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, (    :   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.



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, ( : 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  (    :  Accessed 16 Aug 2010 and 3 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 798.

[4] “Public Member Trees,” database, (  :  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 ( : 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  (      : 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  ( : 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.

“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.


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:

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.


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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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, ( : 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, ( : 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 ( accessed 11 Jul 2017); from National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1419.

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?


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, ( : 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, (  :  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, (  :  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].


Memorial Day 2017 – In honor of Herman E. Maurer (1923 – 1944)

memorial day stampIt’s Memorial Day weekend.  I planned to continue with a post about using research logs and genealogy.  That post can wait.  I am going to write about my first cousin once removed, Herman E. Maurer,  who was killed in action during World War II.

As I reviewed my other blog posts, I realized that I have been doing more teaching and not so much reflection.   I am a nurse for over 40 years now and 25+ years of that time was spent in education, teaching men and women how to be nurses.   One of our teaching tools is journaling – having the students reflect on their clinical experiences.   I remember telling them to write more than just a list of what they did.  What did you do today?  How did you feel about giving a shot or watching a baby being born?  Nervous? Confident? Frustrated? Awed by the experience?   What did you learn? What or who helped? What or who didn’t help?  Suggest ways to make the next clinical day better.   So, starting with this post, I am going to take my own advice and do more reflecting.

What memories do you have of Memorial Day?  When I was in grade school and middle school in northern Kentucky,  Memorial Day meant that the school year ended.  I don’t remember doing anything special as a family.  Dad was an airline mechanic so he often had to work on holidays.   As a nurse, I, too, often worked on this holiday.  On the other hand, my husband’s family usually got together and had the first family barbecue of the summer season.

As an older adult, I began to appreciate the significance of this holiday.  Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day, honors those who have died in battle defending our country.  It is a uniquely American holiday.  American flags are placed on the graves of veterans, whether or not the veteran died during war time.  Facts:

  • The idea began after the Civil War. “It [Decoration Day] was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.”[1]
  • General James Garfield made the first Decoration Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery. “About 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.”[2]
  • Originally, Memorial Day was on held on May 30th. [3] In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) and made Memorial Day the last Monday in May. Controversy about the 3-day weekend versus May 30th continues to the present.
  • Several southern states honor the Confederate war dead on these days: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

The Memorial Day website has more information about this holiday.

Now, remembering my first cousin, once removed, Herman E. Maurer.   Herman was born on July 13, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York. [4],[5]   to Herman Charles Maurer and his second wife, Elizabeth Veronica Major.   By 1925[6], the family moved to Huntington, Suffolk county, New York, where other members of Herman’s family also lived.  Herman E. enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 25, 1942.[7]  Assigned to the 485th Bomber Group,  828th Bomb Squad and trained as gunner, he was quickly promoted from private to staff sergeant.  Herman was a member of Crew #17 with pilot, Hudson Owen.

On June 26, 1944, Herman Maurer flew with Parke Bossart’s crew.  Unknown is whether Herman volunteered to fly with a different crew on this day or whether he was assigned.  The B-24 Liberator crew of 10 was assigned to bomb  an oil refinery near Florisdorf, Austria.  About 9:30 am, they engaged  Germans in an air battle.  According to one document in the file, [8]  Herman had flown about 24 missions.  During the attack, Herman was wounded and reported “enemy planes coming in at tail.”  One crew member reported  last seeing Herman as he entered the tail turret.  Herman was the only crew member who died that day.  The others were captured and interred at Dulag Luft. [9]

Herman was initially buried at the Pressbaum Cemetery, Pressbaum,  Austria.[10]  His body was later returned to the United States.  On May 18, 1949, Herman E. Maurer was laid to rest in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York.[11]   Herman E Maurer gravestone

The pilot,  Parke N. Bossart,  later filed this report: [12]

