Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Month 2

Public Domain Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Some say that doing something daily for 30 days is enough time and opportunity to establish a habit. After using my Genealogy Bullet Journal for the month of January, I can state that I have established a new habit. A habit that enhances the way I research. A habit I feel will stay with me into the future.

Last month I posted about starting my Genealogy Bullet Journal. Frankly I wasn't sure exactly how or even why I would use it, but I felt bullet journaling was a trend worth investigating. Here are some of the things I tried and learned through January's 31 days.
  • I experimented with several different weekly spreads, trying to find one that suited me. After all starting with a blank journal gives you the opportunity to try different things, different looks, add your touch. I've ended up settling on the basic spread shown in my first post. I found that amount and organization of space has been enough for what I wanted to note and record for any given day.

  • Yes, it is SO tempting to add color, stamps, stickers, you name it to a bullet journal. I confess, I picked up a set of planner stamps on sale at my local craft store. 
    • I like putting an ! or * or thumbs up to indicate success. They are a good balance for the frowny faces :( I draw when I've spent an afternoon or two looking, or searching, or reading and found nothing that advances my research, all that negative research that is a real part of genealogy. I still enjoy looking at photos of all those beautifully designed bujos (bullet journals) on Instagram and Pinterest, but my ministampers will probably be the extent of my bujo creativity. 
    • The list stamp has proven to be helpful. Just stamp it on a sticky note, list up to six places I plan to look for information about that person or event, and I'm ready to go. All research questions won't focus on using the same sources. My check list stamp encourages me to consider the wide variety of possible sources to use, some online, some at a library or in a book, something in my files that might warrant a closer look. 
  • Every once in a while, we stumble upon something that is some simple, yet so great. That is the way I feel about my 3F idea - First File Fifteen minutes. Having those seven task boxes across a page of my weekly spread kept me going. Besides seeing my document pile shrink, there was also that simple little kid joy in seeing all seven boxes marked as tasks completed for the week. By the end of January, I had actually looked at, read over, and filed about 3 inches of documents in my file basket, all relating to my Perkinson family tree. This filing time was a daily warm up to more serious research. Now, for February, I'm starting to dig through the stuff relating to my husband's Nelson family tree. And later, once that pile is cleared, I'll spend time looking through my files to see what needs to be placed elsewhere, clear out duplicates, determine new questions for which to seek an answer. Filing, like laundry, will be an ongoing task!
  • I am learning to use and rely on the Collections section of my bujo. First, as I filed, if I had a question or noticed something needing further research, I finally had a place to record it. On days when I wasn't sure exactly as to what I wanted or needed to research, I could turn to my Research Questions in the Collections section, choose a question I had previously recorded and I was good to go for several days.
    • Here is just one example. I had printed out a family group sheet on the William Huey Family that I had found on It listed names, dates, children, their spouses for my 4th Great Grandfather's family but NO sources. My first research question was to try to verify the information on this printout along with a note as to the folder and item number where the printout was filed. I'm still working on this project, but I'm also finding a few sources for some of the information on the printout.
    • Learning more about the Hueys has lead me to add another collection section, one I'm calling my Treasure Chest. After spending parts of a week browsing through the Pennsylvania Archives on, looking for anything about the Hueys, I added a note describing this resource in my Treasure Chest. I wrote "Pennsylvania" in large letters, then a paragraph to describe the types of information I found there - things like marriage records, rosters of militia, immigration information complete with a physical description of the immigrant and his/her family background. Even though I found only a few Huey facts, I know I want to remember this resources in the future when researching ancestors in 1650-1800 Pennsylvania, even if it is months from now that I jump back into some Pennsylvania area research.
  • Having the big picture of my yearly spread is helping me better plan for blog posts and research times. Now that we have some family trips, looking after grandchildren, and a few get-togethers listed, I can see times in which to plan or add on some research trips. 
  • My bujo isn't replacing my detailed research log. Instead it supplements my research. I add a few notes in my daily block noting the family, area, topic, or source I researched. Looking back over my diary entries for the month of January, I get a feel for what I did and can gain ideas as to other approaches or resources to use. I can also see that I've spent enough time, for now, on looking for the Hueys in early 1700s. It is about time to move on to another question. My actual research log will continue to be the private notes I add for an individual in Family Tree Maker.
Meanwhile, I've also started a personal bullet journal. It too has the 3F filing blocks which I'm using to get our household files in order and to look for any paperwork needed for filing our taxes for the year. I've also added daily check boxes for my walking / exercising. On the daily spread, there are notes about progress on some of those household projects we want need to address in 2017. There is also room for journaling my reflections on things I read or the Bible study in which I am involved. The yearly and monthly calendars contain lists of our family activities and various volunteer commitments. Another bujo as individual as its writer.

It looks like I'm hooked on bullet journaling. Where is my heart stamp when I need it?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Leaving 2016 Behind, Moving on in 2017

2016-17 by Philip Barrington, source: Open Clip Art

It's that time of year. Time to look back and see how many additional ancestors I have been able to identify sufficiently to feel confident in adding them to my family tree. That is something I had done each January for the past three years after reading Randy Seaver's blog post and watching Crista Cowan's YouTube video.

My method has stayed the same and has been the subject of a previous blog post.  As always, I continue to be grateful that I can simply generate an Ahnentafel Report of my direct ancestors by using my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker. Here is what my report for 2016 looked like.

DateGenerationRelationship# in generation# identified% identified2016 increase
4Great Grandparents88100%
52 Great Grandparents1616100%
63 Great Grandparents323197%
74 Great Grandparents645891%2
85 Great Grandparents1286148%4
96 Great Grandparents2563815%?
107 Great Grandparents512398%10
118 Great Grandparents1024364%36
129 Great Grandparents2048251%25
1310 GreatGrandparents40961212
1411 GreatGrandparents819288
1512 GreatGrandparents16,38488
1613 GreatGrandparents32,76822
1714 GreatGrandparents65,53622
35147% *109
* Percentage of those identified in Generations 1-10

I realize that some of the totals in my table may seem strange. For starters I have no increase in known ancestors for Generation 9 because I obviously had a typo in my previous year's report. It is possible to remove or change a relationship or two based on new research, but I know that I certainly did not lose almost 30 ancestors in that one generation during the year! I would probably still be shaking my head in bewilderment if that had actually happened.

In the report for 2016, I also stopped trying to determine the percentage of ancestors identified after Generation 12. The percentages were just too small to have any significance. Instead, I will continue to just look at the increase in numbers over the previous year's report.

Similarly, I decided to use those ancestors in Generations 2-10 as my basis for determining the percentage of ancestors I have now identified. Identifying ancestors in Generations 11-17 or beyond is just a unexpected bonus in my research.

But it isn't just a numbers game. The report prompts me to try to analyze where I found information, strategies that worked, and questions that still linger.

By using the Will and Probate Records available through as well as browsing similar records on, I was able to identify with some degree of confidence a number of ancestors in generations 11-17. By studying names of beneficiaries listed in a will and comparing them with known children, siblings, and/or spouses, I succeeded in pushing my family tree back additional generations through information found through these will and probate records.

Looking back, I knew that during this year a lot of my personal research had focused on ancestors who had lived in New England. Bless the clergy and town clerks of those areas who had maintained such detailed records of births, marriages, and deaths from the mid-1650s and forward. These records, combined with will and probate records, kept me dancing around. Sometimes going one step back, then a few steps sideways, backwards and forward a lot, but eventually these records helped me identify more of my Massachusetts ancestors.

For me there is real value in doing this report each year. It isn't just about the total number of ancestors I have identified, although it is nice to document. It is more about seeing where and how I was able to learn about these new people in my family tree. And yes, it continues to bother me that I still cannot find the name of the wife of my 3 Great Grandfather William Vaughan. But it also convinces me that there are additional resources I haven't used, strategies I haven't tried, more hints to prove - or disprove. All part of trying to learn more about my ancestors.

