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.