Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wk#4GenealogyDoOver : Getting From Here to There With My Research

Red River Gorge Rock Wall by By Jarek Tuszynski via Wikimedia Commons

Participating in the Genealogy Do-Over had made me so much more aware of my research strategies.  I've written previously about I've started being more methodical in tracking my research.  Now, as I continue to plow through digitized church records from Norway, I'm seeing that I'm following a path as I look for information about my ancestors.

My 2GreatGrandmother Marit Oldsdatter, according to the family history booklet I have, was born 26 Jan 1810 and died 23 Dec 1890.  Here are the steps I've followed to learn the names of her parents, siblings, and grandparents, steps I'm now using as I research other ancestors.  

  1. Using records on the Digital Archives of Norway, l found the parish record of Marit's birth.  The great thing about these records is that they (usually) provide the birth date, baptism date, names of parents, farm residence of father and mother, and names of witnesses to the baptism, usually other family members.
  2. After finding Marit's birth / baptism record, I knew her parents were Ole Jacobsen and Ronnoug Bjornersdatter.  Next I searched in's Norwegian records for any children born to these two parents.  This provided me with the names and birth dates of Marit's siblings, Jacob, Bjorner, Mary, Hans, Anna, and another Marit/Mari.
  3. Time to go back to the Digital Archives of Norway to find the digitized record for the birth / baptism of each of the siblings.  There is no substitute for being able to study the original record.  Having been a volunteer transcriber, I know that any transcription stands the chance of having an error recorded.  Seeing the actual record myself provides a second set of eyes on the document.
  4. Once I knew the birth order of the children, I started looking for the marriage record for Marit's parents.  Again, the original marriage record provides a lot of additional information.  Depending upon the year, the Norwegian marriage records can contain the marriage date, names and ages of the bride and groom, their farm residences, names of their fathers, names of bondsmen (who just might be other relatives), and possibly information about a previous marriage of either party.  Stuff that is definitely worth looking for.  Admittedly, finding the marriage record requires some speculation on my part.  My standard search plan is to look in the parish marriage records for 0-5 years prior to the birth of the couples' eldest child.  In the case of Marit, the oldest child, born in 1810, I found the record for her parents' marriage in the 1809 parish marriage records.
  5. After the marriage information of Marit's parents was located and recorded, I then started to look for the family in a census record.   Records for the 1801, 1865, and 1875 censuses are searchable through the Digital Archives of Norway.  If I've fortunate enough to find the family listed in one of these census records, I also can see, just as with US census records, who is living in the household, their ages, marital status, and occupation as well as basic information concerning their residence or farm.  In my search of the 1801 census I found Marit's father Ole Jacobsen, age 19, living with his parents and siblings on the family farm.  Marit's mother, Ronnoug Bjornersdatter, age 16, was living on a nearby farm working as a servant girl.
  6. Finding the family in a census record also provides an approximate birth date for any family members listed.  I loop back to Step 3 and search in a three year period for previously missing Birth / Baptism records.  This means searching the parish records for 1786-1788 for a Birth / Baptism record of a child listed as being age 14 in the 1801 census.  And this works just about every time.
  7. Death / Burial records are the last part of my current search strategy.  Finding them turns out to be much more of a "needle in a haystack" approach.  I start by searching the death records following the latest information I have for an individual, i.e. date of marriage, birth of last child, census record.  This "new" information becomes my starting point.  The first few times I tried this, I kept wondering WHY am I looking at so many records and how will I know it is the right record.  Bless those Lutheran clerics who recorded the farm residence so often along with the first name and surname of an ancestor.  If I can decipher the cleric's handwriting, I can then use Google Translate to determine the cause of death.  Once I found the death / burial record, I was also provided with the age at the time of death, enabling me to loop back to look for their birth / baptism record.    And so my plan continues.
As I watched pictures of the recent scaling of Yosemite National Park's Dawn Wall, I marveled at how much planning went into each inch of elevation gained by the two climbers.  I saw times when they had to drop back and try another route.  

The steps above are my planned route for researching my Norwegian ancestors.  Sometimes I get to where I want to be in a short time.  Other times I have to drop back and try something else, expand the years I search, head over to or check out any shaky leaves on Ancestry to see if there are hints I can follow up on or try to verify.  It is all part of getting from here to there.  It is also worth the effort.

Now, time to apply these steps to learning more about my three other 2GreatGrandparents from Norway.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wk#3GenealogyDoOver: Tracking My Research

"Deer Mouse Tracks in the Snow"
by Jomegat.Jomegat, from Wikimedia Commons

Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over is proving to be just the encouragement I needed to tweak some of my research habits.  Take "Tracking Research", one of the topics for this week.  Previously I had been fairly meticulous about recording where I found reliable information about a family member.  Not so, however, about where I had looked and not found anything of note.  Participating in the GD-O has changed that.

Some time back I had come up with a simple version of my Research Log as a Google Sheet to use during the GD-O time.  I showed a screen shot of it in a previous post.  Soon after I started using it, I added another column, Completed.  There is just something so satisfying about noting that a series of research tries finally has lead to success.  

Today, this is what my Research Log looks like as I am using it to learn more about my 4GreatGrandparents, Syver Syverson and Kari Gudbrandsdatter.  I'm finding that this Research Log is helping me stay more focused in my research.  

Prior to starting the Do-Over, I only knew that my 4GreatGrandparents were both alive at the time of the 1801 Norway Census.  Now I've started to use the Topic column as a To-Do List, indicating that I wanted to find Birth/Baptism, Marriage, and Death/Burial records for Syver and Kari.  Some of the information I have recently found through the record images available through the Digital Archives of Norway.  The items indicated in red show the things I still need to be seeking.  And that green box "DAofN Parish Register 4", that's where I will be starting to look for Kari's Death/Burial record once I finish writing this post.

Besides providing a focus for my research, tracking my research on this Research Log has proved helpful in other ways.  The Resource Used column lets me see where all I have looked for similar information about other family members.  I've also used the Date column several times to look for the name of a resource I remembered using at a specific time.  Now all my efforts to learn more about how my 2GreatUncle Siver Syverson came from Norway to Wisconsin has provided me with a list of places to look for records for other immigrant ancestors and relatives.

Sources of Emigration Records

Finally, I've discovered a great, unexpected benefit from using my Research Log so judiciously.  For the information I still have not been able to locate for a specific relative, I can do a quick copy of the topics and all six columns concerning that from the Research Log Google Sheet.  I then can paste it as a research note in Family Tree Maker so I can see sometime in the future where I have looked should I want to take another stab at locating an elusive record.

As Elizabeth McCracken said "if someone caught me when I was in the throes of tracking something elusive I would have told them: but it's out there.  I can feel it".(1)  And now I have the record to show my search for it.

(1)  "Elizabeth McCracken: Quotes".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#Wk2GenealogyDoOver : Taking a Look at Me

One of the suggested topics for this week's Genealogy Do-Over is to conduct a self interview.  I admit that it is easy to overlook recording our own information when we're knee deep in researching a branch of our family tree, but Thomas MacEntee has simple advice for us, "just start with yourself".  And it is time that I do more of that.

Thankfully, I received a gift that will help me.  Several years ago, soon after a son and his wife learned that they were expecting their first child, we two prospective grandmothers were given a copy of The Grandparent Book, a Keepsake Journal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.(1)  It is a journal filled with simple prompts designed to jog our memory and space to record information we would like to share with our grandchildren.  It includes prompts about my family, where I grew up and other topics such as
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Where do you go on trips or vacations?
  • Some of my favorite quotes ...
  • What were some of your favorite books to read?
There is even space for pictures of me as a child, the house where I grew up, and a wedding photo.  When I first received the book, I wrote short paragraphs for five or six of the prompts, then placed that book on a shelf and frankly forgot about it until I read this week's topics.

Now the book is off the shelf with a pen clipped to the front cover.  Answering a prompt or two is something I can do while waiting for dinner to finish cooking, or having an extra 15 minutes before I need to leave for an appointment, or finding something productive to do when the night's TV offerings aren't particularly appealing.  My goal is to respond to most of the prompts by the end of this year, either through writing short paragraphs, listing information, or adding personal photos to the journal.  The book is also a reminder that there are a lot of ways to share and celebrate our family stories.

