Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over: Tracking My Research

"Deer Mouse Tracks in the Snow"
by Jomegat.Jomegat, from Wikimedia Commons

Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over is proving to be just the encouragement I needed to tweak some of my research habits.  Take "Tracking Research", one of the topics for this week.  Previously I had been fairly meticulous about recording where I found reliable information about a family member.  Not so, however, about where I had looked and not found anything of note.  Participating in the GD-O has changed that.

Some time back I had come up with a simple version of my Research Log as a Google Sheet to use during the GD-O time.  I showed a screen shot of it in a previous post.  Soon after I started using it, I added another column, Completed.  There is just something so satisfying about noting that a series of research tries finally has lead to success.  

Today, this is what my Research Log looks like as I am using it to learn more about my 4GreatGrandparents, Syver Syverson and Kari Gudbrandsdatter.  I'm finding that this Research Log is helping me stay more focused in my research.  

Prior to starting the Do-Over, I only knew that my 4GreatGrandparents were both alive at the time of the 1801 Norway Census.  Now I've started to use the Topic column as a To-Do List, indicating that I wanted to find Birth/Baptism, Marriage, and Death/Burial records for Syver and Kari.  Some of the information I have recently found through the record images available through the Digital Archives of Norway.  The items indicated in red show the things I still need to be seeking.  And that green box "DAofN Parish Register 4", that's where I will be starting to look for Kari's Death/Burial record once I finish writing this post.

Besides providing a focus for my research, tracking my research on this Research Log has proved helpful in other ways.  The Resource Used column lets me see where all I have looked for similar information about other family members.  I've also used the Date column several times to look for the name of a resource I remembered using at a specific time.  Now all my efforts to learn more about how my 2GreatUncle Siver Syverson came from Norway to Wisconsin has provided me with a list of places to look for records for other immigrant ancestors and relatives.

Sources of Emigration Records

Finally, I've discovered a great, unexpected benefit from using my Research Log so judiciously.  For the information I still have not been able to locate for a specific relative, I can do a quick copy of the topics and all six columns concerning that from the Research Log Google Sheet.  I then can paste it as a research note in Family Tree Maker so I can see sometime in the future where I have looked should I want to take another stab at locating an elusive record.

As Elizabeth McCracken said "if someone caught me when I was in the throes of tracking something elusive I would have told them: but it's out there.  I can feel it".(1)  And now I have the record to show my search for it.

(1)  "Elizabeth McCracken: Quotes".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#Wk2GenealogyDoOverBlog : Taking a Look at Me

One of the suggested topics for this week's Genealogy Do-Over is to conduct a self interview.  I admit that it is easy to overlook recording our own information when we're knee deep in researching a branch of our family tree, but Thomas MacEntee has simple advice for us, "just start with yourself".  And it is time that I do more of that.

Thankfully, I received a gift that will help me.  Several years ago, soon after a son and his wife learned that they were expecting their first child, we two prospective grandmothers were given a copy of The Grandparent Book, a Keepsake Journal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.(1)  It is a journal filled with simple prompts designed to jog our memory and space to record information we would like to share with our grandchildren.  It includes prompts about my family, where I grew up and other topics such as
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Where do you go on trips or vacations?
  • Some of my favorite quotes ...
  • What were some of your favorite books to read?
There is even space for pictures of me as a child, the house where I grew up, and a wedding photo.  When I first received the book, I wrote short paragraphs for five or six of the prompts, then placed that book on a shelf and frankly forgot about it until I read this week's topics.

Now the book is off the shelf with a pen clipped to the front cover.  Answering a prompt or two is something I can do while waiting for dinner to finish cooking, or having an extra 15 minutes before I need to leave for an appointment, or finding something productive to do when the night's TV offerings aren't particularly appealing.  My goal is to respond to most of the prompts by the end of this year, either through writing short paragraphs, listing information, or adding personal photos to the journal.  The book is also a reminder that there are a lot of ways to share and celebrate our family stories.

A second Do-Over topic for this year was to set some research goals.  Already I had decided to look for sources to validate (or question) information written in a family history booklet on one branch of my Norwegian Ancestors.  Remembering the Grandparent Book has provided me with another research goal as I write more information to share with my son and his family.  Once again, I'm finding that participating the Genealogy Do-Over is just what I'm needing to get me going for the new year.