Lessons Learned in 2016
  • I spent enough time studying wills and probate records that I actually got where I could understand the terminology and learned more about how our the legal system functioned in earlier times. These records also spoke volumes as to the nature of slavery as well the legal status of  women in the past. This prompted me to write several posts about the slave records I found in wills, posts that are now linked with the Slave Name Roll Project developed by Schalene Dagutis.
  • Ancestry's indexed Will and Probate Records were easy to use, but I frequently found additional information by browsing the unindexed will and probate records on Browsing page by page, section by section continues to provide fruitful information.
  • There have to be some new strategies for learning about women in the 1800s. I plan to use some techniques suggested by Jennifer Dondero of The Occasional Genealogist. Finding the elusive Mrs. William Vaughan is a research goal for 2017.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Day 1

Between Pinterest, Instagram, and Feedly, most of us have seen the explosion of people using bullet journals. Some track fitness. Some focus on gratitude, religious, or inspirational topics. Some are a type of To-Do List. And some focus on genealogy.

Through the month of December my husband and I used an old notebook to help us track all we wanted to accomplish during the time available between traveling to various family gatherings. We actually did everything on our lists and even had time to relax. That was enough to convince me to give bullet journaling a serious try in the new year.

What started my decision to use it for genealogy was watching Dear Myrtl's Google Handout on What's Bullet Journaling? Her guest Tami Mize showed how her bullet journal was organized and suggested a variety of ways to use one. Then, Dear Myrtle had a series of blog posts detailing how she was setting up her bullet journal. Dear Myrtle even included a link to  a wonderful, easy to follow video by Ryder Carroll, the "father of bullet journaling". I was hooked. And yes, I even went so far as to set up a Pinterest board on Bullet Journal Basics as I was starting to get into it.

So here is where I am after Day 1.
  • I'm using a simple spiral journal given to me about 10 years ago by a former student. It had been sitting on my genealogy bookshelf, just waiting for the right moment to come along. Last week I started getting everything ready so I could begin using it January 1. But a great aspect of bullet journaling is that you don't have to wait for a new year to begin; you can start anytime you want to and for any reason.
  • As Ryder Carroll suggests, one of the first things I did in my bullet journal was to number the pages, all 160 of them.
  • Crafter and scrapbooker that I am, I decided to NOT let this become a craft project but just to try to maintain it as an organizational tool. I admit, I did find a roll of washi tape with the days of the week printed on it among my craft supplies. That roll is already being used in my bullet journal. And I tied some ribbon scraps to the spiral to be used as bookmarks. I'll admit, it is still tempting as I pass the entire aisle of my local craft store and gaze at the variety of papers, pens, stickers, etc. all designed for use in a planner or journal. I tell mystelf to just keep walking. Again, how ornate or minimalistic you make your journal is an individual choice.
  • I decided on the keys / graphic symbols to use in my journal. They are basically the ones Carroll shows in his video together with a few others I've used for years.
  • An index is a necessity for a bullet journal. I allowed a page and a half, probably should have allowed more, but I know I can always add an index entry for "Index Continues, p 100-104".
  • Instead of New Year's Resolutions, I chose to write some specific goals, calling it "2017, My Year to ..." I have five things listed, all things I had thought about, or started but laid aside, or else spent money on but not used sufficiently. Actually writing them has made me feel that accomplishing them is must more likely than when I had previously just thought about doing them.
  • I love, make that LOVE, the Future Log spread. I've already noted when various subscriptions and memberships expire, what events are scheduled for the year, and some specific deadlines I am setting for myself. Later, I'll add some personal things like trips, vacations with family, etc. This will help me more realistically allot time to various projects and goals. I've always been one to get the big picture first then develop the steps to get there so the Future Log fits the way I think.

