Thursday, January 29, 2015

Margaret Roberts Bass: Iowa Pioneer & A Bit Of An April Fool's Puzzle (52 Ancestors #4)

Another difficult ancestor. I wanted to do my 52 Ancestors project with some of my more obscure people. My hope is that in writing it out and publishing it I will a) see something new, b) someone will come forward with a new bit of information. Let me tell you what I know of my third great grandmother Margaret Roberts Bass.

Margaret Roberts was born on April 1, 1803 (according to her headstone) in Kentucky. To UNK parents. She 'disappears' for her entire childhood. She appears to have gotten married to William L. Bass 3 July 1823 in Boone KY. The record index lists her name as Peggy. I have not yet been able to obtain this marriage document.

The couple then disappears for 23 years. The next sighting is in 1856 in Mahaska Co, Iowa. They are listed in the Iowa State Census. They have five children by this time. two daughters and three sons, my second great grandmother among them. The children range in age from 19 to 11 and all are recorded as being born in Iowa.

There are some notes my grandmother the Genealogy Queen had in her Big Box of Stuff that says the Bass family moved to Bartholomew Co, Indiana but no date is given. They went on to Van Buren Co, Iowa in 1843, and then to Mahaska Co, Iowa in 1845. The notes were dated 1950 and I have no idea where she obtained the information.

Margaret and William were said to have 8 children, according to William's obituary, and were members of the Brethren church. I have found no obituary for Margaret.

Margaret Roberts Bass lived the remainder of her years in Mahaska Co, Iowa. She died on 2 Nov 1883 and is buried in the Wymore Cemetery with her husband William.

There is so much more to this story that I have yet to find out. Who were Margaret's parents? Why did they move to Indiana, and then to Iowa? Where are the other three children? With more and more resources being published on the internet every day I hope that it will only be a matter of time before I can get a few of these questions answered.

But until then, Margaret is keeping true to her birth date by being a long standing April Fool's puzzle for me!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

There Will Be Weeping And Gnashing Of Teeth: Genealogy Do-Over Recap: Weeks 1 - 4

What have I gotten myself into? I like a good challenge as much as the next gal but I am really feeling in over my head here. In my other (non-genealogy) life I am in the middle of leaving one position (read steady paycheck) and beginning a new chapter in my life as my own boss. (Again) Not much stress there, right?  Throw in the Mercury Retrograde, a colonoscopy, scheduling cataract surgery. winter, old dogs, not one, but two genealogy challenges, and a slew of other everyday stuff we all have to deal with, and there will be weeping. And gnashing of teeth. And more weeping.

There is so much information being discussed in the facebook Do-Over group that I can't keep up. And so much of it is over my head! I admit to being a technology toddler. I though I had a pretty good knowledge of genealogy, I've been at it since the 70's, but it's all on paper and hurts my head to think of how I am going to get it all into the programs people are talking about.

I downloaded Dropbox. I downloaded Evernote. Now I have these cute icons on my computer! Yay me! I have a new Win8.1 laptop that I can't figure out. I had hoped to install FTM (latest version) on it and finally learn how to use the darn program. But when I did it made the computer all wonky. So I uninstalled it. And installed it on my Win 7 desktop. GREAT. Now all my Ancestry synced trees have at least three entries for each Timeline item. Awesome. More weeping.

I love genealogy. I would do it 24 hours 7 days a week. I don't love all the stuff I'm not understanding. It is making me angry. And frustrated. And really, really stressed out. Which is the opposite of what a hobby is supposed to be.

My ultimate goal (from Week 2) with this Do-Over is to have a true, clean, sourced and correct pedigree. This will take some time. Perhaps lots of time. Perhaps years of time. It won't/can't happen in just 13 weeks. And I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to.

I got so caught up in the excitement, the flood of new information, the possibilities of doing it over. Of imagining that it would be just that easy, that I could undo all my mistakes in 13 weeks and come out the other side with a sparkly new true and genuine pedigree.

But here's the thing ....

That will never happen. It's not supposed to.

My Aha! moment came this afternoon, after both weeping and gnashing of teeth. This 13 weeks is a classroom to learn new things. To take notes. To try some new techniques. To do a little or a lot. To take what you like and leave the rest. NOT to redo your pedigree. That comes later. After the learning.

I feel like I have been in a wrestling match these last four weeks. Trying to figure out what was right for me. Trying to keep up. Trying to master everything that was being presented, immediately. Spending untold hours on facebook reading post after post until well into the night. Weeping.

Clearly I had become gluttonous, I had attempted to eat the entire elephant in one sitting. I had  forgotten what I had vowed here,
and here.

