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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.