“One of the other officers in my crew (I’ve forgotten which one) was shown Maurer’s dog tags by his interrogater [sic]  in Frankfurt and told that the tail gunners’ remains were found in the wreckage. Reports of the other member of the crew indicate that Maurer destroyed either two or three of the German fighters who made the final attack on our plane and was presumably killed by them. He should be posthumously cited for this, but since my return, I haven’t found anyone sufficiently interested to do anything about it – or even take a report on it.”

air medal_memorial day 2017

United States: Air Medal.  Picture copied  from Project ww2awards website

Herman did receive two posthumous medals —  Purple Heart and Air Medal.[13]  The Air Medal , established in 1942, ‘is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the armed forces of the United States, shall have distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight”.[14]

Being an avid researcher and probably OCG (obsessive-compulsive genealogist), I wanted to know more.  I googled ‘485th bomber group World War II’ and found a website[15]:      I followed the 485th Photos button to the ‘Photos of the 828th Squadron Crews’ button and down to Bossart crew.   Parke Bossart was the pilot.  There, in the picture, third from the right, was a man without a name, listed as ‘unknown’ on the picture legend.  All of the other men were identified by name.  Could this man be my cousin, Herman E. Maurer?  Further down on the website was a picture of the Owen crew and Herman is named.    But, there are only 4 men on the back row and 5 men are named.  So, which one is Herman?  I am waiting confirmation from the webmaster.


Owen Crew_Herman Maurer named here

Owen crew – 828th Squadron – Original crew #17
Front Row, L – R:  Joe Coker, Engineer/Gunner; William Roberts, Co-Pilot; Hudson Owen, Pilot; Jerry Durden, Bombardier; Perry Monroe, Gunner.
Back Row, L – R: Alfred Aborjaily, Radio Operator/Gunner; George Mack, Gunner; Kenneth Ponte, Gunner; Herman Maurer, Gunner; Fales Holcomb, Navigator. 
The assigned plane for this crew was “My Brother and I”.  Fales and Durden were killed flying with Thomas Baker’s crew on 7/20/44, when the plane was shot down by fighters on the Friedrichschafen mission.  Maurer was killed while flying with Bossart’s crew on 6/26/44 and Mack became a POW, also flying with Bossart’s crew on the 6/26/44 Vienna mission.  Several from this crew were wounded when they crashed while landing at Bari on 6/28/44.  

Picture and narrative retrieved 26  May 2017:

By this time, I am in tears.  The picture of Herman will be put with the story and other documents.   He was 3 weeks shy of his 21st birthday and a year younger than my youngest son.  Thank you, Herman, for your sacrifice!

 Before you ask, yes,  I sent an email with copies of all  information to the contact person on the website.   After I dry my tears , I will fill out a research log.

Reflection on this experience:   Today, I learned about the history of Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day.  Most exciting thing was possibly finding a picture of my cousin who died in World War II.  The emotions almost overwhelmed me.  I used the internet effectively to find out more about my cousin’s military service.  What didn’t help was that I did not have complete sources for several documents that I downloaded five years ago.  I felt frustrated when I couldn’t quickly access those documents again so I could get the source.  Ultimately, I did find the documents again and now have the complete sources.  As I write these blog posts, I am using skills that I am learning as part of my Genealogy Do-over, specifically documentation (using research logs) and source citation (using templates).  Primary challenge remains  slowing down and taking time to review/ analyze information, as well as documenting sources and my thought processes.  I am still a novice when it comes to use of research tools.

[1] Memorial Day (  : accessed 24 May 2017), “History.”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., “Date Restoration.”

[4]  Department of Veterans Affairs, “Nationwide Gravesite Locator,” database, National Cemetery Association. (   : accessed 24 May 2017), entry for Herman E. Maurer (1923-1944), Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, New York.  

[5] 1940 U.S. census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Huntington, Enumeration District [ED] 52-102, p. 7A (penned), household # 106, Herman Maurer: digital images, ( accessed 25 May 2017); from National Archives microfilm publication T626, roll 1651, image 1014.0.

