Monday, January 9, 2023

Amy Johnson Crowe "52 Ancestors..." - week 1 - what ancestor would you like to meet?

My choices are Georg Dasing and Josef Lukas, both immigrants, and both my mother’s grandfathers. I would like to hang around them for weeks or months, best would be invisibly ala Scrooge in Christmas Carol, so their actions and comments were not influenced by my notice.

George Dasing - Georg Dasing, George Dasing in the USA, was born in 1864 and came from Brunnholzheim, a wide place in the road northwest of Munich. His father was a farmer, and he probably would have been a farmer had he not immigrated. It appears that he came to America by himself, though several of his sibs also immigrated. He settled in Chicago, and married Margaritte (Margaret) Graeber, another immigrant. Margaritte came from Herbertshausen, another wide place in the road northwest of Munich.

George came directly to Chicago, and made his living selling butter and eggs from a horse drawn cart. As he prospered, Dasings moved to a storefront on Irving Park, and added coffee and tea to the merchandise. After a few years, George moved the business and family to the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago, a solidly German area of the city at that time (and as of this writing is returning to those roots after cycling through Greek and Hispanic). This shop was on the ground floor of a two-story building on the east side of Lincoln Avenue in the block below Lawrence, and their apartment was on the second. My grandmother told me she often sat halfway up the inside stairs to their apartment and watched the customers. Around 1905 the store moved across Lincoln Avenue to a one-story building, and the family moved to a single family house on Arthur Avenue. At some point George bought the land under the store. This store was well known by my mother, and the family has her stories about the store and some of the notable customers. One continuing tenet of Dasings was hiring only fluently bilingual German/English clerks. Dasings was in business at this location until 1952 or 1953. The business, but not the name, was sold. Dasings became Meyers Delicatessen, adding cold cuts, wine, and chocolate to their stock. This business existed through the 1980’s. Since then it has changed hands several times. 

Dasings was known for its butter. Made in a buttery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, oral tradition says that the recipe included sour cream as well as sweet cream. Unfortunately, that recipe was not recorded by the family, and creamery records of that era have not survived. For most of Dasings’ lifetime, butter was bought by weight, and taken home in the customers’ butter crock. Households living on the ‘Gold Coast’ sent their chauffer with a kitchen maid to fetch the butter. Clerks cut the requested weight from a large wheel of butter. When new clerks overestimated the size for the weight requested slivers were taken from the block of butter on the scale until it matched the order. The family knew when a new hire had joined the staff. Their table used the trimmings. The store added cheese and canned goods after WW2 to compete with “supermarkets.” Dasings was also known for its coffee. They roasted their own house blend every day in the store, and again, no recipe survived. They gave away in-house Green Stamps with every pound of coffee purchased. My grandmother was fond of nicknames; her children were Junior, Brother and Sis. Two customers got nicknames: “a pound of coffee with the ticket ground,” and “junkie” because of her antiquing. My grandmother, George’s only daughter, helped out in the store on Saturday during high school, and then worked there full time when not allowed to go to teacher’s college by her very traditional German-born father. (Her three brothers did go to college and earned engineering degrees.) My grandmother lived into her 90’s and I knew her as an adult. Margaret, my great-grandmother, also lived into her 90’s, but during visits she was much more interested in talking with her daughter than with me.

Joseph Lucas -- The other grandfather was Josef Lukas, Joseph Lucas in the USA, who has received much less research time, and who seems much more difficult to research. He was born in 1869 in Gratz, Austria, though he said Prussia on the US census. He seems to have traveled by himself and settled in Chicago.  He married Maria/Mary Mahnke, the Chicago-born youngest daughter of a German immigrant. He came to America with mechanical skills and opened garages. Family pictures document his son in front of one garage. His grandson knew that Joseph owned three garages before the Depression. I visited Maria when I was very young. She lived with her daughter in a one bedroom apartment in a near-north apartment several blocks west of Michigan Avenue with sight lines to Lake Michigan. During the 1970’s the one and two story buildings between her low-rise and the lake were redeveloped as high rises. Her building lost the lake views.  


Why these gents? -- What I find fascinating (and would love to see if I could catch from their orientation to daily decisions) is that while both grandfathers were born 1800’s mid-century, (and when their children, my grandparents, were introduced, courted and married), both were prospering owners of small businesses, but with one significant difference.

Their occupations were based in different centuries. George’s occupation, retail sales, first as peddler and then store owner/merchant was a solidly 19th century occupation. He sold semi-perishable groceries to his neighborhood. Joseph opened garages, a service business based on 20th century technology. Unfortunately, his businesses folded during the Depression, but before this calamity he had three garages. Notable is that garages had a different function when they first appeared. The first autos were expensive and somewhat delicate machines. Garages protected the paint and fabric overnight; hence one “garaged” the auto. Autos were increasingly owned by the prosperous and not only the wealthy with enough land for private garages. Joseph’s garages did not dispense gas. Owners walked to the garage to get their car or called and requested that the car be delivered. Since the business was basically 24/7 there was one man on the overnight shift who washed and cleaned any car taken out.

