Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thinking of trying something new

Ok, a while back was running a promotion where they would allow access to a handful of World Collection databases for free. One of those databases that was open was the Drouin Collection. For those who aren't familiar with this, it's a set of Catholic church records from primarily Quebec (though I understand there is a sprinkling of records from Ontario and other denominations included on the original film though not in the ancestry collection). The records stretch as far back as the 17th century and go all the way into the 20th. It's a huge, huge collection of the births, marriages, and deaths of French Canada and this was the first time I was able to take a look at any of it since I don't have a subscription to the World Collection, and my French is a little rusty. What happened though, is that my interest turned towards my Dellibac French Canadian ancestors and now I'm thinking I might try and run with it. There are some issues though that have been and/or will prove to be a bit sticky....and I'm not just talking about the fact that it's been more years than I prefer to count since I took high school French. Here's what I know so far:

The Run-Down-

Moise Dellibac first appears in the 1855 Illinois state census living in Iroquois County. He appears to be the head of a fairly young family with himself aged 30-40, a female aged 20-30 (presumably his wife, Anastasia Mombleau), and two males under 10. In 1860, the family is found in Kankakee County (which was formed from part of Iroquois County) with "Moyse" aged 35, his wife age 27, and three boys Frs H 4, Henry 2, and Charles 3 months, all born in Illinois. Illinois took another state census in 1865 where "Moses" is shown in Kankakee County, as of 40 and under 50, a female of 30 and under 40, and three boys 10 and under. In 1870, they are again in Kankakee County; Moise 45, Anastasie 38, F Xavier 15, Henry 13, Charles 11, Moise 4, Narcisse 2, and Josephine (my Great Great Grandmother) 1 month. The last census appearance for Moise is in 1880, where the family is again in Kankakee County. Moise is now 61 years old and his wife "Nestage" is 50. They have 6 children living with them; Xavier 24, Henry 22, Moses 14, Narcisse 11, Josephine 10, Carine 7.

Where the problems begin-

Moise's death: Anastasia was living alone as a widow in 1900 and most family members show that Moise died in Illinois (probably Kankakee County) in 1896. This information is unconfirmed and unsourced. An attempt to find a death record was attempted earlier this year, but there is no record of a death for him at the county courthouse for anytime before or after 1896 and he is not listed in the pre-1916 death index for the state.

When they came over: Through the range of all of these enumerations, the children are listed as having been born in Illinois but both parents were born in Canada. No passenger list has been found for either Moise or Anastasia (with her maiden name or as Moise's wife). No marriage for Moise and Anastasia has been found either in Kankakee or in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index. This doesn't necessarily discount their marriage however, since the marriage records of Iroquois County for the period covering the 1850s and early to mid-1860s were burned in a courthouse fire in the late 1860s. They could have come separately, perhaps with their parents or siblings and then married in IL or come together as a newly married couple from Canada and started their family once they got here. Either way, there is no marriage record found and no passenger list for either of them.

Names: Also, the names are an issue when searching for this group. Moise is often found as Moses, Dellibac can be spelled any number of ways (including Delibac, Delliback, Deliback, De Lubac, etc.). Anastasia is found with all manner of weird spellings, both for the full given name as well as for a shortened version, like Nestage, sometimes with a random "z" thrown in for no reason. When trying to search for her family, to look for relatives who may have lived nearby, Mombleau could be Monbleau, Mombleaux, Montbleau or Montbleaux, etc. Also, let's not forget that since they were French Canadian, there may be what's known as a dit name that I'm not aware of. I've heard these French call names in several of the NGSQ articles that are case studies for primarily Louisiana families but since I haven't researched anyone of French ancestry before, I've never had to figure this part out. But this may be an issue here and without knowing what that dit name might have been, I don't really know what name they could be under, especially where the passenger list search is concerned.


Anastasia is found in Kankakee County in the 1900 census living alone as a widow. She is shown as the mother of 10 children, 5 then living, and her immigration year is given as 1848. She is still there in 1910, no immigration year is given, and thanks to I can see that she died in Minnesota in 1919 (her son, Moise/Moses was living there at the time of the 1920 census so presumably she had gone to live close to family right before her death). While this record has been indexed on that site, very little information is shown and it is undetermined whether information was included on the original and just not transcribed onto the website or if the pertinent information regarding birth was omitted by the informant. Either way, I need to order the record just for confirmation of her death, if for nothing else. But that still doesn't help me too much with figuring out when they came to the U.S. and where in Quebec Moise had come from.

For Moise's place of birth, it may be helpful to track down the marriage and death records for the children. However, several of them died between 1855 and 1900 so I will definitely need to comb the death records to find out who died when and then go into the marriage records to find out when the girls married and who they married. The marriage records might end up being the most helpful since place of father's birth was on the marriage registers in Kankakee County around this time. Though Josephine's marriage records (she married a couple of times) don't get much more specific than Canada or French Canada, she was one of the youngest children so it would be worth going after the vital records for the older kids to compare. For all of this, the fact that the family was Catholic might end up helping me pinpoint all of the vital records, if I can find out which church they attended and then whether the records are still extant.

Also, though no death record was found for Moise, he may have had a probate case opened up. When I was in Kankakee earlier in the year, just for a brief look around, I was able to take a look at Dellibac land transactions in the deed books for the years around that questionable 1896 death date for him. There was some activity in that pre-1900 time frame to suggest that something might be going on, but I would like some additional time to see if a probate file was opened. If not, more time to go into what was happening with the land to help me narrow down when he could have died.

Another big thing with this group is that they were constantly living near extended family members. A family group with an older Dellibac is shown directly below Moise on the IL census enumeration sheet of 1855. Alex and Felicite (Gaudreau) are presumed to be Moise's parents by family members, though again, no one has presented any sourced information on this. His first appearance on census enumerations also happens to be the sheet of the Iroquois County IL census of 1855, which could be an indicator that they might have come over together though, like Moise, no passenger list has been found for him. A Joseph Dellaback is also shown on that 1855 census page in close proximity to Moise and Alex as a male age 20-30 with a female the same age. He cannot be found on schedules after that.

So I think that's the full round-up of info for now. I'm not sure if I want to jump into this, it's going to be a lot of work, and I'm not sure how successful I'll be since there are a few things here that will be new to me. But I really would like to be able to at least narrow down when Moise died a little better, and find out when he might have come over, whether it was as a married man or single and he married in Illinois, where in Quebec he came from, and whether Alex and Felicite were really his parents.

...And this all snowballed from one free week of access to one of the World Collection databases on Kindof hard to think that if all this happens from one database, what would happen if I had full access to the collection? Yikes!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm a horrible, horrible blogger...

Yes, I know. I'm a horrible blogger. How in the world did the time get so far away from me? I have a few ideas, including some family issues that had to be taken care of, and then we hit on the holidays and now we're a week and a half away from Christmas. Yikes!

I do have a couple of updates though...well, more like one big one. The genealogical writing study group that we were developing back in the summer and fall is now under way, with the first tester group into its 4th month. After the new year, one of our first writing assignments is going to be blog writing so I'll be sure to post for that. Actually, I need to start thinking about what I could write about. It may even turn out that the blog could serve as a sound board for future writing assignments with the group as well. I'm pretty excited about what could turn up from that.

For now though, I'm getting ready for Christmas and then for my first time at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. Never heard of it? Check out the website for the Utah Genealogical Association to get the info. If you're familiar with IGHR down at Samford University in Alabama, SLIG appears to be very similar, just with a different setting. I'll be in the Advanced class with Tom Jones, Claire Bettag, and Rick Sayre. If you're familiar with any of those names, then you might get an idea of the value of the course. I can't wait!

Til then, I probably won't have too much to say but who knows. Something may get stuck in my head and I'll just have to share it here. If not though, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and I'll see you in the new year!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Have Indiana Ancestors?

I'm taking some time here to make a plea for submissions to the Indiana Genealogical Society's "Always a Hoosier" and "Once a Hoosier" projects. These two projects highlight individuals who either spent some part of their lives living in Indiana, or those who are buried in the Hoosier state. To make a submission, just go to the IGS website and go to the projects page here then click on either "Always a Hoosier" or "Once a Hoosier" depending upon the circumstances of your subject's life. Then download the appropriate submission form and send it off.

