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Archive for the ‘Abundant Genealogy’ Category

I really enjoyed gathering the historical documents related to my great great grandfather’s Civil War pension file. At the time, I was living in Washington, DC and I could actually touch the documents and see my great great grandfather’s original signature. The file explained when he married his first and second wives and when his first wife had died. It talked about his service, his illness related to his service and even his death and how much his burial cost.

It was an incredible experience when they brought out the box which contained the original documents and to be able to add details of his life from these document.s

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I’m a little too young to actually have heirlooms, but there is one particularly famous heirloom which is owned by my grandmother. It’s an elephant’s footstool. That’s right an actual elephant’s foot which someone made into a stool.

My grandparents were missionaries in Southern Sudan during the 1950s. As the story goes, one day my grandfather came home with two elephant’s foot stools. The next day, the man who sold them to my grandfather said that his daughter was upset that he sold them and so my grandfather gave one of the footstools back. She still has a few other African memorabilia pieces and they really are an incredible piece of history.

Word is still out on who will inherit the stool, but maybe it will end up in my house. Who knows? I didn’t have an actual picture of the stool, but it looks a lot like this picture which I borrowed from Christie’s the auction site. If you’d like your own family heirloom, you can buy it for about $558. Ours is a little less moth-eaten and has a wooden seat not a horsehair one.

The post has inspired me, the next time I’m at my grandmother’s I’ll have to make sure to take a picture of this heirloom.

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I’m most challenged by and thankful for my Green family ancestors. I never knew my grandfather was from rural North Carolina until his death when his brother and nephew attended the funeral. This was long before I was interested in genealogy and I was surprised to meet my “country cousins” who I never even knew existed.

I’m from the suburbs of a large city and so their experience was much different from mine. North Carolina began keeping vital records rather late and I don’t live close enough to North Carolina to visit very often so its been a challenge researching them particularly because Green is a very common surname, but it has taught me a lot about keeping track of my steps and how to do cluster genealogy.

The challenging ancestors are the ones that teach you the most. I’m looking forward to the time when I can actually go and visit Hertford County although whenever I mention this to my dad or my aunts they all look a little worried. Apparently, their trip to Hertford as a children was a bit eye-opening for them.

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I love doing offline research. I live overseas in a country far from my ancestors so its something that I have to plan ahead. When I’m in the states I’m typically in the Washington DC area so I’ve done some great research at NARA and the DAR Library. But on a personal note, my most significant offline finds have been at the Maryland State Archives.

According to family traditions, my great-grandfather dropped his pregnant wife off at the hospital to give birth and never returned. I’ve always heard that he had a second family which is why he left. There wasn’t much good said about him. Census records have been difficult to follow and online searches didn’t reveal much.

In one afternoon at the Maryland State Archives I was able to find my great-grandparents divorce records and two marriage records from his subsequent marriage. I also found his death record and the death records of his parents which eventually led to a cemetery visit.

The most fascinating part was that the divorce record had sworn statements from my great-grandmother (who died when I was in high school) and himself (who I never met.) It humanized him in a very personal and touching way.

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My favorite free website has to be google. I know that it isn’t particularly original, but it is the glue that holds all of the other free information together. I go to google time and time again and through fancy searching have found all sorts of records that I would never have found before. Plus, I love the simple interface. Cheers!

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Regularly updated record database – For me, this is the most important thing. I like to see that the money that I’m paying to use their site is helping expand the site for myself and others. This is also what encourages me to renew my subscription. If nothing is being updated there isn’t a reason to stick around.
Advertisement free – One of the things that drives me nuts about free sites is messy advertisements. I don’t mind tasteful advertising or affiliate links, but some sites are essentially just advertisements and that irks me.
Good search functionality – When you have surnames like Green and Gordon, it is wonderful to have good search functionality. For me personally, I like the ability to drill down. You start with all of the hits on the name and then move to all the hits in a state, a county, for a time period. Gold.
Advocacy for record access – This has been a hot topic. I think that record access is a good thing for genealogy and for society. A subscription site has more clout than an individual.
Privacy Settings and Site Security – I think its important to share your data, but for me I’d like to reserve the right to remove something from a family tree and to make certain items private. I personally do not put any information in a public setting about living individuals or those that could possibly be living.

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Blogging has truly taken genealogy by storm. There are thousands of genealogical blogs out there. And like any other field, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good: So many great professional genealogists are expanding their network through blogs. They present interesting and quality posts, insightful discussions, and even debate topics amongst themselves. Michael Hait in his blog, Planting the Seeds, recently posted “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the New Experts” which sparked an interesting debate both on the comments and in other blogs. This is the greatest feature of blogging. It takes the concept of the discussion to the online arena and allows the community to make comments on a particular issue.

The Bad: For every great blogger who posts documented research there are many others who post unsourced and spurious claims. I’ve found a family website which traces one of my lines back to the 12th century without a clue about where any individual piece of information came from. For me, the best response is to ensure that any research, personal or professional, that I publish meets professional standards. That might not solve the problem, but at least it won’t make it worse.

The Ugly: The second problem with genealogy blogs is website design. Being a great genealogist and being a great web designer are not the same thing. Fortunately, for those of us without extensive backgrounds in web design or without skills in page layout resources like WordPress and Blogger exist to simplify the process. Just remember to keep it simple.

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