1930s. The Great Depression. Dust Bowl. WPA (Works Projects Administration). CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). Do any of these terms sound familiar to you? If your family tree includes young adults in the 1930s, then they may have found work through one of these programs. My husband’s maternal grandfather, Horace Clayton Johnson, was one such person. In this post, I share pictures and a document about his service.
First, a brief history lesson. The Works Projects Administration (WPA), established in 1935 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program, employed millions who were unemployed after the stock market crash of 1929. Many projects involved construction of public buildings and roads. The WPA Graves Registration Project surveyed cemeteries and created indexes for the burials. Those tombstones have since aged another 90 years and may now be unreadable. Also, you may find grave markers not listed on other sites. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted trees and constructed trails and shelters in national and state parks.
Now, about Horace. Horace Clayton Johnson was born 7 April 1915 in Ben Hur, Limestone county, Texas to Henry Louis Johnson and Nellie Black. Henry, a farmer in 1920, moved his family to Mexia City, Texas by 1930 and was listed there as a carpenter. In 1935, twenty-year-old Horace, the third of 8 siblings and second of two boys, probably needed work to help support his family. So, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.
He was a member of Company 839, established 1.6 miles east of Trinity, Texas, on June 8, 1933. Trinity is about 100 miles southeast of Mexia. This was probably the furthest young Horace had ever traveled from home. The men constructed and maintained fire lanes, fire break roads and telephone lines.  Membership in The Corps included an educational component. In March, 1935, Horace received a Certificate of Proficiency in Simple Arithmetic and Spelling.
We are not sure exactly how long Horace served in the CCC. In 1937, he married Mable Venette Reed, a native of Cherokee County, approximately 70 miles northeast of Trinity. Perhaps they met when Horace was in the CCC?
In summary, discovery of these items adds to Horace’s story. And, places him within a specific time period in American history. I wonder how many other treasures might be found in old suitcases and boxes!
Mother-in-law and I found these pictures and document when going through a box of old family pictures. All items have now been placed in archival quality sleeves and the appropriate notebook. I was especially surprised to find the Certificate of Proficiency. This kind of document is all too often discarded by later generations. The fact of Horace’s residence for a time in Trinity County presents a clue about how he may have met Mable, a native of Cherokee County.
I discovered the Iowa WPA Graves Registration website about 10 years ago, when researching a possibly related branch of Dad’s family. I am not sure how many counties or states had similar projects. Also, I am not sure how many are readily available on public internet sites. If you can’t find cemetery records for a person who died before the 1930s, contact your local county or state historical society. You may be surprised at what you find!
What I learned: more about the Civilian Conservation Corps, which I vaguely remembered from American history classes. Specifics about what Horace’s group did.
What helped: retrieving pictures and document with my mother-in-law. Internet sites with information about WPA and CCC. Less than 1000 words! I like these shorter blog posts!
What didn’t help: nothing specific.
 Texas, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate LL18432 (23 February 1942; copy issued 26 Oct 2011), Horace Clayton Johnson; Limestone County Texas County Clerk, Groesbeck, Texas.
 1920 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Pt Enterprise School District, enumeration district (ED) 81, p. 3A, dwelling 41, family 47, H.L. Johnson head, age 32; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 1 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1829.
 1930 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Mexia, enumeration district (ED) 11, pg. 6B, dwelling 135, family 149, Johnson Henry L, head, age 46; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 1 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626, roll 2371
What topic for this blog post? Thomas MacAntee reminded us that April 10 is Sibling Day. My mother-in-law and I have been going through old pictures, labeling as we go. I remembered that we found a picture of MIL’s aunts, her father’s sisters. Horace had one brother and six sisters. So, this post honors Horace and his siblings.
PARENTS: Henry Louis Johnson, born 9 February 1884 in Texas; died 16 September 1965 in Mexia, Limestone county, Texas. Married 3 July 1910 to Nellie Kay Janet Black, born 16 January 1888 in Bowie, Montague county, Texas; died 2 May 1960 in Mexia, Texas. They are buried in Point Enterprise Cemetery, Mexia, Texas. All their children were born in Limestone county, Texas and all but one remained in Texas. According to my mother-in-law, the siblings remained in close contact throughout their lives. Many of their descendants still live in or near Limestone county.
Katie Jean Johnson (13 May 1911, Horn Hill, Limestone County, Texas  -7 January 1986, Mexia, Limestone county, Texas). Married to David Henry Brannan (1906 – 1990).
Luther Clyde Johnson. (12 February 1912, Ben Hur, Limestone county, Texas -16 December 1938, Mexia, Texas). Married Lillie Robinson  (1909 – 1965).
