Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day 5– Gather ALL clues

Sherlock gathered ALL of the clues from the scene of a crime even if he didn’t know if they were relevant or not. Genealogists make the mistake of gathering only what they think is important and then they miss something vital along the way. Take the time to look at the neighbors in the census records. Do background research on the location to see what was going on during that time period. Extract ALL the names mentioned in official documents. Make note of the deeds before and after the ones you are interested in. Look at everyone with the same name in the same area and develop a profile on each one of them. Over time you will be able to figure out which facts go with which person and then you will be able to exclude those that don't belong to your person of interest.

“As I watched him I was irresistibly reminded of a pure-blooded, well-trained foxhound, as it dashes backward and forward through the covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes across the lost scent.” [Watson observing Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet"]

“Well, Mr. Holmes, what are we to do with that fact?”
“To remember it – to docket it. We may come on something later which will bear upon it.” [Inspector Lestrade to Holmes and Holmes' response, "The Six Napoleons"]

"I had at the outset no particular reason to connect these journeys with the disappearance of Godfrey Staunton, and was only inclined to investigate them on the general grounds that everything which concerns Dr. Armstrong is at present of interest to us…” [Holmes to Watson, "The Missing Three-Quarter"]

"Much of what I tell you is no doubt quite irrelevant, but still I feel that it is best that I should let you have all the facts and leave you to select for yourself those which will be of most service to you in helping you to your conclusions.” [Watson to Holmes in a letter, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"]

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A husband for Katie

The background information for this story is in Mystery Marker and Update to Mystery Marker. It has been a year and a half since I last looked at this.  I am a big believer in two heads are better than one so yesterday I posted a query on a Facebook group that I belong to and Mississippi researcher “GJ” jumped at the challenge.  We started trading information back and forth and within three hours we had the answer. We used newspapers, city directories, social security applications/claims, draft registrations, census records and Find a Grave to put the pieces together.

Catherine Elizabeth “Katie” (Hickman) Warden married Oliver Searcy Simmons.  It was the second marriage for both of them. We have a paper trail but I will be calling the Forrest County Circuit Court to request a copy of their marriage license/certificate to seal the deal.  I already had Oliver in my file as I knew I would.  I doubt if there is a Simmons in Perry, Forrest, Lamar or Marion County that I don’t know.  What I didn’t know is that Searcy remarried after his first wife died.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another must have book

Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

This book is in a workbook format like the others in this National Genealogical Society’s series. Here are the others:

I have the previous three books and recommend them.  I am looking forward to the new book which will begin shipping on May 22nd.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

More on spreadsheets (some mistakes)

Someone on the Excel-ling Genealogists Facebook group page wanted an example of how I use a spreadsheet to analyze data.

This is actually an old spreadsheet I did and now I want to go back and clean it up to make it better. In a nutshell, there were THREE Mathew Pattons in Augusta County, Virginia at the same time. I am trying to separate the three men.

DISCLAIMER: You will see that I am using Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, a three volume set of document abstracts that is available online. I normally harp on the importance of obtaining copies of the documents themselves but right now I am compiling data for a process of elimination. Abstracts are exactly what I need for this.

I inputted every entry for every Patton (not just Mathew). I also had a couple of newspaper clippings that helped differentiate the three. My mistake with the spreadsheet was that I needed columns for other people mentioned in the document so that I could pick up patterns of who each person was associated with. This was a big mistake because I have 354 documents entered! I will look through the old spreadsheet and see the max number of witnesses for an event and then create that many extra columns. 

Another thing I need to do is reverse the names so that they sort better. I need James Patton and Col. James Patton to sort next to each other so I need to do Patton, James and Patton, James Col. Titles are very important when trying to separate men with the same name. Another clue is when a man always used his middle initial.

I also want to add a column indicating the type of document. This won't help with the analysis but it will make it tidier. Since I will have associates listed I might get rid of the Event column completely and maybe add a comments column in case there is something really important I need to mention.

Anyway, I wanted to show an early attempt at a spreadsheet along with some ideas of how to make it better.




I will be able to sort by the person, the associates or the date. I can also sort using multiple parameters. The more ways you can sort your data, the easier it will be to see the patterns you need to see.

Monday, May 8, 2017

I have no clue but I am very happy about it

UPDATE: Thank you Tim Firkowski for letting me know these records are actually in RUSSIAN! I did tell y’all that I had no clue and I also told you that I would probably need to learn some Russian too.  So here are some additional resources:
FamilySearch’s Russian Word List
FamilySearch’s Russian Alphabet Key
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 1: The Russian Alphabet
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Russian Names, Dates, and Key Words
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Russian Records

The Polish Archives in Łódź just sent me scans of seven death certificates. I can’t read one word of Polish and I don’t even know which one belongs to which person yet but I don’t care. The most important thing is I now have a new resource for a very important branch of my family, my maternal grandfather’s line.  These death certificates are just a start. The Polish Archives also has birth and marriage records and my grandfather’s family was in the area that became Poland since the early 1700s at the least.

All I have to do is learn a bit of essential Polish and I am well on my way. Chances are I will eventually need to learn some essential Russian also.  I do have German covered though.

My starting point is FamilySearch’s Polish Word List and their Polish Alphabet Examples. The handwriting on all seven death certificates is very clear which will make things much easier.

