Sunday, November 8, 2015

Life has been a little crazy!

I haven't forgotten about you! I know it's been a little over a month since I last posted, but I started a new job the week after my last post, so things have been a little hectic. I will return soon though with more family stories and research. (In fact, I've been able to add some new records recently with the new Mexican records on Ancestry!)

In the meantime, I will leave you with this photo of my great-grandfather who served in the US Navy as a precursor to the upcoming Veterans' Day holiday.

Gilberto Cardenas Ortega
  • Photo provided by Thomas Cardenas who obtained it from Amalia Cardenas Tristan.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

John Thomas Stephens

John Thomas Stephens is one of my brick wall ancestors. I seem to be having an unusually hard time finding him. (I blame the 1890 census!) Following is what I know about him.

I have found conflicting information on his birth so far. The 1900 census lists John's birth as being in July 1866 in Ohio. The 1910 census lists his birth as being in about 1868 in Iowa. The 1910 census for his son, Grover, lists his birthplace as Virginia. The 1920 census lists his birth as being in about 1867 in Iowa. The 1920 and 1930 census for Grover both list his father's birthplace as Missouri. The 1920 census for his son, Charles, lists his birthplace as Indiana. The 1930 census for Charles lists his father's birthplace as Missouri.

I'm leaning towards Iowa as the actual state. It was the most consistent I've found in the early years. (I think Cora thought his birthplace was Iowa too because his children still at home list their father as being born in Iowa in the 1930 census.)

I have found a Thomas Stephens, age 13, living a Norton family in 1880 in Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa. I don't know if this is John Thomas or not.
Clipping from 1880 Prairie City, IA Census
The census shows Thomas Stephens' parents as being born in Pennsylvania. This is consistent with a few of the other censuses that I have found for John Thomas (1900-1920).
Clipping from 1900 Clear Creek, MO Census
Clipping from 1910 Lebanon, MO Census
Clipping from 1920 Richland, MO Census

John married Maggie Parkhurst. (I got her name from Charles Oliver's death certificate.) Together, they had at least the following children:
  • Grover Stephens, born November 1888
  • Charlottie Stephens, born October 1889
  • Charles Oliver Stephens, born 14 February 1894
Maggie died before the 1900 census, and I haven't found a death certificate yet for her. I saw on Find-A-Grave that there is a Maggie Stephens buried in Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana. She is recorded as being born in 1859 and dying in 1894. I'm not sure if this is the right person, but it's the closest I have found so far. If she died in 1894, I wonder if it was due to complications of childbirth.

After the death of Maggie, John remarried. He married Cora E. about 1901 according to the 1910 census. Cora was born about 1881 in Missouri. I do not know the names of her parents yet. According to family researchers, Cora's maiden name was Ferguson. I have found a Cora Ferguson listed in Forest City, Holt County, Missouri with her parents James M. and Sarah Ferguson. I'm not sure if this is her though.
Clipping from 1900 Forest City, MO Census
Also, in the 1910 census, Cora is listed as having been the mother of three children, only one of which was still alive in 1910. John is listed as being Cora's first marriage, so these unknown children are assumed to be the children of John and Cora.
Clipping from 1910 Lebanon, MO Census
John and Cora had at least the following children:
  • Irven Stephens, born about 1903
  • Unknown Stephens, born between 1900 and 1910, died before 1910
  • Unknown Stephens, born between 1900 and 1910, died before 1910
  • Hornine Stephens, born about 1911
  • Edgar Stephens, born about 1914
  • Inez Stephens, born about 1918
Clipping of second half of the household from 1920 Richland, MO Census
John died some time before the 1930 census. Cora shows up in Richland, Morgan County, Missouri as a widow living with her two youngest children, Edgar and Inez.
Clipping from 1930 Richland, MO Census
That's about all I know. It seems like a lot at first glance, but everything I know seems to be after his first wife's death. If you descend from this man or know anything about him, I would be very interested in hearing from you! Send me a message or leave a comment on here.

  • 1880 Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1900 Clear Creek, Cooper County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1900 Forest City, Holt County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1910 Clear Creek, Cooper County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1910 Lebanon, Cooper County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1920 Otterville, Cooper County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1930 Otterville, Cooper County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1920 Richland, Morgan County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1930 Richland, Morgan County, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • Death Certificate, Charles Oliver Stephens (accessed on Ancestry)
  • Find-A-Grave Memorial, Maggie Stephens

Saturday, September 26, 2015


I attended my fourth naturalization ceremony this past week as a representative of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I love going to the ceremonies because it makes me feel closer to some of my ancestors that I know went through similar processes. The ancestors I know underwent the process are my great-great-grandparents, Josef Reaber and Christine Konecny.

The 1920 census lists naturalization years as well as immigration years for everyone. Both Christine and Joseph appear in the census as having been naturalized just a few years after arriving in America. The two arrived independent of one another in the late 1880s to early 1890s. In the 1920 census, they are both listed as being naturalized in 1894.
Clipping from 1920 Census
The couple did not get married until 1908, so I assume they did this individually on their own, perhaps even before meeting each other. I do not know if they were in fact naturalized the same year or if they just guesstimated, as Josef often seemed to do with his immigration year, but it's the only reference I have to go on.

According to my great-great-granduncle Josef Konecny, the Bohemian Virtuoso, his father got naturalized after arriving in the States. I believe this is how he and Christine achieved their status as Americans. Children under 18 in the household of a naturalized American also become citizens at the same time.

