A death certificate finally arrives!

My mother’s family is from New York. Her family tree reaches back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. New York City and its boroughs have records from the 1800s.  I have copies of my grandmother’s birth certificate (born 1892) and several death certificates from the 1880s. Usually, a request takes 6-8 weeks to be filled.  Similar document requests from New York State took months BCV (Before Corona Virus) due to a much larger volume and a limited number of staff to fill those requests.  With the pandemic, these requests take even longer.  In this post, I relate events leading to the receipt of one death certificate.

 Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a copy of the death certificate for Margaret Ann Tucker [1], wife of my 3 times great-grandfather, Jeremiah Tucker. I sent the request over a year ago. In 2020, the number of deaths in New York due to Corona Virus spiralled. The need for those certificates far outweigh genealogy requests.  I just had to be patient!  I hoped to find the names of her parents on that certificate and was not disappointed.

A note about my personal ethics.  I purchased this certificate directly from New York State.  The certificates are not available online.  Therefore, I will not post a scanned copy to my blog or any of my online trees.  I placed the original in the appropriate notebook in an archival quality plastic sleeve. I scanned it to my personal computer.  The State of New York Health Department and/or State Archives derive income from these requests.  Therefore, I feel ethically bound to not post a digital copy of the certificate.  However, I will share some of the information with you.  

In one of my first blog posts, dated 24 April 2017 (Genealogy Do-Over, month 2, Blog #1, https://postingfamilyroots.blog/2017/04/), I reported what I knew about Margaret. To summarize:  

  • According to oral family history, her maiden name was Margaret/ Maggie Irwin.[2]
  • Census records for 1870[3]  , 1875[4], 1880 [5] and 1900[6] show Jeremiah and wife, Margaret.
  • Per the 1900 census, Jeremiah and Margaret had been married for 33 years – estimated marriage year about 1867.
  • 1870 census includes a child, Lavina, age 8, born about 1862.
  • 1875 state census includes a child, Lavina, age 13 and 64-year-old Ellen Ervin.
  • 1880 census includes daughter, Lanna, age 18.
    • ASSERTION: Margaret, identified as Jeremiah’s wife, was his 2nd wife. She is not mother of Lavina/ Lanna. The identity of Lavina’s mother remains a mystery.
  • Death record for George Tucker (age 3 in 1880) lists his mother’s name as Margaret Collins.[7]
  • To-do item (from 24 April 2017 blog post):  “Confirm death date & location for Margaret Tucker. Obtain death certificate.”

Later, I discovered that Jeremiah Tucker married Allie Traver Briggs in 1905.[8]  This information narrowed Margaret’s death date to between 1900 and 1905.  A cousin sent a death notice, dated September 1904, from a local newspaper for Mrs. Jerry Tucker. [9]  Then, I accessed the New York State Death Index, online, for a certificate number.[10]  Finally, I could order Margaret’s death certificate from the State of New York!

Item on To-Do list from April 2017 is now complete!  Margaret’s death date and location are confirmed and her death certificate obtained. Information on her death certificate includes:

  • Age: 69 years, 6 months, 6 days for a calculated birth date of 28 February 1835. Place of Birth: New York. Per the 1875 state census, she was born in Greene county.
  • Died 2 September 1904 at Greenville, Greene county, New York.
  • Names of her parents:  Wm [William] Irving, born New York and Lana Hilliker, born New York.

One mystery solved!  Margaret’s maiden name was Irving.  Lana could be another name for Ellen, the 64-year-old woman living with Jeremiah and Margaret in 1875.  I am not ready to share  tentative results from my preliminary, quick searches for William and Lana.

 REFLECTION

This post is shorter than most that I have written.  I realize that I don’t need to report everything about a topic in a single post. My posts often report unfinished work.  My cousin, June, who lives in Greene county, New York, also works on this family line.  She has access to local resources and often shares items with me. I sent her a copy of Margaret’s death certificate.  

What helped:  My cousin, June, who found the newspaper death notice for Margaret. Previous review of records and notes in my files. Research log. Added info to research log started in 2017. Notes on research log and RootsMagic.

