If you have followed “Stardust ‘n’ Roots” in the past, you will perhaps notice a change on the home page. Using Blogger’s “dynamic views,” I have revised the basic format of the blog, while maintaining some of its previous look. The view into deep space that has served as the background for my blog for some time remains. If you notice, however, my blog posts cover the width of the content area. Previously a portion of the screen was taken up by the sidebar. I have moved the Welcome message into the header, have removed a number of features that seemed to provide a lot of clutter in the sidebar, and moved the rest to the footer. My goal in all this — make it easier for those who choose (like you) to read my blog posts more easily. I think this looks neater and cleaner. I removed the brief “About Me” item from the sidebar because I already have a separate page about me and another one about my blog. (Check out the tabs at the bottom of the header.)
shares from the heart stories, practices, and struggles
builds upon good ideas and practices
reaches out to its members when they are facing difficult times
enables geneabloggers to learn from and with one another
provides a venue to “pay it forward”
(A revision:) In addition to #9, above, I have two additional learning that I missed when I first published this blog. 10) I have learned that creativity and initiative is appreciated. You don’t have to copy someone else’s style. Be yourself. Your ideas and practices will likely strike a positive chord with somebody. And, 11) I have learned (and this is a minor, technical point) that I probably should have named my blog “Stardust and Roots” instead of “Stardust ‘n’ Roots.” When the name gets translated in html markup language, it sometimes prints as “Stardust ‘n’ Roots.” (That is pretty ugly when it is present in someone’s list of blogs that they follow.)
In conclusion, 12) I have learned that I enjoy geneablogging as much as I do genealogy itself. Margaret Wheatley, in her newly revised Leadership and the New Science, reminds us that information is not just facts but “networks of relationships.” Genealogical research involves finding our ancestors in the facts and their contexts. But what we are all about, as meaning-making beings, is entering the ‘networks of relationships’ with our ancestors. Geneablogging helps this relational processing. Dr. Bill has it right: “Keep these ancestor stories coming!” I am deeply grateful to all the blogs I read, and all the bloggers that read mine.
This week’s challenge from Tonia’s Roots is to review my last five posts, brainstorming ideas about how each post might be extended — for example:
- Pick up a question or idea from the comments
- Explore the opposite point of view from the post
- If you do news posts or press releases, then write an opinion piece
- Take a theoretical post and write a “how-to” on the same subject
- Expand on ideas you may have glossed over in the first post
As often happens with my research, one thing leads to another which goes in a different direction which… In short, reviewing my five most recent posts led me back to many previous posts and even to emails about posts. I didn’t even try to “mind map” the circuitous route that lead to the following ideas for new posts:
- Since this is my 99th post, my next post is #100. What have I learned about blogging and about genealogy at this mile marker along the adventuresome genealogy highway?
- Picking up an old theme in my blog: Blogging my Ahnentafel – I would do separate posts on John Brenner (#16), Mary Ellen Cole (#9), Edward Herman Mieding (#10).
- “Slogging Thru the Citation Maze” (a comment by Geder Genealogy)
- Genealogy Feeding Frenzy (pick another of my ancestors for whom I have little information).
- “The Cosmic Genealogy Blog Club” ( a comment by by Tony Timmons – Ancestral Wormhole)
- “Multiple Personality Disorder” Genealogy / Genealogists (a comment by Jill Ball – Geniaus)
- “Pirates of the Caribbean” Genealogy — Redux (an old blog post of mine)
- Genealogical “Meandering” (a comment by Greta Koehl – Greta’s Genealogy Blog)
- “On Listening to the Genealogy Gods” (opposite point of view re: recent post of mine)
- “Forward to the Basics” (What are genealogy basics in a Web 2.0 / 3.0 world?)
- My Experience with Research Summaries (a goal I set as part of the US-REC study group)
Thanks to Jill Ball of Geniaus for “the Tech Savvy Genealogist’s Meme.”
Here’s my list ( have done or found would like to do or find haven’t done and/or don’t care to):
1. “Keep a Record of your Genealogy in a Research Logs”
I have suffered major genealogical guilt because I have not consistently entered my searches, finds, and non-finds in a research calendar / log. When I have used a research log it has been as a temporary holding place until I can transfer the information to my personal Research Wiki.. My Wiki is
well organized and cross-referenced (via hyperlinks). As a result, any research logs that I have created sit empty, devoid of content. Quite frankly, I not sure that I ‘believe in’ research logs. The genealogy gods are not happy!
2. “Keep Families Organized with Family Group Reports” and “Keep a Copy of the Appropriate Pedigree with each Set of Records.”
So much emphasis is placed on paper genealogy forms that I have a computer folder filled with copies of forms and hot links for more forms: pedigree charts, family group reports, ahnentafels and descendancy charts, census extractions, etc. I have forms as PDF files, as text files for my word processor, and spreadsheets. But, genealogical slug thst I am, I don’t use them. If I need a paper copy, I will just print it out from RootsMagic. Most of the time, however, I am developing wiki-pages for our online family tree. I think my grandchildren will benefit more from these. And the genealogy gods are frowning!
3. “Have a Goal for Every Search” and “Don’t Waste Time by Repeat Searches”
I know that every bit of genealogical research is supposed to begin with a goal AND the process of the search is supposed to be well documented (research logs, again)… All this so that I won’t waste time. Hey! It’s my time and I don’t mind wasting it occasionally. I’m a browser, much like a snorkeler swimming on the surface most of the time and then diving deep when something catches my eye. Sometimes my research is one thing leading to another, which takes me in a different direction, which leads to something else, which … Well, sometimes I find the most interesting information about ancestors in places I never would have thought to look. What a remarkable way to waste time! And the genealogy gods are cringing in horror.
4. “Cite Every Source using one of the Standard Formats”
Now I am going to risk being excommunicated and/or shunned by the genealogy gods. I don’t slavishly follow one source citation formatting style — not APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian… nor even Richard Lackey or Elizabeth Shown Mills. Don’t get me wrong… I am doing my best to make sure that I get sources cited, but I’m not disturbed if I use a comma where there is suppoesed to be a semi-colon or italicize the wrong words. I often find myself searching through ESM’s “Evidence!” looking for a ‘proper’ source format, but I sometimes lose my way… likely ending up with a citation format that doesn’t look like any of the standard formats… but all the information will probably be there. I want my citations to be pointers to the source, but not necessarily a work of art to be displayed in a museum. Was that the sound of a door slamming as the genealogy gods left the building?
No! I am not just another genealogical curmudgeon, happy to dispute anything that looks like standard procedures. Instead, I do my genealogical research out of a deep love for the task AND with a deep and abiding appreciation for those who have paved the way and, along the way, have taught all of us so much. I don’t, however, do my genealogical research for them; I do it to leave a legacy for my grandchildren (now ages 7 and almost 5). By the time they are old enough, they will be able to read the stories and review the events of a significant number of their ancestors. If they are so inclined, they will be able to trace back my research to the original sources and then expand upon those sources to discover more ancestors. For me, that’s what this marvelous adventure / hobby / passion / addiction called “genealogy” is all about. What’s that? Did I just see the beginnings of a smile on the faces of the genealogy gods?
A member of our newly formed US-REC study group invited a discussion about the types of systems that other members of the group use for organization. Here is a description of my Research Wiki
Until about two years ago, all attempts at organizing my research files made me feel like the bicycle rider in the above picture. Since that time however, I have been developing my own genealogy organizational system. It all began with a decision I made (together with my son) vis-a-vis our joint genealogy project for which he is the webmaster and technology expert; I, the field researcher and data manager. Our decision was to digitize all our records and keep them online so that both of us can have immediate access to them. This is important since I am in Missouri and he is in California.
Previous attempts at organizing my genealogy records did not seem to work well for me. As I have been reading and re-reading Val Greenwood’s chapter on organizing, I have begun to realize why. Most systems were developed with the assumption that it is papers and documents that needed to be organized — dependent upon file folders and notebooks and archival storage media, etc. Previously, I had up-loaded digital files to our website and stored them in folders. That was alright for a while; but it had its attendant problems – the chief problem being the necessity of indexing the files separately.
My discussions with my son about the attendant problems of trying to maintain an active and accurate index of the digital files, led to his suggesting that I consider using a Wiki format. He then installed MediaWiki on the website that held our TNG family tree. The MediaWiki was not set up for public access, but only for access by the two of us. I began to use MediaWiki as my Research Journal. That was a good move, but I didn’t begin to realize the major benefit to this Web 2.0 approach until I figured out how to use MediaWiki as an indexed storage system — not a storage system with a separate index, but a storage system that is its own index. Let me explain…
Recently a search for a marriage date for my gg-grandfather, Aaron B. Knepper, expanded into a feeding frenzy. (The feeding frenzy resulted in three blog posts, beginning with “Who Do I Think You Are, Aaron Knepper?” ) I found a number of newspaper articles relating to him and his family. In addition to those newspaper articles, I found records for 8 census years, death certificate, Civil War registration & pension card, marriage registration, and more. As I found each record, I copied the image to my hard drive (in the “Knepper, Aaron B.” folder).
My hard drive currently has 255 separate folders for Individuals (alphabetized by SURNAME) and 18 folders for miscellaneous files related to individual SURNAMES. That may seem to be a small number when compared to the 4965 individuals in my RootsMagic database. It is, of course, an expandable list. As I uncover records (documents, certificates, citations, photos, etc) for others, I simply add new folders. I keep the files for women in folders bearing their birth name. Records that relate to families (marriage licenses and; certificates, census records, etc.) are easily copied and filed in the individual files of both the man and the woman.
When I began to move my records to MediaWiki, I set up separate pages (the Wiki equivalent of folders) for each SURNAME of the 8 grand-parental lines of my children. In each of these pages (folders), I have the capacity to establish sub-categories for other Surnames related to the primary one. (The Brenner page, for example, separates out Coles, Welks, Crumrines, Renkenbergers, and a miscellaneous link to other cognate individuals.
