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Family Interview PacketWhen I was a middle school teacher a few years go, I ran a Family History Club for students. The club met once a week and had 5-10 enthusiastic students show up any given week. The first week of the club I introduced the process of family history research. We got to know each other with some pair share questions and I assigned them to interview a relative over the upcoming holiday break. Students also signed up for a Family Search account at home with parent permission.

We started by discussing why interviews were an important place to start, how to select an interviewee, and good interview techniques. At the end of the meeting students spent some time selecting interview questions from the packet I handed out. Following the break students shared what they learned from the interview and used the information they gathered to identify facts that could be supported with documentary evidence.

The interviews were the jumping off point for a year’s worth of research! I was happy to let the students research independently with me there for support. As a sponsor it was an easy club to manage, I was there as a guide while students worked. Beyond the first week I didn’t plan many activities or structure the time too much because my members were eager to have time for research. Over the next few months we would occasionally pause our work to talk about census records, newspapers, maps, etc.  The students helped each other with their work and together we celebrated our accomplishments. Many continued working at home with the help of parents and grandparents.

It is important to note that, due to the age of the students, my focus was on getting them interested in their family stories and excited about new discoveries. I want them to go to family gatherings and talk to their relatives, ask about family photos, and know that they can use documents to find new information. While we did talk briefly about citing sources and weighing evidence, I chose not to overwhelm students with this aspect of genealogy. I believe that if they truly take an interest in the subject beyond the few meetings of our club, they will arrive at this information on their own very quickly.

In preparing to lead this club, I was inspired by the A.B.G.S. Middle School Genealogy Club. I recommend checking out this article about the club if you want to lead one of your own! https://www.afrigeneas.com/spotlight/spotlight012.html

Below you can download a PDF of the interview packet I handed out to students at the first meeting. Feel free to use and adapt the packet for your own needs. Please share the link to this post with others!

Download the Family Interview Packet

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I love participating in the weekly SNGF posts from Genea-Musings. You can view the original post here. This week’s prompt is:

Who is one of your relatives (ancestor or not) who behaved poorly during his or her life?   It can be any time period.”

I would say my most ‘badly behaved’ relative would be my great-grandfather, Walter Howard Bell. I have started but never finished several posts about him. He has been quite a mystery to me and I have worked a lot on him. There were no stories passed down about him because he died when my grandmother was very young. Everything I know about him came from research!

Walter was born in Illinois in 1881. His family moved around quite a bit during his childhood before settling in Helena, Montana, where Walter’s father Charles was awarded a contract as an architect for the Montana state capitol building. He spent his young adult years working as a bank clerk before moving to Minneapolis in 1906 where he worked as a sales agent for a local quarry.

This is when his “bad boy” days began.

bell-1907-newspaper-walter-anna-hertel-10-jan-anaconda-standard-news-mt-th_an_st-1907_01_10-0011-copy

From the Anaconda Standard (MT) 10 Jan 1907

I gather from city directories that Walter met his wife via her sister, who worked as a receptionist at the quarry. Although his fiance, Anna Hertel, was over the age of majority her parents disapproved of the match. Anna suffered from tuberculosis and spent long periods of time away from home in places that would ‘improve her health.’ Using this to their advantage Walter and Anna concocted a ruse. They convinced her doctor to recommend a visit to Montana. Walter and Anna left on separate trains and reunited in Great Falls, MT. The next day January 7, 1907 they married and returned home, accompanied by Walter’s brother who had been married the same day.

11 months later they welcomed a baby girl but the marriage deteriorated soon after that and 1909 is the last time he is listed in a Minneapolis city directory. Anna returned to live with her mother and her official status became “widow ” on all records. She wasn’t listed as “divorced” until her death while residing in a sanatorium 10 years later. Meanwhile Walter has moved to New York. He is living in a rooming house in New Jersey and working out of New York City as a traveling rep for an oil company. On the 1910 census it says he has been married to a woman named Genieve for 2 years (during which time he was still with his first wife) and that this is his first marriage. No other records of her have been located.

In 1911 he marries a woman named Leda Curtis from New York and they move to Chicago where he is working as a traveling rep for another oil company. On the marriage license he lists himself as never married. They have one son together and remain in Chicago for 10 years. In 1921 they move to Dayton, Ohio when Walter gets a job with Gerkin Oil and later with a gas pump company. Within a year Leda and Curtis have returned to Chicago and she, too, lists herself as “widowed” until she remarries.

