Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reviewing January

I'm reviewing my January To Do List and evaluating my success (or lack thereof). We won't call it failure (because I hate to fail.) What I didn't get done in January I'll carry over to February's List. I hope I won't have to do that too often and what I especially hope is that I don't have to carry over the same thing more than once.

January has been a busy month in other areas of my life. There were some non-genealogy deadlines which couldn't be postponed and some activities that took longer than I anticipated. Family history didn't play as large a part of my life in January as I hope it will in February and the rest of the year.

That being said, here's my review for January:

Done! -- Organize Ellis Bickerstaff's pension file into chronological order

Undone. -- Transcribe one document in the pension file.

Done! -- Write and post about his pension file. The CWPF posts were Civil War Pension File: First View; Civil War Pension File: Inventory; and Civil War Pension File: Chronological Overview of Papers Pertaining to Ellis.

Undone. -- Watch one RootsMagic webinar and put what I learn to use in RM with my own information.

Done! -- Write and publish two Tuesday's Tip posts. These posts were U.S. Census Information: Sites for Details and Once a Miner, Twice a Breaker Boy.

Done! -- At FamilySearch, look for new Ohio resources; search any that look helpful.

Done! -- At FamilySearch, look for new Pennsylvania collections.


I'll post my February To Do List in a day or two.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Poem for Sunday (or Any Day)


I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

At our dinner together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.

And so the young are taught



by Wendell Berry

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Free Offline Genealogy Tools - Abundant Genealogy Week 4

I was putting the finishing touches on a post about several of the local libraries I use for genealogy purposes when it suddenly occurred to me that libraries are resources, not tools. (Why I didn't think of the difference between the two words last week when I wrote about online tools I have no idea. It would have been a different post!)

A free offline tool (an instrument of manual operation) is a bit more challenging to name than a free offline resource (any source of aid or support) but I think books fall into the category of tools (though they're probably also resources). Not many tools are free these days but at my local library I can borrow books without cost. I'll share a few of my favorite helpful genealogy and family history books. I know they can be purchased but chances are your local free public library has copies you could borrow.

The Source: a Guidebook to American Genealogy by Loretto D. Szucs and Sandra H. Luebking, editors.
When I was just beginning to search out my ancestors I was introduced to this book by the director of the local Family History Center. The newest edition had recently been published and he was enthusiastic about the quantity, quality, and scope of this book. It includes a ponderous annotated list of possible sources for you to search. I highly recommend it whether you're new to genealogy or are more experienced: either you will find places to look that you didn't know about or you will find places to look that you forgot about.

Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History by Katherine Scott Sturdevant
This book offers excellent suggestions of ways to find out about the times in which our ancestors lived. Chapters include social history; home sources/artifacts; family photographs; oral history/tradition; correspondence; college libraries; writing your family history. Chapter bibliographies are long and become suggestions for resources to use next.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors. Special Strategies for uncovering hard-to-find information about your female lineage by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Immigrant and Ethnic Ancestors. How to Find and Record Your Unique Heritage by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack

Locating Your Roots. Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records by Patricia Law Hatcher

All of these books have bibliographies. Bibliographies are excellent tools because they lead you to other sources.

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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. This week's theme was free offline genealogy tools. I invite you to join in if you'd like.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Family History Humor


I chuckled when I read this "family history" cartoon my aunt sent.

Not that carrier pigeons have anything to do with family history, really, but here's a link if you're interested in learning about them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

FamilySearch Tips

FamilySearch Tips is a great 10-minute presentation which explains five techniques to help you find ancestors at FamilySearch. Who knew that you could omit your female ancestor's name and find more information about her?! (You'll have to click on the link to watch: I couldn't imbed the presentation.)

Leslie Lawson, Forensic Genealogist, posted the link on Google+ the other day. I found it helpful and thought you might, too. Thanks, Leslie.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Free Online Genealogy Tools - Abundant Genealogy Week 3

I keep a list of useful free sites on this blog's sidebar. Some help me find ancestors. Others help understand the environment in which my ancestors lived, the language they used, the books and newspapers they might have read, and the things they might have seen.

One of my absolute favorite free sites is Linkpendium. I like it because it is locality specific. As you can see from the image above, you can choose a state in the U.S., choose the U.K. and Ireland, or choose surnames. I usually use the U.S. localities. If you choose a state, you'll arrive at a screen where you can choose a county in that state, which takes you to lists of online links of source. The Jefferson County, Ohio, page is pictured below.

