- Order pension files for all the brothers in a family, not just one. You never know which one of them may lead you to the clues that you so desperately need to make that big breakthrough. I made the mistake of ordering only the file for my direct line ancestor. The 200 page file provided a wealth of information, but I finally got around to ordering the files of the widow and mother of his brothers. One of them answered a question that had gone unanswered for years.
- Research the neighbors and associates. If I'd done this when I first began researching years ago, I wouldn't have to revisit some of my research quite so often. Once I discovered that most of the neighbors of one of my ancestors were also his neighbors in a previous location, I realized the importance of this.
- Use a good genealogy software program. The first one I used was a shareware or freeware program that was completely inadequate. It had places for Birth, Christening, Marriage, Death, and LDS ordinances (which was not really of importance to me), but it only had 10 lines of notes. The notes had to be used for notes and for citation. I'm still fixing problems in my current database from this first software program I used.
- Organize your research in a meaningful way. I made the mistake filing most research in surname folders for years. I would just "stuff" materials into these folders. For the big surnames on which I was working, I would have 5 or 6 very thick folders to go through when I was looking for a specific piece of information. Things didn't often fit well, because some documents might fit multiple families, and I would just file it in one of the surname folders. My main filing system is now location-based. I put the copies of deeds, wills, etc. in the a folder that begins with a state abbreviation, then county, then document type in the order in which they would appear in the county records. This new system works well for me. The records are already cited in my database, so they are easy to locate when I need them again, no matter which name on that page I'm seeking.
- Don't rely too much on your genealogy software. Write up your research in a narrative form with footnotes. It helps you see where the holes are in your research. I could go into far greater depth on this one, but I'll leave it at this simple word of caution.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
A quick search of the Indiana State Library reveals that few abstracts exist, and these are fall in categories that have been filmed. I saw very few county records described on the state archives site. I was unable to locate a Web site for the county government to determine if digital records were accessible online. I can only conclude that the record loss, particularly for future historians and genealogists, is very tragic because this county was not prepared for such a devastating loss. Even on the state archives site, there was a link to a microfilming service which could have been utilized by the county. I know that we live in tough economic times, but preserving the records of the past should be a high priority. Routine preservation of records, whether digital or by microfilm, with off-site storage of a complete set is something that should be done by all record keepers. We need to ask our county officials what they are doing to minimize record loss should such a tragedy strike our county. We need to encourage them to partner with state libraries or others who provide microfilm and digitization services to make sure that records will be available in the future if a disaster occurs.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Saturday was another busy day. I began by monitoring Mark Lowe's "Circuit Riders and the Early Methodist Church." I got a couple of ideas about places to look for additional information on Ashley Aldridge during this session. He wasn't really a circuit rider, but he was a leader in the local church who is sometimes called a "minister." Mark covered that aspect as well as the more prolific records of those who were ordained. I worked the APG booth after I got out of that session until about 10:30 when I needed to leave to get ready to monitor my next session. I had another one of those serendipitous moments during this time. Many of you know that I've had my brother's DNA tested on the Thornton line. We matched with what is called the "South Carolina Thornton group." Most of us are brickwalled in the Carolinas, and none of us can find our common ancestor. We have a few clues. There is one participant who had identified an individual he believed to be the common ancestor. There are a couple of "jumps" in his research so that I'm not completely comfortable with his conclusions. While I was working at the APG booth, a professional genealogist who had been hired by an individual descended from one of the other lines which matched us on DNA came up. We spent most of the time chatting about our Thornton research, the research that had been done by others, the Thornton DNA project and the problems with that project since the loss of the online trees after changing project administrators, and a few other related things. We began to talk about directions that needed to be taken in the research. I'm delighted to have made this connection, and the two of us believe that two heads will be better than one. One interesting thing she said to me was that this is the worst line she's ever researched. (Of course, I'm thinking, "Tell me something I don't already know.") I am excited about this serendipitous moment and hope that through collaboration we'll be able to break through some of the brick walls. I monitored "Overlooked Military Records in the National Archives" at 11 a.m. The presenter was Marie Melchiori, and this was in the BCG Skillbuilding track. I spent lunch time eating and talking with other genealogists in the back of the exhibit hall. We had a nice visit. At 2:30, I was the monitor for Julie Miller's "Make the Census Work for You!" It was also on the BCG Skillbuilding track. At 4:00 I introduced Monica Hopkins who spoke on "Finding Your Way Around the Georgia Archives." Several of us went to the Oakwood Cafe, which is a wonderful Cuban and Argentinian restaurant, after the conference was over. We had a nice visit.
This year's conference was a memorable one. Many people came up to us and said that this was one of the smoothest conferences they'd ever attended. The local arrangements committee of NCGS under the leadership of Ann Hilke is responsible for much of that. They did a super job in planning this conference and pulling it off. I'm really sad this conference is over. I look forward to returning to Raleigh for future conferences!
