What is a "tiehacker"?

"Tiehacker" is a term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a class of people from WAY back in the hills that made a living cutting trees into ties for the railroad. I first heard the term from my wife shortly after we married. I had been working outside all day and was dirty and stinky. She had learned it from her father, and thought it just meant "a bum". Never having heard it before, I looked it up. Although I am not really a bum, I thought it was interesting, and I do have a life-long love affair going with the Ozark hills, so ... there you have it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Just a short note ...

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything in a couple of days, but I've been kinda busy. Putting in a lot of overtime at work, stuff like that.

One thing of note. I've posted a couple of times about Roy Bennett's obituary. Originally, that began as a random obit for my Monroe County genealogical website. But as I've been researching his family connections, I was a bit astonished to find out that his wife is a 2nd cousin of the Debster. So it really is a small world!

More to come soon, on the genealogy and gardening and other stuff.

God bless

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cell phones and gardens.

Somebody posted this on Facebook. Kind of funny.

At my age, 54, I remember when phones were these clunky black things that were wired to the wall, and the headset had a coiled cord that would occasionally get tangled, and to call someone you had to literally turn the dial seven times.

Then, along came the push-button "tone" phone. Then, a real revolution, the cordless phone. The base was still hardwired, but the handset was cordless and could be carried around the house, and even out into the yard.
The cellular phone was the big revolution. The bag phone was a clunky thing. I never had one but a couple of my friends did, and they thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread! 
The earlier self-contained cellulars were approximately the size of a brick, and about as heavy. I did have one of those.
Fast forward to today. We continue to call them "phones", or "smart phones", but in truth, they are not really phones anymore. They are miniature computers that have a cellular phone function. It seems like everyone has one now. And we can't figure out how we ever lived without them.
But maybe we should. As wonderful as those things are, all the stuff we can do with them, they have a real dark side, that isn't spoken of very much. They are easily tracked and their location pin-pointed to a precise location. Early cell phones could be triangulated by which towers they pinged, but the best a tracker could do was pin-point a neighborhood. All the new phones, however, have GPS tracking built into them, that allows them to be pin-point located to within a few feet, in real-time.
And we have heard so much about the NSA spying on our phones. It is a scary world out there, and getting scarier by the minute. Big Brother is watching you!

Have been thinking about my garden, and how I want to do it this year. I think I am going to do a raised-bed version, with concrete blocks around it. The raised bed will have the tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, onions, and so forth. And the holes in the blocks will have various herbs, and perhaps some flowers. 

It is a little late now for this year, but I have also thinking about ways to start seeds. I have thought of a way to utilize cardboard toilet-paper tubes as seed pots. And, I have been looking at those plastic containers that contain the strawberries that the Debster buys during the off-season. They hold two pounds, and are a convenient size. Black plastic with a clear lid. Can't help but think they would make decent miniature green-houses for those seed-pots. I think I'll start stocking up on this stuff, and see what happens.

Another project, that I will be working on soon, involves stuffing those little cat food cans, or tuna fish cans, with paraffin-soaked cardboard, to be stored and used as emergency stoves. Will have to experiment a bit. And I doubt they will be good for anything extensive, but in an emergency situation would probably be great for at least heating canned soups and such. Watch for more on this in the near future.

Until next time
God Bless

Monday, March 17, 2014

Common genealogical mistakes. (I am an expert in making them!)

Just like anything else we do in life, we make a lot of mistakes when we first begin. It is part of the learning process. Doing genealogy is no different. Trust me. Been there, many times! The good thing is, the mistakes we make in this particular endeavor don't hurt anyone and are relatively easily fixed. If a carpenter makes a mistake, an entire house might be off-kilter. A cook makes a mistake, and an entire dinner party makes funny faces and gagging sounds. A chemist makes a mistake, and a building blows up. A nuclear scientist makes a mistake, and a whole city blows up. But if a genealogist makes a mistake, well, you tear up a family group sheet and start over. The worst that can happen is that you spend a lot of time chasing down the wrong trail. So, expect to make mistakes, don't beat yourself up over them, learn from them, and move on.

Mistakes in genealogy work generally come from either faulty data, or faulty conclusions drawn from good data. Either way, a little thought and logical thinking will keep you from the worst of them.

Let's look at the first part, faulty data.

The information, or raw data, that we use comes from a myriad of sources. Some of them are great, some are questionable, some are, well, pretty useless.

Sources are generally divided into "primary" and "secondary". A "Primary" source is a document or artifact that was created at or very shortly after the event, by a person directly involved, and hence is probably quite accurate. A "Secondary" source is one that has information drawn from elsewhere, and may or may not be accurate.