Grace McKee & Marilynn Bell 1944

Grace and Marilynn, 1943

Walter then married my grandmother, Grace McKee, around 1923. Walter and Grace have one daughter, my grandmother, Marilynn Bell. They live together in Dayton for 10 years before Walter gets a job as a statewide manager for Ohio Oil and the family relocates to Findlay, Ohio. In 1934 Walter dies suddenly and his widow and daughter return home to Dayton.

A traveling salesman married at least 4 times with at least 3 children and possibly some of those marriages overlapping? I’d say that qualifies for ‘poorly behaved’!

 

I love participating in the SNGF series from Genea-Musings. You can see the original post about this week’s topic here.

This week’s prompt is:

1) What was your best research achievement in 2016? Tell us – show us a document, or tell us a story, or display a photograph. Brag a bit! You’ve earned it!

My best research achievement this year was a breakthrough on the details of the life of my great-grandfather Walter Howard Bell (1881-1934). Walter has been a mysterious character. His ancestors were easy enough to trace back very far (thank you Quaker records) but his own life was murky. He was a traveling rep for an oil company and lived everywhere from Illinois to Montana to Minneapolis to New York to Ohio. I was aware from early in my research that Walter was married more than once. I had found a little information about his first wife but that was it. This year I really set out one weekend to follow Walter wherever he took me. After browsing 50+ city directories, using a free trial of Newspaper.com and ordering some vital records I discovered a lot of new information about Walter’s life!

I already knew Walter was born in Illinois and moved with his family to Kansas then to Helena, Montana. Walter’s father was an architect who won a contest to design the state capitol building in Montana. As a young man Walter had worked as a clerk in a bank in town and in 1906 he ventured away from home to Minneapolis (not Chicago like the city directory said!)

  • Walter met his first wife, Anna Hertel, daughter of German immigrants, while working for a quarry ibell-1907-newspaper-walter-anna-hertel-10-jan-anaconda-standard-news-mt-th_an_st-1907_01_10-0011-copyn Minneapolis. From the city directories I learned that his wife’s sister was a secretary at the company and I’m assuming that is how they met. Walter and Anna eloped in Montana in 1907 with the help of a doctor who convinced Anna’s parents she needed some “fresh Montana air” for her health. Walter’s brother and fiance met them there, had a double wedding and returned to Minneapolis together the next day! I confirmed this by locating marriage licenses for both couples. Walter and Anna had a daughter, Claudia Margaret/Marguerite. I later learned that Anna suffered with tuberculosis most of her life. She and Walter separated/divorced in 1908 and about 10 years later she died in a tuberculosis hospital in Minneapolis. I also finally found her burial location thanks to her death certificate and within days a kind volunteer had shared a photo on FindAGrave.
  • In addition to learning about his first wife, I was able to track more of the rest of his life, including a possible second marriage to a woman in New Jersey, where he was living when later that year he married his third wife, Leda Curtis. Walter spent a few years living in New Jersey while he worked in New York City, which is where the oil company’s headquarters were. Together they moved to Chicago and had a son. Shortly thereafter they moved to Ohio and within a year they had separated. Interestingly the wife returned to Chicago after the separation and she remarried. I was able to find a photo of her and their son on Ancestry.

I already knew this information, but to end the story: Soon after the separation from his third wife Walter married my grandmother, Grace McKee. (I have yet to find a record of an actual marriage though.) They were married for 10 years and had just moved across the state for Walter’s new job as a regional manager for another oil company when he suddenly passed away in 1934.

2) We all have elusive ancestors. What research problem do you want to work on in 2017? Tell us where you want to research and what you hope to find.

After the discoveries above I’m still hoping to learn more about Walter H. Bell. I want to confirm Walter’s possible 2nd marriage and locate a record of his 4th marriage. I am also very interested in identifying and making contact with possible descendants of his other children in order to confirm the relationships with DNA. I would love to hear if any stories have been passed down from the other perspective, since there were certainly none from my family. My primary lead for this is a cousin who possibly has the information or knows where to find it. I have struggled to locate the daughter after her mother passed away and I cannot locate a marriage of the son but I hear he did get married.

I also can’t talk about research problems without hoping I’ll break through my brick wall and locate the birth date, birthplace, death date, death place and parents names of my ancestor John H. McKee! I mostly ignored him in 2016, but maybe 2017 will be the year I finally figure him out!

