Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Goals - The Moment of Truth

So here we are at the end of the year again ... and now I have to fess up as to whether I was able to accomplish the goals I set for myself in January.

1. Obtain the addresses, birth dates, and anniversary dates for all of my first cousins on both sides of my family … and names and birth dates of spouses and children. Oh and all my half siblings’ spouses and kids too.
I'm still missing 3 ... but I got the others!

2. Attend at least five (5) Scanfests (or equivalent) this year - and actually scan stuff.
I completed all my photo scanning before September, so I didn't need to attend all 5 (see #3 below).

3. Scan and label at least 15 photos and/or negatives each week, or until they are done, whichever happens first.
This goal is complete.

4. Attend at least two (2) genealogy conferences.
I attended FGS in Birmingham in August, but wasn't able to get to the Family History Expo in Atlanta in November.  Instead, I started the NGS Home Study Course.

5. Give at least two (2) presentations to my genealogical society.
I only made one presentation, but submitted two articles for our quarterly - the first on employment records of our ancestors and the second on census records.

6. Index at least 200 records per month at FamilySearch Indexing.
My total for the year is 3,260, which is around 270 per month.  Of course, I really slacked off in the last few months.

7. Add at least five (5) individual ancestor stories to my website.
I almost managed to complete this goal!  I managed to get 5 ancestors in My Ancestor Spotlight series, but only got 4 of them on the website.  Clearly, I'll need to get the last one on there immediately.

8. Blog at least twice per week.
A grand total (not including this post) of 106 posts for the year, which comes to 2.03 posts per week.  I'll call that goal met!

9. Finish reading Greenwood's "The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy."
I finally finished reading the book!  The SecondLife Book Club didn't have presentations for 3 months; otherwise, we would have made it all the way through the book too.  Unfortunately, we still have 2 chapters left to discuss. 

10. Add at least three (3) website links per week to my online toolbox.
I met this goal a while back, and I've been doing pretty well at keeping my "pending" folder cleaned out.

So I completed 7 out of 10 goals, and sort of completed 2 of the last 3.  Not a bad year!

I haven't decided if I want to have specific goals for the entire year in 2013 or if I want to do monthly goals.  Maybe I'll do both - break my yearly goals down into monthly goals.  I just need to stay motivated and not feel overwhelmed.  I appreciate your thoughts on different approaches.

Do we share any ancestors? 

Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookiepalooza 2.0

This year I decided to do things a little differently.  My sister had cookies that needed to be made, I had cookies to make ... and we both had Christmas cards to finish.  So when I heard her offer on Saturday morning to work together, I had to take it.  (Besides, her kitchen is bigger).

So a 2-hour drive later, and we were unpacking half my kitchen from my car and planning our attack.  There were several cookies that required making the dough, then chilling it before it could be worked into cookies.  Those went first.

After I got those out of the way, I started on the pizzelles.  I made these last year too.  This is the recipe that yields somewhere in the vicinity of 3000 cookies (or maybe it just seems that way).  I like to make it because it requires whiskey, but not a whole bottle.  See how that works?

In any case, the pizzelles were serving double duty this year because I was planning to make another kind of cookie using the pizzelles as a base ... but smaller.  So while the cookies were still warm and pliable, I used a round cookie cutter to turn them into 6 cookies.  Then I slathered some melted chocolate on them and sprinkled some toffee bits, creating these:
Because it was so late in the evening by the time I got to my sister's, I think those were the only cookies I finished on Saturday, but I can't even remember.  Everything's pretty much a blur.

We woke up early on Sunday, had coffee, and got started on the dough we had chilled the night before.  First up, another repeat from last year - Horseshoe Cookies (my personal favorite):
Clearly, there were more than just these - but they are fragile, and I didn't want to risk breaking any more than I had to.  What? I get to eat the broken ones!