Most genealogy mistakes come from failing to recognize the vastly important distinction between the two.

Some examples of primary sources would be original birth and death certificates, baptism certificates, marriage licenses, census records, and so on. Note that word "original". It is important!

Secondary sources might include obituaries, published indexes of all sorts, headstones and grave markers, published histories and genealogies, and so forth.

It is important to note that most primary resources usually contain some information in the "secondary" category, as well. For instance, a death certificate is a good primary source for information about the death of a person: who died, where, when, and usually how. It is a secondary source for such things as date of birth, parentage, marital information, and so on.

Let's take a look at my mother's death certificate:

The information circled in red could be considered "primary", including her name and date and place of death. In blue is secondary information, her date and place of birth, and her parents' names. (My sister was the informant for this document.) As it happens, most of it is correct, except one piece of data which my sister got wrong. Our mother was actually born in East Saint Louis, Illinois, not in Missouri. How do we know? We happen to have a copy of her actual birth certificate with the correct information. If some future genealogist was depending on this death certificate to have correct birth information, they would be sadly mistaken.

Any time you look at a document, question everything you see. I'm not necessarily speaking about metaphysical certainties here, but simple reason and common sense. What are the chances that something is incorrect? Who is providing the information, and how likely are they to be correct or incorrect? Could they be mistaken, or possibly have reason to, well, be a little less than truthful? What are the chances that there are typographical errors, or that sloppy handwriting is being read wrong? 

Census records are a fabulous source of information, but they are also notoriously unreliable. Perhaps the family information was actually provided by a neighbor, if the family wasn't  home, and he/she was misinformed. Could the children "belong" to the father, but not the mother due to a death and remarriage after the birth of the children. Perhaps vanity caused the wife to fib about her age or that of her husband. That sort of thing happened a lot! From 1880 through 1930, the place of birth of the parents of each individual was recorded, as well as that of the individual herself. This is information to be used very cautiously. In several census records, my grandmother stated that her mother had been born in Illinois, but in one census she said her mother was born in South Dakota. I did a double-take  when I saw that. But, later on I learned that her grandfather had moved his family from Illinois to South Dakota (it had been part of the Dakota Territory at the time), when her mother was a small child. My great-grandmother lived most of her childhood in South Dakota, until her father died and her mother moved the family back to Illinois. So, when my grandmother said that her mother had been born in South Dakota, she was wrong, yet there was some truth behind the statement.

Worse are published indexes. Well-meaning folks have been indexing records ever since records have existed. They will go through the files of, say, birth certificates, and make a list of names and dates, sort them alphabetically or by date or some other criteria, and publish the list. The potential for error is great, due to typographical errors, mis-reading the original documents, transposing numbers, all sorts of ways. Indexes are very useful, but only as a tool to find original documents.

Probably the absolute worst type of record that a genealogist can use as a source of "information" is the "genealogy" that someone else has produced. You would not BELIEVE the utter nonsense that I have seen published by self-professed "genealogists"! If you are looking at one of these things, ask, "What sources did they use? How diligent were they in pursuing accuracy?" You have no way of knowing. So you may make use of these things, but only as a tool for looking for the real deal. Even if they do a good job of citing their sources, you still want to verify for yourself by obtaining and analyzing the original material.

Well,again I have gone on for too long. The next in this series will delve into the other source of error, that of faulty reasoning and jumping to unwarranted conclusions.

Until then, 
God bless

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dogs or cats? Seriously? You really need to ask?

Just for giggles:

I am a dog person. One hundred percent. I have owned a couple of cats over the years, but always because some person of the female persuasion begged me to take in her cat for one reason or another. I have never sought to have one. Don't understand why anyone would, really. Maybe, if I had a large garden or a farm, with a couple of outbuildings, I might have one, neutered to prevent multiplication, wandering around the outside to keep down the rodent population. But otherwise, what is the point? Every cat I have ever seen sits and stares at you with an expression that says, "I know things about your mother, and I will not tell you what they are." Dogs are never that rude and arrogant.

Dogs, on the other hand, are indispensable, period. The more of them, the better. The bigger, the better. I have had a lot of dogs over the years, often more than one at a time. They were all wonderful, each in their own way. All but one were mutts.

Just a partial list would include, in sort-of-chronological order, King, Puppy, Sam, Lady, Princess, Teddy, Tee-Rex, Killer, Highway, Brandy, Fritz, Sammy, Chelsea, Stempey, and Miss Daisy.

