Sep 152014

TexasGenealogyOnPinterestSince 2008, I have been using Diigo to manage my genealogy-related bookmarks. But that all changed a couple of weeks ago when I got an email from Diigo:

…Another problem that we have been struggling for a long time is spam – spammers have been very aggressive and crafty on our site, harassing users and importing junky content. Spammers a re costing us lots of resources not only in hardware, but also in manpower as we spent time developing anti-spam techniques and manually policing the site. We have decided to take a different approach to this problem by limiting the social privileges of free users. We now require captcha on many social features, such as following people, joining groups, etc. For a very nominal fee, you can upgrade yourself to “Social Membership,” which would grant you full social features without capcha, plus a lot of other goodies. We expect to stop the vast majority of the spammers with this simple measure.
We’d like to elaborate more about Social Membership and its pricing and our thoughts behind the decisions. As long-time Diigo users know, Diigo is a personal knowledge management tool on the one hand, and a knowledge-sharing community on the other hand. While it is perfectly fine to use Diigo s olely as the former, we do believe that the value of the knowledge-sharing community could be substantial, as the number of active users increases, and as the spam is minimized. As a result, we have decided to set the social membership annual fee at $5/year on Oct 1, 2014, and will increase the price gradually thereafter according to a pre-determined formula, as the number of active social members increases. To reward existing users, an attractive promotion price of $2/year will be available until Oct. 1, 2014. For future years, you will continue to pay the low annual price you paid in the first year, as long as your credit card stay valid for automatic renewal…
The way I read this, Diigo will no longer be a free service. And that’s fine for them. You gotta do what you gotta do to run your business.
I have never been totally happy with Diigo, but it was the best available for the price (free!).
So when I got this email, I decided it was time for a change of address for my favorites.
I have been reading a lot lately about different ways that folks are incorporating Pinterest into their genealogical research. It looks like a great (free!) place to store my genealogy and history-related bookmarks, while making them available to other researchers as well.
As I had several hundred sites saved at Diigo, it took a few days to get everything packed up and moved to Diigo, but last night I completed the job.
Please visit my Pinterest boards and see if there is anything there that you can use. I have created boards for each state used in my research, also for documentation and technology as it relates to family history.
This, of course, is an on-going project, so if you see anything that interests you, feel free to follow that board.
Jul 162014

My great-grandfather William Earl Hall is one of my brick walls. I have 3, and only 3 confirmed pieces of evidence that document his life: his marriage license from Indian Territory, (now Oklahoma) in 1906, a newspaper article discussing said marriage (my great-grandmother was under-age at the time and lied about it! Oh, the scandal!), and his entry in the 1910 US Census from Gainesville, Texas. After than, he has vanished. The family lore goes that he died in some sort of railroad accident (he did work for the railroad.) Since my great-grandmother remarried in 1913, I can assume he died between 1910 and 1913. And that’s about all I know for sure.

According to the 1910 census, William was born in Kansas, about 1887. So I did a general search of the 1900 census, looking for a William Hall, born ca 1887 in Kansas. Lots of William Hills popped up, of course. But the one who seemed most promising, mainly because of his location, was William Hall living on Cherokee Nation land in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.

Now comes the “tricky” part. This census image shows William at the top of what looks to be page 22A. He is listed as “son”, with 6 siblings and parents from Iowa and Indiana. Wouldn’t you think that his parents would be found at the bottom of the previous image, page 21B?



Not so!

Here is the previous page (labeled as 19B), no Halls to be seen!



But if you move on the page after William:



Here, at the bottom of the page (labeled as 20B), are William and Minnie Hall, from Iowa and Indiana, with 6 kids (the group of six children showing William, Jr as the oldest child on the previous page.)


So what you see on a census page is not always 100% true and correct? Oh, myyy….

Jul 072014

JanMStanley (1)Tonight, I was just finishing up on the file update for my Aunt Jan, reviewing everything, making sure I had the dates, locations and source citations correct. Trying to be thorough and wondering where else I could find information about her life. Let’s see: birth, education, marriage, residence, census, death, funeral. I think I got all of that.

Hummmm…. education. I know the name of the high school and the year of graduation. I even found her high school yearbook on Wow, check out those hair styles…

(Focus please!)

I did a quick online search for the high school + the year of graduation and I discovered that the R L Paschal High School Class of ’56 has a website. This site contains all sorts of tidbits about the Class of ’56, including yearbook photos (which I already had from Ancestry) and…digital images of the 6-page graduation program!

And there on the last page, with all the other S’s, is my Aunt Jan Marie Stanley.

Adds a personal touch to the file, don’t you think?

Jul 042014

Genealogy and web design are to my brain as are Oscar Madison and Felix Unger to that apartment in New York City. Can they really live together and get along?

I think so.

About a month ago, I purchased Bloggy, a premium theme for this blog. It was time to remodel the kitchen, so to speak. I wanted some fresh paint and new appliances.

