Writing & revising a family history. Part 1. Content & format.

This blog post is the first of three posts about revising a previously written family history. The focus of this post is Content and Format. The next post discusses Citation of Sources. The third post, Evaluating Sources, includes types of sources.  Examples from my own work are incorporated throughout.

When I grew serious about genealogy 10 years ago, one goal stood out– to write and publish a history of dad’s paternal family, Posten. Writing the family history became more important following Aunt Grace’s death in 2011. Aunt Mary, dad’s youngest sister, is the only one of Dad’s siblings still alive.  I finally completed the history in 2012 and sent copies to a few people, including Aunt Mary.  The original manuscript[1] traces our family back to Thomas Postens (1782-1854), dispels an oral family tradition about Thomas’ parents and grandparents, mentions family histories of several women who married Posten men (maiden names of Richards, Fulkerson, LaCoe)  and discusses our possible relationship to Poston/ Poste/ Posten families found in late 1700s/ early 1800s Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The document represents over 20 years of genealogical research.

The format of the first edition is relatively informal.  Yes, I presented facts and noted sources.  I also included information about the research process, such as moving forwards and backwards in time to discover the names of all 8 children of one family and the mother’s maiden name.  Journal type entries are common. I documented process as well as results. In essence, I created a working document rather than a finished piece.

My sister commented that the history was ‘confusing’. When I read the document again in 2014, I realized what she meant. It all made perfect sense to me!  But, it may not make sense or seem logical to others.  For example, in each generation, I began numbering individuals again with number 1.  My reasoning? I thought it would be easier for my elderly aunt, and others, to understand. While that may be true, random numbering does not meet any genealogical standard.  Over the years, I have read and consulted multiple published family histories.  Each one seems to have its own numbering system!

How important is it to follow a genealogical standard for numbering? Some may consider this irrelevant.  I respect their opinion, especially if the system is logical and easily followed by readers.  Identifying your readers guides your choice of numbering. A sequential numbering system in which each person has a unique number, starting with ‘1’, is one possibility.  However, if you plan to submit part or all of your work for publication elsewhere, such as an historical society journal, follow the guidelines for that journal.  A recognized numbering system improves the quality of your work in the eyes of others.  An item added to my research toolbox is the 2008 summary by Joan Curran, Madilyn Crane and John Wray, Numbering your genealogy. [2]

Since 2012, I attended several workshops and webinars about publishing and consulted with a professional genealogist. Participation in the Genealogy Do-Over[3] helps me to refine research skills and extend my research toolbox.  I began to look more critically at each piece of data and each document. Right now, I am still stuck on finding my great-grandfather, Daniel S. Posten (born 1859) and his parents, James D. Posten and Meriam Mills, in 1870 census. This particular objective has been temporarily put aside. See how my thought processes work?  Not always in a straight, linear fashion!

Back to writing, revising, and eventual formal publication of the Posten family history. Based on what I have learned, recommendations include:

  1. Choose and follow a specific numbering convention for lineage. Rationale:  Follow a specific, recognized genealogical numbering system.
  2. Reorganize content, start with Dad and work backwards in time. Include facts and stories about direct ancestors with only 1-2 paragraphs about collateral and ‘possibly related families’.   Rationale:   Less confusing while still acknowledging real and possible relationships.
  3. Describe research process as addendum to relevant chapter or section. Rationale: readers can choose to read or skip this information.
  4. Add family group sheet at end of each chapter, as relevant. Rationale: provides overview of family, including siblings of direct ancestor.
  5. Write articles about collateral families (surnames of women who married Posten men) and other ‘possibly related families’. Delete most, if not all, appendices.  Rationale:  Less confusing to readers.  Shows readers that additional information is available, if they are interested.
  6. Insert footnotes at bottom of each page in addition to a reference/ source list at the end of each chapter. Rationale:  When readers copy individual pages, they often copy only that page and may not also copy or refer to the list of references at the end of the chapter.
  7. Revise entries for footnotes and reference/source lists. Rationale:  Follow recognized system with complete and accurate citation of sources, recording the “specific location of each piece of data” and “details that affect the use or evaluation of that data.”[4]  Location does not necessarily refer to the library where you found the item but to the item itself.  (Citation of sources, including footnote entries, will be addressed in another post).
  8. Locate print copies of as many sources as possible. Whenever possible, cite the print item rather than online image. Rationale: This is a personal preference.  I prefer to handle the actual book or journal article or document.  The original item sometimes has additional information that is not included online. If print copy is not readily available,  use online copy of the original source, such as online copy of print book.
  9. Locate original sources for online images and indexes, as needed. Consult and reference the original sources/ repositories.   Rationale:  Many online images are from sources other than the website on which found. Online indexes use other sources to create the index.  Example:  The National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) is the repository for U.S. Federal census records, not online websites which show images of those records and/or provide an index of the names on the original census record.  However, if using an online website, acknowledge the website as the place where you found the record as well as citing NARA as the original repository.

Here’s the original sequence of chapters and proposed changes:

Original Proposed revision
Chapter Working Manuscript- 2012 Proposed Changes- 2017
1 Posten Name The Posten name:  origins, derivative spellings, history of Pennsylvania county formation & relevance
2 Family origins- original immigrant. (moved to Chapter 8 in proposed revision) Daniel Richard Posten (1917-1998) & Eunice Bertha Tucker (1919-2007)- my parents.  Include info about meeting George Avery Posten in 1980s. Add brief info about Tucker  family.
3 Pennsylvania Posten families early 1800s. Summary of Poston histories (moved to Chapter 8 in proposed revision). Pennsylvania county formation (moved to Chapter 1 in proposed revision). John Ray Posten (1898-1948) & Jennie A. Richards (1884-1964) – my grandparents. Brief info about Richards family.
4 Jacob Postens. Includes descendent list from 1700s to 1900s.  (revision – brief mention in ‘who’s the daddy’ chapter). Daniel S. Posten (1859-1918) & Elizabeth Phoebe Fulkerson (1860-1938). Brief info about Fulkerson family.
5 Richard, Samuel, William Postens (included summary of Samuel Posten descendants in New Jersey).  (revision – moved to ‘who’s the daddy’ chapter) James D. Posten (1829-1914) & Meriam Mills (1834-1897). Brief info about Mills family.
6 Thomas Postens Thomas Postens (1784-1852) & Esther Brown (1790 -1841).  Brief info about contradictory information for children of their daughter, Phoebe.  Mention Elihu Posten as caretaker of Thomas’ deaf son after Thomas’ death.
7 James D. Postens Who’s the daddy?’ of Thomas Postens.  Evidence for & against each possibility. Omit detailed descendant lists.
8 Daniel S. Posten.  Includes Fulkerson/ Fulkerson. Beginnings.  Original immigrant.   1700s – early 1800s.  Poston family histories.  Summary of PA Posten families in other parts of the state, specifically Huntingdon county.
9 John Ray Posten. Includes Richards & LaCoe. Summary.  Include complete descendant list for Thomas Postens.
10 Daniel Richard Posten Not needed.
Appendices Appendix A.  Benjamin Avery Posten, Missouri Omit appendix.  Ancestor of George Avery Posten. Article for Oklahoma Historical Society journal.  Refer to article in relevant chapter.
Appendix B.  Elihu Postens, Monroe Co, PA Omit appendix. Brief mention in Thomas Postens’ chapter as caretaker of Thomas’ son deaf son after Thomas’ death. Article for Monroe County Historical Society.
Appendix C. William Poste/ Posten of Bucks & Huntingdon counties. Included info about other Posten families in Huntingdon county. Proposed lineage & link to James Posten & Rhoda Shafer of Iowa. Omit appendix.  Brief mention about William in ‘Who’s the daddy’ chapter. Series of articles:  1) William & Peter Poste to Huntingdon County PA Historical Society.  2)Other Posten families in Huntingdon County PA. 3) James Posten & Rhoda Shafter to Cass County, Iowa Historical Society.  Possibly a ‘how I did this’ article.

progress imageProgress to date:  chapter 1 revision – done, following the above recommendations.  Revision process begun on Chapter 2.   To anyone who hasn’t compiled your research yet,  start small, with one or two stories or generations.   Writing these blog posts has helped me.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hiREFLECTION:   took more time than I expected.  Went to library for print copies of many books which I had accessed online.  Pleased to find that Oklahoma History Society library has a complete set of the Pennsylvania Archives series plus other books that I used. Somewhat discouraged that I didn’t see duplications and confusing sections earlier.