What didn’t help: Not entering DC information to RootsMagic before doing anything else.  

What I learned: Patience pays off!

TO-DO:  Find Margaret’s parents in census and other records.  Continue search for Lavina/ Lanna.


SOURCES:

[1]  New York, State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Certificate and Record of Death 38927 (5 September 1904), Margaret Ann Tucker; State of New York, Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Albany, New York; photocopy received 3 October 2020.

[2] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer-Tucker Family History,” [Page]; MS, 1800s to 1980s, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York; privately held by great-niece, Susan Mercedes Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Carbon copy of original handwritten document created ca. 1975-1980 given to Ms. Ellerbee by her mother.

[3] 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Albany county, New York, population schedule, Westerlo, p. 10 (ink pen), dwelling 77, family 79, Margaret Tucker age 36; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : downloaded & printed 30 December 2014); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication M593.

[4]  Jeremiah B. Tucker, 1875 New York State Census, Albany county, New York, population schedule, Westerlo, pg. 24, lines 29-36, dwelling 231, family 249; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com:   accessed 8 December 2017); citing New York State Archives, Albany, Albany county, New York.

[5]  1880 U.S. Census, Greene county, New York, pop. sch., Greenville, enumeration district (ED) 81, p. 2B (ink pen), dwelling #1, family #1, Jeremiah Tucker; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded and printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 836.

[6]  1900 U.S. Census, Greene county, New York, pop. sch., Greenville, enumeration district (ED) 78, p. 8A (ink pen), dwelling 189 , family 196, Jeremiah Tucker; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, downloaded, printed 8 November 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T623_1039.

[7]  Greenville Rural Cemetery (Greenville, Greene, New York);  to June Gambacorta, photocopy of office record obtained by June Gambacorta,  [address for private use], New York;  No date, Cemetery information card received via email from June Gambacorta, 18 May 2016.

[8]  “New York State, Marriage Index, 1881-1967,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed & printed 23 April 2018), entry for Tucker, Jeremiah, Greenville NY; citing New York State Marriage Index, New York State Department of Health, Albany, NY.

[9]   “The funeral of Mrs. Jerry Tucker. . . .”, The Greenville Local, Greenville, Greene county, New York, 22 September 1904, page unknown, column 2. “funeral on Wednesday of last week”, date 14 September 1904; digital copy sent to Susan Posten Ellerbee by June Gambacorta,  [address for private use], New York.  

[10]  New York Department of Health, “New York, Death Index, 1880-1956,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed & printed 20 June 2018), entry for Margaret A. Tucker, pg. 851; citing New York Department of Health, Albany, New York.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots Blog, 2020.

Nellie’s parents were born in USA

A brick wall without a hole or chink or a hurdle to hop over? Depends on your perspective and the status of your research.  In the case of Nellie Black Johnson’s parents, the wall has a tiny peephole. This post describes positive and negative evidence about Nellie’s parents and suggests next steps.

Nellie Black Johnson, my husband’s great-grandmother, married Henry Louis Johnson about 1910, likely at Limestone county, Texas [online tree with no source reported].  Her death certificate claims her race as White; birth date, place and parents as 16 January 1888 in Texas to C.W. Black and Mary Bull. [1]  The Johnson family was in Limestone county by the mid-1870s. Nell died on 2 May 1960 in Mexia, Limestone county, Texas and is buried in the Point Enterprise Cemetery. Informant was her oldest daughter, Katie Johnson Brannon.  Next steps: Determine place of birth for Nell’s parents using 1920 and 1930 census for Nell and Henry.  1940 census lists place of birth for the person but not parents.

Evidence:  

1930 census. Mexia, Limestone county, Texas. Henry L. Johnson, age 46; wife, Nellie Johnson, age 42; eight children:  Katie, 18; Luther C, 17; Horace C, 14; Alice P, 12; Annie R, 10; Edith N, 8; Mary L, 4; and Marie A, 1. [2]  Race, W [white] for all. Birthplace of Nellie’s father and mother recorded as “United States” and “United States”. Birthplace for both of Henry’s parents recorded as “Mississippi.”

