Saturday, March 28, 2015

Basic Genealogy Forms

Paper genealogy is still where I feel most comfortable when it comes to collecting and organizing information. It makes life simpler to pull out a binder of charts or vital records for an "at a glance" look at things.

Never underestimate the power of the basics. Most of us start out with these. I don't know if any genealogists ever really phase them out of their work, even with all that family history software can do for us!

The Pedigree Chart is the place most family historians begin. Using yourself as a starting point, these charts allow you to go back a few generations, recording names and dates, and places of birth, marriage, and death. It doesn't go in depth. Instead, it gives an overview of yourself (or the ancestor listed on the first line), parents, grandparents, and so on.

Some people make extensive use of Family Group Sheets to focus on a specific set of parents and their children. This isn't a form I use much, but it can be handy if I need to utilize lateral/sideways research techniques.

A Correspondence Log can be handy for tracking emails and letters you write in your search for information.

Various other forms that are useful as you delve deeper into researching your family history include the Research Worksheet, Research Calendar, Research Journal, and Research Checklist.

Most of these forms are available at Family Tree Magazine's website or via a Google search.

What forms do you find indispensable in organizing your research?


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Where does 2015 bring me?

I've been far busier than I would like. Far too busy to work on genealogy. However, things are cycling around and settling down. I've decided to step back from editing work and focus specifically on my writing and my research.

My goodness, I haven't even sat down to take a look at my goals for the year! As it is, 2015 may be an ebb-and-flow sort of year, and Type A me is okay with that. As much as I thrive on plotting out what I plan to do from year to year, month to month, even day to day, there are times I need to just let things happen.

So it's already the end of March and I am still at the point where I need to "just do it."

Fortunately, I spent time with a genealogy friend today and I think that's the kick in the pants I needed to get going. Sometimes, that's what you need - someone else's enthusiasm to refuel your own.


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Genealogy for all of us!

Today I was flipping through some photos of my great and great-great grandparents, and my son said it saddens him that he never got to know them.

So many people think of genealogy as an avocation for retirees. For a while, I felt a little lonely, but more and more Gen X genealogists are connecting and showing up at conventions.

Now one of my challenges as a parent is also trying to interest my children in genealogy, without making it feel like a chore. I respect my children's unique interests and if they aren't keen on family history, that's alright. But it was nice to see that my son responded to the photographs.

I think if we want to involve our children, we have to find the approach that touches them most. Maybe my daughter will enjoy tromping through cemeteries with me, while my son will be more interested in the faces of the people he never knew. Maybe my son will be fascinated with the places they lived, while my daughter will be more intrigued by the stories of their adventures. Who knows?

The internet makes family history more and more accessible to all of us. One of The NextGen Genealogy Network's goals is to encourage young people explore this interest, and let them know they aren't alone. Genealogy isn't a "senior citizen's" hobby.

It's for anyone who wants to explore it, and the communities around it are open to everyone.

Do you involve your children in genealogy and, if so, how?



Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Favorite Websites for Research

Some people are fortunate enough to live in the area where their ancestors lived, which makes research much easier. You might be able to visit the libraries, town halls, cemeteries, churches, and other repositories of information with records of your ancestors without having to drive very far.

Many of us, however, either live far from our ancestors' homes or even in another country. I spent the first 25 years of my life in Massachusetts (except for 3 years in New York), which made research very simple in a few different New England towns and states.

But I have lived far from home since 1999, including in two different countries overseas. Since then, I have relied heavily upon two websites.

The first is www.AmericanAncestors.org, which is the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It is probably the best repository of Massachusetts vital records - and so, so much more - out there. Membership in NEHGS is well worth the $79.95 a year for anyone with New England ancestry, whether they live in the Boston area or not.

The second is www.FamilySearch.org, the website of the Church of Latter Day Saints. While I am not a member of the LDS church and not necessarily in agreement with their religious practices (i.e. baptizing the deceased), I appreciate the records they have provided the public free of charge. Those records range from vital records to land to court records, and more.

Of course, I still send an old-fashioned letter to request specific vital records when working on applications for lineage societies or trying to fill in research holes when I cannot find answers online. But the internet has really changed genealogy, making it so much more accessible to people all around the world.

What are websites you rely upon for research?



Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Underutilized Resources

There have been quite a few changes in my household (one adult starting a job, the other ending one), a few visits to conventions, not to mention the usual, so I haven't posted since March. My gosh, that is too, too long.

So - DNA!

What a fascinating tool, and one we still don't understand perfectly. However, I think our understanding of it is getting better.

In 2012, I splurged on the Family Finder test on FamilySearch. I don't think I've quite explored its full potential since my results came out. My main reason for upgrading to Family Finder was the hope of finding a Murphy cousin - someone related to me through the parents of my mysterious great-great grandmother, Emma Anna (Murphy) (Reagan) Shaw.

It was also interesting to see it break down my ethnic heritage a bit more than the mtDNA test.

To date, time has not really allowed me to play with the results or the matches. So I'm sure I'm missing out on the benefit of having upgraded. It's something I really must delve into more deeply.

Is there something out there you know might be helpful to you but, for whatever reason, you haven't fully utilized it yet?



Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sideways Searching

Most of the time I concentrate on one specific ancestor at a time, and then their parents, and their parents, and so on. If I included every single sibling and their families, I would have a huge family file full of distant cousins. I would also find myself getting confused and clicking around my family file too much. As it is, with all the intermarriages in my ancestry, things are tricky enough.

So my personal policy is only to bother including siblings from 1850 to present (and full families for 1900 to present), or a distant cousin's lines if I know that person and we are working together.

Of course, some researchers always include siblings, no matter what. It all depends on personal preference. I prefer to keep my file limited to direct ancestors for the most part.

But there is one other instance where I include collateral relationships, and that is when I hit a brick wall or need additional information on a family. This "sideways searching" can be important for many reasons - not just helping eliminate brick walls. Developing a fuller, more complete picture of a family might lead to evidence we wouldn't have located otherwise.

For example, my ex-husband's Hawksley line is one of the most fascinating families I am actively researching. Based upon a wide variety of sources, we know this family goes back to John Goodwin Hawksley of Mars Hill, Maine. John was probably born in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada, on February 8, 1810.

But the question was always this: who were John's parents?

Over the years, I've compiled records that help give a more complete picture of this family. John and his wife, Lucy, had a son - Samuel - who died in the Civil War. They had other sons who served and survived, so it was Samuel I was most interested in.

Why? Because since Samuel was a young, unmarried man, his parents could claim a pension for his service in the war.

Sure enough, Samuel's Civil War Pension file gave me a great deal of insight about John Goodwin Hawksley, his wife, and children, and his life in general. It told me all about John's health issues, and how much he and Lucy relied upon Samuel to take care of the family farm. It is a gold mine of information.

But it still didn't answer the question about his parents.

Fortunately, searching "sideways" through one of John's siblings and her family did answer the question about one of their parents. John had three sisters (two of whom still bear fleshing out), and one was Margaret Elizabeth Hawksley who married Isaac Adams on 3 October 1833 in Prince William, New Brunswick, Canaday.

Margaret's daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Adams) Foster wrote a letter that gave me insight about their parents - an Englishman named Hawksley, and a woman from New Jersey with the surname of Goodwin, who later remarried a Madigan.

That was a "Whoa!" moment for me when I read through those papers in the NEHGS manuscript collection, because I had found an 1860 census entry with a Mary Madigan living with Margaret (Hawksley) Adams. Thanks to the letter, I realized Mary Madigan was Margaret and John's mother. (There was an Irish family also living with Margaret Adams at the time, and I am still trying to figure out if there is any relationship.)

So that's just a little story about the importance of seeking out siblings when you have a family mystery on your hands. Sometimes, they have the answers.


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How I Got Started in Genealogy

This is the topic I used to get the ball rolling in the NGGN Writers' Group: How did you get started in genealogy?

For me, an interest in genealogy began when I was about 12-years-old. My parents divorced when I was quite young (around 3 or 4), and I didn't see my mother after that. So of course I was intrigued about my family! I started with my father's side, collecting what information I could. Fortunately, my dad had names for my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents on my mother's side.

But what really drew me in was a large leather wallet my paternal grandmother had. It was full of documents and typed-up genealogies done by her maternal uncle, Erwin Blake, relevant to our Blake ancestors in Wrentham, MA. There were also a couple photographs of the Blake family.

When I was about 18 or so, I asked my grandmother for the leather wallet, and she allowed me to have it. I made sure to photocopy all the photographs and documents, just for safety's sake. I donated many of the original documents (mostly deeds and Civil War documents) to NEHGS, since I knew they had the technology to preserve them, and gave my paternal aunt the original photographs. As technology evolved, we also made sure to scan everything too.

Of course, I've built a much larger family picture over the years with my research, but it was an absent parent and some yellowed papers and photographs that piqued my adolescent curiosity.

What about you?


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan