Genealogy Room Disaster

Oh my goodness, the genealogy room was going great – almost every surface has new paint on it.

My son was working on adding coats of thick, black magnetic paint to an area of my wall and I was on a chair touching up the edges of the ceiling paint. When I got off the chair, I stumbled and grabbed a table for balance and guess what was on the table….the can of black, magnetic paint!

My carpet now looks like a Holstein cow…..

On the bright side, it looks like there may be some new carpet in my future! On the downside, this is not an expense we need right now.

Not really genealogy worthy news, but I had to vent…

Happy New Year!

Ahhhh…..January 1st! A new beginning! A fresh start! For one day at least, I don’t feel overwhelmed with projects and “to do” lists because, for today, the slate is wiped clean and the possibilities are endless.

Too bad that feeling won’t last long!

BUT, I do have a few goals (I won’t call them resolutions) or projects for 2013.

#1) My first “goal” for this year is to put a serious dent into my citations. I continue to collect information for my family tree and I’ve been indicating the location where the information was found, but not anywhere NEAR the citation format that ‘d like to have. Right now, my footnote might say simply “Find-a-grave” or a library book call number. Time to update those sources into true citations!

#2) Project – I really do hope to create the interactive PowerPoint project for my family to enjoy. Obviously, I was unable to get that done this year, but I’m hoping for some significant changes in my job this year which could potentially give me significantly more time to work on my genealogy. It’s potentially too good to even mention out loud, so this change is in the whisper stages only!

#3) Organization – I have found that I often desire to work on my genealogy, but have NO desire to search for the files I need when I only have an hour or less to work. How wonderful would it be to have a place that I look forward to being in that has fewer distractions (yes, washing machine beep, I’m talking about you!) as well as having all of my genealogy stuff in an easily accessible location? I’d love a way to display my materials on a large scale because I’m just such a visual person that I often see connections or questions only when I see everything at the same time.

I have to say that I’m one of the luckiest women in the world because I have the best husband around! We have been married for 27 years and have 4 children. Our house has 5 bedrooms but two of our children are out on their own, leaving 2 “empty” bedrooms. For Christmas this year, I’ve been given the go-ahead (Along with a very generous pre-paid Visa card!) to make one of those bedrooms into my very own genealogy heaven!

My plans include a fresh coat of paint, with one wall having special paint to make it a magnet board – a twelve foot magnet board! All new furniture including my ideas for the ideal genealogy file system where I can lay out a project and not have to put it away until I’m ready to move on to a different family! I plan to have a counter-height cubbie system to keep my tools, files and magazines stored in while spreading various files across the top to analyze. I will spread my papers across the top for organizing, scanning, hole punching, writing on, or whatever is needed at that time without worrying about putting it all away because my family needs the kitchen table for dinner!

Pictures of ancestors on the walls, maps and charts and colorful dry erase boards to keep reminders and plans on. I plan to have large print-outs of groups sheets and 5-gen charts displayed for quick reference. I’ll have a system for easy storage and access to the rolls of newsprint that I like to use.

And everything in bright colors that I wouldn’t normally have in my more traditional rooms because I won’t have to please anyone but myself! My 3rd son is supplying the painting labor as his Christmas gift to me – a project which begins tomorrow! The room has no windows, so I plan to use color to make the room brighter. I’m buying the colorful canvas boxes to put in the cubbie spaces and I’m getting colorful binders for my single surname worksheets and files.

One of my Christmas gifts was a small, wireless speaker that has fantastic sound that I plan to use to listen to podcasts or music. I also got a nice flatscreen tv that won’t take up much space, but which will allow me to hook my computer into to watch web videos on various genealogy subjects. I’m even planning to have an area for “refreshments”. I have a small refrigerator that we got for college boys that will now be in my room and I’m planning space for making my favorite tea.

Shopping starts today! Any suggestions for my “genealogy heaven”?

Happy New Year to all my genealogy friends! Praying that you have many blessings in the coming year!

Filling in Blanks

Hallelujah, it’s that time of year again – midterm exams! That means no lesson plans, no worksheets to create, no notes to type out, no after school tutoring – just sitting back and watching students take the tests. And better yet, this year I only have to be available during my own tests, I don’t have to proctor for anyone else! Instead, I’ll be the technology help desk person, but as long as our internet doesn’t go down, it should be a pretty easy week.