Unfortunately, there were several John Konecnys who were naturalized in the early 1890s in Cook County, Illinois! Thanks to the passport application of Josef, I have it pinpointed to one who was naturalized on 21 Oct 1896.
Clipping from Josef Konency's Passport Application
I would like to travel to Chicago at some point to see if I can find any additional records (or perhaps even a photograph!) for him at the immigration department or archives. In the meantime, this is all I have.
Naturalization Record Index for Johann Konecny
The other thing in Josef's passport application I found, which is a little upsetting to me, is the relationship between him and his sister, my great-great-grandmother Christine (my namesake). It seems she was not very nice to her brother for whatever reason, and I'm not very proud to share a name with her because of it. Hopefully there is more to this story than what he shares, but this is what I have to go on.
Clipping from Josef Konecny's Passport Application
  • 1920 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • Naturalization Record Index, Johann Konecny (accessed on Ancestry)
  • Passport Applications for Josef Konecny (accessed on Ancestry)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Update on the Harris Family Problem

I had my DAR Fall Forum this weekend, so I wasn't able to prepare a post again this week, but I did want to give a little update on the family I mentioned last week. I went to our local genealogy library on Friday with the rest of the State's DAR members. My one goal was to find information about this Harris line.

Long story short: I found information about the family, but I'm not sure how helpful it is yet.

I found a lot of records for my "son" Patriot, John, and his second wife. I even found where he adopted his wife's children from her first marriage. I have a sneaky suspicion though that the service currently linked to John may not be for John. The source of John's service is the fact that his wife Lavinia received land through a land lottery for being the "widow of a Revolutionary War soldier."

She had been widowed twice by this point though. Sometimes, widows had to prove they were married to the soldier during the time of service to receive benefits on behalf of the man. She didn't marry John until 1816. Her previous husband died in 1809, and they would have been married during his time (if he did in fact serve) during the War.

AND I still haven't proven his first wife yet (my ancestor's mom). I don't "have" to prove her name, but I feel like it would provide a better argument for my case if I can show the prior applications using Lavinia as Lucy's mom are wrong. (Not to mention proving they were wrong about her dying before they got married!)

Then, for David, my other Patriot -- and John's father -- I was able to figure out through some of the ladies who have higher levels of access to previous applications what the nature of Captain David Harris' service was. I was able to figure out the names of the men he supposedly served under, so that will make proving his service with a new source infinitely easier than trying to figure out who is who amongst all of the David Harrises around Georgia at the time.

I'll keep you updated on the progress with this family in future posts, but that's it for the update for now.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

No Post This Week

I had my first DAR meeting as an officer this week, so I didn't have a chance to prepare a post. I did spend some time working on my first supplemental applications. I thought I had them all figured out and ready to submit. Then, as I was finalizing my lineage worksheet, I noticed two big issues.

My first Patriot's wife was listed as dying before she was listed as marrying. Then, my second Patriot, the first Patriot's father, did not have any source of service listed for him. This means I have to reprove his service in the War.

I stayed up all night when I realized it trying to fix each issue. I can argue that Lavinia Harris didn't die until at least another 20 years after they were married, but I won't be satisfied until I find an actual date of death for her.

David Harris' service is the thing that is bugging me though. I have found a man that could be my ancestor, but I can't prove it's him yet. We have a genealogy event at the local library this Friday. Hopefully I'll be able to clear some of this up then.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Education Levels of My Great-Grandparents

I wanted to look into the education levels of family members. The 1940 census has a column that describes a person's highest level of education. In this post, I will describe the highest level of education for each of my great-grandparents that were enumerated in the 1940 census.

Since my paternal grandfather's parents were Mexican, they were not in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. My paternal grandmother's parents were Rebert Odell Hitchcock and Joy Decimund Stephens. Rebert's highest completed grade was ninth grade; Joy's highest grade was 11th.
Clipping from 1940 Census
My maternal grandfather's parents were Jesse Lee Findley and Rosemary Christine Reaber. Jesse's highest completed grade was eighth grade. (The 1945 Florida State Census listed his highest grade as "grammar school.") Rosemary was the only of my great-grandparents to graduate high school.
Clipping from 1940 Census
My maternal grandmother's parents were Gerald Dean Richerson and Jessie Roberta Ellis. I haven't found Gerald in the 1940 census yet. He is out of his parents' house by 1940, and he isn't married yet, so I don't know where he is. Jessie is still living at home with most of her siblings. Her highest level of education is listed as eighth grade.
Clipping from 1940 Census
So, after analyzing the education levels of my great-grandparents, I realize about half of them followed the "normal" pattern. Eighth grade was a fairly common end point for a child's education. Not only was additional education not viewed as necessary, but by the time the child was out of or in eighth grade, they were expected to be contributing to the household.

I was interested to see, however, that so many of my great-grandparents continued on into at least part of high school. I think that speaks to my love of knowledge and education myself.

I hope to find out more information about my Mexican great-grandparents in hopes of seeing where they fall in the education spectrum, but that will definitely take a little more digging. In the meantime, I think I'll settle with continuing to look for Gerald in the 1940 census.

  • 1940 Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1940 DeLand, Volusia, Florida U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1940 Fulton, Callaway, Missouri U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1945 Jacksonville, Duval, Florida State Census (accessed on Ancestry)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Gerald Dean Richerson

One of the perks to having such a "young" family is that I have known more than half of my great-grandparents. I didn't realize how unusual this was until I was in college and had been doing genealogy for a few years already.

I never knew my Mexican great-grandparents; they both passed away before I was born. While I didn't know them well, I did get to meet my dad's other set of grandparents as a child. My maternal grandfather's dad passed away before I was born, but I knew his mom very well. (She's the one that got me started on this crazy genealogy kick in the first place!) And my maternal grandmother's mom lived next door to us growing up.

My maternal grandmother's father, on the other hand, has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Even though he was still alive by the time I went to college, I never knew him. And, actually, it never dawned on me that I hadn't met him until I found out even he existed.

As a kid, you only know what you've been told, and I was told my "Grandma Grimm" was my granny's mom. Since I was never introduced to a person referred to as my granny's "dad," I kind of just assumed she didn't have one.
An excerpt from my Baby Book. (I don't even think my mom asked anybody for information. She put in whom she had met personally and left it at that.)
Then, one day, I can't quite remember if it was when I was in middle school or high school, we drove by a house. I don't even remember where the house was, except I am fairly certain it was still in North Carolina somewhere. When questioning why we were stopped on the side of the street in this seemingly random residential area, I was told my granny's dad lived in the house up ahead of us.

As far as I remember, no one ever approached the house or tried to make contact with him; I just remember driving by the house that day. As if simply knowing he was a real person was enough for my mom and grandmother.

When I started doing genealogy, I asked my grandmother her father's name, but still to this day I haven't asked if she ever knew her father or why he wasn't around when I was a kid. (Honestly, it even took me a while to figure out that her mom had gotten remarried at some point because their last names weren't the same! I never met a "Grandpa Grimm," so again I just assumed there just wasn't one.)

Gerald Dean Richerson was born on 30 June 1921 in Long Lane, Dallas County, Missouri. My grandmother's birth certificate says otherwise. (Not that I hold much stock in what birth certificates say; my dad's says that his dad was born in Texas, instead of Mexico.)

From what I can tell, he was the oldest of eight children born to William Parker Richerson and Cleo Belle Triplett. He married my great-grandmother Jessie Roberta Ellis on 21 December 1942. Together, they had one child, Clara Dean Richerson, in 1943

As I mentioned before, I don't know what happened after my grandmother was born, but by 1947 Gerald was getting married to Hazel Corrine Jenkins in Santa Rosa, Florida. Hazel and Gerald had at least one child together, Barbara Louise Richerson, in 1949.

I don't know if Gerald stayed around long for his second wife and second child, but Gerald remarried a third time to a woman named Marjorie. They had at least the following children:
  • John William Richerson, born 1963
  • Marjorie L Richerson, born 1968
  • Laura Richerson
The only other thing I know about Gerald is that he served as a pilot with the U.S. Navy. He served a year and a half in the military. He enlisted on 19 December 1957 and was released on 6 July 1959. I don't know any specifics on his service, but I do have a picture of him.
Provided by Thomas Cardenas
This was the first photo I saw of my great-grandfather. Since he was 36 when he enlisted in the Navy, and that is relatively old to have joined the service, I wonder what his reasoning was.  Whatever the reason, I think his experiences in the Navy directly affected his feelings about family. I think that's why he found a wife, and kept her, and had a family.

Based on everything I've been able to dig up on him, I don't think Gerald would have been an easy person to know, but I think I would have liked to have known him.
Photo provided by Thomas Cardenas
Gerald died on 28 March 2006 in Missouri. I don't know where he is buried yet, but I assume he is buried in Missouri. If anyone knows anything about Gerald, his second and third spouses, or his other children, please send me a message. I would love to find some answers for this part of the family tree.

  • Birth Certificate, Clara Dean Richerson
  • U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Gerald Dean Richerson

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How I Research, Part III

This is the third and, for now at least, final installment in my how-to mini-series. This also serves as the second part of my organization series. You can read my first and second posts in the series here: Part One and Part Two. In my previous post, I shared with you my ancestor notebook. This time, I thought I would share with you two other systems I utilize the most.

As I showed you in my previous post, in my ancestor notebook, all of my ancestors are organized by generation. In this next system, I have my ancestors broken up by surname. I found this method in the book "The Weekend Genealogist: Timesaving Techniques for Effective Research" by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk. I have two index card boxes with dividers for the individual letters of the alphabet.
My surname boxes
The idea is that you create an index card for every surname in your specific family and include your line of ancestors for that particular surname as a reference.
My Ellis surname card
You'll see in the card above that it reads bottom-to-top. My great-grandmother, Jessie Roberta Ellis, was married three times: first to Gerald Dean, then to Everett Milroy, then to Dunk. Each of my Ellis' after her were each married once. The "E420" in the top right is the Soundex code for the surname Ellis, so I don't have to think about it when I want to search an index or resource by Soundex.

SIDE NOTE: If you want to start this method, I suggest starting with yourself and your (maiden) surname. Go as far back in your surname as you can before moving on to another surname. For your second card, do your mother's surname. Go as far back in her surname as you can before moving on. I have a rather large tree, so this was a few good days off work spending pretty much all day working on this before I finished. I only filed cards in the box after I had created cards for all of the spouses' family lines listed on that card. Unless you're just starting out your genealogical research, this will take a while. Don't get discouraged if this seems to be a huge undertaking. It is SO worth it in the end.

I just started this method a few months ago, but I have already seen its benefits. My family tree is now easier to sort through. It creates a roll-o-dex of sorts that is portable. I have a lot of different indexes available to me through my family tree software, but when I don't have my computer (or when my computer dies because I forgot to bring my charger!), it is nice to still have an alphabetical list of the names I research most.

The most useful benefit for this method for me is for researching at the library or genealogy center. I take my index cards, and then I can quickly figure out if a family in a book or record is in my direct line.

In the original suggested method in the book, she added locations for the ancestors along with the datespan, but I didn't want to clutter the card too much, especially in my family where everyone is born in a different state than their parents. (If all of my "Smith" family members were from, say, Missouri, it would be much easier, but I didn't luck out like that.)

The second method I use to organize my surnames is in a separate notebook. (I am definitely a "notebook junkie!") I was using a 1-inch, but it was busting at the seams to move to a larger one, so I recently upgraded to a 1-1/2".

