Obituaries and death notices

Another death in our family this past week. I was given the privilege of writing my mother-in-law’s obituary. This task of love let me to reflect on obituaries and death notices as sources of information. In this post, I share my reflection with you.

Genealogists cull information about individuals and their families from these notices, usually published in local newspapers. What’s the difference between a death notice and an obituary? The answer is simple. A death notice usually gives only basic information about the person and their death. An obituary typically provides more information about the person and their family.

Death notices can still provide clues for follow up. Here is one example from my dad’s family. [1]

Other documents and her gravestone[2] show her name as Esther, maiden name Brown. The notice was published on Friday, February 14, 1840; her date of death- ‘Tuesday last’- means Tuesday, February 11, 1840.  The family should be found in or near Stroudsburg on 1840 census. Burial at Friends Graveyard means that Esther and Thomas were Quakers. My question is:  if she died and was buried in Monroe County, why was her death notice in a Pike County newspaper? Pike County and Monroe County are geographically close to each other. This led me to explore how county lines changed and to search for more information about a Brown family in Pike County. Age at death is sometimes listed. This example shows how even limited information can be used to discover information about a person and their family.

Obituaries give us a glimpse into the person’s life and family.  Often, you will read about the person’s occupation, hobbies, military service, religious affiliation, professional and social organizations, honors and awards as well as birth and death information. Names of parents, siblings and children are usually included. You may learn how long the person was married and whether the named relatives are dead or alive. Cause of death is sometimes included. “A sudden death” may suggest an accident or acute illness. “A long (or lingering) death” suggests one or more chronic illnesses. Photos are a more recent inclusion.  Today, funeral homes post obituaries online.

Siblings’ names can be used to uncover a woman’s maiden name.  One woman’s brothers had two different surnames, suggesting that one was her step-brother. The married name of a sister led to more records about the sister and, eventually, the names of their parents.

Also of interest is what information is not included. I found a marriage record for a person[3] on my mom’s family tree. His obituary[4] did not mention his wife. My best guess is that the marriage did not last long and that there were no children.

For more information about death notices and obituaries: https://newspaperlinks.com/obituaries/death-notices/

Writing obituaries: https://www.powershow.com/view/405446-OTJiN/Writing_Obituaries_powerpoint_ppt_presentation

To summarize, published death notices and obituaries are important sources of information for the genealogist. Glean what you can and offer thanks to those who provided the information.

REFLECTION

Another long week for our family, actually a long month as mother-in-law went from hospital to rehab, back to hospital and then to hospice care.   Family members asked me to write my mother-in-law’s obituary. This was a labor of love as well as an awesome responsibility. I had previously written obituaries for both of my parents and my father-in-law. As a genealogist, I am acutely aware of how much can be learned and/or surmised from these sources.

I may have posted something similar earlier but am too emotionally exhausted to look for it.

What I Learned (again):  the difficulty of capturing the essence of a person in just a few words.

What helped: I am a fairly skilled writer with a large vocabulary. Online and print thesaurus to help me choose just the right words. Getting to know my mother-in-law better during last few months that she has lived with us.

What didn’t help:  sleepless nights. Need to get it right quickly in only 1 or 2 drafts.

To-do: Save copies of print and online obituary with appropriate citations.


SOURCES

[1] Hester Postens death notice.  Published in The Jeffersonian Republican, Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania on 14 February 1840.  Page number not included with photocopy obtained from Monroe County Historical Association, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

[2] Grave marker for Esther Postens, Friends Burial Ground (Stroudsburg, Monroe, Pennsylvania); photo by Jerry L. Ellerbee; information read by Susan Posten Ellerbee, 15 August 2017.

[3] New York, Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 August 2018 ), entry for Arthur H. Smetts & Claudia J. Mertens; citing The Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records, New York, NY; names Arthur’s parents as Jacob Smets, Rose Maurer of New Brunswick,NJ and Claudia’s parents as Charles H. Mertens & Johanna Hack, 1433 Glover Street; marriage date 2 June 1926.

[4] “ARTHUR H. SMETTS,” obituary, Central New Jersey Home News, 19 November 1936, deceased; online images, Newspapers.com (http:///newspapers.com :  accessed 6 January 2021).

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2021

Priority- write that article!

                         

Just when I thought I had things under control, I re-prioritized my genealogy goals and began writing an article about my mother’s ancestors for a genealogy journal.  I thought that I had most of the information on three to four generations of descendants. I thought that I had most of the sources for that information. Over the last month, I discovered that neither one of those assumptions are true. In this post, I describe my journey to date.

What have I done to prepare for writing an article? In January of this year, I participated in a month-long webinar about writing. I bought a book, Guide to Genealogical Writing, and have been reading it.  I downloaded a template for writing using the Register style. I created an outline of people who I would be writing about. On the outline, I numbered each person as they would appear in the article.

Stratton and Hoff suggest to temporarily stop researching and start writing[1]. So, I have done that. I discover gaps in family stories –gaps not always identified in my RootsMagic tree.   Information on my RootsMagic tree on my computer is only partially complete, especially for the later generations. Sources are also incomplete. However, the families are becoming more real as I notice similarities and differences in family experiences. Example – sisters who both buried husbands and at least one child.   

