Monday, May 30, 2011 - Competition for Find-A-Grave?

Short answer: Doubtful.

Disclaimer: I am a long-time volunteer and user of Find-A-Grave, but I'm all about new technology to aid in genealogical research.  

As I was browsing through my Google Reader this morning, I ran across A.C. Ivory's Mobile Monday post about  I was intrigued!  He gave a very thorough analysis of the iPhone app, and touched a bit on the website.  You can also see related posts from Taneya at Taneya's Genealogy Blog, who brought up all kinds of changes/improvements that she would like to see, and Phillip at Blood and Frogs, who talked about (among other things) the unnecessary duplication of efforts since we already have a gajillion graves on Find-A-Grave.  I thought I would supplement with one of my own, focusing on the website - since there is only an iPhone app, and I don't have an iPhone.

Before I delve into the website, I'd like to comment quickly on something A.C. mentioned.   "One of the main points that sets this new website apart from FindAGrave is the ability to see on a map exactly where in the cemetery the headstone is."  Okay, I get it.  What I don't get is what he mentions later:  "You can't search the database using the app. Search feature for individuals is only available on the website."  Huh??  Kind of makes the entire operation a little self-defeating from the outset.

I get the whole GPSing and geocoding and whatnot.  Unfortunately, all GPS is not created equally:

Either GPS is faulty, or the cemetery is REALLY full.

Now ... to the website.  On first visit, you are asked to register.  So I did.  Here's the home page, or "dashboard":

It is clean, simple, and easy on the eyes.  You are given 3 choices from this screen: (1) download the iPhone app; (2) Start transcribing; and (3) Search for cemeteries or people.

I chose to head straight to "FAQ" down at the bottom.  Under "How Can I Help?" I was told:
At, everyone can participate and contribute to this monumental project. No matter your circumstances, you can drive the project forward. If you have an iPhone, download the BillionGraves Camera app from the iTunes store, go to your local cemeteries, and collect headstone photos with the app.
But ... "What if I don't Have an iPhone?"
If you don’t have an iPhone, we still need your help! The images are almost useless—they’re too hard to search, too difficult to access—unless they’re transcribed. Instead of helping us collect photos, you can look at the photos and type in the names and dates recorded on the headstones.
It bothers me that you can ONLY upload photos from an iPhone (or potentially Android).  What about people who don't have either of those?  Are they doomed to only be able to transcribe the photos others have uploaded?  I think BillionGraves is shooting themselves in the foot by doing this - not to mention alienating a large portion of the potential volunteer pool (roughly only 1 in 4 people have a smart phone - and that's including ALL smartphones, not just iPhone and Android).  The photo-taking volunteers won't be able to keep up with the transcribing volunteers!

I personally don't ever use my phone to take pictures intended to be uploaded to a website.  I'd much rather use my 16mp camera with 21x zoom.  Turns out it takes way better photos than my 5mp phone camera with 1.75x zoom.  Maybe it's just me.

I honestly found the entire site to be rather clunky.  Let's start with the search feature:

You can search for a cemetery or a specific person.  However, if you get 28 results, but click on the wrong one, there is no way to return to the search results or to modify your search.  Using the back button forces you to perform another search, which is glitchy, to say the least (I had to refresh my page 3 times before it would let me choose a state).
Notice - no "return to results" button
The lists of cemeteries by country, by state and by county are not alphabetized, which is incredibly problematic, in my opinion.

I did take a look at a couple of the listings in Alpine Cemetery.  It is beautiful in its simplicity, and I like the fact that no single person "owns" a listing.  

I also took a moment to look at the "transcribe" option.  There are 32 photos that need to be transcribed, and they are obviously the "problem" photos.  Seriously ... there's a close-up photo of what looks like someone's car seat upholstery. 

I'm guessing most of the photos left to transcribe are the result of the inability to post more than one photo per person, because there are some that are obviously additional photos (backsides of headstones, different angles, etc.).  I certainly hope they remedy that issue soon (and have some sort of admin periodically checking the photos that are added).It's just sad that there is no way to add any information other than name, birth date, and death date.  There's not a place for an actual transcription of the headstone.  You can't even link parents and children or spouses.

One thing that did make my eyes bug out just a little was when Phillip mentioned in his post that as of June 1, the app will actually COST people to download.  $1.99 each!  So ... not only do we want you to volunteer, but we're going to charge you to do it!?  Sounds like a great plan.  (I know it's not a huge amount of money, but it's the principle).

I think I'll be sticking with Find-A-Grave, thanks.


Incidentally, as I was typing this blog post, I received an email from BillionGraves asking me to reset my password.

The link took me to this screen:
Now I don't know if I'm being hacked or if this is a genuine request to reset my password.  I know I didn't ask for my password to be reset.  If anyone else has gotten this email, please let me know if it's safe to do.  In the meantime, I'll just leave it in my inbox.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lucile Francis (Stiker) Crowe - 1900-1969

This one's for the girls.  I realized that I haven't really given my female ancestors enough attention, so here's what I know about my great grandmother:

Lucile Francis Stiker ("Mom" Crowe) was born on 20 Aug 1900 in Evansville, Vanderburgh, Indiana.  She is the fourth of 7 children born to Eugene F. and Jeannette "Jennie" C. (Heerdink) Crowe.  She is found first with her parents and siblings on the 1910 US Census.  They lived at 918 West 2nd Street in Mt. Vernon, Posey County, Indiana, on both the 1910 and 1920 censuses.

Several months after the 1920 census was taken, Lucile married a handsome young soldier, Harold John Crowe, on 16 September 1920, and moved to Indianapolis.  They had four children between November 1921 and December 1926, the third being my grandmother.

She is then found with her husband and children on the 1930 census living at 1637 Raymond Street, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Around 1950, Lucile went to work as a saleslady at L.S. Ayres & Co. in Indianapolis.  She worked there until 1965, when she retired.  This is obviously where I got my shopping genes.

I've been told that Mom Crowe's sole purpose in life was to make sure everyone was happy.  In the last months before her death, Lucile stayed with her daughter, Jeannette, who had a "Florida room" on the back of her house where she had placed a rented hospital bed for her mother.  One day, most of the family (kids, grandkids, etc.) came over and the children were outside playing.  One of the grandchildren, around age 4, was "tightrope walking" on top of the white wooden fence.  Even from her sick bed, she was concerned that he might fall and get hurt, so she started raising all kinds of heck for someone to get him down.

Mom Crowe passed away on 20 June 1969 in Indianapolis at the age of 68, and is buried next to her husband in Calvary Cemetery.

As you can see, there are a lot of gaps in her biography, and (which you probably can't see) I am also missing quite a bit of documentation for her, such as her birth and death certificates.  Her to-do list has been updated and I hope to obtain the missing documentation soon.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Genealogy Success Team - Week Two

We're off to a positive start!  This was quite a successful week with completed goals, newly-found cousins, and even some surprises!  I even managed to find time to revamp my blog template.  

As I mentioned last week in my post here, the Genealogy Success Team is the swift kick in the pants I needed to get some things done.  To recap, my goals from last week were:

1. Set a schedule for blogging, researching, and transferring data from FTM to RM4.  With a full-time job and other stuff (life, etc.).
Done.  Laura did, however, point out that I didn't schedule time to eat.  I think it was my subconscious telling me that I could afford to skip a meal or two. 
2. Organize the pile o' Genea-Crap on my desk.
Done.  Surprisingly enough, it didn't take me nearly as long as I thought it would.  This was a little disappointing - not that it didn't take long, but that it took me so long to get around to doing something that didn't take that long.
3. Blog at least once this week.
4. Call the Family History Library that is 10 minutes from my house and find out when they're open.
Done.  I didn't even have to call.  Their hours are listed on the website, which I have incorporated into my schedule.

I wanted my schedule to be as simple as possible, which (to me) meant it would be an Excel spreadsheet.  This is what I came up with:

Just to be clear, the times that are highlighted for the FHL are not all the times I am going to be at the library.  Those are just the times that the library is open, so I can plan everything else around that.  (And for those who are wondering, even though I graduated a couple of weekends ago, I still have to take one more class - College Algebra - to complete all of my classes, hence the time allotted for study. Ugh).  So my schedule will have to be amended in August when that class is done, which will just leave more time for research!

Genea-crap update: As I mentioned, the pile o' crap on my desk didn't take as long to go through as I initially anticipated.  I had several back issues of Casefile Clues that are "to be read" (they got their own file) and some stuff that can be classified as reference material.  When all was said and done, my "to do" pile was significantly smaller and a LOT less intimidating.  Here is my nice, clean desk.  The top bin in the front left portion of the photo is my new "to do" pile.

As I was going through the pile, I ran across DearMYRTLE's Organization Checklists (January through May).  As I went through them, I realized I'm not as behind as I thought on those, either.  January, February, and March are complete, and I only have one or two items left for April and May.  I won't be caught up by the time her June checklist comes out, but I'm closer than I was before!

I will let Laura update you on her progress, but let me just say that I'm SUPER proud of her accomplishments this week!  She even made some progress that she didn't anticipate!

Since this is a long holiday weekend, my goals got a little bigger:

1. Fully transfer at least 5 people from FTM to RM4 (with corresponding hard file).
2. Fully update at least 1 WikiTree profile. (See my blog post here for the reason behind this)
3. Blog at least once this week (I'm going to start saying "other than my Success Team update post").
4. Now that I know their hours, visit the Family History Library to ask about their process, what collections they have, etc. so I can get organized before I start researching there.

