Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again

When we're immersed in the hunt to break down a brick wall, sometimes we can get overwhelmed and lose sight of the obvious. Sure, we're looking for the not-so-obvious, like that one newspaper article that helps fill in gaps between censuses or FAN club (friends, associates and neighbors) research that helps us find a missing sibling.

But sometimes we need to take a step back from a brick wall and go back to some "beginning" tactics.

1. Start with what you know and work your way back. 

Yes, this is the piece of genealogy advice we give to all beginners, but let's step back and approach our brick wall as if we're starting all over again, too.

What do I know about the brick wall I've been researching for 25 years, Emma Anna Murphy without even going into the research I've done on her?


Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again - Wendy's first pedigree chart


Thanks to my parents filling out this information when I was born, I know she is my great-grandfather Harrison Clifford Shaw's mother. I know her maiden name. Thanks to conversations with my grandmother Barbara (Shaw) Wood before she passed away, I know Emma came from Nova Scotia, possibly Halifax.



2. Create a timeline. 

If you haven't already done this for your brick wall ancestor, step back and give it a try. If you're not sure how to format your timeline, you can check out some of the ideas from the April 21 #RogueGen Twitter chat. 

Why a timeline? Because it can help you better articulate your research goals for this particular person.
Whether you use a simple list format or spreadsheet, just start writing what you know in chronological order, working your way back. This overview takes you out of the standard person or family view in your family tree software, pedigree charts and family group sheets.

Here is my timeline for Emma (click,to expand it to full size):


Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again - Emma Anna Murphy Timeline


3. Review what you have gathered.

Sometimes we overlook something in the records we already have.

In Emma's case, I have the original marriage register from the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, her marriage certificate, her death certificate, and censuses from 1900 to 1940 all printed out. This also includes the birth, marriage and death records of her only child, as well as the administration of her estate, her obituary, a photograph of her headstone, two town directory entries and a newspaper article about an assault case in which she was the defendant.

One thing I didn't pay attention to initially, but noticed upon re-examination was that Emma stated in the 1930 census that she was age 16 at the time of her first marriage. That means her first marriage occurred around 1877 or so. That helped me narrow my search for her first husband. 

So pull everything out and review it to ensure you didn't miss anything.


4. Print everything and put it in a binder or folder.

Having a brick wall case file - that is, a binder dedicated to brick walls and current research, or folders for brick wall ancestors on whom research is ongoing - can help immensely. It's easier to flip pages than scroll through digital documents. It's also nice to have a physical file to carry with you when you do research on location.


5. But also put your digital files on a thumb drive, tablet and/or laptop.

If you have a mobile device you use for your research, having your digital files on that also ensures you've got them ready to go for genealogy road trips. 


6. Use your timeline to pinpoint questions and goals.

Now that you've reviewed and re-examined the records, look at your timeline. What are the gaps that need to be filled in? Work your way back from your ancestor's death to make a list of questions and research goals. In my great-great grandmother's case, my primary goals are:

a. Find out the name of her first husband, Mr. Re(a)gan, and their date and place of marriage;
b. Find out my great-great grandmother's date and place of birth.

Additional goals or questions to be answered are when and where Mr. Re(a)gan passed away or if they were divorced, if they had any children, and when my great-great grandmother emigrated to the U.S. from Canada.

Finding that marriage to Mr. Re(a)gan is pretty much my main objective right now, but the other goals are also written on my timeline and highlighted in yellow.


7. Get a second set of eyes on the problem.

Send your timeline to a friend and see if they have any ideas or recommendations. They can help you see where there might be other questions you could focus on or areas to direct your research.

Another idea is to swap brick walls with a friend. We all need to rest our minds. Otherwise, we keep banging our heads against the same brick wall, not even making a dent in it. So why not see if someone else wants to take a crack at it and offer to return the favor?

All of us have different subscriptions, different ways of researching or approaching a question, or running an online search. So swap timelines and your primary goals/questions with someone else. The new research problem will refresh you.



8. Put your ancestor's life in historical context.

Did they live during the American Revolution? The Civil War? The Great Depression? Historical events can have a significant impact on how our ancestors lived and moved. Correlating their life to these events can help us better understand what might have motivated certain moves, how they reared their children, and other decisions.

Also look at the circumstances surrounding their childhood and what you know of their adulthood. In the case of my great-great grandma, my current theory (based on recent findings) is that she was an illegitimate child. As a result, I think she might have created a certain "history" for herself to pass on to her grandchildren. For example, she showed one of my great-uncles pictures of ships and said she had wealthy ancestors who owned them and had a trade route from Nova Scotia to Boston.

Yet I find no evidence of this. That's not to say this isn't true. Perhaps it is, but the one link I've found so far to another potential family member completely turns these stories on their head and give me an illegitimate Emma born to a Murphy mother, not father.


9. Keep a research log or journal.

Use this to keep track of where you've researched so you don't return to the same books, documents, and newspapers again and again. Databases are often updated, so do log them, but make note of the date you checked them. If you return to them for another search, make note of it.


10. Look beyond the usual online searches.

Finally, after exhausting census records, vital records, databases, books, and newspapers, you might think an ancestor simply fell onto the face of the earth one day and that was that. Trust me, I know that feeling.

So try switching up your search techniques in databases. The break-through for me came when I searched for my great-great grandmother's parents' surnames, instead of my great-great grandmother directly. What did I find? Another woman with the same parents, also from Nova Scotia. Now, it remains to be seen if this is Emma's sister (I now believe it is her aunt), and I still need to learn what I can about Margaret Murphy, the woman whose parents have the same name as Emma's. But this has been the most useful find in 25 years of researching my great-great grandmother. 
Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again - A Different Online Search

Don't forget local historical societies, tax records, DNA matches (I am currently in the process of triangulating mine thanks to one of my parents sharing their DNA data, so I can narrow the field of potential relationships on my Murphy side), and more. A Research Checklist can also help make sure you cover some of your bases from the start.

Oh, and treat yourself to something after a particularly intense research session. I don't care of it's a margarita, an iced latte, chocolate, binge-watching Netflix or buying a new genealogy book. When the going gets tough, try some self-care to keep from burning out.

I hope these 10 tips help you overcome the overwhelm and get your focus back. What is your favorite way to handle a frustrating brick wall?




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Family Pets

Pets - Wendy and the snake
I wanted a snake. Didn't get a snake, but I wanted a snake!
The Ancestral Findings podcast did a fun episode recently about family pets and how meaningful they are in our lives, so I thought I would share a little bit about our family pets.

I don't remember much about my first three pets. When I was a baby and up until I was maybe three or four-years-old, we had one dog and two cats. I only remember them as Ziggy, the yellow lab, and Marble and Butterscotch, our cats. Marble was a dark tabby, I believe, and Butterscotch an orange one.

When I turned thirteen, that was the year my father decided we needed a cat. Shadow was a very sweet kitty, though she took more of a liking to my dad and sister than she did to me. However, in her last five years of life, she lived with me. Shadow lived to be seventeen and was a healthy cat until she simply got old. She was a beloved family pet.

Tremor
Tremor - this picture of him is tattooed on my right arm.
It was 1995 when I met "my" cat. His name was Tremor and he was a beautiful white cat with black markings and a black tail. At the time when he was found in an alley way, he was just a little thing and nervous as heck. He settled in with me easily, though, and was very loyal throughout his life. He wasn't keen on other people, but he was my constant companion.

Tremor had a couple of accidental adventures I won't recount here, because they are not for the faint of heart. He lived until 2007, when he passed away at the age of twelve due to complications from a blood clot.

My black lab, Cody, had an active life too. He arrived a month later in 1995. Tremor wasn't ready for a dog in the apartment! But they ultimately became friends. Cody was a huge dog, perhaps part Great Dane. When we walked him along the streets of Brockton, people actually would cross the street in fear of him when they saw us coming.

But Cody was just a huge, loving baby. He never harmed another person or animal, though he didn't know his own strength. Usually he was the one walking me! He was also an escape artist, so tall that he could climb over a chain link fence without hesitation. He also passed away in 2007, age twelve.

Stormy came about a year later. She was with me from 1996 to 2013. She was extremely affectionate and easygoing. Stormy lived a much quieter life than Tremor and Cody, except for her health problems. She developed hyperthyroidism when she was eleven.

Bandit & Stormy
Stormy loving on Bandit.
Fortunately, a course of oral medication, followed by radiation eradicated it. But she had a recurrence in 2013. Since she was over seventeen years old and the quality of her life was in question, I brought her to the vet to say goodbye.