Thursday I monitored "Collaboration and Cooperation: The Family History Archive--A Digital Partnership FHL/BYU/ACPL/HPL/MCPL" which was presented by Susan D. Kaufman of Houston Public Library and Michael J. Hall of the project. I'll be quite honest. This is not a session I would have attended had I not been monitoring. I think that God puts us in situations for reasons sometimes. This was basically a session about the Family History Archive digital books project. I had already used it extensively, but as I was sitting there listening to them, an idea came to me. We use the netLibrary e-books collection in our library, and we're able to purchase MARC records for them to dump into our online catalog. I decided to go up after the session and ask Susan (the librarian) whether they had MARC records available through Marcive or another vendor. She admitted that they had not even considered that, but that it was really a very good idea. I'm hoping that they will be able to follow up on that idea and make those available to increase access. The types of books they are digitizing would be wonderful for many academic libraries to include. Did I learn a lot from the session? Probably not. However, I think I was put there to ask that question. I was having trouble determining whether or not to attend Craig Scott's "Quaker Migration Into North Carolina and Out Again" or Helen Leary's "Genealogical Standards: Obsolete Model T or Space-Age Air Car?" at 9:30 a.m. After reviewing the syllabi for the two, I discovered that Craig's session did not appear to be covering the one group of Quaker immigrants in which I was interested--the ones who went to Nova Scotia and who were loyalists. I found a friend who was going to that session to "spy" for me and get back with me on that, and I went to Helen's which was also closer to the session I would be monitoring at 11 a.m. We don't get to Helen at the conferences much any more, and she's such a fountain of knowledge. I'm really glad I went to that one. At 11 a.m., I monitored Jeff Haines' "South Carolina Research." I'd actually heard Jeff do that one before, but I still picked up some new stuff because I'm more involved in South Carolina research now than I was when I heard him do it in Richmond. After that was the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History Luncheon. Jeff Haines spoke on "Merchants, Planters, and Pirates: British in the West Indies." It was a very interesting luncheon talk! I worked the hospitality desk from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and then I went over to the North Carolina Museum of History where we got ready ready for those who had signed up for the dessert reception, tours, and talks there. People were also able to go take a tour of the Archives across the street. I was on the sign-in desk for the first half, and then I went to the auditorium and distributed the syllabus for Jeff Haines' talk "People Finders of North Carolina." Everyone seemed to really enjoy the event.
I traveled to Raleigh on the Saturday before the conference. I'm a member of North Carolina Genealogical Society, the local host society, and had volunteered to help at the conference. My work began on Monday morning with the stuffing of the conference tote bags. I think the original plan was to have us constantly circling the table filling new bags, but most of us realized that the only efficient way to do it was to form assembly lines so that is what we did. The biggest problem we encountered is that some of the stuff was late in arriving so we'd have to pause, go back and put the newly arrived materials in the totes, and then resume the process with the new item from time to time. We had finished this process by about 2 p.m. even with a lunch break at Sam and Wally's across the street. While we were at Sam and Wally's, we talked the owner into opening at 7 a.m. beginning on Wednesday rather than his usual 7:30 a.m., and we also talked him into being open on Saturday if business was good the rest of the week. When we checked with him later in the week, we discovered that he was very pleased with his business that week. NGS was his best event ever! Several of us went out of the way to give him business because of his willingness to work with us to give conference attendees some breakfast options that were not available otherwise. His lunch prices were very reasonable. I had a slice of pizza and a soft drink for $4 one day.
On Tuesday, I arrived around 9 a.m. to help with registration set-up. We had registrar training around 10:30 a.m. although we had all received our instructions ahead of time. I was scheduled to work registration from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. so I went to lunch a bit early. When I got back, I went over to sit with some of my NCGS friends at a table we'd placed near registration for those of us who weren't working at the time but were nearby to help if needed. Most of them needed to "do lunch." They were going to bring back something for Helen Leary and left her with me for an hour or so. Before they left, one of my friends who knew some of the challenges of one of my lines suggested that I pick Helen's brains on the problem. I didn't do it immediately but I eventually found myself telling her about the problem. She asked a few questions. She helped me come up with a few ideas for further research based on what I told her. She began telling about some of her research. She mentioned something which reminded me of another line that I had not tried to work on since I was a newbie genealogist. I decided to tell her about that line and the challenges faced by an orphan who gave us few clues about his origin other than the traditions that certain children were named after his parents and a birth location mentioned on a syllabus. It turns out that she had researched that particular surname before and was able to make some suggestions on more specific counties in which I should begin to look when I get a chance to get back to that line. She told me that there were poor cousins who lived nearby the rich ones. I will have to say that this hour of "picking Helen's brain" was probably one of my favorite hours of the conference week. I thanked my friends for leaving me with Helen that hour. After they returned with her sandwich, all of us continued to talk until I had to go work registration. We even talked about her study of the Hemings-Jefferson question. I am so glad that I had re-read her article last month in preparation for a presentation I'd done for a society.
