Monday, August 26, 2013

Maybe it's not a wall exactly, but just an opaque fog

So my last post was a complete downer. Not surprising really since I've been so lost with my genealogical progress lately. The problem of how to beat the stagnation that's taken up residence with my career trajectory is one that has just left me completely befuddled. But in venting about things, it helped me to brainstorm a bit. Maybe the solution actually can be found in the statement that I thought was the epitome of my problem; how to acquire the additional skills necessary to be successful in a certification application. If I look at those skills, one by one, I can try to figure out where I'm lacking. It makes a lot more sense to try and look at things that way rather than trying to guess what I need and try to fill each of those rather ambiguous holes. So I thought it might be helpful, for myself and for others as well, to just take another look at what is involved in the application portfolio. I've looked at it before, many times, but never with my eyes on what I need to do and whether I feel confident with each individual part.

To start with, for those unfamiliar with the CG credential, it is a credential awarded by the BCG or, Board for Certification of Genealogists. The credential is given upon completion and acceptance of a portfolio of work which shows a variety of knowledge, experience, and work which exhibits an adherence to the the BCG standards as mentioned in the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual and as such, to the The Genealogical Proof Standard. In all honesty, the GPS could be given its own blog. It's a subject which people can talk about and tear apart and dissect for ages. In fact, I'm currently taking a course where we are studying a new book specifically about the GPS right now (so you can probably expect posts on that coming soon as well). At its core however, the GPS is basically just a set of 5 elements through which you can show that you have sufficiently proven your conclusion. If you have gone through the process and worked within the GPS, you should have:

~ done a "reasonably exhaustive search" within the sources available
~formed citations for each piece of information that you have derived from the sources
~correlated all of your sources
~resolved any conflicts that turned up as a result of your search through sources
~written up your findings

I fully expect to see some comments either saying that I'm wrong here or building upon what I've written, but really, that's about the most concise way I can sum it up, as I understand it.  And with that, since the GPS and all of its intricacies aren't the subject of this particular post, I'm moving on :)

So that is what your portfolio should exhibit. Now on to the nitty gritty...

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Dream Crushing Wall

I'm going to take a little time to vent here and try to work out some feelings I've been having lately. I realize this is not a technical post, per se, so feel free to skip this one or go read a magazine or something until a new post pops up.

For the past year or so, truth be told probably a bit longer than that, I've been feeling like my career trajectory has become stagnant. I just haven't been making much progress towards getting those two magic little letters after my name and it seems like the "CG" will only be available for me to use in my dreams at night. For a time, I thought perhaps writing and getting my name out into the world that way would be the ticket. But the problem is, the writing doesn't happen by itself. Imagine that! And try as I might, it hasn't been coming easily for me. More importantly, without a larger client base (or really, any client base at all) the pool of cases available for me to use as topics is minuscule. What's more, there are even less of the more complex type necessary for a creating an interesting article. So...I can't write anything worthwhile when I have something to write about, and it's a rare thing to have something interesting to write about in the first place. Thus, the wall. Stagnation. Any number of dream crushing metaphors come to mind as I imagine my goal getting farther and farther away. Or at least it's not getting any closer and that's a problem. So how can I reverse this? Short answer, I have no idea. I could say I could try harder to get the writing thing going and surely something will materialize out of that. But that almost seems to be counter productive since that hasn't been working for me. Why go back to something that's not working? I think I need a new plan of attack. Since I've moved to Maryland, I offered to do some little jobs for people and got a huge response. But it was just that -- little jobs. Nothing of real substance there. But maybe there is something in just going to the Archives and poking around in things that sound interesting. Getting acquainted in things that generally mean nothing to me today. Sounds like it could be beneficial to my knowledge base, but how could that help get me closer to my goal? No idea. I'm spent. I don't have a clue how to proceed. I can do the research. I can process the results and do the evaluation. But I don't know how to finish acquiring the skills I need to be successful in a CG application. I don't know how to move forward and build a career for myself. It's one thing to say you want something but it's quite another to be able to make that happen. You can't just say it and make it so, you have to do it. I understand that. But what if there's no road map? What do you do then? Make your own?  Ok, I'm down for that. But how? Ugh. I need to figure this out. I don't want to be stagnant anymore.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Down the rabbit hole...

It happens to us all. I know because I see all all of your facebook posts from time to time (lol). It's not just me, but I'll probably be the first to admit it. You get a kernel of something that smells like a lead and just keep following and following. Unfortunately, blindly following leads can end up with things exploding in your face.