What helped:  writing down a plan for the revision.  Print copy of 1st  edition as well as copy of 2nd edition on computer screen for easy comparison of both versions as I edit.  Time away from 1st edition allowed me to see it from a different perspective. Glad that I didn’t send 1st edition to county historical societies.  Constructive criticism from relatives who have a copy of 1st edition. Research tools obtained from participation in Genealogy Do-Over.  Attending a week-long webinar series about writing family histories and receiving additional input from an expert.  Further refinement of proposed family history.

What didn’t help:  Not being able to locate some sources again.  Some files are still not organized.  I have begun to use various tools more consistently so this problem should be minimized in the future.

What I learned:   One step/ chapter at a time.  Read previous chapters again before starting on next one. End product will be more reader-friendly with minimal duplication of information.

[1] Susan Posten Ellerbee, “Posten Family of Northeast Pennsylvania” (Yukon, Oklahoma:  Susan Posten Ellerbee,  [address for private use, ] Yukon, Oklahoma), 2012.

[2] Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane & John H. Wray.  Elizabeth Shown Mills (Ed.). Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families and International Kin. Special Publication No. 97.  (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2008).

[3] Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016);  download from Amazon.com

[4] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015), 43.

How many children did Phoebe Postens & Ludwig Brutzman have?

My last post introduced Esther Brutzman Lee,  daughter of Phoebe Postens and Ludwig/Lewis  Brutzman.   The 1850 census for Hamilton Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania also listed 10-year-old Alexander Bertyman [Brutzman] with Phoebe and Esther . [1]  Did Phoebe and Ludwig have other children?  brick wall Children Phoebe LudwigAccording to a Brotzman/ Brutzman family history[2] published in 1968, the answer is ‘Yes’.  But, the Brotzman history does not list either Esther  or Alexander.

 

Ludwig Brotzman/ Brutzman,  born on May 9, 1815 to John Brotzman and Suzanna Meyers,  “married Phoebe Poston of Pocono Township, Monroe County.  Later moved to Luzerne County, near Shickshinney.” [3] Again, Phoebe’s maiden name is given with no mention of her parents.  Five children are listed for Ludwig and Phoebe in the Brotzman history [4]:  (transcribed as written; each person was given a specific number.  Asterisk (*) indicates that more information was given about that person).

Phoebe Ludwig children from Brotzman history

Church records and an interview with a descendant are the sources given.  Church records are usually considered reliable and valid.  Interviews may or may not be reliable, depending on the age of the person and the distance in time from the events being related.  Personal bias may also color one’s memories. Unfortunately, I have not seen the church records and do not currently have access to them.

The 1900 county history[5] reads: ” In 1853, he [Philip S. Lee] married Miss Esther Brutzman, who was born in 1830, daughter of Lewis Brutzman, a well-known resident of Stroud Township, and his wife, Phebe (Posten), who now resides with our subject at the advanced age of eighty-two years.”

Do these two documents refer to the same Ludwig (aka Lewis) Brutzman and Phoebe (aka Phebe) Poston(aka Posten/ Postens)?   Names are similar enough to warrant a positive response.  Residences in Monroe county, Pennsylvania, are also consistent.  Inconsistent are the reported names of Ludwig and Phoebe’s  children.   Only Esther and Alexander, who are not named in the Brotzman history, are recorded as living with Phoebe in 1850.  Esther died in 1901[6], eight years before her husband, Philip[7],  so cannot be confused with Emily, who was apparently still alive in 1930.

Combining information from all documents yields 7 children for Ludwig and Phoebe:

  1. Esther, born 1836.
  2. David, born 1837.
  3. Alexander, born 1838.
  4. John, born 1840
  5. James.
  6. Jacob, born 1848.
  7.  Emeily.

For the moment,  assume that all seven children were born to our Ludwig and Phoebe.  Questions shape my to-do list:

  1. Why are Esther and Alexander not listed in the Brotzman family history? Speculation:  Esther and Alexander were baptized in a different church than the other children or not baptized.  Was Ludwig the father of all the children?   To do:  Search other church records.  Locate and search records of same church as referenced in Brotzman history.
  2. Where were the other children (David, John, James, Jacob and Emily) in 1850?  Speculation:  Ludwig died between 1848 and 1850.  Phoebe cannot care for all of them, so they were sent to live with other relatives. To do:  Search for other children in 1850, 1860 and later census records in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.   Locate Emily Stair in 1930 census, then follow her back in time.  Confirm Ludwig’s death date.  Search for more information about Ludwig and Phoebe in other documents, such as other county histories and newspapers.   Seek help from others, such as Daughters of the American Revolution in Monroe County.
disco-ball-150x150

For the moment, the search for more information about this family is a BSO (bright, shiny object) to be explored later.  I am thoroughly frustrated but still intrigued!  Still looking for document/s that name Phoebe’s parents. 

Sources: 

1]1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Phebe [Phoebe] Bertyman [Brutzman]; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed 3 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 789.

[2] (Compiler), Mary H. Forbes (compiler).  Descendants of Johan Frederick Brotzman and Maria Barbara Brotzman, 1738-1968. Laceyville, Pennsylvania: C.A. Christian, 1968. Repository: Monroe County Historical Society, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

[3] Ibid, p. 78, person #352.

[4] Ibid, pp. 78-79. Persons 833-837.

[5] Commemorative Biographical Record of NortheasternPennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and many of the early settled families. (Chicago:  J. H. Beers & Co., 1900), 150; digital images, WayBackMachine  (http://www.archive.org    : accessed 5 May 2017).

[6] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed & downloaded 4 November 2017), memorial page for Esther A. Brutzman Lee, Find A Grave Memorial # 84801350, citing Stroudsburg Cemetery (Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania), memorial created by P. Fite.

[7] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com : viewed & downloaded 4 November 2017), memorial page for Philip Shrawder “Big”  Lee, Find A Grave Memorial #158026280, citing Stroudsburg Cemetery (Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania), memorial created by P. Fite.

Proving Phoebe’s maiden name through her daughter, Esther

You finally order and receive the death certificate for your direct ancestor!  You eagerly look for the name of his or her mother.  She is recorded as  ‘unknown’ !

Unknown mother DC sample

Copy of death certificate from digital files, Posten-Richards Family Tree.

