Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday's Tip - And That Is Why It Is Called Research

Sherlock Holmes, source: Pixabay

It looked like a good day for staying home and doing some online research. Dreary afternoon, temperature dropping, rain alternating with snow. Time to seriously look for marriage records for some ancestors and relatives, all of whom had lived in or near Elbert County, Georgia.

I had already tried the usual places. For me, this meant starting with the Marriage Records on Microfilm collection on Georgia's Virtual Vault. The only problem was that the earliest records posted there for Elbert County started with 1835, later than the time period I needed. I hadn't been able to find marriage records I was seeking on either Ancestry's collections of early United States Marriage Records or on similar databases available on FamilySearch.org.

Previously I had used the unindexed probate records available on FamilySearch.org to locate information that wasn't available on Ancestry's indexed collections. Looking over the FamilySearch links to 30 image only record collections for Georgia, I saw a collection of records from Elbert County, Georgia. This collection dated back to the 1790s and included church, cemetery, school, and vital records collections. The Vital Records collection was labeled by year, making it easy to search for specific years as needed.

Georgia, Elbert County Records, 1790-2002

Each box of records contained an average of 450-500 records. Soon after I started looking for familiar names, I realized that I did not need to look at every record in the collection, One image would be of the front of the record, such as this marriage record for Dozier Brown and Polly Herndon.

Since this was the marriage license for a relative, I would then look at the next image to see the back of the license. Had this not been the license for a relative, I would have skipped from image 16 to image 18 and read the next new license.

Two other factors were part of my search in these early 1800s marriage licenses. It turned out that the specific document for a marriage license changed through the years. As I moved from box to box of licenses, I could adjust where a new type of license appeared on my screen, then succeeding license images would show up centered on my screen and easy to read, with only minimal adjustment to view the image.

The second factor lead me to look at the names of both the groom and the bride on each license image I viewed. It didn't matter that most boxes of licenses were arranged alphabetically by groom's name. I needed to also look for a bride's name on the image. Looking at each license became particularly important in cases where the license was followed by a marriage bond record which just might include the name of the bride's father.

The whole process took most of the afternoon and a few cups of hot tea, but it was worthwhile. I recorded the years I had searched on my Research Log so I won't accidentally go through this process again. I ended up locating several marriage records, some new to my research, others the original source for information previously seen only in a database.

My takeaway tip was to spend more time going through other potentially helpful image-only records. Once you get accustomed to the record format, it becomes easier to skim over the image and locate names, dates, locations on a record. Admittedly it does involve looking at a number of screens, but it pays off when you locate a nugget of new information. Just as all genealogy information is not digitized and online, neither is all online information indexed. So many records can be accessed only by searching through them yourself. After all, this searching reminds us why it is called research.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year, New Numbers, New Goals

GOALS source: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/

The new year is a time for doing more than making resolutions. It's also a good time to look back over the past year, evaluate efforts, and set some personal goals.

A year ago, I posted about finding my ancestor score, as I looked at how many of my direct ancestors I had actually been able to name. Both Randy Seaver in a blog post and Christa Cowan of Ancestry.com's YouTube videos had suggested reasons to do this, and the new year is a logical time to repeat the report. I described my methodology and my results in a previous post

Here is my latest report based on my research in 2015. In running the report I added a new column at the right, how many new direct ancestors I had identified in the past year. It was exciting to see that I now know the surname and given name of 25% of my direct ancestors, compared with only 18% last year.

GenerationRelationship# in generation# identified% identified2015 increase
52 GreatGrandparents1616100%
63 GreatGrandparents323197%1
74 GreatGrandparents645688%14
85 GreatGrandparents1285644%20
96 GreatGrandparents2565722%37
107 GreatGrandparents512296%3

It was relatively easy to explain that increase. I was a participant in Round One of Thomas McEntee's Genealogy Do-Over. What a difference my research took when I because more focused and more methodical in maintaining my research log. I chose to focus on learning more about my Norwegian ancestors, relatives constituting a fourth of my family tree. The majority of new ancestors I discovered in generations 7, 8, and 9 were among these Norwegian ancestors.

Besides learning names, birth dates, baptismal dates, marriage information, and death dates of these ancestors, I also learned about a variety of resources that spurred on my Norwegian research. With the help of Google Translate, I even got where I could "read" a number of the records I had located. I felt a real growth in my research skills and tools.

The best part, thought, was coming to see these ancestors as people. People who moved from farm to farm. People who lived with waves of illness that decimated the families. People who chose to immigrate to America. People who chose to stay in Norway. Because of this, most of my posts in January through March of 2015 concerned these Norwegian ancestors.

Participating in the Genealogy Do-Over was well worth the time. Whether you are a beginning researcher or have been at it for a long time, I would encourage you to look at the G D-O web site and consider participating in the program activities. 

Now for 2016. Over the past few months, I've been plowing through the wills and probate records available through both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Each will, each record of probate returns seems to provide a new tidbit of information. I've taken a break from my regular posts as I've been reading virtually every line of each record I find. Tedious at times, but definitely worth it.

Goal 1 is to continue to explore these will and probate records for my family tree and then for my husband's also.

Goal 2 is to help a family member learn more about her family history. Because the majority of her ancestors and relatives seem to be clustered for several generations in a few neighboring Georgia counties, I'm already seeming how helpful it will be to use the Cluster Research approach, looking at Family, Associates, and Neighbors, as suggested by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

Goal 3 relates to Family Tree Maker. Like so many other users of FTM, I was surprised to learn of Ancestry's decision to no longer update or sell this product. Over 2016 I expect to decide my final reaction to this news. Will I stick with FTM even after moving to Windows 10 on my research laptop or just stay using Windows 7? Will I switch to another brand of genealogy software? Will I hope that some other company opts to add FTM to their line of products? Whatever my decision, my research will continue.

So there are my goals - records to continue researching, a research approach with which to become more proficient, and a software decision to may. And maybe, along the way, I'll find some new stories to celebrate.

Happy 2016 to all of you.