Monday, July 31, 2017

Musing and Lessons from the July tasks for Genealogy Do-Over 2017

I began the 2017 Genealogy Do-Over with discussions of how to handle genealogy work when chronic illness strikes. My next tasks were organizing the information I currently hold on the direct lines in my three trees and in synchronizing that data between two databases. I also initiated some plans to ensure that my jobs: consistency checks; research; reentering older research; and learning tasks would continue to advance in an orderly manner.

This month these techniques have continued to work fairly well. The last two weeks in July were plagued by those allergy attacks. Some days I have slept almost all the time; on those days all I managed was a simple consistency check. On other days, I could work, but I couldn't concentrate; some jobs were just too large. On those days I would stop working on the "difficult" jobs and turn to simpler jobs. Some days I was limited to questions and answers on the internet (some of my learning tasks are solved by consulting one of the genealogy orientated groups on Facebook, for example). In this way I have managed to achieve at least one of my stated objectives on almost every working day; and I was able to turn most days into a working day.

Some of my learnings have been surprising. I discovered that I was using my rotation checklist as my To-Do list. The rotation list was developed as a check list, to ensure that I keep tasks going in as even a manner as possible. It became a ToDo list because it was easier for me to reach it on my computer. I feel my To-Do list should have consist of stated goals as to where I am going and what I hope to accomplish, and that the check list should simply keep those goals proceeding in a timely manner. It has become my habit to make a running comment on what I am doing as I work with the check list. As a temporary notation, this is fine. But each day, I need to transfer the comments to the relevant research log. After all, that is why we have research logs.

Since my very earliest work in genealogy, I have tried to keep research logs. I understand why they exist. But I fail to find a form that fits my personal working habits. This is another example of that problem. This morning I began an attempt to fix this situation. Today has been one of those "difficult jobs" days; I didn't get very far today. But I will continue to work with this until I manage to understand how to make this work. I have been "misusing" my checklist; but, on the affirmative side, I do have data that can be moved to the appropriate spots of my genealogy files, and I have recognized a problem and have started to work with it.

When a blogged about where I was planning to go in July, I assumed that I would return to "keeping up" with the Genealogy Do-Over assignments; that didn't happen. My DoOver notebook (which contains Thomas's monthly suggestions, various teaching materials that support those suggestions, and my related blogs — and sometimes Facebook discussions from the Do-Over group there) is up-to-date and in proper order. It remains a good source for quick review of learning goals and learning plans and achievements.

But I find that I haven't touched the June and July goals; I am still actively setting up my Research Toolbox, an assignment from May. (I know that a Toolbox is never static; some links will prove unhelpful and will be discarded; new links will be found and added. But something fairly comprehensive must be set up before I even have a Research Toolbox.)

WHEN I achieve goals isn't important to me. But I have been attempting to keep my early month and end-of-month blogs in step with the assignments of the month. That is no longer my blogging goal. I will continue with the two blogs a month entries, recording my monthly progress; but I will no longer be concerned with keeping up. I will take all the time I need on an assignment, before I move on the the next one.

My active research goals show the least advancement. I believe that this will usually be the case. The physical search of my house has been stalled because of allergies. I have emptied the four file drawers I mentioned in an earlier blog, but have not yet finished disposing of their content. My next step will be to expand the search to some recycled legal-size hanging file folder boxes and the the many "look at these later" plastic bags in hidden corners of the house. My query about a possible cradle-roll connection to the Methodist church is waiting for an answer. (I will give them a slightly longer curtesy wait, before I attempt to convince them that I am asking serious questions.)

I did use an "easy access" tool which found some new documentation for my children's father. Using the hints at Ancestry led me to some documents I hadn't known about. This not only allowed me to add some information to Joe's profile, it provided some new search locations to be added to my Research Toolbox.

Although I'm "stuck" in months five and six, all in all, I feel that month seven has been pretty productive.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Halfway Through July

— And I a very happy camper! I'm feeling truly productive because something positive has been happening almost every day. Nothing huge has occurred — no brick walls have fallen in and I am still mainly involved in clean-up work.

There are over 3500 names in my original database; almost everyone of these names has at least one source attached (a very few are currently memory only); and most of the sources are more"valuable" than the three "springboard" sources that built the core of that database when I began serious work in genealogy almost 10 years ago. About 100 of these names have been copied into my newer, companion database. This leaves a long list of un-transferred data.

