Finding Treasure and Junk

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According to progenealogists.com, an official ancestry.com research firm,

The Internet offers…many great opportunities to share and exchange information. One of the more frequently used and prominent…is through message boards, including bulletin boards and forums.

[These] allow people to communicate freely with one another in a public forum. …the amount of information that can be shared is tremendous.

…message boards broadcast our interests and inquiries to other interested readers around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Message boards are wonderful tools for [those] trying to connect with others…

When searching on-line for your family history you will find many of these forums, bulletin boards and message boards.

They can be filled with treasures of information about parts of your family tree, however, they can also lead to piles of junk.

To utilize these boards best, you should read the entire article from progenealogists.com, “Effective Use of Genealogy Message Boards”.  (about a 20 minute read)

http://www.progenealogists.com/messageboards.htm

As I have used on-line boards for years (and dug through my share of treasure and junk!), here’s my personal tips and notes on the use of various family history forums and bulletin/message boards on the web:

1. I have found the best information at these on-line board sites:

ancestry.com > collaborate > message boards (please note that rootsweb.com message boards are the same as ancestry.com)

genealogy.com > community > message boards

yourfamily.com > genealogy message board (please note this site is not very sophisticated, but has some good info)

mocavo.com > community > groups

2. When searching the on-line forums and bulletin/message boards you can:

  • always search by surname and then narrow down your search within that surname message board to a specific first name, date, place, etc. to help find further information on your possibly family line
  • many boards also let you search by: region / location and general topics such as: immigration, emigration, migration, religion, military, census, cemeteries (to name a few)

3. When searching by surname, watch out for genealogy boards that have the ‘surname’ and another board that has the ‘surname+s’.

For example on ancestry.com they have a surname message board for: ‘Schofield’ and ‘Schofields‘. So, I have to remember to search both with my inquires about that part of my family history.

4. Open up a Word document on your computer while searching the genealogy boards on-line.

Cut and paste key pieces of data you find from the boards into the Word doc along with the web address where you found it. (Trust me…otherwise later you will wonder where you found that!)

Also, when you have filled up a Word document, PRINT THAT WORD DOCUMENT OUT.

I know that sounds old-fashioned, but trust me when you do family history you will sometimes take breaks for months or even years and trying to go back and find that site on your computer with internet favorites or the computer saved file may be difficult or impossible (websites change, computers do crash and/or get replaced). If you keep the paper and make a file in a cabinet in your home, you will always have it.

5. If you decide to interact in the forums or boards on-line. Choose your opportunities wisely. Do not flood the boards with your same copied generic requests. Others will note that and not want to interact with you.

When you do enter an inquiry or comment, be short with much detail and a willingness to share information with the other person(s).

I have found four of my distant cousins through these forums and all of us shared detailed family history with each other afterwards via paper mail packages. It has been invaluable. (And so cool to find out you have distant cousins all over the U.S.)

6. Finally, FOCUS and watch your time.

Believe me it will be easy to get mesmerized by all the info and drilling down and down in a query thread on a message board.

You will get lost and end up repeating some of your work again later. As well as hours of your life gone.

Before you even turn on your computer, pick a specific topic you are going to research and the amount of time you want to dedicate and stick to it.

Thanks Heavens for Unorthodox Names

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Most likely we all know people in our current families with unusual names. Perhaps people are always spelling it wrong and/ or pronouncing it wrong.

I have a niece named Krystyna (it is pronounced Christina).It took me a little bit to know how to spell it but I had it down by her 1st birthday card. However much pain her name may give her and others currently, her future descendants will be thanking her.

It will never be difficult to find records or articles with her name in it. And odds are when it is found, they will be 99% assured that it is their ancestor Krystyna Stucker that they have found in history. She is insured of her place in the family tree with a branch and eventually a root that will never disappear.

I have an ancestor, that due to his atypical name, I was able to tie and find many more generations of family lines. My 6th great-grandfather Sylvanus (or Silvanus). I had been told by family that he had fought in the revolutionary war. But I did not know anything else.

So, I looked up when the revolutionary war was fought…1775-1783.

Then I used ancestry.com and on-line searches for Sylvanus or Silvanus Schofield with birth prior to 1775.

I then spent time on and off for months reading up on military records, other people’s submitted family trees, birth and death records, forum submittals (I’ll blog about on-line genealogy forums next time) leading to on-line discussions with distant cousins.

From all of that I was able to put together Sylvanus Schofield’s history and how it tied to my g-g-grandfather. Knowing that fact, one of my distant cousins provided me a professional genealogist report of the Schofields (including Sylvanus) all the way back to England in the year 1272. Wow!

So if you get stuck in your family history search, look for one of those unorthodox names in your family history and start searching there. They may be the key to finding out much more about your genealogy along with other associated family members in their family tree line.

