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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

10 Clues You Might Be an Amateur Genealogist

  • 10. You are frustrated that you can’t find your ancestors in the 1890 federal census.
  • 9. You think that “Evidence!” (Mills) must be a great mystery novel, since so many genealogy blogs and newsletters talk about it.
  • 8. You think metes and bounds is what happens when you take your dog to the dog park.
  • 7. You think a collateral line is a home equity loan.
  • 6. You think probate is used in fishing tournaments.
  • 5. You think microfilm is watching video on your phone.
  • 4. You are puzzled by the talk about primary sources. What do elections have to do with genealogy?
  • 3. You think that all the information that exists about your ancestors is online.
  • 2. You think of Salt Lake City as just the capitol of Utah.
  • 1. You have someone in your family tree who was born before his father.

I hope you’re chuckling. If you’re puzzled or offended, I challenge you to educate yourself about research methodologies. Get out of your chair and go on a genealogy field trip.

I’d really like to get on a soapbox and rant, but instead, I’ll share a couple of things that set me off.
First and foremost, do not believe everything you find online. Use your critical thinking and don’t take the easy way out.

If a “fact” in someone’s tree has no source, it is a hint. If the source is someone else’s tree, it is not a source.

Many of us have worked years to unravel genealogical puzzles. It takes time and patience and you will never have a neat and tidy tree all the way back to Adam and Eve.

Check out this link for why you might not be progressing in your research and what to do about it:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Should I Scrap an Original Heritage Photo?

The question of whether to scrap a heritage photo always generates a lot of discussion in scrapbooking forums. Someone once made the comment that you have to store the original photo somewhere, so why not put it on a scrapbook page. That idea resonates with me and I've started to do that. But there are a few considerations.

I personally don't have any tintypes or daguerreotypes, so I have no thoughts about them. However, my inclination is that I would not put them on a scrapbook page. I also don't use photos on heavy cardboard which has warped. Those stay in storage without pressure that might crack them.

Keep it acid free. Don't include newspaper clippings or other old paper with heritage photos. Newer paper is usually not processed with acid. Invest in an acid testing pen if you have paper memorabilia to mix with photos. The pen can also test scrapbook papers and embellishments. I'll talk about newspaper in another post.

Watch the bulk. Lumpy embellishments can damage photos on nearby pages. Plan your pages to assure each photo is protected from damage. My style is to save the lumpy embellishments for non-heritage pages. Use your imagination to create flat embellishments. Don't overfill the album, either.

Adhere with care. Never put any adhesive behind a face. If it does cause deterioration, that precious part of the photo will be lost. But since you've already scanned the photo, you'll have another copy, right?

Club Scrap Journeys paper kit
Consider using photo corners rather than adhesive. My favorite corners are clear plastic. They are visible but won't affect the page design. There are also many colored corners available and they can even be embellished with stamps, markers or paints. Black corners look vintage. By using corners, the photo can also be removed from the page so the back can be viewed.

Don't crop the original. If you want to crop the photo, it's far better to work with the scanned image and reprint it. Cropping an original photo is just not reversible and one day you might regret cutting something away.

The sample pages use plastic corners and show a little trick. The brads at the bottom are not real -- rather it's Stickles -- to help avoid anything bulky that might damage a photo.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 9, Cemeteries

Cemeteries are not often featured in my heritage scrapbook pages. However, I’ll share a couple of ways I’ve included them. First, I invite you to join me on a trip to my favorite cemetery.

A Visit to Kansas

You’re standing on a rise in south-central Kansas on a warm September day. A sea of golden-brown flows to the horizon in all directions. Trees dot the landscape where distant farmhouses rise from the empty fields. The unfettered prairie wind tugs at your hair and whistles in your ears. In the distance, a freight train rolls westward, while cars scurry along the state highway that divides the small town below you. Suddenly deer appear, bounding through nearby fields, and you watch them until they vanish in the distance. Some local farm boys drive past, hauling a load of hay. They wave and call out a greeting, leaving a dust cloud hanging over the dirt road.

Slowly you enter the tiny cemetery, admiring the intricate metal crosses that adorn the top of the fence rail. The grass is calf-high, but dry and dormant. You fervently hope there are no snakes as you walk towards the few visible markers, drawn to a double marker with the inscriptions Mother and Father. You trace the words, reading “Sarah died in 1892 and Aaron died in 1909”. Staring out across the endless prairie, you realize this is the very land they walked, the view they saw, the wind they felt. Little has changed in 120 years. The neighbors have exchanged their wagons for automobiles and a few roads have been paved. This place is unchanged and you feel their closeness here, as nowhere else.

You turn to leave, acknowledging the rest of the family: John with his Civil War marker and Effie and George with their large double stone. You bid them good-bye, along with the rest of the permanent residents of this little piece of the Kansas prairie.

Kansas background by Scrapbook Customs
Cemetery Thoughts
I haven’t shared the name of the family, the cemetery or the town. The vandalism that happens in cemeteries is unconscionable and I do not want to put this small and precious place at any more risk than it already faces.

This cemetery and other small rural cemeteries are a part of the fabric of the lives of the nearby residents. When I visit such a cemetery, I feel grounded in the place. A large or city cemetery feels to me less connected to the locality and more like any cemetery in any place.

Scrapping Cemetery Photos
I prefer to put photos of people in my heritage scrapbook pages, rather than places or things. I’ve used cemetery and tombstone photos in only two ways. One is to document a trip or visit to a cemetery, as I’ve done with the cemeteries in this Kansas county. The second is as a substitute for a photo of a person.

My grandfather’s elder brother died at age 16. There are no known photos of his face other than as a young boy. Even his marker displays his little-boy photo. This layout shows the faces of the people who appear in the group photo, but in later years of their lives. Gilbert Allee is instead represented by his marker.
Club Scrap Autumn Splendor paper kit

They Made the Markers
Digital Collection, Fall Carnival blog train, Sep 2010

I also have an unusual reason to feature grave markers on a layout. My fourth cousin's ancestors were the premier makers of monuments in their area of northwestern Pennsylvania. I commemorated our visit to their family plot and other cemeteries. The most memorable monument we visited sits in the town square of Clarion, PA, to commemorate the Civil War.

I hope this has inspired your own thoughts about whether and when to include cemetery photos in your heritage layouts.