Each individual record has a template added (“see also, data stored in: …”) that serves as the cross-referencing index (hotlinks) to the Vital Statistics categories where the primary data are stored. Looking at Aaron B. Knepper’s log, I see that I have records for “Birth.” “Death,” “Marriage,” and “Military;” as well as census records for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920.
The additional entries are for two newspaper articles. As I look at this image, I note that the “Obituary” should have been filed on the Vital Statistics page for Aaron Knepper’s “Death” records. Not a problem, I can easily cut and paste it where it should be.
The Vital Statistics category is subdivided into the following categories: Birth Records; Baptism and Confirmation Records; Marriage Records; Census Records (sub-divided by Census Year); Death Records; Immigration and Naturalization Records; Land, Deeds, and other Legal Records; Military Records; Location Files; Extracted Signatures; and Media Files. These records are all filed alphabetically by “SURNAME, First, Middle .” Census records are also categorized by year.
Each record entry contains its appropriate citation plus any notes I wish to save. If there is an image associated with the record, there is a hotlink for that image. On a separate MediaWiki page, I have saved about 50 cut-and-paste citation templates – including one for each U.S. Federal Census. And, because it is a Wiki, I can add citation templates whenever needed.
Each page in my Research Wiki has a navigation table at the top of the page. This table has hyperlinks to each SURNAME page, to each Vital Statistic page, and to a page of Citation cut-and-paste templates, etc. From any page on the Wiki, I am just a few clicks to any particular record.
While I do not always record my purpose for searches, when I do I can use my Research Wiki for a full description of the search and its successes, along with an indication of what was not found. My search for passenger records for gg-grandfather Johannes (John) Brenner’s immigration in 1854 shows a description of the search, its results, and the decision-making. Since it is actually more than a standard page of copy, I have not included it here. However, if you can put it into words and paragraphs, you can store it in a Wiki.
My Research Wiki has provided me with a very workable online way of recording and organizing my research. Would I recommend a Wiki as a vehicle for a research organizer? Yes, with a proviso… MediaWiki can be a more complex tool. I had my technologically proficient son who was able to install and tweak MediaWiki for me at the beginning. Initially I had to learn MediaWiki markup language. That took a bit of practice. Subsequently I had my son install a rich text editor on the Wiki, though I continue to make most of my entries using markup language. There are some easier (free) Wiki resources available. I am aware of TiddlyWiki: areusable non-linear person web notebook. You can actually download TiddlyWiki, install it on your computer and use it offline. There are others, but I have not tried them.
- for the next 4-6 weeks, write a brief summary at the end of each day’s research, “so that I can quickly pick up the line of research again, whether it is days, months, or years later” and
- for the next 4-6 weeks, write a weekly research report to my son (since he is my partner in our genealogy project)
I have to admit that I have some ambivalence about recording “the purpose of every search made.” In the past, there have been times when a search for one record or for records about one person lead in different and unexpected directions. I have often followed those new directions. Sometimes they have been “rabbit trails” producing little of value; other times, however, they have led me to places and resources I hadn’t expected. I’m willing to be a bit more intentional about “purpose” for searches, but I am not willing to establish any goals at this time.
Get started monitoring! Make a list of search topics relevant to your blog and/or research. Test them out in Google to make sure you get the results you want. Remember, exact phrases can go in quotes to give you more targeted results.
Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun invites us to:
- Find a “roulette number” by dividing by 4 the age of great-grandfather (if he were still alive today), and rounding off that number to a whole number.
- Determine what person has that number in your ahenetafel.
- Tell three facts about that person
- I received from Alan Fredrickson a copy of 2 documents regarding Enser Cole’s participation in the Maryland Militia during the War of 1812. Pvt. Enser Cole was present for the Company Muster Roll on 13 October 1814, earning him $21.23 in pay for the previous 2 months and 23 days. The next Company Muster Roll was on 10 January 1815. Here he is listed as having deserted on 6 December 1814.
- Ensor Cole is listed in the Tax Assessment records of Beaver Township, Columbiana County, Ohio for 1833. He is listed as owning one horse (valued at $40) and 1 cattle (valued at $8). His tax liability (stated as D|C|M) was listed as follows: State 0|14|40; County 0|18|00; Road 0|04|80; Twp 0|04|80; Poor 0|04|80; for a total tax of 0|46|80. Since this was my first foray into tax records, I made a guess that the three columns (D|C|M) were to be interpreted as D=dollars; C=cents; M=mills. A search for “dollars cents mills” (without the quotation marks) led me to a Wikipedia article entitled “Mill (currency).” This confirmed that property taxes were “expressed in terms of mills per dollar assessed.” So, Ensor Cole’s tax liability for 1833 was a whopping 46.80 cents.
- My third fact about Ensor Cole, and the only other “fact” that I have, is that he was enumerated in the 1840 U.S. Federal Census as living in Springfield Township, Columbiana County, Ohio. He was, by the way, mis-indexed as “Ensor Cale,” with a comment indicating that the proper reading of the record would be “Cole.” The following facts are enumerated for Ensor Cole: 1 boy and 2 girls under 5; 2 girls, 5-9; 2 boys, 1-14; 1 man, 40-49; 1 woman, 30-39; for a total of 10 persons (4 of whom were employed in agriculture).