Gaining Wisdom from Family Ailments

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When researching your family history you will find many of your ancestors underwent ailments: some life ending, some life altering and some of little consequence. You can learn from all of your family health history.

Learning from Family Ailments

My g-grandfather was estranged from his father, Clarence Hiram, in Illinois when he was young. He most likely did not see him again until just prior to his death.

Clarence Hiram (my g-g-grandfather) spent time in Michigan and California after leaving Illinois. This is according to U.S. census records and his marriage records. (Clarence Hiram was married again after he divorced by g-g-grandmother and left my g-grandfather to be adopted).

However, the most useful nuggets of information were found in Clarence Hiram’s death record.

He (Clarence Hiram, my g-g-grandfather) died in 1914 in South Dakota. My g-grandfather, Harry C., his wife and children were the only Schofields living in South Dakota prior to 1914. And the informant on the death record was my g-grandfather, Harry C. This at least means my g-grandfather may have had some type of closure with his father. (NOTE: years later when looking at family names I realized that the first child my g-grandfather had after his father’s death was named Edward Hiram the same as his father’s middle name. Giving me another key to my g-grandfather’s forgiveness of his father’s past actions.)

Also on the death certificate the last known address of my g-g-grandfather, Clarence Hiram, was Oakland, California. This fit with the 1910 U.S. census entry that had him listed as living in Alameda, CA as a ‘lodger’. (I had to look at a map and Alameda is located near Oakland.)

And finally it stated his cause of death as ‘ataxic paraplegia’. I searched WebMD.com and found:

Cerebral palsy (CP) is classified according to the type of body movement and posture problem.

Ataxic cerebral palsy is the rarest type of cerebral palsy and involves the entire body. Abnormal body movements affect the trunk, hands, arms, and legs.

At some point after finding this as well as other new family history info, I mailed a package to my 1st cousin once removed to pay him back for all the genealogy info he had sent me.

It was a few years later that I received an e-mail or on-line post (I cannot remember which) from my cousin stating his daughter had been diagnosed with a rare disease but manageable. He had seen her symptoms and decided to look into family history, all his gathered family health history along with the genealogy info on Clarence Hiram (my g-g-grandfather and his g-grandfather). He took the info to his daughter’s doctors and it helped them narrow down her diagnosis.

So, as you can see family history health information is invaluable, even two generations later.

 

Gaining Wisdom from Family Tragedies

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When researching your family tree be prepared to find sadness. Your ancestors will have suffered tragedies. However, bringing those to light can ensure their sufferings were not all for not. You will gain wisdom from learning their plights. And this wisdom can be used by you and future generations in positive ways.

Learning from Family Tragedy

My great-grandfather, Harry C.,  had thirteen sons and two daughters. One of the last born sons, Forrest, died at the age of 16 in 1940. Although I was unable to find any details in ancestry.com, I did find this entry at familysearch.org (this is a free on-line family history source sponsored by the Mormons), “Cause of death – Poisoning by accidental gasoline ingestion “.

That was what all I had. So, I went to the best source for any family history searching, family relatives that are alive. I have a cousin, once removed, Wes, that lives in South Dakota. His father was the youngest of the Harry C. children, Harry Homer.(In other words his father and my grandfather were brothers.)

Anyway…we had met online through our posts inquiring about mutual interests we had in family history. So, I e-mailed him asking if he had any information. He replied quickly and stated he would mail me paper copies of what he had along with other Harry C. children info.

That was 15 years ago. I still have the important manila envelope filled with documents he sent me. There is a stapled portion with copied funeral cards and associated newspaper articles. Within that information, I found the following newspaper article on Forrest:

Farmhand Dies of Lead Poisoning

Forrest Schofield, 16-year-old farm hand employed at the Ernest Nemec farm was found dead in bed Saturday morning.

On Friday morning while attending to his work about the farm he had syphoned some gasoline from a barrel for the tractor and in doing so swallowed some of the gasoline containing ethyl lead thinking nothing of it. The rest of the day he went about his duties as usual.

At supper time he mentioned not feeling well and complained of a headache and feeling quite tired. He retired early and next morning at 5 o’clock, Mr. Nemec went to his room to see how he was feeling. At that time he said he was feeling better but felt so tired he guessed he remain in bed for a while longer.

Mr Nemec did up the chores and at a little before 8 o’clock went up to his room to see him and found him (Forrest) dead and in about the same position as he had left him at 5 o’clock.

The coroner pronounced the death as due to lead poisoning.

This is quite sad. It makes you wonder if he had only gotten help the day or night before, could he have been saved. Also, to us now this sounds crazy. We would never syphon gas from anything with a tube and our mouths, right? Because many of us learned when we were young not to do it. But this was in 1940 and most likely the dangers of doing this were not as well-known and far spread. I would like to believe such tragedies as Forrest’s death helped to expand the knowledge of such dangers and stop the practice. So, at least his death was not in vain. As well as re-educate current and future generations on the dangers of even thinking about doing such a thing; no matter how much we need gas for our car!