Information for a death certificate is given by a member of the deceased’s family.  These informants do always have all of the information requested.  So, where do you go from here?  The answer may be in collateral research, which focuses on those who aren’t your direct ancestors, also known as siblings, in-laws and other members of your extended family.

Start with census records for your direct ancestor, especially those from 1850 on.  Beginning in 1850, census records listed the names of household members.  However, relationship to the head of family was not recorded until 1880.   Scenario:  the first name of an older woman is listed in the same household as your direct ancestor in one of these later census records. The woman is old enough to have been your direct ancestor’s mother.  Later, you get the death certificate for a sibling of your direct ancestor.   This death certificate lists only the mother’s maiden name!   But, you now have two clues – a first name and a possible maiden name.   Follow those leads to confirm both given and maiden names of your direct ancestor’s mother!

This post details a recent session with a goal to discover if Phoebe Bertyman/ Brutzman/ Bowman  is the sister of my paternal great-great grandfather, James D. Posten (1829-1914).  James’ death certificate[1] lists his parents as Thomas Postens and Esther Brown.  A newspaper story about a Posten family union [2] described James as ‘the youngest son’.  Collateral research and indirect evidence are the models

The search began with an 1850 census record for Phebe Bertyman in Monroe county, Pennyslvania. [3]  Thomas Porton [Postens], age 68, is listed first, followed by Jonathan, age 30, James, age 19, Phebe [Phoebe] Bertyman, age 27, Esther, age 14, and Alexander, age 10.

1850 United States Federal Census(14)(1)

1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Phebe Bertyman [Brutzman]; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com    :   Accessed 16 Aug 2010 and 3 May 2017); citing National Archivesand Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 798.

My best guess is that Phoebe is Thomas’ daughter and that Esther and Alexander are Phoebe’s children.  After searching other pages of the Monroe county census,  I believed that ‘Bertyman’ was probably Brutzman or Brotzman, so I followed that lead.  An unsourced online family tree [4] showed these ‘facts’:   Phoebe’s husband =  Lewis Brutzman;  Esther’s husband = Philip S. Lee;  Esther’s death date= after 1900 in Monroe County.

New goal:  Prove  above facts through census and other records.  Specific plan:

  • Search census records in Monroe county, Pennsylvania from 1860 through 1900 for Esther, Philip, and Phoebe, using Ancestry, Family Search and/or American Ancestors databases.  If unsuccessful,  try name variations first, then surrounding counties.
  • Repeat search strategy for marriage records. Note:  1900 census usually lists how many years person has been married.
  • Enter information to Research Logs and Roots Magic family trees.

Results:  Census:  1900:  Philip Lee and wife,  Esther , found in Monroe County, Pennsylvania with children and 84 y/o Phoebe Bowman, mother-in-law.[5]   An online tree cited a county history book with information about Philip and Esther.  That book  was found online  [6]   with this entry:  “In 1853, he [Philip S. Lee] married Miss Esther Brutzman, born about 1836, daughter of Lewis and Phoebe (Posten) Brutzman.”

Analysis of evidence:  Found Esther’s birth year (1836; same as suggested by 1850 census) and marriage year (1853).   Philip and Esther were living in Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania in 1900.  Unexpected findings:

  • Confirmed Phoebe Posten Brutzman as  Esther’s mother (as suggested by 1850 census).
  • Confirmed Phoebe’s maiden name as Posten (as suspected from 1850 census).
  • Suggests Phoebe was born about 1816 rather than 1823 (as suggested  by 1850 census).  Phoebe’s birth year of 1816 is more consistent with her being about age 20 when Esther was born.  Although, Phoebe could have had a child when she (Phoebe) was only 13 or 14 years old.   Discovering Phoebe’s age at Esther’s birth was not a research goal for this session but is still important and was entered on Research Log .  A later research session found  60-year-old Phoebe Bowman working as a servant in 1880. [7]
  • Change of surname suggests that Phoebe married a man with surname of Bowman between 1850 and 1880.

Summary:  Primary goal of discovering whether Phoebe was daughter of Thomas and sister of James was not met.  However,  serendipitous findings confirm these facts:  Phoebe’s maiden name of Posten,  Phoebe as mother of Esther,  Lewis Brutzman as father of Esther and husband of Phoebe.  [8]  Philip and  Esther were living in Monroe county in 1900.  The county history provided additional information and the search for additional documents continues.    Marriage year for Philip & Esther (about 1853) and birth year for Esther (about 1836)[9], [10] are considered as proven.  It is  likely that Phebe/ Phoebe Bertyman, living with Thomas and James in 1850, is James’ sister.  No further information about Lewis Brutzman was found during this search.

To-do list

o Continue search for Philip and Esther in 1860, 1870, 1880.

o Confirm death dates for Philip and Esther.

o Prove Lewis Brutzman birth & death dates, marriage date for Lewis Brutzman and Phoebe Posten.

o Identify Phoebe’s 2nd husband:  Unknown Bowman, birth & death dates,  estimated marriage year.

o Confirm Phoebe’s death date & location (after 1900; probably Monroe county, PA;  possibly listed under surname of Bowman).

o Confirm names of Phoebe’s parents.  Indirect evidence may provide this information.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION: 

As I completed the tasks of data entry to my genealogy program,  I finally  remembered to pull the paper files on this family.  I had done similar searches in 2015 and 2016! The file included copies of census records and handwritten notes but no systematic documentation or analysis.  disappointed face emjoiBig sigh!!!  I ran out of steam about midnight and completed tasks of entering data, sources, and media to genealogy program the next day.  But,  I did enter information to research logs before I went to bed.

[1] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate 118955 (1914),  James D. Posten, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Death Unit, New Castle.

[2] “Posten Family Reunion,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 September 1908; online images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 18 August 2017).

[3] 1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Phebe Bertyman [Brutzman]; digital image, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com    :  Accessed 16 Aug 2010 and 3 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 798.

[4] “Public Member Trees,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  :  accessed 17 May 2017, “Lee’s” family tree by rickleedoe,  profile for Phoebe Postens Brutzman (1815 – ?), no sources given for this person, last  update unknown.

[5] 1900 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Stroud Township, Enumeration District [ED] 139, p. 6 (penned), 202A (stamped),  dwelling 116, family 126, Phoebe M. Bowman: digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication T623, roll 1442.

[6] Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and many of the early settled families. (Chicago:  J. H. Beers & Co., 1900), 150; digital images, WayBackMachine  (http://www.archive.org      : accessed 5 May 2017).

[7] 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Stroudsburg, enumeration district (ED) 228, p. 14B (penned), dwelling 118, family 118, Pheoba Bowman; digital images, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 21 August 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, Roll 1157.

[8] Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe, 150.

[9]  1900 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, pop. Sch. Stroud Township,  p. 6 (penned), 202A (stamped),  dwelling 116, family 126, Esther Lee.

[10] Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe, 150.

Dreams, brick walls and fans

Today,  I am just frustrated!  I have hit a brick wall and am not able to even poke a hole in it! My new, improved research habits seem to be of little use.

brick wall

Our recent trip to Pennsylvania and connecting/ re-connecting to cousins was definitely fun and produced some positive results. Finding and photographing my grandparents grave was one of the highlights (see post:  A tale of 3 cemeteries, for details).  Online, John R. Posten and Jennie A. Richards are now listed as being buried in the correct cemetery.

