Tag Archives: family history

A “Found” Patriot

Heritage. As a youngster, I always wondered of the heritage that resulted in me.  The culture at home was a simple one when it came down to family stories and history. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Well, I guess I won’t ask THAT question again!

What follows are a few descriptions of discoveries I’ve made since I began my genealogical journey.

My father, Henry Dunn Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 33567770), went into the Navy exactly 3 weeks after Pearl Harbor at the “insistence” of his maternal grandmother, Gilma Cecilia Robertson Dunn. She went so far as to have his birth record destroyed (there’s no record of his birth to this day!), falsify his age and ship him off at age 15!

My father and the previous 4 generations had lived in Alabama and Tennessee. As I discovered years later, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robertson/Robinson/Robison/Robrson (Find A Grave Memorial# 7048152), was a veteran or the War of 1812 having served with the East Tennessee Volunteers then settled in Limestone County, Alabama. There were a few Confederate ancestors who served in the “War of Northern  Aggression.” One of my 2nd great grandfathers died at the Rock Island Confederate POW camp in Rock Island, Illinois (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092694). During World War II,  while Henry was in the Caribbean, his mother divorced her husband and moved to Massachusetts.  As far as I can tell, this was the reason they wanted Henry out of the way. The short version here is the “Granny” lived with us in Springfield for a while until she entered a nursing home in the mid-60s where she died in 1970.

I never knew my paternal my grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092687), who remained and remarried in Alabama. I was only marginally aware of the fact that I even had a grandfather.  My father would make a 5- or 10-minute call “down south” around Christmas-time every year. I never saw “Papa Lee” nor did I ever speak with him. He died in 1964.  My first view of him was his obituary on the front page of the Anniston (Alabama) Star. While I shouldn’t have been surprised, he looked exactly like my father and it was a little unsettling.

My maternal grandfather, Clement Alexis Dickson (Find A Grave Memorial# 11132523), died when I was about 3 years old but my maternal grandmother lived until 1962. Of all of my grandparents, she’s the only one with whom I had ever had any semblance of a conversation.

The upshot is that my father didn’t care to talk about his side of the dysfunctional Robison family and my mother thought it best to hold the same line with regard to her side.

Now, enter the genealogist! I wouldn’t say that I was desperately seeking anything necessarily. But the lack of information led me to feel that we were all dropped off on earth by an alien spaceship back in the early 50s! Then, as I began researching for details, I was able to interview some of the prior generations of relatives: 3 aunts, 1 great-grandaunt and a couple of second cousins. If I only knew then what I know now!

In 2001, I got the bug to join a lineage society. If successful, that would “install” a heritage that was there all along but of which I was totally unaware. Maternal family lore stated that we descended from Pilgrims. Okay, but who, what, where, why, and when? There was a box of spoons that were allegedly made from the silver buckles of their shoes. Spoiler: hardly any pilgrims had silver buckles on their shoes! More on that some other time.

Paternal lore stated, well, nothing! But after a comparatively short period of time, I began to suspect that there was some validity to the Pilgrim story, underscore “some.” At the same time, I uncovered real evidence that my paternal lines stretched back to at least the War of 1812, as I mentioned earlier, and possibly the Revolutionary War.

So, here we go! Let’s join the Sons of the American Revolution. I downloaded an application and worked on it sporadically for about 15 years. Yes, not 5 or 10, but for 15 years, the application languished in my desk. In my defense, I was certainly busy with dozens of projects, nearly all of which involved genealogy. Then, in 2016, I was a co-chair for NERGC, a relatively large genealogy conference to be held in Springfield, Massachusetts in the spring of 2017. We normally brought in 2 featured speakers along with several dozen others. It was  my intent to solicit Kenyatta Berry, one of the very personable hosts of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show.” It was to be filmed in Providence, Rhode Island. So off I went to Providence, Rhode Island. Short version, Kenyatta Berry became the third and very welcomed featured speaker. Score 1 for Dave.

In the meantime, many of my fellow genealogists were at the filming representing various clubs and societies in the vendor area of the venue. A friend of mine introduced me to the Registrar for a chapter of the DAR. I told her my story of profound procrastination with my SAR application. She eagerly said, “I can help!” OK, that’s great but I can’t join the DAR, I would qualify! She asked if I had a daughter which I most certainly do. As a result, my daughter is now a member of the Lexington Chapter of the DAR. For my purposes, I merely had to finish my SAR application, exclude my daughter’s generation and I could qualify.

But here, finally, is the most interesting part of the story: I have identified at least 24 ancestors who are age-appropriate to have served in the War, all would have been between their late teens to their early 40s. The specific ancestor we picked was a Patriot who had only most recently been identified as such. Timothy Blodgett’s (Find A Grave Memorial# 74484986) story involves mostly obscurity. He was a family man who, with his wife ran a small farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts while raising a small brood of 14 children. He was born in 1740 in Lexington, Massachusetts and was involved in the first battle of the War. The Lexington engagement occurred on 19 April 1775 then shortly thereafter came the battle at Concord. My ancestor was one of the registered Minute Men under Captain Charles Parker who confronted the British at Lexington, his hometown.