Feet on the Ground -- In 2005 I toured Germany with my mother and cousin. While we did get to the general area of Bronnholzheim, my virtually absent German, and the incredible difference in what depth one could research from the US before that time, resulted in a few pictures and the info that “this area of Germany was totally flattened during WW2”. Hence the traditional farmhouse photographed with all possible family (and neighbors?) during Margaret’s 1905 trip with her 2 oldest children was  very unlikely to have survived. I’m not closing the book on this question, but as I hope everything above indicates, I know that there is much more research to be done in the US before scheduling a research trip.

see you next week... Liz Ross


Monday, November 14, 2022

in the end you become your own teacher -- musing

 My mother sewed for our household, doll clothes, household linens, and innumerable alterations from day one. and sewed or altered our clothes from day one.  I remember her making overalls for baby/toddlers with snaps all the way round on the inner seam, so no undressing was needed to change diapers. And I remember what a welcome gift they were. 

And I remember that she could rub a piece of fabric between her fingers and tell you what the fiber was. Her years of handling many gave her that skill. I can do similar with yarns. I have a friend who can taste a dish and know what spices were used. 

I remember reading more than one monograph about being you because only you can be you, and while you can be a successful you, you will be at best an adequate copy of someone else. 

And becoming your own teacher takes time. Copy work is easy by comparison, developing your own discernment is tough. 

A visual artist is not training their hands, they are training their eyes but even more their minds. A musician is training their brain and their ears. The instrument, or the plastic medium is the means by which the understanding of beauty and order is expressed. Starts to explain how painters successfully wander into furniture, fashion, jewelry or architecture...? cf. Frank Lloyd or daughter Picasso.

I was asked, during last summer, what courses I was taking this fall/winter. I am signed up for a few small things, but mostly, I am sitting in my own patch, and letting what I have heard, and read, and taken notes about, percolate and become habit. And thanks big time to the many who have provided fodder for this process ---- live, through books, and music, and visuals of all sorts. 

see you on the other side of thanksgiving - may your turkey or whatever graces your table be truly wonderful. 

best, Liz


checking in the corners ---

 My family tree is a bit like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. Not full and luxuriant with 10-15 sibs in each family and the delightful complication of double cousins, but generations of families with one, two or three sibs, and traveling 4-6 generations back before the sib count grows. Ah well. 

Anyway, with head counts of this sort, one does have a closer look at people on the fringes, ala John Cecil Ferguson, known as Uncle Jack, and possibly known to some of you since he is the example used in my "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" lecture. He was my father's great uncle, and died in the 1960's. I saw him most as a young girl, when he and wife Alice lived in a house on the lakeshore outside of Madison, Wis. 

When I first did their b,m,d grid I was surprised that Jack's marriage to Alice was his second.  Returning to this question last year, creative use of data bases including newspapers, led me to Francis Walker for John Cecil's first wife. Connecting newspaper items offers the following timeline: 

  • John C. to France, 1917 - 1919
  • John return to US, May-ish 1919
  • John marries Frances, 10 November 1920
  • Baby Francis born, 29 January 2021
  • Baby Francis dies, 20 February 1921

Newspaper articles added that wife Francis had moved to Bloomington about a year before she and  Jack married. John married wife number two, Alice, in 1929 by which time Francis should have been divorced or dead. That question is still open; no paper has yet been found.  

However, Francis Walker female preemie baby's death certificate at 23 days on 20 February 1921 was found, as was her gravestone on Find a Grave.   Francis Walker and John Cecil Ferguson, are listed on the baby's death certificate in Family Search. A count of the months could offer a hypothesis about their marriage timing, perhaps inform why Francis and Jack did not stay together, and/or why they married. "One answer opens the door to more questions." 

Now THIS question is now on my continuing questions list. 


on other endeavors - 

?? do you remember grandmother or great aunt talking about "spring cleaning" ?  My family didn't do spring cleaning, we moved, but now I am involved in spring cleaning my genealogy paperwork. I am reading and filing well, with fervent hopes that this is the last re-do required, as I work into and through both years of my work, and my mother's. So... while on the surface it looks like little is being accomplished, as done, I can pull up any document in my library, to check a detail or move into a new line of research. Lots still to go through, but what is done is lovely. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

It's time to hibernate -- and sort -- and WRITE...

Through the years I have made and have MANY pages of research findings in the cupboard and computer - and also lots of info on my shelves and resting in my brain from the incredible courses taken before and during covid time. 

so...  now to actively assimilate and incorporate all, rather than suppose it will enter my brain by proximity. (which would be nice but come now.... really...)


the running tally... so far in 2022 - (not a bad list)

--- for this time around I was lead on CAGGNI's bi-ennial conference, GeneaQuest 2022, held on 17 September, and now tucking in the ends. Doing lead on a gen. conference brought to mind the Japanese proverb about climbing Mt. Fuji, "not climbing Mt. Fuji is the action of a fool, climbing Mt. Fuji more than one time is the action of a fool." 

--- published a piece in Chicago Gen Quarterly "naming the stillborn" which added two non-acknowledged births to the family tree on my mother's side, at her generation. 

--- did an ISGS SIG this year on Discovering Documents, a short (30 min) teaching/exploration/expansion talk about one of the basic documents found/used in genealogy - birth certificate, death, marriage, ww registration, square land, metes & bounds, city directories, newspapers. It was good to do, but I'll not be continuing in 2023 -- as mentioned at the top of this post, there is lots (one hesitates to say too much) in my cabinets to address. 

--- finishing up the writing: Proving a father for Patrick Ross...

--- finishing up the writing: Manerva & CW pensions...

--- lectures out and about


dealing with a new phone (apple 10) and discovering that pictures taken on the phone will not transfer via cable to my computer (pc). thanks a lot apple for improving how the phone works (NOT). if anyone out there wants to tell me i'm mistaken, please write here, or message liz london on facebook. 

and yes, I'm signed up for rootstech --- 

and am through the interview process to be a 'helper' at the Wilmette Family History Center. 


Monday, September 12, 2022

Mining the Closet... musings


Originally published Fall 2002 in Clan Ross News.

Between 1993 and 2003 I was editor of Clan Ross News, the quarterly publication of ClanRoss America, a national Scottish Heritage Organization.  The following was obviously written speaking to that context, but the underlying message certainly applies to everything done by every genealogist/family historian.  


 I am currently (2022) in the midst of long term tidying of my computer. For too many years I have treated my electronic memory as a back bedroom, stacking finished work on shelves and in drawers, with little thought spent on how a specific piece will be found in the future. Ah well.... 

    Since it is unlikely that I will ever publish a full book of "musing", I'm collecting those thoughts here.  Edited and small changes in April 2020. Small additions and changes made in September 2022. 


 Fall 2002

I have just returned from the AGM – a grand celebration of Scottish and Ross culture and heritage in Livonia, Michigan. I was one of the four volunteers (I know, I know, never volunteer for anything) who organized and ran the weekend for Ross Assn., so for me the time was a lot of fun, and a lot of work. Every so often the question of “why” comes up – our lives are certainly full up with jobs, and family and keeping clean socks in the drawer.

This spring I read The Songcatcher by Sharyn McCrumb.  In her afterword is the best comment about the “why” of CRAUS [Clan Ross Association of the United States] (leastwise for me) that I have ever encountered. 

McCrumb speaks of going to college and learning the latest Joan Baez song, and taking it home to sing for her Dad, who startles her by knowing all the words.  She writes, “My father smiled, “Why, that’s John Riley…I had that song from my grandmother, and she had it from her grandmother” … and I went to the Record Bar and paid $6.98 for it.

McCrumb continues, “I never forgot that lesson, because to me it symbolized the fragility of one’s heritage.  Each of us is the link between the past and the future, and it is up to us to pass along the legends, the stories, the songs, and the traditionsof our own families.  If we don’t they will be lost, and your children may not be lucky enough to find a bit of their past going for $6.98 in a store somewhere.  They may never find it at all. Since then I have been mindful of seeking out my heritage and doing what I could to preserve it and celebrate it….”

The book is a wonderful story, and her comments a wonderful reminder.

               Cheers, Liz

I have a small codex that I make a point to read every year. This has earned a place. 


Doings elsewhere: GeneaQuest 2022, CAGGNI's bi-annual conference, is happening this coming Saturday, 17 September 2022. I have been lead on this enterprise. Lots of work, lots of enjoyment, and truly made possibly only because of the assistance of many wonderful volunteers. 

    In elsewhere genealogical, I am going through my holdings, working on pieces toward publishing. It's a good way to spend days. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Preaching to the Choir: Researching 102 - Principles and Anecdotes.01

 How to start -- how to proceed -- 

  • Move from the known to the unknown 

Consider a chain.  Dungeons spring to mind, but with Christmas approaching, (at least when this was written!), I prefer to go with paper chains, to festoon a tree or a room. In all chains, each link is the base for the next link, which in turn becomes the base for the following link, ... "rinse and repeat."  

         I met my grandparents when my mother took me to a house and told me that this man was her father and this woman was her mother.  The next week my grandfather took me into the city to meet his mother, my great-grandmother.  This chain is as solid as the memories and lives of the people involved.  My great-grandmother knew her parents, by name, and could tell me that. 

  • Test every hypothesis
  • Look carefully at all information available
... and/but in genealogy, paper proves it. Should you get information from a conversation with an aged relative, or someone who knows about your family, see if you can run a tape during the conversation. If a tape is not welcome, or is not possible given the setting, grab paper as soon as you can and write down ALL the particulars of the conversation - and be sure to date the paper. I have such paper on conversations with my grandmother, and my dad.  


  • The further back, the fewer records

Fewer people, fewer records.  More years passed, more chances for destruction (fires, floods, a few little wars), fewer records.  "That" information was not important to keep, fewer records.  Letters and journals are always wonderful.  Samplers and shaving mugs are wonderful remembrances, but, when seeking to connect people and lineages, 'follow the money' is always useful. 

 Follow the Money

Where is the money?   Historically (and in New York & Tokyo) the money is in the land, not in the skill.  Visit Plymouth Plantation, and its residents will tell you, almost to a man, that they are farmers, and "oh, I shoe horses when needed" or "I build furniture when it's needed."  

        And with the money in the land, how does land change hands?  Inheritance, marriage, "sale" to family, and, way down the list, sale to non-family.

A number of years ago, I was downstate Illinois to research both land and probate records.  Working in the courthouse in an age when everyone was much more relaxed about access to records, I was shown the stairs to the basement, and told that probate was to the right and land to the left.... and please turn the light out when I came up.  The difference between the probate side and the land side was amazing, and made perfect sense when thought about for more than one second.  All probate records are dead records; everything in those records has been settled, and if a question arose, looking for the answer could take time, and time was not an issue.  On the other hand, or rather, the other half of the basement, land records were very much of the moment. Anyone in the county might need a record from yesterday or 15 years ago to 'do something' with the piece of land bought or sold, ... whenever.  Probate is the archive.  Land is the tickler file. 

