth my time – just not as “fun” as the research I was doing before. Getting this process down now will (hopefully) lead to the information that I need to break through my brick walls!

I need a “creativity break”!

I’ve been working on my Genealogy “Do-Over” – making sure that every fact has a correctly cited source beginning with myself and moving back through family groups. I’ve recently completed my grandparents so I’m ready to move back another generation and the thing that I’m finding is that this is so BORING! Sure, as I’m entering information into my Evidentia file, I’m thinking of questions to ask my family or to research, but it’s not the detective work of finding new sources for ancestors from long ago that I enjoy so much.

So today, I’ve decided that I have to take a break and do something different. I’m taking the notes that I’ve created for each family and adding as many images as I can to them. Not the detective work that I’m craving, but at least it’s a creative outlet.

Each family’s notes begins as a basic timeline created in Microsoft Word. I add more information as I find it. I have consistently added cropped or reduced images of actual documents – more to remind me of what I’ve already found than anything. Each of these images is linked to the digital document that I’ve stored on Google Drive so that if I need to see the full page (or see the page in a size that can actually be read) I simply have to click on the image to open the digital file.

Today, I’m adding photos, maps and tree charts as well as any images I can find for the different locations that are mentioned. Right now, I’m focusing on my grandparents. The town where they lived after getting married is only half an hour from where my mother lives now, so we took a “genealogy tour” a couple of summers ago. I took pictures of the building where my grandparents met (now an abandoned building), the school my mother went to (now a community center), some streets paved with bricks back in the WPA era (laying those bricks was one of the jobs my great-grandfather had), the house that my mother was born in, etc.

I’m also using Ancestry’s “view in tree” feature to add an overview of the family whenever a significant event is mentioned. For example, in some notes for my great-great grandfather, I added this image to the page that contains an image of his will along with the transcription.


This allowed me to see the family dynamics when the will referred to different individuals. I can easily see all of the members of the family, not just my direct line.                 George tree





I might also add an “un-expanded” version of the tree whenever a person’s birth is noted just to show how they relate to others being discussed in the notes.


To do this, I used the Print Screen (PrtScr) button on my computer to capture the image on the screen and then I pulled it into Photoshop or even Paint to crop it. Any photo editing software could be used. And I’ll just take a quick moment to say that I really wish Ancestry would allow us to select a background color for the tree views. Currently, the background is grey and I find that rather depressing…

For maps, I’m looking for county maps (especially if I can find a map from their specific time frame) as well as using Google Maps to show neighborhoods. Sometimes, I can find an image or a postcard using Google Images that matches the area I’m referring to as well. (This is starting to sound like a Google ad – sorry!) When I get to older generations, I plan to look for images that will represent occupations or even images of the types of equipment they would have used during their lifetime. Most of my family were farmers, so I’ll be looking for images of old farm equipment, etc. I’m going to research common household items to add as well.

Someday, I hope to turn these notes into a book of sorts, so adding these images now adds interesting details to the story, but also allows me to burn off some creative juices every now and then!


My citation decision

I have been working on my “Genealogy Do-Over” and I have been using the opportunity to learn how to use the program Evidentia to help me cull every bit of information from every document. And for the most part, I am enjoying the process. The step that I agonize over is selecting the correct citation template to use, but I’m getting over it.

I sincerely hope that someday there will be an app for the Evidentia program so that I can work on documenting sources on my computer, but add all of the claims while “on the go”. I think that I would enjoy documenting the sources in batches, but adding the claims with my iPad a few at a time while out of town or traveling on an airplane or in the car.

I’ve decided that my group sheets and 5 gen charts will have 1 “main” citation for each piece of basic vital information. I will select the “best” source for the information. For example, if there is a birth certificate for an individual, that would be better than a date of birth given in an obituary or by calculations using a census record.

But, I don’t want to just ignore all of the other sources that I have, so I will create a Bibliography listing all of the sources for each individual. That way, every document or database listing will have a citation, but my groups sheets and 5 gen charts will have the “best” source to prove each point. The Bibliography will be added to the end of each family’s notes. The group sheets and other forms will have the EE short reference note while the Bibliography will have the full reference note.

