Thursday, January 28, 2016

Finding Mary's Maiden Name - Flying Blind

I knew that a common last name like Matthews would eventually give me problems.  Given names like Mark and Mary don't help matters much.

Mark and Mary are my 2nd-great grandparents, father and mother of Arthur William Matthews who was born in Coleford, Somerset, England, immigrated to the United States and settled in Pittston, PA.

Searching for information about Arthur hasn't been difficult in the U.S. - except for passenger lists - because I have a lot more information about him.  I have his self-proclaimed date of birth, his address, occupations, avocation, wife's full names, childrens' names and burial information and that was all passed down from my grandfather.

But searching for Arthur's parents and siblings, that is another matter all together. While Arthur left behind some good leads, he didn't give me too much to go on. He did leave this, written about 12 weeks before his death in 1915.

This is a photocopy since the original wouldn't fit in my scanner.

Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful to have it, but it is just a good lead, not solid evidence of anything. For starters, Arthur's death certificate tells us that he died of cerebral meningitis and more than one death notice says he had been in failing health for a some time. At seventy-one years old and in questionable health, having not seen his family for fifty years, I can't assume that any of the information is correct.

And, of course, there is the common name issue. Mary. Why not Loveday or Hepzibah or even Miriam? That would certainly make things easier!

I'm really flying blind here. Parish registers, Bishop's Transcripts, indexes instead of images. Some records are indexed, some are not. And the originals are not exactly a road trip away.

I was grateful for Gail Dever's blog post this week showcasing this week's Family Search British Isles webinars. I was able to listen to Monday's (although there was no sound for the first 15 minutes) and read the handouts for Tuesday and Wednesday and I should be able to listen to today's and tomorrow's. I was also psyched to see this morning that one of the classes being streamed live and FREE from RootsTech is "My Ancestors are from Britain-What Do I Do Next?" next Friday evening (my time). Hopefully something will help me here.

Even researching names like Matthews and Smith, I have been very lucky up until now that I was very certain that records I was finding pertained to the people I was looking for. This uncertainty in searching for Matthews in England is new territory for me and I'll admit that is is a bit frustrating to feel like a beginner again. So if you have any advice, I would be eternally grateful and if you're as lost doing British research as I feel, stay tuned, hopefully we'll learn together!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over-Preparing to Research

Looking back at my Genealogy Do-Over posts from last year, it seems that I sort of merged my Base Practices and Guidelines with my Research Preparation. So, while I have some important practices outlined to guide me as I research,

This hangs over the "computer desk" where I research.
I didn't fully address the preparation for researching. Things like knowing where you left off last time, or exactly what your goals are for a particular session.

I need to work in a tidy environment. If my workspace is cluttered, so is my brain, that's just the way my brain is wired. I must make sure that my desk and surrounding area are ready for work.

In Evernote I am going to make a notebook for each of my 2016 research goals like learning more about researching English records and finally finishing my slide scanning project. One of the notes I will keep in each notebook will be to remind myself where I left off at the end of the previous session and were I wanted to begin in the next. I will also keep notes of progress and any thoughts that I have while I am learning or researching or scanning. That deadly phrase, "I'll remember," has to be something I forget.

And speaking of Evernote, before I watch another Hangout or do another search in Ancestry, it would be a great idea to spend some more time learning my way around Evernote. If all I ever do with Evernote is keep track of information I know I will use in the future but that would be a BSO today, it will be well worth it, but I'd like to know as much about it as possible.

Another big one is to make sure I have adequate time for whatever I plan to do when I sit down. Whether it be an hour for one of DearMYRTLE's hangouts (or 90 minutes for Monday's with MYRT), or to make sure that my scanning time includes indexing, recording metadata, storing the slides, backing up the scans, and taking good notes for the next session.

This list looks a bit short but it feels like a good start and I can always add things as I go. I have a feeling that my next post will be from inside a couple of feet of snow and might have something to do with Evernote.

Stay warm and safe out there!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Scanning Dad's Slides - Dust Removal

I believe that I have now scanned all of Dad's slides at least once.  You would think that would mean I was done, right? Unfortunately, when my Epson scanner (which I love, by the way) arrived without a manual and I was unable to find one online, I just dove right in without enough experimentation, which is my way. As a result, I will be rescanning most of those slides this year.

