Monday, February 29, 2016

30 x 30 Challenge: Already Reevaluating!

OK. This is already getting out of hand. And it hasn't even started yet!!

Once again I bit off more than I could chew. The stars in my eyes and hope in my heart were bigger than the reality of time.

Darned time. I shake my fist at you!

After sitting and evaluating my game plan on Sunday afternoon, I came to the realization that my grand plan was not coming to fruition. In the manner I had imagined it anyway. Good thing I keep a stack of paper bags close at hand when dyspnea and a sense of anguish take over. Genealogy, after all, is not for the faint of heart!

I have learned to keep this handy little helper open on my desktop while I attempt the genealogy. It has aided greatly in lessening the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But I digress.

I had put forth the proposition to thoroughly research one ancestor each day for 30 minutes. Only. Then move on to another ancestor the following day, thereby researching 30 ancestors in 30 days.


Apparently I had gone temporarily mad.
(And, no, it was not Wine O'Clock, if you must know)

Here's my new plan.

Each day of the challenge I will sit with ONE ancestor for 30 minutes and thoroughly evaluate what I still need to acquire, source, document, prove/disprove, etc. I will look at the following:

Birth Date
Birth Place
Marriage Date
Marriage Place
Death Date
Death Place
Burial Date
Burial Place
Lifetime Residences
Military Service

Anything I am missing I will note, and move on.
I will not attempt to research. I will only observe. In this manner I should have a comprehensive list of areas that require research when I do have the time to sit down and dive in.

Now this, this is doable.

Let the challenge begin!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Five Photos ~ Five Weekends: #1 Uncle Charlie

Uncle Charlie. In a dress. With a pipe and a devious smirk. Outside in what appears to be a public park. With a baby carriage?

When I came across this photo in a box of memorabilia I inherited when my dad died I was more than curious. It dates to around 1900. There is no notation on the back giving any indication as to what was afoot.

As a matter of fact, I needed to investigate for a while before I could even determine this WAS Uncle Charlie.

Googling "victorian men in women's clothing" got me a lot of photos. I mean a lot. Seems it was a thing. Charlie's here was an amateur photo, but there are many, many professional photos for the browsing.

So. What's up?

I feel like he was a prankster. A rogue. A rascal.

He was the youngest of 7 children. He had three older brothers and three older sisters. Four of his siblings were a decade or more older than he was, and would most likely not have approved of this behavior. The other two were only a few years older, a sister and a mischevious brother. Could this have been a bit of sibling goading?

I like to think that. A dare, well played.

Or maybe there was another side to Uncle Charlie.

Either way I like him very much.

He married late (37 years old) and had two daughters and one son.

I am currently searching for his great grandchildren, they would be about my age. I would love to learn more about my favorite uncle I never knew.

Charles Sumner Irons
b. Chicago IL 1874
d. Hinsdale IL 1956

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over 2016: The Go-Over, Month Two

Well here we are. The end of Month Two. How's everybody doing? I feel pretty good this go-round, actually*. The month-long mosey, instead of the week-long sprint is suiting me just fine!

For this month of the Do-Over: Go-Over I have a pretty good handle on my base practices, seeing as I was so wildly out of control previously. I learned the hard way what not to do, and what to always do. I did not always make notes as to where I got some of my information when I first started out (insanely thinking I would actually remember - years later!!!), but in the last several years I have developed the habit of leaving notes and comments on each ancestor profile so I can easily see what I have and have not done, still need to do, or why I did it. Also, a big one, taking enough time with each document as to squeeze all the juice out before moving on to the next. The relatives, as it turns out, are not going anywhere! Genealogy is not a race! Adding more "trophies"  to the tree just makes for a lot of unnecessary, miserable work later. (Believe me, I know!)

I have initiated a side challenge, the 30 x 30 research challenge, which dovetails perfectly with the second topic for the month: Setting Research Goals. I intend to focus on one ancestor a day, for 30 minutes only, and determine what facts, documents and information I already have and what I am missing. I am planning on starting with my third, fourth and fifth generation ancestors - looking into some sixth generation ancestors if needed to fulfill my 30x30 goal.  I already know I will have a long list for all of my grandparents, there are many gaps in the information I have. I've already researched some of my great- and second great-grandparents for the 52 Ancestors challenge, but I will relook at everyone on my list by month's end.

Oh, reading that just now kinda overwhelmed me.

*In all honesty, even with the month, instead of the week, to pursue these goals/topics I still get a flush of panic when I think of all that I would like to accomplish AND still have a life outside the Cave. (What? You have a life outside of genealogy? Do tell!)

Baby steps. One task at a time.

Rome did not get built in a day.

Ok, I can do this. Phew.

Looking ahead to the Month Three and Month Four topics, this plan seems to set me up well for what will be required in the next two months. Fingers crossed and with a little help from the genealogy fairies (yes, I do believe in them) this ship should sail smoothly forward .......

Friday, February 26, 2016

Five Photos ~ Five Weekends

Inspired by several other bloggers doing similar photo challenges, (links follow post), I have decided to entertain myself, and hopefully you, with a vintage family photo and a tale - tall or otherwise - to accompany it.

I have so many more that five that I would choose, but in the spirit of the game I will limit myself to five to begin.

I will post the weekends of Feb 27/28, Mar 5/6, Mar 12/13, Mar 19/20 and Mar 26/27.

This weekend I will introduce you to my absolutely favorite 2nd great uncle - "the fun uncle" - Charlie Irons. I never met him, but he'd be one I'd travel back in time to hang out with! I use his photo on my business card (I won't spoil it - I might use the photo for a story) and he is the laughing one in the photo on my Facebook header.

I absolutely adore "uncle" Charlie, I hope you will too!

See you this weekend!

Five Days of Family Photo Stories
Five Photos In Five Days
My Life In Five Photos

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My 30 x 30 Genealogy Challenge

I have decided to take Janine Adams up on her query to her blog readers. Put forth back in August, Janine invited us to partake in a 30 x 30 genealogy research challenge. At that time I had too many other life things on my plate, but had always wanted to participate.

I plan to start this challenge on February 29 and commit to researching 30 minutes every day until March 29.

In preparation for this challenge I will look at my third, fourth, fifth and possibly sixth generation ancestors. (grandparents, great grandparents, 2nd great grandparents, 3rd great grandparents). I intend to compile a list of facts and documents I still need to find. Each day of the challenge I will pick one ancestor and exhaustively research just that one person. No rabbit trail, no BSO.

My goal with this challenge will be to have 30 well documented ancestors with which to pick up my 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks challenge. That particular challenge broke down in October as the 'life things' increased in velocity and completely derailed my genealogy research for several months.

Things are finally settling down around the Cave and I have renewed my commitment to total immersion where my research is concerned. Now, I can't promise that 'life things' won't come back to pull that commitment rug out from beneath me once again, but my intentions are pure and my spirits high as I venture forth!

.... Perhaps I should light my genealogy novena candle, just to be safe .....

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Something New ... And Exciting!

After the breakthrough I had last week with my brick wall 2nd great grandmother, I decided the way to go about researching all my brick walls was to go wide and deep.

Now, I have never been one for a ginormous family tree anyway. Having just come off a successful culling of my own out of control tree. which, as it turns out, wasn't so out of control as some. But that's not the story here.

The story today is to share with you what I am currently attempting in the Cave.

I spent the weekend casting a very wide net, going in deep on the Whitford family that I discovered last week. Turns out the whole clan is nuts - and they liked to marry and divorce numerous times. I would not have seen this pattern if I was sticking to just my direct line. By starting a new research tree on Ancestry dot com I was able to include all the collateral family, half cousins, step grandparents, all the odd, but blood related at some level, characters that I would not have bogged down my own tree with. (No, I do NOT want my own WikiTree, thank you). And, guess what!? I did start to see patterns, and was able to put some 'orphans' in families based on information found on other relatives documents, death certs, wills, etc. I must admit it was quite exhilarating!

Genealogy high?

So I have started to create research trees for all my dead end ancestors, adding all the spouses, children, brothers & sisters, aunts & uncles, etc; and following the trails to see what I might unearth.

It is very satisfying, for my obsessively orderly brain not to have all these trails, these webs, dangling from my own tree like so much Spanish moss. And, when I want to research a particular family I can just open that tree and work.

Now, I have member tree hints turned off so I don't get a gazillion bad trees popping up in my new hints, but once I have found all the legit sources available, I will pop over to search and look at those trees.

This is where the magic can happen.

Like it did for me last week.

Most often not, mind you, but it can, so I always look.

And, here's another thing. Once I get the research tree built, and have become pretty familiar with the surnames, I can hook my AncestryDNA to the tree and wait a bit to see if I snag anything! If I had one of those 30,000+ behemoths I would certainly not recognize the name of my 6th cousin five times removed. But with a compact little research tree I would.

The information is out there - we just have to dig deep and go wide sometimes until we spot that glimmer of light at the end of the long, long, long rabbit hole.

Today I am working on my McBrides and my O'Connells - should be a piece of cake!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over 2016: The Go-Over

Last year I jumped in with both feet and fully embraced the Do-Over. I signed up, and showed up on Day One, bright-eyed and eager to fix the big gaping mess I had created in my race to "win" genealogy. I started off strong and made some good headway.

I also did a great deal of weeping and a fair amount of gnashing of teeth.

I finally hoisted the white flag of surrender somewhere around Cycle 3 - Week 7. Each round of the Do-Over got me further along, but there was so much everyday life minutiae getting in my way that I just gave up. The pace was too frantic, my life too hectic.

I dabbled, secretly, in the Cave when time permitted. I lurked in the shadows of the Facebook Do-Over Group. I followed a few BSO's down their rabbit holes. I realized that I HATE spreadsheets .... and that's OK. The one I created will most assuredly go unused, collecting cyber-dust. I love my notebooks and more importantly I will USE my notebooks.

Along about mid December I made a bold decision to "rip the band-aid off" and just prune the living bejezus out of the wildly out of control tree I had been avoiding since around 2009. The decision probably was made post Wine O'Clock, like most good brash decisions, but I ran with it - fueled by the claret courage of Merlot.

Do not be alarmed!!

I made a full backup copy first. (I hadn't that much "courage")

Once I got started - man did it feel good! I felt like a ninja assassin, hunting down unattached names and family groups that had no business in my tree to begin with. I went "hunting" nightly for almost 5 weeks (yes, it was that out of control - and truth be told I felt a little like Katniss). I trimmed that tree down to a third of it's original size! I came out the other side with a thing of beauty. Much like pruning a rose bush to encourage growth, just like I did to my ancient lilac bush last year.

I bought the Genealogy Do-Over Workbook in preparation of jumping in again in 2016, and actually finishing this time! As I began to skim the contents I was delighted to read of the Go-Over. Yes! The Go-Over! Brilliant - exactly what I needed. Now that my tree is slim and my sources good my next course of action is a good going over.


Month One is nearly finished up. My files got organized last year and the documents I have been downloading as I pruned are almost all categorized and labeled. I still need to make a 'research areas and improvements' list, but I have a fairly good handle on things.

All in all I am feeling pretty darn confident that I will see this through to the conclusion this time around.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Relook Early and Often: You Just Might Solve A Mystery!

Last January 2015 I wrote my first 52 Ancestors bio about my 2nd great grandmother Jennie Whitford Faulkner. I felt I had exhausted my search for the time being and was resigned to be content with not knowing the answers I was seeking. I put Jennie aside and moved forward with other ancestors.

Last week, to my utter surprise, I was contacted by a second cousin's wife. She had come across a letter I had written to him several years earlier and was curious if he had ever made contact with me. Short answer was no. But I had moved on and made significant discoveries in the time since I had first penned the letter.  

Eager to share my new discoveries I began taking a relook at the family we have in common.

Fresh eyes (quite literally) and a year of intense genealogical immersion allowed me to see things in a new light.

I revisited Jennie and laid out all the facts I had amassed. I created a new working tree in Ancestry dot com and titled it "Jennie Whitford Mystery". I plugged in everything I knew, the things I suspected, and a few questions. Then I went to work.

I kept coming back to the 1860 census. As I wrote previously, I was really curious as to who the 10 year old boy named James Nichols was who was living in Jennie's household. A little brother perhaps? Did her mother remarry? (And who was her mother?) So I was a little surprised when the second hint that appeared when I hit the "search" bar was for a marriage between Jane Whitford and Daniel Nichols in 1849.  (I knew that in later life Jennie had gone by Jane, and I had included that in the search.)

Clicking on it got me this:

Drat! Ok. I jumped over to Family Search and plugged in the info from the record and ......... Bing, Bing, Bing!!! Found this!

Oh. Jane. You were only sixteen! And who were the witnesses? E. M. Whitford and Elizabeth Whitford. I would suspect that at least one parent had to witness to give consent for a minor. Elizabeth may well be her mother, E. M. could be male or female. Father? Brother? Sister? Add that to the "to solve" list for now.

If this is my Jennie/Jane, then the 10 year old James living with her in 1860 was most certainly her child! (Happy dance ensued)

But before I got ahead of myself I wanted to check this new theory, so I utilized the aid of PFTs (public family trees). Normally I have these "hints" turned off, but now I wanted to see if other researchers had these people in their trees too.

FamilySearch had one entry with the right "keyword" for me: Faulkner. But no detail.

Ancestry brought me zip. So I searched through James Nichols and found this:

Opening it and then clicking on James' mother Jennie gave me this!

On the right track indeed!! But the "sources" were merely notations of people's names and email addresses. Messaging the tree owner brought no better results. 

BUT, I have solved the James Nichols mystery and have some new leads to follow. 

And a new mystery afoot. 

Jane, now Jennie, married my 2nd great grandfather in 1856 and went on to have three more children. Her first husband Daniel also remarried in 1856 and had another seven children.

Ironically, Jennie divorced her second husband in 1878 and went back to being Jane shortly thereafter.

Oh, to have a time machine!!  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Coming Out Of The Cave

Hi there!!

I'm back. Did you miss me?

2015 was not a good year, and I fell behind on many things I had intended to do. My "simple" cataract surgery that commenced in March of 2015 dragged on until January of this year, my eyesight still not up to snuff.

But I soldier on. Prompted by the stalwart, courageous, and just plain nuts ancestors that reside in the Cave with me. Which is where I have been almost exclusively since the end of December.

I finally worked up the courage to dig deep and face the mess that was my family tree. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. I was a hopeless "clickophile" when I first discovered Ancestry dot com. I had clicked my way back to the middle ages and could have kept right on going. Not only did I manage to get back to around 1000 AD - I added ALL the collateral relations ..... ALL OF THEM! You can understand why the thought of cleaning this up frightened me so.

But the time had come.

I locked myself in the Cave and went on a ruthless killing spree.

Now, don't worry, I did save a complete copy of the tree before I started - just in case I got out of control and killed off someone I shouldn't have. Which I did. Several times. (quick tip: don't drink wine while culling your tree)

I'll spare you the gruesome details of the wrestling, hair pulling, weeping and gnashing of teeth that ensued. But I did it!

Six weeks later I am here to report that I am out of the Cave with a fresh, clean, gloriously slim new tree that is all sourced and ready to be worked on. Properly.

I am now ready to rejoin the Genealogy Do Over and pick up on my 52 Ancestors stories (I got as far as ancestor #23).

2016 is promising to be a good year. I emerged from my Cave and did not see my shadow!

Let's do this.