You'll find the links arranged in categories. Not every county has the same links, of course, but most categories are the same. After the categories, there is either a list of links or, if there are too many links to have them all in a list, there is a number (in parentheses) which tells how many links there are for that category. Click on the title to see the list of links.

Often a source is named, such as "Genealogy Trails History Group," "USGenWeb," or "Explore Ancestry for Free." After any link that isn't free, there's a green $.

The category headings for Jefferson County, Ohio, are
  • Projects
  • Adjacent Counties - this lists all the counties surrounding the county of interest
  • Bible Records
  • Biographies, Oral Histories, Diaries, Memoirs, Genealogies, Correspondence
  • Cemeteries (27)
  • Census Records and Indexes (29)
  • Church Records (30)
  • Court and Legal Records
  • Directories
  • Estate Records
  • Ethnic
  • History (77)
  • Immigration and Naturalization
  • Introductions and Guides (12)
  • Land Records
  • Libraries, Museums, Archives
  • Look-ups
  • Mailing Lists
  • Maps and Gazetteers (31)
  • Military Records and Histories (these are sub-divided by war)
  • Miscellaneous Data (11)
  • Newspaper Records (15)
  • Obituaries and Funeral Home Records (10)
  • Photographs, Postcards, Historical Images (12)
  • School Records and Histories (34)
  • Societies
  • Surnames Web sites, obituaries, biographies, and other material specific to a surname (319)
  • Tax Lists
  • Transportation and Industry (13)
  • Vital Records (25)

Linkpendium has added some new features since I was last there and it continually adds new links as people recommend them. If you haven't used Linkpendium to search for your family, I highly recommend it.

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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. This week's theme was free online genealogy tools. I invite you to join in if you'd like.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Past Is Such a Safe Place

I've been letting my mind wander today while I complete some necessary hand-stitching. I was thinking about my daughter whose apartment was destroyed by a fire a few days ago. She is in a difficult position, not just physically (without a home of her own) but also emotionally. (She was not home when the fire started. It's possible that she'd not be with us if she had been: the fire began near the door and window, the only escape routes. We are grateful for tender mercies.)

I was thinking about the challenges of her situation when Pandora played a song that I frequently heard a few years ago when she was at college across the country and I felt sad and lonely with her so far away. That was not an easy time but today I thought how "safe" it was compared to now and the challenges she faces. For a moment I wished to turn the clock back and return to that safe time.

I'm not romanticizing, not imagining that the past was easier, gentler, happier, etc. Just safe now that it's over. Perhaps looking at the past is like reading a novel. From the distance of time -- or fiction -- we have a safe view of events.

I think of ancestor mothers who lost children or nursed them through months of disease; of husbands who lost wives; of families who lost fathers to suicide or tragic accidents, and mothers to senility or illness; of fires, floods, other disasters. Living through those times would have been horrendous. Years after the events did my ancestors, like me, feel a safety in the past when viewed through the lens of time?

This impression has come to me before and I wonder how is it that the past seems safe when living through it there were times that felt like living in a hurricane, being at the bottom of a black pit, or in the ocean without a lifeboat? Is it because, having survived that past difficulty, one feels stronger? Is it because it's over and done that the past can be viewed as safe? Is it the idea that the past difficulty, safely maneuvered, is more comfortable than the present difficulty?

Safe or not, the past is gone. The safety is only in my mind.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Civil War Pension File: Chronological Overview of Papers Pertaining to Ellis

When I typed the inventory of Ellis Bickerstaff's 79-page Civil War Pension File the papers were in no order and I wasn't sure which papers were part of the same document. I wasn't quite sure how to proceed. Since that post I've dated all the papers and put together the ones that I believe belong together. This is an overview post of the file's contents that related to Ellis, organized into chronological order.

Ellis served in the Civil War from May 2, 1864 until September 2, 1864. Nearly every document contains this information as well as his company. After his initial declaration form, the earliest documents have a claim number on them. Later documents have a certificate number.

Some forms have several different dates, as though they may have been kept at the front of the file for review and signed and dated during those reviews.

Nearly half the papers in the file pertain to Ellis's wife Lucy's attempt to continue receiving a pension. I will not include those papers in this post.

1890
Ellis's initial claim, "Declaration of Soldier for a Disability Pension," was filed on July 19. Additional evidence was filed on December 11 and December 26, 1890.

1891
Toward the end of January the War Department verified Ellis's Civil War service. In early February Ellis was examined by a physician. On April 5 a pension was granted for "Disease of Respiratory organs." In July he filed for an increase in disability.