One of the things that I really should have learned about right away was the dust removal tool. Slides that are anywhere from thirty to sixty-seven years old have collected a lot of really fine dust and the fifteen carousels sitting in my dad's basement for who knows how long were no exception.

When you scan anything in my Epson v370, you start with a preview scan. This lets you size your image and you can see there in the preview what your scan will look like if you color correct and sharpen your image. So when I checked off that box for the dust removal tool, I expected that I would see the dust disappear in the preview. When I didn't see that change, I made the mistake of assuming that the tool didn't work. Actually, the issue was that I didn't understand how the tool works.

When the tool "failed" I attempted to remove the dust from the slides before scanning with a dusting tool that came with my first slide scanner. Unfortunately, since my slides are all in frames, all this did was move the dust around. As my frustration grew and I finally did more Google searches to see what other people might be doing, I learned that dust removal tools work by the way they shine the light through the dust. That explained why I wasn't seeing the results in the preview. When I FINALLY did an actual scan with the dust removal tool on, I was amazed at the results. Almost no dust remained on the final image!

So, lesson learned. BEFORE you invest hours and hours doing anything, make sure that you are happy with the process and results.

At least I can say with this last carousel, that I have finally settled on a process for my scanning, labeling, storing and backing-up that will remain in place as I rescan all those other slides.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - More 2016 Goals

Yesterday's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun prompt from Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings fits right in with my last posts about goals for 2016. Randy asks about education plans for this year.

The Olin Library at Wesleyan University
taken by my father in 1955.
1) What are your genealogy education plans for 2016?  Local society meetings or seminars?  Regional or national conferences?  Weeklong institutes?  Genealogy cruises?  Podcasts?  YouTube Videos?  Webinars or Hangouts On Air?  Magazines?  Websites?  Blogs?

2)  How much time do you invest in Genealogy Education?  Why do you do it?

3)  Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

My genealogy education plans for 2016 are based on my research goals for the year. Two of my stated genealogy goals for this year are actually about education; to learn more about researching English records and to learn more about researching Swedish records in order to extend my English and Swedish lines and confirm information that I already have.

DearMYRTLE did some brilliant Google+ Hangout/Webinar series last year. Right now I am catching up on the "Tracing Immigrant Origins Study Group".

Watching her earlier series, "Beginning Genealogy Study Group" taught me about the educational tools available at Family Search, so I will be using those as well.

I also have a membership to Legacy Family Tree Webinars. There are some webinars from 2015 about researching Swedish genealogy that I plan to listen to and I'll have a look through their library for other helpful topics.

I'm not sure how many local meetings I'll be attending this year. It seems that the Irish Family History Forum hasn't posted their calendar for 2016 yet, so I'll have to incorporate those as they come.

And of course there are the many blogs that I read on a daily basis. I've been adding more and more to my feedly account this year, mostly from posts at Geneabloggers.

I'm not sure how much time I invest in Genealogy Education. It varies from month to month but has also increased quite a bit from when I first started. I do know this, though, without genealogy education I'm not going to get much farther along in my tree. Digital records are the tip of the iceberg, and records pertaining to anyone's family can be found in little-known places, so education will always be a very important part of my research if it is to be successful.

Friday, January 15, 2016

2016 Goals - Better Late Than Never

Our Party Animals , Moxie and DJ, "dressed" to greet the New Year.

Since my last post about direct ancestors and deciding where to put my time, energy and money for genealogical research in 2016, I've spent my genealogy time thinking about just that.

Part of me does not want to choose which ancestors to research. Like most, if not all, genealogists, my ancestors are very real to me. Some because I knew them in life, the rest I guess because they're my people. I don't want to pick and choose which ones I will research because I feel a little bit like I'm saying, "No" to the rest, like I'm ignoring them. Is that a little bit nuts? Possibly. And I'm ok with that.

As I said in my last post though, time, energy and money are finite, so I have chosen a couple of lines to research this year with the goal of extending them as far back as possible and I have chosen some other research and preservation goals for this year as well. When I asked myself whether I wanted to concentrate on finding direct ancestors this year, or enhancing my knowledge of ancestors and relatives who are already identified, my answer was, "Both, obviously!" So here are my goals for this year.

1. To complete the 12-month Genealogy Do-Over.  I participated in the 2nd cycle of the 13-week Do-Over last year. It was a tremendous help in my research but I didn't complete 100% of the program for various reasons, most of which were time related. I think that having a year this time around will allow me to work around my other commitments and deal with things that come up along the way.