Bandit was my dog. We got her in 2000 or so. She was smart, smaller than Cody, and easier to handle. Like Stormy, she was a super affectionate pet. Her life was far more calm and uneventful.

I've lost many pets, but Tremor's death in March of 2007 was the hardest on me. I cried for a month. There was a huge hole in my heart that could only be filled with another male cat. He had to be special, though. So I went to the Dover, Delaware SPCA on Friday, April 13, 2007.

Shiva
Shiva, destroyer of all he surveys.
And there he was - this tiny black, polydactyl kitten. Shiva came home with me that very day.

He's intelligent, but oh-so-lazy. He is also my only indoor-outdoor cat. I've had him since 2007, so he's already ten-years-old, but as menacing as ever. Oh yes, he's got the lean, muscular look of a panther. A teeny, tiny, semi-domesticated panther. He managed to whack his head once when shaking it vigorously and developed a hematoma in his ear. The vet drained and quilted the ear. Shiva has looked a bit like a scrappy alley cat ever since.

In 2011, I got my black-headed caique, Avery. We purchased him from a breeder in England. He hatched in February 2011 and came to live with us in May 2011. Avery is smart, sociable, and a bit of a strutting, spoiled brat. Caiques are known for being intelligent and playful, the "clowns of the bird world." It's hard to believe he is six-years-old now. He could live for up to another twenty-four years!

Kobold
Kobold "derping" hard.
Cats are a recurring theme in my life. Even though I'm married to someone who is allergic to them, it doesn't matter - he loves cats too. So in 2011, we also got a cat in England. Her name is Kobold aka Derp Cat. She's... special.

We love Kobold. She's fluffy and sweet, though slightly skittish. She also licks glue and runs headfirst into windows and glass doors. One moment she might be standing on the floor and the next standing in a ceiling beam, snapping a housefly out of the air. We're not sure how she reconciles her stupidity with her agility, but she keeps us entertained!




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Favorite New Brunswick, Canada Genealogy Resources

I spend a great deal of time researching the genealogy of New Brunswick families. These families are mainly loyalist ancestors and I'm always looking for more resources, especially since these are brick wall ancestors.

Some of the sites I've found helpful when it comes to New Brunswick genealogy are:

Heritage Charlotte - this is a site that looks back on Charlotte County's history and includes links to cemeteries, censuses and more.

Marshland: Records of Life on the Tantramar - this virtual exhibition courtesy of Mount Allison University looks at life in the Tantramar area near Sackville, New Brunswick. 


New Brunswick Genealogical Society - the site for the society includes forums, families histories and their First Families Index. 

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick - this fantastic resource includes land records, vital records, newspaper statistics and much more. This is my first stop when researching families from New Brunswick. The newspaper index is especially wonderful.

Other pertinent sites include Ruby Cusack's, which has some hidden gems buried within if you take the time to dig.

You can also find all of these websites linked on my Genealogy Resources page for New Brunswick.

I'm always looking for more resources, especially for New Brunswick. Please share your favorites in the comments!





Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adoption Resources for New England

New England Genealogy: Adoption Resources for New England
In 2009 and 2012, I wrote about one of my distant cousins, Mary Haley, who disappeared from records after 1871. I learned that she was adopted and after stumbling upon her name change, was able to locate her marriage record and trace her at least until 1930.

While I located this information thanks to a Google search, finding name changes and adoptions doesn't always come so easily. If you have a family member who disappears at a young age and for whom you can't find a death record, a name change or adoption might be your answer. But where to begin?

After exhausting your search of census records, you might try:

1. Google

That ended up being the last step in my search for Mary Haley, but considering the power of the search engine it is well worth making it an early step. In my 2012 post, I shared that I found this resource, which is how I learned about Mary Haley's name change:

"List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts 1780-1892", Collated and Published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth under Authority of Chapter 191 of the Acts of the Year 1893. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1972.

So try a Google search and see if you get a hit with the answer.

2. Town Reports

If you know both of a child's parents died when the child was young, try checking the town reports, as they often have interesting information about what became of the children. This includes pauper accounts, warnings out, coroner's inquests, and much more. You might find some useful nuggets about changes in families.

3. State Archives

Some state archives have adoption records available, but how open they are will depend upon state regulations. Some states have published reports of adoptions that are more than 100 years old, with more recent information restricted to specific parties. Adoptions could have fallen under probate records as well. State archives should be able to tell you where to find them for that specific state.