Which means I can “think genealogy” while the school is quiet and everyone is occupied!

So, to get back into genealogy mode, I’m “information surfing” this morning, which everyone does. But, I’m working the opposite way I normally do. Instead of looking at blanks on my group sheets and trying to find information, I’m taking a series of records on Ancestry and looking page by page to see anyone with my surnames and then adding new information to my charts that way. So far, I’m looked through all of the death certificates for Russell County in 1918 and 1919. As I add new documents to my tree, I’m also taking a look on Findagrave for the cemetery listed on the death certificate. From there, I’ll look for everyone in that cemetery with the same surname.

So while these aren’t necessarily people I would have purposely researched (usually, collateral lines), I AM filling in blanks, which makes me a happy camper! It’s “easy” research and I know that interruptions are no big deal, which is great for me right now as I try to nurse my 17 year old through the incredibly painful time of tonsillectomy recovery.

In case I don’t get to post again this week, Merry Christmas everyone! As I think about the grieving families in Connecticut, I’m once again reminded of how good God has been to me this year and I pray you feel the same!

My Lucy Stephens Theory

I haven’t posted anything in FOREVER and today, I finally got to spend some time looking at my genealogy files. I’ve had a possible family for Lucy Stephens and tonight, I tried to work out from that family to see if I can find the connection to her husband’s family – Andrew Stephens.

So this may make no sense at all, but I wanted to get it in writing so that the next time I get a chance to look at files, I’ll remember what I was thinking. I’m also hoping that by getting my theory out there, someone might be able to give me some ideas of where else I can look for clues.

Andrew Stephens married Lucy Stephens in Ripley County, Missouri, in 1858. I have NOTHING else in my database for Ripley County, so I thought that might be a clue I could follow, but I cannot find any Stephens family in the 1850 census with a Lucy in the family. How might Andrew Stephens meet someone from Ripley County? How do I know this is the right family? Because the death certificate for their first child, who died in 1861 indicated that she was born in Missouri in 1859. By 1860, this family was in Alabama, but then in Metcalfe County, Kentucky by 1861 as seen by the death record of their first child and a few months later, the birth of their second child. Also in Metcalfe County – Andrew’s uncle, Sherwood. (1860 census)

So I thought I’d widen my search for an 1850 Kentucky census record with a Lucy Stephens of the correct age.  I found 1 possible record in Adair County (part of which became Metcalfe County in 1860). This record shows a Mary Stephens, age 40, with an Elizabeth, age 19, Lucy, age 7 and AJ, age 3.

I believe I see this family again in 1860 living next door to Andrew and Lucy in Franklin County, Alabama. This time, it is “Polly” age 55, Elizabeth, age 30 and Andy, age 16. Both of these families are 5 pages away from Andrew’s father, William Stephens who happens to have a sister named Polly (she is mentioned in their father’s will). Another strange item, Andrew and his small family are also listed in the household of his father, William. later, in 1880, Polly is living with her brother William.

So I have 3 siblings with whom Andrew and/or Lucy are always near in the census records:

1850 1860 1870 1880
Mary “Polly” b. @1807 Adair Franklin, AL ? Russell
William b. @1813 Marion, AL Franklin, AL Russell Russell
Sherwood b. @1815 Adair Metcalfe Metcalfe Metcalfe
Lucy b. @1842 m. Andrew 1858 Adair? Metcalfe/Franklin ? Russell

Bottom line – I have to wonder if Lucy is the daughter of Mary “Polly”. (I have never found a husband, so did Mary/Polly have a different maiden name? I went through the Adair County tax records and my notes say that I could not find a Mary Stephens listed, but now I wonder if I need to go back and look for a Polly.) Andrew is the son of William and that would make Andrew and Lucy cousins.

To see more specific information on Andrew and Lucy Stephens, please click on the “5 Andrew Stephens” tab at the top of the screen.