In the first couple of days after the purchase, I created new pages, set up widgets, added links and images. The site was looking pretty good. Then my attention went back to genealogical research and I didn’t pay much attention to the blog’s inner workings. But the web-development part of me took charge again. You see, I love creating and developing a website almost as much as I love genealogy! So I went to Bloggy’s own website and conducted a more thorough study of the theme and its abilities, and learned a lot.

So when I got off work last Sunday nitght and got home about 1 am, I logged onto this blog and went to work. Chronic insomnia occasionally has its benefits. By 7 am Monday morning, I had

  1. developed my WordPress public profile, adding as my gravatar a baby picture of me
  2. added a “follow me” widget
  3. added a link to my Diigo bookmarks
  4. completed the About page, including adding a featured image (that baby picture again)
  5. worked on both cemetery pages, adding an image gallery to each
  6. created a “Genealogy on a Budget” page, with sub-pages for my links to free genealogy websites/software/etc. I was considered creating a Weebly site for the budget pages (I do love to build websites!), but got to thinking: Why create a separate site that might draw visits away from this site???” Duh!
  7. also changed and tweaked the theme for my Archives site

I also discovered that it’s probably not a very good idea to stay up all night working on a website. My brain was mush for the rest of the day!

It took me a couple more days to really get the “Budget” pages to look the way that I wanted them to. I first had to go through over 400 bookmarks saved at Diigo and weed out the duplicates and dead links, then reorganize them according to location. And since Diigo’s export function really doesn’t work very well, I had to figure out how to get those links to this blog. Than done, I then needed to develop the Budget pages in such a way to present the links succinctly. I accomplished this by adding tables to the pages, and began inserting my favorite free genealogy sites. It’ll take a few days to get them all added.

My blog is done, for now. So come on Oscar, I gotta get back to work on that photography… oops, I mean genealogy. ;)


Jun 262014

The starting over work with my RootsMagic database is progressing nicely. But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. I have only edited a few of my ancestors’ files so far, but I have been really digging and scratching, in search of new data. As much as possible, I am trying to present a complete picture of that person, birth to death and everything in between.

The work on my grandparents is done (for now…). Particularly with these two people, I remember so much “first person”, especially with my recently-deceased grandmother. But the only documentation I have for some of these facts is “personal knowledge”, which is really not the most dependable of sources.

As an example, I entered several residence facts (dates and locations) for my grandmother. I knew these facts to be true, as I had visited the sites hundreds of times throughout my own lifetime. The locations were accurate, the dates for some where “ballpark” figures.

I needed more than personal knowledge and estimations to vouch for these facts!

So start off, I went to the Tarrant (County) Appraisal District website. As I knew the street addresses for my grandparents’ homes (those that I remember visiting), I searched for those addresses. This database shows recent previous owners, as well as the legal descriptions (subdivision name, block number, etc) of the property locations.

Armed with that knowledge, I next went to the Tarrant County Clerk home page, and searched for real property records for my grandparents that correlate with the legal descriptions. Most of the documents don’t show the actual street addresses, only the legal descriptions of those locations.

I found and downloaded about 40 pages of documents, containing the legal property descriptions and my grandparents’ names, dating from 1950! I’m not quite sure what all of these documents show, as I am not terribly familiar with the “legalese”, but they do all relate in some way (deeds, mechanics liens, etc) to the legal descriptions and ownership of my grandparents’ homes.

MilesFStanleyII (82)This document from 7 Mar 1950 shows that my grandparents paid $1950 for:

certain improvements, to-wit: Convert existing garage into a room, repair entire house, construct garage…

That $1,950.00 in 1950 had the same buying power as $19,256.17 in 2014! (Annual inflation over this period was 3.64%)

Interestingly, from the Tarrant Appraisal District site, I learned that this house was built in 1946, yet by 1950 it needed significant repair work.

An added bonus from these many documents: my grandparents’ signatures on every one!

While these resources deal with Tarrant County, Texas, I’ll bet many other localities have similar records available online, just waiting to be found!


Jun 212014

A few days ago, I posted about my summer genealogy plan: to “start-over” with my RootsMagic database. The project is to re-do, clean up and simplify all of my source citations, to make them compatible with Evidence Explained.

So, how’s it going? Well, I have reconstructed the source citations for 4 folks and it’s a slow go, starting from scratch. My method has involved:

  • Step 1- I exported the GEDCOM from my old database, but with names only (no sources, no notes, no multimedia links)
  • Step 2- I installed RootsMagic To Go on a USB drive and plugged it into my computer, then opened the old database from the USB drive and opened the new database from my hard drive. Both databases are now open, side by side on my computer screen
  • Step 3- I looked at the sources for each fact, threw out the weak ones and re-did the citations for the stronger sources (ex: I was using a marriage index entry as a source, as well as the original marriage certificate)

This is a slow process, but I’m also taking my time, trying to make sure the citations are correct. I think things will move faster, as I get more comfortable with this system.

For comparison, here are images of the “old” source citations for my Mom’s file:

MarSStanley old sources1

MarSStanley old sources2

And here is the single image of the “new” citations:

MarSStanley new sources

Same facts, but clearer and more concise citations.

As I understand the purpose of a source citation, it is to present the information necessary to allow another person to retrace the researcher’s path and locate said source.  As I look at the “new” source citations, I think those paths are clear.