The singular reason that he was finally identified as a Patriot is that he lost his musket during the battle and petitioned for compensation at the Lexington Town Hall the following morning. The record of that petition was only discovered in 2012.

From www.wickedlocal.com:

     “Bill Poole, executive officer with the Minute Men, said he discovered Blodgett when he was researching local militia in the archives of Capt. Parker’s Company in Lexington. Blodgett had  moved to Shutesbury the year after the fateful morning on April 19, 1775 and his name was    never included on the official “muster roll.”

     But Poole said he found several documents confirming Blodgett’s post, noting he even           applied for a reimbursement from then selectmen for a firearm he lost on the Battle Green.     The young militia man lost the musket when he attempted to jump over a fence to while           fleeing from the Regulars, Poole said.”1

Here is the photo from the article clearly showing the addition of Timothy Blodgett’s name to the bottom of the second column:

Timothy Blodgett added to the Memorial at Lexington Green. Photo: http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington

The proof of my ancestor came fairly easy as I already had nearly every document necessary. We used the documentation first for my daughter’s DAR application, then for my own SAR application. Success with both apps!

But wait! There’s more! In early 2016, I was giving a presentation on genealogy to the East Longmeadow (Massachusetts) Historical Society. It was a basic introduction to family research that was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. Apparently, the members of the East Longmeadow Historical Society are in the habit of showing up just a little late for their meetings. So at 6:58, I was “concerned” but not showing it. Then in walked our first guest. A delicate woman, a senior citizen, who I greeted with a smile. Her name is Ruth Washburn, my first guest that night. I smiled because I had at least one person for the audience. She said, “I’m so glad I could make it. I usually don’t drive at night.” I offered her a ride home as I was sure there would be someone there she knew but she turned me down, flat! As I walked her to the front of the room, I sat her in a seat that was directly in front of where I would be speaking. When I mentioned the SAR, I also mentioned that my Patriot Ancestor was Timothy Blodgett. At that moment Ruth gasped and covered her mouth. Naturally, I suspected that something was wrong. I stopped and asked if she was OK. With a tear in her eye (really…she teared up!) she said that she, too, was a descendant of Timothy Blodgett.

As it turns out, Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn is a very energetic 91-year-old cousin who, in her own right, is a well-established family historian.  She’s pictured here in front of the window that was in one of her cousin’s family’s home. When her cousin asked if there was anything in the house she would want, she said she’d love to have the window from her bedroom but knew it was impossible. She had spent a great deal of time at this house during the summers of her youth and remembered the happiness that the sunlight brought her when it came streaming through the multicolored window. The window is a real piece of art!

Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn

I’ve spent time with Ruth to hear her stories and learn more about the Blodgett line. She has an extensive database which she has been more than willing to share with me.  But more important to me than a database, she has extensive personal knowledge and a clear, sharp memory.

Now, if I ever have the time, I just might prove more Patriot ancestors from both my maternal and my paternal side.

And one more thing, I’ve found 4 direct Mayflower ancestors. All I need to do is prove those lines and I’ll have a unique way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the 1620 Mayflower landing in 2020.

  1. “Lexington Minute Men add new name to monument,” website, (http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington : accessed 18 July 2016).

Search to Failure

Wilbraham Public Library Session III

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been providing guidance in family research, both on- and off-line. For quite a while, I’ve advocated particular strategies that I find effective. Last night I spontaneously described it as “search to failure.” It just rolled off my tongue. Here’s why I think it’s a good strategy and a good description.

Just a few years ago, most genealogical search engines offered dozens of fields to be filled in so that you could locate the records of your ancestors. Early in my own research, I felt it necessary to offer up as much information as possible. After all, the fields were there waiting to be filled, right? Just like a job application or a mortgage application, the questions were there for a reason. But what I soon learned…or maybe not to soon…was that less is more. And the websites seemed to finally agree with me. Today, you’re offered far fewer fields to fill which, in my opinion, is a good thing.Let me explain the strategy that I teach.

Linnie Otto Peace Robison (1880-1954)

First, Grandma may have said that her grandfather was born on such-and-such a date, always used the name “Thomas” (for example) and he always, as far as Grandma knew lived in a certain town. My response is this: Well, Grandma, we love you but we don’t necessarily believe you! New researchers will go to great lengths to use exactly that information without deviation. Contrary to the “job application” strategy, I demonstrate my “search to failure” strategy using the name “Smith.” That’s it, just “Smith.” And I never ask for an exact spelling. As a matter of fact, in Ancestry.com for example, I ask for “Sounds like,” “Similar,” and “Soundex” in order to get every possible permutation. That’s the only field I fill and I use “Smith” because I already know the dramatic results. Tonight, I got 146,696,564 results. That makes me happy. Why? Because I know I’m on the right track. Be patient, I’ll get the results down to a manageable number and in a very short amount of time.