Now that the framework of basic procedures is in place, transfer of information is done smoothly and with reasonable speed. The instructions on procedures are clear to my genealogy heirs; if I don't finish this task, they will be able to do so — if they wish to follow up on all these people. As to "reasonable" speed: I'm not wasting time on statistics, but my worksheet indicates that I am transferring from one to three people most days.

 I transfer each person "by hand" — copying each data set by direct keyboarding into the newer database. I proofread the data in each database to be sure that they agree with each other and to remove any typing mistakes. (A review of some early correspondence indicated that this was attitude from the very beginning of my work; I still feel that it has served me well.) This "hands-on" approach also frees the creative side of me to come up with new suggestions as to areas of approach. It is a slow approach, but I feel that accuracy is more important than speed.

The first half of 2017 was devoted to organization: I did no research and I was not active in learning experiences. Now I am freeing up time for both these activities: life has some added sparkle to it. At this time, most of my learning is solo work. There are finer points concerning the use of both databases. I need to learn about these. And there are those areas Thomas MacEntee has us working on. So I'm reading the on-line manuals for both databases and viewing presentations about these techniques. And I'm following various discussion groups that are centered around the data bases and others that are centered around the more general techniques. I am LEARNING NEW techniques (she says, skipping around the room).

As to advancing my research: in the course of working on my first self-appointed task, I am making GREAT advances — in cleaning house! Somewhere in this house I am saving a copy of my original birth certificate (long form, no longer being issued by the state), a copy of my college transcript, and a large photo-portrait of my father's parents which was created before I was born. I know where these were originally stored, but they appear to have been moved — WHERE are they now?

I went to those two two-drawer files where I had originally stored these important papers. One file drawer at a time, I am emptying all the contents, piling the hanging-file folders in a stack on the guest bed beside a plastic bag of the loose materials found in that drawer. The contents of one drawer have been sorted, mostly discarded, and the few "keepers" have been filed. I am now about halfway through the second drawer.

What I am finding is financial records from the 1980s: checks, bills, account statements. I have found between 5 and 10 papers worth saving, either for nostalgic value or for genealogy purpose. Not much research here, but it IS a good housekeeping move. I have two more drawers to clear in this part of the house. If I am still missing the papers, my husband and I will scour the rest of the house looking for those "check these out later" boxes and bags that procrastinators are so fond of. We shall probably have recycled tons of paper (a hundred pounds?) by the time I do find these missing materials.

I work on relatively small tasks at each sitting, but there is variety in my work which makes me feel better. Tiny steps, but they add up to jobs having been struck off my ToDo lists (and they also add new ideas to those ToDo lists for later action). Some jobs are "on hold" but no area feels "stuck"; I know that I am making progress and I know what next thing to do in order to keep things moving.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Goals for Month 6 (and I hope, the final make-up post for 2017)

Evaluating Evidence — "Go-Over" Style
If you are reviewing your existing research, it may be difficult to evaluate evidence if you haven't cited sources. In addition some genealogy database software programs make it difficult to evaluate evidence. Determine the best method for your current data; it may actually help to use a program suc as Evidentia, Clooze, or one of the other evidence evaluation software packages.

I am on fairly firm ground here, because I DO have source citations and I already use Evidentia. I do need to learn to be sensitive as to the correct time to use this skill. My research logs may point me toward the correct time; I just need to stay alert to the need for this skill.

As an aside, I use Evidentia because of my tendency to become bogged down in details. This particular program helps me to extract each available detail and at the same times keeps the information organized in a manner that avoids information overload.

Reviewing Online Education Options — "Do-Over" Style
Review the "RESOURCES Free Online Educational Resources" (opens in PDF) and consider creating an Educational Plan. Start with small goals for this year and then look for webinars, videos, and other online resources that can help you to achieve your goals.

Again, I have always practiced Online Education, but not in a planned manner. I am able to name many of my early mentors (and I am very grateful to them). My current goal is to study the above resource list and create my plans.

Month Five Goals

In May I was so involved in the work on clearing up my direct lines that I neglected to study and write up the goals for Month 5. Now that I am allowing myself to engage in other activities, I have been going over my Do-Over notebook. I have printed up and inserted materials that I had neglected to add to the notebook, and in this way discovered this neglected task.

To-Do List for Month 5
Citing Sources: If you own a copy of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, read Chapters 1 and 2. Doing so will help you understand how source citations are constructed and they are important to genealogy research.

Even though I have used citations from the start of my work with our genealogies, I have chosen to quote and work with the "Do-Over" assignment, rather than the "Go-Over" form. I don't have an in-depth understanding of how source citations are created. I understand the need for source citations, but I seem to be "tone-deaf" to the construction theory.