Unfortunately, we did not anticipate the wear-and-tear on my sister's oven.  With all the opening and closing of the door, we apparently jiggled the screws on one side of the handle loose.  
We didn't let that stop us though ...

Next up was the Tea Time Toffees, one of my grandmother's recipes - and another one I made this year.  They turned out better this year - I didn't burn them.  And I made 2 batches, so I get to keep some! 
The next two cookies are also repeats from last year: peanut clusters and kiss cookies:

We stopped making cookies some time around 6 p.m. and gave ourselves 2 hours to work on our Christmas cards.  I left a little after 8 p.m. and made the 2-hour drive home.

When I woke up on Monday morning, my calves felt as if someone had given each of them a "code red*" during the night.  Do you know how hard it is to limp with BOTH legs?

Anyway, when I got home after work on Monday, I finished the last of the cookies.  These acorn cookies are some that I saw on Pinterest (courtesy of a share by Thomas MacEntee).  Unfortunately, mine don't look nearly as cute as the ones on Pinterest, but at least I finally made something I pinned!  
I think I was supposed to use mini chocolate chips on the top, but holy cow, I already looked like I rolled around in melted chocolate just using the regular sized ones.  There was chocolate on everything I was wearing, the furniture, and possibly even the cats (who were in the other room).  I will likely not be making these again.  And if I do - and I'm forced to use the tiny chips - I will be naked.  You've been warned.

I'm just glad everything turned out edible.  Merry Christmas!

*if you don't know what this means, watch the movie "A Few Good Men."

Do we share any ancestors? 
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Software Review: Evidentia

I've mentioned in some previous posts that I have been beta testing some new software lately.  The software is designed to supplement and complement your research - meaning you won't have to abandon your current genealogy program.  As a matter of fact, (as of this writing) this program won't even touch your current data.

The software is Evidentia.  It is designed to help you organize and analyze your research in such a way that it is easier to reach a "soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion." 

One thing that drew me to this software was the fact that it supported the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  This happens in several ways:
1. You cannot enter a claim without a source.
2. You cannot reach a conclusion without fully analyzing all of the evidence.
3. Provides an overview of all sources consulted for a particular claim, to determine if a reasonably exhaustive search has indeed been accomplished.
4. Complete and consistent source citations.

First Impressions:
I like the look and feel of it.  The colors are subtle (read: not annoying).  The layout itself is pretty simple, but in my opinion, it should be.  When you're working on proof arguments, the last thing you want is to be distracted by all the bells and whistles of your software.

Data Entry:

This is pretty intuitive, and there are plenty of tool tips to guide you if you need it.  

When you begin working with the program, the first thing you'll do is enter your sources.  Evidence Explained-based templates are provided for most common sources (I think there are around 170 templates).  You can also add your own customized source templates as well.

After you enter your source, you will add a citation with the details of your source (page number, etc.).  Then you begin adding "claims."  These are the assertions made by the particular source ("John Brown was age 22 in 1887").  You will attach the claim to a subject - your ancestor - and the claim type (birth, death, occupation, etc.).  Then you will select the quality of the information (primary, secondary, unknown).  (You will be amazed at the number of claims ONE source can make - I think I had around 35 claims for one census record).

Once you have your sources and claims entered, you can analyze your evidence by clicking on (appropriately named) "Analyze Evidence."  You are then asked to choose a subject and a claim type.  You do this by selecting from the drop-down menus.

All claims related to that subject and claim type are presented so they can be analyzed, which encourages you to weigh the evidence (or lack thereof), and identify and resolve any conflicts.  In some cases, it could lead you to realize that you've been looking at your data all wrong (I wouldn't know anything about this at all) and lead you in a completely different direction altogether.

After you have analyzed your claims, the summary window will unlock and allow you to write your evidence-based conclusion.