Now, I’ll ask the audience to give me any first name. It doesn’t matter what they give me, but let’s say someone says “Michael.” My response is “Do you know if it’s really Michael? Or perhaps it’s Mike, or just M or what if Michael was his middle name because he didn’t like his first name. How can we be sure?” The answer, of course, is that we can’t be sure about anything at this stage. But let’s use Michael, making sure we also use “sounds like,” “similar,” and “initials.”

Now we’re down to “only” 4,102,786. That’s significant even at the volume of returns. It’s only about 3% of what our original search brought. I explain here, that “Michael” is a filter and the filter, in this example, worked. Or so we think at least! Now I add another filter and then another. In literally no time, our 146 million number can be reduced to 6 or 8 results. But I want to end up with NO results. “Search to failure.” Why? I want to make sure that I’m using the most efficient filters. That last filter that wiped out all my results is not the end of the search, it’s the first “failure” that will force me to eliminate that filter then go back and refine, refine, refine what I’ve done so far. The point is this: I’m starting out my fishing in a big pond. If my first search includes so many filters that my first at-bat gives me nothing, what have I gained. But if I start out with huge results then whittle them down with one filter at a time until there are no results, I can by-pass Grandma’s data (without telling her, of course!) and hopefully come up with enough results that through principle #1 of the GPS, a thoroughly exhaustive search, I can determine which of the results is the target ancestor.

My point is “search to failure,” then begin to massage the filters in order to “search to success.”

NERGC? What’s a NERGC?

Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past

“Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past”

The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium produces a conference every other year. Each NERGC conference is held in a city somewhere in New England. Past conferences have been in Hartford, Connecticut, Manchester, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island, and this year, Springfield, Massachusetts. The event will kick off on 26 April 2017 with a specialty day devoted to Librarians, Professionals, Genealogical Society Management and Technology. During the following three days, you’ll have a chance to hear and learn from 70 genealogists of every level and in every aspect of genealogy and genealogical research. NERGC organizers have devoted quite a bit of time and space to DNA, a “hot topic” in today’s genealogy world.

The MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield is the venue. Hotel accommodations are available within a block. Other than presentations, this year’s conference includes several workshops, banquets and a “private” tour of the archives at the Museum of Springfield History.

Our opening speaker is Mary Tedesco, a co-host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show. Speaking several times during the conference are 3 featured speakers, Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner and a third, another co-host of Genealogy Road Show, Kenyatta D Berry.

NERGC is supported by 23 genealogical from societies around New England, all of whom will be represented at the event. Volunteers from each will be busy making sure your experience is optimal. Stop and visit each of them in the Exhibit Hall and perhaps you can meet with a society near where you live.

Also in the Exhibit Hall, you’ll see a wide variety of vendors of genealogy products: Books, CD’s, old maps, clothing, and other genealogy-oriented products. Scheduled are genealogy companies such as Ancestry.com, Evidentia Software, FindMyPast and Geni.com to name a few.NERGC is worth a look! If you can’t make Springfield this year, the 2019 conference is scheduled for a return trip to Manchester, New Hampshire.

Family Tree Maker® – Goodbye Ancestry – Hello MacKiev

In 1998, I was wandering around Circuit City, a company that went out of business maybe 7 years ago or more. I really don’t remember what I was looking for. Stereos, cell phones, DVD’s, whatever. I had recently bought a desktop computer and eventually I walked down the software aisle.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had family history in mind. By “back of my mind” I mean a subconscious, little-explored avocation. It began in 1969 when I received a letter from someone who turned out to be a second cousin.

Now, by way of explanation, my maternal lines extend to the Mayflower and dozens of others who arrived during the Great Migration, settling in Plymouth Colony and, later, Massachusetts Bay Colony and finally, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I’ve since discovered some very surprising ancestors that I’ve written about over the years. It’s from this side, I researched one of my 18 or so Revolutionary War Patriot ancestors and was able to join the Sons of the American Revolution.

My paternal lines, on the other hand, had all settled in the American Southeast: Virginia/West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. And that’s where the letter came from. The writer had typewritten what I know now is a descendant chart beginning with an ancestor of mine who was born in 1849. I was so impressed with this information that I now knew an ancestor who was born over 120 years before the letter was written. So impressed, that I put away and didn’t open it again until around 1998, a few months before my foray into the software department at Circuit City.