[6] 1925 New York state census, Suffolk County, population schedule, Huntington, p. 44, dwelling [blank],  for Herman E. Maurer in Herman C. Maurer household;  digital images, ( accessed 25 May 2017), citing State population census schedules, 1925. Albany, New York: New York State Archives.

[7] “U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946”, database and images,  ( accessed 26 May 2016), record for Herman E. Maurer , enlistment date 25 Nov 1942, New York City, New York; citing Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

[8] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), compiled 1942-1947,” database and images, (   : accessed 25 May 2017), Report No. 6822 (36 pages), Serial No. 41-29291, Year: 1944; Record Group 92: Publication No. M1380, Roll 02401-02500,  National Archives Catalog ID 305256.  National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

[9] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs, compiled 1942-1947,” database,  Report No. 6822, Year: 1944.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Dept. of Veterans Affairs, “Nationwide Gravesite Locator,” database entry for Herman E. Maurer (1923-1944).  

[12] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs, compiled 1942-1947,” database Report No. 6822, Year: 1944.  Individual Casualty Questionnaire completed by Parke N. Bossart, pilot.

[13]“U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962”, database and images, ( :  accessed 25 May 2017),  entry for Herman E. Maurer,  serial no. 12189684,  citing Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962. Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

[14] Project, (  : accessed 25 May2017), “United States: Air Medal AM.”

[15] 485th Bomber Group Association, (  :  accessed 25 May 2017),  “485th Photos, Photos of the 828th  Squadron Crews.”

Reflections on Mother’s Day, 2017

Today, I decided to focus on my grandmothers.  No special reason, it just seemed like the right thing to do.  I realized that I had few pictures of either one of my grandmothers.  I went to a small brown trunk and a red cardboard box of pictures.    I found a 1954 picture of my dad’s mother and a 1955 picture of my mom’s mother.

Jennie Amelia Richards (paternal grandmother)

Jennie Amelia Richards was the daughter of Ostrander Richards and Amelia Magdellene LaCoe.  Jennie was born on January 15, 1884, in Ransom Township, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania, the youngest of seven children[1],[2].   Her father was a farmer.   Two of her siblings died before Jennie was born – Mary Amelia Richards, died in 1878 at age 11[3], and William Ostrander Richards, died in 1883 at age of 13[4].  A third sibling, Ora Nathaniel Richards, died in 1893[5].  One of her brothers, Leslie Frank Richards, was known as “progressive truck farmer” in Lackawanna county. [6]  The family was still living in Ransom Township in 1900.[7]  Jennie married John Ray Posten, a fireman from West Pittston, Pennsylvania, in September , 1910. [8], [9]  Six children were born to Jennie and John:  Lester Joseph (b. 1911); George Ray (born 1913); Grace Amelia (born 1915); Daniel Richard (born 1917 – my dad);  Martha Gertrude (born 1920) and Mary Elizabeth (born 1923).  According to Aunt Mary[10], “we moved around a lot” and  lived on small farmsteads outside of city limits.

Grandma Posten 1954_ver2

Jennie was very religious and regularly attended church , usually walking to services.  She had a ‘green thumb’  (which my dad inherited) and was very proud of both her vegetable and flower gardens.  As the United States entered World War I, John and Jennie owned a farm on Russell Hill, near Tunkhannock, Luzerne county.   According to Aunt Mary[11],  John chose to work  the farm and raise food for the soldiers rather than serving in Europe.   They lost the farm during the depression.   However, Jennie was frugal and a good manager, so the family always had food.  The boys hunted and provided meat in the form of squirrels and rabbits.[12]  Pancake batter made from sourdough was also a staple food item.

In 1940, Jennie became the main provider for the family as John suffered health issues  and was hospitalized.   John died in 1948 and Jennie went to live with her son, Lester.   I remember going to Pennsylvania every other year.  Jennie, aka Grandma Posten, always seemed quiet and withdrawn.  She knew Dad and had to be re-introduced to us, her grandchildren, each time.  This could have been simply because we visited so rarely.