1892
On October 18 Ellis was examined by a physician.

1893
Ellis filed for an increase of pension on February 21.

1894
One of the multi-dated papers was first dated April 5 (with a final date of April 1, 1895). On July 11, Ellis was again examined by a physician.

1895
Early in January a physician gave additional evidence.

1898
In July the Department of the Interior requested that Ellis complete a form stating marriage information and give names and birth dates of his children.

1899
In January Ellis requested an increase in his disability pension. In May the Department of the Interior completed a form stating that no medical record was found. In early June, Ellis was again examined by a physician.

1900
In June a response was sent regarding Ellis's January 1899 request for an increase.

1901
In December, Ellis again completed an application for a pension.

1902
Ellis was examined by a physician in early June. In October he completed an application for an increase.

1904
In November Ellis completed an application with the request for an increase in his pension.

1905
In early February Ellis was examined by a physician and filed for an increase in his pension. In March he sent a postcard with a change of address.

1907
Ellis completed a declaration for a pension in February. The file contains a copy of his death certificate dated June 30, 1907. He committed suicide on June 29.

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Other posts relating to Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Service and Pension File
Ordering Civil War Compiled Military Service Records
Reviewing Civil War Compiled Military Service Records
Ordering a Civil War Pension File
His Civil War Pension File Arrived
Civil War Pension File: First View
Civil War Pension File: Inventory

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Indiana Genealogical Society and Allen County Public Library

Curt Witcher, on the Allen County Public Library's collection, FamilySearch, FamilySearch wiki, indexing....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Through Four Generations


Beulah had a son, Lee. Lee had a daughter, Marsha. Marsha had a son, Jeff.
Four generations, two sets of twins, and we think we see some familial similarities.




Beulah and Marsha,
grandmother & granddaughter.

Both had
fraternal twins.







Lee and Jeff,
grandfather & grandson.

Both were
fraternal twins.






What do you think?


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This is a Sepia Saturday post. You can go look for posts and photos about twins but I think it's more likely you'll see photos of people in hats this week. Join the fun and post some old photos if you'd like. Everyone's invited.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Paid Online Genealogy Tools - Abundant Genealogy Week 2

I am a budget-conscious family historian on a budget. Paid genealogy sites don't fit into our budget, but they do fit into the budgets of our local library and our local Family History Center (FHC). (Click the link to find a location near you.) These organizations offer one or more paid online genealogy tools at no cost to their patrons.

When I began working on my family history in earnest I learned that our local FHC offered Ancestry.com. At the time, it was the only paid site the FHC offered and all Ancestry.com databases were available. For a time Ancestry.com was not available at any FHCs and now the Library Edition only is available.

Ancestry.com was my go-to site (as a beginner) for census records. Some newspapers, particularly several years of The Steubenville Herald-Star, were available and very helpful. The director of the FHC encouraged me to download the images I found. When I wondered aloud about the necessity of doing so he responded that things change and they might not always be available for free. He was right because it wasn't two years until Ancestry.com was gone.

Now the FHCs offer many paid databases free of charge to their patrons. They include Access Newspaper Archives; Alexander Street Press, American Civil War; Ancestry.com Library Edition; Find My Past; Fold3; Godfrey Memorial Library; World Vital Records; and others. Some larger FHCs which are open more hours offer access to more databases.

If you hesitate to go to a Family History Center because you're afraid you'll be bombarded with people trying to persuade you to join their church, not to worry. There is no proselyting at the FHCs.


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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. This week's theme was paid online genealogy tools. I invite you to join in if you'd like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Once a Miner, Twice a Breaker Boy - Tuesday's Tip

A boy began coal mining as a breaker boy, outside the mine proper but inside the building that sheltered the breaker, where he sorted the coal and removed rocks and debris that had been extracted with the coal. As he grew older he began working down in the mine. At first he may have worked with the horses or opened and closed the doors for the coal cars. Eventually he graduated to digging coal. Too often men were harmed in the mine and even more often they grew old at the job. When they were unable to perform the labor required of coal mining proper, they returned to the breaker where they once again became breaker boys. Thus the saying, "Once a miner, twice a breaker boy."

If you have ancestors who mined coal in the 1800s and early 1900s and you would like to learn what their lives in the mine might have been like, one or several of these sites may be of interest to you.

