Friday, April 25, 2008

Little Genealogy Joys

I received my DAR membership certificate in the mail today and will have it framed soon - I was so excited to get it. It's beautiful.

Earlier this week, I finished making memorial pages at Findagrave for the 100+ photos I took of headstones a couple weeks ago. It was a big job - I had to complete it in little bites - and it felt good to finish it. Now I'm ready to head back over to the cemetery and take more pictures. I'll be taking a few photo requests with me when I go.

A relative of Carrie P. Mill, whose headstone was in the last batch of photos, found the page I made for Carrie and emailed to thank me for the picture. She gave me a more detailed biography to add to it. This is the first time I've had this happen and it made me feel happy that already, the work I put into the pages is starting to bear a little fruit.

This work is so rewarding. I'm grateful to be doing it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Mormons in My Family

My parents and uncle joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1973; I consider them my "pioneers." In 1975, my dad and uncle's maternal grandmother Adina Keithler joined; she was followed by my dad and uncle's parents in 1976. For a few years I labored under the delusion that we were the first Church members ever in our family.

This was proven wrong in 1980, by the publication of Steinhilber. From it, we learned that Adina's grandmother, Lena Steinhilber, joined the Church in 1878. Since the author of the book, a distant cousin, wrote rather unfriendly things about the Church, we weren't sure how much of it we could believe. Just a few years ago, I found that Lena's sister, Anna Maria Roller, was also baptized in Germany during her lifetime, which sealed the deal for me.

Last November, I found another family Church member - Almon Bathrick. He and his family were natives of New York state and eventually made their way to Nauvoo, Illinois, the last place we Mormons were kicked out of. On the early records of the Church, he is found as a missionary, called to serve in Illinois. This was particularly exciting to my uncle, who spent two years as a missionary in the Chicago, Illinois mission - again, mistakenly thinking he was the first member of our family ever to do so.

And just now, I found the autobiography of another early family member who belonged to the Church, Franklin Alonzo Robison, a descendant of my Proctor family. Franklin's parents were also natives of New York and eventually came west to Utah; he was the husband of several wives (one named Isabella Eleanor Pratt, daughter of Parley P. Pratt, a prominent figure in LDS history) and the father of 29 children. Wow.

I guess this Mormon stuff must run in my family.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Going "Graving"

I love that Findagrave has coined a phrase for hanging out in cemeteries, taking pictures, copying information, clearing off headstones... "I'm going graving today." "Oh, are you a graver?" It's great for identifying more of our kind.

Here are some pictures from the last time I went graving, burning myself to a crisp on one of our freak 75° April days. It was beautiful and HOT outside. Good thing I'm not an Arizona graver... how do you guys cope?

Our trees here have been gorgeous and blooming for about a month now. I love that they stagger their bloom times so these sights can last for a while. (Yes, they do it on purpose.)

A species of cute little blue wildflowers has taken over the cemetery, covering unsuspecting headstones with their roots and sinking into the engravings, creating this fun mirror-image effect. I thought it was cool.

Have you "gone graving" lately?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ordering Stuff From Salt Lake City

(You knew you could order stuff from SLC, right?)

New Cousin Bob and I were just discussing a book written by cousin Loretta Marvin, Steinhilber, which tells the story of our ancestors, Johannes Steinhilber and Johanna Magdelena "Lena" Roller of Germany. Lena joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon) and, with her four daughters, sailed away on a Church ship to America "in the dead of night." She made it as far as Utah, where her fifth daughter was born, but left the area and settled in Nebraska. Johannes and their two sons were left behind in Germany, but later came to the United States themselves and settled in New York state.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for either group - and of course we don't know how things really went down, but the old-timers of their town gave this version as the way it went. The fact that she left under cover of darkness could mean anything. Perhaps Lena and Johannes were divided over the Church issue; perhaps they were divided over MANY issues and that's really why she left.

I have a copy of the book, and New Cousin Julie also has a copy, but Bob has never seen it. Is it online somewhere? was his question. I googled it, and found that some sweet soul donated a copy to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Which is good - it means I can keep my copy. Not only did they donate the book, they allowed it to be microfilmed, so anyone anywhere near a local Family History Center, like the one I serve in, can order the microfilm and see the book for themselves. I am beyond thrilled to think that something with my name in it is actually at the FHL, but thought, what if you're like Bob and don't know how to order it, or you don't have a wonderful cousin like me to tell you how to do it?

Here's a short synopsis:

1) Before you do anything else, search the Family History Library catalog. There are several criteria you can search under - places, surnames, titles, authors, subjects.

2) After finding something you're interested in, like a book about The Ackleys of New Jersey, find out whether it's a book or on microfilm or microfiche (a thin sheet of plastic on which information has been printed in tiny print - you use a different machine to look at it). If a book has been microfilmed, a gray button that says "View Film Notes" will appear at the top of the page.

3) If it's only in book form, congratulations! You're headed for Salt Lake! Have a great time and make sure you go to a MoTab concert and a Utes game and have lunch at the Pantry while you're there. Sadly, the Library and FHCs don't have an interlibrary loan situation, but if you're in the SLC area, you're welcome to spend dawn till dusk in the library itself. They even have vending machines if you get hungry.

4) If it's on microfilm or -fiche, put away those suitcases, and copy down the film or fiche number instead. You'll need it when you go to order it. In the Ackley book's case, the film number is 1597996, Item 22. Remember that, now.

5) Ordering microfilms and -fiches can only be done at a Family History Center. To find one near you, head here and fill in the country, state, county and city you live in. You'll be directed to the closest FHC, where you can go and order what you need. The staff are oh-so friendly and knowledgeable and LIVE for requests like this. Seriously. We get bored when we don't have patrons - we have to work on our own genealogy... it's such a drag.

6) Take the film number and item number with you, show up, fill out the order form, pay the $6 and wait about two weeks - then the microfilm will show up at your local FHC, you'll be contacted, and at your leisure, you'll be able to head down there and look at what you ordered. Hopefully there will be good, useful stuff in it. If not, you can always order something else, right?

If, by some major coincidence, you're also a Steinhilber descendant and you're interested in seeing the Steinhilber book, you can see its call number here and if you click "View Film Notes," you can get the film number and order it at your local FHC. It's worth the trouble.

Any questions? You can always leave me a comment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The EVILS of CDs

A lady came into the FHC tonight with her genealogy burned on a compact disc. Her computer had crashed, but someone had fortunately managed to salvage her genealogy information and, not knowing she would want to use it in the future, burned it on this disc. Her thinking was, she could just pop it in one of our computers and start working again on her genealogy.

Every time I see a patron come in with a CD, I cringe. When people bring them in and expect to be able to add new data, correct old stuff, or change it in any way, they are sorely disappointed to find that their CD file is read-only. Burning genealogy on a CD is like taking a picture of it - you can look at it, but you can't undo or change what's already been done. You can't even use it to make a GEDCOM. If you have no other way of preserving your information, then go ahead, but just know that it will remain frozen in time, the way it is.

I tried six ways from Sunday to get that stinky little disc to cough up that information and let me save it somewhere else - the hard drive, the floppy disk, my email account - anywhere but on that CD. It wasn't budging. The poor lady was so sad and angry and frustrated, to think that 800 people on her file were now stuck on that CD. If she wanted to add anything new, they would have to be re-entered on her genealogy program, costing her years of work. My fellow staff member and I were just sick for her.

Knowing it was beyond my abilities, I called the King of All Geeks, my good friend Canadian Dan, and bugged him in the middle of a business trip. He was happy to help. Here's what he told me to do:

1) Put the CD in the drive and click on "My Computer," then click on the CD-rom drive
2) Find the genealogy file, click on it, and drag it to the desktop
3) Once it's on the desktop, it should open with the genealogy program. Open it and save it to your jump drive, hard drive, or floppy disk (I'd do all three, plus email it to about 18 relatives and send a GEDCOM to Rootsweb).
4) Keep messing around with it until it works. I had to tweak it several times before it would do what I wanted it to, but eventually the file was saved on a floppy disk and we all cheered and sighed huge sighs of relief.

I'm saving this information for the next time a patron comes in with one of these naughty CDs. They are NOT the genealogist's friend, unless you're saving pictures or documents or something you won't want to "mess with." They are for saving purposes ONLY. If you're like me and keep finding new stuff or get emails from new cousins all the time, for crying out loud, do NOT save your stuff on a compact disc.

P.S. This is very, very cool.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Staff Meeting Last Night

A website I was unaware of, for those of us who have early LDS Church members: Early Latter-day Saints

New Familysearch has been put on hold indefinitely.

Apparently, when the website went online in Mesa, Arizona, the thing just crashed. Other areas, in their "90-day rollout period," have longer to wait before the website is available to everyone in their areas, and those of us who were waiting patiently for our rollout period to begin are crying into our pedigree charts.

The purpose of the rollout period is to give Family History Center staff and ward consultants the opportunity to learn the program, so that when the website becomes available to everyone in the area, we can teach our ward members and FHC patrons how to use it. Having had a small taste of this program, I was really looking forward to its release, and I know it'll get here eventually... but I'm disappointed that it's taking even longer now.

New Familysearch will provide a way for us genealogists to look at all of our ancestors' entries that people have submitted over the years to the LDS Church genealogy database, and consolidate all those duplicated names into one name, thus helping to connect all of our work together. We'll all retain jurisdiction over our own work - no one will be able to change information we've submitted - but we'll be able to look over other genealogists' work and connect our people with theirs, forming a giant family tree.

While deceased persons' information will be visible to all, living persons' information will be kept private and only visible to that person. Everyone, not just LDS Church members, will have access to the website via a username and password.

If you have access to the new Familysearch, please use it often, enjoy it, and think of poor Millie when you do. Awwwww.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Another Reason to Post Records Online*

*safely, of course

My USB drive died today.

I freaked out and cried.

I didn't want to make the same mistake that many Family History Center patrons make - saving some genealogical information on one floppy disk, forgetting it or losing it, starting a new disk, finding the old one, bringing both (sometimes it ends up being seven or eight) to the Family History Center and begging one of us to help them "find their family history," which is sometimes gone forever, depending on the condition of the disk.

So I saved everything, the original file, on my USB drive, and nowhere else - which was also a mistake.

Luckily, I had updated my family tree at a few days before... which was wonderful, because even though (by some fluke) I had saved my file to my hard drive and then forgotten it back in February, I had found new information since then. I mean, come on, it's been six weeks. I've made some serious progress on some family lines since then. But with the privacy features I have attached to my file, none of the living family members' information could be retrieved.

I was very happy and surprised to find my forgotten February copy, but oh... the loss of my jump drive file. I was beside myself, to think I had lost all that work.

About twenty minutes ago, it turned itself on - it somehow got tweaked into working - but it's visibly bent and probably not good for more than a day's use after this. Who knows if it will work at the FHC on Tuesday night? I immediately saved my current file to my hard drive and erased the old one I downloaded from Rootsweb (I made it so only I have access to download it).

The moral of the story: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Save, save, SAVE those records somewhere other than your computer. If you don't feel safe saving it in a repository online, email a copy to some relatives. Many, many relatives, so that if something happens to their computers AND yours, you should still have one copy hanging around somewhere.

I'm so grateful to have my file back... I can always go to the store and buy another jump drive, but there's no way I can replace the hours and weeks and years of work. It was very silly of me to not save the whole thing somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Family of Gary and Mary Ann W.! Are you out there?

Cousin Keith's funeral home record came yesterday. I must say, funeral homes can be very handy places to find information. As we're probably all aware, research is largely a process of elimination. If you can narrow down your relative's city of death, and then just start calling funeral homes till you find the one that handled your relative's funeral (easy to do in a smaller town, or the cemetery should have this information) - you have tapped into a great source of information. Of course, it only works if you have relatives who have died within the last, say, century, but if that's something you can benefit from... there you have it.

Things I learned from Keith's funeral home record:
Place of birth
Place of residence
Mom's full maiden name, and married name (Keith's parents were divorced)
List of survivors: parents, sister, grandparents
Condition on arriving at the hospital, and name of hospital
Date, place, and time of his funeral services
Occupation and place of employment
Organizations the deceased belonged to - in Keith's case, a church and a labor union
Exact age of death
Place of burial

Also included was a receipt for Keith's funeral expenses, full of non-pertinent but somewhat useful and still interesting information.

After adding Keith's new information to my PAF file, I googled his father's name, Everett Keith B., and sister's name, Mary Ann B. W. I knew Mary Ann had passed away recently, but had no other information about her or her family... I tell you, that Google thing is awesome. I found her obituary and a family record on Genforum, quite worth my while. Within minutes, I had two more generations' worth of stuff.

I was telling Joy at the D.A.R. thing Saturday - I blog about genealogy because I have so few people in my life who really "get it" about genealogy: how exciting, joyful, fulfilling, and just plain interesting it is. But another reason for the blog is to have a place out there in Internet-land for distant relatives to find me. Most recently, Julie S. of Massachusetts found me and we've been able to swap family information and update the records we already had, a very valuable thing.

If you Google your family information, nothing will show up from websites like Familysearch or Ancestry or most USGenweb or state archives sites - but this blog, and my family tree at Rootsweb, DO show up in Google. If you've been wondering about starting a blog, or posting your family tree at Rootsweb (Joy, how's that going?), I would say ABSOLUTELY do it. Take every precaution to protect living family members' privacy, but do it and reap the benefits, is my advice.