My first dog was King. Here I am, about 4 years old, with my buddy:

This one was Ted, probably the best dog I ever had, about 1980 or thereabouts:
Ted's father was a pure-breed Labrador Retriever, his mother a pure-breed German Shepherd owned by my aunt. He was the result of a "cross the fence accident", and the runt of the litter. Full grown, he could stand on his hind legs and rest his chin on the top of my head, and I am almost six feet tall. A smarter and more steadfastly loyal dog could not be found anywhere. When he was around, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, could so much as look cross-wise at me and get away with it. I was still in high school when he was given to me, and by the time he reached maturity, I always knew ahead of time if my mom or dad was going to scold me about something, because they first would politely ask me to lock my dog in my room or put him outside so they could "talk" to me. It got to be kind of a joke in the family, because at any other time, he loved my folks almost as much as he loved me. He also had an uncanny ability to almost instantly judge a person's character, and react accordingly.

Another great dog was Highway, my "gospel dog". A small-ish Lab mix, he had been found by some friends of mine as a half-grown, mangy, underfed stray wandering the shoulder of the interstate (hence his name). Although he was "their" dog for the first couple years, he became so attached to me that they eventually told me to just take him home and keep him, because they couldn't bear to listen to him whimper every time I left their home. I came to call him my "gospel dog" because of an incident in 1996. In a previous post, I described a day I spent fishing with my friend Daryl, and how he told me about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had Highway with me that day, and Daryl remarked upon how close the dog stayed to me, never allowing more than a few feet between us. I laughed and told him that it was a little weird, because if I put a leash on him, he fought it and did his best to run away, but when it was off and he was free, he stuck to me like glue. Daryl got a thoughtful look, and then said that was a lot like the difference between Law and Grace. It was an off-the-cuff remark that later Daryl didn't even remember making, but it struck home, deeper than just about anything else he said that day.

This one was Sammy
He was a Lab-Spaniel-Chow mix. Sad day last year when we were forced to have him put down.

This is Chelsea, a Lhasa Apso - Poodle mix.
She technically belongs to Debbie. We got married on Chelsea's 2nd birthday. She will be twelve this year, when we celebrate our tenth anniversary. She is affectionately known as "Fuzzy-Butt".

This is Stempey. He is a Dachshund - Golden Retriever mix. (Go figure, right?)
He was a puppy of about 10 months when he was given to us shortly after we were married. He turned eleven this past January. He's my little buddy. As you can see, he loves a comfy sleeping place, and arranges himself in some weird positions!

Our most recent canine companion is Miss Daisy. She is a terrier of very indeterminate heritage.
She is another foundling that came to us last year from a woman that I work with. Her daughter had found the pup wandering their neighborhood. They tracked down her owner, but he said he was washing his hands of her and didn't want her back. Janet and her daughter kept her for awhile, but finally decided that they couldn't keep her, and asked me if I wanted her. The Debster and I went to meet the tiny mutt, and fell instantly in love with her. She is now about 18-24 months old, and very energetic, feisty, and playful. She and Stempey are virtually inseparable. She torments him unmercifully, goading him into playing longer and harder than he ever has before. At his age, he conks out early, climbing into the Debster's lap for a nap. Even then, Daisy has to stay right with him. Chelsea usually keeps her distance, not allowing herself to be drawn into playing with the younger ones. She prefers to lay off to the side and just watch.

That's enough for today. I got home from work a couple hours ago, and I am whupped. That pic of the snoozing dogs reminds me that I too need a nap, and then lots to get done today.

God bless

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Doing genealogy: Working from an obituary, Part Two

Earlier this week, we took a look at an obituary for Roy Bennett, and began building his family tree. The basic structure was derived from the obit, and we now have basic family units for Roy and his wife, each of his 4 children, his parents, five of his siblings, and his in-laws. 

It is time to start filling in some blanks.

Starting with his wife and children, I use a combination of the website Intelius.com and the Public Record Indexes at Ancestry.com to determine birth dates for them. 

Intelius is one of many public databases that can be used to search for basic information about people.
Although no residence was given in the obit for Roy's wife Sheila, most of the family seems to be in or around Murphysboro, IL. So I plug in her married name, Sheila Bennett, and that town and state, and hit "Search". Bingo!
I get a hit on her name in that town. It gives her age as of the date of the search, and also lists several people that are related to her. Since most of those names correspond to other people named in the obit, I am confident that I have the correct person. If I wanted to, I could have then paid a small fee to get an in-depth report, with an actual date of birth, and more information. But, this is sufficient for my needs. I highlight, copy and paste the info to a text file, which I name "31133-info.txt" (31133 is her RIN in my database) and file it in the (computer) folder for their MRIN. I will continue adding to this text file as I come across other records for her. Once I have pretty well exhausted the possibilities, I will print it out and put it in the paper folder. That way the information is safe in the event of a computer crash.

