Sunday, May 10, 2015

Matrilineal Musings

My matrilineal line is also the one that fascinates me the most. Why? Because it comprises the most recent immigrants in my family.

Because my family is mostly made up of Mayflower and Great Migration names/heritages, and a handful of Irish immigrants thrown in for good measure (in the early to mid 1800s), my direct matrilineal ancestry stands out because it is neither English nor Irish.

My great-grandmother, Lia Elizabeth Galfre, was born in Middleborough, Massachusetts in 1903. She died in Brockton in 1991. She married my great-grandfather, Basil Wade Bartlett, in Middleborough in 1923.

Lia's parents came to Massachusetts from Italy.

Her father, Bartolomeo Giovanni Michele Galfre, was born January 22, 1869 in San Benigno, Torino, Italy. He died in Lakeville, Massachusetts in 1952. We know Grandpa Bartolomeo's parents, Michele and Francesca, were both born in Italy. We believe his grandfather, Giovanni Battista Bartolomeo Galfre, was born in France, as Galfre is a French name.

Lia's mother, Ernesta Maddelena Bergamasco, was born May 12, 1874 in Mongelia, Genoa, Italy. Thanks to a short family memoir by my great aunt Espezzia (Lia's sister), we know the names of her siblings were Bartholomew, Angelina, Giovanni, Peter, and Archie. As you can see, some of these are nicknames or Anglicized names.

Her parents were Giuseppe and Giabatta. We have a few tidbits about Giuseppe, thanks to my great-great aunt's family history. She wrote that Giuseppe came to visit Bartolomeo and Ernesta in Middleborough. She also wrote that he lived to age 104, and specifically said, "He went to church one night to bid goodbye to all his friends, and died that night."

And that is all we have.

I had my mtDNA tested several years ago, and was not surprised to get Haplogroup H1. Still, it didn't tell me much, so I'm afraid my options for Italian research are quite limited.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Still a Mystery: Emma Anna Murphy of Nova Scotia

Last night I dreamed my mother told me more about my great-great grandma Emma - you know, the one who has eluded me since I started my genealogical journey. The ideas in the dream were preposterous answers to questions I have (where did she go to school? Did she have any siblings? What was the name of her first husband? What happened to him?).

But they reminded me that I still have a long way to go with Emma's life.

Last time I posted about Emma Anna (Murphy) (Reagan) Shaw, it was February 6, 2012. At the time, I hoped I might have finally found her family. The Guysborough, Nova Scotia connection is the most logical one, but can you believe I haven't looked for 3 years now?

Granted, it's been a busy time for me - had a baby in January 2013, moved back to the states in June 2013, focused on establishing a writer career, etc.

So I suppose that dream, silly as it was, might be a nudge reminding me that the answers are still out there. I just have to remember to ask.

When I tackle the gaps in Emma's timeline - specifically from her birth (1861 or so in Nova Scotia?) to her marriage to my great-great grandfather (1888 in Middleborough, Massachusetts), I don't automatically look for her birth or her parents. I feel like, if possible, I need to work my way back from her marriage to great-great grandpa Erastus Shaw.

That means I would really, very much like to find out the name and ultimate fate of her first husband. We know his surname was Reagan. We know this because of various family documents - my great-grandpa Harrison Shaw's birth record in 1889, which gives his mother's name as "Emma A. Reagion," and Erastus and Emma's marriage record in 1888, which gives her name as "Emma A. Regan" and her maiden name as Murphy.

Emma also specifies in the 1930 census that her first marriage occurred when she was 16, which means roughly 1877.

In the 1910 census, she is listed as having 2 children, but only 1 living (my great-grandfather, Harrison Shaw). Did she have a child in her first marriage? I've found nothing to indicate she had 2 with Erastus. Of course, she might have, and the birth and death may simply not exist in Middleborough or Massachusetts records. Still, I think it's more logical to assume she had a child in her first marriage, since Massachusetts birth, marriage, and death events are all pretty well documented.

There's still the question of whether or not she was born in Maine or Nova Scotia. The existing vital records and censuses are roughly 50-50 on that question. Again, though, I think if she'd been born in Maine, there would be some indication of her in the 1870 and 1880 censuses... and there's nothing, which is why I err on the side of Nova Scotia as being correct.

This post is a bit rambly and probably only makes sense to me if you haven't read the previous posts. ;)

It also tells me I need to go in and re-examine all the records, and the timeline to see what I need to do next.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Link Hoarding

I must admit I'm a bit of a link hoarder. With anything else in life, I like to keep it simple. Put everything in its place and if I have no use for it, out it goes.

Links are too easy to collect, though, especially genealogy links. Heck, I even save links for sites I don't actually need... but could need in the future.

Fortunately, I went in and cleaned my favorites out last night. Good thing, too, because plenty were broken. It just goes to show that when you find a link that is potentially useful, you need to try to mine it for nuggets as quickly as possible.

I like to organize links for ease of finding what I want, so my favorites are broken down in a folder called "Genealogy" into subfolders:

New Brunswick
North Carolina
Nova Scotia

Last night before I cleaned out links, I had more folders - folders I ultimately realized I never used. So this is a very basic way of organizing links. I can find what I need quite easily. If I am working on my Mayflower ancestors, I know the Massachusetts folder will be my first stop to see what links I have available.

There are probably plenty of folks who don't see the need to have these various subfolders for organizing links/favorites. Alas, if I didn't do this, the Genealogy folder would be one, long, disorganized list of links that I would have to scroll up and down through.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Organizing All That Paper

So I'm not entirely down with going all digital. YET. I'd really love to scan every single bit of paper I have and save it to disk, so I have that back-up available to me for emergencies, or just to be able to carry it with me on research trips (useful when I finally get a laptop again).

Fortunately, I'm not drowning in paper, so to speak. I keep it very organized with binders.

I use a color-coding system for binders and scrapbooks. Plain black binders are for genealogy. Some are dedicated to pedigree charts, some are dedicated to general family records and pages copied out of reference books, and some are dedicated to vital records.

Organizing paper from the get-go makes it easier to stay that way. Everything I have that is not a pedigree chart is organized by surname. My vital records, for example, are all alphabetized. And for those ancestors for whom I have multiple vitals, those are then placed in chronological order.

So for a man, I have his records in order of birth, marriage, and death. The wife's birth and death are filed under her maiden name, and her marriage is cross-referenced to the husband.

I use an index to make the system easy for someone to understand. If someone picks up one of my vital records binders, they can see at a glance whose names are in there, the order in which they are arranged, and the cross-referenced marriages as well.

Furthermore, I keep a spreadsheet to track the records I request and receive. Admittedly, though, I do the same with my Nancy Drew book collection. ;)

Other paper documents I have include copies obtained from manuscript collections at NEHGS, Civil War pensions, family-created documents written by great-aunts or great-uncles, and more. While I don't index these, I do alphabetize them. Perhaps it's high time I also indexed them by name, document, and - if applicable - title of book or collection from which it came...

Being organized is a boon when it comes to genealogy, particularly if you would like someone else to easily interpret and utilize what you have collected.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Research Plans 2015

It looks like I will be homebound for most of 2015, and focused on work, work, kids, work... So there won't be any on-site research for me this year.

The places I still really want and need to visit are Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. However, other things take precedence this year, like remodeling our home (with our own hands, mind you!) and my husband continuing his college education (and our last surviving laptop doesn't get wireless internet, so traveling is out of the question).

That means my research efforts must take place from home.

As always, March meant it was time to renew my NEHGS membership. I don't use NEHGS as much as I used to, since most of my New England ancestors are "done" - of course, family history is never done, and there is always something new to learn about an ancestor's life. However, I would hate to miss out on anything they offer, so I will remain a member until the very end.

I still like to gather records by writing to town and city clerks, and I really need to check to make sure my spreadsheet of birth, marriage, and death records I currently have is up to date.

Another thing I'd like to do this year is expand my library a little more. There are a few recently released Mayflower silver volumes I would like to have.

There remain brick walls, of course, and over the next several weeks I plan to revisit them, review my previous efforts, and see if I can make any breakthroughs.

I think I need to take a broader picture approach, and work my way through each of my lines, as I do a few times a year. That is, I "begin" at my children, and then work up through each line of ancestry, checking for "holes" and inconsistencies, and seeing who needs my focus.

This is when I like to work off paper - to use printed pedigree charts to give me a visual. So my husband will just have to put up with the pile of binders on my desk as I sit down and try to answer questions such as, "Who was Emma Anna Murphy's first husband?" and "So, what happened to Joseph St. Onge?" (not my ancestor, but still a person of interest).

So watch for posts revisiting brick walls and dead-end immigrant ancestors as I endeavor to learn more about my family!

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Social Media in Genealogy

As the internet offers us more and more places to connect, it can be very tricky to determine who you "ought" to follow on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and more. There are many recommendations out there - some that are considered staples of social media/the online community in genealogy.

It is well worth checking out the suggestions on "Top 100" lists and the like, but sometimes finding the right folks to follow on social media is as simple as a few search terms.

What do you want to get out of making these connections online? Do you want to find potential distant cousins and other people with similar research interests? Do you want to keep up to date on more general genealogical news or the latest scientific advances with DNA? Would you like to find people local to you or communicate with genealogists in other countries?

And, once you find these people, what next? What should you do with these connections? What is the point of a widespread network if you don't make use of it, or participate in it?

Sometimes, it is nice to sit back and watch news, ideas, and more scroll by in your Twitter feed. But it won't necessarily help break through that brick wall or bring you closer to uncovering what happened to an ancestor who apparently dropped off the face of the earth.

Take time to reach out to the people with shared research interests, or even who live in the area where your family resided decades or centuries ago. Before the internet, we sent each other letters - even long-distance relatives! Email makes it even easier to say, "Dear John Smith, I noticed your post on the Smith forum, and I do believe we may have an ancestral connection via Robert Smith."

We tend to be a friendly lot, so most of us will respond courteously - probably even excited to hear from you.

So use that social media to be social. That's the whole point of it.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

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) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan