Wednesday, February 11, 2015

All in for Better Research

Well, it is already week 5 of the genealogy do-over. The topics this week are:
  • Building a Research Toolbox
  • Citing Sources

Friday, January 30, 2015

Weeks 3 and 4 in Do-Over Land

Learning new research skills

   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 week 2.
  • Family Group Sheet
  • To-Do List
  • Research Log
  • 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.

Tracking Searches

   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.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Week 2

Time to do a self- interview, family interviews and set research goals.

The Self-Interview

Self Interview

   I started 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. 

Research Goals

  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.

   On to begin week 3...............

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Week One

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
  1. Schedule a specific time to do research.
  2. Have Evernote and Roots Magic open before starting.
  3. Establish goals on a research goal sheet.
  4. Always note all findings especially dead ends.
  5. 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.

Now on to Week Two!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Genealogy Do-Over

  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.

    As 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 fresh start.

 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. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Amazing DNA

    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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Newbern Ancestors

   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
Martha 40
Mary 19
Sarah 5
William 6
Thomas 2
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 assumption.
   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 5.
   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.