Thursday, August 10, 2017

Near the end of the journey?

Maybe it started with a casual question, to yourself or a parent or close older relative. Or seeing one of those commercials on TV about finding your origins using DNA, or those shaking leaves. Just a casual thought. And then - boom - it's 35 years later and you have a whole room full of genealogy information and find yourself going on a "genealogy vacation."

Now comes the next stage of the journey: bringing it down the home stretch. No one wants to talk about this or if they do touch on it at all, the advice is to "make plans about who gets your stuff." But what happens between now and then? I'm 70 and thinking about how long I have to get my stuff ready for the big handoff. Getting older has some downsides and one of them for many of us is not being able to travel any more so less time is spent on finding those missing records at distant archives. Some of us can't remember quite as well as we used to or see the computer screen or book page as well as we once did. We never know how soon this record hunting will all come to a halt. This reality needs to be faced and anticipated to the degree we are able.

The big question isn't who gets my stuff but what shape is it going to be in when they get it? What are my plans between now and when my genealogy goods get handed off to my niece or nephews. Am I going to ship it all the big binders Mom started to them in a series of cardboard boxes? Will it get put in their garages, assuming they even have garages? No, it needs to be packaged for the future. Digital.

So, I'm sitting here thinking about the form all of the genealogy stuff needs to be in. (Poor sentence structure, I know.) Frankly, this is a work in progress but let me share what I have so far and maybe you have some thought you can add.

You should be aware to that Mom started this genealogy thing back in the 1970s. She got a slow start but then it kept rolling, like a snowball, getting bigger as it went. Last year, and because Mom is 99 and has macular degeneration and can't see the computer any longer, I brought the remainder of her binders and notebooks along with all of her books here with me. (She's in Western Maryland and I'm in San Diego.)

These present a different sort of problem when it comes to archiving the materials. Also I should mention that Mom was very good at this and went to archives, churches, and courthouses you can't get to anymore. She copied documents and took notes while there. It needs to be organized, scanned, and generally converted to digital form. So this is where I am with Mom's material.

The tree that Mom started and I built is now on Ancestry and the latest version of it downloaded to Family Tree Maker resident on my computer which is backed up to an external hard drive and backed up to Carbonite. About 10 years ago, Mom's version of her tree only existed on her computer. If her house (heaven forbid) caught on fire, all of her work would have been lost. The first task was to copy over all of her digital files to an external hard drive, and that included all of her many versions of her tree in GEDCOM form. We decided that it was well past time to share her work with anyone who needed it so I uploaded it to Ancestry. The tree is public under the name "Virginia Williams Kelly's Big Tree".

Once there on Ancestry I got very busy attaching all of the available documents from Ancestry, attaching the census, book, index, Find A grave and all the rest of them to the appropriate individuals. Because there are over 60,000 people on Mom's tree I chose to focus on the "blood line" or direct line back, and included siblings but mostly stopped there when it came to investing time attaching all the records.

Next, I uploaded photos from Mom's collection for each member in the blood line. I think having a photo of your relative or ancestor is soulfully important, and if candid's were available, all the better.  As I went, if there were any important documents, such as a death certificate for an individual then it got scanned and uploaded. Remember, it's Mom's intention that her work be shared with as many other who might be interested and I share that attitude.

OK, so far Mom and I are sharing share our collective work with 1) members of the immediate family once the material is organized without dropping off a pile of boxed on someone's doorstep, and 2) with others by way of  our Ancestry Member Tree.

Then, a project started last year and to be finished soon is to write up the story of each of our bloodlines and tell it in the most interesting and fact-filled way we can. Last year I wrote up Dad's side, had it bound, and gave a hard copy to my brother and sister. A thump drive went to each of the nieces and nephews. This year I'm working on Mom's side. Now I'm wondering if a local library might be interested in it?

To tell the truth, I like having this narrative form of our family's history for a number of reasons. Obviously, it's the easiest way to see and understand the broad sweep of our ancestral lines, tell the big story back through the many generations. And this story form is the easiest way to get the younger generation interested.

There's research that shows the young folks do better in life when they know they came from resilient people and personally know the individual stories of our people. Every family has resilient people and a story that says our people met with adversity. suffered, persevered and overcame. In our family there's the story of our great grandmother who ran back into her burning home to save the babies. And her husband who rebuilt the house bigger and better, but on another street. See the pattern? Tragedy, loss, suffering and then they overcame. Mine did and I'm willing to bet that yours did too.

So here I am, ready for the next step and that's taking all of Mom's binders and notebooks and turning them digital. My schedule for the rest of the year - at least- is a big old scanning party! Once that's finished I can rest a little easier.

So, what's your plan for giving your genealogy stuff to the next generation? Boxes of binders or papers? Or will it be dumped ending up on the curb for the trash man?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The never finished tree: DNA proving otherwise

Weekly, someone will contact me because we match on either AncestryDNA or 23andMe. Mostly, we can find the common ancestor and a time or two we've found more than one shared ancestor. That's nice too because we're doubly connected.

I'm lucky because I got a big head start from all the genealogy work Mom did. She worked on the family tree from the early 1970 and when she had to stop due to eye problems she had almost 70,000 folks on the tree. Sure, many are way out there on limbs connected to other limbs, and so on, but she got more right than not.

Truth be told and because she's a great genealogist, she still worries about the accuracy of it all. When someone contacts me because they see their ancestor in this blog or because of a DNA connection, it's rare for them to tell me that I have it wrong. She's that good and I've been rechecking her work as I go along, finding new records not available to her.

There are exceptions to this and one of them has to do with a particularly confusing bunch of Workman chromosomes. I match people I shouldn't. And because DNA doesn't lie, if you do it right, my suspicion is that the confusion has to do with a man named John Workman.

Their John Workman on the confusing match trees, is John the Mormon. He was born in Cumberland, MD and went "out west" as part of that great Mormon migration. Here's the Find A Grave listing for John the Mormon and there's so much incorrect about it I hardly know where to start! Let me just say that, yes, there were early Workman in Maryland in the 1600s but they have nothing to do with the Workman family who came to Western Maryland in the late 1700s who were Dutch and came to New Amsterdam in 1647, then New Jersey about 1700.

I'm certain about who my John Workman is and that he was the son of Isaac Workman, one of many by this name, who moved on to Ohio about 1820. I have that paper trail nailed!

Thing is, these other John the Mormon people are showing up on my DNA match radar. And a couple are adamant that I'm wrong. One is quite offensive about it too. Never mind.

So here's the interesting part. I know who my John Workman is and who his parents were and children too. Have it all documented. So when these other folks came at me with the DNA thing and their John Workman and insisted that I am incorrect, at first I got defensive. Then I just sat back and thought, guess we just disagree.

Imagine this situation, if you will. By the 1780s, maybe as many as 100 Workman people were in Allegany County living in very close proximity to each other, all ultimately descended from a couple who came to New Amsterdam in 1647. They migrated in clutches - Brooklyn to New Jersey, then Pennsylvania, and on to Allegany County MD - then split up and moved on in small groups.

Have been collecting names and ancestors and keeping a chromosome spreadsheet when I can get the information. But there's a number of projects on my To Do list. I'll get on this one in a while. It needs to be done. Back before 1800 all of these Workman were moving around and naming all of their children John, Isaac, Nimrod, Cuthbert, William, Samuel and Stephen, and all in the same place. Good grief! DNA might be the only way to sort it out.

As a side note, John the Mormon is a very big deal and to say that you descend from him is rather  important. Of course you see what I'm getting at here. Not saying that's what's going on but simply suggesting a possible motivation to be connected to John the Mormon rather than my humble John the farmer out in Western Maryland.

We all know our trees are never finished and that they all contain mistakes. It can hardly be any other way. Once you get past a certain point, going back in time, records are hard to find. Maybe DNA is the only way to sort it all out. Maybe.


http://www.workmanfamily.org/histories/JWorkmanBook/index.html

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/john-workman



Monday, December 26, 2016

Started another blog: The Rooted Tree


For a while now I've been thinking that the blog needed a facelift. It's been going on for over 550 posts since 20 May 2011. I've connected with cousins who are new to me and that was a major objective. I've learned so much from them! And I've learned about what works and doesn't for me in a blog. And maybe my writing has improved, if marginally.

I wasn't sure about what I was looking for in a blog facelift. I had a name for it, The Rooted Tree, and felt that it embodied the spirit of the thing, the concept that one's tree is best when it's rooted in research and proper documentation. While this blog was very much about my personal family history journey, The Rooted Tree would be about the process of research and documentation of one's lineage, in all it's guts and glory.

So far, as of today, there are just six posts to The Rooted Tree. Each one of them takes time for the concept to develop, rough it out, build in details and then write it. Finally, and this is the most difficult part for me, I go back and examine each and every element closely, cite the sources, and test for logic. I'll not get it 100% right each time, that's a given.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to post here but in a less formal and structured way. Just a couple of friends chatting. I'm not going for quantity as I did here. I'm hoping that The Rooted Tree will be a rooted blog. Come on over and see what's going on.

https://therootedtreeblog.wordpress.com/



Genealogy Project Wins Christmas!



That's my niece there, reading one of the books about our ancestry. (See stories below.) There were two books, one with the charts and tables, and the other contained stories of all the major lines on my Dad's side going back as far as we can now trace.

She's interested and that's what I'd hoped for. Maybe, some day down the line, she'll have the time and want to pick up the search. Time will tell. If that time does come, and even if I'm gone, she'll have a head start.

My sister got the printed version and my niece and nephew both received thumb drives with all of the documents.

Finally, I feel that the work will not disappear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What to do with your genealogy files: update: Our Fascinating Family!

If you take a look at the past post right there, below, you'll see that I'm busy writing my Christmas present to my siblings. Shh, don't tell them, but it's a report from our family tree!

After the chart and report had been generated in Family Tree Maker and printed, it looked, well, seriously boring! There was not one little trace of the excitement I felt when working on my tree! How could anyone be expected to get thrilled about our fascinating family looking at this document?

I wanted a document that equaled my own excitement at the discoveries that had hooked me from the start, and had kept Mom's attention starting in the 1970s and going hard at it until just a couple of years ago. But, how was that going to happen? Tell you what! I think I just stumbled into a way to get closer to what we all want: a document that your descendants will pick up, read, and get to know more about their family's heritage. I never thought I could write an easy 45 pages about just one family line, but once I started it was easy, relatively speaking. I simply stumbled into the answer about how to get this done and here's the story.

I started with the Workman line because I've been spending time on a project documenting who owned which lots in Western Maryland just before 1800 so that line seemed like the natural place to begin.  I had a lot of charts identifying who was where and owned what, and when. But I knew from experience that the only person it was going to excite was me... and definitely not even the husband;)

Started by opening a document and save it, of course. Took a moment to write down on the first page a couple of distinctive things about the ancestors in this line. Our Workman ancestors came from Holland to New Amsterdam in the 1600s so I began there. The immigrant ancestor owned the Brooklyn Ferry and much land in the area. His son Peter was one of the first settlers in New Jersey so I had to mention that. Then his son Isaac had a son Cornelius and they both ventured into the vast wilderness trapping furs. Others followed and that's how we come to those lots I mentioned up top, owned by the Workmen family. With that outlined, I began compiling the long story of the immigrant from Holland, his English father, and what happened after they landed in Manhattan and then moved to Brooklyn, some over 350 years ago.

Then I pulled in all of the interesting documents and photos resting in my files placing them in order. I was careful to cite sources in short form as I went along.

Next I opened my Ancestry tree and had both the document and the tree visible on the screen. In that way I was able to easily copy names, dates and locations for all individuals in each generation. And before moving on I checked each of the offspring (those not in our direct line) for fascinating facts or interesting documents, maps or photos. The generations practically built themselves.

Last I added anything I could remember from my childhood or told to me by Grandma. The icing on the cake was all of the photos Mom has been saving all of these years.

At this point I had a decent but very rough draft and after a fresh cup of coffee, I started editing it and building in smooth transitions from generation to generation. As a treat to myself I added a little speculation and personal conclusions with explanations by saying things like, "it might be concluded," or "perhaps."

Before I knew it, all 45 pages were finished. The very last page listed all of the things that still might be researched plus questions or doubts I had concerning this ancestral line. I wanted to leave clues for any family member who comes after.

Oh sure, there are other better more scholarly ways to approach this type of project. I could have made notes for years, use a fancy program to put the notes in order or whatever. But that's not what happened. What did happen is a Christmas present.

I had been feeling, especially after my last milestone birthday, that I better get going and start preparing all of the collected research and family biographies in such a way so as to tempt a future generation to jump in again. And we all know that I'll be long gone when that happens! All along I've been keeping things organized and tidy as well as backed up. Made sure the appropriate people have certain passwords and account info. Have scanned a lot and there are still some of Mom's binders that could be scanned too, but that's filler work for a rainy day. Now I feel that these family histories are just the thing I've wanted so that I can be sure the work is carried on.

These are the families.

I know the story about when Grandpa Kelly went to Florida and came back and announced to grandma that he was selling the house and moving to Florida. That's when she told him that the house was in her name! Too good not to pass on!

I know the story.

I know the story.

I know the story.
 
And now, so will they.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What to do with your genealogy files and research?

So, what do we do? Leave it to a library or archive? Find a family member who wants to carry on? All of those have their benefits and flaws. Ugh.

Recently I was thinking about how to share Mom and my genealogy research with my brother. He's curious but not an avid user. And my sister too. She's interested but hasn't the time to delve in. So of course as a first step I synced my Ancestry member tree with my Family Tree Maker and the printed out some reports. Was going to have that bound but it looked boring, even to me and I love this stuff. So, how could I make it look spiffy and interesting? If it looked sexy then there was a chance that my sibs or some family member might pick it up and give a look, maybe read some of it and get further interested.

One of the things I did here on the blog a while back was the Surname Saturday blogging prompt. Did it for the major surnames on the tree back about four generations. Click here to see one about the Workman family. I posted them dutifully for a while them other things caught my attention. You know how it goes. But those Surname Saturday posts were the closest thing I had to a write-up on the various lines, so I started there and drug one out to see if it would work as a base for something interesting.

Workman was the first up. I had a lot of info on that line and jumped right in editing the Surname Saturday post. It went pretty well and moved along seemingly under it's own steam. Added some old photos, then stories from childhood about relatives on this line, especially those about Grandma Kelly whose line this is. Added wills, land deeds and court documents because brother and sister are both lawyers. I grabbed up anything that explored the story of the Workmans going back as far as I knew and had researched and that takes us back to about 1600.

Of course, there was special attention paid to calling out family stories and conjecture versus facts and documents. I am still conflicted about footnotes and if they should be included. Seems too counterproductive to keeping up interest in the document if the pages look bogged down with sources. But I do want to include them. End of chapter? End of book? Feeling like there's no 'right' answer.

The approach here is for it to read like a personal conversation with my sibs, having a chat about the ancestors, telling what was exciting about them. Sharing the mysteries still to be uncovered, the evidence that's not enough to draw a conclusion, yet. And pictures and old documents, maps. Visual salt and pepper.

Even though the Surname Saturday posts gave me a start, this has become so much more! I started with just three pages and I'm up to 35 and no where near finished. I'm excited because this isn't just a lineage chart, it's the saga of one American family that's emblematic of so many others. As I go, I come to understand much more about the long arc of our family's story in America. It helps me see the elements that makes us, us.

Not yet finished but I have until the holidays. What I can say is that it's coming along better than I envisioned and at this point, it practically writing itself.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Tombstone Found: JOHN COMBS and PERCY CEMETARY and the DAR!

Have no passion for all CAPS, but just had to use them because I'm that excited to share this story:) While at mom's back in May, in Frostburg in Western Maryland, went to see Percy Cemetery. Percy dates from about 1830, with some burials earlier. It was first the major burial place for the Methodist Church in town but then expanded to receive many of the town's prominent citizens until the more contemporary Frostburg Cemetery opened. But first, some background.

I put in a DAR Supplemental Application (supplemental to my original application for Patriot Nehemiah Newan) for John Trimble a while back and received an AIR which is DAR-ese for Additional Information Required. They pointed out that Margaret Trimble Combs, daughter of Patriot John Trimble and wife of John Combs, was lacking a precise death date. When I looked at what I submitted, sure enough, they were right and I could do better!

I narrowed down Margaret's death date by following John and Margaret's participation in the Methodist Church and then Margaret's disappearance from their list of congregants. 1849. That's when she died. And she was missing in the 1850 census too, which was the source document I originally submitted. So her death date was between October 1849 and February 1850.

But where was she buried? John, her husband, was buried in Percy Cemetery and a nice stone was still there stating his death date. Margaret was probably buried there too, but there was reportedly no stone.

John Combs was wealthy and prominent in the Methodist Church giving land for it and presumably supported it with donations. It would be reasonable to suggests that Margaret was buried in the plot adjacent John and that there had been at one time a nice big stone like his. Yet no photo of it was in Mom's tombstone file or on Find A grave.

So off Mom and I went to see if we could locate John Combs' stone and see if Margaret was there but had been overlooked.

John Combs stone.
 
That's John's stone there on the right and see that small stone leaning against the tree? Check this out, below!
 
Right, it says Margaret!!
 
Here's the line-up with Margaret's stone in the foreground and John's off in the back, left.


Here's the photos of what I found. You can see John Combs' stone and then look! There's the top of a stone within five feet of his, leaning against a tree that says "MARGARET". I'm willing to bet the farm that it's her stone!
Of course that's not going to satisfy the DAR genies but it satisfies me.
And here's the wild and crazy part. In the wide view photo up top, you'll see a house right in back of John's stone. That's my Grandma Kelly's house and they were grandma's 3rd great grandparents. WOW! John and Margaret were within 100 feet of me as I played on Grandma's lawn as a kid!
Margaret, you were there all the time, dear girl.