Genealogy #4: Related Writing Projects, part 1

So. Now I have my tools (State Lists, Name Lists, Questions pages), I have all available information organized, filed, and tallied…what’s next?

I have an eleven-step process (I know, I know…I had ten, but realized I’d left one out).
Some steps involve paid-sites (these have to be subscribed to) and some involve free sites.
You can pick and choose which steps you like, or delete and add on at your fancy.
All I know is this process works for me!

I did mention all this organization and research would take a great deal of time, didn’t I?
All the time and effort will pay off, though, when you end up with a beautiful stack of Name Lists, paired with Questions pages.

So here’s what I do next: I grab the first name on the stack (alphabetically for me, this happens to be Brawley/Braley), and begin the process.

Step #1: findagrave.com

This is a fantastic site that lists people, grave sites, and often pictures of the entrance to the cemetery featured, and sometimes even the grave marker for the individual researched. Although your ancestors may not be listed, that can mean a number of things: they do not have a marker; they have not been located yet; or you are responsible for locating and listing that relative! Anyone can sign up to add data, and considering all the work to be done out there, if you are visiting cemeteries, you should really consider contributing to this free site for anyone who may be related to a particular individual, but who simply cannot go visit the grave site in person.

Also, don’t give up! I had despaired of ever locating one ancestor (Elijah Perry from a few blog posts back), partly because he has remained elusive in a number of regards, but also because through my research it seemed he may have been re-interred in another unknown location. Then, one day last summer…there he was! Listed in an entirely different county, and dying in a different year than had previously been reported, the scoundrel. Turns out the tale behind his death was more involved than I had realized, and it was enormously gratifying to get the whole story. If not for that generous volunteer who had logged the relevant information, I still wouldn’t have found my ancestor.

Genealogy #3: Related Writing Projects, part 2

With this format I have the names, relevant dates, and places for all of that particular family name in one place.

This is much easier for quickly noting the multiple generations of fathers, sons, and grandsons and how they all relate in terms of geography. (Were they all born in the same county? Did mother and father die in the same area?)

But it also keeps all the mothers tidily grouped with the right generations, as well. Sons stay with their fathers and mothers, whereas daughters are with their husbands. It may not be a perfect scenario, but once you become familiar with the system, it’s very easy to follow.

Now that I have the Family Lists and the State Lists organized and complete, I need a process that defines the next step: What Do I Want To Know?

I already have a few notebooks filled with random and myriad data, such as sibling names and/or dates, land or probate information, questions regarding military service, etc. What I do next is create a “Questions” page for each of the Family Lists. This page literally lists questions I want to answer: when someone moved from North Carolina to Tennessee, or if they served in the War of 1812, or where a particular ancestor is buried, etc. The bits and pieces of actual data I enter on the ancestor’s notes page in the genealogy computer program. The “Questions” page summarizes what I would still like to find out. This unique “Questions” page is stapled to the back of each of the pertinent Family List pages.

In the next post, I will describe the steps in my research process at this stage: I have my tools (State Lists, Name Lists, Questions pages), I have all available information organized, filed, and tallied, and now I am ready to do all possible research before I head out on the road!

Genealogy #3: Related Writing Projects, part 1

After familiarizing myself with the State Lists, and adjusting really fast to how much more organized I was, I started looking for another way to organize things. It hit me that although I really do appreciate the computer program and its methods for laying out information, I really wanted to be able to see multiple generations at once. Although I do review my family tree print-out frequently, I wanted something that would group all the direct descendents of the same family name on one page so I could really see how they related to each other geographically and on a time-line.

So, I created the Family Lists.

It sounds super simplistic, and maybe it is. But I really love the easy format and how quickly I can understand the logistics of an entire family line.

Here’s how I did this one:

I started the same way as the State Lists, but instead of a State Header, I began with the family name as the header. I’ll use my Perry line as my example for this document grouping. Therefore, the name at the top was Perry. Now, I don’t have very much information for this particular line. But I will utilize what I have. So, I list the same info as I do on the State Lists, but this time, it’s grouped by name. The furthest line I have back on the Perry family is Elijah Perry, so I start with him. I will include his wife, Dinah, because her name is Perry, too, post-marriage. Here’s what their generation looks like:

Perry, Elijah                    B abt. 1823           Kentucky
Perry, Elijah                    M 2 Jul 1851        St. Louis, Missouri
Perry, Dinah (Parker)   D 1898                San Jose, California
Perry, Elijah                    D 12 Aug 1862    Tucson, Arizona

At the bottom of the page, I’ll add the birth info for the wife IF I don’t have enough information for her own Family List. If I have more than just her parents plus her, I’ll make another sheet for that name.

Also, you can see I did not keep the dates in order. I deliberately set the wife in the middle of the other events so I don’t get confused. This way, I know Dinah belongs to Elijah (and vice-versa, but you get the idea).

Genealogy #2: Related Writing Projects, part 2

After I had created my State Lists documents, I was able to use them on a genealogy road-trip almost immediately, and found them to be extraordinarily helpful. So helpful, in fact, that I accumulated a great deal more information than I doubtless would have if I had only been going at it with the computer program alone, a thing I had frequently done in the past.

The best part about it is that they are truly fluid documents.

When I came home with my new-found information, I not only updated the computer program database, but also the State Lists.

In between trips, as I garner more information either on-line or in libraries, I continue to update the information.
If I discover one ancestor wasn’t born in Kentucky after all, but rather Tennessee, I simply delete him or her from one state list and add him or her onto the correct one.

Then I print them out to take on the next road-trip.

