Tag Archives: research

FGS Conference Events, Register by Friday!

I am so excited to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) Conference in Washington DC, August 21-24. Registration ends this Friday, August 2nd so get registered!

There is still room at the conference hotel (Omni Shoreham) for an incredible $169 (a steal for D.C.) which is good for a few days before and after the conference (see the conference website for complete details). If you want to do some research at the Library of Congress, the Daughters of the American Revolution library, or the National Archives, this is a fantastic opportunity! If you have never been to one of these repositories, there are several guided tours that still have space available, as well as a tour of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Check this page for more information.

In addition, this conference is different from previous FGS conferences. The society management topics are woven throughout the entire 4-day conference allowing you more choices in each time slot.

The Friday night event sounds fantastic, “Swing Back to the 30s with Your Ancestors” where you can represent one of your 1930s ancestors with live jazz playing in the background! Personally, I am excited for some of the luncheon speakers! There are still a few tickets left for those as well.

I will be speaking on Thursday, once on the society management topic “Create an Attractive Education Plan for Your Society” (T-217), once on research methodology “Unfamiliar Territory: Researching in a New (to you) Geographic Area” (T-232), and I’ll be participating in “Ask FGS! Panel with FGS Leaders” (T-247) with other members of FGS leadership.

This incredible opportunity is coming up quickly and I hope to see you there!

Thoughts About Online Trees

IMG_3012In our time as genealogists, we have probably uploaded a GEDCOM file or two (or a dozen). It seems that every month a new site (or an old one) has a system for uploading and managing your family tree on their website. The most popular site today for building a tree is probably Ancestry.com. There are others:

Each of these has their advantages. Ancestry.com probably has the best system for locating hints from their databases as seen by the “shaky” leaves that appear. FamilySearch’s Family Tree is more like a wiki where you don’t actually “own” the individuals in the tree but instead collaborate with other researchers and have the ability to have discussions or post proof arguments.

Family information didn’t trickle down the family tree evenly. My cousins probably know more about my Businger ancestors than I do because they lived nearby whereas my branch of the family moved “out west.” They most likely have more family photographs and papers than I do stored in their attics or basements. I happen to have a lot of information on my Miller ancestors simply due to the relationships formed and the relatively small “competition” pool to get old photos and papers (there’s me, my brother, and our one cousin Andy). However, think about those families not so many generations ago that bore eight, ten, twelve, or more children. There were a lot of children to pass these treasures down to, and it didn’t all flow evenly. If there was a rift in the family, these artifacts may have followed one line only. If there was estrangement, these might have gone to a family friend, or not have been saved at all.

Just like family information, online trees today are not all located on one site. Some people only put their tree up in one location. I happen to have mine in a few, but not “all” of them. Posting your tree online can be an exceptional research tool, especially if you are looking for collaborators; people who may have been on that side of the family tree where the information flowed more fully. By posting your tree online, and in several locations, you can cast a wider net and reach more potential cousins who are researching the same or connected family lines.

I have a few ideas on what I think are some best practices for posting your tree online:

  • Make sure your email address or other contact information is up-to-date. You could even include your social media contacts if you have them, your Facebook profile, Twitter handle, or other social media of your choice.
  • Make sure you keep your tree at least moderately updated. The problem with having many trees online is that there is not an easy way to keep them all updated at the same time, no syncing across sites. If you are not doing any attaching of documents like what happens at Ancestry.com, you could simply delete an old tree and upload a new GEDCOM periodically. However, I don’t recommend this if you do a lot of attaching from the host site. One solution: you can post a “skeleton” tree with basic information in order to “catch” those collaborators, then invite them to your better tree, wherever that is hosted, once you’ve made contact.
  • Attach as many source citations to your trees as possible. If you keep one main tree and then post skeleton trees to a variety of sites, make some mention of this in your profile information. Something like “This tree does not contain many sources, but if there is a name or family group you are interested in, please contact me for more information.” This will at least let them know that there are sources available.
  • There are other more obvious “rules” I like to follow such as not posting personal information of my living relatives, not spreading gossip or rumors about living people, or the recently deceased, and not copying the trees or work of others without their permission (and I mean by asking them directly, not just clicking “add to my tree” because of the “well, if it is out there, they must not mind sharing” attitude to sharing.

