Category Archives: Hints

The Broader Technique

My Maternal Great Grandfather, Pleasant Smith has always been a mystery. When I first broaderstarted my research over 20 years ago, I only had his name, date of birth and the name of my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page. I had a few stories that my mother had told me about him when I was younger, but I couldn’t find anything that would validate them. So, I continued to search in hopes of a breakthrough.

I would love to report that the solid cement wall that blocked me from finding any shred of information had fallen down and the life of Pleasant had been revealed. But I can’t. What I can say is I do know a little more about his life thanks to the broader technique.

Sarah Jane Page ML James Newhouse 2It all started when I was trying to break through my Great Grandmothers brick wall a few years back. She was 22 years old when she married Pleasant. Back in the mid-1800s, that was a little late for a woman to get married. I decided to take a second look at the “hints” that came up when I entered her information. I discovered she had gotten married and had a daughter when she was 16.  Her husband died when she was 21 and she then married Pleasant who was 29 years old. Once I had her previous marriage info, I was able to find her parents, her grandparents, etc. I also found her siblings names. As a result, I found that one of her younger sisters had also married a Pleasant Smith! As a matter of fact, after Sarah became a widow she got married again and, on her marriage license, I found that the ceremony had taken place at the home of  Pleasant Smith.

I began to broaden my search into this “new Pleasant Smith”. That is when I found that he was the son of my Great Grandfather and his first wife Charity. I still felt like I did not have sufficient proof that the two Pleasants’ were father and son. I continued my search and found the younger one’s death certificate. His parents were listed, and they matched. However, it was solidly confirmed when I saw that my Uncle was listed as the informant on the certificate.

I am still looking for more records on the elusive Pleasant Sr. I know someday I will find what I am searching for. Because of this experience I have applied this “Broader Technique” to some of my other brick walls with great success. When I find any name that is listed on marriage licenses, wills, deeds etc. I make a note of them along with any dates or where they lived. Then I take the time to research that person. You never know who your ancestor may have crossed paths with. You can also use the U.S. Federal Census as a guide. Research your ancestors’ closest neighbors. Sometimes they have had interactions that have been documented and it may lead you to new discoveries. Sometimes we need to broaden our search field to find the hidden treasures!

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

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Filed under Ancestry, Brick Walls, Broader Technique, Documentation, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, Missouri, Page Family, Pleasant Smith, Research, Sarah Jane Page, Smith, Uncategorized

You Are Descended From Who?

click

How many of you have been searching for an ancestor on Ancestry.com and you get a match in someone else’s family tree? You then click on their “Matching Person (from Family Trees)” link and up comes their “facts” page. Here you can see what information they have on your shared ancestor. I have been able to garner a lot of useful data from these. I have even on occasion found family photos and documentation in the Gallery section. I then, usually, click on the members’ name and go to their profile page to see if we have any more relatives in common.

This is where it can get interesting. As long as they do not have their trees set on private you can browse through page after page of their “recently added findings”. The further back in time that your common ancestor lived, the more unrelated info you have to go through. But sometimes, in all that digging you find a gem! Some crucial document that can help you fill in some of those empty spots in your tree.

Yesterday I found one of those gems. I was so excited I decided it was worth looking

knights templar

more closely at this person’s “findings”. I soon came across some things that made me a little concerned. According to her tree, the woman was related to Lady Godiva, King James (all of them), Doretha Queen of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, 4 of the Knights Templars, Mary Queen of Scots, Robin Hood, King Francois of France, and the list goes on. I am not saying that she couldn’t have been related to one or more of them but there was no documentation or references at all. The one that really threw me though was her claim to be a descendant of King David (from the Bible) through his son Jonathan.

The reason I wanted to write about this incident was to take the opportunity to discuss the topic of credibility. Every person who is trying to construct a legitimate family history should strive for accuracy and provide as much documentation or sources as possible. I have a couple of ancestors who are my “brick walls”. When I find possible leads, I sometimes add that name to my tree so I can find it and continue researching. However, I make notes that this person has not been verified as part of my lineage and should not be added to anyone’s tree until it has been.

cred

Although I did find one good document in this woman’s common ancestor file, it made me concerned about the accuracy of it because of her listing her other “Ancestors”. Her credibility had been called into question.

