Tuesday, May 22, 2018
The difficulty with rescuing abandoned family photographs is that they sometimes seem to include more hints than turn out to be useful, in the end. Or perhaps, the further I delve into this project, the less verve I have in completing yet another Mission Impossible. Let's see what happens with one more of the photo postcards retrieved from an antique store in Jackson, California.
This one comes complete with several details written on the reverse. At first, I thought these tidbits might be sufficient to lead us to the door of a descendant, but now I'm not so sure.
The card came labeled with two names: Susie and Juanita. It also mentioned a location: Saint Louis. Tantalizingly, it also provided a date—well, part of a date: May 18. But which year?
I had thought a name like Juanita, in the early 1900s, might not be as common as it is as a given name in the United States today. According to the name popularity rankings at Social Security, for the decade from 1900 to 1909, Juanita ranked 156th, with 3,837 American baby girls named Juanita in the entire decade. With numbers like that, we might have a bit better chance at locating just the right Juanita, even though we have no surname to partner with it.
Still, I have my doubts. Maybe I'll feel more positive about this project after we get busy exploring the possibilities. In the meantime, meet Susie and Juanita.
Monday, May 21, 2018
Some hundred-year-old photographs, when I find them discarded in antique shops, clearly provide all the information needed to send them back home to family.
Some of those others, though, are so precious that I can't bear to leave them languishing in the dusty bin where I found them.
So it was with the circa 1917 photograph labeled with the names of "P. Emile" and Lucien Hallée. On an Azo postcard marked "made in Canada," the handwriting, in French, was obviously the work of a proud parent living far, far from California, the place where I found the photograph.
While I could try my hand at researching the family trees of French-speaking Canadians, resources available to me—despite my international subscription to Ancestry.com and access to the international records at FamilySearch.org—limited my ability to confidently confirm the identity of the children's family. After a while, I began wondering if I would ever be able to return the photograph to family members. I needed help from someone closer to the geographical source of the picture.
That's where Montreal blogger Gail Dever came in. Willing to post an entry about my dilemma on her blog (and Facebook group by the same name), Genealogy à la carte, she also posted an entry in a Facebook group concerned with Quebec genealogy. An answer to the puzzle came back within a few hours of her blog post, describing the right family. One of the blog's subscribers sent the photo and article to a Hallée family, just on the chance that it might be the right family.
But the recipient didn't speak English, and asked a cousin to translate the message. That's what led that person to respond in delight with the explanation of how the two children in the hundred-year-old photograph were related to her: uncles.
From that point, it wasn't long before she and I were communicating via email. And now, thanks to crowdsourcing and some helpful readers, Gail Dever's willingness to help connect a French Canadian family with a picture of their ancestors has resulted in another photograph making its way back home from the foothills of northern California.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Bereft of my constant-companion computer, I thought my research progress would come to a standstill this week, after BSOD Tuesday. I cringed to think what the numbers would look like this weekend, time for the biweekly recap.
Not so bad, it turned out. Even poking on a little keyboard on my travel laptop, progress can be made. Perhaps that discovery is yet another reason why this bi-weekly recap of research progress is valuable: it provides encouragement when I think I haven't done so well.
Besides the misfortune of losing my computer, there were more serious losses incurred these past two weeks. Not for me, directly, but for our extended family. In my father-in-law's extended family, two cousins passed away, only a few days apart. Reviewing those details led to bringing that side of the family tree up to date with newer additions to cousins' lines, thus bringing that family tree from a total of 1,425 people to 1,477, where it now stands, an increase of fifty two people.
Some changes happened in my own father's tree. While I added only eleven more people, it is quite rare for me to discover any new names to add to that family line. What brought about the change in this case was the discovery of a new-to-me Polish website with digitized versions of documents dating back beyond the mid 1800s, specific to the region where my father's family once lived in Poland. Now, my father's tree, once at 501, is now at 512 names.
Despite my computer woes, my mother's tree increased by eighty three people to now total 13,135 names, and my mother-in-law's tree jumped 215 people to total 15,296. I may have been bummed about unexpectedly losing my computer, but I'm quite reassured that I've been able to continue making progress on these projects, despite the technical outrage.
It's all about proactively finding those cousin matches before even receiving the DNA notifications. And those match notifications keep coming in, which keeps me hopping. I now have 3,046 cousin matches at Family Tree DNA, over one thousand at AncestryDNA, 1,009 at 23andMe, and 4,573 at MyHeritage.
My husband's matches are rolling in, as well. He has 1,943 matches at FTDNA, 570 at AncestryDNA, 1,038 at 23andMe, and 3,200 at MyHeritage. Some of those matches are already obvious, thanks to a pedigree chart that reaches out to include fourth cousins and closer on as many lines as possible. Sometimes, the letter to matches is just to say hi, cousin, as the connection is already mapped out for us, as it is at Ancestry. Other times, I can see I still need to do more work on some lines. And yes, there are still many, many more matches that simply just have me stumped.
Bit by bit, though, that family tree is seeing all those branches filled in. The closer we get to the real picture of everyone taking his or her place on the branches, the easier it will be to realize who those matches are, and how they relate to the bigger picture.
That, at least, is the hope behind this project.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Now, there's a thought for a peaceful day's errands: spend all the time I couldn't spend researching on my computer, thanks to a nightmare update turned Blue Screen of Death, on delivering the mangled hulk of hardware to an IT wizard who might—just might—be able to bring the thing back to life.
Now that we are infused with a cultural mandate to expect the conveniences of instant online access, losing a computer is a challenge—especially when I didn't sign up for this roller coaster ride. The company which brought on this disaster has been zero helpful, to put it mildly (I'm restraining myself here). Since the blessed event's occurrence on Tuesday, little else has been accomplished other than try to tutor ourselves on the self-help route; online help from the company which brought on this episode has been less than satisfactory.
Crowdsourcing the problem did bring a glimmer of hope, however: posting the query to our Facebook friends brought several offers for help. We made our choice of options and yesterday made the trip to drop off a now-not-working computer with an IT guru who believes the thing can be resuscitated.
Did that process eat up yet another day? What's another day in the scheme of things, anyhow? Sure, why not?!
The nice thing about losing a day like this is that we got to wrap it all up with the special occasions this time of the year brings. A family friend had a son who graduated high school this Friday night. We set aside our computer woes to be part of the festivities, and got to witness a small group of graduates celebrate a notable milestone.
The "what next" question will still be with us until we resolve the computer issue, but it's nice to just lose ourselves in the joy of others' accomplishments. There's nothing like putting problems in perspective, and letting the joy of the good overwhelm the disappointment of momentary misfortune. "Tomorrow is another day" may be a trite and overused retort, but somehow, I find it to be unexpectedly refreshing in the face of yesterday's disappointments. Having tomorrow, as it turns out, is always a gift.
Friday, May 18, 2018
Why is it that some names always seem to be paired with specific other names? Is Romeo just coupled with Juliet in the play? Or are real life Romeos doomed to face life with a wife named Juliet?
Yes, I actually did look that up. We do, after all, have the technology. I headed to Ancestry, set up a search for an exact match with first name Romeo and spouse with exact name Juliet.
Really, who names their kid Romeo? But there are some out there. According to Ancestry, enough to fuel about 278,621 hits. And yes, at least for the first few matches served up, the Romeo in the document had a wife named Juliet.
Considering that, it probably would come as no surprise to you to learn that, at least in a good Catholic family, the name to couple with a groom named Joseph would be...a wife named Mary.
That's how it was in the case I'm currently examining—a Joseph Flowers who married a Mary. As luck would have it, Mary's last name is not revealed at this point—at least until I can locate a marriage record.
But I'm not looking for just one Joseph Flowers who married a Mary. I'm chasing after two such gentlemen.
So let's take a look at more details in this puzzle. Here are some facts on the setting.
Joseph Flowers number one was part of a Flowers family which had settled in central Ohio in the early 1800s. The Flowers family had immigrated to that pioneer area from Pennsylvania, and had settled in what became Perry County.
The only problem was: that was the same story for the other Joseph Flowers.
Where I encountered each of them was when I was determining whether their son—yes, each of them had a son named Charles—was a duplicate of the other entry. For one Charles, I had no date of birth. The other Charles was born in November, 1923.
Eventually, each family had moved from their home in Perry County. The family into which Charles with the birth date had arrived now lived in Akron, Ohio. The other family had moved to Dayton. At least the geographic distance would, I knew, eventually help me distinguish between them.
I discovered that the Dayton Joseph had a middle initial—C—but that victory was short lived when I uncovered the middle initial for the other Joseph. Yep, it was also C.
Trying to focus on each Joseph's wife was not easy. Though I knew that each Joseph had married a woman named Mary, I couldn't find a marriage record to tell me what that bride's maiden name might have been. Fortunately, I uncovered a middle initial for each of the Marys. One, belonging to the Joseph in Dayton, was Mary A. The other, wife of Joseph in Akron, was Mary B.
With this, I was now left with the case of Mary A versus Mary B. While I have yet to locate a marriage record for Joseph C. and Mary A., I did find one for Joseph C. and Mary B. Thankfully, it was after the era in Ohio when only the names of the bride and groom were recorded, which awarded me the opportunity to learn their parents' names.
Thus, Mary B. became Mary B. Sutton, bride-to-be of Joseph C. Flowers, son of Marion J. Flowers and Millie Bennett. This couple eventually went on to be proud parents of at least six children, including a son named Charles.
The other Mary and Joseph also eventually had a son Charles, but not only was his parents' marriage record evading me, but so was Charles' own records. And this Charles was the only child I had been told about for this set of parents.
Could I have been mistaken about this Charles? After all, even in the 1940 census, there was no record of the couple having any children. I couldn't locate them in the 1930 census, and in 1920, that Joseph was single...if I had located the right Joseph back in Perry County. Perhaps my earlier entry was a mistaken one and this wasn't even a case of a duplicate entry, but of a misplaced child linked to the wrong set of parents.
If not for an old newspaper record, I might have left it all as that last conclusion suggested: erasing Charles from Joseph C. and Mary A's record, and leaving the other couple's Charles as the only one. But just double checking in the newspaper records included at Ancestry—yes, there are still some there, though the search mechanism is clunky—I was fortunate that the Dayton Joseph had some to mourn his passing in 1952, back in his old hometown in Perry County, location of one of the newspapers included in the collection at Ancestry.
Joseph C. Flowers, 62, formerly of New Lexington, died at 10 o'clock Friday night at his home in Dayton. He left this community 20 years ago.
The obituary went on to mention the survivors. In addition to his wife, Mary, the only other household member mentioned was "a son, Charles, of the home," besides Joseph's siblings back home in Perry County.
So, there was a Charles Flowers—different than the son of the other Mary and Joseph Flowers in Akron. This one was, indeed, the son of the Mary and Joseph living in Dayton. There was no duplicate. It's nice to have a way to sort out these relatives, even if there was no documentation to provide guidance.
Above: Excerpt of the obituary for Joseph C. Flowers of Dayton, Ohio, published in the Zanesville (Ohio) Signal on Monday, November 17, 1952, on page 2; record courtesy of Ancestry.com.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
There are times, in chasing after our recalcitrant ancestors, when we run up against two ancestors with the same name. In the same place. At the same time.
The genealogist who wishes to deftly "complete" that family tree is suddenly stopped in her tracks. It takes a lot of hunting for clues—mostly about the rest of the folks in that family constellation—to determine which John Doe belongs with which wife and children, and which parents claimed which mystery man.
Of course, it doesn't help when both men's wives also had the same name. And named their son the same thing.
The only answer is to toss the net wider, to capture even more associated people in the circle to help determine which of the two names belongs with which circle of friends and family.
Call it a tedious application of the FAN Club, or cluster genealogy. Call it whatever you want, but please join me on this journey of sorting out two gentlemen and their parents, all of whom possessed the same exact names.
Today, let's review the players in this drama.
It all started out innocently enough, when I decided to weed out the duplicates in my mother-in-law's family tree. I began building that tree much like anyone else might have done: start with the first person—in this case, my mother-in-law—and then move backwards in time, generation by generation. Because I believe in including records on collateral lines—those siblings that researchers on a quest to find their most distant direct line ancestor seldom stop to consider—for the sweep through each generation, I also included documentation on the brothers and sisters.
Then genetic genealogy came along—those DNA tests which can reveal all your hundreds of third and fourth cousins—and I had no idea how those people related to our family. This precipitated the decision to take each one of the siblings in that generation of the third great grandparents and bring their tree forward. In other words, I began adding the descendants of each of those siblings of my mother-in-law's direct line.
Pretty soon I had a glut of people with the same surnames. My mother-in-law's family name was Flowers, and they were a prolific Catholic family, so you can imagine how many people there soon were added in that category. There were, for instance, twelve men with the Flowers surname, all of whom were called by the given name Charles.
And that was the start of my problem. After working this system for a few years—that of researching all the collateral lines, then adding their descendants—I decided it was time to clean up some duplicate records. I pulled up the "List of All People" utility at Ancestry.com, where I keep my mother-in-law's tree, and went through the names in alphabetical order. I did quite fine, finding and eliminating duplicate entries—thank you, endogamy lite—until, that is, I got to the heading for the Flowers surname. When I got to Charles Flowers and saw those twelve entries staring at me from my computer screen, I knew it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Some of those entries, of course, had middle names, although not all. Some of those with middle names seemed to be duplicate entries in their own right—witness the three entries I had for Charles Albert Flowers— but at least that was one detail which provided me with a handy device for determining duplicates among them.
Others already were entries complete with dates of birth, helping me to rule out others as duplicates.
But two of them didn't have any additional information to help me determine if they were duplicates—or just two men who coincidentally had the same name. Not knowing anything more about them from the list I was using, I had to click through to the full entry on the tree. I wanted to see if they both had the same set of parents.
At first glance, it seemed they did. Each Charles had a father named Joseph. Each Charles claimed a mother named Mary.
Of course, I needed more proof than just that to make my decision about combining the two entries. And that was the beginning of the quest to examine the cluster of family names, places, and other details to differentiate two families—or confirm them as one.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
How hobbled a blogger's life can be when access to the Internet—forget that! Make that access to the computer, itself—is abruptly taken away. There I was, innocently minding my own business (online, of course) when my computer was snatched away by a mandatory "update." Little did I know the "new and improved" version was going to be no version at all. I am now the proud owner of a computer which does absolutely nothing.
No problem, I told myself (actually, I'm lying here), I'll just grab my laptop and boot it up. I won't miss a beat.
Unfortunately, since my laptop is a travel computer for presentations and classes, I only use the thing about once a month. That means I haven't used it since, oh, maybe mid April.
Being the conscientious computer user that I am, I knew first steps in booting up this laptop would include running an update on my anti-virus system. That nearly induced fatal error number two: not long into the anti-virus search-and-destroy mission, suddenly another Windows update notice flashed on the screen. I think I screamed when I shut the thing off. I wasn't about to lose two computers in one day!
Perhaps I'm being melodramatic here, but you have to realize this is not the first time a Windows update has caused ongoing computer problems in our household. My daughter's new SurfacePro had its drive wiped clean, thanks to a Windows update. Kinda makes one think seriously about switching to a competitor's brand.
A lot of reading up on the issue, crammed into a single unexpected afternoon, made me realize one thing: the updates didn't necessarily mean death to every type of computer—only to those with certain chips. This was a good thing to realize, because with Windows 10 systems, there really is no way to avoid updates, as I discovered when I tried to turn that laptop back on again. Thankfully, it completed its update, did the virus sweep, and gave me back my system. So here I am, pecking away at a tiny laptop keyboard, determined to keep at my daily run of blog posts.
The day wasn't over yet, though. With my main system down—remember, Blue Screen of Death is real, folks—I had to find another way to access my Ancestry account. After all, how can one blog about genealogy without accessing the prime genealogical services? That, however, re-introduced another technology tantrum languishing from another tech meltdown moment, back when I discovered that the (possible?) new servers being utilized at Ancestry seemed to no longer recognize my decades-old user name because the "special character" included in that user name was no longer permitted. Mind you, that user name was assigned to me by Rootsweb, now part of the Ancestry universe. And now, suddenly, I'm violating their system?
True, after a ninety minute marathon with a very patient rep at Ancestry, I had gotten access to my subscription again, but only because I discovered that I could either access my account via my user name or by my email address. Guess which approach I took?!
But yesterday, after my computer BSOD (that's lingo for Blue Screen of Death, for those of you who have never had to problem-solve post-update maladies via Google), I needed to use another computer to access my Ancestry account. Was it merely coincidence that suddenly, Ancestry once again no longer recognized my sign in, even after requesting a new password? As they say in France, deja vu!
In the hiatus between life as we once knew it and post-
Does this begin to sound like a genealogist's version of "the dog ate my homework"?
What I do hope to do—tomorrow, apparently—is share a research challenge I ran into recently. For now, I'll just dub it the case of Mary A versus Mary B. To up the ante on this quandary—and you probably guessed this would happen—each Mary ended up marrying a man by the same name: Joseph. To add just a little more excitement to the mix, each of the gentlemen had the same middle initial: C. And both were born in Ohio. And no, neither of their surnames was Smith.
With so many similar details for these two couples, you can see why I wanted to be able to access my records. Even knowing the story—finally!—I couldn't keep the individuals straight without a cheat sheet.
In the hopes that tomorrow will be another day—sans computer drama—we'll pick up on the story of the two Marys then.