Friday, September 15, 2017

Writing Your Family History – Part II

Every writer needs to figure out their audience. Will you write a more research-oriented monograph, or write a short family story for the younger audience? Whatever you decide, you need to Hook your reader with . . .
- A favorite family story; or
- A favorite/interesting ancestor; or
- An interesting time in your ancestor’s life, or
- Why/how you got started in researching this family line?
- Start with action – start with a compelling story, place, or thing;
- Add context as you go.

To hook readers of my Nunn family history monograph, I used a technique called “I imagine.” I imagined how my grandfather felt when he learned of his sister's death in early 1947. This is the last paragraph of the prologue.
He sat down and closed his eyes as flashbacks of his childhood overtook him. They had survived, most of them, because of Lizzie. The acrid smell of unwashed bodies, dirty diapers, overcooked onions and cabbage in that small crowded Manhattan tenement came back to him like it was yesterday. Eleven babies had arrived; some didn’t survive. Despite all this Lizzie cared for them when their mother couldn’t. Harry never mentioned his childhood. He didn’t remember much about his parents, but he never forgot the day the authorities arrived.
Harry Nunn and his family, by Mary Nunn Maki ©2014

This is how I do it. I write my family history in Word. I develop a descendant line, and then find as many children as I can utilizing the census and other resources, adding dates as I find them. Direct line ancestors are in bold.

Descendants of Joseph Nunn b: 1857; d: May 1900 and Catherine Kurtz Nunn b: 1859 m: 14 Apr 1883; d: 12 May1917
Joe Nunn b: 1884; d: 6 Nov 1894 age 10
Unknown Nunn *
Elizabeth Nunn b: Oct. 1886 m: Louis Siebert b: 1881; d: 22 Apr 1916
Kathie Nunn b: 9 Apr 1888; d: 16 Aug 1891 (?)
Ignortz Nunn (Harry) b: 10 Sept 1890; d: 8 Nov. 1957
George Nunn b: 5 April 1892; d: abt 1985
Kate Nunn b: 21 Dec. 1893; d: 1928
Joseph Charles Nunn b: 23 Aug 1896
Amelia (Emilie) Nunn b: 8 March 1897 d: Aug 1980
Emma Nunn b: 8 Feb 1899; d: 18 May 1959; m: George Dorn
Charles Caspar Nunn b: May 1900 d: 8 Sept 1900

* Catherine consistently reports she had eleven children. I can find birth records for ten. I placed the unknown child in the biggest gap between Joe and Elizabeth.

Chapters or Sections
Each person has their own section or chapter in which I drill down and find out as much information on them as I can. I leave my direct line to last as a lead in to the next section. This way, if I can’t find much on one person, I move on to the next, and keep working on those giving me trouble. New information is coming online every day, and connections are made with those who might have the information I need.

Introductory paragraph on Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Nunn) Siebert. It took me nine years to break through the brick walls (yes, there is an “s” on that). It was Elizabeth who held the answers.
When Elizabeth Nunn married Louis Siebert in June 1905 she had one thing on her mind – bring her siblings out of St. Joseph’s Home and get them back under her roof.  To do this she needed to retrieve the $300 she gave her neighbor Mrs. Louis in June of 1900 for safekeeping.  And therein lies the problem. Mrs. Louis no longer had the money, which left Lizzie only one course of action.

That course of action:  Elizabeth sued her neighbor Mrs. Louis for the money. This normally would not have been newsworthy to the New York Times, but in this case, it went to a jury trial, the verdict was in favor of Elizabeth. Mrs. Louis and her 8 children were in the courtroom and their heartbreak was so apparent that the jurors decided to take up a collection to pay Elizabeth so that Mrs. Louis wouldn’t have to go to jail. That short article in the Historic New York Times broke down a big brick wall for me in understanding what happened to this family. You never know where that small piece of information will appear to give you the breakthrough you need.

Other examples:
Some genealogists write their stories in prose only – no citations
“She was often called Veronica, although her given name was Verona. I called her “Grandma.” She came to America in 1922 via Ellis Island, just as some 6,000 other Slovak immigrants did that year.” Three Slovak Women, by Lisa A. Alzo ©2005 

This paragraph in John Phillip Colletta’s book was found at the very end. I think it would be a great hook – why not at the beginning? If you run into him at a conference, please ask and report back. I also included this because of the sensual details. He takes you right into that dining room with his grandmother.
“In 1963 when I was a boy, my grandmother came to our house in a suburb of Buffalo. Smoothing out a length of cotton fabric on our dining room table – I think it was a floral print in soft yellows and greens – she told me while she cut out a dress that my great- great grandfather had been murdered. And I did not believe her. Since that distant summer afternoon, 30 years of searching in thousands of historical sources have vindicated my youthful skepticism. Grandma was wrong. Joe Ring was not murdered after all.” Only a Few Bones, by John Philip Colletta @2000.

