Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Of census and pizza

I had trouble finding Joseph Nunn on the 1940 federal census. I had his World War II Old Man’s Draft Card from 1942, which stated he lived at 606 Fifth Street, Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Since his discharge from St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill on 25 August 1910, Joseph worked on farms in both New York and New Jersey.  I checked the census for both states, using the advanced search technique on HeritageQuest for different spellings of his name, searching by age, etc.  Nothing came up. 

Today I went to SteveMorse.org to search the ED for the address he gave in 1942, thinking he might be there in 1940, or at least the name he put down as the person who would always know where he was, Mr. Spitzle, at 614 E. Fifth Street.  Steve Morse has a great ED finder. You put in the street address of the city of which you are searching, a cross street if you know it, and he then gives you the Enumeration Districts for that area. Since I knew the address, I could put in the cross street of Avenue B.  That gave me only five or six EDs to search.  In ED 31-503, I found my Joseph.  He was living at 610 Fifth Street in 1940. He seemed to have a reduced rent and that could be because he was a “Helper” to the superintendent.  Joseph lived in this same place in 1935, he was 46 and single.

Why couldn’t I find him?  If I had remembered my lesson from the 1900 census, I would not have first looked for the name Nunn.  If I had remembered my father’s experience in Ithaca New York during the 1960s, when he tried to order pizza from the Italian Carry-out, when asked the name, and it was given, Nunn, the response was, “I gotta hava name!” 

After repeating the question several times, I am sure Joseph finally answered, “Joseph.”  His name appears on the 1940 census as “Joseph Joseph.”  Just as the 1900 census listed Catherine Nunn and her eight children as “Joseph, Catherine,” Because when she answered the question correctly, I am sure the census taker said, “I gotta hava name!”

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tips for Writing an Interesting Family History

Thanks to F. Warren Bittner’s presentation at NGS earlier this month, “Writing to Engage Your Reader,” I learned that writing a family history and genealogy writing are different.  Specifically, writing a family history that will engage your readers from start to finish.

I tend to march to a different drummer much of the time, so while most genealogists are busy capturing names and dates on scraps of paper and then entering into the database of their choice, I am interested in immediately writing about the names, dates, and whatever social and cultural history I can pull together. Entering names and dates into my Reunion software is mostly an afterthought.

I am a genealogy writer, which means I stick right to the facts. I now struggle with turning that writing style into a more relaxed, creative style that my readers will be hooked from the start, and will read through to the end.

Research has to come first. Mr. Bittner stressed to search all available records and then analyze them.  Some he listed were military, probate, court, contemporary journals, histories and diaries.  Look at every jurisdiction. Read between the lines. What isn’t being communicated?  Scour social histories – regional, educational, medical, gender, micro, ethnic, economic and vocations.

Start your family history with action, a moment of decision or high point, an interesting person, or an unusual situation. Catch your readers’ attention, give them a reason to keep reading.  Then add context.  “Arrange facts and details for impact, not chronology.” Stay true to the story.

What makes your ancestor unique? What makes them tick?  Your story should be emotion based; appeal to the senses.

Use clear language, action verbs, active voice.  “Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action,” states Mr. Bittner.

On a sobering endnote, Mr. Bittner says, “Nine tenths of good writing is re-writing.”

Carry on.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Luminaria as far as the eye can see

Since 1995 the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Fredericksburg, VA have honored the American soldiers who died in service of their country by putting luminaria at their graves the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

Fredericksburg's National Cemetery is dominated by the graves of Union soldiers, with some from the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II.  It is a daunting task to light one luminary for each of the 15,300 American soldiers in the National Cemetery. The Scouts are up to the task and last night we visited the cemetery to witness their efforts. It was a sobbering experience.  

There is complete silence while Taps is played every thirty minutes during the evening. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Census Search Tip

I was searching for Elizabeth Siebert on the 1940 census just now and could not find her. I knew she was still alive and living in the Bronx.  Why didn't she come up?

We are told to always search the pages before and after our family to see if other family members are nearby. Using this search technique I then searched for Elizabeth's daughter and son-in-law, Regina and Nicholas Eberhard.  I found them on page one of six of the Morris Street, Bronx section of the census.  The listing showed Nicholas as head with Regina, his wife, and their three children.  No Elizabeth.  I scrolled through the next page of names, nothing. The next page was blank. On page five I found four names. The top one was Elizabeth Siebert, indexed as "Silbert."  It listed Elizabeth as "mother-in-law." 

We have downloaded all the blank census forms that can be found on Ancestry.com. Elizabeth had a notation on Column 3 that stated, "cont. 3." I pulled out the blank form for 1940 and found that Column 3 asks "Number of Household in order of visitation." Going back to page one, I then noticed that Nicholas and Regina were indeed Household number three. 

The other three folks on this last page were Household 30, which had been missed altogether.  Why Elizabeth wasn't counted in the first round and ended up on a census sheet between two blank ones, I will probably never know. I do know that if this form had many more pages, I probably would not have taken the time to search.

Maybe Elizabeth really does want her story to be told. Thanks for guiding my hand.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Noah Agard of Litchfield, Connecticut

We are in Glastonbury, Connecticut several times a year, but today is not one of those times.  That is unfortunate, because at its annual meeting today in Glastonbury, the Connecticut Society of Genealogists will announce that my essay, Noah Agard of Litchfield, Connecticut Revolutionary War Soldier won the “Tell Your Family Story” Essay Contest. This essay contest is a component of the CSG 2014 Literary Award Contest.

I am honored and humbled by their selection of Noah’s story.  By utilizing several sources including Frederick Browning Agard’s 1976 publication Agards in America, a handwritten account by Noah’s grandson, and the Agard family bible pages, I shared parts of Noah’s life that are not found elsewhere.

