Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is a time of bringing family together and giving thanks for the bounty we have. Even in lean years, knowing you have family at your side makes life a bit easier.

Our celebration of thanksgiving goes back to harvest festivals and dinners held in Europe. When the earliest settlers came to New England, they brought those traditions with them. In the lean years after the Mayflower arrived, those harvest celebrations included new friends among the Native Americans.

This year, I am thankful for those who came before me. Those who made the trip across the Atlantic to settle into this land we now call the United States.

I am thankful for Richard Warren and his family. He was a passenger on the Mayflower. He survived the first lean years until his wife and daughters came a couple of years later. I am descended from his youngest daughter, Abigail.

I am thank for Owen and Ann Hughes. Both were refugees fleeing Ireland during the Great Famine. Owen came first and earned money to send for his wife and daughter. My great-grandfather, John, was born within a year or so of Ann’s arrival.

I am grateful for every immigrant ancestor I have who braved the journey in hopes of a better life in the New World. Without them, I would not be here.


Honoring the Veterans in Your Family Tree

Today is Veteran’s Day here in the United States.

Military service is one of great personal sacrifice. Some go to war and return unscathed. Others return with wounds, seen and unseen. Others do not return at all.

How do we honor those who have made such a personal sacrifice? Each person needs to make that decision for themselves. Here is my honor to some of my family’s veteran.

Roy Denver Baker (1917-2011) – My great uncle Roy died last December. He was a veteran of World War II. He served in North Africa and Italy in the supply corps. This experience gave him the opportunity to go to college and become a librarian.

Levi Frederick (1840 – 1863) – Levi is my great-great grandmother’s eldest brother. He died from small pox in service with the Union army.

John Lingar (1776 – 1828) – My 5th great-grandfather who served in the War of 1812. He was a pioneer settler around the Cumberland Gap.

Joseph Baker (1751 – 1832) – My 7th great-grandfather who served in the Revolutionary War. He was a pioneer who helped settle SE Kentucky.

These four men are among dozens who I have found served their country with distinction and honor in the many wars this nation has fought. In the current generation of my family, we have different ones still serving with honor and distinction.

To all Veterans of all wars, current and past, I honor you and your service.


My Observed Benefits of Organizing Info by Event

Everyone that does genealogy research will have to eventually come up with an organization method for their papers. Even with digitization, original copies of documents will be with us for some time to come.

My research organization is by event, not by family. As previous posts show, I came to this solution after getting frustrated by the family group organization method. I have noticed some benefits of organizing info by event, digitizing them, and integrating them with my family history program.

The first benefit is having only one copy of my documentation on paper and one in digital form. I know that if I can get a better copy of a document, it is very easy to update. It also means I can easily link that document to multiple events in multiple people’s lives.

A great example of that is a census record. A typical census record can show the names of every member of the household, thus multiple people. A census record can also provide info on multiple events/data points. It provides their name, age, approximate birth years, married status, birth place, parents’ birthplaces, occupation, relation to family members, and place of residence on the date of the census.

A single census record can contain more than one family of interest. So, the number of people, events, and data points can be quite numerous on a single census record.

Another benefit of having data by event is the ability to use notebooks instead of family folders. I like notebooks because I can line them up on a shelf and find them without getting into drawers. While it is possible to do family groups in notebooks, it can become cumbersome with so much documentation, much of which is duplicated.

I know that if I need birth certificate #10, I go to the BIRTH binder, and go to the 10th page. Easy to find, and easy to organize.

Digitization of Family History

Going completely digital with family history may not be possible for a few years. However, you can get almost all of your family history on a computer. With the help of a scanner, digital camera, and a family history software program, there is no need to consult paper records again.

Most of us collect piles of paper whenever we go on a research trip. It might be to our local courthouse or across country to where our ancestors settled centuries ago. Photocopies of records give us those elusive clues about our forefathers and mothers. But, those photocopies are another piece of paper we need to carry around with us.

One way around those photocopies is to take a digital scanner or camera with us and make a digital copy of the record. However, what if something happened to your electronic copy? Before leaving any repository, it is important to transfer pictures to a laptop or other computing device and make sure the copies are clear and what you expected.

If you end up with a paper copy, you can make a digital copy at home. A scanner offers an easy option. You can also use your digital camera to take a picture of the document. My goal when doing this work is to get a completely readable copy that I can use on my computer without taking out the paper copy.

Once you have a digital copy of your document, how do you organize it on the computer?


Organizing Family History Research By Record not Family

About five years ago, I got to a point of frustration with using the family folder system for keeping records organized. I was duplicating files all over the place. I had some file folders bulging with records and others that had one or two. Finding a particular record was sometimes a challenge. Was it in the parent’s file or the child’s file? Did I duplicate it?

I went searching for a new solution and I found it.

I found a post offered by Liz Kelley Kerstens. You can read the same post that started my new organization system here. The gist of the solution is to organize by event type instead of family surname.

All the records of the same type of event go into the same notebook. Each record gets a unique identifier based on the record type and a sequential number. For example, all birth certificates go together. Then, in no particular order, each one gets an identifier assigned telling it’s a birth record and its number. So, BIRTH001, BIRTH002, etc.

This system integrates well with most genealogy software programs. Almost all have a field available at the source level that allows you to put in identifying information. I use Legacy as my preferred software. The field at the source level is “FileID”. I place the unique identifier in this field. For example, the BIRTH001 goes here.

This rearrangement of my files took me a few months to do. But, in the end, it made my life easier in finding and storing files. I also integrated digitization into this system. Now, almost all my paper files are in notebooks with a complete digital image available on my main computer.

I have found many advantages to this system. More on that later.

Family Files – One of Organizing Genealogy Information

Several years ago, I found that I had piles of papers that I needed to organize for my family research. I did some research and looked into the various ways to organize genealogy. One of the most popular ways is to create a folder for each married couple. That folder contains all the information for their family.

So, for my great-grandparents, Addison Baker and Phebe Lingar, I would have a single file for them and their children. I would include their marriage certificate and any legal files generated after they married. I would include the birth certificates and records for their children. Census records for the family would also go into the folder. The last things into this folder would be the death certificates for Addison and Phebe.

That makes sense for organization purposes. However, it creates some problems as far as where to put records.

First, where do the birth certificates for Addison and Phebe go? Should they be in this file folder or should they be in the file for their family of origin. Addison is the son of Robert and Rose (Frederick) Baker. Phebe is the daughter of James Harvey¬† and Elizabeth (Luster) Lingar. The birth records for Addison show his information, but relate to him being a child of Robert and Rose. The same goes for Phebe’s records.

Some people make copies of the records and place duplicates into the couple folder and their family of origin folder. That is one way to do it. If you are living in a paper world, however, that means you are adding more paper to your organization challenge.

Another question: What to do with the birth records for Addison and Phebe’s eight children? Two of their children died young. Those children’s information can remain in the couple’s folder. However, their other six children married and three of them had children. So, where does their information belong? Again, many people make duplicates of records.

Census records also present a challenge. A census sheet shows a list of people grouped by household. Multiple households show up on a census record. If you are looking at a sheet that lists multiple families related to you, then what do you do with the census record? Again, duplication is one answer.

When I got to the point I was duplicating most of the records I had, I though this was a nightmare. I went searching for a new solution. And I found it.


Keeping Sane in a Pile of Research

Think about it. You have four grandparents, who each have two parents. The number of family lines doubles each time you go back a generation. If you spend enough time, you will find you have dozens of family lines to research and keep track of. But, how do you keep track of it all?

For someone who is a born organizer, that may seem like a simple question. However, most people I know, including myself, are not naturally organized. This has been a constant challenge in my life, especially when it comes to family history research.

Despite being in the age of computers, a good deal of my research is still in paper form. I have copies of wills, land records, court records, marriage certificates, etc. for many different family lines. Keeping them straight is always a challenge. But, with a bit of help from some veteran researchers, I came up with a way to keep track of everything and to start moving towards a completely digital collection.