About a week after returning home, a cousin sent me a copy of a newspaper clipping from the September 11, 1908, Wilkes-Barre Journal  entitled “Posten Family Reunion”. [1]  The article includes information that genealogists dream of – names, dates and locations! Evidence for best guesses!   Confirmation of hypotheses! snoopy dreamingThe article lists “about forty members of the Posten family” who attended and mentioned the “reading of a brief history of the Posten family”  which was printed “in part”.  The progenitor of our branch, Thomas Postens, and his youngest son, James D. Posten (my great-great grandfather, aged 79 at the time of the reunion) were the focus of the history.

After my initial delight and surprise, I read through the list of names again and quickly recognized many of them.  Others were easily identified as children, grandchildren, cousins or other relatives by searching my family tree database.  However, a few people have me totally stumped!  To assist with the identification process, I created a table, similar to a research log, for the information given in the article.  Since couples were identified together, i.e. “Mr. & Mrs. C.B. Fulkerson” and married women were identified by their husband’s name, i.e. “Mrs. John Posten”, I added columns for individual names and their relationship to James D. Posten.  Thus, “Mrs. & Mrs. C.B. Fulkerson” are identified in the table as “Olive Jane Posten & Cassius B. Fulkerson, daughter and son-in-law”.  Mrs. John Posten is James’ daughter-in-law, Sadie Krum Posten. An additional column for “Comments” provides space for other information.

posten reunion attendees

From the list of approximately 40 people, eight are unknown to me.  They could be friends or neighbors, members of James’ church family, or guests of one of the family members.  The people that have me stumped are:

  1. Mrs. Lake and Helen Lake, Pittston. Could be mother and daughter, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, or sisters-in-law. I have Henrietta Lake as mother-in-law of a distant cousin. [2]
  2. Murel Barlow, Pittston – given the naming conventions in the rest of the article, she could be a young single woman or an older woman who is either not married or a widow.
  3. Mary Bachman, Pittston– same comment as for Murel Barlow. Mary and Murel are listed together in the article, so they could be friends, maybe sisters?
  4. Miss Lizzie Knorr, Bloomsburg- possibly a younger woman.
  5. Mrs. Dotter and children, Clara and Reuben, West Pittston.

Month 9 of the Genealogy Do-over [3]  was presented shortly after I received the newspaper article. The topics are:  1) Conducting cluster research and 2) Organizing research materials- documents and photos.  Specifically, the first topic was just in time!

Using the F.A.N. (friends, associates and neighbors) concept, I plan to look at census records again for each of the known relatives who attended the reunion.  Expand search to people in their neighborhoods. In general, I stopped my research after discovering the names of spouses of children.  Example – I know the names  of C.B. Fulkerson and Olive Jane Posten’s children and the names of their spouses. However, I have minimal information about C.B. and Olive’s grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  Expand search for 1-2 more generations.  Keep research logs for each person and search attempt.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:   It has been about 3 weeks since my last blog post,  a delay due to personal and family issues.  And, therefore,  my post about this project was also delayed.  I haven’t decided if this project will be my next priority item or not. Working back from myself for the Genealogy Do-Over, I am still reviewing the vertical file for Daniel S. Posten, my great-grandfather and James D. Posten’s son.  I sometimes slip back into old habits, such as finding a census record but not documenting it on research log and/or not downloading/ labeling it in database.

What helped:  creating table to catalog information found in the reunion article.  I now have, in print, a list of who is known and who still needs to be identified.  Reminded myself to stay focused on task and don’t follow BSO today—it will still be there for another time!

What didn’t help:  Initial frustration at not finding information easily.  Trying to work too quickly and not taking time to document findings.

What I learned:  Take a deep breath and slow down! Keep Genealogy Do-over book in plain sight and refer to it often!  The goal is to do solid research that is well-documented with a reasonable analysis, not to finish the project in record time!   I will still encounter brick walls.

[1] “Posten Family Reunion,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 September 1908; online images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 18 August 2017).

[2] Alexander Sherman Lee (1867-1913) Family Group Sheet, Descendants and their spouses of Phoebe Postens Brotzman, Brotzman Family Tree.  Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Thoroughly documented with quality resources; includes comments about missing resources , content of available resources and contradictory information between sources.

[3] Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook (https://abundantgenealogy.com/tag/genealogy-do-over/    :  accessed 1 Sep 2017),  “Month 9-September 2017”.

Cemeteries & caretakers

September, the beginning of autumn.  Harvest, pumpkins, a coolness in the air, brightly colored leaves.  A time of the earth preparing for the slumber of winter.  During the last two weeks,  I have continued to sort through the pictures and documents from our Pennsylvania trip.  Progress is slow and deliberate.   I am following several  leads and will report on findings in later posts.  I hesitate to post information here when I haven’t completed the research.  A rant about shaky and fallen leaves will wait for another day.

On our trip, we visited 14 cemeteries, some with as few as 20 graves and some with over a thousand.  My relatives are not buried in all of the cemeteries.   As we drove the twisting roads of the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania,   the cemeteries beckoned to us.  My husband wanted to find graves from the Revolutionary War.  I was intrigued by the appearance of the cemeteries themselves.  Most were well cared for. Others had been tended less often but showed signs of some care.

An overgrown cemetery next to an old barn was one of our unexpected stops.  The underbrush was so thick in places that a machete or a chainsaw was needed to get to some gravestones.  Names on the gravestones indicate that this was probably a family plot.  Our initial reaction was sadness – had these people been forgotten by their descendants?  But then again, maybe not.  Relatives may have moved away.  Perhaps the designated local caretaker has not visited in the past year or two.  IMG_0377Given the environment and weather of the area, it would not take long for the cemetery to be re-claimed by nature.    We took pictures of some stones.  A fairly new stone led to discovery of the name of the cemetery —  Orange Methodist Church Cemetery, Franklin Township, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania,  [1]  which contains 92 graves.   The fact that information about the cemetery is posted online reassured us that the people buried there have not been forgotten.  I can feel  a BSO approaching – discover the story about one or two of the people buried here, even though they aren’t my relatives!

Unfortunately, stories of these forgotten cemeteries appear frequently.  On a happier note, I would also like to report that most were very well tended, such as Friends’ Burial Ground in the heart of Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania.  WIN_20170815_12_05_15_Pro My paternal great-great-great grandparents,  Thomas Postens  (1782 – 1854) and Esther Brown (1790 – 1840) are buried there.  Thomas is the oldest Posten ancestor whom I have been able to positively identify.   Visiting their graves was definitely a highlight of our trip!  Burial in this cemetery means that they were most likely Quakers.  Esther’s stone appears to have been broken and pieced back together.  Her birthdate was new information to me.   This was an emotional reunion as my only prior contact with Thomas and Esther had been online and through documents.  WIN_20170815_12_00_05_Pro

WIN_20170815_13_49_00_Pro

A cemetery caretaker shared information that was new to us.  Cemetery plot books usually show the name of the person who bought the plot(s) and what section the plot(s) are in. The plot book may or may not have the names of everyone who is actually buried there!  For example, a man buys plots for himself, his wife, their children and spouses.  One or two children move to another town, county, or state.  One child dies young; another child does not marry.  Other relatives are buried in the plots not used by the couple’s children.   The plot(s) themselves are registered under the name of the person who paid for them.  A list of those who are actually buried in the cemetery is often a different list than the list of plot owners.

