Friday, July 5, 2013

New Organization (The Organized Genealogist)

Early in the life of the Facebook group "The Organized Genealogist," I posted a picture of the hall bookshelves which held my genealogy papers and books. This storage worked well except for the fact that it was separated from my computer desk by the entire length of the house. About June 17 I rearranged this storage to move my genealogy materials to my computer area.

I have trouble handling photos in Facebook. After struggle to post this there in the way I wish to show it, I have decided to make a blog about these changes.

Here is the original shelving arrangement in the back hallway.

Here is the new arrangement in the industrial shelving that acts as a room divider between my computer desk plus stitchery studio and the living room area in our house.

This is the desk side of the shelving. It shows all my Family Notebooks, my genealogy reference books, and my loose paper files. The second shelf also holds my Flip-Pal scanner. The third shelf holds loose papers to be analyzed, scanned and filed, or filed, or discarded. It also contains the tote bags I use when going on a research trip.

The basket in front of the shelves holds my entire embroidery floss collection. It also serves as a shelf to hold the papers with which I'm working. Shown here are printouts of email correspondence my sister-in-law shared with us. The basket  holds any of the note books or research books equally well.

This is the living room side of the same shelving area. Above the genealogy storage you see additional stitchery supplies.

Although this isn't rigidly neat, it looks well from both sides and my genealogy supplies are handy to my work desk when I am working on the computer.

Finally, here is the hall shelving, now holding the stationery items that used to be by the computer.


For me this is a great improvement; when I want to find a reference not in my computer, or to compare printouts of earlier work with the computer screen I am currently working with, everything is within arm's reach. I now go the length of the house to get this stationary (a once-a-week to once-a-month trip), but I have my genealogy where I work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Homework for Mastering Genealogical Proof Chapter One

I’m glad that I am not a panelist for the DearMYRTLE’s Hangouts on Air that are examining Dr. Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Proof. The panelists are to post their completed homework for Chapter One by midnight tonight (Tuesday 18 Jun 2013).

I have not yet finished MY homework for this chapter — and it may not be finished by the time we finish studying the entire book. The problem lies not with the book, but with my pattern of learning.

I read Chapter One with interest but also with a sense of familiarity. After all, I have read Christine Rose’s Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case  on more than one occasion.; I have also studied the first two chapters of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained more than once; and I participated in the Second Life study of Dr. Jones’ Family study on “Inferential  Genealogy.” So I felt at home with the concepts of Chapter One. On 30 May, I finished the chapter and confidently wrote out my answers to the Chapter One questions. I then checked out those answers with the answer key and gave myself a grade of D+.

{My 30 May answers and my analysis of each of my answers appear at the end of this blog.}

Am I glad I chose to answer these questions in a notebook and not in Dr. Jones’ workbook. I can continued using the workbook as I work to improve my grasp of the chapter.

Yes, the concepts were familiar to me; I recognized them as I read them, but I had not made them into my concepts; I had not internalized them. I need to work on each one until I can consistently remember and state in my own words the finer points of Dr Jones’ statements (in the Chapter and in the Answer Key). Or (should I find myself disagreeing with him) I need to state his points and then state my differences. Only then will I have made Chapter One my own.

Surface learning (which is my natural style) will not help me become a high-quality genealogist. I must use the harder-for-me process of rethinking and restating until I “own” these concepts. As I stated earlier, this may take me months. But now that I realize that this learning pattern is what I need, I will dig in and do it — for Chapter One and for every other chapter in Mastering Genealogical Proof.  After all, it isn’t necessary for me to learn it all the first time through; there is no time limit on getting it right. But if I am to be the thorough genealogist I wish to be, I must stick to this until I HAVE mastered this and it has become a part of my all genealogical studies, a part of my style.

Here are my initial answers with my remarks as to why I believe I need more understanding of each answer.

1. {definition of genealogy}
Researching family connections. Primarily a genealogist moves backward in time, but modern connections are also a part of genealogy. “Real” genealogy is based on scholarly standards.  [I rated this C; correct but incomplete.]

2. {GPS elements}
Reasonably exhaustive research [√]
Full, comprehensive citations [√]
Analysis [incomplete]
Proof arguments [wrong]
Exposition [incomplete] [I rated this D for the above reasons.]

3. {defense of fully documented GPS in a family history}
That isn’t genealogy, that is fantasy or myth (these are borrowed words). [I rated this D because it is incomplete.]

4. {partial proof}
Until the conclusion is fully proven (remembering that new information can change this) the five elements of GPS have not bee fully covered. [I rated this C; it is correct but it is a weak statement.]

5. {first research step}
Reasonably exhaustive research; finding supportive evidence in more than one place.
[I rated this D because it is too vague a statement.]

Three Ds and two Cs; that adds up to D+ to me.

So here you see why I have told myself I need to continue working. I haven’t failed, but also, I haven’t made these familiar concepts into MY concepts.

I’m not so much “Frustrated Sue” about this as you might suppose. After all, learning isn’t a race. I will do the best I can on the first pass, and then return to the weak points and strengthen them, until I have indeed mastered genealogical proof.

Note:  In view of copyright discussions, I have removed the quoted questions, replacing them with  a general description of the topic in curly brackets. The answers have always been in my own words. The edit was done 19 Jun 2013.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Pursells (plus an apology)

Olive and Dates near the end of their lives.
Olive and Dates, early in their marriage.

Before I begin the blog proper, I wish to apologize for the long dry spell. Getting older can cause a series of small health problems that are very time- and energy-consuming.  Nothing of great significance happened, but I lost about 2 years to a series of illnesses. I am hoping that with this post I will be able to get back on track.

Aunt Olive and Uncle Dates

There is an old saying that “it takes a village to raise a child.” I think I disagree about the village, but I believe it takes a certain “core family” to do that job. As I look back on my childhood I find five people besides my parents who made up this core: my Aunt Olive and her husband Uncle Dates, courtesy “Uncle” Rae and his sister “Aunt” Stella, and my mother’s other sister Aunt Rose. These five people have always been a part of my life; they taught me, comforted me, and widened my view point. None of them argued with my parents or countermanded their rules for my sister and for me, but they all offered other ways to view the world, while staying in support of my parents.

Today I am concentrating on Aunt Olive and Uncle Dates.

Anna Dorrance, daughter of James Henry Dorrance (1856 – 1939) and Anna Pait (1858 – 1926) was born 19 August 1884 in Rock Township, Jefferson County, Missouri.1 She married her second husband John Logan Pursell at sometime before 1925 (when my parents were married). Uncle Dates was born 14 Jun 1885 in Kinmundy, Marion County, Illinois. I know that this was a second marriage because she once mentioned a prior marriage, and that she had divorced that husband when he was unfaithful.

Aunt Olive once mentioned that she had lost the only child they had conceived. I have no further information about this child.

They led interesting and productive lives that I will describe in other posts. The stories of how “John Logan” became “John Dates” and “Anna” became “Olive Ann” will also wait for another time.

Aunt Olive was nearly 79 when she died on 9 June 1963. Uncle Dates was just 78 when died just before 1 July 1963. They are buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Kinmundy, Marion County, Illinois.2

What kind of people were Aunt Olive and Uncle Dates?

This is what I hope to be able to convey to you in this blog. Both of them were warm, supportive people. Both of them were perpetual learners.

Uncle Dates must have had a temper, because everyone does, but I don’t remember a single time that I saw it. Obviously, he kept his temper under control. That can sound cold or calm. But I remember him as warm, funny, even charming (but that sounds somewhat calculated and I’m sure he wasn’t a calculating person). I remember the Christmas that my sister got her first large doll, who was promptly name for Rae’s favorite playmates. When Aunt Olive and Uncle Dates arrived for the family gathering, she rushed to him and said, “I-have-a-new-doll-and-her-name-is-NancyJanetLee!” “Ah,” Uncle Dates replied, “Gently, Gently.” The doll has been called “Gently” every since.

Aunt Olive had a quick irritation, readily expressed that soon blew away. You knew she was annoyed, you knew what annoyed her, but you knew she wouldn’t hold it over you head for ever. You went to Aunt Olive with your worries and you asked her advice. Aunt Olive was the middle of the three Dorrance sisters; seven years older than my mother. She often worried about this age difference; I remember from a very young age that during a down-town shopping trip she snapped at my mother, “Did you tell those people that I was Sue’s grandmother?” Mother ‘s response was bewildered; this affront was all in Olive’s mind. I also remember from later years a day when she taught a city employee that her job was to serve the public which payed her rather than to put that public “in their place.” She did this with three short sentences, than thanked the employee for her help and walked away.

I don’t know much of Uncle Dates’ background, but I do know that he was largely self-taught. And he was well-informed on many topics. Aunt Olive failed to finish high school (the only one of the Dorrance girls who didn’t go on to post high school studies). She attended lectures about new books, about cooking, about fashion and sewing skills. She became a good business person who managed rental properties and who became the treasurer of the “Harmony Club.” (I believe this was a political support group.)

Have I shown Aunt Olive as being a very practical person. Indeed, she was practical. Many of my practical and organizational skills I learned in equal amounts from Aunt Olive and from my mother. It makes me think that they in turn learned these skills from their mother (my grandmother) and from her mother.  But Aunt Olive also had a superstitious streak, which felt odd, given her generally practical outlook.  I can’t give examples here, because I tended to disbelieve this as I was growing up. I met this aspect of her personality with an “you don’t really believe this” attitude. But looking back, I see that she did believe these things also. While she showed us that side of her personality, she didn’t impose it upon us.