        As a consequence, the probate side was, to put it mildly, quite untidy.  On the land side, you could almost eat off the floor, and all the books were all in order.


other pursuits: I'm tending my files, and emptying, so just a few days gone by. looking ahead I've registered for SLIG for advanced German research in January 2023. My recent ancestors (past 150 years or so) group in Chicago and downstate Illinois. All but a few tiny branches of those trees track back to Germany, some faster than others, and this course/learning seemed a good next step after the GRIP courses on Germany. I will put in a plug for any/all institute courses. Think of it like immersion learning of a language. Come and learn. Come prepared and learn more. 

best till next time. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Organization - musings and ruminations -- first


  • Look carefully at all information available
  • Decide early (like today) how you are going to keep your information

consider how you keep the rest of your life papers.  Are bills in a drawer, a filing cabinet, the corner chair in the DR (or LR), or the dining room table because you always eat in the kitchen? or is every piece of paper instantly digitized and most of your bills arrive electronically? you get the drift.  Deciding to use a system that is at odds with the rest of your life will cause GREAT angst.  

    ... however, there are things in genealogy that will arrive or be found on paper. 

                    Deal with it!

and... ps. decide if you will be traveling with the information you have assembled. If so, briefcases, or at least sturdy bags with handles will work better than the dining room table.

  • Full recording of where you got the info ("citing your sources") is VERY VERY VERY important -- with a number of conditions. 
    • the gen community (GC) accepts that books are available many many places. Therefore it is not necessary to tell your readers, through the footnote, at what library you read a given book. You might want to include that info in your research notes so YOU can find it quickly for a re-up on the info, but not for your readers.
    • the same exception applies to all newspapers, and all other serial publications which appear on paper. IF/WHEN a publication appears ONLY as a web entity, I take huge numbers of screen shots, because the whole piece may be replaced or edited at any point, and I would rather not fight the "way-back" machine for a copy.
    • Why VERY VERY VERY important? Much (most?) genealogical writing today is an equation in words. Is Matthew Smith b. 1832 in Delaware the same Matthew Smith who fought in the Civil War in the New York 3rd Inf. Regiment? or Was John Mayer married to Martha Compton, daughter of Henry and Sara in 1783 or married to Martha Compton, daughter of Robert and Martha in 1784?Another researcher must be able to follow your exact path and have all the material to evaluate whether or not you got to 2+2=4 or if you ended up with 4.5 or 3.75.
Posting for now - think you can comment... shall work on that before next posting. 

in other life - since the last post - LOTS, but the closest to now are 2 GRIP institutes in June/July: Citations with Tom Jones and GERMANY with Amy Arner. good learning and good brain stretching. Also, a trip to Midwest Genealogical Center in Independence, Mo. for research, material for article, and vacation. All three accomplished in style. The article is in the August CAGGNI newsletter. Also, with COVID becoming integrated into the new normal, I am again lecturing in person, and loving it. In the past 2 weeks I've had the pleasure of talking about "Manerva Barbee gets a CW pension (finally)" and "follow the yellow brick road" All great -- and now to do it lots more. 


Thursday, December 9, 2021




The idea jelled as soon as they started talking.

routine helps, other things help, nice paper, good pens, but the basic thing is "do you want this thing written more than you want a slow cup of coffee, an extra 2 hits on the snooze, lasagna from scratch vs. spaghetti on the stovetop, in fact anything cooked from scratch, making do with what you have vs. fixing or replacing, not as a function of money, but of time....." there are all these suggestions -- read some of the books by writers about writing, Steven King (good!), Anne Lamont (classic), William Zimmerman (classic also in a different direction). Don't remember who, but he (it was a he) said he sat down every morning and didn't get up till he had 500 words he didn't hate (novelist). and I would add one more thing -- READ -- read old (like 1800"s), read poetry, read jane Austen, and other authors who use rich language, Faulkner, and the lovely Old school science fiction writers who will encourage your mind's flexibility. I ramble on, and/but.... Using words skillfully is our heritage, and to claim it is a worthy aim.

Monday, April 26, 2021

the 21st Century Genealogist: Musings on Transcriptions - and a tip ---

 Transcriptions enter the picture about week 3-4 (just kidding) of the genealogists' life.  Transcribing, currently, means taking a handwritten document, often long and/or legal and/or written under a time crunch or duress (like a diary during a war), and turning this 18th or 19th century piece of writing into typescript.  This is a useful skill.  Those in your family who you want to ooooh and aaaah about your work can read typescript.  You may even find it easier to do analytical work when you can skim the document. 

SIDEBAR: Do you remember from Upstairs, Downstairs that the person who did the typing was referred to as the Typewriter?  As in "I'll have the typewriter take care of this."   Did you ever read "Bartelby the Scrivener" by Melville (of Moby Dick fame) who was essentially human carbon paper?  He sat all day in the lawyer's office and made 2 copies of every legal document: original (written by lawyer) stayed in the office, copy 1 for party of the first part, copy 2 for party of the 2nd part. 

So transcribing/copywork has a long and august history, even though Bartleby is a bit creepy. So not too shabby.  

For the record, in April 2021, there are some prevailing conventions about transcriptions. One such convention is that each typed line will change to the next exactly where the handwrit changed, regardless that type usually takes less width than handwrit.  So... to match line length one does a hard return to move down to the next line, and then the smart/dumb computer automatically capitalizes the first word.  If you type as normal and put in the hard returns when finished typing, the auto-cap does not engage, but it is "forever" to get that right, and quite fiddly, and while I'm sure there is a command somewhere in Word to turn this "auto cap on hard return" off, I have yet to find... hence... 