The moral of this story is: “Always verify any information that you obtain from anyone else’s tree and always make sure your own data is correct when you add your findings to your own trees”. No tree is 100% perfect, but we should make every attempt to not add anything that can’t be proven.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Brick Walls, Credibility, Documentation, Family History, Family Search, Famous, Genealogy, Hints, History, Research, Source Citations, Uncategorized

5 Genealogy Myths

mythThere are so many “truths” that we believe about the subject of Genealogy. When I first started researching mine, I believed everything I read or heard about the subject. I apparently was quite naïve.

 

Here are 5 Myths that most new Genealogists are told but they are not true.

1. Your ancestors’ name was changed when they can through Ellis Island.

This isn’t necessarily true. Passenger lists were created when your ancestor boarded the ship at their port of departure. When they arrived at Ellis Island their names were checked off that list. There were, however, some passengers who wanted to change their names, for whatever reason, and the attendants would sometimes accommodate them.

 

2. Your ancestors’ records were destroyed in a Courthouse fire.Chenango_County_Courthouse_May_09

Yes, a lot of Courthouses have burned to the ground, but this doesn’t mean all of the records were destroyed. Some Courthouses did not totally burn down so the surviving documents were transferred to another county close by. Most of them contacted the residents of the county and asked them to bring in any documents they may have so that they could make a note of them. Many States have archives where their staffs have prepared special helps for genealogists researching around Courthouse fires. They would have records of these notes or copies.

 

3. The 1890 census burned to a crisp.

Truth is it did not burn. It became waterlogged while the fire was being extinguished. The papers were left lying around and they rotted. Some unknown person gave permission for these papers to be destroyed. A fraction of the census’ did survive as well as about half of the Civil War Union veterans census records.

 

4. Everyone has a Family Crest.

crestHaving a coat of arms or family crest is much rarer than you might imagine. Having the hereditary right to use it is even rarer. While there are many companies out there that are willing to sell you all kinds of merchandise with your supposed “family crest” on it, the vast majority of these companies are not engaged in legitimate genealogical research. The coat of arms or crest you get may or may not belong to your family (and it might be made up completely by the company selling it to you), or you may not have the hereditary right to use it. Historically speaking, a coat of arms is a design on the shield of a medieval knight. The design was unique to an individual and not to a family. Sometimes, the individual only had rights to the coat of arms during his lifetime. Other times, he was allowed to pass it down to his descendants, and it became the family coat of arms. Google your last name i.e. Hughes Family Crest and you will see how many variations there are.

 

5. You can find your whole family history online.

Wouldn’t that be great? Unfortunately, errors abound in online indexes, transcriptions, and family trees. There is so much documentation out there that may never make its way online. Repositories still hold richly detailed, lesser-known records that haven’t been digitalized. It would really pay off if at some point you could visit a local library or courthouse.

These are only a few of the myths we have heard or believed. It is best to always verify any information that you may come across to determine the “truth” of it.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Courthouse, Documentation, Family Crests, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, Myths, Research, Uncategorized

Writing About Your Ancestors

listWhen I first began researching my family history, somewhere in the back of my mind I believed that one day I would finish my search. I know I thought that 20+ years ago. Planning that after I finished the research, I could start writing the stories of my ancestors. Today I know that I am nowhere near the end of my family history. I have always had the desire to put together a book with these stories to pass on to my Grandchildren. How should I start?

Waiting is a mistake. Looking through our trees we can see so many Ancestors we want to write about but thinking about that prospect is overwhelming. There may be lots of material to glean from but who should you start with? Should you do it in order, current to ancient? How much or how little information should you include?