Horace Clayton Johnson (mother-in-law’s father). (4 April 1915, Ben Hur, Texas  – 30 June 1991, Wells, Cherokee county, Texas).  Married 23 October 1937 in Alto, Cherokee county, Texas to Mabel Venette Reed (1918-1997)., 
Alice Pauline Johnson. (23 Aug 1917- 26 Apr 2016, Hewitt, McLennan county, Texas). Married about 1937 to Homer Andrew Tarkington (1915-1994)., 
Anna Ruth Johnson. (13 November 1919- 2 September 2003, Mexia, Texas). Married 19 September 1939  to Richard Elbert Romain (1918 – 1989). Divorced 1969.
Edith Nell Johnson. (3 March 1922 – 24 August 1998, Odessa, Ector county, Texas). Married 22 June 1939 to Billy J Gray (1922 – 1976).
Mary Lois Johnson (28 June 1925, Mexia, Texas – 17 July 2001, Denver, Colorado). Married Stanley Ewing Davis (1923 – 1982).
Marjorie Ann Johnson (7 October 1928, Mexia, Texas – 1 May 2005, Stafford, Fort Bend, Texas). Married Woody Burl Davis (1925 – 2001).
1937 – two weddings, Horace & Alice Pauline.
1938- Luther Clyde died.
1939 – two more weddings, Anna Ruth and Edith Nell.
Per oral family history, Horace was only mechanic in Cherokee County during WWII so wasn’t drafted because farmers in the area needed his expertise to keep their farm equipment running.
World War II service:
David Brannan, Navy, 19 April 1943 – 29 September 1945 
Stanley E Bradford, Army, 25 Feb 1943 – 31 Jan 1946
6 of the 8 siblings lived longer than their spouses.
1944 or 1945- three more weddings -Katie Jean, Marjorie and Mary Lois.
Buried in Point Enterprise Cemetery, Mexia, Texas
Alice Pauline Johnson Tarkington
Anna Ruth Johnson Romain
Marjorie Ann Johnson Davis
I was undecided about what to write for this week. The recognition of a National Sibling Day provided inspiration. Writing helps with two genealogy goals –review and clean-up files for Johnson- Reed family and post a story about that family. As often happens, I came across some previously unknown information. I need to verify before I can tell you more. According to MIL, her dad (Horace) was spoiled by his sisters.
The number of source notes for this short piece looks overwhelming. I considered posting without the sources. Recognize that most of the notes are from one of these repositories: Social Security Administration, Texas Department of State Health Services or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with some personal copies and obituaries thrown in. Including sources is a genealogical standard.
What helped: RootsMagic family tree with names and dates, some completed citations and some document copies, access to online trees and databases. Recent look at old pictures.
What didn’t help: incomplete citations, copies of some documents missing. Duplicated some records unnecessarily.
What I learned: there are always new stories to be found.
To do: continue review and clean-up process for the Johnson-Reed family. Remember to look closely at both digital and paper files before making extra copies.
 “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed ), certificate for Henry L. Johnson; citing Texas State Department of Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 Online family tree; no document or source attached.
 “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 27 February 2020), entry for Nell Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 37422.
 “Texas, U.S., Birth Certificates, 1903-1932,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 12 April 2021), entry for Johnson female; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch ((http://www.familysearch.org : viewed 12 April 2021), Jean Brannan, death Jan 1986.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), David H. Brannan, 457-03-9640, before 1951.
 “Texas, U.S., Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 12 July 2020), entry for Clyde L Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 “Funeral services held Monday for Mexia High School Teacher,” obituary, Mexia (Texas) Daily News, 12 April 1965; Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : viewed & downloaded 11 April 2021).
 Texas, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Texas Department of Health, delayed birth certificate LL18432 (23 February 1942; copy issued 26 Oct 2011), Horace Clayton Johnson; Limestone County Texas County Clerk, Groesbeck, Texas; personal copy.
 Horace Clayton Johnson, death certificate no number (30 June 1991), Texas State Department of Health, County Clerk’s Office, Angelina county, Texas, Lufkin, Angelina county, Texas; personal copy.
 Cherokee county, Texas, marriage record no. 333 (23 October 1937), Horace C. Johnson and Mable Venette Reed; Cherokee county, Texas, Alto, Texas; personal copy.
 [No first name] Reed, birth certificate 46451 (15 February 1918), Alto, Cherokee Co., Texas Texas State Board of Health, Vital Statistics Unit, Austin, Texas; Photostatic copy issued 27 Sep 2011.
 Mable Venette Johnson, death certificate 8245 (12 July 1997), Texas State Department of Health Services, Austin, Texas, County Clerk’s office, Cherokee County, Texas, Alto, Cherokee Co., Texas.; photostatic copy issued 22 July 1997.
Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 8 December 2016), memorial page for Alice Pauline Johnson Tarkington, Find A Grave Memorial # 161721169, citing Point Enterprise (Mexia, Limestone County, TX), memorial created by Ann Lewis Dickenson.
 “Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1932,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded ), Amendment to Certificate of Birth for Homer Andrew Tarkington; citing Texas Department of Health, Austin,Texas; state file no. 26796
 Social Security Administration, “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), entry for Homer Andrew Tarkington; citing Social Security Administration, Washington, D.C..
