This year I am planning to participate in Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over! I have purchased the fantastic workbook and I am starting with Month 1!

do-over-folderMonth 1 is all about setting aside research and preparing for a do-over. Since 95% of my genealogy is digital, this is an easy task for me. I have created a new folder in my genealogy files for all my do-over research. Since my paper files are already scattered among boxes and not organized there’s nothing really to do there.

Month 1: check!

I’m going to skip ahead to month 2 since I’ve got a few more days before classes start.


My grandfather who started it all, Milton Hartzell Anderson.

I’m a few days late but I love participating in the SNGF series from Genea-Musings when I have an opportunity. Genealogy has taken kind of a back burner this summer and fall thanks to a travel-heavy summer and beginning graduate school in August. Here is a link to the original post:

The prompt for this week is: What was the “trigger,” that started you actively researching your family history and genealogy?

This week’s prompt really spoke to me because I have a very vivid memory of what got me started in genealogy. To preface this story, my maternal grandmother spent 25+ years working on her genealogy. In the end of her life she began working on my father’s genealogy in order to establish my and my sibings’ eligibility to join the First Families of Warren County and the Daughters of the American Revolution. At the time I had no appreciation for the amount of work that went into this. I was barely surviving my American history course in high school and I had no desire to spend any more time on history. I declined official membership in the DAR, which I now regret because I do not have all the documents assembled and described anymore. My grandmother passed away in 2008, shortly before I left for college, and I never developed an interest in genealogy while she was alive. I was impressed with the tidbits she threw out like the evolution of last names in our family or countries of origin but the nitty-gritty work of genealogy was repellent to me.

Fast forward 6 years. I have graduated college and I’m teaching middle school French. One day, out of the blue, I’m sitting in my living room in my hand-me-down Lay-Z-Boy and a thought suddenly occurs to me. “I have no idea what my [paternal] grandfather did during his WWII service.” This was distressing to me because we were about to take a trip to Normandy and I had no idea if he was there or what he did. My father wasn’t entirely sure either because he didn’t talk about it much. I never had an opportunity to ask because my grandfather died the year before I was born. This led to my next thought: “I bet I can find it online.” I was a self-proclaimed internet search guru. I was one of those people that used to enjoy that game Google developed around searching. I also love a challenge. I set out on a quest to determine where I could find information about his service.

It turns out it would take me three months to find his enlistment information and even longer to learn that his would have been one of thousands of records that burned in St. Louis in the 1970’s. In the mean time I found information about his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather and it before I knew what had happened I was hooked. This genealogy fever lead to my mother digging out the boxes and boxes of research my grandmother did in her lifetime. Records she drove across the country to retrieve but were already sitting on my hard drive thanks to digitization projects. My father dug out boxes of his father’s things which contained artifacts from his war experience that allowed me to piece together a basic understanding of his service. Countless family photos I had never seen leading to memories and stories I had never heard. A tour of my dad’s hometown where my paternal line lived for almost 150 years. All of this was fascinating to me. Not only was it drawing artifacts out of the woodwork of my own house, it was an endless internet search mystery and the prize was the story of the people I am related to.

It was so fascinating that I’m writing this post from the Indiana University library while I am waiting for my Archives and Records Management class to start so I can be part of the next generation of genealogists!

2016-05-12 14.58.28My family may not have any Italian roots (I should know, I just got our AncestryDNA results), but nothing describes my dad quite like a big pan of lasagna. It probably wasn’t passed down generation to generation but my dad’s lasagna recipe is carefully written on a stained index card in my dad’s block letters. It’s a hearty but simple meal that takes patience and love to bring together. Lasagna is a dish that gets made once a year or less in our house, so you know when the sheet noodles and Italian sausage come out it’s a special day. These days with fewer people in my parents’ household, one on a diet and two who are lactose intolerant, lasagna is an endangered species.

I wasn’t planning to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad until Monday when the restaurant traffic would die down and we could go enjoy a meal together without anyone stressing over the stove. My dad isn’t the kind of person you can buy a tool or a tie for. The most valuable things you can give him are time together and homemade food. We already had the time part in mind with dinner out but when I woke up this I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something. Still in bed, I browsed Pinterest for inspiration when I remembered my dad’s lasagna. So I quickly texted my mother for the recipe…and continued texting her all day for advice, as I usually do when I’m cooking something new. It turned out great, you can find the recipe below.