For more info on the "Once a Hoosier" project check here

For more info on the "Always a Hoosier" project check here

[Just as a disclaimer, I'm the editor for the "Always a Hoosier" project. We could really use your submissions so if you have an ancestor buried in Indiana, we'd love to hear from you!]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The fine print wins again

I was recently reminded of a very important tip: always read the fine print.

For those of you familiar with Illinois genealogy, you'll know the website for the Secretary of State's office, which includes a few online vital records databases (found here). One of these databases is the the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, covering 1763-1900. Obviously, not all counties are covered for the whole of the time frame in the title. For one thing, not all of the counties were in existence at the same time. So the title is a little elastic on that front. But when I was wondering where a couple might have gotten married, sometime during the 19-teens, I thought I knew that this database wasn't going to be any help. Yeah, I broke that oh so important rule of not reading the fine print and not remembering that the titles don't always tell the whole story. Here's the page that I forgot to revisit while brainstorming on my latest marriage query:

What it is, is a county and time range table listing the availability of the county marriage records which are included in the online database. As you can see, some counties are not included at all, while others only include a portion of time within the titles' date range. The county in which I ended up finding the marriage record I was looking for, was Richland Co. Richland happens to have a date range between 1840 and 1915, well after the 1900 limit established by the title. And Richland county isn't the only one with records included in the online database well beyond 1900. The marriage records for Brown, Fulton, Jersey, Menard, Morgan, Pike, Pope, Stephenson, and Wayne counties all stretch into the 1920s within this database.

And you wouldn't know it unless you read the fine print...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Score!! - Finding Newspaper Bibliographies

One of the coolest things about the genealogical research process, is that success depends upon your usage of a variety of materials - pretty much, everything that is available to you should be consulted. Books that perhaps you never would have laid eyes on before become almost as important as air. Without checking out your sources, including books, you won't break through those brick walls.

One of the most helpful books I've used in the past is John Miller's 1982 work, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography. Like newspaper bibliography books you've probably seen for other states, it is a collection of listings of all known newspapers that were running within the state. It is broken down by county and then by township, and not only gives the names of the papers that ran in each county, but also the dates for each paper, a great tool since some of them didn't last very long, and who opened the press. Not only is something like this extremely useful for finding out when and where there might have been a paper running that could have information pertaining to your subject, but if you have a newspaper man in the family (like I do), these things can become like a second census for you because you can track his movements around the state. It can explain things like why his children were all born in different towns that seemingly have no familial affiliations. So these things are definitely worth having on your bookshelf.

This book has been out of print for quite some time so I've had it on every online wish list I could find (abebooks, amazon, and ebay). I've had no responses to any copies coming up for sale, I contacted the publisher and they didn't have any copies to sell and no plans to put it back in print. If I had found contact information for the author I would have gotten in touch about it. In the meantime, I was constantly ordering the book through Interlibrary Loan and it was getting old. Finally, about 2 weeks ago, I got a hit from abebooks that one had come up for sale from an Indiana bookseller and I jumped on it. It arrived last week and it's mine, all mine!! Finally, I have my very own copy and I couldn't be happier.

I know that Ohio has a similar book for newspapers in its state, by Steve Gutgesell, which you can find on amazon and I've seen others elsewhere too. You can troll around on amazon to check for your own state, or perhaps a better way to do it would be to go on to the Library of Congress website and check their catalog here . Try using search terms like the state's name and "newspapers", or if you're looking for papers within a particular county you can try searching for the county name. I know Kentucky has several localized newspaper bibliographies so for that state, the county search might work best. But try it several different ways and see what comes up. You may find your own piece of genealogical gold within the covers of a book.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Feeling like Hermione Granger tonight

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, or have kids who like the Harry Potter movies, do you remember that part in the Sorcerer's Stone when Hermione says she was doing "a bit of light reading" and whips up this enormous book? That's kindof how I felt today. I felt like I needed a bit of a distraction and wanted to take on a little project, separate from the other stuff I've been working on. It turned out to be more than just a little distraction though.

I thought revisiting the possible birthplace of John Kleinert would fit the bill for what I was looking for. I have a copy of his 1885 marriage record, a registry entry from Kankakee County, Illinois, which includes a question about place of birth. For John, the village of Tauenzinow, Germany is shown. So I fired up ole' faithful, , and got to the Meyers Orts Gazetteer here . Meyers Orts is pretty much the answer to decoding all those German place names that may or may not still exist. You find a record here in the US with the name of town as it was known in the 1860s but that doesn't mean you'll just be able to find it on a map. Because of all the boundary changes and partitions of the area now covering Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and any number of other Eastern European countries, you're going to need help finding that 19th century place name. Meyers Orts is your first step.

Now don't go thinking it'll be quite that easy though. Oh no. Meyers Orts is written in Gothic script. And it's in German. And it's full of abbreviations. So go ahead and pull up the name of your town and see what happens. Think you can do it without help on the first try? If you can, you're way better at this than I am. Luckily, I found a great guide available through It gives general information about the gazetteer as well as an immensely helpful section on deciphering the Gothic alphabet which makes up the abbreviations, followed by a guide to exactly what all those letters mean. The guide and tips can be found here (you can just click on the guide and tips tabs as you go along to help find the info you need as you need it). There's also a pretty useful wiki here

Here's what the entry for Tauenzinow looks like:

I know what I got from it, namely that this place is no longer part of Germany, but Poland. Now what can you find out about your own pre-WWI German place names? If you're anything like me, you'll find that maybe those German ancestors of yours weren't quite as German as you thought.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Still alive, yes...Standing still long enough to chat, not so much

So yeah, where do I begin? In the nearly one month since my last post (ugh, I can't believe I let time run away from me!), I've been run through the ringer and really have a ton to talk about, not a whole lot of time to talk about it, and no clue where to begin. How's that for playing catch-up? Besides the usual back to school rush and any number of other things happening here, here's the genealogical run-down.

For starters, in case you haven't noticed, I'm no great writer. I decided from the start that this blog was basically going to be for me alone and if I could write things that would help other people, that's a bonus. So the voice here is extremely casual, and there's very little pressure on myself here. Which is great, usually. What's happening though is that I'm getting very used to writing for myself in that casual style, and not working enough on professional writing and that could be detrimental to achieving some of my goals. Namely, getting a case study published (hopefully in the NGSQ) and working on my certification portfolio material. I need practice and I need to start taking myself and my work more seriously. That's not to say that I'm chucking my light, casual, no-pressure blog. I like knowing that I can talk about my work and not get all stuffy about it. But to help me get on track with where I need to be professionally, I've been working on developing a new writing group based upon the ProGen model. We're having our first "intro" chat tomorrow and will be kicking off the program shortly. This group is going to be a tester to see if the format will work when applied to a writing program. If it does, we've got some plans for future groups. The goal here is to get everyone comfortable with genealogical writing in as many outlets and formats as possible and to get as much practice and experience as possible, while also receiving some helpful, constructive feedback from peers and a mentor. Those already familiar with ProGen will already have the idea. Those who aren't familiar, get familiar. ProGen should be a valuable part of your genealogical education.

So that's been the big pet project for the summer, part one. The second item that's been keeping me away from the blog for any extended time, is more personal. I've recently gotten acquainted with a couple new cousins on a family that I just rediscovered last year. They've both already done a great deal of work as far as record retrieval and tracking down collateral lines through siblings and children and have developed some leads that it would have taken me quite some time to compile. So we've been trying to get on the same page with our research so we can develop a game plan. It's been good to have another project to work with while I'm waiting for the FHL film for Clinton County, Ohio (yes, still waiting). I had been working on the Atkinson family of that area but needed to view some of the county records to help figure out what my next step might be. So in the meantime, I've got a new line of family from Parke County, Indiana, Greene County, Tennessee, and possibly Botetourt County, Virginia to brainstorm about. Once things get settled down a bit more and my thoughts get a little more clear, I have a feeling I'll be talking about them a lot. For now, we'll call them the Newbies :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Inspired, but stalled

After listening to ESM's census talk at IGHR (see my previous post about IGHR here ), I'm really inspired to take a stab at something she showed us. One of our class exercises was to go over some fictional information to find the parents of a woman when she and her husband do not appear in the census and there is only one other person living in the county of that surname with no records connecting the two people as father and daughter and no real direct leads as to who the woman's family might be.