4. Birth, Marriage, Death & Probate Records

Even if someone was adopted and their name was changed, their biological parents' names might be listed on their marriage or death record. This is probably more likely if the person was older when the adoption or name change occurred.

As for a birth record, the original birth might exist and give the person's original name before adoption. For example, my uncle's grandmother was born Mary Caufield and her parents were both listed on her birth record, available from the town where she was born in New York. But she was adopted by people I believe were her uncle and aunt, Job Jenney and Anna Cassidy. So while her original birth record has her birth name and birth parents, she appears in the 1900 and 1910 censuses as Mary Jenney.

Adoptions and name changes were generally handled in probate court, so check probate indexes for the time period, as well.

5. Naming Clues

Sometimes a child's birth name is in their adopted name. In the case of Mary Caufield, her adoptive parents retained Caufield (sometimes incorrectly indexed as Carfield) as her middle name.

Adoptions can be tricky, but there are more records and clues than we might realize if we dig.

I'd love to know your experience with researching adoptions and what records you found that helped you along the way.


New England Genealogy: Adoption Resources for New England



Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 30, 2017

5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference

5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference
Rootstech! NGS! FGS!

We've all heard of the big conferences and how wonderful they are for genealogists, but what about your local genealogical society conferences? If you haven't attended one yet, you might be surprised at what they have to offer.

1. Small vs. large


I love large events. I attend a particular fandom convention that is going on 6000+ attendees a year! But the sights, shows, and panels can get overwhelming. Getting through almost 10 rooms designated as the "Artist's Alley" and "Dealer's Den" is like navigating a maze. Sometimes there is too much going on and I just can't do everything I want to do, or decide which panel out of the twenty available all at the same time I would rather attend.

A smaller event might be more comfortable for you for a number of reasons. First, if you don't like large crowds, it could be less daunting.

Second, you're less likely to run into the "Five sessions that I want to attend all being held at the same time" dilemma.

But what if there are two sessions you would like to attend that are scheduled for the same time slot? If you choose one, odds are you have a better chance of getting some one-on-one discussion time with the person who led the other one, since you have less people to contend with. So maybe you can get any handouts or educational material from the session you did not have the opportunity to attend, or ask for any particular tips they shared in their presentation. Presenters are more accessible in a smaller conference setting.

The syllabus might also be more detailed than you expect and cover the topics within a session you don't attend, if you're stuck choosing between two at the same time.

2. Locally-focused sessions


The Nebraska State Genealogical Society's annual conference was last weekend and naturally the main focus of the conference was Nebraska genealogy. If you live elsewhere in the United States, but have ancestors from a particular area, "going home" to that state for their local genealogical society's conference may be more valuable to your research interests than larger conferences with broad appeal.

Topics will mostly likely focus on how to use certain local resources, as well as larger Federal resources pertinent to the state or geographical area. So if you need to pick and choose which conferences to attend, take a closer look at those local to where your ancestors lived. You might find it's both a better value and more focused content.

3. But the broad appeal is there too...


I am a New Englander who just happens to live in Nebraska. I have no North American ancestry outside of the New England states, North Carolina, Virginia, or Nova Scotia.

However, the Nebraska State Genealogical Society conference was still valuable to me because they offered broader topics on researching genealogy in general, learning how to find records for certain ethnicities, and using DNA as a research tool.

4. Additional benefits


Lunch was included both days of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference. There were vendors, but not so many that it was overwhelming. The opportunity to win door prizes and raffles was also an unexpected and fun surprise.

I also met probable cousins with shared New England ancestry because the whole reason to attend a conference is to not just learn, but network. In fact, it was easier to meet those people, because I already knew from the syllabus who had New England connections and it was easy to track those people down just to introduce myself to them.

So even without having Nebraska roots, I learned a lot, met great people, and had a fantastic time.

And if, like me, you don't live near home/where your ancestors settled in America, then visiting a conference back in that locality could also turn into a research trip.

5. Inspiration


Reading blogs, watching webinars and livestreams of larger conferences, and more is great.

But there is something invigorating about being in a room full of people who are there with a shared interest and purpose. Even if you are hearing a speaker present something you thought you knew enough about, a new perspective can often get the wheels turning in your mind and help you see things in a new light.