A few hours later I ended up with 3 small pans of lasagna to freeze for whenever dad wants it. I also picked up a bag of his favorite local potato chips and this afternoon I received a message from my mother warning me that my dad saw the picture of homemade cupcakes I shared on social media. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow to give him his bag of goodies! I hope you had the chance to make special memories with a father figure in your life this Father’s Day!



Dad’s Lasagna
Serves 12

1-1.5 lbs Italian sausage
10 oz lasagna noodles (not the “no-boil” variety)
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2T dried parsley flakes
2 beaten eggs
2t salt
1/2t ground pepper
1lb sliced mozzarella

For sauce: (or you can buy 40-60 oz your favorite sauce)
1 clove garlic
1T chopped fresh basil
1/2 t salt
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
2 6-oz cans tomato paste

Begin by putting a stock pot of water on to boil. While the water is coming to a boil brown the sausage in a skillet and spoon off the excess fat.

Add either the sauce or the sauce ingredients to the pan to simmer for 30 minutes. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions while the sauce is simmering.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine 2c ricotta and the next 5 ingredients in a bowl.

Remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to cool. Prepare a 9×13 baking pan for the lasagna. It can help to spray the pan to avoid stray cheese sticking.

Layer the elements in the baking sheet beginning with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom to prevent sticking. Then add a layer of noodles, overlapping slightly and going all the way to the edge of the pan. You can always cut and tear noodles to make everything fit snugly. Next add a layer of 1/2 the ricotta mixture, an offset spatula can really help with this. Then comes  a layer of mozzarella.

Repeat with a second layer of each ingredient. If you have any extra sauce add it before the last layer of mozzarella. You will probably have some lasagna noodles leftover but you should use all the ricotta and sauce.

Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes. If the top layer of mozzarella begins to brown too much cover the pan with foil until it is finished baking. Another option is to wait and add the last layer of mozzarella in the last 15 minutes of baking. Allow it to stand 10 minutes before serving.

If you plan to freeze the lasagna, freeze it before you bake it. If you can’t eat the whole pan of lasagna within a couple of days then use smaller pans and freeze the rest uncooked.

I know it’s Thursday but I finally found a minute to post my response to last weekend’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun! post from Genea-Musings. I love participating in these posts! You can find the original post here:

This week’s prompt is:

Tell us about your “genealogy life.”  How much genealogy and family history work do you do, on average, each week?  What tasks do you routinely perform every day, every month, every year?

It’s really hard for me to quantify my time spent on genealogy because I am so inconsistent with it. With a full time job that requires a lot of overtime I don’t have a lot of time to work on genealogy. I do most of my research on odd weekends or during the summer. There are some weeks I spend 12+ hours working and some weeks I spend no hours at all on  genealogy. I don’t have any consistent routines because I don’t have a regular schedule to work.

Well that was a lame answer. I hope I have a better one this time next year!

Anderson 1940c Lumber MillI tried new technique that Lisa Louise Cooke talked about on her Genealogy Gems YouTube channel recently! I used the website Animoto to create a video about the history of the Anderson Lumber Company, which was in my family for almost 90 years! I only did the free version so the quality is lower and there’s a watermark on the video, but it’s still a fun tool!

The company was founded in 1876 by my 3x great-grandfather L. G. Anderson in Franklin, Ohio. He passed the company down through three more generations before my grandfather Milton Anderson sold the company in 1963 and moved to Ohio to manage a hardware store. Today the only memory of the company, aside from the photographs, is a street named Anderson Street where the business was located. Watch the video below to find out more:

Check out Animoto to make your own or visit the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel to hear more of her suggestions.

I love participating in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Genea-Musings! Today is not Saturday, it’s Sunday, and I’ll admit 90% of the reason I’m writing this post is to procrastinate work I have to do at 9:30pm on a Sunday.

Today’s prompt is a relaxed one that is easy for me to answer! You can see the original post here:

Tell us about your “other” hobbies or interests outside of genealogy and family history research, writing, speaking, etc.