The part about this research that really struck me was the topo map that she did for not just the county where the research started, but also the neighboring county. She placed the neighborhood of the only other person of this name in this county from the census (specifically those on the pages before, after and on the same page) on the plat map and then took the federal land description for the subject couple and placed them on the map as well to get a sense of distance. Then she also plopped the county seat on the map to get a sense of where these families were in relation to the county government. As it turned out, the county seat for the neighboring county was actually closer to the subject couple and that was where doing a plat map for the neighboring county came into play because that ended up being the county where another person of the same surname was found, and yet another lead that led to the right potential father.

So what you end up with is a rectangular grid covering the ranges and townships (the example was in a public land state) for two counties. This is probably pretty similar to what you all are familiar with, however I'm more used to platting out individual properties within a particular township so the idea of taking the span out to include several townships and going into neighboring counties is taking things to another level for me. I thought I could really put this to some use for a few of my "stumpers", especially since most of them involve families who were moving around between the IN and OH state borders. To make matters more complicated, some of these border-settling movers and shakers also appear to have been landless and are missing from the deed books, so their situation can really be compared to the example from class.

I'm really excited to try this out, I'll probably start with the Atkinsons from Clinton Co., Ohio since that's the project I seem to be devoting most of my time to lately (you can read a little about them here and here). I'll post a second part to help get a plan going but in the meantime, it's time to get working on ordering the FHL film. I wish it could all get here quickly, I hate waiting!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Another interesting fact from IGHR

Another of the insightful discussions from the Advanced Methodology course at IGHR this year concerned those Fee Books that you often find on courthouse office shelves and basements. Honestly, I think I can count on one hand how many times I've flipped through one of those books. Let's face it, when you're surrounded by vital records ledgers and wills and estates and court records and deeds and every other goldmine of information that a courthouse has to offer, something with the tedious title of "fee book" doesn't really do much for me. But the truth of the matter is, I was hurting my research and if you've been avoiding them too, you haven't done the best for your work either.

So what can these fee books possibly offer to us that would make them useful in any way? Well the most obvious answer is that you have done work in a burned records county, you know already that records are few and far between and you pretty much have to take what you can get. Fee books are often among the remaining records in these counties for various reasons, including that they were often kept in a different place from the vital records information, so when you're missing your subject in those goldmine records, these fee books may provide the only direct evidence that your subject was even there.

Which brings us to the next point. Our ancestors had civil duties back then, just as we do now. They were also called for jury duty, for instance, and this service was recorded as payment information in the fee books. Like previously stated in reference to the tax records, though this may just be a name and a bunch of numbers which appear to have no rhyme or reason, there could be answers in those numbers. But it's up to you to track down what they mean. Those numbers generally refer to the amount the person was paid for his service to the locale and this number was calculated using such variables as mileage from their home to the courthouse, how many days they were there (food costs), and more. But the mileage from the courthouse could be extremely valuable and I think any genealogist worth their salt could figure out why. Especially if you're trying to determine possible family connections between people of the same surname because you can use that mileage rate to help determine distances from the courthouse and then compare with your family plat map to see who lived closest to your subject and would therefore, be more likely to have a family connection. This is certainly not a source to provide conclusive evidence in this case, but it is definitely a good source to help point you towards some good, solid leads.

So, overall, I think I'm in the same boat as most everyone else. When faced with a will or probate book and a rather drab-sounding fee book, my first instinct is going to be to grab the will book first. But after this truly enlightening part of the IGHR course, I'm going to be sure not to stop with that alone. That fee book could offer up more than you expect, but you'll never know unless you take a look.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ok, now that the dust has settled...quick IGHR run-down

Have you ever watched magic happen right in front of your eyes? Gene-magic that is, not sitting in the front row at a David Copperfield performance. That's pretty much how I felt sitting in my Advanced Methodology class at IGHR. You sit and watch Elizabeth Shown Mills perform magic, and it was really something to see. Those few days were about watching a real professional do her magic and then trying to figure out if I can emulate those strategies. That's a big fat maybe (I'm just not one to have a lot of self-confidence in my abilities) but the fact is that now I think I have a few extra tricks up my sleeve to help me get a little further and that's a great feeling.

Some key points from the course included how to get the most out of those tax rolls, how to get the most from census records, and knowing exactly how much is available in military records.

The tax roll and census record exercises from class were absolutely mind-blowing. Think about those tax rolls you've seen. They're basically just names with a bunch of numbers after them. You use them to pretty much place an individual in a specific place at a specific time, tracking them, right? You may or may not have paid much attention to those numbers but if you are one who just glanced at them and moved on, did you know that those numbers can sometimes tell you the vicinity of your subject, helping you identify the neighborhood and his neighbors? One of the best tools we use in our research is the concept of FAN - collecting FRIENDS, ASSOCIATES, and NEIGHBORS when we're trying to solve a mystery on our individual. Tax rolls can be another tool for finding neighbors, even if you're looking at a roll with no columnar headings and/or the list has been alphabetized so that you don't know the original order. I didn't know that, did you? Those numbers can also tell you how much land the person had just by looking at how much value was placed on the land and how much he paid for it.

The census discussion was another one that really changed the way commonly used records can be approached. When you're looking at a census sheet showing your subject, you take note of the fact that they are in that place at that time, whom they are living with, ages and places (where available), and sometimes maybe their occupation. But how often do you check to see what the definitions of those occupations were for that census year? "Farmer" could mean something different than what you think. If someone is listed as a "Farmer" does that mean they own their own land and have hired farm hands, or are they tenant farmers, living off someone else's land? The answer could make a difference to you, especially if you're wanting to track them down through land records. If they're living off of someone else's land, they may not appear in deed books so you could have to track them by tracking the landowner instead and you wouldn't know this unless you knew why that person was written down with the occupation that they were given and that answers is in the census enumerator's instructions. Also, did you know that between 1850 and 1870 there were 3 official copies of the census? Not just one local and one federal as in previous years. For these years, there was the federal copy and then 2 preliminary local copies; one given to the local county clerk and one given to the secretary of the state. The clerk's copy can often still be found in the county courthouses while the secretary of state copy can sometimes be found in the state archives. The third copy is the federal copy that was sent to Washington and is now at NARA. Do you know how many are available for your state between these years? What if one only shows initials for names? If there are other copies available to you, you need to know this because that other copy (or copies) could give you the actual names rather than just the initials. That's a big deal and you need to know that.

A final thought from the class was just how much is available to you if you utilize military records to help solve your problems. You may have found your ancestor's military pension record or found their name in a pension index on or, but do you stop there or keep going? Because there is always more that can be found. There are numerous preliminary inventories available, through NARA or through gene-book sites like, listing places for you to find other goodies to find your subject. If you find your ancestor's Revolutionary War pension file on footnote and just stop, you're really shorting yourself. You may be able to find records of his pension payment schedule, receipts, etc. all telling you where he or she was picking up their payments. If you've been having trouble tracking them, these receipts can really help you. If you know the person and the general area they were living but you don't know who was with them, knowing who was picking up their payments could really help you. If you don't check out what's available to you, you won't know that there could be more information waiting for you to find and you could be overlooking something that could fill in the blanks to your problem. The key point here was, don't stop looking once you find that pension and/or service record. There is more to be found.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Yes, I'm back

I've had a busy couple of weeks but I'm finally back home now. I attended the Institute of Genealogical and Historic Research (IGHR) in Birmingham, then came home for a few days and had the chance to do a little research in three different counties - Kankakee County, IL, Lake County, IN, and Randolph County, IN. There was some mixed success on these trips, but some good did come out of it all. I want to post about my class at IGHR first though, once I get settled so be on the lookout for that!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Off to IGHR

I'm off to Birmingham, Alabama this morning to attend the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University. The Institute runs through Friday of next week and I can't wait to get there! Last year was my first year and it was absolutely amazing; the course (on Virginia) was extensive and meeting the people whose names you see all over the genealogy sites was fantastic. This year should be even better!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

SLIG registration opens today!!

Just a reminder that registration for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy opens up this morning at 9am Mountain Time (10am Central, 11am Eastern). Courses offered for the January 2012 Institute include:

~American Research and Records: Focus on Families - Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FUGA
~Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum - Angela McGhie (Angela is the coordinator of the
ProGen study programs and President of the D.C. area chapter of APG)
~Advanced Research Tools: Land Records - Rick Sayre, CG and Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL
~Advanced New England Research - D. Joshua Taylor (Josh works for the NEHGS and has
appeared on the NBC program, "Who do you Think you are?")
~Welsh Research - Darris Williams, AG
~Swedish Research - Geoffrey Froberg Morris, AG
~Research in the Midwestern United States - Kory Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA
~Genealogy Software and Research Tools - George G. Morgan (co-host of the popular podcast,
"The Genealogy Guys")
~Principles of Effective Genealogical Librarianship - Drew Smith, MLS
~Beyond the Library: Using Original Source Repositories - John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA
~Advanced Genealogical Methods - Tom Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL

The cost for registration is $400 for those who are not members of the Utah Genealogical Society and $350 for those who are members. The dates are January 23rd-27th.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Boston University Genealogy Certificate course...yay or nay?