You should know that I was brought up in an environment of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” At the time, I wasn’t particularly interested in anything family related. Until the moment the Family Tree Maker practically jumped off the shelf. It was the spark that lit up my desire, or rather my need to find out if “what you don’t know” included family. Who were they? Who am I?  Exactly how did I connect with someone born so long ago in 1849? That was my father’s side. Obviously, there must be a few folks I never knew or heard of on my mother’s side. So, I was off to the races.

In 1998, I began what has become my profession. Speaking, teaching, consulting, family research and literally anything to do with genealogy. And now DNA has entered the equation. With FTM eventually becoming an Ancestry.com property, it became a convenience to me since I was already an Ancestry subscriber.

Having branched out into client work, I usually would use FTM as one of the tools to keep my research in order. And as far as my own family, my continuing genealogical discoveries created a tree that just became increasingly bigger as I continued.

FTM was updated and upgraded over the years. I was always interested in having the “latest” whenever possible. Sometimes I’d jump in as early as possible and other times I’d wait a month or so as I had learned that getting the bugs out was an important part of software development. The integration with Ancestry that allowed full two-way synchronization was an amazing breakthrough for me as I had become accustomed to updated one and then, separately updating the other.  Wow, technology!

When MacKiev got into the picture, I read what some people were posting on Facebook and other social media. Some were in a state of sheer panic while others, like myself, took a wait and see attitude. It always seemed to me that FTM had so many adherents that it was hardly likely that it would just sail off over the horizon never to be seen again. Somebody was bound to take over the reins.

And so it happened. FTM didn’t dissolve at the end of 2016 as some had predicted. As a matter of fact, as 2016 was melting into 2017, rather than the whole thing falling apart, the news simply got better. I was reluctant to try to teach myself the ins and outs of Legacy or RootsMagic or any of the other programs that are on the market. Keeping my focus on FTM was a more acceptable way to go.

Now it gets interesting. When I received the link to the upgrade, I felt I was relatively safe. If a major defugalty came along, there certainly are alternatives. The download and installation processes were a smooth ride which allowed me to focus on some family research. There’s always an ancestor lurking that can be proven and added to the “big” file. That file now has 43,893 individuals and a proportionate amount of media. That’s a lot to lose!

Pedigree Chart of Abigail Chapin Wheelock. Her husband, Paul Wheelock is a half-first cousin of President John Adams. Note the number of individuals: 43,893. Click to enlarge.

In December of 2015, when Ancestry announced that they were going to discontinue FTM altogether, the leading family history software — just bury it in the backyard. Many were panicked. Two months later on February 2nd, Ancestry announced that they’d changed their minds and would instead sell this wonderful old brand to SoftwareMacKiev. And as the developer of the Mac versions of FTM for the six years before that, “MacKiev was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to take the wheel,” said Jack Minsky, President of Software MacKiev. They stepped forward the very next day. ” Lots of articles were written on alternatives and there was lots of handwringing from FTM faithful on what to do,” said Minsky.

Now during the waning days of December 2016, I began to experience some difficulty booting up the laptop, a relatively new Dell Inspiron running Windows 10 with 1T hybrid hard drive, 8G of ram and no outrageous peripherals. It had always run flawlessly with all the data I have stored which takes up less than half of the capacity. That problem went away until the day after New Years Day. All I could get was the image that displays on startup. Without boring you with all the details of 5 marathon sessions with Premium Support, I can summarize it by simply saying that after a few stop-gap measures, I was forced to undertake a thorough, clean factory re-install. Fortunately, I’ve been running cloud backups for several years. I’ve used Carbonite® and more recently BackBlaze® on all our computers here. I also maintain a redundant backup on an external 1.5T Seagate hard drive. So other than the process of dragging myself through all of this, it should have been a simple although lengthy operation.

The next day, the download was complete, the restore was complete and all that was left was to put everything away where it belonged and reinstall some applications. That part of the process included FTM 2014.1 which had been running flawlessly. In the meantime, I was made aware of an update to the upgrade. Update? OK…I’m in. Before the big meltdown, I had done some work in the “big” file with the upgrade but not with the update. I thought nothing of it. I should mention here that I reinstalled FTM 2014.1 from the thumb drive that I purchased just in case what just happened, happened!

But when I tried to open the “big” file, I got an error message. I tried to open several of the other family trees and they opened with no problem. I communicated with technical support through their chat application and had 2 differing solutions, neither of which worked.  Wallowing in my frustration, I put this project aside and went to read and respond to emails and check for messages on Facebook. Facebook, by the way, with over 10,000 genealogically oriented pages, has become an important part of my on-line research efforts. I noticed that the Family Tree Maker® Users Facebook page had some folks discussing the pros and cons of the upgrade. I’ll admit, I was a bit frustrated as I fired off my problem offering it to anyone who happened to be paying attention to that page.

