Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Civil War Soldiers: Just a Click Away

My 8th grade son will be beginning the Civil War chapter in his history class next week. Perfect timing, I thought, April 2015 will be the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

If  you have a male relative born between about 1820 and 1845, he may have served in the Civil War. Perhaps he was a Yankee or maybe you had a real "Rebel" in the family. Did I say "he?" There were some "she's" fighting too!  

Whether your ancestor was fighting far from home or was a volunteer in the local militia, there is likely a story to tell. Finding that story may only be a "click" away!

Recently, I came across two wonderful internet sites that bring to life the Civil War veteran and thought I would share them here!

16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry website is filled with all sorts of great things.  Pictures, letters, notes, and diaries are just a few. I was particularly drawn to this site because of the enormous amount of information from a genealogical standpoint.
Screenshot from 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry website

Michael Wood, creator of the site, has been working more than 15 years to make it what it is today.

You will find searchable rosters and even descendency information for many of the soldiers. Though genealogical data is not sourced, Michael has included many names of spouses, children, and important dates and locations for them as well.

The 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was made up of soldiers mainly from the counties of Muskingum, Loraine, Union, and Wayne. So if you have ancestors who lived in those areas, you will definitely want to check this out.  

48th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry is a blog dedicated to the soldiers of the 48th. Most men were from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. John David Hoptak is the writer and creator of this blog.

Screenshot from 48th PA Veteran Volunteer Infantry blog
Though this blog does not contain genealogical data about the soldiers relatives, John does have a descriptive roll of each soldier (if available) and has broken it down by company. These descriptive rolls include death dates and locations for many of the soldiers. You will also find several pictures of soldiers from the regiment.  

John's particular strength is in his writing. He tells of the daily struggles and events of the 48th and opens your eyes to the life a soldier lived. As a side note, he has included some great reads for those of us Civil War buffs!

These are just two of the hundreds of great Civil War sites that can enrich your family history story. If you are interested in finding out more about your Civil War ancestor, might I suggest you google something like "136th Illinois Infantry history" and see what comes up. Happy Hunting!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chicken Scratch and Misspellings

Have you ever yelled at your kids for their bad handwriting?  "I can't read this chicken scratch!" you exclaim.

Between bad handwriting, poor spelling, and fuzzy or unclear digital images, records are hard to read. I want to share with you some tricks of the trade I have learned over the years.  I hope they help you overcome this obstacle.

Let's look at some examples:

Screenshot from Ancestry.com, 1880 US Federal Census for Okaw, Shelby county, IL

Okay, let's look at the first name I have indicated with a red arrow.  The last name is Perry and the first name is Mason.  (Perry Mason...ha, ha...funny!)  Look closely at "Perry".  Can you imagine that if you weren't as savvy with cursive writing, you might think it looked like "Pouj" or "Pay".  If an indexer saw the name as "Pay" and indexed it as such, then when you look for "Mason Perry", this census would likely not show up.

Let's look at the second name I marked with an arrow. Fisher is the last name and Thomas is the first name.  "Fisher" could be seen as "Tisher" or "Jisher", maybe even "Foher".  If you are typing in "Thomas Fisher" into your search, you would likely not see anyone with the last name of "Foher" pop up.

Lastly, the third arrow points to "Boly, Jerme A."...or at least that is what it looks like.  The young man named here is actually James A. Rowley, son of Hiram Rowley and Rebecca Underwood.  Now if you look again, you can make out that the last name might have been written as "Roly", which is phonetically correct, just misspelled.

When you are searching Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, consider alternate spellings.  If Mason Perry was your ancestor and you couldn't find him in a census, have you tried looking for a Mason "Pay"?  If your ancestor was James Roly, have you considered looking for him under the name of James "Rowley" or "Rolly"?  Changing up the spelling can be one trick to finding your elusive ancestor.

Here's another tip:  if you suspect your targeted ancestor is not popping up in searches because their name is indexed wrong, try using a WILD CARD.  A "wild card" is a phrase we use to indicate using an * in place of a letter or letters.  Let's use Bessie Revis Sherrill as an example.

Bessie Revis was born in about 1885 in Cass County, IL.  Let's assume I know that she married a Mr. Sherrill, but I don't know his first name.  I would also like to find her parents.