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Anna R. Romain, 462-03-0924, before 1951.
 “Texas Divorce Index, 1968-2002,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021); citing Texas Department of State Health Service, Austin, Texas.
 “Edith Nell Gray,” obituary, The Odessa (Texas) American, 26 August 1998; digital image, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : viewed & downloaded 12 April 2021). page 11, columns 1-2.
 “Texas, U.S., Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 19 July 2020), Billy Gray; citing Texas Department of State Health Services. Austin, Texas.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Mary L. Bradford, 463-26-8036, before 1951.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 13 April 2021), Stanley Edwin Bradford, 521227675.
 “Texas, U.S., Birth Certificates, 1903-1932,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, downloaded, printed 7 December 2020), entry for Margie Anne Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas.
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Woody B. Davis, 449-42-1703, before 1951.
 “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” database, Ancestry ( http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), entry for David H Brannan; citing Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs..
 “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), entry for Stanley E Bradford; citing Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs..
 Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 12 April 2021), Woody B. Davis, 449-42-1703, before 1951.
Just when I thought I had things under control, I re-prioritized my genealogy goals and began writing an article about my mother’s ancestors for a genealogy journal. I thought that I had most of the information on three to four generations of descendants. I thought that I had most of the sources for that information. Over the last month, I discovered that neither one of those assumptions are true. In this post, I describe my journey to date.
What have I done to prepare for writing an article? In January of this year, I participated in a month-long webinar about writing. I bought a book, Guide to Genealogical Writing, and have been reading it. I downloaded a template for writing using the Register style. I created an outline of people who I would be writing about. On the outline, I numbered each person as they would appear in the article.
Stratton and Hoff suggest to temporarily stop researching and start writing. So, I have done that. I discover gaps in family stories –gaps not always identified in my RootsMagic tree. Information on my RootsMagic tree on my computer is only partially complete, especially for the later generations. Sources are also incomplete. However, the families are becoming more real as I notice similarities and differences in family experiences. Example – sisters who both buried husbands and at least one child.
I began writing the family stories with the information that I have. As I write, I make a note in red that a source or other information is needed. I try to complete at least one person’s story each day. I follow the “cite as you write” guideline. Sometimes, I stop writing and follow clues to locate a source or other information. As a result, my personal tree is becoming more complete. So, the exercise of writing the family history for a genealogy journal has its benefits.
Previously, I focused on the older generations, typically those who lived and died before the early decades of the 20th century. This article includes four generations from my German ancestors in early 1800s through the latter part of the 20th century. I choose not to include information about any persons who are still living.
What have I learned from this? It takes more time than expected. There will be gaps to fill in. There will be sources to find. Even if my articles are not accepted for publication, I will leave fairly comprehensive and extensively researched histories to share with descendants. For your information, if the articles are not accepted for publication, I will share the information with you through my blog. Yes, I said “articles”. Last year, I started another article about a collateral family on Dad’s side. I put aside that article to tackle other projects. When the current article is done, I plan to take up the second one again.
A man has an affair and leaves his wife for the other woman. He plans to sell the family farm and other property, leaving his wife and children virtually penniless. Wife discovers the scheme and files a restraining order. She eventually divorces the man and receives a substantial settlement. Sound like a story from today’s headlines? Well, this story happened in the 1850s. In honor of Women’s History Month, I tell the story of Elvina Masters Cole, a woman who fought for her rights.
This is a true story gleaned from various records. I discovered the basic information as I researched my brother-in-law’s adoptive family. Another descendant of Elvina’s graciously contributed his extensive research on this matter. Both gave permission to share her story here.
Elvina Masters was born 25 April 1813 in Bowling Green, Warren county, Kentucky, the daughter of Richard Clement Masters and Agnes Cochran. She married Thomas J. Cole on 10 November 1831 at Springfield, Illinois.  Children followed quickly with their oldest son, William, born on 16 October 1832. William would later become embroiled in the family scandal. About 1835, Thomas and Elvina moved to Bureau County, Illinois. In June 1838, Thomas J. Cole was accused of adultery and fathering a child with Pyrena B Ellis. Although Pyrena claimed that he was not the father of her child, Thomas was indicted for adultery.
In March 1849, William married Ellen Emeline Bradshaw, a servant in the Cole household. Ellen was later named in Elvina’s divorce. The year 1850 finds Thomas and Elvina with six children in Berlin, Bureau County, Illinois.  The children were Catherine, age 16; John,age 12; Albert, age 10; Thomas J., age 8; Elizabeth, age 4 and Mary, age 1. The family farm was valued at $5000. Two more children would be born to Thomas and Elvina– Cornelia in 1851 and Enos in July 1857.