My next stop is Ancestry.com's Public Records Index, which is included with their paid subscription package. I imput her married name, approximate year of birth, derived from her current age, and the county and state of residence. 
And, once again, Bingo!
 I am given two results. Same name, date of birth, and town, but with two different street addresses. I choose the second one and open it.
I highlight, copy, and past the text into the text document. 

I then click  the "Save record to someone in my tree" link, and add it to her information in the Ancestry tree. I also add the information to my genealogy software.

I repeat this process with their four children and their spouses. And, I run into my first anomaly. One of the children seems to have a date of birth about 3 years prior to their marriage date, and also the same date of birth as her husband. Hmmm. There are a few possibilities:

  1. The date of marriage as given in the obituary is incorrect.
  2. Both dates are correct; this is far from being an uncommon situation, especially the last 50 years or so.
  3. The date of birth is incorrect in the index, possibly due to a corrupted record.

As things stand at the moment, I have no way to verify for sure which is correct. Further research would be required. But, my guess is the third option. What has probably happened is that the child's date of birth has been mixed up with that of her husband's, who is probably older than she by a couple of years or more. But, pending further research, there is no way to know for sure. So, to be on the safe side, I simply record her date of birth as a possible range of years, and leave it go at that for now.

Another minor problem is that the two younger children, and  their spouses, are found on Intelius, but not in Ancestry's PR Index. So, I leave each of them with an approximate year of birth. I could pay the fees and get the exact information, but I am not going to worry about it. Genealogy is, after all, more about searching ancestors than living progeny. If it ever becomes an issue, I can always go back and get it. Most public genealogy trees, such as the one on ancestry and the one on rootsweb, to which I also contribute, redact all information on living individuals anyway.

I don't even bother searching for birth dates for the grandchildren; they are probably too young to appear in either of these databases.

Before moving on to Roy's parents and siblings, I do a "Search Records" on ancestry for Roy, just to see what comes up. Another anomaly! It turns out that "Roy" isn't his true name. His full name is "Herbert Roy Bennett". He is listed in several records as H.R. Bennett, Herbert R Bennett, and Herbert Roy Bennett. OK, not that uncommon for a man to go by his middle name, especially if his true first name is a bit unusual or "old-fashioned". So, I copy all the appropriate data to a text file, and update my trees with the corrected information and the source citations.

Now we will move on to Roy's parents and siblings. Things get interesting and confusing real quick! So, I'm going to leave that for the next installment in this series.

God Bless!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Organizing your records and research doesn't CAUSE headaches, it PREVENTS them!

Before I go any further into how I researched Roy Bennett's family (see the blog post Using an obituary in genealogical research from a couple days ago), let's talk about everyone's LEAST favorite pastime, that tedious chore known as record keeping.

Trust me, the better organized you are, the saner you will remain. If your idea of keeping records of your research is a box full of little pieces of paper with cryptic little notations on them, you are headed for a full-scale meltdown of frustration and hair-pulling. Been there, done that, don't ever want to do it again!

There are as many ways to organize your research as there are genealogists. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as your heart desires. Me, I like simple. I'll explain my system, and you can adapt it to your needs, or devise something completely different.

To begin with, it doesn't matter all that much what software, if any, that you use. People did wonderful genealogy work for many, many years before computers were ever heard of. So don't get yourself bogged down trying to decide what program to use. Here is a link to a page at FamilySearch.org that will help you browse most of the various software options available.

Each individual in your tree needs to be assigned a unique Individual Record Identification Number, or "RIN". Likewise, each marriage needs a unique Marriage Record Identification Number, or "MRIN". Nothing fancy here. Just use sequential numbering. If you are using a genealogy software program, these are done automatically. If you are going "old-school", without the software, you will need to do it manually. In that case, I strongly suggest using simple spreadsheets to keep track of these two sets of numbers and to whom they belong.

Although many genealogists use 3-ring binders to store their research, I prefer third-cut manila folders. They can be purchased inexpensively, and filed in a filing cabinet or even appropriate size cardboard boxes. I use one folder for each family. The tab has the husband's name and years of birth & death, and the same info for the wife. It also has the MRIN. On the outside of the folder I also write their relationship to me. If one of the people had more than one spouse, I make separate folders for each marriage. I then file them alphabetically by husband's last name, first name, date of birth, date of death (the last two in case of men with the same name). Filing by MRIN would work as well, provided you keep an accurate list of those MRIN's. Other filing systems are also possible. Some file by relationship to the researcher. Find a system that works best for you, then keep to it.