1920 census. Enterprise, Limestone county, Texas. H.L. Johnson, age 35; wife, Kellie [per transcription] Johnson, age 32; 5 children:  Kate, 9; Clyde, 7; Horace, 5; Pauline, 2 7/12; Ruth, 2 months. [3] Race: W [white] for all. Birthplace of Nellie’s father and mother recorded as “USA” and “USA”. Birthplace for both of Henry’s parents recorded as “Mississippi.”

Analysis:   Listing parents as born in “United States” and “USA” seems odd. This is the first time that I encountered an entry like this. Perhaps she didn’t know or didn’t remember. Perhaps they said nothing more for a reason. Possible that Nellie knew but didn’t want to reveal that information? If not, why not?  

1920 census instructions for enumerators may shed some light (page 31, item 147, column 21)[4]:

“In case, however, a person does not know, the state or Territory of birth of his father, but knows that he was born in the United States, write United States rather than ” unknown.”

Enumerators for 1930 census received similar instructions (page 29, item 174, columns 19 and 20). [5]

According to a source at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City[6],  USA was sometimes used to designate birth in Oklahoma Territory or Indian Territory before Oklahoma statehood in 1907. This leads to the possibility that Nellie’s parents were born in Oklahoma Territory, Indian Territory or another territory.

Nellie & Henry Johnson, date unknown, circa 1950-1955? Personal collection, Susan Posten Ellerbee [Yukon, Oklahoma]

My mother-in-law reported that her grandmother was Native American, according to oral family history. Mother-in-law sent DNA to two companies. Neither one reported any Native American ancestry.

“Anyone with even a single indigenous American ancestor has indigenous American ancestry, but not everyone with an indigenous American ancestor has indigenous American DNA.” [7] 

Could Nellie’s Native American roots be so far back that they don’t show up in the current generation?  Do other descendants of Nellie have Native American genes in their DNA?

Next step- 1910 census.  April 1910. Waco City, McLennan, Texas.[8] 22 year-old Nellie Black, boarder, birthplace Texas, living with Sarah J. Bull, 45, head of household and her 4 children.  Nellie’s parents recorded as born in Texas.  Is Sarah J Bull related to Nellie’s mother, Mary Bull?  No definitive information about Sarah J Bull yet. Is this even our Nellie?

At least two online trees identify a South Carolina family consisting of C.W. and Mary Black as Nellie’s parents.[9], [10] According to census records, William Caleb Black and wife, Mary, lived in South Carolina continuously from 1870 to 1920. 1900 Census[11] shows a child, Nellie Black, born 1886 in South Carolina. Family does not appear to have ever left South Carolina.  Conclusion:  William Caleb Black, South Carolina, is not C.W. Black, father of Nellie Black.

From the scant evidence, I make these propositions:

  1. Nellie’s parents did not tell her where in the United States they were born.
  2. Nellie did not want to reveal where her parents were born.  
  3. Nellie’s parents were born in one of the territories prior to statehood.  
  4. Nellie’s ancestry does not include Native Americans.
  5. Nellie’s Native American heritage was not passed on genetically to her granddaughter.

I contacted DNA matches who have surnames of Johnson, Black and Bull.  One person shared some leads that are now on my to-do list.  Late last night, I found two interesting census records and will follow those clues later.

Reflection

March is Women’s History Month. This post briefly outlines one woman- Nellie Kay Janet Black Johnson, my mother-in-law’s paternal grandmother- and our DNA dilemma. This year, I plan to look deeper into my mother-in-law’s family.   I continue to work on goals related to other families.  

I am somewhat discouraged by the status of family trees on my computer-based genealogy program. I thought that I was making such good progress with my Genealogy Do-Over! Dad’s tree, the first one used for Do-Over, still needs work. Rewriting Posten family history will certainly help there! Other trees are in various states of repair.  Thanks to the Do-Over, I made a back-up every time that I worked on a tree. I re-opened the latest version and re-named with 2020 in the title. Note to self –one person and one family at a time!

What I learned:  A little more about DNA testing.  

What helped:  Picture of Nellie. List of DNA relatives for mother-in-law. Response from one DNA relative. Remembering that a genetic cousin is always a genealogical cousin. Just need to find the genealogical relationship! Writing this post.

What didn’t help: Ineffective and late night searches. I need to try different strategies!  Work on the brick walls earlier in the day. Not tracking what I found.

To-do:  Create research logs for Sarah J. Bull and others as I search; document findings. If needed, set aside for a week or two.  Follow leads from DNA match and census records.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2020


SOURCES:

[1] “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.

[2]. 1930 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Mexia, enumeration district (ED) 11, pg. 6B, dwelling 135, family 149, Johnson Nellie, wife, age 42; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed & downloaded 26 Feb  2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626, roll 2371.

[3]. 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 26 Feb  2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1829.

[4] Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States, January 1, 1920, Instructions to Enumerators (Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1919), digital image;  United States Census Bureau (. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/programs-surveys/decennial/technical-documentation/questionnaires/1920instructions.pdf  : Accessed 26 Feb 2020).

[5] Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, January 1, 1920, Instructions to Enumerators, Population and Agriculture (Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1930), digital image;  United States Census Bureau (. https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1930instructions.pdf  : Accessed 26 Feb 2020).

[6]Susan M. Ellerbee,  handwritten notes, 27 July 2014, in vertical file for Henry Louis Johnson and Nellie Black.

[7] “Indigenous Americas Region, “ Ancestry Support (https://support.ancestry.com/s/article/Native-American-DNA  : accessed 27 Feb 2020).

[8]. 1910 U.S. Census, McLennan county, Texas, population schedule, Waco City, enumeration district (ED) 89, sheet 25B, dwelling 276, family 298, Nellie B. Black, age 22; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed 26 Feb 2020; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publicationT624_1575.

[9] Camtrot, “Trotter Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/20201602/person/943537300/facts  : accessed 26 Feb 2020), “C.W. Black,” born and died in South Carolina.

[10] GaryTaylor8958, “Lynda Jean Martin Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/9918609/person/-693511314/facts   :  accessed 26 Feb 2020, “William Caleb Black,” born South Carolina; last census record 1920 in Garvin, Anderson, South Carolina.

[11] 1900 U.S. Census, Anderson county, South Carolina, population schedule, Garvin, enumeration district (ED) 52, sheet 20A, dwelling 217, family 225, Nellie Black, age 14; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed 26 Feb 2020). Nellie listed as born in South Carolina.

A case of mistaken identity

The name on the state death index is the same. The woman died in the same county where my ancestor lived.  If the death date is correct, then she was over 100 years old. Possible?  Yes.  Post the information to online family tree and mark it as tentative. Others copy the information but leave out ‘tentative’.  Add ‘order death certificate’ to my to-do list. Three years later, I finally retrieve her file.  It’s time to follow-up.

Is Martha Catherine Ellerbee, who died in 1929, actually Martha Love Ellerbee?

In 2016, I found this listing on the Florida Death Index[1]:

                Name                                    Place       Sex      Col.         Vol.        Number         Year

Ellerbee, Martha Catharine         Tampa         F           W           459         16971            1929

Tampa is in Hillsborough county, Florida.  Before ordering her death certificate, I reviewed the records and information already in my file about Martha Love Ellerbee.  I remembered that Martha certainly lived in Hillsborough county, Florida.

Martha Love married John Ellerbee in 1842 in Randolph County, Georgia. [2] By 1850, John, age 42, and Martha, age 26, lived in Baker county, Georgia.  [3]  The census record lists 8 presumed children- Edward, age 19; Elizabeth, age 14; James, age 12; Sanderlin, age 6; Smith, age 5; Jasper, age 4; not named female, age 3; and Martha, age 2. Birthplaces ranged from Houston county, Georgia for the first three to Randolph county for Sanderlin and Smith to Baker county for the others.  Given estimated birth years and Martha’s marriage to John in 1842, she would not be the mother of Edward, Elizabeth, and James.  Martha’s estimated birth year of 1824 suggests that she was about 18 years old when she married John.

Note1_May2019_post2 The year 1860 finds John E. Ellerbee, age 52, and Martha, age 36, in Calhoun county, Georgia. [4] Six more children were added to the family.  Ten years later, John Ellerbee, age 63, and 47-year-old Martha lived in Jackson county, Florida with nine children. [5]  The family moved again by 1880, now living in Hillsborough county, Florida. [6]  John’s recorded age was 72 and Martha’s recorded age was 56. Four separate censuses, conducted 10 years apart, reveal  consistent birth information about John and Martha.  John was born circa 1807-1808 in Georgia . Martha was born circa 1823-1824 in North Carolina.

John Ellerbee died in Hillsborough county, Florida, on 6 April 1884.[7] Martha was now a widow.  Individual states, including Florida, conducted a census in 1885. The census taker recorded M. Ellerbee, age 68, boarder, widow, living with the J.L. Carter family in Hillsborough county, Florida in June 1885. [8]  J. L. Carter is Jesse L. Carter, husband of Eliza A. Ellerbee.  Eliza, born about 1855 in Georgia,  is listed on the 1860 and 1870 censuses with her parents, John and Martha. On the 1885 census record,  Martha’s birthplace is reported as North Carolina, consistent with previous records.  The only inconsistency is her recorded age of 68 which suggests birth year about 1817. Although her first name is not recorded, I believe that ‘M. Ellerbee, 68, boarder, widow, born N.C.’ is Martha Love Ellerbee, mother of Eliza A. Ellerbee and 11 other children.

Note2_May2019_post2Worth Marion Ellerbee (1856- 1932) filed as administrator of his father’s estate in Hillsborough county, Florida on 24 July 1886.[9] Why did he delay two years to file?  Did he wait until his mother died?  The probate records do not mention Martha Ellerbee,  John’s widow.  Did Martha die between June 1885 and July 1886?

I have not found any records for  70+ year old Martha Ellerbee after the June 1885 census. Online searches included multiple databases of census and death records as well as newspapers.  I now come  full circle to the 1929 Florida Death Index entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee.[10]   The answer is obvious – obtain a copy of the death certificate.

Fortunately, a copy of Florida Death Certificate number 16971 for Martha Catherine Ellerbee was available online. [11]  Pertinent information includes:

Martha Catherine Ellerbee. Single.
Date of birth: Feb’y 25, 1911.
Age: 18 years, 8 months, 27 days. 
Birthplace: Pasco county,Fla.
Father: Marion Ellerbee, Birthplace Ga.
Mother: Ruby Kersey, Birthplace: Fla.

Her father was Worth Marion Ellerbee, son of John E. Ellerbee and Martha Love.  Big sigh!  This Martha Catherine Ellerbee was NOT Martha Love Ellerbee.

I removed the reference to 1929 death of Martha Love Ellerbee from online family tree.  I added the information to Martha Catherine Ellerbee, daughter of Worth Marion Ellerbee.  Martha Love Ellerbee died after June 1885, probably in Hillsborough county, Florida. The search continues to confirm exact date and place.

To summarize, an entry on the Florida Death Index led to review of previous information found for Martha Love Ellerbee.  A copy of the death certificate, found online, confirmed that Martha Catherine Ellerbee, who died in 1929, was NOT Martha Love Ellerbee.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION

I was disappointed that I did not death information for Martha Love Ellerbee.  If she died in 1929, she would have been about 105 years old, which is possible.  Not finding information for her after 1885 means only that she died after June 1885. No mention of her  in husband’s probate suggests that she died before July 1886. Since her husband died in Hillsborough county, Florida, and many of her children continued to live there, I believe that she died in Hillsborough county.

What I learned:  Post information as ‘tentative’ (preferably in BIG RED LETTERS) if not confirmed. Keep copious notes when and where information is found as well as analysis. A Research Log is a good place for this.  New information requires careful review of previous information.

