How To’s/Advice


Needless to say, the pandemic has totally thrown my year, but I’ve been sitting on a version of this post for a while. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back into a more normal run of posts anytime soon, but I will endeavor to at least post more.

Some of you know I was working on a presentation on occupational records and resources for a Virtual Genealogical Association webinar last week. It was another presentation that was truly meant to get researchers out and about looking for information in libraries, archives, and museums. Then… pandemic. But, in the retooling of the presentation, I found so many interesting and cool online resources that I really thought they were going to have to cut me off for going too long. Suffice to say, there is much that can be done online—but you should also be making the list of places to visit when it is safe for you to do so too.

I’ve talked about examples of occupational records/resources on the blog before: Henry R. Massy’s  Police Force Application, Grandpa Bailey’s work photo from Kirkhoff Manufacturing, labor union publications. But being in lockdown gave me time to explore other resources. For example, did you know that Ancestry has record sets like U.S., Baseball Questionnaires, 1945-2005—a collection of self-completed surveys including the likes of Roger Marais, Ken Griffey, Jr  (and Sr.), or former Detroit Tiger Brad Ausmus. Or maybe you need a record set more down to earth? They also have a collection called Wisconsin, Employment Records, 1903-1988—including the four occupations for which one needed a license: education, barbering, watchmaking, and boxing.

Family Search has a variety of collections like the Certificates of admission to the Guild of barbers, surgeons and chandlers, Shewsbury, 1745-1792 (UK), the Business license records (Pike County, Ohio), 1816-1854, 1877, or the Peddlers and Show Licenses, 1852-1866 (Decatur County, Georgia).

Clippings from WorldCat.org entry for the Arkansas Borad of Barber Examiners files of inactive barbers, series III, 1937-1994 from the Arkansas State Archives and a photo of the catalog entry for Fred Elliott, barber.

Searches in WorldCat or ArchiveGrid can net more collections—such as the Arkansas State Board of Barber Examiners files of inactive barbers, series III, 1937-1994 at the Arkansas State Archives including a picture of my Great Uncle Fred Elliott. But so can a search on Google. That’s how I found a number of industry journals with mentions of family members. Like the notice of the fire at my 4th Great Uncle H. R. Rothwell’s barrel, cask and box factory in Chicago, Illinois in on June 9th 1908 in The National Cooper’s Journal  and The Barrel and Box.

Clippings from Barrel and Box, July 1908

“But I only have Farmers!” I hear you. I know. I have my fair share, but check out the community your family is from to see if any of the farm books or store ledgers for the area survived. I can’t promise they’re out there, but it’s worth a look—especially if you’ve hit a brick wall.

Or maybe your find is waiting for a building renovation and will find its way to Facebook, like this. It a grocer’s card that a pizza joint in my mom’s hometown found while renovating. I totally wanted it to be our George, but then it settled in that there were three George Porter’s in town at that time (and we’re only related to two of them)—needless to say that’s the one we have no claim to. But, wow!  What a neat job-related find sitting out there on social media for someone.

Happy hunting!

Jess

I may never catch up (because life) but the  #52 Ancestors writing prompts are still great! And I enjoy teasing them out in different directions. So, that said…

The week 4 prompt was ”Close to Home” and I had a bunch of different ideas of what I wanted to talk about, but then life happened. However, that included getting to present in a number of venues (thank you WMGS, Redford Township District Library, Grand Rapids Public Library, and LAAAGS) in February. Those experiences redirected my ideas for this prompt. Instead of spotlighting a specific ancestor or family member this time I want remind everyone to take advantage of the resources you have “close to home.” I realize I’m extremely lucky in my local community—we have multiple societies, great resources libraries from public branches to the State Archives and Library. But regardless of where you live, I think there’s a very good chance that there are people ready and willing to talk genealogy.

LAAAGS2020WGCMy last event of the month was presenting at and participating in a joint program hosted by our local African American genealogical society and two area churches and I was overwhelmed by the turnout, interest, and discussions. And listening to the many speakers, it reminded me that in my community there is so much experience to be shared, stories to be told, support to be given. Hearing how these avid researchers worked through their brick walls gave me so many ideas for my own. Sharing that I as one of the presenters still have a ton of brick walls,  I think helped other newer genealogists. Comparing notes with new acquaintances researching in the same communities gave everyone in the discussion new ideas.

If you are able to get out and make connections locally—with a group you’re able to commiserate with, or brainstorm with, or simply cheer each other on… it helps. Don’t overlook your local resources—try a society, a library program, or a genealogy workshop. And talk to people, ask your questions, ask for advice, share your experiences—all politely and while listening at least as much as you talk.

Give it a try!

Jess

P.S. The fact that I finally finished this as events across the country are being cancelled because of the Coronavirus is not lost on me. But I still think the point is good in normal times.

P.P.S. This also is not meant to knock the fabulous online community I have found. Shout out to  BlackProGen, #genchat, and Genealogy Twitter in general, as well as the Virtual Genealogical  Association.

I’m behind but I’m making a comeback (I think)!

1893CityDirectoryWoodstockONT

1893 Woodstock, Ontario, Canada City Directory

So, my first thought on the prompt regarding long lines was a bit of research I was working on this summer regarding occupations. Researching an ancestor’s occupation may tell you more about your family and the choices they made. For example, I knew that Cornelius Packer and several of his siblings  came to Michigan to work in the furniture industry in the 1890s, but a more careful examination of the occupations in the family shows an interesting evolution. They came from Canada where I knew many of them did factory work of some kind—but by tracking down multiple city directories (they don’t always identify employers) and newspaper articles I was able to tie the family—including brothers Albert, Charles, and William and their father Joseph Packer to the James Hay Co. in Woodstock, Ontario—a  furniture company. So, two generations worked in some aspect of the furniture industry as it swept west.

Tracking the family back further it’s clear that Joseph Packer did at least a stint as a Brickmaker—but that actually seems to be the general profession of his Vaughan in-laws. His brother-in-law Cornelius Vaughan, who immigrated with them to Canada, found work as a brickmaker in Ontario bringing skills already honed in Kent, which, after the Napoleonic wars, briefly became a major supplier of bricks for London development. The decline of the industry coincided with the families’ immigration.

Milton1858p217

1858 Melville’s Directory of Kent, England (Milton) p. 217

Another tidbit to add to consideration about the family. Joseph Packer is one of the only members of his family to go into brickmaking. The rest worked in basket making. In fact, several researchers have noted the basket making Packers of Kent possibly tracing back to a basket maker on the Isle of Thanet born in the mid-1600s. It’s something I plan to spend more time researching. But Cornelius Packer’s grandfather Thomas and Great Uncle John, as well as a 2nd and a 3rd great uncle (John and Edward respectively), are all identified in records as basket makers.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Labor Day commemorates the American Labor Movement and the contributions of workers to the country. In the past in the blog I’ve focused on the range of occupations in my family and encouraged people to think about what their own relatives did in life. But I’m hoping that researchers are going the extra steps to read up on those occupations and see if your families were involved in unions and other pro-labor organizations—whatever their occupations. I’ve come across subjects that were stone masons, teachers, railroad workers, auto workers, porters, farm workers, etc.

Remember, we’re looking for more than dates. We’re looking for the stories as well. Were they organizers? Members? Strikers? Negotiators? What were the realities of their work life that unions sought to improve?

If you know the union or organization your subjects were associated with you can look them up in Worldcat.org, Archivegrid, or Google to find possible collections to explore possibly including journals such as the The Stone Cutters’ Journal  below (available on Google Books) or more detailed record sets.

Cover of the February 1922 issue of the Stone Cutters' Journal.

Here are a few examples of collections that may be of use:

Note: Multiple institutions may hold different collections for the same organizations.

What other groups might your families have been members of?

Happy hunting!

Jess

There are lot of reasons to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered through the genealogical communities—local, regional, or larger. Keeping up with new resources, learning new shortcuts, or having it hammered home that there are places where there are no shortcuts. But another reason I have heard echoed at many an event is the simple reminder that there is work to do still. So, this weekend saw me wandering through New England records after seeing a couple of great presentations by David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society at the 2018 Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar hosted by the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan Genealogical Council last week.

I’d been neglecting my New England lines lately and this was a good kick to get me checking my documentation and filling out parts of the tree I hadn’t worked on since very early in my research—meaning it needs a lot of clean up. Most of the weekend was spent on the Laphams, Gilberts, and Johnsons whose lines trace back into Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Not only did I track down the collaterals that I had missed before, but it confirmed something I had been told but never located good sources for… that Hannah Johnson Gilbert DuBois’ father did serve in the Revolutionary War. As is happens his widow, Mary Joiner, had a hard time getting her pension so it turned out to be a nice sized file of information including the extract below confirming their marriage.

Proof of marriage between David Johnson and Mary Joiner from Mary's Widow's Pension Application.

Find out what’s happening around you–Conference keeper is a good resource: http://conferencekeeper.org/–and get inspired to do the work!

Happy hunting,

Jess

P.S. Thanks all who sat in on my TB & Genealogy talk, you were a great audience and I hope it gave you some ideas for your own research!

Robert James Shea

This is just your friendly reminder to don’t forget to look at  the times that shaped your ancestors. I’ve been delving deeper into the background of my Great-Grandfather Robert Shea entering the Michigan State Hospital in Howell–including looking into the records of the Michigan Tuberculosis Association held by the Michigan State University Archives. The association coordinated the state’s efforts to get rejected (due to TB) World War I soldiers into treatment. And while trying to get a better understanding of their campaign, I ran into notes specifically about my Great-Grandfather!

The background information into the response to the TB epidemic in Michigan is extremely helpful to understanding how my family was shaped by the disease and more than worth the search, finding references to my Grandfather was just a fabulous bonus.

In related news my presentation for the 2018 Abram’s Foundation Family History Seminar next month is “TB in the Family Tree.”  David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society is the featured speaker for the event. Join us!

Happy hunting,

Jess

20180602_151241So, in the realm of way overdue… I’m jumping back into the blog and I want to start out by saying a HUGE thank you to everyone who made my first national conference presentation a success last month at NGS. That includes fellow speakers, WMGS family and friends, Michigan Genealogical Council friends, and NGS staff.  Another big thanks to everyone who made it to my session on Cluster Research at the end of Saturday after a long week of events. I basically told them to slow down and put more work into their research. It can be an overwhelming but so very fruitful. And finally, I’d like to extend a special shout out to my friends at the Archives of Michigan and The Genealogy Center at ACPL…. You all are fabulous!

Also, as a follow up to the Cluster Research program. I am in the same boat as everyone. Unless you’re lucky, you don’t start out doing it all correctly—properly analyzing every part of a document, properly sourcing your information, following out all the possible leads, etc. I’ve still got my share of things to clean up, follow out, and just do more work on. Writing and prepping for presentations helps me figure out what I’ve missed and work on what might otherwise feel like an overwhelming backlog of clean up.

Happy hunting (and research clean up when necessary),

Jess

DNAimage

I’ve been an advocate for DNA testing from the moment it became affordable (to me) as a fabulous source for crowd-sourcing research, possibly confirming theories and outright conquering brick walls. And as I started presenting more, I’ve tried to remind people that you do have to be ready for what you find. While DNA can confirm your research, it can also completely undermine it.

My family has now confirmed that one of my close relatives is not the genetic child of the man that raised them. Needless to say, after working on these lines for 20+ years, this was a surprise. I can’t say I didn’t have an inkling that something was up (based on matches over the years—or lack thereof), but I assumed that any discrepancy was farther up the line. But now that a few more close relatives have tested, I’m starting to research a new line and luckily the relative with the “new” father seems to be taking it in stride. That whole experience—which really, we’re still working through—has put me in the middle of a lot of DNA discussions, found me attending every DNA related class/webinar/discussion I can squeeze in, and forced me to re-evaluate how I use my DNA results. In fact, this may just end up being a DNA focused year for me.

With that in mind if you’re in a similar position, just getting started with DNA testing, or have tests but don’t know what to do with the results, here’s a few things I’ve found and wanted to share—especially for Michigan area researchers:

I think it’s going to be a fascinating year!

Happy hunting!

Jess

Note: If you have DNA SIGS in your area, have go-to DNA resources people should know about, etc. Feel free to post to comments!

FallingTrees2017

Falling trees in the woods leading up to Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Leelanau State Park, Northport, Michigan 2017

So, I’ve been very quiet of late for a number of reasons. I’ve had the great honor to present around the state, I’ve taken time to work on my own education—attending wonderful seminars and webinars offered by the Michigan Genealogical Council, Western Michigan Genealogical Society, BCG and APG. I’ve enjoyed working with my area societies on new projects. And finally… I’ve been trying to figure out my next move after a research find that pulled the rug out from under my feet.

As I work through this new twist in my research journeys, I am reminded that whenever you find yourself skidding into a new brick wall, your best bet is to regroup and continue to do thorough and documented research. Applying the Genealogical Proof Standard (which you should be doing anyway!)—exhaustive research, thorough documentation, analyzing the evidence, resolving conflicting evidence and writing up reasoned and coherent conclusions—can help you work through almost any setback.

Conflicting evidence will sometimes knock you for a loop, what matters is getting up, dusting yourself off, and getting back to work. Yes, I’ve got sports on in the background.

So, I’m getting back to work.

Happy hunting,

Jessica

I’m being pulled  in a lot of different directions lately but I still want to keep this blog going so here’s me, yet again, saying I’ll try to be better about writing.

P199608n004

Summer is a time of family gatherings—weddings, open houses, and reunions. Are you taking advantage of your family time to build on your genealogy research? Even just sitting around and sharing photographs can spark great family storytelling! That’s what Grandma Trotter, my aunts, and I were doing in this picture.

 

One of the projects I’ve been working on for the last few months is an update of my research on Grandma Trotter’s family (my paternal grandmother) accomplished through solo research and a big crowdsourcing project amongst my distant cousins. The sharing was an interesting experiment. I pulled together all of my notes in a register report from our earliest known York ancestors and then one of my cousins sent it out by email to family all over the country with orders to send corrections and additions to me.

Some of the corrections made total sense, some were confusing, some totally contradicted each other. We have step-children, illegitimate children who are still blood related, we even had the moment where I had to look at two people’s additions repeatedly before I understood that representatives from two different wings of the family had married—not uncommon, just confusing in the corrections. But it was a wholly rewarding experience… marred only by the fact that I can’t attend this particular reunion.

[Trotters and Yorks—I’ve been working on our genealogy for years so I know mine is not the only family effected by the reunions being in the same month.]

Happy hunting!

Jess

Next Page »