Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Magic of a Horizontal Family Tree

Photo : Horizontal Family Tree / Carrie Norwood
Last week a cousin contacted me.  He'd had his DNA processed at FTDNA and was excited to find that FTDNA says we are fourth cousins.  His father was adopted and he believes us to be related on his father's side.  If I only knew who all my 3rd great grandparents were, we might unlock the mystery of his father's heritage!

Unfortunately, he and I are genetically related on a branch of my family tree that I know very little of.  Or should I say, that while I know we are related on my father's side, he and I are NOT related on the branches of my family tree that I have identified MRCA genetics on or that I know a great deal about through research. So I don't have  fairy tale story of unlocking the family mysteries of my adopted 4th cousin once removed (even were the FTDNA estimate to be accurate, which is another post altogether, I'm sure).  But I do have a fairy tale about how freakin' easy it was to get a list of my 3rd great grandparents.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Week Something - Research Checklist

Photo : Checklist / Nemo / Public Domain
Week... something.  It is a week happening during the genealogy Do-Over in which I'm doing Genealogy Do-Over things a bit behind the weekly schedule.  At my own turtle pace.  Not a turtle who has seen food though - just a regular, ambling turtle.

Part of this process for me has been watching stuff that other people post and learning new tricks and techniques.  One such new (to me) technique is the genealogy research checklist.  This helped me solve three problems :

Tracking the Negatives

 I have always kept person-centric notes about the research in which I found something interesting - but I have never tracked what I didn't find.  Or where I searched that I didn't find anything.  While I don't know of any issues that this definitely caused, thinking about it, I can see how likely it was that I was re-searching for evidence that wasn't there.

I was also, most likely missing vital clues about an individual resulting from the absence of of a record in a particular place.  For instance, this evening, I ran through my checklist and searched each census in which my grandfather would have appeared.  I noticed that while he shows up on the census with his parents when he was 4 years old, and I can find a census for his parents and his younger sibling ten years later - he isn't on it.  This is the first time I've noticed that.  Most likely because I was simply looking for his name and when I couldn't find it on a census, probably put it off for another day, assuming I just needed to look harder or differently.  When I wrote down that I found him on the 1920 census and could not check off the 1930 census, this caused me to look for his parents, which I found - and realized the clue that had been staring me in the face the whole time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Oops I cheated

Photo : Break the Rules / chickspirit / CC 2.0

So, I spent last night cheating on the genealogy do-over.  Like all night, I absolutely shamelessly cheated.  A lot.  We weren't supposed to start researching at all.  Instead, I entered myself and my father and researched his parents and siblings.  At the time, it felt like 90% itch to get moving but in retrospect, in the bright sunshine of a new day, given that I am the victor, I get to write that history any way I want, right?

So, I say it was all in the name of science!  I, in fact, spent my time observing what I was doing and how - and came up with some new insight into doing it right.  I have new golden rules, some new Evernote processes and some new knowledge of Legacy Family Tree.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over

Photo : Nagasaki Bomb / public domain

I've decided  to start from scratch with a genealogy do-over.  Here's why :

1) I started poking at genealogy about fifteen years ago and since then have amassed a hodge podge of records, notes and tree data, some of which originated before I knew that a lot of what one can find online in other trees is hogwash.  I know my knowledge level will continue to evolve, but OHMYGAWSH, my processes could sure use a logical, fresh perspective makeover.  Fifteen years is a lot of change and due to the nature of research documentation, incremental change is not always the way to go.  Thus the hodge podge.
2) These days, I am chasing down so many ancestor stories at once that I get this flood of information that trickles through various stages of research but most often, never makes it to my tree software.
3) Geneaology, for me, has evolved from 'interesting thing I do sometimes' to 'immersive hobby that I am borderline obsessed by'.  Just like a career musician might have the best of the best in instruments, it's time I have the best of the best in well oiled genealogy machines.  I want to re-imagine what I'm doing in a way that keeps up with new technology and takes full advantage of what's available these days.
4) There is no better time than now, while there are so many people doing it!  I'm excited to have the pointers and support from everyone who's doing it along with me.  Really, having the community has made all the difference.
Week one is about laying groundwork for where to put genealogy stuff and how to put it there.  It looks like this :
  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research
  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Petition of Free People of Color Asking that an Act to Impose a Poll Tax be Repealed - South Carolina

This petition, and the associated statement of supporters, was filed 20 April 1794 in South Carolina in an effort to overturn the Poll tax. Among it's signers are the Turners, the family of my 5th great grandfather, John Turner, which is how I encountered this document.

This entire journey through my own history, dove tailing my experiences with inequalities that still exist in our modern society, has been an eye opening experience in the most horrific of ways.  This post isn't about politics, it's about a thing that happened that my ancestors were involved in -  but I believe that I would be remiss in my understanding of the experiences of my ancestors, which is the point of my research, without noting two things about this document that highlight the stunning inequality between people of color and white people, at the time.