Monday, May 28, 2012

So Many Heroes

This morning we attended the Memorial Day Memorial Service at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. Walking amongst the flag-adorned graves, hearing "The Star-Spangled Banner," seeing the flag at half-staff, hearing the 21-gun salute . . . I felt a swell of joy for this dear country where I live in which so many freedoms are preserved. I felt a heavy sorrow that so many men and women have fought and died, given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives - and continue to do so - for the preservation of the freedoms we hold so dear.

They are heroes and I owe them a debt of gratitude. Thank you, Soldiers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Three Girls - Wordless Wednesday

About 1925
Left to right are cousins
Mary and Helen Bickerstaff, daughters of Lucy & William Bickerstaff, and
Audrey Meinzen, daughter of Wm. Carl Robert & Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen
Location may be Mineral Ridge or Niles, Ohio

Monday, May 21, 2012

RootsMagic 5 - Lumping, Splitting, or Both?

After my success in adding and transcribing an obituary to use as a death source in RootsMagic 5, I decided I wanted to add Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File (CWPF). I thought I should do a little research before attempting it and remembered reading a post, RootsMagic 5 from a Novice, by Kay at d kay s days about RootsMagic and a CWPF. In the comments section she wrote,
I have only learned after entering data from several sources that I would probably be best served to take a set of source material, such as the pension file, and enter each separate document as its own source. THEN enter the data for the events, citing the sources. In other words, plan ahead a bit :) Slow going, indeed, but once in the timeline is so helpful in appreciating the story that I am constructing.

I watched the RootsMagic webinar, Sources, Citations, and Documentation, a few months ago and I'll watch it again. But I investigated online a little more to see if others had written how they add sources and link them to individuals (or individuals to the sources) in RootsMagic.

I found a RootsWeb thread on the RootsMagic-Users-L Archive (from the email list of the same name) that described options for citing sources using language I hadn't heard before. They were new terms to me with regard to sources, citations, and documents. Do you know about "lumping" and "splitting" sources? I didn't, but I do now.
  • Lumping: There are few master sources with many citations per source. For instance, "Ohio Death Certificate Index, 1908-1953" would be a master source. Each individual's death certificate would be it's own citation within that master source.
  • Splitting: Each document is a new source. "Death Certificate of Lee Doyle," "Obituary of Henry C. Meinzen," and "Will of Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen" have their own entries as sources.

I believe splitting was the system I used in PAF (Personal Ancestral File), yet some of those sources were used more than once. Splitting is simple and direct but I had a very long list of sources. Someone on the RootsMagic-L thread suggested that splitting can make it harder to find sources. I can't understand how that can be when the title of the source tells me what it is. It seems that citations buried under master sources would make them harder to find.

Lumping would seem to require a well-thought-out, well-organized system in advance of entering sources. A Civil War Pension File as a master source with a citation for each document in the file seems simpler than a 1900 U.S. Census from Ohio as a master source with citations for half a dozen families that live in several different counties.

What am I missing? Am I making this harder than it ought to be? Am I being too careful (because I don't want to have to redo work)?

I know I'm going to love RootsMagic when I finally feel organized and comfortable. I know I will.

I subscribed to the RootsMagic-Users-L email list. I'm laying low at the moment but I sense that I'm far behind the level of expertise of most others on the list. I suppose the list's emails will double when I start asking questions.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Wishes

This is one of my favorite photographs of my father, brother, and sister. Dad's holding their hands!

Dad, Lee Doyle, looks a little disgruntled, but my brother Bob has a happy, anticipatory smile and my sister Marsha is looking up at Dad with such an expectant expression, as though she's waiting for an answer. Might someone have suggested ice cream? They're standing on the sidewalk near the back door of my grandmother's house.

I'd like to know the story surrounding this photo. Why does Dad look so grumpy and Bob and Marsha so happy? Was there a joke on my father? (See the companion photo below with smiles all around.)