  • The next two pages are for the Monthly Log. Each day is noted on a separate line. There is also room for me to list specific things I want to do for the month. Some people rave about the monthly log. Right now I'm ambivalent as to how much I will use this feature. Time will tell.
  • For my Daily Log, I settled on a two page spread, each page divided into four blocks. I use one block for each day of the week and block eight for things I want to accomplish or address this week. Across the top of one of the daily pages, I added a box to check daily for my 3F project. I'm trying to First spend Fifteen minutes Filing (the 3Fs) some of the stuff that gathers in my never empty file trays.  Each daily block will be for quick notes about what I researched that day, questions I want to check on (also listed in my Collection section of the journal), other genealogy related information for that day. Today's block includes the note "started writing Bullet Journal post!" After the first four weeks of January are covered in my Daily Log, I'll add a Monthly Log for February, then start another series of weekly spreads for Daily Logs and add February to the Index.

  • The last 30 pages of my book have been reserved for my Collections. I appreciate the versitality of the Collections section. It is MY collection, those miscellaneous things I want to keep up with, remember, check into. And when I use all these 30 pages, I'll just add another Index entry for each new collection page, selecting pages in another section toward the back of my bullet journal. My first collection page contained information about a library I plan to visit this year, things like address, phone numbers, reminder to set up an appointment specifying my research needs, and of course, the persons I will be researching. Back in the Index, I listed the name of the library and page on which I have the information. Last week I also started a page of Research Questions. In the middle of researching a relative, I realized the need to clarify something about another relative. I quickly added it to the Research Questions page then returned to my original research. Later I'll go back over this page and try to find answers to these questions. Another page in my Collections will be a list of Correspondence. Previously I have tended to add this as a note in Family Tree Maker but then to forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind. This way I can keep closer tabs as to when I ordered a record, e-mailed someone, etc. 

So there it is. My bullet journal. Part calendar. Part planner. Part diary. Part catch-all for things I need to remember. Part motivator. I can already see the value in reviewing my research and in having a specific place to record information in a simple format. Much as I feel I could not manage without my laptop, my smartphone, my genealogy software, Google Drive, the internet, and so much more technology, it is also satisfying to put a lovely journal to a constructive purpose.

And I plan to post in the future on tweaks I've made to my first bullet journal. It is just day two, and I already think I may highlight on the Daily Log the name of the family I'm researching. I might replace the ribbon bookmarks with sticky tabs from an office supply store. Here we go ...

What has been your experience with bullet journaling? I hope you will share some of your ideas.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Perkinson Family Christmas, 1926

It is just a old, blurry, slightly faded photo of the Perkinson family gathered on the front porch of the family home in Woodstock, Georgia ninety years ago. But this was the one, the picture that first drew me into wanting to learn more about my family history.

Looking at the picture. I see how much I have learned about many of these relatives. Some of my research has become the source of some of my posts over the years. I added numbers by some of these relatives so you can put a face with a name in my posts about ...
  1. Mary Louise Perkinson, the subject of this tribute
  2. Oscar Dean Perkinson, Jr, whose story lead me learn more about the Civilian Conservation Corps and gave me a chance to share some old photos
  3. Leila Perkinson Stevens and the story of her wedding
  4. Oscar Dean Perkinson, Sr, local politician, accidental participant in an Inaugural Parade, and warehouse manager as well as my grandfather
  5. Louie Dean Stevens whose college courtship days were interesting to follow
  6. Ernest Vaughn Perkinson whose World War I draft registration lead me to learn about an unexpected occupation
  7. Paul Perkinson and how he read of his death in the newspaper
  8. Jesse Dean Perkinson, a noted researcher into the uses of atomic energy

Finally, looking at this picture also reminds me there are still more stories to research further. Stories like that of the family matriarch, my Great Grandmother, Louela Dean Perkinson, seated in the middle of the photo.  Widowed at 40 with at least five children still living at home, by necessity becoming involved in her late husband's business affairs. Definitely a story for another day. 

Interesting how one old photograph continues to draw me closer to my ancestors and relatives.