I have a brick wall ancestor, just like everyone else. I have tried working on a game plan for breaking that wall but I live in a different state than that of my ancestor so it requires the long-distance method of ordering microfilm (when and where available) and relying on finding someone close to the scene who could help with locating necessary records. So inevitably, I put the problem on the back burner and tend to work on it sporadically over time. I haven't really looked at the state of things in quite some time but last week I found something that was very interesting to me. Someone on had "transcribed" a will for one William Hawkins of Guernsey County, OH who died in 1855 and the will named a daughter, Susan Braden, and a granddaughter, Mary Jane Braden. My brick wall ancestor is a woman named Mary Jane Braden and evidence suggests she was born in Ohio in March of 1838. That alone probably wouldn't be enough to draw most people in but the other teaser is that I have a document from one of her close family members identifying her as Mary Jane Hawkins and I've never been able to figure out why in the world the person used that name because he would have known from her own mouth what her maiden name had been. I have not been able to find a good candidate for Mary in the 1850 census yet and she was married in Indiana in 1855. She would have been 17 at the time of this marriage which doesn't exactly leave much room for her to have been married prior to the 1855 marriage and she didn't have another marriage after that one. So, the Hawkins document had always been a mystery.

So I started falling down the rabbit hole, chasing after Susannah Hawkins and Samuel Braden who were married in Guernsey County, OH in 1830 -- in my eyes, a good fit for a daughter to be born 8 years later. The Hawkins relative who had transcribed the will had found a Susan Braden who died in 1852 in nearby Richland County, OH and whose husband appeared to have been remarried in that county and then moved on to Noble County, Indiana with some of the children from his first marriage. Noble County isn't far from where my Mary Jane had her 1855 marriage so this would have accounted for Mary, who was born in Ohio, to be married in the Indiana border county. Things were really sounded great. Here's what I had found so far:

- an Ohio will bringing together a Mary Jane Braden and a Hawkins connection
- the same will offering parents for said granddaughter
- a same name couple found in a nearby county on Ohio census
- death of the mother, and the father remarries and moves to Indiana, near where the known 1855 marriage for my confirmed ancestor occurred

The clincher would be to find Samuel's probate in Noble County and see that he had a daughter named Mary Jane, and even better if it had her with her married name. This would have been the capper for my proof. Unfortunately, no probate file exists for Samuel in Noble County...but there was an obituary.


And that's where my bubble burst. This Noble County Samuel had indeed been the same Samuel from Ohio who married a Susannah who died in 1852. But it wasn't the Guernsey County Susannah Hawkins. It was a different Susannah, from Richland County, Ohio whom he married there in 1835. Either this is not the right Samuel, who married Susannah Hawkins in 1830, or this is the right Samuel and Susannah died less than 5 years after their marriage and Samuel would have to have moved to Richland County and met his future bride-to-be there very shortly thereafter. I'm not a fan of that last possibility but the number of Samuel Bradens to appear in the 1840 census (the first one after the Braden-Hawkins marriage in 1830) in Ohio make up a very short list and an even shorter list who were living in Guernsey -- 0 in fact. And going back to 1830, there were 0 then, too.

In any case, the bubble has been burst and I'm now pretty much back where I started. Well, with one exception. There was still a Mary Jane Braden from Ohio included in her grandfather Hawkins' 1855 will, which still brings together those two surnames that seem to surround my Mary Jane. Grandchildren were most often found in wills when one or both of the parents were dead and if her parents were dead, she could have gone anywhere; with a relative in another county or another state, or with a guardian. So I still have a lead to pursue here by finding Guernsey County, OH guardianship records, if they exist. If I can find a Mary Jane Braden listed with a guardian, I'll have a new name to look for as she should have been living with that person from the time of her parents death until, presumably, the time of her marriage. It's not much, but it's a lead afterall and that's something I didn't really have before.  I don't feel too badly about falling down this particular rabbit hole because in order to fully come up with a GPS-based conclusion you have to rule out all other possibilities before being able to say you have definitive proof for your conclusion. But I am a little down that it didn't work out. Everything seemed to fit so nicely at first. Truth be told, a little too easily and maybe that should have been my first warning. Life doesn't usually follow the easy path and people don't just fit right into slot all the time. This was my reminder.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Indexing Conundrum

I've been trying to work on a few leads for my Dellibac project lately (you can read more about that here or by clicking on the Dellibac tag) so I started a page by page search through for the Kankakee County, IL probate records for 1880-1881 to try and find an estate for Alexis Dellibac. Alexis, husband of Felicite nee Gaudreau, is thought by family members to have been the father of Moise, our current brick wall. None of this collection currently has an index, it's simply a browse page by page option, so as I was going through the pages I started to feel like I was wasting an opportunity to get at least a small part of the collection indexed since I had to go through them anyway. So I started writing down names and page numbers. Just a very simple index. I'm slightly more than halfway through the 1880-1881 book now but I'm finding some interesting things.