If I were to go to FamilySearch.org, my search would look like this:

I typed in her first and last name.  I used the "Any Place" search box by clicking "Any" and added the location.  Be sure to ONLY use a county name and state, don't worry about a city, even if you know it.  I left the year span empty.  I am hoping to find her husband's first name, so in the "Search with a relationship" field, I chose "Spouse" and used the last name of "Sherrill".  Here are the results:

I only got one good match, but it did give me Bessie's husband's first name!  Hooray!  Now, I can go back to FamilySearch and do a search with her husband's first name.  Here is what it would look like:

Here are the results:

I STILL only got one result!!  But, since "Sherrill" could be spelled a million different ways, I am going to go back and use the wild card method with an *.  This is what it would look like:

And the results are:

Ta-da!  There is the marriage record I was hoping to find!  Because Lee's last name was spelled differently, the system did not find it with the original spelling I had used.  Now, I have the names of Bessie's parents AND Lee's parents too!

This wild card method can be used at FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com as well as many other online sites.  Go and try it!  Maybe you will find the record you've been searching for.  Good Luck!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How To Make a Source Citation For The Challenged

Okay, I don't actually think any of you are "challenged", but when I want to learn something that I think is difficult, I use google and type in something like "basket weaving for dummies" or "html for dummies."

In genealogy, learning how to make a source citation was and is the hardest thing I have ever learned. I have spent countless hours reading and studying the technique.  The GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) states that citations of sources must "demonstrate the extent of the search and the quality of the sources and allow others to replicate the steps taken to reach the conclusion." ("Genealogical Proof Standard", Board for Certification of Genealogists, website, http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html : accessed 9 Mar 2015.)  The first time I read that, I said "huh?"

What is a source citation?  It is when you attach a type of explanation to your information.  Such as, you have stated that John Robert Smith was born on 3 July 1853 in Logan County, Ohio. Where did you get that information?  If you got it from John's death record, then where did you get the death record from?  Your source citation would tell the reader all the information they would need to find the exact record and get the same information.

Why do you need a source citation?  The easy answer is because no one will believe your work is accurate!  Ha, ha!  No, really, because you want others to trust that your information is indeed accurate.

If we were to use the example above and I found a BIRTH RECORD for John which said he was born on 3 Jul 1852, then I could see that your information came from a death record made after the person was dead and I would conclude that my birth date is likely more accurate.  Or, if I never found any record for John's birth date, I would see your source citation and know that the birth date can be seen on his death record that you found at (wherever you found it!).

So how do you write a source citation?  Okay, I am treading on very thin ice.  Here is the thing; there are some of us who are studying and working as professional genealogists and we are required and encouraged to follow the example of Elizabeth Shown-Mills in Evidence Explained.  I do that for my own work. But, I want to write to those of you who are not using ANY source citations at this time and I want to make it very basic.  This should not take the place of you learning the proper method, but help you to begin to learn the process and give you a place to start.

If you were to find a birth date on a tombstone picture at Findagrave, I would suggest that you write something like this for your source citation:  Name of person as it appears on the WEBSITE (not the tombstone), date of birth, cemetery name and place, and write www.findagrave.com.

Susan A. Dunham, date of birth on tombstone picture 15 May 1840, Pleasant Hill Cemetery, New Johnsonville, Tennessee, www.findagrave.com.

If you were to find a birth date using a birth record that you found on FamilySearch, I would suggest you write:  Name of the person just as it is written on the record (even if it is spelled incorrectly), date of birth, the database title (that is like "Ohio Births and Christenings, 1861-1952"), and www.familysearch.org.

Joyce Edwards, born 22 Mar 1901, Ohio Births and Christenings, 1861-1952, www.familysearch.org.

Let's talk personal knowledge.  Personal knowledge is when you didn't have to get a record because you were there when the event happened.  For example, you have written down that your son Tommy was born on 4 Sept 1977 in Piqua, Miami, Ohio.  You can write the source citation as "personal knowledge of the event."

Thomas May, born 21 Nov 1980, personal knowledge of mother Rebecca Taylor May.  

A lot of us use censuses.  They are among the longest of the source citations when done correctly.  I would suggest that you begin by listing which census year you are looking at, where the census was taken, the persons' family number and name, and where you viewed the census.  An example might look like this: 

1940 US Federal Census, Rose Hill, Lee County, Virginia, family 170, Joe Hensley, www.ancestry.com 

It might be helpful to see where you can find that "family number" I mentioned. Here is a picture to show you.

I hope this article will encourage you to start sourcing your information and realize that you don't have to start at a professional level.  Just begin with the most basic information, start the habit, and later you can improve your skills one citation at a time!

Think you might have a family line that is "finished?" Think again! Read here to find out what might be slipping by you: http://mykithnkin.blogspot.com/2015/10/finished-family-line-is-questioned.html

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Recording Blood Lines for Our Adopted Family Members

It is pretty common knowledge that all three of my children are adopted.  My husband and I adopted them all as infants and all within the US.  We are so blessed to have been chosen by their birth mothers!