On 20th February 1857, Elvina Cole filed for divorce from Thomas J. Cole in Bureau County, Illinois. Her complaint stated that, about November 1848, her husband, Thomas, brought “ into their family as a house servant Ellen Emeline Bradshaw.” After which, Thomas’ “affections became alienated and estranged and at the same time showing a criminal fondness and regard for Ellen. . . “ (Note: Ellen is recorded as Emaline/Emeline in some documents). Recall that William, son of Thomas and Elvina, married Ellen in March 1849 and reportedly lived with his parents during the first months of their marriage. In September 1849, William and Ellen “removed to a small tenement upon the farm of her [Elvina’s] said husband and lived there for about 18 months, when the said William Cole left her and departed from this County.” Thomas moved Ellen back to the family home and moved himself into Ellen’s bedroom.
By March 1856, Elvina had had enough of this arrangement and forced Ellen out of the house. Ellen supposedly moved to her father’s home. Thomas left home for weeks at a time “to find Ellen.“ On February 20, 1857, Elvina filed for a divorce.  (Bureau County case #395). Her complaint stated that “Thomas left home on 5th January 1857 and has not returned. “ William Cole filed for divorce from Ellen on August 12, 1857. 
Before he left, Thomas “tried to sell and dispose of all his property. . . “ including two farms with an estimated worth of $25-30,000 plus “a large amount of stock, grain & money.” Elvina asked for a restraining order to prevent Thomas from selling and disposing of the property “then abscond” with the funds which would leave her and her children “helpless and destitute.”
The outcome? Elvina was granted a divorce on 29 September 1857 by order of default. According to Neal Smith:
The documentation as being in Township 17, North Range 10 East (now known as Berlin Township in Bureau County). In Section 6, the property was the west half of the northwest corner, and the west half of the southwest quarter. In Section 7, the property was the west half of the northwest corner, along with 50 acres on the west side of the east half of the northwest quarter.
Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” page 11.
William Cole was granted his divorce from Emeline/Ellen on April 19, 1858, also by default. 
Elvina was deeded the 140+ acre farm on which she was living, worth about $10,000 or more (equivalent about $335, 000 today). She was also to receive alimony payments of $700 yearly (about $21,000 today) with the property to be held as a lien.  If alimony was not paid, Elvina could sell the property or remain and take the profits. In September, 1867, Elvina finally received all rights and title to the farm. She was now a wealthy woman.
Elvina never remarried. She died 16 December 1882 at Ohio township, Bureau County, Illinois, from bronchitis and was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery at Dover, Ilinois. Her grave is unmarked.
March is Women’s History Month. I decided to write about at least one woman in the family tree. I am going to make this a specific goal each year from now on. As I mentioned earlier, I encountered Elvina as I researched my brother- in -law’s adoptive family. Her story impressed me then and it still impresses me. She exerted her rights at a time when women had few rights. I am grateful to my brother- in- law and to Neal Smith for allowing me to share Elvina’s story.
What I learned: the power of collaboration with others.
What helped: previous work done and documented. Neal Smith’s extensive work copying and transcribing handwritten county court records.
What didn’t help: incomplete entries for some items.
To do: still looking for Elvina in the 1860 census. Neal Smith also mentioned that she seems to have disappeared from the records in 1860 although there is an 1862 tax record for her in Bureau County Illinois.
 Neal Duane Smith, transcriber and compiler, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings of Thomas J. Cole (1810 to 1873?), among the first persons of European descent to reside in Bureau County, Illinois, as well as documents relating to the divorces of his three oldest married children“ (PDF digital copy, 2012); privately held by Neil Duane Smith, [address for private use], Davenport, Iowa, 2021.
 H.C. Bradsby, editor, History of Bureau County, Illinois, (Chicago, Illinois: World Publishing Company, 1885); digital images, Hathi trust (https://babel.hathitrust.org : accessed 14 March 2021); pages 274 & 295.
 1850 U.S. Census, Bureau county, Illinois, population schedule, , p. 206B, family 343, Thomas C Cole 40; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed 31 December 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M432_99.
 Bureau County, Illinois, Circuit Court Case 395, Elvina Cole vs. Thomas J. Cole; County Clerk’s Office, Princeton, Illinois. Original handwritten documents photographed, with permission of County Clerk, by Neal Duane Smith, 2012; included affidavits from William T. Cole, Elvina Masters Cole, John L. Cole, Catherine Cole Murphy and William Masters.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” pp. 19-26.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” pp. 99-117.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” page 11.
 Neal Duane Smith, “Documents preserved in the divorce proceedings,” page 77. Transcription of Bill for Divorce, filed 29 September 1857.
Find a Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed & printed 10 March 2021), memorial page for Elvina Masters Cole, Find A Grave Memorial # 198838221, citing Pioneer Cemetery (Dover, Bureau, Illinois), memorial created by Good Oman, no gravestone photo.
 “U.S., IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 10 March 2021), no page numer, Elvina Cole, Dover; citing The National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Illinois, 1862-1866; Series: M764; Roll: 20; Alphabetical list of persons residing in Division No. 11 Collection District no. 5 of the state of Illinois.