My first solution was to type the first letter of each line twice, and then go back through and delete the first letter.  It works, but it is still a bit fiddly.  My current working solution is less so, and follows. 

TIP: My current workaround.... type as normal, but when done typing the last word in the handwrit line, put in a space, type some symbol not in the document (I use the straight up-down line) "|" and space again --  and proceed typing.  When done typing, go through the document and insert a hard return at the "|" so it remains the last or the first character in each line, then go through again and delete the symbol.  For what it's worth, I find it easier and faster to remove when it is the last character on the line rather than the first.  Also, one has only to remove the symbol, and not also the space after the symbol. 

MUSINGS - regarding capitals: So far, most of the documents I have transcribed are from the 19th century, with one or two from the 18th.   The capitalization in 18-19th century handwrit documents does not match current English usage. Current English capitalizes proper names, places and some other things, like "English."  By contrast, contemporary German capitalizes many (most? all?) nouns.  The more transcriptions I do, the more I wonder if the capitalization was to increase readibility, especially when the handwrit was done rapidly and without modern fountain pens.   I use a fountain pen, and when writing rapidly, my script takes on characteristics that I see in 19th century handwrit.  My lowercase 'r' resembles a 'v'; in 'the' the cross of the 't' starts the loop of the 'h' and the 'e' is often not rounded enough to be open.  My last name, Ross, as I sign it, could be read as Rorr, Ron, or Roir, but if we still used the 'long s' as the first 's' when there is a double 's', my last name, Ross, would be perfectly clear. And I use a well machined fountain pen with a rounded nib.  I have played at writing with a steel nib.  The shape of that nib does not want to make rounded shapes.  Have a look at the signatures in county histories under the etchings of the notables. 

I am not advocating returning the double 's' to duty, but rather considering the forest. I hypothesize that using many capitals increased comprehension of handwrit; lowercase e, i, and a can be close, not so with uppercase.  Ditto with 'nu' vs. 'mi.'  Computer wordprocessing is a medium with electronically controlled shapes, which are not affected by the force, speed or angle of the key strike.  The benefit of capitalization in handwrit is tied to the medium, rather than to the message.  

This modification would not change any spelling or punctuation, which would remain identical to the handwrit, but instead of copying every capitalization, transcriptions would apply current English norms: "the barn, and two hundred cattle" rather than "the Barn and Two hundred Cattle."

Archers do not dress as 15th century English, though they do wear a leather guard on their off arm.  The guard is tied to the action, the dress is just that, the dressing of that time and place.



on other shores --- due to covid I purchased a zoom basic account.  Necessary for my work, it also has had a lovely unintended consequence.  My two brothers live west coast and east coast; I am in Chicago.  For months we have been zooming every two weeks.  Short, long, with topics all over the map.  We have more chatting with zoom than pre-zoom. Before covid we saw each other only at Thanksgiving.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Genealogy as a Who Dun It...

.............Follow da Money

Where is the money?   Historically (and in New York & Tokyo) the money is in the land, not in the skill.  Visit Plymouth Plantation, and the residents will tell you, almost to a man, that they are farmers, and "oh, I shoe horses when needed" or "I build furniture when it's needed."  
        And with the money in the land, how does land change hands?  Inheritance, marriage, "sale" to family, and, way down in the list of choices, sale to non-family.

A number of years ago, I was downstate Illinois to research both land and probate records.  Working in the courthouse in an age when everyone was much more relaxed about access to records, I was shown the stairs to the basement, and told that probate was to the right and land to the left.... and please turn the light out when I came up.  

The difference between the probate side and the land side was amazing, and made perfect sense when thought about for more than one second.  All probate records were dead records; everything in those records had been settled, and if a question arose, looking for the answer could take time, and taking time would not be an issue.  

On the other hand, literally, land records were current; these records were a deposit ticket which described their assets. Anyone in the county might need to get a record from yesterday or 15 years ago to 'do something' with the piece of land described on that piece of paper.   

Probate was the archive.  Land was the tickler file. 
        As a consequence, the probate side was, to put it mildly, quite untidy.  On the land side, you could almost eat off the floor, and all the books were "just so." 


ps - I'm told that how you find out I've posted is changing in July.  I will pursue, but right now this is a bit fuzzy how or what I need to do.  The main thing is, I am not stopping writing, so if it seems I disappear, I've not!  And it seems the address is still the same. Thanks for coming by and reading. 


on the other side - The country has crossed the one year mark with Covid last month.  My time has gone into education, lots of education, via zoom, as courses pivoted (great word, right?) from live to on-line, and then worked again to add options to all the people itchy in their living rooms without travel to research.  Starting to look forward to life after lockdown, but it's shape isn't in anyway clear.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

"You Can Never Know Another Person's Why"

 Long ago and far away, my high school decided that being modern would be served by dividing the year of English into 3 (or was it 4?) units, each with a different topic and taught by a different teacher. I only remember nuggets from one, "I know what I like," taught by Mr. Holbrook.  

One of few gray-haired teachers, he taught this mix-master class during his first year at the school. He had been a journalist for many years, and indeed, he also guided yearbook and newspaper staffs, imparting real-world skills.

As the class stumbled through debating "I know what I like" (aka "developing aesthetics," a totally unappealing title for teens) while discussing short stories and essays, he would toss out one liners.  If  ears were open and brains switched on, these bon mots plopped down front and center until assimilated. Perhaps these were his version of a koan. What is more important in a white horse? its whiteness or its horse-ness?

Holbrook comments -- in no particular order  -- 

"All of you watch too much TV," was thrown out as an aside one day when we were up and heading for the door. I hung around and asked why he said "all of you" because he didn't really know us that well.  His return. "If I had said, 'Some of you watch too much TV,' everyone would put themselves in the section that didn't watch too much TV.  By saying 'all,' each of you will think, even if just for a moment, 'Do I watch too much TV?' and that's the object, to get you thinking."  Hmmmm.

Several times during the quarter, the discussion veered into theft, embezzlement and other kinds of stealing.  His comment, "Don't talk to me about anything less than $100,000 as my share of the take. If I'm going to jail, it's going to be for a big amount."  OK.   

He mentioned his many geographic moves as a journalist.  A bunch of military kids, we were not impressed.  Older than most of our parents, he claimed he was never concerned about keeping his job. "I was looking for a job when I found this one." Interesting & surprised. 

He also talked about teaching. I must have asked why he wasn't bothered by the line of students sitting with their backs to the wall, not talking, not listening, etc.  For him, a class of 30 divided into three groups: 5-7 students who were bumps on a log, 3-5 who would learn without a teacher, and 22 who were at various points, needed a teacher and wanted to learn.  He said that many teachers taught to the bumps, spending much of the class time engaging with them. He believed that wasn't fair to the class.  He said he always taught to that middle group, but every so often would throw out something to invite the 5-7 bumps to bestir themselves and join in, and more often he would throw out a comment or observation to challenge the 3-5 who were yawning (inside if not outside).  Again, interesting. 

His biggest toss out has rattled around my brain for decades, constantly informs my genealogical work and is the title of this piece, the concern about "why."  I suspect the discussion started with an examination of the actions and motivations of a character in some short story.  As the exchange progressed, Holbrook tossed out the observation, "You can never know another person's 'why,' because knowing that would require mind-reading skills." He added that the questions you answer in a news article are "who, what, when, where, why and how," but in journalism the why is not any manner of mind-reading, but examining the situation from the outside and telling the "what of the what" or "what made the what possible."  The window broke (what happened) caused by a hurricane which came through town  (why the window could break) or the dog was lost (what happened) because the door was left open  (why the dog could be lost). Simplistic examples but decent illustrations. 

So... when I hear younger genealogists (time doing, not age) voicing "Why did Frances move from Ohio to Minnesota in 1910?" or "Why did Charles strike off by himself in 1850 and go from Oklahoma to California?"  I quietly smile to myself.   Often the question can be reworded into a question that can be answered by examing matters observable, such as, "How were Ohio and Minnesota different?" or "What did California offer a single man from Oklahoma in 1850?  Those questions can be answered with paper, and maps, and newspaper articles. No crystal balls required. 

Sometimes circumstances and hints suggest a motivation, but given the complexity of life, cause and effect are rarely clearcut. Journals & letters often include what purport to be motivations, but the caution comes from psychologists who remind that we may not know our own whys.  

What's the take-away?  First, keep thinking and wondering and learning.  Second, remember that you can never know another person's why. Go for the paper. (and cite...of course cite).



this blog got to mature, like a fine wine... so did the p.s. --- on other shores: we celebrated Christmas, but couldn't see friends at church.  the tree is small and lovely. the stockings are still hanging on a bureau in the living room, our stand in for a fireplace.  Santa knew there will still be months of staying in and dropped off 3 jigsaw puzzles with travel themes.  Also books.

In past years, this week between Christmas and New Year was the change-over week.  Stow the old paper and hang empty labeled files for the new.  This year...not so much.  

I spin and knit for calm and for product, but finished items and skeins were fewer in 2020. Time went into writing and sorting my computer.  I and the alphabet will prevail.  (think of a spare room.  Open the door, toss stuff in, close the door.  That was almost my computer).

Time also went into walking the My Mission virtual challenges.  While waiting for my DAR bling, I have walked the Camino de Santiago, swum the English Channel, and climbed Mt. Fuji, all virtually with circuits in the house.  Now I am walking Hadrian's Wall from east to west.  It's a bit silly, and also fun.  For every 20% of a mission's mileage completed, the organization plants a tree. Every so often they send postcards of what you would see if really there, and at the end you are sent a rather impressive medal and a certificate (suitable for framing). 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Another wrinkle on citations –

Citations are designed to let the reader (and in 10 years, you, the author) know where a bit of information was found. 
Different sources are cited differently, and that is not the subject of this post.
Citations themselves can be written differently, and that also is not the subject of this post.

This post offers a sidebar on how to record, as you are researching, what information a document, a narrative, a newspaper article, includes for later quick reference. From around 1910 until now, birth information is most often found in a birth certificate, death in a death certificate, and marriage in a marriage certificate. Line up a row of birth, marriage, and death certificates, and your family is laddered into a huge tree.

Earlier, not so much. And the earlier the time, the fewer records. Marriage records go back decades, and sometimes there are christening records. Before that…again, not so much.

So where do the facts come from? From tax records, from deeds, and from newspapers. (and that’s another huge set of blogs.)

                [I am a convert to “write/cite” and offer many bows and thank yous to the inventors, teachers and discussers of this technique who have taught me and shared wisdom informally; it’s a very long list.  
                However, that technique does not speak directly to the case of re-finding, quickly and easily, which article of the 157+ saved holds the information on birthday, residence or relationship.  Hence, a new wrinkle.]

