Thursday, February 26, 2015

Anna Merriman Busby: Who's Your Daddy? (52 Ancestors #8)

Anna Merriman Busby is my 3rd great grandmother. Another female brick wall. A really tough one. There are quite a few people looking for her parents. There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the facts that have been discovered. This will be a short post.

Anna Merriman (or Merryman) was born 28 July 1807 according to her headstone on Find A Grave. Census records indicate she was born in Maryland.

Anna Merriman married John Wisner Busby in Harrison Co OH in April of 1826.

By 1840 the couple was residing in Carroll Co OH, where they remained until death. It is reported that they had 14 children.

Anna is buried in the Palermo Cemetery on the grounds of the former Palermo Methodist Protestant Church in Carroll Co, OH.

Over the years there has been lots of talk, theories, speculation on who Anna's father was. Some say it was Micajah "Cage" Merryman/Merriman. This has been discredited as "Cage" and his wife Sophia Snyder were actually married four years after Anna was born. "Cage" and Sophia did have a daughter named Anna and did live in Ohio in 1820, hence the confusion. There has also been another name bandied about, "Page" Merriman, but I am unclear as to the origin of this line of thought.

I must admit I have been away from this branch of the family for several years. With the Genealogy Do-Over I am jumping back in and working my maternal line once again.

So the questions remain.

Who is Anna Merriman's father?

How did she get from Maryland to Ohio, and why?

When did she arrive in Ohio? Was she an adult or a child?

She's buried in a Methodist cemetery, was she a member of the Methodist church?

To date there are a lot more questions than answers. I hope with time, and as more and more records are being discovered, we will one day know who Anna Merriman Busby's daddy was!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

FTM Is The Devil (sorry RW): Genealogy Do-Over Week Seven

Week Seven.

The week I have been waiting for!

The week you all are going to tell me which genealogy software I'm going to love AND use.

No. No, I can't decide. I want you to do it for me. Please??

I began my journey with Family Tree Maker back in the early 90's. I never really used it. It didn't make sense to me. When Ancestry first showed up I embraced it's ease of use and dove in.  I LOVED it!! I built my entire empire in I loved that I could access it anywhere, any time. I loved it's visual appeal. I loved the design of it - it made sense to me. Then I started hearing about the foolishness of having all your work stored off site - in someone else's database. What if Ancestry should go belly-up? Then what?

I purchased an updated, 21st century version of FTM thinking it would simulate the ease of use that Ancestry provided. It still didn't make sense. I never used it.

FTM - the devil
Then Ancestry came out with Tree-Sync and I began to get 'visions of sugarplums' dancing 'round my head. I liked the idea of Tree Sync! I could do all my work on and then sync it to FTM - saved on my home computer.

I purchased the upgrade.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

In reality, what has transpired is one big fat mess. One GIANT mess that I don't even want to THINK about, as it will require mindboggling hours of tediously deleting the triplicate records that have crossed over. TRIPLICATE! In ALL my synced trees (of course I synced them all!!)

And even with the new upgrade, I still hated FTM. It still didn't make any sense. It still seemed hard to use. (I know you are asking yourself right this very second, why Anne, why did you continue down this path of  perpetual error?) I don't know. FTM would not even work correctly on my brand new Win8.1 laptop (which I also detest - but that's a rant for another time).  I was forced to uninstall it and reinstall it on my desktop (this is where the triple records problem originated). Either I didn't have a clue or there is no good way to remove all the synced trees from one computer and re-sync them to another computer. I am so angry with it now I doubt I will ever agree to use it again.

And all the money I wasted! All the time! All the frustration!

FTM is the devil.

And I STILL don't have an off-line program.

Afraid of recreating my previous experience I have refrained from pursuing that activity.

Until now.

Now it is a topic point, now it is something to look at, study, compare and pursue.

So, here's where you all come to my rescue, right?

footnote: I see this same problem over and over again on synced trees on Duplicate, triplicate, quadruple records. I am the first to admit that I am just slightly above clueless when it comes to many aspects of the whole computer "thing", but there has got to be a better way! Dang it!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Genealogy Do Over: Recap or How I Got HERE: Part Two

And now for some good news.

I've spent a lot of time dragging my heels, complaining, weeping.

But I have actually accomplished a few things.

This Do Over has been hard. Harder than I imagined. Mostly because of my own inability to stay focused. Stay on task. Allow enough time.

And, there's the wanting to do it all. NOW.

And, of course my squirrell like attention span when there is something I don't want to do because it is not F.U.N. (ahem ... spreadsheet anyone??)

So, here is what I have accomplished over these past seven weeks.

  • I set all previous research aside on the portion of my tree that needed the do over. I isolated the branch and am in the process of stripping it bare of all frivolous willy-nilly 'ancestors' I have no proof of. I decided to keep the original research my grandmother had done in tact and build from there - correctly this time. (Week 1)
  • I already had some good base practices set from my experience working my paternal line. I had learned a lot of what to do and what not to do and have become a much better researcher because of it. (Week 1)
  • My research goal was/is to clean up and well document my maternal line. (Week 2)
  • I have been tracking searches with notes and comments attached to the individual ancestor's information page - this seems easiest for me, but I did create a series of notebooks to also do some written documentation. (Week 4)
  • I have a nice bookmark "tool kit" going in a subfolder under my Genealogy bookmark tab - so I felt pretty good when this topic arrived! (Week 5)
  • I also have been very meticulous at citing sources more recently, learning the hard way what happens when you think you'll "remember". A practice I will carry forward! (Week 5)
  • I have also been very good at evaluating evidence. So I feel good about this one too! (Week 6)
  • I have begun another bookmark with online education opportunities and have attempted to watch at least one podcast a week. (Week 6)

Huh. Look at that. In reviewing my accomplishments at this 'half-way' point I realize I actually have made some progress. The "hard" stuff (for me) is still left to do, but I seem to have a good handle on some of the other topics and assignments. Alright. Ok.

Yet I still feel lost.



I have hours and months of work ahead of me cleaning up and removing "ancestors" that never should have been claimed in the first place. It is a daunting task - one I tip-toed around for years. I still believe it is easier (if easier is the right word for this sort of tedious task) to remove than to re build. Who knows, I may chuck it all in a fit of frustration one afternoon, but for now I plug away like an assassin killing off long dead un-relatives. 

And there's the whole spreadsheet thing (let's not go there, I was feeling so accomplished!).

To be continued .....

Friday, February 20, 2015

Genealogy Do Over: Recap or How I Got HERE: Part One

Genealogy Do Over - Restart Button
Well, well, well. Here it is Week Seven. Where am I?

Stuck somewhere back in Week Three or Four.

I lost it. Lost total control. Everything was moving way too fast and my mind was reeling. I kept a paper bag on my desk in my Cave for the increasingly frequent bouts of hyperventilation.

And I wept.

Genealogy is hard ...... When you do it right .....

But here I am. Back in the Cave. Reviewing the topics of the previous weeks. Making yet another checklist of what I did and what is still left to be done.

And, as providence would dictate, these past two weeks I have been flooded with replies to old (some very old) message board posts and new DNA matches - BSO's that distracted me, caught my eye, sucked me in. Took me off course and down the rabbit hole.

Why is it so easy to follow that darn rabbit!?!

Seems I need to recommit. Seems this is a recurring theme. Seems I need to learn some focus.

Or make another checklist.

So. Back to the beginning I go. To the beginning of the year and my grandiose plan of cleaning up my maternal lineage.  I have been avoiding this for several years, as you may know from reading some of my previous posts. The Do Over was my savior. The thing I needed to kick my butt into action. Alas, it is a self-guided course, and I am famous for guiding myself to the coffee pot, facebook, pinterest, what the neighbors are doing next door .......

The beauty of this is that with each "restart" I have made a bit of progress. Each time I "restart" I am a little farther along. I have a bit of new knowledge and a new technique or two under my belt (or should I say in my tool kit).

As I review the past seven weeks I feel terribly lost. Terribly behind. Terribly inadequate. I glance at my paper bag feeling the twinge of overwhelmedness. I pull it together and begin to make a list of all I still need to do:

  • Interview the living / conduct self-interview        (Week 2)
  • Stupid spreadsheet - stupid, stupid spreadsheet, er, I mean Research Log (Week 3)
  • Another stupid, stupid spreadsheet - um, Project and Task Log (Week 4)

Wait? That's it?

So what has clearly been holding me up and creating undue anxiety and pig-headedness is the SPREADSHEET!  The elephant in the room that I am trying very hard to ignore as I squeeze past to get to my comfy Cave chair.

Well, if that's all it is maybe I need to just turn my focus on creating this Spreadsheet. I already have the template on my computer...... I'll just go grab a cup of coffee .....