Who should I write about for today’s post? This question has bugged me for the last two weeks. Although I am working on several projects, none are ready for a report yet.
This year, I started tracking my blog post topics more closely. I created a spreadsheet with information about each blog post including date, title of post, and person or persons discussed in the post. I made a table with number of posts related to each family by year. The highest number for a given year reflects my primary focus for that year.
What determines my focus for a particular year? I started my blog in April 2017 with goal of sharing information more or less equally about each family line. An August 2017 family reunion trip to Pennsylvania generated more posts about dad’s family. In 2018, I received family pictures and other items from two cousins on mom’s side. Cataloging those pictures and items steered me to Tucker-Maurer family for 2018. My father- in- law’s death in February 2019 guided me towards the Ellerbee family. Johnson-Reed family then became focus for 2020 as I prepared another scrapbook.
As I write each post, I check sources, revise citations and identify gaps to be filled for each person. I pose and try to answer at least one question. Content in my family tree improves. Sometimes, a person contacts me about an ancestor named in an online tree or blog post. These contacts often generate a topic for my blog. DNA matches also yield possible blog topics.
For my blog, what are the benefits of delving deep into a particular family or person? Well, I try to discover the story beyond the basic facts. I seek a better understanding of the person and share that information with others. I feel like I am more intimately involved in their lives.
Writing about a variety of people has been a blessing. I reach a wider audience with the potential of contacts from more than just one branch of the family tree. Often, I choose the person or topic just a few days before I publish. I am writing shorter blogs so there may be more series about a particular person or family.
Right now, I have several projects in the works. I am writing two articles to be considered for publication in genealogical journals. Due to potential copyright issues, I must defer writing more here about either of these. A potential DNA match contacted me about a specific line. Several years ago, I made a note in my files and asked questions similar to what this DNA match is asking. I give what input I can.
Question for today is still- where do I go from here? And I don’t have a good answer. I search for inspiration from various sources such as blog posts written by others. I review my goals for the year but nothing stands out at this moment. I have been here before. A spark of inspiration will come! In the meantime, I continue the process of cleaning up at least one family tree. Stay tuned!
Do you track the political affiliations of your ancestors? I don’t but plan to start! From obituaries and other items in newspapers, I have seen both Democrats and Republicans in my family tree. I believe that many family trees show similar differences. In this post, I report one set of brothers with differing political views and briefly outline the beginnings of our current system.
First, the brothers. I found this newspaper item while researching my maternal ancestors. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Maurer. I’m not sure if we are related to these men. Political divisiveness is, and has been, common.
Newspaper item from 1 June 1891 issue of Times Union newspaper, Brooklyn, New York:
Death of Michael Maurer. Michael Maurer, a brother of Alderman Theodore Maurer, died to-day from kidney disease at his home, 92 Moore street. The deceased was 41 years of age. He had been ailing for some time. Unlike the Alderman, who is a Democrat, the deceased was an ardent Republican, and was a member of the delegation of his ward to the Republican Committee. The arrangements for his funeral have not yet been made.
I wonder who wrote this and why it was so important to note the brothers’ political differences. I found this article as I searched for information about Theodore Maurer, brother of my ancestor Valentine Maurer. I haven’t found any records indicating another brother named Michael. So, I added a search for the parents of this Theodore Maurer and his brother, Michael Maurer, to my BSO list.
How did political parties begin? According to Jill Lepore in her book, These Truths, “. . . a party system- a stable pair of parties — has characterized American politics since the [Constitutional] ratification debate.”  There were many precursors to our current parties:
1790s: Federalists supported ratification of the constitution and Anti-Federalists opposed it.
1830s: Democratic party formed. Whig party formed.
1848: Free-Soil Party formed. They believed in “free labor (the producing classes)” rather than “slave power (American aristocrats).”  Received support from free Blacks and women.
Late 1840s: Know-nothing Party, also known as American Party, formed. They wanted to extend the naturalization process to 21 years and strongly believed in nativism, which “refers to a policy or belief that protects or favors the interest of the native population of a country over the interests of immigrants. [Source: “Nativism in America and Europe”, Scholastic, Teachers, Grade 9- 12, ( https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/nativism-america-and-europe) ].
1854: Republican party formed; joined by Whigs, Free-soilers, Know-nothings and northern Democrats, all of whom opposed slavery. “ If the Democratic Party had become the party of slavery, the Republican Party would be the party of reform.”
1800s: Democratic party has roots in populism, with its belief in a broken system of government.  Populism eventually yielded to progressivism.
The Democratic Party
“By the mid-20th century, [the Democratic Party] had undergone a dramatic ideological realignment and reinvented itself as a party supporting organized labour, the civil rights of minorities, and progressive reform . . . . the party has also tended to favor greater government intervention in the economy and to oppose government intervention in the private noneconomic affairs of citizens. ” (Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Democratic-Party: accessed 13 Feb 2021 ).
Historically, women supported the Republican party. However, Eleanor Roosevelt’s influence changed that dynamic as more women chose the Democratic party instead of the Republican party . 
Today, many associate the Democratic Party with liberal, progressive views and the Republican Party with moderate, conservative views. Platforms of both parties appear to reflect the influence of earlier parties. (my opinion).
In summary, the divide between political parties often extends to a divide between family members.
Today, the people of the United States seem more divided than united with little common ground between the two predominant political parties – Democrats and Republicans. I wonder how my early American ancestors would view our current discord. I live in a country where I can disagree publicly with others. Some seek to silence those with a different opinion. As Americans, we should protect our right to freedom of speech, even when political views differ.
I tried to present a balanced picture of our American political parties. I will not debate political ideologies in this forum. In each post, I do a bit of teaching, carryover from 25+ years as a teacher. Another genealogist recommended Jill Lepore’s book which has an interesting perspective on American history. This post is less than 1000 words!
I met two goals last week – completed project for distant Smetts-Maurer cousin and a writing course. Started writing an article.
What I learned: Another Maurer family in Brooklyn, New York. History of our two-party political system and how they evolved. Definition of nativism.
What helped: online access to newspapers; purchase of Jill Lepore’s book.
What didn’t help: Temptation to search for parents of this Theodore and Michael Maurer instead of working on current projects. My own political views, knowing that I should present a balanced approach.
To -do: Add to BSO list- Discover parents of Michael and Theodore Maurer.
 “Death of Michael Maurer,” death notice, Times Union (Brooklyn, New York), 1 June 1891, “Michael Maurer, a brother of Alderman Theodore Maurer, died to-day . . . “; Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed and downloaded 10 February 2021).
 Jill Lepore, These Truths: A History of the United States (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2018), 211.
Genealogists ask questions and try to find answers. Often, more questions arise as we search. This was the case as I explored the lives of Rosina Maurer and her husband Wilhelm Jacob Smetts. I reported that journey in a February 2018 post. As I searched local newspapers, I found the name of Henry Renk connected with Rosina. I made a note that this was a BSO to be explored another day. Now three years later, I found the answer. In this post I describe what I found and how I found it.
The newspaper clipping that generated my interest in 2018 was from a 1949 New Brunswick, New Jersey newspaper.  It said ”Henry Renk attended funeral services for Mrs. Rose Smetts at the home of Mr. and Mrs Robert Smetts in Matedeconk Thursday evening.” Rose/ Rosina was sister of my maternal great-grandfather, Herman Maurer. Robert Smetts was one of Rosina’s children. I posed the question – What is Henry ‘s relationship to Rose?
In November 2020, a distant cousin saw my post about Rosina and Jacob and contacted me. He asked for more information about the children of Rosina and Jacob. That’s when I rediscovered Henry Renk. Rosina and Jacob’s youngest child, Robert Earl Smetts married Ethel Renk, the daughter of Henry Renk and Carrie Culver. In 1949, Henry attended the funeral of his daughter’s mother- in- law. Henry had been a widower since 1917. Henry, born 1873, and Rosina, born 1868. were of the same generation. He probably empathized after her loss of both a son and husband within the space of one month in 1936.  Both had been born in the United States to German immigrant parents.
In June, 1950, Robert and Ethel Smetts held a family reunion party in their home ” in honor of the 77th birthday anniversary of Mrs Smetts’ father, Henry Renk of Ridge road near here [ Monmouth Junction, New Jersey]”.  Forty-five guests attended including Earl Renk, Edgar Renk , Albert Renk and their families. I imagine that the house overflowed with “14 grandchldren and eight great-children.”
Henry Renk died 27 November 1960 and was buried in Kingston Cemetery, next to his wife.  I have more information about Henry, his wife Carrie and their family. However, I am not going to delve into that here. I added their names to the family tree on Ancestry.
A mystery solved and a BSO addressed. I realize the value of keeping record of BSOs. You never know when something will prompt you to look at it again, even years later. This was not a high priority item but does help to round out our family’s story.
What I learned: keep good notes and include your sources. Obituaries and those personal notes in older newspapers are treasure troves of information.
What helped: Previous work and my notes.
What didn’t help: Not having either paper or digital copies of all newspaper articles.
To-do: Keep digital and/or paper copies of newspaper articles. Add URL for those articles to research logs.
 “Henry Renk attended funeral services”, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey”, local newspaper (9 Jul 1949): p. 7; PDF images, Newspapers.com (http://www/newspapers.com : accessed 10 Feb 2018), key word Mrs. Rose Smetts.
Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.finagrave.com : viewed 28 January 2021), memorial page for Carrie Renk, Find A Grave Memorial # 44168202 , citing Kingston Presbyterian Church Cemetery (Kingston, Somerset County, New Jersey), memorial created by Wayne Irons, photograph by Wayne Irons.
 Jacob Smetts obituary. “”William J. Smetts”,” death notice, The Central New Jersey Home News, 14 December 1936, death date, death of son, funeral information; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed, downloaded, printed 16 February 2018); citing The Central New Jersey Home News. p. 17, column 4.
 “Reunion is attended by 4 generations ”, The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey, local newspaper (28 June 1950): p. 4; PDF images, Newspapers.com (http://www/newspapers.com : accessed 6 Jan 2021).
. “Henry Renk,” obituary, The Central New Jersey Home News, 28 November 1960, Henry Renk . . . died yesterday; Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : viewed & printed 30 January 2021).
 Find a Grave. Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave : viewed 28 January 2021), memorial page for Henry Renk, Find A Grave Memorial # 44168201, citing Kingston Presbyterian Church Cemetery (Kingston, Somerset County, New Jersey, USA), memorial created by Wayne Irons, photograph by Wayne Irons.
“Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings.” One of my 2021 genealogy goals. What do I mean by “review and clean”? In this post, I tell you what I am doing, step by step.
Overall, I hope to have a consistent paper trail for each family/person. The paper trail also has a digital component which I describe later in this post. In my very first blog post (April 2017), I listed paper forms for each person’s file. I bought colored file folders – blue for Dad, teal for Mom, green for Father-in-law and red for Mother-in-law.
PAPER FILES. STEP 1: REVIEW
Does the file have these forms? Is each form filled in as completely as possible? Is each form dated? Taken together, these pages represent a concise summary of what I know at this time. The forms that I use are:
5- generation pedigree. Created from home person (father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in law) for each tree from RootsMagic. Placed as first page in each file with specific generation circled in red. Reason: rapid identification of where this family fits
NOTE: There are multiple versions of these forms. These are the ones that I chose:
Individual worksheet. Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Public Library System, Missouri. Fillable PDF. Add compiler name & date.
Research checklist. Midwest Genealogy Center,Mid-Continent Public Library System, Missouri . Fillable PDF. Add compiler name and date.
Biographical outline: Excerpted from The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook, copyright 1996 by Emily Anne Croom, Betterway Books, a division of F&W publications, Cincinnati, Ohio. HINT: Check your local library for a copy of this book. Add compiler name & date.
Research Log (as available): Thomas MacAntee’s format. Fill in as I clean-up digital files; handwritten research notes on yellow paper.
Additional pages in a paper file may include but are not limited to census records, copies of certificates, copy of newspaper obituary, correspondence with other researchers, etc.
PAPER FILES. STEP 2: CLEAN UP.
Place documents in chronological order.
Remove duplicate copies. Shred or recycle excess paper.
Place original documents and photos in archival quality sleeves then in appropriate notebook. Scan document or photo to computer or Cloud as digital items.
Make a list of gaps and BSO (bright shiny object) items for later follow-up.
For me, digital file review and cleanup began after choosing a genealogy software program and entering information to that program. However, you may already have digital files such as pictures and documents on your computer. In this post, I only address media type digital files. File structure for all of your digital genealogy files is beyond the scope of today’s post.
DIGITAL / MEDIA FILES. STEP 1. REVIEW.
Compare paper and digital files. Do you have the same information in both files? Example: 1940 census record for grandfather. Copy of index record in paper file; image copy of original record in digital file.
Look at labels attached to media. You may have multiple media labelled as “1940 United States Federal Census(5).”
Locate all media files for a specific person or family group.
DIGITAL / MEDIA FILES. STEP 2. CLEAN-UP
Using standardized citations to acknowledge sources is one part of digital file clean-up. Another part standardizes naming conventions for media files.
Pick location for media files associated with a specific person or family group. As you rename media files, move the renamed files to this location. (Hint: you may need to relink media files in your genealogy software program).
Determine naming convention for media. Use the same format consistently. In general, I use these models:
Census records: Year_ type_place_state_family or person names
Individual records (BMD, burial, military, etc.): surname_given name_birthyear_deathyear_event_eventdate.
Adopt source citation model commonly used by genealogists. Consult these sources:
Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltinore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015). Website: https://www.evidenceexplained.com/
Rename source citations and media as needed.
Delete duplicate entries for the same fact or event.
Back up digital files at end of each work session.
Here’s some examples from my family trees:
As I encounter new information, I add to both paper and digital files. My genealogy program workflow looks like this:
Enter event information to RootsMagic. Note if inconsistent or unproven and reason why. Add discovery date.
Create source citation using templates.
Name source and media using standardized naming convention.
Make digital copy of original documents or rename digital media. Attach digital media to event and citation.
Transcribe information from source.
Create digital research log using format of choice. Print one copy for paper files.
Back up digital file at end of each work session.
Seem like lots of work? Well, yes, right now. But, I will leave both paper and digital files in formats that will, I hope, seem logical to my descendants. Writing this blog keeps me focused. I remind myself – one record, one person, one family at a time!
A new year and time to set goals for my genealogical work. In my Last Post, I reported how l I did with 2020 goals. Some goals were met and others were not. I have a mixture of broad and specific goals. Broad goals enable me to follow leads as they pop up. Specific goals lead me in a certain direction. For 2021, I make some goals more specific than in previous years.
One of my goals last year was to purchase voice recognition software. Prices of these programs seem high. I went back to Genealogy Do- over Facebook page and looked at comments about the various programs. One suggestion was to use the Microsoft 365 voice recognition app. So I’m trying it for the first time with this post. I will keep you informed.
2021 Genealogy Goals for Susan Posten Ellerbee
Posten-Richards family (dad’s family)
Revise at least 4 chapters of Posten family history book. Explore publication options. (One chapter done in 2018; one chapter rewritten in 2020). *Priority item for 2021
Follow-up on at least one BSO generated from previous searches.
Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings.
Tucker-Maurer family (mom’s family):
Complete descendant list for Smetts-Maurer family as requested by cousin.
Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings.
Follow-up on at least one BSO generated from previous searches.
Ellerbee-Simmons/ Johnson-Reed (husband’s family)
Scan original documents in paper files. Place originals in archival sleeves and appropriate notebook.
Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings in each family group.
Create family group records with citations as addendums to scrapbooks given 2019 & 2020 for at least 4 family groups.
Continue to trace descendants of slaves owned by Ellerbee & Johnson ancestors. Use templates and directions from the Beyond Kin project.
Follow-up on at least two BSOs generated from previous searches (one from each family group).
Post on regular basis, optimally every 2 weeks.
Post at least 2 stories about each family—Posten-Richards (dad), Tucker-Maurer (mom), Ellerbee-Simmons (father-in-law), Johnson-Reed (mother-in-law).
Limit each post to about 1500 words or less.
Purchase or download software to post GEDCOM family tree. Post at least 2 family trees to blog. (continued from 2019).
Continue to address Genealogical Proof Standard in reports.
Continue to place To-Do/ BSO items and questions for each family on color-coded file cards.
Send for at least 4 BMD certificates.
Submit article begun in 2020 to a local genealogical society for publication in their newsletter. Specific family/ person TBA.
Add to Research Toolbox: books “Dating Vintage Photographs”.
Enroll in at least one genealogy-related webinar or online class, topic to be determined.
I forgot to mention genealogy budget in my last post. So, here is my budget and actual spending for 2020 and proposed budget for 2021.
My 2020 goals were mostly general. However, general goals allow me to go where a search leads me. I could say “ identify siblings of great grandfather, Daniel S. Posten” but instead I choose to leave my annual goals more generic. I have been using yellow pads more this past year. When I sit down to work, I write a specific objective such as “ find Daniel Posten family in 1870 census.” Then, I make notes about which towns I searched. These yellow sheets are effective research logs for me.
I do create a digital research summary log of my findings. I sometimes forget to look beyond the first page. I looked at other formats and decided to stick with what I have been using.
I probably use different methods to organize and document my work than you. Each person uses mechanisms that work for them. However, we all desire similar outcomes – to identify our ancestors, to find out about their lives and to share our findings with others.
2020- the year of Corona-virus pandemic. Shutdowns and shut in by fear of contagion, hundreds of thousands of deaths, health care systems pushed to the brink. The world has not seen anything like this since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919. Yet, there is hope. Millions survive and a new vaccine has been rolled out. Yet, the work of genealogists continues as we test the limits of available resources. We postpone visits to libraries and county offices. In this post, I briefly tell of my own challenges and review my 2020 goals that seemed so achievable when I wrote them.
January 2020. As a retiree, my daily schedule is fairly regular- genealogy work, housework, needlework and reading historical novels. Then, news of Corona virus took over the air waves and our lives. My mother-in-law’s chronic health issues became acute. Her doctor would have put her in hospital if not for CoVid. My sister-in-law and I split her 24/7 home care. Mother-in-law moved in with husband and me for several weeks until she was stable. This started the next chain of events.
We offered an open invitation for mother-in-law to sell her home and move in with us. She made that decision in June. We prepared her room with new flooring and paint. Her house sold quickly. After she moved, we held a living estate sale of items not taken by friends and family. Time for my genealogy pursuits shrank significantly during this period.
At the first of the year, we had reconfigured our home office and my computer workspace. Within just a few weeks, my shoulders began to hurt. My keyboard sat on the desk. Instead of an ergonomically safe posture, I bent my arms and shoulders up. Typing became almost unbearable. Long hours at the computer decreased to no more than 30-60 minutes at a time. An old typing table now provides a lower platform for keyboard. My 50+ year old solid oak desk resists attempts to drill holes for a undermount keyboard. Shoulder pain still exists and improving slightly.
These personal events impacted my pursuit of genealogy. As I review, I believe that I may have been over-optimistic when I set my 2020 goals. I also admit to a slight depressive effect of all the negative news on my mood. I lost motivation to complete tasks. However, I did achieve some goals. Most notably, the family cookbook project is complete!
For your information, here are my 2020 goals and my record of achievement of those goals.