So, how do we even begin? Here are some hints I have been using that may help.

straight line

1, Since there is not just one straight line stretching back to an original ancestor, you can actually start anywhere. There are many trees and branches to choose from. Where you begin and with whom you write about is up to you.

I started with my Maternal Great Grandparents. My Great Grandpa ends his line. I can find no information on his birth or death, only his marriage to my Great Grandma and the birth of my Grandpa. However, I have a few stories that I heard about him while growing up and I wrote about those. If I find anything in the future about him, I can always add it. My Great Grandma was a different case. Her lineage goes back to my 11th Great Grandfather born ABT 1606 in Uxenden, Middlesex, England.

2, Don’t stress over writing a perfect story. Just start writing down what you know about your ancestor. Basically, just get it on paper. You can always go back and fill in information, make corrections and add details.

As the author of 3 books, I know the struggle with trying to write something that is presentable. Over the last 5 years I discovered that if I just write what comes to me, I at least have something to work with. Editing, grammar, spelling, rewriting, etc. can be done when the writing is finished.

time3. Don’t get caught in the belief that you don’t have time to write a story. Everyone makes time for the things that are important to them. You can begin with setting aside 30 minutes during your day to sit down and write.

I know with the responsibilities of life it is sometimes hard to fit anything into our schedules. But like everything else, if you really want to do it then you will find the time.

4. It is okay to write a partial story. If you begin writing about one of your ancestors and you find you don’t feel like what you are writing isn’t interesting, then it is okay to stop writing. You can save what you do have and return to it at a later time, This allows you to approach it with a new perspective and perhaps some additional research.

5. If you are so inclined, include some historical context to your stories. You can write about what life may have been like during their lifetime, a short history of the area they lived in or some event that happened in the world at that time.

6. In writing stories of your family history, it is important not to forget about yourself! Byabout-me the time your children or grandchildren read what you have written, you will have become one of those “ancestors”. It would be such a great gift to have an accurate, first-hand account of your life to pass on. You may include anything you feel you would like your descendants to know about you and your life. In other words, the good, the bad and the ugly.

About 10 years ago I read a book about writing your own story, In it was ideas of what to write. Things like “tell me about your elementary school days”, “what did you like to do in your spare time or “what hobbies did you have” and “what type of pets did you have growing up”. These were great to get the mind thinking and you only had to write about one aspect of your like at a time. You didn’t have to put it in chronological order or stress over little details.

The reason for this blog is to encourage you to write those stories about your ancestors. Not all of us have been blessed by someone else taking the time to do it. It would be a great legacy to pass on to future generations. I know I would have loved for some ancestor of mine to have preserved some stories that I could read.

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, How-to, Memories, Story telling, Uncategorized, Write Your Story

Now That Was Embarrassing!

thankfulSometimes I am thankful that most of my “Genealogy Finds” are ones that no one else will find out about. At least not until I am gone and they inherit all my research. Today I found a mistake in my paternal family tree. You could say it was an honest mistake on my part, but it was a mistake nevertheless.

I must admit that lately I have been too busy to spend quality time working on busyGenealogy. I have written a third book that has nothing to do with Family History. It has taken up almost all my normal research time. As a result, I have divided my trees into groups of ancestors so I can work on them more efficiently. So, with my “spare” time this morning I decided to work on my Strother line.

Beverley Strother Randolph is my 4th cousin 4 times removed. Born July 17, 1851 and died February 5, 1929 I didn’t have much more information other than that about her! Image my surprise when I found her marriage information. According to their marriage license Beverley married Mary Strother Jewett on April 20, 1882! I was so confused. After all this was the 19th Century, this was not done.

shockedUpon further research, I discovered that Beverley was not a female as I had assumed. Just because he had a feminine sounding name I had entered his gender wrong. I have heard of other males with this name but it never struck me that this may be his case when I added him to the tree. After correcting his gender and finishing my other updates I began to wonder what other mistakes like this one have I made.

There are a lot of names that could be used for either gender. Take my name for instance. Here in the States, Valerie is a feminine name, but in Russia it is a male name. My youngest son’s name is Starr which can be used for either gender. Names like Chris, Angel, Terry or Kelly can also be for either one.

I guess now I should find the time to take a second look through my trees to make sure that I haven’t made this mistake anywhere else!

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Corrections, Documentation, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, How-to, Mistakes, Names, Oddities, Personal Stories, Research, Uncategorized

Look What I Found Cleaning Up My Trees!

I have a tendency of working mainly on my Dad’s side of the family. I had a horrible relationship with my Mother due to her mental problems. I believe this is the reason I dosmith not feel compelled to really dig deep into my “Smith/McGowan” side. When I first started using Ancestry.com for my main Family Trees site I was still new in the Genealogy world. I was one of those people who thought the information I found in an ancestors file was correct, so I spent months adding any and all data I found to my trees. I added thousands of names all the way back to 500’s.

When I became a Professional Genealogist, I learned about documentation and citing source information and I realized the mistake I made by doing that. I have literally spent the last several years cleaning up my trees in between jobs. I felt pretty confident that I had done a great job. That is until yesterday.

-Citation_needed-I got one of those “shaky leaf’s” attached to an ancestor on my Mothers’ side. It led to another one, then another one and soon I was making an unsettling discovery. Apparently, I had grossly neglected cleaning up this side of the family! I spent many hours deleting name after name! As I was doing this I found that not only had I added unsubstantiated ancestors but also people who were not even related to me. I have read lots of posts about these but I had never seen any before. Here are 4 that I found.

James Everett Shoaf

1882–1948

husband of 2nd cousin of wife of 3rd cousin 2x removed

 

William B Howard

–1934

husband of aunt of wife of 3rd cousin 2x removed

 

Raymond Wallendorff

1930–2000

husband of 1st cousin 1x removed of wife of 3rd cousin 2x removed

 

Lula Reimers

1885–1940

wife of nephew of wife of brother-in-law of 2nd cousin 3x removed

 

I must admit, I had a good laugh when I read these. Although I enjoyed the humor in thislaughing girl I really wish I would have known about not adding information that have no proof or sources cited to my trees. It was a good lesson to learn  and I gladly pass it on to anyone who will listen.

Have you ever added someone to your tree with making sure they belonged?

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Corrections, Documentation, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, How-to, Research, Shaky Leaf, Source Citations, Uncategorized

Lineage Societies or Family Groups – A Great Resource

our family historyAnyone who has been researching their Family History for many years knows and understands the importance of Lineage Societies or Family Groups. However, I have come across many Genealogists who never heard of them. To be honest, I just discovered them about 8 years ago when I made a research trip to Missouri. I met a cousin I had just contacted while planning my trip. She had tons of information on a line I hadn’t done much research on. She also introduced me to the concept of Lineage Societies and Family Groups.

My 6 times Great Grandfather Edward Coffey came over from Ireland in 1690. His line here is long and expansive. As a result, the family put together the “Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse” Group started by Leonard Coffey in 1981. Over the years, Coffey Cousins from all over the globe have joined this Clearinghouse and shared their research, stories and photos. Now because of their efforts if you find the name Coffey/Coffee in your line you may be able to discover new information about your ancestor and meet some cousins!

One of my 7 times Great Grandfathers is Peter Rucker. He came over from Bavaria we are familyGermany in 1661. He became a naturalized citizen in the State of Virginia on April 24, 1704.  The Rucker Family has participated in every war since the Revolutionary War. Since the early 90’s this society has been having reunions every two years, publishing their newsletter and sharing information and photos! What a resource for anyone who has a Rucker in their family line.

Some Societies or Family Groups have dues but they are usually minimal. They help you to find distant relatives and connect us to information we may never have any other way of finding. Spend some time Googling Societies or Groups associated with your Ancestors names and see what you may discover.

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

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Filed under Ancestry, Brick Walls, Cousins, Edward Coffey, Family Groups, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, History, Lineage Societies, Personal Stories, Peter Rucker, Research, Uncategorized