  1. Travel: I loooove to travel. And I love to plan trips almost as much as taking the trips. My favorite trips have been the times where I’ve been given a large block of time with complete freedom to determine how my family will spend it. I’ve been to England/Scotland (sadly this was pre-genealogy for me) and France. Currently working on a trip to Scandinavia this summer!
  2. Hockey: I am a huge hockey fan, especially college hockey. I drive 2.5 hours southeast every weekend to watch my alma mater’s hockey team.
  3. Cooking: I enjoy cooking, but I especially enjoy selecting what I feel are the best and most authentic recipes for interesting foods. I love making things completely from scratch and knowing that it’s good because I used good quality ingredients and gave it plenty of time to develop good flavors.
  4. Concerts: I like pop and punk pop music and I go to a LOT of concerts by myself during tour season.
  5. TV: As a single person I watch way too much TV. Mostly crime shows like Criminal Minds and anything “Chicago” and comedies like Big Bang Theory and Young and Hungry.
  6. Other things: I like to play video games, watch IndyCar racing, watch makeup videos on YouTube (and buy way too much makeup), go to garage sales and read romance novels.

That’s it about me! 🙂

Recently while browsing my files I noticed a list I made in Word titled “Genealogy Goals 2015” so I thought I should take a look back at the progress I’ve made towards these goals since I made this list back in December 2014.

  1. Solidify sources for grandparents & great-grandparents, then continue back through generations. Funny enough, I was just thinking about this today. I’ve learned a lot about improving source citations, etc. over the last year and a half. Of course I made rookie mistakes early in my tree and I don’t think I’ve done a very good job going back and cleaning it up! FAIL
  2. Attach media to family members in Roots Magic. I had every intention of being one of those enviable genealogists who duplicates every entry from to their software program….but I haven’t been able to keep up with it. I have satisfied myself by periodically downloading my GEDCOM file from my tree on and importing it to a new tree in RootsMagic but until they finally release the update that will allow syncing between the trees I’ll never be able to replicate my trees properly. FAIL
  3. Explore new tools available online. Finally something I’ve actually done! I think I’ve done a great job of this over the last year and a half. I’ve been watching a lot of videos from on YouTube to learn about strategies for using the website and searching the records. I’ve explored a lot of websites I had never tried before like Fold3 and various local repositories like an obituary request service from my local library, etc. SUCCESS
  4. Attach information about ancestors to I have been a FindAGrave fiend this year. I have taken a lot of volunteer photos, linked relatives, added photos, transcribed obituaries, etc. into the website. I love using it so I love making it more useful to other people. As of today I manage 55 memorials and I’ve added 133 photos. Woohoo! SUCCESS
  5. Visit more cemeteries. Hmmm I’ve visited a lot of cemeteries but I can’t remember if any of these were new and relevant to my family. I definitely have some on my list few, like a few north of Dayton and some in the Dayton area other than Woodland. MAYBE?
  6. Develop paper files? HAHAHA! even 2014 me knew how far-fetched this was and added the “?” to the end. I’m a mess enough in my everyday life. I don’t need paper files to make me even more of a mess. I’m pretty proud of how I’ve organized my digital files and I think keeping that in order is enough work for me. FAIL

Well looks like I didn’t achieve many of my goals but I think the ones I did achieve were some of the most important! I don’t think this post could be complete without setting some new goals for myself. I’ve listed 5 of them below:

  1. Purchase materials to begin the process of preserving my family photos and documents. I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time but cost has kept these resources out of reach. It’s still one of my top priorities for the future.
  2. Clean up my “rookie mistakes”. Like I said above, I need to comb the tangles out of my tree and fix any citation errors.
  3. Join and attend a local genealogical society. I struggle with this because my local county chapter folded and the nearest one is far away from me. But I’d like to motivate myself to attend!
  4. Learn more about records specific to Montgomery County. I have a brick wall ancestor who lived in Montgomery County, Ohio prior to 1850 and I have struggled to locate records pertaining to his birth and death.
  5. Work on my own digitization project! I have a ledger book from my ancestor’s business that lists the purchase history and account balance of various people in town. I really want to scan/photograph and digitize this book with a searchable index. It doesn’t have any genealogical information but it’s a fun enriching detail to a tree!

