Notes from the past…

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The Seasons of My Genealogy Research

This has been written for the next Carnival Of Genealogy, to be posted on the West in New England blog on July 4, 2011.

First things first: I live in Texas, and there are only 2 seasons in Texas…

HOT (as in downloading as fast as I could!)

This would be the beginning on my genealogical addiction, ca April 2003. I had recently gotten a new computer and a decent (dial-up!) internet connection, and I was playing around with my new toy one day. My daughter Sarah came over to visit and I remember she was searching online for the lyrics to a particular song. At this point in my cyber-life, I had a difficult time just turning my computer on, so Sarah came to visit a lot!

Sarah actually got me started in my genealogical quest, although she had, and still has little interest herself. Somehow as we were surfing that day, we ended up at Don’t know how we ended up there, maybe Ancestry put a bug in my computer… Anyway, Sarah asked me for some names and off she went. It wasn’t long at all before she found a family tree with my step-grandmother perched on a branch.

Ok, you say. So what? Well, in 2003 I didn’t realize that Agnes Amanda Schad was my step-grandmother. As kids, my brothers and I had always called her Nanny II. Nanny (the first Nanny, that is) is my Mom’s mom. Nanny II was my Dad’s mom, or so I thought. It suddenly occurred to me: Dad had Nanny II and Mamie. I never before that day really put the pieces together and realized that Mamie was his biological mom and Agnes was his step-mom. We visited both and just accepted things as they were without ever thinking twice about it.

Wow, and here I was trying to decipher my first pedigree chart! From that day on, I have been hopelessly hooked on the hunt!

My HOT season continued for about a year. I downloaded everything I could find at Ancestry that I thought related to my own family. Didn’t matter if these people actually were my ancestors. Sources? Who cared about sources? Certainly not me!

I also began to follow a few blogs. Dick Eastman’s newsletter was my first. But as I read these blogs during that first, blistering hot period, I very slowly began to realize that I needed to do this right. I needed sources! Somewhere I read that “without sources, genealogy is just gossip.”

I had also tried several genealogy database programs, starting with Ancestry’s first freebie, Ancestry Family Tree. (I think that was the name…) I dabbled at filling in the source boxes, but wasn’t consistent.

Still not really making a serious effort, though.

If you’ve ever lived in Texas, then you know that one day is summer and the next is winter. No Spring or Autumn down here.

COLD (as in cold, hard research!)

By about 2005, I had finally become a serious researcher, sort of. I had settled on Family Tree Maker as my database program and began to add sources to each fact, sometimes. I had stacks of papers on my desk and images scattered all over my hard drive. I followed several blogs and thought I knew a lot about family history research. My cousin Susan helped me set up my own first blog.

But I am nothing if not a neat freak! I looked at my work and the tornado alley that was my desk and hard drive. As 2008  arrived, I had accumulated an immense amount of documents and images downloaded from Ancestry and other genealogical sites. I had a rather cluttered metal file cabinet. What a mess! I also just wasn’t really comfortable with Family Tree Maker. The look and location of my blog had changed several times. I seemed to be spinning my wheels. Time to get organized and stop wasting time!

Over a period of weeks in late 2009, I cleaned off my desk and reorganized my file cabinet by Surnames. I set up a series of Surname folders on my hard drive. Photos and actual documents went in the file cabinet, scanned and downloaded images went into the Surname files on the hard drive. I had earlier switched to RootsMagic as my database program. I imported my FTM file into RootsMagic and printed out a 13-page list of everyone in my database, ordered by RIN numbers. I started at the top of the RIN list and went through each person’s page and added sources to every fact. In most cases, if it didn’t have a source, then it wasn’t a fact and it was out of my database! I am still working through that list, about half-way completed.

My blog is now at and is used to document my research. Here I can talk about my “Happy-Dance” moments or pose questions and examine brick walls. Since my ancestor hunting has evolved into methodical research, I have had more than a few Happy Dances and even knocked down a brick wall or two.

Most of my images and documents are “virtual” now, and reside on my hard drive and my Picasa Web Albums site. My metal filing cabinet is for original photos and documents only.

I am proud of the work that I have done and can say with confidence that my family tree is not a collection of names, as I have seen in some trees, especially on Ancestry. I still refer to these online databases, but as a guide only. If I find a person online who looks to belong in my tree, I then start hunting for proof, for sources. I have uploaded my GEDCOM’s to RootsWeb’s WorldConnect and also to WeRelate. If you visit these sites, you will find my data, along with all my sources.

I open my RootsMagic program almost daily (or more!), go to the next person on the RIN list and… DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!