Look what else I found:
Reading Polish Handwritten Records Lesson 1: Polish Letters
Reading Polish Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Names, Dates, and Key Words
Reading Polish Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Polish Records

I can’t say enough about how great a resource FamilySearch is.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

When the county clerk does you a favor (or not)

When you contact a county clerk and request a copy of a marriage record it is important to tell the clerk that you want a copy of the ORIGINAL record as it is in the marriage book. If not, you might get this:


The clerk thinks she has done you a favor by copying the information out of the marriage book and putting it on this nice certificate.  Here is the copy from Marriage Book D, page 240:

Simmons-Boon marriage 1880

In the original record Isaac’s name is Wm. Isaac Simmons. The clerk totally missed Isaac’s first name. Notice that Mary is listed as Mary Boon (no e) as well as Mary Boone (with an e). Also notice that the minister is listed as D. Boon. This might not seem significant but it actually is. The clerk transcribed their names as Boone without noting the two spellings. Their surname was actually Boon with no e. D. Boon was either Daniel her father or Daniel her brother. Both were preachers as was another brother. The original record also tells me that they applied for their marriage license on 18 November 1880. It that earthshattering news?  No, but I still have a more complete picture knowing when they applied for their marriage license vs. when they actually got married. In this case it isn’t a big deal but what if there was a 2 month difference?  I would try and find out why. The clerk’s name doesn’t appear on the transcribed certificate either.  A. G. Webb could have easily been someone that I know since I am familiar with the entire community. This marriage puts A. G. Webb at a specific place and time and gives me his occupation.

Here are Daniel Boon’s six remaining children out of 15 circa 1925. From left to right: Margaret Elenda (Boon) Hartfield, John Moses Boon, Elisha Boon, Thomas A. Boon, Mary Catherine (Boon) Simmons, Reuben Boon. 

Boon, Daniel 01

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Don’t be an online genealogist estimates that only 7% of the world’s available documents are online. I want you to think about that. Do you have a brick wall that you can’t break through?  Maybe this is the reason. Online records are great and I love being able to sit back in my office and go click click click with my mouse but I also do old fashioned research at courthouses, archives, and libraries. I guess it might be easier for me because when I started out in 1991 I didn’t own a computer. It didn’t matter because there wasn’t any genealogical anything online. 100% of my research was done onsite or by snail mail. Some genealogists just starting out don’t understand this. I get many emails from people telling me they can’t find so and so and I ask them did you check ______? I can feel the deer-in-the-headlights reaction in their answer.

The trick is knowing what records are available for that specific location and time period and then knowing how to access them. There are many resources that can help you with this. Here are a just few books to give you an idea of the type of reference material out there that can guide you.

Breland, Claudia. Searching for Your Ancestors in Historic Newspapers. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Claudia Breland, 2014.

Darrow, Carol Cooke and Susan Winchester. The Genealogist's Guide to Researching Tax Records. Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2007.

Eales, Anne Bruner and Robert M. Kvasnicka, editors. Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States. Third edition. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000.

Eichholz, Alice, editor. RedBook, American State, County, and Town Sources. Third edition. Provo, Utah: 2004.

Hone, E. Wade. Land and Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997.

Meyerink, Kory L., editor. Printed Sources, A Guide to Published Genealogical Records. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1998.

Neagles, James C. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal & State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1998.

Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians, Your Guide to Genealogical Treasure. San Jose, Calif.: CR Publications, 2004.

The Handybook for Genealogists. Tenth edition. Draper, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2002.

Szuc, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Third edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2006.

Another great resource is the FamilySearch Wiki. This is the first thing I check when I am working in an unfamiliar state, county or record group.

It is a good idea to keep “locality files.” This is a term from an old Family History Library Research Guide on how to organize your paper files. These Research Guides are what people used before the FamilySearch Wiki. Today most genealogists keep electronic notes in applications such as Evernote or OneNote instead of using paper files. You need to create your own reference material for each county, state, country you do research in as well as general reference material on the major record groups (military, land, probate, etc.).  This will save you time the next time you are researching someone in that same jurisdiction and time period.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Day 4–Go with the obvious

When you are forming your hypotheses, go with the obvious answer first. You can always amend your theory later. Here are a couple of very simple examples:

If you see John Q. Citizen, age 32, living with Mary Jane Citizen, age 30 on the 1850 census, the obvious conclusion is that they were husband and wife even though the census doesn't say so. Yes, they could be brother and sister or some other relationship but go with the obvious until other clues come in that cause you to rethink your position.

John and Mary Jane Citizen were living in Perry County, MS in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 per the census records. All of their children were born doing that time period. The obvious conclusion would be that all of the children were born in Perry County, MS. It is possible that Mary was visiting her sister in Marion County in 1864 when son Thomas was born but that is a more unlikely scenario. Again, you may find some evidence further down the road that leads you in that direction but for right now you can make the assumption that the children were born in Perry County.

“Perhaps, when a man has special knowledge and special powers like my own, it rather encourages him to seek a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand.” [Holmes to Inspector Stanley Hopkins of Scotland Yard, "The Abbey Grange"]

“It is possible.”
“More than that. It is probable.” [Watson to Holmes and Holmes’ response, “The Five Orange Pips”]