 

Consensus on Census

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If you are going to research your family history, the consensus among all those who search out genealogy is the U.S. Census is an indispensable resource.

Here’s one example of how the U.S. Census can help quickly and open doors to further family history:

My great-grandfather, Harry C. (Charles) Schofield left Chicago in 1897 on a cattle train to be a cowboy in South Dakota. All precipitated by the estrangement he had from his family in Illinois.

He met Florence (Flossie) Shaul and they had 15 children (including two sets of twins). The last child, Everett, dying a few days after his birth, followed by Flossie a week later. (All of this I obtained from birth and death certificates that I requested from the state of South Dakota.) The year was 1929 and left my g-grandfather as a single parent, But with how many children at home?

I had all the children’s names and birth dates. So, I did some math and based on the birth dates of the 14 remaining children, in 1929 five of the children were ages 18-24. So, probably at least nine of them were left to be taken care of. They were the ages of 2-15 years old. [NOTE: I recommend using MS Excel, as you can copy and paste the year and ages right out of ancestry.com on line and put in a spreadsheet for quick calculations. Also, you can save the file for future reference and updating.]

When you have this type of question, your best and quickest resource is the U.S. Census. The United States has been taking census counts for once / decade for over 130 years. Census info can be reviewed best from 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940. The 1950 and forward decades’ censuses are not open yet to the public. In general you will find many such documents are not opened to the public until an expected life expectancy is covered. (In other words, they do not want people using the info incorrectly / harmfully for current living people.)

So, I looked at the U.S. Census for 1930, a year after Flossie and Everett had died. [NOTE: I used ancestry.com. You can use ancestry.com for free at the Marshall Lyon County Library and the Southwest Minnesota History Center on SMSU campus, Rooms SS#137, 139 & 141.]

And I found the following in the 1930 census:

Harry C. Schofield – head of the household – 50 years old

Richard Schofield – 20 years old

Alfred 16

Albert 16

Edward 14

Joseph 12

Matthew 10

Martin 8

Forrest 6

Myrtle 4 and 3/12, meaning 4 years and 3 months old

Harry H 2 and 6/12 = 2 years and 6 months old.

It was as I expected there were 9 children under the age of 18 living at home. With one child older, Richard age 20. Most likely home to help. But perhaps there was another reason?

So, I continued to the 1940 census to see whom was home. I was expecting to see three children remaining at home that were under 18 years old and perhaps Richard, at age 30?

I found this:

Harry C. Schofield – head of the household – 50 years old

Myrtle 14

Harry 12

As expected there was never another adult female wife for my g-grandfather. He never did remarry, which is what my father had known.

And Richard was gone. So, most likely he had just been home in 1930 to help with the farm and family. (But I will ask my Dad at Easter about his Uncle Richard.After all the computer is great, but real live relatives information should never be overlooked. )

But what was not expected is that I was missing a child, Forrest. He should have been 16 years old and listed in the 1940 census. So, I searched Forrest Andrew Schofield in ancestry. com.

I did not find an on-line death certificate at ancestry.com, but I did find some info in a shared ancestry.com public family tree.

Forrest had died on June 1, 1940 at the age of 16. Prior to the taking of the census obviously. But no further ancestry. com details on his death.

So, the U.S. Census had provided me a new family history breadcrumb trail that I plan to follow. Because finding out family medical history is a priceless treasure of genealogy to be profited by current and future generations of descendents.

Name Binding

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A person’s name can be the key to generations of family history.

For me, it is my great grandfather, Harry C. Schofield. His name I discovered was bound to many layers of family history.

Name binding is a term I use to describe when I find an ancestor or descendent’s name is key to finding out more of the family history clues to confirm relationships.

The official definition of ‘name binding’ according to wordIQ.com is from computer sciences programming language and is the association of objects with identifiers. An identifier bound to an object is said to reference that object.

With my engineering background, I find myself retrofitting such technical terms to my own use. I have learned a lot about using known family names to confirm further family tree information. I want to pass this on to you so you can leverage it as well.

I will use the example of my g-grandfather Harry C. to help explain.

I knew my g-grandfather went by the name Harry Charles Schofield. But when I confirmed his birth date (2/22/1880) to a birth certificate in the Illinois county he was born,  I found his name was listed as Charles William Schofield with his father’s name listed as Clarence Hiram Schofield and an older sibling, Myrtle.

The name Charles William was somewhat the same as Harry Charles, but not similar enough to truly confirm they were the same person.

I had a known list of g-grandfather’s children and dates they were born. He had 15 children, so perhaps some of those names could give me some clues.

