My 2013 Genealogy Re-Boot

2013 will be a year of big change for me. I’m starting a new job closer to my home and one of the results of this will be recouping hours each week previously spent in my car commuting. I’m hoping this will translate into more time that I can put towards genealogy.

Additionally, I’m in the midst of a genealogy re-boot. While I’m choosing to blog about it at the beginning of the New Year, it’s actually been underway for a couple of months (even before I knew that I’d be taking the new job). I’ve been slowly making changes to my blog and how I do research, in the hopes that I will be a better, more organized genealogist in the long run.

Steps I’ve taken so far:

1) most notably, was the re-design of my blog, which was mostly cosmetic, but was needed to make my content more accessible and pleasing to view;

2) I updated my versions of Crossover and RootsMagic, as I plan to start using RM more (more on that later);

3) I started blogging more often, using the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories as a convenient way to bring more content to my blog (this also helped me to make use of many photos I recently acquired; more on this later as well);

and 4) I added a small “cousin-bait” paragraph to blog posts about my ancestors, inviting those who may share those ancestors to be in touch with me. Folks still find my blog by searching for terms that make it painfully obvious that they share, or at least are searching for, an ancestor of mine, but still, they don’t make contact. However, I have started to hear from cousins more often (one of whom cited the cousin-bait paragraph in his email to me), so I think this was a worthwhile update to make.

I have many more changes that I hope to implement. Among these is to set goals for things I’d like to accomplish each week or month, such as:

  • Processing one document/source per week (if not more) into my RootsMagic database. I have been neglecting this database entirely over the past year, and that’s bad because it’s the database where everything is sourced properly. My Ancestry.com family tree allows me to discover lots of potential resources, but not everything on there is proven fact. I’m using RM to create a fully sourced tree.
  • Writing at least one blog post per week. I’ve been neglecting this blog, but I hope to have lots of new content thanks to my revamped genealogy plan.
  • Reading one genealogy book per month. I am a book collector, but haven’t done very well when it comes to reading those books. I’m excited that I will have more time and energy to put toward this goal.
  • Exploring one new technology per month. This doesn’t have to be genealogy-related, necessarily. Things are changing so rapidly these days and there’s so much out there that I want to explore.
  • And taking one genealogy-related trip every two months. I won’t be able to travel to far-flung conferences this year, but I’m hopeful that I can do things like attend local APG chapter meetings, FHL events and the like.

There are some specific things I want to have completed by the end of 2013:

  • Become an expert Evernote user (I’ve only been using this tool haphazardly until now).
  • Explore FamilySearch more, especially FamilySearch Wiki.
  • Clean up the surname organization of files on my computer.
  • Re-organize my office. I brought home a lot of stuff from my old office and so I need to find a way to store everything in my home office and still be able to use the space.
  • A renewed focus on photo organization and actually using my photos, not just archiving them. My focus over the past several years has been to try and preserve as many family photos as I possibly can. I want to start using these photos more, however. I have many of them in scrapbooks and other items that only I can enjoy. I want to explore ways to share the photos more easily with family members and others.

I’m publishing this post as a way to hold myself accountable for the above goals. I’ve been in a holding pattern over the past year when it comes to my own personal genealogy research. This is partly due to a lack of time, thanks to my old commute. However, the biggest problem was that I didn’t have a plan. I expect that I’ll be revising the above plan as I achieve goals, acquire new skills and learn about new resources. I’m looking forward to sharing my new discoveries with you.

Picnic for Twelve — A Family Memoir

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I am happy to report that one of my clients has published Picnic for Twelve, a book about his parents and their growing family as they navigated The Great Depression and other events over the last century. If you are interested in the life of Irish-Americans during the 1900s, have Boston-area ancestors, or are just looking to read a cleverly written yarn, I highly recommend that you download the book for your Kindle or purchase a print copy.

I provided genealogical research support on the Driscoll and Sheehan families. This was a fun and challenging project to work on, as various members of the family moved around a lot, originating in or living in locations including New York City, Southern California, here in Maryland, and of course, Massachusetts and Ireland. Along the way, vital records unlocked most of the clues needed to solve a few family mysteries. As part of the project, I read an early version of the manuscript. The author is a former editor of the Boston Globe and a great storyteller — I highly recommend this book!

Meet Anson G. Bennett, My 2nd Great-Grandfather

Anson G. Bennett

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

This weekend, one of my aunts and I went through a ton of photos and documents that used to belong to my grandmother. Among the treasures was a funeral announcement for my second great-grandfather, Anson G. Bennett. I wrote about him briefly before.

One of the most exciting things about the article was the photo shown here — I’d never seen his photo before. Unfortunately, the newspaper clipping isn’t dated or identified by publication name. It most likely came from one of the San Antonio papers.