The citation template that I currently use is based on the "Practical Citation" developed by Ben Sayer. When I read his article, I realized that I could follow his guidelines and create a citation that I could understand. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I recently added some fields suggested by one of the genealogy software databases I was testing. The additional fields seem to be a good idea; they are a part of my citation template — AND I do not use them, because I do not understand them.

Practical Citations fill the basic needs of using source citations. They leave a record as to where you have been and what you found that can be retraced by you and be people who may be following your work. They do not cover the fine details which appear in Elizabeth Shown Mills examples and they have only one format, which is used wherever a citation appears.

They will do for now, but they are not scholarly. They would not do for use in a publication such as those appearing in the NGS publications.

I plan to continue to study chapters 1 and 2 from Evidence Explained until I have reached an understanding. Then I can gradually reformat each type of citation and use the new template to upgrade my current citations.

I see this as a matter of growth rather than as a duplication of effort. Without Practical Citations, my work would be unsourced. When I learn how to understand and construct more scholarly forms, my work will have become better sourced. This way I can build on what knowledge I have and develop future skills.

Building a Research Toolbox: If you don't already  have a research toolbox, download and read the Building a Research Toolbox handout here: hjttp://www.geneabloggers. com/genrestools

Once again I have chosen the Do-Over assignment as opposed to the Go-Over form. I know that I acted upon this in 2015, but I have no record of it. Did I file the download? Did I make any plans? I do know that I never wrote up a blog about it. I also know that I haven't used such a toolkit during 2016 or the first half of 2017.

Therefore I am a beginner at using this skill. So I shall follow the directive above. I will download the article, add it to my Do-Over notebook, and continue to study it and work with it until I have built a toolbox that fits my style and that has become second nature to me.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Memoir


I
My sister was born in August, when I was 3 years and 48 weeks old. I knew that this was so. Why did I sometimes remember seeing a Christmas tree when Aunt Olive told me there was a new baby?

II
One rainy springtime afternoon (probably in 1931, for this is a clear memory) I was sitting on my mother's lap in the apartment sunroom. My mother had been singing songs to me from a book called "Songs of a Child Year" — a book based on Pestalozzi's theories of early education. My mother had been asking me for my favorite songs. I soon asked for one about civic duty and a young boy being called away from home. She had often sung this song to me, so I was startled when she suddenly started crying and couldn't finish the song. She held me closely and told me that his was her problem; I had done nothing wrong. In later years she often shared this song with me — and with my sister after she became part of the family. But I did wonder sometimes why she had cried.

III
My mother had an uncanny way of knowing the gender of an unborn child. The only time I ever knew of her being in error was in the case of my sister —who was supposed to have been a boy; the selected name for the baby was Robert Ray.
I wasn't  aware that this fact bothered me until after I had learned the answer.

IV
In 1942 we were staying with my grandmother in Northern Indiana — my mother, my sister, Aunt Ida and I — while my father and his brother (Aunt Ida's husband) stayed in Chicago for the second term of Summer School.

One day Aunt Ida went to the town cemetery with my 11-year-old sister. In the course of the conversation, Aunt Ida asked my sister where our baby brother was buried. Rae's "what brother?" reaction told Aunt Ida that she had erred, so she said it was mother's story to tell.

Rae came to me to find out, but I didn't know either. When we got home to St. Louis, we asked Aunt Olive (my mother's sister). And from Aunt Olive we learned that there had been a boy born Christmas eve who didn't live for even 24 hours. And we learned that mother didn't talk about it — so we never did.

V: Coda
So now I knew that I wasn't wrong about the Christmas tree and now I kew why my mother cried over the boy who left his family and now Rae and I knew why mother thought she'd be a boy.

Very early in my working with genealogy the state of Missouri began to place vital statistics records on line. My reporter son (who lives in Jefferson City) learned about the site. In his explorations, he discovered the existence of baby Strickler"s death certificate. Now we have the document of his story.

VI: Musings

My mother was born in 1891; she grew up with Victorian/Edwardian principles guiding her social learnings. Although she became a modern woman, I believe her silence about the loss was based o those earlier teachings. I wonder if she would have been more happy if she had been able to talk about her hurt.

And — as I was composing this blog, I wonder what my life would have been like had I been big sister to a  boy, instead of the sister I fell in love with the day she came home from the hospital.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

(Dim) LIGHT at the end of the tunnel.

Well month 6 is ending. In March, April, May, and June I have been reorganizing early entries in my original database, creating "exact"* copies of each entry in my secondary database, and generally seeking to give my heirs some ordered information with which work. *"exact" as in the same information, stated as close to the same way as is possible given the obvious existence of different styles between the databases.

This is the only genealogy activity I allowed myself (aside from hanging out with some of the Facebook genealogy groups I belong to). I have been working on the direct line only, I haven't allowed myself to spend time on learning — unless that was required in order to record these ancestors. I haven't allowed myself to do any research. I am "dying of withdrawal".

I have reached the point where there are fewer than 12 "earliest ancestors" to be recorded. The pattern for working with this people is clearly defined for my heirs. I need to go back to the tree, generation by generation, and add the collateral lines. I need to solidify and extend the research needed to keep my tree growing.

I have decided that from now on I can reasonably alternate my tasks. One day I will take up a research task which will be worked on to the next good stopping place. The next time I will pick up the next collateral line. The next time I will work on some organization task I have been leaving a trail of notes to. The next time I will finish the work on one of those early ancestors that still need to be synchronized in both databases. And I will add a learning task as I am attracted to one.

And then I will repeat the cycle. Any time that any of these tasks results in a database entry, both databases will be edited for synchronization. Two databases provide different reporting abilities, different ways of reaching internet information, and so on. If you keep them in sync, you have a strong listing. If you let them differ, you are creating a mess (SWM Genealogy Philosophy 201).

I feel gratified in that a necessary task has been successfully dealt with. I feel liberated — I work better when I vary my tasks as described above.

And finally — in the learning department, I really need to go back over Months 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Genealogy Do-Over and make sure that I didn't lose out on a learning opportunity there. Don't be surprised if I send out a catch-up post or two.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Where Did Month Five Go?

Unless you are looking for me in posts within the Facebook group, you have heard nothing from me in May. And, other than those posts, I have done nothing with the Do-Over/Go-Over in that month.


And — I'm so happy; I'm so proud of what DID happen in May.

If you are following this journey, you know that early this year I realized that I must clean house and have my genealogy materials ready for my heirs (my two older children) in order that they have reasonable records and documentation whenever they take over the genealogy job.

So I set out to choose a second database to accompany my original one and I set about to organize my data, organize my sources and my source citations, and also generally clean up my electronic organization of all this work.

Absolutely NO research is happening right now. Also no deep analysis of what I have already achieved. Just making sure that whatever information I have on "person (Dollarhide number 72.0)" is easily available. And that whatever known holes in that data are clearly documented also.

In general, I have gathered my information generation by generation (i.e, me and my siblings; spouse(s) and siblings; parents and siblings; and so on). But for this organization I am concentrating on the direct lines for me and for both spouses. (All are in one tree.) This gives a clear framework to which I will add the collateral lines.

Since I had never used my second database before this year, it began with just 3 people; my 10-year-companion database has over 3500. Although I could look up dates of documents to find out, I don't think anyone cares (especially me) so I don't know how many people were in the new database on May first, but it wasn't very many. At least 30 of those 64 people were added in May, and I believe that it was more likely 40 of them.

I have found my method (which is no longer being reworked from scratch — even though there are refinements). I have found intuitive-to-me ways to handle data (such as census reports and marriage dates) that belong to both partners in a marriage, so that I don't need to consult the source materials twice for each person. In the process I am revisiting FamilySearch, Ancestry, and so on to fill in missing source documentation and I am also eliminating source documentation that has been found and stored on more that one occasion in the past. Each of those 64 people have clean records, with source documents noted, and citations and storage locations attached to each person. Each of those 64 people has a person sheet (individual summary) generated from each database and filed in the appropriate files. I have proof-read and edited these individual summaries. Neither report exists with the original wording (I have always done this), and both reports are almost identical in the way the same facts are reported.

I am so thrilled! This is a happy dance nearly as joyful as breaking down a brick wall.

I  haven't examined what the June goals are (although I have printed them out and added them to my notebook); but I expect that I will put those goals on hold until all members in the direct lines have reached the place where I add the notation that this is the earliest ancestor I have researched.

Then I will return to my generation, and add all the collateral generations. I expect that somewhere in that process, where my information is thin on the ground, I will feel ready to resume my active research (I'm full of ideas and to-do notes for that, but organization is the main goal and research is currently a rabbit hole full of BSOs). I don't know how fast the work on the direct line will be (naturally, most of the 3500+ people are collaterals), but as long as I can move this efficiently, I am a very happy genealogist.

Today, "Frustrated Sue" aka the "Frustrated Genealogist" is considerably less frustrated than she has been!