Ohio State University's ehistory presentation, Coal Mining in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era offers links to several different articles, primarily from the 1870s and the early 1900s. I found the following ones especially worthwhile.
  • In "In the Depths of a Coal Mine" (from McClure's Magazine, Vol. III, August 1894, No. 3) author Stephen Crane paints word pictures of the mines, both inside and out; of the coal mining process; the environment and atmosphere in the depths of the mines; the mules and stables; and interactions between miners. About the blackness of coal Crane paints a colorful portrait.
  • The Life of a Coal Miner... by Rev. John McDowell (1902). The subtitle of this article is "The Slow Progress of the Boy Who Starts in a Breaker, and Ends, An Old Man in the Breaker -- as Told by a Man Who Was Once a Miner." He tells the longing of breaker boys to become door boys, door boys to become drivers, and drivers to become miners; and then describes the work in the anthracite mines. Of miners he writes, "His dangers are many. He may be crushed to death at any time by the falling roof, burned to death by the exploding of gas, or blown to pieces by a premature blast."
Citizendium: The Citizens' Compendium presents an article about coal mining which discusses a variety of mining topics. For family historians the interest will be in the history section.

My particular interest in coal mining comes because of ancestors who mined in England, in southeastern Ohio, and in western Pennsylvania in the 1800s and early 1900s. I was pleased to find that Explore PA History offers Stories from PA History where you can read these two articles.
  • King Coal: Mining Bituminous focuses on the bituminous region of southwestern Pennsylvania. As far as I know my ancestors were not "owned" by the coal barons, not tied to coal towns, nor in debt to the company store. Yet aspects of this article describe the probable lives of my ancestors.
  • Mining Anthracite tells the history of the creation of coal in northeast Pennsylvania, its ties to the Industrial Revolution, and the resultant mining in the area.
One very last resource that I almost forgot to include will be helpful to those who have Pennsylvania coal miners who mined during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The introduction states that this is an "alphabetical index by miner's name for fatal and non-fatal mine accidents in Pennsylvania for the years 1869, 1871, 1872, 1875, 1877, 1879, 1880, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1887, 1888, 1890 through 1914, 1915 (Anthracite), and 1916. Given in the index is: the name of the miner, date of the accident, miner's age, colliery (mine name), whether fatal (F) or non-fatal (N), page and reference (a for Part I Anthracite and b for Part II Bituminous) from which the information was extracted." More information is available at the website. I was able to find several family members but no direct ancestors.

You can read more about my mining family in Coal Miners in My Family.


The image at the top of this post is a Library of Congress photo of breaker boys from from South Pittston, PA, taken circa 1910. It comes from Mining Anthracite at ExplorePAHistory. At the upper and lower far left of the photo you can see that some of the breaker boys are not boys at all, but men.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Ohio Genealogical Society and Family Search

The Ohio Genealogical Society and FamilySearch collaborate to make Ohio tax records from the early 1800s available and searchable online through FamilySearch indexing. Watch this brief video to learn a little more.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Violin, a Guitar, and a Sweet Potato

A violin and a guitar? My grandfather, William Carl Robert Meinzen, is on the left with bow to strings. The man beside him is his brother-in-law, George K. Harris.

Grampa was born in 1892, George in 1887. In 1910 George married Grampa's sister, Wilhelmina Elizabeth Meinzen. The photo is undated but I suspect it was taken in the early 1910s, probably at the Meinzen home in Steubenville, Ohio.

I never saw Grampa play an instrument during his lifetime. In the living room of my grandparents' home was a built-in, glass-fronted bookcase. Inside the bookcase were books and a sweet potato. Not the kind one eats, the kind one plays. The sweet potato was about the size, shape, and color of a regular sweet potato though perhaps just a little browner. It had holes. I think it was made of unglazed but polished (or burnished) clay.

Rumor was that Grampa could play the sweet potato. I don't know anyone who ever heard or saw him play it. Once, while I was there, the sweet potato was taken out and Grampa held it up to his mouth and blew through it but didn't play it. None of the living descendants know what happened to the sweet potato. We suspect that the aunt who disowned us either gave it away or sold it.

It is a change for my grandfather to have his sleeves rolled down. As a barber he usually had them rolled up to the inside. Grampa always seemed to wear this style of pants when he was young. They remind me of jodhpurs though Grampa was neither a horseman nor a baseball player. Had I seen this photo when I was a child I might have asked my grandmother about the pants, but it's too late to ask anyone.

Additional Note:
Tattered and Lost viewed this post and left a comment with a link to a post about an ocarina. It shows pages from and 1940s instruction book and a youtube clip of a Crosby/Hope movie in which they "play" an ocarina. As s/he points out, the sound is true ocarina but Crosby and Hope weren't the players.

