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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Success Team ~ Week Two

A simple three item list turns into the most genealogically productive week I've had in months. Why? Because I'm accountable to my team.

I could have spent hours contributing to Find A Grave, but I had already reached my goal and earned my check mark, and I had to move on to the other items on my list. Why? Because I'm accountable to my team.

Could I have accomplished as much without Jenny? M a y b e. Would it have been anywhere near as much fun? No way.

One of my goals last week was to ask the Cincinnati Library for copies of announcements from an archived German newspaper. I've wanted to do this forever, but it kept getting bumped by other tasks. This time it was a Success Team goal, so I had to check this item off my list. And because I'm accountable to my team, I now have this:

It's an obituary from February 1876 for Nicolaus Schmitt, my third great-grandfather! I learned his date of death. I verified an address I'd been following in city directories for years. I saw evidence of a relationship with his children. All because I was accountable to my team.

Checking in once a week, sharing our triumphs and failures, getting an Atta Girl or suggestions for another route, plotting next steps; it's all part of a collaboration that cannot be beat.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Success Team ~ Week One

Last month I asked for help with my research. I love searching for my ancestors. I could spend hours gathering bits and pieces of their stories. It's just too easy to get sidetracked when no one but me knows where I've been focusing my energy.

Enter Jenny from "Are My Roots Showing?". She answered my call for help with a resounding, "me too!". This morning our virtual meeting gave me a hefty boost of camaraderie, empathy, humor, and genealogical accountability. We set goals for ourselves and recorded each other's plans for the upcoming week. In seven days we'll meet again to report our progress (or lack thereof).

Something tells me we'll both reap the rewards of our collaboration. Go team! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Genealogist or Family History Researcher?

What do each of these terms mean to you? Which term do you use when describing yourself?

To me, a genealogist is a little more devoted to the system and the rules, perhaps a tad better organized, maybe less likely to bark up the wrong family tree.

A family history researcher may or may not do all of the above, but also spends a fair amount of time exploring paths that, to the casual observer, may seem unrelated to documenting one's lineage.

Because of my diverse ethnic background, I find myself meandering back and forth between both worlds.

My Swedish Tolfs are unique in their homeland. If you're a Tolf, we are definately related. My interest in this line includes causes of death ~ they repeat themselves every two or three generations all the way to the present. I've gotten fairly good at deciphering medical records.

There is alot of emotional baggage in the Mueller line. Deaths, divorces, remarriages, and stubborn personalities are forever simmering over a low heat. Who can answer this question or that without causing the pot to boil over? There are many mysteries to solve in the US before I can cross the ocean to Switzerland and begin the Swiss records learning curve.

Clarkes and Littrells require a history lesson with every record; what Revolutionary or Civil War battle took place where? When did the city/county/state boundaries change? Which reformed church had a pastor during this or that timeframe? What on earth is a Dunkard? And will I ever find the answer to the #1 burning question ~ what is their country of origin?

The Schmitts are from France and their surname is hardly unique. I require three forms of ID when working with their records. It would be easy to follow the wrong Schmitt, especially one named Jean, Jules, or Nicolas as they appear in every sibling's family. Then there is the Alsace-Lorraine issue, a region that changed hands many times. I use research logs liberally with this branch and backtrack to double-check my work with each new discovery.

My Manx ancestors had a preference for a limited number of given names. There is a William and a John, sometimes two or three in every family. The Isle of Man has it's own government, but is culturally influenced by Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the UK. Records are well kept, but can be challenging to locate. The only other known family member researching this line recently passed away. Playing alone in dusty libraries isn't nearly as much fun.

I enjoy discovering the story that unfolds with each new record. Storytelling helps engage disinterested family members. The charts are wonderful for placing people visually, but the stories make the names on the chart memorable. Making my ancestors memorable for future generations is one of my top ten reasons for being a genealogist. And a family history researcher.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Creative Sailing to the Right Passenger List

My 3rd great-grandfather traveled from France to the US in 1854. Niçolas Schmitt and his oldest son Jules François arrived at the port of New Orleans in April of that year.

Based on the ages of the two American-born children who appear in the 1860 Cincinnati Ohio census, Nicolas' wife and French-born children joined him before 1855. Daughter Elizabeth is my direct line ancestor and it was she on whom I focused many fruitless passenger list searches.

Today instead I looked for each of Elizabeth's siblings. Within 10 minutes I located Marie-Anne with nine of the Schmitt children on the passenger list of the Ocean Home's May 1854 journey from Le Havre France to New Orleans. (See pg 6 left.)

Although Marianne 35, Jean Nicolas 11, Pierre Ferdinand 9, Anne-Marie 8, Sophia 7, Elisabeth 6, Christina 5, Pauline 4, Emilie 9/12, and François 5/12 are listed as Suisse (Swiss), this is clearly my French family.

This means the family was separated for only a short time - just a few weeks. But oh, how difficult it must have been for Marie-Anne to care for seven small children and two infants while crossing the ocean to their new life in America!

And while finding this passenger list was wonderfully exciting, it does raise a few questions. For starters, how can Emilie (9 months old) and François (5 months old) have the same mother?

Rather than focus on that just yet, I think I'll spend May Day enjoying this precious new genealogical treasure. And thanking Pauline, my 2nd great-grand aunt, who guided a search engine to the right page.