Summer Adventures In Genealogy

The last couple of months have been incredible.  I cannot believe how quickly it has flown by.  Then again they say time flies when you are having fun!

Back in April, I was working on the probate file of Willis Coffey.  I have received more documents from the DeKalb County Historical Society.  The short story is that when Willis passed away, the children from his first marriage went to court against the second wife and their half-brother from that marriage.  It reads like a Lifetime Movie.

I was distracted from the drama of Willis Coffey for a couple of reasons.  First, I was re-elected as President of the Marin County Genealogical Society.  I am looking forward to another year of working with great people on our Board of Directors.

The second distraction is working with a friend on their family tree.  One of our good friends (GG) needed help to work on his paternal line.  He has tested his DNA to compare to a person we are pretty sure is related.  I have been building the paper trail so when the results come in, there is a tree to work with.  This project has been a blast!  I am so lucky because GG’s family only arrived in the United States a few generations back.  The gateway ancestor has a fairly uncommon name so tracing him back to Denmark was a breeze.  From there I have found over 50 digital images of the family in the Ancestry.com Denmark Church Records.

Gregers Erichsen Death Record 1746

The farthest ancestor for GG we have identified is Gregers Erichsen. His death record on 19 September 1746 states he is 77 years old. This gives us the earliest date of 1669 for this family.  Just incredible!!  Just thinking about it makes me happy all over again. I am so thankful for the time I got to flip through the church records and learn all about patronymic research.

My children got out of school in early June.  We have been on one adventure after the next. We visited my parents in Virginia and my uncle and aunt in Seattle.  Not too much genealogy research was accomplished in June but I was able to get a bunch of documents transcribed on the plane rides.

One of my biggest projects this summer has been to clean out our office and the top of my sewing table.  My husband was shocked at the two black garbage bags of paper I was able to get rid of.  Being liberated from all the clutter has led us to start using the office again.  It also created specific piles of genealogy work to digitize and write about.

This month has had genealogy peek into the picture more than I thought it would.  Look for a blog post about a previously unknown sister for my grandfather.  I am also going to blog about my experiences with DNA testing.  In the last month, the autosomal DNA results for both of my parents and one of my mother’s cousins has come in.  I having been immersing myself in DNA education to figure out what it all means.

The rest of the summer includes more adventures with the kids.  They are in dance camp this week, which has created time to write this blog post.  Hopefully, I can keep my new schedule of 20 minutes a day to either scan, transcribe, or write something.

How is your summer going?

My Ancestor Score Card

Every now and then the Ancestor Score Card makes it rounds in the genealogy blogs.  This is a chart that compares the possible number of ancestors in each generation to the number you have identified.

Last month, I saw a couple of blog posts focusing on the genealogists Ancestor Score Card.  Today I want to share mine.

8 generation score card

I am very happy with the progress I have made in my family tree.  It will be really interesting to see when I finally crack the 100% level at the 6th generation.  The four ancestors I need to identify are the parents of James Dempsey and Mary Ann O’Neil.  Haha!  This should be fun to find in Scotland.

Filling out this chart is not my goal for my genealogy research.  I enjoy filling out the lives of each ancestor with stories.  I think this is a fun exercise to take stock of the work done so far.

Ancestor Birthplace Chart

Last week the genealogy world was all about sharing their Ancestor Birthplace Charts.  It started with J. Paul Hawthorne on his Facebook page.  It quickly went viral and the charts were popping up on Facebook and genealogy blogs.

What most impressed me about the charts I was seeing is the visual migration pattern that is created.  Since each place is assigned a different color, the migration pattern is a completely different representation then I have ever seen.

I played with my chart all weekend to find a color pattern I enjoyed.  This morning I decided I needed to do a chart for my children to show how different their story is from mine.  My husband’s family has a very different migration story than my own.  I love the results.  I plan on printing these charts to hang in my office.

My family has definitely participated in populating the West.  As you can see every couple of generations, the family continued across the United States. An interesting note to add to this story is my niece and nephew were born in Virginia.  The migration continues….