To my initial surprise, one of the people paying attention was Jack Minsky, the president of Software MacKiev. He took the time to listen to the whole series of events and where I was at that point. Then, in no time, he nailed it! I had upgraded to 2014.1 then installed the update after which I worked on my personal file, the “big” one. Then the crash. Then the restore. Then I began re-installing software. My first re-install was the FTM 2014.1 program from the thumb drive. What could be easier? Then, to test it, I tried to open my own file. Nope! Wasn’t gonna happen. What Jack suspected that I had opened that file with the updated upgrade (does that make sense?) and the thumb drive installed the upgrade but not the update. He knew that the missing update was the problem. He sent me a link for the update as I couldn’t find it in any of the hundreds of emails I had collected by this time. I uninstalled the original thumb drive version (build 497?) then reinstalled it. The last step was to go to the update link (build 501?) and reinstall that.

Lo and behold! I’m very happy to report that everything is running as smooth as glass. I mentioned to Jack a few weeks ago, that someday we should get together in Boston the next time I’m out there or near there. This time I offered to buy the drinks!

Thank you, Jack Minsky! I don’t know when you sleep as I’ve communicated with you at all times of the day and night.  It’s encouraging to see that although we all have to get accustomed to a slightly different way to communicate with support technicians, in the end, it all seems to work out. When does the president of a company get that close to the little people and pitch in to help? Congratulations, Jack Minsky! You did good!  You’ve earned the trust of many in the FTM community with your pro-active approach. Now, what are you going to do for us next?

My message to any FTM user? Try it, you’ll like it!

 

The Sons of the American Revolution – Induction

After 15 plus years of working on and off on an application to join the SAR, I happened across a registrar from the DAR. We were at a taping of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show” in Providence, Rhode Island. My true motivation in attending the taping was to meet with one of the hosts, Kenyatta Berry, and ask that she sign on as featured speaker for the New England Regional Genealogy Consortium’s 2017 conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.  The good news is I meet with her and she graciously accepted the invitation. Thank you Kenyatta!

The DAR member’s name is Kathy Kaldis and after speaking with her for a few minutes, she offered to complete the work that I had started and stopped so many times. But, I can’t join the DAR for obvious reasons so Kathy put together a successful application for my daughter’s induction into the DAR. If you know how a legacy society works, if my daughter is a proven descendant of a Revolutionary War Patriot, than I also qualify.

The problem for me initially is my family, believe it or not. I have at least 22 age appropriate direct ancestors who may have served. The problem is digging up (no pun intended) enough proof of the lineage and the patriot’s service. I had been able to partly prove 18 of the 22. Kathy and I found one, Timothy Blodgett (1740-1831), who is a direct ancestor and enough documentation was available to prove the relationship. Timothy answered the Lexington call, was a minuteman and participated in the battle at Lexington. Years later he had moved to Deerfield Massachusetts where he and his family are buried. You can find the memorial at Find-A-Grave and at Billion Graves.

The point of all this is to talk about the induction. I will be formally inducted on 22 October 2016 in Quincy Massachusetts at a day long event that will include a grave marking ceremony in the Hancock Cemetery marking the grave of Thomas Newcomb. Then we’ll visit the crypts of 2 presidents, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. We’ll also be touring the Adams Mansion thanks to the National Park Service. Lunch at noon and finally the induction ceremony itself. Should be a great day and I have to admit that I’m proud to have been accepted into an organization that carries with it a heritage dating back to the Revolutionary War, almost 250 years ago!

Ages of Males at Death

Sounds morbid, I know, but that’s what genealogists deal with all the time. We study more dead people than living. So thanks to Randy Seaver (author of Genea-Musings) for bringing this up, but he proposed charting the ages at death of 4 or 5 generations. I could go back quite a bit farther, but here’s a quick 5-generation chart. I might take the lost back a few more generations, but the “unknowns” will definitely outnumber the “knowns” by the 6th or 7th generation. I have a few of my ancestral lines (proven…not guessed or harvested from other public, online trees) back to the 12th and 13th great grandfathers. That’s 14 or 15 generations! Keep in mind that if you could identify ALL of your 13th great grandparents (15 generations) you’d have a list of 16,384 individuals just at that generation. That’s husbands and wives but no siblings! If you collected every name to your 16th great grandparents, the total number of individuals including you would be 524,287! And again, no siblings.

By the way, Randy and I are distant cousins….very distant but related nonetheless.

Here’s what I offer so far:

Dave Robison’s Male Ancestors’ “Age at Death”: 

Father Henry Dunn Robison 78
     
Paternal Grandfather Cecil Lee Robison 61
Maternal Grandfather Clement Alexis Dickson 67
     
Paternal Great Grandfather Erskin Coleman Robison 63
Paternal Great Grandfather Henry Wright Dunn 45 (Car/Train Collision)
Maternal Great Grandfather Daniel Alexander Dickson 72
Maternal Great Grandfather Edward Harmon Bassett 83
     
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather Samuel Coleman Robison 64
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather James Pinkney Peace 74
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather William Ira Dunn 72
Paternal 2nd Great Grandfather Samuel Joseph Robertson 73
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather James Dickson/Dixon 75
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather James Meagher Jr 72
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather Ralph Harmon Bassett 37 (Diphtheria epidemic)
Maternal 2nd Great Grandfather Joseph Baber Tuggey Sr 76
     
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather Green Coleman Robinson 61
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather James Thomas Hardin 21 (Confederate POW Camp)
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather William Joshua Butcher Peace 66
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather James M B Temple Unknown
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather William T Dunn 63
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather John Wright Sr 63
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather Sampson Robertson 54
Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather Elza Richard Donaldson 72
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Unknown Unknown
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Unknown Unknown
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather James Meagher Sr Unknown
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Alexander Donnelly Possibly 30
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Ephraim Lane Bassett 88
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Nelson Blodgett 77
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Thomas Tuggey 72
Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather Alfred Bailey 79
     
Average Excluding unknown 65.1
Average Excluding war, epidemic, accident 68.9
     

 Try your own list…it could be very interesting!

AncestryDNA versus “AncestrybyDNA”

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hard to notice the difference in the name, isn’t it. Considering that one of the services is selling their test for $69, our eyes seem to glaze over when it comes to the name. AncestryDNA has certainly had its ups and downs, but for the last several months or even a couple of years, they’ve improved their testing techniques, modified the “algorithms” that produce the results and can now be highly recommended. And to be sure, I’m not talking about “AncestrybyDNA.” Be careful to notice the differences in the name!

As a matter of fact, AncestryDNA tests over 700,000 markers to arrive at their results. That fact, combined with the extraordinarily large database of family trees, they are able to make some dramatic “cousin matches.” They are not without their faults as none of the companies are. But their batting average has improved exponentially

AncestrybyDNA, on the other hand is a horse of a different color. In case you didn’t notice, the name is ANCESTRY BY DNA. Where did that “by” come from? It seems that AncestrybyDNA feels that the hidden “by” is enough to distinguish it from the vastly more effective tool for genealogists, AncestryDNA, the one with no “by” in their name.

Groupon is a company that sells products and services such as restaurant deals, clothing deals, vacation deals and lately, DNA testing deals. Keep you eye on the by!

AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe are the 3 companies that should be at the top of your list. Check them out. AncestryDNA tests ONLY autosomal DNA, often referred to as the “cousin finder.” FamilyTreeDNA offers a whole spectrum of tests with a variety of packages and prices. Very reputable. Then there’s 23andMe which has also had it’s ups and downs, but that’s another story. Let’s just say that there’s nothing to worry about with the legitimacy  or integrity of 23andMe or any of these three.

To read a bit more about this from someone who is vastly more experienced than I am, check out Judy G. Russell’s incredibly informative blog,  The Legal Genealogist. You may even consider following her. It’ll be worth it!

FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now Where Did I Put That Birth Certificate?

Many researchers justify their filing “system” with the defensive, “Oh, I know where everything is!” I know that’s what they say, because I’m saying that (to myself) all the time! I really do know where everything is, of course. It’s somewhere in my office, where else would it be?

But if you really and truly want to find that birth certificate you better set aside a large portion of your afternoon to find it. That is, if you were me.

THE FIRST PROBLEM

Years ago, I printed EVERYTHING whether I needed it or not because whatever it was, I might need it someday. Those were the days of dial-up connections. When you finally got the page to paint up, it was truly a victory worth savoring. I savored by printing.  And printing and printing. Paper clips grew to be too small; those paper “clamps” came in assorted sizes and I have them all; file folders proliferated everywhere; a used 5-drawer vertical filing cabinet (tag sale: $5.00); and 3 desk drawers for hanging folders in 3 separate desks. No problem.

THE SOLUTION TO THE FIRST PROBLEM: DROPBOX

Well, yes, that’s a problem. First line of attack was DropBox. I teach genealogy classes from start-up researchers to advanced. At one time, I printed a blizzard of handouts for the attendees. After burning out 3 printers and moving on to my forth, I began to put all classroom material in DropBox. You can see what I’ve got here. Click on the “Useful Documents” tab at the top and there you’ll find a link to “Useful Genealogy Documents.”  Now you might be saying to yourself, “Why not just give them the DropBox link.” I’m so glad you asked that question because on the surface, it seems to be the logical thing to do. Here’s the reason: In order to get to the documents folder, I’m making a visit to my website a part of the path because there’s more there than just documents! I also learned another clever strategy from DearMYRTLE that involves PayPal. More on that in another post! But now, I bring one thing to that first class, usually blank pedigree charts for everyone. Filling them out becomes a “homework assignment.”