Last year I started a spreadsheet to identify my genealogy “number” or “score”. If you don’t know what that means, calculating your “score” is when you identify the total number of possible direct ancestors in a generation then you add up the number of ancestors that you have discovered in your research. It helps you measure progress over time.

According to my spreadsheet I ran this analysis almost exactly a year ago, in March. At that point my 10 generation score was 98/1223. Not very good!

You may know that I inherited a fair amount of research from my maternal grandmother but I have resisted using much of his information for many reasons. I opened her GEDCOM file this time last year to calculate her score as well and she had 128/1223 (this was calculated with me as the primary person).

This year I have recounted my ancestors and updated my number. My new number is 140/1223! I am pleasantly surprised at my own progress, considering I have taken a lot of time off of genealogy this year. I have surpassed my grandmother’s research!

You can see the exact numbers side by side below:genealogy score image

140 is great, but it can only go up from here!

Half the boxes I received from my mother.

Half the boxes I received from my mother.

I love participating in SNGF from Genea-Musings! I was especially glad to be interrupted this afternoon as I stared in loathing at four boxes of genealogy records my mother dug out of the shed from when she packed up her mom’s desk when she passed away in 2008. I have itching to get my hands on these records as I encounter more and more notes in her RootsMagic file that say “compiler has a copy of this document” but the document itself hasn’t been digitized.

Now that summer break has arrived for this teacher, I eagerly made my way to my parents’ house toting my laptop ready to dig in. Fast forward a couple hours and I am having a staring contest with four boxes of loosely organized papers, which my mother actually removed from the bulky binders they were originally kept in and placed in manila envelopes. The little I have timidly begun to excavate has yielded three thick document envelopes containing identical copies of correspondence between a distant cousin and an expert on my grandfather’s genealogy from the 1940’s in which the cousin was basically told that the “book” she compiled was mostly wrong. Why we have three copies of such letters, I have no idea, but if this is a sign of what else is to come in these boxes, I’m not looking forward to it. Especially since my scanner has suddenly decided not to operate wirelessly, so I have to balance my tethered laptop awkwardly on the edge of a table while I scan four boxes of paper at a snail’s pace.

The moral of this story is, I’m thrilled to have a distraction that has nothing to do with paper! Today’s task is to use some tree statistics to find out about the sources you use most. You can read about it here:

1. Have you done a good job of citing your sources in your genealogy management program or online family tree?  How are you doing?  How many source citations do you have, and how many people are in your tree?  What is the sources to persons ratio?

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I don’t keep my RootsMagic database separate from my Ancestry tree. Instead I mostly operate on Ancestry then periodically export the GEDCOM and import the file to RootsMagic. I have found this to be much easier for a person that has less than 5 hours a week to devote to genealogy during the school year. I do religiously download the images of sources I find on Ancestry. I also work really hard to add a lot of content to Ancestry as far as photos and stories. I like having a thorough tree to share with my family and I feel like supplying these things is a way of returning the favor to the genealogy gods who have bestowed some miracles on me. When I find information outside of Ancestry I try to use the “description” part of their fact form to explain where it came from, although I know this doesn’t count towards the number of citations. I find that Ancestry’s manual citation form is difficult to use so I avoid it as much as possible. When I add images of obituaries or other documents I always try to credit the person or repository it came from in the description and I diligently link uploaded media with facts/events. So with that said my “citation” numbers will be a bit skewed as 99% of them come from sources available on Ancestry, even though I have found plenty of information in other places and have tried to credit that in other ways.

The ratio question I find a little unclear. According to the Ancestry Tree Overview I have 2,342 records and 1,149 people. That’s ratio of 2.03 records per person. However, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that when Ancestry refers to a “record” it is meaning a single family on a census counts as 1 record, for example, even though that family might have 10 kids enumerated, which seems to put this number a little low. On the other hand when I run the stats in Roots Magic it says I have 7,116 citations for 1,149 people. That’s a ratio of 6.19 citations per person. I believe (again, correct me if I’m wrong) that when RM refers to a “citation” it is meaning each piece of extracted information from a record. For example I noticed that in a single person’s census record there were two citations: one for “name” and another for “birth”, which seems to skew the number a little high. Neither of these numbers seems to me like a good way to quantify the amount of information on my tree, but such is life.