Colletta used chapter notes at the end of his book for his citations.

Important stuff to remember
- Source citations – Cite as you go
- Copyright laws
- Footnotes and explanatory footnotes
- Numbering system –Register Style begins in the past and moves forward; Ahnentafel or Ancestor Table begins at or near present time going back to earliest known ancestors. The man’s number is even; the woman’s odd.  Our software does this for us.
- Online doesn’t necessarily mean forever. Retain control of your information!

More stuff to remember
- Ancestral names in small caps bold.
- One space after a period
- Punctuation inside quotation marks;
- Decide on appropriate cover art – a family photo? If you take something off the Internet, get permission!
- Do you include living persons? [It is our personal policy not to include living persons, because we share our monographs with public institutions. If you decide to include living persons you must have their permission.]
- Questionable data, missing information; [For questionable data, use qualifying words like perhaps or probably. Write so that uncertain information is paired with certain facts. If you know that Mary Smith was born in Richmond, Virginia, but are not certain of the date, state Mary Smith was born in Richmond, Virginia probably around 1840.]

The beginning and the end – this is how your document will flow
-Introduction - How did you get started with this family line? Did you have some interesting adventures along the way? This is your chance to connect with your readers.
-Table of Contents and Photo list (page numbers can be put in at the very end)
-Appendices (Obits, family group sheets)
-Index – A must have – not negotiable. If you can’t do this, find someone who can. Hint: Index as you go; add page numbers when final draft is run. This is another good way to catch errors.

Title – This is serious business!
- Ancestral Journey – NO!
- Our Funny Family – NO!
- Cutter, Davenport & Butterfield Families of Elkhart, Indiana – Yes!
- Hardenbrooks of Upstate New York 1830-1996 – Yes!

Edit – You’re almost done! Read through, double check names, dates, copyright on your work, find qualified genealogists as beta readers.

Practice – Write a genealogy Blog, newsletter articles, or submit to a genealogy publication.

Decide how many copies you will need – Share your work
Family, repositories (historical societies and libraries where your ancestors lived), Allen County Public Library, Family History Library, Library of Congress.

My genealogy writing bookshelf
Guide to Genealogical Writing – Penelope Stratton and Henry Hoff
The Chicago Manual of Style
Evidence Explained – Elizabeth Shown Mills
Producing a Quality Family History – Patricia Law Hatcher

But most of all, have fun!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Writing Your Family History – Part I

Last night I gave a presentation to the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society on Writing Your Family History. Below are a few ideas I shared with them.

At a New England Regional Genealogical Society Conference several years ago we attended Warren Bittner’s session on Writing to Engage Your Reader. In that presentation he stressed the importance of writing up your research – now! He admitted research is never done but, share what you have now. That’s when we learned about monographs. Technically, a monograph is a learned treatise on a small area of learning or a written account of a single thing. For genealogists it means following one ancestral line from the earliest to recent.

Why Bother?
Because birth, marriage, and death dates are not enough. As family historians we want to learn about our ancestors; we want to tell their stories, we want to bring them to “life.” And …
Writing helps us make sense of our research. It tells us what we are missing, names, dates, and especially citations; Writing can catch the interest of family members, and maybe nurture future genealogists; Writing/publishing your carefully researched family history will help other researchers and maybe connect us with cousins.

Most of us have our family trees online. Future generations may not be interested in online family trees. But if there is a well-written book about their ancestors, they are more likely to keep that and read it. Remember: Online doesn't necessarily mean forever. Really Important: Retain control of your information.

Your audience - Will it be ...
Immediate family?
Libraries, historical societies, or other repositories?
Will you produce a monograph (focusing on one family line), Photo book, Cookbook, scrapbook, memoir?

Once the ancestor line is identified, gather you materials
Assuming you have done an exhaustive search following the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) - 

  1. Reasonably exhaustive research has been conducted.
  2. Each statement of fact has a complete and accurate source citation.
  3. The evidence is reliable and has been skillfully correlated and interpreted.
  4. Any contradictory evidence has been resolved.
  5. The conclusion has been soundly reasoned and coherently written.

Gather vital records, deeds, military information, wills, maps, letters, recipes, interviews, photos, timeline.

- Develop a style sheet – A reference list for consistency – Some decisions to make:
-Will main ancestor be in small caps bold?
-State names abbreviated? How?
-Maiden Names are in parenthesis
-Will you use WWI or World War I?
-How will dates be written? 1 July 1930 or July 1, 1930?

