Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday's Tips: Norwegian Research Aids Coming to My Rescue

Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue
photo by Torvol at Norwegian (bokmål) Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

As I continue knee-deep in the Norwegian Parish Registers, I've added two more "must haves" to my research toolbox.  Both have proved to be real lifesavers as I research my ancestors.

source: Family Tree Magazine

Because these parish records are written in Norwegian and in a variety of handwritings, the Germanic Alphabet Chart from Family Tree Magazine has proved so helpful in deciphering those written records.  The Fraktur style of writing is used in the printed column headings of a number of 19th century records while the old handwriting styles section of the chart helps in distinguishing between letters that strongly resemble each other.  I probably need to laminate my chart because it is already showing wear from being used so much.

Must have # two is a resource that stays open on my laptop whenever I am researching records from the Digital Archives of Norway.  This time Family Search has come to my rescue with its Calendar for Moveable Feast Days.  The Parish Registers are church documents, written by the minister or church clerk and frequently have a reference to a specific event of the liturgical year as the date for baptisms, marriages, or burials.  Before I stumbled upon this resources, I spent time googling to find the date for Trinity Sunday in 1803 then locating a calendar to determine the 7th Sunday past Trinity in that year.  Now I just select the year, ex. 1803, and scan down to find that the 7th Sunday past Trinity was 24 July 1803, easily read in English.  There are similar calendars available through the Family Search Wiki for other countries in addition to the calendar for Norway.

If you are researching records written in other languages, I hope that similar resources will help you, too.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Wk#5GenealogyDoOver : Dealing With All Those Bookmarks

"PostIt Notes: by EraserGirl, source:  Wikimedia.org

Thanks to Thomas MacEntee's suggestions, some months ago I created a Research Toolbox on this blog.  It contains links to which I have referred in various blog posts as well as web sites I use on a regular basis.  Because it is not overly long, it has been easy for me to keep it current and updated as necessary.

Not quite the same with my genealogy related bookmarked web sites on my laptop. It is particularly bothersome in my list of web sites dealing with Norway, Immigration, and Naturalization.  Focusing on researching my Norwegian ancestors while participating in the Genealogy Do-Over has lead me to bookmark a lot of new-to-me web sites.  So much so, that my bookmark folder for Norway/Immigration was overflowing.  The same was true with a number of my other bookmark folders also.  The Genealogy Do-Over seemed like a good time to get these things under control.

My first step was to put all of my bookmark folders into alphabetical order.  (After all, I am a retired school librarian and teacher.)  Using Google's Bookmark Manager, it is simply a matter of highlighting a folder and dragging it to the place it needs to be.

The next step has been to put the bookmarks within a folder into alphabetical order.  It just makes it quicker to scan and locate the web site or topic I need.  This is another area where highlighting and dragging is an easy way to alphabetize them.  It also showed where I had bookmarked several parts of the same web site, something I really did not need to do whenever a web site itself had clear navigational links.  I then deleted the duplicate links.

I also took the time to see that the name of a link was descriptive and meaningful to me.  A web site that automatically saved with the title "Projects" meant nothing to me.  Taking the time to look again at the web site gave me a better idea as to how to rename the web site so I would actually find it when I needed some specific information.

Finally, looking at the links in my folder for Norway/Immigration showed that I had over 70 web sites  bookmarked.  That's a long list to scan when I'm looking for a specific web site or topic.  It also showed me it was time to move some of the links into a new folder.  It only took a few minutes to set up an Immigration/Naturalization folder and move all the applicable links into it.  By the time I finished moving links and removing duplicates, I had 38 links in my Norway folder and 20 links in the new Immigration/Naturalization folder.  The new folder will also prove to be useful when I'm researching immigrant ancestors from any country, not just those from Norway.

Contents of my new folder on Immigration / Naturalization

The process showed me that I need to take the time to look over my bookmarks as an annual project.  It turned out to be a  great project to assist me in locating resources for my current Norwegian research.  It was also a great project to tackle as I stayed warm inside and glanced at the snow falling outside.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Working On a Family Puzzle

"Puzzle Pieces 2" by By Patafisik, via Wikimedia Commons

It was one of those events common in families.  A gathering following the death of a dear family member.  The shared remembrances of that special individual.  And questions about where certain people who were not present might be.

Recently the death of a cousin provided me a chance to use some of my genealogy research skills to help the family locate some of the missing relatives.  It turned out to be an interesting experience.  It was an opportunity to show that we can search for the living as well as the dead using similar techniques and even similar resources.