A second Do-Over topic for this year was to set some research goals.  Already I had decided to look for sources to validate (or question) information written in a family history booklet on one branch of my Norwegian Ancestors.  Remembering the Grandparent Book has provided me with another research goal as I write more information to share with my son and his family.  Once again, I'm finding that participating the Genealogy Do-Over is just what I'm needing to get me going for the new year.

(1)  Rosenthal, Amy Krouse  The Grandparent Book, a Keepsake Journal. Crown Publishing Group, 2009.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Finding My Ancestoral Score

Family Tree, source:

Randy Seaver's topic for the recent Saturday Night Genealogy Fun was interesting.  He suggested we calculate our "Ancestoral Score".  In other words, how many direct ancestors have we identified by name?  It sounded like a different way to look at our research and a way I wanted to try.

After reading Christa Cowan's article (which started interest in this whole process), I got busy.  After trying to count the names on my family tree in Family Tree Maker, I soon decided that had to be a better way.  There was - generate an Ahnentafel Report in FTM, a report which listed my direct ancestors by generation.

Using a template similar to the one Seaver had in his post about Ancestoral Scores, I counted the names from my Ahnentafel Report and added them into my scoring template.  I was a real stickler in this and only counted an ancestor as being identified if I had both a first name and surname for an individual.  

Here is the data that determined my Ancestoral Score of having identified 18% of my ancestors.

DateGenerationRelationship# in generation# identified% identified
52 GreatGrandparents1616100%
63 GreatGrandparents323094%
74 GreatGrandparents644266%
85 GreatGrandparents1283628%
96 GreatGrandparents256208%
107 GreatGrandparents512265%

I can see this as a worthwhile activity to do annually.  It lets me know how I've progressed in identifying individuals in the past seven or eight years and also to see areas on which to focus some of my research in the future.  Printing out the Ahnentafel Report and highlighting names where I need to identify a spouse will give me a good starting place when I'm wanting to change my research focus for a while.  This way I really hope to find the names of those two 3GreatGrandparents for whom I currently have no hint of a name.  Meanwhile I'll still be plugging away with the Norwegian lines in my family for a while longer.  Perhaps next year's Ancestoral Score will be greater due to identifying more of my Norwegian ancestors, actually finding both a first name and a surname (or farm name) for some of them.

So what is your Ancestoral Score?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wk#1GenealogyDoOver : What I REALLY Need to Get Started

"The Road", uploaded by Geralt to pixabay

Following Thomas MacEntee's suggestions for week 1, it didn't take very long to take a quick look through the pile of papers next to my laptop.  I removed the few pertaining to my Norwegian research and put all the rest on the top shelf on a nearby bookcase.  Out of sight and (hopefully) out of mind, at least until a later time.

Now there are just a few things sitting on my desk, things I know I will use frequently:
  • The privately published Overli-Belle-Siem family history booklet - This booklet contains so many names, places, and dates that I hesitate to put it away.  I want to quickly verify information from those family group sheets.
  • "Norwegian Genealogical Word List" from - necessary for translating information when I'm looking at digitized Norwegian records
  • "Norway Occupations" from - ditto
  • "Parish Register Examples Norway" from - Just as US census records contain different information in different years, Norwegian parish registers changed the specific information recorded between 1814 and 1877.  Knowing which column has parents' names recorded makes it easier when I visually scan records.
  • Folder containing maps of Norway, Oppland, and Lesje, the home of many of my Norwegian ancestors; printouts of farm names and numbers
As I was on getting the links for the resources listed above, I found myself being distracted by some of those "bright, shiny things" Thomas MacEntee spoke about.  In this case, I saw links to pictures of parish churches and family farms in Norway.  Talk about something bright and shiny!  I allowed myself a few seconds to quickly look at each group of photos, then made a note (with the two links) in my Genealogy-To-Do list so I can return to the photos for a closer look at a later date.

I've also started to clarify what I do hope to accomplish over the coming weeks.  The Overli-Belle-Siem family history booklet is filled with information, but there are very few sources for the information found on the family group sheets.  I want to focus my research on finding sources for birth, marriage, immigration, and death records for my direct ancestors.

