30 July 2013


I came across these on this site as I was doing some final research on Vicksburg. They're incredibly detailed. They originally appeared in Harper's Weekly on August 1, 1863.

And with this, I need to take a break from my Civil War era genealogy. I'm beginning a new job where my emphasis needs to be more focused on the American Revolution and Colonial history. I admit, my understanding and memory of that era is terribly lacking. I'm excited to begin a more fundamental study of American roots and my family's relationship to that period. You can look forward to much more on that at a later date.


27 July 2013

Our Southern Journey--My Confederate Heritage

[Like many in the genealogical community, I just watched the newest episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with Kelly Clarkson. Her comments on the Confederacy, the conversations that followed with my husband, and deep reflection on my struggles with my heritage are what inspired this letter.]

A letter to my descendants on the Cause and people of the Confederacy,

            In writing this letter, I do not want you to believe that I am trying to apologize for or cover up any part of our history. You will be taught throughout your life about the history of this nation, for it is your nation and your heritage. The American heritage runs as completely through your veins as that of any European nation from which you also are descended. Among your ancestors are some of the original settlers of this soil. Remember them. Be proud of them. Know their lives and their stories.
            The reason I write this to you is because I fear what you will be taught about my history and heritage. I fear that you will be taught to hate my blood, as I had been taught by those who did not know history well enough to present it truly. For this, I wish to leave with you my thoughts on my heritage. I pray you will receive them, and understand the love from whence they spring.
            Among my heritage, you have at least five direct-line ancestors that were a part of and fought for the Confederate States of America.  Their names are William Loveless, James P. McKenzie, Thomas Bartlett, Richard C. Keatts, and John M. P. Clark. If either my father's or mother's family possesses more Civil War soldiers, they likely will also be among the ranks and regiments of the Confederacy.
           Throughout your life, you will be taught that these men rebelled from the United States of America for the solitary purpose of slavery. You will be taught that they were men without honor, guilty of unspeakable crimes, not the least of which is genocide and racism. You will be taught that everything the Confederacy stood for is morally inferior to the cause of the Union, and it will be easy for you to think that being descended from them is shameful.
            But the history of the Confederacy and all those associated with it is not that simple. I hope you will never come to see the lives of men so easily defined through the schema of good versus evil, right versus wrong, Us versus Them. History and men cannot be reduced and boiled down into such simple terms. Anyone who would teach you to think this way grossly misunderstands the nature of humanity and the struggle in times of war, and will pass along to you the same misunderstanding.
            The cause of the Confederacy cannot be reduced to so simple a motive as slavery. The very thought is wholly absurd. Your ancestors who fought in the Civil War suffered all manner of privation--hunger and thirst to the point of starvation, exposure to the elements during extreme summer and miserable winter, lost brothers and comrades to the devastating exchange of warfare, and were divided from their families whose sacrifices and endurance cannot continue to be overlooked and understated. Not to mention the devastation of their fellow countrymen whose grief surrounded them on every side. A person ruled by pride and being morally inferior will not endure prolonged hardship and sacrifice for a price so low as free labor. By definition, the nature of being self-interested demands that he does not submit himself to anything like suffering and sacrifice. The citizens of the Confederate States of America, the average man of which possessed no slaves and would never be able to afford them, believed in something much more fundamental to their identity than slavery.
            These men, women, and children who called themselves Confederates fought, and in many cases died, to protect the States which they called home. Home and land were always at the forefront of their motives. If land were not at the heart of their interests, slavery would have been wholly useless to them as an institution. They felt their lands and their homes to be wholly threatened by Union invasion--and if any historical revision is needed, it is on this point. How can a citizen stand accused of rebellion when his opponent struck first? A people who is under attack by their government has all of the rights afforded to them under the Constitution to protect themselves. In this, the Confederacy was not guilty of treason. Self-defense is not sedition.
           The Confederate troops who enlisted in the regiments of the Southern states thought first and foremost of the safety and protection of their families--no different than a Union fighter. Regardless of why the heads of state began the War, they were common men who took up arms and went to war. It was the hope of common men from both sides that his fortune would allow him to be reunited with his family. When a man from either side was wounded, fell ill, or was killed, the same heartache followed at his adversity. The blood they shed was identical. The agony they experienced was real. Their prayers for their preservation were equal before God. As Kelly Clarkson can point to her starving ancestor who was a prisoner of war, I have a prisoner of war who endured the same conditions. In circumstances no less savage, he was no less a fighter in order to survive.
           Why is his human suffering worth less, in the thoughts and memory of some, simply because he was a Confederate?
           To be fully honest in the benefit of hindsight, one must acknowledge that the Confederate man's sacrifice possessed a unique element of heroism because of how greatly his odds were against him. He was outnumbered by his enemy in nearly every battle, underfed for most of his conflict, with less resources at his disposal, and with less aid that would ever come in his time of need. Statistically, his chances of survival would dwindle as the war continued as to make it a feat impossible on human strength alone. That the War continued for as long as it did is a testimony to his many virtues, the least of which is strength. Through their suffering and their triumph, these Confederate men proved themselves uncommon men; indeed, extraordinary men worthy of veneration.
           You will, with time and careful study, come to appreciate these men as I have. You will feel their influence around you, and you will come to know them as men of strength and resilience, of valor and fortitude. In their hearts was hope for you--their posterity. They fought as much for you and your rights as did the Union soldiers. You are only here today because of them, and their lives deserve to be honored by your deeds. Remember them not with less fondness than the Union soldiers of your heritage. I would sooner have you forget your Confederate heritage than have you dishonor it by speaking ill of them or harboring hatred towards them.
           And in whatever flaw you may find them inferior--in morals, in judgment, or in character--be grateful that God has made their weakness manifest unto you. Be humble and remember your responsibility to make all the more of the life and legacy they gave to you.
           In love I am ever yours,