Thank you, CSG for this honor.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Census Search Techniques

As seasoned genealogists we are adept at using the census in our research. In fact, we know to start with the census. We know to follow our family lines back through the census, and we know about cluster genealogy, that families oftentimes traveled together.

At NGS last week we had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Jason B. Harrison, CGsm of Family Search explain additional strategies in census searches.

Jason reminded his audience that they might be searching the wrong name or wrong location. Their ancestor’s name could be misspelled, or information was given by a neighbor who was unsure of the spelling. There could be a transcription error, and/or the name could be illegible. Some techniques for dealing with these situations are:

  • In Ancestry’s search box, provide minimal information. Start with just the basics;
  • Try checking the “Exact Match” box;
  • Use surname and location only;
  • Do a Soundex search;
  • Use Wildcards.  A question mark (?) replaces one character, an asterisk (*) replaces zero or more characters;
  • Know your ancestors’ nicknames – for a listing go to Family Search Wiki
  • Search for middle names or initials – quite often first and middle names became interchangeable as the decades passed;
  • Leave out the name entirely and search on location, date/place of birth;
  • Search for other family members;
  • Search for a street address.  Utilize city directories for addresses; SteveMorse.org for Enumeration Districts;
  • Search neighbors.  If your family is missing in a census year, try searching their neighbors from the decade before. You family might still be there, just not indexed appropriately.
Although Jason had some great examples, my family provides a great one as well. I could not find my Nunn family in the 1900 census. I wonder why?

Joseph Nunn family indexed with surname "Joseph"

I don't blame the indexer for this one. The father, Joseph Nunn, had just died. He left his wife, Catherine, who had mental health issues and eight children, ranging in age from 13 years to one month. When the census enumerator arrived at their door, I am sure Catherine did not understand what was asked. When asked her last name she responded, "Nunn." They probably thought she said, "none."  When pressed, she gave her husband's name, Joseph. That is how the family is recorded. To find them I had to search on the neighbor's name of Lewis, which I only found when Elizabeth sued them in 1905. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Genealogy Research Organization – Simple, Consistent, and Maintainable

Genealogists before Julie Miller's presentation

I debated whether I wanted to attend this particular session at the National Genealogical Society Conference held last week in Richmond, VA.  The topic, “Organizing Your Research,” was presented by Julie Miller (JPMResearch.com).

Inherently I am a very organized person, but I'm always seeking new and better ways to arrange my research.  Julie’s presentation was a good reminder for me to revisit my files and carefully read the documents with fresh eyes and with a more experienced mind.

Julie began her presentation suggesting three goals: Keep your research files Simple, Consistent, and Maintainable.

Develop a Style Guide.  Set out a block of time when you make decisions on how you are going to deal with any number of issues. Will you spell out state names or use their abbreviation? When a maiden name is not known will you put – Mary [unknown] or use some other term?  Type up citation examples so you can easily copy/paste into your document and just change the particulars for each citation.  This is especially useful for the census.  A Style Guide will provide you with consistency that will save you many hours of editing in the future. The recommended reference books for style and citations are Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, and the Chicago Manual of Style. 

Research organization.  Julie showed examples of the Binder Method and the File Draw Method.  If you wish to keep your research in a 3-Ring Binder, go for the extra wide. You will need dividers, sheet protectors, spine labels and a helpful label maker.  For the File Draw Method, you will need hanging folders, archival file folders, archival pencils and pens.  As information on a particular family line grows, additional file folders can be set up for individuals you are researching.  The same would go for the Binder Method.  No need to run that census off for all the folks mentioned.  Insert in primary ancestor and put a cross-reference note in the others.

General Genealogy Research Files.  My husband and I both had files containing general genealogy information on using the census, ethnic research, writing, researching in Connecticut, etc.  We combined our files and now have two pendaflex files containing labeled file folders arranged alpha by topic.  Don’t have a “miscellaneous” file.

Digitize and Backup.  Digitize as much material as you can. Photograph heirlooms.  Label everything.  Then make sure you back up regularly.  Back up to an external hard drive, flash drive, or use the cloud. You can also email your documents to yourself for retrieval should your computer fail.

Keeping Track of Your Books.  Julie suggested using Library Thing for keeping track of the books in your personal library to prevent you from purchasing the same book again.

Although this session was the last one attended, it was the first one we both put into practice as soon as we arrived home Saturday afternoon.  We have our general research files set up, I removed files not genealogy related from the top drawer of my filing cabinet and replaced them with my family files for easy accessibility.  I will be photographing, documenting my heirlooms. I will also go through all my notebooks and cut out family research pages and place them in the appropriate family files.  Then I will concentrate on updating my Style Sheet.  Thank you, Julie Miller. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Is Mildred Mohrman our Aunt Millie?

Emilie Nunn was born 8 March 1897. At the age of three years, two months she was placed in St. Joseph’s Home, Peekskill, NY, along with her five siblings.  In 1905 and early 1910 she remained an inmate at the home.   Later that year she was released to her sister, Elizabeth Nunn Siebert, for visits.  And that is when I lost Emilie.

My cousins, grandchildren of Elizabeth, recently told me their “Aunt Millie” aka Emilie had married several times and was living in California.  Otherwise they had lost track of her.

This morning I found a Mildred Mohrman, born 8 March 1897; died 13 August 1980, father’s name: Nunn.  At the time of her death Mildred was living at 92345 Hesperia, San Bernadino, California.  She was the wife of Belden Mohrman who died 7 October 1953. Since he served in the Navy, they are buried in the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.

Belden Mohrman had been married twice before. His wife before Mildred was Olive.

We are fairly confident that Mildred Mohrman, aka Aunt Millie, aka Emilie Nunn is our relative.  Upon receipt of her obit we shall know for sure.