First, I'm finding some interesting things being recorded in the probate book. I think most of us have enough experience to know that probate books are not make up entirely of estates alone. The jurisdiction of the probate courts tends to vary from state to state, but usually they include at least estates and naturalizations but often you'll also see cases of insanity, adoption, and cases of moral charges, such as rape. All of these things have turned up in the book I'm currently looking at but a new one for me also turned up; Applications for a Certificate of Good Moral Character. Unfortunately, the two cases I've seen so far do not say what justifies the receipt of such a certificate, but apparently it involves someone nominating someone else to the court and presenting evidence that the presentation of the certificate is warranted. The court will then make a decision as whether or not they agree and if so, a certificate is awarded. I suspect we can find more information in the Illinois statutes, but so far I haven't been able to find an available version online to check. If I come across one though, I'll be sure to post any additional information that may be found.

The second issue I've encountered while going through this probate ledger is a much more common occurrence -- dealing with clerk handwriting. What do you do when the clerk's writing habits cannot help you to determine which letter is which while transcribing? Here's my example:

John Perry was nominated for a certificate of Good Moral Character by William Potter. As he appeared to the court, he gave his name with a middle initial. But is it an "H" or an "N"?


Based upon other names I've seen in the ledger, this looked like how the clerk wrote the letter "H" in the past.


But just a few pages back, I saw this:

It's clear that the clerk was not consistent in his writing habits. So using past examples to help determine whether John Perry's middle initial was "H" or "N" is going to be difficult. The "H" used for his middle initial is comparable to both the "H" used for the name Hamilton, as well as the "N" used for Northman. But the name Nathaniel is shown without the bottom loop so he has at least two ways of writing his upper case "N"s. So since John's Perry's initial is shown with that loop, I'm probably leaning more towards "H" as his middle initial. I even checked for John in Kankakee County in the 1870 and 1880 censuses on The only John Perry enumerated in Kankakee Co. in 1880 is a one year old child living with his grandparents. In 1870, there is an adult John Perry in Kankakee County, but no middle initial is shown. Thwarted again, lol!

But what are your thoughts?

[* "Illinois, Probate Records, 1819-1970," images, Familysearch ( accessed 2 July 2013), Kankakee [County], 1880-1881, volume 8, page 339 (stamped). From Kankakee County Clerk's Office, Kankakee.
**"Illinois, Probate Records, 1819-1970," images, Familysearch ( accessed 2 July 2013), Kankakee [County], 1880-1881, volume 8, page 315 (stamped). From Kankakee County Clerk's Office, Kankakee.
***"Illinois, Probate Records, 1819-1970," images, Familysearch ( accessed 2 July 2013), Kankakee [County], 1880-1881, volume 8, page 317 (stamped). From Kankakee County Clerk's Office, Kankakee.]

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Great, and important tip!!

Just saw a great new tip posted on the awesome blog, Genealogy Tip of the Day --

Do You Have It All?

It's just a reminder that some records generate additional paperwork that may not be included if you send away for the record, see the record in part of a digitized collection, etc. Marriage records and probate records are some examples. Do you know how many different types of marriage records there can be? If you send away for a "marriage record", do you know what you will get back vs. what else there could be? Typically, whenever I send in a mail request what I get is a copy of the marriage license itself. Not really much information there. But it's up to you to know what could be available for that county. You could be missing valuable information from the affidavit, the bond, the license application, and even a return. The affidavits and bonds could name other family members to help you trace the family line back and build your FAN club. The license application could tell you where the person thinks they were born and who their parents were. The returns usually include the name of the person who married the couple and if it turns out to have been a religious figure, that could lead you to their denomination/their church which could then lead you to other family church records, grave sites, etc. All of this is missed when you don't make yourself aware of what is available and are simply satisfied with the xeroxed copy of the license. Get out there and find what is available to you!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Now coming from Maryland

So today is my first day back to the blog in several months...truth be told, far too many months. But life became complicated there for a little while.  I'm finally feeling settled again now and ready to get back on the horse. There is also a new idea for utilization of the blog. It may become the home for the Parke County, Indiana probate database, at least temporarily. We are currently trying to figure out a way to keep all the information together on the inparke Genweb page, but in the meantime we are going to try and keep things here where I can continually update the list. So if you check out the site one day and there are a bunch of names, don't worry!  They're just dead people :)

Another topic that I'm hoping to cover here in the near future is my first trip to the Maryland Archives in Annapolis, MD. I live about 10 minutes away from the state archives and am dying to get over there and check it out. I'm thinking I'll put out a call on the Transitional Genealogist (mailing) List for anyone who might need something from the archives. That way, I can get a little experience using the archives and others can get the records that they might need. In doing so, I might also stumble across some interesting finds to post about here, too. So if you need something, let me know!

So that's the update; or more accurately, the return :) Feels good to be back!