Making the PowerPoint Plan

It’s about 100 degrees outside and I’ve decided it’s an excellent time to begin working on an interactive PowerPoint program for showing family tree information to my Mom’s family. At times, the thought of creating this becomes overwhelming because I’m the first to admit that I’m a perfectionist with OCD tendencies. I want to make this program “entertaining”, but I also want this to be informative and even a little educational. I want my family to be able to see the information that they WANT to see and also able to skip things they don’t care to see. I have to think I may be the only one fascinated with tax records, but want to make them available in case someone else is! And maybe I can make the tax records more “interesting” by creating some type of chart showing how the number of acres owned or the number of cattle changed over time. Maybe I’ll be able to create a little map showing how the tax records show the migration from one area to another – anyway, I digress…

I want the program to be informative as far as our specific family details go, but I also want to pull in some historical references to help everyone see our family in context with the times that they lived in. Newspaper headlines from the area or snippets from local history websites would be interesting things to include. Can you see why I’m overwhelmed? So I thought I’d begin with making a plan and asking for suggestions from anyone who’s interested in following along.

First, I know I’m going to want some background images that are a little more nostalgic than the typical PowerPoint slide design offers, so I’m going to begin looking online for images and textures that I can use.  For example, my mother’s family is from the Kentucky area, so I will begin looking for images of farmland, rolling countysides and log cabins that I can use as backgrounds for a typical family tree chart or family group sheet that I might want to include. I’m also going to look for images of textures like old fashioned lace or burlap or faded denim.

My program will be using a lot of hyperlinks and triggers so that anyone can click on a name or a entry on a timeline to see the source document if they want. This program will not be a “go to the next slide please” kind of program. I’m hoping it will be something that not only lets everyone see where genealogists get their information from, but also is eye opening as far as what things they might have in their possession that they never thought I’d be interested in.

My plan is that my opening slide will be a typical family tree chart with perhaps 3 generations: my mother and her siblings, their parents and both sets of grandparents. Of course, I’d love to do more, but I think that will be PLENTY for the time being. Plus, they will all be able to relate to these people more than a name from 1780 that I just say “Trust me, they are related!” – at least until they show an interest.

From the family tree, they will be able to click on a name and the program will jump to the section for that person. This page will either be a group sheet type of thing, or a timeline with a button to see the group sheet. (The group sheet will have the similar idea of clicking on a name to jump to that section.) While the timeline COULD become very complicated and crowded, I’m thinking that I need to keep it simple. I’ll begin with the obvious stuff – birth date, marriage date and death date. Then I’ll add the birth dates for each child. If there’s room, I’ll add dates of residence locations as well. Each of these dates will also be clickable. If I have a lot of information for a certain event, clicking on the item will trigger a jump to that part of the program.  For example, clicking on the marriage date could jump to a screen that shows the marriage license or registry. If I have a document, but still have questions, I can include those questions on the side to see if anyone else happens to know the answer. If I don’t have a document, then clicking on the item will trigger an information box to appear that will tell where the information came from and perhaps show a list of  the type of document I’m looking for to help the viewer think about what type of information they might have in a closet or attic.

I’ll want to include as many photographs as I can, but the further back in time I go, the fewer photos I have. So I’m also going to try to find or create some silhouette images that might illustrate an occupation of an ancestor. Not only will images like that help to make a slide more visually appealing, it will also show immediately that I DON’T have any photos of a particular person and perhaps that will trigger a memory of a photo that someone has in an album somewhere.

Several years ago, my mother put together a booklet of stories that my grandmother had told her about growing up. There are not many stories in the booklet because my grandmother did not have a very happy childhood, but if I can incorporate those stories and try to also include some images from the area she grew up in to make the stories “come alive”, perhaps that will create a desire for my aunts and uncles to tell stories that they’ve heard so that they can be included in any updated versions of the program.

So here’s my initial “to do” list in preparation for this project.

1) Begin looking for background images – landscapes and textures.

2) Begin looking through my genealogy notes and making the topics that I want to be sure to include as well as the things that might be a little too mundane for the non-genealogists.

3) Begin collecting documents that haven’t been digitized that I want to include.

4) Begin taking digital pictures of some of the items I’ve collected that were my grandmothers.

5) Make a rough mind map of what a typical section for an individual might include.

6) Begin compiling a list of internet links to include in the program so that a person who might find this “genealogy stuff” interesting can begin doing their own research.

If you’d like to follow along and make your own program as I go, you can start collecting items too and thinking about what you’d like to include information wise. I’ll be using PowerPoint 2010 for my examples, but I think most of what I’m planning to include will be doable in older versions as well.

I’m actually starting to get excited about this project! Time to tell the family they will probably be on their own for dinner for the next few days!

“Fresh Start” Time of Year?