I'm not making it an official goal, but I'd like to also visit my county library and take a look at their genealogy and historical collections and see if they have anything to offer.  At the very least, I may be able to post the collections on RAOGK.

I'd better go get started on my list!  GO TEAM!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cousin Bait. It's How I Roll.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives
Photographer: Flip Schulke 1930-2008
I received a most interesting email about a week and a half ago from a maternal cousin, Chip.  He said that he stumbled upon my website or my blog (I can't remember which ... mainly because I was so excited that someone was actually reading it!).  Sorry, I digress.  Anyway, he saw my post about my great grandfather (his grandfather) Harold John Crowe, Sr.  He sent me an email and says that he, too, has done some genealogy research.  I almost fainted.  Seriously.

Fast forward 6 days and several emails.  We talked on the phone for over 2 hours and Chip shared some wonderful stories that he had heard from his dad (my grandmother's brother) about the family, growing up, being in World War II, and other little tidbits (the stuff you don't find in the archives and libraries).  It literally took a thunderstorm knocking the power out to get us off the phone.  I'd say I hooked a big 'un!

I am now working on getting all my information up on WikiTree so we can collaborate with 2 other cousins.

There's a bit of a learning curve for me with all the HTML and whatnot, but my first attempt at an ancestor profile can be found here.  Okay, apparently the learning curve is a little bigger than I thought.  I made his profile public, but the actual public view is not what I saw when I edited it.  In any case, There are some photos and a biography and sources and everything.  It's pretty cool.  I hope it shows up eventually.

Here's a screen shot:

That took me about 1-1/2 hours to create.  Mainly because I had no clue what I was doing, and a lot of it was trial and error.  To me, the coolest (and most difficult) thing was adding the sources so they would show up as footnotes.  After I got the hang of it, I figured out the easiest thing is to edit everything in a Word document, add the HTML, then copy and paste it onto the profile.

I learned a couple of very important lessons from this.  (1) People are reading your blogs - even when you think they aren't.  You never know when a cousin will stumble upon what you've posted and make contact with you; and (2) I need to learn HTML.

Who knows?  Maybe I'll do something super fancy with it when I figure out what I'm doing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Genealogy Success Team - Week One

Back in April, Laura of It's All Relative posted about a Genealogy Success Team to help give her research a boost.  As it turns out, my research (or lack thereof) also needed a swift kick in the pants - from a focus standpoint more than anything else - so I responded to her blog post.  A couple of other people did too, but they fell through, so we had to proceed with a team of two.  We had our first "meeting" by phone this morning at 7:30 EST (that's how hardcore we are!).  We discovered that we have quite a bit in common.

First, we share a brain on the purpose of our research.  We both believe that it's the stories of our entire family (not just the direct lines) that help us understand who we are, more than names, dates, and places.  We both have some very interesting ancestors.  Don't be jealous - I'm sure there are some pretty cool people in your tree too :)

Second, we both have the same problem with the Genea-Crap (if you are unfamiliar, see Kerry's blog post at Clue Wagon).

Third, we're both cat lovers.  I think that's important.  If for no other reason than an empathetic standpoint concerning researchus interruptus (that's Latin for "the cat is on my keyboard").

The purpose of the Team is to come up with goals that are reachable within the week (baby steps), and share them with each other so we are accountable to someone.  Without that accountability, I will never stay on track.  Next week, we will share our progress, brainstorm any problem areas, and make new goals for the following week.  I wrote down my goals and Laura's goals on my notepad.  That's when I realized that if I put one more piece of paper on my desk, it might collapse.  So I wrote them down on the whiteboard next to my desk:

Now it's a constant reminder.

I learned from Laura that the key is to make small, attainable goals - and then actually work toward them!    

My goals for this week are:

1. Set a schedule for blogging, researching, and transferring data from FTM to RM4.  With a full-time job and other stuff (life, etc.), without a schedule I'm doomed.
2. Organize the pile o' Genea-Crap on my desk (remember the whole collapsing thing? This is why):

Fortunately, I had managed to get all of it in one consolidated pile already.

3. Blog at least once this week - so here it is (I'm no Charlie Sheen, but I'd say that's winning!).  Check.
4. Call the Family History Library that is 10 minutes from my house and find out when they're open.

Ultimately, we are going to make so much progress that everyone else in the genea-community will be totally jealous and wish they had gotten in on the ground floor of this venture.

So I'm gonna go get started!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Harold John Crowe - Indiana - 1899-1971

Harold John Crowe is my great grandfather. You may remember him from my blog posts a couple of weeks ago in which I thought he and his family had been abducted by aliens, only to find out he was just a victim of bad penmanship.

I can't remember ever meeting him, since I was only about 3 years old when he died, but doing this research has really helped me learn a little bit about who he was, and it makes me kinda proud.

"Pop" Crowe (this is what everyone in the family called him) was born on 15 Sep 1899 in Cannelton, Perry County, Indiana, to Charles C. and Ida Mae (Gray) Crow. His family bounced around in rented homes to Perry County (1900 Census), Spencer County (1910 Census), and Posey County (1920 Census).

On 31 Dec 1917, he traveled roughly 50 miles to Princeton (Gibson County), Indiana, and enlisted in the Army National Guard and presumably served in France during World War I. I don't know yet when he was discharged, but he is listed with his family on the 1920 Census at 502 Third Street, Mt. Vernon, Indiana.

He finally put down some roots in Indianapolis (Marion County) in September 1920, when he married Lucile Francis Stiker (1900-1969), daughter of Eugene F. and Jeannette C. (Heerdink) Stiker. They lived at 1637 Raymond Street in Indianapolis on the 1930 Census. Unfortunately, the house has since been demolished, as it appears as a grassy lot on GoogleMaps. They had four children between November 1921 and December 1926, the third being my grandmother.

In 1936, Pop Crowe filled out his SS-5 to receive his social security number. I finally received a copy of it in the mail the other day. At that time, he was living at 2435 S. State Street, Indianapolis. He was working for Continental Baking Company (Wonder Bread Bakery) at 339 E. Market Street, Indianapolis. Apparently, the bakery building has since made way for a parking lot. I sent an inquiry to the company (now Interstate Brands) to see if they might have an old photo of the bakery.

In 1939, he went to work for General Motors in the Allison Division as an engine inspector and retired from there 25 years later in 1964. He passed away on 19 Sep 1971, at the age of 72, from respiratory and cardiac arrest resulting from a cerebral vascular accident (stroke). He also was diabetic. At the time of his death, he lived at 35 W. Pleasant Run Parkway South, Indianapolis. His son, Harold Jr. ("Bud") was the informant on his death certificate, as "Mom" Crowe had predeceased him in 1969. I received the funeral records from G. H. Hermann Funeral Home in Indianapolis showing that Pop Crowe is buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Obviously, this is not his entire story, and I have many holes to fill. At least I have a solid framework to fill in at this point. I plan to get my mom and her siblings to provide some stories of Mom and Pop Crowe (so if they are reading this - get busy!).

Part of my attempt to fill in some gaps in the history is to locate the Indiana state census records, along with obituaries for both Pop and Mom Crowe. I am also trying to obtain his military service record, but it looks like I may have to get my grandmother to request it, since I'm not considered "immediate family." I am also going to see if Wonder Bread still has employee records from 1936. I'm curious to find out what position he held there. I should probably get some church records (if any exist) and check for probate records too. If anyone has any other ideas, I look forward to hearing them.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I Found My Great Grandfather ... Sorry Aliens!

I have been obsessing about my great grandfather, Harold John Crow(e), for the past couple of weeks.  As I mentioned in my post here, I totally blamed Aliens for abducting the entire family.   Sorry about that, Aliens.  You guys get blamed for a lot of stuff, but not this time.

I was seriously ready to pull out my hair, but then I stepped back for a second and thought about it.  I was writing down the name "Crow" and I wasn't being especially careful.  Then I looked at it.  It was hard to read my own handwriting, especially with letters that could so easily be mistaken for other letters ("r" for "n" and "w" for "m", etc.).  Then I had one of those A-HA! moments.

I decided to systematically go through the 1920 census images by hand.  I know - almost enough to make your eyes bleed.  I started with where I knew he was in 1910 (Spencer County, Indiana) and where I knew he was in 1930 (Posey County, Indiana).  I also knew that he had been married in 1920 in Posey County, Indiana.  That's where I started my search (thank goodness!)

I pulled up Posey County records and started with Black Township.  I searched every line on every page for Districts 47, 48, and 49.  No dice.

I went back and chose Mt. Vernon City, Ward 1.  I got to page 15 and found something that looked like "Crow" but I couldn't be sure.  The first names looked like Amos and Luana.  No way I could make that look like Charles and Ida (I tried, believe me).  I kept looking ... there were 13 more pages.  Then lo and behold, on page 26, there he was.  I had to know why I wasn't able to find him.  It clearly said "Crow" when I read it.  It had been indexed as "Cron."  After looking at it, I could see how it might have been misread:

... and there is Harold on line 48 at age 20 and still single (don't worry, he'll be married before the year is out).  It shows him as a soldier in the U.S. Army.  Yep, that's my man.

I literally found this information 15 minutes ago and had to share it immediately.  My first brick wall success!  Woo hoo!  I can't wait to share my good news with everyone in SecondLife tonight!