Today's my brother's birthday. I am grateful that he's my brother -- he's a good brother and a good friend. I hope you have a fabulous birthday, Bob!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Remembering Rootsweb

Yesterday when I was trying to find answers to questions about RootsMagic I happened onto a discussion at my old friend, RootsWeb. Do you know about RootsWeb? Do you use RootsWeb? If you don't, you should consider it.

RootsWeb is very large collection of free websites and email lists that can help you in your family history endeavors. It's a site for you if you
  • want to learn more about a geographic area, a family surname, an occupation, a specific war, ethnic groups, genealogy programs, and more.
  • need U.S., U.K. or Canadian Census transcription forms, or a variety of other forms or charts.
  • want to join a mailing list or browse a mailing list for a specific surname, locality, occupation, or a variety of other topics.

I am particularly attached to the email lists, of which there are over 30,000, because individuals with the same interest respond to each other. I have subscribed to three surname lists, four locality-specific lists, an occupation list, and three lists to help me learn how to become a better researcher. It may sound like I would get a lot of email but the conversations are sporadic, always on-topic, and usually specific.
  • Choose a surname - almost any surname except Meinzen! - and you can sign up for the email list. Once you've subscribed, you will receive emails (either individually or in digest form, you choose) of discussions in progress and can ask your own questions.
  • Choose an occupation, such as coal mining, watchmakers, teachers, or many others.
  • Choose a state and county or a country. When you click on the country list, it will offer you subdivisions within the country.
If you'd rather not subscribe to an email list, you can browse the discussions that others have had or search the discussions.

I have more to explore at RootsWeb. It was a resource I'd forgotten and am glad to have remembered. It's one more free genealogy and family history resource, and who doesn't appreciate free? I recommend RootsWeb.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

RootsMagic Easy? Easy Obituary

I don't know why I feel so challenged by RootsMagic. Perhaps it's because Personal Ancestral File (PAF) was so simple; or because I was familiar with it; or because I was using it in the simplest way possible. RootsMagic seems big, encompassing, powerful, and overwhelming. The fact is I want to get it right the first time, without mistakes, so I don't have to redo the work.

But maybe it's just me, imagining that it's harder than it is. I entered a death fact for an individual in RootsMagic yesterday, then added a source, an obituary, and transcribed it. All went well. I went to the person, clicked on "Add a Fact," chose "Death," added the date and location, then went to "Source" and chose "Obituary/Newspaper Item," entered the source information and transcribed it. Easy, really. Of course, I don't yet know how to link that source to other facts about the person or to other people. But any step in the right direction is a step forward.

Now, on to the Civil War Pension File.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Having a Mother, Being a Mother - Thoughts for Mother's Day

Mother’s Day has become a reflective day for me.   I remember and honor my own mother, but I also think about being a mother and this year, for the first time, think about my older daughter becoming a mother.  Below are some of my reflections (some family history related, some not).

Being my mother's daughter was not usually easy.   By the time I knew her -- that is, by the time I was aware of her as an individual, perhaps when I was 6 or 8 -- the joy I see in photographs taken when she was younger had seeped away.  It was as if she had wrapped herself in a protective cloak to keep others from getting too close, from knowing her well, to keep her thoughts, emotions, and worries bound tightly inside.  Needless to say, she was not outwardly affectionate, nor was she one to offer praise.  Doing well, doing the right thing, and doing it without being asked were expected and, therefore, not reasons for praise.  We were not pampered in any way; sometimes I think we wondered if we were really loved at all.

Though not a perfectionist, she was exacting and particular, especially when it came to her children’s choices and decisions.   I think she didn't want us to make mistakes and so there were specific and definite boundaries.  She generally made the decisions, both large and small – decisions that would have helped a child learn, grow, and develop decision-making skills.

Having said all that, I believe she did what she thought was the right and best thing to do for her husband and children.  I believe she had our best interests at heart.