I can dream, anyway.

download-pdfA guide for people who might be interested in genealogy

A few days ago I saw a post on Facebook from a friend who mentioned that she bought an AncestryDNA on a whim and just received her results. She had never done any genealogical research and had no idea what she was doing. I offered to give her some pointers and help her get started on her genealogy research. I started typing out a document with the basic background information she would need to understand the test and how genealogy research works but it got out of control and I ended up with 5 pages of information! Oops!

I happened to mention this absurd document in the AncestryDNA Matching Facebook Group and several people suggested I share it so that’s what I have done here. Click the link at the bottom of the post that says “Download the PDF” to download the file. Enjoy!

**DISCLAIMER**
Before you read this I want to warn you…I am NOT an expert in genetic genealogy. I am relatively new to the entire process myself, so if I’ve made a fatal error please let me know gently. The purpose of this document is to give a total beginner who has already invested in a DNA test enough basic information to decide if they are interested in pursuing genealogy further. This is not a ‘how-to’ guide and it does not provide specific sources of further information. If you read this and decide you want to learn more about genealogy or DNA you should pursue further resources on your own, I don’t have anything to recommend to you for further reading. And if it sounds like an infomercial for genealogy that is intentional because I think everyone should love genealogy as much as I do! 🙂

–> Download the PDF: So You’ve Taken an AncestryDNA Test

I love participating in Randy Seaver’s SNGF series! You can find a link to the original post here if you want to participate. This week’s prompt is:

What goals do you have for your genealogy research, education and writing during 2017?

Research

  • Complete the entire 2017 Genealogy Do Over program from Thomas MacEntee. As I have indicated in a few posts I am participating in the do-over as a way to clean up my genealogical research and get back on the right track. I have already completed months 1 & 2, now I need to keep it up!
  • Visit the National Archives and scan a few pension files. I have a spring break trip planned in that direction to visit family and I really want to visit NARA while I’m there!
  • Administer more DNA tests. On the same trip I will be taking along 3 DNA kits to administer to family members. My mom, while not a genealogist, seems already eager to purchase even more kits for other family members to take the tests! I am hoping to get some relatives on my dad’s side to test as well but that will require getting in touch with people that haven’t been in contact in 30+ years.
  • Put DNA results to use! I had my parents and grandfather complete DNA tests in the last 18 months but I have not really pursued the matches. After joining the Central Indiana DNA Group I think I have gathered most of the necessary skills to follow up on the matches and learn from them. I have already begin doing so a little and I plan to do more this year.

Education

  • Attend RootsTech 2017 in February to learn even more techniques I can apply to my research. I am so beyond excited and grateful that Roots Tech offered a student discount that made it feasible for me to attend the conference. I can’t wait to get on that plane in 3 weeks!
  • Stay up to date on podcasts and videos I subscribe to.
  • Pay attention to opportunities for free webinars.
  • Join #genchat on twitter! I have been so bad about remembering to log in for these. And if I don’t forget then I’m busy that night. I need to add these to my calendar so I remember to participate!
  • Attend as many local events as possible. In 2016 I was able to attend 2 one-day conferences at local societies and I hope to attend more this year. I have joined my local genealogy society and I’m trying to attend events as often as I can but most fall during the week when I have classes. I am also attending the local Central Indiana DNA Group when I am able.
  • For Christmas I received a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I look forward to familiarizing myself with citation formats so I can write better citations for my sources as I’m researching this year.

Writing

  • My goal this year is to publish at least one blog post a week. I didn’t do very well at that last year, but it’s a new year, time to start fresh!
  • I am really interested in learning how to write my ancestors’ stories this year. To that end I have signed up for a lab at Roots Tech and for Christmas I received a copy of Personal Historian 2. I hope to put these two opportunities to use this year. I have a few ancestors in mind that I would like to start with and I hope to accomplished at least one ancestor’s personal history this year.

I didn’t realize I had so many goals until I started typing them! Hopefully I am able to accomplish some of these. I don’t have a good track record with genealogy goals, but that might be a side effect of attending graduate school full time.

I hope you accomplish your goals in 2017!

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.

anderson-1940c-photo-milton-1

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: http://www.geneamusings.com/2016/09/saturday-night-genealogy-fun-what.html

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!

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: http://www.geneamusings.com/2016/05/saturday-night-genealogy-fun-your.html

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.

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: http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/06/saturday-night-genealogy-fun-what.html

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!

Surnames

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

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