Many sources include useful information which is often not reflected in the title of the article. How could the relevant facts be tracked, especially when the number of sources numbered in the hundreds; memory is good, but has its limits. 

Once the following solution presented itself, it was however, a “duh,” and an “of course.”

I put each source on its own page. Paper is cheap; electronic paper is even cheaper.
  1. The page is topped by the citation – or all the info that will become the citation.
  2. Next comes a snip of the source – or the whole source if it is small.
  3. Next, if the snip is handwritten, or difficult to read, a transcription.
So far, cite/write… and not my idea/invention

        4. Then – and this is the only new thought of the mix – a list, in whatever font size is very easy to read when glancing at that page, on screen or on paper, of those things in this source that speak to the question or situation being explored.

So… when the question is building the Ferguson tree (a personal project) a social tidbit about Mrs. Webb from Bryan, Texas visiting her father Eugene [Ferguson] in Bloomington is of GREAT interest. Published in June 4, 1934, this 4- line squib offers that Mrs. Webb is the daughter of Eugene, that she lives in Texas, he lives in Bloomington, Ill.

And the page after #3 would look like this (below):

  • · June 4, 1934
  • · Mrs. Webb daughter of Eugene (ferguson)
  • · Mrs. Webb lives in Bryan, Texas  --- [look into her marriage]
  • · Eugene lives in Bloomington, Illinois.

If you find this useful, wonderful. If not, of course keep doing what you have been doing.


Since last time: Writing up a storm and using #4 (above) to keep straight all the bits and pieces.  Looking forward to SLIG in a week, and enjoying the posts from this week of SLIG.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Chickens Come Home To Roost.

Let's be brutally honest.  I suspect I am not the only one with at least some disordered documents - loosely sorted stacks (paper) and/or roughly labeled files (electronic). I also suspect that I am also not the only one using the time without FHL and Archives (and research trips!!) to explore all the nooks and crannies of house and computer, in the hope of exhuming semi-lost items and mostly forgotten wonderfuls.  

A part of me is thinking of Carter peering into Tut's tomb.. "I see wonders." 

Some time ago, I saw the touring exhibit on the most recent finds at Pompei.  Among the artifacts was a delicate gold necklace with shaped dangles, continuous and graduated.  Behind me I heard the murmur, how did they do that?  

It just takes time.  

My computer includes county histories, hundreds of newspaper clips, documents and snips about every aspect of life.   Now has come the reckoning.  Now is the time to order and arrange.

Can do. 

It just takes time. 

The goal is to make things findable, so I tweek the alphabet.  When I label a file or a document and use the family name in the titling, I double the first initial, ala RROSS or DDASING.  While it is unlikely that DASING would come up in a search as part of a word, ROSS gets many hits as partial words.  

I label by the BIG branch - so RROSS also includes the women/men who marry into that line, the names Wilkey, Shirley, Barbee, Compton.  CCOMPTON will probably graduate into its own line when I open up that line sideways. Rebecca was born in Virginia, married in Tennessee, and died in Illinois. She promises a great story; her family line ties into a land grant from Lord Fairfax.  How cool is that!!

Back to the piles  -- afterall, lockdown will be over in only 5 months. 



on other shores: Earlier this month, I submitted my paperwork for DAR membership.  My grandmother was a member; she joined during the 1920's.   Paperwork for her does not cover current requirements; lucky that I'm a genealogist and can find the missing information.  I am kept in the loop on local chapter doings, and have joined in writing cards for overseas soldiers, and sponsoring cemetery wreaths for vets.

Also, am now officially an elected member of the Illinois State Genealogical Society board, and a member of the education committee.  Laura, past president and current chair of this committee has a large vision for activities for this committee.  It promises to be an exciting time.  Stay tuned for news. If you are in Illinois and not a member, consider joining.  In fact, if you are not in Illinois, follow and consider joining - with everything via zoom during Covid, you can live virtually anywhere.  What a bonus.

and finally-- and a Happy to you, wherever and whatever you celebrate --  

Monday, December 14, 2020

Dead People Have No Rights -- (though they may well have copyrights!)

Reviewing the underpinnings, with some comments.

Dates:   DAY(1,2,3 etc.)  MONTH (Jan., Feb., Mar. etc.) YEAR (4, repeat 4 digits) 

            Why?  My cousin got a birthday card from a friend in Belgium on June 6. My cousin's birthday is June 1.  That's why.  6/10 is ambiguous. 10 May points to one specific day in the year.  Why 4 digits for the year?  When research stretches into 3 centuries, though you know you will remember that a certain snip is from 1820 and not 1920, I guarantee you won't. 

                Also interesting, and good to know, between 1582 & 1752 both Julian and Gregorian calendar were in use, depending on where. Genealogists get to juggle double dates, which is particularly interesting when calculating ages. More info here. [1]  

Names: Record as you would introduce - Maggie Thompson, Roger Anderson,  Douglas Scott.  Why?  With this convention, one does not wonder whether Douglas Scott is Mr. Scott or Mr. Douglas.  

Places: Small to large or large to small.  Ancestry offers small to large in their drop-downs; Family Search prefers Large to small when you fill in the catalog box.  For your own work, choose one (either) and stay there.  (Please include the county, sometimes it makes a difference when trying to work out a puzzle.)   Why?  Lots of cities share names with counties, and counties with states, and lots of city names are in more than one state.  Hence, Hartford, Washington Co., New York.
Living People & Privacy: Genealogical databases blank out vital statistics on living people.  This action, unfortunately, hardly needs a why.  Stolen identities and hacked everything require diligence, for ourselves, our families and those whose information we tend, both online and on paper.  

