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.