Of course, as I get further back, there will be times when several pieces of information will need to be combined to come up with a final life event date or location, so I may need to think this through again at that point, but for now, I’m pretty satisfied with my decision. Any time that multiple documents are being used to come up with one fact, I will have to include my analysis and conclusion reasoning within the notes. I’ll be using Evidentia to come up with those pieces.

Driving Myself Crazy with Citations

I’m spending the day learning how to use Evidentia and to create group sheets for my family and my parents’ family – which for some reason, I’ve never done.

My goal is to be 100% sourced for every piece of information in the group sheet. Every time I’ve EVER worked on sources for a group sheet, I’ve always had the same questions. And I think the perfectionist in me keeps me from sharing any of my information because I don’t want to be told that I’m doing something wrong.

These questions are not about formatting of citations, although I have plenty of questions on that! But because I don’t plan to ever put my information in any formal publication, I feel like if I select the wrong citation format (for example “Local Vital Records: Certificate” vs. “State Vital Records: Certificate” vs. “State-Level Records: Vital-Records Certificate”), any interested person could still find the document I’m referring to. (But I will admit to spending WAAAAYYYYY too much time trying to decide which format to use – and it drives me crazy because I’d SO much rather be searching for new records!)

So I will now list my questions here to see if anyone wants to chime in and tell me the “correct” way to cite my sources. I feel like these questions are going to be “duh” questions for a lot of you, but I also figure that if I have these questions, I’m probably not alone.

  1. When I look at a record – say, my birth certificate – it contains information for several pieces of information in my group sheet. Father, Mother, birthplace for each of them, my date of birth, my birth location, my middle name. So my question is, should I add seven identical endnotes for each of those facts? 1 “long form” full citation followed by 6 “short form” subsequent citations?
  2. Again, for birth records….I have 3 versions of my own birth certificate. All three of them give the same information that I listed in question 1. So do I cite all three of these documents for each piece of information?
  3. If I’m not to cite every record that I have, how do I decide which is best? The commemorative certificate that the hospital gave my parents has a lot more information than the “legal” certificates I have. Typically, I’d think that a legal certificate holds more authority, but the commemorative certificate was created while the hospital was collecting the information from my parents…information that was then passed on to the board of health for the legal certificate. The information is more specific and includes information not included on the legal certificate.
  4. Do I give a citation for middle names based on my birth certificate? My own, my father, and my mother? Middle names are often included on census records of my ancestors. Do I site those sources as well?
  5. Do I give citations for the name itself to indicate how I know that a person is a legitimate child of the parents on the group sheet?
  6. For ancestors from long ago, do I cite every source that gives a birth location? Birth record, marriage record, death record, every census record, land records, etc?
  7. Do I cite every source that gives the name of a spouse? Marriage record, census records, land records, death records, etc?
  8. If I want to include an analysis for why a specific piece of information was chosen to be included in the group sheet, is that indicated in some way on the group sheet? I am learning how to create these analysis reports in Evidentia and it seems they would be most helpful to include with a group sheet.

The bottom line is this: I want to be thorough, but I don’t want a group sheet that has such a long line of superscripts after each piece of information that it looks like a joke. The examples in my questions are probably extreme examples, but I just don’t know where to draw the line. I think that in my heart, I feel there should probably just be 1 citation for each piece of information with some type of notation that other sources were taken into consideration. If that’s the case – what is the format for that? Does every citation end with “see the attached analysis for additional considerations”?

There is an endless supply of web sites and books that will tell you how to create source citations. Is there a web site that might show examples of a well cited group sheet? I really only want to do this “do-over” once. For that to be the case, I want to do it right and I’m clearly frustrated!