In summary,  remember to thank the caretakers of cemeteries!  As they mow and weed,  the caretakers  watch over our ancestors.  The caretakers who we encountered were friendly and helpful.  Each one was familiar with the names of those buried in the cemetery or knew where to look for the information.  In one cemetery, the caretaker saved us hours by directing us to the exact location of my Fulkerson relatives.   His only question , “Fulkersin [with an ‘I’] or Fulkerson [with an ‘O’]?”  When I said, “Both”, he laughed and left his mowing to walk us down a hill to an entire row of Fulkerson/ Fulkersin graves.

[1] Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com  : accessed 14 Aug 2017), memorial #168124776   , Perry K. Coolbaugh (1890 – 1975), Orange Methodist Church Cemetery, Franklin Twp, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania: gravestone photograph by Debbie; gravestone also photographed by Jerry L. Ellerbee on 14 Aug 2017.

 

A tale of 3 cemeteries

Subtitle:  Where are my grandparents buried?

Subtitle:  Don’t trust everything you read on the Web.

My husband and I have just returned from a 6-day trip to northeastern Pennsylvania, where my dad was born and raised.  We attended a family reunion, visited my 90+ year-old aunt and some cousins (including cousins found through DNA matches), searched records at county courthouses and historical societies and tramped 14 cemeteries in search of family members.  This story is about the cemetery/cemeteries where my grandparents, John Ray Posten & Jennie Amelia Richards, are buried.

Cemeteries?  Yes, because online reports have placed John and Jennie’s final earthly resting place in three– yes, 3 — different cemeteries.  I needed to see for myself.  The first discrepancy was found several years ago.  On a cemetery locator website, John and Jennie were listed as being buried in Pittston, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania.  I didn’t think too much about it, except that my grandfather’s name was listed as John W. Posten – his name was John Ray Posten.  I thought it might have been a typographical error or that the person didn’t know my grandfather’s middle name.  I didn’t have a copy of my grandfather’s death certificate, so I requested it from the state of Pennsylvania.  John Ray Posten’s death certificate doesn’t give the name of the cemetery but does list his burial location as Falls, Wyoming county.

Jennie’s death certificate and her obituary were already in my files.  According to those records, she was buried in Roberts Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania.  I spoke to my aunt, who confirmed that John & Jennie are buried in Roberts Cemetery.  I contacted the person who had posted on the online site, explaining the issue.  He was very gracious, agreeing that a different John Posten was buried in Pittston and corrected the entry. There were no pictures of John and Jennie’s tombstone.  I knew that there was a tombstone because my parents helped pay for one after Jennie died in 1964.   John died in 1948, before I was born.

Several months ago, I was again searching for relatives using an online grave search website.  This time, John and Jennie were listed as being buried in Settee Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania.  Still no gravestone picture.  Well, at least, the town and county are consistent!  I reviewed records and notes again.  Had I recorded the information correctly?  Yes, information on the documents pointed to Roberts Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming county, Pennsylvania.  But, the mystery remained.  And, with no gravestone picture, how could I be certain? Another consideration is that the name of Roberts Cemetery had changed to Settee Cemetery.

An annual family reunion of Jennie’s mother’s family (LaCoe) was another reason for this trip.  I have wanted to go for several years but work and family schedules just didn’t seem to coincide with the reunion date.  2017 is finally the year that we will attend this reunion!  And, I can find and photograph my grandparents’ grave!

The day after the reunion, we set out to find Roberts Cemetery.  Iphone location finder led us to a small, unnamed cemetery near Falls, Wyoming county.  No grave for John & Jennie there.  Did we have the wrong cemetery? We stopped at a nearby business to ask. The man only knew of the cemetery that we had just visited.  About a half mile down the road, an older woman was working in her flower bed. We stopped and asked her. Yes, she knew Roberts Cemetery and gave us directions.

Following her directions, we found another cemetery, also unnamed, which we almost passed by.  There are two sections.  One section consists of about a dozen gravestones for persons from the Fitch family.   I remembered seeing information online that several Fitch graves had been moved from their original location to Roberts Cemetery.  Cemetery found!!  Roberts Cemetery is on the opposite of the Susquehanna River than the first cemetery- on Sand Plant Road not Old State Road.  Both roads are off State Highway 92. Now, to find John & Jennie’s grave!  (Photo from http://www.mapquest.com)

Cemetery maps

There are only about 200 graves in the Roberts Cemetery, so it did not take long to find John & Jennie’s grave.  Mystery solved!  I began crying as I related the story to my grandparents.  John died before I was born and we had visited Pennsylvania irregularly during my childhood so I didn’t know Jennie (aka Grandma Posten) very well.

20170814_110604

Susan Posten Ellerbee with grave marker for her grandparents, John R. Posten & Jennie Richards Posten. Roberts Cemetery, Falls, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. Photo taken August 14, 2017.

One more mystery still needs to be solved.  Why are they also listed in ‘Settee Cemetery’? Recheck online sources.  Apparently, Roberts Cemetery may also be known as Settee Cemetery and/or Swartout Cemetery.  To-do list:

  1. Post pictures of John & Jennie’s gravestone to Roberts Cemetery website with notes about the reported discrepancies and actual directions/ location of Roberts Cemetery- DONE.
  2. Contact person responsible for Settee Cemetery and ask about the cemetery names – DONE.

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Reflection:

This was a very emotional trip for many reasons.  Actually locating and seeing my grandparents’ grave was a tearful reunion.  I am proud that I was able to solve this particular mystery for myself and others.  We learned more about what to do and not do during a genealogy-based vacation.  Future blog posts will chronicle more of our experiences during this trip.

What helped:  technology, specifically Iphone location finder and a small computer with my family tree.  My husband’s patience and acting as official photographer. Advance planning, such as printing an alphabetical list of cemeteries to be visited with a list of people buried in each.

What didn’t help:  IPhone location finder taking us to the wrong cemetery, although the location was the one in the online system.  Online address for Roberts Cemetery was not correct.  Conflicting information posted online.

What I learned:  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and directions.  I tend to be independent and will usually try to figure things out on my own.  We met some awesome people, including cemetery managers, who were very helpful in locating graves.  Don’t believe everything you see on the Web– check it out for yourself!  Use water, a squirt bottle and a soft brush to clean dirt and moss from gravestones.

“It all started with DNA results” –Using relationship charts.

Last month, a cousin asked for help  to answer some questions.   I temporarily set aside the tasks that I had planned as part of the Genealogy Do-Over.   Was I following a BSO (bright shining object)?  It seemed so although I did use  some of my improved research skills.  Each BSO has led me to a different branch of dad’s family—branches that I would probably not have explored, such as the great-granddaughter of one of my great-aunts.  I realized that I was also building my research toolbox, a topic for Month 5 of the Genealogy Do-Over .

It all started with DNA.  I submitted my DNA sample last year and finally convinced my brother to submit his earlier this year.  We used different companies so we are both submitting samples again.  I looked quickly at the DNA relatives and only contacted those whose name I recognized.  Fortunately, a second cousin contacted me as a result of DNA matches and finding my online family tree with a common surname.  We share the same great –grandparents.  She knew very little about our common line, her grandmother’s family, which is also my grandfather’s  family.   I knew little about her grandmother and she answered  questions for me.  Her son also has the genealogy bug.

Both my second cousin and her son have sent in their DNA.  He is very curious about all of those DNA relatives – exactly how are we related to this person?  Figuring out your ‘cousinship’  is easy  when you already  know your common ancestors – use a relationship chart.  Here is one that is commonly used: relationship_chart_1

My DNA-match 2nd cousin knew the names of her grandparents.  Her grandmother was my grandfather’s sister. So, establishing the common ancestor was relatively (pardon the pun!) easy.

Other examples of relationship charts:   

Relationship chart – another format

Relationship chart format #3

What is more difficult is identifying  your possible common ancestor for that third cousin identified as a DNA match to you when you aren’t sure about the names of the other person’s ancestors.   There are at least 16 possibilities (from both your mother and father)!   In essence, you have to look at the relationship chart in a different way.   If this person and I are 3rd cousins, then who might be our common ancestor?

My 2nd cousin and I have an already established a relationship through our great-grandparents.   So, the list narrowed as we only looked at DNA matches who are related to both of us.  Now,  there are only four possibilities as a common ancestor – our common great-great grandparents, James, Meriam, Samuel or Charlotte.

Her son’s curiousity about those DNA matches led to the BSOs that took up much of my time during one two week period.   Another person, who inherited work done by cousin on a related family line, has been extremely helpful.  She used an extensive research toolbox to determine how we are related to one person, identified as a third or fourth cousin DNA match.    Her search strategy included social media as well as the usual census records, obituaries, and gravesites.  I admire her tenacity and thoroughness!

End of story:   Two more cousins have been positively identified through DNA matches.  Our common ancestors have been identified.   All of the information is clipped together and has been entered to genealogy software and research logs.

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Reflection:   I experienced a mix of emotions during those two weeks.   Initial response was frustration because I did not meet my specific objectives.  Instead, I helped a cousin discover how we are related to two DNA matches.  At first, I considered these projects as BSOs since the work was not planned.   However, I chose to tackle those projects instead of keeping with my original plan.   I met another person with marvelous detective skills.  I can learn from her.    Using research logs and making sure that I have complete source citations was helpful.   I worked slower on these projects than I have in the past, due to improved research practices.

What helped:   Research logs that had been done earlier. Starting new research logs.  Checking and re-checking source citations.  Label and file digital media as I found it online.

What didn’t help:   Not being sure that this was a good use of my time.  I had to acknowledge that I chose to work on these projects at this time.  I could have deferred and waited for reports from others.

What I learned:   Collaboration with others is key to discovering the relationships and avoiding duplication of work.   Say ‘no’ to some projects, no matter how interesting  they seem.  However,  these projects can still become learning tools.  I learned a different way of using a relationship chart to determine a possible common ancestor.  This leads me to the concept of a ‘flipped’ relationship chart.   Here is first draft of my idea, for your consideration:  flipped chart draft1Happy searching!

 

Great-Grandfather Daniel S. Posten and the 1900 census

Question:  Where did  great-grandfather Daniel S. Posten live in 1900?

This blog post outlines one experience in my Genealogy Do-Over journey.   “Tracking Research” and “Conducting Research” are the topics for Month 4 (April 2017).  OK,  so I’m still behind on some of my lessons.  And, I am still working on improving my research practices.  I want to share one example of how the system worked for me.

Here is a copy of my original family group sheet (FGS) for paternal great-grandfather Daniel S. Posten.

Posten_Daniel _S_FGS_ca 1988026

The yellowish color of the paper and the form itself suggest that this is one of my earliest attempts, probably started about  1987.  Entries are written in pen and pencil and may have been made at different times. This was definitely a work-in-progress!   For the Genealogy Do-Over, I used a different form and re-wrote the FGS.  I have confirmed a lot of information so the entries are neater and more complete. I started entering trees online in 2001 and Dad’s tree would have been one of the first.

gg62755812Write your name (as preparer) and date on each form.  Many forms have space for this information.  In general,  use a pen to write information that you can confirm.  Use pencil, different color ink, or highlighter for  information that needs to be confirmed. 

A research log is the way to track research efforts.  I am beginning to see the log as a diary of sorts about the journey.  As I filled out the log and other documentation forms for Daniel, I found several gaps.  Daniel was born in 1859 and died in 1918.  I downloaded a copy of his death certificate in 2010 and received an original copy (dated 1979) from a cousin in 2012.  That original copy has been scanned and placed in acid-free, archival quality sleeve in Posten binder.

One way to track our ancestors is through the United States federal census, conducted every 10 years since 1790.  Census records are available through 1940.  States also conducted censuses at random times.  A list of state censuses can be found here:  https://www.census.gov/history/www/genealogy/other_resources/state_censuses.html

From previous searches, I tracked Daniel in 1860[1], 1880[2], and 1910[3].  After his death, Lizzie (Elizabeth Phoebe Fulkerson), his wife, was listed with my grandparents in 1920[4] and with another daughter, Bertha Posten Brack, in 1930.[5] Lizzie died in 1938.  All of this information was entered on the newly created research log in May 2017.  I hadn’t really noticed the gap until I filled out the research log for Daniel.  Yes, this gap should also be apparent from the genealogy software program listing of events for Daniel.  There is a note for 1870 with Daniel’s parents:  “Family moved to Pittston about 1870; date from obituaries for both James and his wife, Meriam.”  Since Daniel would have been with his parents in 1870, I decided to conduct that search later.

Where were Daniel and Lizzie in 1900?  Have I searched before and not found anything?  If so, what and where did I search?  With no research log, the answer is:  “I don’t know.” Action item for To-Do List:  “Locate 1900 census record for Daniel S. Posten.    Target Resources:  Ancestry, FamilySearch, census books at OK History Center. Start West Pittston.”  Why start in West Pittston?  Because that’s where the family lived in 1910.

And, here’s the rest of the story.  Date:  July 11, 2017:   In depth review of records for great-grandparents, Daniel S. Posten and Elizabeth Phoebe Fulkerson.  Research goal for day:  Locate 1900 census record.  Start with West Pittston, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania.  Go to Ancestry website.  West Pittston has 3 districts, with about 50 pages of census records for each.  Big Sigh!!  District #1 – no luck.   Stretch, get water and a snack.

Look at family group sheet again.   Three of their 8 children were born around 1900:  Bertha in 1895, Martha Jane in 1898, and Samuel in 1901.  Birthplace for those 3 children is listed as Ransom Township, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania.  Check sources – obituaries and death certificates for Bertha, Martha and Samuel.  Maybe I was looking in the wrong place!  Go to census record for Ransom Township.  Only 22 pages!   And, success!  On Page 3B,  Danial S. Poster (as transcribed), wife Lizzie, and  6 children. [6]

Research goal met!    Additional information from 1900 census—Lizzie is recorded as mother of 6 children with 6 children living.  On 1910 census, she is recorded as mother of 8 children with 7 living.  The two census records combined support a fact recorded by others, with no documentation, that another child,  Ida, was born about 1903 and died  about 1908.  I am still searching for Ida.

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REFLECTION:  Using the research log, I identified that I didn’t know where Daniel and his family lived in 1900.  I initially used only one clue, residence in West Pittston in 1910, to find them.  I only searched one website because that is the one that I am most comfortable with.  I met research goal for this session and didn’t follow any BSOs .  I downloaded census record immediately and recorded information on research log and genealogy software.  Total time spent:  about 45 minutes.  If I had looked at FGS closer before beginning, I might have noticed reported birthplace of children as Ransom Township and avoided searching 50 pages of West Pittston census.   Transcription of surname as “Poster” may have been an issue.  Since I hadn’t filled out a research log before May, 2017, it is possible that I had previously looked in West Pittston and Pittston, found nothing, then became discouraged and stopped searching.  Suggestion for future:  Review all documents to narrow search criteria. Recognize that notes on research log may have been written at end of a long day and may or may not reflect the best search criteria.  Continue creation of research logs for direct ancestors in Posten line.  Vary websites and other sources so I can become more familiar with each.

Participating in the Genealogy Do-over is helpful although frustrating at times.   Slowing down to complete specific tasks is still a challenge.  I am now working on Dad’s great-grandparents. Citations are getting easier.  When I print an item, I often add more information about the source than what is printed.   In the last month, I started 2 new projects, using improved techniques and tools.  TO DO:  midyear review.  Read Genealogy Do-Over, Months 4-6 again!

[1] 1860 U.S. census,  Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Price Twp., p. 76 (penned),  dwelling 516, family 691, Daniel S. Posten : digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2012); citing National Archives microfilm publication M653, roll 1142.

[2] 1880 U.S. census, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Pittston, Enumeration District [ED] 136, p. 18B (penned), dwelling 163, family 177, Daniel Bostons [Posten]: digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2012); citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1150, image 0464.

[3] 1910 U.S. census, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania population schedule, West Pittston, Enumeration District [ED] 127, p. 17B (penned), family 405, Daniel S. Paster [Posten]: digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2012); citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1370, image 528.

[4] 1920 U.S. Census, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, pop.sch., Ransom Twp., enumeration district (ED) 93, p. 6B, Family #118, Elizabeth Posten; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 13 December 2016);  citing National Archives and Records Administration. Roll T625_1578.

[5] 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Scranton, enumeration district (ED) 26, p. 2B (penned), Elizabeth Posten mother-in-law, 69; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, printed 13 Dec 2016); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D. C.. Microfilm publication T626, Roll 2052, Image 187.0.

[6] 1900 U.S. census, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Ransom Twp, Enumeration District [ED] 40, p. 3B (penned), dwelling 42, family 43, Danial S. Poster [Daniel S. Posten]: digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 11 Jul 2017); from National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1419.

Grandmother’s dish towels

Do you remember your grandmother’s dish towels?  The ones with the ‘to-do list’ for the housewife?

Wash on Monday IMG_9024

Iron on Tuesday

Mend on Wednesday

Clean on Thursday

Shop on Friday  IMG_9026

Bake on Saturday

Rest on Sunday

One Monday,  I printed our paternal grandparents’ family group sheet for my brother.  He has limited internet access and wanted print copies of group sheets for grandparents and each of their children.   I printed family group sheets for two of my dad’s five siblings, and group sheets for their children.  I was about one-third of the way done with the project.   The project includes multiple tasks associated with the Genealogy Do-Over ,  specifically tracking and conducting research (Month 4) , citing sources (month 5), and evaluating evidence (Month 6).   Minimal tracking, inconsistent citation of sources, token notes  to locate source records and nominal documentation of my thought processes are among the things that I am trying to improve.

I went to bed about midnight.  As I dozed off to sleep,  I thought about those dish towels.  How does this apply to my work week as a genealogist?  Well, here is a version to ponder.

Monday:  Wash.  Pick one  item (or a basketful) from your family tree.  Look at the facts and sources.  Fill in research log.

Tuesday:   Iron.  Iron out the wrinkles.  What information is inconsistent?  What information is consistent?  Identify the holes and gaps.  Complete research log, including appropriate citations.   Create to-do list.

Wednesday:  Mend.  Search for information to fill in gaps and close holes.  Check analysis again and revise as needed.  Trace the threads of indirect evidence.

Thursday:  Clean.  Clean digital and paper files.  Discard extra copies of documents.  Review documents and analysis again.  What did you miss?  What still needs to be done?

Friday:  Shop.   Shop for items/  information.  Use a new  source.

Saturday:  Bake.  Put item in your mental oven and bake slowly for 24 hours.  Test for doneness at regular intervals.  Remove and set out to cool.

Sunday:  Rest.   Allow item to rest for an indefinite period of time.  Pick up another item and set plan for next week.   Question:  Do genealogists ever really rest???

Did I follow that plan?  Well, sort of. . .

Monday:   Citations in genealogy software program need washing.  Washed and dried 2 loads – for Grandpa (John Ray Posten) & Grandma  (Jennie Amelia Richards) Posten.  Sorted citations for  their 6 children, one of whom is my dad.   Used  templates in program and Evidence Explained book.

Tuesday:  Continuation of Monday.  Added information from LaCoe family history [1] (privately published 2010) about Grandpa & Grandma Posten’s grandchildren.    Individual worksheets  completed  for each of dad’s siblings but not for each of their spouses – filling these in as I go.  Started research logs for each of dad’s 5 siblings.

Wednesday:  Answered emails from DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) prospective members – 1st draft of one application sent to prospective member.   Continuation of Monday and Tuesday for Posten family group sheet project.   Found digital copies of death certificates for dad’s brothers;  digital and paper copies placed in appropriate files;  citations added to  genealogy software program.

Thursday:  Continuation of Monday and Tuesday for Posten family group sheet project.   Followed one BSO – George G. Posten, son of James D. Posten and Meriam Mills and great-grandparents of Grandpa [John Ray] Posten).   Volunteer work at local library.   Checked cloud storage—discovered that files must be saved to the cloud program first, then can be synced to personal computer.  I was hoping  to leave files on personal computer and only use cloud storage as backup.  To-do:  Continue to explore how to use cloud storage programs effectively.

Friday:  Continuation of Monday and Tuesday for Posten family group sheet project.    Where did I put obituary of Joe Carpenter (grandson of  Grandpa  Posten’s sister and  an avid genealogist)?  OK,  his obituary isn’t really relevant for the current project but will be for the next one.    Scanned, filed, and created citations for 4 documents received from another cousin.  Original copies of documents placed in newly created ‘Posten BMD Certificates & Pictures’ notebook.   Office supply store for ink.

Saturday:   Continuation of Monday and Tuesday for Posten family  group sheet project. Followed one BSO – 1st husband  (William Allen) of dad’s sister, Grace; his grandfather was born in Scotland and his grandmother was born in England.  Started research log with complete citations and links; downloaded and copied documents for files.   Bought 3 reams of paper at a garage sale.

Sunday:  Continuation of same.  Estimated time of completion—next week??

[1] Susan A. LaCoe,  Lenay LaCoe Blackwell, and Velma Sue Miller, compilers/ updaters, Commemorative Record of LaCoe Family: Containing Biographical Sketches and Genealogy. Illustrated. 1750-2010, Martha L. LaCoe, compiler of first edition, edition 2010 (Pennsylvania: Privately published, 2010), pp. 45-51.

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Analysis of experience:  Who knew that printing family group sheets for 3 generations of a family would take so long?  I thought that I could do this in one, maybe two, afternoons.  I have now spent 20+ hours on this project – not counting the BSO times!  Correcting and verifying citations in genealogy software  program is taking up most of the time.  Doing this now will save time later when I revise the Posten history written in 2012.

Addendum (one week later):  Family group sheets for Grandpa & Grandma Posten,  their 6 children, and multiple grandchildren are printed and ready for mailing to my brother.   Items for 2 people still need to be entered on research logs.  The act of writing down or typing a complete citation for each item forces me to slow down and think about the document – what does the document really say about this person? How does this help my research?  What is next step?   I am proud of myself for not  following several BSOs for distant relatives, such as mother-in-law of 2nd cousin.  For the next generation (my great- grandparents and their children), I want to continue researching  one generation back about spouses of  my great-aunts and uncles.  Files on great-grandparents are complete but files on their children are not.   For now, continue to focus on Posten family.

 

Of research logs and other things

As I searched for information about my ancestors, I wrote down a few notes and questions.   Loose pieces of paper (some of which are still in my paper files!) and scribbled handwritten notes on a photocopy of a document.  Where and when did I find  this document?  If the document was from an online source, I don’t have the complete URL.  When did I access the website?  The date isn’t printed on the bottom of the page!  What was I thinking here??   Some times, I didn’t write down any notes at all or only a word or two.  Why is this document  in this folder?   Sound familiar?   Complete notes make the job easier.  “Easier?”, you say.  “Seems like it just takes more time to fill in all of those forms.  I need to follow these hints, find more information, and go to more websites!”   My opinion, exactly, before I started the Genealogy Do-Over.     Although, I must admit that I do have a few research logs in my files but with only minimal information.   I don’t have time to fill in a research log! takes time

What is a research log?   Simply, a research log is a form or format to document the process used to look for information.  In genealogy, we discover facts about a person and sources (a.k.a. documents) to support that fact.  When and where was the person born? After 1850, census records show the person’s age, and, therefore, a year of birth (+ or – 1 year) and the state where the person was born. Caution:  this is self-reported information.  I found more than one instance in which the person’s reported age on a census did not correspond to other records.  Which record do you believe?  That’s where analysis of the evidence comes in – another lesson in the Genealogy Do-Over and a subject for another blog.

What should be included on a research log?  An article about the research process on Family Search:   step 2, ‘Decide what you want to learn’,  Prepare a research log, ” [1]  outlined that information for me:

 Keep your research log up to date.  Organize and document as you go. Record the following:

  • Your research objective.  Name the person and event as soon as you have chosen them.
  • The records you want to search. It is probably easiest to enter records as you select them (usually while still looking at the catalog). Record enough information about each source so that someone could readily find it again—the source footnote information.
  • The results of your search. As soon as you have searched a record, note whether or not you found anything in the record. You may want to include a document number for copies you made.
  • Your e-mail and correspondence. Include the address you wrote to and what you requested. Including e-mail and correspondence on your research log is more efficient than on a separate Correspondence Log.
  • Genealogical telephone calls and visits. Include dates, full names, and results. Put interview notes on a separate piece of paper to go in the file.
  • Notes about your strategies, analysis, discrepancies, and questions. Logs should be more than just a list of sources. Make your research logs as well the journals of your genealogical thinking and ideas.

I found multiple examples of research logs online and in books.  Here are a few:

From Family Search:    Research Log in PDF format

Genealogy Log of documents searched and/or search plan

Research Record Sheet

Ancestors Research Log

In March, 2017, I started using   Thomas MacEntee’s Research Log in Excel format.  When I first looked at this form, I thought, “This is way too much work!”  Now that I have filled one out for about 20 of my ancestors, I can see the value.  As I organized my paper files, I found multiple copies of the same document.  Three copies of the same census record for James Posten?!?[2]  If I had done a research log and individual checklist for James back in 2005, when I revisited his records in 2011, I would have known that I had already found that specific census record.   I would have also known that a similar 1850 census record for James Postens [3] in the same county had been found.  Which one was actually about my ancestor?  Update:   Months after finding the first 1850 census record, I discovered that James had died in 1914.  I sent for, and received a copy of his death certificate[4].  His parents were reported as Thomas Posten and Esther Brown.  James, living in Hamilton Township with Thomas in 1850[5], is more likely to be my great-great grandfather than the other James Postens.

So, what can I change to improve my research techniques?  then and now

THEN:  I made a mental note, maybe wrote a brief note on a copy of the census records and put the paper copies in a file folder.  With a little luck, both pieces of paper ended up in the same folder!  NOW:    I find two similar records on the same day. Look carefully at each one and compare to other data.  Record any discrepancies and possible reasons for those discrepancies.  Determine which person is most likely to be my ancestor.  Before continuing to search for other information, enter comments and notes on research log and other computer-based program.   State why I think person #2 is not my ancestor and additional references/ sources as needed.  List possible alternatives on research log.  Print copy of research log for paper files.

Back to thoughts at beginning of this post: “But this takes too much time!”  I am beginning to think like this – Time spent now, recording and cataloguing data, will save me time later.  I won’t have to look up the source or try to remember where I got it again- I have both the record and complete citation, including where I found the information on the research log.  I won’t have to ask– how did I come to that conclusion? Analysis is recorded on the research log as well as next steps.  I won’t have to shuffle papers and try to remember what else I need – the information is on the research log and to-do list.  Yes, it takes time- 5 to 10 minutes per document.  This forces me to slow down and look more critically at the information.

Question: Will I ever need to look at the original record or photocopy again?  Answer:  Yes.   There may be additional information on the document that I didn’t record earlier.  Research on various family lines has sometimes been set aside for weeks or months.  Can I make the same conclusion that I did six months ago?  Do I have additional information that supports, or doesn’t support, the previous conclusion?

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

What did I learn?  There are multiple research log formats.  I picked one format and am beginning to use it—one family and one generation at a time, starting with dad’s family.  Why dad’s family?  Because I wrote a family history five years ago and it needs serious editing.  The research logs will help with citations and as I revise/ write each person’s story.

What helped my learning?  Writing this blog.  Actually filling out 3 different types of research logs to see which one worked best for me.  Reading about research logs from various sources.

What didn’t help my learning?  Too many choices.  Frustration at time it takes to fill out research log completely.  Duplication of efforts, as in re-writing citation 2-3 times.  Realizing that I am more of a novice genealogist than I thought.

Suggestions:    Avoid duplication of effort  by entering correct citation on genealogy software program, then copy and paste to research log.   Still struggling with the concept of slowing down when doing the research.  Document positive, negative, and questionable findings.  Record how this specific information fits (or doesn’t fit) with other information.

One more link:   Using and managing a research log

Overall reflection on the experience:  This has been a very steep learning curve for me.  I thought that I was fairly well organized. But, if I was so well organized, why did I even start the Genealogy Do-over?  Because I knew, deep down, that my records were a mess.  Remember that some information will be negative—not what I hoped to find or not support previous conclusions. The skills that I am learning will, ultimately, help as I revise dad’s family history and pursue additional opportunities in the field of genealogy.

[1] . Family History Research Wiki, (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Prepare_a_Research_Log : accessed 14 June 2017):  “Prepare a research log.”

[2].1850 U.S. Census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamiton Twp, p. 17B [penned], dwelling 220, family 220,  James Portons [Postens], age 19, born Pennsylvania; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  :  accessed 19 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M432, roll 798, image 40.

[3]. 1850 U.S. Census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Smithfield Twp, p. 127A [penned], dwelling 563, family 563,  James Postens, age 21, born Pennsylvania; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  :  accessed 19 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M432, roll 798, image 251.

[4] Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate no 118955 (1914),  James D. Posten,  Bureau of Vital Statistics, New Castle.

[5] 1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, pop. Sch., Hamilton Twp. , p. 17B (penned), dwell. 200, fam. 220, James Portons [Postens].