The new school year is about a week and a half away and as usual, I have an overwhelming desire to have a “fresh start”.

I want to go through my closet and get rid of clothes I never wear and organize my new “school clothes” for the new year.

I want to go through all of my school files and toss and/or reorganize the paper files as well as my digital files.

I want to get out in my gardens and trim and cut my perennials (which are really hurting in the drought!) and split and rearrange them so they will be better off next spring.

AND, I want to go through my family tree database and clean it up! This is BY FAR the more overwhelming project! I’ve always had a hard time keeping my computer database up to date. I really prefer to just keep everything on Ancestry. But I see a real value in my computer database and I just upgraded to FTM 2012 specifically because it will sync with my tree on Ancestry. But it didn’t take me long to see that I’m missing pieces of information that I should have included. So now, the desire to go through each person and check those citations and add digital images and detailed notes is kicking in BIG TIME.

How can I do this in an organized manner that would not require huge chunks of time that I do not have? I can say I’m going to look at 1 person each day, for example, but how do I do that and not lose my place? There are 776 people in this branch of my tree, but they aren’t all equally researched. Should I concentrate on the individuals in my direct ancestor 5 gen chart and go numerically? Begin with my mother, then her father, then mother, then paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, etc? Or do I modify that and work in family groups? My mother’s parents along with all of their children, then each grandparent group? If I choose that, how far down do I go? For example, I can see working on my grandparents and each of their children, but when do I work on THEIR children and grandchildren? What about the ancestor with 14 children? My mother had an uncle who had 28 children for heaven’s sake!

And what about source citations? I’m happy to have the citations as they are automatically downloaded from Ancestry, but if I want to follow Evidence Explained, should I delete all citations and start from scratch? Or modify each citation as I come to it?

After years of upgrading FTM over and over, I have some pretty strange things in the files. Notes for images that became citations of some sort. Names of children that became AKA’s for some individuals, etc. At one time, when there was only one “Notes” section per person, I had loooooong notes for each individual that were basically a timeline of events in their life. I had a note for EVERY item I could find for the individual – tax records, mentions in court records, etc. as well as questions and ideas to follow up on and those notes are totally gone from the program (but not from my computer). Should I try to put those back in?

I’d LOVE to do a totally from scratch type of thing, but is that realistic? It could be a FANTASTIC opportunity to really evaluate what I have and what I need and update my research plan and put together a “to do” list for each person, but it’s difficult enough to find “normal research” time, so would this become a project that I begin to resent?

Perhaps, I should keep my current file as a “working file” and begin a fresh file that begins from scratch. Am I shooting too high? I tend to start these grand projects which later get shelved when reality hits…

What do you think? Any suggestions?

1940 Success!

A couple of week-ends ago, my Mom came to my house for a visit. I thought it would be cool to be able to show her the 1940 census for her family, although she would not be born for a couple of years yet.  At the time, Indiana had not been indexed, so I used the One-Step tools on the Ancestry site to find my mother’s maternal grandfather but that’s where my luck ended. When she arrived, we used our detective skills to finally find her family in a near-by county.

Ironically, the announcement came 1 week later that the Indiana index had been completed, which could have made my search much easier. At the same time, it was announced that Kentucky had also been indexed so I did a search for my mother’s paternal grandparents in Kentucky – but no luck.

I thought it would be a pretty simple search! Last name, Smith – which is pretty darn common – but their first names were Oliver and Mintie. How many could there be? Well, apparently, there were NONE.

So today, I had 30 minutes to kill and I decided to see if I could find each of the children of Oliver and Mintie thinking that they probably lived nearby one of them and it worked! They lived next door to their 3rd son. The reason I could not find them was because the names had been indexed as Alian and Misstie.

So I believe I’ve now found all of my direct ancestors that can be found in the 1940 census. I do enjoy reading the employment information and the number of hours each person worked in a week. Because of this, I’ve been doing more research into the WPA as a few of my ancestors listed their employment that way. I’m thinking of creating a spreadsheet of the different occupations of my ancestors through the years – although I believe they are overwhelmingly farmers. But you never know what you’ll find when you begin to look at your information from a different perspective.  That just may be on my “to do list” the next time I find a free 30 minutes!

Nice Catch!