Spinning Wheels

Ah….finally, I have a good portion of a day that I can devote to genealogy! I have been working on a list of steps that I’d like to complete every time I am ready to enter some information into my genealogy files. I have decided to start a new tree with my RootsMagic software and to be much more careful about adding appropriate citations for each fact that I am putting in. I am starting with myself and trying to be as detailed as I can with creating my “Process List”. The list that I have in mind right now is pretty basic and I think I’ll probably be adding to it as I go through the process. For now, the steps will be:

  • Use Evidentia Software to enter and analyse each source. (I am QUITE certain that this step will be broken down into several more steps, but I have not used the software enough to understand what I’m doing yet.)
  • Enter the information into RootsMagic.
  • Use RootsMagic to create the proper citation.
  • Scan the source if it isn’t currently in a digital format
  • Save the image in RootsMagic, linking to all appropriate people
  • Upload the scan/document into Google Drive (where I have already set up my folders with the format that I want to use.)
  • Update the Group Sheet  (already created) if new information has been discovered for the correct family within Microsoft Word. (These are also save in Google Drive.)
  • Copy the citation in the correct position within the Group Sheet.
  • Update the Notes document (already created) for the correct family within Microsoft Word. (Also saved in Google Drive.)
  • Copy the citation in the correct position with the Notes.
  • See if Ancestry needs to be updated with any new information.

Awesome! Feeling pretty proud of myself and ready to dig in! Now, where is that Evidentia software? It’s not installed on my laptop, so I must have put it on my older laptop. Hmm…nope! Oh well, this is a “starting from scratch to get it right this time” project, so I’ll just reinstall the software. The only problem is that while I have no problem finding the software case, there is no disc inside. And thus begins a 3 hour search in my office. Every drawer, every box, every computer bag, etc. And no luck.

So I was thinking about just biting the bullet and re-purchasing the software. This time, I’d be sure to get the digital download instead of the disc! But wait, I have the registration key inside the software case, so maybe…..sure enough, I was able to download the latest update to the software, enter the registration key and VOILA! I’m ready to go!

Of course, now it’s lunch time….

Well, my plan is to start with my own birth certificate in order to learn how to use the software. I’m planning on looking at the “how to” videos on the website, but I’ve also downloaded the User’s Guide onto my iPad so that I can use that as well.

That’s the plan! Now to put it into practice!

On a side note – let me warn you about something that happened to me. Rather than searching for “Evidentia” in my browser, I just took a shot and put evidentia dot com in the address bar. This took me to a very official looking warning about a virus infection on my computer as well as a never ending audio recording about how I was in danger of having my financial and private information hacked and that I should call a specific phone number immediately. My virus protection software has never opened a web page to warn me about threats, so I knew better than to click anything on the page. After closing the window, I googled for information on the warning and it was not hard to find. Don’t fall for scams like this!

Blog – How I’ve Missed You!

How sad to see how long it’s been since I’ve been able to add an entry to my little blog! Genealogy time is hard to find these days, but I’ve been trying to think of how I can do more research in small (often inconvenient) chunks. I have some ideas, but I could spend so long making a plan that I never actually get anything done!

So today, I’m waiting for a service man to come to measure our house for new carpet. Which means that I don’t want to get involved in any “real” work and then get interrupted. What a perfect time to think about some genealogy!

I decided last year (wow, actually over a year ago now!) that I want to participate in the “Genealogy Do Over” on Facebook. Starting totally from scratch making sure that every fact has a correctly sited source. And how far did I get? Well, let’s just say that I still have a folder sitting on my desk with all of my kids’ birth certificates waiting to be entered! So what better thing to work on in “small chunks”.

This “Do Over” in combination with the brewhaha over Family Tree Maker has shown me that this is the perfect opportunity to start a new tree in new software and to do it correctly this time. To be honest, I’ve never been real big on using software. I’ve always considered Ancestry to be my “master tree” and I’d occasionally sync with my FTM files, but it seemed like that usually ended up putting information into locations that didn’t make sense. For example, if I had a note included with some fact, the note might end up in the location field. And who wants to recheck every field for every person every time you sync your file?