And take a quick peek out the window .....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Samuel Faulkner: Hiding In Plain Sight (52 Ancestors #7)

Samuel Faulkner is my favorite. I think because he was so hard to find. A multi-year brick wall that I just kept butting my head into until it finally cracked. One day a chink fell out and I quickly was able to tear the wall down.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

My introduction into the seductive world of genealogy came with a box of stuff from my grandmother, interesting family lore and

On my maternal side were Patriots, Pilgrims, Pioneers and suggestions at Royalty. Talk about Bright Shiny Objects! I quickly entered all my grandmother's research into my new account and ... Oh My Gosh!! ... Well, I never! What?? By the end of an afternoon I had added centuries to my family tree! Centuries!

Well, that was easy. Mom's side - DONE.

I know, you are either laughing hysterically or totally aghast at this point. Wait. Things were soon to take a turn. I was about to get schooled.

So on to my dad's side. The Faulkner side. No one had ever done any research on my dad's side, that I was aware of. I actually had to build it from scratch. And, to make it even more interesting my dad was an only child. And had recently died. My mom had a few notes from a second cousin who could not be less interested in genealogy - so the quest began. With no one to consult on this family I set out to forge a new trail into the wilderness.

Samuel Faulkner is my 4th great grandfather on my paternal side, but I did not know this for a very long time. The oldest piece of information I had at the beginning of my quest was the name of my 2nd great grandfather. My father has started a file labeled "Operation Grandpa" which I did not find until after he had died, and it made me laugh.  He had been searching for the mythical Faulkners too!

Using Ancestry, I plugged in all the information my dad had gathered.  I immediately found some good census, birth and death records. I found marriage and divorce records. I found obituaries. I found children. And blessedly I did not find one single Family Tree to mess me up!

I contacted Historical Societies, wrote to cemeteries, joined Yahoo groups, posted to message boards. I posted public trees on every site I could think of hoping to lure a cousin or two. I ordered genealogy and history books through the library that I couldn't view online.

I discovered some second cousins I did not know I had, and managed to track them down via long evenings Googling. That hard work proved unfruitful for family info, but I gained brand new kin.

None of this was easy. There were a lot of misses. A lot of dead ends. A lot of "I'm sorry, we are unable to help you with your request". A lot of years searching in vain for a man with no name.

I can't even describe the twists and turns my research took. The one step forward two steps back. The high hopes dashed in an instant. And all the quitting. Throwing my hands up in disgust and walking away - muttering "it's impossible!" "it can't be done!".

But something kept pulling me back. I was a mad woman on a mission. Why was no one else researching this family? No one! I became very protective of MY Faulkners. Yes, My Faulkners. I had gone there. At this point I had invested 4 years of solely researching this particular family. Investing my own blood, sweat and tears. I lived and breathed Faulkner history. I was pretty annoying to be around.

With all the information I was able to gather I had been able to prove my way back to my 3rd great grandfather - a regionally famous man named James Faulkner - I wrote about his wife here.  Of course, in all the biographies and histories done on him there was never a mention of his father.

And I had a very strong candidate for my 5th great grandfather, William Faulkner. Very strong.
Early on in my research I was given a transcript of his will. By all indications this was my 5th great grandfather. And it listed 4 sons. Hallelujah!


So, how to get from James to William? Another year or so passed as I worked the four sons lines. I ruled out one right away as he was deceased and there was no mention of any offspring. Another was a Patriot and there had been some lineage work done on him. The third son married into the Bull family of New York, and traceable through extensive histories. That left Samuel. Invisible Samuel.

Plugging Samuel in to my database brought me nothing. I started my writing, searching, posting campaign yet again, to no avail. This man was invisible! This man who, at one time owned 1000 acres of land in Wallkill, New York was invisible! Another year passed and I sadly put my quest for Samuel away. Vowing to travel to New York one day to pick up the search in person. Time to get on with life. Time to rejoin the living.

Then it happened.

A week after Christmas.


A casual mention in a chat room about newly added unindexed records on FamilySearch.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

Locked in my Genealogy Cave - fueled on nothing but raw tenacity and coffee - eyes bleary and red from hours of scrutinizing the computer screen ....... there it was!

No. What? Did I do it? Did I just find Samuel?

Staring in shocked disbelief. Frozen in the moment. The quest was over. OVER.

Stumbling out of the Cave I began my happy dance. I did a little Church Lady, and cried tears of joy.

It was a wonderful, frustrating, magical 5 years. I learned a lot. Not only about my Faulkner family, but about researching from scratch and doing it right. Best lesson ever. This is why Samuel Faulkner is my favorite. I worked hard for him and was rewarded magnificently.

Samuel Faulkner was never really lost. Just hiding, in plain sight.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Isobel Burness: "Of The Same Stock As Burns The Poet" (52 Ancestors #6)

It all started with the death of my father and the discovery of a hand drawn Family Tree from 1880 that my mom found stuck behind the furnace. It was labeled IRONS FAMILY TREE in my dad's handwriting. It was rolled up in a mailing tube, cracked and brittle. I was afraid to unroll it.

Backtrack a few years. My dad was doing some research on his mother's side of the family, the Irons family, and had inherited a few bits of information from his uncle, who spent his retirement doing genealogy. We knew of the family cemetery plot in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, and one Saturday we all drove into the city to visit. I  immediately experienced a hushed sense of awe at the number of family members resting there. And an urgent need to discover who they were when they were alive.

Life got in the way and my desire waned. I put it aside to pursue other things.

Then my dad died. He was buried in the family plot in Graceland Cemetery surrounded by his ancestors. It was, still is, sobering. People, my people, who walked the streets of Chicago over 150 years ago. Who lived through the Great Fire. Who immigrated to America for a better life. Who were among the early pioneers of a tiny little frontier town called Chicago.

Out came the box filled with research he had been conducting (that I was not aware of) the letters from his uncle, stacks of old, old family photos. the Family Tree. My dad was an only child and a pack rat, so lucky for me he had everything his mother had saved from her family.

My curiosity was ignited anew.

Isobel Burness,who 
"Tradition said was of the same stock as that of Burns the Poet"
One afternoon, when curiosity got the best of me, I cautiously unrolled the Family Tree. It was not the Irons Family Tree at all - it was the Fraser Family tree dated 1880. The earliest entries were for Duncan Fraser and Isobel Burness, who "Tradition said was of the same stock as that of Burns the Poet". What? Who were these people? I needed to find out!

I dug in to try to discover who Isobel was. I started a public tree on Ancestry to do some fishing. I added her to WikiTree. I searched and searched to the best of my online ability. A trip to Scotland was not in my realm of possibility any time soon.

From the Family Tree I learned only a few key bits of information. Isobel Burness or Burns might have been born about 21 June 1748. She married Duncan Fraser in 1763 (was she really only 15?) and she died 15 Jan 1806 at Leslie, Scotland. She would have been 57 years old. The ONLY record I have been able to discover for myself is the baptism record noted on the Family Tree. It is still unclear 135 years later whether this is, in fact the correct Isobel.

So the mystery continues. Who was Isobel Burness or Burns? Was she "of the same stock" as the poet? Who were her parents? Did I and the author of this Tree find the correct baptism record? Did she really get married at 15? How did the Tree author conclude when Isobel died? And where? Where is her grave?

All my answers lie so far away. In both chronological time and physical distance. I hope to someday have more answers to this mysterious matriarch of my Fraser family branch.

And one more thing .... how did this mysterious Family Tree, authored in Scotland in 1880 by John Fraser, make it's way to America and wind up behind the furnace at my father's house?

I love a good mystery, don't you?

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Sinking Ship - Genealogy Do Over: Week 6

The SS Genealogy Do Over is going down!

So here it is Week 6. The ship is seriously taking on water, or is it the Kraken? I can't be sure at this point. After weeks adrift I believe I am beginning to hallucinate. For a stretch of time there last week I believed I was pointed in the right direction and that my compass was working. Today however I fear I may never reach shore.

The spreadsheet Kraken takes the ship.
Alright. It's not really that bad. Really. I have made some progress. And I have digressed. I have decided to quite genealogy altogether in a momentary lapse of reason, only to have my hopes renewed by something someone said in the Do Over Group. It is very much akin to sailing a choppy sea.

This week I feel is sort of a breather. I have been reviewing my sources and evaluating my evidence already on the new trees I am building, so I feel I am on track there. I dropped the ball on citing sources last week, I was so busy playing with my tool kit. I have a long way to go, and oh so much to do!

This week I hope to make a little headway on creating (and actually using) my Research Log and Master Project Spreadsheet. I am still balking at the spreadsheet. It's a brand new animal for me (a Kraken?) and I'm having a hard time beginning.

A very hard time.

A painfully hard time.

I'm a pencil and paper kind of gal. I think I might use these PDF forms instead. I can do that. I will do that.

You can hold me accountable.

And toss me a life jacket.