The article reveals several new-to-me facts. One of Anson’s sons was San Antonio city clerk. Anson was buried at St. Mary’s parish cemetery. Anson’s address at the time of his death was 619 Cedar Street.

619 Cedar Street, San Antonio

The following excerpt is especially rich in detail:

“A native of Missouri, he was brought to San Antonio in a covered wagon by his father, Capt. Sam C. Bennett, Civil War veteran and boat captain on the Mississippi river between St. Louis and New Orleans.” (“A. G. Bennett Funeral Services Set,” date and publication unknown.)

I already knew that Anson died on 12 Mar 1944. I didn’t know about his father’s Civil War service. I believe he served the Confederacy as I have evidence he was a slave owner (an obituary for one of the family’s slaves was even published in the San Antonio Express).

Beyond the above clues, searching anew for information on Anson led me to his listing in the 1940 census. I also found another newspaper article that said Samuel C. Bennett was custodian of the Alamo for three years prior to his death in 1900 (“Capt. Bennett Dead,” Dallas Morning News, 16 Jan 1900, digital image, GenealogyBank, http://genealogybank.com : accessed 2 Sep 2012.). I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more material to find on him.

Grandma Was a Census Enumerator

Gold star for my cousin Daniel, who made an exciting discovery when studying the 1940 census page showing our great-grandparents and fam in Carter County, Tennessee (click on the images for larger versions):

The Hayeses in the 1940 census (image from Ancestry.com).

Nothing too unusual in the crop above — the census page lists my great-grandparents William E. and Della (Crow) Hayes, along with their children including my grandma, G. Alma.

Actually, one discovery does reveal itself in the information listed above — I never knew that my great aunt Ruth was born in Colorado until I saw this page — this was confirmed by relatives at a recent family gathering. There will be another blog post on that story later.

BUT, the really super-huge-big-deal discovery was made by Daniel at the top of the page. Check out the name of the enumerator:

Enumerator: Alma Hayes (image from Ancestry.com).

The enumerator was Alma Hayes a.k.a. Grandma! You think I would have recognized the handwriting. Kudos, cousin Daniel!

My First Jamboree — Part 3 (The Finale)

I was so torn as to which session to attend first thing Sunday morning. Megan Smolenyak? Stephen Morse? I opted for an update on RootsMagic 5 — I have RootsMagic, but admittedly don’t have a lot of time to devote to it. I selected it for maintaining a fully sourced family tree, so working with it is no quick exercise. I hoped the session would renew my  interest in the process. There were a lot of newbies in the crowd, so the discussion stayed pretty basic, but I was impressed nonetheless and was glad to hear that a reader is under development for the iPad, which should be released later this summer.

Next, I attended Thomas MacEntee’s session on Illinois ancestry. I didn’t get to go to FGS in Springfield, Ill., last year although I really wanted to because my Corley line called Illinois home for many years. His session was chock full of Illinois history and resources for seeking various kinds of records. I can’t wait to dig into all of the information he revealed to us.

The next session was by Curt Witcher and he was in full snark mode, which was really funny to watch. He gave us the perspective of the librarian/archivist on the receiving end of so many genealogists’ queries and their rambling stories. I’m not sure how many in the crowd were swayed to edit themselves next time they go to a repository seeking information, but his examples of research query letters (one 6 pages long!) were priceless.

The final session I attended was “The Frugal Curator” by Denise Levenick — I learned so much! Her how-tos for creating boxes and bags for preserving various family heirlooms will be so useful. I can’t wait for the release of her book later this summer.

Sadly, it was then time to finish packing and check out of my room. I made quick work of it, ordered room service for an early dinner and then turned in my room keys. I had about 2 hours before the shuttle would pick me up to return me to LAX. Luckily several genealogy bloggers remained in the lounge and so I had a great time hanging out with them until it was time to depart. Laughing with and learning from some great friends — what better way to end a conference?

Guest Post: Finding Community Cookbook Collections

Note from Missy: Below is a guest post by my friend Gena Philibert-Ortega on using community cookbooks to further your genealogical research. How fun it would be to discover a new-to-you recipe once cooked by an ancestor or relative. Enjoy!

By Gena Philibert-Ortega

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com. From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

During this week of guest posting about food and family history, I’ve mentioned the importance of community cookbooks. In my opinion, community cookbooks are an important source that is overlooked in genealogical research. Researching these cookbooks can yield names, addresses, photos, ethnic origins and family history. In addition to the information about an individual family member you also glean clues about the organization that published the cookbook, their history, local business advertisements and other gems. In one church cookbook where I found a list of those buried in the church cemetery. This type of information can help you recreate your female ancestor’s community.

Community cookbooks like other genealogical documents do have their down side, they can be difficult to find.  Many repositories have not considered them worthy of archiving so to find a collection for your ancestor’s locality can be difficult.

To begin your search, as with any genealogical search, start with the homes of relatives. In some cases they may have a copy of a cookbook that they or another family member contributed to. From there consider checking available bibliographies, archival/library collections, digitized book sites and online auction websites. If you are in the area where your ancestor lived, you can expand your search to local library collections, used bookstores, antique and thrift stores.

Two bibliographies that may assist you are:

Cook, Margaret. America’s Charitable Cooks: A Bibliography of Fund-Raising Cook Books Published in the United States (1861-1915). Kent, Ohio, 1971.

Driver, Elizabeth. Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825-1949. Toronto [Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2008. I

Collections of community cookbooks can be found in libraries.  I have links to these collections on my blog Food.Family.Epherma.  The following is a list of just a few of these collections:

Los Angeles Public Library

William L Clements Library, University of Michigan

University of Illinois Library

Radcliff Institute, Harvard University, Schlesinger Library

While a library or archive in your ancestor’s locality might hold the promise of a collection of community cookbooks, another place to search is an Internet auction site like eBay.  Community cookbooks are well represented on eBay.  These cookbooks run the gamut of church, school, and organizational books spanning the 19th and 20th century.

When searching on eBay, make sure to try various keywords so that you search can be as comprehensive as possible.  Some search terms to try include “community cookbook” “church cookbooks” or “charity cookbooks” “fundraising cookbooks.” You can also specify a type of cookbook in your search like “Grange Cookbook” or “Methodist Cookbook.” Consider creating an alert for an ancestor’s locality, church, membership organization  or a cookbook search to be notified by eBay when new items come up for sale.

One book that explores community cookbooks is the book, Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories edited by Anne L. Bower.  A preview of this book is available from Google Books.

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com

To read more about community cookbooks, please consult my new book From the Family Kitchen. I also spotlight recipes from community cookbooks weekly on my blog Food.Family.Ephemera

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

I had an amazing time today at the presentation about The Hill in Easton — I got to hear stories from current and former residents about the way African Americans developed this neighborhood from the late 18th-century to today. We took a walking tour and stopped into one of the churches that is at the neighborhood’s core. I also discovered that I had happened upon a real gem during a prior project that has value for the history of The Hill.

Below are some photos and tidbits from the day (click on the photos for larger versions):

Our tour started on Higgins Street, in front of these duplexes that pre-date indoor plumbing. A resident said that bathrooms eventually were built on to the back porches of houses.

Another view down Higgins Street, with the AME church steeple in the background.

The steeple of the church is topped with a pineapple, a Colonial symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The church dominates the view down South Lane.

The “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” Sgt. William Gardner never lived there, but his enlistment papers were found there. The house was owned by his brother.

View of the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” with one of The Hill’s AME church steeples in the background. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland will dig at this site this summer.

Barney Brooks, a descendant of one of the owners of the “Buffalo Solider’s House” is interviewed by a student from Morgan State University during today’s breakout session, where residents could tell their stories and have their documents scanned for posterity.

Habitat for Humanity will be renovating this house. Today, they were painting the boards over the windows and doors to make them look like real windows and doors in the interim, to keep the property from looking abandoned.

This is one of the oldest houses, especially brick structures, in The Hill neighborhood, dating to 1798.

The corner of Hanson and South Streets, with 3 c.-1870 brick homes. The neighborhood has traditionally been mixed-race. Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse (aka actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, for those outside of Maryland), grew up here. He got his ideas for creating a mixed-income, mixed-race community from his time spent in Easton.

Frederick Douglass once spoke at both AME churches in Easton. The rostrums at which he spoke survive to this day. Here is the rostrum at the Bethel AME Church on Hanson Street.

Now, for the coolest part of the day for me. In a talk about the “Buffalo Soldier’s House,” local historian Priscilla Morris mentioned two black women from The Hill, Ann Eliza Skinner Green Dodson and her sister, Temperance (whose son was the Buffalo Soldier, William Gardner). [4/2: Oops! I was a little confused during this presentation -- I was so excited when I realized I had the photo. Temperance's sister Ann was an early owner of the property known as the "Buffalo Soldier's House." The house passed to Temperance's son before it was sold to the Gardner family.] Morris mentioned that Temperance was a servant of the Hambleton family, who lived in the building that is now the Bartlett Pear Inn.

I realized I had a photo of Temperance.

When I did the history of the Bartlett Pear Inn, I came upon a stereograph image of the building (the top photo on the poster here) at the Historical Society of Talbot County. Pictured on the front porch are members of the Hambleton family. On the sidewalk, with two of the Hambleton children, is the Hambleton’s African American servant. Temperance.

No one at today’s meeting had seen the image before — I was able to show it to them on my phone. It was so exciting to share this rare piece of history with the group!