Archive for September, 2011

Today’s world is a mobile one and as a result, the tools that genealogists use today should be as mobile as possible. Here five technology tools that work well for me, and may be helpful to you as well.

  1. A notebook or laptop, or and  Ipad: These can connect to the Internet wherever there is wireless. If you have 3G you can access the internet almost anywhere. This way you can take your genealogy and your research with you wherever you go.
  2. A smartphone: Phones today are the ‘Franklin Planner’ of yesterday. A phone can make calls obviously, and allow you to keep in contact through texting [the new email] as well as give you directions, hold your calendar, take pictures, and make short video recordings. In many cases is can become the wireless modem for your laptop.
  3. A digital voice recorder: You never know when you may need to record a message for yourself, or record the voice of a ‘cousin’ you just met. You can use these for oral interviews, or  to record your walk through a cemetery by reading the information from the headstone as you go..
  4. A digital camera: While smart phones can take acceptable images, and short video, they still can’t replace a digital camera. We generally think of a camera when we go to a cemetery however, your digital camera can also digitize pages from a book, or microfilm. Just turn the flash off so you don’t ‘white out’ your image.
  5. A free Evernote account.:This tool gives you the ability to ‘Remember Everything’. It works with your computer, laptop, ipad, or smart phone [android], and syncs with all of them so whatever you enter into one is instantly available on your other devices. You can access your account, and the material stored in that account, from any computer.  Evernote keeps a copy of everything you enter on your computer, so you have access to  your information if the internet is unavailable. Evernote  can store pictures, and pdfs as well as any note, and all are fully searchable. I use it to store my research notes, and keep a copy of current documents I’m working with. I’m really not sure how I lived without Evernote.

These 5 tools are currently so small, and so mobile that they can fit into a small bag. You can be prepared to research wherever you go.

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When a parent passes away and you are deciding what to save, you might want to think twice about tossing out old calendars, appointment books and even financial ledgers. These contain the tiny details of their  life. Here they made note of appointments, and events or people  that  they didn’t want to forget.  This is where they recorded reminders of birthdays, phone numbers and addresses of family, dates that school started, and  dates that marriages and anniversaries occurred. They also may have noted when company was expected, who they were, and how they fit into the family. Their appointments can tell you what they did in the community or church, and what hobbies they had. Pieces of a family can come together using these ‘calendars’ in conjunction with a timeline of your ancestor.

My grandmother Lydia kept a ledger for her store. Among other things she would make little notations almost every. The day I was born she recorded  “Julia’s baby born”. During the World War II you will find notes such as  “Lyman [her son] in Louisiana” and later  “Lyman in Luxemburg”  and  later  “Japan asking for peace”. You can track some of the events in the lives her children “Clara and Joe moving to Spanish Fork”.  “Maidie went home – Lyman’s basement poured”,

She kept her ledgers at the  General Store which she owned, and there are notations that included the town folk, such as “Measles in Town, Eva Elder has them” , and  “I talked at Jesse’s funeral”,  “Rawlin Roper missing in action” , “Phylis Wedding Dance” or,  “Fillmore Bank closed its doors – oh dear”.  Since all notations are on a particular date this is, however ‘sketchy’, a small history of not only her family, but the town of Oak City where she lived. Many of the town’s births, deaths, wedding dances are recorded in her store ledger. I’ve learned a great deal about my grandmother, and the life she lived each day, by the short notations she made in her ledgers and calendars.

This also serves to remind us of the importance of keeping some sort of journal or record of our own lives. It doesn’t have to be long, as evidenced by my grandmother’s calendars.

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Tombstones can turn out to be valuable sources when trying to identify a  female ancestor,  as  many tombstones will give a woman’s maiden name, or middle initial which often refers to her maiden name.

While in the cemetery you should check nearby graves. Burial plots generally contain a number of graves, and were usually purchased by families, for their family burials. Sexton records, which are kept by the person managing the burials, are  available  at most cemeteries and can give you additional information. You may have to do some research to locate the sexton and arrange a visit with him. His records will give information that won’t fit on a headstone, such as possible names of parents, name of a spouse, and who purchased the stone. If the stone is newer it may be that  it has been replaced, and if this is the case the sexton should have the name of who replaced it.

While it  may not be possible to physically visit the place where your missing ancestor lived, you may be able to visit them virtually. If you are researching in the United States, you should check out Find a Grave www.findagrave.com. It is a free virtual cemetery, and while it isn’t complete, there is new content continually being added. Some cemeteries have been completed as the result of a cemetery project by a local group, while others may only contain a small number of burials. This is not because the burials don’t exist, but because they have not yet been added. You may add tombstone photos from your own collection by simply registering on the site [which is free] and uploading your pictures, and any related written content you may have.

I did a Find a Grave search for 10 of my female ancestors, and all were located. All but 3 had their maiden names on their tombstones. The three who were missing maiden names, had their maiden names added by the person uploading the tombstone picture.  A Find a Grave search for Lydia Partridge resulted in a photo of my g g grandmother’s grave. Her tombstone identified her as “Lydia Clisbee Partridge, wife of Edward Partridge’ and listed her birth date and death date. This stone is obviously newer than others of a similar date, so a check of sexton records will probably give me more information.

You also might try a Google Image search for tombstones.  A Google search for the grave of Mindwell Dewey Hopkins resulted in not only finding her grave, but in locating her family. Mindwell  is buried by her mother, father, and step-mother and her stone includes the following inscription:

“To the MEMORY of Mrs. Mindwell Hopkins Relict of Major Wait Hopkins Who died June 21st 1785. In the 48th Year of her Age. Major Hopkins was killed during the War [Revolutionary] on an Island in Lake George…”

This one tombstone gave me a great deal of information. It gave me her, but her husband and his death, besides it gave me a second wife for her father Jedediah Dewey. Her grave is also surrounded by other Dewey family graves. Plan on spending some time in the cemetery, physical or virtual.

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