Years ago, I had RootsMagic and I really liked it, so I have decided that I would go back to that. Of course, that software is on a laptop from long ago and since I want to start from scratch anyway, I just went ahead and downloaded a new program.

When I think of a total Do Over, it’s quite overwhelming! I think that I’m going to work on my Mother’s line only for now. I’m going to take the group sheets that I have put together and I’m going to number them starting with my own and working backward by generation. Working my way numerically through the sheets, I will work on entering data into my RootsMagic software, but I will only include information that I can include a source for. I will make sure that I have every document that I’m citing downloaded or scanned and placed in the correct folder in my Google Drive. I suppose that Ancestry will now be my “hints” file. What actual files can I download and source correctly? I’m pretty good about including notes in my Ancestry account to tell when something is a guess or a hint to follow up on later, so I’m not going to try to create a new Ancestry tree. (That plus the fact that it would probably make me cry.)

I also purchased Evidentia Software several months ago, so I suppose I should probably learn how to use that properly!

So I just wanted to say that I haven’t forgotten my little blog! I hope to be able to post more often!

Tickling my brain…

Every once in awhile, I feel like there can’t possibly one more thing that I can research on my “brick wall” ancestor, John M. Smith. When that happens, and I have a significant chunk of time to surf the web (such as during a full day of football on tv!), I decide to pick a “FAN” (friend, acquaintance or neighbor) and see what I can find. I try to pick someone who has SOME connection to my research to see if I can find something unexpected. Today, I decided to see if I could find a connection to a surname that appears on a lot of court records along with my Smiths. The Cook family is quite often a witness or a surety for the son’s of John M. Smith.

I had found a short Wayne County history that listed the significance of the Cook family. Four sons of Edmund Cook were doctors and were known for traveling around the area on horseback to take care of their patients. Were these doctors the same men whose names I was seeing?

I started off with a general Google search of the family and noticed that in a specific family, there were 2 sons who had married Ellis girls. John M’s son, George A (my ancestor) had married Talitha Ellis, so I decided to see if there was a connection. I discovered that they were all sisters, so the Cook family members were in-laws to my ancestor. BINGO!

Off to Ancestry to start filling in the names. This is where it gets fun for me. When I know I have a new connection, it is very satisfying to find census records – which lead to names of children. Finding the census records for THESE children begins to yield additional records – Find-A-Grave, Civil War draft registrations, land grants, marriage records, death records, etc. And THEN, I begin to see additional surnames that I recognize.

So now, based on a Find-A-Grave record, I see a female with a maiden name of Garr. That’s a surname that I’m trying to use to connect with a Smith family in Mercer County, Kentucky. So now, my brain is seriously “tickled”…can I make a connection? I feel like I’m going to need a nice big sheet of paper to start sketching out some connections which may very well lead to a VERY late night…and I’m excited!

Learning from the Inventory

Yesterday, I decided to transcribe the inventory that was taken for John M Smith’s estate. Because the only census that I have for John was the 1830 census, there wasn’t much to know about John personally based on that. So what could I learn from the inventory? (I’m keeping the spellings used in the inventory.)

John and his family were believers. His inventory contained 2 Bibles, a Bible dictionary, Sunday books (I wish I knew what these were) and 2 volumes of “Josephess Works” who among other things, wrote about Jewish history and early Christianity.

John could read and was interested in history and politics. The inventory included “The History of the Late War” (Revolutionary War – written in 1832), “Kentucky Justice”, “The Constitution of the Cumberland” and “Robinsons History”. There were also “public documents” which I believe were the papers he received when he became a justice of the peace. Also listed were 4 books (no details), 3 grammar books and a medical book.

John and his family enjoyed music. The inventory included 5 music books, 3 hymn books and a dulcimer.

The furniture included 6 chairs, another set of 6 chairs, 1 armed chair and 4 common chairs, two square tables, a secretary (desk), a clock, a sugar desk, “cupboard furniture”, a cupboard, a folding table, a looking glass, a “bord and chamber pot”, a bedsted and furniture, and another listing for a bedsted and furniture. No sheets, blankets or pillows were listed like I see in some of the other inventories of the time period.

