Saturday, December 17, 2011

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Genealogy research comes with a lot of decisions to make. Some are simple, which line or branch of the tree do you pursue at the moment, which do you hold off on till more records become available online. Do you rely on a database you find online because some of the dates, places and names match what you already have or do you dig more to actually confirm that what the database contains is at least somewhat accurate.

Then there are the more difficult decisions regarding genealogy, even though they go along with those listed above they take more thought. Like when I found information that could POSSIBLY take some of my maternal lines back another generation or two but if I were to add the information to my tree and I come to find out later that the information is inaccurate or completely off as far as connecting to what I already have, removing it will be a chore that I definitely won't enjoy in the least.

And there begs the question (or more than one), is the information I found accurate enough that adding it to my tree would benefit not only my research but also others that may find a connection to the line? Do I add the information to my genealogy program or just to what I have in the binders in the hopes that I can find more evidence it fits? And in the case of one of my paternal lines, do I actually SKIP a generation and put 'unknown' as the names for BOTH parents and then add the grandparents because that information is known. Skipping an entire generation is something genealogists don't like to do because doing it can come back to bite you later on, especially if it turns out the 'grandparents' are wrong, which would then mean those 'unknown' parents are also wrong.

So if any of the above questions are ones you are dealing with right now good luck in making those decisions. I wish I could give you advice on what to do, but the decisions are going to be different for each researcher.

CSI had an episode on this week that involved the murder of a genealogist. It was one of the more interesting episodes I've seen in a long time, because another genealogist was helping one of the CSI's solve the case by literally doing research on the suspect's family. I recall her saying something that I've said on the blog more than once 'Use your gut, what's it say?' Genealogists have to go by what their instincts are telling them because in the end that might be all you have to work with.

Instincts are important for any detective but especially a genealogist doing research, so if you find information that could take one of your lines back one, two or even three generations but still aren't sure if you should add and/or include this information in your family tree, all I can say is go with your instincts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

RootsTech doesn't want book vendors or publishers

There's been a lot of talk during the past couple of days about a decision that RootsTech has made regarding book vendors at their upcoming conference in February. Even though I don't plan on attending I find it sad that the organizers jumped to the conclusion that no one that IS attending would not want to browse vendors selling books about genealogy. Now, I don't claim to be technically sound, far from it in fact. I know how to use a computer (as you can see) and can use Word and other applications but look to my older brother when I need an 'expert' in something technical.

The conference was held for the first time last year and was a blend of technology AND genealogy but from what I saw online (they had some lectures available for free online), it was mostly technical. Of course, at the actual venue where it took place there were vendors selling and plugging not only technical items you could use for genealogy but also books. If I'm wrong about that please forgive me, but if they hadn't been I think the current discussion would've been around a year ago.

But this year they seemed to think that book vendors wouldn't be necessary, not a 'ban' of sorts but just not useful to researchers. But isn't that how most of us 'old-timer' genealogists started out? With books? When I started my research WAY back in 1991, the Internet didn't even exist at least not like it does now. There's were any cell phones or iPads, iPhones and the like and Facebook was probably only a thought in the back of the founders mind (or not). My paternal grandfather started his research in the 1970s BEFORE the miniseries Roots aired on television. He could only work with books and microfilm readers and writing LETTERS (yes actual letters no electronic mail for him).

When I began I found two BOOKS that he had and started with those, Searching For Your Ancestors and a book about my surname FRY. That's how a 'learned' what genealogy and the research behind it was. I also didn't have a computer back then (and if I did there wasn't a genealogy program for it) so I used the old standby, paper and pencil. My grandfather drew his OWN pedigree chart and I followed his example until I found templates of Pedigree charts and Family Group Sheets to use. I may record information in a genealogy program now, but I still use binders and notebook paper and I take notes the old-fashioned way (better than I did in high school).

But here's something else to consider, with the economy the way its been the last couple of years some (if not most) people can't AFFORD fancy 'toys' like laptops, iPads, and iPhones just to do genealogy research on. Heck, some books are pricey too, but those at least can be found cheaper on ebay. I know I've found a number of books on the auction site and even though they are older or even 'outdated' by some standards, I still rely on them from time to time because everyone, especially genealogists need a refresher on the basics of research.

I think its a shame that the organizers not only informed book vendors and publishers that they wouldn't be 'needed' at the conference but the fact that they did this TWO MONTHS before the event when the vendors have probably already made plans to attend and put the money aside to register and reserve hotel space. What do they do now? The time was set aside for the conference and everything else was turned down.

As of this blog entry, the organizers have seen all the uproar and discussion revolving around the decision and are taking the comments into consideration. I hope they realize the mistake they made passing judgement on the book vendors and publishers and reverse the decision. The conference should focus on both genealogy AND technology but it shouldn't omit the one thing that even newcomers to genealogy might rely on, BOOKS.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A genealogy dislike

There aren't many things that I dislike about genealogy or doing genealogy research. Sure you have your 'brick walls' that you never think you'll be able to knock down but then after weeks (or months or even years) you finally do. And then there's the family history you find online or information you get from a cousin that you have to check for accuracy and find that very little of what they have or what you found actually IS accurate.

But there's one thing that I have never liked about genealogy or genealogy research. Its when you have to add information to a person because they have passed away. A cousin contacted me on Facebook to let me know that her mother (my aunt) had passed away last night. I hadn't seen my aunt, uncle or my cousins for that matter since they moved down state about 10 years ago. I hadn't talked to them either so I didn't know about the medical issues my aunt had over the last year or so. It surprised me when my cousin called and filled me in because the issues she relayed to me were ones I didn't expect.