Jun 162014

My summer (and well beyond, I’m sure) is set!

On 13 Jun, DearMYRTLE posted this on her Facebook page:

My project this summer isn’t scanning. AAACK! It’s all about starting over with my RootsMagic genealogy software. It isn’t that I didn’t like my other RM database file. It’s just so confusing because older entries had everything in notes, newer entries had source citations a la Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book Evidence Explained.

That’s something that I’ve been thinking about, too. For a couple of years, actually. Why? My sources are, simply put, a mess! I know a lot more about citing sources now than I did when I first switched over to RootsMagic several years ago. I also understand better now how RootsMagic manages sources.

A couple of years ago, I tried to rework my sources/citations to adhere to Evidence Explained guidelines. To do this, I decided to rewrite all my sources by using RootsMagic’s Free Form source template. The problem with this approach is that the each citation has to be written by hand from scratch.

I quickly got bogged down and discouraged with this massive task, and soon abandoned the idea entirely.

But DearMYRTLE, you have inspired me!

Just as I have started over with this blog, I guess it’s a good time to start over with RootsMagic.

In preparation, a couple of “opportunities” have presented themselves:

  1. Can I run 2 instances of RootsMagic at the same time, in order to view the old database entries while preparing the new entries?
  2. What are my most frequently-used source types and how can I better use them when starting over?

Opportunity #1 has a simple solution. The RootsMagic software comes with its own portable app, RootsMagic To-Go. I installed the portable app on an extra USB drive and plugged it into my desktop computer, started it up, and now I have the desktop app and the portable app side-by-side on my screen, each fully viewable and editable. (I also changed the color scheme for the display of each instance, blue for the old, green for the new, just to clarify things).

Opportunity #2 took a bit of head-scratching. I looked at all the sources (several hundred!) that I used in the old database to see which needed to be combined/modified. I’m trying to improve and simplify my Source List, you see. For example, I have cited many, many databases found at I found that I have 3 different citations that all refer to the same Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976 database! What should be one source type is written 3 different ways! Hence, my problem. So I made a short list of source template to start with. RootsMagic Source Type FavoritesMost of my sources will fit into one of these types, I hope. It’s a beginning.

Another change will be the “share this fact” feature, where a single fact can be used with multiple ancestors, such as with a census enumeration. I have never liked the way the shared fact is presented, so I won’t be using that feature with the new database.

I also want to make sure that the Place List is consistent throughout, along with several other minor fixes.

As a test, I “started over” with my own Person page. After a bit of juggling, I have completed my new file. It contains only 3 source types at this time:

  • Personal Knowledge- “been there, done that”
  • Artifact, Family, privately held (by collection)- my person stuff, such as my birth certificate, marriage announcement and college diploma
  • Basic Online Template- not listed in the image to the left, but it worked out well for USGenWeb data, such as the date and file number for my divorce decree (oops, kinda forgot the gory details…)

Now, granted my personal file doesn’t contain the usual family history source items, such as census data, Civil War service records or probate files, so it was fairly simple to do over. But I am pleased with the way that it turned. The same facts are present, each documented as thoroughly as before, but my source list in cleaner, much simpler and, by using RootsMagic’s templates that have been structured with Elizabeth Shown Mills and Richard Lackey in mind, I believe the source citations are written correctly.

Jun 112014

This lady never fails to astound me! Dovie McBurnett was my great-grandmother. Earl Hall was my great-grandfather. Earl was Dovie’s first husband (I have counted 7 so far: Hall, Stanley, Epperson, Epperson (same guy, second marriage), Priddy, Bailey, Copeland, Coshnitzke).

Earl was the father of 2 of Dovie’s 3 sons, middle son Victor was my grandfather.

Anyway, I was doing a little more searching at and look what popped up:

(From the Daily Ardmorite, Ardmore, Oklahoma, 24 Jan 1906, page 5)

Dovie McBurnett research is never boring!

Jun 112014

VicEHall20Yesterday I signed up for a free 7-day trial at and I have already found several small items, as well as a full obituary for my grandfather!

This one is from the Abilene Reporter-News. I was surprised to find his obit in this newspaper, as Abilene and Stephenville, Texas, where he lived, aren’t that near to each other. But, hey, I’ll take it!

I already have a very short obit from the Stephenville newspaper, but it has very few details.

I didn’t learn anything new from this new obit, but I’m still happy to have it!

Jun 102014

As I slowly go through my database and upload images to create my Ancestor pages, I am finding that many of my folks are extensively documented. But I really haven’t looked at that documentation recently, some in 4-5 years.

So with each Ancestor page I create, I do a “cursory” Google search, and I run that person’s name through some of the appropriate FamilySeach databases, as well as Find A Grave, and several other free sites. Not digging very deep, just a quick check.

This morning I was preparing to create a page for my grandfather, Victor Earl Hall. I typed his name into Google and look what I found:


A freebie from, the 2 Mar 1936 edition of the Denton Record Chronicle.

I already have a copy of his marriage license, but the newspaper announcement in pretty neat, too!

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