Birthplace migration sierra

 

My kids have a different view in their chart because of my husband’s family.  I was shocked to see how many generations have been born in California.  My kids have some deep roots back to the mid 1800’s in this state!

birthplace migration kids

This spurred me to looking at the dates of admission for statehood for each state on the chart.  I knew California was admitted in 1850.  I was surprised to see Kansas was not an “official” state until 1861.  My ancestors formally claimed land in Kansas in 1853 as soon as the territory was up for grabs. Just another reminder to always look at historical events to see how they shaped the lives of your ancestors!

I would be interested in doing this exercise again but in a different format.  I would like to see a circle chart with my kids in the middle that was color coded in the same manner.  I think it would be much easier to add additional generations to a circle chart.

 

 

A Family Tree With Index Cards and Black Tape

I try not to watch TV in real time.  I love my DVR.  This week, I caught up on some episodes of Elementary.  The show is a modern interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. The show features Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock and Watson.  I enjoy the different ways the show incorporates the original books.  Sometimes it is very obvious such as Sherlock’s battle with his arch enemy, Moriarty.  Other ways are more refined such as Sherlock being a recovering drug addict.  Drugs are very prevalent in the books.

The episode I just watched was called “Hounded.”  It began with a spin on the “Hounds of Baskerville” story.  The story opens with Charles Baskerville dying after being chased by an animal.  Not long after, this “animal” is captured after chasing the dead man’s brother, Henry (Henry lives).  It turns out the animal is actually a robot built by a company owned by the dead man’s cousin, Roger.

This is where genealogy enters the picture.  The three men (Charles Baskerville, Henry Baskerville, and cousin, Roger Stapleton) are the last living heirs to a vast fortune left by patriarch Hugo Baskerville.  There is a great scene with Sherlock and Watson standing in front of a large family tree created with index cards and black tape.

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It appears all branches of the family tree have died out.  Sherlock proposes that there may be an unknown heir from a non-paternity event. He goes on to describe an illegitimate child as a “cross pollination event”.  An interesting way of looking at it!

I was cracking up as Watson says,”So all we have to do is look through 120 years of birth records to find our new suspect?!”

The genealogy laughs continued when Sherlock was explaining his ideas to Henry Baskerville as to who killed his brother.  Henry says to Sherlock, “He or she could have been born anywhere in the world sometime in the last century to anyone of several dozen people!!”

A plan is hatched to have Henry “kill” his cousin, Roger.  Therefore, since the last heirs are eliminated, the killer/unknown heir will come forward to collect his or her fortune.  Sure enough, with a few minutes left in the show, Miss Laura Lyons appears to collect her money.  She claims to be the daughter of Ike Stapleton, the dead older brother of cousin Roger.  She also worked for Roger and had access to that robot animal who caused the death of Charles Baskerville at the beginning of the episode.

I always enjoy when genealogy is part of a tv show.  I really enjoyed the way it was incorporated into Elementary. A huge thank you to the writers for not portraying family history research as a one click find your answers. I also enjoyed the large black tape family tree.  I wish I had a wall to go crazy on in my house!

 

 

Join The Fun – We Are Genealogy Bloggers Facebook Group

Last weekend, I read a blog post at the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog about a new Facebook Group.  Lorine McGinnis Schulze has started the group We Are Genealogy Bloggers to share ideas, inspiration, and knowledge.  In less than a week, the group already has 170 members.

It has been no secret that I have not been blogging much in the last year.  The past year has been filled with many highs, lows, and children’s activities.  While my family still has a full calendar, I have decided it is time to prioritize what I want to do.  I miss writing.  I enjoy writing.  I need to make time for writing!

Yesterday, I posted a question asking how the group’s members schedule their writing.  Do they write posts in advance?  Wing it? etc.  Within a day I had nine responses.  It made me realize I am part of a larger group out there. This supportive group has me inspired.  I sat down this morning and created a list of blog post ideas.  Joining this new Facebook Group is the perfect motivator to get my fingers moving across the keyboard again.

If you have not already done so, check out the We Are Genealogy Bloggers Facebook Group.  Maybe you will find some inspiration too!

My Geneapets

There is a fun genealogy bog called GeneaDictionary.  It was created by Jill Ball (aka GeniAus) to document words that have been adopted by genealogists into our vocabulary.

At the end of December, a new word was added that caught my attention.  Check out the blog post here: Geneapet.

Geneapet : The genealogists four-legged friend who keeps him or her company while spending time researching in the geneacave.

I personally have two geneapets.  The labrador, Riley, can be identified by the loud snoring while I am working.  The King Charles Cavalier, Coco, snuggles at my feet any time I sit down at the computer.  Some of my best work is supervised by my loves!

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Review – My Heritage Book by Deanna Bufo Novak

This Christmas my husband’s entire family went on vacation together to Disney World.  It was an incredible week of fun!  One of the highlights for me came on our last day.  My mother-in-law purchased a copy of My Heritage Book by Deanna Bufo Novak for my kids(her grandkids).  To top it off, Deanna was scheduled to be at Epcot that afternoon.  We could meet her and have the book signed.

Myself, my older daughter, and Deanna at Epcot.
Myself, my older daughter, and Deanna at Epcot.

My Heritage Book looks at the traditions and customs of the countries you where your ancestors are from.  You as the buyer get to decide what countries your book includes.  There are currently almost 100 countries to choose from.  Each section focuses on a little geography, the country flag, food, important festivals, people, stories, and an invention/music/sport that originate from the country. The last section of the book is about the United States.  The book ends with pages to write your own family traditions down and a family tree to fill in. The book includes beautiful illustrations by Alicia Bresee.

The best part of the My Heritage Book is that it is completely customized to you and your history.  My mother-in-law and I discussed which countries to include in the book to best represent the extremely varied ancestry my kids enjoy (aka European mutts).  My girls love that their name is printed at the beginning and end of each country.  They also love learning how to say hello and goodbye in the language of each country.

My Heritage Book was written for school aged children.  The book hits the mark for my girls who are aged 4 and 7.  It is just the right amount of information and interesting traditions to keep them engaged.  The vocabulary is perfect for school children.  My new reader is able to enjoy the book on her own with just a little help for the words in other languages.  I was happy to see my girls understand the concept that you can have ancestors from other countries and our own country.

It was such a pleasure to meet Deanna Bufo Novak at Epcot that afternoon.  She has created an incredible product for any family to enjoy.  I am so happy we have added this book to our collection!  I highly recommend visiting her website and ordering a book at www.myheritagebook.com.

Deanna will also be at Roots Tech next week.  If you are lucky enough to be going, stop by her booth and check out her products!

Always Ready To Update Myself

This week I was so grateful to present “Genealogy Blogs:How They Can Help Your Research” to the Napa Valley Genealogical Society.  The members of the society were so welcoming and friendly.  It was such a wonderful experience!  If you are ever in the Napa, California area be sure to stop and check out their library!  They have over 8,000 books and maps.

My presentation covered what a blog is, how to find blogs to read, RSS readers, and a look at creating your own blog.  At the end of the presentation, one of the members of the society asked a very innocent question.  “Does your website have follow and share buttons?”  While pointing out the subscribe buttons at the top of my widget bar, I was stunned to realize I had never added share buttons.

It was a great suggestion to have a share button on my website.  Share buttons allow a reader to click and share the blog post on their own Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms.

For me, this is a chance to connect to someone who does not currently read my blog.  I just wrote a blog post about how amazing Facebook Friends can be.  What if a reader shares a blog post on their Facebook feed and that connects me to a distant cousin?! Jackpot!

So today I have officially installed social media share buttons to my website.  A huge “Thank You” to the woman with the question.  I think my website is a little more friendly today thanks to your keen eye.

Facebook Friends

Last month my local genealogy society (Marin County Genealogical Society) held our annual workshop meeting.  One of the topics presented was Using Social Media To Further Your Genealogy Research.  I want to follow-up what our members learned by sharing a success story about how social media has aided my research.

Several years ago, while working on my father’s Italian line, I sent a message to a woman using the messaging service on Ancestry.com.  This woman (I will refer to her as Minnie for privacy) was the owner of a family tree which included a person who was listed above my family member on the passenger manifest for the trip from Italy.  What caught my eye and made me contact Minnie is both men were from the same very small town in Italy.

Minnie and I have not found a link to prove a relation between us but it is still possible since there are only about 12 surnames in this town.  Since our initial emails, we have helped each other with our research.  I found and sent digital copies of church records to Minnie.  When she visited Italy a couple of years ago, Minnie sent me a book about Cossano Canavese which includes a photo of my great-great-grandfather.  More importantly, Minnie and I became Facebook friends.

As part of her trip to Italy, Minnie became friends with several of the people she met in Cossano.  Minnie friended her Italian friends on Facebook as a way to stay in touch.  Minnie also suggested to me that I friend one of the women (I will refer to her as Lily for privacy) as she had a lot of knowledge of the town and its history.  At the time I friended Lily we exchanged a couple of messages about who we were related to and our interests.  I have enjoyed seeing the photos of Cossano that Lily posts to her Facebook account.

Last month, I was reviewing my research and realized that while I had supporting documents for my Italian line to 1899 (when the microfilm ended) I was missing a few critical items from 1900-1921.  I sent a message to Lily to ask her what was the best way to get the documents.  Who should I contact and what do I need to say? Does it have to be in Italian?  I included in my message that I was looking for the marriage of my great grandparents, baptism of my grandfather, and death records for both great grandparents.

Two days later, I had a message back from Lily.  She had walked down to the church in town and had taken photographs of all the documents!!  She also informed me that the current vice-mayor is one of my relatives who remembers my grandfather.  I have the contact email for her and Facebook information for her son.

If I had not reached out to other family history researchers and created relationships using social media I would not have these special documents right now.  I now have a copy of both of my grandparents signatures and more of the story of how my grandfather came to the U.S. has been filled in.  I also have started new relationships with distant cousins in Italy.

Social media lets you connect and collaborate with other researchers and distant family.  You never know how those connections may lead you to a piece of the missing genealogy puzzle!

Summer Genealogy Happenings

This summer is easily ranked as one of my best summers ever!  Along with some incredible trips and quality family time, I snuck in some genealogy moments.

My first adventure was driving across country with my dad.  We took the Southern route from California to Virginia.  Highlights on this trip included the Grand Canyon, Petrified Natural Forest, adding three new states (I have only 1 more to visit before seeing all 50) and Bristol Motor Speedway.  The best moments occurred in the last 24 hours of our week-long trip.  We pulled off the freeway as we crossed the Tennessee border into Virginia and visited the grave of my 6th great-grandfather, Moses McSpadden.  The next morning I had an incredible visit to the Historical Society of Washington County, Virginia.  I cannot wait to make a trip back to do more research there.

My next adventure began when we arrived at my parents house.  My husband and kids flew in and joined to fun.  After a week of fun, hubby flew home.  The kids and I stayed to play another couple of weeks on the river.  My parents are the best and agreed to watch the kids one day so I could spend a day researching at the National Archives in Washington, DC.  I was a maniac and took almost 300 photos.  Each photo equals a page in a pension or land sale document.

My last great adventure was a trip to Europe.  We did a week of vacation in France with the family before heading to Switzerland for the hubby to work.  The work I have done on my Strickler line has led to Abraham Strickler who came to the United States in the late 1720’s.  Work I have found from other researchers points to my Abraham being related to the Stricklers who lived on the shore of Lake Zürich.  I have not had time to follow-up this research but I looks credible.  Several of our days were spent in Zürich, so one day the kids and I took a ferry ride down the lake to see what Horgen looks like.  Today, the whole lake is surrounded by towns with homes that crawl up the hillsides from lake level.  It was fun to watch and imagine what it must have looked like 300 years ago when it was all farm land.

I will write some follow-up blogs posts with more information about each genealogy adventure I had this summer!