2. Learn more about researching English records.  Among the lines I have chosen to research this year are the ancestors of my paternal great-grandfather, Arthur William Matthews. In order to do this, I need to learn all I can about researching English church and other records.

3. Extend the lines of Arthur William Matthews at least two generations. I have chosen these lines because I already have some leads. I am very curious to see if I can prove the information I already have and how far back I can take it.

4. Learn more about researching Swedish records. Some other lines I have chosen to research are the ancestors of my Swedish great-grandparents. In order to do this, I will need to learn more about researching in Sweden, although I already have some basic knowledge and belong to a couple of Facebook groups where I can get some additional help.

5. Extend the lines of Carl Johan Anderson.  Some kind people in a Facebook group have given me some assistance with this, but once I have the tools, I'll take his lines as far back as possible.

6. Extend the lines of Mathilda Alfina Johanson. I have an extensive genealogy for my great-grandmother's family and ancestors but it is written in Swedish and was completed in the 1960s. Documentation is referred to but not provided.

7. Continue with my Manchester, CT research. Carl Johan Anderson, Mathilda Alfina Johanson and some of her siblings settled in Manchester, CT. I have done a fair amount of research there but there are some more vital records I would like to see and, now that they are available online, I would also like to see what I can learn from the payroll records of the mill where my great-grandfather spent his career. I'd also like to stay overnight on a Saturday and attend church services at the Anderson family church there.

8. Archive and record vital facts from the documentation found in the basement stash. If you don't already know, I was blessed to find boxes of photos, books, negatives and ephemera in my step-mother's basement this year. I have done a preliminary sort for storage, but I haven't recorded any of the information in any meaningful way yet. I also need to purchase some specialized archival supplies for this project. That will depend on my budget.

9. Scan, label and archive all loose photos. Again, I have done a preliminary sort, but still need to scan many of these photos, label them and purchase some additional supplies.

10. Finish scanning Dad's slides. This project is seemingly without end. Except that it WILL end in 2016!

I hope I am not biting off more than I can chew, but I think that if I can keep myself focused on my goals, and not allow myself to be distracted by those Bright Shiny Objects, I should be able to complete my list.  I'm more excited than ever to get going again. Thank goodness the weekend is almost here!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Ancestor Score

Although I follow Randy Seaver's blog, Genea-Musings, on feedly, I somehow missed this great topic for his last Saturday Night Genealogy Fun until I saw Linda Stufflebean's post on her blog, Empty Branches on the Family Tree (love that blog name!).

As I was reading Linda's post and then Randy's it hit me that this goes hand-in-glove with the Genealogy Do-Over and making a research plan or setting research goals for 2016.

The idea is to look at your tree for 10 generations, starting with yourself, and see what percentage of those ancestors you have identified. We all have 1,022 ancestors plus ourselves in ten generations, which takes us back to our 7th great-grandparents, of which we all have 512. That alone boggles my mind whenever I think about it.

As I looked through my tree and calculated my score, I found the results a little depressing once I got past my 3rd great-grandparents. Then I had to remind myself that these numbers only represent those people from whom I am directly descended. I have hundreds of identified relatives in my tree, its just that most of them are collateral ancestors and don't fall into this calculation. And that raises some questions for my research plan.


I enjoy learning as much as I can about my relatives, which includes their siblings, other family and even their friends. But if my goal is to learn who my direct ancestors are, should I spend less time on these cousins and siblings until they are needed to identify direct ancestors? Or should I research as I have been, learning as much about each ancestor as I find them?

It is an interesting question. Time, money and energy are finite. Where should I apply mine this year?

When I do formulate that plan, I'll be sure to let you know.

Monday, January 11, 2016

I'm Still Here!

Just checking in as I haven't worked on any new posts since the beginning of the year.

Yesterday afternoon I wanted to do something genealogy-related but I wasn't feeling focused enough to do any serious research or writing, so I scanned a couple dozen slides instead. These photos are from the summer of 1981 on Shelter Island, NY.

Shelter Island is a town and an island that sits between the forks at the east end of Long Island. It contains large areas of protected land and is a beautiful, tranquil place to spend vacation time. My father had rented a cottage there for the month of August.  He chose well; this was the view from the backyard.

Summer is not my favorite season but with our first snow in the forecast for tomorrow, this looks like heaven!