Feb 162010
I had some fun with Wordle, a website that allows you to create word clouds – either from a URL or from text that you supply.  I tried it both ways. Here are the results:
Wordle produced this cloud from my blog’s URL.  I hadn’t played with all the formatting options – font, layout, color scheme – but I liked the result and saved it.
For my second attempt, I submitted key surnames in my family research, plus three geographic locations.  In my submitted text, I varied the number of times a surname was included, so as to allow the names to show in font sizes that represent their relative prominence — Brenner, Deeter, Weaver, and Gregg are my children’s four grandparent surames; Mieding, Smith, Hill, and Spitzer are added as great-grandparent surnames; and so forth.   I like this one enough to include in as a regular part of the sidebar.
Pretty neat!
Feb 132010

Let the games begin!

Thomas MacEntee of Genea-Bloggers is hosting the Winter 2010 Games for genealogy bloggers.  There are 6 possible events to enter.  Today’s event for me:  “Go Back and Cite Your Sources!”

This has been a big challenge for me.  I have a lot of digital data files (images of documents, census records, indexes, etc.)    Too, too many come without source citations.  I have started the process of catching up, but it is a slow process. 

Today I was able to dig in and show some real progress.  I tackled my un-cited census files…   as a result of today’s work I have no un-cited census files.    Here’s the record of the census files for which I cited their source:

  • 1840 (1) – Anthony Welk
  • 1850 (2) – George Washington Cole, John Messerall, Anthony Welk
  • 1860 (2) – Charles Weaver, Henry A. Welk
  • 1870 (3) – John Messerall, Mary A. Messerall, Henry A. Welk
  • 1880 (7) – George Washington Cole, Elmira Knepper, Nicholas Messerall, Edward H. Mieding, Dayton W. Smith, John A. Smith, Henry A. Welk
  • 1890 Veterans Schedule (4) – John Brenner, George Washington Cole, Aaron Knepper, John A. Smith
  • 1900 (13) – Lloyd Brenner, John Henry Deeter, James Adkins Gregg, Emma Hill, Aaron Knepper, Hedwig Borcherd, Adelia Mieding, Edward H. Mieding, Rudolph Allen Spitzer, Olive Lovinia Saltsman, John A. Smith, George A. Weaver, Henry A. Welk
  • 1910 (9) – Emma Hill, Fred Bode, George H. Brenner, Harley H. Deeter, John H. Deeter, George A. Weaver, Catharine Welk, Olive Lovinia Saltsman, Erick Simstad
  • 1920 (7) – Nathan Cole, Lloyd Brenner, Harley H. Deeter, George A. Weaver, George H. Brenner, Edward H. Mieding, Olive Lovinia Saltsman
  • 1930 (6) – George H. Brenner, Lloyd Brenner, Nathan Cole, Cyrus Deeter, James Adkins Gregg, Carl E., Mieding

I’m off to a good start:  55 sources, not previously cited, now cited.

It’s time for a break for a day or two, then there are about 45 death certificates, etc. waiting for source citations.  Another task for another couple of days.   I’m off to watch some Olympics!

    Feb 082010

    A little over 30 years ago I was introduced to genealogy by Dana Jack Bode (1920-2007), my 1st cousin once removed.  Dana’s files were in notebooks.  At the time I made copies of all the pages in his BRENNER notebook:  hand-drawn, hand-written family group sheets; photos of documents, newspaper articles, and tombstones; family pictures; and a few biographical sketches transcribed from published works.  While Dana’s research was very thorough, it was lacking in source citation.   Since his death, his sisters have allowed me to scan his second BRENNER notebook (the results of his continuing research since our get together 30 years ago). 

    More recently, I have received GEDCOM files from my ex-brother-in-law, John Boyer, presenting his research on my wife’s family.  John did a fairly good job of consolidating family family and citing sources for much of his work.  He also provided me with large number of media files.  Actually John and I have been trading files for a long time.  At first it was Family Tree Maker files; more recently, since I have migrated my work to RootsMagic, GEDCOMs.

    In the past few years, I have begun to fill in some of the gaps in the data – especially online research on census files, death certificate and indexes.  And this all has led to the problem:  What’ll I do with all this “stuff?”   How can I organize it so it can be retrieved in an orderly fashion when needed?  and   Will this data be available in a usable way for the family after I am transformed from genealogist into ancestor?   (I still don’t even have all my data entered into RootsMagic.)

    I have read many articles on organizing genealogical files.  Most of the articles, however, were written by people who think in orderly, rational categories.  I am a highly intuitive person; for me, organization happens at a much different level.   The first system I found that worked for me was Robert Ragan’s GATHER, DUMP, STORE and QUICK FIND Computer Genealogy Method. It is the first “intuitive” rather than “linear-rational” filing system I have found.   As long as I was confining myself to a desktop operation (RootsMagic), that system worked fine.

    My son, Russ, is my collaborator in this genealogical venture.  Russ is the technologically proficient one.  (At one point in his life described himself as a “techno-geek.”)  He has coaxed and coached me toward a Genealogy 2.0 solution.  We had moved our data from RootsMagic to PhpGedView and later to TNG (The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding), where it now resides.   While our ultimate goal is for Russ to develop our own wiki-style program, I found myself back to the question:  What’ll I do with all this “stuff?”     This has become a critical question because “all this stuff” has become much more “stuff” than before.   We have scanned and digitized all our files.   (Actually, I have one full box of pictures and letters that was passed along to my wife’s uncle and loaned to me – all waiting to be scanned.)

    Too many computers;  too many memory sticks and external storage;  too many files duplicated in too many storage folders.    With my son’s encouragement, I began to find a solution to my organizational “twilight zone” in the form of a wiki.

    In my next post I will describe my wiki-solution to organizating and storing our digital files

    Feb 062010

    For the past few days, most of my genealogical research time has been spent poring through the 1910 Federal Census records for my Great-Grandfather Lloyd Brenner.

    Lloyd Brenner was born in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio, on 1 May 1867, 5th of 15 children of John & Kate Brenner.  Lloyd married Mary Ellen Cole on 30 September 1887 in Columbiana County, Ohio (just south of Youngstown).  They had 5 children (the eldest was my paternal grandfather).  Lloyd died in Youngstown on 25 February 1947, having lived his entire life in Youngstown, Ohio.

    4 generations of Brenners
    This is a favorite picture of mine.  That’s moi sitting in Great-GrandPa Lloyd’s lap.  The handsome young man in the middle is my Dad, Donald George Brenner (1912 – 1990);  GrandPa, George Henry Brenner (1888 – 1955), is on the right.  (Picture from about 1943.)
    My goal was to complete my census records for Lloyd Brenner.  He is listed in the 1870 and 1880 census enumerations, living at home with his parents.  The 1889-90 City Directory for Youngstown shows Lloyd’s address as 700 High Street (the home of his parents, John & Kate Brenner).  Lloyd and Mary Ellen are listed in the 1900, 1920, and 1930 census enumations.   But, what about 1910?
    That question set the goal for my research mini-project.  Once again, I checked Ancestry.com for the 1910 census index and the 1910 Miracode Index for Ohio.  No listing of Lloyd or Mary Ellen.  Knowing that in previous record searches, both the census enumerators and the indexers have misspelled family names, I tried the logical alternatives (Brener, Brinner, Braner…   even Renner and Rinner).  I knew that the Miracode Index should have picked up many of the possible misspellings, but I tried any way…  and with no success.  I went to the individual records for Youngstown, Ward 5, where I have previously found 700 High St. and 312 Garlick St. (Lloyd and Mary Ellen’s home)… again with no success.   With no evidence that Lloyd and Mary Ellen anywhere but Youngstown, Ohio, (as well as broader searches on Ancestry.com finding no additional information about their whereabouts in 1910, only one option remained…    go page by page through the 1910 census records for Youngstown (56 enumeration districts)… again, with no success.
    My learnings:   some pages are so indistinct (faint) or blurred that they are impossible to read or decipher;   some enumerators had exceptionally poor penmanship, while a few would have made their teachers proud;  indexers have an incredibly difficult task (in some cases, only already knowing the names of those listed would lead to a correct indexing; being able to enlarge the images on-screen made it possible to read some fairly indistinct names.
    What’s next as I attempt to complete the data loop for Lloyd and Mary Ellen Brenner?   Offline research!  This coming Spring or Summer, I will travel back to Youngstown (my place of birth) and survey Youngstown city directories and newspapers for the years around 1910.  Until then, the “gaping hole” in Lloyd Brenner’s records will remain.
    Feb 042010

    The serendipitous processes of creation had 13.7 billion years of practice that went into my formation. The Psalmist states it more poetically:

    “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out, you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul I am marvelously made.” (Psalm 139;19f The Message)

    That formative process began in the latter part of December, 1939, a little more than 3½ months after Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the outbreak of the Second World War. Eleanor Roosevelt, in her syndicated column “My Day,’ noted the dampening effect of the early months of that international conflict as she wrote about a diplomatic reception. “It was sad though to see so many people go by, whom you knew must be heavy hearted. The gay uniforms, beautiful dresses and jewels can not hide people’s eyes, and the eyes are the mirrors of the soul. Through them one can tell when suffering has left its mark on a human being.” The hostilities and the sadnesses increased; and, nine months later, on September 16th the day of my birth, Congress passed and President Roosevelt sign into law the act that created the first peacetime draft in U.S. History. Three months later, the U.S. was at war.

    It was an auspicious time to begin a life. With the helping hand of C. W. Sears, MD, I checked in at 3:55 pm (7 pounds, 8½ ounces [birth announcement distributed by parents]) at Northside Hospital in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio. [Ohio Department of Health, Birth Certificate #13471] As a warning to this future genealogist, my mother’s maiden name was misspelled on that Birth Certificate – “Deiter” instead of “Deeter.” Fortunately, my name was spelled correctly – “Barthel” (the maiden name of my mother’s maternal grandmother; and my grandson’s middle name).
    Mom, Bessie Garnet Brenner (nee Deeter) was 25 at the time of my birth; Dad, Donald George Brenner, was two weeks shy of his 28th birthday. They had been married for a year and a half and were living in the Youngstown home that had belonged to Dad’s maternal Grandfather. As the U.S. was plunged into the war, we were fortunate that Dad did not have to take up arms, since he was employed at the steel mill, working in the electro-plating shop at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company.