"If you can't get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance"
-George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Overcoming Murphy's Laws in Genealogy

I said I'd do it, so here it is.... Overcoming Murphy when he comes to 'help' with your research.

#1 The records you need for your family history were in the courthouse that burned.

Burned, blow up, flooded, etc.  Every genealogist has had this happen, if you don't think you have look up the 1890 US Federal Census.  So how to tackle this one?  Try checking other local repositories.  I'll use Great Grandparents Thomas and Henrietta Fitzgerald as an example.  They emigrated from Pennsylvania to Michigan to a little place near Cadillac, Michigan called Hollister.  According to their obituaries they were charter members of the Hollister Methodist Episcopal Church.  Yay!  What a great place to find family records....guess what....the original church burned down taking all those lovely records with it.  So where else can I and did I look?  I found their death information in the liber books at the Wexford County Clerk's office.  (I had those before the obit, but this is a good example where to look).  I could also look for death records at the state level for them and their children.  In fact if you have Michigan ancestors who died between 1897 and 1920 you can access a huge collection of online images of state death records at seekingmichigan.org.  Check some of my previous blog entries for more on Seeking Michigan.  Another place I could research my great grandparents is at the local genealogy library.  I could also check into the current church to see if there are any post fire records of my family.  Another place to continue to look is the local newspapers.  My Great Grandfather was also a members of the Hollister Grange.  I wonder where those records might be.
Another source of information I found for Great Grandpa was the National Archives.  Great Grandpa served during the civil war and I was able to obtain his military records.  There is a fee charged for the records so make sure to check out their website for the most up to date information.  (www.archives.gov).
Another source to check would be the church where they were married at in Pennsylvania.

These are just a few ideas to help you overcome.  Please feel free to share additional ideas in the comments!  I love to hear from my readers.
Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I'm Feeling Inspired

I was cleaning in my desk yesterday and I came across Murphy's Law for Genealogists.  A fun, but all to often true, list of the  obstacles that we frequently face as genealogists.  This inspired me to start writing about them and discussing ways to overcome these in one's research.
Here's Murphy's Laws:
Murphy's Laws of Genealogy

The records you need for your family history were in the courthouse that burned.
John, son of Thomas, the immigrant whom your relatives claim as immigrant ancestor, died on board ship at the age of twelve.
The public ceremony in which your distinguished ancestor participated when the platform collapsed turned out to be a hanging.
Records show that the grandfather, whom the family boasted, "He read the Bible at four years and graduated from college at sixteen," was at the foot of his class.
Your grandmother's maiden name for which you've searched for years was on an old letter in abox in the attic all the time.
When at last you have solved the mystery of the skeleton in the closet the tight-lipped spinster Aunt claimed, "I could have told you that all the time."
You never asked your father about his family because you weren't interested in genealogy while he was alive.
The family story your grandmother wrote for the family never got past the typist. She packed it away "somewhere" and promised to send you a copy, but never did.
The relative who had all the family photographs gave them to her daughter who had no interest in genealogy and no inclination to share.
A great-uncle changed his surname because he was teased in school. He moved away, left no address, and was never heard from again.
Brittle old newspapers containing the information you desired have fallen apart on the names and dates and places.
The only record you find for your great-grandfather is that his property was sold at a sheriff's sale for insolvency.
The portion of the index you need is continued in the next issue, only the publisher died prior to publication.
When you find the obituary for your grandmother, the information is garbled. Her name is exchanged with her daughter's, the whereabouts of her sons is unknown, the date for her father's birth indicates he was younger than she was.
The vital records director sends you a negative reply, having just been insulted by a creep calling himself a genealogist.

The document containing evidence of the missing link in your research invariably will be lost due to fire, flood, or war.

Your great, great, grandfather's obituary states the he died, leaving no issue of record.

The town clerk you wrote to in desperation, and finally convinced to give you the information you need, can't write legibly and doesn't have a copying machine.

The will you need is in the safe on board the "Titanic."

The spelling of your European ancestor's name bears no relationship to its current spelling or pronunciation.

That ancient photograph of four relatives, one of whom is your progenitor, carries the names of the other three.

Copies of old newspapers have holes which occur only on last names.

No one in your family tree ever did anything noteworthy, always rented property, was not sued, and was never named in wills.

You learned that great aunt Matilda's executor just sold her life's collection of family genealogical materials to a flea market dealer "somewhere in New York City."

Yours is the ONLY last name not found among the 3 billion in the world-famous Mormon archives in Salt Lake City.

Ink fades and paper deteriorates at a rate inversely proportional to the value of the data recorded.

The 37-volume, sixteen-thousand-page history of your country of origin ISN'T INDEXED.

The critical link in your family tree is named "Smith."- - - - - - - -

Your families never had attics, much less Bibles or boxes full of photos.

All real library "finds" are made five minutes before closing, when the copier is broken.

The correctly shelved books and correctly filed forms are never the ones you need.

The person sitting next to you at the research center is finding ancestors every five minutes...and telling you.

The e-mail address that bounces is the one from a person who listed your exact names. If you find a working address, you aren't related.

Your microfilm reader is the one that squeaks, has to be turned backwards, and doesn't quite focus.

Your cemeteries have no caretaker or records archive.