[End of Part I]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Finger Lakes Mystery – Second in the series

Publishing Fatal Dose is the reason I have not done much genealogy lately! Fatal Dose is set in the Willow Creek area, so I thought it appropriate to let my genealogy blog readers know about the book. As you will read below, both books have area roots, not only in the story, but with the cover photos.

Graphic artist Caitlyn Jamison is back in scenic Riverview, New York, working on a winery photo shoot—and hoping to reconnect with Sheriff Ethan Ewing. But the sheriff has a serious situation on his hands: an undercover agent posing as a professor disappears on the same morning a college student is found dead. When Caitlyn learns the missing man is her friend’s uncle, and against Ethan’s wishes, she insists on helping with the investigation.

Meanwhile, Caitlyn’s Aunt Myra hears about a different kind of mystery from her friend, retired teacher Verna Adams. Verna is searching for her long-lost brother, who once lived on the abandoned road where the student’s body was discovered. As Riverview’s town historian uncovers the unsettling truth about Verna’s brother, Caitlyn and Ethan defy the town’s officials and keep their investigation going—with dangerous consequences.

Fatal Dose is the second book in the Caitlyn Jamison Mystery Series. The stories are set in the Finger Lakes, and the book covers are by local photographers. The first book, An Unexpected Death, has a cover featuring vineyards on Seneca Lake by photographer Richard Welch. The cover of Fatal Dose is of Grove Cemetery, Trumansburg, New York by Ithaca photographer Joseph Scaglione, III.

Both Caitlyn Jamison mysteries have interesting subplots, and current social issues are worked into the plot lines of both books.

Fatal Dose can be ordered through

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Family Cookbook with a Dash of Genealogy

Ten years ago I decided to develop a family cookbook. I typed recipes from index cards and scraps of paper of my mother and grandmother's recipes. I then added my own favorites and those shared by my husband’s family and our friends. Along the way, I put these recipes into categories, developed a table of contents for each category, and then made an index. This compilation was put into a pretty 3-ring binder. Over the years, I have clipped more recipes that I thought looked interesting at the time, and popped them into the divider sleeves.

I’ve decided it is time to pull all the categories together and have the cookbook permanently bound. I’m lucky that most of the recipes have been typed, and the index developed. I went through the sleeves and threw out most of my clippings. I do have a small pile sitting next to my keyboard that need to be included. Typing recipes is not fun!

Since many of the recipes came from loved ones, I decided to give this book a genealogy flavor. I will have a contributor page in the front matter that will have the name of the person, a photo when I have one, and a short bio/genealogy of that person. The sample below is what I will include for my grandmother’s brother, Kenneth Hardenbrook. I’m sure as I work on this I will come up with more ideas to make this publication even more personal and fun.

Kenneth Hardenbrook (shown above with his mother Laura Hardenbrook) was the son of Enos and Laura (Wortman) Hardenbrook. He was born 10 May 1909. He and his sister, Maude Emma were raised in Jacksonville, New York. In 1936 Kenneth was proprietor of Ken’s Lunch located at 212 South Cayuga Street in Ithaca, New York and then in 1941 Kenneth co-owed R&H Diners with L. Gerald Rich. They were proprietors of the Cayuga Diner located at 235 South Cayuga Street, and the Sterling Diner located at 333 East State Street, in Ithaca. Kenneth’s father, Enos, worked as assistant chef at the Sterling Diner. Kenneth married Mildred Elston. Kenneth was a born chef, and his Ken’s Meatballs recipe can be found on page ___.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

George Henry d: 13 July 1868

On our hike at Lake Anna State Park (VA) last weekend, I had the opportunity to walk for a time with a neighbor who told me she had inherited some vital record documents from her father. The documents meant nothing to her, and she didn’t think her daughter cared, so she was going to throw them out. The genealogist in me said, “If you’ll loan them to me, I’ll scan them and put them on my blog. That way if there is anyone out there researching this family, they can find them.” She agreed.

Early yesterday morning I scanned fourteen large documents of her father’s relatives in England and Ireland. There was also a folder of responses her dad received during the 1950s and 1960s from letters he sent to Irish custom houses, circuit courts and hospitals looking for records on William Henry and George Henry. The letters were to officials in Dublin, County Cork, The Waterford Heritage Society, and the Huguenot Society. I did come upon one letter – finally – dated 22 January 1952 when he received a positive reply from the Hospitals for Diseases of the Chest. His death was registered in the County of Middlesex, and is in the General Register Office, Somerset House, London. That letter is shown below.