Now that I'm home and full of fresh ideas from my local genealogy conference, I'm ready to delve back into the syllabus and the notes I took from the conference, and put some new ideas into practice.

New England Genealogy: 5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference



Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Ways to Make Connections With DNA Matches

National DNA Day - #DNADay17
Happy National DNA Day!

I've been fascinated with DNA since the first tests were available to the general public. Back in 2006 I had my mtDNA (Haplogroup H for me) tested by Family Tree DNA. It was my first foray into using DNA for genealogical purposes. 

In the years that followed, I had my ex-husband tested with both his mtDNA (Haplogroup A, to our surprise) and Y-DNA (in hopes of finding his surname's origins). Then I added the Family Finder test to widen my results to autosomal DNA in 2013, excited to try it. Finally, I added the Family Finder to my ex-husband's testing just last week.

Of course, I am excited for the results. But there is one thing I have yet to really delve into with my own Family Finder matches.

How do I make connections with my DNA matches?


There are a few ways.

1. Filter your matches

  • Match Date - probably not very useful in making connections, but nice to know
  • Relationship Range - an estimate about how you are related, i.e. "2nd - 4th cousin"
  • Shared centiMorgans - the sum of autosomal DNA, measured in centiMorgans (cM), that you and yoru genetic match share
  • Longest Block - the longest segment of autosomal DNA, in centiMorgans (cM), shared by you and your genetic match
  • X-Match - displayed only if you and your genetic relative match on the X chromosome

With Family Tree DNA, you can filter the Family Finder/autosomal matches in a variety of ways, including by:
In your matches view, you can also see whether or not you've linked someone to your tree yet and the surnames listed on their profile.

So what does all of this mean? I'm going to simplify the heck out of it.

Relationship Range can be a good way to narrow down how you are connected to a particular match, but don't take it at face value. The one person I have been able to connect with and link to my family tree was listed as a "2nd cousin - 4th cousin." Together we proved we are 3rd cousins, 3 times removed. So keep in mind it's not a precise guess and best used as a loose guideline in figuring out the connection.

Shared centiMorgans and the longest block let you know just how much DNA you share with a person. Because the way DNA is handed down (randomly!) this, again, won't necessarily help you determine a shared ancestor, but it can give you an idea of how closely related you are.

My strongest match in this regard shows that we share 77 cMs and the longest block is 40. She is also an X-Match with me (more on that in a moment). Unfortunately, she has not shared surnames or a family tree, so I need to reach out to her and see if I can make contact to determine a relationship.

X-Match is about whether or not you share an X chromosome handed down by a female ancestor, but this doesn't mean you share an easy-to-figure-out maternal relationship. This post explains how to use the X-Match, but I find so many DNA posts are full of hard-to-understand lingo, that my eyes glaze over. Suffice it to say, understanding how an X-Match figures into your family tree will, like the shared centiMorgans, require some digging your part.


2. Chart your matches


Looking directly on the website can be a little frustrating, so try the option to download your matches into an Excel spreadsheet. It might make it easier to work from the spreadsheet side-by-side with your email or family tree, and to come up with your own system for notating who you've contacted, matches you've made an ancestral connection with, etc. I always like to note the date I emailed a person and any responses.


3. Enhance your charting when you make a connection


There are several templates out there such as this one that allow you to enter DNA information, so you can have a way to see those genetic connections visually.

4. Check every match out, person by person, and start emailing


This is best if you're delving into Y-DNA matches or autosomal/Family Finder matches. I don't recommend it for mtDNA matches. As we all know, mtDNA is "deeper" and any matches probably go back more generations than you can count.

Don't be discouraged if people don't email you back. It's like reaching out to the point-of-contact on many online family trees. Most won't write back. But some will, so it is worth trying, documenting your attempts to make contact and charting those you are able to identify on your family tree.


5. Make sure YOU are easy to find


If you have taken a DNA test, attach your family tree to it. You don't necessarily have to import an entire GEDCOM, but taking the time to enter at least 5 or more generations and basic information on ancestors makes it easier for matches to locate you.

Add several generations of surnames to your profile. Yes, this takes time, but usually the whole point of DNA testing is to see if there is some fantastic mystery relative who shares your genes and might hold some kind of special key to family secrets. So it's worth the time to maximize your profile for discoverability.