87th Carnival of Genealogy: The Little Engine That Could*

The theme for the 87th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is New Year’s Resolutions, genealogy-style!

This is the perfect time to make your New Year resolutions, goals, aims, declarations, intentions, aspirations, objectives, plans, targets, schemes, wishes, or whatever you want to call them!

As we all know, it’s just so easy to make up a list of things to do that don’t get done. The list may be too long or too boring or too healthy or too expensive or… too-something! There is always a reason, an excuse for not following through with a New Year’s Resolution list.

Most of my previous New Year’s resolutions have landed quietly on the floor and been spirited away to the Underworld… of my desk, that is, with the dust bunnies and cats’ toys.

So this year, my list will be shorter and hopefully more manageable:

  1. Do something genealogy every day- add a new fact or source citation to my RootsMagic database, read a research article, upload a new image to my photo gallery, check out a new website. Time spent doesn’t matter. 5 minutes or 2 hours… just do it!
  2. Become more active in the geneablogger community- enter more carnivals, post more daily themes, leave more comments on fellow geneabloggers’ posts.
  3. Post to my own blog with more regularity- I tend to write in spurts, gotta learn to pace myself, drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen(?)…
  4. Join my local genealogical society- either the Tarrant County Genealogical Society (here in Fort Worth) or the Hill County Genealogical Society (I have tons of ancestors from nearby Hill County!)
  5. Enroll in the National Genealogical Society’s Home Study Course- I took the NGS Intro to Genealogy course online a few years ago and I have always wanted to take the big Home Study Course. This resolution will depend on finances. $365 for the self-graded course or $565 for the graded option. I have some more pressing financial concerns that must be dealt with first.
  6. Get an OpenID- Denise from Family Matters has published a wonderful OpenID Primer, just gotta take the time to actually read it!

As Scarlet O’Hara said (frequently!), “Tomorrow… is another day!”

* Watty Piper, psued. The Little Engine That Could. New York: Platt & Munk, 1930.


85th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Orphans and Orphans

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: “Orphans and Orphans”

The first type of orphan refers to those ancestors or relatives who lost their parents when they were young.

The second type of orphan would be those siblings or cousins of our ancestors whom we think of as “reverse orphans.” They are the relatives who, for whatever reason – death at a young age, never having married or had children, or having children who did not survive to provide descendants. They have no direct descendants of their own, so it falls to us,
their collateral relatives, to learn and write their story.

I can’t imagine losing both of my parents and having to grow up without them. How difficult that would be! Who would take their places and teach me how to ride a bike or drive a car, or how to make that perfect Pineapple Upside Down Cake or how to deal with the death of a beloved pet. How could I grow into a loving, responsible adult without my parents to guide me?

Two members of my family tree especially stand out for their transition from orphaned child to trustworthy, mature and loving adult.

Joh,HenThomas2Susan Pix (12) Susan Pix (92) JohTStanleysJohTStanley2

My great-grandfather John Thomas Stanley entered my family as an abandoned 2-year-old, grew up in a loving adoptive home, created his own happy home consisting of a wife and 4 children, and became a respected member of the early 20th-century Fort Worth banking community.

Susan Pix (55) Susan Pix (13)

Susan Pix (56) Susan Pix (59) Susan Pix (94) Susan Pix (57)

My great-grandmother Mary Tennessee Turner Rogers lost first her father when she was only 9 years old and then her mother when she was 18. Mary entered her adult years without her parents to guide her. But due to the love and security provided by her older brother John Joseph Turner, who became head of the family and father to not only his own children, but to their younger brother James Bowie Turner and orphaned nieces Mattie and Lizzie Turner, Mary also grew up to be a warm, caring and much-beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

And what of the “reverse orphan”? What would the future have brought? What might have been?

Susan Pix (34) MilFStanley3aSusan Pix (35)

Susan Pix (31) Susan Pix (29) MilFStanley3d

As the only son born to my grandparents, my uncle Miles Francis “Mike” Stanley III should have carried on the Stanley name. But it was not to be. Mike was killed in a tragic gun accident at age 14. By all reports, Mike was a bright and inquisitive boy, active in the Boy Scouts and interested in his community. When he died only 3 days before Christmas, he had been planning to join his father in delivering Goodfellow bundles to area children whose families were suffering financial difficulties at Christmas time. My branch of the Stanley surname died along with him. My 93-year-old grandmother is the last surviving Stanley.

What might Mike have become? Would he follow his grandfather into the banking industry or perhaps become a draftsman and engineer like his dad? Or travel a different path, that of a physician maybe, like his second great-grandfather Dr Nathan Blunt Kennedy?

“If you save one life, it is as if you saved the world!”

What might have been?