Tag Archives: How-to

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

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

Racing to the Finish Line

Lets be honestIf we are to be honest it is hard to resist rushing through our research in the effort to go back one more generation. Especially when we find that next ancestor while doing the research. It is exciting to see how far back we can go and what interesting facts or stories we may find. Sometimes we abandon a “brick wall” ancestor to pursue an easier line.

I must confess, I have been guilty of this. One of these ancestors, my 4 times Great Grandparents on my Dad’s maternal side has been patiently waiting for me to return and try to find any information on them. I have had them in my tree for over 8 years and I have tried filling in the blanks, but I always got impatient in the searching.

A cousin I met for the first time gave me their information. I had taken a research trip to State Historical SocietyMissouri and when I walked in her house I was both impressed and jealous. She had been researching our mutual family for over 40 years. She had worked for the State Historical Society in Jefferson City for over 30 years and she had been able to search to her heart’s content. She had dozens of file cabinets and binders full of documentation. I took her word without hesitation.

A couple of days ago I decided to scan through my trees to find the dead-end lines and see if I could find anything pertaining to them. I had my 4 x G-Grandfather as Augusta White who was born in Virginia and lived in Alexandria, Kansas in 1835 when my 3 x G-Grandmother was born. That was it. My 4 x G-Grandmother had even less information. I had her name as Margaret “?”. Nothing else. I also had their children as Elisa Jane and Greenbury/Greenberry White and I at least had their birthdates and place of birth.

Elisha Jane WhiteI decided to take a different approach this time. I would start with the son and see what came up. I use more than Ancestry.com to do research so I pulled up all the sites. I found a Civil War Union Army document that had Greenbury’s name and place of birth that matched mine. It also listed his parents name as Augustine White born in Virginia and Margaret McClain born in Kentucky. With a little more research I found their marriage information and census records that listed the names of their children which matched mine. In no time I had the dates for their marriage, their places of birth, additional children’s names and the places they had lived. This opened even more doors of info which gave me possible names for their parents. My cousin had Augustine’s first name wrong, but once I discovered his correct name it busted through that brick wall.

The moral of this story is: It pays to revisit those “brick walls” ancestors often and exhaust every possible lead. Who knows what you may find?

 

 

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, Civil War, Cousins, Documentation, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hayes Family, How-to, Missouri, Research, Uncategorized, Union Soldiers, Virginia

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

“Hot Topic” Genealogy

HottopicsIt is always amazing to see how much society has changed in the last few hundred years. What is the “norm” for today was taboo a century ago and what was accepted 200 years ago seems unimaginable today. Throughout history there has always been a “Hot Topic” in each generation. Topics such as the Suffrage Movement, Religious Freedoms, Slavery, Prohibition, Wars etc. Today we are hard pressed to find out how our ancestors felt about these issues or if any of them actively supported or opposed them. Unless our ancestor was “famous” for their stand we may never know.

We can make assumptions on some of their beliefs by how they lived. Take for instance civil war battlesthe Civil War. If your ancestor fought for the North, you can assume they were anti-slavery and if they fought for the South they were pro-slavery. Also if they owned slaves you can assume that they believed in it and if they didn’t they were opposed. Some of the “topics” were not so obvious.

If we are lucky we can find membership information, letters, affiliations or other documents that can provide a glimpse into our ancestors’ stance on the issues of their day. However, most of us will never find these gems. We are left wondering if they had any opinion at all. This brings us to our own time in the genealogical timeline.  We have so many “Hot Topics” today that in a hundred years our future generations will wonder where we stood and why.

New scans15I am of the belief that I want to leave as much information for our future generations as possible. Not only about our ancestral line but also of the times in which we live. I have started writing about some of my beliefs, my stands on social issues and any participation’s I have had for or against those issues. To be quite honest I have picketed for one issue and I have picketed against another. I have participated in rallies and marches. I have appeared on local and National television, radio programs, been a Conference Speaker and featured in magazines and newspapers as an expert on one issue. I want my Great Grand-kids to know their Great Grandma held strong opinions on certain subjects and she wasn’t afraid to let others know how she felt. I am trying to be fair and explain both sides of the issues and express why I chose the side I did.

 

What “Hot Topics” do you have an opinion or belief on? Have you gotten involved fighting for or against that Topic? Think about leaving your experiences behind for those coming after you.

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, Civil War, Family History, Family Search, Famous, Genealogy, Hints, History, Hot Topic, How-to, Memories, Next Generation, Personal Stories, Story telling, Uncategorized, Write Your Story

9 Hints for Better Genealogy Interviewing

clip-art-interviewing-Hopefully at some time during the research of our family history we will have the opportunity to talk with an older generation relative. The thought of “interviewing” someone can be a little intimidating. Here are some hints that can make it easier.

HINT: If possible, mail or email your relative a list of the questions you intend to ask ahead of time. Also ask them if they may have any photos they could share with you. This gives them a chance to really think about the answers or even to look up information that they may have. Who knows, they may be sitting on a gold mine of old pictures and documents?

list

HINT: When making the list of questions you want to ask, place the ones you feel are the most important at the top. Then continue with your questions arranging them from most important to the ones that don’t really matter if they do not get answered. Be as specific as you can. Remember the interviewee can’t read your mind so they may not know or understand what kind of information you actually want from them.

HINT: While conducting the interview try not to respond to the person while they are talking. I have done a lot of counseling throughout my life. One thing you do while listening to the other person is to say something like “uh huh” or “Okay” so they know you are actively listening to them. This does not work when interviewing! When I interviewed my in-laws I wasn’t thinking about me responding to them during it. When I got home and I listened to the tape I could hear these annoying little phrases and even a weird giggle that I did when something was funny. It was distracting while trying to transcribe the tapes and at a couple of points I missed a word or two because I was responding as they spoke. Just be aware that you are taping and every noise will be recorded.

HINT: Interviews can be a little scary to both the interviewer and the interviewee. It is best to try to start with questions that are easy to answer, just to put the other person at ease. Fact based questions are usually the best kind to start with. They don’t require too much thinking and can set the flow for the rest of the interview. Just remember to ask questions that are non-threatening or at least ask them in a non-threatening way. An example would be, don’t ask about your Uncles affair with a waitress that resulted in a child, a divorce and a scandal. You can ask something like “How many children did Uncle “Bob” have altogether?” This gives the interviewee the opportunity to answer the question giving information they feel comfortable with and possibly giving you the story of your Uncle. You don’t want to ask any questions that may insult your family. A side note here is: if you know this relative well enough to ask these kinds of questions then go for it. I would first ask if they felt comfortable answering questions about uncomfortable events.

HINT: When preparing your list of questions the best thing to do is to take a look at the family line of the person you will be interviewing. How are they related to you? Next take the time and write down any questions you have from this line. Are there any holes you would like filled in? Any dates, locations or names that are missing? Unless this person is also into Genealogy they may not know much information past 2 or 3 generations. So try to concentrate on developing questions covering just a few generations back. The goal with creating your family history is to not only know “Who” your Ancestors are but “How” they lived. The more you know about them the better rounded your family history will be.

tape-recorder

HINT: When recording it is good to begin your interview by stating the date, location, and the persons’ name you are interviewing. This way if you don’t get it transcribed quickly you will not have to try to remember the “who, what, or where”.

HINT: It is important to find a place where you and the interviewee can be comfortable and have some privacy. All interviews should be on a one to one basis. Otherwise things can get confusing or background noise can make it hard to hear answers, both in person and on tape. When I interviewed my in-laws a few years ago we set everything up in their living room. I recorded my Mother-in-law first then my Father-in-law. My husband was also present. The first interview went great. When it was my Father-in-laws turn it became quite apparent why you should only have only one person present during an interview. My Mother-in-law carried on a conversation with my husband (he did try to keep it quiet and asked her to stop a couple of times), she would correct my Father-in-laws answers and she even made a phone call during the interview.  When I got home and began to transcribe the tapes I had a difficult time deciphering several of my Father-in-laws answers.

Question mark

HINT: Be prepared that there may be some questions that you may ask that the person does not want to answer. Some memories can be painful and are not easy to talk about. Do not press the issue. Just move on graciously. The person you are interviewing will appreciate it and who knows, they may just decide to answer the question later on because of your considerate reaction.

HINT: If there is no way you are able to record the interview then you should try to take good notes. Still use your list of questions so you keep on track. When I visited some cousins in Missouri I had my list of questions and was thoroughly prepared to tape the interview. However, once we got there I realized it wouldn’t be possible. They had prepared dinner for my husband and I so the first hour was just eating. Then we all sat around the kitchen table and talked. There was my Cousin, his new wife, his 3 daughters and their families. There were too many people to record comfortably. So I just asked questions, took notes, and enjoyed myself.

Remember: Sometimes the stories a person will tell during this time are worth more than having all your questions answered. So be flexible. If you have asked the most important questions first then let the person reminisce.

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, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, How-to, Interviewing

Writing About The Historical Events That Occurred During Your Lifetime

Mary Lynn Elementary School

Mary Lynn Elementary School

When I was 8 years old we lived in a house that was located on a dirt road just outside the Tucson city limits. We used to get the neighborhood kids together and play kickball in the street. One time when it was my turn at the plate, I kicked the ball and it went to the left and I ran to first base which was to the right. The ball hit a rock and bounced to the right directly under my feet. I fell over the ball and ended up with a large rock embedded in my knee. I had to have several stitches and the Doctor instructed me not to run. At school they made me sit in the office during recess and lunch because I had a hard time not running when I was outside.

I vividly remember the day I was sitting on the couch in the office when the principle, Mrs. Reineke came running into the room. She said something in a whisper to the receptionist who immediately turned pale and began to cry. The office door opened and in came several of the teachers and aides. They wheeled in a television on a large rolling stand and plugged it in. One of the aides pulled the shade down over the window of the door that lead from the hallway into the office. Everyone gathered around the set.

I heard the gasps of the adults as the News Anchorman announced that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been shot

President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy

while riding in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas Texas.  I could hear some of the teachers crying softly, tears rolling down their cheeks. After what seemed like an eternity to me the Anchorman then announced that President Kennedy had died from his wounds at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The room erupted in sobs and outrage. All I could do was cower back as far as I could on the couch and cover my ears. I had never known anyone who had died before so I wasn’t sure what it meant, all I did know was it was a horrible thing that just happened.

Several minutes later the room quieted down and Mrs. Reineke began instructing the teacher on how to tell their pupils about the death of our President. She suddenly stopped mid-sentence and got a surprised look on her face. All the teachers turned to follow her gaze which had fallen upon me. In all the uproar no one had noticed that I was there. She immediately came over and lifted me in her arms. This made me begin to cry, more from confusion than anything else. She sat down and held me on her lap and explained to me what had just happened. Sadness like I had never known fell over me.

JFK Newspaper clippingAfter all the teachers had left Mrs. Reineke asked the receptionist to go and get me an ice cream from the cafeteria. She then told me that none of the other children knew about what happened and that when we all return to our classes the teachers were going to give us the news. She told me not tell anyone. When the bell rang I left the office and went to meet up with my class at the water fountain outside our classroom. Remember, I am an 8 year old girl with a heavy secret. One that was too heavy to keep. After taking a drink from the fountain I turned around and informed the student behind me that the President had been shot and he had died. She was not the only one who heard me and the next thing I knew there were several kids crying. Yes, I did get in trouble from my teacher.

This was a terrible time for our Country. President Kennedy was very well liked and he had done a lot of good while he was in office. On the day of the Presidents funeral the entire school went into the Auditorium and watched it on television. Most of us were too young to realize that we were having a firsthand look at an historic moment.

I will ever forget where I was when Kennedy got shot; do you remember where you were? We experience so many Historical Moments in our lives and this gives us an opportunity to write what we see, feel or believe concerning these events. Spend some time and think of all the changes that have happened in your lifetime, think about some Major event that took place that impacted you in some way. Now write about it. Let’s all leave our own accounts of History for our future generations.

 

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, Arizona, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, How-to