5 Ways to Make Connections With DNA Matches




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

I've been using Legacy since the Best Buy in Dover, Delaware opened. I discovered Legacy Family Tree by accident when I was browsing the software in the store back in 2002 or 2003.

Prior to that, I used Generations and then Family Tree Maker. I wasn't keen on either of them, but they got the job done. So when I saw a 2-pack with Legacy 4.0 and scrapbooking software for far less than half the cost of updating my Family Tree Maker, I figured I would give it a try.

Ever since, I've been a big fan of Legacy. I stayed with 4.0 for a while, then went to 7.5, and now I've upgraded to 9.0 thanks to the features Randy Seaver listed in his post.

Since it was an upgrade, I got to pay the lower upgrade price. I also used the 15% off code offered by Thomas MacEntee.

Now, on to the software!

First, I like the family view better. It looks tidier to me. But this is my favorite part of that view:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9


How cool is that? Half-siblings and their other parent's name are listed right there! It's much easier to navigate to them now. It also has more room for siblings, so if you have more than 12 siblings, you don't have to scroll down to see them.

Second, how well does the Find-A-Grave integration work? Pretty darn well when I test it on someone I know has a Find-A-Grave listing. So I tried it someone I've never searched on Find-A-Grave, like Rhoda (Delano) Winsor:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9


I just clicked the Find-A-Grave button and voila!

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9


So what about some of the other features listed in the upgrade? I was most interested in the Hinting, so I checked it out.

There's nothing explicitly listed as "Hinting" on the toolbars, Fortunately, Randy Seaver deconstructs how to turn on tips in this post at GeneaMusings. I checked and hinting was already enabled for MyHeritage. You can also add hinting for FamilySearch (requires your login), FindMyPast and GenealogyBank.

It took Legacy about 12 to 24 hours to generate hints for me, but when I opened the program the next day, there they were - a little orange circle with a number in it:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9


Just click the circle and a pop-up shows you where the hints were generated from:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

Then you can click the blue box to be taken to the site and see the results. I found that the hints didn't improve anything for me thus far, but I'm glad to see these sites integrated with Legacy. You just never know what someone might put out there that you will miss. Legacy can pretty much search for relevant hits for you even as you sleep!

Those are just a few of the new features in Legacy 9.0. As always, Legacy continues to offer powerful software that doesn't break the bank. I'm sure I haven't even delved into all that it is capable of, but I hope to in the near future.




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Favorite Plymouth County, Massachusetts Research Resources

Plymouth County, Massachusetts Genealogy Resources
There are many go-to research resources for New England, such as the wonderful holdings at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Their databases are well worth the price of membership. Family Search also has many fantastic resources.

But sometimes there are hidden gems we don't know exist, until we happen upon them in a Google search. When I realize I've stumbled upon a treasure, I try to make sure I save the link for future reference. Here are some of my favorite, perhaps lesser-consulted, research resources for Plymouth County, Massachusetts:

1. Alden Kindred of America - this lineage society also includes an 8-generation database. If you descend from John Alden, you might find your family in it.

2. Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth Project - this is a transcription of the book by William T. Davis. If you have any family in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the 1800s or prior, it is well worth searching the index for their surname(s) and reading the entries.

3. Middleborough Public Library - the Digital Library at the Middleborough Public Library is a fantastic resource if you have ancestors from the area. The Digital Library includes a Middleborough Gazette Index, a Vital Records Index, Cemeteries, Historic Homes, and much more.

4. The Plymouth Colony Archives Project - this is another multi-faceted collection that includes a wide variety of records from the 1600s, including wills, probates, court records, and biographies. If your ancestors were part of Plymouth Colony, it is well worth checking out this website.

5. Wareham Vital Records from Town Books 1 and 2 - if you have ancestors who lived in Wareham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, this site is fantastic. It has births, deaths and marriages for Wareham.

You can also find all of these linked on my Genealogy Resources page for Massachusetts.


Plymouth County, Massachusetts Genealogy Resources




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Annie Florence Haley

Annie Florence Haley - A Middleborough, Massachusetts mystery
Annie Florence Haley was born 27 February 1876 in Plympton, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. She was the eldest child of Edward Marshall Haley, Jr. and Catherine "Katie" Murphy.