Needless to say it felt strange adding the date of her death to my family tree and the binder where I keep my maternal line information. I looked at the date and then noticed that 10 years to the DAY my aunt's sister-in-law passed away, and a year prior her brother had passed away. My aunt and uncle (along with my two cousins) lived about two blocks from our house for nearly all of my life before they moved away. My cousin (the one that let me know about my aunt's passing) actually lived across the street from me for about 6 years before they moved.

I am going to miss my aunt she was a stubborn woman and strong willed. One memory I have of her came around the holidays. We had gone over to my aunt and uncle's house for either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and she made stuffing...well what she called 'stuffing' it was actually made from Stove Top and as much as I loved my aunt, it was the WORST tasting sawdust ever. Everytime I see a box of Stove Top I think of her and smile. I'll miss you Aunt Jeanne.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Genealogy Instincts again

Here's the problem I always have with doing genealogy research. Some people don't think going with your 'gut' or your 'instincts' is the right way to go because you might end up doing research on the wrong family and I don't just mean one branch but the ENTIRE family back two or three hundred years and then come to find out after all that work that you aren't even related to anyone in the tree.

But I find that using my instincts, genealogical or detective if you prefer, don't just help me find the RIGHT branch or family for my tree but also ends up helping others that might be doing research on the same surname as I am. After all I did find at least two generations of Robinsons for another researcher that turned out not to be mine.

I haven't been doing as much research lately because 'life' has gotten in the way. But I never let my research lag for very long no matter what else is going on. In fact just last week I was poking around trying to find information on a great-aunt's husband's family and sent an email to a cousin (a daughter of the great-aunt) and she gave me a couple of clues. Well, with those few clues I managed to find her GRANDPARENTS marriage record. It turns out her father was born here in the US but was then taken to the Czech republic when he was a baby with his parents and returned to the US when he was about 25. Unfortunately, because the country has changed so much and actually branched out into several other smaller countries finding any other information on that side of the Atlantic is going to be a tough mystery to tackle. But the elation my cousin had when I sent her the image of her grandparent's marriage record was enough for me.

This led me to once again tackle my own maternal side of the tree. Though not as difficult as my cousin's digging through German records when there isn't much known is part of the challenge and much like one of my favorite fictional characters, Nancy Drew, I am always up for a challenge.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Mystery of Henry Lepley Civil War Soldier

Did you ever start researching a name on your family tree and think it was going to be simple? Well let me tell you from experience that its NOT. I have been bothered by the Civil War pension file of my great-great grandfather, Henry Lepley probably since the minute I got it in the mail several years ago. No, more like from when my order was confirmed.

Its bugged me simply because there's no real evidence provided within the pension file that Henry died during the war from any kind of injury. It mentioned him being 'wounded' but the specifics are to say the least contradictory. His 'widow' got a monthly pension because according the file he DID die. Unfortunately it doesn't specify WHERE he died, and when it does each location contradicts the one before. To top it off the Pension Office in January 1868 actually asked that they be furnished with 'official' evidence of the date AND cause of Henry's death. The problem with that is non of the documents in the file have ANY record OF his death. They request this TWO MONTHS after they issued the certificate to Mary Jane, his widow, granting her the pension of $8 per month.

Its just plain crazy and now when Henry's name is found on a website for soldiers from Pennsylvania, I wrote the webmaster and asked her about it telling her there are questions about whether he actually DID die. She replied that he DIDN'T die and was actually DISCHARGED in Harrisburg. She then sent me a Word document that shows NOTHING about Henry being in Spotsylvania or being wounded or even being IN the Civil War past 1863, which again contradicts Charles Lepley's diary entry that says he heard that Henry was 'wounded' (the entry dated June 16, 1864).

I'm creating a Word doc for the webmaster of the site (Helen, a very nice lady) of what was in Henry's pension file. I would really like her opinion since I am completely confused as to what REALLY happened to my 2nd great-grandfather. I guess I just don't want to end up finding out that he WAS discharged from the service and vanished, leaving his wife and THREE young children behind.

More Later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Scandinavian genealogy

Its been more than interesting finding out about my Norwegian, Swedish and Danish ancestors. I guess I never thought about any other ancestors' origins except England and Germany, which I already knew. Some of my collateral relatives or spouses of them came from Sweden but I never dug any deeper because I wasn't directly related to them.

I worked on some collateral lines from my 3rd great-grandparents and found that only ONE actually came to the US and settled here. All the others stayed in Norway. I find that unusual because you would think that if one found America appealing that their siblings would follow her and see if what she told them (assuming she told them) was true.

I haven't put everything into my genealogy program yet, and I also haven't sent the family history reports to any cousins that I think might be interested because frankly I don't know how they will react to finding out that their great-grandfather or in my case 2nd great uncle changed their surname from Oleson to Ring because of the man that essentially raised them as his own sons. The change affects any cousins that are related to Albert's brothers Anton, James and Martin. I don't even know my own reaction to the decision they made to pretty much erase their father's name of Oleson and become the sons of Fred Ring. I'm going to have to give that some thought and post my thoughts about it later. I was just glad to be able to get to the bottom of most of that mystery, even though I still don't know what happened to Albert's father Carl Petter or why Martin's father was listed as Martin. But I'm not one to give up on solving a mystery.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Norwegian, Swedish, Danish equals Scandinavian genealogy

The Norwegians aren't the only ones that have unusual naming traditions that make it challenging for a genealogist to trace their ancestry back to that country or even Sweden or Denmark. I've finally managed to organized each of the surnames so that I can create some family history reports. This of course would be much easier had my great-grandfather, Albert just kept his biological father's surname of Oleson instead of honoring his step-father by taking his (Ring).

Its funny but I think I can understand why Albert and his three brothers DID take Fred's last name of Ring instead of keeping Carl Petter's of Oleson. Since it looks as if Carl pulled some sort of disappearing act after Martin was born in 1878 and Julia married again around 1881 or at least after the 1880 census, and proceeded to have several children with Fred, it makes sense that since Fred was probably the only 'father' they knew growing up, especially Martin, that they would feel it was only right that they take his name of 'Ring' as their own. I admire them for doing that but much like my other great-grandfather Joseph Cowden who was actually born Cowden Roxberry, it would've been nice if somewhere, ANYWHERE, Albert or one of his brothers would've explained this for their descendant and family genealogist. None of my cousins EVER knew about this and they all thought that it had been Fred that changed his name and not Albert or James or Martin.

It should be interesting to get their reaction to this discovery I've made and the research that I've put into tracing Julia's and Carl's families back to the countries of their birth. We all knew that my grandmother, Rose Julia (Ring) Gentzen was part Norwegian and that Julia was as well, but Fred Ring is DANISH, yet in the census records, Albert, Martin, James and even Anton acknowledged that their father was SWEDISH. I doubt anyone of my cousins will react badly to the news that their great-grandfathers surname wasn't originally RING but OLESON, but at least I've cleared but the mystery surrounding just WHO changed their name when they came to America. The truth is NO ONE changed their name until after Julia married Fred A. Ring in 1881.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Norwegian genealogy

I've been learning a lot about Norway and Norwegian genealogy this week, but just today I was overwhelmed when I got an e-mail from a guy in Norway who had information about my 2nd great-grandmother's father side, Johan Nilsen. He sent me a Word document that was mainly in Norwegian but I managed to translate it into English, at least for the most part. I also found a webpage that contained information on Julia's mother's side but I was definitely more interested in her father's side since I hadn't found any clues.

The funniest thing so far is that Johan Nilsen translated into English turns into John SMITH. Now whether that's just the simplest way to translate it or because Nielsen is a common name in Norway and Smith is so common here in the US that it just made sense I don't know. I sent the original Norwegian document to another guy who lives in Norway and he's going to see how it actually translates.

I have to say that the Norwegian people, at least those that I have talked to so far are not only very helpful but also very nice and forgiving especially since the naming practices are confusing and a bit intimidating. I'm looking forward to what else Harald is going to send me and who knows we may end up finding out that we're related. That would be the coolest thing I think. To actually have a cousin in Norway that I could write to.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Genealogy learning something new everyday

Its been a pretty good couple of days for me genealogically speaking. Turns out I had the WRONG passenger list for Julia because I didn't take into consideration that she would've most likely traveled WITH her husband and child. So again with some help from fellow researcher Robert, I managed to find Carl, Julie, Anton AND another child from Carl's FIRST marriage, Ole Gustav. Its seems they sailed NOT from Sweden, although that's where Carl was born, but from Norway, Christiania to be exact and arrived in QUEBEC of all places. Now from there I don't know exactly when they went to Chicago, which again was their final destination but they left Norway 15 April 1871 and arrived in Canada 22 May 1871.

I also discovered with a little help (more like a hint) that Julia and Martin had another sibling and it was actually a name I had picked out but wasn't quite sure she was the right one because much like the name Smith, there are a LOT of similar surnames (for lack of a better term) in Norway and Sweden and with the females keeping their father's names ever AFTER marriage makes it a little hard to find the right couple.

But the family arriving in Canada reminded me of something my Uncle Clarence told me once when I asked him about Great-grandpa Ring's siblings. He had mentioned (I think) that two brothers had 'died' and/or killed themselves in Canada. I don't know exactly what he told me only that he DID mention Canada. That made me think that perhaps Albert and James were born in Canada and THEN they came to Chicago, but I haven't found any birth records for them in Canada, or even Quebec. So I will have to try on Monday and Ancestry Library Edition.

In the meantime I am learning about the naming traditions in Norway and have joined two message boards that focus for the most part on Norwegian genealogy. Hopefully I'll find researchers there willing to help just like Robert.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gotta love genealogy and instincts

It was an interesting weekend for me on the genealogy front. Facebook changed the design of the 'groups' so that they look like other pages and it makes it easier to post queries, especially for genealogy groups. So I thought I would try it out at the Norwegian group I joined some time ago. And between that and posting to a local message board I think I may have (with a LOT of help mind you) just cracked the mystery of my 2nd great grandmother Julia (Nielsen, Olsen, Johnson) Ring.

I posted my query first to the Norwegian group just to see if anyone had any suggestions. This was last week. After getting some suggestions and websites to try, I went to my library and used Ancestry Library Edition. There I found a passenger listed for a Julia Olsen who's final destination was Chicago. The time period when she left SWEDEN was right, but it didn't provide any other information. Upon a suggestion from a member I posted another query this time to a local message board, specific to Cook County, Illinois. I got some suggestions and provided additional information. One member on the board, Robert, took it upon himself to do some digging and like me went with intuition when looking for the elusive Julia and her first husband, who's name I only suspected was on the birth record of one of her sons.

This morning he sent me images of Julia's birth record and her name Julia JOHNSDATTER, as well as the birth record of Anton Julius Olsen, her first child AND her first husband Karl Peter Olsen. I was completely blown away (and still am) to the point I had tears in my eyes. This brick wall seemed to be getting higher and higher with no end in sight but thanks to Robert and his intuition I think I can (I hope) find other records including when Carl came to America because my ancestor, Albert John Ring, was born in Chicago and Carl IS his biological father.

