It’s a small world, after all.

First, my apologies for the earworm. But it’s applicable!

One of the most fascinating pieces of our ancestors’ lives is their migration patterns; not just on the whole but individual families as well. We seek to know where our ancestors started from (birth) and where they ended up (death). But it’s also important to look at what they do with themselves in between.  WHY did they move? WHEN did they move? WHERE did they move to? WHO else was a factor in the move – did they travel in family groups, did they move to get married, to get out of a marriage, to go were the work was?  Did they just have a wandering spirit, or did they never go more than five miles from home their whole lives?

In my case, my family unit moved a LOT because my Dad was in the US Air Force. We didn’t really have a lot of choice in the matter; home was where the Air Force said it was. Our last reassignment, we all lobbied for a base in Southern California, to be near my Dad’s family. We got the post and so there we were, plunked down in a place most of us had never heard of, but close enough to my Dad’s family that we could drive there and back in a day and have a nice long visit in the middle.

Now let’s fast forward about…. 25 years. I’m working on my family tree, still in the same town my Dad retired in, trying to figure out when and where my Grandmothers’ paternal Great-Grandparents, Cornelius Holland and Bridget Scanlan were married. To this end, I decide to learn as much about their children as possible – so I start calling Catholic Churches for baptismal records. I start pulling together censuses and death records for all of them. And in that process realized that one of the daughters, my 2nd Great-Grand Aunt Dora, kind of fell off the family tree at some point. We have her in census records up until 1910, and then nothing. My only hint is she might be buried in San Bernardino, CA.   Unsuccessfully trying a couple big-name grave websites, I turned to the California Death Index. Lo and behold, a possible match for my Dora Holland – assuming of course she never married. But alas, the death took place in the wrong county, San Diego County. These are not neighbors (in case you’re not familiar with the area).  I argued with myself. It’s close, but is it a close enough match to spend the money? Finally I gave in, filled out the form and handed over my debit card. I came away with GOLD.  Not only was it MY Dora Holland, but she’d lived in San Diego for over 20 years before she died! About 90 minutes away from me. Holy Mackerel, I just filled in a huge gap!

Moving again in time to about a month ago.   I was tinkering about with my Maternal Grandfather’s natal family and realized that I didn’t have a death record for one of his sisters, Theresia, who had supposedly died in California. She wasn’t turning up on the Death Index. At least, she wasn’t until I changed her last name to the name of the man we *thought* she had married.   BINGO.  I dutifully went to the County Clerk and handed over my debit card again. I walked away with all kinds of new information, including the name of cemetery she was buried at. I stopped by on my way home and said hello.   Theresia’s death record indicated that she too had lived in California about 20 years before she died. She lived in or near the city of Orange all that time – about an hours’ drive from me if there’s no traffic.

Two days ago I was printing off some records I copied from my Grandmothers’ collection of genealogy things. I was at the end of the project, nearly 2800 pages in all, and the whole time had only barely looked at what I had.   I pulled a stack of pages of the printer and something caught my eye. The word “Riverside.” I read a little closer. I had in my hands a letter written to my Grandma’s Mother and from her sister.   The sister references their shared brother, Robert, and what he is up to. He’s in Riverside, managing a US Army Laundry. I double checked the date; January 1944.   After pulling my jaw off the floor, my brain started whirring.   Could he in fact be connected with the base my father had been stationed at? I texted my Aunt, who is a genealogy nut like myself. And her reply (in a nutshell) was “California is huge! How fascinating that you all ended up, relatively, in the same area!”  I’ll be doing some research to learn more about my Great-Grand Uncle’s time in Riverside during WWII.

So back to the small world concept here. I have found members of three of four of my maternal Great-Grandparents’ families living in my area. Not just my state, but my area – within 90 minutes of me. None of them knew each other. By the time my Grandparents were married, one of the three was deceased, one had been established here for almost decade and one had moved away again. This wasn’t planned. This wasn’t expected. This is one of those wild and crazy coincidences that doesn’t feel like a simple coincidence. Dora and Theresia kind of fell off the family tree; we didn’t know much about their later lives or their deaths. We knew more about Robert, but I don’t think we knew about this piece of his life. A WWI Veteran, too old to serve in WWII, here he was working to support Army trainees. Did I land in this area to make sure their stories could be told?   I don’t know.   But I’m here, so I’m going to tell their stories.