What helped: Previous work on this family from 2010-2011 and again in 2016. Paper copies of documents.

What didn’t help:  Research logs just now being done for this family. Inconsistent notes/ analysis of previous findings.

TO-DO: Keep looking for Martha Love Ellerbee’s death information.  Review previously searched databases again. Look for unusual sources such as newspapers and county history books.

NEXT BLOG:  John Ellerbee’s Probate record

SOURCES

[1]  “Florida Death Index, 1877-1998,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed, printed 23 October 2016), entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee, 1929; citing Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Records.

[2]  “Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978,” marriage record, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : downloaded & printed 5 January 2018), entry for John Ellibee & Martha Love; citing  County Marriage Records, 1828–1978; The Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

[3] 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 49 B (penned), dwelling 1111, family 141, John E. Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, printed, downloaded 3 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll M432_61.

[4] 1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 42 (ink pen), dwelling 289, family 289, John E Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed & downloaded 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M654_113.

[5] 1870 U.S. Census, Jackson county, Florida, population schedule, Marianna, p. 54 (ink pen), dwelling 586, family 587, John Ellerbee age 63; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, downloaded, printed 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593_130.

[6] 1880 U.S. Census, Hillsborough county, Florida, population schedule, Precinct 5, enumeration district (ED) 061, p. 33 (ink pen); p. 407C (stamp), dwelling 402, John Ellerbee age 72; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, printed, downloaded 1 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 128.

[7]  “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : accessed & printed 5 May 2019), entry for John Ellerbee; citing “Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1914” [database online], Florida County, District and Probate Courts; administrator: W.M. Ellerbee

[8] 1885 Florida State Census, Hillsborough county, population schedule, , page 4 D (ink pen); page 105D, family 35, J L Carter age 37 head; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed, printed, downloaded 1 May 2019); citing “Schedules of the Florida State Census of 1885”, National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M845, roll 4.

[9]  “Florida, County Judge’s Court (Hillsborough County),” digital images, Ancestry, entry for John Ellerbee.

[10]  “Florida Death Index, 1877-1998,” digital images, Ancestry, entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee, 1929.

[11] Hillsborough county, Florida, Florida Deaths, 1877-1939, , entry for Martha Catherine Ellerbee, 21 November 1929; digital images, Family Search (http://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FP3Z-FN4  :   viewed & printed 5 May 2019); citing Tampa, Hillsboro Co., Florida, reference volume 435, no. 16971.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and  Posting Family Roots, 2019

Research plans and BSOs

Research?  Really?  That’s what I’m doing when I’m ‘doing genealogy’?  Answer:  Yes.  The term ‘research’ often brings up images of laboratories, white coats, and persons with no interests beyond that laboratory.  As an amateur genealogist, my family sometimes wonders if I have any other interests.  Housework versus searching census records for an elusive ancestor?  The census record search will win every time!  At least, until the laundry hamper is overflowing and my stomach is growling! Then, the census record search is only deferred for a few hours.

research dictionary.jpg

As promised,  in this blog, I explore more of my not-so-wonderful research practices, specifically “going wherever the research leads me” and “following rabbit trails (aka BSOs or bright shining obects)”.  At first glance, these look like similar items.  And, in some ways, they are similar.  Both practices are inefficient and waste time and resources.   Here’s an example:

Current practice Improved practice
Going wherever the research leads me Tracking census records for one family back from 1920s.  1900 census listed 3 children living with parents.  I click on each child’s name and trace them , and their children, as far as I can.    Sometimes,  I go to other sources but not on a regular basis.  Child #2 is my direct ancestor.   Write basic information on piece of paper (only source notation is 1900 census).   Make mental note of what additional info is needed and/or questions.  Follow BSO for other children. Before ending session:

  • Enter names of spouses, marriage date & location, death date & location on Family Group Sheet for parents.  Use pencil if still needs to be verified.
  • Enter information to genealogy program on personal computer.
  • Add information to research log, including complete citation.
  • Create  item, with note, on To-do list, as needed.
  • End session.  If time permits, begin another item on To-do list or go to another person’s To-do list.
Following rabbit trails (aka BSOs) Two of the 3 children are not my direct ancestor.   Spent about 2 hours (after midnight) clicking on every hint.  Finally ended session when I was going after the parents of mother-in-law  of  Child #3’s son.  Did not meet that session’s goal of tracking my family before 1900. Ask:  Is this information relevant to my current line of research?  If not,  STOP!  If potentially relevant, enter on research log and  to-do list. Include questions to be answered.   Continue with current plan.

Note:  I like tables to compare information.  Creating a table helps me to put things in perspective rather than slogging through several paragraphs.  My co-workers often rolled their eyes when I presented them with another table of data!  But, I learned to accept the fact that not everyone sees the world in the same way.

Genealogy research is a process.  Most of us (including me)  probably just have a mental plan when we do genealogy.   If you have problems staying focused, write out a plan at the beginning of each session.  A research log can be the place to document your actions and findings.

  • Goal/ expected outcome/ proof point: What are you looking for or trying to prove ? What questions do you have about the person or family?
  • Assessment: What information do you already have?
  • Plan of action: What specific items are you looking for?  Where will you look ?  How much time do you have?  If you have a long list of items,  set priorities.
  • Actions taken: Check off each item as you locate and review it.  Be sure to write out complete citations or transcribe immediately to your computer-based research log.
  • Effectiveness of actions/ analysis:  Write down what you discovered.  Analyze your findings.  Were  your questions answered?  If not,  what are your next steps?  Add  next steps to To-Do list.

Here’s an example:

Goal/ expected outcome/ proof point:    Prove parents of James D. Posten.

Assessment:    Typewritten lineage from great-aunt (now deceased), courtesy of cousin [1]

typed Posten lineage.jpg

James D. Posten, born 1829 and died 1914, buried in Pittston City Cemetery, Pittston, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania.[2].  1850 census, Monroe county, PA:  James Portons, 19, with Thomas Portons, age 68 (as transcribed).[3]

Plan of action:  Obtain death certificate for James D. Posten.

Actions taken:   Requested death certificate from Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Effectiveness/ analysis:   Received copy of death certificate[4] about a month after making request.    Names of parents reported as Thomas Postens and Esther Brown.   James’s birthplace recorded as Monroe county, Pennsylvania.  Goal met.  James’ birth date recorded as Aug. 11, 1829.  From 1850 census, James’ birth year about 1831. Could still be same person.   Next steps:   Search 1830/ 1840/ 1850/ 1860 census records for Thomas and Esther.  Focus on Monroe county.  Continue search of census records from 1860 to 1900 for James Posten.  Search 1850 census for James Posten  birth year about 1831 with focus on Monroe and surrounding counties.

I have lots of handwritten notes on printed census records and other documents.  As I continue to work through the various generations, I plan to create research logs,  a tool that I have rarely used.

No, I did not actually write out the initial plan!  But, I did have it (sort of ) in my head.   This is my typical way of doing things. Then, I let the information take me wherever.  Two (or five) hours later, I have followed numerous BSOs and still may not have what I was looking for.  At this point, I usually am not even sure about what I found that didn’t help, those ‘negative findings’.  So, I look  at the same material again and still find that it doesn’t answer my question.

What if you don’t find what you expected?  Set a new goal and develop a new action plan. Keep track of what you searched for and what you found, or didn’t find.  Further research showed that the next two generations in the line (James E.  Posten and Mary Dean, Jacob Posten and Anna Burson) are not my direct ancestors. That is a story for another day!

Want to know more about the genealogy research process?  Try these links:

Next blog:  My experiences with research logs.

Footnotes:

[1] Posten family traditions regarding ancestors of John Posten (born 1887), Ruby Grace Gardner, compiler (Pedigree and notes privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma) as reported by Vera Posten Brooks, ca. 1989.  A handwritten note on the document states “I don’t know how accurate it is.”

[2] Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com   : accessed 3 Mar 2012), memorial 5613463, James D. Posten, Pittston City Cemetery, Pittston, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; gravestone picture by sharleenp.

[3]1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Phebe Bertyman [Brutzman]; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com    :  accessed 3 Mar 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 789

[4] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate no. 118955 , James D. Posten (1914); Division of Vital Records, New Castle, PA.

Genealogy Do-Over: Month 2, Blog #1

Month 2 – still working on the re-organization of paper files and completing worksheets.  I started with in-law files then decided to tackle the more difficult files- my dad’s.   I am still spread out on our dining room table.  By the end of the month (February, 2017),  dad’s files were done and I began on mom’s files.  Once my documentation system was in place,  the process went a little smoother.   As I quickly reviewed dad’s files to write this blog, I realized that I had forgotten an important item on each document – signing and dating each form. oopsI didn’t start doing that until I was into mom’s files.  So, two months later and I am back into the paper files to make sure that each document is signed and dated.

Why is signing and dating a worksheet or family group sheet  so important?   First, it tells who filled in the blanks.  Many forms have space for this information.  Unfortunately, the forms that I chose do not have a designated space to fill in.  Second, date tells when the form was filled out.  I found many old forms with dates as early as 2001- 2002 and one or two from the 1990s. There had been numerous updates to most of the information since the original form was filled out.  However,  I am keeping the old forms as a record of my research at that time.  Also, these old records helped me to identify research habits that needed changing.

Which brings me to the focus of this month’s activities :  1) establish base practices and guidelines and 2) setting research goals.  Recognizing the need to ‘clean up my act’ was the motivating factor to do this in the first place.

Where to begin?  Start with myself [1].   Goal #1 for month 2: Collect and record information for myself, husband Jay and our parents.   Outcome:   Completed for Jay (husband) and myself on February 2, 2017.  Completed for both sets of parents by the end of February.   This was relatively (excuse the pun) easy.  In 2011, I became an official Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR) and had collected my documents for that application.  In 2013 and 2014, I created family history scrapbooks for my in-laws and had collected many of their documents.  A DAR application for my mother-in-law finished the collection.  Birth, death, marriage, divorce certificates are now in appropriate folders for these two generations.  Individual checklists are filled out as much as possible.  Our siblings have their own family group sheets and checklists.  However,   I don’t have their birth & marriage certificates.  More items for the To-Do list! Oh, well!

Now, onward to Generation 3 , grandparents.  I have the documents for my paternal grandparents as result of DAR application.  My maternal grandparents were born in New York in late 1890s. I began getting certificates last year but not in any systematic manner.  Last year,  I had written for, and received, a death record for my great-great-grandfather, who died in 1898 in New York.  New York has wonderful records!Love NYI already have my grandfather’s birth certificate, sent to me by a New York cousin, so my grandmother was next on the list. Birth certificate received on March 14, 2017!  Here’s a partial transcript.

Full name of child: Amalie Charlotte Maurer
Sex: Female. No. of child of mother: 5 
Date of Birth: 26 May 1892. Hour of birth: 4 pm
Place of birth: Hopkins Street 
Mother’s full name: Anna Maurer. Age: 28 years
Mother’s maiden name: Klee Birthplace: Brooklyn
Father’s full name: Herrman Maurer. Age 32 years
Father’s occupation: mat???llmoulder Birthplace: Brooklyn

Seems like routine information.  But, there were several surprises.  First,  name of child.  I had always heard that Gram’s name was Charlotte.  Family and friends called her Lottie.   Her middle name has been reported as both Anna and Amalie.  Amalie was her first name!  Make corrections to all of my records.  Second,  she is reported as 5th child of her mother.  Wait a minute – according to my records,  Amalie Charlotte was Anna’s 4th child!  Another item for the To-Do list:  discover 5th child born to Herrman and Anna between December, 1883 (date of their marriage) and May, 1892. So tempting to follow that BSO now!  And, finally, just what was Herrman’s occupation??

Enough for this post!  In my next post, I will explore more of my not-so-wonderful research practices and what I am doing to improve.