Now your proof report is ready to print.  Just select "Reports," choose which report you want to print, select your font, and click OK.  Voila!  The reports are consistent in their formatting and easy to read.  (This is not an actual proof report - it's just an example)


You can only print your reports in HTML.  That means you need to take the extra step to print to PDF in order to save it.  I'm hoping that sometime in the (very) near future, there will be other options for the reports.

You have to manually enter your sources.  The "clone" option is helpful, but ultimately it would be nice to just import them.  You can, however, copy/paste your source information directly from your genealogy program (as I do from RootsMagic).

The only other major issue I have with the sources at this time is that once you enter a source, then make a citation for it, any future citations for that source will not auto-fill the citation information (for example, if you have individuals listed in the 1880 Census in the same enumeration district but on several different pages).  You have to copy/paste and then edit.  I have logged this as an ongoing issue, and hopefully it will be addressed soon.


After playing around with pretend data for a week or so, I started inputting my data for real (which led to a couple of pretty good blog posts).  It has been so much easier for me to see that I really haven't done a reasonably exhaustive search, but more importantly it has shown me how to really "listen" to my sources.  Turns out, they have quite a bit to say - and a lot that they don't say.  So, in my opinion, drawbacks aside, it is worth checking out.

Bottom Line:
Retail price is $24.99.  However, a little birdie told me that Evidentia will be released tomorrow (Monday, December 17) for download at an introductory price of $19.99.  So you'll want to get it before the price goes up.  If you're interested in purchasing it, you can get it here (affiliate link).

More Info:
The Evidentia website has a lot of videos and tutorials available to help you navigate through the program and answers some questions that are likely not addressed in this post.

**In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided a free license for the software in return for beta testing like a boss! (which means I broke it ... a lot)**
**no puppies were harmed in the writing of this post**

Do we share any ancestors? 
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Will the Real Bernard Slowey Please Stand Up?

Working with the momentum from my "epiphany" the other day, I was trying to determine which Barney/Bernhard Slowey belonged with my family.  It has not been an easy road.

I started with my tried-and-true Excel spreadsheet.  I listed out the pertinent details that might differentiate the two men down the left side of the worksheet, then the sources from which I intended to extract the information.  Besides, I think better with a spreadsheet.

Because I had them both listed in the 1930 census, and technically I'm supposed to be working backward anyway, I figured I would go back to the 1940 and see what I could find.  I wasn't expecting to find the REAL Barney because he died on 12 April 1939 (according to his death certificate).

Unfortunately, 1940 was a bust.  As were 1920, 1910, etc.  I was only able to find duplicate Barneys in the 1930 census.  I found no Barneys in the 1880 and 1900 censuses at all.  I was beginning to think that Farney (faux + Barney) was part of an elaborate conspiracy to throw off my research (I'm still kind of leaning that way ...)

So I decided to kick Barney and Farney to the curb and concentrate on Fisabel (wife of Farney).

I found Fisabel on the 1940 census living with granddaughter Adella (daughter of Hans and Mary Hansen) in 1940.  She is listed as "single" and not "widowed," but Hans and Mary are next door, so I feel pretty confident she is "Fisabel."  Farney is not listed on the next page or anywhere nearby.  However, as luck would have it, Fisabel was chosen to answer the supplemental questions.  It turns out that she was married more than once, the first time at age 16.  She has had 12 children.  

I could not locate the REAL Isabel anywhere in 1940, although on the 1910 census, it does indicate that her marriage to Barney is her first, and they were married 32 years prior (in approximately 1878).