Dead People Have No Rights:  Unfortunately true.  Small rant here.  My mother died in April.  I have a tree on Ancestry, but the youngest person included, and long dead, is my grandmother.  Three days after my mother died, Ancestry planted a snapshot of her on my home page.  I do not know where the person ID'd as the contributor got this snapshot and he has not replied to any post through Ancestry.  Annoyed hardly starts to cover it. 
            However, dead people do continue to hold copyright. Current copyright law gives ownership of writings (and other creations) made on or after January 1, 1978 to the creator for their life plus 70 years. Interestingly enough, a letter's content still belongs to the writer, while the physical item belongs to the recepient, who may give away, sell or display the letter, but not publish. [2]
            Who would have thunk that?


1. An interesting article is posted on the Connecticut Library Site. Google: Connecticut State 
    Library >  History & Genealogy > Colonial Records & Topics > 1752 Calendar Change. 
2. Roam around Copyright Alliance:

since last posting: the tree is up and the larder is being stocked with celebratory food for Christmas and NY eve -- smoked salmon, herring in wine, "smelly" cheese.  You'd think we were Scandanavian (not!).  Education continues. With more than 3/4 of my lines leaping to Germany and the encouragement of a colleague, I have started DuoLingo.German, learning what I could have absorbed as a youngster. My grandmother spoke German but wouldn't speak it/teach it to her daughter (my mother).  Grandma often said, "We are in America. We are Americans. We speak English."  So I know the sounds, from songs and food names, but the language is being found again.   

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Pencil, Paper, Films & Books

Back in the day, the first activity of a newbie genealogist was writing the details of their nuclear family into a lineage chart and a family group sheet.  Then the lineage chart parents sprouted branches for the grandparents, and two more family group sheets appeared. By this time the newbie had met the US census, and grabbed info from films, which taught geography and which also required learning how to use indexes, and probably soundex.  

Next steps included getting paper (official documents) to certify the information from family birthday books and "Aunt Sally" rememberings.  Birth & death certificates, marriage licenses, and pictures of gravestones joined the growing paper collection.  If lucky, many family documents were in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet in the back bedroom.  If not, getting these documents meant travel to the issuing county or letters with checks. Luck in genealogy friends and casual mentors encouraged full and careful readings of these documents, and embedded hints directed future explorations. To this mix, the newbie would add in a local genealogy group, a few lectures, a weekend conference or two, reading and time.  In a bit, training wheels were left off. 

The amazing thing, however, is that "back in the day" is not 1860 or even 1950.  Back in the day was 30 years ago.  My first steps in genealogy were as written above.  I wrote letters.  I traveled to courthouses. I spent hours with the entire US census on microfilm at the Great Lakes NARA (73rd & Pulaski, Chicago).   I copied census pages longhand, (xeroxed census pages were rarely legible) and xeroxed book pages when in libraries (or more often wrote transcriptions).   Gathered information was studied closely at home, and notes kept track of future searchings. 


Today... "way different" is putting it mildly.  Open up a program, enter your parent's and grandparent's names and out pops a family tree of multiple generations.  When you claim them and title this assemblage with your name, the computer program starts sending hints, and an invitation is extended to add these new names to your tree. AI and other people supply you with ancestors; it's like pushing the STAPLES easy button. Do I use these big data bases, absolutely, with many thanks for all the records gathered, and never more than during this strange year.  I use these data bases to supply some of the documents that "in the before" were available only at the ancestor's hometown courthouse, or transcribed or abstracted in reference books available only in large collections.  

Anyway, back to the way back machine. Technology may move into computers that take dictation, rather than fingers on keys, but reasoning still directs what is recorded. The human brain still offers the best network for doing solid genealogy, and reviewing the underpinnings from time to time reminds.

General comments about research:

  • Move from the known to the unknown
  • Test every hypothesis
  • Look carefully at all information available
  • The further back, the fewer records
  • Decide early (like today) how you are going to keep your information
  • Full recording of where you got the info ("citing your sources") is VERY VERY VERY important


General comments about forms for the info:

  • Record dates – 5 Sept 1897
  • Record names – Margaret Simpson 
  • Record places – Chicago, Cook, Illinois
  • Living people have the right to their privacy – name/dates/locations
  • Dead people have no rights 


Stay tuned for continuing coverage on these guidelines.  No specific order or schedule. 

If all this is thoroughly known and you feel you could write the next blogs, you still might want to check in every so often.  Other topics will enter the stream.  

(Similar comments were written in 2019, and found last week while "wandering about" my computer looking for documents saved a bit too hastily. (see above about deciding how to keep information.)  Not surprising if you have heard some version of this before, and you may hear some version of this in the future from another, but sometimes a reminder and a fresh voice is a good thing.) 


since last posting. I am writing for my portfolio, yet, still, continuing, (choose your own word).  Yes, I have taken extensions.  Currently filling in the squares on the KDP lineage/generations.  This is a family I have been living with and collecting tidbits about for almost 30 years, so ... many choices about what to include and what to save for the book.  Continuing my education with conferences, webinars and various discussion groups, enjoying and learning from all. Honing my craft & working --- speaking to local gen groups, and writing.