Over the next period of time I will post more of these documents with the hope they will prove helpful to some researcher here or abroad.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Mystery to Solve - Now Solved!

I’ve been working on reorganizing, archiving and indexing my genealogy material. While adding items to my Agard Box #1, I came across a letter my great-grandfather, Arthur Agard wrote to his son, Merritt Agard, who was wintering in Florida. The letter was dated 17 February 1968, just two weeks shy of when Arthur died in his sleep.

My great-grandmother, Jessie Tucker Agard, started the letter and then handed it over to Arthur to share his news. And that is where the mystery comes in.

Below is a transcription of Arthur’s news and I wonder to what issue he is talking about. It refers to a road reconfiguration, so I thought maybe they were considering building a road diagonally from Route 96 to Route 89. But that doesn’t make sense. My cousin thinks it might have to do with zoning. Or, could it be gerrymandering? The Ulysses Town Historian is checking with his colleagues at the historical society, and my cousin is checking with the local zoning officer. I was hoping any Blog readers from the Town of Ulysses, Jacksonville or Trumansburg might have an insight as to what this issue was in winter 1968.

Arthur wrote:

“People are curious about the road and make all kinds of remarks. The Boulevard suburbanites held a meeting at Glenwood Pines and asked Bill (Agard) to come to it as he had the most inside information. As he and Bennett Stover went to Syracuse and saw the maps and since has had a set here to study, but did not take them to Glenwood meeting. It goes south of Scotts and crosses the creek and takes the old Spicer (?) house at top of hill and crosses the old Fowler 9 acres and woods and crosses the swamp on Furman and crosses Kraft and hits us (Agard Road) about 500 feet wide. Railroad counted out. Takes English’s and Ogden’s and schoolhouse (Willow Creek School) and all of Frasiers and 9 acres of the Atwater place and on to Paul Vann’s. There are no crossovers on the map. They work them out as demand calls for.”

14 June 2017 
Thanks to cousin Nan Agard Colvin, Sarah Koski, Ulysses Deputy Town Clerk, Darby Kiley, Environmental Planner, Town of Ulysses, and Carissa Parlato,Clerk, Town of Ulysses, the answer to my mystery is solved. In a link to the Official Minutes Books 1959-1976 I found a mention in the March 6, 1968 minutes that the state was planning an extension of Route 96 that goes between Ithaca and Trumansburg. I don't know what the plan was exactly, but according to Art Agards letter, it might have planned for the road to veer down to connect with other roads in the Willow Creek area, run across the top of the ridge, and come out near the hospital. That's only a guess. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Writing a Family History – The Nitty-gritty

The book Guide to Genealogical Writing by Penelope L. Stratton and Henry B. Hoff was mentioned in a couple of sessions I attended at NERGC. I decided to purchase a copy and am glad I did!

This book gets down to the nitty-gritty of producing a written family history. The first chapter sets the stage: “Shifting Mental Gears.” In other words, you have to stop thinking like a researcher and get into the mindset of a writer. Now, this is the heart of the matter and what I struggle with for my September presentation - how to encourage genealogists who love the chase, but feel they have no writing skills.

Some suggestions: After deciding the scope of your project, one ancestral line or several, determine your audience and time frame. Those decisions will narrow down your focus. From the research you have completed, develop a table of contents. This is not set in stone, but will serve as a guide to keep you on track.

Chapter two explains the genealogical numbering systems, and I admit I have not followed either in my previous monographs. That is something I have on my to-do list.

Chapter three explains how to make a style sheet, and this is something I have done. It is necessary to ensure consistency in your writing. I also use it for citation styles I use the most – utilizing the formats in Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

The above is a sample of the wonderful information contained in this book, taking the genealogist from the very start right through publication. I encourage anyone thinking about writing up family stories to purchase this book. It even gets down to the detail that there is only ONE space after a period! Not what our generation was taught.

A Worlds Collide Moment - I was surprised to see their example of a narrative geographic setting on page 48. The narrative, “On the Coast of Ireland,” starts by saying “… among the markers in St. Rose Cemetery in Sandy Hook, CT … “ That information, I believe, they got from the Irish Tombstone Transcription project I did in 2005!!!  My transcription of the Irish tombstones was published in Connecticut Ancestry (November 2005 Vol. 48, No2), and also resides on the Genealogy Club of Newtown’s website. It proves once again genealogy is a small world. After completing the transcriptions in St. Rose Cemetery, I then did the Irish tombstones in Old St. Peter's Cemetery, Danbury, CT, with the help of Harlan Jessup. Harlan took our project to the board of Connecticut Ancestry, who assembled volunteers to record the rest of Fairfield County's Irish tombstones.