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Friday, December 31, 2010

Genealogy New Year's Resolutions for 2011

Devote the year to my paternal grandfather's ancestors. While searching for thirty direct line ancestors is still a major undertaking, it has to be more productive than looking for everybody.

Request receive records from churches, courthouses, and other
repositories. Over the years I lost track of many unanswered record requests. This year I will follow through until the documents I need are in my hands.

Take four cemetery road trips, connecting with living relatives along the way. Most of my ancestors settled out of state, but conveniently close to children, grandchildren and cousins. This year I hope to find a better balance between time with the living and time with the dead.

Write Grandma stories and share them. So much oral history dies with the narrators. I want to write down the stories my children are tired of hearing now, but may wish they remembered in later years.

Attend monthly meetings at the local genealogy society. They may not be able to help me geographically, but connecting with other researchers is a must for a sometimes solitary hobby.

Go to a genealogical conference this year and choose one for next year. I want to travel, learn new research methods, meet interesting people.

Combine scrapbooking and genealogy. Scan and digitize old photos. Preserve hard copies of pictures. Archive online photos off-site. Organize, label and safely store slides and negatives. Share pictures with relatives. Create heirloom photo albums.

Back up computer files off-site and to external hard drive regularly. For someone who experienced a computer crash, I've gotten awfully relaxed about backing up all my hard work.

Continue adding to Find A Grave until my contributions average one a day. Fill photo requests during my cemetery road trips. 

Talk, write, share. Tweet 200 times. Blog 100 times. Update my family history website 50 times. Do this for my grandkids and for their grandkids.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Standard Operating Procedure

The files stored between my ears are sometimes less than accessible. Whether you call them senior moments or information overload, they have the potential to thwart my efforts at organized research. Hence my SOP:

Active surnames have a hanging file with the surname on the label in all CAPS. Active direct line surnames also have yellow file folders labeled as follows:
  • Census Records/City Directories
  • Charts and Trees
  • Correspondence
  • Multiple Births, Marriages, Deaths
  • Photographs
  • Requires Further Action
Documents in the Census Records/City Directories folder are placed with census in the front and city directories in back. Each group is arranged in reverse chronological order; i.e. most current in front.

Use the same system in the Charts and Trees folder; charts in front, trees in back. Arrange each group in reverse chronological order.

File Correspondence in reverse chronological order.

The Multiple Births, Marriages, Deaths folder consists of four groups; births, marriages, deaths, and misc. Each group is in reverse chronological order.

Label and scan pictures to appropriate computer files, FTM, and Store originals in archival-quality containers. Arrange copies by ancestors' given names and store in Photographs.

Arrange the items in the Requires Further Action folder in order of priority. Highest priority items are in the front, lower priority items behind.

Type file folder labels in 14pt Arial font. Surnames are in CAPS on the top line, then space, hyphen, space, and year of birth. Given names are in upper and lower case on the second line. Highlight given names in yellow on direct line ancestors’ file folder labels.

Each direct line ancestor has a manila file folder containing a current Family Group Sheet and documents that are exclusive to him/her. These documents are arranged in reverse chronological order. Working copies of active family group sheets are in my genealogy brief case, filed under the appropriate surname.

Collateral ancestors have a kinship report in the front of their folder listing immediate family members.

File a copy of each marriage record in both spouses’ folders.

Documentation for children is filed in their father’s folder (in birth order) unless a.) the quantity is such that a separate folder is necessary for the child or b.) the father is unknown. In the latter case, file documentation in the mother’s folder.

For each direct line ancestor; locate, secure documentation, and cite sources for at least the:
  • date and place of birth
  • date and place of baptism and/or confirmation
  • date and place of marriage and/or divorce
  • date and method of immigration (when applicable); naturalization records
  • residences (census records, city directories, tax records)
  • land ownership, mortgages, deeds
  • cause, date and place of death
  • wills when available
  • date and place of burial and photo of headstone when possible
Create a timeline for each family group; include political leaders and world events during the ancestor’s lifetime.

Create maps with residences and their proximity to local churches, schools etc.

Log this info in the facts section of Family Tree Maker. Cite sources and add any additional information to the Notes section.

Update the public tree on Ancestry. Update the LITPL web site. Update Find A Grave. Post new info on Twitter and Facebook.

Keep my fingers crossed that someone researching the same line finds me.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Serious Nature of Genealogy

Genealogist caught chopping down family tree; microfilm at 11:00!

My family tree research twists and turns like a windsock in a strong breeze. I've studied the history and geography of the places in which my ancestors lived. I've become familiar with the records available in a variety of locations. I've looked for them online, in maps, in books and newspapers, on microfilm.

Every family tree has some sap in it.

The search is still exciting, even after ~ hmm hmm ~ 30 years. When I started, I told myself that if I reach a point that this is no longer fun, I'll stop. The research continues to keep me interested, but some of the researchers I've met have me shaking my head.

Ancestors run in my family.

Why do genealogists take themselves so seriously? We are an odd bunch, really. What other hobby includes searching through dusty courthouse basements, squinting at faded handwriting, attempting to decipher ancient Latin script, and wandering through abandoned cemeteries?

Adam and Eve probably found genealogy boring.

In good times there is a comaraderie among fellow researchers. We willingly share our knowledge, our frustrations, our triumphs - we all belong to the same club. Lately however, I have encountered a different group: mean genealogists.

Genealogy is relatively interesting.

Some of the family members that reside in the living branches of our trees can be a bit challenging. I understand and empathize. Truly I do. But we don't "own" our family history. I think it's wrong to hold the family tree hostage from people who share our DNA.

Genealogists do it generation after generation.

I recently listened in horror as a woman proudly announced her refusal to tell her inquiring family about any of the information she gathered. She felt that they weren't willing to do the work and therefore they should reap no rewards.

Old genealogists never die, they just lose their census.

Perhaps in 2011 we can be kinder, gentler genealogists. Remember we need to recruit new club members and they will need time to learn the secret handshake.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Surname Saturday - Gury

My third great-grandmother was Marie Anne Gury, born April 1818 in Francaltroff, Moselle, France. After marrying Nicolas Schmitt, Marie moved to Hellimer and had 10 children before immigrating to the United States in the early to mid 1850s. The family settled in Cincinnati.
Another Gury descendant shared a photograph of a woman who may have been Marie's sister Christina. There are women named Christina in nearly every generation of the Gury family, so the possibility of a connection is strong. The Christina in question was the Mother Superior in a convent in France. This makes me cautiously optimistic; there may be some interesting records available.