So with the NGS Home Course finished and my personal research kindof frozen right now, I was looking for something else that I can do to make good use of my genea-time when I got an email from Boston University announcing a 4-part payment plan for their Genealogy Certificate program. Considering the cost of the course is around $2600 bucks (not including a slight discount for NGS and APG members) a payment plan sounded pretty good. Good enough in fact, for me to revisit the website for the program and reassess things. Here's what I found:

~The next course starts on September 6th
~The 4-part payment plan is an automatically reoccurring payment made to your credit card in 4 monthly installments
~There are 6 modules; Foundations of Genealogical Research, Problem Solving Techniques and Technology, Evidence Evaluation and Documentation, Forensic Genealogical Research, Genealogical Research Ethnic and Geographic Specialties, and The Professional Genealogist
~It is an online program with short video clips from your instructors, interactive lessons, weekly assignments, and online chats with both your instructor and your other classmates
~There are 3 required texts; The BCG Standards Manual, Evidence Explained, and Professional Genealogy (many of you probably already own these titles)
~This is NOT a beginner course. Instead, it is more like an expansion of the NGS Home Study Course. (If you are looking for a more basic program to get grounded in fundamentals, BU will soon be starting a course on essentials. More info should be forthcoming within the next week or two)
~There is an orientation online prior to the the official start of the course

I was initially a little leery of this program, partially because of the whopping cost but also because I was concerned about overlap with material covered in the NGS course. But the payment plan helps ease the pain a little, as does the discount from being an NGS/APG member, and after speaking with an associate from the University about the course this afternoon, I feel pretty confident that this will go much further in-depth than the NGS course did. Just think of the NGS course as laying the groundwork and the BU course filling in the details. The associate from the University also claimed that their course was geared more towards people who had a goal of working in the field professionally and/or looking to get certified within the next couple years so this might be a good fit for me since that is definitely on my to-do list.

As I said earlier, the next course starts up on September 6th (that is when the online portal will open up and you will have access to your coursework and get your first assignment) so you have a bit of time to think about the pros and cons and learn more about the course itself. Just check out

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yikes!! New one for me

I've been working with my Parke County indexing this month and came across a slightly scary new name that I haven't seen before, so I thought I'd share. Check this out:

It was in the probate file for a John S. Kesler. The Kesler part I get; from this indenture, I can read the surname here as Cassler so it's easy to see how that evolved into "Kesler". But the given name! Wow! That's the doozy for me. It looks like Chawntzenbach. If you shorten it to "Chawn" then it would sound like John so even that part makes sense. What surprised me was the given name as it is written here because it's something I've never seen before. I entered the name into both yahoo and google but got 0, yes 0 results. But in google, when I enter "Chawntzenbach" I did get an alternate which was included in the search, Schwarzenbach. For this, there were quite a few search results including a link to Wikipedia which states the name is used for several geographic locations in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. There is also a river called Schwarzbach in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. All of these could be helpful clues for one so inclined to go digging for this individual.

No, I am not that least, not today :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New course offered by NGS

The blog for the National Genealogical Society, UpFront with NGS, announced a new course offering a couple weeks ago. The focus will be on Civil War records and will make a great addition to their other courses which include a course on Transcribing, Extracting, and Abstracting, religious records, deeds, the census schedules, records relating to the Social Security Act, and of course, the Home Study Course (which I blogged about over several months). The Civil War records course was developed by Craig Robert Scott, CG who many of you will be familiar with from the military track at IGHR, as well as his various seminars at the national conferences. In fact, he will be holding lectures at this week's NGS conference in Charleston. Adding to his incredible resume, he is also the head of Heritage Books, where you can find tons of great titles including those that are often hard to find elsewhere. Oh, and he was also the CG mentor for my ProGen group (ProGen 3) as if all that wasn't enough. Convinced enough to take the course? I am!

I was waiting to post about it until it showed up on the Education Courses page of the NGS website but after reading more about the course on Angela McGhie's wonderful educational blog, I checked again and it's still not listed. The official press release states that it will debut at the conference which begins tomorrow, so hopefully it will appear on the NGS website for purchase soon after that. The release also states that it will be available as a CD-Rom or as a pdf and the cost will be $35 for NGS members (as I know all of you are, right......? :p ).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Speaking of additional courses...

I've just come across yet another educational opportunity that you all might be interested in. It's called the Regional In-depth Genealogical Studies Alliance, Inc. and it's a week-long course covering a wide spectrum of the research process beginning with reading handwriting, then followed by transcribing and abstracting documents as well as instruction on citations and writing a research plan and utilizing online sources. The idea itself sounds like a pretty darned good idea to me as it is, but then you find out that the course is staffed by J. Mark Lowe and Linda Woodward Geiger, both are very well-known and accomplished Certified Genealogists and I have great respect for both of them. The course will be held in Texas in September this year and will be in Georgia in October next year. If you're interested in finding out more, see the RIGS Alliance website for details.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Have you heard about the new courses yet?

Yesterday, the web was abuzz over news that there will be a new week-long intensive course selection available through the newly established Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. The courses will be held on the LaRoche College campus in July 2012 and the instructors are some pretty big names such as Thomas Jones, John Humphrey, Paula Stuart-Warren, D. Joshua Taylor, Claire Bettag, and Rick Sayre. You can read more about the courses here and more of a general overview about the week here .

The opening of another week-long set of courses is great news for those who have had trouble getting registered or have logistical conflicts with IGHR and/or SLIG. I've wanted to go to SLIG for a while now but since it's in January and I have a school-aged child, and of course, my Navy husband, it's a little complicated to make time for me to take a week off and fly to Utah. Summer tends to work better for me so having another summer option, in conjunction with IGHR in June, will work out great. Even better, the course at SLIG that I would most like to take now, Tom Jones' advanced course, appears to have a match at the Pittsburgh Institute. So if I can't get to Utah in January, as I suspect I won't, I can arrange to take it there instead now! That's great news!

No word on the cost yet, but I'm guessing it will be competitive with IGHR and SLIG. Registration opens in February and it might be a good idea to keep the page bookmarked and stay tuned for updates that may pop up between now and then.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Not to start a coup against Illinois records repositories or anything but....

Here's yet another example of why I have issues doing research in my home state (and try to avoid it at all costs), from a great genealogist over at Midwestern Microhistory

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I just have to vent - Illinois is not a fun state to work with!

I'm sorry. I really am. But I am going to have to use my blog to vent out some personal frustration I experienced today. At least it's genealogy-related. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I'm a volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness for my local Illinois county. If you're not familiar with the site, take a look here . It's basically a site where people who need lookups or research help can hook up with a someone who volunteers to help for free. It's based on geographic area so it makes it pretty easy to find someone where you need them.

I usually just get obit requests but I finally had to take that off my offerings because I was getting more than I could keep up with since I don't live in the town with the big newspaper microfilm collection. So my requests have gone down a bit but at least they tend to be a bit more interesting. This time though, I got flooded with marriage lookups and was anxious to see how things went. If you recall my experience with another IL county Courthouse while I was doing one of the NGS Home Study Course lessons, you may not be surprised to hear the answer.

Today was really just another reason why I can't stand doing work in Illinois. It literally makes me want to pull out my own, that's not exactly true. It makes me want to pull out the hair of the courthouse employees who are denying me access to records that are in an officially "open records" state. My goal today for all of the requests, was to make sure the records they wanted were actually there and to get a sense of what kind of info would be available to them if they decided to order the copies. Sounds reasonable right? I'm not asking for anything that anyone could deem private, especially since the most recent marriage lookup was for a marriage that occurred in the 1920s. Apparently the Clerk's Office employees didn't agree with me.

First, the security guards at the door to the Courthouse wouldn't let me bring in my camera. Ok, whatever. I'm down with security so if they feel like my Canon Powershot is a threat to someone fine. So I took it back to my car...which was parked back in the parking garage.