Heather D. Collins

26 July 2013

Our Southern Journey--The Brogan Cemetery

Because we made such poor time leaving Texas, we tried to compensate by leaving earlier from Vicksburg. Which, admittedly, put us both into sort of a heated mood. The ongoing battle with the air conditioner in a twenty year old F-150 didn't help to cool things off either.

Which brings me to:
When my husband drives, it's like

Mistake #3--Don't assume you'll be able to "make up time" in the South

The posted highway speed in every state from Texas to Virginia was 70 miles an hour. In order to make up time, it requires you to drive faster than the posted speed limit. When your posted speed limit is 70 miles an hour, you never make up the time. Trust me. My husband tried, and it didn't happen.


Mistake #4--Have a back-up plan. If you don't have a back-up plan, be good at thinking on your feet

This one was all my fault, and I readily admit to that. I planned to go to three cemeteries. The Brogan and Clark cemeteries in Claiborne County, Tennessee and the McKenzie Cemetery in Grayson County, Virginia. Not only did I not calculate in nearly enough time and daylight to visit all three of these cemeteries, I didn't calculate any time in if something went wrong. And I fell right into the trap I had already seen coming.

There are two Brogan cemeteries in this part of Tennessee. I know this. I have seen them both on FindAGrave.com. I know that one of them is in the wrong county. And I even had it in mind that I needed to bring the locations of both in case I made a mistake.

Did I listen to my better judgment? No. Did we go to the wrong cemetery? Yes. Were we able to find the information for the other cemetery on our own? Not on your life. Did we have cell reception to fix it? Absolutely not.

At this point, I was already in hysterics. At least I had the presence of mind to say a prayer. If we could somehow find this one cemetery, the one I most needed to visit, I would be willing to give up going to the other two. And that was the price I had to pay for being unprepared.

