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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.  

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