In the notebook, I have a set of Avery Alphabetical Dividers. A surname report, which I created in my Family Tree Maker program, serves as my index of names in the front of the notebook. It gives me the "earliest" and "most recent" dates I have for people with each surname.
Surname report created by my Family Tree Maker program
Unlike the other notebook I showed you last week, in this one, I keep information I find related to any surname in my tree, not just my direct ancestors. Also, any lines I think could be related but I haven't proven to be in the tree yet are also kept in this notebook.

This is great for throwing all of those random "I'll figure this mess out later" pages that seem to clutter up your workspace. File it away with the (most) relevant family surname, and hash it out when you have the time.

I also keep surname "notes" sheets or "worksheets" for random families I come across but don't want to spend that moment researching. (It is so easy to get side-tracked while researching! Too many rabbit holes to check, not enough time!!) I print the surname in the top right corner of my paper, and I just create a list of notes or random websites or contacts I find.
My "Random Notes" page for my husband's Ingold family
This is a great way to try to sort out relationships listed in obituaries that you don't have time to tackle. Do a little bit at a time until you get all the kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, etc. filed with the appropriate parent.

I do keep separate pages for "Random Notes," "Fellow Researchers/Forum Users," and "Related Websites." I tried keeping them all together at first, but the more prominent and well-researched families tend to get in a little bit of a disarray rather quickly. Rather than highlighting the different categories of information in a different color (my previous method), I figured it would just be quicker to make new sheets. It has worked a lot better that way.

I do use more methods than just the ones I have mentioned. For example, I have another notebook just for locations, and I use a COMPLETELY different method for organizing information in preparation for writing a family history book; but the ones I've covered these past few weeks are the big ones for me. I will describe the other methods some time down the road. I hope you've enjoyed this little "how-to" mini-series. Now, back to the family members!

  • "The Weekend Genealogist: Timesaving Techniques for Effective Research" by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk

Saturday, August 15, 2015

How I Research, Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I started this mini-series on my tips and tricks on researching genealogy. During my first post, I discussed some of the types of forms I use to record my research. This week, I thought I would show you how I organize those forms after I create them.

Organization is something that is key when doing anything of the scale of genealogical research. It's important to realize, though, that organization is something that is often different for different people. What I think is organized, may look like a "hot mess" to someone else. It's all about how your brain works.

I'll even tell you now, I utilize several different organization strategies myself for different projects I'm working on. So, one of my methods may work for you; or all, or none of them may work for you. I'll do my best to show the differences in them though, and you can pick for yourself how you want to organize your own research. Since I do use so many different methods, I will only focus on one method in each post so I can more thoroughly explain each one.

First, for my direct line of ancestors, I have a single notebook set up.

It is currently housed in a 1-1/2" binder, and I have simply named it "Brittany's Ancestors." I have it set up with a couple of different types of dividers inside.
The dividers I use in my Ancestor Notebook
The first set of dividers is actually a set of dividers I have split up between two notebooks. It originally started as a set of eight-tab dividers that have an opening for you to label them yourself. (Half of the set is in my ancestor binder; the other half of the set is in my husband's ancestor binder. I used to keep us both in the same notebook when I first started working on his family. Now his family is more researched than my own! So he has another binder just for his family now.)

These dividers house my Ancestor Charts. The tabs are divided with a couple of different kinds of Ancestor Charts. The first tab is the straight line of ancestors -- the chart I showed you in my previous post. The second and third tabs are for Step-families and Adoptive families.
Stepfamily Ancestor Chart from Family Tree Magazine
Adoptive Family Ancestor Chart from Family Tree Magazine
These forms are also available from the Family Tree Magazine website and are great if you have situations like this in your tree where you want to research both a step-parent's or adoptive parent's lines. I don't have many adoptions in my family, but I have a slew of second, third, fourth, etc. spouses that I try to research in addition to my own ancestors.

Unlike the other ancestor chart, which is clearly laid out for you to number them, these charts do not include any kind of internal numbering pattern. I have chosen not to number these lines myself, but I have considered it for some of my collateral lines where I may need help remembering who the central person in the chart is. (For my own ancestors, when I see my dad's name in the middle of the chart, I know we are talking about some of his step-parents; I don't need a note that tells me my dad is "person 2 on chart 1.")

The second set of dividers I have in my ancestor notebook is from the "Ready Index" line from Avery.
Avery Divider that I use for my Ancestor Notebook
It has 15 numbered tabs that you can customize only from the Table of Contents page. It worked great for me though because I have it set up so each number is a "generation."

Generation 1 is me and my husband.
Generation 2 is my parents.
Generation 3 is both sets of my grandparents.
Generation 4 is all four sets of my great-grandparents.
... And the pattern continues.

For each generation, I keep a couple of different forms in there. I have my Family Group Records with the Source Summaries printed on the back. I discussed these forms last time, so I won't go over these again. I will say though, that sometimes I will print out a very small (about 1" wide) copy of a photo for each person, sometimes a tombstone if that's all I have, and tape it next to the person's name. I only do this for the "parents" on the Family Group Sheet since the children in the family are positioned so close together. So far, I have only done this with some of my husband's family though.

I also have copies of a couple of those records that I had already printed out or photocopied. Not every family has copies of records in the notebook. Even in the ones that do have records, not every family has all of the records relevant to them in their section. I stopped printing them out after a while, and I simply keep digital copies now. More on my digital organization in another post.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Do not store original documents with your research notes, even if everything is acid-free and you think it's okay. Use the strategies I discussed in my last post on Archiving instead. Among other reasons, you'll thank me when you accidentally leave your notebook somewhere and either forget it or it otherwise gets damaged.

