If you would like to ADVERTISE for a flat rate per month on this blog, contact: familytracker@yahoo.com

If you are interested in buying any of the items from the site, click on the link to the items and we get a portion of the sale. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Genealogy Software, Family Chronologies and News


I just received wills of 3 family members:  Artemis Flowers, Henry Flowers and Seneca Odell (who may or may not be related).

I purchased the records from Sampubco.  While I don't think the navigation on his site is as smooth as it could be, he has a lot of really useful information, his rates are reasonable, my order was processed quickly and I received the correct documents electronically and in excellent condition.

The files are jpg format and are sized fairly small but I'll transcribe each of them and upload both the transcriptions and the images to the appropriate Yahoo groups (see the links to your right).

Genealogy Software:

I know I've written about this before so I hope I'm not being too repetitive.  Unless you're going to get quite intensive into your family history, I don't think you need complex software.  

You need the following basic functions from whatever software you decide to get to help you with your family history:

  • You need to be able to store and organize the information you collect about your family/families.

  • You need to be able to connect individuals in your family along familial lines.

  • You need to be able to print reports like family charts, generation family trees and ahnentafels.

  • You need to be able to store notes and source citations about where you got your information, notes on conflicting information, etc.

  • You need to be able to backup your database.

  • You need to be able to share your database with others and to import other people's related databases into your software.

I use PAF, the Mormon Church's genealogical software.  I've used it for years. It's free at the FamilySearch site.  I don't feel the need for anything else.  I have had Family Tree Maker briefly but I found that it interacts with the Ancestry web site in ways that I'm not interested in having done.  I'm a paying member of Ancestry in order to gain access to records that I need frequently.  I have no interest in Ancestry having access to my records; they don't pay me for them, after all.  I've never found a reason, other than that brief experiment to try any other genealogical software.  I have everything I need with PAF.

Family Chronologies:

One of the practices I've had for some time is to try to trace each individual in my families from birth to death; to show a complete chronology for each individual.  I started it to keep myself organized and focused.  It's so easy to get distracted by some little piece of information; this practice helps me stay on track.

PAF software has a section in each person's record to record Notes.  There I record the events of their life with a birth date at the bottom, each subsequent event above that until the death and burial dates at the top.

I record each life event I can find birth, military enrollment and discharge, (marriage is recorded elsewhere in the record but can also be recorded here), each appearance on a census, any additional event that I find interesting or significant, like the assignment of a special guardian to represent the interests of my grandfather, in the estate of his grandfather (his mother had died, his father remarried) which I just discovered and have been added to his Notes.

These are the current Notes for my paternal grandfather, William Joseph Odell:

1961, May 3 - died of complications from diabetes
1945 - NY State Census - ?
1940 - US Census - ?
1935 - NY State Census - ?
1930 - US Census - Delaware Co. - Delhi, NY - 30 yrs - census
1925 - NY State Census - Delaware Co. - Delhi, NY - 26 yrs - listed as William F. - general labor - census
1920 - US Census - Panama Canal Zone, Cristobal, Military Forces at Gatun - Regiment 33rd Infantry, MG & Sup. Co. - 21, pvt 1st class. - Ancestry
1917 - Joined the army at age 17, stationed at the Panama Canal Zone. - get papers
1915 - NY State Census - not found - what counties?
1914, Nov. 23 - Edward O'Connor appeared in court as special guardian for Wm in the reading of his grandfather, Henry Flowers', will.
1910 - US Census - NY, Delaware Co., Meredith - age 10, living with father & stepmother, Ella Zurner.
1905 - NY State Census - ?
1900, Sept. 29 - mother, Fannie Flowers died.
1900, June 6 - US Census - NY, Delaware Co., Delhi - Meredith St. - age 7 months, living with parents & grandparents - bdate, Jan 1900 - census
1900, Jan. 5 - born to George Odell and Fannie Flowers, Delhi, Delaware County, NY

I've removed a few notes that might be sensitive to some family members.

As you can see, there are source notes, I've left notes to myself to send for his military records, I've left question marks where I have gaps where he should have appeared.

The chronology is useful in identifying missing information and in completing the story of an individual's life.  It's also useful in formulating new questions whose answers might be interesting.  In circumstances like my grandfather's where he was still a minor, his birth mother had died his father remarried, is there always a special guardian appointed?  It might be interesting to find out; it might not.  In any case, everything was left to his grandmother so it hardly mattered.

This is my technique, it's worked for me.  I don't now what other researchers do.  I find it helpful and interesting to try to build these chronologies for each person.  They were real people.  Their chronologies give me a sense of them as individuals not just names on paper.

I knew this grandfather.  There are events missing from his Notes, so far, like his father remarrying.  I'll fix that, it'll make his life more real.

I recommend this practice particularly for those who want to write a family history for future generations.  I'm not planning to publish, there's no market; I just plan to leave my database, notes and files to various historical societies and individuals who want copies.

And, I enjoy finding out who and where I came from.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Accuracy is Paramount

I will be the first to admit that I'm a sloppy researcher and very impatient when on the hunt for a particular tidbit of information.  However, in the long run, accuracy is extremely important in doing this research.

We find ourselves looking for a piece of information to fill a gap.  We find something that seems to be it.  We're excited.  We jump on it and insert it into the puzzle.

That's a mistake.  One I've made many times.

It's important to stop.  Make a copy of whatever you can and record the source (something else I often don't do) so you can come back to it.  Look for another source of the same information before you decide that what you just found is correct.

We tend to be in a hurry to move on to the next step that this little smidgen allows us go to.  It's OK to take that next step but keep in mind that the information just collected might not be accurate.  You might have to backtrack to make a correction.

Here's why:

There are tons of people with the same name.  You might have the wrong person.

There's a pattern and logical chronology of most people's lives.  The information you just found, particularly if you didn't check the date, might not fit into the person's life pattern.  (more on this later.)

There are errors in documents, in official documents, don't accept everything you read.

Here's an example, one that's been bugging me a little lately.

My great great grandfather was known as James.  Everyone in the family, in the large extended family knows him as, thinks of him, as James.  It was probably how he preferred to be called.

I have his death certificate.  His name was Thomas James.  I just now found an additional document confirming that he was T. J., Thomas James.  

Many people use their middle name as the name they want to be known as, for various reasons.  It's not really important why, it's how they want to be known.  

It's one thing to record Thomas James as James since that's how he was known and probably wanted to be known.  It's quite another, after someone has found an official document citing his name as Thomas James, to record his name as James Thomas. It's worse than inaccurate, it's arrogant and irresponsible.  There I've said it.  Someone, more than one person, has recorded and disseminated that information that's going to lead someone else  to look for more information on James and they'll be looking for the wrong person.  There are other James with the same surname.

I've recently seen MY great great grandfather's name recorded as James Thomas, which it was NOT.  I've seen it twice.  It makes me angry.

More important, it's important to be accurate, for your own sake as well as for others.  If you jump to conclusions, make assumptions, you end up following a path that's going in the wrong direction and you'll be wasting your own time.

My recommendation is to look for at 2 to 3 records with the same information.  It's like looking for socks in a drawer in the dark.  If there are only 2 colors, you'll have to pull out 3 to be sure you have a matching pair.  If there are more variations, you'll have to keeping trying to match but unless you have a match, someone's eventually going to notice that you've made a mistake.

One more pet peeve:  my families aren't just MY families; my families, all my ancestors, all my relatives are the ancestors and relatives of everyone else in the families.  All the research I'm doing is really important to me but I share. I share information; I share charts; I share my database; I share copies of photos.  Every once in a while, I encounter individuals who don't share.  I don't like it.  There isn't anything I can do about it except stop sharing with that individual but I don't like it.  It's unlikable.

When I share, I do so with the understanding that what I share will, in turn, be shared with still others.

I'm not the only person researching my families.  I respect the work other people are doing.  I respect the privacy and ownership of information and materials of other people researching our families.  I expect my work, my information and my property to be respected.  I've been researching ALL my families for over 35 years.  I often forget who has given me a photograph or some piece of information.  I'll try to improve on that.  It's about being disorganized and sloppy, not because I want to take credit for anything.  

I know some of the individuals who are also researching the same families.  I know who I can ask about some parts of the family.  I sometimes feel insulted when members of our families don't ask me about certain information and then record or post inaccurate information.  Again, not because I want credit but because I want to ensure that there's accuracy.  Being insulted is my problem but I am concerned about those who insist on reinventing the wheel when so much work has already been done by me and by others.

The menu on the right includes a list of family groups I've formed at Yahoo.  Membership is free but is by approval - by me.  I intend only for family members to be members.  The group sites allow researchers to exchange information, documents and photos in a relatively safe environment and to get to know each other and communicate with each other.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Requesting Civil War Records

I was just asked about where to request Civil War records.

Remember, I'm not a certified genealogist.  I am a professional librarian with a Masters degree and have been researching my families for over 35 years but I'm sure professional genealogists know more than I do about records.

Still, I have ordered copies of Civil War records of a few of my ancestors so I can give you the information I have on how to do that.

There are 2 basic varieties of Civil War records that may exist for an individual:
  • There's the service record which consists of their service record from enrollment through  discharge, including any re-ups or service for another.  
  • And, there is a pension record which consists of application for pension through a variety of documentation approving or denying pension, statements by family and other witnesses supporting the decision.  
I have both for one individual and one or the other in other cases.  

Each type contains a variety of details about the individual and family and can be very useful in filling in gaps and verify and correcting family information.  How you can get these records depend on which type you want.

There is a fee for the records.  I haven't ordered any for some time.  As I remember you don't know ahead of time exactly how much it will be but it's not much different from the cost of birth, death and marriage records.  I've paid between $10 and $20 dollars depending on how large the file is.

This is taken from the National Archives site (it is not the most user friendly site as you might imagine of a government site.  It was NOT designed for family historians.):

"Requesting Records by Mail or Online

Military Service Records: Paper copies of Civil War military service records can be requested by mail using an NATF Form 86 for each soldier (Volunteer Army or Regular Army). You can obtain the NATF Form 86 by providing your name and mailing address to www.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html. Be sure to specify the correct form number and the number of forms you need.
Pension Records: Paper copies of Civil War pension records can be requested online or requested by mail using an NATF Form 85 for each soldier (Volunteer Army or Regular Army, Union Navy or Marine Corps). You can obtain the NATF Form 85 by providing your name and mailing address towww.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html. Be sure to specify the correct form number and the number of forms you need.
You can also obtain the NATF Forms 85 and Form 86 by writing to:
National Archives and Records Administration,
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20408-0001.
Important! There are no compiled service records for Navy or Marine Corps personnel. Do not used NATF Form 86. Instead, contact Old Military and Civil Records (NWCTB), National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001."
Ancestry.com also has a lot of military records.  I'm a paying member so I'm not sure if they are free to non-paying members.  They don't, however, have everything so ordering the official copies from the National Archives is the best thing to do.  I did find a Muster Out record for the individual requested but that particular record doesn't usually contain much information.
Also, many of the regiments have web sites and while they usually don't have actual records, they often do have rosters of men with their specific unit and when they mustered in and out.  If you know the regiment your ancestor was in, you can do a Yahoo or Google search for the regimental number, with the state and you should find some useful information on those pages.
You can always email me at familytracker@yahoo.com with any questions and I'll answer, if I can, or refer you to someone or some place, if I can't.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Old Fulton New York Postcards

Well, that's the title of the web site but the url is fultonhistory.com the column on the right allows you to search 19,648, 000 historical New York newspaper pages.

It's an amazing, albeit somewhat chaotic, conglomeration of old newspapers throughout New York state that have been collected, scanned and indexed for that web site.  

I've found family information there that I've never seen elsewhere.

I found an ancestor that none of us were aware of who slipped through the cracks of the censuses although he's actually there; we just weren't looking for him because we didn't know he existed.

And, you can read that story in the Odell/Oliver Clan page, here, on this blog. I've decided to divide the blog into pages for my primary family lines so that you only have to read this general page and the pages related to the families you're also related to instead of having to wade through families you have no interest in.

I highly recommend that you do some searches at the site listed and there's a link in my links menu.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fond Memories

There's more to family history than collecting data and making charts. Depending on the circumstances of our growing up and where and how our families lived, as we grow up, life changes.  How we view those changes depends on what we want from life.

I grew up in rural New York State.  The town was small but had a few industries, now gone.  

We lived in town, until I was in high school, when the house that Dad built was completed and we moved 2 miles out of the town limits.  At the time, I was devastated, I didn't drive and didn't get my driver's license until I left home later; I felt isolated out there.  But, looking back, I have some good memories of the house and the property.

Years later, I began looking back and realized that there were things about the way we lived that are disappearing in most of American life.  Those things tell a story about the family and about life in America in general that, I think, are worth remembering and honoring.  When my son was a child, I told him some stories that he enjoyed hearing, about hayrides and ice houses, that he had no experience with and could only imagine.

I started collecting artifacts that exemplify and remind me of those aspects of life then that are mostly rare now.  They bring back fond memories of a time and a life style that's mostly gone.

Here's one of those memories:

Spring cleaning was a huge project.  I don't know if I actually remember it more than once but I think we did it every year.  I remember spring cleaning at my maternal grandmother's house.  It seemed like all my aunts were there helping.  The procedure was to take everything - EVERYTHING - out of each room at a time and to clean the room from ceiling to floor, then each item and put to put everything back in its place.

We put the furniture and big things out on the back lawn, small things on the dining room or kitchen table, as I remember.  Everybody had a job; Grandma was the boss, of course.  She directed all the activity.  My job was to beat the carpet which was hung, by the uncles, over the clotheslines.  And this is what I used (not this one, I had to find one like my memory of my grandmother's):

antique wire rug beater

Despite the dust, it's a fond memory.  I was able to do it and I was part of all the activity.

I think collecting these memories, writing them down, is a nice thing to do for your family.  My son is grown now, he has a daughter of his own.  He's not interested in those stories anymore but I think hearing them as a children growing up gave him a perspective that he might not have if he hadn't heard them.  I haven't told my granddaughter any of the stories yet.  I think I'd like to put them down in an illustrated notebook with photos of the things I've collected from back then.

When I started researching my families in my 20s, many of the relatives of my grandmother's generation were already gone, though I remember them from my early childhood.  There were only a few people left who could help me fill in the blanks of who was who in the family.  So, even though my son isn't particularly interested in the family history and many family members of my generation are also not interested, there may be future generations who want to know and I think it's important to gather the information and photos and artifacts.  I collect things that I remember from my childhood that aren't used much anymore.  I'll share photos of some of my collection here on the blog.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finding Female Ancestors through the censuses

As you know, finding female ancestors after the age at which they might marry is difficult.  I've found a couple of techniques that sometimes bring results.

I'm a paying members of Ancestry.com and do a lot of census research there.  One of the things I do is to following an ancestor from birth to death through the censuses; or try to.  Even in the case of male ancestors, it isn't always straightforward.  People move.  People get missed on the censuses.  Pages can be missing from some censuses.  Men join the military.

In the case of female ancestors, it's more difficult because, when they marry, they lose their birth identity.  But, it's not impossible.

Because so much of my ancestry is in New York state, this process works better than it might elsewhere.  New York research has the advantage of having the US censuses and the NY state censuses occurring every 10 years on alternate fifth years; the US census is taken every decade on the tenth year, the NY state census was taken every decade 5 years between (05, 15, 25, 35, etc.).  So, in New  York, it's possible to find ancestors every 5 years.  Unhappily only a vary few fragments of New York state censuses have been transcribed online.  It's necessary to go where they are, on microfilm, in a library or archive.

Don't forget that from 1840 backward, only heads of households are named on the US censuses, the rest of the family members are only identified by gender and age range.  So, this process will work on the US censuses only from 1850 forward.

So, here's something to try:

 - Find your female ancestor as early as you can find her on a US census.  Before she's 10 is best; the earlier the better.

 - If she's older than 10 on the 1st census you find her, calculate her age at 10 years younger and go to the next older census.  Example, Sarah Whatever is 12 on the 1860 census.  Make a note of that, fill in a blank 1860 census sheet.

 - Search the next older census, 1850, for her.  12 in 1860, 2 in 1850, give or take a couple of years.  (ancestors are notorious for confusing ages and birth dates affect the actual age recorded.)  Find her?  Make a note of the information on that census, fill in a blank 1850 census form.  

Now you have found Sarah on 2 census, 1850, 2 years old, 1860, 12 years.  How old will she be in 1870?  22, give or take a couple of years.  Is it likely that she's still home, unmarried?  Take a look.

 - Search the 1870 census for Sarah Whatever?  Did you find her?  Sometimes, yes, they are there, still unmarried, still at home with their parents.  Not as likely as today, but still possible.  Sometimes you'll find a Sarah NewName in the household.  Is she the correct age?  Does she have a child born after the 1860 census?  Then this is probably Sarah Whatever married, visiting her parents home.  Sometimes her husband will be with her, same surname and you will have identified him and any existing children at the time.  Make a note, fill in a blank 1870 census form.  You should also fill in a blank Family Group form for her new family.  Didn't find her in her parent's home?

 - First, find Sarah's parents on the 1870 census.  Make notes, fill in forms.  Make a note of the page that you find them on.

 - Look at each household on that page, from top to bottom.  Do you see any wives named Sarah?  Is she the correct age?  Does she have any young children born after the previous, 1860, census?  Could that be the former Sarah Whatever?  If so, make notes and fill in blank forms.  If not:

Both sons and daughters often married but lived very near their parents or their spouses parents.  Sometimes even in the same house but in separate quarters.  On the census this means that the pages directly before the page on which the parents can be found, or directly after the parents are good possibilities for finding married children - next door or down the road.

 - In Ancestry, at the top of the census viewing window, on the right, are arrows to go to the previous or the next page.  Click on the left arrow to go to the previous page in the census.  Look for a Sarah there.  Did you find a possibility?  If not:

 - Click on the right arrow on the page you're viewing to return to the original page where Sarah's parents are found.  Now, click on the right arrow again to visit the next page after Sarah's parents.  Do you find a Sarah there, possibly with a young child or children?  Could that be your Sarah?  Make a note, fill in forms.  Didn't find her?

 - Here's my next attempt.  You know her given name, Sarah.  You have a good idea of her probable age on the 1870 census.  Search the 1870 census, same state, same county, for a Sarah, surname blank, fill in an age range of 5 years.  You'll find a list of many Sarahs.  This works best for less common names.  If you have a middle initial or middle name, it helps.  Scan through the list of Sarahs, for those closest in age and those in the same town.  Click on those that look promising.  Remember I said to make a note of the page where you found Sarah's parents?  How near to that page are any of the Sarah you've found in that town?  Make a note of any that are possible, with the names of their husbands and any children and the page on which you found them.  You may or may not have found her.  You can then try the following:

 - If you've identified a few Sarahs that might be the one you're looking for, and, if you've identified a husband, you can try this.  Go to your favorite search engine (I prefer Yahoo) and type in Sarah's married name and her husbands name in the search window.  What comes up?  Sometimes, a marriage record will surface, on a historical society's web site, on a personal family history web site.  You never know.  If that doesn't work type Sarah's maiden name and her possible husband's name in the search window.  See what shows up in that search.

Those are a couple of things I try, at first, to find married female ancestors.

Have a good day.  More later.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Related Families

My research includes all the families in both my maternal and my paternal lines.  While I have primary families, mostly those of my grandparents, as I continue in my research, I find related families where there is a wealth of information.

It is as important, in my opinion, to document the marriages and family groups of related families as well as those of direct lines.  Here's why:

Within my own generation of relatives; aunts, uncles, cousins, there are relatives who lived nearby growing up and those who didn't.  There are relatives who we spent a lot of time with, growing up and those we didn't.  Those cousins we didn't spend as much time with had families of their own and their relationships with other members of our families were different than mine.  They often have documentation, photos, memories different from my own.

Going further back, the same holds true.  If we focus only on relatives, ancestors in a direct line back from ourselves, we limit the potential information that may be out there in other family lines. Over the years, I have "met" an enormous number of relatives, blood relatives I never knew about.  They have common ancestors but lived elsewhere or, for whatever reasons, we just didn't spend time with them.  Some of those other relatives have supplied information, memories and photos that are priceless.  A cousin of my father, several years ago, sent me a photo of my father's grandfather.  No one in my father's family had a photo of him.  It was a joy to digitize it, make copies and send it to living aunts and to give my father a copy.

George Odell - my great grandfather
The problem then arises of how to keep track of these families.  I handle them pretty much as I handle the rest of my families.  I keep files the same way (another topic to be covered).  I use PAF as my family history software and find it sufficient for what I use it.  So, they are entered into PAF in the relationships they have with my primary families; they are relatives, after all.

I have family groups at Yahoo for primary families.  The groups provide a means of sharing charts, photos, questions and answers and keeping track of each other in general.  Recently, I was stuck with the dilemma of what to do with a handful of interrelated families in sharing information.  I had thought to start another group at Yahoo but decided it was too much.  My solution was to add additional file folders in the primary groups files that these families are most related to.  I'll continue to do that as I discover additional related families that have information to share.

My Yahoo groups:

My Beesmer Family Group at Yahoo - is a primary family with multiple variant spellings.  My maternal grandfather's surname was Beismer.

My Flower(s) Family Group at Yahoo - is related to my paternal grandfather's birth mother.
My Hogancamp Family Group at Yahoo - is connected to my paternal grandfather's family history.

My Hulse/Wormuth Family Group at Yahoo - is a primary family group on my maternal side.  These are 2 large families where 2 brothers married 2 sisters and the families are very much in touch with each other.

My Mattice Family Group at Yahoo - is a primary family group and is the ancestral family of my paternal grandmother.

My NY State Odell/Oliver Group at Yahoo - is a primary family group.  Both families are very interrelated and are the ancestral families of my father.

My Vande(r)mark Family Group at Yahoo - is related by my maternal grandfather's ancestry.

My Sullivan County Family History Group at Yahoo - is a research group for Sullivan County NY where many of my families lived.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I've had 2 DNA tests run by FamilyTreeDNA - a mitochondrial (matrilineal) test done of my DNA and a y-chromosomal test done of my father's DNA.

As I understand the tests - the mitochondrial test only looks at tags passed from mother to daughter down through the line - or, in other words - it only shows DNA that I inherited from my mother, she from my maternal grandmother, she from my maternal great mother, etc., back through all the women of my mother's line  It does not look at DNA inherited by any of those women from their fathers or their mothers' fathers.

In my case, while my maternal grandmother got me interested in family history because she told me repeatedly when I was a child that my great great great grandfather went to "the mountains" and brought back a "squaw" as his wife - this particular test particular test show nothing but European ethic tags.  If there was a female ancestor on my mother's line, she did not pass her DNA to a female offspring.  If she had a son who was in direct line to my mother, her father's ethnic tags would be passed to him but would not be seen in this test.

It gets complicated.  As I was told, my great great great grandfather married a Native woman.  Grandma didn't  even tell me if it was in her family or in my grandfather's so there I'm stuck already.  If anyone know which she meant, let me know.

Assuming she meant her family, we have the following information:

Here are my mother's families going backward in time:  

Me -

Mom (Georgiana Beismer O'Dell) - 

Grandma (Margaret Eleanor Wormuth Beismer)(Maggie) -

her mother Fanny Hulse married to Thomas James Wormuth(James) - 

Fanny's mother (Mary Hendricks(on)) married to James David Hulse - 

James Wormuth's mother Eleanor Debeck married to Joseph Wormuth - 

Mary Hendricks' mother (Anna McClaring (?)) married to John Hendricks(on) [these are my ggg grandparents] - 

James Hulse's mother (Mary Schoonover) married to Samuel Hulse [these are my ggg grandparents] - 

Eleanor Debeck's mother (Elizabeth ? possibly Orcutt) married to Samuel Debeck [these are my ggg grandparents] - 

Joseph Wormuth's mother (Harriet "Barecolt") married to Peter Wormuth [these are my ggg grandparents].  

Everyone has 4 sets of ggg grandparents.  

What's your understanding of which of the 4 ggg grandmother's is the person whose ethnicity we're trying to find?

Will continue this as data becomes available.