The clouds parted, the sun shone, and the angels sang this afternoon when I had my epiphany. I am taking a deep breath, a giant step backward and a hands-off approach to the remainder of the Do-Over. I will still lurk in the Do-Over group, but I will not become overwhelmed. I will read the assignment/lesson plan/syllabus for the week and make notes, but I will not become overwhelmed. I will start at the beginning, again.                   And take
                                One bite at a time ......

That is how you eat an elephant.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Not Enough Hours In The Day: Genealogy Do-Over Week 4

ARGH!!!! I am feeling the effects of information overload coupled with way too much to do in my non-genealogy life.

Thirteen weeks? Not nearly enough time!! The next two months I'll be lucky to get even two hours a week alone in my Genealogy Cave. My organization has turned to chaos as I write post-it after post-it of need-to-do's.

I feel my digital files are not well enough organized. I'm still finding the odd photo or document not in it's proper place. (post-it to make time to sort through all docs and pics on computer) My interviews? Well, how am I supposed to interview everyone on my list in a week!? (post-it to find email address of relatives, draft email, send email) I have committed to learn to use the dreaded spreadsheet. (post-it to learn how to use a spreadsheet) I want to create a set of documents to store notes, to-do's, etc. on my computer instead of hand writing everything (post-it to created docs for plan, to-do list, etc) Learn to use Dropbox (post-it to learn to use Dropbox) .... well, you get the idea.

I feel like I'm swimming against the current. Working hard and getting nowhere.

So today I decided to be realistic. This is not a competition. This is a learning process. I want to take my time, slow down and really focus on each step for as long as it takes. My ultimate goal with the Do-Over is to have a well sourced, true pedigree. One I can proudly upload publically knowing it is 100% correct.

And that will take some time.

This afternoon I made a fresh pot of coffee and dialed up the Genealogy Do-Over web post from Legacy. I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders as Thomas reassured us that this will take time. That life will happen. That it might take 13 weeks, 13 months or 13 years ..... and that's OK. 

Yes, yes it IS OK. I'm OK. It's all good. (and I can throw away that post-it about spreadsheets!)

So, I'm back at the beginning, taking one bite at a time, doing what I can, when I can. The difference is now I have a support group and some great tools to use, so when life takes my attention I'll have a documented place to again pick up the quest. No more two steps forward, one step back for me! I've got all the time I need .....

I think thirteen months is quite doable.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mary Dempsey O'Connell: Irish Rebellion Immigrant (52 Ancestors #3)

I have not done a great deal of in depth research on Mary. She had proved to be a bit of a brick wall, as many women ancestors can be. I have chosen her as one of my 52 Ancestors because I have had difficulty finding more than census and city directory records for her. I hope that in writing what I know I may start to discover new bits to add to her life.

Pastoral Irish Cottages c.1820
Mary Dempsey was born about 1815 in Ireland. Her parents are as yet UNK. Nothing is known of her early life in Ireland. It can be presumed that it was hard, the population at that time was soaring and the work was leaving Ireland for more industrialized England. Workhouses were being erected to house the destitute. Life was becoming extremely difficult for native Irish men and women. Their traditional way of life was being threatened. Families were being split apart as the government tried to gain control of it's vast unemployed population. I don't imagine the prospects were encouraging for a young woman in such a depressed country at this time in history.

 Mary married James O'Connell, who was at least 10, possibly 12, years her seniorabout 1838, and their first of twelve children was born in or about 1839. The Irish Rebellion was heating up and I imagine it was a time of much unrest as tradition was being pushed out by modernization and the English were imposing their ideas upon the Irish. Mary gave birth to her second child in or about 1841. By the time their third child was born, about 1842, I imagine things were looking worrisome for the new, rapidly growing family. [The alternate possibility I have considered is that Mary may have married James closer to 1843, that James was a widower and the first three children were not Mary's natural children.]

At some point between 1842 and 1844 Mary and James decide to emigrate to America.

Cutaway of ship
The trip would have taken between 6 and 14 weeks depending on time of year and weather conditions. They most likely would have travelled below decks in steerage, crammed with others who dreamed of a new life in America.. Mary quite possibly was pregnant during the voyage, and caring for 2 infants and a toddler. Conditions must have been dire at home for a young family with small children to gamble an ocean voyage to an unknown land.

Arriving in America
Upon arriving in their new country, the family lived for a time in Kings Co, New York, where Mary gave birth to four more children. New York in 1850 was most likely not a very hospitable place. The Irish immigrants were less than welcomed when they arrived. I imagine Mary, James and their young children had a tough time of it those first few years.

By 1850 Mary and James had settled in Poughkeepsie, New York. The family had grown to seven children under the age of 10. James is recorded as a cabinetmaker, Mary is recorded as unable to read or write. The neighbors in their new community were a mixture of Irish and English.

In 1860 the family has grown by another four children. James is now listed as a laborer. They do not own any real estate yet, but the value of their personal estate is equal to or greater than the neighbors. Things are going well in their new homeland. Mary is a very busy homemaker with 12 members of the household to care for, ten children and two adults. It appears that the first born son, Patrick, has left the family home.

1861. America is at war. With itself. Three of Mary's sons are old enough to fight. (To date I have found records for only one son, Hugh, who fought and survived. Hugh lived with his mother until the day she died.) If my alternate theory is correct then only Hugh would be Mary's natural son, the other two boys would be step sons. I can find no record of the first two boys after 1860.

Frame House c. 1870
1870 finds the family still in Poughkeepsie, NY. Their twelfth and final child (my paternal great grandmother) appears for the first time. James is a home owner and a U.S. citizen with voting rights. (I have not found the documents to prove this yet, but it is recorded in the census as such) Two more children have moved out of the family home. Their neighbors are Irish, English and New Yorkers. Their home is valued higher than their neighbors.

The 1875 New York census lets us glimpse at what Mary and James had accomplished since setting out from all that was ancestral and familiar, to forge a better life for their children. They are home and land owners, well, James is anyway. Their home is valued at or above the neighboring homes. The neighborhood has changed to include German immigrants and many native New Yorkers.

By 1880 Mary is widowed. She is living still in her beloved home in Poughkeepsie, NY with six of her grown children. But the story does not end there.

Mary has one final adventure ahead of her.

Sometime prior to 1888 Mary, along with two sons and three daughters, decided to leave her family home, her friends and many of her children behind in New York, and move to St Paul, Minnesota. I wish I knew why. I can find no evidence of the reason for such a long distance move so late in her life. All of her children were single. Perhaps something happened at home or perhaps one of the sons secured work.

Minnesota Street Car c.1890
The last records I can find for Mary are both in 1895. The 1895 City Directory listing and the 1895 Minnesota Territorial Census. She does not appear anywhere after this date. I have found no record of her death. no burial listing. Mary left the world as she came into it, mysteriously, quietly, unknown.

But she lived a most adventurous life. 

Mary was a strong resilient Irishwoman who left a land of poverty for the promise of a better life.

And succeeded.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Bump On A Log - Genealogy Do-Over: Week 3

My progress came to a screeching halt when I read the first requirement for this week's Do-Over task. Setting up a Genealogy Research Log... Using a spreadsheet... What?? I never, ever, used a spreadsheet before. I had heard of spreadsheets. I had actually seen one, once. I did not understand it. It frightened me. I had hoped to live my entire life without needing to know how to use one.


I quickly declared "that's it! I'm out!" This old dog can not possibly learn this new trick! I closed the email and went on to something safe, feeling sorry for myself. (Might as well be honest, right?) I came back later that day and decided that I might as well at least look at the file, that way I'd know for sure I was in over my head.  I cautiously opened the 'preview' and felt my fears confirmed. What was I looking at? It didn't make any sense! I began to weep. (You may notice this is a reaction I have to things I don't understand) And burn with anger, "how can people possibly understand this!" I exclaimed. "I'm definitely out. There is no point". Off I went to something safe again.

the horrible-spreadsheet-monster-that-I-don't-understand
Later I decided to post to the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook group my conundrum. I received several responses all with helpful  answers. First, I was not seeing the tabs on the bottom of the document which pretty much laid everything out. I did not need to create anything, just fill in some blanks. Oh!

Well, I still was not having any part of it. Looked too complicated. I like to write things out by hand. I went off to do something safe, again.

Jump forward several days. And several views of the horrible-spreadsheet-monster-that-I-don't-understand, and I'm beginning to think that maybe I can do this ..... maybe. Maybe this old dog can actually learn a new trick. It would be nice to have all my notes in one place, all my research goals neatly packaged in one form. With one name. That I can quickly locate.

I'll give it a try.

                            What can it hurt?

                                                                Guess I'm back 'in'!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over: Week Two - Interview The Living

This week we are asked to set research goals, interview ourselves and interview our family members.  I have talked about my research goals here.  So, it's on to interviews. I have begun to write about myself. I chose the first person, autobiographical style. Seeing as I am living I have chosen to keep that interview to myself. I am fortunate to have in my possession group sheets my grandmother had filled out when she was researching. I have letters from her cousins, aunts, etc too that she had contacted in working her genealogy. Since I am doing my do over solely on my maternal line I will focus on those relatives.

My Maternal Grandparents Robert and Elizabeth Thomas c.1927
There were four children in my mother's family. My mother and one brother are the only two still living, having lost her oldest brother almost 25 years ago, and her older sister several years ago.  There are 14 grandchildren, my cousins, 12 of us are still alive. Scattered across the country from Wisconsin to California, and points in between. What is very awesome is that my (still living) uncle has spent the last 10 years writing his autobiography. My mother has a draft copy that I plan to borrow as part of my interview process.  My cousin, the daughter of this uncle, and I have been collaborating for nearly 6 years on family research. We have been in contact with our cousins in the past, but I will make another attempt to see what I can learn. You never know!

This exercise has, if nothing else, focused my attention on learning the whereabouts of all my cousins, one set considerably older than I.  And perhaps, the siblings of my maternal grandparents and their children and grandchildren. Sometimes going that far sideways gleans some very good information. I plan to draft a set of questions to send to each cousin that I hope will spark some memories and will be enjoyable for them to answer. Not everyone loves genealogy like I do. (I know, right!? Hard to imagine!)

I did do a similar thorough search when I was working my father's side. He was an only child so I had no aunts, uncles or cousins. I reached out to the all the living children of our common great grandfather only to discover that I had more historical information than any of them. However, I did get some "new" relatives out of it and a bunch of great family stories I had never heard before. We still keep in touch. The bonus for me, I got a whole new family with my surname and DNA that I never had growing up as the daughter of an only.

Even if I don't get any good new information, I will be reestablishing ties with my living blood relatives, which is always a good thing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pruning The Tree: Genealogy Do-Over

Since I began the Genealogy Do Over on Jan 1, I have been working on cleaning up some bad info I had linked to my tree early on in my genealogy adventure. I have decided the best way, for me, to address this issue is to break down my tree into four mini trees. One for each of my grandparents. My paternal side is mostly good, and doesn't need a complete genealogy do-over overhaul. I have set those two mini trees aside. For now.

My maternal side ..... whole different story entirely. It desperately calls for a complete re-do. BUT I did not want to mess with anything on my main tree, so I left that intact and just set it aside. I have created two sets of mini trees for my maternal grandparents. One with collateral and one direct only. I started with the direct only and began ruthlessly pruning anyone that was not either a) in my grandmother's original research or b) sourced with legitimate sources 

First to go: everyone collected from Public Family Trees. I had "relatives" as far back as the 1100's! What was I thinking? Eager newbie. Now I'm paying the price of being an enthusiastic clickophile. This will take some time.
Public Tree Hints - Oh My!!!

One problem solved.
What I am discovering is that I really like the clean, neat, direct line I am creating. I can work it. It makes sense. And I really don't care about all the offspring of my 6th great grandparents. Sorry. I just don't. I had an epiphany last night as I was pruning. With all the "One Trees" out there now, that might be the way to go for collateral relatives. Once my direct tree is cleaned and sourced I am thinking of uploading it to FamilySearch or WikiTree and using THAT as my collateral tree. 

It's a thought in progress. I could change my mind. Probably will a few times before I settle on a direction I feel most comfortable with. But it is making sense to me for the moment.

I am beginning to see a light at the end of this crazy ancestral maze I have built over the last 10 years. I wish I hadn't been so afraid of a little pruning earlier on, I might have saved myself some time and been on to better things. Ah well. Lesson learned. The hard way. This time. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grandma's Big Box Of Stuff: Setting Research Goals: Genealogy Do-Over

This week we are asked to set research goals.

As my Do-Over is a complete redo of my maternal lineage, this is fantastic! I inherited a big box of all my maternal grandmother's hand written research dating from the 1940's to the 1980's, when she passed away. Her handwriting is terribly hard to read so I have been putting off this task, for years! But it is the place I need to start. It has so overwhelmed me that I have ignored it, until now.

The only person who can really make sense of it is my mother. Brilliant! Why? Because we are also asked to conduct family interviews. What better way to "kill two birds" as it were, then asking my mom to read the research to me while I interview her!

This will most likely not happen this week as she lives a good distance from me and would require a long car trip to visit.

ETPT - Genealogy Queen
But I do plan on going through all the papers and making two files. One I can read, one I can't (that's where mom comes in). The research goal I am setting this week for the Do-Over, is to thoroughly document, enter, or otherwise read every shred of my grandmother's research to set a solid foundation on which to build.