How little I know about Jennie’s early life beyond the events listed here!   Being a farmer’s daughter, she probably worked on the farm from an early age.  She completed 8th grade[13].  I recall Dad saying that she insisted on each of them attending high school, showing that she valued education.  Pride in a flower garden indicates that she also enjoyed the beauty of nature, perhaps appreciating it as a gift of God.

ImageJennie died peacefully on June 25, 1964, at the age of 80.[14]  She was found sitting on the floor, with a sandwich and a glass of milk next to her.  Cause of death was probably a massive heart attack.  Aunt Mary and Aunt Grace said that I look like her.  Unfortunately,  I did not inherit her green thumb!  But, I do enjoy a small herb garden and a few flowers.  After Dad died, we had a small vegetable garden for several years.  Digging in the soil helped me feel closer to Dad and, without recognizing it at the time, his mother.   Thank you, Jennie!

Amalie Charlotte Maurer (maternal grandmother)

Amalie Charlotte Maurer  was the daughter of George Hermann Maurer and Anna Klee.   Lottie, aka Gram, was the granddaughter of German immigrants; her grandfather came to the United States in the 1850s. Lottie was born in Brooklyn, Queens, New York, on May 26, 1892, [15]  the fifth of nine children.   She married Esbon Jeremiah Tucker of Greene County, New York, on June 3, 1917.[16]   Lottie and Esbon had 4 children:   Esbon Herman , born 1918; Eunice Bertha, born 1919 (my mother);  William Burde, born 1923; and Mercedes Viola, born 1925.  After the death of their parents , Lottie’s sister,  Viola Blanche Maurer, came to live with Lottie and Esbon.

Huntington NY May 1955 names_ver2

By 1910, Lottie’s parents  had moved to Huntington, Suffolk county, New York[17], which is on Long Island.  Herman was a brass worker, which means that he may have worked in a smelting factory.  Lottie and Esbon remained on Long Island for the rest of their lives.   Gram spent all of her life in urban and suburban areas.  Like many suburban families, she  had a small garden for personal use.  However, they family did not rely on this garden as a primary source of food.  My grandfather, Esbon, worked for the phone company and apparently did not lose his job during the depression.  Although money was scarce, they had the necessities of life and, because of Pop’s job, were a little better off than many other families.

Gram & Pop's house Spring Street ca 1957_ver2

I also know little about Lottie’s life beyond the facts and events recorded here and my own memories.  Lottie collected salt and pepper shakers, which were stored in a wood cabinet in their musty basement on Spring Street in Huntington.   I am not  sure what church they attended.  Both Gram and Viola knew how to knit and crochet; they taught my mother, who taught me.  I continue to enjoy these crafts.   Gram’s kitchen was very small and a 1950s style kitchen table made it even more crowded.   However, the amount of food that came out of that kitchen was always remarkable!

Lottie and Esbon lived in their own home throughout their  57 years of marriage.  Lottie died on April 9, 1974 in Huntington, Suffolk County, New York at the age of 82.[18]  My grandfather died 10 years later. Thank you, Lottie!

Reflecting on my grandmothers, I realize that I am, indeed, a composite of both.  From Grandma Posten,  I inherited physical characteristics and an appreciation of growing things, although not her green thumb.  Her daughter recognized Jennie’s ability to manage;  for the last 18 years,  I have been in a mid-level administrative/ management position.    From Gram Tucker, I inherited needlework skills and a love of cooking, especially German food.   Canning and preserving food was a necessity for both grandmothers.  I enjoy the process and results although I do not have to raise the food.   Hopefully, I inherited the longevity genes from both and can expect to live 80+ years.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I honor my mother’s mother , Amalie Charlotte Maurer Tucker, and my father’s mother, Jennie Amelia Richards Posten.  Both contributed unique talents and values to their children who, subsequently, shared those same talents and values with me.