THE SECOND PROBLEM

I have piles of paper. A better description would be mounds of paper. An even better description would be mountains of paper. But it all makes sense, you see, because I know where everything is. Just don’t ask for a specific document and I’ll find something that might come close.

So at a recent NEAPG meeting at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, we saw several excellent presentations. But one in particular inspired me. Barbara Mathews, CG and a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists among other accomplishments is a very experienced and highly qualified genealogist. She showed us how she sorted out and kept track of 11 years of research on ONE family!  It was all stacked neatly in file boxes, labeled and easy to access. That led me to a possible solution.

THE SOLUTION TO THE SECOND PROBLEM: FILE BOXES (NEATLY LABELED)

When I had a chance a few days, I dug out 8 boxes that seemed to be an appropriate size. Like Barbara, I labelled each: “genealogy,” “old bones,” client research,” “personal,” “household,” and a few other broad categories. Then came the hard part. I started to actually touch every single piece of paper in that room and casually but confidently tossing each into its appropriate box. Sounds good, right? Well, it depends. I have yet to find the time to start “sub-sorting” each box of stuff and figuring out what to do with every single piece of paper in those boxes.

THE THIRD PROBLEM

Now comes the important decisions. I’m determined to shred every last piece of paper I have. In order to get to that stage, other than fireplace fodder, I needed an organizational plan. I needed to seriously cogitate, come up with an excellent strategy so that everybody would say, “That’s brilliant.” Actually, getting to the brilliant part could be the fourth problem, but bear with me for a few more minutes.

THE SOLUTION TO THE THIRD PROBLEM: TECHNOLOGY

Technology. Remember I’ve been at this since 1969. Other than a brief 25 year hiatus, genealogy has been at the forefront of my mind and the purpose of my very existence. Other than my family, genealogy takes up nearly all of my time. As a result, the records are a critical component of my life.

So what did I have here? Client work, documents of all stripes, handouts from dozens of presentations or webinars that I have attended live and virtual, a few syllabi from conferences, presentation material, copies of applications (SAR, DAR, various genealogical societies around the country), instructions, “How-To” operate various pieces of hardware and their warranties and the list goes on and on.  First, I will devise a clever filing system. I can’t just dive into this project; it has to be logical so that I’ll be able to find everything tomorrow and 10 years from now. It would be boring for me to tell you what I’m in the midst of doing right now. OK, no, I’m really not doing any of this right now. But after the holidays…

The plan: scan and shred, scan and shred, scan and maybe shred. I use an all-in-one HP printer

The SHREDDER!

The SHREDDER!

that is reasonably reliable and, of course, my smartphone, both of which I described in my last post. But here’s the good news for me. There was a sale on the ever popular and ubiquitous Flip-Pal portable scanner. It should be here in a couple of days. These three devices will allow me to scan everything regardless of shape or condition. From the printer, I can rename it and file it immediately. The broad categories would be client work, my own family research, household documents, society documents and records (NEAPG, NERGC, WMGS, etc), genealogy class materials and curricula, medical records, warranties and a few others. From the Flip-Pal, I believe the scans will go to a flash drive or what would be even better, I might be able to scan directly to my computer. My smartphone will then be supplanted by the Flip-Pal.

The start of the "Big Fix"

The start of the “Big Fix” – Click on the image to view

Once I have all of this business electronically filed in the broad categories, I will be able to create subfolders to further sort all the data. Most of the subfolders are already created, but I’m very sure there will be more. Then, sometime in 2016 or beyond, I’ll be able to call myself “The Organized Genealogist” except someone has already claimed that moniker. I’ll have to find something else. Any suggestions?

I wish I could say that it’s a simple solution. Well, it is actually. Put things where they belong is simple. It’s just not easy. It’ll take a great deal of my time, time that I currently can’t spend. Had I known then what I know now with regards to how busy I was going to make myself…never mind, I probably wouldn’t have done anything substantially different. It’s seeing the results of poor planning that has brought me here. And now, instead of burning out my printer, I’ll probably burn out my shredder!

CONCLUSION

Actually, this is far from a conclusion. But until I get my act together and ORGANIZE my genealogical life, I won’t be able to work efficiently or sleep effectively. Seriously, this “pyramid of paper” is driving me crazy. The lesson is GET ORGANIZED!

Stay tuned for Chapter 2: How I learned to get organized and the fabulous, productive, rewarding results. This stage will have to include organizational tools such as Evernote, OneNote or anything to which I can adapt smoothly and easily, if there is such a tool!

Technology and the Ever Changing World of Genealogical Research Tools

It is easily said that I can sometimes be too quick while other times be very slow to adapt to new technologies, hardware, software, peripherals or other genealogical research tools. Tonight, of course, the old workhorse software program that I’ve “grown up with” is going away. Family Tree Maker®  is currently in its last iteration and support will only be available until 1 January 2017.