Putting the Do-Over on Hold

Well dear readers, life has gotten in the way of my do-over and I find myself with a completely self-imposed deadline which borders on the “qualifying me for admission to the insane asylum.”  Hence I am putting my do-over on hold.

Fortunately for me, Thomas is starting Round Two in the beginning of April and that is after the deadline!  So I will be beginning again.  Way ahead of the first attempt but with plenty left to do for most of the weeks we have already covered.

Until then, I am going to be transcribing my fingers off.   You see, I have about 26 hours of audio recordings of me interviewing my Grandmother on my computer that need to be transcribed.  She will be 95 very soon *knock wood* and I really do need to get back to the transcriptions so she can review and edit them.  Also, I’ll be getting to see her for her birthday and yes, I absolutely intend to get some more interviewing done.

So it will be a bit before I come up for air.  Until then, Happy Hunting!

Genealogy Do-Over Week 5

Building a Research Toolbox
Citing Sources

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get. ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Well that sums up MY week. How about yours?

The interviews with my aunts went really well and I got some great information, some of which is brand new to me! Of course, now I have a lot of transcription work to do and I need to create research to-do lists based off the interviews.

I became an admin of a new Facebook group called “Killer Kin” with four other ladies who have me in stitches every day. The gallows humor is strong within the Admin team! Killer Kin is a place for people research murders and other heinous crimes in their family tree. Whether your Kin did the murdering or was murdered, or even if you just enjoy researching true crime and would like to help others look into their crime stories, this is the place for you. Come on over!

But onto the Do-Over.

Task 1: Building a Research Toolbox.

To quote myself (this was posted in the FB Do-Over group)
“Since Friday I have been thinking of a webinar I attended back in Jan 2014 on Building a Research Toolbox. It was a fantastic webinar, and the gentleman posted a link to his blog and I wanted to repost it as a resource. I just pulled up my notes from the webinar and the speaker was Thomas MacEntee! This time I WILL finish building my toolbox. I’d started immediately a year ago but got distracted by BSO’s.”

So, how am I building my toolbox? Well first, I’m creating it on my hard drive rather than in my web browser. I have a folder called “Research Toolbox” and in that folder I have more folders that categorize sources. Folder names include “Cemeteries and Death Records” “Census” “Military” and “USA by State.” The USA by State folder contains 51 folders – 1 folder for each State in the Union and 1 for Washington D.C.

One of my favorite resources is I have a lot of relatives in Michigan and this website includes death records from 1897-1929ish (they are adding records) and the 1884 and 1894 Michigan State census’. These records are indexed and browsable. And there’s all kinds of other great collections on the site. Naturally, this needs to be in my toolbox!

To add to my toolbox: I go into the Michigan folder under USA by State and create a new shortcut. I enter the website information and name the shortcut and click finish. Lather, rinse, repeat for all the websites I want to save in my toolbox. So now when I want to research in Michigan, I go to the Michigan folder and I have all kinds of resources to check.  I also keep copies of forms (such as a birth record request form) in this folder, so that all the Michigan specific material is in the same place.

This is a time consuming and tedious process. It will be worth every minute I spend on it! But finding those minutes has been a challenge. I will continue to add to the toolbox as I can.

Task 2 Citing Sources

I haven’t done anything with this task this week. I keep sitting down to read Evidence Explained and either can’t focus or get interrupted by more important tasks like making dinner. I also haven’t done any research, so that I haven’t tackled citing sources isn’t as big of a problem as you’d expect.

My new research and forms and binders have become a mess. I finally gave in and added it all to my old research in my hold box. Part of this is practical as it gets it out of the way of all the other projects on my desk, quite literally. But I’m also considering the idea of taking researching out of the equation until after the 13 weeks of the do-over is complete. There is some talk in the Do-Over group about running a second full 13-week course. I’m hoping Thomas will decide to do that, because I think I need to run through the do-over topics a second time. There’s too much in my world to do this “real time,” that is one week in one week, but if I take longer than one week to do that weeks work, I feel like I am falling behind the conversations in the group.

