30 April 2009

What if it's a roomful?

Re: What if?

From Martha,
Mother died in 2002 and I inherited her "office". After it was packed up I had 47 boxes. Most were books and journals. However, after donating most of the books and journals to a local library, I was left with a 2-drawer lateral file cabinet of files and 1 bookcase of binders and books.

This family research was started by my grandmother and her sister-in-law and handed down to my mother in 1978.

Mother loved to work with the genealogy but she had some peculiar ideas about the information. I moved closer to her 5 years before her death. She didn't explain much about the information or how to continue it or what to do with it.

The only 2 things she would let me do was to drive her to the state archives and while there she would dole out things for me to look up or she would have me go online to Roots Web and place queries, and answer replies using my email address never hers. She would not put anything on a computer program and heaven help us never put any information on the Internet. She would share freely with others if they asked for help but never just put info out for anyone to see or have "for free".

I was grateful to find you last year and love your
organizing program even though I am only up to week 2 of February. So far I have chosen Legacy as a software program and entered 1723 names and 725 marriages.

I am starting to sift through her papers to find the proof for what she has written on the family group sheets. I have no idea where she was in the research, what problems she was trying to figure out, or how to continue. She told my brother at one time just to burn the stuff after she died. She knew I wanted the genealogy stuff when she died and for years told everyone that that room and everything in it was mine. At the time I really didn't know exactly what was in there.

So far I have found interesting things:

  • my Dad's adoption papers (that's another story)
  • WWII ration books
  • letters from 1796 to 1898
  • account receipts for the same time frame
  • clothing from the mid 1800's including Charlie's last dress & a lock of his hair in a brooch
  • my grandfathers 'sheepskin college degree
  • photocopies of the family bible
  • old photos (haven't had time to sort them out yet)
  • and many other things.

Guess I know what I'm doing in my retirement years.
Thanks for all you do.

PS: I hope some day to get my "room" full of things down to a "trunk" full.

Forty-seven boxes? Good heavens. Thank-you for sharing your mother's genealogy books with local libraries. It's a wonderful way to honor your mom's work and assist other researchers at the same time.

Although your mom was really into genealogy, she was from the old school, where there was much mistrust over computers and the Internet. She used microfilm, still in popular use today. But your mom would be amazed at how things have changed with so many scanned images of record groups available on web. Now it is necessary to pull genealogists off the net, and into the old church record offices, courthouses and archives where most documents describing family relationships still reside.

I agree with your mom that paper copies of our work are valuable from both a research and a sharing standpoint, hence the development of my notebook filing system outlined in my monthly "Finally Get Organized" checklists.

It's intriguing that Dick Eastman is scanning all his books, but I just cannot see it. Maybe Ol' Myrt here is just better at problem solving if I can sift through what I've got to work with. I think it is a lot more intriguing to the non-genealogists in the family to pour through our compiled genealogies in binder format.

Don't get me wrong. Remember, I taught the use of computers in the post-secondary setting for 15 years before I retired, so I certainly know how to use Excel worksheets and Access databases. I am making a lot of progress scanning my source documents and attaching them to the appropriate ancestor in my genealogy database program. I guess I just have to see things laid out on my desk.

Ol' Myrt here can just picture you pouring over your mom's paperwork attempting to computerize all the names, dates, and places, inserting source citations wherever possible. 1723 names and 725 marriages thus far? Right off the bat, your first source listing would read something like the one I created when citing the pedigree charts and group sheets I inherited from my dad:

Player, Glen. Player Family Charts and Group Sheets, 1506-2007. Privately held by Patricia B. Richley, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009.

The style of this citation conforms to the QuickCheck model for Private Holdings - Family Charts, devised by Elizabeth Shown Mills in Evidence Explained page 108. It could include a brief description and evaluation by the researcher in sentence format, following the date held. On the very next page, Elizabeth explains how to cite those historic letters you've inherited from mom. (You have placed those old letters in top-loading sheet protectors, right?)

Elizabeth has also devised source list entries on privately held artifacts, diaries and journals, interview tapes and transcripts and something Ol' Myrt here hasn't run across yet -- the private holding of a legal document that is unrecorded.

Once you have a source in your Legacy Family Tree, you can call it up as you enter additional information without having to retype it each time.

Working through your mom's paperwork, you will find photocopies of original records, like a christening record indicating parents. Take the time to scan the image, and attach it to the child and both parents in your genealogy program. Of course, your source citation will change, since the church is the author of the christening record, etc.

While Ol' Myrt here delights in the construction of source citations using Evidence Explained, there are literally hundreds of these forms built into your Legacy Family Tree genealogy management software. Other main stream genealogy programs employ similar technology.

What a joy to explore with you today the privilege you have of honoring your heritage by digitizing the family history you've inherited.

As you enter the names and work through organizing the papers, you will begin to understand the logic behind your mom's research. You'll see where the end of line individuals need more research, now that new record groups have come to light. You'll spot where some lineage assumptions are based on less-than-reliable source documents. Be sure to make notes on your to-do list whenever you notice additional original document research is required. Right now your focus is digitizing everything, and arranging those files and binders.

Your mom would be proud, kiddo.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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