Friday, May 26, 2017

NERGC 2017 – Writing a Family History

I looked forward to this session, since I am to give a Writing Your Family History presentation to our genealogical society at its September meeting. There is no better person to learn about writing from than Warren Bittner.

It’s important to know the concept of your story. Are you using information from diaries, letters, or first hand accounts? To fill out your ancestors, search all the records: Military, court, probate, contemporary letters and diaries. Analyze each document and understand it in its historical context. Read local histories and family histories. Know the law at the time your ancestor lived. Understand their ethnic and religious background. How did those affect your family? What was the educational philosophy of the time? Know their medical history.

When you have completed an exhaustive search following the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), according to the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), you can then start writing.

Hook the reader from the first sentence. This applies to all writing, but might not be so apparent when writing family history. Choose a significant event or an interesting ancestor. Start with action, and begin the story in the middle or near the end. Get the reader hooked, define the story’s theme, and add context to your ancestor’s lives.

Use active voice, strong verbs (Warren included an extensive list), and make every word work. Make every sentence advance the story. Describe (if you can) your ancestors and the places they lived. Did your ancestor (s) change over the years? If so, how?

There are a number of ways to present your family story. Find what works best for your family, and enjoy the writing journey.

P.S. The writing process will show you what details you are missing.

Monday, May 22, 2017

NERGC 2017 – Searching for Living Persons

We’ve all wished we could talk to someone who might have that critical piece of the family puzzle. If only we could talk to Aunt (or Uncle) So-and-So. They are in their 80s or 90s now, and we don’t know where – or if - they are living. How can we find out? That’s the reason I attended Thomas MacEntee’s, They’re Alive! session at NERGC.

Besides expanding our genealogy research, other reasons you might need to find long lost relatives is if you are planning a family reunion, or find cousins who might be working on collateral lines. website is free to search, and it might give you enough information in order to use other sources to drill down. When I put hubby’s name in and the state, the site came up with four cities he was associated with, along with a list of people. The site wants you to click through to their paid section for more information, but Thomas warned the audience about doing this. is another reputable site. When I put hubby’s name and state into this site’s search function, it was very fast. It gave two locations in which he had lived, and one in which he hadn’t. It gave a list of people, some with middle initials, and one more than PeopleFinder.

ZabaSearch was fast, provided hubby’s current address and includes a Google map of the location. It listed the same associations, but the phone number listed was outdated. is another interesting site, providing much the same information as the others. All these sites have paid options for more information, and Thomas said – Use at your own discretion.

Other ways to find folks is to utilize Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. These sites might have the information you need. White pages, Facebook, Ancestry public trees, Twitter, Google Blog search are all options for finding people. Alumni associations – high school and colleges, court records are also possibilities.

My Best Takeaways: Learning about ZabaSearch with its Google map feature. Whether you find a family tree online or information from one of the people finder sites, always verify the information yourself. Thomas allows information he produces to be used in genealogical society newsletters. All the newsletter editor has to do is contact him and ask permission. Very generous.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

NERGC 2017 – Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past

Marian Burk Wood at NERGC 2017
The session we were waiting for was at 3:00 on the first day of the conference. Our good friend, Marian Burk Wood was presenting information on how to organize and preserve your genealogy materials for future generations.

I didn’t need to take notes. I already had her companion book Planning a Future for YourFamily’s Past. This book is a must-have for every genealogist.

The room was packed, even though Marian’s time slot competed with presentations by well-known speakers like Thomas MacEntee. Elissa Scalise Powell, and Helen Shaw.  It was apparent that conference attendees craved information on how to preserve their genealogy collections.

Marian introduced the audience to her PASS Process: Prepare by organizing materials; Allocate ownership; Set up a genealogical “will,” and Share with heirs.

She went on to explain how to sort your “stuff,” and various organizational techniques. She had examples of storage materials and showed how to use and label.

After placing documents and photos into acid/lignin free archival boxes, Marian inventories the items. She explained how this process makes it easy for her and other family members to know what is in box.

She covered the delicate situation of family feuds. What to do if more than one person wants possession of your genealogical materials. She also explained what to do if no one steps up. She suggested donating your material to your ancestor’s local historical society or other interested repository. She found repositories for items that were of no value to her family, i.e. she donated a WWII war bond wallet showing General MacArthur to the MacArthur Memorial Museum in Norfolk, VA. Make sure you contact the organization and find out their specific donation requirements.

My best takeaways: “By the inch, it’s a cinch.” I have to remind myself that in order to tackle the job of preserving my genealogy research, I have to do it in small increments. Although I have acid free boxes and photo envelopes, they aren’t adequate for our documents and photos. Nor have I inventoried the boxes. Many items are in Pendaflex folders and we have photos that are not labeled. I have ordered more archival boxes and protective sleeves. Not enough to take care of everything hubby and I have, but it is a start – remember – by the inch, it’s a cinch. We also have to develop our genealogy “wills.” Good luck with your preservation efforts.

Monday, May 8, 2017

NERGC-2017 - Finding Someone Who Eluded Census Records

Directions to the Springfield, MA Civic Center provided by the New England Regional Genealogical Society were easy to follow. We exited I-91 at Columbus Street, onto Main Street, and within a few blocks was the Civic Center where the Fourteenth New England Regional Genealogical Conference was being held. Excitement was mounting!

Parking was right across the street; registration was easy. While we waited to meet our friends Wally and Marian for lunch, we had a long chat with speaker DonnaMoughty. We first met Donna when we lived in Newtown, CT, and she spoke to our newly formed genealogy club. Donna now lives in Florida, is a member of the Manatee Genealogical Society, as are we, so we see her there as well. It was nice to have a chance to visit in Springfield. Donna is a professional genealogist specializing in Irish research along with U.S. research, methodology and technology including Macs, iPhones and iPads.  She provides research, consultations and training. She is one busy lady!

After a delicious lunch at the Red Rose restaurant, my first NERGC session was Finding Someone Who Eluded Census Records, by Carol Prescott McCoy.

There are different types of censuses. The population census is the most used, but there are also industrial, agricultural, Veteran’s, some state censuses, and slave schedules. Note the date when the census was taken, i.e. in 1920, the date was 1 January. Check every year, every type. People moved and could have been missed. Or they were too far out in the country, in dangerous territory, where the census taker didn’t want to go. Sometimes ancestors are listed twice, if they were traveling between residences. And these could contain different information!

Copy/download entire census page to capture neighbors for future searches. Record all members of the household. Sometimes boarders or “servants” can be relatives. Record names, ages, and places exactly as in the census.

Name spelling issues are the most common. Try every variation. If that doesn’t work, find neighbors from previous census. If your ancestors stayed in the same place, finding the neighbors will locate your people. This was the only way we were able to find my New York City Nunn family in the 1900 census. When the census taker was told the last name was Nunn, he thought he was being told “none.” After several attempts at this misunderstanding, he finally wrote the deceased father’s first name “Joseph,” as the last name, scribbled in with the wife’s first name – a real mess. I located them because I found a 1905 New York Times article where Elizabeth Nunn (eldest daughter) sued her neighbor for return of money Elizabeth had entrusted with the woman in 1900. When I untangled that mess, I found the family!

Census Substitutes. Town records, tax lists, school lists, old maps, town histories, voter lists are all places where your ancestors’ histories reside. Hubby and I developed an 1890 Census Substitute for Newtown, Connecticut by using tax records, school and voter lists, and some church records. It was our hope that other towns would follow suit in order to fill in this 20 year gap.

My best takeaways: Develop a census database. This can be done for each person or by family, to sort by last name as well as date. Develop a timeline (I did that years ago, but it is a good reminder to review and update.) FAN Club - Follow friends, associates and neighbors. Be flexible!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It Started With a Question

While I have been working hard on my second Caitlyn Jamison mystery, Fatal Dose, hubby has been working equally hard on his Decker family genealogy. This week I finished the third manuscript edit, and then spent over three hours utilizing Word’s “Find” feature to identify each time I used the word “had.” I was amazed at how often I use that word without knowing. During that process I also identified words and sentences that weren’t needed. The manuscript is now about 300 words lighter than when I started.

But back to genealogy. Yesterday hubby turned around and asked, “Do you have a Blanche Tucker in your tree? She was a school teacher.” My answer was, “I don’t know.”

That prompted me to pull out my Tucker genealogy and figure out where I left off. I opened the Index of names document I started several years ago and decided my first step would be to finish the Index. That accomplished, I printed it and also printed the Index I created from Jessie (Tucker) Agard’s journal entries (not finished), as well as notes I made from William Lanning Tucker’s 1924 diary. These Indexes will be a good resource as I go forward.

That done, I told hubby this morning, “Yes, I have a Blanche in my tree. She was married to Emmitt Tucker (b: 1887), son of Freddie Tucker (b: 1855), grandson of Ezra D. and Caroline (Lanning) Tucker.  Emmett and Blanche had a daughter, Grace. Grace married first, Nelson Sansouci (announcement in previous post).

Blanche (Rumsey) Tucker is the daughter of Mahlon and Adeline (Douglas) Rumsey of Newfield, NY. 

Emmitt and Blanche celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on 23 December 1966.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Mystery of Lena Stanley Myers – Solved

We think. Over six years ago one of my hubby’s high school friends asked for help in finding out who her grandfather was. Her father was adopted, and he let the family know that he never wanted to know who is birth parents were. Years after his death, his children did want to know.

Our friend’s brother had a couple of documents that got us started, but it took a number of months (years) and much searching to figure out that the mother – Lena Stanley of Trumansburg, New York, but we could never be sure who the father was. We found out that Lena married Cornell prep school student Joseph Myers of Des Moines, IA, and that they had took a steamer to Texas for their honeymoon. These events were reported in the newspapers.

When Joseph’s father found out he had married, Joseph was pulled out of Cornell in Ithaca, NY and sent to Harvard. A year and a half later Lena had a child – our friend’s father.

The adoption situation of this child created questions. But the bigger question was – Who was the father of the baby born in 1906? We developed a number of scenarios.

The baby was born in February 1906; Lena and Joseph’s annulment proceedings were in the fall of that year. The annulment documents state nothing about a child. Instead, Joseph agreed that the marriage had never been consummated (remember the newspaper articles about their honeymoon cruise), and the reason was he was being treated for venereal disease at the time of their marriage. The annulment took place in a county away from where the couple would have been known. So many twists and turns to this story.

The mystery continued all these years, until recently when our friend’s brother had his DNA tested through and someone contacted him with a close match. Our friend received an email recently with a photo attached – Here is your grandfather!

The man identified as the father is Gonzalo Martinez-Fortun, a Cuban, possibly in the area attending Cornell University. The census shows him living in Trumansburg, New York a couple of blocks from Lena’s residence. Gonzalo returned to Cuba 1 July 1905, eight months before the baby was born. His family suspects he never knew Lena was pregnant.

Our friend sent a photo of her father, and a photo of Gonzalo, and we can see the similarities.

And so another mystery solved. It took years of research and the miracle of DNA to finally five our friend the closure she desired.When Gonzalo's eldest grandchild was told of the story, she now wants to come to New York and meet everybody. What fun that would be.

For more on this story, scroll down and click on the links to Lena Stanley of blogs written In February and April 2011.