OK, that gives me plenty of time to to do one of three things:

Since I’ve already been unsuccessful trying to accustom myself to RootsMagic or Legacy…mostly due to a lack of perseverance…my choices are substantially limited. But, I’ve been here before.

Right now, I’m leaning toward abandoning all PC based software in favor of Ancestry. I’ve used Ancestry and FTM since the late 90’s and have become very comfortable of the simplicity of syncing one with the other. So I’m sorry to see that aspect go away.  The downside is reports, tables, pedigree charts and all the various data organizing products that are currently available in FTM.

Other than reports, using Ancestry.com exclusively isn’t such a bad thing. But then there’s the issue of worrying about Ancestry itself folding. This approach puts all the data I collect automatically “in the cloud.” After all, what is the cloud other than a remote server (not in the clouds!) that is a repository of data, all stored in 0’s and 1’s.

Pedigree Chart of Erskin Coleman Robison (1878-1942)

Speaking of reports, I’m not aware of any means to create any type of reports strictly out of Ancestry.com family trees. If I’m wrong, I’d happily be willing to find a way to produce the same type of reports that are currently available in FTM under “Publishing.” So that brings me back to Legacy or RootsMagic.

 

 

Now I, along with thousands of others, have some decisions to make. But as of yet, I don’t think we have enough data to even begin the process.

UPDATE: After posting this blog, I checked my email and found this link to RootsMagic. They certainly didn’t waste any time and I suspect they may have had this “in the wings” and ready to post at the appropriate time.

 

Find-A-Grave Project – BIG Project

At the November meeting of the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society (WMGS), we listened to a presentation titled, “CSI Gravestones: Causes of Death.” Although that may sound a bit on the morbid side, one of the details that most genealogists look for is the cause of death. The intriguing nature of this presentation was the highlighting of the propensities of our ancestors to “broadcast” those causes through the epitaphs carved in stone on grave markers all over New England. It’s not seen very much these days, if at all.

Mr. Nathaniel Parks Elmwood Cemetery Holyoke, Massachusetts

Mr. Nathaniel Parks
Elmwood Cemetery
Holyoke, Massachusetts

The most interesting, or rather, the most tragic gravestone I’ve ever photographed is the memorial to Mr. Nathaniel Parks who was 19 years old on the 19th of March 1794 when he was shot to death by Mr. Luther Frink. Considering the length of time between the shooting and the burial, it’s safe to assume that Mr. Frink admitted the cause of young Nathaniel’s demise. See his memorial at Find-A-Grave here.

What’s the BIG project I was talking about? Let’s get back to the WMGS meeting. Al and Betsy McKee of Longmeadow, Massachusetts have been photographing gravestones for over 20 years. They’ve traveled up and down the Connecticut River Valley from northern Massachusetts down into southern Connecticut. They have a little over 20,000 images in their  collection. They sorted out about 50 or so for us that showed causes of death: fevers, war, old age among many other causes including illnesses that we are no longer confronted with.

Since I’ve been involved with Find-A-Grave for over 15 years, it occurred to me that the McKee’s had probably uploaded many of their images to that site. At the conclusion of the presentation, I asked them about that. Well, they just never got involved with uploading to Find-A-Grave. So I proposed a collaborative project between them and WMGS.  And they’re all for it. My idea was to open an account so that the memorials that get posted would give credit to them for the photographs.

Find-A-Grave is one of the websites that researchers use on a fairly regular basis. Creating an

William Bassett Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

William Bassett
Passenger on the Fortune that arrived at Plymouth in 1621

account is totally free and anyone can upload any memorial as long as the memorial has not already been posted. Incredibly, there are over 140 million memorials for “regular people” all the way up to presidents and movie stars. It’s a good research tool in that using the site to search for an ancestor can turn up some surprising results. That’s the upside. The downside is that realistically, anyone can upload anything. So you may find someone who is a target of your research, but the data gleaned from such a memorial must be verified before we take it as fact. Either way, it’s just another breadcrumb in the relentless search for our ancestors.

Why put up memorials? There are many reasons. First, it is a memorial and it does just that, memorialize a family member, friend or anyone who you are familiar with who you feel deserves to be remembered in such a manner. Many of us simply like to provide the information to researchers from around the country and actually from around the world. The photo isn’t necessary, it’s more of a bonus. I’ve had email over the years from people who appreciate the fact that they can “visit” friends and family when there is no opportunity to visit the actual cemetery. One elderly woman saw her sister in one of the local cemeteries and, according to her daughter, teared up.  The cemetery is here in Massachusetts and she currently lives with her daughter and son-in-law in California with no hope of making a trip back here.

So here’s the point of this post. If you’re familiar with Find-A-Grave or even if you’re new to it and would like to take part in this project, just get in touch with me at dave@oldbones.info. As we put together the details, I’m sure we can easily find a way to allow anyone from anywhere to pitch in.