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.