I began writing the family stories with the information that I have. As I write, I make a note in red that a source or other information is needed.  I try to complete at least one person’s story each day. I follow the “cite as you write” guideline. Sometimes, I stop writing and follow clues to locate a source or other information. As a result, my personal tree is becoming more complete. So, the exercise of writing the family history for a genealogy journal has its benefits.  

Previously, I focused on the older generations, typically those who lived and died before the early decades of the 20th century.  This article includes four generations from my German ancestors in early 1800s through the latter part of the 20th century.  I choose not to include information about any persons who are still living.  

What have I learned from this? It takes more time than expected. There will be gaps to fill in. There will be sources to find. Even if my articles are not accepted for publication, I will leave fairly comprehensive and extensively researched histories to share with descendants. For your information, if the articles are not accepted for publication, I will share the information with you through my blog.  Yes,  I said  “articles”.  Last year, I started another article about a collateral family on Dad’s side.  I put aside that article to tackle other projects. When the current article is done, I plan to take up the second one again.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2021


[1] Penelope L. Stratton & Henry B. Hoff, Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014), p.3.

Where to next?

Who should I write about for today’s post? This question has bugged me for the last two weeks. Although I am working on several projects, none are ready for a report yet.

This year, I started tracking my blog post topics more closely. I created a spreadsheet with information about each blog post including date, title of post, and person or persons discussed in the post. I made a table with number of posts related to each family by year. The highest number for a given year reflects my primary focus for that year.

What determines my focus for a particular year? I started my blog in April 2017 with goal of sharing  information more or less equally about each family line.  An August 2017 family reunion trip to Pennsylvania generated more posts about dad’s family.  In 2018,  I received family pictures and other items from two cousins on mom’s side.  Cataloging those pictures and items steered me to Tucker-Maurer family for 2018. My father- in- law’s death in February 2019 guided me towards the Ellerbee family.  Johnson-Reed family then became focus for 2020 as I prepared another scrapbook.

As I write each post, I check sources, revise citations and identify gaps to be filled for each person.  I pose and try to answer at least one question. Content in my family tree improves.  Sometimes, a person contacts me about an ancestor named in an online tree or blog post.  These contacts often generate a topic for my blog. DNA matches also yield possible blog topics.

For my blog, what are the benefits of delving deep into a particular family or person? Well,  I try to discover the story beyond the basic facts. I seek a better understanding of the person and share that information with others. I feel like I am more intimately involved in their lives.

Writing about a variety of people has been a blessing.  I reach a wider audience with the potential of contacts from more than just one branch of the family tree.  Often, I choose the person or topic just a few days before I publish.  I am writing shorter blogs so there may be more series about a particular person or family.

Right now, I have several projects in the works. I am writing two articles to be considered for publication in genealogical journals. Due to potential copyright issues, I must defer writing more here about either of these. A potential DNA match contacted me about a specific line.  Several years ago, I made a note in my files and asked questions similar to what this DNA match is asking.  I give what input I can.  

Question for today is still- where do I go from here? And I don’t have a good answer. I search for inspiration from various sources such as  blog posts written by others.  I review my goals for the year but nothing stands out at this moment.  I have been here before. A spark of inspiration will come!  In the meantime, I continue the process of cleaning up at least one family tree.  Stay tuned!

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2021

2021 Genealogy Goals

A new year and time to set goals for my genealogical work. In my Last Post,  I reported how l I did with 2020 goals. Some goals were met and others were not. I have a mixture of broad and specific goals. Broad goals enable me to follow leads as they pop up. Specific goals lead me in a certain direction. For 2021, I make some goals more specific than in previous years.

One of my goals last year was to purchase voice recognition software.  Prices of these programs seem high. I went back to Genealogy Do- over Facebook page and looked at comments about the various programs.  One suggestion was to use the Microsoft 365 voice recognition app. So I’m trying it for the first time with this post. I will keep you informed.

2021 Genealogy Goals for Susan Posten Ellerbee

Posten-Richards family (dad’s family)

  1. Revise at least 4 chapters of Posten family history book. Explore publication options. (One chapter done in 2018; one chapter rewritten in 2020). *Priority item for 2021
  2. Follow-up on at least one BSO generated from previous searches.
  3. Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings.

Tucker-Maurer family (mom’s family):

  1. Complete descendant list for Smetts-Maurer family as requested by cousin.
  2. Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings.
  3. Follow-up on at least one BSO generated from previous searches.

Ellerbee-Simmons/ Johnson-Reed (husband’s family)

  1. Scan original documents in paper files. Place originals in archival sleeves and appropriate notebook.  
  2. Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings in each family group.
  3. Create family group records with citations as addendums to scrapbooks given 2019 & 2020 for at least 4 family groups.
  4. Continue to trace descendants of slaves owned by Ellerbee & Johnson ancestors. Use templates and directions from the Beyond Kin project.
  5. Follow-up on at least two BSOs generated from previous searches (one from each family group).  

Genealogy Blog:

  1. Post on regular basis, optimally every 2 weeks.
  2. Post at least 2 stories about each family—Posten-Richards (dad), Tucker-Maurer (mom), Ellerbee-Simmons (father-in-law), Johnson-Reed (mother-in-law).
  3. Limit each post to about 1500 words or less.
  4. Purchase or download software to post GEDCOM family tree. Post at least 2 family trees to blog. (continued from 2019).
  5. Continue to address Genealogical Proof Standard in reports.