(1)  Rosenthal, Amy Krouse  The Grandparent Book, a Keepsake Journal. Crown Publishing Group, 2009.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Finding My Ancestoral Score

Family Tree, source:

Randy Seaver's topic for the recent Saturday Night Genealogy Fun was interesting.  He suggested we calculate our "Ancestoral Score".  In other words, how many direct ancestors have we identified by name?  It sounded like a different way to look at our research and a way I wanted to try.

After reading Christa Cowan's article (which started interest in this whole process), I got busy.  After trying to count the names on my family tree in Family Tree Maker, I soon decided that had to be a better way.  There was - generate an Ahnentafel Report in FTM, a report which listed my direct ancestors by generation.

Using a template similar to the one Seaver had in his post about Ancestoral Scores, I counted the names from my Ahnentafel Report and added them into my scoring template.  I was a real stickler in this and only counted an ancestor as being identified if I had both a first name and surname for an individual.  

Here is the data that determined my Ancestoral Score of having identified 18% of my ancestors.

DateGenerationRelationship# in generation# identified% identified
52 GreatGrandparents1616100%
63 GreatGrandparents323094%
74 GreatGrandparents644266%
85 GreatGrandparents1283628%
96 GreatGrandparents256208%
107 GreatGrandparents512265%

I can see this as a worthwhile activity to do annually.  It lets me know how I've progressed in identifying individuals in the past seven or eight years and also to see areas on which to focus some of my research in the future.  Printing out the Ahnentafel Report and highlighting names where I need to identify a spouse will give me a good starting place when I'm wanting to change my research focus for a while.  This way I really hope to find the names of those two 3GreatGrandparents for whom I currently have no hint of a name.  Meanwhile I'll still be plugging away with the Norwegian lines in my family for a while longer.  Perhaps next year's Ancestoral Score will be greater due to identifying more of my Norwegian ancestors, actually finding both a first name and a surname (or farm name) for some of them.

So what is your Ancestoral Score?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over : What I REALLY Need to Get Started

"The Road", uploaded by Geralt to pixabay

Following Thomas MacEntee's suggestions for week 1, it didn't take very long to take a quick look through the pile of papers next to my laptop.  I removed the few pertaining to my Norwegian research and put all the rest on the top shelf on a nearby bookcase.  Out of sight and (hopefully) out of mind, at least until a later time.

Now there are just a few things sitting on my desk, things I know I will use frequently:
  • The privately published Overli-Belle-Siem family history booklet - This booklet contains so many names, places, and dates that I hesitate to put it away.  I want to quickly verify information from those family group sheets.
  • "Norwegian Genealogical Word List" from - necessary for translating information when I'm looking at digitized Norwegian records
  • "Norway Occupations" from - ditto
  • "Parish Register Examples Norway" from - Just as US census records contain different information in different years, Norwegian parish registers changed the specific information recorded between 1814 and 1877.  Knowing which column has parents' names recorded makes it easier when I visually scan records.
  • Folder containing maps of Norway, Oppland, and Lesje, the home of many of my Norwegian ancestors; printouts of farm names and numbers
As I was on getting the links for the resources listed above, I found myself being distracted by some of those "bright, shiny things" Thomas MacEntee spoke about.  In this case, I saw links to pictures of parish churches and family farms in Norway.  Talk about something bright and shiny!  I allowed myself a few seconds to quickly look at each group of photos, then made a note (with the two links) in my Genealogy-To-Do list so I can return to the photos for a closer look at a later date.

I've also started to clarify what I do hope to accomplish over the coming weeks.  The Overli-Belle-Siem family history booklet is filled with information, but there are very few sources for the information found on the family group sheets.  I want to focus my research on finding sources for birth, marriage, immigration, and death records for my direct ancestors.

Finally, in an effort to stay focused on my research, I plan to have the following open on my laptop whenever I sit down to work:
  • Family Tree Maker with my Perkinson Family Tree open
  • My Genealogy To-Do List on Google Drive
  • My Research Log on Google Drive (see below) so I can easily see what resources I have used in searching for the same type of information for other relatives as well as noting where I've looked for my current ancestor
  • Downloaded edition of Evidence Explained so I can correctly cite my sources
  • StickyNote app so I know where I stopped last time and have a place to note where I'm ending things in the current session

I think I'm about ready to get started.