I also have a couple of the other forms Family Tree Magazine provides on their website set up in each of the generation sections. The Military Records Checklist and the Census Checklists are definitely my favorites.

I'm actually in the process of redoing my Military Records Checklists because I used to just list all of my direct ancestors in one big list, so the "big list" is in the front of my notebook before my Ancestor Charts. Now, I am working to set it up the same way I do my Census Checklists.
A page of my "big list" for the Military Records Checklist from Family Tree Magazine
You'll see, I block out the options that are outside my ancestor's lifespan. This gives me a clear view of what branches/engagements I should spend my time researching for each person.

One thing I will mention about this form is that it is centered around American military records. The chunk of ancestors at the bottom of this form without any marks is from my Mexican side of the family. This form doesn't work very well for them -- another reason I wanted to re-do this form and switch it over to individual family units. I'm hoping to create my own checklist of sorts for other countries' military records sometime down the line.

For my Census Checklists, I have a new page for each individual Family Group Sheet. This way, aunts and uncles get accounted for in each census as well as direct ancestors.
A page of my Census Checklist from Family Tree Magazine
It takes up more pages this way compared to my old method of listing just my direct ancestors in a continuous stream. It's hard to see in the above photo so I've attached a closeup below, but you'll notice I don't just "check" whether or not I have a copy of the person's census record; I write in the location I found the person in the census. I like doing it this way because it helps me see at a glance if families moved as a unit or if certain branches left on their own.
Closeup of Census Checklist shown above showing locations of census records found
You'll also notice the worksheet only goes up to the 1930 census. I have added a column for the 1940 census in the margin of the document. In a few more years when the 1950 census is released to the public, I will need to make my own version of this document if Family Tree Magazine does not update theirs by then.

I'm hoping, with the Military Checklist broken up this way too that I'll be able to see if entire sets of siblings joined the military, as was often the case in my husband's family, or if only a handful of siblings joined, or if there was any impact on joining the military when a parent served.

The last thing I have in my notebook, though not always in each section, is a small to-do list written on regular, college-ruled filler paper. I keep a much larger to-do list in my Family Tree Maker program, and the Checklists I use serve as their own kind of to-do list showing which records I still need to find; but if there is a particular place I want to remember to look for a record or a particular story I want to remember to try to prove or disprove, I will often keep a note of that in with that family's worksheets.

That about covers it for this particular notebook. Again, this set up may work for you, or it may not. I'll discuss some of my other notebooks and their purpose and organization techniques in future posts.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Archiving Documents

This week, I thought I would give my tips for keeping the precious photos and historical/genealogical documents safe and in good condition. Some of these are common sense, and some of these have been compiled from various genealogical forums and other resources.

First, when handling old photographs, only handle the edges of the photo. Even as a kid, I hated the look of fingerprints on pictures, but it's not just an issue with aesthetics. The oils left behind on the face of the photo will ultimately damage the photo over time. If you must touch the photo faces, wear white cotton gloves.

One thing that is a major road block for most genealogists is unlabeled photos. I'm a person who doesn't really label my photos either, so I get it. Unfortunately, even though I know I'm looking at a photo of my uncle, my future grandkids may not know immediately who is in the photo. As a result, they may assume incorrectly the identity of the "mystery" person, or they may be unable to make any kind of assumption at all to his identity.

So, to label a photo, you have two options depending on the type of photo. If the photo is paper-based, use a soft lead pencil. If the photo is more modern (printed on resin-coated paper), use a waterproof, fade-resistant, permanent pen. And, for both utensils, you will want to write lightly. Don't damage the picture by pressing too hard and making indentations.

So now you know how to handle and label your photos. What do you do with them next? Find a way to store them!

I prefer scanning my images and keeping them on an external harddrive. Make sure to scan them correctly the first time so you don't have to handle to photos excessively. Scan them at the highest resolution possible to get the best result. Some home photo scanners can even read old negative strips you may find laying around and pull the photos straight from the source. I haven't scanned all of my photos yet, but the ones of family members tend to be my main priority so I can add them to the family tree.

Also important to know as far as digital photos goes is that JPG files lose a little bit of their content every time they are saved. Because of this, you want to avoid using JPG files if at all possible. TIFF would be a more preferable option.

Then, even though I love having digital copies of my photos, I am a pack rat, so I still like keeping the originals. When storing photos, use an archival-quality box. You can find these at craft stores, The Container Store, or even some department stores. Once the photos are in the proper container, store them in a temperature-controlled setting and keep them off the floor and away from any moisture or moisture-producing pipes or tanks. (If your photos get wet, air-dry them immediately. If you can not deal with the photos within a day or two, freeze them in small batches in Ziploc bags. When you are ready to fix them, unfreeze air-dry them.)

As with my photos, I love to keep digital copies of all of my important (and even not so important) family documents. Even times when I didn't have my scanner available, I will often find myself taking a photo of the record and then cropping the photo down to size.

For the actual papers themselves, keep all paper documents unfolded when you are storing them. You'll want to store them in an archival-quality folder or envelope. Now, most people tend to store their documents in hanging file folders, but I have noticed that over time, if the folders are not properly compressed, the pages start to sag and start to curl up. So, to fix this, store your paper documents flat. Document boxes work great here.

If the document is already folded, such as a letter, make sure to not force the paper flat. You don't want to accidentally tear the paper. Leave the paper open as far as it is comfortable for a while and see if gravity and the moisture in the air will do the work for you.

One type of document that kind of stands alone as far as archival techniques go are newspapers. Newspapers are not printed on the best paper for archival purposes. So, to assist with this, copy/digitize newspapers as soon as possible and then store the newspapers or clippings in a completely separate box. If you store them in the same box as your other documents or photos, the newspapers could actually damage the other documents.