General items:

  1. Continue to place To-Do/ BSO items and questions for each family on color-coded file cards.
  2. Send for at least 4 BMD certificates.
  3. Submit article begun in 2020 to a local genealogical society for publication in their newsletter.  Specific family/ person TBA.
  4. Add to Research Toolbox:  books “Dating Vintage Photographs”.
  5. Enroll in at least one genealogy-related webinar or online class, topic to be determined. 

BUDGET:

I forgot to mention genealogy budget in my last post. So, here is my budget and actual spending for 2020 and proposed budget for 2021.

REFLECTION

My 2020 goals were mostly general.  However, general goals allow me to go where a search leads me. I could say “ identify siblings of great grandfather, Daniel S. Posten”   but instead I choose to leave my annual goals more generic.  I have been using yellow pads more this past year. When I sit down to work, I write a specific objective such as “ find Daniel Posten family in 1870 census.” Then, I make notes about which towns I searched. These yellow sheets are effective research logs for me.

I do create a digital research summary log of my findings. I sometimes forget to look beyond the first page. I looked at other formats and decided to stick with what I have been using.  

I probably use different methods to organize and document my work than you.  Each person uses mechanisms that work for them. However, we all desire similar outcomes –  to identify our ancestors, to find out about their lives and to share our findings with others.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2021

2020 Year End Review

2020- the year of Corona-virus pandemic. Shutdowns and shut in by fear of contagion, hundreds of thousands of deaths, health care systems pushed to the brink. The world has not seen anything like this since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919. Yet, there is hope. Millions survive and a new vaccine has been rolled out. Yet, the work of genealogists continues as we test the limits of available resources. We postpone visits to libraries and county offices. In this post, I briefly tell of my own challenges and review my 2020 goals that seemed so achievable when I wrote them.

My “new” keyboard stand

January 2020. As a retiree, my daily schedule is fairly regular- genealogy work, housework, needlework and reading historical novels. Then, news of Corona virus took over the air waves and our lives. My mother-in-law’s chronic health issues became acute. Her doctor would have put her in hospital if not for CoVid. My sister-in-law and I split her 24/7 home care. Mother-in-law moved in with husband and me for several weeks until she was stable. This started the next chain of events.

We offered an open invitation for mother-in-law to sell her home and move in with us. She made that decision in June. We prepared her room with new flooring and paint. Her house sold quickly. After she moved, we held a living estate sale of items not taken by friends and family. Time for my genealogy pursuits shrank significantly during this period.

At the first of the year, we had reconfigured our home office and my computer workspace. Within just a few weeks, my shoulders began to hurt. My keyboard sat on the desk. Instead of an ergonomically safe posture, I bent my arms and shoulders up. Typing became almost unbearable. Long hours at the computer decreased to no more than 30-60 minutes at a time. An old typing table now provides a lower platform for keyboard. My 50+ year old solid oak desk resists attempts to drill holes for a undermount keyboard. Shoulder pain still exists and improving slightly.  

Protect your ergonomic health:   http://ergonomictrends.com/bad-computer-posture-mistakes/

These personal events impacted my pursuit of genealogy. As I review, I believe that I may have been over-optimistic when I set my 2020 goals. I also admit to a slight depressive effect of all the negative news on my mood. I lost motivation to complete tasks. However, I did achieve some goals. Most notably, the family cookbook project is complete!

For your information, here are my 2020 goals and my record of achievement of those goals.

Next post: 2021 goals.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2020

A different standard for remembering Union and Confederate veterans?

“The ladies. . . decided to lay a few stems for those men, too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.”  –

President Barack Obama, 2010 Memorial Day Address, relating an event in 1866 when women of Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

“It is estimated that one in three Southern households lost at least one family member.”

“Civil War Casualties: The Cost of War: Killed, Wounded, Captured and Missing,” American Battlefield Trust : accessed 9 July 2020.

Yes, soldiers on both sides were Americans. Each side carried a different flag. So, why can’t we honor each one with the appropriate flag?  Our family tree has both Union and Confederate soldiers in it.  I feel that recent protestors want us to forget our Confederate ancestors. We can’t change our ancestry. We can’t change the choices they made. We can try to understand the societal and historical events that shaped their lives. I believe that history lessons should include both good and bad as well as divergent viewpoints.  This post is my reaction to current events.

The protests began as a reaction to the death of George Floyd and police brutality. Demands for removing statues of Confederate soldiers and slave holders increased. Protestors spray painted statues and physically removed others.  Even a statue of George Washington, our nation’s first President and a slave holder, was not exempt. Protestors seemed to ignore history as they defaced a statue of an abolitionist.

History typically relates the broad picture and tells about the people who influenced that history.  Stories of the common people ( i.e., those whose lives were directly and indirectly influenced by those in power) are less often told.  In my opinion, our job, as genealogists, is to tell the stories of those common people, our ancestors and their families.

Read this heartfelt article, published in 2017:  George Burrell, “Confederate and Union Flags of the Civil War,  Century City News (Los Angeles, California), 21 August 2017,  (http://centurycity.news/confederate-and-union-flags-of-the-civil-war-p971-211.htm

In response to someone else’s blog, one person noted that only a few of her 3X great-grandfathers actually fought for the Confederacy.  One of my 8 great-great grandfathers served in the Union Army.  For my husband, two of his 8 great-great grandfathers and one of his 16 great-great-great grandfathers served in the Confederate Army.  Many more in both family trees were of any age to fight. My sons carry genes from persons who supported both sides of the conflict.

According to the American Battlefield Trust  (https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-casualties), there were 1,089,119 Confederate soldiers. Of those, 490,309 were reported as killed, wounded, captured or missing.  Millions of Americans are descended from these soldiers. Now, some people want to prevent the simple act of placing a flag on a veteran’s grave.  Denying this right sends the message that Confederate veterans are not worthy of being honored for their sacrifice.

Some demand the removal of statues, memorials and other reminders of the Confederacy as these are seen as symbols of slavery, racial segregation and white supremacy.  One example of this view is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent proposal. Read this press release. Posted 30 June 2020:  “Warren delivers floor speech on her amendment to rename all bases and other military assets honoring the Confederacy,” Elizabeth Warren website (https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/warren-delivers-floor-speech-on-her-amendment-to-rename-all-bases-and-other-military-assets-honoring-the-confederacy  :    accessed 2 July 2020).

An NBC journalist presented the opposite view: Sophia A. Nelson, “Don’t take down Confederate monuments. Here’s why.” Posted 1 june 2017, NBC News (https://www.nbcnews.com/think/news/opinion-why-i-feel-confederate-monuments-should-stay-ncna767221 : accessed 2 July 2020).

How will our descendants look at the current events a hundred years from now? Will we be lauded for our efforts? Will we be criticized? Will our descendants even know about the Civil War and its controversies? Will our descendants be aware of the multiple perspectives surrounding the current debate?

My hopes for the future?  I DON’T WANT my descendants to be ashamed of their Southern heritage. I DON’T WANT my descendants to judge their ancestors’ choices based on current values and belief systems. I DO WANT my descendants to have the freedom to acknowledge that they have ancestors who fought in the Confederacy. I DO WANT my descendants to relate circumstances that created the rift between Northern and Southern states. I DO WANT my descendants to recognize the values and beliefs that guided their ancestors’ choices.  I DO WANT my descendants to compare and contrast the various perspectives surrounding current 21st century issues. I DO WANT my descendants to have the freedom to honor their Confederate ancestors by placing a Confederate flag on the graves of those ancestors.  In short, I DO WANT my descendants to remember the history of the Civil War and that soldiers on both sides fought for a cause that they believed in.  In the same way, I DO WANT my descendants to recall that, in 2020, people held differing beliefs about how the United States should remember those who fought in the Confederacy and the Union.

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

Connecting the dots: Posten families

Remember dot-to-dot pictures?  Each dot has a number, letter of the alphabet or other logical system for you to follow.  The dots don’t appear to make sense at first. However, when you connect the dots correctly, a picture emerges.  My current genealogy research efforts seem like that. Each piece of information is a dot. All I have to do is go to the next logical dot and a family picture will emerge. But, the dots don’t always present themselves in a logical manner. Dots are missing. The resulting picture looks more like a scribbled mess. In this post, I describe the status of my Posten files. Think of each file as a dot on the overall picture.

Early in my research, I discovered several published genealogies of Poston families. These narratives outlined Poston families who originated in Pennsylvania but subsequently moved south. One author even stated: “There are no Postons listed in the Pennsylvania census for that year [1790] .” [1]   While that may be true, families with a similar surname, Posten (my maiden name) and its variations, lived in Pennsylvania from 1790 on.  Are the Poston families and Posten families connected? I am not sure and keep an open mind.

Summary of my Posten files:
  1. Dad’s direct ancestral line. I can trace our branch of the Posten family from Dad to Thomas Postens, born 1782 at New Jersey and died 1854 at Monroe county, Pennsylvania. Census records, birth and death certificates prove the lineage. With few exceptions, Dad’s family, including Dad’s siblings, lived in Pennsylvania from the 1800s to the present. I am working on collateral lines. In August, 2017, my husband and I visited the graves of Thomas and his wife, Esther Brown at Friends Burial Ground in Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania. [2] 
  2. New Jersey Posten families. Posten men paid taxes in New Jersey in the 1780s and 1790s. [3]  I believe that at least two of those men – Richard Postens and William Postens- moved to Bucks county, Pennsylvania by 1800. [4], [5]  Either one, or another man, could be Thomas’ father.  Samuel Posten, born about 1794, has been identified as progenitor of a Posten family which still resides in Monmouth county, New Jersey. [6] 
  3. Jacob Postens and Anne Burson.  Jacob, born about 1755 In New Jersey, identified as our family’s ancestor by an elderly aunt. [7]  When I wanted to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, I pursued this assertion but found it to be false.  Dad’s family is definitely NOT descended from Jacob and Anne. Given Jacob’s reported birthplace of New Jersey, my Posten family and Jacob’s family could still be related.
  4. Elihu Posten family.  Elihu lived in Monroe county, Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. (Note: Recall that Thomas Postens died in Monroe county).  Elihu’s first wife was Eleanor Transue and they had nine children.  Eleanor died in 1841 and Elihu married Elizabeth Eilenberger about 1842.  They had two children.  William Posten, son of Elihu and Elizabeth, moved to Wisconsin. [8]  Elihu and our Thomas could be brothers.
  5. Benjamin Avery Posten (1839, Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania – 1905, Pulaski county, Missouri).  A chance meeting between Dad and one of Benjamin’s descendants led me to search for this family.  The genealogy from Benjamin through the 20th century is fairly clear. Researchers differ as to the identity of Benjamin’s parents.
  6. Posten families in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania. I started this file as supplement to Benjamin Avery Posten’s file.  Names from the early to mid-1800s include, among others, Cornelius Posten, Peter Posten and several men named William Posten. Research on these families is ongoing.  Relationships are still tentative.
  7. James Posten and Rhoda Shaffer, Iowa.  James Posten (1790, Pennsylvania –           ) [9]  I believe that James is the son of Peter Posten, found in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania in 1800 and 1810.  Both Peter and James were recorded next to each other on Licking county, Ohio, census in 1820.  [10]  Five of James and Rhoda’s six children were born in Ohio.  Earlier this year, I was contacted by a descendant of James and Rhoda but we don’t share any DNA.  On some online trees, James Posten of Iowa is mistakenly identified as son of Jacob Postens and Anne Burson. Jacob and Anne had a son named James but he never left Pennsylvania.
  8. Miscellaneous Posten families. This file contains a mix of records for persons with Posten surname in various places including Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky.  I haven’t followed up on any of these.

Are any of the Posten families named above related to Dad’s family? That question, my friends, is unanswered.  Each file contains multiple dots (i.e. discrete pieces of information such as census records, BMD certificates, wills, letters, etc.).  For some files, the picture is emerging nicely. In other files, it’s still a scribbled mess.

Reflection:

This post summarizes personal research on my Posten line.  I wrote it as a ‘note to self’ type memorandum as I veer off in other directions.  When I come to a hurdle for one person or family, I put it aside and move on.  My 2012 Posten history now seems vary amateurish and incomplete. I was definitely a novice and amateur genealogist when I wrote it!  I have a lot more information now about each family.  As far as revising 2012 Posten history, I am stuck on Thomas and finding his parents.

What I learned:  I have made good progress for some families, not so much for others. Goal of revising my 2012 Posten history led me to re-open files and look more critically at what I have.  My analysis and research skills have improved over the years.  Take extensive notes about searches, findings and initial analysis. Research logs are a must!

What helped:   paper and digital files for each family group, including family trees in RootsMagic.

What didn’t help:  Items in files with no idea about source. Incomplete source information. Sources that seem to have disappeared. Minimal and/or no research logs. Items not organized in any meaningful way. But, I guess that’s the way many of us start – copy an item and file it, organize later.

To-do:  Record notes about searches and results. Continue to create research logs. Organize individual items in each file by family group or category—lots of paper clips! Continue revision of 2012 Posten history but leave chapter on Thomas for now.


SOURCES:

[1] Erma Poston Landers, A Poston Family of South Carolina:  Its Immigrant Ancestor and some of his descendants:  A Family Genealogy (Atlanta, Georgia:  Erma Poston Landers [Lake City, South Carolina], 1965].  Digital copy accessed & printed, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : 24 March 2010), page 5.

[2] Friends Burial Ground (Stroudsburg, Monroe, Pennsylvania), markers for Thomas Postens and Esther Postens; personally read, August 2017.

[3] “New Jersey, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1643-1890, database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  :  accessed multiple dates, May and June, 2020); citing Ronald V. Jackson, Accelerated Indexing Systems, “New Jersey Census, 1643-1890,”, data from microfilmed records including indexes to 1772-1822 tax list.

[4] Richard Postens, 1800 census. 1800 U.S. Census, Northampton county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Lower Smithfield, p. 618, line 24, Richard Postens; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed & downloaded 29 May 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M32, roll 37.

[5] William Postens, 1790 census at Bucks county. 1790 U.S. Census, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, no town given, page 112, line 5, William Pofte [Poste]; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed & downloaded 30 January 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publicaiton M637, roll 8.

[6] Personal correspondence with [Name withheld for privacy], Monmouth county, New Jersey, circa 1990s.

[7] Typewritten genealogy, Posten family tradition regarding lineage of John Posten to Jacob Posten (b 1755) as reported by Ruby Gardiner, granddaughter of Daniel Posten & Phoebe Fulkerson to Vera Posten Brooks, ca. 1989; privately held by Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Copy sent by Ms. Brooks to Ms. Ellerbee about 1990.

[8] Wisconsin, son of Elihu and Elizabeth. 1880 U.S. Census, Grant county, Wisconsin, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 116, Millville, p. 243A, dwelling 6, family 6, William Poston [Posten] ; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com    : accessed 22 June 2020 ); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 1427.

[9] Susan Posten Ellerbee, James Posten-Rhoda Shaffer Family Group Sheet, Family charts and Group Sheets, privately held by Ellerbee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Yukon, Canadian, Oklahoma. In vertical file, “Iowa Posten Family”, data collected circa 2000-2020.

[10] 1820 U.S. Census, Licking county, Ohio, population schedule, Franklin, page 21, image 35, line 10, Peter Posten, line 11, James Posten; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : viewed 12 June 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication, M33_94.

Midyear review, June 2020

Time for midyear review of my 2020 genealogy goals. My overall assessment?  Distracted. Minimal focus. Why? Multiple factors but nothing specific. I feel like I am in a rut. I have run out of steam to complete various projects.  Due to possible impact of Corona virus? We are blessed that none of our immediate family here have been directly affected. One of my second cousins, who lives in another state, contracted the virus but isolated at home. An elderly relative suffered other health problems and the doctor deferred hospitalization due to Corona virus.  She required 24/7 in-home care for several weeks.  

I feel overwhelmed by the constant negative reports on the news. Perhaps that negativity bubbles over into my genealogy work?  I continue to do some genealogy every day but lack momentum. Current work seems rote and routine – complete family group records, create and fill in research logs, clean up paper and digital files. Yet, these tasks are necessary to leave a coherent trail.

As I review my 2020 goals, I have made progress. I completed some goals quickly- copying BMD certificates from a Posten relative and responding to cousin requests for Tucker family.  I sent my DNA to a third company based on request from a possibly related Posten descendant with Pennsylvania ties. Result? No shared DNA. But, we are still hopeful for a common ancestor!   

Family cookbook project is almost done. So far, about 1/3 of total recipes are desserts. Shows obvious preference of our family and friends!

I received death certificate for Mom’s great grandmother, Anna Wolf Klee Mϋller/ Miller.  Anna died in 1883 at New York City. I plan to write a blog post about the process and information on that certificate. Two death certificate requests, both from New York, are still pending. New York state has so many other issues than responding to genealogical requests!  Because of Corona virus, I will defer making any more requests this year.  

I started work (again!) on revising Posten history, initially written in 2012. Last year, I took an online genealogy writing course and revised outline for book. I realized how sketchy much of the information is. I am still looking for Thomas Postens in 1830 and 1840. This entails page-by-page search of those census records because Ancestry and Family Search yield no hints, even when I use variations and asterisks. No results found in Northampton, Monroe or Pike counties, Pennsylvania. Expanding search to nearby counties- Bucks, Chester, Luzerne, Wayne.  I carefully document my search efforts and results.

I admit to following some rabbit trails in this search. I found some leads about Richard Postens and William Postens, either of whom could be Thomas’ father.  I may have found three daughters of Richard Postens – Elena (baptized 1774), Jane (born 1785) and Elizabeth (born circa 1795-1802).

Last week,  I followed a rabbit trail for Cornelius Postens who lived in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania. Huntingdon county is in western part of the state. Cornelius was born about 1778 in Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Rachel, had at least three children- John, James and Charles. Cornelius died about 1852. I am still piecing their story together. The Huntingdon County branch could be related to Dad’s family.  

I am keeping a personal Corona Virus diary that I do not plan to publish. Daily entries have been reduced to once a week, or even less. I scanned and added articles from our local newspaper.  Perhaps one of my descendants will find it interesting.  I will probably print it and place with other personal papers at some point in the future.

To review, perhaps I have made more progress than I thought. My initial feeling of inertia is gradually being replaced by slow and steady.  Daily research efforts aren’t totally without focus but have been scattered between different families. My original set of 26 goals now seems too ambitious.  I continue to forge ahead.

As usual, writing my blog post helped. I see where I’ve been and the progress that I’ve made.  Emotionally, I still feel overwhelmed but less so. What did I learn from this reflection?

  • Recognize the challenges to identify family members who lived in late 1700s and early 1800s. 
  • Re-focus, set a specific research goal for each session.
  • Work in short spurts – maybe only 20-30 minutes at a time instead of hours! 
  • Keep extensive notes.
  • Review information already in files before each session (i.e., avoid duplication).  
  • When a specific goal seems unattainable or gets me bogged down, take a break then work on another question.

Apparently, others are experiencing similar issues.  Read Thomas MacEntee’s “10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Genealogy”, posted 4 June 2020. https://genealogybargains.s3.amazonaws.com/10+Ways+to+Jumpstart+Your+Genealogy.pdf

Blog posts that I found helpful:

Amy Johnson Crow, “Avoiding distractions in our genealogy”, blog post, 19 August 2019, Modern Genealogy Made Easy  (https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/avoiding-distractions-genealogy/  :    accessed 4 May 2020).

Amy Johnson Crow, “Genealogy Research:  The WANDER Method,” blog post, 17 January 2020, Modern Genealogy Made Easy  (https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/genealogy-research-process-wander-method/  :  accessed 4 May 2020).

“The Shiny Object Syndrome in Genealogy and How to Cure It,” blog post, 28 January 2019, Family History Foundation (https://familyhistoryfoundation.com/2019/01/28/shiny-object-syndrome-in-genealogy-how-to-cure-it/  : accessed 8 June 2020).

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2020

The last post (for 2019)

December –the last month of our calendar year.  Short days and long nights.  Holidays include Christmas (honoring birth of Jesus Christ), Kwanzaa (celebrating family, community and culture, primarily in African-American families) and Boxing Day (celebrating the giving of boxes to public and private servants, primarily in the United Kingdom).  For me, December signals a time to reflect on my genealogy goals for the previous 12 months.  How well did I do?

Last January 1, my stated genealogy goals seemed mostly achievable. I did not anticipate any major issues.  My father-in-law’s death on February 17, 2019,  although not totally unexpected, impacted me more than I expected.  My father died in 1998 and my mother in 2007.  My in-laws have been my surrogate parents for the past 12 years. For weeks after his death, I felt mired down. I went through the motions on genealogy projects.  I barely managed to post regularly on my blog. The quality of some posts probably suffered.  Even simple tasks requiring minimal thought, i.e. scanning certificates from a cousin on dad’s side, overwhelmed me.

FYI. My mother-in-law is doing OK. We made it through the summer and winter holidays.  There were tears and happy moments.

Genealogy presented a coping mechanism. Using lessons and skills from the Genealogy Do-Over, I have a well-defined, specific process for reviewing, cataloguing and saving information.  These specific steps help me stay on-target, at least most of the time! Did I occasionally veer off and follow those bright shiny objects that detract from a specific goal?  Oh, yes! But, then, routine took over and I was back on track.sticky note_test

A new project especially helped with grieving. In July 2019, I presented Papa’s sister with copies of the Simmons and Ellerbee scrapbooks. The Simmons scrapbook, presented to Papa in 2013, traced his maternal lineage. The Ellerbee scrapbook, presented to Papa in January 2018, traced his paternal lineage.  I cleaned up source lists and included new information.  The tactile work of cutting and pasting proved therapeutic.

I became more aware of placing ancestors within historical and other perspectives.  For example, I reacted emotionally to the removal of Native Americans from Georgia to make room for my husband’s white ancestors.  I read two books on the topic and one book about the Federal Road between Georgia and Texas. Looking beyond dates and places, I gained a broader view of ancestors’ lives within the context of time periods and places in which they lived.  Consider the impact of local events, such as opening or closing a factory or a major weather storm, on individuals and their community.

I found the “Beyond Kin” project (https://beyondkin.org/ ).  The project helps descendants of slaveholders identify and trace their family’s former slaves. My husband’s paternal and maternal ancestors hail from various Southern states and most were slaveholders.  I downloaded the templates and began by entering slaves held by John E. Ellerbee (1808, Georgia – 1877, Louisiana) in 1850 and 1860.  I haven’t done anything beyond these initial steps. Reports to follow!

Overall, I feel like the fog has  lifted and I am again on semi-solid ground.

Death of my laptop computer caused a major, although temporary, setback. Fortunately, we knew the laptop’s end was near.  I had hoped to have a new computer before the old one’s demise. My computer savvy son built me a new desktop computer. What saved me?  Purchase of notebook computer in 2017 and regular, frequent backups to the Cloud and an external hard drive!

Two maternal cousins found my blog in 2018. We stay in contact. We regularly share information and family heirlooms such as pictures.   An unexpected result and blessing!

I pinned a print copy of 2019 goals to the bulletin board in my office. I tried to review these goals at least once a month. As I completed, added or deferred goals, I wrote the information down. These notes provide quick reminders of progress.

Here are my refined 2019 goals and actions taken during the year:

Tucker-Maurer family (mom’s family):

  1. Continue paper & digital file clean-up. Timeline:  January 2019.  Met- ended major work at end of February 2019.
  2. Defer remainder of work as needed. Some work continued throughout the year, usually to answer a question posed by one of maternal cousins. Goal met.

Ellerbee-Simmons/ Johnson-Reed (husband’s family)

  1. Purchase notebooks for Ellerbee-Simmons & Johnson-Reed certificates, photographs and other memorabilia. DONE.  Purchased dividers for notebooks. Documents placed in appropriate notebook when found  online or in paper files.
  2. Send in husband’s DNA test. NOT DONE.  Purchased kit but did not use.
  3. Continue paper & digital file clean-up for father-in-law’s and/or mother-in-law’s family. Goal MET. More work done on Ellerbee files than Johnson files. 
  4. Plan field trip to Alabama and Georgia to trace Ellerbee family migration. If time and geography permit, follow migration of Johnson-Reed family. DEFERRED – Maybe 2020??

Added in 2019:

  1. Copy Ellerbee and Simmons scrapbooks for father-in-law’s sister. COMPLETED
  2. Resume work on scrapbook for extended family member. Work resumed in Summer 2019. Completed and given as Christmas present.

Posten-Richards family (dad’s family)

  1. Copy paper BMD certificates from Posten relative to digital files. Place originals in Posten BMD notebook. NOT DONE.  Continue in 2020.
  2. Submit at least one article to a local genealogical society for publication in their newsletter.  Priority: Use information from 2010 Posten family history (continued from 2018). NOT DONE. Same goal for  2020 without priority.
  3. Assist nephew to combine family trees of his parents (continued from 2018). Partially  met. Discussed his family tree during visits. Nephew loaned some documents to me. I scanned, copied then returned the documents to him. 
  4. Revise at least 4 chapters of Posten family history book. Explore publication options for  2020.  (One chapter done in 2018). NOT DONE.  Continue in 2020. Contacted by person from a ‘possibly related’ branch.

Genealogy Blog:

  1. Post on regular basis, optimally every 2 weeks. Posted 26 times in 2019.
  2. Post at least 2 stories about each family—Posten-Richards (dad), Tucker-Maurer (mom), Ellerbee-Simmons (father-in-law), Johnson-Reed (mother-in-law). GOAL PARTIALLY MET. Posten-Richards: 0 stories; Tucker-Maurer:  3 stories; Ellerbee-Simmons: 12 stories; Johnson-Reed: 2 stories. Two posts discussed members of all families. Seven posts with no specific family group.
  3. Limit each post to about 1500 words or less. GOAL MET.
  4. Purchase or download software to post GEDCOM family tree. Post at least 2 family trees to blog. NOT MET. Defer to 2020.  
  5. Address Genealogical Proof Standard in reports. PARTIALLY MET. Addressed in 75-90% of posts. In some posts, I discussed one or two criteria. Most of my blog posts are not meant to be the final report on a person or family. In those posts, I acknowledge that the ‘reasonably exhaustive research’ criterion has not been met. However, other criteria are likely to have been met. 

General items:

  1. Create master lists of To-Do/ BSO items and questions for each family. Begin with Tucker-Maurer and Ellerbee families. Partially met. Began using a color-coded file card system.
  2. Send for at least 6 BMD certificates. If budget permits, request one certificate per month. Partially met. Requested death certificates for Anna Klee Maurer, Anna Katharina Korzelius Maurer and Margaret Tucker (mom’s ancestors). Received first two. All from New York and take 6-9 months.
  3. Add to Research Toolbox: books “Dating Vintage Photographs” ; possibly Dragon software.   Not Done. Keep same goal for  2020.
  4.  Continue volunteer genealogy work with Daughters of the American Revolution. GOAL MET.
  5. Enroll in at least one genealogy-related webinar or online class, topic to be determined.  Attended one free webinar on various topics.
  6.  Review Genealogy Proof Standard. Buy book on this topic.   DONE.  Used book as reference. 

BUDGET: 

Budget Spent (Over)/ Under 2020 Proposal
Archival materials $60.00 $279.37 $ (219.37) $200.00
BMD Records $100.00 $59.00 $      41.00 $120.00
Books $75.00 $34.95 $      40.05 $75.00
Copying $10.00 $25.45 $   (15.45) $25.00
Education $150.00 $0.00 $   150.00 $100.00
Ink/ Printing $50.00 $131.68   (81.68) $180.00
Paper $25.00 $55.45   (30.45) $50.00
Subscriptions- annual $50.00 $288.80 $ (238.80) $290.00
Subscriptions-monthly $560.00 $550.80 $        9.20 $560.00
$1,320.00 $1,425.50 $ (361.50) $1600.00

Average cost per month:  about $118.00.

SUMMARY:

Met or partially met 14 of 21 goals set for 2019. Seven goals deferred to 2020. Two additional projects completed in 2019.  Overall, I may have been a bit over-ambitious with goals but am satisfied with progress. Over budget by $361.00.  Added two subscription services, paid annually, in 2019.  Two scrapbook projects were not anticipated when preparing 2019 budget.  Increase budget in these areas for 2020.

Next post:   My personal genealogy goals for 2020

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019

Thinking of Thanksgiving

Sharing of my genealogy journey needs a short break. In my next post, I  resume telling the stories of 4 blended families- James T.L. Powell and his 1st wife, Deborah Daniel; James T.L. Powell and his 2nd wife, Catherine Brown; Catherine Brown Powell and her 2nd husband, Elias Barker; Elias Barker and his 1st wife, Euna Barber. 

Thanksgiving in America is generally viewed as a time for family. Many have Pilgrim and /or Native American ancestors in their family trees. Our American holiday originated with a specific event – English immigrants in Massachusetts sharing a harvest celebration with Native Americans. However, one part of the story is often forgotten. The Native Americans taught the  newcomers basic survival skills such as planting crops, caring for plants and eventually, harvesting food. 

The Puritan/ Pilgrim settlement in Massachusetts was not the first European settlement on the North American continent.  Jamestown, Virginia was founded in 1607, thirteen years before the Pilgrims landed.  Early settlements included, but were not limited to:

1565: Saint Augustine, Florida, founded by the Spanish

1608: Quebec, Canada, founded by the French

1615:  Fort Nassau (New York), founded by the Dutch

Some Native Americans do not view our American Thanksgiving Day favorably. Since Europeans first landed here, we pushed Native Americans from their traditional homes. Some Native American tribes were decimated by illnesses brought by the Europeans. Other tribes were removed to make way for growing numbers of white settlers. Native American rights were largely ignored in treaties.

So, on this day, enjoy time with your family and celebrate the harvest. Give thanks for the sacrifices of all. Oh, yes, one more thing. These holidays are great for seeking help to answer those burning genealogy questions you’ve discovered.  Share your findings.  Print a 1 or 2-page summary for people to take home. Ask if anyone has great-grandma’s death certificate or obituary. Who has the oldest family Bible? Take notes when your uncle tells about an ancestor, especially if he heard the story from one of his grandparents or one of his grandpa’s brothers or  an elderly aunt.  You may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn! Remember, too, every family has saints and sinners, scoundrels and heroes.   

To read more about Native American views of Thanksgiving, start with these articles:

“Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?” Powwows.com, 19 November2019 (https://www.powwows.com/do-native-americans-celebrate-thanksgiving/    : accessed 27 November 2019).

Kisha James.  “For me, Thanksgiving is a ‘Day of  Mourning’” Refinery29, 21 November 2016 (https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/11/130572/day-of-mourning-thanksgiving-protest-native-americans    : accessed 21 November 2019.

Nadra Kareem Nittle, “Should we celebrate thanksgiving and the Pilgrims?”.  ThoughtCo, updated 29 July 2019  (https://www.thoughtco.com/do-native-americans-celebrate-thanksgiving-2834597  : accessed 23 November 2019).

“What does Thanksgiving mean to Native Americans?” Native Hope (https://blog.nativehope.org/what-does-thanksgiving-mean-to-native-americans    : accessed 22 November 2019). Blog post, undated.

Have a blessed and happy day!