If you do not know how to make what I call a “skeleton” GEDCOM file, I recommend reading some of the help files and/or video tutorials that came with your genealogical software. But in a nutshell, there is usually a way to mark a line of people you’d like to create a GEDCOM for. For example, if I only want to post a tree for my Kindervater ancestors, I can choose to begin with one particular person and then in Reunion (for Mac) there is a command to mark all ancestors of said person, and I can also choose whether to include all children or not, all spouses or not, etc. What you choose here will create a larger or smaller file to post.

These are just some thoughts I have about online trees. I have been working on a project trying to identify the parents of a female ancestor. I have been combing through many online trees, most of which have no sources and appear to repeat the same information that I am not sure is correct. It is a lot of time-consuming work. Most trees have no sources, they don’t all have working emails, and not everyone responds to emails when they are working. Online trees can offer many useful clues and hints and send you in directions you may not have known to go, and perhaps some of the people posting these trees online were on the side of the family tree where the information flowed down more freely than mine. I will keep investigating.

Some helpful articles or resources I found online:

http://lisalouisecooke.com/tag/online-family-tree/

http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2014/10/01/6-tips-to-get-your-family-tree-off-to-a-good-start/

http://enchantedfamily.com/blog/family-tree-tips/

http://www.archives.com/experts/breland-claudia/online-family-trees.html

http://www.cyndislist.com/family-trees/online-family-trees/

*I love the Find My Past site a lot, and it is growing on me more and more with every addition and update. This is the only like of which I am an affiliate. If you click through this link and sign up with Find My Past, I will get a small amount of compensation. This is one of the ways I try to supplement my income and to allow me to provide educational opportunities for low cost. Many of the things I do are pro-bono. So consider using an affiliate link (from me or any other generous genealogists who are in the same boat I am).
**Please know that I am not affiliated with any of the other above links and do not receive any compensation from them when you click on their links.

How I Got Started

photo-13I recently had a reader ask me how I got started, more specifically, where I took my first genealogy class. So here is a quick summary of my genealogical education.

I have always enjoyed research. In college I was an art major and spent a semester as a research assistant for my art history professor. It was a blast. Also, I was one of those weird kids who was delighted every time a research paper was assigned in class. I love being in libraries and archives and this is probably one of the aspects of genealogy that drew me in.

When my first child was born in 2000, I felt myself losing brain cells. There’s only so much Sesame Street and Bob the Builder one can take in a day before their vocabulary is reduced to one-syllable words. As a stay-at-home mom I needed an outlet, some place where I could hang out with and converse with adults that also had a purpose. I had been dabbling in genealogy for a little while by this point so I found a local genealogical society and joined. (Hi Boulder Genealogical Society!)

A genealogical society usually offers lectures, classes, regional conferences and other people with experience from whom you can ask questions and grow as a genealogist. At the society I attended, I learned about genealogical methods, records, and other topics as well as about conferences and classes I could attend. Shortly after this I attended my first national conference in 2003. A national conference has the benefit of having a lot of lectures to choose from on a large variety of topics. You can also meet other people who are also researching their family history and begin a wider network of genealogists.

As for actual classes, I attended any regional conference that came my way. I begin in the Denver-metro area and there were many active genealogical societies who brought in a lot of high-caliber genealogists. I also began attending week-long institutes that focus on one topic for an entire week. And now I have found many online opportunities such as free or for-pay webinars that I enjoy attending in my sweat-pants and slippers in the comfort of my own home. I wrote a series of blog posts about these institutes which can be read here.