I LOVE books. All kinds of books. Novels, plays, yearbooks, baby books, family bibles, magazines, cookbooks, etc. take up my entire second bedroom. (I always imagined having a large library in our house when we finally find a place to settle down.)

Of course, I scan whatever I can and store digital copies. Yearbooks have become one of my favorite resources lately (especially when researching my husband's family -- where everyone in his home county seems to be related!). I scan the photos and crop them down to the individual people, clubs, or sports teams. (This is a good example of one of those instances where you don't want to be dealing with a JPG, which loses quality and information every time it is re-saved.)

I also have a fascination with handwriting. The personal messages in yearbooks are such great insights to family history researchers! Did your family member (or at least his or her friends) have a sense of humor? Are there notes of past loves? A lot of people added their phone numbers or addresses too, so it can be great to use that information to recreate your family member's community.

I store all of my books of genealogical importance laying down (rather than standing up in traditional bookshelf fashion). Of course you want the books to be stored in a climate-controlled environment, meaning not the garage or attic, and away from any moisture.

Also, some books' covers tend to be a little sticky (yearbooks are bad for this in particular). They can stick to the book(s) above or below them, and sometimes it can damage the covers. If you find this to be the case for your books, or if you fear this may be the case, you can separate the books with some pieces of acid-free paper.

Finally, some books, especially old scrapbooks and baby books, may be keepsakes you want to preserve despite the fact that they may not have been made on acid-free paper. These may be cases when you would want to seal the book and its contents. Encapsulation is a reversible option for this where the pages or objects are placed in an archival sleeve and sealed with acid-free double-sided tape.

There are, of course, more detailed how-tos and guides out there for archiving documents and heirlooms, but these are the things I find myself using most often since I have very few heirlooms that are not in one of these forms. If you have any questions about any of my techniques or tips and tricks, feel free to contact me. Happy Archiving!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How I Research, Part One

For this post, I will do something a little different. Rather than sharing stories and information about various people in my family, I will start sharing a bit about how I actually research my genealogy. This will be a theme for the next couple of weeks.

To start things off, I thought I would share information about the various forms and resources I use. In general, I keep my family tree in a software program. The program I am currently using is Family Tree Maker, which is owned by Ancestry. I have used two versions of this program: Family Tree Maker 2012 and Family Tree Maker for Mac 3.
Screen shot of my Family Tree Maker for Mac 3 showing my great-grandmother and her family
As a Mac user, I like not needing to use Bootcamp to access my tree, but the Windows version does have a few features that I prefer to the Mac version, like being able to tab between certain information fields; but that's just my personal opinion.

In addition to my digital family tree, I also keep several notebooks with family tree information. These notebooks are filled with various forms I use to keep track of my research. While there are several forms I use, there are three that I definitely use the most.

First, I use the Five-Generation Ancestor Chart from Family Tree Magazine.
Five-Generation Ancestor Chart from Family Tree Magazine
This form is pretty much the staple-document for genealogists. You start with a single person or couple, typically yourself, and you work your way backward through the generations. The people in the chart are given a number. The first person is Number 1, then the rest of the numbers in the chart follow the pattern of:
Fathers = (Number) x 2
Mothers = ((Number) x 2) + 1

I like the chart from Family Tree Magazine because it has five generations and the layout is very clean. Ancestry offers a similar form, but it only has four generations and therefore requires many more pages.

The second form I use is from Ancestry. It is their Family Group Record.
Family Group Record from Ancestry
This sheet is fantastic for recording the basic facts for all members of a specific family. The form from Ancestry has a fantastic layout and works well for me because I write rather small.

What I love most about this form is that it has space for up to 12 children and their spouses. It doesn't help much if a family had more than 12 children, but it is good to see the spouses at a glance, especially when you have siblings marrying other siblings.

The third sheet I use I actually print on the back of my Family Group Records. It is also from Ancestry. It is the Source Summary form.
Source Summary from Ancestry
On the front of my Family Group Records, I cite my sources using numbers, similar to adding footnotes. The numbers correspond to the sources in the Source Summary on the back. This helps make a quick reference for where certain facts were found. It does not help much if you have numerous different spellings for a name or estimations for a date, but I list the first few differences in the "Information Found" column when I feel so inclined. All-in-all, this page suits my source citation needs for my paper records. (I keep much more extensive source citations in my Family Tree Maker program.)

As I said before, there are a lot more forms I use for my research, and I will highlight a few more over in a future post, but these three are my favorites by far. And, as for how I find the information for these forms, I use a few different sites and resources most frequently. These are a few of my favorites:
Ancestry, Fold3, and require subscriptions, but they often have free records available in full or in part. Sometimes they have free access weekends on holiday weekends too. FamilySearch, Chronicling America, and Find-A-Grave are all free. Microfilms can be found at a genealogy center or ordered from the Family History Library (run by local Mormon churches and based in Salt Lake City).

That pretty much does it for today. Look forward to my future posts on how I research my family history and other tips and tricks.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

J. H. Brissey Dies of His Injuries

Obituaries are often some of my favorite sources of genealogical information. The good ones provide information about the deceased's birth, parents, siblings, spouse, children, hobbies, occupation, burial, cause of death, and locations lived. Others, however, will merely state that someone died and where to send flowers.

The one for my fourth great-grandfather, Jessie Ambrose Brissey, is one of the good ones.
Newspaper in which the obituary was published
Taken from what would have been his local paper, Anderson Daily Intelligencer, this account of Jessie and his death is quite thorough, even if they mistakenly report his middle initial as an "H," instead of an "A." I will share his obituary with you now.