There is still a mystery to be solved though; according to Anton's birth record, Julia and Carl Peter were married AFTER he was born (somehow I had a feeling about that). The mystery is how Martin, Julia's 4th and last child with Carl Peter, wound up with his father's name being Martin Olsen on the birth register. But I have found the records that Robert sent me at FamilySearch, now that we're sure they were born in Norway and NOT Sweden. That was the other sticking point to this mystery. The marriage record shows the names of their fathers so with that I can try to find their mothers and maybe Carl Peter's birth record.

Instincts and intuition are something all good detectives use when they have a difficult case they need to crack. The same holds true for genealogists since we are in a sense detectives ourselves. I've relied on my instincts more than once but this time I had to get some help and they were the ones that went with what their instincts were telling them and it paid off. I am more than confident that Robert found my 2nd great-grandmother, her first husband and their first child and I want to thank him for doing the digging in places he thought to go. This wall is slowly but surely coming down and once it does let the bricks roll. :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Genealogical instincts

I've been relying on my instincts as of late when it comes to my genealogy research. And lately my research has become a lot like a detective solving a mystery, maybe even like Nancy Drew, a favorite of mine. But I've recently been re-reading the Sue Grafton 'Alphabet' mysteries since her latest one the letter 'V' is due out this coming November. I'm up to 'G is for Gumshoe' and discovered just why I enjoyed reading the books the first time. Kinsey Milhone, the main character a private detective works in much the same way an amateur genealogist does. Unlike the police department which has access to records of all kinds, Kinsey and genealogists alike don't and have to rely on finding records and information in her case in other more creative ways.

But genealogists, much like Kinsey and even Nancy Drew have to also rely on their instincts especially when they encounter a new client or in my case a record that leaves me with some suspicion about whether its completely reliable. Sometimes most of the information within the record is so overwhelming as far as being convincing that instincts shouldn't play a part but do anyway. In most cases the particular record is the ONLY one that makes the most sense given what I happen to be searching for. Thus is the case of the Wilkins line that I believe is the maiden name of Mary Eliza (or Elizabeth), wife of MY John Robinson, parents of my 2nd great-grandfather Edmund Lowell Robinson.

None of the other names, dates, places or even families come close to making plausible sense other than John Wilkins and Harriet Sockett Francis who happened to have a daughter, Mary Elizabeth, born 10 Feb 1824. In fact, other than Mary and her 'brother' David Francis Henry, I haven't been able to track their siblings except in Canadian census records because Mary and David are the only ones that married. The more frustrating thing is David's wife's maiden name is, you guessed it Robinsons and her father's name is JOHN; her mother's name is MARY. That is the THIRD couple that share the names of my ancestors, with ONE difference, this particular John was born in Ireland and NOT England, which doesn't make him any easier to track, especially if HE was my ancestor.

I just find it completely ironic that the John Robinson I started out with wasn't mine and yet one actually ends up becoming linked to MY John Robinson because of marriage. My point is my instincts are telling me that John Wilkins and Harriet Sockett Francis ARE Mary Eliza's parents and not just because they happened to have a daughter with her name but because per David Francis Henry Wilkins' marriage record, two of her children are witnesses AND her MOTHER is prominent in the Canadian census records as either living with John Robinson and family or vice versa with them living with her. Either way, each census record has the senior Harriet (she had a daughter named Harriet as well) in close proximity to the Robinsons. I feel strongly enough that the evidence is enough to tell me that I can add the Wilkins and Francis names to my family tree. Unfortunately the other John Robinson's line traces further back but again is only linked to mine by marriage. The moral, your instincts are something you not only cannot ignore but can't take for granted either. If they are telling you that the line you are researching is connected to your tree, take the next step and find more evidence to convince yourself your instincts are right.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More Records with images at FamilySearch

About every month or so the website updates their databases of records and/or images and most of those updates involve adding more records to their growing collection. The records come from people that are 'indexing' those records so that us genealogists can search for information more quickly. Sometimes the updates also include adding images along with records which for me is a must when doing research.

Last week they did a little of both and for the past couple of days I've been searching for records, this time around its marriage record IMAGES for Ohio which include ALL counties. I see only one drawback to this addition of records and images. Usually you can save the particular image to your computer's hard drive, which is what I do, and then can crop and print it later so that you don't get a whole page of dark space which uses all of your ink. But with the marriage record images it isn't so simple. I tried doing it that way and unfortunately the images are too big to crop in the program I have (a basic version of Adobe Photoshop) and even if I print them full size, then scan them and THEN crop it down to the specific record (since the images are two pages containing several records on each) they are just unreadable. What to do?

The FamilySearch website as the 'print' option already there and you can print a specific area BUT be careful when doing this because even if you get a nice close up of the record you want it doesn't mean that when you go to print you'll be able to read it. Also if the record is in the middle of either page OR its an early marriage record, the page itself won't have source information on it so you have to click back one page to where that information is and make a notation on the printout.

The later records, like those AFTER say 1900 contain much more information, including the parents names of both the bride AND groom and also whether they (either or both) have been married before and what the status of that marriage currently is. (Remember just because it says one party is 'divorced' doesn't mean its written in stone). The later records also offer occupations of the prospective couple, which is sometimes interesting if you didn't already know what they did for a living.

Some researchers think going over and over the same information is a waste of time but I don't think that's the case at all. Doing repeated searches for some individuals can in turn help you find more information and in some cases information you didn't previously know about, like occupations. It pays to going over it again especially when websites like FamilySearch add records that include images. Don't always rely on the indexed records as they aren't always complete especially when the image itself shows more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Logic or No Logic

Okay, I think I may have deciphered not only my John Robinson but also his wife, M.E. also known as (possibly) Mary Elizabeth WILKINS and her PARENTS. Believe it or not it comes from that marriage record I found recently that had my 2nd great-grandfather's sister and brother as witnesses.

Here's where logic comes into play, though it might be only my logic. I recently discovered a Harriet Socket FRANCIS, but I also discovered a Mary Talbot HARDING. Okay, you're thinking 'So what?' I had been going on the assumption that Harriet's MAIDEN name was Socket, but couldn't find any information on anyone with that name, which is when I found the Harriet Socket FRANCIS, daughter of David Francis. So, it stands to reason that if Socket wasn't Harriet's maiden name then TALBOT wasn't Mary Robinson's maiden name. And it turns out that it ISN'T.

The Mary Talbot Robinson in the marriage record who married John Robinson (apologies if it gets confusing) is actually Mary Talbot HARDING. Harding is her MAIDEN name and she's the daughter of Philip Patterson Harding and Esther TALBOT. So if Mary Talbot Harding wife of John Robinson and mother of Mary (Minnie) Talbot Robinson, and Harding is her maiden name, the logical assumption would be that Harriet Wilkins' maiden name is FRANCIS.

If you're confused I apologize, but the simple way to explain it is, the middle names that were listed for the mothers on the marriage record are just that MIDDLE names and not maiden name added instead of middle names. It also bears saying that the witnesses, St. George John WILKINS Robinson and Harriet Annie Mary Robinson would be natural choices because David Francis Henry Wilkins is their uncle, IF my logic is correct. Not only that but look at his name, David Francis; that is Harriet's father's name. Second, Mary Elizabeth Wilkins, daughter of John Wilkins and Harriet Sockett Francis, was christened at the same location as her mother. Third, after another look at the Canadian census records if you look at the religion of both the Wilkins and M.E. Robinson they are the same and her children also share it with the exception of John Robinson. But those too change in the 1861 census as they all have 'Church of England listed'.

I also happened to find a family tree at Ancestry for Mary (Minnie) Talbot Robinson, her parents, grandparents etc. Unfortunately it only had for her mother's side and not much for her father's. I thought if I found something on that John Robinson it would somehow connect back to my OWN John Robinson. But that John was born in Ireland so there can't be any connection except to when his daughter married David Francis Henry Wilkins. The only thing I haven't been able to figure out is WHY David was born in OHIO of all places. The other children of John Wilkins and Harriet Francis were born in England, only David was born in the US. The marriage record claims Charleston, Ohio, which is probably West Virginia, yet his death record from 1892 claims Cleveland. Either way, it seems the Wilkins were in the US between 1845-1850 before they appear in Canada for the 1851 census.

Once again more research is definitely needed but the pieces seem to be falling into place for all the parties except my John Robinson, which is unfortunate. I'm holding off on adding this recent info to my family tree (on my computer anyway) until I find something on him because if any of it turns out to be wrong I'll have to take it out and that is more time consuming on the computer than it is on paper.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hot on the trail of John Robinson

Well, I think I may have cracked the case of MY John Robinson and I can honestly say I probably should've thought of this sooner. I went through the Canadian census records again and noticed something that I didn't really pay attention to when I first found Edmund. For each of the census records in 1851, 1861 and 1871, as well as the 1881, John Robinson and his family, as it grows is living with a Harriet WILKINS.

The first census, 1851 has the Robinsons living with John Wilkins, his wife, whose name I can't read and three children and much like the Robinson family they are listed under initials, which makes it that much harder to figure out what their names are, and all the more so when the handwriting is poor. John Wilkins is only listed in the 1851 census and I would assume he dies between then and the next census in 1861 because Harriet is the head of household (so to speak).

But the kicker is this, I was doing some digging on the Wilkins just to see if I could find some kind of connection and I still don't know what to make of what I found except that what I did find helps to explain why the Robinson children have so many initials. I found a marriage record and between FamilySearch and Ancestry (at the library) I managed to find an image. The index at FamilySearch only shows the bride, groom and their parents. But the IMAGE shows much more. Not only does it show the couple and their parents but also WITNESSES to the marriage itself. And those two are what have me thinking that the Robinsons and Wilkins are connected in more ways than just living in the same household during the census records.

One witness is St. George John Wilkins Robinson. That's right, that's his ENTIRE name. Believe it or not, that helps make sense of the initials for George in the 1861 Canadian census. Although they are very hard to read, I could make out G J W and the first one could be an S or even 'St.' The other witness is a name I'd seen before, Harriet Annie Mary Robinson, George's sister. That is the name listed in her OWN marriage record. But this particular marriage record the bride's name is Minnie TALBOT Robinson, her father's name is John (go figure) but her mother's name is Mary TALBOT Robinson. Minnie was born about 1858, so its entirely possible that she is Harriet and George's sister, but I'm still not sure about that.

The fact that both Minnie AND Mary have the middle name (possible maiden name for Mary) Talbot, tells me that they are connected, and obviously from the marriage record they are mother and daughter, but how are the witnesses connected to Minnie, John and Mary. Its also strange that the groom, David Francis Henry Wilkins was born, at least according to the marriage record in West Virginia of all places. David and Minnie were married in 1881 but David dies 3 July 1892, 11 days shy of their 11th anniversary. I haven't found any children yet but then I haven't located them in the 1891 Canadian census either.