I will not go down with the ship!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sarah Kniffen Vredenburgh: Circuit Preacher's Wife (52 Ancestors #5)

Week five opens with yet another mysterious female ancestor. This week I point the spotlight on Sarah Kniffen Vredenburg(h), my fourth great grandmother. The name Kniffen is one of those that can, and has, been recorded in several different ways. Sarah's parents are UNK, making it just that much harder to verify her surname. My grandmother, the Genealogy Queen, had in her notes a question as to whether it was Kniffin or Kniffen. I have recently discovered that it might also be Sniffen or Sniffin. 


Another good challenge designed to drive me, and others searching for Sarah crazy.

Let's see what we know, and leave the door wide open for new discoveries.

 Sarah Kniffen was born in Westchester Co, New York in July 1792, according to her monument marker on Find A Grave. Nothing is known of her childhood.

Sarah married Hackaliah Vredenburg(h), a Methodist minister, sometime before 1812, when the first of their children was born.  Some accounts claim they had eight children, other claim nine. I have been able to prove six and speculate on a seventh.

Sarah Kniffen Vredenburg's America
In 1817 the young family moved to Terra Haute, in the new State of  Indiana, but it was not to be a settled life. Sarah's husband was an itinerant preacher, a circuit rider, with an assigned territory of 300+ miles. Some of the memoirs written on Rev. Vredenburg tell of winters where there was no shelter for the family, no food to eat, "the pittance received from the people being barely sufficient to furnish them with clothing". This must have been a terribly hard life. Oft spoken of as "privations, dangers and toils of the itinerancy" I can nary imagine what this sort of life was like. Yet, Sarah lived it. I would imagine quietly and without complaint. Traveling from town to town, raising her children virtually alone while her husband was gone for days or weeks at a time, "organizing new societies and circuits, carrying the Gospel messages to the scattering settlements, and enduring all the exposures and privations of pioneer life." For further reading this book contains stories of life in early Indiana.

It is unclear as to when the Vredenburg's actually moved to Illinois, but by 1860 Sarah and her husband had settled in Vermillion County to live the retired life. It is said the Rev. Vredenburg enjoyed the time he had spent in Vermillion County while on his circuits. Several of Sarah's adult children are found in Vermillion Co, Illinois as early as 1845.

In 1869 Sarah lost her husband to what can be described as a heart attack.

In August 1870 a widowed Sarah had moved clear across the State of Illinois to reside with her daughter and son-in-law in McDonough, Illinois.

In September 1870 Sarah died. She was 78 years old.

She is buried with her husband in Vermillion County.

Sarah was just one of the uncounted thousands of strong, silent, resilient pioneer women whose stores go untold, but without whom the American frontier would not have been tamed. A Founding Mother who sadly will remain in the shadows of her husband and his accomplishments.

Thank you Sarah Kniffen Vredenburg. For your strength to plow through, despite the harshest of conditions.

Tool Kit? Yes, I Have a Tool Kit: Genealogy Do Over Week 5

Well now!! Finally one I have accomplished! Or  have the beginnings of anyway. I just got done organizing my genealogy email inbox, setting up folders and sub folders to park all my interesting tidbits; correspondence, good link lists, etc. Now it's time to clean up and organize my bookmarks!

And what great advice Thomas gave about making sure the links still work. Brilliant. That is one I may not have thought of. This week is going to be easier for me, this is something I can do. (Really. I know I've said it before, but this time I mean it) This is something I don't have to learn. And I love to organize!

The second task this week is to begin to cite sources if you have not done so already. This is something I have actually been going back and redoing little by little over the past year or so. For the Do Over I vowed to re look at my grandmother's Big Box of Stuff and make the appropriate notations in my research where I have acquired the information from her years of sleuthing. I then hope to go back and reprove her findings if she has not listed her source. (I must admit - she was very good at listing sources, I am not as good at reading through all her notations ...) I have not been using a log up to now, I have just been writing notes on each ancestors profile. The log is something I would like to get up and running. It will make it much easier to see where I'm good, and where I need to do further research. All in one place.

So much to do!!

After my melt down and subsequent epiphany last week, I feel I am in a much better place. With the realization that this 13 week Do over is a course of learning, and not a list of tasks that need to be ticked off and accomplished that week I am able to take a breath, take notes, evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and move forward.

I'm still going to use notebooks. I like to write things down. I will start to play with the Research Log and Project and Task Log. It may end up being on paper too .... we'll see. I will make no promises and will undoubtedly change my mind several times.

But I'm beginning to see a light where I once saw darkness.

Sure hope it's not a train ......