Name variations in census records: Maurer & Klee

census checklist Maurer KleeIn my previous post, Herman Maurer & Anna Klee:  Maternal great-grandparents, I stated:  “I am still searching for records related to Herman and Anna’s childhoods, specifically 1870 and 1880 census records.”   After posting the blog, I started a new search.  Results:  two records found — 1880 census for Herman’s parents and 1870 census for Anna’s parents.  Happy dance!  However, the search was frustrating and required more time than I expected. Multiple strategies include name variations and children’s names. Here’s my report.

First, Herman Maurer.

Search attempt record from research log for Valentine Maurer, Herman’s father:

10-13 Aug 2018 Family Search/ Ancestry Collections, BMD, census online, generic Valentin/ Valentine, Maurer, b. Germany, 1825-1830; names of each child After multiple tries (about 3 hours total),  Valentine Mauiner, age 52, Brooklyn, 1880!! Posted to Ancestry tree.

As expected, the family was finally found in Brooklyn, New York,  in 1880 [1].  However, the search involved many road blocks. Previous searches for the family using Ancestry database (at least 4 hours)  had produced no results. Next step involved looking at Brooklyn census page by page.  About 30 wards and townships with hundreds of pages in each ward quickly spoiled that effort! I really appreciate the pre-digital age researchers who spent hours reading those hundreds of pages on microfilm!  I tried using the names of Herman’s siblings (Valentin, Katherine/ Katie, Rosina/ Rosie, Joseph and Edward).  No luck! I tried using asterisk as placer for surname:  Maur*, Mau*, Ma* on Ancestry with similar lack of results.

Go to the next website- Family Search. Begin again and use same search strategies of children’s names and surname variations. Finally, a hit!

1880 U.S. Census_Brooklyn_Kings_NY_Valentine Maurer family_crop

The transcription reads:

Mauiner, Valentine, M W, 52, head, b. Germany.

Annie C, wife, F W 32, b Germany.

Valentine, son, M, 22, b. New Jersey.

Herman, son, M, 20, b. New Jersey.

Kattie, daughter, female, 14, b. New York.

Rosie, daughter, female, 12, b. New York.

Joseph, son, M, age 9, b. New York.

Edward, son, M, 5, b. New York.

Mauiner as surname!  Anna was actually 52 years of age, not 32. That explains why I didn’t find them before now. I tried similar search strategy for 1870 census without success.  The search continues for Valentin and Anna in 1870!

Also of interest is that 14-year-old Kattie Maurer is recorded as a box-maker. She made paper boxes, possibly match boxes, at home and was paid per piece. Her minimal wages supplemented the family’s income.

Onward, to Anna’s parents, Ludwig or Louis Klee and wife, Anna or Katharina. This search finally yielded even more surprising results. I used a similar strategy, beginning with Ancestry database then moving to Family Search database. I typed in Ludwig Klee, Louis Klee, Anna, and Katharina as parents. When no results found, I tried the names of their children – Fritz, Anna, Katherine/ Katharina for 1870 census and added Mollie and Louis for 1880 census. Again, no hits on Ancestry database. Next database searched was Family Search.  Again, I used the same format of surname, parents, and children. Finally, I used the asterisk approach of “Kle*”.  I had almost given up when an 1870 entry showed Anna Kleh, age 25, and Fritz Kleh, age 7.  Male, head of household was recorded as Louis Rleh, age 30.  These names and ages sound familiar!

1870 U.S. Census_Brooklyn_Kings_NY_Louis Klee family_crop

Here’s the transcription [2]:

Louis Rleh [Klee], 30, M W, machinist, value of personal estate $600, place of birth – Prussia, parentage: father of foreign birth- marked; mother of foreign birth – marked.

Anna Kleh [Klee], 25, F W, place of birth New York, father of foreign birth – marked, mother of foreign birth- marked.

 Presumed children:  Fritz, 7, M W, place of birth: New York.

Anna, 6, F W, place of birth: New York.

Katharine, 2, F W, place of birth: New York.

Louis, 1, M W, place of birth: New York.

As with the Maurer family, the transcriber wrote the surname as it looked. The search continues for Louis and Anna in 1880!

gg62755812To help you with similar problems, try these steps:

  • Begin in town from another census. Narrow down location (township, post office, ward, election district) as much as you can.
  • Review other census records. Place of birth recorded for each person may give you a clue.
  • Use name variants found in other records.
  • Use a few letters of name with asterisk to broaden search.
  • Change first names to anyone known to be in household, with name variants same as above.
  • Look in other census sources, online and print.
  • Review possible records page by page.

Expand your research toolbox to include other resources. Here is a partial listing of online resources:

Online family tree databases suggest records through a link to your family tree on their website or another family tree program.  Check your family tree software program for access.

Print resources (partial list):

  • State-specific census indexes. Available at many historical society libraries. Check with your local library and state or county historical societies.
  • Local and county histories. Biographies and other information, such as lists of school board members, will give clues about a person’s residence during the census years.

Happy hunting!



This post was easy to write and tells of my progress in obtaining census records for Valentine Maurer and Louis Klee.  I wish that I could report 1870 and 1880 census records for both families. Oh, well, subject for another post!

What I learned:  Census databases are not created equal! Don’t limit myself to the most popular websites. Try using known address from one census to find enumeration district for another census.  For Brooklyn, try same ward from another census.

What helped:  Knowledge of search strategies. Being able to narrow residence to city and state. Tracking search attempts and strategies on research logs.

What didn’t help: Number of pages in Brooklyn census. I was too lazy to look through hundreds of pages.

TO-DO: Continue search for Valentine Maurer (1870 census) & Louis Klee (1880 census) families.  Use multiple sources, including print indexes available at Oklahoma History Center library.  Keep detailed record of search attempts, including key words, on research logs.


[1] 1880 U.S. Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district (ED) 182, p. 42B(penned), sheet325B, dwelling 161, family 465, Mauiner [Maurer] Valentine, age 52; digital images, Family Search ( : accessed, printed, downloaded 13 August 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 0852.

[2] 1870 U.S. Census, Kings county, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, Ward 16, p. 78 (penned), dwelling 288, family 762, Louis Rleh [Kleh]; digital images, Family Search ( : accessed, printed, downloaded 14 August 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M593.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and “Posting Family Roots” blog, 2018. 

Perils of ‘Point and click’ genealogy

Are you my grandmother’s parents?

Hint found, online family tree database: George H. Maurer, age 61, born in New York and wife, Anna, age 55, born in New York living in Manhattan, New York, 1920.[1]  Must be my great-grandparents!  My momma told me that her grandparents were Herman and Anna Maurer and that they lived in New York City. Minor detail that husband recorded as “George H.”  His middle name could be Herman! Given name and name person is known within family aren’t always the same!  Another minor detail: George’s parents are recorded as born in New York. According to mom, Herman’s parents were German immigrants to the United States.

George_Anna_branch or tree

This is one example of my experience with genealogy point and click syndrome, a.k.a, ‘shaky leaf syndrome’.  A shaky leaf appears on the online family tree. I read the record in a cursory manner then, ‘point and click’ to attach the record to a person. Or, I saw the record on another person’s online tree. The record fits some information about the person or family, so it must be OK.

The problem?  This George H. and Anna Maurer are not my direct ancestors! How did I find out? Only after I carefully reviewed paper and digital records. The review, prompted by Genealogy Do-Over, presented several clues. Specifically, Herman’s parents were born in Germany. Second, Anna Klee Maurer, died in 1918! Where did I go wrong? How can I prevent this from happening? “It’s simple,” you say. “Question everything!”

Read more about Ancestry hints on Amy Johnson Crow’s  blog :  “The truth about Ancestry’s Hints”. Posted 4 January 2017. 

Not really so simple. Novice genealogists, in particular, can easily catch this syndrome. If not careful, even experienced genealogists occasionally follow a wrong lead based on one or two facts.  Names, dates, locations are close and look right. I am blessed that Great-Aunt Viola wrote a brief family genealogy.[2] I have often referred to that document in the past several months and continue to use it as a base.  What if I didn’t have that document?  How would I know that Herman and Anna, living in Manhattan in 1920, are not my ancestors? The single census record doesn’t divulge that information.

1920 Census_George_Anna_Maurer

!920 U.S. Census, New York City, New York. George H. Maurer and wife, Anna Maurer.

So, it’s back to the basics. My solution:  Search for a census record closest to the year and location of another known event that you can confirm.  The record may or may not include Herman or Anna. Analyze every piece of information on the record.  Repeat with other records, moving forward or backward in time. During the process, you may circle back to where you started.  But, you could also end at a different place. This seems almost too logical but I believe that we sometimes bypass this guideline in the quest for an older ancestor or event.

Here’s my case study. What if  I had few documents and only this basic information. For the moment, forget previous posts about this family.

  • Mother, Eunice Tucker, born 1919 in Huntington, Suffolk county, New York to Esbon J. Tucker and Charlotte Maurer.
  • Mom lived in Huntington until her marriage to Dad.
  • Grandmother (Mom’s mother), a.k.a. Gram, k.a. Lottie, was born in New York City, possibly Brooklyn, to Herman and Anna (Klee) Maurer.
  • Viola, a.k.a. Aunt Olie, Gram’s sister, lived with Esbon and Lottie.
  • Grandfather (Mom’s father), a.k.a. Pop, born in Greenville, New York to William F. Tucker and Bertha Traver. I remember Pop saying that he was from upstate New York.
  • We often visited Gram and Pop in Huntington.
UpstateFun fact:   What is the definition of ‘upstate New York’?    For some, upstate is all areas of New York except New York City and Long Island. Others consider west of the Hudson River as ‘upstate’ or name specific counties as being ‘downstate’.  Join the conversation on twitter:

The 1920 census for Huntington, Suffolk county, New York, seems like the logical choice. Search criteria:  Esbon Tucker, Lottie Tucker,  Eunice Tucker (mom).  An online database quickly displays the record  IF the handwriting is clear and  IF the names are transcribed accurately.  If not,  inspect the record images page by page until you find an entry that looks like it ‘could be’ the right person or family.  I missed my mother and her parents the first time that I looked.

1920 U.S. Census_Herman Maurer_Huntington

1920 U.S. Census, Huntington, Suffolk county, New York. Page 7A.

Transcription for dwelling # 130, family 139, 1st Ave, Huntington, New York, reads: [3]

  • Herman Merured, head, age 60, head, M, W, wd [widower], b. New Jersey, father b. Germany, mother b. Germany
  • Viola Merured , daughter, age 13, f, w,  single, b. NY, father b. New Jersey, mother b. New York
  • Esmond  Tucker, son-in-law, age 28, married, b. NY, mother b. New York, father b. New York.
  • Charlotte Tucker, daughter, age 28, daughter, married, b. New York
  • Esmond Tucker, grandson,age  2 6/12, single, b. New York
  • Eugenies  Tucker, age 8/12, single, b. New York

Next, evaluate each data point separately.  Start with a person whose information is clearer and/or closest to a known fact. For me, the names of Herman, Viola and Charlotte stood out.

  1. Herman Merured, head of household, age 60, ‘wd’ which means ‘widow’ or ‘widower’. “Merured” could be “Maurer”. His wife died before 1920.
  2. Viola Merured – daughter. Viola, Gram’s sister, lived with Gram and Pop.
  3. Charlotte Tucker, daughter. One name transcribed correctly!

Judge the other entries:

  1. Esmond Tucker – son-in-law. First name close to Pop’s given name of Esbon. Surname transcribed correctly! Inferred husband of Charlotte.
  2. Esmond Tucker – mom’s older brother, Esbon; spelling is close. Age of 2 6/12 suggests date of birth about July 1917. (Note: Esbon’s date of birth is 30 April 1918 on his birth certificate).
  3. Eugenies Tucker – close to Mom’s given name of Eunice Tucker. Age 8/12. Inconsistent with Mom’s birthdate of 31 August 1919 and only 5 months old in January 1920. Possible transcription error or census taker error?

Is this record close to known information? Yes, but only because I know about mom’s family. Another researcher, less familiar with our family, might say ‘no’ or ‘maybe’. This census record suggests that Herman’s wife, Anna, died before 1920.  Tying the pieces together, I  now state that Herman and Anna Maurer, living in Manhattan in 1920, are certainly not my ancestors. Next question: When did Anna die?

Be sure to document search attempts and findings on a research log.  State why information is consistent or inconsistent with other information. For questionable information,  I use a red pen and question marks on handwritten notes and highlights or colors on digital notes.  Any source may have multiple types of information.  You will save time and effort later.  This will save time and effort later.

TO-DO LIST:  Search for Herman and Anna in previous census, such as 1915 New York State Census. If Herman again listed as ‘wd’,  locate 1910 U.S. Federal Census. Continue searching earlier census records as needed to narrow range of possible death years for Anna.

Found:  1915 New York State Census record for Herman and Anna.

Fortunately, the census taker for this part of the 1915 New York State Census wrote more clearly. This facilitated ready identification and display of the transcription for this family:   [4]

1915_NY State Census_Herman_Anna_crop1.jpg

1915 New York State Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Herman Maurer, part of page 47.

1915 census Herman final

Herman, Anna and their children were in Huntington in June 1915. Since Herman was listed as ‘wd’ (widower) on 1920 census  Anna’s death date narrows to between June 1915 and January 1920.

Another search of my paper files yielded an almost forgotten item from an online message board, an obituary for Anna Maurer.[5]  I verified the message board entry by locating a transcription of the obituary from another source.[6]  The obituary reads:

“Brooklyn Standard Union, July 28, 1918. Anna Maurer. Funeral services for Anna Maurer, who died on Thursday at her home in Huntington, where she had been a resident for fifteen years, will be held tomorrow at 10 A.M. at the funeral chapel of Mrs. George Ehlenberger, 295 Wyckoff Avenue, near Linden Street. Mrs. Maurer was born in Brooklyn fifty-four years ago and is survived by her husband, Herman Jr, and two daughters, Viola and Mrs. Mattoe Pucker. Interment at Evergreen Cemetery.”

“Mrs Mattoe Pucker”? I don’t have a copy of the original printed obituary to see if this is a print or transcription error. Names of Herman and Viola are consistent with other records.

Finally, I discovered a death record for Anna Maurer in Klee_Anna_mMaurer_death index_1918_crop21918, Huntington:  [7]

The New York Department of Health reports an 8-9 month wait to obtain a death certificate for genealogical use.

FYI: Yes, I marked George H. and Anna Maurer census record as ‘negative evidence’ and ‘not my ancestors’.

Addendum: Anna Maurer from 1920 census found?

As I checked databases and sources for this post, I found two records for another Anna Maurer,  who could be the same Anna Maurer who lived in Manhattan in 1920.  Hopefully, someone reading this post will recognize her as their ancestor.

1940 Census[8]: Anna Maurer, age 76.  Estimated birth year 1864.  Female, White, birthplace New York. Inmate, Wards Island, Manhattan State Hospital, New York City, New York.

New York, Extracted Death Index[9]:  Anna Maurer, age 77, birth year abt 1864, death date: 1 March 1941; death place: Manhattan, New York, USA.

Are the two Maurer families related?  Maybe.



I recognize my error now and am being more cautious. I document searches and results on more regular basis. I realize how easy it is to confuse persons with similar names, birth years, birth dates, and residences. I could have easily marked Anna Maurer, who died in 1941, as my great-grandmother.  My mother died in 2007 so I cannot ask her. Mom’s brothers and sister are also dead. A cousin knows some of the family history.  Get the information from your oldest relatives as soon as you can!

When I began collecting and analyzing records, I didn’t follow any logical process outlined here. I have become more systematic in my approach. I document more often and more thoroughly.

I sometimes get discouraged. I keep finding gaps and missed information. I remind myself about the purpose of the Genealogy Do-Over:  to improve genealogy research skills, including data management. As a result, I view items and information differently. I am more skeptical and keep better notes. I ‘point and click’ less often and take notes/ make comments more often.

What I learned:  Carefully check and re-check information. In the 1915 census, my grand-uncle, William Charles Maurer,  listed his occupation as registered nurse. I have been a registered nurse for 45 years. Even now, only about 10% of nurses are male. There is a story to be discovered and told!

What helped:  Documentation of previous searches and records found. Organization of paper and digital files begun last year.

What didn’t help: Incomplete transcription (by me) of data in records. I didn’t actively search for and find the death index record for Anna Maurer until this month.

TO- DO:  Order Anna Klee Maurer’s death certificate – one of 6 on my list!  Transcribe all data found in a record, even if the information isn’t relevant to the current question. Review Genealogy Do-Over Months 1 and 2.  Take a breath!


[1] 1920 U.S. Census, New York, New York, population schedule, Manhattan Assembly District 13, enumeration district (E.D. 965), page 21B (penned), dwelling 2469, family 490, entry for George H. Maurer, 55; digital images, Ancestry ( : viewed, downloaded 26 Jan 2014); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625, Roll 1209.

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

[3] 1920 U.S. Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, enumeration district (ED) 113, p. 7A (penned), dwelling 136, family 139, Eugenies [Eunice] Tucker; digital images, Ancestry ( : viewed, downloaded, printed 14 March 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T625, Roll 1269. Census date:  22nd & 29th January 1920.

[4] 1915 New York State Census, Suffolk county, New York, population schedule, Huntington, , pg. 47, Hermon Maurer age 55; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed, printed, downloaded 10 January 2017); citing New York State Archives, Albany, New York..

[5] Cyber Angel, “Anna b Bklyn d Huntington NY 1918 hus Herman,” Maurer Family Genealogy Forum, message board listing, posted 8 February 2002; (http://genforum.genealogy,com/cgi-bi/pageload.cgi?Herman, Maurer: :maurer:::836.html  : accessed 9 June 2007).   “Anna Maurer”, obituary, Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page, Newspapers, Brooklyn (Daily) Standard Union, 1918 Deaths. . l July 11th-30th (  :  accessed 18 July 2018).

[6] “Anna Maurer”, obituary, Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page, Newspapers, Brooklyn (Daily) Standard Union, 1918 Deaths. .  July 11th-30th (  :  accessed 18 July 2018).

[7] “New York State Death Index, 1880-1956,” database with images, Ancestry ( :  accessed & downloaded 23 July 2018); entry for Anna Maurer, 1918, 26 Jul, Huntington, pg. 1003; citing “NY State Death Index,” New York Department of Health, Albany, N.Y.’ Certificate number: 45345.

[8] 1940 U.S. Census, New York, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, enumeration district 1649, sheet 30B, Ward’s Island, Anna Maurer; imaged at Ancestry ( : accessed 26 July 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication T0627-02663.

[9] “New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948,” database, Ancestry ( : accessed 26 July 2018); entry for Anna Maurer, death 1 March 1941, certificate #5345; citing “Index to New York City Deaths 1862-1948,” Indices prepared by the Italian Genealogical Group and the German Genealogy Group, and used with permission of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and “Posting Family Roots” blog, 2018.  

Share your work during this New Year

Earlier this month, I watched another  television show (of three seen recently) about the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia.[1]  Hosts for each show have expertise in varying fields such as archaeology[2] and geology[3].  Each approaches the mystery from a different perspective.  If I remember correctly, all hosts interviewed some of the same persons, visited some of the same locations and viewed/ analyzed some of the same items.  Each found something unique with similar but different conclusions.  My suggestion:  Bring all of the hosts together in Roanoke where they share their methods and visit locations again, as a group.  They compare findings and debate differences.  As a group, they come to joint conclusions, noting similarities and differences.  What a wonderful show that would be!

This brings me to the topic of this blog– sharing your genealogical research as a New Year’s resolution.  I tend to work independently.  However, I realize the value of seeking others with similar genealogy interests. Their perspective has often shown me things that I had missed. Or, they delved deeper into a relationship than I had done. Why not build on the work of others?

Reader, beware!  This is especially true in genealogical research.  With the advent of the internet, there are many more ways to share work and misinformation. Build on the work of others but take time to confirm their work.  Confession time– how many of you ever posted questionable or unverified information? Raised-hands I did and it has been haunting me ever since! How many of you copied information because ‘it looks OK’?  Again, guilty as charged!  Although, I am much more careful now than in the past!

I received a typewritten family genealogy from a cousin who had gotten the information from an elderly great-aunt. [4] typed Posten lineageLooks reasonable!   From my dad, I knew names of his dad and his grandfather.  My beginning research efforts gave me the name of James D. Posten, next in line.  So far, so good.  Using this information as a base, I began to prepare my application to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Since James died in 1914, I eventually wrote for, and received, a copy of his death certificate.  Next person in line – Thomas Posten- confirmed!  I also searched from the other direction – from Jacob Postens to Thomas.  I found Jacob’s Revolutionary War Pension file online [5].   Additional information about Jacob’s children and grandchildren was located in two county histories published in 1886[6] and 1900[7].  No Thomas!

More bad news!  Before I verified the information on the typewritten document, I shared it as fact on multiple message boards and my online family tree.  Dispelling this myth has been on ongoing process for the last 7 years.  Even though I readily share the accumulated information about Jacob Postens and his descendants[8], relatives still argue the direct relationship.  No one has produced evidence to prove that we are direct descendants of Jacob Postens and his wife, Ann Burson.

Sharing genealogical findings can be controversial.  Everyone wants credit for his or her work.  So, give credit to that other researcher! “This information based on Sally Ramsey’s online tree, entry for Jacob Holland.” If you disagree with the other person, be respectful:  “Two online tree shows death date for Jacob Holland as 1908; sources are gravestone and church records. Death certificate and family Bible records show death year as 1909.” Contact the owners of the other trees and offer to share copies of all documents.

No one works in a vacuum.  We rely on the work of others to discover our own family roots. Census takers asked questions and wrote answers on blank pages, transcriptionists typed the handwritten pages, someone created the paper and digital indexes, publishers put together the books, and librarians catalogued and shelved the books.  Family members kept great-grandfather’s Bible and your cousin now has it. A relative wrote a biography about your great-great grandmother’s brother.  Newspapers recorded family comings and goings. Local historians published essays and family stories in the county historical society journal.  There is room for error at each step of the process.

In the 1980s, my father-in-law attended an Ellerbee family reunion. He met a man who had written and published an extensive history of the Ellerbe/ Ellerbee/Ellerby family. My father-in-law shared the book [9]with me. The information in this book saved me many hours of research. Connecting the names and information with specific sources (listed at the end of the book) became my task. I found only one piece of incorrect information:  the wives of John Ellerbee (born 1808- died 1885).  In the book (page 14-41), John’s wives are listed as 1st, Martha and 2nd, Elizabeth. Birth dates of children, a marriage record, and census records indicate the reverse.  Comment on my posted family tree[10] begins with his data, cites records and ends with:

Conclusion:  Ellerbe book has the names reversed. Martha was John’s 2nd wife. I am keeping Elizabeth as name of John’s 1st wife without any other proof of her name at this time (August 2011). Any reliable info to keep or change this information is welcome.

This entry acknowledges Mr. Ellerbe’s work and gives the rationale for my conclusion. I am open for comments.

Online family trees are repositories of both correct and incorrect information.  Inconsistent data are not always recognized.  A desire for quantity may override a concern about quality.  A BSO (bright shiny object) lures even an experienced genealogist to stray from their stated objective.

Private or public online family tree?  This remains controversial with pros and cons to each.  Public trees:  Pro (& con) – anyone with access to the website can view your tree.  Anyone can copy your work to his or her tree. You may or may not get credit for finding that elusive document!  Private trees:  people must contact you for information and/or access.  Someone else cannot easily copy your work. This limit may deter anyone from contacting you.

Are my trees public or private? The answer is “Yes”. Some of my trees are public and some are posted on more than one website. My primary reason is for potential contact by other relatives, which has occurred.  My public trees are not as extensive as the trees housed on my computer within genealogical software programs.  I do not post all information on the public trees.  For example, I do not post copies of documents such as birth, marriage, death certificates that I paid for! I do include a note: “Tree owner has copy of birth certificate.” I also do not post information that others may not readily know.  Other trees reside only on my computer or on paper.  Most common reason is tentative nature of the information.  I do not have any online trees that are labelled as ‘private’.  No specific reason. You decide what to do about your own family trees.

Suggestions about sharing:

  1. Share your findings based on personal preferences. “Willing to share summary of information from multiple sources.” “Richard married Rita in 1932 per marriage certificate.  Daughter, Sarah, born 1929 per 1940 census.  I have copy of Sarah’s death certificate which lists Sarah’s mother as Donna King.”
  2. When in doubt, say so. “Two families with similar names found in this county; this may not be correct family.” “1910 & 1920 census suggest birth year of 1889; death certificate lists birth year of 1891.”   “Maiden name Smith per Jones family history; need to confirm with other sources.”  “Jacob Postens as direct ancestor from typewritten pedigree from elderly aunt; relationship not supported by multiple sources; contact tree owner for more info”.   “Handwritten name looks like Sa____son.”
  3. Be kind. Please check dates.  Betty would have been 8 (or 65) years old when 1st child born.”  “I visited John & Jennie’s grave last week. They are buried in Roberts Cemetery, not Robinson Cemetery.  May have been a transcription error.”  “I respectfully disagree with you on this point. My reasons are . . . .”  “I see your point and have made a note on my tree.”
  4. Check your own work carefully. “Middle name reported as Amelia and Ash by relatives; no documents found to support either one; changed here to initial ‘A’ .”
  5. Compliment good work. “I really like how you report discrepancies and questions.” “Thanks for sharing the pages from the old Bible.” “Thanks for full reference to newspaper obituary.”  “Your post about James’ parents is consistent with my own research.  I think that you are on the right track.”
  6. Admit your mistakes. “I shared the typewritten pedigree from elderly aunt and did not verify information.”  “Surname transcribed as Roberts by me when looking at handwritten census; marriage record & death certificate indicate name was Robertson.”  Your admission may save others from making the same mistake later.

So, during this New Year, resolve to share your work within limits set by you. Use the work of others and acknowledge their contributions.  Respect the opinions of others even when different than yours. Record your mistakes and make the necessary changes.  “Please” and “thank you” are still politically correct!

FYI — Yes, I became a Daughter of the American Revolution, using dad’s mother’s ancestor, Thomas Ostrander of New York.  Initially, I spent 3-4 months on the Jacob Postens’ line and got very discouraged.  A D.A.R. member suggested that I look at the women and this produced my connection to Thomas.  Lineage from me is:  Daniel Richard Posten (dad), Jennie A. Richards (dad’s mother), Ostrander Richards (Jennie’s father), Sarah Ostrander (Ostrander’s mother, 2nd wife of Nathaniel Richards; she died shortly after her son’s birth), Thomas Ostrander.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hiREFLECTION  This entire post is a reflection of my experience about sharing and the negative effect of misinformation.  What helped:  acknowledging that not everything you get from older relatives is necessarily true.  Access to internet and multiple other sources.  Kept lots of notes!   What didn’t help:  Initial reluctance to acknowledge that older relative could be wrong. Being totally stumped by brick wall.  Next steps:  Question everything! When you hit a brick wall, put the work aside and review later.  Keep extensive notes in journals, genealogical software, and research logs.

Another way to share:  Share your work with a genealogy buddy – It’s time to get a genealogy buddy

[1] Bill & Jim Vieira, Return to Roanoke: Search for the Seven; (video documentary, aired 4 January 2018; distributed by History Channel), television.

[2] Josh Gates, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, Expedition Unknown series; (video documentary; Season 3, Episode 4, distributed by Travel Channel), television. The Travel (  : accessed 10 January 2018.

[3] Scott Wolter, Mystery of Roanoke, American Unearthed series (video documentary, Season 1, Episode 7; aired 1 February 2013; distributed by History Channel, television. History Channel ( 7   : accessed 10 January 2018

[4] 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.”

[5] Deposition of claimant, Ann Burson Postens, widow’s pension application no. W3296; service of Jacob Postens, state of Pennsylvania; “Revolutionary War Pension and bounty-land warrant application files, 1800-1900”, images, Fold3 ( :  accessed 12 July 2017),  Jacob Postens, citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800-ca 1912, documenting the period ca 1775-1900, M804 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration [n.d.], Roll 1957.

[6] Alfred Matthews, History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: R.T. Peck & Co, 1886), p. 1127; download from Wayback Machine (   : accessed 12 July 2017).

[7] 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), pp. 1438-1439; download from Wayback Machine ( :  accessed 12 July 2017).

[8] Susan Posten Ellerbee, “Jacob Postens: Our Ancestor?”; (MSS, July 2017; privately published by Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma.  

[9] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, Maryland: Gateway Press, Inc, 1986).

[10] Susan Ellerbee, “Jerry Donald Ellerbee Tree,”, Ancestry (  : accessed 15 January 2017), “John E. Ellerbee”, John’s wives (comment).

Dreams, brick walls and fans

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

brick wall

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

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

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

posten reunion attendees

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook (    :  accessed 1 Sep 2017),  “Month 9-September 2017”.

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.

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