All were born in South Dakota and their names in order of birth were:

  •  Charles William (b:1905)
  •  Clarence Henry (b: 1907) – this is my grandfather
  •  Florence Mae (b:1907) – twin to my grandfather
  •  Richard McAllister (b:1909)
  •  Robert Allen (b:1911)
  •  Alfred Louis (b: 1914)
  •  Albert Eugene (b:1914) – twin to Alfred
  •  Edward Hiram (b: 1916)
  •  Joseph Harrison (b:1918)
  •  Matthew Victor (b: 1919)
  •  Martin Luther (b: 1921)
  •  Forrest Andrew (b:1923)
  •  Myrtle Grace (b:1925)
  •  Harry Homer (b: 1927)
  •  Everett Neil (b:1929)

Thank heavens for large families. I highlighted above all the clues I found. My g-grandparents had named their children by using five repeating names:

  1. The proof was right there in the name of his first child, Charles William he had named his first born son after his own birth name.
  2.  He had named my own grandfather, Clarence, his second born son; after his father.
  3.  He had given his first child born after 1914 the middle name of his father, Hiram. (His father passed away in 1914 in South Dakota after reconciling with his son. That is another genealogy fishing story for later.)
  4.  He had given his second daughter the first name of his sister, Myrtle.

There was no doubt now that Harry Charles Schofield and Charles William Schofield were the same person.

Name binding….watch for the clues in your own family history hunt.

Dispelling Family Folklore

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I had been working on my family genealogy for almost a year when my Dad asked me an odd question, “So, since your great-grandfather was adopted. Have you found out what his real last name was?”

I was shocked and could not hide it on my face. What was he talking about?! I had been researching and hoarding for a year all the Harry C. Schofield ancestors data I could find on-line.

After a pause, my Dad explained that something had happened in Illinois just outside of Chicago when my great-grandfather was young and his parents could not take care of he and his sister, so another family had adopted them.

It seems my great-grandfather, Harry C. Schofield, was not too happy with them, so when he turned 18 he jumped a cattle train in Chicago and rode to South Dakota to start a new life.

After a few months of wallowing in the fact that I may not have been a real Schofield ancestor, I hit the investigation of Harry C. Schofield to determine what was his real name?

Harry had lived the remainder of his life in South Dakota, died in 1969 and had left behind twelve grown children, many grandchildren and many more great-grandchildren. All of which seem to be destined to belong to another family line if my Dad’s belief was correct.

Since I knew my g-Grandfather had died in South Dakota and I knew the exact date and location from his obituary. I wrote the State of South Dakota for his death certificate along with a check to cover the copying and handling fees. (When you search on-line, the various states have websites that tell you the best way to submit requests for documents. Follow that to the key as they are very busy and get hundreds of requests. You do not want yours to be thrown aside.)

From the death certification, I then found out his birthdate and where he had been born. I wrote a second formal letter to the Illinois Records department to the specific county in which he was born and requested his birth certificate.

It took 6 weeks, but I did receive a thin letter in the mail. Although I was thinking it was going to be a form letter stating my request could not be found or they did not have the resources to find it…SURPRISE, it was a small copy of his birth certificate, only 6×6 inches in size.

I bet I read that small piece of paper over almost thirty times. It gave a lot of key, important information: the time of his birth, the birth site, his weight, his length, his eye color, his health and yes…..his birth parents. And listed right there in plain site were their names….

Kate Virginia Forrest and…

Clarence Hiram Schofield!

Clarence was my grandfathers name.so I was a Schofield?….we all were?

I took that info, scanned it and e-mailed right off to my cousin in South Dakota. He is about 10 years older than I and actually lives in my g-Grandfather’s original homestead.

He & I pieced together this information over e-mails with all the info he had found in the attic, letters and all the data I had found  and it all fit. My g-grandfather and his sister had been adopted from the Schofields to a family named Pierce. That was where the confusion had started. There was no way to deny it now….The Schofield adoption folklore had been dispelled. We could move on with our genealogy work. (Other big clues that helped were the names that had been given to my ancestors and their offspring; as well as other relatives death certificates. I will talk about those type of findings in my future blogs.)

I told my Dad after two months of that discovery, wanting to wait a bit to ensure the folklore stayed dispelled. As the smile crept up on the corner of his mouth, I could tell that after forty-six years of his life, he was relieved to know as well.

That was almost twenty-five years ago. My Dad will turn 70 years old this April and do you know what he asked me last Christmas? “Angie, are you still working on your genealogy because I would like to know more about the Schofields?” I did not have much new to tell him as it had been 15 years since I last picked it up.

But now thanks to this blog assignment, I have found a renewed passion for working further on my family history and have eked out the time to make it happen.

So, come April, I know I will have something new to tell my Dad about his Schofield ancestors. Happy Birthday, Dad!