My husband is amazing, and endlessly patient with me. Instead of becoming fed up and deciding to move on, he headed in the direction of town so we could at least get reception. He was going to stop at the town hall to see if they couldn't help us, while I was still dealing with my utter devastation in the passenger seat.

All of the sudden he pulls into the parking lot for a funeral home. I was somewhere between "That is a really good idea," and the bitterness of not getting my hopes up.

The two guys we talked to were obviously Southern gentlemen, and were very nice. We asked if they could tell us where the cemetery was, and they asked who we were looking for. I told them Willis I. Greene, and the elder of them pulled a book off the shelf and started looking for something. That's when he found this:

Brogan Cemetery roster--Caliborne County, Tennessee

My face must have given me away, because he said, in a perfect Southern drawl, "You didn't think we was gon' find this, did you?" I sincerely thanked them, and the younger gentleman gave us very detailed instructions on exactly how to get there. Together with the description on the cemetery roster, we had no problem finding the cemetery after that.

We drove down Upper Caney Valley Road, and I have to say that Tennessee is one of the more beautiful places God ever made. I loved it. And the only time I was grateful to be in an F-150 on that entire trip was when we got to the cemetery, because the entrance looked like:

Entrance to the Brogan Cemetery in Claiborne County, Tennessee

The cemetery itself wasn't in much better condition. The stones were in great shape, but it has grass and weeds as tall as I am.

After a very stressful afternoon, I finally found the headstone I had been searching for.

Headstone for Willis I. Greene and Laura Clark Greene, buried in Brogan Cemetery, Claiborne County, TN

Laura Clark Greene and Willis I. Greene

By the time we got into the cemetery and began taking pictures, it started to rain. And I mean, POUR. Between BillionGraves locking up my phone, the sheets of rain coming down, and our time being more limited than ever, we had to leave in a hurry.

We used all the time we had, and more, which made it impossible to wait out the rain or visit the Clark Cemetery. It makes me sad, because the Clark Cemetery was right down the street. But because it is even further off the beaten trail, it was safer in the end to leave it for another trip.

Brogan Cemetery--Claiborne County, TN

I've since added Brogan Cemetery to Google Maps, and will update the information for the cemetery on FindAGrave.com. Everything I can do to put this cemetery on the map is so important to keep Generation 2.0 from making the same mistake I just did. For better or worse, things that are not listed in the proper places on the internet are inaccessible in real life--and risk being lost to history.

Mistake #5--Don't forget to have enough to do

I was a passenger for the entire journey home because I can't drive a manual yet, and I was so bored. There is no reason for a genealogist to ever be bored, there is simply too much to do. Granted, most of the work on my to-do list required an internet connection, but there was plenty I could have done instead to pass the time.

I did manage to watch the episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with Kelly Clarkson, my reaction to which was definitely shaped by the experiences on my trip. My thoughts on it and those experiences are, for the time being

To be continued...

25 July 2013

Our Southern Journey--Vicksburg National Military Park

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I recently had a very long road trip with my husband. We traveled from San Antonio, Texas to our home in the Dover, Delaware area--a trip which took us through 7 states and lasted 60 hours total.

It was a trip that began as a compromise and ended as a test of our ability to work together. Because the primary purpose of going to San Antonio was to pick up his truck, part of my condition for spending the money was that we would do genealogy stuff on the way home. We planned to stay the night in Vicksburg and visit the battlefield, stop at two cemeteries in Tennessee, stop at another cemetery in southern Virginia, then make our way home. Our anticipated arrival time at home was late Tuesday evening.

Allow me to break down our mistakes from the beginning:

Mistake #1--Budget enough drive time, especially when driving through Texas

Because of weather, we decided to drive through Austin and onto Dallas instead of Houston. This was our first mistake. Never, EVER drive through Austin. For any reason. The traffic was horrendous--entirely stop and go for absolutely no reason. There was no construction, no weather, it wasn't even rush hour. For lack of a better explanation, people in that area just don't know how to drive on a highway. We lost a lot of time driving through Texas in general.

Mistake #2--When you go to Vicksburg, don't forget to see it all

Vicksburg battlefield has over 1,300 monuments and markers throughout the park. We had no idea when we showed up that this meant that each of our ancestors' regiments were represented by different monuments, along with the monuments for the both states, monuments for the commanding officers, and monuments for the surrender. Not to mention a live artillery demonstration. And a gift shop. We only discovered all of this once we arrived, and still missed the Iowa monument and the live artillery demonstration. Had I not asked the park ranger at the help desk about all there was to see, we would have missed most of the things on this list.

View from the Confederate line over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg National Military Park

Confederate line marker for the 61st Tennessee Infantry Regiment

Me beside the monument for the 61st Tennessee Infantry monument at the Vicksburg National Military Park

The Tennessee memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park

Being able to stand on the very line where John M. P. Clark fought was a special experience for me. It was the very same feeling I had at Antietam and Gettysburg--like my ancestors who fought there were right beside me as I was walking through the place. My Civil War veterans have become special people to me, and I love them more now than I did before I made these trips. I feel a sense of kinship with them that simply having their names on paper or in a database didn't provide for me before. I needed to walk on the ground they hallowed and understand their suffering before I could appreciate them the way I do now. 

 One of the highlights from the museum was this fiber optic map, which helps to give a look into how the battle played out.

Vicksburg National Military Park was an amazing stop on our journey through the South. As far as national parks go, it left nothing to be desired and gave us exactly the insight we were seeking. But it was only the beginning to what became a very long trip.

To be continued...

17 July 2013

Wednesday's Child--Hallie Doyle

My wonderful husband and I are making a trip to San Antonio for a week to retrieve some affects of his from his best man. Because this is marriage and compromise is king, I agreed that we could afford to do this on the condition that we do some real genealogy on the way home.

We're stopping at Vicksburg National Battlefield, then head to the Brogan and Clark Cemeteries in Claiborne County, Tennessee, and finishing up with a trip to the McKenzie Cemetery in Galax, Virginia before we head home. I'll be taking pictures and using BillionGraves to index the cemeteries.

There is a stark difference between these cemeteries which I have found interesting in planning our visits. The hardest thing about planning the Tennessee visits has actually been locating the cemeteries on a map. Trying to travel on roads that Google Maps doesn't know, I have to admit, feels like striking out onto a new frontier. I've done the best I can to give us the most detailed instructions possible because I have no idea how rural this is about to become. But every time I try to explain to my husband where we're going, it's basically like:

It'll be a really special experience to go see John Clark's grave at the Clark Cemetery after going to Vicksburg. He fought with the 61st Tennessee for the Confederacy, and I will definitely want to pay my respects for his sacrifice. I'm excited to learn more about where he was throughout the battle, and to stand on the ground where he stood.

Planning for the McKenzie Cemetery was very different because the cemetery is much larger, and in a wide open, accessible place. Thanks to New River Notes, together with context clues in some of the pictures from FindAGrave.com, I was able to map out the McKenzie Cemetery pretty accurately. If we have the time, we'll map out the entire cemetery using BillionGraves. If not, we'll do my family members and hit the road. It was hard to be selective because I'm related to at least 1/3 of the cemetery, but we have our limitations on time. Sometimes we can't afford to do all the good we want to do, at least not in one sitting.

Planning for this trip has proved to be just as productive as actually going. As I was combing through the cemetery index on New River Notes, I found something surprising...

Hallie Doyle on the McKenzie Cemetery roster--available on New River Notes, 17 Jun 2013

Buried in this cemetery at an unmarked grave is a child of Glenn E. Doyle and Pearl May Bartlett. As far as I knew they had 10 children who were all accounted for--all raised in Cecil County, Maryland. But it never occurred to me to look in this part of Virginia where they met (and, I assume, married) to see if they lost any children there.