Genealogy to-do list for today:  Scan pictures pulled from boxes.  Add items to Research Logs:  Mary Amelia Richards – confirm death date & location;  William Ostrander Richards—confirm death date and location.  Marriage certificate and death certificates for Esbon Tucker and Charlotte Maurer Tucker were ordered  in March, 2017; should be arriving soon!

[1] J.B. Stephens, compiler, History and Directory of Newton and Ransom Townships, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania (Montrose, Pennsylvania: J.B. Stephens, 1912),  216; digital images, Pennsylvania State University Libraries Digital Library Collections,    (  :  accessed, downloaded & printed 8 June 2010.

[2] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate no. 062881-64 ,  Jennie Richards Posten (1964) ; Division of Vital Records, New Castle, PA.

[3] Unknown, IGI Family Group Record, Family Group record # 34426625.

[4] Unknown, IGI Family Group Record. No other information listed.

[5] Find A Grave, database with images (   : accessed 14 May 2017), memorial 73363200,  Ora Richards, Milwaukee Cemetery, Scranton, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania; gravestone picture by JGordon24.

[6] Stephens,  History and Directory of Newton and Ransom Townships, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, 215-216.

[7] 1900 U.S. census, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, RansomTownship, Enumeration District [ED] 40th, sheet no. 10A (penned), 225A (stamped),  dwelling 133, family 137, Jennie Richards, daughter: digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 14 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication T623, roll 1419.

[8] Stephens, History and Directory of Newton and Ransom Townships, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, p. 216.  John and Jennie’s marriage date is recorded as September 21, 1910.  Their marriage license was issued on September 21, 1910 per county records.

[9] “Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Marriage License Docket, 1907-1918”, John R. Posten-Jennie A. Richards, 21 September 1910, license no. 56312; image, “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950”,  FamilySearch (   : accessed 14 May 2017).

[10] Mary E.  Button Posten (Luzerne County, Pennsylvania), telephone interview by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, 21 Jan 2011;   transcript privately held by Ellerbee,  [address for private use, ] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2011.  Mary, a daughter of Jennie, spoke from personal knowledge of her mother.

[11]Mary E. Posten Button, interview, 21 Jan 2011.

[12] Daniel R. Posten (Bryant, Saline County, Oklahoma), information given to Susan M. Posten Ellerbee,  ca. 1975,   no transcript available, information  privately held by Ellerbee,  [address for private use, ] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Daniel, a son of Jennie, spoke about his childhood.

[13] 1940 U.S. census, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Tunkhannock Township, Enumeration District [ED] 66-23, sheet no. 14A (penned),  family 236, Jennie Posten: digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 14 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication T627, roll 3640.

[14] Pennsylvania death certificate no. 062881-64  (1964), Jennie Richards Posten.

[15] New York City Department of Records and Information Services,  birth certificate no. 5947 ,  Amalie Charlotte Maurer (1892); Municipal Archives, New York, New York.

[16] Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker, “Maurer- Tucker Family History.” (Handwritten notes. Huntington, New York, ca. 1975-1980), Esbon J. Tucker, p. 2;  carbon copy  privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010.  Transcribed by Ms. Ellerbee in 2012. Ms. Ellerbee is the granddaughter of Amalie Charlotte Tucker and great-niece of Viola Blanche Maurer Tucker.

[17] 1910 U.S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, pop. sch., Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 1367, p. 2B, Family #26, Herman Maurer (head); digital images, ( : accessed, viewed, downloaded 31 January 2017); National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T624, roll 1083.

[18] Charlotte A. Tucker funeral card, Huntington, New York, privately held by Susan M. Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017. This funeral card was among papers that belonged to Eunice Bertha Tucker Posten, daughter of Charlotte Maurer and Esbon Tucker.

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.


[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 (   : 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, (    :  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: Months 2 – 5

It’s May 1 and Month 5 topics for the Genealogy Do-Over have just been posted.   Oh no!  I am only about halfway through Month 2!  However, I did work ahead.  This is where my pessimism—the glass half-empty rather than half full—kicks in.  I feel so overwhelmed!  Stop!  Take a deep breath!  Slow down!

Get out my Genealogy Do-Over notebook.   Check goals.  Were the goals realistic?  Too many goals?  Think positive – what have I done since January?  List goals that have been met:

  1. Color coded paper files. Identified color scheme for direct lines, collateral families, and possibly related families.  Placed documents for direct lines in appropriate color files according to plan.  (month 1 goal – completed month 4)
  2. Reviewed documents for 60+ families,  14-18 families for each set of parents.  Filled in research checklists & biographical outlines for  direct ancestors and their spouses.  Completed family group sheets for many siblings of direct ancestors.  (see #1).
  3. Identified, in writing, research practices to be improved. (month 1)
  4. Created folders for myself, husband and each parent. Located & filed BMD certificates. (month 2)
  5. Created family group sheets for my brother & sister, husband’s sister, our parents.  (months 2 & 3)

Insight – creating group sheets for self, siblings & parents.  This seems like such a ‘I should have had a V-8’ moment!  V8 juiceI have documents.  I enter information in my RootsMagic program on a regular basis.  But, the documents were not well organized.   And, sources?  Inconsistent.

  1. Adopted research log format (focus of Month 4).  Started 11 research logs.  This topic is subject of a later blog post.
  2. Bought items to help with organization, note taking and source citation. (months 1, 2, 4, 5).
    1. Evidence Explained book[1]
    2. Evernote computer program and book[2], [3]
    3. Forms template CD[4]
  3. Ordered selected documents based on review (see #2). Priority: 1 generation at a time!
    1. Maternal grandmother – birth, death, marriage. Birth certificate received on 14 April 2017.  See Month 2, Part 1 for details.
    2. Maternal grandfather – birth certificate already in file. Ordered death certificate.
    3. Obtained BMD certificates for husband’s grandparents in 2013 during genealogy field trip to Texas.
  4. Started a blog (suggested month 1; done month 4).

To be done:

  1. Fill in research log for self, husband, parents, parents-in-law. If time permits,  research logs for grandparents (if needed, defer  to next month).
  2. Set up notebooks for originals of documents. Includes dividers.
  3. Scan documents sent by 2nd cousin.  Place originals in notebook.
  4. Order vital records, as needed & available, for grandparents & great-grandparents.
  5. Conduct interviews: self, husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister (from Month 3).
  6. Identify specific proof points needing source for grandparents. Create master list for quick reference.   When done, do same for great-grandparents.

Ongoing goals/ non priority items:

  1. Place documents for collateral families and possibly related families in appropriate color files. Include family group sheet, research checklist, individual worksheet and biographical outline.  Start with brother-in-law, then nephew.
  2. Digital files: Rename media using standardized format.  Link media to events and facts.

Deferred Goals:

  1. Digital files: Cite sources  using standard, accepted format.  Focus for Month 5.

Now that it’s all on paper, I can see progress!    This brings me back to my reason for participating in the Genealogy Do-Over program.   Slow down!  Take your time!   Change what hasn’t worked!  Learn something new!

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Third editon.  (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015).

[2] Kerry Scott. How to use Evernote for Genealogy (Cincinnati, OH: Family Tree Books, 2015).

[3] Evernote Corporation, Evernote for Windows ®,  2017.  (  : accessed & downloaded 10 Jan 2017)

[4] Family Tree Magazine. Essential Family Tree Forms Library CD (New York City: F & W Media, 2014).

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.

Genealogy Do-over: Month 1, Part 2

Progress report:  Month 1,  Goal #2:  locate/ sort/ file essential documents and those that ‘”took considerable time, effort and money to order or collect.   Set aside for later review.”[1]

As of April 24, 2017 (Month 4),  this task is finally, almost complete for maternal & paternal lines, maternal  & paternal- in-laws families, taking much longer than I anticipated.  But, then, I realize that there are 500-600 people (or more) in each tree,  going back 5-7 generations.  Yes, not all of those people are directly related to us!  My husband said, more than once, “I hope that all of this  will actually help!” as I totally took over a dining room table.  Son #2 has his computer on our office desk so that space isn’t currently available.  I kept telling husband and sons, and reminding myself, that it was as much for those who will inherit my files as for me now.  I think that their eyes glazed over more than once when I tried to describe why I was doing this!   During the re-organization process,  I tried to carefully review documents.  I jumped ahead to Month 4 (research log) for a couple of brick walls and questions that came up.   I am proud of myself that I only followed 3-4 BSOs!  Staying away from those is a definite challenge!

What is a BSO?  BSO stands for “Bright and Shining Object”.   According to Thomas MacAntee [1],  a BSO is anything that “can cause your research to be derailed while you lose focus on your original research goal.”   For me, this has included not only those hints on the genealogy websites but a note that a town in the 1880 census no longer exists (spent 2 hours finding out more that was not really relevant to our family’s history), a 1940s newspaper clipping about a boy with our surname (turns out he was son of a 2nd cousin) and the death certificate of wife of  distant relative (until 2 am tracking her parents).   He recommends using a To-Do List.  To-Do lists include what you are trying to find, what you have found, and what you need to find to meet your research goal.  Basically, it’s a research plan and incorporates the BSO that is tempting you.


BSO example #1:    Finding 1st wife of  my  maternal great-great grandfather, Jeremiah Tucker.  According to oral family history, his wife’s name was Margaret/ Maggie Irwin.

Census records for 1870, 1880 & 1900 show Jeremiah and wife, Margaret.   A closer look at 1900 census record shows that Jeremiah & Margaret have been married for 33 years or estimated marriage year about 1867.  So, what’s the problem?  1870 census record – child, Lavinia, age 8 (born about 1862).  1880 census – daughter, Lanna, age 18.  If marriage information given in 1900 census is correct, then Margaret is probably Jeremiah’s 2nd wife.   Next item of interest already in my files, death certificate for George Tucker (age 3 in 1880) — his mother’s name is listed as Margaret Collins.  Wife, Margaret, listed in 1870/1880/1900 census records died before Jeremiah, who died in 1914.

Was  Jeremiah Tucker married to another woman named Margaret ?

This is definitely a BSO!  At any other time, I would have gone after this immediately.  But, I restrained myself .  So, here is the To-Do list:

  1. Confirm death date & location for Margaret Tucker.  Obtain death certificate.
  2.  Confirm death date & location for Lavinia Tucker; obtain death certificate.
  3. Obtain death certificates for other children of Jeremiah & Margaret – William Frederick Tucker (my great-grandfather),  Augusta Tucker Sanford.
  4. Search New York marriage records for Jeremiah Tucker and 1st wife, possibly also named Margaret, years 1860 to 1862.

During the re-organization & review process,  I encountered more BSOs and was able to avoid the temptation most of the time.  Frustrating?  Yes,  because I REALLY want to find the answer to the questions!   I will discuss other BSOs and my experiences with research logs  in a later blog.

For the moment,  I am beginning to see the benefits of the time spent on the re-organization of my files.  For each person, I can quickly scan 1 or 2 sheets of paper and see exactly what I need to find.  I also have entered  questions on the to-do tab in my genealogy software program.  Most of these will eventually be entered on the more detailed research logs.  And, future searches will, hopefully, be more focused and efficient because of time spent now.

Still to be done:   complete scanning of BMD certificates sent to me from cousin.  Put original certificates in archival quality plastic sleeves in appropriate notebooks.

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