Other educational pieces I’ve done are:

So in a nutshell, that’s how I got started … and kept going … and am still doing. I enjoy all aspects of genealogy from the research to teaching to attending classes to writing.

What I Don’t Know, Part 11: That’s a lot of stuff I don’t know!

Ok, so this is really just a follow-up. Remember in the post on military records, I said that the information about Franklin Dimick being a Justice of the Peace led to some interesting information. Well, this is that story.

Sometimes I begin with this, sometimes I remember to do it later. But sometimes, I do a straight up Google search with the name I’m researching in quotes. Sanders Scroggins, Jeduthan Dimick and Franklin Dimick are such unique names I did just that. They didn’t turn up much except when I decided to look more into the fact that Franklin was a Justice of the Peace. A Google search for “franklin dimick” “justice of the peace” turned up a county history I hadn’t found before when searching for Hardin County histories.

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The first entry, “Memoirs of the lower Ohio valley: personal and genealogical…” leads to a Google Book. This is a full digitized version of that county history and gives biographical sketches for two of Franklin’s sons and discusses details about Franklin’s origins.

That was quite a long journey through records you can locate on the Internet (and I’m sure I missed many) in a short amount of time. One of my next steps is to begin writing up a biographical sketch of the research subjects. This is one of the quickest ways to highlight any holes in your research and where you might need to do more to strengthen your proof.

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I hope this series helped you learn more about distance research, what can be done online and in a short amount of time, and about Illinois research.

What I Don’t Know, Part 10: Repository Research Plan

Eventually we all have to leave the comforts of home and do some research in a repository whether it be a courthouse, library, archive, or cemetery. There are many things you can and should do from home before you go to be prepared. I will first scour the Family History Library’s catalog to see what can be ordered in to a local family history center for viewing.

For Hardin County, Illinois the catalog looks like this:

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Depending on what is available under each of those topics, I will order in at least the films containing the indexes for such things as deeds, wills, probate and vital records especially if I am planning a research trip to Salt Lake City in the near future.

Also, I will examine online information regarding local libraries, courthouses, archives and cemeteries for information on hours of operation, any costs involved, parking issues, copy fees, restricted items, and so on. There is nothing more frustrating than arriving at a small library only to discover they are closed on Wednesdays, the day you had set aside for a visit. I also visit their online catalogs and know exactly what I want to look at before I arrive.

If I can’t make a research trip in person, I will examine the online information for ordering procedures for courthouses and libraries, local volunteers or genealogists for hire, and local societies who offer look-ups. The Rosiclare Memorial Public Library has a list of genealogical resources available and an email for questions.

2014-03-31 11.06.14 pmCreate your research plan before you leave home. Do as much as possible before you even get dressed and you will have a more successful, productive and efficient research trip!

What I Don’t Know, Part 9: Other Online Sources Searched

After all of the “main” record types I mentioned in previous posts, I also looked at my favorite newspaper websites such as GenealogyBank, Newspapers.com, and Chronicling America. I did not find anything relevant in the time I had allotted to work on this project.

Another favorite online database is FindAGrave.com. This is a collection of tombstone photographs and cemetery listings. I did find several relevant entries for Dimick and Scroggins family members:

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There are several entries, including Sarah Scroggin(s) and Franklin Dimick in “Dimick Cemetery.” However, there are no photographs for either of them. Further research indicates that there are no tombstones or they are quite weathered and that this is a cemetery on private property, at one time being owned by the Dimick family. It is located near the town of Rosiclare, Illinois.

So, EVERYTHING is NOT on the Internet. At some point we have to put on clothes other than jammies and slippers and go to some repositories to further our research. However, there are still things you can do from home before you step outside and blink at the sun, that will be covered in the next post.