Annie was one of two children. Her brother was Charles Edward Haley, born 5 September 1880 in Plympton. Charles married Helen Cushman Ryder on 12 March 1905 in Middleborough and died after 26 April 1942, at which time he resided in Middleborough. Helen passed away 11 September 1976 in Falmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

It is peculiar to note that there are only two other references to Annie after her birth. The first is the 1880 census, at which time she was 4 years old and residing with her parents in Plympton.

The second and most intriguing is the birth of her unnamed daughter on 9 October 1892 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. After that, I have found nothing about Annie or her child - no reference in the 1900 census, no marriage, and no death record.

Annie is not mentioned in her father's 1905 obituary, nor are any grandchildren mentioned. Here is the text of the obituary:

Edward Haley died at the home of his sister, Mrs. David Thompson, Crossman Avenue, Wednesday morning. His death was due to an accident sustained about two months ago when, in a fall from a carriage, his head struck up on the tire of the wheel, causing partial paralysis, which developed later into meningitis of the brain.
 He was 62 years old, and a native of Plympton, but most of his active life was spent in Middleboro. The deceased was a veteran of the Civil War, and was in the service for 3 years, 1861-1864. He enlisted from Plympton in Co. H 18th Mass. Regt., and participate in several of the ___est engagements of the war - at the second battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg among others. A son, Charles E. Haley, who resides in town, survives him.

It seems odd that an unwed young lady - Annie was 16 when her daughter was born - would simply drop off the face of the earth and not be mentioned in her father's obituary, unless she pre-deceased him. Even in such circumstances, there should still be a record of what happened to Annie.

Naturally, I am very curious to know if Annie got married and had more children, or if her daughter went on to have descendants. I've tried to align various Annies in the 1900 census with my distant cousin Annie, to no avail. As I have limited my search to Plymouth County, I think it's very likely that Annie moved - or was forced to live - elsewhere with her illegitimate daughter.

So what became of Annie Florence Haley?




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Organizing Vital Records

New England Genealogy - Organizing Vital Records
Vital records are one of my favorite things to collect. Organizing vital records, as well as other paper records, is important if you want to be able to put your hands on something quickly. There are various methods out there and this is just one.

Mine is probably the most simple way to organize and index records. It only requires basic office supplies and word processing software. To organize my vital records, I simply used two binders and page protectors to store the certificates of birth, marriage, and death, among a few other records. The binders I use have a plastic cover on the front and back, so I can slip my indexes in as cover pages.

Organizing the Binders


1. Alphabetize all documents by surname. Women are organized by maiden name. Marriages are organized by male/husband's surname.

2. Index all documents by surname. I simply created my index in Word, using the following format:
Livingston, Mary Ann   Death   June 11, 1886   Brockton, MA
New England Genealogy - Organizing Vital Records - Index
When it comes to marriages, I list them under the male/husband's name, but I also list the wife by maiden name. Next to her name I cross-reference it back to the husband, i.e. "See Shaw, Harrison."

That's all there is to it. Volume 1 has so many records in it, that the index is two pages long, so page 1 appears on both the front and and page 2 is in the back of the binder.

In addition to birth, marriage and death records, I also include obituaries, passports, probate and estate records. This keeps all records created at a town or county level in one place and organized for easy reference.

Do you have a method of organizing paper vital records? 


Organizing Vital Records




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Those Elusive Italians

Ernesta Maddelena Bergamasco
My nana, great-aunt and their siblings have shared quite a bit with the family about their grandparents from Italy, since they grew up around their grandfather. Of course, there's plenty they didn't know, either. Here's what I know of my Italian heritage, which is also my matrilineal/mtDNA line, as it stands now:

My great-great grandparents (direct maternal ancestors) were Bartolomeo Giovanni Michele Galfre and Ernesta Maddelena Bergamasco. They were married sometime after 24 November 1894 in Italy. They had 8 children, including twins born in Sanremo in 1895 who died in infancy.

Bartolomeo was born 22 January 1869 in San Benigno, Torino, Piedmonte, Italy. He died 5 October 1952 in Lakeville, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

Bartolomeo had a brother, Giovanni Battista Galfre. Giovanni remained in Italy, where he married, had 8 children, and several grandchildren. We are in touch with his great-grandchildren, our cousins, thanks to letters, email and Facebook.

Their parents were Michele Galfre (born 1836) and Francesca Manassero (born 1839), both of whom were born in Spinetta, Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy.