My grandmother was a lot like I am. She had the entire family in her head. She could rattle off facts and knew who married whom, when, where, etc. BUT it is all written by hand or badly typed and stored in paper folders, aging very ungracefully. There is correspondence to cousins, a collection of obituaries, letters to counties and states, newspaper clippings, more. She had made a 5 gen pedigree, but her research goes back so much farther. I am grateful that she made such thorough notes. My goal is to get it all together and recorded digitally.

She would have loved this new digital age of genealogy! I know she is with me in spirit.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How I Spent Week One of the Genealogy Do Over

As Week One comes to a close I feel I made some pretty good headway in plan and organization. The tasks for the week were:

  1. Setting previous research aside 
  2. Preparing to research 
  3. Establishing base practices and guidelines
I began the week by creating smaller "bites" of my maternal branch since this is the side that really needs a do over. For me it worked very well. I can now see what I need to do in a smaller, more contained unit. My main tree is still intact and set aside, mistakes and all, for the time being.

I spent the week deleting all undocumented 'ancestors'.  The ones I enthusiastically attached from other peoples Public Trees without a shred of documentation.  I then went through my grandmother's Big Box of Research. I sorted her written work into folders to look at later. In my tree program I made notes on the ancestors still remaining that the info was obtained from her work. I have not begun to verify this yet.

I have set up 2 notebooks (I still like to write things out), one for each parent of my mother's. I may add tabs to the sides to break down the surnames further. I plan to use these books to track my work. To document where I have looked, where I want to look, promising leads, dead ends, etc. To cite sources, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time. (Who hasn't said "Oh! I'll remember that!"). And to take my time to examine every nook and cranny of a piece of information before I move on. It was my hasty excitement that got me into this mess in the first place!!

I think I'm ready. Bring on Week Two!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The First Bite: Genealogy Do-Over

Having jumped All In in the Great Genealogy Do-Over of 2015 I was now faced with the dilemma of where to begin. Simple you say, start at the beginning (it's the very best place to start). Advice from Alice In Wonderland popped into my head:  "Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked. 'Begin at the beginning.' the King said, gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end; then stop." Well there you have it.

But it really wasn't that simple. I had quite a lot of research that was correct. I really did not want to reinvent the wheel. My grandmother, the Genealogy Queen, had compiled a very well documented pedigree that had gotten her into the DAR, the Huguenot Society, and The Colonial Dames of America. I was NOT putting that research aside. Plus it was already entered into my Ancestry program and Family Tree Maker.

After a time of pondering, contemplation and several heated conversations with myself (what happens in the Genealogy Cave, stays in the Genealogy Cave) I have crafted the following plan:

In Family Tree Maker I created eight separate smaller trees that begin with my four grandparents and an additional one that is my maternal side only. Four of those trees are direct lineage only. Four are direct and collateral. The Maternal tree is direct and collateral and I plan to attach my mother's DNA results to this tree when it is processed.

Starting with the direct lineage trees I have begun comparing the written work my grandmother did with what I have collected. It is tedious but manageable. Today, four days in,  I have verified one surname to it's known end and deleted the names that I exuberantly added from Ancestry Public Trees with no citations attached to them.

I have learned over the years not to include ANY information that was gathered from "Family Tree Files" sources including Millenium Files, Family Data Collections and Family Trees. That is where all my trouble started.

I have also learned to slow down, take my time and do it right. None of my ancestors are going anywhere, so what's the hurry? Today it's One Bite At A Time.

I'm ready for a second helping .....

Eating The Elephant: Genealogy Do-Over

This assignment, this challenge, this disciplined fresh start is exactly what I needed to start Eating  the Elephant. I have tiptoed around the very real need to address the mess I had created in my newbie clickophile years. Just the thought of beginning the task sent me running. I tried denial. I tried focusing on other tasks, or other branches of the tree I knew were right. I kept myself busy ....

But the Elephant would not leave the room.

It haunted me in my sleep. It nagged at the corners of my mind during "Who Do You Think You Are". But the thought of 'killing off' all those 'ancestors'! I just couldn't do it! They might be family!

Then Thomas MacEntee in his Superman cape swooped in and saved the day! He was offering a Genealogy Do-Over. A DO-OVER! Yes! That is exactly what I need! Oh! But where to start? My head started reeling at the possibilities. I joined the Facebook group and promptly became overwhelmed at all the ideas being tossed around. "I can't do this"! I screamed from the cocoon of my Genealogy Cave. I began to weep.

Again Thomas MacEntee came to my aid. With a level head and calm advice he presented the group with a simple plan. I CAN do this! I CAN eat the Elephant! I did a happy dance in the Cave and rejoiced.

I took a deep breath and began, slowly.