Of course, I don’t take all the sheets with me…just the ones for the states I plan to visit.
I have a small accordion portfolio (letter-sized) that holds the sheets very nicely, along with any copies or print-outs I pick up while traveling.

This keeps everything amazingly organized!

Then, the night before I arrive in a  particular area of a specific state, I pull the sheet for that state, and pull up the computer program on the laptop. I review everything, make notes in a notebook on what I hope to find, and I’m set for the day! This keeps me from getting confused, while also allowing me to focus on the important members of the family for that day. If I think sibling and cousin info will be helpful in locating relatives’ information, I jot that down, as well.

Then, that afternoon after leaving the area or state, I put all the information behind the state sheet, and place it back in the accordion file. If I have time, and things are relaxed, I can add information to the computer program as each day passes. If not, I save it to do at home.

After arriving home, unpacking, etc., I put everything in the computer program, update the state sheets, file the paperwork in the family files, and I’m done!

Genealogy #2: Related Writing Projects, part 1

In the last couple of posts I sketched out the writing projects I found I needed to truly utilize the genealogy computer program to its full potential. Although I like having all the genealogy data in one location that is easy to access, it does not provide much in the way of cross-referencing.

In this post I am describing the format I use for Geographic Locations.

At this time and space, I am only concerning myself with the US locations. I have many connections to other countries, but as I do not plan to do any boots on the ground research outside the US at this time, I am sticking with the US.

Because there is no way to extrapolate all the geographic locations into one place using the computer program, I meticulously went through each and every single relative and jotted down where they were born, where they married, and where they died.

If this sounds like it must have taken hours and hours, let me assure you: it did! I have over a thousand relations cataloged, and each one had to be looked at and considered. I mostly stuck with direct descendency (apparently this is not a word, but I like it, so in it stays) except where a sibling’s location helped establish a direct descendent’s presence. If I also knew where a relation had lived (i.e. owned land, showed up on a census) but did not already have that noted, I added that to the format.

When it was all said and done, then, I grouped all geographic events under the header of the different states. Though there are 50 states, my research only takes me to 26, so I have 26 documents (listed under State Lists), each headed with the state name in bold, size 16 font.

Then I group the information accordingly: under the header (this time using size 12 font) I list each one of the life events that happened in that state. So, for example, on the Kentucky sheet I have the following information:
Phillips, John         B abt. 1809     Horse Cave, Hart County
Heather, William  D                                     Mercer County
Doyle, Farmer       L  1800-1840                          Shelby County

See what I did there? Rather than listing alphabetically by name, I go alphabetically by county. This allows me to group all the events that occurred in that same location together. SO much easier when trying to identify where I want to go in any one particular state. Names are listed last name first, so I can see similar names in a chosen location. I chose to put the B (born), L (lived in), M (married), D (died) in bold so I can easily tell what sort of event I am looking for in that place. If I don’t have a date, I leave it blank so I can fill it in later.

I have found this State Lists tool to be just as important as the computer program, because I can easily tell geographically how many other family events occurred in that state or even the same general area.

Genealogy #1: Related Writing Projects, part 2

However, there are a few things I would like to be able to do that require cross-referencing, which isn’t available with this particular computer program.

For example, I do a great deal of hands-on genealogy research, away from the computer, where I physically drive to different locations and do research within the towns or county seats connected with my ancestors. Because of this, it would be enormously helpful to collate all the family members who were in Kentucky at some point, for instance. With this program I cannot easily tell who is from Kentucky, because there isn’t a way to cross-reference this information. Even more helpful would be a way to find all the folks from Jessamine County. But I cannot do this through the program I use.

So, I have developed my own system. Three, actually. Each one has taken time for me to tweak to my exact needs, but all three work beautifully in conjunction with the computer program. In the next three entries I will describe each one, why it works, and how it has helped tremendously in understanding the huge amounts of data I have collected.

With all three of these systems, in order for them to be of use, they each take a great deal of time to load all the data into them so that they work the way they are intended to work.

But the odds are good that if you have already set up your filing system and loaded your data into a genealogy program on your computer, you’ve already got a good concept of how much time these tasks will take.

By the way, these systems, as I’ve already described, work in conjunction with a computer program. If you don’t already use one, these systems will not be of much use. They are not designed to be useful to someone working from notebooks and loose pieces of paper. You’ve already got your work cut out for you if you’re still at that stage!

Genealogy #1: Related Writing Projects, part 1

One of my key hobbies is genealogy.

It just hit me yesterday that actually I have a number of writing examples that directly relate to my genealogy research. These are not actual articles on research tips and techniques, although I could definitely write some of those, too.

These are actual supplemental writing projects that I have developed for use in tandem with the genealogy program I use.

Speaking of which, the program that I use and like very much is Family Tree Maker. It is easy to use. Specifically, to add information, delete information, or add information related to how you found the data in the first place is all easily done. I was so excited to get all of the genealogy information that I had actually into the computer, so I didn’t have to keep rifling through a bunch of papers.

In fact, if you haven’t yet, and you are still actively doing genealogy research, I heartily recommend two steps: filing all the papers into the appropriate family file folders, and then purchasing a computer genealogy program to follow all the lines as they connect. This will take enormous amounts of time to do, which is the number one reason you haven’t done it yet. But once you do, you will be stunned at how much easier it is to get the “big picture” of your family.

Another thing you will want to do if you haven’t already, is print out your family tree from the computer program. This will only print parents and children (no cousins or siblings) and will only show births, marriages, and deaths, but it will give you an overall picture of your family you would not have otherwise. You will be amazed how many times you will go back and reference that family tree print out. After the initial marveling of the size of the thing, you will be constantly rechecking it to find out the parents of this ancestor, and the marriage date of those ancestors, etc.