Step 1:  Begin with what you know.  Just as with researching an ancestor, I started with the available information. Fortunately, some years ago a descendant chart for this branch of the family had been found at a relative's home.  Our copy of the chart provided the full names, birth dates, names of spouses, as well as names of children.  From the ancestor's family of six children, there were also 14 grandchildren and a number of GreatGrandchildren listed on the chart.  It was a lot of specific information which helped us begin the search for the other relatives.

Family members quickly determined there were four of the grandchildren who needed to be located and notified about the death in the family.  In the interest of family privacy, I'll call the four Relative A, Relative B, Relative C, and Relative D.  There were also so vague tidbits passed along concerning the four.  Things like, "I heard he died several years ago", "I think she and her family moved out west a while back", and the expected "I haven't seen her at any family gatherings in a long time".  Before long, another family member was successful in finding a current phone number for Relative C, and our list of missing people dropped to three.

Step 2:  Formulate a specific research question or focus.  For starters, we needed to obtain a current address and/or phone number for these three family members.  It was important to determine if any of them had passed away and whether or not they had any children who needed to be notified.

Step 3:  Document all of your research.  For the sake of the estate, this could mean keeping a record of all telephone calls and correspondence, keeping printouts of information found online.  It also means maintaining a record of where I searched and was unable to find any viable information about Relatives A, B, and D.  All like citing your sources in researching distant ancestors.

My research concerning Relative A started with looking for him on both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org; nothing there.  Next I examined the online index of the city newspaper in the area where A had lived; again no information in the newspaper's archives.  It took googling A's name to stumble upon information.  I found a link to a website for a now closed high school.  In the "In Memoriam" section of the website, I found A's name listed among the deceased of the class of 195x.  A's name was not a common name and his birth date indicated that he probably would have graduated in the class of  '5x.  Included in the Memoriam section was a touching remembrance written by a classmate relating how he and A had kept in touch until going into the Army and ending with condolences to A's sisters (Relatives B and C).  This pointed to solid information that A had passed away.

A visit to the Veterans Administration website confirmed A's death.  Using the VA's gravesite locator , I found the entry for A which included his birth date, death of death, and grave location.  Additional information on the VA site confirmed that we had located the correct individual.  A look on findagrave.com provided the address of the cemetery, telephone number for the cemetery office, and even the GPS coordinates for A's grave marker.  All of this provided a good start on the information which was needed concerning A.  That left a search for A's widow to determine if there were any living children as none had been recorded on the family tree chart in our possession nor was there any mention of children on the findagrave memorial page.

In looking for Relatives B and D, in additional to checking on Ancestry and FamilySearch, I checked to see if either were active users of social media, specifically Facebook and LinkedIn.  Neither seemed to be on Facebook but there was someone with B's name on LinkedIn who lived in California.  I definitely needed more specific information.  We opted for a trial subscription to one of those many people locator websites.  Through PeopleFinders.com, we located information about B by searching for her name and that of her husband.  After finding the same partial address for B and for her husband, it was worth spending a dollar to get B's complete address and telephone number.  Another partial check off the list as there was now to way to hopefully contact Relative B.

A took a little longer to find information concerning D.  Again nothing on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Facebook, or LinkedIn.  Once again googling helped me out.  When I googled D's name + maiden name + married name, I was surprised to find an interesting link to a newspaper article.  From the newspaper article I learned that D had remarried and now had a new married name.  Again, we knew this was about our Relative D because of the town where the wedding was held and a wonderful tidbit concerning how "coffee and cake were served at the home of the bride's mother, Mrs. xxxxx".  Now there was a different name for which to search.  And now the search continues for D with her new name.

A special thanks goes to the National Genealogy Society for featuring an informative infographic Finding People on their blog UpFront With UGS.  The blog post also references other articles worth reading, all on the subject of locating living people.

As with any type of family research, it is never completed in one session.  Each bit of solid information forms another part of our reasonably exhaustive search.  Like the answer to the old riddle, you just eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Lessons Learned
  • Start with what you know, in this case names from a branch of the family tree written down some 30+ years ago.
  • Use a variety of points to establish that the information located is actually about the individual for whom you are searching - name, location, spouse, children, age.
  • Draw from a variety of resources in your research - genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, social media sites, newspapers, online people locators, and just plain googling a name when all else fails.  If you draw a blank with one resource, look using another.
  • It is important to document all the places you search for information.  It is worth noting when you find nothing as well as when you find an answer to that question.
  • Take a break.  As interesting or important as a research quest may be, a rest, a break can help you approach the matter with a new perspective or new strategies to follow.