Uncle Dates has a great sense of humor and an appreciation for all the good old jokes. It was Uncle Dates who introduced us to “What’s black and white and red (read) all over? / The Newspaper”  and the nursery rhymes about Timothy Tatamous and Railroad Crossing.

Uncle Dates liked music. He collected many early recordings of popular music, which he stored in a rented garage for a time, before he passed them on to my parents after they were married. The garage storage somewhat affected the quality of the recordings, but these records (along with my father’s collection of opera recordings on Victor Red-Seal records) were the records I grew up with. His record collection included many of the great comic recordings from early artists like Billy Murray.

He played the piano by ear, and did it very well. My father was a semi-professional singer. In retrospect, I believe that Uncle Dates respected my father’s talent and felt he didn’t measure up to his knowledge. For whatever reason, it was hard for my sister and me to get him to the piano, but it was always a treat when we managed to do so.

Recently I was exploring the “Jukebox” at the Library of  Congress. I came across this recording of a song that we could sometimes get Uncle Dates to play and sing for us

Uncle Dates sounded much better.

1: Permanent Record of Birth (abstract) for Anna Dorrance, Missouri State Archives,, accessed 7 Dec 2009.

2: Find-a-Grave,  AND, accessed 8 May 2013.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Artifacts: Flow Ware Tea Set

Last Tuesday, during the Book Club at Second Life, we all began to mention items we had inherited. It was suggested that we post a picture and a story about these special items from our family history. This is the first such post from my household.

This is the remains of a tea set in a pattern which is called "Flow Ware;" a mistake in an early firing lead to a blurring of the pattern. You can see this on the side of the sugar bowl and the open bowl next to in in the back row.

This tea set belonged to Mary Seitner Lautzenheiser who was aunt-by-marriage to my paternal grandmother on her mother's side and also her second cousin on her father's side. Whenever I visited North Manchester her granddaughters and also my Grandmother referred to Mary as "Grandma Seitner." I am curious about this naming pattern. I do understand why "Grandma" would become the family name, even among relatives who were in reality nieces or cousins; I believe that such use names are still common in the United States in our century.

It is the use of Mary Seitner's maiden name that interests me. My best guess it that there were several "Grandma Lautzenheisers" around town; and that "Grandma Seither" was a way of distinguishing between them. Alas, I shall probably never know why because I didn't think to ask when I was young.

My grandmother inherited these dishes from her aunt and in turn designated that they were to become mine. (She left a piece of paper in one of the teacups that read "for Sue.") They remained in North Manchester until after my aunt died; then Mary Seitner's granddaughters gathered up the tea set and saved it for me.

They told me that my grandmother had inherited the set because she had saved them from a fire. She was visiting the Elias Lautzenheiser farm when a fire broke out. Grandma placed the tea set in a pillow case, then lowered them through a first floor window to the ground. I wasn't told when this happened or how old my grandmother was at the time. Mary Seitner and Elias Lautzenheiser were married in 1852; my grandmother was born in 1858. My guess is that the fire took place after the Civil War, but that is just a guess.

None of the dishes were broken at the time of the rescue, but the set was not complete by the time it came to me. Some of the pieces are chipped and some of the glaze is crazed and discolored. I do not use these dishes; they are on display in a glass fronted case in my dining room. My family and I cherish these artifacts from my "forerunners."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Poem for Bill West's poetry "collection"

This is my entry into Bill West’s contest. Whenever I think about Lide’s childhood after her mother’s death, I think of this poem. Lide DID have family when she and her siblings returned to Wabash County, but she and her siblings moved from house to house (often separately); they seemed to feel a need to contribute to the family work while living with each family. (I believe that in the 1860s and 1870s children on farms and in the homes in farm support towns like North Manchester all did chores, but I sense that “earning her place” was important to Lide.)

So here is a poem from the appropriately named “Hoosier Poet” James Whitcomb Riley


Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was 'company,' an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Search Log

Chapter 7 in The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy is about record keeping. Among other topics it discusses the Research Log or Research Calendar.

I have been attempting to keep a Research Log since before I knew they existed.  I started my serious attempts at genealogy four years ago, when I got my genealogy software as an early Christmas present. As I entered  family data from a text-based descendant chart sent to me by a distant cousin, I began to have many questions about the information. This was the cousin's research. I realized that I would need to check at least some of it, both for verification and in order to answer the questions. But how was I going to be able to remember those questions?

I am a database thinker (as opposed to a spreadsheet thinker) so I quickly prepared a simple database: five identifying fields plus four expanding fields where I could store my questions and my comments. As the number of entries in my software program grew, the number of records in the database kept pace.