Harriet's own marriage record, which I also got a printout of, shows her mother's name as Mary Eliza, but there is no maiden name listed. Then again there's no maiden name listed for the groom's mother either.

I really don't know what to make of the information on the marriage records and its unfortunate that the handwriting on the census records is so lousy AND that everyone is listed with initials instead of actual names. I have never liked initials especially when that's all you have to work with. It seems that Minnie is NOT a sibling of Harriet and George because then she would've been listed in the 1881 census with them. I guess all I can do is keep digging and go back to the library on Monday.

More later.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Robinson Mystery solved...sort of.

Well I think I may have solved the mystery of the two John Robinsons, believe it or not there were TWO of them. That's right two John Robinsons who both happened to be born in 1819 (although one could possibly have been born in 1811). And two that just happened to marry women named Mary, except one has a maiden name, Shrimpton.

Unfortunately, Mary Shrimpton is NOT my John's wife. After a little more digging and some help from a cousin who has Ancestry (though not the World Deluxe) I found John, Mary (Shrimpton) Robinson and their children, INCLUDING William Hamilton. The key to determining which John was which lies in their occupations. I knew that my John was a 'Tinsmith' by trade and that is how I tracked him to New Mexico. But the other John Robinson was a FARMER and his wife Mary was still ALIVE in the 1881 census when my John's wife wasn't. John #2's occupation also makes sense given what Chuck (the guy who e-mailed me yesterday) had a picture of. He sent me photos of a water pitcher that had 'John Robinson' and '1811' on it. So never one to turn down a mystery, I did some digging on the writing that was on the pitcher. It had two banners one said 'The Farmers Arms' and the other said 'In God Is Our Trust' I found one similar with the same pictures on it but didn't find much else on it except that The Farmers Arms is a poem of some kind for you guess it, farmers.

So, I offered to track John, Mary and their children as far forward as I could, since I didn't know how much research he had done with the exception of William Hamilton who is his ancestor. I figured it was the least I could do since I claimed his William as the brother of my Edmund. It also means I'm going to have to wipe out his William's information from my family tree but I really don't mind. I still have to wait until Tuesday to view the Canadian census records at the library but now that I solved the mystery, I don't mind waiting. At least I don't have to start completely over, I just have to track a different William. I'm also glad that I found Edmund and my John Robinson.

I guess I learned a good lesson that I should've known but didn't take heed to. NEVER assume. In the end at least I get to do some digging whether its my John or Chuck's and that's the fun part of genealogy research.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Case of the two John Robinsons

Okay, my curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to see if I could find anything on Richard and Frederick Robinsons, two brothers that Charles the one I got the e-mail from, said were William's brothers. And at first I got very excited because I found their birth records, or at least Richard's. I found marriage records for both as well, but then that's when the mystery skewed.

The parents of Richard H. Robinson and Frederick Robinson are John Robinson and Mary Shrimpton. The problem is that both of them were born in Sophiasburgh, Prince Edward, Ontario, Canada and NOT Hamilton like William and my Edmund. Its discouraging to say the least but it gets worse. In an attempt to find them in Canadian census records I came across ANOTHER potential sibling, Mary Eliza, born about 1853, at least according to the 1871 Canadian census.

It would seem that there are TWO John Robinsons and they both married a Mary (with possible Eliza for a middle name). But could both of them be Mary Eliza SHRIMPTON? The only thing I DO know is that my Edmund (L.C.) Robinson IS listed with John and Mary and William in the 1871 census in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I also know that John and Mary Shrimpton are the parents of William Hamilton Robinson because of his death record. So if I could find the birth records or some other record for the other kids (the ones born in Hamilton that is) and prove that Mary Shrimpton is their mother it wouldn't be as frustrating as it is turning out to be. I haven't heard back from Charles yet and I can't use Ancestry till Tuesday (the library is closed Monday for Pulaski Day here in Chicago). Its going to drive me crazy till then but I'm going to keep digging using FamilySearch. I have to find a way to separate the two John and Mary Robinsons.

A lead in the Robinson/Canadian mystery

You would not believe what happened this afternoon. I was watching the UK version of Who Do You Think You Are on YouTube and I went to check my e-mail and I find a message from someone who is the great-grandson of William Hamilton Robinson, my great-great grandfather's BROTHER! I could not believe it, he tracked William much like I did and thought that he had two brothers, Richard and Frederick. He also has a water pitcher with the name John Robinson and 1811 on it but he can't figure out the significance.

I think that the date could possibly be 1819. I wrote him back and gave him what information I had on the siblings and Edmund. I'm guessing because his last name is still Robinson that he's linked through William's son Charles (Charles Arthur). I didn't trace any of them forward past the 1920 census. I also forgot to tell him that I found the death certificate of Alfred's son Edward Leo Robinson. I can't find the census records I printed out or the book that Edmund's mother gave him which was the only clue I had to work with. I am hoping that Charles takes a picture of the water pitcher so that I can look at the date. But just to see it would be really neat.

More later.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A long journey that has a long way to go

Would you believe that I've been researching my family history for 20 years? Its true, I started in 1991 but of course, I didn't have a computer then, unless you count the Apple IIc my brother gave me and the Internet was something no one had ever heard of, unless you were using the really early form of it.

Twenty years is a long time and with genealogy, its not something that's going to have a forgone conclusion like when you read a book and you realize you're getting to the end. Genealogy is something that doesn't have an ending, at least not your standard one like a book or a television show. I didn't really start getting into the research part of it until about 1998, when FamilySearch first launched their fledging website that crashed within the first few hours. But it was that website where I discovered that my paternal grandfather, who had started researching his family when I was a little girl, had been wrong and yet had held the key to the family tree but never realized it.