Hallie Doyle is their daughter. I'm assuming she was born and died in 1926. She is the only person with the last name Doyle buried in that cemetery. It is a special thing to think that my grandfather had another sister that I didn't know about, and I've found her after all this time. She isn't lost or forgotten anymore.

And while her short little life no doubt brought anguish into the lives of her young parents, I know they're together with her now. There simple is not hurt on earth that heaven cannot heal, and I'm so happy that I can be apart of uncovering and preserving the history.

15 July 2013

Throwback Tuesday--Daisy Duck

As a child, I had a penchant for being very difficult. I was particular in the food I ate, the movies I watched, the games I played, and the children I would play with. This also manifested in the Disney characters I identified with.

Like most girls of my age, I loved the Disney princesses. Belle, Jasmine, Ariel--I had the works. But there was one character that stood out above all the rest. My more particular favorite.

Daaaaaaaaaaaisy Duck, as I called her then.

Was it her sassiness, her undeniable femininity, her ability to hold her own against a hot head like Donald? Daisy is the only female Disney character I could ever see getting into an all-out brawl with someone who crossed her in the street, while at the same time being sophisticated and glamorous. In the realm of helpless princesses waiting to be rescued by a man, Daisy was tough as nails. She'd put up her dukes and didn't take crap from anyone. To the little feminist I already was at three years old, Daisy Duck was the image of animated perfection.

Don Donald--Daisy's premiere

The problem with liking Daisy Duck in the early nineties was the fact that merchandise for her was non-existent. My mother searched all over creation for anything to do with Daisy Duck...

Donald's Double Troube

...and while I owned the VHS tape Starring Donald and Daisy, from which all three of these cartoons are taken, there wasn't much else for her to find. There was no end to the merchandise available for every other character, even the more obscure ones. But never any Daisy.

Donald's Diary

The first time my mother saw a Daisy Duck stuffed animal at the Disney Store, I was in college. She bought it for me, packed her in a flat rate box, and mailed her the 2000 miles to Utah where I was going to school. I opened the box, gasped, and started to cry. You'd have thought I'd come face-to-face with the Holy Grail. But in that moment, I had something infinitely more rare. I had a Daisy Duck.

And at a time when I was far from home, stressed and tired, discouraged and sad, seeing her there was a reminder that someone dear to me was missing me too.

And upon further investigation, Daisy Duck merchandise still doesn't really exist. If you go to the Disney Store website and attempt to search for your favorite character, Daisy Duck does not appear as an option. I saw two plushies, a Christmas ornament, and a mug. That's the extent to which they honor the original Disney Diva.

Disney may have by and large forgotten that they ever created a character as awesome as Daisy, but my mother and I never will. It's a piece of my funny little life she and I will always treasure.

13 July 2013



I was going to use this video as an example of how great it is to record family stories. Which is good. Definitely do it. Look how awesome they turn out.

But then I thought:

You know what this video is?

This is the example of that person--we all have seen it!--where they have an entire tree of information, a site, a book, an entire history written up, what have you...

And it's all WRONG. False. Made up. They didn't just stretch the truth, they pulled it apart on a molecular level. SPLIT AN ATOM.

Or they tell some unsubstantiated, wild story--and the only thing more crazy than the story is the fact that you believed it.

(We've all done it. Don't be ashamed.)

So be careful. You can't believe something just because some fool put it on their tree in Ancestry.com, or wrote it up and put it on Geocities a million years ago. Because for all you know, this crazy lady could have been the one who wrote it up.

Some stories you just gotta take with a grain of salt. Maybe more.

11 July 2013

Real Books and Fake Books--A Guide to using Google Books and WorldCat

Today I want to post about a match made in heaven. If you want to move into a position where you can do genealogy yourself, instead of paying someone/something else to do it for you, these two tools are pretty indispensable. 