Then, when I get to the Clerk's Office, they have a receptionist that told me they had an index for the older records that I could look in. Yeah, that didn't happen. I know what she was talking about. The index to marriage records going up to about 1915 are supposed to be open public records, available to view. They even say so on the Clerk's website. Apparently nobody else knew the deal because they looked at me like I was sprouting marigolds out of my head. So that's strike two.

When I got to the employee with all the information that the receptionist made me write down, she took her time ending her conversation with the employee "working" in the next cubicle, then took the forms and started getting down to business. Until she saw that I had written N/A on the line asking how many copies of each record I needed. Again, she looked at me as if I was sprouting something out of the top of my head. I told her I was doing lookups for other people who just wanted to know if their records were actually there and whether there was additional information. Her concern was apparently that I wasn't planning on purchasing any of the records and made a look at the lady next to her and said "Can we do that? Just look up records if she doesn't even want to buy any of the copies?" When the lady finally said yes, she could, she just couldn't give me any of the information but they could at least check for them, she promptly turned her computer screen away from me so she would be sure I wouldn't see anything and then minimized her window as yet another preventative measure. Unbelievable!

One of my requests had a date range of about 10 years for the date of the marriage. She wouldn't give me a closer range to help my requester out with her own request for copies. But then, when I told her that most of the people I was trying to help out live out of state and may want me to come back and purchase the copies for them and asked what I would need so that they would release them to me, she actually said that "the records are open to the public so just come back, fill out the forms, and pay."

So yeah, all that cloak and dagger stuff to supposedly protect identities when in actuality, they just don't want to release information that brings them income. I cannot express how livid I was. And to make matters worse, this is not the only Illinois county that I've experienced this attitude with. To be fair, it may just be a greater Chicago-land area problem since I seem to encounter this issue more with counties here in North Eastern Illinois rather than further South. I had a much more successful visit a couple years ago when I visited a more rural county further away so maybe that's it; the closer you get to Chicago, the worse time you're going to have trying to access things.

Or maybe it's just me, maybe I am actually starting to grow a flower garden out of my head!

Monday, April 25, 2011

When shared information doesn't add up, Part 2

So up to this point, I'd been relaying the background on a Williamson family that I have been tracking in Parke County, Indiana. New evidence seems to be pointing to Greene County, Tennessee as their place of origin, or at least, where they lived before moving on to Indiana. To begin my search there, I started looking at the message boards looking for others who may have already dug up some useful info on Williamsons who may have been living there at the same time as Clement. All of his known children claimed Tennessee as their birthplaces and this group goes back to 1817 so I knew that I should be able to track them there at least that far, and thanks to, I was able to locate an exact marriage date for his presumed daughter, Elizabeth Williamson, and her husband, George Basinger, who were both mentioned in Clement's probate file in Parke County as heirs. With all of the information I collected, it set up an estimated birth date for Clement between 1780 and 1790. I didn't find anyone of that name mentioned in the Greene County, TN message board, however, there was another Williamson found of a comparable age. Thomas Williamson married a woman named Kezziah in Greene County and had several children. More importantly, he left a will which named several heirs. There were quite a few posts from people claiming to be descended from Thomas and considering the closeness in age, I thought that perhaps he could be a cousin or brother. So my first question to the message board was if anyone had done any work on Thomas' extended family, including siblings. I didn't get an answer to that, but I did get a response from someone who had some information to share, though none of it was sourced. What she told me points a big fat red flag at the current state of Williamson genealogy.

It appears that Thomas Williamson named a daughter in his 1836 will named Elizabeth. More importantly, Thomas' descendants are attributing that 1831 marriage between Elizabeth Williamson and George Basinger to the daughter of Thomas, not the daughter of Clement who they may or may not have known about in the first place. Now this creates a problem because either there were at least 2 Elizabeth Williamson's living in Greene Co, one a daughter of Thomas and one a daughter of Clement, or there was just one, the daughter of Thomas and upon his death, Clement adopted her or at least took her into his own family and from there, they left for Indiana where they continued to live in close proximity to one another.

So which one is it? Were there 1 or 2 Elizabeth Williamson's? And if there were two, which is which?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

When shared information doesn't add up, Part 1-the background

One of the projects I've been working on lately has been on rebuilding the family group of the Williamsons of Parke County, Indiana. On my most recent trip to Rockville, the county seat, I was fortunate enough to find a probate file for a previously unknown Williamson in the county which included a list of heirs which included both my ancestor and a man I suspected to be his brother, as well as others that I hadn't known of before. This gave me several new leads to follow so I've been keeping busy trying to figure out where each new piece fits.

I started working with this family about a year ago when I was able to take my line back to a William Williamson, born abt 1825 probably in TN, and died in Parke County, IN in 1858. William's file provided some indirect evidence of a relationship between a Conrad Williamson who was only about 2 years older than William and who petitioned the probate court on behalf of William's widow and called himself brother to the deceased (though I do know that that is not always to be taken literally in early legal jargon, it did point to a relationship of some kind). He too was seen in census enumerations with a Tennessee birth place and that, along with the closeness of age and the petition made a pretty good case for believing Conrad could have been William's brother. So since both had been born in Tennessee, the task was to find out when they came to Indiana and where they came from. I ran into a brick wall.

The probate file I found a couple weeks ago was for a Clement Williamson who died about 1843 (the early probate files rarely give the exact date of death so you usually have to go by the earliest document found in the file to get an estimate) which explains why he didn't show up when I had been seaching for other Williamsons in the county in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The probate file names his widow as Mary, who is shown in the 1850 census still living in Parke County with her family, and cites William, Conrad, Henry, James and George and Betsey Basinger "formerly Williamson" as heirs.

Clement did show up in Parke County in the 1840 census, along with a household which included 1 male aged 15-20, 1 male aged 5-10, and 1 male 50 to 60. The male aged 15-20 fits the age William would have been at the time and also fits knowing that he didn't marry until 1843. This means the male 50-60 would be Clement himself giving him a birth date estimate of 1780-1790. Directly above Clement's household in the census is George Basinger including a female, aged 20-30 which fits in with "Betsey's" birth date range when tracking her to the 1850 census. Clement Williamson is not found in Indiana in the 1830 census, however, there is a Clement Williams found in Greene Co., Tennessee in that year with a family group fitting. Thanks to, I was able to see that a marriage took place in Greene Co., TN in 1831 between Elizabeth Williamson and George Basinger (which also tells me that the family was still in TN at the time of their marriage). Also found in 1850, living with the widowed Mary, was James Williamson, age 20, which fits in with the male living in Clement's household in the 1840 census and Henry Williamson, age 32.

So from this, so far I can pretty confidently set the family up as Clement and Mary as the married couple, with William, Conrad, Henry, James, and Elizabeth/"Betsey". To find out more about Clement, I figured I needed to start looking at records available in Greene County, Tennessee. So I headed over to's message boards and started searching for Williamsons in that area. I was fortunate to find several posts regarding a Thomas Williamson there who appeared to be of a comparable age to Clement. Here is where things start to get sticky...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't forget to check the backs of those documents

I just wanted to pass along a tip that I sometimes forget about. When you've got a loose document from whatever kind of file, be it a military pension, immigration/naturalization pages, or probate files, be sure to turn over those pages and check the backs for extra info. It may seem unnecessary or unlikely but things can turn up there. It's just like covering all your bases when you're on the trail of someone you're tracking in a family tree.

To show the point, a couple weeks ago in Indiana I had a probate file of someone I'd never heard of before, but he had the same surname the subjects of my research. The family was one that I was looking to rebuild before even attempting to go back another generation, and when I saw the name and date of death of this new person, I was assuming it was probably a sibling or possibly a cousin to my subject. When I started looking at the actual pages in the probate file though, I found a pretty complete family tree on the back of a random sheet of paper that in itself didn't tell me a thing about who this person was. Without looking at the back of that paper though, I wouldn't have been able to figure out that this person was actually the father of my subject! The sheet named his widow as well as my subject, along with his siblings. Some were known, others were not. I now have the name of my subject's parents as well as confirmation of the siblings for him that I did know and a whole slew of new ones to track around for more info. From these names, I've also been able to take the family group back to a county in Tennessee - information I didn't have before.

Check the backs of those documents! You never know what you're going to find!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Probates can help you, so use them!

I've been trying to get more work done on my Parke County, Indiana indexing project over the past couple of weeks, and came across a great example of the random kinds of information you can find in probate records. And not just those probate records of your ancestors, the probate records for your ancestor's extended family, neighbors and associates. I'm talking specifically about the those treasures known as probate packets in Indiana. I've found that not every state has maintained these and while things like probate order books and court order and estate books are pretty commonplace and can definitely help you when you're looking to verify a date or to confirm various time frames especially well, these ledgers do not include the actual sheets of paper that were shuffled around while the case while was open. That's where the packets come in and these little gems are probably my favorite part of working with Indiana genealogy.

I've posted before about the great luck of finding evidence of an ancestor's extended family on things like receipts found in the packets, but this new example that I found was one that you probably wouldn't normally find. In the probate packet for a decedent there is a letter from the administrator asking to resign his position. In doing so, he also requests that the editor of a local newspaper (which is named) stop printing that he is still in the position and taking care of the estate of the decedent. That's the first bit of great evidence found in this one sheet, because it tells the researcher where they can find printed evidence of the death and if there are still copies of that paper, they can get a copy of the ad. That's not all though. At the bottom of the sheet, the administrator also gives his reasoning for resigning his position by stating that his wife was very ill. Now this could have just been an excuse for him not wanting to deal with settling all of the debts of the deceased, but if you are, by chance, tracking the family of the administrator and find that his family has a woman of a certain age living with him in one census year and then that particular tickmark is missing from his household in the next enumeration, you may have just gotten a clue to the approximate date of death for this man's wife.

The problem with this kind of random information however, is that when people are looking through these packets, they are more than likely looking at only those packets for their subject. In the above example though, the information is pertaining to the administrator. If these packets had been indexed already, we could probably assume that they would be indexed only by the decedent and unless you knew previously of a relationship between the two parties you wouldn't think to check that packet if you were tracking the administrator. Fortunately, these packets have not been previously indexed and in the current format for the spreadsheet, we're including the date of the box where the packets are located, the name of the decedent, the approximate dates of the case, the name/s of the administrators/executors, and the names of heirs with their relationship to the decedent when given. Currently, the indexing is going into an Excel spreadsheet so when people go to search the spreadsheet, they will be able to search however they wish so if they are searching for info on a particular person and that person shows up as an administrator or heir, in addition to being the decedent himself at a later date, all of those entries will appear.

So the lucky researcher who is trying to find information about Cornelius Corkins, for instance, will find out a lot more than when he served as administrator for John Wilson, Sr. Maybe I'll get lucky and find some more great info like this as I wade through all of these packets.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Scots banished to America?

I received my Virginia Genealogical Society Newsletter this week and one of the many features included is the book review section. In this month's edition, one of the books reviewed is called Directory of Scots Banished to the American Plantations, 1650-1775, second edition, by David Dobson. It is available by going to

One of the things that grabbed me, just with the title, was the knowledge that such records were available to do such a compilation in the first place. Eighteenth century passenger records, in particular, are one of those frustrating road blocks in my own research, though not Scotland specifically. The passenger records of the seventeenth century showing those coming to America seem to be better documented and preserved, I think because most people would think "Hey, these are among the earliest settlers. We better save these!" For instance, we know who came to Jamestown through the various waves of passenger arrivals but I still can't find my ancestor who came over from England more than 150 years later. I have seen a few published records of those who came over from Ireland in the 18th century as indentured servants or even convicts, and few other examples of 18th century departures/arrivals as well but it seems like the coverage is so spotty, especially when you try to compare it to the arrival records kept in this country in the later 19th century and onwards. Obviously, this has much to do with the laws and practices put in place at the time, as well as the time itself that's passed which would have a very real impact on the survival of such records. In any case, I was pretty glad to see this title and I know anyone who has been trying to break through with their Scottish emigrants in the time frame covered in the book, might be happy to see it as well.

According to the review in the VGS Newsletter, the first edition of the book was published in 1984 but the author has added to it in this second edition by around 30% by utilizing records
"on both sides of the Atlantic". Corrections and clarifications have also been made to this edition which led to the reviewer's opinion that the 2nd edition was worth purchasing even if you already own the 1st edition.

It sounds like a fascinating reference even though I'm not trying to track any Scottish emigrants. But for those who are, this sounds like a necessity. Happy hunting!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Last American WWI Veteran Dies

I just saw this article on Yahoo and wanted to post a link to it. A man who lied about his age so that he could be a part of World War I and ended up being it's last survivor and a passionate advocate for a National WWI memorial; it's just the sort of thing the family historian in me loves! This is the kind of story I dream of finding out about my own ancestors and for many of us, the part about his lying to the recruiters about his age is, in fact, very familiar. We always tend to pigeonhole people into whichever military conflicts they may have been a part of based upon age and even the NGS HSC has a military assignment where you are supposed to list male ancestors with their birth and death dates and then list military engagements that they could have participated in. Generally speaking, it's a good exercise for making people aware of as many possibilities for records as they can find, but it can also serve to place blinders on people and if nothing else, here is yet another example of the dangers of doing so. In any case, I thought the article was a nice tribute and offered a little food for thought as well.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are is back...tonight!

Hey all, just a reminder to make sure everyone remembers to watch Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC tonight. It's coming back after a long time so I'm ready to start watching again. Last season had some really interesting episodes with topics ranging from the Salem witch trials to a Civil War soldier who had previously been unidentified. They were really great and I can't wait to see what's in store for this season. You can find more info on season 2 of this series The website also says it has full episodes from season 1, yippee!!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Starting out right

Ok, there has been a delay with my Isaac "Will" Atkinson project (the volunteer is sick and now there's a huge snow storm getting ready to come through IL and IN within the next couple of days) so I thought I'd take the opportunity to start this one out "officially". That is, to do this one strictly by the book from start to finish. After you get to do things a certain way for so long it's hard to change your ways and learn to do things differently. That is one thing that ProGen and the NGS Home Study Course are good for, amongst others. They both teach you how to most be more efficient in your research. I'm a perpetually disorganized person unfortunately, so I've got my notes on several projects scattered around all other the place. For this one though, I'm determined to make a better start and work according to the methods I should be using for all my projects. Yes, I'm unabashedly ashamed that I haven't been doing so regularly but really, when I am my own boss and neither side of myself is all that keen on confrontation it's not very likely I'm going to tell myself off for not doing so :)

So, back to the subject at hand. While I'm waiting to receive Isaac's death certificate, I decided I would get organized and would start with making a research log to keep track of what I've looked at so far and what each record tells me. I have another little hurdle though since it appears that I lost my scanned copy of Isaac's daughter's marriage application so I'll have to get that back (there's another little shout-out for cloud computing!) one way or another but I'll make do until it's revived. Though I don't currently have Isaac himself pegged in a census yet, at least not with any certainty, I can include the 1900 census of his former wife, possible widow, living with a new husband, new children, and their daughter Esther Atkinson. Obviously, the documents of Esther's marriage, which give the only concrete info currently maintained on Isaac, will have to be included once I get them back in my possession.

The ProGen book (pgs 287-288) state that the research log, also known as a master source list, is basically a list of sources that you have looked into during the project. It helps you keep track of those resources that you have already used and what they told you so you don't end up retracing your steps unnecessarily. The research log can also help you stay organized and keep all your pertinent info together to help you form your research plan and gather evidence for your conclusions. The research log should include:

~the date you used that source
~the citation for the source
~the time period covered by that source (generally regarding original source material, such as a ledger of death certificates which can often span a rather long time frame); you need to mention whether you searched the entire time frame covered in the specific source, or if it was only a portion of it, which you would then state in your log
~the name of the repository where you used it
~if the source mentioned is an original source, leave room for a notation about whether a copy was made and if so, write down the cross referencing info to find the copy of the source
~state whether the search within the source produced positive or negative results; did you find answers to your specific questions, or nothing at all?

What this format is basically pointing to is a spreadsheet like what you would make in Excel, but you can also make a standard table in Word, though it might be a bit more of a task as you continue to build upon that table with additional sources.

So with this in mind, I'm off to work on a research log for Isaac. I don't appear to be able to post Excel files on blogger so I'm not sure if I'll be able to upload it here, but I might be able to come up with an abridged version or scan it and upload it that way or something. In any case, I'm starting this one off right and hopefully I can stick with it throughout the course of the project.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Interesting, interesting...