A page on Facebook recently posed a question, if you could walk in one of your ancestor's shoes who would you pick? I picked a great-grandfather on my mother's side because he was raised by his mother and step-father and I would like to know what happened to his natural father. But I don't think anyone could pick just one ancestor, at least I can't. I'd also like to walk in my paternal grandfather's shoes because maybe I could see just why he followed the direction of his research that he did and understand his theory for thinking his great-grandparents were of foreign birth. Then again, I may never find out just why except that he picked a name out of a book that allegedly was about every 'Fry' in the world.

So here's my tip as we start a new month. Never think that a brick wall is the end of the line. And never think that once you get to the most recent generation of any branch that that's the end of the line either, because it isn't. If you can't go forward, try going backwards or even sideways. And if you can't go those directions try going forward because you never know what you'll come across when it comes to genealogy research.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

I have really enjoyed the show 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and was happy to learn that it has been picked up for a THIRD season.

But what I am really sick and tired of hearing about is the comments that say 'why can't they do an episode with 'normal people' for once.' I don't think people realize what really goes into producing the show that airs each week. The producers just don't pick names of celebrities out of a hat and say 'okay, these are the ones were doing this season.' Much like if the show were based on 'normal' people's family histories, they have to find ones that have INTERESTING stories that can be turned into a program that people will WANT to watch.

Now, I have to admit, one episode with an 'ordinary' person might be interesting, IF their story was, but for how much work it takes to put a SINGLE episode together with a celebrity as its focus, I don't think it would be a good decision. What I do think is last week's episode with Rosie O'Donnell is what led to the renewal for a 3rd season. She didn't just let the experts do the research for her, SHE did some of it herself. One of the first things she said was 'It won't be as easy as it looks on TV.' and truer words could've never been spoken by anyone else. Because its NOT as easy as it is made to look on TV, and she proved that with her episode.

I admire Lisa Kudrow for creating a US version of this show that became popular in the UK and hope that the episodes come out on DVD. I was happy to also find a connection to Sarah Jessica Parker, but it took viewing her episode more than once to make sure I heard the surname correctly and then it took a little more digging to find that connection.

I look forward to the rest of this season and hope that the 3rd season comes out sooner than later. Perhaps they could do the stories in anticipation of the upcoming season and that way have them done and ready to roll whenever.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Missing records still missing

Well, my family and I made it through the blizzard of 2011. And with the small exception of the snowblower dying and one shovel handle breaking in two, it really wasn't that bad. Just two weeks after the 3rd largest snowstorm in Chicago history, we are having a heat wave of sorts. Believe it or not, by Thursday it will be close to 60 degrees. Most of the two feet of snow that was dumped on the city is melting away and it almost feels like spring, something Chicago doesn't get to see very often.

Last week, I finally order some additional memory for my computer and it came (via UPS) today. My brother installed it and so far, its running much faster and smoother than it did a few hours ago. I can even play some Facebook games that I couldn't before because they were very slow to load.

I was going through my files, try to decide if I should rearrange my binders and perhaps divide them up into collateral lines and direct lines. At this point I have lines that I don't even research taking up space in binders and ones that could be in binders in smaller 3-prong folders, which don't hold that much.

Remember when I thought I had found Fred A. Ring's parents because I matched his birthdate EXACTLY to a Frederik Alexander Gotje Ring? And then those records mysteriously disappeared? Well, they are still missing, except his two sisters are there, just not him or his brother. I just don't understand how they could disappear, but I'm glad I wrote them down. Now the question I'm pondering is whether or not I should put this information into my family tree file on my computer. And there's also the matter of Fred's death certificate which says his father's name is Hans, another name for John. How confident am I that even though the record itself has somehow disappeared from the website, that it is reasonable because of the dates of birth being EXACTLY the same its probably the same person? I am but I'm not, after all death certificates are only as reliable as the person that provided the information. In Fred's case it was his daughter, Carrie. And that's another thing, IF the parents I found ARE the right ones, its not just because of the matching birthdates, but the fact that Carl's (or Carel) wife's name is Anne CAROLINE and Frederik's middle name is ALEXANDER, two names that belong to two of his children.

I guess for now, I can keep the information in my binders until such a time (if any) that the records mysteriously reappear or I find some other evidence to corroborate the missing ones. My genealogy instincts have been pretty good, but this one is a tough call. But then again that's just part of the research experience I guess. You have to learn as you go along and as you learn you develop those instincts and feelings and have to decide whether or not to agree with them. Don't count them out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Already!

Its February first and where I live (Chicago) we are about to get hit with what meteorologists keep proclaiming will be the 'biggest' snowstorm since 1967. Unfortunately, I wasn't here for that one but vaguely recall the snowstorm we had in 1979 because in order to get to school (and yes we DID have school) we had to walk in the street because there was so much snow on the sidewalks. My brother (who is 13 years older than me) was only 8 in 1967 and according to my dad went outside jumped off the brick banister from our front porch and promptly disappeared into the snow.

So if you are living in the path of this latest snowstorm that is going to start sometime this afternoon and last till tomorrow afternoon or evening, here's a suggestion from a genealogist.