2)  Which master source (e.g., 1900 U.S. census, Find A Grave, specific book, etc.) do you have the most citations for?  How many?  How did you figure this out?

I followed the same method outlined in the original post. I ran a report of sources and scrolled through the list to see how many citations different sources had. According to RootsMagic there are 149 different sources in my database. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. FindAGrave: 866 citations, 12.16%
  2. 1900 Census: 610 citations, 8.57%
  3. 1880 Census: 607 citations, 8.53%

Other notable sources:

  • 1850 Census: 251 citations
  • 1860 Census: 353 citations
  • 1870 Census: 344 citations
  • 1910 Census: 446 citations
  • 1920 Census: 441 citations
  • 1930 Census: 443 citations
  • 1940 Census: 411 citations
  • Ohio Death Index: 162 citations
  • US City Directories: 208 citations
  • SSDI: 120 citations
  • SAR Applications: 166 citations

Looks like FindAGrave takes the prize for me as well, but even I was impressed with how well each census fared in the list. Looking back at my Ancestry Tree Overview I still have 1679 hints to review, so maybe I’ll put off those boxes some more and go back to excavating some virtual information!

Have a great Saturday!

Straughn Photo 1930 - 1940 Photo Family

Straughen family photo taken in the early 1930’s. Back row second and third are James Franklin Straughn and Prudence Fisher. Front row on the right is Joseph Straughn and to his right is his wife Adeline Grunst. The other people are unidentified.

My maternal grandfather’s name is William Straughen (pronounced “strawn”). This name has gone through spelling changes in almost every generation since it arrived on US soil in the mid/late 1700s. William preferred the ‘e’ at the end. His parents went by Straughn, however in the preceding 3 generations both spellings were common. I look comically at a FindaGrave cemetery where about 20 ancestors are buried, half using the ‘e’ and the other half omitting it. Parents, children and siblings choosing different spellings.

It was long believed in my family that the name Straughn/Straughen was of German origin. My grandfather certainly believed that because during his youth in the 1930’s and 40’s he lived in a predominantly German area of New Jersey and learned German as a second language in school. It makes sense, German certainly seems like a language that would use a ‘gh’ that is pronounced like a ‘w’.

For the purposes of this post, I will be using “Straughen” from here on out because it is the oldest, newest and slightly more commonly used among all the ancestors I’ve found than it’s sister spelling.

Today when I was investigating the Straughen family line, I noticed that the first Straughen to cross the pond, John Straughen, was born in Scotland around 1750. Now this was surprising because it didn’t fit with the long-held idea that it was a German name. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, because it is entirely possible that John’s family somehow ended up in Scotland at the time of his birth when they were not from there at all. I began investigating and I noticed several pieces of evidence that lead me to believe that Straughen is a firmly Scottish name, not German at all. For example, the large concentration of Straughens (etc.) in North Carolina, Virginia and Australia, all places heavily colonized by Scottish immigrants.

Then I found this interesting article explaining the original of the name Straughan and it’s variations as being from the locality “Strachan” (pronounced the same as Straughen), which derived from Gaelic words that translate to “the valley of the horse”. It lt lists several modern variations that exist in Scotland including Strachan, Strahan, Straughan and Strain. I don’t pretend that this article is an entirely reliable source (none if its sources are cited) but the information certainly sounds logical. Article:

But the last website I found was the best: there’s a clan website. 🙂 I’m so excited about this. You can bet I’m joining the clan. You should have seen me when I discovered the Anderson Clan society, this was just a cherry on the cake. Actually, this website is quite informative and well sourced, it provides a wealth of information about the origins, history and modern use of the Strachan surname.

So with all this information I am going to conclude that my mother’s side of the family has far less German blood than we suspected!


Anderson, Bell, McKee, Hartzell, Cather, Straughen/Straughn, Barbour, Coleman, Fisher, Leppert, Shimp

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