Thor thinks your brick wall is LAME!

If only, right?

If we're going to have the success we want in our research, we need to embrace both old and new technology. When we're able to navigate them both, it helps us to have the maximum number of results.

The first tool is Google Books. There are plenty of tutorials on how to use Google and Google Books in genealogy. It helps you find digital copies of books. For clarity purposes, I will call these fake books. Here are some YouTube videos that explain how to navigate fake books if you need a place to start. If not, skip this part and go to....

This one takes less time to get a basic idea of what Google Books is and how to use it. However, Google Books has changed a lot since this video was made, so what you will see when you are using the site is different.

This tutorial is much more up to date and inclusive. It's a little long, but he covers all of the functions of Google Books and how to read fake books.

Here... This next tool will help you find real books in the libraries closest to you. It's called WorldCat.  Every fake book you find in Google Books is linked to WorldCat. WorldCat will allow you to search millions of libraries all over the world to find real copies of those same books.

Let's say you were looking in Google Books and you found a copy of a real book you really want to use. I'll show you one of mine, The Bartlett Tree & Thee by Hope Bartlett Taylor.

 On the left hand side, there is a link that says Find in a library. Click on it, and it will take you over to WorldCat.

It will take you to a page that looks like this.

At the bottom of this page, you will see a Find a Copy in the Library section. It's the second thing I have circled in green above. If you continue to scroll, you will find a list of all the different locations closest to you which have a copy of that real book. Make sure that the zip code or postal code listed there is the most accurate one in relation to where you are living, or your results will not be as accurate.

World Cat has a useful feature where it allows you to add your results to a List, organized however you may wish. You can organize it by surname, by time period, by project, or by the library which has the real book. If you look at the image above, you'll see another green circle around a link for Add to List. Click on it, and this screen will appear.

An orange box appears, and this is where you can make a new list, right from your search result. You can also add this result to a list you have already created. Make sure you have either logged in or have created a log-in username for this site, or you won't be able to save your list.

Type the name of your new list in the box where the green circle is. I prefer to organize my results according to the library which holds the information. Now if you wanted to add that result to a list you have already created, you can do that by clicking on it in the list inside the orange box.

There are two organization methods I would recommend. Organize your list either according to your family surname, or according to library. If you list it according to library, you will have a complete list of all the books you need in that location. You can print the list and take it with you. The problem with organizing your list this way is if you forget for which family you wanted the book. (I did that once.) That was how I discovered that when you go to your actual list, there is a note feature for each book where you can record that information.

To get back to your list, log in and click on your name at the top of the screen. Your lists will be in the middle of the screen, under a heading that says Lists. Click on the list you want to view.

Note how the list page has your results. Under each result, there is a little Note button. Click on it and add whatever information will help you remember why you wanted the real book. If you organize it by library, it may be helpful to include the names of the family members that appear in it. If that's too much information, you can use the name of the county or state together with the time frame of the information included in the real book.

Some people like to keep all their lists together with the rest of their research notes in a tool like Evernote or OneNote. Personally, I find using WorldCat to be easier for me because I think there are better ways to use my time than copying and pasting information. Plus, as new copies of the real books are purchased, or old copies are moved or removed, you'll have the most up-to-date information available to you in WorldCat.

As you build your WorldCat lists, pay attention to other libraries that may not be the closest, but may also have the real books you want to use. If you can identify one library that appears for all of your real book results, it may be better to make one longer trip to a single library than five or six shorter trips to smaller libraries. You have to be the judge of that for yourself. As you can see, I had an extensive list going for the Library of Congress because it had all of the books I was looking for. But as I kept searching and finding more obscure real books, I noticed that the New York Public Library had just as many of the results--including some things the Library of Congress didn't have.

I keep both lists updated with the real books I find. That way, whenever the opportunity presents itself to make either trip, I will be ready.

Some of you will want to note that the real books from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City do not appear in WorldCat. They have their own websites here and here which you can use to search their collection. Those sites don't have a list function, but I could just as easily create one on WorldCat! Note that on the second link, they are beginning to digitize and make fake books too!

Times are changing. Those who like to keep their work strictly old school with real books are going to miss out on so many opportunities they will never even see passing them by. Those (like me) who have been relying too heavily on the digital tools are missing out as well, wasting time doing work that has already been done, making the same mistakes that have already been made.

To be a more complete genealogist means to change with the times in appropriate ways. Using Google Books and World Cat wisely has helped me to achieve that balance more completely.

 And now, as a reward to making it to the end of this post, here's something that can make us all feel better.


When the website I need is down, missing, or has changed its interface to something I don’t know how to use, at first I’m like:

Then I'm like:
Can I have the other one back? Just a for a few more minutes?

08 July 2013

Madness Monday--Barry Ewell, You're a Tool

There is evil afoot in the genealogy community. And while I hate basing what I post on current/trending/controversial events, this one has its usefulness to me as I tighten up my belt on a few things. (Note my Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA Copyright at the bottom of the page.)

Barry Ewell is the founder/owner/whatever for MyGenShare.com. Many of the big-name genealogy sites, including Cyndi's List, have recently discovered that he has plagiarized them in his work.

The consequences will now be a coup which will jam my RSS feed for an undisclosed period of time with the exact same story, which is really going to piss me off. Everyone will hash and rehash their grievances, then publicly lick their wounds--regardless of whether the rest of us actually care.

Do I care?

So Barry Ewell, I'm going to do something that should equally ruin your day. In fact, I wish I had the time or the experience to do it on a much bigger scale than I'm currently able to do. Give me time, and I'll get there.

So here it goes.

Paid genealogy is the biggest waste of money you could ever commit against yourself. With time, practice, and basic common sense, you can avoid ever having to pay anyone for anything they could possibly teach you about genealogy. I refuse to pay for anything in genealogy because I have since figured out that I don't need to do so. (Exception: Donations. There wouldn't be a need for paid genealogy if people would donate the way they should.)

Most of the money which is spent on genealogy is not money well spent. Here are some examples of what I mean.
  • With the same money you spend on magazines, subscriptions, memberships, trips to conferences--all of the many services which paid genealogy has to offer--you can actually go out and DO genealogy yourself. Instead of paying to go to Las Vegas for whatever conference that was, I can pay to drive to Tennessee and Virginia to transcribe the cemeteries for my great great (and great great great) grandparents, for my mother and father's family both. Using free tools like BillionGraves and FindAGrave.com, and even this blog, I can do my work and share it with everyone who needs it on my own terms. And because there are many people out there who agree with me, there will always be a free site you can use to find the information that you need. Always. It's the first lesson of the novice in genealogy--the first time they pay for something, then find it somewhere else for free.
  • The very sites and services you pay for end up making money off of your contributions, regardless of what you do. I am the very first person to have ever researched the patri-lineal line of my father's family. When people will begin to search for anything in relation to that line, my work is the work they will WANT to find. And Ancestry.com requires them, by default, to pay to see my information. Which is totally unnecessary, because I give it away on least a half a dozen other sites FOR FREE. Does Ancestry.com tell you that? No, because they have no idea. Nor do I expect them to do so. I am pleased with their services, and I am willing to allow them to make money off of someone for exactly as long as it takes that person to realize it is unnecessary. But not one moment longer. 
  • You will end up wasting your money. My husband's mother's family is from Iowa. He was paying for a membership to a genealogical society in Iowa so he would have unlimited use of their records. Included in that membership are newsletters with genealogical information in them. Sometimes they're indexes to cemeteries, sometimes they're bios for important people, things like that. Do you know when the last time was that my husband paid his dues? He has no idea. Do you know how many times he has received this newsletter? With postage encroaching on 50 cents, enough times to exceed the 10 dollars a year in dues that he paid. Do you know how many times he has been back to that part of Iowa since he purchased the membership? Not one time. Do you know where all of those newsletters are? They are sitting inside of our genealogy chest in our closet. Many of them are unopened. Before that, they were sitting inside of various boxes, packed away until we got married and had a place of our own. He hasn't used them at all. The genealogical society lost money on him, and he paid $10 dollars for quite a bit of precious information. Which is exactly the kind of thing that happens to you when you do it yourself. No amount of paid subscriptions to websites will ever recreate that kind of experience.

My husband and I have become wiser in how we spend our money on genealogy. We spend exactly what we want to obtain an exact desired result. We know what we should have to pay for success, and we refuse to pay one cent more than that. And what Barry Ewell has done is a reflection of my least favorite kind of person in genealogy. It isn't someone who expects to get something without paying--because that is exactly what my philosophy is. It isn't someone who refuses to work--the man obviously read enough material from enough sites to piss a lot of people off, so you can't say he didn't work. It isn't even someone who doesn't give credit where credit is due--because I don't want credit. Needing, no, NEEDING credit is basically...

No, the reason Barry Ewell gets on my nerves is because he is the exact evidence of why some people shouldn't get involved in paid genealogy. (Because if he wasn't getting paid, he wouldn't care enough to steal.) They give genealogy a bad reputation and give everyone a bad taste in their mouth. They make everyone else paranoid about whether or not someone is going to steal from them, so they become more reluctant to share. They make new genealogists think that genealogy is all about money, and reluctant to even start. Because of people like Barry Ewell, everybody loses--including people that don't care he exists. Like me.

So Barry Ewell, you are now a tool. You are someone that everyone is now going to use to excuse themselves from giving--or in my case, a reason to give MORE. Either way, more than anyone else, you lose.

How you like dem apples?

04 July 2013


Genealogy involves a lot of paperwork--charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, and all kinds of things you end up keeping and stashing way. Personally, I prefer to keep all of my work as digital as possible because it takes up a lot less space and I can make identical copies of everything I need. What my husband spends over an hour doing on paper, I can get Ancestry.com to print for me in 10 seconds.

But switching between windows on a laptop screen can be so awful while I'm trying to research. And since I keep all of my data on the web, whenever I'm without internet means that I cannot work. Between my phone, my computer, and my Kindle you would think this would never be an issue, but anything can still happen.

All of this has brought me to the realization that paper records really wouldn't be such a bad thing. But if I'm going to invest the time in drafting paper copies of my research, I'm going to get EXACTLY what I want. So my husband taught me how to make forms for Microsoft Word, and I created a custom family group record that has everything I wanted on it.

The top section is for document and source tracking. I fill in each line for all of the members of a family, then write in all of the source documentation I have for each person. Using brief key phrases under each column, I can know at a glance what I have already found for each person. For example, under Death I would type in Obit for obituary, or SSDI for the Social Security Death Index.  In the Census section, I'll put the last two digits of the census year so I can see when different family members appeared on each census.

The next section is for census tracking. I put the year, the county and state so I can keep track of how the family moved from place to place. In the notes section, I can remind myself anything important about that particular census--if the family appears on two pages, or to differentiate when I have two different census copies from the same year.

Beyond these sections, it functions as a standard family group record, complete with check boxes for LDS ordinances. Note:
  • B/C is Baptism/Confirmation
  • Ini is Initiatory
  • End is Endowment
  • StP is Sealed to Parents
  • StS is Sealed to Spouse
This document isn't just one you can print, you can type all of your information into the proper spaces and print it out once you've finished. I have it set up with all edits restricted excepted the forms themselves, so you don't have to worry about deleting anything other than what you have filled in. If you want to make other changes, you can disable the restricted edits (there is no password) and make whatever kind of modifications you would like.

You can find the document here. Simply download the form and you can try it out for yourself.