I will figure it out. In the meantime, onto Week 6!

Genealogy Do-Over Week 4

Managing Projects
Tracking Searches

Ahhhh, Thank you Thomas for giving us an optional week!
So the topics for this week are, essentially, to look at project management options and search tracking options. Thomas gives some great templates and has linked to at least one free project management e-book in the Facebook group. I bought that and will read it. Errrrr… eventually.

But it’s an optional week, as not everyone will want or need to do these things. I am working on a research log but I don’t think I’ll be tracking my searches all that much. And even if I do, I think I won’t be figuring out how to do that until I get back to researching. So a lot of the information coming at me for this subject is getting filed away into the back of my brain and will likely be re-examined later.

So what have I been up to this week?

Well, to start with there’s been the 10-hour days at my job, my mother coming over needing help with her projects and computer questions, the crafting projects with deadlines, making dinner and attempting to keep on top of household things…and failing. I was eating my lunch from a mixing bowl before finally making time to run a load of dishes. Thank goodness for my husband who took the trash out and got some laundry done.

Oh, you meant Genealogical speaking, what have I been up to?

Right. Well in that case. Last week I created an interview questionnaire that covers the basics of a family tree and contacted two of my Aunts to see if they would be willing to be interviewed and set up dates. I then road-tested the interview on my mother while she was over –and a captive audience- and made some revisions to the interview based on that. I actually learned quite a few things interviewing my mom, so that was very worthwhile, even if it did mean I got virtually nothing else done that day.

I went through and made “interview packets” so that I’m ready to go for this weekend’s interviews. They include the introduction which explains what I’m doing and asks permission to record, the questions, a pedigree chart, and several family group sheets to make it easier to take notes. I’m really excited about it. Next task on that is to create a “childhood memories” interview for round two of interviewing.

I’m continuing to log existing records into my Access database and have made a few modifications based on Thomas’s research log. Which, naturally, means I need to revisit most everything I’ve already entered. *heavy sigh* It will be worth it in the long run, just tedious.

I’ve received a couple of BSO’s (Bright Shiny Object) in the mail; one is the death record for my Great-Uncle who died at the age of seven. I immediately went online and printed out the form to get his birth record, filled it out, and then realized I was getting ahead of myself put the whole thing on my to-do list. I’m learning! Slowly. The other BSO arrived last night, my husband’s Grandfather’s military file! He was in the US Navy so the records survived the infamous 1970’s fire. I have flipped through it, found some gems in the first look but will try not to get tied up with it for now.

I’m also impatiently waiting for my Aunt’s DNA to finish processing at And I emailed back a DNA connection on my paternal line (yeah, I know, that’s the line I’m doing over, but I didn’t want her to think I’ve lost interest). The lead is solid and I hope to source it out and if I can, I will go another generation back on a surname I thought would never be cracked!

So as you can see, even though it’s been an optional week in the Do-Over program, I haven’t been idle.

Genealogy Do-Over Week 3


Tracking Research
Conducting Research

Still feeling a little behind from the week two mistep. In fact, we are officially on week four so I’m still a little behind. On the upside, week four is optional and I had a productive week three.

One of the things I did during week three was attend Thomas MacEntee’s Legacy Webinar, “My Genealogy DO-Over – A Year of Learning from Research Mistakes” very generously offered for free for the live recording and then a week after that. It was invaluable! Aside from being able to “meet the man behind the plan” we got to watch him use his Research log live. It really made the value of the log stand out.

The Legacy team hosted an after party and Geoff gave a walk through of the Legacy software. I was really impressed with the source writer, to do list, and a few other things we saw. So I downloaded the free version of Legacy and RootsMagic to play around with. I hadn’t planned to switch software, I use Family Tree Maker now and love that it syncs to Ancestry. But the to do/plan function in Family Tree is woefully lacking compared to Legacy and Rootsmagic. Overall I liked the feel and function of Rootsmagic over Legacy and so that’s what I’ve decided to use for my Paternal tree.