My family genealogy day was VERY nice! It was wonderful to share information – even if it was only with two people. Mom mom had assured me that my aunt would not be interested, but my aunt surprised us both. She was very interested in reading what I brought and looking at old family photos and started telling several stories from when she was young – something she had never done before! In talking about it later, Mom said she thought it was probably because we were such a small group. (And as a side note – we decided on a spur of the moment week-long trip to Florida before school starts, so I’m hoping to hear many more stories from my Mom and aunt next week!)

My cousin was amazed at what I had printed out for her. I think it was probably a little overwhelming, as we never did start at the beginning and work our way through it. Instead, she’d ask a question about a person and I’d jump to that portion of the print out and we’d talk about that – which would bring a new question and another jump! And every time she asked me about a specific person in the tree I loved that I could walk to my computer and print a set of notes for that person as well! Her youngest son is getting ready to go to college to study HISTORY, so she said that he will really enjoy reading what I sent home with her and once he gets settled, would probably love to work together with me to fill out our applications for Daughter/Son of the American Revolution – so that’s something to look forward to!

The visit didn’t “net” (pun intended!) me any new information, but I do feel like I’ve stirred some interest that wasn’t there before! At one point, my mom pulled out the Christmas Poem book that I wrote for her 2 years ago and that stirred even more memories from my aunt and even a tear or two from my Mom. I’m sure we’ll be planning additional time to get together and share more information and I’m thrilled with that! If I’ve inspired a small part of my family to begin thinking about family history, I think that’s a greater thing than collecting more newspaper clippings or documents. (But I sure wouldn’t turn those down!!)

Gone Fishin!

For the first time ever, a few people in my Mom’s family have asked that we organize a time to get together to take a look at my family history information! So I’ve spent a couple of days trying to get my stuff into a more entertaining format that might “hook” me some more information. I will be giving them a Word print out of a 3 generation timeline/narrative format of my notes with as many maps, photographs and certificate images as I could reasonably put in there. I have information from my great-great grandparents births to my grandparents deaths. I also included a lot of pictures of my mom and her siblings growing up hoping to jog some memories out of my aunts and uncles.

It’s a 30 page, color coded, sources cited wonder to behold! (Well, at least to me!) We’re getting together tomorrow and it will be interesting to see the reaction and to see if they are interested in seeing more details or more generations. A warm-up for the DVD project to come!

Wish me luck!!

Using PowerPoint

This past week-end, I was surfing though Ancestry hints in my family tree while my husband and kids enjoyed some time in a hotel pool.  I was quite surprised to find a family tree that was obviously put up by one of my cousin’s sons! I didn’t think anyone else in my family did family research, so I emailed her to make sure it was him and it was! I remember that last year, my cousin had emailed me to get some family tree information for a graduate level class she was taking and I have to wonder if her son caught the “genealogy bug” after seeing some of that information.

So I’m thinking ahead to Christmas. I think I’m going to create an interactive Family History program using PowerPoint. My goal will be to put the program onto DVDs to give to my aunts/uncles/cousins/cousins-once-removed – or anyone who may be interested in the information. This will be my “bait” to see if I can get family members interested enough in our genealogy that they might begin telling me stories that they remember or realizing that they may have some documents or mementos that I might be interested in seeing. This type of interactive program would be much more appealing that the binders that I bring to family get-togethers. And copying a DVD is MUCH cheaper than copying pages and pages of documents!

I’m beginning to formulate a plan to put my genealogy research into an interactive PowerPoint program that will allow the user to jump from a person in the family tree to the section of the program that deals with that person. Each person will have a timeline page (user can click on a timeline entry to jump to that document page) and a Group Sheet page (user can click on any name or date to jump to that page).  The DVD format will allow me to put all kinds of documents into the program, but a family history “newbie” wouldn’t be overwhelmed by stacks and stacks of papers. I’ll make the program “clickable” so that a person will only see what they want to see. I’ll make the documents “educational” with information boxes so a person will see the kind of information we can discover with these documents. Maybe they will understand why I care about “boring” things like census records and tax records.  I want to include as many old photos as possible as well to make everything “come alive” and to perhaps job some memories as to what they might have that I don’t.

I’m thinking this might become a “How To” series on the blog. I’d like to say I’ll make this a weekly thing, but if I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s not to assume that you’ll have the time you think you’ll have!

So if this is something that might be interesting to you, but sure to bookmark the blog and check back often! Or follow me on Twitter and you’ll receive a Tweet every time a new post is created.


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