Even before the conference began, I was already having some of those serendipitous moments that always seem to happen at a national conference that help break through a brick wall or confirm some of your research.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I apologize for not getting to this last night, but I'm way behind on blogs and blog reading. Randy Seaver at GeneaMusings always posts a "Saturday Night Fun" question to which those blogging genealogy are encouraged to reply. Last night's question was:
“What event or person inspired you to start your genealogy research?”
I'm not going to answer this immediately because I want to just say that it is kind of ironic because just earlier in the day, I was sitting around with several APG friends. We were all discussing this very question, and it was interesting to hear how each of these persons had gotten their start. Mine was probably one of the least interesting things.
My mother had always wanted to know more about her Harris family. She and my grandmother had made a few attempts, but just didn't really know what they were trying to find or really where to start, especially when they went to Pulaski, Tennessee, the county seat for Giles County and encountered one of the big problems in Southern research -- courthouse fire with loss of records.
Now, I've always loved history, and I really don't know why I didn't know about this option back in high school or I probably would have gone this route. I didn't know what I could do with a degree in history other than teach the same content over and over year after year, and frankly, that idea didn't appeal to me. I've always loved detective shows on television and books that involve sleuths so the sleuthing aspects of genealogy were also appealing. It's really a shame that I didn't know more about genealogy earlier in my life.
In the mid 1990s I was living in Cincinnati which had one of the best genealogical libraries in the country. I decided that I would try to find out about Mom's family for her. I made a few discoveries on this line, but it was really a line that needed to be put off until I had more experience researching. I made the typical mistakes of newbies -- trying to work on too many lines at once. I soon learned to focus on the lines on which I was making progress.
Let's just say that I became addicted to genealogical research and began attending conferences where I heard some great speakers who gave me some great advice and tips! So that's my genealogical journey. I'll try to post some reflections about the NGS conference in the next few days.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I spent the morning and early afternoon stuffing the conference bags. We finished sometime around 2 p.m. after taking a lunch break. It's been great seeing some of my North Carolina genealogy friends as we've been working alongside each other -- and making a few new ones as well!
I did make a stop this morning by the Cafe Carolina for their wonderful sweet potato biscuits with ham and cheddar. YUM! I've been trying to replicate the recipe at home so I'm officially calling this "research." I told some of my friends that I was getting closer to the recipe and thought I knew what was lacking but I need to have the real deal a few more times to make sure I get the recipe correct! Needless to say, I've been getting a lot of teasing over my obsession with those biscuits!
We "did lunch" over at Sam and Wally's which is diagonally across from the convention center near the Sheraton. Arrangements were made with them to open for breakfast at 7 a.m. instead of their usual 7:30 a.m. so we hope they do a good business during conference. Some of the hotels don't offer breakfast so this is a good option! They are usually closed on Saturdays but may open for us.
There are several dining options on Fayetteville Street which is one street over from Salisbury (where the convention center is). Cafe Carolina is on the capital side of the Wachovia Center on that street. Port City Java is a pretty good lunch option. I've eaten there when I've been in Raleigh researching at the archives, particularly when they close during lunch on Saturdays. There's another sandwich shop called Crema. There is a New Orleans style restaurant over there that I would like to try sometime. I'm sure I've just barely scratched the surface of restaurants on Fayetteville Street or in proximity to the convention center.
I'll be busy tomorrow and hope to see some of you at the convention center!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Tomorrow (Monday) I'll be stuffing tote bags, and Tuesday afternoon I'll be working the late afternoon registration slot. I hope to meet many of you at NGS this week.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
I'm going to have to spend a little more time with it to locate the household in which James' son by his first wife was residing. He was reared by his maternal grandparents, Ashley and Celia Aldridge. We know that Ashley was living in 1860 but deceased by 1870. Celia was still living in 1870. I have been unable to locate either of them in the 1866 variation, but if, after browsing the township in which they resided (and it's too late to tackle that job tonight), I don't find Ashley under a misspelled name (and do find Celia), then I can narrow down his date of death a bit more!
Wasn't it nice of Ancestry.com to give me some Saturday night genealogy fun? And that after an afternoon of research at the North Carolina State Library & Archives!
By the way, late this afternoon there was a really horrible storm that popped in and out of downtown Raleigh. It was so quick that if it had not made such a "commotion" that I might not have known it occurred at all. However, I got to watch orange and white construction barriers that were being used to block off a nearby street flying through the air. They didn't fly far -- but they did fly a bit after being lifted off the ground. There was a lot of paper flying high in the air as well. (I'm glad they weren't the copies I made earlier!)