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This is a Sepia Saturday. Click on the link to see who else is sharing old photos. Join in if you'd like. All you have to do is post an old photo and write some words about it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blogs - Abundant Genealogy Week 1

Do you know about Genealogy Blog Finder? Many of you experienced bloggers may already have your blogs listed there, but perhaps some of you who are newer to blogging don't. At Genealogy Blog Finder you can ask to have your blog included by scrolling to the bottom of the screen and clicking on Suggest a Blog or Update Listing.

It offers more than listing your own blog, though. It offers the opportunity to view other people's blogs (more than 1700 other blogs) by category. Some of the categories include Genealogy News; Personal Research; Locality Specific; Tips, Resources & Reviews; Technology; Single Surname; GenWeb; Preservation; Photography; Cemeteries; Conferences; Podcasts; Libraries; Associations & Societies; Obituaries; some heritage-specific categories; plus others.

Genealogy Blog Finder also offers the opportunity for you to search for content in other people's blogs that are listed. In the search box at the top you can type the subject or surname, then click the circle for it to search the blog directory or to search specific posts. (It's very sad to type in a topic or surname and find that it lists only your own posts.)

Of course only blogs whose owners have asked to be included are available on this list. Maybe you'd like your blog to be listed on Genealogy Blog Finder?
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You know about Thomas McEntee's famous GeneaBloggers, don't you? Because of GeneaBloggers, genealogy bloggers throughout the world have become a community of bloggers who help and support each other; who share what they find and answer questions; give praise, encourage, and uplift; discuss challenges facing genealogists and family historians; and who step on each others' toes and then forgive; and so much more.

Thomas is the workhorse behind GeneaBloggers. When we go to the website we see posts about topics of interest; daily lists of posts for daily blogging themes; upcoming webinars; a healthy list of tags on the right sidebar; plus so much more.

One of the things that I have overlooked in the past are the links at the top of the page. There's a reason they're at the top: so we see them first thing! (Eager to see the newest content, I often scroll right past those links.)

The links are
  • About is where, if you're new to the site, you can learn the what and why of GeneaBloggers.
  • Genealogy Blog Listing offers a list of over 2,000 blogs whose owners participate as GeneaBloggers. There's a list and a link to every single one!
  • Upcoming Events has calendars for anniversaries; daily blogging themes; geneawebinars; conferences and expos; and genealogy speakers.
  • Blogs By Type is one of my favorite links because it lists categories, including a list of blogs by state and their recent posts. (Not to play favorites, but my favorites are Ohio and Pennsylvania blogs. I'm a born and raised Ohioan.)
  • At Suggest a Blog you can ask to have your blog included in the GeneaBloggers blog roll.
  • Search All Blogs is the place to search member blogs by subject, surname, or other words. I think this is the place to go if you remember reading a post about a particular topic but can't remember where. (It's sad how often I can't remember where these days.)
  • Blog Resources is the go-to list if you want to learn how to change a header; back up your data; edit a photograph; improve your blog; learn about copyrights; and myriad other things.
A huge Thank You to Thomas for all he does for the blogging community.
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My favorite blog? No, I don't have just one. To the left, about halfway down the page, you'll see a title, "About Other People's Ancestors." Under that title you'll see ten blogs listed. At the bottom of that list you'll see "Show All" in little letters. If you click on the "Show All," a long list of blogs I regularly enjoy will appear. I invite you to visit them. I've set the view so that you can see the title of the most recent post and so that the blogs with the newest posts rotate to the top of the list. I hope you'll find a blog or two that's new to you and will become one of your favorites.

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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. This week's theme was blogs. I invite you to join in if you'd like.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Civil War Pension File: Inventory

It will help me and it might interest some of you to see a list of the contents of the papers/documents in Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War pension file. The list below records the papers in the order I found them when the file arrived.

Some forms have titles, some have only numbers, some have both. If you peruse the list you'll notice that some were filed more than once on different dates.

Ellis died on June 29, 1907. All forms after that date involve only his wife, Lucy, and her efforts to obtain/maintain Ellis's pension or refer to her death.

As I looked through the papers to identify their dates, it became obvious to me that Civil War veterans had to petition to receive pensions and that not all veterans qualified. If a veteran received a pension and after some years wanted to increase the amount, there was more paperwork to be done. There were fees involved with obtaining a pension: an attorney was involved with nearly a dozen of the forms; a notary was required for almost as many; Ellis was examined by physicians at least three times. Do you suppose they used the term "red tape" in the late 1800s and early 1900s?

I will put these papers in chronological order then transcribe, compare, and evaluate them. I'll continue to share what I find.

The List of Papers/Documents
Card (4" x 6") with Certificate Number and names of pensioner and veteran
Form 3-732 - Apr 15, 1910
Form 3-230 - Apr 25, 1891 (initial date) through Oct 30, 1902
Form 3-730 - Jul 12, 1907
Form 3-060a Military Service, Jan 21, 1891
Form 3-453 - Apr 11, 1900
Form 3-216a - Jul 26, 1890 (application filing date)
Form 3-1647 - Feb 27, 1907
Form 3-859 - Sep 6 & 13, 1907
Form 3-852 - Dec 14 & 18, 1909
Form 3-357 Increase Invalid Pension - Feb 1, 1905
Note from Ellis to attorneys with current address - Mar 6, 1905
Form 3-357 Increase Invalid Pension - Oct 15, 1902
Form AA Declaration for Invalid Pension, (filed by atty.) 2 pages - Dec 16, 1901
Form 3-145b Increase Invalid Pension - Jun 12, 1900
Form 3-127 History of Claim - Jul 26, 1890
Form 3-146b - Apr 5, 1894
Form 3-145b Increase Invalid Pension - Feb 21, 1893
Form 3-145a Invalid Pension - Jul 26, 1890
Claim for Disability Pension (filed by atty.), 2 pages - July 19, 1890
Declaration for Increase and Additional Disability (filed by atty.), 2 pages - Jan 20, 1899
Declaration for Transfer Increase & Additional Disability, 2 pages - Jul 18, 1891
General Affidavit (filed by atty.), 2 pages - Jan 2, 1895
Form 3-111 Surgeon's Certificate, 2 pages - Oct 19, 1892
Form 3-111c - Jul 11, 1894
Form 3-516 (from Medical Division) - Jun 14, 1899
Form 3-111 Surgeon's Certificate, 2 pages - Jun 5, 1899
Form 3-155 (old Form 3-111) Surgeon's Certificate, 2 pages - Jun 4, 1902
Form 3-156 Surgeon's Certificate, 2 pages - Jun 4, 1902
Form 3-111 (partial?) - Feb 4, 1891
Form 3-438 Accrued Pension - Apr 6, 1910
Notary Public Certificate - Nov 30, 1907
General Affidavit (filed by atty.), 2 pages - Feb 1, 1910
General Affidavit (filed by atty.), 2 pages - Jan 19, 1910
Form 3-361 Widow's Pension, 2 pages - Apr 11, 1910
Notary Public Certificate, 2 pages - Jan 4, 1908
Form 3-155 Surgeon's Certificate, 2 pages - Feb 1, 1905
Form 3-367 Widow's Pension - April 6, 1910
Form 3-202 Board of Review - Apr 13, 1910
Note from Lucy to attorneys - Feb 5, 1910
Note from Lucy with current address - Apr 5, 1910 (U.S. Pension Office stamp)
General Affidavit (filed by atty.), 2 pages - Mar 21, 1910
Letter to Commissioner of Pensions from attorneys filing power of attorney - Jul 30, 1909
Power of Attorney, 2 pages - Jul 29, 1909
Statement from Pastor - Feb 25, 1908 (U.S. Pension Office stamp)
Form 3-007 Declaration for Widow's Pension - Jul 27, 1907
Claim for Pension. Widow. - Jul 27, 1907
Declaration for Widow's Pension - Dec 11, 1909
Widow's Claim (filed by atty.) - Dec 11, 1909
Form 3-014 Declaration for Pension - Feb. 25, 1907
Statement of Marriage, Children - Jul 4, 1898
Certificate of Death for Ellis Bickerstaff - June 30, 1907
Form AA Declaration for Invalid Pension - Nov 30, 1904
Form AA Soldier's Application (filed by atty.) - Nov 30, 1904
Additional Evidence (filed by atty.), 2 pages - Dec 26, 1890
Additional Evidence (filed by atty.), 2 pages - Dec 11, 1890
Form 3-464aa - May 19, 1899
Form 3-798 Drop Order and Report - Jul 12, 1907
Form 1081 Pensioner Dropped - Jun 21, 1913
Statement of Pastor - Aug 17, 1909

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Civil War Pension File: First View

It was exciting to receive my first Civil War pension file in the mail from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). I didn't know what to expect: one doesn't know how many pages there will be until it arrives.

The file came in a 10" x 15" tyvek envelope. The original documents had been photocopied onto legal sized 8 1/2" x 14" paper. Enclosed with the papers were my original order form (printed by NARA from my internet order request) and a disclaimer stating that the copies were the best available and that it was a complete file. There were 79 pages.

The file arrived in December but I was only able to take the briefest look at it then. Now I'm ready to sort, organize, transcribe, and evaluate what I find. (Sort and organize are key words here!)

My initial observations:
  • Some of the original documents were double-sided as evidenced by bleed-through on the copies. The photocopies are single-sided. (You can see bleed-through on the image below.)
  • Some of the original documents appear to have been long sheets folded into fourths.
  • There were no paper clips on the papers to tell me which pages belong together. Bleed-through sometimes helps to indicate the front and back of one document; otherwise, it's hard to tell which pages go together.
  • Not all pages are numbered or dated.
  • The file may have been copied with the first page at the back or the first page at the front. I can only hope that the copies of individual documents are together.
  • Documents are not in chronological order.

All of that being said, this first overview gives me new information about Ellis:
  • His birthdate (not just the year of his birth)! April 11, 1840.
  • A physical description: he was 6' tall, had blue eyes, a fair complexion, and brown hair (when younger)
  • Addresses include 102 Grandview Avenue, McKeesport, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; West Austintown, Ohio; and Scottsdale, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

It's clear that Ellis was not granted a pension at his first request. It is also clear that his widow, Lucy, had to be diligent to continue receiving the pension after Ellis' death.

Ellis's signature. Interestingly, on official papers throughout his lifetime Ellis spelled his last name Biggerstaff. His death certificate gives the spelling Bickerstaff. Among his ancestors and descendants, Bickerstaff is the most common spelling.

There's more to come about Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File. I'll post as I sort, organize, and scan. Maybe there are others of you who wonder what you might find if you order your own ancestor's pension file.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

To Do List, January 2012

Maybe writing down and publishing my to do list will help me stay on track and accomplish more.
  • Organize Ellis Bickerstaff's pension file into chronological order (as much as is possible).
  • Transcribe one document in the pension file.
  • Write and post about his pension file. (With 70+ pages in the file, this may become a brief series.)
  • Watch one RootsMagic webinar and put what I learn to use in RM with my own information.
  • Write and publish two Tuesday's Tip posts. (One is already done!)
  • At FamilySearch, look for new Ohio resources; search any that look helpful.

Too much to do in a month? We'll see.

Share your January, 2012, to do list/goals at Corn and Cotton: My Family's Story.

U. S. Census Information: Sites for Details - Tuesday's Tip

The census is one of the genealogist's best friends. Sometimes, though, we see the forms on the screen or on microfilm and we're not quite sure what the headings are. Other times, we're not quite sure what information the enumerator was required to collect. Here are some resources that might be interesting and/or helpful to you.

Enumeration Forms at The University of Minnesota's Population Center are a great resource for enumerator instructions because we can read a transcription of the actual instructions as the enumerators read and used them. The census questions are also available at this site. Dates available are 1850-2000. I found it interesting to compare the language in the enumerator instructions from early years to more recent years. Times change.

A Century of Population Growth is a 1900 publication of the Bureau of the Census. It's a brief 2-page pdf image which discusses the value of and attitude toward censuses. The paper opens with "The results of a modern census have been accurately defined as a national account of stock. Early censuses were merely counts of inhabitants; additional facts relating to population were next secured; and the most recent step in census taking, especially in the United States, has been to include practically all lines of human activity. The modern census is thus the results of evolution."

200 Years of Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990 is a 117-page publication from the U.S. Department of Congress, Bureau of the Census. It includes a table of contents; overviews of each census; images of the instructions to enumerators (as opposed to the transcriptions at the link above); some photographs; and a few cartoons. I believe that in this publication you will find the answer to any question you have about any U.S. census from 1790 to 1980 (excepting the agricultural census and unless it deals with handwriting and/or a particular name written on the census).

● The most recent publication is Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000 which is available online in two parts. Part 1 includes title pages and table of contents. Part 2 includes information about each of the U.S. censuses, transcriptions of instructions to enumerators, and images of census pages. If you'd like to know what you'll find on the 1940 census, look at pages 62-66. Despite the title of this publication, information about the individual censuses ends with the 1990 census.

I think it's less than four months until the 1940 census will be available to the public. I probably won't find "new" ancestors in the 1940 census but it will be interesting to learn where my families lived, what their their employment was, who their neighbors were, etc.


The image above comes from the cover of Two Hundred Years of U.S. Census Taking.

Monday, January 2, 2012

No Goals for 2012

I've been reading others' blog posts about their goals for 2012. It's made me want to go back to bed and cover my head with a pillow until the middle of January when that subject will have been overtaken by newer topics. (Except it won't because Stephanie of Corn and Cotton has invited bloggers to write monthly --monthly!-- goals and publish them as Motivation Monday posts.)

I know that for most people setting goals helps them accomplish objectives but my experience has generally been that when I set goals life gets in the way, the goals go out the window, and I feel like a failure. I do make daily "to-do" lists which I generally complete. And I do have ideas of things I'd like to accomplish. Instead of goals, I'm going with to-dos this year.
  • RootsMagic (RM). I bought RM when it was on sale a few months ago and received a free upgrade in December but didn't have time to install it. I want to learn more about the program and continue to enter data. James Tanner of Genealogy's Star has written numerous posts in which he encourages his readers to choose some other genealogy program than Personal Ancestral File (PAF). I'm comfortable with PAF but as I learn more about genealogy I realize that PAF's offerings are rudimentary and limited. RM was my program of choice because it syncs with NewFamilySearch and makes working with that website easier. I have a lot to learn about the program before it becomes comfortable. The RM website has a series of webinars where I can learn about specifics and I know Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings has written a series of posts about about various aspects of the program. Surely with those excellent guides I can make progress.

  • Organize my family history photos. Many are scanned and organized; just as many are still in the files the scanner puts them into when I save them. It makes it hard to find them. I've bookmarked several posts about organizing photos. I'll dig those out and read what others have found successful, unsuccessful, and what they recommend.
  • Continue learning. Brigham Young University offers free online courses, 10 of which are family history/genealogy courses. "German Research" looks like it could be helpful since I have ancestors from several areas in Germany.
    I will investigate others opportunities to learn, including webinars, books, and online sources.
  • Continue searching for my ancestors, both online and at libraries, archives, and family history centers. I haven't been to FamilySearch for a while and I know they've added new records. The Family History Centers (FHC) also offer free access to some of the paid sites. And of course, their library catalog is online and I hope to find films that will be helpful and which I can rent copies to be sent to the local FHC.
  • Transcribe Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File. This arrived in December, a month earlier than I anticipated. I perused it when it arrived and I'm looking forward to delving into it and learning more about Ellis and his situation toward the end of his life.
  • Continue blogging. I'm such a tiny minnow in a sea of whales, and yet I continue to enjoy the blogging experience, both writing and reading. I hope to keep that up this year.
  • Maybe (just maybe) I'll participate in Amy Coffin's meme, Abundant Genealogy. I'm not much of a memer (I may be a little too independent) but this looks helpful.
That's it. That's my big to-do list for the year. Now maybe I can break those down and consider monthly to-do lists to participate in Stephanie's Motivation Monday.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Lucky Tradition?

I have German ancestry on both sides of my family. Eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day was one of the few traditions that had been carried on from previous generations. They say it brings good luck. I doubt my parents really believed that but, well, tradition is tradition and I suppose they weren't going to risk being unlucky.

Usually my mother made us eat a little of everything she fixed: 5 peas, 2 lima beans, a taste of any other unpalatable food on the table. The only exceptions were liver and onions, the oysters in oyster stew, sauerkraut. And tomatoes.

You'd think it would be in my genes to love pork and sauerkraut. Maybe the German genes were diluted by the time they got to me because I don't love sauerkraut. (I inherited chocolate-loving genes instead.) In fact, it's only been in recent years that I can stand the smell of sauerkraut and then only on a Reuben sandwich.

About the luck part. I didn't think it brought good luck, either, but at dinner tonight, eating my pork sans sauerkraut, I was thinking about all the little and large mishaps of my childhood and youth -- the broken front tooth; the foot caught in a bicycle wheel; the broken blackboard; the foot swollen to twice its size after slamming into a wall; the semi rear-ending me at the bottom of a mile-long hill while I was stopped to make a left turn; etc. And now I'm wondering if there is something to the tradition of pork and sauerkraut bringing good luck in the new year.

Maybe next year I'll eat sauerkraut along with the pork.

How about you? Do you have New Year's Day traditions?


The photo above is courtesy of Michael Dietsch at Flickr Commons.
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