Still just dabbling around with my new project a bit today and decided to look around with the Ohio side of things. In the last post, I had taken on a new project in finding out the approximate birth date and origins of Isaac "Will" Atkinson who married in an Indiana-Ohio border county in 1885. At this point, Isaac is a brand new person in a branch of my in-laws family that I haven't done much work on. Pretty much all I have to go on right now was a copy of his daughter's marriage license application stating his name and that was about it. Isaac has not been positively identified in any census enumeration and his wife, Emma Batchelor, appears to have gotten remarried prior to 1900 who could be signaling either a death or divorce for Isaac in the 1890s.

So I started just doing fairly simple searches for an Isaac or a William in Ohio in the 1870 and 1860 census enumerations. In 1860 I found an interesting entry for a family living in Clinton County, Ohio.

The interesting part here is the name of 3 year old Isaac's presumed mother- Esther. Isaac W. Atkinson and Emma Batchelor's only daughter was named Esther. I should probably add a side note here that I'm not jumping to conclusions and saying yes, I've found the right Isaac. That would just be silly. But after doing this kind of thing for quite some time now, I'd be doing a pretty shotty job if I didn't take note of naming patterns and keep my eyes open for children named for parents, grandparents, etc. With good reason, reusing names is an extremely common thing. So I'm taking note of this family and will keep it in mind but for now, that's all.

I did try to find Temple Atkinson and his wife in subsequent census records, since they are fairly young in this 1860 enumeration, but didn't have much luck. There were other Atkinsons living in Clinton County however so it's possible that they were relations of some kind. Again, something to take note of for the future. Thinking ahead in that vein though, if Temple and his family left Ohio or something happened to them and Isaac was left behind, it would seem to connect with the only Atkinson previously found living in Randolph County, IN (the place of Isaac and Emma's marriage in 1885) in the 1880 census working as a farm hand with the Smith family rather than with parents.

Interesting, interesting...(I just love these mysteries!). Can't wait to hear back from the volunteer about whether record of Isaac's death has been found!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New project has some issues

While I'm waiting for some microfilm on an unrelated project to arrive at my local Family History Center, I decided to revisit some stopping points I left with my Mother-in-Law's side of the family. While I figured out a plan of attack for furthering the research on some of these people, I got attached to a mystery man in the family tree and now I'm determined to find out more about him.

Isaac "Will" Atkinson married Emma Batchelor in Randolph County, Indiana in 1885. The record of their marriage gives no information regarding his date or place of birth and no Isaac Atkinson is found living in Randolph County in 1880. Without this crucial information there are a few pieces of information that are causing some issues-

1.) Considering the geography of Randolph County, an Indiana-Ohio border county, Isaac could have come from either side which expands the search into two states.

2.) Two names; Isaac's marriage record gives his name as Isaac W. Atkinson while the marriage records for his daughter, Esther Atkinson Philips, give his name as "Will" Atkinson. This tells me that William was likely his middle name, but one that he must have gone by which means when I try to find him in census records, I'll have to expand it to include both Isaac and William and any derivations of the two.

3.)Missing 1890 census and remarriage of his wife. Since Isaac and Emma's marriage occurred in 1885, the first census showing their household should have been 1890, which is lost to us. To make matters more complicated, by 1900 his daughter Esther is living in the household of his former wife, Emma, who is remarried. So either Isaac and Emma got divorced or Isaac died in the 1890s which means that the only census I would have to help identify the correct family is the lost 1890 enumeration. That's it. Prior to Isaac and Emma's marriage, without knowing his origins or age, I won't be able to EASILY pick out which person may be correct in the various census enumerations. It may be necessary to make a list of each Isaac and William Atkinson in IN and OH and track them which could be extremely time consuming and not necessarily bring positive results since there is always a possibility that he was skipped or his name was indexed incorrectly or maybe he wasn't even living in either of those states at the time of the enumeration.

So what's happening so far is an expansion of places to look and things to do, rather than a narrowing of possibilities. I need more records and the to-do list is getting pretty big. I decided to start out for the most obvious places and did a check for "Isaac Atkinson" in Randolph County in 1880 but no matches were found. Then I checked the same year and place for "William Atkinson" and found one possibility only. Unfortunately, the William Atkinson found in 1880 in Randolph County wasn't living with his parents. He was working as a farm hand for the Smith family and living in a different township than his future wife, Emma. However, the census does tell us that this William was born about 1856 in Ohio, as were his parents. Attempting to track this person, I searched the 1900 census for William Atkinson (soundex) living in Randolph County, born about 1856 (+/- 5 yrs) and received no matches. Though not definitive, it appears that the William Atkinson from 1880 either left the county or died and death is the more likely answer since when I expanded the search of the 1900 census to include the whole of Indiana, I only found 2 other William Atkinsons; one from a different county who had been married at least twice making a marriage to Emma in 1885 impossible, and the other in a nearby county who looks like he can be traced back to Ohio in 1880, not to Indiana.

After all this poking around with the census records without finding much of a definitive answer, I felt like I needed more information and fortunately, I found it from a lone message board post. Someone was searching for information on Isaac's wife, Emma, and had posted a date range for Isaac of 1857-1892. She didn't say where but her date range fit in nicely with the preliminary search notes that I had taken down. I contacted her to ask where she got these dates from and if she had any further info on Isaac but the post was from many years ago so I'm not holding my breath that she'll receive it. Even if she doesn't though, a proposed 1857 birth date is only a year off from the "abt 1856" birth date of the William living in Randolph County in 1880 with the Smith family, and the 1892 death date fits in well with the remarriage of his wife prior to 1900.

Fortunately, there is a volunteer on Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness who does lookups in Randolph County so I'm hoping that maybe she will be able to take a look for an 1892 death record for Isaac/William. Death records for the county begin in 1882 so hopefully his record of death will be included and may give me some additional info to go on.

If a death record can be found, then it may also be able to order copies of his probate packet. Indiana probate packets can really be goldmines of information so it would be wonderful to have that available for Isaac, who I know so little about. But first, I'm waiting to hear about a death record. Hopefully I'll get good news back from the volunteer soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

IGHR here I come...

Well, not yet but in June. This morning I got registered for Course 4: Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University. IGHR will be held on June 12-17 this year on the Birmingham, Alabama campus. For more info go to

Sunday, January 9, 2011

...Now What, Post 2

So with that rather long run-down of what I've done, what I'm doing, and other options to possibly take in the future, I'm left with the question of "Now What?" I've done the conferences and the societies, I'm working on the indexing project and the Always a Hoosier project in Indiana, I've completed ProGen and the NGS Home Course, and I've been to a session at IGHR and plan to attend again this June (P.S., the registration for the 2011 session opens up on Jan. 18th!). So what's left? Actually, a lot. I can't really afford the Boston University course. It's over $2000 and that's including the discount from being a member of APG and/or NGS. It's too much for me. There is the Toronto program, NIGS, but that too is a certificate program and at this point I'm not sold that a full fledged program is the right fit for me anymore. NIGR, or the National Institute of Genealogical Research through the National Archives, would be wonderful to take, being familiar with and knowing how to use the records available at the National Archives is an essential tool. I really think the NIGR should be a requirement for those seeking certification just because of how important it is to know those records. And it works logistically for me because it's in the summer, when my son is out of school and can stay with family while I'm away. And the price is affordable; tuition is $350 for a week-long course. So that's a good possibility.

Beyond that, I feel like what I need most at this point is more field work and more client work. Because of how often I move, thanks to my husband's job with the Navy, I don't have enough experience with the local community to attempt to get work wherever we might be living so my client experience is extremely limited. That makes a big difference to how close I may be to getting a portfolio together for certification because an example of client work is a requirement. Without it, I'm not ready to start the certification process. The question really, is how to find people who might need work to be done in a geographic area that I feel comfortable with. Either that, or get myself comfortable enough with Illinois records so that I can do the work. I do have some IL experience since it's the state I'm from, but I would definitely need to bone up on things before I could feel comfortable doing work for someone else. It would absolutely need to be pro bono but it would be worth it to get the experience.

So right now, the best thing for me to do is keep researching the dark corners and mysteries in my own family lines and those of my family and who ever will let me work on them. I need work! And I need to be diligent about it. I'm thinking maybe I'll open up another project while trying to find someone for whom I can do a project for. I'm thinking I may also take my final NGS course assignment, the narrative biography, and turn it into something that I could submit to a few places as an article. While having a published article is not a requirement for certification, it certainly doesn't hurt.

So I'm going to start with picking a new mysterious project to work on, and I have a few options for that.....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Officially Completed the NGS Home Course...Now What? Post 1

As most of you who visit the site probably already know, I'm in the process of training myself to become ready for the BCG (Board for Certification of Genealogists) Certification process. What this means is that if I can get my skills up to the point where my portfolio holds up to their rigorous reviewing standards, I would become a "CG", or Certified Genealogist, and that holds great weight for me. Not all professional genealogists are CGs, or have received their accreditation through ICAPGEN (the other credentialing body in the field) and there is nothing that says those who haven't gotten their CG or AG aren't as good as those who do. But to me, being a CG tells my clients that I've made the commitment to standards and good business practice to deliver the best product available to them. It also tells me that I can take the challenges that will come my way and gives me something to be extraordinarily proud of.

So, on this path I've taken numerous steps to prepare, in addition to the rather obvious step of delving into all corners of my own family history as well as that of my husband and any friends who stay awake long enough while I explain what I want to do. But there are still a few things I'd like to get done before submitting a portfolio because I still don't quite feel ready. So I thought maybe this post might be helpful to make people aware of the possibilities if you decide that genealogical education might be for you, whether with the ultimate goal of certification or without it...

1-I joined APG, the Association of Professional Genealogists. Besides getting their publication, as a member you also join a prestigious group of professionals in the field and get listed in their directory to help clients find you. See their site at

2-I joined the NGS, the National Genealogical Society as well as other societies of interest to the work that I was doing. NGS offers one of the most valued periodicals in the field as well as many courses, such as the Home Course that I just finished. You can read more about NGS at At the time I first started, I began with the New England side of the family since that was the side I had the most info to begin with so I found the NEHGS, the New England Historic Genealogy Society, to be of immense importance. Like the NGS journal, the periodical for the NEHGS is among the best for those with or without New England Ancestry. You can find them at

3-Just to be clear, local societies should not be neglected. Yes, costs for carrying membership fees for all of these societies can be pricey but the importance of the information you receive topped off by the opportunities you can find through the local societies is really priceless. The local societies are also a great way to get connected and bring in clients. Some geographic societies that I belong to are: The Virginia Genealogical Society,, and the Indiana Genealogical Society, The VGS is another society that is great whether you have VA ancestors (that you know of yet) or not. Keep in mind that a great deal of our early ancestors either traveled through Virginia or settled there, even temporarily. Somehow, most roads tend to lead there so it's good to have the information included in their wonderful periodical.

4-Sign up for ProGen. If you have any thoughts on possibly taking on clients, whether paying or not, you really should take this course. Not only does it help you understand how to deal with business dealings related to a genealogical business, it also helps point you in the right direction for work that you do for clients, as well as for yourself. Can we say, research reports people? Yeah, it's covered in ProGen. Best of all, ProGen is free! Find info here

5-Take the NGS Home Course, especially the graded option. This course is extremely in-depth. It literally starts you off with the basics and works all the way up to a narrative genealogy using all of the records you've learned to use throughout the course. And let's face it, if you're going to dive head-first into the vat of research and resources, you might as well take full advantage of it and get some valuable feedback from people who have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Graded option all the way.

6-Go to a week long course whether it's NIGR,, IGHR,, or SLIG, you need to attend at least one of these in-depth sessions. Ideally, all of them at least once because the offerings are different and equally valuable. NIGR is a course with a focus on federal records at the National Archives and considering how standards these records are to our research, it's super important to be able to understand them. It is high on the list of my priorities. The courses available through IGHR and SLIG are similar but both take broad topics like you find at the conferences through NGS or FGS and take you step by step, source by source, and allow you to do coursework to understand them and ask questions of the most recognizable names in the field like Tom Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills. You will not find a more interesting and valuable week than a course through these programs.

7-Attend the big conferences like NGS or FGS. This is pretty self-explanatory really. While it might not be necessary to attend every year, they can get pricey, it's a good way to network with others and see big names give seminars on some interesting topics. It also looks good in your certification portfolio to let them know you get involved and get around.

8-Get involved with the original records as much as possible. This is an on-going process that you will ideally use throughout your career. While having availability online is great, especially for people like me who live at a distance from their focus areas, there is no substitute for going on-site and discovering how those records are kept, where they are, what's included in them and how they change over time, and getting as familiar with the records in that Courthouse as you possibly can without having them superglued to your eyelids.

That's kind of the rundown that I've got in my head right now but I know there are lots of other ways to train yourself and get yourself prepared and on the right path for certification. One that comes to mind now is the new course available through Boston University. It's been getting some great feedback and would be a great option for those who could swing it. It's a bit pricey for me but slight discounts are available for members of APG or NGS. Also the University of Toronto program (also known as NIGS) comes to mind. Their program is a bit easier to handle financially and is also very well respected. Info on these programs can be found at and respectively.

If I think of anything else, I'll be sure to post it. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to jump into now that the NGS course is over, but I'm sure I'll post about that here too :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Great articles in the new NGS Magazine!

Hi all, I got my new NGS Magazine (Oct-Dec 2010) in the mail a few days ago and was really excited about a few of the articles included. The first one is by Debbie Mieszala, CG and is called "The Curious Case of the Disappearing Dude". It's actually the article that made me want to revisit the 1905 New York State census in search of my Ward family members (as described in the previous post). I think we can all relate to having at least one, if not more, of those relatives who shows up for one census enumeration or in one record just enough to peak our interest and then flies by the wayside, never to be seen or heard from again. That is, until you start to dig deeper and start piecing apart your research. Debbie's article tells about her journey towards finding a subject who first shows up as a 2-year-old and then disappears from the records. Along the way, she finds that not just her subject, but his whole family disappears from the records until she starts really tracking those members she can find and those leads open more leads to the others until eventually she has found all but her initial subject but has gained a slew of evidence pointing towards his possible whereabouts. It's a great article and I found it to be pretty inspiring for my own research because I ended up heading right back to the last known location for my own family: the 1905 NY census. So give it a read and see what kind of inspiration you get for your own projects.

The second article in the Oct-Dec 2010 NGS Magazine that I found to be a wonderful resource for future research was Jean Atkinson Andrews' article on neighborhood reconstruction pre-1850. It's called simply, "Developing a Neighborhood of Associates". I think we can all agree that finding the neighbors can be especially important when you're trying to gain as much info as possible about your target person/family. From 1850 onwards, we are lucky to have the snapshot of the neighborhood and to make great use of that, it's common practice for us to take note of those people listed on at least the page before and the page after your subject appears, as well as all those people who appear on the same page. This is even one of the assignments in the NGS HSC, for the lesson on migration, so it's a great exercise to keep in mind. Tracking neighbors can help lead you to birth and marriage locations, places of origin, intermarried families, and lots more. But what do you do when you are looking at a person/family alive prior to the 1850 enumerations? Not only do we lose out on the names of the family members living within a household, but we also lose the neighborhood snapshot because the addresses were not recorded as they were in later censuses and no townships or specifications on where the individuals listed were living within the given county were shown.

This wonderful articles gives you a great idea for how to proceed with creating a pre-1850 neighborhood reconstruction beginning with land entry case files. The author has a subject who can be traced living near someone else and even migrating to another state around the same time as the other person before disappearing from the records. Without the use of those later records, such as death certificates and possible appearances in later censuses, to help give clues to his origin, the author needed to find another way to learn where he came from through other means. Fanning out her research to include his neighbors in the census enumerations she did have for him was the way for her to start. To begin, she orders the land entry case file for her disappearing subject which unfortunately did not give an explicit info on his origins or family breakdown. That didn't mean her research stopped however. Instead, she developed a research plan which dove into the land purchasing process in the state where her subject obtained his land, and studied those who purchased the land near his, where those people came from, the history of the area which they chose to purchase in, and tracking those people both forwards and backwards in the census and lots lots more. What she was able to do was create a grid with information on virtually all of his neighbors and then track them in the censuses and expand her search in the county histories to include those people which then gave her information on migration paths to add to what she had learned about the origins of her subject's neighbors. All of which could be useful tools in finding out where her subject was from.

It's an amazing article to keep on hand for future research not just because it gives us all something else to try when we feel we're at a roadblock with those early censuses, but also because so often researchers just stop once their research takes them to those often-less-than-satisfying pre-1850 census enumerations. They just don't seem to give some people that same high of finding what you want to find as the later censuses do and a lot of people don't seem to be all that keen to put the extra effort into moving forward from them. This article might change that for some people by giving them an option to try rather than giving up. It's a must read!