NOTE: All punctuation and capitalization is as it appears in the obituary. I have inserted some things in parentheses for words that seem to be missing letters or if I can't make out a word in the text. I will post the questionable passages and if you think you know what something may say, just send me a message or leave a comment.
Headline for the obituary
Venerable Citizen of This County Never Rallies - Funeral This Afternoon at 5:30

M. J. H. Brissey who has been desperately ill at Anderson county Hospital for several days, passed away yesterday afternoon at 5 o'clock. The funeral services will be held this afternoon at 5:30 at the home of his son, W. L. Brissey of Calhoun street.

Mr. Brissey was seriously injured one week ago last Tuesday when a horse which he was driving ran away and caused him to receive injuries which from the first appeared to be very serious. He had come to the city from High Shoals in a wagon that day, and even before leaving for the city expressed a premonition that he should not come. On the return to the country the horse ran away with the sad results stated.

Mr. Brissey was rendered unconscious and was never thoroughly aroused to consciousness, although he aroused partially at times. He sank into a stupor about three days (a)go (a)nd never rallied. He did not appear to be in pain, but just slipped away.

The deceased had for many years been one of the staunch citizens of Anderson. He was born in Greenville county on the 11th of April 1842, and went to the war with a company from that county. He was a good soldier and served continuously in every battle that his company went into, but was never wounded. He was one of the happiest of the old soldiers at the reunion this year.

He settled in Pickens county after the war and lived there about 25 years and about the same length of time in Anderson. His old home was on South Main near the Orr Mill. Mr. Brissey was a carpenter and millwright by trade and was well known over all of this section of the state. His wife was Miss Permelia Francis Rodgers, daughter of John Rodgers of Greenville county who preceded him to the grave 22 years ago.

Mr. Brissey had retired from active work in the last few years and was giving his time to visiting around among his children. At the time of the accident which caused his death he was living with his son J. H. Brissey at High Shoals five miles east of the city. Mr. Brissey had property in Alabama and Florida.

Of the 11 children born to Mr. and Mrs. Brissey 6 are living. Messrs W. I.(,) J. H. and John Brissey of this city; Mrs. J. C. Nalley of this county; Mrs. Charley Burgess of Jacksonville, Fla, and Mrs. Pr(illegible) Tribble of Belton. It is expected that all of the children with the exception of Mrs. Burgess will be here today.
List of surviving children and where the children currently reside
Mr. Brissey is also survived by four brothers and one sister, C. C. Brissey of Orrville; Dave Brissey of Charlotte, N. C., Charles Brissey of Richland, Ga., Jim Brissey of Pendleton and Mrs. Granger of Greenville.

The announcement of pall-bearers could not be made last night, but the funeral services will be conducted at the home of his son by the Rev. J. W. Speake, his pastor, at 5:30 this afternoon. Interment at Silver Brook. Mr. Speake said last night that he had been urged to stay in Char(illegilble) where he has been on conference matters, but he felt that something was drawing him home and he is glad that he came back at this time. He saw Mr. Brissey passing on the wagon on the day of accident and the good man seemed unusaully happy and cheerful that day. He was a good man indeed, is the encomium(?) of his pastor.
Final paragraph of obituary
  • 14 June 1914 issue of "Anderson Daily Intelligencer," Page 2 (accessed on Chronicling America)

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I remember my great-grandmother Rosemary telling me once that, where they lived in Chicago, she was the only person on her street to have a radio. She said this with a sense of pride, as if to imply that her family was the richest on the block.

I decided, for this post, I would pull the information for the 1930 census for her block of Chicago and list who did and did not have a radio on her street in 1930.
16th Ward, Block 10, Chicago City, Cook County, Illinois
S. Marshfield Avenue

South Marshfield Avenue, 16th Ward, Block 10, Chicago City, Cook County, Illinois
  • Borden Friend, radio
  • Kajsa Williams, radio
  • Joseph Bradel, NO radio
  • Joseph Reaber, radio (my great-great grandfather)
  • William Topel, radio
  • Ignatz Koperski, radio
  • Louis Koncecki, radio
  • George Lucas, radio
  • John Trevillion, radio
  • Mary Carroll, NO radio
  • Margaret Ryan, radio
  • John Migliore, NO radio
  • Daniel Toomey, radio
  • Thomas Whalen, NO radio
  • Walter Gregory, radio
  • Joseph Conklin, radio
So, out of 16 families, only four families on their street don't have radios. Since she did not tell me when they were supposed to have been the "only" family to have a radio, I can not be sure if she was referring to a time earlier in life or not. I don't doubt that at one time in her life, her story may have been accurate.

  • 1930 Chicago City, Cook County, Illinois U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

William B. Findley

On 20 June, I discussed one of my "brick wall" ancestors, George Hodson Triplett. This week, I thought I would talk about another. His name is William "Ben" (which I have come to assume to be either Benjamin or Bennette) Findley. Like George, I think I know who Ben's parents are, even though I can't yet prove it. (I believe them to be John M. Finley/Findley and Sydney Louisa Brissey.) Here's what I do know:

According to Ben's tombstone, he was born 4 June 1883. According to every census record I find him living, he was born in South Carolina.

The issue for me is not Ben's beginnings though. It's everything else.

The first piece of evidence I found, at some point during my research, was the following document.
Certificate of Marriage, UNKNOWN SOURCE
I don't know where it originated (I think someone posted it in an Ancestry tree, but I haven't been able to track down the original uploader), but it appears to be from a Family Bible. Whose Bible? I don't know. If you know who has the original Bible or copy of this record, PLEASE send me a message or leave a comment here.