I found someone named Isabelle Slowey listed in the 1935 South Dakota state census (card no. 566).  Her maiden name is listed as McKethie (pretty close to McKeachie - and the same as Barney listed on his census card (no. 567)).  Honestly, I'm not sure anyone in the family knew how to spell her maiden name.
Isabelle's death certificate
Barney's death certificate
Barney's 1935 census card
But wait ... her address ... it's 112 West 5th.  In Yankton.  That's the same address (well - 5th vs. 6th) as Adella's family in 1940 and the address she and Farney shared with the Hansens in 1930!
1935 census card
Isabel Slowey's death certificate
1940 US census
A cunning, sadistic picture was beginning to emerge.  I think that Barney/Farney and Isabel/Fisabel (intentionally or not) found a flaw in the system.  The enumeration date for the Hansen address was 3 April.  The enumeration date for Barney/Isabel was 25 April.  I'm beginning to wonder if Farney/Fisabel were visiting the Hansens when the enumerator came by, and then by the time the enumerator got to their actual address, they were back home.  Of course, this is pure speculation on my part.  But it makes a little bit of sense because the inaccurate information provided by (probably) their son-in-law would not match what they told the enumerator themselves.

Obviously this is going to take a LOT of additional research, but now come the real questions.  Was Isabel really married before?  Why did she say it was her first marriage?  Did she really have 12 children?  Where are all these other children (I only show the couple had 7 children, but there IS an 11-year gap between the last two)? 

I'm beginning to understand how Barney and Isabelle both died from senility.

Do we share any ancestors? 
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Does This Count as an Epiphany?

So there I was, working on Lesson 5 of the Home Study Course, which is all about census records. Yawn ... I've been using census records for a long time and the references are a little outdated (they didn't even mention the 1940 census release - !!!), so I was reading the lesson and taking very few notes.

Then I got to the assignments. (Here's where the epiphany part gets a little murky)
The first assignment was to do a census research checklist. Essentially list out all the census years in which a particular ancestor could be found. Okay, I already do that, so that wasn't very hard. But then list out where you expect to find them (county, state, etc.), their approximate age, and the capacity in which you expect to find them (head of household, child of __, etc.). Well, that's new. So here are the results for one of my ancestors:

Wait ... I still haven't gotten to the epiphany part.

The next assignment was to do a census search report. Find the ancestor on the census, then do a search of the entire county for people of the same surname (or variations thereof), and transcribe the entries onto the appropriate blank census form, citing your sources, of course.

Usually, when I find someone in the census, I look a few pages forward and a few pages back - or sometimes I look through the entire enumeration district if it's not a gajillion pages - and see if I can find any other family members, making note of any surnames that look familiar (maybe the children of my ancestor married into these other families or something). But I never searched the entire county.

When I did the assignment (using the 1930 census), I found a lot of Sloweys in Yankton County, which I expected. However, there were a few that didn't ring any bells as being related. No shock there, right? Here's the rub: I stumbled upon a Bernhard Slowey (age 77) married to Isabel (age 75) listed in the same enumeration district as my ancestor, only about 8 pages later. It seems I stumbled upon my ancestor's uncle Bernard and his aunt Isabella! (insert happy dance here). 

But wait ... in the same county (different E.D.), I came across Barney Slowey (age 76) and Belle (age 76) listed as father- and mother-in-law of Hans Hansen. Well this is definitely a monkey wrench. The Hansen surname meant nothing to me, but Hans' wife's name is Mary and she is 47 years old. Turns out that Bernard and Isabella had a daughter named Mary in 1883, which would make her ... 47 years old. Hmm. The couple had been married since age 24, or 52 years. My Bernard and Isabella were married in 1878 - 52 years before. (Perhaps my happy dance was premature) Could this be my Bernard and Isabella? Clearly, this will require further research. 

Okay, here's the epiphany part (or my "light bulb" moment, as Oprah would say).
By searching the entire county where I discovered an ancestor on the census, I was able to find 8 other families with the same surname. I haven't figured out how (or if) they are all related to my Sloweys, but it sure will be a time-saver if I ever find out they should be added to my tree, because I'll already have the census searches done! 

Now I just have to get started on all the other ancestors in all the other censuses (censi?) ... and find somewhere to keep all these blasted transcribed pages.

Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Anatomy of a Death Certificate (or ... more confessions of an Intermediate Genealogy Noob)

Ahh, the death certificate.  So much information in such a small amount of space.  Some of it is even reliable!

