Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Started You Actively Researching Your Family History?

Tonight Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings asks what started you actively researching your family tree?

For me, it was partially fascination with my mother's side of the family and partially fascination with the photograph you see on the right side of my site.

I was about 12 when I found a leather wallet full of family information and photographs, and it turned out to be the Blake family of Wrentham, Massachusetts - my paternal grandmother's mother's ancestors. That got me wondering about the stories about the people in the photo and the family trees my great-great Uncle Erwin Felton Blake had taken the time to type.

It also made me wonder about my mother's family. After all, I knew their surnames were Haley and Bartlett, but I didn't know a thing about who these people were, since she and my dad had divorced when I was only about 3 1/2 or 4-years-old, and my dad raised me.

So I started digging and asking questions, poking around at the library, not really quite sure of what I was doing at first. But as I turned 18, moved out, and got married, I persevered in my quests. I can't remember what my first genealogy software was or when I got it, but I think it was Generations in the mid-to-late 1990s.

It's interesting to see how far I've come from that leather wallet full of family documents and wondering about my mother's family, to what I know now!

By the way, I ultimately did get to reunite with the mother I hadn't seen since 1979 or so (as you can see, I'm much taller than her!). We finally met in 2008 and it was a wonderful family reunion.




Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Tidying the Genealogy Database

As genealogists, we often focus on a particular ancestor or family who is especially fascinating or on whom we have a difficult time gathering all the facts (yay, brick walls!). But sometimes our genealogy database needs a going-over to check for tidiness. This can be very difficult when you have thousands of names in it, not all of which are direct ancestors.

The problem of having only a name and no facts isn't too difficult to remedy. Maybe we were lazy that day and didn't bother learning more about a particular person before we moved on. Or maybe we decided there wouldn't be much of interest after a certain point. I know I got very lazy with certain ancestors in the 1600s, mostly in the Boston area. (Yes, bad genealogist. Bad.)

Having only a first name listed, however, is particularly vexing and that issue generally happens with female ancestors. How many people have surname-less Abigails, Elizabeths, Sarahs, and others in their file? I'm sure I'm not the only person.

I even have one lone fellow who is nothing more than a nickname to the family members who knew of him! That's right - no first name, no last name. Just, "We called him Mac. He was in the Navy." Oh dear...

So this is why at least once or twice a year, I like to comb through every name in my database. It's a tedious process, of course. But as I add facts and focus on being more conscientious when I add names in the future, it gets easier. I usually do this after I've exhausted a large amount of time and energy trying to scale brick walls. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to finally get the facts for Jane and John Doe entered properly.

Where to start? If it is someone living after 1850, I always see what I can glean from the censuses first and then delve into vital records, cemetery records, and newspapers. If they are pre-1850, that's trickier. I look at vital records, court records, and land records in that instance.

Women's maiden names aren't a total loss, even if you can't find a marriage record or death record that gives it. Look closely at census records - one of her parents or siblings might have resided with her at some point after marriage.

Also, look at her children's birth, baptismal, marriage, or death records could give their mother's maiden name. Military records, especially pension files, could also list it, since family members might have provided affidavits in support of the pension claim.

I often look at land records, as well, especially if I'm looking at a pre-1850 family. There are plenty of instances of a married woman's father as a party to land transactions with his son-in-law. Probate records can help immensely if they list the names of family members who are paid out under the estate.

Sometimes you can even learn more about the first-name-only person by simply searching for them in records by just their first name and date range. If they have a fairly uncommon first name, this technique can be surprisingly useful.

Well, I'm off to see if I can finally discover anything about Mac, and the various Abigails, Elizabeths, Sarah and others in my database!


Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Haley Family of Plympton, MA

One of the first family surnames to intrigue me was Haley. I haven't revisited the family since 2009, though not much has changed as far as what I know about them.

My 4th great-grandfather (on my mother's side) was Edward Marshall Haley. He was born September 8, 1810 in Ireland according to Vital Records of Plympton, Massachusetts to the Year 1850 (Boston, NEHGS, 1923).

Information from Plympton, Massachusetts records tell us he was born in Dublin. Letters from one of his granddaughters (my cousin's grandmother) tell us he was a Protestant from Northern Ireland, and went to school in Dublin. His parents, Thomas and Mary Haley, sent him an allowance, which he used to come to America.

Sometime before 1830, Edward came to Massachusetts. On February 5, 1830, he married Clarissa Barrett in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Edward and Clarissa had 12 children, 10 of whom lived to adulthood. This included 6 sons and 4 daughters. One child died before the age of 2 and one daughter, Elizabeth, died when she was 6-years-old. Almost all of the living children probably have descendants living today (I have researched down as far as I can, and have connected with a few cousins). Those children were:

1. Thomas Haley - born March 4, 1831 in Plympton, Massachusetts, died April 5, 1863 in New Orleans, buried at the Chalmette Battlefield.

He has descendents living today, who have his Civil War sword. These descendants are through his son, Henry Thomas Haley, about whom stories still exist in Plympton, such as:

"Tom" Haley loved baseball and bowling. He was also the partner of Frank Hanley in the old H & H Blacking Company (Hanley & Haley) in Brockton, Massachusetts. After Tom and Frank died, the company was changed to K & H Blacking Company, with Harry Haley (Tom's son) as one of the partners.

He is also mentioned in "Tales of Old Plympton," (1977) vol. 1, pg. 338 by Eugene A. Wright with regard to baseball. Tom had moved into Plymouth and joined their baseball team. In a game against his old hometown of Plympton, "The Plymouth boys licked the ------ out of the Plympton boys, but didn't Tom look nice in his uniform."

