Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Genealogy Do Over Week 2

Thomas MacEntee gave us three assignments for week two; since today is Wednesday and I haven’t finished any of them, I decided to post samples of what I have achieved.

Before we began this week’s work, I got into a discussion about how we preserve our family stories. As I did the Self-Interview, I was reminded of many of these stories. I entered keyword reminders following the various paragraphs of my self=interview; I can return to the keywords and produce the stories. I’ll be less likely to forget this way. So thanks to all the folk at the Facebook page for triggering this interim solution. The keywords won’t mean anything to the blog readers, but many of them are meaningful to my children and my husband, so this is a good first step.

I began a narrative- style first interview. This is the most-nearly completed assignment. A pencil draft has been completed, but the edited, computer entry hasn’t been done for the final part (about two-thirds of one side of a looseleaf notebook page).

Self-Interview; first paragraph:

I was born September 9, 1927 at St. Mary’s Hospital, Clayton, St. Louis county, Missouri to Robert Ellsworth Strickler and Adelle Dorrance. He was 30 and she was 36 (the birth certificate says 34, she was never honest about her age, because she was ashamed of being 6 years older than he). The apartment which was my first home was on the third floor of the apartment building on the northeast corner of Henrietta and Theresa. Later, we lived on the second floor of the building in the middle of the complex, facing on Theresa, and finally we lived on the first floor of the building on the southeast corner of Theresa and Lafayette, facing Lafayette and Compton Heights Park. I don’t have the exact addresses for any of these apartments; the 1930 census gives one of the addresses, but as of how I don’t know which one we were living in.
{name story; tornado story, Una story/picture on St. Mary’s roof}

I highlighted the keywords for the purpose of the blog, the inserted line is enough for the actual document. 

There are some factors to be considered about the Family Interview. I’ll let you read the first three paragraphs and then discuss my concerns.

Family Interview. first three paragraphs:

When I took my first course in genealogy in 1998 at 78, I was already the oldest living person I knew of in my family. When I restarted my efforts at family history in 2007 with new and better software and better internet access to records tere were no older relatives to question. What I did have were various family memories that my relatives told me, and various discussions I had overheard. What I can do in this section of Week 2 studies is to record these memories as best I can.

Interviews with (from oldest to youngest) with: Rose Dorrance, Olive Dorrance Pursell, and Adelle Dorrance Strickler (my mother and her older sisters). Mother almost never talked of her family; Rose and Olive did so more frequently.

THE DORRANCE FAMILY: Aunt Rose told me that her grandfather William T. Dorrance was a soldier who had been on the Fremont expedition that had climbed Pike’s Peak, that he was a supply sergeant stationed in New Orleans during the Mexican War, that he had married in New Orleans at the Catholic Cathedral there, and had moved to Jefferson County, Missouri before the Civil War. The Fremont connection was pretty well disproved while I was in high school, because I looked up the expedition. which wasn’t Pike’s Peak; There was no Dorrance listed among the expedition members. (I never tried to alter the family memories.)

This narrative is much less smooth than the Self-Interview. But it is going to have much more detail than I had gathered when I began to work in either the abortive attempt of 1998 or the more successful beginning in 2007. So thank you, Thomas for suggesting this technique for the Self-Interview. It works well for the missing Family Interviews also.

The instructions to beginning genealogists always include “Interview your older family members.” I am very sure than there are many beginning genealogists who began to work in their retirement years and who found themselves in my position. There WERE no older family members. When we teach beginners, we should address this possibility, and provide more help. Thomas’ narrative style is working well for me, perhaps that suggestion should be included to help the older beginner?

Somewhere recently I read a statement that a genealogy shouldn’t have citations of online-trees, because of all the errors they contain. I call these sources “Springboard" sources. I see them as the equivalent of the Family Interview. I research them in the same manner that I research any source. They go into my research logs. They contain valuable pointers as to where to look.

Of course, they contain errors; so did Aunt Rose’s story of her grandfather’s service. In 2007 and 2008, I researched any connection between William T. Dorrance and General Fremont and came up with a negative; as I have always suspected, Aunt Rose was wrong. I then learned to look into military records in general (it is much harder for the regular army than for the volunteers). I found his land grant; it was for service in the Florida wars. There is lots more work to be done before I find out WHICH William T. Dorrance from Connecticut is my great grandfather, but the “Springboard" source lead me in the right direction.

As to a citation to such a source, I would feel like a thief if I didn’t acknowledge the work of someone who lead me is such a useful direction. (And don’t forget here, that a negative answer is a help, don’t insist on Fremont, or your impression that your immigrant ancestors landed in New York. If you can’t find the answer where you thought, then you’ve learned to look in other areas.) The proof argument doesn’t depend upon the “Springboard" source, but the cousin or family connection who pointed you in the proper directions does deserve mention.


  1. Hi Sue,

    Thank you for talking about online trees as a springboards! I have been using them that way too. I also document them, make notes both positive and negative. If they are positive I try to make contact especially if it is a connection to my direct line.

    1. Dawn, thanks for your reply. The Beatles apply; we all "get a little help from our friends."