What I Don’t Know, Part 8: Military Records

It is always wise when working in the early to mid 1800s to check military records, either for War of 1812 or Civil War soldiers. There are growing collections coming online all the time for these 2 groups of soldiers’ records. The first place I look to determine if a person I’m researching was involved in the Civil War is the National Parks Service’s Soldiers and Sailors Database. This is an index to all who served in the Civil War on either side of the conflict. A quick search for Dimick and Scroggins provided the following 2 results:

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There was a soldier named Sanders Scroggins from Illinois.
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There was no soldier named Franklin Dimick (Sarah’s brother).

This told me that Sanders Scroggins enlisted during the Civil War. Sarah (his wife) had a brother named Franklin Dimick. No entry was found for him. Once I determined Sanders had enlisted, I began searching for more information about his service. One great online repository for military records is Fold3.com. There I found a copy of a Widow’s Pension from his widow (and third wife) Josephine Scroggins.

 

2014-03-31 09.59.49 pmFurther searching (at Internet Archive) revealed a copy of the Adjutant General’s report:

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It appears that Sanders only served for about a month from August to September 1864. The AG report also gives some description of what the company was doing during that time:

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Franklin Dimick was not to be left out, however. Searching at Fold3.com revealed that he performed an important role in his town:

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Franklin Dimick was a Justice of the Peace in Hardin County! (This information leads to an interesting find that I will share in a future post.)

 

What I Don’t Know, Part 7: Dimick’s Land in Hardin County

Similar to what I demonstrated in the last post regarding the Scroggins family land, I did a similar search for the Dimick family in Hardin County. Jeduthan and his wife Mary purchased land from the Federal government and the transaction is recorded at the General Land Office website:

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Jeduthan’s land was purchased in 1834. He died in 1837. Mary’s land was purchased in 1838, a year after his death. If you examine where each parcel of land was located you might notice something interesting. The entries in this database tell you where the land was located with what looks like a secret code. Jeduthan’s land is described as: NE1/4 of the NW1/4 in Township 12 South, Range 8 East in Section 32. Mary’s land is described as: E1/2 of the SW1/4 in Township 29, Range 8 East in Section 29.

Every township is numbered in the same way, beginning from the upper right corner of the township, moving to the left (west), then down and across to the right (east) and so forth. Each township is 1 square mile and consists of 36 sections or 36 square miles. If you examine Jeduthan and Mary’s land purchases on a map, they line up more or less like this:

2014-03-31 06.20.12 pmOk, the above map is not to scale but I know that the land they purchased lined up and gave the family a large farm. How does their land location compare to the Scroggins family? Using the GLO site’s map feature and Photoshop, I layered the two maps to line them up:

2014-03-31 09.39.29 pmSanders Scroggins land is within the green square on the left of the screen and Jeduthan and Mary Dimick’s land is within the square on the right. The families lived fairly close to one another, possibly attended the same church, social gatherings, or perhaps did business in the town of Rosiclare or Elizabethtown.

Using land records puts the families in a time and place and in relation to each other. By doing this exercise, you can see how your ancestors may have interacted or maybe determine if you are even working with the correct ancestors. If they lived too far apart, it might be a case of mistaken identity. However with names like Sanders Scroggins and Jeduthan Dimick, I think I’ve got the right men.

In the next several posts I will follow these men in vital, military and other records that are available online.

What I Don’t Know, Part 6: Scroggins’ Land in Hardin County

After reviewing the census and getting at least a beginning framework for the families I’m researching, I like to turn to land records and maps. This allows me to put the people in a physical location, and in relation to each other.

Illinois is a public land state meaning their lands were surveyed using the rectangular system. For my search I used two online databases to help locate the Scroggins and Dimick families:

These two databases seem to index the same information, however, you may find that one site is easier to use than the other. The GLO site has the advantage of having maps and original documents attached to the entries. Regardless of which site you use, always use the information to locate your research subjects on a map.

Beginning with the GLO records I found several Scroggins entries in Hardin County, Illinois.

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Sanders Scroggins bought land with two other men in 1851.
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Many men with the surname “Scroggins” obtained land from the federal government, including Chatten Scroggins in 1825.
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In 1855 Sanders Scroggins obtains more land.

The area in green is where Sanders Scroggins 1855 land is located. (This map can be obtained at the GLO database site.)

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The land is located northwest of Elizabethtown and Rosiclare.

I won’t bore you with all of the maps for all of the land transactions described above, but take a look for yourself if you wish. The GLO database is a rich treasure chest of information. You can find the original land patents and maps showing their locations.

The Illinois State Archives has an index of their Public Domain Land Sales. When searching for “Scroggins” I found the following entries:

2014-03-31 03.01.46 pmOften a capitalized “S” can look like a capitalized “L” so I am willing to bet that all of those “Landers” Scroggins are really Sanders’ land purchases. The Illinois Archive does not have digitized copies of the originals, instead you will get a transcription.

The next post will discuss the Dimick family’s entries and how the two families relate to each other on a map.

What I Don’t Know, Part 5: Census Records

Once I have oriented myself with the geography of a new research area, I generally begin looking for my research subjects in the census. I will start with what I know. Usually it’s that they died in a location, so working back to the census year just before their death date, I will locate them and then work backward. This constructs the family group(s) giving a rough skeleton to their familial framework. Census records can contain many errors but I find they are a great tool to get started and create a sketch of the family structure, often for several generations.

In the case of Jeduthan Dimick, I knew from his biographical sketch in the compiled genealogy that he died in 1839 in Pope County, Illinois. Using census indexes at Ancestry.com I located Jeduthan and his household in the 1830 census in Hardin County, Illinois.

2014-03-30 10.43.06 pmAny census before 1850 consists of the name of the head of household and then hash marks for the rest of the family members broken down by age and sex. The household for Jeduthan consisted of:

Jeduthan Dimick household analysis:
Males under 19 = 3       (possibly Fayette, Mary? and Franklin)
Males 40-49 = 1             (Jeduthan)
Females under 19 = 1    (Sarah)
Females 40-49 = 1         (wife Mary)

This is probably Jeduthan, his wife, 3 sons and 1 daughter, but we can’t be sure with no names to identify them by. However, according to the compiled genealogy I started with, Jeduthan had 2 sons and 2 daughters. It is possible the census taker counted one of the girls (Mary) as a boy, it is impossible to know, but I am fairly certain this is the right family since no other “Jeduthan Dimicks” showed up in the searches.

Chatten Scroggins, Sanders’ father, also shows up in the 1830 census, in Gallatin County, Illinois. If you remember my earlier discussion on geography, Hardin County was formed from part of Gallatin County, so we are looking at a nearby location to the Dimick family.

2014-03-30 10.48.57 pmChatten’s household consisted of:

Chattan Scroggins household analysis:
Males under 19 = 5         (John, James Lewis, Sanders and two unknown boys)
Males 40-49 = 1               (Chatten)
Females under 19 = 3     (Mary and 2 unknown girls)
Females 40-49 = 1           (wife Elizabeth)

This family probably consisted of Chatten’s wife, 5 sons and 3 daughters. Again, the children don’t exactly line up with what is indicated by the compiled genealogies but no other “Chatten Scroggins” showed up in my searches.

I did a similar search for the 1840 census, but knowing that Jeduthan Dimick died in 1839, it was difficult to locate the rest of the family in 1840. Likely they lived with friends or relatives in 1840 while they were getting their living arrangements in order. Since the 1840 census lists only the head of household, it is difficult to know right now where they are in the census.

The Scroggins household is located in the Gallatin County census enumeration. Sanders has moved into his own household and is living next door to his father’s home. He has only one female of about his age living with him, likely his first wife, and no children are living with him.

This is just the first step with the census records. I conducted this research through the 1870 census for the purposes of the program I put together. I would normally follow as many family members as possible through the 1940 census. I also found the families in the Illinois State Censuses that were available. Going through the census records, I was able to put the family groups together in time, place and relationship. This beginning work then allowed me to move on to other records and resources.