Sunday, October 22, 2017

Day Twenty-Two: A Quick Recap

It feels like I'm building momentum when I hit a stack of file folders which can be quickly dispatched into the recycling bin, but I have to remember it wasn't always like this in my Fall Cleanup project—and likely won't continue this way, either. I'm still in the "F" folder, but courtesy of my mother-in-law's maiden name—Flowers—and its many branches I've researched over the years, I'm, well, still in the "F" folder.

It was nice to toss the entire contents of today's file folder, which contained addresses and instructions for various early online resources for Flowers family history. Back during those earlier years of, several announcements came out regarding mailing lists for the Flowers line. Of course, back then in the 1990s, I was diligent to keep them all—not online, but printed and filed away in that folder for "F."

Now, those lists are antiquated, nearly ghost towns among the burgeoning new genealogy sites on Facebook. I didn't even need to think twice about whether I wanted to try and see if the addresses were still existent. My Flowers tree—with its many related lines—is so full of individual entries that it isn't even worth the time to ask myself such a question.

Meanwhile, it reminds me that today is my day to recap my research progress. I can't have managed to put too many new names on the four trees that I regularly tackle, considering how much time has been diverted to this Fall Cleanup exercise, but I still needed to take a look—even more so, keep track on my (now digital) tally sheets.

This becomes a reminder of how important it is to keep track of progress. No matter how fast or slow I work in each biweekly period, this reminds me that any work at all will equate to progress. And, when it comes to genealogical research, progress is all I ask.

So, how did things go on that Flowers line these past two weeks? With the exception of the DNA matches count at 23andMe (which always goes backwards, for some strange reason), I made progress. My mother-in-law's tree now has 12,822 people, including the eighty five person increase garnered in these past two weeks. My own mother's tree has 11,618—a similar increase of eighty nine. Even though my father's line has only 451 in the tree, I still managed to nudge that count up by one over the last two-week period. And my father-in-law's line also saw a small increase: eighteen more individuals, totaling 1,353.

Though the DNA matches for my family aren't under my direct control—it takes two to make a match, and I haven't yet figured out how to get a family member I don't yet know to take a DNA test—even there, I can see progress (well, with the exception of the retrograde 23andMe). I gained twenty six DNA matches at Family Tree DNA to total 2,459, while my husband gained seven to reach 1,568. At AncestryDNA, I gained twelve to total 753, and it was up nine for 367 for my husband. While yes, our numbers actually shrunk at 23andMe—mine by three to total 1152, and his by nine to reach 1,194—I'm more likely to cheer for upcoming holiday sales to boost the numbers at the other two companies than grumble about the disappearing cousins at 23andMe.

The main thing is to remember to find ways to encourage myself to continue the work. Whether for research progress in general or for specific tasks like this Fall Cleanup, even a little bit more at a time will, over the long run, yield progress.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Day Twenty-One:
A Slight Detour for Indexing

"Buy one Marriage Index CD, get one FREE!"

It's been a while since I blitzed through a file this quickly in my Fall Cleanup project, but today's task took all of fifteen minutes—and that included reading the typewritten 1993 letter on the back of the recycled page I had used to print out a copy of my 1999 Family Tree Maker database.

Back then, it was Family Tree Maker, offered by the "Banner Blue Division" of Broderbund. And yes, I'm sure of those details. That's what it says on the User's Guide Supplement for Version 4.4, stashed in the folder slated for review in today's to-do list. (And yes, I still can operate that old version of FTM on my antique franken-computer.)

Going through this file cabinet has been a walk through the memorabilia of the earliest eras of online genealogy. I even had a couple old issues of Family Tree Maker Magazine—then out of Hiawatha, Iowa, it was mostly a catalog of research products for sale, such as the ad (above) for the marriage index CD sold in the late 1990s.

Things have changed quite a bit in the genealogical research world, and I'm glad of it. Yes, I will faithfully repeat the mantra that it's not all accessible online (and likely won't be, at least for a long, long time), but it certainly speeds research progress to be able to snare at least some of those digitized documents at any time from the comforts of home.

We have some forward-thinking organizations to thank for that convenience, and in at least one case, multiple thousands of volunteers who have donated their time to transcribe the writing encased in digital pictures of history's records on which we have so come to rely for documentation.

In fact, that one organization—those folks behind—is, this same weekend, encouraging volunteers to once again lend a hand to complete the "indexing" process to free several digitized collections from their "browse only" status online and include within the ranks of searchable documents. Volunteers from around the world are joining together to see how many collections they can slam dunk before the weekend is over.

You, too, can be a part of this. Just like I was—brand new at indexing, but at least familiar with genealogy—you can sign up to read the text in a given document (provided online) and type it out into a web-based entry form, following simple instructions provided by the FamilySearch coordinators. The process is simple, and the tasks are labeled by level of difficulty so that beginners can select an entry point at which they will feel comfortable while they get the hang of the process.

The Worldwide Indexing Event 2017 continues all this weekend. I noticed the page set up for this event provides a choice of specific indexing projects that hopes to complete—and graphs each project's progress toward completion right on that same page, a great way to encourage volunteers.

I particularly noticed two of interest: county naturalization records for New York, and the death index for New York City. Since today is my regular day to index, I'll likely focus on those two, mainly because I have personal ties to family who might appear in those records. You might rather pursue the project for Oklahoma School Records, or the one for Civil Registrations of Deaths from the National Offices in the Philippines—which, incidentally, is already showing as over seventy percent completed.

Whichever project you prefer to help complete, you can be sure, as a volunteer, you are becoming part of the effort that has transformed genealogical research from the then-cutting-edge CDs sold by Family Tree Maker in the 1990s to the streamlined online process it is today. All you need do, after signing up as a volunteer online, is click on the "Get Started" button next to the project name you prefer and...well...get started!      

Friday, October 20, 2017

Day Twenty: "F" is for Family

Where does a month disappear to? We're already two-thirds of the way through October, and I can't say I've made quite as much progress in the Fall Cleanup as I would have liked. This project has been more of a triage exercise: deciding which file folders yield projects that must go on life support immediately and which ones can survive without attention long enough to be lumped together into a subsequent project.

The "F" file looks like it will be worth a long trajectory. Full of folders with information on immediate family, it merits sub-projects of its own.

Like this one: the file was labeled "Family Christmas Letters." For all of you just primed for that cozy holiday season in the offing, imagine your family Christmas letters coming back to haunt you, years after you wrote them.

Yes, I am that relative.

Every year since I don't know when, I took every family letter enclosed with the requisite holiday greeting card and stuffed them inside this file folder. Every new child, then every new grandkid, complete with birth dates, first steps, first tooth, first missing tooth—they're all in that folder. Just in case I missed transferring any of those important firsts into my digital genealogical database, I need to go back through these kept records and make sure I didn't miss a detail.

Actually, I'm thinking of transcribing the letters. Or maybe scanning them. Or both. After all, as one computer whiz once told us—about our then-new 128 megabyte purchase, incredibly enough—"you'll never run out of room on this computer." I should have space to squeeze in at least all these letters. Right?

This puts the "family history" back into Family History. It's probably the closest I'll come to having diaries to transcribe from the words of my siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles.

But it will be a project that will take a lot of time to complete. You can be sure I won't blog about it; grunt work like this seldom makes for scintillating reading. It will be a labor of love worth having, however. Just think of all the possibilities that can grow out of a database like this:
  • Facebook post to nieces and nephews: "In this Christmas card from 1978, your mother bragged about victory over dirty diapers."
  • Tally, per year: how many greeting cards included announcements of new arrivals.
  • Treasure hunt: How many holiday family photographs can you find which include missing members who were photoshopped into the scene?

As it turns out, my year-after-year discipline of saving Christmas letters extended to include all birthday cards, anniversary cards, graduation cards, and other messages which contained information about the family. I have a lot of family details to compile from this decades-old trove.

Final verdict on this folder: set it aside for future transcription. New year's resolution: get to this project a.s.a.p.

Above: "American Homestead Autumn," undated Currier and Ives lithograph; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Day Nineteen: "D" is for "Done"

Sometimes, they bog you down. Sometimes they speed you up. I may have spent forever—or at least a good portion of the month—deciding what to do with the contents of the "B" folders, but I'm apparently making up for it now. This is encouraging news for my flagging Fall Cleanup project.

There were only two folders in my "D" section. Neither of them was for surnames. Nor were they for topics which require a lot of consideration. This is good. I dispatched them quickly.

Of course, I can't just move on without saying just what those two folders contained. But this will be easy. Remember that most of the contents of this file cabinet was assembled in the first few emergent years of online genealogy research.

One feature of the time was the sheer enthusiasm over discovering—be that surname ever so common, like Jones, or unusual, like Taliaferro—that we could connect with fellow researchers via email. Sight unseen, family history enthusiasts were sharing notes with fellow researchers all across the country—no, make that all around the world. (I can vouch for that, having reviewed some responses from Australia and England, as well as the more commonplace Minnesota or Tennessee.)

One way these researchers were able to find each other was through electronic forums. And notes from one of those became the sole resident in my file for "D": the Delphi Forums.

Now, don't go looking for the modern-day version of the Delphi Forums. My sign-in instructions told me to access the site by using the address I tried that, just now, and didn't get anywhere, so I guess that was a website that fizzled around the time of the dot-bomb.

That was an easy journey through the file folder! I was on to "E" in no time, where the story was similar. (You can guess the same is likely to happen when I get to "X," but I was as surprised as anyone to discover I hadn't filed anything in either of these two preceding letters.)

Another forum for genealogy chatting provided the papers stuffed in my "E" folder—for an entity named, logically enough, e-Groups. This was where I met up with some Catholic researchers for Pennsylvania and Ohio, so I owe them much in helping point me in the right research direction. Still, don't think you can access their resources nowadays—unless the company which swallowed them up (Yahoo!) still makes the e-Groups archives available.

Without a second thought, I tossed all those notes in either the recycling bin or the shredder—for those pages with personal information attached.

And just like that, I'm on to the "F" folder. There, unfortunately, I won't be keeping up that brisk pace. Remember, my mother-in-law comes from the Flowers line, and there are several files to inspect, just in that one folder. This will take a while.

Above: "Boulevard Montmartre à Paris," 1897 oil on canvas by Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Day Eighteen: Finally! An Emptied Folder!

For as imposing a topic as the American civil war, you'd think it would take me much longer to dispatch with the folder I pulled out of my nemesis file cabinet today. Under "C" for Civil War, it was the item I was due to tackle today, and thinking of all that conflict meant to our nation's history, it should have given me more pause to consider.

Thankfully, it didn't. The only research question I've faced—at least on the Union side—was whether I could find any records of my husband's great grandfather, John Tully, having served. After all, according to a long-winded version of his obituary, the man had served under "General Hooker." I can only presume this means Brigadier General Joseph Hooker.

Despite that note in John Tully's obituary, I never could locate any record of his having served. The folder I encountered in today's installment of The Cleanup reminded me of my attempt, back in 2004, to locate anything at the National Archives. I had saved files containing instructions on how to research the matter, back at that time, and records of my having located a possible John Tully—and paying the fee to gain a copy of his record.

Even so, that attempt was short-circuited when a kind employee, in the process, mentioned to me that he thought I might not be ordering the file for the right John Tully. I recall—though there is, unfortunately, no record of the exchange in this file folder—that the employee mentioned this John Tully had moved, after the war, to North Dakota. Thinking, at the time, that my John Tully had returned to the family home—then in Chicago—that North Dakota wasn't in the picture for our family history.

Of course, it was only later that I learned John's sister Johanna had moved with her branch of the family to North Dakota, so there was a connection, no matter how slim. If only I had thought to continue with the process. After all, what's another thirty seven dollars?

Now, with subscriptions to Fold3 and other research resources, surely I could replicate those files—or at least some smattering of something that could verify the information contained in that email exchange. At least, that's what I thought, as I worked through that Civil War file. But some things just need to be snatched when they are first spotted; I haven't been able to find anything now.

In the end, most of the links provided in the articles saved in that folder are so outdated that I decided to toss the entire folder. Score one for "progress." I'm on to the Ds.

Above: Civil War, Picket Duty in Virginia; oil on panel by American artist Albert Bierstadt; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day Seventeen: Finally at "C"

I may have gotten bogged down in the Bs in The Cleanup, but don't think it will be clear sailing, now that I've emerged into the Cs. If you've ever noticed all my tags at the end of posts and concluded that I don't have many surnames beginning with that letter, you would be correct. Out of the twenty one topic labels beginning with C that I've used in the nearly six and a half years I've been blogging at A Family Tapestry, only four of them refer to surnames. And even two of those are surnames which are tangential to my families' lines.

So as we journey into the section of my file cabinet reserved for genealogical topics beginning with the letter C, there really isn't going to be much that is directly affiliated with a surname.

That may seem to be a good sign. After all, I've been working at this re-organization project for seventeen days now, and I've only conquered two letters of a twenty six character alphabet. But don't think the lack of folders for surnames will speed me along. Each of these folders is labeled with a research topic, sure to be filled with tips on where to find more information on the background subjects which allow us to see our ancestors come alive again (at least in our mind's eye).

For instance, today's folder bids me reconsider what I've learned about researching the genealogy of Catholic ancestors. This is not a compact issue. There is much about the structure and culture of the Catholic Church which has enabled researchers to find out more about their ancestors, thankfully, but even this presents a learning curve for a novice researcher—just as I was, twenty to thirty years ago—particularly for someone who is not personally of the Catholic faith.

Many of the pages saved in my "Catholic" folder referred—not that you'd be surprised—to books. Some volumes were relatively new; others centuries old. One recommended title, Catholic Trails West: The Founding Catholic Families of Pennsylvania, was actually published in 1988, "only" twenty nine years ago. It apparently came in two volumes, though the second volume doesn't seem to be available anymore—a problem, since my mother-in-law's family would be listed, if at all, in the second volume. What a wonder has unfolded, in those ensuing years, as at least the first volume of the book is now available to Ancestry subscribers online.

The trick is finding those old resources now. Another long-pursued resource, I was told, would be the "Goshenhoppen Records," but where to find them, according to these old 1999 file folders, was the main question. It took some current-day googling magic to uncover the hiding place for one online stash of transcriptions of those Goshenhoppen records—both baptisms and marriages—but stuff like this is now out there, if you are willing to hunt for it.

Before you can know to look for it, though, you have to know it's out there—and to know why you would want to look for it. In my case, it was years of putting in time in background reading to learn that the Catholics in this time period were likely to move as a group—and did, often, from chapel to chapel to chapel, as priests established new places of worship as they moved westward. That, in fact, was what brought my mother-in-law's family west to Ohio; her ancestors settled where the state's first Catholic Church had been established. I had to learn that before I could know to look for the records of each stopping place along the way.

Above: "On the Saco," undated oil painting by American artist Albert Bierstadt (1830 - 1902); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Day Sixteen:
Digging Deeper Into that File Cabinet

For those who've noticed how I've gotten stuck, in my Fall Cleanup project, at only the "B" files, you may have wondered if I found any answers with another surname starting with that same letter.

The short answer: maybe.

The longer answer has to go around the detour of another file folder: the one I set up for "Books—sources for rare book publishers." Apparently, those well-informed, diligent researchers I met in my early-online-genealogy researching days were hot on the trail of out-of-print books sure to produce answers to their genealogical questions. Since some volumes having to do with Frederick County, Maryland, were among the publications being sought, I had to hold on to those pages in the folder. Yet again, my intent to toss these files has been foiled.

The verdict rests upon whether I can conjure up those website addresses after, yea, these many years.

In the meantime, I moved on to that next file folder—and yes, it was for my Broyles line. A thick folder. This stack of papers will take quite a bit of consideration. While I don't recall having stumbled upon any answers to my migration mystery of the past month, I'll be sure to check the contents of this file carefully.

Once again, this file contains numerous very old website addresses, plus a lot of email correspondence with distant cousins. One letter was to someone who turned out to be a ninth cousin in that Broyles line. How I wish some of these old contacts had been around to do a DNA test!

As it turns out, one researcher had actually sent me a copy of the Arthur Leslie Keith manuscript, so while I've been checking it out via its online source in the past month, I had a paper copy of it, all along. Truth be told, I'd much rather go through the digital copy, for it's handily searchable, speeding the research process. But I'm glad to have one at hand to refer to, if needed.

Better yet, the copy included a hand-written note with the email of the helpful Broyles cousin who had provided it to me. I have often thought of that Broyles connection, as I struggled over my research questions in the past month. Another distant Broyles cousin, this man was well versed in the many branches and descendants in this line. His own part of the Broyles family tree included a Broyles ancestor who had gone west to California during the Gold Rush era. You can be sure he had some colorful stories to share about his ancestor's experiences. I've often wondered if I could still connect with him. I guess now, I won't need to wonder much longer.

As the process continues, I'm afraid I'm not much of an organizer of old files. The more I search, the more I find that I can't bear to live without. Even trying to re-organize, consolidate files, and put in newer formats doesn't seem to be a workable strategy, for every step mushrooms into a larger to-do pile than what I started with, originally.

One thing I can say, though: at least I'm now out of the "B" folder and into the "C" section. Progress may be slow, but at least it is moving forward.

Above: "Berlin: Victory Avenue with Victory Column in Autumn," undated pastel on cardboard by German artist Lesser Ury (1861 - 1931); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
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