Each folder has a minimum of two sheets of paper in it. One is a Family Group Record Sheet.
The other is a Source Summary Sheet.

These can be downloaded and printed from Rootsweb.com's "Charts and Forms" webpage. Or, you can design your own. The key is to have the basic information about each family collated on one page, and the details of the sources of each piece of information on another. I STRONGLY suggest that you do the Family Group sheet in pencil, not ink! Trust me, you will find yourself doing a lot of erasing and re-writing as your research goes deeper and deeper.

Two other useful forms to have are a Research Extract
and a Research Calender
Again, you can download and print these, or you can make your own. The "Extract" records all the information and details from a source, especially one that you were unable to make a photocopy of, and the "Calender" lets you keep track of what you have done so far in researching a particular individual and family. This may seem unimportant at the beginning, but as your tree grows, you will eventually lose track of where you have searched and where you haven't. The calender will help to prevent duplicating your own work unnecessarily. 

What else goes in the folder? Simple: whatever you have that pertains to that family. Photocopies of documents. Photographs. Correspondence to/from other researchers, both snail-mail and e-mail printouts. Web-site print-outs. You get the idea.

I also keep a list paper-clipped to each Family Group Sheet of problems that need solving and missing information, and ideas of where/how to solve them.

There is an awful lot of information that has never been digitized and put on the web, and trips to cemeteries, libraries, historical society archives, and so on become inevitable. When it comes time for you to make a research road-trip, and you WILL, believe me, it helps to have a list of what you plan to look for in each location. So you will want to jot down each of these things as they occur to you. I use a pocket-sized notebook with separate pages for each location I want to visit.

Well, this has gone on longer than I had planned, so I will cut it off here.

Until next time
God Bless

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Muddy spring roads

Most of the roads in Monroe County (IL) are paved now, but there are still a few gravel and dirt roads, here and there. And as we enter a wet and rainy season, I am reminded of an old joke.

One spring day, after a solid week of rain, was riding his horse along the side of a dirt road that had become a virtual sea of mud. He spied what looked to be a fine hat sitting in the middle of the road. Thinking that if he could retrieve it and clean it up a little, it would be a fine addition to his wardrobe, he reached out with a stick to pull it towards himself. 

He was startled when a cry came from the hat. As he drew the hat towards himself, he was even more startled to see a man's head under it, seemingly floating in the mud.

The head turned and looked at him, then greeted him with a cheery "Hello!". 

Holy Moley! 

The farmer gulped,  then rather tentatively replied in kind, and then asked the head if he was OK, or if he needed any help.

The head replied, "Well, I think I am doing well, all things considered, but I'm pretty sure the horse I am sitting on is in trouble down there." 

Till next time,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Using an obituary in genealogical research

I have before me an obituary for a Roy Bennett. He was born in 1944, and died in 2007.

Here is a link to the obituary, posted to my personal genealogy website.

The first thing I do is check my database to see if he is in it. He is not. However, I do find that one of his sisters and her husband that was named in the obit is in my database, with her husband (Ruby, nee Bennett, and Gregory Kipping). So, with that information, along with the names of his parents, I can tie them together.

I am pretty certain that I also found another of his sisters, Shirley Jaenke, wife of Ronald Jaenke, in my database. I did not have a maiden name for Ronald's wife, but other things synced up pretty well, including places of residence and approximate ages. So I will have a fair amount of confidence in adding them in as well.

My next step is to build his individual record in my software. I include all the information about him, when and where he was born, died, and buried, and his military service, citing the obituary as my source. (This citation will accompany every piece of data derived from the obituary.)

I add his wife's name, and the date and place of their marriage which happily was also included in the obituary. 

I add in his four children, along with their spouses, and places of residence. His nine grandchildren are listed, but I cannot with certainty assign four of them to their parents. So, I open my spreadsheet of "unattached persons" and include them there: their names, relationship to the deceased, his name and date of death, and his record ID number. Perhaps something will come up that will eventually tie one or more of them to the correct family. The larger my database grows, the more often that happens.

I continue on by then attaching to his parents the existing individual records of the two sisters I mentioned. I then add in the other five siblings named in the obit, with their spouses and places of residence where appropriate.

With that completed, I upload the obituary itself to my personal website.

Now that my software database has been fully updated, I open my ancestry.com family tree file, and repeat the process.

I then upload his photo, from the obituary, to the ancestry tree, and the obituary itself. Since the obit is a source for information on all the people and facts named in it, I also attach it to all the people involved. I then create a source citation based on the obit, and attach it to each name and fact that I have derived from it.

Now, the work of research can begin. That will be the subject of my next post.