I haven’t gotten a lot done as far as my own research. It’s been a busy week and my top priorities haven’t left much time for genealogy. But I have made arrangements with two of my aunts to interview them for my do-over. My dad lives in the same city so I’ll be meeting with him, too. That will get me on the right path for week two and give me a good foundation to really get into the research. While I wait for the calendar to turn enough pages to interview my aunts, I am pulling together my list of questions and making a few notes. I also need to revisit the Access database I created and make a few modifications based on the Thomas’s research log. I can also work on entering my handwritten to-do list into Rootsmagic. So there’s plenty for me to do in this optional week.

Genealogy Do-Over Week 2

OR, “How I nearly got behind because I didn’t read the instructions carefully.”


Setting Research Goals
Conducting Self Interview
Conducting Family Interviews

This week, we are back to basics; writing down what you know. The first part of our assignment is to conduct a self-interview, wherein we write down (on a Family Group Sheet or on notepaper or other chosen method), information relating to ourselves and our family. Birth, marriages/divorces, children, etc. We should also choose a format for the interviews, both ours and family.

The second part of our assignment is to make a LIST of people we would like to interview for the same information. For instance, my list includes my father and all his siblings. This is where I got turned around. I started a list and then got a little overwhelmed at the idea of trying to interview everyone in a week! I stopped my list and went to pinterest to look for interview question ideas. I started thinking about the interviews of my now-deceased Grandparents I had on dvd and cd and the job of getting those transcribed in a week. And then I looked at the state of the house, the length of my to-do list, the amount of overtime I would be working in the week ahead AND remembered I have family coming to visit and just imploded. *poof*

Where did I go wrong? You probably already know. The instructions don’t say “Interview Everyone.” It says “Make a List.” That thumping sound you hear is my head hitting my desk.

So true to my usual last-minute form, I am going to pick a format and do MY self interview tonight. I am going to work on my list of people I want to interview. Then I’m going to set some research goals (one of WILL be to interview the people on that list) and get a good night’s sleep. Because that to-do list doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter and the handout for Week Three will be in my inbox in the morning.

Genealogy Do-Over; Week 1, part three

Topics for Week One
Setting Aside Previous Research
Preparing to Research
Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Part Three: Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

For the “all-in” participants, Thomas asks or recommends we:

1. Create our own “Golden Rules of Genealogy”
2. Come up with a list of 5 top procedures that you can commit to.
3. Make a list of items you must have available when you’re researching

So here are mine. I wrote them down in my Genealogy Do-Over notebook, but this might give you some ideas and it certainly keeps me more accountable.

Golden Rules of Genealogy:
1) Slow Down
2) Evaluate Every Record
3) Cite!
4) Assume Nothing
5) Take a break when needed (whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 days)
6) Ask for help
7) Give Assistance

5 top procedures
1) Time and a Place
a. I have the habit of researching whenever I have 5 minutes. That’s not a good practice in the long haul, because it doesn’t give me time to log the search or results, focus on what I’m looking at, and finish up my research so it’s easy to find my place later. I am also known to haul the laptop downstairs to research while watching TV and then make 4 trips up and down the stairs because I forgot something. I need to create a space in my office (where all my research is) and just do my work there. I may not be able to schedule regular research hours, but I want to at least have a certain amount of time available to work when I sit down to do it. (Haven’t decided what that amount will be yet).
2) Review Record
a. Really look at it! Open the image if it’s available and scrutinize the information. I have learned the hard way that indexes aren’t perfect!
3) Cite, Cite, Cite
a. That copy of Evidence Explained is about to get some use!
4) Index
a. By this, I mean I will enter into the appropriate Access table, note on the FGS and note on the individual checklist.
5) Transcribe
a. To some extent this will be done by indexing. But an Index is not a full transcription. I will need to transcribe the full document before moving on. Still trying to decide how that part will work.

Must Have Items:
1) Pen and white out, Pencil and eraser, Hi-liter.
2) Family Binders – one with Family Group Sheets, one with individual checklists
3) Notepaper
4) Evidence Explained
5) Laptop
a. Family Tree Maker
b. Access Database