Stock up on food, water and candles. Make sure your laptop or iPad batteries are charged and in case you get a power outage. Warm up your printer and have your genealogy websites at the ready. A winter storm is probably the best time to do some research or even get started on your family history if you haven't already. Let's face it, you have to keep busy doing something if we're getting 1 to 2 feet of snow right? Tell your kids (or grandkids) stories about when you (or your parents) were younger and what they did when there was a snowstorm. Heck tell them stories about the blizzard of 1967, 1979 or earlier ones (like 1930 for Chicago). Tell them what it was like to see cars, and buses abandoned in the streets because of all the snow. Or what it was like to try and get to work downtown, like my dad tried but didn't quite make it.

Then once the snow has stopped falling and the winds have died down enough you can go outside, dig out as a family, since the kids probably won't be in school till Friday. Build a snowman (or snow family) or a fort in the backyard. Have a snowball fight, I think the most important thing is to do something fun as a family with your family. You could also help out your neighbors by shovel, snowblowing or plowing their sidewalks or driveways, especially the older neighbors that can't get out and do it themselves or if they live alone.

Genealogy isn't always about just doing research but exploring family history and getting to know the family you have around you right now. Make genealogy fun and make the time pass faster especially during a blizzard.

Stay safe, stay warm and see you on the other side of the blizzard of 2011.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not all records disappear

When it comes to doing research, we genealogists have to learn to take the good with the bad and vice versa. Take yesterday for example, records I had come across last November decided to disappear and I have yet to find them again. But today, I got an e-mail from someone researching a surname that I am also researching, KOENIG (or KONIG). I wrote back with some info I had and remarked that I hadn't worked on that particular line in a while. So, this afternoon I decided to take another stab at it.

After trying to find Michael Koenig (Konig), my 3rd great grandfather and not finding anything of interest I decided to tackle one of his children, his son Joseph. All I knew about him was that he was born in 1863 in Chicago and had died 10 Dec 1896. From his death certificate I also knew where he had been living at the time of his death, 406 N. Robey, which is also where his father had lived before he died in 1901.

I started poking around the FamilySearch website, and put Joseph's name and year of birth in just to see what would come up. I found a Joseph with a wife named Louisa. Knowing he died before 1900 I first tried finding a marriage record. Once I found that I looked for Louisa (nee Olson) in the 1900 census to see how many (if any) children they might have had. There's never a bad time to say BINGO when it comes to genealogy research. Per the census, Joseph and Louisa had 3 daughters, Edna, Anna and Louisa. Louisa's father was also living with them at the time. Now you might say, well how do you know it was the right one? That's the kicker. Most if not all of my maternal lines lived in Chicago BUT the key to finding them is just WHERE in Chicago they lived. That key is 'West Town'. Don't ask me why but for each family that I've searched for in the 1900 census I have found them in West Town and knew I was on the right track.

My next step was seeing if I could track the three daughters to the present. I found a marriage record for Edna and also found a sister living with her in 1910. But the best clue I found that I had the right family was the birth certificate I found for daughter Louisa. It listed her parents as Joseph and Louisa (Olson) Koenig AND where they were living at the time of her birth. 406 N. Robey! The exact same place that Joseph was living when he died AND where his father lived up to 1901.

I still haven't found Michael Koenig's parents BUT I can at least track another sibling of my great-great grandmother Rose to the present, or as much to the present as 1930.

So if you get frustrated, take the good with the bad or like in my case, the bad with the good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Case of the Missing Record

Okay, I know I promised I would 'try' to post something every week or so but other things got in the way last week and this entry won't have a tip or suggestion in it. But rather its going to be a way for me to vent about something that I just don't understand.

I posted here not that long ago that I had 'possibly' found my 2nd great-grandfather, Fred Ring's parents and was very excited about it. But today in fact just this afternoon, I was poking around the 'enhanced' FamilySearch site and can't find the record for the Frederik Alexander Ring (born 17 March 1854) that led me to believe (or better yet suspect) that I had found his parents, grandparents and even a couple of siblings. That's right, the record has VANISHED and to say that I am irritated is an understatement. What's worse is I can't find it on the old 'pilot' site either. The other siblings are there, or at least the girls are and I can find his 'father' and 'mother' and even go back two more generations, but Fred and Carl are NOT listed. It doesn't make any sense that a record that could (and did) lead to at least three generations back to Denmark where Fred was born ARE NOW GONE, VANISHED, DISAPPEARED!

I'm not going to remove the information from my files (well my hard copy files I haven't added it to my genealogy program yet), because I saw the record and it show the EXACT SAME date of birth. Its not like there was an image attached to the record or anything but I still think its a good clue and I intend to pursue it and I WILL find that record again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, new strategy for research

I promised myself that I would try to post a suggestion for genealogy research either every day or at least every week in 2011. Now I said 'try', however I really mean to try to post some kind of suggestion or strategy to either jumpstart your research, or approach a project or branch of your tree from another angle. And I know that you've probably heard these before but for the most part they have worked for me because and let's be honest, when it comes to genealogy research, you not only have to become a detective but you also have to become creative in some cases in order to knock down tough brick walls.

So here goes.

Since this is a new year and that usually means a new beginning my suggestion for today which can also apply when you finally decide to start researching your family. Talk to your relatives, especially the older ones, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. Do what I didn't get the chance to do when I started my research. My grandparents were all gone when I started in 1991 (has it REALLY been 20 years, YIKES!). I didn't start out asking family about names, dates and places and if I could go back BELIEVE ME, that is exactly where I would start.

But if you have already started and don't have older relatives available here's another suggestion, talk to friends of your parents and grandparents (provided they are still living and you know how to contact them). My biggest regret is not having done both of these things, but you can before its too late.

Here's hoping all my fellow genealogists have a 2011 filled with much success in your research and that you knock down dozens of brick walls.

Happy New Year!!!!!