Alternate spellings and arcane names were your folks' favorite past times.

Your ancestors only knew three names, and used them over and over in every collateral line.

Your sister neglects to mention that the date she gave you, which you have researched, and sent to other researchers, was just a guess with no foundation, and she guessed because she "didn't like leaving that line blank."

Your mother neglects to mention that,"Oh, yes, we knew they changed their name.

The blot on the page of the census covers your grandmother's birth date!

The only overturned, face-down gravestone in the cemetery is your great-great grandfather's!

You finally find your ancestor's obituary in an old newspaper and all it says is "Died last week."

You finally get a day off from work to travel to a courthouse -- and when you get there it's closed for emergency plumbing repairs.

Over the next few weeks I will be working through these with some depth of though and some research on how to overcome when Murphy shows up to help you and me with our genealogy research!
For now, have a good laugh and a cup of tea and enjoy!
Happy Hunting!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My Genealogy updates....

It's been a busy genealogy week for me!
I have to admit that I didn't reach my goal for Billion Graves....between getting a cold a week ago and the frequent rain the past couple weeks I haven't been able to get out to the cemeteries to take photos.  But at least I'm still on the top 50 contributors for the month! 

Now for the fun stuff....

I received a file this week from my cousin and I was able, with his research, connect my lines to direct descendant of 4 Mayflower passengers!  Apparently the 'famous' couple Priscilla Mullins and John Alden are my 10th Great Grandparents!  I say famous that way because I have not heard of them, however I'm sure others have. John was the cooper aboard the Mayflower and Priscilla sailed with her parents and her brother, all of whom died the first winter in America, leaving Priscilla alone.  Priscilla choose to stay in the new colony rather than return to England where she had another brother and a sister living.  This couple, along with Miles(Myles) Standish, another Mayflower traveler, are subject to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish.  The poem makes for a good story, but there is no historical documentation of Mile Standish's courtship of Priscilla.

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins
 I've also found that Priscilla and John's son, John Alden, Jr. was accused of witch craft during the Salem Witch Trials.  Here is a good website for more information on the Witch trials.  Apparently John Jr was involved in freeing several Indians that were involved in orphaning many of the accusers and theory speculates that is really the reason why John Jr was accused.  John Jr managed to escape imprisonment and flee to New York where he and several other accused were held safe by others until the hysteria died down.  After the hysteria was over, John Jr returned to Salem, posted bail and the case was ultimately dismissed. 
Salem Witch Craft Trials
3rd Cousin 8 times removed.
My next exciting find this week is my 3rd cousin 8 times removed....President John Adams!  John Adams is descended through another Alden, this time a daughter, Ruth, whose daughter Hannah married into the Adams family.  This was extremely interesting to me to find this connection because Abigail Adams has always been one of my favorite women in history. 
Abigail Adams

2nd US President, John Adams
Feel free to share your fun finds in the comments!  I love hearing from my readers!
Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

BillionGraves Challenge Day 2

Ok so this is day 2 of work for me towards my goal of 50,000 photos.  My grand total of photo uploads as of today is 1328, which has also landed me 23rd on the leader board for photos contributed for the month!
Yup! That's me.  Ok, I'll be honest though, I'm trying not to get overwhelmed by the 50,000 photos required to win the ipad.  I'm just trying to focus on what I've done, and the good I've contributed to the world of genealogy by supporting free genealogy!  At least (if I read the BG blog right) I've earned the BG pin for being on the leader boards this month, not to mention some bragging rights too!
I hope those of you who are thinking about jumping on board do so soon and stay inspired! I still want to hear from all of you as well!
Happy Hunting!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

BillionGraves Challenge

Hi All!  For those that have been following me know that it's no secret that I support free genealogy.  Recently a new website has come onto the scene in promoting free genealogy called BillionGraves found at www.Billiongraves.com.  This is a site dedicated to photographing and transcribing cemeteries.  This month BillionGraves is challenging its users to upload 50,000 photographs or transcribe 75,000 records.  Sounds like a lot?  Well it is and it takes some dedication, but there's a prize! A free ipad mini! Yes that's what I said free!  Check out their website (above) for more details.  Plus anyone that makes the top 50 photographer list or top 50 transcriber list gets a BillionGraves pin.  Think it' impossible? Well, I'm going to prove that its not.  Tonight I uploaded 321 photos that took me about 45 minutes to photograph...with both kids in tow.  The mobile app is available for download...again check out their website for info...I don't want to steer anyone wrong.  I have an iPhone and I downloaded the app from iTunes.  Plus I didn't have to upload and use up my airtime data while I was at the cemetery taking photographs, I was able to upload my photos when I returned home and was connected to my wireless connection...also saving my battery time for photo taking in the cemetery.  And just for a frame of reference on usage...on my phone, I'm not saying everyone's phone is equal....I started at 100% charge when I reached the cemetery and I was at 71% when I left. 
Now the app itself is fairly easy to use.  There's also a tutorial on use of the app.  Plus the website adds additional features. 
So cheer me on as I work my way to 50,000 photos this month.  I'll keep you all posted on my progress as I go.  And I you're going for this challenge too let me know so we can cheer each other on!
Happy Hunting!!!!