What did my mom inherit from her mother and fore-mothers?  What did I inherit from them?  Half of me comes from my female ancestors, and my daughters inherit half of who they are from their female ancestors.  Yet I sometimes wonder:  How much of who I am is determined by inheritance (from collective generations of previous parents)?  How much is learned from my parents -- my mother in particular because I spent more time with her than my father?  How much have I determinedly unlearned or relearned differently because of my mother?   How much is the result of the environment (emotional, mental, spiritual) in which I live/lived?  And how much of who I am is by purposeful choice?

I remember a story from Glimpses in the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley.  It was told by Marjorie Hinckley's daughter, Kathleen, who recounted how easy she thought motherhood would be.  She’d watched her mother as each new baby arrived and from her mom’s example believed that “all of motherhood was joy, bliss, and complete satisfaction.”  She said her mom told her that “the experience of childbirth was akin to dipping into heaven for a brief moment and returning with this blessed new infant.”  Soon after her own marriage Kathleen began hoping for a baby.  She imagined herself holding, dressing, cooing to, and loving a baby.  She wrote, “as that blessed state of impending motherhood descended upon me, I found myself sick!  Very sick!. . .   This wasn’t the way I’d pictured it.”

She continued,
The night that first little infant was born didn’t exactly feel like a trip to heaven.   It was long, miserable, and something I vowed I would never repeat.  When she finally arrived, I thought the hard part was over and from this moment forward, the bliss part of motherhood would begin.

Wrong.  I took the baby home, thinking the routine of my life would quickly be resumed.  My fantasies of dressing her in bows and lace were just around the corner.  She was so cute--in fact, she was beautiful.  This was going to be great after all.

But I was ill prepared for what I faced.  This tiny little six-pound bundle instantly took total control of my life.  She determined when I could sleep, when I could eat, when I could shower, clean my house, do my laundry, where and if I could go anyplace.  Not only that, everything I did was done in a state of complete fatigue.  About six weeks into this I looked around one day and knew that this was not the life I planned.  And suddenly I desperately wanted out.  Motherhood was not all it was cracked up to be.   I wanted my old life back.   I could not bear the thought of living the rest of my life out of control in a completely fatigued state.   In a flood of tears I dialed my mother.

“I’ve had it!” I cried to my mother.  “I’m not cut out to be a mother!   I can’t do this the rest of my life.  This child has taken over.  I’m not even a person anymore.   I want my old life back!”

She listened quietly as I unloaded for several tearful minutes.   Then, quite unexpectedly, she started to laugh. “Well, guess what, dear,” she said through her laughter.  “It’s too late!”

Her upbeat, jovial response disarmed me.  I was completely taken back.  She had managed with that simple, light quip to bring me back to earth. . . .  And somehow her laughter let me know that she knew what this was like and that it wouldn’t last forever.
I love that story.  For a mother (and usually for individuals, too), there is never an ongoing normal.  No routine lasts forever.  Every phase in a child’s development (in life!) moves both mother and child to a new routine, a new normal, different from the previous normal.  Every new normal brings its own challenges, often accompanied by fatigue and the need for major adjustments to schedules, habits, and routines.  Somehow, we adjust and usually we succeed.

How did my fore-mothers handle motherhood?   I especially wonder about Elizabeth Meinzen who had 15 children and Elvira Gerner who had 16, the first born when they were only 18 years old themselves.  However did they manage without all the modern conveniences -- washer and dryer, electric oven, vacuum, etc.?   In my mind they hold the highest of honors.

What will my daughters write about me 15 years after I’ve passed from this life?  They will probably reflect on my limitations but I hope they will also know how very, very much I love them.  Having them in my life has been a blessing beyond measure and I’m grateful to be their mother (knowing, of course, that there’s still room for me to improve).

To my daughter, about to become a mother:   please don't be too hard on yourself, especially when you're tired (or your son's tired) and things aren't going smoothly.  Be sure your boy knows you love him and be fair and consistent.  You'll be a great mother!

Belated Happy Mother’s Day wishes to my own dear mother and to all the moms who may read this post.  To everyone who reads this, tell your mother you love her!

. . . . . . . . . . . .
Pearce, Virginia H., ed., Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 112-114.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Genealogy Information in a Civil War Pension File - Military Monday

If you'd like to learn more about my experiences with a Civil War pension file, scroll down to "Post Topics" on the left side of this page and click on "Civil War Pension File."

As I transcribed Ellis's file I realized that the only forms in the file were ones that he or his attorney had submitted or that the pension office had collected (as in surgeon's reports). There were no forms that had been sent to Ellis.

Below, in chronological order of filing, are the most helpful documents for genealogy purposes in a Civil War Pension File. Below each document name/date is the information I found.

Claim for Disability Pension, filed July 19, 1890
(Click on image at right to enlarge it.)
  • Attorneys handling his claim
  • Company, regiment, state of enlistment
  • Enlistment and discharge dates
  • City and county of residence in July, 1890
  • Age, height, complexion, hair color, eye color
  • Place and date of birth
  • Ailment and reason for requesting pension
  • Occupation in July, 1890
  • Occupation at time of enrollment in military
  • Signature

Form 3-111 c (probably a Surgeon's Certificate), filed July 11, 1894
  • Post Office address (which was different than in 1890)
  • Height, weight, age

Form 3--402, completed July 4, 1898
  • Current wife's first and maiden name
  • Current wife's previous surname (she was a widow when she married Ellis)
  • Marriage date and location, who performed the marriage
  • Previous wife's first and maiden names (Ellis's first wife & my gg-grandmother)
  • Location and date of death of previous wife
  • Names of living children
  • Birth dates of living children

Soldier's Application, Declaration for Invalid Pension, dated December 16, 1901
  • City, county, and state of residence as of this date
  • Age, as of this date
  • Location of discharge from military service

Surgeon's Certificate, Form 3--155, dated June 4, 1902
  • City of residence
  • Birthplace, age, height, weight, complexion, eye color, hair color, occupation

Soldier's Application, Declaration for Invalid Pension, dated November 30, 1904
  • Age
  • Street, city, county, state of residence

Declaration for Pension, Form 3--014, dated February 25, 1907
  • Age
  • City, county, and state of residence
  • Birth date and location
  • Cities of residence from birth to date of form

Certificate of Death, dated June 29, 1907
  • Date of death
  • Cause of death
  • Street, ward, township, county, and state of death

Sunday, May 6, 2012

From the National Archives - The 1940 Census - Census of the Population

I can think of two ways to see what 1940 was like: watch old movies produced in that year; or watch this 10 minute National Archives instructional film for census takers. No doubt it was helpful to the census takers but it's interesting to me for the views of 1940 activities. Times have changed!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Observations While Indexing the 1940 U.S. Census

I've transcribed only about a dozen pages in the census, mostly in Ohio. I've noticed two interesting differences between then and now:
  • Many families had lodgers, sometimes one, sometimes several. Not so these days.
  • Extended family members often lived together. Relationships to head of household that I noticed included parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, fathers-in law, mothers-in-law, and one uncle.
Many families had many people living in the same home. It caused me to wonder how large the homes were.

What interesting things have you noticed while indexing the 1940 U.S. Census?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Assessing April

Some months are great and some are just mediocre. April was mediocre as far as finishing my to do list. To be honest, I spent too much time fooling around in the 1940 census, then writing blog posts about what I found; too much time fretting over the upcoming new Blogger interface; and plenty of time scanning, transcribing, and writing about Ellis's Civil War Pension File. Can you tell I sometimes get waylaid? Even when the main road is straight and direct I can find meandering paths with many interesting views. Hence, my lack of overwhelming success in April.

Below is the April to do list with accomplishments under each item on the list. Maybe May will be better.

Post my to do list for April and review the list at the end of April/beginning of May

Finish scanning and transcribing Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File
  • Success! I finished near the end of the month (but did not transcribe his widow's file). I wrote only one post, DEAD - Military Monday.

Rename and organize another batch of photographs into family groups
  • Done.

Index at least four 1940 U.S. Census pages
  • Done plus some. I know some other GeneaBloggers are going gangbusters through indexing the census. I'm not one of them. I transcribed 11 pages (one from Delaware, one from Pennsylvania, and the rest from Ohio), with a steadily increasing agreement rate from 95% and 99%. I'm getting better.

Search for my Pennsylvania ancestors in marriage and birth records at FamilySearch
  • Not done.

Maybe watch at least one genealogy webinar, read at least one Skillbuilders
  • Not done.

Maybe investigate RootsMagic. IF my Pennsylvania death certificates come in I'll have incentive to use RootsMagic
  • Not done.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Historical Books - Abundant Genealogy Week 18

I believe that both non-fiction and fiction books can contribute to our family history efforts. Either group, if well-researched, can take us to a time and place where an ancestor lived and add meat to the bare bones of names, dates, and places. They can help give us an understanding of the environment in which our ancestors lived and possibly help us understand some of the choices our ancestors made.

Three of my all-time favorite historical fiction books are a series written by Conrad Richter: The Trees; The Fields; and The Town. They were republished as The Awakening Land and made into a movie (which I haven't seen.)

The series begins in the late 1700s when young Sayward (pronounced Saird) Luckett and her family move to Southeast Ohio to settle amongst the trees in the old-growth forest. As the books follow Sayward's growth from childhood, through marriage, motherhood, and into old age, they also follow one area of Ohio's growth from woodland to civilization. There's plenty of action to hold the interest of and entertain any reader who enjoys history. As for Sayward, she has a quiet, sensible, down-to-earth wisdom about her and I felt a pleasure in getting to know her.

I don't know how much research Richter did before writing these books but his descriptions of early Ohio correspond to the descriptions of early settlers of Jefferson County, Ohio. The Town was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1951.

Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876-1915, by Thomas J. Schlereth, is a non-fiction work that is part of "The Everyday Life in America" series. Chapter subjects include moving, working, housing, consuming, communicating, playing, striving, and living and dying. There are end notes but no bibliography. It includes an expansive index. Each chapter is subdivided into more defined categories. For instance, the chapter on communicating includes letter writing and mail systems; postcards and greeting cards; newspapers and national magazines; and electronic media, including telegraphs, telephones, phonograph, and audio culture. The chapter on playing includes family fun (home games--parlor, porch, and place); picnics and sociables; public entertainments (the neighborhood saloon, the soda fountain, the vaudeville house, the country fair, etc.). Sections of photographs are interspersed throughout the chapters. I borrowed the book to research a specific topic but found myself drawn into the book as an interesting read.

Books in "The Everyday Life in America" series:
The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840 by Jack Larkin
The Expansion of Everyday Life, 1860-1976 by Daniel E. Sutherland
The Uncertainty of Everyday Life, 1915-1945 by Harvey Green

Other books that add to my understanding of the time periods in which my ancestors lived include:
  • Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel
  • Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
  • A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
I also recommend books, both fiction and non-fiction, that were written during the time period of an ancestor in the location where the ancestor lived. The story in a fiction will not match that of your ancestor but the interactions, customs, and setting may give you an idea of what the ancestor's life might have been like.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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. I invite you to participate if you'd like.

This week's theme was Historical Books. This week we’re going to shine the spotlight on other historical books that benefit the genealogy field. Do you have a favorite book that falls in this category? What makes this book special to you? How can other genealogists benefit from its content?

This challenge runs from Sunday, April 29, 2012 through Saturday, May 5, 2012.
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