The first two children were closed adoptions.  That meant that we could share our first names with the birth parents and they could share their first names.  We could ALL share what state we lived in, but that was the extent of our personal information.  If they had family members with them at the time of placement, we were permitted to know their first name and their relationship to the birth mother or father.  I always knew the day would come when my children would want to know where they came from, so, I paid close attention to every detail.

I wrote down the names and everything I could remember about the birth families, even the seemingly most insignificant detail.

Now, all these years later, I have used that information to piece together a blood line family tree for each of my children.  Even though the information is incomplete, I think it is nice for them to have!

How did I begin?

I use RootsMagic to store and organize my genealogical data. RootsMagic is a genealogy software program that can be downloaded to your personal computer.  Check them out here.

RootsMagic has a feature that will allow you to record the birth parents' names as secondary parents and list the child as adopted.  It is likely that your favorite software also allows for this.  I will show you how it is done on RootsMagic.  For privacy reasons, I have changed the names and dates of all individuals.  

First you create your family tree with the child's name and with the adopted parents.  In this case, Susan Barnes' adopted parents are Joseph Barnes and Barbara Gump.  Add these parents just as you would any parents.

Daughter Susan and her adopted parents Joseph and Barbara.
Now you double click on the child's name.  A "person" box pops up and you can see her parents are listed in this box as Joseph Barnes and Susan Gump.

Now, you will need to click once on the parents names in that "person" box.  See picture below.

When you do so, a "parents" section will pop up to the right.  It gives you a pull-down menu for both parents.  The choices include birth, adopted, foster, step, related, and guardian.  Choose whichever is appropriate.

Both Joseph and Barbara have been listed as adopted parents
Now click "close" at the bottom of the box.

You will be brought back to the pedigree screen.  From here, you can add the birth parents.  First, click once on the child to highlight their name.  Then, at the top left of the screen, click "Add".  A pull-down menu will fall and you need to choose "parents".  

When you do this, a warning box will pop up to let you know that Susan already has parents and ask you if you would like to add another set of parents, click "yes".  

Now you follow the prompts to add another father and mother for the child.  When you have completed this, you will be directed to the pedigree page again.  At first glance, it looks like the child is still only recorded with their adopted parents.  Double click on the child's name and you will see BOTH sets of parents.   See example below.

You may know the names of the birth grandparents and wish to add them.  This is done differently.  Let's start with the birth father David.  You will need to find him in the name index at the left of the pedigree screen.  See the picture below.

Once you click on David's name, you will be directed to David's pedigree screen and you are now able to add the names of David's parents.

You follow the same directions for adding parents of the birth mother.

I hope this wasn't too confusing and that you can now begin to add both birth and adopted family lines to your family tree!  If you have any questions regarding adoption and family history, please feel free to contact me by commenting at the end of this blog post. Have a great day!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Courthouse Research From Home

[Note: My Kith N Kin is moving! Though this site will remain open, new genealogy techniques, articles, and more will now be posted to The Genealogy Reporter. Come on over and subscribe!]

When I think of "probate records", I think of wills and estate files. If you are thinking the same way, you are likely missing out on a great deal of information!

I use FamilySearch.org to search courthouse record books.  Let me show you!

First, go to FamilySearch and sign in.  Next, you click on "Search" at the top right.  Now you will see a map of the world.  Click on the desired location.  I have chosen the US, but you can choose any country you are interested in.

Once you choose the US, a pop-up list will be available and allow you to choose the state you wish to search in.  I am going to choose Ohio.

Now you will see this:

Click where I have indicated and then scroll ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE BOTTOM!

It seems like you will have to browse through nearly 7 MILLION records, but don't be alarmed!!

After you click this browse button, you will see a listing of all the counties in Ohio.  Choose whichever you are interested in.  I am going to choose Ross County.

Prepare to be AMAZED!  Every record title you see below is like looking at that record book from the comfort of the couch!  I have grabbed a screenshot of just a few of the records available.  You will want to check it out for yourself to see what is offered for your targeted area.

Remember, you can look at whatever country, state, and county you have a desire to visit!  Just follow the same instructions!  Happy Hunting!!

Do you want to learn even more about doing genealogy research from home? Watch my online webinar titled "Enriching Your Family History Through Pictures and Stories" and learn how to use free resources to deepen your family history. A short clip can be viewed for free, or you can make a one-time purchase to download the entire webinar.