Items that I would consider kitchen items included several crocks, a churn, kettles, skillets, 2 pots, 2 ovens (like a dutch oven?), tea kettles, pails, buckets, wire sifter, meal tub, salt tub, grindstone, a gridiron and 2 pot racks. Two sets of silver spoons, but no knives or forks like I see in some of the other inventories of the time. He had a candle box, candles and tallow. I’d imagine they made their own candles. There was no type of lantern listed.

The inventory contained many items used for weaving. 4 pairs of weavers harness, many slays, 2 hackles, weavers spools, warping bars and a large spool rack. It lists 2 cotton wheels and I wonder if those are spinning wheels. There was a listing for “two flax and one real”. I’m not sure what that references, but I know it could be used for making fabric, so I’m placing it here. There was also some sheep shears, so the wool was probably spun into yarn.

I believe that John was a farmer. He had 5 plows, one shovel, a hoe, a flax break and barrel, several axes and hachets,  one rye stack, two oat stacks, 7 1/2 bushels of oats, 2 wheat stacks, 23 bushels of wheat, 2 fields of corn, a cabbage patch, a sweet potato patch and an Irish potato patch. He had several sythes and reap hooks.

There was also a listing that I can’t read completely. It looks like fax and hoggshead and rye. Because there’s a listing for a still, I think the hogshead is a barrel of about 60-70 gallons.

Basic carpentry knowledge was a must for this time period. John owned a hammer saw set, a hand axe and draw knife, a whip saw, several augers, a cross cut saw, a saw and sundry tools.

His livestock included 5 colts, 2 mares, 1 bull, 4 steer, 4 heifers, 46 hogs, 42 sheep, 15 turkeys and 8 bee stands. He had many wagon parts, and one ox cart. He had 1 saddle, bridle and blanket.

John also owned a boat – which makes sense since he lived along the Cumberland River and Beaver Creek.

I was surprised to see no notes or receipts of any kind included in the inventory. “Neither a borrower or a lender be”? Also surprising to me was that there was no estate sale after the inventory. Could it be that the children just divided the items among themselves? There were still 3 children living at home at the time of John’s death. A 22 year old daughter and two sons between the ages of 15 and 20. Perhaps they kept everything in order to continue with the household? The inventory had been taken on Oct 1, 1835. Would there be a sale after the daughter got married 3 years later? She was married on 8 November, 1838 – would that be why the inventory wasn’t recorded until November 1838?  I know that each of the boys lived with or next to siblings around this time and both of them passed away in the fall of 1840…I wish I understood the customs of the time better.

The administrator’s penal sum for John’s estate was $1000 and the total of the inventory was $989, so that makes sense to me. Five years later, the two youngest sons passed away. Solomon’s penal sum was $200, but Benjamin’s sum was $1100. Where is the inventory for Benjamin? In the 1840 tax list, Benjamin is listed directly Whatafter his brother, Elias. He owned no land or any taxable property. Why was his administrator asked to pay so much? I have not been able to find an inventory or sale for either of the two youngest brothers.

I have really enjoyed working on this project. I spent a lot of time researching the various items in the list and I added hyperlinks to the things I was finding in my document. That will help me remember what the items were.

Pleasant Surprise with Google Drive

I spent the weekend transferring re-discovered files from an external drive into my Google Drive and while doing so, I discovered a few discrepancies in the files names of some records.  Specifically, some file names used the abbreviation “Bk” while some spelled out the word “Book”. While I was updating those, I also added a new level of detail to the file names.

In my genealogy notes in Word, I’ve linked each document referenced to the digital file in Google Drive. My notes include a cropped image showing just the section that pertained to my ancestor, but if I want to examine the full document, I can click on the link to open the document in Google Drive. After modifying so many file names, I realized I would need to go back to re-link all of the documents.

But as I went through my note file, I tested each link and they all worked! Chalk up one more advantage to storing on Google Drive – the link is not related to the file name itself, just it’s location in my Drive.