Well this has been all about teaching an old dog
new tricks. My learning curve has been very steep this month. But finally, the
struggle to tweak my research habits has shown some success. My old modus operandi for genealogy research
was to pick a name or family from my family tree to research. I would use
Google, Ancestry, Family Search and any other records place I could find. I
usually kept track of the information I found but it was on sticky notes,
spiral notebooks or just random pieces of paper. I have no idea how many times
I would do a new search and then realize that months or years ago, I had
already found the same information. It’s no wonder I had so many brick walls in
my tree. All that information on paper and in digital files had no sources
listed. I had no idea (without a lot of work) where I got each piece of data.
That has been the one big change in this do-over adventure.
To do this right I started with the work process that I developed in
Family Group Sheet
Family Tree Entry
In week 2, I filled Family Group Sheets for myself and my parents.
From these sheets, I input my goals into the research log. The log I am using
is an Excel spreadsheet developed by Thomas MacEntee the leader of this
Genealogy Do-Over. This spreadsheet has tabs for a to-do list, research log and
search attempts log. The great thing about this log is tweaking it for your own
ease of use.
I knew that I needed to set
up a process to prevent doing the same searches over and over. In order to get used to this way of working,
I started with the goal of proving my date of birth and marriage. Using my
birth certificate and marriage license, I input the information in the research
log. This gave me some insights into what changes I could make to the
spreadsheet to streamline the process.
I also learned to thoroughly
read all documents. I have looked at my birth certificate many times but I had
missed some information on it. An
address that I always assumed was the hospital’s address was, in fact, my
mother’s address at the time I was born. I grew up in the town I was born in
but I never knew my parents had lived at that particular address. Of course, it
wasn't a bombshell or anything but it did show the importance of reading all
details without making assumptions.
Entering my parent’s information took longer simply because there
were more records. This is where I used Family Search and Ancestry to search
for any records on them. These searches were important to learning the next
step of Tracking Searches.
Learning to track all your searches is hard to get used to but it
can be invaluable. We all know our successful searches because we have new data
to show for it. The unsuccessful searches are just as important. If a database
is searched and it doesn't yield any results, the search and its parameters
should be noted in the search results worksheet. It can be easy to do the same
searches over and over without realizing the work is being duplicated.
I have found that keeping track of my searches and citing all
sources has improved my productivity. No more wasted time trying to find things
I already knew. No more chasing bright shiny objects with nothing gained. I
feel like I can focus and see over those brick walls a bit easier now.
Time to do a self- interview, family interviews and set research goals.
by listing my facts, date of birth, marriage information etc. I
discovered it is hard to just list facts about yourself and not expound on each detail until you've written a book. Instead of writing an autobiography, I decided to add to the details with snippets of personal information to make them more interesting. I thought of the information I would like to know about my ancestors. I have always wondered why families relocated, what drew them to a place, where they met their spouses and so on.
If my descendants were to search future records, they would find that I moved to Colorado from Florida. From there to Kentucky, Michigan, Texas, back to Colorado then to Washington state. The records only show the different locations but not the back story. So in my new narrative, I will include information about each move. We
can’t all be famous and have our life stories well known, but we can share a
little piece of ourselves for future generations.
Interviewing family members
It is very important to interview the older members of your
family. They have stories that are impossible to find elsewhere. It is great to
turn dry facts into a narrative. I am trying to motivate my son in law to
interview his grandmother. She will be a wealth of information, family facts, and stories. It can be hard to make the time but it will be well worth it.
In my case, there is no one left to interview about the
past. I do, however, have three narratives that were done by other relatives
regarding different parts of our family tree. I am using these to satisfy this
step of the Do-Over. As with all family stories, it is necessary to do fact checking. One of these stories will be the focus of the next step.
It is important to set a goal in genealogical research. Establishing a goal and tracking your progress keeps your work on track. It is so easy to go off on a tangent and end up not having accomplished the work you needed to do. Once a goal is set, it is important to set incremental goals or deadlines in order to accomplish the main goal. This step of setting goals and the next steps in the following weeks are the areas I need to address the most. I have three goals and all of them are brick walls in my direct family line. By following this do-over, I hope to break down those walls.
It has been an interesting first week of the Genealogy Do-Over. As I was starting to organize my digital files, my nine year old computer decided to call it quits. Problems had been cropping up but moving and merging files was too much for it, I guess. One new computer later and I am ready to begin.
There are three topics to work on this week. The following are the topics and the work I did on each one.
1.Set Previous Research Aside
The digital files are backed up and out of sight so that was the easy part, in my case.
Now to tackle the paper files. These paper files go back to 1989. I found scraps of paper, sticky notes (no longer sticky), computer print outs, and several spiral notebooks. In looking through this mound of paper, I found the same research being done over and over. I have found my biggest problem is not keeping track of my research.
At least I was organized enough to have everything filed in surname folders. Most of the paper was shredded and recycled. Various documents such as birth, death, marriage and other certificates will be in my new filing system. Folks in the Do-Over Facebook group have numerous ideas for filing systems, both digital and paper. I have found several ideas to fit my needs.
2. Preparing to Research
I had been using One Note to track my old research electronically. My notebook was really a mess. I decided to try Evernote after reading others suggestions and I am hooked. I am able to organize scanned documents and keep track of things better than I did in One Note. The tagging system alone is worth the switch.
After trying several genealogy programs over the years, I will stay with Roots Magic for my family tree. It works fine and after I upgraded, it suits my needs for now.
A more recent problem I have discovered is taking a spare 10 or 20 minutes to search surnames from my DNA matches. These searches weren't very productive and I wasn't confident of things I did find.
Taking care of this issue leads me to topic three.
3. Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines
Schedule a specific time to do research.
Have Evernote and Roots Magic open before starting.
Establish goals on a research goal sheet.
Always note all findings especially dead ends.
Cite all sources in my new family tree.
Using these guidelines, will give me confidence in establishing my connection to ancestors. It will certainly make DNA research less harrowing.
Thanks to Thomas MacEntee and everyone on the Do-Over Facebook page for all the ideas and help.
As 2015 begins, I have decided to participate in Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over. It will be like spring cleaning in January.
I inherited research done by a second cousin. Her research, done in the 1950's and 1960's, using courthouse records was very good. Her interviews with elderly relatives contain some discrepancies which I have found since records have been available online. Since her research is being relied on by other family members, I want to prove my findings that are in contrast to family stories.
Having done my DNA, my research took off in many different directions. I hastily added some branches to my tree as a way to prove a relationship. I always thought that I would just go back and add sources later. Of course, that "later" never happened.
There are now over 1,000 people signed up on the Facebook group. With so many ideas for software, filing schemes, organizing tricks
and much more from other participants, it is almost overwhelming. It is a great resource to see others ideas and find some that will work for me.
Thomas mentioned, slowing down will be important. It is hard not to follow every little breadcrumb as it appears. The smart thing is to put that crumb of information in a list and tackle it in an organized fashion. I have a very basic
to-do list ahead of the project. This list will clear the way for a
My to-do list includes:
Cleaning out all the sticky notes and scraps of paper that accumulated as I chased information down the rabbit hole.
I will start using Evernote instead of OneNote. I like OneNote but I need access across several devices.
Using research logs. This will save time and prevent me from "finding" the same information several times over
I am hoping that tightening up my research will help me see beyond the brick walls that haunt my family tree.
In a previous post I told the story of my father and his birth. He and his twin were born in Ft. Myers, Florida in 1924. Their parents were not married to each other. The twins were removed from their mother by the state of Florida in November 1925. In December 1925, they went to live with the Pixlers in Sanford, Florida. Thanks to DNA I finally have some answers.
My great great grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Newbern. She
first appears on the census in 1850. She is listed with her parents and
siblings in Madison County, Florida.
1850 census in the
11th Division, Madison County, Florida
Thomas Newbern 45
All reported Georgia
as their state of birth.
Next to this family is the oldest Newbern daughter:
Nancy (Newbern) Lamb
23 and her children Thomas 5, Henry 4, Elizabeth 2, Nancy 1
Going forward it is easy to follow this family and prove
their connection on my family tree. Nancy and Mary moved around north Florida,
usually living near each other.Their
grandchildren confirmed they were sisters. William was killed in the Civil War
in 1863. The other brother Thomas, married and stayed in the same Florida area.
No trace of what happened to Sarah has been found. Tracing their ancestors
though is another matter.
Since Mary’s father, Thomas was born about 1805, the first
census he would be listed on as head of household is 1830. There is a Thomas
Newbern living in Lowndes County Georgia in the 1830. There is one male 20-29,
one female 20-29, and one female under 5.
I believe this could be my Thomas
with Martha and their oldest child Nancy Newbern, who would have been about 4
at the time.
Two other Newbern’s are living in Lowndes County in 1830, namely
William and Dread. It is possible that Thomas is related to one or both of
them. Dread Newbern is Etheldred Newbern a known son of Thomas Newbern born
1770 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Some family trees have shown our Thomas as
being part of this family. At present there isn’t enough evidence for that
In 1840, a Thomas Newborn is listed in Middle Florida,
Madison, Florida Territory. The family is listed as:
1 Male 20-29, 1 female 20-29, 1 female 5-9, one female under
This listing is could be the young Thomas from 1830 Lowndes
County, Georgia. There are two female children which could be Nancy and Mary
even though the ages aren’t exactly right.
There is another Thomas Newbern listed in Lowndes County,
Georgia in 1840, however, this Thomas is age 60-69. Also listed with him is a
female age 60-69, male age 15-19, female age 15-19. This Thomas wasn’t listed
in 1830 in this county. Is he from another county or state?
Thomas and Martha’s first child, Nancy was born about 1825.
Nancy always reported she was born in Georgia. Since Thomas was born in Georgia
(as was reported in the 1850 census), it is possible Martha was born in Georgia
also. Her maiden name is unknown.
I am hoping DNA will provide some clues to the ancestors of
both Thomas and Martha.