Finally, in an effort to stay focused on my research, I plan to have the following open on my laptop whenever I sit down to work:
  • Family Tree Maker with my Perkinson Family Tree open
  • My Genealogy To-Do List on Google Drive
  • My Research Log on Google Drive (see below) so I can easily see what resources I have used in searching for the same type of information for other relatives as well as noting where I've looked for my current ancestor
  • Downloaded edition of Evidence Explained so I can correctly cite my sources
  • StickyNote app so I know where I stopped last time and have a place to note where I'm ending things in the current session

I think I'm about ready to get started.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Wk#1GenealogyDoOver : Getting Ready to Get Started

Do-Over Button from

Nothing like a new year to spur me on to clearing up some messes.  Now I'm going to be looking a little differently at my genealogical research, especially the two Norwegian branches of my family tree.  Parts of it are a mess.

Thomas MacEntree's Genealogy Do-Over looks like it will provide the motivation and support for me to tackle some of my Norwegian "issues".  I especially like the four points he suggests we focus on in our Genealogy Do-Overs.

  • Capture everything and save for later.  For me this includes the reminder to actually take that close look at my saved material, then either save or delete it, based upon what I actually find there.
  • Build a good research toolbox and keep adding to it.  My list of support materials, web sites, and articles is growing because I continue to stumble onto new resources.  I need to add them to my blog's toolbox so I can share with others, just as others have shared with me.
  • Create to-do lists.  It is amazing how two days of a stomach bug or those wonderful holiday visits can cause me to forget exactly which trail I had been in the midst of following.  I need to do a better job with my computer "sticky notes" and with recording things in my research log.
  • Pay no attention to that bright and shiny object.  Focus, girl!  Focus!

Several days ago, I got a head start (sorry, Thomas) by trying to get some consistency in the way I have names recorded for these Norwegian ancestors in my Family Tree Maker software.  Because of the patronymic naming system, so many of these ancestors did not have consistent surnames until after they immigrated to America.  Some of what I've done in FTM is arbitrary, but it has already helped me locate names in my database by keeping siblings' names together in my A-Z list of names.  

  • Son of a man named Syver/Siver/Sivert is now recorded as Syverson (not Sivertson, Siverson, Syversen, etc.)
  • Daughter of a named named Syver/Siver/Sivert is now recorded as Syversdatter (not Syvertdtr, Siverdaughter, or any of the other combinations I have found.)
  • Because I am examining records from the Digital Archives of Norway from as far back as the mid 1700s, there is a wide variety in the spelling of names in birth, confirmation, marriage, and death records.  As I find another version of the name I am adding it to the FTM database, but keeping only the Syverson / Syversdatter name as the "preferred" or primary name.
  • Because some records and databases automatically add the name of the farm residence to a person's name, this gives yet another name for a number of my ancestors.  Another personal arbitrary decision has been to add these farm names as a "Residence" in FTM.  That way it will be easier to select the appropriate parish register to browse through.
  • For those ancestors changing their name after coming to America, I'm adding their Americanized name as yet another name in FTM.
Today's project as been to look back at one of my saved resources, a self published family history of the Syverson / Hanson / Belle, Siem family.  This 100 page booklet is a treasure, essentially a number of family group sheets, hand drawn family trees, and brief narratives about some family members.  I am so thankful that my mother finally met the cousin who wrote it back in 1980 and who gifted her with the copy I now have.  Although the information it contains is not sourced, it is filled with dates, names of spouses and children, and names of family farms.

Already I have found that I had previously incorrectly recorded several dates into FTM.  Other information I had entered into FTM but had not cited the family history booklet as its source.  And taking the time to read the narrative passages provided so many small bits of information - someone died of whopping cough, a father gave the family farm to a son at his marriage, and who immigrated to America with whom.  All things I had previously missed.

Now I feel I'm ready to get started.  I'm excited about being more focused in my work and hopefully that I'll learn more of our family story.  What caused so many to leave Norway and come to America in a 15 year time span?  How could they afford to bring those large families of 7-10 individuals?  How did they decide where to live?  Maybe I've already starting on my To-Do List.