During my studies about genealogy, I learned about the research log. My computer holds various attempts to build a log (including the log that my software provides). None of these forms have felt comfortable to me; the attempts sit in the nooks and crannies of my computer, holding information about where and when I searched for or entered data, what questions I had (and roughly when in the search process those questions occurred) and what answers I may have found. But this is not a log. The information remains scattered and would be meaningless to anyone but myself. My instincts had been on track, but my techniques were lamentable.

Greenwood states that there are two purposes for a Search Log* a) to keep yourself in touch with your progress at all times and b) to aid people who might follow you to understand and to verify what you have done. I believe that the information that fulfills these purposes is hidden in my computer: hidden, but not available to me or to anyone who follows me in this project. (* Since the log contains records of Preliminary Survey work as well as true research, I choose to call this a "Search" Log.)

My next step should be to provide me with a log form I am comfortable with; and then to go back over my work for the past four years and see if I can create a Search Log for every person and every supporting document in my software program.

Luckily for me this isn't as large a task as it may appear to be. Although I have 3377 entries in my database, the names were supplied by some half-dozen cousins and those initial suppliers are noted in those scattered early documents. My active work has been concentrated on about 300 names and I have about 100 source citations (or 100 documents) to incorporate into this rebuilt log.

The first sets of entries into my software were the descendants chart I mentioned above and another descendant chart printed in a 1942 book, The Stricklers of Pennsylvania. Since the descendant chart which came from the cousin also involves correspondence, I decided to do my first work with the entries from the book. This resulted in 27 logs, one for each surname which has a family group sheet showing children.

The elements of this log came from those on the Greenwood sample; from elements found on similar published logs, and from some sample logs GeneJ shared with me in 2009. The log is in database format, which means that the field spaces are rigidly defined. If I need more space, I must add another record to this log.

This is a screen shot of part of one of these 27 logs. It shows record 1 and part of record 2 with the "constant" portion of the log showing on both records. The comments show some references to additional logs which grew out of this one.

Please help me. Take on the guise of a genealogist who is following my work. Study this sample. Can you follow my trail? Where do I need to improve this model? Please leave a comment for me with any suggestions you might have about the format for my Search Log.

There is another important "to-be-developed" record discussed in Chapter 7: the research report. But that is another blog.

Here's to facing our frustrations and to learning to conquer them.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halloween Came Early This Year

Yesterday, as I was working my way through three days of accumulated blog posts, I came across a very funny short piece about what truly scares that blogger. She said (I think it was a she) that if she met a zombie or a vampire, she would simply request genealogical knowledge and move on. What truly scares her is something like opening her genealogy files and finding that all her citations have vanished. I laughed, agreed with her, and read the next blog.

And I humbly apologize to my fellow blogger that I cannot provide a link to that blog. If any of my readers recognizes this blog, please post the link in the comments section.

Well, Halloween came early this year and I have had a scare that will do — thank you — for the rest of my life! I was running the program that scans my hard disk for potential problems and got a message about duplicates of my genealogy software file, followed immediately by a message that the software had unexpectedly quit. Since I was shutting things down, I brushed this off and continued with the weekly maintenance.

Everything checked out OK, and I began to reopen programs in order to get back to work. The file was GONE from my desktop Dropbox folder. Worse, opening Dropbox online I found a statement that the file was DELETED! No problem — I'll just go to Time Machine and restore it from there. It wasn't there either! I went into complete panic mode; 3377 names and accompanying data had vanished into thin air. Gone — completely gone!

I must have yelled or moaned or … because my husband hurried in — to find me staring wildly at my computer screen. I showed him the "non-existence" of both backups and than stared at the appearance of doom again.

Now my husband and I have somehow developed a mood balancing act; the deeper one of us sinks into panic, the calmer and more constructive the other becomes. He thought a bit and began to suggest things to try. Fearing that my entire hard disk was contaminated, I wouldn't let him do anything.

He moved to his computer, opened Dropbox, and sure enough, it reported that the file had been deleted. But he also found that Dropbox offered "restore file." Which he did. Back to my machine. Dropbox showed the recovered file in the cloud AND it also showed the file safely returned to my desktop dropbox folder. I opened the file, which then followed to usual procedures to return me to my last working location. I did the next job of data entry, and everything stayed normal. Dropbox and cloud storage had saved my files just as they were supposed to do.

But what about the failure of Time Machine to make a backup? Well, as it turns out, I was wrong about that; Time Machine has been backing up these vital files just as I had instructed it to do. In my panic, I had looked for the backups in the wrong folder. When I did look in the correct location, everything was in place.

And the moral of this story is "you can't have too many backups" OR "Dropbox works." I hope you never have a scare like mine; but if you do, I hope your files have been backed up on your computer by your equivalent of my Time Machine backup program and that you also have a backup in Dropbox or an equivalent cloud storage site.

Here's to facing our Frustrations and enjoying our successes.