Henry's son, Harry Franklin Haley (my cousin), is the author of Immortal Athalia.

2. John Barrett Haley - born October 29, 1832 in Plympton, died July 5, 1862 at Point Comfort, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He may be buried at the Hampton Military Hospital there.

3. Susan B. Haley - born August 18, 1834 in Plympton, died August 9, 1857 in Abington, Massachusetts.

4. Mary M. Haley - born May 3, 1836 in Plympton, died January 3, 1910 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

5. William Barrett Haley - born July 10, 1837 in Plympton, died November 24, 1882. He served in the Civil War and his pension file was of great use to both myself and his granddaughter, my cousin. The affidavits written by his wife talked about how they had met and ultimately married in 1873.

6. Ruth Barrett Haley - born January 23, 1839 in Plympton, died 1918, probably in Plympton or the surrounding area, as she is buried there. Her husband, Edward Turner, died at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

7. A Haley child born in 1840 and died August 4, 1842 in Plymouth.

8. Elizabeth Haley - born August 3, 1841 in Plympton and died September 4, 1847 in Plympton, just a month after her 6th birthday.

9. Edward Haley - born April 14, 1843 in Plympton, died August 23, 1905 in Middleborough, Massachusetts, evidently the longest-lived of the 4 Haley brothers who went to fight the Civil War!

Whether or not he has descendants is unclear and his daughter is one of my biggest mysteries. He had a son who lived to adulthood, married, but never had children. And then there was his daughter, Annie, who had an illegitimate Haley in 1892. After that, Annie and her child disappear. One of the mysteries to be solved (and you know how much I enjoy genealogical Nancy Drew-ing)!

10. Clarissa Haley - born February 14, 1845 in Plympton, died June 26, 1927 in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Clarissa had 2 marriages and 4 daughters, and is buried with both her husbands in Plympton.

11. Charles B. Haley - born February 18, 1847 in Plympton, died August 8, 1927, probably in Plympton or Middleborough. One of the few (or perhaps only) children who has no descendants living today.

12. My 3rd great-grandfather, the youngest child, Benjamin F. Haley - born between August 1851-1852 (for some reason there is no birth record), and died after 1930, probably in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

Oddly enough, my own grandfather eluded me for quite some time! His wife and 3 out of 4 children died in a diptheria epidemic in Plympton. It took me a long time to find out that he had remarried and settled in another county!

Meanwhile, his son, Hiram Frederick Haley - the only survivor among his siblings and mother - lived on to marry the daughter of Irish immigrants and have children.

At this time, I still know nothing about Edward Marshall Haley's origins in Ireland. His death certificate names his parents as Thomas Haley and Mary, but everything about Edward's life before Plymouth and Plympton remains one of those family mysteries.



Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Genealogy Podcasts

Every night before bed and most days during my commute to and from work, I listen to podcasts. Though I retain information better if I read it, I've gotten comfortable with listening "better" by listening to podcasts. I keep a notebook nearby so I can write down anything I want to remember later. At this time, I listen to many podcasts about topics of interest to me and, of course, that includes genealogy. My current subscriptions are:

The Forget-Me-Not Hour: Jane Wilcox often covers topics of local research interest to me, like New York genealogy, which figures heavily into my ex-husband's ancestry. She does cover more generalized topics as well and her guests are always quite knowledgeable.

The Genealogy Professional Podcast: While I'm not a professional genealogist (though I'd dearly love to be, I lack the time and money), I find their stories quite inspiring. I also love Marian Pierre-Louis's voice. She conveys so much warmth and friendliness.

Family Tree Magazine Podcast: I love Family Tree Magazine and really need to re-subscribe. This podcast is a nice round-up of topics from each of their issues. It gives the editors and writers a chance to expand a bit on their articles.

I'd love to find one to three more podcasts to add to my iTunes. I've tried a couple of others that just didn't feel right for me, like Extreme Genes - wanted to like it, but it was just too commercial for me.

Do you listen to genealogy podcasts? If so, which ones do you like the most and why?




Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Why I Don't Use Ancestry.com

People often ask for website recommendations when they start researching their family history. When they come to me about Ancestry.com, I tell them I personally prefer not to use it, but they have to decide for themselves.

Since it is positioned as The Website for genealogy, I should probably explain why I don't subscribe. Some people have questioned this.

The simple answer is that it is too expensive and I don't think a records repository should cost so much to belong to. For a while, I've also felt they are much too monopolistic. It's so easy to find them, given their name and marketing, and many people don't think to look outside of that.

Fortunately, sites such as Fold3 and FindMyPast are growing, but even still I'm not ready to pay for a subscription to any site, other than my NEHGS membership.

I'd rather take that $200+ per year that Ancestry costs and put it toward items I know will advance my research - vital records, books, or donations to libraries when they are kind enough to send me a PDF of an obituary or other document. A check for $5 or $10 goes further when I send it to a church in Nova Scotia for a copy of my great-great-great grandmother's baptism register, at least in my estimation.

State archives are very underrated. You would be surprised at the digital collections many offer online for free. Google Books has a plethora of out-of-print family histories, visitations, and more that can help guide the direction of your research. All of the U.S. and Canadian censuses are now available on FamilySearch, not to mention many state censuses.

It's not that I have anything against Ancestry.com. I just feel that I can find what I need less expensively or free elsewhere, and there are better places to spend my limited income (in addition to supporting my family, that is) in the name of genealogy.



Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan