Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gone to the Family History Center

Whenever I feel stuck researching my British Isles ancestors, I go to the local Family History Center. Am very lucky indeed to have a fine one here in San Diego. On one specific day of the week the British Isles expert is there, delightful, and very willing to help. The strategy for me is to get organized so as not to waste her time shuffling papers, and pinpoint specifics before hand with which she can give some guidance.

My main task for this visit was to get more background on my great great grandmother, Jane James Williams (1815 - ????). I have been spending considerable time look for her coming to America with inconclusive results. Feel like I might not be looking in the right place. Something is wrong because neither Mom, Aunt Betty nor I can find any trace of the family here in the USA, in spite of having a photo of them all together taken in Troy New York. Stepping back from this brick wall, I want to know as much background as possible about their life in Wales leading up to their immigration.

I showed her the photo, proving once again to myself that they all came here, and then gave her the short version of my Welsh findings. She just up and asked what she could do for me right at the moment I was going to tell her what I was after! She's sharp!

What I wanted was her to just talk and tell me whatever came to her mind about life in Wales in the mid-1800s for a mining family in DYFED, South Wales. I'm glad I did it this way because she spilled out way more background information than I might have stumbled into otherwise. Here's a situation when asking an open ended question is way better than asking a closed end question:)

Here's a laundry list of just a few of the gems she brought up.

* The tin mining had dried up in Cornwall and so a lot of the miners went into Wales to work. Mining was mining and it didn't matter what was being mined.

* The miners were used to traveling for work and could easily be missing for census. She reminded me that the census was simply an inventory of who slept there last night, not family units per se.

* Filamore's Atlas and Index is a good source for finding towns and then looking for where the records were kept, the deposited dates, the IGI, and Registration District, all info needed to take the next step in finding the actual record.

* FreeBMD. She gave me an quick introduction to FreeBMD, my new fav toy, and how to find records. We plugged in what we knew and quickly went to Jane and Thomas's marriage record! Then she showed me how to order it online. Cool!

* My ancestors were religious non-conformists and were members of the Congregational Church when they got here. She said to look at Calvinistic-Methodists records as well as Congregational records. Checking it out on WIKIpedia I get a clearer picture of church affairs and notice a Peter Williams playing a roll. Wonder if he fits in to our tree... although Williams is as common as Smith here!

There was so much more in our two hour conversation! Am so glad I went!!

Image from the Archive:

Old Map of South Wales from
Filamore's Atlas and Index

The URL for this post is: http://nutsfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/2012/09/gone-to-family-history-center.html

Friday, September 14, 2012

Using FamilySearch

In a previous post I mentioned that my FamilySearch.org skills were wanting, or at least that's how I felt. And thanks from me to those of you who kindly offered suggestions to broaden my knowledge base:)

Someone suggested the tutorial videos in the Learning Center, and that sounded good to me. My objective was to start at the beginning and make sure I had a grasp of all that was there on the site and was using features to full advantage. And I do like watching videos so that's where I began.

It's paying off. I'm watching the introductory videos from the most basic onward. Have watched about a dozen and in just the first couple have picked up some good tips and tricks, mostly that have to do with features I've overlooked. Just these two tips, below, will make the whole effort worth it.

The first tips is about using filters in my search. By using a combination of search terms that widen the search as well as filters that limit the search I think that I'm doing a bit better of searching and finding. I liked it in the video when the narrator showed that just by x-ing the term out you could eliminate it. No need to start over. Cool!

The second tip that was totally new to me showed how to reverse the image in an effort to better and more clearly see the letterforms. The example was a census page that when reversed, that is when the dark writing on a light ground became light writing on a dark ground, sometimes the features of letters can be seen more clearly. Also cool! Honestly, guess I thought that reversing an image meant that everything was backwards;) Ha! But it was a tool that could help me out.

Now I'm starting to feel that I'm not missing the good features!

Here's a link to the videos mentioned in this post in case you want to watch some. Have fun!

Picture of the day from the Archive:

Aunt Louise Kelly Chaney, about 1941
My Dad's youngest sister,
And just as beautiful as this photo!

The URL for this post is: http://nutsfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/2012/09/using-familysearch.html

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All You Have To Say Is 9/11

Some day in the future I'll have to sit down and write a short autobiography so someone won't have to go to the trouble of assembling a word picture of me for the family history file. I know now that one of the memories I'll have to write about is the events both public and personal surrounding September 11, 2001.

We all have our own individual memories of that date and what it means to us. And our nation, it seems, is slowly coming about the process of healing and seeing it in a ever so slightly more historical framework. I'll be happy when the wounds of our hearts and minds have healed more. But it's gonna be a while.

I guess all of history's tragedies are like that. Reading about history, as we all do as we research our ancestors, is one thing. But being "in" history is quite something else.

I pause and remember with you.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Race Against The Clock

Do you ever feel as though you're racing against the clock's spinning hands? I sure do. Every day. I don't know where this feeling comes from as I really have ample time to devote to the pursuit of genealogy, or more precisely, a reasonably amount of time that should be spent by any human sitting in a chair, staring at the monitor's glowing magic, in a motionless trance!

See, there are all these dead people waiting to be found. And while they are obviously not going anywhere, I could at any time, fall off the edge of the world. Ya never know, right? So there are projects I really want to do and answers to be had, well, at least theoretically. I prioritize and make lists-a-plenty, moving forward in a somewhat orderly fashion. All is well and then the Race Against Time Monster rises behind my chair!

This monster tells me I'm not doing it fast enough nor hard enough, not looking in the right places. I am after all, a relative newbie (no pun intended.) I know that I must be wasting time on uneducated guesses, or malformed search pursuits. That's just part of the learning process. So what's with the Monster?

After pondering this a bit I think it's has to do with my concern that I'm not immortal. (Big revelation there.) And that I want all of Mom's good work and Aunt Betty's good work to be in some form or format that will insure that it gets transmitted down the generations. I think that when all is said and done, my mission if I am able to do it, is to get this stuff organized and put together for the future. Not that Mom and Aunt Betty haven't done that, and very well!

I look at the work done by those no longer with us, that has helped me the most, and I'm so impressed by the cogent way they pull it all together. Doesn't your heart race whenever you find a book or text about a particular family line?! Mine sure does.

I don't know what exactly I envision but it has to capture the imagination of younger people of each generation. Pictures, stories, charts so they can easily see who came from who. Sure, sources. You have to have sources.

So I'm thinking, as I sit in front of the monitor, about how it might be possible to bring together whatever exists now that falls under the umbrella of "family history". This is gonna take a while! But at least now I better know what I'm racing toward in this race against the clock.

Photo of the day from the Archive:

Me, 1951.

The URL for this post is: http://nutsfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/2012/09/race-against-clock.html

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recharging, Charging Forward

Every once in a bit, usually around some holiday or other, I have a slump. Maybe you do too? Don't get me wrong: I do love genealogy for a lot of reasons. But even with something you love, a break does a body good:)

What pulled me out of the Labor Day Slump of 2012 was a wonderful seminar sponsored by the San Diego Genealogical Society featuring Lisa Alzo yesterday. It was top quality and I couldn't have asked for more... or taken it because my head was full! Lisa was a wonderful speaker and for just $40, including lunch, what's not to like?

I love the intellectual stimulation and challenges a day like this brings. Sitting there listening to a well-crafted presentation and having my mind feel like it's free to roam and come up with other thoughts, other solutions as I look into each of the concepts presented. I keep a list going during times like this where I capture all of the random thoughts that come so freely flowing: blog topics, places to look for brick wall ancestors, new strategies to employ.

Here's an example something Lisa included in her first presentation that might apply to my recent quest looking for Jane James Williams my GGGM. Birds Of Passage, or those who come to a country and later go back to their homeland. Some stay put, wanting nothing more to do with The New World. But Lisa expanded that definition for me to include individuals who might have gone back and forth bringing over relatives and helping them get settled in America, then going back for others. This brought a new thought to the Williams family and had me thinking differently about some ships lists.

At lunch I randomly sat next to a fellow attendee and we got chatting about our interests. I mentioned the Williams people from Wales and she reminded me of a film Mom had talked about but I'd forgotten: How Green Was My Valley. Made in 1941 in black and white and directed by John Ford, it tells the story of hard life in a Welsh mining community. I saw it a number of years ago but I wanted to revisit it now in light of the Williams people. My luncheon companion said that she'd read the book and it was really nice... so when I got home I popped on Amazon and bought it for -- are you ready -- a penny!! Can't wait to read it:)

It did me a world of good to go to that seminar yesterday. Now I'm all charged up and ready to go:)

Photo of the day from Aunt Betty:

The Congregational Church of
Frostburg, Maryland,
about 1928.

Photo below cropped and numbered by Aunt Betty,
in an effort to identify everyone.
All identified except for about two dozen, mostly boys.
Good work, Aunty Betty!!

Mom thinks this might be the church choir
of which she and her sister were members.
Mom is number 31 and her sister, Dorothy is number 1.

Stained glass window in memorial to
Johanna Harris, Aunty Betty's GGM.
Beautiful and still there, special and precious.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I think that FamilySearch.org can be a terrific resource for me... but can't seem to find my way into it. OK, so maybe it's just me. I go there and look at the simple looking splash page and say to myself, D'uh... what do I do next? Yeah, it's me.

I need a good tutorial. No doubt about it. What I'm looking for is the definitive guide to getting started with FamilySearch. Something even I can understand.

I think the problem started back when I first used it, and liked it. Then stuff started to change there and people were talking about the new FamilySearch, as I remember it. Once when I was at the local Family Research Center being helped by a British Isles specialist, she made it look super easy. Then just when I thought I might have the hang of it, it changed... I think. Or maybe I didn't remember it well enough.

Whatever the issue, my memory or changes to the site, time is long past for me to pony up to the bar and find out how it works from the ground floor up ... and more specifically, how it can work for me, now.

Not that I'm a complete dunce about it. Really, I did find my way to some lovely Wales Census returns just a couple of days ago.

I guess what totally freaked me out was when I ordered two microfilms, paid, then couldn't get back to the order page. Maybe I freak out easily;)

If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them. It's a big internet out there:)

Photo of the day from the Archive:

Joseph Edward Whetstone (1816 - 1897)
My maternal GGGF
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