Michele's parents were Giovanni Battista Bartolomeo Galfre and Teresa DeMatteis. We still do not know if Giovanni and Teresa were born in Italy or France, but we are told Galfre is a French name.

Francesca's parents were Giovanni Manassero and Teresa Cavallo. At this point, we know nothing more about the family.

We do, however, know a bit more about the Galfre side than we do about the Bergamasco side.

Ernesta was born 12 May 1874 in Moneglia or Chiavari, Genoa, Liguria, Italy. She died 8 March 1925 in Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

Her father's name was Guiseppe Bergamasco and all we have for her mother's name is "Giabatta," which fellow Italian genealogists have told me is not a name, or at least not a female one. Of course, my mtDNA has not given me any clues. Neither has my Family Finder (autosomal) test at this time.

We do know Ernesta had 6 siblings: Bartholomew (Bartolomeo?), Angelina, Giovanni, Peter (Pietro?), Peter's twin who died young, and Archie (?). We have different stories about each, such as:


  • Giovanni (John) lived in Boston for a while and visited often
  • Peter had a clothing company in Chile located at Casilla 147, Los Andes, Chile, known as: Fabrica Italiana de Fideos "La Estrella Polar" de Moltedo, Bergamasco y Cia
  • Archie dropped by unannounced as often as he could (which made everyone happy)
  • They had an uncle who was a bishop in Italy.


Ernesta's father supposedly lived to be about 100 years old. The only record I have at this time that names her parents is Ernesta's passport. I wrote to the Stato Civile in Moneglia some years ago and they replied that they did not have a birth record for Ernesta.

However, until this year, Ernesta and Bartolomeo's firstborn twins had remained nameless. During one of my every-so-often "sweeps" of FamilySearch for brick wall ancestors, I found the twins' names - Vittorio and Emanuele Galfre, born 20 October 1895.

So I do hold out hope that as more and more records are transcribed and placed online, I will find Ernesta's birth and/or Ernesta and Bartolomeo's marriage in them one of these days.



Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Time Management for Genealogy

Time Management for Genealogy
What's that one precious thing we say we need more of to get things done? Time.

And I believe time management is, like the concept of "balance," an illusion. Time is going to do what it's going to do and we can't manage a thing about it. We can, however, manage how we spend that time.

The number one thing that keeps us from working on genealogy? Not having enough time. So the first recommendation I have is to make time. If you need to literally schedule time in your datebook or planner or on your calendar just to sit down and work on research, then do it.

Time Management Tips


1. Have a plan

Maybe you want to spend the time focusing on a specific ancestor or geographical location or surname. Try writing down your intention. I always maintain a day planner and a separate to-do list, which keeps my research focused on specific goals.

Continuous butt-in-chair time isn't the healthiest thing in the world, though. I know, since I get it constantly, every day both for writing and genealogy. So what to do?

2. Take breaks

The Pomodoro Technique is fairly popular and one way to work in sprints, take a break to refresh yourself and then get back to it. The general formula is to work 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, etc. For every 4 25-minute segments completed, you take a longer break of about 15 to 30 minutes.

This can help you break up tasks and goals into manageable pieces to get them done, and the breaks keep your mind fresh. However, this process isn't for every person or every task, goal or intention.

In some cases, your research area might not be comfortable enough to keep you going for longer periods of time, so it is crucial to ensure your chair and desk are at the appropriate heights for your usage. A standing desk might be a good solution for someone with back problems or who cannot sit for long periods of time.

3. Don't get distracted

Of course, even if you have a plan and a "time management" technique, the most important thing is to remove distractions. It's far too easy to get caught up in social media, email and more. This is one of the reasons I love to go to the local diner to write - because I don't have a smart phone and they don't have wifi, I don't get caught up in any distractions. Granted, with genealogy it's a little trickier, because we conduct so much of our research online.

But try to focus - close Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or any other social media manager you might use. Set aside or even turn off your smart phone. Maybe you do better with background noise, such as music. If that's the case, try to avoid a radio or TV station that might pique your interest and divert your focus from the research plan for the day.

It might help to have certain days of the week set aside for certain tasks, such as one day devoted to filing paperwork and/or organizing digital files, another day devoted to photos, and then your research time scheduled for the remaining days of the week.

I know when I sit down at the computer to work, it's with a snack, a drink and a plan, and it is with pleasure that I shut out everything else around me and see what I can discover that day.

Time Management for Genealogy




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan