Friday, November 30, 2012

Beginning at the Beginning

So you know, I have this project going, the non-book project. Am trying to work on it day by day and keep the momentum strong. Easier to say than do. I know from a couple of previous experiences writing books that in the beginning and before it all gets weighed down under too many tangents, things are fun. Then later it's not so much fun as it is hard work. It's fun now.

Have an outline and it looks solid. The next step is to write an introduction.

The goal of the introduction - and the reason that it's written first - is to be a model for the book, to be the book in miniature, so to speak. It tells the why and the wherefore of the book and lays out chapter by chapter what the book contains. If the writer can, it's intended to give the reader a taste of the adventure, romance, and excitement that they will find in the pages that follow.

The original purpose for doing it this way was that you'd then have a proposal to show a publisher. It has worked for me in the past - a working method with which I'm familiar - so I'll do it this way even though at most this will be a self-published affair.

It's fun to write an Introduction! I like it:) It's your first shot at getting the flow of things going and a first shot at seeing where your boat holds water and where some of the more obvious leaks are. For that reason it's fine to take time writing this bit... or at least that's what I'll have to remind myself whenever I get frustrated and get bogged down, which is bound to come. I'm expecting a very leaky boat!

I do like constructing the introduction because it's the first rough draft of anything that gets down on paper. Someone once said, I love having written: it's the actual writing I hate. I could say I like having written because it's the only way I get to the editing bit. Kind of like going through kids to get at the grands;) And I know not to start editing in earnest too soon. There will be lots of time for that later. And I know from previous sad experience to lett all the word remain in the piece until later because it's a shame when you edit out a paragraph only to later realize that while it might not have fit there it shure would work there.

So that's where I am at present: have the outline in hand, and am gathering together my pile of random thoughts and ideas, then pouring them into the Introduction in no particular order. It's a real mess at the moment. It's supposed to be. It's just a mind dump of all manner of collected thoughts from here and ideas from there: the written version of the pile of scraps of paper I keep over on the corner of the table together with notes written in that spiral notebook I keep handy. But I have to say, I do love this project so far. There will be plenty of hard work and time to get angry at it later... but for the moment the bloom is definitely on the rose.

Photos of the day from Aunt Betty's Archive:

My GGF on Mom's side, Daniel Williams

Camey is my GF.
This is the earliest photo I have of him.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Outline That!

I need an outline. Went on a road trip the last couple of days and I don't know what it is but there's nothing like a long ride in a car to clear the mind so as to let the big picture come in. We checked into the hotel in Palm Springs and I sat by the pool in 78 degree weather with blue sky, notebook in hand letting the muse take me.

The project can be defined as such: how to organize Mom's genealogy research and compiled materials into an online tree as well as a hard copy narrative. The online tree is up and running but there are lots of documents and photos to be uploaded. Lots to do there. It's the narrative that troubles me.

What might such a narrative look like? Book form of some sort is what is needed, I think. For me the kiss of death will be to tell anyone, Oh yeah, I'm writing a book about my family's history. Sounds like a super gigantic project... and that freaks me out! I need time to grow into this.

I have some objectives for the project down on paper. And a spiral notebook growing by the day with thoughts on form and function. In short, I'm getting a fell for where I'm going. Now I need an outline.

I've had a couple of books published way back in the 1990s so I am not totally clueless about the process. And most important, I'm not kidding myself about the amount of work involved to produce anything that's not going to be trash. The thing I know most is that a writer needs an outline as soon as possible. Now I have one.

You know, it's funny but the creative process takes it's own time coming into form. I've been sitting with this project for quite a while now letting the yeast rise, so to speak. I knew that Mom's work deserved being put in a form so that it could make its way out in the world. And I'd told her that I'd do that... told her that long before I really had a clue about how it might be done. But now for the first time I can see how it might take shape. And that's not saying that the vision won't change, grow, and shift over the life of the project. I know it will.

But today I have my outline. It's simple and clean and touches all the bases. It's a solid thing that can be built on, I hope. Now I'm going to sit with it for a while and let it breath until I can sense that it is ready to move to the next step. Going to print it out. Going to read and reread it a hundred times. Make notes all over it. Cross out a bunch of stuff and write in other stuff. That's the way the beginning of books goes. Wish me luck!!

Photo of the day from Aunt Betty's Archive:

My Mom with her Mom.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SNGF: How Popular Was Your Name?

Randy Seaver and his excellent blog, Genea-Musings puts out a challenge each week called Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, or SNGF. I do it whenever time allows and I have the ability to complete the task... which is not too often. This week's challenge is at :

The challenge directs you to a web site where you can see how popular your own name has been over the years. Go here:

On Randy's post he gives us his chart, but I can't figure out how to do that and copy it so that it appears in my post here. My screen shot key simply won't cooperate and copy and paste eludes me.

What the chart tells me about my own name is curious. Here are the rankings by year and popularity listed below. Curiously, the chart starts with 1910.

1910     205 on the popularity list
1920     453 Whoops, Diane isn't too popular!
1930     115
1940     22
1950     17
1960     36
1970     123 Looks like the party for naming babies Diane is over!

OK, so I was born in the 1940s. About 10 years before there was song "Diane" that enjoyed popularity. You can read about the songs of that title here:

Mom said that I was named after that song, which she thought was beautiful. She also liked Charmaine and you can read about that here: .
I'm glad she picked Diane over Charmaine. She admits that she did not name me after any Dianes on the family tree.

What we both have come to realize is that there are Diane's of many spellings going way back on her family line! My 2nd GGM is Diane Thomas (1832 - 1871). Diane, Diana, and even a Dianah litter Mom's side of the tree.

Diane's meaning - because Randy asked - goes back to Greek mythology and Diana the Huntress, a virginal figure of towering female strength. (No comment.)

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Taking Time To Think

A while back I posted around the question, what kind of genealogist am I? Came to the conclusion that I'm really more of a family history buff. Mom is the traditional genealogist with many years of solid research under her belt. I'm a Johnny-come-lately to this party and still a newbie with lots to learn. So lately I've been taking time to think through what I want to do here. It's like I was thinking I was a puppy and now I think I'm a kitten... if you catch my metaphor:)

So what's my role here? What are my tasks and where's my To Do list? After a couple of weeks - maybe longer - and letting the identity crisis roll on out, it's time to pick myself up, dust off, and figure out what's next for me. I am not wanting for raw material, that's for sure. Mom has well over 70,000 individuals on her tree and a whole bookshelf and a cabinet full of data to back it all up with sources. Additionally, there are maybe a dozen photo albums of all types full of pictures. And then there's that closet in the office;) Not to mention Aunt Betty's material and all of her wonderful photos!

Having just gone through the process of putting Mom's Big Tree on, then attaching photos and documents to it (a never-ending task with plenty more to be done) I can see the return on effort as extended cousins contact me and we exchange information. So Mom's tree is out there and in fine form... it's taken care of.

So the question I'm pondering is what should I do with the resource material in Mom's files to make them as usable and approachable as possible? I'm thinking of the next generation here. It needs to be in a format that's engaging as well as factually accurate as possible (and sources too.) What does that look like?

Was pondering all of this and taking my good old time arriving at conclusions when up popped an article in the latest issue of American Ancestors, Fall 2012. On page 28 is an interesting review of the permanence of electronically archived material entitled "Personal Archiving and the Genealogist", by Susan Lukesh. Here's my dilemma and exactly what the article covers: how long is all of this electronic media going to last? And who is going to upgrade formats when the old is obsolete... after I've checked out of this big blue marble hotel? And what physical form should this material take and where should it reside?

Am now thinking that if I can get an end product in mind, one electronic and one in physical form, then I have a goal that I can more easily visualize then I know where I'm going. But until then this whole effort is best served by me sitting in a cozy chair thinking about where I'm going. And, I gotta tell you, that's hard for me because I'd rather be doing that sitting.

Today's photo from the Archive:

Cousin Mike Kelly and I, 1950s.
Get well, buddy!

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's hoping that you and yours have a wondeful day with good food, happy memories, and maybe a photo or two for your archive! Let's all go make a memory:)

Monday, November 5, 2012

What Kind of Genealogist Am I?

I struggle a bit finding my identity in this pursuit of genealogy. I'm operating in Mom's shadow and she's a classic genealogist. She has worked since the early 1970s at building out her tree, using solid skills and a system all her own. She started her tree on paper way back when, and still has those original 3 by 5 inch cards and family group sheets. She calls herself a pack rat, and thank the powers that be for her! And for all 70,000 plus people on her Big Tree!

So here I come after all the hard work has been done. It's great because now we both share this passion. At 94, I do know how lucky I am to have arrived at this juncture with Mom ... and that neither of us have fallen off the edge of the world in the meantime;)

But what work is there for me to do? I'm not complaining, mind you. Far from it! I rejoice in the wealth of information Mom has compiled. But I find that under this particular circumstance I do ramble from brick wall to brick wall, stumbling along over ground that both Mom and Aunt Betty have already worked deeply. Therefore, this newbie is stuck working on the most difficult problems! Guess it's a good learning experience. And I have two pros to guide me.

I've identified a couple of brick wall problem that I'll continue to cut my teeth on and so there's that to keep me busy. But I find as time goes by that I'm probably a different kind of genealogist... or maybe not a genealogist at all. More like a family historian. I love the stories. I love asking why they did that. Love compiling facts and seeing if they match the family lore that's been passed down, and how the family lore passed on one line of descendants matches or is different than another line. Fascinating stuff for me!

Maybe it's in the universe's wisdom that Mom and I are two different people with different passions. While I'm busy imagining how DNA testing might be used to see if the House and Biggerstaff males shared a common male ancestor thus proving my GGGF's real paternity beyond flimsy records from West Virginia in 1832, Mom is most interested in finding those hidden and elusive records.

Today's photo from the file:

Congregational Church Ladies Aide Society
Picnic, about 1935.
Frostburg, Maryland.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Can It Be November Already? Time Flies!!

Yikes! Can it be November 1st already? Must start holiday shopping right away... truth be told I should have been doing it well before this. But more to the point, it's time again to back up the files.

I like the tradition in the genealogy community that we back up files and check on them on the first of the month. We put out gentle and friendly reminders to each other to go ahead and check the eggs in the nest:) Mine are fine, I just checked. But there is more maintenance to be done.

I need to import Mom's ever growing tree, copied on my recent trip back East to see her. Still not sure how to accomplish this task: what needs to happen is importing the updated tree and integrating it with the one I already have, then syncing the integrated (is that even the right word, don't know) to her Big Tree on And for some crazy reason, my Family Tree Maker tree has lost it's sync-ability (is that a word) to the Ancestry tree. This could be an issue. Am thinking that the first step is to poke around Family Tree Maker and try to resolve the sync issue. Then when that's (hopefully) fixed import and combine trees into one updated tree. This is way beyond my "pay grade" and knowledge level so if you have any thoughts I sure would appreciate if you shared!

Because it's the first of the month I took a stab at getting organized. Tackled the Jane Williams file and made copious notes as to what conclusions had been arrived at, checked for holes in her early life in Wales, and left a note for myself to do that much and move the heck on and resume the hunt for her and her adult children in Upstate New York.

Set out a new task for myself and began a notebook on it. A cousin contacted me because she ran into this blog when she searched Samuel Albert House. I've blogged about him quite a bit here. He's my GGGF. He's an interesting guy and this is the third cousin that's contacted me about him. I looked at Mom's Big Tree and saw that that line has been super prolific when it comes to procreation... so there are lots of descendants out there, some working on genealogy it seems:)

I love hearing from the S. A. House descendants because invariably the first topic of conversation is "who da baby daddy?" He was illegitimate, or that's what Mom and I have concluded. It's a long tangled story and my hope is to at least get down what's known about the situation before documents are lost and stories forgotten. Because legitimacy has few if any documents attached to it, we're left with family lore, hearsay, and conclusions drawn from what records we do have. This is not easy!! But there's the fun;)

Today's photo from the Archive:

The year was 1952.
On the ground: Cousin Mikey, Me.
Standing: Dad, Francis Patrick Kelly (1916 - 2007)
Grandma Kelly, Helen Zeller Kelly (1894 - 1985)
GrandPop Kelly, John Lee Kelly (1892 - 1969)
Uncle Bernie, Bernard Kelly (1918 - 2007)
Aunt Ruth, Ruth Mullaney Kelly (1924 - 1996)

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