So, here we have my great-great grandparents, W. B. Findley and Pearl Olivia Cargill. The record states they were married 14 April 1907. It also says they were both from Anderson County, South Carolina when they got married.
Clipping from the 1907 Anderson, Anderson County, South Carolina Directory
Clipping of 1907 Anderson, Anderson County, South Carolina Directory
Now, if we attempt to walk through the census records, that's where it really gets confusing.

I think I have found them in 1910 living in Lee County, Georgia. The only thing that baffles me slightly with this record is that the child, who would be my great-grandfather, is listed as Ben Jr. My great-grandfather's name was Jesse Lee. I am curious if and when they changed his name because I had never heard of him ever being called or named Ben.
Clipping from 1910 Lee County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census
In 1920, it gets more confusing.

Here, they are seen living in Hart County, Georgia. By this time, my great-grandfather's name is correct and some of his siblings are present.
Clipping from 1920 Hart County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census
But then, here they are seen living in Walhalla, Oconee County, South Carolina.
Clipping from 1920 Walhalla, Oconee County, South Carolina U.S. Federal Census
This census is also from 1920. Also, notice Jesse, Jack, and Pope (spelled Hope in the Hart census) are missing and another child, Ollie May, has taken their place.

I can't help but think this has to be a different family. The children are different. Pearl is listed as being born in South Carolina instead of her actual homestate of Georgia. And Pearl is listed to be about 10 years younger than she is.

Now, all of these things could be explained as follows: They moved between the 5th of January when they are shown in Oconee and the 23rd of January when they are shown in Hart. Pearl's place of birth could have been miswritten or assumed on the part of the enumerator (though there are several families on the same page who are from multiple locations aside from South Carolina). And Pearl's age could have been mistakenly recorded 20 instead of 30.

Despite all of those explanations, I feel confident these are two different families. The problem, however, lies here:

Look at how close all of these locations are! All three counties in question (Anderson, Oconee, and Hart) are touching. This could still very well be the same family.

In 1930, I find the family living in Hart County, Georgia again.
Clipping from 1930 Hart County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census
(Remember, Jesse Lee was living in Chicago by this point.) So it seems once again that the family is clearly living in Georgia, and not in Anderson, South Carolina.

Meanwhile, from 1931 through 1959, a Pearl and a William E Fendley are shown listed in the city directories of Anderson. To me, this proves that this William and Pearl are a different family unit than my Ben and Pearl.

Still, even with this large entanglement sorted out, I find myself with a million questions about this family. My main question is: Why did they move to Anderson County, South Carolina in 1907? What drew them there? Pearl, I assume, moved there with her (recently?) widowed mother and sister; but this is the only time I see Ben listed as a butcher. He always appears as a farmer in the records.

Perhaps it was just destiny playing out. Somehow, the two of them had to have the chance to meet. I've been playing around with Google Earth lately. I hope to plot their respective addresses from the 1907 directory to see where they lived in relation to one another and where Ben's butcher shop was located. Be sure to look for that post further down the road.

  • 1907-1959 Anderson, Anderson County, South Carolina City Directories (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1910 Lee County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1920 Rays, Hart County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1920 Walhalla, Oconee County, South Carolina U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1930 Rays, Hart County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1940 Rays, Hart County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • Bible Record of unknown origins
  • Map of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee (found here on FamilySearch)
  • Tombstone, William B. and Pearl Olevia Findley (as viewed on Find-A-Grave)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Revolutionary War Story: Upshaws, Gatewoods, Thorntons, and a Dozier

With today being a day of respect and remembrance of our nation's beginnings, and also being a day most people enjoy with their families, I thought I would highlight an extended family's experience in the American Revolutionary War.

I wrote about John Upshaw's experience in the Revolution in a previous post, and I mentioned how his father-in-law, Larkin Gatewood, was a Sergeant under Captain William Tucker, who was also John's Captain during his first draft.

John Upshaw's daughter, and my sixth great-grandmother, Sarah Upshaw married Benjamin Thornton on 12 January 1796. Benjamin was the son of Dozier Thornton and Lucinda Elizabeth Hill.
This portrait of Dozier hangs in Van's Creek Baptist Church in Elbert County, GA
Portrait copy found on various websites and forums related to Dozier and Van's Creek.
Dozier Thornton also served in the American Revolutionary War. Even Dozier's father, Mark Thomas Thornton, is thought to have aided in the War.

Dozier and Mark are no longer accepted Patriots in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Dozier's grave has been marked twice (once by the DAR and once by the SAR) as being in the North Carolina Militia during the Revolution, though I haven't found any proof of his actual service. But I refuse to give up hope of finding it! I still have a few leads to follow, but they will require actual trips to repositories that aren't yet available online.
Application for Military Headstone for Dozier Thornton, dated 8 November 1927
There seems to be some confusion about Dozier's service online with people thinking he fought in Captain Dunston Blackwell's Division and Major David Dobbs' Battalion. This misinformation comes from a land lottery in Georgia drawn in 1825 (and awarded in 1827) where Dozier is shown as receiving lottery entries. This land lottery was not related to the War in any way. Soldiers did, however, get two drawings in the lottery. That may have sparked some of the confusion.

The fifth person in the family to have aided in the War was (possibly) Mark's father-in-law, Leonard Dozier. (Leonard's relationship to Mark is often debated. While it is clear these two families are related, they may not be father/son-in-law.) Leonard is listed in Abercrombie and Slatten as furnishing beef for the War.

Even despite Dozier and Mark's disputed service, this particular branch of the family tree leaves me feeling very grateful and very patriotic, especially on holidays like today. I hope everyone enjoys a safe and pleasant Fourth of July, and I hope everyone appreciates the actions of the men and women who attributed to the founding of this nation we call The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave.