Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Outside the Color Box

It's so easy for me to use easy color choices for heritage layouts. The colors that most often come to mind are dark or soft colors like navy, rose and hunter green. I fall into the heritage color rut more than I'd like.

It is possible to think outside the heritage color box. I do find it easier when combining heritage photos with color photos, as the latter can direct the color. Today I have a little eye candy to remind myself (and you) that there are other color choices we can make.

All layouts are paper (not digital) kits from ClubScrap.

This black and white combo was a lot of fun.

A bit of yellow.

Orange and turquoise.



Happy scrapping.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 36, Ancestor Photos

So many heritage photos show our ancestors with serious faces. That was the norm -- the expected. My great-great-grandmother (and her eldest daughter) preferred to have fun with the camera. This photo of Nerinda with a cluster of unusual props has always been one of my favorite photos. I wish there were a story or note on the back of the photo, but there's only the name written on the front.

This photo also reminds me of an early genealogical mistake that I hope you won't make. This was one of a dozen or more photos in a heritage photo album that belonged to my great-grandfather. I tore the album apart looking for names and dates on the backs of the photos. I destroyed a beautiful album that was from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Today I would work slowly and carefully, realizing that the album was as precious as the photos. Fortunately I did keep all the unlabelled and unknown photos together, so I do know they belonged to my great-grandfather.

So a word to the wise: cherish not only your heritage photos, but also the heritage albums they're in.

ClubScrap digital kits: A Study in Red, Artifacts

Friday, September 7, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 35, Genealogy Friends

I love having genealogy friends, whether they are cousins or not. It provides an avenue to bounce ideas, thoughts, theories and questions off other researchers and also be a sounding board for them. Better yet, it gives me friends who understand the crazy hobby and this crazy hobbyist.

So today I want to say a big old North Carolina HEY to local friends Cheryl M and Sharon F, cousins Laurel P and Lorna W, German guru Mary P and cousin-of-cousins Rob W. And I must add a Swedish HEJ to almost-cousin Benny E.

The weekly blogging prompt asks how we met, so I have to write a few words about Rob, who is amazing. He has spent many years compiling what he calls a forest, rather than a tree, focusing on everyone in a single Oklahoma county. He has a lot of my family members in his forest and I can't remember exactly how we connected. He has sent me many obituaries for my family members and we have pooled our knowledge to identify the parentage for some of the women that appear in my tree and his forest.

Rob is not the only researcher who focuses on a location, rather than a family. These sorts of researchers provide a great service to the genealogical community by giving our family members the context of friends and neighbors. The in-depth knowledge they have and share are invaluable for revealing otherwise hidden relationships.

So thanks, Rob, and the rest of my genealogy friends. I'll see you gathered 'round the 1940 census.

Here's a look at a family reunion with the genealogy buffs at top left going over a chart. This genealogist was behind the camera. The neutral colors of this paper never appealed to me, but with mixed clothing colors, I appreciated how the neutrals didn't clash with anything. Using this kit for a series of family reunion photos gave me a new perspective on the benefits of earthtones.

ClubScrap Private Eye paper kit

Thursday, September 6, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 34, Genealogy Challenges

Genealogical research from the comfort of our couches is easy these days. But what happens when the online records run dry? One of the earliest genealogical seminars that I took gave me invaluable guidance that I still follow today:

Follow the Land

Finding and reading the deeds of our ancestors takes more effort than browsing the census. The records are usually on microfilm, available for borrowing through a local Family History Center. They are also available at the courthouse where the deed was recorded.

However, the internet age is also coming to a courthouse near you. More counties are putting indexes and deeds online and making them available to the public. Check your counties periodically to see if they've started sharing online deeds and indexes. I had a recent experience with online land records that led to answering a long-standing question.

Where did Thomas Allen Come From?

One of my ancestors is a Thomas Allen who was born in 1814 in North Carolina, the state where I now live. He lived in South Surry (now Yadkin) County, NC, in 1850, but had left the state before the next census. The 1850 census showed him being a farmer, but owning no land. Family legend said the family was from Beaufort County, NC. But there were a number of Allen families in Yadkin/Surry. The online debates with my cousins centered on whether the legend was right or wrong. Was Thomas Allen really from Surry County or Beaufort County?

The Allen family has been number one on my NC research list ever since I moved here in 2005. I'd reviewed probate abstracts and family history books, but nothing had revealed his parentage or family. It was time to get off the couch and follow the land, if he owned any.

A quick check of the online deed index for Yadkin County showed a sale by a Thomas Allen in 1851. A review of the 1850 census showed no other Thomas Allen in the area. Since Yadkin was carved from Surry County in 1850, that county was also important. An online index to slave sales in Surry County showed a Thomas Allen selling slaves in 1849. Surry did not have other deed indexes online and neither county had old deeds online at the time of my check.

However, just looking at the online indexes told me that there would be deeds available for review. The creation of such online indexes by government agencies is a wonderful gift.

Ordering microfilm via the FHC would have been one option, but these counties are not far and I had another reason to visit that area. I scheduled a couple of vacation days and hit the interstate for the two hour trip to Yadkinville.

The answer to the long-standing debate was in the Surry County deed books. Thomas Allen had been forced into the 1849 version of bankruptcy and had to sell his land and slaves. There was a long list of creditors, debts and assets, including land. Paging through the poorly-indexed deed books turned up mention of a bond held by Thomas Allen for $1700 from one C.S. Davis of Beaufort County.

Thomas Allen's wife was Majincy Davis. The inclusion of this bond confirmed that this was the right Thomas Allen, that their children did know her surname and confirmed familial ties to Beaufort County. We have no parents yet for this couple, but we now can follow the trail back to Beaufort County with the certainty that the family legend has a basis in reality.

I've studied the Allen and Davis families of Beaufort County and have found both surnames in close proximity near the community known as Leechville. The State Archives of North Carolina has placed a large number of maps online. Studying the maps of that area from the early 1800s shows men of both surnames holding property.

I hope Thomas Allen and C.S. Davis (whoever he was) will show up in the land or court records. With no index online from the Beaufort County Register of Deeds, I'm looking forward to another field trip, this time to the beach!

What else is in land records?

I've written before about proving parentage via deeds. That's an important reason to use land records. I've also learned:
  • How another ancestor managed money poorly and that his older brother was skeptical of his money management ability (TN).
  • The date that a Confederate soldier died and his sister's name (AR).
  • That an ancestor signed his dead mother's name to a mortgage (WI).
  • About an illegitimate child who died young (PA).
  • Proper names for people listed by initials or nickname in the census.


Thoughts about Land Records

Most, but not all, land records are simple to search. I encountered one county in Wisconsin where the deeds were indexed and recorded not by grantee (buyer) and grantor (seller) name, but by the township/range where it was located and the type of legal document being recorded. Before looking at land records, read about the way the county indexes the deeds. That saved me from borrowing vast quantities of microfilm for that particular county. A field trip was the best way to do research there.

If you want to find your ancestor's land in the older states, you will need to learn about metes and bounds and possibly invest in a program such as Deed Mapper. The land sold by the federal government using the township/range system is much easier to work with and find. If you just want to find the genealogical nuggets, it helps to have an idea of where in the county the land is found, but an exact location is not critical. Beware of states like Ohio where both types of land sales were made.

Here's a little comparison of the irregular nature of metes and bounds versus the geometrical township/range system. On the left is an 1808 survey from Pennsylvania and on the right is an 1875 survey from Illinois.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 31, Cousins

"Ekstrom, party of three."

My uncle and his party arrived at the hostess station only to find another group of the same number and uncommon name. The hostess clarified by adding a first name. But both men were named the same. They laughed and chatted a moment. Not only were their last names spelled the same, but they used the same nickname for their first name. Both had grown up in the Swedish-American community in the Chicago area and had migrated west as adults. My uncle lived in the Phoenix area, but was visiting San Diego that day. The other man lived in the San Diego area, while his father lived in the Phoenix area. They negotiated the table and went their separate ways with a cute story to tell about their unusual encounter. That might have been the end of the story.

But one day in 2003 an email arrived from Sweden. Benny Ekström lives in Östergötland, the same province where my Ekstrom roots originate. Four of his great-uncles had emigrated from Östergötland to America in the early 1900s and he wanted to find his American cousins. He had found my website which showed my Östergötland roots and he had noticed the similarity of names and parishes. Was my family related to his?

We emailed back and forth and decided to join forces and help each other. He sent me the names, birthdates and emigration dates of his relatives and I started digging on my American-focused subscription sites. I knew very little about my Swedish roots. I had gleaned only a few tidbits from Illinois vital records and ship lists and had no idea how to begin to research in Swedish records.

Benny was a godsend! 

He had printed out dozens of pages of Östergötland church record indexes that were available only through a local university. He paged through his file and emailed me birth dates for my great-grandfather and his siblings, along with parents names, marriage dates, birth dates and death dates. He also told me about the Swedish Genline website that provided images of the church records. I subscribed and begin my own journey through the wonderful records kept by the Lutheran church (that company has been acquired by Ancestry and is now included in their site). Benny later copied all the index pages and mailed them to me at no small expense to himself.

Benny knew about one branch of his American family. John had gone to Chicago and Benny was in contact with his descendants. I was looking for three more branches for him.

Karl Ekstrom had gone first to Chicago and died in Minnesota, but Benny knew nothing else. I soon found a candidate in prison in North Dakota in the 1930 census. Yes, Benny recalled that he had heard something about Karl being in prison. Through an archivist I learned that Karl had been sent to prison for abusing family members. We decided to do no further research on that branch.

David and Ernst were challenges. I finally found their immigration records. They had gone to Canada about 1928. There was no census and no Social Security death index to use for locating them. Using search engines, I found that a man matching David's birth date was buried on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The online phone listings turned up 13 listings for the Ekstrom surname on Vancouver Island. It could not have been coincidence, so we took a risk.

I acquired Canadian stamps and sent a letter, a response form and a Canadian-stamped SASE to all 13 addresses. I received back a couple of nice letters and a couple of emails. We learned that David had died without issue. All the Ekstroms on Vancouver Island were descended from Ernst. One of the emails came from a sweet lady named Lynda. She and Benny began to use to web chats to get to know each other. Benny now had several Canadian cousins.

Benny and I think our families connect, but we have never found the link. The switch from patronymics to permanent surnames in Sweden means that unrelated families often share a surname.

We choose to call ourselves cousins, regardless.

My "cousin" Benny helped me overcome my apprehension about the Swedish records. He helped me with translation and comprehension and even engaged a seminarian friend for one very old record that he could not interpret. He opened up a whole new world for me. Today I have 118 Ekstroms plus many other Swedish relatives in my family tree, a gift from a wonderful cousin in the "old country".

Benny and his niece came to America to visit and we got together. Where were we? Of course we went to San Diego. They came to visit the Chicago-born cousin that he had known for years, the very same man that my uncle had encountered a couple of years earlier.

Ekstrom branches on ClubScrap Generations digital kit

Finding an overseas cousin is a blessing we don't all receive, but it's well worth the time to try.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 28, Mistakes

The prompt to write about genealogical mistakes beckoned to me. I've already written about some things I've done wrong. I have tried very hard to not climb the wrong tree, but the little mistakes are important, too. My top mistakes include:

  • Not interviewing living relatives
  • Not documenting sources
  • Not visiting courthouses
  • Believing family legends
  • Accepting other researchers' conclusions

When I first started playing with genealogy, I didn't realize how important the documentation of sources is to the process and the professionalism of genealogy. The lack of sources for my earliest work continues to haunt me 20 years later. Every once in a while I have to stop and look for why something appears in my tree. And sometimes I will remove a so-called fact because I don't have any foundation for it.

Today I'm careful to have a reasonable source for each fact. Sometimes that source is flimsy, but at least I document it. Another researcher's conclusion is one type of flimsy source that I now am very careful to document. If I can't verify it, I am more inclined to note it and place it in a file, and only rarely add it into my tree.

Another regret is not interviewing my grandfather, Fayette Franklin Allee, while he was alive and mentally alert. It was his death in 1997 that propelled me from lazy collector of facts to active seeker of facts. He had a long and storied life. Since I recently scrapped two newspaper articles about him, I share them here to honor his years of teaching deaf and blind children and adults in Tucson, Arizona.

Per my earlier tip, the newspaper articles were copied from the original yellowed and crumbling copies onto matte photo paper. The copies appear here and the originals were discarded.

ClubScrap Body and Soul paper kit

ClubScrap Friendship paper kit

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heritage Photos and Copyright: a Rant and a Gift

Today is a follow-up to my last post when I wrote about my grandmother, Leona, who owned a photo studio in the 1930's. I have a rant, a caution, and a gift.

A Rant:

I find the copyright limitations frustrating and silly. My grandfather's face can't be copyrighted, but a picture of him can be. I understand the desire to make money from reprints, but today's copyright laws are far too broad.

A Caution:

As long as you are scrapbooking with paper, you have no copyright issues. When moving into digital or reproductions, the rules start coming into play. Companies may decline to print a page that they think might violate copyright. The last I saw, 95 years is the normal length of copyright, with extra time available under some conditions. If you want to print a page with a studio photo, read the terms on the website to understand their rules and your obligations.

A Gift:

I would be a hypocrite if I clung to the copyright restrictions for my grandmother's work. As one of her two heirs and the one who holds the negatives, I hereby relinquish all rights to her creations. If anyone with such a photo finds this site, you may use that photo with no limits.

The studio marks were stamped on the backs of the photos, or may also be hand-written. When she took over the studio, the name was Andreas Studio, Kingman, Arizona. As she took over all assets of the business, I have to assume the copyrights transferred to her. I'm not sure of the exact year, but I know she changed the name by 1933. She married in 1932 and the name became Stormer Studio, Kingman, Arizona.

Maybe you've got a photo taken in the Midwest with the Stormer Studio name and are puzzled. In 1933, Leona and Jack went to see the world's fair in Chicago and took the cameras. They visited family and friends in Michigan and along the way, including Enid, OK. On the return trip, the car caught fire. Jack was able to save the cameras, so they worked their way home, like travelling photographers of the 1800's, stopping and taking photos in towns along Route 66.

If you are researching an Andreas or Stormer photo in your collection, please take a moment to add a comment and let me know you found this page.

Monday, June 11, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 21, Ancestor Tales of Hardship

The experiences of one generation affect the lives of the next. This understanding of family systems was one of the factors that pulled me into genealogy. I wanted to understand the forces that formed my parents. Both had suffered hardships in their lives, as had their parents. My maternal grandmother's story was the one that most touched me and affects me to this day.

Imagine being 20 years old with a blind infant, an aged parent with no job, the economy in free fall and an abusive marriage.

Leona Violet Crispen was born in 1909, the youngest, by far, of three daughters. She was the son her father never had. Instead of sewing, she learned to use his blacksmith forge, work on cars, develop film and print photographs.

Her parents divorced in 1921. I can't begin to image the impact on the young Leona. She must have lost friends and certainly her home life was disrupted. Her father moved to the house across the street, so she was able to move freely between her parents' homes. Because they had a civil and close relationship, she never doubted their love for her and her sisters.

After high school she became a telephone operator and married a young man who worked in a foundry. She soon learned that he was unfaithful and cruel. His actions left their only daughter nearly blind and left Leona unable to have more children.

As the stock market crashed in the fall of 1929, her father lost the portfolio he had inherited from his sister. He was able to keep his house and, Leona, living with her father and her husband, decided to file for divorce. Imagine, for a moment, being 20 years old with a blind infant, an aged parent with no job, the economy in free fall and still choosing to end an abusive marriage. Her strength amazes me.

Leona decided about 1931 to leave the cold midwest and move to the warmth of California. Following the famous Route 66, she miscalculated a bit. She ran out of money and gas in the Northern Arizona town of Kingman. With her daughter, she lived under a bridge and in their car while she looked for some way to support them.

Her photography experience was her salvation. The old man who ran the local photography studio wanted to retire, so he hired her and she eventually was able to take over the business. However, she lived day-to-day and struggled through two more bad marriages and divorces during the Depression years.

About 1935, Leona had to place her daughter in boarding school at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson. She left Kingman behind and relocated to be near her daughter. World War II found her fixing airplanes and later working at the ration board. In late 1941, she married her daughter's math teacher and, as a family, they built a stable life. After the war she found a secretarial job in the Tucson school district, where she worked until retirement.

As her choices shaped her life, they affect her family to this day. Her descendants are an Arizona family because she stopped and stayed in Kingman. Her photographic experience became a life-long passion, leading to the vast collection of photographs, negatives and slides that came to me at her death. It is directly due to her choices that I am a scrapbooker and genealogy buff. And, of course, because of those hobbies, this blog exists.

A challenge in 2008 asked that we create a layout about a role model. I chose Leona due to her strength in adversity.

Haberdashery paper kit from ClubScrap

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Lt. Leonard Edward Kepil

I've been blessed to not have lost family members to war in many years; however, my second cousin was not as lucky. Her father was killed, before her birth, in a plane crash in Egypt in the waning days of World War II. Their hometown newspaper covered his death extensively, even publishing a few lines he had written about the importance of hope. Thank you Lt. Kepil, for your service to this country.

A Genealogical Note

Leonard Kepil was a mystery in my family tree for many years. He and some of his family members changed the spelling of their name from Kvapil to Kepil sometime between 1930 and his military enlistment. I leave this note here as documentation for those who might search for his family in the future.

Digital layout with elements from Club Scrap Henna, Matrix and Gimme a Ring; Spangle Jangle by Debbie Knorr

Saturday, May 5, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 18, Historical Books

One of my favorite types of historical book is the 19th-century county history book, or mug book. Some are indexed, some are not, but all are worth investigating. If you find one that contains a biography about your ancestor, the information gained can be invaluable. The subject of each biographical sketch generally provided the information himself, so the accuracy and truthfulness is variable. It is important to search the book for collateral relatives, as your ancestor may be discussed in the biography of a brother, grandson or son-in-law.

One of the books in my collection is the 1878 History of Morgan County, Illinois. This book is 768 unindexed pages, of which 300 pages contain biographies. 150 pages describe the history of Illinois and 40 pages contain abstracts of state laws. With multiple branches of my family passing through that state, this information may be of use beyond the Morgan County families. The remainder of the book discusses the formation of the county, towns, early settlers, organizations, military history, businesses and churches. 

This book has two biographies of great interest to me. My third great-grandfather had a short biography that lists his birth date and birth place and that of his wife, the names and birth dates of all their children, the death dates of their children who died, his father's name and, last but certainly not least, the names of each of his father's seven wives. My second great-grandfather did not have a biography in the book, but his older brother had one. This biography was similar in listing his parents and also includes the names of his brothers who served in the Union Army, along with the unit in which they served.

Portions of 19th century mug books are increasingly found online as the copyrights have expired. Indexes to the biographies are often found at the USGenWeb county pages. Sometimes there is a look-up volunteer who will transcribe a biography of interest.

A cousin found and shared a biography that is the best I've seen for my family's genealogical data. Imagine finding such a gem as follows for your family.

My ancestor, Clifford Cole, was the grandson of Rebecca Ann Maynard Alexander. Rebecca's oldest brother had a biography with these paragraphs (and more) published in 1891.

Milestones digital kit from Club Scrap, Tree from Scrapper's Guide


John Maynard
 ... He was born in the Old Dominion in 1823, and is a son of Evan and Judith (Ragland) Maynard, both of whom were born in Halifax County, of that State, the former's birth occurring March 3, 1793, and the latter's April 5, 1803, and their deaths in 1881 and February 16, 1874, respectively. Their marriage was celebrated July 13, 1820, and in 1847 they came to the State of Tennessee, where the father entered upon the practice of medicine, and he continued this occupation until his death, although he had previously been a farmer.
He and his wife were of French-English origin, and he was a soldier in the War of 1812. They were members of the Missionary Baptist Church, and became the parents of eleven children, nine of whom lived to be grown: Harriet (wife of Chris Adams), John, Judith F. (wife of Robert Hart. of Tennessee), Mary A. (wife of Bluford Alexander, a resident of this State), Stith, Patience (wife of Austin Simmons, a resident of Washington County, Ark.), Even (a resident of Missouri), Rebecca A. (wife of Jeff. Alexander, of Weakley County, [p.415] Tenn.) and Thomas (who is a resident of Randolph County). ...

What Did I Learn?

From this brief biography I have learned the names of the men that Rebecca's sisters married and that my great-great-grandfather went by the name of Jeff. More importantly, I've learned my 3rd-great-grandparent's names, birth dates, birth locations, marriage date, death dates, occupations, church affiliation, ethnic heritage, military service and migration year. Some of the items may not be accurate, but all are clues to my heritage.

Check out the mug books for the areas your ancestors lived. You may find some jewels.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Step 3 -- Research Your Photos

My journey into genealogy began with photos. Everywhere in my grandparents' home were little bunches of photos. They were stuffed into drawers and envelopes and shoe boxes and photo albums. Behind framed photos were other photos. Some photos were labeled, while most were not.

My sister-in-law and I sat with my grandmother one day and, using a photo capturing device, videotaped a series of photos with grandma narrating as she watched them on the TV. We barely made a dent in the stack. On other visits, I played show and tell, writing names on the photos that grandma could identify. I slowly began to recognize the faces. I was very fortunate to have about 8 years of visits. Not everyone is blessed in that way. Nonetheless, there are still dozens of photos for which I still have no names.

Let me tell you about some research successes.

Find A Family, Find A Cousin

On the back of this gentleman's photo is written simply: J W Kerr, Franklin, Penna. I suspected that he was related to my great-great-grandmother, Nerinda Margaret Kerr Crispen Tookey. The uniform identified him as a probable veteran of the Civil War.
I started by looking for Franklin, PA, finding a town named Franklin in Venango County, as well as some other possible places, which I was able to eliminate. The Venango County pages at USGenWeb are a wonderful resource and there I found a list of soldiers who had served the Union from the Venango County area. Included in the list was a Johnston W Kerr. I rejoiced that his name was not James, Joseph, or John! I was unable to find him in a pre-war census, however. So I gambled by ordering his Civil War service file. It revealed his birth as being in Clarion County, PA. By examining the 1850 census, I found Johnston Kerr, age 14, and Narinda Kerr, age 8, with other family members, in the household of William Kerr of Toby Township, Clarion County, PA.

The photo of Johnston Kerr has been featured on my genealogy website for years. His great-great-granddaughter, Laurel, found me through my website and now the original photo is in her possession. Laurel's knowledge of the Kerr family is extensive and, working together over the past 10 years, we've learned even more about the family. Laurel has also shared with me photos of her extended family, including her parents and grandparents and I've met several of her family members. From a single photo, I gained a fourth cousin and her extended family, as well as a dedicated research collaborator and a wealth of family knowledge.

Find A Cousin, Identify Known People

Here's a cabinet card from Kansas. This photo had nothing written on it when I received it from my grandmother, nor did she know any names. Her knowledge of her ancestry did lead me to believe that the photo was from her allied Lake-Maddox families. After working through census records,  I suspected the women were 4 of the 6 Lake sisters, but had no idea which ones. My great-grandmother's youngest brother also did not know. Another gentleman had submitted Lake family information to the Mormon Church files, but I was unable to locate him at the time I found that information. Months later I found his contact information on Ancestry, but learned he had passed away 6 months earlier. I had to set aside this wonderful photo with the expectation that it might never be identified.
When I decided to make my 19-day genealogy road trip in 2002, I invited Lorna, the wife of my mother's second cousin. Lorna and I traveled together from my home in the Phoenix area to hers in the Chicago area, focusing most of our research on the Lake-Maddox families. I showed Lorna's husband my collection of unidentified photos and asked him if he recognized any of these people. When he saw this particular photo he jumped up and ran for his own heritage photo collection. He pulled out the same photo, but his copy was labeled!

He also shared with me several other photos which were not in my collection. Among them was a photo of [Joseph] Allen Maddox, my great-great-grandfather, whose photo I had never before seen.

By researching the photo's location and the allied family structure, I was able to focus on the Lake family, increasing the chances that the photo could be identified. Someday I hope to also identify the mate to the photo. This cabinet card with 3 men is from the same studio in Kansas. My guess is it contains at least two Maddox men, with a brother or brother-in-law.

Some Photo Research Tips
  • The first step in any genealogical research is to always start with what you know. Label the photos you have and can identify.
  • Discuss mystery photos with living relatives. If they don't live near you, scan the photos and send them copies by e-mail or snail mail. Or share photos with them on Facebook or via your favorite photo-sharing website.
  • Do your best to identify a location and time frame. Look for unusual clues. I have an undated photo taken in Lincoln Park, Chicago, with a camel. Via the web I learned the year that Lincoln Park first acquired a camel.
  • Find identification advice online and in books from experts such as Maureen Taylor, who specializes in identifying heritage photos.
  • Research the census to determine family structures. For example, the Maddox girls were too young to be the 4 Kansas women and they had no Maddox aunts. Therefore, it was most likely to be 4 of the Lake sisters, including the mother of the Maddox girls.
  • As you work back through the generations, look for other researchers that are working on the same families. As you connect, you will have new relatives with which to share photos.
  • Besides your own ancestors, find the census records for their brothers and sisters and their families. That mystery photo may not be your ancestor, but rather, the family of a sibling or cousin.
Embrace the Mystery

If all else fails, you can always scrapbook a mystery photo as just that or use your scanned copies for collage or period images. You wouldn't be alone in finding creative uses for your unknowns. A friend created this digital page for me with one of my favorite mystery photos. Thanks, Annette!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Newspapers: A Nuisance No Longer

The high acid content of most newspaper clippings is hazardous when used in close proximity to heritage photos. Newsprint also discolors, turns brittle and crumbles. Fortunately there is a simple solution to protect photos and use intact newspaper clippings on scrapbook pages. Since you have a flatbed scanner for your precious old photos, you can also scan newspaper clippings and other paper memorabilia.

I keep a supply of matte photo paper for copying and printing clippings. It's heavier than ordinary printer paper, but not glossy. A white or ivory, smooth, acid-free cardstock would work as well. Once a clipping is copied or scanned, I throw away the original. Just like a photo, the scanned clipping can be resized, recolored, repaired and reused.

Sometimes a collection of clippings is worth keeping. For example, a cousin has a small journal full of newspaper clippings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The journal belonged to her ancestor, who was a writer. The clippings include reviews of his books, as well as newspaper columns that he wrote. For that collection, the paper should be treated to neutralize the acid. I'm no expert at this process, so will instead recommend searching the internet for ideas on ways to do that.

On this sample layout, the clipping is a digital version that was resized to fit the page before it was printed.

Club Scrap Paisley paper kit

Consider scanning or copying your paper memorabilia -- it is one method to preserve and share those items that might otherwise cause damage to your scrapbook pages and heritage photos.

Monday, April 9, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 14, State and National Societies

The National Genealogical Society annual conference is my favorite opportunity to grow my knowledge and skills. I  frequently advocate for it with friends and relatives and I'm going to get on the soapbox again for a few minutes.

When the NGS conference comes to your area, I challenge you to commit at least one day to check it out. You can visit the vendors in the exhibition hall for free. Pay one day of registration and attend several presentations by certified speakers and authors.  I've attended the full conference 3 times, most recently in Raleigh in 2009, with my cousin Laurel as my roommate. I also attended just one day when it was held a few hours away, but my work schedule didn't allow me time for the full 4 days. I always come away with a bag of goodies and lots of new ideas.

What's happening this May in Cincinnati that excites me?
  • Extended hours at the Cincinnati Historical Society Library
  • Youth Kamp to involve our young relatives
  • Ask an Expert, a free 20-minute consultation with a certified professional
  • Free scanning by
  • Photo Detecting 101 with Maureen Taylor
  • Researching Your War of 1812 Ancestor with the kilt-wearing Craig Roberts Scott
  • Genealogy-on-the Go with the iPad with Lisa Louise Cooke
  • Genealogical Research and Writing: Are You a Saint, Sinner, or Bumfuzzled Soul? with Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • Navigating the NARA Branches with Julie Miller
  • So You've Found Your German Town of Origin: Now What? with Teresa Steinkamp McMillin
  • Ohio: The Great Land Experiment with Jana Sloan Broglin
  • Utilizing Social Networks for Genealogy Research with Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers
  • German Marriage Laws and Customs with Warren Bitner
  • Internet Privacy and Security for Genealogists with Jordan Jones
  • How to Be a Bad Genealogist with William B Saxbe, Jr. promises a few laughs
  • Common Sense for Genealogists with Kay Haviland Freilich
  • Convert Your Family History Book to an e-Book with Marlis Glaser Humphrey
  • The 1940 Census with Constance Potter
  • Personal Digital Archiving: An Overview, with Mark Steven Middleton
  • Over 100 vendors will be in the exhibition hall with software, books, maps and keepsakes
  • Recordings of some sessions will be made available for purchase

I counted as many as 10 tracks in a day and as many as 6 sessions. Some sessions are longer than others, so I'll guess at 30-50 different sessions to choose from during each of the 4 days. That's a smorgasbord of over 100 different choices.

The tracks include local knowledge about Ohio and surrounding states, photos,  records, methodology, technology, writing, professional skills and ethnic research such as German and African-American. I've recently consulted with friends about their German research and hope to soon have some of my own to do. The focus on Ohio and Germany tempts me, but it's just not possible to attend this year.

The 2013 conference city will be announced by the end of this year's conference. I'm looking forward to finding out if it will fit in my plans.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fearless Females -- Agnes Emilia Fors Ekstrom

The Accidental Genealogist is another source for blogging prompts and today's grabbed me: pick one female ancestor and write a mini-profile (500 words or less). I'm pleased to introduce my Swedish great-grandmother, as well as show you a simple way to showcase a heritage photo with the pertinent genealogical research.

Agnes Emilia Fors was born August 29, 1864, in Södertälje, Stockholm, Sweden, to Erik Edvard Fors and Matilda Vilhelmina Viberg. Erik Fors was a stationmaster for the Swedish railroads, so the family, though financially comfortable, moved frequently. As was the custom in Sweden, she left home as a teenager to make her own way. She emigrated to America as a servant, but returned in less than two years. She married the widowed tailor Gustaf Emil Ferdinand Ekstrom in Linköping, Östergötland on May 20, 1888. He had buried two babies and a wife and, with Agnes, buried yet another baby. Although Sweden’s official religion was the Lutheran Church, the Ekstroms were married in the Methodist Church, implying that they had changed religions as adults.

The scarcity of food and resources in Sweden, along with the desire for religious freedom, drove the Ekstroms to emigrate in 1891, joining many of their countrymen in Chicago, Illinois. Agnes raised her five children and a step-daughter with a deep and abiding love of God, as well as a love of fun and laughter. She saw four more of her children buried during her life. She raised two abandoned grandchildren, as well as helping to raise her youngest son's five orphans. Her life as a tailor's wife and widow was comfortable until her assets as a building owner were destroyed by the Depression not long after Gustaf's death in 1927. She grew bitter and resentful of her reduced circumstances. She died on November 01, 1946, in Chicago and was buried in the historic cemetery of Rosehill.

Her children were:
  • Step-daughter Gerda Linnea Thorborg Ekstrom, born May 17, 1885, Linköping, Östergötland, Sweden; died October 14, 1978, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.
  • Frithof Benedictus Ekstrom, born March 21, 1889, Linköping, Östergötland, Sweden; died February 03, 1935, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.
  • Erik Ferdinand Ekstrom, born May 29, 1891, Linköping, Östergötland, Sweden; died June 14, 1891, Linköping, Östergötland, Sweden.
  • Edward Gideon Ekstrom, born January 13, 1893, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; died September 14, 1961, Evanston, Cook County, Illinois
  • Esther Mathilda Ekstrom, born December 16, 1894, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; died May 01, 1923, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.
  • Edna Ekstrom, born May 1899; died between 1900 and 1910.
  • Oliver Ernest Ekstrom, born May 22, 1903, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; died October 22, 1935, San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, Guatemala.

Agnes Fors and Gustaf Ekstrom on Club Scrap Renaissance paper kit

A Simple Heritage Layout

This layout is part of a series. It's a fast and simple way to showcase a heritage photo and show the relationships to other family members. A family tree can be created with genealogy software, written on a form or drawn by hand. Trees are especially important when sharing with non-genealogists, as it helps them visualize the relationships. This is an hourglass tree -- a tree showing both ancestors and descendants of the focus ancestor. I've also used ancestor trees and descendant trees in this series. The right type of tree depends on the size of the family and the genealogical knowledge about the subjects in the photo.

I've paired a Club Scrap foiled paper with a color-coordinated background that I added to my software, which is Family Tree Maker 11. Using standard letter-sized paper makes the tree easy to print at home.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 10, Genealogy Road Trips

Taking a genealogy road trip is something I love to do to advance family research -- step 3 of my plan for scrapping my family history. I can step out of my day-to-day work life, and that is a blessing in itself. Sharing time with friends and relatives is a bonus.

Scrapping a Road Trip

I've only scrapped one road trip. Honestly, I have to admit it doesn't fit with my current scrapping philosophy. My thinking now is to scrap only what will matter to my grandchildren. Since I started sorting through my own Grandmother's memorabilia, I've found that her vacation photos, while pretty, don't mean anything to me. Photos of places I've never been, or can't identify, just go into the trash.

My philosophy doesn't apply to digital pages that are not printed. Although digital files form their own sort of clutter, at least the kids won't have to decide whether or not to throw away an album. So I do create "throw-away" digital pages for use on my screen-saver, desktop or yearly printed calendar.

For the 2002 road trip that has been partially scrapped, I wrote the journaling for each day right after the trip. I picked a color scheme for the album, created a number tag for each day and chose which memorabilia would go on each page. I also had pictures that were taken with family members with whom we met along the way. I included maps that indicate locations of interest. The album is a hodgepodge of stickers, postcards, photos, maps and just plain stuff. Here's day 12, a day when I met with a cousin and also ordered a marker for my grandmother's grave at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.

Why Even Take a Road Trip?

My previous post was written in reaction to some garbage genealogy I found online. I believe that road trips are an important step to help us get beyond the simplicity and the errors of online resources and into the meat of our ancestors' lives. Today I'll introduce you to Jacob Crispen, a man who never existed, according to Ancestry, but was found during a road trip.

"I Won't Raise Jacob's Brats"

Nerinda Margaret Kerr Crispen [ Tookey] was left a widow by her husband, Jacob Crispen. She sent their three small children to Jacob's brother, who turned them away, saying "I will not raise Jacob's brats". These hurtful words have been passed down through the generations, along with this family story.

This family is nowhere to be found in the census. Using family records and stories, I acquired death certificates for the three children and for their mother. The youngest, Laura Crispen [McQuiston Kahn], had been born about 1867, according to her death certificate. Assuming 2 years between children, it appeared Jacob had died between 1866 and 1869. Clark Crispen, my great-grandfather, claimed to have been born in Oil City, Venango County, PA, in 1863. Nerinda had grown up in Clarion County, PA, and she had remarried about 1882. Mary Crispen [Infield] had lived in Pittsburgh in 1890.

I had established a timeframe and a geographical area to search for Jacob. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania civil records are almost non-existant before 1900. One resource then available via the LDS library was a probate index for Venango County, PA. The only Jacob Crispen in the index had died in 1885, too late to be the right Jacob.

National Genealogical Society, Conference in the States, 2003, Pittsburgh

When NGS 2003 was announced, I saw my opportunity to learn about Pennsylvania research and then use what I'd learned. Cousin Lorna and I registered for NGS and planned our second road trip. From her home in northern Illinois, we researched in Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including attending the conference.

Venango County Courthouse

When we arrived in Venango County, I headed straight for the probate records in the courthouse. I planned to start my trip by eliminating this source. Opening the docket, I was stunned to see Mary Infield, Clark Crispen and Laura McQuiston listed as heirs. My reality suddenly shifted as the old family story now was revealed as a cover-up.

My next stop was the prothonotary office to look for a divorce, but I had no luck. Though I found little else for the Crispen family on the trip, the time was well worth it. I found Jacob in a city directory and in a cemetery index, though his grave is unmarked. I later received a copy of the full probate file from the historical society, which houses the old files. The file told me the city where each child lived in 1885, as well as the first names of the women's husbands.

Knowing that Jacob Crispen was alive for the 1870 and 1880 census, I redoubled my efforts fo find the family in the census records. As online census indexing improved over the next few years, I continued to probe. The only trace found was Laura in 1880. I found a possible Jacob, but it seemed unlikely.

Pennsylvania Road Trip, September, 2011

Another cousin, Laurel, wanted to go on a Pennsylvania road trip. We live about 3 hours apart, so we decided to travel together to research our Kerr family, as well as the associated families. We started planning six months before we left. That planning included knowing who, what, when, where and why. The better we planned, the more fruitful our trip would be.

I have to give kudos and a shout out to Laurel, a creative and dogged researcher. I was frustrated with searching for Jacob and Nerinda Kerr Crispen, so Laurel decided to give it a try. She found Jacob and Narinda Chrisman in Clarion County in 1860, with a child named William. This looked highly possible to me. I researched the family, finding probable parents James and Ellen, and a brother, John, all with burials under the name of Crispen. But could I prove this was the right family?

Clarion County Courthouse

When we arrived in Clarion County, I started with probate records. Though James Crispen's probate was interesting, I learned nothing new. Land records were next. I noted every sale and purchase under the Crispen name. There was one sale by John and Jacob Crispen et ux. The deed cemented the family as I had hypothesized. The land had been purchased by James shortly before his death. It was sold by Jacob and Nerinda M Crispen and John and Mary Crispen. [Note: The deed is signed John Crispen Jr. That is because there was an older John Crispen in the area, and does not mean his father was named John.]

Back to Venango County

I learned long ago that research trips are circular. From courthouse to library to cemetery to historical society, then back to the courthouse it goes. This trip included 5 counties in 5 days: we visited 3 courthouses, 3 historical societies, 5 libraries and 11 cemeteries.

When we arrived at the Venango County courthouse, I returned to the prothonotary office to resume my search for a divorce. I especially hoped to read the file to learn more about the previously unknown son, William Crispen. One of the clerks suggested that the court appearance dockets might be of help. She brought the heavy old books out from the vault two at a time and I looked through each index. I found two entries for Crispen divorce filings: in 1867, Jacob filed against Nerinda M[argaret], and, in 1874, Margaret filed against Jacob. Unfortunately, both underlying files are missing from the courthouse.

Without these two road trips, it would have been far more difficult to find and prove Jacob's family. I have new research pathways and the hope of connecting with cousins descended from John Crispen. I hope one of those cousins will have a picture of Jacob to fill that particular gap in my collection.

Preparing for a Research Trip

I've developed a checklist for planning a road trip and, earlier this year, prepared for a two-day trip. Interestingly, I was planning for a Thursday-Friday trip and was tempted to not document hours of operation for other days. I had to cancel the original travel plans and now am grateful I took full notes. I will need to verify the hours of each repository just before I venture out, as hours are often reduced in these days of budget constraints. I also print a map for each location on my list.

I hope my checklist gives you some ideas about preparing for your own road trip to your ancestor's area.

Happy hunting!

Preparing to Go to a Courthouse

County Name YADKIN, NC
Formation Date 28 Dec 1850
Parent Counties Surry
Child Counties None
County Seat Yadkinville 27055
Courthouse burned in years none

From 1913

Reg of Deeds
101 South State Street
M-F 8A-5P
(336) 679-4225
From 1913

Reg of Deeds
101 South State Street
M-F 8A-5P
(336) 679-4225
From 1850

Reg of Deeds
101 South State Street
M-F 8A-5P
(336) 679-4225

From 1850

Clerk Sup Court
101 South State Street

From 1850

Clerk Sup Court
101 South State Street

From 1850

Clerk Sup Court
101 South State Street

From 1850

.25 to 2.00
Reg of Deeds
101 South State Street
M-F 8A-5P
(336) 679-4225

Genealogical Society location and hours
  • see below
Historical Society location and hours
  • Yadkin County Historical Society, 216 North Van Buren Street, Yadkinville, (336)-679-2702
Library location, holdings and hours:
  • The Charles H. Stone Memorial Library, Danbury Public Library and Yadkin County Public Library have large Genealogy/History rooms that are available to the public.
    YCPL 233 East Main Street (336) 679-8792 Mon, Thu 8:30A-6:30P; Tue, Wed, Fri 8:30A-5:30P; Sat 9:00A- 12:00P
    The Paul Price Davis History & Genealogy Room at the Yadkin County Public Library houses census records, cemetery records, marriage records, family histories, will and deed abstracts, Civil War and Revolutionary War rosters. The Yadkin Ripple, the local newspaper, is on microfilm from 1893 to 1988. Paper copies of the newspaper are available from 1989 to the current issue. A microfilm reader/printer is available.

Cemeteries of interest
Swaims Baptist Church
See map
Keziah Caroline Swaim Chappel
Birth:      Dec. 27, 1824
Death:    Nov. 29, 1869
Married to Moses Chappell April 7, 1851