I'm going to share two examples.  The first might be one of the most accurate death certificates in my possession.  The second is definitely the least accurate.  Still, there is a lot of information in both that can be used.

I encourage you to take a look at Elizabeth Shown Mills' explanation of sources, evidence, and proof here.  (Take a minute to look at all of her QuickLessons while you're there - they are invaluable!)  These death certificates are considered to be original sources with both primary and secondary information.
According to this death certificate, my great grandfather, Thomas Patrick Slowey, died on March 14, 1963 after suffering from a myocardial infarction (heart attack) for 30 minutes.  Fortunately, this certificate is quite detailed as far as time of death and the doctor provided an actual time of death instead of just a date.  Thomas died at 3:50 p.m.

This information is considered reliable, since it was the attending physician who provided it at or near the time of death.  Of course, not ALL the information on this certificate is reliable.  Of course, I can't be certain who provided the personal information about Thomas, but I'm pretty sure that he lived at 812 Douglas Avenue longer than "minutes," as it shows in #1(c).  With the exception of that little morsel, the rest of the information given on the certificate is correct.

Noob alert:  When you are reviewing a death certificate (or any research document), always read and re-read and then read it again.  If you look over on the right hand side - yep, right there under the cause of death - it says that an autopsy was performed.  I've had this death certificate for over a year and I didn't even notice this until a few days ago.  I will try to obtain the autopsy report (if it still exists) to see if it contains any other useful information.

So ultimately, what sort of assertions does this death certificate actually make?
1. Thomas died on March 14, 1963 at 3:50 p.m. 
2. Thomas' cause of death was cardiac standstill due to myocardial infarction lasting 1/2 hour due to coronary atherosclerosis lasting over 2 years.
3. Thomas suffered a myocardial infarction in October 1960.
4. Thomas was born on December 29, 1895 in South Dakota, and he was 67 years old when he died.
5. Thomas died in Yankton, Yankton Co., South Dakota, at Sacred Heart Hospital.
6. Thomas' residence at the time of his death was 812 Douglas Avenue in Yankton.
7. Thomas' occupation was a foreman at the stockyards.
8. Thomas' parents were John Slowey and Theresa Burns.
9. Thomas was married and his wife was Anna Huber Slowey.
10. Thomas was buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery on March 18, 1963 in Yankton, South Dakota.
11. Thomas was never in the military.

You may have heard me cursing talking about this next death certificate.  It is for my great great grandmother, Eliza Bourke Lanctot.
As before, the doctor supplied the information regarding the time of death and cause of death.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting information on this one.  Her date of birth is given as February 2, 1859.  However, if we subtract her "age" (70 years, 10 months, 20 days) from the date of death (December 22, 1930), her birth date is calculated as February 2, 1860.  Which is correct?  Where did the information come from?

This is where the REAL errors begin.  Her son, Art Lanctot, was the informant.  He must have been very confused and/or grief-stricken (or both) at the time.  He listed Eliza's mother as "Eliza Bourke" and her father as "Zenophile."  That's all well and good except that those are HIS parents, not Eliza's, which does not help me in the least when it comes to finding Eliza's parents.  So pretty much every detail that Art Lanctot provided has an underlying question mark.

However, there are still some assertions made by the document that must be taken into account:

1. Eliza died at 1:00 a.m. on December 22, 1930 in Armour, Douglas, South Dakota from lobar pneumonia with contributing factors of senility and obesity.
2. Eliza was a proprietor of a hotel.
3. Eliza may have been born on February 2, 1859 or 1860 in Michigan.
4. Eliza was a widow at the time of her death.
5. Eliza was buried on December 24, 1930 in Armour, South Dakota.

Now I can take the assertions made by each of these documents and plug them into their related proof arguments.  This is when the information becomes evidence (direct or indirect), and it can be evaluated accordingly in context with other evidence.

Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com